"Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called
Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."
Despite what the world portrays, the act of sex isn't the definition of intimacy. Induced by the culture and popular opinion, many have come to think of the terms 'sex' and 'love' as synonymous. This concept is found in all debates about relationships. It is assumed by the world that if you love someone, then the next logical step is to give yourself to them physically.
It doesn't have to be this way.
True intimacy is in-to-me-see. Looking at the other person with the eyes of Christ and wanting their good above your desire for pleasure. It is a combining of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of a human being. Intimacy that wills the good of the other before the good of oneself sounds really good in words....but it isn't so easy in actions.
When did intimacy become such a fragile concept? Because, back in the beginning, sin won out in the human decision between the true love of God and the illusion of grandeur offered by a certain conniving snake. Before the fall, man and woman were naked without shame - both with each other and with their openness to God's plan for their lives. Yet after the fall, the first action of the man and woman was to sew fig leaves and hide from God.
Physical intimacy, in the true and only sanctioned, holy place of marriage, is the ability for a husband and wife to be knit together at the level of heart, mind, body and soul. Without shame, because there is a commitment to each other for life. Anything outside of this context is a cheap fake of the reality.
For instance, contracepted sex in marriage is a fallacy. With the very intimate act of sex in marriage, you give yourself freely, totally, faithfully andfruitfully. It is not only bonding with another person physically, but on a heart level. Contraception halts that bonding. With their bodies, the couple is naked, but they are not without shame, even if they claim to be. Because they feel the need to use contraception to prevent a pregnancy, they act ashamed of their fertility.
As if children are shameful and fertility is disease worth avoiding. In his book, Soul Cravings, Erwin Raphael McManus writes, "Sex can be the most intimate and beautiful expression of love, but we are only lying to ourselves when we act as if sex is proof of love. Too many men demand sex as proof of love; too many women have given sex in hopes of love. We live in a world of users where we abuse each other to dull the pain of aloneness. We all long for intimacy, and physical contact can appear as intimacy, at least for a moment."
So true intimacy between a man and a woman in a marriage covenant is a very beautiful gift from God. It is being without shame in every aspect of life - spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. It is not only sex - although sex is a vehicle for intimacy to develop in - but so much more.
It means looking at another person - looking at their hopes, dreams, loves, wishes, struggles, and flaws - and loving them because of and in spite of these. It also involves opening up to your spouse in such a way that they see into you as well. It is putting their human hearts into the hands of a divine lover, and walking side by side towards the plan He has for them.
Love is not an emotion - it is a decision. It doesn't always 'feel good.' The ultimate example of love is Christ, laying down his life for those who crucified him. It didn't 'feel good' to die from suffocation, weighed down by your own body, struggling to breathe. Love, sacrificial love, is a decision made when the going gets hard.
Do not reduce intimacy to sex. See it as the whole gift as it is - an expression of authentic love according to God's design.
Si vis amari ama,
"Concerning this salvation, prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and investigated it,...It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you with regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you [through] the holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels longed to look". (1 Peter; 10, 12)
So, I have a confession to make, and the confession is that I have failed. Now your probably thinking something along the lines of "I know your haven't exactly posted on a weekly bases, but dude your being too hard on yourself, it's just a blog post after all". Here me out though. I have failed this mission before I even started. You see, I started writing this series with the assumption that I could just follow a simple apologetics course, get all my questions answered, and post about my experiences. Can I just say, I have never been more wrong about something than I was with myself regarding this 'seeking of truth'. Human curiosity and the desire for truth, not to mention the Holy Spirit, most definitely cannot simply be forced to fit a certain predesigned mold and expect to be satisfied, nor reach it's fullest potential. Searching for truth comes with taking risks, and making ourselves a little uncomfortable, we can't always 'play it safe'. Not to mention, being Catholic is not about sitting at home, clean, tidy, neat, always comfortable and always acting like we have 'everything all together'. No, being a Catholic means to get your hands dirty, to be sweaty, to take risks and ask questions. To be Catholic is to live an adventure guided by the Holy Spirit, not just by human literature or our own desires.
From here on out, I can not promise I will post a lengthy update for this blog series every single week. Nor can I even promise that all of my posts will be stellar defenses of the faith, well reasoned treastises on dogma, or breath taking philosophical arguments defending our faith . Heck, I can't even promise my grammar will be spot on in all of my blog posts (have you seen some of my posts lately?). I simply am a human being, a Catholic, in search for truth, and who knows where that search will take me? All I know is that it will be an adventure, and I promise to bring you along for the ride. They may not always be breathtakingly beautiful, but I will record the thoughts, the experiences, and feelings I encounter. I will go bearing prudence, wherever I feel called to go; lifting every rock and lookin in every nook and cranny to satisfy this growing hunger for answers and ultimately the truth. I finally understand that if the Catholic faith is the true faith it must be understood that she has the answers for the questions that we seek; that is to say reasons to back up the beliefs that she holds. The Niecene or Apostle's Creeds are not simple words to be uttered at random, they are meant to be a profession of faith to live by (a.k.a you are saying that you personally believe these things and desire to live your life according to them).
At some point in our lives we must question whether you can really in good conscience profess a creed you haven't given more than a school lesson's worth of attention to, if that much at all. I desire to find the truth, and sometimes one can't just play everything safe; things must be challenged for you to truly appreciate them. We owe it to ourselves to search for truth and not be complacent with our thirst for answers. Keep me accountable to this, I pray you do. In our hearts we know we'll never be satisfied not knowing the truth for why we exist or how we are called to live our life. Keep yourselves accountable, ask questions if you have them and do not be afraid. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be honest with yourself. Go get dirty with your faith. Put yourself under a little pressure and wrestle with the faith, as Jacob did with an Angel of God, in the book of Genesis. Sweat a little, cry a little, but most importantly, as Christ says, "come and follow me"and let us unhinderedly find the spirit of truth together no matter the price. Here, I truly begin this quest for truth, and as we were taught to say at the Steubenville East Conference this past weekend, "Nunc Coepi". "Now, I Begin".
There is a move in the current culture to redefine marriage to include the supposed healthy union between two members of the same sex.
As a Catholics, respecting and obeying all that the Catholic Church stands for, there is no way that we can accept this radical cultural shift. There are many reason why, but today's post will focus on why a same-sex marriage, whether defined legally as such or not, does not line up with what the Catholic Church defines as marriage.
What is marriage then? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1601) says, "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."
Essentially translated, this paragraph means that marriage is a covenant (a promise between God and man) between two people of the opposite sex. It is a permanent institution, as pointed out by the wedding vows themselves (what God has joined let no man tear asunder). What really is emphasized here, though,
is the two characteristics of marriage: unitive and procreative. Drawing the spouses together, while simultaneously closer to Heaven, and a blatant openness to life. This union ultimately becomes part of the Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace - a sacrament.
What, then, are the characteristics of marriage that homosexual unions can be compared to in order to understand the difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples?
Characteristic One: Free
Definition: This love is not free in the sense that it does not have to be paid for. Rather, free love is not controlled or manipulated by another person or by a disordered desire, according to Christopher West in his commentary on the Theology of the Body. Not forced upon one of the parties (such as in the act of rape), but rather chosen out of free will.
In traditional marriage: In the context of sexuality in a traditional marriage, this characteristic of freedom is fulfilled when a married man and woman are able to give themselves freely to each other. This includes the elimination of lustful desires, disorders such as contraception or pornography, and not being a slave to sexual passions. In this type of love, we see a man and a woman seeing each other in the image of God and willing the good of the other as other.
Personified by Christ: Christ loves us enough that he would rather die than risk spending eternity without us. Despite the sins and transgressions that we laid upon his back on the way to Calvary, He loves us unconditionally.
Not seen in homosexual unions: The inability to fulfill the characteristic of freedom in pertinence to homosexual unions is as follows: Freedom to love is defined as freedom from disordered desires. Yet desiring sexual pleasure from a member of the same sex is a disordered form of love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2358) reads, "This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity....these persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."
Characteristic Two: Total
Definition: Once again from Christopher West, total love is defined as "love without the strings attached, love that holds nothing back. In it you make gift of yourself to another - a total self donation." Complete.
Absolute. Your whole self.
In Traditional Marriage: This instance is where the notion of Natural Family Planning and the absence of any form of artificial contraception is key. When in a marriage between a man and a woman, the presence of a contraceptive essentially says this: "I love you darling. I love all of you. Except your fertility. Because nothing would be worse to me than having another one of you running around." Instead, by removing contraception and being open to both the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage, the husband and wife say "Take all of me. Here is everything, including my fertility. Here are my future children. The grey hairs they will cause you when they run a muck in the church pew. The cost of their school. Our shared tears and laughter. My hip replacement. Our retirement plans. Because you are more than just a body for my pleasure - you are a soul and body which I love totally."
Personified by Christ: This is where Christ shows us true and total love. When in the garden, he sweats drops of blood because of the agony anticipated in the slow death and torture on the cross. Yet he says, "Not my will but thy will be done." This is total giving. Giving one's all for the benefit of the other and holding nothing back. Blessed Charles de Foucland (1858-1916) penned the prayer, "I love you Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father. Amen."
Not Seen in Homosexual Unions: The totality required of a marriage is lost when applied to homosexual unions. There are two good analogies that I have heard this explained in layman's term. The first is that one cannot appreciate a gift they already have. If I own my favorite movie of all time already, when someone gives me that favorite movie as a gift for my birthday, I will not appreciate that gift. After all, I already own that movie. A second ownership of the same object is pointless. Similarly, in the natural world, the two ends of a magnet only connect if they have something that the other does not. The polar opposite ends connect because they offset each other. The two southern poles never connect - they each possess what the other has. Thus, in a homosexual union, one cannot give the totality of oneself to another - because that man already has masculinity as part of his genetic makeup, or that woman already possess femininity both physically and mentally by her very nature as a woman.
Characteristic Number Three: Faithful
Definition: Once again said more eloquently than I could ever hope for, Christopher West says, "Faithful love is love that is committed. That commitment guides all other actions. You keep your promises once you have made them, no matter how your feelings may change."
In Traditional Marriage: True marriage is living one's wedding vows every day. I cannot speak from experience here, but I know from observation alone that this is not the easiest thing to do. There are (or may be in the future, depending on your state of life) days when the feeling of infatuation simply isn't there anymore. You realize that the honey moon is over and there the supposed love of your life is, lying in bed snoring while dirty socks decorate your room like stinky, old confetti. It is in these times that you have to put your nose to the grindstone and decide that love, despite what Hollywood will so convincingly try to portray, is not an emotion but an action and devoted decision.
Personified by Christ: Once again to the crucifix, we see Christ's faithful love. Despite the ease of simply saying, "Well guys, I think I've proved my point here" and walking off the cross, Christ hung on the cross until the last breath of air fell from His lips. He can sympathize with our pain, but also with our struggle to endure in faithful love, even when the going gets tough.
Not Seen in Homosexual Unions: The Catholic Church is not being a prude by saying that homosexuality does not line up with God's plan for the human heart, soul and body. Instead, it calls all people (regardless of sexual tendencies) to a life of purity. It is calling you to live as you were created - to be God's. Any marriage would not be functioning properly if one spouse was continually cheating on the other. Similarly, the marriage cannot work if the union itself constantly cheats the other out of who they are able to be in the light of Christ's redemptive love. Homosexuality never allows both parties
to daily renew the wedding vows because the very act of homosexual physical relations are not marital. This is not to say that those who struggle with homosexual tendencies are evil people who deserve final damnation. They simply are looking in the wrong places for authentic and faithful love.
Characteristic Number Four: Fruitful
Definition: This characteristic is self explanatory. Love that is truly fruitful is constantly open to life. It is open to both the sides of physical fertility, procreation, and the raising of children, but also open to the life of Christ in the spiritual life of the couple.
In Traditional Marriage: The Catholic Church never defines how many children a couple must have for a "authentic Catholic" marriage. However, the Catholic Church does establish the fact that the couple needs to be open to children from the moment "I do" is said. This means an absence of contraceptives of any sort, despite any perceived exception. Responsible spacing of children is advised with the help of Natural Family Planning, the method that uses the woman's cycle to track fertile and infertile times. If
the presence of contraceptives is in the marriage, both the nature of the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage is destroyed. This only applies to marriages that deliberately block the procreative side of life and fertility. The naturally infertile couple is not willing infertility. Yet any marriage that reduces one or both of the parties down to an object for the other's sexual pleasure is violating the fruitful characteristic
Personified in Christ: Christ's love for His Church is always open to life. Pope Francis spoke on this subject a homily on June 2, 2014. The love of Christ, he said, "makes the Church fruitful" by her children through the sacraments of Baptism. "This culture of well-being from ten years ago has convinced us: 'it's better not to have children! It's better! you can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free...it might be better, more comfortable to have a dog, two cats and love that goes to the cats and dogs. Is this true or is it not? have you seen it? Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age and solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful It does not do what Jesus does with his Church. He makes his Church fruitful."
Not Seen in Homosexual Unions: Not matter how much perceived emotional love that occurs between two members of the same sex, life can never be produced. Two men, no matter how they try, will never be able to produce a child without the assistance of a woman, and the help of modern medicine. Biologically, the fruitful aspect of the homosexual union can easily be pointed out as non-existent.
To read more on the free, total, faithful and fruitful love as taught by the incredible Saint Pope John Paul II, read the Theology of the Body online here. For more Christopher West, go here. For discussion on the topic of TOB, you don't have to go anywhere though, the comment box is right below.
Si vis amari ama,
Why are the early church fathers important?
There are many reasons the early church fathers are important to our faith. If we as Catholics claim to be the church started 2000 years ago we should be able to tell the church back then was Catholic. We should be able to show non Catholics, we are the true church and one way is showing them what the early church believed. It should be understood that Baptism ,Confession, the Transubstantiation of the Eucharist, infant baptism, apostolic succession were all believed by the early church fathers. You can't get around the fact the early church was Catholic. When I talk to non Catholics I tend to use the same arguments early church fathers posed to the people of their time. Even if your not Catholic you might reading their writings interesting. I think Catholics and non Catholics can learn from their writings. A lot of the early church fathers wrote a lot about the Trinity. The trinity is something all Christians believe in. They also wrote on The resurrection of Jesus. These are examples of things all Christians believe in, and we can learn how the early church father's defended these truths. These wise and brilliant men have taught me a lot from their writings. Some of the early church fathers died defending their faith. They should inspire us to share our faith no matter what the cost.
Taken from Pat McNamara (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY3vNHWlo_xh4aN4k99eUhg)
Nowadays everyone has some sort of ejaculation. Sometimes is so ingrained that they might not even realize what they are saying at that moment. Unfortunately, today, many invoke some sort of curse spontaneously. This cursing is natural for some in the society we live in. As Catholics, and other fellow Christians, we are called to be the light to this world. A very helpful way to keep our focus on Christ is to constantly say ejaculations. Here is a list of some. You can pick which ones apply or appeal to you, you don’t have to do all of them. Most likely it will take some self-discipline, but once you get into the habit it will be very beneficial.
Now there are many more, this is a poor list. If you did not find the right one, look on the web, or go to this site http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/aspirations.html God bless!
Please join the Fire of the Spirit staff in praying for the following intention- Theresa Herring from my church. She fell 10 ft backwards off a porch when the railing gave out. She broke her spine, and is in a hospital in Oregon.
O Lord my God and Savior, You rule over all things; You are our physician and comfort in sickness; You deliver us from pain. You stretched forth your hand to save your apostle Peter as he was sinking in water. Grant now your merciful aid to me and heal Theresa Herring's injuries. And as I trustingly call on You, restore her to health in your loving kindness. O long-suffering Lord, show Theresa your compassion and mercy that she may glorify your divine power and bless your holy Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.
Cheating on your future spouse and family: The effects of pornography
I wish I could say that you could go through life and not have to deal with the issue of pornography. Sadly, the culture that we live daily is saturated with sex, and not in the way God fearing way.
The more we see it in our daily lives, the more we become accustomed to it. Grocery store checkout lines, bill boards, online ads, and Facebook run rampant with pornography. And the more the issue is prevalent in our culture, the more we become desensitized to it.
Excuses such as “It’s not like I’m actually physically hurting anybody” or “it’s completely mutual” or “it’s really no big deal” are buzz words around the issue. It is not helpful when the world in which we live and breathe simply reinforces the supposed normality.
Take for instance the move that recently came out staring Leonardo DiCaprio. “The Wolf of Wall Street” was hailed as an ingenious film. The levels of nudity and crass were through the roof. It also grossed over $389 million worldwide against a $100 million budget. Additionally, it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay for Terrence Winter, and Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for DiCaprio. And it was pornography for the masses.
What a narrow box pornography is. Instead of opening your eyes to the beauty of God’s creation, you narrow yourself into a thought process where people are objects to be captured in a screen shot for viewing pleasure.
However, pornography is not a moral issue because sex is bad. On the contrary, sex is a beautiful creation from God. Sex was created BY God. So if you think He just sits up in the sky and says “Don’t do this,” “Ohh, wrong move,” thing again. He invented sex. And all things that God creates? Good.
Pornography is not even bad because it shows too much. Instead, as so flawlessly pointed out by John Paul II (are we surprised?), “Pornographic images reduce the person being lusted over to body parts only. There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”
It takes the beautiful creation of a human being, made in the image and likeness of God, and reduces him or her to parts to be admired.
You are more than parts. God’s creation of your fellow human beings are good. Sex is great. Pornography? Doesn’t even fit in the picture.
By Chloe M.
"Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come". (Rom*5: 14)
Well this is interesting! I never would have thought looking over our guide would entail me writing so many blog posts; moreover, I never would have thought that asking three simple questions would lead to so many more of them. Although these blog posts on Sacred Scripture may seem unnecessary to some, I am beginning to understand that this overview of Scripture is like being shown how to use a compass, or more formally it is the foundation on which all other arguments or questions we ask will be guided with. For in all reality, without the ability to completely trust the validity of Sacred Scripture, the whole basis for the Christian religions fall apart. If you can't trust your map or GPS how can you expect to reach your target destination? Although I am not entirely sure, I think it is better for me to tackle Bible related questions before all else, because if those remain unanswered it would be futile for me to attempt to find the truth in other religious matters. So with that we have a general destination in mind. It is time we start walking on our journey; the adventure to find truth, reason, and faith has begun. Our first destination really isn't a destination at all, rather, it is the manner we must travel in order to leave this place of 'nescience'. The way being that of 'Typology'.
Biblical Typology- what is it, why use it, and how to see it in action?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines 'typology' itself as "a study of, or analysis, or classification based on types or categories"(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/typology). In light of this definition, I wonder what one would reasonably conclude 'Biblical Typology' is? Could Biblical Typology be the 'study of, analysis, or classification of Scripture based on types of categories? That sounds pretty reasonable to me, but let's turn to The Catechism of the Catholic Church and see what The Church has to say on this matter. " The Church... has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God's works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son" (128). So in essence the Church is teaching that the "Old Testament (OT) prepared the way for the New Testament (NT)" (Beginning Apologetics: How to Read Scripture, 9). Specifically though, the Old Testament, previews the reality of Christ, as is found in the New Testament. "As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New" (CCC,129).
When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: “Simeon, son of John, lovest me more than these? He Saith to Him: “Yea, Lord, you know that I love thee.” He saith to him: “Feed My Lambs.”
Most of us have heard, at one time or another, this passage from Scripture. But many of us may not know what it means. Why did Christ repeat the same question three times? Wasn’t he satisfied with the first answer?
The hidden meaning of this passage becomes extremely clear in the Greek original. Greek had four words for Love: Agape, Eros, Philia, and Storge. Each word for love had its own unique meaning behind it. Agape was perfect, pure, selfless Love, the highest possible form of Love. Eros was more romantic desire, from which we get our word Erotic. It was a form of Love solely romantic, which in many cases turned into pure lust rather than Love. Philia was a form of Love for friend, or a close comrade. Storge was the Love of a family member.
Now, when we read the passage in Greek, armed with our knowledge of Greek types of Love, what do we see?
Christ asks Peter: “Peter, do you Agape me?”
Do you perfectly love me? Selflessly? Totally?
And what can Peter say? He has recently abandoned Christ to his death, and denied Christ three times to save himself. He loves Christ, but he is too overcome by shame to say that his Love is selfless and perfect. So he responds:
“Lord, you know I Philia you.”
“Lord….I love you as friend.”
So Christ asks him again: “Simon Peter, do you Agape me?”
Christ shows him that the difference has not passed him by. And Peter again says: “I Philia you Lord”
Then, for one final time, Christ asks him: “Simon Peter, do you Philia me?”
Christ accepts the limits of Peter’s weakness, and therefore, in a step reminiscent of his incarnation, he brings himself to a weak human level. Peter is conscious of his weakness, and saddened by it. He tells Christ: “You know all things. You know that I Philia you.”
By his three professions of Love, as weak, as imperfect as they are, Peter has expiated his three denials of Christ. This shows us the great mercy of God, who is willing to forgive Peter, who brings to God only part of the Love he wishes he could. God shows us that our contrition need not be perfect, nor our Love complete. We have only to go to him with what little we have, and God in his infinite goodness shall provide the rest.
Perhaps we are struggling with a sin, which we commit over and over again, and we simply feel like we have offended God past the point of forgiveness. Or perhaps we feel that our Love for God is totally incomplete and inadequate. (Which it probably is.)
But God knows this. He knows we are weak, fallible beings, and he has truly infinite mercy upon us. Just try your hardest, and pray for his daily grace, that you may overcome the weaknesses which so overpower you, and he will provide.
"My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God" (Pro* 2:1-5)
How do we read Sacred Scripture?
There are many varying opinions on how Scripture should be read across the countless churches found in Christianity. Some churches prefer to place more emphasis on personal interpretation of scripture while others rely much more heavily on pastoral explanation. First and foremost, however, as Catholics we must adhere to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when she states " Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written" (111). We must be unmistakably clear in our understanding that that the Holy Spirit is the primary interpreter of Scripture. This very fact is reaffirmed in Jn**14:26, when Christ says: "the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things". This means for us to be able to fully grasp the power and meaning of scripture we must read it in light of the understanding that Scripture was written through an eternal spirit, and is not a simple narrative or myth.
I think we can all agree that any person or object works best, and it's fullest potential is only realized, when it is used for it's intended purpose. As such, "we should read the Bible according to the reason it was given to us; to bring us closer to God by helping us to grow in love for God and neighbor. To understand the Bible correctly we ought to read it with concern for holiness"(Beginning Apologetics: How to Read the Bible, 6). Another important aspect to remember is that the bible is the inspired word of God, and when read with faith it has the power to transform our lives. Also, we ought to not get discouraged if we find we are unable to understand certain sections of Scripture. "We... need to read the Bible with humility, recognizing that we are limited creatures reading the words of the limitless Creator"(7). One must also remember it is foolish to believe the bible is "outdated" or "not relevant" to our lives. The New Testament of the Bible has remained unaltered in written form for over 1500 years, and the majority of the Old Testament has existed for well over 2500 years (more on this in a future blog post). Does this not mean the Bible has been able to pass the test of time, having survived through countless ages of mankind and yet retaining relevancy throughout that time period?
"The idea that "old ideas" are not as not as solid as new ideas is not only stupid, it's dangerously prideful. Old ideas are often far better because they've held up over time... Yes, maybe you have the Internet, but [people from the past] knew how to build pyramids without cranes, harvest crops without tractors, heal without prescriptions, and chart stars without telescopes"(Truth Be Told,81).
Lastly, we must remember to "read the Scripture within the "living Tradition of the whole Church""(C.C.C***, 113). This means we ought to look at the Bible as a whole rather than read it in isolated fragments. As Beginning Apologetics states, "Reading only isolated passages, or taking paggages out of context, can seriously distort Scriptures meaning". For instance, " years ago on a television show, an atheist insisted that the Bible teaches there is no God. As the audience gasped, the Atheist opened his Bible to Psalm 14:1 and read, "There is no God." However, the whole passage reads, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" We should not chop the Bible up into contradictory pieces, but interpret it as a consistent whole"(7). It is important to remember the 2000 years worth of Catholic saints, historians, doctors, and theologians whose insight on Scripture have come before us. Often times we will find that their insights on Scripture have been invaluable in enriching the Church's understanding of Scripture, and as such may prove to be essential in furthering our defense of the faith.
** The Holy Gospel According to Saint John
*** The Catechism of the Catholic Church
"But as you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the Sacred Writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2TM* 13;14-17)
Why do we need Sacred Scripture?
It has become a common occurrence for people to claim that they live in the modern age, and thus consider scripture and the church obsolete. Why would they need those when they can speak to God personally? Essentially they believe that God is everywhere all the time and is not limited to a single book or a church. This notion, however, is faulty in so far as it denies the truth that "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit" (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, 9). While it is true that God is everywhere and in everything, I echo Mark Hart's response to this in Truth Be Told when he says, "If anything, we need the Bible more than ever before. It's dangerous to live in any present moment, where you have forgotten your past"(82).
Turning to Beginning Apologetics: How to Read the Bible we find out that "in 2 Timothy 3: 16, St. Paul gives several reasons for reading Scripture: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work"(6). It is dangerous to rely solely on our own human intuition to understand the truths of an eternal and ever present being. As Mark Hart states, "What if the God you"think" you know isn't the actual God at all? Many people follow a concept of Jesus that is not historically accurate- a pleasant politically correct, "be nice to everyone" figure of Jesus that is anything but Biblical. Many people ascribe traits to God that are not even remotely consistent with the God of Scripture" (Truth Be Told, 82). Through the C.C.C** we are able to come to the understanding that God is the author of Sacred Scripture and the church relies on faith to accept God inspired the human authors of scripture to write what he desired written (105-106). Lastly, I will turn yet again to Mark Hart and Truth Be Told in depicting the complete and unhindered truth about Sacred Scripture and it's unique personal role in the existence of every human being who has lived and died, is living today, and has yet to come.
"In the Bible you encounter the God of the Universe and see how He moves, thinks, and speaks. You're not merely reading about characters from long ago- you're reading about your very self. The Bible isn't merely speaking to you; it's speaking about you. You are Adam and Eve, standing before God in all your sin. You are Moses, worried about his reputation as he strikes the rock a second time. You are David, putting your wants before God's. You are Esther, deciding whether or not to endanger yourself to protect others. You are Peter, being called to lead even though you're far from perfect . You are the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well, or Zacchaeus - being told by God that you have worth regardless of your past.
This is what the Bible offers you... an invitation to know God more deeply. The Bible helps you to "know" God beyond just your head and to engage Him in your heart. Scripture deepens your prayer, enlivens your worship, and makes the sacraments come to life in a whole new way" (83).
* the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
** The Catechism of the Catholic Church
"Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the sons of Israel and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I Am Who I Am." And he said "Say this to the sons of Israel 'I Am has sent me to you'". (Exd 3: 13-14)
So we have begun walking the way of faith, truth and reason. Now is when our mind turns to thoughts and questions about what the first beast we shall tackle is, where lies a monster we shall slay, or how we shall break a curse along our journey. What is the first test of faith, truth and reason we shall encounter? Is it the behemoth known as 'sola scriptura', the perplexing concept of Mary's perpetual virginity, or even the battle over the Eucharistic presence of Christ? The answer to that questions is quite simply a loud and resounding no! Before we can even consider entering into those areas, we must make sure we have a guide we can trust to get us through those areas truthfully and without error. The first battle to conquer is over our guide itself. What is our guide? Can it be trusted? Why do we need it, can't we find our way without it? How do we even read it? The bible, the Holy Scriptures of our faith, shall be the first to be put to the test. Here you shall find recorded the first test that was undertaken with more recordings to follow as the tests are completed.
What is Scripture?
"To understand what Sacred Scripture is, we must first understand what revelation is"(Beginning Apologetics: How to Read the Bible, pg.4). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (this will be abbreviated to C.C.C from this point forward) defines revelation as "God's communication of himself, by which he makes known the mystery of his divine plan, a gift of self-communication which is realized by deeds and words over time, and most fully by sending us his divine Son, Jesus Christ (pg. 897). Being that the Catholic Church teaches that mankind was made in the image and likeness of God, we have the ability to observe things about God through the material universe he created, the natural moral law, and through public revelation. Public revelation comes in two forms: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Beginning Apologetics states, "Sacred Scripture is divine revelation that was written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Sacred Tradition is divine revelation that was not written down, but which the Church has faithfully transmitted from the beginning"(Beginning Apologetics: How to Read the Bible, pg. 5).
Mark Hart gives a great analysis of how one can be sure if the Bible really is the Word of God and is reliable in his book Truth Be Told. "Countless people try to say that the Bible is "unreliable" or "outdated." Many people.... do everything they can to debunk the validity of Scripture, thinking that if they can exploit seeming "inconsistencies" or supposed "errors," they can somehow do away with Christianity and even God... Faith does not begin with the Bible. You don't use the Bible to prove God's existence... thats likes using the music of Nikki Minaj to "prove" God hates me. No, we begin with God. Once a soul believes in God, there's a decision to make regarding whether or not Jesus is God. Next, one must decide whether or not Christ instituted a Church or not. After that, one must understand that the Bible came out of a living Church (not vice versa)... The Church didn't "come out of " the Bible; the Bible came out of the Church... The Scriptures are meant to be a light, and are designed to not only guide us through the darkness but also to beckon others to safety.
Thus we can define Sacred Scripture as divine public revelation written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the effects of a living church, which is meant to be a light and guide in our lives.
" If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him, nor recognizes him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you." (John 14: 15-17)
I am packing for a journey, a great adventure of sorts. Do you want to join me ? Maybe you're not the courageous type, one to just get up and leave everything you know in an instant. Yet, would you be interested if I were to tell you this adventure encompasses the most riveting war of all time, an impending tragedy that must be prevented, the greatest love story of all time which ends in self-sacrifice, a hope beyond all hope, and all of these events focus on one person and that person is you? Do I have your attention now, are you sure you don't want to come along?
For the longest time we have been told what to believe by our parents, friends, society and even our Church, but at some point we must decide what we shall believe. Why do we Catholics reject 'sola scriptura', believe in the Eucharist, follow the Petrine Succession, teach about the afterlife and Purgatory, preach Mary is the Mother of God and was immaculately conceived, and adhere to the understanding that Christ rose triumphantly over the dead? It is in recognition to these questions and many more that I have decided to put the 'faith' and 'reason' I have always known to the test, and will be sharing this journey, to find 'the Spirit of truth', with you all via blog posts. Here you will find the first of a series of blog posts over the next few months which will entirely be focused on finding truth through Catholic apologetics.
Along this journey I will primarily be using the Beginning Catholic Apologetics by Fr. Frank Chacon and Mr. Jim Burham as a guide, the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Truth Be Told by Mark Hart. Of course I can't promise there won't be other sources I find helpful and will cite those when appropriate. Anyways, it is time to start walking and journeying for truth. Pray for me, as I pray for you along this journey! I encourage you all to truly journey with me and engage with others in the comment box, friendly debate and discussion is encouraged, ask questions, get messy and above all let us be open to faith, truth and reason.
4.) Spiritual Communion
A Spiritual communion should be one that we should say many times.
My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.
You can find more about Spiritual Communion on catholic.org: See Here
5.) Stations of the Cross
THE PROMISES MADE BY OUR LORD TO THOSE WHO HAVE DEVOTION TO THE WAY OF THE CROSS AS WRITTEN HERE.
Alright these might not be as attractive as the last list, but each one has it place when it comes to graces received. If you have others to share do so in the comments. God bless.
'Fire of the Spirit' Teen blog is run by Henry B. To find more information about this blog, go here