3 weeks, 4 days ago #29041
Hi, all. I am looking for a specific type of book about invocation/veneration of Mary and the saints. I’ve looked through a number of books on the subject, but none so far have quite addressed the issues I am dealing with.
It is fairly easy — from my perspective at least — to defend the general concept of asking the saints for intercession. And I’ve seen many books that do a good job of this.
But for many Protestants, defending the general concept rings hollow, because it falls short of explaining the specific wording of many prayers. When prayers call Mary “our life, our sweetness, and our hope”, or when they ask a saint to “live through me” or “take over my actions and my life”, or when they promise things like “I will spread your glory through the world” — in those cases, it doesn’t sound so similar to just asking a friend to pray for you. It sounds way more similar to thoughts and emotions we should reserve for the Triune God.
Now, I say things like that to my spouse and other loved ones, but the way I mean it is generally understood. I may tell my parents I owe them my salvation, but that doesn’t take away from Jesus. I think St. Louis de Montfort talks about that, saying “What I say in an absolute sense of our Lord, I say in a relative sense of our Lady” — or something like that.
So, I personally feel okay about saying that those prayers are not idolatrous or heretical or taking away from Christ. But I would really like to find a book or other source that addresses this issue. I could explain it in my own words, of course, but I feel as though an actual book with research and sources would be better received and treated less like an empty excuse.
I’ve heard of Patrick Madrid’s new book, but I don’t get the impression (from reviews and sneak peeks and descriptions) that it really goes much beyond the general concept of the communion of saints and asking for intercession.
One of the biggest problems seems to me to be that, when invoking Mary and the saints, many Catholic prayers do not overtly specify that they are asking only for intercession. Rather, they will simply ask for something, like, “St. Jude, heal my child”, or “St. Anthony, find my keys”. Obviously those are slapdash examples, but you get the idea. Technically, wouldn’t it be more correct and precise to say “St. Jude, intercede on my behalf and ask Jesus to heal my child”, or “St. Anthony, please pray that Christ might help me find my keys”? I’ve heard this addressed with the “poetic language” argument — that prayers and praises are not always precise because they are poetic. But I’m wary of using that as a catch-all, especially because it would seem like either sophistry or a cop-out to the Protestants I am talking with.
That was long-winded, but if anyone has recommendations, I would very much appreciate them. Again, I have plenty of sources that explain the general concept of invoking saints, but none that address the issue of specific prayers’ language reaching (or seeming to reach) far beyond simple requests for intercession.
Many thanks for any and all suggestions.
DaisyLou3 weeks, 4 days ago #29042
Hi Daisy Lou,
I appreciate your difficulty in dealing with Protestants on intercessory prayer. I explain the old poetic prayers as a byproduct of their time and the personal devotion of the author. Most Catholics don’t even think about our connection to the Communion of Saints when asking them to pray for us. Protestants are taught that they are hidden in Christ not actual members of the Body of Christ like Catholics. Therefore Protestants only think of their connection to Jesus and are taught that the Saints and Mary can’t hear us because they are dead. My strategy when dealing with this is to start with our connection to Christ through Baptism which many Protestants reject. I will post 2 articles that I have that should help you understand and explain this concept to them. Feel free to forward them to your Protestant friends. I pray that they will help.
Body of Christ Theology by Ken Litchfield
We are saved by God’s Grace, through Faith in Jesus Christ, unto the Works that God has laid out for us to Do (Eph 2:8-10). Once you are saved, Jesus required us to be Baptized (Mark 16:16) to be incorporated (not hidden) into the Body of Christ, His Church (Rom 6:3-4; cf. Col 2:12). As members of the body of Christ we have to act as Christ did doing the works He laid out for us (Eph 2:10). Without Works, Faith is Dead (James 2:24) so we have to do the works that Jesus said we have to do (Matt 25:31-46). Paul tells us in that it is the doers of the law that will be justified not the hearers (Rom ch2).
In the Book of Acts chapter 9 and 22, Paul is struck down on his way to Damascus. After being struck down Jesus says to Paul, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Paul replies “Who are you?” Jesus replies, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Jesus had ascended into Heaven before this time. The people whom Paul was persecuting were Jesus followers, His Church. This shows that Christians are part of Jesus. We are not hidden under Jesus righteousness but actually part of the Body of Christ through Baptism.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 not to unite yourself with a prostitute because if you do you unite the Body of Christ to her as well. This shows that Christians are members of the Body of Christ, His Church not just hidden in Christ.
Through baptism we are incorporated into the Bride of Christ, the Church (Revelation 19:7, 8; 21:2, 9; 22:17; Ephesians 5:22, 23; 2 Corinthians 11:2). Since a Bride and Husband become one through marriage, you can’t become more personally connected. We are personally bound to Christ through the Church of all believers. Cultivate your relationship with Christ and the rest of the body to grow in Holiness
Through Baptism we are ALL incorporated into the Body of Christ (Eph ch1&4 and 1 Cor ch12) and members of the Catholic Church. As members of the Body of Christ, what we do for one we do for the WHOLE Body. In 1 Corinthians 6:15, Paul tells us, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” When we love one another we love Jesus.
When we understand that we are members of the Body of Christ, then praying for one another makes sense, taking care of one another makes sense, being kind to one another makes sense, the effect of our personal sin on the whole body makes sense. The idea of developing a “personal relationship” with Jesus can lead a person away from thinking about being a member of the Body of Christ. As members, we are personally connected to Jesus through His whole body. As Paul says ‘Can the eye tell the hand I do not need you.’ We all need to love one another as Jesus loves us.
These are Works of Mercy that Christians, as members of the Body of Christ, should do for the glory of God, not for ourselves (Eph 2:10).
The Corporal Works of Mercy are: feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive and bury the dead.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, bear patiently those who wrong us, forgive offenses, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead.
The Body of Christ exists here on earth as the Church Militant that are trying to bring others to Christ and grow in holiness. The Body of Christ also exists as the Church Suffering in purgatory. These are the people still growing in sanctification so they can enter Heaven because nothing unclean can enter there (Rev ch21) The Church on earth prays for them to help them grow in holiness. The Body of Christ in Heaven is the Church Triumphant who are the Saints (recgonized by the Church), the saints (holy people in Heaven), and Angels (Heb ch12). These offer our prayers to God when we ask them to pray for us (Rev ch5 and ch8). As members of the Body of Christ closest to Jesus, their prayers are of greater value because James in 5:16 tells us that the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective.
The Eucharist is Jesus’ gift of His Body to us that He said we must eat and drink to have eternal life. Through our consumption of His Body and Blood we to can grow deeper in our connection to the Body of Christ in Heaven.
The Bible has many analogies on our relationship with Jesus: He is the Vine and we are the branches; He is the Good Shepherd and we are His flock; He is the Bridegroom and we (the Church) are the bride; Jesus is the Head of the Body and we are its members. Jesus is the cornorstone of the New Temple and Peter and his successors are Jesus’ representatives here on earth. The Aposltes are the foundations and we Christians are the stones that build the Temple.
When we remember that we are members of a Body, not individuals, we understand our co-dependance on one another.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
Romans 12:4-5 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
1 Corinthians 12:12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share
on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
John 2:19-22 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
Ephesians 4:15-16 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
Ephesians 5:29-30 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Romans 12:6-8 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ
Praying with Mary, the Angels and Saints by Ken Litchfield
Catholics pray with Mary and the Saints but Protestants don’t because they say the Bible teaches against this idea (Deut ch18). In 1st Timothy 2:5 Paul says there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. Also, Jesus said in John 14:13-14And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my NAME and I will do it”
Protestants have been taught that praying to Mary and the Saints takes away from God’s Glory or is forbidden in the book of Deuteronomy. This is because their theology tells them that they are hidden in Christ when they come to believe in Him, so they are not actually members of the Body of Christ. When they come to realize that we are joined to Christ through baptism, (1 Cor ch12) they can join us with Mary and the Saints in Heaven in our prayers to God.
To follow 1 Timothy 2:5 strictly is to disallow the prayers of friends and family on earth because it makes them a mediator between God and man.
Catholics also recognize Jesus as the sole Mediator between God and man. Catholics also recognize that we are members of the Body of Christ through Baptism (1 Cor ch12). In 1 Tim 1:2, Paul writes “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men,” So we are expected to intercede for each other. In James ch5 we learn that the prayers of the righteous are powerful, so it is logical to ask those in Heaven and closest to Jesus to pray for us too. In Matthew chapter 22 and Mark chapter 12, Jesus said He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. This shows the Old Testament Saints are alive in Heaven. In Revelation chapters 5 and 8 the prayers of the Saints are shown to be offered in Heaven. Our prayers to Mary and the Saints are the ones offered in Jesus’s name, to God, in Heaven. In 1st Corinthians chapter 3 Paul tells us we are co-laborers with Christ. In 1st Timothy chapter 2 Christians are encouraged to pray for one another.
Mary has a special role as the Queen of Heaven. To understand why she is the Queen of Heaven first we have to understand the role of the Queen Mother in the Old Testament. In 1st Kings Chapter 2 we find the story of King Solomon.
Solomon was the first King to sit on the Throne of David. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, so he chose his mother to be Queen in his court. Solomon’s own siblings appealed to him through the intersession of the Queen Mother Bathsheba. This tradition was carried on by all of the Kings of Israel afterward until the Babylonians conquered all of Israel. The coming Messiah was prophesied to sit on the Throne of David. Jesus is the Messiah that sits on the Throne of David in the Heavenly Jerusalem. Mary is His Queen Mother that offers our intersessions to her Son in Heaven. In the epilogue of the book Heaven is for Real, Colton said he saw Mary praying before Jesus. This confirms the Catholic teaching because Colton is the son of a Wesleyan minister and was not brought up to think of Mary having any special role. In Revelation chapter 12 we find the Ark of the Covenant in Heaven clothed with the sun, crowned with stars and the moon at her feet. This woman gives birth to the Man Child that will rule with a rod of iron. We understand Jesus to be that Man Child and only one woman gave birth to Him. That woman is Mary. Mary is the New Eve, born of nation of Israel, without sin and preserved from sin so her womb could be the Ark of the New Covenant holding the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ.
As Catholics we understand that we are made members of the Body of Christ through Baptism (1 Cor ch12). Just as we ask friends and family here on earth to ask Jesus for help, we can ask Mary and the Saints to ask Jesus for help. Any help we receive comes from Jesus. Mary and the Saints have no abilities on their own to grant favors.
They can only ask God on our behalf like our friends and family on earth. Jesus is the Head of the Body of Christ that all Christians are a member of.
One part of the body communicates to the other parts of the body through the Head which is Jesus Christ. Paul in 1Cor ch6 tells Christians not to unite the Body of Christ to a prostitute, so we know that we are a part of the Body of Christ, not “hidden” in Christ.
The Angels are spiritual beings. We are Physical and Spiritual beings. Saints are Holy Ones also. A category open to both beings created by God. We ask St. Michael the Archangel to pray for us because he intercedes for us in his constant battle against Satan to restrain his activity. Humans can be declared Saints when there is sufficient evidence that they are in Heaven and pray for us directly to God. We are all called to become saints (note small s) in our life here on earth. As members of the Body of Christ, His Church, we can all help each other. The Church consists of the Church Triumphant in Heaven; the Church Suffering in Purgatory; and the Church Militant here on earth. These three groups make up the Communion of Saints.
Pre 400AD References of praying with Mary and the Saints:
Shepherd of Hermas 100AD,
Hippolytus of Rome 205AD,
Origen of Alexandria 253AD. Hymn to Father, Son and Holy Spirit may all the powers (Saints) join in with us to say Amen.
Prayer to Theotokos (Mary) on Egyptian papyrus 250AD.
Methodius prayer to Mary 305AD,
There are inscriptions on tombs asking deceased Christians to pray for the living 300-325AD.
Clement of Alexandria 208AD,
Origen of Alexandria 233AD and St. Cyprian of Carthage 253AD write about Christians praying with the Saints.
Cyril of Jerusalem 350AD,
Hilary of Poitiers 365AD,
Ephraim the Syrian 370AD,
The Liturgy of St. Basil 373AD,
Gregory of Nazianz 380 AD
Gregory of Nyssa 380AD,
John Chrysostom 392AD,
Ambrose of Milan 393AD
All write about praying through and with the Saints.3 weeks, 4 days ago #29048
It’s been a while, DaisyLou, but I do remember you.
For many Protestants, defending the general concept rings hollow, because it falls short of explaining the specific wording of many prayers. When prayers call Mary “our life, our sweetness, and our hope”, or when they ask a saint to “live through me” or “take over my actions and my life”, or when they promise things like “I will spread your glory through the world” — in those cases, it doesn’t sound so similar to just asking a friend to pray for you. It sounds way more similar to thoughts and emotions we should reserve for the Triune God.
I know what you mean, because several inquirers here on the forum have asked about that very thing. About a year ago, I discussed a particular prayer with a forum member who was puzzled by the language it contained. Others (including one who was horrified of anything related to Mary) later joined the thread to ask additional Marian questions, but the entire thread will probably be of interest to you, because we ended up talking about the authority issue. When the chips are down, the authority of the Church is what many converts have relied upon to deal with their various issues concerning Mary. The reasoning is as follows: If the Church is right about all these other issues, she is probably right about this one, too (inductive reasoning). Therefore, I will accept her authority as legitimate and believe her on this point as well. Eventually, through practice (“fake it until you make it”), perhaps I will eventually be able to deal with Mary devotionally, just as I do with these other items of Catholic belief and practice.
My approach to the prayer in question was doctrinal. I broke the prayer down into the basic petitions, assertions or assumptions, then pointed to their doctrinal basis. The original inquirer was well aware of the doctrines involved, so very little additional explanation was necessary. Others (who will appear as the thread develops) required considerable help to see their way into the prayer, because they had neither the doctrinal background nor faith to illumine the path.
Here is the link to the thread: Prayer to Mary
Your various observations are good. Like you, I don’t really buy the “poetic language” argument. We are not speaking of metaphors here, but of doctrine. Nearly everything mentioned in approved Marian prayers is doctrinally sustainable. But then one needs to understand and accept the doctrine to make sense of the prayers.
I say “nearly everything,” because there are a few outlandish phrases that can only be devotion gone wild. I have known a few credulous Catholics who were over the top with their devotion to private revelations, such as claimed (but not approved) apparitions of Mary. They are the ones who might adopt such language.
As to finding books which treat of this Protestant objection on a particular basis, you are probably out of luck. I know of no author who is going to write a book detailing specific Protestant objections to specific wording of specific prayers. If they write anything at all, it is going to be on the general Protestant fear of anything having to do with Mary, because this is the root of the problem.
David3 weeks, 3 days ago #29050
Thank you kenl and David for the very thoughtful replies. Kenl, I think yours is very thorough, so I will add it to the god explanations of the concept of the Communion of Saints that I’ve come across.
David, I think you get to the heart of my question, and it does me good to hear that some of the same things ring hollow for you, too. I re-read the thread you linked to (I’d actually read most of it quite some time ago), and, while I cannot say I feel comfortable with the prayer it started with, I did find your initial explanation very helpful. Explaining that every one of those words and phrases really does have a correct doctrinal meaning — very different from the incorrect doctrinal meaning people might read into them — makes a lot more sense to me than some other approaches.
At the root of this problem, among other things, is the necessity of approaching Catholic doctrine as a coherent whole, rather than picking up one bit at a time and running away with its possible implications. Of course there are heretical ways to read that prayer of Mary. There are heretical ways to read every prayer, poem, or statement, Catholic or Protestant. I guess if I think of the “sola fide” doctrine from my Protestant background, everybody knew there are a thousand wrong ways to think of that doctrine, but only one (or two, lol) “right” ways. But for Protestants, “sola fide” is no less true because it is prone to heretical constructions.
If I were Catholic, I sort of imagine I would decline to use prayers like that one, because the wrong meaning seems so much more handy than the right one. But maybe that is just my perspective looking in from the outside.
I also appreciate you saying I’m out of luck when it comes to finding a book, David. If one were out there, I imagine you would know about it. But I’m glad you’ve spoken the truth I was sort of trying to avoid: when confronted by Protestant friends with challenges like the prayers above, I will have to do the dirty work myself and take each word and phrase as it comes. My lazy half (more than half, really) doesn’t like that fact, but I guess I will have to deal with it. Apologetics really has its limits, doesn’t it? I’ve thought about praying and asking God, “Lord, if this is your church, please give me a sense of conviction that it is.” But I worry that that would be putting God to the test.
I see what you mean, David, about this coming down to authority on some level. If certain prayers like this were the one and only thing giving me pause, I like to think it would be easier. But I’m struggling with other topics, too. So I’ll have to continue to pray and reflect on this. Thank you again for your help.3 weeks, 3 days ago #29051
Howard HampsonKeymaster@Howard the Pilgrim
I’m glad you got some answers. I would go ahead and ask God for the conviction that the Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus founded. He already knows you want to but are afraid to. You are not putting Him to the test because you are just asking Him for guidance. A lot of the converts have prayed that prayer. You are also probably afraid to ask it because you are afraid He might do just that.
My prayers are with you.3 weeks, 3 days ago #29052
Hi Daisy Lou,
Thank you for taking the time to read my writings. You are right that the Catholic Faith has to be seen as a whole. There is a professor named Jim Papendrea who describes Catholic Theology as a “divine sweater”. If you try to pull out one thread the whole thing un-ravels. Fortunately for you, Catholics are NOT required to pray the “divine” sounding prayers to Mary. You are not even required to pray the Rosary. However since the Rosary is a Bible Study on a chain of beads, I recommend it. Try to give the authors of the “divine” prayers to Mary the benefit of doubt. They were well intentioned even if their result is likely to be seen as misguided. When you remember that we are members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor ch12) you will see that any devotion to a member is a devotion to Jesus. In the end there are 2 great reasons to be Catholic. First is the authority issue. There are many different Protestant denominations with conflicting interpretations of the Bible. How does a person know which denomination has the right interpretation? The answer becomes clear when you understand that when Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left an authoritative Church behind not a book. The Catholic Church did not assemble the Bible until the late 300s. He promised to be with that authoritative Church until the end of the age (Matt ch28). This is the Church that people were added to in Acts ch2. This is the Church that held the Council of Jerusalem in Acts ch15 that decided the OT law of circumcision and others did not apply to Christians now. Paul often writes that we are no longer saved by works (of the Law) but Faith in Jesus Christ. However Ephesians 2:10 and Romans ch2 tell us we still have to do Works. This is confirmed by James ch2. We also have to avoid sinning as in 1 Corinthians ch6 and Galatians ch5. All of this can only be done by God’s Grace which is made available to us in many ways including the Sacraments. The other main reason to be Catholic is the Eucharist. Jesus tells us that He is the Bread of Life and that we have to eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life in John ch6. In Matthew ch26, Mark ch14, Luke ch22 and 1 Corinthians chs 10+11, we learn that Jesus said at the Last Supper that the Bread was His Body and the Wine was His Blood. We Catholics believe Jesus said what He said and meant what He meant. So did the first Christians and Martin Luther. No Protestant minister has the authority to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church offers a way to keep Jesus’ command that we eat His fles and drink His blood. The Catholic Church does not condemn those outside the Church to Hell for not following Jesus commands. We leave final judgement to God alone who knows what a person knew and rejected or didn’t know. I have 2 more articles on Apostolic Succession and the Eucharist for you to read for further information if you want. They are relatively short like the others. I hope they help answer your questions and I pray that God’s Grace will lead you home to the Catholic Church. Peace in Christ Sister.
Apostolic Authority and Succession by Ken Litchfield
The disciples that became Apostles handed on what Jesus taught them to the new Christians. Some of what they taught was written down. Because parchment was expensive and few people could read, the Faith was passed on orally more than by writing. The Oral Tradition was supported by the Written Tradition. When there were disputes they held Councils (local and ecumenical) to work them out. 1 Timothy chapter 3 Paul tells Timothy that the Church is the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth, not the Bible. . John’s Gospel also tells us in chapters 20 and 21 that everything is not written in what we now call the Bible because no book could hold it all.
When the Apostles went out and founded Churches, they would appoint successors that we now call Bishops by laying hands on them. In 1 Timothy chapter 4, Paul tells Timothy to be a good minister, to teach soundly and to not neglect the gift he was given through the laying on of his hands. Paul reminds him again in 2 Timothy 1:6 “Remember the gift you received with the laying on of my hands” referring to when he made Timothy a Bishop. Paul also warns Timothy to be careful about whom he lays hands on and be sure they know and follow the Faith before laying hands on them. This shows how the Faith was passed on through the teachers not just a book. In Ephesians chapter 4 Paul also lists the different positions in the Church like Prophets, teachers, readers etc. In Titus chapter 1, Paul reminds Titus that he left him in Crete to teach the people rightly and appoint presbyters in every town to properly hand on the Faith. Paul also tells Titus that the men he appoints should teach and appoint other men following the Tradition of Apostolic Succession.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 and 11, Paul tells the Corinthians of the Church practices and that we have no other practices and neither do the Churches of God. Unity in practice was expected among the Christians then and now.
In John chapter 20 right after Jesus’ resurrection, He tells the Apostles that any sins they forgive are forgiven and any sins that are retained are retained. This is a passing on of Jesus’ Authority from the Father to His Apostles. In Matthew chapter 28, before ascending into Heaven, Jesus tells the Apostles that all the authority that God gave Him, he passes onto the Apostles. Jesus also told the Apostles to go out and teach the world everything that He taught and to Baptize them in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus promises to be with them until the end of the age.
We call this handing down of authority Apostolic Succession. The line of authority is from God the Father to Jesus; Jesus to the Apostles; the Apostles to the Bishops they ordained; and the Bishops to the Bishops that they ordained. These Bishops continue to hold Councils that give Holy Spirit inspired, binding, decrees to the Christians like the Church leaders in Acts chapter 15 at the Council of Jerusalem. The decree of the Council of Jerusalem directly contradicted Genesis chapter 17 where God required Abraham and his descendants to be circumcised. This shows that the Apostles had the Authority from God to change the law of the Old Covenant.
In 90AD the Church in Corinth had a dispute so they wrote a letter to the Bishop of Rome. Clement Bishop of Rome wrote back that the Apostles received their authority from Jesus and the Bishops received their authority from the Apostles. This shows that from the beginning the Bishops recognized their authority came from the Apostles.
In 107AD Ignatius Bishop of Antioch writes that the teachings of the Church are passed on through the Bishops not a book. Ignatius also tells us that wherever the Bishop is, there is the catholic Church.
In 180AD Irenaeus Bishop of Lyon wrote a 5 volume book against Heresies. Irenaeus learned the Faith from Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna, who learned the Faith from the Apostle John. Irenaeus writes that if two Churches have a doctrinal dispute they need to see which Church can trace its history back to an Apostle. Or he says, all you have to do is find out what the Church in Rome teaches, because all Churches have to be in agreement with that Church because Peter and Paul taught there.
It took about 350 years for the Catholic Church to decide which of the early writings were the inspired Word of God based on the Apostolic origin of the writing, how well it supported the Apostolic Tradition and if it was read in the Churches known to be founded by Apostles.
Originally the scrolls that the Jews used had only the consonant letters on them to save space. The vowels used with the consonant letters were taught by the Rabbis to their students who would read it during the worship activity in the Synagogues. Later vowel points were added between the lines of consonants to establish the full spelling of the words. The text of Jewish Scriptures with consonants and vowels is known as the Masoretic Text that was developed between 400 and 900AD.
Just as the interpretation of the Old Testament was passed on by Oral Tradition the interpretation of the New Testament was passed on by the Apostles to the Bishops they ordained and onto the Bishops they ordained. When there were disputes about interpretation they held local councils (synods) to determine interpretation just like the Apostles did at the Council of Jerusalem.
The later Ecumenical Councils gave binding decrees just like the Council of Jerusalem (Acts ch15). The problem is that some people don’t want to accept the authority of the Council and split. This happened in 431 after the Council of Ephesus and in 451 after the Council of Chalcedon. Some Christians always reject the decisions of Councils, even up through Vatican II, and put their Salvation at risk.
In our modern American society few people want to accept authority, especially when it comes to interpretation of the Bible or religion in general. People want to believe what they are convinced is right.
Jesus left behind a Church with Kingdom like Authority because the Messiah was to sit on the Throne of David. The Kings of that time had ministers that helped run the Kingdom. Their authority was symbolized by their Keys. Jesus gave the “Keys” to Peter and the Apostles who handed on their authority through Apostolic Succession. Unity can only be maintained through Authority. The question is whose authority do you accept? Our best chance of Salvation is through the Church that Jesus left behind to carry on His Mission. That Church is the Catholic Church.
The Eucharist: Real Presence or “Real Symbol” by Ken Litchfield
Catholics and Protestants have different views on the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper as it is known in many Protestant faith traditions. Protestants and some Catholics have a hard time with Jesus’ command that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood.
To understand the Eucharist we first have to know the Jewish background behind it. After Abraham won a battle against 5 Kings in the land of Canaan, he offered 10% of the spoils of battle to the Priest/King of Salem named Melcizadek who offered him bread and wine with his blessing. This is the first time a blessing was given after a thanksgiving offering. In Hebrew the word for thanksgiving is Todah. In Greek the word for thanksgiving is Eucharistia. This is where the English word Eucharist comes from.
Exodus chapter 12 tells how the Israelites celebrated the first Passover before they left Egypt by killing a male un-blemished lamb, and applying its blood on their door frame. The Israelites then had to roast the lamb and eat the lamb along with unleavened bread, bitter herbs and wine. They did this while the angel of death passed over their homes and didn’t kill their first born sons. If they didn’t eat the lamb, then the firstborn son would die. After leaving Egypt the Israelites received the miraculous bread from Heaven called Manna in the morning and quail for flesh in the evening (Exodus ch16). The Manna was their miraculous Daily Bread. The Israelites kept some of the Manna in the Ark of the Covenant with the 10 Commandments and Arron’s staff.
Later the Israelites built the portable Temple, specified by God to Moses in the book of Exodus chapter 26. This Temple had a special Altar for the Bread of the Presence and a pitcher of wine in the Holy Place. This bread was called the bread of Angels or Face of God in Hebrew. This Altar was also present in the Temple built by Solomon and rebuilt by Herod. On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Priests would take the Bread of the Presence out and show it to the faithful Jews while the Priests proclaimed ‘Behold God’s Love for You”. It was not a great leap for the Jews to believe that God could be present in the bread.
In the Gospel of John chapter 6 Jesus gives His Bread of Life speech. When Jesus says in John chapter 6 “You have to eat My flesh and drink My blood” to have Eternal Life. All the Jews and the Disciples were scandalized by this saying. Everybody took Jesus seriously and left except for the 12 Disciples who also didn’t understand. Judas decided at this time to betray Jesus because he didn’t believe. It wasn’t until the Last Supper that the Disciples understood how they were to eat His flesh and drink His blood. This is covered in Matthew Chapter 26, Mark Chapter 14, Luke Chapter 22 and by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In every chapter Jesus says THIS IS My body about the bread, and THIS IS My blood about the cup of wine. The words are plain and easy to understand here.
In Luke chapter 24, we learn that after the crucifixion, 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus came to know Jesus through the “breaking of the Bread” which was the Eucharist. When Luke writes the Book of Acts he refers many times to the “Breaking of the Bread” as a short cut referring to this Eucharistic meal.
In 1st Corinthians chapter 5 Paul writes “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed so let us keep the feast.”
This connects the first Passover lamb that had to be eaten to be saved, to Jesus the new Passover Lamb that we have to eat to be saved. In Revelation chapter 5 and onward, Jesus is also identified as the Lamb.
In 1st Corinthians chapter 10 Paul writes “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. This shows the unity of the first Christians in the celebration of the Eucharist.
In 1st Corinthians chapter 11 Paul gives his account of the Last Supper where Jesus says the bread is His Body and the wine is His Blood. This is the earliest account of this event in Scripture. Jesus’ words about His Body and Blood are again plain and easy to understand. Paul warns that if you are in a sinful state or don’t recognize it as the Body and Blood of Jesus you compound your sin and that is why many are sick and dying. Paul also says “We have no other practices and neither do the Churches of God.”
In the book of Hebrews we learn about the once for all sacrifice of Jesus. The Catholic Church re-presents the sacrifice that Jesus started in the upper room on Holy Thursday and finished on the cross on Good Friday at Mass every day during the Eucharistic Prayer. It is the same sacrifice that Jesus performed but re-presented like the Jews re-presented the original Passover. The Eucharist is the Perfect Sacrifice that Christians have been celebrating from the beginning during the Breaking of the Bread.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the Eucharist in parts 1322 through 1419 because it is so central to our Faith. All of the Christian Churches that trace their founding to an Apostle believe in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This is the original Christian understanding available only in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
It wasn’t until the 1500s that Martin Luther taught that Jesus was present under and around the bread and wine.
John Calvin taught that Jesus was present spiritually during the Lords Supper only.
It was Ulrich Zwingli that first proposed that the presence of Jesus was “only symbolic” because he misunderstood the Greek understanding of ‘symbol’. For the Greeks a “symbol” was a physical representation of a spiritual reality. Zwingli living 1500 years later misunderstood this by thinking that a “symbol” was just a reminder of an earlier reality.
In the earliest rule of Faith for Christians called the Didache from 70AD. The Didache says the Eucharist is only for the Baptized believer because we don’t give that which is Holy to the dogs (unbaptized non-believers).
In 107AD Ignatius of Antioch says the Eucharist is the medicine of immortality because Jesus said if you eat My flesh and drink My blood you will have eternal life. Ignatius also says to have nothing to do with the heretics that don’t believe the Eucharist is the flesh and blood of our Lord.
In 150AD Justin the Martyr says the bread and wine are prayed over and are transformed into the flesh and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ and the Deacons take it to those who cannot attend. This shows Jesus is substantially present in the bread and wine because it can be transported. Jesus is not just present symbolically or spiritually only during the Mass. His presence exists as long as it still looks like bread and wine.
In 180AD Irenaeus explains the Eucharist has 2 realities earthly and Heavenly.
Around 400AD St. Augustine wrote, “The Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. The chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ.”3 weeks, 2 days ago #29054
Kenl, I think yours is very thorough, so I will add it to the good explanations of the concept of the Communion of Saints that I’ve come across.
Ken’s treatment of the Church as the Body of Christ, plus the creedal doctrine of the Communion of Saints, is actually the necessary background to the question of Mary. So it is not irrelevant to your question.
Right and wrong thinking: What do we do with the facts? With regard to interpretation, there is the whole question of mindset. Protestants and Catholics make entirely different assumptions (or, if you prefer, posit different starting points), thus arriving at opposing conclusions and major misunderstandings on a number of issues. We see what we want to see, what we expect to see, and are blind to nearly everything else.
My constant theme in moderating the CHNI Forum (and now also the new chat Community) is that we cannot resolve our disagreements unless we first recognize our different starting points. The complexity of Catholicism, which many complain about, comes from the fact that God is living and reality is organic. The forest is coherent, but the trees, according to their kinds, are disparate. There are no two snowflakes — and no two human beings — that are identical, but you can’t tell that in a blizzard or when treating humanity in a wide context. You have to examine them more closely. In the created world, there are no simple answers (any scientist will tell you that), and if you insist on seeking out simplicity, you end up on a dead end street. Another problem, as you are well aware, is that Christian history does not begin with the Reformers, but goes back to a couple millennia before Christ, when God called Abraham. I am a firm believer in the continuity between Judaism and Christianity, and have found that, aside from the issue of the Messiah, Jewish and Christian doctrine and scholarship dovetail quite nicely. Typology helps us recognize their agreement.
If I were Catholic, I sort of imagine I would decline to use prayers like that one.
I would be right there with you. Not, however, because I see the possibility of misunderstanding it, but because my prayer tends to be more direct, more personal.
I also appreciate you saying I’m out of luck when it comes to finding a book.
It’s a matter of my spending three decades in the field of publishing and printing, seeing what people do with the medium. Most of it, as you have undoubtedly noticed, is advertising. Not all advertising is bad; people have to sell their products and services to make a living and sustain the society they live in. But when they stoop to trickery or snooping into people’s private lives to gain an advantage, I draw the line.
You’ve spoken the truth I was sort of trying to avoid: when confronted by Protestant friends with challenges like the prayers above, I will have to do the dirty work myself.
This comes with the territory. I spend a good part of my time doing the dirty work of researching and organizing for others who are asking questions. It helps that my vocational background in editing, translation, typography and graphic design is equally detailed. Now that I am retired, I have the time to be useful in this other field. But I do have to draw the line on some things, either because the appropriate resources are not available, or I see that someone is trying to take advantage of me.
Speaking of resources: Just for fun, I went back to one of your old threads, the one on the official status of your Catholic-turned-Protestant uncle’s marriage, and did some additional research. My position there, stating that, by joining a non-Catholic religious body, he has formally left the Catholic Church, was out of date. Since then, the canon has been changed three times, and the door to validity is effectively closed. In the end, only the canon lawyer you talked with was able to give you the “currently correct” answer.
I think that all of us who wrestled with the question you posed there remain frustrated by the Church’s inability to deal realistically and effectively with these common situations involving people leaving the Church in their own way, getting involved in invalid marriages, divorcing and remarrying, etc. This is why Pope Francis’ initiative of the Synod on the Family and his subsequent Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, even with their purported faults, are so important. It is not a solution, but a beginning.
I’ve thought about praying and asking God, “Lord, if this is your church, please give me a sense of conviction that it is.” But I worry that that would be putting God to the test.
Not at all. God invites your prayers, and He wants to help you find the truth. You actually have an obligation to ask Him for guidance. Think of Gideon and his fleece (Judges 7:36–40); think of the Apostles asking for a sign from God through the casting of lots (Acts 1:15–26). The means they used may be crude, but the basic idea of seeking divine guidance holds.
Look to Paul and his companions, traveling beyond the province of Asia because the Holy Spirit forbade them to preach there. They thought to go on, then, to Bithynia, but again, the Spirit did not allow it. Finally, Paul received a vision directing him to Macedonia, across the sea. Who would have thought that? If all roads seem closed, you need to consult the Lord to see which way He wants you to take.
How does one recognize the voice of the Lord? Twenty years ago, I certainly never thought that I would be called to this apostolate work, but the Lord made certain that all other roads were closed, then led me through a desert I could never have imagined, to a totally different vocation that extended beyond retirement. Despite my apprehensions and protests, three different confessors separately assured me that the signs were obvious, that God Himself was calling me to it. How could I turn Him down? Now, 16 years later, I cannot imagine taking another path. This is where I belong.
I’m struggling with other topics, too. So I’ll have to continue to pray and reflect on this. Thank you again for your help.
God likes to be consulted, but He also wants to see you making use of the resources available to you. (You can pray for health, that you may have the strength to do God’s will; that is good. But you should also visit your doctor regularly.) When the time is right, you should talk those other topics over with various people as you pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
David3 weeks, 2 days ago #29055
Thank you so much, Ken, David, and Howard for your help. Ken, I have to admit that I’ve only skimmed what you posted above but plan to come back and sink my teeth in, as there is clearly so much great material there. I can see what David means about your comments providing some necessary background for the question of Mary.
Howard, I think what I’m afraid of is that the conviction won’t come, that the Catholic church isn’t really Christ’s church, and I’ll be left back where I started but unable to go back to my Protestant “home” because of my theological problems with it. I’m afraid to ask God, but I think I’m more afraid of a “no” than a “yes”. I actually do want Him to show me that Catholic church is truly His, but I’m worried that He won’t.
David, I’m very happy to be on the same page about the non-canonical marriage thing. Discussing it with you really did help, and at this point I think I just have to accept that canon law can err. and that here it has failed to account for the consequences of poor catechesis. When a person rejects a “Catholic” faith that doesn’t exist except in Protestant polemics, can he really be held accountable for rejecting the true Catholic faith and contracting an invalid marriage? Canon law says “yes” to that question, but to me that doesn’t seem totally sound. If I were o become Catholic, my understanding is that I would not need to wholeheartedly believe in the correctness of that pronouncement. Does that sound right to you?3 weeks, 2 days ago #29056
(Non-Canonical Marriage) At this point I think I just have to accept that canon law can err, and that here it has failed to account for the consequences of poor catechesis.… If I were to become Catholic, my understanding is that I would not need to wholeheartedly believe in the correctness of that pronouncement. Does that sound right to you?
One can see the situation from a couple of different viewpoints, DaisyLou. Those viewpoints can be called, according to moral theology, the external forum (the objective reality of a sin committed) and the internal forum (the subjective state of the individual’s conscience).
As a Catholic, I would certainly want to acknowledge that the Church’s rules of canon law are legitimate, even if they are not always workable. This would cover the external forum. But for your uncle’s sake, I would also want to acknowledge the possibilities of the internal forum.
We see the internal forum come into play in the Catechism of the Catholic Church §1857, where it considers mortal sin versus venial sin. There are three requirements for one’s sin to be mortal: 1) the sin must be a grave (major) one; 2) the person must know that the sin is grave and that by committing it he would lose his salvation; and 3) he must consciously will to commit the sin in spite of that knowledge. In the case of your uncle, he might claim that he does not fulfill condition 2, saying that, as far as he can see, what he has done is not sinful. If this is what he conscientiously believes, then the objective sin, while grave, cannot be imputed to him as mortal. (There is no sure way to prove a person’s subjective state, but it is definitely possible for someone to be in a state of ignorance or confusion regarding his personal behavior.)
A person guilty only of venial sin does not lose his salvation. Charity (the mark of a soul in the state of grace) is diminished, but not extinguished. So your uncle could conceivably still be saved, provided that both his marriage outside the Church and his willfully leaving the Church are truly not understood by him to be grave sins. (Of course, one must consider all personal sins when considering this. If he has sinned mortally in another way and not made an act of perfect contrition — repenting of the sin out of love for God and neighbor, rather than out of fear of losing his salvation — then he cannot be pardoned and he cannot be saved.) Bottom line: Outside of a provable private revelation from God, there is no way for anyone, including the person himself, to be absolutely sure that he is in the state of grace. But we can at least admit that it is morally possible for your uncle to be saved, even in his present estrangement from the Church of his youth. It would be infinitely preferable for him to return to the Catholic Church, confess his sins and perform the prescribed penance — thus gaining objective assurance that he is forgiven — but given his apparent moral confusion, God might still be lenient.
In this way, we do not have to claim that canon law is in error, or that it is null and void in the case of anyone who thinks that, for him at least, it is null and void and he does not have to answer to it. What we must do instead is assume that your uncle is either ignorant or confused about his moral state. Then, of course, we should pray for his salvation in spite of his evident error.
I’m afraid to ask God… I actually do want Him to show me that Catholic church is truly His, but I’m worried that He won’t.
Are you trusting God, DaisyLou?
David2 weeks, 6 days ago #29063
Thank you. I think that makes a lot of sense.2 weeks, 5 days ago #29064
And I think we both did well to think twice about our responses.
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