Friday, December 31, 2010

First-hand account of attack on Baghdad Catholic parish

I try to forget, but I will always see the blood stained church of Baghdad 
Giulia Mazza,-but-I-will-always-see-the-blood-stained-church-of-Baghdad-20130.html#One of the survivors of the 31 October attack on Our Lady of Salvation church, speaks. The events of that day are still very much alive and impossible to wipe from his memory, and in that of those who lived through that tragic day. The man is one of the 26 injured being treated at Gemelli Hospital in Rome from November 12, along with their families.

Rome (AsiaNews)"I try to forget what happened," but "as soon as I'm alone I start to think and all of those images come to mind, of what I experienced there. It hurts, I'm still in shock, it is impossible to describe what happened”. These are the words of an Iraqi Catholic, one of the "lucky" survivors of the October 31 al Qaeda attack on the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. He has shrapnel in his back and legs. But for another 58 people it was even worse, they lost their lives: among them, 46 faithful who simply had gone to Mass and the two priests who were celebrating. More than 70 injured. Of these, approximately 37 (the most severe cases) were transferred to France last November 8, 26 others, along with their families, have been hospitalized in Rome, where they spoke with AsiaNews.
"It was a Sunday and evening mass had just begun. Shortly after the Gospel reading, about 17.15, we heard the sound of gunfire outside the church. Don Tha'er, who was celebrating the liturgy, tried to calm everyone down, telling us to pray together. The noise became louder, then we heard a loud explosion and the terrorists entered the Church – five or six in all - and started shooting everywhere".
He has asked to remain anonymous. "For safety reasons," he says. He will not speak about his life before the attack. He just says: "I have always taken part in the pastoral activities of the church, I was friends with both the priests, Don Tha'er and Don Wassim. The first 32, the second27, both mowed down by the terrorists. "I was sitting in the front pew, as usual, and as the gunfire broke out I threw myself on the ground. Don Tha'er called me and told me: 'Try to get everyone into the sacristy'. Those were difficult moments, because the attackers were firing everywhere. I was trying to get to the sacristy along with others , when not far away I saw a girl wounded in the neck. I did not know what to do, whether to help her or run for my life”.
It was supposed to have been an interview. But the first question: "Do you want to talk, to tell us what happened?" was answered with a deluge of words. Unstoppable. "I saw the injured girl. I decided to go and get her to try and bring her to safety. I took her on my shoulders, but one of the terrorists saw me and threw a grenade at us: the girl died and I was on the ground wounded. I pretended to be dead. While I was on the ground I saw Don Tha'er trying to defend the altar servers: he embraced them and covered them with his cassock, to protect them, as if he wanted to hide them. One of the men attacked him, trying to beat him to his knees, but he resisted and remained standing, in the end the terrorist killed him. I could hear the cries of the people in the church, terribly afraid, when at one point I heard a voice, I do not know who he was shouting to the terrorists: 'We die, we die, okay. But the cross lives. Whoever it was, was immediately killed. "
The events of that tragic day are still fresh and painful in his memory, and that of other survivors. Details, etched forever on their minds. Indelible. "The terrorists kept moving around and shooting everywhere. When one of them passed me by, I saw he was wearing an explosive belt. They obviously had a clear plan. Two snipers were placed at the sides of the Church, two others mid-aisle and one on the upper floor. They talked among themselves by radio, insisting that everything was going as planned. The church was chosen because of its structure: it is a single piece of reinforced concrete, with three main entrances, two at the sides and the altar at the back of the nave. Outside the entrance to the church, there is a cross 49 meters high, which reflects the depth of the church. I think they chose Our Lady of Salvation, because the windows are only up at the top. In this way all the explosions inside the church were magnified, with all possible vents for their destructive force only on the upper level. That's also why they kept throwing grenades at people. Those who came out alive are those who pretended to be dead, like me. "
"At one point, while I was wounded on the ground, I tried to crawl to the altar and hide behind a wall. When I made it I covered myself with a dead body to hide. Nevertheless, I could hear what was said. One terrorist was wounded, and kept saying to his leader: 'I'm hurt, I'll detonate the explosive belt so I can become a martyr, and go straight to heaven'. At first the man who must have been the commander told him to wait, that was not yet time. Then the wounded man said, 'No, I'm in too much pain, I was hit'. So the commander gave him permission, they bade each other farewell saying, 'Okay, see you in heaven'. Then he blew himself up. His companions then began to shout: 'You are unbelievers, you will go to hell while we are going to heaven, God is great'. "
The strain of those long moments of horror are clearly visible on his face. His dark eyes betray his incredulity. At times his voice still trembles. "During the five-hour siege, the terrorists transformed our church into a mosque. They shouted their Islamic prayers, and twice preformed their sunset prayer, in the evening and afternoon. After the man blew himself to pieces, his comrades went crazy: shooting everywhere.
At first they didn’t realize that almost 60 people were hiding in the sacristy [including the wounded 75 year old Episcopal Vicar]. But when they realised it, they tried to break through the wooden door, without success: in fact the people had locked themselves inside with the metal cabinets. Then the attackers began throwing grenades at the door, until they were able to create an opening. At that point, however, they had to go back towards the main entrance, because finally the Iraqi forces were trying to storm the building. I took advantage of that moment and I crawled to the door of the sacristy. I tried to identify myself, but the people inside would not let me in, for fear that I was a terrorist. Then a girl recognized my voice, they opened the door and pulled me inside. I stayed with the others, locked in the sacristy, and I saw that many were wounded in the last explosion and that a girl and two others were dead. "
"You should know that the vestry has another door, which leads the outside, made of iron and therefore very heavy and difficult to open. I managed to call an army chief I knew on my cell phone, asking him to open that door and let us escape. But the man told me that was impossible, because the door was locked and we would have to open it. At the end of the call, he told me that the armed forces were about to enter, and it would be a tough operation. A girl and a small child had listened to the conversation and were scared, because such an attack could destroy the church, with us inside So I took them in my arms, we were thrown to the ground and I did my best to shield them with my body. The next half hour was hell, a terrible attack with bombs and rockets: the terrorists detonated their belts when the military intervened. It was a massacre. When the soldiers finally freed us they made us walk out the front door. "
It sounds like the plot of a film, but it is not. A story that leaves room for questions that must have an answer: "The attitude of the government and armed forces, was a little strange. If you know the layout of the church, you know where the weak points are, the best points from where to launch a raid. Up where the windows are, there is a roof that surrounds the church one meter wide. Above this again is another roof, where commandos could position themselves, and then enter from there through the windows. They could have picked them off one by one [the terrorists]. But this is not the only thing that was unusual. When some people who were out there - family members, people working in the area - went to ask the soldiers if they needed a hand, we heard them say: 'Go away, this is none of your business'. The military then intervened only after five hours, when the terrorists had already emptied all of their weapons on us. "
"Don Tha'er, the priest who celebrated the Mass, died because he wanted to save the children. Don Wassim with, who at the time of the attack was in the confessional, tried to talk with the terrorists to convince them to let the people and children go, and take only the two of them as hostages. They offered their lives. Don Wassim, when he made to leave the altar and approach the terrorists he was shot by one of them. The last sentence of Don Tha'er, who died before the eyes of his mother [who survived and is now recovering in France], was: "Jesus, into thy hands I commend my spirit." I remember these words, which he always used to say to all those in difficult moments of their lives: "Smile because God loves you"”. "What we experienced in that church was hell. I try to forget what happened, I try joking and laughing with people. But when I'm alone I start to think, the images of what I went through come to mind. It hurts, I'm still in shock, it is impossible to describe those situations. Many boys and girls were killed in the church. A friend of mine with his wife, daughter and father were killed. He asked to be killed, but to let the child live. He was not heard. There was a baby boy or a girl I do not know, who cried, the terrorists told the mother to stop him crying. But she couldn’t, and the man said, 'OK, I'll do it'. And killed the baby".
He stops, to draw breath and remember: "Before this hell, I had a normal life. Our neighbours were Muslims, the relationship with them was normal, we greeted each other, we talked with them and so on. But once the question f religion came into play they would raise their voices, saying that we Christians do not believe in their prophet who is the 'last prophet'. " The future? "Being a Christian in Iraq means you are persecuted for your faith. We want the world to know. We can no longer bear this violence".

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How did we get the Canon of Scripture?

Pope Damasus I convened the Council of Rome in 382AD which compiled an authoritative list of books for the Canon of Scripture. Later, the Council of Carthage (and also Hippo) in August 397AD would re-enforce the Council of Rome's list.  It's been said no actual documents exist from this Council other than information from a letter sent from Pope Damasus to a French/Gaulish bishop telling him of the books for the Sacred Canon. This Canon is the earliest list ever compiled and it is also the same as our modern day Catholic Bible. Here are the books:

The "Damasine list", issued by Pope Damasus I at the council of Rome 382AD, is as follows:
Old Testament
It is likewise decreed: Now, indeed, we must treat of the divine Scriptures: what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun. The list of the Old Testament begins: Genesis, one book;Exodus, one book: Leviticus, one book;Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Jesus Nave (Joshua), one book; of Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; of Kings, four books [First and Second Books of Kings,Third and Fourth Books of Kings]Paralipomenon (Chronicles), two books; One Hundred and Fifty Psalms, one book; of Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; Ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles (Song of Songs), one book; likewise, Wisdom (of Solomon), one book; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), one book;
Likewise, the list of the Prophets: Isaiah, one book; Jeremias (Jeremiah) (with Baruch), one book; along with Cinoth (Lamentations); Ezechiel, one book; Daniel, one book; Osee (Hosea), one book; Amos, one book; Micheas (Micah), one book; Joel, one book; Abdias (Obadiah), one book; Jonas, one book; Nahum, one book; Habacuc (Habakkuk), one book; Sophonias (Zephaniah), one book; Aggeus (Haggai), one book; Zacharias, one book; Malachias (Malachi), one book.
Likewise, the list of histories: Job, one book; Tobias (Tobit), one book; Esdras (Ezra), two books; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; ofMaccabees, two books.
New Testament
Likewise, the list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one bookaccording to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians [First Epistle to the Corinthians and Second Epistle to the Corinthians], one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians [First Epistle to the Thessalonians and Second Epistle to the Thessalonians], one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to theColossians, two to Timothy [First Epistle to Timothy and Second Epistle to Timothy], one to Titus, one to Philemon, one to the Hebrews.
Likewise, one book of the Apocalypse of John. And the Acts of the Apostles, one book.
Likewise, the canonical Epistles, seven in number: of the Apostle Peter, two Epistles [First Epistle of Peter and Second Epistle of Peter]; of the Apostle James, one Epistle; of the Apostle John, oneEpistle; of the other John, a Presbyter, two Epistles [Second Epistle of John and Third Epistle of John]; of the Apostle Jude the Zealot, one Epistle. Thus concludes the canon of the New Testament.
Likewise it is decreed: After the announcement of all of these prophetic and evangelic or as well as apostolic writings which we have listed above as Scriptures, on which, by the grace of God, the Catholic Church is founded, we have considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other Churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

I don't know how anyone can foster the strength necessary to perform the mental gymnastics required to argue around this evidence. See, the WHOLE Church, the Universal/Catholic Church headed by the Pope and NOT some random "church leaders of the time" convened in 3 sacred councils to determine the Canon of Scripture for ALL Christians to use. And 12 centuries after this fact, (15 centuries if you count before the councils because the 7 OT books in question were used as Scripture by Jesus and the Apostles in the Septuagint), comes along ONE solitary, fallible, anti-semitic, overly-scrupulous, deranged monk named Martin Luther (I am biased), who managed to delude all the Council's work with his fallible decree (God help him if he had his way on the NT books he wanted to remove too) on what the three Councils (Rome (382),Hippo (393), and Carthage (397)) infallibly decreed. All of the 7 Old Testament books are there in their entirety and they're listed in the Canon of all 3 Councils. I highlighted them in RED above to make them easier. Protestants call these 7 OT books the "Apocrypha" when since the Council of Trent in the 16th century, we've called them Deuterocanonical, meaning "secondarily canonical". The Universal Church had to re-enforce the previous 3 Councils and say "yes these books are still part of the Canon even though you Protestants reject them and have removed them." That's why Protestants love to falsely say that at Trent the terrible Roman Catholic Church "added" books to the Bible. That's incorrect and horribly inaccurate. Trent was a defense of doctrine council, just like when the Church defined Transubstantiation, Mary's Immaculate Conception and Assumption, Jesus' Divinity, etc. 

The book of Enoch is a apocryphal book. The Gospel of Peter is an apocryphal book. The 7 OT books Luther removed are called Scripture. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I think it's reasonable and safe to say the Bible is a Catholic book clearly given to the Church by God. The other buckets of water got it from the big bucket of water (elements of truth in the Protestant denominations). The Jewish canon was all over the place. The Sadducee's had a different canon than the Pharisees. One Jewish group only used the Torah while the other used the prophets and history books. Also, the Sadducee's didn't believe in the resurrection while the Pharisee's did. And plus, there were Jews who did use the Septuagint. Jesus and the Apostles being some of them. If you look at when Jesus quotes the OT, you'll notice if you try looking it up in the OT part of your Bible, it doesn't quite match word for word. That's because Jesus and the NT writers are quoting from the Septuagint. Also, the Essenes had in their collection now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, most, if not all, of the 7 OT "Apocryphal" books missing from Luther's fallible canon. Knowing this truth, it's IMPOSSIBLE to accept Luther's canon.   

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Five Anglican bishops plan to join Catholic Church :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Five Anglican bishops plan to join Catholic Church :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

There are some Protestants I know who believe they are indeed "catholic" Christians simply because they believe in Christ, read the Scriptures, and believe in the "branch theory" (Example: Methodism came from Anglicanism which came from Catholicism). Therefore, they have a right and legitimate claim to consider themselves to be "catholic" or universal Christians, right?

In the wake of the Pope's invitation to disgruntled traditional Anglicans, several high profile Anglicans among all ranks of their denomination have decided to leave the swamp land of liberal pluralism for the oasis of authentic Christianity founded on the Rock - St. Peter and his successors. I believe anyone claiming any sort of "universalness" in their Christianity, need to look beyond themselves and realize, as the bishops from the above article, that true Catholicism comes from "a unity, we believe, which is possible only in Eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is a sin just a sin?

Many non-Catholic Christians like to say in God's eyes there is no distinction between one sin from another. They say "all sin is sin", meaning all sin is equal in offense to God. While it's true that all or any sin offends God, the Bible shows us that there is such a thing as mortal or deadly sin, and venial or not-deadly sin. Lets see what Scripture says on the matter:

NAB 1st John 5:16-17

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.

17All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.

Praying for a person is not beneficent for their soul because they need to repent and turn to God in the Sacrament of Confession. How does one commit a mortal sin? Three conditions must be met. 

The conditions required are: 

1.) the sin must be grave matter. 

2.) Full consent of the will. 

3.) The sinner must know what he is doing is indeed a sin.

A sin that is mortal is made by the Christian with their full consent and knowledge. Since we believe in free-will and free-love, a decision to sin that is mortal removes us from God's friendship and thus from spending eternity with Him in the beatific vision in Heaven. 

You don't believe in mortal sin? 

Think of a relationship you have with a loved one. Say you deliberately did something to this person that was just plain awful. Pick any circumstance or situation that involves hurting another person, either physically, emotionally, spiritually. Would your relationship be the same with them after you did this action? Would the damage done just injure or would it sever the ties you had? We are in a similar relationship with God. We can either be a friend or an enemy, even if at one point we were in His friendship. Sacramental Confession for a Catholic and Orthodox Christian is the only way this tear can be repaired, bringing us back into God's good graces. Don't let this awesome opportunity to enter into God's fold escape you before your hour glass expires. Get to your priest and confess with a contrite heart! 

Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages and Warnings from Purgatory

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Liturgy of the Hours Book Review on Aquinas and More

This item received 5 stars overall. (10/21/2010)

Orthodoxy: Completely orthodox.
Reading Level: Intermediate

Ignatius BenedictBy Ignatius Benedict (OH) - See all my reviews


Pray in the heart of the Church

Evaluator Comments

The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office, has for centuries been called the "prayer of the Church".  All the ordained are required to start the day with Morning Prayer and the Religious pray the entire Office. Since Vatican Council II, the laity have been encouraged to participate individually or as a community in this most sacred and ancient form of prayer.
The Liturgy of the Hours are divided into specific hours of the day, which comes to us from the Jewish tradition known to Jesus and the Apostles. We see in Scripture from the Book of Acts, the Apostles going to the Temple to pray during the 3rd hour or ninth hour. The Divine Office fulfills in Christianity the Jewish practice of praying 8 times a day. The Hours are: Lauds or Morning Prayer, Day Time Prayer which include Terce, Sext, None, Vespers or Evening Prayer, and lastly Compline or Night Prayer. 
This edition from the Catholic Book Publishing has all of the Hours available in an easy to follow format, once one understands how the book is structured. Also included in the Hours are the Readings which include Scripture and writings from the Fathers of the Church. The Hours include a four-week Grail Psalter following the Roman Calendar with Solemnities and Feast Days of the Saints. 
The structure of the Major Hours (Lauds, Vespers, Compline) goes like this:
Opening prayer or Invitatory
Psalter with Canticles
Short passage of Scripture
Canticle taken from Maginificant or Benedictus
Intercessions of the Church
The Lord's Prayer
Concluding Prayer
Blessing given by a priest or deacon
I highly recommend this edition of the Liturgy of the Hours and this form of liturgical worship. It draws one close to God through participating in the ancient prayer of the Church. 
You can purchase this book here from the leading Catholic online store, Aquinas and More.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Islamization of Europe - France

Here you will see Muslims rioting at a "Free Palestine" march against uniformed police somewhere in Europe. The police are overwhelmed and forced to disperse down the street as the angry mob chants Islamic slogans at them. My dear Brethren, I fear this is just the beginning of the aggressions Europe will see in the years to come.

Due to Western society's pluralistic beliefs, we are seeing France and other countries become Islamic, meaning laws are ignored to grant special privilege to the Muslim way of life. In the below video, which was captured in France by a brave Crusader who by the way has a death warrant on his head , shows Muslims lining the streets of Paris for prayer. Paris law forbids blocking the streets, which they are clearly doing.

I recently learned about an ancient prophecy concerning the end of days where the Great Monarch will come to power after or during a period of great chastisement from God the world has never experienced. This Monarch will be from Gaul/France and will rule with an iron sword all of Europe. All of the republics will fail, as clearly they are doing now, and crumble as the Holy Roman Empire is revived and the great King will rule with His Holiness the Pope at his side. The Protestant sects will cease to exist, all Christians will come back into the one fold, and Christendom will be at the strongest it will ever be. There will be a holy Crusade to remove evil from this world, and we will have a great period of peace.

You can read about this prophecy in the post below.

The Catholic Knight: Catholic Prophecy

The Catholic Knight: Catholic Prophecy: "THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Sit down my readers, grab a cup of tea and I'll tell you a story about your future. Actually it's our future, and ..."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pray for the revival of Catholic England

"Jesus! Jesus! Let England be converted! Let it be done! Let it be done!" - Motto of the College of St. Omer

Monday, October 11, 2010

St. Michael the Archangel: Patron and Defender of Soldiers

St. Michael the Archangel Medal

I served in Iraq during what was called, Operation Iraqi Freedom III during the time period of 2005 - 2006. My unit's mission was to seek and destroy improvised explosive devices (IED's) along the country's maim supply routes (MSR's). This is a highly dangerous mission which required mental strength, faith, and an aggressive desire in every fiber of one's being to live. I'm about to share a story from combat that I believe was a miracle caused by the Hand of God involving a blessed medal and faith in Him who defends His children.

We had been in country for a few months running our patrols. I was assigned with the convoy's commander, 1st Lieutenant Butler, as his personal Humvee driver for the majority of the deployment. I must first retrace my steps to the day I received my first and only St. Michael's medal.

I was at the airport in Indianapolis, IN ready to board a plane with my unit for departure to Kuwait. There was a Catholic priest there serving as Chaplin. He announced if anyone would like to pray with him before we leave, he would be available. My squad leader suggested we go and take the Chaplin's offer. As he finished saying a blessing over us, he gave me the St. Michael's medal. I put it on my dog tags and there it stayed close to my body for the next year.

So, we're out on a routine mission and we think we spot some debris on the side of the road under this overpass. The debris consisted of a sack and some other garbage typical of Iraq's countryside. The convoy stopped and we all jumped out with weapon's in hand ready to pull security while the IED vehicle called the "Buffalo" conducted its investigation of the garbage. My crew and I were standing no more than 20-30 yards away from the overpass. It was dusk as we stood on the street looking for enemy forces lingering in any side street or building window. Roughly a few minutes into the Buffalo's search of the garbage, I saw this flash of light come from underneath the over pass right beside the Buffalo. Then I heard the sound of the explosion which followed afterwards. I knew right away what I saw and heard was an IED exploding right in front of me and my fellow soldiers. In that split second I turned and ran for cover behind my Humvee trying not to get hit by the shrapnel as the sound of metal whizzed by my head and "pinged" off my truck, making what would become the all-too familiar sound of metal on metal. After I full realized what had just happened, I searched my legs and torso for any blood, to my amazement everyone survived except the tires, windows, and hydraulic arm of the Buffalo. The crew was OK as well, though a little shook up, but in one piece. This occurrence would be one of many like it during our one year in combat.
The Buffalo -  IED Hunting Vehicle
The Buffalo was damaged to the point it was immobile and we could not go on any further with our mission. We radioed base requesting a tow vehicle to haul the Buffalo back to base. We continued to pull security until our help came. We ended up pulling a 19-hour mission that night. I remember thanking God for saving my life that evening. I also remember feeling as if my St. Michael medal had something to do with this divine intervention as well. I think God protected all of us that night and our patron St. Michael was the one there deflecting the pieces of metal flying through the air. No other thought has ever crossed my mind regarding how I survived that evening unscathed. I thanked St. Michael and all our Guardian Angels for protecting us, and I particularly thanked God for His wisdom in creating such protectors for us.

The Prayer to St. Michael holds a special place in my heart. For me this prayer rings true not only in an invisible, spiritual way. Rather in a concrete way where this magnificent Angel of God crosses into our physical World and intervenes in our daily lives, truly defending us from the snares and wickedness of Satan.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Credo - Symbolum Apostolicum

In English:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.


In Latin:
Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae,
et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum,
qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine,
passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus,
descendit ad ínferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis,
inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.
Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem,
vitam aeternam.

The part of the Apostle's Creed I would like to focus on is the part that says "sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam" or "holy Catholic Church".  I contest centuries ago, before the so-called Protestant "Reformation" (it hardly reformed anything but rather caused schism and heresy), Christians since the formulation of the Apostle's Creed (and Nicea) correctly understood which Church they were professing belief in. For there were two bodies of believers before the Reformation. The Apostolic Church consisting of the Western Roman and Eastern Greek Churches, and the heretics consisting of Arians, Donatism, Gnostics, Marcionism, Montanism, etc. For more ancient heresies of Christianity visit here

Before the division of Christians during and after the "Reformation", Catholics and Orthodox Christians who recited the Creeds understood the "holy Catholic Church" to be the same Church as those who had written the statement of faith. And they were correct in their thinking. Pre-"Reformation" all Christians, whether from the East or West, outside of the heretics, were all in an Apostolic body that was unified in faith, practice, and leadership. They understood that their Metropolitan Bishop's succession to the See could be traced back to the Apostles and Early Church Bishops. It was a very concrete thing and it did not take much mental power to comprehend this reality. Since the thousands of denominations that have sprung up since the "Reformation", this is still not the case outside of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. 

The Protestant mindset when analyzing the Apostle's and Nicean Creeds are only half way there to the full understanding of the Catholic/Orthodox belief at the words "holy Catholic Church". The Protestant will say, and I have a pretty good idea since I used to have this same mindset out of ignorance, that when he/she says "I believe in the holy catholic Church" they are not referring to any particular "denomination", but rather all the "true believers" who have professed Jesus as Lord and Savior. These "true believers" could not possibly be counted since they can be at any place and time in the world. I take this belief to be very abstract and it doesn't sound like much to believe in...personally an invisible body of believers gives me little comfort. This ideal hardly fulfills the Lord's words when he says his followers are to be as obvious as a light on a hill (Matt. 5:14). 

Thinking about this more thoroughly, I'd say there are other conclusions a Protestant can come to with "holy Catholic Church". Although, they certainly would never say it's the "Roman" Church. The die-hard fundamentalist could believe their denomination, though created some man in the last few centuries, truly is the church spoken of in the Creed. This type of believer insists all other Christian expressions are incorrect and their particular "church" was doctrinally right in its founding, thus it can be the church spoken of in the Creeds (Baptists come to mind here). Another Protestant believer might say their denomination branched off of an Apostolic Church at some point, so it can trace it's lineage back to this Church spoken of in the early Creeds. 
I find both, and indeed all of these theories, to be problematic.  The "branch-theory" could not work in the case of Protestantism. The reason the Orthodox are properly and rightly considered Apostolic and true Churches is because they maintained the priesthood, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the 7 Sacraments, Liturgical worship, hierarchy, etc. The true Apostolic faith minus their acceptance of the Pope as having universal jurisdictional authority. The Protestant's completely threw away the Apostolic faith and adopted a new set of beliefs, some of which were condemned in the past. So, for a Protestant to claim the "branch theory" would liken to a member of an ancient heretical cult claiming they too are true Catholic or Orthodox Christians. It's not logical nor reasonable. 

Secondly, for a person, such as a Baptist, to think their denomination (usually as ridged as their individual congregational church) is correct and all other expressions are in error, they would have to show historically how their beliefs today can be found throughout all of Christianity's history. They would need to back up their theology using the Early Church Fathers, Councils, Creeds, and Scripture of course. Any honest person will tell you that at some point, all Protestant denominations, and even those non-denominational denominations, can find their origins in a person who was once Catholic and left the Church to start his own version of Christianity (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, King Henry VIII, Thomas Cramner, John Knox, etc.). For a belief like this to hold would mean Christians for nearly two thousand years were in error, possibly damning error, and Christians were "lost" for all this time until Calvin or Luther or Rick Warren came onto the scene to lead people to the correct beliefs. I find no logic in this and frankly appalling. I don't buy into this "Remnant" belief some extreme Fundamentalist Evangelicals adhere to either. 

So what should an Evangelical, Non-denominational, Protestant be thinking of when they recite the words of the Creed stating belief in the "holy Catholic Church"? They should be thinking of the Catholic Church headed by the current Pope, Benedict XVI. If they think it means the invisible set of true believers in Christ, they are half way there, but not fully correct. Catholics believe too that if one is baptized in the Trinity, they are a Christian and are some how mystically connected to the physical Church Jesus established over two thousand years ago. We regret they are not in full communion with us and we pray for their return to orthodoxy and orthopraxy. 
Protestants are Christians thanks to the baptism and belief in Jesus. However they are sects within Christianity and they lack many of the graces Christ intends for his children to have. They have the Scriptures, which many enjoy abusing by making themselves the sole authority on its interpretation, and they have prayer, along with Baptism and Matrimony.  They severely lack the New Covenant priesthood, Eucharist, Absolution from sins through Confession, and to sum it up, the fullness of faith as promised by the Holy Spirit. I pray for their return to the Church of Christ so that Jesus' powerful prayer "may they all be one" in St. John 17 would be fulfilled.   

Friday, May 14, 2010

A New Crusade Needed?

 Surely everyone is aware of the Crusades which were fought in the twelfth century into the sixteenth century. The Crusades often give Christians, particularly Catholics, a not-so-good reputation among non-believers and also fellow non-Catholic Christians. This important event in the life of the Church staved off basically the domination of Muslim conquest in Europe and for a time, the Middle East. 
Little is it taught that the Crusades were a defensive action after many centuries of Christians being persecuted on way to pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Towns and cities that were previously Catholic were conquered and destroyed by Muslim warriors in Jihad. The countries of Syria, Jordan, Palestine/Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, etc. from the seventh century to the ninth century predominately Christian. Many old churches and monasteries exist there today as remnants of the rich historic life that is traced back to the Apostles. The "straw that broke the camels back" was when the Muslim Arab and Turks were set to invade the walls of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, Turkey. The Byzantine Emperor sent Pope Pius a letter requesting military support from Western Europe. It was then the Holy Father called at a council for any able bodied Christian to pick up their crosses, head to the Holy Land, and retrieve the sacred land back from the Muslims. 

Since then, many Christians have been forced to leave the lands they once considered home due to violent persecution from Muslims. It seems every day the news tells of some atrocity committed against the frail, yet devoted, Christian communities hanging on to their ancestral home in the Middle East. Innocent men, women, and children are attacked while coming out of churches after Mass or Divine Liturgy. Many have been forced to flee to Europe and America because the persecution is so intense, it seems like the only way out of the blood shed. And many faithful have died martyrs assured of God's eternal vision. 

So, is a new Holy Crusade in order? The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has said recently that no good can come from violence. His Holiness insists peace is the only way for mankind's survival and common unity. The situation today surrounding demographics seems to be different today than what they were during the time when there were Papal States and Catholic Monarchies. Europe is increasingly becoming more and more secular so it would seem dubious for the Pope to rely on the populace by declaring another Crusade. Of course I agree with the Pope that violence is a horrible thing and how does good come from someone dying? I have seen war first hand from my time in Iraq serving with the U.S. Army Guard. I'm also "a realist" and understand that force, particularly military force, is necessary if given the reasons for engaging in armed combat fulfills the Just War Doctrine of the Church. I believe one of the reasons no Crusade has been called to return the Holy Land back to Christians thus stopping the violent persecutions against them is because there no longer is a Holy Roman Empire or Papal States or absolute Catholic monarchies present in the world. The people's duties lie mainly now to the secular state rather than to the Church as it did during the time of the Crusades. So the path of peace and understanding is how we travel. We must pray for our persecuted brethren in the Middle East who face trials day and night that would make us tremble. The extreme minority who have stayed are brave saints, worthy of honor. We must support them in every way possible by encouraging and supporting them financially. Many have lost their businesses due to attacks. Many have been forced out of their homes. It's a horrible thing and the Church needs to stand with them. 

Here is a link to the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher in Israel. They are a military order that goes back to the Crusades still working in the Holy Land today.     

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Suffering Servant

Perfect for Good Friday meditation:


Chapter 52

1* Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. 2 Shake yourself from the dust, arise, O captive* Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. 3 For thus says the LORD: "You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. 4 For thus says the Lord GOD: My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. 5* Now therefore what have I here, says the LORD, seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail, says the LORD, and continually all the day my name is despised. 6 Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I." 7* How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." 8 Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. 9 Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10* The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. 11* Depart, depart, go out thence, touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD. 12 For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. 13 Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. 14 As many were astonished at him*-- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men-- 15* so shall he startle* many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.
Chapter 53

1* Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected* by men; a man of sorrows*, and acquainted with grief; * and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4* Surely he has borne our griefs* and carried our sorrows; * yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5* But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7* He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9* And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; * when he makes himself* an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; 11 he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. 12* Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The New Missal Translation

I haven't posted in quite awhile. I'm not sure how many of you have noticed since I only have 4 followers. I very much appreciate any who have read my posts.

I just wanted to share that I'm very excited for the new English translation for the Roman Missal. In the next year or so it should start to be intregrated into parishes for regular use. Currently there are various workshops available for priests and diocesan leaders, sign-up is on the USCCB website.
It should be clear that the changes will result in not a different Holy Mass, but a more accurate translation from the original Latin.
My personal opinion is the new translation will add more solemnity and dignity to the Mass. I think some of the words such as "cup" will do better to be called "chalice". My hopes are that Catholics all across the English-speaking world will welcome the new words and it will limit liturgical abuses by reinforcing the "read the black, do the red" rubrics of the divine liturgy. I know of a priest, though well intended, will add in his own words to the Ecce Agnus Dei. He will say "This is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It's Jesus Christ who calls us together, happy are we who are called in his name."  This personally drives me nuts! I think it's a liturgical abuse but correct me if I'm wrong, it's nothing serious enough to go to the Bishop about. One of the reasons I became a Catholic was to avoid being Protestant where we make up everything as we go along. I try to be a "by the book" Catholic, faithful to the Holy Father and Magisterium of the Church.
So, I'm hoping that the new translation will not only make the words used in Mass more holy, reverent, and dignified; but also reinforce to the priests that the words of the liturgy are not to be changed.