I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.
This is a re-post from November 2007, but I thought I would dredge it back up for the Feast of St. Jerome today.
St. Jerome translated the Vulgate Bible from copies of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts in the late fourth century.It was one of the most important accomplishments in his lifetime. This was not the first Latin translation of Scripture but it quickly became the accepted version used by the Church and all of Christendom. Before his translation there were many versions of the Old Latin or Vetus Latina manuscripts floating around, (approximately 27) and a more readable accessible version was needed.
So, St. Jerome translated the Bible (both New and OT) into the common Latin, the vulgate, the language of the people of the ancient world. As he neared completion of this monumental task, he came to the second chapter of the book of James and read this in the original Greek manuscript he was translating from:
"Ye see then how that by works a man is not justified, and by faith only." (Jam 2:24)
He was troubled by this verse because it didn’t express what he felt was James true intention of the spirit of the chapter. Perhaps he thought, the original Greek manuscript had an error!St. Jerome, being a theologian knew what the Catholic Church stance was regarding faith and works. He knew that the Catholic Church believed that faith alone was not part of their doctrine. He knew that Catholic soteriology expressed that good works done in this life were an important aspect of final salvation. So he pondered , prayed and researched. He was beside himself because this manuscript was stating the opposite of what he knew to be true Catholic doctrine. His first thought was to just declare this book "un-inspired" and place it in the same category of the deuterocanonicals he struggled with. (thereby relegating it to an apocryphal status.) Finally, he decided that it would be in the "spirit of St. James" to add the word “not” before we are justified by faith alone. He merely had to take the not (ouk) from in front of justified (dikaiontai) and place it in front of the word faith. Just a simple transposition of a single word. After all, he was a theologian with much more learning than the average person and he felt that he had the authority to do this, given his tremendous education and position of responsibility in the Church. He even went up against the pope at one point trying to convince him the deuterocanonicals weren't inspired, (but he was corrected and submitted to the authority of the Church) He felt that he knew what James was trying to express here and thought he could make it clearer by switching the words around a bit. In a more quiet moment, St. Jerome pondered whether anyone else in salvation history would ever consider making this same bold decision to add or subtract from the Word of God. When he finished his translation of the Greek NT into the Vulgate Latin the "translated" verse read like this:
"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
This small alteration of the original text would hardly be noticed by anyone and would be more in keeping with the Catholic view of faith and works. As a matter of fact, the Vulgate translation of St. Jerome was recognized as the "official" Bible translation of the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent. It had been used and accepted by the Church since the fourth century and three other councils had already approved it but this was stated at Trent in response to the reformer's attempts to discredit the canon of the Catholic bible. Most importantly it contained that pivotal verse in James that the Catholic theologians so often use to defend their soteriology against the sola fide of the reformer.
This is a tongue in cheek post, just in case anyone didn't realize it by now.
St. Jerome would not have presumed to know the mind of the writer of Scripture and would have never attempted to add or subtract words in order to make scripture express his view more clearly. In his own life, he had strong opinions regarding which books of Scripture were inspired but ultimately submitted his will to the Church, the pillar and foundation of Truth.
The latest craze in our secular society is de-baptism ceremonies where the atheist wishes to "un do" their baptism in a public way to renounce religion in their life. This is so sad at so many levels and also indicates how aggressive the atheist movement in this country is becoming. But, I find another aspect of this phenomenon interesting. Many Christians say that baptism is just symbolic or an "ordinance" yet atheists who want nothing to do with God realize that their baptism is indeed important. Important enough to have a "de-baptism" ceremony! Perhaps these folks recognize at some level, that baptism is the initiation into the faith and has a sacramental function, not a symbolic one. In their bid to renounce faith, they seek to undo this baptism. Notice they didn't have a "I refuse Jesus as my Personal Savior and Lord ceremony" or an "anti-sinner's prayer" recitation. These atheists, at the very least, recognize the sacramental nature of baptism which many believers don't.
Despite their attempts though, one cannot undo a valid baptism. the Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:
Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.
This is also why the Catholic Church accepts the valid baptism of anyone wishing to enter the Church and does not require re-baptism as many protestant denominations do.
20 years ago, I left Philadelphia after four years of medical training and then teaching at a medical school to move to Northeast Pennsylvania with my wife, 2 year old son and one on the way. While living in Philly we attended Living Word Community in Center City. It was a vibrant fellowship of young professionals, med students, engineers, lawyers and doctors and was pastored by a former professor of electrical engineering at U of P. It was also a diverse congregation ethnically, embracing and welcoming people of all cultural backgrounds.
Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia, my wife was diagnosed with a rare but uniformly fatal form of lung cancer. At the time only 33 cases had been reported in the medical literature. Living Word Community surrounded us with love and support and some folks there introduced us to the "healing" teachings that had their roots in the Tulsa teachers (Hagen, Copeland, Roberts). For the entire time we were there we studied and memorized the scriptures that pertained to healing and comforted ourselves with the belief that "Jesus went and healed them all" and "by his stripes we are healed." We read only what we wanted to believe the scriptures said and avoided the verses that told us things we didn't want to see. Verses like; "That I might know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings; being made conformable to his death" and "Not my will but yours" were not part of our lexicon of healing verses. Needless to say, this was a difficult way to live, constantly in denial and working really, really hard to obtain the healing for my late wife. They say Catholics depend on works , but holy hanna, this was an awful lot of work!
The rest of the story is in my testimony here. Today I was visiting my youngest son in Philadelphia and we went to Mass at the Cathedral in Center City. It dredged up a lot of memories and some sad feelings about that difficult time in my life. (Working 70-80 hours a week as an intern and carrying around the constant thought that my young wife could die if we didn't have enough faith) It turns out that the Cathedral is around the block from our old Living Word Community and we had to walk right past the cathedral every Sunday when I lived there. My Catholic Blinders were fully functional back then so I never knew what and who I was walking by. (I had no idea what a cathedral was.) This little trip down memory lane helped me to rejoice that I have found the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church.... but a tad bummed out because it took me so long!
Lord Jesus, for those out there who left the Catholic faith without knowing who they were leaving, give us the opportunity to find them and open our mouths so we will boldly speak the Truth in love.
"Think about this: what area of human life involves more moral decision making than the human body and it’s health? In the end, beyond the questions of whether or not the bill passed by Congress will provide taxpayer support of abortion or euthanasia, we have to ask ourselves a much more profound question.
That is, are we turning over all the vast numbers of moral questions and decisions involved in health care to a government that will make the right moral decisions for us? Can we entrust our health care, and our family’s health care to a government presently dominated by people who don’t understand the dignity of life from conception until death, or that it’s wrong to experiment on embryonic human beings, or to clone human beings? or even the very meaning of the words “family” and “marriage”?
And even if all 537 elected federal officials were 100% pro-life and pro-marriage, subsidiarity forces us to pause and remember the huge government bureaucracy, full of lots of unelected people. With all due respect for the many good and hard working federal employees, a lot of federal employees have many strange ideas about morality that are very different from Christ’s.
Today we remember Christ’s power and desire to heal and care for the sick, and the serious responsibility that places on us as Christians. We cannot lightly shift this responsibility to others —whether they are our neighbor, or an insurance company or a government official. Let us pray that God will guide our nation in the debate over health care reform. And let us pray that all Catholics may be led by the wisdom of Christ, so wonderfully laid before us in the richness and fullness of the social doctrines of His Holy Catholic Church. [By the grace of Jesus Christ, may “the deaf hear and the mute speak.”]
The CMA has taken a position on the current health care reform maelstrom. You can read the statement here.
In conclusion, we call upon all Catholics and Catholic organizations to reaffirm their support for the foundational ethical and social teachings of the Church which provide a framework for authentic health care reform, and to unite as one in an uncompromising commitment to defend the sanctity of life and the conscience rights of all providers as essential parts of health-care reform. And we also respectfully urge all Catholics and Catholic organizations to place a greater emphasis on respecting the principle of subsidiarity across the spectrum of issues in health-care financing and delivery during the coming legislative debates. Experience indicates that medical decisions are best made within the personal context of the individual patient-physician relationship rather than within some remote, impersonal, and bureaucratic agency, whether governmental or corporate. We are convinced that if this important principle of Catholic social teaching is not correctly upheld, then short-term measures to defend the right to life and respect for conscience will ultimately fail and the patient-physician relationship will be irreparably compromised.
We noted above that we face not only a crisis in health-care financing and delivery, but a crisis in the current legislative process. We must ensure that well-intentioned efforts to bring about “change” are not exploited to create a federally controlled system that promises health care for all, but creates an oppressive bureaucracy hostile to human life and to the integrity of the patient-physician relationship. It would be better to forgo long-needed changes in health-care financing and delivery in the short-term if these would lead to a long-term, systemic policy regime that is inimical to respect for life, religious freedom, and the goods served by the principle of subsidiarity. Rather than accept such an outcome, we should take the time required to implement reform measures that are sound in both principled and practical terms.
Here is an excellent article by Anglican priest, Fr. Ray Ryland, now a Catholic priest:
One of the post-communion prayers in the Eucharistic liturgy makes this petition: “Lord, by our sharing in the mystery of this Eucharist, let your saving love grow within us. Grant this through Christ our Lord.” Notice the italicized words. We pray and say things like this so often in our liturgy we tend to take them for granted. Take another and closer look at what Jesus Christ does in this great mystery of the Eucharist.
Start With the Incarnation Ponder these astounding words from the prologue to the Fourth Gospel: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God...And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth...” (John 1:1, 14a) Sacred scripture is telling us that Almighty God has become part of the material world. And all for the purpose of working out our salvation through the human nature (body as well a soul) of his divine Son.
Now that Christ has been raised in glory, through his transfigured human nature God mediates to us the salvation Christ has won for us. God acts on us in an intimate, person-to-person way. Our contact with God is a spiritual reality made possible by God’s grace and by our response to that grace in faith. And so for all persons who have faith in Christ, he makes himself spiritually available to them. But in his infinite love for us, Jesus Christ has chosen to do far more than be simply spiritually available. In the Eucharist, Jesus Christ gives us direct contact with His human nature. Think of your senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting. You can hear or see or smell something, but our sense of hearing or seeing or smelling is detached from its object. You are not in elements in such a way that he pulls them toward himself. He subjects them to himself. A miraculous change occurs which we call “transubstantiation.”
But note: the King of Glory does not descend in order to “enter” the bread and wine. No, instead of his coming down, he draws the essence of the elements to where he is, at the right hand of the Father. The risen Lord draws the inner reality of the bread and wine in all celebrations of the Mass unto himself and indeed into himself. Thus he maintains his own bodily unity. In other words, Jesus Christ himself is not changed into the essence of the elements of bread and wine. Rather, the essence of those elements is changed into him.
Consider the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood on a Catholic altar. We can see the hosts being distributed and the Precious Blood being consumed. What we see happening to the hosts and the Precious Blood happens not to the substance of those elements, but to the accidents, the appearances. It is the accidents that we see consecrated, handled, broken, multiplied in many ciboria on many altars in churches around the world. The substance of all the Hosts, all the Precious Blood, in all the world is the one Body and Blood Soul and divinity, of the one risen Lord Jesus Christ.
Always remember: Jesus Christ does not come down from heaven to enter the substance of these elements. Jesus Christ in heaven changes the substance of these elements into himself, while leaving their appearances unchanged. That is the miracle of transubstantiation.
In any non-Catholic church, you can hear Jesus Christ proclaimed, often quite powerfully. In any non-Catholic church, you can be invited to commit your life to Jesus Christ. In almost any non-Catholic church you will find warm human fellowship. All of these, of course, you should find in any Catholic church.
But in no non-Catholic church (excepting the Eastern Orthodox) can you receive Jesus Christ himself, Body and Blood, Soul and divinity. Because of the lack of apostolic orders for their ministers, none of the non-Catholic communion services is the Eucharist. Therefore, in no no-Catholic church can you be literally united with Jesus Christ.
I shall never forget the exclamation of a theologian, himself a convert, as he thought about the Eucharist and the priesthood: “that man,” he said in a hushed tone, speaking of his priest, “can put God in my mouth!”
This most precious of privileges, this most intimate of all person-to-Person unions, is available to you only in Christ’s one true Church. Rejoice! And do something else. Go about your life, carrying out your individual apostolate, with the words of Jesus ringing in your ears: “From him who has been given much, much will be expected.”
Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this, and you dissolve the unity of the Church. -St. Thomas Aquinas
Renowned Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly, writes: "Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood" (EarlyChristian Doctrines, 440).
Justin Martyr: 2nd century
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
1600 years later, the reformers deny this ancient teaching of the Church. By painstaking parsing of the words of scripture they use the bible in a vacuum to deny this doctrine and conclude that the Eucharist was symbolic and the early Church teachings were incorrect. Even Martin Luther was unwilling, at least initially, to deny the doctrine of the real presence. Sadly though, the ancient doctrines, (sacramental theology in particular) were denied and the unity was dissolved.
My new CD has arrived! Thanks be to God. Over two years in the making. Thanks to all you guys in the blogosphere for previewing the various tracks over the past two years and praying for me as I was writing and recording it. I hope the CD will be an encouragement for Catholics and perhaps inspire others to take another look at the Catholic Church. If you are interested in purchasing your copy of Way to Emmaus, contact me at dobrodoc1 at gmail dot com. All the proceeds from the CD go towards our Haiti medical missions.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. This is yet another title for Mary derived from Simeon's prophecy in the temple at our Lord's dedication. "A sword will pierce your soul..." Here's a link to a great article on Our Lady of Sorrows.
Here's a tune from my new CD that honors(not worships) Mary and depicts her from the perspective of one who for most of his life did not honor her at all. The early Church fathers called Mary the Untier of Knots because Eve tied the knot of disobedience for all humanity in the garden. But Mary, the New Eve, by her yes to God untied the knot of disobedience by bringing forth the Savior of the world.
"There's victory in Jesus", amen, and.....ahem... if we also choose to share in the fellowship of his sufferings and learn to take up our cross and follow him. Like the old VBS song we used to sing, "if you don't bear the cross, you can't wear the crown" Such good Catholic theology and I didn't even know it!
Today the Church reminds the faithful of how important the cross is to our faith. Not only do we focus on how his suffering and death on the cross redeemed us but also how he redeemed suffering itself and gave purpose to it.
That's the second part of the equation I missed for most of my Christian life. I mistakenly thought that Christ suffered only so I didn't have to. Now, I am starting to see the bigger picture. Of course He suffered and died so I can be spared the pains of hell and eternal separation from God. But also, he showed me how to live and appropriately deal with my sufferings(even as minuscule as they seem, at times, in comparison). He redeemed our sufferings here on earth, so they have meaning. St. Paul tells us we can join our suffering to his ( "add to") . That doesn't mean his suffering was insufficient as some say we Catholics believe. No, in some mystical way he allows us to participate in his suffering by allowing use to unite our suffering to his. Why? For the sake of the body of Christ, St Paul tells us in Colossians:
"I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, the church (Col 1:24)"
So on this great feast, let us remember the Cross and pray that we all "may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death."
Yesterday I was packing my car getting ready to leave for a gig. A man drenched from the pouring rain was walking up our driveway carrying a bag filled with leaflets and handed me one and said: "We are starting a new church and would you like to come?" I really wanted to chat with him but I was already late for the show and quickly said, "We are Catholic and belong to the Church Jesus started." I know it may sound snide and triumphalistic to some, but that was not my intention at all. In just a few seconds of time to answer, I wanted to give him something to think about as he continued on his way through my neighborhood. (which is mostly Catholic due to our proximity to St. Joseph's)
On his way out the driveway he mumbled: "We're apostolic ya know." Perhaps he actually understood my point and tried to counter it by stating that they too were from the Church Jesus started. The only problem is that they are not! A person who calls himself a pastor 400 years separated in time from the apostles teaching as passed down through apostolic succession decided to rent a classroom from a local private private school and start a new church, calling it apostolic.
Here are a few thoughts about apostolicity from the Church whose roots are found in the apostles:(cf The Catechism)
77 "In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left behind bishops as their successors. They gave them "their position of teaching authority." Indeed, "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.
84 The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei, 1 Tim 6:20, 2 Tim 1:12-14), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing, and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful."
So, I hope and pray this gentleman will eventually see that his "new church" is not apostolic simply by calling itself so. You need to be able to trace your teachings to the ones handed down from the apostles. That's how the early Church detected false teachers and heresy. They would inquire who their bishop was and who ordained him etc. If they could not "track back" to the "gang of 12" then they were to be avoided. If the line of succession is broken, the folks after that break cannot and should not call themselves apostolic. This is not triumphalism, separatism or nanny nanny foo-fooism, but just illustrating a process that has continued unbroken for almost 2000 years.
St Augustine said:
[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house(or rented classroom)" (Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 4:5 [A.D. 397]).
Check out this story by Larry Johnson. He writes about the pressure his family is getting to put his mom under "hospice care" at her nursing home. It's an interesting view of what could happen when the government starts to make the decisions for us regarding end of life care for our loved ones.
Last evening, the new Bishop of Allentown came to celebrate Mass for the Lehigh deaneries (a cluster of parishes in the Lehigh County) It was a chance for us to get to see the bishop and see the Church at work from a larger perspective. As the bishop walked in preceded by a deacon holding the Gospel high in his hands, I started to get a little teary. I was moved by watching this ancient practice of a bishop, who can trace his lineage to Jesus and the apostles, tending his flock, obeying the command of Jesus to watch over his sheep. There was something surreal about it. Watching a bishop who by the serial laying on of hands over 1900 years is in direct historic continuity with the Church that gave us the New Testament. Quite something to ponder. St. Ignatius who was taught by some of the apostles and learned what church governance and authority was from them wrote this in 107 AD on his way to Rome for martyrdom:
“You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8).
The CD will be available for purchase on this blog around September 20th.
It will then be available on ITunes and CDBaby.com in October. All proceeds from the sale of this CD will go to purchase medicines and supplies for the Haiti Medical Mission: Nov 14-21, 2009.
Dr. Robert Benne, religion professor, theologian and member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's recent synod that voted to approve of homosexual unions had this to say in response to the vote. (See full commentary in Christianity Today.)
"What was truly chilling about the assembly's debates was that the revisionists seemed to quote Jesus and the Bible as knowledgeably and persuasively as the orthodox. Passages reinforcing their respective agendas were selected and then brilliantly woven into their arguments. Both sides seemed to have the Bible on their side. The revisionists "contextualized" and relativized the relevant texts. The orthodox claimed a plain sense reading of Scripture. The Lutheran confessions were utilized effectively by both sides. There was no authoritative interpretation conveyed by any agent or agency in the church. The church was, and is, rudderless.
Sola Scriptura, a Lutheran principle adopted by evangelicals, did not seem to be sufficient in such circumstances. An authoritative tradition of interpretation of the Bible seemed to be essential. More was needed than the Bible alone. Protestants seem to lack such an authoritative tradition, so they fight and split. In this situation, the option of swimming the Tiber seems all the more tempting."
This is the argument that we Catholics have been making for sometime now. (about 400 years) The Church was given to us by God to be that agency that provides an authoritative interpretationof holy scripture. The Church is God's gift to His people to be the pillar and foundation of Truth, not an individual's interpretation of the Bible. "More was needed than the Bible alone." The word Church was used multiple times (111, to be exact) in the New Testament meaning Jesus and the apostles seemed to talk a lot about it. However, He never told us he would give us the Bible to lead us in all truth. Wouldn't it have ended this discussion if he had? But I digress.
There should be only sadness atthis wholesale loss of orthodoxy that is being seen in modern protestantism. We should grieve for the souls that will be lost due to the errant moral teachings that result from it.At the same time, though, we will pray that God can take situations like these to rescue more people without a rudder in a sea of moral relativism and bring them into the safety provided by the Barque of Peter, the Catholic Church. Personally, I will pray for Dr. Robert Benne that the may be led home to the Catholic Church. Methinks he may not be too far off at this point.
Tonite at 8 PM Eastern Standard time, the Mystic Monk Coffee baristas will be serving up some fine brew and discussion with Father Mitch Pacwa. What a life! Prayer, daily Mass and roasting coffee. A little heaven on earth!