Archive for April, 2011

April 29, 2011

“What is the Point in the Pope?”

One question I received in response to my last post, which happens to be a common inquiry people have about the Church, is “what is up with the pope? Why is he necessary?”. I understand this feeling, because I used to question this as well. I thought that Catholics worshiped the pope and looked to him as God, believing that He is an infallible human. There are a lot of things people think Catholics believe when it comes to the pope and most of them do not coincide with what the Church actually teaches. So let me give you the other side of the story.

I need to start off by explaining, as I have kind of touched on in previous posts, that the universal  Catholic Church is essentially one Church.  It operates as one, it believes as one, and it worships as one. The only reason the Church is separated into separate buildings across the world is simply because it is physically and logically impossible to get every Catholic in the world in the same place, at the same time. Therefore, there are only different church buildings to serve different areas. A small town or city may have just one church building, whereas a larger populated city may have one per a certain amount of square miles. This concept differs from other Christian churches, in that with others you may have two churches of the same denomination within two miles of each other, who remain separate not because of geographical  boundaries or issues with space, but because there are certain things they are not in accord with each other about, which causes them to remain separate.

Since we are one Church, we have, like any other church, leaders who are ordained by God to shepherd the flock. Since there are geographical distances between this one church, a system was created to assure that we remain united as one family, one body of believers, all in one accord. Each individual church building (called a “parish”) is lead by one or two priests (depending on the size of the parish). A group of parishes that are all in close proximity to each other are part of a “diocese”. The parish I serve at, St. Charles in Nederland, is part of the diocese of Beaumont—or, Beaumont and surrounding areas. Another nearby example is the diocese of Galveston-Houston. Each diocese is lead by a bishop. It’s the bishop’s God ordained responsibility to shepherd those in his diocese, and to assist and advise the priests in the diocese in shepherding their individual parishes.

And the pope? Well, he’s just another bishop. He is the bishop of the diocese of Rome. And since Rome was chosen as the capitol location (because if it is one Church, then logically somewhere has to be designated as the central location), then the bishop of the diocese of Rome was given the role as the spokesman for the other bishops and for the Church.

Something I think a lot of people who hold misconceptions about the pope miss is that every Christian church has a teaching office of some sort and every Christian church has a designated leader and spokesman, in order to effectively lead the flock closer to God.

But isn’t it dangerous to give that much power to one man?

The pope is not without accountability. All of the bishops work together, through constant prayer and meditation, to decide how they can best shepherd their people, how they can lead their people the closest to God, just like the leaders of any other Christian church strive to do. When a decision has been reached, the pope serves as the spokesman for the Church, but he has made no decisions by himself. These men have no power of their own, nor are they infallible. They are men, with faults and shortcomings just as you and I. The Teachings of the Church, however, spoken by Jesus through the bishops, are believed to be infallible.

(((Read: the Teachings of the Church that are believed to be infallible are denoted with a capital “T” in the word Teaching. For example, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, one God in three parts, which is not directly referenced and named in scripture, is considered an infallible Teaching of the Church. Big T Traditions are believed to be the Word of God, spoken through the Church which sits in the seat of Christ. There are other traditions, such as the celibacy of priests,  that are susceptible to change and are not claimed to be an infallible Teaching of God)))).

Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He established a physical Church here on Earth for his believers to call home. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven. Whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19

Jesus was physically leaving. He would always be with us through the Holy Spirit and always a prayer away. But physically, He was going back home to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. But he did not leave us with nothing. He established a physical Church to stand in for Him during His physical absence. He graciously entrusted Peter and his apostles to lead His people closer to Him and to guide them in worship.

Peter, the first bishop, answered the call of Jesus.  Together with the other disciples, they established the Church and, as we read about in the book of Acts, different apostles brought the Church to other nations. An apostle would then lead and shepherd a community in this new place.  (Sound familiar from what I was talking about before? 😉 This was the beginning of what later would be known as a “diocese”) Over the years, Christianity spread, and this tradition of apostolic succession remained. Approximately 2000 years later it still stands.

The pope and the other bishops today are the successors of Peter and the first apostles, who answered the call of Christ and established His Church, as one body of believers, in one accord, as Jesus desired for it to be.

April 27, 2011

Something Bothering You about the Catholic Church? What Would you Like to Know?

Instead of creating a real post tonight, I want to stop for a second and let you tell me something that you are wondering about. If you have ever thought to yourself “One thing that really bothers me about the Catholic Church is…” or “Why do Catholics _____??”, then that is something that I would like to address and answer for you to the best of my knowledge and ability.

Please ask me your questions or state your confusions/concerns or whatever the case may be in either a comment to this post, an email at catholicforareason@yahoo.com, or a facebook comment/message. I will not engage in discussions via facebook comments (that sometimes does not turn out pretty, especially when there are disagreements, and I try my best to avoid what is not beneficial) but I will promptly address/answer these in my next posts. 🙂

Have a wonderful,blessed rest of the night and day tomorrow! 🙂

P.S. An Anonymous Poll to Take if You’d Like

April 25, 2011

Misconception #2: Catholics Have Crucifixes because they Forget that Christ is Alive

Happy Easter everyone! Or, as many Christians accurately like to call it, Resurrection Sunday.

It’s plausible to say that today is the most important Christian holiday of the year. It is the day that celebrates Christ’s triumphant resurrection from the tomb three days after he was whipped, beaten, spat at, stripped of his clothes and dignity, and nailed to a cross where he was to meet his death.

Today is the day that we celebrate the fact that, despite all that, Christ is ALIVE.

And in honor of today, I felt it would be appropriate to address a common misconception that states that the Catholic Church does not acknowledge Christ’s victory over death. Many people feel that since a common Catholic symbol is a cross with a dying Jesus atop it, that Catholics tend to forget that Jesus is alive and seated at the right hand of the Father.

It’s true that crucifixes, crosses that feature a dying Jesus upon the cross, are a very common symbol in Catholic Churches. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not because the Church forgets that Jesus has rose again. If you have ever attended an Easter worship service at a Catholic church (or any worship service at a Catholic Church for that matter), you would see for yourself that this is a terrible misconception.

The reason for displaying crosses showing the crucified Jesus is simple: we mustn’t forget that Jesus did indeed die on that cross. We mustn’t forget this because if it wasn’t for that death, there wouldn’t have been a resurrection in the first place. The gates of Heaven would not have opened and our sins would remain unforgiven. The reason for our freedom is because Jesus conquered death, yes, but had he not been put up on the cross in the first place there would not have been a death to conquer. The crucifixes do not suggest that Jesus did not rise from the dead, they just reaffirm this very important part of the story.

The empty cross represents the fact that Jesus defeated the cross, and there is something wonderful to be said about this. There is nothing at all wrong with carrying an empty cross as a reminder of your faith just as there is nothing wrong with carrying a crucifix. However, with the empty cross, we run the risk of forgetting that without Christ, the cross in and of itself  means nothing. Without Christ, the empty cross is nothing more than a replica of any other historical form of execution. The Church leaves Jesus on the cross so that we may easily remember that for there to be significance, the cross and Christ must go together. Sometimes you may see Jesus dead on the cross, and sometimes you may see Jesus in front of the cross with his arms raised in victory, very much alive. This is because the Church equally emphasizes both crucial parts of the story: the death and the resurrection.

Christ wants us to know he is alive and well, seated at the right hand of the Father. But he also does not want us to forget what He went through to ensure us a spot in Heaven, at the foot of His throne. He wants us to remember that the image we see on the crucifix was not just His earthly body…it was every sin we have ever committed being destroyed and forgotten.

“Jesus without the cross is a man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a reliever” –Fulton Sheen

April 20, 2011

The Catholic Church and Anointing Oil

Since the beginning of the Church, when Jesus ascended into Heaven and left Peter and the rest of the apostles to guide His physical Church on Earth, anointing oil has been used in various areas of ministry. In the years after the reformation, when more and more various denominations began to form, a few sects held onto this practice. Today, Pentecostals and some Non-Denominational Christians use anointing oil for healing, both physical and spiritual, and during the ordination of new ministers. As stated in various scriptures throughout the Bible, and as the aforementioned denominations will agree, the anointing oil (also called “Chrism Oil”) is a symbol of abundance of grace and joy, cleansing and healing, consecration, and the mark of the Holy Spirit.

But where does this oil come from? Who makes it?

On each week before Easter, in every Catholic diocese across the globe, a “Chrism Mass” is held.

Off Topic But Important Note: a “diocese” is a group of individual churches (parishes) that fall in the same area. The parish I serve at (St. Charles in Nederland) is a part of the Diocese of Beaumont, meaning Beaumont and surrounding areas. A priest is an ordained minister that pastors one particular parish (ex. St. Charles in Nederland), and a bishop’s God given role is to shepherd the entire flock of the Diocese of Beaumont.  And the pope? Well, he’s just another bishop. He’s the bishop of the Diocese of Rome, and is simply the designated spokesman for the other bishops across the world. Remember, the universal Catholic Church is essentially ONE church and ONE church family, simply broken into separate buildings because it’s physically impossible to get everyone in the world in the same building and the same time. Thus, a system was created (the concept of bishops and dioceses) so that despite our geographical limitations, we are all still connected and bound as one church family, one body of believers, under one unified set of beliefs (I Corinthians 1:10).

Anyway, back to the Chrism Mass. As stated above, this takes place annually the week before Easter. This is the worship service in which the entire diocese meets together in a central location, with the pastors of each parish present,  to “brew” the anointing oils that will be used throughout the year, until the next year’s week before Easter. The anointing oils that are created are a mixture of oil of olives and balsam.  The bishop then prays over the new oils and disperses it to each individual pastor, to take back to his parish and use throughout the year.

The anointing oils are used on the newly baptized (both children and adults, as a “seal of ownership”), to welcome new members into the Church, during the ordination of new ministers, and for the healing of the sick.

Above all, the Church believes that it is not the anointing oils in and of themselves that hold significance, nor does the power lie with the man who is doing the anointing.  Rather, in Christ’s physical absence, He works through those whom He has ordained, to bestow His grace and power through the oils.

“Now it is God who makes both of us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” II Corinthians 1:21-23

April 18, 2011

Catholics get Palm Branches a week before Easter? Is that another meaningless ritual??

Today Christians at Catholic Churches all across the world worshiped by celebrating Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, falls exactly one week before Easter Sunday, to commemorate the day in which a crowd prepared to joyfully greet their Savior, perched upon the back of a donkey, by laying palm branches on the road before Him.

“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee’ ” –Matthew 21: 8-11

The people in Jerusalem were excited to welcome their King into their presence. In the same way, we should be excited to welcome Jesus into our presence. The Jesus we worship today is the same King this crowd joyfully prepared to welcomed with palm branches so many years ago.

This mirroring act of worship reminds us that we are the same as that crowd. Many of those people in the crowd, who so eagerly prepared for His arrival, may also have been the same people who later screamed for His death on the day of His crucifixion. They were disappointed, as what they imagined their King to be  did not perfectly coincide with Jesus. We are no different from this crowd, as we too are responsible for Christ’s death because of our sin. However, praise God, Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead has set us free. Because of that, we joyfully welcome Him into our presence.

The worship celebration continues to include the gospel reading in Matthew, in which Jesus entered the city on his donkey. A commentator explains the meaning/significance of each part of the reading, and the congregation plays an active role in the reading by playing the part of the crowd in Jerusalem, saying what scripture tells us were the words of the crowd.

Interesting fact: After the day is over, the leftover palm branches (at every Catholic Church across the globe) are burned into ashes that will be used the next year during the Ash Wednesday worship service.

Mindless ritual? On the contrary, much thought and preparation has been put into this day, to ensure that the Lord is showered with love and adoration from His people today, just as this crowd prepared to shower their King with such love and adoration many years ago.

April 16, 2011

Misconception #1: Catholic Beliefs are not Christian Beliefs

Before I address the first and foremost misconception, I want to say that the issues I will address will come in no particular order. I will post as God leads me and based on what He lays on my heart that particular day. Today, I’d like to start with the basics. Many people think that Catholics do not believe what is considered basic Christianity. Many people are under the false pretense that the beliefs of the Catholic Church are so skewed they don’t even begin to resemble Christianity.

Which is why I would like to introduce my reader’s to what is known as The Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is, simply put, a declaration of beliefs. If you’ve ever designed or viewed any church’s web page (think about your own church’s website, if it has one), you will most likely find a tab labeled “Beliefs”, in which you will find a declaration, usually in list form, of everything the members of that church believe about God, Christ, Salvation, and the Christian life. This is your church’s declaration of faith. The Nicene Creed is the exact same concept. It is, in list form, a declaration of beliefs that are held by the universal Catholic Church.

The Nicene Creed was written in the year 325. A group of church leaders met at what became known as the “Council of Nicea”, and their reason for feeling the need to pen  the beliefs they have already held to for the past 300 years was simple: to stand their ground against Aryan heresy that claimed that Jesus was not divine as God is divine. They decided, just like the designers of church websites today, that it was necessary to physically write down a list of everything they believe.

I challenge you to find something in this declaration of faith that opposes to basic Christianity:

We believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.

We believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. Eternally begotten from the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. Begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation, he came down from Heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the virgin Mary and became man.

For our sake He was crucified under Pontious Pilate. He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures. 

He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

“Well I can tell you right now what I found that isn’t right. The part about “one, holy, catholic Church”

Notice in the Creed, the word “catholic” is  not capitalized. No, that is not a punctuation error or a typo. While “Catholic”, with a Big C, is the name referring to the Catholic Church, there is another use of the word. As I explained in my last post, the word “catholic”, denoted with a little c, is another word for “universal”. Since this Creed was written when there was only one Christian church (what is now known as the Catholic Church), years before the church split and years before a distinguishing title became necessary, that statement can be paraphrased to mean one body of believers, or one universal church family.


This statement of beliefs written in the Nicene Creed states exactly the basics of what Catholics believed, from Christ’s formation of the Church just before Christ’s assumption, through today. Since this declaration of faith was officially written down, the Church has reviewed this every time they meet together to worship, as a reminder of where they stand.



April 15, 2011

Christ’s Plan for Christian Unity

I started my walk with God when I was fourteen years old. It was the summer before my ninth grade year, and before that year I didn’t really acknowledge God in my life. I believed in God, I had a Bible I thumbed through from time to time, and I went to church. But I wasn’t living a life surrendered to Him. He was a distant relative who crossed my  mind occasionally and who I visited from time to time, but who I wasn’t putting forth an effort to have a relationship with.

Summer before the ninth grade, God’s spirit won me over, and I found myself on my knees, giving my life to Him. About six months later I was baptized. It has been an amazing journey ever since. I was blessed to be raised in a church (a large Baptist church in my hometown) full of godly role models who I still look up to today, and amazing friends who held me accountable in my walk with Christ. I was highly involved in the youth group throughout high school, where I grew spiritually through summer camps, mission trips, and various events throughout the year. I am thankful that I had such a wonderful church to call home during an age in which temptations and threats to my walk with Christ were at every corner.

However, when I was about seventeen and a senior in high school, I began to question some things I had never thought about before. I questioned the concept of individual denominations. I wondered why there are so many different kinds of Christians: Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Church of Christ, etc. etc. etc., all of which are set apart by some sort of difference in scriptural interpretation or practice. Then you had the identification of Non-Denominational, in which I  soon learned that “Non-Denominational”  has become another denomination in and of itself, except that one Non-Denominational church may interpret scripture entirely differently from another Non-Denominational church in the same ten mile radius.

The more I thought about this, the more it bothered me that as Christians, we aren’t unified. Christ wanted us to be unified. He wanted us to be one body, all in agreement with each other. I Corinthians 1:10 says “I appeal to you brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say, and there be no divisions among you, but you be perfectly united in mind and thought“.

I remember going through a hard time, as I was so broken about the fact that the Church was split up in so many ways, which is not what Christ wanted. But who is right? Common sense clearly states that there can only be one truth, not multiple truths. But when five different people say the Holy Spirit showed them to interpret scripture a certain way, and none of those ways coincide…well, that’s how a denomination is created. But which one, you must wonder, is right?

This is where the Catholic Church comes into play in my story. I studied, researched, asked questions, and researched some more, and learned that the word “catholic” means “universal”, which is how it got its name. The Catholic Church, for the longest time, was not called “The Catholic Church”, simply because it was the only form of Christianity that existed, until the reformation (there is also the East/West schism, which differs because this was a political split, not a theological one, which I may discuss in later posts. Today, the products of the schism are in union with the universal Catholic Church).

After the reformation when the Church split and continued to split over and over into various denominations, a distinguishing name became necessary, and “Catholic” was chosen because it means, “universal”. The first, original, universal Church. Universal because the teachings are consistent throughout the world. In essence, the Catholic Church is ONE Church, divided into separate buildings only because it is physically and logically impossible to get everyone in the world into one building at the same time.

So what’s your point?”

Well, my point is that the more I studied this and learned this, the more I realized that Christian unity, true Christian unity as defined in I Corinthians 1:10, cannot be possible without a single, binding teaching office that clearly outlines and sets in stone what each scripture means, how it is defined, and what Christ intended through His words. As it turns out, I learned, there IS such a teaching office, which is as old as Christ’s assumption into Heaven, established by Him, and followed through by those Christ ordained to stand in his place in his physical absence (see Matthew 16:18-19), and their successors. And those who Christ ordained were people who walked the earth with Christ, who physically were the closest to Him. This institution still stands today, approximately 2000 years later, and its lineage can be traced directly back to the first apostles and Christ Himself.

This is simply AMAZING to me. Christ didn’t just die for our sins and then leave us with nothing. After rising from the dead, he spent just a little bit more time on earth, ensuring that we had a Church to call home. He ordained leaders to shepherd us and He taught us how to worship. And then, He sent His Holy Spirit over the Church, to guide the sinners with whom He so graciously entrusted it, to ensure that “the gates of Hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18b).  

That’s when I realized that I wanted what Jesus gave to us, just before He ascended back into Heaven. This physical Church was another one of Christ’s many gifts to us, and I wanted to be a part of that gift.  I wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than anything man could establish. I wanted to be a part of that physical, direct link to Christ and His apostles.

But more than anything, I wanted Christians to be unified as one, without divisions, as He intended. And I realized that meant going back to where it all began…

April 15, 2011

Introduction: My Heart’s Intent

“So, that girl, do  you know if she’s a Christian?”

“Uh, well, she’s Catholic…”

This was a statement that I have said more than once growing up. If someone asked me, for whatever reason, if someone the two of us knew was a Christian, and if I indeed knew that they identified as Catholic, my response was the aforementioned… skeptical at best.

And true, just because someone identifies as Catholic does not necessarily mean they are living the Christian life outside of Church or even acknowledging Christ in their hearts. It wasn’t my place to give a definite answer, because only God knows their true heart. And this, of course, applies to any sort of Christian. But see, the problem with my skepticism was the fact that if the person in question identified as Baptist, or any other protestant denomination, my response was more like, “Oh yeah! She’s a Christian. Really involved in the youth group at Such-N-Such Baptist Church!” No doubt in my mind.

The reason for this was simply because growing up, I was under the all too common impression that Catholics were not “true” Christians. If someone was involved in Such-N-Such Baptist Church, I was confident that they were a brother or sister in Christ. If someone, however, was just as involved in St. Whoever Catholic Church, I thought, as we must admit that many Protestants do,” eh, there is a chance they may be truly a Christian, but most likely they are mindlessly going through the motions of their Church, they aren’t living their everyday life for Christ, and they basically don’t know God from Adam.” The general attitude was that IF indeed they are truly living for Christ in their hearts, it was in spite of their Catholic faith, rather than because of it.

I realize now, after educating myself in the Church, in history, and looking deeper into scripture, that this attitude was wrong. But, like so many Protestants, all I knew about the Catholic Church was distorted misconceptions about what the Church believes, why it worships the way it does, and what it actually is in relation to Christ. The Catholic Church as an institution is evil, the don’t read or care about the Bible, and they are taught to go through the motions of worship without thinking about the meaning of their actions. OH, and they worship statues.

Never in my life did I think I would become of them. Never in my life did I think I would cross over to the dark side of “Christianity”, where the Holy Spirit isn’t actually present and 99% of it’s believers (especially the Church leaders) were hell bound.

Never in my life did I think I would come to realize that everything in that preceding paragraph was terribly wrong.

This is just an introductory post. I don’t want to make this too long, so I’ll share my testimony of my spiritual journey up to this point in a later post. The purpose of this new blog site I have created is simple: I want to clear misconceptions and to show people the other side of the story. To set the facts straight on what many people, like my former self, believe the Church is all about versus the truth. I hope to show people that there is so much beauty and so much GOD in this institution that Jesus Himself established so many years ago.

It may just be not what you think it is.  🙂