After the collapse of my entire Christian community I wanted to understand my roots. Starting with house church, I found something that clearly the global Christian community is missing – personal, small, intimate fellowship. I intend to maintain an active involvement in house church life until I’m dead. However, other, more pressing questions emerged. What happened after the Apostles died? How did we get our Bible in the first place? And what was Christ’s intention when he told Peter he’d build an unbreakable church on Peter’s back? 50 books, hundreds of essays and audio recordings later, the answer to all 3 questions was surprisingly the same: Catholicism. Not the weird, creepy, “Roman Catholicism” you’re picturing in your head right now – but a real, universal, Church. Catholicism happened after the Apostles died. Catholicism gave us our Bible and Catholicism is, without question, the Church that Jesus Christ founded as the full and complete expression of Christianity on earth. Throughout most of my life I’ve been content to live a life of simple faith: give me Jesus, that is all I need. What I realized is that, inadvertently, I had also greatly simplified my Lord. I love Him more than anything but I know very little about Him. His parents, His culture, His language, the fullness of His life. Every word that falls from His mouth is dripping with divine authority and beauty and power: He IS God and nothing God made is simple. Everything is imprinted with His wonderful, loving good, and very complex, divine hand. I made it my mission to spend the rest of my life earnestly seeking to know everything about my Lord.
Few if any of the people currently reading this have ever spoken, at length, with a Catholic priest or lay apologist about what Catholics ACTUALLY believe and why. We’ve been satisfied with our short little 80s anti-Catholic tracts or content in not really knowing anything at all about them. This is similar what happened to my father: he was repeatedly lied about and maligned until the truth was no longer interesting. As such, I will seek to let the Catholics speak for themselves, including very little of my own narrative. It seems only fair – let them defend themselves and let me give you my reasons.
Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Thomas Sowell, John Paul II – I couldn’t hold a candle to these giants – their voices echoing through time like a cannonball and they all share 2 things in common: they are powerful defenders of the Faith and they’re all Catholic (Lewis was Anglican but functionally Catholic in just about every way). Would I really dare say these men are all wrong? And that’s the micro-list of great Catholic Christian minds through the centuries. I’m afraid I had no choice but to let them speak. And yes, we’ll even talk about the bad stuff!
Lastly, i believe truth is eternal. It is discoverable by man in the natural order, and is revealed by God in the supernatural order. To know the truth is man’s vocation. To preach the truth is the Church’s mission. God is a god of order who permits chaos. Everything He does is ordered, is reasonable and is guided by love. If God exists, and if he cares for us, it is quite believable that God will give us guidance in every moment of confusion throughout history, leading His Church into all truth. How odd it would be if God never gave his friends the guidance they ask for. This idea of truth, order and guidance provides the basis for this essay. As my dad always said:
“God doesn’t do random”.
The theory goes like this: Just a few centuries after Christ’s death, around the time the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, the true Faith suffered a catastrophic falling-away. The simple truths of the gospel became so obscured by worldliness and pagan idolatry kicking off the Dark Ages of Catholicism that Christianity required a complete reboot. This idea of a Great Apostasy is one of the cornerstones of American Protestantism, along with Mormonism, the Jehovahs Witnesses, and even Islam. Countless millions today profess a faith built on the assumption that the early Church quickly became broken beyond repair, requiring some new prophet or reformer to restore the pure teaching of Jesus and the apostles. This theory is popular… but it’s also fiction.
– Rod Bennett, The Apostasy that Wasn’t
This can’t be the God I know? Jesus founds an “unbreakable” Church only to have it instantly fall into disarray and apostasy for 1500 years until Luther and Calvin would set it straight in the Reformation? What if every other accusation about Catholic history, from the Inquisitions to the Salem Witch Trials, could be pulled apart and dismantled so easily? Had I ever bothered checking sources and interviewing reliable witnesses when it came to accusations against the Catholic Church?
The Church Fathers
I will quote extensively from these men throughout this essay to show a pattern of Catholic belief immediately preceding the death of the Apostles. My first step on this journey was to get familiar with them. I only ask you watch a video or two and read an article or two, as the Spirit leads
How ironic – the first Christian Emperor would legalize Christianity allowing it to finally flourish out in the open – developing a real structure and finally forming the Biblical canon (more on that in a bit).
The 1500 Year Gap
Ok so what happened after that? What were the “dark ages”? The “middle ages”? To be sure, what happened next were monks and Jesuits and an explosion of art, literature, music, universities, scholastic achievements, agriculture, the first clock, the first mathematical design for airplanes, champagne, the protection and production of Bibles, hospitals (many of which were destroyed during the Reformation), geology, seismology, archaeology, astronomy and laws and, well…everything. This is the 1st of many topics that require much more than a few essays and articles, but for now this will suffice.
Questions: Who was Luther? Who was Calvin? Are the men who founded what would become modern day evangelicalism really men I can trust and respect? Why does Protestantism ignore the ugly sides of their lives and actions? Was the ENTIRE Catholic Church, AROUND THE WORLD, truly broken beyond repair?
Sadly, this topic, in order to be fair, requires MUCH book reading. Attempting to “sum up” a 500 year revolution is infantile and mostly unhelpful. My only hope here is to spur questions. All I ever knew about this was based on children’s books and Christian comic book tracts. Sadly, a huge symptom of the protestant world has been to ignore, modify or skip over history. I’m 4 of 7 books (tomes really) into this and it’s truly heartbreaking. Nevertheless, lets proceed. Again, I only ask you watch a video or two and read an article or two, as the Spirit leads
Only one – nearly everywhere around the world where Protestantism overtook Catholicism, secularism eventually dominated. How is it possible that Rome would fall to Christianity but America, founded on fundamentalist puritanism, would start Christian and turn into Rome? I had to humbly admit, not to know my past is to be ignorant of God’s saving work in history.
Questions: Is salvation really as simple as praying a prayer and “poof” your free will is gone and you can never lose your place in heaven? Why are there so many verses in the New Testament that say the opposite? Why was Paul afraid he’d be “disqualified” if he didn’t run like a runner to win the race? Why was he also at times unsure of his own justification? Do our actions play no role whatsoever in the sanctification of our souls? What does it mean to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling”?
The Bible sometimes refers to our redemption as an accomplished fact (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13) and sometimes as a future event (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14, 4:30). It does the same thing with forgiveness, speaking of it as past (Eph. 1:7, 4:32; Col. 1:14, 3:13) and as ongoing (Matt. 6:12; Jas. 5:15; 1 John 1:19). Protestantism sometimes speak of justification as something occurring in the past and sanctification as something that is ongoing, but these also have more than one dimension. Thus Scripture sometimes speaks of justification, or the reception of righteousness from God, as past (Rom. 5:12; I Cor. 6:11) and as something ongoing or in the future (Rom. 2:13, 3:20; Gal. 5:5). Similarly, it speaks of sanctification sometimes as an accomplished fact (l Cor. 6:11; Heb. 10:10) and sometimes as something still happening (l Thess. 4:1, 3, 5:23; Heb. 2:11, 10:14).
how we’re saved
By believing in Christ (Jn 3:16; Acts 16:31 )
By repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Pet 3:9)
By baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; Titus 3:5)
By eating his flesh and drinking his blood (Jn 6)
By the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6)
By declaring with our mouths (Lk 12:8; Rom 10:9)
By coming to a knowledge of the fruth
(1 Tim 2:4; Heb 10:26)
By works (Rom 2:6-7; James 2:24)
By grace (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:8)
By his blood (Rom 5:9; Heb 10:22
By his righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1 )
By keeping the commandments (Matt 19: 17)
By our words (Matt 12:37)
By great acts of service (Mt. 10:42)
By persevering to the end (Matt 24:13)
By standing firm (Matt 10:22)
By feeding the hungry, clothing the sick and visiting the sick or imprisoned (Mt. 25:35-37)
So which is it?
All I was ever told was that I had to ask Jesus into my heart (Jesus never gave that command) and that placing my faith in Jesus Christ would “save” me (that is in the Bible) but the Bible clearly teaches much much more than that. So… which is it? Do we throw away all the other verses, do we try and “interpret” them to all mean basically then same thing (that’s impossible) or do we accept the FULL understanding of the scriptures teachings on it? What I have found in Catholicism is not a “saved by works” theology, but a complete theology that incorporates all of the Bible, including the Old Testament, and all of Jesus’s words into a clear and rich theology of salvation through grace alone by Christ Alone.
Questions: What really happens to Christians who live committed lives of faith but commit a grievous sin? Why did Jesus often allude to “paying back a debt”? What did Paul mean when he said that some men would be saved but “only as one a passing through a fire”? Is Purgatory some sort of holding station? Nothing imperfect can enter into heaven and Jesus clearly stated that we must be perfect as He is perfect. How is this achieved? What did Christians practice and believe on this matter after the apostles died?
- Extra Credit: https://www.thecatholicthing.org/?s=purgatory
Paul prays for Onesiphorus – who is dead.
2 Timothy 1:16-18
“ 16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly[a] searched for me and found me 18 —may the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well how much service he rendered in Ephesus.”
Even protestant scholars agree:
Reward, Merit & Salvation Outside the Church
Questions: Clearly our works have something to do with our Christian life no? What is a reward and how will that change base on how I live? What is the Church’s role in God’s salvation story? What did the early Church believe and practice after the Apostles died?
From Greater Minds
PURGATORY may exist whether he likes it or not…
It may be obvious to us that [a person] is already utterly sinless, at one with the saints. It may be evident to us that [he] is already utterly selfless, filled only with God and forgetful of the very meaning of gain. But if the cosmic power holds that there are still some strange finishing touches, beyond our fancy, to put to his perfection, then certainly there will be some cosmic provision for that mysterious completion of the seemingly complete. The stars are not clean in His sight and His angels He chargeth with folly; and if [God] should decide….there is room for improvement, we can but admit that omniscience can heal the defect that we cannot even see.
– G.K. Chesterton
Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they?
Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.” “It may hurt, you know” — “Even so, sir.”
I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it…
My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist’s chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am “coming round,” a voice will say, “Rinse your mouth out with this.” This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure.
“Make no mistake,” He says, “if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect — until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.
– CS Lewis on Purgatory
Scripture & Tradition
Questions: Why do protestants mock traditions when they have so many of their own (weddings, holidays, baby dedications, etc.)? If the world could not contain the books about Jesus’ works – well, who kept track of all those stories? To borrow a phrase: Tradition is the Democracy of the Dead. Claiming “the Bible says” was never enough. People need to see, intellectually, WHY Gods ways have worked all these centuries, so what did Christianity believe in and practiced after the apostles died? Have I ever truly taken into account the dates and times and places and societies in which each of the books of the Bible were written? Specifically the New Testament? Wouldn’t the language, culture, and current church and societal issues provide vital context to the writings of the Apostles? What did Christians do before the Bible was compiled? For that matter, when and how was the Bible compiled? Most importantly how do we defend against things like abortion, euthanasia, masturbation and other practices not specifically forbade in Scripture?
Read Questions for Bible Christians
First, Protestantism has always claimed that the Bible is the sole rule of faith, the only standard for apprehending God’s saving truth. They cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in particular to buttress their claim: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” John Henry Newman responds in Inspiration that if “this passage proved anything, it would prove too much, viz., that the Scriptures of the New Testament were not necessary for a rule of faith” Why? Because the only Scripture both written and codified at the time of St Paul’s writing to Timothy were the Old Testament books. A good number of the New Testament books had not been written in Timothy’s boyhood (2 Tim. 3:14-15), and none had been placed in the New Testament canon. This further illustrates that the Bible not only requires an infallible Church to interpret it accurately, but the same Church to authoritatively determine which books belong in the Bible as divinely inspired writings and which, whatever edifying counsel they might otherwise provide, do not.
Paul would tell Timothy in 1 Tim 3:15 that the Church (not the Bible) is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” – this is a powerful insight as the Church came before the Bible. Secondly, the “Word of God” as its most often referred to, isn’t the Bible (which wouldn’t be compiled for 4 more centuries). The New Testament hadn’t even been written yet when John 1 spoke of the Word (Jesus) made flesh (which we were to consume as nourishment in John 6). This is the most puzzling stance in the Evangelical world to me. John isn’t talking about The Bible, John is talking about Jesus Christ, the living SPEAKING Word of God. Jesus is not the Bible right? Heb 4:12 tell us: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I always thought that was talking about the Bible, but Heb 4:13 continues: “And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” So let’s combine those verses “The word of God is living and active…and before him no creature is hidden”.
Is the Bible a male? The sword that pierced Mary’s heart was Jesus (as predicted to her face by Simeon), and in Revelations, a sword is coming out of Jesus’ mouth – HE is the Word that his sharper then any double edged sword – it could not be more plain. And the Catholic Church has been preaching that for 2000 years. The Bible never even talks about itself. Jesus never told his disciples to write down anything he said. Most of them didn’t for that matter. And it was only 400 years later that Catholic men with exclusively Catholic doctrine would meet in council after council putting together the Scripture. If Catholics are wrong why did God choose them to compile the Holy Scripture? And more importantly, how did Christianity survive for 400 years without a compiled book called “The Bible”? No Christian in AD 245 talked the way I did for most of my life. So back to some previous questions: how did the Church then even read any holy Scripture if most of the known world was illiterate? And why would God wait 1600 years to show us how to make a printing press so that everyone could eventually have their own copy?
The Catholic Church in her own words
The Catholic Church teaches that even though they were tasked with choosing, protecting and interpreting Scripture, in a great paradox, they’re also subject to it, and it’s all laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in what is perhaps the most beautiful write up on Scripture that I’ve ever read:
How can a religion so focused on a book (even THE Book) survive an a-literate culture?
Questions: Jesus said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”, but the last 10 years have felt anything but hard and heavy – what did Jesus mean by this? Wouldn’t Christ, in His great love for us, leave us more than a book and thousands of denominations, in order for us share in His divine nature? Catholic convert Scott Hahn sums it up nicely, to quote from the book on the right:
The most solemn, majestic, and beautiful gifts that Jesus Christ gave to the world are His sacraments. He endowed them with unprecedented and unparalleled power to change lives, save souls, and share Gods very life. The sacraments are the ordinary means by which God directs the course of each human life and all of world history. The Church celebrates seven sacraments: baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, matrimony, holy orders, confession, and anointing of the sick. Each was established by Jesus for the sake of salvation. When Jesus spoke of the sacraments, He made clear that they were essential: Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5) . . . unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6: 53). God’s covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David became the driving forces in history. When Jesus came to fulfill all these covenants, He established a new covenant, with greater power than ever before. Christians are Gods children now. Joined to Christ by baptism, we can already share in the eternal life of the Trinity, a life we hope to know fully in heaven. But heaven is with us, even now, in the sacraments.
Questions: Where does the Bible say baptism is symbolic? Why was Jesus baptized? Why was John baptizing before Jesus’ public ministry? Why was Jesus baptizing before his death and resurrection? If it’s a matter of choice or a symbolic act, why was baptizing part of the final instructions Jesus gave to His disciples before his ascension? Why throughout Acts was baptism ALWAYS introduced after a conversion? What did it mean when “whole households were baptized”? Why doesn’t the Bible specifically forbade infant baptism? Why would God allow erroneous baptisms for over a thousand years if they weren’t necessary?
Necessity of Baptism
Questions: If confession isn’t necessary, why would God allow this practice for over a thousands years until the Reformation attempted to do away with it? Why was there no argument against this practice before the Reformation? Why would God allow it to continue today in the largest Christian denomination on earth? Why don’t evangelicals have ANY kind of arrangement for confessions, when the Bible makes it very clear they need to be done to another person? If a child steals, the parent will require that the child give it back, require that the child apologize AND the child most certainly NEEDS to hear forgiveness from the parent – why is this arrangement crucial in the earthly family but not in our relationship to our Father? How can we learn true humility by only privately confessing to God and not to a man?
Acts of contrition have been a part of God’s plan for mankind from the very beginning. They were not supposed to go away after Christ’s death on the cross. From the first few interactions with mankind, both in Adam and in his son Cain, we see an unwillingness to admit sin. God asked both Adam and Cane what they had done, even though he knew! We all know how important it is to say I’m sorry inside of a healthy relationship. Why would we be excluded from this in our relationship with God? Volumes have been written on the power, beauty, necessity, and Biblical history of confession, it could not be said the same about the opposite could it? There are no volumes being written on why confession is unnecessary and unbiblical. Go and sin no more! Christ told the apostles to follow his example: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21). Just as the apostles were to carry Christ’s message to the whole world, so they were to carry his forgiveness: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). This power was understood as coming from God: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).
From Greater Minds
…there is the gain in self-knowledge:
most of [us] have never really faced the facts about ourselves until we uttered them aloud in plain words, calling a spade a spade. I certainly feel I have profited enormously by the practice [of confession].
– CS Lewis
…What matters in the confessional is the moral guilt and not the material details.
But the material details are everything in medicine, even for the most respectable and responsible physician, let alone all the anarchical quacks who have been let loose to hear confessions in the name of Psychoanalysis or Hypnotic Cures. But though we all know the old and obvious answers, what I find startling is this: that our critic does not see the new and obvious situation. What in the world is the sense of his coming with his prunes and prisms into the sort of society that surrounds us to-day? If a girl must not mention sin to a man in a corner of a church, it is apparently the only place nowadays in which she may not do so. She may sit side by side with him on a jury and discuss the details of the foulest and most perverted wickedness in the world, perhaps with a man’s life hanging on the minuteness of the detail. She may read in novels and newspapers sins she has never heard of, let alone sins she is likely to commit or confess. She must not whisper to an impersonal presence behind a grating the most abstract allusion to the things that she hears shouted and cat-called in all the theatrical art and social conversation of the day. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must know as well as I do that modesty of that sort is not being regarded at all by the modern world; and that nobody dreams of attempting to safeguard it so strictly as it is safeguarded in Catholic conversation and Catholic confessions. We can say of Rome and Purity what Swinburne said, in another sense, about Rome and Liberty–“Who is against but all her men, and who is beside her but Thou?” And yet the critic has the impudence to accuse us of the neglect of what all but we are neglecting; simply because that charge was used against us a century ago, and anything used against us can be used over and over again, until it drops to pieces. The old stick of the old grandmother is still good enough to beat the old dog with, though if the old grandmother could rise from the dead, she would think the dog the only decent object in the landscape.
– G.K. Chesterton
The Real Presence
Questions: Jesus said “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age – so where IS He?” If communion is just a symbol, why would Paul, in 1 Cor, mention illness and death as being a direct result of partaking in the bread and blood unworthily? Why would God allow such a confusion for over a thousand years before The Reformation came along and tried to change it? If Jesus said “This IS my body, this IS my blood” why would we try and change it to anything else? If we preach that asking Jesus into your heart REALLY means he comes into your heart, why is it so outrageous to think that He is IN the bread and wine? He said the latter, not the former afterall. What are we missing by simply making it an every now and then remembrance? Only modernists and nationalists seek to take all the supernatural out of the New Testament. Why would we accept Jesus’s miracles of walking on water or feeding the 5000 or driving out demons but not a miracle in the bread and the wine? Do we not CRAVE a touch of supernatural? Is it not built into us? Accusations of cannibalism were leveled against the church in the 1st and 2nd centuries – why would that be the case if the 1st and 2nd Century churches only practiced symbolism in The Eucharist?
The Greek word used for “authority” is most enlightening: exousia. It means, literally, “from the being of.” Jesus speaks with the very exousia of God, and therefore, his words effect what they say. He says, “Lazarus, come out!” and the dead man comes out of the tomb. He rebukes the wind and says to the sea, “Be still!” and there is calm. And the night before he dies, he takes bread and says, “This is my body.” And what he says is. “I am the Bread of Life”.
– Bishop Robert Barron
He teaches us to pray for “our daily bread”. The Greek word for “daily” was Epiousios (ἐπιούσιος) which was a new word, translated literally as ‘supersubstantial’ or ‘superessential’. If Jesus spoke so much of feeding us and being bread and asking us to eat His flesh (translated literally as ‘chew’ or ‘gnaw’) then is it quite believable that for 2000 years the largest Christian denomination would take that seriously as well as symbolically and experience a true miracle every day in the Eucharist. They receive Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine at Mass, a reality hinted at in St. Matthew’s infancy narrative, for our Lord is born in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1, 5-6), which means “house of bread.” In addition, his Blessed Mother “laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7; see also 2:12), which normally serves as a place from which animals feed, but here indicates, as Scripture later affirms, that Jesus would serve as genuine consumptive sustenance for his followers (see John 6:51-58). I lose nothing accepting this. I keep all the beauty of the symbolism I’ve cherished and I gain the real presence of my Lord and the nourishment He promised along with the touch of supernatural that my soul has been so desperately longing for.
From Greater Minds
As to Transubstantiation, it is less easy to talk currently about that;
but I would gently suggest that, to most ordinary outsiders with any common sense, there would be a considerable practical difference between Jehovah pervading the universe and Jesus Christ coming into the room...If I am to answer the question, “How would Christ solve modern problems if He were on earth today?”, I must answer it plainly; and for those of my faith there is only one answer. Christ is on earth today; alive on a thousand altars.
- G.K. Chesterton
Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament
...there you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste – or foretaste – of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.
- JRR Tolkien
Way too many books on this subject, but Dr. Brant Pitre is an amazing professor of Jewish history and specializes in teaching the Jewish Roots of the Christian faith. I’ll refer to him later, but for now, this is a wonderful overview of the Jewish understanding of the Passover meal, the manna from heaven and what it would have been like to hear Jesus refer to Himself as “the bread of life”.
The Sacrifice of the Mass
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.
– Justin Martyr to Emperor Marcus Aurelius in First Apology, 155 AD
This was incredible. Less than 60 years after the death of John we have a clear, historical example of what a church service was like in 155 AD, and it’s letter for letter the Catholic Mass celebrated today in 2020.
Questions: What is the Mass? Why would God allow a phony version of a church service to exist for over a thousand years before correcting it in the Reformation? Why do a majority of Christians on earth still do it the wrong way?
Jewish Roots of the MassTo properly understand the eucharistic faith and practice of Christianity, one has to go back not only to the New Testament, but also to the Old Testament and ancient Jewish practice and belief.
Bishop, Priest, Deacon
Mary, the Saints &
Questions: Did God just randomly select a teenage girl to impregnate and then discard to history? Would God really come into the world through a sinner’s unclean body? If someone came into my home and refused to speak to my mother how would I feel? How might God feel that we don’t speak to His mother or even honor her? How much must He love His own mother? Could it be that Mary was the daughter of God, the mother of Jesus and the spouse of the Holy Spirit? Would God not have a special place in heaven for this woman? Is she not mentioned numerous times in Revelations? Could her last recorded words tell us something about her role in the Salvation story (“do whatever he tells you”)? Could I know Jesus more, and love Him more by knowing and loving His mother? Why would God allow his mother to be “worshipped” for over a thousand years before correcting this error in the Reformation? Why do protestants overlook Martin Luther’s own deep devotion to Mary? What must it have been like to hear “Hail Mary, full of grace” from an angel? Where is grace in the old testament?
Singular Vessel of Devotion
Mary by her maternity is a vessel of honor, but not a mere vessel, and not a vessel long ago, to be discarded, but here and now, irreducibly and still the way to the Christ child.
Why is Mary So Important for Catholics?
Just as Mary never pointed to herself but only to Him, so all the doctrines about Mary are ways of praising not just Mary but Him. We love Mary for one reason: because we love Jesus. The more we love Jesus, the more we love Mary.
We value most what is rare – diamonds, gold, etc. Is there anything more rare than Mary?
Mary: Without Sin
More on Mary
From Greater Minds
There is no controversy between Christians which needs to be so delicately touched as this [concerning Mary].
The Roman Catholic beliefs on that subject are held not only with the ordinary fervour that attaches to all sincere religious belief, but (very naturally) with the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honour of his mother or his beloved is at stake. It is very difficult so to dissent from them that you will not appear to them a cad as well as a heretic. And contrariwise, the opposed Protestant beliefs on this subject call forth feelings which go down to the very roots of all Monotheism whatever. To radical Protestants it seems that the distinction between Creator and creature (however holy) is imperiled: that Polytheism is risen again. Hence it is hard so to dissent from them that you will not appear worse than a heretic — a Pagan.
– CS Lewis
The honour given to Mary as the Mother of God is, among a thousand other things, a very perfect example of the truth to which I have recurred more than once:
that even what we may call the Protestant truths were only saved by the Catholic authority. Among these is the very necessary truth of the subordination of Mary to Christ, as being after all the subordination of the creature to the Creator. Nothing amuses Catholics more than the suggestion, in so much of the old Protestant propaganda, that they are to be freed from the superstition called Mariolatry, like people freed from the burden of daylight. All the spontaneous spirituality, as distinct from the necessary doctrinal orthodoxy, is on the side of the extension and even excess of this cult. If Catholics had been left to their private judgment, to their personal religious experience, to their sense of the essential spirit of Christ and Christianity, to any of the liberal or latitudinarian tests of truth, they would long ago have exalted our Lady to a height of superhuman supremacy and splendour that might really have imperilled the pure monotheism in the core of the creed. Over whole tracts of popular opinion she might have been a goddess more universal than Isis. It is the authority of Rome that has prevented such Catholics from indulging in such Mariolatry; the strict definition that distinguished between a perfect woman and a divine Man…If the world wanted what is called a noncontroversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas. Yet it is obviously bound up with what is supposed to be a controversial aspect (I could never at any stage of my opinions imagine why): the respect paid to the Blessed Virgin. When I was a boy, a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother; you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows as it is followed in history. We must leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.
– G.K. Chesterton
NOTE: I’ve included only one book on the historical roots of Mary, the rest are books on Jesus. To echo Peter Kreeft’s thoughts, I have noticed that the great Christian minds through history who love Mary have written the most exquisite prose on the Lord Jesus Christ, perhaps ever. I’m halfway through these books and know more about my Lord and love Him more than I ever have in my life. Truly to love the mother of Jesus is a gateway to loving Jesus more. This is all I want in my life, to love Him perfectly.
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week - From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection
by Pope Benedict XVI
Private Revelation & Miracles
Questions: I know miracles exist but I never talk about it – why? Where are the celebrations of miracles in Protestantism? Where are they through Evangelical history? Where are the verified and revered stories of healings and signs and wonders? Are these only relegated to the charismatics? Big tent revivals? Did they all supposedly end with the death of the last Apostle? Where is that in the Bible?
Intercession of the Saints
Questions: the heresy of the Sadducees was that they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Jesus reminded them that God was the God of the living and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – meaning those men are alive. When we die, our bodies cease to function, but we are very much alive according to Jesus no? So does death cut us off from the body of Christ? Where is that in the Bible? Doesn’t being in Heaven with Jesus, now made perfect, mean that we’re home and alive and very much apart of his mystical body? Nowhere does the Bible teach that death separates us from the body of believers on earth. Doesn’t the Apostle Paul care about me and my life here on earth? Or Luke, or David or any of the Biblical heroes? They have perfect knowledge now and exist outside of time, meaning they would have all the time in the universe to intercede for me as friends no? Can they not pray for me? Am I not allowed to speak to them? Wouldn’t they be able to pray more perfectly for me? Wouldn’t they be able to understand all things with perfect knowledge now and come to the throne with intercession for me? If I can ask my earthly friends for intercession, why not my heavenly friends? Why would God allow a deviant practice of “praying to the dead” for over a thousand years if it’s useless? Why is there no mention of any disagreement over this practice before the Reformation?
Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Who are these “spirits and souls of the righteous”? Isn’t Daniel very clearly speaking to them?
11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us[a] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Who could these saints be but our brothers and sisters in heaven? They have an inheritance – we have not yet received it.
Hail Marys raise a doctrinal question:
whether it is lawful to address devotions to any creature, however holy. My own view would be that a salute to any saint (or angel) cannot in itself be wrong any more than taking off one’s hat to a friend.
– CS Lewis
What are angels? What do they do? What is their role in history, both in heaven and on earth? Why do I rarely talk or even think about them?
Morality & Ethics
Questions: If Catholics are supposedly so heretical in their beliefs and so unbiblical in their practices, why do they continually fall on the historical Christian side of morality? Why won’t they bend, as so many other denominations are bending? How could they get morality right, but theology wrong? As nearly every protestant denomination continues compromising on values – will we not eventually have a choice to make: compromise, go underground or become Catholic?
Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood (and initially against abortion) was actually the founder of birth control. Up until the 1930s all of Christendom was clear on birth control – God designed it and it’s called ovulation. Margaret believed that it was cruel to force women to bare dozens of children that she could not feed and thus, through compassion, begged churches across the country to change their view. Catholics would not, but the protestants were easy fodder – and what did we get? The Sexual Revolution – with it’s fatherless homes, abortion, divorce, pornography and trafficking. What we found out was contraception TRULY only benefits the man. The Catholic Church has been consistent on morality, even where the Bible was technically silent at times. Perhaps the most powerful , prophetic writing on this matter came in the 20th Century with the magnificent and truly prophetic Humanae Vitae:
Read Humanae Vitae
Catholic Moral Theology
Many of us making the journey into the Church were excited by the strength of Catholic moral teaching. Others of us thought, “It’s the 21st century, for crying out loud! How can the Church continue to insist on such old-fashioned ethical notions?” What is the basis for Catholic moral teaching?
Marriage and Divorce
There is perhaps no greater example of Protestant and Catholic differences than on morality, specifically their deviation in the 20th century. It’s no small exaggeration to say that Protestantism, by and large, showed it’s true colors during the sexual revolution. With no traditions or interpreters to help extrapolate theology from the Bible on sexuality (Jesus never talks about abortion or masturbation) Protestantism was left nearly defenseless in what will be known as the bloodiest revolution in history – The Sexual Revolution. R. Marie Griffith’s book Moral Combat lays it all bare in a devastating (and well documented) history of American Christianity and the Sexual Revolution.
How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics
by R. Marie Griffith
The Church &
Questions: Shouldn’t the ENTIRE Church, across space and time, be the judge of Christianity? What preserves the faith over time and keeps us in touch with our roots? How did all of the thousands of protestant denominations form? How does each one decide its leadership? Doesn’t the leadership at each church effectively serve as a mini-magisterium ‐ settling disputes among laity? Wasn’t Billy Graham effectively a “pope” for evangelicals? Where are the successors to Caesar? Or any of the emperor’s that have reigned through the centuries? Where are the successors to even Billy Graham? Why would Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter which meant the “little rock”? Did God ever change someone’s name without an important reason?
Pope Francis, for all of his flaws, is the true successor in an unbroken line all the way back to Peter. Only a Divine institution could maintain this. Or to put it more eloquently:
The Catholic Church is an institution I bound to hold divine – but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.
– Hilaire Belloc
How Do We Know It’s the True Church?Some groups split over women’s ordination; others split over whether women should wear hats to church. Some split over doctrinal issues; others split over moral issues. Whatever the issue and whatever the split, the basic problem is one of authority. If Christians have a sincere disagreement, who decides?
The ChurchWhat is the Catholic vision of the Church? Is the Catholic Church arrogant for believing herself to be the Church founded by Christ and His Apostles? For many of us, the journey to Catholicism began when we became captivated by a vision of Christ’s Church that we had never seen before. Prayerfully consider 1 or 2 videos and 1 or 2 articles
The PopeAs converts to Catholicism, the Church’s teachings on the office and authority of the pope were a considerable hurdle. What is the Catholic teaching on the pope and how can it be supported from Scripture and history? Prayerfully consider 1 or 2 videos and 1 or 2 articles
Authority of the Pope
Origins of Peter as Pope
Peter’s Primacy & Successors
From Greater Minds
The world will more and more find itself in a position in which even politicians and practical men will find themselves saying,
“If the Pope had not existed, it would be necessary to invent him.”It is not at all impossible that they may really try to invent him.” The truth is that multitudes of them would already accept the Pope if he were not called the Pope. I firmly believe that it would be quite possible, in this and many other matters, to play a sort of pious practical joke on large numbers of heretics and heathens. I fancy it would be quite feasible to describe in accurate but abstract terms the general idea of an office or obligation, which would exactly correspond to the position of the Papacy in history, and which would be accepted on ethical and social ground by numbers of Protestants and free-thinkers; until they discovered with a reaction of rage and astonishment that they had been entrapped into accepting the international arbitration of the Pope. Suppose somebody were to advance the old idea as if it were a new idea; suppose he were to say; “I propose that there be erected in some central city in the more civilised part of our civilization the seat of a permanent official to represent peace and the basis of agreement among all the surrounding nations; let him be by the nature of his post set apart from them all and yet sworn to consider the rights and wrongs of all; Let him be put there as a judge to expound an ethical law and system of social relations; let him be of a certain type and training different from that which encourages the ordinary ambitions of military glory or even the ordinary attachments of tribal tradition; let him be protected by a special sentiment from the pressure of kings and princes; let him be sworn in a special manner to the consideration of men as men. There are not a few already, and there will soon be many more, who would be perfectly capable of proposing such an ideal international institution on their own account; there are also many who would really, in their innocence, suppose that it had never been attempted before.
– G.K. Chesterton
Observations & Ruminations
1. Evangelicalism is dying
The Protestantism I have known has, over generations, surrendered its dogmatic, theological, and metaphysical substance in favor of mere morality – fit only to pronounce on questions of goodness or morality, not truth or reality. The Christ that much of Protestantism proposes is a Christ that came to instruct us to “love our neighbor” but not to initiate us into such arcane mysteries as the inner life of the Trinity or analogy of created being to God as uncreated Being. The injunction to be good is nearly all that’s left. Christianity cannot survive as mere morality; our view of what kinds of actions are good for us can only be known if we have first determined to what purpose or end we – as a specific kind of being – are ordered. Evangelicalism has failed to define this using Scripture alone, leaving its defenses on morality and Christian philosophy vulnerable to any new interpretation or idea.
Paul knew this when he wrote the Ephesians:
“14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”
We are by nature born for the contemplation of truth, goodness, and beauty, and by way of these three “transcendentals” we are summoned to our fulfillment in the contemplation of God. Christianity proposes that man finds his true end only in the contemplative enjoyment, the everlasting friendship, of God. Every last bit of our morality depends upon this conclusion about our purpose and destiny. As Christians lose sight of this, the morality may well stay in place for a while. But, then again, it might not. Our vision of what we are has been shifting altering, often entirely unnoticed. This is the essence of Catholic thought and life and it is sorely missing in Evangelicalism.
By treating as superfluous dogma what was, in reality, the essential truth of Christianity, Protestantism lost first the purpose of its moral dimension and then it fundamentally altered the content of its morality. George Barna’s numbers have made this all sadly clear. Francis Schaffer and John Dickerson have both written about it’s inevitable downfall without being able to see the forest for the trees. Could I suggest that this happened, in large part, because Protestants have made Scripture and NOT the Church, the pillar and foundation of the truth as Paul defined it in 1 Tim 3:15? Either the Holy Spirit has failed at His job of making the Scripture clear, or He has been doing His job, for 2000
years, THROUGH the Catholic Church, with whom Jesus entrusted the deposit of Faith and Christian thought. What’s becoming clear is that we are nearing 3 choices as Evangelicals: compromise morally, go underground and attempt to “start over” (again) OR…become Catholic. Here’s one of many issues demonstrating the lack of depth in Evangelical Christianity (written by a Baptist no less):
The Beauty of Celibacy
Jesus himself said that it was better not to marry, and of course Paul agreed with him. So where in the Protestant world is any support or appreciation for the celibate life?
Calendar and the Rhythm of the Church
Sunday is sacrosanct (or should be) and the chronological measure of life is now made, not just by clock-time and calendar-time, but by sacred time: the rhythms of the liturgical year, its seasons and feasts. And while the liturgical year repeats itself annually, its celebrations of those chapter-headings under “God’s story” gives time, like history, a direction: Time and history are going somewhere, history is not just one damn thing after another, and the “end” or goal of history is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem. Celebrations! Holidays! Feast! Honoring Saints! Why do we celebrate the 4th of July with big Pomp and Circumstance, or even days honoring our founding fathers but not our forefathers and brothers and sisters in the faith that have gone before us? Why not make a rousing celebration out of Easter the way the Catholics do with all of their bells and organs?
First, where is the silence in Protestant prayer? How can we hear God without silence? Second, I’ve NEVER met anyone who prays as much as my father, except for maybe my mother and this is largely what separated them and isolated them in the Evangelical community – their pious living and how HARD it is to achieve that kind of life, but when I looked into history guess what? I found my parents there – in the saints and in their radical devotion to prayer. Repetitious or “rote” prayers however were always frowned up. So even though we could sing the same worship chorus a hundred times in a row, speaking and praying to God through music, when it came to prayer, only expository prayer was acceptable – but is that Biblical?
On The Feminine
Where is the rich, thorough and satisfying doctrine in Evangelicalism on the sexes? Why is there SO much constant bickering over “roles”? It’s exhausting. Half the saints are women (as far as I can tell) and after a fully year of deep study I’ve concluded empirically that only Catholicism has a true and satisfying answer for the sexes. Too much to cover here, but these articles are brilliant:
On The Development of Christian Doctrine
The Church is a body, a body starts as a baby and grows into a man, ergo doctrines can develop and grow over time even if not specifically named or thoroughly drawn out in Scripture.
Salvation is from the Jews. This leads to some interesting questions: when Jesus resurrected did he truly intend to do away with ALL sacred practices and liturgies? Can’t a knowledge of Judaism inform us of our own faith as children of the Jews? Where is the Evangelical theology on the Old Testament? I have never in my life found a better and more clear picture of Christianity than when viewing it through the eyes of Catholicism’s window into the Old Testament. I have referenced Brant Pitre quite a bit already, but here’s a wonderful article illustrating this even more:
The Catholic Church is the largest denomination on the face of the earth, and, simultaneously the most despised people group on the face of the earth. They are called idolaters, superstitious, mystics, anti-Christ, demonic and/or uninformed on biblical things. If those accusations were true how have they managed to stand firm on abortion and human sexuality? Or human life in general? Sure a broken clock may be right twice a day, but this hardly seems the proper analogy no? If they really were guilty of all of these things there is no way they could have held their ground on the deepest parts of morality. Or produced geniuses like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Larry Elder, Walter Williams. How could such brilliant and courageous men like these, all bucking the African American narrative, believe in such silly things but still produce such fine, biblical works of financial and social philosophy? Even bigger why are there so many Catholics sitting as supreme court justices but there’s never been a single evangelical? I kept asking myself – do I want to be considered with the least and most despised? Yes. Do I also want to stand on the shoulders of men like these? Absolutely. The answer to both these questions plants me firmly in the Catholic Church.
Without the purview of history and Christianity from Christ to today, we are left staggering forward, falling for every new idea or suddenly compromising little beliefs to the whims of society and the ever-changing mind of the cultural Elite. This cannot be said of Catholicism. It continues stubbornly refusing to bend on abortion, gay rights, marriage, suicide, Christianity, sacraments, everything. You can look back through every Church Council and find nothing new was decided, things were only clarified, and they only needed to be clarified because before then they did not need to be clarified! Councils were only ever called when confusion arose, not to create some new doctrine, but to more clearly state was had always been Believed by the church fathers. Catholics know their history, we do not. The devil has hijacked Christian history so that we would forget or completely ignore our past all together and he’s done this for a reason. He has even hijacked academics to ignore how we got to where we are today in western civilization. All the social justice and liberal issues attracting young “Christians” today are answered in the charity of the Catholic Church
So even if we do believe some of these things, that may go against Protestant ideals, what do we do then? Only the Catholic Church has a clear 2000 year old order to make our life and God’s requirements feasible and achievable. We cannot do them apart from his church or his order. Might I suggest that God’s order, His Church, His sacraments, are designed to ease this terrible burden of agonizing through the narrow gate? The gift in Catholicism is that revelation comes to us complete. There is a theory of humanity, society, good and evil, all wrapped up. For this reason, there is a great line in the Divine Office where the celebrant prays: “May the Church rely only on your gifts.”
Knowledge serves Love by removing doubt. Doubt is the root of fear, which saps our courage. How in the world can we think we are able to sustain the courage necessary to face the problems of today, when we lack intellectual Courage? The history of our people has been preserved for two Millennia by the Catholic church, with meticulous records on every subject, just as the Jews did before them. Christ very clearly told Peter that the gates of hell would never Prevail against his church. This was the first time the word church was ever uttered in the New Testament and is maybe the most powerful statement.
This in no way implies that people inside the Catholic Church are better than those in other denominations or never walk away from their faith. To the contrary, as long as the seeds can fall on rocky soil or be choked out by weeds, it doesn’t matter what denomination you belong to. The question is not which institution reaches more people for Christ or has better people, but which one was founded by Jesus Christ and is a permanent unbreakable Institution?
Beyond all these things, I’ve found that at the core of Catholicism is Jesus Christ. Everywhere I looked I found him. From the structure of every Cathedral forcing your eyes to the alter where I can see him hanging on the cross, just above the Eucharist, to the saints joining me in radical friendship, whose lives and courage would turn my eyes once again to my Lord, to His mother who beckons me over and over again to “do whatever He tells you”. I’ve found the answer to every New Testament verse that had vexed me all my adult life. I found the rhythm and order that had so often alluded me throughout my life. I found the pillar and foundation that Paul spoke of in 1 Tim 3:15 – the pillar and foundation that had been turned to dust in my previous church. I found that beautiful bridge between Faith and Reason, a bridge that I was sure existed but had been so elusive in the void Evangelical intellectual life. I found the prayers and songs that had finally matched my own convictions on the “us” and “we” so often lacking in Evangelicalism. In the Sacraments, I found an ease to the burden of righteous living and finally a real understanding of Christ’s promise of an easy yoke and a light burden. I found a true path towards humility, one that didn’t require constant self-deprecation or vocalizing my wretchedness. I found a universe at the end of the tunnel I’d been living in – one that let me keep everything I’d ever known – a universe of light and truth and stories and joy and laughter and understanding and grace and humanity and divinity and paradox all bound up in the God I’ve worshiped from my youth. Most importantly, I found Jesus. If I’m honest, I had been looking for Him for quite some time. Knowing He was truly HERE, like He promised He would be, but not always sure I was looking in the right place. I’ve spent a well over a year clinging to my faith and giving God all of my mind and will, roaming time and space in search of His greater plan. It’s here. I’m safe. I’m free. I’m going home.