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Are you saved?

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Are you saved?

Have you ever been asked this question? Has anyone ever told you that Catholics think they can work their way into Heaven, or that we are not saved unless we say out loud that we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior? That, if we do this, our salvation is absolutely assured and we can know with certainty that we are going straight to Heaven, regardless of anything we may do ornot do in the future?

The Catholic Church does not now, nor has it ever, taught a doctrine of salvation by works – that we can “work” our way into Heaven. And, the Bible does not teach that we are saved by “faith alone.” The only place in all of Scripture where the phrase “Faith Alone” appears, is in James 2:24, where it says that we are not justified (or saved) by faith alone.

If works have nothing to do with our salvation, then how come every passage in the New Testament that talks about judgment says we will be judged by our works, not by whether or not we have faith alone? (See Rom 2, Matthew 15 and 16, 1 Ptr 1, Rev 20 and 22, 2 Cor 5, and many, many more verses). Scripture is crystal-clear that once saved does not mean always saved.

If we are saved by faith alone, why does 1 Cor 13:13 say that love is greater than faith? Should it not be the other way around?

As Catholics we believe that we are saved by God’s grace alone. We can do nothing, apart from God’s grace, to receive the free gift of salvation. We also believe, however, that we have to respond to God’s grace. Protestants believe that, too. However, many Protestants believe that the only response necessary is an act of faith; whereas, Catholics believe a response of “faith and works” is necessary, or, as the Bible puts it in Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” (Just as the Church teaches.)

St. Paul said he needed to work out his salvation with “fear and trembling.” If anyone professed their faith in Jesus it was Paul. If he felt so assured of his salvation because of his faith alone in Jesus, why then would he be trembling, and have to “work out” his salvation?

If you think about it, even the devil believes in God. Belief is not enough. St. James tells us, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17)

So, the next time someone asks you if you are saved, the Catholic should reply:

As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).”

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Catholics do not worship statues . . .

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Do Catholics worship statues or images?

No.

Catholics use statues, paintings, and other artistic devices to recall the person or thing depicted. Just as it helps to remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it helps to recall the example of the saints by looking at pictures or statues of them.

Catholics also use statues as teaching tools. In the early Church they were especially useful for the instruction of the illiterate. Many Protestants have pictures of Jesus and other Bible pictures in Sunday school for teaching certain people and have three-dimensional nativity scenes at Christmas.

God forbids the worship of images as gods, but he doesn’t ban the making of images. If he had, religious movies, videos, photographs, paintings, and all similar things would be banned. It is when people begin to adore a statue as a god that the Lord becomes angry. Thus when people did start to worship the bronze serpent as a snake-god (whom they named “Nehushtan”), the righteous king Hezekiah had it destroyed (2 Kgs. 18:4).

Think about Mt. Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, the 911 Memorial in New York, and all the statues in Washington D.C. and around the world. People go to see these statues and stand in front of them, sometimes bow their heads in prayer, or stand their staring at the statue or piece of marble in awe. Does this mean these people are worshiping these statues? Absolutely not.

Since many Catholics sometimes bow or kneel in front of statues of Jesus and the saints, many non-Catholics confuse the legitimate veneration of a sacred image with the sin of idolatry. Catholics do not believe their statues, made of plaster, are God. A statue, or any other piece of religious art, is intended to draw the soul deeper into prayer by helping the senses to recall the mystery that it represents. Crucifixes, a statue of Mary or stain glass windows help for a soul to meditate and contemplate the great mysteries of God.

Though bowing can be used as a posture in worship, not all bowing is worship. In Japan, people show respect by bowing in greeting (the equivalent of the Western handshake). Similarly, a person can kneel before a king without worshiping him as a god. In the same way, a Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshiping the statue or even praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in his hands when praying is worshiping the Bible or praying to it.

The bottom line is, when God made the New Covenant with us, he did reveal himself under a visible form in Jesus Christ. For that reason, we can make representations of God in Christ. Even Protestants use all sorts of religious images: Pictures of Jesus and other biblical persons appear on a myriad of Bibles, picture books, T-shirts, jewelry, bumper stickers, greeting cards, compact discs, and manger scenes. Christ is even symbolically represented through the Icthus or “fish emblem.”

Common sense tells us that, since God has revealed himself in various images, most especially in the incarnate Jesus Christ, it’s not wrong for us to use images of these forms to deepen our knowledge and love of God. That’s why God revealed himself in these visible forms, and that’s why statues and pictures are made of them.

The Church absolutely recognizes and condemns the sin of idolatry. What non-Catholics fail to recognize is the distinction between thinking a piece of stone or plaster is a god and desiring to visually remember Christ and the saints(who are alive in heaven, not dead) by making statues in their honor.

The making and use of religious statues is a thoroughly biblical practice, and a beautiful way to deepen your faith and grow closer to Christ.

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Purgatory

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The Catholic Church has always taught that Purgatory does exist. It is not a second chance to be saved, but rather, a place of cleansing for the already saved before entering into heaven. Once you die you are either saved or not saved. People who die with unexpiated sins or the attachment to sin on their souls go there, and are cleansed in the purifying fire of Purgatory for a period of time. Once they are purified, they go to heaven and enjoy the Beatific Vision forever.

We can help those in Purgatory by praying for them, saying rosaries for them, offering up our sufferings here on earth for them, and most powerfully of all, having Holy Masses said for them. If you have a love one who has passed away, or know someone who has, please never assume that when they died they went straight to Heaven. There is a very good chance they are in Purgatory. Please pray for their souls every day. Please also pray for the souls who have nobody to pray for them. Your prayers for the souls in purgatory can help them.

The Prayer of St. Gertrude is one of the most famous of the prayers for the souls in purgatory. St. Gertrude was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century. According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory and allowed into God’s Presence each time this prayer is said devoutly:

“Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

There is great joy as well as pain for the souls in purgatory. Joy for they know for certain they are bound for heaven, but pain because they are not there yet, and must undergo purification. Purgatory has been described as a “cleansing fire” that burns away the sins on our souls. St. Paul wrote those of being saved “yet so as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15), and whether or not the soul endures a literal fire, its purification does involve suffering. In purgatory, the souls of many of those who have died in God’s grace undergo purification so that they may enter heaven.

Some will try to tell you that the word “Purgatory” is not mentioned in the Bible. This is true, and yet it does not disprove the existence of purgatory or the fact that belief in it has always been part of Church teaching. The words Trinity and Incarnation are not in Scripture either, yet those doctrines are obviously taught in the Bible.

Scripture clearly teaches that purgatory exists. Prayers for the dead and the doctrine of purgatory have been part of the Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, for over 2000 years.

The most famous scriptural reference concerning these prayers comes from the Old Testament where it is called “a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Macabees 12:46). If everyone who dies goes immediately to Heaven or to Hell, then this verse would be nonsense. Those who are in Heaven have no need of prayer, “that they may be loosed from sins”; those who are in Hell are unable to benefit from such prayers, because there is no escape from Hell, since damnation is eternal. Thus, there must be a third place or state, in which some of the dead are currently in the process of being “loosed from sins.”

In the First Book of Samuel 31:13, the survivors fasted for the dead, which makes no sense if the deceased were not in a place where that penance (fasting) could do some good for them. In Matthew 12:31, Jesus told the parable about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (not believing that the Holy Spirit can save you, no matter what – the sin of despair), and said that anyone who does blaspheme the Holy Spirit “will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). Since sins aren’t forgiven in Hell, and those in Heaven are already forgiven for their sins, then this one statement indicates another place after death where sins can indeed be forgiven.

Many of the Fathers of the Church, such as St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom, considered prayers for souls in purgatory to be essential.

Once you die you are either saved or not saved. If you have suffered greatly in this life, or during your death, that pain and suffering alleviates your purgatory time, if it was done for Christ, and not wasted in anger at God. All purgatory does is to detach you from your love of sin, and to pay your debt to God for all of the sins that you have committed while alive on earth. This is directly analogous to someone who robs a bank and then asks for forgiveness. While the bank president will probably forgive him, the thief still has to give back the money and pay his debt to society through prison time. Remember – nothing unclean or defiled shall enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27).

Praying for the dead is a Christian obligation, so please always remember to pray for the holy souls in purgatory every day. What a beautiful gift for these very special souls! ❤

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Why a crucifix and not an empty cross?

Curcifix

Why do Catholics wear and Catholic Churches display a crucifix, instead of an empty cross? Why do we leave Jesus on the cross? Does this mean we worship a “dead” Jesus, and that we downplay the resurrected Jesus?

Not at all.

Catholics worship both the Jesus who died for their sins and the Jesus who rose from His sacrificial death for their sins. We believe that “Christ has died, Christ is RISEN, Christ will come again.”

Jesus says, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus displayed on the Cross displays His unconditional love and infinite mercy for us. Everything Jesus gives to us is through the Cross. In our Christian journey, we, like Jesus, carry our cross. Catholics not only preach Christ Risen, but also Christ Crucified.

The heart of the Gospel message is Jesus, our promised Messiah, died for our sins for the salvation of our soul. St. Paul preached Jesus’ Crucified and tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “. . . but we preach Christ crucified . . . ” But Jesus is risen, what is Paul speaking about? Doesn’t he know that we should not be concentrating on Jesus’ death? Again, in Corinthians 2:2 Paul writes, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Here St. Paul says Jesus is our example in enduring the Cross.

Some have expressed distaste at the thought of depicting Jesus at his most vulnerable. Guess what? This should make you uncomfortable. Jesus does not want us to look at His Crucifixion as only a past event. Every lash that he took, every blow that drove the nail into his hands was caused by you and me. Our sins – past, present and future, hung Jesus on that cross. The crucifix is the ultimate expression of the lengths that a loving God will go to reach us. Gazing at a crucifix is a truly humbling experience.

If you really think about it, the next time someone questions you for wearing a crucifix, and not an empty cross, (if you want to get nit-picky) Jesus rose from the tomb, not the cross. In order to represent his victory over death (which is what some claim the empty cross does) one would have to wear a little copy of the tomb or a tiny rock.

Think about when Jesus appeared to the apostles after His Resurrection and in His glorified risen Body. He showed them His wounds from His Crucifixion. (Luke 24:39-40 & John 20:20) Why would Jesus keep those wounds from His Crucifixion if He did not want us to remember His Crucifixion?

Although Jesus is no longer on the Cross, His offering Himself to us as our Savior continues to this day. Jesus says we cannot be His follower (a Christian) unless we pick up our cross to follow Him. (Matthew 16.24) Jesus never promised His followers a Christian life free from sufferings and trials. He promised us the very opposite. He promised that we too would have a cross to carry; and unless we endure our sufferings and trials in faith for Him as He has done for us, we cannot be His follower. We cannot rise in Christ to new life without first dying with Christ on the Cross.

Whether you wear an empty cross, or a crucifix, the cross displays the love our savior, Jesus Christ, has for all of us. I hope this short explanation helps others understand why Catholics love the crucifix so dearly.

So please remember to display your beautiful crucifixes in your home, and wear them humbly around your neck. (Remember to get them blessed!) And remember, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

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Do Catholics worship statues?

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Do Catholics worship statues or images?

No.

Catholics use statues, paintings, and other artistic devices to recall the person or thing depicted. Just as it helps to remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it helps to recall the example of the saints by looking at pictures or statues of them.

Catholics also use statues as teaching tools. In the early Church they were especially useful for the instruction of the illiterate. Many Protestants have pictures of Jesus and other Bible pictures in Sunday school for teaching certain people and have three-dimensional nativity scenes at Christmas.

God forbids the worship of images as gods, but he doesn’t ban the making of images. If he had, religious movies, videos, photographs, paintings, and all similar things would be banned. It is when people begin to adore a statue as a god that the Lord becomes angry. Thus when people did start to worship the bronze serpent as a snake-god (whom they named “Nehushtan”), the righteous king Hezekiah had it destroyed (2 Kgs. 18:4).

Think about Mt. Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, the 911 Memorial in New York, and all the statues in Washington D.C. and around the world. People go to see these statues and stand in front of them, sometimes bow their heads in prayer, or stand their staring at the statue or piece of marble in awe. Does this mean these people are worshiping these statues? Absolutely not.

Since many Catholics sometimes bow or kneel in front of statues of Jesus and the saints, many non-Catholics confuse the legitimate veneration of a sacred image with the sin of idolatry. Catholics do not believe their statues, made of plaster, are God. A statue, or any other piece of religious art, is intended to draw the soul deeper into prayer by helping the senses to recall the mystery that it represents. Crucifixes, a statue of Mary or stain glass windows help for a soul to meditate and contemplate the great mysteries of God.

Though bowing can be used as a posture in worship, not all bowing is worship. In Japan, people show respect by bowing in greeting (the equivalent of the Western handshake). Similarly, a person can kneel before a king without worshiping him as a god. In the same way, a Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshiping the statue or even praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in his hands when praying is worshiping the Bible or praying to it.

The bottom line is, when God made the New Covenant with us, he did reveal himself under a visible form in Jesus Christ. For that reason, we can make representations of God in Christ. Even Protestants use all sorts of religious images: Pictures of Jesus and other biblical persons appear on a myriad of Bibles, picture books, T-shirts, jewelry, bumper stickers, greeting cards, compact discs, and manger scenes. Christ is even symbolically represented through the Icthus or “fish emblem.”

Common sense tells us that, since God has revealed himself in various images, most especially in the incarnate Jesus Christ, it’s not wrong for us to use images of these forms to deepen our knowledge and love of God. That’s why God revealed himself in these visible forms, and that’s why statues and pictures are made of them.

The Church absolutely recognizes and condemns the sin of idolatry. What non-Catholics fail to recognize is the distinction between thinking a piece of stone or plaster is a god and desiring to visually remember Christ and the saints(who are alive in heaven, not dead) by making statues in their honor.

The making and use of religious statues is a thoroughly biblical practice, and a beautiful way to deepen your faith and grow closer to Christ.

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Mary our Queen

Mary Queen of Peace

Mary is referred to as queen not just of heaven, but also of peace, of the angels, of all Christians, among many other things.

Because Mary is the mother of Christ the King, it is logical that she would be called Queen. (A modern example would be the mother of Queen Elizabeth II of England, who was known as the Queen Mother.)

Pope Pius XII affirmed this in his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam when he wrote, “according to ancient tradition and the sacred liturgy the main principle on which the royal dignity of Mary rests is without doubt her Divine Motherhood.” St. Alphonsus Ligouri, said, “Because the virgin Mary was raised to such a lofty dignity as to be the mother of the King of kings, it is deservedly and by every right that the Church has honored her with the title of ‘Queen.’”

Mary played such an important role in bringing Christ the Redeemer into the world. Certainly, only Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is King; but Mary, too, as Mother of the Jesus, is given the title of Queen , not meaning she is on equal footing with God, but reflects instead how intimately connected she was, and is, to her son and his mission.

Dear Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.

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Why does it matter if you leave the Catholic Church?

Who started your church 2

Why does it matter if you leave the Catholic Church?

It matters because as Catholics we think it is important to belong to the Church that Christ founded 2000 years ago. It matters because when you leave the Catholic Church, you leave the Eucharist – and all the sacraments that Christ Himself instituted. It matters because as Catholics we believe the Church contains the fullness of the truth because it was founded by Christ Himself.

What is the “pillar and foundation of truth”? According to the Bible, it is the Church:

1 Timothy 3: 14-15 “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” Jesus left us a Church to guide us in Truth. He chose Peter as the first Pope when He said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). And then, this Church – the Catholic Church, decided what books belonged in the Bible in the 4th century. It was the authority of the Catholic Church that decided what books were inspired and belonged in the Bible. (Think about this – something “outside” the Bible determined what books belonged in the Bible.) The Catholic Church came before the Bible.

This does not mean that we think other religions and Christian denominations do not contain any truth, for they do. But the Catholic Church, since it was founded by Jesus, contains the fullness of truth, so we think it is very important to belong to the church that Christ founded, and share our faith with others.

There are many, many things all Christians have in common that we should celebrate – mainly our belief in Jesus Christ. Many say as long as we agree on the essentials it’s all good. But who decides what is “essential”?

To a Catholic, the Eucharist is truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, to many non-Catholics, it is merely a symbol. To a Catholic, baptizing our children is essential. To many others, it doesn’t matter if you wait until the teenage years. To a Catholic, our love and devotion to our Blessed Mother are “essential.” To many non-Catholics, our Blessed Mother is only thought about (if at all) during Christmas. To a Catholic, all life is to be protected from conception to natural death. To many others, abortion and euthanasia are justified. To a Catholic, marriage is between one man and one woman, to many others, it can easily be re-defined. To a Catholic, you are required to go to Mass every Sunday, to many others, its no big deal to miss if you’re on vacation, want to sleep in, or can watch it on TV. To a Catholic, praying for the souls in purgatory is essential, to many others, purgatory doesn’t exist and is something they think Catholics made up. (Even though purgatory has been part of the church history for 2000 years. – Actually, the Jews prayed for the dead before Christ was born so there is both scripture and tradition to support it centuries before this.)

All of these “essentials” matter to a Catholic.

Does this mean that Catholics are holier than non-Catholics? Absolutely not. Some of the holiest people I know are Catholic, and some of the most unholiest people I know are Catholic. We’ve been given this beautiful gift of our Catholic faith, and yet too many of us have taken it for granted, pick and choose what we want to believe, or have not appreciated what we have.

The Catholic Church is both human and divine. Because it is divine, it will last forever. Because it is human, it will have scandals, and sinful people in it, just like what you will find in all denominations and religions. Scandals do not prove that the Catholic Church is false. They only prove what is obvious: that the Church contains sinners as well as saints.

Despite humans messing things up at times, the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and will FOREVER be guided by the Holy Spirit until the end of time, as quoted in scripture:

“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:12-13

“I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Among all the Christian churches, only the Catholic Church has existed since the time of Jesus. Every other Christian church is an offshoot of the Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox churches broke away from unity with the pope in 1054. The Protestant churches were established during the Reformation, which began in 1517. Most of today’s Protestant churches are actually offshoots of the original Protestant offshoots, each with their own man made traditions.

Only the Catholic Church existed in the tenth century, in the fifth century, and in the first century, faithfully teaching the doctrines given by Christ to the apostles, omitting nothing. The line of popes can be traced back, in unbroken succession, to Peter himself. This is unequaled by any institution in history.

Even the oldest government is new compared to the papacy, and the churches to which door-to-door missionaries belong are young compared to the Catholic Church. Many of these churches began as recently as the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. None of them can claim to be the Church Jesus established.

The Catholic Church has existed for 2,000 years, despite constant opposition from the world. This is testimony to the Church’s divine origin. It must be more than a merely human organization, especially considering that its human members—even some of its leaders—have been unwise, corrupt, or prone to heresy. Any merely human organization with such members would have collapsed early on. The fact that the Catholic Church is today the most vigorous church (and the largest, with about a billion members) is testimony not to the cleverness of the Church’s leaders, but to the protection of the Holy Spirit.

If you have never studied Church history, study it now and see what the early Church was really like, what Catholics believed, and what they practiced. If you study it you will see that the early Church was totally Catholic. The early Church believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; Early Christians did pray for their dead; Christ did give the apostles the power to forgive sins; Peter was clearly chosen by Christ as the leader of His Church; Mary was loved and honored by the early Christians; Whole households (including babies) were baptized. Think about it – if you are looking for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you can’t get more personal than when you receive His body, blood, soul, and divinity in the holy Eucharist, and are a part of the actual Church that Christ founded.

It’s important to know history, know why we are Catholic, and embrace the beauty and truth of our faith. So many people, including many protestant pastors, converted to the Catholic Church after studying Church history, particularly regarding the issue of authority. Two great books to read on church history are: “Four Witnesses”, by Rod Bennett, and “Where we got the Bible: Our debt to the Catholic Church” by Henry Graham. Two great sites that have helped many people on their journey to the Catholic faith are Catholics Come Home –www.catholicscomehome.org. and The Coming Home Network – www.chnetwork.org.

The Catholic Church, founded by Christ, contains the fullness of Truth. Be humble and grateful as you embrace the beautiful gift of our Catholic faith. Never stop seeking truth. Be thankful for all seven of our sacraments. Pray every day and develop a personal relationship with Jesus and our dear blessed mother, and pass on your faith and traditions to your children and grandchildren. Let us all spread the joy and beauty of our Catholic faith!

If we don’t, who will?