Apologetics

Some might claim that Catholic teaching on relics and Sacramentals is unbiblical. Really?

Check out these biblical passages:

“So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face CLOTHS or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

“So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the BONES of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (2 Kgs. 13:21).

“They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his SHADOW might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:15).

“When [Jesus] had said this, He spat on the ground, and made CLAY of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ” (which is translated, Sent ). So he went away and washed and came back seeing” (John 9:6-7).

OIL – see James 5:14-15

WATER – see 2 Kings 5:14

SACRAMENTALISM (Quoted from Dave Armstrong’s “One Minute Apologist“)

Objection: Matter cannot convey grace. Sacramentalism and relics are unbiblical magic

The Bible teaches that grace and salvation come through the spirit (Jn. 6:63), not through “holy objects”

 Initial reply : The Incarnation of Jesus “raised” matter, and His death on the cross was intensely physical. Protestants often speak of “the blood” (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Jn. 1:7), which is but one of many examples of sacramentalism. 

 Extensive reply 

 The New Testament is filled with many concrete examples or teachings about the “incarnational principle” and sacramentalism. Baptism confers regeneration (Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21 – cf. Mk. 16:16; Rom 6:3-4 -, 1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:5). Jesus’ garment (Matt. 9:20-22), saliva mixed with dirt (Jn. 9:5 ff.; Mk. 8:22-25), and water from the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7) all were used in healings. Anointing with oil for healing is also prescribed (Jas. 5:14). The Bible often calls for a laying on of hands for the purpose of ordination and commissioning (Acts 6:6) and in order to heal (Mk. 6:5; Lk. 13:13).

Catholics believe in seven sacraments: all of which are established on the basis of extensive biblical evidences: 1) The Eucharist: Lk. 22:19-20; Jn 6:53-58; 1 Cor. 11:23-30; 2) Baptism: Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38, 22:16; 3) Penance and Reconciliation: Matt. 16:19; Jn 20:23; 1 Cor. 5:3-5 with 2 Cor. 2:6-11; 4) Confirmation: Acts 8:14-17, 19:1-6; Eph. 1:13; 5) Anointing of the Sick: Mk. 6:13; Acts 9:17-18; Jas. 5:14-15; 6) Ordination: Mt. 18:18; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 7) Matrimony: Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-9; Eph. 5:21-33.

Even relics (remnants of the bodies of saints and holy people, and related physical items), have (perhaps surprisingly) strong biblical support. Perhaps the most striking proof text is a story about the prophet Elisha:

 2 Kings 13:20-21: So Eli’sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli’sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli’sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.

 Examples of second-class relics (objects that came into contact with holy people) are also clearly found in passages about the prophet Elijah’s mantle, which parted the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:11-14), and Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15-16) and Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12), used by God to heal sick people and to cast out demons. If all of this is “magic,” then it is a sort of “magic” directly sanctioned by God Himself.

 Objection 

 Protestants can agree with some of this. What cannot be found in the Bible, however, is the excessive veneration of relics. This goes too far, and is idolatry. We can remember the deeds of great heroes of the faith (Acts 7; Hebrews 11) and thank God for them, but we shouldn’t get into worshiping bones or pieces of hair and so forth, or go on pilgrimages to “holy places.” That’s too much like paganism or heathenism and adds nothing to our spiritual life. All places are equally “holy.”

 Reply to Objection 

 If matter can indeed convey grace and blessing, according to the Bible, then we can give glory to God for what He has done with lowly matter by venerating (not worshiping) even now-inanimate objects. Protestants themselves would not, for example, think that the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem or the hill where He died on the cross or His tomb, from which He rose from the dead, are merely rocks and dirt like any other rocks and dirt. In their own way they do indeed venerate and honor them. If the physical location were so irrelevant, why visit it at all; why not simply ponder Jerusalem and Israel in their heads, in “spirit.” 

Plenty of Protestants are also fascinated and intrigued by the Shroud of Turin, which is an extraordinary secondary relic related to our Lord Jesus. That is an object, too; a mere piece of cloth. But would any Christian treat it like any other cloth and tear it up for rags to dust with? Of course they would not, because it was connected with Jesus and has miraculous properties (like Elisha’s bones): a supernaturally produced image. Therefore it is highly regarded and revered. It all goes back to God and His great works, using matter. Sacramentalism and relics flow from the Incarnation: God Himself taking on flesh and matter and becoming man.

 St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) 

 The death of Christ is the universal cause of man’s salvation: but a universal cause has to be applied to particular effects. Thus it was found necessary for certain remedies to be administered to men by way of bringing Christ’s death into proximate connection with them. Such remedies are the Sacraments of the Church.

And these remedies had to be administered with certain visible signs: — first, because God provides for man, as for other beings, according to his condition; and it is the condition of man’s nature to be led through sensible things to things spiritual and intelligible: secondly, because instruments must be proportioned to the prime cause; and the prime and universal cause of man’s salvation is the Word Incarnate: it was convenient therefore that the remedies, through which that universal cause reaches men, should resemble the cause in this, that divine power works invisibly through visible signs.

Hereby is excluded the error of certain heretics, who wish all visible sacramental signs swept away; and no wonder, for they take all visible things to be of their own nature evil, and the work of an evil author. These visible sacramental signs are the instruments of a God Incarnate and Crucified. (Summa Contra Gentiles, IV, 56: “Of the Need of Sacraments”)

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Nine Truths about Purgatory: What Catholics need to know about the ‘anteroom of heaven’

By Emily Stimpson – OSV Newsweekly, 9/29/2013

(Steve Ray’s article on Purgatory HERE)

Some fear it. Others hope for it. Some see it as proof of God’s mercy; others as testimony to God’s wrath. Many don’t know anything about it, while many more have forgotten what they once knew.

The “it” is purgatory, and when it comes to Catholic beliefs about the afterlife, the Church’s teachings on purgatory have long been among its most contested and misunderstood.

Yet, despite all the confusion, the teachings themselves aren’t that complicated. At their most basic, they can be boiled down to nine essential truths — truths that not only illuminate the Church’s doctrine, but also reveal the eternal significance of those teachings for us and those we’ve lost.

So, what are those essentials?

1. Purgatory exists.

That may seem like stating the obvious, but for some Catholics, purgatory has become what pastor, author and blogger Father Dwight Longenecker called “the forgotten doctrine.”

“Many modern Catholics don’t know what purgatory is anymore,” said Father Longenecker, who blogs at Standing On My Head. “They’ve bought into the idea that sin has no consequences, that everyone goes to heaven because God is too nice to send anyone anywhere else.”

The Church’s doctrine on purgatory, however, proclaims the opposite. It reminds us that sin does have consequences — eternal ones — and that while God is Love, he still honors the free choices made by men and women.

“That’s the terrifying compliment God pays the creature,” said Dr. Regis Martin, professor of theology at Franciscan University and author of “Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Love of God” (Ave Maria, $11.95). “He takes seriously the freedom we exercise, even if it carries us straight into hell.”

That being said, he continued, “While hopefully few of us are so wicked that we would choose to be wretched forever without God, not many of us are so pure that we can be catapulted straight into the arms of God. Most of us are somewhere in between.”

Hence the need for purgatory — the final purification of those who die in friendship with God but who haven’t fully broken their attachment to sin or atoned for wrongs done in this life.

“When we stand before Christ the Judge, all the compromises we’ve made, all the gray areas into which our choices led us, have to be accounted for,” said Martin. “We’ve got to square accounts with the Judge.”

2. Purgatory isn’t merely a punishment.

It’s a merciful gift and a testimony to God’s love.

“Sometimes, people hear about the sufferings of the souls in purgatory and they think suffering is the desire of a vindictive God, a God who wants his pound of flesh,” said Robert Corzine, vice president for Programs and Development at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

“But that’s not the case at all,” he continued. “God forgives us immediately when we ask. The role of suffering is to undo the damage we’ve done. It’s God the Healer applying the remedy to make us perfect images of Christ.”

And perfect images of Christ is exactly what God calls each of us to become.

According to the Catholic doctrine of salvation, God doesn’t simply desire to save us from hell — from a state of eternal separation from him. More fundamentally, he desires to save us from sin, from being anything less than the men and women he created us to be.

“God is like a great heart surgeon, trying to give us the new hearts we need,” Corzine said. “But we keep flopping around on the table, moving away from the knife. Death then is like the anesthetic. In purgatory, we’re no longer able to resist the healing we need, and he can finish the task he began during our lifetime.”

3. The suffering endured by souls in purgatory isn’t physical pain.

Through the centuries, artists striving to convey the sufferings of purgatory have depicted men and women tormented by a burning fire. But those illustrations aren’t a literal representation of the goings-on in the purgative state. They can’t be. In purgatory, the soul remains separated from its body, so it can only suffer spiritually, not physically.

Worshippers walk past a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe during a Good Friday pilgrimage in Ranchos de Taos, N.M., March 29. CNS photo from Reuters

That’s not to say, however, that the flames of purgatory aren’t real. They are.

“The fire by which we’re purified is an interior burning for the love of God,” explained Susan Tassone, author of seven books on purgatory, including “Prayers, Promises, and Devotions for Holy Souls in Purgatory” (OSV, $9.95). “Immediately after their death, the souls in purgatory saw God in all his glory. They saw his love, his goodness, and the plans he had for us. And they yearn for that. They burn for it, with a yearning that surpasses the heat of any earthly fire.”

In other words, the primary pain endured by those in purgatory is the loss of the sight of God. They suffer from what Tassone called, “a spiritual fever.”

As that fever rages, it separates the soul from sin, a process almost equally painful.

“To the extent we’re attached to our sin, becoming detached from it hurts,” said Corzine. “Seeing it in all its horror — how it wounded us and wounded others, how it led us away from God’s perfect plan — no physical flames could be as painful as that.”

4. The souls in purgatory experience joy, as well as pain.

In the “Divine Comedy,” as Dante makes his way through purgatory, the souls he encounters suffer, but unlike the souls he met in hell, they suffer willingly and gladly, with no self-pity and always eager to return to their sufferings when Dante’s questions cease.

Visit a loved one’s grave and say a brief prayer for them. Thinkstock

In their eagerness, those fictional souls testify to the enduring Catholic teaching that purgatory isn’t the outermost room of hell, but rather the anteroom of heaven. Every soul in purgatory is bound for glory. Their fate has been sealed, and ultimately it’s a blessed fate. Therefore, the time they spend in purgatory, whether short or long, is a time marked not only by suffering, but also by joy.

“Anything worthwhile requires pain to make progress, but it’s pain with a reward at the end,” said Father Longenecker. “Sometimes, it helps to think of purgatory like the process of getting physically fit. There’s pain, but it’s a sign of progress. It means you’re on the road to where you eventually want to be. That makes it a joyful pain.”

5. Our prayers for the dead matter eternally.

The souls in purgatory may be bound for glory, but the process of purgation still can be long and painful. Save for humbly submitting to the purifying fire of Christ’s love, there’s nothing those souls can do to speed up the process or mitigate the pain.

That’s where we come in.

“We need to be greedy for graces for the souls in purgatory,” said Tassone. “When the soul leaves the body, the time for merit is up. The soul is helpless. That’s why they need our prayers — the Rosary, adoration, the Way of the Cross and, most of all, the Mass. The Masses we have offered for the souls in purgatory are the best thing we can do for our beloved dead. That’s because the Mass is the highest form of worship, the highest form of prayer.”

“It really is one of the most consoling doctrines of the Church,” added Martin. “None of us stands alone. We stand on the shoulders of giants, the foremost giant being Christ. Our sufferings and sacrifices can be parlayed into actual assistance for the holy souls because of his suffering and sacrifice.”

In many ways, he continued, our relationship to those in purgatory is simply an extension of “the logic of love,” where “You extend yourself so that another might have an easier time of it. And that principle isn’t bound by death.”

It’s also not bound by time. The Church teaches that purgatory operates outside of space and time as we on earth experience it. Which means we should never stop praying for those we’ve lost.

“No prayer is ever wasted,” Tassone said. “The prayers we pray for our loved ones throughout the entirety of our lives play a part in helping them enter into heaven.”

6. The holy souls intercede for us.

The souls in purgatory can’t do anything for themselves, but the Church has long believed that they can do something for us: They can pray for us, helping obtain for us the graces we need to follow Christ more perfectly.

“We have such great intercessors in the holy souls,” said Tassone. “They’re interested in our salvation. They want to help ensure that we understand the malice of sin and the importance of conforming our lives to God’s will, so that we can go straight to heaven when we die.”

The same is doubly true, she continued, of the souls now in heaven, whom our prayers helped.

“Those souls become like our second guardian angels, taking us under their wing,” she explained. “That’s because the gift we helped give them was the Beatific Vision, which is the greatest gift of all.”

7. The Church’s teachings on purgatory are rooted in Scripture.

If you’re looking for scriptural evidence for purgatory, start in the Second Book of Maccabees (12:45), where Judas Maccabee orders prayers and sacrifices for fallen soldiers who committed idolatry shortly before their death.

“Their beseeching implies there is hope even beyond the grave for those who defiled themselves,” Martin said.

In the New Testament, St. Paul likewise hints at the cleansing fires of purgatory when he writes, “If any man’s work is burned up he will suffer loss though he himself will be saved” (1 Cor 3:12-15). He also seemingly prays for the soul of Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:18.

Moreover, according to Corzine, the existence of purgatory is the only way to make sense of scriptural assertions such as, “No unclean thing will enter [heaven]” (Rv 21:27), as well as commands like “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

“Logic demands purgatory,” Corzine said. “Without some process of purification after death, the population of heaven would be infinitesimally small, comprised of only the few who allow God to perfect them in this life.”

8. Purgatory wasn’t an invention of the medieval Church.

Have 30 days of Gregorian Masses celebrated for loved ones through the Pious Union of St. Joseph (piousunionofstjoseph.org) or other missionary orders that offer this ministry. Thinkstock

Although the Church didn’t begin to officially define the doctrine of purgatory until the high Middle Ages (starting at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274), the belief in a purgative state after death is as old as the Church itself.

“The uninterrupted witness of Church history tells us that Christians have always prayed for their dead,” said Corzine. “Even before people used the word ‘purgatory,’ they recognized the need to offer up prayers and have Masses said for those who’ve left this life.”

That uninterrupted witness includes the writings of Church Fathers and Doctors from the first century onward. It also includes records of Catholics commemorating the anniversaries of departed loved ones with Masses and prayers, the inclusion of burying the dead among the spiritual works of mercy, and centuries of Christians who left money in their wills for Masses to be said for their souls.

Said Corzine, “Since the damned cannot benefit by our prayers and the blessed in heaven have no need for our prayers, that enduring witness implies another place or state where souls exist who can benefit from them.”

9. Purgatory is like spiritual summer school.

How’s that?

To start with, just as sitting in a classroom during January is easier than sitting in a classroom during July, doing the suffering and sacrificing it takes to grow in holiness is easier on earth than it is in purgatory.

In part, that’s because “on earth we still have our physical bodies,” Father Longenecker said.

“Our task is to become conformed to Christ,” Father Longenecker told OSV. “That’s a task we’re supposed to do here, and it’s a task for which we’re supposed to use our bodies. It has a physical dimension to it.”

Which is to say, with our bodies we can do good works that break us of attachments to sin and self. We can take a meal to the new mom across the street, buy a coffee for the homeless guy downtown, fast from chocolate for all of Lent, and go on pilgrimages to holy places. Without a body, all those corporal works of mercy — all those ways of loving and serving others, as well as atoning for sin — are impossible.

Even more fundamentally, purgatory is like summer school because, just like summer school, no one has to go there.

“Purgatory is not supposed to be the norm,” concluded Corzine. “God gives each and every one of us all the graces we need in this life to become saints. We can do all the work necessary to become holy here. We just need to make use of the graces he gives us now.”

Emily Stimpson is an OSV contributor. If you like this article, you can sign up for future articles.

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

by Steve Ray on June 22, 2016

rembrandt_apostle_paul217x275Since we are in Rome today and touring Ancient Rome, especially the Roman Forum and the Mammertine Prison where St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly after his martyrdom. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for the dead.

It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. Here is my short article that gives a pretty clear example of St. Paul praying for a dead man, a man named Onesiphorus.

This will be interesting for those who deny prayer for the dead and must find supposedly find everything explicitly in the Bible before they are willing to believe it.

To read the article, click Prayer for the Dead: Did St. Paul Do This?

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 12, 2016

I will be on Catholic Answers Live Monday at 6:00 PM Eastern. We will discuss the Miracles of Jesus with an emphasis on the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE.  In [...]

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Today is St. Justin Martyr’s Feast Day – Free Apostolic Fathers Timeline

June 1, 2016

Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr, June 1   Download a Free copy of the Apostolic Fathers Timeline This amazing Timeline drives home the point of how close these men were to Jesus and the Apostles. It demonstrates how Catholic the first Christians really were!  The Apostolic Fathers faced Emperors, heretics and lions but these heroes [...]

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Mary, Ark of the New Covenant & the Visitation to Elizabeth

May 31, 2016

Read my article about Mary, typology and reading the Bible with the Fathers of the Church and the Visitation. It was published in Catholic Answers Magazine. Click on the image or HERE for the whole article.

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Planets, Dr. Seuss and Snowflakes—Combined Proof That There is a CREATOR

May 11, 2016

This reflection is by Larry Peterson of the Catholic Writers Guild. It is reprinted from the guild’s blog April 5, 1016. Ten  years ago, NASA’s new, Horizon Spacecraft left our humble, little planet and began its voyage to to the edges of our solar system and beyond. After traveling 3 billion-plus miles, New Horizon finally passed Pluto, [...]

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Did Jesus Ascend into Heaven from Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12) or from Bethany (Luke 24:50)?

May 10, 2016

One of our past pilgrims wrote with an apparent contradiction in the Bible and what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion. Acts 1:12  ”[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.” Luke [...]

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Jesus Said His Mother Had Other Sons! Really?

April 29, 2016

I was confronted with an interesting argument against Mary’s perpetual virginity. The man argued that the Bible itself proves that Mary had other children. He claimed that Jesus expressly states in no uncertain terms that his mother had other sons. He said it must have been overlooked by the Catholic Church. To read my whole response, [...]

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Eternal Security: Is Baptist Pastor Charles Stanley Right?

April 8, 2016

ETERNAL SECURITY (Once Saved-Always Saved): Analyzing a Sermon by Baptist Pastor, Charles Stanley By Steve Ray Hello Protestant Friend: Even though I have watched his show off and on over the months, I had no intention of watching Charles Stanley on television last night. It was just that I was tired after getting home and [...]

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Sympathy for Cradle Catholics Who Can’t Explain or Defend the Faith

April 7, 2016

I thought of a helpful illustration to explain why “cradle Catholics” are often unable to explain and defend the Catholic faith. The example has its weaknesses, but it does help get the point across. As an American I asked myself this question: if some one trained to attack America intellectually approached me on the street [...]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

March 31, 2016

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it [...]

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How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb? Another Contradiction?

March 26, 2016

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:38-40) Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb [...]

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Steve on Deep Adventure Radio Talking about the Early Church

March 18, 2016

Sorry about the 30 second Lowe’s commercial. Can’t get rid of it, embedded in the broadcast.  Stephen and Bear discuss the young roaring Lion of the early church and how they worshiped, what the key beliefs were in regards to the Eucharist and even Mary and how the Bishop of Rome (Pope) became significant. It’s [...]

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The Cross & the Crucifix: Letter to a Fundamentalist

March 14, 2016

The Cross & the Crucifix (From a letter Steve wrote to a Evangelical Protestant who asked about the Catholic Crucifix) Dear Evangelical Friend: You display a bare cross in your home; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the [...]

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“The Sinner’s Prayer” – All You Need to Get to Heaven?

March 13, 2016

When I was a kid, the “Sinner’s Prayer” was a big deal. It was at the heart of everything we knew about Jesus and getting saved. It was almost used as an incantation. My mom coached me to pray the Sinner’s Prayer when I was 4 years old. We knelt together in front of the [...]

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