The Catholic Defender: Priscilla and Aquila, Friends of St. Paul

Posted by Donald Hartley - May 7th, 2016

apollos 1After staying in Antioch some time, Paul left and traveled in orderly sequence through the Galatian country and Phrygia, bringing strength to all the disciples. A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus. He was an authority on the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and, with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the Way of God more accurately. And when he wanted to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. After his arrival he gave great assistance to those who had come to believe through grace. He vigorously refuted the Jews in public, establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.

There is a lot of history written in between the lines of this scripture coming from Act’s 18:23-28. Antioch became an early Christian center as a result of the great persecution of the followers of Jesus which began with the stoning of St. Stephen (Act’s 7:54-60). In fact, it was Antioch that the followers of Jesus first became known as Christian (Act’s 11:26) and first called Catholic (Act’s 9:31 Greek Translation). Acts 9:31 states, “Then the church throughout all* Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.” In the original Greek, it is: “Acts 9:31 ἡ μεν ουν εκκλησια καθ᾽ ὁλης της ιουδαιας και γαλιλαιας και σαμαρειας ειχεν ειρηνην οικοδομουμενη και πορευομενη τω φοβω του κυριου, και τη παρακλησει του ἁγιου πνευματος επληθυνοντο.”

ignatius 1The term in bold commonly translated as ‘church throughout all’ is in Greek ‘”εκκλησια καθ᾽ ὁλης”—pronounced “Ekklesia Kath olos” (Catholic) or the Church Universal, since Kath olos is the same term used by St Ignatius of Antioch for the Church in his letter. St. Ignatius (3rd Bishop of Antioch-follower of St. John) later would write the Smyrnaeans on his way to Rome as a prisoner, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” St. Ignatius would be thrown to wild beasts giving his life for Christ and would not abandon the Catholic Faith.

Notice a familiar name, Apollos, who was known by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 3:1-23) who originally brought division in the Corinthian Church. Appollos was a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt, who was well learned of the Old Testament Scripture (Septuagint specific from Alexandria 256 B.C.) arrived in Ephesus. Apollos was being instructed in the “Way of the Lord” and learned of Jesus through the prism of the baptism of St. John (Matthew 3:1-6). As a new Christian, being an authority on the Old Testament, Appollos began teaching in the synagogue. He had great zeal, but he was ill-prepared to preach without knowing or understanding the fullness of truth (the Catholic Faith).

apollos 2It was about this time that Priscilla (wife of Aquila) and Aquila ran into Apollos. Now, Priscilla and Aquila were companions of St. Paul traveling from Corinth to Syria (Ephesus) (Acts 18:1-22) when they ran into Apollos in Ephesus (Acts 18:24-26). Once Apollos had met St. Paul and learned the whole teaching of Jesus, Apollos became a dynamic witness and defender of the Faith (Jude 3).

Think about this text, how important it is to continue to learn about Jesus and our Catholic Faith? Today there are many like Apollos, who have a zeal to proclaim the “Way of the Lord” with what they believe. Apollos was considered an authority on the scriptures (Old Testament) but without knowing or understanding the concrete meaning coming from the Apostles, he caused division.

Ephesians 2:19-22 states, “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

apollos 3To be a prophet, it is not a matter of competing to be the best witness or follower of Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:5-9), but it is a team effort that brings us together by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-31).

Now there are over 40,000 plus new (Christian) religions (Galatians 1:6-9), so many voices, the truth of the Catholic Faith can sometimes be blurred by the many Apollos who see themselves as their own authority who preach through the prism of their own understanding. This is why it is important that as Catholics, we hold fast to that apostolic faith (2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3,6-7), and be a sign and a witness like Priscilla and Aquila that will lead many to the deeper truth of following Jesus. Living the life of Grace through the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we want to pass it on.

Acts 16:9-18 gives the example of the missionary fervor of St. Paul to reach people for Christ, “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Ne-apolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days; and on the sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.
apollos 4One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.”

Great signs and wonders accompanied St. Paul and his Co-workers. Here on Deepertruth, we are graced to share many of these signs and wonders on our radio show covering Eucharistic Miracles with Dr. Gregory Thompson and Marian Apparitions with Marianologist John Carpenter. There are many signs and wonders of the Lord (Act’s 2:17-19) from the great work coming from Joesph Martone Jr in Colorado always in battle saving unborn children to Judy Alciatore who shares poems from the Lord.

apollos 5What a great thing it is when we are friends with the friends of Jesus, St. Paul sent greeting to Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Onesiphorus was a co-worker with St. Paul who found Paul in chains in Rome when most abandoned him (2 Timothy 1:15-18). Onesiphorus had by this time of St. Paul’s writing passed away and we find St. Paul interceding for him before the Lord Jesus on that great Day of judgement.

We who believe today because of the great missionary activity of St. Paul and the early Church, we too have received the same blessed Grace poured out by Jesus through His friends today.

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The Catholic Defender: The Chair Of St. Peter In Rome

Posted by Donald Hartley - April 28th, 2016

ChairFebruary 22 is the Feast of the Chair of Peter. This morning, two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) stopped by to give me a call. I knew who they were instantly and I surprised them by sharing with them why they came by to see me! And I was ready for them  sharing with them Matthew 16:16-19:

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Words to gleam from this scriptural text: Christ (Messiah), Rock (Kepa), Church (Εκκλησία/ekklēsía), keys, bound (bind), and loose. From this text we see who Jesus is, Jesus is truly the Messiah, the Christ. We see Jesus identifying who Simon, Son of Bar-Jona is, the Rock (Kapa) and we see Jesus as the Son of David transferring the keys of authority from the household of David (Isaiah 22:22) now to Simon Peter and the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15).

Peter 3Peter alone was given the Keys, the office of the keys, plus in this text, Peter alone was given the power to bind and loose (Matthew 16:16-19), Notice in this text, Jesus speaking to Peter as “You” speaking to Peter seven times in this text. Clearly, Jesus was speaking to Peter! We see Matthew bring in the rest of the apostles with Peter representing the Church with this authority together (Matthew 18:18).

John 21:15-17 Jesus commissioned St. Peter as Shepherd of the sheep given the charge three times.

Acts 2:14-41 On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire, it was Peter who gave the first Papal discourse in which 3,000 were converted and baptized to the Catholic Faith that very day.

Acts 5:3-10 It was Peter’s word spokem to Ananias and Sapphira who had attempted to deceive the Apostles and thereby the Holy Spirit, causeing them to drop dead!

Acts 5:15 People came just to have Peter’s shadow pass over them and the sick were healed.

simon-magus-money-peterActs 8:18-23 St. Peter rebuked Simon Magus, the sorcerer, who thought he could buy the power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:38-41 St. Peter raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead. This was through the power of God but it also shows God’s anointing on Peter.

Acts 11:1-18 St. Peter instructed the other apostles how God had granted power through their word to include what was clean and unclean. We can now enjoy bacon for example, how the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that the Gentiles were being accepted and received by God into the Church.

Acts 15:7 At the Council of Jerusalem in 49 A.D., there was much debate until Peter stood up and spoke, that ended the debate. Some will look at this text and claim that James was the first Pope as he took control of the Council (Acts 15:13-21) but people do not always understand how the Bishop of Rome, the Pope respects the Bishop of any diocese he visits? The Apostle James was regarded the first Bishop of Jerusalem. Naturally Peter would respect that call. James was not over Peter.

Peter 41 Corinthians 15:5-7 After Jesus resurrection, Jesus first appeared to Peter then to the Twelve. This really ties in with Matthew 16:18 and John 21:51-17.

Galatians 2:6-10 St. Peter was given charge the gospel for the circumcision, here is this text:

“And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me; but on the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles), and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.”

What can we gleam from this? St. Paul is defending his right as an Apostle because Christ called him (Acts 9:1-19) to reach out to the Gentiles (uncircumcised) and Peter the mission to the circumcised. Notice St. Paul admits that Peter with Paul also worked for the Gentiles. This is important as both St. Peter and Paul would give their lives in Rome under the Roman Emperor Nero.

jesus_washing_apostles_feet_parson_lTo better understand St. Peter’s role among the Apostles and the Church, it is best to see it from an Old Testament family structure, not a modern constitution like we have in the United States. God the Father is not seen as some court judge, but as a loving Father. Jesus is not some kind of lawyer who defends the right of the sinner, but as a brother, the first born. Yes, God is Judge, and Jesus died for sin, but the Church is a family, a household, so the judgement will be fatherly and the Lord’s passion will be for love of His people. The Church is born out of this understanding.

Jesus is the Master Builder, He is the Rock that the builders (Israelite) rejected who has become the corner stone (Psalms 118:22/Acts 4:11) and 1 Corinthians 10:4. St. Peters confession did not come from him, it came from God the Father and Jesus institutes upon St. Peter, this new name which is significant. When ever the Lord would change the name of someone, this was always significant. Firstly, in Genesis 17:5, He changed Abram’s (Father) name to ‘Abraham,’ (Father of many nations) as part of God’s Covenant making Abraham the ‘Father’ of a host of nations.

jacobSecondly, in Genesis 35:10, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and stated, ”I am God almighty, be fruitful and multiply. A nation indeed an assembly of nations shall stem from you.”

Thirdly, He changed Simon, Bar Jona, to Peter, the Rock. This is important because we are now moving into the New Testament, a new Covenant and Jesus is preparing His Apostles for this great new season in human history.

Again, this very morning, Jehovah Witnesses arrived at my door and I was pleased to share with them the foundation of the Chair of Peter, the authority of the Catholic Church Jesus founded nearly 2,000 years ago.

I was recently challenged by a number of ministers from the Baptist, Church of Christ, Seventh Day Adventist, and some Non-Denominations on St. Peter even being a leader in the early Church. And with this group, using early Church Fathers will not fly high with them, so can we gleam anything from the New Testament that reveals St. Peter’s primacy?

From the discussion, some might concede that St. Peter was the “Chief Apostle”, consider Matthew 10:2 which lists St. Peter first among the Apostles. 1 John 35-41 tells us that St. Andrew, first a follower of St. John the Baptist, was at the baptism of Jesus and from that point on began to follow Jesus. It was then that Andrew informed his brother Simon about Jesus who is depicted by the Gospels of Matthew (4:18-20), Mark (Mark 1:16-18), and Luke (Luke 5:3-11) calling St. Peter and the others to follow him.

netsIt is interesting that in the Gospel of St. John, Jesus first refers to Simon as “Cephas” which means “Peter” (John 1:42). Is this an example where St. John viewed St. Peter as the head of the Church? Consider the following story:

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” John 20:1-9

Peter 6What can we gleam from this text? Peter was a much slower runner than John? Perhaps, but it is interesting that John reaches the tomb first but waits until Peter gets there and enters first. That is very significant to the respect John has for Peter’s role as the leader.

Following St. Peter during the early years after the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus we know that he was present at Pentecost. He gives the first Papal dissertation in Acts 2:14-41 when 3,000 people were baptized the first day.

A short time later, St. Peter gave a second speech at the portico called “Solomon’s Portico”. St. Peter and John were taken from there to the Sanhedrin where the Pharisees wanted to punish them but feared the people who were praising God (Acts 4:21).

Peter 7We know that St. Peter was still in the Holy Land when persecution broke out against the Christians.

After St. Stephen was stoned to death, people went everywhere to escape Saul of Tarsus. Everyone except the Apostles. St. Peter gives a third speech and Baptized Cornelius near Caesarea.

St. Peter received a vision and message from an angel while in Joppa when three men came to see him to take him to Cornelius.

This would be very important for the early Church as God reveals to St. Peter his plan of salvation for the Gentiles.

St. Peter begins to speak when the Holy Spirit came upon the house of Cornelius.

St. Peter ensures the baptism of the entire household (Acts 10:9-48).

This would become important for the early Church and infant baptism.

King Herod captures St. Peter and puts him in prison, but God had other plans for St. Peter getting him away from the clutches of Herod (Acts 12:1-17).

We know that St. Peter was in Jerusalem for the Council of Jerusalem (49 A.D.), “After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, ‘My brothers, you are well aware that from the early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts”.

Peter 8After this scene, we do not see much of St. Peter in Jerusalem. This is the last time we see St. Peter in the book of Acts. St. Paul becomes the dominate figure from this point on.

So where does St. Peter Go? Does he ride his donkey into the sunset into retired life? No, not at all!

According to Tradition, St. Peter went to Antioch and ordained St. Evodius a bishop.

St. Peter appears to have gone immediately to Antioch after being released from jail by the angel. St. Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of the Apostle John, who died around AD 110 AD.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347 – 407 AD), grew up in Antioch, learned the history which taught that St. Ignatius had been ordained at the hands of Apostles, including St. Peter.

ignatius 2According to ancient tradition, St. Ignatius was the child whom Christ had held, as described in Matthew 18:4. It is also from here that St. John Chrysostom learned the history and tradition that Christ was born on December 25th, 2 B.C.

St. John Chrysostom would preach on the subject literally on Christmas day. It is important to understand from this tradition, St. Peter was in Antioch at one point. What about St. Peter in Rome?

Writing in his Annals circa A.D. 116, Tacitus a Pagan Historian, describes the response of Emperor Nero to the great fire that swept Rome in A.D. 64:
“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”

Nero 1Suetonius, another Pagan historian also confirms Nero’s persecution of Christians at Rome (c. 120 A.D.): “Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.” (Lives of the Caesars 26.2)

One of the Early Church Fathers who heard from St. Peter personally, was ordained by St. Peter would become the third successor to St. Peter. St. Clement of Rome about 95 A.D. wrote:

“Let us come to the heroes nearest to our times. . . . Let us set before our eyes the good apostles; Peter, who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two but many labours, and having thus borne his witness went to his due place of glory. Paul, by reason of jealousy and strife, pointed out the prize of endurance. . . . When he had preached in the East and in the West he received the noble renown of his faith. Having taught righteousness to the whole world, even reaching the bounds of the West, and having borne witness before rulers, he thus left the world and went to the holy place, becoming the greatest pattern of endurance.”

St. Clement writes of Peter‘s stay in Rome, “I do not command you, as Peter and Paul did”.

Peter and paul 1Ignatius of Antioch wrote: “Not as Peter and Paul did, do I command you [Romans]. They were apostles, and I am a convict” (Letter to the Romans 4:3 [A.D. 110]). Such a comment would only make sense if Peter had been a leader, if not the leader, of the church in Rome.”

Later in the second century, Irenaeus of Lyons believed that Peter and Paul had been the founders of the Church in Rome and had appointed Linus as succeeding bishop.

Tertullian also writes: “But if you are near Italy, you have Rome, where authority is at hand for us too. What a happy church that is, on which the apostles poured out their whole doctrine with their blood; where Peter had a passion like that of the Lord, where Paul was crowned with the death of John (the Baptist, by being beheaded).”

St. Dionysius of Corinth also serves as a late second-century witness to the tradition. He wrote: “You (Pope Soter) have also, by your very admonition, brought together the planting that was made by Peter and Paul at Rome and at Corinth; for both of them alike planted in our Corinth and taught us; and both alike, teaching similarly in Italy, suffered martyrdom at the same time”.

Later tradition, first found in Saint Jerome, attributes to Peter a 25-year episcopate (or apostolate) in Rome.

Peter-upside-downSt. Peter’s crucifixion in Rome is the only recorded traditional account of St. Peters death. John 21:18 states, ” Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God”.It is interesting to note that there are no viable examples or traditions of St. Peter having this experience anywhere else.

The grave that is claimed by the Church to be that of St. Peter lies at the foot of the aedicula beneath the floor under the main Altar. DNA testing reveals that the bones found were the bones of a 60-70 year old man.

vatican_stOn June 26, 1968, Pope Paul VI announced that the relics of St. Peter had been discovered. The evidence through scientific analysis found St. Peters name more than 20 times at the site, the bones had a purple and gold fabric.

From Scripture, tradition, history, from the very beginning, the evidence is clear that St. Peter was the first Pope, chief apostle, leader, Bishop of Rome, Royal Steward, Prime Minister, or any other name you can give this “office” that Christ commissioned Him as “Fishers of men” and “Shepherd of the Sheep”.

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The Catholic Defender: Gamaliel And His Wisdom Continues To Be True

Posted by Donald Hartley - January 25th, 2016

PhariseeCrop“But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, held in honor by the people, stood up and ordered the men (Apostles) to be put outside for a while. And he said to them, Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men. For before these days Theudas arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about 400, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God”!

Yes, when you oppose the Catholic Faith, you are really opposing God, perhaps unknowingly.   During this time period of Jesus public Ministry, there were many looking for the Messiah. Many false messiahs were abounding and led people astray.

GiveUsBarabbasPeople such as Theudas and Judas the Galilean were two that Gamaliel refereed to specifically.

Mark 9:38-41, perhaps a follower of one such false prophet found in Jesus something that the false messiahs lacked. St. Mark states, “John said to him, Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us. But Jesus said, Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward”.

The Apostles recognized this man was not of their number and forbade him from working in Jesus name. This man perhaps a follower of Theudas did not know Jesus personally, but was acting from what he had observed.

jesus_feeds_5000_4-web-size11St. Mark recognized that these false messiahs did not have the signs that Jesus had been known to do. This was still Pre-Church as the Lord was still instructing his Disciples.

The time was coming when Jesus would be sending the Catholic Church to the nations.

The Church would unite the Captives under the Lord’s command as it will preach the good news to all the nations.

St. Paul would add his experience with Gamaliel:

paul 6Paul addressed the people in these words: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well.”

But something happens to St. Paul on the road not far from Damascus:

damascusroad“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’ Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.”

Many are called by the Lord, but few are chosen (like St. Paul) to be apostles to serve the Lord. St. Paul was made an apostle by Jesus for our benefit, to give God’s grace through the Ministry of the Church. St. Paul himself would literally be led by the hand as an example for us, the importance to come before the Throne of God’s grace:

ananias 1“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.’”

Gamaliel’s sound advice is a testament to the truth of the Catholic Faith as it has lasted 2,000 years. Every Catholic ordained shares in this apostolic benefit God ministers to His people. By accepting the Sacraments, we share in the great Mystery of faith handed down.

BaptismThere will always be Theu’das, Judas the Galilean, or other modern day groups who seek to impose their false interpretations, but the Catholic Faith will never fall.

O Almighty and Eternal God, look upon the Face of Thy Christ, and for love of Him Who is the eternal High-priest, have pity on Thy priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands. Keep them close to Thee, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.  Amen.

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The Catholic Defender: The Christmas Mistletoe

Posted by Donald Hartley - December 15th, 2015

scroogeEvery year when Christmas time comes around, people who on the side of Scrooge come out opposing the spirit of Christmas because they want to say that it began through Pagan foundations.  I have defended Christmas many times showing that Jesus was really born on December 25, 2 B.C.

I written on the Twelve Days of Christmas, Candy canes, Caroling, Midnight Mass, as well as other topics related to the Christmas season, but for the Scrooges of the world, they think Christmas is a gotcha moment against the Catholic Church.

paul 4If St. Paul were here today, what would he say about all this, especially some of the traditions that are not based from the bible?

Consider the following coming from Acts 17:16-28 as he was speaking with Greek Philosophers:

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.  So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there.  Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, “What would this babbler say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”–because he preached Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took hold of him and brought him to the Are-opagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean.”  Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.  

paul 5So Paul, standing in the middle of the Are-opagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.  For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.  And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Where does the tradition of the mistletoe come from? Do you have anyone you would like to find under a mistletoe?

Tumber-Kissing-Under-MistletoeI have always wondered where the tradition of the mistletoe had derived from. I have seen it on television during the Christmas season and I was just curious to where this tradition comes from.

This particular custom is one that I have not experienced as I never have walked under the mistletoe.

Though I am so thankful for my wife, I am glad that I do not have to depend on a mistletoe. So, if you happen to go to one of those office parties at work or someplace, you better be careful for those looking to capture you under a mistletoe. You never know these days who might be looking for the opportunity to kiss you!

The following is from theholidayspot.com:

“Mistletoe Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is a partial parasite (a “hemiparasite”). As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic plant.

There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees in the west as also in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. The other type of mistletoe, Viscum album, is of European origin.

The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous.

It commonly seen on apple but only rarely on oak trees. The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans.

The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs.

The Plant : Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is a partial parasite (a “hemiparasite”). As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients.

But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic plant. There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees from New Jersey to Florida.

The other type of mistletoe, Viscum album, is of European origin. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous. It commonly seen on apple but only rarely on oak trees. The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans.

The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. The Mistletoe Magic : From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore.

It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper.

Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions.

The Greeks also thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches.

It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. The traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement. Kissing under the mistletoe : Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites.

They probably originated from two beliefs. One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility. It was also believed that the dung from which the mistletoe would also possess “life-giving” power.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later, the eighteenth-century English credited with a certain magical appeal called a kissing ball.

Kissing under the mistletoeAt Christmas time a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill.

If the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect not to marry the following year. In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry.

Whether we believe it or not, it always makes for fun and frolic at Christmas celebrations. Even if the pagan significance has been long forgotten, the custom of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe can still be found in many European countries as well as in Canada.

Thus if a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. In France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year’s Day : “Au gui l’An neuf” (Mistletoe for the New Year).

kissing 2Today, kisses can be exchanged under the mistletoe any time during the holiday season. The Legend : For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the center of many folklore.

One is associated with the goddess Frigga. The story goes that Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun.

Balder had a dream of death which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end. In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son.

Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. But Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it , striking Balder dead.

santa (1)The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother. It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew.

The story ends with a decree that who should ever stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love.”

What could be more natural than to translate the spirit of this old myth into a Christian way of thinking and accept the mistletoe as the emblem of that Love which conquers Death? Its medicinal properties, whether real or imaginary, make it a just emblematic of that Tree of Life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations thus paralleling it to the Virgin Birth of Christ.

petra 1Taking a cultural tradition and giving it a Christian purpose is not a bad thing, consider Christian Contemporary Music, I’ve heard it argued that it is wrong because it is like that of the world.  I would argue that music can be used as a tool to reach out to the world with the truths of the Church.

There are many things associated with Christmas and can be used for fun and teaching good ways to spread Christmas cheer.  So as St. Paul would say to his listeners, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.” Romans 16:16-17

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The Catholic Defender: Acts 2:21

Posted by Donald Hartley - August 2nd, 2015

repentcrossExactly what does calling upon the name of the Lord really mean? Is it just that simple for a Christian to do, to call upon the name of the Lord? Where does this come from?

St. Luke gives a great clue, “and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.” Is it possible that St. Luke read Romans 10:13? Romans 10:13 states, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.

Obviously, we are to call upon the name of the Lord, especially during times of tribulation or when we have been prodigals who have been on our own for a long time, but is this exactly what St. Paul and Luke is really pointing too?

James 5:19-20 gives a tighter clue as to the direction the Apostles are pointing to, “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

For such a sinner, the calling upon the name of the Lord was central in their return back into the Faith of the Apostles.

Psalms 116:3-4 gives an important clue, “I was caught by the cords of death; the snares of Sheol had seized me; I felt agony and dread, Then I called on the name of the Lord, ‘O Lord, save my life!”

cupToday, what catches my eye on this subject, calling upon the name of the Lord, Psalms 116:12-13 centers this home for me, “How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me? I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” Now this text takes more consideration, I will raise the cup of salvation…

Jesus said, “Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of the many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:27-28

When we are calling on the name of the Lord, are we not called to the table of the Lord? Are we not connected to the cup of salvation that became the sign of the new and everlasting covenant? Yes, the cup of blessing is where we rest in the Lord.

People in Jesus time challenged Him asking, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?” (John 6:30)

crucifixionEven while still on the cross, they challenged Jesus saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe him.” They didn’t understand why Jesus was shedding his blood for them even then nor did they understand the Eucharist given at the Last Supper.

Jesus many times have given us signs and wonders helping us in our weak faith to believe as we continue to call out the name of the Lord.

Acts 2:17-19 states, “It will come to pass in the last days, God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophecy. And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below.”

In Dronero Italy, 1631, the Lord showed a young girl a great miracle, today it is remembered as the “Eucharistic Miracle of Dronero”

fireOn the afternoon of Sunday, August 3, 1631, a great fire broke out in the commercial district of Saluzzo in the town of Dronero. A young farm girl foolishly kindled a fire with dry hay at the very moment an upwind was developing into a thunderstorm. The flames quickly and violently spread to the home of the Borgo Maira. The townspeople desperately attempted to extinguish the fire, but all their efforts proved useless as the fire developed further.

Friar Maurice da Ceva, a Capuchin, was inspired to have recourse to the power of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He immediately organized a procession with the Blessed Sacrament, followed by all the townspeople, to the location of the fire. The moment the Blessed Sacrament arrived, the flames subsided and miraculously were extinguished! This miraculous event is described in details on a stone tablet in the small Church of St. Brigid. On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the citizens of Dronero keep alive the memory of this miracle with a solemn annual procession with the Blessed Sacrament.

The people called out to the Lord carrying Him in procession that saved them from a fire. Today, we need to call upon the name of the Lord, carrying Him before the fires blazing across America.  The glorification and acceptance of sin is causing a fire that can only be extinguished by calling upon the name of the Lord.

Lord Jesus, have mercy upon us…

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The Guardian Angel: Begging God For Mercy

Posted by Donald Hartley - July 7th, 2015

We should be on our knees begging God for Mercy, as we live in a Nation begging for HIS judgment.

St_Alphonsus_LiguoriAlfonso M Dei Liguori, in his book PREPARATION TO DEATH Exhorts the reader never to waste time, with the following words: “Time is a treasure which is found only in this life. It is not found in the next one: Neither in Hell nor in Heaven. In Hell the damned constantly cry out saying: Oh, if we only had one more hour! They would pay any price just to have one more at their disposal in order to remedy their eternal loss, however they will never have this hour. “

Jesus told Pilot, “the reason I came was to bear witness to the truth” and to follow the teachings of the Word Incarnate, we also must bear witness to the truth. They crucified Jesus for telling the truth, and they will persecute those that are willing to tell the truth. But we are called to do that to help bring souls to HIM who are headed to Hell for eternity, as they do what is right in their own eyes, instead of God’s. We live in a time of emotions and feelings, that have nothing to do with ‘Truth’. So spend your time in repenting, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

God once and for all defined marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman. No majority of jurists, legislators, clerics or voters in any state of this Union, or the world itself, possesses the moral, legal or Constitutional right to re-define what God Himself has once for all explicitly established, ordained, and defined as the highest authority in the Universe.

Any individual from the president to a state governor who authorizes alterations to or issuance of marriage licenses to any same-sex couples in any state will be doing so in violation of the Constitution of this United States of America and more importantly the Word of Almighty God and will be acting illegally since any law or court opinion not in accordance with God’s Divinely Revealed Word (“the laws of nature and Nature’s God”) is, by definition, legally null and void.

indexThe Church has nothing to learn from the world, quite the opposite, in fact, and the world does not believe it is wrong, so dialog is pointless. This is what the Church has to re-learn, to reacquire: the truthfulness of Her own convictions, that the world is to be engaged to the extent that it is willing to be saved. We must be on fire for the truth.

The world lies when it says it is wrong to give offense. That’s a lie. We must do it in love, so It is wrong to look for ways to give offense, to intend to give offense, but it is not wrong to say the truth and the hearer to be offended by it.

What does God say for their eternity which could start at any moment? In Romans first Chapter starting at 18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.20 Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; 21 for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. 29 They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, 30 landerers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.”

HomosexualsThen in First Corinthians: In 1 Corinthians 6:9,10, it says, 9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

This is the bottom line for those that understand that the most important thing we can do is to bring souls to the Lord for eternity, it is some of the greatest love we can give to our fellow man to be a vessel used by God to speak the truth, even if it offends those that cannot hear HIS voice. Everyone has a free will to accept or reject the truth, and sadly many will reject it.

Let us proclaim the Truth of God which is love, even though it will offend those not in the Truth. Also, I want to apologize to those that are truly Catholic for the embarrassment of Justice Kennedy actually claiming to be Catholic, when his actions show he is Catholic in name only, and I would be sad if he were my child as he helps put so many at risk for eternity by giving an opinion that is traitorous to God, family, and country. Yet he does fit the mold of the judicial activists that have gone before him in the Dred Scott Case saying that blacks were property, and the Roe vs. Wade Case saying it was proper to murder innocent babies, and now to be used by those seeking to destroy the family by forcing the acceptance of Sodomy on the country, he becomes no more than a judicial tyrant, and should be defied and reviled, and yet prayed for, as he may surely go to hell if he does not repent publicly for this public nightmare that spits in the face of a Holy God.

“Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in conclusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.” Peter Conecius, Doctor of the Church, wrote the first Catechism of the Catholic Church. Submitted by writer Guardian Angel, 417-599-9247

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The Catholic Defender: Thorn In The Flesh Continues

Posted by Donald Hartley - April 7th, 2015

PAUL_S_THORN_IN_THE_FLESH_sm “But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me”.  (2 Corinthians 12:6-9)

There has been a lot of thought regarding what this “thorn in the flesh” might have been for St. Paul.

Could it have been something physical, spiritual, maybe psychological? Could it have been something of all three? Whatever the “thorn” was, Jesus said that his grace was sufficient.

glorynthornsI’ve heard some suggest it could have been the stigmata, but nobody knows for sure.

The important thing was that what ever the thorn might have been, it did not define who St. Paul was.

St. Paul, formerly known as “Saul” was a major figure within the Jewish Sanhedrin at the time of Christ, but there is no mention of him until the 7th Chapter of Acts and the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

From that point on a fierce persecution of the Church began in Jerusalem and the Church was scattered into the countryside of Judea and Samaria.

Only the Apostles hung tight in Jerusalem. The persecution was so severe that St. John would understand Jerusalem to be the “Whore of Babylon” (Revelation 17:3-6) referring to the persecution of the Church.

Ananias_restoring_the_sight_of_st_paul_(34663925)The story of Saul’s conversion to the Catholic Faith is probably and certainly one of the greatest conversions stories in the history of the world.

The impact of Saul, now St. Paul, would change the world. St. Paul’s missionary journey continues to have a huge impact on the contemporary world.

Saul would encounter Christ as he was heading towards Damascus to arrest Christians.

The Lord supernaturally appeared to St. Paul, “a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ He said, ‘Who are you, sir?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.”

St. Paul is certainly one of the most important figures in the history of the Church. Despite the many successes of St. Paul, he bore many hardships, he was jailed, he was beaten, shipwrecked, snake bitten, and he had his “thorn in the flesh”. He traveled far preaching the gospel, he became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

thornWhat a great story and one that many of us can identify with. We all have had our “thorn in the flesh”, our crosses to bear. Like St. Paul, many of us may feel the pain and anguish that might be physical, spiritual, or psychological. Maybe a combination of all three. What is important is to not allow these things to define who we are. That our faith is what defines who we are.

St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” reminds us of the human spirit that is capable of reaching out to God in faith and overcoming the obstacles for the prize.

13 books of the New Testament are attributed to St. Paul, it is also believed that he wrote the book of Hebrews which would make 14 letters the Catholic Church maintains in the bible.

vatican 1The Catholic Faith has a multitude of examples who followed the example of St. Paul.  There are Saints that the Lord has given us like St. Paul who are great role models.   Many great examples!

Like St. Paul, let us too, find courage to “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). 

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The Catholic Defender: Bowing Is A Sign Of Respect

Posted by Donald Hartley - June 8th, 2014

Francis 4I recently wrote an article I entitled, “Do you pray to statues” because of the many accusation floating out in the land of the Internet. Today at Mass (Pentecost Sunday) I was thinking about this as the Deacon was using the Incense around the Altar, the podium, even the people.

Bowing has several purposes, I’ve seen people bow as a sign of humble respect. Suffering defeat, people bow in respect to the winners, in war, people have bowed in shame. People bow when receiving great applause, it is a measure of humbling oneself. Bowing can be a form of showing respect or submission.

For religious purposes, the Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary states, “to incline in respect or submission”. To the Christian, it is all about reverence and respect. What is being viewed from the act of using incense is bringing the supernatural into the presence of the congregation. Revelation 8:3-5 states, “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with burning coals from the altar, and hurled it with burning coals from the altar, and hurled it down to the earth. There were pearls of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”

holymass2This worship taking place in Heaven at the golden altar before the Lord, is extended to us in the Mass. The incense we see reflects that happening taking place before the throne. It is not the smoke of the incense that becomes the focus, but the prayers offered to God on behalf of His people.

When the Priest is taking the incense around the Altar at Mass, this is in reverence to what is taking place in heaven. We are part of what is taking place as we enjoin our prayer with those in heaven.

We are literally “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:3) as we are participating with the prayer of the holy ones (Revelation 5:8).

This visual representation taking place that reflects the actual worship taking place in the Holy of Ho-lies is not foreign to Jewish worship. God Himself used smoke and fire as symbols of his presence among His people.

Abraham witnessed God’s presence through a smoking brazier and a flaming torch (Genesis 15:17) and God’s glory would be made manifest through smoke. Moses experienced this presence of smoke from the cloud as this was God manifesting His presence (Exodus 40:34-38).

In the New Testament, Revelation 15:8 speaks of the temple in heaven being filled with the smoke from God’s glory. When we bow in the Lord’s presence, we are showing reverence to the King of Kings.

Mary-with-Jesus-and-AngelsRevelation 11:19 speaks of a vision God gives to St. John the Apostles, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lighting, rumblings, and pearls of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.” This is much like the happening in Revelation 8:5!

So, when you see people who are bowing or kneeling before sacred objects, those objects are not the objects of worship but are shown the respect of what is being represented. Nobody is talking to a statue of Jesus, but it is Jesus himself that the statue represents that a person is talking to.

When you see sacred objects of the Saints, the same is true, nobody is speaking to the statues, but the prayers are offered to God. Actually, it is really more to say that we are joining our prayer with the Saints when we ask them to pray for us. Intercessory prayer is taking place, there is no oblation offered to a Saint.

Pope FrancisWhen you see the Priest kiss the Altar, he is showing respect and reverence towards God who is abiding at the Altar before His Throne. The Priest is not worshiping the Altar itself.

Bowing and giving reverence and respect to false god’s would be a serious problem. Exodus 20:4, “You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them.”

St. Paul is warning against idolatry, consider what he is saying, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:21)

There is the difference between the table of the Lord and the table of demons, likewise, there is a difference from the use of sacred objects from the use of the graven images.

communion 11The enemies of the Lord seek to eradicate the Lord’s image from the face of the earth. They want you to bow to the idols of men that takes you away from the very presence of God.

Within the Christian community, sacred images are tools that help fortify to the Christian the Lord’s presence in their lives. To see the mighty acts of God through art, music, our lives are tools that help us lift up our hearts and minds to the King of Kings. They are simply reminders to the Christian. What is exterior of a Christian, should reflect what is interior. This is really the story of Pentecost. It is the Holy Spirit from within a person, that the exteriors points the way of a persons heart. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.

It is from what is interior of the heart that St. Paul writes, “You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh. Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-4

genuflectAs Catholics, we learn to genuflect whenever we enter the Church, this is not towards any statue or any image, it is a recognition of the Presence of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found in human in appearance, he humbled himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every KNEE SHOULD BEND, of those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

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