3 Childhood Experiences that Taught Me about Purgatory


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 5, 2017.


Over the past several years, I find myself frequently reflecting on the implications the teaching of purgatory as on my daily life. To cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 1030, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

Wait! Hold it. Why would God need to postpone our union with Him for people who die in grace? Also, the word purgatory does not even make an appearance in the New Testament. I know that the teachings of the Catholic Church are based on both Scripture and Tradition, but how do we reconcile a major teaching with a collection of books [the Bible] that barely mentions purgatory?

Although I never really despaired about this seeming lack of evidence for purgatory, my inquisitorial nature still longed for answers in case my non-Catholic friends pushed me on this matter. Below I want to share three examples from my childhood that helped me better reconcile the apparent lack of evidence in the Bible for purgatory. I will also briefly highlight New Testament evidence I learned about that hint at and point toward the doctrine of purgatory.

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Please use soap and water

The dictionary defines purgatory as “having the quality of cleansing or purifying”. Going back to what the Catechism tells us about this teaching, we are to undergo a final cleansing or purification before we enter the joy of Heaven. Thinking about a hygiene example as a kid helped me better understand the need for purgatory.

My parents developed a good habit of having our family sit down for dinner on a daily basis. One of the conditions before I could join the table was that I needed to wash my hands.

I needed to be clean before I could participate in the joy of our family meal. In an analogous way, our heavenly Father desires His children to be completely cleansed before we participate in the joy of Heaven. I was never going to be denied eating my food as a kid if I had dirt under my fingernails. I simply needed to undergo a purification process at the bathroom sink to clean my hands. Likewise, at death people who are overall good and holy people will not be denied Heaven. Rather, they will undergo a purification process to eliminate all stain of sin.

Do you Round the Bases if a Window is Broken?

“Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack, I don’t care if I never get back, Let me root, root, root for the home team, If they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out, At the old ball game.”

Summertime will forever be linked to baseball. Despite being terrible at playing the actual sport in an official setting, I loved watching, studying, and playing backyard versions of baseball. Along with my love of the analytics of the game, my younger brother played. He was a fantastic ballplayer. I will always cherish the memories we made playing a pick-up game with the neighbor kids.

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During a warm June afternoon my brother and neighbor friends played a game at a nearby elementary baseball field. Things were going great. We had a blast playing and kept our stomachs full with snacks. I do not remember who actually hit this particular home-run, but shortly after it soared over the fence a crash ensued. We paused. The window of the house next to the field broke. I do not remember the exact details of how the window was eventually fixed. What I do know is that the baseball game was interrupted until we resolved the broken window issue [i.e. telling the homeowner the news, offering to pay for the window, etc].

Celebration of the home-run hit could only happen once our crew mended things with the owner of the broken window. Similarly, our celebration in Heaven cannot fully occur until we are fully purified completely through the process of purgatory. Purgatory once again is not to be viewed as a roadblock to Heaven but rather a process to ensure our complete union with God.

Finder Keepers, Losers Weepers

In the spring of my 5th grade year, my classmates and I had a weekend long lock-in event hosted by our municipal police department to talk about the dangers of smoking and drugs. On my way to the registration booth, I noticed a twenty dollar bill. I picked it up and immediately notified the event staff that someone lost money. I am grateful that my parents raised me right to listen to my conscience as I was not tempted to obey the adage “Finders keepers, losers weepers”. Ironically, listening to my conscience paid off—literally—no one claimed the twenty dollars by the end of the weekend so the staff gave the bill to me.

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Mr. Jackson was lost but now he’s found!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This memory taught me that purgatory is a necessary process. If I did not listen to my conscience and simply pilfered the money that the person lost that I would need to confess the sin of stealing. Even if the individual forgave me of taking his twenty dollar bill the relationship would not be fully restored until I paid him back. Now imagine if the individual passed away before I could repay him. Here is where the doctrine of purgatory comes into play. God allows for purgation of the temporal effects of sin [i.e. not paying back someone you stole from] through purgative suffering after death.

Purgatory in the Bible?

Along with my experiences as a child, I discovered a passage from St. Paul’s epistles that hint at the doctrine of purgatory. The Apostle of the Gentile writes in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15,

According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, 11for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13the work of each will come to light, for the Day- will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work 14If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. 15But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.

The Catechism actually cites this same passage in paragraph 1031 in its reference to a cleansing fire. St. Paul’s words tell us that although the purification experience is painful it is ultimately a cleansing experience and aimed at a higher aim—complete and full union with God! Having a deeper understanding on the purgatory increased my understanding the purpose of suffering and strengthened my fervor for God’s love. I am far from an expert in matters on purgatory, but I have learned a lot in the past few years. I will continue to learn and pray for knowledge on this subject from the Holy Spirit. If your window(s) get shattered by a baseball maybe your own perspective will change!

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The fires of purgatory are painful, but they’re healing (purifying) flames.

 

 

Related Links

3 Reasons Why I Thought Purgatory was Basically Overtime in a Football Game

Purgatory 101

What is Purgatory?

 

 

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How an Elementary Student Taught Me More Theology than My Master’s Program


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 31, 2017.


A few years ago, I started volunteering as a mentor to an elementary student at a local Catholic school. I was nervous at first because this was the first time I served as a mentor to a young student. On that first day, the school counselor thought it would be nice for the student to give me a tour of the school. On this tour, I was making small-talk and the topic eventually led to saints [Icons of saints are present at every classroom door].

I posed this simple question to the student, “Who is your favorite saint?” The reason I received from him was simple but also tightly packed with theology! The student quickly responded with a sheepish grin, “Fr. John is my favorite saint!” Though I was half-tempted to qualify his statement by saying, “Well, I meant technically a canonized saint…”  I stopped myself. Since that day I have pondered this revelatory statement at least once a week.

The more I reflected on my mentor student’s statement the more and more theology I realized was packed into it. Here are a few truths I gleaned from his statement:

Holiness can start now

Sanctity is not reserved for after our death or even later in our earthly lives. To reference my recent post on purgatory, I used to believe purgatory was a “period” similar to an extra period in a sports game. Yet, my student’s reply is simple and true, our priest is like a saint to him because he knows holiness when he sees it.

Priest, like saints, reflect God’s light

The moon, which reflects the sun’s light, is a common image the early Church Fathers used to describe Mary, who reflects the son’s light. Similarly, we are called to be that same reflection. Christ even goes further when he calls his followers in Matthew 5:14-16 to be the “light of the world”. Perhaps the best truth that came forth from my student’s statement is summed up best when placing it next to St. Athanasius’ famous quote from On the Incarnation. He says, “God became man that man might become God”. I truly believe our parish priest is on that same path.

My parish is doing something right

I should qualify this by saying our parish is doing something right by allowing God’s grace to work in the people I have encountered there. My student’s proclamation, “Fr. John is my favorite saint!” is certainly a testament to our priest’s strong faith and reverence for the sacrament of Holy Orders. But I am sure he will agree with me in saying there is another source at work besides himself. It is the work of the Trinity. Not only at work in my student’s heart, but God is working through the dedicated teachers, administrative staff, and parishioners alike.

Many people tell me I am having a positive impact on that elementary student’s life each week I meet with him over lunch. What I do know for certain is that I get more graces than I give in mentoring. This “living theology” is something I never experienced during my graduate studies.  I thank God every day for the joy He gives me each week in serving Him.

Related Links

3 Things about the Holy Trinity I Learned from Elementary Students

3 Childhood Experiences that Taught Me about Purgatory

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 8— Elijah and John the Baptist


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 5, 2017.


Possessing both a Bachelor of Arts in history and a continued passion for the subject, I constantly remind myself to view persons and events in a large historical context. According to the English poet John Donne in his poem No Man is an Island,

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

manisland

No person lives in isolation free from the influences of others humans and world events. Viewing connections between the Old and New Testaments is no different. Events and characters throughout the history and religious development of Judaism forged the way for the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. series, I have portrayed that contextual reading is not merely a preferred, but an essential component to understanding and unlocking the fullness of Jesus’ gospel message. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.106 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 129).

Today, I wish to share the relationship between the famous Old Testament prophet Elijah and how he is a predecessor and prefiguring of John the Baptist.

Tackling Tyrants

Elijah and John the Baptist both faced wicked monarchs in their respective times. The Old Testament prophets vehemently opposed the evil ways of Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. In 1 Kings 21, Elijah was able to get the king to repent of and humble himself before the Lord.

John the Baptist also squared off against an evil ruler—King Herod. Standing up to the king, John chastised Herod’s lusting his brother’s ex-wife Herodias. The prophet’s continual condemnation of Herod’s evil led to John’s beheading.

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Desert Dudes

Both prophets spent enormous amounts of time praying and fasting in the desert. According to 1 Kings 19:1-14, Elijah flees to the desert to escape the wrath of Queen Jezebel after he destroyed the prophets of the idol Ba’al. The prophet spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. His period of fasting culminated with his famous encounter with God in the stillness and quite voice.

Fast forward to the New Testament and John the Baptist lives in a similar manner. Matthew 3 tells of John preaching in the desert of Judea—clothed in camel hides and eating locusts. His speech against false worship is similar is tone to Elijah. The Baptist chastised the Pharisees and Sadducees by saying,

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.f 10Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Harbingers of Greatness

As profound and mighty prophets both Elijah and John the Baptist were in their own regard, they ultimately paved the way for someone greater to follow—Elisha and Jesus respectively. Elisha’s superiority is exemplified in providing greater miracles and ultimately being a foreshadowing of Jesus himself. The successor of Elijah, healed lepers, multiplied food, and resurrected the widow’s son. All of these miracles are things Jesus performed—simply on a grander manner.

The liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church places the feast day of John the Baptist on June 24th. It is interesting to note that this placement is close to the summer solstice and the time of the year where the day slowly starts to grew less and less. Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, occurs after the winter solstice. During the darkest periods of the year, there exists hope on December 25th as the daylight is increasing. John the Baptist tells us his role in salvation history. The prophet states, “He must increase while I must decrease!” (John 3:30).

John also defers to Jesus in Mark 1:7-8 when he says, “And this is what he proclaimed: ‘One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.'”

john the baptist

Thank you God for the strong and passionate witnesses to the truth in the persons of Elijah and John the Baptist!

Related Links

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 9- Akedah of Isaac and the Passion of Christ

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 7- Joshua and Jesus


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Why Sacred Art is Needed More than Ever


Editor’s note: Article originally published on August 22, 2019. This article is sponsored by Holyart.com.


Our world is an ugly place. Disease, cancer, war, hunger, greed, murder, abuse, and countless other appalling things have existed throughout human history. Because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, humanity fell out of communion with God. Thankfully, God had a plan. A redemptive plan of salvation. Through the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, God provided a pathway for us to return to Him. Two thousand years later, not much has changed with humanity. Human nature is always the same. Self-centered. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Catholic Church as a harbor and teacher of truth.

Catholic Church

Baptized Christians are called to a life of grace. This is best lived out by participation in the Sacraments. Life on earth is temporary. Our true home is Heaven. St. Therese of Liseux said it best, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.” Nothing is wrong with admiring the beauty this world has to offer. It only becomes an issue when the good of the created world is preferred to the good of God.

Beauty and Goodness

According to Bishop Robert Barron, “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.” His quote always intrigues me. Think of the things you consider to be beautiful. Things that immediately come to mind are the beauty of a sunset, a smile, or the kindness of a stranger. Those are truly beautiful things or actions. Beauty always points us to the good.

beauty truth goodness quote

Saint Pope John Paul II described the relationship between goodness and beauty in this way, “beauty is the visible form of the good” (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 3). Throughout Church history, holy art in the form of icons, sculptures, and architecture has reminded Christians (and the world) of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In this article, I will provide three reasons why sacred art is desperately needed to help us recover a sense of beauty in an ugly world.

Inspiration Not Mere Entertainment

A major difference between modern art and sacred art is their purpose. The former seeks to entertain whereas the latter aims at a higher purpose—inspiration of the heart, mind, and soul. In his 1999 Letter to Artists, John Paul II describes the motivation of artists as, “they must labor without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves. There is therefore an ethic, even a ‘spirituality’ of artistic service, which contributes in its way to the life and renewal of a people” (no. 4). Holy art seeks to serve others and the Other—(God). Gazing at those holy individuals will help inspire you to lead a holier and virtuous life.

Drawing us into the Paschal Mystery

Sacred art draws us into the life of Jesus. “Thanks also to the help of artists ‘the knowledge of God can be better revealed, and the preaching of the Gospel can become clearer to the human mind’”, declared St. John Paul II (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 11). Sacred art largely consists of scenes from the Gospels. Entering any Catholic cathedral or basilica causes an immediate reaction of wonder and awe. We gaze at the glorious murals, statues, and music that exist.

trinity icon sacred art

In college, I went on a trip to Europe. My favorite part was visiting the glorious cathedrals in Rome and France. I experienced the tangibility of the Gospels during those church tours. The marble statues of Christ and the Apostles transported me into the New Testament. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the primary subject matter of sacred art is Jesus, Mary, the saints, and scenes from the Gospel (CCC 2502). Sacred art helps draw our minds deeper into the Mysteries of our Faith.

Sacred Art Navigates the Soul Toward Heaven

Along with inspiring and drawing us closer to the Good News of the Gospel, sacred art helps to remind us that our ultimate destination is not here on earth, but in Heaven with God. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 31st, 2011 General Audience, “Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.” Holy art acts as a doorway to the supernatural.

doorway to the divine

Sacred art is not the end, but rather a vehicle to help us pray. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1192 teaches, “Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented.”

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in my dining room reminds me of her closeness to her Son Jesus. Gazing at images of saints also help guide me closer to Christ and ponder the reality of Heaven—full love and communion with God!

Sacred art is vital to a renewal of the increasing de-Christianization of nations and cultures around the world. Bring back beauty into an ugly world by owning holy art in your home and workplace. Be an advocate for change and promote the Gospel while adding beauty to your surroundings.


Visit Holyart.com for high quality and original Catholic artwork for your home, parish, or business.


Related Links

Sacred Art is the Triumph of Beauty and Truth

The Importance of Sacred Art

3 Reasons Catholics Should Have a Saint Statue at Home

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 3― Creation Week in Genesis and John


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 6, 2017.


This is the third installment of my series Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D . Check out the first two in the related links section at the end of the article. 

I am excited! The Gospel of John is probably my favorite gospel. Genesis’ creation story always fascinated me as well.

Today I am going to examine the direct connection the evangelist makes between the first book of the Bible and the first chapter in his gospel. I came across this revelation a few years ago while I was planning a lesson on John for my high school students. Here are three ways to show how John’s Gospel is the fulfillment of Genesis.

Presence of the Trinity

Both Genesis 1 and John 1 start with the phrase, “In the beginning” and both make reference to God being preexistent before the creation of the world. Not only is God referenced in both chapters, but the revelation of God as a commune of Persons is also present. The writers of Genesis in verse 2 state, “while a mighty wind swept over the waters”. Translated literally, this phrase refers to the spirit of God or the hinting at of the Holy Spirit—the Third Person of the Trinity.

Another foreshadowing of the Trinity occurs in Genesis 1:26 when God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The usages of the first person pronoun strongly hints at the Triune God fully revealed in the New Testament.Compare this with the first words of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him” (1:1-3). I do not think it was a coincidence for John to invoke the first words of Genesis to begin his Gospel.

wedding at cana

Count the Days

There are six days of creation within the first creation story of Genesis. Interestingly enough John starts his gospel using a similar chronology. The evangelist starts his gospel with the words, “In the beginning” so let’s make that day 1. When we get to 1:29 it states, “the next day”. This is day 2. Verses 35 and 43 also have the phrase “the next day” so those verses correspond to days 3 and 4.

Chapter 2 begins with the following words, “On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with his disciples.”

Notice he says on the third day which in contextually reading with John 1 the wedding at Cana occurs at the 7th day of the week. In other words, John is mirroring the chronology of Genesis 1 to begin his gospel.

keep calm and count the days

Wine Leads to Rest

Perhaps the greatest two words parents hear at the end of a long week both at work and home is rest and wine. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, placed Jesus’ first miracle at the end of the New Creation week. The first miracle was not the curing of a blind man or healing or a leper. It was multiplication of alcohol at a wedding. It seems like a trivial use of God’s power!

At first it seems so, but a deeper look at John’s connection with the creation story and the history of the Catholic Church tells otherwise. First of all, it is Mary who intercedes on behalf of the wedding couple to her Son to perform the miracle. While the first woman [Eve] fell into sin, Mary conceived free from sin was instrumental in the miracle of Jesus’ public ministry.

Secondly, the resting of God on the 7th day of the initial creation week is a sort of celebration and similarly the wedding at Cana on the 7th day of the new creation week is celebratory in nature as well.

Finally, the Catholic Church’s liturgy is a combination of the Old Testament “resting on the Sabbath” when we rest in the pews and contemplate God’s word in the readings and homily along with the celebration akin to the Wedding at Cana banquet when we arise for Communion to eat at the Eucharistic feast.

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My view of the relationship of the Old and New Testament transformed after I learned about the connections between Genesis and the Gospel of John. I hope that in reading this post you gain a greater interest for the Holy Scriptures.

Related Links

Why Catholics MUST Have Bible ADD!- Intro

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 2- Miracles of Elisha and Jesus

Why Jesus Called Mary “Woman” at Cana


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3 Reasons Why Peter and Paul Share the Same Feast Day

Early on the history of the Catholic Church an admiration existed for Peter and Paul. Aside of Jesus Christ himself, these two men are the main characters in the New Testament. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, church leader Clement of Rome tells of the leadership of Peter and Peter. He wrote,

There was Peter who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one not one but many labors, and thus having borne his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance…Unto these men of holy lives was gathered a vast multitude of the elect, who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves (First Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians 5:4-6:1).

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Living in the 1st century A.D., Clement’s praise of the first leaders of the Church shows something special changed these men. God selected a simple fisherman and a reformed murderer to head the Catholic Church. I believe the Holy Spirit guided the Church to forever link these two saints lives through having the same feast day on June 29th.

Creativity of Truth [Saint Paul]

Having the ability to think outside the box and preach to vastly different audiences is a gift. St. Paul possessed both creativity and the flexibility to frame his thoughts to fit the needs and understanding of his particular audiences. Writer of almost 2/3 of the New Testament, St. Paul represents the creative aspect of the Catholic faith. He brings to the table dynamic, vibrant, creative theology to teach Christians in the early Church and today.

The Apostle of the Gentile used many tangible and relatable examples to teach the faith. One of my personal favorites comes from 1 Corinthians 12. Paul clearly and succinctly communicates the fact that unity is found within diversity. He provides the analogy of the Church consisting of one body with many parts and Jesus Christ as the ultimate head of the body.

Another clear and understandable example of the love and teaching of God is St. Paul’s frequent references to Christians as adopted children of God. In Romans 8:14-17 he writes,

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.j15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,* Father!”k 16The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,l 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

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Stability of Truth [Saint Peter]

Unlike Paul who represents the intellectual, creative, and theological side of truth, Peter is a model for the consistency and enduring nature of

Catholic teaching. Jesus instituted the papacy in Matthew 16:17-19. According to the evangelist the charge to the future pope went as follows,

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18k And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The lead up to this significant institutional passage is Peter’s realization of Jesus’ true identity is the Christ. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter led the Catholic Church after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven. He led the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and displayed the ultimate mark of faith in his martyrdom. The Holy Spirit guides the papacy. This office acts as the supreme authority on matters related to faith and morality.

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Analogy of Tetherball

Truth is unchanging but our understanding of truth developed over the centuries. The genius of the Catholic Church is apparent in the consolidation of Peter and Paul’s feast on a single day. There is a schoolyard game that comes to mind to describe the relationship between the first pope and the great Apostle to the Gentiles—tetherball! Incidentally, it was not until my early twenties that I discovered the joy and fun this recess game provide despite its simplistic nature. I even purchased a tetherball at my local sporting goods store in hopes to eventually install a tetherball post in my background.

To get back from my tetherball tangent, the post in this game reminds me of the stability that the papacy of St. Peter provides. The ball and rope represent the creative theology of St. Paul. Both are essential aspects of the game [and the Catholic faith].

The Stable and Creative Church

Without the stability of the papacy, truth devolves into subjectivity and confusion ensues. Likewise, an absence of dynamic theological thought [represented by Paul] leads to staleness, rigidity, and irrelevancy of Catholic teaching. Remember kids recess is an important subject in school too—you never know when you can apply lessons from leisure to real life!

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Pope Francis on June 29th, 2017 stated, “The Fathers of the Church liked to compare the holy apostles Peter and Paul to two columns, on which the visible building of the Church rests. Both sealed with their own blood their testimony to Christ of preaching and service to the nascent Christian community.”

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How Tolkien and a Board Game Brings Greater Insight to the Papacy

I am a huge fan of fantasy literature and among my favorite authors is J.R.R. Tolkien, better known as the creator of Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien described the creation of Middle Earth more as a discovery of a fictional world already in existence.

It was not until I started creating my own board game when I realized the truth in Tolkien’s words. My journey in making my board game was more of a discovery of a game already existent. I simply happened to be the one to uncover it.

one ring

There is a connection of Tolkien’s and my own personal experience to the truths of the Catholic Church. Truth is not something to be manufactured or fabricated. The objective truth of the Gospel—preached and housed in the Catholic Church— have always existed!

Jesus gave the honor and responsibility to his Apostles and Original members of the Catholic Church to safeguard, teach, and articulate the Truth for future generations until His Second Coming. Let’s examine some examples as evidence for this claim.

Jesus Entrusted Peter with Authority

In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Humanity thrives on clarity of thought and stability in leadership positions. Jesus planted the seeds to the papal office with Peter. The Greek name for Peter [πέτρος] translates as “stone” or “rock”. God gifted Christianity [and the entire world] with the office of the papacy to be the authority in the matter of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit works in a special way through the pope to guide him whenever a moral truth comes into debate or question.

Evidence from the Didache

According to many scholars, this document was written around 65-110 A.D.  This text is  known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. When I read this document I was surprised to hear many Catholic truths proclaimed from such an early 1st century document. The Didache specifically mentioned the Eucharist in Chapter 9 and the sacrament of Holy Orders in Chapter 15.

 Pope Pius IX on Papal Infallibility

The solemn declaration of papal infallibility occurred on July 18th, 1870. Pope Pius IX’s statement on papal infallibility related only to matters of faith and morality. Only in his office as pope could the leader of the Church speak with such authority. The Holy Spirit planted the seeds of papal infallibility in Matthew 16:18-19.

 keys of peter

 While the doctrine of papal infallibility may be a hot-buttoned issue, especially among non-Catholics, it does not have to be. Seeing the role of the Catholic Church as the guardian and teacher of truth and not the creator of truth was a notion that transformed my approach to this subject.

Tolkien’s discovery of Middle Earth, as a place already present, is like Catholic Church teaching as a truth existent for eternity. Our role is to discover anew how the truth of the Gospel may shape our daily lives!

Related Links

The Didache

A brief history of papal infallibility


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