There is Only One “Real Jesus”; Accept No Substitutes

06/27/2016 Comments (3)

Thomas Francis Dicksee (1819-1895), “Christ of the Cornfield”

Here's an email about a website called "New Covenant Ministries" (a self described "No-nonsense, Honest, Direct, Prophetic, Apostolic, Priesthood of All Believers [Men and Women], Post-Trib, Sabbatarian, Messianic-Israelite, Patriarchal, Evangelical, Received Text, Johannine Tradition & Communion, End-Time Gatherers, New Birth, Holiness, Restorationist, New Covenant Torah, Non-Charismatic, and Sola Scriptura" group which styles itself "One Spotless Church Gathered from the Corpse of Christendom.")

That warm affirmation of ecumenism should be a tip off that this group is unlikely to be tremendously reliable when their assertions wander off the beaten path of Christian orthodoxy. But still...READ MORE

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How Tradition Gave Us the Bible

06/24/2016 Comments (1)

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), “Saint Paul Writing His Epistles”

Last time, in this space, we started looking at how doctrine develops in the life of the Church.  Today, we will take a look specifically at how the Church's doctrine regarding "which books should we read in the liturgy?" developed.  For that, of course, is all we mean by "the canon of Scripture".  The Church chose these books and not those for its readings as Mass, put them all together in The Book (Biblia) and used them Mass.  How did they make that call?

In some cases, the Church in both east and west has a clear memory of just who wrote a given book and could remind the faithful of this.  So, for instance, when a second century heretic named Marcion proposed to delete the Old Testament...READ MORE

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Sacred Tradition is the Mother of the Bible

06/20/2016 Comments (4)

Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1825), “Saint Matthew the Evangelist”

It's still a jolt for some people to realize this, but the Bible did not fall down out of the sky, leather-bound and gold-monogrammed with the words of Christ in red, in AD 95.  Rather the canon of Christian Scripture slowly developed over a period of about 1500 years.  That does not mean, of course, that Scripture was being written for 1500 years after the life of Christ.  Rather, it means that it took the Church some fifteen centuries to formally and definitively state which books out of the great mass of early Christian and pseudo-Christian books constituted the Bible.

The process of defining the canon of Scripture is an example of what the Church calls "development of doctrine".  This...READ MORE

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The Belief in Purgatory is Much Older Than You Realize

06/17/2016 Comments (15)

Kaddisch at a grave in Jerusalem. (Photo Credit: Christian Rosenbaum, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Last time, in this space, we left off with a common notion concerning Purgatory, namely:

Wasn't Purgatory unheard of in Scripture and only invented in the Dark Ages?

No. Just the term "Purgatory" arose after the time of the apostles, just as the terms "Trinity", "Christianity", "Second Coming", and "Bible" did. But the idea of Purgatory was already present in the period before Jesus was born. So, for instance, we find a Jewish hero named Judas Maccabeus, about a century and a half before Jesus, praying for the dead and specifically asking they be forgiven their sins after they have died (2 Maccabees 12: 43-45). This practice, known as the "kaddish", continues in Judaism to this day and...READ MORE

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Purgatory and Scripture: Part Three

06/13/2016 Comments (2)

If you are just joining us, we are continuing a discussion of the Church's teaching on Purgatory. Last time, we ended with this question.

If baptism and faith in Christ covers our sin and gives us God's grace, why then is sanctification necessary?

Because baptism is grace, not magic. Grace is the life of God planted in the human soul. It is the "imperishable seed" given us by God (1 Peter 1:23). But the seed must grow, as our Lord taught (Matthew 13:1-32). It is not simply, as some have taught, a covering of our sins like snow on a dunghill, but is rather a means of transforming us in our inner being, as Paul taught.

Consider Israel. In the book of Exodus we read the story of how God got...READ MORE

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What's the Point of Purgatory?

06/10/2016 Comments (5)

(Via Wikimedia Commons)

Last time, in this space, we began looking at the Church's doctrine of Purgatory, and we left off with this excellent question:

What's the point of sanctification and Purgatory if you are basically a good person? Wouldn't a God of love accept us as we are?

We often hear "So and so is 'basically a good person.'" What do we mean by it? To find out, suppose someone says, "Einstein was basically a good scientist" or "Bach was basically a good musician" or "Babe Ruth was basically a good ball player." Does this strike you as rather weak? That's not surprising. When we say that somebody is "basically good" we are really saying "despite their mediocrity, they had some good qualities." That is...READ MORE

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The Doctrine of Purgatory is Biblical and Makes Sense

06/06/2016 Comments (22)

(Via Wikimedia Commons)

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. (Catechism of the Catholic Church - #1030)

Few doctrines of the Catholic faith are more misunderstood than Purgatory, and yet few make more sense—or are more biblical—when rightly understood.

Misunderstandings of Purgatory abound. Some people think the Church teaches it is a second chance, where deceased souls headed for hell get a shot at working their way to heaven. Still others have the notion that Catholics think Purgatory necessary in order for souls to...READ MORE

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Devotional Literature vs. Literalism

06/03/2016 Comments (3)

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), “Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures”

One great thing about being a humanities major is that it helps you to despise all the money you'll never make. Another great thing about it is that it prepares you for approaching religious literature in ways that, mysteriously enough, don't seem to occur to so many people with a background in "biblical studies" or "systematic theology" or whatnot. Not that these disciplines are bad, mind you. It's just that there are days when I wish people would let their hair down and not read every bit of Christian literature as though it is a term in a syllogism or a piece of evidence in a murder trial.

Take for, instance a man I know (we'll call him "Bob") who found a bunch of Marian prayers...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.