Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.
It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at
DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices.
Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.
THE CHURCH'S VIGILANCE IN THE FACE OF PROTESTANTISM
Today more than ever before, the various Protestant denominations are making great efforts to unite among themselves. There is a wholesome leaning towards the Mother Church, the Apostolic Church; and a better understanding of many of her doctrines as we covered in Friday's installment and the historic landmark Declaration of Justification concord signed last Sunday in Germany. It seems that the hour is near when all the Christian Churches will return to the Mother Church. Division will disappear, the scandal of dissensions will cease, and there will be "One Shepherd" and "One Flock".
Catholics should observe an attitude of understanding towards them, because the majority of those who do not belong to the True Church are in good faith.
Catholic teachings are not easy to understand at first sight; many Catholic practices require sacrifice. Towards such a religion there is bound to be prejudice. In addition, many Catholics don't even understand their Faith, especially today where the Catechism has just recently been revived and generations have been deprived of truly knowing their Faith. Thus they fall into traps when discussing their own Faith and are easy fodder for evangelicals who are ready to pounce. If one's faith is not strong and based on terra firma then doubt can easily set in and their faith in the True Faith can get washed away in the sands of confusion and doubt.
There are other hardships involved for Jesus says that the path is narrow and we must carry our cross if we want to be His disciples. To be obliged to go to Mass every Sunday under pain of mortal sin; to have to confess to a priest, who is another human being like ourselves; to condemn divorce and birth control; to observe fasts and abstinence; - these are not easy doctrines. Especially today they go against the grain of public opinion and the easy way.
No wonder in looking for relief, man often, however unconsciously, seeks motives for not accepting the Church that commands its members to obey such precepts; to accept such doctrines. When Our Lord first announced the institution of the Holy Eucharist, many of the disciples said: "This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?" (John 6:62). And they no longer went with Jesus.
Catholics should above all try to give good example; nothing is more effective in the eyes of non-Catholics than the exemplary lives led by good Catholics.
"Behave yourselves honorably among the pagans; that, whereas they sander you as evildoers, they may through observing you by reason of your good works glorify God in the day of visitations" (1 Peter 2:12).
While avoiding useless discussions that generally end in bitter quarrels. Catholics should try to show the beauty, the truth of the Catholic Church. That is why it is so important Catholics know their Faith, know how to express it to others. As we near the new millennium apologetics has become paramount in defending the Faith.
In our friendly discussions with non-Catholics we should not be always on the defensive, but should try to see whether they can trace the origin of the authority of their ministers to the Apostles, whether their church can be proved the True Church by the possession of the four marks. Often our non-Catholic friends criticize the Catholic Church on account of some devotional practices like holy water, candles, etc., as if such practices belonged to the essentials of faith.
Catholics should often pray for the conversion of those outside the Church, praying with the Good Shepherd for only one Fold. When discussing religion with a non-Catholic, it is most important to persuade him to pray for the grace of God. To become a member of the Church is a gratuitous gift of God: one must humbly pray for it. In any discussion with another, we should always remember Christ's words to treat our neighbor as ourselves with love toward all and malice toward none.
Tomorrow: The Existence of Purgatory part one