14 August, 2009

Discussion with Ernie about saints, idolatry and authority

(Ernie) I am not bearing false witness against you or any Christian, but I have seen people of the Catholic faith with a statue of Mary, bowing down and praying to her. Maybe this doesn't represent the Catholic Church, but like other Christians, some do things outside of the word, and that is the reference I make.

(Cristoiglesia) I see that you are a charismatic Christian and have received some of the gifts of the Spirit but you seem to think that you have the gift of reading minds. You are saying that if someone bows down before an object that they are praying to that object as a God. That requires the ability to read minds. Is this what you are claiming? I bow down beside my bed every morning upon awakening and pray but not to my bed but to God in the Trinity. I often bow in Church before the Cross to pray but I am not praying to the Cross but to God. Here is what the official teaching of the Catholic Church says in the Catechism about your accusation that we commit idolatry:


2112 The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of "idols, [of] silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see." These empty idols make their worshippers empty: "Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them."42 God, however, is the "living God"43 who gives life and intervenes in history.

2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon."44 Many martyrs died for not adoring "the Beast"45 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.46
2114 Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration. Idolatry is a perversion of man's innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who "transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God."47
Catholics most often bow and humble themselves before God to pray. So, obviously when you observed someone bowing and praying you jumped to the conclusion that they were praying to an idol. Do you see that prejudice and ignorance can cause you to bear false witness against others? As I told you before you should seek forgiveness for your unintentional ignorant lies against the Church.

(Ernie) Do you not know that the righteous the biblew speaks about are the living saints on earth? All Christians are saints of God, not just the apostles, or those who have gone on to heaven. The living on earth are to pray for the living on earth, not those in heaven pray for us. I don't see any scripture to support that.

(Cristoiglesia) Well it seems that you know what the saints are but then you err in saying only saints on earth can pray for others and not those who have received our heavenly hope. I cannot find any biblical teaching that excludes any of the saints from praying for others or asking them to pray for us. Perhaps you could provide chapter and verse that supports your idea that those who have won the race no longer show their love for those of us who have still not realized our heavenly hope. Are you familiar with who are the Church militant, suffering and triumphant?

Here is what the Bible says about praying to saints and our perspective as Catholics. When we use the term pray in relation to the saints we are using the archaic meaning of pray which simply means to ask such as the saying “pray tell”. From my blog:

First of all it is disingenuous to state that the practice of praying for each other has no biblical foundation, we are instructed in Scripture to have a prayer life for others as it is part of God’s commandment to love one another.

(2Co 5:8 DRB) But we are confident and have a good will to be absent rather from the body and to be present with the Lord.

The Catholic Church does not teach that it is absolutely necessary for one to ask for the intercession of saints for salvation. The Church does teach that prayer to God is necessary for salvation for all believers. For a Catholic it would be wrong to ignore the liturgical worship offered to God at feast days for the saints and the prayers asking for their intercession.

The Communion of Saints is a dogma of the ancient Church and is recorded in the apostles Creed. It simply states that the faithful because of their relationship with Christ are alive even after the death of their flesh and worship with us. To us the Church is made up of the Church militant who represents all those believers living out their hope in the flesh.

(Phi 2:12 DRB) Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.

(Phi 2:13 DRB) For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will.

It consists of the Church Suffering who are those who are temporarily in need of further purgation from sin so that they may enjoy the presence of God.

(2Ma 12:46 DRB) It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

Lastly, the Communion of the Saints consists of those who have won the race:

(Phi 3:14 DRB) I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus.

Their immortal souls are in heaven in God’s presence:

(Rev 5:8 DRB) And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

The universal stream connecting all of God’s creation is His love, which we take on in our baptism into our journey towards sanctification. This is not an emotional but a desire placed in us by the Spirit of God that endures as a desire for those other than ourselves and this love extends even to our enemies. This is truly a love that comes only from God and is a foreign concept and nonsense to those who have not received God’s salvific grace. This desire within our souls does not end with the death of our flesh but continues into eternity where the saints through their intercession in prayer encourage us in our race and assist us to endure unto our union with God.

I think that some people of faith, who do not understand the Communion of Saints, somehow believe that asking saints to pray for us is detracting from our love or our trust in God. In truth it is impossible, if we truly love as God commands and has given us the grace to understand, not to pray to those whom we love and in turn we expect them to return that same love to us by praying for us and presenting our prayers to God.

(Ernie) I believe more than just Jesus dying for us and that He is the Son of God.

(Cristoiglesia) Good, one must be very careful to state what they mean.

(Ernie) I believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, I believe in the 5 fold ministry gifts, and the 9 gifts of the Spirit, and much more.

(Cristoiglesia) Many Catholics have received the gifts of the Spirit and use them for the benefit of he Church. I am a charismatic as well.

(Ernie) Not sure of all that the Catholics believe, but I don't agree with anything against the word.

(Cristoiglesia) Well, if you read the Bible then you know a great deal of Catholic beliefs. We wrote much of our beliefs and practices in the New Testament and the book of Acts chronicles the formation of the Church for the first few decades. When you read the New Testament of the Bible you are reading about the Catholic Church. Since all of the authors were Catholic Christians who were inspired by God there is nothing in these writings that are in opposition of Catholic teaching. The Catholic Church also canonized the entire Bible under the authority that Jesus gave to us. Since we wrote much of the Bible and canonized it would be illogical and foolish for anyone to think that we would not follow our own teaching, don’t you think? So, in reality, the Catholic Church has a more legitimate claim to being a Bible teaching Church than the man-made sects of Protestantism. The truth is that Jesus promised all believers that His Church would be the enduring Church, free from apostasy that will remain for all times the “pillar and foundation of the truth”. His Church, the Catholic Church is the Ark for humanity from a sinful and deceived world.

(Ernie) I don't know what the Regula Fidei is, but I do follow scripture. Still, there is no reference to get the saints in heaven to pray for us. Do you believe all believers are saints?

(Cristoiglesia) The “Regula Fidei” means the rule of faith which the Scriptures teach is the Church founded by Christ and the disciples which is the Catholic Church. There was no other Church. It is good to follow Scripture but it is wrong and unbiblical to appeal to the Scriptures as the Regula Fidei. That is usurping the authority Jesus gave to the Church.

Yes all believers are saints but not all saints in the Church militant endure to final salvation. The Church suffering and triumphant are those who have endured in Christ. Now you know that all the saints are commanded to love each other and to show that love through intercessory prayer for others to God. There are no exceptions as we all worship together and pray for each other. Clearly this is God’s will from Scriptures. Our love for those with the heavenly hope does not end when we have won the race. God bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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