Dear Fallen-Away Catholics: 10 Things You Should Know About What You Left Behind

Dear Fallen-Away Catholics,

Perhaps you left the Church because you disagreed with some doctrine. Or maybe you just gradually stopped going to Mass. Or maybe it was some combination of the two. Either way, you’re gone, and we really miss you and wish you would come back.

I myself never really discovered Catholicism until my mid-teenage years. I was really a fallen-away Catholic right from the get-go because I come from a family of fallen-away Catholics. My attendance at Mass and CCD was very spotty growing up. Then, just when I was ready to completely leave the Church, I experienced a powerful conversion that changed my life through the grace of God.

I say this to highlight the fact that I have not always been a devout Catholic. In no way do I desire to talk down to you or judge you, because I know how you feel. I was there. With that out of the way, I present to you the top ten things I wish I had known about Catholicism earlier.

10. CCD doesn’t even scratch the surface. Remember those dull days sitting in a church basement while some catechist read boring stuff to you and you wanted to be doing literally anything else? Well, that’s not Catholicism. Oftentimes, parishioners are pressured into teaching CCD and they might not be super well-informed about the faith themselves. Further, the materials used in CCD don’t get to the juicy stuff. Our faith is not merely a moral system, which is what CCD often reduces it to. There’s so more to it. Dive in. For AP-level CCD, visit this site.

9. The secular world biases us. This happens subconsciously. How often do secular news sources take a certain slant on the goings-on in the Church? How often do teachers and even some textbooks reveal their own biases and opinions on matters regarding the Church? Pretty soon, you have this general sense that Catholicism is just plain wrong, but you can’t point to any super specific examples because everything happened so subconsciously. I know because that is precisely what had happened to me. Here’s a challenge: next time the Church is in the news, read a secular article about it from, say the New York Times, and then read an article about it from a Catholic news source, such as the Catholic News Agency. Note the differences in assumptions the articles make and the topics they choose to focus on, as well as general themes.

8. You are allowed to question Catholic doctrine. In no way do I intend to belittle Catholic doctrine. What I mean to say is that you can and should look into the doctrines. You’re smart and you want answers to why the Church teaches what she does. I didn’t realize the following for a long time: the Church actually has reasons for her teachings. Her teachings are not arbitrary. Explanations of Catholic doctrine are widely available all over the Internet. Another important corollary point here: it’s okay if you have trouble accepting a doctrine. You can’t just flip a switch and say, “Yes, I accept this wholeheartedly.” You could say that, but it might not be genuine. Just be open to the possibility that Catholic doctrine x is true. You deserve time to research, think, and pray about it. God gave you reasoning capacities and a conscience; you were made to seek Truth.

7. There are passionate Catholics out there. It seems like a lot of Catholics are not passionate about their faith. Beyond Mass, participation levels in parish life can be quite low. With this sort of atmosphere, one can start to wonder if there’s something wrong with Catholicism. I come from one of the most irreligious states in the country, and even I’ve been able to find passionate Catholics here. There are many Catholics who are truly on fire for their faith, and the impact Catholicism has had on their lives is incredible: you just have to look in the right places. Go to a retreat or a Bible study, or volunteer at your parish. You’ll find them.

6. You don’t want to make your spiritual journey alone. We live in the age of the “spiritual but not religious” movement. Those with this mindset reject organized religion and espouse a merely personal spirituality. Before I truly discovered Catholicism, I kind of had some sort of a spiritual life going on, and I didn’t think I needed an organization of some sort to help me achieve my spiritual goals. Then when I became an active part of my parish, I realized how much more progress I made when I was with others and under the guidance of the Church. When we want to make academic progress, we go to a college where we earn a degree by fulfilling the requirements of our institution and learning from those wiser than us. No one questions this. Likewise, when we want to make spiritual progress, we go to a church where we follow moral teachings to the best of our ability and learn from those wiser than us. Further, having Catholic friends will help you stay on the straight and narrow.

5. Priests are sinners too. Many Catholics left the Church because of the sex abuse scandals and the Church’s response to them. Indeed, these scandals were a dark point in the history of the Catholic Church, and my heart goes out to all the victims. Naturally, people wondered, “How can we be part of a church whose leaders are so corrupt?” The sins of the priests who committed these crimes certainly delegitimized Catholicism in the minds of many. I’d like to make an important point here: priests are sinners too. In no way does that excuse their behavior, but it make it clearer how Catholicism can still be legitimate even when certain clergy have made serious mistakes. The Church is run by humans, and humans mess up. We can’t look at our clergy as gods on earth because that’s not what they are. Priest confess their sins to their fellow priests, by the way. Pope Francis goes to Confession too. Also, a side note: according to this article from the Washington Post, about 4% of priests are sex offenders. Again, I’m not excusing any of their crimes, but also according to this article, this proportion is consistent with estimates of sex offenders in other similar fields and other religions. What I mean to say is, it’s inexcusable that sex abuse happens, but it’s not a problem limited to the Catholic clergy.

4. The Catholic Church, est. 33 AD. The Catholic Church is old. We have an extremely rich body of teachings that have been in the making for 2000 years. So many brilliant minds (St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!) have been refining Catholic teachings for many, many years. Catholicism is “the original,” so to speak. Here’s how it went down: Jesus started His Church in 33 AD (but he didn’t call it that–it was the group of all his followers). The Church flourished an grew under an unbroken line of popes, beginning with St. Peter, His disciple. Then in 1517, Martin Luther decided the Church had been getting it wrong for 1500 years. (His disagreements went beyond the corruption in the Church at the time–that’s something your high school history class doesn’t usually mention. He disagreed with many intellectual points as well.) With Martin Luther came the Reformation, which saw the creation of various Protestant denominations that changed doctrines that had been in place since the earliest days of the Church. Basically, if you want to experience Christ’s Church as close as it was to when He started it, you need to be Catholic. (For more insight into what the early Church was like, I recommend the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch (circa 110 AD), St. Justin the Martyr (circa 110-165 AD), and St. Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 140-202 AD), just for starters.)

3. Catholicism is *really* intellectual. Sometimes religion is viewed as childish because it seems to require adherents to blindly follow rules. Hopefully it’s become evident from my earlier points that this is simply not the case with Catholicism. We have a vast body of 2000 years of writings that explain why we believe what we believe. Some of these writings get into some really hardcore philosophy. To see what I mean, try reading St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica.

2. Mass is really exciting when you know what’s going on. Before I truly discovered Catholicism, what I hated most about the Church was the Mass. It seemed so boring! What I was really lacking was proper context. I didn’t understand that the whole Mass is really centered around the miracle of the Eucharist. I didn’t understand that the Eucharist is a miracle. I had no context for any of the Scripture readings. I didn’t understand that the Mass is centuries old. It was kind of like walking into a movie for the last 5 minutes and trying to understand what was going on.

1. The Eucharist IS Jesus. This is, I would say, the mosimportant Catholic teaching. And somehow, I never learned this in CCD. (As I mentioned before, CCD totally does not scratch the surface.) As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist really is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. At communion, we are literally eating Jesus. Upon hearing this, this sounds repulsive and somewhat batty. How could we be eating Jesus if communion clearly looks like bread? And do we really want to eat Jesus? Doesn’t that sound like cannibalism? There is so much to say about the mystery of the Eucharist. And, as I’ve mentioned time and time again in this post, we have 2000 years of brilliant minds that have given us the resources to understand why we believe what we believe. Below I’ve compiled some of the resources on the Eucharist that helped me the most as I was learning about this sacred mystery.

How what looks like bread can actually be Jesus

    Summary: Using Aristotle’s metaphysical theories (which were in place long before the time of Christ), while the Eucharist has the accidents of bread and wine, their substance changes from bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ when the priest utters the words of consecration. Basically, the appearance of the bread and wine remains the same while what it actually is changes. 

The Biblical basis for the Eucharist

Summary: Jesus tells us to eat of His Body and Blood. When those listening to Him leave in response, He doesn’t stop them and say, “It was just a symbol!!” Instead, He repeats Himself three times. 

The Old Testament foreshadowing of the Eucharist

Summary: Jesus’s sacrifice mirrors the Passover sacrifice of the Old Testament. For Passover, Jews sacrifice a lamb and then eat it for the forgiveness of their sins. Likewise, Jesus sacrifices Himself for the forgiveness of our sins, and we eat Him, the new lamb. 

What the Church Fathers thought of the Eucharist

Summary: The early Church believed in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. 

Eucharistic Miracles

Summary: Sometimes, miraculously, the Eucharist visually turns into flesh and blood.

Anyway, it’s my hope that this post has sparked your interest in Catholicism. Catholicism has made such a massive difference in my life for the better; let it transform your life too.

Yours Truly,

A Young-Adult Catholic

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Response to Reader Comment: Genesis, Manipulating the Religious, and Epistemology

I recently received a comment from Guy Winter on this post that I would like to address here.

Guy Winter writes:

No matter how hard anyone tries, no matter how advanced the technology is, it is physically impossible to prove that any religious text is an account of actual happenings.
It is my belief that religion was created in order to control people and generate profit, which catholism does very well. If this if true, then surely they would cover every aspect of doubt in people’s minds that the stories are true.

You justify your reason for believing these to be true by saying ‘we’ use historical ‘happenings’ such as the death of Alexander the Great in our mainstream history textbooks, even though his biography was written hundreds of years after his death (among other similar examples). Given this information, it would not be wise to take this as truth either. Just because it is in textbooks, does not make it true, similarly what is written in the bible is not likely to be true.

All information should be questioned unless witnessed first hand. Even today we receive information from all sources which has been manipulated to portray a certain perception of events. When something happens, and witnesses are asked about what they saw, even a few hours after the event, everyone perceives the event differently and remembers it in different ways.

You mentioned gospel writers risking their life, and if what they were writing wasn’t true, why would they risk their life? So explain to me why Muslims who strap bombs to theirselves do so? There are people willing to sacrifice their life for all kinds of things, it’s all a matter of belief. The gospel writers had no first hand experience of the truth of their writings therefore you cannot say you doubt they would risk their life for their belief, if they even risked their lives at all, which again you don’t know. You have no credibility for any gospel writers actually risking their life? How do you know? Because it says so on a piece of paper. Every point you make to justify believing what is written on paper, is made through information you obtain from history records which are written on paper.

The likelyhood is, they were all written by a group of people wishing to control the masses, as well as making a profit from them at the same time. It would be the perfect plan, and evidently it works very welI. If you trust all historical records just because everyone else does, (which you imply many times in your response) if you follow the masonry origins all the way back, you will find they date back thousands of years before Jesus’ supposed day of birth.

It seems all logic is completely lost when it comes to Christianity. Not so long ago, I believed in God, and heaven, and I trusted my family and everyone around me to allow me to not think about it. However when I started thinking about it as I reached my late teens (I am now 20), I realised how proposerous the whole idea was, and it was then I was able to see my ‘faith’ was based upon fear that God would think bad of me for questioning him. I realised that just because millions of people believe something which is probably a lie, does not make it true. Now I can see life outside the box, and my whole perception of truth and the world has been changed. We must only trust entirely what we experience ourselves, questioning all we read, all we are told and most importantly what we believe, and if things don’t add up, have the courage to admit so.

If you think critically and analyse the argument with an unbiased viewpoint as a whole, whoever wrote and compiled together the many stories, gospels and manuscripts together has a vested interest in making it believable. They make money, and they are able to keep order in towns, with the mind as the police force. With the masses believing God is watching their every move, they would be less likely to steal, kill…..(sin). Perfect.

How do you explain the book of genesis and it’s story of how god created the world, and Adam and Eve? Who wrote those? Whoever it was certainly wasn’t watching what was happening. This is the baseline of which Christianity sits, it is where Christians draw their belief of god being the infinite force creator, yet the credibility of the story is zero.

I apologise for the delay of my response, and I thank you for reading it.

Guy Winter

Minding the Authors Intentions: Genesis: 

I would like to begin with your last point. I do not believe in a literal interpretation of the creation story in Genesis. In fact, only since the nineteenth century have some Christians taken that literally. Scholars and theologians generally agree that the author’s (or authors’) intention was to write an allegorical piece to communicate the idea that God created the world (which can be deduced via a priori reasoning- we need not rely on the creation story to see this), among other things. (Pope Benedict XVI has an insightful book about this called In the Beginning: a Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall.) Some books of the Old Testament are intended to be allegories, others are histories, others are laws, others are prophecies. I am no expert on the art of determining the authors’ intentions, but based on the little I’ve read about it, I get the sense that it comes from examining styles and comparing them to ancient works which we believe fall into a certain genre. 

So how can we say that the Old Testament is to be taken figuratively sometimes, and then turn around and say that the New Testament is not? Again, by looking at contemporary styles, scholars can determine the writer’s intentions. 

The Apostles, their Belief, and their Martyrdom:

I should have been clearer in my original response. Yes, it is true that just because the Apostles believed in Christ does not make it true. It does, however, show us that the Apostles believed what they were saying, even to the death. So that rules out the possibility of them creating the religion of Christianity for their own personal gain. (I could point you to non-Biblical sources that attest to their martyrdom, but since you question written sources, that probably would not be very helpful.)

Altered Sources and Religion’s So-Called Manipulation of Adherents:

You have said that written documents are often altered in order to manipulate the masses and make profit. It takes time to tamper with sources. There is this theory out there (probably propagated by Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code, which, yes, I have read and enjoyed) that the Roman Empire rewrote the Bible (or created it in the first place) under Constantine to keep order in the empire. This is actually absurd when you consider that we have ancient fragments of the New Testament (that are consistent with our modern New Testament) that have been carbon-dated to as early as 100-150 AD. (Constantine reigned in the early 300s AD.) 

Furthermore, if I am a ruler of an empire (or the head of a religion) and I want to manipulate people and make money, what kind of religion would I create? I would definitely want to claim that I am divine so that I can scare people into obeying me. Yet Pope Francis does not claim divinity. The Catholic Church teaches that only the three Persons of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are divine. Popes obey the same rules that laypeople follow. Popes even go to Confession, just like any ordinary Catholic. 

Some Points on Epistemology:

As is clear by this point, I have continued to use evidence from texts that tell me things I have not experienced first hand. I agree with you that we must question things that we have not experienced first hand. For my part, I have come to the conclusion that certain texts can be trusted. Otherwise it is almost impossible to talk about anything.

For example, I have never personally witnessed that the moon is more than a bright speck in the sky. I don’t know that one can actually stand on it as one stands on the earth; I don’t even know if it is three-dimensional because from my perspective it looks pretty two-dimensional. Yet, I trust that science is accurate and that Neil Armstrong being truthful.

As another example, I was not alive to witness the Israel-Palestine problems throughout the ages that have led to the current Gaza mess. But I believe that the events (though not necessarily the slant on them) reported in textbooks must have happened, especially because I see the result of them today. (Likewise, I see the result of Jesus’s resurrection today in the many, many believers worldwide, 2000 years later.)

It may come as a shock, but I was initially quite skeptical of the Bible and Christianity. Like you, I started exploring these ideas in my late teens (I was 16). But I came to the opposite conclusion. My family is marginally Catholic at best, but a bit agnostic at worst. After exploring the issues and reading a lot, I came to believe in Christianity and in the credibility of the Bible and other sources. 

Response to a Reader Comment: Why Catholicism?

On my Poll Page I asked readers what kinds of posts they would be most interested in reading. I got a response from Guy winter, which goes as follows:

 

 

comment

 

I’m going to work backwards, starting with your last point. 

But Jesus was a Jew– Then why Christianity?

Jesus came to fulfill Jewish prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. Hence, Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism. Christianity is not opposed to Judaism. It is an extension of it. See this website for some of the many Old Testament (Jewish) prophecies that Jesus fulfilled: http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/a/Prophecies-Jesus.htm. 

But the Bible was written by people– How can we trust it?

I highly recommend the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. Strobel, a former atheist, grills experts in their fields about the validity of the Bible, among other things. The below citations of his book come from: Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Books, 1998. Here are some of the major questions that the books addresses. Note: I’m not going to rewrite Strobel’s book here, so if you want more details, GET THIS BOOK. It’s excellent, and it simply presents the facts without being preachy. 

Who wrote the Gospels?

Matthew is believed to have been written by Jesus’s apostle of the same name. Mark was written by a disciple of Jesus’s apostle Peter, who was in Jesus’s inner circle along with John and James. Luke was written by a disciple of Paul, who experienced the risen Lord and came to believe on his journey to persecute Christians. John is believed to have been written by the apostle himself, one of Jesus’s inner circle. There is good evidence for these authorships (read the book for more information). So, as you can see, the Gospels were written by people with direct ties either to Jesus or to the early Church leadership. 

When were the Gospels written?

Jesus died around 33 AD.

” ‘ The standard scholarly dating, even in very liberal circles, is Mark in the 70s, Matthew and Luke in the 80s, and John in the 90s. But listen: that’s still within the lifetimes of various eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus, including hostile eyewitnesses who would have served as a corrective if false teaching about Jesus were going around ‘ ” (40-41). 

Maybe that sounds like a long time, but consider the following:

  • Our normal standards for history: Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C., but the earliest biographies written about him are from over 400 years after his death…but we use the information contained therein in history textbooks (41). Certainly none of his contemporaries were living at that time. 
  • The Gospels may have been written even earlier: The Bible book Acts of the Apostles (written by the same man who wrote Luke) fails to mention the martyrdom of St. Paul. Since Paul is a key figure in Acts, it would make sense his death would have been included. Paul died in 62 AD; Acts does not mention his death, so it is reasonable to conclude that Acts was written before 62 AD. Because Acts was a sequel to the Gospel of Luke, it makes sense that Luke was written several years before 62 AD. Furthermore, historians agree that Luke uses parts of Mark as a reference, so it would make sense that Mark, the earliest Gospel, was written ” ‘ no later than about A.D. 60, maybe even the late 50s. If Jesus was put to death in A.D. 30 or 33, we’re talking about a maximum gap of thirty years or so ‘ ” (41-42).
  • The Epistles in the Bible were written even earlier than the Gospels: these epistles still mention the key teachings of Christianity as taught through the Gospels. 

How do we know that the Gospel writers weren’t lying?

People were being brutally murdered for believing in Jesus. Somehow the Gospel writers were willing to risk their lives–for a lie? I think not. The same goes for the insistence of the Apostles that Christ was God and was raised from the dead. Almost all of the Apostles died as martyrs. They wouldn’t die for what they believed to be a lie. 

Were the Gospels, which tell the story of Jesus’s life, altered throughout history?

I think we can agree that the more ancient (the older, the better) manuscripts there are in existence today that back up the words we read in modern Bibles, the more trustworthy the Bible is.

Tacitus wrote Annals of Imperial Rome around A.D. 116. Today, we only have one manuscript from 850 A.D. and one manuscript from the eleventh century. Yet we accept Annals of Imperial Rome as historic fact (77).

The first century historian Josephus wrote The Jewish War, yet only 9 manuscripts remain, the oldest from the fourth century (77).

Today, we have the following manuscripts of the New Testament (or individual books of it) that back up what we read in modern Bibles:

  • 5000+ Greek manuscripts (compare that to the 650 Greek manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad existing today) (78)
  • Beatty Biblical Papyrus I (from the third century) (79)
  • Beatty Biblical Papyrus II (from 200 AD) (79)
  • part of the Gospel of John, dating from 100 AD – 150 AD (79-80)
  • 306 uncial manuscripts from as early as the third century (81)
  • The Codex Sinaiticus, a complete New Testament from 350 AD (81)
  • 8000-10000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts (81)
  • 8000 Ethiopic, Slavic, and Armenian manuscripts (81)

The many early manuscripts in existence show us how accurate our modern versions are to the original versions of the New Testament. 

How do we explain discrepancies in the Gospel accounts?

The minor discrepancies actually give the Gospels credibility. They show that three of the writers weren’t just plagiarizing from the fourth. Instead, they each had an account, and 4 separate voices are a lot stronger than just one.

Why Christianity among all the other religions out there?

Given the credibility of the Bible that I have made clear above, if what the Bible says is true, then how we react to its message is extremely important. I believe that Jesus died for our sins, that He rose from the dead, and that salvation comes through Him.

Why Catholicism?

Catholicism is the original. Just as we trust older manuscripts that were written closer to the time when Jesus existed, so too should we believe that the Church established in the time of Christ is more trustworthy than the churches established 1500 years after the fact. Additionally, the Catholic Church recognizes Tradition as just as much of an authority as Scripture. So, while Protestant churches can interpret Scripture independently of what has been taught through the years, Catholics interpret Scripture based on traditional beliefs that date back to the beginning.

The Eucharist: Literal or Not?

Ah, the Eucharist….So. Much. Awesomeness. We Catholics are really lucky to have this wonderful Sacrament that brings Jesus very literally into our midst. 

Unlike most Protestant denominations, Catholicism teaches that in John 6, Jesus was speaking literally. We believe that Jesus commanded us to not merely remember him through a symbolic breaking of bread, but to literally eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. Like, for real. Crazy, right? I know, but it’s the truth. Here’s said section in John 6 from the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (complements of https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+6) : 

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” 

Observe a couple of things here. First, Jesus says we should eat of His Flesh. Okay, I can see how Protestants could be like, “Well, he was being symbolic.” I can totally see that possibility. But here we need to delve a bit deeper and consider some other things. 

In verse 57, the Bible manuscript uses the Greek word trogon for “eats.” In Greek, there are many words to express the verb “to eat.” This particular version means to “chew” or “gnaw.” (Thank you http://www.catholic.com/tracts/christ-in-the-eucharist). It seems like St. John used this very visceral verb to show us what Jesus meant. Furthermore, when the Jews “disputed among themselves,” Jesus isn’t like, “Jk guys, I’m just talking symbolically!” Instead He says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

Still not satisfied? Well, kudos. I wasn’t either. I wasn’t sure that the Biblical evidence was 100% sound, although it did SEEM to support the Catholic view. I believed in the Real Presence of the Eucharist based on miracles, Sacred Tradition, and [sorry atheists] a feeling in my gut [which I find to actually be the most compelling of all evidence; it’s hard to understand unless you’ve experienced something like it]. 

But I do like my intellect to be entirely on board too. Cuz, like, dude, let’s be real here: Catholicism has a really vibrant intellectual history. If there’s a doctrine, there are loads of evidence and lucid reasoning for it. 

So, yesterday I was doing some detective work. And I found some cool stuff that I would like to share. I always figured that it would be super cool if I could find evidence of the belief in the Real Presence from the early Church. If people believed in the Real Presence from the start, then that would verify what Jesus says in John 6. This evidence would show that the early Church fathers must have gone around teaching new Christians to bless bread and wine so that the Spirit would convert it to the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Most importantly, this evidence would show that the Real Presence wasn’t something fabricated later on. (That sounds like something Dan Brown might claim.)

The first notable thing I came across was from a website belonging to Christianity Today, an Evangelical Christian magazine. Here’s the link to the article I found: http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1998/issue57/57h012.html. Anyway, this article amused me immensely because it was utterly contradictory if you really looked into it (and guys, seriously, look into things….the press can get away with a lot if you don’t scrutinize it). 

The first thing that sparked my interest: the article said that the Romans accused Christians of cannibalism. At which point I stroked my chin and metaphorical beard, and said, “Hmmmm…very interesting.” Why would the Romans accuse Christians of cannibalism unless they believed in something like the Real Presence of the Eucharist? Here’s what the article says about this:

The charge of cannibalism could also have arisen from a false understanding of the Christian Scripture and liturgy. The very words of the Eucharist,”Take and eat, this is my body broken for you,” could be misread in a literal, cannibalistic sense by a reader ignorant of the metaphor. 

There are a few problems with this statement. “Scripture” didn’t exist in the early days of the Church in the way we understand it today. First of all, the printing press hadn’t been invented yet, so Sacred Scripture was not mainstream—it’s not like the Romans could easily access the books of the Bible. Furthermore, the “Bible” hadn’t been compiled yet. Sure, there were epistles and gospels in circulation (the ones that are now in our Bible, plus others that were determined not to be divinely inspired at various Church councils), but the “Christian Scripture” mentioned in the excerpt is kind of ambiguous given the era we are talking about. Like, what Christian Scripture?

Chances are, the Romans who accused the Christians of cannibalism did not read Christian Scripture to solidify this charge. My guess would be that they heard this word-of-mouth. At this point, I will concede something. 

You could make the argument that maybe the Romans heard that the Christians said something about eating flesh and blood in the words of consecration…but oh, those silly Romans, they didn’t understand that the Christians were being symbolic! Oh, the ignorance! Well…..not so fast. 

Again, using inductive reasoning, the charge of cannibalism made it seem likely that the Christians of the early Church believed in the Real Presence, but this evidence still was not 100% convincing. 

Here’s where the article get contradictory. The basic outline of the article is that it describes the things the early Christian Church was charged for by the Romans, and then it explains how these charges were answered by the early Christians. The article explains that St. Justin Martyr wrote to the Roman authorities in The First Apology debunking the myth of cannibalism and explaining all things Christian. The article uses this excerpt from this work by St. Justin Martyr, who lived from 100 AD to 160 AD (props to Wikipedia for the years he was alive). In it, St. Justin Martyr explains the Eucharist in its earliest days:

When the president has given thanks and the whole congregation has assented, those whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion of the consecrated bread and wine and water. … We do not, however, receive these things as common bread or common drink; but … we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer … is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus and that washing of baptism was not a magical cleansing but an action symbolizing the cleansing action of God within the believer.

Here we have the perfect storm. St. Justin Martyr lived in the earliest days of Christianity. He recorded the details of the Eucharist, which seem to entirely support the Catholic belief in the Real Presence. Seriously….the guy is trying to explain how Christians aren’t cannibals. Yet, at no point does he back down about the fact that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. (Side note: that doesn’t make us cannibals though!) 

Now for that bolded section. Seems a little off topic, am I right? I thought we were talking about the Eucharist and not Baptism. I feel like the author of the article in Christianity Today included this simply to get the “not a magical” and “symbolizing” parts in there. Sly. It seems like that’s there to emphasize the Protestant belief that the Eucharist isn’t magical and is purely symbolic. But don’t be fooled. Those buzz words apply to the discussion of Baptism, not the Eucharist. 

But one other problem….when I looked at The First Apology of St. Justin Martyr in a separate source, I couldn’t even find the bolded section! I understand that there could be different translations, but this is pretty major. There isn’t even anything like the bolded section in the chapter on the Eucharist. Here, see for yourself; this is the entire chapter on the Eucharist. (This text is from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm.)

Chapter 66. Of the Eucharist

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

Upon reading this, several things are clear to me:

1) The author of the Christianity Today article did not support his point that the Eucharist is a mere “metaphor.”

2) St. Justin Martyr wrote about the Eucharist in the second century, which very much qualifies as the time of the “early Church.”

3) St. Justin Martyr, despite trying to debunk the charge that Christians are cannibals, doesn’t say, “Jk guys, it’s all symbolic; don’t worry!” Instead, he asserts the belief in the Real Presence.

Judging by points 2 and 3, it seems safe to says that the early Church believed in the Real Presence. The Real Presence is not some phenomenon fabricated by that heathen Catholic Church in some attempt to appeal to pagans. It’s not some misreading of the Bible–this belief existed long before the Bible was compiled and mainstream.

The Real Presence is an element of real Christianity. It’s as simple as that.

 

 

Hope you enjoyed this! Comment below if you know of other early Church documents supporting the Real Presence! 

The Wisdom of C.S. Lewis

I am currently reading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and let me just say, IT IS THE BEST BOOK EVER!!! I highly recommend it. Anyway, I really want to make a post about it, except my own paraphrasing wouldn’t do it justice. So I’m going to utilize quotes–C.S. Lewis has a wonderful way of putting things.

C.S. Lewis on why God exists:

“…human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.” (i.e. a common sense of right and wrong; conscience; natural law)

“The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other….You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others.”

“If there were a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe….The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or command trying to get us to behave in a certain way.”

In other words, the fact that an absolute Right exists and that it is implanted within us shows that God exists. It also shows that He is the source of all goodness.

C.S. Lewis on the Problem of Evil

“But how had I got the this idea of just and unjust? … What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the who show was bad and senseless from A to Z…why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?” (i.e. this idea of just and unjust could only come from God)

C.S. Lewis on the Complexity of Religion

“It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple.”

“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. … If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up.”

C.S. Lewis on the Divinity of Christ

“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse [Satan].” (i.e. someone who claims to be the Son of God is either A) who He says He is, B) crazy, or C) the devil)

i.e. READ THIS BOOK!

Abortion (Cue Beethoven’s 5th)

Now that the appropriate mood is set….

I used to be pro-choice. (GASP!) As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t come from a highly-Catholic family, so my parents are kind of liberal. And so I was liberal for a long time.

But, as I explored the Catholic Church’s teachings and read up on abortion, I saw the light.

I believe there are two primary disconnects that cause such an acceptance of abortion.

1) It’s seen as human progress. You know, freeing the slaves, civil rights movement, abortion. SAY WHAT? Well, that’s how it’s taught in AP Gov. Those things are all taught as a part of civil rights and liberties. Doesn’t really sound like civil rights for the babies involved. 

2) People don’t actually know what happens in an abortion. When I read about it, I actually cried. It’s infuriating. In one method, the baby is killed by an injection of saline that burns him/her. In another method, the child is pretty much dismembered and taken out piece by piece. Gruesomely, his/her brains are literally sucked out of the head. For more on the procedures, see here. Even worse, it is likely that the baby can feel the pain. No one knows exactly how early on the baby can feel the pain, but apparently there have been studies that show the baby wriggling away from instruments. 

Why is Abortion Wrong?

I don’t care if you’re a Catholic, atheist, or anything in between. Your human reason and religious beliefs (if applicable) shouldn’t make this too hard to figure out. 

From a purely philosophical standpoint:

You are a functioning human being reading this blog post right now. Before that, you were a kid, before that you were a baby, before that you were in your mother’s womb, before that you were conceived. Based on the example of YOU, embryos are people. Destroying you as an embryo would have destroyed you as you know yourself today, a conventional human being. Killing an embryo kills a person. 

From a religious standpoint:

“Thou shalt not kill.” ‘Nuff said.

Also, as Catholics we believe that God has a plan for every person. These plans intertwine with the plans for others to form our beautiful lives. So, we’re at liberty to just remove a piece of the puzzle of humanity? (Clearly, God can adjust because He’s GOD, but seriously, who do we think we are?)

5 Things You Perhaps Had Never Considered Regarding Abortion

  1. Mary didn’t ask for an abortion. And Jesus was pretty much an unplanned pregnancy. Mary recognized that God’s will had to be done. After the angel Gabriel told her about her imminent pregnancy, she replied, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
  2. Planned Parenthood, which commits most abortion-murders, is in it to make money. Of course they’re going to encourage abortion and act like it’s normal. They’re going to claim they are trying to HELP women (even though they hurt baby women). Cha-ching. Don’t fall for that.
  3. The early Church fathers condemned abortion. The “Didache,” aka “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” dates back to the late first or early second century. This work was pretty much a catechism, which you can read in its entirety here. In chapter 2, it reads: “You shall not murder a child by an abortion nor kill that which is begotten.”
  4. The pro-life world is bigger than the news makes it out to be. Remember, most new sources are liberal. There is an annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.,where pro-lifers from around the country gather in a rally against abortion. 650,000 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_for_Life_(Washington,_D.C.) people attended this year. How does that not make the news!!!???
  5. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was into eugenics. Eugenics is basically what Hitler was all about— the idea that certain groups of people, based on their physical features, are inferior to others. She was racist too, believing that those with light skin were superior to those with dark skin. She even spoke at Ku Klux Klan rallies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger). And her organization sure has done a good job of killing black babies– it’s terrible. According to http://www.blackgenocide.org/black.html, black women are 5 times more likely to get an abortion than white women are. 

Bottom line: Abortion = bad

Loving God means loving what He creates.