Tag Archives: Catholic Catechism

Christians Need to Love One Another

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As a lifelong Catholic who loves the Church, defends her publicly, and tries my best to follow her teachings, I have observed a phenomenon over the years.

It has become very obvious to me that some of my brothers and sisters in the Church have a serious moral superiority complex in regards to other Christian faiths. And I believe that this attitude has played a major part in continuing a divide in Jesus’ Church.

Let’s remember that one simple fact to begin with: it’s not our Church. It’s not mine, or yours. It doesn’t belong to Pope Francis, or any other human being. The Church belongs to Jesus Christ. He is it’s founder, and he is it’s genuine leader still today.

Throughout centuries past, the sometimes immoral actions of Popes and other Church leaders directly led to many of the major schisms that have occurred which have separated believers from one another. Catholics need to recognize the truth in that burden before judging any Protestant, Episcopalian, or other Christian denomination.

The most important thing for any Christian is that they believe in the fact that Jesus Christ suffered and died for their sins, and that as followers of the Lord we have a responsibility to learn about his teachings and spread his Word, both to unbelievers and to those who have never heard it in the first place.

We also have a responsibility to share our faith with one another. Jesus began our Church when he passed that responsibility directly on to Peter: “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.

Jesus didn’t say “churches”, plural. He didn’t say: “Now just basically go with what I taught you, and the rest, well, doesn’t matter.

No, Jesus also gave his Church power: “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.

In those words, Jesus established his Church here on earth, to continue his work here on earth, led by men beginning with Peter and guided by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, as in the Garden of Eden, that Church was entrusted to men. Frail, sinning human beings.

At various times in the history of the Church, the men leading her have turned from the Spirit, turned from their mission, and sinned, sometimes in the most sinister, vile, and inhuman ways. These sins led to the Church fracturing and splintering.

I heard it said recently that I should “read the Catechism” in order to learn what the Church teaches on some issue. The fact is, I read the Catechism daily. But it’s not the only book of faith that I read. I also read the Holy Bible, the direct Word of God.

Catholics who point solely to current Church leadership teaching, the current version of the Catechism, the reforms of Vatican II, and the sermons of their local priests are selling their faith short. Those things are all very important, and should be experienced with sincere faithful discernment.

But all Catholics should also be picking up and reading their Bibles as well, learning the direct teaching of Jesus Christ, and fashioning their lives after him. Every single Catholic, from the Pope down to any lay person reading this article, including the one writing it, is a sinner.

Stop judging, that you might not be judged,” said Jesus.

“For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

Catholics have no business holding themselves up as in any way better than any other believer. We have no right holding on to any type of superiority complex over followers of another Christian faith.

Now this is not to say that those Protestants and other so-called Bible-based churches are without fault in this Christian schism either. And those believers also do plenty of judgmental criticism of the Catholic Church and it’s adherents.

All Christians need to follow the teaching of Jesus again: “This I command you: love one another.

There is far too much judgmentalism taking place in modern day Christianity, and nowhere near enough loving taking place.

I call on my fellow Catholics to set aside your air of superiority and embrace your fellow Christians. I call on Christians of other denominations to recognize that Jesus founded one Church, that he wants us to all be as one, and that we are to work to come together as often as possible.

There is one final fact to remember. It is clearly taught in the Book of Revelation, chapter 19, verses 11-21 that Jesus will return at the end of time, unite his Church, and win victory over evil, establishing the Church again as one as told in Revelation 21.

No Pope, no church leader, no great preacher will ever unite the Christian church on earth again under one banner, as Christ intended when he founded her. Only Jesus himself will accomplish that at the end of the current age.

It is our duty during our lifetime here on earth to do all that we can to perpetuate love and peace with, between, and among our fellow believers. It is all of our duty to spread his Word to any non-believers in a loving, thoughtful manner.

Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Adventists, whatever you call yourself, wherever you practice your faith, and especially now at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of the Savior of us all – we must love one another, as Jesus loved us. God bless you.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

A good household will inevitably include within it an area for a good library, a book shelf, table books, or some combination of these. And in every single one of those homes the one indispensable ‘must-have’ book is a good, readable copy of the Bible, the very Word of God.

In every Catholic household, and in fact in any home that wishes to explore an even deeper study and understanding of the Bible and the teachings of the Church, there is one more book that is also important to own. That book is the official “Catechism of the Catholic Church“, which has now been available for more than a decade.

On September 8th, 1997, Pope John Paul II promulgated changes to the 2nd Official English Edition of the book in order that it might conform to changes made to the Latin version on that same date. In the end, what currently stands is intended to be a ‘universal catechism’, one to be used as a resource or reference point for all other such efforts within the Christian Church at large.

The modern Catholic Catechism is in John Paul II’s own words “a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life.”

In 1985, the Catholic Bishops recommended that the effort should be made, particularly with the many changes to Church practices in the decades since Vatican II, to explain more fully, clearly, and substantively the Church official teachings on the many and varied topics for which it is responsible.

The following year, John Paul II appointed an official ‘Commission of Cardinals and Bishops’ to study the matter and develop a compendium of Catholic doctrine. This commission was to be led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Their results were packaged and sent out around the world in 1989 to all Bishops of the Church for their amendments and suggestions.

Over 24,000 such amendments were received, and all were studied closely and considered carefully resulting in numerous alterations to the volume originally circulated. By 1991 the commission was ready to present their official version to the Pope for his evaluation and approval. On June 25th, 1992, John Paul II gave his approval, and on December 8th made it official with an apostolic constitution.

The new Catechism was then first formally published in French in 1994, and subsequently translated into many languages. On August 15th, 1997, the Pope formally proclaimed the Latin version as definitive. This version contained a few changes from that first French-issued version, and thus an official ‘Second Edition’ was released in other languages that year, including the current English version.

Let’s cover what the Catechism is not. It is not at all like the Bible. It is not meant to be a history of existence or of the world. It can not be read cover-to-cover almost like a story. It in fact does not contain the Bible, nor any of it’s stories and teachings directly in God’s own words. It is not ‘readable’ for many youngsters, and would not be necessarily interesting for those looking to ‘read’ a book.

What the Catechism is intended to be is a resource, the definitive resource of the teaching of the Church relating to all matters of faith. It is particularly aimed at the Bishop’s, the Church’s most influential teachers of the faith, but it is also made available to the body of the Church faithful as a tool for appropriately guided individual education.

There is no way in the space of a short article to explain or describe every area that the Catechism covers. Suffice it to say that the Catechism refers to Holy Scripture, as well as the teachings and positions of the Church Fathers and Ecumenical Councils, themselves inspired by the Holy Spirit, to explore and explain all positions and beliefs of the Universal Church.

Among the important topics covered in the Catechism are ‘The Profession of Faith’, also known as the ‘Apostles Creed’, which has been in existence and utilized as a basic profession of faith in Jesus Christ since the early centuries of Church development after his death.

The ‘Celebration of the Christian Mystery’ is also covered here. This includes public worship in the Catholic Mass, as well as God’s active participation through Grace in the sacraments of Confirmation, Baptism/Christening, Holy Eucharist/Communion, Penance/Confession, the Anointing of the Sick/Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony/Marriage.

Christian Prayer is an important topic that is covered, which includes an exploration of the Lord’s Prayer, also known to many as the ‘Our Father’ prayer. First offered by Jesus Himself at his Sermon on the Mount, it is by far the most well-known and widely used Christian prayer in history. I personally learned to say this prayer in Latin as an act of faith and a New Year’s resolution a few years ago during a time of personal struggle, and do so now every night before going to sleep.

The Catechism also covers life in Christ, particularly by exploring the Ten Commandments. These most vital religious and moral rules were validated by Christ, and are accepted by well over half the population of the entire planet. Handed down by God Himself to Moses and subsequently to all of God’s people, these are God’s own basic precepts for mankind.

There is much falsehood and uninformed or ignorant commentary out in the world today regarding the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. If you are genuinely interested in learning the truth regarding Catholic doctrine, or are already a believer and simply wish a reference material with which to more deeply explore the Church teachings, the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Second Edition) is a must.

NOTE: this is a contuation of the ‘Sunday Sermon’ series presented here on many Sunday mornings. All articles in the series can be viewed by clicking on to that ‘label’ below the original article at http://www.mattveasey.com

The Church and the death penalty

It might seem to some that a topic as fraught with controversy as the death penalty might not be the best topic for this ‘Sunday Sermon’ series that I have going as a regular feature here at the website.

However, these are not normal times, and these times have resulted not only in my own personal re-evaluation of the issue, but also have resulted in my own increased research into the topic.

These ‘times’ that I am speaking about involve the murder of four on-duty uniformed Philadelphia police officers within the past calendar year, including last week’s cold-blooded assassination of P/O Pat McDonald. This follows on the heels of another similar murder of P/O Gary Skerski just 2 1/2 years ago.

Gary was the only one of these recently murdered officers whom I knew personally. He was alternately gruff and gregarious, but if you knew him well enough to be taken into his inner confidences it was usually the humor that you were exposed to: Gary was quite simply a very funny guy.

He also was a man who cared a great deal about supporting his family, and although his career had taken him to a relatively safe position in community relations, he would go back onto the often hard streets, making overtime as a part of the ‘Safe Streets’ effort to lower the drug trade in Philadelphia. While working this detail one night, Gary was gunned down by an armed robber.

When Gary Skerski was murdered, I lost someone whom I had laughed with, ate meals with, even worked a few shifts on the same details and in the same vehicles with. For some reason though, throughout the entirety of my police career, even through most of these recent murders, I maintained my status as one of the few police officers who were not in support of the death penalty.

I believe that these are personal, individual decisions that each of us has to make, coming to peace with the decision in our own hearts and minds.
I fully understand why police officers in particular support the measure as a legitimate penalty. Without opening up to the details of my feelings, they were based on an opposition to retribution in the form of vengeance, as well as an inability to reconcile the killing of many guilty murderers with the death of even one innocent man.

I believe that killing other human beings is the single worst thing that any of us can do, be that by abortion, homicide, accident, capital punishment, what have you.

Sometimes it is justified, such as our actions as police officers in trying to save our own lives or the lives of others that are in immediate mortal danger. For these same considerations, I see the justification during times of war, when an enemy is trying to kill you and your forces, and will do so if you don’t get them first. And of course accidents, as long as they are truly that and not the result of our negligence, such as in a DUI, are unfortunate and should result in our sorrow, but certainly nothing that we should be or feel guilty about for long.

But to kill a person just because they killed someone else always seemed to me to be a simple ‘tit for tat’, a product simply of vengeance that lowered us as individuals and as a society to the original murderers level.

The second consideration, the innocent man, is also strong with me. If we eliminated all the problems with the death penalty as currently constituted, if we made it swift, sure, and certain, we still would put innocent people to death from time to time. The deterrence produced by numerous executions would not reconcile for me if we put even one truly innocent man to death, and the odds are that it would happen over time.

But then this series of police murders happened, and when Pat McDonald was killed it was too much for me. The last straw had finally broken this camel’s back.

In my research, it turns out that the Catholic Church is not in opposition to the civil authority of the State in carrying out capital punishment, as I always believed it was. This power derives much of its authority from scripture itself, though the advisability of executing that power depends on all the circumstances around a particular case.

I do not know what the magic answer might be, but we as a society need to come up with a way to make the punishment meet sure, certain, and swift criteria. If we can do that, then I have reached the point where I personally am willing to support the death penalty. Perhaps such swift executions of cop killers, spousal murderers, neighborhood drug-related killers, serial killers and others will indeed prove to be a deterrent, and maybe they will result in fewer police funerals.

The Church is not in opposition to the idea of capital punishment, with the Catechism stating that it is allowable in situations of extreme gravity. With that being the official position of my Church, which matters to me and which should matter to all Catholics, then neither am I against the death penalty based on the individual situation.

NOTE: This is the continuation of a regular ‘Sunday Sermon’ series, each topic of which can be read by clicking on to that below “Label”

Keep holy the Sabbath day

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For Catholics it is traditionally known as the Third Commandment from God (in some churches it is listed as the fourth). It is the command from God to “Keep Holy the Sabbath“, to formally set aside one period of time each week to rest from our work, and to celebrate and thank Him for all that He has given us.

For some, the sabbath observance comes on Fridays or Saturdays. For Catholics and many others, this day comes on Sunday.

For police officers, the chance to attend Mass (or to observe Shabbat in Judaism) should be something that we look forward to each week. It is our opportunity to be rested and refreshed in and with the Lord.

The work schedule of a police officer, who does the necessary work of protecting and serving the public, is such that we cannot frequently take a Saturday or Sunday completely away from the workplace.

Catholics are heartened by the fact that almost all churches now offer both a Saturday evening “Vigil Mass” along with the usual Sunday services. Thus, no Catholic officer should use work as an excuse to miss the weekly Mass obligation.

In Exodus chapter 20, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai. The people waited down below, since God had previously warned them to “set limits around the mountain to make it sacred”.

As Moses stood in the presence of God Himself, the people trembled at the experience. The mountain was enveloped by thunder and lightening. The mountain itself appeared to be smoking, and a great trumpet blast was heard from the heavens. Here in the presence of the Almighty, Moses was given the basic laws of God by which man was to live.

Among these Ten Commandments or laws was this:

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then by either you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”

Genesis chapter two ends with the finale of the creation story:

  “Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work He had been doing, He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work He had done in creation.”

The Catholic Catechism states one’s obligation to follow these Commandments in this way:

“Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human hearth.”

Later, specifically addressing the Third Commandment as rest on the sabbath, the Catechism states: “God’s action is the model for human action. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed.”

The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.

Jesus Christ performed many actions on, and was regularly charged by the authorities of His day with violating,the sabbath day. He then gave the law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”

Christ declared the sabbath for doing good, not harm. For saving life, rather than killing, as the Catechism explains it. Thus the work of police officers and other safety officials is fully appropriate on the sabbath.

This, however, does not release officers from making their own public sabbath observance. Police officers, fire fighters, politicians, and other public workers should, along with performing their necessary services to the people, set aside time each week to formally recognize God, and to celebrate His many gifts to their lives by joining their worship community at church or synagogue.

If you have not followed this Commandment to it’s fullest in the past, there is no time like the present. Do your work. Enjoy your football games. But set aside time for the truly important, for God.