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May 15, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. I have heard the word “sacred” applied to saints or religious objects, but not to bishops, as did a recent article in The Wanderer which talked about the obligation of the laity to voice their concerns about problems in the Church to one’s “sacred pastor (the bishop).” Should this word be applied to bishops? — J.G., Illinois.
A. The word “sacred” is applied to a lot of things in the Church, including, obviously, the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Sacred Species. But it is also attached to the names of the various Vatican congregations (e.g., the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and applied to Scripture, the Liturgy, the Triduum, as well as to the linens and vessels used at Mass. The word means holy or set apart for religious worship or veneration. When it is applied to a bishop, it is not a reference to his human character, but rather to his sacred role, as a successor of the apostles, in carrying on the work of Christ in the world. Here is how Vatican II explained it in Lumen Gentium (n. 20):
“With their helpers, the priests and deacons, bishops have therefore taken up the service of the community, presiding in the place of God over the flock whose shepherds they are, as teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and officers of good order. Just as the role that the Lord gave individually to Peter, the first among the Apostles, is permanent, and was meant to be transmitted to his successor, so also the Apostles’ office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and was meant to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.
“Therefore, this sacred synod teaches that by divine institution bishops have succeeded the Apostles as shepherds of the Church, and that he who hears them, hears Christ, while he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ (cf. Luke 10:16).”

Q. I know there is no time in eternity and that the Trinity and angels are pure spirits. However, God the Father is always depicted in the flesh as looking like an older version of the American folk singer Kenny Rogers. If Jesus were begotten by His Father, does that earthly image mean to imply that the Father pre-existed the Son? — A.G., Maryland.
A. No, the representation of the Father as an old man with a beard is an artistic, not a theological, effort to depict the first Person of the Trinity as one who is ancient. The Father does not have a body or a beard since He is a spirit, and His likeness to Kenny Rogers has no bearing on His relationship to Jesus.
We summarize that relationship every time we say in the Nicene Creed that Jesus is “the Only-Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through Him all things were made.”
In his Catholic Catechism, Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, explains that “Christ is, therefore, said to be the ‘only-begotten of the Father,’ in order to distinguish his origin of the Father from all other kinds of origin. Thus Christ is absolutely unique in proceeding from the Father, in complete contrast to others, like angels and human persons, who are also called sons of God. He is of the substance of the Father, which in the original Greek says that he is ‘out of the being (ousia) of the Father.’
“This affirms that, unlike mere creatures, who may be said to be from God, his only-begotten Son comes literally out of the Father’s own being. Creatures come from God, indeed, because he wills them to exist. Not so the Son of God, who cannot not exist. His existence does not depend on the free will of the Creator” (p. 128).
Fr. Hardon says that “‘he is begotten not made’ declares the profoundest mystery of our faith: that within the Godhead a generation has been going on from eternity. Unlike all other generations, this one implies no production of a new being, no change in the generator, no cause-and-effect relationship, no dependence of offspring on parent, and no semblance of decision on the part of the Father to bring the Son into existence” (p. 129).

Q. What is Reiki and is it in conformity with Church teachings? There have been groups advertised in the diocesan paper offering seminars. — L.S., via e-mail.
A. Reiki is a technique of healing that was invented in Japan in the late 1800s by Mikao Usui, who was studying Buddhist texts. Reiki sees illness as caused by some kind of disruption or imbalance in one’s “life energy,” and its practitioners attempt healing by placing their hands in certain positions on a person’s body in order to transfer the flow of Reiki, the “universal life energy,” to the patient.
In a document entitled Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as An Alternative Therapy, the U.S. bishops in 2009 said that “Reiki therapy finds no support either in the findings of natural science or Christian belief,” that a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition,” and that “it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions…to promote or provide support for Reiki therapy.”

Q. At my health-care facility, I am the only practicing Catholic and often discuss religion with non-Catholics. I once taught CCD and know my Catholic faith pretty well at age 90, but I’m not sure how to answer some of the differences between Catholics and Protestants. Can you help me? — J.F., Iowa.
A. First of all, God bless you for your continuing efforts to spread the faith. We’re going to send you some books that might be helpful, but we’ll offer some comments here.
As you have already discovered, Protestants share some beliefs with Catholics, such as the divinity of Christ, His death on the cross for our sins, His Resurrection from the dead, and His Second Coming at the end of time. That is why when a Protestant wants to become a Catholic, he usually does not have to be baptized again. The Catholic Church accepts as valid a Protestant Baptism done with water and the trinitarian formula.
However, when a baptized Protestant enters the Church, he is described as coming into “full communion” with the Church. This means that he makes a profession of faith in all the teachings of the Church. But what are some of these teachings, about which Catholics and Protestants disagree?
One is the Eucharist, whether it’s really the Body and Blood of Christ, as Catholics believe, or whether it’s only a symbol of the Lord’s presence, as most Protestants hold. At the Last Supper, Jesus did not say, “This is a symbol of my body,” but rather, “This is my body.” The best place to focus on this disagreement is chapter six of John’s Gospel. While Protestants usually take Bible passages literally, they fail to do so with Jesus’ words about His Body being “true food” and His Blood being “true drink” (John 6:55).
Another difference involves the sacraments. Catholics believe in seven sacraments, all of which can be found in the Bible, while Protestants believe in only two sacraments — Baptism and Holy Communion, although as noted above their understanding of Communion is quite different from ours.
A third difference is about the Bible, which Protestants believe is the sole source of the truth about God. They believe in individual interpretation of Bible verses, which is why there are tens of thousands of Christian communities in the United States. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that the task of interpreting Scripture passages belongs to a teaching office (the Magisterium) that is guided by the Holy Spirit in explaining the Word of God, whether written in the Bible on handed down through divine Tradition.
A fourth difference is about the Virgin Mary. Protestants think that Catholics worship the Blessed Mother, when the truth is that we worship only God. We do, however, venerate Mary in a special way because she was chosen by Jesus to be His Mother and because she always points us to Jesus. Remember that she told the wine steward at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
A fifth difference is that Protestants don’t believe in Purgatory because the word does not appear in the Bible. That’s true, but the notion of praying for departed souls does appear in the Bible (cf. 2 Macc. 12:43-46 and 1 Cor. 3:13-15).
There are other beliefs on which Catholics and Protestants disagree, but remember that there is only one Church that can trace its origin directly back to Christ, and that is the Catholic Church. Churches founded 1,500 years later cannot claim to be the Church that Jesus founded.

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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Catholic Replies

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