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September 11, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. The Apostles’ Creed has the words “on the third day He rose again from the dead.” I have never understood why the word “again” is in the sentence. Christ rose once from the dead. Could you help me understand this? — A.K., via e-mail.
A. Like many words, “again” can be understood in different ways. One common meaning, as the question implies, is that a certain action occurred at least once before and is now happening a second time. But that is not the meaning of “again” when we talk about the Resurrection, for Jesus rose from the dead only once, on the first Easter.
Another meaning of “again,” according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “back into a former position or condition [he is well again].” This is the correct understanding of the word as it appears in the Apostles’ Creed: Jesus died but is now alive again after rising from the dead.

Q. According to the Bible, Enoch and Elijah are the only two people God took to Heaven without them dying. Gen. 5:24 tells us, “Then Enoch walked with God and he was no longer here, for God took him.” Second Kings 2:11 tells us that Elijah and Elisha set out from Gilgal when suddenly a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire came between them, and Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a whirlwind. Did Elijah and Enoch really ascend to Heaven where God’s throne is? If they did not go to Heaven, then where did they go? – A.G., Maryland.
A. There is no question that Enoch and Elijah were very holy men who pleased God and did not suffer death, but were they taken to the same realm that we call Heaven? Or were they translated to what one writer described as “the paradise of the righteous…an intermediate state between the death of the righteous and the final judgment”? Perhaps the same place that Jesus was talking about when He said to the Good Thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). If that is the case, then neither Enoch nor Elijah would have entered Heaven as we understand it prior to Jesus’ death on the cross.
Or we have the perspective of Jimmy Akin. Writing about this question in the May-June 2015 issue of Catholic Answers Magazine, Akin said that “the obvious answer, I’ve always held, is that they were exceptions. As a general rule, heaven was not open to those who lived before the time of Christ. But God is omnipotent, and he can make exceptions if he chooses” (p. 5). Akin said that in a general audience on July 21, 1999, Pope St. John Paul seemed to confirm this:
“The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend, as we see in the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (cf. Gen. 5:24) and Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 2:11).”
It thus seems, said Akin, “that John Paul II, who is now himself in heaven, acknowledged the exceptional nature of Enoch and Elijah’s admission to that blessed realm” (p. 6).

Q. I received a pamphlet about devotion to St. Bridget that said performance of the devotion would guarantee five things: (1) The soul who prays this will suffer no Purgatory. (2) The soul will be accepted among the martyrs. (3) The soul can choose three other persons whom Jesus will keep in the state of grace. (4) No one in four successive generations of the soul who prays the devotion will be lost. (5) The soul will be made conscious of his death one month in advance. Is this devotion legitimate? — J.B., Wisconsin.
A. St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373) is known for her great devotion to the Passion of Christ and her visions and prophecies, which she wrote about in a work called Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden. She reportedly asked Jesus how many times He was struck during His Passion. He answered:
“I received 5,480 blows upon my Body. If you wish to honor them in some way, recite fifteen Our Fathers and fifteen Hail Marys with the following prayers, which I myself shall teach you, for an entire year. When the year is finished, you will have honored each of my wounds.”
(Over the course of a year, the prayers total 5,475, but some have suggested that number does not include the five traditional wounds in Jesus’ head, hands, and feet.)
You can Google St. Bridget of Sweden to find the fifteen prayers that are to be said along with the Our Fathers and Hail Marys, and you will also see that there are a total of 21 promises. In 1954, the Vatican’s Holy Office said that the alleged promises (though not the prayers) were unreliable, and it directed local bishops not to permit circulation of pamphlets containing them.
On October 1, 1999, Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed as co-patronesses of Europe Saints Bridget, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. In the letter Spes Aedificandi, the Holy Father said that Bridget’s “profound union with Christ was accompanied by special gifts of revelation, which made her a point of reference for many people in the Church of her time. Bridget was recognized as having the power of prophecy, and at times her voice did seem to echo that of the great prophets of old.”
However, said John Paul, “some aspects of her remarkable mystical output raised questions at the time; the Church’s discernment constantly referred these back to public revelation alone, which has its fullness in Christ and its normative expression in Sacred Scripture. Even the experiences of the great saints are not free of those limitations which always accompany the human reception of God’s voice.
“Yet there is no doubt that the Church, which recognized Bridget’s holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience. She stands as an important witness to the place reserved in the Church for a charism lived in complete docility to the Spirit of God and in full accord with the demands of ecclesial communion.”
In other words, seek the intercession of St. Bridget, and recognize her as a great saint, but don’t consider her promises to be accurate.

Q. I read where Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., said that Joe Biden was not really a Catholic, but Fr. James Martin, SJ, responded that “Mr. Biden is a baptized Catholic. Thus, he is a Catholic.” Who is right? — M.D., Rhode Island.
A. Bishop Tobin started the spat with a Tweet that said, “Biden-Harris. First time in a while that the Democratic ticket hasn’t had a Catholic on it. Sad.” Fr. Martin tweeted back: “All I can say is that as someone who was baptized as a child, Mr. Biden is as Catholic as anyone else in the Church. Baptism as a sacrament is irrevocable. Mr. Biden may not be the kind of Catholic that Bishop Tobin agrees with, but that’s not the standard for what makes a person a Catholic.”
It turns out that Bishop Tobin is closer to the truth because Biden has separated himself from the Church by refusing to follow her teachings on abortion and same-sex “marriage.” Here is how Pope Pius XII explained it in his 1943 encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ (Mystici Corporis), n. 22:
“Actually, only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. ‘For in one spirit,’ says the Apostle, ‘were all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free’ [1 Cor. 12:13]. As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith [cf. Eph. 4:5]
“And therefore, if a man refuse to hear the Church, let him be considered — so the Lord commands — as a heathen and a publican [cf. Matt. 18:17]. It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.”

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