Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Why Does the Catholic Church Have Saints?

On September 4 2016, thousands watched as Mother Theresa was 'made a saint' by the Catholic Church.  Was it just because she was a 'good person'?   What is the purpose of a saint anyway

Who are Saints?
St Paul sent one of his letters (now part of the New Testament) to 'to the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus' Ephesians 1:1.  They were still alive.  In that way, all believers in Christ Jesus who are faithful to Him, are 'saints'.  We are all called to be 'saints' even though most of us won't be formally and publically recognized as Saints.  Still, there are many Saints canonized every year; the general and non-Catholic public only hears about those who are already well-known (such as Mother Theresa and John Paul II).
The Church does not 'make' a Saint but recognizes the person as a Saint.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, 'But by canonizing some of the faithful, i.e. by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within him or her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the Saints as models and intercessors." Catechism of the Catholic Church 828.

God's Friends and Servants
The Saints are considered God’s friends and servants and they are believed to reign with God in heaven.  Their supernatural gifts have been given to them only by God and therefore they are honoured and given reverence (Latin, dulia).  The Virgin Mary is given a higher form of reverence (Latin, hyperdulia) because she is the mother of Jesus.
The Catholic Church believes that worship (Latin, latria) should be given to God alone.  Of course, Jesus is believed to be God, in the Nicene Creed, “true God and true man”, and therefore he is also worshipped.  The saints, martyrs and even the Virgin Mary are not worshipped as they are not divine beings.
There is of course, “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5) but the Saints are intercessors (prayer partners) and advocates (Rev 5:8, Rev 8:3,4).  The Church does teach that you can pray directly to Jesus for healing. It does not teach that Mary and the Saints will convince Jesus to answer your prayer when He doesn't really want to! (Although some Catholics seem to think this, misreading the story of Jesus' first miracle at Cana.)
The Saints also serve as models for those of us who are still alive.  Some Saints won't mean much to us personally, but some of their stories will touch our hearts.
Every Sunday, Catholics say the Apostle's Creed or the Nicene Creed during the Mass.  They say, "I believe in the communion of saints'.  The Church teaches that the Mystical Church includes: 1. The Church Militant (Christians on earth) 2. The Church Suffering (Christians in purgatory)[1] and 3. The Church Triumphant (those in heaven).

Beatification and Canonization
A beatified person is known as ‘Blessed......” and a canonized person is known as “Saint......”. Usually, someone is beatified first and later if the further conditions are met (two miracles), that person is canonized..
The words used in the actual canonization are: “In honour of ... we decree and define that Blessed .... is a Saint, and we inscribe his/her name in the catalogue of saints, and order that his memory be devoutly and piously celebrated on the ... day ..., his feast.”  The feast day of a saint is commonly celebrated on the anniversary of his or her death.

Procedure for Beatification and Canonization
There are strict regulations about the investigation into the person's life for the cause of sainthood.  The person’s life is examined for reputation, for sanctity and for miracles that have occurred after his or her death.  If the person has written diaries or books, these are examined to see if there is anything contrary to faith and morals in the writings.
Mother Theresa's journey to canonization was very fast (some said she was 'fast-tracked' because so many asked for her to be made a Saint).  And yet, it was 19 years after she died that her canonization took place!   All her writings, including many private letters, were examined during that time.
 The miracles attributed to the intercession of Mother Theresa were the curing of cancer in a Christian Indian woman and the curing of brain abscesses in a Brazilian man.  The Brazilian man and his wife were present in Rome for Mother Theresa's canonization.  
Miracles must be substantiated, for example, healing of a disease must be shown to have no natural cause and are investigated by medical doctors and scientists, not necessarily Catholic.   If there are eyewitnesses to the miracles, they are examined.  In the case of martyrs, there must be proof of the martyrdom.
When the Church was investigating miracles attributed to the intercession of Margaret D'Youville they contacted Dr Jacalyn Duffin, a haematologist at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  She told them she was an atheist, and those from the Vatican working with the investigation were fine with that.  She was asked to look at some bone marrow slides and without being told any background, was asked for a diagnosis.  It turned out that her reading of the slides verified that a miracle had occurred.  Margaret D'Youville, a French nun, who started the Grey Nuns of Montreal in 1737 became Canada's first Saint in 1990.  
Dr Duffin was intrigued with the material she found in the Vatican Archives that she investigated hundreds of other stories of miracles.  "To admit that as a nonbeliever, you don't have to claim that it was a supernatural entity that did it," Duffin said, "You have to admit some humility and accept that there are other things that science cannot explain."[2] (quoted in an article by Tom Gjelten,  
I pray that Dr Duffin will one day find that miracles are indeed from God who does exist and that everyone will get to know the Saints better.
Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York and Toronto: Doubleday Publishing Group Inc. 1995.
Duffin, Jacalyn Pondering Miracles - Medical and Religious. On NY Times website.
Website of the Catholic Encyclopedia/New Advent accessed January 15, 2011.
Gjelten, Tom. How the Catholic Church Documented Mother Teresa's Two Miracles.    accessed September 6, 2016.

[1]  Purgatory is another topic,  Suffice it to say that it is a place of cleansing (or purging) and everyone in purgatory will eventually be in heaven. It is not hell where those who do not believe in God or in Jesus have chosen to go.
[2] Gjelten, Tom. "How the Catholic Church Documented Mother Teresa's Two Miracles. August 31, 2016. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How We Got the Bible.

What are the origins of the Bible? When was it written? Can we believe what it says?

Have you ever wondered how and when the Bible came to be? Of course, most of us know that the Bible didn’t drop down from heaven as a complete book, but many do not know how the Bible came to be.
The Bible is made up of many books written by many authors.  How were the books that make up the Bible chosen?  And what were the criteria for including those books? 
The Old Testament
The Christian Bible is made up of two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the Sacred Scripture of the Jewish people and, because of this, it was the only Bible that Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Christians had.  Originally written in the Hebrew language, it included books of the history of Israel, the writings of the Prophets, and Wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon). 
The Jewish Diaspora began when the Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 BC, and the inhabitants were scattered across the Middle East.  Later, in 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar deported many Judeans (people living in the southern part of Israel known as Judea), although some escaped to Egypt.  When the Jewish people were dispersed to other nations after these conquests, the Jews began to speak the languages of the people where they now lived.  Following the conquests of Alexander the Great people in the conquered areas learned to speak Greek.  Even the Jewish Scriptures were translated from Hebrew into Greek to be read in the synagogues, and this translation is known as the Septuagint.  It was the Septuagint translation that was the Scripture (Old Testament) used in the time of Jesus and the early Church.
The New Testament
The New Testament is made up of the four Gospels (Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the Acts of the Apostles, the letters of St. Paul, St. Peter and St. John, the Revelation of St. John and a letter whose author is unknown (Letter to the Hebrews).  The Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke.  The letters (e.g. Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, I Peter) were circulated to be read in the churches of the Mediterranean area which at that time was part of the Roman Empire.
The canon of New Testament Scripture was set down by Iraneus, a bishop of Lyon, France at the end of the second century (between 100 and 199 AD).  He accepted the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) even though two of them had not been written by Apostles (Luke and Mark).  Luke was a physician who travelled with Paul. Mark was possibly a nephew of Peter.  As there were other letters and gospels circulating at the time, Iraneus’ criteria for the canon were that they were  “... the teachings of the churches in the earliest period, meaning whichever of these writings had actually remained in use since that time.”  Therefore, the books which today are recognized by Roman Catholics, Protestant, and the Orthodox Church as Scripture, were agreed upon well before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD (the 4th century) when they were formally declared to be part of Scripture.
The Catholic Church was responsible for the canon of Scripture (which books should be included) and the preservation of Scripture.  Since it was the only Church until the 15th Century, without the Catholic Church, we would not have the Christian Bible as it exists today.
Textual Criticism
When scribes (usually monks) copied the manuscripts, errors inadvertently crept into the copies.  Textual Criticism is a science which tries to identify and remove errors in transcription in the texts of any ancient manuscript.  The objective is to produce a text which is a close as possible to the original.  Often, in the case of classical manuscripts, there may be only one or two manuscripts in existence.  If there are more than ten, there is a great advantage of knowing what was originally written.  In the case of the New Testament, however, there are nearly five thousand manuscripts in Greek in existence as well as quotations from the books in the writings of others!  Furthermore, the manuscripts of classical authors usually date only from the Middle Ages, but there are manuscripts of the New Testament Scriptures as far back as the end of the 2nd century.  That is, they were written only a century after the original manuscripts had been written.  This means we can trust the words of Scripture more than we can trust the words of classical writings.
What are the Gnostic Gospels?
The Gnostic gospels are 13 volumes that were discovered in 1945 near Nag Hammadi in Egypt.  All of these books were written in the Coptic language and are probably translations from Greek.  They were believed to have been written in the 2nd century (100-199 AD).
Most Biblical scholars agree that the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were written before AD70, although some put Matthew at 75-80AD.  If this is the case, the Canonical Gospels would be more reliable accounts of the life of Jesus than the Gnostic gospels as they were written closer to the time that he lived.
Before AD70, there would have been witnesses still alive who could have protested any errors in them.  By the 2nd century (when the Gnostic gospels were written) anyone still living from the time of Jesus would have to be over 100 years old.
Inspiration of Scripture
The Catholic Church, as well as the Orthodox Church and Evangelical Protestant churches, believe that the writers of Scripture were inspired by the Holy Spirit: God is the Author of Sacred Scripture:  "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit," CCC 105 and Dei Verbum 11.
"To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers, that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more," Dei Verbum V 11.
Scriptures in the Church
Before the invention of the printing press, the Scriptures were hand-copied.  The pages were often beautifully decorated as well.  Individuals did not own copies of the Bible and copies were often chained down in the Church, not to keep people from reading the Bible, but to ensure it would be available when someone did want to read it.  In other words, like our telephone books today, 'chaining them' prevented people stealing them.
By this time, Latin was the language used amongst the educated and was the language used in the universities across Europe.  Uneducated people could not read Latin nor could they read their own language, so books in English or German were not necessary in the early Middle Ages.  However, there are some instances of early translations into the vernacular (common) language of the people.  Two examples are: Bishop Ulfilas (318-380) who devised an alphabet for the Goths and translated the Old and New Testaments.  In the 9th Century, St. Cyril and St. Methodius invented an alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, for the Slavic peoples and translated a Bible for them.
Quotations About Scripture
St. Jerome (AD340-420) said, “Not to know the Scriptures is not to know Christ.” St. Jerome translated the Scriptures from Hebrew and Greek to Latin, the language in use at that time.
A document from the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) states, “Among other things that pertain to salvation of the Christian peoples, the food of the Word of God is above all necessary, because as the body is nourished by material food, so is the soul nourished by spiritual food, since, '...not by bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4).
And finally, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997): “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God.” (103)
Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York, London, Toronto: Doubleday. 1997.
Pope Paul VI. Dei Verbum: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. The Vatican:1965.
The Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent website, accessed October 15, 2010.
The Jewish Virtual Library website, accessed October 15, 2010.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Are Annulments just Catholic Divorces?

Watch the news and you might get the impression that Pope Francis is changing the Church doctrine.  Church practice can and has been changed over the years, but doctrine cannot be changed.
Should  the rules about families, marriage and divorce be changed to make the Church more compassionate?  To be Catholic or universal, the 'rules' have to apply worldwide.  The so-called  'rules' are not to punish but are to echo what Jesus taught about marriage.  
Here is what the Church has traditionally taught about marriage, divorce and annulments.

Marriage as a Sacrament
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is sacred.  When a baptized man and a baptized woman are joined in marriage, it is considered a sacrament.  The Catholic Church considers baptisms to be valid even though they took place in a church other than the Catholic Church as long as the baptism is in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, marriage between a baptized Baptist or Presbyterian person and a Catholic is also considered a sacrament.   A sacrament cannot be 'undone' and so marriage, like baptism, is considered indissoluble.  Even when the persons are not baptized,  a marriage is a covenant when a man and a woman freely express informed consent, with no constraints.  Even though the law of a country may allow divorce, the Church does not.

Divorced Persons
A person who obtains a divorce according to civil law is not said to have 'sinned' nor are they excommunicated from the Church.  A civilly-divorced person remains a Catholic and can partake in the sacraments of Holy Communion.  A problem only arises when a divorced person remarries because the Church considers the person already married, although living apart from the spouse.
A Catholic, who is divorced in a civil court and remarries again (without obtaining an annulment), is contravening the law and plan of God.  He or she is not separated from the Church but, remaining in this state, they can no longer partake of Holy Communion.
In these cases, one can apply for an annulment.  An annulment declares that the marriage in question was not valid.  It is not concerned with the civil contract of the marriage, and so the children are not declared illegitimate.  Of course, to declare that a marriage is not valid, a careful and thorough investigation must take place beforehand.  A Marriage Tribunal is a group of people who have been chosen by that Diocese to investigate marriages and who are knowledgeable in Canon and marriage law. 

 Grounds for Annulments
Some of the grounds for an annulment are:
-The existence of an impediment to the marriage, such as a previous marriage that is still valid, religious vows or a close blood relationship between the couple.
-one of the persons suffered or suffers a psychological incapacity, such as a serious mental illness, at the time of the marriage.
-psychological immaturity which prevented one or both persons of understanding the nature of the marriage.  An example would be a teenage couple who marry because the girl is pregnant and they have not thought about the seriousness of the commitment.
-one or both persons have been coerced to marry against their will. 
-the intention of one of the couple to marry for reasons other than a lifelong commitment and intending to divorce later.  One example would be a person marrying someone to obtain citizenship or a visa who is planning to obtain a divorce in the future.
-one of the persons marrying without the intention of having children.
If a baptized Catholic who has married outside the Church, without a priest and two witnesses, the marriage is considered invalid.  No annulment is needed in this case.
The Marriage Tribunal considers each case separately, and the above list only gives a few examples of reasons an annulment may be granted.  Note that not all applications for an annulment are granted.

Steps for Obtaining an Annulment
1.  The couple should first take all possible steps (such as counselling) to save their marriage before applying for an annulment.
2.  Contact your parish priest who will direct you to the next steps and the application process.
3.  Details about courtship, wedding, relationship and breakdown of the marriage are provided to the representative from the Marriage Tribunal in your Diocese.  You will be asked to pay a fee for administrative costs, but finances should never be an obstacle to obtaining an annulment.  The Diocese should offer options for financial assistance.  Pope Francis has taken steps recently to simplify the application for annulments.
4.  You will be asked to provide names of two or three witnesses who can verify your information.
5. An advocate, a cleric or layperson, will be appointed by the Tribunal to safeguard the rights of the couple in the court process.  A Defender of the Bond, who defends the marriage bond, is also appointed by the Tribunal.
6.  The petition is submitted to the Tribunal and, having looked at all the information, they decide each case on its own merits.  Their decision is submitted to another diocese to review before the applicant is informed.  This process can take a few months or even years, and if the marriage does not contravene any of the requirements, an annulment will not be granted.
Annulments by the Catholic Church are, therefore, quite different than a civil divorce. 
There is a move to make divorced and remarried persons feel more welcomed by the Church. However, divorced and remarried persons cannot receive Communion without first being granted an annulment.  This has not changed.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Is the Resurrection of Jesus Really True?

The Resurrection of Jesus is considered the cornerstone of belief of all mainstream orthodox Christians. St. Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, our faith.” (I Corinthians 15:14). In other words without the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Christianity has no valid message. The resurrection is the ‘good news’; Jesus has been victorious over sin and death. The Church defines resurrection as the rising from the dead and resumption of life and has always proclaimed its belief that three days after his death Jesus rose from the dead.
Let us examine, then, the events surrounding the resurrection, the arguments against it and the counter-arguments.

The four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) all give accounts of the death of Jesus by crucifixion, the discovery of his empty tomb and the appearances of a living Jesus after his death. The Catholic Church and other orthodox Christians believe in the historical reliability of this Scriptural account. Although the four accounts relate some different details they are basically the same and do not contradict each other.
While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was arrested and then brought before the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders. Although there were other charges against him, the main charge against Jesus was that of blasphemy. He had claimed to be the Messiah and the Son of God (Luke 22:70,71); a very serious matter in Jewish law. The Jewish leaders brought him before the Roman authorities as they had no authority to execute criminals in the Roman Empire. At first the Romans said it was not their problem. Pilate said he did not find that Jesus had done anything illegal according to Roman Law but in the end, at the insistence of the gathered crowd, he agreed to crucify Jesus, the Roman method of capital punishment at that time.
Reports of the Resurrection
After he was taken down from the cross, Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a secret follower of Jesus, and the tomb was sealed by a huge stone at the entrance. The chief priests and Pharisees asked Pilate to place guards at the tomb because they were afraid his disciples would come to the grave, steal the body and then claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus had implied that he would rise from the dead saying, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ (see John 2:19-22). John says He was referring to his body and not the literal temple. The disciples, however, did not understand Jesus’ meaning until after his resurrection.

In the morning, several guards hurried to the chief priests to report that during the night there had been an earthquake and an angel had rolled the stone away . The guards were struck with fear. The chief priests decided that they would pay the Temple Guards (they were not Roman soldiers) to say that the disciples had come and stolen the body while they were sleeping and promised them they would not be punished for the disappearance of the body. The guards must have been well-paid for they agreed to tell that version of the story even though it made them look very incompetent!
The disciples did not go to the tomb on Saturday which was the Jewish Sabbath and it was forbidden to travel. On the first day of the week (Sunday) some women followers of Jesus went with spices to embalm the body. When they arrived they found that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. An man in white clothing, an angel, asked them why they sought the living among the dead. He told them that Jesus was not there but had risen from the dead. The women hurried back to tell the disciples the news but they thought it was an idle tale - as usual the women were imagining something! But Peter and John wanted t o check the story out anyway and ran to the tomb confirming that Jesus’ body was no longer there.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
After Jesus appeared to many of his disciples: Mary Magdalene, the twelve Apostles hiding in a locked room in Jerusalem, two believers on the road to Emmaus, two groups of pious women and his disciples again on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius. St. Paul reports that Jesus also appeared to Cephas and 500 believers, many of whom were still alive at the time St. Paul wrote the letter to the Church at Corinth (see I Corinthians 15:5-7).
The Church has always believed the accounts of the Gospel writers but there have been several alternate theories put forth
The Stolen Body Theory
This, of course, was the first theory that was circulated by the Jewish authorities of the time: the disciples of Jesus came and stole the body. According to the Gospel accounts the guards were bribed to lie and say that this is what happened. But, if the disciples had come to steal the body, why didn’t the guards prevent the disciples from rolling away the stone? After all, that is the task they had been hired to do, they were armed and probably outnumbered any disciples who would have come. The guards claimed that they had fallen asleep but surely guards would have taken turns sleeping in order to prevent a theft. Would they have slept so soundly as to not have heard a group of men rolling away the stone? If they had fallen asleep and failed to prevent the theft of the body, they very likely would have been punished. In the end, the money, and the promise that they would not get into trouble for their incompetence, was enough compensation for them to tell the lie.
If the disciples did indeed steal the body what did they do with it after? Anyone wanting to discredit them would just have to prove that the body of Jesus had been buried elsewhere.
The apostles spent the rest of their lives preaching that Jesus had risen from the dead. Would they do this for what they knew was a lie? What did they gain from it? Wouldn’t it have been better to keep a low profile and go back to what they had been doing before they met Jesus? Instead many of them died for their faith. Would not at least one of them confessed rather than lose his life for something that was not true?
The Swoon Theory
This theory claims that Jesus did not die but was just unconscious when he was put in the tomb. When he revived, he came out of the tomb and was seen alive by his disciples.
Since Jesus had been whipped before his crucifixion and then spent agonizing hours hanging on a cross meant to kill him, it is unlikely that he survived. Before taking Jesus’ body down from the cross a soldier thrust a sword into Jesus’ side and blood and water poured out. His body is placed in a tomb where there was little air and no food or water for three days. If Jesus was not dead and merely revived was he able to move the heavy stone at the entrance or did someone else move it? If this theory were true, Jesus would need a lot of care after leaving the tomb. If he did recover would he not eventually be seen and recognized by others? The Gospel accounts say that after his resurrection, Jesus only appeared to those who believed he was the Messiah. And if this theory is true, when did he die? One day there would be a dead Jesus and if someone discovered the body, the game would be up!
The Hallucination Theory
This theory proposes that the followers of Jesus so much wanted to believe that he was not dead and that he had risen, that they had visions of him after his death and burial. In their stressful mental state and knowing that Jesus said ‘he would return’ they were susceptible to having hallucinations. It is true that people have had this type of vision after the death of a family member or close friend, however, it is unusual for many people to have the same vision. As well, normally visions do not last as long as the appearances of Jesus did . And why did the visions end abruptly?  Luke reports that Jesus ascended to heaven and after that no one saw him again.
The disciples had not really understood what Jesus had said about being ‘raised up in three days’ and only understood his meaning after they had seen the resurrected Jesus. The two men on the road to Emmaus had to have it explained to them by Jesus, whom they did not recognize at first.
The story of the disciple Thomas is interesting in the light of this theory. John writes that Thomas was not in the locked room when Jesus first appeared to the Apostles. When hearing what had happened during his absence, Thomas says he will not believe unless he sees the wounds with his own eyes. Jesus later appears to Thomas, shows him his wounds and even allows him to touch them. If the psychological vision theory were true it is unlikely that Thomas would have this kind of vision. And if the resurrection were not true for any other reason, it is unlikely that any gospel writer would include this story of a ‘doubting’ disciple who eventually believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

The Modernist or Myth Theory
The most recent theory is one which says that Jesus’ body remained in the tomb and decomposed and the resurrection spoken of in Scripture is not a literal but a spiritual or supernatural ‘resurrection’. It is meant to portray Jesus’ spiritual victory over death or his immortality in a spiritual sense. Some would also claim that the resurrection crept into the Gospel accounts from ancient religions. However, the Greeks believed in the resurrection of the soul but not the body. Other religions (Hinduism and Buddhism, for example) believe in re-incarnation - the soul living on in another body but not a bodily resurrection. There was a tradition of resurrection of the body in Judaism amongst the Pharisees whereas the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. St. Paul, a Pharisee, used this disagreement to his advantage when on trial, "For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things." (see Acts 23:8)
The Modernist Theory gives rise to the same problem as those in the other theories. Why didn’t someone produce the body of Jesus? There would have been many who wanted to discredit the claim of the disciples. Why has the so-called myth persisted for 2000 years? Why has it been literally believed world-wide by people of many different cultures, education and backgrounds?

As mentioned, the simplest way to disprove the resurrection would have been to produce the body of Jesus. No one was able to do this, in spite of the fact that many would have wanted to show that the disciples had lied. Those who had bribed the guards would have loved to have found the body of Jesus in order to prove that they were right.
For the remainder of their lives, the apostles put themselves in danger by preaching the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus. They were stoned to death (Stephen), put in jail (Peter, Paul), and crucified (Peter, Paul). Many later believers were also killed by the Romans. In fact, there are still people being killed worldwide for their faith in a Jesus they believe rose from the dead.
Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that they, too, will be raised to everlasting life. "But Jesus said to her (Martha), "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live." John 11:25

Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 1962.
Hahn, Dr. Scott. The Bodily Resurrection of Christ. CD Sycamore, Il: Lighthouse Catholic Media, NFP. 2011
Catholic Encyclopedia- New Advent website. Accessed July 8, 2012.
New American Bible. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1970.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Viva Cristo Rey : Mexico's Cristero Rebellion

Mexico has had a tumultuous history with colonization by Spain, conflicts with California and its own internal wars.  Today the drug wars have devastated the population most who are peace-loving and family oriented.  Poverty and corruption have played their part in the troubles of this culturally-rich country. 

Mexico in the 19th Century
In the 19th century the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment, after the French Revolution, had its effect on many countries.  Some wanted to throw off what they thought were the shackles of monarchy and Church and promote the new gods of state and science.  One of those was Benito Juarez.
Benito Juarez is considered one of the founding fathers of Mexico. Juarez was born on March 21, 1806, in a small village in Oaxaca state to native Indian parents.  His parents died when he was only three and Juarez was brought up by relatives.  He later worked at various jobs on farms to support himself.  When he was 12 years old, he left for the city of Oaxaca hoping to get an education, but he could not even speak Spanish, only Zapotec, the indigenous language of his parents.
While Juarez was working as a domestic servant, a lay Franciscan, Antonio Salanueva, recognized the young boy’s gifts and helped him enter the Seminary.  He later decided to study law rather than become a priest and after graduation from the Seminary, he earned a law degree at the Instituto de Ciencias y Artes.
 After working in government posts, Juarez was elected President of Mexico in 1857.  Napoleon III launched an intervention in Mexico in 1862, but the Mexicans defeated the French forces at Pueblo.  This victory is still celebrated each year as Cinqo de Mayo.  Juarez was eventually forced into exile in the north of Mexico.  In the meantime, Maximilian von Habsburg, a younger brother of the Emperor of Austria, was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico on the 20th April 1864 with the backing of Napoleon III and a group of Mexican conservatives.  The Pope also backed Maximilian.  Juarez eventually returned victorious and had Maximilian executed on June 1, 1867.  Juarez’ first official act was to confiscate Church property and turn it over to the Masons of which he was a member.    His aim was to curtail the power of the Catholic Church in Mexico and establish a Republic modeled after the United States.   Juarez died of a heart attack on18 July 1872.

The Beginnings of Revolution
Various leaders brought Mexico into the 19th century which would prove to be devastating to the country. 
President Venustiano Carranza (1914-1920) was an arch-foe of the Catholic Church.  In 1915, he had 116 priests shot and curtailed the activities of all Catholic priests in Mexico.  He was an atheist and a 33rd degree Mason.  In spite of his atheism, he supported Protestant missionaries and schools as he thought they would help to annihilate the Catholic Church in Mexico 
In 1924, President Plutarco Calles closed all Catholic schools and atheism was taught in the public schools.  Then in1926 the Mexican government outlawed the Catholic Church and Catholics were openly persecuted.   Priests were not allowed to administer the sacraments, churches, seminaries and convents were shut down, and Catholic charitable works were halted.  All religious orders were outlawed, and foreign priests and sisters were sent home. 
At first, the people resisted peacefully but eventually the peasants, known as Cristeros, took up arms and fought the government forces.  Not all were holy or good people, but many were.  The rebellion began in 1927, and the battle cry of the Cristeros was, ‘Viva Cristo Rey’ or ‘Long live Christ, the King’. Their Patron Saint was Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Virgin Mary, who had appeared to Juan Diego in 1531.  Many women took part in the revolution by smuggling arms and supplies to the soldiers and treating the wounded.   
Most priests did not fight, but a few did, and all supported the Cristeros in some way.  Father Pro, a Jesuit priest, did not take up arms but would dress up as a policeman and enter jails to give Communion to the prisoners.  Once, when dressed as a policeman, he demanded to know why the police hadn’t caught ‘that priest Pro’ yet and they hurried off to pursue him.  Another time, when being chased by the police, he jumped out of the taxi that was being followed.  He lit a cigar and took the arm of a surprised young woman walking down the street.  He told her he was in danger and the police car sped by not suspecting the ‘happy couple'.   Finally, Father Pro was caught and shot by a firing squad without trial on November 23, 1927.  He was falsely implicated in an attempted assassination of a government official.  His last cry before being shot was, 'Viva Cristo Rey!' 
Before the rebellion began there were 4,500 priests in Mexico but by 1934, there were only 334 licensed priests.  They had been either killed or had escaped to other countries.  Graeme Greene’s  book, ‘The Power and the Glory’ (published in 1940) is about a disillusioned priest,  who is one of the few left in the country.   
The Cristeros had many victories even though the government had more men and supplies.  In 1929 a truce was negotiated but even after the fighting stopped 6,000 Cristeros were killed by a government-led firing squad. 
Father Pro was beatified in 1988.  Pope John Paul II canonized another twenty-five martyrs, both laymen and clergy, in May 2000. 
Today, over 90% of Mexico’s population considers itself Catholic - the Church could not be extinguished, and Tertullian’s statement  once again proved true, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Pope John Paul Ii visited Mexico five times during his pontificate.  Pope Benedict  visited in March 2012,
‘For Greater Glory’, a film starring Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole, and Eduardo Verastegui and produced by Pablo Barroso, tells the story of those who fought in the Cristeros War.

Martyrs and Saints
The Catholic Church has recognized some of those killed in the Cristero rebellion as martyrs including Blessed Miguel Pro. In may 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized 25 martyrs: 22 clergy and three laymen.   They had not taken part in the fighting but were shot or hung for offering the sacraments.    On November 20 2005 thirteen victims were declared martyrs.  Among this groups ws 14 year old Jose Sanchez del Rio.  He will be canonized this year (2016) by Pope Francis.

Madrid, Patrick.  The Battle for the Faith in Mexico.   CD by Lighthouse Catholic Media.  (www.lighthouse
Catholic Online website accessed March 28, 2012 (