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 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 (

Thursday, November 05, 2015

St. Edmund Campion, Martyr

In 1566, Queen Elizabeth I visited the University of Oxford.  The visit lasted six days and, although she  had to listen to innumerable speeches in Latin, Greek and English, they were somewhat lightened by a few plays and presentation of degrees.  

Edmund Campion, Student
On the third day, Edmund Campion, then 26 years old, spoke on the relationship of the tides and the moon – an unusual subject for a divinity student. There were strict limits to the debate topics; they were not to touch on the subject of the Queen's religion.  Oxford,  particularly Campion's college of St. John, was known to be pro-Catholic.  In any case, Campion had taken the Oath of Supremacy which meant he regarded the Queen, and not the Pope, as the head of the English Church.  When the Queen left Oxford, Campion had earned the patronage of the Earl of Leicester and some even looked on him as a possible future Archbishop of Canterbury.
After receiving deacon's orders in the Anglican Church, Campion suffered a 'remorse of conscience' and returned to Catholic doctrine.  He left England for Ireland in 1569 and was to be involved in the establishment of the University of Dublin.  There he wrote his 'History of Ireland', now considered an English-slanted version of Irish history.

 Campion's Spiritual Search
His Catholic sympathies deepened and in 1571, Campion left Ireland secretly for Douai, then in the Spanish Netherlands, now in France, he was re-admitted to the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist for the first time in twelve years.  He was granted the Bachelor of Divinity by the University of Douai in 1573 and travelled to Rome where he entered the Jesuit novitiate.  The course of his life had drastically changed.

Edmund Campion, Jesuit and Priest
The Jesuit Mission to England began in 1580 for the purpose of providing English Catholics with the sacraments and Mass.  It was illegal to attend Mass in England and everyone who did not attend the Anglican service was fined a shilling.  For those clerics and officials who refused to say an oath of submission to the Queen's spiritual supremacy, the first penalty was the loss of material goods but after the third refusal  the penalty was death.  It was also considered high treason to reconcile anyone to the Roman Church.  The enforcement of these and other rules were inconsistent and depended on informers, but clearly England was not a safe place for a Jesuit priest!
The object of the mission was for the preservation of the Faith of the Catholics in England and the Jesuits were strictly warned not to proselytize among the heretic Protestants. They were also forbidden by their Superiors to become involved in politics or the state.  English Catholics were encouraged to obey the Queen in civil matters but not spiritual. 
The Jesuits entered England in disguise and stayed in the houses of prominent Catholic families.   Most of the houses had secret cupboards where Mass vestments, missals and Communion vessels were kept but these 'priest holes' were often large enough to hide the priest himself if there was a raid by professional priest-hunters.
At Mass at the Yate's house in Lyford, one of the priest hunters, Mr. George Eliot, had been present.  After Mass he left the home and went for the magistrate at which time the three priests , including Campion, were hidden in the secret chamber.  When Eliot returned with the authorities there was a thorough search and the Jesuits were found and charged.  

Edmund Campion, Martyr
Campion was put in the Tower and later tortured.  In the presence of the Queen he was offered a bishopric if he renounced his Catholic faith but he adamantly refused.  Edmund Campion was charged on October 31 of having conspired to raise sedition in England and dethrone the Queen.  He was condemned to death as a traitor and hanged on December 1, 1581.
His last words were, "In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England – the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter."

Monday, September 07, 2015

Book Review: How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods Jr., Ph.D.

Woods, Thomas E. Jr. Ph.D.  How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.  Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc.  2005.   280 pp

"Philip Jenkins, a distinguished professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, has called anti-Catholicism the one remaining acceptable prejudice in America.  His assessment is difficult to dispute. ... My own students, to the extent that they know anything at all about the Church, are typically familiar only with alleged Church "corruption," of which they heard ceaseless tales of varying credibility from their high school teachers.  The story of Catholicism, as far as they know, is one of ignorance, repression, and stagnation."  So Thomas E. Woods, himself a historian, economist, professor and noted author, begins his book on ‘How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization'. (page 1)
In contrast to these biases, Woods proceeds to demonstrate that in the areas of science, economics, education, art, philosophy, law and charity it is the Catholic Church that has been their most important source in the Western world. 
Scientific Achievements
In the area of Science, Woods makes the claim that those who worship creation itself cannot investigate it in a scientific way.  This idea was put forth by Stanley Jaki, a Catholic priest who has doctorates in physics and theology, in his book, The Saviour of Science (2000).  For example, someone who worships a tree cannot look into what elements make up the tree, what causes it to grow etc.   The Jewish Scriptures, on the other hand, show creation to be rational and orderly and a reflection of God's wisdom, goodness and beauty. God has ordered all things by measure, number and weight (Wisdom 11:21).   Creation, not treated as something ‘divine' itself, can then be investigated. Jaki does not deny that other cultures made contributions to science but says that "sustained scientific inquiry" (quoted by Woods, p. 77) and the scientific method emerged from Catholic thought. 
Woods dismantles the ‘Galileo case' as it has been misrepresented to the public demonstrating that science, itself, was not what the Church found problematic.  In fact, Jesuits were involved in the study of astronomy at that time and still are.  The misrepresentations are widespread: one of my former students in Grade 5 had learned somewhere that Galileo was tortured to death by the Catholic Church.  He was surprised to hear from me that Galileo had only been put under house arrest, had all his needs cared for and died a natural death at the age of 77.
Triumphs in Education
Woods shows how Education is another area in which the Catholic Church has made a significant contribution.  The great universities of Europe began as Cathedral schools or gatherings of Masters and students under the patrimony of the Church.  It was during the Middle Ages that the universities of Bologna, Paris and Oxford were instituted and the papacy played an important role in their establishment. For example, Pope Innocent IV granted the privilege of awarding degrees to Oxford in 1254. 
Charity and Hospitals
Woods also shows how charitable acts, although not unknown in early Greek and Roman cultures, were unique in Christianity.  He shows this by quotations from writers such as the Stoic philosophers, Seneca and others.  Even though the Stoics taught that man should do good to his fellow-man without expecting anything in return, they also taught that they were to remain indifferent to everything and everyone. 
A problem in some of the teaching of some world religions is that illness and other misfortunes are the results of the individual's sin (in this life or in a previous one) and any help given to the individual interferes with his future reincarnations. If this is true, people reasoned, it is better not to give charity. 
Others religions believe that individuals have no free-will and God is the only cause of everything.  He does not act with ‘reason' and no matter what happens, it is ‘God's will'.  Even that which we would ordinarily call ‘evil' is caused by God.  With this kind of ‘unreasonable' God, science and education do not advance but stagnate. Although Islam at first made some contributions in Mathematics and Medicine, the philosophy of 'whatever happens is the will of Allah' has more recently stifled research and scientific  progress in Islamic countries.
In Alexandria, in the third century, pagans were said to ‘thrust aside anyone who began to be sick, and kept aloof even from dearest friends', whereas Christians ‘visited the sick without thought of their own peril ... drawing upon themselves their neighbours' diseases' (page 175).  He demonstrates how hospitals were established in the major cities by the fourth century.  Fabiola, a Christian matron, established the first large, public hospital in Rome and St. Basil the Great established a hospital in Caesarea.  Also mentioned are the military Orders, established during the Crusades, such as the Knights of St. John.
International Law
It has become popular in recent years to show Christopher Columbus, and the Spanish who came with him, as invaders of  peaceful places who forced the native people to accept Christianity all the while mistreating them.  Although these stories may be exaggerated, Woods points out that reports of the mistreatment of peoples in the New World caused a ‘crisis of conscience' amongst Spanish theologians and philosophers at that time.  This, he says, is unusual in history and wonders if Attila the Hun had any moral qualms about his conquests.  Or did the human sacrifices of the Aztecs themselves cause any ‘philosophical reflection' on their part?  Woods says that the outcries of such Spaniards as Dominican friar, Antonio de Montesinos, and Father Francisco de Vitoria were the beginnings of international law.  In fact, Father de Vitoria is called the ‘father of international law' because of his contribtions but how many of us have ever heard of him?  Another Spaniard, a bishop, Bartolome de Las Casas, suggested that the natives "... be attracted gently, in accordance with Christ's doctrine" and said that Aristotle's views on slavery as being natural to some should be rejected because "... we have in our favour Christ's mandate: love your neighbour as yourself."  (quoted on page 143).
Legal Tradition of the Western World
Regarding Law, Woods shows that Rome introduced systemized law in their Empire and the so-called ‘barbarians' had laws of their own that dealt with ownership, dowries, rights and crime.  The laws of these ‘barbarians' sometimes based guilt and innocence on superstition, such as the ‘floating or sinking test' to prove the guilt of a crime.  It was Canon or Church Law that many of our best and fairest laws today have as their basis.  For example, the Church stated that marriage could take place only with the consent of both parties.  This is significant since people in earlier centuries did not consider that women should have a voice in important matters, even those that affected them greatly.  Some pre-Christian cultures approved of arranged marriages between infants and the will of the individuals was not considered, only that of their parents.  Many cultures today do not take into consideration the consent of women.  The Church will still annul a marriage if one or both parties of the couple did not give their free consent to the marriage.
These are just a few examples of how Woods defends his thesis that the Catholic Church built Western civilization.  He cites numerous examples in economy, law, agriculture and in science (which is often the thought to be at odds with the Church) where Catholic philosophers, monks, priests, and Bishops as well as the laity,  have made important contributions to modern Western society. For those who think that he has not given enough credibility to other cultures (for example, the inventions of the Chinese and the mathematics of the Arabs), remember, that Woods has used ‘Western Civilization' in the title.
The book is easy and interesting to read and is not just a gathering of facts.  Woods tell the stories of the people who shaped our modern society, many of whom most of us have never heard.  He manages to do this with honesty, truth and good writing.  I have to admit it is my favourite non-fiction book and I recommend it with enthusiasm.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Rose Prince: A Future Saint from a Residential School

In 1951 four gravediggers were re-locating several graves near the Residential School at Lejac, BC (900 km north of Vancouver) as they were too close to a barn. When one of the caskets accidentally broke open the men were astonished to see that the body of the young woman inside was uncorrupted even though it had been buried two years ago. They opened the other caskets and these bodies had decomposed normally. The uncorrupted body was that of Rose Prince.
The gravediggers, including Jack Lacerte, who later became one of the first Native RCMP officers in Canada, reported the incident to the Sisters of the Child Jesus at the school. They came to look at Rose’s body and one of the Sisters, Sister Eleanor, reported, “She was so lovely looking and was smiling”. Sister Eleanor is the only nun who saw Rose’s body and who was still living in 1998 when the documentary, Uncorrupted, was made.

Rose Prince - Beginnings
Rose Prince was born in Fort St. James, BC, Canada in 1915 of the Dakelh First Nation also known as the Carrier Nation. Her father, Jean-Marie Prince, the son of a Chief, was a devout Catholic who helped the priest with translation, prayers and singing. He was known as ‘Church Chief’. People remember Rose’s mother, Agathe, as a very beautiful and kind woman.
Agathe had been brought up by the Sisters of the Child Jesus and she and Jean-Marie met while they were students at the Residential School. They were married and returned to Fort St. James eventually having nine children. Rose was the third child and she first attended the little school at Stuart Lake. In 1922 she went to the newly re-built residential school at Lejac which was run by the Sisters of the Child Jesus. The Lejac Residential School was named after Father Jean-Marie Lejac, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate missionary who co-founded the mission at Fort St. James in 1873.

After Graduation
Her mother died of influenza when Rose was seventeen and her father re-married. After graduation, Rose asked to stay on at the residential school. One source says that her step-mother did not accept her so she didn’t feel comfortable at home, another says that she liked the peace at the school and wanted to be of use there. She used her gifts as a seamstress, cook and substitute teacher. Rose was very artistic and created beautiful embroidered Church linens and hand-made cards with her paintings of flowers which she gave to the Sisters and other friends.
As a child. Rose had been injured which resulted in a back deformity making it difficult for her to walk and kneel. It may have also caused her considerable pain but her contemporaries say she never complained. Her friends describe her as gentle and humble and she was said to have a keen sense of humour. Other children would often come to her for advice. During school years she was known as an excellent student and would help the younger children with their homework and encourage them to read books. She loved the prayers and hymns in the Carrier language which had been written by Father Adrian Maurice and when she wasn’t working could often be found in the chapel. But her life was ‘ordinary’ and others did not see her as very much different than themselves.

Sickness and Death
When she was in her thirties, Rose contracted tuberculosis, a disease which was very common in all the population of Western Canada at that time and for which there was no treatment except rest and fresh air. Gradually she grew weaker until she was confined to her bed and unable to work. In August of 1949, she was admitted to the hospital in Vanderhoof, BC. Her brother, Paul, was with her. She asked to see the Sisters and Father Mulvihill who celebrated a Mass for her in the hospital chapel. After she received Holy Communion that evening she died. She was only thirty-four. A few days later she was buried in the cemetery at Lejac.

The Story Becomes Known
The story of Rose’s uncorrupt body did not become widely known after it was discovered in 1951. However, in 1996, articles about the discovery and pilgrimages to the site were published in the Vancouver Sun and the Toronto Star.
A miner of Ukrainian descent, Nick Loza, living in Fraser Lake had injured his back and was unable to work. He suffered excruciating pain because of scar tissue pressing on a nerve. One day his parish priest came with soil from Rose’s grave and he put it on Lozas’ back and prayed for him. One hour later, Loza reports, his back felt better and he slept through the night for the first time since his injury. The next day he had no pain, he returned to work and has been well ever since. Others have also reported healings.
In July 1990, Father Jules Goulet organized a pilgrimage to Rose’s grave in Lejac. That year only 20 people went on the pilgrimage but in 1995 there were 1,200 people and the numbers have grown ever since. The Vatican is aware of the story of Rose Prince but in order for someone to officially be declared a Saint certain conditions must be met. Healings, such as that of Nick Loza, must be thoroughly investigated to rule out other causes of the healing before they can be attributed to the intercession of a saint. It is not known if there is someone collecting information about healings related to intercession by Rose Prince. Further information about the pilgrimage and the history of Lejac Residential School can be found at the following websites: and
Discussions regarding bodies of saints that have not decomposed can be found on

2015 Pilgrimage
The Rose Prince Pilgrimage for 2015 was July 3-5 at Fraser Lake, BC. The pilgrimage began with former students at LeJac Residential School wanting to meet for a reunion. It has grown to include those who are interested in knowing more about Rose Prince. Free campground sites available for tents, campers and
RVs. There is also a choice of local motels. For more information go to the Rose Prince or Prince George website.

Rose Prince official Website accessed June 29, 2012.
Uncorrupted: The Story of Rose Prince. Documentary by Ken Frith. Shenandoah Films 1998.
CBC News. Trumpener, Betsy. The Grave of First Nation’s Woman, October 16, 2008.
The Diocese of Prince George. Website accessed June 29, 2012.
Lejac Residential School website. Accessed June 30,, 2012.
Overcome Problems. Website accessed June 30, 2012.