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.

 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, where 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 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 priests!
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 humor. 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 Vanderhof, 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 is 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 adn 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.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What Does the Catholic Church Really Say About Homosexuality?

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Pope Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian, on the plane returning to Rome from Brazil after World Youth Day in July, 2013.

The Vatican was quick to point out that Francis was not suggesting that priests or anyone else should act on their homosexual tendencies, which the church considers a sin but whether a gay man can become a priest. At one time Bishops did accept gay men for the priesthood but following the sex-scandals in which some priests were convicted of sexually abusing young males it was thought that accepting homosexual men could open the door to more abuse. Since most men in the Catholic priesthood (some priests who have converted from the Anglican Church and, although married, are admitted to the Catholic priesthood) take a vow of celibacy the question of ‘acting on their homosexual tendencies’ is a moot point. A priest, homosexual or heterosexual, is to live a life of celibacy.

What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say?

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered’. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

There have been many hypotheses of why people are homosexuals: is it genetic, hormonal or neurological or something else? Although some studies have been done, so far, nothing has been shown unequivocally to be the cause or explanation of why people are attracted to the same sex rather than the opposite sex. Because of this the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that homosexuality's "psychological genesis remains largely unexplained" (CCC 2357).

What does St. Paul Say?
In his Letter to the Roman church (chapter 1:19ff) Paul wrote:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has show it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honour him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
... Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.”

What Do Others Say?

“Marriage comes with the right to have children. How does a same sex couple get children? Not naturally. They use adoption and commercial third party reproduction, including the buying and selling of eggs and sperm, the renting of a surrogate womb, and creating a special class of women called “breeders.”

“The medical process required for egg retrieval is lengthy, and there are serious medical hazards associated with each step in the process,” said Pediatric Nurse Jennifer Lahl in Jephthah’s Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family “Equality. Women risk their own future fertility, blood clots, and reproductive cancers. Both surrogates and egg donors die. “Multiple embryos are implanted into surrogates in order to increase the chance of live births. Women are treated as commodities, paid vessels, a breeding class,” Lahl concluded. Multiple children do not survive the process. It’s the old game of kill a baby to get a baby.”

The Vote in Ireland
“This “culture war” election was conducted under extraordinary conditions that have never been seen anywhere before in the West. As we described in our pre-election article virtually all of the effort to pass “gay marriage” in Ireland came from massive funding from the United States.”

Friday, May 01, 2015

Hill of Crosses

In 1831 in Lithuania, simple hill covered with weeds was transformed into a memorial to those who had been killed or deported to Siberia during an anti-Russian uprising. People began to put up crosses and soon hundreds of crosses covered the hill. During subsequent wars and persecution crosses on the hill continued to multiply over the years.
The Soviet Era (1940-1990)
After WWII when the Soviet authorities took power in Lithuania, people’s freedom to worship was severely curtailed. Again people were sent to cold and miserable conditions in the work camps of Siberia for minor disobediences. As crosses appeared on the hill, the new Communist government declared the place ‘forbidden’ and trespassers were punished. At one point authorities destroyed the crosses in order to extinguish the ‘ religious fanaticism’.
In 1956 people started to return home from Siberia. In thanks to God for their return and in memory of the torture they underwent, they again planted crosses on the hill. The site not only symbolized resistance to violence but also their faith in God.
In 1961 the Soviet government bulldozed the area, burned the wooden crosses and buried the stone crosses. The government destroyed the hill four times. Once in frustration at the appearance of new crosses they flooded the area turning the hill into an island. One cross was put up with the inscription ‘Jesus, do not punish the villains for they do not know what they are doing.”

A Place for Pilgrims and Tourists
After the end of Communist rule in Lithuania (1990)the Hill of Crosses continued to grow. Today pilgrims and tourists from all over the world come to see this emotional site. Many visitors leave a cross behind as a prayer for someone. The total number of crosses is estimated at 100,000 but that number increases every day. In 1993 Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass at the site and left a cross.
The Hill of Crosses is both a symbol of heroic resistance to Communist atheism and a symbol of Lithuanian faith in God and freedom.
The Hill of Crosses is located northwest of Vilnius near the city of ƾiauliai. Within walking distance is a large Franciscan Monastery (built in 2000) where Masses are regularly held.
Wright, Kevin J. Catholic Shrines of Central and Eastern Europe. Liguori, Miss: Liguori Publications. 1999
Varanka, Antanas. Kryziu Kalnas (Hill of Crosses). Vilnius:Leidykla Anvara. 2009

Monday, April 06, 2015

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). 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 guards 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 sough 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 and ran to the tomb confirming that Jesus’ body was no longer there.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
After this 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 are several alternate theories of what could have happened.
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 thrusts a sword into Jesus’ side and blood and water pour 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.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Easter and Passover: What's the Connection?

Easter and Passover
As we approach both Passover and Easter you may wonder if there is a connection and, if so, what it is.

We know that Jesus was a Jew; his mother, Mary, and step-father, Joseph, were Jewish. His Apostles were all Jewish. They all celebrated the
Feast of the Passover every year as Jews have done (and still do) since it was instituted by Moses (Exodus 12). The Passover is celebrated to remember the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.
If you have seen movie 'The Ten Commandments', you will remember the plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians in order to let the Hebrews leave Egypt. The final plague was the death of every first-born male. The Hebrews could only escape this last plague by killing an unblemished lamb, sprinkling its blood on the doorways of their houses and then roasting the lamb and eating it together as a family. They were to eat it with unleavened bread (without yeast) as they would not have time to let the bread rise before leaving. Unfortunately, the recent series The Bible, did not show the important meal of the Passover. It does show the sacrifice of the lamb, putting the blood on the lintels of the door but it does not show the people actually eating the Passover meal. We will see why this meal is important to both Jews and Christians.
The last plague was the breaking point for Pharaoh who finally let the Israelites leave Egypt(although he regretted it later and chased after them). This last plague was the death of the firstborn of every household in Egypt except those that had the blood of a sacrificed lamb on its door lintel. Moses told the Hebrews to remember this night and observe the Feast of Passover on the 14th of the month of Nisan as a perpetual ordinance for themselves and their descendants: “This is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he spared our houses.” (Exodus 12:27)
It is Passover that Jesus and his disciples were celebrating, many years later, just before Judas betrayed Jesus and Jesus was arrested. This is what Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper portrays. But does Passover really have anything to do with Easter?
The Passover was much more linked to the death and resurrection of Jesus than just occurring at the same time of year. On the first Passover, the Hebrew people chose one of their own lambs on the 10th of Nisan and killed it on the 14th of Nisan for the family meal. During the time of the prophet, Jeremiah, because the people went to the city of Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, a sacrificial flock of lambs raised for this purpose were brought into Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan. People could then purchase a lamb for their family’s celebration of the Passover feast rather than bringing one from their hometown some distance away. The sheep were brought into the city by the Sheep Gate.
It is believed that Jesus entered into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey on the 10th of Nisan. He was greeted by cheering crowds who waved palm branches and cried, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Luke 19:38. Jesus is believed to have entered by the Golden Gate and came as a King but would be sacrificed like the lamb. This entry is remembered as Palm Sunday celebrated the week before Easter. The Golden Gate was sealed by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman in 1541 possibly to prevent the return of the Messiah.
Jesus celebrated the Passover seder meal with his disciples and we read in Luke 22:14, “Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which shall be given for you; do this in memory of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which shall be shed for you.’” (Luke 22:19-20). This was all done before Judas betrayed Jesus and before Jesus was arrested. The Apostles did not yet know that Jesus would be nailed to a cross to die. Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection were part of God’s plan to bring people out of bondage to sin. It had been foretold as far back as in the Garden of Eden after the first sin. (see Genesis 3:15)
Three years before Jesus was crucified, John the Baptist had seen Jesus walking by and pointed him out, saying, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Years later, St. Peter would write to the churches, “ were ransomed by your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.” (I Peter 1:18,19)

Why is it called 'Easter'?
Unfortunately, the English language uses the word “Easter” for the celebration when Christians remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. The word, Easter, is thought to originate from Estre, a Teutonic goddess of light and spring and so it was the feast that commemorated the pagan goddess of spring. In German, it is Ostern. The Church in Anglo-Germanic countries often ‘Christianized’ pagan feast days by using the name of the pagan feast or certain symbols of the celebration (such as the Yule tree at Christmas time) for Christian festivals. The symbol would be given a Christian meaning and so change the significance of the symbol. For example, the Christmas tree, an evergreen, came to symbolize ‘everlasting life’ which Jesus promised to his followers. In a similar manner, the eggs and young animals (chicks and rabbits) of Easter came to symbolize ‘new life in Christ’.
Other languages more correctly reflect the Aramaic form of the Hebrew pesach. So we have Greek, Pascha; Latin, Pascha; Italian Pasqua; Spanish, Pascua; French, Pâques; Scottish, Pask; Dutch, Pasen; Danish, Paaske; Swedish , Pask; Swedish , Pask. In the Lower Rhine provinces of Germany the people call the feast Paisken not Ostern.
By the way, the same ‘problem’ arises with the Anglo and Germanic languages using Sunday and Sonntag (referring to the pagan Sun god) whereas the Latinate languages use cognates of Latin, Deis Dominae ‘the day of the Lord’: Italian, Dominica; French, Dimanche; Spanish, Domingo.
Setting the date for remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus was somewhat complicated and was not settled until years later. The Jewish Passover is set following the lunar calendar whereas Rome (and later the Western Church) followed a solar calendar. The Church could have set ‘Easter’ (the time of celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection) on the same date as the Jews celebrated Passover (the 15th of Nisan) but they desired to celebrate the Resurrection on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day, as it had originally fallen on that day. Because of the difference in the lunar calendar and the solar calendar the date of Easter would not be the same every year. Eventually the Western Church set Easter Sunday as the first Sunday which occurs after the first full moon following the 21st of March. As a result, the earliest possible date for Easter is 22 March and the latest is April 25th. The Orthodox Church sets the date differently. see

The Bible. History Television
The Catholic Encyclopedia / New Advent
The Jewish Virtual Library