The Hail Mary

Protestants tend to have a lot of misconceptions about Catholics. The Hail Mary is one of the bigger misconceptions, so I’d like to clarify a little about Mary in addition to the Hail Mary  prayer.

Mary 101:
Mary is the Mother of God. This is because Jesus is God and Mary is His mother, as is evident from scripture. Mary is a human just like the rest of us, but by Catholic Tradition and theology, she was immaculately conceived (without original sin -> a common explanation for this is that Mary had to be pure, sinless, to be worthy to bear Jesus by the Holy Spirit) and was sinless throughout her life, by the grace of God. It makes sense that Mary has a very important role the more that you learn about Judaism and the Old Testament. In the OT, the Mother of the king had a very important role and was actually more powerful than the King’s wife. In addition, there’s the 4th commandment, to honor your father and mother. The last piece to the puzzle for now is the obvious intercessory power Mary exhibited at the Wedding at Cana, in John 2. Though Jesus didn’t plan on performing His first miracle there, He did it anyways because of His mother’s request, since Mary was looking after the people with compassion.

Intercession or prayer?
This is probably the most important difference that Protestants must not be aware of with this issue. Do Catholics pray to Mary? No. Do we pray to saints? No. We only pray to God. So then how do you explain the Hail Mary? Let’s take a look at the actual prayer. We will see that it isn’t “praying” to Mary as much as it is asking for her intercession.

The Hail Mary:
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The first line as I wrote it is the greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:28-35. It is quite literal, with Gabriel saying to Mary, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” in verse 28. The next line as I wrote it is (quite literally again) the cry of Elizabeth as she greeted Mary, her cousin, in Luke 1:42 “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” So far so good, the prayer is completely scripture. Now for the last part. This is the part where after greeting Mary and honoring her, we ask for her intercession, just like how she helped the groom and bride at the Wedding at Cana. We ask that she pray for us, just the same as how we would ask a friend to pray for us.

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Sunday Snippets-A Catholic Carnival

Hello Sunday Snippets crew and followers!

This week’s posts:

The Ark of the New Covenant – people make this out to be such a mystery but it’s actually much simpler if you give it some thought. Crazy parallels between the old Ark and the new Ark in scripture.

The Case Against Same Sex Marriage – what a doozy, this is a very controversial topic so I attempted to explain the reasoning behind the Church’s opinion of it. If you have anything to add please let me know!

The Case Against Same Sex Marriage

Many people, especially the youth, seem to be very frustrated with the Church, other Christians, and all others who seem to be “traditional to a fault” by not allowing gays to marry. From their point of view, it seems like there would be nothing to lose by allowing others to do what they want, what they say would make them happy. And we’ve seen examples of same sex relationships working out and even responsibly raising adopted children, which gives their argument some weight. So how could somebody have the opinion that they could forbid someone else from doing what they think makes them happy? I’ll attempt to explain.

Are there situations where we should tell others that they can’t do something?
Yes, of course there are legitimate examples of this. Many children on Halloween night know that they will be really happy if they eat all of their candy all at once, for example. Despite how happy it might make them, their parents often don’t allow them to do this because it would make their stomach feel bad the next day and it isn’t healthy. Another example, think of drunk driving this time: by not allowing others to do what they might want, we help improve the safety for everyone else as well as the potential drunk drivers themselves. So as we can see, there are situations where we can responsibly not allow others to do what they want because even though it might make them happy, it still isn’t the best for them or for others.

What is the purpose of the law?
If same sex marriage were to be legalized, it would be done as a law. So what is the point of a law? Laws are meant to recognize the true nature of life. The basis of a good law is not what society thinks but rather what the truth is. For example, people have a right to not be enslaved not because the government grants it but because it is a part of their identity as human beings.

What is marriage?
It is absolutely essential to understand what marriage is before we can decide whether or not same sex couples could possibly be married. The word marriage is derived from the Latin marītāre, meaning to provide with a husband or wife. With that in mind, by definition marriage has complementarily of the sexes in mind. Marriage has always been the fundamental building block of society consisting of a man and a woman who join together for life, open to children and striving to help each other to the best of their abilities. And is this only a societal construction? Of course not, marriage has been necessary for the continuation of our species, producing the next generation. It would not be possible for a society without a strong emphasis on the importance of marriage to last.

So what’s wrong with same sex marriage?
With the tried and true norm of marriage defined above, we come to see that you can’t possibly justify same sex marriage by appealing to the ways of nature, because it clearly violates them. When you look at the bodies of the male and female, they do not make sense on their own. Children only come from the union of a man and a woman. That’s just nature. Something else to chew on: same sex couple’s can’t have sex. Society might call other courses of intercourse sex, but there’s only one way of intercourse which can lead to children and it requires both a man and a woman. Marriage is both unitive and open to procreation, but a same sex attempt at marriage fails in both categories.

So why can’t they just have a civil union and not call it marriage?
This would undermine the natural order of human life. People are born male or female, and that isn’t discriminating, it’s reality. Even without calling it a marriage, an endorsement of same sex partnerships would potentially place children in situations where they would be missing either a father or a mother (see next point). It would also decrease the value of traditional marriage and make it in society’s eyes only something that the government “allows” you to have. If you’re Christian (or basically of any faith that traces itself to Abraham), it would be encouraging people to sin, as almost every faith defines homosexual actions as sinful. Many people claim that we must allow civil unions for the sake of legal rights and social support, but those should be given to all people.

How does same sex marriage hurt children?
In every situation, same sex marriage denies a child either a mother or a father. This is the same issue that children have in single parent homes. The more research is done, the more we see how important it is for children to grow up with their natural father and mother. That is the way that they came into existence and is the way that nature intended them to be brought up. Furthermore, there are many benefits to having both a mother and a father while growing up, especially in the realm of self esteem. Check out the importance of fathers that I wrote about using data from none other than the US Dept. of Health and Human Services here.

How does same sex marriage hurt society?
Humanity is rooted in marriage. Without sex, there would be no more children. The best parents for children are their natural mother and father, so encouraging marriage leads to a better raised next generation, which is necessary for a stable society. Look at China or Japan for extreme examples of how a large population difference between generations can cripple individuals and society as a whole: especially social security. Traditional marriage leads to increased life expectancies and other psychological benefits for the couple. Governments have had a vested interest in marriage throughout history for many of these reasons. Finally, think about the “slippery slope” argument: if you allow two people of the same sex to be married, what keeps 3 people from getting married, or a child and an adult, or a person and an animal, etc.? Aren’t these wrong? By allowing same sex marriage, we would be opening the door to further reinterpretations of what marriage is.

What did Jesus say?
For those who are Christians or at least respect most of His teachings, we can look to see what He taught us about marriage. In Matthew 19, He uses the words of Genesis to reaffirm that marriage is between a man and a woman, saying that there should not be divorce or remarriage. He also notes that some people are incapable of marriage because they were born so. That is interesting to note because people tend to think that they deserve to be married, no matter what, but marriage is actually a sacrificial gift of oneself for their spouse, and because of this, it makes sense that some people do not have the maturity to responsibly enter into a marriage. Again, not only in Christianity but in most other religions, homosexuality is considered a sin.

How is this not discrimination?
Speaking as a Catholic, we believe in the inherent dignity of each and every human being. We believe that everyone must be treated with respect, kindness, and love. This includes everyone who identifies as LBGT or anything else.

The issue comes up that nowadays society is under a number of different impressions (incomplete list): 1. Sex is the meaning of life. 2. People can’t be happy without sex. 3. You should be able to have sex whenever you want with whoever you want. Quick answers: 1. Sex doesn’t last forever. What happens when you die? 2. I’m a virgin (and a college aged male at that) and you might have to take my word for it if you don’t know me but I’m happier than most. Want more proof that you can be happy (scratch that, overwhelmingly joyful) without sex? Go talk to a religious sister or priest. 3. There’s these things called STD’s, and condoms fail 15% of the time.

Discrimination is not allowing someone to do something based on something they can’t control. But marriage is only possible for a male and a female couple, so it isn’t discriminating any more than not “allowing” your dog to go to school.

I would like to conclude by emphasizing that the goal of this post is not to be hurtful but to bring the truth to light in a clearer manner. There are many people who surely will not find this proof sound enough and so I would only ask that they be respectful, hopefully they learned a little more of the reason behind the other side. I love all people regardless of their sexual orientation (as Jesus calls us all to do, love people hate sin), and only seek to make the truth more clear and help people see the other side of this loaded issue.

More resources:
Two Steps from Reasonable About Marriage – Public Discourse
So-Called Marriage – J. Budziszewski

The Ark of the New Covenant

Many people make a big deal of the Ark of the Covenant. There’s the Indiana Jones stuff, The Da Vinci Code stuff, and all that based off of that mystery. But what do we really know about the Ark of the New Covenant? I’m unabashedly copying from the bulletin of my home parish today because it is so cool.. Notice the parallels between the Golden Box or Tabernacle of the Old Covenant and Mary the Mother of God of the New Covenant:

Old: The ark traveled to the house of Obed-edom in the hill country of Judea (2 Samuel 6:1-11)
New: Mary traveled to the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39)

Dressed as a priest, David danced and leapt in front of the ark (2 Samuel 6:14)
John the Baptist – of priestly lineage – leapt in his mother’s womb at the approach of Mary (Luke 1:41)

David asks, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9)
Elizabeth asks, “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)

David shouts in the presence of the ark (2 Samuel 6:15)
Elizabeth “exclaimed with a loud cry” in the presence of Mary (Luke 1:43)

The ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for three months (2 Samuel 6:11)
Mary remained in the house of Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1:56)

The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the ark (2 Samuel 6:11)
The word blessed is used three times; surely the house was blessed by God (Luke 1:39-45)

The ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem, where God’s presence and glory is revealed in the temple (2 Samuel 6:12; 1 Kings 8:9-11)
Mary returns home and eventually ends up in Jerusalem, where she presents God incarnate in the temple (Luke 1:56; Luke 2:21-22)

Inside the Ark:
Old: The stone tablets of the law – the word of God inscribed on stone
New: The body of Jesus Christ – the word of God in the flesh

The urn filled with manna from the wilderness – the miraculous bread come down from heaven
The womb containing Jesus, the bread of life come down from heaven (John 6:41)

The rod of Aaron that budded to prove and defend the true high priest
The actual and eternal High Priest

Truth

We all have incredible potential as human beings. We have the ability to do good in the world, to help others, to change our little corner of the world! We all have a calling to become the best versions of our self, for the sake of both ourselves and others.

Many people tend to shy away from conflict, from tension, from standing up for things. Is this a new phenomenon? Perhaps. But what is striking is how our culture seems to encourage us to stand down on the polarizing issues. It seems good at first: it seems to avoid conflict. But what does this standing down on the polarizing issues accomplish? It only seems to breed confusion and incoherence. There is a responsible manner of going about differences of belief and opinion, by peacefully exchanging ideas and clarifying the points of each side to avoid misconceptions. Unfortunately, the encouragement that we are receiving from popular culture to stand down on controversial issues is more of an opportunity for their own ideas to be promoted unopposed in the so called “free market” of ideas. Those who like to call their beliefs “acceptance” actually do have a veiled bias as well, and for that reason the very people that preach “acceptance” of all ideologies actually often are not open to other ideologies than theirs.

So what’s the point? Humanity is stubborn. We don’t like to change. We want to be right and we want everyone else to be wrong. But we must be open to testing the validity of others beliefs. My point is that we must always strive for truth, and promote the search for truth. If we are not living in the truth, well, our lives are basically being wasted on stuff that doesn’t matter. I better give an example to clarify: if someone was trying all their lives to become the next Santa Claus, and then at the end of their life someone broke the news to them that Santa Claus isn’t real, then their life up to then would have been basically a waste. See the point? If God doesn’t exist, all this “being a good person” stuff really doesn’t matter. If God does exist, all this “do whatever you want” stuff really could be an issue.

Here’s a challenge: seek the truth. Search with all that you’ve got, because truth exists and you’re wasting your life if you base your life off of the wrong truths. And once you find truth, don’t back down. Stand up for it because it is the truth! Don’t let others waste their lives! We must try to help each other out in our journey so that we all can be the best versions of ourselves and work together to make the world the best place that we possibly can, beginning with ourselves. We all must be people of courage, standing up for what we believe in, encouraging others to find truth instead of hindering them by telling them that “there is no truth” or “in the end it’s all the same.” If I want to build a good calculator, I better make sure the arithmetic behind it is solid and 2+2=4. If that’s wrong, what’s the point in building a calculator? Now apply that to your life.

Nice tweet, your Excellency!

In this day and age of instant communication, it’s always heartwarming to see the leaders of the Church take to these means to reach out to their flock and the masses in general. Today, in honor of Cardinal Dolan officially joining twitter, I’ve compiled a list of all of the bishops on twitter or have a blog.

Twitter:
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York- @Cardinal Dolan
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston- @CardinalSean
Cardinal Napier of Durban, South Africa- @CardinalNapier
Cardinal Scola, Milan- @AngeloScola
Cardinal Ravasi, President of Pontifical Council of Culture- @CardRavasi
Cardinal Scherer of Sao Paulo- @DomOdiloScherer
Cardinal Rivera of Mexico City- @primadodemexico
Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles- @ArchbishopGomez
Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville- @ArchbishopKurtz
Bishop Steib of Memphis- @Bishop_Steib
Bishop Burbidge of Raleigh- @BishopBurbidge
Bishop Edward Burns of Juneau- @BishopBurns
Bishop Alex Sample of Marquette- @BishopSample
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Indianapolis- @BishopCoyne
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria- @Bishop_Jenky
Bishop P.J. McGrath of San Jose- @BishopMcGrath
Bishop Curtis Guillory of Beaumont- @BishopGuillory 
Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, FL- @BishopDewane

Bloggin’ Bishops:
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York- The Gospel in the Digital Age
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston- Cardinal Sean’s Blog
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington- Seek First the Kingdom
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston- The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa- The Journey of a Bishop
Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile- Archdiocese of Mobile
Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas- Bishop Kevin Farrell
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria- Bishop Daniel R. Jenky
Bishop Gary Gordon of Whitehorse- Whitehorse Diocese

A Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ and Evangelization

Contrary to what might be popular belief in Protestant circles, Catholics also strive for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, it is perhaps the most important thing we can do as human beings! (I had to add the perhaps in case I was forgetting something really important..)

I often notice a problem with the way that I evangelize and the way that many Catholics evangelize: we love talking about truth. We love philosophy and theology. We love history. We love apologetics in general. Why wouldn’t we? They are all in our favor and it is the most “scientific” way of proving that being Catholic is the right religion, the religion that Jesus founded. But there’s a major issue with this: it fails to reach people’s hearts. I watched a pretty interesting TED video today on perspective:

I don’t endorse everything he says. For example, when making decisions, morality must be at the very least one of the factors taken into account. But the main point that I kept thinking about is how people perceive you is often way more important than what you actually say or do for them. To become an effective evangelizer (to evangelize means to proclaim the good news-> the gospel), we must do more than know our creed. We must also live the life of Christ.

Our first step in living the life of Christ is knowing Jesus and forming a personal relationship with Him. As much as proving to me that scientifically it makes sense to believe in God, that isn’t going to make me want to serve God in the same way as learning that Jesus personally died for me.

How do we form this relationship? We start by simply learning. We can do this by talking to friends that are Christians, and asking them who Jesus is. A more straight to the source technique, something that I did, is to straight up read the bible. It is so important that we familiarize ourselves with the bible so that we can learn who Jesus is and what He taught. You can do this by reading the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are four different accounts on Jesus’ life, so they will sometimes all say the same thing, and other times you will get some new insight with different Gospels. John is especially different than the other three, which are called the “synoptic gospels.”

The next step in this relationship is by growing. We can do this by prayer. So what is prayer?

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” – St. John Damascene

There are basically 4 types of prayer, which can be remembered by the acronym ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Adoration is a call to worship God. Confession is when we confess to God that we have sinned and ask for forgiveness. Thanksgiving is, well, being thankful for all of the blessings in your life. And finally supplication is asking God to provide for your needs. All of these types of prayer should be done in order to have a solid prayer life.

Another way to grow in our relationship with Jesus is to participate in the sacraments. The sacraments are means for us to have encounters with God while still on earth. For example while adoring the blessed sacrament in adoration, we are literally in the presence of Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity, just as He said in John 6 in the bread of life discourse. Communion is especially designed to unite us with God and give us the graces to go forth and serve Him for the rest of our days. The word “mass” basically means sending, if you look up its etymology. So the point of the mass is less to evangelize and seek new Christians but to send those Christians out into the world. Confession of course is a great gift that us sinners need so that our sins will be forgiven.

Finally, we must live the life of Christ, uniting our struggles with His. St. Paul put it pretty clearly in his second letter to the Corinthians:

“Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Of course we will continue to struggle as we try to live the Christian life, and we can look back on all of the earlier steps I outlines for inspiration to have hope and persevere. And as we live our lives, we will be doing it more effectively because we are doing it for Jesus, the God who loves us so much and we love too! What a much more effective way to reach others!

“Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ… Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians… Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world.”

“The Church is not an association that wishes to promote a certain cause. It is not about a cause. It is about the person of Jesus Christ.”

“Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional — rather than as an encounter with Christ — which explains why they don’t see it as a source of joy.”

“The essence of Christianity…is an ever-new encounter with… the God who speaks to us, who approaches us and who befriends us!”

– All by Pope Benedict XVI