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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Take it to the (River) Bank

This has been a great couple of days for Heaven. Yesterday was Angel Day. Not that that's what it is really called. It was the feast day of Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, three archangels who "stand before God". Somebody asked me once if there were any girl angels. (Keep in mind that angels are not dead people, they are a whole separate entity.)  I don't think there are any boy angels. I don't think angels are either girls or boys. I realize that in the Bible when they show up they are mentioned as "three young men" and the like.  But the truth is that they could not have manifested as women, roaming around by themselves in those times, let alone that if they had, no one would have paid any attention to them. We really have come a long way, baby. Sure they have boy names, but what of it?  We were thinking of them as boys.  What were we supposed to call them?  "Pat", "Chris" and "Vivian"? In any case, it was their feast day yesterday.

And today is the feast day of one of our very favorite saints, St. Therese the Little Flower. I was amazed to read today that she was only made a Doctor of the Church in 1997. It seems so long ago, I thought it had to have been 1954 or so.Time stops while it flies, one of life's ironies.

We love St. Therese, who I think of as the patron saint for people who are annoyed by the annoying habits of others.  Therese knew the value of offering up suffering for the Poor Souls in Purgatory and there was plenty of suffering for Therese in a cloistered convent with all those women doing nothing but menial tasks and praying.  She didn't want to miss any suffering so she wrote down every annoyance that she bore so it could count for something.  On her deathbed she mentioned that she'd like to spend her Heaven doing good on Earth, so you might consider her a friend when you'd like someone to pray for you.

And speaking of saints' days, here a a question from a reader regarding good old St. Christopher.

I would love for you to explain to me in lay terms why Pope Paul VI removed his saint day from the calendar. Also, I am happy to learn that he is also the patron saint of athletes as well as travelers. I will never leave on a trip without my medal around my neck.

I've explained it before, but people really hate hearing it. It was because the story of St. Christopher, when told fully, is rather obviously a myth. It is precisely because of stories like that of St. Christopher that the Church began a more thorough vetting of candidates for sainthood. At one point a dog almost got in.

The full story of Christopher is that he was some sort of large soldier type. He wanted to serve whomever was the most powerful person. So he was fighting for some king and the king lost to the devil. Christopher left the king and started fighting for the devil until he saw the devil bow down to the Cross.  An old hermit told Christopher that the way to follow Christ was to humbly serve mankind. The hermit put Christopher (a name that means "Christ bearer", which means his name must have been something else before the famous "incident") in charge of ferrying people across a river on his shoulders.

Then comes the part where Christopher is carrying a small boy who grows ever heavier on the way across. Christopher can hardly get to the other side and when he does he asks the boy, "How come you're so heavy?" And the boy replies, "I am the Christ Child and I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders."

I think it's kind of a silly story. The whole beginning has a "Three Pigs", "Three Billy Goats"  feel to it.  The only part I like is the part where the hermit tells Christopher the best way to follow Christ. You can take that to the bank.

A bunch of saints were quietly taken off the calendar. The fourteen Holy Helpers went, too, for much the same reasons. But no one minds if you wear your St. Christopher medal. I'm sure there was a holy man out there somewhere, very possibly doing nothing but helping people across a river, serving Chris,t like St. Therese, in the most humble way. And he certainly carried the Christ Child across that river because as He would have told you, "Whatever you do to the least of My brothers, that you also do unto Me."

14 comments:

Martha said...

In lieu of St. Christopher, get to know St. Raphael. Casting out demons, curing blindness, keeping you safe on your journey- he's got it all and more! Read the book of Tobit. It's good stuff. Our family always asks for the intercession of St. Raphael before a journey.

:D

Genie said...

Dear Sister...Thank you so much for taking the time to not only answer my question but to explain it in little old lady terms. As a teacher since the horse and buggy days, I love to have things explained to me as well as to the children. I will still love and wear my medals, but I will now think of Christopher as the kind soul who carried the Christ child across the river. I loved reading your story of Sr. Theresa. I must now add her to my special list of saints.I like the idea she kept a list of all the things that annoyed her. Having taught school since I was 20 and am now 73 and going strong...plus being a wife and mother of three...I bet I would have too many books to count. But then, there is the other side of that coin. It makes me wonder how many times I have irritated others in my life. For that I pray for their forgiveness. Again, thanks so much, sister, for answering my question. genie

Anonymous said...

"At one point a dog almost got in." Ahh, do tell us that one. Love your blog. Thanks

Tienne said...

Sister, I had a conversation recently with a devoutly Protestant friend who objected to Catholic "worship" of Mary and the Saints. I took the opportunity to share your lovely explanations of praying for intercession just like we ask those on Earth to pray for us, and she responded with an argument I'd never heard before. She said that there is no evidence in the Bible that people in heaven will pray for us, nor that the relationships we have on Earth (such as Mary's special relationship with Jesus) are duplicated in heaven. She said the Bible states that we are all going to be equal in heaven, and no one will be honored above anyone else until the coming of the New Heaven and New Earth. I brought up the miracles attributed to those Saints, and she said that was part of the problem...those Saints didn't perform the miracles, Jesus did, yet it's the Saints who get the credit and the devotion. She mentioned the passage in the Bible where Paul admonishes one of the new communities for being fans of Peter, or Paul, and his declaration that we should follow Christ alone, to support her objection. She also cited numerous examples of friends and family members who were Catholic and had devotions to certain Saints to the exclusion of a relationship with Jesus (homes filled with statues and pictures of Saints but no crucifixes, conversations that revolve around the Saint and no mention of Christ, etc.) Her argument is that all this distracts us from Christ. First of all, do you have any Bible passages I can point her to that describe the way the souls in heaven are supposed to interact with the Trinity? Also, what about the fact that many Catholics do seem to elevate a devotion to the Saints or Mary above their relationship with Christ? Doesn't that support the original Protestant objection to Mary?

Paige said...

Tienne, here's an article by an apologist that might help you with your friend http://archive.catholic.com/thisrock/2000/0011sbs.asp

Tom Stephenson said...

Hello Sister. I have a huge favour to ask of you. Could you please do away with your comment robot test, if you are going to moderate the comments manually anyway?

Leroy William Skees said...

Tienne, Your friend has a strong point, and please share this with he or she...
In order to appreciate any miracle associated with any Saint one must first have a sound understanding of the life of that saint. It must be ingrained and sink in to the extent it becomes your existences. Now, I am not asking you take Four years of College learning Saints. But the small amount of knowledge the Church Gives as a rule is insufficient. ( "Buy the truth and sell it not" old testament scripture ) At the risk of being considered a heretic, not even the Church is willing to part with these sweet deep truths and so members and friends walk away without support from those Saints. Your friend is saying the same. IT IS NOT A CASE OF "WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW WILL NOT HURT." IT IS INSTEAD A CASE OF "YOU HAD BETTER FIND OUT!" What you do not know WILL hurt when you learn that what you gave is "a drop in the bucket" compared with what an other can give. Most all people who in any way think or put on to wear Saints do not know enough about the saint in question, or saints, to give a good counter argument. This is an instant loss at the game of truth slinging. In the world of buy and sell it is perfectly safe for an other to disregard your argument on this basis. Trust me, I have been on the bottom, I know. Do not take this bad, just learn.

Anonymous said...

Long time no see. I have been following this blog for years now and I have been wondering if Sr. Mary Fiacre is still with us.

De Maria said...

Hi Tienne,

Blogger Tienne said...

Sister, I had a conversation recently with a devoutly Protestant friend who objected to Catholic "worship" of Mary and the Saints.


The first problem with that characterization is that we don't consider them idols or gods. We honor and revere them as our older siblings in the faith. In that sense, we follow Scripture:

Hebrews 6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

I took the opportunity to share your lovely explanations of praying for intercession just like we ask those on Earth to pray for us, and she responded with an argument I'd never heard before. She said that there is no evidence in the Bible that people in heaven will pray for us,

She hasn't studied the Bible thoroughly. She has only studied the Bible enough to confirm the ideas she has adopted.

Before I continue, some caveats:

First, however, we need to understand that Protestants read Scripture differently than do we. Since they have rejected the Traditions of Christ, when they read Scripture, they discover within it what they want to believe. That is why there are so many competing sects.

Whereas, we recognize that Jesus Christ did not write Scripture. He established a Church and commanded that Church to teach His Traditions to the world (Matt 28:19-20). When we read Scripture, it is to confirm the truths taught us by the Church. It is the Berean methodology (Acts 17:11). They searched the Scriptures to find within it what they had been taught by Sts. Paul and Silas.

2nd. Because Protestants will accept only Scripture as their authority for doctrine, they accept only those doctrines which they see explicitly taught in Scripture. The strange thing is, this rule which is known as "Sola Scriptura or Bible alone", is itself, not found in Scripture.

Its easy to confound a Protestant who says, "I don't believe anything that is not taught in Scripture" by asking, "Where does Scripture say that we must only believe that which is taught in Scripture?"

So, it is a self contradictory proposition. Believe only what is in Scripture. Where does Scripture say to believe only what is in Scripture. It doesn't. Therefore, no need to believe that proposition.

3rd. Scripture does say that the Saints intercede for us here on earth. There are two levels of saints.
a. The Angels. They are portrayed interceding for us throughout Scripture. They even mediated the Law of Moses (Gal 3:19) and they are waging a war on behalf of the righteous (2 Pet 2:10-12) and bring the prayers of the righteous before God (Rev 8:3).

So, that is one class of Saints which intercede for us.

cont'd

De Maria said...

Response to Tienne cont'd
b. The other class consists of the righteous men in heaven whose spirits have been made perfect (Heb 12:23). It is true that there is no explicit reference in Scripture which says that righteous men who have died and gone to heaven, pray for us on earth.

But there are a couple of references which imply this is true. One of them, unfortunately, is in the set of Scriptures which Luther cast out of the Bible. The Maccabbees:

2 Macc 15:
11 When he had armed each of them, not so much with the safety of shield and spear as with the encouragement of noble words, he cheered them all by relating a dream, a kind of vision, worthy of belief.
12 What he saw was this: Onias, the former high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in appearance, gentle in manners, distinguished in speech, and trained from childhood in every virtuous practice, was praying with outstretched arms for the whole Jewish community.
13Then in the same way another man appeared, distinguished by his white hair and dignity, and with an air about him of extraordinary, majestic authority.
14Onias then said of him, "This is God's prophet Jeremiah, who loves his brethren and fervently prays for his people and their holy city."
15Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said,
16"Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall crush your adversaries."
17Encouraged by Judas' noble words, which had power to instill valor and stir young hearts to courage, the Jews determined not to delay, but to charge gallantly and decide the issue by hand-to-hand combat with the utmost courage, since their city and its temple with the sacred vessels were in danger.

The implication is rather powerful. Notice that Onias, a dead saint, is praying for the entire Jewish community. Whether Jeremiah is dead also is debatable, but I assume that he is also a dead saint praying fervently "for his people and for their holy city."

The other reference of which I'm aware is in the 66 book Protestant Bible. It says:
Jeremiah 15:1
King James Version (KJV)
1 Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.

By the time the Prophet Jeremiah came along, Moses and Samuel were long dead. Yet, understood in the light of the Traditions of the Church and in light of the Maccabbees, God says that it is still possible for them to intercede for their people.

cont'd

De Maria said...

Tienne, you also said:
nor that the relationships we have on Earth (such as Mary's special relationship with Jesus) are duplicated in heaven.

Whether they are or not is debatable. However, our relationship with God will be cemented and some will receive thrones and others won't. This is something which the Protestants don't deny since they are anxious to receive their crowns. Scripture says:
Luke 22:30
That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

1 Corinthians 9:25
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

Funny, they vye for their crown, but deny Mary hers (Rev 12:1).

Note also, that it is those in the Church who will judge everyone else.
1 Corinthians 6:3
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

This is why Jesus says we must make friends here on earth. Those Christian who go before us will be our advocates in heaven.
Luke 16:9
And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Yeah, its cryptic, but that is what that means. So don't be a snob. Make friends on earth. You never know who will be accusing you or defending you on that Day.

Proverbs 28:27
He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.

She said the Bible states that we are all going to be equal in heaven, and no one will be honored above anyone else until the coming of the New Heaven and New Earth.

Ask her to provide the verse. Protestants have a habit of saying, "The Bible says this and the Bible says that." And guess what, the Bible doesn't say this or that at all. They make it up because they want to believe it. But it isn't there.

Scripture says precisely the opposite. Some will be given Thrones to rule over the rest:
Luke 22:29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;
30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

I brought up the miracles attributed to those Saints, and she said that was part of the problem...those Saints didn't perform the miracles, Jesus did, yet it's the Saints who get the credit and the devotion. She mentioned the passage in the Bible where Paul admonishes one of the new communities for being fans of Peter, or Paul, and his declaration that we should follow Christ alone, to support her objection.

1. Point out that the verse does not say to follow Christ "alone". It says,
1 Corinthians 11:1
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

2. Point out that Scripture commands us to follow also the Rulers of our Church:
Hebrews 13:7
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

3. Also point out that the miracles are attributed to God through the Saints. Examples:
Acts 19:
11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:

4. In this example from Scripture, there is no mention of God:
Acts 5:
15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

Cont'd

De Maria said...

Tienne also said:

She also cited numerous examples of friends and family members who were Catholic and had devotions to certain Saints to the exclusion of a relationship with Jesus (homes filled with statues and pictures of Saints but no crucifixes, conversations that revolve around the Saint and no mention of Christ, etc.)

I'd take that with a grain of salt. Although its possible, I'm not aware of any Catholic home without a crucifix. Tell her to introduce you to these Catholics. YOU want to see for yourself if this is true or made up.

Her argument is that all this distracts us from Christ.

Tell me, does your relationship with your younger brothers distract you from your elder brother? Does your relationship with your mother distract you from your father?

God would not have admonished us to love our neighbor if loving our neighbor would detract from loving Him. In fact, it is the opposite:
1 John 4:20
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

First of all, do you have any Bible passages I can point her to that describe the way the souls in heaven are supposed to interact with the Trinity?

I hope those above help. I believe I provided more for Russell in the discussion we had on the Queen of Heaven post.

Also, what about the fact that many Catholics do seem to elevate a devotion to the Saints or Mary above their relationship with Christ?

I don't personally know any who do such a thing. If any do exist who fall into that error, they should be admonished. But the Church does not teach that error and therefore can't be implicated because certain people purportedly make that error.

Doesn't that support the original Protestant objection to Mary?

The original objection to Mary, as I understand it, is title, Mother of God. This title is perfectly in line with Scripture:

Luke 1:43
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

If you know of another "original" Protestant objection to Mary, please reveal it and we can talk about it.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

That is an excellent document Paige.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Arkanabar said...

That story of St. Christopher reminds me a bit of one I remember (perhaps wrongly) reading as a child, that Jason (of Argonauts fame) made a similar trip across a river, carrying an old woman who turned out to be Zeus's wife Hera. Or perhaps the D'Aulaires were influenced by the story of St. Christopher when rendering the Greek myths for children.