Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Falling in the Fall
Sister Mary Martha where are you? I miss reading your blog. Are those 7th graders keeping you too busy?
Did I stop writing my blog? I thought I was still here. I guess I haven't been keeping up.
I can't blame the 7th graders. I blame the fall, which includes not only the 7th graders, but getting ready for winter in the garden and the house. Not that we have much of a winter, but we may get some rain and the roof leaks. Sister St. Aloysius used to be able to climb onto the wall and use the tree to get onto the roof and affix a tarp up there. The tarp blows off each year by late spring or tears to pieces in the wind, so we have to put a new one on each year. Now the tree is gone. I guess she'll have to stand on my shoulders or something. The tarp does keep us dry.
The really scary thing is that when the roof does leak in the kitchen, it leaks down through the light sockets. Yikes! We don't want to get zapped and think we see Mary in the refrigerator.
Which brings me to today's question:
Sister, you often have said that we are not required to believe in the private revelations of individuals. It has long bothered me that St Paul's vision on the road to Damascus was a private revelation and yet he is considered a father of the church, something like 13 of his epistles are in the bible. And yet, Paul never met Jesus in life, and was frequently at odds with the apostles *who were there with Jesus*. I think this is behind the protestant argument that Catholics are not Christians: so much of Catholic teaching is based on the teaching of Paul, rather than Jesus. It was private revelation!
I wouldn't worry about it. Jesus didn't say that much to Paul. Paul isn't telling us in his epistles things that Jesus said to him.
Remember what happened here. Paul was riding around persecuting the first Christians. He took part in martyring the first martyr, St. Stephen. St. Paul held the coats for the people who were stoning St. Stephen to death so they could have better range of motion for their stone throwing.
And then one day, according to Paul, Jesus knocked Paul off his horse and while Paul laid on the ground wondering what hit him, Jesus said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Paul's name used to be Saul.
Then Saul/Paul was blind for a bit and when he finally figured out what was going on and accepted Jesus, Paul/Saul got his sight back.
Unlike Fatima, or Lourdes or Sister Margaret Mary who had a vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and started that devotion, no instructions were given, no words of wisdom. Just a thump in the head from Jesus. A kick in the pants.
Jesus never even asked Saul to change his name to Paul. Paul had to learn and figure everything else out for himself, which he did, superbly. Jesus didn't reveal anything to Paul except Himself.
The Church Fathers saw fit to include Paul's letters and thoughts in the New Testament.
I think everyone has some kind of unformed thought that Jesus lived, died, rose and ascended and then four guys sat down and wrote about it and some people gathered up letters that the early disciples wrote and then we have the New Testament. As though somehow it was just there in a few years. Or that God got out His big gold pen and wrote a book and handed it to St. Peter.
But that's not what happened. The New Testament was not finished in the form in which we know it during St. Peter's life time. The New Testament didn't come together until the fourth century when the early church Fathers sat down and decided what would be in and what would be out, like Heidi Klum on Project Runway. Their choices were not frivolous. There was much arguing and debate. They were guided by God as the Church always is guided by God.
And that's the part you have to remember. Paul's writings are in the New Testament as guided by God. The Catholic Church is God's Big Gold Pen.
Here's something you might think about: I think this is behind the protestant argument that Catholics are not Christians: so much of Catholic teaching is based on the teaching of Paul, rather than Jesus.
Actually, the protestants base virtually all of their arguments on the teachings of St. Paul. Martin Luther certainly did.
So you can relax about St. Paul. He's my favorite patron saint for people who want to turn their lives around.
Ain't that a kick in the head?