Catholics and Salvation

A few days ago I received a small, colorful little pamphlet. It was well written and in my opinion was quite attractive, I wanted to open it. Inside I was taken through a series of pages that lead me to the penultimate page that told me that I was assured salvation if I proclaimed that Christ is Lord. Just to be honest, I knew that was where this little pamphlet was headed towards, and I was hurt. I am guessing this was placed where I could find it by someone who believes Catholics are not saved…or even Christian.

This always makes me sad first, mad second. I do get mad, mainly because knowing that I am Catholic, the black clothes with white collar gives it away, they must believe that we need salvation. We have all run into this in our lives, and we should not shy away from giving answer; if you have been shy you need to be more vocal about the faith Christ has gifted you!

But how do we respond? I really wish I had some small pamphlets to leave around the area I found the one I now possess. I am sure someone makes them, I just do not have one. But this all got me thinking about what I would put in a small pamphlet if I had the time to write it.

First, I would state an undeniable truth, the Catholic Church has been in existence since the time of the apostles, Christ founded it Himself.

Matthew 16:18  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it1

There are many that will question this, whether or not Jesus is founding the Church on Peter, or on his faith. My question is, how can you take Peters faith from him? Can you separate Peter’s faith from Peter? On this rock, even if it was his faith (it is not) would still be Peter’s faith. But the word play here is “rock”, which is Petra, Peter, and thereby Jesus is founding his church on the first of the apostles, Peter.

Next I would speak about the authority of scripture, which is where the author of my little pamphlet got his thoughts on salvation. The bible was inspired by God, written by Catholics (New Testament), and then canonized by Catholics. If there were Baptists there in the 4th century someone needs to supply proof of their presence. So if scripture was of God through Catholics, who better to explain it’s contents but Catholics; specifically the Church. Questions about what is “in” or not “in” scripture, and what it means, can only be answered by one source, the Catholic Church. All other churches hold votes on what scripture says, could anyone please find in scripture where God takes a vote on what He wants done?

Next, salvation.

… because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 2

Romans 10:9

This is one of the favorite verses used by protestants to assure themselves of salvation. We should look first at what Paul is speaking of. Paul is confronted by Jews who turned Christian who make the claim that without circumcision there is no hope of salvation. Paul is trying to teach that there needs be no outward work done to believe, we have but to say, “I believe”. All Catholics at every baptism and confirmation are required publicly to make this proclamation. But is this the end? Is this all we need for salvation? If it is then why does Christ give the apostles the ability to forgive sins? If all that needs to be done is to proclaim Christ, then there needs to be no absolution, just proclamation. Why do we need baptism at all for that matter, there just needs to be a proclamation. Why does Christ ask us to enter by the narrow door? If all who proclaim Christ are saved, sounds like there better be a large door to heaven for all that will be entering. Why does the rich young man have to sell all he has? Why not just proclaim his faith? In fact, if salvation by proclamation is the rule, we only need Romans 10 and perhaps the Beatitudes in the New Testament, all else seems unnecessary if we can simply proclaim and be saved.

Instead, it would seem that the sacraments are the door to salvation, as we see in John:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” 59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 3

John 6:53-59

All through the Bible we see either the pre-configuration of the sacraments or the sacraments themselves being shown as the way to heaven. Jesus is baptized, Jesus participates in the marriage at Cana, Jesus speaking of the Eucharist, Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon the disciples to ordain them, Jesus giving the apostles the ability to forgive sins, Jesus being anointed before His crucifixion, and finally the apostles confirming believers and sending them out for ministry.

Scripture, if taken as an entirety, is all about sacraments. The catholic Church just so happens to be all about sacraments. This has lead many over the 2000 years since Christ to make the proclamation that it is only through the Catholic Church that we can be saved. We need to be pastoral but vocal on this matter.

Fr Scott

1Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Mt 16:18). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
2Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Ro 10:8–9). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
3Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Jn 6:53–59). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

Can you Believe in Jesus and Still go to Hell?

Can you believe in Jesus and still go to hell? The short answer is yes. The longer answer has many more nuances, which we need to look at as we traverse through lent. Lent is the time for us all to look at our Christian walk and make changes. These are not supposed to be simple idle changes in various behaviors, but changes that will assure us that we will be saved on the last day from eternal damnation.

Romans 10: 8-9 The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This is the verse from Romans that many have used to espouse the “once saved, always saved” theology. This is a false theology. The fact that we simply say something, does not believe that we have altered our lives to conform to whatever we spoke. If you listen to yourself on a normal day, we say things we don’t truly believe all the time. “How are you?” This is a normal greeting. The answer is, 99% of the time, “Oh I’m fine, thanks for asking.” Most of the time this is not the case, yet we say it because it would be unreasonable to give everyone we meet in the day our long laundry list of issues each one of us faces in the day. We speak but do not believe. Believing with your heart, as the verse clearly states is life changing.

2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come

We are a new creation; totally changed. The moment we come out of the font, even if we are baptized as an adult, we are gifted the Holy Spirit and adopted as God’s own, but we have yet to be a new creation. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, though, we can change. This is a process called sanctification.

Ephesians 4: 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We are called to be a new creation, to change our lives. It is that change, that new creation which emerges, that is found good in the sight of God. We should look at our conduct in our overall lives this lent and see if we need changes to become truly new.

Galations 5: 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Put away the things of this world, as difficult as that may be, and live only to God. We are all convicted by Paul’s writings to the Galatians, what can you change right now that would make you a new creation?

But all this is personal, we also have each other to worry about. Yes, if we truly believe in Christ we will want to spread His word AND help each other in our walk, this means meet together; or in other words, come to church!

Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are called to evangelism, and if we are truly confessing Christ, we are unable to hide our light. We should be drawn to spreading the Gospel just as we are drawn to eat daily. (and in my case that is a pretty strong draw!) Who is the last person you spoke to about Christ, or about your church? If you are to be a new creation, you must be evangelical.

Lastly, put God first, Jesus’ parable gives us fair warning.

Luke 14 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; 17 and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for all is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

We are all busy; we have busy lives. But if we truly believe in Christ, in our hearts, we will become new creations in how we calendar our lives; giving God our first priority above all else.

Do you confess Jesus with your lips? Good! If we do this and believe in Him with our whole hearts than we will be compelled to be new creations in Christ, and we will embody the scripture we just looked at in this article. Let us all this lent make the basic changes in our lives to become saved through life long sanctification and works.

Go to Mass…Your Life Depends on It!!

We need never fear that the Mass hinders us in the fulfillment of our temporal affairs; it is altogether the other way around. We may be sure that all will go better and that even our business will succeed better than if we have the misfortune not to assist at Mass.
– St. John Vianney

Do we have time to go to mass today? There are a few good memories I will hold from my time between the Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church. For those who do not know the process, one does not leave Episcopal Church ministry one day and pick up Catholic ministry the next, there are at least two years of discernment and study that go on in the interim. During that interim, each candidate for orders must find employment, as mortgages and car payments do not wait for a few years…in fact they really want payment each month!

One memory I will enjoy from that interim period is the fact that Stephanie and I worked in the same office, trying to make my small business get off the ground. We would often look up at 11:30am, and ask if we should go to mass at St Patricks. Our stock answer was “well of course”! In what was a very hectic and financially uncertain times, daily mass was the only anchor we had, and it was a very real blessing for us.

After almost a year, I found myself in roofing, which is a long story that I won’t recount here. Stephanie found herself dealing with aging parents, both hers and mine. I had a boss that seemed to time his calls to 11:30am each morning, and Stephanie found herself working her own meals on wheels for lunches for our parents. We were extremely busy! Guess what immediately became rare…our going to mass at noon.

We found a routine where I would go daily to St Patricks 7am mass, and then maybe catch a noon mass with Stephanie once a week. In all this rush and business, it can come to mind, “should we be spending this much time in church”? All I could remember is that when I was blowing up my life, (best phrase I could think of for quitting a 20 yr career at age 53) the daily mass was my only place for strength and serenity. As work got more and more hectic, again it was mass that brought me solace. I honestly am not certain if I could have gotten through the interim without it.

So when I saw St John Vianney’s words this morning, I thought back to those uncertain days; and I thought to the strength I gained from the mass. Never let the devil tell you that you don’t have time for mass; in all honesty you don’t have the luxury of missing daily mass. If you are like me, life can get scary at times, and we need the comfort of the sacraments.

Come to mass daily. But don’t expect to get a reward such as new business, or untold riches. Expect comfort and wisdom. Comfort in a hectic world and wisdom in knowing how to navigate it.

SHOCKING NEWS! God gave us His law and He expects us to live by it.

How’s lent going? Take a moment and grade yourself. Now you might say, why so serious? It is just lent, and nobody can do it perfectly; kind of like a March Madness bracket. To understand why we should be so interested in our lenten performance, we have to remember the need for discipline. Our world is full of ‘free spirits”, people who march to their own drummer. We have grown to appreciate the outlier, and despise the norm. After all, what is the problem with rooting for the underdog?

Well nothing, but we have to watch which little guy we are pulling for. David was definitely an underdog as opposed to Goliath, and we all love the story of the little guy that could barley walk in his armor taking down the oppressive bully. But we also have another underdog, the devil, taking up a protest against God. This angel definitely marched to his own drummer, but I would encourage you not to follow this fallen angel. Not all underdogs should be cheered for; we should not march to every drummer. (even when at times that drummer is us!)

God made us, and we are His. God gave us rules in which to live our lives, and all too often we ignore these rules. We assume all too readily that God will overlook our transgressions and like the fact that we have blazed our own path. Miranda Lambert sings a great song, “A Heart Like Mine”, in which she opines :

“Cause I heard Jesus, He drank wine
I bet we’d get along just fine
He could calm a storm and heal the blind
And I bet He’d understand a heart like mine

I would be cautious with making such a statement. God told His friend Abram:

Gen 17: 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless1

Abram was God’s friend, surely he would have gotten a pass if anyone would, but he did not. He was told to be perfect! Abram did not lay back and simply say “I bet He’d understand a heart like mine”, he went about trying to follow God and His will. Abram learned God’s heart, he did not expect God to learn his. Generations later, God would give the law, and his people had real goals set for behavior, etched in stone! Had God wanted there to be wiggle room, he would have written it in pencil!

All this is to say that God gave us His law and He expects us to live by it. (shocking headline I know) This is not easy. it takes discipline. How do we get discipline? We do so in small steps. Giving up desert, giving up soda, giving up time for self and dedicating it to God; there are many many ways we can teach ourselves new habits, or restricting ourselves from a joy in order to strengthen our discipline. This not only brings us closer to God through our obedience, it also helps us in crisis. As crisis hits, we tend to lose discipline and doubt all that we have been taught. Some people turn to despair, others just throw out faith all together. It is the disciplined mind that will be able to focus on God, and thereby find peace in the strongest of storms.

A strong discipline results in a strong faith. A strong faith results in a lasting connection with God. As we live by His rules we can rejoice in any circumstance, knowing that in the end we will live with God for eternity.

Let us finish strong. Rededicate yourself to your lenten discipline, so that your heart may be like Gods.

Fr Scott

1Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Ge 17:1). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

An Ordinariate parish

St John Vianney is an Ordinariate parish, what does that look like?

In many ways, St John Vianney (SJV) looks like any other Catholic Church, but in a few ways, it does not. SJV has a parochial administrator, which is an official name for a pastor of a small church. This position is filled by the bishop of the Ordinariate, much as any position in a Catholic diocese is filled by the bishop of that diocese. The pastor is placed by the bishop to tend to the flock of that parish, he has complete control of all things spiritual and temporal. There is nothing sacramental (ie, baptism, confirmation, marriage) that can happen without the pastor, or his written approval. There is also nothing that can happen outside of the sacraments (ie funerals, meetings, gatherings) that can happen within the parish without the pastors approval. The finances of the church are also the responsibility of the pastor. As you can imagine, this makes the pastor a very busy person! This fact causes most pastors to appreciate the act of delegation. How is this done?

First, there is the pastoral council. Most Catholic churches have these. The pastoral council is just that, council to the pastor. To be a member of this council is to meet monthly or bi-monthly, and to go over all the affairs of the church. The council does not vote, nor does it have authority, but a wise pastor will listen to those on the council and delegate many of the tasks to it’s members. The parish will also have a financial council. This is a council that takes care of the financial needs of the parish. This council will annually vote on the budget, and throughout the year will meet to advise the pastor on the financial issues of the parish. There can be other committees though-out the parish, these are appointed by the pastor.

Sacramentally, the parish is run at the direction of the bishop through his priest. The Ordinariate has very precise rules and regulations concerning the celebration of all the sacraments, the running of it’s facilities, even down to what the priest may wear. Of course there are too many rules to list here, but suffice it to say, when these rules come into play, the priest must obey the bishop, regardless of what the parish may think of the matter. These rules are to keep the Catholic faith as it was passed down through the apostles; not simply to be “rulsey”. All marriages, baptisms, confirmations, and funerals must be cleared through the pastor, and in cases such as marriage it may take up to 8 months or longer, so please allow for time in planning these sacraments.

The last part of SJV that I will talk about, is likely the biggest difference one will see when attending; the liturgy. Instead of the mass of Pope Paul VI, the Ordinariate is allowed the use of Divine Worship. This liturgy was written and approved expressly for the use of Ordinariate churches. I will write more in another article, but this liturgy is based on the Roman canon, which is found in the Sacramentary of Ordinary Rite churches, it is prayer one, though it is rarely used. The language of Divine Worship is the old english, part of the patrimony of the Ordinariate. There are also a few “extra” prayers which were brought from the Anglican church only after study was done to make certain they were patrimony. The liturgy is formal, but can become a beloved rite if you give it a chance; as it is a change. The music is also from the Anglican church, specifically the 1940 and 1982 hymnal. It is also traditional, to match the liturgy. Are we able to use the Ordinary Rite that many are used to in the Catholic Church? Not for vigils or Sunday. We are allowed to use Ordinary Rite for weekday services.

Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask me.

God Bless

Fr Scott