Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Understanding Catholicism

I was watching a movie the other night titled Molakai: The Story of Father Damien. Father Damien was a Belgian priest who did missionary work with Lepers in Hawaii in the mid to late 1800s. In the movie, a man (who was Protestant) asked Father Damien: "Do you honestly believe only Catholics go to heaven?" And Father Damien replied: "I am not absolutely certain. But I know that Catholics can go to heaven." Brilliant answer.

With this in mind, I feel that there are some issues that I need to discussed in this blog.

First, in my previous blog, Prayers of the Saints, I talked about why Catholics ask for intercession from saints and a little about the canonization process. Specifically, that two posthumuous miracles are required for anyone to be canonized a Saint. Well, Father Damien was canonized a saint last year in October. The second posthumuous miracle involved a woman given 6 months to live due to cancer and how she was miraculously healed. Click HERE to read this amazing story.

Secondly, for those becoming Catholic, you will not understand how misunderstood our faith is until some of your friends/acquaintances find out that you are becoming Catholic. In an age with so many different Christian denominations, I wrote a blog one year ago that sheds light on why I decided to become Catholic. It is titled: A Halloween To Be Remembered

Other blogs that I have written regarding sacraments that might be useful here are: The Benefits of Confession, The Real Presence of Christ, The Sacrament of Marriage.

But a few other things seem hard for many non-Catholics to understand, like Purgatory, mortal vs venial sins, why Catholic kneel so much during Mass, etc. So I will address a few more here.


Many claim that purgatory is unscriptural because it cannot be found anywhere in the bible. It is true the word purgatory cannot be found in the bible (neither does the word Trinity) but the concept of purgatory is scriptural:

But first, you have to know what purgatory is and what it is not.

Purgatory is the final purification of the elect. It is a state of being, not a physical place like heaven or hell, where after death, souls are purified before entering heaven. How is it scriptural?

In Revelations Chapter 21, it tells us that nothing impure will enter heaven.

  • Revelation 21:27: Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

So when somebody dies, unless they are in an extreme state of grace at the exact moment of their death, their soul is stained with sin and would not be able to enter heaven without being purified.

Catholic teaching makes no claims to how long someone stays in purgatory. Nobody knows for sure, it could be seconds or years. But it is a Catholic belief that once someone makes it to purgatory, they will eventually make it into heaven.

For those who want discount the concept of purgatory as unscriptural because "the bible only mentions heaven and hell", I would invite them to research the difference between Sheol and Gehenna in the Old Testament. Research how these words were translated in the New Testament and how the New Testament seems to draw a distinction between the two. And to research The Bosom of Abraham that involved Lazarus and the rich man found in Luke 16:22-23 which was neither heaven or hell.

Mortal vs. Venial Sins

Another concept that many non-Catholics do not understand is mortal vs. venial sins. As scripture tells us in Romans 6:23 "the wages of sin is death." Many believe all sins are created equal but scripture tells us otherwise.

  • 1 John 5:16-17: If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

The sins that lead to death are mortal sins. The sins do not lead to death are called venial sins.

An excellent guide for determining what is a mortal and venial sin, click HERE. And after reading that list, perhaps you will understand the next topic better.

Why do Catholics kneel during Mass?

Out of love and reverence to God and Christ. It is one of the many ways to pray. The following scriptures probably explain it best:

  • Daniel 6:10: Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

  • Ephesians 3:14-15: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name

  • Philippians 2:9-10: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth

Peace be with you,

© Michael J. Cox

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