This Week’s Ask Alice: A litany of interrelated Catholic questions



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Jennifer writes: I grew up in a Catholic school but was raised Baptist. My husband and I decided to raise our son in Catholic school as well. After 3 years, we are seriously considering converting. We love the values and many things about the faith and feel as if we belong and are called. I was wondering about a few things:

1) Why does the Catholic Bible have additional books? How or by whom were they added or omitted?
2) Regarding Mary being without sin, I see how it could be assumed, but is there biblical scripture which supports the theory?
3) Is Mary regarded as an equal to Christ? And why is prayer and focus given to her instead of Christ? Is there biblical scripture which supports this as well?
4) What is the significance of statues within the church?

Thank you so much, in advance. I hope my questions don’t seem ignorant. I believe there was a period where women were highly disregarded, and maybe the lost books could reveal some things.

Alice answers: Your questions are worthwhile ones. Catholicism is considered the “fullest measure” of faith, and sometimes, things can seem a bit complicated.

My friend, Pat, spent years driving from one Protestant church to another in search of a religion to follow. But after attending a Catholic Mass one Sunday, Pat felt that all the other churches she visited seemed empty, as if something was missing. And it wasn’t just those seven books!

1) The Catholic Bible contains all 73 books (46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament) that have been accepted by Christians since the time of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Old Testament follows the Alexandrian canon of the “Septuagint”, which was translated to Greek around 250 B.C.

Jesus personally read from the Septuagint, and he also commissioned the Apostles to use it.

Beginning around 1521, Martin Luther and other reformers acted to separate themselves from the Catholic tradition, and decided to revert back to the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament, which contained 7 fewer books than the accepted Greek/Catholic canon. The books missing from the Protestant collection: 1&2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach/Ecclesiastes and Baruch. (Review ALL the books here.)

For the first time in over a thousand years, certain Christians had arbitrarily decided to reject the clear advice of St. John, that we read in Revelation 22:19.

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book.”

2) Catholics believe that Mary is sinless, based on scripture and tradition, i.e., divine revelation, first-hand knowledge, beliefs, customs and teachings, both written and oral, about all things Christian.

In Luke 1:28 Mary is uniquely greeted by the angel Gabriel with the words, “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Or more to the point, “Hail Mary, full of grace.”)

This is the only place in Scripture where we find an angel greeting anyone (other than God) with such high honor and praise. It is also the only place in scripture where we find God waiting for the permission of any human being … a woman, no less … so that he might send his son into the world, to save us.   

A sacred “vessel” that is “full” of God’s grace simply has no room in it, for sin. Much more than a mere vessel, the Mother of God is a unique person, supernaturally preserved from sin by God, from the moment of her conception, for the very highest of purposes.

Mary’s sinlessness was indeed a practical necessity if she was to give birth to the Son of the Most High God, who in his divine holiness, required as much … and who also demanded absolutely pure, undefiled, holy flesh in order to fashion the human body that he would one day offer up to his Heavenly Father, as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

It is through “divine election” that Mary was conceived “full of grace” … and she permanently remained that way … according to the practical necessities of God’s eternal plan for the ultimate destruction of the forces of evil, and the salvation of mankind.

Mary never sinned. Satan never touched her.

In her permanent virginity, she remained always holy, perfectly obedient, and dedicated solely to to God … before and after she gave birth to our Holy Redeemer.

The Catholic Church knows all this because “the Church” was there with Mary, and knew her better than anyone.

All four evangelists (the writers of the Gospels) knew her and relied on her for many of the details we find recorded therein.

St. John lived with her and cared for her for many, many years … as she had no children, other than Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, non-Catholic Christians, separated from the living tradition of the Catholic Church by hundreds and hundreds of years, know Mary only from the few lines they read about her, in the Bible!

3) Mary is not regarded as an equal to Christ.

Jesus Christ is the Almighty and Eternal God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords … by his own power and in his own right.

Mary is a mere created human being, wholly dependent upon God for all things.

But by virtue of her singular, maternal relationship with Jesus Christ, the grace of God, and the merits of her holy life, the Catholic Church rightly understands that the Blessed Virgin Mary is already the recipient of all the Heavenly promises of her divine son.

Needless to say, that state of existence encompasses the unimaginable fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven, with the Blessed Virgin Mary as its Queen … courtesy of Jesus, the Eternal King … since according to God’s system of things, the mother of the king is the queen. (Summarized and explained here)   (And here.)

Catholics properly worship God alone, and merely venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary, which means that we honor and respect Mary as a great saint and as the Mother of God. But we do not worship her.

Modern Protestants often tend to have problems understanding this because their chosen faith tradition mistakenly tends to push the Blessed Virgin Mary off to the side … and over-emphasizes the role of the Holy Bible. 

It is not right to worship the Holy Bible OR the Holy Mother of God … even though both are great works of God … and both are very intimately related to the Holy Spirit.

From a human perspective, who rightly deserves the greater praise and honor: George Washington … or the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Mary is Jesus’ first, best, and most constant disciple. Along with her divine son, she is at the very center of God’s plan for salvation. Mary willingly and totally cooperated with God. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

By voluntarily cooperating with God’s grace and his plan, selflessly dedicating her whole life to God, and providing her own flesh and blood to make Jesus’ human body, Mary is also rightly regarded as co-redemptrix … intimately cooperating with God, in his eternal plan for our redemption in Jesus Christ.

4) Statues are displayed in Catholic churches for the same reason that you and I hang family photographs in our homes. Pictures of Grandma Ann and Uncle Bob remind us of people we love and admire. As members of the Body of Christ, we and the saints belong to God’s family. Jesus, Mary and the saints are leaders in our faith. They inspire us to follow their virtuous examples. Statues are similar to the posters of our sports heroes today. We should try to imitate the saints’ behavior in our daily lives. (More details here.)

Statues also serve to remind us of the words of Jesus Christ:  “And as concerning the dead that they rise again have you not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spoke to him, saying: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You therefore do greatly err.”
(Mark 12:26-27)

I pray that you and your husband will heed God’s call to become Catholic.

Ours is a faith that has deep respect for women and regards every human life as sacred, from conception until natural death.

Catholics have the charism of praying for our deceased loved ones, to help them get to Heaven. We believe that as members of the Body of Christ, as we pray for the souls in Purgatory, they in turn pray for us, as we continue our earthly journey.

The best part of becoming Catholic is that you experience a miracle … the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist … every time you attend Mass.

Please write again and let us know how you are doing.

In Christ’s Love,

Alice

*****

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Just about everything you ever wanted to know about sacred images and icons

Saint John of Damascus (676-749)

Since the invisible One became visible by taking on flesh, you can fashion the image of him whom you saw. Since he who has neither body nor form nor quantity nor quality, who goes beyond all grandeur by the excellence of his nature, he, being of divine nature, took on the condition of a slave and reduced himself to quantity and quality by clothing himself in human features. Therefore, paint on wood and present for contemplation him who desired to become visible.

Read the entire article

Catholics- Why erect statues of Mary and saints which are less important than Father Son Holy spirit?

Q: Catholics- Why erect statues of Mary and saints, which are less important than Father Son Holy Spirit?

A: Every one of the saints is in heaven, so every one of the saints serves as an inspiration to current day Christians.

And since all of the saints got to heaven by means of cooperating with God’s grace, and by that grace alone, every saint gives glory to God, the one who created him/her.

The saints also prove that Jesus did not die in vain, that God keeps his promises, and that his promises apply to every Christian, in every age.

And since the lives of the saints were typically not easy ones, Christians are suitably inspired to persevere in their faith and in God’s grace, until the end, no matter what.

That is the message of the whole Bible … for every man or woman of God … salvation according to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ … our Lord and Savior … the one on whom all Catholic worship and all Catholic living is centered.