JANUARY 15, 2018
Is God in the Center of Your Life?
Does your life revolve around your relationship with God, or is your relationship with him just a side-note? Fr. Mike explores this question.
JANUARY 7, 2018
God Doesn’t Owe You Anything
When we’re going through hard times, it’s easy to think we deserve better from God. In this video, Fr. Mike uses a compelling story from the book of Daniel to exemplify the challenging but proper response to adversity. As tough as it may be, finding a way to thank God no matter the situation is a sure way to holiness.
December 30, 2017
Do Catholics Follow All Those Weird Old Testament Laws?
Fr. Mike Schmitz explains why Christians are called to follow some laws of the Old Testament and not others. Passing on the advice of Pope Benedict XVI, he distinguishes between universal laws, like the Ten Commandments and “case by case” laws, like those to be followed only in the kingdom of Israel and the temple.
December 25, 2017
Why be Catholic and Not Just Christian
There are many similarities and differences between the Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations. In this video, Fr. Mike Schmitz narrows the differences down to one thing that really sets Catholicism apart from other Christian Churches: authoritative teaching.
December 20, 2017
Is there a preferred way to read the scriptures? Take a listen to some advice from Fr. Mike Schmitz and Bishop Robert Barron.
December 10, 2017
The Both-And Nature of Catholicism
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? That question can touch off an endless debate because it is largely irresolvable. Catholic teaching is that God is revealed through sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture, hence the statement that Catholicism is a “both/and” faith practice.
Our protestant brethren hold that scripture alone is the only authoritative resource for the faith and practice of the Christian. This doctrine is referred to as Sola scriptura (Scripture alone). The often quoted verse to support this doctrine come from the Second Letter of Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).
To view this from a Catholic perspective, some definitions are in order at the outset. Sacred Scripture, or the Bible, is that collection of works written under divine inspiration. Sacred Tradition is the unwritten or oral record of God’s Word to His prophets and apostles, received under divine inspiration and faithfully transmitted to the Church under the same guidance. Tradition differs from Scripture in that Tradition is a living reality passed on and preserved in the Church’s doctrine, life, and worship, while Scripture is a tangible reality found in written form.
Since the Protestant Reformation, a sticking point in the dialogue between Protestants and Catholics has been the perceived rivalry between Scripture and Tradition. The Catholic Church teaches that “sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church.” The focus of the debate shifted from one of “Scripture versus Tradition” to a discussion of the Lord’s desire to reveal Himself to His people, a process carried forward by both Scripture and Tradition.
From the temporal point of view, Tradition precedes Scripture, and the Church precedes both, in that the writing of the New Testament did not begin until some fifteen to twenty years after the Pentecostal formation of the Church and was not completed until perhaps as late as a.d. 120. The Gospel message, then, was imparted through oral tradition first, and only later was it committed to written form. The means (whether oral or written), however, is in many ways secondary to the goal (revelation) and to the receiver of the revelation (God’s people, the Church).
An example from American government might be instructive. The law of the land is found in the Constitution of the United States; it is normative for American life. However, it is not a self-interpreting document. On the contrary, it calls for detailed, professional interpretation from an entire branch of government dedicated to that purpose. Furthermore, when conflicting views do emerge, standard procedures of jurisprudence call for a return to the sources, in an effort to discover the mind of the people who produced the document.
The canon of the Bible (the officially accepted list of inspired books) is the clearest proof of the validity of this approach. We know with the utmost certitude that no authoritative list of scriptural books existed until the fourth century. And who then produced this canon? None other than the Church meeting in ecumenical council. Therefore, the value and even, one could say, the validity of the written Word is established only after its inspiration and inerrancy are assured and attested to by the Church. The process of divine revelation thus began with the Church, through Tradition, and subsequently passed into Scripture, and not the other way around.
Can it happen, though, that Scripture and Tradition will at times contradict each other? Impossible—because they are just two sides of the same coin, whose purpose is the same and whose origins are the same. Since God wishes to reveal Himself to us, He has guaranteed the process in both its oral and written expressions (and not one more than the other). Furthermore, God cannot contradict Himself. Saint Paul apparently had this very concept in mind when he urged his readers at Thessalonika to “hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours” (2 Th 2:15). This very passage, however, raises a secondary but related problem.
Some Christians tend to confuse “Tradition” with “traditions.” Having already defined Tradition, we need to consider the meaning and place of traditions (customs or practices). Sacred Tradition is divine in origin and, so, unchangeable; traditions are human in origin and therefore changeable. Some examples that come to mind are various devotions to the saints, processions, acts of penance, and the use of incense or holy water. No Church authority has ever held that these practices are divinely mandated; at the same time, no one can demonstrate that they are divinely forbidden. Traditions exist to put people in touch with Almighty God. To the extent that they do, they are good; to the extent that they do not, they are bad and should be modified or abolished.
Certain defined dogmas, on the other hand, cannot be found explicitly in Scripture (for example, Mary’s Assumption or Immaculate Conception), yet the Church binds her members to an acceptance of these teachings. How so? First of all, because nothing in Scripture contradicts these dogmas. Second, because they have been a part of the Tradition (or oral revelation) from the very beginning. Third, because they can be implicitly located in Scripture, waiting, in a sense, to be uncovered by the Church’s prayerful reflection over the centuries.
Scripture comes alive only in the life of the community that gave it birth and has ever since preached and proclaimed it. To remove Scripture from its moorings in the Church is to deny it genuine vitality. Scripture provides Tradition with a written record against which to judge its fidelity and thus serves as a safeguard. In the “balance of powers” (to resort once more to the governmental analogy), Tradition is a defense against an unhealthy individualism that distorts the Bible through a private interpretation at odds with the constant Tradition of the Church.
December 1, 2017
Since many will be searching for “all things Catholic,” we wanted to have a page that speaks specifically to Catholic thought and traditions. For instance, did you know:
The only Christian church in existence for the first 1,000 years of Christian history was the Roman Catholic Church (which we now simply call the Catholic Church). All other Christian churches which exist today can trace their lineage back to the Catholic Church. Most non-Catholic churches which exist today are less than a century or two old by comparison.
The Catholic Church consists of more than just the Roman Catholic Church. There are 22 Eastern Rites that are in full communion with Rome and although they go by different names, they are every bit as much a part of the Catholic Church.
Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, was Catholic and the first book ever printed was the Catholic Bible.
The Catholic Church is entirely responsible for the composition of the Bible, which books are included, as well as the breakup of the chapters and verses. Protestants have removed some books of the Bible because some of the verses were inconsistent with their theology (Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch). The Catholic Church is often accused of “adding” the books, but despite this common belief, it is false. Older, pre-Protestant, Catholic translations of the Bible include them.
That the number of saints that are recognized by the Catholic Church exceeds 10,000. Of course, any person who enters heaven is a saint, by definition, so it is certain the number of actual saints in existence is much greater than the number recognized by the Church.
About 15 percent of all hospitals in the United States are Catholic hospitals. In some parts of the world, the Catholic Church provides the only healthcare, education and social services available to people.
We will periodically add new Catholic-centric items that will help seekers answer the question, “Why do Catholics believe, think, or do those things?”