A friend of mine was telling me about a friend of hers who had left the Catholic Church years ago. The woman asked my friend, “Do you know what the Catholic Church believes _________?” My friend answered, “That’s not what the Church teaches. Where did you hear that?”
There are a lot of misconceptions about what Catholic’s believe – even among Catholics. One of the problems is that (at least for my generation of 40 somethings), most of us had poor instruction about our faith as kids. In the 70’s, there was very little substance to what we learned in religion class. Most of what I’ve learned, I’ve sought out myself as an adult – reading scripture, the writings of the early church fathers, the catechism, letters from the pope and the wisdom of the saints. I also took adult education classes offered in my archdiocese.
Here are some of the things that people often misunderstand about the Catholic Church:
Many object to our statues and stained glass as being graven images forbidden by God in the Old Testament.
Graven images are objects of worship. We do not worship statues and pictures of saints, like the pagans of old worshiped golden statues. When the Lord gave the instruction for the building of the Ark of the Covenant, He gave directions for the two cherubim (angels) to be made to sit on either side of the tabernacle. Catholics believe that as a church, we are united – There is the Church Triumphant (those who have made it to heaven), The Church Suffering (those who have been “saved” but need to be purified before entering heaven), and the Church Militant (those “soldiers” on earth – that’s us). We use these pictures and statues to help us to form a mental photo of our friends in heaven whom we talk to, as one would have a picture of a family member on their mantle or refrigerator. They also raise our spirits to “higher things,” helping us to remember that this earth is not our home. Heaven is our ultimate destination, and we must live as such.
Some object to our “Mary worship.”
We love Mary, and honor her, but do not worship her. God alone (the whole Holy Trinity) is worthy to be praised and adored. We believe that when Jesus gave His mother to John, his beloved friend, and John to His mother as He hung on the cross, that He was symbolically giving her to us as our Mother as well. Are we not adopted sons and daughters of God through our redemption in Christ?
Why do we pray to Mary or the saints when the bible clearly states that “There is one mediator between God and man?” – Jesus Christ.” 1 Timothy 2:5
We do believe that there is indeed one mediator between God and man – Jesus’ sacrifice was the only way to open the doors of heaven to us. In this way, Jesus alone mediates. As I mentioned before, we feel “connected” with our family in heaven and in purgatory. Just as we ask friends on earth to pray for us during hard times, we believe that we can ask Mary and the saints to pray for us, too. We do often end prayer with “In Jesus Name,” as the bible does say that anything we ask in Jesus’ name will be given to us. ( John 14:4 ) We don’t end every prayer this way, however. When Jesus taught us to pray in the Our Father ( Matthew 6 ), he did not say, “In my name” at the end.
Where do Catholics get that? It’s not in the bible.
The Catholic beliefs come from two places – Sacred Scripture (The bible) and Sacred Tradition. When Jesus walked the earth, we know that He, being Jewish, was very familiar with the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). We also know that Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in the temple. The New Testament was not compiled until quite awhile after Jesus ascended into heaven. The bible as we know it didn’t exist in early Christianity. We all know that the bible is God’s sacred, inspired Word. Nowhere in the bible, however, does it state that this is the only place where our beliefs should come from. We believe that our church was begun by Christ himself, when he appointed Peter first leader (or pope – meaning “father” or “poppa” in Greek). Peter’s authority was passed onto the next pope, and so on and so on, all the way down to Pope Benedict XIV, who leads our church today. Some of the apostles and early church fathers recorded how mass/worship was celebrated in those early days of the church. After all, many of them knew Jesus personally, or knew those who were apostles of Jesus. We get some of the beliefs of our faith from the information that was passed on by them.
So as not to get too lengthy, I will continue this post tomorrow. If you have questions/curiosities about the Catholic church, or could use a refresher on defending the faith, please tune in:) Have a blessed Sunday!