Here’s another Fr. Robert Barron Video where he reviews a recent survey on religion and some of the basic trends. The first half describes the largest growing category of religious observance: “None.” If this is you or someone you know there are important insights.
The second half of the video however contains a kind of warning for the Church. Many of the Mainline Protestant denominations have lost dramatic numbers. Why? In large part because they are no longer distinguished from the world around them. Once the distinctiveness of the church experience is lost, its adherents begin to say, “Why bother going since I can get the same things from the world?” Here then is the warning for us: We have been called out of the world, to be in sharp distinction to it values and priorities. Once we lose this distinctiveness we begin to loose numbers, parishes and schools close, and we shrink away. Dinstinguish or die! We’re supposed to be salt and light! So pass the salt and turn on the lights.
One of the most powerful questions that people wrestle with is the problem of evil. Why are there natural disasters, disease and death? Why does God stand by when moral evil is committed? The struggle with this problem has made some give up on God. In the following video, Fr. Robert Barron presents the problem and wrestles with it. Please be aware, Fr. Barron does not “resolve” the problem of evil. No one ever has. But he sets out well the limits of the discussion and the limits of our vision and thereby helps us to remain humble before so great a question.
Reason 27 – The Prayer of Christ. The scene is the Last Supper and Jesus is praying. At two critical moments his prayer focuses on unity. He prays to his Father in these words: And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. (John 17:11). So, central to Jesus prayer that fateful night of the last supper was that we have unity.
But how would this unity come to be? Is Jesus just praying for a kind of moral unity where we are all nice to each other and “get along” ?? As you might suspect, Jesus has a little more in mind than a mere moral unity. He actually has a plan as to how this unity will come to pass. It is Luke’s account of the Last Supper where this plan is spelled out most clearly. In a sadly comical moment in the Last Supper a debate broke out among them as to who was the greatest! (cf Luke22:24). Imagine, Jesus knows this is his Last Supper and that he will die the next day and he has to endure this sort thing. He goes on to teach the Apostles that authority is for service, not greatness and personal power. And then, in the midst of all this competition and division Jesus announces his plan for unity. He turns to Peter, calling him by his personal name, Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus warns that the devil would try to divide (“sift”) the twelve and the Church. What is Jesus’ solution? He will pray for Simon Peter and through his prayer for Simon Peter, the Church will be strengthened in its unity. Please pay attention here, Jesus’ plan to unify his Church is to pray for one man, Peter, and through that one man strengthen his Church in unity against the devil who seeks to divide it. Note that Jesus is not unaware of Peter’s weakness for he refers to it! Peter would have to turn back after his three-fold denial. But it is not Peter’s human strength that is to be the source of unity but, rather, Christ PRAYER for Peter that will unite the Church. Peter strengthens unity in the Church because of Christ’s prayer for him personally.
Down through the many centuries Christ Jesus has unified his Church by praying for Peter and his successors, the Popes. We follow Christ plan for unity only by staying united to Peter and his successors. Every other path breaks away from Christ’s plan and divides the Church. There is an old Latin teaching: Ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia (Where Peter is, there is the Church). In the Nicene Creed one of the four marks of the Church is that it is “one” (I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church…). But as I have tried to show you, we cannot fulfill Christ’s prayer and plan for unity if we are not one with the Pope. Only the Roman Catholic Church fulfills Christ’s prayer and plan for unity. Every denomination and individual who refuses unity with Peter’s successor, the Pope, exists apart from Christ’s plan for unity.
How does all this amount to a reason for coming home? Well let me ask you, “Do you want to fulfill Christ’s prayer for unity?” He prays that we all be one. This is an explicit prayer he made to his Father at his Last Supper. He laid out the plan. Do you want to be part of his plan for unity? Then come home. We cannot have unity without you. Neither can you have unity without us and without Peter’s successor. In the end the only way we can answer and fulfill Christ’s prayer is to be together in one Church, with Peter’s successor the Pope as the head of that Church. The devil wants to divide you and me. But Jesus is praying for the Pope, and through those prayers alone can we ever hope to have true unity. I invite you to consider fulfilling Christ’s prayer and plan by coming home to Catholic Church which he founded and unites through his prayer for the Pope.
Reason # 26 – This Really is Home– One of the bewildering aspects of Christianity is all the many different denominations that exist. They all claim to be authentically Christian and read the Bible accurately but all of them have differences that cannot simply be ignored. Now the truth cannot come in different versions. If one denomination says, “The Eucharist is the Body of Christ” and the other says, “It is not, it is only a symbol” , both cannot be right. How to sort all of this out? Which of these many denominations, saying many different things, speaks for Christ?
Well, would it matter to you if I said that only one of the contenders was actually founded by Jesus Christ? You see, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. Of all the Christian denominations only the Roman Catholic Church goes back to the time of Jesus Christ and was directly founded by Him. (I will say here too that the Eastern Orthodox Churches also stretch back to the time of Jesus and the Apostles so one may argue that they too have antiquity on their side but, I will point out in another post, they do not have unity with Peter, an essential quality of the Church Jesus founded.) The many other Christian “Protestant” denominations are actually fairly new and were founded by men, not Jesus. Martin Luther founded the Lutheran denomination, John Calvin the Presbyterians, KIng Henry VIII founded the Anglican (Episcopalian) denomination and so forth. Even the oldest of these denominations goes back only to the mid 1500’s. That means that the Catholic Church existed for more than 1500 years before any of the Protestant denominations came to be. Generally these denominations are called “Protestant” because they were “protesting” some teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther for example left the Church for what he considered to be very good reasons but the fact remains that he left the Church founded by Jesus to set up his own operation. Others did the same. After many of these denominations were underway, they began to divide off from each other so that, ,these days, there are many forms of Baptists, different Synods of Lutherans and so forth. All of them 500 years old or much less (Many Pentecostal denominations are less than 100 years old). Some argue today (perhaps with a bit if exaggeration) that there are almost 30,000 different Protestant denominations.
OK, so here’s the choice, A Church more than 2000 years old founded by Jesus himself or a denomination founded by man and rather a new operation at that. But before you answer let me also tell you that in founding his Church Jesus made some promises to the Church: That it would be founded on Peter, that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16:18ff) that Jesus would be with it all days until the end of the world (Matt 28:20), that he would anoint the Apostles with the Holy Spirit so that they would remember everything he told them (Jn 16:13), that he would give them and their successors authority to forgive sin(Jn 20:23), to bind and loose (Matt 16:19) and teach with authority such that whoever heard them would be hearing him (Luke 10:16), and that he would lead his Church to all the truth (Jn 16:13).
My point is finally this, If you are going to come home it is here, the Catholic Church. The one Church founded by Jesus Christ. The one Church that stretches back to Jesus himself and received powerful promises from Jesus. The one Church that cannot teach error for then the promise of Jesus that “the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church” and that he would “be with it all days till the end of the world, ” those promises of Christ would not hold firm. I did not say the Church was sinless (I know that because I am in it 🙂 ) but the Church cannot formally propose error for our belief. The Church may not always live the truth perfectly, but the Church teaches the truth perfectly by Christ’s own promises. This is home. This is the Church Jesus founded and secured by his promises. Come home, it’s right here.
Here is a video that explains how one man, a Protestant Minister found his way home through some of things we’ve discussed:
At a talk with a group of young adults, someone asked about the history of the Stations of the Cross and I did not have an answer! I certainly pray the Stations of the Cross and when I go into a church for the first time, I like to take a look at that Church’s stations because there are such a wide variety of styles. When I was a student in Rome, one of my most memorable experiences was praying the Stations of the Cross at the Roman Coliseum on Good Friday with Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul had the practice of inviting different groups of people to write the reflections to accompany the stations. The year I participated, he had invited Catholic journalists to be the writers. One of my housemates who wrote for a German Catholic newspaper was chosen as a writer. For all of the discussions we had about the Stations of the Cross as we helped her prepare, you would think I would have learned something about their origin.
A Long Tradition
The tradition dates back to the 11th century when it became popular for Christians to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land. In fact, one of the oldest accounts of a Holy Landpilgrimage is written by A Spanish woman named Egeria. These pilgrims desired to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, particularly, the path of his crucifixion and death (Via Crucis). During the 12th and 13th centuries when it became unsafe to travel to the Holy Land, many churches throughout Europe created an outdoor devotion with stations that depicted the life of Jesus. These stations numbered as few as five and as many as twenty. As the devotion grew in popularity, Pope Clement XII (1730-1740) set the number at 14. It wasn’t until the 18th century that churches began to place the stations on the inside walls. Some of you who are very observant will note that many churches have added a 15th station for the resurrection.
Alex Jones is a former Pentecostal Minister who found his way to the Catholic Church. It wasn’t easy for im to become a Catholic since he had a lot to loose. But he could not resist the Call of the Lord and the Church is now blesed to have him as a member and and effective Evangelizer. In These Videos of his conversion story he describes how, through his reading of the Fathers of the Church, he was struck at how Catholic the early Church was.
People stay away from the Church for many reasons. There are some who struggle with sins and a sense of unworthiness. Why would God be calling me? I am a sinner and I am not even sure I can give up my sin. If you are among those who may stay away for this reason, I wonder if you might consider watching this video. It is the end of a talk by Christopher Cuddy, a covert to Catholicism. He ponders our unworthiness to have received this call from Christ and encourages us to simply accept God’s love for us. God does not love us because we are good, we can only be good because God first loves us.
Christopher Cuddy is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism
He is the co-editor of I CHOOSE GOD: STORIES FROM YOUNG CATHOLICS and co-author of SWORD OF THE SPIRIT: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ST. PAUL.