TRADITION: The Sacred Oral Word

A NEW LIGHT ON TRADITION
Explaining Sacred Tradition More Convincingly

It has been previously explained that, in the Church, Tradition with a capital ‘T’ is Sacred Tradition; the Sacred Oral Word; the Gospel; and is not man-made. It is not the man-made traditions of the Jewish fathers that our Lord criticized in Matthew 15:1-9, and Mark 7:5-13, as being followed at the expense of the Law. Man-made traditions, Jewish or otherwise, are not inherently bad in themselves, and Jesus would not have objected to them had they not been upheld at the expense of the Law. It is when they infringe on God’s precepts that they are condemned.

Sacred (Christian) Tradition, on the other hand, is something totally different. It was simply called Tradition, and it was all oral, to begin with. For the first seventeen years after the Ascension of our Lord, Christian Revelation (that is, the Gospel, in the singular), was all oral. Absolutely nothing was written by any of the Apostles.

So, in the beginning, the word ‘Gospel’ in the singular meant, the Sacred Oral Word. Allow me to prove it: The first Apostle to use the word ‘Gospel’ in his writings was Paul in First Thessalonians (1:5), written in 51 A.D., and Galatians (2:5), written either around 48 A.D. or after 51 A.D. Of what was to become the New Testament, it was one of the first three books to be written. Other letters followed, and the four gospels were written between 70 and 90 A.D. So, when almost nothing had been written by the Apostles, Paul wrote the very first words, and right in the first few words he has ever written, he used the word ‘Gospel’. Therefore, he was referring to the Sacred Oral Word. Therefore, the word ‘Gospel’, in the beginning, meant the Sacred Oral Word. The Holy Bible was extracted from Sacred Oral Tradition centuries later.

The Sacred Oral Word did not remain oral, in the sense that it was never committed to the pen. Actually, it was written down. The main disciples who accompanied the Apostles wrote down and recorded what the Apostles preached; knowing full well that they would later have to preach them, themselves. To simplify, we say that the disciples of the Apostles recorded the Sacred Oral Word with the approval of their respective Apostle; and afterwards, some of the Apostles and some of their disciples, wrote the Written Word, which was what 300 years later became the New Testament of the Holy Bible.

Later on, after 50 A.D., as more and more letters began to be written to the churches and to individuals, taken from the precepts of the Oral Word, the word ‘Gospel’ began to mean, the Sacred Oral Word and the Written Word, prompting St. Paul in 52 A.D. to anticipate and call the Oral Word and the Written Word, ‘tradition’:

2 Thessalonians 2: 15 Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.

So, presently, the word ‘Gospel’ means the Bible and Tradition! Nowadays, we use the capital ‘T’ to differentiate Tradition from other Church traditions that can change with time. Basically, Tradition, with the capital ‘T’, does not change. Ever since Divine Christian Revelation (the New Testament and Tradition) became complete, that is, ever since the time of the Apostle John in the first century (the mid 90’s), Tradition, forming part of the Deposit of Faith, has remained constant. What can change is the method of teaching and the method of interpreting knowledge of new scientific facts that come to light, and their ramifications, such that the faithful may continue to live the proper moral life. The teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium (the Pope and the bishops) is the body that decides on such matters. Thus, we can use the connotation: a ‘living Tradition.’ The Bible, Tradition and the Magisterium are interconnected. Not one of these three can ever subsist without the other two! (CCC 82, and 95) The Deposit of Faith consists of the Bible and Tradition. This is the totality of Divine Revelation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) confirms the basic constancy of the Deposit of Faith:

CCC 74 God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”:29 that is, of Christ Jesus.30 Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth:
God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.31

CCC 85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

CCC 86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”48
Footnotes: 29 1 Timothy 2:4. 30 cf. John 14:6. 31 Dei Verbum 7; cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20; 3:16-4:6. 47 Dei Verbum 10 § 2. 48 Dei Verbum 10 para 2.

Kindly read CCC 75-84, 95, 97, 100, 113, 120, 126, 174, and 1124, as they deal with this subject.

For a fact, the Oral Word, now written down, ruled the Church, not just then, but throughout four centuries. Around the 50s A.D., parts of Tradition began to be used in the writings of letters to the churches and to individuals, addressing problems that these churches were encountering. Afterwards, the four gospels were composed. These letters and gospels were approved at the Council of Hippo in 393 and later at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D., as forming the New Testament of the Holy Bible, as we know it today. In fact the whole books of the Catholic Bible were approved at these two councils, and there has been no change ever since.

When we say, ‘Tradition’, we are talking here about what Jesus Christ our Lord taught the Apostles and what our Lord the Holy Spirit re-taught and explained to the Apostles (and not directly to us), as per the promise. Addressing the Apostles, Jesus said:

John 14: 26 “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name–he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.”

John 16: 12 “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. 13 But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.

Therefore, from the words of Jesus, we deduce two things that the Holy Spirit did at Pentecost and thereafter: He reminded the Apostles of what Jesus said, and He taught them new things, which they were not ready to learn from Jesus. This is a mystery connected to what Jesus had said a couple of minutes before the last quote above: “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Now, the intimate involvement of the Holy Spirit can best be grasped from the verses of the Acts of the Apostles referenced just two paragraphs below the next two quotes. Now, Paul confirms this intimate involvement in two separate verses:

1 Thessalonians 1: 5 For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the holy Spirit with much conviction.

2 Timothy 1: 13 Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard this rich trust with the help of the holy Spirit.

Our Separated Brethren are confused about the meaning of Tradition and what it consists of. All of the previous paragraphs are the answer. For those who are not cognizant of the preceding paragraphs, they might charge that tradition is unreliable; that it is word of mouth and is subject to distortions. Such a charge usually reduces most Catholics to silence. But, our answer should be to direct them to the above and to history (and the actions of the Holy Spirit), thus proving that Tradition ruled the Church right from the beginning. Besides, since nothing of the New Testament was committed to the pen for 17 years, and if Tradition is unreliable and became corrupt, then the Bible is now corrupt, because what was written down was taken from Tradition! If the Bible is corrupt, then our faith is in vain!

If they refuse to go deep in history, tell them that earthly word of mouth may be unreliable according to human wisdom. But, we are not dealing with human wisdom here. We are now in the realm of Divine Wisdom. For the brief period when nothing was written, we can still say that according to Divine Wisdom, Tradition is extremely reliable. What has happened in this realm is that Jesus taught all the Apostles the same thing. Did He not? And, what has happened is that the Holy Spirit re-taught all the Apostles the same thing. Did He not? And the Apostles went out and taught the Jews and the Gentiles the same thing. Did they not? And the Holy Spirit remained with the Apostles and watched over them. Did He not? (Acts 1:2; 4:8; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6-7; 20:22-23; 20:28; 21:4, and 21:11). He is still watching over their successors, even now!

We have already demonstrated the involvement of the Holy Spirit in the teaching and preaching process. Kindly, refer to the two Pauline quotes above, where Paul says that the Gospel came not just in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and that the disciples guarded this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit! So, the Gospel came to the Apostles supernaturally, and their retention of it was also supernatural!! Now, grasp this: The Holy Spirit always presides over Church councils. The first council in the history of Christianity, the Council of Jerusalem:

Acts 15: 28 ‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, 29 namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’”

So, all at once, all had the Gospel. All had the same teaching, from India to the Atlantic! This Deposit of Faith became the Norm. From then on, the Word of God had its momentum that no one could derail, and everything would be measured with respect to this Norm. Heresies became rampant soon after, as they are nowadays, for, the devil had not been idle; rather, he worked overtime trying to destroy the Church. Therefore, whenever a heresy surfaced, it was examined and compared to the Norm. If it did fit, well and good. If, however, there was any contradiction, the new is rejected and the old, the Norm, retained and upheld as being authentic, just as aptly described by Paul:

Galatians 2: (concerning false brothers) 5 “to them we did not submit even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain intact for you.”

With this knowledge and understanding, many a scripture passage can now be seen in a new light and begin to make more extraordinary sense, like the ones immediately above and below:

1 John 2: 24 “Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.”

In the above quotes, Paul and John are both confirming what we explained: that the old is the authentic and the new is the improvised. You see, nothing was added to Divine Revelation after the time of John. And, John is saying, ‘Take to heart what you learned in 31, 32, 33, 34, 44, and 54 A.D., and not what you have heard in the last 500 years. Keep to the Norm!! Paul says:

Galatians 1: 9 As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed!

Remember here that the word ‘received’ was written 350 years before the Bible was compiled; even before the gospels were ever written! Now, the following quotes are two corroborating explanatory statements from of old:

St Athanasius (296-373 A.D.): “The very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, was preached by the apostles and was preserved by the Fathers. On this was the Church founded, and if anyone departs from this, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called, a Christian.”

St. Vincent of Lerins (d. after 434 A.D.): “Guard” says St. Paul, “what has been committed”. What does it mean? It is what has been faithfully entrusted to you, not what has been discovered by you; what you have received, not what you have thought up; be not the leader but the follower!

To visualize matters better, in the early life of the Church, if a bishop turned out to be an injected wolf (Matthew 7:15 and Acts 20:29), or a heretic, the whole Truth was with the other bishops who would force him to change his ways and repent, otherwise, he would be exposed and excommunicated. This is the force of Tradition given to us through the grace of Divine Wisdom! On the other hand, during the first centuries of the life of the Church, a popular answer to the claims of a heretic, was: ‘Who are you? Where did you come from? Who is your bishop? Show us your Catalogue of Bishops!’ This shows that there is a record in the churches of the line of bishops and priests who have served, thus proving Apostolic Succession by the Laying on of Hands, a customary procedure when sending disciples out on missions to establish churches and man them, as attested to in Numbers 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 34:9; Matthew 19:13; Acts 9:17; Hebrews 6:1-2, 1 Timothy 4:14, and:

2 Timothy 1: 6 For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

Titus 1: 5 For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you,

Actually, heresies were benefiting the Church tremendously; producing explanations which helped crystallize and broaden understanding of already proven, existing teachings. ,In other words, heresies helped the Church defend, and thus, define her borders and everything within; define them to her faithful and to those wishing to convert. Keep in mind that accepted Church teachings were explained further only when they were challenged by the heretics. As an illustration, I do not go around calling out my age every couple of seconds. But, when I declare it and am challenged, I would affirm it and, if necessary, show my ID as proof. Often, dates given to dogmas and doctrines are dates on which heresies were refuted and not when these dogmas and doctrines were put into practice.

For the sake of our Separated Brethren, we point out an important axiom: that we do not join the Church because the choir is good, or because the pastor preaches well, or because the service is neat and orderly and well coordinated, or because there is fellowship, or because the church is nearby and is heated and air conditioned. We do want all these things, but, they are hardly the criteria for joining the Church.

We do join the Church because she has the whole Truth, including, most importantly, the Real Presence of the Lord: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The whole Truth is the only consideration. Nothing else matters. Never mind if, for example, we are given the cold shoulder or we are left out from some activity, or our ego is not being soothed. One can always find a way out, or, in irreconcilable situations, look for another Catholic church nearby to fit into. The important thing is to be in the Church that Jesus Christ founded, which the forces of the netherworld can never prevail against (Matthew 16:19); in which the Deposit of Faith can be found in its entirety. That means that the Church Jesus Christ established never died. After the Resurrection, there was no time in A.D. history in which the Catholic Church was not!!!

In conclusion, the Holy Bible is all truth, but not all the truth. There is ‘Tradition’. It is sacred! After all, it is the Word of God, just like the Holy Bible is. And, it was written down during the time of the Apostles and under their supervision! Ours is not a religion of the Book; it is the Religion of the Word! Where can we find Tradition? What concerns us from Tradition is all over the pages of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. However, the Catechism does not contain only Tradition, but also Scripture and Magisterial teaching throughout the history of the Catholic Church. In pocketbook form, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a 700+ page book containing 2,865 numbered paragraphs; a really beautiful document selling for under $ 10! On the Internet, the whole Deposit of Faith (the Bible, the Catechism and Magisterial documents) can be had through this Vatican link: http://www.vatican.va/archive/index.htm.

Reflection #1: Kindly reflect on this truth: With every mention of the word ‘church’ in the Bible, the Catholic Church is meant, because there was no other church in existence for one thousand years! Logic! The link here is St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch for some 38 years (d. 107 A.D.), who was the first on record to call the Church the catholic Church. The key is that he was ordained Bishop of Antioch by Peter and was the disciple of John, and lived concurrently with John for a third of a century. So, St. Ignatius of Antioch is an Apostolic Man, just like Timothy and Titus, and therefore, knew what he was and what he was talking about. Why is he not mentioned in the Bible? God did not choose Peter and John to write about their travels. He chose Paul for this mission. Some of those who were appointed bishops and took their positions and did not travel with the Apostles were also not mentioned by Paul.

If you are thinking of the word catholic being with a small ‘c,’ I tell you that the rules of Grammar dictate that we use a capital ‘C’ for the only Church in existence for a thousand years!

Now, let me repeat: With every mention of the word ‘church’ in the Bible, the Catholic Church is meant, because there was no other church in existence for one thousand years!

Reflection #2: The Catholic Church is necessary for salvation for those who know that fact (CCC 846; and 847: This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church). Listen to just one sentence of Paul’s: “To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens” (Ephesians 3:8-10). It says: through the church and not through the Bible.

Reflection #3: The Catholic Church has all the Truth; all of God’s revelations.  Paul calls “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

Almost all the ideas in this article are adaptations from The Church and Tradition, by Msgr. George Agius, TAN Books (.com), 1928/2005; highly recommended for those who doubt. God bless.

INFALLIBILITY

WHO IS REALLY A CATHOLIC?
An Incidental Exhortation on Infallibility

The answer to this question is very simple: The one who does not say ‘No’ to the Pope! Of course, we are talking here about Faith and Morals. “With the help of the Holy Spirit I will try to explain why we, as Catholics, always take the side of Peter’s successor” (the wordings of Dr. Brian Kelly).

During Bible study elsewhere, a couple of weeks ago, somebody posed this question and I answered it just as I did today. A Catholic husband and wife team in their seventies or more, who were engaged in academia all their lives were indignant at my response. I was shocked when they declared that they considered they needed to examine everything the Pope says and give their opinion; that it is their ‘civil’ right. It definitely never was their right. But, having lived in ignorance of the real tenets of their faith all their lives, they came to the wrong conclusion, following the vain thinking of the world. If in the past they had ignorance as an excuse, nowadays, there is no excuse for ignorance, not after 13 years of Bible study; otherwise, we might be tempted to declare that Bible study is ineffective without a thorough grounding in the Faith through Catholic Apologetics. Anyway, the reality is that some civil rights in this case need to be relinquished by Christians who understand the will of the Father. God comes first (Acts 5:29).

You see, for a closely knit Catholic family, proper catechesis (the Domestic Church) would have solved the problem ages ago, resulting in a more fruitful life. Now, as it is, years and years have been lost. Major mistakes are bound to have been made, such as having taken contraceptives during marriage (or worse still, before marriage), thus messing with Procreation, which is God’s plan for us. A superficial reading of the New Testament of the Holy Bible, and a young couple would think that engaging in sex before marriage is OK since it is a norm in this world, and they did not come across it in the Bible; whereas, the Word clearly states that such is prohibited (the keyword here is fornication: 1 Corinthians 6:9). Actually, in one Bible, only the word fornicators is mentioned, and then, only once.

Anyway, the Word of God says we are in the world, we are for the world, but we are not of the world (John 15:19, and 17:15). Our citizenship is in Heaven (John 17:14-18; Philippians 3:20). So, we do not have to do what they do. In brief, those Catholics who jump up to defend personal rights and freedom, very often are ignorant of the ways of the Lord, and ignorant of the known details of His plan of salvation for us. Back to the Pope:

It is elementary that no entity can survive without a head, a seer, an administrator, a controller. It is also elementary that if an administrator is needed to manage affairs at the start of a movement, as long as that movement is alive, it will always need an administrator to keep it on track. That having been said and approved, I can now declare that our Lord Jesus Christ chose Peter, despite his faults, to start organizing this way of life we call Christianity.

Let me assure you that it was to Peter alone that Christ said, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). It was to Peter alone that Christ said, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). It was to Peter alone that Christ said:

Luke 22: 31 Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”

It was to Peter alone that Christ said three times, “Feed my lambs”; “Tend my sheep”; “Feed my sheep” (John 20:15-19); thus, making Peter our shepherd on earth. So, to properly appreciate the authority that our Lord gave to Peter, one has to examine the precedent cited by Isaiah:

Isaiah 22: 22 I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.

Peter confirmed our Lord’s choice when at the First Ecumenical Council in the history of Christianity, the Council of Jerusalem, he said in the quote in verse 7 below:

Acts 15: 6 the apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter. 7 After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe”

…thus making Peter the head teacher, preacher and interpreter of Scripture (the Bible). Since we will always need a Peter, his successors, the Popes carry the same weight Peter carried and practically have the same authority. The other apostles (who can be considered super bishops, Cardinals by today’s standard, since they were appointing bishops: 1 Timothy 3, and 4:6, and Titus 1:5-9) also received authority from Jesus to bind and loose (Matthew 18:18), but only in the context of forgiving sins. Anyway, along with Peter, they were made priests when Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24), and reconfirming it a few hours after His Resurrection (John 20:22-23), when Jesus bestowed on them the authority to forgive sins (or withhold them). So, Peter heads the apostles and with them appoints bishops and explains the Gospel, and any new problem surfacing having a bearing on the Deposit of Faith. Today’s parallel is the Pope with his Magisterium, the bishops, the Cardinals, the teaching authority of the Church.

As a Catholic, how can I question the Pope about doctrine, the explanation of Scripture, the Deposit of Faith and any other decision affecting such, due to new challenges brought about by scientific discoveries, or due to the upsets of the evil one and his allies? I may question the Pope about baseball or cooking recipes, but how can I question him about doctrine and morals and such, when God gave him the keys of the kingdom and the power to bind and loose on earth and to teach. It is God’s say and not mine. I have free will to think and reason, and I thought (not for very long), and I reasoned it best not to council God, as some are so inclined (1 Corinthians 2:16). I have free will to obey God and, with perseverance to the end, to reap eternal life; and I also have free will to disobey God and go to hell. God counsels: Choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).

I did. I said, “Yes, Lord”. And I said and will keep on saying, “Yes, Holy Father”, to whatever the Roman Pontiff decrees. On Faith and Morals, I can say, ‘Yes!’ to the Pope and I can say, ‘No!’ But, I cannot question him. If I say, ‘No,’ I am rejecting him. And if I reject him, I am rejecting God:

Luke 10: 16 Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

On Faith and Morals, the Pope and the rest of the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church), together, are infallible for five reasons:

Firstly: Because the Gospel is infallible, it must be taught infallibly. What good is infallibility if the interpretation is going to be faulty?!

Secondly: Because the Church has the fullness of the Truth (the whole Deposit of Faith):

1 Timothy 3: 15 But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.

Thirdly: Because our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a precedent and has as good as said that on Faith and Morals, the Pope is infallible when he speaks from the Chair of Peter (ex cathedra):

Matthew 23: 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,

Fourthly: Because our Lord, the Holy Spirit is directly involved in directing the life of the Church, especially at Church Councils. Behold, at the Council of Jerusalem, some 2,000 years ago:

Acts 15: 28 ‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities,

Fifthly: Because Matthew 16:18-19 says that whatever Peter decrees on earth, it will also be decreed in Heaven and God is not going to let a mortal jeopardize Heaven. Thus, the Holy Spirit works very closely with the Pope and the Magisterium. In fact, as I have said earlier, the Holy Spirit presides over Church councils (Acts 15:28).

Now, to have a better grasp of the workings of our Lord, the Holy Spirit, refer to the following verses from the Acts of the Apostles: 8:29; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 16:7; 20:22; 20:23; 21:11; and, 28:25. Let us display one:

Acts 13: 1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.

So, I will not say, ‘No!’ I will say, ‘Yes,’ of my own free will, and couple it to my faith; a faith which builds up through ever increasing knowledge of Him and His will for me.

This is why even a primitively knowledgeable Catholic does not say ‘No!’ to the Pope; does not say ‘No!’ to the teachings of the Church, “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The Catholic who questions the Pope on Faith and Morals is ignorant of the manifested ways of God and is considered of weak/incomplete faith. Even those truths in the Catholic Church which I am not yet aware of, I accept unconditionally, because the Catholic Church is in possession of the whole Truth; in possession of all of the Deposit of Faith, which the Church has zealously guarded for you and for me, for more than 1,900 years through Apostolic Succession by the Laying on of Hands (Numbers 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 34:9; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:1-2); unchanged, unadulterated, just as Paul described it:

Galatians 2: 4 but because of the false brothers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, that they might enslave us– 5 to them we did not submit even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain intact for you.

Employing Logic and a touch of Philosophy, if you agree that by heaven’s choice, what Peter opens nobody shuts and what Peter shuts nobody opens (Matthew 16:19; and Isaiah 22:22), then, you are agreeing that Peter is Pope, and that he decrees what is already (or will be) at work in HEAVEN! Since God is not going to let a mortal jeopardize heaven; then, still employing Logic and Philosophy, we can only deduce that Peter had the clearly discernible companionship of the Holy Spirit! Therefore (Logic), the Holy Spirit is the Guarantor! Therefore (Logic), on my lips there can only be ‘the YES!’ to all that the Catholic Church teaches. Did we not say in confirmation in the Act of Faith when we became adults that “I believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because You, have revealed them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived”? From here on, I can only behave and learn.

A word of caution here from the Church is appropriate. Reflect on the following: Common sense and logic dictate that I believe all that the Church teaches, because Jesus is the Truth and the Triune God is All Truth. Therefore, all that God has revealed must be accepted by the community of Faith. If we are rejecting any truth revealed by our Lord, the Holy Spirit, then we are committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and this is THE UNPARDONABLE SIN; pardonable, neither in this age nor in the age to come. That leaves only one place for the perpetrator who does not repent, should he/she die unrepentant: HELL! Jesus said:

Matthew 12: 31 Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit 22 will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Footnote: 22 [31] Blasphemy against the Spirit: the sin of attributing to Satan (⇒ Matthew 12:24) what is the work of the Spirit of God (⇒ Matthew 12:28).

A Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph is very appropriate here, coming from the only Church that has all the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15):

CCC 2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

To top things off, let us point out again here and emphasize that the Holy Spirit is the One Who built the Church and accompanied her over all these years and still does and will continue to do so until the end of time.

We just do not say ‘No!’ to the Pope on matters of Faith and Morals. If anybody, including theologians, thinks God left a knowledge gap in His Church so that a person can prove his superiority over others, scandalous as the idea is, let him take it up with the Pope, not with us the Laity; and take it up along the hierarchical route: Talk to the priest, the priest to the bishop, the bishop to the Conference of Bishops and the Conference of Bishops to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to the Pope and his Magisterium; the Magisterium being the Servant of the Word, and not its master (CCC 86).

These are the teachings of the Church on infallibility: Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

CCC 2035 The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.77

CCC 889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.”417

CCC 890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

CCC 891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

CCC 2051 The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.

So, in the Catholic Church, we do not pick and choose. We accept all of God’s Revelations.

We do not question the Pope and the Church on Faith and Morals.

The Catholic Church has never been wrong on Faith and Morals throughout her two-thousand-year life!

CONVERSION IS A DAILY LIFELONG PROCESS

Salvation is a lifelong process. It might be recorded as starting on a definite date, but, for Catholics, it has started way back, has either faltered, or has advanced very slowly, at a healthy pace or moved into fruition rapidly (CCC 1229). For Catholics who have faltered or have advanced very slowly, and for Non-Catholics, it may appear to have come as a decision later in life, and therefore, may be given a date.

Non-Catholics, as well as uninformed/misinformed Catholics consider conversion as a one-time process which, for a period, moves forward at whatever pace it does, reaching a plateau in whatever time it takes. It is a cruise, thereafter, for most of them. This is, of course, a wrong assumption. Additionally, the belief in the slogan: ‘Once saved, always saved’ is also erroneous. The Catholic Church, “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), teaches that salvation may be lost, and that conversion is a constant effort lasting a lifetime. Let us prove it, using the Bible:

Salvation can be lost because God has given us free will, and consequently, we can turn our backs on the Lord (God forbid) anytime we wish. If we ignore the prompts of the Holy Spirit in us (CCC 851) and listen consistently to the prompts of our flesh, and/or those of the devil, we will fall. We need knowledge of God and knowledge of His will if we are to have strong faith to discern and then resist the bad prompts; strong faith that we may persevere under hardship and during tribulation which the devil and the world are sure to provide us with, as promised by the Word of God. The key word here is ‘persevere.’ The moment we lose hope, all is lost. Never, never, never lose hope! The Lord is always near (Matthew 28:20), and in plenty more than one way: Romans 10:8; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Ephesians 2:13; Philippians 4:5.

A. Salvation can be lost because God has given us free will. Best of all is a quote by Moses and from the Book of Sirach from the Old Testament, and lastly, from the teaching of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Deuteronomy 30: 19 I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live,

Sirach 15: 14 When God, in the beginning, created man,
he made him subject to his own free choice…
17 Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him…
20 No man does he command to sin,
to none does he give strength for lies.

1 Timothy 5: 15 For some have already turned away to follow Satan.

The necessity of faith
CCC 161:
Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 “Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’”43

Perseverance in faith
CCC 162:
Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.”44 To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;45 it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.46

Footnotes: 42 Cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:36; 6:40 et al. 43 Dei Filius 3:Denzinger-Schonmetzer 3012; cf. Matthew 10:22; 24:13 and Hebrews 11:6; Council of Trent: Denzinger-Schonmetzer 1532. 44 1 Timothy 1:18-19. 45 Cf. Mark 9:24; Luke 17:5; 22:32.
46 Galatians 5:6; Romans 15:13; cf. James 2:14-26.

God has given us free will so that our love for Him might take us to Him without coercion. Try to recall the words of Jesus, our Lord, and see how He is always advising us, showing us the way and never really ordering us to do anything. Of course, there are commandments and precepts and all, but, they come into play after we make our decision to follow Him and become His disciples.

So, in our free will, we are subject to three prompts: that of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; CCC 851), that of the flesh (Matthew 26:41) and Satan’s (John 13:2; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Learning to distinguish between these prompts is the key to walking in the footsteps of Christ. This key is based on acquiring knowledge of the will of God. The prompts of the Holy Spirit and those of the flesh are discussed together, first. Paul:

Romans 8: 5 For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. 6 The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace. 7 For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God; it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. 12 Consequently, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

And, the following are scriptural evidence of the three prompts that are in us:

1. The Prompt of the Holy Spirit:

Romans 5: 3 Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, 4 and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.

CCC 851 Missionary motivation. It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, “for the love of Christ urges us on.” Indeed, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”; that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God’s universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.

2. The Prompts of the Flesh:
Matthew 26:
41 Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

3. The Prompts of the Devil:
John 13:
2 The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper…

James 4: 7 So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Peter 5: 8 Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.

B. We have been promised hardships and persecution:

Mark 10: 29 Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

Luke 9: 23 Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

2 Timothy 3: 12 In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

C. The conversion process is a lifelong experience:

Philippians 1: 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5: 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

2 Corinthians 4: 16 Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Pope John Paul II’s Redemptoris Missio 47: Certainly, every convert is a gift to the Church and represents a serious responsibility for her … especially in the case of adults, such converts bring with them a kind of new energy, an enthusiasm for the faith, and a desire to see the Gospel lived out in the Church. They would be greatly disappointed if, having entered the ecclesial community, they were to find a life lacking fervor and without signs of renewal! We cannot preach conversion unless we ourselves are converted anew every day.

These are the teachings of the Church on Conversion, through the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

CCC 1435: Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.

CCC 1436: The Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. “It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.”

CCC 1439: The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure, worthy, and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart Of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

CCC 1490: The movement of return to God, called conversion and repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, and the firm purpose of sinning no more in the future. Conversion touches the past and the future and is nourished by hope in God’s mercy.

CCC 1888: It is necessary, then, to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the human person and to the permanent need for his inner conversion, so as to obtain social changes that will really serve him. The acknowledged priority of the conversion of heart in no way eliminates but on the contrary imposes the obligation of bringing the appropriate remedies to institutions and living conditions when they are an inducement to sin, so that they conform to the norms of justice and advance the good rather than hinder it.

CCC 2784: The free gift of adoption requires on our part continual conversion and new life.

Therefore, the Christian life is learning to discern these three main voices in us, discarding the prompts of the flesh and that of the Devil, and following the prompts of the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life. God bless.