By Edmond Lo, M.T.S., catechist of the Chinese Martyrs Catholic Church
Unlike our Protestant counterparts who promote “Bible alone” (sola Scriptura), the Catholic Church teaches that the Bible cannot be properly understood without the teaching and guidance of the Church Magisterium, which does so following the Holy Tradition.
What is the Holy Tradition?
According to Vatican II, Tradition (from the Latin ‘traditio’ – ‘that which is handed down’) came from the preaching of the Gospel done by the apostles and other men associated with them, “who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit” (Dei Verbum, n.7).
In the words of Avery Dulles, S.J., a contemporary and well-respected mainstream Catholic theologian, “tradition involves a communal ‘sense of the faith’ aroused and continuously sustained in the Church by the Holy Spirit”; it is “grasped through familiarity or participation as a result of dwelling within the Church, taking part in its worship, and behaving according to its standards.” Tradition is “an organ of apprehension and transmission…the mode in which the Church perpetuates its faith and its very existence” (A. Dulles, The Craft of Theology, pp. 94 and 103).
Dulles contends that if “taken apart from the tradition in which it comes to the faithful, the Bible would no longer deserve to be called the word of God.”
Strong words, and yet so true!
There are many different ways to understand the teaching and events of the New Testament books. If you follow the Catholic tradition, you will see God as Trinitarian, for example. Similarly, you will find strong scriptural support for the Marian doctrines of Immaculate Conception and perpetual virginity. This is not the case at all if the Bible is read in the light of, say, the Jehovah Witnesses tradition, which disputes the divinity of Christ. Also, according to the traditions of many Protestant churches the Bible is understood to teach that Mary was not free from sins and had other children. Tradition is like eyeglasses: what you see is determined by what you wear!
But how could the Catholic Church claim that her tradition is the only tradition that has the authority and ability to properly interpret Scripture if hers is only one of many? Why are the Catholic “eyeglasses” necessarily better than all other eyeglasses? How could Catholic theologians such as Dulles be so “puffed up” as to claim that the Bible is no longer the word of God if taken apart from the Catholic tradition?
For one thing, of all the Christian denominational traditions, the Catholic tradition is one of a handful that was handed down to us directly from the apostles, who had first-hand experience in encountering the historical Christ.
More important, however, is the fact that of the few Christian traditions that can be traced back to the apostles (e.g. Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, etc.), the Catholic tradition is the only one that came down directly from Peter and Paul, the two glorious apostles of Christ, through two thousand years of continuous succession. The other traditions, while apostolic and originally part of the integral whole of the Petrine Church, had at one point or another branched out to progress and develop on their own, picking up characteristics and faith elements that are sometimes foreign to the Catholic faith.
According to Irenaeus, a second century and much-quoted saint, orthodox Christian faith is that which is believed in those apostolic churches, founded by the apostles. But among all the apostolic churches, he offered to produce only the line of succession “of the very great, the very ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul” (Against the Heresies 3.3.2).
In concluding this article, let me leave you with this final thought: the Catholic tradition provides a certain approach, a sense of the faith, if you will, that Catholics adopt in reading and understanding the inspired Scriptures. It was based on this reading and understanding of the Christian faith as preached and proclaimed by the apostles, that the early Church determined the Canon of the Scripture, i.e. the official list of inspired books. Wouldn’t any attempt to read and understand the Scriptures apart from this original reading and understanding render the Scriptures unworthy of being considered the “inspired books” or word of God? Remember, the message or teaching is not the book as such, i.e. the Bible, which is but a stack of papers; it is the reading, the understanding, and the teaching derived there from.
If you understand my concluding thought, you will understand the topic of this article.
(Taken from Magnificat Vol. XXXVIII, No. 4)
In the School of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Father John Gregory of the Trinity, O.D.M.
Our Lord expects us to have true humility, not just a show of humility. We sometimes imagine that humility consists in saying, “I am but dust and ashes, a nothing, a poor sinner”! Those are mere words. What God expects of us is humility of heart and meekness – for example, at moments when others tell us (or make us feel) that we are not worth very much. The willing acceptance of scorn is of infinitely greater value than any vain protestations. People have a very false idea of humility. They would like the servants of God to walk with lowered heads, and above all that they not bother anyone, but be weak and complacent in evil. No. If we serve God, we must be defenders of the rights of God, but not defenders of our own little personal rights. Yet at the same time that while we must make ourselves small before God and man, we have to be imposing and energetic when it is a matter of defending the rights of God. To remain silent in the face of what offends God is not humility. It is cowardice and treason.
Even though we must protest against the falsehoods circulating in the world, or against the errors of certain persons, we have to always do so with love in our hearts. There must never be any bitterness toward anyone whatsoever. It is in the school of Jesus, especially in prayer and not in books, that we will understand these things and receive the lights of God.
When we have humility, we seek only to please God. Little does it matter whether they canonize or condemn us, whether they say we are pleasant or detestable and anathema. That should leave us completely indifferent, as long as God is content. Humility makes us free, sets us above all human judgments. It gives us joy and peace of soul. Are we despised? Do we have the impression that we are being set aside, wrongly judged? It doesn’t matter; if we have the grace of God, it should suffice for us.
With humility, nothing saddens us. Even if the Pope himself were to blame you, you should not be sad if your conscience is at peace, if your only purpose is to please God. God permits misunderstandings of this sort. Any human being, even the holiest, can lack lights on certain matters at a given moment. There are cases of this in the lives of the saints.
For example, in good faith St. Alphonsus Liguori believed some serious accusations of infamous sins were supposedly committed by St. Gerard Majella, one of his religious. Saying not a word on his own behalf, St. Gerard accepted the harsh sanction that was inflicted upon him, maintaining his peace of soul because he knew that God had not been offended. He let himself be accused because the Redemptorist Rule states that one must not reply and defend oneself when under accusation. (Obviously, St. Gerard had taken that rule too literally; what the founder of the Redemptorist order meant was that the brothers should not justify themselves in trivial matters.)
So St. Gerard Majella did not defend himself. His conscience was at peace, so what could anything else matter to him. That is humility. He is not saying, “I am nothing…” but as soon as anyone wants to touch the little “nothing” he revolts and hits the ceiling. Like the saints, we must rise above all human considerations. I assure you, it is a grace of God to liberate oneself of all the opinions of others, even those of persons who live with us and whom we esteem the most. We must have only one desire: to please God in all things.
Yes, we have a very false idea of humility. For example, if you are in authority, you must not assign yourself the last place out of humility. In all simplicity, you must preside. If God entrusts you with a certain responsibility, you must accomplish it without human respect. If He asks you to speak, you must do so humbly, to obey God. I repeat: far too easily, we think that humility means letting everything take its course, lowering one’s head, and above all saying nothing.
What may seem to be humility is sometimes great pride. To remain silent because you realize that people do not listen to you very carefully and do not have a very high regard for you, is simply pride. Not to defend the rights of God out of human respect, or in order to avoid looking proud, is not humility but pride. It is humility to accept having others think of you as being proud. Oftentimes, those who defend the rights of God are thought of as proud. It is humility to place yourself above all human considerations and thoughts, in view of seeking God alone. Even if this attitude appears 100% proud, that is of little importance, as long as we sincerely seek to please God.
Nonetheless, we must never speak the truth with arrogance or in a spirit of argumentation or dissent, in order to have the upper hand. God does not want us to have the upper hand. He very simply wants us to make the truth known. He does not ask us to succeed, but to obey Him.
God asks us to sow the good seed, as Our Lord teaches us in the Gospel. “The kingdom of heaven is like one who sowed good seed in his field.”(1) We must sow the good seed of our good words and example. The rest is not in our province. If your neighbor turns a deaf ear, that is not your concern. You have done your duty, you have your merit before God. He is pleased: that should suffice.
Let us always have this spirit: to speak the truth with simplicity and without raising objections. Our zeal must never turn into argumentation and controversy. As soon as we persist in wanting to make our idea prevail, at once we separate from God, we fall into darkness. Let us not forget these words of the Holy Gospel: “Let your speech be, ‘Yes, yes,’ ‘No, no.’ Whatever is beyond these comes from the evil one.”(2) We avoid many problems by following this rule. Otherwise we want to win out, and sometimes the consequences are tragic. We go too far, we no longer see clearly, because we have separated from God.
If the dispositions of humility are not present in our soul, how can we expect to be enlightened by God? “God gives His grace to the humble and resists the proud.”(3) After all, what does it matter if a poor creature accuses us or places us in trouble? If we have sought to please God, what does all the rest matter to us?
You may be certain, my brothers and sisters, that by practising humility, patience and meekness, you will have the last word, because God will be with you. When God is present, we have the last word. Do you think anyone can prevent what God wills? “If God is with us, who will be against us?”(4) Let us always have the ambition of having God with us. This is all that counts.
(1) Matthew 13:24
(2) Matthew 5:37
(3) I Peter 5:5
(4) Romans 8:31
On March 18th 2001, Mother Mary said to the visionary Mirjana in Medjugorje, “Today I call you to love and mercy. Give love to each other as your Father gives it to you. Be merciful – with the heart. Do good works, not letting them wait for you too long. Every mercy that comes from the heart brings you closer to my Son.”
Here is one way to carry out “not letting them wait for you too long.” When someone has died, do not delay until the funeral Mass to pray for him. Do it now. Pray for his family and friends also, both the living and the dead.
The first part of the following prayer was given by Jesus to St. Gertrude the Great of Germany; we are told Our Lord promised that 1000 souls would be released from Purgatory each time the prayer was said.
The second part is added personally because Our Lady of Medjugorje invites us to pray for the people mentioned. We can ask her to beg from Jesus that 1000 souls in each of the other categories will be saved too when we pray this way. If we keep ourselves in a state of grace (especially through Confession and Holy Communion), our prayers are very efficacious.
“Eternal Father, I offer you the most Precious Blood of your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners and unbelievers, for those who are far from you and those who do not know your love: everywhere, in the universal Church, in all homes and all families. Amen.”
The Holy Spirit comes to a person in special ways at Baptism, Confirmation, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Holy Communion, Marriage, Holy Orders, the Sacrament of the Healing of the Sick; he comes when we love God by keeping Jesus’ commandments; he comes when it is in his plan to do so; he comes when we ask our Father.
The last point is supported by Jesus’ saying: “Ask and you will receive… If you, who are evil, know how to give to your children what is good, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:9, 13)
Let us be constantly reminded of the presence of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. He is an advocate who intercedes for us before the Father. He imperceptibly influences human beings and earthly events for the good of all. He defends, leads, guides, consoles. He brings wisdom and knowledge, counsel and understanding, fortitude and piety and reverence for God. He is the giver of life, healing, discernment, and many powers and gifts. From him come faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our Lady in Medjugorje has said that whoever possesses him to the full has everything.
We can ask our Father to give the Holy Spirit to ourselves in a particular situation, or to our loved ones, friends or enemies, to those who are difficult to get along with. Scripture assures us that he will give willingly, lavishly, and without reserve.
Here is a prayer that anyone can use:
“Dear Heavenly Father, in our present need, please give your Holy Spirit to (me, and/or name of another person or persons). I ask this in the name of Jesus. Praise you, good Father, and thank you for your generosity and mercy.”
(2) Pray to the Holy Spirit
Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything.” (John 14:26)
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to teach us all things, about God, about his purposes for us, about life, about truth, about our relationships, about our interests and tasks, about specific problems concerning ourselves, our work, our plans, our spouses, children, friends, relatives, colleagues, strangers…
Do not rely solely on human advice and help; always turn to God first, and trust him. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will lead you to the complete truth… and he will reveal to you the things to come.” (John 16:13)
Here is a simple prayer:
“Dear Holy Spirit, please reveal whatever is important to (me, and/or name of another person or persons), and especially at this time, teach us about (name the request). I ask this in Jesus’ name. Praise you, Lord, and thank you.”
Stay connected to the Lord. By these two short prayers, we can keep in conscious touch with God who lives in us at all times. May his peace be felt by those who keep him in their minds and hearts. May his peace come also to their families, parishes, work places, to whomever they meet and wherever they go.
“But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:26-27)