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YOUCAT Series 21 – How We Celebrate the Christian Mysteries: God and the Sacred Liturgy

Questions 170 to 178
Here we look at the centrality of God and Jesus’ death and Resurrection to the liturgy; as well the roles faith, the sacraments and the liturgy play in our redemption.

Q. 170
Read Audience: Praying as the Body of Christ:

The liturgy is a “participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1073). The Church, as Christ’s Mystical Body and united with him, offers worship to the Father. By identifying ourselves with Christ in his prayer to the Father, we rediscover our deepest identity as Christians, as children of “Our Father who art in heaven”. The liturgy is also an encounter of the whole Christ, that is, with Christ and his body the Church. Thus, the liturgy is a sharing in the prayer of the living, universal community of believers in Christ. Prayer becomes the habitual realization of the presence of God, as we make the words of the Church our own, and learn to speak in her and through her. The Church is most truly itself in the liturgy, as it is the place where God comes to us and enters our lives. Let us remember that the liturgy is celebrated for God, not for us; it is his work; he is its subject. For our part, in the liturgy we must leave ourselves open to be guided by him and by his Body, the Church”.

Q. 171
See Pope Benedict: The Liturgy Lifts Our Hearts to God:

“As the Second Vatican Council teaches, it is by means of the liturgy that Christ, our Redeemer and High Priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with and through his Church. This is the great marvel of the liturgy: God acts, while we are caught up in his action,” the Pope said…

The people in question are the “new people of God, brought into being by Christ” through his passion, death and resurrection. This means it is a people “which does not exist by itself and which is not bound by blood, territory or country, but is brought into being through the paschal mystery,” the Pope noted.

Q. 172
From What are the seven Sacraments?:

Jesus Christ instituted the sacraments…There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1210)The traditional definition of a sacrament is this: “A sacrament is a visible sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace”.

Q. 173
This question describes the effects of Sacramental Grace.

Q. 174
From A Tour of the SUMMA:

Man acquires intellectual knowledge from sense-knowledge. Therefore, sensible signs are aptly used to signify spiritual things. A sacrament is a sign that the senses can grasp; then the mind can read the intellectual and spiritual meaning which the sign is meant to convey. A sacrament is always an outer or sensible sign.

Q. 175
See Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Q. 176
Again from A Tour of the SUMMA:

Not every sacrament of the New Law imprints an indelible character on the soul. Such a character is impressed by those sacraments which are ordained for divine worship and which give a person power to receive or confer other sacraments. Baptism empowers a person to receive other sacraments. Confirmation … has something of this same purpose. Holy order empowers the receiver to confer sacraments on others. Therefore, these three sacraments (baptism,confirmation, holy order), imprint, respectively, a character on the soul. A property of these sacraments is that they can be received only once by the same person. Their respective characters never fade or admit of renewal.

Q. 177
From Faith, Sacraments and the Unity of the Church:

15. The sacraments of the Church are “sacraments of faith” where God the Father hears the “epiclesis”. (invocation) in which the Church expresses its faith by this prayer for the coming of the Spirit. In them, the Father gives his Holy Spirit who leads us into the fullness of salvation in Christ. Christ himself constitutes the Church as his Body. The Holy Spirit edifies the Church. There is no gift in the Church which cannot be attributed to the Spirit. (Basil the Great, PG 30, 289). The sacraments are both gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus Christ in the Church. This is expressed very concisely in an Orthodox hymn of Pentecost: “The Holy Spirit is the author of every gift. He makes prophecies spring forth. He renders priests perfect. He teaches wisdom to the ignorant. He makes fishermen into theologians and consolidates the institution of the Church”.

Q. 178
See the New Catholic Dictionary: ex opere operato.

Reflection Questions
• What is the hookup culture?
See ‘Hookup’ culture mentality creates social indifference

• What is Sola Scriptura?
See Why Sola Scriptura Cannot be True

Note: The iamthird blog is running a Youcat Series too! Check it out here.

YOUCAT Series 14 – What We Believe: “I Believe in … the Holy Catholic Church”

Questions 121 to 128
This section talks about what the Church is and the role of the Church and its members.

Q. 121
See What does Church mean?

Q. 122
Go to Lumen GentIum (from Vatican II on the Church):

He [God] planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ. Already from the beginning of the world the foreshadowing of the Church took place. It was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant.(1*) In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest. At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and “from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,”(2*) will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church.

Q. 123
The essential nature and task of the Church:

… [T]he only truly independent mind … [is] the Church. And that keeping her company, entering into her, entrusting yourself to her faith–which is allegedly being nothing but infantile and dependent–represents in reality the greatest degree of independence from the spirit of the age and signifies greater boldness than is embodied in any other possible position. …That is not an infantile dependence; that is courage to contradict and the freedom to go against prevailing opinions, the freedom that offers us a firm footing and which the Church has not invented for herself.’ – Cardinal Ratzinger (Full text)

Q. 124
To gain a better understanding of this concept, read the comments section of this blog called Institution of the Catholic Church by Christ.

Q. 125
See Vatican II: the Church as the people of God.

Q. 126
Read the Encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ:

13. If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ – which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church [12] – we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression “the Mystical Body of Christ” – an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Fathers.

Q. 127
For this question read hereSt Cyril of Jerusalem and the Church as the Bride of Christ and here.

Q. 128
On the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Reflection Questions
• How does faith enlighten reason?
See Augustine: Reason and Faith, Philosophy and God

• What is transhumanism?
See Transhumanists Selling their Technological “Utopia” to Christians

The Dignity of Women.

Today women are often looked upon by men in ways God never intended.
Satan’s work can be seen all around us, on billboards, on TV, and especially on the internet. Women are slandered and used quite often for monetary gain and pleasure.
Why has the devil cast so much of his effort to distorting and perverting the image of women?
Its actually a very simple question to answer. Women in my mind hold power in heaven unlike anything or anyone else on earth. With them the future is brought into being, future saints, future men and women of God. On them mostly rests the training and guidance of the world through its future generations. And through their prayers, Gods plans are furthered and realized.
I know in my own life I’ve had many rough areas. My parents thought at one point my future was a jail cell, or a life far removed from what I have actually become.
I thank God and all the saints for my mother, who untiringly prayed for me, watched over me, and helped me even when I didn’t think I needed help. I’m already realizing many instances in which I remember my mom saying, “You’ll thank me for this later”. And I do.

Dignity. What is it?
Dignity is a kin of respect, a gift given us by God.
Dignity realizes within each of us the image in God. It is our right as human beings, and should be realized for even the lowest of us. It demands Honor and respect.
Now we have defined what our human dignity is, how has Satan assaulted it within society, and especially towards women?

Firstly, through lust.
God created us to be loved, and from his love for us comes to us our dignity. And because of his love for us, we should love each other with that same dignity.
God creates nothing imperfect. And so we are perfect creation, and only flawed because of the sin that entered the world we are born into. Lust destroys the image of Gods creation in the eyes of those who fall into it.
Society teaches many people today that lust is love, that sex is casual, and that pornography is acceptable.
I think of this as 2 lenses.
The first, the lens of Gods eternal love, the lens of dignity. Through which who we are and who we will become is shown.
The second, the lens of Lust, the lens of destruction. Though this lens we no longer see a person. We see a THING. A MEANS. And dignity never enters the equation.

You could argue this for both sexes. Both being susceptible to this lie. However my focus is from the mans perspective.
What is it that makes us fall into this lie? What is it we really seek?
What most men want to see in a woman is:
1. Modesty. Because we know a modest woman holds her self higher than most.
And hasn’t yet degraded her self by lowering her standards.
2. Morality. Because we know a Moral woman is a true treasure, and walks with Christ.
3. Purity. Because we know a pure woman will belong to only one. And has saved her being for her calling, in this sense, the man who will prize her highly, and love her always.
After all that we look for the other qualities we seek. Good with kids, hard working, fun, ect.

The 2nd way the devil assaults the dignity of women.
The idea of casual sex.
Our sexuality is our gift from God, and in marriage, the most powerful expression of love in this life. And that is why Satan wishes to destroy it.
Married intercourse is the deepest form of love available to us on earth. So powerful in fact that, with Gods grace and blessing, creation is achieved.
God, the all powerful creator, sharing his power with us, in the act of creation.
Casual sex perverts and destroys this.
Marital relations are a covenant with God, in which each person gives them selves to each other totally, completely, and for eternity. Casually this becomes a temporary language of love. And in fact is more than just occasionally, lust. It says “I love you so much that I don’t have the integrity to wait for God to enter this relationship. And I love you so much that I’ll give only part of my self to you, and only for a little while”.
The language of forever is gone and replaced by the desires of now.
And this is why 50% of marriages fail. Trying to seal a forever promise with temporary glue.
So the devil destroys the dignity of our sexuality. And instead of seeing the daughters of God like we are meant to, men see only an object, instead of princesses of the Divine King–playthings for their own selfish desires.
And there is only one thing more degrading, that destroys dignity more than this.

Abortion. Abortion takes the dignity of the human being which we have already talked about, and utterly destroys it. Instead of perverting or mocking it, it stifles and kills it.
And even more than that.. The divine calling for a woman to conceive life within her, and to carry it, to nurture it is destroyed. And in abortion Satan ultimately takes away a woman’s greatest gift from God. Her child. And in doing so deprives the world of a brighter future.

Women of God. You are all SO BEAUTIFUL! And this is why the powers of darkness assail you.
Your dignity deserves the most humble respect from us men.
You capture men’s hearts and tame them.
You are co creators with God Himself.
You are daughters, princesses, beautiful creations of God. And all men should respect you all, and show you great love and dignity.
It was ordained by God from the beginning that women play the most crucial roles in life. By bringing it into being, and nurturing it.
Instead of coming into the world by His own divine power. Christ, God, true God and true man, came into the world from the womb of a woman we now know as the Queen of Heaven. Only through her “yes” did Jesus enter this world for the salvation of our souls. Not because God couldn’t otherwise… He chose to, and this TRULY shows the real dignity of women.

And for those of who you may have lost sight of that dignity. I pray in the name of Christ that your eyes be opened again. And that again you raise your standards to be worthy of who you REALLY are. Because you are beautiful, and you are loved.

For those of you who still stand, dignified but yet modest and kind, continue to set your examples.
In a world where you might stand totally counter to the culture around you, remain strong. Only you can let yourself fall, and your dignity crumble.

Ask and Understand: Week 1

Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. The rest will be given. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Universal Faith is on a quest for dialogue with people who believe other things, in order to build peace and understanding. We hope and pray to tear down walls of bias that are present in our world.

We know each person is an individual with opinions and questions. In this segment we’ll invite a guest every week to cross paths respectfully as friends.

Our first guest for this segment is a good friend of mine named Tegan. She has answered two questions from an atheist point of view and it was lots of fun talking with her. The original plan was to ask six questions each, but I think the three that we went through here are better thoroughly answered as they are, because they stand on their own and have more depth. Thank you for volunteering, Tegan–hopefully we can do this again soon! -Mariella

We asked:

Q: Why are you an atheist? Specifically, what events in your life led you to draw the conclusion of atheism, and as an atheist what is the driving force that gets you through the tough things in life?

A: There was no events that led me to become atheist, really. I’m an atheist as in I don’t believe in any kind of deity or God or higher being. It’s just that I never believed it was possible.

I’m a really independent person. I don’t like the idea of having someone else having the final say on how your life turns out. I like making all my own decisions and knowing what the consequences of them will be. And I think that everyone’s decisions are their own. The thought of having someone up there dictating what people’s actions will bring makes me feel a bit queasy.

My driving force? Happiness. I do my school work because I want to earn a great ATAR score and get into my dream university and that’ll lead to getting my major and then landing an awesome job in publishing. I help my friends out in need because I want them to have happiness too. Knowing I have a good life and will continue to do so if I work hard is enough motivation for me.

Q: As an atheist, how do you approach the morals that can be found in The Bible? Do you believe that some of the stories with good messages should be taught to everyone, if only as a form of classical literature? (e.g. I have talked to some atheists who wouldn’t mind the basic stories, like Noah’s Ark, being taught in a classical literature class, simply because of the universality.)

A: I’ve never read the Bible. I took one year of Religious Education (Christianity) in primary school because it was compulsory and then moved to Ba-Hai when that was introduced. So I’ve no clue what morals can be found in the Bible.

I don’t think stories from the Bible should be taught to everyone, however. We don’t teach stories from the Qur’an to everyone. If we taught everyone stories from the Bible, but not from any other religious book, then it isn’t fair. Personally, I’m already unhappy with the lack of choice in schools regarding Religious Education (more than 90% is Christianity only) and I think that needs to be addressed before we go teaching Bible stories to children.

There are plenty of good fairytales and legends and children’s stories with good messages in them that we can use to teach morals, so I don’t see the need to draw on stories from any religious text.

Our guest asked:

Q: I’ve always wanted to know how you deal with people who attack you for being Christian and try to convince you that God doesn’t exist. I’d imagine that’d be awful.

A: I never thought I’d answer this question! It really made me think. I wanted to come up with a long answer but I guess I deal with them in a simple way.

They’re attacking me, but I remember above all to love them–because we are all creations of God, and Christ instructed us to love one another. Then I try to see both sides of the story–why are they attacking? Have they ever been Christians? Have they had some kind of negative encounter with Christianity? Is it a bias against Catholicism specifically? I try not to generalize them as just another doubter, because everyone is different. If they’ll listen I’ll explain to them my faith, the ways Jesus has helped me and continues to do so. But if they continue to disbelieve, we cannot convert a closed heart–we can only give our answers of faith and pray for them.

There is always the emotional reaction to someone who is being rude trying to crush my faith. I can’t say I never doubted, I’ve stumbled a little. The Bible always helps me. It’s also good to have a circle of friends who are going through similar things. It’s not a sin to doubt a because we’re human and unfortunately there’s no escaping those moments. The one time I almost stopped believing, He sent a series of little miracles in my personal life to heal me. It all depends on how we nurture our faith. The Bible says that if we have the faith of a mustard seed, we can do anything–including overcome the blows from an attacker.

Then, there’s that Bible verse that I always turn to when it gets particularly bad:

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  John 20:29, RSV

We’re supposed to have a reason for our hope, but often it really does resort to that little mustard seed. I’m not perfect–only He is. In the end, we only have three things on this earth that will last: Faith, hope and love. But in Heaven only love will be left. So I love everybody, even the attackers.

Thanks for your question!

Everyone take the time to answer Tegan’s question as well!

YOUCAT Series 5 – What We Believe: Man Responds to God

Questions 20 to 24
This section covers aspects of belief and faith as a response to God’s offer of friendship to us.

Starting off with question twenty. A fabulous example of how one is to respond to God when he speaks to us is Blessed Mother Teresa, as her words quoted from here testify,

A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, [we] must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

The YOUCAT then proceeds to explain what faith, so accurately thought of above, actually is.

Two aspects of this explanation of faith stand out to me.

The first is that faith is absolutely certain – would a Christian not state their beliefs because they might change with time? No, that is what an agnostic would do, is it not? Christians know the truth and can state it here, now and forever – although hopefully they will gain a more in-depth faith with time.

How many people privatize their faith because of this reason?

Secondly, the parachutist analogy in question twenty-one – it basically boils down to trust doesn’t it.

We live in a society that is in many ways void of trust.

When religion is taken out of politics, because it conflicts with others’ agendas, people’s thinking on issues becomes distorted. Instead of these qualities being due to persons because they are made in the image and likeness of God, which is, in fact, the basis of human dignity and hence human rights, the values are given to thoughts and actions, leading to devastating consequences, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly states,

History has shown us how dangerous and deleterious a state can be that proceeds to legislate on questions that touch the person and society while pretending itself to be the source and principle of ethics. Without universal principles that permit a common denominator for the whole of humanity the danger of a relativistic drift at the legislative level is not at all something [that] should be underestimated (cf. “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” no. 1959). The natural moral law, strong in its universal character, allows us to avert such a danger and above all offers to the legislator the guarantee for an authentic respect of both the person and the entire created order.[1]

As an example, someone might say to you, ‘I respect your beliefs, will you respect mine?’

If you said, ‘yes’, wouldn’t you be accepting that those beliefs are ok?

To understand how this ever so subtle play on language, and indeed other common factors found in our age, lead to an erosion of moral standards in society read, A Refutation of Moral Relativism by Peter Kreeft:

Moral practice has always been difficult for fallen humanity, but at least there was always the lighthouse of moral principles, no matter how stormy the sea of moral practice got. But today, with the majority of our mind-molders, in formal education, or informal education—that is, media—the light is gone. Morality is a fog of feelings. That is why to them, as Chesterton said, “Morality is always dreadfully complicated to a man who has lost all his principles.” Principles mean moral absolutes. Unchanging rocks beneath the changing waves of feelings and practices. Moral relativism is a philosophy that denies moral absolutes. That thought to me is the prime suspect—public enemy number one. The philosophy that has extinguished the light in the minds of our teachers, and then their students, and eventually, if not reversed, will extinguish our whole civilization.

This relativism (remember the reflection question from last time?) robs the world of truth – for everything is seen as being true.

In the document titled On The Way To Life (which for anyone interested in catechetics is real gold). Just go to the RE and Catechesis section to find it.

In the section titled ‘Truth-trust’, it gives more insight on how this affects society:

People come to live in a society in a purely instrumental way that erodes any possibility of living towards a ‘common good’. Politics is forced into a position of inflating the goods in which it can offer in order to gain popular support and then generating cynical disengagement from the democratic process which it fails to deliver. These tensions and contradictions within the cultural and political force of modernity touch all institutions, including the Church.

So, in a world where everything is true – relativistic in other words, nothing really can be true and therefore, no-one can trust anybody.

The irony is that when people say they are being tolerant, respectful, etc (like what is so common in arguments these days), they can be being the very opposite! I highly recommend reading this piece called True and False Tolerance for further insight on this concept;

The prevalent idea of tolerance is connected to relativism: “each one has his truth”; “each individual is autonomous”; “the self is the source of meaning.” To be tolerant in this view is to cling to the opinion that everything is a matter of opinion and of equal opinions at that. Each person must take his bearings from his sovereign subjectivity, and no one has the right to put forth a universal standard. To affirm that a particular proposition is true by itself, apart from mere opinion, is considered an attack on tolerance.

What does this reign of universal tolerance, or dogmatic relativism, in fact mean? It has as its effect the undermining of all authority and vital knowledge, depriving all meaning from liberty and toleration. It finally destroys liberty and tolerance themselves. Taken to its logical conclusion, the reign of opinion means the end of all intellectual and moral authority, whether it be the great minds whose dialogue forms culture or the institutions — Church, family, school — that traditionally have transmitted rules of conduct. The reign of opinion means the attenuation of every form of knowledge. In the kingdom of opinion, there is no place for knowledge that engages one’s being.

Consequently, the phenomenon discussed above makes believing in God very difficult because everything is the truth and you can’t trust anything – I hope you can see the connection.

Therefore, for Catholics it is so important to see through relativism and to show other people the value of having an objective set of beliefs. In other words, believing in definite rights and wrongs that come from a source outside of ourselves, namely, God.

As Cardinal Burke puts so eloquently,

When reason is not purified by faith in the political realm, … the powerful and influential of the time exercise a tyranny which violates the fundamental rights of the very people whom political leaders are called to serve.

… Religious faith … also serves to evangelize and bring hope to men and women today who are “lost in the unreal and destructive world of moral relativism and, therefore, tempted to despair.[2]

For the sake of brevity I’ll leave the other characteristics of faith, as listed in Q. 21, for a discussion in the comments section. If readers would like to contribute their thoughts that would be great!

Moving on to Q. 22…

Many people have never thought much about what is outside the visible world, and still those who do may feel that it is a bit superstitious, to say.., pray to Saint Anthony when you have lost your keys, or something similar. On the contrary, Catholics should have a deep connection to the invisible. For more information I have put a link here to an article that explains how a Catholic has a sacramental imagination, one that thinks of the spiritual in a completely Christocentric way. An abstract from it is below:

We must stress, of course, that Catholic imagination is, in the deepest sense, a response to the imagination of God. Christ, the Word incarnate, crucified and risen, is God’s way of imagining our humanity. To believe, is to be caught up into such all creative imagining: `The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory… full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). By becoming flesh, the Word has entered into human imagination. In that light, we begin to live in a universe of grace. It means having a sense of the fundamental goodness in creation. Our world can never be totally corrupt, because God has created it and made it his own. That is the crucial point: If God could so enter our human world, if God has owned this world as his very own in Christ, then the whole of creation can be seen as one great sign of God’s presence and love. And, in the resurrection of Jesus, we believe that the transformation of all creation has begun. Hidden within the struggle and dying of our history there is always the hope of rising with him. The whole of creation is shot through with the great cosmic mystery of Christ: `all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Col 1: 16-17).

Furthermore, the following two links are great additional reading for question twenty-three, on faith and science and question 24, on faith and the Church.

I’ve added some direct citations from these as well so you can get an idea of what they’re about:

Q. 23. What is the proper relationship between science and religion?

The popular view that science and religion are engaged in an endless debate is a misunderstanding that arises from a limited picture. When creation and evolution clash in a courtroom, the daily news fills up with stories suggesting there is some profound conflict between science and religion. What does not make the daily news is the research of the majority of scientists on topics that do not come into contact with religion.The same is true of the work of theologians and biblical scholars investigating topics in fields unrelated to science.

Q. 24. Pope Benedict XVI’s WYD 2011 Closing Mass Homily

Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

I’ll leave you with a funny thing I read quoting Cardinal Pell from WYD 2011, ‘Young people are in the Church to set it on fire. Old people are there to make sure it does not burn down.’

Reflection Questions
• What does the term ‘secularism’ mean?

• Can you think of ways that will help you not privatize your faith?

Further Reading
[1] Papal Address to Pontifical Academy for Life

[2] Religion ‘purifies’ politics, Cardinal Burke says