Sacraments & Sacramentals

Some might claim that Catholic teaching on relics and Sacramentals is unbiblical. Really?

Check out these biblical passages:

“So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face CLOTHS or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

“So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the BONES of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (2 Kgs. 13:21).

“They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his SHADOW might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:15).

“When [Jesus] had said this, He spat on the ground, and made CLAY of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ” (which is translated, Sent ). So he went away and washed and came back seeing” (John 9:6-7).

OIL – see James 5:14-15

WATER – see 2 Kings 5:14

SACRAMENTALISM (Quoted from Dave Armstrong’s “One Minute Apologist“)

Objection: Matter cannot convey grace. Sacramentalism and relics are unbiblical magic

The Bible teaches that grace and salvation come through the spirit (Jn. 6:63), not through “holy objects”

 Initial reply : The Incarnation of Jesus “raised” matter, and His death on the cross was intensely physical. Protestants often speak of “the blood” (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Jn. 1:7), which is but one of many examples of sacramentalism. 

 Extensive reply 

 The New Testament is filled with many concrete examples or teachings about the “incarnational principle” and sacramentalism. Baptism confers regeneration (Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21 – cf. Mk. 16:16; Rom 6:3-4 -, 1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:5). Jesus’ garment (Matt. 9:20-22), saliva mixed with dirt (Jn. 9:5 ff.; Mk. 8:22-25), and water from the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7) all were used in healings. Anointing with oil for healing is also prescribed (Jas. 5:14). The Bible often calls for a laying on of hands for the purpose of ordination and commissioning (Acts 6:6) and in order to heal (Mk. 6:5; Lk. 13:13).

Catholics believe in seven sacraments: all of which are established on the basis of extensive biblical evidences: 1) The Eucharist: Lk. 22:19-20; Jn 6:53-58; 1 Cor. 11:23-30; 2) Baptism: Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38, 22:16; 3) Penance and Reconciliation: Matt. 16:19; Jn 20:23; 1 Cor. 5:3-5 with 2 Cor. 2:6-11; 4) Confirmation: Acts 8:14-17, 19:1-6; Eph. 1:13; 5) Anointing of the Sick: Mk. 6:13; Acts 9:17-18; Jas. 5:14-15; 6) Ordination: Mt. 18:18; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 7) Matrimony: Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-9; Eph. 5:21-33.

Even relics (remnants of the bodies of saints and holy people, and related physical items), have (perhaps surprisingly) strong biblical support. Perhaps the most striking proof text is a story about the prophet Elisha:

 2 Kings 13:20-21: So Eli’sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli’sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli’sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.

 Examples of second-class relics (objects that came into contact with holy people) are also clearly found in passages about the prophet Elijah’s mantle, which parted the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:11-14), and Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15-16) and Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12), used by God to heal sick people and to cast out demons. If all of this is “magic,” then it is a sort of “magic” directly sanctioned by God Himself.

 Objection 

 Protestants can agree with some of this. What cannot be found in the Bible, however, is the excessive veneration of relics. This goes too far, and is idolatry. We can remember the deeds of great heroes of the faith (Acts 7; Hebrews 11) and thank God for them, but we shouldn’t get into worshiping bones or pieces of hair and so forth, or go on pilgrimages to “holy places.” That’s too much like paganism or heathenism and adds nothing to our spiritual life. All places are equally “holy.”

 Reply to Objection 

 If matter can indeed convey grace and blessing, according to the Bible, then we can give glory to God for what He has done with lowly matter by venerating (not worshiping) even now-inanimate objects. Protestants themselves would not, for example, think that the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem or the hill where He died on the cross or His tomb, from which He rose from the dead, are merely rocks and dirt like any other rocks and dirt. In their own way they do indeed venerate and honor them. If the physical location were so irrelevant, why visit it at all; why not simply ponder Jerusalem and Israel in their heads, in “spirit.” 

Plenty of Protestants are also fascinated and intrigued by the Shroud of Turin, which is an extraordinary secondary relic related to our Lord Jesus. That is an object, too; a mere piece of cloth. But would any Christian treat it like any other cloth and tear it up for rags to dust with? Of course they would not, because it was connected with Jesus and has miraculous properties (like Elisha’s bones): a supernaturally produced image. Therefore it is highly regarded and revered. It all goes back to God and His great works, using matter. Sacramentalism and relics flow from the Incarnation: God Himself taking on flesh and matter and becoming man.

 St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) 

 The death of Christ is the universal cause of man’s salvation: but a universal cause has to be applied to particular effects. Thus it was found necessary for certain remedies to be administered to men by way of bringing Christ’s death into proximate connection with them. Such remedies are the Sacraments of the Church.

And these remedies had to be administered with certain visible signs: — first, because God provides for man, as for other beings, according to his condition; and it is the condition of man’s nature to be led through sensible things to things spiritual and intelligible: secondly, because instruments must be proportioned to the prime cause; and the prime and universal cause of man’s salvation is the Word Incarnate: it was convenient therefore that the remedies, through which that universal cause reaches men, should resemble the cause in this, that divine power works invisibly through visible signs.

Hereby is excluded the error of certain heretics, who wish all visible sacramental signs swept away; and no wonder, for they take all visible things to be of their own nature evil, and the work of an evil author. These visible sacramental signs are the instruments of a God Incarnate and Crucified. (Summa Contra Gentiles, IV, 56: “Of the Need of Sacraments”)

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There are so many issues to write about; I would have wished that this would not be one of them, but…

Canon Lawyer Dr. Ed Peters brings clarity to the confusion caused by the Pope’s recent words. 

If you’re concerned about marriage, the problems in the Church in that regard, the Pope’s recent words about cohabiting and civil unions — and the trend that is developing — then this is an excellent place to start reading.

Canon Law is the friend and defender of Catholic theology and the Sacraments. Catholic theology, laws, morality and the Sacraments cannot just be treated willy-nilly in anyway we want. The Church has been very clear about the sacrament of matrimony, it’s theology, it’s practice and it’s laws. 

Right when the secular world is abandoning marriage, making homosexuality and other arbitrary relationships equal to marriage, and mocking traditional morality — the Church should be standing tall and beaming a bright light of truth and clarity. The leader of the Catholic Church should be a clear voice to bring clarity not only for Catholics but also for the culture at large. 

Unfortunately it seems the opposite is happening. Recent writings and comments by Pope Francis have muddied the waters, confused the faithful and given fodder to the anti-Catholic crowd.

I highly recommend Dr. Peters’ article here as he critiques the Pope’s recent problematic words about cohabitation and the validity of non-sacramental marriages. Peters does a good job of clarifying the actual teaching of the Church especially in regards to Canon Law.

His review dissects the Pope’s recent public comments. Here is how the article begins, “

“The pope’s most recent comments on marriage point in a disturbing direction but let’s address two important matters first.

Point One. Cohabitation is not marriage.

Largely overlooked amid the furor caused by Pope Francis’ rash claim that “the great part of our sacramental marriages are null”—an assertion reckless if false (which it is) and brimming with despair if true (which it is not), a claim followed not by an apology, an official retraction, or even a bureaucratic ‘clarification’ but instead by an Orwellian alteration of the pope’s words in Vatican records—overlooked, I say, in this greater mess was the pope’s later but equally problematic comment about his being “sure that cohabitating couples are in a true marriage having the grace of marriage”.

Though multi-facetedly wrong (theologically, canonically, pastorally, socially) the pope’s equating cohabitation (‘faithful’, whatever that means) with Christian marriage did not, mirabile dictu, get edited down to a platitude or deleted completely: his words are still there … “

For the whole article click HERE. For more on the Church’s practical and correct teaching on cohabitation, click HERE. Not the first time the Pope seemingly gave a nod to cohabitation HERE.

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Updates:

Dr. Peters’ follow-up to article below: The Missing Middle Term on the Pope’s Off the Cuff Comments on Marriage

John Allen of Crux responds to Dr. Peters and defends the Pope: Lets Not Get Bent Out of Shape by Changes to Papal Transcripts

Canon Lawyer Ed Peters fires back to John Allen’s comments and criticism: A Few Notes on Journalistic Points Made Today

Excellent Summary by Phil Lawler The damage done (again) by the Pope’s statements on marriage

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By Ed Peters, June 17, 2016 [Initial Article]

Last time a ranking prelate (Cdl. Kasper) opined that half of all marriages were null his attribution of such a reckless assertion to Pope Francis himself could be dismissed as hearsay, deflected as referring to marriage in general and not Christian marriage in particular, or at least minimized as describing merely ‘many’ or even ‘half’ of all marriages. But none of those qualifications can be applied to blunt the impact of the pope’s startling claim “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null”.

If last time was bad, this time is very bad.

Consider: Marriage is that natural human relationship established by God as the normal way for nearly all adults to live most of their lives. God blesses marriage and assists married persons to live in accord with this beautiful state in life. When, moreover, baptized persons enter this quintessential human relationship, Christ adds the special graces of a sacrament and assists married Christians to live as signs of his everlasting spousal union with his Church.

To assert, then, that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null” is really to claim that the great majority of Christians have failed to enter the most natural of human states and have failed to effect between themselves the exact sacrament that Christ instituted to assist them in it. The collapse of human nature presupposed for such a social catastrophe and the massive futility of the Church’s sanctifying mission among her own faithful evidenced by such a debacle would be—well, it would be the matrimonial version of nuclear winter.

I am at a loss to understand how anyone who knows anything about either could seriously assert that human nature is suddenly so corrupted and Christ’s sacraments are now so impotent as to have prevented “the great majority” of Christians from even marrying! How can anyone responsibly even posit such a dark and dismal claim, let alone demonstrate it?

But beyond the arresting scope of the claim that nullity is rampant, there is the debilitating effect that such a view can and doubtless will have on couples in difficult marriage situations. After all, if “the great majority” of Christian marriages are, as alleged by Francis, already null, then couples struggling in difficult marriages and looking for the bread of spiritual and sacramental encouragement may instead be offered stones of despair—‘your marriage is most likely null, so give up now and save everyone a lot of time and trouble.’

This is just a blog post so, simply invoking the same extensive credentials to speak on Catholic marriage law that I invoked two years ago, let me just say that I believe that the great majority of Christian marriages are valid, that a matrimonial contract was therefore effected between the parties at the time of their wedding, and that by the will of Christ an indissoluble sacramental bond simultaneously arose between those spouses.

To be clear, I also hold that many marriages are (and could be proven to be) canonically null and that the percentage of null marriages has indeed risen over recent decades, but I can and do reject anyone’s claim that the majority, let alone “the great majority”, of Christian marriages are null.

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Finally—and I make this point mostly to preserve it for future discussion—the pope, toward the end of these remarks, made some comments about cohabiting and/or civilly married Catholics being in “a real marriage [and having] the grace of a real marriage”. Canonically (if I may be forgiven for mentioning canon law) such a claim is incoherent.

Whatever good might be going on in the life of cohabiting and/or civilly married Catholic couples, it is not the good of marriage and it is not the grace of matrimony, but this—and here is my point—largely because of the Church’s requirement of canonical form for marriage. I would be glad to see the requirement of canonical form eliminated, but unless and until it is, cohabitation and civil-only marriage is not marriage in the Catholic Church.

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The Kiss of Mercy

June 14, 2016

My daughter-in-law Anna is very insightful about spiritual things, and in raising our grandkids. Couldn’t ask for a better daughter (in-law, though we consider her our daughter by now :-) She put this up on her FaceBook page and I was compelled to share it. Janet and I read this with tears in our eyes […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 12, 2016

I will be on Catholic Answers Live Monday at 6:00 PM Eastern. We will discuss the Miracles of Jesus with an emphasis on the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE.  In […]

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Washing Women’s Feet on Holy Thursday not a Requirement

March 22, 2016

March 16, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Amid reports of priests saying their bishops are insisting they wash the feet of women during the Holy Thursday liturgy, Pope Francis’ liturgy chief has told reporters that washing the feet of women during the Holy Thursday celebration is not a requirement according to the new rite.  Cardinal Robert Sarah, […]

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Was Baptism Instituted Before or After Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?

March 22, 2016

The other day a friend wrote and asked a question. It was an interesting question. “Is the answer to this that in the earlier examples, only the disciples did the baptizing and John is using a Hebraic figure of speech such that his disciples did them in his name and by his authority? If so, […]

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Easter is Coming! Get to Confession! Five Benefits of Frequent Confession

March 3, 2016

5 Benefits of Frequent Confession It’s Lent! This season provides us as Catholics an opportunity to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” One of the ways we can best do this is by going to Confession, where we have the opportunity to accept the many graces God has in store for us through this beautiful […]

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Pope Decrees That Holy Thursday Foot Washing Ceremony Can Include Women

January 21, 2016

See story here

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Updated Sacrament Chart – Print and Use Freely

January 19, 2016

In the past I prepared a Sacrament Chart for a class I was teaching. Many found it helpful so I provided it here. Today I updated it, partly to insert some of the revised wording at Mass and to sharpen a few points. I hope you find it helpful… Click on the image to download […]

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Interesting Explanation of Baptism from Protestant Dictionary – “baptism…in itself is unimportant”

January 10, 2016

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they […]

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

December 30, 2015

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It […]

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What Does God See When He Opens His Eyes?

November 18, 2015

Since we are in Capernaum today – where Jesus said, “Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood.” I thought it would be appropriate to post again this popular blog post that explains the Sacrifice of the Mass. Recently we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, […]

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If Only Our Eyes Could See

October 1, 2015

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see what the angels see. We are so limited in our mortal bodies.

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Impressive Eucharistic Miracle in Buenos Aires

September 6, 2015

Only 8 minutes long and well worth watching. 

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Holy Year Gestures on Abortion and the SSPX: 12 Things to Know and Share

September 2, 2015

The article below is written by Jimmy Akin and available on his blog. Pope Francis has just released a letter in which he made several announcements concerning the upcoming Year of Mercy. This includes absolution for those who have procured abortion and the ability to go to priests of the Society of St. Pius X […]

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