Teaching & Suggestions

Are saints who have physically died “dead saints” or are they alive with God?

A friend named Leonard Alt got tired of being hammered by anti-Catholic Fundamentalists on this issue so he decided to write this article. I thought you might enjoy it too, so here it goes…

Leonard writes: I wrote this note after several days of frustration with people, on Facebook, saying that saints can’t do  anything, because they are dead.  They seem to be leaving out the fact that the souls live on.  ENJOY! 

Dead and gone? Where is his soul-his person?

An antagonist named Warren Ritz asked, “Who are the “dead in Christ”, if not those who walked with our Lord, but who are now no   longer among the living?” He is correct; the “dead in Christ” are those saints  who have physically died.    “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess 4:16). 

THE CONCEPT OF LIVING SAINTS CAN DO HARM TO THE “JESUS ALONE” DOCTRINE.  From some people’s point of view, people who have died are classified as “dead saints,” who can do nothing.  They are no longer a force to reckon with; they can no longer appear; they cannot talk nor do other things.  These same people don’t want the saints who have died doing anything because this would be another reason why the Protestant doctrine, “JESUS ALONE” fails.  If the so-called “dead saints” do anything then it is not “JESUS ALONE,” but Jesus and the saints cooperating.    And it would also mean that the so-called “dead saints” are in fact not dead, but alive with God.    

Dead or in paradise?

HIS PHYSICAL BODY DIED BUT HIS SOUL LIVED ON.  But, are the Saints who have gone before us alive with God or are they truly “dead saints” who can do nothing as some would suggest?    Yes, their bodies are dead, but their souls live on.  For example Jesus said to one of the criminals on the cross next to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).   Yes, that day, this man became the dead in Christ because his physical body died on his cross; however, Jesus said that today, this man would be with Him in paradise.   He was no “dead saint” because his soul was alive in Christ in Paradise. 

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob alive and concerned for their descendants

HE IS THE GOD OF THE LIVING.  One person alluded to Mark 12:26-27 saying “Jesus is the God of the living, not of the dead” in an attempt to show that Jesus cannot be the god of those who have died; after all he says “Jesus is the god of the living.”  However, he left out three people who were no longer alive in verse 26; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God said that He was their God.   And so does that mean that God is the God of the dead?  No; “He is not God of the dead but of the living.”  

  • “God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, (the) God of Isaac, and (the) God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled” (Mk 12: 26-27). 

Abraham Isaac and Jacob are physically dead and yet their souls are alive because their God is not God of the dead but of the living and thus do not qualify as “dead saints.” 

Moses was dead and buried. How could he talk to Jesus about future events on earth?

WHEN MOSES AND ELIJAH APPEARED WERE THEY DEAD OR ALIVE?  There are those who insist that saints who have died are nothing more than “dead saints” who can do nothing.   I usually ask them this question.   When Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, were they dead or alive?   “And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah” (Lk 9:30).  Not bad for a couple of so-called “dead saints;” not only did they appear, but they were talking as well.  The question that I asked usually goes unanswered.   

SORRY LEONARD…YOU HAVE A BAD ARGUMENT.  Bill says, “As Ecclesiastes says the dead have nothing more to do under the sun…sorry Leonard…you have a bad argument.”  He is using this as definitive Biblical proof that people on the other side cannot do anything once they have died.  After all, Ecclesiastes does say, “For them, love and hatred and rivalry have long since perished. They [the dead] will never again have part in anything that is done under the sun” (Eccles 9:6).    

When a person dies their body is in the grave; it is dead. They can no longer work under the sun, in this world.  However, Ecclesiastes 9:6 is not a prohibition against the activity of the person’s soul, which lives on.   This of course begs the question; is there any indication of personal activity of a soul after death, in Scripture?   

How did the bones of a dead guy bring another dead guy back to life?

Yes, there are a number of examples and here is one of them.  Elisha after dying performed marvelous deeds.  In life he [Elisha] performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds (Sir 48:14).  “Elisha died and was buried. At the time, bands of Moabites used to raid the land each year. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. 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” (Kings 13:20-21).  

Using, Ecclesiastes 9:6 as a prohibition against all soul activity after death is to use the verse out of context and at odds with other parts of the Bible.  Ecclesiastes 9:6 is referring to the physical body that has died, not the soul that lives on.  Elisha, after death performed marvelous deeds.   It can’t be much clearer than that!   

The saints are not dead but alive in the presence of their Lord Jesus and part of the praying Mystical Body of Christ

JESUS NEVER CLAIMED THAT THOSE WHO HAVE DIED ARE “DEAD SAINTS.”  Jesus understood well that when someone dies, they will live and in fact those who live and believe in him WILL NEVER DIE. 

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this” (Jn 11:23-26)?  

This union, with the saints on this side and the saints on the other side is referred to as the communion of saints in the Apostles Creed.  Those who insist that “dead saints” can’t do anything because their bodies have physically died seem not to understand that their souls live on and are very involved. 

So, where does the Bible say we should pray to dead saints? I would ask, Where does the Bible say saints are dead?

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Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

by Steve Ray on May 8, 2014

CrucifixionChurch.jpgA while ago we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. 

I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same – ”CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS NO LONGER ON THE CROSS, HE HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD AND IS IN HEAVEN.”  Of course they think Catholics are wrong to keep Jesus on the cross as though he had not risen and ascended into heaven. 

Are they right?  Well, YES and NO.  Jesus DID rise and ascend into heaven and He IS glorified at the right hand of the Father and we are mystically seated there with him (1 Pet 3:22, Eph 2:6).  BUT the Catholic Church is ALSO correct to show Jesus on the Cross — not only to remind us of His suffering and death and to show what happens during the Mass — but because in a mystical way He IS STILL on the Cross.

God the Father sits on His throne in heaven.  And what does God see from his throne every time he “opens his eyes”?  He sees Jesus on the Cross!  Really?  Yeah, really!

PassoverLambBlood.jpgJesus is our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7).  In the Old Testament the lambs were slain on Passover to save the Israelites from death.  The lamb was held over the altar, his neck was slashed with a knife and the blood was drained onto the altar. 

This is why we have an altar in the Catholic Church! The altar represents the Cross (among other things). An Altar is where a Sacrifice takes place!  Jesus was slain as our Passover Lamb to save us from eternal death and to appease the wrath of God.  That sacrifice is re-presented at the Mass (see my talk Defending the Eucharist!).

Take a look at Revelation 5:5 and ask yourself — what John is telling us?  It reads,

Between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain . . .

LambInHeaven2.jpgWho IS the slain Lamb that is still standing?  Jesus is the Lamb!  Standing on a altar before the throne of God the Father is a Lamb still bearing the wounds of slaugher.  Jesus is that Lamb and he still bears the wounds of His sacrifice. That is what God sees when He “opens his eyes” – Jesus the sacrifice — Jesus on the altar — Jesus on the Cross.

Charles Wesley, the great Methodist minister and hymn writer agrees. In his hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise” in which he says the very same thing in very poetic terms.

“Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears; The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears, Before the throne my surety stands, My name is written on His hands. He ever lives above, for me to intercede; His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead: His blood atoned for all our race, And sprinkles now the throne of grace.”

But wasn’t Jesus crucified once and for all, never to sacrificed for sins again?  Yes, of course!  In   space and time  Jesus was crucified once and for all in AD 30.

In God’s eyes — in eternity which is not limited by space and time — Jesus was crucified before the foundations of the world (see endnote 1) and in ”eternity future” He is still seen by the Father as a slain lamb on the alter in heaven, as the crucified Lord on the Cross. All salvation past, present and future is based on this one historical event.

In the Mass, Jesus is NOT re-crucified, but we partake in a mystical way in the re-presentation of the ONE ETERNAL SACRIFICE which is ever before the eyes of the Father (see Endnote 3).

I used to say “Jesus WAS our sacrifice. He cannot be crucified again on Catholic altars, so Catholics are wrong!”  But the Bible says, Yes, he WAS our sacrifice, but he also IS our Sacrifice. Look at what John says in his first epistle:

“[Jesus] is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (RSV-Catholic Edition). 
The Protestant NIV renders this “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

ThomasWounds.jpgThe Greek word for IS (eimi) is in the present tense. Today, right now He IS our propitiation, our sacrifice. After His resurrection with His new spiritual body Jesus still has the wounds of his crucifixion (Jn 20:27). He has a body in heaven and still bears the wounds of the Sacrifice. He is presented before God as slain sacrifice — yet now alive.

So, what does God see when He “opens his eyes”?  He sees Jesus on the Cross!  If this is what God sees in heaven, then it is certainly proper for us to show Jesus on a Cross to remind us what he did for us — and to see what God sees every day and has from eternity.  So Catholic are right after all. Suprise!  Surprise!

Creche.jpgBy the way, once a Baptist said to me, “You are wrong, Jesus is no longer on the cross, He is in heaven.”  It happend to be Christmas and I noticed they had a Manger Scene (creche) on their table.  I said, “Why do you have Jesus in the manger?  He is no longer in the manger — he is in heaven.

“And oh,” I said, “isn’t that a cute statue of Mary!  I thought you Protestants considered statues to be idols?  Why do you have a statue of Mary in your house?”

****************************

Endnote 1: There are two ways to translate this verse, but either way it comes out making the point. The best Protestant translations of Revelation 13:8 read: “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (NIV – New International Version).
      “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (NKJV – New King James Version).

Endnote 2: Pictures: 1) Crucifix; 2) Passover Lamb slain by the modern day Samaritans; 3) Image of Jesus the Passover Lamb sacrificed on an altar before the Throne of God (could not make out the name of the author, but it can be seen at http://biblia.com/bible/rev45.htm; 4) Caravaggio’s famous painting “Incredulity of St. Thomas.”; 5) Creche scene.

Endnote 3: Catechism paragraph 1367:  ”The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory’.”

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked?

by Steve Ray on April 17, 2014

A gentleman heard me on Relevant Radio earlier. I had mentioned on the air that one of the great humiliations of a crucifixion was that a man was crucified naked. This thoughtful gentleman wrote to challenge my comments. Below is his e-mail and my response.

Dear Mr. Ray,

Please correct your description of the Passion. You have said that Christ was crucified naked on the cross because it was the Roman way of executing condemned prisoners.

Realize that in Christ’s case the Romans were following instructions of the Jews—Pilate did not want to crucify Jesus, thus he finally gave orders that the soldiers do as the Jews requested. Thus the gospel explicitly describes how the Jews requested the legs of the condemned be broken so that their dead bodies would be removed before the Passover, and this was done per their request.

Nudity in 1st century Jewish culture brought shame to the beholder, and it was the Jews that had Jesus crucified—thus Jesus would have had a cloth to cever his loins, which is consistent with the visions of various mystics of the Church. Otherwise, the gospels would have mentioned the Jewish displeasure, much like it does with their demand to remove the sign above Christ’s head, had Pilate ordered Jesus to be stripped completely naked against the wishes of the Temple leaders.

God bless, A Friend

Dear Friend:

Thanks for writing– and for your thoughtful comments. I always appreciate feedback especially from studious listeners. Please take my comments below in the same irenic tone in which you kindly wrote to me.

However, I disagree with your assessment. There is no reason to believe that Jesus was crucified according to Jewish “specifications.” The Romans had little regard for the Jews, their laws and their sensibilities (e.g., Acts 18:12-17).

The Jews were very scandalized by the sign put on the Cross “Jesus, King of the Jews.” Yet when the Jews specifically went back to Pilate with the demand it be reworded, the Romans refused to change it or take it down even though that was probably more offensive to the Jews than the nakedness of a convicted criminal. Jews were also limited in the number of lashes one could receive, but they certainly paid no heed to that Jewish concern either. They were there to uphold Roman law, not cater to Jewish religious sentiments.

You say the Romans were instructed to do what the Jews requested, but that had only to do with Pilate’s willingness to grant the Jews request to have Jesus crucified instead of just flogged. It did not mean that the Romans wrote down a list of the Jewish sensibilities to insure that none of them were upset. The Romans were to do what the Jews requested only, presumably, in terms of their willingness to allow Jesus to be crucified even though Pilate found his innocent.

Even among the Jewish rabbis there was allowance for nakedness during execution. The Mishnah (Jewish tradition from earlier centuries compiled around 200 AD) records three opinions held among the Jews, saying,

A [When] he was four cubits from the place of stoning, they remove his clothes.
B “In the case of a man, they cover him up in front, and in the case of a woman, they cover her up in front and behind,” the words of R. Judah.
C And sages say, “A man is stoned naked, but a woman is not stoned naked.”

Here we have the recording of three Jewish traditions. Two out of three claim that a man was executed naked even among his own Jewish countrymen. If even the Jews stripped their own naked according to two out of three of their traditions, why would we think the Romans would practice more scruples than the Jews?

I would agree he was robed on the Via Cruses, but even Scripture says they divided his garments but for the outer garments they cast lots. There is NO indication that he retained covering, rather the soldiers divided them – outer and under clothes.

One good historical commentary says, “The replacement of Jesus’ own clothes for the walk to Golgotha was probably a concession to Jewish scruples about public nakedness (Jub. 3:30–31; cf. Gen 9:20–27). Crucifixion was normally naked, and in v. 35 Jesus’ clothes will again have been removed; m. Sanh. 6:3 specifies that the clothes should be removed only at the place of execution, not on the way there.”

An excellent commentary on the details of the life of Christ relays, “Even though Jesus has been flogged, Mark/Matt have Jesus dressed again before he sets out to the place of crucifixion. Normally the criminal, carrying the lateral beam of the cross behind his neck with his arms fastened to it, would go naked to the place of crucifixion, being scourged as he went. We know this from passing references in Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Roman Antiquities 7.69.2) and Valerius Maximus (Facta 1.7.4). Indeed, Josephus (Ant. 19.4.5; #270) reports that even Roman nobles involved in the assassination of Gaius Caligula had their clothes removed before being taken to the place of execution.

“In having the final disrobing of Jesus only at the place of execution (Mark 15:24 and par.), the evangelist may reflect a local concession that the Romans made to the Jewish abhorrence of public nudity. Josephus reports that the Roman tribune Celer, who was executed in Jerusalem by imperial order, was dragged across the whole city as a public spectacle before being beheaded; but there is no mention of his being disrobed (War 2.12.7; #246; Ant. 20.6.3; #136).”

Another commentator says, “To distribute the garments of Christ among the soldiers, the clothes had to be removed from Christ. Thus, Christ was crucified naked. The suffering was great at the crucifixion but so was the shame. No artist dares to picture Christ as naked—they put a loin cloth around Him for modesty. But Scripture indicates He was naked.”

Another says, “[T]he normal undergarment was either a tunic or a loincloth, and Jesus’ tunic was taken from him (v. 23; Brown 1970:902), it is perhaps more likely he was naked. Early Christian tradition is divided on the subject (cf. Brown 1994:2:953).”

Catholic Monk and prolific writer Thomas A Kempis wrote a meditative prayer on the death of Christ including the words, “Of the Crucifixion, naked, of the Lord Jesus; and of His hanging for many long hours aloft upon the Cross.”

Typical Crucifixion scene

In my opinion and others, there is NO reason to believe that the Romans covered Jesus’ privates with a loin cloth. In fact, it would be unreasonable to think they would do this since crucifixion was to be the final humiliation and degradation. They had very little respect for Jewish sensibilities in general. Even if they made a concession to the Jews by covering him as he processed through the streets, they would have removed his clothes at the site of the execution, even as the Jews did with their own executions. Roman custom gave the soldiers the right to appropriate for themselves all the clothes of the convict – kind of as a bonus.

And if you suggest they crucified Jesus with his loins covered, do you suggest that ALL executions were done with private parts covered? Were the thieves on his right and left also covered? I don’t think they treated Jesus differently than any other criminals crucified.

You mention various Mystics who have “revealed” that Jesus was covered on the cross. I suspect this has to do with pious puritanism more than historical reality. I often enjoy the writings of mystics and are benefited from them, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in their often contradicting visions, especially when it contradicts historical realities and Scripture.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to these revelations of Mystics in a category called “private revelation.” Commenting on private revelation the Church teaches, “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. (no. 67)

Rembrandt's self-portrait in Dutch painters beret. HE raised Christ on the cross and we did too!

Just an interesting parallel to ponder: The first Adam was naked and due to sin had to be clothed; the last Adam was clothed but to redeem was stripped naked. The first brought death at the tree of life, the last brought life at the tree of death.

In this regard The Fathers of the Church loved to play with the concept of the naked Christ. In that regard I suggest, Jesus born naked in a cave provided by a man named Joseph and he was then wrapped in swaddling clothes. In his death he was stripped of his clothes and later covered by a shroud and placed in a cave provided by another man named Joseph.

Lastly, I agree that this goes contrary to all our Catholic sentiments of decency and modesty which is why artists always portray, and properly so, Jesus in a loin covering. But real life is not controlled by polite conventions especially in pagan Rome.

My friend, may you and those you love have a wonderful Easter and may the joy of our risen Lord Jesus shine in your heart for all of eternity. Thanks for your thoughtful e-mail.

Steve Ray

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God said “Please”; Abraham said “OK”

February 2, 2014

Studying Scripture like this is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. Nice little tidbits pop out, like the one Which I share from you while visiting the sites related to Abraham in Hebron in the Palestinian a West Bank. When God said to Abraham: ”Take Isaac, your only son, the one whom [...]

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Welcoming New People at Mass this Christmas – They May Be an Answer to Someone’s Prayers

December 20, 2013

We get busy on during the Christmas Season. We don’t have a lot of respect for people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. We may be irritated that seats are taken and the church is noisy.  But, you are praying for your family and friends to come back to church and MAYBE [...]

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Seven Dangers to Human Virtue and Civilization

September 27, 2013

Wealth without work Pleasure without conscience Knowledge without character Business without ethics Science without humanity Religion without sacrifice Politics without principle

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Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful NT Wording

September 10, 2013

We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. The original language of the Bible is full of rich imagery, stark reality, and colorful terminology. [...]

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Is God Like a GPS System?

September 8, 2013

There are a million reasons why God is NOT like a GPS system but I am in Australia and I made a wrong turn and my GPS started reprimanding me and saying “Recalculating!” For those who don’t know, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a nifty little device that links up with positional [...]

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Was He Ready to Die?

June 14, 2013

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul is was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They [...]

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Corpus Christi Sunday – Prepare for the Heresy!

May 31, 2013

Article HERE.  In John 6:1-14 it says Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children. When Jesus fed the 10,000+ people, he didn’t really do a miracle, right? He just taught everyone to care and share, right? You’ve probably heard that homily, right? The people had all brought picnic baskets which they kept hidden up [...]

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Like St. Paul We Should Quit Being Comfortable and Annoy People

May 16, 2013

In his homily May 16 Pope Francis preached on the uncomfortable zeal of St. Paul. Zenit.org reports, “St. Paul exhibited a “healthy madness” that made him an effective evangelist, Pope Francis said in his homily at a Mass on May 16. “Paul is a nuisance,” the Pope told the congregation at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. [...]

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Was Jesus Nice?

May 5, 2013

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me. “That was not very Christ-like.” This response usually comes after being honest to the point of making someone upset.  The implication is that Jesus was a cuddly little nice guy who was always smiling, always accepting with kind words – in [...]

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How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb?

March 13, 2013

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:38-40) Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb [...]

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“Sunday Mornings in Ancient Times” or “Why I Teared up Last Sunday”

February 3, 2013

Tears welled up in my eyes — again — at Mass last Sunday. It was not always so. As a former Baptist I used to think the Catholic Mass was a sacrilege and an abomination. How could anyone worship a piece of bread? Really! However, last Sunday I was overcome with emotion while sitting in [...]

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Evangelism Antennas: A Fun Story of One Woman’s Day and the New Evangelism :-)

December 17, 2012

I gave a talk last week in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day.  After my [...]

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In Defense of Cradle Catholics

March 7, 2012

Since I am planning trips to speak to Catholics in India later this year — where Catholics are all “cradle Catholics” — meaning they were born Catholics and never had to think about it. I thought of a helpful illustration to explain why “cradle Catholics” are often unable to explain and defend the Catholic faith. [...]

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