Father Robert Altier
  23 Hours of Audio by Father Altier
Fundamentals of Catholicism -   Basic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church
Fr. Robert Altier
Father Robert Altier

Father Robert Altier is a Roman Catholic priest in the archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis, MN, USA. Ordained in 1989, he has served as assistant pastor at the Church of Saint Agnes in Saint Paul, Minnesota. A member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, Fr. Altier has a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist and Our Blessed Mother Mary, and is loyal to Pope Benedict XVI.
  • Catholic Parents OnLine  Info Fundamentals of Catholicism - Fr. Robert Altier presents the ever-popular " “Fundamentals Of Catholicism” course which will begin on September 13th, 2006 and run for 24 weeks, twelve weeks before Christmas, and twelve weeks after Christmas. The course will be held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 749 - 6th Avenue South in South St. Paul, MN from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Questions & answers follow each class. To register, please call Holy Trinity Catholic Church at 651-455-1228.
  • Recordings of this series and over 150 other talks by Father Altier are available through Divine Mercy Tapes (651-454-8800) and Leaflet Missal Company www.leafletmissal.org.

  • The Fundamentals of Catholicism is a series of 12 classes, each two hours in length, that presents the basic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The format of the talks as presented here consists of 24 lessons, which are each one half of the weekly classs
  • Fr. Altier serves as president of Help the Helpless, a charitable organization benefitting handicapped children in India. His deep commitment to providing orthodox instruction of the Catholic Faith to the faithful led him to begin the ever-popular "Fundamentals of Catholicism" catechetical series which is now in its 16th year. Recordings of this series and over 200 other talks by Father Altier are available through Divine Mercy Tapes (651-454-8800)
  • Father Altier Archive Homilies - Homilies that will renew a love for the Church and bring you closer Jesus and Mary and a longing for the Sacraments along with growing in a Spiritual Life each new day.
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Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier
s = Text Sample     MP3  audio                           MP3 audio                                      DSS audio                                                     DSS audio
s 1.God:  Unity & Trinity Part 1
13. Grace & Divine Life Part 1
1. God:  Unity & Trinity Part 1
13. Grace & Divine Life Part 1
s 2 God:  Unity & Trinity Part 2 14.  Grace & Divine Life Part 2
2. God:  Unity & Trinity Part 2
14. Grace & Divine Life Part 2
s 3. Creation & Original Sin Part 1
15. Sacraments Part 1
3. Creation & Original Sin Part 1 15. Sacraments Part 1
s 4. Creation & Original Sin Part 2 16. Sacraments Part 2
4. Creation & Original Sin Part 2
16. Sacraments Part 2
s 5. Jesus Christ:  God & Man Part 1
17. The Eucharist Part 1
5. Jesus Christ:  God & Man Part 1 17. The Eucharist Part 1
s 6. Jesus Christ:  God & Man Part 2
18. The Eucharist Part 1 6. Jesus Christ:  God & Man Part 2
18. The Eucharist Part 2
s 7. Mother Mary Part 1 19. Confession Part 1 7.  Mother Mary Part 1 19. Confession Part 1
s 8.  Mother Mary Part 2
20. Confession Part 2
8.  Mother Mary Part 2
20. Confession Part 2
s 9. The Church Part 1 21. Marriage
9.  The Church Part 1 21. Marriage
s 10.  The Church Part 2
22. Holy Orders - Morality Part 1 10. The Church Part 2
22. Holy Orders - Morality Part 1
s 11. Divine Revelation Part 1
23.  Morality Part 2 11. Divine Revelation Part 1 23. Morality Part 2
s 12.  Divine Revelation Part 2

12. Divine Revelation Part 2

Online Book of The Catechism of the Catholic Church by the Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church


The Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier

1. God:  Unity & Trinity Part 1
  We are made in the image and likeness of God. That is what is on the first page of Scripture. Right there, on the first page of the Bible, we see one of the most important of all the truths that we can understand, that is, that we are made in the image and likeness of God. God is infinitely intelligent, and He knew our problems very well even before He created us. He knew that all of us at some point, in a moment of zeal, would say, “You know what, I’m going to read the Bible.” If we are going to read the Bible, where are we going to start? The first page. So what does He do?

He takes the very first chapter on the first page and puts one of the most important truths that we need to know, that God exists and that we are made in His image and likeness. Well, we read a few pages into it, and we say, “This is a pretty long book. I think I’ll just read the New Testament.” So what do we find on the first page of the New Testament? That God became man, the other most important truth we need to know. First, we are made in His image and likeness; secondly, He became one of us. And so when we are tempted to think we are trash and we are junk and we are no-good and everything else, we have to look at Jesus and say, “Are we going to say that about Him?” He became one of us, and He elevated our nature to an almost infinite level.

 
2. God:  Unity & Trinity Part 2
Are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit identical? The answer is “yes,” because, as we said, God is perfectly simple, so there cannot be any kind of division. Yet, at the same time, they are distinct as persons. What I just said sounds like a logical contradiction, but it is not and we will explain that. What we have in God are three Persons and one God. There is only one God. We have already seen that there can only be one. Remember that when we were talking about God as a Supreme Being, we said if there were two of them who were Supreme Beings they would have to be identical, and if they are identical then they can only be one. That is what we are dealing with. We are talking about three Persons but only one God. There are three Persons subsisting in one God.


3. Creation & Original Sin Part 1
We have to ask: Why did God create the world? Well, He made the world to manifest His perfection, and that is done through the benefits He bestows upon creatures. What is very important is that we understand that God does not get anything out of creation. It does not intensify His happiness in any way, and He does not acquire any perfection that He did not already have. We talked about that last week when we said God is the Supreme Being, “Supreme Being” meaning that He is perfect and there is nothing lacking. We do not add anything to God; we do not give Him something that He did not already have.

So it was not to get anything out of it for Himself, yet at the same time we can say that the world is made for the glory of God. That is the purpose of creation. Having said that, again, keep in mind what we said a moment ago, that God does not get anything out of creation. If He did, it would imply that He could change. And if He could change, it would mean He is not perfect. As I said last week, if He is not perfect then you may as well worship yourself, because why would you worship an imperfect being? An imperfect being is clearly not God. So why did God create the world? First of all, for the revelation of the divine perfections and the glorification which flows from it. Secondly, for the communication of good to creatures, especially to those with intelligence. In other words, God created the world for us. It is a pretty wonderful thing when you think about it. Just look around at all the things that were created –they were created for us. That is the reason God made it. But He made us for Himself. Everything out there God made for you, but He made you for Himself.


4.  Creation & Original Sin Part 1
What is it then that sets our souls apart? In other words, what makes our souls immortal? What makes our souls immortal is the mind and the intellect, the mind and the will. Once the data is present, thinking and willing can continue without the body. We get everything in through the senses. Everything that we have comes through the senses, through what we have felt, touched, heard, etc. But once we have the data there, we can think without having anything go through the senses. We can put together divergent concepts that we have never experienced before. That is how we know that thinking and willing can continue without the body. For instance, we have all seen pictures of elephants. We all know what elephants look like, and they are all gray. Have you ever seen a blue elephant before?

No. But if I asked you to imagine what a blue elephant would look like, you know what blue is and you know what an elephant is, so in your mind you can put those two concepts together and make a picture of a blue elephant. You have never experienced it with your senses, but you can still make the picture. Once the information is there, your mind and your will can continue to work even without the necessity of the senses. That, in a very small nutshell, is how we can demonstrate that the soul is immortal. Actually, the immortality of the soul was proven by the pagan philosopher Aristotle a couple of hundred years before Jesus lived, and that is the essence of it, that thinking and choosing can continue on without the body. What we are able to do is relate things, that is, we are able to look at causes and effects, and that is how we can reason to the fact of the immortality of the soul.
 
5. Jesus Christ – God and Man (Part 1)
What is it then that sets our souls apart? In other words, what makes our souls immortal? What makes our souls immortal is the mind and the intellect, the mind and the will. Once the data is present, thinking and willing can continue without the body. We get everything in through the senses. Everything that we have comes through the senses, through what we have felt, touched, heard, etc. But once we have the data there, we can think without having anything go through the senses. We can put together divergent concepts that we have never experienced before. That is how we know that thinking and willing can continue without the body. For instance, we have all seen pictures of elephants. We all know what elephants look like, and they are all gray. Have you ever seen a blue elephant before?

No. But if I asked you to imagine what a blue elephant would look like, you know what blue is and you know what an elephant is, so in your mind you can put those two concepts together and make a picture of a blue elephant. You have never experienced it with your senses, but you can still make the picture. Once the information is there, your mind and your will can continue to work even without the necessity of the senses. That, in a very small nutshell, is how we can demonstrate that the soul is immortal. Actually, the immortality of the soul was proven by the pagan philosopher Aristotle a couple of hundred years before Jesus lived, and that is the essence of it, that thinking and choosing can continue on without the body. What we are able to do is relate things, that is, we are able to look at causes and effects, and that is how we can reason to the fact of the immortality of the soul.

 
6.  Jesus Christ – God and Man (Part 2)
What about the miracles that Our Lord worked? Did His human body possess the power of God to do such things? In other words, was there something different about His human body that when people touched Him the power of God was there? Well, recall that God gives certain powers to the nature of the things He has created, and once in a while He goes beyond the nature of a thing for a spiritual purpose. That is what we mean by a miracle, something which is beyond the nature of the being. Christ’s human nature was endowed with certain powers and grace, just like us, but His human nature was still finite. The human nature of Jesus is not omnipotent. As God, Jesus is omnipotent; in His human nature, He is not. Omnipotence is a perfection which pertains only to the divinity. So with regard to things like miracles and prophecies and so on, Jesus’ human nature functions as an instrument of the Word. In other words, His human body by itself did not contain some sort of extraordinary power to do things, but rather God worked through His own humanity. The Word (the Second Person of the Trinity) united to His humanity worked through His humanity to perform miracles. It is not that His humanity contained this ability all on its own, but rather God has that power and God worked through His humanity to do that. He has instrumental power, then, to produce supernatural effects in the physical and moral order which serve the purpose of redemption.


7. Mother Mary Part 1
As we will see, she is the Mother of God. When Jesus asked, Who are My mother and My brothers and My sisters, He said, The one who hears the Word of God and keeps it. Who is it that kept the Word of God most perfectly, but Our Lady? If we are blessed in our discipleship, she is more so. But she is more blessed because of her union with Christ spiritually than she is being the mother of Christ, which is obviously the greatest gift anybody could ever be given.

Since all of these things that we can say about Mary are ultimately gifts from God, the ultimate purpose for devotion to Our Lady is to glorify God. We said that everything God does outside of Himself is for His own glory. For us, then, the ultimate purpose of Marian devotion is to give greater glory to God. It is to lead us to commit ourselves to a life which is in absolute conformity to the Will of God; in other words, to go to the one human person who lived her life in absolute perfect conformity to the Will of God and imitate it. That is the easiest thing to do. All you have to do is look at it and say, “You know what, God chose her. Who am I to reject what God has chosen?” That is something we can ponder. Why would we not have a devotion to Our Lady when Jesus did and still does? If we want to say that we are true followers of Jesus Christ, it means we have to imitate Christ in all things, and Jesus had a perfect devotion to His mother. Just think about the commandments. The Fourth Commandment says: Honor your mother and your father. If we translated it truly, what it really says is Glorify your mother and your father. Jesus never sinned. That means He glorified His mother perfectly. We are to imitate Christ in all things, so we are to glorify our mother perfectly. We glorify God in heaven, and we also give glory and honor to our Blessed Lady. That is just part and parcel of what it is to be a Christian person.

8.   Mother Mary Part 2
The easiest thing is to see it as it is, that Our Lady had no other children. She is a perpetual virgin. You can see that very clearly when the angel comes to Our Lady and tells her, “You are going to bear a son,” and she says, “How can this be since I know not man?” In Galilee at the time of Jesus, marriage was a two-step thing. We are told that Joseph was betrothed to Mary. Betrothal was marriage, but there was a six-month betrothal period. You would make your marriage vows, but you did not live together for six months. Then you would move in together. Mary was betrothed to Joseph; they were already married. That is why it says that Joseph was going to divorce her. It was not just being engaged. You can break off engagements and say, “Give me back the ring,” but that was not the case.

He would have had to divorce her. They were married. If you were to say to a young woman, even in her engagement, “You’re going to have a child,” is she going to say, “How is that going to happen?” It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how a woman is going to have a baby. She is engaged to be married, and she is going to have a baby. It is obvious how it is going to happen. Our Lady was betrothed, and she is saying to the angel, “How can this be?” The angel did not say, “Well, you’re married already. You’re going to move in with Joseph pretty soon. What do you think is going to happen?” No, because they had a virginal marriage, which was known at that time among the Essenes. It was not something unheard of in Jewish culture at that time. In fact, there are contracts that have been found by archaeologists where the father had drawn up the contract that his daughter would be married to a particular man but that she had made a vow of virginity and she would maintain that virginity. The man understood that, so they were married, but it was a non-consummated marriage. That is the way it would have been with Our Lady and Saint Joseph. You have it right there in Scripture very clearly that not only was she a virgin but their marriage was going to be a virginal marriage.

9. The Church Part 1
This assembly of people is some kind of society which is universal in character and spiritual in nature. This includes all those who are baptized into Jesus Christ and profess their faith in Him. I should point out that when they translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, they translated the word kahal as “ekklesia.”

Kahal is a Hebrew word that is translated as “the people of God,” the whole community of the Israelites. So what we are talking about is this new people of God. Just as God had chosen for Himself a people in the Old Testament times and in that people one could speak on behalf of all (as Moses was able to do) or all could speak together, that is what this kind of group is all about. God has founded a new people of God. When we look in Sacred Scripture, Saint Paul talks about the New Israel, and we hear about the New Jerusalem and names like that for the Church. What we are dealing with here are the new people of God that Jesus Himself has chosen because in Matthew 16 it is the word He Himself uses: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My “ekklesia.” There is a new people of God that is formed. There is a head and there are members. One can speak on behalf of all, which is what the Vicar of Christ is all about, or all can be united as one, either way.

It is an article of faith that Jesus Christ founded the Holy Roman Catholic Church. To say that He founded the Church means that during His earthly life He personally laid down all the essential elements for Her teaching, Her sacraments, and Her visible structure. Now there are some who will deny the institution of the visible structure. Others accept that but they might deny the papacy. There are differing groups of Christian people who fall into different categories with regard to that, and we need to be able to address all of those issues.

10. The Church Part 2
The Pope has full episcopal power over the whole Church in matters of faith and morals, as well as in the government of the Church. Episcopal power means the power of the bishop. "Episkopos" is the Greek word for bishop. Interestingly, if you translated that directly into Latin or English, it would be “supervisor.” So it is the one who is the overseer. That is the role of the bishop, to oversee the life of the Church. For the Pope, it is for the whole Church and not just a diocese. The Pope’s power is called ordinary, which means it comes directly from the Lord and is something he exercises of his own authority. It is not an extraordinary thing where he needs permission from someone else, but he has it in and of himself. He is not, then, a delegate of a council; he is not a delegate of another group; he is not even a delegate of the cardinals who elect him. Once he is elected, he is the Pope, pure and simple, and he exercises this power of his own right. His power is also immediate, meaning he can deal directly with anyone without having to go through their bishop. If the bishop of one diocese gets upset with something that is going on in another diocese, that bishop must contact the bishop of the diocese where the other person lives to be able to address the situation; he cannot do it directly. The Pope, on the other hand, can. So if the Pope was upset with you, he could call you up himself and deal with the issue without having to go through the archbishop. But any other bishop would have to check with your own bishop first.

We say that the Pope’s power is also supreme, which means there is no jurisdiction in the Church equal to or greater than that of the Holy Father. The power of the Pope exceeds that of individual bishops and of all the bishops collectively. As the supreme lawgiver, the Pope can also change ecclesiastical laws. Those would be laws like fasting and abstinence laws, the use of vernacular in the Mass, things like that. Any of the laws that the Church Herself has put into place can be changed. However, like the rest of us, the Pope is obviously bound by divine law. He cannot change the Ten Commandments. Those are God’s laws and the Pope does not have any authority over those. Any of the laws that the Church has put into place, the Pope has complete authority to change them as he wills, but that stops with Church law

11.  Divine Revelation Part 1
How did Jesus reveal truth? If we are going to say that He revealed truth, how did He do it? By the way He lived and by what He taught. It is very simple: by words and by example. He taught us revelation in a particular, historical, and cultural context. If we are going to truly understand what the New Testament is about, it means we have to understand something about Jewish culture at the time. We also have to understand things about Jewish theology and the way the Jewish people would understand God. And in order to understand the Old Testament, not only do we need to have the theological grasp of things, but we also have to understand some of the cultural things that were going on at that time. Reading Scripture is not a simple task; there is an awful lot that goes into it.

We saw in the last lesson that the Church is the Mystical Person of Christ, and as such She never ceases to reflect upon what is in the Sacred Scriptures. The Church is constantly looking at this truth, meditating upon this truth, and revealing it anew to each generation in Her own words. That is what is known as Sacred Tradition. It is the Church’s continuing effort to reflect upon Scripture and state it anew for each generation. It is constantly presenting the same truth, but with deeper understanding, with new insights. It is not a new truth, but rather it is a more profound insight into the same truth. That happens constantly in our own lives. Those of you who have been married for many years can look at that. It does not matter how many years you have been married, every once in a while the light bulb goes on and you realize something about your spouse that you never realized before. It is not anything new; it is just a new insight for you. And you can love that person even more deeply and more profoundly because you know the person even better now with the new insight. That is the same thing here. We are able to love God even more because of the insights that come.


During this session, Fr. Corapi will explain the Passion and death of Christ; how it cannot be separated from the Resurrection. We are "resurrection people" because we are united under the cross of Christ. It is at the cross of Christ where all roads cross and at the intersection of the beams of the cross where wisdom is to be found. It is there that incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ, is "lifted up." It is there that we come to know both God and man, for Jesus Christ is true God and true man.

12.  Divine Revelation Part 2
We say that the Scriptures are divinely inspired. What does divine inspiration mean? Divine inspiration means that the Scriptures say what God wanted said. In doing this, however, God did not suspend the minds and the wills of the human authors, nor did He take away their personalities. All you have to do is read the prophets and you will see their personalities shining through all over the place. God clearly did not take that away. You will see some of these paintings, for instance, of the evangelists, the Gospel writers, and it will show them with a little bird sitting on their shoulder whispering into their ear. Well, it is true that the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, but He did not dictate the Scriptures in that way to the evangelists. Rather, through their own thoughts and choices, the authors wrote down what God wanted them to write. These human authors then received a specific and extraordinary gift from God. This gift, which is the grace of divine inspiration, is a movement of the Holy Spirit, which extended the minds and the wills of the authors, as well as the other faculties necessary in order to compose the sacred texts. Here is an easy way to think about that. Let us say you wanted to explain a point that you learned in this lesson. Unless you have this lesson text, you are not going to be able to explain it exactly word for word the way I did. But you can tell whomever you wish what you read in your own words. You take the same truth and present it in your own words. So what God did was to enlighten the minds and the hearts of these men to be able to understand the truth, then in their own words and with their own personality and style, they wrote it down. It says what God wanted to have said, but He just made use of these individuals to do it. It is all the truth, but it is in the way that God chose to have it presented.

All Scripture is inspired by God. That means every single word, not just certain words and phrases. That means every single word has God as its author and is inspired by Him – even the parts that you might not personally like. That is very important. We cannot gloss over things in the Bible and say, “I don’t go for that.” It is the Word of God, and if we are going to ignore the Word of God because we decide that we do not want it, we are going to find ourselves in a lot of hot water because we are saying that we know better than God. That is not a real smart thing to do.


13. Grace and the Divine Life Part 1
Anyone who was raised Catholic will remember that grace is defined as the supernatural life of the soul. Grace makes us children of God and heirs of heaven. Grace is God’s life that He infuses into our soul, and it is precisely the sharing in His life that makes us partakers of the divine nature. It raises us to a supernatural level of acting and being. It makes us children of God, and because we are children of God, we are members of the one Son of God. His inheritance becomes our inheritance, and therefore heaven – God Himself – becomes our inheritance.

We remember from the third lesson that Adam and Eve were created with sanctifying grace but they lost it when they sinned. This means that humanity originally had everything necessary to enter into the Beatific Vision, the blessed vision (which is what “Beatific” means), the face to face vision of God for eternity, so we would have been able to go straight to heaven. But they lost that. We also saw that Christ’s death on the Cross reconciled humanity with God, but we also said that that objective redemption must be accepted and appropriated to each person individually. The application of the fruits of the Redemption is called “justification” or “sanctification.” Because we have a mind and a will, the Church teaches that the process of justification requires the free cooperation of each person. God will not force anybody to cooperate; it requires our free will. Each of us has the freedom to choose. Grace, then, is a supernatural gift of God which He bestows freely on rational creatures so they can obtain personal union with Him.

There are two ways our soul can be. We are either in the state of sanctifying grace or we are in the state of mortal sin; it is one or the other. We can have venial sins, the smaller sins, on our souls, but that does not remove God’s grace entirely. The reason a mortal sin is called “mortal” is because it causes a supernatural death, that is, the death of the life of God in the soul. If we are in the state of sanctifying grace, we have God’s life and we partake in the divine nature and we have union with God. If we do not have sanctifying grace, then we do not have the divine life in us and we do not have union with God.



14. Grace and the Divine Life Part 2
Why does God allow evil? In order to bring about a greater good. He allows the fact that some people will go to hell in order for the free acts of love which merit the Beatific Vision to take place. In other words, if we were puppets on His string, heaven would mean nothing. If we do not have a choice about getting there, it is not going to be an issue: “So what? It’s just heaven.” No, it means everything when you have to make the choice to be there. If you did not have a free will, heaven would not mean a thing. But when you have a free will and you could have chosen the opposite, when you have rejected all the devil’s lies and all the things he is offering you in this world so that you can be united with God, heaven is going to mean everything to you. That is exactly what the Lord wants from us. And this does not in any way contradict God’s desire for the salvation of all. He offers His grace to all, but some people will misuse their freedom and they will say “no” to God, and He allows these to go their own way. Their reprobation, then, is conditioned on their foreseen future sins.

That is a point I think I made before. We look at some people whom God allows to do all kinds of bad things and we say, “It’s not fair. If I step one inch out of line, God’s right there to whack me. But look at what these people are doing. He just lets them do whatever they want.” The worst possible thing that could happen to somebody is for God just to say, “Go ahead, do what you want. You don’t want to do it My way? Then go do it your way.” If you are trying to do it God’s way, He is going to help you. If you step a little out of line, He will straighten you right back out. That is because He knows you are trying to do it His way and you want to do it His way. So it is not an unfair thing of saying, “Why doesn’t God let me get away with anything?” What we should do is thank Him that He does not let us get away with anything.



15.  Sacraments Part 1
Our word “sacrament” comes from the Latin word sacramentum. Sacramentum is a translation in the Latin of the Greek word musterion. You can see that is the root of our word “mystery.” Sacramentum simply means “a holy thing,” and you can see our word “sacred” in there. When we are talking about this idea of the musterion, it is something which is hidden, something which is secret. That is what it would imply in the Greek.

It is interesting to note that in Latin sacramentum is also the Latin word for “oath.” The Hebrew word for oath is the word sheba, which is “seven,” and so the Hebrew idiom to swear an oath is actually “to seven oneself.” If that is what this is about, then it is a very interesting point to recognize that there are seven sacraments, seven things God has done to be able to save His people. They are oaths that God has sworn. In fact, it even says that with regard to the priesthood of Christ in Psalm 110: The Lord has sworn an oath He will not change. You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Well, the amazing thing is that God swears an oath. God Who cannot lie, God Who cannot deceive, in order to be able to demonstrate to us and having no one greater to swear by, swears by Himself; He swears an oath to us! Saint Paul makes this clear in his Letter to the Hebrews. The simple pondering that God would have to swear an oath to humanity is mind-boggling, but that is what the sacraments are – they are the oath of God.

Also, it is the idea of covenant. Again, that is where the concept of a covenant comes from. God has entered into seven covenants with His people. He enters into smaller ones, but as far as a covenant with all the people, there are seven that God has entered into; and all of the covenants remain intact because the three elements of a covenant is that they are permanent, faithful, and life giving. And so we enter into the covenant. You can look at the old covenant, for instance, with Moses and the Ten Commandments, but there is a covenant with Abraham and a covenant with Noah and with different people along the way.



16. Sacraments Part 2
The first sacrament we will consider is baptism because it is by baptism that a person becomes a member of the Church and participates in the divine life of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of spiritual regeneration conferred by the application of water while consecrating the person to the Holy Trinity. Baptism, then, confers with it a spiritual regeneration, divine adoption, the beginning of eternal life, and conformity to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. By baptism we become children of God and heirs of heaven. We participate in the divine life by the sanctifying grace which is poured into our souls at that moment. We are also incorporated into the Church, which is the Mystical Person of Christ, so baptism is not just an individual sacrament, but it is also a communal act. It is something which affects all of us.

Baptism must be done with water, but there are three different ways that a person can be baptized. There can be baptism by immersion, where you dunk the person all the way into a tank or a river or whatever it might be; there is the pouring of water over the forehead of the person; or there can be baptism by sprinkling. Let me explain those. The pouring of water over the forehead is the most common way that baptism is done with babies, but the others are okay. If a baby is in an incubator at the hospital, for instance, then it is simply done by sprinkling. For the baptism to be valid the water must run across the skin, so all you have to do is put a couple of drops of water and let it run. You catch the baby when their head is turned a little bit, put the water on the forehead, and let it run across the forehead. As you put the three drops, you say, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one drop with each. That is actually all you need, provided it runs. It is a minimalist way, but when a baby is in an incubator you do not want to soak the whole thing, and that is what you have to do to make sure you get it done. The immersion can also be done. There are all kinds of interesting stories about that. There is a church out in the suburbs and they built one of these immersion pools. The priest was climbing in there with his alb on, and it came up to his chest. He got out and his clothes were soaking wet, so he went to the Baptist minister down the road and asked, “What do you guys do? How do you keep all this from happening?” The Baptist minister said, “I wear chest waders, and I put lead in the hem of my alb so it stays down.” So that is what the priest started to do. Imagine crawling into this immersion pool with chest waders on and everything else. There are easier ways.

17.  The Eucharist
When we talk about the Eucharist, we have to consider it in three different ways: the Real Presence, the sacrament, and the sacrifice. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistein, which means “to give thanks.” Eucharist literally is thanksgiving. When it says in Scripture that Jesus took the bread and He gave thanks, that is eucharist; that is the word which is there. Remember that the Last Supper was the Passover meal, and there is a part of that meal which the Jewish people call the todah. Todah is the Hebrew word for “thanksgiving” or “thank you.” It was in that context that Our Lord consecrated the bread and wine and changed it into His own self. So you see the symbolism of what is there.

If you think about the fact that this was at the Passover meal, it puts it all in context for us. The Jewish law said that if somebody could not celebrate the Passover on its actual day then they could celebrate it early. Knowing that He would not be able to celebrate the Passover completely on the proper day (which would be the sabbath, on Saturday), Jesus celebrated early with His apostles. On Thursday evening, He and His apostles went to the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover feast. The Passover was the event that took place in ancient Egypt at the time when the people of Israel were enslaved to the Egyptians, and after nine of the plagues, the very last plague was the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians. But God told them that they had to take a lamb, a male lamb without blemish, and sacrifice the lamb at the evening twilight. Then they had to take the blood of the lamb and sprinkle it upon the doorposts and the lintel of the door, and the angel of death would pass over the houses where they had done that. So that is what happened. From that point on, the Hebrew people had to offer their firstborn son to God. They had to redeem the firstborn because of the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians.

Well, have you ever thought about the passage in Saint John’s Gospel where Jesus is walking along and Saint John the Baptist points out Our Lord to his disciples (who happened to be Andrew and John), and says, Behold, the Lamb of God? We are so accustomed to the language that maybe we have not stopped to think about it. But imagine standing there with Saint John the Baptist and having him point somebody out and say, “Look, there’s the Lamb of God!” What a dumb thing to say. Why did he not say, “Behold, the Son of God,” or, “Behold, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity,” or, “Behold, God made man”? Rather he said, Behold, the Lamb of God. Why? It is because he was pointing out exactly Who Jesus was – He was the sacrificial lamb.

18.  The Eucharist  Part 2
When we talk about the Real Presence, what is meant by that term is that the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ are really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine. It looks and tastes like bread and wine. The accidents of bread and wine remain, but the substance has changed. That which makes a piece of bread a piece of bread has changed to become that which makes Jesus Christ Who He is. In this, the glorified Christ is present by means of a miracle. That is, the substance and the reality of the bread and wine have been changed into the substance and reality of the Body and Blood of the resurrected and ascended Lord.

One thing to understand is that Jesus is present in the Eucharist in the form that He is presently in. In other words, at the Last Supper, when He gave Himself to the apostles in the Blessed Sacrament, He was present in the Eucharist exactly in the form that He was as He stood right before them. They received Him as He was. Now this did not happen, but if Peter or Saint John would have had the wherewithal to think about it, had they said Mass in those three days that Jesus was in the tomb, they would have received the dead body of Jesus. His soul and His divinity were alive, of course, but His body and blood would have been postmortem. If they would have said Mass in the 40 days after the Resurrection but before He ascended into heaven, they would have received the resurrected Christ. But now that He has ascended into heaven and is glorified, when we receive Him, we receive Him as He is now, that is, glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father. We receive Him as He is presently.

Jesus is God, and God is worthy of all worship and adoration, so it follows that Our Lord under the forms of bread and wine is worthy of all worship and adoration in the Eucharist. That is why we spend time praying to Him. It should also be noted that the doctrine of the Real Presence was never called seriously into question until the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants were unanimous in rejecting transubstantiation and the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. However, there was some disagreement among the Protestants about the question of the Real Presence. Martin Luther believed in the Real Presence, but he said that it occurred only during the reception of Holy Communion. All of the others rejected it outright.

19.  Confession Part 1
Throughout history, people have denied that the Church can forgive sin, that is, they have rejected and denied the reality of this sacrament. The reformers said that sin is forgiven only through baptism. The Montanists and the Donatists said that the Church could forgive venial sin but could not forgive mortal sin. Interestingly, the Church teaches us that the only sins which absolutely must be confessed are the mortal sins. You have some people saying that the Church does not have the authority to forgive serious sin. The spiritual backing for this comes from a couple of different places. We can look, for instance, at Matthew 16 where Jesus says, You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church; whatever you hold bound on earth will be held bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Then in Matthew 18, Jesus also extends the ability to forgive sin to all of the apostles, not just to Peter with the binding and loosing, but all the apostles. Most clearly, in John 20 after the Resurrection, Jesus breathes on the apostles and says, Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you hold bound are held bound. There is the authority for both, to forgive or to refuse forgiveness. We see that God Himself is the One telling us that whatever you hold bound or forgive on earth will be held bound or forgiven in heaven. Therefore, we see that Our Lord Himself invested the apostles with the authority to forgive sins, but again it can also be used to refuse forgiveness. We will address why that would happen further on.

We see that this conferral of power to forgive sins is not a personal gift to the apostles, but rather we believe it was transferred through them to the Church as a permanent institution. All you have to do is think about it and say, “If Jesus gave the apostles authority to forgive sin but that authority died with the apostles, the rest of us are up a creek because it means there is no forgiveness of sin.” Unless sin ended with the death of the last apostle, there would be no more need to forgive anybody; and we know that is not the case, because we know that we live in the most sinful society the world has ever known. God also said, Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. So we know that His will to forgive and the grace of forgiveness is available to us, but it is a matter of availing ourselves of that grace. The power, then, was transmitted by the apostles to their successors in the same way that the power to say Mass and to preach was passed on to their successors. And it is obvious why. Sin is going to continue for all time; therefore, the forgiveness of sin is necessary for all time.


20. Confession Part 2
One of the tricks of the devil, and it works very well, is that he tries to shame you with it. He brings things up in front of you and says, “Look at what you did. You rotten thing, you, look at this sin! Can you believe you are such a disgusting creature as to do something like this?” Then we start falling into the self-pity and all the other stuff. Do not play his game. The thing to do is very simple; just say, “I have already confessed it and God has forgiven me.” If it has not been confessed, then say, “Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I will confess it next time I go to confession.” Either way, you pull the rug out from underneath him. In the first one, you are acknowledging that you did it. What he wants is for you to either say, “I never did it,” or to say, “God hasn’t forgiven me.” So you are acknowledging both: “I have already confessed it and God has forgiven me.” I always like to add: “You lose, Satan.” You do not have to do that if you do not want to, but it is the truth. With the other one, it pulls the rug out from under him. He is trying to shame you with something, so if you stick it right back in his face and say, “Thank you. I will confess that as soon as I can,” what is he going to do? His attempt to shame you has failed because you took it and made it into something positive instead of the negative thing that he wanted to do with it. That is the way to handle it.

Do not play his game. The more we play around with the devil, the worse trouble we get ourselves into. So recognize how he works and tell him to get lost. Since his name is Lucifer, I like to call him “Loser-fer” because he is the ultimate loser. He has chosen against God and he is spending eternity in hell. That is what a loser is all about. As Mother Teresa said, the only ones who are a success in this life are the ones who succeed in getting to heaven, and the only ones who are a failure in this life are the ones who fail to get to heaven. It does not matter if you die with ten billion dollars. If you go to hell, what difference does it make? What profit is there for a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? What good does it do? The only thing that matters is getting to heaven, so do not play footsie with the devil. It does not do us any good at all.

 
21.  Marriage
  Marriage, from the point of view of the Church, is not merely natural. There is a natural element to it, so we have to recognize the civil aspect of the marriage, but it is a sacrament. Therefore, it is something which is spiritual; it is holy. It is not merely a contract. Marriage is a covenant. A covenant is an agreement between God and His people, with God making promises on one side and the people making promises on the other. All covenants have three elements. They are permanent, faithful, and life giving. That is precisely what the couple promises right before they make their vows, that it is for life, it is permanent, and there will not be a third in there. It is only two, it is for life, and it is to give life. You are open to the possibility of children. That is precisely what a couple enters into. And this builds upon the covenant you have already entered into on the day you were baptized, because baptism is entrance into the covenant. Now you enter into another covenant which builds upon the baptismal covenant, and you cannot enter into this covenant unless you are already a baptized person. That is why it is between a baptized male and a baptized female. You have to be a member of Jesus Christ before you can enter into a sacramental marriage. It cannot be a covenant if there is not baptism already.

The purpose of this is to make you holy. This is how most people are going to become saints or fail to become saints: by the way they live their married life. People need to understand that in this day and age where divorce is so common. You have made a vow to God, and a vow is binding under the pain of sin. It is a vow to love this person every day for the rest of your life. You did not vow to love this person as long as you feel like you are being loved: “As long as I’m happy, as long as I’m being fulfilled, as long as I’m getting what I want, then I’ll love you.” That is not what you said. It is an unconditional vow to Almighty God, as well as to this other person, that you will love that person every day and every moment of every day for the rest of your life regardless of what that person is doing toward you. To be married requires that you be a saint, and any married person understands that.

The point of marriage, then, is to become holy. You are to help one another become saints, and that can be done in one of two ways. There is the positive way in which two people truly loving one another in a selfless manner seek to build one another up by pointing out in charity the faults of the other, by helping the other to grow, by praying together, by building up the unity that is there, and helping one another to reach higher and higher in the spiritual life. That is what matrimony is supposed to be. I suspect in most marriages the way that you become a saint is the negative way, that is, by living with somebody and being such a pain that the only way they can live in the same house with you is by being a saint. Well, that is one way to become a saint. However, you did not make a vow to be a hairshirt for the other person. You made a vow to love that person.


22.  Morality  Part 1
For Catholics, morality is more than just common sense. It is more than the results of philosophical or anthropological studies. And, thanks be to God, it is more than the results of opinion polls. That is what Americans like for deciding what is moral and what is not. “Let’s take a poll and see what the majority of people think.” It does not matter. In the first lesson we asked, “Why were the people of Israel right and everybody else was wrong when it came to the fact that there is only one God?” The whole world said there was a multiplicity of gods and this one little group of people said there is only one God. They were right and everybody else was wrong. It is not about opinion polls. It is not because everybody else is doing it. It is about what is right.

The wonderful thing is that when you know you are right, you know you cannot be wrong. It is not an arrogant statement because the truth is objective, not subjective. If we can conform ourselves to the truth of God as the Church teaches us, then we know we are doing what is right because it is not “my own opinion” and it is not “my own idea.” It is God’s teaching, it is His truth, and that is what sets us free. Jesus said: The truth will set you free. You were made for the truth and the truth will set you free. If we live according to the truth, we will have the freedom we are seeking and we will have happiness. On the other hand, He tells us that if we sin we become slaves to sin and we are unhappy. What does the devil tell us? “All these sinful things are going to make you happy.” They have never made anybody happy. All they do is lead to misery.

We think that if we do it God’s way we are going to be so miserable and unhappy and lonely, but it is just the opposite. When you are with God, you are never alone; you cannot be because you are with Him. The hermit who wrote the book The Hermitage Within had a profound statement when he said, “You’re never less alone than when you’re alone with God,” because you are with Him Who is all in all. If we do it His way, we are happy.

And it is an objective thing; it is not about opinions. Morality for Catholics flows from our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us about many things, but He also taught us how to live a good life. If you want to see it encapsulized, it is in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). That is where He brings it all together. There are lots of teachings all over the Gospels, but He brings it all together right there for the moral teachings. Not only did He teach His disciples how to live a good life, but He did it Himself first. He lived a good life, and He becomes for us the model for all Christian living. Morality is based on the words and the deeds of Jesus Christ.

23.  Morality  Part 2
On the human level, not only do we need good laws, but those laws must be in conformity with the divine law in order to be good, and they must be framed and promulgated by good and wise legislators. That, of course, brings one to an obvious point of concern: to have good and wise legislators making the laws. It is rather interesting to see some of the twists that are there. We have the interest groups with all of their things, but the important point here is that it must be in conformity with divine law. If it is not, it is an unjust law, and an unjust law does not have to be followed. In fact, if it is an unjust law, it must be disobeyed. That is a point people do not always understand. For instance, people would say it is okay to kill babies because the Supreme Court said it is. Well, it goes directly against the Fifth Commandment; it goes against what God has made clear in Scripture and through His Church, and therefore we have an obligation to disobey the law. We cannot hide behind the law and say it is okay because the Supreme Court said it is okay. We actually have a moral obligation to be disobedient in that case, to obey the higher law and disobey the lower law, because the lower law is not in conformity with the higher law. We need to also be careful that we do not try to pick and choose the laws we like and do not like. They have to truly be unjust laws in order to be disobeyed. They cannot be something that we simply do not feel like doing, or that we do not like ourselves. It has to truly be an unjust law.

One thing I have noticed with some of the laws is that the more ridiculous and unjust the law is, the more severe the penalty is for disobeying it – because that is the only way they can get anybody to obey it since it is unjust. I have found it to be an interesting pattern the way these guys operate. They know the thing is a worthless law, and the only way they can make anybody conform to it is to make the penalty for disobeying it so ridiculously severe that you have no choice, even though it is not just.

As I mentioned, there was the obedience of Jesus to the will of His Father that accomplished our salvation; therefore, we in our turn have to follow His example. And if we are going to follow His example, it is to be obedient even if it means going against our own will. Obviously, Jesus never had to do anything against His own will because His will is the will of God and that was not an issue. For us, sometimes it is a problem.

On the subjective end, the conscience is the supreme subjective norm of morality. In our day, the conscience is frequently appealed to as an absolutely autonomous principle within the person, almost something which is not supposed to be challenged by anyone, including the state or the Church. In order to know how to deal with this, we need to know, first of all, what the conscience is and what it is not.

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