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The Power of the Sign of the Cross

Sign of the Cross

 Touch the forehead, stomach, left shoulder, right shoulder, then fold your hands in prayer.

Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross?  What does it mean?  Is it just a gesture or superstition?

 

The sign of the cross dates back to the second century in the Early Church.  It started out with making the cross on the forehead with the thumb or index finger but then changed into a larger cross on the forehead, chest and shoulders.  People used it to secretly mark themselves during religious persecution.  In the ninth century, Pope Leo IX instructed the faithful on this devotional/prayer.  It is a reminder of the crucifixion and suffering of Jesus.

We bless ourselves with holy water and the sign of the cross when we come into or out of a church, during a sacrament, and in remembrance of our Baptismal promises.  Catholics usually begin and end all prayers with the sign of the cross.  What we are saying is the prayer or request “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen”  When we say a prayer in the name of the Trinity as above, we are calling upon them with confidence that our prayers will be answered and in love and worship of the Trinity.  The word “Amen” means “I believe”.  When we do this, we are asking for and receiving grace from God.

Making the sign of the cross is a prayer in itself.  A very reverent devotion a person can do is every time you pass by a Catholic Church, is to make the sign of the cross as you pass.  Why do that?  Because, Jesus is in the Church in the Eucharist in the Tabernacle.  You are saying you believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  I do this every time I pass by one even if I’m just passing by in another town.

Another thing you can do, every time you see an ambulance or life-flight helicopter for someone ill, make the sign of the cross in a prayer for the removal of their sins and salvation of their soul, also for their quick recovery.

If you ever feel alone, lonely, in danger, or that evil may be around you, make the sign of the cross and this will help to keep your soul safe and keep the safety and security of all of heaven around you.

Making the sign of the cross with holy water also absolves your venial (little) sins.  Make the sign of the cross often.  Keep a bottle of holy water handy and do it before you go to bed, get up in the morning, leave the house, return home, feeling ill, anytime that you feel the need.  The sign of the cross is a short, humble little prayer but so powerful.

See this link for more information.

 

 

 

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What is RCIA?

RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.  This is a class meant for anyone who wants to know more about the Catholic Church or for those who missed a sacrament when they were younger like confirmation or baptism.  It usually starts about September and ends at Eastertime but can go all year through.  Usually, this is about a nine month process.  People who want to strengthen their faith or just curious about the Church can go to all or some of the classes.  Just because you attend does not mean that you have to become Catholic but once you begin to understand the truths of the Church, you may feel the tug to take that leap and become Catholic.  If that is what you desire, then you would finish the classes, pick a sponsor for confirmation, and come into the fullness of the faith, usually at Easter.  You would declare that you believe what the Church teaches.  A sponsor would help to answer questions you may have and to guide you in your faith journey, helping you to build your faith stronger.  The classes are usually two hours long and cover the basics of the Catholic Faith.  You still need to keep learning about the faith after the classes because there is so much to learn.  It’s like an onion with many layers.  All you have to do to get started is go to the nearest Catholic Church and ask about the RCIA classes.  The Church will help you get started.

Usually, when you start another church, you just sign up and you start going or maybe they don’t even require you to sign up.  You can church hop without much trouble.  You might not even really understand what that new church teaches.  In the Catholic Church, we take doctrine and the 2000 year history seriously and want people who attend to understand what the teachings are. There’s a lot to cover in the classes too.  That’s why it takes months to become Catholic.

Can you pick and choose what you believe and still be Catholic?  The answer is no.  That is what is called a cafeteria Catholic.  If you struggle with certain topics such as the Virgin Mary, saints, calling a priest Father, or whatever other topic, you need to find out more and understand why the Church teaches it.  Once you understand it, it will be easier to accept.  You don’t have to be a scholar and understand everything about the Church, but you should be able to say that you accept the authority of the Church to teach the truth of Jesus.  Many people struggle with the authority of the Church since many have not had to accept higher authority than the pastor in their church.  This is a very fundamental cornerstone in the Church.  We hold the Pope with high honor because he is in the succession of St. Peter, the first Pope, and given authority through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, because… “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Matt 16:18   It’s the truth and we have an obligation and God-given desire to accept the truth.

Some people are not ready to do any more than go to the classes for a year or two and that’s ok.  There is no pressure to become Catholic.  This is your faith journey and there is no time limit on it.  If you feel the tug toward the Church or just plain curious, take the next step and ask about the RCIA classes to find out the truth about the Church, then when you are ready take the next step into the Church.  If you are not quite ready, take your time and listen to God’s call.  He’ll lead you where He wants you to be on His time.

I’ve heard people say, “I will NEVER become Catholic!” then when they learn more about it…they end up in the loving arms of the Catholic Church and wouldn’t give it up for anything.

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Judgment after death or end of world?

(Note: CCC stands for Catechism of the Catholic Church and includes a paragraph reference number)

Do we get judged after our death or at the end of the world?  Actually, both.  There are two different kinds of judgment; Particular Judgment and General Judgment.  There are three possible results of that judgment: Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell.  Purgatory is a temporary place for us to get purified before we enter Heaven.

Particular Judgment happens immediately after our death.  This happened to the good thief and was taken to paradise that day, so he is not waiting until the end of the world to be judged.

“Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:39-43

The General Judgment will be at the end of time, when Jesus comes the second time.  The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust.” (Acts 24:15) will precede the Last Judgment.  Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him….Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left….And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31,32,46  (CCC 1038)

(Heaven) “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ….By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints….and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism….already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment–and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven–have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels.  Since the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.”  (CCC1023)  So those who are baptized in Christ, since Jesus’ death, people can go to heaven if they are not in mortal sin and if they need purification, then they spend time in Purgatory first.

(Purgatory)  All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (CCC 1030)  But nothing unclean will enter it (heaven).  Rev 21:27  Purgatory is temporary and the person is guaranteed to enter Heaven after purification.

(Hell)  We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love Him.  (CCC 1033)  The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity.  Immediately after death the souls of those that die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”  The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (CCC1035)  God predestines no one to hell; for this, willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end….the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”  (CCC1037)  “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2Peter 3:9

There is hope for us all.  “For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin. In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life and “does not come into judgment.”  (CCC1470) We must accept God’s grace of conversion.  If not, “then will the culpable (those guilty of) unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.  By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the (Holy) Spirit of love”.  (CCC678-679)  Our hope is in accepting God’s grace, conversion and penance.

 

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What is St. Patrick’s Day About?

St. Patricks’ Day is not about green beer or little leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold.  St. Patrick’s Day is the day that Saint Patrick died in the year 461.

shamrock

Three persons, one God (Trinity)

 

St. Patrick’s feast day is March 17th.  He is the patron saint of Ireland and Engineers.  He is also is known for teaching about the Trinity using a three-leaf shamrock (three leaves but one stem=three persons but one God).  He was born in the year 387 and died in 461.  St. Patrick was kidnapped at the age of 16 by Irish raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland and forced to work as a shepherd.  He suffered hunger and cold.  He escaped at the age of 22 to France and became a bishop at the age of 43.  He had a vision of Ireland’s children reaching out to him, even “from their mother’s wombs”.  He returned to Ireland to preach in a pagan country.  He baptized hundreds of people in a single day.  He obtained many converts, founded diocese and monasteries, and ordained many priests. He is buried in Northern Ireland.  He is usually pictured with snakes at his feet, the staff of Jesus in his left hand or holding a book, holding a three-leaf shamrock in his right hand and dressed in green and gold bishop vestments.

Did Saint Patrick banish all snakes from Ireland?  According to Wikipedia, “Patrick banishes all snakes from Ireland. The absence of snakes in Ireland gave rise to the legend that they had all been banished by St. Patrick chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill.”

He wrote a book called Confessio consisting of personal writings.  This is where we get much of our information about him.

While you can have green beer, remember the true meaning of the feast day.

There is a very short chaplet prayer (rosary) to St. Patrick to ask for an increase in faith.  Directions are at this link,  St. Patrick Chaplet directions.

Photo credit: clipartkid.com