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08-30-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

Last week, I discussed the three sources of authority in the Catholic Church. One of them is the Magisterium, the teaching office of the Church, where our leaders gather to discuss issues the Church is facing and issue decrees on how the Church should address them. You have no doubt heard of the Second Vatican Council, which was called to order by Pope St. John XXIII in 1962 and closed by his successor Pope St. Paul VI in 1965. During this time, thousands of bishops and cardinals gathered to discuss the emerging pastoral needs of the Church at the time. Numerous new decrees came out of this Council which apply to our Faith today. There is a book that contains the entire collection of documents to come from the Second Vatican Council, but it is over 1,000 pages and it is not necessarily the most interesting to read. However, if you are ever curious enough to look at a particular topic, all of the documents are readily available online. I have selected one to summarize in order to illustrate how we learn official Church teaching on a particular matter, via the Magisterium.

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The Three Sources of Church Authority

08-19-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

You have probably heard the phrase “sola scriptura,” which is used by many Protestant religions to describe their authority as coming from Scripture alone. Martin Luther originally defined the doctrine of using Scripture as the sole source of theological authority in the midst of frustrations with things happening within the Church’s hierarchy during the Protestant Reformation. To this day, the source of authority remains one of the defining differences between the Catholic faith and many other Christian denominations. Today, we’ll take a look at the Catholic Church’s three sources of authority – Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium – and why we hold all three to be equal sources in the passing on of the Faith.

Scripture

Catholics absolutely believe in and respect the authority of Sacred Scripture. We believe that, from cover to cover, it is the inspired Word of God. Humans communicate with language and God, therefore, communicates with us in language. Everything contained in Scripture is known to be true, beautiful, and good. “For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body” (CCC #103). The Old and New Testaments are unified and dependent on one another for revealing who God is and how He has worked throughout human history. The Catechism quotes an ancient Christian saying attributed to St. Augustine to describe the unity of the two: “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” (CCC #129). It’s likely that you have heard someone say something along the lines of, “Catholics don’t read/study the Bible.” These days there are many, many Catholic-based Scripture studies and we host some excellent ones here at our very own parish. However, even Catholics who never pick up a Bible are still getting a healthy dose of Scripture if they are attending Sunday Mass every week. In our Mass, there are always two readings taken straight from Scripture – one from the Old and one from the New. Between those is a Psalm and following the second reading, there is always an excerpt from one of the Gospels. In addition, many of the prayers prayed during Mass are taken directly from Scripture. The readings are chosen by the teaching authority of the Church, allowing for two things to take place. One, every Catholic in the world is reading and hearing the same Scripture on the same day which unites us all under God’s Word. Secondly, if we continue to attend Mass, we will hear nearly the entire Bible read aloud, and we can continue hearing it in its entirety throughout our lives. So, what is the problem with using the Word of God as our only source of authority if it is so revered? The problem is us. Man is so fallible, that when left to his own devices, he will eventually lose sight of, or even destroy, the intended message contained within Scripture. You’ve seen it before, where someone misuses or twists a scripture passage, or you’ve seen things taken out of context while other pieces are deliberately left out or ignored because it does not fit within the argument. Knowing how fallible we are, God built in two other forms of authority into His Church in order to safeguard His Word.

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Sacred Art

08-16-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

There is nothing more beautiful than God. We can’t even fathom His beauty, as it is beyond our comprehension on this Earth. God is also a creator and everything He creates reflects His beauty. Since we are made in His image and likeness, we too are creators and are naturally inclined to re-create beauty. We are drawn to beautiful things and are repulsed by ugly things because the beauty of things elevates our hearts toward God. Whether it be through music, poetry, art, or nature, we can recognize beauty by the way it penetrates our souls and connects us to the perfect creator. There is nothing more beautiful than God. We can’t even fathom His beauty, as it is beyond our comprehension on this Earth. God is also a creator and everything He creates reflects His beauty. Since we are made in His image and likeness, we too are creators and are naturally inclined to re-create beauty. We are drawn to beautiful things and are repulsed by ugly things because the beauty of things elevates our hearts toward God. Whether it be through music, poetry, art, or nature, we can recognize beauty by the way it penetrates our souls and connects us to the perfect creator. 

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Sinners to Saints

08-09-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.” - Proverbs 24:16

As we all know, we are all sinners. Our human nature causes us to make mistakes every single day as we sin against our neighbors and sin against God. It is just part of who we are. As Proverbs tells us, even the most righteous man will fall seven times. However, we should not become complacent about our sin and use our fallen nature as an excuse to not strive for holiness. Satan is the one who likes to tell us that we should just give up because we messed up one too many times, but Satan is a liar. Like the righteous man, we should always rise up again and try to do better because our good and gracious God tells us we can.

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Love Your Enemies

08-02-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44).
 
Jesus made a very clear and bold statement about how we are to deal with some of our least favorite people. We are to love them, but what does that look like, practically speaking?

Before we look at how to love our enemies, we have to define love. The world tells us that love is an emotion and that it feels good. Love is something that can be written about on a greeting card and it sounds great. We see people all around us fall in love and others who fall out of love, sadly resulting in the dissolution of marriages based on feelings. The Christian definition of love, however, is much different and not dependent on feelings at all.

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Overview of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

07-26-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

You have likely noticed that I reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church quite often when writing articles and reflections for the weekly bulletin. The Catechism is a book that can seem quite intimidating. First of all, it is a very big book. My version contains 904 pages. It is also filled with numbers, both at the beginning of each paragraph as well as in the margins, and there are tons of footnotes. There are numerous topics and it is difficult to know even where to begin. This week I would like to spend some time talking about this book, how to use it, and how it is a helpful and beautiful resource for Catholics wanting to know more about their Faith. You have likely noticed that I reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church quite often when writing articles and reflections for the weekly bulletin. The Catechism is a book that can seem quite intimidating. First of all, it is a very big book. My version contains 904 pages. It is also filled with numbers, both at the beginning of each paragraph as well as in the margins, and there are tons of footnotes. There are numerous topics and it is difficult to know even where to begin. This week I would like to spend some time talking about this book, how to use it, and how it is a helpful and beautiful resource for Catholics wanting to know more about their Faith.

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St. Thomas Aquinas’ Five Proofs

07-19-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

It is relatively safe to assume that if you’re reading this reflection, you likely believe in the existence of God. However, it is a very sad reality in our world today that many people do not believe in God. Some people equate belief in God and faith as fairy tales, mythology, or simply things we’ve made up to make ourselves feel better or less alone in the world. It is also sometimes misunderstood that faith and human reason cannot co-exist, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our human reason can, in fact, lead us to the truth which is then magnified by our faith.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the desire for God is written on every human heart (CCC #27). We can see this in every person we encounter, whether they believe in God or not, and regardless of which religion or spirituality they practice (CCC #28). Everyone, in some way or another, is seeking truth and the meaning of life, however wayward it may seem to others. This is all driven by the desire God wrote into humanity to seek Him out, which is all largely rooted in our human reason.

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Saints

07-12-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

One of the things that stands out to non-Catholics about the Catholic Church is her veneration of saints, though this practice is often misunderstood. So, what does the Church teach us about saints and how they are there to help us?

First, we must differentiate between saints in general and those who are canonized. When we pray the Apostles’ Creed, we say that we believe in the “communion of saints.” We understand the communion of saints to be all members of the faithful, whether living or dead. This includes, of course, those in heaven, but also those in purgatory who are undergoing their purification process and on their way to heaven. We are all part of the communion of saints because we are all members of the mystical body of Christ and are, in fact, a communion under Him.

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Free Will

07-03-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

As we celebrate Independence Day this weekend, I would like to take a closer look at what freedom means in the Economy of Salvation for us as Catholic Christians.

We live in a world today where freedom is misunderstood. Society dictates who is free to do what, when, and where based on whims, emotions, and popular opinions. A popular theme is “Hey, if I want to do X and it’s not hurting anyone, why not? I have free will.” You might also find that where you were free to say or do something one minute, you are all of a sudden no longer free to say or do that same thing. The truth is that we are all free to choose anything, but not without consequences and those consequences are really of the eternal order and not of the worldly one.

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Angels

06-28-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

You might not think too much about it, but you are likely aware that we are surrounded by invisible beings called angels. Let’s take a closer look at what angels are and what their role is in our lives and our salvation.

Angels are purely spiritual beings without bodies that still possess intelligence and will. Despite not having a body, each angel is considered an individual just like you or me. Angels were created prior to humanity and are higher than humans in the hierarchy of creation. They are more beautiful, glorious, and perfect than any visible creation. (CCCC #330) It is important to note here that angels are entirely different beings than humans. Sometimes you might hear someone say that their deceased loved one has become their “guardian angel.” While it might be comforting to think that, humans can never become actual angels. Rather, their soul, which is also purely spiritual and not physical, carries on into the afterlife. That being said, you can still be comforted knowing that your loved one’s soul is still close to you, consoling you and praying for you.

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Our Father

06-21-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

Today is Father’s Day and, therefore, a good day to discuss God as our Father.

God the Father is the first person in the Divine Trinity as He is the omnipotent, ever-present Creator of the entire universe. Because of this greatness and grandeur, especially when juxtaposed to the humanity of God in Jesus, God the Father can sometimes seem distant or inaccessible. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Our heavenly Father loves each one of us so much and desires deeply for us to turn to Him in intimate relationship.

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Corpus Christi -- The Body of Christ

06-14-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

Today is a very special day, indeed, as we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, which is, of course, our parish’s namesake.

Corpus Christi literally means the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ can refer to a couple of different definitions that are all equally true. On one hand, the Body of Christ can mean the Church, of which He is the head. Each and every one of us, united under the head, make up the members of His body. However, today we will focus on the Body of Christ as it exists in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

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Trust and Obedience

06-06-2020Weekly ReflectionJen Arnold, M.A. in Theology and Catechetics

This has been an incredibly tumultuous and challenging several months for the world, but also for our parish and our individual families and communities. With the rise in Covid-19 cases, we found ourselves in unprecedented circumstances where we could not lead our lives in a way we normally would or freely visit the places we normally did. Along with that came the closure of our churches. This was a devastating blow for most of us. Catholics do not attend church on Sunday just to hear the Word of God in Scripture followed by a sermon. Catholics attend Mass on Sunday to receive Jesus in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Eucharist is our sustenance and the very means by which we allow Jesus to enter into us and change us from the inside out by His grace. To lose our physical access to Jesus so abruptly let our community in a longing pain.

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