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Q. Why are Protestants more effective at evangelization than Catholics?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
I may be in a minority here, but I have always thought that the Catholic Church has been quite effective in the work of evangelization. Look at how quickly and extensively the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to all the great centers of the world. In modern times, we have seen the Gospel spread to Africa, North America and Asia. Recent popes, beginning with Pope Paul VI, have spoken of a "new evangelization," whereby a new effort is undertaken at all levels of culture, and the Church learns to incorporate the means of evangelization made possible by new communications media.
It is probably true that Protestants have been more adept at personal one-to-one conversation about the Gospel. However, this is only one mode of evangelization. In this regard, it is useful to keep in mind words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: "The Christian should proclaim the Gospel by every means possible -- and, if necessary, use words!"
If Protestant evangelization has traditionally emphasized the one-to-one mode, the genius of the Catholicism has been evangelization though institutional means. By this I mean the living witness of the saints, the edifying power of religious orders, the great writings of those inspired by the Gospel.
In the United States, the Church has had great success in recent centuries in the implementation of the power of the Gospel through Catholic schools, hospitals and networks of outreach to the poor and underprivileged. While this legacy seems to be threatened in many ways today -- not least through the waning of religious orders and congregations -- the Catholic Church will, I believe, continue to have a strong and transformative role in the culture and life of the country.
Evangelization is carried on through a variety of means -- from the personal to the institutional. While Catholics have shone in the latter, they can learn a great deal from Protestants in the matter of biblical and doctrinal literacy. But we should never forget it is not primarily by words -- but by deeds -- that the Gospel is most effectively spread.
Is the Pope God?
Q. Set me straight on the issue of the pope being God on earth, or heaven, or both? I'm not the best Catholic, but I do try in being the best person I can be. My mother stands fast with ridiculing any faith other than Seventh-day Adventist. It’s very hard trying to defend all the propaganda raised by other faiths that are against the Catholic faith.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Ironically, individuals who criticize the Church for not interpreting the Bible literally in other matters overlook Catholics’ very literal interpretation of Jesus’ words, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). These differences can probably never be resolved, so good manners ought to guide theological discussions between Catholics and non-Catholics.
The Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) sums up the Church’s belief on the Pope’s authority. “When Christ instituted the Twelve, ‘he constituted . . . a . . . permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter. … This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope’” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 880-881).
A “vicar” is someone who takes the place of another. The Catechism remarks that the Pope is “Vicar of Christ” because “as pastor of the entire Church [he] has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” (No. 882). This does not mean the pope is God, but rather a man entrusted with Christ’s authority to govern. Popes exercise this authority as would Christ himself, with restraint and always with love.
Q. Recently, in an old Bible published in the 1950s I came across the names of some prophets that I have never heard about before. These were names such as Abdias, Micheas, Osee, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharius and Malachias. Can you help me identify them?
E.B., Tucson, Ariz.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The names you have listed are those of your old biblical friends Obadiah, Micah, Hosea, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
The unusual names you encountered are English versions of the Latin titles of the prophetic biblical books in the Vulgate, which is the Church's venerable Latin translation of the Bible, first produced by St. Jerome in the fourth century. Your old Bible is probably the once-popular Douay-Rheims translation in English, which was based on the Vulgate.
The titles of the prophetic books most familiar to us today, on the other hand, are modern English versions of the original Hebrew names.
Signs During Eucharistic Prayer?
Q. My friends and I have been debating about the gestures made during Eucharistic Prayer I. A couple of my friends bow, make the Sign of the Cross and strike their breasts at the same moment that the priest does. My other friends do not make these gestures, explaining that the priest and concelebrants are the only ones allowed to make these signs.
The Sacramentary rubrics are written in such a way to indicate that only the priest should do this. Who is right?
S.C. via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
In this case, I think everyone is right. While the rubrics for Eucharistic Prayer I, also known as the Roman Canon, indicate when the priest celebrant is to bow, make the Sign of the Cross and strike his breast as a sign of contrition, there is nothing that prohibits the faithful in the pew from doing the same thing.
I have never seen it done, and it might not be entirely correct from a liturgical point of view, but it is at least edifying to know that the faithful are following the Eucharistic Prayer so closely that they are moved to make the same pious gestures. I suppose such imitation enhances their concentration. And that's a good thing.
Sickness and Sin
Q. In Mark 2:5, Jesus says to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” Does this mean that his sins caused his paralysis?
— Michael Wathen
The illness that besets individuals is one of the consequences of original sin. Individuals, such as the paralytic in Mark’s Gospel, are sick because creation itself has been weakened by sin. When Jesus forgives the man’s sins, he is not suggesting that his paralysis is the result of individual sin, but rather an effect of evil in the world. This evil, and its effects, haunt us even today. Baptism forgives sin, “Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1264).
Forgiving the man’s sins is a sign of the deeper healing — and victory over evil — Christ came to bring to creation. We see a similar drama played out in John’s Gospel (see 9:1-7), when the disciples ask Jesus whether a man’s blindness is the result of his — or his parents’ — sin. Jesus replies, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (v. 3). The Catechism is emphatic on this point: “There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil” (No. 309).
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