Question: What is the Catholic view of the rapture, which is held by some Protestants?
— Terry Morrison, Platte City, Missouri
Answer: The Catholic view would reject the notion of the rapture as held widely by certain evangelical Christians.
The word rapture (from the Latin rapiemur ) means to be caught up or snatched away. Those who hold the view claim 1 Thessalonians as their source where St. Paul writes: “... the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus shall we always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4:16-17).
The problem is that St. Paul clearly applies this “being caught up” to the definitive and final second coming of Christ. Scripture also teaches that the period just before the Second Coming will include a great deal of tribulation and suffering for the faithful (cf. Mt 24:9-14), then Christ will come in glory and the Final Judgment will take place at once (cf. Mt 24:31).
But those who hold the rapture remove it from this context and insert a lot of views the text does not support and St. Paul never taught.
Thus many evangelical Christians insert into the 1 Thessalonians text a notion (not taught by St. Paul) that unbelievers will be left behind on Earth and that a 1,000-year period will ensue, which will be kind of an earthly golden age during which the world will become thoroughly Christian. Thus they separate the Second Coming and the Last Judgment by a thousand years and teach that Christ will physically reign on Earth.
The Catholic approach is to rest on the firmer ground of sacred Tradition (current notions of the rapture are less than 150 years old) and a more plain teaching of Scripture.
These unite as one event, the Second Coming, the Last Judgment and the faithful being caught up into heaven to be forever with God and the unfaithful departing immediately to hell.
Question: Where is the sacrament of confirmation mentioned in the Bible? Growing up as a Protestant, we had no reference to this and did not practice it.
— Mary Tempi, Newark, New Jersey
Answer: On Pentecost Sunday the apostles and disciples experienced a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit that they continued to share with later converts by the laying on of hands. Scripture describes this as distinct from baptism.
Thus, Phillip (a deacon) went to Samaria and baptized many there.
Hearing of the conversions and baptisms, Peter and John came north and laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. This was done as the text says, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 8:14-17). This shows some separation in the celebration of these sacraments and a reservation of the conferring of the sacrament of confirmation to bishops.
However, later in Acts, we see St. Paul (who was a bishop) first baptizing a group, and then imposing hands on them so they would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:5-6). This shows the sacraments, though distinct, being celebrated together.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.