In 1984 something happened to me that is so marvelous, undeserved, and challenging to communicate that I have difficulty writing about it in such a short space. It concerns those subject matters that are ultimately the most important ones we will all have to face at one point or another. These matters involve religion, spirituality, and our end.
Without searching for anything other than self-gratification and while being a man of no consequence in the world, the Catholic Church unexpectedly (Rom 10:20) and convincingly demonstrated itself to me in significant splendor as the Kingdom of God on earth. This phenomenon was no small revelation. And yet it came from completely outside my own mental or psychological capacities. I saw in one moment that Jesus Christ instituted this Church, which has been faithfully handed down to us through the ages in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the magisterial teachings of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, and the Bishops in communion with him. Immediately after that moment, I knew that the Eucharist is the real and substantial Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Who is God Himself, consubstantial with the Father and Holy Spirit. In about two seconds, this revelation permanently altered my life from a descent into paganism and hedonism toward a newfound journey of joy and hope based on the following propositions:
Christ founded His Church, and none other, to reveal the Kingdom of God (Matt 16:18; Eph 1:22-23 and 2:19-22). It is this Church that is the pillar and foundation of truth (I Tim 3:15), not “scripture alone” (II Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:1) nor one’s individual “spirituality” (II Tim 4:3-4). That this Church would go into apostasy or error over the ages is impossible (Matt 16:18 and 28:20, John 14:16-17). We have Christ’s promise on that.
This Kingdom is the one of which Christ spoke when He said that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Matt 4:17). This Kingdom is not fully realized here on earth (Matt 13:24-30) but will be at the end of time and with the glorious second coming of Christ (Rev 21:1-4).
There is no other Lord, Savior, King, or rightful Kingdom. All other religions, sects, denominations, spiritualities, and beliefs are either partial to Catholic teaching in faith and morals or are patently false and deceptive. Not all belief systems lead to the summit; only one does (John 14:6; Mark 16:15-16)
We must proclaim this gospel dogmatically (Mark 16:15-16; Matt 28:20). The resurrected Christ did not instruct His disciples to go to all the nations, affirming them in their goodness. He said, “Teach them to observe all I have commanded you.” His commands reveal to us that, contrary to the creed of today’s creed-eschewing culture, it does matter very much what one believes if we are to love God and our neighbor truly. It matters whom one follows if one is to find authentic Faith, Hope, and Love, i.e., the Kingdom. Since that “Whom” founded a Church, it matters to which Church one belongs. It all matters very much, indeed. To show us what we should believe, how to know it is Him Whom we follow, and which Church can guarantee that we are doing so, Jesus gave us His instructions and institutional foundations. For this purpose, He instituted the Papacy (Matt 16:18-19; John 21:15), the priesthood, and the ritual of the Mass. “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:14-20; I Cor 11:23-26). Only Christ can truly show us the Father’s will and how to love Him and our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
That is Dogma. “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching” (Heb 13:9a). And He warned that the world would hate this Church and its Dogma as it hated Him (Matt 10:22; John15:18-25). Paul makes a striking and almost humorous reference to the necessary authority of the Church’s Dogma: “I am confident of you in the Lord that you will not take a different view, and that the one who is troubling you will bear the condemnation, whoever he may be. Would that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves!” (Gal 5:10, 12).
This last point of authentic Dogma originating in the mutual love between Christ and us is of paramount importance. It is Dogma based on our freedom to love, not on oppression. Dogma leads to valorous martyrdom rather than cowardly compromise (John 19:9-11). It is magnificently contradictory to today’s moral relativism and “self-affirming” spirituality that is only imprisoning self-love. Most modern “feel good” spiritual leaders would have struck a deal with Pilate. Crucifixion is typically not on the list of spiritual “happy places.”
This self-seeking, subjective spirituality has been created and formed by man in his image ever since the prideful and rebellious Protestant Revolution with its ally against legitimate Church authority, the secular “Enlightenment,” and even more since the intrusion in the West of the pantheistic Eastern New Age. The Jesus of the New Age guru is a “feel good” fabrication. The Jesus of the Protestant is the head with no suffering body to secure the glorious claim of “co-heir” (Rom 8:16-17; Eph 1:22-23; 1 Cor 6:2-3).
Both the New Age and Protestantism share an enmity for the Church at their core. We must avoid both to find the Kingdom. It is as essential to understand what one must avoid as it is to know what one must pursue.
Paul tells us that faith, not our works, is the principle by which God justifies us (Rom 3:27 and 9:32), but he also points out that this principle of faith requires an active, cooperative response from us, which is more substantive than a mere verbal “OK” at the local Bible Church (Rom 2:5-8). John tells us that one who “claims ‘I have known him’ without keeping his commandments, is a liar” (John 2:4). We must use our free will to actively cooperate with the grace of Christ to do God’s will (Matt 7:21; Rom 11:22 and 12:1-2). We are speaking of sanctifying grace. Our “work” has nothing to do with the gratuitous gift of the first grace or call, as Paul points out in Rom 9:10-16 and John in John 1:12-13.
“This flower, in telling her story, is happy to make known all the gifts that Jesus has given her. She knows quite well that He could not have been attracted by anything she had of her own. Purely out of mercy He gave these gifts.”
God’s kindness in calling us is His invitation to repent (Rom 2:4). Many misinterpret that unmerited call as “assured salvation.” We must still repent. “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
This repentant, obedient faith must be a living force that transforms our lives, forming Christ in us as a prerequisite for full justification (Gal 4:19). “What does all this lead to? Just because we are not under the law but under grace, are we free to sin? By no means!” (Rom 6:15 also see Gal 5:19-21 and 1 Cor 6:9-10). It is a faith that leads us on a journey of life-changing justification by grace through the merits of Jesus Christ. “But now that you are freed from sin and have become slaves of God, your benefit is sanctification as you tend toward eternal life” (Rom 6:22). We “tend” toward eternal life as grace sanctifies us; we do not arrive there at the altar call.
To further emphasize this point, Paul reminds us that whereas “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as justice” (Rom 4:3b) and “justice comes from faith, not works” (Rom 9:32), this faith must be lived out as “obedience which leads to justice” (Rom 6:16b). “Through him we have been favored with apostleship, that we may spread his name and bring to obedient faith all the Gentiles” (Rom 1:5). “Consider the kindness and the severity of God – severity toward those who fell, kindness toward you, provided you remain in his kindness; if you do not, you too will be cut off” (Rom 11:22; also see 1 Cor 10:12). John would add, “This is the way to see who are God’s children, and who are the devil’s. No one whose actions are unholy belongs to God, nor anyone who fails to love his brother” (1 John 3:10). There is no duality in Paul and John’s meaning. This explanation is not an argument about “faith versus works,” as many Protestant critics assume. It is about what “saving faith” really means. The Apostles are unequivocal. We must cooperate with God in our sanctification and obey Him for that faith to be a “saving faith.” The Apostles are unequivocal. We must cooperate with God in our sanctification and obey Him for that faith to be a “saving faith.” Jesus was just as unequivocal. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt 7:21).
The Lord summarizes justification in the parable of the silver pieces (Matt 25:14-30). The master gives each man silver coins (unearned, unmerited graces of our call, which are gratuitous and unearned through “works of the law”). We note that the master is not egalitarian. Based solely on the design of the Master, one receives five thousand, another two thousand, and a third one thousand. Yet, despite the differences in allocation, the master seems concerned with only one thing: how did they do with their “investment” of grace? To the first two who made an acceptable return, the master says, “Well done! Since you are dependable in small matters I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come share in your master’s joy!” To the one who had the least and did nothing with it, the master is severe. Despite freely handing the servant his silver, the master commands, “Throw this worthless servant into the darkness outside, where he can wail and grind his teeth.” Our Lord warns us, “You are the salt of the earth. But what if the salt goes flat? How can you restore it to flavor? Then it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matt 5:13). Also read Matt 21:28-32, the parable of the two sons. “Words are not enough. Deeds are required.”
“I know that she (Joan) was good, simple, pious, fearing God and his saints; she went often and of her own will to church and to sacred places, caring for the sick and giving alms to the poor; this I saw myself, for when I was a child I myself was sick and Joan came to comfort me.”(Joan’s childhood friend)
Paul echoes this sentiment in his writings. “We are truly his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance” (Eph 2:10). “He will repay every man for what he has done” (our merits based solely on the merits, the free graces, of Jesus Christ) (Rom 2:6), “eternal life to those who strive for glory, honor, and immortality by patiently doing right” (the “return” on Christ’s merits) (Rom 2:7), but “wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness” (burying the grace of conversion and baptism to follow the spirit of the world) (Rom 2:8). Paul particularly warns believers against overconfidence in 1 Cor 10:1-12. We might also add, “What I do is discipline my own body and master it, for fear that after having preached to others I myself should be rejected”(1 Cor 9:27).
“Asked if she knew that she was in God’s grace, she (Joan of Arc) replied: ‘If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.”
Paul tells the Corinthians that “Circumcision (i.e., requirements of the “Law”) counts for nothing, and its lack makes no difference either. What matters is keeping God’s commandments” (1 Cor 7:19). Interestingly, he did not say that all that matters is that you “Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior to be assured of your salvation.” It is “keeping God’s commandments” that matters. Truly making Jesus your Lord and Savior demands the obedience of faith, which requires our cooperation. “So that the just demands of the law might be fulfilled in us who live, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit” (Rom 8:4). These are not “works of the Law” but are works of sanctifying grace which is necessary for our salvation. “For if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Faith in the heart leads to justification, confession on the lips to salvation” (Rom 10:9-10). We are not saved by our efforts to work the “Law,” but neither are we saved by mere intellectual assent or verbal expression of “accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.” That is the first step in justification, yes. However, we are ultimately brought into the Kingdom by a profession of faith in Jesus Christ that leads to justification through His sanctifying graces given by Him in the sacraments of His Catholic Church.
Therefore, our merits and good works matter very much for our sanctification (Eph 2:10), which is required to reach the Kingdom (Rom 6:22; 1 Cor 3:12-15) but these actions are not mere, legalistic “works of the Law.” Sanctification comes only through the purely gratuitous gift of grace flowing from Christ’s own merits on the Cross and institutionalized by Him in His Church for each generation. This grace is the word of Jesus Christ. We can merit nothing on our own; however, “In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything” (Phil 4:13).
“When I think that if God were to give us the entire universe with all its treasures that this would not be comparable to the lightest suffering! What a grace, when, in the morning we feel no courage, no strength to practice virtue; that is the moment to put the axe to the root of the tree. Instead of wasting our time gathering a few baubles, we can dip into diamonds, and what a profit at the end of the day…”
What is the point of merit in God’s plan for us? It is that out of His infinite love for us, He desires that we share in His glory (Rom 8:17)! And how do we merit? We merit through love empowered by the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. And what is love? It is sacrifice, suffering, even to our death (Rom 5:7-8) for the love of Jesus. In other words, it is that combination of loving, sanctifying effort with Jesus’ transforming grace flowing from His redemptive work on the Cross. “I solemnly assure you, no slave is greater than his master; no messenger outranks the one who sent him” (John 13:16). “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and follow in my steps” (Mark (8:34). Where do those steps lead? They lead to Calvary, the pinnacle of Love. Love drives us to obey; it is the driving force behind our merits, striving, and efforts to “obey” the faith! Love, authentic Love leading to eternal beatitude with God, and demonstrated by Christ on the Cross, is the goal of our efforts! One of the greatest parables to show justifying faith through obedience in Love is that of the penitent woman in Luke 7:36-50. Her loving repentance transformed her, and our Lord blessed her total giving of self with, “Your faith has been your salvation. Now go in peace.”
“It is true that sometimes, for a few moments, we look with scorn at gathering our treasures, and this is the difficult moment. We are tempted to leave all behind, but in one act of love, even unfelt love, all is repaired, and Jesus smiles.”
“Love can do all things, and the most difficult things don’t appear difficult to it. Jesus does not so much look at the grandeur of actions or even their difficulty as at the love which goes to make up these actions…”`
Without the “obedience of faith,” even if in just the small and ordinary affairs of daily living, we cannot find the heart of Love on Calvary nor the Kingdom it opens for us. The madness of our love for Jesus drives the Catholic to “work”! We “work” not in the Law but in the “obedience of faith” that we might “imitate” our Lord by “carrying our cross” and “giving up our life” for Jesus Christ! It is a tragic error of the Protestant view of justification that diverts them after conversion to say, “I am saved. I need no more.” (No more for salvation, that is. Yes, they might do more to receive blessings and a happier life, but they do not recognize this, as Catholics properly acknowledge it, as a privileged and necessary call for merit, grounded in Christ’s own redemptive merits, leading to glory as adopted sons and daughters and as “co-heirs.”) It is likewise a tragic error of the New Age view that diverts them from acknowledging that they even need justification! What sadness! The treachery of the evil one misguides and distracts them from the path of merit and glory for those who love Jesus or seek the Kingdom!
“I knew that to become a Saint, one had to suffer much, always aim at perfection and forget oneself. I saw that one could be a Saint in varying degrees, for we are free to respond to Our Lord’s invitation by doing much or little in our love for Him; to choose, that is, among the sacrifices He asks.”
St. Thomas Aquinas puts it succinctly while most beautifully hinting at how it is that the New Testament speaks of both faith and works, “Therefore man is justified by faith, not as though man, by believing, were to merit justification, but that, he believes, whilst he is being justified; inasmuch as a movement of faith is required for the justification of the ungodly” (Summa Theologica; Question 114, Article 5, on Merit). And Paul might say, “Amen!”
Only the Church has the fully authentic doctrine on the justification required to enter the Kingdom. Only the Church has our Lord’s full seven sacraments established by Him so that we might fully receive His sanctifying graces to be justified according to Scripture.
However, we are faced with a dilemma once we leave the superficial comfort of the artificial doctrine of “assured” salvation at the altar call or of the mere need to be “self-affirmed.” Christ’s promises are assured. (Rom 11:29). But can we be so very sure about our use of free will (Rom 11:22)? Can we be certain that we will not willfully separate ourselves from Christ to seek the sinful pleasures of the world and therefore be “cut off” as Paul warns? What happens when we stumble in the weakness of our fallen nature as we inevitably do? Christ instituted the sacrament of confession to heal us by grace and pick us up in His love again. Why confess to a priest, a mere man? We do it because Christ said to do it that way. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound” (John 20:23). He entrusted this power of absolution to the apostolic ministry of the Church (2 Cor 5:18-19; Matt 18:18). He told the apostles to go and preach to all the nations. Christ alone is the mediator with the Father, and He can authorize intercessors on His behalf if He so chooses. He did so choose. The “obedience of faith” demands that we obey.
Thus, we see why Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, knew that we needed a Church with singular authority. The Church is not only helpful to our finding salvation but also essential. That is why Jesus founded it, inaugurated it with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and continues to guide every generation through it. And this was the unified approach for the first one thousand years after Christ before the split with Orthodox Byzantium and for over one thousand five hundred years in the West before the revolution that resulted in a completely new set of doctrines called Protestantism.
The only way is the way of obediently suffering with Christ on the Cross as one, unified, mystical body (Matt 10: 37-39; Phil 1:29; I Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22; Rom 8:17; Acts 14:22; and 20:23; John 17:20), relying upon His sacraments through His authentic Church, as faithfully proclaimed by His Church for two thousand years. Our willingness to suffer even to our death on the Cross in obedience to Christ’s Church assures us of following His truth and avoiding the seductive, honey-throated sirens of the New Age or other false spiritualities. St. Paul confirms that Christ gives us the unfathomable dignity to participate with Him as co-heirs. (Col 1:24) What a grace! What a mystery! “I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from his resurrection; likewise to know how to share in his sufferings by being formed into the pattern of his death. Thus do I hope that I may arrive at resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11).
In summary, today, the Creed of the Roman Church is the Creed of the early Church. Follow it to your death. Amen, so be it.
“Joan showed such great contrition and such a fine repentance in her death as was a wonder to see. The words she uttered were so devout, pious, and Christian that all who watched her – and they were a great multitude – wept warm tears. Even the Cardinal of England and several other Englishmen were constrained to weep and were moved to compassion.
The pious woman asked, commanded, and begged me, since I was near at the end, to go into a nearby church and bring her the crucifix. This she made me hold up, right before her eyes until the moment of her death, so that the Cross upon which God hung should be continually before her eyes so long as her life lasted. Moreover, when she was surrounded by flames she continued to cry aloud and acknowledge the sacred name of Jesus and ceaselessly to implore and invoke the aid of the saints in paradise. And, what is more, as she gave up the ghost and bowed her head, she pronounced the name of Jesus. This was a sure sign that she fervently believed in God, as we read in the case of St. Ignatius and many other martyrs.”
Before His crucifixion and glorious resurrection, Christ would establish this Church through blessed Peter and the apostles (Matt 16: 18-19; John 20: 22-23) and authoritatively hand it down through the ages in an organized and institutional succession (Acts 1: 15-26; also read Paul’s letter to Timothy. For sources from the early Church Fathers, read Ignatius of Antioch, a personal disciple of John’s, regarding the Church’s immediate hierarchical development in accord with the Apostles. It is this authoritative hierarchy that we have inherited today. This Church is a sacrament; it is His body and temple built on the foundation of the Apostles (Eph 2: 19-20). Through this temple, He is present with us visibly in our world today and most notably through the Holy and Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is really and substantially His Body and Blood. This body of His is so maliciously scourged and crowned with thorns today by that same diabolical spirit that had Him crucified centuries ago. If you are persecuting the Catholic Church, you are persecuting Jesus Christ (Acts 9:4-5; I Cor 15:9).
 CCC, paragraph 541.
 CCC, paragraph 890.
 CCC, paragraph 846.
 CCC, paragraph 88.
 CCC paragraph, 1989.
 The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux. Edited by Mother Agnes of Jesus, Translated by Michael Day, Cong. Orat. (1997) Rockford, IL. Tan Books and Publishers. P.5.
 CCC, paragraph 2825.
 CCC paragraph 1989. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.”
 CCC, paragraph 546.
 Joan of Arc: By herself and her witnesses, Regine Pernoud, Scarborough House (Maryland) 1994. p.17.
 CCC, paragraph 2005.
 CCC, paragraph 2092.
 CCC, paragraph 2016.
 Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux: Volume 1, 1877-1890. Translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. Washington, DC. ICS Publications. p. 467.
 Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux: Volume 1, 1877-1890. Translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. Washington, DC. ICS Publications. p. 467.
 Ibid. p. 468.
 CCC, paragraph 1709.
 CCC, paragraph 2009.
 The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux. Edited by Mother Agnes of Jesus, Translated by Michael Day, Cong. Orat. (1997) Rockford, IL. Tan Books and Publishers. P.13.
 CCC, paragraph 2016.
 CCC, paragraphs 1446-1448.
 The Retrial of Joan of Arc: The Evidence for Her Vindication, Regine Pernoud, (2007), San Francisco, CA, Ignatius Press. pp. 282-283.
 CCC, paragraph 862.