Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ch. VII: The Ark Guided by the Dove

Chapter VII


7.1: The Ark and the Dove

We are about to take a brief look at the finest ship sailing the sea of life. She is a very old ship but eminently sea-worthy, and as she never deviates from her course, she has a genuine guarantee to make port, all colors flying. This ship is the mystical barque of the Church, the ark of the New Testament, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Dove, riding in safety the flood tide of the deluge of sin. She is the Ark of Salvation, carrying the souls which have been saved from the waters. 6p129

This incomparable barque, launched by the Holy Spirit, the Dove, at Pentecost, is sailing the high seas of life today, still captained by Christ. He, in the person of His visible representative and Peter's successor, the Pope, stands at the helm. The chief mates are the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, who in union with their helmsman, teach, govern, and sanctify all those on board, and seek in every way to bring aboard those adrift in the perilous waters below. 6p235

Above the ship, under the figure of a dove hovers the Holy Spirit. He it is who keeps the ship intact as Christ built it; He it is who infallibly guides it unswervingly along the narrow course of Christ's teaching, to the harbor of eternity and the City of Eternal Happiness.

The power and strength of the Church along with all her charisms comes from the Holy Spirit. Christ revealed this divine plan to us when He said: "It is expedient to you that I go" (Jn 16:7). Jesus had to disappear so that His Spirit might continue His work invisibly from the moment when the Apostles took charge of the Church, which by this very fact commenced its life as the Mystical Body of Christ.

The action of the Holy Spirit and the exercise of the apostolic power penetrate one another in such a way that Pope Leo XIII could teach that the Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church just as Christ is its Head: what the soul is to the body, the Holy Spirit is to the Mystical Body which is the Church. (Leo XIII, 1897) 1p21

In fact the Holy Spirit and the Apostles were at work together; it is sufficient to read the history of the primitive Church to be convinced of this. This unity of action was solemnly affirmed by Peter and the Apostles. They declared before the Sanhedrin: ".... and we are witnesses of these things and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5: 32) and they announced the grave decision of the Council of Jerusalem to all the faithful in this way: "For it hath seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." (Acts 15:28).

7.2: Christ Established a Church

Christ truly established a Church which all are obliged to join, because: 1) He gathered about Him a group of disciples, and called it His Church (Mt 16:18); 2) He promised that this Church would last until the end of time (Mt 28:20); 3). He declared that all men must believe and be baptized, that is, join His Church, in order to be saved (Mk 16:16). Persons who are not members of the Catholic Church can be saved if, through no fault of their own they do not know that the Catholic Church is the true Church, but they love God and try to do His will, for in this way they are connected with the Church by desire. These are really members of the Church in desire and receive grace through the Church. But we should pray that they actually enter the Church in the full sense (full incorporation in the Mystical Body - the visible Church) because there are more helps to be saved within the full incorporation in the Mystical Body. 16

7.3: The Authority of the Church

Unlike all human creeds and sects, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and commissioned by Him to teach, to sanctify, and to rule all mankind unto the end of time in order to attain her purpose of giving honor and glory to God and thereby effecting the salvation of souls. This authority of the Church was centered in Peter, whom Christ appointed the chief of His Apostles and the visible head of His Church on earth (Mt 16:17-19). Every validly consecrated bishop (or priest) receives his authority and power (Jn 20:21-23; Lk 22:19-20) through an apostolic succession of bishops that can be traced all the way back to the twelve Apostles who received their authority and power from Christ Himself (2Cor 5:20; Acts 1:24-26; 14:22; 20:28; lTim 3:1; Titus 1:5; Mk 16:15-16). (See also in 16:13-14; 20:21-23; 14:16,17,26; Mt 18:17; 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 3:7; Is 22:22; Lk 10:16; Eph 4:11-12; Heb 13:7; lJn 4:6)

According to God's plan, the birth and the whole life of the Church depended of necessity on both the Holy Spirit and the Apostles. The union of the spiritual and the jurisdictional character is essential to the whole life of the Church. St. Peter, or his successor, governs the Church, it is true: but it is ruled equally by the Holy Spirit. In accomplishing this work the Spirit heaps charisms upon the Church. Now, amid these charisms is to be found prophecy, which is, by definition, one method of communication from God to men; it presumes a revelation. 1p22

7.4: Why This Authority?

Jesus Christ established an organization to continue His work on earth. It was not His plan to carry on His work on earth personally for all time. He was to return to His Father in heaven. That is why He gave His Church the power to take care of the spiritual welfare of His followers, the right and power to make laws relating to their spiritual care. It was to His Church that Christ spoke the words: "Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be held bound in heaven" (Mt 18:18). Of the Church's power to make laws, enforce them and correct, or punish if necessary, there can be no doubt. 12p113 etc.

Remember the occasion when Christ had appointed a group of seventy-two men to aid in the work of the twelve Apostles. Before sending them out in His name, He assured them of their spiritual power in His Church, the power which continues today: "He who hears you, hears Me. He who rejects you, rejects Me. And he who rejects Me, rejects Him who sent Me" (Lk 10:16).

And again, Christ's own assurance to the Catholic Church: "If he ignores them, refer it to the Church. If he ignores even the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector" (Mt 18:17).

Any large society needs laws. The Church, the world-wide spiritual society of Christ, must have laws for her members. These laws are made under the guidance of the Holy Spirit whom Christ promised would abide in His organization for all time.

7.5: Why Church Laws?

The Church is the divinely appointed organization entrusted with the task of leading her members to salvation. Such an organization must make spiritual norms and regulations to aid in the accomplishment of her task.

The task of getting to heaven is not easy; it requires effort and discipline. The Church by her laws aims at cultivating this spirit of discipline, helping the individual to do what he knows must be done to gain the kingdom of God.

The Catholic Church makes laws as an extra precaution to keep her members from the occasion of sin. Human nature is weak and sometimes an extra "push" in the form of a precept is needed.

Christ has told us of the need of self-denial in our life: "You will all come to the same end unless you reform" (Lk 13:3). The Church makes regulations to guide our daily life in the practice of self-denial. For instance, the Catholic Church has norms of fast and abstinence for her members.

The Church makes more specific applications of the general laws of God. So, for instance, she spells out norms for keeping holy the Lord's Day.

The sacraments of confession and Eucharist given us by Christ are a ready and ordinary means of needed graces. Some need a stimulus, a reminder to utilize these sacraments. The Church proposes minimum standards for her members concerning the reception of these sacraments.

Christ has given to the world certain norms concerning marriage. These the Church cannot change. But in addition, in order to preserve the institution and ideals of marriage and the family, the Church has established norms. She has done this in virtue of the general commission of Christ to His Church.

Church laws and regulations are meant to help Catholics attain the goal of their life.

One writer has said: "In order to submit ourselves completely to Christ, we must be masters of ourselves." The Laws of the Church help us to accomplish this task. 12p115

7.6: Infallibility of the Church

By the infallibility of the Catholic Church is meant that the Church, by the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, cannot err when it teaches or believes a doctrine of faith or morals. No other organization or group of people on the face of the earth has been given this promise by the Son of God Himself. (See: Jn 14:16, 26; 16:13-14; Lk 22:31-32; Mt 16:18; 28:19-20; lTim 3:14-15; Is 35:8)

7.7: The Necessity and the Fact of Infallibility

The necessity and the fact of infallibility can be proved from the words of Christ and from reason.

Christ established a Church. He commissioned this Church to teach what He had commanded. He ordered all men down through the ages to accept what this Church teaches, for He said: "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mk 16:16) 6p169 etc.

It is therefore of tremendous importance that we know, without error, just what Christ taught. It follows from this that Christ, Who never demands the impossible, saw to it that we could learn His doctrines without fear that they had been changed and without addition or subtraction.

The alternative is not only unthinkable but blasphemous as well. It would insinuate that Christ commanded His teachers to teach His truths and then was unable to assist them or was unwilling to preserve them from error. It would mean that in time the Church would lose the original teaching of Christ and men would be as bad off as before He came, for they would be obliged in peril of their salvation to believe, and yet would be unable to find out what to believe.

We can also give a good argument for infallibility from reason alone. Man wants certainty, in religion above all things, He cannot arrive at certainty by himself, and he feels the need of a Church which can tell him absolutely and positively what he must believe and what he must do in order to be saved. He has no need for a fallible Church - a Church which can teach errors. Of what use would be a Church which is not infallible? We can make enough mistakes by ourselves without having a fallible Church to help us make more mistakes. No, what man needs and wants is an infallible guide, an infallible teaching authority, a Church which cannot possibly make an error when teaching faith or morals. If God created this urge and need in men, He must have provided a way to fulfill it. He must have given men an infallible guide.

7.8: When Infallibility Is and Is Not Exercised

This infallibility resides in those who have been appointed by Christ as the teachers in His Church, that is, the bishops, the head of whom is the Pope, the successor of St. Peter in the see of Rome. Individual bishops are not infallible, as many past heresies as Arianism or Nestorianism have shown; but the entire body of bishops is infallible. They exercise this infallibility: 1) through the decrees of Ecumenical Councils which have been sanctioned and approved by the Pope: 2) through the Pope alone when he speaks ‘excathedra’ that is, in his official capacity as head of the Church, on doctrines of faith or morals - papal infallibility; 3) through the unanimous voice of the bishops and priests scattered throughout the world, teaching faith or morals, in communion with the Pope; 4) through the Church's ordinary, uniform preaching - her universal belief. 6p175

According to Catholic doctrine, the infallibility of the Church's Magisterium extends not only to the deposit of faith but also to those matters without which that deposit cannot be rightly preserved or expounded. 13

As numerous past popes have declared, Jesus Christ, when communicating to Peter and to the Apostles His divine authority and sending them to teach all nations His commandments (Mt 28:18-19), constituted them as guardians and authentic interpreters of all the moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel, but also of the natural law, which is also an expression of the will of God, the faithful fulfillment of which is equally necessary for salvation (Mt 7:21). 14

This fourth way listed above by which the Church speaks infallibly refers to what is known as the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. A doctrine concerning faith or morals can achieve infallible status without ever being formally defined, simply because it has been taught constantly and universally (with moral unanimity) by the Pope and all the bishops of the world. The words "constantly and universally" are of considerable importance. Papal encyclicals might almost appear tedious in their continual quotations from, and references to, previous pronouncements of the Magisterium on the same topic. The more frequently a teaching has been repeated by the Ordinary Magisterium the more authoritative it becomes, until eventually it must be regarded as infallible. A pertinent example of such teaching is the intrinsic sinfulness of contraception. It has been taught by the Popes so frequently, and endorsed by the bishops so widely, and with such moral unanimity, that we have every justification for considering it to be infallible. This infallible status is in no way affected by the widespread dissent among theologians, condoned by so many bishops, which followed the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae'. An infallible teaching can never lose its status, no matter how great the extent of subsequent dissent." 13

In order to protect the faithful or to sterm the danger or damage from related heresies or evil customs, the Church could at some time in the future, more explicitly (see numbers 1 & 2 above) define her doctrine on contraception. There are many examples of this throughout the history of the Church including the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854) and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into heaven (1950). These truths which are formalized by the Church are not new truths, or "new revelations", or any type of liberal Protestant and Modernistic doctrine of the evolution of religion. "The Revelation, which is the object of Catholic Faith, was terminated with the Apostles" (sent. certa - Pope St. Pius X). Truths are formalized to facilitate general understanding, and to avoid misunderstandings and distortions of the ancient truths which were always believed, e. g., the Hypostatic Union, Transubstantiation, etc., are formulated in new, sharply defined concepts. Truths which formerly were only implicitly believed are expressly proposed for belief. Also questions formerly disputed are explained and decided, and heretical propositions are condemned (theological censures). 15p7

Infallibility does not mean: 1) freedom from error in merely natural science (The Church can, however, forbid her members to discuss a matter if it seriously affects their service of God.); 2) sinless ness (impeccability) on the part of the Pope, bishops, etc.; 3) the impossibility of the Pope's erring on matters of faith or morals, in his private capacity (private opinions or utterances). 6p176

Also with regard to doctrinal teaching of the Church it must be noted that not all the assertions of the Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of Faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable. Under this category would fall theological opinions of lesser grades of certainty called probable, more probable, well-founded (sententia probabilis, probabilior, bene fundata). Those which are regarded as being in agreement with the consciousness of the Faith of the Church are called pious opinions (sententia pia). The least degree of certainty is possessed by the tolerated opinion (opinio tolerata), which is only weakly founded, but which is tolerated by the Church. 15p10

Infallibility is not a personal prerogative, nor a reward for virtue, but rather a result of the assistance of the Holy Spirit as promised by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. "And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth ... He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you." (Jn 14:16,26).

7.9: What Modernism Is and Is Not

The clear teaching of Holy Writ and Tradition is that after Christ, and the Apostles who proclaimed the message of Christ, no further Revelation containing new truths will be made. Christ was the fulfillment of the Law of the Old Testament (Mt 5:17,21), and the absolute teacher of humanity (Mt 23:10: "One is your master, Christ"; cf. Mt 28:20). The Apostles saw in Christ: "the coming of the fullness of time" (Gal 4:4) and regarded as their task the preservation, integral and unfalsified, of the heritage of Faith entrusted to them by Christ (1Tim 6:14; 6:20; 2Tim 1:14; 2:2; 3: 14). The Fathers indignantly repudiated the claim of the heretics to possess secret doctrines or new Revelations of the Holy Spirit. St. Irenaeus (Adv. haer III, I; IV 35, 8), and Tertullian (De praesc. 21) stress, against the Gnostics, that the full truth of Revelation is contained in the doctrine of the Apostles which is preserved unfalsified through the uninterrupted succession of the bishops. 15p7

The tenets and numerous followers of Modernism and Neo-Modernism promote the fallacy that the Church must conform to the norms of the world as they change with the whims of the masses of people through time. Whereas Christ and His divinely guided Church have always told us that the world must conform to the Church and be guided on faith and morals by the Church (Mt 16:17-19; 18:17; Mk 16:15-16; Lk 10:16; Acts 20:28; 2Cor 5:20).

It is important to note and realize the difference between doctrines of faith and morals of our religion and moral application laws, disciplinary laws, and rubrical laws of the Church. The doctrines of faith and morals cannot change since they are the fundamental laws of the one immutable infinite God either from the laws of nature or His revealed laws. Thus, even the Church cannot change the laws of God themselves. The Church can never change them to make it all right, for example, to steal, or to lie. 16pl33 But all of God's laws and revealed truths have been turned over by Christ to His Church that He left us to guard and protect and infallibly interpret for us and all souls till the end of time. The Church is not only the guardian and teacher of the commandments, but also fulfilling its commission given by Christ, makes rules and precepts to guide its members, helping them to live this present life in such a way that it will best prepare them for the next.

But the application of the doctrines of faith and morals can and should be changed by the Church due to the different circumstances of place and time. These applications of immutable doctrines are Church laws which the Church has the full right and power from Christ to change and bind under pain of sin. Jesus Christ said to the Apostles, the first bishops of His Church: "Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven." (Mt 18:18). Examples of these changeable Church laws include the Canon laws, the six Precepts of the Church, etc.

Two other basic categories of the changeable Church laws are those concerning discipline and rubrics. Examples of these would not only include many laws from canon law and the precepts of the Church but also laws regarding how the sacraments are to be administered etc. Thus, the Church has the full right, power, and obligation from Christ to change the external ceremonies which have been added by the Church in administering the sacraments when she sees fit due to changing times and circumstances. The Church also has the power to enforce all of these laws under pain of sin or even excommunication or theological censures as well as by using her hierarchical structure.

Thus it is most important to realize that changes by the Holy Catholic Church of her Church laws is not modernism but rather the prudent use of her powers as Christ's visible Church on earth. Therefore it is not modernism for the Church to change from the Tridentine Latin Mass to the Novis Ordo or to change the external ceremonies of the rites of Baptism, Reconciliation, Sacrament of the Sick, or any of the other external ceremonies of the other sacraments which have been added by the Church since these ceremonies are not essential to the sacrament but are for our edification. It is also not modernism (although it may be imprudent) for an individual priest to remove the statues from his church or to promote Holy Communion in the hand.

It is modernism though to believe or promote the idea that religion or doctrine evolve to new truths as pointed out above. Pope St. Plus X was the great Pope among others who courageously and steadfastly fought against this subtle but very powerful satanic disease within the Church especially today in our modernistic rebellious age. He termed it as the basis and "synthesis of all heresies" (See the decree 'Lamentabili' (1907) and the encyclical 'Pascendi' (1907) as well as the 'Oath Against Modernism’ (1910) for all clergy to be advanced to major orders. 18p36

7.10: The Greatest and Grandest Institution

Thus, every Catholic, either from birth or by conversion, should be very thankful for such a precious treasure, their faith, bought and paid for by the Son of God Himself. Jesus had on one occasion compared the Church to a mustard seed - the smallest of seeds that grows into a large herb (Mt 13:31-32). The Church has, in truth, grown in the course of the ages into an immense organization. It embraces over 500,000,000 members and is constantly growing. It is the greatest and grandest institution the world has ever known.

7.11: The Four Marks of Our Greatest Treasure

Christ imprinted upon His Church certain marks by which it could be recognized by all men. These marks are four: ONE (1Cor 10:17; Eph 4:4-6; Jn 17:11; 10:16; Rom 12:4-5; Cant 6:8; always visible: Mt 5:14; Mich 4:1-2; Is 2:2-3), HOLY (Mt 7:15-20; Titus 2:13-14; lJn 3:5; Jn 17:17-21), CATHOLIC (Mk 16:15-16; Mt 28:19-20; 24:14; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:17-18; Ps 21:28; Is 49:6) and APOSTOLIC (Eph 2: 19-20; Mt 16:17-19; 2Cor 5:20) which belong to the Catholic Church alone. They are God's fingerprints distinguishing His Church from all the churches founded by men. No truth seeker with an open mind can fail to see these marks which will guide him safely into the Mother Church of Christendom.

7.12: Our Glorious Heritage

We should be very proud to be a member of the only Church that is one in its doctrine, its Baptism, its Sacrifice (the Mass), its sacraments, and its government under one visible head, the Pope. We should rejoice that we are members of the Church whose Founder is all-holy - a Church whose doctrines are holy and lead to a holy life. Many thousands of its members, by the practice of self-denial and self-mastery, have attained great sanctity and holiness. Their example is worthy of our imitation. We should be grateful, indeed, that the Church of which we are members teaches all nations all revealed truths at all times, and is therefore universal. Her priests and bishops have gone to all parts of the earth to teach, to offer the Holy unbloody Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary (the Mass), and to administer the sacraments. And we should also be thankful that the Church to which we belong can trace its origin back to the times of the Apostles. No other church can boast of this. The Catholic Church is governed by the lawful successors of St. Peter who can claim an unbroken succession from the first to the present Pope. The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, teaches the same truths that were taught to the Apostles by Christ Himself. Therefore, nothing should keep us from being a true and faithful member of this glorious heritage - the Catholic Church!

7.13: "The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail" - Indefectibility

The Church has not been without her enemies: nor shall she ever be. Therefore be on your guard against false propaganda that is so common in the world today. Emperors, kings, princes, heretics, and dictators have also in the past risen up against her and her teachings. These have in turn changed to dust from whence they came, but the Church still marches on. Many historians have not given a true picture of the history of the Church. No institution should be judged by some of its traitorous members. The Church is a divine organization. Her doctrines, sacraments, morality, and Founder are beyond the criticisms of the human mind and tongue.

At various times in Church history, many powerful groups have tried to subjugate and control the Episcopal sees and even the Papacy and the entire Church herself. The Roman emperors tried, the barbarians tried, ambitious princes and opposing Roman families tried during the "Iron Age of the Papacy" (886-1046), the Moslems tried, Napoleon tried, King Victor Emmanuel II tried, Hitler tried, and the Communists and other anti-God groups are still trying. Numerous other groups who were not able to subjugate or control the Church as they would have like to, broke away from the Church either through heresy by obstinately denying one or more truths of divine revelation or by schism which signifies a separation from the Catholic Church, or a division of the outward Unity of the Church, without affecting the interior Unity of faith and doctrine. Schism, however, as history shows, commonly leads to heresy. 17p93 As Christ said of Himself which can be so admirably applied to His Mystical Body the Church, "I am the Vine; you the branches: he that abides in Me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing. If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burns." (Jn 15: 5-6)

Thus, even a small but proud or ignorant group of people who put themselves above the Church by picking and choosing what they will believe or follow from the Catholic Church according to their subjective 'infallible' or 'heavenly' norms will wither and die just as a branch separated from the vine if they do not repent and amend their ways and thinking and then reunite themselves to the source of all truths and graces from God - the Mystical Bride of Christ, the Church.

It is a sad fact that usually intellectual pride hardens the heart as well as the head. An example of this is that the heresiarch Berengarius who attacked the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist (condemned 1050) is the only known heretical bishop who returned to the true Faith and spent his last years doing penance. 6p314

7.14: Unconditional Surrender

It is good to note that heresies and schisms in Church history did not come about all of a sudden. There were always various factors involved that developed in time. Besides the unwillingness to follow the teachings and guidance of Holy Mother Church, one of the major reasons for schism and heresy was ignorance, both culpable and non-culpable, about the Catholic faith, especially about what the Church is. The schismatics generally did not know what the three attributes and the four marks of the Church were or meant. Thus, when they left the Church, the Vine and source of all life, they did not miss her too much because they never developed a prudent appreciation of the Church based on solid reasonable truth from their catechisms. The leaders of some of the schismatic groups, which attempted to reunify with the Church, often would only go as far as they were willing to as the negotiations progressed. In other words, these lukewarm or stubborn schismatic leaders desired to reunite to the Vine due to their weak but bothered consciences but only under their terms and not the terms presented to them by the Church through her representatives which was normally the seated local ordinary who then corresponded with Rome. The leaders and followers of the schismatic or heretical groups who remained outside of the Church did not possess enough love or knowledge of Holy Mother Church and the importance of being united to her. Thus, they were unwilling to give up what ever was holding them back from unconditional surrender to our gentle but firm mother on earth, the Church.

It is also interesting to note that many schismatic or heretical branches which broke away from the Vine understood the meaning, at least for a while of the word apostolic. Thus, many such renegade branches who had a valid bishop within their group (usually the leader), carefully maintained their valid and documented apostolic succession in order to retain valid orders and thus valid sacraments. These types of groups, while admitting the validity and necessity of valid orders obtained from an apostolic succession all the way back to the apostles, who received their sacramental powers from Christ, denied one of the three major divine attributes of Christ's Church, authority. Christ gave the Apostles, and thus the Church, the power and authority to infallibly teach, to rule, and to sanctify all willing men to the end of time. Almost invariably, a reform movement within a heretical group did not result in bringing most of the group into the Church but at least it brought the many of good will who were willing to accept truth when it was shown to them. A good example of this was the Oxford Movement in England, lead by John Henry, later Cardinal Newnan, within the heretical group called Anglicanism which began as a schism under Henry VIII (1534) but became a heresy under his successor Edward VI.

7.15: Indefectibility

The attribute of the church of perpetuity or indefectibility means that the Church, as Christ established it, will last until the end of time.

We can prove the perpetuity of the Church from Scripture. Christ promised, you remember, that He would build His Church upon a rock and that the gates of hell should not prevail against it (Mt 16: 18). Then there are those other words which Jesus spoke, after His Resurrection, when He bade His Apostles to go forth and preach, adding: "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world." (Mt 28:20)

The Church then is indefectible. As Pope Pius IX said in August of 1870, when the troops of the Italian King were at the walls of Rome, sixty thousand strong, and the Papacy was on the eve of being stripped of its temporal power: "Remember, the Catholic Church is immortal!" Yes, she is immortal. The ship of the Church will sail steadfastly, without shipwreck to herself, no matter what storms may rage or rocks and reefs lie in wait. She may loose her temporal power and even have to hide in subterranean catacombs but she will last until the end of time as Christ established her. Without losing sight of her purpose and goal, down through the ages will she go, until having passed through her militant career, she shall be taken up into the joys of the saints in heaven, and be no longer militant but triumphant in heaven.

7.16: The Communion of Saints

The union of the faithful on earth, the blessed in heaven, and the souls in purgatory, with Christ as their Head, is known as the communion of saints or the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Through the communion of saints the blessed in heaven can help the souls in purgatory and the faithful on earth by praying for them. The prayers of the blessed in heaven are always efficacious because they are always in accord with God's will (Tob 12:12; Apoc 8:3). The faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, should honor the blessed in heaven and pray to them since they are worthy of honor and, as friends of God, will help the faithful on earth (Ecclus 44:1). The faithful on earth, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, can help one another by practicing supernatural charity, especially by performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy (Mt 25:34-40; lTim 2:1; Js 5:16). The faithful on earth can also, through the communion of saints, relieve the sufferings of the souls in purgatory by prayer, fasting, and other good works, by indulgences, and by having Masses offered for them. "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2Machabees 12:46).

You are now a member of the Church Militant on earth and a prospective member of the Church Triumphant in heaven. If you die in the state of venial sin or without making sufficient atonement for your sins, you will temporarily belong to the Church Suffering in purgatory. Both Divine Tradition and Scripture affirm that God will render to every man according to his works: so that such as die in lesser sins shall not escape without punishment (Mt 12:32, 36; 5:25; 1Cor 3:13-15; Apoc 21:27; Lk 21:58-59; 1Pet 3:18-20; Js 3:2; Prov 24:16; 1Jn 1:8). Do not let the following words of Christ ever apply to you: "If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burns" (Jn 15:6). Rather let it be said of you that you were a faithful member of the Mystical Body of which Christ is the Head. Then at the end of your life you may say with St. Paul, who became the greatest of the Apostles: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2Tim 4:7).

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