Saints and Fathers

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I know. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. And that was with protective equipment!

Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain and suffering. Today there is protective equipment and methods to harvest honey, but in times past it took a man willing to experience bitter pain today for the sweet rewards later.

There seems to be a principle built into the real world that is expressed with maxims such as “good things take time,” and “no pain no gain.” A paycheck is preceded by forty hours of work. Muscles appear after weeks of sweat equity and exercise.

Shortcuts seldom pay off and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Achievement takes effort and rewards are given to those who work hard.

Suffering is shunned by most people. Pain is avoided. We usually chose the path of least resistance. It seems most people are hard-wired for pleasure, relaxation and personal gratification. Following these baser impulses rarely reap the rewards human beings aspire to.

The number forty is used symbolically in the Bible over and over again. Jewish and Christian tradition has known this from the beginning. Forty is the number of testing, suffering, fasting, repentance and self-denial.

It often precedes new beginnings and new stages of salvation and restoration. Noah’s flood lasted forty days, Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years, Jonah gave Ninevah forty days to repent, Elijah fasted forty days and nights—as did Jesus in the wilderness.

John the Baptist wandered in the Judean Wilderness east of Jerusalem. He wore rustic clothing and suffered the pain of harvesting his own wild honey. He ate his wild honey with locusts, another word for a grasshopper.

Such hopping insects were declared “clean” foods for the Jews (Lev 11:22). I once jokingly told a group of pilgrims I “loved living the Bible in the Holy Land” and if they found a grasshopper I would eat it like John the Baptist had done. They went on a mission and found a 4” wiggly grasshopper. I had no choice but to imitate the Baptist. (See me eat it here.)

In the summer months, the wilderness of Judea hovers around 120?. John looked and acted a lot like Elijah the prophet and it was from this exact location that Elijah was assumed body and soul into heaven.

No wonder the Pharisees questioned if John was the Elijah who was to come. He was baptizing repentant Jews about thirty miles down from the mountains of Jerusalem and about three miles from the ancient community of Qumran.

John undoubtedly associated with these devout Essenes who had moved to the hot wilderness to seek God and become the Children of Light. The wilderness, like the number forty, is usually associated with seeking God and a sincere holiness brought about by self-denial and isolation.

Christian tradition from the earliest times understood the spiritual benefits of established periods of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-denial. This practice of self-abandonment to the wilderness for forty days was incorporated into the liturgical year. It was called Lent. The word originates from an old English word meaning “spring” and was used because Lent, the time of fasting and prayer was practiced in the spring of the year in preparation for Easter.

 John the Baptist wandered in the wilderness to mortify the flesh and earthly desires, focusing his mind and heart on things above. He was seeking holiness and spirituality. Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the same wilderness to be tempted by the Devil and prepared for his ministry.

The Church wants us to share in this deeper life of God. Lent is a time set aside so that we can join John in the wilderness—setting aside the distractions of daily life and earthly pursuits, turning to God and prayer.

Of course, it is not as easy for most of us since we have families, work schedules, diapers to change, houses to clean and on and on. The Lord and the Church understand this completely. But even the daily service of a family, the quality labor provided on the job and extra love shown to others can be an act of penance and self-giving.

We can all fit in time for confession, a bit more prayer and spiritual readings, deny ourselves a few extravagances or pleasures and seek to get closer to God. It is never easy—it wasn’t for John, Jesus or others who wandered for forty days looking for a deeper walk with God and a richer human experience.

We buy honey in the store and few of us like John are willing to reach into a hive and grab the honey at great cost. But like John we can impose a bit of self-denial upon ourselves, entering into penance, prayer, repentance and self-denial—though it often feels like reaching for the honey. The minimal pain of Lent can bring about the sweetness of holiness.

These places in the desert still exist. We can walk through the ruins of Qumran, see the mist over the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab in Jordan and stand on the shore of the River Jordan at the place Jesus met John. We can walk with Jesus in the with his forty days of temptation when he stepped out of the wilderness. No prayer or sacrifice, no self-denial or charitable act will go unnoticed by God. The sweetness of the Spirit will certainly be our reward.

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Can Relics and Sacramentals Relay the Power of God?

by Steve Ray on August 28, 2020

Some might claim that Catholic teaching on relics and Sacramentals is unbiblical. Really?

Check out these biblical passages:

“So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face CLOTHS or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

“So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the BONES of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (2 Kgs. 13:21).

“They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his SHADOW might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:15).

“When [Jesus] had said this, He spat on the ground, and made CLAY of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ” (which is translated, Sent ). So he went away and washed and came back seeing” (John 9:6-7).

OIL – see James 5:14-15

WATER – see 2 Kings 5:14

SACRAMENTALISM (Quoted from Dave Armstrong’s “One Minute Apologist“)

Objection: Matter cannot convey grace. Sacramentalism and relics are unbiblical magic

The Bible teaches that grace and salvation come through the spirit (Jn. 6:63), not through “holy objects”

Initial reply : The Incarnation of Jesus “raised” matter, and His death on the cross was intensely physical. Protestants often speak of “the blood” (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Jn. 1:7), which is but one of many examples of sacramentalism.

Extensive reply 

 The New Testament is filled with many concrete examples or teachings about the “incarnational principle” and sacramentalism. Baptism confers regeneration (Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21 – cf. Mk. 16:16; Rom 6:3-4 -, 1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:5). Jesus’ garment (Matt. 9:20-22), saliva mixed with dirt (Jn. 9:5 ff.; Mk. 8:22-25), and water from the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7) all were used in healings. Anointing with oil for healing is also prescribed (Jas. 5:14). The Bible often calls for a laying on of hands for the purpose of ordination and commissioning (Acts 6:6) and in order to heal (Mk. 6:5; Lk. 13:13).

Catholics believe in seven sacraments: all of which are established on the basis of extensive biblical evidences: 1) The Eucharist: Lk. 22:19-20; Jn 6:53-58; 1 Cor. 11:23-30; 2) Baptism: Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38, 22:16; 3) Penance and Reconciliation: Matt. 16:19; Jn 20:23; 1 Cor. 5:3-5 with 2 Cor. 2:6-11; 4) Confirmation: Acts 8:14-17, 19:1-6; Eph. 1:13; 5) Anointing of the Sick: Mk. 6:13; Acts 9:17-18; Jas. 5:14-15; 6) Ordination: Mt. 18:18; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 7) Matrimony: Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-9; Eph. 5:21-33.

Even relics (remnants of the bodies of saints and holy people, and related physical items), have (perhaps surprisingly) strong biblical support. Perhaps the most striking proof text is a story about the prophet Elisha:

2 Kings 13:20-21: So Eli’sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli’sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli’sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.

Examples of second-class relics (objects that came into contact with holy people) are also clearly found in passages about the prophet Elijah’s mantle, which parted the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:11-14), and Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15-16) and Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12), used by God to heal sick people and to cast out demons. If all of this is “magic,” then it is a sort of “magic” directly sanctioned by God Himself.

Objection 

Protestants can agree with some of this. What cannot be found in the Bible, however, is the excessive veneration of relics. This goes too far, and is idolatry. We can remember the deeds of great heroes of the faith (Acts 7; Hebrews 11) and thank God for them, but we shouldn’t get into worshiping bones or pieces of hair and so forth, or go on pilgrimages to “holy places.” That’s too much like paganism or heathenism and adds nothing to our spiritual life. All places are equally “holy.”

Reply to Objection 

If matter can indeed convey grace and blessing, according to the Bible, then we can give glory to God for what He has done with lowly matter by venerating (not worshiping) even now-inanimate objects. Protestants themselves would not, for example, think that the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem or the hill where He died on the cross or His tomb, from which He rose from the dead, are merely rocks and dirt like any other rocks and dirt. In their own way they do indeed venerate and honor them. If the physical location were so irrelevant, why visit it at all; why not simply ponder Jerusalem and Israel in their heads, in “spirit.”

Plenty of Protestants are also fascinated and intrigued by the Shroud of Turin, which is an extraordinary secondary relic related to our Lord Jesus. That is an object, too; a mere piece of cloth. But would any Christian treat it like any other cloth and tear it up for rags to dust with? Of course they would not, because it was connected with Jesus and has miraculous properties (like Elisha’s bones): a supernaturally produced image. Therefore it is highly regarded and revered. It all goes back to God and His great works, using matter. Sacramentalism and relics flow from the Incarnation: God Himself taking on flesh and matter and becoming man.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) 

The death of Christ is the universal cause of man’s salvation: but a universal cause has to be applied to particular effects. Thus it was found necessary for certain remedies to be administered to men by way of bringing Christ’s death into proximate connection with them. Such remedies are the Sacraments of the Church.

And these remedies had to be administered with certain visible signs: — first, because God provides for man, as for other beings, according to his condition; and it is the condition of man’s nature to be led through sensible things to things spiritual and intelligible: secondly, because instruments must be proportioned to the prime cause; and the prime and universal cause of man’s salvation is the Word Incarnate: it was convenient therefore that the remedies, through which that universal cause reaches men, should resemble the cause in this, that divine power works invisibly through visible signs.

Hereby is excluded the error of certain heretics, who wish all visible sacramental signs swept away; and no wonder, for they take all visible things to be of their own nature evil, and the work of an evil author. These visible sacramental signs are the instruments of a God Incarnate and Crucified. (Summa Contra Gentiles, IV, 56: “Of the Need of Sacraments”)

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Steve Ray: Six Minutes on the Church Fathers

by Steve Ray on May 26, 2020

Six minute interview at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

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Two Interviews: 1) My interview by a Protestant Pastor; 2) Our experience meeting St. John Paul II

May 18, 2020

Two fun, energetic interviews today in case you are interested. First is a short 15-minute interview with John Harper on Relevant Radio sharing Janet and my experience meeting St. John Paul II twice in Rome at his private Mass and our two married kids meeting him together with their wedding clothes and his prayer for […]

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Steve’s New Talk on “Joseph: Manly Man & Chosen Father”

May 1, 2020

Here is my new talk on St. Joseph given at a Men’s Conference in March 2020. It is an hour talk on MP3 entitled “Joseph: Manly Man & Chosen Father.” This talk will give men a whole new image of this rugged saint who in some ways was just an “average Joe.” “We often see St. […]

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My Favorite Picture/Painting of the Jewish St. Paul the Apostle

January 30, 2020

Most pictures of St. Paul ignore his Jewishness. When he entered a Synagogue to teach he could not have looked like a Gentile. He would have been distinctly Jewish. They would never ask a Gentile to share a “word of encouragement” to the Jewish worshipers. For example: “Acts 13:14–15:  “They went on from Perga and […]

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Was Joseph the Father of Jesus? Video of Going to Work with Jesus and Joseph near Nazareth!

January 8, 2020

I thought I would share a few things on the great St. Joseph. The more I’ve studied him and walked in his land, the more I love this guy.  First, a discussion of whether it is correct to call St. Joseph the father of Jesus. Second, I recently ran from Nazareth to the worksite of […]

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Aztecs, Human Sacrifice, Abortion and Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12, 2019

Today we visited the Aztec Temple in Mexico City. The cathedral of Mexico City was built right next to the 500-year temple. I did a lot of study on the Aztecs and their massive human sacrifices and cannibalism. I realized there was a great tie-in with the Catholic faith, the sacrifice of Christ and abortion […]

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Hey Steve: Jesus Taught us to Pray to the Father Alone, not Dead Saints

November 1, 2019

 Barry wrote in my combox today – in response to my post entitled “Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints I thought I would respond briefly. Barrry wrote: Would you please read the Lord’s prayer. Jesus prayed it. He was giving an example of how to […]

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All Saints Day: My Show on Catholic Answers Live – “Old Testament Saints”

October 31, 2019

We had a great time on Wednesday discussing Old Testament saints. Where were they before Christ died and rose, did Mary have OT heroes, are Adam and Eve saints and much more. I hope you enjoy this podcast. Click HERE to listen to the show. https://www.catholic.com/audio/cal/old-testament-saints#.Xb6zVgBoWJU.mailto “The patriarchs, prophets, and certain other Old Testament figures have […]

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Kissing Statues

October 1, 2019

A while ago in Jerusalem I awoke to the loud and intrusive Muslim “call to prayer”, church bells ringing and horns honking. I read this email that came from the United Kingdom… It read, “Hi Steve! I know you are a busy man. Please answer the above issue when the time permits you. I am a Catholic […]

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Birth of Mary in the Protoevangelium of James

September 8, 2019

In the early 2nd century the early Church held a document in very high regard. From this document we learn about the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her own birth. Since today is the Feast Day of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, I thought I would provide a link to the Protoevangelium […]

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At Auschwitz Today: St. Maximillian Kolbe the Martyr and Auschwitz

August 28, 2019

Since we are walking through the horror of Auschwitz today I wanted to share the story of one hero who gave his life in exchange for another man–a father and husband. St. Maximilian Kolbe was starved to death – and we visit his death cell today. Click here for the whole story and pictures… St. […]

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Maria Faustina and the Divine Mercy: A Short Biography & History

August 27, 2019

Since today we are praying the Divine Mercy at the bones of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska at the convent in Poland, I thought I would share this short biography and history. Click here for the whole story with pictures…. The Biography of St. Maria Faustina. (August 25, 1905 – October 5, 1938)
 An excerpt from Apostle of Divine Mercy, a […]

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Was Abraham Saved by Faith Alone? Are the Protestants Right?

August 25, 2019

Today (Monday) I will be on the radio with Gary Michuta at 1 PM at https://virginmostpowerfulradio.org/. Hope you can listen in. Our topic will be Abraham, Father of Faith & Works. I am looking forward to this live show. In honor of this event today I am posting this article on Abraham, a critique I made of […]

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Today in Niepokalanow, Poland: Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s “City of the Immaculata”

August 23, 2019

Niepokalanow, Poland: Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s “City of the Immaculata” Today we are in Niepokalanow where St. Maximilian Kolbe set up the “City of the Immaculata” and helped save Poland’s faith as it was about to descend into the tyranny of the Nazis and the Soviets. Today their Catholic Faith is exemplary. So, I thought I […]

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