Baptism

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213

Mary is the Mother of the Church, not a Father

We Catholics assert boldly that Mary is both Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church. See, e.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church 963. Protestants sometimes ask, “Why did Mary not teach or direct the early Church in the New Testatment, if she is indeed the Mother of the Church?” The question is a good one, for it calls for an examination of familial roles in the Church. Continue reading Mary is the Mother of the Church, not a Father

Withholding Tithes from the Church is Heretical

In America, we are conditioned to vote with our dollars. The classical economic concept of Adam Smith‘s “invisible hand” is deeply engrained in American society, with the concomitant “consumer sovereignty” mentality. However, redirecting our tithes and offerings away from the local parish or diocese is theft, and even heretical, according to Catholic doctrine. Continue reading Withholding Tithes from the Church is Heretical

Evangelism, the Laity and the Order of Preachers

"Crucifixion avec sainte Catherine de Sienne, saint Dominique et d'autres saints" by Fra. Bartolommeo, O.P. (1472-1517)
“Crucifixion avec sainte Catherine de Sienne, saint Dominique et d’autres saints” by Fra. Bartolommeo, O.P. (1472-1517)
At the last meeting of our local chapter of Lay Dominicans, a newcomer slipped me a piece of paper that asked simply, “Why do you want to be a Lay Dominican? What do you get out of it?” As a result of writing my response, I have come to realize that the main mission of the Church is also the special charism of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic. This article will answer my friend’s question by discussing the layperson’s role in the Church and how that relates to the charism of the Lay Dominicans.

The Order of Preachers was founded by St. Dominic in 1216. Within a few years, the order had organized itself into three branches: the friars, the nuns, and the laity. Each branch of the Order is separately governed under the leadership of the Master of the Order. The branch of the laity are called the “Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic,” “Lay Dominicans,” or formerly the “Third Order of Preachers.” The Lay Dominicans worldwide number approximately 150,000, compared to around than 6,000 Friars.

The Church Exists to Evangelize

Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelism in the Modern World) written 10 years after the close of Vatican II, refocused the Church on its central mission: the eternal salvation of souls. So important is Evangelii Nuntiandi that Pope Francis calls it “the greatest pastoral document that has ever been written to this day.” Address of June 23, 2013, at 2.

Continue reading Evangelism, the Laity and the Order of Preachers

Stop Begging for Money and Teach Stewardship

Home for me is a 16 foot travel trailer at a camping “resort” in San Antonio, Texas. One afternoon last week, I was sitting in my lawn chair under the awning, which serves as my living room, when I saw my friend Adam walk by. He was carrying a plastic bag of Hot Pockets and Cokes he’d bought at the drugstore down the street.

Adam (that’s his real name) is in his early twenties, thin as a rail, and lives alone in a one room cabin down the hill from me. The cabin has no running water, so he uses the camp facilities for the restroom and to shower.

He works for minimum wage on an asphalt crew in the 100 degree Texas summer heat. His thick brown hair is sunbleached to a burnt orange color, because he never wears a hat. I see him most every day as he goes to and from his job. He doesn’t have a car, so a company pickup comes to get him and bring him home. He rides in the back of the truck. He always smiles. I’ve never seen him unhappy.

Anyway, as he was walking by, I said hello and so he stopped to chat. We exchanged some small talk about hot the day was. Gesturing to the computer on my lap, he asked what I was working on. I told him I was writing an article about giving to God and what that means for our salvation. He looked at me like he remembered something, but forgot how he knew. What he said next, in his slow Texas accent, was as lucid, theologically accurate summary of Christian giving as I have ever heard. Continue reading Stop Begging for Money and Teach Stewardship

First Fruits, Sacrifice, and Covenant

Our covenantal relationship with God compels us to offer our “first fruits” to him in sacrifice and praise. The offering of the first fruits is inextricably connected with God’s covenantal relationships. When God covenants with his people, an offering of the “first” acknowledges God’s sovereignty and gives thanks to God from whom all things come.

First Fruits in the New Testament Church

The first century New Testament church understood first fruits offerings as part of God’s plan for the sanctification of his Church. The Didache, commonly known as the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” is the earliest known liturgical writing of the earliest church and was written about 100 A.D. It prescribes offering first fruits for the support of both the clergy and the poor: Continue reading First Fruits, Sacrifice, and Covenant

The Theology of Giving

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:18-30
A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.”
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.
Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”
Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Luke 18:18-30

The famous story of the rich ruler in Luke’s gospel tells us why we give: to inherit eternal life.

The ruler approached Jesus to learn how to attain eternal life, insisting that he had followed all the commandments since his youth. Jesus then told him, “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Unable to part with his possessions, the man went away sadly.

In the subsequent exchange with the onlookers and the disciples, Jesus did not mention the needs of the poor. Instead, Jesus emphasized the real reason for giving: the primary purpose of giving is to save the giver’s soul.

Pope Francis recently explained why: “Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the center of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings.” Pope Francis, Homily on Sunday, September 29, 2013. By giving in support of the kingdom of God, we reorient our lives to God as the center of our lives.

Of course, God does not need the money. God, being infinite, lacks nothing. If God needed more money, he could simply create it. Instead, he calls us to give for the sake of our own souls.

Does this mean that we can simply spend our way to heaven? No. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and through baptism. See John 1:12-18 and Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶¶ 1987-1989. Our charitable giving is part of the cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom that is required to repent from our sinful nature and turn towards God’s kingdom. Cf. James 2:14-17. “Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.” Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶ 1993.

The theological foundation of Christian giving

The theology of giving is premised on three concepts:
1. God’s ownership
2. Our stewardship
3. Final accountability
Continue reading The Theology of Giving

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.