Catholic Shrines: “Holy” sites or whited sepulchres?

I listen regularly to Catholic talk radio show, “Calling All Catholics,” The Station of the Cross (101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY), and one of the priest-hosts is Peter Calabrese who works at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima here in Western New York

Making a pilgrimage to a “holy shrine” used to be a very popular endeavor for Catholics, although I’m sure much of the enthusiasm has faded among the younger generations. The Roman Catholic church teaches that its members can earn indulgences that remit temporal punishment in purgatory by visiting officially sanctioned, “consecrated” shrines.

There are many shrines all over the U.S., but the closest shrine to me is the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, NY, around 100-miles west of Rochester. The shrine church was completed in 1965. It’s a glass-domed structure that depicts the Northern Hemisphere. A 13-foot-tall statue of Mary, “Queen of Heaven,” stands atop the dome (see photos).

On the 16-acre grounds are 150 statues of Mary, Jesus, and various saints. Special prominence is given to statues depicting the alleged Marian apparition at Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

Imagine the many thousands of souls who have walked the spacious grounds of this shrine over the last 52-years, stopping before the many statues and offering prayers to Mary and the saints, asking for their intercession and help in bringing them to salvation. Most of what is presented at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is un-Biblical and even anti-Biblical. Many would say the shrine buildings and grounds are beautiful and inspiring. The lights. The statues. It’s all meant to appeal to the flesh. But genuine Christians worship the Lord God in spirit and in truth. Salvation does not come by pilgrimages to shrines and other religious exercises. Salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Buildings crumble and fall but Christ is the solid Rock of eternal salvation. Put your faith in Him and nothing else. That is what Mary really desires.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Just imagine, if you can, the apostle Paul and Barnabas, walking together through Lewiston and coming upon this shrine with its many statues and its focus on the “Queen of Heaven.” They would think they were seeing an idolatrous pagan Roman shrine rather than someplace supposedly associated with Christianity.

Below is a listing of all the Catholic shrines in the USA:
http://www.catholicshrines.net/

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Getting our throats blessed by Saint Blaise was a big deal!

Memories of our childhood and of family traditions can be a joy and a comfort in thisFEAST ST. BLAISE increasingly fast-paced world. But we shouldn’t be slaves to tradition and ritual. Perhaps some of the things we were taught by well-meaning but misinformed parents, teachers, and authority figures weren’t correct or were even harmful.

I was listening to a recent podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show on the Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY and they were discussing the feast of St. Blaise, celebrated this past Friday, February 3rd.

Oh, how I looked forward to the feast of St. Blaise when I was a young Catholic grammar school student! It was such a big deal for us Catholic children to get our throats blessed on that day. It seemed to us that Blaise was one of the most important and powerful saints next to Mary because we didn’t make special trips to church for the feast day of any other saint.

At the tail end of the mass on Saint Blaise’s feast day we would all line up at the altar rail. The priest would then place two crossed blessed candles at the throat of each supplicant and say the following formula:

“Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The supplicant would then respond with an “Amen.”

I enjoyed the ritual of getting my throat blessed every February 3rd but I would inevitably come down with sore throats during the year. My young mind even wondered why there was so much pomp and ritual for the blessing of the throat but not for other parts of the body. Why was that? A few years later, I questioned why we needed to pray to saints for help when it seemed like we should be able to go directly to God in prayer. And then, when I was around eleven, I remember thinking, “If we have to obey the Ten Commandments and church rules to merit Heaven, as the Catholic church teaches, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross?” I wouldn’t have a satisfactory answer to that question until sixteen years later when I realized from God’s Word that we are all sinners and could not possibly merit Heaven. It was then that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.

Blaise doesn’t hear prayers or bless throats. It’s all a man-made tradition. There is only one Mediator between God and man and that is Christ Jesus. Accept Him as your Savior and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise. Traditions, rituals, and ceremonies don’t save. Only Jesus saves!

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 2:5

God’s Word says that “saints” aren’t super duper holy people, like the Catholic church teaches. No, rather saints are all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith.

Court settles feud over famous bishop’s remains

If you’re sixty-years-old or older you probably remember Catholic archbishop, Fultonbs J. Sheen. Sheen was the auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of New York City from 1951 to 1965 and hosted two television shows; one pioneering show, Life Is Worth Living, from 1951 to 1957 and the other, The Fulton Sheen Program, from 1961 to 1968. In both programs he spoke on the topics of the day and propagated the Catholic religion.

I can remember as a young Catholic boy watching Sheen on TV, dressed in his bishop’s finery and with his piercing eyes. The man had a rapier wit and intellect and spoke to the camera extemporaneously for thirty minutes without the aid of notes or cue cards. He had a regal persona befitting a “prince of the church.” Rarely do we encounter Sheen’s brand of royal chutzpah in these days.

As we now know, Sheen was on very bad terms with his immediate superior, archbishop of New York, Francis cardinal Spellman. Spellman no doubt resented his subordinate’s national popularity. In 1957, Spellman demanded that Sheen reimburse the NYC diocese for the million-dollar value of powdered milk donated by the U.S. government that was distributed to the needy by Sheen’s Society for the Propagation of the Faith. When Sheen refused, Spellman brought the dispute before pope Pius XII who shocked the cardinal by siding with Sheen. Spellman swore to Sheen he would get his revenge someday. In 1966, Spellman arranged for Sheen to be appointed bishop of the inconsequential diocese of Rochester, N.Y. where I live. The Catholic community in Rochester was not privy to the political machinations in New York City and we all wondered how a man of Sheen’s national stature could be installed as the bishop of our small, humble city. I don’t remember too much about Sheen’s short episcopate in Rochester (1966-1969) other than some anti-Vietnam War statements that infuriated my politically conservative father and the fact that he chose to live in a humble apartment at the downtown CYO rather than at a 7000 square-foot mansion in the city’s ritziest neighborhood like his predecessor (see here). Sheen resigned his Rochester bishopric in 1969 and was crowned as a titular archbishop in the same year.

Sheen died in 1979 and twenty years later the process began to have him canonized as a saint. Things were put on hold in 2010 because both the dioceses of New York City and Peoria, Illinois where Sheen grew up claimed title to the future saint’s remains. Imagine the believers of New Testament times fighting over someone’s dead body. On November 17th the Supreme Court of the State of New York ruled in favor of Sheen’s niece that the remains of the former celebrity be moved from New York to Peoria (see the news report below).

Now that the dispute has been settled, the Vatican will put Sheen’s canonization back on the fast track. The church benefits tremendously from the canonization of popular figures like it did with pope John Paul II and mother Teresa.

I may have watched 15 or 20 of Sheen’s television shows when I was a young guy. He spoke eloquently about the Catholic religion but he never once mentioned the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In contrast, Sheen, like all Roman Catholic clergy, taught a gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. People reverence appealing and influential personalities like Fulton Sheen but he was a false shepherd with a false gospel. Venerating dead bodies is not helpful. Salvation is only by faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Savior.

New York court rules Fulton Sheen remains should go to Peoria

Back from the dead?

 

I was a member of the Roman Catholic church beginning in 1956, when I was baptized as an infant, until 1983 when I left the church and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. As a young person, I can remember the rampant superstition and the reports of supernatural phenomena that were rife in the church. We constantly heard tales of eucharistic hosts bleeding and statues of saints either moving, weeping, or bleeding. The nuns at our grammar school loved to pass along these tales to their young charges.

As I was scanning the news the other day, I came across the report below. The body of saint Inocencia is on display at the cathedral of Guadalajara in Mexico. The story goes that 300 years ago, Inocencia was stabbed to death by her father because she disobeyed his order not to join the Catholic church. Like many Catholic saints, Inocencia’s corpse went on display to attract pilgrims who were eager to pray to the saint and contribute monetary offerings. Only Inocencia’s mummified hands are exposed. The rest of her body is covered with a wax casing.

In the 40-second video above, a recent visitor to the relic supposedly records the saint’s eyes opening. Take a look. How do we explain this? Well, it’s either video tricks or demonic activity. In the past, I used to completely dismiss such Catholic miracles as religious hysteria, but the Bible says the evil one is capable of impressive  signs and wonders.

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:9

How can we be confident that all of the supernatural phenomena that bolsters Catholic superstition and idolatry can either be attributed to religious hysteria or demonic activity? I think I just answered my own question.


Back from the dead? A Catholic child saint who was stabbed to death by her father 300 years ago ‘blinks’ during tourist’s terrifying footage http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3805486/Back-dead-Catholic-child-saint-stabbed-death-father-300-years-ago-blinks-tourist-s-terrifying-footage.html

What does the Bible say about demonic/satanic miracles?
https://gotquestions.org/demonic-satanic-miracles.html

The Vatican prepares to declare Mother Teresa a “saint”

Mother Teresa (born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, 1910-1997) is scheduled to be canonized as aMTTTT Roman Catholic saint at a ceremony at the Vatican on September 4th. Hundreds of millions of Catholics around the world are eagerly anticipating the canonization. The Time magazine special edition on the life of Mother Teresa is already in place at the grocery store check out lines (see photo). I’ve put together a little question and answer exchange below to shed some light on Mother Teresa’s upcoming canonization.

What does it mean when the Catholic church canonizes someone?

Through a vetting process including the evidence of two intercessory miracles, the church determines a dead person is a “saint” who merited entry to Heaven and declares they can act as mediators between God and people. Normally the canonization process takes multiple decades if not centuries, but it’s in the church’s best interests to capitalize on Mother Teresa’s high popularity. The New Testament doesn’t teach anything about “saints” being super-spiritual people who merited their way to Heaven more quickly than most works religionists. The Bible refers to “saints” as all those who accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and are sanctified in Him.

But doesn’t the Bible say there’s only one Mediator between God and people and that’s Jesus Christ? [1 Timothy 2:5-6] 

Nowhere in the Bible does a believer pray to someone other than God. Teaching that dead people can hear any prayers let alone the prayers of thousands and even millions simultaneously assumes they have powers that only God possesses. As someone who has accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I can come directly to the throne of grace. [Hebrews 4:16] To teach there are other mediators between God and mankind is blasphemous and repugnant to all those who have accepted Christ and been bought with the blood of our Precious Savior.

Why is Mother Teresa so famous? Other people have been deeply involved in charity work.

Influential British journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, brought Mother Teresa to the world’s attention in 1967 and her reputation snowballed. Pastors – both Catholic and Protestant – held Mother Teresa up as THE standard of “Christian” charity.

Did Mother Teresa believe in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

No. It’s clear from her many statements (see the article below) that Mother Teresa followed the Catholic gospel of sacramental grace and merit. She also supported her church’s teaching that people of all religions and even atheists can merit Heaven if they obey “the light they’ve been given” and are “good.”

If Mother Teresa followed a gospel of sacramental grace and works then why do so many evangelical pastors point to her as the standard of Christian charity?

Good question. We’re seeing the compromise and betrayal of the Gospel of grace by some in the cause of “Christian unity.” Notice that the forward to the Time magazine special edition commemorating Mother Teresa’s canonization was written by “America’s Pastor,” Rick Warren. That was no afterthought.

Isn’t it uncharitable to speak negatively about Mother Teresa?

I love all Roman Catholics and I pray they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Mother Teresa symbolizes a religion that teaches a person must merit their salvation. It’s much more charitable to be honest with Catholics and to point them to Jesus Christ than to remain silent about the unbiblical and spiritually deadly doctrines that were upheld by Mother Teresa.


I’ve posted Tim Challies’s informative article below on Mother Teresa a couple of times but here it is again for anyone who hasn’t seen it:

The Myth Of Mother Teresa
http://www.challies.com/articles/the-myth-of-mother-teresa

Patriotic saint or fascist collaborator?

We’ve seen a lot in the press over the past year regarding threats to religious freedom.Step Individuals and groups have made headlines in their opposition to new federal mandates which interfere with religious beliefs regarding insurance coverage for contraceptives and marriages of same-sex couples. We’ll undoubtedly see further assaults on religious freedoms in the future.

The Catholic church has been an outspoken defender of religious freedoms during this current controversy. The relics of saints Thomas More and John Fisher recently concluded their tour of several U.S. cities as part of the church’s “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign. More and Fisher were murdered by Henry VIII in the 16th century because of their refusal to acknowledge the king as the leader of the breakaway church of England. But the Catholic church conveniently forgets to mention that in the same era when More and Fisher were killed, hundreds of thousands of Protestants were put to death as heretics by civil authorities in league with the church in countries where Catholicism dominated. Also, when Donald Trump first made his negative remarks regarding Muslims last December, journalists were quick to remind us that Catholics had once been the target of nativist Protestants in 19th and 20th century America. What the pundits failed to mention was that anti-Catholicism in the United States was at least partially a reaction to the suppression and persecution of non-Catholics in Catholic countries. See my earlier post here.

Several days ago I saw the article below about Croatia overturning the 1946 conviction of Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac as a fascist, pro-Nazi collaborator. No one can deny that Stepinac was an early supporter of the murderous Catholic Ustase. Few Americans are familiar with the story of the bloody Ustase and their alliance with Nazi Germany. See here. But Croatians who currently campaign for Stepinac’s canonization view him as a patriot and supporter of Croatian independence rather than as a patron of fascist intolerance. Survivors of the Ustase and their families are understandably outraged at the canonization efforts on behalf of Stepinac.

But Stepinac and the Ustase weren’t alone. There were many other fascist movements in 20th century Europe that had the full support of the Catholic church including:

  • Francisco Franco and Nacionalcatolicismo in Spain
  • Antonio Salazar and Estado Novo in Portugal
  • Benito Mussolini and the Partito Popolare Italiano in Italy
  • Engelbert Dollfuss and Austrofacism in Austria
  • Jozef Tiso and the Slovak People’s Party in the Slovak Republic
  • Leon Degrelle and the Rexists in Belgium
  • Philippe Petain and Vichy France
  • The Endecja and post-Pilsudski Sanacja in Poland

For the purposes of this post I won’t digress into Catholic falangism that sprouted up throughout Latin America.

The church used its strong connections with fascist, pro-Catholic regimes to restrict and oppress non-Catholic religious groups, but only seventy-years after the peak of clerical fascism in Europe, the Catholic church portrays itself as the defender of religious freedom. Yes, European clerical fascism is water well over the dam at this point but there’s an irony here that should not be missed or forgotten.


Croatia overturns conviction of WW2 ‘collaborator’ Cardinal Stepinac
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36866939

Green beer, shamrocks, and corned beef & cabbage

Today, many people, especially those of Irish descent, are celebrating Saint Patrick’sWH Day. Many are proudly wearing their green. Shamrock and leprechaun decorations adorn both homes and offices. Green bagels and green beer will be consumed by millions along with the traditional dinner of corned beef, boiled potatoes, and steamed cabbage. This is one of those “fun” cultural holidays that people celebrate without really putting much thought into it.

Who was Saint Patrick? History tells us he lived in the 5th century and was a missionary to Ireland and later anointed as the country’s “patron saint.” Did Patrick preach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that was preached by the New Testament church? That’s a tough question but hopefully that was the case. Error and anti-Biblical practices had already crept into the church by Patrick’s time but the situation was still a long way from the institutionalized Roman Catholicism we know today. Most Catholics would be very surprised to learn from history that many of their church’s doctrines evolved over time.

For many Catholics, celebrations like Saint Patrick’s Day represent the extent of their spirituality. It’s all about customs, rituals, and traditions without much thought about the God of the Bible and how He fits in. I don’t mean to come down hard on the revelers for having some fun but Saint Patrick’s Day is about as deep as it gets for many. People will go to great lengths and put an enormous amount of effort into making sure their Saint Patrick’s Day celebration is a success, but suggest they should pick up a Bible and find out about the Lord of all days and you’ll likely be met with a big guffaw!

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8

Mother Teresa to be declared a saint on September 4th

The Vatican has just announced that it will declare Mother Teresa to be a saint onmother-teresa-john-paul-4 September 4th. I’ve written about Mother Teresa several times in the past so I won’t go on at length but I will repeat a few points:

  • The Catholic concept of a “saint” is not Biblical. All those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior are saints.
  • Nowhere in the Bible does it mention a believer praying to anyone other than to God. Praying to dead people is heretical; a man-made, anti-Biblical tradition.
  • Mother Teresa, like all faithful Catholics, believed she needed to merit her salvation. Diaries published after her death revealed she had no spiritual peace.
  • Mother Teresa stated many times that she believed pagan religions were legitimate pathways to God (see “The Myth of Mother Teresa” below).

Many people have done many charitable acts over the centuries but Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Believers who turn a blind eye to all of this serious error in the interest of “Christian unity” become a part of the lie.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23-24


 

The Myth of Mother Teresa
http://www.challies.com/articles/the-myth-of-mother-teresa

Mother Teresa to be declared a saint September 4
http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/15/europe/pope-mother-teresa-becomes-saint-september-4/index.html

Did Saint John Paul II have a married girlfriend?

Recently revealed personal letters indicate Saint John Paul II aka Karol Wojtyla had a long, intimate friendship with a married woman that, at the least, bordered on KWinappropriate (see story below).

Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (pictured), a Polish-American philosopher, sold the letters Wojtyla had written to her — letters not made public until now — to the National Library of Poland in 2008. She died in 2014.

Celibacy for clerics was made mandatory in 1139 by pope Innocent II mainly to ensure church property stayed within the church. Human nature being what it is, the forced celibacy of priests and nuns led to sinful relationships and monstrous abuses too numerous to count.

Celibacy remains a controversial issue within Catholicism and is certainly a factor in the dramatic decline in the number of Catholic clerics that we now see.

I thank the Lord He freed me from the chains of Catholic legalism and tradition. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and seek out a Bible-believing, evangelical fellowship. Following the religious rules of men won’t save.

“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” – Matthew 23:4

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:1-5

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John Paul II ‘secret letters’ reveal connection to married woman he called ‘a gift from God’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/02/16/john-paul-ii-secret-letters-reveal-connection-to-married-woman-he-called-a-gift-from-god/

Saint Valentine’s Day?

On February 14th people all over the world celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day. Tokens of loveVD will be exchanged between spouses, friends, parents and children, etc. Who was Saint Valentine and how did all of this “hearts and flowers” stuff get started?

Valentine was listed on some 5th-century church documents as an early martyr for the Christian faith. Several hagiographies (biographies of saints) of Valentine were written although all are now considered spurious.

Because of the lack of any reliable information regarding Valentine his feast day was dropped from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 although he is still on the church’s list of saints.

How did Valentine become connected with love and romance? That’s not altogether clear either. Some scholars attribute Valentine’s Day’s initial link to romance to 14th-century English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.

The word, “saints,” can be found many times in the Bible but the contextual meaning is entirely different from that of Catholic tradition. The Catholic church teaches saints are those persons it officially canonizes (recognizes) for achieving an exceptional degree of holiness in their lifetime and for meriting Heaven. Saints can be venerated and prayed to and are said to act as intercessors between supplicants and God.

In contrast, the Bible speaks of “saints” as those who are set apart (the Greek “ἅγιος” or “hagios”); all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Saints are NOT spiritual superstars but sinners saved by grace. In his epistles to local churches, Paul sends his greetings, encouragements, and admonitions to “all the saints,” all those who are in Christ Jesus. Christians pray directly to the Lord, no other heavenly intercessors are needed or are even possible. There isn’t one single example in the Bible of any believer praying to anyone other than God.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 14:6

“Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” – Philippians 4:21-22

Yes, I’m so grateful to the Lord for the love of my wife, children, grandchildren, family, and friends. Most of all, I’m grateful for the love of my Savior, Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for all my sins. Now that’s LOVE! No one can merit their way to Heaven. Accept the free gift of eternal life and fellowship with God by accepting Jesus as your Savior!