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         Q

Should our Catholic teenagers attend non-denominational retreats?

                                                           A

  It's not necessarily wrong to attend this type of retreat. However, you should be careful, especially if you're not thoroughly grounded in your Catholic Faith. It could be confusing or even misleading. Because retreats are often emotional experiences, you might confuse the "good feelings" you have on retreat with "truth". Simply because something "feels good" doesn't mean it's true (Prov. 14:12, 2 Tim. 4:3-4). Likewise, just because something doesn't "feel good" doesn't make it wrong or false (Rom. 8:16-18). Feelings are neither true nor false; they're just feelings. Also, so called non-denominational or interdenominational events can sometimes be subtly anti-Catholic. Not that the people necessarily intend them to be-they may not even realize it themselves. They just think that being a Christian means believing their way and they don't always appreciate the fact that Catholics hold other ideas. It would be wise to ask the leaders a few questions before signing up for the retreat. For example, what do they think about the Catholic Church? Do they believe Catholics are Christians, too? Will you be encouraged to participate in a non-Catholic communion service (in which, as a Catholic, you should not participate)? May you leave at any time during the retreat? Are there Catholics among the retreat leaders? The answers to these questions should help you decide whether or not it would be wise to take part in the retreat.

                                                           Q

Why don't Catholic priests marry? The Bible says that a bishop should be ``blameless, the husband of one wife'' (1 Tim. 3:2), which certainly indicates that Christ approves of marriage for the Christian clergy.

                                                           A



Catholic priests do not marry because, while Christ does indeed approve of marriage for the Christian clergy, He much prefers that they do not marry. He made this quite clear when He praised the Apostles for giving up ``all'' to follow Him, saying, ``And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.'' (Matt. 19:27-29). The Apostle Paul explained why the unmarried state is preferable to the married state for the Christian clergy: ``He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.'' (1 Cor. 7:32-33). In other words, matrimony is good-- Christ made it one of the holy sacraments of His Church--but it is not conducive to that complete dedication which is incumbent upon those who submit themselves to another of Christ's holy sacraments--that of Holy Orders.

 

                                                           Q

 How does one become a saint?

    A 

One becomes a saint by doing the will of God, which is another way of saying loving God above everything else (Mt. 10:3233, 22:3740). This type of life includes living a sacramental life, practicing the virtues, especially humility (Gal. 6:3, Mk. 10:15, CCC 1389, 2180), and daily prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). A sacramental life should include frequent Mass (at least on Sunday, if not a few times each week) and frequent Confession (perhaps once a month and immediately after serious sin). A virtuous life includes striving for perfection in faith, hope and charity (1 Cor. 13:13, Rom. 15:13). Faith is believing in things not fully seen (Heb. 11:1); hope is trusting in the promises of our Lord Jesus (Heb. 3:56); and charity is the act of loving God and others (1 Jn. 4:78). Continual striving for perfection in these areas, along with living a sacramental life, will put you on course for sainthood (1 Thess. 5:1422, CCC 1084). You may also consider meeting regularly with a spiritual director. Meeting with an older brother or sister in the Faith such as a priest or religious sister will help you learn from anothers experiences and wisdom (1 Thess. 5:1213, CCC 1269). In addition, by working with the same person on a regular basis, he or she will get to know you, your personality, your struggles and your strengths. You should then receive better and more specific recommendations on how to strengthen your walk with the Jesus.

                                                        Q

                 

"How do we know Jesus even existed?"

                                                            A



How do we know George Washington or Abraham Lincoln ever existed? We were not there. We rely on history and records from that period. So too with Christ. The primary record of His existence is the Bible. Although we Christians usually think of the Bible as the Word of God, we should remember much of it is a historical record as well (CCC#126). The New Testament documents, in particular, give us vital historical information about Jesus, even though they aren't intended to be extensive biographies in the modern sense. The New Testament picture of Jesus is supported by non-Christian historical sources; although, there aren't many of these that survived from the time of the early Church. The probable reason for such scant non-Christian historical evidence is that the Romans, who were the main historians of the time, would not have been concerned with a small outpost of their empire like Palestine. The Jewish historian Josephus does record the existence of Jesus and the fact He was executed under Pontius Pilate. This supports the New Testament account.

                                                          Q

                               "What is purgatory"

                                                          A

Purgatory is the state of purification that some souls must undergo before experiencing the Beatific Vision, the vision of God. Purgatory is an infallible dogma of the Faith (CCC #1030).

Purgatory is for people who are destined for heaven, but who have venial sins on their souls or the effects of forgiven mortal sins, which must be cleansed (Mt. 5:26, CCC #1031). Because nothing unclean shall enter into heaven (Rev. 21:27), God has established a place of final purification, purgatory.

Purgatory is not a second chance. If one dies in mortal sin, one goes directly to hell (CCC 1874). If one dies in a state of grace and has completely formed his will and love of God to a state of perfection, one will go straight to heaven.

When we are judged imeediately after death (Heb. 9:27, 2 Cor. 5:10), we will know the true state of our souls and our life's work as never before. If we get saved but are still attached to the vestiges (remnants) of sin, we will not only see the justice and logic of purgatory, but will actually want to go there. As C. S. Lewis once wrote, Our souls demand purgatory, dont they? Before we come into the presence of an all-holy, perfect God, we will need and want to be purified of anything unholy or imperfect that remains .

When we sin, we love ourselves more than God and His laws. This is disordered love. This sin is like the impurities found in newly mined gold. To make the gold perfect, we need to put it through fire. The fire sweats out the impurities. This is analogous to the purification process in purgatory (1 Cor. 3:1213).

There is a common objection directed at the Church by some Protestants that the doctrine of purgatory takes away from the work of Jesus on the cross at Calvary and is therefore unbiblical. This is not true. Purgatory is an application of the cross. Jesus death is so powerful that it can actually purify us in the afterlife. The souls in purgatory are cleansed of their sin precisely because of the sufferings of Christ on the cross.

                                    

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