Friday, May 27, 2011

Ask Ellen: Since I have been baptized in another church, why can't I partake in communion at the Catholic Church? Cheryl, ME

Thank you for your question, Cheryl.  It is the source of confusion for many so I am very glad that you asked.  Please know that the Catholic Church does recognize your Baptism into the Christian faith.

The “why can’t I receive Communion part” is the tricky piece.  Let me begin by explaining that Catholics believe in the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist, meaning that we believe that the bread and wine are changed into the actual Body and Blood of Christ.  We even have a fancy name for it, Transubstantiation.  This is very different from communion in Protestant churches, as they believe it is symbolic. 

Another unique aspect of being Catholic is that when we receive the Eucharist, we are stating with our minds and bodies that we are in full communion with the teachings of the Catholic Church.  This means that we are trying to live lives faithful to all the teachings of the Magisterium, another fancy word for the teaching office of the Catholic Church.

As we approach to receive the Eucharist, we enter into a covenant with God each time.  By responding, “Amen” to the priest, we are saying that we believe that we are receiving Jesus’ actual Body and that we are in communion with His Church.  If a Protestant receives the Eucharist it would be, in essence, forcing that person to swear a false oath.  The Church takes covenants very seriously (look at marriage) and would rather have you not receive than force you to say something that you don’t believe. 

I respect you for asking the question, Cheryl.  I know that it is a source of hurt and confusion for many.  I encourage all of my non-Catholic readers to ask questions.  It pains me to know that many misunderstandings have led to such division among the Body of Christ.  Although I make no apologies for my Catholic faith, I would love to be able to reach out to the many denominations in truth and love..and maybe start to answer some of the questions about Catholicism that you’ve always had.  Keep those questions coming!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ask Ellen...About Bible Study

 Why is it that I was never offered the opportunity within the Catholic Church to participate in a Bible Study Program until I was 51 years old?  Joanie, ME

Thanks for the question, Joanie. It is one that peaks my interest.  First let me begin by defending the Church (on some level).  The Catholic Church was in existence before the Bible, meaning long before there was the written Word.  The value of the Church in and of itself cannot be underestimated.  That being said, there came a point in Church history, when the printing press came on the scene and Bibles became accessible to a wider audience.  At that point many people were not educated.  They looked to the Church for explanations of Scripture.  These factors are very important to where we find ourselves today.  Times have changed.  People are educated and but still are looking to the Church for answers.

Since I started out praising the Church, let me focus on what I see as the downside.  Many parishes are failing to meet the needs of their people.  Our Protestant brothers and sisters know their Bibles.  In general Catholics do not.  This is why many people leave the Catholic Church falsely believing that it is not biblically based.  It also explains why many Catholics stammer through answers when Protestants question them about their faith.  I think we really do want to know.

So what does the average Catholic do about this?  We learn to study our Bibles.  Ideally this is done in your parish among a community of learners.  I implore you to only look at programs approved by the Church.  Why?  Because much like our ancestors mentioned above, we need the guidance of the Church when interpreting Scripture.  It is such a blessing for us to have this as it assures that we won’t get off track and into our own agenda.

I encourage all of you reading this to approach your priest and tell him that you want and need Scripture study in your parish.  If he refuses, pray for him and get the study for yourself…maybe even invite a group of friends.  A Gift of Grace started just that way.  Before I had the pastor’s approval to lead Bible study parish wide, I led them in my home with my bffs and a quality Catholic program.

Someone just told me that their priest said the last thing we need is another packaged study.  I say that is exactly what we need.  Now, let’s make it happen!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ask Ellen: Who do you like better Matthew, Mark, Luke and John or John, Paul George and Ringo? JG, PA

What a fun question for me!  This obviously comes from someone who knows me very well.  I am a huge Beatles fan and a Bible nerd so this is tough.  Let me see…

Both groups of men have written things that have touched my heart.  Both have some profound things to say.

Luke is my favorite Gospel.  Although that may change in a few weeks when I start my next class on John.  Who am I kidding?  John will be my favorite then because I always like whatever I’m studying.  I bet John was the cute Gospel writer too.

Now my favorite Beatle hands down is Paul.  In fact, I have had a huge crush on him for decades.  After all, he is the cute Beatle.  I have to say that I have a new appreciation for John these days too.  He had a way of bringing out the best in my man, Paul.

I can’t choose…so let’s just…Let it Be!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ask Ellen: What Are The Sacraments? How Many Are There? Fifth Grade Student, PA

The sacraments in their most basic sense are meetings or encounters with Christ.  We cannot encounter Christ and remain unchanged.  The sacraments give us grace, a “share in Jesus’ everliving and lifegiving” (CCC 1116) nature.

Jesus instituted the sacraments and entrusted them to the Church.  They show us who Christ is and allow us to share in communicating Him to the world.

The sacraments help us to live godly lives by infusing us with grace each time we receive them.  Some are received only once, others can be received daily.

There are seven sacraments.  Baptism and Confirmation are sacraments of faith that we receive once.  Baptism initiates you into the Church.  Confirmation makes you a full-fledged member.

There are two more that are only received once as well:  Holy Orders and Matrimony.  These are sacraments of vocation.  Holy Orders transforms a man into a priest.  Matrimony unites a couple as one.

There are three sacraments that can be received more than once.  Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament of healing that is celebrated in times of illness.  Reconciliation can be celebrated anytime we are in need of God’s forgiveness, which for me could be on a daily basis.

The summit of all that we are and do as Catholics is the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  This is where we encounter Jesus in His bodily form.  We receive His actual Body and Blood.

The sacraments are beautiful gifts that Jesus gave to His Church.  We understand that Jesus is present in them and beckoning us to come.  How can we not?