Friday, June 24, 2011

Ask Ellen: Why do Catholics pray to saints? Katie, ME

This is a confusing and frustrating question for many.  Thanks for asking.  I need to say right off the top….Catholics don’t pray TO anyone but God.  And yes, that includes Mary!  Let’s take God out of the equation…..I can’t believe I just said that!...and focus on the others hanging out in heaven.

An important and heady Catholic concept comes into play here…the Communion of Saints.  Let me try to break it down.  The Church is composed of three groups of people: those in heaven, those waiting to be called up (in Purgatory), and those of us down here still fighting the good fight.  The Church teaches that we are all very connected and that this connection doesn’t end in death.  That is what anyone who has lost a love one wants to believe so it would be hard to argue, right?

It is because of this connection that those of us still slugging through life look to those who did it right for help.  And that is all we are asking them to do.  They made it, they are before the Throne and just might hang out with Jesus from time to time.  We, as Catholics, ask them to put in a good word for us.

Think of it this way…you know someone who is a great teacher in great school.  You want to teach there too.  You have a friend who works there and has earned the respect of the principal.  Wouldn’t you ask him/her to put in a good word for you?

The great news is, we Catholics, have a saint for any situation you find yourself in.  I doesn’t hurt to go ahead!  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ask Ellen: I would like to see an explanation on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I get it and make sure my students do, but I think it is one of the most misunderstood feasts on the calendar. Kim, PA

You are right, Kim. This is one of the most misunderstood Catholic feasts.  In order to understand it, one must have a firm grasp on the Old Testament.  You might be thinking, I don’t know much about the Bible but I am fairly sure that Mary appears in the New Testament.  True.  But much like everything concerning Mary, we have to understand her Son to understand her.

Think back to the Ark of the Covenant.  Yes, it even OK if all you know about it is from watching, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”  In the Old Testament, The Ark was believed to contain the Presence of God.  It contained three things symbolizing the early Israelites' faith:  The Ten Commandments (representing the Law), Manna (the bread from heaven that God provided) and Aaron’s budding rod (representing priestly authority).  The Ark was carried on poles and no one was to touch it.  If you don’t believe me look at what happened to Uzziah!  There were many rules about who could approach the Ark and the way they were to be purified before they did.

Ok, Ellen, so what does this have to do with Mary?  Catholics believe that Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant.  Please remember that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the things that were alluded to in the Old Testament.  Think about it…He is the New Law (think about the Beatitudes and His “All You Need Is Love” …sorry had to get the Beatles in…messages), He is Bread from heaven (think Eucharist) and He is the High Priest (think of the Church He established).  With all of that in mind, we see Mary as the New Ark.  Her womb contained the very Presence of God.

That is why the Church teaches that she was born without sin.  She had to be pure to contain the fullness of God and the fullness of Man.  It makes sense in light of the purity rules of the Old Testament.  As Catholics, we read Scripture with the whole Bible in mind.  When you do this, you see Mary as the New Ark.

Catholics celebrate the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception on December 8.  We celebrate that Mary was conceived and remained sinless in expectation of the baby she was to carry.  It has nothing to do with Jesus’ virgin birth.  It has everything to do with Mary.  So, do not go chasing after …..rainbows, oops sorry…the lost Ark of the Old Testament when you have the fullness of the New Ark advocating for you in heaven.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ask Ellen: I'm interested in being a saint, what's the application process? Paul, DE

Congratulations on setting the bar high for yourself.  I commend your aspiration.  Let’s see…the application process is quite lengthy, your whole life in fact.  Your resume would need to include faith and good deeds.  Your educational experience should probably include studying the Bible as well as many other good reads like the lives of the saints and such.

Your application will come under review shortly after your expiration.  You will probably have to sit in the waiting room until Saint Peter calls you for your interview.  An important thing to remember is there won’t be any call backs or second interviews here.  Peter will review your resume and decide if you are in, if you have to sweat it out for a while until you make the cut (kinda like the minor leagues) or if you’re fired..literally.  If you find yourself in the waiting room, know that generations of Catholics have been praying for your release.  If you’re fired then I guess you should have changed the font on your resume or had better references.  If you’re in, then congratulations you’ve achieved your goal of sainthood.  Please pay it forward by putting in a good word for the rest of us.

As for me, I really hope St. Peter is in a good mood and doesn’t check all my references. 

Friday, June 3, 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!