Pope Francis entered the papal conclave wearing the scarlet red of a cardinal and emerged in gleaming white. From where did this tradition arise? The old saying suggests that “good guys always wear white,” but have popes always done so?
In our contemporary political landscape, the option for the poor gets bandied about by people on all sides of the political spectrum.
I have a friend who is a permanent deacon. He’s a former Marine, and though he is wonderfully kind, he can also turn on his military face and voice to let you know when he means business. One Sunday at Mass, he preached a homily about prayer, particularly about praying for the poor. He had on his game face that day, and at the end of his homily he leaned in close to the microphone and said in a terrifyingly stern whisper, “I know you are all busy. But you can give 30 minutes of your God-given breath to pray for the poor.”
Traditionally, Catholics believed that a person could reach heaven only if he or she was buried in a Catholic cemetery. But limited space meant few people could be buried in the ground and left there forever. Instead, most people were buried temporarily in the parish cemetery until their bodies decomposed. Their bones were then exhumed and placed among the bones of previous generations of believers in an ossuary—a receptacle or room where bones of the deceased are gathered.
The most popular explanation of Satan maintains that he is a fallen angel tempted by pride. He is said to be a seducer originally created as good and whose rebellion against the divine will is reflected in the temptation that he offered to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Though they sometimes seem dissimilar, the two parts of the Bible are all about fulfillment.
The relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament reflects both the continuity and discontinuity between the Christian and Israelite faiths. Christians believe God had one plan for salvation that was revealed first to the Israelites and then to all peoples through Jesus Christ. The New Testament and Old Testament, then, tell one ongoing story of salvation. At the same time, the authors of the New Testament were proposing something radically new: Jesus’ fulfillment of the Israelites’ hope in God’s promises.
You won’t find the phrase “original sin” in the Bible. The story of humanity’s “fall” in Genesis 1 doesn’t use the term, and St. Paul, one of the church’s earliest theologians, only hints at it in places. After the first century the early church fathers started to define it, but those in the East and West took different approaches.
Anyone who has erected a nativity scene is following Francis’ 13th-century example.
On Christmas Eve 1223, St. Francis created the first nativity in the Italian city of Greccio. With the help of a local nobleman, Francis celebrated the birth of Jesus in a cave outside the town. The liturgy featured a hay-filled manger in front of the temporary altar, and as Francis preached, the nobleman arranged to have an ox and a donkey stand at the altar as well.
Jesus lived and preached in a world that saw marriage primarily as an economic contract. Today, we believe it to be a Sacrament.
Before the obligatory “Ave Maria” and a crazy aunt leading “YMCA” at the reception, guests at a Catholic wedding witness “a covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation of children.” But this was not always the case. For more than a thousand years of church history, this idea of marriage faced plenty of healthy competition.
The Liturgy of the Hours is a small but bulky and intimidating-looking red-bound prayer book with lots of confusing multicolored ribbons. It is that, but of course it’s much more.
Every election season, Catholics wonder about the relationship between their church and politics.
"I believe in an America where... there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote," declared John F. Kennedy. But today some wonder whether U.S. Catholic bishops are trying to create a political bloc by telling Catholics how to cast their ballots.
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