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.
Satan as a character doesn’t appear in the Bible until the Book of Job.
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.
The second coming of Christ will be much different than folklore and pop culture say.
The question of what happens to us upon Christ’s return is one that has puzzled Christians since the beginning of Christianity. If you want to see how popular it is today, just do a search for “Rapture” in the catalog of any major bookseller. There are thousands of sources available on the topic of saved Christians who will suddenly be yanked into eternity while leaving the rest of the world baffled and confused. From a Catholic viewpoint, the doctrine is often misunderstood. To clarify the puzzle we must ask this question: On the day of the Rapture, will Christians be coming or going?
Jesus got up out of the grave, but the resurrection of the dead is even bigger than that.
Each Sunday at Mass, we confess with a collective voice, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” When I was a child, I had a very hard time comprehending this statement. The only resurrection I was aware of was the resurrection of Jesus, which pretty definitively happened in the past. Yet the life of the world to come and the resurrection of the dead are both things that we are looking for (or looking forward to). As it turns out, the resurrection of Jesus is only part of the story: the first part, in fact.
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.
For centuries theologians have debated whether or not Jesus had any siblings. But what does scripture say about his complicated family tree?
The only child often gets a bad rap. Stereotyped as entitled and self-important, people who grow up without siblings aren’t always looked upon favorably—especially by those of us with at least a sibling or two. Jesus may have acted like an only child at times in the gospels, but all of the four evangelists make some mention of his brothers and sisters.
Catholics frequently invoke the holy women and men of the church. But how many people make up this exclusive group?
The historic news that emerged from the ecclesial council held on February 11, 2013 was Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. But that was not the day’s only newsworthy event: Benedict called the consistory to vote on three canonization causes. Then on May 12 the Catholic Church recognized another 802 saints. Blessed Laura Montoya Upegui of Colombia and Blessed Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala of Mexico both founded religious orders at the dawn of the 20th century.
Although many people associate 666 with the devil, the Book of Revelation explains what the number really signifies.
Years ago I worked summers on a farm in Michigan, near a fundamentalist Christian community. I didn’t know much about them other than that you didn’t want to get behind one of their members in a checkout line, because if their total had the number six in it, they would keep buying things until the sixes disappeared. This behavior came from a fear of having anything to do with the number 666, which some Christians have connected to Satan and see as a symbol of evil.
Believe it or not, the hosts we use at Mass qualify as “real bread,” but they aren’t very good bread—at least not in any ordinary, earthly sense of the word.
A seminary pal of mine once remarked that he had no difficulty believing that Christ is present in holy communion. What he did question was the proposition that it was actually bread being used as a host.
Believe it or not, the hosts we use at Mass qualify as “real bread,” but they aren’t very good bread—at least not in any ordinary, earthly sense of the word. In accordance with one particular tradition of Western Christianity, canon law requires that the bread be unleavened (made without yeast).
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.