There weren’t always only seven sacraments.
One summer afternoon, driving past a cemetery, I saw six bikers talking, laughing, and drinking beer, their motorcycles parked nearby. My initial indignation was transformed upon noticing a solitary beer can on a headstone. The bikers had not simply pulled off the road for a quick drink on a hot day but were reconnecting with a now-deceased friend.
All stories regarding the Assumption contain one consistent belief: Mary was no ordinary person, and as such her body was not left on earth to decay.
Assumption celebrations in the Catholic Church are a blend of the very old and the relatively new. Written stories about what transpired at the end of Mary’s life date to the third or fourth century, though Pope Pius XII didn’t proclaim the dogma of the Assumption, or the teaching Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul, until 1950. The intervening 15 centuries reveal evolving beliefs about Mary’s life and death.
If God knows everything, then there is nothing for God to learn. Right?
Learning is one of the most important things that human beings, as well as other living things, do. We eagerly teach our children, our students, even our pets, and we take pleasure when we see them mastering a new task or gaining a new insight. The person who cannot—or worse, will not—learn is someone we feel sorry for or avoid. We see growth and development as positive and the capacity to learn as being open to newness.
Put simply, natural law argues that nature reveals the difference between good and evil. But who gets to decide what is “natural”?
Broadly understood, natural law refers to a range of moral theories that rely on rational discernment of the natural order as a means of telling good from evil. Within Catholic moral teaching, natural law arguments are commonly invoked to denounce “unnatural” and therefore immoral acts: contraception, same-sex sexual relations, and many assisted reproductive technologies, for example. But where does natural law reasoning come from and just how does it connect nature to morality?
The dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary are relatively new, but the pious attitudes that inspired them are ancient.
Scholars of early Christianity are in agreement that interest in the mother of Jesus was mostly initiated by the need to clarify the church’s teachings about the nature of Christ, his relationship with God, and the salvation Christ accomplished. Through Mary the fullness of Christ’s genuine humanity was guaranteed, in opposition to those who argued that Jesus only appeared to be human.
If all of creation is good, then why does God allow evil to persist?
In Kenya there is a common call and response: “God is good” the speaker calls out and almost reflexively the room answers, “All the time, for that is his nature.” But if God is good, all the time, why is there evil? This is one of the oldest and most persistent human questions for Christian theology.
Grace is a gift of love that invites us into relationship with God.
Religious education has taught generations of Catholics that grace is a free gift of God’s favor. It is received through the sacraments and makes our salvation possible. Unfortunately, this popular conception of grace is sometimes misconstrued, presenting grace as a commodity rather than a reality experienced in our lives. From this view, “receiving grace” through the sacraments may be interpreted as getting more grace, as if sacraments were transactions imparting a quantifiable spiritual good.
Atonement explains how Jesus’ execution relates to human salvation.
“Jesus died for our sins.” As a teacher and churchgoer, I hear this expression quite often by people making a connection between salvation from sin and Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, “Jesus died so that I can go to heaven.” This connection between our salvation and the death of Jesus on the cross is often understood through the idea of atonement.
To make conversations about race more productive, try using different metaphors for God.
Growing up in London, Ontario was not easy for me as an Asian immigrant. I was taunted on the school playground almost daily. Kids used derogatory slang, chanting “ching chong, ching chong,” and made fun of my eyes, pulling their own sideways and mockingly saying they had Chinese eyes.
Sin is a break in a relationship thanks to our words, thoughts, actions, and inactions.
When I was in high school, I wanted to go to a party. I knew that my parents would say no, so I lied and said that I was at a friend’s house and went anyway. This was wrong, but was it a sin?
The Bible calls for us to “love God with all of our strength” and “love our neighbor as ourselves.” In general, sin refers to free choices that harm and break our relationship with God and with others.