Catholic Questions and Answers -
This section covers some of most frequently asked questions (FAQ) that we receive here at The Crossroads Initiative about Church History. If you have any questions you can check this page frequently for more Catholic Q & A. We are adding new Questions and Answers every week. Please select the topic that you have questions about. If you don't find an answer to your question, feel free to contact us and Dr. D'Ambrosio will try to answer.
Main Q & A
Q -My husband, a Seventh-day Adventist, asked me to read an article regarding the Sabbath which was supposedly printed in the Catholic publication called The Catholic Mirror, dated September 2, 1893. When I saw the word "papist,” I was fairly certain the article was not written by a Catholic but wondered why a Catholic magazine would print such an article for Catholics (in the
1890s) to read!
Then I went on line and found a site that quoted from This Rock magazine
(1997) which follows. There was more to the article but it apparently didn't fit here. Can you give me help?
This Rock, June 1997
"The Catholic Church gets full credit or blame for the change;" "It is well to remind the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and all other Christians, that the Bible does not support them anywhere in their observance of Sunday.
Sunday is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church, and those who observe the day observe a commandment of the Catholic Church." Priest Brady, in an address, reported in the Elizabeth, NJ 'News' on March 18, 1903."Protestants ... accept Sunday rather than Saturday as the day for public worship after the Catholic Church made the change... But the Protestant mind does not seem to realize that ... in observing Sunday, they are accepting the authority of the spokesman for the Church, the pope." (Source: Our Sunday Visitor, February 5th, 1950.) "Of course these two old quotations are exactly correct. The Catholic Church designated Sunday as the day for corporate worship and gets full credit - or blame - for the change." This Rock, The Magazine of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization, p.8, June 1997
A -Dear Virginia,
The biblical day to set aside for the worship of God was not switched arbitrarily by the Catholic Church or the Pope in some legislative decree during the middle ages. Jesus rose on Sunday, the first day of the week or, as many early Christian writers put it, the 8th day. Early Christians saw the first day of the week as the day God began the first Creation, and the 8th day, another Sunday, as the day God began the new creation through the resurrection of his son. Sunday became known as "the Lord's Day" in distinction to the Sabbath. In the book of Acts, Paul was officiating at a worship service "on the Lord's Day" when Eutyches fell asleep on the windowsill and fell to the street. In the book of Revelation, John had his visions "On the Lord's Day." St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop who wrote around the year 110AD (probably no more than 15 years from the date that John's gospel took its final form), says that it was the apostles who taught Christians to worship on the first day of week instead of the 7th which was the Sabbath. So we are dealing here with Apostolic Tradition going back to New Testament times, not some late Catholic Church tradition. All the ancient churches that go back to the time of the Fathers of the Church -- Greek Orthodox, Coptic (Egyptian), Armenian, Roman Catholic, etc, all have worshipped on Sunday. Only a few later sects that began in the 19th century like 7th day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses break with Christian Tradition in a sincere but misinformed attempt to be faithful to the Old Testament Scriptures.
Saint Justin said much the same thing in his First Apology and also for St. Justin’s explanation of why we worship on Sunday, see http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/532/Sunday_Eucharist_St._Justin_Martyr.html
You can read St. Ignatius' letters on my website and find the exact citation to share with your husband, Igatius' letter to the Magnesians chapter 9.
You can also read articles on my site about Ignatius http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/51/Ignatius_of_Antioch_and_the_Faith_of_the_Early_Christian_Martyrs.html and more generally about the Early Church Fathers. The Early Church Fathers help us a great deal to understand the origin of practices, words, and doctrines that are not fully and explicitly laid out in the New Testament.
Faithfully in Christ,
Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Q -Hello Marcellino,
Well, this time I think my inquisitive nature has caused me to bite off more than I can chew.
I watched the first two sections of this movie (the 2nd part is a 911 conspiracy theory, which I find stupid to believe)...which gives me hope the first part is stupid. However, the first part of this internet movie is all about how Christianity and for that matter most religions are all plagarized adaptations from previous versions of the same story told over and over all related back to astrology and the Sun being born, dying every year and three days later rising to begin a new. Another words Sun worship. From the virgin birth, Moses, commandments, ages to come, fisherman, constellations explaining the cross, three kings and more...etc etc etc. This seems to make a compelling case.
I hope to God this can be explained away.
Have you written anything or know of any books that speak to this subject and explain why Christianity is NOT based on astrology and sun worship, etc.
A -Hi Jeff,
These kinds of theories are a dime a dozen. Nothing new. Superficial similarities are exaggerated and passed off as proof that one thing (Christianity) is a direct descendent of another (astrology, pagan religions, sun worship).
Pagan religion, including astrology and sun worship, is mythological. Events, if there are any, take place in make believe, dream time, not in history. The cycle of nature is the fundamental reality of worship. God is not transcendent or eternal or one, for that matter. “The gods”, including the sun, are bigger and stronger than we mortals maybe, but they are still part of the created world.
Judaism and Christianity (and Islam, by extension) are about a transcendent God entering into time. Transcendent means that he is totally different and distinct from his creation. He is infinite – all else, including the sun and heavenly bodies, are finite. He is eternal having no beginning and no end. In all the mythical and nature religions of the world, the gods had a beginning though they may be immortal. These three religions use the natural cycles of spring, winter, etc, to remember historical events--the birth of Jesus on Dec 25 when the Romans celebrated the birthday of the unconquerable sun as the sun begins again to climb higher in the sky, the resurrection of Jesus in the Spring, etc.
Christianity is absolutely unique vis a vis the other monotheistic religions in proclaiming the incarnation of the Eternal Word, that the infinite unites himself to a finite human nature. All the myths of gods in human form ARE NOT equivalent to this, since the pagan gods are just immortal superbeings, not eternal, infinite, transcendent.
I’d encourage you to pick up my audio or video series called “I Believe—the Heart of Catholic Faith”, plus the workbook. It will help you with these issues.
Happy New Year!
Q -Hi Marcellino,
Can you recommend a comprehensive book that covers the history of the Catholic Church from Acts to Vatican II...with explanations of splits, schism, reformation, if there were any other Christians in earlier centuries and such.
I don't mind reading about the bad...I just want don't want to read, if it isn't true. Another words, I'm looking for an accurate credible Catholic historian.
If you sell it...I'll buy it.
K of C
A -Dear Jeff -
Your inquiry prompted me to remember that an old friend who I trust greatly did write a concise and reliable history of the church that we ought to carry on our website. I’ve asked my assistant to put in an order. Here is the link to the book on our website - http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/resource_info/388.html (Concise History of the Catholic Church by Alan Schreck.)
Q -Hi Dr Marcellino,
I am a cradle catholic and am fascinated about the Early Church Fathers.
However, I can’t seem to find the answer to my query.
Where are the originals of all of these Early Church Fathers documents kept?
Do we have all of them or just copies of copies plus the web translations?
What is the best most trustworthy web site I should go to read the Early Church Fathers?
Have a fantastic day.
From Perth, Australia
A - Dear Gary,
Good hearing from you.
As for original documents from the days of the fathers, it is the same as with the biblical texts—we have copies of copies. In fact, this is generally the case with all ancient documents.
Regarding trustworthy sites, of course you can find many patristic extracts and some full works at www.crossroadsinitiative.com . Other trustworthy sites would be www.ewtn.com and www.newadvent.org. Thanks.
Q -Dear Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
I saw your broadcast on an ETWN on 9/12/06 during which you focused on the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds. I would like to hear from you on two question/comments . First, when refering to God you often refer to God as he. I understand the limitation of language and that it is convenient to refer to He but maybe at the least you could make a statement acknowledging that you are using a short hand and recognize the male orientation of the language would seem in order. I too am an Italian male and only slowly learned my blind spot here. Second, Jesus taught us to call God Father in the Our Father. You gave many reasons. Is anolther reason for Jesus's telling us to call God our Father that for humans a child's the mother is obvious at birth while the father is not. So using language we can understand, Jesus told us to call God Father so we knew our source, our place in being, our rootedness in the Almighty who created us? Thanks for taking time to respond. Peter A
A - Hi Peter,
Culturally, the eastern and Western parts of the Roman empire became estranged from each other gradually from about 100 years before Augustine’s conversion up to the time the schism between East (Orthodox) and West (Catholic) hardened in the mid 15th century.
By the time of Augustine, the Greek language was no longer something the learned in the Western world were really familiar with. Latin was seen in the East as mostly of use for official government documents. The East & the west began to establish different theological traditions, and the language barrier and increasing barbarian invasions kept them from maintaining dialogue and intellectual, theological, and cultural interchange.
When Eastern theologians discovered the work of Augustine a few centuries later, much seemed strange to them, especially his Trinitarian teaching, particularly the idea that the Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son. This sounded to many like a betrayal of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which originally, in Greek, said that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Also, the East was not entirely comfortable with the western theology of Original Sin, which comes to classic expression in Augustine, though he did not invent the phrase or certainly the idea.
These are all extremely complicated questions. May I suggest my CD set “Christianity Divided,” available on my website, which contains a talk about the way in which the East & West gradually fell out of sympathy and communion with each other? It is not specifically on Augustine, but you would find it helpful, I think.
Q - Marcellino
I don't understand why the fallen angels rebelled against God - surely they knew they could not win - why would they do this and why once fallen would they never be offered forgiveness unlike man - also do we have to believe in a literal Adam and Eve? I can't see the answer here so please help - this is a genuine question. D.
A - Hi David,
Intelligence and wisdom are two very different things. Often the most intelligent human begins can be the most foolish, so to me it is not so surprising that spiritual beings with superior intelligence also can choose to be foolish.
Every act against God and the moral law is imprudent and foolish, of course.
Why intelligent beings choose as they do is part of what the ancients referred to as the “mysterium iniquitatis” or the mystery of evil.
Clearly it has something to do with the spiritual sin of pride. Was it Milton who put into the fallen angels this phrase: “better to rule in hell than serve in heaven”? Think about the child who would rather sulk in his room than return to the dinner table, say he is sorry, and fill his hungry stomach. When you magnify that a bit, I think it gives you some inkling of the choice of the fallen angels.
Q -Dr. D,
I'm new to the internet world so please bear with me. I have a question in regards to the new wine in the Cana miracle. A nazarene friend of mine says it's not ok to drink alcohol.
when I mentioned the above miracle, he said the key word was the "new" wine which meant it was not fermentd yet and therefore nonalcohol = grape juice. How do I respond to that from a Catholic perspective? I didn't know how else to contact you in regards to questions and found no links on your site to do so, so I hope this way's ok. Thanks, Angela
A - Hi Angela,
I think that this interpretation is forced and is a result of wishful thinking on the part of your friend based on the doctrine of his or her church!
There was no refrigeration in the ancient world, so making grape juice and not fermenting it right away would have been a waste of time! It would all spoil!
New wine is wine that is “sharp” and has not aged and mellowed. It is not grape juice. Besides, there is no mention of “new” wine in John 2. Jesus clearly changed the water into what the text calls wine, which has alcoholic content.
There is no official teaching of the church that one must interpret this passage as referring to wine and not grape juice. But the “plain sense of the text” is really undeniable.
Generally, the Bible condemns drunkenness (in a variety of places) but nowhere condemns wine or alcoholic beverages in total. In fact the mild exhilaration that comes from moderate imbibing of wine is seen as a blessing of God in several OT passages.
Q -I think you wrote about why the Eucharist is not mentioned in the Apostle’s Creed but I cannot locate that article. Could you please forward it to me? Thank you.
A - Hi Judy,
Both the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds were originally used as baptismal professions of faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They were never intended as a complete summary of all that Catholics believe. That’s why the Eucharist and many other important aspects of Catholic Faith and practice are not clearly mentioned in the Creed.
However, in the Apostles’ Creed, the “Communion of Saints” did not originally mean (to the creed’s original audience) the community of the saints in heaven as we would today suppose. It means the Communion of holy things which most probably refers to the sacraments (see Henri de Lubac’s book on the Creed entitled The Christian Faith). So faith in the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, working through the sacraments (baptism is specifically mentioned in the Nicene Creed) to make us holy is not entirely absent from the Creed.
Q - Hey Dr. D-
I had a question for you. A co-worker of mine who is Jewish is studying ancient architecture and so knows quite a lot about the ancient Catholic Church which makes for some good discussions. He recently asked me a question I didn't have the answer to, but I knew who to ask! The question is, why did Latin become the Church's official language since Greek was so popular back then? Thanks!
John Paul II Pray For Us!
A - Hi Patrick,
As soon as the Church began to move out from Jerusalem into Antioch and other cities, the international language of the Church became Greek rather than the apostles’ native Aramaic. Note that all New Testament books are written in Greek, even the letter to the Romans. All cultured people in the Roman Empire knew Greek and anyone who wanted to do business in the cities of the empire had to know it as well.
But beginning around 290 when the Emperor Diocletian divided the empire into Eastern and Western halves, people in the West gradually began to lose knowledge of Greek and the everyday language of business became Latin from what is now Croatia Westward to Spain. The Roman liturgy finally switched from the original Greek to Latin around the year 380 under Pope St. Damasus, and from that point on, all official Church documents and business in the west was conducted in Latin. The first seven ecumenical councils though, since they took place in the Eastern Greek-Speaking halves of the Empire, published their decrees for the most part in Greek and they were later translated into Latin.
So actually the church was bi-lingual so to speak until the Orthodox schism in the Middle ages made the Catholic Church almost entirely Latin in Culture and western in geography.
Hope that clarifies things for you.
In His service,
Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio
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The Early Church Fathers
A society characterized by the violence, loss of respect for life, exotic religious cults, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and even pedophilia. No, we're not talking about modren times -
The Early Church Fathers succeeded in bringing a Pagan society to Christ. If we pay attention to what they taught, we will succeed in doing the same for our own de-Christianized society!
Album 1: The Apostolic Fathers and Irenaeus
Album 2: The Apologists, Ambrose, and Augustine
Early Church Fathers 2 VHS Set—$49.95
Early Church Fathers 2 DVD Set—$49.95
Early Church Fathers 2 CD Set—$18.00
The Fathers of the Church - Who They Are and Why They Matter
If you are not familiar with the Fathers of the Early Church, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, in this single, upbeat talk, full of examples and stories about some of the Church's most intriguing personalities. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains who people are talking about when they refer to the "Fathers of the Church" or "Early Church Fathers. Though the ranks of the fathers include a tremendous variety of cultures, locales, and personalities, there is surprising consensus that emerges from them on a variety of the most important questions of our day. In this talk, Marcellino makes clear just how much these figures have to teach us today.
Retail - $9.00 CD