Faith Questions From the Guestbook

9/98 to 2/99


 

Some of these questions involve practices we, as Catholics, do not believe in. We can only say what we believe, but no condemnation or ridicule of any person is intended, especially in matters of religious practices followed in good faith.

Questions are edited to preserve space, remove offensive or suggestive language, or to protect the dignity of the writer. Mail comments or questions to us, or visit our home page.


 

From Jeff and Donna:

Your info. on the mark of the beast is interesting. I’m also interested to know if you think the Y2K problem is going to have an effect on the mark and the end of the world.
I have a collection of end times books here, with quite an array of years when Jesus was supposed to have returned. Many people that joined the Church out of fear of the end of the world dropped out later when it didn’t happen as predicted.

The rule behind our site, for the most part, is that I try not to write anything that wouldn’t have been true at any time in Christian history.

As regards the mark, given our “meditation” on it, Y2K has already had an effect: people are stocking up on food, hoarding gas, and buying weapons to protect their cache. What little faith they have is growing less as the new millenium approaches. Most people have always behaved as if God did not exist.

Of course, the Father has already determined the end of the world, and all years are merely markers on the way. As St. Irenaeus wrote, all of Creation came from God and will return to God. It is inevitable that Christ will triumph, and the Church with him. The Cold War, the stock market, scandals, and Y2K are distractions from this fact.


 

Phil writes:

Read the nice article on your website in the LA Times this morning and logged on to have a look. Really like some of the things you are doing. Have been thinking about the great possibilities of the Internet for Evangelization. Would be interested in your ideas about reaching out to largely unchurched Americans, particularly the 20-35 year old group who are searching for values and meaning in life, but are generally turned off by institutional religious expressions. Have you thought about this audience?

Yes, I’ve thought about this audience a great deal. According to Wired Magazine, Internet users tend to be unchurched libertarians with little regard for religious expressions in general. I feel I’ve had some success (and a few spectacular failures) in this part of the population. Our plan (as a Church) was laid out very well at Vatican II: live better lives (closer to Christ), encourage media-gifted Catholics to proclaim the faith, and develop a deeper sense of Sacramental life. Given this rational and effective plan for the conquest of hearts, the American response (among the media-gifted and credentialed laity) has often been to disregard the Church’s teaching on personal sanctity, forget about Jesus and concentrate on discrediting the Scriptures.

Jesus was attractive to people because “he taught with authority, and not like the scribes.” The Apostles were fearless in testifying to the Resurrection. Their disciples were also on fire, suffering martydom rather than compromising their faith. When we attempt to make the Church “marketable” we remove the heart and head. The way to call others is to speak the truth as defined by the Magisterium in a fresh, straightforward way without “spin,” acronyms or jargon.

The answer is for us to live the faith and let God do the rest.


 

Marie writes:

Who or what is the mark of the beast?

The beast is mentioned in Revelation 13 (in the Bible). Actually the beast mentioned is the second beast. The number 666 is associated with it (verse 18).

Many interpretations have been given to this. Those who claim to take the Bible literally expect a real number or name to be stamped on people’s hands or foreheads. Others just ignore it completely, or say it only applied to the early Church.

As Catholics, we try to read the Scripture in context. Jewish tradition of the time called for devout Jews to wear small boxes on their hand and forehead. They contained small bits of paper with Bible verses on them. These served as reminders and metaphors: they truly had God’s Word on their minds. So it is natural that the writer of Revelation would have seen the “mark of the beast” as being put on the places where the Word of God should have been. In other words, people exchanged faith for the beast. When people buy into the world’s values, chasing fame, money, power or sex, they are receiving the “mark of the beast.” Worrying about numbers in bar codes on food packages is just plain superstition, which is forbidden to Christians.

If we are ever asked to receive an actual “666” mark, literally, we should refuse it, of course. Someone opposed to the Church could try to shake people’s faith in that way, and it would be scandalous to receive such a mark, if it was clear. Again, worrying because someone has freckles in three groups of six is just superstition.

For more details on the real “mark of the beast,” see:

http://www.whitestonejournal.com/mark666.html

 


 

  

Jon from Florida writes:

>message: Is it against the law of GOD to eat meat and drink milk in the same meal? Where in the bible can I find this ?
This is the stricter rabbinic interpretation of Exodus 23:19, 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21:

“You shall not boil a kid [goat] in its mother’s milk.”

This bizarre practice was apparently a Canaanite (pagan) practice, and so was forbidden. The interpretation of some is that it forbids eating or preparing meat products and dairy products together. Hasidic Jews keep separate plates for the two types of food. I remember reading about the necessary dental care between the meat and cheese. If memory serves, you can find out more in “The Jewish Book of Why,” a fairly popular book about ten years ago.
This is an excellent example of “proof texting,” or taking a Scripture out of context to prove a point. It is almost the rule for many evangelists, although they don’t usually talk about this particular “law.”


 

Daniel from Idaho writes:

Hey, good page. I don’t know if you know this or not, but you those bar codes that are printed on food items to be checked out by the cashier with a laser machine. Did you know that each of those bar codes are separated into three separate parts with the number 6 identifying each one. It brings out the number 666. You may want to check it out some time. Maybe that’s what the Anti-Christ will punch onto people’s foreheads. It’s kind of scary when you think about it.

The good news is you don’t have to worry about it. For starters, take a look at this site:
www.howstuffworks.com/upc.htm
Then, http://aj.encyclopedia.com/articles/01117.html . Using these or any other reference pages, check it out for yourself. God judges the heart, not the forehead. Other recommended reading:
http://www.whitestonejournal.com/mark666.html
http://www.whitestonejournal.com/seven/
and see if you can get some of Thomas Merton’s audio tapes from his talks to novices. His view is that we have more to fear from our own illusions than inks and lasers.


 

Don writes:

>message: Can you mail me information more about a war among the angels?
The reference in the Scriptures is Revelation 12:7-9. This reflects the
Tradition that Holy Michael the Archangel fought against Satan and prevailed. He
is also mentioned in the books of Daniel and Jude. (By the way: We named one of our sons after St. Michael.)


 

From lots of people:

Where are the Seven Deadly Sins listed in the Bible?

They aren’t, at least not as such. Take a look at the bottom of our “Seven Deadly Sins” page. It has some information on the origins.

What colors are associated with them?

There is no universal convention for this that we have been able to find. We would appreciate it if anyone knows of one.

How do they relate to a twelve-step program?

I think these sins might be part of steps 4 through 7:
4.Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5.Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature
of our wrongs.
6.Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7.Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
From http://home.att.net/~volodia/mass-aa/twelve.html
I think very few if any people ever really complete step 4… Step 7
certainly requires a kind of humility, but then again, all 12 do.
Another interesting thing is that the 12 steps assume God will transform our
lives now, at least to some degree. I take great hope in this.


 

From Wisconsin:

I am curious how to convert from being Lutheran to being Catholic.
The short answer is to ask your local Catholic priest about R.C.I.A. Since
Lutheran baptism is Christian baptism, we would not baptize again. How
involved the process is depends on the person. For a Lutheran living the
Christian life and with a well-formed conscience who desires to reject those
of Luther’s teachings in conflict with the teaching of the Catholic Church,
not much needs to be done. For Lutherans who have not followed (or have been
unaware of) those Christian teachings on which Lutherans and Catholics
agree, the process should be longer.

Also I am curious on the Catholic rules of marriage.
If you can find a copy of “The Code of Canon Law,” you can look at the
requirements/rules for marriage. The Catechism (there is a link on our home
page) has the Catholic understanding/teachings on marriage. You can find
some reflections on this on our pages, too (links below).
Catholics may not divorce and remarry. Many people have heard of annulments,
which simply state that a marriage was not valid. If, for instance, a couple
gets married and it turns out the husband was planning to keep a mistress,
the marriage could be annulled because he never intended to contract
Christian marriage (defective intent). This can seem very legalistic (it
is), but we are trying to do what Jesus said and still allow that sometimes
people have not truly given themselves in marriage.
In short, St. Paul said that marriage is to be a sign of Christ’s love for
the Church (Ephesians 5). That is why Lutherans and Catholics both view
marriage as a Sacrament (an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give
Grace). This view of marriage is so radically different from the world’s
view (and many churches) that most people have never heard it said.
Catechism: http://198.62.75.1/www1/CDHN/ccc.html
Bible: http://www.gospelcom.net/bible
Marriage: www.whitestonejournal.com/marriag1.html
www.whitestonejournal.com/rcia/matrimo1.html


 

From someone on AOL:

I enjoyed Why Do You Seek The Liviing Among The Dead, just wanted to say so.

Thanks! It isn’t a question, but a great advertisement!


 

From the Philippines:

message: Is it possible that the joy of our salvation will eventually fade little by little as a believer grows mature in his faith?
In real Christian maturity, the joy of salvation deepens over time as the
Christian grows in the understanding of what salvation means. The gratitude
then becomes greater, and gratitude brings greater humility and love.
A wonderful thing that happens with maturity is that we begin to really
trust God in everything because He has cared for us for so many years. In a
way, God proves Himself to us over time.
Another nice thing about maturity is we sometimes run out of things to say to God, so
we can finally just listen to Him.


 

A while after writing the response, I read a book on contemplative prayer by Thomas Merton. He says that sometimes the joy does fade as we lose the illusions we had about our faith, and as we realize we really don’t know God as fully as we had thought. I think it depends very much on the person.

From hotmail:

Well my question to you is that, I am doing a research project on pride
and I would like all the information that you may have on pride and why do
you think that pride is the deadest of the seven deadly sins.
I hope to write a page on this soon, but perhaps I can write a few things
down now. Sorry for the short format, but work is keeping me very busy.
1) I’d recommend reading “Mere Christianity,” by C.S. Lewis. The chapter on
pride is called “The Great Sin.” Very good. Looks good on a bibliography,
too.
2) Some people group sins into fleshly and spiritual sins. Sins of the flesh
can only last as long as flesh. Death always ends them. Spiritual sins like
pride can last through eternity, the Devil being an example of this. Also,
sins of the spirit are more difficult to see or control, so they get out of
hand quickly. When I used to ride horses, I often found ponies a bit mean.
One explanation was that they seldom had an experienced rider, so they never
got any discipline. It may be the same with spiritual sins.
3) From a Scriptural view, pride was the first sin committed by Satan. Eve
was tempted (and fell) through pride: “You shall be as gods.” Cain’s pride
was the reason for his hatred of Abel, and so was the root of murder.
I know this isn’t much, but I hope it helps a bit. I will pray for you and I
hope you get an “A” on your paper.


 

From many people:

How can I deal with sexual temptation? I fail all the time, even though I want to do better.

  1. Spend at least a half-hour a day reading Scripture, especially the New
    Testament.
  2. Be active in your faith community – if Catholic, attend Mass on Sunday
    and holydays without fail.
  3. If Catholic, go to Confession at least four times a year. If you fail to
    the point of mortal sin, go to Confession as soon as possible. Find a priest
    that is supportive but does not minimize the problem.
  4. If you feel guilty, ask for forgiveness and accept it. Let go of the
    guilt for forgiven sins.
  5. Drop any friends that think it is stupid to worry about lust.
  6. Increase the variety of your friends. See (2), above.
  7. Avoid T.V. or magazines that tempt you. Be honest with yourself about
    this.

I wish I could do more to help, but there is no “magic” for this. Much of this is a
matter of habit. All bad things are a twisting of good and healthy things,
so be careful not to despise sexuality. It is created by God, so it must be
good (when used as directed).


 

Brian writes:

Regarding computers: As a person who is knowledgeable of both topics, how do you
find a medium between these two different worlds, (ie the world of computers and technology/God as described in the biblical sense) I have some stuff on my web site now about this question at
http://shakti.trincoll.edu/~bmcgunag/religion.htm

I took a look at your site (which was nicely done by the way). I don’t
really experience much of a conflict for several possible reasons. I’ll try
to make a few points about this. Please let me know if it makes any sense.

First, you might as well ask how St. Paul found a medium between his
knowledge of tentmaking and his faith. Computers and technology are only
tools, just like the tentmaker’s needle, only they have more parts. I think
this is a valid question for most people at most times: how do faith and the
practical aspects of life come together? Since I’m Catholic, I think in
terms of “orem et laborem” or “prayer and work.” Work of any legitimate kind
can be prayer if it is done in the right spirit. Since Jesus has chosen to
dwell in us, my work is his. When I write a new piece of code that will help
my customers, it is Jesus who writes it, Jesus who uses it. I firmly believe
the Holy Spirit gives me the ability to work in my fields.

Another problem in the modern world is Fundamentalism. As science learns
more about the physical aspects and history of our world, those people
believing in a literal interpretation of Scripture (in their particular
version of literal) feel threatened. Many people are more critical of
Scripture, especially of apparent contradictions. This, of course, weakens
the faith of some, while others will devise elaborate arguments to prove
that evolution must be the Devil’s lie. Again, being Catholic, I see Genesis
as a book of theology and sacred history, not a tabloid to satisfy my
curiosity or a crystal ball for the future. I believe God has revealed the
truth about His relationship with us, and our place in Creation, not the
mechanics of it. Science only affirms my faith: we have a built-in desire to
know everything, which is not surprising since we are made in the “image and
likeness” of God (Imago Dei). All of Creation speaks of the Glory of God, so
the more I learn of Creation, the more I can give glory and praise to God.

I would recommend listening to some tapes of Thomas Merton’s talks to young
monks back in the 60’s. He gave a series of talks on the “Church and the
World.” He says there are two aspects to the world: the physical, true
aspects (computers, trees, work, food) and the illusions the world has about
itself (more is better, greed is good, pride). We must be in the first
aspect, but we are called to leave the second. The Gnostics left the first
and wallowed in the second. Modern Christians live in both (the quote from
DC Talk on your site was a good one).

None of these answers are complicated or terribly inventive. Once upon a
time, a woman asked St. John Vianney how she could best get to Heaven. His
reply was: “Straight as a cannonball.” 2 Kings 5 is worth a read.

I hope this helps. If you hung around with our family and friends for a while you would be able
to write a better explanation of how everything works. Dietrich von
Hildebrand says that the Christian must not be objective about God because
to be objective is to stand away and look. We are called to union, and so
our writing will always be subjective. Because of this, I fear I may not
have answered your question well. It is like asking a fish to describe
water.


 

From Sarah (writing a paper):

Hi. Thank you for responding to my question about premarital sex. I have
another question. You said that fornication is “voluntary sex between two
unmarried persons.” Wouldn’t fornication be a synonym for premarital sex
then?
Absolutely. Although, to be most correct, premarital sex is a euphemism for
fornication. It makes it sound better by referring to marriage (marital).

If sex is what consummates the marriage and makes the two into
one, what do you think about sex between engaged people who know that it is
God’s will that they are to be together?

If one accepts this, it means that breaking the engagement would be a
divorce and the couple would not be free to remarry. I know most churches
explain away the Gospel commandment forbidding this, but it is very clear in
spite of the supposed “exception.” In this case, the engagement ring becomes
the wedding ring and everything else but living together happens sooner.
In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul speaks to engaged couples and speaks of young men
“keeping [their] virgin[s].” He said that engaged couples could either
remain celibate or marry. This absolutely says that engaged couples
practiced chastity, since he refers to the women as “virgins.” If your paper
permits you could use the Didache, the first catechism from around 70 A.D.
I’m sure it speaks to this, but even if not, it is a great read and tells a
lot about the early Church. I’m always amazed whenever I delve into the
Patristics. St. Augustines’s Sermon 82 is very good on this subject.
Maybe I should explain why I am asking these questions to better help you
understand where I am coming from. I am writing a paper about premarital
sex in relation to what the Bible says. I am trying to take into account my
own presuppositions, tradition, and also the culture of the day.
Part of the problem is that the early Church took their faith so seriously
that a lot of things were kind of assumed. Even cultures with very loose
morals did not allow premarital sex. On the other hand, people got married
much earlier and didn’t smell very good. It sounds funny, but I really think
we are more tempted than at other times and in other cultures.
Since I’m Catholic, all the papal encyclicals (letters) and bulls (orders,
declarations) and Councils mean a lot. These absolutely affirm the chastity
of engagement, too. The current Catechism (a link is on our web site) may
help. You can search for “premarital” and “engaged” and the resulting
matches will probably have several Bible references, and you may find some
phrasing that would be helpful, too.

I have to give a few talks in the next couple of days, and one of them is on
Natural Family Planning. One thing I point out is that every couple has to
abstain sometimes, and the engagement time is a kind of preparation.

Please pray for me. One of the talks is to a very large and somewhat
prestigious group. It is on “The Root of Catholic Moral Theology,” so you
can understand why I’m a bit nervous.

Anyway, engagements can be broken and the wedding is the public statement of
commitment. One reason our Church teaches that engaged couples should not
get into sexual situations is because things can easily get out of control.
Decisions about marriage, commitment, or “God’s Will” should never be made
in the heat of passion. We rarely make good estimates of God’s will where
our own will has a vested interest.

For some Christian couples, long engagements mean years of medium-level “petting,” with occasional lapsesfor which they feel guilty. Not really what Jesus intended for us, “the light of the world.”

Hope you don’t mind a bit of sermonizing. I pray you can use some of this in
some way. Papers for school can sometimes do a great job of educating
people, and you might consider publishing your paper on the web. I’d be glad
to help you do it.


 

From Dennis in Indiana:
message: Will you please Email me a copy of the Saint Augustine’s letter to Proba? Thanks
(I quoted from it but did not have a link.)
http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-01/npnf1-01-23.htm#P5022_2287573
This will allow you to look at footnotes. If you have problems with the link, let me know and I’ll copy/paste it into mail. The site has a search engine for the Patristics, too:
http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/
I should add it to the links on our site…
What is weird is that I can’t find this letter in Jurgens or Quasten… The
Wheaton site is the only place I’ve seen it, although I’ve seen it referred
to once on the Net.

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