September 16:  The 2nd reading these past few weeks have been from St. James’ Epistle where he says we should be “doers of the word.”  One of the arguments between Protestants vs Catholics is the Protestant tenet that we are “justified by faith alone!”  Well, this question came up in my squirrel 101 Theology Class and I hope this answer satisfies all their questions – and yours!!

First of all, I asked them to show me where in the Catechism, the official teaching of the Catholic Church, does it teach that we can “work” our way into Heaven? They can’t, because it doesn’t. The Catholic Church does not now, nor has it ever, taught a doctrine of salvation by works…that we can “work” our way into Heaven.

Second, I asked them to show me where in the Bible does it teach that we are saved by “faith alone.” They can’t, because it doesn’t. The only place in all of Scripture where the phrase “Faith Alone” appears, is in James…James 2:24, where it says that we are not…not…justified (or saved) by faith alone.  So, one of the two main pillars of Protestantism…the doctrine of salvation by faith alone…not only doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the Bible actually says the exact opposite – that we are not saved by faith alone.

Third, I asked them that if works have nothing to do with our salvation…then how come every passage in the N.T. that I know of that talks about judgment says we will be judged by our works, not by whether or not we have faith alone? We see this in Rom 2, Matt 15 and 16, 1 Ptr 1, Rev 20 and 22,
2 Cor 5, and many, many more verses.

Fourth, I asked them that if we are saved by faith alone, why does 1 Cor 13:13 say that love is greater than faith? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

As Catholics we believe that we are saved by God’s grace alone. We can do nothing, apart from God’s grace, to receive the free gift of salvation. We also believe, however, that we have to respond to God’s grace. Protestants believe that, too. However, many Protestants believe that the only response necessary is an act of faith; whereas, Catholics believe a response of faith and works is necessary…or, as the Bible puts it in Gal 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumsion is of any avail, but faith working through love”…faith working through love…just as the Church teaches.

September 9:  Its been all over the news the scandal of the Catholic Church.  Not sure how to respond to the following question but let me offer a few suggestions!!

How do I respond to someone who brings up their frustration about the priest scandals, or says that they have left the Church because of it?  This question requires full sensitivity and frankness.  Here’s how you can respond. 

First, express Understanding  It is true there have been mistakes, and for many years many Bishops failed to act as shepherds and failed to respond appropriately.  Express agreement that no matter what, there is no excuse for behavior from men who are to represent Christ! 

Second, Clear up misconceptions  In reality less than 4% of priests were accused years ago and much has been done to remedy the problem. While any number is deplorable, other educational and religious institutions have suffered even higher rates of abuse and neglect.

Third, Demonstrate the Church’s Response  The Catholic Church has put into effect vital reforms that have made the church a very safe place and help ensure that such abuse doesn’t happen again.  Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops have made genuine heartfelt apologies. 
Church leaders have taken action, i.e .
     --Implementing safe environment training in dioceses and parishes all around the country.
     --Establishing Diocesan codes of Conduct
     --Adhering to a zero tolerance policy for abusers
     --Increasing scrutiny of candidates for the priesthood
     --Offering Masses for victims of abuse
The Catholic Church is now a model for other institutions in this regard, with many organization emulating the reforms the Catholic Church has instituted. 

Fourth, Put the situation in perspective  If we read the bible, even some of God’s chosen people betrayed him.  Jesus’ closest associates betrayed him (Judas).  We should be thankful that the actions of Judas didn’t discredit or destroy the good that the other apostles and scores of disciples did in the early church.  The vast majority of priests today serve the church in honor and are heroic in their faith. 

Finally, Offer your prayers and extend an invite home Sometimes that’s really all they are waiting for.  Remember also to pray for our priests and bishops.  They really are truly holy people working for the greater glory and honor of God and deserve your respect, support and prayers. 

September 2:  I know many of you are happy this is a 3- day weekend!  For us dogs and squirrels there’s not much a difference ‘cept I might get to hang around a little more with my Dad and maybe even get an extra treat?!!  Thinking about Labor Day though, gives thought to those who might not have a job or people throughout the world who really are without.  In my Sheltie readings I came across this article that might help us appreciate who the poor really are and help us to count our blessings.  It’s entitled Identifying with the poor – 9 steps to Third World Living

  First, take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You've never had a bed, remember?
  Second, throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.
  Third, all kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue the moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight's meal.
  Fourth, dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.
  Fifth, take away the house and move the family into the tool shed.
  Sixth, no more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is three miles away, but only two of your seven children attend anyway, and they walk.
  Seventh, throw out your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.
  Eighth, get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one third and your moneylender 10 percent.
  Ninth, find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won't be enough to keep bodies healthy--so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.

August 26:  Food pyramids!  So my Dad’s favorite food pyramid is G.A.S.  That is: grease, alcohol and sugar!  My food pyramid is treat, treat and treat! (especially those cool treats some of my Dad’s friends bring to church ☺).    But really, physicians claim a base of bread, cereals, rice and pasta should be followed by vegetables and fruit.  The still smaller next level is milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts.  The smallest group is fats, oils and sweets. 

BUT – we can propose a food pyramid for those who want a healthy spiritual life.  You may want to develop your own, but it might include a base of feeding on the Word of God in the Eucharist and by study and meditation on the Scriptures.  Upon that base one is nourished by Christian fellowship.  The pyramid should include servings of regular worship.  To that a daily use of prayer and devotions could be added.  On top of those elements should be time for Christian service to meet the needs of others!


For more of Maggie's musings, see our online bulletin archives.  Maggie's column appears on page 3.