One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic
This has been for me a most blessed Easter. Every Easter is a season vibrant with joy and hope as the Church celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ who is our personal Redeemer and indeed, the Savior of all humanity. I witnessed my sister, forty-five years old enter the Catholic Faith at the Easter Vigil, having completed the year long formation, “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults” building on the protestant Christian faith of her childhood and coming into full communion with the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – the True Church of Christ. I shared her joy as she was confirmed and received Jesus in her First Holy Communion in St Mary of the Hills Church in Boston. Along with Helen, her two children, my niece and nephew, ages seven and ten, were baptized into our Triune God, confirmed in the Holy Catholic Faith and received the sweet kiss of Jesus in their First Holy Communion. I had been praying to see this day for many years! Jesus, who desired union with them infinitely more than I could ever pray for, and longing to give His Whole Self in the Blessed Sacrament: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to his beloved children, by grace had brought them to Himself in His Church and I had the immense joy to witness this eternal moment.
I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you,
praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you…
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-4,6)
I caught a flight back to the Holy Land from America and the following day I departed with twelve holy women from Jerusalem to Rome to be present at the Beatification of our beloved Pope John Paul II which would take place at St Peter’s Square on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011, – the Feast which the Holy Father solemnly instituted for the Universal Church on the eighth day after Easter fulfilling the request of our Lord to Saint Faustina of Poland. Millions of pilgrims, with a huge number of Poles, had come to Rome from all over the world to show their immense love for their compatriot John Paul II. He was our Holy Father, Christ’s Vicar on earth and Servant to the servants of God, Head of the Universal Church of whom nearly the entire world came to know, revere, respect and love during his glorious twenty-seven year Pontificate. As Providence would have it, his death in 2005 occurred on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, and his Beatification would be held on this same feast day just six years later. The entire world already knew that beloved John Paul II was a living saint, but when the French nun was miraculously healed of Parkinson’s disease through his intercession with Jesus, the same disease with which he suffered and the cause of his death, then the Church could declare definitively that Pope John Paul II is indeed among the Blessed in Heaven before the Throne of God. The Holy Father’s funeral in 2005 was the most attended funeral in the history of the world with innumerable heads of state and the supreme leaders of other religions and faiths coming to pay their last respects to a man who, saturated with the Spirit of Christ, full of the Holy Spirit witnessed through his own life – in word and in body – the Life, Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus for all the world to see. He was a living Gospel and an evident Saint.
My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Several years before my sister I followed our Lord’s call to come home to His Church and, like her, I had to make a vow before the assembly in order to be received into full communion with Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. At the Easter Vigil before being confirmed I had to solemnly declare that:
“I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”
In the past, a longer profession of faith was stated by those entering into full communion with the Church. While I did not recite the longer form Profession of Faith from the Roman Ritual the one statement I solemnly vowed at the Easter Vigil before the congregation implicitly included every doctrine in the Ritual.
The Roman Ritual
Reception of Converts
Profession of Faith
I., N. N., having before me the holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand and knowing that no one can be saved without that faith which the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church holds, believes, and teaches, against which I grieve that I have greatly erred, inasmuch as I have held and believed doctrines opposed to her teaching –
I now, with sorrow and contrition for my past errors, profess that I believe the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church to be the only and true Church established on earth by Jesus Christ, to which I submit myself with my whole soul. I believe all the articles of Faith that she proposes to my belief, and I reject and condemn all that she rejects and condemns, and I am ready to observe all that she commands me. And I make the following profession of Faith:
I believe in only one God in three divine Persons, distinct from, and equal to, each other – that is to say, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
I believe in the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; and the personal union of the two Natures, the divine and the human; the divine Maternity of the most holy Mary, together with her most spotless Virginity.
I believe in the true, real and substantial presence of the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
I believe in the seven Sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind – that is to say, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and holy Matrimony.
I believe in Purgatory, the Resurrection of the Dead, Everlasting Life.
I believe in the Primacy, not only of honor, but of jurisdiction, of the Roman Pontiff successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Vicar of Jesus Christ.
I believe in the veneration of Saints and of their images.
I believe in the authority of the Apostolic and Ecclesial Traditions, and of the Holy Scriptures, which we must interpret and understand only in the sense which our holy mother the Catholic Church has held and does hold.
And I believe in everything else that has been defined and declared by the sacred Canons and by the General Councils, and particularly by the holy Council of Trent, and delivered, defined, and declared by the General Council of the Vatican, especially concerning the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff, and his infallible teaching authority.
With sincere heart, therefore, and with unfeigned faith, I detest and abjure every error, heresy, and sect opposed to the said holy, Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church. So help me God, and these His holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand.
In 2004, like my sister, I followed Jesus’ call to come to Him and receive Him in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – a divine truth which had been proclaimed and passed down from Christ’s Apostles to generation after generation of Christian believers in the Holy Catholic Church until this sacred truth was lost to many Christians in the confusion of the post-Reformation centuries. Having been formed in the protestant churches as a child I did not know or understand the divine doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church. After receiving from Jesus direct revelation about His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament I wanted nothing more than to be where He is and to receive Him in Spirit and in Truth – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion – and I moved swiftly to enter into full communion with His Church. I trusted my Lord completely that in His own perfect timing He would reveal all the other divine doctrines that Christ’s Church “believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.” At Easter Vigil 2004 I entered the Catholic Church with humility and docility awaiting further revelation on all the other divine doctrines of my Lord including those most strange and challenging for protestant Christians: the Communion of Saints, the Divine Maternity of Most Holy Mary, Her Perpetual Virginity, Her Immaculate Conception, Her Assumption, Her Heavenly Queenship, the Holy Priesthood, the doctrine of Purgatory, and last but not least, the truth of the Primacy – not only of honor, but of jurisdiction, of the Roman Pontiff successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Vicar of Jesus Christ!
During the Mass at St Peter’s for the Beatification of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, I gazed with awe at the huge Basilica built on Vatican Hill – over the place where St Peter was buried after his crucifixion in 64 AD during the persecution against Christians during the reign of the pagan Roman Emperor Nero ( 37-68 AD). Tradition holds that St Peter was crucified up-side down not believing himself worthy even to die in the same fashion as his beloved Master. The high altar of the great St Peter’s Basilica which bears his name is situated over the holy relics of the once obscure Galilean fisherman who out of his immense love for Jesus abandoned everything to follow His Lord and Savior as far away as the Eternal City of Rome, heart of the pagan empire, and as far as to death –sharing in the suffering and passion of our Lord that he might also share in His resurrection glory. Jesus foretold:
After this, Jesus revealed Himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias…..
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.”
So He said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.
…He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had said this, He said to him, “Follow me.” (John Chapter 21)
Then I pondered the nearly two millennium which has passed since the Lord Jesus Christ established His visible Church on earth on the Confession of Faith of Simon Peter and the 265 Popes that have followed in direct Apostolic Succession to the first Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ on earth, St Peter, the “rock”, – the Body’s visible head with Jesus Christ its invisible Head.
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi He asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” ( Matthew 16: 8-19)
Standing there in St.Peter’s Square during the beatification Mass for Pope John Paul II, the 264th Pope in apostolic succession to the first Bishop of Rome of the Holy Roman Church, St Peter, I knew for certain the divine truth of the Primacy of Peter, that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth – head of Christ’s visible and true Church.
My Lord Jesus had been faithful to reveal this divine truth to me during my first year as a newly practicing Catholic. On the 23rd of December 2004, about eight months after coming into the Catholic Faith at the Easter Vigil, I went to daily mass at a small chapel in New Jersey as was my custom. For several months as a new Catholic I had been praying for the souls in purgatory during the time of the Consecration of the Eucharist during the Mass. Someone had given me a little blue prayer book, called “Pieta” and I was enjoying learning to pray the ancient payers of the Catholic Church. One of these prayers that I discovered in the little booklet was the prayer of St. Gertrude for the poor souls in purgatory. So for a couple of months I had been praying this specific prayer at the moment of Consecration in the Mass believing that I was helping the holy souls very much by offering my heart for them in this prayer along with Jesus’ Sacred Heart in the Holy Sacrifice. But on the 23rd of December, at the moment of Consecration I had a sudden impulse to pray for our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. I yielded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, setting aside my own intention to pray for the poor souls in purgatory, and my prayer was carried away in the Holy Spirit for the ailing and suffering Pope.
In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the One who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will(Romans 8:26-27).
I had not premeditated to pray for the Holy Father at that moment, rather, I intend to lift up the holy souls in purgatory to the Lord as usual at the moment of Consecration, and further, it had not yet become my practice to pray for our Pope in general. This deep and powerful prayer was suddenly inspired and mightily moved by the Holy Spirit. It was wonderful and gave me a great joy.
I returned to my home after the Mass and continued in a state of joy in the Holy Spirit throughout that same afternoon while attending to my daily family duties. In the late afternoon, I went to my mailbox to collect the mail. When I opened the box I found a long cardboard tube in it with postage on it from Italy. I wondered what it could be and who had sent it. I took it inside and opened it, and to my utter astonishment I found inside the tube a beautiful parchment scroll containing a signed and sealed Apostolic Blessing from Pope John Paul II. I had never requested a blessing nor was I even aware of such a blessing. I was delighted and amazed and I could not but help to connect the timing of the arrival of this precious blessing with my mysterious prayer for our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II that had spontaneously and powerfully arisen in my heart and soul by the leading of the Holy Spirit earlier that same afternoon at the moment of the Consecration in the Holy Mass. I realized at that exact moment that my Lord Jesus was teaching me through this miraculous work of His that the Holy Father was in truth Christ’s Vicar on earth and that an Apostolic Blessing from the Successor of Saint Peter, Jesus’ chosen “Prince of the Apostles” was in fact a blessing from Jesus Christ Himself. My gracious Lord Jesus had revealed directly to me the divine truth of the Primacy that the Holy Catholic Church holds out to the faithful to accept and believe as having been revealed by God. I accepted and believed immediately!
I discovered that the Apostolic Blessing had been sent by the wife of a banking contact of mine from Rome to whom I witnessed my faith during his trial of cancer. I had never even met his wife! Yet, inspired by the Holy Spirit she had requested the Apostolic Blessing for me in order to express her gratitude for my witness of the Gospel to her husband which resulted in his turning back to the Holy Catholic Faith and reconciling himself with the Church that she loved with all her heart.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways and My thoughts above your thoughts.
For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down And do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, Giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55 8-11)
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor?”
“Or who has given Him anything that he may be repaid?”
For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 33-36)