Thursday, August 28, 2014

Of Vatican 2, the Gates of Hell, Traditionalists, and Protestants

Yesterday, we looked at giving an answer to someone who was struggling with meeting 'c'atholics who claimed Pope St. John XXIII was elected by a freemason plot and was therefore not a real pope, which meant Vatican 2 was a false council, and everything since 1958 could just be ignored. We saw how silly this type of thinking was, but today I'd like to look at where such thinking must necessarily lead.

'C'atholics who claim the Church fell into error and heresy with either the election of John XXIII or Vatican 2 or the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae or whichever date they choose (it tends to differ) don't tend to grasp the consequences of what they are claiming.  If the Church taught error even once, then Christ was wrong. In fact, he was worse than wrong, He was a false prophet. But God is not a false prophet. Therefore, Christ isn't God either. Which means we should immediately abandon not just the "hierarchy" or even just Catholicism, but all of Christianity. More than that, we should denounce Christ as an evil man. For Christ claimed to be God and even accepted worship from His followers when He wasn't divine. Which makes Christ an evil usurper of the privileges of God who ought to be universally reviled. That, hatred of Jesus and the abandonment of Christianity, are the logical consequences of the Church teaching error at Vatican 2.

Hilliare Belloc perhaps summed the ridiculousness of trying to separate the "Christian religion" from the Catholic Church better than any other modern writer,
"There is no such thing as a religion called "Christianity" there never has been such a religion. There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church's doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others. There has always been, from the beginning, and will always be, the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, or, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common Christianity there has never been and never can be a definition, for it has never existed." (From The Great Heresies)

If these 'c'atholics are not fleeing Christianity, then they show themselves to be no better than any other Christian who choses to reject the Church's authority when they don't like certain things she teaches, while trying to retain those parts of Catholicism they happen to like. This, picking and choosing from the teachings and practices of Catholicism, is the very definition of heresy, which comes from the Greek αἵρεσις meaning "to choose." Heretics are those who choose the teaching "God is love" but reject the idea of God's justice. Heretics are those who choose the teaching to "love your neighbor" but reject the teaching to not use contraception. Heretics are those who choose to use the Bible, but reject the Church who canonized it. And heretics are those who choose the Church's teaching from before the 28th of October 1958 and reject the teachings since.

Sadly, heresy will always be with us. It will always be easier to try to change the Church than to allow it to change you. Christ gave us a living teaching authority, one He invested with the power to teach in His name,
He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me. (Lk 10:16)
He didn't give us a book to read and interpret privately as Protestantism would have and He didn't give us a bunch of old encyclicals and traditions from ages past to read and interpret privately as a certain type of "traditionalist" 'c'atholic would have.  He gave us the living voice of the Magisterium of the Church and guaranteed this Church would stand against the very gates of hell.

Privately interpreting St. Paul's Letter to the Romans or Pius V's Quo Primum while ignoring the Church isn't a valid option. To understand the Truth, to be faithful to Jesus, we must hold fast to the traditions, to the scriptures, and listen with docility to the voice of the Church as it speaks todayThat isn't easy, especially in this age of rebellion against authority, but it is the narrow path and the only way to avoid the ultimate pitfall of heresy - fashioning God into your own image and likeness and worshiping an idol of your own creation.

Tomb of St Ignatius
"Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred" by Pierre Le Gros "the Younger" 
This tendency toward private interpretation (which is the hallmark of all Protestantism) unfortunately has affected Catholics both of the liberal stripe ("the Church needs to get with the times" crowd) and of the radical traditional stripe ("the Church fell into heresy and I didn't" crowd). In this regard, these "traditionalists" are nothing more than liturgically minded Protestants. Are there some problems that need "protested" in the Church today? Of course, the Church is constantly being reformed - Ecclesia simper reformanda, but the abuses of one age never call for disobedience to the Church's teaching. Understanding this means the difference between being St. Francis and his Franciscans instead of Luther and his Lutherans. For, to paraphrase the great St. Augustine, if you only believe what you like in the Church's teaching, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Church you believe, but yourself.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Of Freemasons, John XXIII, Heretics, and Vatican 2

Q. I've recently encountered some Catholics who say the Church fell into heresy at Vatican 2, that Pope John XXIII was not a real pope because his election was the result of a freemason plot, and that nothing the Church has taught for the last 50 years can be trusted! Is there any truth to any of this?

The Gospel Triumphs over Heresia and the Serpent by Burchard Precht

Short answer? No. None.

Those "c"atholics run into some series logical problems with that line of thinking. If the Church can officially teach error (which they claim it did at Vatican 2 and has continued to do since), then how can they know the Church didn't also teach error at any other time in history, including at other ecumenical councils? Maybe the Church's teaching at the Council of Trent were heretical? Then Luther might have been right about sola fide, after all. Or maybe the Council of Nicaea was teaching heresy when it declared Jesus to be consubstantial with the Father. Then Arius might have been right when he taught Jesus was merely a creature.

Further, if the Church can elect psuedo-popes (which these "c"atholics claim the Church did when it elected John XXIII), then how do we know if other popes were "true popes?" Maybe other popes were elected by nefarious secret societies too? Maybe Pius X wasn't really the pope or Pius V or Leo the Great, etc, etc, etc. Or is it only popes who challenge these "c"atholics conception of the Church that are mysterious "psuedo-popes?" An appeal to the actual anti-popes of history will do your "c"atholic friends no good here, either. For those popes were invalidly elected while another validly elected pope still reigned. These anti-popes weren't false pontiffs because they taught something wrong, they were false because someone else was already pope! Pius XII was dead. The College of Cardinals, using the rules laid down, validly elected John XXIII, therefore he was pope. Even if we grant a freemason plot had a hand in the matter (which it didn't), that still wouldn't have invalidated the election of John XXIII.

A great example from Church history proves this point nicely (a great thing about the Church having passed through 2 millennia of history is that we rarely encounter a situation that we haven't been in at least once before). We need only turn our eyes to the late 14th century to find a similar situation to the one your "c"atholic friends have dreamed up for John XXIII.

As you may recall, Gregory XI ended the exile of the papacy in Avignon, returning to Rome shortly before his death. Fearing that the next pope would be French and return the Curia to Avignon the Romans rioted upon Gregory's death. The rioting was a direct threat to the (mostly French) cardinals to elect an Italian pope. Under this duress, the cardinal's selected Bartolomeo Prignano who took the name Urban VI. Later the same year, a majority of the cardinals fled to Anagni and proceeded to elect   Robert of Geneva pope! Robert, now styling himself Pope Clement VII, moved back to Avignon while Urban stayed put in Rome. Europe quickly divided itself and the Church was in for some tough times, but would survive them as she always does.

the Pope
Pope Urban VI

As you can see, the election of Urban VI met all the conditions for a valid election (as did John XXIII's), but was "influenced" by forces outside the College of Cardinals (a Roman mob instead of a group of Freemasons). The important point for us here is that Urban VI, despite this outside influence, was the real pope. Robert of Geneva (and the Avignon "popes" following him) were anti-popes as can be seen on any official list of popes (here for example). Such "outside pressure" cannot invalidate the election of a pope. If a man is elected following the rules then in place and if the throne is vacant, then he is pope - freemason plots (and Roman rioters) notwithstanding. If this was true in the case of Urban VI (who saw his own cardinals declare his election invalid and decide to elect another man pope within a year of his coronation) how much more true would it be for John XXIII who reigned without a single cardinal claiming he wasn't the "real" pope? Ask yourself, if even the cardinals can't get a mulligan and elect a new pope (even when the first election was held under the threat of immediate physical violence), from whence do these "c"atholics derive the power to declare John XXIII an anti-pope? Which is all beside the point that there simply is no evidence at all for any "freemason plot" to elect John XXIII in the first place!

What really is at work here is an attempt to justify a rebellion against a pope (who is also a canonized saint) that these "c"atholics don't like. Nothing more.

My advice? Ignore them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Of Atheists, Straw Men, Spaghetti Monsters, and God

Dr. Edward Feser, a well respected philosopher, author,  and professor developed a nice analogy to show where the thinking of atheists goes awry on the subject of God and why this basic first misstep effectively derails any intelligent conversation between theists and atheists. He uses two people looking at a painting in a gallery to represent the two sides in the theist-atheist debate (emphasis original):
Suppose you’re looking at a painting of a crowd of people, and you remark upon the painter’s intentions in producing the work.  Someone standing next to you looking at the same painting -- let’s call him Skeptic -- begins to scoff.  “Painter?  Oh please, there’s no evidence of any painter!  I’ve been studying this canvas for years.  I’ve gone over every square inch.  I’ve studied each figure in detail -- facial expressions, posture, clothing, etc.  I’ve found plumbers, doctors, dancers, hot dog vendors, dogs, cats, birds, lamp posts, and all kinds of other things.  But I’ve never found this painter of yours anywhere in it.  No doubt you’ll tell me that I need to look again until I find him.  But really, how long do we have to keep looking without success until people like you finally admit that there just is no painter?”
Needless to say, Skeptic, despite his brash confidence, will have entirely misunderstood the nature of the dispute between you and him.  He would be making the crudest of category mistakes.   He fundamentally misunderstands both what it means to say that there is a painter, and fundamentally misunderstands the reasons for saying there is one. (source)
Too often atheists treat God - the God we theists actually believe in, that is - as if He were a big bearded guy living on a cloud somewhere. Their arguments (like the comparison between God and a "Flying Spaghetti Monster") would be devastatingly power, if we were pagans worshipping Mars or Thor or the Eagle Spirit (that is being that are a part of the world) but completely miss the point when talking about the God we actually believe in, and the God men like Abraham, Aquinas, Augustine, Aristotle, and Plato believed in. This God is the Creator of the material world (just like Leonardo is the creator of the Last Supper) and it makes just about as much sense to look for God within the world as does to look for Leonardo in his painting. For an atheist to say "Aha! God isn't in the material world at all!!" is for him to say the exact same thing we theists have been saying for the last few thousand years and is certainly no proof against God's existence. It would be like me claiming Richard Dawkins doesn't exist because I throughly searched my entire garage - every square inch, mind you - and not a trace of Dr. Dawkins was to be found! Of course, not. He simply isn't where I'm looking and no one ever thought he was in the first place. Or would be like a zoologist announcing to the world that elephants don't exist after an exhaustive study of the antarctic where he found not a trace of a single specimen. Such absurdities can't be argued with, they can only be chuckled at.

You can disprove the existence of Zeus by scaling Mount Olympus and finding it empty, but can't disprove the existence of an immaterial God by searching the material world and declaring you haven't found Him - of course you haven't, no one ever claimed He was there in the first place.  And scaling Mount Olympus is all "arguments from science" ultimately are in the search for God. Science necessarily is limited to exploring, studying, analyzing, and describing the material world, the immaterial is entirely beyond its ability to comment on. Science can say nothing whatsoever about it, including whether or not immaterial realities exist (which of course, science itself depends on, especially the existence of immaterial numbers, but that is a post for another day). Such is simply "the crudest of category mistakes" at best or the most obvious of straw man arguments at worst.

By the way, Dr. Feser's book on Thomas Aquinas is an absolute must read. I've read many books on the thought of Aquinas and recommend this one without hesitation. If you haven't read it, you're really missing out.

I've heard good things about his book specifically addressing the "New Atheism" (he was once an atheist himself), but I haven't read it yet,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Should Catholics Receive Communion if they Don't Believe Everything the Church Teaches?

My post yesterday received this very thoughtful comment, one which I thought deserved an extended answer as many Catholics are very confused over this particular teaching.
As to how to handle the fact that the asker is voicing something in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church, I think that's a point that people have different viewpoints on. We all know the official church stance on the matter...but in practice, how many Catholics who take communion every week, really believe everything that the church professes? I'd be willing to bet there are *priests* who don't believe this. Whether these priests are "out of line" somehow...that's a different question. Again, I know the official Catholic stance on this. 
But I'm not Catholic, and I don't feel like, in my own moral system, I want to condemn or judge people who take communion and don't agree with everything that the church teaches.
Keep in mind that many people only are Catholic because they were raised Catholic, often put under great pressure to do so. In many regions, people are Catholic because they are religious, and because Catholicism is the only religion present (or perhaps, the only one they want to participate in--being forced to choose between participating in Catholicism, evangelical Christianity, or no religion is not much of a choice).
So I want to challenge your comment about receiving the Eucharist without holding the entire Catholic Faith being nothing less than publicly lying. I disagree. People can interpret it that way, if they choose, and that interpretation may be consistent with the Catholic church's official teachings, but this doesn't mean that it's true in a global sense...and it's certainly not something that there would be a consensus on in society as a whole. 
I think that if you asked different people (including both Catholics and non-Catholics) you'd get a lot of different answers, and I suspect you wouldn't find all that many people who agreed with that statement, even if it is consistent with the official church stance.

First, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Where I see you going astray is in creating a false dichotomy between "official Catholic teaching" and the opinions of Catholics. The Church has the authority to decide what it teaches. Those who disagree with the Church on a particular issue aren't so kind of alternative "Magisterium of conscience", they are in error. Remember, Jesus gave the authority to settle disputes, not to individual Christians armed with printed Bibles (which the last 500 years clearly shows doesn't work), but to the Church:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:15-18 RSV) 
Why this is is explained by Christ,
"He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." (Luke 10:16)
Christ empowered the Church to speak with His authority, not individual Christians (which should be obvious enough from individual Christians constantly contradicting one another). To reject the teaching of the Church is to reject Christ and to reject Christ is to reject the Father.

Further, I'd note, that in Catholic theology, receiving the Eucharist is a public statement of being in union (communion, "comm-union") with the Church, which entails accepting her authority and thus professing what she professes. It is exactly for this reason that non-Catholics cannot be admitted to Communion, even non-Catholics who believe in transubstantiation.
We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. (Statement of the US Bishops on the reception of Holy Communion)


Receiving communion in the Catholic Church is a liturgical, ritual, statement that says nothing less than "I am in full union with Christ and His Holy Catholic Church by professing all the Church teaches." This teaching has been with the Church from the very beginning and is not dependent upon any individual Catholics agreement with it.

"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God....They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" - Ignatius of Antioch, circa 110 AD.
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" Justin Martyr, circa 151 AD
Even if every pew sitting Catholic disagreed with this teaching it would still be true (truth isn't determined by popular vote). Think of it like this. Once upon a time most people thought the world was still and the sun circled it. Did "most people" thinking so change reality? Of course not. Most people were simply wrong. The same is true for heterodox Catholics who pick and choose which teachings to believe. They simply are wrong.  Or look at a religious doctrine. If most Christians didn't believe that Jesus rose from the dead, would that mean He didn't? Of course not. Reality isn't determined by what we think, it is what it is. Likewise, receiving Communion in the Catholic Church is publicly declaring that you believe everything the Church does and thus are in union with her. This objective fact is not changed whether or not ordinary Catholics assent to the teaching or not.

The Bible Christian Society puts it well when they write,
it is a lie for someone who is not Catholic to receive Communion in the Catholic Church, when there is first no union with the Catholic Church.  When you receive Communion in the Catholic Church, you are saying with your body that you are in union with the Church and that you believe as we believe.  And not just in regard to the Real Presence, but also in regard to the Pope, to Mary, to the other Sacraments, to the Communion of Saints, the priesthood, salvation, and so on.  If there is no union, there should be no Communion. (source)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Christ Did Not Love Humanity" and Neither Should You.

How frequently we hear about how we ought to "love humanity." There are quotes about it, websites dedicated to it, even shirts promoting it. That we ought to "love humanity" is almost a truism in our culture. 


If love of humanity is a virtue, and Christ was perfectly virtuous, then surely He must have "loved humanity" perfectly, "loved humanity" more than any one before or since. It is with a shock that we discover that He didn't "love humanity" at all. Perhaps GK Chesterton summed this up best,
Christ did not have the same kind of regard for one person as for another. We are specifically told that there were certain persons whom He especially loved. It is most improbable that He thought of other nations as He thought of His own. The sight of His national city moved Him to tears, and the highest compliment he paid was, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed....’ Christ commanded us to have love for all men, but even if we had equal love for all men, to speak of having the same love for all men is merely bewildering nonsense. If we love a man at all, the impression he produces on us must be vitally different to the impression produced by another man whom we love. To speak of having the same kind of regard for both is about as sensible as asking a man whether he prefers chrysanthemums or billiards. Christ did not love humanity; He never said He loved humanity; He loved men. Neither He nor anyone else can love humanity; it is like loving a gigantic centipede. (Varied Types)

Jesus, instead of commanding us to "love humanity" as many today would rather prattle on about, cut straight to the heart of the matter and called on us to not just love something abstract (that would be "loving a gigantic centipede"), but to love someone concrete - our neighbor (cf. Mk 12:31). Yes, your neighbor - that person who is delaying you in the express check out line with more than the allowed number of items, your neighbor - that person who just cut you off in traffic, your neighbor - your boss who just dressed you down in front of the rest of the staff, your neighbor - your wife who is nagging you today, even after a long day's work, your neighbor - your children who are giving you a hard time and disobeying, your neighbor - your parents or in-laws whose visits are so trying, that is who we are to love. There will be no "sliding by" with a general "love of humanity" for the follower of Christ, no! We must love even those closest to us, even those who irritate us the most. This struggle, to love a particular man, rather then men in general, is found on the lips of the atheist, Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky's classic The Brothers Karamazov

"I could never understand how one can love one's neighbors. It's just one's neighbors, to my mind, that one can't love, though one might love those at a distance.... For anyone to love a man, he must be hidden, for as soon as he shows his face, love is gone."

 How much easier it can be to love those far from us. Such a love is so undemanding. How many men, who won't say a word to their brother or father or mother, will gladly talk of the need to "free Tibet." How many men, even Christians, have former friends or literal neighbors they are feuding with, but will weep over the fate of people in Calcutta or East Africa? How many men hate another man in their own parish, while loving the poor in China? Of course, we are called to love those both near and far, we wouldn't want to only care about those near us, but how much easier is it to bemoan the children crossing the border while fuming at our own kids? 

Chesterton himself recognized this interior struggle in the heart of men, how it can be easier to love the abstract concept of humanity than the all too concrete reality of an individual man, and even addressed its root cause,
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.”
For it is only our neighbors, those who's lives intersect with our own day-in and day-out, that can cause us annoyance, grief, frustration, and pain. But it is precisely these who we are commanded to love. Which is precisely why we must never simply "love humanity," we must always love each individual man, woman, or child. For without this love, love of those we see in our lives, we cannot love God (cf. 1 Jn 4:20).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is Jesus Praying Proof He Isn't God?

While surfing the internet the other day (people do still "surf" the internet, don't they?) and came across an anti-Catholic blog going by the misnomer "Unveil the Truth" where I found the following argument via meme:

Is Jesus God

This supposedly devastating line of attack seeks to undermine the Holy Catholic Faith by claiming that Jesus, by praying to God the Father, proves that He isn't Himself God, thus (supposedly) undermining the Catholic Faith (of course this argument would undermine all Christianity, including Protestantism, but leave that to the side, the author seems unaware of the irony.)

What should a Catholic (or even a non-Catholic Christian) make of such an argument? Does Jesus' prayer (which we have looked at here on the blog - HERE for example) disprove His divinity? Does it "not make sense" for a divine Jesus "to pray to himself (sic)?"

There's a few different levels of misunderstanding that need addressed as we look at this problem. First, Jesus is both fully divine (thus God) and fully human (thus man). It is only because of this "hypostatic union" that Jesus can save man (because He is a man) by offering an eternal sacrifice of infinite worth (because He is God). Jesus isn't just divine, He is also human. It is through His human nature that He has human needs, needs that He wouldn't have if He was just divine. This is why Jesus, in His human nature, had a need to sleep, to eat, could feel pain and sorrow, and needed to pray. Jesus, because He became a man (i.e. He didn't just take on a human shape, but assumed a full human nature) became able to do all the things that all men can. He was, as the Bible tells us, like us in all things - except sin (cf. Heb 4:15). "All things" would include the ability to pray.

That takes care of whether Jesus, a divine Jesus, could pray, but leaves unanswered the main charge of the meme - that it is nonsense, indeed a "waste of time," for Jesus to pray to Himself. Of course, as the meme itself suggests, Jesus doesn't pray to Himself at all, rather He prays to God the Father (i.e. He doesn't pray to God the Son, He doesn't pray to Himself). Jesus' prayer is always directed to another person - the First Person of the Trinity - and is never directed toward Himself. Jesus' prayer, then, is a part of His communion with His Father, a reflection of their eternal heavenly communion, something which could never be a "waste of time."

Which may make one wonder why exactly Jesus (being eternal and thus not bound by time) ought to be so concerned with not "wasting time." Is Jesus working at Domino's, needing to make sure your pizza is delivered hot? Is He crunched by the clock of an eight hour work day? Jesus, the author of time, needed worry about "wasting time" at all even if praying to His Father was a waste of time, which it demonstrably isn't!

Trinity Explained

The author of "Unveil the Truth" lacks even a rudimentary understanding of the very doctrine he is trying to attack Catholics for believing, the doctrine of the Trinity. Admittedly, this is a difficult doctrine to understand, one which we can never fully understand in fact, but one which most middle schoolers could elucidate better than our meme creator. In fact, his criticism of Catholic doctrine - that Jesus is praying to himself, that Jesus, if divine, must be the Father to whom He is praying - relies on such a complete misunderstanding of this doctrine as to accuse Catholics of Sabellianism - a heresy which itself denied the Trinity! Thus "Unveil the Truth's" attack requires Catholics to both believe in the Trinity (to be attacked for it) and to disbelieve in the Trinity (for the attack to succeed) an obvious logical impossibility.

The moral of the story: you should probably at least have a minimal understanding of something before trying to attack it. Failing that, write an anonymous blog so as not to appear overly foolish.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Catholic Church is a House of Prayer for All People - A Reflection on the First Reading from the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Aug 17, 2014)

This week I'd like to take a second to take a close look at the prophecy we will hear in the first reading at Mass tomorrow from the Book of Isaiah:
Thus says the LORD:Observe what is right, do what is just;for my salvation is about to come,my justice, about to be revealed.
The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,ministering to him,loving the name of the LORD,and becoming his servantsall who keep the sabbath free from profanationand hold to my covenant,them I will bring to my holy mountainand make joyful in my house of prayer;their burnt offerings and sacrificeswill be acceptable on my altar,for my house shall be calleda house of prayer for all peoples. (Is 56:1, 6-7)
Here we see something very particular being promised by God - that His people, His family, will one day expand past the ethnic descendants of Abraham and encompass all of humanity. God, through His prophet, announces the coming of a day when His name will be loved and His covenant kept by men of all nations and races. While this promise is partially fulfilled in the Old Testament, we only finally what exactly God had in store for the world after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. The first hints of the fulfillment of this prophecy can be seen in the apostle's Pentecost preaching, which is understood by all men in their own language. Here we see the barriers that once separated God's people from their neighbors begin to be pulled down as the New Testament People of God - the Catholic Church - comes to truly be a "house of prayer for all peoples."

And indeed it is the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church alone, which can truly claim such a mantle even to this very day. Unlike Christian "denominations" which tend to be largely constricted by nationality, the Catholic Church calls men and women her own over the whole globe. Here for example, is a map showing the distribution of Catholics:

distribution of Catholicism

Which can be compared with any post-Reformation Christian "denomination" favorably, for example Lutheranism (which is internally divided between different groups with competing theologies):

distribution of Lutheranism

or even with Eastern Orthodoxy (which is itself broken up into several national churches):

distribution of Eastern Orthodoxy
The same thing can be measured through time as well as through space. Here is a map of the religions of Europe circa 1200 (try to find the Protestants)

From even a cursory glance at these maps (and others for any Christian group could be found to replicate this pattern) we can see the sad tendency for Christians outside of God's established Church to quickly abandon the "house of prayer for all peoples" model which God wills for His family and instead to subdivide into ethnic, linguistic, and nationalistic "churches" which frequently develop theological novelties that combine God's unmixed revelation (as found with the Catholic Church) with various ideas current in their societies. Thus we find authentic Christianity mixed with twenty-first century confusion of the differentiation of appropriate sex roles in the national "church" of England giving us the novelty of women "bishops." Or we find authentic Christianity mixed with the biases of a literate society producing the novel concept of the sufficiency of the Bible "and the Bible alone." Or we find authentic Christianity mixed with American individualism giving us the modern Evangelical movement with its "personal relationship with Jesus" as the beginning and end of the Christian life.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Anglican "Bishop" Katharine Jefferts Schori 
These novelties, growing from the spirit of the culture the splinter Christian group exists in, are then misunderstood, frowned upon, or outright rejected by other Christians in other cultures, sometimes even from within the same "denomination," which tends to lead to yet more fracturing of Christians into even smaller groups which appeal more to the spirit of their own cultures and times.

Such a situation is clearly against the will of God, who desires all men to receive one truth from one Church and become one family, the family of God. Such unity, over both time and place, has historically only been seen within the Holy Catholic Church - which is indeed a "house of prayer for all peoples," which alone fulfills the prediction of the prophet Isaiah over 27 centuries ago.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mary Raised, Body and Soul, into Heaven!

Today, the Church Universal celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast commemorates the physical, bodily, raising of Mary into heaven where she sits, body and soul (unlike the rest of the saints, whose bodies remain in the earth). While the doctrine of the Assumption has been with the Church from the earliest days, it was given added emphasis when Pope Pius XII formally (and infallibly) declared it a dogma of the Faith in his 1950 Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.
For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. (44)

pope pacelli
Venerable Pope Pius XII
Thus, we know with absolute certitude that Mary, unlike the other saints, enjoys a special honor in Heaven. We might pause and briefly wonder why? Not why she enjoys a special honor (of that no real Catholic can be surprised), but why this honor? Why was her body raised into Heaven before the general resurrection? Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily in 2012, gave a great answer to this question,
But why is Mary glorified by the Assumption into heaven? St. Luke, as we have heard, sees the root of Mary's exaltation and praise in Elizabeth's words: "Blessed is she who believed" (Luke 1:45). And the "Magnificat," this song to the living God who acts in history, is a hymn of faith and love that flows from the heart of the Virgin. She lived with exemplary fidelity and treasured in the depths of her heart God's words to his people, the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, making them the content of her prayer: in the "Magnificat" God's Word becomes Mary's word, the light of her path, making her open even to receiving the Word of God made flesh in her womb. Today's Gospel passage recalls this presence of God in history and in the very unfolding of events; in particular it is a reference to the second Book of Samuel, chapter 6 (6:1-5), in which David transports the Ark of the Holy Covenant. The parallel that the evangelist makes is clear: Mary awaiting the birth of the Son, Jesus, is the Holy Ark. Mary is God's "visit" that brings joy. Zachariah, in his song of praise, will say this explicitly: "Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68). Zachariah's house had experienced God's visit with the birth of John the Baptist, but above all with the presence of Mary, who bears the Son of God in her womb. (source)
Pope Emeritus
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Mary's body, then, is consecrated to the Lord in a unique way. Letting her flesh rot in the ground, then, would be an act of desecration, it would see something holy (set apart for the Lord) used as if it were profane. It was to avoid this profanation that God raised Mary's physical body into Heaven, to do less would be unthinkable - indeed unjust - and thus impossible for the God of Justice to allow.

Let us enjoy this great Feast, this pledge of our own eventually bodily resurrection at the end of time, by raising our voices, with Mary, in prayer and praise,
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;my spirit rejoices in God my Saviorfor he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.From this day all generations will call me blessed:the Almighty has done great things for meand holy is his Name.He has mercy on those who fear himin every generation.He has shown the strength of his arm,and has scattered the proud in their conceit.He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,and has lifted up the lowly.He has filled the hungry with good things,and the rich he has sent away empty.He has come to the help of his servant Israelfor he has remembered his promise of mercy,the promise he made to our fathers,to Abraham and his children forever." (Lk 1:46-55)
Domenico Piola


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Feast of Assumption Tomorrow - Call Your Mother!

As frequent readers of this blog probably know, I've decided to dedicate 2014 to St. Josemaria Escriva. One of the ways I've been so doing is to read a bit from his three major works (The Way, The Furrow, and The Forge) daily. These three books (all available in one edition!) contain short adages taken from from the saints letters or conversations. St. Josemaria was dedicated to living a life of holiness and to helping laymen (and lay women) do so in the midst of the world. He saw, before Vatican II, that the best way to renew the Church (and the Earth) was to call each and every Catholic to become a saint, to become "the-best-verison-of-himself," as Matthew Kelly puts it. Through these short writings, St. Josemaria encourages us to grow more like Christ, not just with a "WWJD" wristband, but by covering a wide array of issues that Catholics come into contact with in the modern world. His writings are perfect for the soundbite culture we inhabit. As this Friday is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (a holy day of obligation - so get ye to Mass!), I thought I'd share a few one of his thoughts on the proper relationship a Catholic ought to have with Our Lady. As you read this short saying, ask yourself, "does this sound like my relationship with Mary?" If not, ask yourself, "what can I do today to improve that relationship?" Remember, Mary is our mother - Jesus gave her to all of us from the Cross (cf. Jn 19:27).

St. Josemaria, pray for us!
We have to love the Blessed Virgin Mary more. We will never love her enough!
—Love her a lot! It shouldn’t be enough for you to put up pictures of her, and greet them, and say aspirations. You should learn to offer her, in your strenuous life, some small sacrifice each day, to show her your love, and to show her the kind of love that we want the whole human race to proclaim for her. (The Forge, #527)

If you've fallen out of touch with your earthly mother, give her a call today (few things would please Our Lady more, I suppose). If you've fallen out of touch with Mother Mary, pick up those old, unused rosary beads and give them a workout, even if you only manage one decade and can't remember any of the mysteries, just give her "a call". All mother's appreciate that!

Why the Rosary?
The rosary is a powerful spiritual weapon, one which many popes, including the recently sainted JP2, have called on Catholics time and again to return to in fidelity. It is a special way to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary, His mother (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae3.) As St. Josemaria reminded us, in The Way"The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you will be amazed at the results."

So, friends, say a prayer and be prepared to "be amazed."

God bless.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's the Deal with Holy Days of Obligation? Isn't Sunday Enough Already?

First, all of you, yes ALL of you, are planning on attending Mass this Friday (August 15) for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, right? Remember, it is a Holy Day of Obligation (one of the very few left in the United States) which means it is a mortal sin to deliberately miss Mass Friday. The Catechism reminds us:
The Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church's life. "Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church."
"Also to be observed are the day of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension of Christ, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christi, the feast of Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption (that's Friday), the feast of Saint Joseph, the feast of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, and the feast of All Saints." (2177)
And from the Code of Canon Law:
"Sunday . . . is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church" (CIC, can. 1246 § 1).  
"On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass" (CIC, can. 1247). 
"On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound . . . to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord's Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body" (CIC, can. 1247).

Our obligation to attend Mass on Holy Days, including all Sundays, is deadly serious, deadly for our souls if we freely choose to miss Mass and blow off the obligation. The Lord made this point clear centuries ago to His people Israel, by literally prescribing physical death for those who deliberately missed the Sabbath (the "holy day of obligation" of the Old Covenant),
And it came to pass, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and had found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day, That they brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole multitude. And they put him into prison, not knowing what they should do with him. And the Lord said to Moses: Let that man die, let all the multitude stone him without the camp. And when they had brought him out, they stoned him, and he died as the Lord had commanded. (Numbers 12:32-36) 
I can hear the atheist objection already,
"why is God soooooo mean? Isn't he just a bloodthirsty tyrant!? Look, He's demanding people be executed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath!! How can you Christians even take this seriously? etc. etc. etc. etc." 
Of course, this is reading the above completely out of context of the whole Bible (which is only correctly interpreted through the Church and by the New Testament), but leave that to a side. We might rightly ask, especially when reflecting on the teaching of Jesus, what on Earth is God doing here? Why is He laying down such a serious sentence on this crime?

Unfortunately, the original ending of this post was deleted. Here is a brief ending getting at the same basic point. For more on the importance of setting aside Holy Days for the Lord, I recommend St. John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Dies Domini.

What is God doing? Why does He command the death of those who break His command to rest and worship on the Sabbath? To answer these questions one needs to remember to always read the Bible (especially difficult passages like the above) in context - in light of the New Testament, understood through the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, and in light of the historical and cultural times in which the passage was written. God here is dealing with the roughest of peoples. A semi-barabaric, nomadic people nation living in the bronze age. These people had not the benefit of the revelation of Jesus Christ or even of the later prophets or wisdom literature. They were fresh from worshipping Egyptian idols and frequently found having faith in God difficult despite His clear presence among them (think of the constant flow of miracles these men were witness to!). In this age the death penalty, indeed even stoning, was a common prescription for any serious offense. The message here is that it is deadly serious to not worship God. This is an important lesson for God to get across to His people because failing to offer God the worship He is due, while not affecting God in any way, is fatal to our souls - i.e. people can and do go to hell for eternity for refusing to order their lives to the ultimate reality - God. This isn't because God is angry at them (again our worship does nothing for God). Rather it is the necessary end result of disordering our lives. God so desires for His people to be united to Him in glory, that He is willing to stoop down and teach them in the only way they will understand - through punishing violations of the Sabbath rest as a capital crime.  The lesson for us, of course, is not to go around stoning people who refuse to head to church this Sunday (cf. Jn 8:7), but to understand just how serious the repercussions of ordering our lives away from God can be. In the end we all worship something - we all have a God we serve. It may not be a personal God - it may be money, power, sex, pleasure, etc, but we all worship something. If what we worship isn't the true God, we are on a sure path to hell. Stopping from the everyday hustle of the world and focusing on God on Holy Days (like this Friday) is an important way to avoid a fate far worse than that which the men gathering sticks met with.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

O Sacred Silence! A Reflection on the Gospel for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In this week's Gospel we hear,
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boatand precede him to the other side,while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night,he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply,“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,“Truly, you are the Son of God.” (Mt 14:22-33)
While this passage is replete with material for reflection, I want to take but a moment to look at a short section. At the beginning we see Our Lord, fresh off of feeding the 5,000 who then wanted to make Him their king (recognizing this as a sure sign that He was indeed the long awaited Messiah), send off His disciples and remove Himself for communion with His Father.
he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone
Jesus on Mountain Praying

How important it is to make time to be alone with The Lord! How essential it is for the spiritual well being of each and every man, woman, and child that even Jesus removed Himself from the throngs calling for His kingship and from His most trusted circle of friends to simply be alone with His Father!

The intimate time we spend alone with The Lord, away from the multitude of distractions of modern life, away from our iPhones and iPads, away even from our most beloved and trusted friends and family, and certainly away from the constant soundtrack of music and noise that pervades our lives, is sine qua non for those who seek familiarity with God and growth in holiness.

Thus, I urge you to find some time to be quiet, to be alone with God. Listen for Him not in whirlwind, but in a "small still voice" (cf. 1 Kings 19) which can only be heard in silence. Take a walk through the woods and pray, find a quiet spot at home (unless you have a bunch of kids running around like I do, then such a place simply doesn't exist at home), or best of all head to church and pray before the tabernacle - or if you are so lucky before the Eucharist in your adoration chapel. Make sure to set a regular time to do this. Start with once a week or even once a month, but make it regular. Guard this time jealously. Don't allow the world to snatch it from you. Use it to get to know The Lord in silence, "alone," and you'll become a better friend, neighbor, father, mother, student, employee, boss, etc.

For it is Satan, not The Lord, who would love to see the world filled with an all consuming noise, as C.S. Lewis so brilliantly foresaw,
“My dear Wormwood: Music and silence–how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell–though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express, no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise–Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile–Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.” (The Screwtape Letters, written from the perspective of a "senior" demon from hell, giving advice to a "junior tempter.")
A Must Read!
Seek silence. Seek The Lord.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cause Enough to End Communion in the Hand Immediately?

I'm sure most of my readers have heard about the Satanist group that claims to have gotten ahold of a stolen Consecrated Host for their upcoming "Black Mass" in OKC. Apparently the host was stolen from a Catholic Church by a "friend" of Adam Daniels, the organizer of the Black Mass. This, of course, is the most grievous of all possible blasphemes, the ugliest of all possible desecrations, indeed nothing could be more noxious, more evil, or more offensive than the desecration of the Most Holy Eucharist. The Code of Canon Law reminds all Catholics of the importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church:
Can.  897 The most August sacrament is the Most Holy Eucharist in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the sacrifice of the cross isperpetuated through the ages is the summit and source of all worship and Christian life, which signifies and effects the unity of the People of God and brings about the building up of the body of Christ. Indeed, the other sacraments and all the ecclesiastical works of the apostolate are closely connected with the Most Holy Eucharist and ordered to it. 
Can.  898 The Christian faithful are to hold the Most Holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament most devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration. In explaining the doctrine about this sacrament, pastors of souls are to teach the faithful diligently about this obligation.

Jesus Christ

The Archbishop of Oklahoma City, His Excellency Paul Coakley, has compared this act of sacrilege with acts against other religions which would never be allowed on public property:
“It is hard to imagine the Civic Center turning a blind eye and allowing a group to use its facilities to burn a copy of the Koran, or to conduct an overtly anti-Semitic performance”
Hard indeed. Unfortunately, anti-Catholicism is alive and well in this country (as it has always been), so this infamous act goes on while acts against other religions are opposed as hate speech. Apparently, hate speech against the most sacred mysteries of the Catholic faith (with her 78 million US members, the largest Church in the US) is a-okay. Unfortunate, but unsurprising.

While we can't take much direct action to stop the proposed Black Mass from happening. This great evil doesn't have to happen again. The "most August sacrament" can be better protected, indeed must be better protected. One such way is the immediate suspension of Communion in the hand. How easy is it for a Satanist to slip into any Catholic Church anywhere in these United States, casually walk up the aisle when the Host is being distributed, stretch out his/her hand and simply walk back to the pew without consuming the Host? How many Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (many of whom are elderly women) are even prepared for this possibility? Who is even watching enough to notice whether or not the Sacrament is being carried off? And if someone does notice, what is anyone prepared to do about it that will actually stop a determined Satanist?

Communion in the Hand
Does this make it too easy to lift a Host?

Church law is pretty clear on the difference between Communion on the tongue, which we all have a right to, and Communion in the hand, which is only to be allowed where there is no "risk of profanation":

Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful. (Redemptionis Sacramentum 92)

Clearly, the risk of profanation in the United States is much higher than anyone thought. Such a risk demands an immediate rethinking of the propriety of continuing to administer Communion in the hand across the US. Perhaps in special cases, where the priest knows the recipient, and where the recipient has a particular need to receive in the hand such reception could be accommodated, but to continue to distribute the Host in the hand of all and sundry has created an environment where the "risk of profanation" has blossomed into a full on Satanic Mass complete with Consecrated Host.

Of course, the United States Bishops are in a better position than you or I to determine if such a measure needs to be undertaken or not. It is their sacred charge to handle such matters and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they are sure to take whatever steps they deem necessary to minimize possible future desecration of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of God Himself. In the meanwhile, let's all join together in praying to St. Michael, defender of the Church and destroyer of Satan:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil,
May God rebuke him we humbly pray.
And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine Power of God,
Cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits roaming about the world
Seeking the ruin of souls.

St. Michael the Archangel
St. Michael defend us!

What do you think? Should Communion in the hand be restricted to prevent future desecrations or is such an action too much too soon for the current situation? Would requiring Communion on the tongue be a prudent safeguard or an overreaction to one horrible incident?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Explain the Mass to a Protestant.

A commenter on my Google+ Page (which you can follow HERE), made the following very interesting point on my recent post "DO CATHOLICS WORSHIP STATUES?"

Another is the idea of the worship of Mary and the saints. I am inviting a protestant friend to Mass for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hopefully he won't think it as Marian worship but instead see it as a way of honouring her.
First of all, let me commend the commenter for already planning on attending Mass next Friday for the Holy Day of Obligation (not suggestion) on August 15 - the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Have you already made plans to? Remember, deliberately blowing off a holy day of obligation (including ALL Sundays) is, under normal circumstances, a mortal sin. Let me also commend him for reaching out to his Protestant friend on such an important feast. What a great idea to offer to bring a non-Catholic (i.e. a potential-Catholic!) with you for Mass next Friday! They can still attend their regular service on Sunday, which really opens up the possibility of them agreeing to come. And what could be more pleasing to Our Lady than to have our separated brethren at Mass in her honor? We should all invite someone, either a lapsed or non-Catholic, to come with us to this great feast day as a way of showing honor to Our Lady!

For those that do end up taking a potential-Catholic with you, you'll probably have the same concern the commenter had, what if they see the Mass and think we are worshipping Mary? I'd recommend a preemptive strike, something our former Commander-in-Cheif would be proud of. Instead of waiting for the objection to come, which may, after all, end up unvoiced, give an explanation before Mass.

I'd point out to the potential-Catholic how the Mass is offered to the Father (not to Mary) through the Son (not Mary) in the Spirit (not Mary). Father, Son, Spirit - to God, through God, in God. Offering the Mass to Mary is the sin of idolatry and is absolutely forbidden by the Church. The Mass can only be offered to the Father. Period. We honor, maybe a better word for the non-Catholic is remember, different saints, maybe a better word would be different great Christians, at different Masses, because we are all a part of the same family and are all in relation with each other. (see DEAD PEOPLE CAN'T PRAY FOR YOU! A CATHOLIC RESPONSE). Remembering someone, honoring them, even with a religious service, isn't "worshipping them" as Protestants know from honoring their dead relatives at their funeral services. Why, you might point out, offering a Mass today for Mary is no different than the funeral service you offered for your grandma when she passed!

The underlying problem is that Protestants lost the true sense of worship with Luther and Calvin's revolution five centuries ago. All worship, even in pagan religions and certainly within all Christian communities (Catholic and Orthodox) before the Reformation and even in Jewish worship before Christ stretching all the way back to Cain and Abel and presumably Adam and Eve, involved offering a sacrifice on an altar. That is the essence of all true worship. Jesus Christ made the definitive sacrificial offering when He offered Himself on the Cross for our sins, and it is precisely this sacrifice (the Sacrifice of Golgotha) that Jesus offers continuously to the Father in heaven (cf. the Book of Hebrews and Revelation). It is this once for all sacrifice (that is eternally offered) that the Mass manifests on Earth through the priest. Catholic worship, like all true worship,  involves offering a sacrifice on an altar - this sacrifice is only ever offered to the Father.

Worship has always meant sacrifice

Protestants, having lost all sense of worship as sacrifice, have conflated prayer and song (which accompany worship, but are not themselves worship) with worship. They no longer offer God any sacrifice, having cut themselves off from the priesthood which manifests the Sacrifice of Christ in their midst to be offered eternally to the Father. Instead, their services, which would not have been considered worship by anyone anywhere before Luther and Calvin, feature Bible readings, songs, prayers, and sermons. Thus, when they see us singing about or praying to or having a sermon on Mary they think we are worshipping her! This, of course, is absurd. If singing about and talking (praying) to someone is worship, most Protestants worship their girlfriends!

Explaining the meaning of the Mass and how it is always and everywhere offered as a Sacrifice to the Father might help your Protestant friend to see how we don't worship the saints in or out of Mass. Just make sure they also understand that:
1. The Mass isn't a separate sacrifice from Calvary2. The Mass isn't a "re-crucifixion" of Jesus, just a re-presentation of the once-for-all Sacrifice of Calvary to the Father. Jesus isn't killed again, He is just offered again so that we, living 20 centuries after His Death, might join in the offering.

Catholic Priest at Mass
What we see happening at Mass

Priest offering the Host to God
What is really happening at Mass

To Learn More About the Mass, I Recommend:

THE MASS: THE GLORY, THE MYSTERY, THE TRADITION, by Cardinal Wuerl, get your copy on Amazon HERE.
The Mass by Mike Aquilina