Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saints Day according to World Library Publications

"My parish recently inaugurated a one-day operation called "The Power of One"... The "one" referred not to each individual, but to one community, working together for the good of all. This rooted in the love God poured into our hearts...All Saints celebrates this power...More broadly, this power enters the world whenever men and women... (live) in right relationship with God, others, and the world. They not only will enter heaven; they bring it into the world now. These are the saints - Christians, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all who allow the Spirit of God to guide them."
 - From the Seasonal Missalette Worship Resource, August 4 to November 30, 2013, World Library Publications, J.S. Paluch Company, Inc.

 So saith WLP. But what does the Catholic Church teach? Does the Church teach All Saints Day celebrates a "power" that enters the world? Does she teach that the saints are men and women that do good things, that are basically good on the inside? And does she teach "these are the saints... Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists?" Or is WLP's theology as bad as it's music selections. Let's see...

What is All Saints Day? Is it the celebration of the "Power of One?"
All Saints Day is (surprise, surprise) a celebration, not of a "power," but of ... All the Saints! I suppose that's why it isn't called the Solemnity of the "Power." It originated when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon (a Roman temple to "all the gods") to Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres (Holy Mary and the Martyrs) on May 13, 609, which was celebrated yearly in Rome. In the next century, Pope Gregory III  moved the date to November first as a celebration of all the saints, a feast we continue to keep to this day.

Aren't the saints just "men and women" who live "in right relationship with God, others, and the world?" 
The word "saint" comes from the Latin sanctus meaning "holy." The saints are holy men and women. This certainly means they are "living in right relationship with God" - that an essential aspect holiness, but many non-saints can (and do) live in right relationship with "others, and the world" (whatever living in right relationship with the world might mean). This view of sainthood seams dangerously close to Pelagianism, a heresy of the fifth century that claimed men can be saved apart from grace, if they lived good lives. Whenever you hear someone say that someone is "a good person," especially at a funeral, Pelagian alarm bells should start ringing in your ears. Saints are more than decent blokes who got along with others.

Are the saints - "Christians, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all who allow the Spirit of God to guide them"?
The Church has canonized many saints, all of them - let me repeat that, all of them are Catholic. Remember, the Church has always taught extra ecclesiam nulla salus - outside the Church there is no salvation. This ancient doctrine is found in the writings of the Church Fathers, including Saint Cyprian and the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, formally (and infallibly) declared, "There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved." 

That's Pre-Vatican 2. The Church doesn't teach that anymore.
The Second Vatican Council, in Lumen Gentium, upheld this ancient truth by teaching, "often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention." (paragraph 16). Pope Paul VI, who closed the Council, taught "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy." And Pope Francis recently reminded us that "it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church." All post Vatican 2. 

Does that mean everyone who isn't Catholic is automatically damned?
No one is damned for anything outside of their control. The Church has long recognized that those who couldn't possibly have joined the Church are not condemned for not joining the Church. Lumen Gentium 16 also tells us that "(t)hose also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience." Note that someone must not know the Catholic Church through "no fault of their own." Of course these souls must also have died in a state of grace. How likely it is for someone to die outside of a state of mortal sin without the teaching of the Church, the grace provided by the sacraments, and the ability to seek forgiveness through sacramental confession is anyone's guess.

So non-Catholic saints are possible. What's wrong with the comment from the missalette then?
All we know for certain is that there are Catholic saints and that it is possible that people who die outside of the Church through no fault of their own might be saved. That isn't the same as saying "These are the saints - Christians, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all who allow the Spirit of God to guide them."

Santa Maria dei Martiri (formerly the Pantheon)

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