Friday, 18 March 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 23.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada


Q. Which are the exterior tokens of honor, belonging only to God ?

A. Sacrifice, altars, churches, vows and oaths.

Q. What is sacrifice ?

A. It is the offering of some visible thing to God, by some real change in acknowledgment of God's supreme dominion over all created beings. This action in all ages and by all nations, was appropriated only to God, as also were altars, churches, vows, and oaths.

Q. The practice seems to import more, otherwise, why does the Church of Rome offer sacrifice, erect altars and churches to saints ? Do we not also make vows and promises to men, and swear by creatures ?

A. Churches, altars, etc., are only consecrated to God, though they are distinguished by the names of saints and angels, who are also honored by those foundations: but as for sacrifice, it is directed or offered only to God. Promises indeed, are made to men, but not vows, and if we swear by creatures, such oaths are either an express or implicit invocation of God.

Q. What do you say as to the other outward tokens of honor, viz.: Kneeling, bowing, etc., especially as to burning incense ?

A. Such outward tokens, are indifferent of themselves, to signify supreme or inferior honor, and depend upon the intention of the performer. Heathens made use of these to signify a supreme honor to the false gods: Christians often make use of them, only to signify an inferior relative honor : hence, to bow to princes, kneel to parents, to be uncovered in churches, etc., are actions no ways derogatory to the honor we pay to God. As for burning incense, though formerly it was a token of divine, supreme honor, custom has imposed another signification on it; it signifies no more now than to represent the prayers of the faithful, mounting up into heaven.

Q. What is prayer, another duty ordered by the first commandment?

A. It is a raising up of our minds to God, whereby we beg for good things, and to be freed from all evil; or in general, it is a petition directed to another, in order to obtain something, returning thanks for what is obtained, and celebrating the donor's praises.

Q. To whom may prayers be directed?

A. First, to God the original author of all gifts. Secondly, to the saints and angels, that they may use their interest with Almighty God for us. Thirdly, to the faithful on earth, who pray for, and desire each other's prayers.

Q. I thought prayer had been an act of religion directed only to God ?

A. All prayers are directed to God, either immediately, or by the mediation of others, and even then they directly implore God, though jointly they regard saints and angels.

Q. What occasion is there for prayer, seeing that God knows our wants, without our informing him, and will grant what we want, if he thinks it convenient? Again, what occasion is there to pray to saints or angels, since we may, and are ordered to apply ourselves to God himself immediately?

A. Though God knows our wants, he expects we should be sensible of them, and express them, the subjection we are under requiring that duty, and that we may return thanks and glorify his name. It is true we are ordered to pray to God immediately, which we do by praying to saints, the prayers directed to them, including an express invocation of God. When we desire the prayers of the faithful on earth, it does not exclude the duty of praying to God, for as God orders us to pray for one another, it is expressly complying with the duty of prayer to God.

Q. How many sorts of prayer are there ?

A. Vocal and mental, public and private. Vocal prayer is expressed by words; mental is conceived only in thoughts, and if it proceeds not to ask any thing, it is called contemplation. Public prayer is pronounced by the ministers of the Church. Private prayer, by private persons not deputed for that office by character.

Q. Do we only pray with a voice and mind, are there not other ways of praying?

A. The voice is the means whereby we petition and give thanks; but all the ceremonies accompanying prayer, are a part of prayer, viz.; Music with other solemn decorations; for these have a voice and are instruments of God's praise, though not so as to articulate words: hence, ceremonies have the force of prayer when religiously performed.

Q. What dispositions are required in prayer, and what are the things we are to pray for?

A. On the petitioner's part, there is required attention, because prayer is both a rational and a Christian action.

Q. What is attention?

A. It is an application of our thoughts, to what we are employed about; and is.two-fold, external and internal; the first regards the pronunciation only, the other the sense of the words, or some other pious object in general.

Q. Can those be said to pray, who make use of a language they do not understand ?

A. Yes, provided their mind be always fixed upon God, and good things. God is praised in any voice though inarticulate, as by music, etc, I Cor. xiv. 2.

Q. What other dispositions are there to render prayer more perfect.

A. Devotion and fervor. The first is a promptitude of the soul, for that duty; the other is an uncommon activity, exclusive of weariness.

Q. When is the duty of prayer to be performed ?

A. The Scripture tells us we are always to pray; which St. Augustine expounds thus: We are not to understand the words literally, but that those are always a praying who are employed in their respective duties; St. Luke, xiii. i, and i Thess. v. 17.

Q. Which are the prefixed times for prayer ?

A. Chiefly these, morning and evening, public days assigned for that purpose, time of trouble, sickness and temptation.

Q. What things are we to pray for?

A. Some things absolutely, others conditionally, viz.: Absolutely, we pray for all supernatural gifts, graces, the conversion of sinners, infidels, a happy death, heaven, etc.; conditionally, health, peace, fair weather or rain, yet all with submission to the divine will. As for riches, honors, and the pleasures of life, they are not the proper subject of prayers, because they are commonly prejudicial to the soul.