Incorruptible – So What?

There is some low level fuss about the incorruptible (or not) state of the remains of Pope John XXIII and St Padre Pio. Roving Medievalist links to the undertaker who was called in to preserve the remains of both Bl. John XXII and St.Pio–pointing out that both of them are now embalmed, so the question of their remains being incorruptible is moot.

Those looking for a miracle will claim that the remains of Bl. John XXII were ‘remarkably preserved’ when the coffin was opened, and after forty years Padre Pio’s body was also very well preserved despite the coffin being in damp ground and full of water. Skeptics point out that John XXIII’s body was inside three coffins, and had been treated with a low level preservation technique to enable the body to lie in state at his death. They also point out that Padre Pio’s face and head were not in very good condition. If he was going to be incorruptible, why wasn’t he perfectly preserved?

The whole question of incorruptiblility is fascinating. I have written on it twice: once for Fortean Times magazine. You can find the link here, and once for Catholic Answers magazine. The definitive work is the classic The Incorruptibles by Joan Caroll Cruz.

There are a couple of observations I’d like to make on the matter. First of all, incorruptiblity of saints’ bodies is a known and recorded phenomenon. In fact, amongst paranormal phenomenon, it is one of the most well documented and objectively studied. It is true that a good number of the ‘incorruptibles’ can be shown to be the result of natural mummification or embalming. However, the most remarkable cases have no natural explanation. The modern examples of the Maronite monk, St Charbel Mahklouf, and St Bernadette are the most striking.

This miracle does happen. However, it is also true (as with all miracles) that there is an element of unpredictability and (according to human reasoning) illogicality to it. So Charbel Mahklouf is incorrupt for many years and his relics exude healing oil, then after thirty or forty years he decays anyway. Or, why is St Bernadette incorrupt, but St Therese of Lisieux is not?

Also, there seem to be similar examples of incorruptibility from non-Christian religions, and some cases where the person in question did not obviously display the recognized signs of heroic sanctity. Therefore, the church does not really put much store in incorruptibility. It is not a guarantee of sanctity; neither is the lack of incorruptibility a sign of a person’s sinfulness. Criteria for sainthood do not include this kind of miracle.

The Catholic Church takes a guarded and sensible view on all supernatural phenomena–from incorruptible saints to images of Mother Teresa in bagels to charismatic ‘healings’ and claims that pentecostal preachers raise people from the dead. The Catholic view never denies that miracles can happen. On the other hand, Catholics are right to be suitably skeptical–looking for natural explanations first.

We apply this common sense mix of skepticism and belief in the face of all miraculous phenomenon. When we are confronted with an allegedly incorruptible body of a saint we say, “Interesting. Could be, but I doubt it. Let’s look a bit closer.” Likewise, when a Pentecostal preacher says, “We’ve been to Africa and we’ve cured people of AIDS, raised the dead, made the lame walk and the blind to see” we say, “Could be, but I doubt it. Let’s look a bit closer.” If there’s a natural explanation we accept that first. If there is an inexplicable phenomenon we say, “That’s inexplicable.” Did God do it? Maybe, but there also be some other psychic, spiritual or psychological explanation. However, if definite fruits of sanctity, repentance and genuine conversion of Christ are evident we thank God for that, and give God the glory.

Finally, what are we to make of the fact that Padre Pio’s relics have been embalmed, a wax mask put over his face and the relics put on display for the veneration of the faithful? Well, let’s cut through a few of the false ideas being suggested: this has not been done as some sort of Catholic fraud. Nobody is saying Padre Pio is an incorruptible. The veneration of relics goes back to the most ancient era of the church.

This is something Catholics do and always have done. Those in charge are simply making Padre Pio’s relics as presentable as possible for the veneration of the faithful. Sometimes they do this by putting the relics in a reliquary–a carving that looks like the saint. Sometimes they put the relics in an ornate reliquary or urn. Sometimes they display the skeleton all dressed up. Sometimes they put the mummified remains in clothing and put it on display. In this case, they’ve chosen to present his relics as a mix between a mummified corpse and a figure from a wax museum.

The particulars of how relics are displayed don’t really matter any more than the frame you choose for a picture. What matters is that Catholics believe in the incarnation. We believe that by virtue of the incarnation, the body and soul are linked, and that the salvation won by Christ actually affects our physical bodies as well as our eternal souls. To put it simply, our bodies are redeemed too, and they will be transformed too. Relics of saints are a visible witness to this belief. The mortal remains of a saint are touched by the transformative grace of Christ, and their mortal remains carry a little whiff of that sanctity, and remain a connecting point with heaven. Their relics are little bits of their holiness left behind in this physical realm.

Atheists, Protestants and liberal Catholics may turn up their nose in distaste. They may sneer at Catholic superstition and dismiss our ‘crude, peasant spirituality’. They may make lofty theological arguments if they wish. They may mock and laugh, but they are like the boor who goes to the opera and makes fun of the fat lady singing.

If you listen carefully you will hear the squelching sound of pearls being trampled into the mud.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Wow! I must have hit a nerve with my ol’ Tennessee bone juggling remark to get y’all writing so darn defensive and quick, Dwight! One of my Catholic conservative, daily Mass and rosary friends told me he was invited to attend a service in Glasgow, Scotland recently where a piece of Pio’s whiskers and bone, were being worshipped, sorry, venerated.My friend replied the place for relics is a museum: not a church.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Yes, Scots are known for their skeptical nature. David Hume was Scottish wasn’t he?Your friend is allowed his cynical opinion. I would prefer to be open hearted and believing–even if I believe too much–than to be narrow minded and doubting. On judgment day I’d rather be accused of believing too much than too little.However, proper scepticism is healthy, and I would have thought you would be grateful that we treat our miracles with proper scepticism as well as belief.If only the Pentecostalists I know would subject their claims of AIDS healings and raising people from the dead to the same rigorous scrutiny.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01186202810919174492 Mac McLernon

    Oy ! Watch what you say about fat ladies singing!!!I have to say that I was a sceptic with regard to the incorruptibles for many years, though not denying the sanctity of their lives.And then I went to Nevers, and saw St. Bernadette.She looks better than I do.In fact, she looks as if she’s just having a nap. No way this is naturally occurring mummification, which leaves a body looking, well, sort of dried out and empty…I’m convinced!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Bernadette’s body is still incorrupt, but her face and hands are covered with a wax veneer.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12594214770417497135 Maureen

    Re: face and headWhy would anybody expect Padre Pio’s head to be incorruptible? It’s his stigmatic hands that were the big deal, just like preaching saints often have incorruptible tongues.But anyway… relics are awesome.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12594214770417497135 Maureen

    Re: face and headWhy would anybody expect Padre Pio’s head to be incorruptible? It’s his stigmatic hands that were the big deal, just like preaching saints often have incorruptible tongues.But anyway… relics are awesome.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Dwight,People of faith, whatever nationality, are known for their sceptical nature. Its the religious people who will venerate bones and beards, maybe because it gives them comfort and stops them doing the real miracles Jesus commanded us to do.Jesus never told everyone he healed to show themselves to the priests, the religious leaders of his time. The latter doubted Jesus’ miracles and spread doubt about Jesus’ work because they felt safe in their centuries old religious observations. How Jesus berated them for dragging others down with them!I don’t say this to many people, Dwight. But I feel I must to you. I sense a great longing in your writing, a sadness and searching for something spiritual. You try and fill it with bone magic or facing east when you pray as if that makes any difference to our daddy, Abba.Maybe its time for your own Journey Home.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    “Jesus never told anyone he healed to show themselves to the priests, the religious leaders of his time.”Whoops! Check out Luke 5:12-14

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13691180340362754110 Bernadette

    Fr Dwight, we may as well cut to the chase and ask the obvious: “Why stick a piece of bread the size of a coin in a gold showy-thing and worship that?”People who are in love do crazy things. Things that the world often does not get. So, it often does not make any sense and can be compared to scattering seed on arid, rocky ground.We Catholics,James,love Jesus, we love His Church, we love the examples of holy men and women that He gives us to encourage us on our journeys. We venerate them because we recognize that they are pointing us to Jesus and the utter fullness of God.Yes, it must seem a bit mad. But people who are in love, who recognize their own need, do crazy things.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Wooops, Dwight!Read again and you will see what I actually wrote was: “Jesus never told everyone he healed to show themselves to the priests, the religious leaders of his time.”Christians like you are often scared of miracle reports because you then have to ask ‘why aren’t miracles happening in my life or my church?’Bernadette: In John 9, Jesus spat on some dirt and rubbed it in a man’s eye. The man was healed.Catholics, if they could, would grab that dirt, place it in a gold glass dome and venerate it. Evangelicals would simply let the dirt wash away, like the man did. It is incidental. To focus on the dirt or bone or whatever relic is to miss the point. Also, relics can be wide open to abuse and have been used for financial gain by unscrupulous people.Wouldn’t it be better to simply heal the sick in Jesus’ name.Go on, try it! As a follower of Jesus, you have the same power in you that raised Jesus from the dead! And Jesus told us we would do greater things than Him.(John 14: 12) So, with respect, put the relics in the museum and your faith in a living church.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    So James, you must be a strong believer in all of the miracles that St. Patrick performed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Niggle,I’m not quite sure what your point is?I’ve no doubt Patrick performed miracles. (of course, all healing/miracles come from God and are not sourced from the person who lays on hands) I also know a farmer in my church who has performed miracles; as has Fr Bob deGrandis; a former guitar player in my church; my Catholic mother; my Marist Brother uncle; Billy Graham; Mother Theresa; a pastor at the Baptist church I once attended; a former financial manager now full-time Catholic evangelist; me; Marcelin Champagnat; a former gay man healed of AIDS and homosexuality; etc etcThey are all followers of Jesus. What about you, Niggle?Don’t let your faith become a relic.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    The point was simply to test your waters. Most of those who reject the incarnational reality Father Dwight speaks about, such as to be found in relics, usually also reject such “legendary” stories attributed to St. Patrick as inventions made by people who wanted to get him canonized. I was seeing if you were just biased against all things Catholic. I for one believe all those miracles he performed, and if you aren’t aware of them you should do some research into the claims that are made. They might stretch your credulity.By the by, your paralleling the healing mud Christ made, with the bodies (relics) of holy men and women is full of holes. Yes, the healing of the blind man has profound connotations with the first creation of man, being made from the dust, but the parallel is fallacious. Namely, because a human person is not a clod of dirt and spittle. Nor, for that matter, is their body after they have departed. Throughout that holy person’s life, he or she has CHOSEN holiness; and well, even their relics perform miracles.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    Or I should say, the person (in Heaven) grants the miracle, through his or her relics.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Niggle,Relics do not perform miracles; our faith does.Faith has to be acted on (Jas: 2:17-20) Most of the people that Jesus healed approached Him and, in faith, asked for healing. This blind man did not, but was brought to Jesus by his disciples.To receive healing, the man had to show faith. The pool of Siloam was about half a mile from the temple where Jesus had just left. After placing the mud on the man’s eyes, Jesus told him to walk that distance as a sign of faith. If the man had been too embarrassed and wiped the mud from his eyes, he would have remained blind. It took faith to walk the distance with mud paste on his eyes, no doubt with people laughing at him along the way.When he reached the pool and wiped away the mud, his faith – exhibited by making that half-mile walk – had brought about his healing.Relics do not heal; faith does.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14917362455461651162 Agent Smith

    James said:”Catholics, if they could, would grab that dirt, place it in a gold glass dome and venerate it. Evangelicals would simply let the dirt wash away, like the man did. It is incidental. To focus on the dirt or bone or whatever relic is to miss the point.”If the relics mean nothing, and it is just the faith, then why did Jesus (and others in the Bible) resort to using the material things as an intermediary between the person and their faith? Why the mud in the eyes? Why did God choose to use a burning bush to communicate Himself to Moses, or a staff held in Moses’ hands to perform some of the miracles? Why was the woman healed when she touched Jesus’ cloak, or people healed when the shadow of the apostles touched them? How come some of Jesus greatest miracles had nothing to do with healing, but were in some way affecting the objects around? No one was healed at the multiplication of the loaves and fish, or the wedding feast at Cana. I’m not trying to criticize your assessment that the miracle was brought about by God’s will in order to increase the faith of the people. I am simply wondering whether there is some purpose to the use of objects in your opinion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    Dear James,What you take to be Catholics sliding away from faith and into relic worship or whatever you want to call it, is in fact you sliding into gnosticism.Or so it would seem.But thanks for the talk(implications of faith being what brings about the miracle, which I already well knew but am happy to hear nonetheless; though you don’t mention the cases in which there is faith but no resulting healing or no miracle) on the healing of the blind man. I happen to be writing an essay using the very gospel story. I hope I get it done.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    James, Your theology is faulty even by your own Protestant standards. Your own theologians would agree with me that faith does not heal. Jesus does.If you are correct and our faith heals, then faith becomes a form of good works, and surely you are not proposing salvation by works are you? The Catholic position is that Jesus Christ heals. We do not believe relics heal. The Catholic Church has never taught that. Your supposition that this is what we believe is probably sincere ignorance since I think you are too genuine a soul to willfully misrepresent our position.Jesus Christ heals. Our faith is simply a graced response to his healing love. This unmerited grace is communicated to us through many physical means–most especially the sacraments of the church. Sacramentals (like relics) are other physical means through which God’s grace may be made available to us.You may use the Bible as an analogy to understand my meaning. The Bible communicates God’s saving love to humanity. You, as a Protestant, love and venerate the Bible because through it you glimpse Christ and have a supernatural connection with God’s grace. However, you do not believe the Bible saves you. If a Catholic blamed you for being superstitious and believing that you love a big black book and believe a big black book heals you, you would rightly protest, “But you don’t understand! That’s not what we really believe!”It is the same with us and relics.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Agent Smith (great blog name by the way) -The woman healed after touching Jesus’ cloak (Luke 8: 40-46) is a great example of faith activating healing. She was unclean through her bleeding. She could have been stoned for being in the presence of men and actually touching Jesus. But she had faith to step out from the crowd and that faith, through her action, led to her healing.The others pressing around Jesus were also desperate for healing. However, they regarded Jesus as a living relic. They thought the healing was in the garment itself.As Dwight says – and I have always stated – ALL healing comes from God. We activate that healing through our faith – and Jesus says our faith need only be the size of a mustard seed.In Matthew 8: 10, the centurion believed the spoken word of Jesus was sufficient to heal his servant. He didn’t need Jesus to go to his house or to have a piece of Jesus’ cloak to venerate. The power is in Jesus’ word, not a well tailored cloak!Jesus was so impressed by the centurion’s faith, he said: “I have not found so great FAITH, no, not in Israel.”Over and over, Jesus told people their FAITH has saved them, made them well.Dwight says: “We do not believe relics heal. The Catholic Church has never taught that.”However Niggle states of saints: “even their relics perform miracles.”Niggle – I mean no disrespect, but your view is widespread among Catholics. It used to be mine when I was a Catholic. Its bad teaching that has not been corrected from the pulpit. Maybe seminarians are not taught it, maybe older priests are lost in the mists of time and tradition.The problem with a theology of relics is they can become a sideshow, a distraction. As a Catholic for forty years, I knew family, friends and parishioners who actually believed the relic had power in itself. That’s why over the centuries, monarchs, monasteries and rich people paid large amounts of money for relics – especially a piece of the true cross.As my conservative Catholic friend who attends daily Mass and says a daily rosary (by the way Dwight he is English, not Scottish) says: “Relics are for museums, not churches.”Better to teach real FAITH, like that of the centurion or the woman healed with an issue of blood or the blind man with his eye paste. Its all down to faith.Dwight – to claim faith is a form of good works really is nonsense. I think you’ve been drinking some of that moonshine those ol’ Tennessee friends of yours have been brewing in the hills! Come on, man! Stay on course.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    For more on what ‘faith’ actually is, folks might like to read my article ‘One Faithful Action’ on my website.James is correct that some Catholics make the mistake of thinking relics have power to heal. Likewise many Pentecostals make the mistake of thinking their preachers have the power to heal. This then becomes a sideshow. They become distracted by ‘signs and wonders’ and like a ‘wicked and adulterous generation’ they seek a sign.The results of this are scattered through church history. The preachers themselves start to believe they have the power to heal. They become egotistical. They start to manipulate their congregations. They seduce women, run off with the money etc etc etc.There are abuses in all churches. It is up to us to prayerfully seek the fullness of the Christian Church. This search has led me to the ‘big old one’ the Catholic Church.The same search has led many Catholics (like James) away from the true Church. This is often partially the fault of the Catholic Church for not teaching the fullness of the faith in sufficient vigor, but often it is the fault of the individual, who abandons the church for a false sect or cult, thinking that they are getting more, when in fact they have been seduced by something that tickles their fancy spiritually.Others are genuine searchers, find something real and true in other forms of Christianity, and continuing their search, eventually ‘come Home to Rome’. As a priest I welcome back these prodigal sons and daughters all the time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14917362455461651162 Agent Smith

    James, you still didn’t answer my question. Why does the miracle occur through the use of the object? Why did Jesus spit in the dirt and make mud to cover the blind man’s eyes when he simply could have said what he said to many others “Go, your faith has cured you.” Why does he choose to make use of a physical object? Why does God ask Moses to stretch his staff over the water? He could have told Moses that because of his faith the water would part. Why the use of the object if there is no meaning behind it at all?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Agent Smith (still love that blog name)Here’s a copy of what I wrote earlier. It answers why Jesus used the mud on the blind man. The miracle did not occur through the object (mud) by as a result of the blind man’s faith. I’ve put some key words in capitals.Unlike other people, the blind man did not approach Jesus for healing. He was brought to Jesus by the disciples.(Read the passage from start to finish)Jesus wasn’t a magician who’d perform miracles to order. He needed people to show faith.Faith has to be ACTED on (Jas: 2:17-20).To receive healing, the man had to EXHIBIT faith. The pool of Siloam was about half a mile from the temple where Jesus had just left. After placing the mud on the man’s eyes, Jesus told him to WALK that distance as a SIGN or evidence of faith. If the man had been too embarrassed and wiped the mud from his eyes, he would have remained blind and gone back to begging. It took FAITH to walk the distance with mud paste on his eyes, no doubt with people laughing at him along the way, making fun of the strange blind man with mud eyes.When he reached the pool and wiped away the mud, his FAITH – exhibited by making that half-mile walk – had brought about his healing.Relics (including mud) do not heal; faith does.JamesPS. As for Moses, he operated under the old covenant. We operate under the new covenant.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Ooops – slight typo in the first par – should read like this.=========Agent Smith (still love that blog name)Here’s a copy of what I wrote earlier. It answers why Jesus used the mud on the blind man. The miracle did not occur through the object (mud) BUT as a result of the blind man’s faith. I’ve put some key words in capitals.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07217936266957675449 Donna

    Mr. Hastings Since you were Catholic for 40years, you are well aware that we address our priests as “Father.” As a Protestant, I know you do not address clergy as “Father,” but would you kindly address Fr. Longenecker as Pastor Longenecker or Pastor Dwight instead of “Dwight”–at least out of consideration for us Catholics.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10372364893458254021 bernadette

    “To focus on the dirt or bone or whatever relic is to miss the point” – James.Thankyou, James. You made my point for me.Precisely. I do not know what you were taught, but Catholics do not believe that relics heal. We KNOW that Jesus heals. We KNOW that He does this through His Church as sacrament and through the Sacraments themselves. This includes the Fullness of the Christian Faith, i.e. not Bible Only Theology, but EVERYTHING that Jesus gave us. We Catholics don`t pick and choose. We surrender to the whole bang shooting match. (Whole nine yards if you`re in the US) Yes, we do have miracles, yes we do pray with one another for healing and yes, we do see amazing things. This lunchtime I prayed with a neighbour for her back to be healed. I was lucky enough to have a first-class relic of St Catherine Laboure with me whilst I did that. When Jesus acts, He is gracious encough to allow the cohort of heavenly helpers to join in. It`s called CHURCH and it spans heaven and earth.James, stop fooling around and come back to the fold where the power and glory is. Dump that pride, forgive the catechists who misled you and for God’s sake reach out for the life belt mate. There’ll be a warm welcome for you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Donna: I have stated in Dwight’s blog before, that I prefer using people’s Christian names. However, if someone requests that I use a title, whether Mr. Mrs. Miss. Ms. Fr. Mgr. Bishop or Pope, then I will do so out of respect for them. Dwight has never made that request. You would be surprised how many priests, nuns and brothers ask me NOT to use their title.Bernadette: Check comments above and you’ll see Niggle believes relics do heal. His view is VERY common among Catholics. Even Dwight admits it.I think you’ll know that Catholics do pick and choose. I know Latin Mass Catholics who drive by their local parish every Sunday because the Mass there is in the vernacular. They ridicule Catholics who take Communion in the hand or women who don’t cover their heads.I know Catholics who swear allegiance to the Pope, go to Rome and wave their flags at papal audiences and try to kiss his hand. But they also live together rather than marry, practice artificial contraception and support embryo research.Catholics don’t pick and choose? Only last month a Catholic family I know spent £500 ($900) on their daughter’s First Communion which included a sumptuous meal for relatives and dress for the girl. The service was held in the school on a Saturday morning. The following morning, Sunday, none of the family, relatives or daughter could be bothered getting up for Sunday Mass. They still haven’t returned for Mass, a month after the First Communion. The parents are what I call Midnight Mass Catholics, that is, they go to Mass once a year on Christmas Eve and get all emotional gazing at Baby Jeezus in the crib. You’ll know First Communion is so often Last Communion.Not pick and choose? I know a church in the UK run by a major religious order where homosexual unions are blessed in secret, where priests share Communion with Protestants and where the same priests teach at a Catholic school where they promise parents a ‘traditional Catholic education.’Come on, Bernadette. We Evangelicals also have our divisions. But we don’t pretend that we surrender to the whole nine yards! I was not driven out of the Catholic church by bad catechists or priests or nuns. I was taught at Catholic boarding school by the Marist brothers, all dear, lovely, holy men. I sometimes see these men, all in their 70s and 80s now, at occasional reunions, and I thank them all for their example. I have some great Catholic friends, religious and lay. My oldest sister is a nun, my brother a daily Mass Catholic. I love the Catholic church. It is a great church. But I know I am where God wants me to be.I am home.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07217936266957675449 Donna

    “I have stated in Dwight’s blog before, that I prefer using people’s Christian names. However, if someone requests that I use a title, whether Mr. Mrs. Miss. Ms. Fr. Mgr. Bishop or Pope, then I will do so out of respect for them. Dwight has never made that request. You would be surprised how many priests, nuns and brothers ask me NOT to use their title.”——-I believe you are being disingenuous. The way you address Fr. as “Dwight” not only as a salutation, but within your posts, leads me to believe you are trying to irritate him and those of us who read his blog. Fr. Longenecker is obviously too much of a gentleman to ask you not to call him “Dwight.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Donna,I agree, Dwight is a gentleman. But have you seen that pic of him with his big stick? And the one of him on the motorbike? He’s also quite tough too. If he wanted me, or anyone else, to address him as Father Dwight, he only has to say.And we would obey!James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10372364893458254021 bernadette

    So the rationale for not joining the banquet has now become: everyone else at the banquet is not as perfect as I`d like them to be.I hope heaven will not be a disappointment to you, James – it might contain one or two people who once sinned.It`s best to leave the judging to Himself and engage with the challenge in front of you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Bernadette,I simply tried to show you the Catholic church is just as disunited as the Evangelicals. I have made no judgement, just an observation.How could heaven be a disappointment. Then you’d be in hell.The challenge in front of me, you, Billy Graham, the Pope and anyone else, is to love God and love our neighbour.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04446241126728692642 niggle

    James,Please read the post immediately after where I corrected a slip of words, that reads:”Or I should say, the person (in Heaven) grants the miracle, through his or her relics.”So uhm, thanks, but Niggle does NOT say relics perform miracles.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07217936266957675449 Donna

    James–Re: “If he wanted me, or anyone else, to address him as Father Dwight, he only has to say. And we would obey!”———I seriously doubt you would obey because you are getting too much fun out of trying to be l’agent provacateur.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08110341406524333073 chimakuni

    Do ya all ever get the feeling that James is sticking his fingers in his ears, screaming out “NA, NA, NA, NA NAH!!! I CANNOT HEAR YOU!!!”?Sometimes to be baited and to argue with someone who refuses to use logic is worthless. In fact, most times. James was Catholic – he was raised in the Church, but he has decided he is too good for the Church and he is angry that the Church is not good enough for him.That is fine – James, I am still praying for you – praying that you will take your fingers out of your ears, listen wisely and quit arguing with God. For it is, like I have written before, your fight with God – You say you know this and that – this family that spent x y and z and how they did not show up to Mass…oh hello? Do you think they could have met their Sunday obligation at another parish? Culumnny – you are guilty of that, James. God’s blessings, James.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Chimakuni,Thanks. I always welcome prayer.My fingers are not in my ears, I assure you. They are raised in prayer on outstretched hands in a live, thriving Christian church where I pray as Jesus would have prayed in the Jewish tradition, not the medieval invention of hands joined together.As for the First and Last Communion family – and I heard that phrase from an exasperated priest friend – they are a family I know well so I know they not only don’t go to Mass in their own parish, they don’t go to Mass anywhere, except at Christmas to see Baby Jeesuz.I say the following in all Christian charity – when I hear people say ‘it’s no point arguing with those who have left the church,’ it is very often (although I’m certain not in your case) that they are scared toargue because they have only an elimentary grasp of their faith. They have never gone deep in their faith, so they slam the door shut on Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door for example. I welcome these guys in and challenge them on their beliefs. My prayer for you and Donna is you get to know your Catholicism, the real Catholicism which is a wonderful faith. I support two Roman Catholic ministries because I know they are awesome faith inspire agencies. I support them financially and with my journalism skills. In fact, I am helping a Catholic friend edit a new edition of his book right now which has an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat. Please get to know your Catholic faith, not just skim the top with its bone magic and saint devotions. There is sooooo much more in your denomination.Live it!James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Bless you James, you profess such depth of knowledge about your Catholic faith, but you consistently use such shallow arguments and seem either not to have really thought things through, or you are willfully rebellious against your Catholic faith, or you have been blinded by the teachings of the sect you have joined.For example: your argument about postures in prayer.First of all, has it ever occurred to you that the priest’s outstretched arms all through the Eucharistic prayer is exactly the posture you recommend, and it is the center gesture of the core act of Catholic worship, and if this posture is somehow closer to Jesus, that it is a prayer posture that is nowhere outlawed by Catholics?Your second fallacy is the assumption that something must be wrong just because it is medieval. Why on earth should anything be wrong (or right for that matter) just because it is 500 years old?Your continual shallow arguments and shoddy logic are tiresome. You’re an intelligent man. You can do better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Dwight,You write about me: “but you consistently use such shallow arguments and seem either not to have really thought things through, or you are willfully rebellious against your Catholic faith, or you have been blinded by the teachings of the sect you have joined.”I could make the exact same claim about you and your Evangelical background, brother. You seem to enjoy willfully misquoting or slanting Evangelical theology, practices or individuals.I’m certainly not against things old – even medieval matters. Its just you know during that period many errors and inventions crept into or were magnified in your denomination, (excessive Marian devotion, indulgences, purgatory etc.) I actually agree with Fr Bob deGrandis that your denomination needs to return to the REALLY old days of 2,000 years ago. I pray you git some of that ol’ time religion and rediscover the one true faith as practicsed in Acts, not medieval Catholicism which still largely contaminates a lot of today’s Catholic life.A fine example is the suffering theology you expounded in your latest post. Really! Its time to move on from Good Friday and celebrate the Lord’s Ressurection and conquest of pain, suffering and misery. Otherwise you’ll be stuck in the cult Catholicism of which you are such a champion. Why not just hang a sign outside your parish which reads: “Welcome to Vale Of Tears Church (Misery Our Speciality)Be assured, I may disagree with you, but I love you as a brother in Christ.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07217936266957675449 Donna

    James–Re: “My prayer for you and Donna is you get to know your Catholicism, the real Catholicism which is a wonderful faith.”This is and has been the desperate drive and yearning of my life. Thank you for your prayers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    James, your latest post illustrates my point. Instead of a serious discussion of the Scriptural and theological points I took the trouble to outline in my post on healing you are content with shallow slogans and hype.As my post made clear, Catholics do encourage the healing ministry, but we also have a theology which makes sense of human suffering, and this theology is firmly rooted in the New Testament and the life of St Paul.When you dismiss this in depth discussion of a serious matter with cheerful optimistic slogans you don’t actually do your side (or yourself) any favors.Finally, you seem to have fallen hook, line and sinker for the heresies of primitivism and restorationism. This is the view, commonly held among sectarian Christians, that we must ‘return to the real religion practices in the Book of Acts’ Each group then proceeds to sincerely find in the Book of Acts just the sort of worship they like best. History is littered with the wrecks of such sects. Each one disagreeing with all the others and claiming that there religion (which is really contemporary with the age in which they live) is the ‘true religion of the New Testament.’Any serious reading of church history makes such claims laughable for three reasons: Firstly the proponents usually are ignorant of, or totally ignore the real historical records of what the early church was like i.e. the writings of the Apostolic FathersSecondly, how can they really know what the New Testament Church was like anyhow? There’s not enough evidence in the New Testament to say.Thirdly, even if you could see just what the first century church was like, why should it necessarily be desirable to replicate it?But the sectarians go on, generation after generation committing the same errors, and never really take the time to think it through.Respectfully yrs,FD

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00447929797019147894 james hastings

    Dwight,You really are the patron saint of complication. You sound like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time who dismissed the simple carpenter with his stories of sheep and seeds and goats, content to wallow in their centuries old religious practices. How silly of God to bring shepherds first to the crib. He should have told the religious leaders and theologians like you so you could complicate things and take it our of the reach of simple folk.If Jesus couldn’t shake the religious leaders of his time, I really have no hope with you and your brand of cult Catholicism.I simply rejoice that you and yours are indeed a dying breed. Your sect within the great Catholic church is diminishing, as true Catholics come to the fore.These are not glib phrases or insults; I’m just trying to show, in all charity, that you have had your day.Maybe, just maybe if you face east, speak in Latin, wear a scapular around your right ankle and ensure all the wimmin cover their heads, your version of God might hear you.Then maybe not.Love ya brother, keep looking for the faith.James

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Well, you make my point again. Rather then engage in serious discussion on points which are not really that complicated, you cop out and resort to name calling and shallow slogans. PS: I’d like to ask you a question on another matter which really should not be on a public forum. Would you mind dropping me an email when you get the chance?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08110491371985845560 kentuckyliz

    James’ lack of charity shows bad fruits from whatever brand of man-made religion he’s following. I would never sign up for that.And yes, Jesus has worked healing miracles through me but I’m not going on the highly profitable charismatic/pentecostal conference circuit to exploit it.Mud and hems: hmmm, so God doesn’t need stuff, but uses it anyway when He delivers grace to people, just because that’s what He wants to do? No shock to Catholics. Sacraments.That a person’s disposition in receiving those sacraments (faith) affects what they get out of it (grace)? Yeah, we knew that too.The centurion who didn’t even need Jesus to come to the house to heal the servant? We pray his prayer at EVERY MASS EVERY DAY!!! “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I (my servant) shall be HEALED!”Every Mass is a healing Mass, even Fr. DeGrandis and Fr. McAlear and Fr. Scanlon and all the charismatic healing priests say so.So, is physical health in this mortal life the ultimate good? That too is an idol being worshipped.Everyone Jesus healed died.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06016276810991542260 Peter

    It seems the arguments here are very focused on incorruptibles as relics and relics are used for iracles etc etc. There are other points to be raised though. I wrote the below email to a friend tonight before finding this blog. I may be wrong about the incorruptibles being the creme de la creme of catholics. But I may be right. In any case I thought I’d post it as it has some points that may be useful about the incorruptibles. I wrote this to someone a while ago about incorruptibles. Given our discussion I thought you might find it of interest. Most of these incorruptible lived when your Christian ancestors were catholic. These are your brothers in Christ. You should know a bit about them. They are not fake, mummified or tampered with in any way. They are asleep awaiting the resurrection. Many of these incorruptible are displayed for all to see. It’s not morbid curiosity or anything distasteful. It’s explained a little below. I know a girl a bit younger than me and she is a very virtuous, knowledgeable and devout catholic. She has been her whole life. She has tremendous faith. She used to go door knocking with me. She went to Rome about 15 yrs ago and saw some of these incorruptibles. She was astonished to see these miracles and some others. She said she had always believed but now she believed much more and almost didn’t need faith any more. We only need faith when something is uncertain. When we know absolutely we don’t need faith, we know. She still needed faith, but the faith she had went sky high was the point.This is one main purpose of displaying them. Another one is to convert the unbeliever. If God has worked miracles it is for a purpose. Even if we think something strange we need to understand that we might be wrong and God might be right.The bible reference isActs 2: 27] For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades,nor let thy Holy One see corruption.[28] Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence.’[29] “Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. [30] Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, [31] he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. [32] This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.You need to understand that when we’re baptized we become another Christ. And when we are truly like Christ we may even do extraordinary miraculous things as with Christ. This is what St Paul meant when he said, “ it is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me” I know that I am the most imperfect replica of Christ but some people are very close to the goal of becoming like Christ and they do extraordinary deeds. The first incorruptible found was St Cecilia who died a martyr in 177AD. She was discovered many centuries later. These incorruptibles are always the most extraordinarily good Christians and when the coffins are opened they exude the scent of sanctity – a sweet smell which I think stays ( they never smell bad in any case ) and is a further sign from God of their extraordinary holiness. No half baked christians are incorruptible. You need to understand a little catholic theology to know why these select few are apparently better than other Christians. When we’re baptized we receive grace. This grace is a strange thing. It’s hard to understand. It’s a part of God and yet a created thing. But there cannot be a created piece of God. Our languages are inadequate to explain some things. We can never receive too much grace. The potential for receiving grace is infinite. Every time we respond to Gods will and do good acts we receive more grace. The more grace we receive the more we become like God. This grace transforms us into Jesus and the more we receive the more we become like Jesus. We lose grace through sin, but we get it all back by repenting. If a person doesn’t sin much at all and does many good deeds and Gods will they get more and more grace. People who are the very best Christians receive extraordinary amounts of grace and it keeps rapidly multiplying. They become very much like Christ and often do super human deeds for God. Some have raised people back to life too. The incorruptibles are amongst the select few people who made the most progress in the hunt for Christian perfection. They became more like Christ than any others. And like Christ God has preserved them from corruption.One I love is St Francis Xavier who lived during the protestant reformation of the 16th century. This man went from town to town living in the bush and praying and doing severe penance by day and roaming through the town at night when all were asleep leaving notes under all the peoples doors. He converted many whole towns and cities of 30,000 or 50,000 people back to the church. He wrote quotes from the early fathers to show the people that the catholic church was practicing the Christianity of the first Christians until now. It obviously had a big impact back then. People thought the catholic church had strayed from the true faith. No ordinary man can do what he did. Even if I left all these notes it would have a small effect. As the good book says the prayers of the just man are very powerful. The just man is a very holy man. The holier the more powerful your prayers and sacrifices. His were as powerful as you’ll see.Read on and learn a little about some of your brothers and sisters in Christ – your Christian ancestors.You can read about many of them at the Wikipedia and see pics – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_IncorruptiblesA great site about them with some pics is http://www.overcomeproblems.com/incorruptables.htm Re – Incorruptibles. ( I wrote this a while ago for someone )I will do my best to explain why this is so.The catholic and orthodox church has been here for just under 2,000 years. Today there are about 1,100,000,000 catholics and 500,000,000 orthodox Christians. ¼ of the worlds population is made up of us. There are no incorruptibles in the other Christian churches or in any other religion. All incorruptibles are saints. The church has declared they are in heaven and are very virtuous people and practiced heroic virtue and are worthy of imitation by the rest of us. We see in them an achievable example of how to practice certain virtues to the empth. Jesus is perfect and the model for all, but the example of His heroes is often easier to follow. We are inspired by the teaching and example of many people throughout our lives – Saints and especially incorruptible are the finest examples we can find of how to live the Christ life. The process of becoming a saint can only happen after you die. If a person has the process started it is called the cause for their canonization. If this cause is started the church sets up a tribunal and has one person argue against the cause and another argue for the cause. The subjects whole life is examined in great detail and a tribunal listens to all the arguments to see if the person is worthy to have their cause started. The current process has been going for many centuries. If the cause is started the person is declared venerable. The first stage in the process. The process used to take a long time- 50,100 or100′s of yrs. It’s getting quicker now due to technology and fast travel etc. . Once the person is declared venerable the church will wait to see if there is at least one genuine miracle in the world from anyone asking this person to pray for them or someone. If there is a miracle then the church absolutely thoroughly explores it to be sure it’s a genuine miracle and employs independent scientists and doctors to see if there is any way of explaining the supposed miracle. The church is very slow to accept that something is a genuine miracle. The miracle must be permanent too. Not just a few days like we see on some Christian TV shows where people get miracles and then their back in the wheelchair the next day. The church waits for this miracle as a sign that the person is in heaven and that god declares they are deserving of the title blessed. If the miracle is approved they are declared blessed. The church will then wait for another miracle and go through the same process and if there is a miracle the church declares the person a saint. So, to become a saint god must testify to your holiness or sanctity by granting miracles when people ask for your prayers once your in heaven. God is the miracle worker. That there are so many miracles that are unexplainable by science is a proof that god exists. There are about 10,000 saints in the church. That is the one’s who have been recognized and canonized. There have only been about 400 of these found to be incorruptible. There has probably been 5 billion catholics and orthodox, I really have no idea how many but it must be a lot by now. So out of 5,000,000,000 we only find 400 incorruptibles for arguments sake. Death and corruption are the consequence of sin. We were never meant to die. Hard to believe maybe. But it’s true. Saints are very extraordinary people. They are the absolute best of the church. Held up as an example of how to be a Christian to the rest of us. They were extraordinarily good and virtuous. When it comes to the incorruptibles you get the very best of the saints. We are talking about people who probably never committed a mortal sin in their life. The rest of us sin all the time. It’s way beyond the ability of virtually everyone to be as good and virtuous as these incorruptibles. They are incorrupt because god does not want them punished with corruption. They are incorrupt as a sign that they are just asleep awaiting the last day when Jesus will come again for the final judgment at the end of the world when all men will come back from the grave and be sent to heaven or hell with their body and soul reunited. They are incorrupt to strengthen the faith of believers. They are incorrupt to help unbelievers believe. They are incorrupt to verify which is the true church of god. If the catholic church was the one church god founded himself that does not mean other churches are no good or god does not love them too and hear their prayers. Quite the contrary. We know that god loves all and as Jesus said he has sheep which are not of this fold. All men benefit from the catholic church though, in terms of grace mainly.Without the grace of God the world would fall into anarchy and depravity real quick and man would not last long. We can do nothing good without Gods grace. But also in millions of ways. What would the world be like without the catholic church. No New Testament and no confirmation of which books of the bible were inspired by God, no western civilization with the benefit of Christian influence, hardly any schools, universities, orphanages. Hospitals. We would not have the largest charitable organization in the world – larger than all other charities put together. I shudder to think of what the world would be like. It would be terrible. There would be no Christians at all. That’s a terrible thought alone.———————–Take a look at the links. And be assured that if these incorruptible were fake we’d know asap because there are millions of people in the world who devote much of their lives trying to disprove catholic teaching and to disprove any doctrine at all. The incorruptibles are not a part of church teaching but if proved false it’d be pretty bad. Private revelations are not part of church teaching such as when Angels, Mary or Saints appear to people etc.If anyone can disprove a single teaching by a pope then they’ve proved the catholic church a farce. Millions have tried and couldn’t. No church has so many people who hate her and know they can destroy her by disproving one doctrine. Bishops and priests err but no pope ever has and there’s been 264 of them since St Peter. This is another miracle. It’s the Holy Spirit who is infallible in reality. He protects the popes from teaching any errors on matters of faith or morals. They are still sinners but teach what is true. I thought I should clarify that bit.And my name is really John Russell ( Mr )

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06016276810991542260 Peter

    Hmmm………JamesI disagree with your comments to Fr Dwight. There are millions of catholics who agree with what he says wholeheartedly.I heard something interesting once. You only need 2 bishops to have a catholic church. Nothing more. Christ guaranteed that the church would prevail against the powers of hell and go on to the end of time. But he didn’t say that it would be a billion people church forever. It’s up to us as to whether we want what God has given us. He won’t force us to take it. The church will be here until the end of time. Those that want to throw out the tradition and much of the faith will not live forever. The church is not a democracy nor does it practise popularism. If it did it would go the way of many protestant churches who change core teachings and often split and split. From 5 to 30 or 40,000 min. so far. All the negatives everyone has about the catholic church come from misinformation, ignorance, prejudice and the like. If you really know and understand all the church teaches and what it is you’ll fall madly in love with the church.About your charitable remarks why not read what the good book says-1Cor.13[1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. [2] And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. [3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. [4] Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; [5] it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. [7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [8] Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. [9] For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; [10] but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. [11] When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. [12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. [13] So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16869174493183597830 Pat

    God uses both His servants for miracles and relics.Acts Of Apostles 1912 So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16869174493183597830 Pat

    Acts Of Apostles 1912 So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them.


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