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Mike Miller wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a kind of a philosophical question for you. I just finished reading a bit about the Nestorian and Arian heresies and these questions came to mind:

  • Do we consider a human person to be:
    • both soul (which some divide into the mind and spirit) and the physical body or
    • is the whole person contained in the soul (in the same way the Consecrated Host is said to contain both the Body and Blood of Christ)?
  • If a whole person is both body and soul, does that reduce those in the afterlife to a diminished state?
  • As a bonus question, is there a way for Christian traditions that have lost Holy Orders and valid Apostolic Succession to regain them so that, at the very least, we can regain sacramental unity through the Eucharist?
  • Would they be able to retain their distinct traditions?

This question is related to the comment Mike made in his last e-mail about Thomas Cranmer and the Schism of Anglicanism.

I hope all is well regarding Mike's job search, and by the way, the humor section of the AskACatholic site is definitely much better than the joke I sent you, although my joke is still pretty good considering it is an original.

Regards,

Mike Miller

  { Can you answer some questions on the nature of a human person and the Eucharist? }

John replied:

Hi, Mike —

You bring up an interesting question about the human person and the afterlife.

We must remember that Christians believe in the Resurrection of the Body so all souls, be they damned or saved alike, have not yet entered into the final state of how they will spend eternity. There are of course exceptions:

  • Jesus being the first
  • Mary who was assumed either before or immediately after her death
  • there is strong tradition that both Moses and Elijah have resurrected and glorified bodies, and
  • a lesser tradition about a character mentioned in Genesis and one of the later New Testament Epistles, named Enoch.

That said, the souls in Heaven, what Hebrews 12:23 refers to as the spirits of just men made perfect, have not yet achieved the fullness of salvation which will come with the Resurrection of the Dead. They are indeed no less individuals and persons. They don't lose their identity but they are short of the fullness of Glory in which all the saved shall live for eternity after the Second Coming and the Final Judgment.

The same is true for the damned, who have already undergone personal judgment and await the resurrection of their body. They too shall live out eternity in resurrected bodies but separated from God because they will forever be rejecting His Love and Mercy; the same applies to their personhood.

Now as to your bonus question. The only way to restore Apostolic Succession is to ordain all the bishops and priests who are part of separated ecclesial Christian communities. These bishops and priests have never been validly ordained and would have to be ordained by bishops that have valid Apostolic Succession back to St. Peter and Jesus.

Of course, this could never happen in the case of women, as it is a theological impossibility to ordain a woman to the Priesthood, let alone to the Bishopric.

So yes, it is theoretically possible but very, very highly improbable that any Church with valid orders would do this. Neither the Catholics or the Orthodox ordain those who are not in full communion with their faith.

There are some random Churches like the Old Catholic and Polish National Churches, where some renegade Bishop might attempt to perform such ordinations but this would be more of a series of individual cases, not a case where an entire Christian denomination would submit to such an ordination.

After all, most of them don't believe Holy Orders is a sacrament and many have an entirely different understanding of the Eucharist hence there would always remain a question as to validity of these ordinations should they ever be attempted.

For any sacrament to be valid, it requires the proper intention. If the recipient of the sacrament does not believe:

  • Holy Orders is a sacrament
  • that his soul will be configured to Christ, and
  • that when he consecrates the Eucharist, it becomes Jesus Christ

  • then is the sacrament valid?
  • Did anything actually happen?

I hope this helps,

John

Mike replied:

Thanks for your reply John.

Mike,

I have read that Confirmation is when a baptized Catholic Christian is anointed by a priest or bishop to receive the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit.

  • If this is the case, does that mean that other Christians without Holy Orders do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

I ask because it is common Protestant doctrine that the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within you the moment you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

  • Also, what is your view of accounts of people who have died, come back, and told of their experiences in the afterlife?

I am a little skeptical in this area as some of the stories told by these people conflict in some theologically significant ways — even among two Christians from the same denomination.

  • Lastly, what advice can you give on how to:
    • grow in spiritual discernment
    • test the spirits and beyond and
    • grow in wisdom?

I appreciated your advice on how to grow in humility so I look forward to your answer to this question.

Thanks,

Mike

Mike replied:

Hi Mike,

You said:
I hope all is well regarding Mike's job search . . .

Thank-you for thinking about me and praying for my employment situation. I would also like to thank others who have kept this apostolate and my employment situation in their prayers.

Although it is only a contract job, I recently started a position this Monday. It is my prayer that I will be able to do the work required of me and, that over time, I will be able to envision some financial stability in my life.

You said:
I have read that Confirmation is when a baptized Catholic Christian is anointed by a priest or bishop to receive the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit.

  • If this is the case, does that mean that other Christians without Holy Orders do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

I ask because it is common Protestant doctrine that the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within you the moment you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

You can't mix up Holy Orders with Confirmation. The Lord gives two distinct graces for two distinct purposes.

When anyone is baptized, whether they know it or not, they partake in the Universal Priesthood of Jesus Christ. This allows the lay Christian, Catholic or not, both men and women, to offer all their prayers, works, joys, and sufferings to the Lord for the benefit of His Body, the Church. This is why the youth should be taught to always say a Morning Offering – a prayer that does just this.

O Jesus,
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.
Amen.

Out of the Universal priesthood of the Baptized, the Lord and His Church choose certain men to act in the person or in the place of Christ Himself. Because grace builds on nature and does not destroy nature and because Jesus was a man, only men can become priests – only men can act in the place of another man.

I can't speak for how this compares or doesn't compare to the Protestant doctrine but one of my colleagues may wish to comment.

You said:

  • What is your view of accounts of people who have died, come back, and told of their experiences in the afterlife?

I am a little skeptical in this area as some of the stories told by these people conflict in some theologically significant ways — even among two Christians from the same denomination.

I believe the Lord has purposely allowed this to happen to assist many who have been given no catechesis and therefore think the only thing in this life, is this life itself. Though I agree and empathize that you should always be concerned about people claiming a stilted theology, I do believe these accounts to be true.

It comes down to:

  • Developing a stable knowledgeable Catholic faith over time, and
  • Discerning true eyewitness accounts from theological phonies.

You said:

  • Lastly, what advice can you give on how to:
    • grow in spiritual discernment
    • test the spirits and beyond and
    • grow in wisdom?

I appreciated your advice on how to grow in humility so I look forward to your answer to this question.

As a Catholic Christian the best way to grow in spiritual discernment is by living a sacramental life. This includes:

  • Renewing your Sunday Covenant with the Lord at Mass.
    (Always receive Communion with no serious sexual sin on your soul.)

  • Going to Confession on a regular basis.
    (The bishops of the United States have recommended Catholic families go once a month.
    I would say if you are more involved in the Church you should go more often but don't get too scrupulous if you do.)

  • Developing a daily prayer life.
    Try to find some time during the day where you can spare 15 – 20 minutes.

  • Don't get caught up in any Armageddon schemes. These people are usually predicting the end of the world all the time and encouraging you to stock up on food, water, and candles.

Jesus told us:

18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

and

25 Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Matthew 6:25

Finally,

  • Don't get caught up in Marian apparitions. Jesus would agree that Our Blessed Mother plays an important role in the salvation and life of all Christians, and for that matter, any non-Christian who wishes to ask for her help. Nevertheless, we shouldn't replace ongoing preoccupations with unapproved Marian apparitions with learning our Catholic faith and developing a solid Catholic Christian spirituality accompanied by the development of the important and needed competence of Catholic Apologetics.

I hope this helps,

My colleagues may have more to add.

Mike

John replied:

Hi guys,

I think Mike H. is inadvertently missing the question here.

Mike M. was not asking about Holy Orders per-say. He was asking about Christians who belong to denominations that don't have valid priests, having or not having, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit because they lack a valid Confirmation.

When one is baptized, one receives the Holy Spirit. The normative way people are baptized is by water but there are also baptisms of desire and blood.

  • Baptism of desire is when a person comes to faith, never having been baptized, and doesn't know or understand the need for Baptism.

  • Baptism by fire (or by blood) is when someone who has come to faith during times of persecution and is martyred before they are baptized.

In any event, all these folks do indeed receive the Holy Spirit.

The Catholic Church consists of a Western Rite (or Roman Rite [the majority of the Church]) and a number of Eastern Rites. Confirmation (in West) or Chrismation (in the East) is the sacrament by which we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and receive particular gifts and power that necessarily come with Baptism.

The normative way for a Christian to receive the Holy Spirit and His gifts on this level is through Confirmation or Chrismation. It is the same sacrament but with a different name.

That said, this doesn't mean that God can't give the Holy Spirit, on this level, to other Christians who don't have the sacrament available to them.

Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ gave us the sacraments as normative means of grace which flows through the Church — His Mystical Body but God did not limit Himself in how He dispenses these graces so it is possible for these Christians to receive these gifts, although ultimately they flow through the Catholic Church.

I hope this helps,

John

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