Do Catholics Believe in the 'Rapture'?
Q: As a Catholic teenager, I have started to
read my Bible very seriously. My Protestant friends speak
about the Rapture when Jesus Christ will return
for the people who have lived their lives for him, have
accepted him into their hearts and are saved.
My Confirmation teacher and my priest say that the Rapture
is not a Catholic belief. The Gospel of Matthew (Chapter
24), the Book of Revelation and other New Testament books
present Jesus as speaking about the end times and his second
Why don't Catholics believe in the Rapture when it is
so clearly stated in the Bible? Also, why don't Catholics
use the word "saved" more often? The Bible uses it. And
isn't salvation granted by "faith alone," as the Bible says
in numerous places?
A: Jesus wants his followers to be prepared for
his coming again in glory. That's why he tells so many stories
about being prepared at all times (for example, parables
of the 10 bridesmaids and the servants entrusted with their
master's money—Matthew 25:1-30).
Over the centuries, some Christians have not heeded Jesus' advice to avoid
trying to pinpoint the day or the hour (Mark 13:5-7). St.
Paul had trouble with a few Christians in Thessalonika whose
interest in Christ's second coming led them to become troublemakers
in that Christian community (2 Thessalonians, Chapter Two).
Wilfrid Harrington, O.P., comments on this in our November
1999 Scripture From Scratch article "Understanding
the Apocalypse," which you can read at www.AmericanCatholic.org.
Every few years someone will convince a group of Christians that
Jesus is coming soon, that they should quit their jobs, leave their families
if necessary, sell their belongings and gather at some prearranged spot for
a front seat on the Last Judgment. Thus far, such incidents have usually ended
only in embarrassment that the predicted Second Coming did not occur at that
time. In 1997, the Heaven's Gate cult left 39 people dead—most through group
suicide as they prepared for the Lord's return.
Salvation is possible only because of the death and resurrection
of Jesus. But it also involves a person's being open to God's grace and cooperating
with it. Jesus specifically warns against those who say "Lord, Lord" but fail
to do God's will (see Matthew 7:21). Non-Christians can share in this salvation.
People cannot "earn" salvation through good works. The Catholic
Church accepts James 2:14-26 as the proper explanation of how "faith" and "good
works" are related. St. Paul speaks of the importance of "faith working through
love" (Galatians 5:6).
The expression "faith alone" is not found in the Bible; it comes
from some theologians interpreting the Bible. Please allow the Catholic faith
community to help you understand the Scriptures, which were, after all, given
to a faith community.
In the Mass, after the Our Father, the celebrant prays, "In your
mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful
hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."
Your study of Scripture and your daily decisions should help you to "wait in
Are Those Sacraments Valid?
celebrating Mass and the sacraments, must the priest be in the state of grace?
If he is not, can he receive the Eucharist that he has been instrumental in
consecrating? Would it be sinful?
Also, what are the implications of his actions for the layperson or penitent?
I couldn't find answers in the Catechism of the Catholic
priest, deacon, couple to be married or layperson performing an emergency Baptism—all
of these should be in the state of grace when they celebrate the sacraments.
That is not required, however, for them to "work."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "From the moment
that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church,
the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of
the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments
also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them" (#1128).
In the fourth century, after the Roman persecution of Christians
had ended, the Catholic Church squarely faced the issue of the connection between
sacraments and the holiness of those who administer them. In time, the extreme
assertion of the position that sacraments work only if their minister is holy
at that time was called the heresy of Donatism (after its leader, Donatus).
The Catholic Church wants the ministers of God's sacraments to be
in the state of grace when they act in its name. But requiring this for the
sacrament to work opens all sacramental celebrations to doubt regarding their
validity. This further suggests that human sin can overpower God's grace; this
is certainly not true for the Sacrament of Penance—or any other sacrament.
A priest conscious of not being in the state of grace should
try to make a perfect act of contrition, celebrate the sacrament
in question and then seek absolution later. That is how
moral theologians have usually resolved this apparent conflict
All the Church's members need to cooperate generously with God's
grace—and thus become holy!
Web Sites for Patron Saints?
time to time, people ask me who is the patron saint of some occupation or for
people suffering from a particular illness. I cannot always find what I am looking
for. Can you recommend any Web sites for this?
A: When I asked Julie Zimmerman, managing editor
of our company's Web site, for her recommendations about
this, she suggested: 1) www.
com/saints/indexsnt.htm, 3) www.
Does God Determine My Actions?
God knows all things, then God knows what I will do next, including the sins
I may commit. If God has a plan for us, how can we have free will?
issue has been a topic of discussion among Christians for centuries. Human beings
are limited by time; we necessarily think in terms of past, present and future.
The problem you raise, however, comes from imposing that limitation on God—for
whom past, present and future are equally present. God cannot be limited in
If your approach is correct, wouldn't God be equally responsible
for the compassion of Florence Nightingale and the abomination caused by the
Doesn't such reasoning turn good and evil into personal preferences
(for example, I like coin collecting but you like stamp collecting)? More importantly,
doesn't it make God indifferent to both?
That cannot be. God very much prefers good (the proper use of human
freedom) over evil (the distorted use of freedom).
"The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the
tree, and so I ate it," said a guilty Adam to God (Genesis 3:12). Eve blamed
the serpent, which had accomplished its mission.
Adam and Eve misused their freedom and in talking this over with
God, in fact, denied that they were indeed free. May God help us to avoid that
Catholic Web Sites in Spanish?
Q: I enjoy your Web site. Do you have it available in Spanish?
My husband is a devout Catholic but he does not speak that much English. Thanks.
A: Our Web site,
www.AmericanCatholic.org, is not available
in Spanish. My brother Tom, who has extensive background
in Hispanic ministry, recommends these Catholic Web sites:
Last spring we published 12 popular issues of Catholic Update
in Spanish. More information is available from Catholic Update en Español,
28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here.
Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be
mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.