Would you encourage a Catholic who wants to go to a non-denominational Bible study?

By Fr. Mike Manning, SVD

That's like asking if you can send your child to any college he chooses. It all depends on who the teachers are and what they are teaching.

If you are a Catholic, I advise you to be discreet in choosing a Bible class. Remember that there can be differences in understanding the revelation of Jesus. You might find a non-Catholic teacher who plays down the importance of Peter as the head of the apostles or for whom the Eucharist might only be a symbol or who says Mary might have had children other than Jesus or that Jesus might not be seen as equal with the Father and Holy Spirit.

Even the best intended nondenominational Bible study groups can hold beliefs contrary to Catholic teaching. If you don't have a good grasp on why you are a Catholic, perhaps you'll begin to doubt some of the teaching of the Church.

Before you begin Bible study in a nondenominational group, make sure you are well founded in the Catholic faith or have access to persons who can give you the Catholic interpretation of the Bible.

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Isn't the written word all we need of God's revelation? Why do Catholics also need Tradition?

By Fr. Mike Manning, SVD

The Catholic views the Bible as a vital source of revelation inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the way for us to learn of the revelation of the Father in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The revelation of the Father comes to us in two forms, both valid: that which first came through word of mouth; and then the New Testament record of some of that oral tradition.

After Pentecost the apostles and disciples spread what Jesus had taught them among people living around the Mediterranean. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest piece in the New Testament. Scholars date it around the year A.D. 50. We don't know of any written account of Jesus' life and teaching until Mark's Gospel, which was written around the year a.d.70. The last Gospel, John's, probably wasn't written in its final form until about a.d.90. If Jesus died around the year 30 that means that the transmission of His revelation dependent on word of mouth to a great extent in the years after Jesus' death and resurrection. Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit was with the Church during those times in both the spoken and written records of Christ's life and teaching.

We Catholics respect both the sacred Tradition that is written and that which was passed on by word of mouth. John said at the end of his Gospel, "There are many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I don't think the whole world would contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25). St. Paul speaks of the oral and written Tradition when he writes, "Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours" (2 Thess. 2:15).

How do we assess those oral traditions that aren't explicitly found in the Scriptures?

We look to the beliefs and teachings in the early Church. Just as the Church needed to discern which of the many writings about Jesus were to be included in the final edition or canon of the Bible, so the church continues to clarify other beliefs of divine revelation. Catholics believe, for example in Mary's lifelong virginity, her immaculate conception, and her assumption not because they are explicitly found in the written Scriptures, but because they were facts of revelation known through a verified Tradition not found in the written tradition of our Scripture. These sacred traditions never contradict the written word.

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What is your Mission Statement?

By Fr. Mike Manning, SVD

When Christ came to his home town at the beginning of his ministry, he clearly stated his mission statement, his platform for his ministry. He stood for freedom from slavery and oppression.

Have you thought much about what is your personal mission statement, what is your platform? The question is a good challenge. Where are you going? How are you going to get there. What are you going to do when you reach the goal.

Sometimes we can be aimless in our lives. We forget where we've come from and where we're going. We wouldn't do too bad to imitate Jesus' mission statement in our lives. We could do worse than spend our lives from freeing ourselves and others from slavery and oppression. We can do that by risking to use our talents and by encouraging others to use theirs. We can demand respect for ourselves and give respect to others.

That's a simple formula for bringing in more of the freedom that is the goal of Christ's life.

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