Church History

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 9.11.54 AMWe have a special Advent Pilgrimage to Italy in early December this year AND LIZ IS OUR GUIDE!

Take a look at this video to see Liz’s amazing knowledge, passion for the Catholic Faith and eloquence. Enjoy this amazing video.

To join our upcoming pilgrimages, visit our page here. We will spend two nights in Assisi, a day in Lanciano to see the amazing Eucharistic Miracle and a day in Manoppello to see the facecloth of Christ. We will have Mass in front of both these miracles.

We will enjoy these sites again as part of our St. Paul Cruise in September 2020 and again at both of our Oberammergau Germany pilgrimages.

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Why You Should Read the Fathers of the Church

by Steve Ray on March 13, 2019

Written by Dr. David Tamisiea from St. Philip Institute. It is a nice introduction to the Fathers of the Church – the guys that made me Catholic. For the whole article, click here.

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Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.38.11 PMThe terms “Fathers of the Church,” “Church Fathers,” “early Church Fathers,” or simply “the Fathers,” are used by Catholics and other Christians to refer to the outstanding teachers of the Christian faith from antiquity. The underlying idea behind calling these men “Fathers” is that a teacher of the Christian faith is a spiritual father who helps give spiritual birth to those who receive his teaching.

St. Paul, for example, claims to be a spiritual father to those who receive the Gospel through his ministry: “I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (1 Cor 4:14–15). St. Irenaeus (c. 125 – 202 ad), a Church Father himself, explains the idea of spiritual fatherhood in his famous work Against the Heresies: “For when any person has been taught from the mouth of another, he is termed the son of him who instructs him, and the latter [is called] his father” (IV, 41, 2).

There are literally hundreds of Church Fathers whose writings could easily fill up an entire library all by themselves. The Fathers are generally divided into two major groups: The Greek or Eastern Church Fathers, and the Latin or Western Church Fathers. The Greek or Eastern Church Fathers are those outstanding Christian authors who lived in the Eastern part of the ancient Christian world. Most of these men wrote in Greek, although there are some Eastern Fathers who wrote in Syriac, in Coptic, or in Armenian.

The most significant Eastern Fathers are St. Irenaeus, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, and the three Cappadocian Fathers, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Gregory of Nyssa.

46739The Latin or Western Church Fathers are those Fathers found in the Western part of the ancient Christian world, all of whom wrote in Latin. The most important Western Fathers include St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory the Great. Most of the Church Fathers are bishops (e.g., St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom), but there are also a few popes (e.g., St. Clement of Rome, St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory the Great), some priests (e.g., St. Jerome), some deacons (e.g., St. Ephrem the Syrian), and even a few laymen (e.g., St. Justin Martyr).

There are three really good reasons for why you should read the Church Fathers. First, there is tremendous value in reading works written by authors who lived at a time and in a place other than our own. The great Christian author C.S. Lewis, in his introduction to the Church Father St. Athanasius’ great work, On the Incarnation, recommends that everyone regularly read some of “the old books” to balance the reading of modern works. As Lewis explains, every age is especially good at seeing certain truths, and each has its characteristic blindness that prevents it from seeing its own errors and faults.

“The only palliative,” he says, “is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.” When we read “the old books,” we can receive the knowledge and wisdom of earlier ages that enable us both to grasp forgotten truths and better recognize the errors of our time. Lewis suggests that a good rule of thumb is that, after reading a contemporary book, never allow yourself to read another one until you have read an “old book” in between. But this rule about reading “the old books” extends beyond the Church Fathers to all the great books of earlier ages. So why read the Church Fathers in particular?

The second and more specific, reason you should read the Church Fathers is to become better equipped to defend your Catholic faith from its detractors. As Catholics, we have a serious obligation to know our faith, to share it with others, and, when necessary, to defend it against distortions, misrepresentations, and other forms of attack: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).

Do you want to show a friend that the Catholic Mass is in essence the very same form of worship practiced by the early Christians? Read and then share with your friend St. Justin Martyr’s account in his First Apologia (c. 155 ad) sent to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, explaining how Christians actually worship by celebrating the Mass (I, 65–67).

download (1)What if someone objects to the Catholic doctrine on the papacy as a post-Constantinian perversion? Read and then share with the person St. Clement of Rome’s First Letter to the Corinthians (c. 92 – 101 ad), where St. Clement, as Bishop of Rome and the fourth pope, in the first century answers an appeal by the Church of Corinth to intervene in a dispute there over whether laymen can take the place of the priests in celebrating the Eucharist (Note: he says no).

If that does not convince, then read and share St. Irenaeus of Lyons’ work Against the Heresies, where he stresses that Christian orthodoxy depends upon union with the Church of Rome, “It is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority” (III. 3).

ignatiusantioch-lions-360What about someone who claims the Catholic belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is just a medieval creation? First read and then share with that person St. Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Philadelphians (c. 117 ad), where he writes to an early Christian community on his journey toward martyrdom in Rome, “Take care, therefore, to participate in one Eucharist, for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup that leads to unity through his blood” (No. 4), or again share St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology where he explains to the Roman Emperor the Christian belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, “This food is called among us the Eucharist. … For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh” (I, 66).

While it is true that Catholic doctrines on the papacy, Eucharist, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, Sacred Tradition, infant Baptism, the necessity of faith and works, and the like, are not found in the full developed form of later ages, the essential elements of each of these is present from the very beginning, just awaiting the Church’s deeper insight, fuller understanding, and further development.

download (2)As Bl. John Henry Newman observes in his masterful work, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, just as a seed grows into a full-grown tree and a child into a man over time, and yet each remains essentially the same thing, so too authentic Christian doctrines grow and develop over the centuries while preserving their original type or essence. Indeed, for Newman, it was reading the Fathers that led to his conversion to Catholicism from Anglicanism: “I am not ashamed still to take my stand upon the Fathers, and do not mean to budge. … The Fathers made me a Catholic” (Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching, pp 357, 376).

The third reason for reading the Church Fathers is probably the most important of all: to deepen and enrich your faith. The Church Fathers, together with the Apostles, are rightly considered the “Founding Fathers” of the Church, who helped to lay the foundations of Christianity at the very beginning by teaching, explaining, defending, and spreading the saving truths of the Gospel. I recall when I began in earnest to read the Church Fathers in graduate school, it was as if a whole new world was being opened up to me: the same will hold true for you as well.

By reading the Fathers, you will most certainly become a much better informed, knowledgeable, and faithful Catholic. St. John Paul II explains why the Church Fathers are so important to the faith of the Church: “The Church still lives today by the life received from her Fathers and on the foundation erected by her first builders she is still being built today in the joy and sorrow of her journeying and daily toil. … Guided by these certainties, the Church never tires of returning to their writings – full of wisdom and incapable of growing old – and of constantly renewing their memory” (Patres Ecclesiae 1).

For the whole article, click here.

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When I was last on Catholic Answers Live last week Constantine Regas called in to defend the Eastern Orthodox position against the Catholic Church’s teaching on Peter and the Primacy of Rome. Constantine’s words are in BLUE and my responses are in BLACK. I appreciated Constantine’s irenic tone and honest demeanor. 

CONSTANTINE REGAS (CR): I called the “Catholic Answers Live” show last Monday to clarify the Orthodox position on authority in the Church.

STEVE RAY (SR): I remember Constantine. And the studio cut us off before we got very far in our conversation.

CR: My exact question was that, if Christ gave St Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, why isn’t the current Bishop of Antioch the head of the universal Church since St Peter was the founding bishop of that city several years before he became the bishop of Rome? Part of your response was that he was also the first bishop of Jerusalem. The Apostle James was Jerusalem’s first bishop.

SR: Jesus promised him the keys to Peter in Matthew 16:19. The Royal Steward steps up to his position of authority when appointed, especially to fill in for the King in his absence. Once Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit fell Peter picked up those keys and exercised his authority on the day of Pentecost. From that point on we hear no words of the other Eleven. Except for Paul, none of the others have any recorded words in Acts. Peter is the Bishop, the Pope and the visible Head of the Church from that point.

In his massive history of the Church, Warren Carroll gives a very cogent outline of Peter’s movements. You can read this list here as I provided in my book Upon this Rock.

30 AD Death and Resurrection of Jesus
30-37 Peter head of the Church in Jerusalem
38-39 Peter’s Missionary journeys along Mediterranean Coast and Samaria
40-41 Peter in Antioch
42 Imprisonment in Jerusalem and departure to “another place.’
42-49 First sojourn to Rome
49 Expulsion from Rome by edict of Claudius
49-50 In Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council (Acts 15)
50–54 In Antioch, Bithynia, Pontus, Asia, and Cappadocia (or some of them)
54–57 Second sojourn in Rome; Gospel of Mark written under Peter’s direction
57–62 In Bithynia, Pontus, and Cappadocia (or some of them); Mark in Alexandria, Egypt
62–67 Third sojourn in Rome; canonical Epistles of Peter; Mark with Peter in Rome
67 Martyrdom in Rome and burial near the Necropolis at the Vatican

You say that the Apostle James was the first bishop of Jerusalem. If you referring to James the son of Zebedee, you are incorrect because he was killed by the sword about 42 AD as recorded in Acts 12:2. The James that became bishop of Jerusalem was James “the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1:19). He was referred to as James the Righteous. He became bishop of Jerusalem after Peter’s departure for Antioch around 40-41.

Doctor of the Church, St. John Chrysostom (an Eastern bishop) says, “‘And having spoken thus,’ the Evangelist declared, ‘he said, “Follow me.” ’ In these words He was once again referring indirectly to His solicitude for Peter and to the fact that He was on terms of intimate friendship with him. And, if someone should say: ‘How is it, then, that it was James who received the bishop’s chair in Jerusalem?’ I would make this reply: that Christ appointed this man [Peter], not merely to a chair, but as teacher of the world.” (John Chrysostom, Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist: Homilies 48–88, trans. Thomas Aquinas Goggin, vol. 41, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 473.)

Peter was the leader of Jerusalem for 10 years before going to Antioch for 2 years then ending up as the leader of the Church in Rome about 42 AD.

CR: The point I was making is that primacy of honor (not authority which rests with Christ alone) was given to the bishop of Rome because it was capital of the empire.

SR: Unfortunately, you are incorrect again. Never was the phrase “primacy of honor” used until after the Eastern churches broke away from Rome, took a new name (Orthodox) and used this phrase as a justification for rejecting the honorary and jurisdictional authority of Rome. One only needs to read history to find the Eastern churches in heresy for much of their existence and always depending on Rome to establish the truth of the faith and to appoint orthodox bishops in Eastern churches.

Rome was established as the See of Peter because Peter chose it to be. Jerusalem had become a backwater city after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and the 10th Legion. Yes, Rome was the capital of the Empire and the hub of the wheel (“all roads lead to Rome”). Peter and Paul established the Church of Rome by their blood and it was by their appointment, the See of Peter and the Head of the Church.

Of course, Jesus is the head of the Church. But he left his royal steward with the keys of the kingdom as a visible head of the Church and a source of unity. There is no contradiction here.

CR: The second canon of the Second Ecumenical Council A.D. 381 explains this clearly. After the capital was moved to Constantinople, primacy of honor became shared. Feel free to investigate.

SR: I see you do not provide the quote from the source you cite. It is easy to say a council said this or that, but proving it is quite another thing. And claiming the primacy was “shared” is an eastern idea and refuted by the facts of the first 1000 years of the Church. This I have made abundantly clear in my book Upon this Rock.

Yet in that very Council, in the beginning of the very next Cano  it contradicts tour claim. Here is the except from that Canon of that Council:

Canon III
The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honour after the Bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome.
Ancient Epitome of Canon III: The bishop of Constantinople is to be honoured next after the bishop of Rome.

CR: I also noticed that the above comment (among others) was edited out of yesterday’s rebroadcast.

SR: I am not aware of that, nor is that under my care. The sound techs at Catholic Answers Live handle what is posted in the podcast.

CR: One last point if I may: All the Eastern bishops can trace their authority back to one of the Apostles. The Vatican recognizes this and therefore acknowledges the validity of the Orthodox priesthood and sacraments.

SR: We have no argument here. That is why we consider the eastern churches to be legitimate churches. We don’t consider Protestants to be churches since they have lost the apostolic succession, which the Eastern Orthodox churches have maintained. However, that has nothing to do with the fact that Rome has the primacy both in honor and in jurisdiction. The Eastern churches are in schism and we all hope that one day there will again be unity.

St. Pope John Paul II said it best when he stated his desire that the Western and Eastern lungs be breathing together again in one united Body of Christ.

If you are interested in my thorough study on all of these matters, in which I interact a great deal with Orthodox theologians, I suggest you get my book referenced below.

I appreciate your irenic tone and honest discussion. God bless you my brother in Christ!

(Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church, Modern Apologetics Library (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 67.)

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Who Chose the Books of the Bible? Are the Books “Self-authenticating”?

January 8, 2019

Are the Books of the New Testament “Self-Authenticating” or was the Catholic Church Necessary to Define the Canon of Scripture? By Steve Ray Hello Protestant Friend: I was very happy to receive your twenty-five-page letter which claimed that sola Scriptura (Bible alone) and sola fide (faith alone) were the faith and teaching of the Apostles. […]

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What to Think About Bad Popes

January 2, 2019

Written by Dave Armstrong and used with permission: BAD POPES: REPLIES TO A SINCERE INQUIRER, by Dave Armstrong God made an everlasting covenant with King David, even though he was an adulterer and murderer. Dave writes: “As this was originally private correspondence, my correspondent’s exact words will be paraphrased, not cited. Her “words” will be […]

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“Ancient Baptists” and Other Myths

November 27, 2018

“Ancient Baptists” and Other Myths Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem. Nicea, August 24, A.D. 325, 7:41 p.m. “That was powerful preaching, Brother Athanasius. Powerful! Amen! I want to invite any of you folks in the back to approach the altar here and receive the Lord into your hearts. Just come on up. We’ve got brothers and […]

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Trail of Blood: Do Baptists Have a Claim to the Original Church?

November 26, 2018

What is the history of Baptists? Can they trace their roots back to the 1st century? Many ”fundamentalist” Baptists believe they can. Are they correct? There is a booklet that is very popular among this fundamentalist crowd. It is entitled “The Trail of Blood”. The booklet claims that Catholics persecuted the true Christians — the Baptists — leaving […]

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She Wrote that She is Worried about the Church…

November 10, 2018

In response to a concerned convert to the Catholic Faith.  What to think about all the scandals and the confusion and the divisions in the Church under the current Vatican? Here is my short response… ********************* You’re not the only one distressed by what’s going on in the Church today all the way up to […]

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What Does the Word Catholic Mean? A History of the Word “Catholic”

October 29, 2018

As a Protestant, I went to an Evangelical church that changed an important and historical word in the  Apostles Creed. Instead of the “holy, catholic Church,” we were the “holy, Christian church.” At the time, I thought nothing of it. There was certainly no evil intent, just a loathing of the Catholic Church and a […]

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The Sign of the Cross: It’s History, Meaning and Biblical Basis

October 28, 2018

SIGN OF THE CROSS By Steve Ray The Sign of the Cross is a ritual gesture by which we confess two important mysteries: the Trinity and the centrality of the Cross. It is the most common and visible means by which we confess our faith. The Sign of the Cross is made by touching the […]

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Free Timeline of the 1st Century

October 22, 2018

The past is shrouded in a fog for most people. What was really going on in the 1st century during and after the live of Christ and the birth of the Catholic Church? Here is a simple Timeline of First Century Christianity. I created this to give you an overview on one page. I created the […]

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Who Says the Mass is a Sacrifice?

October 9, 2018

Who Says the Mass is a Sacrifice? Jimmy Swaggart (making a foolish and unhistorical claim): “The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is, without question, one of the most absurd doctrines ever imposed on a trusting public…  Roman Catholic errors are inevitably human innovations that were inserted into the church during the early centuries. This teaching on […]

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The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church: Article by Steve Ray

August 12, 2018

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke […]

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Mega-church Mania: One Mom’s Observations (she’s a good writer) and Observations from the Early Church

August 10, 2018

Mr. Ray, My eldest daughter invited me to my grandson’s ‘dedication’ at her new place of worship.  Worship? Sorry. Her new place of…..well, the giant Olympic-sized structure that, after being directed in by police/traffic officers, upon entering, reminded me of a mall.  Oh and by the way, I didn’t witness any worship. My 1st thoughts were…”Wow! […]

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Great Pictures, Charts and Info on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

June 25, 2018

Since we are experiencing the amazing and rare Solemn Entry into the Holy Sepulchre to visit the tomb today ushered in by the Franciscans, I wanted to share these many beautiful and helpful pictures, diagrams, charts and more about the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. See all this wealth of information written and visual. For me […]

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Dear Protestant: Where Did You Get Your Bible?

May 20, 2018

From Little Catholic Bubble website Leila@LittleCatholicBubble Dear Protestant: Where did you get your New Testament? At least a couple of times every week, Protestants use New Testament verses to show me where the Catholic Church is wrong about something. I always make them take the necessary step back by asking the following: “Where did you get your […]

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