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Thursday, March 14, 2013

We've Got White Smoke!

Pondering the last few weeks and going through the events in my mind and drama that took place in our world from the announcement in which Pope Benedict stepped down as the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Being a new Catholic of 4 years and this being my first experience to lose a Pope (Papa) and walk through the process, with such a huge body of believers, in which the Catholic Church elects a new Pope was a first for me and my husband (also a new Catholic).

Our 50+ years of living a life in the Protestant world, we just never engaged in what was going on in the Catholic Church when a new Pope was elected. I can remember my mom, a Methodist who went to a Catholic school as a little girl (for a short time), always having a heart for the process in which a new Pope was elected. She would always call me on the phone when the Cardinals would be in conclave and be so excited in the “waiting” to see the white smoke. I would always listen to her enthusiasm and in many ways try to down play her excitement and say; “Who cares…..who they elect, this is something that does not impact my life and why does it yours? “ I would always hang up the phone with the thoughts that she was bored, needed to get more of a life away from the TV and events that did not matter to anyone, except maybe a Catholic. She always defended her position with how this event of the “white smoke” was a very old tradition and in many ways, she was getting to experience history unfold in the Catholic Church.  My mom had many questions for me when I was seeking and learning about the Catholic Faith and after I became Catholic. We would discuss it for hours and I think if she would have lived a little longer her heart would have been converted to the fullness of the Christian faith. I do not think she would have become Catholic, because she loved her little Methodist Church and the drive around the block was her routine. A few years before she passed away she wanted me to take her to a local Nursery, because she knew they had garden statues. She wanted a statue of Saint Francis in her prayer garden. She loved the story of Saint Francis and his love for animals. Mother was an avid birdwatcher and loved watching nature’s smells, growth, life, colors and sounds. The Seasons in her prayer garden entertained her for hours. I teased her when she suggested a statue of Saint Francis…. “That’s Catholic! You’re not Catholic.” Her reply; “Well, I love Saint Francis… you’re Catholic now, you have any statues…Catholic statues in your yard yet?” “No, mother I do not” was my reply. “Well, I can’t believe you are Catholic and your Methodist mother beat you to putting a Catholic statue in her yard. I’m sure you will get to it, soon.” Yes, she was right…. The first thing I did, when she went home to her Lord was purchase a statue of Saint Francis and put it in my yard. When I gaze upon it, I will always think of her and areas we connected in the Catholic faith. I also wonder if she has run into Saint Francis in heaven and if they are bird watching together or just conversing about their love of God’s creation in a simple weed.

I wish my ears would have been in tuned all those years ago to my mother and her excitement of the “white smoke.” Before Pope Benedict stepped down I had come to love this great man of Faith. He was more than the “Vicar of Christ” in my life. He had become my Papa and his deep teachings of the Christian faith inspired me to be a better Christian.  His stance on virtues and morals in a world falling apart each day, gave me a sense of security knowing he was standing firm and would not compromise the 2,000 year old teachings to the realm in which society is changing and going down a road that is not Scriptural in the teachings of Christ. The news of Pope Benedict in many ways to me was like a death, in knowing he was no longer going to be there for me. I also pondered my love for Pope John Paul II and what I now understand, in what many Catholics went through after his death. What a great man of the faith Pope John Paul II was. I did not learn about his life and teachings, until he was already gone from this world. Even though he is no longer with us, his works will forever impact this world. Pope Benedict had been in office for only a year, when I finally surrendered to the Holy Spirit and started my journey to discover the Catholic Faith. I missed out on the “white smoke” with the election of all the Popes in my lifetime until now. Strange, that I lost my mother to eternal life one year ago and on her one year anniversary of leaving me, I am experiencing the “white smoke.” I can hear her in heaven saying “I told you so!” I just wish I could have shared this moment with her and told her I now understand the excitement that she experienced in waiting and watching for the “white smoke.” Being a Catholic now and understanding the teachings of the “Communion of Saints”, it gives me hope that even though she was not with me bodily….she was in spirit and so entwined through the Holy Trinity, she with all the Church Triumphant  were praying for our Cardinals, that Christ’s Church not be left as orphans. The Church Militant (Visible), Church Triumphant and The Church Suffering, I truly believe were in “One” accord the last few weeks in prayer for the election on our next Vicar of Christ, our Pope, our next Papa that will be a “Peter” to oversee Christ’s Church and protect the “Deposit of Faith” that has been passed down from the Apostles, all the way down…. 2,000 years to little ol’ me.  The Apostolic Succession has never been broken with all that has risen up against it for 2,000 years. Through the good Popes, bad Popes, bad Priest, good Priest, bad Bishops, good Bishops, bad Cardinals and good Cardinals the “deposit of faith” has been protected by the Holy Spirit using imperfect men to preach the Gospel, “Good News”, to the ends of the earth. The Catholic Church can back up its Vicars of Christ all the way to Saint Peter. Just like the USA can back up their Presidents all the way to George Washington. The Pope is called the Vicar of Christ because he is Christ's special representative in a way that the other Bishops are not. This stems back to St. Peter whom Christ made the head of the Apostles and the head of the Church. The Catholic Church is the longest living body of authority… Magisterium…. that has survived the ups and downs of history and is still here today….after 2,000 years.  No country, government, monarchy or religion can claim this unbroken chain……. this chain that backs history all the way to Christ:                                                                                                                                Matthew 16:18; And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.                                                     John 20;  19When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20And when he had said this, he showed unto them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus therefore said to them again, Peace be unto you: as the Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: 23whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.                                                             

Acts 1: 1The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3to whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God: 4and, being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: 5for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.

Luke 10:16; He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and rejects him who sent me.

Luke 1: 1- 4; Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.                                                                                                           Hebrews 13: 7-9; Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their lives, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings.

During the process of waiting for the Cardinals to all arrive in Rome with the media and all the stories flying around about the latest gossip…..some true and some peoples imagination building bigger stories. I sat and listened and took it all in. I gave up Facebook for Lent and even television. Listening only to a Catholic radio station and occasionally would watch Catholic television (EWTN) to stay informed about the conclave of Cardinals coming together to elect out next Pope. Still with my limited time of staying away from the news I still got an ear full from friends and family…. Some Catholic, some not, how corrupt the Catholic Church is and was and always has been. I heard stories of the priest sexual scandals, the cover ups, stories of how the mafia has run the Vatican for years, laundering of monies that have taken place and etc. etc. etc. The biggest story I was told by a sincere friend was she truly believed that end time prophecies claim this will be the last Pope and he will claim the name Pope Peter and be the anti-Christ.  

All this chatter reminded me of Judas and how Christ himself chose a thief and a traitor. How Christ in His word has told us we will be planted among the tares. Matthew 13:24; the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man that sowed good seed in his field: 25but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. 26But when the blade sprang up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. Interesting the plant “tares” are the bearded darnel or rye grass, and resembles wheat so closely that it can prosper in the cornfields and be almost indistinguishable until fully grown. It flourishes in quantities in countries along the Mediterranean Sea. To the farmer it is one of the most destructive of all weeds. Many reasons we are sowed among these weeds…. If you think about it…… this is nothing new. Judas was one of the disciples that Christ chose. Was this to teach us something?

Jim and I read a book together when we were learning about the Catholic Church. It was the history….starting right at the cross of Christ. The name of the book…… CHURCH HISTORY; by Fr. John Laux, MA. It is the history of the Church from the Cross until 1940. Hard book to read because it is boring at times and some of the complicated language with names throughout the centuries took us some time to spit out. It was an honest look at the history of the Catholic Church, good and bad.  What we came away with reading this book was the understanding of however bad the Church was or how bad a Pope was the “deposit of faith” was never tampered with or changed. The teachings of faith, virtues and morals are the same, just as they were when Christ passed them down to the Apostles and the Apostles passed them down to the next generation. The gates of hell will not prevail against His church. After reading it, the book reminded me of my life. All the mistakes I’ve made over and over and after a while I did learn from them. But, I am still making different mistakes… and in time I hope I will learn from them. My parents were good parents…. But, they did make mistakes and I tried not to make the same ones they did. I’m sure my son and his wife will strive to not make the same mistakes their parents did with them. I’ve learned in this world, wisdom comes with age and if we knew then what we know now, when we were young things would have been easier for all of us. That’s how I look at the Catholic Church (Mother Church). She has made many mistakes and for 2,000 years has learned from them. She has become a very old and a wise Mother. Her success does not depend on those who make the mistakes or caused the schisms. Christ promised the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. Did the Catholic Church handle the sex scandals well? Probably not in the beginning, but I truly believe they are doing all they can so it will not happen again… Yes, there were some Judases among the flock. We are living in a world like no other time in history; computers, magazines, television, newspapers, advertisements that point society to world of sex with no boundaries. Available for all to see including our children and it’s not going to get any better. Society in the last 100 years has been changing rapidly and we as a society have compromised faith and morals. In the end we are going to pay for it. I was molested by a family member….. And guess what? My parents did not know how to handle it.  This family member was a trusted and much loved family member. This was a new issue for the 1960’s because it just did not happen that much…. It might have happened more than we thought, but folks just did not have the tools needed to make it right or try to fix it. It is a problem everywhere today; Schools, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, little leagues, families and the list goes on.

With all the chatter concerning the Pope and him stepping down and pointing out all the sins of the Catholic Church, I am reminded of my journey into the Catholic Church from the Protestant Faith.

My father stopped going to our Methodist Church in the 1960’s because of division and politics.

Jim’s father stopped going to the Presbyterian Church in the 1970’s due to something we never learned about.

Our experience with many Protestant churches we attended, almost made us stay home for good, just like our dads. Also, knowledge of other churches where we have lived that struggled with many areas of sin, discouraged us and almost made us give up in finding a church.  We’ve come to believe the worst enemy of Christianity is the “Christian”.

Every area that the Catholic Church has been judged, and with good reasons, happens in every denomination that claims to be CHRISTIAN. Why? Because the Judases will always be among the Flock. The Catholic Church is universal and it always makes front page headlines. Protestantism is only 500 years old and many divisions and splits among the faithful make them small remnants compared to the Catholic Church which is universal.  Why are they splitting and disagreeing? Every church in every land in the Protestant faith and all others has fallen into every area of “BAD” that the Catholic Faith has. It never makes world news…maybe local, but it is soon forgotten until it happens again.

When Pope Benedict stepped down I was so upset because I knew he was a good Pope. I’ve read his writings and he is a brilliant scholar when it comes to the history and teachings of the church. All the chatter I hear about him….. It is not for me to judge. I have a hard enough time keeping me in line. God is the final judge. I look to his fruits, his teachings and the sacrifices he made in serving God’s Church. He came against many Catholics, the US government and societies all around the world that are demanding change; change that is against the “deposit of faith” on faith, virtues and morals. If you Google many of the mainstream Protestant faiths you will notice they are in this same battle and many have compromised to a society that is following its own agenda. This is one of many reasons I am Catholic, and I trust Jesus’ words that he will protect His church and the gates of hell will not prevail. Sorry, folks the anti-Christ is not the Pope and never will be….it is a promise from Jesus.

When the “white smoke” announced to the world we had a new Papa that would be the next Vicar of Christ I was brought to tears with seeing the history being made before my eyes. I thought for a moment…what if this is a bad Pope? Then I was reminded of Christ promise to His Church…  “…Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” I knew that whoever it would be… It did not depend on the man… the Holy Spirit has protected Christ Church for 2,000 years and it is not going anywhere. If God allowed us a great leader to point us to the life of His Son, we would be thankful. If not… His Church would prevail.  I thought of my mother and how she would be so pleased that I had become Catholic and was now watching for the “white smoke.” The “white smoke” finally announced to the world that our new “Papa” would be Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and his name will be Pope Francis! Wow! I felt like my mother was with me… not only did we have a new Pope….but he had chosen my Methodist mother’s favorite saint’s name. It was if God had given me a sign, that my mother was truly a part of this plan, with all the CHURCH.       

Pope Francis seems to be a humble Godly man and I look forward to getting to know him. My first impression of him reminds me of Blessed Mother Teresa from Calcutta, a Servant with a servant’s heart for the poor and needy. A man that will defend the “deposit of faith”, faith, virtues and morals to a world that wants to follow the hearts of men and women in their quest of doing it their way, not God’s way. Wow… What are you doing now Lord, in your Church? Makes me rejoice for Christ’s Church and the 2,000 year old journey continuing until He returns.   

The following are teachings of many of the Church Fathers, those who were taught by the Apostles or those from the following generation that were taught from those who were taught by the Apostles, and now  passing it down to the next generation;


“Peter, who is called 'the rock on which the church should be built,' who also obtained 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven...'” Tertullian, On the Prescription Against the Heretics, 22 (c. A.D. 200).

“And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail...” Origen, Commentary on John, 5:3 (A.D. 232).

“By this Spirit Peter spake that blessed word, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' By this Spirit the rock of the Church was established.” Hippolytus, Discourse on the Holy Theophany, 9 (ante A.D. 235).

“'...thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church' ... It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church's) oneness...If a man does not fast to this oneness of Peter, does he still imagine that he still holds the faith. If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church?” Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesiae (Primacy text), 4 (A.D. 251).

Peter, that strongest and greatest of all the apostles, and the one who on account of his virtue was the speaker for all the others...” Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2:14 (A.D. 325).

“And Peter,on whom the Church of Christ is built, 'against which the gates of hell shall not prevail'” Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6:25 (A.D. 325).

“...the chief of the disciples...the Lord accepted him, set him up as the foundation, called him the rock and structure of the church.” Aphraates, De Paenitentibus Homily 7:15 (A.D. 337).

“Peter, the foremost of the Apostles, and Chief Herald of the Church...” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures,1 1:3 (A.D. 350).

“Blessed Simon, who after his confession of the mystery was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys of the kingdom...” Hilary de Poiters, On the Trinity, 6:20(A.D. 359).

“For the good of unity blessed Peter, for whom it would have been enough if after his denial he had obtained pardon only, deserved to be placed before all the apostles, and alone received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to be communicated to the rest.” Optatus of Milevis, De Schismate Donatistorum, 7:3(A.D. 370).

“The Lord spoke to Peter a little earlier; he spoke to one, that from one he might found unity, soon delivering the same to all.” Pacian, To Sympronianus, Epistle 3:2 (AD 372).

"Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the Holy Church. I betimes called you Peter (Kepha), because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for me...I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, have given you authority over all my treasures." Ephraim, Homily 4:1, (A.D. 373).

“The first of the apostles, the solid rock on which the Church was built.” Epiphanius, In Ancorato, 9:6 (A.D. 374).

“Peter upon which rock the Lord promised that he would build his church.” Basil, In Isaias, 2:66 (A.D. 375).

“As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built!” Jerome, To Pope Damasus, Epistle 15 (A.D. 375).

“Seest thou that of the disciples of Christ, all of whom were exalted and deserving of choice, one is called rock, and is entrusted with the foundations of the church.” Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 32:18 (A.D. 380).

“We have considered that it ought be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it..."...The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither the stain nor blemish nor anything like it.” Pope Damasus, Decree of Damasus, 3 (A.D. 382).

”It was right indeed that he (Paul) should be anxious to see Peter; for he was the first among the apostles, and was entrusted by the Savior with the care of the churches.” Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Galatians, PL 17:344 (A.D. 384).

“Number the priests even from that seat of Peter. And in that order of fathers see to whom succeeded: that is the rock which the proud gates of hades do not conquer.” Augustine, Psalmus contro Partem Donati (A.D. 393).

“But you say, the Church was rounded upon Peter: although elsewhere the same is attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike, yet one (Peter) among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed, there may be no occasion for schism.” Jerome, Against Jovinianus, 1 (A.D. 393).

“The memory of Peter, who is the head of the apostles...he is the firm and most solid rock, on which the savior built his Church.” Gregory of Nyssa, Panegyric on St. Stephen, 3 (ante A.D. 394).
“Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church,” Wherefore where
Peter is the Church is...” Ambrose, Commentary on the Psalms, 40:30 (AD 395).

“At length, after being tempted by the devil, Peter is set over the Church.” Ambrose, Commentary on the Psalms, 43:40 (AD 397).

“In order that he may show his power, God has endowed none of his disciples with gifts like Peter. But, having raised him with heavenly gifts, he has set him above all. And, as first disciple and greater among the brethren, he has shown, by the test of deeds, the power of the Spirit. The first to be called, he followed at once...The Saviour confided to this man, as some special trust, the whole universal Church, after having asked him three times 'Lovest thou me?' And he receive the world in charge...” Asterius, Homily 8 (A.D. 400).

"(Peter) The first of the Apostles, the foundation of the Church, the coryphaeus of the choir of disciples." John Chrysostom, Ad eos qui scandalizati 17(ante A.D. 407).

“Peter, that head of the Apostles, the first in the Church, the friend of Christ, who received revelation not from man but from the Father...this Peter, and when I say Peter, I mean that unbroken Rock, the unshaken foundation, the great Apostle, the first of the disciples, the first called, the first to obey.” John Chrysostom, De Eleemosyna, 3:4 (ante A.D. 407).

“This Peter on whom Christ freely bestowed a sharing in his name. For just as Christ is the rock, as the Apostle Paul taught, so through Christ Peter is made rock, when the Lord says to him: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church...” Maximus of Turin, Homily 63 (A.D. 408).

“...the most firm rock, who (Peter) from the principal Rock received a share of his virtue and his name.” Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of All Nations, 2:28(A.D. 426).

“He promises to found the church, assigning immovableness to it, as He is the Lord of strength, and over this he sets Peter as shepherd.” Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Matthew (A.D. 428).

“But that great man, the disciple of disciples, that master among masters, who wielding the government of the Roman Church possessed the authority in faith and priesthood. Tell us therefore, tell us we beg of you, Peter, prince of the Apostles, tell us how the churches must believe in God.” John Cassian, Contra Nestorium, 3:12 (A.D. 430).

“There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to to-day and forever, lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed Pope Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place...” Philip, Council of Ephesus, Session III (A.D. 431).

“Blessed Peter preserving in the strength of the Rock, which he has received, has not abandoned the helm of the Church, which he under took...And so if anything is rightly done and rightly decreed by us, if anything is won from the mercy of God by our daily supplications, it is of his work and merits whose power lives and whose authority prevails in his See...to him whom they know to be not only the patron of this See, but also primate of all bishops. When therefore...believe that he is speaking whose representative we are:..” Pope Leo the Great, Sermon 3:3-4 (A.D. 442).
“If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Ghost, hastened to the great Peter in order that he might carry from him the desired solution of difficulties to those at Antioch who were in doubt about living in conformity with the law, much more do we, men insignificant and small, hasten to your apostolic see in order to receive from you a cure for the wounds of the churches. For every reason it is fitting for you to hold the first place, inasmuch as your see is adorned with many privileges.” Theodoret of Cyrus, To Pope Leo, Epistle 113 (A.D. 449).

“The Lord wished to be indeed the concern of all the Apostles: and from him as from the Head wishes His gifts to flow to all the body: so that any one who dares to secede from Peter's solid rock may understand that he has no part or lot in the divine mystery.” Pope Leo the Great, To Bishops of Vienne, Epistle 10 (A.D. 450).

“Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith...” Council of Chalcedon, Session III (A.D. 451).

“Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, hath stripped him of the episcopate, and hath alienated from him all hieratic worthiness. 'Peter, the apostle, who is the rock and support of the Catholic Church.'” Paschasinus, Council of Chalcedon, Session III (A.D. 451).

“Peter is again called 'the coryphaeus of the Apostles.’” Basil of Seleucia, Oratio 25 (ante A.D. 468).

“The holy Roman Church is senior to the other churches not by virtue of any synodal decrees, but obtained the primacy from Our Lord and Savior in the words of the Gospel, 'Thou art Peter...'” Pope Gelasius, Decree of Gelasium (A.D. 492).

“[T]he statement of Our Lord Jesus Christ who said, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,'...These (words) which were spoken, are proved by the effects of the deeds, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved without stain.'” Pope Hormisdas, Libellus professionis fidei, (A.D. 519).

“To Peter, that is, to his church, he gave the power of retaining and forgiving sins on earth.” Fulgentius, De Remissione Peccatorum, 2:20 (A.D. 523).

“Who could be ignorant of the fact that the holy church is consolidated in the solidity of the prince of the Apostles, whose firmness of character extended to his name so that he should be called Peter after the 'rock', when the voice of the Truth says, 'I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven'. To him again is said "When after a little while thou hast come back to me, it is for thee to be the support of thy brethren.” Pope Gregory the Great, Epistle 40 (A.D. 604).

“The decrees of the Roman Pontiff, standing upon the supremacy of the Apostolic See, are unquestionable.” Isidore of Seville, (ante A.D. 636).

“For the extremities of the earth, and all in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the most holy Roman Church and its confession and faith, as it were a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it the bright radiance of our fathers, according to what the six inspired and holy Councils have purely and piously decreed, declaring most expressly the symbol of faith. For from the coming down of the Incarnate Word among us, all the churches in every part of the world have possessed that greatest church alone as their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell do never prevail against it, that it possesses the Keys of right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and only religion to such as approach with piety, and shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks injustice against the Most High.” Maximus the Confessor, Opuscula theologica et polemica (A.D. 650).

“Peter was pronounced blessed by the Lord...the duty of feeding the spiritual sheep of the Church under whose protecting shield, this Apostolic Church of his has never turned away from the path of truth in any direction of error, whose authority, as that of the Prince of all the Apostles, the whole Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Synods have faithfully embraced...” Pope Agatho, To Ecumenical Council VI at Constantinople, (A.D. 680).

"A copy of the letter sent by the holy and Ecumenical Sixth Council to Agatho, the most blessed and most holy pope of Old Rome…Therefore to thee, as to the bishop of the first see of the Universal Church, we leave what must be done, since you willingly take for your standing ground the firm rock of the faith, as we know from having read your true confession in the letter sent by your fatherly beatitude to the most pious emperor: and we acknowledge that this letter was divinely written (perscriptas) as by the Chief of the Apostles, and through it we have cast out the heretical sect of many errors which had recently sprung up..” Constantinople III, Council to Pope Agatho, (A.D. 680).

“For, although the devil desired to sift all the disciples, the Lord testifies that He Himself asked for Peter alone, and wished that the others be confirmed my him; and to Peter also was committed the care of 'feeding the sheep'(John 21:15);and to him also did the Lord hand over the 'keys of the kingdom of heaven'(Matthew 16:19),and upon him did He promise to 'build His Church' (Matthew 16:18);and He testified that 'the gates of Hell would not prevail against it' (Matthew 16:19).” Pope Pelagius II, Quod Ad Dilectionem (c. A.D. 685).

“'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven'? When Wilfrid spoken thus, the king said, 'It is true, Colman, that these words were spoken to Peter by our Lord?' He answered, 'It is true O king!' Then says he, 'Can you show any such power given to your Columba?' Colman answered, 'None.' Then added the king, "Do you both agree that these words were principally directed to Peter, and that the keys of heaven were given to him by our Lord?' They both answered, 'We do.'” Venerable Bede, (A.D. 700), Ecclesiastical History, 3:5 (A.D. 700).

Scriptures to ponder;

Matt. 16:18; 18:18 - Jesus uses the word "ecclesia" only twice in the New Testament Scriptures, which demonstrates that Jesus intended a visible, unified, hierarchical, and authoritative Church.

Eph. 4:11 - the Church is hierarchical and includes apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers, all charged to build up the Church. The Church is not an invisible entity with an invisible foundation.

Phil. 1:1 - Paul addresses the bishops and deacons of the Church. They can all trace their unbroken lineage back to the apostles.

1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:7 - Christ's Church has bishops ("episkopoi") who are direct successors of the apostles. The bishops can trace the authority conferred upon them back to the apostles.

1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14 - Christ's Church also has elders or priests ("presbyteroi") who serve the bishops.

1 Tim. 3:8 - Christ's Church also has deacons ("diakonoi"). Thus, Jesus Christ's Church has a hierarchy of authority - bishops, priests and deacons, who can all trace their lineage back to Peter and the apostles.

Exodus 28:1 and 19:6 – shows the three offices of the Old Testament priesthood (1). high priest – Aaron (Ex. 28:1); (2). Ministerial priests – Aaron’s sons (Ex. 19:6; 28:1); and (3). Universal priests – Israel (Ex. 19:6). The New Testament priesthood also has three offices: (1) High Priest – Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1); (2) Ministerial priests – the ordained bishops and priests (Rom. 15:16; 1 Tim. 3:1,8; 5:17; Titus 1:7); and (3) Universal priests - all the baptized (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6).

Matt. 13:24-30 - scandals have always existed in the Church, just as they have existed outside of the Church. This should not cause us to lose hope in the Church. God's mysterious plan requires the wheat and the weeds to be side by side in the Church until the end of time.

Matt. 13:47-50 - God's plan is that the Church (the kingdom of heaven) is a net which catches fish of every kind, good and bad. God revealed this to us so that we will not get discouraged by the sinfulness of the Church’s members.

Matt. 16:18 - no matter how sinful its members conduct themselves, Jesus promised that the gates of death will never prevail against the Church.

Matt. 26:70-72; Mark 14:68-70; Luke 22:57; John 18:25-27 - Peter denied Christ three times, yet he was chosen to be the leader of the Church, and taught and wrote infallibly.

Mark 14:45 - Judas was unfaithful by betraying Jesus. But his apostolic office was preserved and this did not weaken the Church.

Mark 14:50 - all of Jesus' apostles were unfaithful by abandoning Him in the garden of Gethsemane, yet they are the foundation of the Church.

John 20:24-25 - Thomas the apostle was unfaithful by refusing to believe in Jesus' resurrection, yet he taught infallibly in India.

Rom. 3:3-4 - unfaithful members do not nullify the faithfulness of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

1 Tim. 5:19 - Paul acknowledges Church elders might be unfaithful. The Church, not rebellion and schism, deals with these matters.

Jer. 24:1-10 - God's plan includes both good and bad figs. The good figs will be rewarded, and the bad figs will be discarded.