FINDING THE WAY BACK
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Francis Ripley Comprising LETTER TO A LAPSED CATHOLIC 1959
TWELVE STEPS TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH 1959
SIGNPOSTS TO THE CHURCH 1963
CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY PUBLISHERS TO THE HOLY SEE
This book is meant to be a kind of signpost. Its purpose is to piece together what must sometimes look like a jigsaw puzzle.
Francis Ripley (1912-1998) was a Catholic priest and prolific author; he wrote more than twenty CTS pamphlets.
CTS ONEFIFTIES Originally published as Letter to a lapsed Catholic, 1959; Twelve Steps to the Catholic Church, 1959; Signposts to the Church, 1963. Published by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road, London SE11 5AY www.ctsbooks.org All rights reserved. Copyright ÂŠ 2017 The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society.
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ISBN 978 1 78469 534 7
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LETTER TO A LAPSED CATHOLIC Francis Ripley
LETTER TO A LAPSED CATHOLIC My dear Friend,—I am a Catholic priest. For ten years I have been preaching missions all over England and Wales. Before that I was a curate in Liverpool for eight years and a Chaplain in the Royal Air Force for three. My travels have brought me into contact with many people who were baptised in the Catholic Church but have ceased to practise. We call them ‘lapsed’. If you happen to be one of them this letter is addressed personally to you. The vast majority of lapsed Catholics I have met have told me that they still believed in the Church. They would never contemplate dying without the Last Sacraments; they intended to return ‘sometime’ but not just yet. If you are sincere you will agree that these people are taking a grave risk. Our Lord has warned us that death will come like a thief in the night and that we know neither the day nor the hour of its coming. Most priests will tell you of those to whom they have been called suddenly. I could tell of many. My own dear mother was found dead in bed one Tuesday morning in 1916 at the early age of 34. Thank God she was well prepared. Why have you ceased to practise? Perhaps your parents never set you a good example. When you left school you gave up church as well. Or, maybe, you gradually fell into the ranks of the lapsed, missing Mass occasionally at first, then more and more frequently,
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then missing Confession and Easter Duties, and then—well, you found yourself lapsed almost without realising it. Shall we put it down to ignorance? Are you really convinced that the Catholic Church is different from all other churches? That the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, who was God Himself, whereas all the others were set up by men? That the Catholic Church teaches you, pardons you, guides you, makes you holy and leads you to heaven by the authority of Christ Himself, who is God?
THE LOVE OF CHRIST Yes, God became Man because He loved us. He was hidden within His Mother’s womb. He lay in the manger’s straw, He lived in St Joseph’s cottage, He preached and did miracles, He suffered terribly and died cruelly because He loves us, you and me and all men. He said: “Greater love than this no man hath than that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He calls you and me His friends. Is not that quite wonderful—that God Himself should want us to be His friends? That is why He died for us. Look at the picture of Christ on the Cross in this booklet. See His hands and feet pierced by nails, see His side wounded and open, see His head dug with sharp thorns, see His body covered with the scourges’ stripes, see His face bowed and His eyes closed in death. Is it not a picture that speaks to us of infinite love? When I was about to be ordained my family gave me a chalice with which to say Mass. The silversmith who made it asked me to choose a text to be engraved around the cup. I did. I see it now every morning when I raise my chalice before my eyes during Mass. It is this: “He loved me and delivered Himself for me.” The love of Jesus is just as personal as that. Think of what else He has done for us. He made us, you and me, in preference to 6
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countless others whom He has not made and never will make. He made us because He wants us to be His companions in infinite happiness for ever and ever. God does not want to have to damn you. He died to save you from damnation. If you do go to hell—which God forbid—it will be through your own deliberate fault, through rejecting the graces He offers you, possibly through refusing the appeal of this letter. I say God does not want you to go to hell. He died to save you from that. He gave Himself to the very last drop of His precious Blood. How are you repaying that infinite generosity? He has done much more. He has hidden Himself under the appearances of bread and wine because He wants to be the food of your soul. He has given His priests power to forgive your sins because He wants you to come back to Him. He put His Church here among us and preserved it from error to guide you safely to heaven. He shows you His own Sacred Heart, burning with love but wounded, bleeding, crowned with thorns and surmounted by His Cross, saying: “Look at my Heart which loves you so much. If only you will love Me in return I will regard all I have done for you as nothing.” As sincerely and as kindly as I know how, I ask you to think now about these things. Thought and prayer today may make all the difference between heaven and hell hereafter. Ours is a religion of love, not of fear. Being a good Catholic is not just a matter of regular attendance at Sunday Mass and the Sacraments. It should be an effort to love our dear Lord in return for His unbelievable love of us. He loves us so much that He has made His own mother our mother, too. She loves us with all the love of the most perfect and tenderest of mothers. As you read these lines she is praying her Son that you will return to the regular reception of the Sacraments. She knows that you are one of her lapsed children. She understands
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you through and through. She feels your every need. She cannot see you separated from her Son and not pray that you will return. If you honestly believe that you have forgotten much of what you ought to know about the Faith you can easily make up for lost time. The best plan would be to call on a priest and ask him to go over things again with you. Or you could easily obtain a book of instructions or read the pamphlets of the Catholic Truth Society. Whatever else you do, please start going to Mass every Sunday. Do not put it off any longer. Every Sunday Mass missed means another mortal sin. Once you begin to go again you will be surprised how soon everything comes back and you begin to understand.
THEY DIED FOR THE FAITH Do you ever think about those who died rather than deny the Faith you have ceased to practise? They have lived in every century since Christ’s own day. As you read this letter Catholics are imprisoned in their thousands behind the iron and bamboo curtains because they refuse to deny their Faith. Think for a moment of a young housewife of York. She was a convert with a non-Catholic husband and three children. She had been condemned to death for sheltering priests in her home. Now, on March 25th 1585, the awful sentence was to be carried out. In the Toll Booth on the Ousebridge all was ready. “Mrs. Clitherow,” said the Sheriff, “you must remember and confess that you die for treason.” “No, no, Mr. Sheriff,” she replied “I die for the love of my Lord Jesu.” She lay on her back; they stretched out her arms in the shape of a cross and tied her hands to stakes in the floor; they put a sharp stone under her spine and put a heavy door on top of her. Four hired beggars then began to lay weights on the door. As she felt them the bystanders heard her praying: “Jesu! Jesu! Jesu! have mercy on me!” For about fifteen minutes she suffered the agony; 8
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TWELVE STEPS TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
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AUTHORâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S NOTE This little book is meant to be a kind of signpost. Not every step on the way is proved, for example that there are three Persons in God, that man has an immortal soul, that God must be worshipped by the Mass. Its purpose is to piece together what must sometimes look like a jigsaw puzzle. At the end will be found the titles of other books which do prove the points mentioned in the various steps.
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FIRST STEP I Believe in God “The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God” (Ps. 13:1). “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. His eternal power also and divinity” (Rom. 1:20). THERE IS A NECESSARY BEING, THE FIRST CAUSE OF ALL OTHER BEINGS—GOD. Nothing of which man has personal experience in the ordinary course of nature exists necessarily; everything comes into and goes out of existence. Some other being is the cause of existence. There is no adequate explanation of the existence of a vast series of dependent beings, which do not have the full reason of their existence in themselves but in a being outside themselves, unless there is a necessary being, which has in itself the full and adequate reason for its own existence. Unless such a necessary being exists there would be nothing sufficient to bring other beings into existence. We call the necessary Being God. The whole of science depends on law and order in nature. Laws imply a lawmaker above and beyond them. Chance could never produce the highly-complicated, all-embracing, long-enduring order which we see in the universe. Order is essentially the effect of an ordering and adapting intelligence. This ordering Intelligence, the cause of world order, above, beyond and distinct from the world, we call God. These and other arguments for God’s existence are based on undisputed facts of the sensible world and indisputable first
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principles of reason. They proceed strictly according to the accepted laws of reasoning, adhering rigidly to the evidence in hand and concluding within the proper limits of this evidence. The conclusion is absolute, metaphysical certainty, excluding every other possibility. REASON CONCLUSIVELY DEMONSTRATES THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, A BEING, ABOVE AND DISTINCT FROM THE WORLD, INVISIBLE AND NECESSARY, THE FIRST AND INTELLIGENT CAUSE OF ALL ELSE. Reason also tells us that God is infinitely perfect, one, absolutely simple (i.e. not composed of parts), absolutely unchangeable, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and the creator of all outside Himself. God has revealed to us that in His one divine nature there are three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit really distinct from each other but each identical with the same divine essence.
SECOND STEP Man Must Serve God At all times and everywhere men have worshipped the deity. Something within them drove them to this. They saw that they necessarily depended on God and had to acknowledge that dependence. They knew that man is essentially a subject creature, by nature God’s servant, and bound to recognise that in a fitting way. THIS RECOGNITION IS PART OF HIS NATURE, A MATTER OF JUSTICE, A DEBT OWED TO GOD, A DEBT PROVED BY REASON. Reason tells us that man is by nature: (1) God’s creature, that is he needs God’s action to make him exist; (2) God’s servant, that is he is made by God for a certain purpose and service for 24
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which his nature is designed; (3) Made of i. a material body; ii. a soul, which is the body’s vital, informing principle and is simple (i.e. without parts), spiritual and immortal; (4) Utterly dependent on God (a) Physically, i.e. in that he cannot begin or continue to exist or act without God’s action; (b) Morally i.e. in that being endowed with understanding and will, to attain truth and good, and gifted with free choice, he is a moral creature, free but dependent on the laws God has made to rule him; (The Natural Law is implanted by God in the mind of every one of his rational creatures, distinguishing for them good and evil, bidding them to follow the one and shun the other (Rom. 2:14, 15) and interpreted by the voice of conscience. Positive Law was delivered by God in the Ten Commandments.) (5) Bound to recognise fittingly his dependence. This recognition is religion. Reason alone demands that God be worshipped i. Internally by (a) Praise and Adoration i.e. acknowledging God’s supreme excellence and man’s dependence; (b) Love i.e. acknowledging God’s infinite lovableness and all He has done for men; (c) Service i.e. of the Master by His servant; ii. Externally i.e. publicly, so that the whole man, body as well as soul, may acknowledge his dependence; and socially, so that God is honoured by man as He made him, that is as a social being. Man is God’s servant. He is bound to serve God. If he does this faithfully he will attain perfect happiness. In the natural order reason guides men about their duty to God. In the supernatural order we must be guided by God’s revelation.
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THIRD STEP God Has Told Us How We Must Serve Him God is all-powerful; therefore He could reveal to men how He wills to be served. God is all-goodness; therefore He would reveal to men what they needed to do their duty to Him; history tells that God did reveal certain things to men. If God has made a revelation the Natural Law prescribes that men accept it reverently and obey it fully. If God has made a revelation He would attach to it certain distinctive marks by which men would know with certainty that it did come from Him. Such a revelation would be holy and noble, according to the principles of reason and morality; it would be made known by worthy means or a worthy person, who would prove his assertions by signs which would convince men that the revelation was indeed from God. TWO GREAT SIGNSâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;MIRACLES AND PROPHECY â&#x20AC;&#x201D;PROVE THAT GOD HAS MADE TWO GREAT REVELATIONS TO MEN, THE HEBRAIC AND THE CHRISTIAN. Miracles are done by God as the principal cause, in the world, outside or above the course of nature. Prophecies are definite predictions of free future events (such as depend for their occurrence on the free will of man or God). The Hebraic Revelation is contained in the Old Testament. It was granted to the Hebrews and has four parts: (1) the Primitive, made to Adam and Eve, announcing the penalty of their sin and the promise of a Redeemer; (2) the Patriarchal, made to and through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Juda, defining more clearly the promise of a Redeemer; (3) the Mosaic, given to Moses for the guidance of the Hebrew peoples; (4) the post-Mosaic, 26
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made through the Prophets, guiding the people in their way of worship and keeping alive the promise of a Redeemer. The Christian revelation was made by Jesus Christ, God’s ambassador, to announce the end of the Jewish dispensation and the establishment of a New Dispensation. CHRIST PROVED THAT HE WAS GOD’S REPRESENTATIVE BY HIS MIRACLES AND PROPHECIES AND BY PERFECTLY FULFILLING THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES ABOUT THE MESSIAS. He claimed that His revelation was for all men of all time, appointed sanctions for those who deliberately refused it and rewards for those who accepted it and entrusted it to a Church which would teach with authority until the end of time.
FOURTH STEP Man’s Fall and Hope of Salvation God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, placed them in a land of delight called Paradise, and gave them preternatural and supernatural gifts. They were physically perfect, with special knowledge, beyond the power of concupiscences, at leisure, never in pain, not subject to death and destined to enjoy an eternity of divine life along with God. They were also given supernatural gifts, powers which belong by right or by their nature to God alone, to enable them to live God’s life. The gift of living divinely is called Sanctifying Grace. It raised Adam and Eve to the same plane in which God lives, making them sharers in His divine living, enabling them to know and love God as God knows and loves Himself, though not in the same degree. Adam and Eve had free will to accept or reject God’s gifts.
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SIGNPOSTS TO THE CHURCH
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SIGNPOSTS TO THE CHURCH I would like to explain as simply as I can the main arguments for the truth of the Catholic Church. You may not be a scholar and perhaps you do not understand some of the words usually found in books on religion. I will do my best to help you. Suppose we group everything round three big facts. The first is GOD, the second is Jesus CHRIST, and the third is the CHURCH.
GOD The first big fact – God. I think you already believe that there is a God, but to help you I will explain as simply as I can why that must be so. A story might help you.
1. God exists About 300 years ago there lived a famous scientist called Kircher. He made a splendid model of what he knew of the Universe. When a button was pressed, the stars, the moon and the planets began to move around the globe. He kept this in his study. One day a young man came in who was proud of being an atheist. Kircher knew this and was determined to teach him a lesson. He had not long to wait for his opportunity. The young man pointed to the model of the globe and asked, ‘Who made that?’ Quite solemnly, Kircher replied ‘Nobody, of course, it just happened’. The young man looked puzzled. ‘Nobody?’ he said, almost without thinking. ‘Yes, nobody’, replied Kircher. Then the young man said,
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‘But somebody must have made it; it could not have made itself ’. ‘Well spoken’, said Kircher; ‘in those words you have condemned yourself. You boast of your atheism. You say that this little model must have had a designer and yet you deny that the Universe itself, which is millions of times more complicated, came into existence without a designer. I hope you see now how silly you are.’ That is a perfectly valid argument, isn’t it? You can apply it to anything you like. Think of matter itself. Nuclear physics revolves round the fact that matter is highly designed, made up of molecules, atoms, protons, electrons and things. There must have been a designer. To say it all just happened is nonsense. Here is a question for you. Can you think of anything at all which did not at some time or other come from something else? I am sure the answer is ‘No, nothing except God’. All men, all animals, all plants and everything we come across during life come from something else. Some scientists think everything evolved but there must have been something in the beginning which developed into all the things we have today. If ever there was nothing there is still nothing, because nothing cannot by itself become something. You and I know that all the things that exist receive their existence from something else. You cannot go back for ever without finding a starting point somewhere. All the things we know of, which receive their existence, exist only because something gives existence in the first place. Try an experiment for yourself, a very simple one. At breakfast tomorrow morning, when you want a cup of coffee, put your cup on the table in the saucer. Do nothing else. You certainly will not get any coffee. Now take an empty jug and pour the contents into your empty cup. You are still waiting for your coffee. Now take that empty jug and fill it from an empty coffee urn. Still no coffee. You can go on doing that until the Thames runs dry and you just will not get any coffee until somebody puts some in the urn. Instead of coffee, think of the existence of everything – nothing can have it unless something gives in the first place. That giver of existence is 46
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Being itself. It is God. He is the completely independent being on whom everybody and everything else depends. What do we know about God? When we come to think about our second big fact, Jesus Christ, we shall discover quite a lot about Him. For the moment let us just use our reason. By your experiment with the coffee you have proved that God is independent. That means that nothing limits Him. Therefore He has no body. You know how your body limits you; it keeps you where you are. You have to stay where there are air and drink and food. A being without a body is a spirit. So God is a spirit. When we were talking about Kircher and his model, we found out that God had designed the Universe and all matter. He is intelligent. Because He has no limits there are no bounds to His intelligence. When anything has no limits we say it is infinite. You can say this about God in every way. Think of any quality that you like to see in human beings, such as love, goodness, mercy, power, justice, truth, wisdom and the rest. God does not only possess all of these, He is all of them; they are His very being. For example, His power has no limits. Another word for power is might, so we speak of God as being All-mighty, almighty. That is the first point we must make about our first fact: God exists.
2. We must worship God The second point is that we must show by our conduct that we depend entirely on God. In other words, we must worship Him. We belong to Him, just as much as the sand-castle you made on the beach when you were little belonged to you. The difference between you and your sand-castle is that you can speak to the God who made you. You can tell Him how wonderful He is. You can tell Him you are sorry if you do things against His wishes. You can ask Him for what you need. Doing these things is religion. You can see that it is a duty. Here is a story to make that clear.
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Two men went aboard a liner in London docks to emigrate to Australia. They shared a cabin. As the liner was sailing down the Thames estuary, one of the men had a stroke and became quite helpless. The other man looked after him for the rest of the voyage. When they arrived at Sydney, relatives of the sick man came and took him away. Neither he nor his relatives said so much as ‘Thank you’ to the man who had spent six weeks nursing him. You will surely say that was very ungrateful. Men who never pray to God treat Him like that. God has done far more for us than that passenger did for his sick friend. God has given us everything that we are. He keeps us in being every moment we live. He provides us with so many wonderful gifts that we can never hope to count them all. Common sense tells us that we must acknowledge that we depend on Him. We owe God a debt. Paying our debts is called justice. A man who never pays his debts is an unjust man. A man who never worships God is not paying his debts to God. He is an unjust man. Worship and religion are our debt to God. That is the second point under our first big fact: God must be worshipped.
3. We must worship God in the way He teaches us And now we come to our third point. It is simply this: if God has told us how He wants to be worshipped, we must worship Him in that way and in no other. All the rights are on His side. He is the complete master. We depend on Him for everything, even our being. So we have no right to turn round to God and say: ‘I will worship you as I choose, but not in the way you told me’. What would have happened to you at school if you had said to your teacher, ‘I do not mind doing sums but I will do them in my own way and not the way you teach me’? If you ever did say that you have probably painful memories of it!
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