When I was in school, I participated in an undergraduate internship with a hospital chaplain. This largely consisted of me visiting with specific hospital patients and then discussing the interaction with the chaplain. I had no specific training in this, and introducing myself to strangers was not one of my natural talents. On one particular visit, I cautiously entered a darkened room to find an elderly man lying in the bed. There was no one else in the room, and I initially thought he was sleeping. When I moved closer to the bed, I realized that he was very much awake, but also very confused and anxious. He desperately wanted to communicate something, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He seemed weak and frail, and I couldn’t tell if he was in pain, or just scared. I knew nothing about this man’s life or history, and I felt totally helpless. He obviously didn’t want me to leave, but I felt so lost and uncomfortable that I had to leave the room after only a couple of minutes.
The next time I was at the hospital, I was assigned to make follow up visits with the same list of patients. I expected my time with the confused man to be just as short as the last time…if he was even still alive. It seemed pointless to frustrate myself trying to interact with someone so disoriented.
As I arrived at the room, the first thing I noticed was that the lights were on. His daughter was there visiting with him. He was sitting up in the bed and much more alert. I introduced myself to the daughter and explained that I had come by before. Addressing the patient, I then suggested that I was certain he didn’t remember me at all.
He corrected me immediately, saying “I remember you. You were the angel that gave me hope in my darkest hour!” I would have thought his memory was delirious, but he then accurately recounted enough details of our first meeting to remove any doubt of his clarity. I was so amazed that, once again, I didn’t know how to respond. We talked a little more, I told him I was glad he was feeling so much better, and we said goodbye.
In the brief moment of my initial interaction with this inconsolable patient, I had no idea what to say or what to do. I knew of nothing I could offer him. I did absolutely nothing to help this man… except show up. I may never be able to explain it, but somehow he found in me something he needed at a critical point in his life, just because I was there.
I have thought about this encounter often over the past 25 years. It has shaped the way I see life, the way I see myself, and the way I see others. It has influenced not only my career path, but also the decisions I make on a daily basis. It makes me want to offer whatever kindness I can to others, and I try to recognize and appreciate the kindness that others share with me. Obviously, we can’t know the impact our actions, or even just our presence, will have on life.
I don’t know who he was. I don’t know his name, where he came from, or what happened to him after that. It took years of hindsight for me to recognize the gift he had given me, so I didn’t even know to thank him at the time.
So a stranger in the form of a frail old man changed the rest of my life with a single comment. Who was the angel to whom?
The Morning Wonder
There are many reasons the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ, however, some of these reasons are necessary for discussions with those outside the Catholic Church. Jesus prayed for unity of believers and unity begins with understanding. The understanding of the Church’s beliefs is essential in working toward that unity. Here are some key reasons to keep in mind when speaking to non-Catholics:
1.) Authority – Jesus gave specific instructions regarding dealing with members of the Church who were in sin. Matthew 18:15-18 says “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What Evangelical/Protestant Church has the authority to remove someone completely from the church? None. If an individual is removed from a ‘congregation’ then he/she can go down the street and join another ‘congregation’ of the same denomination. The congregations are individualized and have no authority outside their own denomination. That is not true with the Catholic Church. If removed from the Catholic Church, one cannot go to another city and join another Catholic Parish.
2.) History – The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest and original Christian Church, therefore, the beliefs and teachings of the Church were directly passed onto the leaders of the Catholic Church by the apostles. The Catholic Church began with the teachings of Jesus Christ, around 1 Century AD in the province of Judea of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus and no modern Christian Church can make that claim. By the end of the 2 century, bishops began congregating in regional synods and to correct doctrinal and policy issues and by the time the 3 century came around, the Bishop of Rome (Pope) served as the decisive authority, kind of like a court of appeals, for problems and issues the bishops could not resolve. This is identical to the Bible’s teaching. In Exodus 18 we see where the children of Israel brought their disputes to Moses and Moses settled those disputes. However, it also shows where leaders appointed by Moses also worked to settle disputes.
The Catholic Church remained the only Christian Church until the East-West Schism of 1054, which caused medieval Christianity to split and become two separate branches. The greatest division, however, came during the Reformation from 1517-1648, led by Martin Luther. The East-West (Great) Schism was caused by Patriarch Michael I. According to Titus 3:9-11, the divisions led by Patriarch Michael I and Martin Luther were sin. “Avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries, and quarrels about the law, for they are useless and futile. After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned..”
3.) The Catholic Church gave Christians the Bible – The first official list of books contained is what is the Bible was done at the Council of Hippo in 393 and then again in Carthage in 397 and 419. However, the Council of Trent in 1556 was the first time the Church infallibly defined these books as ‘inspired’ because it was questioned by Reformers. We have to admit, the apostles did not walk around with nice leather bound Bibles in their hand. There are many parts of the Bible that are oral tradition which was written down because when early believers attended the Synagogue or church, the scripture was read. They did not have their own copy with their name engraved on the front. Oral tradition was the norm of practice long before writing and reading was a part of life. The Jews followed the Old Testament before Jesus was born and Jesus is pictured in Scripture reading from the Old Testament in the Synagogue. There were multiple writings from this time but it was only after the list of books determined to be the ‘inspired Word of God’ by the Catholic Church first with the Council of Hippo in 393 that the world had what is called “The Bible”. The Bible remained the original 73 books determined by the Catholic Church until the Reformation, when Martin Luther threw out 7 books of the Old Testament that disagreed with his personal view of theology…the same Old Testament adhered to by the Jews. He threw these 6 books out in the 16 Century. Luther also attempted to throw out New Testament books James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation. In referring to James, he said he wanted to ‘throw Jimmy into the fire’ and the book of James was ‘an epistle of straw’ with no usefulness. After Pope Damasus I approved the 27 New Testament Books however in 382 AD, Luther agreed with the Pope and accepted the New Testament books but denied the Old Testament books …which remained out of his Bible. Non-Catholics will accept the Biblical books which are contained in the Protestant Bible but do not acknowledge they are accepting and trusting the authority of the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church was the one who proclaimed the entire list, as a whole, as ‘inspired’. The letters within the Bible are not the only letters and materials written by the Apostles so, as a result, those contained within the Bible had to be declared ‘inspired’ and it was the Catholic Church which did that duty.
4.) The Sacraments are Biblical – The Apostles were given the power to ‘forgive sins’ in John 20:23, Peter taught in I Peter 3:21 that ‘baptism now saves you’, ‘anointing the sick with oil was shown in James 5:14-15, laying on of hands in Acts 8:17 and 2 Timothy 1:6, marriage in the Lord in I Corinthians 7:39 and Jesus stated numerous times that the disciples should participate in the breaking of bread (Eucharist) by stating ‘he who eats my flesh has eternal life’.
5.) Sola Scriptura is not supported in the Bible – It is difficult to make a claim such as Sola Scriptura (The Bible Alone) when, in its very essence, the claim must be written within the Bible in order to be Biblical. The concept of “Bible Alone” says it is not truth if it is not contained in the Bible, therefore removing ‘tradition’, but the Bible refutes that principle. Jeremiah 25:3 says the “Word of the Lord” is “spoken”, not just written. Paul told us to hold to our traditions, which are taught by word and mouth or by letter, according to 2 Thess 2:15. The Bible also portrays where a Council was held to settle doctrinal disputes in Acts 15. (Who else has a Council to settle doctrine disputes and holds the authority to do such other than the Catholic Church?) The Bible also warns about ‘twisted’ interpretations of Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16 and I Timothy 3:15 says THE CHURCH is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth. The Catholic Church has one teaching…one unified teaching…as opposed to the now 43,000 evangelical (Protestant) groups currently established, with 2.3 added each day. Their views on everything from the Trinity, homosexuality, abortion, and salvation all contradict each other. Truth cannot be false at the same time and Truth cannot contradict each other.
Five Reasons the Catholic Church is the True Church. BY AMELIA MONROE CARLSON
Photo Credit: Flickr / Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston
Pope Francis admitted today that the lack of vocations in some parts of the Church can cause him to feel tempted to lack hope, but he says that it is a call to pray more fervently, as Anna prayed for the gift of a son, and was given Samuel.
The Pope spoke of this today — and also of the sin of gossip — when he received in audience consecrated men and women celebrating their jubilee at the end of the Year of Consecrated Life.
Tomorrow, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day of Consecrated Life, marks the end of the special jubilee year.
The Pope left aside his prepared text and instead spoke to the consecrated off-the-cuff.
Bioethics Questions: End of Life Decision Making; What Should Catholics Do?
Some might find it difficult or even repugnant to initiate a forthright conversation with a loved one about treatment plans at the end of life. I urge you to overcome this resistance.
You check into a hospital for a routine procedure. They ask you if you have a living will. You say no. They slide a form in front of you with simplistic questions such as: Do you want to be resuscitated if you go into cardiac arrest? Do you want mechanical ventilation if you are unable to breath? Do you want nutrients and fluids supplied to your body if you’re unconscious?
Your gut tells you the questions are superficial. If CPR could revive you and you could live decently for a while longer, yes, you’d want it. If you’d die anyway an hour later, then no. If ventilation was a temporary measure to help you overcome an acute condition, yes. If you were permanently unconscious and never able to breathe again on our own, then perhaps no. And food and water? Of course you want to be fed. What’s the alternative, starvation? You don’t get much help from the check-in clerk. And hospital healthcare managers give you ideologically-laden advice such as “think about your values…and what you feel would make your life not worth living” (from the
Mayo Clinic website). “Life not worth living!?,” you ask, “Where does that idea come from? Not from Catholic faith.” But you recall that your Aunt Agatha didn’t have an Advance Directive and she was subjected to aggressive and obviously-futile treatments at the end of her life and suffered unnecessarily. You’re pretty sure that if she’d been asked she’d have said: “Enough’s enough. Let me go to God!” But she was unconscious. You fear that if you don’t fill out the form, something like this might happen to you. What should you do?
Advice for Catholics: If you can avoid using
Living Wills and POLST ( MOST ) forms, by all means do so. Their simplistic check-box format poses unacceptable risks from both the perspective of good medical decision-making and good ethical decision-making. They risk binding the hands of medical professionals to non-treatment decisions that are not in the best interests of patients.
But this does not mean that Catholics should be unprepared for end-of-life crises. I recommend that all Catholics who are able should do the following three things:
First , execute in writing a Health Care Power of Attorney ( HCPA) assigning a proxy decision maker—sometimes called a “surrogate”—to act as your healthcare agent in the event that you become incapable of making informed decisions. You can do this yourself without costly legal fees. Just make sure that your
HCPA is adequately specific and your signature is validly witnessed. Here are a few things you might include.
Invest your proxy with full authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, including but not limited to the power to:
(1) consent to, or refuse, or withdraw consent to, any type of medical care, treatment, surgical procedure, diagnostic procedure, medication and the use of mechanical or other procedures that affect any bodily function, including, in appropriate circumstances, life-sustaining procedures. [*Note: this power does not extend to the refusing of properly “ordinary means” of care, defined in Catholic teaching as forms of care or treatment that promise a “reasonable hope of benefit” and are “not excessively burdensome.” The
Catholic Church teaches that the administration of food and water is always ordinary care unless and until one’s body no longer can assimilate them, at which time their administration becomes futile and is no longer obligatory];
(2) request, receive, and review any information regarding your physical or mental health, including but not limited to medical, hospital and other records; and to consent to or authorize the use and disclosure of such information;
(3) employ and discharge your health care providers;
(4) authorize your admission to or discharge (including transfer to another facility) from any hospital, hospice, nursing home, assisted living facility or other medical care facility;
(5) authorize that you be discharged from a medical facility and be brought home and cared for at home;
(6) take any lawful actions necessary to carry out these decisions.
You may also want to state that the authority of your agent is subject to no limitation except the law of God, the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church, and your agent’s own conscience.
Second, ensure that your proxy not only is willing to direct all relevant medical decisions in accord with Catholic faith and morals, but understands what doing so means. Frequently the limiting factor in legal disputes over end-of-life decisions comes down to uncertainty of the wishes of the patient. Remove all uncertainty. Make your wishes known both orally and in writing as clearly as possible to your proxy and to other loved ones.
If you are uncertain about Church teaching on end-of-life decision-making, speak to your parish priest, or an informed Catholic medical professional, or contact trustworthy groups like the
Catholic Medical Association, or your diocesan moral theologian, or, if nothing else is available, directly contact your local bishop.
Third , in the event that you or your proxy are faced with a situation in which the judgment of a hospital ethics committee or other hospital decision makers seems to conflict with your faith or morals, don’t be afraid to mount a legal challenge in court. If you are reticent because of the cost of legal representation, consult with a reliable Christian advocacy ministry such as Alliance Defending Freedom,
Christian Legal Society , and American Center for Law and Justice. You might even contact one of the 50 state affiliates of National Right to Life .
Some might find it difficult or even repugnant to initiate a forthright conversation with a loved one about treatment plans at the end of life. I urge you to overcome this resistance. Because a large majority of medical resources in U.S. healthcare are consumed on end-of-life treatments for the elderly, secular medicine, fueled by Obamacare, and with the support of the medical insurance industry, is investing enormous energy in publicizing and distributing secular tools for end-of-life decision making. The tools are invariably skewed in the direction of refusal of life sustaining treatments. Although flagrant examples of aggressive overtreatment still exist, U.S. healthcare is travelling rapidly and ineluctably in the direction of a culture of refusal. Without conscientious advance planning, some will find the pressure to check the “refusal” box on these documents hard to resist.
Bioethics Questions End of Life Decision Making: What Should Catholics Do?
Christian Brugger is Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, DC, and Cardinal Stafford Professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
[Readers may send questions regarding bioethics to email@example.com. The text should include your initials, your city and state, province or country. The fellows at the Culture of Life Foundation will answer a select number of the questions that arrive.]
During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Francis Stresses ‘Ugliest Thing’ Is He Who Thinks He Has ‘No Need for Forgiveness’