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Catholic Faith
Vol. 4 - #3, May / June 1998

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Q.  Are the angels part of the Mystical Body of Christ? —T.H., Nebraska

A.  The Mystical Body of Christ has three dimensions: the Church Triumphant in heaven, the Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Militant on earth. Strictly speaking, only human beings are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Even the Head of the Mystical Body has a human nature; it is Jesus Christ in His glorified humanity.

However, we may say that angels are closely associated with the Mystical Body on all three levels. Especially here on earth, the angels are God’s messengers to us who belong to the Church Militant. Our guardian angels, who are also our guiding angels, are intimately related to us as the divinely appointed spirits whom God uses to communicate His wisdom and love to us, as we struggle through life on the way to heaven, where the angels are glorifying the Holy Trinity.

Q.  Vatican I said that God “can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason from the things that He created.” Did the fathers of Vatican I recommend any particular path of reason for doing that? Is this teaching Catholic dogma?  —D.S., Ohio

A.  Vatican I based its teaching on the words of St. Paul, speaking of the pagan Romans of his day, “What can be known about God is perfectly plain to them since God Himself has made it plain. Ever since God created the world, His everlasting power and deity, however invisible, have been there for the mind to see in the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-20).

The First Vatican fathers did not specify any particular way for reaching the knowledge of God by the use of our natural reason. However, the Church has consistently taught that there are five basic ways of arriving at the knowledge of God by the use of our reason. Everything in the world is constantly changing; so there must be an unchangeable Being who brought and keeps in existence this changeable universe. Everything in the world had a beginning; but there must be one Being who had no beginning, who is God. Everything in the world is caused by something else; but there must be a Being that is not caused, otherwise nothing would exist. Everything in the world is either greater or less than something else; but there must be a Being who is beyond comparison or degree and is the norm for all other beings. Finally, everything in the world shows the existence of an Intellect which guides and governs and coordinates the whole universe; this Intellect we identify as God.

Yes, it is Catholic dogma that human reason can naturally conclude to God’s existence. Since both St. Paul and the Book of Wisdom teach this as revealed truth, we must say that our capacity to reason to the existence of God is a dogma. Why? Because a dogma is a truth taught infallibly by the Church as something which God has revealed.

Q.  Does having Mass said for someone make the Mass any more efficacious for the intended person than my personal attendance and prayerful offering of the Mass and Holy Communion on his behalf? —R.D.S., Ohio

A.  The Church does not compare the efficacy of having the Mass offered for someone with the value of personal attendance at Mass or of praying at Mass or receiving Holy Communion for someone. Nevertheless, we may say that to have a Mass offered for a person is very powerful. The person may be on earth, and then the Mass is a source of grace to enlighten the person’s mind and strengthen his will. Or, the person may be in purgatory, and then the Mass obtains either deliverance from purgatory, or lessens the time in purgatory, or finally, reduces the intensity of the suffering in purgatory.

Over the centuries, the Church has specially emphasized the value of having Mass offered for someone. This emphasis indicates the immense power of the Eucharistic Sacrifice as a means of obtaining extraordinary blessings from God for those for whom the Mass is offered.

Catholic Faith
Vol. 4 - #3, May / June 1998, p. 41

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission

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