Sermon Review: Saints

Oh Brother…

I’ll be honest.  I don’t put a lot of work into actually figuring out what Mark Driscoll has to say about Catholics.  All I do is click on his sermon transcript, do a search for the word “Catholic” or “Pope” and usually there isn’t a lot there.  At least, there hasn’t been since our meeting a couple years back.  So when I search the word “Catholic” and it returns 19 hits, you know something is up.  So, to my fellow Catholic readers, you might want to put some padding on your hands because you’re going to be face palming an awful lot here.  And to any readers from Mars Hill, I hope after reading this you’ll understand why your Pastor gets on our nerves sometimes.

The sermon in question is quite recent.  It was delivered on January 24th 2013 and it is named, “I am a Saint.”  Within this sermon, he has an entire section dedicated to the Catholic understanding of Sainthood.  So lets go through this piece by piece, shall we?

“How many of you were raised Catholic? Okay, welcome to our mass.”

We’ve been over this one before.  I explained what Mass is and what Mass isn’t here.

My name is Father Mark. We’ll have the Eucharist in a short while, okay. I can always tell the Catholic visitors. “Father Mark, that was a good mass.” Oh, you’re welcome, good to see you.

These sound like really well informed Catholics showing up to Mars Hill!  Kidding aside, I do hope these people meet Jesus because we’ve pretty clearly underserved them.  I also pray that they will return to the Church Jesus established soon!

I was raised Irish Catholic, long line of Irish Catholic.

I’ve talked about this before, as well.  You can read up about it here, but if you don’t want to, I’ll give you the quick version: Pastor Mark was not raised Catholic very well.

I’ve been back to Ireland to the old country, and we are Catholic as far back as we can trace. Irish, devout, O’Driscoll, Catholic, including my grandmother who, after my grandfather died, joined a lay order of Catholic nuns, and she spent her final years as a nun.

Now the funny thing here is that all orders of Catholic nuns are lay orders.  In other words, to say that an order of Catholic nuns is a lay order of Catholic nuns is to be completely redundant.  All non ordained Catholics are considered laymen and lay women.  There is no such thing as ordained nuns, since women can’t be ordained.  So, in a move that is quite humorous to me, Mark tries to use his family history to prove that he was a super devout Catholic, and shows his extreme non-devoutness before he’s even done completing the sentence.

Either way, I don’t know what he means here and I’m pretty sure his own people don’t either.

Moving on…

Very devout, Catholic family, so I was baptized as a little boy in the Catholic Church, and I grew up in the Catholic Church. I went to Catholic school for a few years. I was an altar boy assisting the priest with the mass every week, and we talked a lot about saints. Actually in our home, we had pictures of various saints.

Yeah, we’ve been over this, too.  While being an altar boy might sound impressive to non-Catholics, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t   It isn’t at all.  I know because I was an altar boy and I didn’t know most of what being Catholic meant.  I became an altar boy because I wanted something to do at Mass rather than be bored and our training sessions got us out of class.  Perhaps Pastor Mark’s experience was different, but that would beg the question of why he makes so many errors when he explains Catholicism.

And so for me, I thought saints were like superheroes. They’re normal people endowed with amazing, superhuman abilities, like Chastity Man, or Aquaman, or Superman. I mean, that’s what I thought. Like, Superman could fly, and Aquaman could breathe underwater, Chastity Man could keep his hands to himself. These are like superheroes. These are like superheroes. They’re like us, but they have special powers.

Now there certainly are a lot stories concerning saints that give this impression.  I’m not going to dispute that at all, but I think this is the best time to explain exactly why Catholics venerate the Holy Men and women in our past.  First of all, we celebrate the lives of the Saints – as well as their earthly accomplishments – because in the lives of the saints we see Grace at work.  We see evidence that God does amazing things through sinners like you and like me.  Thus, to celebrate the life of a saint is to celebrate the work of God!  How can we not celebrate God’s work in the lives of the people he came to save?  Thus, while I would agree with Pastor Mark that anyone in Christ is a saint, there are certain men and women in Church history whose lives deserve to celebrated more than others.

Secondly, we celebrate the lives of the saints because the saints are our family members.  Through the Holy Spirit, we have been made children of God.  The bonds between Christians are so strong that we are family.  This shouldn’t come as a shock to and Mars Hill member, since Pastor Mark preached a sermon on this not long ago.  In your home, you probably have pictures of family members.  Some of these people might be dead, but others might be living.  No matter the case, these pictures serve as a reminder of the people you love.  In the Catholic Church, we often have statues of saints and pictures of saints for the same.

Thirdly, we celebrate the lives of the saints because their lives teach us about Jesus.  I think anyone can relate to this on a natural level.  When I was in college I made a lot of new friends.  I always enjoyed when their friends would come hang out with us because it gave me a fresh perspective on who my friends were.  Seeing how much these people valued my friends caused me to appreciate my friends more.  The same goes for our relationship with Jesus.  When I am around other Christians and when I look at the lives of the saints I actually grow in my understanding of who he was and I come to love and appreciate him more.

There is a process in Catholicism—and I love Catholics, I don’t hate Catholics.

Why does he always have to say that he doesn’t hate Catholics?  Methinks the pastor doth protest too much…

 And the sainthood in Catholicism, it started off, interestingly, where people who loved Jesus would get martyred, and then they would be honored.

The problem with this statement is… wait.  Wait a second.  That is actually a correct statement!  I’m stunned!  This statement is completely correct!  Sainthood started off in the Catholic Church when Christians would celebrate the martyrdom of other Christians.  And you know what?  On top of that, they would venerate the remains of these Christians!  Sounds weird huh?  It sort of is to us, but it wasn’t to other cultures.

Now, you might be wondering when this crazy practice began.  You might be inclined to think that it started in the “dark ages.”  Well, the truth is this practice started almost immediately within Christianity.  You can read a little bit about it here and a little bit more about it here.

So, interestingly enough, this practice of venerating saints and their relics seems to be something perfectly acceptable and perhaps even encouraged in the apostolic age.  Which leads me to an interesting question… If Mars Hill is preaching a Gospel that has always been believed then why are some of these practices of the apostolic age (like venerating saints and their relics) not done?

Well, that’s not necessarily bad,

Of course it isn’t.  It’s actually good because it celebrates Christ’s victory over death in the lives of ordinary Christians!

but then over time it got very political and very complicated,

Says who?  Oh, says Mark Driscoll.  Doesn’t seem complicated or political to me, but what do I know?  I’m just a practicing Catholic.

and so papal leadership put together sort of rules.

We’ve been over this as well.  Read up on it here.  Catholics have a lot of rules, but the Catholic Church needs a lot of rules because the Catholic Church is so unbelievably huge!  We need the rules to keep order in the Church and to make sure that everyone’s rights as a Christian are respected.  Mars Hill is not nearly as big and since Mark Driscoll has more direct authority over Mars Hill members than the Pope has over Catholics, they don’t need as many rules.

Some guys in hats had a meeting, it was all very official, and somebody wrote it down, okay? And Father James Martin, he lays out a ten-step process to become a Catholic saint…

From here on out, Pastor Mark just relates the process for canonization.  But just to be clear, let it be known that the Catholic Church does not “make” saints.  God makes saints.  The Catholic Church can only declare the truth that one has in fact been made.  To do so is a service to people like me – it provides me with reassurance that this Christian’s life is worthy of my respect because of what God has done in them and through them.

If you are a Mars Hill member – or just a regular non-Catholic coming across this post – I would encourage you very strongly to celebrate the lives of the saints.  There is so much to learn, and your relationship with Jesus will grow much stronger because of it.  Your faith will increase by learning about the real, tangible effects of grace in the lives of these extraordinarily blessed Christians.

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