Receiving Sacraments in Mortal Sin – What Happens?

One of our Members of the New Saint Thomas Institute, Dr Ken Hare, (who appeared on this podcast with me) had an excellent question recently in the Forums of the New Saint Thomas Institute. This question came up on our studies regarding Holy Matrimony and obstacles to a valid marriage:

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Tagging onto part of Helene’s question, with regard to the impediments of lack of openness to having children as well as lack of commitment to marital fidelity, what if one of those exists at the time of the original marriage, but thru conversion of heart ceases to exist at some point thereafter? Can an originally invalid marriage at that point become valid?

Answer:

A canonically invalid marriage can later become valid.

It’s like the example of confirmation from a previous lesson:

A 14 year old boy could validly receive the sacrament of Confirmation in a state of mortal sin. He would receive zero habitual grace upon reception of the sacrament because of the obstruction of mortal sin. However, if he were not making an explicit act of the will against receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, he would validly receive the sacrament (and the indelible character of Confirmation), but not the grace of the sacrament, nor the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

If he stayed away from Christ and the Church for 30 years from that day but then one day he made a good confession, suddenly at that moment of absolution, his soul would be FLOODED not just with the grace of justification, but with all the graces of Confirmation that had been held in reserve until that moment. This is why people sometimes experience such a spiritual experience when they make a confession after a long time. They are receiving sacramental graces accrued from the past!

There is also radical sanation of Matrimony whereby a bishop can validate a previously invalid marriage. The previously lost graces of Holy Matrimony are restored to the couple. Some people like to use the analogy of a “sacramental time machine” but I don’t like that analogy.

With regard to “artificial contraception so as to avoid the conception of children” this is an impediment to valid sacramental marriage. However, the openness to life later on would demonstrate a valid marriage. The previous graces would come to rest. The couple would not need to perform the marriage liturgy again in order to have a valid marriage since the original form stands. If, however, they were Catholics married outside the Church (lacking form) then they would have to perform the marriage liturgy to have  valid marriage.

Interestingly enough, the sacrament of confession is always a “reactivating” of sacramental baptism. Confession or reconciliation is a sacrament in its own right, but it is restorative of the state of baptism. This is why baptism must always be received prior to confession. Sacramental absolution removes all guilt and eternal punishment, but temporal punishment can remain – hence the need for penance and indulgences even for those who have been to confession.

As with the Confirmation example above, the same could be true of Holy Orders. A man could receive Holy Order in a state of mortal sin. He would be validly ordained and could confect the sacraments. He would say a valid Mass. But the habitual grace of Holy Orders to assist him in ministry would be lacking in his soul. He would be a valid priest but for the sake of his salvation, not well-equipped. When he made a good confession, his soul would be justified an in that moment it would receive the habitual grace of Holy Orders.

It goes without saying that receiving sacraments (especially the Eucharist) in a state of mortal sin (except baptism) is always sacrilegious.

Please leave a question below if it’s still not clear.

Godspeed,

Taylor Marshall, PhD

10 Tips for Catholics Visiting Rome

I spent just over three weeks in Rome teaching Catholic seminarians through the Rome Experience, and here are 10 tips that to making the most out of your visit to Rome:

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1 You should visit the 4 Major Basilicas of Rome: St Peter’s (Vatican), St Paul’s outside the Walls, St Mary Major, and St John Lateran. These are the four grandest churches in Rome and each will take your breath away. My favorites are St Peter’s and St Mary Major.

2 The best part of Rome are the off-the-path churches. Saint Peter’s Basilica is amazing, but I find myself enjoying and communing with God in a special way in churches such as St Agnes in Agony off the Piazza Navona or at Sunday Mass in the St Maria Trastevere.

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Santa Maria in Trastevere – Off the beaten path, but worth a visit!

3 If you’re healthy, walk everywhere. Try not to use cabs or the metro. Walking a city is the best way to know a city. If you can’t walk, go with someone who knows Rome well.

4 Bus tour. Speaking of getting to know Rome, as cheesy as it sounds, I recommend getting on one of those tourist double decker buses and riding around the city at least once. It will provide you with a global “view” of the city.

Eternal City Rome Look Inside5 Read a good book on Christian Rome before you arrive. I recommend my book The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholicism for Catholic pilgrims looking for Catholic insights into the history and theology of Rome.

6 Eat meals at scenic Italian spots. Will food cost more on the piazza of the Pantheon or on Piazza Navona? Of course! But it’s worth it. Watch people. Listen to the musicians. Watch performers. One evening, I was eating alone on the Piazza Navona and two married British couples on an anniversary trip to Rome invited me to their table and even bought me champagne. We had a great time talking about Latin. It was a fun and magical evening that I’ll never forget – and it would have never happened if I had dinner at a cheap kabob shop off the Tiber.

7 Pasta is great, but it’s not the end-all be-all in Rome. Italian food isn’t all pasta. I rarely consume pasta in Rome. I spend my meals loving the cured pork dishes, the veal, the cheese, and the vegetables. If you are into pasta, some of the best pastas are those that are lightly topped with sauces or fine oils. Quality over quantity.

8 Everyone raves about Roman gelato. But after living there for almost a month, I learned that there is gelato…and then there’s real gelato.

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Just as wine comes in a variety of value, even so gelato. Through priests I met, I was introduced to interesting flavors that I would have never tried. There are an array of nut flavors that I highly recommend. Pistachio, of course, but also try Bacio (chocolate hazlenut – like Nutello!!!), Mandorla (almond), and Castagna (chessnut). And of course blend with chocolates and dark chocolate and berry flavors. I found that gelato sold at tourist centers and from moveable carts tended to be the worst in the city.

9 Prayer at holy sites. Rome is a holy city of martyrs, relics, saints, tradition, and glory. But you can get so caught up in seeing everything that you don’t talk to God. Don’t just gawk at Michelangelo’s Pieta and take photos for Instagram. No, kneel down in front of it and pray. Don’t rush from church to church. Find the tabernacle and talk to Jesus about your pilgrimage.

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Sistine Chapel Vatican Museum Rome Italy. Leave that iPhone in your pocket. Be still and pray. 

10 Live in the moment and feel Rome. Here are some examples from my own experience: Watch an Italian cat curl up under an ancient statue. Smile at a newly wed couple cuddling near a fountain. Sit in an ancient Roman church and watch a wedding of two people I’ve never met. Randomly meet seminarians on the street and invite them to lunch. Pass the peace in Italian at a local Mass.

There’s much more that I could say, but these 10 are the big ones with 1, 2, 9, and 10 as the most important.

Let’s go to Rome together:

I’m leading a group of pilgrims to Rome and Italy this summer for a 10 Day Pilgrimage (including Assisi and Siena). We have some pilgrim spots left, so if you’d like to join us for a planned, prayerful, and beautiful pilgrimage, please watch this short Youtube video of me explaining what will do and what we will see: watch Rome Pilgrimage with Dr. Taylor Marshall video. The cut off date for reservation is April 30:

Please reserve your spot by clicking here.

map of Rome pilgrimage

Is St George Still a Saint? What about the Dragon?

April 23 is the feast of Saint George. So I put together a super post on Saint George:

Saint George

Saint George Podcast

Have you ever debated whether Saint George is real or historical? If so, then this Catholic podcast is for you: Is Saint George (and Saint Christopher) still a Saint?.mp3

Sword and Serpent: My Best-Selling Novel about Saint George is on sale this weekend

Looking for a Catholic fiction page-turner? I published a #1 best-selling historical fiction novel about Saint George and the Dragon (plus St Christopher, Emperor Constantine, Diocletian, et al.) titled Sword and Serpent

Father Dwight Longenecker wrote a glowing review of Sword and Serpent here.

Here’s the book trailer for Sword and Serpent on YouTube:

The novel is now on sale for this April 23 weekend on Kindle and in paperback. Click here to get a copy:

sword and serpent look inside

You can also download the free “Sword and Serpent Study Guide” (an explanation of the historical features of the book and its saints) at swordandserpent.com.

Troops of Saint George: Outdoor Adventure for Catholic Men and Sons

Looking for a Catholic alternative to scouting? In 2013 I founded a Catholic outdoor adventure fraternity for priests, deacons, fathers and sons – and dedicated it to Saint George. We have 40 active troops. Please visit our website and consider starting a Troop of Saint George at your parish. We have a starter kit for dads and for priests to help you get started:

TSG group photo

Click here to visit the Troops of Saint George website.

Saint George’s Skull in Rome

Saint George’s skull is in Rome and I visited him last summer in Rome. If you’d like to go on pilgrimage with me for a NSTI Catholic Theology Pilgrimage to Rome and Italy this summer, please click here to reserve your spot.

Happy feast of Saint George!!!

Saint George pray for us,

Taylor Marshall

Free Catholic Webinar Class: Catholic Rome and Papacy 101

You’re invited to this week’s NSTI Catholic Webinar class on Rome and the Early Papacy 101.

This webinar is a “mini-version” of the class that I teach to Catholic Seminarians in Rome. This class is complimentary; however, space is limited and you must reserve your spot before Wednesday. You can register (reserve your spot) by clicking here.

Early Papacy 101 Class with Dr Marshall

YOU WILL DISCOVER INFO ABOUT:

  • The Old Testament and Rome
  • Tradition of Peter in Rome
  • Popes after Peter in Rome
  • Importance of St Clement of Rome
  • The Power of the Bishop of Rome in 2nd Century
  • EVERYONE THAT ATTENDS WILL RECEIVE a pdf Handout on these Catholic topics.

This webinar is a “mini-version” of the class that I teach to Catholic Seminarians in Rome. Space is limited and you must reserve your spot before Wednesday. You can register (reserve your spot) by clicking here.

Register here button

107: The Word “Catholic” in the Early Church [Podcast]

My goal this week is to talk with you about the word “Catholic” in the early church.

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#107: The Word “Catholic” in the Early Church [Podcast]

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If the audio player does not show up in your email or browser, please click here to listen.

  • Featured Segment: The Word “Catholic” in the Early Church
  • Latin Word of the Week: Ecclesia (from Greek)
  • Tip of the Week: Finish 3 tasks every day
  •  Announcements:

I’d love to read your feedback: While you listen to today’s podcast, would you please take 30 seconds to write a review? Please click here to Rate this Podcast!

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  • Apple/Mac Users: Please subscribe via iTunes by clicking here and then clicking on “View in iTunes.”

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If you like this podcast, please leave a review.

Eric Clapton’s Song to Virgin Mary was Stolen for Princess Bride film

Do you remember that epic closing music to The Princess Bride? It’s a ripoff of a song written by Eric Clapton, a ballad written to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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During the lows of Eric Clapton’s alcoholism, he wrote a ballad to the Blessed Virgin Mary called “Holy Mother.” The lyrics are moving and conclude with a “now and at the hour of our death” moment followed by a solo that only Clapton could construct:

When my hands no longer play,
My voice is still, I fade away.
Holy mother, then I’ll be
Lying in, safe within your arms. [guitar solo]

During this time in his life, Clapton had a conversion to Christ which explains like this:

I had found a place to turn to… From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety. I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray, and with my ego, this is the most I can do.

Anyway, he wrote a beautiful ballad called “Holy Mother” and from the first time that I listened to it, I thought to myself, “This sounds like a movie?” And then I realized that it sounded like The Princess Bride theme.

Compare the opening and the melody of Eric Clapton’s “Holy Mother” (1986) to The Princess Bride Theme (1987). I’ve included both from Youtube:

Here is Eric Clapton’s “Holy Mother” from his album August (1986):

And here’s The Princess Bride Theme Song, “Storybook Love” (1987):

It’s a bit odd that these songs came out a year apart. Mark Knoplfer, composer of The Princes Bride theme, was the singer for Dire Straits (“Money for nothing and your chicks for free…”). He was also a friend of Clapton’s and the two have played together over the years. But I’ve got say, it sure does sound like Knopfler cribbed Clapton’s “Holy Mother” for The Princess Bride. Just saying…

I really enjoy Clapton’s “Holy Mother” (brings me to tears) and I especially his version of “Holy Mother” with Pavarotti. Give it to 1:43:

You’ll see that Clapton is wailing on a blue Stratocaster – fitting for a Marian hymn.

  • If you want another beautiful Clapton song, check out his “Presence of the Lord” with Blind Faith (Clapton and Steve Winwood singing). This song is so epic.
  • Two other great spiritual ballads by Clapton are “Tears in Heaven” and “Running on Faith.”

Question: Do you like Clapton’s “Holy Mother”? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Taylor

Divine Mercy 101: Catholic Webinar Tonight!

Tonight will be the Catholic Webinar on Divine Mercy 101 with Dr. Taylor Marshall:

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SOME POPULAR QUESTIONS THAT WE WILL ANSWER IN THIS WEBINAR:

  • Did Saint Faustina claim that everyone gets a chance of salvation after death?
  • Why was Divine Mercy allegedly condemned in the 60s and 70s?
  • What exactly is the message and what is Divine Mercy Sunday?
  • What was the role of Saint John Paul II in Divine Mercy?
  • Free for all Catholic Theology Q&A Session at the end of our webinar
  • EVERYONE THAT ATTENDS WILL RECEIVE a Catholic Bible Cheat Sheet as a pdf download

Sign up by clicking here.

Register here button

I hope you learn a ton with us tonight about the history and theology of Divine Mercy.

Godspeed,
Taylor Marshall

Today is my Birthday: My Strategy for Having a Happy Life

Today, March 29, is my birthday and I’m grateful to God to be alive. I have been given faith in Christ, a beautiful wife Joy, wonderful children, and a group of godly friends who keep me on track.

Taylor Marshall Family

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I have found that the secret to happiness is to be verbally grateful every single day. If I feel down, bitter, or discouraged, I can regain my joy by thanking God for what is good.

I have a typed list of “gratitudes to God” that I recite to the Lord every single day. It’s on my phone. I have made a deal with myself THAT I MUST PRAY TO GOD THROUGH THIS LIST EVERY DAY AND PERSONALLY THANK HIM. I usually pray to God through this list in front of the tabernacle at Church. It includes my wife, my house, my children, my friends, and many other small details in my life that you might find silly or stupid. But they mean a lot to me and I feel that I should thank God for them daily.

If you are a reader of this blog, a listener to the podcasts, or a student a the New Saint Thomas Institute, I thank God for you every day and I pray for you every day. Thank you for being a blessing in my life.

If you are a man, I’ve created a “A Man’s 11 Point Checklist for Living the Good Life” which you can download at over at The Maccabee Society. It will give you 11 simple things you can do every day to live a fulfilled and joyful life as a man. Many of them apply to women, but I wrote them specifically for Christian men since they often struggle in life.

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Here are three podcasts I’ve recorded on how to find Joy and Meaning in your life:

Did You Miss God’s Plan for Your Life?

How to Escape Joyless Catholicism, Part 1

How to Escape Joyless Catholicism, Part 2

Have a great day and thank you for being part of my life. I’m grateful for you!

Godspeed,

Taylor

Why Did Jesus Wash the Feet of the Apostles? Pope Francis, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine

Recently the Catholic Church has been wrestling with the significance of foot washing – the liturgical reenactment of Christ washing the feet of His Apostles on the night before He was betrayed.

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The Council of Elvira (Spain, AD 305) prohibited the washing of feet because heretical ideas were being associated with it: “The feet of the newly baptized are not to be washed by the priests or clerics” (Elvira 48). Saint Ambrose of Milan, against this rulings of the Council, considered foot washing to be “sacrament” of great importance. In Milan and other places, “foot washing” was a prelude to sacramental baptism.

The Albigensian heretics held foot washing in high esteem and assigned to it a theological importance without parallel in the orthodox Catholic Church. Up until the last century, Popes, Abbots, and Kings would wash the feet of the poor as a sign of humility and servant leadership. More on that later.

Foot Washing Enters the Mass in 1955

Up until 60 years ago, the custom of foot washing did not appear in the Roman Eucharistic liturgy. Until 1955, the Roman Missal included a rite of foot washing detached from the Mass. Pope Pius XII was the first Pope to have foot washing included in the Mass and it was stipulated that it would be the feet of men, presumably as a sign of the male-only priesthood.

Hence, foot washing is relatively new liturgical rite. 

In 2013, Pope Francis washed the feet of two women and non-Christians (Muslims) at a juvenile detention center in Rome 2013. Pope Francis revised the direction of the Roman Missal in 2016 to include men and women as a sign of inclusion.

Theology of Foot Washing? Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine:

I wrote a well-known book on Judaism and Catholicism that covers the liturgical and sacramental connections between the Old Testament and Catholic Christianity called The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. It’s a popular text now in Catholic schools and seminaries. You can read reviews of it on amazon here.Crucified Rabbi Look InsideUnfortunately, I did not include a section on foot washing. So here goes:

Saint Jerome in his Epistle to Pope Damasus states that Christ washed His Apostles’ feet to prepare them for the preaching of the gospel, in fulfillment to the prophecy of Isaiah:

“How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, of them that bring good tidings.” (Isa. 52:7)

The Apostles were ordained as sacerdotal priests at the Last Supper and so the foot washing is to prepare them to carry the Gospel to foreign lands. It’s a commissioning rite to “preach the Gospel of peace.”

Saint Ambrose associates the foot washing to original sin and the Protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15 since it is with “the heel” that the Messiah and His followers will crush Satan’s head:

“Because Adam was tripped up by the devil and the venom was poured out over thy feet, therefore dost thou wash thy feet that in that part where the serpent ensnared thee there may be added the more abundant aid of sanctification, so that he be not able to trip thee up hereafter.” Saint Ambrose De Sacramentis3, 1)

Saint Augustine and Cyprian associate the washing of feet with the removal of venial sins. This is why Christ says: “He that has been washed needs not but to wash his feet, but is clean throughout.” The Apostles were already baptized. Peter asks for a second baptism (his head) but Christ refuses. The Apostles had already been baptized and their sins removed, however, the lower sins that trip us up also have to be remitted before receiving the Holy Eucharist. Hence, the foot washing was a liturgical penitential rite prior to the First Communion of the Apostles.

Is Right to Allow Women?

Prior to Francis, the men chosen to receive foot washing symbolized the 12 Apostles. As described above, foot washing seems to be a priestly rite preparing the Apostles to have the “beautiful feet” foretold by Isaiah. Since men alone can be Catholic priests, only men were chosen for the washing of feet.

One might argue, however, that Christ calls all men and women to proclaim the Gospel with beautiful feet. Proclaiming or sharing the Good News is not exclusively a sacerdotal action. Moreover, Saint Paul states that all Christians are called to crush Satan under their (beautiful) feet (Rom 16:19). The Coptic liturgy includes the act of the priest washing the feet of the entire congregation! So there is liturgical precedent for including women in the washing of the feet.

Is it Right to Allow Non-Christians?

What I cannot reconcile theologically is the act of washing the feet of non-baptized members of other religions, namely adherents of Islam, within the Eucharistic liturgy. Peter’s words and Christ’s response presume that the recipients are “washed already,” that is, baptized. Foot washing is an intra-baptized experience.

There is precedent for foot washing as a pre-baptismal rite (in the catechetical context of Easter baptisms), but it’s not clear that the Muslims receiving papal foot washing are preparing for baptism.

My personal belief is that foot washings should be returned to their pre-1955 status. Popes, Abbots, Kings, Presidents, parents, et al. can wash the feet of anyone they like as a sign of humility outside the Eucharistic liturgical rites of the Church.

If a Pope or King washes the feet of another outside of the liturgy, then it is simply a sign of humility. When it’s placed inside the context of Eucharistic liturgy, then we strain to attach a theological meaning to it…and that’s where we run into trouble.

If we want to show outward acts of “inclusion” to the non-baptized, we could give give them blessed bread or other gifts. Or we could wash their feet in contexts that aren’t sacramental. 

Question: I would love to hear your thoughts on foot washing. Please keep the comments respectful. No bashing of the Vicar of Christ on earth. He is our Holy Father. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Christ Has Risen – And So Will You

1983 years ago, the true, historical, physical body of Jesus Christ stood up alive.

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The man who described Himself to be “one with the Father” and the “Son of God” and “Son of Man” conquered death.

In 2016, we believers are united to the resurrected Christ. He is in us and we are in Him.

Whatever trouble(s) you face today: addiction, illness, financial difficulty, bankruptcy, death, divorce, a lost relationship, a broken relationship, estrangement, mortal sin, etc. the infinite resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change everything.

Your story can and will change. Do not lose faith and do not lose hope.

Jesus Christ is the only name by which humans may be saved. Trust in His name and claim the power of His resurrection in your life.

Happy Easter! Christ is risen!

Taylor Marshall