Expert Answer Forum
Mary's Promises QUESTION from Doug July 23, 2000 A mother of one of my friends, although she is an Episcopalion, gives money to the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order) every month, and when they send her receipt they also enclose a few bookmarks and cards with various Catholic messages. She decided to give these to me because she didn't really have any use for them, and one of the bookmarks had something a little strange on it:
It lists The Fifteen Promises of Mary to Christians Who Recite the Rosary given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan and number 15 doesn't sound quite right. It reads Devotion of my rosary is a great sign of predestination. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't predestination a Calvinist doctrine, not Catholic? Or does it have some different meaning? The card's imprimatur was by Patrick J. Hayes, D.D., Archbishop of New York (obviously a little outdated).
Do you have any help for me?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on October 15, 2000 Dear Mr. Doug:
Thanks for the great question.
Predestination is mentioned in the Bible (i.e. Romans 8) and is part of Catholic Teaching.
BUT, the predestination defined by Calvin is a heresy, a GROSS heresy. Calvin was so far out-to-lunch on this theory of predestination that he starved to death... I mean, one could question if he was Christian by the way he developed his theology.
Predestination in the Catholic Church is, to quote from Father John Hardan's Dictionary:
(Predestination) in the strictest sense...is God's eternal decision to assume certain rational creatures into heavenly glory. Predestination implies an act of the divine intellect and of the divine will. The first is foreknowledge, the second is predestination.... The main difficulty is the doctrine of predestination is whether God's eternal decision has been taken with or without consideration of human freedom. Catholic teaching holds that predestination by God does not deny the human free will.
How this works is a mystery, but we can discern some imperfect analogies that might help to understand.
For example, I raise my child to be a lawyer. All of his schooling is set for that singular goal. I am a lawyer, the mother is a lawyer, the whole family are lawyers. The family tradition is lawyers. Unless the kids gives us a unexpected surprise (which with God there are no surprises), the kid will be a lawyer. Nevertheless, it is HIS choice to be a lawyer and we encourage him to make a free choice for his career. The kids seems to love the idea of being a lawyer.
But, barring a surprise, I KNOW he will be a lawyer. Does my foreknowledge of my son begin a lawyer FORCE him to be a lawyer? Is his free will destroyed by my foreknowledge?
Another Example: After a man and woman have been married for many years, they tend to know each other so well that they finish each other's sentences, they can KNOW what the other is going to do in a certain situation. If I know my wife so well that I can accurate predict (to know in advance) how she will react to something mean that she did not have the free will to choose to react in that way? No? I merely KNEW what she would choose to do.
We have the freedom to choose, but God knows what we going to choose, before we choose it.
To go back to the lawyer analogy. If I have predestined my son to be a lawyer, the decision to actually be one is still his. My predestination is imperfect so my son could surprise me. God's predestination is perfect, so we can't surprise Him.
Thus what is a sign of predestination? Well, if my son starts picking up law books when he is 8 years old, that is a sign of my predestination for him to be a lawyer. If he enrolls in pre-law in college that is another sign.
What that 15 promises is saying is that devotion of the Rosary is a sign of the predestination of God that we will be heaven-bound. Devotion is a sign of our Christianity. Praying the rosary is a sign of our Christianity and, if we are truly devoted to the rosary, a help to KEEP US on the right track all the way to heaven.
Thus all it is saying is that devotion of the rosary is a sign that we are heaven-bound.
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