Acts 19:11-12

And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.

It seems to be an irresistible notion to some people that "purity" is achieved by divorcing spirit from matter.  According to this view, matter or physical being is somehow "crude" or "gross" while spirit is supposed to be especially refined.  However, there's nothing especially good about mere spirit.  The devil, after all, is a spirit.  The key to purity is not mere disembodiment, but holiness and union with God.  Matter, in union with God, is holy.  Spirit, in rebellion against God, is evil.  God confirms this by the Incarnation whereby he united his pure and Holy Spirit with matter in the womb of the Blessed Virgin and brought forth the mystery of his Incarnate Son.  His Son, in turn, founded his Holy Church–a community of flesh and blood human beings to again show forth his Spirit bodily.  And that Church was given sacraments–physical signs that symbolize what they do and do what they symbolize–as means of grace.  Not surprisingly then, Catholics have long seen in matter various means by which God blesses us: holy water, blessed salt, blessed oil, relics, etc. This belief that matter is not neutral, but is good and that God can use it to show forth his glory is part and parcel of believing that a particular bit of matter–the carbon-based, DNA-filled body of Jesus of Nazareth–was the body of God himself.  God likes matter.  He made it!

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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