Recently, I had the great pleasure of reading an excellent little book called “St. Peter’s Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found…and Then Lost and Found Again” by Thomas J. Craughwell. If you have not read this book you must. Don’t worry. It’s not a long book. Including the appendices it is only 121 pages.
This book does more than merely prove that the tomb and bones of St. Peter have been found under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. It discusses other evidence found in the catacombs that proves-the objections of anti-Catholics like Dr. James White notwithstanding-that the earliest Christians were, in fact, Catholic.
For those who may not be familiar, the catacombs are underground tunnels and rooms in which the early Christians buried their dead. Before Constantine in the early fourth century, Christianity was an illegal religion. On top of not being permitted to build houses of worship, Christians were prevented from meeting together, or from burying their dead. So, Christians would try to sneak off with the corpses of their dead, and bury them underground.
Now how could the burial places of dead Christians before the fourth century prove they were Catholics, and not proto-Protestants, as is commonly claimed? We often decorate the graves of our dead. We place a tombstone or plaque of some kind that, on top of carrying the name and relevant dates of the deceased, may also contain some other info about him or her. Sometimes we have poems about the deceased inscribed on the tombstone. We may also have some sort of picture or statue of religious images on the gravestone, as well.
Early Christians were no different. They had certain symbols the early Christians used to designate certain bits of information about the deceased. There were symbols used for martyrdom, virginity, etc. So we can know certain things about the deceased based on these symbols.
In addition, it was a common practice among the early Christians to paint religious scenes on the tombs and niches in which their dead were buried. One frequently painted image was fish, which stood for Jesus. It was also common, however, for early Christians to paint scenes of worship. These paintings are the most convincing.
The scenes of worship painted on the tombs in the catacombs all depict the Catholic Mass. If the earliest Christians were Protestant, then we have quite a conundrum! Why would Protestants depict scenes from a Catholic Mass on their tombs? Honestly, they wouldn’t. The early Christians were Catholic.
The paintings are clear. The early Christian “worship service” was the Mass. In addition, the early Christians believed exactly what Catholics believe now about the Holy Eucharist. They believed the bread and wine were literally the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The paintings on this point are unmistakeable.
You don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it. Read Thomas Craughwell’s “St. Peter’s Bones”, or any other book on the catacombs. Better yet…go see it for yourself! One visit to the catacombs makes it clear. The early Christians were Catholic! The Catholic Church is the Church of the Apostles! Jesus Christ be praised!
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity