Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
74 God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth":29 that is, of Christ Jesus.30 Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth:
God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.31
I. THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION
75 "Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline."32
In the apostolic preaching. . .
76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
- orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit";33
- in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing".34
. . . continued in apostolic succession
77 "In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority."35 Indeed, "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time."36
78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes."37 "The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer."38
79 The Father's self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: "God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church - and through her in the world - leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness."39
II. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRADITION AND SACRED SCRIPTURE
One common source. . .
80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".41
. . . two distinct modes of transmission
81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."42
"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."43
82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."44
Apostolic Tradition and ecclesial traditions
83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.
Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium.
III. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE HERITAGE OF FAITH
The heritage of faith entrusted to the whole of the Church
84 The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei),45 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful."46
The Magisterium of the Church
85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."48
87 Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: "He who hears you, hears me",49 the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.
The dogmas of the faith
88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.
89 There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.50
90 The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ.51 "In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or hierarchy of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith."52
The supernatural sense of faith
91 All the faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth. They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them53 and guides them into all truth.54
92 "The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."55
93 "By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium),. . . receives. . . the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. . . The People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life."56
Growth in understanding the faith
94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:
- "through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts";57 it is in particular "theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth".58
- "from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience",59 the sacred Scriptures "grow with the one who reads them."60
- "from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".61
95 "It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."62
96 What Christ entrusted to the apostles, they in turn handed on by their preaching and writing, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to all generations, until Christ returns in glory.
97 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God" (DV 10) in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.
98 "The Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes" (DV 8 § 1).
99 Thanks to its supernatural sense of faith, the People of God as a whole never ceases to welcome, to penetrate more deeply and to live more fully from the gift of divine Revelation.
100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Bl. Peter Wright (†1651)Blessed Fr Peter Wright, S.J., of Slipton, Northamptonshire, England suffered for his priesthood, his vows of religion and his Catholic Faith at Tyburn on 19 May, 1651. His execution on Whit Monday took place before over 20 000 spectators, as Bishop Challoner relates: Having celebrated Mass with great devotion, the time drew near when he was to go down in order for execution. Hearing the knocking at the iron grate, he took it as a summons from Heaven, and cried out:
"I come, sweet Jesus, I come.When Fr Wright was called out to the hurdle, he went with so much alacrity and speed that the officers could scarce keep pace with him; then being placed on the hurdle he made a short act of contrition; and in the midst of mutual embraces was absolved by Fr Cheney, and then drawn away to Tyburn through the streets crowded with an innumerable multitude of people. He was drawn on the hurdle more like one sitting than lying down; his head was covered, his countenance smiling, a certain air of majesty, and a courage and cheerfulness in his comportment, which was both surprising and edifying, not only to the Catholics who crowded to ask his benediction, but to the Protestants themselves, as many publicly declared. Thirteen malefactors were appointed to die with him, to whom the father endeavoured to give seasonable advice for the welfare of their souls, but was continually interrupted by the minister, and therefore desisted, betaking himself to silent prayer, in which he employed about an hour, standing with his eyes shut, his hands joined before his breast, his countenance sweet and amiable, and his whole body without motion as one in deep contemplation. When the minister took occasion to tell him it was not yet too late, and that he might save his life if he would renounce the errors of Popery:
If I had a thousand lives I would most willingly give them all up in defence of the Catholic religion. The hangman having fitted the rope to his neck, the confessor made a short speech to the spectators: Gentlemen, this is a short passage to eternity; my time is now short, and I have not much to speak. I was brought hither charged with no other crime but being a priest. I willingly confess I am a priest; I confess I am a Catholic; I confess I am a religious man of the Society of Jesus, or as you call it, a Jesuit.
This is the cause for which I die; for this alone was I condemned, and for propagating the Catholic faith, which is spread through the whole world, taughtthrough all ages from Christ’s time, and will be taught for all ages to come.For this cause I most willingly sacrifice my life, and would die a thousand times for the same if it were necessary; and I look upon it my greatest happiness, that my most good God has chosen me most unworthy to this blessed lot, the lot of the saints. This is a grace which so unworthy a sinner could scarce have wished, much less hoped for. And now I beg of the goodness of my God with all the fervour I am able, and most humbly entreat Him that He would drive from you that are Protestants the darkness of error, and enlighten your minds with the rays of truth. And as for you Catholics, my fellow soldiers and comrades, as many of you as are here I earnesdy beseech you to join in prayer for me and with me till my last moment; and when I shall come to Heaven I will do as much for you. God bless you all; I forgive all men. From my heart I bid you all farewell till we meet in a happy eternity.Having spoken to this effect, he again recollected himself a while in prayer, and then the cart was drawn away, and he was suffered to hang till he quietly expired. His dead body was cut down, beheaded, bowelled, and quartered. His friends were permitted to carry off his head and quarters which were translated to Liege, and there honourably deposited in the college of the English Jesuits. He suffered aged 48, and after 22 years of religious life. He was beatified in 1929.
Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints, †
Thursday, May 15, 2008
485 The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son.122 The Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the giver of Life", is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.
486 The Father's only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is "Christ", that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.123 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power."124
487 What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.
488 "God sent forth his Son", but to prepare a body for him,125 he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary":126
The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.127
489 Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the living.128 By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age.129 Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women.130 Mary "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established."131
The Immaculate Conception
490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace".133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.
491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135
492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".137
493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature".138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.
"Let it be done to me according to your word. . ."
494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word."139 Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace:140
As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."141 Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."142 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."143
Mary's divine motherhood
495 Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus", Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of my Lord".144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos).145
496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed".146 The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says:
You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen.147
497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:148 "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit", said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.149 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."150
498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark's Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus' virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike;151 so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the "connection of these mysteries with one another"152 in the totality of Christ's mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: "Mary's virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord's death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God's silence."153
Mary - "ever-virgin"
499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".156
500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.157 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary".158 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.159
501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's love."160
Mary's virginal motherhood in God's plan
502 The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men.
503 Mary's virginity manifests God's absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. "He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed. . . He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures."161
504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven."162 From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God "gives him the Spirit without measure."163 From "his fullness" as the head of redeemed humanity "we have all received, grace upon grace."164
505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. "How can this be?"165 Participation in the divine life arises "not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God".166 The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit's gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God167 is fulfilled perfectly in Mary's virginal motherhood.
506 Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith "unadulterated by any doubt", and of her undivided gift of herself to God's will.168 It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Savior: "Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ."169
507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: "the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse."170
508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. "Full of grace", Mary is "the most excellent fruit of redemption" (SC 103): from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.
509 Mary is truly "Mother of God" since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself.
510 Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin" (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with her whole being she is "the handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38).
511 The Virgin Mary "cooperated through free faith and obedience in human salvation" (LG 56). She uttered her yes "in the name of all human nature" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 30, 1). By her obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Nicene Creed.
As set forth at Nicœa, a.d. 325.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things, visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God; Light of light; very God of very God; begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things in earth: Who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate, and was made man: He suffered, and rose again the third day: And ascended into heaven: And shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.
And in the Holy Ghost, etc.
And those who say There was a time when He was not, or that Before He was begotten He was not, or that He was made out of nothing; or who say that The Son of God is of any other substance, or that He is changeable or unstable,—these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.
As Authorized at Constantinople, a.d. 381.
(a) Of heaven and earth.
(b) Begotten of the Father before all worlds.
(c) By the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.
(d) Was crucified also for us, under Pontius Pilate,
(e) And was buried.
(f) Sitteth on the right hand of the Father,
(g) Whose kingdom shall have no end.
(h) The Lord, the Giver of life,
Who proceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets:
In one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
And the life of the world to come. Amen.
This Nicæno-Constantinopolitan Creed was solemnly ratified by the Council of Ephesus (a.d. 431) with the decree Canon vii. that “No one shall be permitted to introduce, write, or compose any other faith. The composition and setting north of another faith, as terms of communion, by Pius IV., bishop of Rome, a.d. 1564, and its acceptance, with additional dogmas, at the opening of the Vatican Council (so-called), a.d. 1869, brought the whole Papal communion under this anathema of Ephesus. besides that which was defined by the holy Fathers assembled in the city of Nice, with the presence of the Holy Ghost.”
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.lxi.html Chapter LXI.—Christian baptism.
I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” John iii. 5.
Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers’ wombs, is manifest to all. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Esaias the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if ye refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Isa. i. 16–20. And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the laver the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.
Monday, May 12, 2008
St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon [a.d. 120–202.]
Chapter IV.—The truth is to be found nowhere else but in the Catholic Church, the sole depository of apostolical doctrine. Heresies are of recent formation, and cannot trace their origin up to the apostles.
1. Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. Rev. xxii. 17.
For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?
2. To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. Those who, in the absence of written documents, have believed this faith, are barbarians, so far as regards our language; but as regards doctrine, manner, and tenor of life, they are, because of faith, very wise indeed; and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness, chastity, and wisdom. If any one were to preach to these men the inventions of the heretics, speaking to them in their own language, they would at once stop their ears, and flee as far off as possible, not enduring even to listen to the blasphemous address. Thus, by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established.
3. For, prior to Valentinus, those who follow Valentinus had no existence; nor did those from Marcion exist before Marcion; nor, in short, had any of those malignant-minded people, whom I have above enumerated, any being previous to the initiators and inventors of their perversity. For Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too, Marcion’s predecessor, himself arrived in the time of Hyginus, who was the ninth bishop. Coming frequently into the Church, and making public confession, he thus remained, one time teaching in secret, and then again making public confession; but at last, having been denounced for corrupt teaching, he was excommunicated from the assembly of the brethren. Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus, who held the tenth place of the episcopate. But the rest, who are called Gnostics, take rise from Menander, Simon’s disciple, as I have shown; and each one of them appeared to be both the father and the high priest of that doctrine into which he has been initiated. But all these (the Marcosians) broke out into their apostasy much later, even during the intermediate period of the Church.
Here we see the teaching of the fullness of truth not being found anywhere but in the Holy Catholic Church. We also see mention of Sacred Tradition (which unknown or ignored by our protestant bretheren) holds the same Authority as Sacred Scripture.
Monday, May 12, 2008
3,000 Assyrians Received into the Catholic Church
The Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Peter and Paul has formally received into its fold, those members of the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese who, under the leadership of Mar Bawai Soro (pictured above), had asked to be reconciled with the Catholic Church last January 17, 2008.
One bishop (Mar Bawai himself), six priests, 30+ deacons and subdeacons and an estimated 3,000 faithful were received into full communion during liturgical celebrations for the Feast of Pentecost. The announcement by the Chaldean Catholic Church can be found here.The Black Cordelias blog has an earlier article here.Mar Bawai Soro has long advocated the Primacy of the See of Rome. On November 2, 2005, he presented to the Synod of Bishops of the Assyrian Church of the East (of which he was a bishop at that time) a paper entitled "The Position of the Church of the East Theological Tradition on the Questions of Church Unity and Full Communion " in which, among other things, he stated that
"The Church of the East attributes a prominent role to Saint Peter and asignificant place for the Church of Rome in her liturgical, canonical andPatristic thoughts. There are more than 50 liturgical, canonical and Patristiccitations that explicitly express such a conviction. The question before ustherefore is, why there must be a primacy attributed to Saint Peter in theChurch? If there is no primacy in the universal church, we shall not be able tolegitimize a primacy of all the Catholicos-Patriarchs in the other apostolicchurches. If the patriarchs of the apostolic churches have legitimate authorityover their own respective bishops it is so because there is a principle ofprimacy in the universal Church. If the principle of primacy is valid for alocal Church (for example, the Assyrian Church of the East), it is so because itis already valid for the universal church. If there is no Peter for theuniversal church there could not be Peter for the local Church. If all theapostles are equal in authority by virtue of the gift of the Spirit, and if thebishops are the successors of the Apostles, based on what then one of thesebishops (i.e., the Catholicos-Patriarchs) has authority over the otherbishops?The Church of the East possesses a theological, liturgical andcanonical tradition in which she clearly values the primacy of Peter among therest of the Apostles and their churches and the relationship Peter has with hissuccessors in the Church of Rome. The official organ of our Church of the East,Mar Abdisho of Soba, the last theologian in our Church before its fall, basedhimself on such an understanding when he collected his famous Nomocanon in whichhe clearly states the following: “To the Great Rome [authority] was givenbecause the two pillars are laid [in the grave] there, Peter, I say, the head ofthe Apostles, and Paul, the teacher of the nations. [Rome] is the first see andthe head of the patriarchs.” (Memra 9; Risha 1) Furthermore, Abdisho asserts “.. . . And as the patriarch has authority to do all he wishes in a fitting mannerin such things as are beneath his authority, so the patriarch of Rome hasauthority over all patriarchs, like the blessed Peter over all the community,for he who is in Rome also keeps the office of Peter in all the church. He whotransgresses against these things the ecumenical synod places under anathema.”(Memra 9; Risha 8). I would like to ask here the following: who among us woulddare to think that he or she is more learned than Abdisho of Soba, or that theyare more sincere to the church of our forefather than Mar Abdisho himself? This is true especially since we the members of the Holy Synod have in 2004 affirmedMar Abdisho’s List of Seven Sacraments as the official list of the AssyrianChurch of the East. How much more then we ought to consider examining andreceiving Abdisho’s Synodical legislation in his Nomocanon?
Five days later, Mar Bawai was suspended by the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church. The story behind this, as well as the full text of the paper on papal primacy that Mar Bawai had presented to the Synod, can be found here.Following upon his suspension, Mar Bawai and the clergy and faithful who had remained loyal to him formed the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese, then proceeded to draw ever closer to the Catholic Church through the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate. How fitting that they finally came home on Pentecost Sunday. Deo Gratias!
posted by Carlos Antonio Palad via http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/
Sunday, May 11, 2008
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out [through their office] the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as where Christ is, there does all the heavenly host stand by, waiting upon Him as the Chief Captain of the Lord’s might, and the Governor of every intelligent nature. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast. But that which seems good to him, is also well-pleasing to God, that everything ye do may be secure and valid.
both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for ye are worthy. Ye have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. Ye have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while ye endure all things, ye shall attain unto Him.
Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. For “in Hades there is no one who can confess his sins.”Ps. vi. 5. For “behold the man, and his work is before him." Isa. lxii. 11. And [the Scripture saith], “My son, honour thou God and the king.” Prov. xxiv. 21. And say I, Honour thou God indeed, as the Author and Lord of all things, but the bishop as the high-priest, who bears the image of God—of God, inasmuch as he is a ruler, and of Christ, in his capacity of a priest. After Him, we must also honour the king. For there is no one superior to God, or even like to Him, among all the beings that exist. Nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world. Nor, again, is there any one among rulers to be compared with the king, who secures peace and good order to those over whom he rules. He who honours the bishop shall be honoured by God, even as he that dishonours him shall be punished by God. For if he that rises up against kings is justly held worthy of punishment, inasmuch as he dissolves public order, of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, Heb. x. 29 who presumes to do anything without the bishop, thus both destroying the [Church’s] unity, and throwing its order into confusion? For the priesthood is the very highest point of all good things among men, against which whosoever is mad enough to strive, dishonours not man, but God, and Christ Jesus, the First-born, and the only High Priest, by nature, of the Father. Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father. As ye, brethren, have refreshed me, so will Jesus Christ refresh you. Ye have loved me when absent, as well as when present. God will recompense you, for whose sake ye have shown such kindness towards His prisoner. For even if I am not worthy of it, yet your zeal [to help me] is an admirable thing. For “he who honours a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward.”Matt. x. 41. It is manifest also, that he who honours a prisoner of Jesus Christ shall receive the reward of the martyrs.
It is shown very clearly here that from the begining of the Catholic Church the authority of the Bishop which is given to him through Christ our Lord. Those who would deny this live in a make believe world, one which neither has authority nor true continuity with the Church. In the creed we proclaim our beliefe in "one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church". This proclaimation is not only a reafirmation of our union with Christs mystical Body (the Church) but is a statement of what the Catholic Church is! Anyone outside of the Body (the Catholic Church) should re-examine why the church they are in does not proclaim this unity as we do.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I just saw this film (The Ninth Day) last night. It was very moving and powerful. It is based on a few accounts of different Priests who were imprisoned in German concentration camps during WWII. Mostly it was based on one Priest's story Fr. Jean Bernard who's book www.amazon.com/Priestblock-25487-Memoir-Jean-Bernard/dp/0972598170/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210440169&sr=8-1 I recently read. I highly recommend purchasing it. For your info netflix has it available for rent.
Introductory Note to the Writings of Justin Martyr
[a.d. 110–165.] Justin was a Gentile, but born in Samaria, near Jacob’s well. He must have been well educated: he had travelled extensively, and he seems to have been a person enjoying at least a competence. After trying all other systems, his elevated tastes and refined perceptions made him a disciple of Socrates and Plato. So he climbed towards Christ. As he himself narrates the story of his conversion, it need not be anticipated here. What Plato was feeling after, he found in Jesus of Nazareth. The conversion of such a man marks a new era in the gospel history. The sub-apostolic age begins with the first Christian author,—the founder of theological literature. It introduced to mankind, as the mother of true philosophy, the despised teaching of those Galileans to whom their Master had said, “Ye are the light of the world.”
And this is the epoch which forced this great truth upon the attention of contemplative minds. It was more than a hundred years since the angels had sung “Good-will to men;” and that song had now been heard for successive generations, breaking forth from the lips of sufferers on the cross, among lions, and amid blazing faggots. Here was a nobler Stoicism that needed interpretation. Not only choice spirits, despising the herd and boasting of a loftier intellectual sphere, were its professors; but thousands of men, women, and children, withdrawing themselves not at all from the ordinary and humble lot of the people, were inspired by it to live and die heroically and sublimely, —exhibiting a superiority to revenge and hate entirely unaccountable, praying for their enemies, and seeking to glorify their God by love to their fellow-men.
And in spite of Gallios and Neros alike, the gospel was dispelling the gross darkness. Of this, Pliny’s letter to Trajan is decisive evidence. Even in Seneca we detect reflections of the daybreak. Plutarch writes as never a Gentile could have written until now. Plato is practically surpassed by him in his thoughts upon the “delays of the Divine Justice.” Hadrian’s address to his soul, in his dying moments, is a tribute to the new ideas which had been sown in the popular mind. And now the Antonines, impelled by something in the age, came forward to reign as “philosophers.” At this moment, Justin Martyr confronts them like a Daniel. The “little stone” smites the imperial image in the face, not yet “in the toes.” He tells the professional philosophers on a throne how false and hollow is all wisdom that is not meant for all humanity, and that is not capable of leavening the masses. He exposes the impotency of even Socratic philosophy: he shows, in contrast, the force that works in the words of Jesus; he points out their regenerating power. It is the mission of Justin to be a star in the West, leading its Wise Men to the cradle of Bethlehem.
160 The writings of Justin are deficient in charms of style; and, for us, there is something the reverse of attractive in the forms of thought which he had learned from the philosophers. If Plato had left us nothing but the Timæus, a Renan would doubtless have reproached him as of feeble intellectual power. So a dancing-master might criticise the movements of an athlete, or the writhings of St. Sebastian shot with arrows. The practical wisdom of Justin using the rhetoric of his times, and discomfiting false philosophy with its own weapons, is not appreciated by the fastidious Parisian. But the manly and heroic pleadings of the man, for a despised people with whom he had boldly identified himself; the intrepidity with which he defends them before despots, whose mere caprice might punish him with death; above all, the undaunted spirit with which he exposes the shame and absurdity of their inveterate superstition and reproaches the memory of Hadrian whom Antoninus had deified, as he had deified Antinous of loathsome history,—these are characteristics which every instinct of the unvitiated soul delights to honour. Justin cannot be refuted by a sneer.
He wore his philosopher’s gown after his conversion, as a token that he had attained the only true philosophy. And seeing, that, after the conflicts and tests of ages, it is the only philosophy that lasts and lives and triumphs, its discoverer deserves the homage of mankind. Of the philosophic gown we shall hear again when we come to Tertullian.
Justin Martyr was born in Flavia Neapolis, a city of Samaria, the modern Nablous. The date of his birth is uncertain, but may be fixed about a.d. 114. His father and grandfather were probably of Roman origin. Before his conversion to Christianity he studied in the schools of the philosophers, searching after some knowledge which should satisfy the cravings of his soul. At last he became acquainted with Christianity, being at once impressed with the extraordinary fearlessness which the Christians displayed in the presence of death, and with the grandeur, stability, and truth of the teachings of the Old Testament. From this time he acted as an evangelist, taking every opportunity to proclaim the gospel as the only safe and certain philosophy, the only way to salvation. It is probable that he travelled much. We know that he was some time in Ephesus, and he must have lived for a considerable period in Rome. Probably he settled in Rome as a Christian teacher. While he was there, the philosophers, especially the Cynics, plotted against him, and he sealed his testimony to the truth by martyrdom.
The principal facts of Justin’s life are gathered from his own writings. There is little clue to dates. It is agreed on all hands that he lived in the reign of Antoninus Pius, and the testimony of Eusebius and most credible historians renders it nearly certain that he suffered martyrdom in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. The Chronicon Paschale gives as the date 165 a.d.
The writings of Justin Martyr are among the most important that have come down to us from the second century. He was not the first that wrote an Apology in behalf of the Christians, but his Apologies are the earliest extant. They are characterized by intense Christian fervour, and they give us an insight into the relations existing between heathens and Christians in those days. His other principal writing, the Dialogue with Trypho, is the first elaborate exposition of the reasons for regarding Christ as the Messiah of the Old Testament, and the first systematic attempt to exhibit the false position of the Jews in regard to Christianity.
Many of Justin’s writings have perished. Those works which have come to us bearing his name have been divided into three classes.
161 The first class embraces those which are unquestionably genuine, viz. the two Apologies, and the Dialogue with Trypho. Some critics have urged objections against Justin’s authorship of the Dialogue; but the objections are regarded now as possessing no weight.
The second class consists of those works which are regarded by some critics as Justin’s, and by others as not his. They are: 1. An Address to the Greeks; 2. A Hortatory Address to the Greeks; 3. On the Sole Government of God; 4. An Epistle to Diognetus; 5. Fragments from a work on the Resurrection; 6. And other Fragments. Whatever difficulty there may be in settling the authorship of these treatises, there is but one opinion as to their earliness. The latest of them, in all probability, was not written later than the third century.
The third class consists of those that are unquestionably not the works of Justin. These are: 1. An Exposition of the True Faith; 2. Replies to the Orthodox; 3. Christian Questions to Gentiles; 4. Gentile Questions to Christians; 5. Epistle to Zenas and Serenus; and 6. A Refutation of certain Doctrines of Aristotle. There is no clue to the date of the two last. There can be no doubt that the others were written after the Council of Nicæa, though, immediately after the Reformation, Calvin and others appealed to the first as a genuine writing of Justin’s.
There is a curious question connected with the Apologies of Justin which have come down to us. Eusebius mentions two Apologies,—one written in the reign of Antoninus Pius, the other in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Critics have disputed much whether we have these two Apologies in those now extant. Some have maintained, that what is now called the Second Apology was the preface of the first, and that the second is lost. Others have tried to show, that the so-called Second Apology is the continuation of the first, and that the second is lost. Others have supposed that the two Apologies which we have are Justin’s two Apologies, but that Eusebius was wrong in affirming that the second was addressed to Marcus Aurelius; and others maintain, that we have in our two Apologies the two Apologies mentioned by Eusebius, and that our first is his first, and our second his second.
From the first apology of St. Justin, Martyr (written around AD 110 to 165)
Chapter LXV.—Administration of the sacraments.
But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία[the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.
Everyone should be ordering one for their priest. For those of you that have not yet done this, currently you get a preorder discount of around 10 dollars. If your priest or seminarian orders one themselves they will get it for free. Here is the website. http://www.fsspdvd.com/
Help bring about the implementation of the Holy Fathers recent motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Archbishop John Nienstedt assumed leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on May 2, the day the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI accepted the retirement of Archbishop Harry Flynn.
Catholic Spirit editor Joe Towalski interviewed Archbishop Nienstedt at the chancery in St. Paul last week about his year as coadjutor archbishop and his plans for the future. Following are excerpts of the interview.
You've spent a lot of time over the last 12 months visiting parishes and schools and attending a lot of meetings. What are you learning about the archdiocese? Has anything surprised you?I see the very role of the bishop of a diocese to be one of pastoral concern for the people. I've been to 64 parishes so far. I've been to 13 of our 14 high schools. I've been to 21 of our grade schools. . . . I like going into those school situations and being able to teach the students. That gives me energy. That gives me excitement. . . .
I think I said on the day I was announced here that I was coming not as a CEO, but as a pastor. Not as a politician, but as a priest. I truly believe that. Of course, there is an enormous amount of administration here. My mail has more than doubled on any given day. Coming in new, you don't have the advantage of how to filter everything. But I would say my reception in the parishes and at the question-and-answer [sessions] I do in the schools have all been very positive. So I really appreciate the welcome the people have extended to me. It's been very generous.
With regard to surprises, I guess my biggest surprise was how critical I was received, especially in the media, when I first arrived. I don't perceive myself in the way they tried to paint me. I'm glad that people have suspended their judgment and have given me a chance to be myself. . . .
Having said that, I know the bishop is the person who has to unify the diocese, particularly around what we teach and preach, the way we worship and our constant vigilance for the poor, for the sick and for the stranger in our midst.
Hence, the reason I took for my episcopal motto: "Ut omnes unum sint" - "That they might all be one." I truly believe that was the most heartfelt prayer that I have found of Jesus in the New Testament.
There will be an added challenge with no auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese after Bishop Pates is installed in Des Moines at the end of May. How will you handle that?That was a real blow. When the [papal] nuncio called me, I said I certainly wouldn't want to stand in Bishop Pates' way because he's been a great bishop, and I know he will be good for the Diocese of Des Moines. But I said, "Your Excellency, that really puts me in a very difficult position, at least for the short term." I'll have to ask for people's understanding as we go through the schedule.
Will you draw on Archbishop Flynn to help with some things?Of course, I will. But Archbishop Flynn has already indicated he will be doing a lot of retreat work, which he loves and should be free to do. After all, that's what retirement is all about.
You've drawn quite a bit of media attention since you've been here, some of it in reaction to columns you've written. The reaction in some quarters hasn't been favorable. Does that bother you? In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?Every morning I get up and I say my prayers, and I ask the Lord to be with me and to guide me. I try to work as hard as I can during the day to do what I think is right.
Then, at the end of the day, when I examine my conscience, sure there are things I might do differently. I have to go to confession regularly like everybody else does - I'm not a perfect man.
With regard to the columns in particular, you'll notice I have been very careful to reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church every time. If I have an agenda, it's the teaching of the church. I don't want to be seen as proposing my own teaching or my own interpretation of the teaching. But the teaching has to be taught.
I think you'll recognize that there is a lot of confusion out there, especially in the area of moral theology and morality. Particularly with young people who are very, very impressionable - high school- and college-age students - they have to know the difference between right and wrong. They have to be able to know what the church teaches and why. That is not going to go well in front of the many different aspects of our society. But I think the church has to be clear, and the church has to be consistent, and the church has to offer a compelling explanation for why she believes what she believes in the name of Christ.
If I get into a little hot water by proclaiming what the truth of our Catholic faith is, that just goes with the territory. The bishop or priest is called to be prophet, priest and king. The priest is that bridge with people and God. The prophetic part is telling the truth in love, and being consistent, and trying to be as clear as you can about those teachings. Whether people like it or not, they need to hear it because their salvation depends upon it.
But it isn't always easy to do, is it?Being a bishop isn't supposed to be easy. Being a priest isn't easy. Being a parent isn't easy. No, it's not always easy to do that, but that's the responsibility we have before God in relationship to the calls that we have.
One question people have is: How will things change in the archdiocese and in my parish now that Archbishop Nienstedt is in charge? Will Catholics notice any changes in the near future?When I came back from my service to the Holy See, I was made pastor of a large parish in Union Lake - it's now White Lake - Michigan, St. Patrick's Church. It was my first pastorate, and my mentor, [Detroit] Cardinal [John] Dearden, said to me: "I want to give you some advice. Wait six months before you change anything. And then wait another six months before you do anything."
I thought that was good advice. I remember going into the parish saying I'm not going to change anything that doesn't have to be changed, at least for six months and hopefully a year. Three months after I was there, a lady came in who told me one Sunday after Mass that her husband was being relocated and that they were moving out of town and how bad she felt about that. But she said, "I just wanted you to know, Father John, I love the changes you brought here." I said, "What changes? I really haven't done anything."
Then I realized by the very fact that I didn't walk like the last pastor, I didn't talk like the last pastor, I didn't preach like the last pastor, I didn't react like the last pastor reacted, that this was a big change for people. Psychologists tell us that when you bring a new person into any group, it's going to change the dynamics of that group.
So, will there be changes? Yes. I'm not Archbishop Flynn, and I can't be him. But am I going to build on the great legacy that Archbishop Flynn has given us? I hope so. I certainly don't want to see a discontinuity. My hope is that we will build on what Archbishop Flynn has done for the last 13 years here and become more and more articulate in our faith, more and more practiced in our faith, more and more Catholic. That's what my great hope is.
You talked in a meeting with the parish administrators [April 10] about maybe developing a long-term plan for parishes. Is that something you will be initiating in the near future?I think so, and this is not a big secret. I have since January been sitting in on the Comprehensive Assignment Board, just so I could find out how [pastoral] assignments are being done and how they get recommended. . . . I try to just be a listener there, but one day I couldn't help myself because we had all these parishes that needed to be filled on one side of the board, and we had a few priests [on the other side]. I said, "Did anybody notice we don't have quite enough people over here for the positions we're going to have over here?" And they said, "Yes, we know that." I said: "Doesn't that bother anybody?"
We've been very blessed with the number of priests that we have and the number of priests who have come to join us as religious or as missionaries for a particular period of time. But it does seem to me, we're going to have to start some kind of plan for our parishes. . . .
I think if I offer anything to this situation, it is the last seven years I was in New Ulm, where we had a very difficult position when I got there. We had 82 parishes and 46 priests. We had already been through three plans, and they had kind of clustered to the nth degree. We had come up with, after a period of three years, a plan that I promulgated - a 5-year plan, which is in the process of being redone now - trying to address the situation so that we had a guideline.
We had 15 different drafts of this plan, and after every draft we had a meeting of all the pastoral leaders. Through the process, it gave everybody ownership of that. Because of that, I believe it went much more smoothly than it might have otherwise. But it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. But, inevitably, once I had published it, there just seemed to be kind of a huge collective sigh of relief. At least we knew now what we would do.
There has been some mixed reaction to the Parish Service Teams. Is that something that could change or be abandoned altogether?
It could. That's why I'm engaging these discussions. As I go around to the deaneries next fall, that's going to be one of my big questions. I'm going to bring to them the same three questions I brought to the business administrators: How can I most effectively reach the parishes? What should that relationship look like? Where do they see the Parish Service Teams helping them?
I would think in this parish planning that [team members] could be very effective because they could work with a broader number of parishes to see how we could come together in a collaborative way . . . and, as I used to say in New Ulm, so that we could limit the duplication we're doing and build on our strengths.
The University of St. Thomas board of trustees has been in the news, with the university moving to change its bylaws so that the sitting archbishop is no longer the automatic chairman of the board. It's generated a lot of conversation. Is this change in the bylaws a concern to you? If so, how are you addressing that?It does concern me, and I have been in dialogue with Archbishop Flynn on the matter. It's been very difficult to do anything up until now because I have not been the archbishop up to now. Being a coadjutor, you really have no authority to address a structural question such as we now have before us. . . . I'm looking forward to engaging the administration and the board on that topic, but up to now I haven't been able to do it as effectively as I hope I will be able to do in the next month or two months or so.
Members of the Rainbow Sash [gay rights movement] are planning to make their annual visit to the Cathedral of St. Paul on Pentecost Sunday, May 11. How will you handle that this year?The Cathedral staff is going to continue to insist upon the policy that Archbishop Flynn put in before - that if somebody is wearing a rainbow sash, they won't be permitted to receive holy Communion. It's the same thing as if somebody came walking into the Cathedral with a placard saying, "I'm in favor of abortion." You wouldn't give Communion to that person either. It's a public act of defiance against church teaching, and therefore we don't give Communion to people who have broken communion with the faith.
There are a lot of challenges facing the archdiocese. I think of the economy, the influx of immigrants and the burgeoning senior population among others. What issue do you think poses the biggest challenge to the archdiocese right now?I'd say all those things you mentioned are concerns, and the church has to be involved because they concern people. . . . Being a bishop, you not only have to have concern for your Catholic population but, according to canon law, you have responsibility for everyone that's in your diocese, whether they be Catholic or not, whether they even be Christian or not. So I would say all of those issues and probably more would be issues we would want to weigh in on and help people.
In terms of the work of the Minnesota Catholic Conference at the Legislature, some people are wondering what the change in leadership will have on the work that gets done there. Some wonder if there will be a shift toward a more intense focus on issues like abortion, marriage and bioethics. Do you think there is going to be a shift in some of the focus?You never really know what the agenda of the legislators is going to be until they arrive. Over the years, the bishops throughout the state have been very attentive to all the key issues, whether it be a just wage, whether it be a question of abortion, whether it be a question of embryonic stem-cell research, or immigration. All of those questions are big questions for us.
We're not a one-issue group, and that's why I'm so grateful we do have the Minnesota Catholic Conference because they're able to, on a day-to-day basis, see where things are moving and what the moral concerns are [that] we should be aware of. I don't see anything changing radically in that regard. I think the bishops, including Archbishop Flynn, have been very attentive to those issues, and I hope to be as well.
Some good things are happening at our seminaries - St. Paul Seminary and St. John Vianney Seminary. They certainly seem to be very healthy and thriving. Would you agree?I think they are. I've been going over there once a month to do the holy hour at St. John Vianney at 6 in the morning and then take Mass at 7. And usually that same day I try to work it so I can take the 11:35 [Mass] for the St. Paul Seminary.
That has been good. I did that because in reading the biography of Archbishop Ireland, he took a very direct interest in the seminary, often going over for lunch and then going for walks with seminarians . . . . I said to them when I was first appointed that I wanted to be involved in their lives, but I didn't want to meddle. I certainly didn't want to take anything away from the rector or the faculty. I wanted to be as supportive as I could, but at the same time, I hoped that I would be some kind of an influence for them.
Obviously, your priests are your right hand. The bishop can't do anything without his priests. So he needs to have a close relationship with them and get to know them as well as he can, which is a great challenge. It was much easier in New Ulm when I had only 46 priests to get to know well. It's going to take a little longer to do that here. But I'm intent on doing that, and by knowing these young men in their formative years, that will build up a sense of trust and confidence.
So many of the things you talked about in this interview really concern trust. I think that's a most valuable commodity for any spiritual leader or any other kind of leader to have. I understand that when you come in new, people don't know you, and so they really can't trust you. But I would hope that in my work in Detroit and my work in New Ulm, people would say, "Well, he seemed to be accepted there. He seemed to work well with the people there, and they weren't any worse for the wear for it." It's that trust element I surely have to work on and hope that people will give me a chance to establish that kind of a relationship.
You have focused a lot on young people. You're visiting schools and doing "lectio divina" prayer with the students at St. Thomas. Do you have some thoughts or plans about outreach to young people, especially young adults in their 20s and 30s?Our main job as a church in any generation is to pass the faith on to the next generation and to make sure the faith is as strong as when we received it ourselves. In this day and age, I tell parents my hat is always off to them because I think it's more difficult to parent kids in this society, with cell phone and Internet pornography and all the things that they see and hear in the print media, on television and in the movies. It's a very difficult context in which to raise young people who are going to be morally healthy and spiritually sound.
Is there anything I haven't covered that you would like to talk about?I was so impressed by the Holy Father's talk to us bishops [during his U.S. visit]. There were a number of talks that I thought were great. . . but when he was speaking to the bishops, he called for a new Catholic vision of reality - one that would penetrate all of our thinking and all of our acting. He went on to say that this new vision of reality had to take in a certain amount of eschatology. In other words, it had to raise our minds up to the things of heaven like St. Paul says, rather than the things of earth.
I think if there is any agenda the pope left us with, it is that. In terms of what I hope to see happen in this archdiocese, [it] would be that - that we would be able to generate a new Catholic vision of reality. It's idealistic perhaps, but not unobtainable.