Category Archives: Sacraments

Redemptive Suffering

crown_of_thorns

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” -Col 1:24

Recently, in the news, there have been several stories of terminally ill people, even young, otherwise healthy people, very openly planning on taking their own lives, and being assisted to do so.   Terminally ill can live beyond the first or most grim predictions of life expectancy.

This euthanasia (“good death”) is anathema to faithful Catholic thinking.  Catholics should recoil in horror from this suggestion as they do from the subject of abortion.  The Church does not deny modern death can and often is a prolonged and may be a suffering existence.  However, there is no “enough is enough” in faithful Catholic thinking.  Life is God’s gift.  Any attempts, however “reasoned”, well-intentioned, or motivated to short circuit God’s gift are repugnant to the Catholic moral mind, regardless of what is involved.

The Church always urges the best medical care available.  It only requires reasonable measures to prolong life.  Extraordinary measures are not required.  The debate may now ensue as to that definition.  Discuss.

Catholics believe in free will with regards to committing sin.  Beyond the effects of original sin, which is removed in baptism, post baptismal sin 1)  deprives the soul of grace, due to the guilt of having committed sin.  In addition, 2)  there is a penalty due.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation removes the guilt (1) freely, without cost, or other requirement, through the freely given gift of God’s grace and love, and allows that grace to be restored, and thus the soul may aspire again to Heaven, but (2) remains.  You can begin to see why Catholics hold the importance of infant baptism, required for salvation.

Catholics are often misunderstood as trying to “earn” their way into Heaven; untrue and misunderstood.  Catholics do through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, other good works of charity, and through redemptive suffering remit (2) the penalty due to sin.

We have no way of knowing what the penalty for offending God would be, however, and please bear with me as I try to make this point:  think of throwing a tomato at a homeless person.  Horrible.  But, not likely to arouse the wrath of the police, not likely.  Now imagine throwing a tomato at the President of the United States.  That might invite the attention of the Secret Service.  The point being the same offense against a more dignified personage implies a heavier penalty/consequence.  So, since God is infinitely dignified, etc, etc, even the smallest of offenses against Him implies an infinite penalty, so the thinking goes.  We don’t, cannot keep score.  We trust in and believe in the mercy of God, but are also aware of His justice.  There is no love without justice.

Redemptive suffering is the belief that human suffering, such as in end-of-life, but not purely limited only to that, any suffering accepted during life, when accepted and offered up in union with the Passion of Jesus, can remit the just punishment (2) for one’s sins or for the sins of another, or for the other physical or spiritual needs of oneself or another. Like an indulgence, (yes, they still exist, are valid, but are no longer sold and no longer measured in time) redemptive suffering does not gain the individual forgiveness for their sin; forgiveness results from God’s grace, freely given through Christ, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and CANNOT be earned. After one’s sins are forgiven, the individual’s suffering can reduce the penalty due for sin.  Redemptive suffering is only ever understood as that suffering in life unsought and which cannot be avoided.

Sometimes we see those who suffer beyond what a reasonable person would perceive as just from a loving God.  Their suffering is not wasted nor is it in vain.  It has deep meaning.  The merits of this suffering are retained, through the Communion of Saints, in the Treasury of Merit (Mt 6:20), to remit the penalty of sin due from others who have not fully paid their debt to God.  God is merciful and just.  Those unbaptized suffer to no end.  Theirs is pointless, dumb suffering.

There is a very good article on the detailed thinking of the Church’s mind on redemptive suffering here.

Love,
Matthew

Mt 9:13 – His Body & Blood are soul medicine; not a weapon, nor a prize which can ever be earned.

soul_medicine

Let God worry about whom is too sick to receive His medicine.  It is His, not ours, fellow invalids and sufferers upon whom He has great mercy, too.  St Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 AD) often called the Eucharist the “Medicine of Immortality”, the food and drink by which one was rendered immortal.

Original article.

“Away from the Church, I rejected God for over ten years and was blissfully ignorant to the abuse I was inflicting on my soul through serious sin.

I thank God that those around me, whether they knew it or not, employed the wisdom of “gradualism” to invite me back to the Church.

In his latest blog post on the topic, Jimmy Akin defines gradualism:

“It is a principle used in Catholic moral and pastoral theology, according to which people should be encouraged to grow closer to God and his plan for our lives in a step-by-step manner rather than expecting to jump from an initial conversion to perfection in a single step.”

“Gradualism” or the “principle of gradualness” are not phrases that have been tossed around for a while. So, it is no wonder that people are skittish at the phrases’ mention and the language being employed at the Synod on the Family.

The fact that the bishops in the Synod on the Family employed this term over and over in their working document points to a growing consensus that the principle of gradualism needs to be applied more effectively in parish life.

This understandably concerns a lot of people.

After the chaos that followed Vatican II, things were just starting to stabilize. People are worried that if the principle of gradualness is interpreted or applied incorrectly then the faithful will be confused, and will think that moral law has somehow changed.

I, however, remain unconcerned for two reasons:

  1. The Church is in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and she will never mislead us—most especially in matters of faith and morals.
  2. Second, when it comes to gradualism, I am “Exhibit A.”
    When I returned to the Church after ten years of being away, I did not walk through the doors and ask to go to confession.

Some people do this, but that was not my story.

When I first walked through the doors of a Catholic Church again, I was still an atheist, living with my boyfriend. One day, with little to do, I walked by a nearby church while Mass was going on inside.
I stayed. I have no idea why I stayed but I stayed.

And I went to Communion.

Perhaps I went out of a habit that was ingrained in me as a child. But when I think back to how I felt, I think the emptiness inside of me was screaming to be filled, and I felt intensely drawn to receive Jesus, like a deer thirsting for running water. Was it right? I have no idea. But at the time if someone had told me that I should not receive because I was in a possible state of mortal sin, I most likely would have walked right out of that church and never returned.

A year later, I was living for several months in Costa Rica. One day I felt a pull to attend Mass. I had no idea why. Before long, I started to go whenever Mass was held in the little rural town. The priest never questioned my fitness to receive Communion. He was always warm, joyful, and open with me, although I am sure he wondered what exactly was going on in my life.

I am thankful for that priest’s stance of respect for where I was at. If he had tried to lay down the law with me, I may have run and stayed away from the Church for another ten years. I was not ready to hear Church law from anyone. I hardly believed in Jesus, let alone the Catholic Church. I did not consider myself Catholic, and I certainly did not accept most of Church teaching on all the hot-button issues.
And yet, I felt drawn every time Mass was held in that little country church.

My story continues, and you can read more of it in my book that is coming out. But suffice it to say that I was attending Mass for an entire year before I went to confession. I don’t make excuses for myself. My soul was not in the proper state to be receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, but it took time for grace to work in me in order for me to realize this. Finally, in the same way I was drawn to Jesus in the Eucharist, one day I felt an overwhelming urge to go to confession.

The rest is history.

I am a product of the principle of gradualness that the bishops are speaking about at the Synod.

As a Church, if we don’t accept the concept of gradualism, we will not be able to successfully invite the countless baptized fallen-away Catholics to sit once again in the pews and receive the sacraments that their souls so desperately need.

Gradualism does not dismiss the law. Gradualism has great respect for the law, but an even greater respect for the people for whom the law was made. For that reason, gradualism believes that in order for a person to fully accept the law, we must give the Holy Spirit time to work in that person’s soul. This means that sometimes we will refrain from telling others about Church laws, and at other times we will refrain from enforcing them, not because the laws are not good or right, but because we want the person to accept what is good and right and that involves a timing we cannot control, that of the Holy Spirit.

This is not playing fast and loose with God’s law, this is mercy…and common sense.”

th

-by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

Love,
Matthew

Apostasy & The Indelible Mark

certificate_of_debaptism

Baptism is not a guarantee of salvation.  However, it is required. (-cf CCC Part 2, Sec 2, Chap 1, Art 1)

“It is an excellent thing that the Punic Christians call baptism itself nothing else but “salvation” and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else but “life.” Whence does this derive, except from an ancient, and I suppose, Apostolic Tradition, by which the Churches of Christ hold inherently that without Baptism and participation in the Table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the Kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal. This is the witness of Scripture, too.”
-St. Augustine, De Peccatorum Remissione et de Baptismo Parvulorum, AD 412

Historically, apostasy was an even worse ecclesial crime than heresy. Prior to the Decian persectuion (249-250 AD) and the Lapsi, those who denied the Faith in the face of persecution and therefore survived the period unscathed, but wanted to return to the Church subsequently once the persecution has subsided, apostasy belonged, therefore, to the class of sins for which the Church imposed perpetual penance and excommunication without hope of pardon, leaving the forgiveness of the sin to God alone. St. Cyprian and the Council of the African Church which met at Carthage in 251 AD admitted the principle of the Church’s right to remit the sin of apostasy, even before the hour of death. Nevertheless, the Council of Elvira, held in Spain about the year 300, still refused forgiveness to apostates. When the Roman Empire became Christian, apostates were punished by deprivation of all civil rights. They could not give evidence in a court of law, and could neither bequeath nor inherit property. To induce anyone to apostatize was an offense punishable with death. The Inquisition had authority to proceed against apostates.

-by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP (Br Humbert earned his PhD in Mathematics from Ohio State prior to joining the Order.)

“When I arrived at the Dominican novitiate, one of the older priests in the community preached a challenging homily: despite our large class of 21 young men aiming to join the Order of Preachers, so many more people our age are leaving the Church and abandoning any semblance of religion altogether, as the Western civilization which the Church herself built up becomes ever more secular. A tell-tale sign of this phenomenon is the trend among many atheists who were raised in the Christian faith to obtain “Certificates of De-Baptism.”

Claiming that they were forced into a liturgical rite “before the age of consent,” tens of thousands of Americans, Britons, and Western Europeans renounce the faith of their upbringing and cultural patrimony, aiming to undo their initiation into the Church and negate their baptismal certificate with another official document—which you can get from the Web sites of certain secularist organizations for the low, low price of only $5. Some have even gone as far as to request to be removed from their native parishes’ baptismal registries. Yet this business deal—which looks surprisingly like an act of organized religion—raises the question: Do these de-baptismal certificates actually do anything?

To answer this, we can examine the nature of the sacrament of Baptism. The Church’s Code of Canon Law describes it (CIC 849): “Through Baptism men and women are freed from sin, are reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church.” This ritual of initiation is thus not only a washing of the body, but a cleansing of the soul that raises people into a relationship with the Divine. Yet those who wish to leave this relationship, holding that the ideas of original sin and damnation are repulsive, still face the reality of the “indelible character” of Baptism.

The term “character” has taken on many uses these days: from a letter of text, to a costumed cast member at a Disney park, to the eccentric guy at the coffee shop. But here it means an invisible mark on the soul of a baptized person. This mark is the reality and sign of Baptism, or in medieval scholastic terms, the res et sacramentum. Each of the Church’s sacraments has an abiding reality that remains when the visible rite is finished, a reality that points to a greater mystery: thus, the Real Presence of Christ remains in the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass has ended and the people have gone in peace; the bond of marriage remains even if the husband and wife no longer live together; and the baptismal mark remains even on the soul of one who bought a de-baptismal certificate.

Along with Confirmation and Holy Orders, Baptism imprints on the soul of the person who receives it a character, which, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains, “signifies a certain spiritual power ordained unto things pertaining to the Divine worship” (ST III.63.3). As the first act of initiation into the Church, Baptism equips us for participating in God’s life, through the Church’s worship; this life is everlasting, and so is the power that brings us into it. Thus even if some people decide not to use this ability to worship God through the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ, the fact remains that they still can. Any attempt to change the fact that one’s baptism happened, through trying to remove oneself from a baptismal register, is as futile as denying a historical event: just as having a football team vacate a win does not change the fact that people made money (or were injured) as a result of the game, for example.

Of course, original sin and damnation are repulsive. That is precisely what Baptism liberates us from: it conforms us to the greater mystery of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, and removes the obstacles that prevent us from living out the fellowship for which God that we were born to live, in the freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:14ff.). Far from an act of coercion, what could be better than to start this life, which continues into eternity, from as early an age as possible?

Most importantly, the permanence of baptismal character means that the certificate of de-baptism, which marks a person’s public repudiation of Christianity, is not binding; rather, one who rejects the Christian faith is free to return to the divine fellowship without having to be baptized again. Saint Augustine illustrates this with an analogy to the Roman military, which branded its soldiers for identification (Ed: recall Russel Crowe removing his with a dull instrument in Gladiator*.):

If a deserter from the battle, through dread of the mark of enlistment on his body, throws himself on the emperor’s clemency, and having besought and received mercy, return to the fight; is that character renewed, when the man has been set free and reprimanded? Is it not rather acknowledged and approved? Are the Christian sacraments, by any chance, of a nature less lasting than this bodily mark?

Thus, while many attempt to negate the fact that they have ever been initiated into the Church, the sacramental character—a gift that lasts forever—reminds us all of this Good News, entrusted to a new generation of preachers in this time of the New Evangelization: No matter how far one has drifted away from the Christian faith, it is not too late to come back.”

Love,
Matthew

(*nb: S.P.Q.R., the letters of the tattoo worn by Maximus, was an abbreviation for an oft used Latin phrase whose English translation is “the Senate and People of Rome”.

The Latin word for “tattoo” was stigma, and our modern meaning of stigmatize, as a pejorative, has clearly evolved from the Latin. It was slaves, gladiators, criminals, and later, soldiers, who were tattooed, as an identifying mark.

Upper class Romans did not partake in tattooing, which they associated with either marginal groups, or foreigners, such as Thracians, who were known to tattoo extensively. The emperor Caligula is said to have forced individuals of rank to become tattooed as an embarrassment.

In late antiquity, the Roman army consisted largely of mercenaries, they were tattooed in order that deserters could be identified.

The sixth century Roman physician, Aetius, wrote that:

“Stigmates are the marks which are made on the face and other parts of the body. We see such marks on the hands of soldiers. To perform the operation they use ink made according to this formula: Egyptian pine wood (acacia) and especially the bark, one pound; corroded bronze, two ounces; gall, two ounces; vitriol, one ounce. Mix well and sift… First wash the place to be tattooed with leek juice and then prick in the design with pointed needles until blood is drawn. Then rub in the ink.”

The Christian emperor Constantine, ca. 325 AD, decreed that individuals condemned to fight as gladiators or to work in the mines could be tattooed on the legs or the hands, but not on the face, because “the face, which has been formed in the image of the divine beauty, should be defiled as little as possible.”

In 787, Pope Hadrian the First prohibited tattooing altogether, due to its association with superstition, paganism, and the marginal classes.)  My parents looked down on tattooing; not done by decent people, only sailors and those of low moral character, situation, and reputation.  The body IS A TEMPLE!!!  1 Cor 6: 19-20.

Oct 13 2014 – Synod on the Family, The Law of Gradualness

http://opeast.org/2014/10/14/st-john-paul-ii-and-the-law-of-gradualness/

http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/gradualness-a-solution-for-the-synod

-by Fr Dominic D.F. Legge, OP, J.D., Ph.L., M.Div./S.T.B., S.T.L., S.T.D.

“What John Paul called “the law of gradualness” does not refer to a “gradual” turning away from sin, but to the perennial Christian doctrine that we are not yet perfect in the first moment of our conversion. When we receive a grace of conversion, we break definitively from evil and then gradually advance in holiness. We may even fall back into grave sin, but, helped by grace, we repent and start anew. Here, the sacrament of Penance has an important role to play: it calls us to renounce our sins definitively with a firm purpose of amendment. In effect, he who will not yet repent, will not yet accept God’s mercy, and so is not forgiven. (CCC no. 1451; DH 1676.)”

“According to an official Vatican press briefing on Tuesday, Oct. 7, the discussion at the Synod over proposals for communion for divorced and remarried persons has shifted to “gradualness.” It seems that some are now arguing from the principle of gradualness that those who are not yet able to live according to the Church’s teachings could still receive Holy Communion as a step on the way towards a more perfect conversion.

For moral theologians, this is a case of déjà vu: the 1980 Synod on the Family already had this debate, and it was resolved by Pope John Paul II in his post-synodal exhortation, Familiaris Consortio.

In 1980, some voices had claimed that, in difficult cases, one could commit to “gradually” relinquishing a gravely sinful practice (like contracepting) and return immediately to the sacraments, even while intending to continue committing individual sinful acts in some (diminishing) measure. John Paul II clearly rejected this argument. Married couples, he wrote, “cannot . . . look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future: they must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy. ‘And so what is known as ‘the law of gradualness’ or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law,’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.” (Familiaris Consortio no. 34.)

What John Paul called “the law of gradualness” does not refer to a “gradual” turning away from sin, but to the perennial Christian doctrine that we are not yet perfect in the first moment of our conversion. When we receive a grace of conversion, we break definitively from evil and then gradually advance in holiness. We may even fall back into grave sin, but, helped by grace, we repent and start anew. Here, the sacrament of Penance has an important role to play: it calls us to renounce our sins definitively with a firm purpose of amendment. In effect, he who will not yet repent, will not yet accept God’s mercy, and so is not forgiven. (CCC no. 1451; DH 1676.)

As St. John Paul says, the “law of gradualness” presupposes this turning-away from evil, so that one can begin to walk “step-by-step” on the upward – that is, gradually ascending – path of good. “What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward.” (Familiaris Consortio no. 9.) The ascent is gradual, but the renunciation of sin cannot be.

The Eucharist is living bread for those on the way. One need not yet be perfect to receive it – indeed, among Christians, who is? (Answer: Our Lady.) But one does need to break from evil in order to have communion with Christ: “If we say we have communion with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth.” (1 Jn 1:6.) We can expect the Synod to affirm nothing less.”

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of Corpus Christi – Cibivat Eos, Introit for the Mass, “Wheat & honey from the rock!” & Lauda Sion

monstrance

(The work is in two sections, the first containing the antiphon (text: Psalm 81:17), the second the verse (text: Psalm 81:2) and doxology. For a proper liturgical performance, the first section must be repeated after the second.)

Cibávit éos ex ádipe fruménti,
allelúia:
et de pétra, mélle saturávit éos,
allelúia, allelúia, allelúia,

He fed them with the fat of wheat (alleluia);
and filled them with honey out of the rock
(alleluia, alleluia, alleluia).

Exsultáte Déo adjutóri nóstro: jubiláte Déo Jácob.

Rejoice unto God our helper; sing aloud to the God of Jacob.

Glória Pátri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sáncto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saécula saeculórum. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Cibávit éos ex ádipe fruménti, allelúia:
et de pétra mélle saturávit éos,
allelúia, allelúia, allelúia,

He fed them with the fat of wheat (alleluia);
and filled them with honey out of the rock
(alleluia, alleluia, alleluia).


-by Br Alan Piper, OP

“A recent book, “American Catholics in Transition”, drawing on numerous surveys conducted over a period of twenty-five years, reports that 37% of self-identified Catholics in America do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Significantly, however, only 4% claim that they both know and disbelieve the Church’s teaching. The great majority of unbelievers in the real presence—1 in 3 of self-identified Catholics—claims not to know what the Church teaches on the subject: namely, that the bread and wine are really changed into the body and blood of Christ.

The liturgical calendar provides us with an opportunity to reflect on this mystery. The Feast of Corpus Christi (“the Body of Christ”) was instituted in the thirteenth century in order to foster a greater appreciation of the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. In the U.S. it occurs this Sunday, though in other countries it happens today, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, as a kind of second Holy Thursday (the day of the Last Supper).

The Gospel reading for Corpus Christi is John 6:51-58. The passage follows the multiplication of the loaves and consists mainly of Jesus’ response to a request from the crowd: “Sir, give us always [the bread of God . . . which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world]” (Jn 6:33-34). Jesus’ answer is clear and emphatic: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven . . . and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (6:51). Jesus is insistent about this. In the eight verses of the liturgical text (which is only a selection from a larger passage), words meaning “eat” and “drink” appear a total of ten times, and the words “food” and “bread” occur six times in sum. Jesus persistently associates these words with himself, with his “flesh” (six times) and with his “blood” (four). Eventually he adds the adjective “true”: “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (6:55).

Jesus also uses different words for “eat.” In the first part of the passage, he uses a more generic term, which was used to denote the eating of a meal or metaphorical consumption, e.g., the devouring of books. In the second part, however, he begins to use a verb that means “gnaw” or “chomp.” Presumably, Jesus is driving home his point. What’s required is not only spiritual assimilation, but also oral ingestion. The eating that Jesus is talking about is bodily; it’s animalistic. The translation in the Lectionary hints at this animality in verse 57: “the one who feeds on me will have life . . .”

Some of Jesus’ disciples objected to the idea that they should eat his body and drink his blood. They said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (6:60). Many were so repelled that they stopped following him altogether: “[they] returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (6:66). But Jesus did not run after them trying to explain that he was only speaking symbolically. Still less did he open the doctrine up for negotiation. He simply turned to the Twelve and asked, “Do you also want to leave?” (6:67).

Perhaps the defectors thought Jesus was proposing a straightforward cannibalism, such as one might imagine about the worst pagans, such as might have existed among neighboring pagans. Maybe some would object that Jesus was too concerned about “externals.” Today people might say that they don’t go to Church because they go to God “directly,” from home or from anywhere. The Christian claim is that God has already come to us directly in Christ, who declared, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (6:53). Now, ingesting the Son of Man is not normally something people can do at home. So Jesus is inviting us to Church: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (6:54). These are the options he gives us: no life or eternal life.

The Eucharist contains “the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324). This great gift is offered to us as a sacrament, that is, as a sacred, saving sign. But unlike some other signs (for instance, a photo of a loved one), in the case of the Eucharist, the sign literally involves the real presence of Christ in his humanity and divinity. This is why Catholics genuflect and kneel in the presence of the Eucharist. And this is the reason for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which is characteristic of celebrations of Corpus Christi. After the consecration, there is no longer any bread or wine on the altar. Jesus is there under the appearances of bread and wine, offering Himself for the life of the world.”

“I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, “A Charmed Life.”) She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. . . . Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.

Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the most portable person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.

That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.” -Flannery O’Connor, in a letter to Elizabeth Hester

“God in His omnipotence could not give more, in His wisdom He knew not how to give more, in His riches He had not more to give, than the Eucharist.” – Saint Augustine

Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – St Jan Sarkander, (1576-1620) – Priest, Martyr for the Seal of the Confessional

200203_velke

-chapel of St John Sarkander

‘Tis the Season, as they say, for one’s Easter Duty.  Including everyone’s least favorite sacrament.

The Neo-baroque chapel of St. John Sarkander is a two-storeyed building crowned with a dome with a lantern opening. In the middle of the chapel, there is a circular opening into the basement, where a torture rack from Sarkander’s time has been situated. The interior of the chapel is impressively illuminated. Daylight from the lantern opening penetrates through the circular hole in the floor down to the basement.

The immediate surroundings of the chapel are one of the most picturesque corners of Olomouc, Moravia, Czech Republic. The adjoining double staircase is graced by a statue of St. John of Nepomuk, in a corner niche there is a statue of St. Jan Sarkander.

In the past, the city prison where John Sarkander was interrogated and tortured to death in 1620 was located on the site of the Chapel. John Sarkander was accused by Protestants of having helped to arrange the invasion of the army of the Polish Catholic King into Moravia. However, he did not violate the Seal of Confession during the torture.

Son of Georg Mathias Sarkander and Helene Kornicz Sarkander. Born in a time and place in the midst of the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation. His father died when Jan was still young, and the family moved to Pribor. He married, but his wife died when they were young, and they had no children.

Educated by Jesuits at Prague, receiving a master of philosophy degree in 1603.  In Olmutz, he became the center of a struggle for the hearts and souls of the local people; he was supported by Baron von Labkowitz of Moravia, but bitterly opposed by the wealthy anti-Catholic landowner Bitowsky von Bystritz.

The year 1618 saw the start of the Thirty Years War between Catholic and Protestant armies. When Protestant forces occupied Hollenschau, Jan was briefly exiled to Poland, but returned to minister to his oppressed parish flock. Polish forces moved into the area in 1620, and battle seemed imminent. Jan visited the field commander, carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance as a shield and chastisement. No battles were fought in the area of Hollenshau.

Seizing the opportunity to brand him a spy, and thus explain the lack of attack by the Polish troops, his enemy von Bystritz denounced Father Jan as a traitor. Jan was arrested, taken to Olmütz, and tortured for a confession, for revenge, and to get him to break the seal of the confessional and supply damaging information about his patron and parishioner Baron von Labkowitz. Sarkander was racked, beaten and murdered, but he clung to his faith and gave his tormentors nothing. He was racked on February 13, 17, and 18th.  His tendons burst.  His bones dislocated.  On each of the days mentioned, the torture lasted for two and three hours, lighted candles and feathers soaked in oil, pitch, and sulphur were strewn over his body and ignited.

The sacramental seal is inviolable. Quoting Canon 983.1 of the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism states, “…It is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason” (No. 2490). A priest, therefore, cannot break the seal to save his own life, to protect his good name, to refute a false accusation, to save the life of another, to aid the course of justice (like reporting a crime), or to avert a public calamity. He cannot be compelled by law to disclose a person’s confession or be bound by any oath he takes, e.g. as a witness in a court trial. A priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession either directly, by repeating the substance of what has been said, or indirectly, by some sign, suggestion, or action. A Decree from the Holy Office (Nov. 18, 1682) mandated that confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in the confession that would “displease” the penitent or reveal his identity.

What happens if a priest violates the seal of confession? The Catechism (No. 1467) cites the Code of Canon Law (No. 1388.1) in addressing this issue, which states, “A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense.” From the severity of the punishment, we can clearly see how sacred the sacramental seal of confession is in the eyes of the Church.

In my own personal experience, rarely, but it has occurred, I have initiated, it has NEVER been initiated to me, a comment with my confessor outside the sacramental seal, referring to some innocuous anecdote, reflecting upon a recent confession; the confessor suddenly develops memory loss, not recalling anything about the sacrament.  I suspect/firmly believe this is intentional.  Triggered as a reflex, as a protective measure confessors have developed from wisdom and practice.  I know to drop it, quickly.  I get the message.  Gratefully.  Thankfully, for the mercy and compassion of these ordained.  This has happened more than once, with more than one confessor.  Consistently.  Such is the seriousness of the matter.

Sarkandrova_kaple_-_epitaf_detail

-relief of torturing of John Sarkander on torturing rack at Sarkander’s gravestone

O Mother Mary,
through the memory of your martyred Son
and His servant Jan Sarkander,
we ask you for support for those
whose unfortunate fate is to live
under the rule of violence and hatred.
We ask you to pray for the strength
for them to endure in their faith despite tortures,
plagues and prison. Amen.

Blessed Lent.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 2 – St Peter Julian Eymard, SSS, (1811-1868) – Founder, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, “Apostle of the Eucharist”

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I must confess, though fear not, TMI is not looming! 🙂 I must confess the Mystery of the Real Presence is one I wrestle, I struggle with.  An engineer looks for engineering answers.  Divine mysteries certainly do not lend themselves typically to engineering answers.  Neither must one ever be naively lulled into thinking God will not be direct.  He has, on occasion, been very direct in my life. 🙂

The best answer I have come up with, proof if you like, at least one I am satisfied with, is to spend a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament in silence.  Doesn’t matter, I believe, believer or non, young or old, male or female, saint or sinner, sit for one hour before the Blessed Sacrament, in silence, and then I will come to you, or lean towards you, quietly, and ask, “Now tell me it’s just a piece of bread.”  That’s the best I’ve got.  That’s it.  That’s where I get my answer from. Believers would say not a bad place for an answer.  If you come to the conclusion I believe you will, it certainly was the most well invested hour of your life?  No? 🙂 Try it, if you dare.  Be open to the possibility, I beg you.  I implore you!  🙂

I also like:

“If it’s just a symbol, then the hell with it.”
-Flannery O’Connor

“God in his omnipotence could not give more, in His wisdom He knew not how to give more, in His riches He had not more to give, than the Eucharist.” – Saint Augustine

I’ve also attached the audio file of a talk by Fr. Mike Schmitz, pastor of University of Minnesota-Duluth, Newman Center.  Enjoy!

(Historical note:  it is also interesting to note, however permissive ancient Romans were, they drew a hard line at cannibalism; also, Jewish prohibitions against blood-drinking, etc.  The Lord was blowing it up socially with every word.  KABOOM!!!  And, then of course, He concluded with “just kid…”  No, He didn’t.)
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Today the Church marks the memorial of St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868), whose name may not be familiar to you, but whose influence certainly is.  If you have ever seen the work of the great French artist Auguste Rodin, such as his iconic sculptures “The Kiss” or “The Thinker”, then you have his friend St. Peter Eymard to thank for such work having been made at all. The relationship between Fr. Eymard and Rodin is further proof, if needed, that God can work through even the most hardened sinner, and why we must never give up on those who seem to be out of step with Christ.

French priest St. Peter Eymard founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament in 1856, to help promote the 40 Hours devotion to the Holy Eucharist.  In 1862 the young Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) joined the Congregation as a novice, following the death of his sister Maria – an event which hit him very hard.  Rodin gave up his career as a budding artist to seek spiritual comfort and direction, and probably would have remained in some sort of limbo and anguish, searching for meaning in his life, had it not been for Eymard’s counsel.

Fr. Eymard embraced, and in fact openly encouraged the creation of painting, sculpture, and architecture to honor the Blessed Sacrament. “For the Eucharist, nothing is too beautiful,” he once wrote to a friend.  Yet he was also an experienced enough religious to know when someone was not suited to the consecrated life.  While the Congregation might have benefited from having its own Fra Angelico, as did the Dominicans in early Renaissance Florence, it became clear to Fr. Eymard that Auguste Rodin was not going to be that person.

Following the counsel of Fr. Eymard, Rodin eventually left the Congregation and re-entered secular life, around the time he completed a bust of his friend and spiritual advisor.  Fr. Eymard himself did not care for its overly showy, wavy hair, but it eventually came to be recognized as an early masterwork by the young artist.  As the reader is well-aware, Rodin subsequently went on to become probably the greatest sculptor of the later 19th and early 20th centuries.  And Fr. Eymard himself was later canonized, interestingly enough, on the 100th anniversary of Maria Rodin’s death.

Like all of us, Peter Julian Eymard [pronounced A-mard] was conditioned by his cultural background as well as by the sociopolitical milieu of his time. Life in France during the first half of the nineteenth century forms the backdrop against which to view the gradual unfolding of Peter Julian’s life story.

Years earlier, the French Revolution of 1789 had radically altered the political, legal, social and religious structures of the country. As a teenager, the industrial revolution was changing the face of Europe. As a young man Eymard witnessed the dawning of the Age of Romanticism in art, music, and literature.Peter Julian Eymard’s road to the priesthood, as well as his life as a priest,was marked by the cross. In French society, there was a strong anticlericalism. In addition, the Eymard family was poor and Peter Julian’s father was reluctant to give his blessing to his son’s choice of career. His first attempt toattain priesthood ended because of serious illness. He tried again. OnJuly 20, 1834, at 23 years of age, Eymard was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Grenoble.

In Eymard’s day there was a religious movement called Jansenism. This movement focused on the gravity of human sinfulness and as consequence stressed our unworthiness in the presence of a transcendent and perfect Divinity. In his early years as a seminarian and priest, Fr. Eymard was influenced by this reparation spirituality and he would struggle his whole life long to seek that inner perfection that would enable him to offer to God the gift of his entire self.  Perhaps it was the intensification of this growing spiritual struggle along with Fr. Eymard’s desire to accomplish great things for God that led him  to enter religious life. On August 20, 1839, Fr. Eymard became a member of the Marist Congregation by professing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

His Eucharistic spirituality did not spring full grown from some mystical experience, but progressively. Eymard became familiar with the practice of sustained eucharistic worship during a visit to Paris in 1849, when he met with members of the Association of Nocturnal Adorers who had established exposition and perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories.

After praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Fourviere on 21 January 1851, Eymard moved to establish a Marist community dedicated to Eucharistic adoration. However, his desire to establish a separate fraternity promoting adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not seen as part of the charism of the Marists. His superiors disapproved, transferring him to the Marist College at La Seyne-sur-Mer. Eventually, Eymard resolved to leave the Society of Mary to begin his new religious congregation with the diocesan priest Raymond de Cuers.

On 13 May 1856, the Paris bishops consented to Eymard’s plans for a ‘Society of the Blessed Sacrament’. After many trials, Eymard and de Cuers established public exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in Paris on 6 January 1857 in a run-down building at 114 rue d’Enfer (which literally meant ‘street of hell’).  With the encouragement of the Cure of Ars, St John Vianney, (Aug 4) the nucleus of two communities of men and women were started in March 1858 in Paris.

The Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament began working with children in Paris to prepare them to receive their First Communion. It also reached out to non-practicing Catholics, inviting them to repent and begin receiving Communion again. Father Eymard established a common rule for the members of the society and worked toward papal approval, obtained in 1858 from Pope Pius IX. Eymard was a tireless proponent of frequent Holy Communion, an idea given more authoritative backing by Pope Pius X in 1905.

There is hope for me!!!!!  🙂  St Peter Julian Eymard, SSS, pray for us!

Saint Peter Julian Emyard

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“We believe in the love of God for us. To believe in love is everything. It is not enough to believe in the Truth. We must believe in Love and Love is our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That is the faith that makes our Lord loved. Ask for this pure and simple faith in the Eucharist. Men will teach you; but only Jesus will give you the grace to believe in Him. You have the Eucharist. What more do you want?” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“If the love of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament does not win our hearts, Jesus is vanquished! Our ingratitude is greater than His Goodness our malice is more powerful than His Charity.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“Every time we come into the presence of the Eucharist we may say: This precious Testament cost Jesus Christ His life. For the Eucharist is a testament, a legacy which becomes valid only at the death of the testator. Our Lord thereby shows us His boundless love, for He Himself said there is no greater proof of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“The Holy Eucharist is the perfect expression of the love of Jesus Christ for man, since It is the quintessence of all the mysteries of His Life.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“He loves, He hopes, He waits. If He came down on our altars on certain days only, some sinner, on being moved to repentance, might have to look for Him, and not finding Him, might have to wait. Our Lord prefers to wait Himself for the sinner for years rather than keep him waiting one instant.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“How kind is our Sacramental Jesus! He welcomes you at any hour of the day or night. His Love never knows rest. He is always most gentle towards you. When you visit Him, He forgets your sins and speaks only of His joy, His tenderness, and His Love. By the reception He gives to you, one would think He has need of you to make Him happy.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“Love cannot triumph unless it becomes the one passion of our life. Without such passion we may produce isolated acts of love; but our life is not really won over or consecrated to an ideal. Until we have a passionate love for our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament we shall accomplish nothing.”– St Peter Julian Eymard

“The Eucharist is the work of a measureless love that has at its service an infinite power, the omnipotence of God.”  – St Peter Julian Eymard

“He loved us personally … centuries before we were born.” -St. Peter Julian Eymard

“Have a great love for Jesus in his divine Sacrament of Love; that is the divine oasis of the desert. It is the heavenly manna of the traveller. It is the Holy Ark. It is the life and Paradise of love on earth.” -St Peter Julian Eymard

“Hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favorite devotion of the saints.” -St Peter Julian Eymard

Gracious God of our ancestors,
you led Peter Julian Eymard,
like Jacob in times past,
on a journey of faith.
Under the guidance of your gentle Spirit,
Peter Julian discovered the gift of love in the Eucharist
which Your Son Jesus offered for the hungers of humanity.
Grant that we may celebrate this mystery worthily,
adore Him profoundly, and proclaim it prophetically for Your greater glory. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

The Seal of the Confessional

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0059.html
The standard of secrecy protecting a confession outweighs any form of professional confidentiality or secrecy. When a person unburdens his soul and confesses his sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance, a very sacred trust is formed. The priest must maintain absolute secrecy about anything that a person confesses. For this reason, confessionals were developed with screens to protect the anonymity of the penitent. This secrecy is called “the sacramental seal,” “the seal of the confessional,” or “the seal of confession.”
The sacramental seal is inviolable. Quoting Canon 983.1 of the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism states, “…It is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason” (No. 2490). A priest, therefore, cannot break the seal to save his own life, to protect his good name, to refute a false accusation, to save the life of another, to aid the course of justice (like reporting a crime), or to avert a public calamity. He cannot be compelled by law to disclose a person’s confession or be bound by any oath he takes, e.g. as a witness in a court trial. A priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession either directly, by repeating the substance of what has been said, or indirectly, by some sign, suggestion, or action. A Decree from the Holy Office (Nov. 18, 1682) mandated that confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in the confession that would “displease” the penitent or reveal his identity.
(Just as an aside, a great movie which deals with this very topic is Alfred Hitchcock’s “I Confess,” which deals with a priest who hears a murder confession and then is framed for the murder…
However, a priest may ask the penitent for a release from the sacramental seal to discuss the confession with the person himself or others. For instance, if the penitent wants to discuss the subject matter of a previous confession — a particular sin, fault, temptation, circumstance — in a counseling session or in a conversation with the same priest, that priest will need the permission of the penitent to do so. For instance, especially with the advent of “face-to-face confession,” I have had individuals come up to me and say, “Father, remember that problem I spoke to you about in confession?” I have to say, “Please refresh my memory,” or “Do you give me permission to discuss this with you now?”
Or if a priest needs guidance from a more experienced confessor to deal with a difficult case of conscience, he first must ask the permission of the penitent to discuss the matter. Even in this case, the priest must keep the identity of the person secret.
What happens if a priest violates the seal of confession? The Catechism (No. 1467) cites the Code of Canon Law (No. 1388.1) in addressing this issue, which states, “A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense.” From the severity of the punishment, we can clearly see how sacred the sacramental seal of confession is in the eyes of the Church.
Actually, the Church’s position in this matter has long-standing credibility. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) produced one of the first comprehensive teachings concerning the Sacrament of Penance. Addressing various problems ranging from abuses to heretical stands against the sacrament, the council defended the sacrament itself, stipulated the need for the yearly sacramental confession of sins and reception of the Holy Eucharist, and imposed disciplinary measures upon priest confessors. The council decreed, “Let the confessor take absolute care not to betray the sinner through word or sign, or in any other way whatsoever. In case he needs expert advice he may seek it without, however, in any way indicating the person. For we decree that he who presumes to reveal a sin which has been manifested to him in the tribunal of penance is not only to be deposed from the priestly office, but also to be consigned to a closed monastery for perpetual penance.”
A beautiful story (perhaps embellished with time) which captures the reality of this topic is the life of St. John Nepomucene (1340-93), the vicar general to the Archbishop of Prague. King Wenceslaus IV, described as a vicious, young man who easily succumbed to rage and caprice, was highly suspicious of his wife, the Queen. St. John happened to be the Queen’s confessor. Although the king himself was unfaithful, he became increasingly jealous and suspicious of his wife, who was irreproachable in her conduct. Although Wencelaus tortured St. John to force him to reveal the Queen’s confessions, he would not. In the end, St. John was thrown into the River Moldau and drowned on March 20, 1393.
Each priest realizes that he is the ordained mediator of a very sacred and precious sacrament. He knows that in the confessional, the penitent speaks not so much to him, but through him to the Lord. Therefore, humbled by his position, the priest knows that whatever is said in confession must remain secret at all costs.
Another interesting side to this question is the obligation of the laity: An interpreter needed for someone to make a confession or anyone who gains knowledge of a confession (such as overhearing someone’s confession) is also obligated to preserve secrecy (Code of Canon Law, No. 983.2). For such a person to violate the secrecy of another person’s confession is a mortal sin and warrants “a just penalty, not excluding excommunication” (No. 1388.2). A person who falsely accuses a priest of breaking the seal of the confession incurs a mortal sin and perhaps other canonical penalties, including excommunication.
Clearly, the Church regards the seal of confession as sacred. Every person — whether priest or laity — must take the obligation to preserve the secrecy of confession absolutely seriously.
 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Saunders, Rev. William. “The Seal of the Confessional.” Arlington Catholic Herald.
Reprinted with permission of the Arlington Catholic Herald.
THE AUTHOR
Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, both in Alexandria, Virginia. The above article is a “Straight Answers” column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.

Mar 21, 2009 – Ego te baptizo – Εγώ βαπτίζω σε – I baptize you!

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(Below are some excerpts of the older rite which, in certain instances, I find more poetic/dramatic than the current one.  Please also see attached pictures.)

“Ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.”  I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Priest:  “What name do you give your child?”
Parents:  “Mara Constance”
Priest:  “What do you ask of the Church of God?”
Parents:  “Faith”
Priest:  “What does Faith offer?”
Parents:  “Life everlasting”

Priest:  “If then you desire her to enter into life, teach this child to keep the commandments. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ “

Priest:  “Go forth from her, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.”

The priest now makes the Sign of the Cross with his thumb on the child’s forehead and breast.

Priest:  “Mara Constance, receive the Sign of the Cross both upon your forehead + and also upon your heart +; take to you the faith of the heavenly precepts; and so order your life as to be, from henceforth, the temple of God.”

Priest:  “Let us pray: mercifully hear our prayers, we beseech You, O Lord; and by Your perpetual assistance keep this Your elect, Mara Constance, signed with the sign of the Lord’s cross, so that, preserving this first experience of the greatness of Your glory, she may deserve, by keeping Your commandments, to attain to the glory of life everlasting. Through Christ our Lord….”

Priest:  “Do you reject Satan?”
Parents (answering for child):  “I do reject him.”
Priest:  “And all his works?”
Parents:  “I do reject them.”
Priest:  “And all his pomps?”
Parents:  “I do reject them.”
Priest:  “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth?”
Parents:  “I do believe.”
Priest:  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, Who was born and Who suffered?”
Parents:  “I do believe.”
Priest: “Do you believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting?”
Parents:  “I do believe.”

Priest:  “Receive this white garment, Mara Constance.  Never let it become stained, so that when you stand before the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, you may enter into life everlasting. Amen.”

Priest:  “Receive this burning light, Mara Constance, and keep the grace of your Baptism throughout a blameless life.  Observe the commandments of God.  Then, when the Lord comes to His heavenly wedding feast, you will be able to meet Him with all the Saints in the halls of heaven, and live for ever and ever. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Baptism of the Lord – St John the Baptist

BaptismOfLord

“He is the lamp in the presence of the Sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in the presence of the Firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of Him who was adored in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of Him Who has already come and is to come again. “I ought to be baptized by you…”; we should also add: “…and for you”, for John is to be baptized in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing of his feet.”

-from a Sermon by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, bishop

Love,
Matthew