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Being made righteous by God is more than a legal standing, it’s a reality

-by Karlo Broussard

“Some Protestants believe, contrary to Catholic teaching, that our justification doesn’t consist in us being intrinsically righteous. Rather, God merely declares us righteous, whereby we receive Christ’s personal righteousness, and God treats us just as he treats Christ. In other words, God sees Christ when he sees us.

To make their case, these Protestants will often appeal to 2 Corinthians 5:21, where Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Just as Christ is said to be sin when he wasn’t, so the argument goes, so too sinners are reckoned to be righteous (“become the righteousness of God”) when they aren’t. And if we’re reckoned righteous without being intrinsically righteous, then it must be Christ’s righteousness that we receive.

Let’s see how we might respond to this argument.

Key to the argument is its interpretation of the term sin. It interprets sin as literally referring to actions that contravene God’s law. But we have good reason to think Paul is referring to something else here—namely, a sin offering.

In the Old Testament, the term “sin” (Greek, hamartia) is often used to refer to a “sin offering.” Consider, for example, Leviticus 4:33:

If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering [Greek, hamartia], he shall bring a female without blemish, and lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering [Greek, hamartia], and kill it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.

(The English translator inserted the third “sin offering” above for clarity. There’s no corresponding hamartia in the original text, so the third “sin offering” above does not translate hamartia only in a technical sense.)

Other passages include Leviticus 5:12 and 6:25. Isaiah 53:10 directly applies hamartia to the suffering Messiah, who is expected to make himself a sin offering: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin [Greek, hamartia].”

It’s against this Old Testament backdrop that Paul speaks of Jesus as being “made sin.” And he does so within a context where he speaks of Christ reconciling the world back to God:

  • 18: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
  • 19: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”
  • 20: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Given this context of Christ’s reconciliation and the Old Testament usage of hamartia to refer to a sin offering, it’s reasonable to interpret Paul’s use of hamartia in 2 Corinthians 5:21 as referring to Jesus, the suffering Messiah, becoming the atoning sacrifice for the redemption of the world rather than being considered something he’s not: sin itself.

Since the fundamental assumption of the argument that we’re considering here is false, it fails to justify (yes, the pun is intended) the idea that we can be reckoned righteous when we’re not actually (intrinsically) righteous.

This leads to a second response. Given our above interpretation that “sin” refers to “sin offering,” notice that Paul doesn’t think Christ is “considered” a sin offering; rather, Christ actually is the sin offering. Jesus bore our sins as the sacrificial victim so we could be reconciled back to God, as Paul teaches in the preceding verses (vv. 18-20). If Christ actually is the atoning sacrifice and is not merely “considered” to be so, and our “becoming the righteousness of God” is parallel to that, which many Protestants affirm, then we should interpret our becoming righteous as actually becoming righteous rather than being merely considered or reckoned righteous.

Protestant New Testament scholar N.T. Wright concurs:

The little word genōmetha in 2 Corinthians 5:21b—“that we might become God’s righteousness in him”—does not sit comfortably with the normal interpretation, according to which God’s righteousness is “imputed” or “reckoned” to believers. If that was what Paul meant, with the overtones of “extraneous righteousness” that normally come with that theory, the one thing he ought not to have said is that we “become” that righteousness. Surely that leans far too much toward a Roman Catholic notion of infused righteousness?

It’s important to note here that Catholics do not believe that the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” means we become the righteousness that is God’s own righteousness in virtue, being pure existence. Rather, the idea is that the righteousness that we receive when we’re justified is a righteousness that comes from God, since it is he who makes us just. This is the sense that Paul has in mind in Philippians 3:9, where he writes, “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Now, it’s possible that the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” refers not to something about us, but rather to God’s own righteousness, or faithfulness to the covenant, being manifest in the world through us. This is how Paul uses the phrase “the righteousness of God” in Romans 3:25-26: “This [Jesus’s expiatory death] was to show God’s righteousness . . . it was to prove at the present time that he is righteous.” So Paul could be saying in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God has manifested his righteousness (fidelity to the covenant) by saving us through Christ, who is the promised sin offering (“sin”) that reconciles the human race back to God.

Although this interpretation of the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” excludes 2 Corinthians 5:21 as positive evidence for God making us actually righteous, it remains the case that 2 Corinthians 5:21 does not support the teaching that we, as justified Christians, have only our legal standing changed before God.

So, as Catholics, we need not change our view of justification based on 2 Corinthians 5:21. We can still believe that when God justifies us, he makes us intrinsically righteous by his grace. In the words of Paul, he makes us a “new creation,” with the old passing away and the new having come (2 Cor. 5:17).

Love & truth,

Jul 31 – St John Colombino (1300-1367) – Spiritual Reading

-St John of Colombino, please click on the image for greater detail

Great saints were made through the reading of spiritual books! In the 1300s, an Italian merchant named John Colombino was rich, short-tempered, unhappily married, led a worldly, covetuous, and an irreligious life.  He went home one day from the warehouse more hungry than usual; and because his dinner was a little delayed, he lost his temper and abused both his wife and servant, saying he was in a hurry to go back to his counting-house. He began to rage at her, but she responded by saying,  “You have too much money and spend too little, John, why are you putting yourself out in this way? While I get things ready, take this book and read a little;” so saying, she gave him a volume containing the Lives of the Saints.

John, somewhat nettled, threw the book on the floor, saying, “All this is just fairy tales!” and went to sulk in the corner. But as dinner was delayed even longer, out of boredom he picked up the book and began to read the life of a saint. He was immediately drawn in, and in a couple minutes when dinner was ready, his wife called him but he responded, “No, no, let me finish reading.”

-Russian icon of St. Mary of Egypt, 18th century, Kuopio Orthodox Church Museum, please click on the image for greater detail

St Mary of Egypt

Saint Mary of Egypt (344-421 AD) was born in the Province of Egypt, and at the age of twelve she ran away from her parents to the city of Alexandria. Here she lived an extremely dissolute life. She often refused the money offered for her sexual favors, as she was driven “by an insatiable and an irrepressible passion”, and that she mainly lived by begging, supplemented by spinning flax.

After seventeen years of this lifestyle, she traveled to Jerusalem for the Great Feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. She undertook the journey as a sort of “anti-pilgrimage”, stating that she hoped to find in the pilgrim crowds at Jerusalem even more partners in her lust. She paid for her passage by offering sexual favors to other pilgrims, and she continued her habitual lifestyle for a short time in Jerusalem. When she tried to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the celebration, she was barred from doing so by an unseen force. Realizing that this was because of her impurity, she was struck with remorse, and upon seeing an icon of the Virgin Mary outside the church, she prayed for forgiveness and promised to give up the world. Then she attempted again to enter the church, and this time was permitted in. After venerating the relic of the true cross, she returned to the icon to give thanks, and heard a voice telling her, “If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest.” She immediately went to the monastery of Saint John the Baptist on the bank of the River Jordan, where she received absolution and afterwards Holy Communion. The next morning, she crossed the Jordan and retired to the desert to live the rest of her life as a hermit in penitence. She took with her only three loaves of bread, and once they were gone, lived only on what she could find in the wilderness.

-The Temple of Portunus, Rome, was preserved by being rededicated to Santa Maria Egiziaca in 872.

There are a number of churches or chapels dedicated to Saint Mary of Egypt, among them:

”You think of nothing but legends; I have the warehouse to go to.” Presently however his conscience began to prick him; he took the book from the ground, and opening it, lighted upon the life of St. Mary of Egypt. Shortly afterwards his wife called him to dinner: “wait awhile,” replied John, forgetting his hunger; and on he went. The legend was long, but, as his biographer observes, there was a celestial melody in it: time sped, his wife looked at him; John was still reading, and what was more, grace was working. There was conversion in the legend of the penitent of Egypt; the story softened his heart; it was his thought by day, and his dream by night; the churlish Giovanni began to give alms, and always just double of what was asked of him; and to that reading was owing the outburst of the love of God which the Blessed Giovanni spread with his “Poor Sheep of Jesus,” the Gesuati, from one end of Italy to the other, from the Pope at Viterbo down to the swine-herd of Sienna. He visited hospitals, tended the sick, and made large donations to the poor. After illness, he made his house the refuge of the needy and the suffering, washing their feet with his own hands. The name Jesuati was given to Colombini and his disciples from the habit of calling loudly on the name of Jesus at the beginning and end of their ecstatic sermons. The senate banished Colombini from Siena for “imparting foolish ideas to the young men of the city”, and he continued his mission in Arezzo and other places, only to be honourably recalled home on the outbreak of the bubonic plague. He was then dedicated to nursing and burying the victims of the rampant bubonic plague.

St John of Colombino, pray for us, that we may be changed in the way you were!!

I know my Redeemer Lives!!! (Job 19:25-27)


Islam, Asharites, Asharitism, Averroes, Averrosim, Ockham, Ockhamism, Nominalism, Luther

“Two divergent and opposing schools of Islamic thought emerge. One school is called the Mutazilites, whom we will call the reason party. On other side are the traditionalists, known as the Asharites, (Asharitism, aka voluntarism, occasionalism) whom we will call the irrational party.

The reason party embraces Greek philosophy and attempts to interpret Islamic revelation to fit reason. It proposes that truth can be known not only through the Quran, but also through human reason and through the consideration of creation. The irrational party sees Greek philosophy as un-Islamic. Its members insist that Allah is so transcendent that he can be known only through Islamic revelation, not reason, nor can reason uncover any truths about God.

The divide between the two parties will not only affect the future of Islamic countries, but also ultimately culminate in a full-blown revolt against reality in Western civilization…

Separating God’s will [what He chooses to do] from his nature [reason/will/wisdom/intellect/Who He is] effectively separates God’s will from His wisdom and his wisdom from creation. If God creates however He wishes, then our ability to know God through his creation is snuffed out. Everything would depend on the unknowable God’s disposition, and the only way to know that is through positive revelation. (Ed. i.e. Natural Law does not exist and God cannot be known by anything except what He strictly reveals. Creation is not indicative of God. God is just, but does not need to be just in His actions. God is good, but God does not need to be good because of His nature. God is just, but does not need to be just. God’s will takes on an extreme position even in violation of Who He is, His nature.  There is no philosophy.  Name your favorite Muslim philosopher?)

…The Asharites oppose [the concept of free will]. People, like the rest of creation, live under divine compulsion. God’s will makes it so. To suggest something like free will would be tantamount to claiming there is something beyond the power of the Almighty. Seeing human freedom as somehow in competition with the sovereignty of the Creator will return during the Protestant Reformation…

…Since things in the Asharite view have no nature, however, one cannot apprehend them in this way; they are only momentary assemblages of atoms…When pushed to its logical limits, God’s unbounded will destroys the possibility of science. Since God’s will does not necessarily reflect His nature, creation reflects only what an unbounded will wished to produce. A thing’s nature, therefore, has no innate power. Everything is immediately caused by God. This means that the combination of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen makes water, not because of the nature of the atoms, but because Allah wills it to be water. Allah could equally will that the combination of these same elements make a donkey or an orange…

…The laws of nature, therefore, are not effects produced by the overall structure and properties of things in the universe, but merely a pattern of occurrences that God habitually causes through his arbitrary will for reasons known only to Himself. Therefore, God [can have the appearance of] two kinds of will: one that is regular and orderly [only because He seems to will things to be in a consistent way, but could change His will at any moment] and [consequentially] another that [could seem] unpredictable [Ed. water is no longer water it at any moment because God changed His mind]. But if everything around us is a projection of God’s changeable will, then the only the thing that really exists, despite appearances, is God…

If God is the only reality; then accepting the reality of the world becomes a form of polytheism—placing the real in competition with the only real.

The expansion of Islam brought new Greek philosophical works to the Latin West, along with Islamic commentaries on them. The reception of these texts, and especially Aristotelian philosophy, was so positive that many teachers and students began to embrace uncritically everything Aristotle taught. True, Aristotle was a great philosopher, but he made some serious errors (pantheism, the uncreated eternal cosmos, all humans share one intellect, etc.). The confusion was compounded by Islamic commentators, such as Averroes, who followed Aristotle in some of these errors.

Double Truth

One way academics try to avoid the contradiction of embracing both Aristotle and the Faith is to adopt something called double truth (also known as hard Averroism). Double truth separates faith and reason into exclusive spheres of knowledge [Ed. i.e. faith OR reason, NOT fides et ratio, faith AND reason.  Truth is truth.  First principle of non-contradiction, truth CANNOT contradict truth, otherwise it is an oxymoron.  There is no such thing as truth.  God is truth.  Wherever and however truth is or can be found, God is there and revealed in it.  There is no distinction between truth and God, since God is the source and author of all truth.]

God’s Unconstrained Will

Like the irrational party (the Asharites) in Islam, according to the Franciscan [fraticelli, or] spirituals, God’s will is separated from His nature. God wills the good not because He is goodness itself, but rather because He decided to will it at that moment. Later, God could call the same thing evil…The spirituals argued that God could will that property is a good in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, He chose to will the opposite. Ockham’s thought has striking implications: There is no immutable law or reason. Every order is simply the result of God’s absolute will and can be disrupted or reconstituted at any moment. Indeed, Ockham even maintains that God can change the past if He so desires.

According to this view, reality is not a coherent whole, like a fabric comprising individual threads woven into a tapestry. Reality is more like a computer screen made up of individual pixels. Each pixel is isolated, disconnected, and separate from the others and can change to produce different pictures on the screen.

Therefore, God’s establishment of creatures “according to their kind” is turned into a kind of fiction. Universals (like animality and triangularity, 2+2=4, etc.) are nothing more than names (Latin, nomina) we assign to things for the purpose of comprehending the incomprehensible multitude of radically individual things. For Ockham, “divine omnipotence, properly speaking, thus entails radical individualism.” By rejecting the God of reason and replacing Him with a god of will, Ockham—like the Asharites—essentially rules out the possibility of knowing God through the things He has made.

Divine Deception

There is a deeper and more insidious implication to Ockham’s view. It opens the possibility that God can deceive us: Divine omnipotence, however, raises a fundamental epistemological problem, since it opens up the possibility of divine deception. . . . For Ockham, the idea of divine omnipotence thus means that human beings can never be certain that any of the impressions they have correspond to an actual object. Heaven and earth separated by God’s unbounded will make it impossible for us to know what anything truly is.

Ockhamism (also known as nominalism) separates God’s wisdom [intellect/reason] from His will [what He chooses to do] and God from creation, and it dissolves our ability to know what is real. [And opens up the potential for God to deceive.]

Revelation Alone

If God cannot be known through the things He has made, the only way to know the unbounded will of God is through revelation. The outward appearance of things becomes meaningless…Ultimately, our union with God is reduced to faith alone…

…Christ’s humanity isn’t denied, but it is seen as arbitrary. When Ockham’s nominalism is pushed to its logical conclusion, there can be no real (ontological) union with Christ, since Christ’s humanity is merely something God willed with no rhyme or reason. He could have assumed a nature that is radically different from our own. And if Christ’s humanity is arbitrary, then the apostolic witness of what was seen, heard, and touched is meaningless. Christ’s body—the Church—is nothing more than a name we give to a collection of similar individuals. [Ed. there is also the implication that while God could have saved in any infinite number of ways, His choosing to become human has direct implication to the redemption of humanity, and, ergo, any alternative suggests less or a lesser redemption of the children of Adam & Eve and Original Sin.]

The Moral Law

The natural law and the moral law fare no better under Ockham’s nominalism:

“The moral law is in this sense radically subordinated to divine choice and completely beyond the capacity of human reason to deduce or explain. . . . God is indifferent to what He chooses and the moral law is good not in itself but only because He wills it. Moreover, there is no limits set upon what God can demand. He can even command that we hate Him. Whatever His commandments may be, they are by definition good and binding. God’s will alone determines what is good and evil, and He is not even bound by His own previous determinations.” [Ed. a fickle, capricious god, just like the pagan gods of myth]

Lastly, nominalism ushers in a new form of radical individualism that mirrors the nominalist god. “For Ockham, individual human beings have no natural end, and there is no natural law such as Aquinas had imagined to govern human actions. Man, like God is free . . . opening up this realm of freedom not merely by rejecting the scholastic notion of final causes, but also by rejecting the application of efficient causality to men. For Ockham, man in principle is thus free from nature itself.”

The outworking of nominalism will ultimately come to full bloom in the twenty-first century with the insanity of feminism, bodily autonomy, abortion, and gender identity. The god of Ockham is the antithesis of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The Incarnation proposes that God’s wisdom permeates all and that His love binds us as one body.

[The Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV, Ludwig of Bavaria, 1282-1347, begins a revolt against the papacy going so far as to invade Rome on January 11, 1328, crowning himself emperor as the pope had refused to do so.]

The pope fights back against Ludwig with the spiritual sword. He issues a series of excommunications extending down to kindred with Ludwig to the fourth degree. He also places whole countries under the interdict.

“Germany alone was under interdict for twenty years, which means that no public religious service could be held, no sacrament could be publicly administered, no bell could sound. The more often these ecclesiastical penalties were imposed, the blunter grew the spiritual sword. Inevitably the religion and morality of the people suffered serious damage, their sense of the Church was weakened, their sympathies were alienated from Christ’s vicar.

The pope also fills all the vacant sees and offices in Germany with his supporters, which fosters more alienation between the German people and the Church.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483–1546) is the son of a peasant miner. His father hopes young Martin will become a lawyer, but his direction changes at Erfurt, where he decides to study philosophy and religion. Erfurt is considered a via moderna stronghold. It is here that Luther encounters nominalism and, to a lesser extent, scholasticism…

“In his [Luther’s] later words, “Life is as evil among us as among the papists, thus we do not argue about life but about doctrine. Whereas Wycliff and Hus attacked the immoral lifestyle of the papacy, I challenge primarily its doctrine.” Or to put it in a more startling way, even if the ecclesiastical hierarchy had been exhibiting exemplary holiness at the time, Luther would, it seems, have attacked its doctrine as fundamentally flawed.”

Luther holds to the same nominalist distinction God’s unbounded absolute [unrestrained/capricious/fickle] will and His habitual ordained [according to His nature, reflecting Who God is] will.  [Ed. I know the stove is hot, but I, somehow, choose to touch it anyway.]

Scripture Alone

It’s not surprising that Luther’s nominalism, as with the Islamic Asharites before him, leads to restricting our knowledge of God to positive revelation alone. This is the first step toward displacing the perpetual witness of Christ’s visible body, the Church, as the norm through which we have fellowship with God (1 John 1:1–2) with the Bible. No longer do we hear Christ by hearing the apostolic Church; we are to hear Christ solely through inspired Scripture.

Faith Alone and the Body-Soul Dichotomy

Luther’s view of God also affects his view of how sinners are made acceptable to God in justification:

“The Church’s classical doctrine of grace, presents grace as a movement of divine love, entering into the penitent soul and delivering it from the bonds of its fallen nature. In contrast with this, grace in Ockhamism remains strictly transcendent. Justification consists solely in a relatio externa, a new relationship of mercy between man and God established by God’s love, by means of which all man’s religious and moral acts, though remaining in themselves human and natural, are accounted as salvific acts in the eyes of the merciful God. . . . Human activity only becomes salvific by God’s recognition of it, by his act of acceptance. But this recognition and validation does not in any way affect man’s spiritual powers. It remains completely outside him and is simply seen and assented to by faith.”

According to nominalism, God gives us the Law to follow and subsequently approves whatever moral acts we do, as He pleases—a view that comes close to denying the doctrine of original sin. Luther’s struggle to earn salvation, the nominalist way, pushes him to the point of hating God. His crisis is alleviated by reading Romans 3:28: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” The law, Luther thinks, is given to drive us to our knees in despair, knowing we can never be righteous in the sight of God and that when we place our faith in Christ, He declares or treats us as if we were righteous.

Catholicism teaches, however, that the just God wills justly. Therefore, when God calls an individual just, the individual is changed and becomes just because God’s Word is a creative Word (Rom. 5:18–19; 1 John 3:1). [Ed. That is the great distinction between the divine and the human word.  The divine word creates reality in being spoken.] Being united to Christ in justification, as a branch to a vine, we bear good fruit—that is, good works that are pleasing to God (John 15:1–6; 1 John 3:7)—because it is God Who produces these good works that are pleasing to Him (1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 3:8–10; Phil. 2:12–13).

Luther considers justification, as the nominalists do, as completely external to us: God declares us righteous even though we remain unrighteous in ourselves. Unlike Ockham, however, Luther asserts that man is incapable of doing any truly good work, since Adam’s sin utterly corrupted our nature.

By reducing justification to faith alone, we—as soul-body composites—are treated in a dichotomous way. Fidelity to God is split into two opposing camps: faith alone (i.e., trust in God’s promises) is what pleases God and justifies us, as opposed to anything we do. God accepts the soul’s assent of faith. As for our bodily acts of obedience, God either ignores them or takes offense at them.

Luther’s Contrary Truths

Since justification is an external decree of God, Luther describes those justified as being simultaneously “just and sinner” (simul justus et peccator). As Luther writes in his Lectures on Galatians (1535):

“Thus a Christian man is righteous and a sinner at the same time, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God. None of the sophists will admit this paradox, because they do not understand the true meaning of justification.”

In this view of justification, God is said to treat us as if we were righteous and worthy of salvation even though in reality, we are unchanged (profane, sinful, damnable). The Church teaches something very different: a real transformation occurs in justification, where the sinner ceases to be a profane enemy of God and, being grafted to the New Adam (Jesus), becomes holy and righteous.

Luther’s view vaguely parallels the dualism we saw earlier with the Gnostics, whose salvation consisted of the soul discarding the materiality of the body by obtaining secret knowledge.

Free Will

Where Ockham believed that man had a bestowed freedom, Luther denies free will outright, famously likening it to a beast of burden:

“If God rides it, it goes where God wills. . . . If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.”

We saw a similar error with the Islamic irrational party, who claimed that everything except God acts under compulsion.”

-from Michuta, Gary. Revolt Against Reality: Fighting the Foes of Sanity and Truth- from the Serpent to the State (p. 77-79, 81, 83-84, 104, 108-111, 113, 118-122). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,

The First Thanksgiving – Sep 8 1565, St Augustine, Florida

-please click on the image for greater detail

“East were the
Dead kings and the remembered sepulchres:
West was the grass.

And all beautiful
All before us

America was always promises.”
-from the book length poem “America was Promises”, 1939, by Archibald McLeish

-Pedro Menendez de Aviles

According to the US National Park Service, the first thanksgiving was held in St Augustine, Florida.  Spanish Captain General of the Indies Fleet and Adelantado of Florida Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed at the village of Seloy on September 8, 1565, and re-named the area St. Augustine.

There are two written narratives of the events. One comes from the diary of the chaplain on the voyage, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales. The second was written by the voyage’s physician, Dr. Gonzalo Solis de Meras , Pedro Menendez’s, brother-in-law.

Blaring trumpets and thundering artillery serenaded Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés as he waded ashore on September 8, 1565. The Spanish admiral kissed a cross held aloft by the fleet’s captain, Father Francisco Lopez, then claimed Florida for both his God and his country. As curious members of the indigenous Timucua tribe looked on, the 800 newly arrived colonists gathered around a makeshift altar as Father Lopez performed a Catholic mass of thanksgiving for their safe arrival in the newly christened settlement of St. Augustine. At the invitation of Menéndez, the Timucuans then joined the newcomers in a communal meal.

The First Thanksgiving Mass in North America was celebrated in what is today St. Augustine, Florida, on September 8, 1565. Captain General Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore amid the sounding of trumpets, artillery salutes and the firing of cannons to claim the land for King Philip II and Spain was received peacefully by the local natives. Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, who had gone ashore the previous day, advanced to meet him, chanting the Te Deum Laudamus and carrying a cross which Menendez and those with him reverently kissed. Then the 500 soldiers, 200 sailors and 100 families and artisans, along with the Timucuan Indians from the nearby village of Seloy, gathered at a makeshift altar, and a Mass in honor of the Nativity of the virgin Mary was said. The Mass was followed by a feast shared by the Spanish and the Timucuan Native Americans. The place where the Spaniards landed is the oldest continually-inhabited city in the United States—St. Augustine, Florida, so named because land was sighted on the traditional feast of St. Augustine: August 28th. The parish established there is our country’s oldest Catholic parish. The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving,” and so it is providentially fitting that the first Thanksgiving in America was—first and foremost—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Conquistadors bearing flags watched as Pedro Menendez kissed the foot of a cross. On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 Spanish settlers founded the city of St. Augustine in Spanish La Florida. As soon as they were ashore, the landing party celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving. Afterward, Menéndez laid out a meal to which he invited as guests the native Seloy tribe who occupied the site. The celebrant of the Mass was St. Augustine’s first pastor, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, and the feast day in the church calendar was that of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What exactly the Seloy natives thought of those strange liturgical proceedings we do not know, except that, in his personal chronicle, Father Lopez wrote that “the Indians imitated all they saw done.”

-Timucua preparing a feast as depicted by Jacques Le Moyne

What was the meal that followed? From our knowledge of what the Spaniards had on board their five ships, we can surmise that it was cocido, a stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans, laced with garlic seasoning, and accompanied by hard sea biscuits and red wine. If the Seloy contributed to the meal from their own food stores, then the menu could have included turkey, venison, gopher tortoise, mullet, drum, sea catfish, maize (corn), beans, and squash.

This was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent European settlement in North America. It took place just 300 yards north of the Castillo de San Marcos, at what is now the Mission of Nombre de Dios. This event is commemorated today by a 250 foot cross which stands on the original landing site.

Did you know that the first thanksgiving meal in the USA was celebrated by Spanish settlers, in what became Florida? And that first Thanksgiving was Eucharistic! The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1565, at what is now the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, Florida.

This account of the first “thanksgiving” reflects what was found in Father Francisco’s memoirs. In it we read, “the feast day [was] observed . . . after Mass, ‘the Adelantado [Menendez] had the Indians fed and dined himself.‘”

Additionally, before the Mass was celebrated, “Father Francisco López, the fleet chaplain…came ashore ahead of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the leader of the founding expedition, and then went forward to meet Menéndez holding a cross… Menéndez came on land, knelt and kissed the cross.”

-Jacque Le Moyne’s engraving of the Timucuan chief showing Rene Laudonniere, who established the French Huguenot Fort Caroline atop the St. Johns Bluff, near present-day Jacksonville, the marker erected by Jean Ribault in 1562

From the very beginning the European peoples dreamed of America as the Fortunate Isles, the land of promise here below. What they expect from America is: Hope. And please God that this critical fact may never be forgotten here.

It is possible to be more specific, and to say: what the world expects from America is that she keep alive, in human history, a fraternal recognition of the dignity of man – in other words, the terrestrial hope of men in the Gospel.

-mural at St. Augustine Cathedral of First Thanksgiving, please click on the image for greater detail

The place where the Spaniards landed is the oldest continually-inhabited city in the United States—St. Augustine, Florida, so named because land was sighted on the traditional feast of St. Augustine: August 28th. The parish established there is our country’s oldest Catholic parish. The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving,” and so it is providentially fitting that the first Thanksgiving in America was—first and foremost—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


Offer it up

-please click on the image for greater detail

Morning Offering

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.


-by Br Finbar Kantor, OP

“Offer it up” is a phrase well-known to Catholics both young and old. It is a phrase that we often use to satirize stern teaching-sisters and good Catholic mothers alike. But, despite its worn familiarity, it is a phrase that has not yet lost its use! In Spe salvi Pope Benedict XVI said that “offering it up” is a way that “even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love” (Spe salvi, 40). Furthermore, he suggested that “maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice.” Especially during this month dedicated to the remembrance of the deceased, we can make an effort to offer up our suffering on behalf of those souls in Purgatory.

The reality of human suffering in a world ruled by “a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity” (Exod 34:6) is a profound mystery. St. Thomas Aquinas writes that God’s allowance of suffering is part of God’s infinite goodness so that out of that suffering he can produce immense good (ST I, q. 2, a. 3). From blind beggars and sick servants to the crucifixion of Christ, the Gospel is filled with examples of Jesus transforming sickness and suffering into prosperity and joy. This transformation is also possible in our lives. When we realize that God permitting our suffering is a part of his goodness, we are able to sanctify it by “offering it up” to God.

When faced with suffering, we can do one of two things. We can reject that our pain has any meaning or purpose, or we can offer up our daily struggles. By offering it up, we accept our suffering and acknowledge that God can bring good out of it. Our suffering can open the door to our sanctification. When we offer up these moments, we hand them over to God, and he transforms them into acts of love. “Offering it up” can be as simple as praying:

Dear Lord, I offer you my suffering today

For the conversion of sinners,

For the forgiveness of sins, and

For the salvation of souls. Amen.

All suffering, from mild discomfort to profound miseries, can be offered to God. By accepting our suffering, we take up our crosses, where “Christ’s sufferings overflow to us” (2 Cor 1:5). By handing over our suffering to Christ, we join ourselves to the suffering he endured for us, “sharing of His sufferings by being conformed to His death” (Phil 3:10). It is by joining ourselves to Christ’s suffering that we can make expiation for our own sins and more perfectly conform ourselves to God’s will.

In addition to being sanctified ourselves, we can offer our suffering for the sanctification of others—especially for those in Purgatory. The souls in Purgatory cannot help themselves; they rely on our prayers for relief. (ST II-II, q. 83, a. 11) We can and should always pray for them. By turning to prayer during moments of suffering, joining ourselves to Christ’s cross, and offering our sufferings for the souls in Purgatory, we can say with St. Paul, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24).”


Nov 22- St Cecilia (~200-230 AD) – Virgin & Martyr, Incorruptible, Heavenly Music

-“Saint Cecilia and an Angel”, c. 1617/1618 and c. 1621/1627, oil on canvas, overall: 87.5 x 108 cm (34 7/16 x 42 1/2 in.), framed: 109.9 x 130.2 x 6.4 cm (43 1/4 x 51 1/4 x 2 1/2 in.), Orazio Gentileschi (painter) Florentine, 1563 – 1639, National Gallery, Washington, DC, for greater detail, please click on the image.

-by Mariella Hunt

“The Psalms are songs that praise God or ask Him for protection. Historically, His people have faced great trials for not following the world and its corrupt ways. Many of the Psalms, such as Psalm 23, are so beloved that they are still used as prayers.

Music is the cry of the heart. It expresses sorrow, love, or anger. To this day, ancient hymns are used in traditional churches to express the soul’s longing for union with God.

Ritual and tradition are often criticized, but even secular listeners cannot deny the beauty of these hymns.

-Saints Cecilia, Valerian, and Tiburtius by Botticini, for greater detail, please click on the image.

Heavenly Song

Saint Cecilia is the Patron Saint of music in the Roman Catholic Church. She is patroness of music because it is said that she heard heavenly song in her heart. She might not have played the piano, though works of art often depict her doing so. Nonetheless, musicians ask for her intercession.

Cecilia came from a wealthy Roman family. Despite her fortune, she devoted her life to prayer. She was in love with Christ, and the privileges of wealth and status could not distract her from the ultimate goal of Heaven.

When she was given in marriage to a young man named Valerian, this did not change her mind. It was during the wedding ceremony that she heard the heavenly music. I imagine this music gave her the strength to be faithful to the promise she had made to God.

-“The Martyrdom of St Cecilia” by Carlo Saraceni (c. 1610), for greater detail, please click on the image for greater detail.

The Virgin Bride

Cecilia had made a vow of virginity earlier in life, and marriage would not change her mind. She hadn’t forgotten the promise that she had made to the Lord; instead, she decided to tell the man she had married that she was already taken — mind, soul, and body.

Marvel at this woman’s bravery! Forced to marry a mortal man, she could not be made to renounce her vow. Presumably on the night of her wedding, she told her husband that she was promised to Jesus.

Another man might have laughed at her or beaten her; Cecilia was blessed, for Valerian instead listened with interest. When Cecilia warned him that an angel was guarding her, he asked if he could also see this angel. Cecilia told him to go and be baptized. After his baptism, his eyes would be opened.

Instead of turning her in to the Prefect who was persecuting Christians, or even laughing at her words, Valerian went to be baptized.

-“The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia” by Raphael, please click on the image for greater detail.

A Holy Partnership

Valerian returned from his baptism and found Cecilia deep in prayer. By her side stood an angel guarding her. The angel crowned her with a wreath of roses and lilies, a sign of her favor with God.

After this, Valerian underwent a great conversion. He understood that the God of the Christians was real. He also accepted that the woman he had been given in marriage was holy. He did not touch her, allowing her to maintain her vow of virginity. Instead, he went out to serve the Lord; so many believers were being martyred that he felt the need to do something.

Valerian took the bodies of these holy martyrs and gave them proper burials. His brother, Tibertius, saw his brother’s joy in the Lord; he wanted to know the source, so we must assume that Valerian preached to him. Tibertius, too, was baptized. He joined his brother, burying martyrs in the dead of night.

-“Saint Cecilia” by Simon Vouet (1590–1649), circa 1626, oil on canvas, Height: 134.1 cm (52.7 in); Width: 98.2 cm (38.6 in), Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, please click on the image for greater detail

Death Has Lost His Sting

Meanwhile, Cecilia preached the Gospel, converting thousands of people to Christianity.

When the Romans found out about this, she was arrested and put to trial. When she refused to renounce Jesus, she was condemned to be suffocated in the baths — but despite the heat, she did not sweat. Perhaps it was her angel protecting her.

When the prefect was told of this woman’s survival, he was enraged. Instead of recognizing Cecilia’s holiness, he ordered for her a quicker death: decapitation. This did not go as planned, either; the executioner struck her once, twice, three times, but was not successful.

Baffled, he left her bleeding. Cecilia lay dying in a pool of her own blood for three days. When she died on the third day, she was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons.

We Hear Heavenly Music

St. Cecilia’s unwavering love for Jesus, as well as her bravery in the face of persecution, make her one of the most beloved Saints. Her story teaches us to be faithful to the Truth when the world challenges our Faith.

She teaches us that Jesus was our first love, and He must remain so, no matter what it might cost us.

In 1599, officials exhumed her body and found her to be incorrupt. God had preserved her beauty as she had been on the day of her burial. It is said that her body exuded the fragrance of flowers; this is a sign of holiness.

Sing Like St. Cecilia

No love is greater than the love that Jesus feels for His people. When we choose to love Him back, choosing Him over popularity and comfort, we will receive great graces in return.

St. Cecilia’s story is proof that His love is worth it. It will preserve you from eternal death. As for Valerian’s task, a heart set on Jesus will make us restless to serve Him with love. When others see us serving Him, they might ask what we are doing — and be called by the Holy Spirit to join us.

Do not be ashamed to speak His name, under any circumstance; there is no other like it.”


What is the soul? 2

-“Soul Carried to Heaven”, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, c.1878, oil on canvas, 275 x 180 cm, please click on the image for greater detail.

-by Karlo Broussard

“If you bring up the topic of the soul, it’s not uncommon for folks to give you a blank stare. And even if folks do have something to say about it, they often think of it as some separate thing in us that’s interacting with our body—like how a puppeteer might manipulate a puppet or a poltergeist might maneuver a body as its own. But this is far from what the soul is.

To get a proper understanding of what we’re talking about, let’s start with two simple things: a rock and a plant. Is there a difference between the two? Any kid will tell you there is. The plant is alive; the rock is not.

So there’s something to the plant that makes it a living thing rather than a non-living thing. St. Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle before him, identifies that something as the soul, “the first principle of life of those things which live” (Summa Theologiae I:75:1).

Therefore, everything that is living—plants, animals, humans, and all the rest (e.g., fungi, monerans)—has a soul and lives because of a soul. The soul is what makes a thing a living being.

But not all souls are created equal. In fact, plant souls, animal souls, and human souls all belong to different orders. These are called the vegetative, sensitive, and rational orders.

In 1914 and 1916, the Church’s ordinary Magisterium confirmed this truth when it published in the Acta Apostolica Sedis (the official journal of the Holy See) a list of twenty-four theses derived from the theological and philosophical tradition of Aquinas. Thesis 14 reads as follows:

Souls in the vegetative and sensitive orders cannot subsist of themselves, nor are they produced of themselves. Rather, they are no more than principles whereby the living thing exists and lives; and since they are wholly dependent upon matter, they are incidentally corrupted through the corruption of the composite.

Regardless of what order of soul we’re talking about, the next thing we need to know about a soul is that it is the form of a body. Aquinas follows Aristotle on this (ST I:76:1). The Catechism even adopts this explanation, enshrining it in official Catholic teaching:

The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body (CCC 365).

Form is just a word we use to signify that which makes a thing the kind of thing it is. For example, when we look at a table, it may happen to be made of wood or iron, but regardless of the material used to construct it, it nonetheless has the form of a table. In other words, it’s not a chair, a plate, a fork, a spoon, etc.—it’s a table. Form is the organizational pattern that makes the matter of a thing what it is—in this case, a table.

A soul is a form that makes a living thing the kind of living thing it is—a plant, an animal, a human person. It’s “the organizational pattern or form of all the parts and all the parts of all the parts,” coordinating the matter to be the kind of living thing it is. The soul of a plant informs and makes the plant’s matter that of a plant. The soul of a lion informs and makes the lion’s matter that of a lion. The soul of a human being informs and makes the human’s matter that of a human being.

By contrast, the matter of a plant that has died is no longer that of a plant. Immediately after death, the matter takes on new distinct forms. What these new forms are exactly may be hard to discern. But we do know they are now actually individual material substances that accidentally constitute what we see to be a single thing. These individual material substances would have been present virtually (not present as an actual substance) in the plant only before the loss of its soul. We may still call it a plant—but given that it no longer has its life principle to unify the matter and allow it to operate as plants do, the matter is no longer that of a plant. Likewise with a dead lion or human being. It’s the soul, then, that makes the body not only a living body, but the kind of living body it is.

Now, there are a couple of important points about the soul that follow from it being the form of the body. One is that the soul is not a separate substance from the body, like a ghost trapped in the machine of the body. Rather, the soul and body together (whether for a plant, an animal, or a human being) make up one thing—one substance.

We see that this is true by considering how the soul is the first principle of life not only in a thing, but also in all a thing’s activities. As the form of a living thing, the soul makes a thing what it is. Being a particular kind of thing involves having certain powers and activities that go with being the kind of thing it is. So a plant does what a plant does—takes in nutrients and grows. An animal does what’s proper to animals—like plants, it takes in nutrients and grows, but unlike plants, it senses and has the power to move. Human beings do what’s proper being a human—take in nutrients, grow, sense, move, and rationally know and love.

Since the soul makes a thing what it is, and since being a particular kind of thing involves having certain powers and activities, it follows that the soul is the seat of all of a living thing’s powers and activities.

Now, as Aquinas argues, vegetative and sensory powers and activities (which plants, animals, and humans have) belong to the bodies of corporeal beings (ST I:75:3). Since the soul is the seat of those bodily powers and activities, it follows that vegetative and sensory powers and activities proceed by way of both body and soul. And since these activities are of one thing—an action being performed by a single thing (the plant growing, the lion running, the human seeing)—it follows that body and soul together form one thing.

Another point is that the soul is entire in the whole body and in each of its united parts. A branch that’s cut from the tree, for example, no longer has the form of the tree. The matter takes on new distinct forms and thus becomes a conglomeration of individual material substances, just as the matter of the whole tree would if it were to die. The same goes for a limb that’s cut off from a human body: the cut off hand is no longer a human hand because it no longer has the person’s soul as its form. So there’s no dividing up the soul.

Given the different powers and activities that each order of souls allows for, we can see a certain hierarchy. As we move from plants to humans, we see the powers climb the ladder of perfection: nutrition and growth to sensation and self-local motion to rational knowledge and love.

There are many more questions that arise concerning the nature of souls. Can they exist without the body? Even if some can exist without the body, can they be destroyed? These we’ll have to save for some other time. But suffice it to say for now that as the form of a body, the soul is not all that mysterious after all.”

Love & truth,

How to destroy a soul

-“The Damned Soul”, drawing by Michelangelo Buonarroti c. 1525, black ink, 35,7 x 25,1 cm Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

-by Karlo Broussard

“In a previous article, we looked at the nature of the soul and left off with some important questions. Can the soul continue to exist after the death of the body? If so, can it be destroyed? Let’s consider these questions here.

The key to answering the question of whether a soul can continue to exist after death is figuring out whether a soul has any activities that transcend the boundaries of matter. Imagine a workaholic who never cultivated a life outside his work. All of a sudden, he’s retired, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself, because all of his activity was bound up with and dependent on his career. This is a way to illustrate the principle that action follows being—that something acts according to its mode of existence. If we can figure out the nature of the activity, then we can know the nature of the thing’s mode of being.

So, if a soul is like the workaholic, and its activities are entirely bound up with and dependent on matter, then its existence will be bound up with and dependent on matter. Such a soul would not be able to continue to exist after “retirement”—or, in this case, death.

If, however, a soul has activities that are not entirely bound up with and dependent on matter, then such a soul would have an aspect of its life that is independent of matter and thus would be able to continue to exist without its body—like the person who has a spouse and a family and hobbies outside his work to fully devote himself to once retirement comes.

For St. Thomas Aquinas, plants and animals do have souls, but those souls cannot exist without the body. His reason is that all the activities of plants and non-rational animals are bound up with and dependent on matter.

Nutrition and growth are obviously bound up with matter. Sensation, even though its powers are rooted in the soul, is necessarily tied up with matter. When we see something, for example, we see this man. We perceive this man being here and not there. We perceive this man being taller than the plant near his foot. We perceive the color black located here, in this man’s hair. Since our power of sight is exercised through the material medium of the eye, our power of sight necessarily always attains its objects under material conditions: particularity, spatial relations, and quantitative dimensions.

But our human power to know by virtue of the intellect is unlike the power of sight through the eye. We’re able to know the form or essence of something in a universal way, stripped of all material conditions. We’re able to know the essence, the nature, or the form of triangularity independent of the material conditions that make up each triangle—their size, color, location, and the stuff each one is made of. Even a triangle’s particularity is excluded from our knowledge of the form of triangularity.

Since our intellects act on universal ideas in a way that’s not under the conditions of matter, and since our intellects are powers of our souls, it follows that the soul has an activity that is, of itself, exercised apart from the body. And given that operation (or activity) follows the mode of being, we can conclude that the soul can exist without the body.

The next question is whether the soul is indestructible. Proving that a human soul can exist without the body doesn’t prove that the soul is indestructible. Sure, the destruction of the body doesn’t destroy the soul, but perhaps there is some other way that the soul could go out of existence.

For example, whatever is made up of parts can break apart. Can the soul break apart? Or perhaps the soul can go out of existence like how a tree goes out of existence when the tree’s matter loses its form as it’s being put through the woodchipper.

Let’s take a look at these options and see if the soul fits the bill.

We know that the soul can’t be destroyed via breaking apart because the soul is not made up of parts in the first place, being that it’s immaterial. We know that this is true given its immaterial activity of intellectual understanding, as demonstrated above.

The soul also cannot be destroyed via being separated from its form. Every material thing is composed of what philosophers refer to as form and matter. For example, a tree is composed of a certain kind of matter—mostly wood— and a certain kind of form—the form of a woody vegetative organism that grows upward with a trunk that produces branches above the ground.

Now, destruction comes when a thing loses its form and is replaced by another. A tree loses its form, for instance, and thus ceases to exist, when I cut it down and throw it into the woodchipper. The matter loses the form that was making it the kind of thing it was—namely, a tree—and takes on the form of wood chips. Therefore, if something can lose its form, and be replaced by another form, then it can be destroyed.

But unlike the tree, which can lose its form due to its nature as a matter-form composite, the human soul can’t lose its form and be replaced by another because it is only a form. For a human being, the soul is the form of the body—that which makes the body a human body. Therefore, when the soul separates from the body, it can’t be destroyed by losing its form and being replaced by another.

Since the soul is a form and therefore cannot be taken away from itself, nor can it be replaced with another form, and we know that the human soul can exist without the body, then it follows that the human soul by nature is indestructible.

There is one last way the soul could go out of existence, and that is by way of annihilation. Annihilation is the reduction of something from existence to non-existence, which is an action that can be performed in principle only by God. Annihilation would not be due to anything in the nature of the soul itself, but simply due to God ceasing to will the soul’s existence.

But we know that God won’t do this, since it would violate his wisdom. It would be contrary to God’s wisdom to create a thing with an immortal nature only to thwart that nature. We can even go so far as to say that given that God has created an immortal nature, and given his immutable nature, he cannot annihilate the soul. He is committed to the nature of the thing he creates.

So the human soul is of such a nature that if it exists, it will exist forever. In other words, it’s immortal. And since we have good reason to think that God will not annihilate it, we can conclude that there is existence beyond the grave.

So the soul is not some sort of metaphysical rug under to cover our embarrassment as we flail around to explain Catholic doctrines on life after death. Rather, the immaterial and immortal soul is a metaphysical rock on which we can build an edifice of faith in Jesus’ promise of eternal life in heaven.”

Love & truth,

Where accompaniment fails

“Whatever we call these movements — “social justice,” “wokeness,” “identity politics,” “intersectionality,” “successor ideology” — they claim to offer what religion provides…Pope Francis makes the same point powerfully in Fratelli Tutti: unless we believe that God is our Father, there is no reason for us to treat others as our brothers and sisters.

That is precisely the problem here.

Today’s critical theories and ideologies are profoundly atheistic. They deny the soul, the spiritual, transcendent dimension of human nature; or they think that it is irrelevant to human happiness. They reduce what it means to be human to essentially physical qualities — the color of our skin, our sex, our notions of gender, our ethnic background, or our position in society.

No doubt that we can recognize in these movements certain elements of liberation theology, they seem to be coming from the same Marxist cultural vision. Also, these movements resemble some of the heresies that we find in Church history.

Like the early Manicheans, these movements see the world as a struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Like the Gnostics, they reject creation and the body. They seem to believe that human beings can become whatever we decide to make of ourselves.

These movements are also Pelagian, believing that redemption can be accomplished through our own human efforts, without God.

And as a final point, I would note that these movements are Utopian. They seem to really believe that we can create a kind of “heaven on earth,” a perfectly just society, through our own political efforts.

Again my friends, my point is this: I believe that it is important for the Church to understand and engage these new movements — not on social or political terms, but as dangerous substitutes for true religion…these strictly secular movements are causing new forms of social division, discrimination, intolerance, and injustice…We should not be intimidated by these new religions of social justice and political identity…

Jesus Christ came to announce the new creation, the new man and the new woman, given power to become children of God, renewed in the image of their Creator.

Jesus taught us to know and love God as our Father, and He called His Church to carry that good news to the ends of the earth — to gather, from every race and tribe and people, the one worldwide family of God.

That was the meaning of Pentecost, when men and women from every nation under heaven heard the Gospel in their own native language. That is what St. Paul meant when he said that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free…

The world does not need a new secular religion to replace Christianity. It needs you and me to be better witnesses, better Christians. Let us begin by forgiving, loving, sacrificing for others, putting away spiritual poisons like resentment and envy…

True religion does not seek to harm or humiliate, to ruin livelihoods or reputations. True religion offers a path for even the worst sinners to find redemption.”
-‘Reflections on the Church and America’s New Religions’, Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, Address delivered to, Congress of Catholics and Public Life, Madrid, Spain, November 4, 2021

-by Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

“Let’s take a look at Jesus’ ministry and see if the modern pastoral doctrine of accompaniment is worthwhile. As the dogmatic precepts of the secular religion take shape, cultural elites try to deflect criticism by presuming the rhetorical high ground. Only a racist and a bigot would object to the allegedly self-evident truths of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” LGBTQ+ replaces morally descriptive words like homosexual, sodomy, perversion, and mutilation. Abortion and genital mutilation are no longer crimes against humanity. They are human rights.

Church leaders—like all of us—fear demonization and isolation, and Catholic moral teaching seems too harsh for modern sensibilities. So priests and bishops scramble to devise innovative strategies in response to these dramatic cultural changes. In recent years, they have introduced the pastoral doctrine of accompaniment.

Accompaniment has benign connotations and downplays divisions. The piano accompanies the singer; the side dish accompanies the main. As a pastoral strategy, the term implies compatibility and complementarity. It also encourages linguistic sugar-coating for “non-judgmental” and “inclusive” gospel proclamation. But how does the strategy compare with the mission of Jesus?

After the Resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples on their journey to Emmaus (see Luke 24:13-35). The disciples initially do not recognize him. Good Friday devastated their expectations, and Jesus—employing the Socratic Method—instructs them along the way. He explains how the events fulfilled all of the scriptural prophecies. When he joins them at their destination, they recognize him in the breaking of the bread, and he immediately vanishes from their sight. They exclaim: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

The benign components of accompaniment on the road are on display. The disciples are loyal to Jesus but discouraged by the horror of the cross. Jesus engages them in conversation, respectful but teeing up for a teaching moment: “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” The anonymous Jesus pointedly confronts their slothful thinking and hardness of heart. Jesus’ journey with faithful, attentive, and docile disciples on the road is a pastoral success story.

Earlier in his sacred ministry, the Pharisees bring an adulterous woman to Jesus (see John 8:1-11). The Law of Moses requires stoning as the punishment. This time, Jesus is a man of few words. He patiently listens and enigmatically scribbles in the dust. Rising, He responds: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Bending down again, He continues to write (enumerating their sins?), and they all depart, one by one. But Jesus did not save the lady for her to work the streets later in the day. He says to her, “Has no one condemned you?” She replies, “No one, Lord.” Jesus responds, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” Except for the departure of the shamed accusers, the account looks like another successful illustration of pastoral accompaniment.

During his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus reveals Who He is in response to her inquiring mind (see John 4). He promises God’s gift of living water, but he also confronts her adultery: “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband.” Instead of discouraging her, the honesty of Jesus inspires her. She concludes that Jesus is a prophet and elevates the conversation to the questions of orthodoxy—“right worship”—and Jesus reveals that He is indeed the Messiah. The lady returns to her village with exuberance. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

Listening with patience and engaging in conversation are required components of the pastoral strategy of Jesus. But His witness to the truth takes precedence. Before Pilate, Jesus testifies: “For this, I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37). So every gospel proclamation strategy must witness to the truth after the example of Jesus.

Without the goodwill of those He encountered, the fearless honesty of Jesus could have easily derailed the happy outcomes. His confrontations with the Pharisees provide a stark contrast to the success stories (see Luke 11:37-53). Although Jesus recognizes the authority of the Pharisees because they “sit on Moses’ seat,” he pulls no punches in his critique of them. They preach but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens that they will not move and love places of honor, the best seats, and salutations; they are blind guides and hypocrites. Jesus here violates every tenet of accompaniment. Indeed, he often fails to win friends and influence people throughout the gospel because his honesty can be provocative, unsettling, and offensive to hardened hearts.

When we measure it against the ministry of Jesus, we must conclude that the modern pastoral strategy of egalitarian accompaniment—never invoking gospel truths on the hot-button issues—fails. It systemically disguises either fearful complacency (the failure of action in disciplining pro-abortion politicians) or malevolent cooperation with the enemies of Christ (e.g., so-called LGBTQ ministries). The foundational component of the modern strategy of accompaniment is often not the proclamation of the gospel. It is self-preservation and accommodation, hoping the Church’s cultural adversaries will not demonize and isolate Church leaders. Pastoral accompaniment and cultural accommodation have become interchangeable terms.

Such “mutual accompaniment” doesn’t make much sense in the world of music. Even if the piano part is especially elaborate or beautiful, we would never say the singer thus accompanies the piano. Likewise with food: the side dish accompanies the main, not vice versa. Similarly, neglecting the teachings of Christ in favor of “inclusive” and “non-judgmental” accompaniment is incomplete, even dishonest.

In retrospect, the modern doctrine of accompaniment is flawed from its inception. It deviates from Jesus’ program in a fundamental way: instead of accompanying our Lord on the way of the cross, many Church leaders choose to accommodate sinners on sinners’ terms. Hence, the doctrine of pastoral accompaniment and accommodation has replaced the guardrails of orthodoxy with doctrinal ambiguity and error.

There can be no substitute for the truth of the gospel. “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).”

Love & truth,

Luther, Calvin, and Knox worked hard to avoid suffering for their beliefs

-the execution of William Tyndale (194-1536), please click on the image for greater detail

-by Joseph Heschmeyer, a former lawyer and seminarian, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“Declaring that “faithful men stand up” and “speak up,” Josh Buice, the founder of G3 Ministries, argues that

we can be certain that Luther, Calvin, Knox, Tyndale and other figures of the Reformation were not making decisions about defending the faith by calculating their career advancement and protecting their platform.

Buice’s message about basing our actions upon faith, rather than political calculation, is a good one, but (with the possible exception of Tyndale, the only one of the four to die for his beliefs), he could hardly have chosen worse examples than these Protestant Reformers.

In a May 30, 1518 letter, Martin Luther wrote to Pope Leo X to insist that he wasn’t rejecting papal authority and that the accusations against him were false:

I know, most holy father, that evil reports are being spread about me, some friends having vilified me to your Holiness, as if I were trying to belittle the power of the keys and of the supreme pontiff, therefore I am being accused of being a heretic, a renegade, and a thousand other ill names are being hurled at me, enough to make my ears tingle and my eyes start in my head, but my one source of confidence is an innocent conscience.

Insisting that these accusations against him are untrue, Luther concludes the letter by promising that “my cause hangs on the will of your Holiness, by whose verdict I shall either save or lose my life. Come what may, I shall recognize the voice of your Holiness to be that of Christ, speaking through you.”

But when Leo decided against Luther in June of 1520, Luther changed his tune. Rather than recognizing the voice of the pope to be that of Christ speaking through Leo, Luther instead denounced the pope as the Antichrist, publishing Against the Execrable Bull of the Antichrist in November of that year. Before taking this step, Luther shrewdly drummed up political support. In the summer of 1520, he wrote an “Address to the Nobility of the German Nation,” playing on German nationalism, and urging the secular authorities to take greater control of the Catholic Church. Unlike his theological writings (which were in Latin), this was written in German. In the letter, Luther rejected the idea “that the temporal power has no jurisdiction over the spirituality” on the grounds that since “the temporal power is baptised as we are, and has the same faith and gospel, we must allow it to be priest and bishop.”

Therefore, he offered a number of suggestions for how secular authority could control the Church, including consolidating or abolishing religious orders like the Dominicans (“Let no more mendicant monasteries be built! God help us! there are too many as it is. Would to God they were all abolished, or at least made over to two or three orders!”); abolishing or tightly controlling the ability of the German faithful to go on pilgrimage to Rome (“Pilgrimages to Rome must be abolished, or at least no one must be allowed to go from his own wish or his own piety, unless his priest, his town magistrate, or his lord has found that there is sufficient reason for his pilgrimage”); and banning of most of the books written by that “blind heathen teacher, Aristotle.” Luther even suggested that “the temporal authorities” should convene their own ecumenical council, and if the pope should resist this secular council, “we must not respect him or his power; and if he should begin to excommunicate and fulminate, we must despise this as the doings of a madman, and, trusting in God, excommunicate and repel him as best we may.”

Protestants are free to make of Luther’s ideas whatever they will, although I suspect that the idea of turning control over the churches to secular authorities no longer sounds as attractive as it did to Luther. My point is simply that between 1518 and 1520, Luther executed a remarkable 180-degree reversal. He pledged fealty to the pope “come what may” when he thought that would benefit his cause, and when it didn’t, he denounced the pope as the Antichrist and pledged support to the worldly authorities instead.

In 1558, John Knox wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women to denounce the Catholic Queen Mary. Knox denied her legitimacy as queen of England, insisting that women “may never rule nor bear empire above man,” because “woman by the law of God, and by the interpretation of the Holy Ghost, is utterly forbidden to occupy the place of God in the offices aforesaid, which he has assigned to man, whom he has appointed and ordained his lieutenant in earth, excluding from that honour and dignity all women.”

But then an awkward thing happened: Mary died, and her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I became queen. Would Knox continue his principled opposition to female empire? He would not. He quickly wrote to the unhappy queen, addressing her as “the virtuous and godly Elizabeth, by the grace of God, queen of England,” and insisting that nothing in The First Blast “is, nor can be prejudicial to your grace’s just regimen,” a reign for “which most I have thirsted, and for which—as oblivion will suffer—I render thanks unfeignedly unto God.” Elizabeth remained unmoved by Knox’s sycophancy, forbidding him from entering England.

As the nineteenth-century novelist Robert Louis Stevenson points out, John Knox (who wrote his treatise from Geneva) had first approached “his great master, Calvin, in ‘a private conversation,’” in which Calvin admitted his own position that “government of women was a deviation from the original and proper order of nature, to be ranked, no less than slavery, among the punishments consequent upon the fall of man.” Once Elizabeth acceded to the throne and Knox fell out of favor, however, Calvin wrote to her adviser Sir William Cecil to insist that he “had not the slightest suspicion” that Knox was planning to publish a book, and that “it had been published a whole year before [he] was aware of its existence.” To the Swiss Reformer Heinrich Bullinger, however, Calvin admitted that Knox “had talked over these matters with me before he came among you.” This same Calvin critiqued the Church (rightly) for allowing boys as young as ten to become bishops, yet he dedicated two of his biblical commentaries (the Commentary on Isaiah and Commentary on the General Epistles) to the boy-king Edward VI, Elizabeth’s predecessor and elder brother.

This is not to suggest that the Reformers were entirely unprincipled, but it is to suggest that there’s a reason that Tyndale was executed and the other three were not. In an age in which both Catholic and Protestant authorities were willing to violently suppress perceived heresy, men like Tyndale (and, on the Catholic side, St. Thomas More) were willing to die for what they believed. In contrast, Luther, Calvin, and Knox avoided physical suffering in no small part by ingratiating themselves to the politically powerful, even at the cost of some of their own inconvenient principles.”

Love & truth,