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Apostolic Succession

Jim Papandrea taught me one of my courses for my certification as a catechist in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Dr. Papandrea is one of the world’s foremost scholar’s on the heretic and schismatic Novation of Rome.

“The most relevant teaching for our purposes here is a concept called apostolic succession—the first bishops of the Church were the successors of the apostles, and they carried on the apostles’ ministry and teachings. This assumes that through the commissioning, consecration, and ordination of Church leaders, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was also passed down to the next generation.

Furthermore, apostolic succession affirms that Christian truths were accurately transmitted within the Church, so that the teachings of any Church authority at any time could be traced back in an unbroken chain to the apostles, and through them to Jesus himself. You knew you could trust the teachings of your bishop because he would have gotten his teachings from his predecessor, and so on, going all the way back to Christ.

To be sure, some bishops did deviate from what they had received, and to that extent they are considered heretics. But that’s the point. When they were faithful to the Tradition, their teachings were trustworthy. So this is not to claim that there was never dissent or disagreement in the early Church—indeed there was, and it was precisely this disagreement that led to the discussion of theological concepts, and eventually to authoritative decisions about how to understand the person and work of Jesus Christ, and how to interpret Scripture.

Eventually the debates led to councils of bishops, the successors of the apostles gathering to clarify the correct interpretations of Jesus’ intentions for the Church and of the apostolic writings. These conclusions of the early Church Fathers and the councils of bishops were confirmed as the dogmas of Christianity—the theological positions that were consistent with the conclusions of the previous generations, going all the way back to the apostles.

Let’s meet one of the early Church Fathers, and see what they said about apostolic authority and succession.

St. Clement, Bishop of Rome (writing c. A.D. 93)

As the fourth bishop of Rome, Clement wrote a letter to the church in the city of Corinth, Greece. We know this letter as First Clement, though we have no other certain letters from this bishop. What is remarkable about this letter is that Clement writes with authority over the Christians in another city where he was not the bishop. His authority comes from his assumption that he holds an office in which he is the successor of Peter, the leader of the apostles. And even though the Church in Corinth could claim that its own apostolic succession goes back to the apostle Paul, Clement’s letter presumes that Peter’s authority is greater. We will examine the role of the bishop of Rome (the pope) later, but for now, here is what Clement says about succession:

“The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God . . . And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits of their labors, having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe . . . they appointed those already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.

Therefore it is right for us, having studied so many and such great examples, to bow the neck and, adopting the attitude of obedience, to submit to those who are the leaders of our souls . . . For you will give us great joy and gladness if you obey what we have written through the Holy Spirit.”

Notice how in these passages Clement claims the authority of an apostle for himself, and even implies that this affords him a kind of inspiration. This assumes that the anointing of the Holy Spirit is on him by virtue of his office, and thus the audience of his letter should listen to him as though it were Peter himself who sent it. Here we have an indication of one of the early successors of the apostles writing with apostolic authority.

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Apostolic succession is based on the reality that religious truth must be preserved over time—it has a source, and must be handed on from that source in order for it to be faithfully transmitted to future generations. For Christians, our source is Jesus Christ. He handed on divine truth to his apostles, and they handed it on to the next generation of Christians who did not know Jesus personally. One of the ways that they handed on Jesus’ teachings was by writing the New Testament.

But that is not the only way that the apostles taught. They also directly taught their own disciples, who then became their chosen successors and the first bishops. These, in turn, taught the next generation of Church leaders, and so on. What this means is that we are connected to Jesus and the apostles through the Fathers of the Church. Let me say that again: It is the Fathers of the Church who connect our faith to that of the apostles and to Jesus.

Therefore, the Church Fathers are in a way the protectors and guarantors of truth. They matter because without them, disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture would escalate to division—a reality that has plagued the Protestant world since the Reformation. So the unity of the Church is not something we can think of in terms of the present day only. The unity of the Church also requires unity with its history—we must be connected to our collective past in order to be connected to each other, and to be part of the communion of saints, that “great cloud of witnesses.””

Love,
Matthew

Love thy neighbor…

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, that I may understand the depth of meaning in the precept of fraternal charity.

MEDITATION

Jesus has given us as the foundation of all law, not only the precept of the love of God, “the greatest and the first commandment,” but also the precept of the love of neighbor, and He expressly said that it is “like” to the first (cf Matthew 22:38,39). That the precept of the love of God should be the basis of all Christian life is easy to understand, but it is not so easy to see that the same holds true of the precept of fraternal charity. However, Jesus has bound these two commandments so closely that the one cannot subsist without the other. He did not say that all is based on the first commandment, that of love of God, but fraternal charity“on these two commandments [the love of God and of neighbor] dependeth the whole law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40). Why did He put the love of neighbor so close to the love of God as to make of it, with the latter, the one foundation of all Christianity? Because the virtue of fraternal charity is not love of the creature in itself and for itself, but it is love of the creature “propter Deum,” that is, for God’s sake, because of its relation to God. In other words, we must clearly understand that God commands us to love Him not only in Himself, but also in His rational creatures whom He has been pleased to create to His image and likeness. Just as a father wants to be loved and respected not only in his own person, but also in that of his children, so God wants to be loved in His creatures as well as in Himself, and He desires this to such an extent that He considers anything done to one of His creatures as done to Him. Jesus has said: “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). Fraternal charity is of great importance, because it is in reality an extension of our charity toward God, an extension which embraces all men in relation to God, their Creator and their Father. For this reason, the precept of the love of neighbor is inseparable from the precept of the love of God.

COLLOQUY

“O charity, you are as great as my God Himself, for God is Charity. You are so exalted that you reach the throne of the Blessed Trinity. There you enter the bosom of the eternal Father, and from the Father’s bosom, you go to the heart of the Incarnate Word, where you take your rest and are nourished. Thus the soul who possesses you seeks its nourishment and rest in God alone, after which it returns to earth, for you reach even to our neighbors, O charity, loving them not only as creatures, but as beings created by God to His own image and likeness. You do not stop at loving their bodies, that is, their exterior appearance, but you penetrate to the interior of their souls, which you love more than all else. You do not stop at God’s gifts, but soar to the Giver and love all men only in Him.

“O charity, you are so sublime that you unite us to God! You can do all things and in the Church you form a trinity, as it were, similar to the Blessed Trinity; because just as the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and all three are united and are one and the same Being, so, by your virtue, O charity, this union reaches us, because you unite the soul to God, and one soul to another; in this invisible way, you form in the Church a kind of trinity. He who possesses you, O charity, nourishes himself with God, to such a point that he becomes like God through grace and participation.

“O my God, give me such perfect charity that I may know how to yield to my neighbor, helping and relieving him in all his needs, weaknesses, and troubles. May I know how to have prudent compassion for the faults of others” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).”

Love,
Matthew

May 10 – St John of Avila, (1499-1569), Doctor of the Church – Inspirer of Saints


-St John of Avila, by El Greco, please click on the image for greater detail

The saints are made saints together…
-originally published in The Catholic Voice of the Archdiocese of Omaha

St. John of Avila is a little-known Spanish saint who helped or influenced many more saints we know much better.

He was born either in 1499 or 1500 in a small town south of Toledo, Spain. The only son of a wealthy family, he was sent off to study law. He left school after a deep conversion and was insistent on becoming a priest. He was ordained in 1526.

With the discovery of the New World still on the minds of many and the rise of new ideas and new technologies changing many lives, young Father John chose to leave his homeland and serve as a missionary priest to the people of New Spain (Mexico). He gave all his inheritance to the poor and, with the permission of his bishop, traveled to Seville, Spain, to await his transport ship to the Americas.

While he waited he preached in the town and caught the eye and ear of the holy Fernando de Contreras. Fernando and the Archbishop of Seville convinced Father John to stay and serve the people of Andalusia, which he did for a number of years. Father John was later brought to Córdoba and eventually to Granada where he finished his university studies.

A scholar of some prowess, Father John was recognized as an intellectually insightful man. He was an inventor, the author of a catechism for adults and children and the founder of several colleges and a university. But it was his love for God, for bringing souls to the Lord, and his deep spiritual insights that brought him wider acclaim.

His preaching was marked by a message of God’s deep and abiding love for us. This caught the attention of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, who sought out Father John hoping he would become one of those first Jesuits. Though he didn’t join, he sent 30 of his best spiritual mentees to the new order. In fact, it was Father John who helped convert St. Francis Borgia, SJ, who succeeded St. Ignatius as head of the Jesuits.

St. John of God, founder of the Hospitilars, was converted to a life of piety by the preaching of Father John. St. Peter Alcántara, reformer of the Franciscan Order, was a friend, as was St. John de Ribera. St. Thomas of Villanova distributed Father John’s catechism throughout his diocese. Finally, both St. Teresa of Ávila and St. John of the Cross, reformers of the Carmelite Order, actively sought out Father John for his spiritual wisdom.

His work “Audi, Filia” or “Listen, Daughter” is considered his spiritual masterpiece. He also corresponded with many lay people and priests to whom he gave spiritual direction. He wrote in one letter, “Open your little heart to that breadth of love by which the Father gave us his Son, and with him gave us himself, and the Holy Spirit, and all things besides.”

After some illness and exhaustion led him to retire from preaching, Father John died on May 10, 1569. He was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 for his tremendous insight and influence on Catholic spirituality during a critical time in church history.

Through St. John of Ávila we are reminded of God’s infinite love for us, to which we need only surrender, for it is that love which transforms us and makes saints of us all.

Love,
Matthew

July 21, 1773-Aug 7, 1814: Suppression of the Society of Jesus


-statue of St Ignatius of Loyola, SJ, Church of the Gesù, Rome, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“Stunned by the rapid advance of the Protestant Revolution, the Church began its much-needed reform with the ecumenical council at Trent (1545-1563). The council that would lay the foundation for the Catholic Reformation followed another important development, when in 1540 Pope Paul III approved the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits, as they would be called, began their work several years prior in Paris, when Ignatius Loyola and several companions (including Francis Xavier) pledged to live the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience) and to go to Rome and place themselves at the service of the pope.

Ignatius envisioned his new order would participate in the reform of the Church by focusing on education (catechesis) and encouraging the laity to participate frequently in the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist. This focus led to a multitude of Jesuit teachers and missionaries serving in heavily Protestant territories and in far-flung places of the world that had never heard the Gospel, all to win souls for Christ.

Although the Jesuit formation process was long and life in the Society was difficult, men joined by the thousands. The Society established universities throughout Christendom in order to form both members of the order and Catholic laity to participate fully in the Catholic Reformation. The small group began by St. Ignatius and his companions became a powerful and influential element within the Church and Christendom within a century of the founder’s death in 1556. By the eighteenth century, there were over 20,000 Jesuits running nearly seven hundred universities, colleges, and seminaries. The Society contributed to the prestige of secular rulers and the papacy but its influence was not universally appreciated. Anti-religious intellectuals and absolutist-minded monarchs became wary, envious, and ultimately opposed to the Jesuits.

René Decartes’s (1596-1650) philosophical writings, likely without his intent, sparked a movement opposed to the Church and its understanding of philosophy. By the eighteenth century, the “age of reason” and “enlightenment” produced a crop of thinkers, writers, and politicians radically opposed to the Church and its influence in the world. François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), known by his pen name Voltaire, was one such individual. Although educated by Jesuits, Voltaire embraced anti-Catholic beliefs and worked tirelessly to destroy the “infamous thing,” his moniker for the Church. Voltaire recognized the only way to limit the Church’s influence and bring about a secular society was to take control of the institutions of higher learning in Europe, which required the destruction of the Jesuits. He boasted that with the Jesuits defeated, “there will be nothing left of the Church.” In order to further their agenda, Enlightenment thinkers began a concerted campaign against the Society of Jesus.

Many secular rulers were wary of the Jesuits due to their outsized influence and their independence. Jesuits were fiercely loyal to the pope, whom many kings saw as a foreign prince intent on meddling in their internal affairs. As these monarchs focused on creating a centralized state, they increasingly saw the Jesuits as an obstacle to their plans. Frustrated and irritated by the Jesuits, several secular rulers in the eighteenth century placed intense political pressure on the Roman pontiffs to do something about the meddlesome Society. However, these rulers did not wait for papal activity, as many began their own campaigns of suppression and expulsion.

King Joseph I (r. 1750 – 1777) desired to reform Portugal so that it could be a leading power in Western Europe. He placed great power and authority in the hands of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, known as the Marquis de Pombal, in order to accomplish this task. Believing the Jesuits to be a threat, Pombal began a concerted propaganda campaign directed at creating a negative image of the Jesuits in the minds of the king and the Portuguese people. In 1759, Pombal convinced the king to sign a decree denouncing the Society and ordering their expulsion from Portugal and its overseas territories.

The next attack on the Society came from France, the “Eldest Daughter of the Church.” The Paris Parlement, the most important of thirteen provincial appellate courts charged with registering and approving royal decrees, initially restricted French subjects from entering the Society and banned Jesuits from teaching theology, then prohibited citizens from attending Jesuit schools. The Parlement’s anti-Jesuit declarations culminated in 1764, when King Louis XV (r. 1715-1774) signed a decree expelling the Jesuits from France and its dominions.

Recognizing the serious threat to the Society and the Church as a whole posed by such attacks, Pope Clement XIII (r. 1758-769) defended the Society its role and mission in the Church in the bull Apostolicum pascendi in 1765. Despite the papal defense, the attack on the Society from European secular rulers continued. In Spain, Ignatius’s nation of origin, the Jesuits came under fire from Bernardo Tanucci, a chief minister and advisor in Naples to King Charles III (r. 1759-1788). Tanucci despised the Jesuits and the Church and continually sought to limit the power and influence of both. He convinced the king to order the expulsion of all Jesuits from Spain and its colonies in 1767.

In only twelve years, the Society was ruthlessly persecuted in three countries where it had been highly effective and influential. The Jesuits, once the champions of the Catholic Reformation and a powerful and prominent group within the Church and Europe, were dazed and weakened, but their greatest defeat was yet to come.

Giovanni Vincenzo Antonio Ganganelli was educated by the Jesuits as a young man and discerned a religious vocation. He entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1723, taking the religious name Lorenzo. He was ordained to the priesthood and pursued advanced academic studies, earning a doctorate, and teaching at a university. Pope Clement XIII, who had befriended Fr. Ganganelli, made him a cardinal at a time when the Jesuit controversy dominated the pontificate. The conclave to elect Clement’s successor met in the face of a formal request from the rulers of Portugal, France, Spain, and Naples to suppress the order.


-St Ignatius of Loyola, SJ, by Peter Paul Reubens, please click on the image for greater detail

Several cardinals believed suppression was the only viable alternative to bring peace between the Church and those kingdoms. There was much debate within the conclave but eventually the cardinals elected Ganganelli, who took the name Clement XIV (r. 1769-774). Clement XIV hoped to resolve the Jesuit question peacefully but was under intense political pressure throughout his pontificate. After a failed attempt to placate the anti-Jesuit secular powers through harsh measures against the Society, he issued the brief Dominus ac Redemptor on July 21, 1773, which formally suppressed the Society of Jesus.

It was, as historian Eamon Duffy wrote, “the papacy’s most shameful hour.” Clement partially blamed his action on the Society itself for sowing seeds of dissension and discord among secular rulers and other religious orders. Sadly, the pope ordered the arrest and imprisonment of the Superior General of the Society, Lorenzo Ricci, in Castel Sant’Angelo, where he later died. Clement XIV’s action against the Society left such a significant blot on the history of the papacy that no pope since has taken the name Clement.

Although the suppression was universal, there were areas where the Jesuits continued to operate unimpeded (especially in areas with non-Catholic monarchs). The monarchical world was turned upside down by the creation of the United States and the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century. Desperate to revive Catholic higher education and reigning during a time when the Church no longer faced opposition from the same secular authorities that clamored for the Society’s suppression, Pope Pius VII (r. 1800-1823) re-established the Jesuits on August 7, 1814. Once more, the sons of Ignatius were allowed to operate universities, colleges, and undertake missionary adventures.

The forty-one years of suppression were a dark time in the history of the Society, but the vision of St. Ignatius and his companions could not be forever dimmed.”

Love, and AMDG,
Matthew

Sep 5 – Bl Alcide-Vital Lastaste, OP, (1832-1869), Apostle of Prisons, Founder of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany for female ex-cons & abused women

“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning He was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and He sat down and taught them.  As He was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with His finger.  They kept demanding an answer, so He stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”  Then He stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.””
-Jn 8:1-11

Alcide-Vital Lastaste was born in Gironde, France, on September 5, 1832. As a teenager, Alcide felt a call to the priesthood, but as is the way of adolescence, sometimes there can be distractions. Alcide began courting a young lady named Cecilia de Saint-Germain while attending secondary school.

Cecilia and Alcide soon declared their love for each other and planned to get married as soon as possible. However, Alcide’s father, Vital, thought the couple was too young to be getting so serious. He voiced his great displeasure at their deep involvement, and the couple agreed to not see each other for a year. Incredibly, during that year, Cecilia suddenly passed away. The young man was heartbroken.

Alcide turned to his young faith for comfort. He joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the visits to the downtrodden and homeless opened his eyes to the plight of the poor. At the same time, the call to the priesthood once more erupted within him. In 1857 he entered the Dominican Order. Alcide was ordained a priest on February 8, 1863, and took the name Jean-Joseph. His unexpected spiritual journey was about to take flight and reach heights no one could have ever imagined.

In 1279, Charles of Anjou discovered the allegedly true relics of Saint Mary Magdalene in the small town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, and along with her grave were also found the grave of Saint Maximinus , the first Bishop of Aix. Karl of Anjou built the Gothic cathedral there to have a worthy repository for these relics. He also built an adjacent monastery, where he installed the Dominicans as guardians of the tomb. The monastery was named “The Royal Monastery” (Le Couvent Royal) . During the revolution, the Dominicans were expelled from the monastery, which is now converted into a hotel. It was there that Brother Jean-Joseph Lataste would deepen his spiritual life and become acquainted with Mary Magdalene, who became the inspiration for his role as founder.

On May 20, 1860, a large party was held on the occasion of the translation of Mary Magdalene’s relics. Lacordaire, who had reintroduced the Dominicans to France after the revolution, was unfortunately absent due to illness, and Brother Jean-Joseph was honored to kiss the saint’s skull, which for him would become a deep and significant spiritual experience. That thought was nailed to his mind, that so great love for the saint could be too great a sin, and he adopted Mary Magdalene as a special patron saint for his future work among sinners.

On September 15, 1864, after being a priest all of 18 months, Father Jean-Joseph Lataste was sent by the prior of the monastery in Bordeaux to conduct a four-day retreat for the inmates of a woman’s prison in the town of Cadillac. This experience would change his life forever.

Suddenly he found himself amid 400 women prisoners, most of them abused and abandoned with nowhere to go. In most cases, these women were poor, uneducated, and without family. Living on the streets forces one to live in survival mode. That means stealing and soliciting and doing whatever one must do to breathe another day. They had been discarded and treated like criminals. This was 1864, and they fit the cliché “out of sight, out of mind.”

The atmosphere of hopelessness and despair at the prison was overwhelming. He wondered what he could do for these women who were often called “the lost women.” Would they even sit and listen to him? He was frightened of the possibilities, but he was also filled with faith.

Father Jean-Joseph stood before the women, stretched out his arms, and began, “My dear sisters –” That was shocking in itself because no one ever truly spoke to these people. Dogs and cats were treated better. His gentle, brotherly greeting got their attention. He spent the next few days guiding them to a special place. It was a place where Hope existed. They had forgotten what that even meant, if they’d ever known at all.

He introduced them to God’s infinite mercy by telling them about the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus forgave her. He spoke about Hell and conversion and embracing freedom. He shared with them the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and lastly, he spoke to them of Heaven. He could not believe how many women embraced the offer of forgiveness and began going to Confession. The chapel was filled each evening for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. His own heart became filled with a new purpose. He wanted to begin a ministry to serve these women.

The women asked that he come back, and one year later he did just that. This time there was only one sermon a day because the demand for Confession was so high. The last night of the retreat, most of the women attended Adoration. Some stayed the entire night, remaining until dawn. Using the words of St. Catherine of Siena, Father Lataste wrote in his closing notes about the retreat: “I have seen the secrets of God; I have seen the wonders.”

From that point on, he was determined to find a way to help these women. In 1866, he wrote a pamphlet called Rehabilitated. He sent copies to as many journalists and government officials as he could. He knew that the reason so many of those being released failed was because no one trusted them or gave them the slightest chance. He was determined to reshape public opinion.

He announced his intentions of starting an order where women leaving prison could begin a religious life in a contemplative setting. This order was approved and is known as the Dominican Sisters of Bethany. Bethany was the village in Judea where Jesus’ three friends lived—Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, the sinner who became a contemplative soul. Father Lataste, following the Latin tradition exemplified by Saint Augustine and Saint Gregory the Great, identified Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany. Jesus loved to come and stay with them. The Order still flourishes and serves many women in different countries around the world.

However, for French society in the nineteenth century, the nature of the new foundation was surprising, even scandalous. Hostile reactions came particularly from the Dominican Third Order Regular communities, onto which Father Lataste intended to graft Bethany. These religious, usually dedicated to the education of girls, were afraid of public opinion confusing them with repentant sinners. The provincial chapter of the Order informed Father Lataste that the very principle of his foundation raised objections. The founder was not discouraged. This opposition seemed to him to be the sign of divine blessing, given through the cross. In the end, the difficulties faded away, and the foundation continued its course.

The Dominican Sisters of Bethany, contemplative women religious who welcome among them women from various paths, have four houses today—two in France, one in Switzerland, and another near Turin. They visit nearby prisons. The heart of their community life is contemplation of the Divine Mercy, centered on the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, in keeping with Father Lataste’s wishes.

Tuberculosis took the life of Alcide-Vital Lastaste (aka Father Jean-Joseph) on March 10, 1868. He was only 36 years old. As he died, he could be heard softly singing the Hail, Holy Queen, “Salve Regina.”

Dominicans sing the Salve Regina at the end of Compline as the last hymn before holy silence for evening (and emptying dishwashers, yes, plural, novice joke) until morning, when “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.” is intoned to begin Matins.

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ,
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.


-please click on the image for greater detail

Love,
Matthew

Tell me brother, are you saved?


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“There are many books on the subject of salvation, and many of them share certain characteristics:
1. They focus exclusively on the subject of eternal salvation.
2. They focus in particular on the doctrine of justification.
3. They often ignore, in the interests of systematic theology, the way in which the Bible uses language.
4. They are often written in a polemical, hostile style.
5. Due to the authors’ unfamiliarity with the way other groups of Christians express themselves, they mistakenly criticize views on which there is no disagreement in substance.

The Drama of Salvation is different.

While it does discuss the subject of eternal salvation, it also seeks to show that the concept of salvation in the Bible is much broader than that.

While it discusses the doctrine of justification, it also gives attention to other biblical themes relating to salvation.

While it addresses concerns of systematic theology, it focuses significantly on the way the Bible talks about salvation—the kind of language Scripture uses when addressing it.

While it takes a very definite position on many matters, it is not meant to be polemical or hostile toward those with other beliefs.

Finally, while this book is critical of positions I believe to be in error, it takes great care to understand the ways in which different groups of Christians express themselves.

Tragically, Protestants and Catholics often talk past each other, failing to perceive the ways that the other uses words and phrases. I hope that this book will help both Catholics and Protestants “translate” the theological language of one group into the language of the other so that individuals on both sides can better understand what their partners in dialogue or controversy actually mean, not just what they say.

Often the two groups are led astray by terminology. They often perceive themselves to be in disagreement when actually they are not—or, at least, when the disagreement is not as sharp as they think.

This is precisely the kind of situation that St. Paul was addressing when he warned about quarreling over words. He instructed St. Timothy to charge his flock “before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim. 2:14).

Similarly, Paul said that a person who is quarrelsome about words is “puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:4–5).

Contemporary Christians of all persuasions need to take Paul’s words to heart. My hope is that this book will help bring about a greater understanding of how Scripture treats the subject of salvation and how different groups of Christians understand it.
Something is desperately wrong with the world. We all sense it. With all of the wars, crimes, hatreds, and cruelties the world contains, something is definitely wrong. Mankind’s catalogue of sin and vice is endless, and there seem to be new moral challenges every day.

What’s worse, the problem is not just in the world. It is within us. Each of us has done wrong in our lives. Sometimes we have done things that are very wrong. If we are lucky, we have enough conscience and courage to face our own misdeeds. But too often, we rationalize them away or we ignore them and pretend that they don’t exist.

The fact that we realize there is something wrong with the world—and with ourselves—raises a set of questions: What will happen as a result of all the bad things that take place in the world? Will the innocent always suffer? Will the guilty always triumph? Will matters ever be put right? Is there justice in the world? And if there is, can that justice be tempered with mercy?

Religions and philosophies propose different answers to these questions. From the Christian point of view, there is ultimate justice. In the last day, God will judge the living and the dead. He will eventually right every wrong. He will console and compensate those who have suffered innocently. He will punish those who have done wrong. And He will be merciful to those who have sought His grace and forgiveness.

From the Christian point of view, all human beings will have one of two destinies: to be spiritually united with God in heaven or to be spiritually separated from God in hell. The former promises an eternity of happiness, the latter an eternity of anguish.

Obviously, one destiny is preferable to the other. The question is how to make sure you have the preferable one—or, to put it another way, how to make sure that you’re saved.

Salvation is one of many terms the Bible uses to describe the way God works in our lives to deal with the effects of sin. The basic image is one of rescue. To save someone is to rescue him, as when a fireman saves someone from a burning building, or one soldier saves another on the battlefield. Any time someone is saved, he is rescued from a perilous situation.

From what are we being rescued when God saves us? This can be understood in different ways. In one sense, we are being rescued from being eternally lost. That state, though, is a result of our sins, and so we can also think about salvation as being rescued from our sins. Sin entered the world through the agency of the devil, and so we can think of salvation in terms of being rescued from the powers of darkness as well.

In addition to conceiving of salvation as rescue from one state, it can also be understood as rescue to another, better state. In this sense, God can be understood as saving us from hell to heaven, from sin to holiness, and from the devil to God himself.

None of these understandings are exclusive. They are all compatible.

In addition to the concept of salvation, the Bible uses other images to describe the way God deals with sin in our lives. These include justification (being made righteous), sanctification (being made holy), and forgiveness (releasing of spiritual debt). All of these describe different aspects of what God does in our lives to deal with our sins.

These concepts are what this book is about. In the coming chapters, we will look at them and the rich and, at times, surprising ways that Scripture employs them. We will also look at the controversy that surrounds them. Unfortunately, not all Christians understand these concepts in the same way. The disagreement is particularly strong in the Protestant community, which is sharply divided on several points.

To set the stage for that discussion, we will begin by looking—in broad outlines—at the view that was common prior to the Protestant Reformation and that is still common among Catholics, Orthodox, and members of other historic churches.

It is a view that is rooted in the Bible.”

Love,
Matthew

Aquinas, ST Suppl. 72:1, ad 2 – Can the saints hear our prayers?


-by Karlo Broussard

(Summa Theologiae, by St Thomas Aquinas, OP, Supplement, Question 72, Article 1, objection 2)

“The second objection in the article says the saints don’t know our prayers because such knowledge would undermine their happiness. Here’s one way to put the argument:

P1: If the saints knew our prayers, then they would know our sufferings.

P2: If the saints knew our sufferings, then the saints would be sad.

P3: But the saints in heaven can’t be sad.

C1: Therefore, the saints can’t know our sufferings.

C2: Therefore, the saints can’t know our prayers.

The key premise is the second, to which Aquinas replies that we can’t say the saints in heaven are grieved by knowledge of our troubles in life because they are “so filled with heavenly joy, that sorrow finds no place in them.”

Although I think Aquinas is right here, it seems there needs to be a bit more explanation as to how knowledge of our sufferings wouldn’t undermine the happiness of the blessed. In the Summa, he obliges: “God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good” (ST III:1:3, ad 3).

Whether the saints know that good or not doesn’t matter. Simply knowledge that God will direct a permitted evil to a greater good gives the saints reason not to be sad. This is especially true given the saints’ vision of the divine essence, which provides them with an improved perspective on how God perfectly orders things to His glory.

Second, the saints in heaven view the troubles in our lives with an eternal perspective, a perspective that Paul articulates in his letters. For example, in Romans 8:18, Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul writes, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

If Paul’s knowledge of such glory without the beatific vision could diminish sadness caused by his sufferings, then how much more would the saints’ knowledge of this glory with the beatific vision diminish sadness? Much more! In fact, being in the presence of the heavenly glory excludes sadness altogether.

So, just because the saints in heaven would have knowledge of the troubles in our lives if they knew our prayers, it doesn’t follow they would be sad. They know there are greater goods that God is bringing about through our troubles.

The third objection that Aquinas deals with is similar to an objection often heard today in challenging God’s existence: the problem of evil. It claims the saints can’t possibly know our prayers because if they did, they would respond to our requests for intercession, and we wouldn’t have suffering in our lives.

Behind this objection is the idea that a charitable person always assists his friend and/or neighbor when the latter is suffering. Since the saints in heaven have perfect love, and we’re their friends, it follows that if they knew our requests about what’s going on in our lives, they would help us in our sufferings.

But—the argument goes—they must not be helping us in our sufferings, because we suffer every day. Therefore, they must not know the requests that we make.

This objection is based on a false dichotomy. It supposes either the saints are praying for us, in which case we wouldn’t suffer, or they don’t know our prayers. But there’s a third option.

Perhaps the saints know our prayers and it’s just not God’s will that we be delivered from a particular trial, at least not yet. Like us, they don’t know all of God’s plan, and so even their petitions are subject to what the Lord wills (James 4:15). Alternately, if—in a particular case—they do know that God wills to allow a source of suffering, they certainly would not pray for it to be removed. Aquinas explains,

The souls of the saints have their will fully conformed to the Divine will even as regards the things willed; and consequently, although they retain the love of charity towards their neighbor, they do not succor him otherwise than they see to be in conformity with the disposition of divine justice (ST Suppl. 72:1, ad 3).

So, if we ask the saints to pray that we be delivered from a particular difficulty in our lives, and it doesn’t come to pass, it’s because it wasn’t God’s will. It’s not because the saints aren’t aware of our prayers.

Furthermore, if God doesn’t will to deliver us from a trial, the saints can still help us by praying we have the strength to persevere in faith and not lose hope in the midst of our suffering. Such prayers also would be fruits of perfect love.

Even if we don’t hear these arguments raised today, they’re interesting to consider. And if by chance a Protestant does happen to use one or both of them, a Catholic will be able to show why they don’t succeed.”

Love, all ye holy men and women, pray for us!!
Matthew

Anti-Catholic “Fake News”

There is much for honest Catholics to lament these days regarding the criminality of 4%, let’s say, and spare ourselves the academic debates, of its ordained, and the conspiratorial malfeasance of its leaders, and the pervasive danger into which further Catholic families were regularly placed; hopefully, past terms, and the terrible way victims continue to be treated, and laity continued to be ignored in all of this, as if they will just accept being ignored, taken for granted, by the institution known as the Church.

These are tragedies on so many levels, Russian nesting dolls of evil, the primary of which is the suffering of the victims. A much lesser evil is the factual evidence this gives enemies of the Church, who would not care about facts and evidence much under any circumstances.

“Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878–1903) was annoyed.

The Church was under attack by intellectuals seeking to limit its influence in society and by Italian nationalists and revolutionaries who intensely disliked the papacy. Leo was also concerned because when surveying the methods employed to cause “suspicion and hatred against the Church and the papacy” by its critics, he noted that the attacks were centered on “ecclesiastical history.”

Leo knew that a thorough and authentic study of Church history produces a favorable opinion of the institution founded by Christ, but opponents were using the Church’s history against it.

These propagandists produced a false narrative about the Church and the pope because “they narrowly inspected archives; they unearthed stupid fables; and they repeated for the hundredth time legends a hundred times confuted.”

The myths formulated by the enemies of the Church took root in the minds of men because the press perpetuated them and schools taught them to the young.

Leo decried the corruption of youths through teaching a false narrative of Church history because errors learned while young tend to persist in old age, primarily because people are not apt to do the research necessary to change what they have learned, and in some cases because the fixed narrative threatens their faith. To combat the falsification of the history of the Church and the papacy, Leo decided to open the Vatican Library to all researchers so that they could use primary documents to write authentic Catholic history.

Today, almost 140 years after Leo opened the Vatican Library to researchers, one is tempted to guess how he would view the current state of Church history scholarship.

Certainly there is much to be grateful for, and many historians are producing excellent works of authentic history. But there is also much to be concerned about.

Anti-Catholic historical myths continue to spread in all forms of media. The English Protestant view of Christian history dominates the textbooks used in most schools, and enemies of the Faith continue to spread falsehoods about Church history.

Why do these myths persist despite the existence of authentic scholarship that refutes them?

Chiefly because avowed enemies of the Church find them useful in discrediting the Church and limiting its influence in the world; because bitter ex-Catholics use them to paint the Church in a negative light; because atheists who hate religion in general use them to point out the folly of faith; and because some Protestant groups use the myths to justify their separation from the Church Christ founded.

Many anti-Catholic historical myths originated with Protestant revolutionaries 500 years ago. Discrediting the Church by creating false historical narratives about it helped these revolutionaries “prove” that their interpretation of Scripture and Christian doctrine was correct. Pope Leo XIII observed that because Protestants’ assaults against Catholic dogma failed “they had recourse to a new strategy, namely, encountering the Church in the field of historical questions.”

Ultimately, an examination of history proves that the early Christian Church was Catholic and that, as Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote, “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

Sometimes people who promulgate historical myths about the Church do so unintentionally. In many cases they are simply repeating what they have read or heard. Writers and commentators may not bother to review the latest research in an area of Church history, so all too often the true story stays within academia. Pope Leo XIII expressed the frustration felt by all Catholic scholars when he wrote about these myths, “It appears incredible that accusations of this kind, confuted with so much evidence and with such force, should yet have been able to make progress in the minds of many.”
So, what should the present-day Catholic do about these anti-Catholic historical myths?

The first step is to recognize them by learning the authentic history of the Church. Catholics are frequently encouraged to spend time learning the dogmas of the Faith and studying Scripture, and indeed both pursuits are necessary for an active and enriched faith life. But time must also be spent studying the events and personages of Church history. Failure to do so just allows the myths to persist and flourish.

The next step after recognizing the historical myths about the Church is to use that knowledge to combat those myths, charitably, whenever and with whomever they arise. Ultimately, false narratives about the Church persist because the truth is not proclaimed widely and persistently, and many Catholics do not feel well equipped to join the fight.

God willing, this book will help faithful Catholics defend the Church in their workplaces and communities, and among families and friends. It can be exhausting to fight every myth that presents itself, but the Catholic must find solace and renewed energy in the sacraments of the Church, and must vow not only to learn the Church’s true history but in the words of Pope Leo XIII, “to render it triumphant.””

Love & truth,
Matthew

Te Saeculorum Principem – Thou King of Ages

Te saeculorum Principem, Te, Christe, Regem Gentium,
Te mentium, Te cordium Unum fatemur arbitrum.

Scelesta turba clamitat: Regnare Christum nolumus:
Te nos ovantes omnium Regem supremum dicimus.

O Christe, Princeps Pacifer, Mentes rebelles subiice:
Tuoque amore devios, Ovile in unum congrega.

Ad hoc cruenta ab arbore, Pendes apertis brachiis:
Diraque fossum cuspide Cor igne flagrans exhibes.

Ad hoc in aris abderis Vini dapisque imagine,
Fundens salutem filiis Transverberato pectore.

Te nationum Praesides Honore tollant publico,
Colant magistri, iudices, Leges et artes exprimant.

Submissa regum fulgeant Tibi dicata insignia:
Mitique sceptro patriam Domosque subde civium.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria, Qui sceptra mundi temperas,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu, In sempiterna saecula. Amen.

V. Multiplicabitur eius imperium.
R. Et pacis non erit finis.

Thou, Prince of all ages, Thou, O Christ, the King of the nations,
we acknowledge Thee the one Judge of all hearts and minds.

The wicked mob screams out. “We don’t want Christ as king,”
While we, with shouts of joy, hail Thee as the world’s supreme King.

O Christ, peace-bringing Prince, subjugate the rebellious minds:
And in Thy love, bring together in one flock those going astray.

For this, with arms outstretched, Thou hung, bleeding, on the Cross,
and the cruel spear that pierced Thee, showed man a Heart burning with love.

For this, Thou art hidden on our altars under the form of bread and wine,
and pour out on Thy children from Thy pierced side the grace of salvation.

May the rulers of the world publicly honor and extol Thee; May teachers and judges reverence Thee;
May the laws express Thine order and the arts reflect Thy beauty.

May kings find renown in their submission and dedication to Thee.
Bring under Thy gentle rule our country and our homes.

Glory be to Thee, O Jesus, supreme over all secular authorities;
And glory be to the Father and the loving Spirit through endless ages.

V. His empire shall be multiplied.
R. And there shall be no end of peace.

Love,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: Mormonism

Is Jesus Our Eldest Brother?

Once a young woman sitting next to me on an airplane noticed I was reading a book about Mormonism. She said she had recently joined the Mormon Church (the official name for Mormons is “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which some people abbreviate to “LDS”) and so we struck up a conversation. She said she didn’t like it when people held ignorant views towards Mormons and I agreed that bigoted attitudes are unacceptable.

“I mean, we all believe in Jesus, so isn’t that what matters?” she asked.

I gently explained to her that Christians and Mormons don’t mean the same thing when they refer to the person of Jesus. Gordon Hinkley the former president of the Mormon Church, even said, “As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.”

Christians believe there is one God who exists as three divine, eternal persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that only God is eternal (see Psalm 90:2).

Mormons, on the other hand, believe there are an infinite number of “intelligences” that have existed for all eternity. God, whom Mormons call “Heavenly Father,” transforms these intelligences into human beings and the faithful Mormons among them will become gods in the next life, going on to create more human beings who will continue this cycle of “exaltation.”

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was once an “intelligence” like us who existed from eternity past. He was not always divine, and he was not always the Son of God. Instead, God chose him to become the “first-born” among the intelligences by giving him the first spirit body. In 1909, the Mormon Church’s leadership released a statement that said, “The Father of Jesus is our Father also. . . . Jesus, however, is the first-born among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like him, are in the image of God.”

Instead of being completely different in kind from human beings, this counterfeit Christ is only different from us in degree (hence the term “eldest brother”). He is just a more exalted spirit-child of God the Father, which reduces him from being the eternal creator of the universe to being merely one highly praised part of it.

But how can that be true if . . .
…There Is Only One God

Mormonism can best be described as a kind of henotheism, or belief in the existence of many gods (in this case, infinitely many), only one of whom deserves our worship. Mormons strive to become “exalted” and develop into a god just like Heavenly Father, who was once a man like us. Joseph Smith even said at a funeral for Mormon elder King Follett, “You have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you.”

Christians, on the other hand, are monotheists who believe there is one God, though he exists as a Trinity of three persons, each of whom equally possesses the divine nature. And although Mormons will tell you that they, too, believe in “one God,” what they mean is that they believe in one collection of gods. For Mormons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or “the Holy Ghost”) are three gods who cooperate so perfectly they might as well be one God. But this is like saying that a perfectly cooperating baseball team has but one player.

If God or Heavenly Father used to be a man who was later exalted into godhood, then the entire universe would be without an explanation, because we could always ask the atheist’s favorite question: “Who created God?” Positing an infinite cycle of men becoming gods does not explain the existence of the universe any more than an infinitely long chain could explain why a chandelier is hanging in a room. It has to be attached to the ceiling, and likewise, the only explanation for why the universe exists at all is because the God of Christianity, who just is perfect existence itself, created it.

Scripture also clearly teaches there is only one God, and we are to worship him alone.

There’s no doubt that the early Israelites were also henotheists, because they were often tempted to worship other gods that they presumed really existed. But through gradual, divine revelation God’s people came to understand that Yahweh was not only superior to all other gods—he was real and they were not. In Isaiah 45:5, God says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.”

Isaiah 43:10 God declares, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” This can’t refer to false gods or idols, because many of those are still “formed” to this day. Instead, the Bible teaches that no other god besides the one true God has ever existed, and no other god ever will exist. Even scholars who reject evidence for practices of monotheism early in the Old Testament agree that the prophet Isaiah is a witness to God’s people having finally rejected the existence of all other deities except for their own God Yahweh.

The New Testament also firmly teaches not just that Jesus is God, but that there is only one God.

Jesus described God as “the only God” (John 5:44) and “the only true God” (John 17:3). St. Paul describes God as “the only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) and the only being who possesses immortality (1 Tim. 6:16). St. Ignatius wrote in the early second century that the early Christians were persecuted because they “convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested himself by Jesus Christ his Son.”

If there is only one God, and the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are fully divine and distinct from one another, then the doctrine of the Trinity logically follows. Jesus could not have been an “intelligence” that another god elevated to divinity, but must instead be an inseparable part of the one, triune God who alone has eternal, necessary existence.”

Love,
Matthew