Category Archives: Ecclesiology

Litany for Abuse Survivors

-by Mary Pezzulo

“Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven Who created all people in His image, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Who descended to earth to suffer with us, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, who carried the Son of God as an exile and a refugee, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins who was suspected of adultery and nearly divorced by Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint Michael, defender of the children of God, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel, consoling angel of Gethsemane, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the healer, pray for us.
All you holy angels and archangels, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist who was imprisoned and murdered, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, protector of the Holy Family, pray for us.
Holy Abel who was murdered by his brother, pray for us.
Holy Patriarch Noah who was sexually humiliated by his son, pray for us.
Holy Patriarch Isaac who was bound and nearly killed by Abraham, pray for us.
Holy Matriarch Hagar who was abused by Sarah and Abraham but the Lord heard her cry, pray for us.
Holy Patriarch Jacob who fled from being killed by his brother, pray for us.
Holy Matriarchs Rachel and Leah who were forced into conflict and suffering by their father and husband, pray for us.
Holy Dinah who was raped and then sold by her father, pray for us.
Holy Patriarch Joseph who was sold into slavery and imprisoned on false charges, pray for us.
Holy Jochebed, the mother of Moses who saved him from genocide, pray for us.
Holy Prophet Moses who was separated from his mother and left in the Nile to save him from a genocide, pray for us.
Holy Hannah who was mocked for being childless, pray for us.
Holy Prophet Elijah who fled to the wilderness, pray for us.
Holy Prophet Jeremiah who was thrown into the cistern, pray for us.
Holy Queen Esther, victim of a forced marriage to a violent man, pray for us.
All you holy matriarchs, patriarchs and prophets, pray for us.
Saint Peter, crucified upside down by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Paul, beheaded by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Andrew, crucified by Rome, pray for us.
Saint James the Greater, put to the sword by Rome, pray for us.
Saint John the Beloved, exiled by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Thomas, murdered in India, pray for us.
Saint James the Less, crucified in Egypt, pray for us.
Saint Philip, crucified by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Bartholomew, skinned alive, pray for us.
Saint Matthew, murdered at the altar, pray for us.
Saint Simon, sawn in half, pray for us.
Saint Thaddeus, murdered with an ax, pray for us.
Saint Barnabas, murdered by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Luke, dragged to death by horses, pray for us.
Saint Mark, strangled to death, pray for us.
Saint Mary Magdalene, equal to apostles, who was disbelieved and ridiculed when she preached the Resurrection, pray for us.
All you holy apostles and evangelists, pray for us.
All you holy innocents, murdered by genocide, pray for us.
Saint Agnes, dragged naked through the street, pray for us.
Saint Agatha, mutilated to satisfy Quintianus’s lust, pray for us.
Saints Felicity and Perpetua, separated from their children, humiliated and murdered for Roman entertainment, pray for us.
Saint Lucy, tortured and blinded, pray for us.
All Holy Early Martyrs, who were raped and sexually tortured in their martyrdom, pray for us.
Saint Grace of Lerida, betrayed by her brother and murdered, pray for us.
Saint Charles Lwanga, and his companions, murdered for resisting homosexual molestation & pedophilia, pray for us.
Saint Dymphna, murdered for fleeing molestation by her father, pray for us.
Saint Gerebran, murdered for protecting Saint Dymphna, pray for us.
Saint Maria Goretti, murdered by a rapist, whose story was exploited to shame rape victims, pray for us.
All you holy martyrs, pray for us.
Saint Monica, victim of domestic violence who could not escape and thought it was virtue to submit to abuse, pray for us.
Saint Patrick, who was kidnapped and enslaved, pray for us.
Saint Francis, who was abused by his father, pray for us.
Saint Clare, who escaped a forced marriage, pray for us.
Saint Rose of Viturbo, who was thrown out by the Poor Clares, pray for us.
Saint Catherine of Sienna, who was abused by her mother, pray for us.
Saint Joseph of Cupertino, rejected by his mother and humiliated by his brother Franciscans, pray for us.
Blessed Margaret of Castello, who was neglected and abandoned by her parents, pray for us.
Blessed Laura Vicuña, beaten by her stepfather, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, who was burned to death as a witch, pray for us.
Saint Rita of Cascia, victim of domestic violence, pray for us.
Saint John of the Cross, imprisoned and tortured by his brother Carmelites, pray for us.
Saint Marguerite Mary Alacoque, mocked by her fellow sisters, pray for us.
Saint Bernadette, mocked and gaslit by her fellow Catholics, pray for us.
Blessed Lucia of Fatima, beaten by her mother, pray for us.
Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto, psychologically tortured by the police, pray for us.
Saint Mary MacKillop, slandered and excommunicated for reporting child abuse, pray for us.
Saint Martin DePorres, mocked and humiliated by racists, pray for us.
Saint Josephine Bakhita who was enslaved, pray for us.
Saint Edith Stein, stripped naked and gassed to death in a genocide, pray for us.
All you holy men and women of God, victims of violence by those inside and outside the Church, pray for us.
From the belief that the abused are lesser Christians than we are, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that abuse by fellow Catholics makes us lesser Catholics, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From cycles of domestic violence and child abuse, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that being a victim is shameful, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that being victims of sexual violence makes us dirty and unworthy, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that spiritual abuse inflicted on us was loving and somehow merited, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From clerics, religious and spiritual leaders who believe their vocation gives them the right to victimize, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the shame of telling our stories, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the idolatry of clericalism and the worship of celebrity Catholics, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the trauma that has come down on us through others’ sin through no fault of our own, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the shame of believing we brought it on ourselves, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that God despises us because the Church does, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
That all of us in the Church may protect the victims of violence and abuse, Lord, we ask you, hear our prayer.
That all of us in the Church may have the courage to tell the truth, Lord, we ask you, hear our prayer.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, we ask you, hear our prayer!”

From the agony and suffering of soul murder caused by pedophilia, Lord, deliver us, we pray.

Love,
Matthew
BOLD = emphasis mine

Nov 1 – Reality


-for more detail, please click on the image

“How shining and splendid are Your gifts,
O Lord which You give us for our eternal well-being
Your glory shines radiantly in Your saints,
O God, in the honor and noble victory of the martyrs.
The white-robed company follow You, bright with their abundant faith;
They scorned the wicked words of those with this world’s power.
For You they sustained fierce beatings, chains, and torments, they were drained by cruel punishments.
They bore their holy witness to You Who were grounded deep within their hearts; they were sustained by patience and constancy.
Endowed with Your everlasting grace, may we rejoice forever with the martyrs in our bright fatherland.
O Christ, in Your goodness, grant to us the gracious heavenly realms of eternal life.”
-10th century

Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us. In the book of Revelation, we read: “[An] angel came and stood at the altar [in heaven] with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God” (Rev. 8:3-4).

And those in heaven who offer to God our prayers aren’t just angels, but humans as well. John sees that “the twenty-four elders [the leaders of the people of God in heaven] fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8). The simple fact is, as this passage shows: The saints in heaven offer to God the prayers of the saints on earth.


-by Br Vincent Mary Bernhard, OP

“Reality is not always something we can choose for ourselves, and oftentimes we neither understand nor acknowledge it. So what is reality, properly speaking? Reality speaks to the truth of an objective state of affairs in which we exist, forming our perceptions about ourselves and those around us. In light of this “objective state of affairs,” we often speak of people needing to “wake up to reality” and to live in a way that is “realistic”—and the Church invites us to do the same. She does just this through the feast days and solemnities of the liturgical year. By reflecting on the events of Christ’s life and the witness of the saints, we are shaken from our mental slumber and spiritual routine to ponder anew the reality that is the Christian life.

Today is the day that the Church awakens us from our spiritual lethargy, so that we may recognize the reality of sainthood. Far from being a “catchall” for the unknown saints in heaven, this solemnity is a final and dramatic reminder that the Church gives us as the liturgical year draws to a close. There is a multitude of saints in heaven, and we are called to join them before the face of God.

The Church upholds the example of the saints, not only showing how they attained heaven but that they attained heaven; the glory of resting in the heart of the Father is not only possible but within reach. Further, these saints are still united with us in the Mystical Body of Christ, and the same divine life sustaining them in glory is perfecting us here and now. “Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ,” we read in Lumen Gentium, “so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself” (LG 50). We are called to the same glory as the saints in heaven and are united with them right now as their brothers and sisters.

As Jesus Christ intercedes on behalf of the human race in heaven, so also do those who participate in His glory share in His intercessory prayer before the Father. The saints remain before the face of the Father as those transformed into the likeness of the Son, and because they exist in this reality, they pray on our behalf for our salvation. Their prayers are efficacious inasmuch as their wills are perfectly united to the divine will, and their power is evident inasmuch as they are united to us through Christ. We are, therefore, existing within a reality that transcends space and time, intimately connected with the saints in heaven through our life in Christ.

We are reminded today of this reality: our call to sainthood and the intimate relationship we share with those who have entered eternal glory before us. Let us call upon the aid of the saints in heaven as we are renewed in our vigor and zeal, that we may take heaven by storm. May the saints, through their witness and prayers, help us surrender to the reality of the Father’s love for us, the Son’s call to us, and the Holy Spirit’s saving work within us, so that we may be more perfectly conformed to Christ’s image and come to participate in his glory with the saints in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Female Priests

“Can women be ordained to the priesthood? This is a question that provokes much debate in our modern world, but it is one to which the Church has always answered “No.” The basis for the Church’s teaching on ordination is found in the New Testament as well as in the writings of the Church Fathers.

While women could publicly pray and prophesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1–16), they could not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11–14), since these were two essential functions of the clergy. Nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy (1 Cor. 14:34–38).

The following quotations from the Church Fathers indicate that women do play an active role in the Church and that in the age of the Fathers there were orders of virgins, widows, and deaconesses, but that these women were not ordained.

The Fathers rejected women’s ordination, not because it was incompatible with Christian culture, but because it was incompatible with Christian faith. Thus, together with biblical declarations, the teaching of the Fathers on this issue formed the tradition of the Church that taught that priestly ordination was reserved to men. This teaching has not changed.

Further, in 1994 Pope John Paul II formally declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. He stated, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).

And in 1995 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in conjunction with the pope, ruled that this teaching “requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25:2)” (Response of Oct. 25, 1995).

The following quotations from the Fathers constitute a part of the tradition on which this infallible teaching rests.

Irenaeus

“Pretending to consecrate cups mixed with wine, and protracting to great length the word of invocation, [Marcus the Gnostic heretic] contrives to give them a purple and reddish color. . . . [H]anding mixed cups to the women, he bids them consecrate these in his presence.

“When this has been done, he himself produces another cup of much larger size than that which the deluded woman has consecrated, and pouring from the smaller one consecrated by the woman into that which has been brought forward by himself, he at the same time pronounces these words: ‘May that Charis who is before all things and who transcends all knowledge and speech fill your inner man and multiply in you her own knowledge, by sowing the grain of mustard seed in you as in good soil.’

“Repeating certain other similar words, and thus goading on the wretched woman [to madness], he then appears a worker of wonders when the large cup is seen to have been filled out of the small one, so as even to overflow by what has been obtained from it. By accomplishing several other similar things, he has completely deceived many and drawn them away after him” (Against Heresies 1:13:2 [A.D. 189]).

Tertullian

“It is of no concern how diverse be their [the heretics’] views, so long as they conspire to erase the one truth. They are puffed up; all offer knowledge. Before they have finished as catechumens, how thoroughly learned they are! And the heretical women themselves, how shameless are they! They make bold to teach, to debate, to work exorcisms, to undertake cures . . . ” (Demurrer Against the Heretics 41:4–5 [A.D. 200]).

“It is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church [1 Cor 14:34–35], but neither [is it permitted her] . . . to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to say sacerdotal office” (The Veiling of Virgins 9 [A.D. 206]).

Hippolytus

“When a widow is to be appointed, she is not to be ordained, but is designated by being named [a widow]. . . . A widow is appointed by words alone, and is then associated with the other widows. Hands are not imposed on her, because she does not offer the oblation and she does not conduct the liturgy. Ordination is for the clergy because of the liturgy; but a widow is appointed for prayer, and prayer is the duty of all” (The Apostolic Tradition 11 [A.D. 215]).

The Didascalia

“For it is not to teach that you women . . . are appointed. . . . For he, God the Lord, Jesus Christ our Teacher, sent us, the twelve [apostles], out to teach the [chosen] people and the pagans. But there were female disciples among us: Mary of Magdala, Mary the daughter of Jacob, and the other Mary; he did not, however, send them out with us to teach the people. For, if it had been necessary that women should teach, then our Teacher would have directed them to instruct along with us” (Didascalia 3:6:1–2 [A.D. 225]).

Firmilian

“[T]here suddenly arose among us a certain woman, who in a state of ecstasy announced herself as a prophetess and acted as if filled with the Holy Ghost. . . . Through the deceptions and illusions of the demon, this woman had previously set about deluding believers in a variety of ways. Among the means by which she had deluded many was daring to pretend that, through proper invocation, she consecrated bread and performed the Eucharist” (collected in Cyprian’s Letters 74:10 [A.D. 253]).

Council of Nicaea I

“Similarly, in regard to the deaconesses, as with all who are enrolled in the register, the same procedure is to be observed. We have made mention of the deaconesses, who have been enrolled in this position, although, not having been in any way ordained, they are certainly to be numbered among the laity” (Canon 19 [A.D. 325]).

Council of Laodicea

“[T]he so-called ‘presbyteresses’ or ‘presidentesses’ are not to be ordained in the Church” (Canon 11 [A.D. 360]).

Epiphanius of Salamis

“Certain women there in Arabia [the Collyridians] . . . In an unlawful and basphemous ceremony . . . ordain women, through whom they offer up the sacrifice in the name of Mary. This means that the entire proceeding is godless and sacrilegious, a perversion of the message of the Holy Spirit; in fact, the whole thing is diabolical and a teaching of the impure spirit” (Against Heresies 78:13 [A.D. 377]).

“It is true that in the Church there is an order of deaconesses, but not for being a priestess, nor for any kind of work of administration, but for the sake of the dignity of the female sex, either at the time of baptism or of examining the sick or suffering, so that the naked body of a female may not be seen by men administering sacred rites, but by the deaconess” (ibid.).

“From this bishop [James the Just] and the just-named apostles, the succession of bishops and presbyters [priests] in the house of God have been established. Never was a woman called to these. . . . According to the evidence of Scripture, there were, to be sure, the four daughters of the evangelist Philip, who engaged in prophecy, but they were not priestesses” (ibid.).

“If women were to be charged by God with entering the priesthood or with assuming ecclesiastical office, then in the New Covenant it would have devolved upon no one more than Mary to fulfill a priestly function. She was invested with so great an honor as to be allowed to provide a dwelling in her womb for the heavenly God and King of all things, the Son of God. . . . But he did not find this [the conferring of priesthood on her] good” (ibid., 79:3).

John Chrysostom

“[W]hen one is required to preside over the Church and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also, and we must bring forward those who to a large extent surpass all others and soar as much above them in excellence of spirit as Saul overtopped the whole Hebrew nation in bodily stature” (The Priesthood 2:2 [A.D. 387]).

The Apostolic Constitutions

“A virgin is not ordained, for we have no such command from the Lord, for this is a state of voluntary trial, not for the reproach of marriage, but on account of leisure for piety” (Apostolic Constitutions 8:24 [A.D. 400]).

“Appoint, [O Bishop], a deaconess, faithful and holy, for the ministering of women. For sometimes it is not possible to send a deacon into certain houses of women, because of unbelievers. Send a deaconess, because of the thoughts of the petty. A deaconess is of use to us also in many other situations. First of all, in the baptizing of women, a deacon will touch only their forehead with the holy oil, and afterwards the female deacon herself anoints them” (ibid., 3:16).

“[T]he ‘man is the head of the woman’ [1 Cor. 11:3], and he is originally ordained for the priesthood; it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation and leave the first to come to the last part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For he says, ‘He shall rule over you’ [Gen. 3:16]. . . . But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them [women] to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of the priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ” (ibid., 3:9).

“A deaconess does not bless, but neither does she perform anything else that is done by presbyters [priests] and deacons, but she guards the doors and greatly assists the presbyters, for the sake of decorum, when they are baptizing women” (ibid., 8:28).

Augustine

“[The Quintillians are heretics who] give women predominance so that these, too, can be honored with the priesthood among them. They say, namely, that Christ revealed himself . . . to Quintilla and Priscilla [two Montanist prophetesses] in the form of a woman” (Heresies 1:17 [A.D. 428]).

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004″

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book – Word of God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” -Jn 1:1 The Word of God, Jesus, as God, has no beginning. Time does. God doesn’t, being uncreated, but rather the source of all creation. So, the Word of God, logos, existed before the Bible.  The 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament were determined as canonical by the Councils of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397, 419 AD).

According to St Irenaeus of Lyon (c 130-202) a student of St John the Apostle’s disciple St Polycarp (c pre-69-156), John the Apostle wrote these words specifically to refute the teachings of Cerinthus,[1] who both resided and taught at Ephesus, the city John settled in following his return from exile on Patmos.[2] Cerinthus believed that the world was created by a power far removed from and ignorant of the Father, and that the Christ descended upon the man Jesus at his baptism, and that strict adherence to the Mosaic Law was absolutely necessary for salvation. Therefore, Irenaeus writes,

“The disciple of the Lord therefore desiring to put an end to all such doctrines, and to establish the rule of truth in the Church, that there is one Almighty God, Who made all things by His Word, both visible and invisible; showing at the same time, that by the Word, through Whom God made the creation, He also bestowed salvation on the men included in the creation; thus commenced His teaching in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. What was made was life in Him, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.””[3]

To the rabbis who spoke of the Torah (Law) as preexistent, as God’s instrument in creation, and as the source of light and life, John replied that these claims apply rather to the Logos.

Ignatius of Antioch

The first extant Christian reference to the Logos found in writings outside of the Johannine corpus belongs to John’s disciple Ignatius (c 35-108), Bishop of Antioch, who in his epistle to the Magnesians, writes, “there is one God, Who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, Who is His eternal Word, not proceeding forth from silence,”[4] (i.e., there was not a time when He did not exist). In similar fashion, he speaks to the Ephesians of the Son as “both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible”.[5]

Justin Martyr

Following John 1, the early Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c 150) identifies Jesus as the Logos.[6][7] Like Philo, Justin also identified the Logos with the Angel of the LORD, and he also identified the Logos with the many other Theophanies of the Old Testament, and used this as a way of arguing for Christianity to Jews:

“I shall give you another testimony, my friends, from the Scriptures, that God begot before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, Who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos;”[8]

In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin relates how Christians maintain that the Logos,

“…is indivisible and inseparable from the Father, just as they say that the light of the sun on earth is indivisible and inseparable from the sun in the heavens; as when it sinks, the light sinks along with it; so the Father, when He chooses, say they, causes His power to spring forth, and when He chooses, He makes it return to Himself . . . And that this power which the prophetic word calls God . . . is not numbered [as different] in name only like the light of the sun but is indeed something numerically distinct, I have discussed briefly in what has gone before; when I asserted that this power was begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided; as all other things partitioned and divided are not the same after as before they were divided: and, for the sake of example, I took the case of fires kindled from a fire, which we see to be distinct from it, and yet that from which many can be kindled is by no means made less, but remains the same.”[9]

In his First Apology, Justin used the Stoic concept of the Logos to his advantage as a way of arguing for Christianity to non-Jews. Since a Greek audience would accept this concept, his argument could concentrate on identifying this Logos with Jesus.[6]

Theophilus of Antioch

Theophilus, the Patriarch of Antioch, (died c 180 AD) likewise, in his Apology to Autolycus, identifies the Logos as the Son of God, Who was at one time internal within the Father, but was begotten by the Father before creation:

“And first, they taught us with one consent that God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but He that is uncreated stands in need of nothing. God, then, having His own Word internal within His own bowels, begot Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by Him He made all things . . . Not as the poets and writers of myths talk of the sons of gods begotten from intercourse [with women], but as truth expounds, the Word, that always exists, residing within the heart of God. For before anything came into being He had Him as a counsellor, being His own mind and thought. But when God wished to make all that He determined on, He begot this Word, uttered, the first-born of all creation, not Himself being emptied of the Word [Reason], but having begotten Reason, and always conversing with His Reason.”[10]

He sees in the text of Psalm 33:6 the operation of the Trinity, following the early practice as identifying the Holy Spirit as the Wisdom (Sophia) of God,[11] when he writes that “God by His own Word and Wisdom made all things; for by His Word were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the Spirit of His mouth”[12] So he expresses in his second letter to Autolycus, “In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom.”[13]

Athenagoras of Athens

By the third quarter of the second century, persecution had been waged against Christianity in many forms. Because of their denial of the Roman gods, and their refusal to participate in sacrifices of the Imperial cult, Christians were suffering persecution as “atheists.”[14] Therefore the early Christian apologist Athenagoras (c 133 – c 190 AD), in his Embassy or Plea to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus on behalf of Christianity (c 176), makes defense by an expression of the Christian faith against this claim. As a part of this defense, he articulates the doctrine of the Logos, expressing the paradox of the Logos being both “the Son of God” as well as “God the Son,” and of the Logos being both the Son of the Father as well as being one with the Father,[15] saying,

“Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men called atheists who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order? . . . the Son of God is the Word [Logos] of the Father, in idea and in operation; for after the pattern of Him and by Him were all things made, the Father and the Son being one. And, the Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit, the understanding [Nous] and reason [Logos] of the Father is the Son of God. But if, in your surpassing intelligence, it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by the Son, I will state briefly that He is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence (for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal mind [Nous], had the Word in Himself, being from eternity rational [Logikos]; but inasmuch as He came forth to be the idea and energizing power of all material things, which lay like a nature without attributes, and an inactive earth, the grosser particles being mixed up with the lighter…)”[16]

Athenagoras further appeals to the joint rule of the Roman Emperor with his son Commodus, as an illustration of the Father and the Word, his Son, to whom he maintains all things are subjected, saying,

“For as all things are subservient to you, father and son, who have received the kingdom from above (for “the king’s soul is in the hand of God,” says the prophetic Spirit), so to the one God and the Word proceeding from Him, the Son, apprehended by us as inseparable from Him, all things are in like manner subjected.”[17]

In this defense he uses terminology common with the philosophies of his day (Nous, Logos, Logikos, Sophia) as a means of making the Christian doctrine relatable to the philosophies of his day.

Irenaeus of Lyon

Irenaeus (c 130-202), a student of the Apostle John’s disciple, Polycarp, identifies the Logos as Jesus, by whom all things were made,[18] and who before his incarnation appeared to men in the Theophany, conversing with the ante-Mosaic Patriarchs,[19] with Moses at the burning bush,[20] with Abraham at Mamre,[21] et al.,[22] manifesting to them the unseen things of the Father.[23] After these things, the Logos became man and suffered the death of the cross.[24] In his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, Irenaeus defines the second point of the faith, after the Father, as this:

The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man.[25]

Irenaeus writes that Logos is and always has been the Son, is uncreated, eternally-coexistent [26] and one with the Father,[27][28][18][29] to whom the Father spoke at creation saying, “Let us make man.”[30] As such, he distinguishes between creature and Creator, so that,

He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord: but the things which have been made cannot have this term applied to them, neither should they justly assume that appellation which belongs to the Creator [31]

Again, in his fourth book against heresies, after identifying Christ as the Word, who spoke to Moses at the burning bush, he writes, “Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spoke to Moses, and who was manifested to the fathers.” [32]

———-

On April 1, 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI just over two weeks later) referred to the Christian religion as the religion of the Logos:

“Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the “Logos.” It is faith in the “Creator Spiritus,” (Creator Spirit), from which proceeds everything that exists. Today, this should be precisely its philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not, therefore, other than a “sub-product,” on occasion even harmful of its development or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal. The Christian faith inclines toward this second thesis, thus having, from the purely philosophical point of view, really good cards to play, despite the fact that many today consider only the first thesis as the only modern and rational one par excellence. However, a reason that springs from the irrational, and that is, in the final analysis, itself irrational, does not constitute a solution for our problems. Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way. In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the “Logos,” from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational.”[33]

Catholics can use Logos to refer to the moral law written in human hearts. This comes from Jeremiah 31:33 (prophecy of new covenant): “I will write my law on their hearts.” St. Justin wrote that those who have not accepted Christ but follow the moral law of their hearts (Logos) follow God, because it is God who has written the moral law in each person’s heart. Though man may not explicitly recognize God, he has the spirit of Christ if he follows Jesus’ moral laws, written in his heart.  (Actions, do speak louder than words.)


-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.

“How the world began is a question people everywhere ask. It’s a human universal.

Pagan cultures thought the world was made by their gods and goddesses. Some myths claimed that the gods reproduced sexually to make the elements of the world. Others held that there was a fierce battle among the gods, and the world was formed from the corpses of the losers. Mankind was then created as a slave race to relieve the gods of drudgery.

The book of Genesis set the record straight: The world was not produced by a multitude of finite gods. It was the creation of a single, great God—one supreme and supremely good Being Who is behind everything.

Because of His infinite, unlimited power, He didn’t need to use anything to make the world, as the pagans thought. He didn’t need to mate with a goddess. He didn’t need to battle other gods and make the world from their corpses. He simply spoke, and the elements of the world sprang into existence: “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:3).”

That is the difference between our words and God’s words. When God speaks, it immediately comes to pass. It is. It happens. Everything Jesus said immediately happened. I suppose there is humor in that most august awareness. Aren’t we glad that doesn’t happen for us?

“Because Jesus was there in the beginning—one of the uncreated, divine Persons of the Trinity—He is the original and supreme Word of God. All of God’s other words are shadows of Him.

This is important to remember, because some today use the phrase “word of God” as if it just meant “the Bible.”

Although the Bible is important, the word of God is not confined to or only found in it. First and foremost, Jesus Christ Himself is the Word of God, and there are other expressions of it, only some of which are found in Scripture.”

———-

Interestingly, Catholics refer to the Word of God as both Scripture and tradition (the lived experience of the Church over two thousand years).  The Jewish tradition, six thousand years, has always had a written canonical (Hebrew Scriptures) and a written, but non-canonical, understanding of God’s will, such as above and elsewhere in the Catholic tradition, the writing of saints, Fathers of the Church, Doctors of the Church, etc.  It is VERY important, and sadly non-self-evident, to understand the importance in the Catholic hierarchy of revelation.  The Bible and the written non-canonical part, known as tradition, and too numerous to name, should come with a score 0-10.  They do not.  The Bible and tradition, as the Church defines it, is a ten.  Other things, 9-0.  It is only with the Protestant Reformation that even the suggestion that an oral (which can be

“Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are [a] contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and tradition” [Dei Filius 3:8]

And, in Canon Law,

Can. 750 §1. “A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things [a] contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church”

Love,
Matthew

1. Irenaeus. Against Heresies, 3.11
2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.4
3. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.11.1
4. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, 8
5. Ignatius of Antioch. Epistle to the Ephesians, 7
6. Erwin R. Goodenough, The Theology of Justin Martyr, 1923 (reprint on demand BiblioBazaar, LLC, pp. 139–175. ISBN 1-113-91427-0)
7. Jules Lebreton, 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Justin Martyr.
8. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 61.
9. Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, 128, 129
10. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, 2.10, 22
11. His contemporary, Irenaeus of Lyon, citing this same passage, writes, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power. Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God.” (Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 5). This is in contrast with later Christian writings, where “Wisdom” came to be more prominently identified as the Son.
12. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, 1.7
13. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, 2.15
14. Athenagoras, Plea For the Christians, 4
15. See also Plea, 24: “For, as we acknowledge God, and the Logos his Son, and a Holy Spirit, united in power—the Father, the Son, the Spirit, because the Son is the Intelligence [Nous], Word [Logos], Wisdom [Sophia] of the Father, and the Spirit an effluence, as light from a fire.” Adapted from the translation of B.P. Pratten, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, being corrected according to the original Greek.
16. Athenagoras, Plea for the Christians, 10
17. Athenagoras, Plea for the Christians, 18
18. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.8.3
19. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.11.8, “And the Word of God Himself used to converse with the ante-Mosaic patriarchs, in accordance with His divinity and glory . . . Afterwards, being made man for us, He sent the gift of the celestial Spirit over all the earth, protecting us with His wings”
20. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 2
21. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.6.1
22. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 43-47
23. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.30.9
24. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 53
25. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 6
26. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.30.9. (see also, 2.25.3; 4.6.2) “He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those [only] know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed.”
27. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 45-47
28. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.5.2
29. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.22.1, “But the Word of God is the superior above all, He who is loudly proclaimed in the law: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God'”
30. Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 55
31. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.8.3
32. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.5.2
33. Cardinal Ratzinger on Europe’s crisis of culture, retrieved from Catholiceducation.org

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

The Catholic Church: Mystical Body of Christ


-please click on the image for greater detail

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains how there are “three states of the Church … at the present time some of His disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God Himself triune and one, exactly as He is.’” (CCC 954).

Traditionally these three states have been referred to as the Church Militant, Church Penitent (also known as Church Suffering or Church Expectant) and Church Triumphant. Together, these three make up the Communion of Saints we confess in the Creed.

Church Militant

While the word “militant” may appear to suggest that the Church on earth is to take up arms in a violent way, the phase refers to our task of being “soldiers of Christ” in the spiritual realm. This concerns our need to battle our sinful passions as well as the spiritual presence of evil in the world. As St. Ignatius of Loyola put it, we need to choose which army we belong to; either that of Christ or that of the World.

Church Penitent

After having struggled on earth to follow Christ’s army, those in need of further purification before entering Heavenly bliss make up the Church Penitent. This stage of further purification is more commonly known as Purgatory and is the “washroom of Heaven” (as C.S. Lewis put it), which cleanses any sins or earthly attachments before the soul embraces the joys of Heaven. The members of the Church Penitent rely heavily on the prayers of the Church Militant so that they may proceed to their eternal embrace with Our Lord.

Church Triumphant

The Church Triumphant are those people who have “run the race” and are crowned with glory in Heaven, the saints. Even though we do not inhabit the same physical space anymore, we are intimately united with them in a spiritual way beyond understanding. Their intercession is vital to our own sanctification and they continually cheer us on as we “fight the good fight” in hopes of joining them one day in the future.

Love,
Matthew

History & Tradition

It is important to note Judaism has, throughout its entire history, had a scripture and tradition existence. Only sola scriptura is the real novelty.  Tradition, capital “T”, in the Catholic lexicon, does not mean “we have ALWAYS done it this way!!”  Some Orthodox and some Catholic fascists may mean it that way, but that is not how mainstream Catholicism means it.  Tradition in mainstream Catholicism means “How has the Holy Spirit guided us throughout the sojourn of His Church, His Bride, on this earth, awaiting His return?”

If Protestantism is true,
Christians have zero need to understand even their own history or tradition.

According to sola scriptura and the principle of private judgment, Protestants believe they can discover saving Christian truth themselves, using only their Bible and the Spirit. This understanding is especially prevalent in Evangelicalism—stemming perhaps from the influence of the Radical Reformers, who were not impressed by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin and instead took the magisterial Reformers’ ideas to their logical end. As a result, most Evangelicals today know little about history and tradition, including the history of their own beliefs.

Distrust of History and Tradition

One of the events that led to the anti-traditional bent of Evangelicals was the revivalism of the First and Second Great Awakenings in the United States 200 years ago.

Even though Evangelicals owe many of their most important beliefs to John Calvin’s influence, through the revival spirit of anti-traditionalism many denied any connection with him and did not even have a basic understanding of who he was. Fast-forward to today, and the situation is much the same.

One Evangelical friend of mine said to me: “I don’t care what Luther or any other Protestant teaches.”

Why don’t he and other Evangelicals care what Luther or Calvin or anyone else says? Because my friend has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him, and he has his Bible, so he believes from those he can individually come to know divine truth.

Because Catholicism is true,
It’s important to learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before us in faith.

One of my Anglican friends wanted to buy a book by St. Augustine, a Father of the Church who is known as the “Doctor of Grace.” He happened to be close to a popular Christian chain bookstore, so he stopped in and looked around. Not finding the book, he approached the person working at the store to ask where he could find it: “Pardon me, where are your books by Augustine?” The employee looked at him blankly and responded, “Augustine who?”

This little story demonstrates an endemic problem with Evangelical Protestants: They have largely forgotten men and women who came before them in the Christian faith, those giants on whose shoulders (and prayers) they now stand. Christianity didn’t end in the year 100 when the Bible was finished being written and resume again 1,500 years later when the first Baptists founded a new ecclesial community. But going into this Christian store, one is hard pressed to find a book written in the time period between the Bible and the twentieth century.

A dose of humility is the remedy. Just as we do not attempt to re-derive all mathematical and scientific formulas anew in every generation, so we should stand on the shoulders of the saintly theological giants who have gone before us. If nothing else, it stands to reason that the men and women closest in time and proximity to the apostles could give us invaluable insights into their teachings. And, indeed, this is what we see when we read their works.

Even secular wisdom informs us that forgetting history condemns us to repeat it. Many of the heresies today are not new—they are unwittingly recycled from centuries past, often by well-meaning Christians who interpret the Bible apart from Tradition and the historical witness of the Church. The Catholic belief that our Lord has guided His Church into all truth through every century gives us the confidence that we can trust our forefathers in the Faith.

The Protestant’s Dilemma

If Protestantism is true, then Christians in each generation figure out all truth for themselves, with nothing but the Bible as their guide. After all, it is quite possible that the Christians who came before us made errors, even on important doctrines, and that God is raising up new voices today to correct those errors. But how can we know which are teaching truth, and which are reviving old heresies?”

Love & the tradition (long term of wisdom of generations) of living the faith,
Matthew

Altars & relics


-The remains of St. John Neumann (1811-1860) enclosed within the glass altar of the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann, which is located in the lower church of the Parish of St. Peter the Apostle (1842-1847), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On December, 27, 2007, the body of St. John Neumann was put into a new set of traditional vestments, substantially affecting the appearance of the saint’s body. Fire broke out in the lower church on May 13, 2009. The pulpit, located near the body, was reduced to ashes, but the body of the saint was left intact. The plaster covering over the face did not show any signs of heat. The pastor, Fr. Kevin Moley, C.Ss.R., of the same order as St John Neumann, the Redemptorists, called it miraculous. When Bishop Neumann died suddenly in 1860 he was buried, as requested, at St. Peter’s Church beneath the undercroft floor directly below the high altar.

Pope Paul VI beatified Neumann during the Second Vatican Council and declared him a saint in 1977. The undercroft at St. Peter the Apostle Church underwent several renovations after Neumann’s initial interment. The space served for years as the lower church of St. Peter the Apostle parish and eventually became the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann after his canonization. The body of the saint lies in a glass-enclosed reliquary under the main altar. It is dressed in the episcopal vestments with a mask covering the face.

The saint’s body has undergone multiple vestment changes since it was first displayed at the time of his beatification. In 1989, during the course of a major renovation of the shrine, the body of the saint was clothed in a set of modern vestments cut in the Gothic style. On December 27, 2007, the body received a new mask and was clad with a set of high-quality traditional Roman vestments, including a laced alb, stole, maniple, episcopal gloves, and traditional Roman fiddleback chasuble. The Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia, Justin Francis Rigali, was present to assist with the vesting.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

“Early Christians under persecution in Rome would bury their dead in the catacombs.  No surprise.  However, they also needed to celebrate Mass in secret, for obvious reasons.  The catacombs were perfect.  And what better place to celebrate Mass than on the tomb of one who gave the ultimate witness to the faith.

Each Catholic Church has within it an altar stone. Before the Second Vatican Council, Latin-Rite priests could lawfully celebrate Mass only on a properly consecrated altar. This consecration was carried out by a bishop, and involved specially blessed “Gregorian Water” (water to which wine, salt, and ashes are added), anointings (LOTS of consecrated oil), singing, and ceremonies. The First class relics of at least two saints, at least one of which had to be a martyr, were inserted in a cavity in the altar which was then sealed, a practice that was meant to recall the use of martyrs’ tombs as places of Eucharistic celebration during the persecutions of the Church in the first through fourth centuries. Also in the cavity were sealed documents relating to the altar’s consecration. The tabletop of the altar, the “mensa”, had to be of a single piece of natural stone (almost always marble). Its supports had to be attached to the mensa. If contact was later broken even only momentarily (for instance, if the top was lifted off for some reason), the altar lost its consecration. Every altar had to have a “title” or “titulus” in Latin. This could be The Holy Trinity or one of its Persons; a title or mystery of Christ’s life (Christ the Good Shepherd; the Holy Cross); Mary in one of her titles (Mother of Christ; Our Lady of Good Counsel); or a canonized saint. The main altar of a church had to have the same title as the church itself, for instance, there are many “side altars” in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, but the “high altar” in the center is dedicated to St. Patrick. This reflected the idea that the altar was the key element, and the church was built to house it, as opposed to the church being built and simply supplied with an altar as part of its furniture.

Obviously, these regulations would have made it impossible to celebrate Mass anywhere but inside of a Roman Catholic church. To provide for other circumstances—for chaplains of everything from military to Boy Scout units, for priests traveling alone, for missionaries, or for large outdoor celebrations of Mass on pilgrimages—portable altars, popularly called “altar stones,” were used. These were usually blocks of marble, often about 6 inches by 9 inches and an inch thick, consecrated as described above. A priest with a field kit could simply place this stone on any available surface (a tailgate, or a stump or log) to celebrate Mass, or it could be inserted in a flat frame built into the surface of a wooden altar. Many Roman Catholic schools had a full-sized, decoratively carved wooden altar (which, being wood, could not be consecrated) in their gym or auditorium that could be taken out and prepared for Mass, with an altar stone placed in the “mensa” space.

The privilege of using a portable altar was not automatically conferred on any priest. Cardinals and bishops normally had such rights under canon law, but other priests had to be given specific permission— this was, however, easily and widely obtained.

Consecrated altar stones are no longer required in parish altars, but they are part of a tradition dating back to the second century, when the early Christians celebrated Mass on top of the tombs of the martyrs.  Before Vatican II, the altar stone was really the altar.

When you had a wooden table or a wooden altar against the wall, the altar stone was always consecrated. The priest would kiss the altar stone and place the gifts on it. Most people didn’t think about it that way, but fundamentally that’s what it was.

Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical reforms included lifting the requirement that the Eucharist be celebrated on stone and relics, parishes may wonder about the meaning of these stones and what to do with them.

An altar stone is a solid, flat piece of natural stone which contains relics of at least two saints — one a martyr — as well as incense grains representing an offering to God. The stones had to be large enough to hold a chalice and sacred host, and on average are nine inches square. Five crosses engraved on the top signify the five wounds of Christ.

Before Vatican II, only stone altars could be consecrated. Many parishes had wood altars, so they placed consecrated altar stones in their altars to meet the requirement. If a priest wanted to celebrate Mass in a park for a parish picnic or on the battlefield for soldiers, for example, he had to bring the piece of stone with the embedded relic.

The practice of placing martyrs’ relics beneath an altar is found in Revelation 6:9: “When he broke open the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God.”

Around 150 A.D., Christians expressed belief in Jesus’ resurrection by offering Mass on the tomb of a martyr, often on the anniversary of his or her death, when a saint’s feast is typically celebrated marking their real birthday into eternal life. In 517 AD, a Church council in France first decreed that, to be consecrated, an altar should be made of stone. Parishes obtained relics for their altar stones from a central Vatican office.

Before Vatican II, a bishop usually consecrated altar stones in a ceremony that was similar to, but less formal than, an altar consecration. The bishop used blessed oil, incense and a type of holy water reserved for anointings and ceremonies that contained salt, wine and ashes.

During Vatican II, the Council fathers changed the requirement that altars contain relics or altar stones as they sought to preserve, improve and reform the Sacred Liturgy. They advocated for the altar to be viewed as a table in addition to a place of sacrifice.

The Council retained the custom of placing relics under altars if their authenticity was verified. The preference is for a recognizable part of the body, rather than dust gathered from a crypt.

Today, altars are dedicated in a revised rite, and relics are optional. But according to the Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar, they still play a role: “For it is altogether proper to erect altars over the burial place of martyrs and other saints or to deposit their relics beneath altars as a mark of respect and as a symbol of the truth that the sacrifice of the members has its source in the sacrifice of the Head [Jesus]. Thus ‘the triumphant victims come to their rest in the place where Christ is victim: He, however, Who suffered for all is on the altar; they who have been redeemed by His sufferings are beneath the altar.’”


-by Br Philip Nolan, OP

People realize that something strange is going on with Catholic altars when they visit a church that has the full body of a saint in a glass case beneath the stone slab. Saint John Neumann’s shrine in Philadelphia (pictured above) is a good example of this. It’s like an open-casket wake that never ends. Not only does this practice reveal something about the Catholic understanding of the body, it makes clear the somewhat shocking truths about all Catholic altars: every altar is a place of death.

Our altars have their roots in the Jewish altar in the Temple. The altar in the Temple, according to the laws of Torah, was a place marked by sacrifice and blood and fire. There the priests made the different offerings that God had instituted as constitutive of the covenant with his people. It must have often been a messy, smelly place, but it is where God chose to have his people worship and make atonement for their sins.

In the Last Supper, Jesus institutes a new sacrificial system. He offers himself, once for all, in the unbloody sacrifice of the Eucharist. He ties together the full meaning of the history of the chosen people—the Exodus, the sojourn in the desert, the promise of fruitful land—into one great sacrament that makes present the fulfillment of all these realities. And he does this in the context of a meal among friends.

The Catholic altar follows upon both mysteries: place of sacrifice and place of meal. As the Catechism puts it, “The altar, around which the Church is gathered in the celebration of the Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same mystery: the altar of the sacrifice and the table of the Lord” (CCC 1383). Furthermore, as a place of encountering the Lord in the celebration of the Eucharist, the altar itself becomes a representative of Christ: “What is the altar of Christ if not the image of the Body of Christ?” asks St. Ambrose.

Why, then, does the Church have the practice of placing relics of saints, whether small pieces or full bodies, beneath altars? On the symbolic level, there is a profound unity between the saint and the altar. The altar, an image of Christ, holds the physical remains of those who took on the form of Christ in their earthly life—suffering, dying, and now, thanks to God’s generosity, living again with Him. We can look on the body of the dead saint without fear because they faced death and triumphed by being united with Christ’s victory over death. By our reverence and faithfulness to the altar and the perfect Sacrifice that adorns it every day, may we do the same.”

Love,
Matthew

Chains that bind


-by Br Luke VanBerkum, OP

“Some chains are taken off and some are put on.

We hear in Scripture, “The Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains” (Ps 69:33), and again, “He led them forth from darkness and gloom and broke their chains to pieces” (Ps 107:14). The Lord is the breaker of chains!

What, then, do we make of the Gerasene demoniac? The devil had come to possess this man, and his fellow townspeople had tried to bind him in chains in an attempt to control the devil. But, “no one was strong enough to subdue him” (Mk 5:4)—the devil easily made him destroy these bonds.

Does the devil offer the same freedom from bondage as the Lord? Assuredly not: it is a mirage that still leaves him bound. This false freedom is called license, and such a “freedom” only leads to “bruising” (Mk 5:5) of the soul.

Alone we can do nothing to bind the devil and come to true freedom. “No one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property,” Jesus tells us, “unless he first ties up the strong man” (Mk 3:27). The Gerasene demoniac was possessed: he had become the house for the strong man, the devil. He needed someone stronger than the strong man.

‘Thus says the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.’ (Is 49:24-25)

Jesus looked on the possessed man with compassion, and then, as the Lord promised, He entered the strong man’s house. With His mighty word, He bound the devil and cast him out into a herd of swine. He then plundered the house—rather, He claimed the man for God and restored him to his right mind and right place at the feet of Jesus (Lk 8:35).

We, too, need Christ to break into our souls when we are bound by sin, when the strong man in his cunning has ensnared us in his chains. We seek in hope those effective words—“I absolve you from your sins”—that bind up the strong man and transform the soul.

Such transformation propels us into the great mystery of love. Those things that the devil attempts to use against us are recast in love for the salvation of our souls. Thus, we have saints who—in the face of the devil—freely choose to wear chains about their bodies. These are not chains of sin. They are “chains of love in which they allow themselves to be entrapped, so that they will love [God],” St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes (Office of Readings, Aug 1).

These chains of love come in various forms. For St. Dominic an actual iron chain adorned his waist as an act of penance. Acts of penance only come from intense love for souls. Desiring the salvation of every soul, like his savior Jesus Christ, St. Dominic lovingly chose to undergo significant pain as an offering for the forgiveness of sins.

You and I will most likely not don chains in such a way, but we can still consider other, lighter, chains of love. This is why we take on penances, or mortifications, during Lent. We love Jesus, and inspired by this love we seek to offer something alongside His offering on the cross for the salvation of our own soul and the souls of all sinners.

The devil uses chains to bind, but Christ breaks them. We use chains to love, and these Christ helps us carry.”

Love,
Matthew

The Real Presence: sanctuary lamp


please click on the image for greater detail

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

If you entered a vacant Catholic Church at night, you would not be in total darkness. A single burning light would guide your way.

An oil lamp or wax candle, known as the sanctuary lamp, would be continuously aglow above or near the tabernacle. It is a symbol that Christ is present.

The General Instruction to the Roman Missal (GIRM, for you acronym addicts), a guide for how to celebrate Mass, states, “In accordance with traditional custom, near the tabernacle a special lamp, fueled by oil or wax, should be kept alight to indicate and honor the presence of Christ.”

Catholics have always shown their respect for the reservation of the Eucharist in the tabernacle. The church’s guidelines for art and architecture states: The tabernacle “should be worthy of the Blessed Sacrament – beautifully designed and in harmony with the overall decor of the rest of the church. To provide for the security of the Blessed Sacrament the tabernacle should be ‘solid,’ ‘immovable,’ ‘opaque’ and ‘locked.’ The tabernacle may be situated on a fixed pillar or stand, or it may be attached to or embedded in one of the walls. A special oil lamp or a lamp with a wax candle burns continuously near the tabernacle as an indication of Christ’s presence.”

Although sanctuary lamps have been red in many traditions, church documents do not specify a color.

The Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle was originally intended for the Communion of the sick and dying and for those unable to attend the Sunday celebration. “But as the appreciation of Christ’s presence in the Eucharistic species became more developed, Christians desired through prayer to show reverence for Christ’s continuing presence in their midst,” states “Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture and Worship,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s guide for worship spaces.

“In reverent prayer before the reserved Eucharist, the faithful give praise and thanksgiving to Christ for the priceless gift of redemption and for the spiritual food that sustains them in their daily lives. Here they learn to appreciate their right and responsibility to join the offering of their own lives to the perfect sacrifice of Christ during the Mass and are led to a greater recognition of Christ in themselves and in others, especially in the poor and needy. Providing a suitable place for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament is a serious consideration in any building or renovation project,” the book continues.

The sanctuary lamp is extinguished on Good Friday when the body of Christ is removed from the main church and relit at Easter.


-by Br Mary Francis Day, OP

I see the terrifying spaces of the universe that enclose me, and I find myself attached to a corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am more in this place than in another, nor why this little time that is given me to live is assigned me at this point more than another out of all the eternity that has preceded me and out of all that will follow me.

Pensees, Blaise Pascal

“A common argument against Christianity is often put like this: “The Christian way of looking at God and the universe doesn’t make any sense. Why all the wasted space? If mankind is the spiritual center of the universe, it certainly doesn’t look like it. By all observation, we seem to be the secretion of a mossy rock, flying around the backwater of an impossibly large and empty space.” This is less of a formal argument and more of a sentiment, but, all the same, it needs accounting for.

One of the great things about being Catholic, and about being human, is seeing the power that symbols have in explaining fundamental parts of our experience to us. God does not disdain to use imperfect, material things to convey transcendent truths to help us understand our place in the whole mess of things we call life this side of paradise. Thankfully, the Church in her wisdom understands this, and employs such signs all over the place. One such sign is the sanctuary lamp, or altar lamp; a little light that is often surrounded by colored glass and other ornamentation, which is always placed near the tabernacle in a Catholic Church. Why? On a very basic level, the light is on when the Master of the house is home. It’s a sign of hospitality that most people can understand easily. On another level, I think this gives us an answer to the problem we started with.

Anyone who has had the pleasure to pray in a church at night will understand what I mean. After a while, and as your eyes adjust to the darkness, you realize that the only light in the whole place comes from the altar lamp. From the sanctuary to the back of the nave, a vague semblance of shapes appear, depending on the style and architecture of the building; the high vaults of the ceiling, an organ, perhaps some stained glass, or a reredos crowned with a cross. The impression one gets, as a whole, is of an order that is shrouded in mystery. At the same time, all this is only visible by a light that signifies the presence of something, or someone, of much greater import than an ordered, but otherwise dark and mostly empty space.

In short, I don’t think that the medievals were too far off the mark when they likened the cosmos to a church. Why is the universe so full of empty space? Why are Catholic churches so full of empty space? The end of all creation is the end of all worship: to manifest the glory of God. When God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind, he said as much:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? (Jb 38:4-7)

If the empty space of the church is where the faithful sing the praises of God, what is the expanse of the universe but a church for the angels to sing? And what, then, is Earth, and the Church upon it, but an altar lamp announcing the presence of God in his creation?”

Love,
Matthew