Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Personal: First Anniversary

My wife and I were married last June (2007); our first wedding anniversary came and went without fanfare, because she's been studying at Notre Dame University in Indiana for the past six weeks. Tomorrow, I'm flying out to her. Thursday morning, we drive to Niagara Falls. Friday night we arrive in Albany, NY. Saturday afternoon, my best man is getting married. Sunday we'll be back home.

I'm not bringing my laptop with me; I have no need for such a distraction. Have a good week(end), everyone.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Liturgy: Musings on accurate translation

Here's a comment I left on another blog a little while ago; it demonstrates the theological richness of the Latin prayers of the Mass, and thus the necessity to accurately convey that theology in the translation.

[This is an excerpt from the original post.] 12th Sun in OT. The 1997 version says "Lord God, teach us to hold your holy name both in awe and in lasting affection..." 2008 goes like this: "Grant us, O Lord, fear and love of your holy name always and in equal measure..." Key words that pop out , for me, are "teach" vs. "grant," "fear" vs. "awe," and "affection" vs. "equal measure."

Here's the Latin and my meager attempt at translating it:

Sancti nominis tui, Domine, timorem pariter et amorem fac nos habere perpetuum, quia numquam tua gubernatione destitus, quos in soliditate tuae dilectionis instituis.

"Lord, make us to have fear and love, equally and eternally [or: unending], for your Holy Name, for You never fail to govern those whom You establish firmly in your love."

(At least the 1997 translation is an improvement over the 1985 one: "grant us an unfailing respect for your name, and keep us always in your love", which doesn't match the verbs with the proper subjects and objects.)

As for your analysis, you're comparing the wrong words. The proposed 2008 version uses "fear" for "awe" and "love" for "affection". It uses "equal measure" for "both"; it also correctly binds "always" ("lasting") with both fear and love, rather than just love (affection).

As for "Teach" vs. "Grant"... in my opinion, even "grant" is a bit too weak here; the Latin says fac nos habere -- "make us to have" -- which identifies God's grace as the driving force. And there's more:

"Teach us to..." has the implication that once He has taught us, we can do it on our own; if you've been taught well enough, you don't need the teacher anymore. "Grant us..." makes it sound like merely a gift; getting a coat that's two sizes too big doesn't change us magically to fit into it.

But "make us to have" establishes the conversion -- the change -- needed in us to truly fear and love His name, equally and forever. God needs to produce this change in us; we need Him to make us anew.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Liturgy: Important news of the upcoming Missal translation

Here's what the USCCB is reporting today:
Vatican Approves New English Translation For The Order Of Mass

WASHINGTON— The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received approval (recognitio) from the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the new English-language translation of the Order of Mass (Ordo Missae).

This is the first section of the translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. It includes most of the texts used in every celebration of the Mass, including the responses that will be said by the people.

In its letter, the Congregation pointed out that while the texts are binding, the approval “does not intend that these texts are to be put into use immediately.”

Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation, explained the reasons for providing the text at this time. The purpose is to provide “time for the pastoral preparation of priests, deacons and for appropriate catechesis of the lay faithful. It will likewise facilitate the devising of musical settings for parts of the Mass.”

The text is covered by copyright law and the Statutes of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

The more significant changes of the people’s parts are:

  1. et cum spiritu tuo is rendered as “And with your spirit”
  2. In the Confiteor, the text “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” has been added
  3. The Gloria has been translated differently and the structure is different from the present text
  4. In the Preface dialogue the translation of “Dignum et justum est” is “It is right and just”
  5. The first line of the Sanctus now reads “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts”
  6. The response of the people at the Ecce Agnus Dei is “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
At this time, no date is available as to when the entire translation of the Roman Missal will be released.
Here's what Catholic World News (CWN) is reporting (with some different details):
Vatican approves new English translation for Mass

Vatican, Jul. 25, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican has given formal approval to a new English translation of the central prayers of the Mass for use in the United States.

In a June 23 letter of Bishop Arthur Serratelli, the chairman of the US bishops' liturgy committee, the Congregation for Divine Worship announces its recognitio for the translation, which had already won the approval of the US bishops' conference, despite strong protests from some liberal prelates.

The new translation adheres more closely to the Latin of the Roman Missal. Since the 2001 publication of Liturgiam Authenticam, the instruction on the proper translation of liturgical texts, the Vatican has pressed for more faithful translations of the official Latin texts.

Alluding gently to the fierce debates over English-language liturgical translations in the past decade, the Congregation for Divine Worship reports "no little satisfaction in arriving at this juncture." The letter from the Vatican is signed by Cardinal Francis Arinze (bio - news) and Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith, the prefect and secretary, respectively, of the Congregation.

The Vatican's binding approval covers only a portion of the entire Roman Missal. The entire process of translating the Roman Missal is expected to take at least until 2010. However, the prayers given the Vatican recognitio are the most common texts for the Order of the Mass.

The Vatican approval comes just after the US bishops' conference voted against approval of another installment in the series of translations that will be required to complete the overall project.

The new translation is not to be used immediately, the Vatican letter indicates. Instead the US bishops are directed to begin "pastoral preparation" for the changes in the language of the Mass. During this same period, the Congregation for Divine Worship notes, some musical settings for the text could be prepared.

Among the noteworthy changes that Catholics will notice when the new translation goes into effect are:

  • At the Consecration, the priest will refer to Christ's blood which is "poured out for you and for many"-- an accurate translation of pro multis-- rather than "for all" in the current translation.
  • In the Nicene Creed the opening word, Credo, will be correctly translated as "I believe" rather than "we believe."
  • When the priest says, "The Lord be with you," the faithful respond, "And with your spirit," rather than simply, "And also with you."
  • In the Eucharistic prayer, references to the Church will use the pronouns "she" and "her" rather than "it."
  • In the Agnus Dei, the text cites the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world," rather than using the singular word "sin."
  • In the preferred form of the penitential rite, the faithful will acknowledge that they have sinned "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

Throughout the translation of the Offertory and Eucharistic Prayer, the traditional phrases of supplication are restored, and the Church is identified as "holy"-- in each case, matching the Latin original of the Roman Missal.

And finally, here is what Catholic News Service (CNS) reports:
Vatican approves new English translations for constant parts of Mass

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Vatican has given its approval to a new English-language translation of the main constant parts of the Mass, but Catholics in the pew are unlikely to see any of the approved changes at Masses for awhile to allow for catechesis on the reasons for the revisions.

The approved text, sent to the Vatican for "recognitio," or confirmation, after a June 2006 vote by the U.S. bishops in Los Angeles, involves translation of the penitential rite, Gloria, creed, eucharistic prayers, eucharistic acclamations, Our Father and other prayers and responses used daily.

But it is only the first of 12 units into which the third edition of the Roman Missal has been divided for translation purposes. It includes most of the texts used in every celebration of Mass including responses to the celebrant by people participating in a liturgy.

"In terms of the people's part, it's not gong to require too much adjustment," Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, told Catholic News Service July 25. "It's a refinement of the language, a clearer theological language.

"Not much of the people's part is changed, and I think once or twice after they use it, they will hardly notice the change," he said.

While the changes have been approved, Bishop Serratelli said it will be awhile before they become part of regular worship at Mass.

"I'm hoping for two years," he said. "I'm an optimist."

The lead time is needed to allow musicians to work with the text and to prepare music for various liturgical settings and seasons and to allow for the necessary catechesis explaining the reasons for the revisions to parishioners, the bishop explained.

The most significant changes approved by Rome include:

-- Whenever the priest says, "The Lord be with you," the people will respond, "And with your spirit." The current response is "And also with you."

-- In the first form of the penitential rite, the people will confess that "I have greatly sinned ... through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." In the current version, that part is much shorter: "I have sinned through my own fault."

-- The Gloria has been translated differently and the structure of the prayer will have changes from the current text.

-- The opening of the Nicene Creed changes from "We believe ... " to "I believe ... "; other changes in the prayer also have been made.

-- Before the preface, when the priest says, "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God," instead of saying, "It is right to give him thanks and praise," the people will respond, "It is right and just."

-- The Sanctus will start "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts." The current versions says "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might."

-- The new response at the "Ecce Agnus Dei" ("Behold the Lamb of God") is: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

In 2001 the Vatican issued new rules requiring liturgical translations to follow the original Latin more strictly and completely -- a more literal translation approach called formal equivalence. The resulting new translation adheres far more closely to the normative Latin text issued by the Vatican.

Two other sections of the Roman Missal have come before the bishops. In November 2007 they approved a revision of all the Sunday and weekday Lectionary readings for Lent, but at their June meeting in Orlando, Fla., and in subsequent mail balloting they rejected a 700-page translation of the proper prayers for Sundays and feast days during the liturgical year.

The rejected section is to come before the full body of bishops again at their November general assembly in Baltimore, along with two other sections totaling about 500 pages.

When the bishops approved the first section in June 2006, Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., called it "a truly important moment in liturgy in the United States." He then chaired the U.S. bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, now called the Committee on Divine Worship.

Bishop Trautman said at that time that he did not expect the new Order of Mass to be implemented in the United States until the entire new Roman Missal in English had been approved by the bishops and confirmed by the Vatican.

According to the current schedule, the earliest that the Vatican could receive the final sections of the translation project would be November 2010.

The actual timetable will depend on the work of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, made up of representatives of the world's 11 main English-speaking bishops' conferences and decisions of the USCCB Administrative Committee in setting the agenda for the general meetings.

A two-thirds majority of the nation's Latin-rite bishops must approve each unit of the missal translation. After each section is approved, it is sent to the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for confirmation.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Nancy Frazier O'Brien and Dennis Sadowksi.

Prayer Intention: Conversation this weekend

This weekend, I am meeting with two non-Catholic Christians for a dialog about the trustworthiness of the Magisterium of the Church (specifically regarding doctrine concerning membership in the Church and salvation).

Please pray for me, that the Holy Spirit would give me the words to say; and for B. and T. with whom I am meeting, that the Holy Spirit would touch their hearts to be open and receptive to the Catholic faith.

You can see some of the dialog thus far, in the form of a paper (PDF) from B. and my response (MS Word).

Latin: Perhaps a motto

Volo melius servire

Monday, July 21, 2008

Liturgy: Another Byzantine Divine Liturgy

I was in Harrisburg, PA, this Sunday, at St. Ann's Byzantine Catholic Church (called the "Jewel of the Eparchy" by the bishop). They had a surprise visit from their Metropolitan, who celebrated the liturgy for them.

Their church is distinctively Eastern (that is, not Latinized). The walls have large icons painted onto them depicting various scenes in the life of our Lord, his Blessed Mother the Ever-Virgin Theotokos Mary, and the Church. The iconostasis was beautiful and recently add gold trim added. The liturgy was heavenly, with angelic chanting from the choir (and especially their cantor, who has an amazing voice), the priests and ministers, and the congregation too.

After the liturgy, the parish held an American-Slavic Festival, drawing a very large crowd.

I thank Ed for inviting me to come out. It was a 300 mile trip (Princeton to Allentown -- to see my parents -- to Harrisburg and back to Princeton) that was well worth it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Liturgy: How do the faithful take part in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist?

(This is jumping the gun a bit, since Sacrosanctum Concilium doesn't mention this until article 48, but I think it's worth sharing anyway!)

Vatican II teaches that all the faithful, who have the baptismal priesthood, can offer Jesus to the Father and unite themselves to Jesus, the perfect sacrifice; furthermore, pastors need to teach their flock this great mystery.

"The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves..." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 48)

"Thus the Eucharistic Action, over which the priest presides, is the very heart of the congregation. So priests must instruct their people to offer to God the Father the Divine Victim in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and to join to it the offering of their own lives." (Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 5)

The mystery was articulated at length by Pope Pius XII in his masterpiece encyclical on the liturgy, Mediator Dei (from 1947, a good 15 years before the Council). If you ever have the time, I strongly suggest reading it! Let me give you a lengthy excerpt (from nn. 84-93) which I believe will help to bear fruit in your prayers, most especially those which you offer at Mass.

Oh, but first, a bit of terminology will help here. A sacrifice has two parts: the death of the victim and the offering of the victim. The death is often called immolation (from the Latin immolare which means "to sacrifice"), and this is achieved in the Mass with the words of Consecration ("This is my Body", "This is my Blood"). The offering of the victim is often called oblation (from the Latin oblata, a form of offerre, which means "to offer"). The priest, and he alone by virtue of his ordination, is the minister of the immolation; but as Mediator Dei explains, all of the faithful share in the oblation.

Now onto the quote:
(84) [W]e deem it necessary to recall that the priest acts for the people only because he represents Jesus Christ, who is Head of all His members and offers Himself in their stead. ...

(85) However, it must also be said that the faithful do offer the divine Victim, though in a different sense. ...

(86) "Not only," says Innocent III of immortal memory, "do the priests offer the sacrifice, but also all the faithful: for what the priest does personally by virtue of his ministry, the faithful do collectively by virtue of their intention." We are happy to recall one of St. Robert Bellarmine's many statements on this subject. "The sacrifice," he says "is principally offered in the person of Christ. Thus the oblation that follows the consecration is a sort of attestation that the whole Church consents in the oblation made by Christ, and offers it along with Him."

(87) Moreover, the rites and prayers of the eucharistic sacrifice signify and show no less clearly that the oblation of the Victim is made by the priests in company with the people. For not only does the sacred minister, after the oblation of the bread and wine when he turns to the people, say the significant prayer: "Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty;" but also the prayers by which the divine Victim is offered to God are generally expressed in the plural number: and in these it is indicated more than once that the people also participate in this august sacrifice inasmuch as they offer the same. ...

(88) Nor is it to be wondered at, that the faithful should be raised to this dignity. ... [T]hey participate, according to their condition, in the priesthood of Christ.

(89) It is fitting, then, that the Christian people should also desire to know in what sense they are said in the canon of the Mass to offer up the sacrifice. ...

(90) First of all the more extrinsic explanations are these: it frequently happens that the faithful assisting at Mass join their prayers alternately with those of the priest, and sometimes - a more frequent occurrence in ancient times - they offer to the ministers at the altar bread and wine to be changed into the body and blood of Christ, and, finally, by their alms they get the priest to offer the divine victim for their intentions.

(91) But there is also a more profound reason why all Christians, especially those who are present at Mass, are said to offer the sacrifice.

(92) In this most important subject it is necessary, in order to avoid giving rise to a dangerous error, that we define the exact meaning of the word "offer." The unbloody immolation at the words of consecration, when Christ is made present upon the altar in the state of a victim, is performed by the priest and by him alone, as the representative of Christ and not as the representative of the faithful. But it is because the priest places the divine victim upon the altar that he offers it to God the Father as an oblation for the glory of the Blessed Trinity and for the good of the whole Church. Now the faithful participate in the oblation, understood in this limited sense, after their own fashion and in a twofold manner, namely, because they not only offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest, but also, to a certain extent, in union with him. It is by reason of this participation that the offering made by the people is also included in liturgical worship.

(93) Now it is clear that the faithful offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest from the fact that the minister at the altar, in offering a sacrifice in the name of all His members, represents Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body. Hence the whole Church can rightly be said to offer up the victim through Christ. But the conclusion that the people offer the sacrifice with the priest himself is not based on the fact that, being members of the Church no less than the priest himself, they perform a visible liturgical rite; for this is the privilege only of the minister who has been divinely appointed to this office: rather it is based on the fact that the people unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving with prayers or intention of the priest, even of the High Priest himself, so that in the one and same offering of the victim and according to a visible sacerdotal rite, they may be presented to God the Father. It is obviously necessary that the external sacrificial rite should, of its very nature, signify the internal worship of the heart. Now the sacrifice of the New Law signifies that supreme worship by which the principal Offerer himself, who is Christ, and, in union with Him and through Him, all the members of the Mystical Body pay God the honor and reverence that are due to Him.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, nn. 1-4

Here is the text, my commentary, my questions, and questions from discussion on Sacrosanctum Concilium, nn. 1-4 from the Catholic Answer Forum study I'm leading.

Star Wars Episode IV according to a three-year-old

This is adorable.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Liturgy: Study Sacrosanctum Concilium at Catholic Answers Forum

At the Catholic Answers Forum (CAF), I've started a thread studying Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. As I've mentioned before on my blog, the Pope has invited the whole Church to re-visit this first document of the Second Vatican Council to grow in our understanding of this Most Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist. This document also speaks about the direction of the liturgical reformation that the Church was preparing to undertake.

If you would like to read along with us -- I'm posting the document, piece-by-piece, with commentary and questions -- feel free! The thread is here.

If you want to contribute questions or answers, you'll need to register with CAF (painless, really) and then register as a "Book Club" member (which might take a day or two to be approved). But anyone can read along without registering.

Scripture Reflection: Job

Job points to Christ.

I was at a non-denominational Bible Study last night; we were looking at the book of Job, chapters 32-37 (the speech of Elihu). Eventually we got around to asking why Job wasn't able to endure his suffering without finally lashing out against God (although not cursing Him, as Satan had hoped) at the instigation of his three "friends". I pointed out that, whenever Job lived (we don't know) and to whatever people he belonged (we don't know for sure, maybe he was an Aramean), the world was without the totality of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

Suffering was seen simply as a punishment for wrong-doing (which Job had none of when he received his punishment), and there was nothing redemptive or holy about it. It couldn't glorify God. You could accept it, sure, but you couldn't see the good of it. Christ changed that for us. The epistles mention the redemptive value of suffering plenty! Even Jesus, in John's Gospel, asks the Father to "glorify" him, referring to his being "lifted up" on the cross. The crucifixion was the first stage of the glorification of Jesus Christ! Suffering on the cross was glory to God!

Job did not have this knowledge. I wouldn't say that God made "an example" of him, but I do believe the book of Job is there to point us, in the Old Testament, to the incompletion of the earlier covenants, and of the necessity for Jesus Christ who redeems us in his suffering and in our suffering. In Christ we can "offer up" our suffering as a sacrifice united to the body of Jesus on the cross; in Christ we can glorify God in our affliction. Revelation 3:19 tells us that the Lord God chastises and reproves those He loves. Let us bear our suffering nobly and humbly, glorifying God. Let Job serve as the example of who we were, and Jesus as the example of who we must become.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ecumenism: From Preacherman's blog

If you're from Preacherman's blog, and you're willing to enter into dialog about my recent comment there, this is the place. Please, if you comment here, stick around to hear my response. And don't slander the Church; I will delete comments that are untruthful or vicious. (And I don't delete comments often!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tradition: Refounding and Restorationism

Here is yet another dangerous homily from Fr. Patrick Brennan on the occasion of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. It pains me to hear him telling his congregation these things, because the dissent he feeds his parishioners will probably manifest itself as flat-out disobedience from them towards whomever is appointed their new pastor in a matter of months. My emphases are in bold; commentary is inside and outside of the homily.
1. A group called the Gnostics, they resisted Peter's leadership. They said he didn't have the right to be looked on as leader because of his denial of Jesus. And Paul, Paul also a flawed and sinful man. Paul persecuted the early Christians. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul was right there participating when Stephen the deacon was stoned to death, was martyred. And yet Paul went on to become the first writer of the New Testament, and Paul more than anyone else in our history has taken Christianity and made it a livable spirituality, a way of life, a system of meaning that people can have conversions to. Peter and Paul, the "super-apostles", they really took the Jesus movement and ignited it. But two very human men. If they were here speaking today, I think both of them would say Jesus is the rock on whom we need to build our lives.
This is all quite fine: Jesus is the rock on whom we need to build our lives. Neither Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 2:4-5) nor Paul (cf. Col. 2:6-7) would say otherwise. Scripture also testifies that the Church founded by Jesus was built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, and specifically Peter (petros = "rock", cf. Matt. 16:18-19), with Christ himself as the cornerstone (cf. Eph. 2:19-20).
2. John Cardinal Newman was declared venerable by John Paul II before he [Pope John Paul II] died [obviously]. That means he's on the way to canonization, to sainthood. By John Newman said something in the 19th century: he said there was not a papacy, and there were not bishops, while the Apostles still walked the earth. [More on this below] Other historians have picked up on that theory and say there probably was not a Bishop of Rome for 100 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. [Other historians recognize there were Bishops of Rome, like Clement.] Rome was governed by a group of priests, a group of elders, and Rome compared to the other churches in the East, was not even considered a church of great esteem early on. [When?] But then [when?] Rome began to take on a position of power and authority. Why? Because Peter and Paul, who were held in equal reverence and esteem, were martyred there. Rome was the city of Peter and Paul, the two heroes of the early Church.
What John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote in Development of Christian Doctrine, chapter 4 ("Instances in Illustration", section 3 ("The Papal Supremacy"), paragraph 2, was this:
For instance, it is true, St. Ignatius is silent in his Epistles on the subject of the Pope's authority; but if in fact that authority could not be in active operation then, such silence is not so difficult to account for as the silence of Seneca or Plutarch about Christianity itself, or of Lucian about the Roman people. St. Ignatius directed his doctrine according to the need. While Apostles were on earth, there was the display neither of Bishop nor Pope; their power had no prominence, as being exercised by Apostles. In course of time, first the power of the Bishop displayed itself, and then the power of the Pope. When the Apostles were taken away, Christianity did not at once break into portions; yet separate localities might begin to be the scene of internal dissensions, and a local arbiter in consequence would be wanted. Christians at home did not yet quarrel with Christians abroad; they quarrelled at home among themselves.
Cardinal Newman, interpreting (fallibly) the writings of the New Testament as well as the epistles of St. Ignatius, says that there was no "display" of a Bishop or Pope. That is true enough; there was display of the Magisterium of the Church at the Council of Jerusalem, though (cf. Acts 15). The Apostles were the "primitive" bishops, and there was no Pope until there was a church in Rome to have a Bishop! Newman is a bit off, since the Apostle John was still alive close to the end of the 1st century, and there is evidence of Clement being a successor of Peter in Rome long before John finally died. St. John himself laments that someone in a particular church is disregarding his (John's) authority there (cf. 3 John 9). Even earlier than that, Pauline and Petrine epistles refer to priests (presbuteroi, that is, "presbyters", also rendered as "elders") and bishops (episkopoi, that is "overseers"). I would guess that the language of "bishop" and "pope" was stressed more and more to distinguish between literal Apostles and the post-Apostolic leadership.

There is also literary evidence of Rome being held in high regard in the early (pre-Constantine) Church; one example is the epistle of St. Ignatius to the church in Rome, "worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed [most] holy, and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father" of whom he goes on to say "Ye have never envied any one; ye have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed [by your conduct], which in your instructions ye enjoin [on others]." I do not know exactly how early Fr. Brennan was restricting his analysis.
3. But then some things began to shift, especially after the 4th century. Devotion to Peter, and the tradition about Peter, began to prevail over Paul. A tradition began to spread that indeed Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, and different powers that were assigned to different parts of the Church around the world began to concentrate on the Bishop of Rome, and we began to see emerge the papacy as we know it today, reaching its zenith in the Middle Ages.
Is this insinuating that the tradition that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, which "began to spread" later, was a false one?
4. Now I don't intend this history to be a critique of the papacy. What I'm trying to present today on the Feast of Peter and Paul, is that Jesus did not start a rigid, monolithic institution. [Can we use some different adjectives, though? Jesus did start a single visible institution, with standards for membership and the potential for world-wide growth!] The Church is something that evolved and developed over history. And different roles, like the papacy, and the role of bishop, and the role of priests, evolved. [But there were always priests and bishops, unless Fr. Brennan is insinuating that the Eucharist back then wasn't what it is today (or even in the time of St. Ignatius). It is true that roles developed and evolved; for example, deacons didn't exist at the start.] And that same spirit of flexibility and evolution and development must be present in our Church too, if the Church is going to face the future, if the Church is going to be relevant in the future to younger people. [What happens if the Church becomes "relevant" to younger people... but becomes "irrelevant" to older people?] Flexibility, development, evolution.
There's going to be a contradictory theme to this homily: the Church evolved and developed, and the Church needs to continue evolving and developing, but some of that evolution and development needs to be erased. Essentially, we need to "evolve" and "develop" the Church back to how it was in the time of Saints Peter and Paul, but then continue evolving and developing. It's fine to "go back in time" 1950 years, but not to "go back in time" to 1950, basically. (Not that I advocate restoring the Church to what it was in 1950, but simply that recovering Church practices from the 1st century seems to take precedence over recovering Church practices from the early 20th century.)
5. I've mentioned before the work of Gerald Arbuckle, his great classic book, "Refounding the Church". [Subtitle: "Dissent for Leadership". I kid you not.] Arbuckle says in his book "Refounding the Church", in every age, the church has to go back to its founder and ask the question, "What was the founder about... Jesus?" Well he was about the reign of God. [And everything that reign entailed, not just the "social justice" aspect of it; salvation from sin was awfully high on his list.] In every era, the Church and parishes like ours, have to ask the question, "Okay, Jesus was about the reign of God... what structures, what systems do we need in 2008 to preach him and to preach his vision of the reign of God?" The Church needs to be evolving, the Church needs to be developing; this parish needs to be evolving, this parish needs to be developing. For ever-new challenges and new ages. As the parish ages, as we move into our 25th year as a parish.
I've just purchased this book (used copy for $3.50) from someone on Amazon. I'm curious to see how it renders dissent as leadership. If you get a chance, look at the sample pages Amazon has. It's got a three-page chart showing the differences between the pre-Vatican II, post-Vatican II, and "Restorationist" (explained below) mindsets. It is general and caricatured; it also assumes the "either/or" rather than "both/and" mentality. Here are some examples:

Of the "culture of the Church", it says: before Vatican II = closed; after Vatican II = open; restorationist = "closing to dialogue; fear of dissent". Just what type of dialog is this about?

Of the "structure and authority", it says: before Vatican II = "Hierarchical - vertical authority structures, under Pope; centralization of papacy, Curia; 'creeping infallibility'"; after Vatican II = "Hierarchical - collegial authority: Pope and bishops; local church restored; collaborative emphasis at all levels"; restorationist = "Desiring a milder form of pre-Vatican II structures". Perhaps the author did not read Lumen Gentium which says, in n. 22:
The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head, whose primatial authority, let it be added, over all, whether pastors or faithful, remains in its integrity. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, namely, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.
I suggest you read the whole document, especially the explanatory note attached to it which clarifies the notion of collegiality it espouses.

A third example describes the liturgy this way: pre-Vatican II = "Latin; theatrical; congregation passive; uncreative; legalistic/rubrical"; after Vatican II = "Vernacular; simple; congregation active; creative"; restorationist = "Creativity not encouraged" (is that all?). Again, a reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium is in order.

Vatican II never desired to get rid of Latin from the Mass. Furthermore, the Church has been staunchly opposed to "creativity" and "experimentation" in the liturgy because it impedes the universality of the Rite and endangers the proper transmission of the faith to those present. Pope Paul VI said the completion of the liturgical reform in 1969 would put an end to experimentation. And as I mentioned in a previous post, the Church was on guard against abusive "creativity" even during the 1970s and 1980s. I also think "theatrical" better describes the "creative" Masses celebrated in the Ordinary Form, involving clowns, dancing, secular-sounding music, etc.

A fourth example about the priesthood describes the three-way transition as "Cultic" to "Preacher of Word; builder of believing/worshiping/justice-oriented community" to "Role: confused". As for their relation to the laity, the transition is "superior" to "co-operation" to "confused". I think, perhaps, the author is confused. Just what the author means by "cultic" is undefined (although perhaps covered in greater detail in the book). I would hazard a guess it does not include preaching or building of community. Does the preacher/builder definition include a sacramental aspect? I would sure hope so.

A final example describes the Eucharist this way: from "Holy Communion / Mass / Sunday obligation" to "Union of faithful, centered on the Eucharist, symbol and source of unity" to "Vatican II directions not developed; fear of inculturation at local levels". Now I'm confused! Did Vatican II really do away with the notions of "Holy Communion" and "Mass"? And it is not possible for the Eucharist to be the "union of faithful, centered on the Eucharist". The Eucharist has always been the "symbol and source of unity" -- the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the source and summit, as Vatican II put it, and the "source and center of Christian piety" as Pope Pius XII put it in Mediator Dei n. 201. Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical on the Holy Eucharist which described it as "the source and chief" (Mirae Caritatis, n. 6). As for the directions of Vatican II, Pope Benedict has recently called us to re-examine what Vatican II said about the Eucharist, particularly in Sacrosanctum Concilium, so I think we're headed towards a truer realization of the Vatican II "direction".
6. In the late 19th century the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was declared by Vatican I at the encouragement of Pope Pius IX. That doctrine teaches when the Pope speaks [teaches] on issues of faith and morals, we must listen, we must obey, we must conform. [Are those bad words?] At the time of the doctrine of infallibility being passed, there was another theory of infallibility on the floor of the First Vatican Council. And that doctrine of infallibility said this: Yes, there's this theory of the inerrancy of the Pope -- we're not going to deny that, we'll not take that on -- but another connotation of infallibility is: the Church will never fail. [I think the Church knew that the whole time. Do Matthew 16:18 and 28:20 ring a bell?] The Church is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We'll have problems, we'll have difficulties, we'll have challenges, we'll have growth spurts, but the Church of Jesus Christ will endure through the power of the Holy Spirit. [Amen!] I encourage us this morning to look at the value of both understandings of infallibility. The latter one I think is very livable and very existential: the Holy Spirit is with our Church. The Holy Spirit is with our Church. [The former one is also very livable, because it gives us assurance in the things our Church teaches us concerning the faith and morality.]

7. Quickly... Peter and Paul, equal in reverence in the early Church, have come down through history to represent two different sides of the Church. Peter obviously represents the organizational, institutional dimension of Church, Paul represents the dynamism of the Church. Paul writes a lot about charisms, he writes about the nature of community. John Paul II before he died, [obviously!] in an encyclical Redemptor Hominis, [see below] said the most scripturally accurate model of Church is the Church is a community of learners, a community of disciples. That's the model of Church that Paul preached. [The hierarchical Church is not an obstacle to the Church as a "community of disciples".] And the Church is more than just a community of disciples: the Church is sacrament to the world, herald, prophet, teacher, moral authority, agent of justice, agent of mercy. [And Bride of Christ, and Body of Christ, and Household of God.] We should never allow one image of the Church to prevail over other images of the Church. [So don't let images that may stress Her non-hierarchical nature overpower those images that make that hierarchical nature clear.] The fact that we celebrate the Feast of Peter and Paul together today is a lesson in itself that these many different sides of the Church must be held in a healthy balance and tension. Otherwise we get into mistaken notions of [the] Church.
Pope John Paul II has not released any encyclicals nor announced any canonizations after his death, just for the record. In Redemptor Hominis n. 21, he writes:
Indeed, the Church as the People of God is also-according to the teaching of Saint Paul mentioned above, of which Pius XII reminded us in wonderful terms -- "Christ's Mystical Body". Membership in that body has for its source a particular call, united with the saving action of grace. Therefore, if we wish to keep in mind this community of the People of God, which is so vast and so extremely differentiated, we must see first and foremost Christ saying in a way to each member of the community: "Follow me". It is the community of the disciples, each of whom in a different way -- at times very consciously and consistently, at other times not very consciously and very inconsistently -- is following Christ. This shows also the deeply "personal" aspect and dimension of this society, which, in spite of all the deficiencies of its community life -- in the human meaning of this word -- is a community precisely because all its members form it together with Christ himself, at least because they bear in their souls the indelible mark of a Christian.
I have no argument at all with what the Pope has written here. The minute the Church ceases being the community of disciples, She has ceased to be the Church founded by Jesus Christ. And as disciples of Christ, we are bound to "observe all that [he] has commanded [us]" (Matthew 28:20). That includes respecting the hierarchy of the Church; it's not like the Pope isn't a disciple!

Oh, and like Fr. Z, I really can't stand this trend of dropping definite articles from words like "Church", and "Eucharist".
8. I mentioned Gerald Arbuckle. Arbuckle in addition to introducing the notion of refounding the Church in every age, also coined the term "restorationism". He said beginning in the 90s, he felt there was a movement in the Church to push the Church back before Vatican II. [The extremist movement to overturn Vatican II is one thing; the "reform of the reform" movement, the "New Liturgical Movement", is another. The latter seeks to properly implement what Vatican II mandated regarding the liturgy.] Now remember why Vatican II was called: Vatican II, when I was in high school, was called an ad fontes movement, back to the fonts. Vatican II was an attempt to discover what was the nature of the Church of Peter and Paul. [While it did look to the past -- the whole history of the Church -- it was also concerned with aggiornamento, that is, "updating".] "We've become too institutionalized," the Council leaders said in the 1960s. "We're leading too much with the organization, with the institution; we've got to get back to the Church of Peter and Paul." [These are not exact quotes, of course, but when was this sentiment conveyed? Was this Pope John XXIII's vision? I'd say no.] Arbuckle is saying in this period of restorationism -- the 90s and the early 2000s -- some people are trying to push us back to the Council of Trent, back to the Council that articulated things in the 16th century. [Trent hasn't been abrogated or nullified. Vatican II quoted them. The Catechism quotes them.] I don't know if you saw in the local Chicago Catholic newspaper, The New World: the Pope is encouraging every parish to have a Latin Mass. [Amen!] Is that really the Church we want [choose your next words very carefully...] to return to? Arbuckle says at the heart of restorationism is nostalgia: nostalgia so that we don't have to do the hard work of refounding. [So if the Pope says it's not for nostalgia that he's doing this, but Arbuckle says it is, whom should I believe? Does Arbuckle know the Pope's mind better than the Pope himself?]
This is not the first time Fr. Brennan has contrasted "refounding the Church" with "restorationism". He wrote about it in his parish bulletin back in May 2005 as well. He is also hostile towards Latin, whether in the Extraordinary Form (which he caricatured in a previous homily) or the Ordinary Form. He openly questions here whether a Church which celebrates Mass in Latin, ad orientem, etc., is a Church worth having. If that Church returns, he seems to be asking, do we want to belong to it? The negative answer to that question results in schism, plain and simple.

Would he mind explaining what's inherently wrong with Mass in Latin in general, or with the Extraordinary Form in particular?
9. [Fr.] George Kane is offering a course this fall on the vision [and "Spirit", no doubt] of Vatican II. [If the budget gets approved, I'm sure it'll include actually looking at the documents!] I hope some of you will attend that course, and I'm grateful to [Fr.] George for doing that, but more than just the course in the fall, remember, John XXIII called Vatican II to open the windows of the Church because "it's gotten dusty in here", he said, and the Church needs fresh air. [That's for sure. Fresh air with a hint of incense!] The Church needs the movement of the Holy Spirit. I hope, Holy Family, that you will always keep the vision of Vatican II alive in this parish. John XXIII opened the windows; keep the windows open.
I am frightened to think what the subject matter of such a course will be. What sources will Fr. Kane use? The documents themselves, taken in context? That would be an eye-opener...

Caption: What is the Pope saying?

Fr. Z hits another home run with this caption thread.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bible Study: Philippians

Starting at the end of September, and going through Advent, the Young Adult Bible Study I facilitate will be looking at the Second Reading from Mass, which is almost always going to be a letter from Paul. The first several weeks will be devoted to the letter to the Philippians (reading the whole letter, not just what we hear in Mass).

After learning more about lectio divina today at the "Called to Lead" conference, I've decided I'm going to read the letter, chapter by chapter ("paragraph by paragraph", really) slowly and carefully, meditating and praying on each part. See, I've learned today that Scripture won't say anything to me unless I treat it as though it were written to me.

So when I begin the Bible Study in the Fall, the theme will not be "Paul's Letters to the So-and-So's". It will be "Paul's Letters to Us". I think it's especially poignant for young adults, because we are a lot like the church communities that Paul was writing to. They were fledgling, they were struggling, they had questions about their faith, they had temptations on every side... and Paul had the right words for them. There's no reason to think that he doesn't have the right words for us.

Ask me about the Bible... I'm Catholic!

That conference was phenomenal. I normally avoid institutional Bible study material... but I am SOLD on this. The Bible Timeline is incredible. Believe it or not, it's basically the same method for studying Scripture that the Catholic Church used almost a thousand years ago (but which kind of got lost along the way).

The Great Adventure Bible Studies series have a simple goal: to make people say, "You know a lot about the Bible... you must be Catholic!" I am psyched about this. I've learned things that I can bring into the Bible Study I facilitate already at another parish, and I can't wait to start the Bible Timeline study at my own parish.

Here are 22 pages of notes (126 K, in MS Word format) that I took at the lectures I attended. These are the topics:
  • Friday
    • Keynote: Scripture in the Life of the Church – Dr. Tim Gray
    • Eight Keys for Unlocking Scripture – Dr. Ted Sri
    • How to Facilitate a Small Group – Dr. Tim Gray
    • Bible Study Materials and Resources – Thomas Smith
    • Panel: Stump the Bible Scholars – Jeff Cavins, Dr. Tim Gray, Dr. Ted Sri
  • Saturday
    • A Biblical Walk-Through of the Mass – Dr. Ted Sri
    • Increasing the Effectiveness of Your Bible Study: Problem-Solving Workshop for Study Leaders – Dr. Tim Gray & Jeff Cavins
    • Why Study the Bible Timeline – Dr. Tim Gray
    • Geography of the Bible – Jeff Cavins
    • Increasing Your “Prophet” Margins – Thomas Smith
    • Lectio Divina: The Ancient Technique for Praying with Scripture – Dr. Tim Gray
    • The Living Timeline: The Story Continues in You – Jeff Cavins

Friday, July 11, 2008

Scripture: "Called to Lead"

This Friday and Saturday, I'm at my diocesan center attending the "Called to Lead" Bible Study leader formation conference. It's geared towards the "Great Adventure" Bible Study series (such as the Bible Timeline). The first day of the conference was, well, great! There are some excellent speakers here, like Jeff Cavins, Dr. Tim Gray, and Dr. Ted Sri. I've seen Dr. Sri on EWTN's "The Abundant Life", talking about the connections between Mass and Scripture; I've also got a book (Catholic for a Reason III) which has one chapter written by him: a biblical walk-through of the Mass. And he's giving a talk on that same topic tomorrow morning. Scriptural liturgy is my passion, if you couldn't tell.

This is a thoroughly Catholic Bible Study conference. Each session begins and ends with prayer in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and often requesting the intercession of our Blessed Mother. We are learning how to work with small groups, how to approach Scripture from a Catholic perspective and with a Catholic interpretation, and we're being energized to bring this into our parishes and renew Catholic fervor for Sacred Scripture. Imagine hearing someone say "Wow! You know Scripture really well... you must be Catholic!"

I'll be posting my copious notes soon. But for now, I need sleep... there's a full day of sessions tomorrow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ecumenism: Answering a series of allegations against the Catholic Church

This post is a reply to a woman named Kerri who has expressed several concerns about Catholics. I'm putting it here because it's far too large for her blog's comment-box to handle. (Luckily for me, I saved the text.)

Kerri, I'd like to answer your claims here, orderly, one at a time. I would ask that, while I am doing so, if you choose to respond, you deal with ONE topic at a time, and do not introduce NEW topics until the ones present in this entry are reasonably handled.

Now, you're concerned that the Catholic Church focuses on death a lot. Well, death IS a part of life, and if we were to ignore it, we would not be ministering to the WHOLE person. And, to be honest, I hear an awful lot of evangelical Christians starting conversations by asking "if you DIED tonight, would you go to heaven?" That's a bit morbid, and I don't remember Jesus or any of his disciples starting a conversation that way. ;)

FIRST: Crucifixes, crosses with the crucified body of Jesus on them. (Technically, a crucifix is ONLY a crucifix if it has the body on it; otherwise, it's just a cross.) Many of these go so far as to include many wounds and signs of torture, and bleeding, etc. Why do Catholics do this? Don't we know that Christ is raised from the dead, to die no more?

Of course we do. However, lest we forget HOW it was that Jesus atoned for our sins, we keep his cross ever in our sight. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said: "Keep your eyes on the crucifix, for Jesus without the cross is a man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a reliever." We also call to mind the words of St. Paul: "WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23). Now, just because we have crucifixes does not mean we neglect the Resurrection! In any given church, there's really only supposed to be one crucifix; other images and icons of Jesus show him in his glorified body after the Resurrection (whether on earth or in heaven), or before his death, even as a child or infant. This is simply to remind us of the WHOLE of Jesus's life, not just one part of it.

Finally, on the topic of the crucifix, might I remind you of the vision that St. John had, of "a Lamb standing, AS THOUGH IT HAD BEEN SLAIN" (Rev. 5:6).

SECOND: Saints, and prayers to them. [For a fuller defense of this Catholic belief, see this post.] Now, I don't know what you think about saints in general, but I know a Baptist church nearby that's named "St. Mary", so clearly THEY think Mary is a saint too. Praying to a saint is not worshiping him; the verb "to pray" means "to ask, to entreat". When we pray to a saint, we are really asking him to pray for us to the Father; sometimes, we ask that God would grant us a favor or miracle through that saint's intercession, which means we merely want the saint to pray for our intention. Asking a saint to pray for us is no different in substance from asking a fellow Christian to pray for us; we are told to intercede for one another (1 Tim. 2:1).

Why do we pray to saints? Well, they may be dead to those on earth, but death has not separated them from Christ! On the contrary, I am sure that death will not "be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39), and that to "be away from the body" is to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). We are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1). I know that "the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects" (James 5:16). St. John mentions the "prayers of the saints" THREE times in the book of Revelation (5:8 and 8:3-4) as being like incense rising before the altar of God in heaven.

Therefore I am confident that those Christians who the Church has recognized as saints can hear us, and that they present these prayers to our Father in heaven!

THIRD: The "wafer", the Eucharist. I think I'll leave this one for later since it is really the BIGGEST issue, and I'd rather get these "peripheral" issues out of the way first. Trust me, though, when I say that the Church's teaching on the Eucharist being the ACTUAL BODY, BLOOD, SOUL, AND DIVINITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST is scriptural and supported by historical accounts of the early Church over and over again.

FOURTH: Prayers FOR the dead in Purgatory. Purgatory, though not named in the Bible (which puts it in company with "the Baptist church" and "the trinity") is nevertheless supported by Scripture. I will refrain from quoting from those books of Scripture that you do not accept (and would mistakenly claim that the Church added to the Bible after the Reformation, at the Council of Trent). We know that, as sinners, we are not perfect, right? This means we're unclean; if we were perfect, we would be clean, we would be holy as God is holy. But we are unclean. Now, St. John tells us that "nothing unclean shall enter it", referring to the New Jerusalem (in Rev. 21). Well, if we're unclean NOW, but we end up in heaven LATER, when do we stop being unclean? The Bible clearly tells us that WE will be judged (and not Jesus in our place). So then, at some point in our existence (life and death), we must be made completely clean; do you admit this?

The Catholic Church calls this "cleansing" Purgatory, because all remnants of sin are finally and utterly purged from our souls; it is traditionally thought to be an experience similar to passing through flame. St. Paul alludes to this trial by fire, as it were, in 1 Cor. 3:10-15: "each man's work will become manifest; for THE DAY WILL DISCLOSE IT, BECAUSE IT WILL BE REVEALED WITH FIRE, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. ... If any man's work is burned up, HE WILL SUFFER LOSS, THOUGH HE HIMSELF WILL BE SAVED, but only as through fire." The word "saved" there does not merely mean "preserved" (as in, not destroyed by the flames), but "saved" as in "saved to eternal life".

There is also the testimony of Jesus himself, when he says that "whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will NOT BE FORGIVEN, either in this age or IN THE AGE TO COME" (Matt. 12:32). We can infer that SOME sins are capable of being forgiven in the age to come, but we know that no one in Hell is forgiven, and no one in Heaven is in need of forgiveness anymore, so that leaves a "tertium quid" (a third thing): Purgatory.

FIFTH: The sacrament of "Last Rites", as you called it. This is a misnomer; it is "extreme unction" or "the anointing of the sick". "Unction" means "anointing": it is an act of prayer of anoiting with oil when a person is very ill or near death; it is also appropriate before someone undergoes surgery or the like. This sacrament is based on James 5:14-15.

SIXTH: Preoccupation with Jesus's suffering, crucifixion, and death (collectively referred to as his Passion). To this, I would respond, why was JESUS so preoccupied with it? Why did he prophesy about his Passion several times to his disciples (who were clueless about it)? Why did the writers of the Gospel mention his humiliation and suffering (sweating drops of blood, being blindfolded and beaten, spat upon, scourged, whipped, and finally crucified... no, crucified and then run through with a spear)? Since that's all in the past, should we just remove it from the Bible so it doesn't occupy our minds anymore?

Seriously, though, Catholics are concerned with suffering because the Bible tells us that suffering is going to be a part of our lives (whether or not we believe in God). St. Paul is pleased to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col 1:24). The epistles are full of references to suffering; here's a list of occurrences which I URGE you to check out and read (in context, of course) on your own: Rom. 5:3, 8:17-18; 1 Cor. 6:7, 12:26; 2 Cor. 1:5-7; Eph. 3:13; Phil. 1:29, 3:8-10; Col. 1:24; 1 Thess. 3:4; 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:8-12, 2:3, 4:5; Heb. 2:9-10,18, 5:8, 10:32, 11:26; James 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:6, 2:19-23, 3:14-17, 4:1,13-19, 5:9-10. WHEW.

I'd point out too that Hebrews goes so far as to say that God made "the pioneer of their salvation [Jesus Christ] perfect THROUGH SUFFERING" (Heb. 2:10) and again: "Although he was a Son, HE LEARNED OBEDIENCE THROUGH WHAT HE SUFFERED; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Heb. 5:8-9). THAT is why Catholics remember the Passion of Christ so vividly.

SEVENTH: You say "We are NOT saved by being baptized." I disagree. The clearest contrary position in Scripture is 1 Pet. 3:21: "BAPTISM, which corresponds to this" -- by which means Noah and his family being saved from corruption through waters of the flood -- "NOW SAVES YOU, not as a removal of dirt from the body but AS AN APPEAL TO GOD FOR A CLEAR CONSCIENCE, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ". St. Paul says that "you were BURIED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM, in which you were ALSO RAISED WITH HIM THROUGH FAITH in the working of God" (Col. 2:12). And again, "as many of you as were BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST HAVE PUT ON CHRIST" (Gal. 3:27). And again, "For by one Spirit we were all BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY" (1 Cor. 12:13), and that "body" he refers to is, of course, the Body of Christ which is the Church. And again, he writes that we "were buried therefore with him by BAPTISM into death, SO THAT as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, WE TOO MIGHT WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE" (Rom. 6:4)... he said it, not me: we are baptized into Christ so that we might walk in newness of life.

Now, through the book of Acts, people are being exhorted to baptism. Peter told the crowd on Pentecost to "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS" (Acts 2:38), which makes the forgiveness of sins DEPENDENT on repenting and being baptized. You don't mean to say that we are saved without repenting and being forgiven, do you? And the Lord sent Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch for TWO purposes: to open the Scripture to the man (teaching him the Good News) AND TO BAPTIZE HIM (Acts 8:35-39). No sooner was the man baptized did the Lord take Philip away again. Why was baptism so important!? And once more, near the end of the book, is recorded this message: "Rise and BE BAPTIZED, AND WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16), which directly links the "washing away" of sins with the waters of baptism.

Finally, it should come as no surprise to you that the Catholic Church teaches that John 3:3-6 which speaks of being "born of water and the Spirit" means baptism. And "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). That is how the Church has interpreted that verse throughout history, which is why there was incredible emphasis on baptism in the book of Acts and throughout the rest of the history of the Church.

The Nicene creed (which I suppose Baptists don't consider themselves bound to) professes a belief in "ONE BAPTISM FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS".

EIGHTH: You said "We are NOT saved by eatting a wafer and drinking wine." But Jesus said that there is "food which endures to eternal life" (John 6:27), and calls himself that "bread of life" (John 6:35). He said: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. ... Truly, truly, I say to you, UNLESS YOU EAT THE FLESH OF THE SON OF MAN AND DRINK HIS BLOOD, YOU HAVE NO LIFE in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood HAS ETERNAL LIFE, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is FOOD INDEED, and my blood is DRINK INDEED. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood ABIDES IN ME, and I in him. ... he who eats me WILL LIVE BECAUSE OF ME" (John 6:51-57).

As I said, I'm not going to defend the Church's teaching on the Eucharist in this reply (I'll do that later) but I want to make it clear that Jesus himself said that eating his flesh and drinking his blood gives us eternal life, and NOT doing so means we have NO life within us. Now, the standard Protestant response is John 6:63, "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." But this verse is twisted by people to make Jesus out to be a liar in the preceding verses! First, notice that when Jesus taught this the first time, the people didn't understand him and grumbled. Then he explained himself again, USING EVEN STRONGER LANGUAGE, not changing his speech so that they would realize he was being figurative (as if "eat my flesh and drink my blood" simply meant "believe in me"). The Greek text here uses the verb which means "to gnaw on", which is not a figurative verb at all. And after Jesus taught this a THIRD TIME in the SAME EXPLICIT LANGUAGE, most of his followers LEFT HIM! Why wouldn't Jesus have called after them saying "no, no, it was a metaphor, it was just a figure of speech!"?

Let's look at what Jesus said again:

"It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail." This sounds familiar to what he said to Peter in Matt. 16, when Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ. It was not revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven, who is spirit. The flesh is of no avail, because WE cannot grasp this great mystery of faith, that what looks like bread and wine is in reality the Body and Blood of our Savior. It is a matter of faith, and the Spirit gives life to us in that regard, so that we can believe what flesh cannot.

"The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life." Jesus is saying that he has spoken the truth this whole time, not that simply his WORDS (in general) are "spirit and life", but specifically that what he has taught about his Body and Blood IS truth, it is "spirit and life".

In addition, mere bread and wine -- or mere flesh and blood, for that matter -- does not bring us everlasting life. It requires the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, by which the bread and wine are consecrated into the Body and Blood of our Lord. THEN, and ONLY THEN, is consuming the Eucharist efficacious for our souls!

Before I go on, I'd like to add that, OF COURSE baptism and the Eucharist and prayers from/to Mary, works, etc. won't save us, if there is no faith with them. However, faith without works is dead, and he who has faith in Jesus Christ will obey his commandments. So on to number nine.

NINTH: You said, "We are NOT saved through the prayers of Mary." I'd say we're not saved BY the prayers of Mary, but we can certainly be saved through them, just like someone else can be saved through your prayers. Those prayers can result in that person receiving the grace they need to repent, or to accept Christ for the first time, or to persevere in the face of hardship. I mean, if we can't be saved through (not BY, but THROUGH) the prayers of others, then why on earth did God tell Abimelech that Abraham would pray for him and he would live? (Gen. 20:7) Why did the people ask Samuel to pray for them that they may not die? (1 Sam. 12:19) Why did Rehoboam ask the prophetto pray for his hand to be healed? (1 Kings 13:6) Why did God tell the friends of Job that they would not be treated harshly because of Job's prayer for them? (Job 42:1) Remember too that Job offered sacrifices and prayers for his children, lest they had happened to offend the Lord during the course of the day. (Job 1:5) King Zedekiah asked Jeremiah to "pray for us to the Lord our God" (Jer. 37:3).

We see this in the New Testament also: Jesus tells us to "pray for those who persecute [us]" (Matt. 5:44)... if that prayer leads to them being saved, can we not say that they were saved THROUGH our prayer? St. Paul urges "that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men" (1 Tim. 2:1); that makes us co-mediators and co-intercessors (co- meaning "with", not "equal") with Jesus, the "one mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. 2:5).

TENTH: You say, "We are not saved nor kept by good works." Of course we are not saved by works: "for by grace you have been saved, through faith" (Eph. 2:8). I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "kept"... do you mean that, once "saved", we must do good works to REMAIN saved? I would argue that we do, because that is God's plan for each of our lives, as St. Paul writes: "For we are his workmanship, CREATED in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand, THAT WE SHOULD WALK IN THEM." (Eph. 2:10) Far be it from me to say that I can be saved without submitting to the will of Almighty God!

But I do know that we will be judged for our deeds: "For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life" (Rom. 2:6-7) But you were talking about being "saved … by good works". The Catholic Church does not teach that.

ELEVENTH: You say that Jesus "keeps us for eternity". Does that mean that once we are saved, we are always saved? If that is the case, why does Scripture exhort us to remain steadfast, to endure, to persevere? Why are endurance and perseverance necessary if, at the MOMENT we are "saved", we are saved for eternity? Isn't enduring a "work"? Isn't persevering a "work"? (Maybe you will come to realize that all "works" are not "works of the law", and that "good deeds" and "works of the law" are two separate categories!)

If we are kept for eternity from the moment of our salvation, please tell me when St. Paul was saved. He was worried for his own salvation: "I pommel my body and subdue it, LEST AFTER PREACHING TO OTHERS I MYSELF SHOULD BE DISQUALIFIED." (1 Cor. 9:27) Tell me, how could a man like St. Paul, who received a revelation from Christ in a most extraordinary way and proceeded to go about the land preaching the Gospel… how could HE be disqualified?

And in the book of Revelation we get further evidence that "saved" Christians can lose their salvation. Jesus tells Christians in Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea to "repent" (Rev. 2:5,16,22, 3:3,19)… why would a Christian need to repent again if they're already saved? Jesus's language to these churches was one of conditional salvation: "Remember then FROM WHAT YOU HAVE FALLEN, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and REMOVE YOUR LAMPSTAND from its place, UNLESS YOU REPENT." (Rev. 2:5) Added to this is the fact that Jesus promises not to "BLOUT [a] name OUT of the book of life" (Rev. 3:5) which means that those whose names are in the book can be in danger of having their names blotted out from it!

TWELFTH: You say, "Only by receiving the IMPUTED righteousness of Christ can we be saved." The Catholic Church uses the term "infused" rather than "imputed". It is not that we are filthy beings who are merely covered with something pure; rather, we are MADE pure by being INFUSED with the righteousness of Christ. The righteousness of Christ is not a "token" we carry around with us as a "get out of sin free" card; rather, it is a very mark on our character that binds us to Christ.

Consider the parable Jesus told of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:1-12). Notice how one of the men who came to the feast was not dressed properly, and was thrown out. (Matt. 22:11-13) Responding to the invitation to the kingdom is not enough: we must be "dressed" properly. That means we must co-operate with (respond positively to) the graces which God bestows on us.

Although we are never worthy to receive this gift of righteousness (it is through grace, not works) the Lord does expect us to grow into it, to BECOME worthy after the fact. Three times in his letters, Paul prays for the people of a Church "to lead a life worthy of the Lord". For Scriptural support of this claim, see: Matt. 10:37-38, 25:30 (if the UNWORTHY servant is thrown out, that means the OTHER two were worthy); Luke 20:35; 1 Cor. 4:2, 1 Cor. 11:27; Eph. 4:11; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:5,11; Rev. 3:4.


I agree with you when you say "It isn't in the saying of words, it is the faith of the heart." Sometimes, with Baptists, it doesn't seem that way, though, since they provide this quaint little formula (just say this Sinner's Prayer – not found in the Bible anywhere – and accept the Lord Jesus into your heart). But I agree, the Lord knows our hearts, and he knows if what we are doing is done with faith or not. See, that is why the Bible says in Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 that "EVERY ONE who calls upon the name of the Lord WILL BE SAVED" and yet Jesus himself says "NOT EVERY ONE who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' SHALL ENTER the kingdom of heaven, BUT HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21) Thus, to "be saved" and to "enter the kingdom of heaven" are not the same, since you can lose your salvation, but you cannot leave the kingdom of heaven once you are in it (after you have died). And because Jesus knows if we are calling on his name in faith or not.

That about wraps it up for your main post, except for the Eucharist which, I think to save my fingers, I will only get into if you genuinely want to hear the Catholic defense of this great mystery of faith. I don't want to waste my time or yours talking about the Eucharist if you don't want to give the Catholic Church a chance to prove itself to you. I might end up responding to a couple of statements you made in your replies to Pamela, though.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ecumenism: Real Catholic ecumenism in action!

The following is a dialog from a Catholic forum between me and a member of the "Church of Christ". His comments will be in green, mine in blue.

I think I know enough about Catholicism to maintain my reasonable position that they are wrong in many areas. I wouldn't call it a poor view; I'd call it a realistic view. You would not likely ever convince me, for instance, that "Veneration" of icons is OK, or that it's OK to ask a "Saint" to "intercede" for me. These, and many other Catholic doctrines are directly contradicted by plainly worded passages of scripture. No amount of appealing to church authority, which is all you could do, would convince me that these things are God's will. [Emphasis mine]

Can you explain what you find unbiblical about the intercession of saints? I'd really like to know.

Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

I have direct access to the Father through Jesus Christ. Why would I pray to a saint? To me, it smacks of pagan polytheism. You're going to war? Pray to Mars. Going sailing? Pray to Neptune.

Then why does Paul ask for others to pray and make intercessions, just a couple verses before that? 1 Tim 2:1-2 read "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way." If we can intercede for one another, that makes us co-mediators with Christ (even though our intercessions are ultimately directed through Christ to the Father). "Co-" here does not mean "equal", but "with", as in "communion": "co-union", union with.

It is in fact this co-mediation, this intercession, that is the primary ministry of the baptismal priesthood! Once we are baptized into the Body of Christ, we have that access to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit, and we can offer our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, as well as our prayers and petitions.

Have you never asked anyone else (I mean living here on earth) to pray for you? If you have, why did you do it? You have direct access to the Father through Jesus Christ, you don't need some sinner praying for you, do you?

So, if you have asked another person to pray for you, please explain why you did so. If you have not, well then, I don't have much else to say on the matter, since you and Jesus have this thing pretty well wrapped up.

All good points. I can't really argue against much of that. I was hesitant to actually use that first scripture, because there is a difference between mediating the covenant and interceding with prayer, so I was stretching a bit there.

Ok, so we can move on to the question of how asking a Christian on earth to pray for us is different from asking a Christian in heaven to pray for us.

I cannot point to a Biblical difference. Other than the fact that necromancy is considered pretty bad in the Old Testament. Except, that was using magic and divination to communicate with the dead, not prayer, so I guess even that objection doesn't hold much water.

Now, we must first ask, is there currently anyone in heaven? Surely there has to be the judgment first! But the Catholic understanding is that, at death, the soul goes where it shall remain for eternity (except for that moment when it is reunited with the resurrected body). Thus (purgatory aside) after death, and before the resurrection, there are souls in Heaven and souls in Hell.

I'm with you here.

Furthermore, if we are united to the Body of Christ (in baptism), and death cannot separate us from the love of God (cf. Rom. 8:35-39), then our membership in his Body does not diminish or cease when we die (so long as we die in his Body).

The Apostle tells us in 2 Cor. 5:8 that he "would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord". And again in Phil. 1:23, he writes that his "desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." Now, generally speaking, this would imply that after death, although we are poetically "asleep", we -- that is, our souls -- are present with the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven (hopefully!). This is attested to by 1 Thess. 4:14, where Paul writes that, when Jesus returns (from heaven to earth), he will bring with him (from where else but heaven?) those who have fallen asleep!

The only problem I have here is with the rest of that passage. Paul said it was more beneficial to them for him to remain. Don't you think that if he had "better" access to Jesus from heaven that he would have said something different?

I think it is safe to say that Paul's physical presence was more important to the Church (and the individual churches) at that time than his spiritual intercession. For Paul, being home with the Lord was best, but for the Church at that time, being alive and ministering to them physically was best.

Continuing the train of thought now... This is supported by Hebrews 11-12 as well as the book of Revelation. In Hebrews 12:1, we are told that we are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses". Now, it is true that "witness" (the Greek word μαρτύρων also means "martyr"!) here is understood as referring to their individual "witness" to the faithfulness of the Lord, but at the same -- given the example of a race and a prize, thus calling to mind the image of a stadium with spectators watching athletes compete -- it is referring to their present witness (that is, "spectating") of us. John describes seeing the prayers of the saints rising like incense before the altar in heaven (cf. Rev. 5:8, 8:3-4) and he reports hearing the souls of martyrs cry out from beneath the altar (cf. Rev. 6:9-11).

I see what you're saying, but find it questionable whether this actually supports intercession on the part of dead saints.

All this together -- only dealing with Scripture -- leads to the conclusion that there are souls in heaven who are not oblivious to what goes on here on earth... not because they are demigods (like the pagan pantheons) or by any power of their own, but simply by the grace and will of God.

Ok, that's a good point. That was actually one of my objections: that souls in heaven are not omnipresent or aware of what goes on on earth.

Now, there is a customary rebuttal to this conclusion from Scripture, in Ecclesiastes 9:5: "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost." But that cannot possibly be taken literally, because it would contradict so much other Scripture: Samuel's spirit conversing with Saul, the presence of Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration of Jesus, and the parable Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus. If taken literally, it denies that there is any reward after death (which we know is entirely untrue). It also denies that there is any memory of them. This verse cannot be taken at its literal face value, out of its context.

I agree with you here. The dead in Christ are aware, as far as I can tell from the scriptures.

The final stumbling block is the misunderstanding of the verb "to pray". When a non-Catholic hears that Catholics pray to Mary (or saints, or angels, etc.) they immediately assume two things a) they are not praying (or even acknowledging) Jesus Christ, and b) they are worshiping the saint or angel. Neither of these things is true.

First, the verb "to pray" means "to ask, beseech, entreat". To pray [to] anyone means to ask something of them; it has nothing to do with worship. Catholics worship God alone!

I'll agree with you that prayer, or asking for prayer rather, does not equal worship.

Second, every Catholic knows to begin and end his prayers "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". We know that we only have access to God -- and to those who are close to Him in Heaven -- through His only-begotten Son, our Lord. And so to pray to a saint is never to ask them anything and attempt to circumvent Jesus (or any Person of the Holy Trinity), but to ask them to assist us in our prayers by praying for us as well. Nothing a saint in heaven does is by his own power, only by the grace of God.

"The prayer of the righteous man is powerful and effective." Saints = righteous. Got it.

So, that's a Scriptural argument in support of the Catholic practice of praying to those whom the Church has acknowledged, through revelation from God, as saints. It's part of what the Church means when it professes belief in "the communion of saints".

Fairly convincing argument.

I guess my point is that you needn't feel beholden to pray to saints and ask for their intercession, but in avoiding communion with them, you're avoiding the perfected members of the Body of Christ. I know Catholics who don't regularly (if at all) pray to the Saints (apart from saying the Confiteor during Mass), even though Eucharistic Prayer III affirms that "we rely for help" on the "constant intercession" of the saints. This doesn't make them bad Catholics -- perhaps ignorant, but not malicious -- it just means they're missing out on part of the benefits of belonging to the Body of Christ.

Ok, I'll officially remove "Intercession of the Saints" from my list of gripes against the Catholic church.

Not to make an example of this or you, but what just happened here -- this questioning of a Catholic belief or practice, followed by the civil discussion and defense of it, and your resulting change of mind concerning the practice -- is what the Catholic Church means to do when it speaks of ecumenism. Not to sound arrogant, but the Catholic Church is quite convinced that what it believes about the Mary, sin, Holy Communion, the intercession of saints, and the Pope (to name a few) is actually God's revealed truth to His Church, and the ecumenical movement is about proposing and explaining the Catholic faith in a way that -- without diminishing it, denying it, or ignoring it -- is acceptable to non-Catholic Christians.

I'm glad you have reconsidered the validity of the intercession of saints. I'm not going to press you any further now, but I do encourage you to reappraise your other "gripes against the Catholic Church". Have a good day, and may God bless you with His many graces.

Well, that's part of the reason I'm here. I am interested in the Truth, whatever it may be.