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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

Fides et Ratio

In 15 Audio on 2015/06/26 at 12:00 AM

http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=6138&pgnu=1

1.Part One
Host – Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, Dr. William Marshner, and Fr. George Rutler 
fides_1.mp3

2.Part Two
Host – Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, Dr. John Cuddeback, and Fr. George Rutler 
fides_2.mp3

 

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Realities

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/10/24 at 12:00 AM

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A 19 October 2014

  • One of the saints who will adorn our new mural is St. Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Edith Stein was a Jewish convert to Catholicism who became a Carmelite nun and was eventually martyred in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1942.
  • But unlike her fellow Jews, St. Edith Stein went very willingly and knowingly to her death.
  • Edith’s keen intellect, coupled with a deep and intense personal prayer life, led her to the

    understanding of what was to befall the Jewish people long before anyone else in Germany

    had a clue as to just how evil the Nazis were.

  • And so in imitation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Edith Stein offered up her life to

    our Lord as a personal holocaust for the sake of the Jewish people, for averting the Second

    World War, and for the sanctification of her Carmelite family.

  • In doing this, Edith prayed that God would receive her life as an act of atonement for the

    terrible atrocities being committed against God’s chosen people, with the hope of converting

    atheists and the Nazis. This is why Edith Stein is a saint.

  • Edith Stein did not wish to be a Christian in name only. She wanted to be totally conformed

    to our Lord by bearing the cross she saw being laid upon the Jewish people. Edith wanted to

    share fully in our Lord’s suffering and death in a supreme act of love.

  • On August 2, 1942, she and her sister, Rosa, were taken by Nazis from the Carmel in Echt,

    Holland, and a week later they were gassed to death in the Birkenau section of Auschwitz.

  • Eyewitnesses who saw Edith during her last week of life all attest that she remained faithful,

    courageous, and impeccably charitable to all up to her last moments.

  • In a very dark and confusing time, St. Edith Stein shone like a bright ray of light. Quite

    selflessly, she offered her life for the sake of others. And as such, St. Edith Stein is a

    remarkable example of Christian heroism and charity in the face of astounding evil.

  • In some ways I wonder if we might be entering into another one of those very dark and

    confusing periods in human history when evil seems to have the upper hand in the world.

  • As we consider the terrible threat posed by ISIS, the fear of a worldwide outbreak of Ebola,

    and the ever-increasing moral confusion surrounding marriage and human sexuality that has

    ambushed our state, our country, and our culture, there is much to worry about.

  • I know, as well, that many of you have been following the confusing media reports coming

    from the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on issues related to

    marriage and evangelization that concluded yesterday.

  • There’s been much media speculation coming from the Synod that perhaps the Church is

    going to permit Catholics who are divorced and remarried without an annulment, as well as

    same-sex couples and those who cohabitate before marriage, to receive Holy Communion.

  • But let me state clearly and emphatically that, despite what you may have heard from the

    media this week, there has been no change in Church teaching on these issues.

  • Our doctrine is based upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, expressed in both Sacred Scripture

    and Tradition. While the Church may come to new and deeper insights about a particular

    teaching, the essence of a doctrinal teaching cannot change because truth does not change.

  • While the Church can change certain disciplines, we must also remember that Church

    disciplines are rooted in our doctrine. Therefore, a practice or discipline of the Church cannot be at odds with the Church’s doctrine. And any effort by a Church leader to knowingly distort, weaken, or change the Church’s doctrine is evil.

  • At the same time we must realize that there are a growing number of people in the Church who live in morally compromised arrangements. In other words, they are engaging in conjugal acts with someone who is not or cannot be their spouse in a sacramental marriage.
  • Setting aside appearances of judgmentalism and condemnation, the Church’s challenge is to really look at the way we engage with these folks so that we can call them to conversion and better help them conform their lives to Christ and His commandments.
  • The fact is that people will have a better chance of knowing God and finding salvation if they have a relationship with His Church, even if they cannot fully participate in the sacramental life of the Church.
  • So our challenge is to welcome these people into the Church without condoning their sin or compromising our teachings. Following the example of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, we must be forthcoming with mercy while also exhorting people to sin no more.
  • The Church is a hospital for the spiritually sick. But to enter into this hospital, we must desire healing! It’s by being obedient and docile to the Church’s teachings that we find healing for our spiritual ills.
  • Sadly, not all who are invited to the Church will come. While open to all, those who enter the Church must be willing to convert and be docile to Her teachings, rather than arrogantly believing that they know better than Her and trying to force Her to change Her teachings.
  • Those who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge and adhere to the truth, and who try to force the Church to conform to this world with its mixed up morality, have no place in the Church.
  • If you are living in an irregular relationship right now by cohabitating before marriage, by being involved in a same-sex relationship, or by being divorced and remarried without an annulment, I want to say publicly that I’m glad that you’re here.
  • God loves you, the Church loves you, and I love you. Moreover, I am willing to do whatever is necessary to help you get to a place where you can fully take part in the sacramental life of the Church and live a Christian life with full integrity. But there must be some humility.
  • If you do not understand why the Church teaches as She does, come speak with me. My door is open to you – and so is my heart.
  • And I ask everyone else in this parish to be of like mind. While we cannot and must not respect sin, we can and must respect all people, and we must lovingly help others to hear the Gospel and live it in its fullness.
  • At her canonization Mass in 1998, St. John Paul II repeated Edith Stein’s famous quote: “Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth!”, to which he added: “One without the other becomes a destructive lie.”
  • As we do our best to proclaim the truth to our fallen world, let us be sure to do it with love.
  • As we consider the darkness in our world today, we must be – like Edith Stein – heroic rays

    of light that shine forth with the truth, goodness, and beauty of our Catholic faith.

  • Moreover, in this time of desperate confusion in our world and in our Church, let us place our hopes and trust in God Himself. Let us not forget that He is omnipotent and, as Isaiah

    says, He grasps us by the hand.

  • Trusting in Him, let us hold fast to the constant and unchanging teachings of His Church,

    confident that our obedience to those teachings will bring us to salvation.

  • Lastly, may we be willing to live lives of true charity by offering sacrifices and penances to

    God on behalf of those who attack and persecute this Church we love so much.

• May each of us cultivate within our hearts a true desire to suffer and lay down our lives for the Church so that all men may be saved. St. Edith Stein, pray for us.

 

© Reverend Timothy Reid, 10/19/2014

Renewal: How the New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops Is Revitalizing the Catholic Church

In 04 Fr. John McCloskey on 2014/07/04 at 12:00 AM

 

Anne Hendershott and Christopher White’s new book, “Renewal: How the New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops Is Revitalizing the Catholic Church,” delivers much more than even its title promises.

It may in fact deliver too much, in that excessive space is devoted to acquainting or reacquainting the reader with the names and stories of a multitude of bishops, priests, religious and academics — stories that include accounts of failings that I do not doubt are true but are not necessary.

Much more to the point is the book’s quotation from St. John Paul II on “the problem of democratization and the blurring of the distinction between the ordained and the non-ordained” from way back in 1987, when he was speaking on American soil: Discussing “… the danger of confusing the role of the clergy with that of the laity, the pope spoke supportively of the lay participation in parish life but warned [that by] ’empowering the laity in ministry, we run the risk of clericalizing the laity and laicizing the clergy.'”

Here, I think the authors “get it,” by using the pope’s words to convey that clericalism, whether exhibited by bishops, priests or laity, “must be changed so that the New Evangelization can be actualized, so the promise of the Council and the extraordinary run of holy and learned popes’ wishes are finally fulfilled.”

As for that good news, as the authors do a nice job of documenting, vocations of priests and faithful religious are booming, and their average age is lowering.

In addition, we should remember the crucial importance of the laity to the vocation crisis: The good example of faithful Catholic families is the most effective way to ensure a growing number of such vocations to the priesthood and religious life, not to mention raising up a new generation of laypeople living faithfully in the middle of the modern world.

The Mystical Body of Christ and the Church

In 07 Observations on 2014/05/02 at 12:00 AM

Aida Tamayo’s notes on Fr. Barron’s series

The Mystical body of Christ and the Church.  What do you think is the primary reason for the Church existence?  Is it to feed the poor? Is it to provide social programs?   To educate the masses?  To tend to the sick?  NO, none of those is the primary function of the Church.  Don’t get me wrong, the Church is the oldest functioning institution in the history of the Western World and has been a major source of social services from the beginning providing education and medical care; inspiration for Western art, culture and philosophy; and influential player in politics and religion and we in the Church are called to service. But that is not the primary reason for its existence.  The Primary Reason of the Church is to make us saints so we can spend eternity with God.  Through the Church, God gathers the people to Himself. Everything else flows from it but is not its reason for existing.

The Church is not a human institution, but a sacrament of Jesus, so it shares in the very being, life and energy of Christ.  This may shock many Mass goers.  Our celebration of Mass is not just what we perceive with our senses.  Each Mass joins the liturgy which the angels and the saints continually celebrate in heaven.  In His presence, the communion of saints and the angels unceasingly praise and adore God and those destined for heaven will be expressing this love in the heavenly liturgy, a sort of joyful perpetual adoration in His presence. The Mass allows us to join in this adoration because the earthly Mass has the power to plug us into that heavenly liturgy and all of heaven (angels, the Communion of Saints, Mary the Mother of God and of course, the Holy Trinity) is present at our Mass. Think of Jesus words.  Remain in me, live in me, eat my body and drink my blood. What did He say to Paul on the road to Damascus… Saul why are you persecuting me?  He didn’t say my followers or my Church.  He meant His mystical body.

We are joined to Christ across the ages in some mystical way, the Church is meant to gather all of creation around Christ. The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus, and when we receive Him, we become more integrated into His mystical body, giving us a heightened sense of justice. By filling ourselves with the life of Christ and doing His Will, we will become saints and an active part of the Mystical Body.  All the baptized are connected to each other like cells in a body, so if someone is persecuted that affects all of us, it is our problem.  It is a tragedy that most people don’t realize this truth.

EKKLESIA – God established the Church in response to men’s sin. The Church mission is to restore us to that friendship with God.  Sin results in disillusion and division, totally opposed to God and the ever-loving God response to sin was a gathering of the people. He starts by calling Abraham and the people of Israel and he formed them to be a people distinct, unique, peculiarly His own.  He gave them laws, rituals, covenants, liturgies, a form of life meant to be pleasing to God. Not for the glorification of Israel but so that Israel could be the magnet by which the whole world would be gathered eventually unto God.  Jesus was the culmination of Israel and the supreme and divine magnet.  This gathering of people is what we call the Church. He told Peter, you are the Rock upon which I will build my ekklesia (Greek for church).

The 4 basic Marks: One Holy Catholic Apostolic

In the Catechism paragraph 811, it says that the Church of Christ is professed in the Creed: “…… to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes His Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is He who calls her to realize each of these qualities.

THE CHURCH IS ONE – because God is one.  I believe in one God.  By this we are called to reject all other “deities”  (political leaders, cultural idols, ideologies, etc.) …there is only one God.  The Church is the vehicle by which the one God draws all people to unity with Himself.  Jesus, the Word and mind of God is all that is true and beautiful and He draws all things to Himself over time.  The Pantheon in Rome provides an example of this process.  It is the most beautiful space created by paganism and is now the Catholic Church of Mary of the Martyrs.  The Church holds on to its truth but is able to transform and assimilative that which is good, true and beautiful into its own unity, its unchangeable truth.  That was Jesus prayer to God the Father, that we may all become one [in Truth] as He and His Father are One.

THE CHURCH IS HOLY – Because God is Holy and the Church is His mystical body. The Church’s primary purpose is to make saints, to make people holy.  Everything about it is meant for that end. One hears always about the inquisition, persecution of Galileo, the crusades, corruption, too much money, and recently abuse of children by some priests.  Given this why do we call the Church Holy?  That the Church is holy doesn’t deny the sinfulness of its members.  Sadly, our fallen nature affects us.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:   844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:   Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasoning, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. 845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church.

The Church itself is holy and a bearer of grace.  Its grace in the sacraments comes not from the moral excellence of the ministers, but from God.  The grace of God is that which makes the Church holy.

THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC – Catholic comes from the Greek word kata holos meaning according to the whole: Universal.  The Church is universal because it is the means by which God wants to gather the whole world to itself. The Church is the new Israel and a magnet to all the nations.  One of the greatest gathering places in the world is St. Peter’s square.  It can hold up to 300,000 people.  And Bernini’s columns are meant to look like arms reaching out to gather in the whole world.  The Word got out to all nations and all nations come here, which is a realization of what was said 2000 years ago.

CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC – because it is rooted on the apostles; The 12 men chosen by Jesus.  They stayed with Jesus, were formed and shaped by His Mind, the mind of God.  The main altar of the great basilica of St. John Lateran, holds the reliquaries with the head of the great apostles Peter and Paul.  The form and structure of the Church itself are depiction of the 12 Apostles.  Bishops today can legitimately claim that they are successors of the Apostles.  The leadership of the Church today is Apostolic in structure.  Hierarchy comes from two Greek words; hieros(priest)  and arche (rule or principle). It is not a power play, it is a church grounded in this Apostolic faith.  Apostles meant to send and so the Church has that great missionary purpose. The Church is not a democratic polity or a philosophical debating society but a body grounded in revelation.  Its integrity rests in its founder and the on-going guidance by the Holy Spirit.  This same Spirit protects the Church from error in matters of faith and morals through the infallibility of the Pope, the successor of the Apostle Peter.  Infallibly does not mean the Pope interferes with the life of the Church it means that he is the living voice of authority to protect the Truth of God which guides its life.  The keys given to Peter as the first Pope are meant to unlock the secret to life, the secret to the great mystery of all things.   If the keys were flexible, it would lose its whole reason for being.  The keys handed to Peter will take us to the truth of God so we can be gathered in Him.

A Light to the Nations; The Meaning and Future of the Catholic Church – Part III

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2013/11/22 at 1:03 AM
What does all this mean for those of us who serve as bishops in the early years of a new millennium?
I believe that being a good bishop requires, first, that we become simple again — and by that I mean gospel simple. Jesus loved simplicity because it allowed Him to immerse Himself in the essential things of His Father’s business. I often wonder whether bishops in the developed world are in danger of losing that Christ-like focus. The United States has become a culture of noise, confusion, and complication. Americans are a distracted people, and American Catholics are now also a distracted Church. We bishops have plans and committees and projects and staffs. All these things are important in their proper place. But at the end of the day, are we apostles, or are we executives? And what do our people really need: managers or pastors?
In effect, the structures of today’s diocesan life sometimes work to block the very thing they were meant to help: a bishop’s direct contact with his people. Obviously, good stewardship requires skilled management of our resources. But it is easy today for a bishop to delegate his missionary zeal to others, to become a captive of his own administrative machinery. This runs exactly counter to the example of Jesus and the first apostles.
In fact, many of the key problems bishops face as shepherds are not programmatic or resource-driven. They are problems of faith. Too often, those of us in the Church — and sometimes even those of us who are bishops — simply do not believe deeply and zealously enough.
The hunger for God persists in every human heart, even when it’s buried under a mountain of consumer goods. Too often, we’re not feeding that hunger as effectively as fundamentalists and other evangelical Christians. And the thousands of Catholics who leave the Church every year for rigorous sects of every sort testify to that.
Forty years after the council, the Church throughout the industrialized world urgently needs to recover her original spiritual fire. We need to lead people back to the fullness of Jesus Christ, which can only be found in sacramental community — especially in the Eucharist. But if we really want the conversion of the world, we who are bishops need to seek that same conversion first within and among ourselves.
I began this reflection with the Council of Nicaea. While all true ecumenical councils are important, some seemed to have failed in achieving their goals. The Council of Florence had disappointing results in the 15th century because the Western Church was badly divided, and the Greek Church rejected a reunion. Participants at the Fifth Lateran Council in the early 16th century focused haplessly on the wrong issues. They did too little, too late, to address the conditions that would lead to the Protestant Reformation.
In the years ahead, as we consider the goals that Vatican II set for itself, we must ask: Will history judge the council a success or a failure? It’s a vital question. In opening the event, Blessed John XXIII claimed that “the council now beginning rises in the Church like daybreak, a forerunner of most splendid light.” Pope John Paul II, who attended as a bishop, spoke many times about its vital role in a rebirth of Christian faith in the new millennium.
So far the results are mixed. One in every three children born in “Christian Europe” today is Muslim. Except for Islam, religious belief and practice are declining across the continent. So are fertility rates. Pope Benedict XVI told a gathering of Italian priests recently that the “so-called traditional Churches look like they’re dying.” In fact, in Europe’s wealth and selfishness and refusal to have children, an entire civilization ischoosing to die.
In September 2005, Pope Benedict told a group of new bishops to pray for “a humble trust in God and for the apostolic courage born of faith.” In 2002, then-Cardinal Ratzinger warned that “a bishop must do as Christ did: precede his flock, being the first to do what he calls others to do and, first of all, being the one who stands against the wolves who come to steal the sheep.”
Whether history judges Vatican II a success or failure will finally depend on us — bishops, clergy, religious, and laypeople alike — and how zealously we respond to God in living our Faith; how deeply we believe; and how much apostolic courage we show to an unbelieving world that urgently needs Jesus Christ.
We’ve been here before. By human standards, the Council of Nicaea could easily have failed. That council, and all the long history that followed it, may have turned out very differently. It didn’t, largely because of God’s actions through one man — a young deacon and scholar at Nicaea named Athanasius of Alexandria.
Athanasius fought for the true Catholic Faith at Nicaea and all the rest of his life. Arian bishops excommunicated him. Emperors resented him. His enemies falsely accused him of cruelty, sorcery — even murder. As a bishop, he was exiled five times. And in the face of it all, he became the single most articulate voice defending the orthodox Catholic Faith, which is why even today we remember him as Athanasius contra mundum: Athanasius against the world.
He never gave up. He had courage. He had the truth — and the truth won. He became one of history’s best-loved bishops and greatest Doctors of the Church, and the Faith we take for granted today we owe in large measure to him.
That’s the Catholic ideal of a bishop. That’s the Catholic ideal of a believer fully alive in Jesus Christ. And if bishops and their flock choose to live that same apostolic courage once again — starting now — then John XXIII’s hopes for the council as a new dawn for Christianity will rise in the Church as a light to the nations.

This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of 
Crisis Magazine.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Philadelphia. Before his appointment to Philadelphia by Pope Benedict in 2011, he served as bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota and archbishop of Denver. He is the author of two books: Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics (2001) and Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (2008).

A Light to the Nations: The Meaning and Future of the Catholic Church – PART II

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2013/11/22 at 1:02 AM
The Second Vatican Council didn’t correct a new heresy or define a new doctrine. Nor was it merely the idea of John XXIII. Several cardinals had privately urged Pope John to call a council — including Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, who later became the council’s leading conservative, a man whom some reformers loved to criticize.
John XXIII set the goal of Vatican II in his opening remarks: “The greatest concern of the ecumenical council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.” To do that he wanted the council not to “reinvent” or “re-imagine” the Church, but to renew the methods, forms, and structures of the Church according to the needs of the modern world, always “recognizing that the substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way it is presented is another.”
In other words, the Church today has exactly the same goal as in 1956: the proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ for the conversion and salvation of the world, through the truth of the Catholic Faith. The methods and structures may differ, but the mission remains.
The genius of Vatican II was its scope. Over a three-year period, in 16 documents, it examined, purified, renewed, and reaffirmed nearly every aspect of Catholic life. In a very logical way, the council’s four major constitutions give us a catechesis on the whole Christian Faith.
For example, Catholics have always believed that lex orandi, lex credendi — in other words, we worship as we believe, and believe as we worship. So in 1963, the council issued the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy as its very first document, because our worship at the Eucharistic meal and sacrifice of the Mass is the cornerstone of our belief and of everything else that makes us distinctively Catholic.
In 1964, the council defined who and what the community of Faith is in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Christ founded the Church before anyone wrote the first word of the first Gospel. The Church came first. The Holy Spirit inspired the Evangelists to write down God’s Word fully and truthfully, but it was the community of believers that reflected on it, organized it, and interpreted it. The Church precedes the Bible, not the other way around.
In the last weeks of Vatican II, the council issued the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. The council’s work was then complete.
Too many times over the past four decades, people have claimed to be the Church or to speak as the voice of the faithful and then acted or taught in ways that seemed to oppose what the Church actually believes.
When people say, “We are the Church,” of course that’s true. We’re all the Church, because the Church is the community of the faithful. But a “community of the faithful” implies that there’s someone and something we have the duty to be faithful to. We don’t invent the Catholic Faith, nor do we own it. We receive it; we live it in community; we witness it to others; and we pass it on fully — if we’re good stewards — to our children. That’s what life in the Church means. And that’s why it’s worth reflecting on the content of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
Blessed John XXIII often described the Catholic Church as the “mother and teacher of all nations.” In opening the Second Vatican Council, he said that “the Church, surrounded by divine light, spreads her rays over the entire earth.” That’s what the Latin words Lumen Gentium mean: “light to the nations.” That’s what God created us to be. That’s the reality of the Church we all belong to — not some religious corporation or the Elks Club at prayer; but the glory of Jesus Christ alive and risen, and God’s light to the world.
Not all of Lumen Gentium is easy reading, but it’s worth the effort, because this document does a wonderful job of teaching us who and what the Catholic Church is. The Dogmatic Constitution presents the Church in a range of beautiful images from Scripture and Catholic tradition. Each of the images is important and true, but none can stand alone outside the context of the others.
The Church is a sheepfold of safety, with Jesus as the only gate. It is also God’s flock, and also His tillage — the land He cultivates to bring new life to the world. The Church is God’s building, with Jesus as the foundation and each of us its living stones. The Church is the spotless spouse of Christ and the family of God. It is an exile and pilgrim in the world. The Church is also a sacrament — a sign and instrument of communion with God and unity among men and women.
Above all, the Church is the mystical Body of Christ and the new Israel; the new, messianic People of God with Jesus as our head. It is the new royal priesthood, with all Christians living in fundamental equality through baptism, but like a family, having a diversity of duties and organized in a hierarchy of roles.
Religious and consecrated persons bear witness to the Beatitudes by living poverty, chastity, and obedience in a radical way. Laypeople, because they live in the daily secular world, have the missionary task of humanizing society and converting it to Jesus Christ. And the ordained have the vocation of service to the Church; feeding the faithful through the Eucharist and other sacraments; and teaching, sanctifying, encouraging, and governing for the sake of God’s people. But all members of the Church have exactly the same call to holiness according to the circumstances of their lives.
Lumen Gentium reminds us that no one is saved except through Jesus Christ, and that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, necessary for salvation. As a result, no one can be saved “who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.”
But God is also a merciful Father; He seeks the salvation of all men and women. Therefore, Lumen Gentium also teaches that those “who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation.”
But perhaps the most moving quality of Lumen Gentium is the way it begins and ends with a person. It begins with the person of Jesus Christ as the savior of humanity and the meaning of history. And it ends with the person of Mary, His mother and our mother, and an icon of what we can all be — and what the Church will be — in her perfection. When we claim that “we are the Church,” Mary’s humility, obedience, fidelity, and love are what we should mean.
Last October marked the 43rd  anniversary of one of the final documents of the council, Christus Dominus (Christ the Lord), or the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church. The first line of the conciliar text reads, “Christ the Lord, the Son of the Living God, came to redeem His people from their sins, that all mankind might be sanctified.” It reminds bishops that our first duty is to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ — to give up our own lives and live as Jesus Christ for the service of the persons in our care.
Vatican II described the vocation of bishops as a call to serve rather than a call to power. When a bishop struggles to put on Jesus Christ over his own sins and weaknesses, he begins to understand why the council talks about the pastoral office of bishops in the Church, and not outside or above it. Bishops have the same need for redemption as the people to whom we belong. The only difference is that God will hold bishops even more accountable because of the leadership to which He ordained us, and because of the graces of the office we receive.
Christus Dominus is a curious mix of housekeeping and theology. Much of the document deals with very practical matters — redrawing diocesan boundaries, how long pastors should serve in parishes, when to ask for an auxiliary bishop, and the role of the diocesan staff. But all of the practical issues in Christus Dominus rest on the document’s spiritual foundation, which comes from Lumen Gentium and the ancient traditions of the Church.
The early Church Father St. Ignatius of Antioch, no stranger to Church controversy, reminded and cautioned Christians that “those [who] belong to God and to Jesus Christ — they are with the bishop.”
Every bishop is a successor to the apostles and a pastor of souls. He has the duty to safeguard the liturgical life of the local Church. He must proclaim the gospel and teach the true Catholic faith in his diocese. Every bishop should give an example of personal sanctity in charity, humility, and simplicity of life. He should help the poor and suffering. He has the obligation to sanctify, encourage, correct, and govern the local people of God. And above all, every bishop needs to do these things with fatherly love and fraternal charity, because the Church is a family — a family of faith — not a political party or an impersonal institution.
This is why bishops are always so reluctant to excommunicate anybody, even a grave public criminal or a Catholic public official who directly opposes Church teaching on a serious matter. A good father will do almost anything, and bear almost any insult or burden, to keep his daughter or son in the family.
And he owes that same fidelity to his priests. Vatican II commands bishops to support their priests, and to treat them as sons and brothers. In Catholic teaching, a priest shares intimately in the mission of his bishop through the Sacrament of Orders. A priest is never simply an “employee” of the Church, and the bishop is forbidden to treat him that way.
 

A Light to the Nations: The Meaning and Future of the Catholic Church – Part I

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2013/11/22 at 1:01 AM

 by Archbishop Charles j. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; begotten, not made; of one Being with the Father. Through Him all things were made.

We’ve said those words thousands of times at Sunday Mass. We know them so well that sometimes we don’t think about them. But they’re vital to what it means to be Catholic.A man born of a Jewish mother is Jewish by virtue of his birth. He may be very religious, or lukewarm, or an atheist. But he’s still, in a real sense, a Jew. Being Catholic is a very different kind of experience. Baptism is necessary to be a Catholic, but it’s not enough as we grow in age. As Catholics, we become defined by what we believe, how we worship, and how actively we live our faith in public and in private.
It’s not possible to be what some people call a “cultural” Catholic. Catholic culture comes from an active Catholic faith. Unless we truly believe and practice that faith, “Catholic culture” very quickly becomes a dead skin of nostalgia and comfortable habits.
When Catholics say that Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father and of one Being with the Father, we’re joining ourselves to 17 centuries of Christian Faith. Those words come to us from the very first ecumenical council of the Church, the Council of Nicaea in 325. The Nicene Creed settled a long and important dispute over the identity of Jesus Christ and shaped the course of Western history.
Catholics have always struggled to understand the mystery of what it means for Jesus to be both fully human and fully divine. That mystery is the creative tension at the heart of Christianity. In the fourth century, a gifted priest named Arius tried to relieve that tension by claiming that “God begat [the Son], and before [the Son] was begotten, [the Son] did not exist.” In other words, for Arius, Jesus might have a uniquely intimate relationship with God, but He was a creature like you and me.
Arius had a brilliant mind, and many bishops and scholars supported him. But in the end, the Council Fathers saw that if Jesus were created by the Father, He couldn’t be eternally co-equal with the Father. And that means Christian revelation begins to fall apart. If God isn’t a Trinity of eternally equal persons, then the Incarnation is false, because God didn’t ultimately become man. And if the Incarnation is false, then so is the Redemption, because God didn’t die on the cross to deliver us from our sins. What Arius proposed would have actually destroyed the entire gospel message of salvation.
That’s why the Council of Nicaea described Jesus as one in being or one in substance with the Father. And that’s why we say those same words every Sunday. The Nicene Creed has helped shape Western civilization’s understanding of who God is and who man is. And over the centuries, it has had an impact on art, music, morality, ideas of justice and human dignity, our political institutions — everything. Faith drives culture. What we believe shapes how we think and what we do. That’s why what we believe — or don’t believe — matters.
The Council of Nicaea demonstrates just how important an ecumenical council can be — not just for the Church, but also for the world. Indeed, “ecumenical” comes from the Greek, oikoumene, meaning “the whole world.” The Church has had 21 ecumenical councils from Nicaea to Vatican II, and many have been hugely important for the course of history. This would be a different world without Nicaea or Chalcedon or Trent.
Or Vatican II
See Part II

Signs for Our Times – Part IV: Apostolicity of the Church

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/04/24 at 7:00 AM

The fourth mark of the Church is Apostolicity.

The doctrine and the moral code of the Catholic Church is the same as that of the Twelve Apostles.

There is a large faction in the United States that has great respect for what is referred to as the Founding Fathers.  These were the men who had the vision and made the plans and set the principles for the United States. These are the men whom we consider to be the architects of the great political entity called the United States of America.  When problems arise, we look to their writings to seek solutions.

There is another faction that considers the Founding Fathers irrelevant to modern times because they had no concept of what the United States would be like today, and therefore, their eighteenth century ideas should not affect modern day problems.  They think that those living today should use their own skills to solve their own problems.  It is interesting to note that anything this group advocates almost always involves radical changes to American life as it once was.  In fact, the Founding Fathers would probably be dismayed at what has become of their concept of a weak federal government.

The Twelve Apostles are like the Founding Fathers of the United States.  The Apostles did not establish the Church but they were taught the basic creed and moral code directly by the Founder, Christ Himself.  Thus, if anyone really wants to know what Christ taught, there are no ones better able to tell than the Twelve Apostles.

The Bishops of the Catholic Church are the successors to the Apostles.  This is possible because every Bishop knows who consecrated him.  The line of bishops can be traced back to the first  bishops consecrated by the Twelve Apostles.

Christ, because He is divine, could have remained on earth and led the Church in person, but He chose not to. He set up the Apostles as the first bishops, teachers, and missionaries.  In a sense, the Church is still being taught by the Apostles through their successors in union with the Pope.

Since the Apostles received instructions directly from Christ, no other religious organization except the Catholic Church can claim to be apostolic.  Christ did not establish any other religion or church.  The message He wanted to convey comes in its completeness only through the Catholic Church.

The Twelve Apostles lived in a certain period of history.  Islam came much later.  Protestantism arose fifteen centuries too late.  Buddhism and Hinduism are much older than Christianity, but the truth of a religion is not determined by its antiquity, but by the circumstance of its founding.

Without Apostolic teaching as a fixed foundation, deviations in doctrine and morals will begin to creep in.  The source of authentic teaching eludes modern leaders of religious groups.  It is true that they may profess some apostolic teachings but certainly not all, and what they do teach, they are merely copying from the Catholic Church, whether they realize it or not.

Without Apostolic teaching as a guide, problems that arise are simply dealt with in terms of contemporary standards.  Protestantism now is dealing with women clergy and same-sex “marriage” and other contemporary problems, incorrectly, because they do not base themselves on Apostolic principles, and therefore, tend to “go with the flow” of contemporary culture.

Historically speaking, Christ the Lord set up a Church and it is incumbent on everyone to find Truth.  The human mind is attuned to truth.  We cannot function in a society that does not respect objective truth; it is not natural (although we are trying to do just that today with dire consequences).  To guide us, the Church offers four marks or signs, which when taken together point to the true Church of Christ.

The main advantage of membership in the true Church is not really membership, but it is the ability to have a relationship with the Living Christ who comes to us through that Church.  Many are members, but for one reason or another, do not know Christ and their membership is thereby diminished.  Christ is alive and comes to us readily and completely through the Catholic Church.  If you have read this four part series, you can determine for yourself that Christ did give you four clear signs: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Signs For Our Times – Part II: Holiness of the Church

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/04/10 at 12:00 AM

The second mark of the Church or sign for our times is that of HOLINESS.  Holiness is a state of existence in which a person consciously endeavors to live in accordance with the perceived will of God because He is seen as far superior to man and to whom man owe’s obedience and worship.  This attitude may arise from the dictates of the Natural Moral Law embedded in the minds and hearts of all people by their Creator or the active participation in a religion that fosters holiness of life.

God in His goodness has given man through the Catholic Church a certain way to strive towards holiness because holiness of life is an essential of attaining salvation  which,  whether you believe it or not, is the ultimate goal of human life.  However, holiness of life can be rejected and contemporary society has done just that.  The capital sins are easily embraced and the Ten Commandments are flagrantly violated.  Holiness is not popular even among too many “Catholics”.  Holiness may be rejected, but it is still necessary and it will only be found fully in the Catholic Church.

The first aspect of the Church’s holiness is evident in its Founder.  It can be proven that Jesus Christ is a Divine Person in human form who came to save the human race (those who want to be saved) from the effects of its sins. The historical record shows without doubt that the Founder of the Catholic Church was God Himself.  He claimed to be God and proved it by doing things (miracles) that only God could do.

He even challenged His enemies to point out any moral deficiencies in His life and they could not.

Founders of other religions did not claim to be divine and in every case their lives did not suggest any notable degree of personal holiness.  For example, Mohammed, Martin Luther, the Buddha, and all the other lesser known founders.

Because He was God, Christ could endow the Church with the means to help its members acquire holiness in accordance with the individual’s free choice and acceptance of the graces given.  The means that set up by Christ are the seven Sacraments, which if used correctly, will enable the believer to make steady progress towards holiness.  No other religion, even many who call themselves Christians, have anything even remotely resembling the Catholic Sacraments, and therefore, if any of their members happen to be holy in God’s sight, it is in spite of their religion.

There are thirty thousand plus “Christian” denominations.  Some claim one, two, or three sacraments; none claim seven.  Without the Seven Sacraments, no church can claim to be the Church founded by Christ.

There will be those who say that they have the Bible and that is quite sufficient.  The problem is that the Bible as we know it came from the Catholic Church historically and did not appear as we know it until the end of the fourth century.  Only one apostle could possibly have read the New Testament (St. John).  Christ Himself did not tell the Apostles to write but to preach.  For the first centuries, Christians really did not have access to the Bible as we know it.  If the Bible had been meant to be an essential part of the true Church it would have been available from the  beginning.  The Catholic Church reveres the Bible and uses it, but does not claim it is the only means of knowing God’s will.

Holiness, by its very nature, suggests consistency and permanence.  This is  one of the reasons the Catholic Church is hated and ridiculed…it is consistent in its teachings. It does not bow to the whim of any contemporary culture. What was demanded by divine law centuries ago is still valid, and therefore, the Church refuses to join the cultural bandwagon which is clamoring for sin to be declared non-sin. Other groups that call themselves “Christian” readily and easily salute the contemporary cultural icons and are duly applauded for failure to be a consistent defender of God’s law. How many groups have embraced the homosexual demands  to be designated as  just another lifestyle with no negative moral implications? The Catholic Church does not do this, thus affirming her commitment to the idea of consistent standards of holiness. In another fifty years, the cultural elite will be demanding something else. The Church demands holiness.

There are three questions each person should ask himself:

1.  Where did I come from? (We came from God because parents only make our bodies, but it has to be God who creates our soul because human parents are incapable of creating an immortal soul.)

2.  Why am I here? (Merely to get the most out physical life and then die without any consequences?  No, to serve that God who created your soul and who will judge your performance.)

3. Where am I going?  (To a grave and nothing more?  We have a built-in sense of immortality (which means it is real) and we reach that state eventually, but how we spend it is up to us.)

(The above questions and answers are true whether you believe them or not.)

The Catholic Church alone has the complete truth regarding these questions and the best means to achieve the goals is through the holiness of the Church given through the Sacraments.  If you are a Catholic striving to lead a holy life, keep it up.  If you are a lapsed or an indifferent Catholic who picks and chooses what you will accept or do, you are telling God that you are right and He is wrong.  Rather risky!  If you are not a Catholic, pray for the grace to find God’s will.  If you find it is in the Catholic Church, embrace it and be grateful and live it to the fullest (as do most converts).

Next time we will look at another sign for our times, the Catholicity of the Church.

Signs For Our Times – Introduction

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/04/04 at 6:15 AM

(This is the first in a four-part series on what are usually termed the “marks” of the Church.  These are signs that one can use to find the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ.  Based on the Gospel narrative (which is objective history) these signs will apply only to the true Church and all four must be present to indicate the true Church.)

The unexpected resignation of one pope and the election of another has caused the world media to focus on the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church always seems to be big news that whets the appetite of the media far more than any other Church or religion.  But the media is selective in its coverage.  It likes to cover the external pageantry but has little use for anything of real substance such as doctrine and morals.

One important Catholic doctrine that I did not hear mentioned by the media is the doctrine that the Catholic Church is the one and only true Church.  Contemporary philosophy and attitudes which claim that there is no objective truth would not be the least amenable to such a discussion.

The doctrine of the one true Church is of eternal importance because, if the Catholic Church is the only true Church, then it means that all the others are not true to some degree, i.e. not completely true.  Since eternity looms before us all, it would seem only sensible and reasonable to find and join that one true Church.

Catholicism’s claim to being the only Church founded by the Divine Christ is not mere boasting or cheerleading; the claim can be proven rationally.  Then it behooves everyone who is aware of this truth to become a member of the only true Church because, if you are called by Divine grace to embrace the Catholic Church and you refuse to do so, your future may be bleak.

There are four marks or signs of the true Church based on Scripture, reason and history.  These signs have certain necessary characteristics; they are easily understood by the average mind and they are unchangeable so as to avoid confusion, dispute and instability.