Thursday, October 29, 2015

4 Marks of the Church

Knowledge and sight of the true Church allows men to know who they’re fighting for and defending against the world, flesh, and the devil.  These latter enemies seek to show the Church as divided, Corrupt, Limited, and Chauvinistic.  The True Marks are: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic-- as the Nicene Creed indicates.  My first realization of the reality of the Marks of the Church was at a Diocesan Men’s Conference in which the local Bishop celebrated Mass after men had opportunities for confession and adoration.  This event opened my eyes to the fact that the Body of Christ is united, set apart, multi-faceted, and composed of true Servants of servants.

St. John Paul II wrote about the Marks of the Church as they relate especially to the Eucharist[1]:

We can apply to the Eucharistic mystery the very words with which, in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, we profess the Church to be ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’. The Eucharist too is one and catholic. It is also holy, indeed, the Most Holy Sacrament. But it is above all its apostolicity that we must now consider (#26).

He goes on to explain the importance of the Apostles and their successors in handing down Catholic Tradition:

the Church is apostolic in the sense that she ‘continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the Apostles until Christ's return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of Bishops assisted by priests, in union with the Successor of Peter, the Church's supreme pastor’.  Succession to the Apostles in the pastoral mission necessarily entails the sacrament of Holy Orders, that is, the uninterrupted sequence, from the very beginning, of valid episcopal ordinations.  This succession is essential for the Church to exist in a proper and full sense (#28).   

As I said, I truly saw this reality unfold at a Men’s Conference themed, ironically, on the Eucharist.  I did not connect the words of the Creed with what I saw at that time, but I vision returned to me often when I heard the words of the Creed.  I was teaching a Catechism Class in Detroit when it finally dawned on me that the Marks captured exactly what I saw at the Conference: “Uno, Sancta, Catolica, y Apostolica” as the Catechist book titled Una Sola Fe, Un Solo SeƱor.  The faith is literally understood in every language and by every people across the globe! 

[1] POPE JOHN PAUL II.  ENCYCLICAL LETTER ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA.  Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 17 April, Holy Thursday, in the year 2003

Thursday, October 22, 2015

“He Himself knew what was in man.…” (Jn. 2:25)

This man, who had witnessed at first hand the very worst of the twentieth century, who had intimate experience of how twisted and wicked human beings can be, spoke over and over again this exhortation: “Be not afraid.” There was, of course, absolutely no political or cultural warrant for that exhortation, no purely natural justification for it. It could come only from a man whose heart was filled with the supernatural sense that the Holy Spirit is the Lord of history.[1]

Bishop Robert Barron has an excellent write up on the feast of St. John Paul II (10/22).  There, he traces the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love with a heroic emphasis throughout the life of Karol Wojtyla.  It is a very fitting illustration of the true character of the Saint [and future Doctor of the Church].

Fr. Thomas Dubay has this to say about what constitutes "Heroic Virtue":

It is goodness to a superlative degree, a degree that far surpasses the mere natural resources of the human person.  Over the course of the centuries the Church developed a detailed theology of saintliness, a theology that included definite criteria for determining in canonization processes the eminent perfection to which God calls us.  Heroic virtue is a specific human quality that shows itself in actions that are (1) promptly, easily & joyfully done; (2) even in difficult circumstances; (3) habitually, not just occasionally; (4) present actually, not just potentially; (5) found mingled with all the virtues (Faith, Hope, Love & Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance).  [2]

Also worth sharing:

A Prayer to St. John Paul II for the Family

st jpii
St. John Paul II, you said: “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”  You said, “At the start of a millennium which began with the terrifying attacks of September 11, 2001 … one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace.”  Then you added: “A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue: the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole.”

You knew that the family was as important as peace, and attacks on it were as disastrous as terrorism.
You worried for our future because so much depends on the family.  You said: “Families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.”

You insisted on openness to life in marriage: “The two dimensions of conjugal union, the unitive and the procreative, cannot be artificially separated without damaging the deepest truth of the conjugal act itself.”

You insisted on indissolubility and fidelity: “To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time.”

You gave each of our families our mission statement: “The Christian family is called to enlighten by its example and its witness those who seek the truth.”
Emilia_and_Karol_Wojtyla_wedding_portraitYou loved the family because of the witness of your own parents, whose wedding picture you kept on your desk throughout your life, and whose losses affected you so profoundly.

We have so much joy to thank you for.

We love the religious and priestly vocations you inspired, but we often forget about the marriage vocations that exist because of you.  Many of us met and fell in love in the Church you gave us: The Church of World Youth Days, of the New Evangelization and of the theology of the body.

Many of our children exist because you reached us with the teaching of the Church — so many of our John Pauls celebrate you on their name day each Oct. 22!

Many of us sacrificed to keep our families together through hard times because of your teaching — and we discovered the far greater love that follows sacrifice.

Thank you for filling our lives with happiness through your uncompromising teaching on the family.
You entrusted the family to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Now that you are by their side in the Father’s House, entrust the family, and the Church’s efforts for the family, to them once again.  Pray for families, St. John Paul the Great. Pray that we will always live up to the call you made so clear.

[2] Dubay, Thomas. Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment.  Ignatius: San Francisco, 1997

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Ignoratio Scripturarum Ignoratio Christi"

St Jerome (340 – 420)

My confirmation Saint is Jerome, the doctor of the Church. His pugnacity and attention to Scripture are what I admire about him most, not to mention his legacy of monasteries and convents that bear his name throughout the Holy Land and Rome.
St. John Paul II mentioned the Saint on a few occasions, the primary one being his quotation of “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”:

Despite the great impetus that the Second Vatican Council gave to biblical studies and the biblical apostolate in Christian communities, there are still too many of the faithful who are deprived of a vital contact with Sacred Scripture and do not adequately nourish their faith with the riches of God’s word contained in the revealed texts. Further effort is therefore needed to give them wider access to the Bible. “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture means ignorance of Christ”, as St Jerome said, since the whole Bible speaks of him (cf. Lk 24:27).

Personally, I did not begin reading the Bible until I was 18. Nearly a quarter century of ignorance of Christ is a long time! I am grateful for St. Jerome’s intercession, especially his commentary on Psalm 42 which helped me to make sense of quite a bit when I did begin to read the Bible.

Elsewhere, JPII quotes Jerome on the prophet Isaiah:

In his commentary on Isaiah, St Jerome develops this concept with a reflection that takes in the entire passage: "Every iniquity, oppression and injustice is a decision for bloodshed: if one does not kill with the sword, one kills by intention "and shuts one's eyes, to blot out the evil': happy the conscience that does not listen to nor contemplate evil! Whoever is like this will dwell "on high", that is, in the Kingdom of Heaven, or in the highest cavern of the soundest Rock, in Christ Jesus" (In Isaiam prophetam, 10,33: PL 24, 437, p. 367).

Thus Jerome introduces us to a correct understanding of that "closing of the eyes" referred to by the Prophet: it is an invitation to reject absolutely any complicity with evil. As it is easy to perceive, the principal senses of the body are challenged: indeed, the hands, feet, eyes, ears and tongue are involved in human moral behaviour.

Friday, August 21, 2015

He Leadeth Me

I found this passage from his chapter called "Retreats" very insightful:

The kingdom of God had to be worked out on earth, for that was the meaning of the Incarnation. It had to be worked out by men, by other Christs; it had to be worked out this day, each day, by constant effort and attention to just those persons and circumstances God presented to them that day. (145)

His description of one's sphere of responsibility here is very accurate. An often repeated line in his book is "working out salvation in fear and trembling"--and the cold of Siberian labor camps certainly provides the trembling!

Wojtyla did manual labor (quarrying) to pay for his studies during the war. I grew up near a quarry and can only imagine how time-consuming and labor intensive things were in comparison with the work of some of today’s machinery. In the same way, I have been in shock at how physically strenuous the labor camps of Siberia were in Soviet Russia.

While Wojtyla was in Poland working, Walter Ciszek S.J. was in Siberia shoveling coal:

I was marched down to the hold of the ship, given a shovel, and told to spread coal as it came cascading down a conveyor belt. I worked until I was ready to drop—which was rather soon because of my condition—and then had to go on working for fear of my life. There was no way I could stop the conveyor belt, and if I stopped shoveling, I would have been buried by the roaring coal. So I had to keep moving, stumbling and slipping over the shifting coal as the hold filled up, working the shovel as best I could even after my arms and chest grew numb and I had no sensation at all in the mechanical motions I made. (96)

Countless other stories of Ciszek stretching himself to the physical and psychological limit abound in his testament of faith, He Leadeth Me. It is a first-hand account of all of the horrors of the War from the perspective of a priest. And rather than become embittered by the ever-increasing Marxism, he deepens his love and trust in God as a child would with his benevolent father.

The quarry I lived near was full to the brim with crystal clear water. I could see straight down 40 feet to the bottom of the jutting rocks on a clouded day. Ciszek compares his time in Russia as a child learning to float in such immensity of clear water:

What he wanted was for me to accept these situations as from his hands, to let go of the reins and place myself entirely at his disposal. He was asking of me an act of total trust, allowing for no interference or restless striving on my part, no reservations, no exceptions, no areas where I could set conditions or seem to hesitate. He was asking a complete gift of self, nothing held back. It was something like that awful eternity between anxiety and belief when a child first leans back and lets go of all support whatsoever—only to find that the water truly holds him up and he can float motionless and totally relaxed. (81)

How men can endure such difficulties and live to tell a hopeful tale speaks of tremendous surrender into the hands of the living God. As Scripture says, “it’s a fearful thing” and yet, totally fulfilling.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

JPII and the Advocate

Even today, the Polish word "adwokat" stands for a defense attorney. Many English speakers know THE Advocate to be the Person of the Holy Spirit, even though the term has been all but removed from the courtroom. Besides being the "Lord and Giver of life" who is adored and glorified with the Father and the Son, He also speaks through the prophets and indeed comes to the aid of the accused to provide a defense.

In his letter on the Holy Spirit, Dominium et Vivificantem, St. John Paul II describes exactly who and what an advocate is: "he acts as Counselor, Intercessor, Advocate, especially when man, when humanity find themselves before the judgment of condemnation by that 'accuser' about whom the Book of Revelation says that 'he accuses them day and night before our God.' The Holy Spirit does not cease to be the guardian of hope in the human heart: the hope of all human creatures, and especially of those who 'have the first fruits of the Spirit' and 'wait for the redemption of their bodies' (#67)

Elijah was accused of killing the Baal prophets, and undermining king Ahab and queen Jezebel. Yet, the Holy Spirit vindicated the prophet before his accusers. The Holy Spirit "whispered" to Elijah at Mt. Carmel, speaking to him words of encouragement in the face of those who sought to kill him in return for his zeal. The Spirit came to the aid of his weakness...So too, when Karol Wojtyla was faced with accusations of global proportions, he trusted in the Holy Spirit to give him the words to speak. He trusted the Advocate to drive his entire pontifical message:

In a certain sense, my previous Encyclicals Redemptor Hominis and Dives in Misericordia took their origin and inspiration from this exhortation, celebrating as they do the event of our salvation accomplished in the Son, sent by the Father into the world "that the world might be saved through him" and "every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." From this exhortation now comes the present Encyclical on the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; with the Father and the Son he is adored and glorified: a divine Person, he is at the center of the Christian faith and is the source and dynamic power of the Church's renewal.(#2)

The Holy Spirit does not disappoint, though many doubted (even to this day) the message of Wojtyla concerning VCII, Communism/Socialism, Marriage and Celibacy, etc. Thankfully, the catechsim refers to the "Living Memory of the Church" being the Holy Spirit-Advocate who has preserved the writings of St. John Paul II (even in his own native Polish) so that there can be no doubt about his being inspired by the 3rd Person of the Trinity.