Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI Continues to Push Female Altar Servers

An article in German just came out concerning the Pope's use of female altar servers. It appears that he will use them in his upcoming papal visit to Freiburg in September. Given the problems that this practice has caused in regard to vocations to the priesthood, as well as theological continuity, I find it a bit perplexing as to why the Pope sees this practice as a benefit to the Church. Although in 1994 a change was made allowing for female altar servers in the Church, as far as I know not even John Paul II used them in his papal visits. Correct me if I am wrong here. I could find no papal Mass by JPII using them. Again, one wonders why Pope Benedict XVI, who is largely viewed as being much more conservative regarding liturgy, has pushed this envelope even further.

If we look back into history we see several Popes condemning this practice. It seeped into the Greek Church back in the mid 1700s, and was out rightly condemned by Pope Benedict XIV. An encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV promulgated on July 26, 1755 titled Allatae Sunt, addressed problems with the Oriental Churches. Female servers was one of the problems addressed.  Pope Benedict XIV plainly referenced two of his predecessors who also condemned this practice, "Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: "Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry." We too have forbidden this practice in the same words in Our oft-repeated constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 21." So we have here at least three Popes calling this practice, "evil" and an abuse, yet we have the Pope today plainly contradicting his predecessors. I am aware that this is an issue of praxis, and is not strictly dogmatic in nature, nonetheless it seems to me to be quite perplexing for the Pope to be furthering this practice rather than taking it back in the other direction. Any thoughts?

Freiburg im Bresgau, 8.26.11 (KIPA) The Vatican has given a green light for female altar servers for the papal visit to Freiburg (Germany). Nine female and eight male servers from the Freiburg Archdiocese will minister at the youth prayer and the closing liturgy on September 24-25, the diocese announced on Friday. It is customary that no female serves are used at papal liturgies in the Vatican. By contrast, there were female servers at the liturgies for Benedict XVI’s visit to Bavaria in 2006.
Link to German article

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Saint Augustine Saved From the "Reformed" Hijacker Turretin Fan

If you are into Catholic apologetics and not familiar with the blog, Spes mea Christus, then you should be. It is an apologetics blog penned by Paul Hoffer. In his latest couple of posts he has completely dismantled a false claim made by the "Reformed apologist" who goes by the cover name of Turretin Fan. Turretin Fan is one of those guys who loves to cut and paste a few things from the internet, then proclaim he is an expert on the subject, which unfortunately happens to pertain to Catholicism much of the time. I have debated Mr. Fan on the topic of Sola Scriptura, as well as a host of other topics over the past several years. Mr. Fan has been threatening to debate Mr. Hoffer on Saint Augustine for quite sometime, and I have been eagerly awaiting. The topic at hand is whether or not Saint Augustine believed in the Catholic doctrine concerning the Eucharistic consecration, or what is now understood by the term transubstantiation. So far Paul has written two outstanding, in depth articles on the subject, which completely dismantle Mr. Fan's claim that Saint Augustine did not hold to the Catholic teaching on the matter. If you are interested in these types of debates then I encourage you to check the two latest articles out. You are sure to learn a ton from reading them.

What Saint Augustine, Bishop, Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church Actually Held Pertaining to Transubstantiation: A Response to Turretinfan [Parts One and Two]


What Saint Augustine, Bishop, Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church Actually Held Pertaining to Transubstantiation: A Response to Turretinfan [Part Two Continued].


Saint John of Avila: Next Doctor of the Church?

It appears that Saint John of Avila will possibly be the 34th Doctor of the Church. I do not know much about him aside from what I have read about him on the net. I have a book coming in from Amazon so I can do a bit more research. He seems to have been a huge reformer of the corrupt priesthood of his time. Is this possibly one of the Holy Father's means of instituting a reform in today's Church?

"St. John of Avila was a parish priest and theologian in 16th century Spain who exercised some influence over ideas concerning the reform of priestly reformation at the Council of Trent. Avila linked the priesthood closely to the Eucharist and regarded holiness as the preeminent quality of a priest, who must serve as a mediator between God and man. To this end, he recommended painstaking selection of candidates followed by rigorous spiritual and intellectual formation within a community. For Avila, renewal of the priesthood demanded the priest's conformity to Christ as both Good Shepherd and High Priest...
To bring about reform of the clergy, Avila wanted the bishops to remedy the two root causes he saw for the ruin of the priesthood: the acceptance of men unsuited for the priestly vocation and the poor formation given to candidates.

The cause of the ruin of the clergy has been the entrance of worldly people who have no knowledge of the grandeur of the state they are undertaking and whose hearts are on fire with earthly ambitions. Once they enter, they are formed in an atmosphere of false liberty without discipline of study or virtue.

The first step that Father Avila recommended to the bishops was that they take great care in the choice and acceptance of men to be prepared for ordination. He stressed that no unsuitable candidate should be accepted for the priesthood under any condition, no matter who supported his entrance. In fact, entrance into the ecclesiastical life should be made difficult so that those unsuited for such a lofty vocation would not want to enter. Avila compares the situation in his own day to that at the time of Jeroboam in the Northern Kingdom of Israel when anyone who wanted could become a priest (1 Kgs. 13:33). In the same way, many bishops and superiors accepted and ordained men who had no sound understanding of the priestly state or who desired it for worldly reasons. Avila complains that some candidates conceive of the priestly life as compatible with the concupiscence of the flesh and the eyes and the pride of life. "Because of this, we are as we are," he says. And because of this, reform requires that the entrance to the ecclesiastical state be guarded and that only those qualified to live it well be accepted into it. To take any other is to cause great harm to the Church. The Body of the Lord in the Eucharist will be unworthily treated by such priests and the holy Mystical Body will be greatly harmed as "those who were supposed to be shepherds turn themselves into wolves and make carnage in the souls of those they were supposed to bring to life."

The most important qualification for candidates is the intellectual and spiritual capacity required to profit from the formation and education for which the Council was to provide. If bishops are going to accept men without this capacity, then Avila comments that they should change the topic of their discussion from formation to that of "the cultivation of fields in barren lands." He is not saying that all candidates must be capable of the highest academic achievement, but that all should see the importance of study and be willing to engage in it according to their capacity. The lack of spiritual capacity is a far greater hindrance. At all costs, men who enter "to have something to eat without having to work for it," must be refused. The Christian people pay dearly when such men enter in response not to God's call, but to "the call of money and an easy life...
He insisted that, before ordination, candidates undergo a rigorous program of spiritual and intellectual formation in accord with the Gospel and the Church's teaching, and that they continue to grow in these areas after ordination. Any review of the formation and education of priests today can only profit from being so strongly reminded of the nature of the priesthood and the indispensable role of the priest in the sanctification and salvation of the members of the Church. "

From Sr. Joan Gormley's article in the Homiletic & Pastoral Review April 2004

There are also other candidates which may be considered in the future. So far thankfully no mention of Newman.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Queenship of the Blessed Mother of God

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we are reminded today of this miraculous happening, it is also important to ponder upon the queenship of Mary. One of the best theology books ever written on the Mother of God is Garrigou Lagrange's book, 'Mother of the Saviour.' Below is a brief excerpt from the book on the queenship of Mary.

The Queenship of Mary: Part 1

Mary's Universal Queenship Part 1

In the language of the Church, both in the Liturgy and in her universal preaching, Mary is not only Mother and Mediatrix but Queen of all men and even of the angels and the whole universe. In what sense is she a queen? In a true or in a merely metaphorical sense?

It should be recalled first that God alone has universal kingship over all things through His Essence: He governs all things and leads them to their end. Jesus and Mary share in this Divine Kingship. Even as man, Jesus shares in it for three reasons: because of His Divine Personality, because of His fulness of grace which overflows on men and Angels, and because of His victory over sin, Satan and death. He is King of all men and of all creatures including the Angels, who are, His Angels'. Thus He says (Mk. xiii, 26): ' And then they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds, with great power and glory. And then shall He send his Angels. . . ' For Jesus is Son of God by nature, whereas the Angels are but God's servants and adopted sons. Jesus has said too of Himself: ' All power is given to me in Heaven and on earth' (Mt. xxviii, 18), and we read in the Apocalypse that He is 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords' (Apoc. xix, 16).

Article I

Can it be said of Mary, since her Assumption especially, and her crowning in heaven, that she shares in God's universal Kingship in the sense that she is Queen of all creatures in subordination to Christ?

She could certainly be called a queen in the wide sense of the term by reason of her spiritual qualities and her fulness of grace, of glory and of charity which raise her above all other creatures. It is quite customary to use the words king and queen to designate persons of such eminence. Her motherhood of Christ the King would also entitle her to be called a queen ---- still in a wide sense of the term at least.

But would it not appear that she is a queen in the literal sense of the term by the fact of having received royal authority and power? Has she not, in dependence on Jesus and through Him, not only a primacy of honor in regard to the Angels and Saints, but a real power to command both Angels and men? This is, in fact, what emerges from an examination of Tradition as expressed in the preaching of the universal Church, the Fathers, the statements of different Popes, the Liturgy. There are theological arguments besides in favor of the affirmative answer.

The Fathers of both East and West referred frequently to Mary under such titles as Domina, Regina, Regina nostrae salutis. It is sufficient to mention a few among many: in the East SS. Ephrem, Germanus of Constantinople, Andrew of Crete, John Damascene; in the West St. Peter Crysologus, the Venerable Bede, St. Anselm, St. Peter Damien, St. Bernard. The same titles occur also in the works of the theologians: in St. Albert the Great, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas, Gerson, St. Bernadine of Siena, Denis the Carthusian, St. Peter Canisius, Suarez, St. Grignon de Montfort, St. Alphonsus. Different Sovereign Pontiffs have often used the same expressions.

The Roman and Oriental liturgies proclaim Mary Queen of the heavens, Queen of Angels, Queen of the world, Queen of all the Saints. Among the mysteries of the Rosary commonly recited in the Church since the 13th century the last of all is that of the crowning of Our Lady in Heaven ---- a scene represented in one of Fra Angelico's most beautiful frescoes.

The arguments adduced by theologians to prove that Mary has universal Queenship in the proper, non-metaphorical sense of the term, are conclusive. They may all be reduced to the following three.
Jesus Christ is King of the universe, even as man, in virtue of His Divine Personality. But Mary as Mother of God made man belongs to the hypostatic order and shares in the dignity of her Son, for His Person is the term of her Divine motherhood. Hence she shares connaturally, as Mother of God, in His universal Kingship. Our Blessed Lord owes it to Himself to recognize His Mother's title in gratitude.

A second argument is that Jesus is King of the universe by His fulness of grace and by the victory which He won over Satan and sin by His humility and His obedience unto death, 'For which cause God hath exalted Him . . . ' But Mary was associated with His victory over Satan, sin, and death by her union with Him in His humiliations and sufferings. She is therefore really associated with Him in His Kingship.

The same conclusion may be arrived at by considering the close relationship in which Mary stands to God the Father, of Whom she is the first adoptive daughter and the highest in grace, and God the Holy Ghost through Whose operation the Word took flesh in her womb.

It has been objected that the mother of a king, the queen-mother, is not by that simple fact queen in the strict sense of the term: she has nothing of royal power. Neither then has Mary. We have answered this objection already. There is no parity between the two cases. A queen-mother is simply the mother of a child who later became king. But Mary is the mother of Him Who from the instant of His conception is King of the universe by His hypostatic union and His fulness of grace. Besides, Mary was associated closely with the victory by which He obtained universal kingship as a right of conquest, even though He possessed it already as Son of God. Mary is therefore associated with His Kingship in a true, even if in a subordinate, manner.

Many consequences follow from this truth. As universal King, Jesus has power to establish and promulgate the New Law, to propose revealed doctrine, to judge the living and the dead, to give souls sanctifying grace and all the virtues. Mary shares in this universal kingship especially by dispensing in an interior and hidden manner the graces which she merited in dependence on Jesus. She participates in it exteriorly also by the fact that she gave on earth the example of all the virtues, that she helped to enlighten the Apostles, and that she continues to enlighten us when, for example, she manifests herself exteriorly in sanctuaries such as those of Lourdes, La Salette, and Fatima. Theologians note that she does not seem to share in any special way in the royal judicial power of inflicting punishment for sin, for Tradition calls her not the Mother of justice but the Mother of mercy, a title which is hers in virtue of her mediation of all graces. Jesus seems to have kept to Himself the reign of justice as is becoming Him Who is the Judge of the living and the dead.'

Mary has a radical right to universal queenship by the fact of her Divine motherhood, but the Divine plan was that she should merit it also by her union with her suffering Son, and that she should not exercise it fully before being crowned queen of all creation in Heaven. Her royalty is spiritual and supernatural rather than temporal and natural, though it extends in a secondary way to temporal affairs considered in their relation to salvation and sanctification.

We have seen how Mary exercises her queenship on earth. She exercises it in Heaven also. The essential glory of the blessed depends on Jesus' merits and hers. She contributes to their accidental glory ---- as well as to that of the Angels ---- by the light she communicates to them, and by the joy they have in her presence and in the realization of what she does for souls. To both the Angels and the Saints she manifests Christ's plan for the extension of His Kingdom.

Mary's queenship extends to Purgatory, for she prompts the faithful on earth to pray for the souls detained there and to have Masses offered for them. She herself offers their prayers to God, thereby increasing their value. She applies the fruits of the merits of Jesus and of herself to the Holy Souls in Jesus' name.

Her queenship extends to the demons too who are obliged to recognize her power, for she can make their temptation cease, can save souls from their snares, and can repulse their attacks. 'The demons suffer more', says St. Grignon de Montfort, 'from being conquered by the humility of Mary than by the Omnipotence of God.' Her reign of mercy extends to Hell itself, as we have seen, in the sense that the lost souls are punished less than they deserve, and that on certain days ---- including possibly the Assumption ---- their sufferings become less fearful. Thus Mary's queenship is truly universal. There is no region to which it does not extend in some way.

Link to entire book online. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Knowing of God or Knowing God?

Knowing of God or Knowing God?
Matthew J. Bellisario 2011

    Mankind has a shared existence that is united in God, the creator. Every man or women who has existed since time began, share in this unique image, which resides primarily in the intellect and the will. The reason man is able to construct great things, that is construct great architecture, music or other arts is because there is an order in which he has a share in. In order for there to be a beginning or end to a story, there must be an order of nature for it to exist within. So every man experiences God on this simple level, yet it is only visualized by most men or women on a subconscious level. It is like seeing a light bulb light up a room, and yet the thought never occurs to the person as to how that light comes to that bulb which in turn illumines the room. Man assumes many things he experiences in his or her day to day lives without ever looking beyond the thin veil to give study to who gives order to the universe.

    Those who receive and co-operate with God’s grace move on to examine this order which sustains them. They come to see that what lies behind the veil is more than they bargained for. Universal truth is like a roaring lion to those who had previously lived their lives as if such a thing never existed. Those who are blessed with the grace to find Christ and His Church go even deeper into the realm of truth, and their intellects are enlightened by Divine Revelation. God spoke through His only Divine Son, Jesus Christ, who then sent the Holy Spirit to keep His Revelation untouched by human hands. Jesus’ apostles went out and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit passed on the light of the Gospel. But even though many have heard and intellectually received the Gospel, few are those who actually inwardly experience God. Although we rely on our intellects to observe and internalize truth, our journey to God does not stop with the intellect.

    Why have so many Christians fled to the desert to seek God? The greatest difficulty in man’s effort to seek God is his inability to hand over his or her will to God. "Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 7:21) Certainly God’s grace is presumed in any headway a person makes in union with God. Somehow in God’s masterful creation, predilection and freewill are unopposed. So man is given an intellect so that he may use it to understand truth, and then his will must be conformed to that truth. This second step is where we are most likely to fail. We can read and understand the Catholic faith, and yet never enter into that union or friendship of God. It would be similar to reading about a famous movie star or musician that you admire. You could read about them and watch every documentary ever produced on them, even visit the places where they grew up and lived, and yet never know them as a person. In other words, a fan is not a friend, and a fan of learning about Christ does not necessarily know Christ. You can read books on God, read the Bible, and visit the Holy Land and yet remain a complete stranger to God.

    Here lies the problem for each and every one of us. How well do we actually know Jesus Christ? This is a question we must ask ourselves each day, and then respond with an appropriate measure of action to ensure that we do indeed know Him, not just know about Him. It is a question that should strike us with fear, and hopefully motivate us to prayer. Prayer is the key to unlocking this door which bars us from divine union. Certainly we receive grace when we frequent the Sacraments, but what does that grace produce in us? Are we automatically given divine union just by making the choice to go to Mass every Sunday? Ivan the Terrible went to Mass at his own monastery during the day, and at night tortured and cut men to pieces in the walls below where he had just went to Mass. Grace is something that man is given by God to be held as a precious pearl. How many times have we gone to Mass only to squander the graces away later in the day? Only God knows the answer to that question. So how do we come to know God? This is the real question that needs to be answered.

    I started this article by looking at nature and order, which we all must sooner or later admit is created by God. If we are to know God, we must use our intellects in a higher fashion that just collecting information. We must bring these truths which we come to know into action in our lives. As we learn from the Master through His Divine Revelation, we must conform our wills to what He has taught us. The Church proclaims the Gospel in her teachings through Divine Revelation, which consists in the oral proclamation of Jesus. Some of this proclamation was written down, which we have in the Sacred Scriptures. Much of the Gospel is also passed along in the very living fabric of the Church. We have the liturgical action of the Church and all of the Sacraments and Sacramentals that flow from it. Extending from that we have our personal prayer with God, from which then we enter into how we actually live our lives. We must engage our faith on every level of our lives in order to truly know God. We do not love God on Sundays and then live for ourselves Monday through Saturday.

    Metropolitan Anthony Bloom once said when asked, “Do you find that the surface culture of the modern English way of life makes it difficult to communicate the Gospel? He answered, ‘Yes, because the Gospel must reach not only the intellect but the whole being. English people often say, “That’s interesting, let’s talk about it, lets explore it as an idea,’ but actually do nothing about it. To meet God means to enter into the ‘cave of the tiger’- it is not a pussy cat you meet- it’s a tiger. The realm of God is dangerous. You must enter into it and not just seek information about it.” This quote sums up the problem of knowing God quite well. How we internalize and act upon what we learn about God is just as important as how much we know. What we know must be orthodox teaching yes, but how we act upon that orthodoxy is what truly matters if we are to know God, and not just know about Him.

    How much do we pray? Does our faith continue on as we work our jobs day to day? Do we seek guidance from God each day? How do we view God? Is He just the great man upstairs, adding and subtracting sins before and after we enter and leave the confessional? What do we spend our time doing when we are not working? Do we pray, or watch a movie instead? When we drive do we do it in silence, praying to God, or do we crank up the tunes? These are all tough questions that we must answer. How hard is it to go home and sit for fifteen minutes in complete silence listening for God? I must admit, this is a huge struggle for me. Sometimes I feel like I want to pull my hair out rather than sit in silence at my home. Sure, if I go to Church to pray in silence, it is much easier. But at home, the distractions are many. Do we allow distractions to pull us away from God? Even when it comes to reading about God, this cannot be a substitute for being with God. All of the knowledge about God in the world is not going to save us. Even Satan knows more about God than the greatest theologians in the world. He could easily rake us over the coals in a theological debate. His intellect is far superior than ours, yet his knowledge and intellect alone will never save him. It is what got him into trouble in the first place. Unless we engage God in prayer regularly, and live what He teaches us, we will never know Him. Why are faith and works so important to a true Christian? Unless we put faith into action and intertwine it with the very fabric of how we live our lives, which includes friendship with God, then that faith is dead. Dead faith is only a faith which resides in our memory banks. We know it, but we do not live it. It never produces any fruit. We believe it yes, but we do not act on it. This is the real problem for many in the Church today. We believe but we will not to act on that belief. We would rather live like those who never looked beyond the veil to see who it is that is running the universe.

    The Parable of the Sower comes to mind to sum up this problem of knowing God, “Hear ye: Behold, the sower went out to sow. And whilst he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate it up. And other some fell upon stony ground, where it had not much earth; and it shot up immediately, because it had no depth of earth. And when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And some fell upon good ground; and brought forth fruit that grew up, and increased and yielded, one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred. And he said: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The explanation that Jesus gives is telling and it can give us insight to those who never look behind the veil, those who do then turn away, those who do and then venture to learn more, enter in, yet later turn away for the cares of the world, and then those who step behind the veil, and enter into that cave where the tiger lurks, to meet almighty God. “He that soweth, soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown, and as soon as they have heard, immediately Satan cometh and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these likewise are they that are sown on the stony ground: who when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but are only for a time: and then when tribulation and persecution ariseth for the word they are presently scandalized. And others there are who are sown among thorns: these are they that hear the word, And the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts after other things entering in choke the word, and it is made fruitless. And these are they who are sown upon the good ground, who hear the word, and receive it, and yield fruit, the one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred.”