Tuesday, January 30, 2007

At the Death of John Paul the Great

At the Death of John Paul II
Excerpt From Book "A Life With Karol"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of an excerpt from the book that recounts Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz's memories of his longtime collaboration with Pope John Paul II.

"A Life With Karol" is the title of the volume, written by journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, former deputy director of L'Osservatore Romano.

The volume was recently released in Italy and will be published by Doubleday for the English-speaking world. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 35.

* * *

It was 9:37 p.m. We realized that the Holy Father had stopped breathing; however, just in that moment we saw in the monitor that his great heart, after having beaten for some instants, had stopped. Dr. Buzzonetti bent over him and, raising his gaze slightly, mused: "He has passed to the House of the Lord." Someone stopped the hands of the clock at that hour.

We, as if deciding all together, began to sing the Te Deum, not the Requiem, because it wasn't mourning, but the Te Deum, in thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift he had given us, the gift of the person of the Holy Father, of Karol Wojtyla.

We wept. How could one not weep! They were, at once, tears of sorrow and joy. Then all the lights of the house were turned on. Darkness came over me, within me. I knew that it had happened, but it was as if, afterwards, I refused to accept it, or I refused to understand it. I placed myself in the Lord's hands, but as soon as I thought by heart was at peace, the darkness returned.

Until the moment of farewell arrived.

There were all those people, all the important people who had come from afar. But, above all, there were his people, his young people. There was a great light in St. Peter's Square, and then the light also returned within me.

The homily over, Cardinal Ratzinger made that reference to the window, and said that he was surely there, seeing us, blessing us. I also turned around, I could not but turn around, but I didn't look up there. At the end, when we reached the doors of the basilica, those who carried the coffin turned it slowly, as though enabling him to have one last look at the square, his final farewell to men, to the world.

Also his last farewell to me? No, not to me. At that moment, I wasn't thinking of myself. I lived that moment along with many others, and we were all shaken, distressed, but for me it was something I shall never be able to forget. Meanwhile, the cortege was entering the basilica; they were to take the coffin to the tomb.

Then, precisely at that moment, I began to think: I have accompanied him for almost 40 years, first 12 in Krakow, then 27 in Rome. I was always with him, by his side. Now, at the moment of death, he walked alone. And this fact, my not being able to accompany him, pained me much.

Yes, all this is true, but he has not left us. We feel his presence, and also so many graces obtained through him.

Monday, January 29, 2007

On the Eucharist as Memorial and Sacrifice

Below is a paper I did last semester for my Liturgical Theology class. I am very interested in any and all comments anyone may have on this paper. I was pretty pleased with it but I got mixed reviews from my professor. Is there a nuance off? Something you would add or subtract? Any part unclear, imprecise, or confusing?

And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”... And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
-- Luke 22: 14-15, 19
-- CCC, #1339

With this excerpt from Luke’s Gospel, the Catechism, in its treatment of the Institution of the Eucharist, reveals not only the first of the most important words of consecration but also the roots and the meaning of this Mystery that our Lord celebrated at the Last Supper. We see first in its reference to the Passover the important context in which it was celebrated, a context rich with history and significance. Second, in our Lord’s words, “given for you,” we find a pointer to the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist and in his command to “Do this in remembrance of me,” its memorial aspect. In this essay we will look at the Jewish Passover and these words of our Lord to see how they can guide us toward the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist as memorial and sacrifice.

First it is important to have an adequate understanding of the Passover, what it is, and how the Jews approached its celebration. For 400 years, the Israelites were in the bondage of slavery in Egypt under the despotic rule of Pharaoh until the Lord initiated his final plague and Passover to set them free. So we see in the Book of Exodus that the Israelites – commanded by God through the detailed instructions of Moses and Aaron – were to sacrifice a lamb, and “take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them” (Exodus 12:7). And the Lord said to the Israelites, “the blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (v. 13).

This set in motion their freedom, the most significant event in their history. Therefore the Lord repeatedly insisted that the Israelites never forget what he had done for them. In the twelfth chapter of Exodus, verse 14, we see that “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever.” And in verse 24: “You shall observe this rite as an ordinance for you and for your sons for ever.” He even anticipates their children some day questioning their parents of the significance of this ritual. Therefore its meaning must be ever in place, “for ever” in their minds and in their practice, so that they can give their children a ready answer: “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he slew the Egyptians but spared our houses” (v. 27). Notice here another clue: their response is to refer to “our houses” rather than the expected “their houses.” Finally, in verse 42, the Passover must always be “a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.”

These instructions are important because they empower the Israelites and their descendents to celebrate the Passover not merely as a nostalgic remembrance of God’s saving hand but as a present reality of the same. When they celebrate the Passover, they do not merely reminisce of their release from the bondage of slavery but they re-call it in a way that makes it present and effective in their own time and place throughout salvation history: “[The Lord] spared our houses.” Scott Hahn and Mark Shea, in their study of the book of Exodus, make the following point:

The Passover event is inaugurated with the Passover liturgy itself and the Feast of Passover is commanded in the very hour that the Passover and the Exodus begin. The liturgy of the Passover is precisely the way in which the nation, throughout history, is to participate in the events of the Exodus itself. This is why the Passover liturgy, to this day, teaches Jews to say that “we” were slaves in Egypt. Mystically, Jews in all times and places are to see themselves as being present at the events of the Exodus. (p. 115)[2]

Here we see what the Passover meant to the Israelites as a whole: the memorial of their freedom from slavery. Let us take a closer look now at what was memorialized in each element of the ritual, continuing toward an adequate understanding of the Passover and looking forward to the Eucharist as memorial and sacrifice.

First, the lamb to be sacrificed must be “without blemish” because, quite simply, it is God to whom it is offered and God demands and deserves only the best offering. This is witnessed throughout the Old Testament. God did not accept Cain’s sacrifice “because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:11-12)[3] Also, “David refused to offer a sacrifice that cost him nothing” (cf. 1 Chron 21:22-25).[4] And the prophet Malachi addresses the abuse of offering impure sacrifice (Mal 1:6-9):

…O priests, who despise my name. You say, ‘How have we despised thy name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. And you say, “How have we polluted it?’ By thinking that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that no evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that no evil?... And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us.’ With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you?”

This and other examples reminded the Jews, then and now, that they must always offer only the best sacrifices to God.

But not only does God demand and deserve pure sacrifice he also demands and deserves singular worship; to Him alone is sacrifice made. The prophet Ezekiel writes:

Thus says the Lord God:… Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me… “Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them… But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they dwelt... So I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. (Ezek 20:5-10)

Hahn and Shea add that one of the reasons the slaughter of the lamb is so important is that it “symbolizes the rejection of Banebdjedet (Ba-neb-Tetet), a ram-headed Egyptian god who supposedly created mankind and even other gods on his potter’s wheel.”[5] Therefore the unblemished lamb also reminds the Jews of their single-heartedness for God. Finally the bitter herbs reminded them of the bitterness of bondage in Egypt and the unleavened bread, “loins girded,” “sandals on feet,” and “staff in hand” of the haste with which they left Egypt when Pharaoh drove them out (Ex 12:8, 11).

“But, in addition to the memorial aspect of the Passover, there is also a deeply prophetic aspect. For the Passover looks forward in a profound way to the coming of Christ and of the establishment of the New Covenant in Christ’s body and blood.”[6] Here, Hahn and Shea make the connection between the memorial aspect of the Passover and the memorial aspect of the Eucharist, the former prefiguring the latter and the latter fulfilling the former. Let us now look at how Sacred Scripture makes this connection as well.

Our introductory passage from Luke showed us that the Lord’s Last Supper, his institution of the Eucharist, was in the context of a celebration of the Passover.[7] Hahn, in A Father Who Keeps His Promises, also sees a connection in the very structure of the Passover ritual, divided into four parts or four cups. First, there is a blessing over the first cup of wine followed by the dish of bitter herbs. Second, the Passover narrative from Exodus 12 is recited and a psalm is sung followed by the drinking of the second cup. Third, the meal of lamb and unleavened bread is served followed by the drinking of the third cup, the “cup of blessing.” Finally, the climax of the Passover came with the singing of another hymn and the drinking of the fourth cup of wine, the ‘cup of consummation.’” (pp. 228-229)[8]

Many New Testament scholars see this pattern reflected in the Gospel narratives of the Last Supper. In particular, the cup that Jesus blessed and distributed is identified as the third cup of the Passover Haggadah. This is apparent from the singing of the “Great Hallel” which immediately follows: “And when they had sung a hymn” (Mk 14:26). Paul identifies this “cup of blessing” with the cup of the Eucharist (see 1 Cor 10:16).

We also see a connection made in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, in the “Bread of Life” discourse. In the beginning of the chapter, in verse four, we are told that “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.”

John shows how Jesus miraculously provided bread for five thousand after “he had given thanks (eucharistesas),” (v. 11) evoking eucharistic imagery. Jesus then identified himself as the “true bread from heaven” (v. 32) and the “bread of life” (v. 35), drawing the parallel with Moses, through whom God supernaturally fed manna to the Israelites while forming a covenant with them after the first Passover (Ex 16:4ff.).

Indeed, St. Paul concludes, in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven… but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:7-8).

Before we enter into our discussion on the sacrificial aspect of the Passover and the Eucharist we too must finally conclude, with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, what it is the Eucharist of the Last Supper memorializes: “In order to leave them a pledge of his love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return”[9] or as St. Paul stated it, “until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).

The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words “until he comes” does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.” (CCC, 1341)

And here too with the Eucharist, as with the Passover’s sense of “presence” that we established above, “both Jews and Christians enter into and participate in the great drama of God’s saving work in the world.”[10]

This mystical awareness of our eternal presence at God’s saving acts is only accentuated when [the Lamb of God][11], at the Passover Feast known as the Last Supper, takes the bread and the cup of the Passover and transforms it into his Body and Blood, becoming Really Present to us and making the one historical event of his Passion and Resurrection eternally present to us in the Sacrifice of the Mass.[12]

At this point, Fr. James T. O’Connor, in his comprehensive work on the Eucharist, The Hidden Manna, offers the following caution that leads us nicely into our discussion of the Passover and the Eucharist as sacrifice.

There is much [in the above discussion] that enriches the theology of the Eucharist, but it must be remembered that there is a uniqueness to the Eucharist that goes far beyond the Old Testament concept of memorial. The Eucharist is an effective memorial of Christ’s saving action because the Priest-Victim is himself actually and corporeally present, thus memorializing his own work in a manner not possible for other memorial celebrations (p. 243).[13]

The memorial aspect of both the Passover and the Eucharist, as discussed above, is distinct from their sacrificial aspect but not separate. Indeed, they are one in the same – both the Passover and the Eucharist – both memorial and sacrifice. As Fr. O’Connor alluded, Christ is the Priest-Victim in the sacrifice of His “New Passover,” the “new covenant,”[14] the Last Supper, the Eucharist. But how does the “Old Passover” point us to this reality? The Navarre Bible Commentary, commenting on the account of it in Exodus 12, says: “The victim will be a lamb, without blemish (v. 5) because it is to be offered to God. Smearing the doorposts and lintel with the blood of the victim (vv. 7, 13), an essential part of the rite, signifies protection from dangers. The Passover is essentially sacrificial from the very start.” But, this sacrifice and our connection of the Passover with the Eucharist would not be complete without the cross. Otherwise how could it be a memorial of his “death and Resurrection” as stated above?

At the inaugural Passover of the Israelites, the unblemished lamb was sacrificed for the salvation of their nation from the final plague and for their freedom from the bondage of slavery. But the sacrifice is such in both the object, the lamb, and the subject, the nation, because they had to make a sacrifice; they had to take from their own flocks, and the best at that. And if a family was too small to consume all of the lamb, as they were directed, then they shared a lamb with their neighbor. The nation made a collective sacrifice to provide the sacrifice offered for their salvation and freedom.

But just as the memorial aspect of the Passover points too and is expanded and fulfilled in the Eucharist, as indicated by Fr. O’Connor above, so too is the sacrificial aspect. In the Eucharist of the “New Passover” the subject and the object, the sacrifice and the offerer, the Priest and the Victim are one in the same Person of Christ. In describing the Mass, the Catechism explains, “The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, ‘sacrifice of praise,’ spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.” (CCC, 1330)

Also from our introductory passage, are the words of institution, “This is my body given for you.” In the Eucharist Christ gives us his very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (1365) The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit. (1366) The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” (1367) The Catechism summarizes nicely what we have said:

“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, Our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’” (1323)

Fr. O’Connor also presents three “tendencies” in theology following the Council of Trent in explaining exactly how the Eucharist was a sacrifice or, to be more precise, how the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Mass were related. The first tendency is exhibited by St. Robert Bellarmine. According to him, for the Mass to be a true sacrifice there must be an offering and some destruction of the victim. As we have said above, Christ is both the Priest and the Victim. And through the consumption of the Eucharist by the priest, the victim is destroyed when the form of his sacramental existence is destroyed. Thus reception by at least the priest was necessary for the existence of the sacrifice. (p. 237-239)[15]

The second tendency is held by one of the most preeminent scholars of the Eucharist as sacrifice, Maurice de la Taille, S.J. (1872-1933)[16]. Here it is believed that there does not need to be a destruction for there to be a true sacrifice but rather a new offering is required. “At the Last Supper, Christ made the offering of himself as the Victim ‘to be immolated’; on Calvary he offered himself by immolation; in the Mass, the Church offers him ‘as immolated’. (p. 240) The latter is seen in light of the eternity of Christ’s sacrifice. As the letter to the Hebrews says, Christ is our high priest at the right hand of God in heaven (cf. 8:1-2). If “every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices” (8:3) then Christ’s “once and for all” (7:27) sacrifice must be that very thing, but a never-ending or “perpetual” self-offering to the Father in heaven. And in this we participate on our altars on earth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The third tendency is one we have used above when citing the Catechism and is most common in modern theology of the Eucharist as sacrifice. Its most prominent proponents are Pope Pius XII, A. Vonier, O.S.B.,[17]and Matthias Scheeben (1835-1888)[18] Here, “the Mass is a sacrifice because, in it, in a sacramental and mystical manner, Christ’s offering, immolation, and priestly activity in heaven become effectively present for us, while he simultaneously subsumes into his unique sacrifice the sacrificial offerings of the Church.” Thus, “the Mass is therefore neither a new sacrifice [nor] a part of the one sacrifice; it is the one sacrifice in its totality, present under a sign.”(p. 241)

Thus far, we have looked at the Jewish Passover and how it was understood by the ancient Israelites and Jews today as a present, effective celebration of God’s saving hand from the bondage of slavery, never to be forgotten. We then looked at the memorial aspect of the Passover and what each element of the ritual brought to mind for he who celebrated it. In this memorial aspect the Passover looks ahead to Christ’s New Passover of the Eucharist that has a similar but unique and fulfilled memorial aspect. Therefore, guided as we were by the Passover, we looked at how the Eucharist is a memorial. Finally, we looked at the sacrificial aspect of the Passover and how this too directed us toward and was fulfilled by the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist. And we explored briefly how this sacrificial aspect has been explained through Tradition, modern theology, the Catechism and Scripture. In so doing we give glory to God who from all time planned to share his superabundant love by making man in time and then preparing for him from his very beginning the most August Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, God made Man so that Man could be made “little less than God.” (Psalm 8:5)

[1] All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition
[2] Exodus Study, Lesson 11, “Passover,” Catholic Scripture Study International, © copyright 2004, emphasis mine. See also
[3] The Navarre Bible Commentary on the Pentateuch adds for Gen 4:3-8: “Assuming that Cain was ill-intentioned in his offerings, St. Bede the Venerable comments that ‘men often are placated by gifts from those who have offended them; but God, who ‘discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Heb 4:12), lets himself be placated by no gift as much as by the pious devotion of the offerer. Once he has seen the purity of our heart, he will then also accept our prayers and our works” (Hexaemeron 2: in Gen, 4:4-5).”
[4] Exodus Study, p. 116
[5] Exodus Study, p. 117
[6] Exodus Study, p. 117
[7] Luke 22:7-15. See also, Matthew 26:17-19 and Mark 14:12-16
[8] A Father Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture, by Scott Hahn, Servant Publications, ©1998. Hahn continues with an explanation of the problem of the fourth cup: “Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mk 14:25-26). But, this problem is beyond the scope of the present essay.
[9] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1337
[10] Exodus Study, p. 115
[11] Cf. John 1:29, Rev 5:6, etc. It is interesting to note that the latter reference is the first of 28 times among the first 22 chapters of Revelation in which Christ is referred to as “the lamb.”
[12] Exodus Study, p. 115. Here, Hahn and Shea actually refer to “God Incarnate” but I chose the title “the Lamb of God” in brackets in order to further our point.
[13] The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist, by James T. O’Connor, Ignatius Press, ©2005, 2nd ed.
[14] Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24 (note, in Matthew and Mark: “Other ancient authorities insert new”); Luke 22:20; and 1 Cor 11:25
[15] The Hidden Manna
[16] The Mystery of Faith, vol I and II
[17] A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist
[18] The Mysteries of Christianity

My Love: An Account of and Reflection on a Rachel's Vineyard Retreat

I've been debating for a while whether I should post this. The recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade and my attendance with the seminary community at the March for Life has kept this in my head and on my heart though. I want to increase awareness of this ministry even if its just through this little 'ol blog. I'm talking about Project Rachel/Rachel's Vineyard, the Church's ministry to women and men suffering from abortion. In the last couple of years, I have discerned that this is a strong "call within a call" that God wants me to be a part of. I feel like he is giving me something he wants me to pour my love into, to be fruitful and creative in the truest sense of the word, to be a spiritual father now.

Below is an account of and a reflection on a recent Rachel's Vineyard retreat I went to in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. These are weekend-long retreats that women and men go to in order to receive healing from their abortion. Granted, it's not a step-by-step account or a run-through of the entire retreat. But, I don't want to ruin the experience for anyone who has had an abortion, may read this, and then go to a retreat. Therefore...

NOTE: If you have had an abortion, leave a comment anonymously and tell me the diocese you are from and I will also post with contact information for your local Project Rachel. You may also not want to read the below so that you don't ruin the surprises that God has in store for you during such a retreat.

That said...

In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning,

of bitter weeping!

Rachel mourns her children,

she refuses to be consoled

because her children are no more.

Thus says the Lord:

Cease your cries of mourning,

wipe the tears from your eyes.

The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward…

There is hope for your future

- Jeremiah 31:15-17

The Rachel’s Vineyard retreat has always been a very powerful experience for me. I have been to two retreats in the Diocese of Raleigh, NC before this latest one, my third, in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, MD. My first retreat developed from a simple, gut reaction when Jeff Bobby told me that he was helping to administer it: “Oh, I’ve been wanting to help out with something like that.” He asked me in reply, “Well why don’t you come?” I was very hesitant because I did not know much about it. After he informed me that my first retreat would have to be as a retreatant (with the other women and even men) in order to familiarize myself with the program I was even more hesitant. I had never had direct experience with abortion before, what could I possibly contribute? But, then I remembered a dear friend in college who had an abortion. This happened before my senior-year conversion (or “reversion”) to a serious practicing of my faith. I think I may have told her that she shouldn’t do it, but I certainly didn’t try to help her as much then as I would today. And since that conversion, and upon reflecting on my life that preceded it, I had a growing sense of guilt ever since college that I could have done more to help her or to convince her not to go through with it. So that experience is what I brought to my first Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. During that retreat, last year, I received much healing as the activities, reflections, rituals, and sacraments of the weekend became instruments of God’s abundant grace, healing, and divine mercy. But I would like to here discuss and reflect on this most recent retreat in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

I try to never give the Devil too much credit, but I think he tries earnestly to keep the participants from it! The journey to my first retreat was met with dark night skies and pouring-down rain. The second was met with pouring rain and a blocked road that Jeff and I had to find our way around. And here the third, I should have known, was met with another roadblock which demanded a lengthy, windy, detour. And it seems that at each retreat I was not the only one that was met with difficulty. But, this external difficulty of mine pales in comparison to the interior “difficulties” each of the women bore.

At this retreat, like my second one, I brought a different particular struggle on which to apply the graces and healing of the retreat. This is what many Project Rachel team members do, many of them having administered several retreats. In the words of the director of Project Rachel for Baltimore, Denise Douglas, “We all abort God’s Will in some way or another” and His Holy Spirit always wants to heal us. But, not only did I receive many spiritual fruits from the retreat but I also gained invaluable experience, knowledge, and grace that will help my coming priesthood, God-Willing. This too is one of my primary motivations for attending these retreats. I want to be able to reach out to women (and men) suffering from abortion. I want to be able to recognize the symptoms of Post Abortion Syndrome, as therapists are now calling it. I want to be able to recognize the patterns of behavior that lead up to and result from abortion and that are often repeatedly confessed. Many women will confess their abortion over and over, never able to accept God’s forgiveness and mercy, never able to overcome their guilt, anger, and grief. Many women sit in our congregations with their abortion weighing heavily on their hearts wondering if their pastor really cares: “Does he know I’ve had an abortion? Can he see it on my face? Does he care? Will he reach out to me? Will he address my situation from the pulpit? How would he react if I told him? What on earth should I do?”

These retreats mostly have women in mind but men certainly suffer from abortion as well and are welcome to attend. When they do they are often boyfriends or husbands who suffer alongside their girlfriend or wife. They react less emotionally but still experience much heartache and disappointment over “not having a son of my own”, not being able to do typical American “dad things” like pitch-and-catch and baseball games, and feelings of ineptitude over not having been able to protect his wife or girlfriend and/or their baby. They are also less likely to be open to a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat than women. But it is still often a very difficult decision for women to make too. Many will hold on to the Project Rachel Hotline number from the Church bulletin or the flyer from the vestibule for months before they finally make the call. When they arrive at the retreat they come from various places, ages, and circumstances (some are even grandparents grieving the loss of aborted grandchildren) but all have somewhat similar experiences or patterns: childhoods of neglect (or what seems to be neglect), abuse, single-parenting, sexual abuse from friends or relatives, and even incest. And their abortions often lead to downward spirals of depression, anxiety, drugs, alcohol, abandonment, promiscuity, and neglected faith lives or disbelief in God. I am not a therapist and I have had very little experience with post-abortive women compared to others in Project Rachel and in other Pro-Life ministries, but this is what I have gathered from over 30 different abortion and life stories I have heard across all three retreats.

A Rachel’s Vineyard retreat is broken up into several components. There are “Living Scriptures” which are readings of certain passages from the Bible that pertain to Christ’s healing power, like the woman at the well, the hemorrhaging woman who touches Christ’s garment, the healing of the blind man, the woman caught in adultery, and the raising of Lazarus. These are followed by a meditation in which one imagines herself as the character in the account receiving Christ’s healing, mercy, and/or forgiveness. Then the passage is acted out in some way. For example, after the Living Scripture of the woman caught in adultery, each retreatant is given a large rock symbolizing whatever dominant struggle they have brought to the retreat. This could be anger, guilt, grief, or even close-mindedness, blaming others, stubbornness, etc. They must carry the rock throughout the weekend to all activities, and even to bed, the bathroom, chapel, etc. When the person is ready to let go of this burden, she gives it to the priest in attendance who asks her “Is there no one here to condemn you?” She replies, “No sir.” “Then neither do I, go and sin no more.” Then the group applauds the courage and newfound relief that this brings.

There is a Dear Children video, a special Project Rachel video that shares the stories of a woman, a man, and two couples. This video explains the effects of abortion, what leads up to it, and Post-Abortion Syndrome and gives an example of how one could tell her story. There is also a moving part of the video in which the woman featured names her children that she aborted and writes a letter to them. This serves as an example for later activities in which the retreatants will do those very things.

The opportunity the women have to name their own babies and write letters to them forms the focus of the retreat: To take the emphasis away from the abortion (but still taking responsibility for it) and put it toward the child who is now in heaven where he knows no pain, sorrow, or resentment and who is forgiving and happy with Christ forever. This is a very powerful exercise for everyone at the retreat. The women and men get a chance to reclaim the parenthood that they’ve always had. At the moment of conception they were mothers and fathers, a reality that their abortion once robbed them of but which cannot take from them for good. Naming the children makes this reality concrete and brings it alive. And writing a letter to the children gives the mother an opportunity to address the child as she has so much longed to do, ever since. It allows her to express her sorrow and regret, to ask for forgiveness, to ask for prayers for herself and any siblings, and to entrust her child to the maternal care of our Blessed Mother and the eternal Fatherhood of God.

Another important component is the Memorial Service which gives the retreatants an opportunity to grieve their children in a way that society has not allowed them to do. Their other deceased friends and family often receive a funeral Mass or service but when a mother has an abortion she feels as if she is not allowed to grieve: there is no funeral, there are no sympathy cards, she often cries alone. After-all, many of her friends and family wouldn’t understand to begin with and Planned Parenthood tells her constantly that her abortion was for her own good. The Memorial Service gives them and their babies the recognition that they deserve.

While the first day of the retreat has all of the character of Good Friday, Sunday brings new life and ends with the Mass of Resurrection which highlights the grace, mercy, healing, and forgiveness of God and the presence of their babies with Him. This brings much happiness and joy to the end of the retreat, thankfulness for healing and grace received, and hope for continued fruits from the retreat. It also calls to mind an earlier reflection in which the retreatants break through a wilderness of loss and confusion and into the light of Christ who introduces each one of them to their children who are alive and happy in heaven with Him. Finally, it allows each person to joyfully celebrate communion with each other, their babies, and the Church, communion that was re-established and strengthened through the Sacrament of Confession and an hour during all-night Adoration.

It was such a privilege to be a part of this retreat, to be there to listen and support the women participating. For some of them it was the very first time they’ve ever told their abortion story… and right there in front of me! I couldn’t believe what some of them have gone through. Some even had very strong faith lives, despite all the hurt they had experienced, because the grief and guilt made them take a long, hard look at their relationship with God, a God who was their last resort but ended up being the Best Choice they ever made. The retreat helped them concretize this and affirm the path on which God’s Grace had led them.

I didn’t anticipate being as deeply involved in the retreat as I was, opening myself as wide as I did, sharing as much as I did. But I think it was how the Holy Spirit wanted me to participate at that time. He wanted me to experience some of what the women were going through so that I could in turn share in some of the graces, the healing, the new life he had in store for them. He wanted me to know this movement thoroughly so that I could then go out and share it with others who are suffering from abortion.

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

-1 Cor. 1:5

craziness at the parish

This morning...er... yesterday, there was some craziness at the parish I'm assigned to here in Baltimore... literally!

I was scheduled to serve the 9am and 10:30am Masses and a baptism at 1:15pm. I got to the parish as the 7:30am Mass was letting out and the sacristy was all a-buzz. Apparently (I got bits of the story), a guy off his meds got up during the homily, approached the cantor, asked her if he could stand up front, and she asked him to return to his pew, but he went up anyway and stood behind the altar. Then he started shouting something like, "That's not salvation! I know what salvation is!! yadda yadda yadda" Very nonchalantly, Fr. Steve asked the ushers to come up (Knights of Columbus mind you) who surrounded and tackled the guy! Then they called the cops and had the guy arrested. Meanwhile this guy's brother is pacing back and forth in the back of the Church with a big red poofy jacket on and his hands in his pockets. Everyone thought he had a gun! Everybody was really scared but I guess it smoothed over well because the people looked calm and normal when I got there. Thank God... seriously. Can I get a "hoo-rah" for the Knights of Columbus being Knights! Protecting the Church! haha :)

Before you wonder if their tackling of the crazy was too much, know that earlier that week a Methodist Church in the neighborhood was robbed at gunpoint during their service! The guy had all the women hand over their jewelry! I don't know how big the church is or how many people were at the service. But, having that fresh in the community's mind I think more than warranted the Knights' response. Again... hoo-rah for my Brother Knights!

eh-hem... OK I'm calmed down now! Anyway, before the 10:30am Mass, when Msgr. Barker the rugrats and I were lining up for the procession, I whispered to him that I'd be his bodyguard for the Mass. He chuckled. But I was thinkin, "Man...what if that guy went even more nuts? What if his brother did have a gun? Would I take a bullet for Msgr. Barker... cassock, surplice, and all... Archbishop Romero-style??

I was joking with a buddy of mine here at the seminary who was teasing me for just wanting a glamorous martyr's death. Don't we all! haha I admit I'm one to daydream about taking one for the team, throwing my body over the Eucharist to block a would-be desecrator, like my boy St. Tarcisius... or something like that. I guess it's not really a martyr's death if you want it huh? hehe I guess if it really comes down to it and it's real, then push comes to shove and you're faced with the circumstances and the risk and the repercussions and you gotta make a choice.

Again, I would hope I would do it. It's up to the Holy Spirit. All I/We can do is pray for Him to increase our love for the faith, for the Church, for the priesthood, for the Sacraments, for the Eucharist so that when/if the time comes I/We wouldn't have to think too hard about it.

This Wednesday, Jan 31, I'll be instituted into the Ministry of Acolyte. St. Tarcisius, ora pro nobis

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cardinal Bernadine and the priesthood

One of Baltimore's Auxiliary Bishops (his name is escaping me!) presided over our Day of Recollection to open the new Spring Semester. In one of his talks he quoted Cardinal Bernadine from a talk he gave to the seminarians at Mundelein. I'd like to share that here:
The priesthood is a passionate commitment, a fiery-eyed vision, and an insatiable thirst for holiness and practical justice. The priest is called to be a challenger, enabler, life-giver, poet of life, music maker, dreamer of dreams. He must be a man of deep personal faith, conformed to Christ, a man who loves the Scriptures, draws sustenance from the sacramental life of the Church, and truly knows the community with and for whom he offers sacrifice. A priest is a man with a clear sense of his own self, one who strives to develop all his natural talents to the limit for the good of the Church. He is a man of unreasonable hopes and expectations, who takes seriously, for himself and others, the injunction to be perfect as the heavenly Father is.

That's what I wanted for myself. That's what I want for you.
- Chicago Studies, Fall/Winter, 2006

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

on childlikeness... not childish-ness

Here is another beautiful quote from a post on my friend Amy's blog:

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening. "Do it again" to the moon. it may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

On Modernism: From Blessed Pius IX to Saint Pius X

I feel a little better about this paper, again from my Fundamental Theology class:

When we speak of the Catholic Church’s treatment of Modernism, we can look at her most important documents on the subject for an adequate definition. Indeed her earliest ones do us a great service in understanding this philosophical and theological movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. While early Modernists would have us believe that a systematic or comprehensive understanding of their philosophies and methods cannot be determined (so as to better disguise their ambitions)[1], I hope to show here through consecutive summaries that the Church in a most timely manner succeeded in doing that very thing. Therefore we will move from Vatican I of Bl. Pius IX to Lamentabili Sane[2] and Pascendi Dominici Gregis[3] of St. Pius X.

Let us begin with a monumental beginning, the First Vatican Council (1869-1870). Looking at its sessions we see references to the council’s impetus and to the seeds of what Pope Pius X almost 40 years later so clearly named “Modernism.” Pope Pius IX in the first session of the council stated among other reasons for its opening, “the uprooting of current errors”. In the third session, the council fathers in their first of only two constitutions, Dei Filius[4], determined to “profess and declare from this chair of Peter before all eyes the saving teaching of Christ, and, by the power given us by God, to reject and condemn the contrary errors."[5] In this order it clarified Church teaching on God, revelation, faith, and reason in a creedal format and saved its condemnations for a canon of anathemas. But, in its zeal for the former it indulged a bit in the latter and it is here that we find an early definition, so to speak, of Modernism. Later documents will confirm that what Vatican I had on its hands was indeed the infancy of this “most pernicious of all the adversaries of the Church."[6]

In Dei Filius, we see early Modernism defined more by its actions or consequences than by a clear summary statement. Here we have a rejection of the magisterium and the divinity of the Bible and doctrines of rationalism and naturalism all of which have “plunged the minds of many into the abyss of pantheism, materialism, and atheism, and the consequence is that they strive to destroy rational nature itself, to deny any criterion of what is right and just, and to overthrow the very foundations of human society."[7] Modernism is further defined by the canon of anathemas, or condemned propositions, that have flourished since the Council of Trent – despite that council’s fruits (and condemnations) – to the time of Vatican I. Of particular note are the following:

- A human being… of himself can and must reach finally the possession of all truth and goodness by continual development. (can. De Rev. #3)

- Human reason is so independent that faith cannot be commanded by God. (can. De Fid. #1)

- Men and women ought to be moved to faith only by each other’s internal experience or private inspiration. (can. De Fid. #3)

- Catholics may have a just cause for calling in doubt, by suspending their assent, the faith… until they have completed a scientific demonstration of the credibility and truth of their faith. (can. De Fid. #6) – And –

- Human studies are to be treated with such a degree of liberty that their assertions may be maintained as true even when they are opposed to divine revelation. (can. De Fid. et Rat. #2)

In the fourth and last session, the fathers of the second constitution of the council, Pastor Aeternus[8], were finally faced with the following charge:

And since the gates of hell trying, if they can, to overthrow the Church, make their assault with a hatred that increases day by day against its divinely laid foundation, we judge it necessary, with the approbation of the Sacred Council, and for the protection, defense and growth of the Catholic flock, to propound the doctrine concerning the 1. institution, 2. permanence and 3. nature of the sacred and apostolic primacy, upon which the strength and coherence of the whole Church depends. (PA, intro, #6)

Pastor Aeternus made similar condemnations as Dei Filius and then, at the end, defined the primacy and infallibility of the pope, thus affirming its stand forever as the real and true authority on matters concerning faith and morals.[9]

But, despite this stand, “contrary errors which are so harmful to the Lord’s flock"[10] persisted. Thirty-seven years later, Pope Pius X expanded on Vatican I, reminding the world of what it stood for and demanding that its principles still be taken seriously. With Lamentabili Sane and Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Pius X put Modernism forever in its place.

Using a similar model as the canons of Dei Filius, Lamentabili Sane laid out a list of 65 propositions or errors of the Modernists that are “condemned and proscribed.” Here we can capture a fuller definition of Modernism by again looking at its actions. While all of the propositions are egregious, here are some notable ones:

- The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution. (#53)

- The Church has shown that she is hostile to the progress of the natural and theological sciences. (#57)

- Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved with him, in him, and through him. (#58)

- Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted. (#64) – And –

- Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism. (65)

Two months later, on Sept. 8, 1907 Pope Pius X released the lengthy Pascendi Dominici Gregis in which he lays out in great detail the doctrines of the Modernists:

But since the Modernists (as they are commonly and rightly called) employ a very clever artifice, namely, to present their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement into one whole, scattered and disjointed one from another, so as to appear to be in doubt and uncertainty, while they are in reality firm and steadfast, it will be of advantage, Venerable Brethren, to bring their teachings together here into one group, and to point out the connexion [sic] between them, and thus to pass to an examination of the sources of the errors, and to prescribe remedies for averting the evil. (PDG, #4)

Here we finally find clear defining statements of Modernism and its chief principles and goals. PDG covers the Modernist as a Believer, as a Theologian, as an Historian and Critic, as an Apologist, and as a Reformer and then looks at the cause of Modernism and some Remedies. First, Modernists “lay the axe not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fires. And having struck at this root of immortality, they proceed to disseminate poison through the whole tree."[11]

In its analysis, PDG states that Modernist teaching is founded on Agnosticism – because human reason is confined within those things perceptible to the senses it is incapable of recognizing God’s existence. From Agnosticism, the next logical step is Atheism, from “ignorance as to whether God has in fact intervened in history” to “ignoring God altogether as if He really had not intervened."[12] Along with Agnosticism we have a theory of religious immanence in which the first actuation of every vital phenomenon (including religion) is due to a “certain necessity or impulsion”; but has its origin in a movement of the heart – a sentiment. “Therefore, since God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and the foundation of all religion, consists in a sentiment which originates in the need of the divine."[13] The experience of this need of the divine then “grows up into a religion.” Thus, for the Modernists, religion comes from within man rather than as a gift from God. And intellect is incorporated only as a tool for man to “transform into mental pictures the vital phenomena which arise within him, and then express them in words."[14]

Here we have two defining principles, theological immanence and theological symbolism. In the former, the Modernist qua Philosopher proposes that the principle of faith is immanent. The Modernist qua Believer adds that this principle is God. Finally the Modernist qua Theologian concludes that God is immanent in man. In theological symbolism, the Philosopher proposes that the representations of the object of faith are merely symbolical. The Believer adds that the object of faith is God in Himself. And the Theologian concludes that the representations of the divine reality are symbolical.[15]

Also important in defining Modernism is its teaching on Dogma. Here PDG explains that for them Dogma is born of impulse or necessity on the occasion that the believer is “constrained to elaborate his religious thought.” This elaboration refines “primitive formula” and is then rolled up into successive developments and constructions until it is sanctioned by the magisterium as “responding to the common consciousness."[16]

As religion and dogma come from man, so too does the Church which has its birth in a double need: “of the individual… to communicate his faith to others” and “of the mass… to form itself into a society and to guard, increase, and propagate the common good.” The Church then is the product of the “collective conscience".[17]

Another general principle of Modernism is evolution. “To the law of evolution everything is subject – dogma, Church, worship, the Books we revere as sacred, even faith itself, and the penalty of disobedience is death.” The evolution of dogma consists in the “perpetual striving to penetrate ever more profoundly its own mysteries.” The evolution of worship consists in “the need of adapting itself to the uses and customs of peoples.” And the evolution in the Church is “fed by the need of accommodating itself to historical conditions and of harmonizing itself with existing forms of society."[18] Evolution happens when individual consciences pressure the collective conscience which in turn pressures the authority to compromise its standards and so changes and “advances” take place.

Ultimately, Modernists are “possessed by a reforming mania: in all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten.” Philosophy, theology, history, worship, and ecclesiastical government are all reformed and “dogmas and their evolution are to be harmonized with science and history."[19] We also can conclude that “their system does not consist in scattered and unconnected theories but in a perfectly organized body, all the parts of which are solidly joined so that it is not possible to admit one without admitting all.” Finally, PDG defines Modernism, caused by curiosity, pride, and ignorance, as “the synthesis of all heresies” and the annihilation of all religion. “The first step in this direction was taken by Protestantism; the second is made by Modernism; the next will plunge headlong into atheism."[20]

Thus we have seen expressed in Dei Filius and Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council the seeds of Modernism. Lamentabili Sane expanded on the cautions of Vatican I with a list of clear condemnations which in turn gave the faithful a clearer description of this movement which should be so desperately avoided. And finally Pascendi Dominici Gregis took all the previous conclusions, expanded on them with brilliant erudition and provided us with a comprehensive, systematic study of Modernism which still serves today as a valid protection of the “integrity and genuineness of the faith"[21]

[1] Pascendi Dominici Gregis, #4 (PDG below)
[2] Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists (July 3, 1907) - LS
[3] On the Doctrines of the Modernists (Sept 8, 1907) - PDG
[4] Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith (Apr 24, 1870) - DF
[5] DF, intro, #10
[6] PDG, #3
[7] DF, intro, #7
[8] First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ (Jul 18, 1870) - PA
[9] “we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra… he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses… that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy” (PA, ch. 4, #9)
[10] PA, intro, #8
[11] PDG, #3
[12] PDG, #6
[13] PDG, #7
[14] PDG, #11
[15] PDG, #19
[16] PDG, #21
[17] PDG, #22
[18] PDG, #26
[19] PDG, #38
[20] PDG, #39
[21] DF, intro, #8

The History of Apologetic Theology and its Contemporary Role

Here is a paper I wrote last semester for my Fundamental Theology class on the History of Apologetic Theology and its Contemporary Role. It is very, I repeat very, cursory. This is certainly not an easy topic to limit to 6 pages. My most glaring deficiency, in my opinion, is of course the very little said of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Here goes...

Though it has recently been absorbed by many into “fundamental theology,"[1]apologetics has been a distinct practice as long as man has had hope and the need to give a reason for it. Indeed he has never been at a loss for an occasion to do so. Whether it was in establishing God’s self-revelation through his Son in the New Testament, or defending against the errors of the Reformation, or more recently standing athwart relativism and modernism, apologetics has undergone a long and complicated history of change in method and purpose. Here we will take a brief look at this history of apologetic theology and then examine its contemporary role.

For our purposes here we will take as our guide, Avery Cardinal Dulles who has masterfully presented a history of apologetics broken up into seven periods: the New Testament, the Patristic Era, the Middle Ages, the sixteenth century through the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century, the twentieth century before the Second Vatican Council, and the twentieth century after the Second Vatican Council.[2]

In the gospels and letters of the New Testament, Cardinal Dulles argues that we do not find apologetics texts, per se. What we find are gospels and letters “primarily concerned with telling the story of Jesus and with drawing the consequences of that story for belief, for worship, and for the practical conduct of human life."[3] But this certainly does not mean that the New Testament is bereft of any elements commonly associated with apologetics. For example, St. Paul defends the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 by presenting as evidence first Christ’s appearance to Cephas and the twelve (an appeal to authority), then to the “five hundred brethren at one time” (an appeal to sheer number of witnesses), and finally to his own first-hand experience. He then continues to explain the consequences if there is indeed no resurrection of the dead, as some are arguing, and the logic behind Christ’s resurrection.

In the Patristic Era, of the second century through St. Augustine, we find the first master of a concerted effort and discipline of apologetics, St. Justin Martyr. In his apology to the emperor Antoninus Pius, St. Justin describes the faith of the early Christians as essentially reasonable. “This reasonableness supports everything they practice and profess and is (or should be) their defense against unjust persecutions and accusations."[4] This purpose sets the tone of apologetics for the Patristic Era, one that moves from explanation to brave defense against both persecution and the influence of Jewish and pagan teachings. “Against the Jews they still urge, most of all, the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies, interpreting them in the light of the new fact of Christ.[5] With the fourth century onward, Cardinal Dulles draws attention to the markedly positive accommodation of Hellenistic elements into Christian apologetics. Giants of this period like Clement, Origen, Athanasius, and Augustine were quick to take the goods of “Greek and Roman antiquity” and show how they shined in a Christian framework.

Moving to the Middle Ages, we find the Doctor of the “greatest century,” St. Thomas Aquinas. His Summa contra gentiles marks the pinnacle of medieval apologetics whose role was to respond to “the failure of the Crusading movement, together with the incursion of Arabic philosophy into the West.” But, before him came St. Anselm and his reflections on the relationship between faith and reason especially in his Monologion, his Prosologion, and his Cur Deus homo.[6] Many other works of the period from Peter Alphonsi, Hermann of Cologne, Rupert of Deutz, and Peter the Venerable (who Cardinal Dulles calls “the most eminent twelfth-century apologist”) are works against Muslims and Jews but were also at times for them, i.e. for their salvation. Indeed, Peter approaches the Muslims not “as our people often do, by arms, but by words; not by force, but by reason; not in hatred, but in love."[7] The most influential lead to St. Thomas though is Peter Abelard.

His “Quaestio” method of theology, in which a question was raised, a defense was made, an opposing argument was given, and then a conclusion was drawn, became the form for theology and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. This theology benefited greatly from the goldmine of Aristotle’s works preserved by Islam. His works were soon translated into both Latin and Arabic and had a lasting effect on theology and apologetics up to the present day.[8]

Our next period in the history of apologetics is the sixteenth century through the eighteenth century, a period marked heavily by the Protestant Reformation. Here we find apologetics from Protestants against certain abuses in the Church, against the Magesterium and Tradition, and in support of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. The Church in turn tried in her apologetics to bring the Reformers and their followers back into the fold but made little progress.

Finally a council was called, one that would influence the Church and her apologetics until the Second Vatican Council. This was the Council of Trent which ran from 1545 to 1563(4). In the Council, and in response to the Reformation, the Church was very defensive and scholastic and condemned Luther and the Reformers. Here the role of apologetics, as blessed by the Council, was to explain her decrees, clarify dogma proposed by the Reformation, correct abuses, and condemn the Protestant Reformers.[9]

Apart from the influence of the Reformation, Cardinal Dulles explains that the apologetics of this period was also heavily influenced by the break from religious unity that characterized the Middle Ages. The sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries saw “hostile religious camps”, religious literature of which “controversy became the dominant form”, “inter-Christian polemics”, “skepticism and religious indifferentism,” and the blatant attack from “forces of the Enlightenment."[10] For the first time its role was to respond to direct rejection and attack. Cardinal Dulles observes that

the initiative in this period no longer lies with the protagonists of the Christian cause but rather with the adversaries… [the former] seem unable to turn the tables on the adversaries by mastering and correcting the new currents of thought – as Origen had done for middle Platonism, Augustine for Neoplatonism, and Aquinas for Averroistic Aristotelianism.[11]

This brings us to the fifth of Cardinal Dulles’ seven periods of the history of apologetics, the nineteenth century. In this century, the role of apologetics was to answer the rapidly increasing notions of “an inward apologetic of the heart”: individualism, subjectivism, feeling and movements of the heart, and faith resting “not simply on external authority but rather on personal motives that are subjectively compelling though objectively insufficient."[12] Other challenges included the progress of natural and historical knowledge (i.e. Darwinism), biblical criticism, and comparative religion. But, alas, due to all of this, Cardinal Dulles states that the nineteenth century is “unquestionably one of the most fruitful in the entire history of Christian apologetics” because it had so much to respond to and with such intense complexity. This period also saw a master in John Henry Cardinal Newman, the “leading Catholic apologist of the nineteenth century and one of the greatest of all time."[13] He was most concerned with the criteria of religious knowledge, the problem of faith and reason, the apostolicity of the Catholic Church, and the “history of his religious opinions” (via Apologia pro vita sua).

Finally, we come to the twentieth century, first looking at the period before the Second Vatican Council. Here apologetics was faced with a new challenge. Cardinal Dulles explains that before,

The apologist, speaking from the stable platform of official Christianity, whether Protestant or Catholic, had only to refute the adversaries and convince them of their errors. With the rise of deism, and even more, under idealism and liberalism, the lines between defense and attack became increasingly blurred.[14]

For the first time, apologists were not so sure they were defending the same faith. Here, inter-church apologetics became increasingly important. There was competition between a defensive type and a revisionist type of apologetics. Important and still very popular figures from this period are Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Henri de Lubac, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis.

Following the Second Vatican Council, the status of apologetics was criticized and put into question partly out of reaction to its association with the earlier manuals, based on the “neo-Scholastic analysis fidei.” Cardinal Dulles presents what Claude Geffre, O.P. wrote in The Development of Fundamental Theology:

[T]he term “fundamental theology” is now preferred to describe Christian apologetics. It is not simply that in an age of dialogue the word “apologetics” is discredited. It is rather, and more profoundly, that we have become conscious of the weakness of apologetics when it pretends to be able to prove the fact of revelation on historical grounds. We can only be sure of divine revelation within the experience of faith.[15]

Henri Bouillard concludes that apologetics and fundamental theology cannot be separated.

Today though, we still see the traditional practice of apologetics as a reasoned defense of faith distinct from serving as a foundational/fundamental instrument or function (though, to be sure, it is that too). This is most vivid in the revival of Catholic apologetics in the United States. Figures such as Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Peter Kreeft, Sheldon Vanauken, Thomas Howard, Dale Vree, Ronald K. Tacelli, and Scott and Kimberly Hahn[16] are at the forefront of this resurgence that has provided much revitalization and confidence to the Catholic Church in America, a Church beaten down in many ways by priestly scandals, false allegations, and bankruptcies. Their success in large part can be attributed to their return to the “stable platform of official Christianity” after American Catholics for four decades have been doubting and wondering exactly where and what that platform is.[17] Finally, two more popular figures have also satisfied this hunger: the beloved Pope John Paul II and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Both have “lifted up the radiant beauty of Jesus Christ as grounds for adhering to Him in a loving submission of faith. For them, the figure of Christ as given in Scripture and in the liturgy is its own evidence. No complicated arguments from history or source criticism, they believe, are needed."[18] And as Pope John Paul II has said, “Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently."[19]

[1] We will see later how and why this occurred.
[2] See A History of Apologetics, by Avery Cardinal Dulles, Ignatius Press, ©2005, revised edition
[3] Dulles, p. 1
[4] “On St. Justin Martyr’s Apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and the Contemporary Work of the Church,” by Matthew Hardesty for HS 500, Ancient and Medieval Christianity
[5] Dulles, p. 88
[6] Cf. Dulles, p. 99
[7] Dulles, p. 106 quoting Peter the Venerable’s A Book against the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens.
[8] See lecture summary, “Fundamental Theology Notes on the History of Theology,” by Matthew Hardesty on notes given by Fr. Hy Nguyen in SL 500, Fundamental Theology
[9] See second lecture summary, “Fundamental Theology Notes on the History of Theology, Continued
[10] Dulles, p. 145
[11] Dulles, p. 206
[12] Dulles, p. 210
[13] Dulles, p. 245
[14] Dulles, p. 271
[15] Dulles, p. 326-327
[16] See Dulles, p. 343
[17] Dulles has a helpful comment: “In such a time as our own, when many Christians find it especially difficult to articulate the reasonableness of their faith, it can be particularly profitable to review the record of the past”, p. xxi
[18] Dulles, p. 366
[19] Dulles, p. xiii quoting Pope John Paul II on the mystery of revelation

truly priestly

Here is a wonderful excerpt from a letter by JPII to priests. My dear friend Amy turned me onto it:

Particularly in the context of the new evangelization, the people have a right to turn to priests in the hope of "seeing'' Christ in them (cf. Jn 12:21). The young feel the need for this especially; Christ continues to call them, to make them his friends and to challenge some to give themselves completely for the sake of the Kingdom. Vocations will certainly not be lacking if our manner of life is truly priestly, if we become more holy, more joyful, more impassioned in the exercise of our ministry. A priest "won'' by Christ (cf. Phil 3:12) more easily "wins" others, so that they too decide to set out on the same adventure. John Paul II Letter to Priests on Holy Thursday 2005

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

new semester

Well, I've been back from Christmas break for a couple weeks and it's been forever since I've posted (again). I spent a week helping out Fr. Paul Beach, my former spiritual director, a week with my family, and a week with Fr. Bob Ray, the priest I worked with last summer. But, I couldn't really "help out" like they really needed it, in terms of taking a couple Masses (!)... it was more like "hanging out". I did serve all the Masses though in an M.C. sort of fashion which I think heightens the solemnity and reverence of the liturgy a little bit, apropos to the season. Plus I personally find it tremendously rewarding. It was my pleasure to help out as little as it may have been.

In case anyone is curious, here are the highlights of the goodness Santa delivered to my stocking :)
A little shelf stereo for my room at the seminary
The episodes of the unjustly canceled and thoroughly excellent show Firefly on DVD
2 CD's: Wow Hits 2007 (Christian) and... wait for it... Journey's Greatest Hits! I know, I know... but before you laugh I have an endearing little story that explains it all. My dad's name is Perry. It just so happens that the lead singer of the band is Steve Perry. So when my family used to go on road trips with my three brothers and I squeezed into the backseat and Journey would come on the radio my dad would glance back at us and ask, "Steve Who?!" and we'd yell "Perry!" hehe
My brother Nick got me Looking at the Liturgy: A Critical View of its Contemporary Form by Aidan Nichols, O.P.
I bought myself Our Lady and the Church by "the other Rahner," Hugo Rahner, S.J. About this classic work then-Cardinal Ratzinger stated: "This marvelous work is one of the most important theological rediscoveries of the twentieth century."
It ranks up there with The Mother of the Savior and our Interior Life by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., which I also bought myself
Plus I got an iTunes gift card which is always good... so Christmas was awesome.

This semester I'm taking:
Modern and Contemporary Catholicism
Theological Anthropology
Synoptic Gospels
Doctrine of God
Foundations of Moral Theology and
Pastoral/Ecclesiastical Spanish

I hope to update the course book list at the bottom right of this blog eventually
I'm also going to publish some papers from last semester so you have that to look forward to :)