Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Holy Family and the Church

By Augustinus

We are all familiar with images of Mary as Church but I would like to suggest that the best model we have of church is actually the holy family itself: Jesus, Mary and Joesph.

The importance of the virgin birth for church

There are two profound truths rooted in history and theology that point to Mary as church. One is Mary’s ‘Yes!’ to the invitation of God to bear the Christ Child. The Church is also invited, on a daily basis, to say ‘Yes!’ to giving birth to God, to cooperate with the birthing of the Christ in history. The other truth is the ‘perpetual virginity’ of both Mary and the Church as a sign that both are God’s possession and are responding to God’s initiative-his overshadowing generative power.

Although, Mary’s Fiat! and her perpetual virginity are central theological truths that are core for Roman Catholic Christianity they are also rooted in historical fact.

Some of the theological truths concerning Mary and the church are as follows: Jesus gave us his Mother to be a Mother to us. At the crucifixion Jesus commanded the Beloved Disciple to look upon Mary and to consider her his own mother. Jesus commanded the Beloved Disciple: (John 19: 27) “Behold your mother!”.

Like a Mother, the church “…brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life.” (CCC, #507). Just as with Mary, the Church’s fecundity is due to an initiative from God. The Church’s response to God’s initiative is a joyful yes! God does the work of generation. He plants the seeds in his bride and spouse the church. The Church constitutes the fertile soil in which the seeds can grow into maturity bearing good fruit.

Just as Mary’s Yes! to God’s invitation inaugurated the realization of God’s entrance into history, so also the Church’s Yes! to Christ makes the church the preeminent channel through which grace flows to human beings via the sacraments.

Theologically Mary’s mystical union with the church helps us to understand the fruitful chastity of the church. In its fidelity to Christ the church can raise up saints and witnesses to God. Just as Mary’s purity allowed her to give birth to Jesus, the church’s faithful virginity engenders Christ in the Eucharist.

How does the church bring forth her children? As in the case of Mary (Luke 1: 35) the power of the most high overshadows her. Revelation 12 (1-2) tells us that he beheld Mary/Church as “…a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.” The Church’s production of saints is not all sweetness and light. It begins with a period of God’s ‘overshadowing” and then an agony –an agony like that of giving birth. Then we get Christ born again in the lives of the saints.

As mentioned above Mary’s virginity is linked symbolically or mystically with the Church’s fidelity to Christ and it is at once a theological and a historical truth.

In short, there are strong scriptural and theological reasons for taking Mary as a model for church. But there are strong historical, scriptural and theological reasons to take the holy family as a model for church.

The virgin birth and the holy family

This family was of course special, beginning with the virgin birth. Just as Jesus was born to a virginal mother so too is the Church as mother giving virginal birth to its children. With respect to the historical data, examination of the scriptures suggests that Jesus was Mary’s only child. The fact that Mary was never charged with adultery or infidelity (despite the many enemies of Jesus and the early church) suggests that no-one at that time could point to an affair to explain the child. In the Gospel accounts of Mary’s conception there is no hint that sexual intercourse with either God or man took place. This fact significantly differentiates this ‘conception’ from pagan myths concerning sexual affairs (often a rape) between the gods and mortals. Instead of a sexual encounter we have the word “overshadow” which was similar to the expression used in the Old Testament (O.T.) to refer to God’s presence in the Ark of the Covenant.

But yet Mary’s conception is not like anything we find in the O.T sources either. When God intervenes to help an old or barren woman in the O.T. it is always due to the request and entreaties of the childless parents. In Mary’s case she not only was not looking to get pregnant but she was very likely awe-struck and terrified by the abrupt irruption into her life of the initiative of God. You can see some of this wholesome awe and fear in the presence of the Angel in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting of the scene in his ‘The Annunciation”. Joesph too will express this kind of awe in the presence of divine revelation when he is visited by the supernatural in his dreams.

But back to the church as giving virginal birth to its initiates and members. The virginal conception of Jesus, furthermore, is attested in Matthew, Luke (infancy narratives) and John (1:13) and by early Church fathers like Ignatius of Antioch. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is referred to as ‘the son of Mary’ which is very odd given the patriarchal culture of Second Temple Judaism. Usually a boy child is referred to as son a father such as ‘Jesus ben Joesph’ (son of Father so and so)….

The New Testament in several places (Mk. 3:31-35; 6:3; Jn. 2:12; 7:3-9; Gal. 1:19; 1 Cor.9:5) mentions brothers and/or sisters of Jesus. It may be that Jesus was the only son of Mary or it may be as many scholars believe that Jesus was Mary’s first child conceived before she married Joseph. Now Joseph either had children of his own from a previous marriage (the position of the church) or he and Mary had new children. Either way the brothers and sisters of the Lord refer to Joseph’s offspring from a previous marriage or the offspring of Mary and Joseph that were born after Jesus was born to Mary before the marriage. The latter is hard to believe given the fact that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were very likely older than Jesus (it is very unlikely for younger siblings to command an older sibling to stop his public ministry). So Jesus must have been born after his step brothers and sisters thus indicating that Mary had had Jesus before she had married Joseph and Joseph had had children before he had met Mary. Thus we are left with no explanation of how Jesus was born to Mary. There is no mention of a biological father of Jesus in any of the ancient sources.

Consistent with the ideas proposed above and to preserve the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary, Epiphanius in the fourth century proposed that the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus were step brothers and sisters of Jesus from a first marriage of Joseph. Saint Jerome in the fifth century argued that the “brothers and sisters” were really cousins of Jesus.

In his paper “The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus in Ecumenical Perspective” the distinguished biblical scholar John P. Meier, uses historical – critical methods as well as philological data to argue that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were very likely true siblings of Jesus. He says that his goal in writing the paper was to show that the historical –critical method can produce results that people of all faiths and good will will accept because they can see how the results were arrived at. Thus Meier suggests that ‘the brothers and sisters’ issue may be a kind of test case in ecumenical dialog. Meier thinks that his findings can potentially facilitate ecumenical dialog between Catholics and Protestants.

His basic argument appears to rely on philological data. He argues that the term most often used to designate the brothers of the Lord “adelphos” is used most often elsewhere in ancient Christian sources to mean only true siblings, not step brothers or cousins. Therefore this datum adds weight to the idea that the ‘brothers and sisters’ of the Lord were true siblings–thus implying that no virginal birth of Jesus occurred. This argument seems weak to me as it can always be argued that the meaning of adelphos is conferred contextually and context. In addition, Baucham notes that of the 343 occurrences of adelphos in the NT, 268 are used in a metaphorical sense-NOT to designate true siblings.

But interestingly Meier begins his paper not with this philological argument but with an analysis of the evangelist Matthew’s ‘problem’ when composing his gospel. How was Matthew to deal with the tradition of the virginity of Mary and still make Jesus a ‘son of David’? Mary was not of the house of David, yet everyone knew that Jesus was Mary’s son. Matthew’s solution was to have Joseph, who was of the House of David (after being instructed by an angel in a dream), to marry Mary and adopt Jesus as his son.

It is difficult to see why Meier sees this Matthean ‘problem’ as support for the position that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were true siblings of Jesus. Using the criterion of embarassment for example would suggest that the early church would have loved having Jesus be Joseph ’s natural son thus establishing, unproblematically, that Jesus was of the House of David. Instead the evangelist has to deal with the well-known fact that Jesus was the son of Mary-not the son of any man from the House of David, Joseph included. The tradition (that Jesus was the son of Mary) was an inconvenient fact for the early church, yet it was preserved despite the very strong desire to have Jesus be fathered by a man from the House of David. That preservation in the face of strong ideological pressure to downplay the ‘son of Mary’ fact speaks to the historical veracity of the fact that jesus was Mary’s son.

Now to be known as the son of Mary implies that Jesus had no known father—else he would have been known as son of some father …, even if that father was deceased. If she had been dishonored via a rape or some related calamity then that tradition would have been known and Mary would have probably been stigmatized. But there is no evidence of any stigma haunting Mary. In addition if Mary had suffered a trauma like rape that fact would have probably been used against the early Christians but even though calumnies were hurled against Mary and Jesus they never gained traction probably because there was not enough data there to support a case.

Meier argued that many Protestant exegetes are correct to read Matthew 1: 25 ‘He knew her not but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.’ as possibly implying that Mary and Joseph had sexual relations after Jesus was born. This would imply, of course, that the siblings of Jesus were true siblings born after Jesus. Similarly Meirer argues that Mark 6:3 and Matt 13: 55 are most naturally interpreted as treating the brothers and sisters of Jesus as true siblings. Meirer argues that the way Mary and the brothers of Jesus are treated together as a unit in Matt 12:46 and Mark 3:31 suggests that Mary and the brothers are blood relations of one another and thus that Mary was true mother of the brothers. But as pointed out by many other biblical scholars (including Kereszty, p. 83) it is unlikely that younger brothers of a sibling would remonstrate against an older brother publicly in ancient Jewish society. The ‘brothers’ were therefore likely older than Jesus and born before Jesus to Joseph in his first marriage.

In his “The Brother and Sisters of Jesus: An Epiphanian Response.” Richard Bauckham takes to task arguments John P. Meier makes in his: “The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus in Ecumenical Perspective.” Bauckham appears to be concerned not only with Meier’s conclusions that the NT evidence is most consistent with the claim that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were true siblings rather than step-siblings, but also with Meier’s philological methodology which Bauckham calls the ‘linguistic argument’.

As we have seen above Meier argued that when the Greek term adelphos (brother) is used to refer to Jesus’ brothers it is almost always used literally and when it is used literally it almost always mean blood siblings. It virtually never means step-brother or cousin. Thus, since in the NT adelphos when used literally virtually always mean blood brother, Jesus’ ‘brothers’ were true siblings (and Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus).

But Bauckham points out that Meier’s methodological assertion that the general NT usage of a word (e.g. adelphos in this instance) exclusively determines its meaning (e.g. blood bothers) has the bizarre effect of excluding examination of word meanings in non-NT sources such as in extant pagan sources.

Bauckham points out that in extant pagan sources ‘adelphos’ was very often used to refer to family relationships other than blood relations or full brother. There are many Greek words in the NT that usually have one meaning but occasionally have one another. If we were to apply Meier’s methodological exclusion of non-NT linguistic sources when exploring potential word meanings then we would be at a loss to understand a large array of key NT terms. One example Bauckham gives is ‘end’ which usually means ‘end times’ but occasionally means tax! A better example is use of the term ‘parents’ to designate Joseph and Mary. Now the NT term for parents usually means blood relation parents but in the case of Mary and Joseph the evangelists use the term parents but then explicitly deny that Joseph was Jesus’s biological father! Thus Meier’s methodological linguistic criterion fails in this key instance.

With respect to the historical data, Bauckham argues that the earliest traditions are Epiphanian (i.e. that the brothers and sisters of Jesus are step-siblings) and that the earliest sources are consistent with the idea that they preserved an historical memory of Jesus as the sole son of Mary. In Mark 6:3 the people of Nazareth call Jesus the ‘son of Mary’ not ‘son of Joseph ’. Bauckham rightly argues that this fact needs to be explained given a) the fact that patriarchal societies generally call males son of… and 2) the early church wanted to associate Jesus with the House of David and this could not be done if Jesus was known as ‘son of Mary’ as Mary was not of the house of David apparently. Bauckham argues that this ‘son of Mary’ motif indicates that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father. In the OT when men are given ‘son of …mother’s name’ it is usually done to distinguish sons by one wife from sons by another wife. This was probably the case in Jesus’ time as well. Jesus was known as ‘son of Mary’ because he was not the biological son of Joseph.

For Jesus to be considered the Messiah he had to come from, or be of the House of David. But he was known to be from Nazareth and be a son of Mary. When Joseph adopted Jesus after espousing Mary, Jesus legally became a son of Joseph and therefore a son of the House of David because Joseph could trace his lineage back to the House of David.

Both Matthew and Luke provide genealogies of Jesus traced through Joseph’s line and that therefore include David as one of Jesus’ ancestors. Both evangelists claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David.

Interestingly Jesus himself seems to eschew the title Son of David as he apparently preferred the title ‘Son of man’. He apparently did not see himself as leading a political restoration of the House of David. Instead he was concerned to announce, show, facilitate and reveal the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God which he felt was irrupting into history

Kereszty (p. 87) points out that when Joseph named Mary’s son he legally and officially became the Father of Jesus. At that point Joseph was considered Jesus real father with all the rights and obligations accruing thereto to Jesus. In ancient Jewish society the father’s estate would very likely go to the first-born son of the Father. Thus by adoption Jesus became a member of the House of David.

Mary and Joesph and the special destiny of the church

Just as Mary’s consent to have the child facilitated salvation history (to say the least) so too Joseph’s consent to adopt the child facilitated salvation history. Joseph’s act of adoption was his consent to obey God’s command to take possession and responsibility for the child Jesus and his mother. Joseph protected the child and his mother from the slaughter of the innocents by taking Jesus and Mary into Egypt and then guiding them back safely to home in Nazareth.

Thus both Mary and Joseph had received divine commands concerning the child Jesus and thus both of them must have experienced some fear and awe toward Jesus at least initially and then occasionally thereafter. Their feelings toward Jesus must have united them in a way unimaginable for a more typical husband and wife ‘team’.

They had a difficult task. They had to attempt to give the child as normal a childhood as possible. Every kid wants one thing: to have fun. Mary and Joseph must have found ways to do this for Jesus. He in turn must have sensed that he was treated as special by his parents despite their attempts to just treat him like any other kid. His dawning awareness of his special destiny was thus forged in the bonds of love that developed between the three of them, the Holy Family. These three souls, who had been imposed upon by God himself; knew a burden and a joy not granted to any other persons so far as I am aware. They were given commands by God, and they obeyed these commands despite the prophecies that a cross loomed over Jesus’ destiny.

Mary’s demeanor during Jesus childhood years seems to have been reflective: observing her boy grow in wisdom and stature through the years “she kept all these things in her heart..” The mysteries known and unknown to us therefore of Christ’s hidden life is kept in the heart of Mary.

Joseph’s adoption of Jesus helped to bring in the Kingdom of God. We all now can become sons of God as well, again via adoption or sanctification.

What was God’s purpose in placing his son Jesus in an adoptive family? Why not have Jesus be conceived like any other child? Wouldn’t that be consistent with the kenosis of the incarnation? In order to be fully human doesn’t it require a typical conception and a typical childhood etc?

The answer to these questions is ‘apparently not’. Consider the modern cases of test tube babies. Is anyone willing to say that the people born from this form of conception (of which now there are thousands) are not fully human? Then there is the huge array of anomalous conception routes from twinning to ectopic pregnancies none of which produce babies that are not human in the fullest sense of the word. Thus Jesus’ conception does not mean that he was not fully human.

So God placed Jesus with Mary and Joseph—Joseph being an adoptive father. Why did God do this? One reason might be that these two individuals were able to say yes! to God’s invitation to accept the child. It may be that god asked many people before he could find two who said Yes! That is one reason why we honor Joseph and Mary. They had learned obedience to a degree none of us can imagine.

Another reason why God placed Jesus in the Holy Family likely had to do with the relationship that developed between the three of them: Jesus, Mary and Joseph—a relationship the church must learn to mirror or realize as well. If God wanted to teach the church something by their examples the lesson likely concerns the complex relations that obtained between the three of them. Kereszty argues something like this (the Holy Family as model) as his answer as to the special mission of the Holy Family.

For me however the Holy Family functions as a model for Church only insofar as it models what to do with an awareness of a special destiny or vocation given to one from God himself. Consider what a burden the three of them had to carry. They all knew that Jesus was special and that that specialness would eventually entail both glory and suffering. That awareness of impending glory and suffering must have been almost too much to bear. There was a quality of glory now present but still not yet to that awareness. Later Jesus talked in the same way about the arrival of the kingdom of heaven—it was present but still not fully. That awareness of the presence but still not yet fulfilled quality of their experiences would have united the three of them on such a deep level that they became an example for us all.

 

References

Brown, R. (1997). An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday.

Brown, Raymond. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. New York: Paulist Press, 1994. Brown, R., Fitzmeyer, J., and Murphy, R (Eds). (1990). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

  1. Bauckham, “The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus: An Epiphanian Response to
  2. P. Meier,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 56 (1994), pp. 686-700.

http://ezproxy.sjcme.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000894608&site=ehost-live

Catechism of the Catholic Church with Modifications from the Editio Typica. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Coogan, Michael, ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha Fourth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Kehl, M. and Loser, W. (Eds). (1997). The von Balthasar reader. NY: The Crossword Publishing Company.

Kereszty, R. (2011). Jesus Christ. Fundamentals of Christology. Revised and updated third edition. Communio Book. St Paul’s Press, Staten Island new York.

  1. Meier, “The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus in Ecumenical Perspective,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 54 (1992), pp. 26.http://ezproxy.sjcme.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000849059&site=ehost-live

 

 

Acknowledgement: This piece is excerpted and modified from a longer work by Augustinus submitted to St Joseph’s College in 2012

 

 

 

After Obergefell

By Augustinus

We need to consider the impact that the recent Supreme Court Decision on same sex marriage will have on the crisis in the church. Part of the crisis in the church was exemplified by the church’s over-accomodation to so-called enlightened modernism. To the extent that the church presents no substantive alternative to modernism then people have no real reason to choose the church over modernist institutions. in that case people leave the church and join the church of “enlightened” secular modernism.

Now we have the case of the highest court in the land endorsing same sex marriage. Although polls find that a majority of the American population want to allow religious exemptions so as to not force priests and other conscientious objectors to perform same sex marriages it is very likely that the state will require coercion.

At the very least the Supreme Court legalization of same sex marriage across the land will enhance divisions within the church such that the modernizers/accomodators will make peace with same sex marriage and these will be deemed the “good churches” by the media while those churches that stand firm with traditional teaching on marriage will be deemed “bad churches” and these will be vilified and persecuted.

As Peter Leithart over at First Things ( http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/07/after-obergefell-prospects-predictions-program) points out:

“Even before Obergefell, some churches were making peace with same-sex marriage. Now that same-sex marriage is law, the tribe of “Good Churches” will increase, and the division in the churches over sexual morality will sharpen. Many leaders, churches, and denominations have condemned the Court’s decision, and more will; but others support it, and we have no trans-denominational mechanism to adjudicate between them. There is an opportunity here to forge or strengthen local coalitions of churches. In some cities, pastors’ associations have issued statements affirming biblical marriage. That’s good and needs to happen across the country. But those statements will be most effective if they have a prophetic edge. Saying what’s right is necessary, but it’s not enough. Pastors need to be willing to say that other churches are wrong, and dangerously so.

“Bad Churches” that refuse to adjust doctrine, rhetoric, marriage rules, and hiring policies will find themselves under various kinds of pressure, much of it financial. Almost immediately after the Court’s decision, several pundits proposed removing tax exemption from all churches, or at least from churches that don’t comply with the spirit of the moment. Church exemption may be safe for the time being, but churches need to steel themselves now for the possibility of losing exemption.”

I think Leithart is correct in these predictions but I think he may be too optimistic with respect to the penalties being limited to removal of tax exempt status for churches. i think pastors and priests who refuse to go along with same sex marriage will be vilified and sometimes jailed.

A reckoning is coming and people will need to take sides. Either stand with the traditional doctrine and be vilified and persecuted or take the seemingly compassionate and enlightened stance, make peace with same sex marriage and side with the “good churches”.

 

Very Frightening

toadBy Allan Gillis

I found an article over at Rorate Caeli which sheds some more light on what I have been inwardly afraid of and outwardly short-circuiting on.

They begin today:  “The New Yorker published last week a long opinion piece (A Radical Vatican?) by Naomi Klein, a radical eco-feminist (and abortion supporter who has publicly disparaged pro-lifers) who was specifically invited by the Vatican to be one of the four speakers at a major press conference held on July 1 in the Aula Giovanni Paolo II, organized by the Holy See Press Office and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The press conference’s goal was to introduce the international conference “People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course” held in the Augustinianum on July 2-3. The conference was co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace along with CIDSE, an international alliance of 17 Catholic Development Organisations; predictably it focused to a great extent on Laudato Si. Klein also served as a panelist during the conference at the Augustinianum.”

and they end the piece thusly: “In the coming days we will have more to say, with detailed and rigorous analysis, about Naomi Klein and the Vatican’s newest “allies”.  There can be no doubt that the Pope and his circles, in both word and deed, are attempting an institutional alignment of the Church with certain strains of “environmentalism” and with left-leaning “popular movements” — a move that will have far reaching practical implications even for the day-to-day life of the Church.
What the media (both secular and Catholic) have reported about the “Communist crucifixes” is but the proverbial tip of the iceberg of what has been happening in the last few weeks. It is no exaggeration to say that the “deep”, “total” and “irreversible” change of which some of the Pope’s closest advisers (Cardinals Maradiaga, Braz de Aviz and Archbishop Tucho Fernandez) have spoken about since the beginning of the year, has begun to be implemented at a fierce and rapid pace.”

I suggest you run over and see it there for yourself.

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-holy-sees-new-alliances-i-unmasking.html#more

I’ll have more to say on this topic – perhaps even later today if work allows….  I’ve been on the mat as I’ve wrestled this chest-cold since Sunday.  A rather virulent one.  I thought I was going to cough up my spleen on Tuesday!

I’ve got a bad feeling about the coming weeks and months.

“Leave The Gun, Take The Cannoli!”

Bergoglio necklace 1   By Allan Gillis

It was a great ploy to lead good and smart people (like our own beloved Augustinus) astray with the scripted ditching of the Evo Morales gift in Bolivia. The gift of course was a crucifix with the hammer and sickle etched into and across the body of the main beam of the cross. Do you have any idea of how many Christian martyrs from across the world there are – who suffered and died under this symbol? Imagine for a moment how the western press would be howling if the pope had accepted a crucifix with a swastika on it? Whoa Baby!
Anyway, courtesy of Rorate Caeli, I have three photos that show what was offered by Morales and accepted previously and privately by Jorge. Yeah…ditch the big one! but keep the necklace!

Reflections on a spiritual classic in times of suffering: de Caussade’s “sacrament of the present moment”

By Augustinus

Jean Pierre de Caussade’s “Abandonment to Divine Providence” is a short book filled with divine wisdom. It needs to be more widely known. The dominant theme in that book is Caussade’s idea of the “sacrament of the present moment”. Any book that can help get you through times of suffering is worth its weight in gold and Abandonment has done that for me. I hope it can do the same for you.

Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751) was a French Jesuit priest who was confessor and director of souls for Nuns of the Visitation in Nancy, France. In that capacity he wrote the nuns several detailed letters on how to discern the will of God and how to do the will of God by abandoning oneself to God in the sacrament of the present moment. Those letters of direction were later compiled into the book “Abandonment to Divine Providence” in 1861 by Henri Ramiere, S.J.

Right from the beginning of its publication the book was popular and judged a spiritual classic. It is filled with passionate outpourings of love for God and for God’s will. There are beautiful meditations on the supernatural virtues faith, hope and love of God. The enduring significance of the work, however, may be that it focuses over and over again on a single idea—namely that God’s will is all that happens to us in the present moment as we fulfill the duties of our state in life.

As mentioned above Ramiere’s compilation of Caussade’s letters into the book “Abandonment to Divine Providence” became an instant classic when it was first published in 1861. Recent scholarship (ably reviewed by Dennis Billy 2010), however, has raised some doubts about the true author of the treatise. These scholars look at Caussade’s other book “Spiritual instructions in the form of dialogues on the various states of prayer according to the doctrine of Bishop Bossuet of Meaux” published in 1741 and conclude that “Abandonment…” and the “Spiritual instructions…” could not have been authored by the same person. But if one reads the letters sent by Caussade to the nuns he had once directed (and not used by Ramiere for the book), it quickly becomes clear that those letters express exactly the same style, sentiments, ideas and prayers as expressed in “Abandonment…”. It should not be surprizing that Caussade is more eloquent and profound when giving spiritual direction to souls under his care than when writing a scholarly tome on Bishop Bossuet. Thus, I side with tradition, Rameire and many other scholars who still hold the view that Caussade is the true author of the texts that became Abandonment.

When Caussade wrote his masterpiece (i.e. his letters that later became his book) he was doing so against a background of a flowering of Catholic spirituality in France. There had been a battle by the Church against Jansenism and Quietism that affected all spiritual writers of the period including Caussade. Caussade’s doctrine concerning the sacrament of the present moment came uncomfortably close to some tenets of Quietism so Caussade included passages in his work that clearly demarcated his position relative to that of Quietism. While Quietism emphasized passive acceptance of all that happens as God’s will, Caussade emphasized both passive and active modes of doing God’s will. “The active practice of fidelity (to God’s will) consists in accomplishing the duties which devolve upon us whether imposed by the general laws of God and of the Church, or by the particular state that we may have embraced. Its passive exercise consists in the loving acceptance of all that God sends us at each moment.” (Caussade 28) We actively do God’s will by fulfilling the duties imposed on us by our station in life and we passively do God’s will by accepting all that happens to us with the eyes of the supernatural virtue of faith.

It is clear from reading the Abandonment that Caussade was profoundly influenced by Ignatius of Loyola, Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila. De Caussade in turn very likely influenced Therese of the Child Jesus and her “little way”. Like de Caussade, Therese counseled her directee to surrender to God’s will and to allow themselves to become like little children in God’s arms; to let God take them where he wills. The most direct way to do this is to take each moment and all that happens to us in that moment as somehow containing the signs of God’s will for us. This is the core theme of Caussade’s book and its secret to helping you through suffering.

Caussade begins and ends his work by looking to Mary as the preeminent example of the spirituality of utter abandonment to the divine providence as the Will of God.

“Mary was the most simple of all creatures, and the most closely united to God. Her answer to the angel when she said: “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”: contained all the mystic theology of her ancestors to whom everything was reduced, as it is now, to the purest, simplest submission of the soul to the will of God, under whatever form it presents itself. This beautiful and exalted state, which was the basis of the spiritual life of Mary, shines conspicuously in these simple words, “Fiat mihi” (Luke i, 38).” (Caussade 23)

Marian ‘spirituality’ is the thread that winds through the “Abandonment” as Mary models for Caussade all that he means by total abandonment to the will of God. While Mary welcomed the birth of her child as the will of a loving God she also accepted the crucifixion of this child as the will of God. Mary and Jesus lived in very simple ordinary circumstances most of their lives yet they perfectly did the will of God each day and these seemingly simple, everyday ordinary events concealed the tremendous mysteries of the incarnation and of salvation history. It takes the eyes of faith to see beneath the veil of everyday trials and joys the tremendous work of God being accomplished in us and for us. Indeed from Caussade’s point of view all that happens to us is God’s will and is therefore gift for us.

Mary then is the perfect exemplar of the stance that Caussade is recommending to us. Accept all as the will of God. Welcome whatever is given to you in the present moment as a gift that comes directly to you from God. Think of the thousands of things occurring to you right now, all that you see, feel, experience and undergo right now in this present moment. All of this is a gift of God to you. This ensemble of “WORLD” happening to you right now is God’s will for you right now. It is his special gift to you as only you can receive it and experience the gift. Your experience and perspective is unique and centered at one point in the world. That world is God’s will for you and his gift to you. No-one else can have that vision of the world as it existed at that one point in time. It was a special gift from God to you. Accept that gift and follow where it leads you without neglecting the duties given to you as part of your station in life. As you find that your acceptance of all things as gifts from God increases, your love for God intensifies and your ability to see the will of God in all things increases. That enhanced capacity to discern the will of God in the things that happen to you each day in turn increases your capacity for love and thus your sanctification increases. Your interest in things that are not the will of God decreases. Your tendencies to get lost in regrets over the past and worries over the future diminish. Your desire for anything but the will of God decreases.

Thus the capacity to appreciate the sacrament of the present moment is an ability acquired over time. That capacity or skill or ability to discern God’s will in all the things that happen to you each day is something that the Church can help us to achieve as all the church’s devotions and liturgies are designed to enhance or facilitate the “faith sense”—more on this below. As Caussade says about Mary: “Her spirit, transported with joy, looked upon all that she had to do or to suffer at each moment as the gift of Him who fills with good things the hearts of those who hunger and thirst for Him alone, and have no desire for created things.” (Caussade 24)

God’s gift to you is designed for your sanctification. It is the configuration of the world that can best accomplish your sanctification at this moment. Thus, the world as presented to you each moment must be accepted as your road to salvation. It is accepting and doing the will of God that leads to sanctification. As the Lord himself taught us, sanctification is doing the will of God. We do the will of God by fulfilling our duties in the present moment and by not rejecting the things that happen to us as contrary to our happiness.

But how can suffering or a misfortune NOT be contrary to happiness? If the things that daily happen to us cause suffering we can still experience joy if we can discern in that suffering some part of God’s will and activity that actively molds us for sanctification. When we can see things in that light our sight is set on the higher things. We see everyday things in a new light. We see them as they are but also as infused with some new power. That new power is the ability to sanctify us if we accept everyday things that happen to us as the will of God.

When Caussade speaks of the “sacrament of the present moment” (Caussade 26), he means that everyday things become signs for us of the hidden activity of God. If everyday things are signs of some sacred reality, and sacraments are defined as “signs of sacred realities”, then it is not nonsense to speak of the present moment as a sacrament if one cultivates the ability to discern the signs of God’s will for us in these everyday things.

This ability to discern the signs of god’s will for us even in the evil done to us is the faith sense. Once we learn this ability we become anchored in another, greater or more sacred reality. We do not reject “the everyday world” and all that happens to us on a daily basis. On the contrary we embrace these things and perhaps see them as they really are for the first time once we see them with the eyes of faith. When we see them as they really are we realize that they or at least some aspect of them are gifts to us and that they contain God’s will for us.

Note that Caussade is NOT saying that the injustices and evils and sufferings that are done to us constitute God’s will for us. Evil is NEVER God’s will. Instead Caussade is saying that when evil and suffering happens to you are given a choice as to how to react to them. If you choose from out of your faith sense you have a fighting chance to retain your dignity despite all the suffering—indeed you may even find yourself flourishing despite the suffering.

In a sense, therefore, these everyday things that occur to us moment by moment contain heaven for us. Without the eyes of faith we cannot see these gifts from God and so we experience everyday things as mere trivialities or annoyances or worse—and we experience sufferings as mere tragedy and loss. We need a spiritual awakening to see the things of God in our lives. We need to awaken the eyes of faith to see God’s will and therefore God’s kingdom for us. As Jesus is reported to have said ‘the kingdom of God is spread out upon the earth but men do not see it’: As Luke puts it: “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17: 19-21)

Caussade’s message is Jesus’ message as well. The treasures of the kingdom are there for you right now in your daily life. They are spread out before you but you cannot observe them unless you cultivate the faith sense. According to Caussade, God always works everywhere in a person’s life and the job of the individual is to awaken to that fact and then respond to God’s gifts.

The spiritual awakening Caussade advocates entails development of a new attitude about the things that happen to us each day. Are they useless distractions? Are they mere trials or annoyances that need to be tolerated until we get to the real business of life elsewhere? Am I somehow missing out on the real life that is happening out there elsewhere? Is the great banquet of life passing me by? Is everyone else having a grand old time but me? Why must I stand on the outside looking in while everyone else lives life to the full? Why is everyone else given a full portion of life while I am passed by? Is my life so humdrum and mundane? Can this possibly be God’s will for me; to drown in the mundane tasks of everyday life while others are out there being heroic and spectacular or at least having fun?

Caussade answers all these questions by pointing to the work of God in the everyday life of the individual. For Caussade the everyday stuff of life contains inexhaustible treasures because the everyday stuff of life manifests or is God’s will for us. The living waters that spring up to eternal life are right there next to us if we would but drink!

The individual in this circumstance is like a man in the desert, who is parched, lifeless and dying of thirst and who keeps hallucinating oases just over the hill. So he wears himself out attempting to get there. “Over here I am missing out, languishing and wasting away…Life is over there if I could but get there…”. Meanwhile right at this dying man’s feet there are springs of living water welling up to quench his thirst and give him life in abundance if he would but look down to see these waters.

Seeing each moment as a gift from God allows the soul to look around and down to see those living waters and to drink. What are those living waters? They are the everyday things that happen to the individual. They are the everyday affairs of life. They are all that happens to the individual. The catch is that they only become treasure for the individual when the individual acquires the supernatural virtue of faith –when he develops the faith sense.

How then does the individual acquire the ‘faith sense’? How does the soul learn to see the living waters all round him? For Caussade a central message of his book and the goal of his spiritual direction of souls, was to help souls develop a new attitude concerning their lives which Caussade calls faith—the very same faith sense (Kinast 1999) I have discussed here. God’s will is all that happens to us as we fulfill our obligations on a daily basis. That means that all that happens to us contain seeds of God’s will and our true heart’s desire (Rooney 2006).

Now there are subtleties here that need to be dealt with before we can completely understand what Caussade is saying. As I said above, my view is that Caussade is NOT saying that if an evil befalls me or an injustice is done to me I must take that as God’s will for me. Instead what he seems to be saying is that in the normal course of events when I daily strive to fulfill the obligations imposed on me by my station in life, I can construe all that happens to me as God’s will. When an extra-ordinary event occurs and an evil is done to me I have a choice. I can view the event as mere catastrophe and bemoan my fate or I can view the event as mere bad luck and invoke no reference to God at all OR I can attempt to see the event with the eyes of faith and thereby discover treasure where I thought none existed.

If I attempt to see the event with the eyes of faith, God’s will remains as inscrutable as ever, the suffering is as intense as even, the injustice is as criminal as ever!!… but the event is seen in a new light as containing a potential blessing and therefore it cannot defeat me. If it is God’s will then it must contain a blessing, even though it appears to the eyes of common sense far from blessing. Faith, according to Caussade, entails a kind of death to the senses and to common sense. That is one reason why the Carmelite mystics talk about purgation of the senses. According to Caussade only the eyes of faith can see the blessing when everything appears as loss or catastrophe or suffering or criminal injustice.

When we see all that happens to us with the eyes of faith we have begun to develop the tool of discernment in the spiritual life. When we see things are they really are, as gifts from God, then we have contacted the sacrament of the present moment. We have begun to develop a love for God in everyday life as He communicates his very self to us in each moment. We are no longer buffeted to and fro by each random thing that happens to us. Our moods, our behaviors and our very being no longer depend on contingent or happenstance events. Our happiness no longer consists in possessing some created thing. Instead our happiness consists solely in doing the will of God. We find that will, God’s will, in the sacrament of the present moment. We do not sit in a study trying to understand the will of God. We abandon ourselves to the will of God as it manifests in the things occurring right now in our lives because God’s will as manifested in those things has the capacity to sanctify us.

Can it be that affliction, suffering and trials are the will of God as well? Caussade says: “Whatever ideas may fill the mind, whatever feelings afflict the body; even if the mind should be tormented with distractions and troubles, and the body with sickness and pain, nevertheless the divine will is ever for the present moment the life of the soul and of the body; in fact, neither the one nor the other, no matter in what condition it may be, can be sustained by any other power.” (Caussade 63)

Here Caussade seems to be saying that we do not understand suffering and trials. Whether or not they are the will of God is something we cannot always definitively decide. But if we undergo the sufferings and trials in an accepting spirit of humility, the trials can sanctify us and thus the trials must have contained treasure hidden under a veil. The treasures were unlocked or uncovered via looking at them with the eyes of faith, as gifts from God. The treasures become ours if we approach the sufferings as a species of the sacrament of the present moment. We would have lost the treasure if we rejected the suffering as unequivocally contrary to the will of God. While evil is ALWYS contrary to the will of God, evil does not have the last word when we find signs fo God’s will in our reaction to the evil.

Caussade seems to be saying here that all things that happen to us, including sufferings, can potentially be received as a consolation if the thing is seen with the eyes of faith. The danger here, of course, is seeing the occurrence of objective evil as somehow accomplishing the will of God. We do not want to say that events like the Holocaust or murder or molestation of a child and so on somehow manifests the will of God. That would heap coals of burning fire upon the victims of such crimes.

I do not think that Caussade’s doctrine leads to an acceptance of objective evils as manifestations of the will of God. Nor is Caussade saying that changing the way you view an event changes the objective moral content of that event. He is saying, it seems to me, that we cannot see events as they truly are unless we see them with the eyes of faith. Nor do we really know how God sees the events of our lives. What is suffering and injustice for us may not be so for God. Or if it is so for God then God can turn the suffering into joy and sanctification if the sufferer has ‘faith’. When injustice and evil is done it will not destroy us if we deal with it through the eyes of faith. Those eyes do NOT make silly claims that the evil is actually not evil. NO!! The eyes of faith see the evil as evil but also see the way past evil.

Caussade is asking the most fundamental question of all: How does one deal with suffering and injustice? Caussade says “Look, we do not know what causes suffering and injustice. These are tremendous and sacred mysteries of experience. But from a certain point of view, the view of faith, sufferings and injustices are just the same as joys and triumphs IF we choose to have them, against their will, lead us to God. Conversely, joys and triumphs are desolations not consolations if they lead us AWAY from God. Everything depends on the fruits of the experience. But paradoxically we help to determine the fruits of the experience when we choose to look at the experience with the eyes of faith or with the eyes of sin.

Experiences can either help us get to God or not help us get to God. If they help us get to God they embody the will of God and we abandon ourselves to them. If they do not help us get to God then we cultivate indifference to them and treat them all alike. But since we most often cannot know for sure what experiences embody the will of God it is best to treat all experiences as doing so. That way we do not set ourselves up as arbiters of which things can be the will of God and which cannot. “We must not therefore examine the suitability of things to mind and body in order to assess their value, for this is of little importance. It is the will of God that gives to things, whatever they may be, the power to shape Jesus Christ in the depths of our hearts. We must not dictate to God’s will or set limits to its action…” (Caussade 34).

Caussade recommends a kind of Ignatian and Salesian “indifference” to whatever befalls one as the proper spiritual attitude to take when encountering trials and suffering as well as joys and triumph. But unlike Ignatius, or de Sales, Caussade spells out why we should be indifferent to or welcome equally all that befalls us. It is because all things that happen to us embody the will of God.

Thus we need to develop the capacity to see all the things that happen to us as potentially containing the will of God. If we can do this; if we can develop the capacity to discern and do the will of God in all things that befall us, then we will have discovered a way to turn apparently useless dross into pure gold. That alchemical dream is realizable and it is an inestimable treasure: “If, besides, they understood that to attain the utmost height of perfection, the safest and surest way is to accept the crosses sent them by Providence at every moment, that the true philosopher’s stone is submission to the will of God which changes into divine gold all their occupations, troubles, and sufferings, what consolation would be theirs!… The will of God is at each moment before us like an immense, inexhaustible ocean that no human heart can fathom; but none can receive from it more than he has capacity to contain, it is necessary to enlarge this capacity by faith, confidence, and love.” (Caussade 44)

Enlarging the capacity to receive the gifts of God is a prime goal of the spiritual life. This work of cultivating gratitude for and indifference to all that befalls us (as it is all the will of God) should be the work of each individual according to Caussade. But how do we do it?

For Caussade the way to cultivate gratitude or indifference to all that befalls us is to simply change one’s attitude or heart concerning all that befalls us and to begin to see each moment as a sacrament wherein we encounter the living God. “It is the heart that must be changed. When I say heart, I mean will. Sanctity, then, consists in willing all that God wills for us.” (Caussade 44)

But how do we do this? This is where faith comes in. “There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed. All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action…If we could lift the veil, and if we were attentive and watchful God would continually reveal Himself to us, and we should see His divine action in everything that happened to us, and rejoice in it. At each successive occurrence we should exclaim: “It is the Lord,” and we should accept every fresh circumstance as a gift of God (Caussade 49-50)

“The life of faith is nothing less than the continued pursuit of God through all that disguises, disfigures, destroys and, so to say, annihilates Him. It is in very truth a reproduction of the life of Mary who, from the Stable to the Cross, remained unalterably united to that God whom all the world misunderstood, abandoned, and persecuted” (Caussade, 53-54) And so Caussade ends his work as he began it, with Mary as the prime exemplar for the practice of the sacrament of the present moment.

 

Works cited

de Caussade, Jean Pierre. Abandonment to Divine Providence. The classic text with a spiritual commentary by Dennis Billy C.Ss.R. Christian Classics. Notre Dame, Indiana. Ave Maria Press, 2010. Print.

Kinast, Robert L. Making Faith-Sense: Theological Reflection in Everyday Life. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1999. Print.

Mueller, Joan, Ph.D. Faithful Listening: Discernment in Everyday Life. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1996. Print.

Rooney, Linda Perrone, D.Min. Habits of the Soul: Learning to Live on Purpose. CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 2006. Print.

Acknowledgement: This piece is excerpted and modified from a longer work by Augustinus submitted to St Joseph’s College in 2012

 

Mass is Not for Creation of Community

By Augustinus

Modern churchgoers seem frantic to create “community” when I go to mass. That vile word community is heard everywhere and I am constantly harassed by my fellow parishioners to join  all kinds of initiatives to create the fetishized thing…But community cannot be created. It is not something that the plans of man can conjure or create. it is instead an organic living thing that emerges from the primeval “cult”.

In 1947 Pius XII issued his encyclical Mediator Dei where he reaffirms the central Catholic teaching of the Mass as a cultic sacrifice and not just a community meal. According to Mediator Dei and indeed centuries of tradition in the church, Christ is the priest who offers the sacrifice of the Mass as well as the victim who is sacrificed. Mediator Dei encourages devotion to the Eucharist as well as preservation of the altar as the site of sacrifice not just a table for community meals. I, like Pius XII, see the liturgy of the mass as Christ presiding over a sacrifice with Christ himself as the divine victim who died for our sins. Mediator Dei emphasizes the fact that we at mass must accept the invitation to take up our cross and follow Christ-in sacrifice in expiation and atonement for sin and then in jubilant thanksgiving for salvation.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is central to my daily life and to my well-being. I see it primarily as a duty owed to God to praise and honor him each day via the rituals commanded by Christ himself and the Church. In addition to fulfilling the duty to honor God on a daily basis the mass also helps me to get centered each day and to live the seasons of the Church by praying with the Church. Most importantly for me frequent reception of communion allows me to receive Christ into my soul and helps me to repent of my sins and to put on the Mind of Christ each day.

I have always experienced Christ at mass especially intensely-particularly after reception of the Eucharist. At that moment I commune with my Creator and I also paradoxically experience a communion with the other people at the mass. When we are all quiet, sitting in the presence of the Lord and not doing anything else—it is then that I feel some sort of bond with the others.

I do not feel any bond during the greeting of peace, nor when any other part of the mass is underway. It is only in the silence after communion that I feel any sort of bond with others.

I have never felt however that the mass was designed to create community. I think one of the glories of Catholicism is that it has resisted the mania to create ‘community’. Instead the mass creates a space where individuals can participate in the bloody sacrifice necessary for expiation and atonement of individual sin. The mass therefore creates true individuals—not groups or communities. Communities are alien to the spirit which instead blows where it pleases and no-one knows from whence it comes and whither it goes.

 

Acknowledgement: This piece is excerpted and modified from a longer work by Augustinus submitted to St Joseph’s College in 2012

 

 

Yo! JB! How ’bout a Wing Or Two?

Bergoglio's GrilleBy Allan Gillis

I found this on Father Z’s Blog.

He’s flipping burgers on the frickin’ balconey of St. Peter’s?!

C’mon! You have those beautiful gardens out back Dude!!!  I’ve seen them!  They’re a bit opulent one might say, but I’m sure you could find a little nook where it didn’t appear so awe-inspiring…     and luxurious.  And BEAUTIFUL.

Oh wait, THAT would be too upscale – we should sell that land off like we did with the Papal Tiara!   We gotta do this on the porch like the rest of my bruthas in the urban centers of the world where the heap of humanity is forgotten, exploited and abused – and the urban poor are down for the struggle!  Gimme a break man! There’s a time and a place for everything.  Looks like Il Papa’ could use a little of my “Probitas awareness”!  (see my earlier post)

How about a little decorum Georgie?   Please???    It IS the Vatican in Rome after all!

Reflections On the Much Discussed “Benedict Option”

By Augustinus

The crisis in the Roman Catholic church is occurring within the larger context of the collapse of Christian civilization in Europe and North America and indeed in large parts of the world in general. What can we Christians do to reverse the collapse of Christianity? Rod Dreher has suggested that the first step in responding to the crisis is to wake up and realize just how serious the crisis is. Not only is Christianity no longer the background moral and cultural ethos in Europe and North America -it is in active retreat and very likely going to see a coming persecution. So what can we and what should we do? the “Benedict option” would have us focus on preserving what we can within our own communities while not retreating from the battle in the world at large. like St Benedict who created monastic communities while the Christian Roman Imperium was collapsing all around him, so too should we create vibrant local Christian communities where the faith is preserved while still somehow continuing the fight in the public arena. Critics of the Benedict option have pointed out that the insular monastic model of tactical retreat and rebuild cannot address the pressing issue that the barbarians are at the gate or are actually in charge and imposing a kind of Arian heresy on orthodox christians everywhere….Arianism says Jesus was great but not God so there is no real presence, no real sacrifice at calvary, no real resurrection etc..these are now all the standard positions of many protestant sects and certainly the current media take on Jesus. It also happens to be the Islamic Koranic take on Jesus…

Over at TAC blogs Dreher has attempted to answer critics of his “Benedict Option” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/critics-of-the-benedict-option/

Despite Dreher’s spirited response to critics I do not think the Benedict option is correct for us at this historical moment. The Benedict option would work if it weren’t the case that Arianism has already triumphed among ideological elites. If i am correct in my assessment that the Benedict option is not appropriate for these times then what is? I would call it the Augustinian option or the Athanasian option…We need less a modern St Benedict like Dreher or Alasdair McIntyre assert…instead we need a modern anti-heireasiach like Iraneaus, Augustine or Athanasius. In Dreher’s reply to his critics he quotes the personalist philosopher Claes Ryan whom I much admire who argues that we need to do battle at the level of culture and ideas and I agree wholeheartedly. We need to specifically develop a critique fo modern version of gnostic and Arian heresies in order to win back the culture.

Religion, Politics and Marriage

The recent Supreme Court decision on gay rights may be an opportunity for the Catholic Church to establish it’s survival in the modern world. Those of us who have been born and raised in the USA have long lived in a secular capitalist society with just enough Christianity to keep people on board. Over time, the “Christian” part of society has been watered down to the point where we could accept a certain amount of greed and lust for possessions as being good. Real men look out for number one, make real money and are in it to win it. They take care of their own and blithely accept that the poor will always be with us. There has been a lot of pressure to get along and not be too religious.

For generations, the average Catholic has been equally comfortable with the common knowledge that you really only have to attend Church twice a year…Easter and Christmas. After a while, it became ok to skip the whole confirmation thing and just use the Church when you want a backdrop for a personal celebration (Baptism, Marriage and funerals). The point is that in order to really be successful in this country (and this country measures success by the acquisition of money and “stuff”), you needed to allow yourself to willfully suspend some inconvenient Catholic teachings or at least come up with a palatable excuse avoid being too religious to fit in and get along. As long as the excuses were ok and we were reasonably comfortable that “looking out for number one” was a good thing, life went along quite peacefully.

There have been a lot of cracks in the surface of this bargain, but certainly the big one was the Roe v Wade decision that opened up the door to abortion and the devaluation of unborn life. The problem was that too many people accepted the watered down version of USA Catholicism to make a difference. Now the country has settled that debate as we see our politicians make their statements to get votes, but not one of them actually does anything to try to change the law. The average Secular, Capitalist, part time, Catholic simply got over it or learned to be quiet.

Now we have the next step in the great divide with the recent Supreme Court’s decision to support gay marriage. At first glance this looks like just one more step in the onward march of secularism, but this also provides an opportunity for the Church to finally get out of the swamp and establish it’s identity beyond the go along, get along, Catholicism that has been the norm in this country for so long. It is also the opportunity to recognize the separation of church and state that this country has established, but not really supported.

For me, the first step is some acknowledgement of personal opinion. Gay people have been forming partnerships for a long time and I personally have no problem with them having the same legal and financial rights as traditional married couples. I also believe wholeheartedly that the Catholic Church has every right to perform the Sacrament of Matrimony for those who meet their criteria. There is no dilemma. I believe these ideas co-exist well.

My first observation is that governments like ours have the right to control legal contracts within it’s borders. We can call it whatever we like, but a marriage in this country is primarily a legal contract. Our government can establish laws to control marriage contracts and that is what we see in the Supreme Court case.

My second observation is that the Catholic Church has the right and responsibility to confer the Sacraments on it’s members and since that is a religious Sacrament, the Catholic Church can decide to whom it wants to provide this to. Sacraments are not rights. No one can sue to be Baptized or sue to receive Confirmation since they do not have a secular legal standing. (though I am sure some tried).

This leads to my suggestion that the Catholic Church in the USA simply stop performing marriage ceremonies that combine the legal marriage contract with the Sacrament of Matrimony. Certainly, this has been a convenience for a long time, but there is no longer any payback in the expediency. Instead, the Catholic Church should simply bestow the Sacrament of Matrimony on couples who have already been legally married in a civil ceremony and who also meet the qualifications set by the Church. Couples can have their civil ceremony with a traditional reception and party. Then, those couples who meet the Churches criteria and complete the formation process can receive the Sacrament in church at a later date (preferably at a Sunday service) to proclaim their love of each other and fidelity to the Church in front of the congregation.

This change does a few things. First of all, it separates any legal differences between gay an straight Catholic couples. Everyone has to get a civil marriage license and ceremony to bind the contract and they all qualify for the legal rights that contract provides. Then, it allows the Catholic Church to focus on the Sacrament itself and the importance of the teaching behind it. Based on the current borderline Catholic population, I would expect the number of Catholics who want to go forward with the Sacrament to shrink dramatically since they would really be the ones who actively attend Mass and want to take the Sacramental step.

This solves the impasse that is developing between the USA and the Catholic Church, but it also sends a clear message that there are increasingly strong differences between the Catholic Church and the State. It also becomes a starting point to address the borderline Catholic population that continues to live on the edge between the inconvenient teachings of the Catholic Church and secular society.

Putting Pope Francis Into Perspective

vINCENZO A sAN pIETRO

By Allan Gillis

I had a friend e-mail me today asking what I thought of a certain issue statement from The Vatican today:
“In his homily, or sermon, the Pope referred to a highly anticipated meeting of bishops to be held in Rome this October. The Catholic leaders are expected to discuss changes to several controversial areas of church teaching, including divorce and homosexuality.
The bishops will “consider concrete solutions,” Francis said, “to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time.”
“I ask you to pray fervently for this intention,” the Pope continued, “so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening, and turn it … into a miracle.”
My friend then ends his e-mailed message to me thusly: “What do you make of this, Allan? I am perplexed … and apprehensive.”
I subsequently e-mailed a reply to the very bright and articulate “Dr. M”, who is like me; a very thankful recipient of Summorum Pontificum and the owner/moderator of a favorite blogsite: “boston-catholic-journal.com” . I quipped: “I believe that our Holy Father in Rome should always abstain from spreading doubt, confusion and apprehension. It is my belief that a good pope would be ever-so-clear in his pronouncements – always pointing to Christ, always affirming Mother Church’s teachings… always calling the world to morality, penance and an awareness of sin, Satan and Hell. This Bergoglio guy is ALWAYS “stepping in it”. He is continually disseminating confusion at best and scandal at the worst. I am very, very skeptical. One knows a tree by it’s fruit. We got a good glimpse of Hagan Lio’ last year at the first “synod on the family” – we’ll get a good snout full of Jorge by the time the second meeting is over I’m sure!”

Now, I have shared these sentiments here with you, my dear readers in the recent past. It bothers me so much to speak so “irreverently” about our Holy Father. It goes against my grain painfully. But then, I find this chronological list of stupid sayings and doings – and here I MUST share this with you from our friends at “thewildvoice.org”. They have compiled this list from “established, mainstream news services – easily confirmable through a simple Google search”  If you’re a faithful Catholic, you may find some of this hard to swallow. May I suggest a shot of Grappa to wash it down? Here’s the list done by the respectable folks at WildVoice.org:

FEBRUARY 11, 2013
Pope Benedict XVI Resigns – first Papal resignation in over 600 years
Lightning Strikes Saint Peter’s Dome – twice
MARCH 13, 2013
Jorge Mario Bergoglio becomes ‘Pope Francis I’. He is the first Pope from the Jesuit Order, the first Pope from the Americas, and the first Pope who became a priest after Vatican II.
Newly elected Pope Francis jokes with Cardinals saying ‘May God forgive you for what you’ve done.’
MARCH 14, 2013
Grand Master Gustavo Raffi of the Grand Orient Masonic Lodge of Italy praises election of Pope Francis writing ‘with Pope Francis, nothing will be as it was before.’
MARCH 16, 2013
Pope Francis reportedly says ‘Carnival time is over!’ when offered the traditional papal red cape after his election (BBC)
MAY 22, 2013
Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed. ‘We all have the duty to do good. For Atheists: Just do good and we’ll find a meeting point’
MAY 23, 2013
Pope Francis officially de-emphasizes papal titles, choosing instead to list himself first by the basic title “Bishop of Rome” in the Vatican’s annual directory
JUNE 02, 2013
Pope Francis speaking about Jesus multiplying the Bread and Fish says ‘Here’s the miracle, that it is more a sharing than a multiplying’
JUNE 15, 2013
Pope Francis says ‘We look for Jesus Christ and say: ‘This is your sin, and I will sin again’. And Jesus likes that, because it was his mission: to become the sinner for us’
JUNE 30, 2013
Pope Francis tweets ‘A Christian is never bored or sad. Rather, the one who loves Christ is full of joy and radiates joy.’
JULY 08, 2013
Pope Francis says ‘I also think with affection of those Muslim immigrants who this evening begin the fast of Ramadan, which I trust will bear abundant spiritual fruit.’
JULY 16, 2013
Vatican offers ‘time off purgatory’ for followers of Pope Francis tweets
JULY 26, 2013
Pope Francis tells youth: ‘Be rebellious’ and ‘mess’ with dioceses
JULY 29, 2013
When asked about gay priests, Pope Francis replies ‘Who am I to judge?’
AUGUST 30, 2013
Pope Francis breaks protocol by bowing to the Queen of Jordan
AUGUST 31, 2013
Pope Francis begins the Papal Selfie trend
SEPTEMBER 04, 2013
Pope Francis says ‘The issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience’
SEPTEMBER 11, 2013
Pope implies The Virgin Mary has ‘defects’, saying “The Church and the Virgin Mary are mothers…All
mothers have defects, we all have defects, but when we speak of our mother’s defects we gloss over them”
SEPTEMBER 13, 2013
Pope says church is obsessed with gays, abortion, and birth control – ‘It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time….We have to find a new balance’
SEPTEMBER 20, 2013
Pope Speaks Out Against Church’s ‘Small-Minded Rules’
SEPTEMBER 27, 2013
When speaking of Adoration, Pope Francis says ‘Fall asleep then, sleep! He is still looking at you.’
OCTOBER 01, 2013
Pope Francis says:
‘Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no
sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us’
‘The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old’
‘Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is good’
‘I believe in God, not in a Catholic God. There is no Catholic God’
‘You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy’
NOVEMBER 24, 2013
Pope Francis on Muslims – ‘We must never forget that they profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, who will judge humanity on the last day.’
NOVEMBER 26, 2013
Pope Francis says ‘I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty’
DECEMBER 11, 2013
Pope Francis says ‘Never fear the final judgment, because Christ will always be at our side’
DECEMBER 17, 2013
Pope Francis makes the cover of The Advocate – the leading LGBT magazine
DECEMBER 20, 2013
Pope Francis speaking of The Virgin Mary says ‘Our Lady was human! And perhaps she even had the desire to say: ‘Lies! I was deceived!’
DECEMBER 23, 2013
Time Magazine names Pope Francis ‘Person of the Year’
DECEMBER 27, 2013
Esquire Magazine names Pope Francis ‘Best Dressed Man of the Year’
JANUARY, 2014
Pope sends iPhone message to televangelist Kenneth Copeland via Tony Palmer
JANUARY 20, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘Those that are Muslim, with the Quran. The faith that your parents instilled in you will always help you move on.’
JANUARY 26, 2014
Pope’s Peace Doves attacked by Crow and Seagull
JANUARY 28, 2014
Pope Francis is on the cover of Rolling Stone
FEBRUARY 12, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘If you don’t feel the need for God’s mercy, don’t even bother going to Mass!’
FEBRUARY 28, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘When love fails, and it fails many times, we have to feel the pain of that failure, accompany the people who have felt the failure of their love’
Tony Palmer, under Pope Francis’s name, releases video stating that ‘Real communion is not the bread but the brother’
MARCH 03, 2014
Pope Francis accidentally says ‘the F word’
MARCH 05, 2014
Pope Francis goes to Confession in public and breaks protocol
Pope Francis gets his own fan magazine, Il Mio Papa (or ‘My Pope’)
MARCH 10, 2014
Pope Francis says The Catholic Church should not dismiss gay marriage, but should study it
APRIL 03, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘Scold the Lord a little. ‘Hey you promised me this and you haven’t done it!…Prayer must be a negotiation with God’
APRIL 23, 2014
Pope Francis phones woman in invalid marriage, telling her it’s okay to take Holy Communion saying ‘A little Bread and Wine does no harm’
APRIL 24, 2014
Pope says ‘There are some priests who are more papist than the Pope’
APRIL 28, 2014
Pope Francis tweets ‘Inequality is the root of social evil’
MAY 9, 2014
Pope Francis calls on governments for ‘Legitimate Redistribution’ of wealth to the poor
MAY 12, 2014
Pope Francis quotes Hillary Clinton saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’
MAY 13, 2014
Pope Francis says he would baptize aliens
MAY 25, 2014
Pope Francis arrives in Jordan. Before his arrival, those
waiting at the airport in Amman felt a magnitude 4.1 earthquake that struck in Israel near its border with Jordan
MAY 24, 2014
Pope Francis visits Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. Days later, a fire breaks out at the scene.
MAY 27, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘Since it is not dogma, the door is always open to rethink priestly celibacy’
MAY 28, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘Since it is not dogma, the door is always open to rethink priestly celibacy’
JUNE 05, 2014
Pope meets with Televangelist Joel Osteen at the Vatican
JUNE 08, 2014
Pope Francis hosts inter-religious prayers for peace at Vatican, including Muslim prayers
JUNE 24, 2014
Pope meets with Televangelist Kenneth Copeland and other Evangelicals at the Vatican
JUNE 29, 2014
Pope says ‘communists are closeted Christians’.
JULY 27, 2014
Pope Francis gives his Top 10 List on how to be happy – doesn’t mention Jesus once
JULY 28, 2014
Pope Francis apologizes to Pentecostals
SEPTEMBER 01, 2014
Pope Francis hosts all-star soccer match for peace
SEPTEMBER 04, 2014
Retired Israeli President Shimon Peres proposes a new global “United Nations of Religions” to Pope Francis
SEPTEMBER 14, 2014
Pope Francis marries 20 couples – some of whom were ‘living in sin’
SEPTEMBER 17, 2014
Pope Francis plans on exiling Cardinal Burke
OCTOBER 5, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘The world has changed and the Church cannot lock itself into alleged interpretations of dogma.’
OCTOBER 9, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘But God does not exist: Do not be shocked! So God does not exist! There is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they are persons, they are not some vague idea in the clouds … This God spray does not exist! The three persons exist!’
OCTOBER 13, 2014
Pope Francis Family Synod concludes with initial document suggesting dramatic shift in attitude toward gays – Document must be revised after public outcry
OCTOBER 17, 2014
Pope Francis rents outs Sistine Chapel to Porche
OCTOBER 19, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘The Church should not fear change…by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods’
OCTOBER 27, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life…Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.’
OCTOBER 27, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘But there is a third group of Christians…They are lukewarm. They are neither light not dark. And God does not love these’
OCTOBER 28, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘Jesus prays to the Father for us’
OCTOBER 29, 2014
‘It’s strange, but if I talk about these subjects then the Pope is a communist, according to some. The fact that the love for the poor is in the center of the gospel is misunderstood.’
NOVEMBER 9, 2014
Pope Francis prays in Mosque with Muslim leaders
NOVEMBER 25, 2014
It is reported in Austin Ivereigh’s book The Great Reformer, that Tony Palmer, an Anglican and long time friend of Pope Francis, spoke to Bergoglio about whether he should become Catholic. Mr. Palmer described the Cardinal’s response as: “[Bergoglio] told me that we need to have bridge-builders. He counseled me not to take the step because it looked like I was choosing a side and I would cease to be a bridge-builder.”
DECEMBER 2, 2014
Pope Francis unites Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists in joint declaration against ‘slavery’
Pope Francis compares Islamic Terrorists to Christian fundamentalists, saying ‘We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups’
DECEMBER 14, 2014
Pope Francis says ‘I confess something to you, when I have seen a Christian…with such rigidness on the outside, I ask the Lord: ‘But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them, so that they will take a good fall, and feel shame that they are sinners…’
JANUARY 19, 2015
Pope Francis tells Catholics they ‘do not need to breed like rabbits’
JANUARY 25, 2015
Balloons Replace Doves as the Vatican Symbol of Peace
JANUARY 27, 2015
Pope Francis meets with transgender person
dubbed ‘devil’s daughter’
FEBRUARY 18, 2015
New Ways Ministry, a gay Catholic group gets audience with Pope Francis and VIP treatment at Vatican for first time
FEBRUARY 20, 2015
Pope Francis references ‘traditionalists’ followed by the phrases ‘psychological and moral problems’ in private meeting
MARCH 5, 2015
Pope Francis says in interview ‘I told the Lord: ‘you are taking care of me. But if your will is that I die or that they do something to me, I ask you only one favor: that it doesn’t hurt. Because I’m a big coward when it comes to physical pain.’
MARCH 15, 2015
Pope Francis, when asked ‘What happens to that lost soul? Will it be punished?’ reportedly replied ‘there is no punishment, but the annihilation of that soul. All the others will participate in the beatitude of living in the presence of the Father. The souls that are annihilated will not take part in that banquet; with the death of the body their journey is finished.’
MARCH 22, 2015
Pope Francis Credited With Performing ‘Miracle’ As St. Gennaro’s Blood Liquifies in Naples
APRIL 4, 2015
Pope Francis washes the feet of men, women, and a transgender person named ‘Isabel’ for Holy Thursday at the Roman prison Regina Coeli.
APRIL 7, 2015
Pope Francis collaborates on commercial pop song with Italian-Argentine musician Odino Faccia titled “So We Can All Be One”. Lyrics include “The future is in your mind, In your hands and in your heart. So that all may be one – Gone are the walls, Only the value of the meeting, Which it is the bridge to peace”
APRIL 28, 2015
Pope Francis says ‘How I wish that Christians could kneel in veneration when a poor person enters the church.’
APRIL 29, 2015
Pope Francis jokes ‘being Argentinian, they thought I would call myself Jesus II’
Pope Francis demands equal pay for women, calls pay gap ‘Pure Scandal’
MAY 6, 2015
Pope Francis directs Priests to grant forgiveness to women who had abortions and former abortion doctors
MAY 7, 2015
Pope Francis says decline of marriage ‘Is a Form of Male Chauvinism’
Pope Francis makes history by welcoming a woman archbishop (Archbishop Antje Jackelén, Head of The Church of Sweden) to an official audience at the Apostolic Palace for the first time
JUNE 3, 2015
One of Pope’s closest advisors, Argentinean Archbishop Victor Fernández, gives interview explaining how Pope Francis is changing the Church, saying ‘The pope goes slow because he wants to be sure that the changes have a deep impact. The slow pace is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the changes. He knows there are those hoping that the next pope will turn everything back around. If you go slowly it’s more difficult to turn things back… . You have to realize that he is aiming at reform that is irreversible…No, there’s no turning back. If and when Francis is no longer pope, his legacy will remain strong. For example, the pope is convinced that the things he’s already written or said cannot be condemned as an error. Therefore, in the future anyone can repeat those things without fear of being sanctioned.’ (Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, May 10, 2015)
JUNE 6, 2015
The Pastoral Staff of Pope Francis breaks during a trip to Sarajevo – it is repaired with adhesive tape
JUNE 8, 2015
Pope Francis says to journalists ‘Pray for me, and if some of you can’t pray because you are not believers, send me good vibrations.’
JUNE 12, 2015
Pope Francis to hold his first public meeting with gay activist Simón Cazal, executive director of LGBT rights group SOMOSGAY on July 11, 2015
JUNE 23, 2015
Pope Francis Says Weapons Manufacturers Shouldn’t Call Themselves Christians
JUNE 29, 2015
Pope ‘plans to chew coca leaves during Bolivia visit’. Coca leaves (the raw ingredient for cocaine) were declared an illegal substance under the 1961 UN convention on narcotic drugs
JULY 7, 2015  (TODAY)
Pope hints at ‘scandalous’ changes for the church – Referring to the synod on the family to be held in October, Pope Francis said to a large crowd “I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening, and turn it … into a miracle. Families today need miracles!”

I think I want my old Pope back.

St. Michael pray for us!!!!!