Authority, Service, and Communion

The Ministry of the Bishop in Relation to the Blessed Trinity
Most Rev. Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

The topic assigned by His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops is “The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.” This synod will take place during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In keeping with the Holy Father’s theme, Lay Witness is devoting this regular column in 1999 to guest articles by American bishops that address the vital role of the bishop in the life of the Church

When Catholics say, “We believe in God,” we mean our faith is in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a Blessed Trinity; all our prayers and our teaching and our lives begin and end in the name of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is Jesus, our Savior, who introduces us to His Father and makes it possible-because we are in Him through Baptism-to call His Father our Father. “Lord, show us the Father,” Philip said to Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:8-9). To know the Father, we look at Jesus.

To know Jesus Himself, we look at the record and the witnesses. We look at and live in the tradition, both written in Holy Scripture and oral in the liturgy and teaching of the Church, which links us to Jesus in the community He left behind. In the Church, Christ’s body, we receive Scripture and are told it is God’s holy Word. In the Church, the risen Lord touches and shapes us through the seven sacraments, which are His own actions in our space and time. In the Church, we recognize the Lord because we live by the Spirit Jesus sends.

To know the Holy Spirit, who is always self-effacing, we look at the results, the gifts, and the fruits, which bear witness to the Spirit’s activity in the Church. The Spirit is wind or force; the Spirit is fire or warmth and light. The Spirit is prophetic, pointing always to Christ and keeping us in Christ’s truth.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God. Each Person of the Blessed Trinity is totally given to the others. Their “sharing” is perfect. The presence of one divine Person means the presence of all three in our lives. Each is God, yet there is only one God, because each Person is perfectly and simply a relation to the other two. God is perfect self-giving, perfect generosity. God, as St. John says, is love (1 Jn. 4:8).

The Church is a network of relationships because she lives God’s Trinitarian life. The Church, like the Trinity, is a communion of persons, each intrinsically related because all share the gifts Christ gives His people. The basic gift is sanctifying grace, which justifies us and enables us to live God’s own life by freeing us from sin, healing our souls, and enabling us to act in a supernatural manner.

If God’s life is one of infinite generosity shared in a Trinitarian order, then so it is with the Church’s life, because the Church reflects, causes, and makes visible God’s life in us. The Church’s life is one of grace and charisms, both institutional and personal, shared visibly in an ordered pattern called ecclesial communion.

The sacraments of the Church are the principle means for making this dynamic of shared gifts visible. As St. Paul says, it is Christ who baptizes; and it is Christ who confirms and forgives and heals and unites and ordains and gives us not just His Word but His very Self in the sacrifice of the altar. Christ shares His gifts and His very Self with His people until He returns again in glory.

In the meantime, in our time, the Church is governed apostolically, by the successors of those whom Christ first commissioned to preach the Gospel to the nations and to establish local Churches. With and under the successor of Peter, the head of the Twelve, the bishops are charged to preach Christ’s truth, to celebrate Christ’s sacraments, to govern and love Christ’s people, and to see that all Christ’s gifts are available to His people.

In each particular Church or diocese, therefore, the bishop is the visible point of reference for all those who gather in Christ’s name. The bishop makes Christ’s headship visible in a particular Church. He is married to his people, which is why he wears a ring. He is the shepherd of his people, which is why he carries a staff or crozier. He is the head of his people, which is why he wears a miter or crown.

Like and in God the Father, the bishop as life-giver is the source of authority in his local Church. Like and in God the Son, the bishop as servant gathers the baptized into the Eucharistic assembly and sends them on mission to transform the world. Like and in God the Holy Spirit, the bishop unites, encourages, challenges, comforts, and strengthens the people confided to his pastoral care. Since God is love, the virtue that is preeminent in the
ministry of the bishop is pastoral charity, which regulates and informs all other virtues in his life.

The spiritual life of the bishop reflects and strengthens his ministry. Our spiritual life-the believer’s life in Christ-relates us to the Blessed Trinity internally and is made visible externally in our prayer and works. The bishop, therefore, is most himself when he is at prayer, celebrating the Mass in his cathedral, surrounded by his priests and deacons, breaking open the Word of God for the holy People of God and bringing them with him into the sacrifice which unites us most perfectly to God through the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The structure and prayer of the Mass is totally Trinitarian, beginning in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and ending with God’s blessing. The Eucharistic Prayer is prayed to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. After the bishop or priest makes Christ’s Body and Blood present in an unbloody manner, the whole assembly offers Christ’s sacrifice to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only then, visibly in Christ, do we dare to say, “Our Father” and share the first gift of the Holy Spirit-peace-before receiving the Eucharist as our food and drink.

In his personal prayer and pastoral contacts, the bishop also lives and acts in Trinitarian fashion. The Liturgy of the Hours is as Trinitarian as the Mass and the other sacraments. The bishop’s prayer for his people enables him to bring their deepest concerns into the heart of God’s love. His work for his people draws him into the self-sacrifice that conforms him spiritually to Christ. Because his vocation and mission in the Church are Trinitarian, so must be his personal spiritual life. But in his life with God, the bishop never lives alone. Because “the bishop is in the Church and the Church is in the bishop” (St. Irenaeus), the bishop becomes holy only with and through his people.

The Directory on the Life and Ministry of Bishops reminds every bishop that he “should combine in himself, at one and the same time, the qualities of both a brother and a father, a disciple of Christ and a teacher of the faith, a son of the Church and, in a certain way, a father of the Church, for he ministers the spiritual birth of Christians (1 Cor. 4:15).”

Rooted in faith and growing in love, the bishop’s Trinitarian life and ministry should give hope to his people so that they can be light to the world. He is called by God to this vocation and is sustained in it by the prayers of the people. Every bishop is grateful for his vocation, but every bishop also recognizes how fragile his own cooperation with God’s grace can be. The Church encourages prayers for the Pope and other bishops because without them the risk is great that the bishop will begin to go his own way and forsake the saving embrace of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Most Rev. Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., is the Archbishop of Chicago.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

A Father’s Love

From the President
Curtis Martin
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

The Church has always had her enemies, sometimes even from within. Recently, I saw a tragic example of just how ugly sin can be. Our parish church was desecrated. Some people broke in late at night and did their best to destroy all of the sacred objects within our beautiful parish church. Worst of all, the intruders broke into the tabernacle and desecrated the body of Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament.

It is difficult to describe the emotions you feel when something you hold most dear has been attacked and even destroyed. The vandals took a beautiful, life-size statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and crushed her chest cavity where her heart would be. They broke the arms off a large crucifix. One can only imagine the hatred that must have gone into this crime, and the shock waves were felt throughout my family, our parish, and in fact the whole community. Our parish was banished to the basement, because our church was unfit for sacred services until it was re-consecrated by Archbishop Chaput.

Fraternal Support

Many things impressed me in the wake of these devastating events. The outreach and support our parish received was almost universal. Other Catholic
parishes were quick to respond with prayers and offers of assistance. Protestant ministers and their congregations expressed their sorrow and solidarity as
fellow Christians. The local rabbi also lent his public support, knowing only too well what it’s like to be the victim of religious hatred.

A Father’s Pain

In the midst of all the outpouring of sorrow and compassion, I think the individual who most impressed me was my parish priest. Father Greg was hardly able to speak of the desecration without tears filling his eyes and becoming choked up. While I felt the effects of this sacrilege very deeply, I was always aware that he was more profoundly affected, more deeply wounded, and more grieved than anyone in the parish. In Father Greg I saw a father’s heart. Even though he had not been attacked personally, he felt every act of desecration as a personal blow.

I see this in my own life. As my children grow up and they stumble and experience difficulty, I hurt for them in a way that only a parent could understand. I saw this same pain coming from the eyes and voice of Father Greg. His pain was not for his earthly family, but for his spiritual family: the parish.

The Devastation of Sin

Suffering is an odd thing. Sometimes it works to expand our hearts. As I watched my parish priest, I found his example had a profound impact on me. My feeling of anger at the violation that our parish had experienced began to melt away and I began to feel sorrow not only for our parish, but for the people who had committed this terrible crime. Even more, I began to see a deeper truth. It’s impossible to put a value on the damage done by the desecration. Nevertheless, as horrible as these deeds were, they pointed to an even greater tragedy: the devastation and desecration of sin in our own personal lives.

While I know that Our Lord would never will such a terrible act as the desecration of a church, we do know that He allows evil so that good may come. As St. Paul teaches. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). The desecration was an external sign of the internal reality of mortal sin in the soul of a Christian. St. Paul seems to stress this very point when he tells the early Christians, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

Rising from the Ashes

But as with the desecration of our church, so it is with the desecration of our souls. The story does not need to end there. Several days later, Archbishop Chaput came to our parish to reconsecrate it as holy ground. Hundreds of people stood outside in the freezing cold waiting for the beginning of the liturgy. There were so many people there that not only was the church filled to standing-room capacity, but also the basement was filled with those who could watch the liturgy on closed circuit television. Representatives from various Christian denominations and the local Jewish community were in attendance as the Archbishop, the pastor of our archdiocese for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, led us all in a prayer to God in reparation for the sins committed against the parish and also for the sins committed by the parish.

New Beginning

We came as penitents, acknowledging our own personal sin. And so as I participated in the reconsecration of the parish, I came to a deeper understanding of the grace of the Sacrament of Confession. When our souls are desecrated through willful sin, we can go to the priest and receive God’s forgiveness. Through this sacrament, we are truly reconsecrated as children of God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live and spread the Gospel.

While I would never wish this desecration on anyone, I am grateful to God for the lesson He taught me through it. In my own personal anguish and the devastation of my parish priest, I caught a glimpse of how Our Heavenly Father must feel when we desecrate the temples of our bodies. Let us strive together in this year specially dedicated to the Father to yield ourselves and allow His Holy Spirit to make us holy-to reject sin and follow after Christ with all our hearts.

From Our Founder

We have to be strong, yes-and wise and uncompromising and persevering-but we too are poor sinners and unprofitable servants, every moment in desperate need
of the divine mercy. St. Paul so beautifully points out that no matter what wonderful works we may do, they are nothing without charity, and Christ has
said that only the merciful shall receive mercy.

H. Lyman Stebbins May 20, 1970

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Francisco Marto: The Silent Seer of Fatima

Maria J. Cirurgiao
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Eighty years ago this month, a worried mother entered the bedroom of her sick little boy to check on him. It was 6:00 a.m., and he was awake. Seeing her, the boy murmured: “Look, Mother, by the door . . . shining light, very beautiful!”

Perplexed, the mother tried to understand. Light, in that modest rural house where no electricity existed, was adequate only when the sun was high and the small windows were open. Otherwise, they used a flickering oil lamp.

She looked, saw nothing, and turned again to her son. She heard him say: “Now I don’t see anything at all.” With this, he smiled as he expired. It was April 1919. Two more months and he would have been 11 years old.

We have this little scene from the mother, Olímpia Marto. At the prodding of her memory decades later by a Salesian priest, Rev. Humberto Pasquale, she remembered only that her son Francisco-since 1991 the Venerable Francisco Marto-had quietly announced the appearance of light by the door, and died happily. His last few words confirmed what he had been saying for nearly two years-that Our Lady would come soon to take him to heaven.

We don’t read anywhere of tears shed for Francisco Marto. There must have been some, as was natural. But, eking a living from the soil leaves little time for elaborate mourning. Besides, next to the room where the boy smiled his last lay his little sister, Jacinta, also sick, needing care as she awaited her turn to be taken to heaven by Our Lady. The grief that filled the Marto household was permeated by grace and borne with quiet heroism. The home was under a special visitation and the parents knew it, even if they could not account for it.

They were humble folk. “Our Lady had no need of our children in order to come; there were so many other children,” they usually replied to those who congratulated them on being the parents of Francisco and Jacinta, two of the Fatima seers. The third one, their cousin Lucia, lives still. She is a Carmelite nun, Sister Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart.

Since 1917, when the Fatima apparitions of the Lady of the Rosary took place, much has been written on the seers. Very little of it has been on Francisco, though. He draws the least attention. Writers on Fatima often convey the impression that he was the least favored one. Perhaps because he only saw the Lady, and neither heard her nor spoke to her.

But there is no hint, in what Sister Lucia has recorded of her cousin Francisco, that he saw himself as having been granted less than the other seers. He always wanted to know what it was that the Lady had said, but was equally eager to speak of the wonders he had seen and felt. “We were on fire, in that light which is God,” he commented to the other two, “and we didn’t burn up! What God is like! We can’t speak of it. Yes, about that we can never speak. But, how awful that He is so sad! If only I could comfort Him. . . .”

Because Sister Lucia, known for her reserve, had the frankness to write Francisco’s confidences exactly as she remembered them, we know that the three experienced the Fatima apparitions in ways infinitely more complex than sight and words. Those who questioned them wanted to know what the Lady looked like, what she said, not suspecting that the answers they received were but particles of the whole. Francisco never felt that any privileges had been withheld from him; he had received a plenitude upon which to meditate, as he prayed and sacrificed for the remainder of his days on earth.

He was all of nine years of age when, on August 13, 1917, he found himself kidnapped along with his sister and cousin. The county administrator could think of no better way to unmask the clerical conspiracy to exploit gullible peasants than to lock up the seers-part of the time in a dark room by themselves, then in the local jail with the adult prisoners. His superiors expected him to get to the bottom of the scandal that had erupted under his own nose, and was making national headlines.

Throughout the 48-hour ordeal, Francisco never cried. He comforted the girls. In jail, he took a medal he wore around his neck, hung it on the wall, and started the Rosary. Some of the prisoners knelt and joined in. Seeing that one of them had kept his head covered, Francisco rebuked him. The man meekly handed his cap to Francisco, who placed it on a windowsill on top of his own.

When he saw Jacinta being taken away, to be boiled alive as they were told, he uncovered his head to say a Hail Mary. “What are you up to?” scorned one of the guards. “Praying so that Jacinta won’t be frightened,” said Francisco.

Rough men had no power to intimidate him. He waited calmly to die for the truth of two disclosures: That he had seen the Lady, and that he had not heard her. Those two truths must have been equally important in God’s work. If nothing else, they posed an insurmountable obstacle to the Masonic claims that Fatima had been concocted, rehearsed, and staged by the clergy.

The Masonry-nearly all who held power in 1917 Portugal were freemasons- could abuse the clergy in the press, and did. They could send troops to disturb the crowds drawn by word of mouth to Fatima, and did. They could dynamite the site of the apparitions, and eventually did. But they were unable to explain how the children had been “rehearsed” to speak of different experiences of the apparitions. The stories the three unlettered little peasants told-and stuck to in the face of death-foiled the state’s attempt at building a case against the clergy. One begins to see how inadequate are conjectures that Francisco’s
experiences were different because he was “less favored.”

“All these things happen by the power from on high,” exclaimed Manuel Marto, father of Francisco and Jacinta, upon recovering his children. Defeated, authorities had released them to him, on August 15, and local men, armed with all kinds of implements, were ready to settle accounts with the kidnapper. But Mr. Marto wanted no lynchings, and calmed things down.

What the illiterate Mr. Marto understood so well had escaped the sophisticated freethinkers: Their extreme show of fear of children’s tales went a long way to ratify the truth behind the tales. If either of the Marto parents doubted that the visitation they were under was indeed supernatural and holy, they had only to observe the quiet transformation being operated in their two youngest ones who, much as they tried, could not hide everything from their parents’ eyes.

On a particular night, Mr. Marto awoke to the sounds of sobbing coming from Francisco’s room. He tiptoed across the house, oil lamp in hand, and found his son with his head buried in his pillow, trying to muffle his crying. Asked if he was in pain, Francisco answered that he was crying because “God is so sad, on account of so many sins that people commit all the time.”

“I felt myself seized by a profound respect for my son,” commented the father years later. “How great is the power of God!” Great things were going on with his children. Francisco had been granted an understanding of sin, and of the effects of sin, beyond that of many a learned theologian. He expressed that understanding in terms of the sadness of God, and always in the present tense: “God is so sad.”

Comforting God for the sadness caused Him by sin became Francisco’s very special area of spiritual endeavor. When, during the year following the apparitions, he accompanied his sister Jacinta and his cousin Lucia to school, he often told them as they passed the church: “You go on. I’ll stay here with the Hidden Jesus [the Eucharist]. I don’t need to learn how to read because I’m going to heaven soon. Come and get me after school.”

The parish church was undergoing renovation at the time, and the Blessed Sacrament was on a temporary altar behind the baptismal fount. Francisco would squeeze in between, and remain all day next to the tabernacle, lost in prayer, comforting God. He did this even after he had become ill, as long as he could drag his little feet. To what heights of contemplation he rose is not for us to know. But one particular incident, recorded by Lucia, shows how deeply he communicated with Jesus in the reserved Host.

The three were on the way to school one morning, when Lucia’s married sister met them on the road to tell them of a village boy who had been arrested, falsely accused of a crime that carried a long prison sentence. The boy’s mother was in great affliction, and wished them to pray for her son. As they passed by the church, Francisco told Lucia and Jacinta: “While you go to school, I’ll stay with the Hidden Jesus. I’ll ask Him for that favor.”

After school, Lucia went to the church to get Francisco. “Did you ask Jesus for that favor?”

“Yes. Tell your sister that the boy will be back home in a few days.” And he was, wrote Lucia.

Francisco had never heard bigworded debates on the Real Presence. He simply knew. As had his cousin Lucia and his sister Jacinta, he had repeated thousands of times the prayer that an angel had taught them in the summer/fall of 1916: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly and offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world . . .

Bedridden from November of 1918 on, Francisco wanted above all to receive Communion before he died. Early one morning, one of his older sisters went to knock at the door of Lucia’s home. Francisco had taken a turn for the worse, and was asking to see her.

Lucia entered Francisco’s room, and the two were left alone. “I’m going to make my Confession, in order to receive Communion and die,” Francisco told her. “I want you to tell me whether you saw me commit any sins, and then go and ask Jacinta if she saw me commit any.”

“You disobeyed your mother sometimes,” Lucia told him, “when she told you to stay home and you left the house.”

“It’s true, I have that one. Now go and ask Jacinta if she can remember any others.”

Lucia went to Jacinta’s bedside, to do as he asked. She returned with Jacinta’s report:

“Once, before Our Lady came, you stole a tostão [coin worth 10c-25c] from your father, to buy a harmonica . . . And one time you joined in when boys were throwing stones at each other.”

“I already confessed those,” Francisco replied. “But I will confess them again. Perhaps it’s because of those sins I committed that Our Lord is so sad. But even if I weren’t to die, I would never commit them again. I am sorry now.”

The pastor came to Francisco’s room that day to hear his Confession, and brought him Communion the following day. And the day after, April 4, 1919, Francisco saw shining light by the door.

Maria J. Cirurgião writes from Endicott, NY.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Book Reviews – April 1999

Various
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Architecture in Communion
Implementing the Second Vatican Council Through Liturgy and Architecture
by Steven J. Schloeder
reviewed by Michael D. Hull

Ignatius Press, 1998.
Nowhere is the spiritual and artistic poverty of our century more readily evident than in the buildings we have erected and will leave standing for future generations. Great angular blocks of concrete, steel, and glass sully the skylines of cities all over our civilized world.

Our buildings speak of the here and now, the functional and the useful. Our buildings speak of us, too. Ours is a pragmatic age in which we find little time for the lofty and the sublime and have become estranged from the symbolic and the sacred.

This trend has not been confined to office buildings and apartment complexes, but has extended to thousands of church buildings. These structures have also been made to serve functional utility and dispense with representational forms that speak of the sublime and the sacred, laments Steven J. Schloeder in his excellent book Architecture in Communion, recently published by Ignatius Press.

The basic architectural requirement of the Church is that places of worship be “truly worthy and beautiful, signs and symbols of heavenly realities.” As the illustrations in the book under consideration dramatically show, in our century this requirement has been abstracted into configurations ranging from that of a forbidding pile of rocks to those of plush convention centers.

The Church also requires that “the general plan of the sacred building be such that it reflects in some way the whole assembly.” Here, modern architects have experimented loosely and abundantly. Stressing communality over the centuries-old liturgical emphasis on the awesome mystery of the Lord’s sacrifice, and eschewing traditional architectural symbolism, many churches have become merely functional gathering places.

“It can be said of all civilizations and societies that what is ultimately valued, what is worshipped, is embodied in the products of the culture,” writes Schloeder, the founder of Liturgical Environs, an architectural firm specializing in Catholic church projects. Our iconoclastic age values that which is material and functional. Schloeder questions whether today’s approach, in which the functional has replaced the symbolic, can be appropriate
for liturgical architecture. If the church building must be a message to the world of the Church’s calling, it ought to be a “sign of contradiction” in the architectural dialogue with the urban fabric, he reminds us.

The 20th century, writes Schloeder, “is certainly architecturally impoverished with respect to ecclesiastical buildings.” He notes that though Jesus lived in humble conditions, we cannot justify the “white-washed barns” of contemporary churches. Our insistence on return on investment has given us “banal, uninspiring, and frequently even liturgically bizarre” churches. And, commenting on the excesses of Church-as-Theater designers, he writes: “The architect must work to create a sense of place for th[e] community, to augment the individual’s awareness that it is God who has called the Church together
to be present among them. Too often we have settled for facile solutions, e.g., ‘liturgy in the round,’ church-qua-dining room or lounge, as if Christ’s gathered faithful were a [theatrical] audience!”

A few acclaimed churches of this century-such as Auguste Perret’s Notre-Dame-le-Raincy erected in 1922 near Paris, and Rudolf Schwarz’s 1928-1930 Corpus Christi church in Aachen, Germany-are unique because they stand apart from the mundane, says Schloeder. Yet, while they are great examples of modern architecture, these buildings are not necessarily great Catholic churches: “Gone is the chancel arch and with it the idea of separation between heaven (the sanctuary) and the world (the nave) and between the priesthood and the laity. Gone, too, are images of saints in stained glass in favor of
clear windows or colored pattern glass.”

The Magisterium took quick notice of the implications of the emerging liturgical movement that preceded Vatican II. Schloeder notes how Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis (1943) attempted to correct the course, warning against the notion of primacy of the ” People of God” over the doctrine of the “Body of Christ.” The same Pope’s 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei was even more specific. It warned against innovations that taint the liturgy with
errors touching Catholic faith, and detailed the problems of making the altar into a primitive table, removing sacred images, and denying Christ’s suffering by crucifixes that showed nothing of the Passion.

Then came Vatican II itself. Schloeder is a serious and lucid reader of the documents of Vatican II. He finds that these are often misinterpreted, and challenges those who insist on charging the Council with having discarded the idea of a hierarchical Church and the theology of the “Body of Christ.” Schloeder points out how the Catechism has profoundly integrated the terms “People of God,” “Body of Christ,” and “Temple of the Holy Spirit.” It’s to this Trinitarian formulation, he says, that the architect intent on expressing the unity and necessary relationship of these themes must look for a deep and rich understanding of the Church.

Pitting the “People of God” against the “Body of Christ” assuredly is contrary to Vatican II, emphasizes Schloeder. The main architectural problem in erecting temples for the “People of God” is that the term is amorphous. It evokes images of an unstructured crowd. But the Body of Christ is a complex, organic reality. “Body of Christ” and “Temple of the Holy Spirit” lend themselves to an articulated building in a way that “People of God”
cannot.

Despite the millions of dollars spent in reordering churches and redirecting the liturgy, the laity have been brought into neither a more profound sense of active participation nor a deeper sense of community, recognizes Schloeder. He proposes that we learn from our errors, and aim for an architecture that respects the agenda of the Second Vatican Council and communicates the Church to today’s society.

Himself respectful of the true spirit of Vatican II, Schloeder does not fail to notice how often the tabernacle has been “shunted off to a side chapel” without sound reasons. Drawing on a number of Church documents, he concludes that the mind of the Church does not call for its removal from the sanctuary. “Does the tabernacle really compete with the altar?” he asks. “But the vital question is whether the altar is truly more important than the Eucharist
contained in the tabernacle. The altar is a symbol of Christ, but the tabernacle contains the Eucharist, which is Christ,” he adds.

Schloeder admits that in churches of historic or architectural interest, where wandering tourists abound, it may be appropriate to maintain a separate Blessed Sacrament chapel. Personally and professionally, he prefers “giving both the tabernacle and the altar their due prominence and respect with canopies, niches, aedicules, or other such architectural devices.” Schloeder expounds on the incalculable sense of orientation that the tabernacle
provides: “We see the tabernacle and genuflect to acknowledge the Lord residing therein. Before the Mass begins, we kneel in prayer to put ourselves in the correct frame of mind. If the tabernacle is not where one expects it, if there is no sign of the Host present, it may well be harder to feel at home in the house of God.”

Steven J. Schloeder’s book is a marvelous compendium of historical fact, biblical and liturgical reference, and highly reverent analysis and commentary. Impeccably researched and written, and profusely illustrated, Architecture in Communion examines every aspect of Catholic church buildings as expressions of two millennia of tradition, ritual, thought, and dogma.

It is not often that a book written by an expert on a particular technical field presents such an impassioned and comprehensive treatment of disciplines ancillary to the main topic. Mr. Schloeder’s scholarship educates us in our wondrous legacy, and opens our eyes to the richness of our faith. His sensitivity to all aspects of his subject make this book an invaluable reference guide for all students, and professionals, of ecclesiastical architecture. A must read for the rest of us, who love Christ’s Universal Church.

Architecture in Communion may be ordered by calling Benedictus Books toll-free at 1-888-316-2640. CUF members receive a 10% discount.

The Red Hat: A Novel
by Ralph McInerny
reviewed by Jeff Ziegler

Ignatius Press, 1998.
Too few Catholic novelists who write about ecclesiastical themes do so with dexterity. The plots of some such Catholic novels rise to the level of that of a spaghetti Western. Others call to mind Flannery O’Connor’s comments in her lecture “The Catholic Novelist in the South”:

“The Catholic novel that fails is . . . a novel which doesn’t grapple with any particular culture. It may try to make a culture out of the Church, but this is always a mistake because the Church is not a culture. The Catholic novel that fails is one in which there is no genuine sense of place and in which feeling is by that much diminished. Its action occurs in an abstracted setting. It could be anywhere or nowhere.”

Ralph McInerny, on the other hand, has written a Catholic novel that succeeds. Set in the near future, The Red Hat is a story with many subplots. It is the story of a lukewarm cleric whom grace converts through suffering. It is also the story of an embittered ex-seminarian, expelled from his studies because of his orthodoxy, who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance upon the institution that has so wounded him. It is the story of a retiring professor whom events force onto the world stage. Above all, it is the story of the present and future decline of the Catholic Church, particularly in the United States, from her apparent glory days in the 1950s to her doctrinal corruption today to a plausible schism a few years hence.

McInerny weaves together these subplots skillfully. Suspense builds throughout the story, and the ending is surprising. McInerny, I think, especially shows great talent in grappling with the particular cultures in which the novel takes place. The nuances of the lives of characters as varied as clerics, Notre Dame professors, Southern Californians, Evangelical talk show hosts, and young government employees in Washington all ring true. McInerny has an extraordinary grasp of local color; he knows, for instance, that Angelenos fly into LAX, that Californians drive up the 101, and that Princeton art majors
graduate with degrees in art history.

Another strength of McInerny’s work is his characterization: Neither the orthodox nor the heterodox are straw men. While the author is clearly on the side of orthodoxy, the characters who are orthodox have evident flaws.

Ralph McInerny-teacher, scholar, philosopher, mystery writer, essayist, magazine publisher, father, and grandfather-is perhaps the premiere Renaissance man
of the Church in this country. And this great layman has added another feather to his cap: He has written a novel that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

The Red Hat may be ordered by calling Benedictus Books toll-free at 1-888-316-2640. CUF members receive a 10% discount.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

A Higher Standard – April 1999

CUF
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Pardon one another so that later on you will not remember the injury. The recollection of an injury is in itself wrong. It adds to our anger, nurtures our sin, and hates what is good. It is a rusty arrow and poison for the soul. It puts all virtue to flight.

-St. Francis of Paola

The parable of the prodigal son expresses in a simple but profound way the reality of conversion. Conversion is the most concrete expression of the working of love and the presence of mercy in the world.

-Pope John Paul II

So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

-Matthew 5:23-24

Those who approach the Sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against Him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, example, and prayer labors for their conversion.

-Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, no. 11

“Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

-Luke 10:36-37

I for the love of Jesus forgive my murderer and I want him to be with me in paradise. May God forgive him because I have already forgiven him.

-St. Maria Goretti

The present moment alone is important. Do not recall what your neighbor did yesterday in order to criticize it. Do not recall what happened to you today to weep over it; it is now in the past. Do not be pessimistic about tomorrow; it is still in the future. Entrust the past to the mercy of God, entrust the future to His providence, and entrust everything to His love.

-Archbishop F.X. Nguyen Van Thuan

The joy of every Jubilee is above all a joy based upon the forgiveness of sins, the joy of conversion. -Pope John Paul II Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

-Colossians 3:12-13

We should love and feel compassion for those who oppose us, rather than abhor and despise them, since they harm themselves and do us good, and adorn us
with crowns of everlasting glory while they incite God’s anger against themselves.

-St. Anthony Zaccaria

To return to communion with God after having lost it through sin is a process born of the grace of God who is rich in mercy and solicitous for the salvation of men. One must ask for this precious gift for oneself and for others.

-Catechism no. 1489

So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

— 2 Corinthians 5:20

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Chapter News – April 1999

Opening the Catechism
CUF
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

San Fernando Valley, CA. Study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church remains the major activity of Credo Veritatem Chapter. Members have been discussing the seven sacraments of the Church, beginning with Baptism. Secretary Gretchen Desautels also reports that the chapter recently wrote all CUF members within a 100-mile radius to encourage attendance at chapter meetings. The chapter also publicized and supported an ecumenical commitment to life conference that was held at Mission Hills, CA, with impressive speakers.

Lima, OH. Holy Family Chapter is now on-line at http://home.surge.net/holyfamily. The young chapter uses its website to encourage area Catholics to attend meetings
and join for prayer, study, fellowship, and apostolic outreach. Incidentally, International CUF’s web address is www.cuf.org, and we encourage all our readers to check it out. Let us know if you like it!

Trenton, NJ. The new chairman of St. Pius X Chapter is Robert Dietrich. Vicechairman Louise Perilli notes that the chapter is planning its annual CUF retreat to be held
April 9-11 at the Villa Pauline in Mendham, NJ. Retreat master for this event will be Fr. James Montanaro, O.M.V. Reservations can be made by calling Sr. Joseph Marie at 201-543-9058. Other officers of this fine chapter are Lester Day, treasurer, and Josephine Geraci, secretary, who report that recent chapter meetings have addressed partial-birth abortion and the blasphemous New York play, Corpus Christi. Members also recently heard guest speaker Jim White on the subject “The Church Today,” wherein he noted the admirable fidelity of CUF to the teachings of the Catholic Church, which include
(1) faith in Jesus Christ and His Church, and (2) full communion with the Catholic Church as characterized by obedience to ecclesial authority.

Colorado Springs, CO. Acting chapter chairman Michael T. Barry of the Pope John Paul II Chapter writes that the chapter will be studying the theme for this year’s preparation
for Jubilee 2000: “God the Father of Mercy.” Members will be using the fine outline provided by Crisis magazine on God the Father, because if provides a format for broad participation by members who find helpful the inclusion of material from both Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Previous meetings had been devoted to an eight-part study of Catholic doctrine on the Holy Spirit.

Tucson, AZ. Sponsoring evenings of recollection has helped St. Bernadette Soubirous Chapter increase membership. Prayer has indeed helped, chairman Michael Mohr
writes, with the chapter also deciding to hold an additional monthly membership meeting. The chapter newsletter highlights programs featuring such excellent speakers as Fr. Paul Marx, O.S.B., of Human Life International and Fr. James Downey, O.S.B., of the Institute on Religious Life. In an article dealing with the key moral issues discussed in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Gospel of Life, Fr. Richard Rego succinctly summarized for the
chapter the Vicar of Christ’s teaching: “The Church has no power whatsoever to dispense man from God’s laws or to change them. Man, on the other hand, has no power to dispense himself from divine law by a claim to conscience.”

What is a CUF chapter?
A chapter is a group of CUF members who strive to build up the local Church through prayer, doctrinal formation, and apostolic action.

How can I start a CUF chapter?
CUF chapters are chartered through CUF’s international headquarters. To request a chapter information packet, contact:

Catholics United for the Faith
827 N. Fourth St. Steubenville, OH 43952
1-800-MY-FAITH
(1-800-693-2484)

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Without the Church There Is No Salvation

CUF
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Issue: What does the Catholic Church mean by the phrase, “Outside the Church there is no salvation” (extra ecclesiam nulla salus)?

Response: All salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the one Savior of the world (cf. Acts 4:12). His Holy Spirit dispenses those graces through His body, the Church. “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk. 10:16).

Quoting from various documents of Vatican II and Pope Paul VI, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 776) explains:

As sacrament, the Church is Christ’s instrument. She is taken up by Him also as the instrument for the salvation of all, the universal sacrament of salvation, by which Christ is at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men. The Church is the visible plan of God’s love for humanity, because God desires that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Discussion: There are two principal errors when it comes to the Church’s teaching on extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Some reject this teaching as both incorrect and arrogant. Others interpret this statement to condemn all those who are not visibly united to the Roman Catholic Church. To properly understand this teaching, we must examine it within the context of divine Revelation and Church history. This examination will reveal that the phrase was not formulated to express who would go to heaven and who would go to hell, for only God will judge that. Rather, the phrase expresses an understanding of the Church in relation to her role in the salvation of the world.

Translation or Interpretation?
Many people translate the Latin phrase extra ecclesiam nulla salus as “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” This translation does not seem entirely faithful to the Latin meaning, and contributes to the misunderstanding of the phrase.

The Latin word “extra” is both an adverb and preposition. Depending on its use in a sentence, the word has different meanings. When used to describe spatial relations between objects, the word is translated as “beyond” or “outside of”(e.g., Beyond the creek is a tree; or, James is outside of the room). When used to describe abstract relations between concepts or intangible things, the word is commonly translated “without” (e.g., Without a method, it is difficult to teach). Within the phrase in question, extra is a preposition describing the abstract relationship of the Church to salvation. Considering the Latin nuances of the word, a proper translation would be, “Without the Church there is no salvation.” This translation more accurately reflects the doctrinal meaning of the phrase.

Scriptural Foundations
In the Gospel of Mark, after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Eleven and gave them the commission, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16).

In order to accept or reject the Gospel, each person must have it preached to him. If acceptance or rejection of the truth were based on private revelations given to each man, woman, and child, there would be no need for Christ to commission the Apostles to preach the Gospel. Jesus desired to reveal Himself through His body, the Church. While this passage condemns those who reject the truth, it does not condemn those who have not had the truth offered to them as Christ intends.

The New Testament clearly teaches that salvation is a gift offered by God in various ways to all men. Adam, Abel, and Enoch lived between the first sin and the covenant of Noah. They were bound by original sin. All are considered to be in heaven. Enoch did not even die, but was taken to God before death (Heb. 11:4-5). These men were neither baptized nor circumcised, but nonetheless saved.

When the gentile centurion came to Jesus in Capernaum and asked for the healing of his servant, Our Lord agreed to go to his home, but the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8:8). Jesus replied:

Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from East and West and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth (Mt. 8:10-13).

Jesus makes a clear distinction between those who are sons of the kingdom (that is, those who have knowledge of and accepted the faith) and those who are not. He includes in the kingdom of heaven many of those who are not. Jesus graces us with His incarnation, and His presence is known through His body, the Church. The Church carries on the work of Christ here on earth. Those to whom the Church has not preached the Good News will be judged by God in a manner known to God and tempered with His mercy. As St. Paul explains:

When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my Gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Rom. 2:14-16).

Sacred Tradition
Many people who claim that God restricts salvation to baptized Catholics cite the Fathers of the Church to prove their assertions. While space does not allow an exhaustive analysis of the Fathers, there are several necessary points to keep in mind. First, the Fathers must be understood in the context of their writings, not in the context of the one quoting them. The majority of the Fathers who wrote on this topic were concerned about those who had once believed or had heard the truth, but now rejected it. Many of them believed the entire world had heard the Gospel. Their words were not directed at those who, by no fault of their own, did not know the Gospel of Christ.

The Fathers do affirm the inherent danger in deliberately rejecting the Church. For example, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote at the turn of the second century, “Be not deceived, my brethren; if anyone follows a maker of schism, he does not inherit the kingdom of God” (Letter to the Philadelphians 3:3). In the third century, St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote, “whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress [a schismatic church] is separated from the promises of the Church, nor will he that forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is an alien, a worldling, and an enemy” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 6, 1). In the fourth century, St. Jerome wrote, “Heretics bring sentence upon themselves since they by their own choice withdraw from the Church, a withdrawal which, since they are aware of it, constitutes damnation” (Commentary on Titus 3:10-11).

On the other hand, many of the Fathers did write about those who were invincibly ignorant of the Gospel. Of these, the Fathers accepted that salvation was open to them, even if in a mysterious way. The Fathers recognized that the natural law of justice and virtue is written on the hearts of all men. Those who respect this law respect the Lawgiver, though they do not know Him. As St. Justin Martyr wrote in the second century:

We have been taught that Christ is the first-begotten of God, and we have declared Him to be the Logos of which all mankind partakes (Jn. 1:9). Those, therefore, who lived according to reason [logos] were really Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates, Heraclitus, and others like them . . . those who lived before Christ but did not live according to reason were wicked men, and enemies of Christ, and murderers of those who did live according to reason, whereas those who lived then or who live now according to reason are Christians. Such as these can be confident and unafraid (First Apology 46).

In the third century, St. Clement of Alexandria wrote: “Before the coming of the Lord, philosophy was necessary for justification to the Greeks; now it is useful for piety . . . for it brought the Greeks to Christ as the Law did the Hebrews” (Miscellanies 1:5). Origen wrote, “[T]here was never a time when God did not want men to be just; He was always concerned about that. Indeed, He always provided beings endowed with reason with occasions for practicing virtue and doing what is right. In every generation the Wisdom of God descended into those souls which He found holy and made them to be prophets and friends of God” (Against Celsus 4:7). In the fifth century, St. Augustine wrote: “When we speak of within and without in relation to the Church, it is the position of the heart that we must consider, not that of the body . . . All who are within the heart are saved in the unity of the ark” (Baptism 5:28:39).

Magisterial Pronouncements
Throughout the history of the Church, the Magisterium has accepted and synthesized these teachings. Recognizing that God will judge our hearts according to the gifts we have received, invincible ignorance—that is, ignorance which cannot be overcome by ordinary means—tempers divine justice. Those who have knowledge of the truth are expected to accept it. Those who have not been given this gift will be judged according to the law written on their hearts. Two noteworthy examples of this position are found in Pope Boniface VIII’s bull Unam Sanctam and Pope Pius IX’s encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore.

Boniface VIII wrote concerning the nature of the Church and the supremacy of the Pope. He did not write concerning the damnation of those who have never heard the Gospel. After expressing the truth that there is only one Lord, one faith, one Baptism and one Church, he explained that supreme authority of the Pope is both temporal and spiritual. He then ended by declaring: “We declare, say, define, and pronounce, that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” This is not a statement demanding that everyone know the Pope’s supremacy to be saved, but rather is a truthful claim that the Pope has authority from God as the legitimate successor of St. Peter, to whom Our Lord entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

Pius IX clearly expressed the full teaching a century ago. His writing distinguishes between those who are invincibly ignorant and those who have willfully separated themselves from the Catholic Church:

There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches, and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, His supreme kindness and
clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments. Also well-known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved [without] the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior.

Sacrament of Salvation
In an expression of the authentic Magisterium, the college of bishops further explained this doctrine in the context of Christocentric sacramental theology at Vatican II. Echoing the words of St. Paul, the Council described the Church as the Spouse and Body of Christ (Lumen Gentium, nos. 6-7). Jesus is one with His Spouse, the Church (cf. Eph. 5:32). The two form the one Body of Christ visible on earth. Christ is the Head, and He ministers through His body, which is the sacrament of salvation (Lumen Gentium, no. 9). To whom does He minister? Both His body and those apart from the body, that he might draw all men to Himself (ibid., no. 13). In this way, the Church dispenses to all men the graces of salvation won by Christ. Those who knowingly reject these graces are lost. Those who accept them are saved. Those who do not have the opportunity to accept the grace can be saved because of the presence of the Church in the world (cf. 1 Cor. 7:12-16). If they are saved, they are saved through the Church without their knowledge of that grace.

Vatican II declares:

[Many] of the most significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Him, belong by right to the one Church of Christ. . . . It follows that these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from the defects already mentioned, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church” (Decree on Ecumenism, no. 3).

Come Aboard!
This teaching of Christ and His Church is not meant to allow indifferentism or exclusivism. Baptism and unity with the Catholic Church provide the only assurance of salvation, but not the only means. “God has bound salvation to the Sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments” (Catechism, no. 1257, original emphasis).

The will of God is for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). To fulfill His will, Jesus commissioned the Apostles to preach the Gospel and baptize those who would embrace it (Mk. 16:16). He gave us the Sacrament of Baptism and unity with the Church as the ordinary means of salvation. By Baptism we are made sharers in the life of Christ. When we participate in the fullness of life within the Church, we remain obedient children of God with the Church as our Mother. To provide assurance for the salvation of all men, we must fulfill the command of Christ to evangelize the world and bring all into His body, the Church.

Because God is not bound by the sacraments, He makes the grace of salvation available to all in ways unknown to us. This is the basis for the Church’s teaching on “Baptism of desire” (cf. Catechism, nos. 1258-60, 1281). This occurs, for example, when one seeks Baptism but dies first, or when one dies without explicit knowledge of Christ, but would have embraced the truth had it been presented. Only God can judge their souls.

The Church is the ark through which men are saved. Noah and his family were the only men saved on the ark, but even animals who had no understanding of the matter were saved with them. As the ark saved all on it, even those who had no knowledge, so does the Church, as the universal sacrament of salvation, dispense the graces won by Christ and applies them to all men of every place and condition. In a way mysterious to us, this salvation is offered to all, and God, who judges the hearts of all, will determine their destiny.

Last edited: 3/99

Recommended reading:

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Documents of Vatican II

Postconciliar Documents

Precis of Official Catholic Teaching on the Church

 

Other available FAITH FACTS:

Rock Solid: Salvation History of the Catholic Church • Justification • Sola Scriptura • Law and Order • No Bull: Papal Authority and Our Response • Following Our Bishops • Limbo • Moral Conscience • Mary’s Role in Our Salvation • Once Saved Always Saved: The Biblical Reality of Mortal Sin

Call 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484).

FAITH FACTS are a free membership service of Catholics United for the Faith.

Catholics United for the Faith
827 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, OH 43952
(800) 693-2484

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

The Raising of a Son

Michael Kelsey
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

At the close of Mass, after the family had lit their candles, my father would advance to hanging statues of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and end each prayer by kissing both feet of each statue. He would then raise his eight-year-old son, so that the boy was within reach of the statues, and then the boy would kiss the feet of the statues as well.

This weekly ritual took place until I was tall enough to reach the statue myself and no longer needed Dad’s help. In the same way that my father had physically lifted me to the image of Our Lord as a boy, he likewise raised my faith, hope, and love in Our Heavenly Father throughout the entire 15 years that God gave me with him on earth by his pious example, upright living, and sincere and persevering faith.

Dad’s legacy to his children was found in a living, orthodox Catholic faith that preached moral righteousness, charity in dealing with others, and above all piety and devotion to the Divine. Through these means my earthly father led me to discover the goodness and mercy of our omnipotent heavenly Father.

The way that my father conducted himself toward the Lord and His Church was difficult not to notice, and almost as hard not to emulate. He had been raised and confirmed in a tradition that preceded the tumultuous 60s and 70s. When the local Church seemed to undergo drastic changes, my father placidly retained the healthy habits and traditions that his youth had instilled in him. His interior spirituality was very strong, but so was his exterior life, and these outward gestures produced the pious example that inspired me so greatly. His belief in Our Eucharistic Lord was demonstrated by his kneeling and striking
his breast at the words of the consecration, even when he was in a congregation where it was not common, and when his doing so brought uncomfortable attention to himself.

Dad carried a rosary in his pocket and kissed it every time upon its removal. Another rosary was strung around his neck 24 hours/day along with a Sacred Heart medal. He led the prayers each year in renewal of our family’s consecration to the Sacred Heart, and each night at dinner grace. He also had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Through this latter devotion he inspired my brother and me to make the first five Saturdays alongside him and my mother (and later my sister), and several times arranged for our house to host a visiting statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Two days a week he fasted for Our Lady’s intentions (as she asked at Fatima). With such a pious exterior life, it was not difficult to see Dad’s conviction. This solid faith evident in my father’s actions made me strive to understand and follow the God that he worshipped.

My father’s faith was not something reserved only for Sunday, but one that transcended his daily living. Every morning on the way to work he prayed that nothing would occur which God’s grace would not be sufficient for him to handle. When agonizing situations found my Dad, he regularly chose the honest and upright paths, even when doing so brought harm to himself. As an employer he looked out for the benefits of his workers and at home he did the same for his family. When illness or tragedy struck the family, my father’s strength was anchored in his faith, and through prayer the difficulty was overcome. He tried to live his life after the Gospel in loving others and sacrificing often for their good. My siblings and I frequently experienced his fatherly love and sacrifice. His integrity and tender compassion was a lesson to me of how to conduct myself in all things.

Through thick and thin, Dad’s faith remained strong and persevering. He received the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession often and encouraged his children to do the same. Family conversations were often of a religious nature, and he used this time to instill in us a thirst for holiness. His sacramental, upright life was evidence of his deep faith.

When he was diagnosed as terminally ill, his faith was not shaken. He continued to pray his daily Rosary, and attend Mass even when sitting in the pews caused him discomfort. He still discussed religion with his children, even going so far as to give me a copy of the new encyclical Veritatis Splendor, which he praised. His trust in Our Lady was tremendous. Dad had fasted for decades and made the first five Saturdays-which
carried with it Mary’s promise to intervene in the hour of one’s death. His trust in Our Lady and her Son was immense. His faith influenced my own relationship with God. If Dad could be so true and faithful to his Creator, how could it not inspire his son?

By my own father’s example and instruction, I was able to recognize my role as an adopted son of God through Christ-a relationship that would transcend the earthly relationship of my mortal father even after his death. By my dad’s execution of his wedding vow to raise Catholic children, at his death, he did not leave me an orphan: He had planted and cultivated within me a special relationship with my Father in heaven.

Even when plagued with pancreatic cancer, my father knelt during the consecration as a pious sign of his confidence in Christ’s presence. When afflicted with the trials of this world, Dad did not stray from his prayer life or integrity. When deteriorated by cancer, his faith persevered in actions. With this consistent and true example which God gave me in my earthly father, how much more incredible must the heavenly Father be? The mysterious interaction of my father’s example and the free gift of God’s grace has enabled me to form my own relationship with my Creator and Lord as an adopted son.

My earthly father passed into eternal life on November 6, 1993. The death of a loved one naturally brings much sadness, yet my father’s death did not leave me alone. As I know he would have done, I turned to my Father in heaven and lifted my prayers for my father’s soul in the same way that my dad had lifted me to kiss the feet of the statue of God. I prayed to the Almighty and continue to do so for the welfare of my father and for the family that he left behind. I thanked Him for His mercy and goodness, and for His Mother Mary, whose intercession I believed delivered my dad that day to glory. The day he died was a first Saturday.

CUF Awards Scholarship

Catholics United for the Faith is pleased to announce that Michael Kelsey is the 1999 recipient of the H. Lyman Stebbins scholarship that is awarded annually to college students who are preparing for work in the lay apostolate.

The scholarship is awarded based on an essay competition, which this year attracted 24 entries. This year’s topic, in keeping with the year of God the Father, was the student’s response to this question: “What has your relationship with your earthly father-for better or for worse-revealed to you about Our Heavenly Father?”

Michael, whose winning essay is published here, is a senior at Christendom College in Front Royal, VA, where he majors in theology. His father, the late Norman John Kelsey, died at the age of 49 after a three-month battle with cancer. His family hails from Hopewell Junction, New York.

CUF was pleased to award Michael a $500 scholarship for his winning essay. We also awarded a $250 scholarship to Terrence Dillon (Franciscan University of Steubenville) and a $100 scholarship to Olivia Gatti Taylor (Marquette University) for their outstanding efforts.

With your help, we will continue to expand this scholarship program in 2000, so that we can assist more young men and women with their studies. You may earmark your tax-deductible donation to our scholarship fund simply by writing “scholarship” on the lower-left portion of your check, which may be sent to us in the enclosed business reply envelope. Michael, Terrence, and Olivia-and all those who will come after them-are grateful for your generous support.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

Out of the Cocoon: Living the Calling to Be Lay Apostles

Brian O’ Neel
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

For the first two years of our marriage, my wife and I lived in what we came to believe was Catholic Nirvana. We lived in Steubenville, Ohio.

In case that brings a shrug to your shoulders, Steubenville is fast becoming known as a bastion of fervent and faithful Catholicism. Many of the families who move there come for the same reason: to breathe orthodox Catholic air and to raise their children in that environment.

They certainly don’t come for the scenery. Though the city was once the buckle in the Ohio Valley’s Steel Belt, today it is depressed, mostly because proof of its shining past abounds at every turn. Elegant older homes lie rotting, pigeons flying in and out of their pane-free windows. Abandoned warehouses and stores litter the downtown. Local factories frequently clear their stacks, causing the air to reek. Many won’t drink the tap water. There is a saying that wives who move to town cry for the first year they’re here and cry for the first year after they’ve left.

Why they cry after they’ve left is what makes the place special.

When people leave this city, they lose an extraordinarily tight-knit, faithful community that is hard to find elsewhere. Simply put, Steubenville is a nice, comfortable cocoon in a sometimes ugly and often bewildering world.

Franciscan University- Steubenville’s second biggest claim to fame after Dean Martin-has given new hope to legions of parents who once despaired of finding a truly Catholic education for their children. It also hosts annual summer conferences that help form the faithful from across North America.

While the Catholic charismatic renewal has its unofficial home there, the town is also a haven for those who favor more traditional expressions of the faith, including Opus Dei, which holds a monthly evening of recollection downtown at St. Peter’s. On the Sunday after Easter, St. Stanislaus’ holds a Divine Mercy celebration that draws hundreds of people for Confession. On Wednesday nights during the school year, noted apologist Kimberly Hahn conducts a Bible study that packs dozens of Catholic women into her family room.

Liturgy doesn’t get much better these days than at the churches there. Take St. Peter’s, for instance. It’s a study in beauty with its marble interior and gorgeous stained-glass windows. Incense is used at every High Mass, and bells accompany the smells. Young families pack the pews. The excellent choir sings everything from chant and Palestrina to stirring and beautiful hymns.

Eucharistic devotion is high. There are four chapels in town that sponsor 24-hour perpetual adoration. Everyone seems to demonstrate a sincere, profound reverence for the Mass, which is then reflected in the fellowship that takes place after Mass.

This sense of community extends beyond one’s parish. For two weeks after we had our son Michael, someone dropped off a meal for us each night. On Friday nights there is a Rosary walk around the streets of one neighborhood. There are no cliques. How can there be when people are this committed to living the Gospel?

Having worked at Catholics United for the Faith in Steubenville, my wife and I knew that much of the country was different. We heard enough horror stories to dread the day we would have to practice our faith outside of Steubenville. We were quite happy in the cocoon, thank you.

God had different plans, however. Last August, several factors made us realize we should move back to California. With sadness and not a little trepidation, we left a place and people we had grown to love.

That was several months ago. In our new home, while some fears have been realized, others have been confounded, and some things have surprised us.

On the negative side, going to Mass sometimes feels like a penance. Our church resembles a large, upside-down boat that’s slightly bent in the middle. As such, there is no center aisle. Above the altar is not a crucifix-it stands at the edge of the sanctuary- but a mosaic of Christ resurrected. The Eucharistic chapel is beautiful, but hidden from view. Every Mass, I look for something beautiful inside the place to help lift my soul toward God, and every time I’m disappointed. And after Mass-and sometimes during-people talk loudly in the pews as if they were in the parish hall.

So how do we cope in our new setting? Most often we do it by focusing on the reality of the Eucharist, with the occasional aid of a good prayer book. Even the best Masses can leave us feeling dry. But through Communion we receive the perfect cleansing of our souls, and the grace to ward off sin. This alone should give us cause to rejoice even during the most lackluster of liturgies. If faced with an absence of liturgical beauty, we can compensate with ejaculatory prayers that strive for the beauty of angels’ tongues. Doing this, even in the best situations, helps us recognize the beauty and joy of the Mass.

Speaking only for myself, I thought that Catholicism outside the cocoon was rife with dissent. While dissent does exist, most often it’s simply the case that parishioners never learned the truths of the faith or have long since forgotten them. Most have never recognized the call to conversion. As a result, the faith isn’t the central focus for many of the faithful.

But though it’s not their primary focus, they are an amazingly faithful people who love the Lord, even if they don’t know Him well. The good news is that those we’ve met want to know Him better.

This is where Christ’s command in Matthew 28:19 comes in. The charge to “make disciples of all nations” is for all of us. And “all nations” includes the people next to us at Mass. Though I’m just as much a sinner as the next person, my years in Steubenville gave me a fantastic education in Church teaching. I can use what I learned from people like Scott Hahn and Curtis Martin and others to help my brothers and sisters know their faith better and draw them closer to Jesus.

“Great, but I’ve never lived in Steubenville, and I never will. Where does that leave me?” Most of what I’ve learned from Scott and Curtis and the rest didn’t come from sitting at their feet and catching pearls of wisdom, but by listening to their tapes and making notes in my Bible and notebooks. I bought or was given scores of books on the faith, and these became handy reference tools. I read every Catholic magazine I could and often made notes on what I read. These are things anyone can do.

Of course, a lamp does no good if hidden under a basket. When I moved to California, I called the rectory and volunteered to help. Parishes are often in desperate need of laborers for the Gospel. I got to know my pastor and other parishioners. I didn’t try to be a know-it-all. Instead, I quietly looked for chances to help where I could. By God’s grace, Father agreed to let me write inserts for the bulletin similar to CUF’s Faith Facts. I’ve done several so far, and I give praise to God when people tell me they found them informative. There’s a real hunger for such a service.

Granted, many Catholics live in parishes that are less open to this type of assistance. In that case, invite interested individuals to your home to study the Bible and the Catechism, or to listen to apologetics tape sets, or for fellowship if nothing else.

And certainly go to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Tell Him your pains and sorrows. Confide in Him, for He waits there for you. He knows all and can help you. Then finish up by saying you will forgive as you have been forgiven, and offer your troubles and difficulties to Him. Prayer-constant, unrelenting, joyful, earnest, heart-felt prayer-is effective, but only if we take the time to actually do it.

Visitors to Steubenville often say they want to recreate that wonderful environment in their parishes. Well, we can. Through prayer, charity, persistence, love, and joy in Jesus Christ, we can make a positive difference. It will never be easy. But by serving as true disciples of Jesus and His Church and remaining faithful to our calling, little by little we can help transform others- and ourselves!—and thus help renew the face of the earth.

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.

The Challenge: Jesus Offers a New Vision for God’s People

Edward P. Sri
From the Apr 1999 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Edward P. Sri is a professor of theology at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS, and a regional coordinator for the Fellowship Of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). “Jesus, Kingdom Builder” is an 11-part study of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. This is the fourth installment.

The famous “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 5:7) is known for its beautiful spiritual and moral teachings. Indeed, it would be hard to beat a sermon that had the Beatitudes, the Our Father, and the command to love your enemy and be light to the world all packed into one.

One thing, however, which is not commonly noted about the Sermon on the Mount is how its explosive message would have shaken the world of many people who heard Jesus’ words on the hillside that day.

A New Vision

“Love your enemy.” “Blessed are the merciful.” “Turn the other cheek.” With these words, Jesus was not simply setting forth a brand new ethical standard. While Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount certainly have great moral applications for Christians of all ages, we must see how Jesus was giving a very specific challenge to the people of His day. Jesus was offering a new vision-a new vision for what it meant to be God’s people.

National Crisis

The Jews in Jesus’ day were living in hard times. They were facing a national crisis. Roman rulers controlled their land, took their money, and raped their women. Many of the Jewish priests and local leaders were assassinated and replaced by handpicked appointments from Rome or Herod. Thousands of Jews who tried to resist Roman rule quickly paid the severe price of death.

This oppressive environment created numerous challenges for those who were striving to remain loyal to God’s covenant. According to the Torah, God alone was king and He would rule His people through a descendant of King David. No foreigner was to rule over the Jews (Deut. 17:15). Would submitting to Caesar, Pilate, or Herod betray Yahweh’s lordship?

Then came the question of taxes and tithes. With the Romans imposing heavy tax burdens, it would be quite difficult for many Jews to be able to pay both the taxes to Caesar and the tithe, which their own law required them to give to God. So should one be faithful to Rome or to Yahweh?

Also, there was the danger of assimilation. When the Romans imported thousands of their own citizens, with their pagan practices and lifestyles, right into the midst of Jewish society, it became increasingly difficult for Jews to maintain their identity as God’s holy people set apart from the nations. Any time a smaller culture is enveloped by a larger, dominating culture, assimilation is a real threat. Thus, Jewish self-preservation was a critical issue in the time of Jesus.

Diverse Strategies

The Jewish people responded to this crisis in different ways. While they all believed that one day God would rescue those who remained faithful to the covenant, there were diverse opinions about who those faithful Jews would be. One burning question in first-century Judaism was:

“What did it mean to be a true, loyal Jew during this time of oppression?”

One group, the Pharisees, said faithfulness meant imitating God’s holiness. In Hebrew, “holy” literally means “set apart” or “separated,” and the Pharisees imitated God’s holiness by separating themselves from anything or anyone that was unholy. They did this through strict observance of the laws that distinguished the Jews from their pagan neighbors. Thus, they avoided certain types of foods, certain types of animals, certain types of utensils and, most of all, certain types of people, such as sinners, tax collectors, and gentiles (non-Jews). Little details such as these-what you ate, how you ate it, and
with whom you ate-were all powerful political and religious symbols. These were symbolic ways of expressing faithfulness to God’s covenant in the midst of a growing pagan culture. They were ways of saying, “I am not like the pagans. I am a true Jew, part of God’s faithful people.”

The Essenes were another group who emphasized separateness-but to an even greater degree. They called for separation from society altogether. With Roman occupation and corrupt Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, remaining holy within society was no longer a possibility. So the Essenes withdrew to the desert, where they established a monastic-like community, claiming to be the only Jews left who were still faithful to God’s covenant.

Other Jews believed holiness could be obtained only by driving the Romans out of the land. These revolutionaries stressed that only Yahweh was meant to be king over Israel. To submit to Caesar or Herod would be to reject God’s role as Israel’s true king. Thus, many Jews were ready to take up arms against the Romans when the time was right.

Setting the Stage

One can see there was much diversity in first-century Judaism. Although most people believed that God would rescue the loyal Jews during the time of the Messiah, there were various opinions about what it meant to be the type of Jew who would be part of that faithful remnant when the kingdom finally arrived. This was the complex stage onto which Jesus walked when He began His kingdom movement in a northern part of Israel called Galilee, preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17).

Go Tell It on a Mountain

From the beginning, Jesus’ public ministry took off like lightning. People from all over Galilee and beyond flocked to see Him. Why was He so popular? His message and His actions said it all: The long-awaited kingdom was now arriving (Mt. 4:17, 23-25). Jesus was offering a message the Jews were longing to hear. With eager anticipation, many Jews began to place their hopes in Him to rescue them from their enemies and restore the kingdom to Israel. No wonder Jesus’ fame spread throughout the region so rapidly!

After attracting this large following, Jesus decided to lead the crowds up a mountain in Galilee for a special discourse about the kingdom. This action itself might have led some of His followers to ponder what might happen next. In those days, the hill country of Galilee was a refuge for Jewish revolutionaries who were plotting their assaults against foreign oppressors. The caves in those hills made for good hiding places. Not too long ago, a
group of bandits had hidden in the Galilean hills during a fierce conflict with King Herod.

So when Jesus led His followers up a mountain in Galilee, perhaps some might have wondered whether He was going to start some type of revolt of His own-like Judas the Galilean had done in the Galilean hillside one generation ago. Was Jesus going to make a claim to be Israel’s king and lead the people in a fight for the kingdom? The crowd waited for Him to speak.

The Kingdom Movement

Jesus then began to address His band of followers on the mountainside with a startling surprise. He introduced an unexpected lineup of people who would be blessed in the kingdom He was building: “Blessed are the merciful . . . Blessed are the peacemakers . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted.”

What a shock. What kind of kingdom movement was this? Jesus seemed to be blessing all the wrong people. The peacemakers, the merciful, and the persecuted were not the expected first-round draft choices for a kingdom- building team. Many Jews would have preferred vengeance over mercy, vindication over persecution, fighting for freedom over making peace.

Consider a few other famous commands in the Sermon on the Mount, such as “love your enemy,” “pray for those who persecute you,” and the socalled “go the extra mile.” Sometimes these teachings are misunderstood as practical instructions for becoming pushovers for Jesus. But in their firstcentury context, these challenges would have been much more intense. Jesus was subverting the revolutionary and nationalistic tendencies within first-century Judaism.

The Challenge

For example, “love your enemy” was not simply an abstract principle to be applied when you had to face someone who wanted to do you harm. Rather this command had a specific, concrete meaning for the Jews who heard His teaching that day. For those original listeners, “love your enemy” would have sounded something like: “Love the Romans who persecute you. Love Herod and his illegitimate, violent monarchy. Do not join the revolt movements.”

Similarly, the command, “If any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” was not simply a lesson on being generous. Roman soldiers often forced civilians to carry their gear for one mile. Using this image, Jesus challenged the Jews to view the Romans not as adversaries to be overcome, but as brothers and sisters who are to be loved and won over for God.

In fact, that was Israel’s mission from the very beginning: to be light to the world and salt of the earth (Mt. 5:13- 14; Is. 42:6, 49:6; Ex. 19:6). Jesus challenged the people to return to their roots and be what Israel was always meant to be-not an exclusive, nationalistic religion isolated from the other nations, but a priestly kingdom serving and leading the gentiles to worship of the one true God.

Light of the World

Israel was meant to be light to the world, God’s instrument to bless the nations. But in the time of Jesus, many had lost sight of Israel’s worldwide mission. Israel’s light had turned inward on itself, focusing more on remaining pure and separated from the pagans-as in the Pharisaic and Essene programs-or intent on driving out the Romans with force, as in the resistance movement. How could Israel be light to the world if they were more concerned about fighting it off?

Jesus shattered the prevailing views of the day with this challenge: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before all men” (Mt. 5:14-15).

The way of the kingdom was the way of peace, and it involved gathering together all peoples, even the Jewish oppressors. Rome and Herod were not enemies to be conquered, but brethren to be gathered back into God’s covenant family.

The Two Ways

Matthew’s Gospel highlights how Jesus is a new Moses. Both Jesus and Moses escaped an evil ruler’s decree to kill Israelite children by going to the Egyptians. Both came out of Egypt to return to Israel. Both went out into the desert, Moses for 40 years and Jesus for 40 days. More Mosaic parallels are found in Jesus’ first and last discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:7) and His confrontation with the Pharisees in the temple (Mt. 23).

Consider this: Before his death, Moses gave the people of Israel the covenant of Deuteronomy just when they were getting ready to enter the Promised Land
after 40 years in the wilderness. In his parting words, Moses left Israel with a choice: faithfulness or unfaithfulness to the covenant, life or death,
blessing or curse:

I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him (Deut. 30:19-20).

Moses gave instructions for this covenant to be announced and ratified on two mountains after the people entered the land. Half the tribes of Israel shouted out the covenant blessings on Mount Ebal, while the other half proclaimed the curses on Mount Gerizim (Deut. 27:11-13). Israel had to choose which path she would follow. Faithfulness would bring blessing upon Israel in their land. Unfaithfulness would invite the curses and expulsion from the land. They chose the later, and Jews in the time of Jesus believed they were still suffering the consequences of their sin in their experience of foreign oppression.

In similar fashion, Jesus announced blessings and curses from two different mountains of His own. He offered seven blessings in the beatitudes on the Galilean mountain at the beginning of His ministry (Mt. 5:3-12). And He announced seven curses on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem near the end of His ministry. There, Jesus pronounced the seven “woes” on those scribes and Pharisees who rejected His kingdom program (Mt. 23:13-36).1

The message is clear. Once again, Israel was faced with a vital decision. Like Moses, Jesus forced the Jews of His day to make a choice: Do you want to follow the way of the revolutionaries and separatists? Or will you follow My way, the way of mercy, peace, and enduring persecution in a way that is restorative. The first way will lead to Israel’s destruction. The latter will lead to the kingdom’s restoration. Ultimately for Jesus, as we will see, the road to the kingdom is the way of the Cross.

[1] P. Ellis, Matthew: His Mind and His Message (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1974), 81

Questions for Discussion

1. The Pharisees are often stereotyped as too ritualistic or promoting a program of self-salvation. How might at least their intention to rigorously follow the details of the law be viewed positively in light of the first-century Jewish crisis?

2. How would you have responded to the crisis if you were a Jew in the time of Jesus? Would you have followed the Pharisees? The Essenes? The revolutionaries? How open do you think you would have been to the kingdom Jesus was initiating?

3. St. Paul describes the Church as the new Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). How is the Catholic Church the fulfillment of God’s plan for Israel? In what ways is the Catholic Church the “light of the world”? What specifically can we do to let our light shine before all?

Associated PDF File:
This article is available as a PDF download

You may need to obtain a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to use this
PDF file.