Year of Faith: Read the Catechism in a Year…

An easy way to study and reflect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church for this Year of Faith

For this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict has encouraged you to study and reflect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Well, here’s an easy way to do it. Simply subscribe to this List and – starting October 11, 2012 – you’ll start getting a little bit of the Catechism emailed to you every morning. Read that little bit every day and you’ll read the whole catechism in a year.

What is your position on immigration?

According to my Archbishop, John Vlazny, we Catholics enter into National Migration Week (Jan. 8-14) with open arms and hearts. Yet, the layman below states within his own article that despite what the U.S. Bishops say, church doctrine is not pro-immigration. The Archbishop declares that immigration laws are unjust, and the layman puts forth a compelling argument that declares such laws are supported by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Okay. So which is it? And what’s your position? (I recommend reading both commentators. And remember, please be charitable in your comments, lest you force me to boot your electronic butt out of this part of the universe…)

Catholic Layman Says: Despite The U.S. Bishops, Church Doctrine Is Not Pro-Immigration!

By AW Morgan on January 10, 2012 at 10:59pm

Think about this:

If a fellow shows up at your door, penniless, starving and thirsty, and beaten by thugs, the Catholic Church says you have a normative Christian duty to help him. Consider the rancher in Arizona who gives drink to the thirsty illegals who cross his path in the desert.

But if the same fellow shows up at your door with 25 relatives and demands food and water and threatens you if he doesn’t think you provided enough, then you bolt the door and grab your rifle.

You have a greater duty to protect your family. The Church says they are your primary obligation.

The latter, not the former, describes immigration, legal and particularly illegal.

Of course, to hear the Catholic Left tell it, Church teaching demands that you surrender your house to the mob—i.e. throw open the borders, regardless of the effect on the federal and state treasuries, crime rates and American cultural coherence. They quotebiblical texts, from the Infant Savior’s flight to Egypt with Mary and Joseph to the teaching of Christ on welcoming “strangers,” in a way that resembles the irrational fundamentalism of erroneous Protestant scriptural exegesis. And they ask the clichéd question:WWJD?

As a Catholic myself, I say: bunk. Whatever the radical left and their feminist nuns, collarless priests or mitred mandarins in the sexually corrupt Catholic chanceries may say, Catholic teaching does not demand, and has never demanded, that a country open its borders to limitless numbers of immigrants.

Nor does it confer upon “migrants” an unfettered right to travelwherever they wish, whenever they wish.

Far from suggesting that a nation must throw open its doors, the Church says political authorities can control and even stop immigration if they judge it necessary.

Here are the relevant passages in the Catechism—the official text of the Church’s teaching:

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. [Emphasis added]

Similarly, the U.S. Catholic bishops in their official teaching (as opposed to what they lobby for) outline three principles of immigration. The first is that “People have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families.” The third: “A country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy.”

But the second principle we don’t hear much about. Here it is:

‘While individuals have the right to move in search of a safe and humane life, no country is bound to accept all those who wish to resettle there. By this principle the Church recognizes that most immigration is ultimately not something to celebrate. Ordinarily, people do not leave the security of their own land and culture just to seek adventure in a new place or merely to enhance their standard of living.Instead, they migrate because they are desperate and the opportunity for a safe and secure life does not exist in their own land…

Because there seems to be no end to poverty, war, and misery in the world, developed nations will continue to experience pressure from many peoples who desire to resettle in their lands. Catholic social teaching is realistic: While people have the right to move, no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized.

For this reason, Catholics should not view the work of the federal government and its immigration control as negative or evil. ‘[Emphasis added]

When was the last time you heard that “[m]ost immigration is not something to celebrate”?

But the U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrantscampaign website does not even mention “respecting the law”—let alone “the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them”. Nor do the bishops stress it in their endless public pontifications.

Authentic Catholic teaching on immigration is not leftist. Rather, it is rooted in human reason and reality, meaning the way things are versus the way we wish them to be —as is all Catholic teaching,which is conservative by its nature.

Indeed, in noting that “no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized,” the U.S. bishops themselves acknowledge the right of a nation to defend itself—as well as the duty of the state to provide for the common good of its own citizens.

Thus, we may rightly and justly send illegal aliens home, not least because they have not obeyed American immigration laws.

Yet when the U.S. bishops discuss “justice,” they don’t often mention that—or this item in Catholic teaching on justice: the state’s duty “to protect its subjects in their rights and to govern the whole body for the common good.”

That segues into the duties of citizens, where I have recourse to the Catechism again:

Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts… “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. . . . Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God.”[Pet 2:13,16]Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community.

It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.

Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country. [Emphases in original].

Upshot is, citizens are enjoined to be patriots. They must love and defend their country, and are obliged to pay taxes, vote and rectify unjust laws and living conditions.

That raises a few questions about the millions of Mexicans who simply abandoned their country, not because they didn’t have work but because they wanted to improve their living standards, and even worse, endangered the lives of their children by dragging them across the desert.

Were they not obliged by Catholic teaching to stay in Mexico—to become active politically and to fight for economic justice from the ruling kleptocracy?

What of the Mexican authorities who never cease lecturing Americans about their duties to illegal aliens? Is the Mexican president and his legislature governing the country for the “common good” in surrendering to the depredations of the drug cartels?

Certainly, Mexican political authorities sin in permitting citizens to live in squalor, thus encouraging them to cross the border in defiance of American law. Certainly, they sin when they provide instructional manuals on how to evade the authorities. Certainly, they sin by instructing Mexican-Americans that they are Mexicans no matter what their citizenship.(“You’re Mexicans — Mexicans who live north of the border,” President Ernesto  Zedillo told Mexican-American politicians in Dallas in 1995..[Mexico Woos U.S. Mexicans, Proposing Dual Nationalityby Sam Dillon, NYT, December 10, 1995]

All these acts, whether by omission or commission, violate Catholic teaching.

As for the duties of illegals who are here, apropos of the Catechism and the teaching Pope John Paul II, they are obliged to obey the law—which just might mean surrendering to authorities and returning home.

Catholic teaching does not entitle them to stay forever as illegals. Catholic teaching mandates obedience to the law.

Most American Catholics, regardless of what they think of immigration, are unaware of these fine distinctions because of the way the U.S. bishops and their leftist allies systematically misrepresent Catholic teaching on immigration. (A notableexception, to my mind, is Catholic apologist  blogger Jimmy Akin)

Which brings us back to Christ.

WWJD? He would tell the alien: Render unto Caesar. Obey the law. Go back home and work in your own country. If you wish to come here, get in line with everyone else.

And, if Americans decide that they don’t need even legal immigration, respect that decision too.

A.W. Morgan [Email him] is fully recovered from prolonged contact with the Beltway RightHe now lives in America.

Catholic and Homosexual

What follows is the full text of the teaching on homosexuality according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997).

Full Text of Catholic Catechism Regarding Homosexuality – 1997

#2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

#2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

#2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

END OF POST

Generations of Faith: An Analysis of the Catechetical Program

An Analysis of the Catechetical Program “Generations of Faith”

By Cate VanLone-Taylor

Saint Don Bosco, pray for Catechetical Truth

“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17)

  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”  (Matt 7:15-20)

Introduction

In the past three decades, a great change initiated by liberal Catholic educators and theologians has attempted to revolutionize the methodology of catechetical instruction.      The models used are drawn from the ‘whole community catechesis’/‘shared Christian praxis’ model originated by Thomas Groome and Bill Huebsch.

  This model seeks to involve the entire faith community, thus providing lifelong catechetical formation for parishioners of all ages.  A strong emphasis is placed on the sharing of “faith stories” a type of ‘lived’ theology, instead of textbooks, citing the General Catechetical Directory, #158 which states: “the community is proposed as the source, locus and means of catechesis.”  Detailed below are some of the dangers involved in such an approach.

Dangers

Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) Green Bay,WI : Attention has also been drawn to the program “Generations of Faith,” which is designed for “parish faith-formation,” but is distinguished by its lack of clear Catholic teaching.  The proposed “antidote” to programs such as this is the use of texts such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Faith and Life catechism series.

Catholic Answers Forums: Generations of Faith: “Its only as good as your priest. If your priest takes the reins, and is a good teacher of the faith, and has some control of the people who teach the other “segments” (e.g catechists or teens) then it can be great. Its good because it actually revolves around the liturgical year which is something lost on Catholics in the U.S., and has the entire family coming, rather than using children’s religious education as a baby-sitting service. THAT SAID, if the priest is not the one in control, if it goes the way of much catechesis in many parishes, then it can be a disaster because more people are influenced.” 

Catholic Answers Forum: Our parish is instituting this Generations of Faith with is led by two laywomen who are rather liberal. Thier idea is to direct all “spirituality” to the lowest common denominator so they “get the love of Jesus in their hearts” Well it goes downhill from there and I’m on the “core team” who advises on content.  I’m only there to try to make it seem Catholic otherwise it would be CINO – same stuff you could get at any Baptist parish! (sigh)

Catholic Culture (written by noted Catholic author Donna Steichen): John Roberto founded the Center for Ministry Formation in 1978, and served as its director until 2000. While at CMF he founded the Generations of Faith Project, developed it with funding from the Lilly Endowment, and now, as its director and project coordinator, conducts training workshops across the US for staffs at the growing number of parishes that are initiating the Generations of Faith program. Seven hundred parishes in 60 dioceses are already using GOF; 21 parishes in the Raleigh diocese signed on last December.  Roberto consistently argues against textbooks, citing such varied authorities as the General Catechetical Directory, #158 (“the community is proposed as the source, locus and means of catechesis”), and Maria Harris (more on her below), has openly stated: “the church is the curriculum, content, and catechist.”

Faith formation is event-centered, developed around the events of our shared life as Church. Faith formation demands a unified, life-long catechesis. Through events, Generations of Faith has a 6-year curriculum: the Church year of feasts and seasons, sacraments and liturgy, rituals and prayers, spirituality, justice, and service. Beliefs and practices for living as a Catholic emerge from the life of the faith community. The content emerges out of the event. A text is not the curriculum; the curriculum is the life of the Church. An introductory video for Generations of Faith offers colorful footage of cheerful intergenerational groups, with adults mingling, eating (food is always part of the event), chatting, and praying in parish centers and churches, while happy children construct craft projects or paint primitive symbols, dramatize Bible stories, or sing in choirs. These parishes appear to offer the kind of warmly welcoming ambiance Protestant converts often say they keenly miss when they become Catholics.

In place of weekly catechism classes for children, these programs feature a single monthly assembly or “faith festival,” where parishioners of all ages gather for a meal, see a dramatic presentation of a Bible story, hear an address about a community problem, or celebrate the event of the month (cited as examples were Advent, Lent, Thanksgiving, and Kwanzaa). After a general prayer service, all break into peer clusters for discussion, singing, or art projects. The entire group joins together for closing prayer. On their way out, participants pick up take-home materials that will reinforce the evening’s theme, help prepare for the next event, or suggest some form of community service or political activism.

Illiteracy and Alienation

Because the problems of religious illiteracy and alienation are authentic and acute, the presentation was attractive even to skeptical listeners, daring to hope that it might mean the beginning of real change. Generations of Faith is endorsed by NCCL as an initiative to revitalize American Catholic life. In the right hands, with sound doctrinal instruction as its centerpiece, the social component of whole community catechesis certainly could enrich parish life. There is enormous hunger among the laity to hear and understand the eternal truths and moral teachings that neo-modernists in the catechetical movement long ago jettisoned.

The Generations of Faith film, like other “whole community catechesis” literature on display, skims over questions about specific doctrinal content. (“The parish is the content.”) Detailed examination of the GOF materials and their sources reveals alarming resemblances to the hollow Renew I and II and RCIA projects that engage the laity in uninstructed, heterodox “faith-sharing” without authentic “indoctrination” to let them know what the Church really teaches.  GOF credits the contributions of a feminist former nun Maria Harris, and such other “foundational thinkers,” as Anglican John Westerhoff; Sister Catherine Dooley, OP, of the religious education department at Catholic University of America; and progressive Francoise Darcy Berube, whose 1996 book, Religious Education at a Crossroads exhorts educators not to “turn back in fear” to the catechism model of the rigid “good old days.”

Listed beside the General Directory for Catechesis and various USCCB documents, among course texts and resources for a Certificate in Lifelong Faith Formation to be offered in January 2005 by the Center for Ministry Development, along with Bill Huebsch and Maria Harris , are the names of still other architects of the specious “catechetical renewal”: Sister Kathleen Hughes, RSJC, James D. Davidson, William D’Antonio, Jane Redmont, William Shannon, Loughlan Sofield, ST. These professionals are deeply implicated in the present decline in religious literacy, yet they still seem certain they’ve been heading in the right direction these forty years. Why haven’t they arrived at their destination, then?  There simply hasn’t been time yet, they explain.

Bernard Lee, SM, is director of the Institute for Ministry at Loyola University, New Orleans, and a member of the Call to Action Speakers Bureau. In his presentation on Small Christian Communities, he said that “reform” councils like Vatican II produce a backlash. He counseled: “Until the backlash is out of your system, you can’t really get on with the reforms.”

At the banquet where he accepted NCCL’s 2004 Catechetical Award, former Christian Brother Gabriel Moran (whom NCCL correctly credits with “reshaping the field of religious education”) said turmoil is to be expected after a council, and new building cannot begin until the resistance is cleared away. Moran is near the end of his career, and his wife Maria Harris is now too ill to travel; they do not expect to see the triumph of their lifework. But Moran still thinks triumph will come, despite general recognition by their peers that religious education has been devastated.

It seems odd that NCCL chose to present its award to a man who bears so much responsibility for the devastation. It is rather like elevating a horse to the college of cardinals.

*Donna Steichen is the author of Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism, and Prodigal Daughters: Catholic Women Come Home to the Church, (both from Ignatius Press).

Fashion Me a People Conference—This Conference was recently held in Orlando (January, 2008) sponsored by the Center for Ministry Development (CMD) in partnership with Harcourt Religion Publishers, the purveyors of textbooks to the schools of the Orlando Diocese. Their curriculum resources highlight “Generations of Faith Online”, a service of CMD, which has been funded by grants from the Lilly Endowment, a Protestant Foundation seeking to undermine the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church in order to encourage ecumenism with other Christian religions based on the lowest common denominator of beliefs. They promote worship exploration teams to develop ideas for visual enhancement of the sanctuary and innovative “worship services.”

The speakers at this Conference included the curious theology of Thomas Groome, a dissident ex-priest and consultant to Harcourt Publishers, noted for his zeal in undermining the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to promote catholicity (note the small “c”) of ecumenism with other Protestant groups.

Research on Authors / Contributors of Generations of Faith:

Bishop Robert Morleno, Diocese of Madison:  (Regarding  dissenting theologians) “Associations with “anti-Catholic groups” such as Call to Action, Catholics for a Free Choice, Women’s Ordination Conference, FutureChurch, CORPUS, DignityUSA, and others which profess “serious departures and denials of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church could “certainly be grounds for removal” for a person who is responsible for teaching catechesis and “passing on the Church’s teaching.”

Sister Kathleen Hughes: Sister Kathleen Hughes, RSCJ, (Lay Presiding: The Art of Leading Prayer).  Sister Hughes, a feminist liturgist, was for many years a member of ICEL, a group that provided problematic English liturgical translations. (Helen Hull Hitchcock, Adoremus Bulletin)

  •      Catholic Culture Library: Sister Kathleen Hughes has for many years been a member of ICEL (the International Commission on English in the Liturgy) and a consultant to the NCCB Committee on the Liturgy. Five years ago, she says, she addressed the Congregation for Divine Worship, in Rome, on the subject of inclusive language. In a lecture last September at Maryville University in St Louis, she said she expects to see women ordained in her lifetime. She also announced that the Latin word deus is too often improperly translated as “Father,” adding, “We need more metaphors for God.”A former professor of liturgy at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union, Sister Hughes is the newly-elected Provincial of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the author of several books, including Silent Voices, Sacred Lives of which I feel impelled to remark that if these ladies only could be silenced, the whole Church would be better off.  http://www.docstoc.com/docs/23726149/The-Madeleva-Lectures-in-Spirituality”  Note:  other feminist theologians that signed this decree were Sr. Joan Chittister and Sr. Monica Hellwig.  Google them using “dissent” “heterodox” or “liberal” and you will come up with many hits.  Former Sr. Maria Harris (deceased) husband- former Brother Gabriel Moran
  •      Amazon Book Review:  “Women’s spirituality, suggests educator Harris, is a “dance of the Spirit” consisting of seven steps: “Awakening, Discovering, Creating, Dwelling, Nourishing, Traditioning, and Transforming.”  Very much an interfaith book (Harris draws on Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism), this is also quite feminist in a gentle way and should appeal to questing women with a New Age bent.The Madeleva Manifesto ”    http://www.cta-usa.org/reprint07-00/theologians.html”   http://www.docstoc.com/docs/23726149/The-Madeleva-Lectures-in-SpiritualityMs. Harris was a member of “Call to Action”  as is her husband.*Note:  other feminist theologians that signed this decree were Sr. Joan Chittister and Sr. Monica Hellwig.  Google them using “dissent” “heterodox” or “liberal”  or “feminist theology” and you will come up with several pages hits.

    Unitarian Universalists of America:     http://www.uua.org/documents/recc/reader_curriculum_guide.pdf

    Unitarian Universalists of America:      http://online.sksm.edu/Syllabi/IntroToLiberalRE.FinalSyllab011410.Spr10.pdf

    Read the entire article–       http://www.uuroanoke.org/sermon/050710Source2.htm

    Iimplicit theology and null theology        http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/2005/12/implicit-and-explicit-theologies-part.html

    This article is excellent–names the promoters of the liberal religious education /whole community catechesis/shared praxis movement.  Note paragraph three: ” http://www.losangelesmission.com/ed/articles/2006/0606ds.htm

    From Amy Welborn’s Blog: (Zhou’s Comments)

    “Young Catholics languish in ignorance because no one ever taught them the content of the faith. Many of those who are old enough to have been catechized in pre-conciliar times are now uncertain whether the Church still holds as true the tenets they learned in their youth, because they have heard those beliefs mentioned so seldome–if ever–during the past 30 years. Hispanic Americans, unsatisfied by what they are taught in Catholic parishes, are streaming out to hear Jesus preached in evangelical churches. As measured by public behaviors and attitudes, Catholic sexual morality is no better than that of any other group, and worse than some.  Can this wasteland be restored? If reform is possible, the first step must be to understand our present predicament.

    The catechetical collapse of the past 35 years has not been an isolated phenomenon. One of the most prominent partisans in the campaign that produced the “new catechetics,” Father Berard Marthaler, cheerfully concedes that it “has had a symbiotic relationship with biblical scholarship, the liturgical movement, and the ‘new theology.'”

    The “new catechetics” movement, already established in Europe and taking root in the United States, seemed before the Second Vatican Council to be a generally benign attempt to teach the faith in a more vital way. What–or who–turned it into a catechetical revolution? Why did the Catholic religious and academics who embraced it first stop teaching Catholic doctrine, and then (with courageous exceptions) begin to ridicule the very notion of teaching it, and even to denigrate those who objected? Candidates for the title of chief culprit are abundant.

    Most of those involved in this movement seem to have been acquainted each other, often through encounters at academic centers, especially the Catholic University of America (CUA). Their influence seems to have been more a function of their positions and their efficient collaboration than of the intellectual force of their ideas, which tend to sound naive today.

    It may be impossible to name one person as most responsible for the current state of religious instruction in the United States. But no one has a stronger claim than Father Gerard Sloyan who, in 17 years in CUA’s Religious Education department–ten as chairman–reorganized the entire curriculum, and thus changed the religious attitudes of a key cohort of religion teachers. It was he who first hired dissenter Charles Curran, in 1964. His 1967 book, Speaking of Catholic Education–by its praise for Dutch Catechism, its clear distaste for the term “transubstantiation,” its displacement of personal sin by a “fundamental option” for or against God, and its call to defer First Confession until after First Communion–proves that the toxic ideas of the revolution were fully formed by the mid-1960s.

    Children, Father Sloyan declared, cannot learn doctrine; they can only experience religious emotions. Let them participate in the liturgy, treat them with respect and kindness, and their religious emotions will develop. He implied that rote memorization of theological propositions was the sum and substance of traditional catechesis, when in fact it was only one valuable element in a living culture that was also built on sacramental practice, liturgical and devotional prayer, stories of saints, Bible stories, and frequent reference to the social obligations imposed by membership in Christ’s Mystical Body.

    In 1967, Sloyan left CUA to teach at Temple University, remaining there for 25 years. Later he returned as a “distinguished lecturer,” but the move seems not to have sweetened his temper. “Is Agape Any Match for Fear and Loathing in the Religious Psyche?” Sloyan’s contribution to The Echo Within, a 1997 collection of essays published to honor Berard Marthaler on his academic retirement, is a fuming denunciation of orthodox Catholics. Characterizing them as ignorant, rigid, repressed, ideologically infected, infantile, censorious, malicious, and uncharitable, he says he offers these diagnoses, “in the friendliest possible spirit.”

    Given the views of his mentor, it seems small wonder that Sloyan’s protégé, former Christian Brother Gabriel Moran (Maria Harris’ husband) , strayed from orthodoxy. Many observers, admirers and critics alike, propose Moran as the most influential man in the catechetical revolution. Michael Warren, editor of Source Book for Modern Catechetics, says, “Few persons in the United States have made a contribution to the catechetical scene as complex and difficult to assess as Gabriel Moran.

    Moran’s work influenced many in the catechetical movement to reject divine revelation–the Church’s deposit of faith–in favor of “on-going revelation”–in effect, the interpretation of one’s own experiences as private revelation. This meant not simply that catechists should enliven the students’ understanding of the Gospel by connecting it to their life experiences, but that the students could find revelation only in their own experience. A student “would have to reject any document from the past pretending to divine revelation,” Moran wrote. As Msgr. Michael Wrenn has observed, that category includes the Gospel.

    Moran was not alone in his opinion. Piet Schoonenberg, SJ, a Dutch theologian linked to the Dutch Catechism, was making the same point In the same era. In 1970, Schoonenberg wrote:

    “From a mere approach to the message, experience has become the theme itself of catechesis. Catechesis has become the interpretation of experience. It has to clarify experience, that is, it has to articulate and enlighten the experience of those for whom the message is intended.”

    The most phenomenal thing about this thesis was its reception. To an astonishing extent, Catholic educators and publishers proved willing to jettison Christian belief and substitute a radically individualistic “noble savage” romanticism straight out of Jean Jacques Rousseau. According to a 1997 essay in The Echo Within, Moran was then unaware of its antecedents, but he has not changed his mind over the ensuing 30 years. “In adopting ‘revelation’ as central, Christianity prepared for its own undoing,” he writes.

    “Christian writers cannot get anywhere by assuming the existence of or investigating an object named ‘Christian revelation,'” Moran argues, declaring the theory of revelation to be “a modern invention and a disastrous one.” God continues to speak today, he says, but speaking does not mean revelation, a term that implies “assertions of truth.” Speaking, he explains, could mean compassion, care, love, or forgiveness. As to truth, he says “much contemporary thought” holds that “the first thing to ask of a statement is not whether it is true but whether it is interesting.” At most, “God’s speaking” can only provide human understanding with “a glimpse of the truth.”

    Finally, Moran tells us that Christians must stop equating “‘Jesus Christ’ with ‘God and man,'” because that “has the effect of creating the great middleman, who is then neither divine nor human. ‘Jesus Christ’ becomes the name of a storehouse of truths, the revelation of God.”

    After leaving the Christian Brothers, Moran became a professor of (non-denominational) religious education at New York University. His wife, Maria Harris, a former Sister of St Joseph of Brentwood, also represents herself as a religious educator, and has taught women’s studies at several institutions. Most notably, she combined those genres in a post-Christian guide to feminist self worship, Dance of the Spirit: The Seven Steps of Women’s Spirituality.

    I think that really the Catholic Church in the US experienced a “revolution” no less damaging that the Cultural Revolution in China or what went on in Cambodia. It is the job of those who come after to clean up the damage of the craziness of their elders.

    †Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam† website:

  •      From the book “Homosexuality and Christian Faith“, we quote Maria Harris directly:“At the end of the 20th century, individuals are probably no wiser than they ever have been about their sexual lives, but the human race undeniably has a different understanding of sexuality from what it had in the past. Studies subsequent to the two Kinsey Reports have confirmed the fact that the human race has an imaginative diversity of sexual expression. Sexual intimacy between consenting partners of the same sex seems to be nothing less and nothing more than part of that wonderful range of expression.What would (Saint) Paul make of today’s sexual scene? It really is not possible to lift people out of one place in history and situate them in another. Presumably they could learn the language of a new era if given time to adjust. ….A Christian today might even think that (Saint) Paul would see homosexuality as part of God’s creation, sanctified by the Incarnation. The world of our bodily senses is not a veil that obscures divinity. The material world, whatever its groans and travails, is the expression of divine goodness. The best impulses of that world – the genuine struggles for the fulfillment of bodily existence – cannot be dismissed…People’s sexual expressions have to be seen within that context.”James  D. Davidson

    Writes for “America”, “National Catholic Reporter”,”Commonweal” and “Ligourian”: all liberal Catholic publications.  Google for many articles to read.  It is worth noting that he does not write for more orthodox Catholic publications such as ‘First Things’.

    Jane Redmont (“ Acts of Hope “)

  •      There are sixty gazillion contemporary books on Benedictine spirituality, including the very popular  ” http://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Distilled-Daily-Living-Benedict/dp/B000GG4GVC/ref=pd_sim_b_5/105-9952589-5561209  by Joan Chittister (feminist Catholic Benedictine sister, author, worker for peace: National Catholic Reporter columnist, member of Call To Action speakers bureau).  http://www.natcath.org/%3Cspan%20style= Most people loved the Chittister book, and while I like a lot of her other work, this one didn’t float my boat, at least in the past year.”  
  •      WCCO TV:  August 9, 1999  Reverend Dr. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., author of Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin and dean of the Chapel for Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Jane Redmont, feminist Catholic theologian from Berkeley, California. 
  •      October 10 National Catholic Reporter ran a front-page article about the “Critical Mass,” a feminist “liturgy” held in Oakland’s Bishop Begin Plaza [see November Faith], describing the pseudo-ritual, which included divesting a mock male priest, as an authentic Catholic Mass: “I understand the body of Christ in a way I had not before…” wrote contributor Jane Redmont, who also participated in the event as a member of its planning committee. “This is my body, I say, touching a woman’s arm and shoulder. This is my blood, I say, touching another woman, of a different age and race from my own. You are my flesh and blood, we are saying, and Christ’s flesh and blood. We know this in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup; we know this in touching each other’s bodies.”Redmont continued, “We have disagreed over terminology and theology, we have varying relationships to Jesus and to the local church. Some of us are more attached than others to biblical and historical sources and authorities….Some choose to stay but not to have their names listed anywhere: fear of losing church-related or Catholic academic jobs.”A week after Redmond’s story, the National Catholic Reporter editorialized that the Oakland event is “too critical to shrug off” because “women are not going to disappear.” “One doesn’t have to endorse the liturgy–and certainly there are liturgists and Catholic feminists who would take issue with the event in Oakland–to recognize the importance of taking it seriously,” read the editorial.
  •      Read 2nd paragraph at bottom (p. 171)–then, read 3rd paragraph (which also elaborates on heterodox views of Kathleen Hughes):” http://books.google.com/books?id=mwvqvYv7N5kC&lpg=PA171&ots=Xq-fs9Sl8d&dq=%22Jane%20Redmont” ( In ‘contents” read: Engine of Lay Ministry which details the powerful role of Call To Action in the promotion of clericalizing the laity.)
  •      Amazon Book ReviewEditor Mary Jo Weaver has gathered a great group of prominent theologians, academicians and scholars to write about “hot button” issues facing liberal/progressive American Catholics. What she has produced is an outstanding collection of essays that give voice to that group. Each essay examines a different issue, such as birth control/abortion, the role of women in the church, the liturgy and many more. The essays are academic in nature yet accessible to all readers in its style and tone. If you’re a liberal/progressive Catholic and want need some support for when people attack your views, this book is a must.  Msgr. William  Shannon
  •      http://credo.stormloader.com/Doctrine/rocheres.htm.
  •      While many theologians such as McBrien, Father Francis Sullivan at Boston College and Monsignor William Shannon in Rochester, NY, berated the Vatican and accused  it of forcing good people out of the Church, Dr. Joyce Little, a theologian at St. Thomas university in Houston, said that those who encouraged women to believe they could be ordained if only enough pressure were put on the Vatican have a lot to answer for.   http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/VATBAN.TXT
  •      Catholic Education Resource Center:    www.catholiceducation.org)  Chesteron once remarked that he loved the Catholic Church because it had prevented him from becoming a child of his age. William Shannon, sadly, is very much a child of his age, as are his Catholic compatriots in the media. I daresay that in a hundred years, his introduction to Merton’s masterpiece will seem far more dated than the text it introduces. Indeed, it is Merton who gets the last word on Shannon. It occurs when Merton realizes the error of his old life: “I saw clearly enough that I was the product of my times, my society, and my class. I was something that had been spawned by the selfishness and irresponsibility of the materialistic century in which I lived. However, what I did not see was that my own age and class only had an accidental part to play in this. They gave my egoism and pride and my other sins a peculiar character of weak and supercilious flippancy proper to this particular century: but that was only on the surface. Underneath, it was the same old story of greed and lust and self-love, of the three concupiscences bred in the rich, rotted undergrowth of what is technically called “the world,” in every age, in every class. 
  •      Mark Gauvreau Judge. “Strangers in the House: When Catholics in the Media Turned Against the Church.” Crisis (November, 2003): 41-45.” 
  •      “Ten Reason’s” Blog:    http://richleonardi.blogspot.com/2005_10_09_archive.html The parish bulletin indicates that one “Fr. William H. Shannon” will be sharing a “Catholic perspective on death and dying” at a nearby chapel. Given that Shannon’s      http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0400.aspheterodox ruminations on the “Resurrection of Faith” are largely what inspired my recent     ” http://www.catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?art_id=29722critique of the Catholic Update publications, I can only imagine how he’ll set forth about, say, Terri Schiavo.
  •      Catholic Answers Forums:   ” http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=4042142” 
  •      Catholic Answers Forums:  Vatican II: The Vision Lives On (p. 2)…. “web sites that are presenting dangerous or heterodox theology or spirituality? (Fidelity); Books by Richard Rohr, William H. Shannon 
  •      “Using a document named Always Our Children priests of Chicago, Rochester, and their GLBT [gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgende red] allies throughout the nation, have attempted to demonize two thousand years….(see very bottom of article)   http://www.catholiccitizens.org/press/contentreview.asp?c=11468
  •      Catholic Exchange website- August 18, 2005.  Author: Rich LeonardiConsider Fr. William H. Shannon’s “The Resurrection: How We Know It’s True.” Here is an excerpt from the section called “The Resurrection: An experience of faith”:The point which I am trying to lead up to is the realization that seeing the risen Jesus was not an experience of empirical data; it was an experience of faith. For the very best that empirical experience might have achieved was an experience of resuscitation, not resurrection. Think of Lazarus in John’s Gospel (Jn 11:1-45). He was mortal and he died. He was resuscitated and therefore was living again, but even after his resuscitation he was still mortal. Hence people could see him before and after because in both cases he was mortal. Lazarus was as much a subject of empirical data after his resuscitation as before his death.  The mortal Jesus — the Jesus before His death — could, like the mortal Lazarus, have been experienced as a fact of empirical data; the risen Jesus, however, could only be experienced by faith. For resurrection is not returning from the dead. It is a leap beyond death to an entirely different kind of existence. Such a leap cannot be empirically verified. Father Shannon’s speculations run counter to Pope John Paul II’s orthodox description of the Resurrection: Christ’s Resurrection is the strength, the secret of Christianity. It is not a question of mythology or of mere symbolism, but of a concrete event. It is confirmed by sure and convincing proofs. The acceptance of this truth, although the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s grace, rests at the same time on a solid historical base. (From remarks given before praying the Regina Caeli on Sunday, April 21, 1996) Thus, it simply isn’t consistent with Catholic teaching for Father Shannon to state that the Resurrection “was not an experience of empirical data” and that the risen Jesus “could only be experienced by faith.” Instead, in the pope’s words, it was a public, “concrete event” backed by “convincing proofs” and resting on “a solid historical base.” No later than 15 years after Christ’s earthly ministry, St. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians that 500 “brethren” saw the risen Jesus “at one time.” He did not write, as Shannon would have it, that they just sensed Him spiritually. As the Vatican wrote just last winter, “the appearances of the Risen Lord and the empty tomb are the foundation of the faith of the disciples in the Resurrection of Christ, and not vice versa.”Am I making too much of a fuss about this? I don’t think so. Let’s remember who reads these Catholic Updates — RCIA candidates, participants in adult faith formation groups, perhaps someone shaky in his faith who wants to be certain of what the Church teaches. That they should be handed something like Father Shannon’s wrong musings on the Resurrection is a shame. That his musings bear the imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is, well, something worse.Gabriel Moran  (there are 10 pages of ‘hits’ when I googled the word dissent)
  •      Catholic Culture:  Can Reform Come?  http://www.catholicculture.org/news/features/index.cfm?recnum=20884Christian Brother Gabriel Moran: many observers, admirers and critics alike, propose Moran as the most influential man in the catechetical revolution. Michael Warren, editor of Source Book for Modern Catechetics, says, “Few persons in the United States have made a contribution to the catechetical scene as complex and difficult to assess as Gabriel Moran.”Moran’s work influenced many in the catechetical movement to reject divine revelation–the Church’s deposit of faith–in favor of “on-going revelation”–in effect, the interpretation of one’s own experiences as private revelation. This meant not simply that catechists should enliven the students’ understanding of the Gospel by connecting it to their life experiences, but that the students could find revelation only in their own experience. A student “would have to reject any document from the past pretending to divine revelation,” Moran wrote. As Msgr. Michael Wrenn has observed, that category includes the Gospel.
  •      The Rosary Light & Life – Vol 43, No 2, March-April 1990: Brother Gabriel Moran, for whom the basis of theology is not supernatural revelation but experience, wrote in his book “Catechesis of Revelation” :”Revelation consists only in present conscious experience of people. (p. 13) . . . There is no revelation except in God revealing Himself in personal experience . . . One must choose to structure it (the curriculum) according to the people precisely because that is where revelation is. (p. 144) . . . People who demand that there be a higher norm of truth than human experience are asking for an idol.” (p. 45) 
  •      AD 2000 Book Reveiw: A Generation Betrayed should be read by bishops, priests, teachers, parents – indeed, by everyone interested in religious education. It not only throws a flood of light on what is wrong in modern catechetics, but shows with admirable clarity what the Church really teaches on the vital issues being so tragically contested today.  Such muddled thinking is hardly surprising given the prevalence of the lightweight new catechetics – spearheaded by such experts as Thomas Groome and Gabriel Moran – over the past 30 years or so in most Australian dioceses.William D. Antonio
  •      Marys Advocates   www.marysadvocates.org/clsawho.html)   At the Canon Law Society of America’s 1992 annual convention, William D’Antonio explained how laity who reject the Pope’s traditional teachings, and the autocratic rule that undergirds them, are affirming the liberating principles of Vatican II, especially those enunciated in the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. (1) D’Antonio supported those who engage in pre- or non-marital sex, use contraceptives, support friends who divorce and remarry, and vote for pro-choice candidates 
  •      Common Dreams. org:     http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0504-04.htm. “Is The Pope Catholic?”“…Karol Wojtyla has shaped a hierarchy that is intolerant of dissent, unaccountable to its members, secretive in the extreme and willfully clueless about how people live.  Probably no institution run by a fraternity of aging celibates was going to reconcile easily with a movement that embraced the equality of women, abortion on demand and gay rights. It is possible, though, to imagine a leadership that would have given it a try. In fact, Pope Paul VI indicated some interest in adopting a more lenient view of birth control, and he handpicked a committee of prominent Catholics who endorsed the idea almost by acclamation. The pope agonized, and then astonished Catholics by reaffirming the old ban. “If you want to look for where credibility on human sexuality got lost, it got lost there,” said the Catholic University sociologist William D’Antonio.”
  •      Amazon Book Review:  Voices of the Faithful: American Catholics Striving For Change (2007):  Dr. William D’Antonio and Rev. Anthony Pogorlec at the Catholic University of America, in this important Church in the 21st Century book, leaves the reader with little doubt that those who have membership in VOTF are indeed “Loyal Catholics Striving for Change.  Thomas Groome
  •      Catholic Culture Website:  Compilation on Thomas Groome      This is a very large file which extensively documents the the “shared Christian praxis” approach which is foundational to programs such as Generations of Faith.  Groome also dissents against the Church’s doctrine on the male-only ministerial priesthood. In his book Sharing Faith (1991), he asserts that “the exclusion of women from ordained ministry is the result of a patriarchal mind-set and culture and is not of Christian faith.” http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=6516Bill Huebsch
  •      Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission; June 2006:  Los Angeles Religious Education Congress: A large proportion of speakers have addressed both the congress and Call to Action gatherings. Among more than a dozen Call to Action speakers appearing at the 2006 Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles were: Capuchin Father Michael Crosby, who spoke on injustice in the Church; Father Donald Cozzens, of Cleveland’s John Carroll University, who has famously written that the priesthood is becoming a gay profession; Edwina Gateley, an eccentric feminist whose performances resemble English music hall comedy more than religious presentations; Bill Huebsch, current head of Twenty Third Publications, who talked about parish adult education. 
  •      Catholic Answers Forum -Feb. 14, 2007- Re: Whole Community Catechesis:  “I am a DRE for a cluster of 4 parishes and I have to concur that the state of knowledge among most Catholics is pretty bad across the board. The problem with doing “whole community catechesis” is that many of the parents generation do not attend Mass and do not seem to care to learn about the Faith. My parish did Generations of Faith and it failed gradually and miserably… fewer and fewer attending. Many parents just drop their kids off at religious education as baby-sitting some time. I don’t mean to be cynical, but it is frustrating.” 
  •      AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM (Fall, 2004) Report on Los Angeles Religious Education Congress:“When God came, He didn’t come as a catechism. God did not come as a moral code or a doctrinal system or theology school. He came as a person. God is love….This love is messy – not an easy love. Following the law – law has boundaries that are very clear. Who’s in, who’s out? Who’s allowed to come to communion, who’s not? Who’s a practicing Catholic, who’s not? Love is not….When you love someone, you don’t ask, ‘are you a good Catholic?’ Love transcends that. Theology is precise, love is is not. Love is ragged around the edges. Doctrine can be collected in a book, love cannot. Love is beyond the boundaries of that. Love transcends it all. When we give a dinner party at our home, we don’t ask, ‘are you in a valid marriage?’” – Catechist Bill HuebschConclusionsBased on the research done on the Generations of Faith catechetical approach, and its contributors who demonstrate their dissent from authentic Catholic teaching (demonstrated by the articles and links I have attached), I fear that not only our youth, but also poorly catechized parishioners could be harmed by heterodox teachings imbedded in the materials provided by The Center for Ministry Development, which publishes and promotes GOF.  Those of us who have been given the grace to seek out and learn all we can about our faith, must do our part in protecting God’s faithful from error.
  • Catholic words and phrases we should dump this year

     

    ‘Jean chose the Catechism over “sharing her story” with the rest of the Wednesday night R.C.I.A class…’

    Fr. Gerald Mendoza, OP, over at In Spiritu Et Veritate (In Spirit and Truth) has a great post on words and phrases we could all live without hearing this year… A couple of my favorites:

    1. “Spirit of Vatican II”: The only spirit of Vatican II was presumably the Holy Spirit that led to the documents of Vatican II. Can we please rely on them a bit more in the coming year rather than in the amorphous “spirit of Vatican II,” which means anything to anyone who invokes it as mere opinion?

    2. “Representative Church”: As used for example, by the American Catholic Council, which purports to found a New Catholic Church in America. Loosely extrapolating, what might be interpreted as a democratic Church with “one person, one vote.” We can lizard-gaze in to that prospect all we want but it has never been and never shall be.

    Go here for the rest of the post (and add your own…).

    END OF POST

    Our Allegiance to the Crown of Thorns

    ‘God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus “the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men”.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church , 272

    Feast of Christ the King…

    Homily for Mass at Birmingham University Catholic Chaplaincy:

    ‘A Personal Manifesto for Catholics of the UK’

    Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, Emeritus Bishop of Lancaster

    Bishop O'Donoghue

    Today the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates one of the great solemnities of the Lord, the Feast of Christ the King. The Church in England and Wales has also chosen this day to celebrate Youth Day, and it is an honour that I have been invited to be with you, the Catholic students of Birmingham University, on this doubly important day.

    A first impression about this feast of Christ the King could be that it is an anachronism, a reference to something that is out-of-date and remote to our lives in the 21st century.  The age of monarchy is long gone, replaced by democratic government.  Though we have a constitutional monarchy in this country, the monarch’s role has been reduced to a ceremonial role, with all political and legislative power concentrated in Parliament.

    But even though the age of human Kings has passed into history, the image of Christ the King still has the power to inspire and motivate us.

    In Dachau Concentration Camp there is a memorial that was built to honour the memory of the 200,000 prisoners imprisoned there during the Nazis’ reign of terror. This memorial is called the Chapel of the Mortal Agony of Christ, and it contains two powerful works of art. 

    The first is a piece of black metal work suspended above the camp – an enormous crown of thorns.  The second is a sculpture of Jesus wearing the infamous camp uniform of striped jacket and trousers.  And on his head he also wears a crown of thorns.

    To my mind these two pieces of art, set in the context of Dachau Concentration Camp, reveal the true nature of Jesus’ kingship, and the reason why Christ the King remains an important symbol for everyone here today.

    What does the Crown of Thorns symbolise?  To understand this we have to turn to what Holy Scripture tells us.  In today’s reading from the Gospel of St John we hear the dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Jesus, between human power and divine power.

    Pilate is the Prefect of the Roman Province of Judaea, and is the representative of Caesar, the king of the Roman Empire .  Under questioning from this agent of worldly power Jesus reveals part of his true identity, He is a King, but his kingdom is not of this world.

    Though the peasants, prostitutes and outcasts of Galilee could glimpse the kingship and power of Jesus, those associated with worldly power either saw him as a perplexing enigma, a dangerous subversive or a misguided fool.

    The Crown of Thorns represents worldly power’s mockery of Jesus ‘the fool’.  It also represents the soldier’s judgement that Jesus was sub-human, a thing with no rights over which they had the power of life and death.  To worldly power the Crown of Thorns is the sign of Jesus’ powerlessness and weakness.

    But from the Christian perspective – which is God’s perspective – the Crown of Thorns represents the mystery of God’s apparent powerlessness.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:

    ‘God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil.  But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil.  Christ crucified is thus “the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men”.‘  (CCC, 272).

    From this perspective, the Crown of Thorns represents the love and transforming power of God appearing under the guise of weakness and humiliation.

    The full force of the Roman Empire came down and appeared to crush, humiliate and kill Jesus on the Cross, but within less than 300 years the Roman Emperor would be a Christian, and the Church – the sacrament of the Kingdom of God – would have spread throughout the Empire.

    In the 20th century, both Nazism and Soviet and Maoist Communism have sought to oppress and destroy the Church, but the Crown of Thorns has survived and outlasted both the Swastika and the Hammer and Sickle.

    Now it is our turn to take the Crown of Thorns as our symbol of resistance to worldly power.  Some of the worst expressions of this harmful worldly power we face are shown in the treatment of the weakest members of our society – the unborn, the old,  the sick and disabled. 

    Since the passing of Abortion Act in 1967 the Church’s upholding of morality in this country has been defeated time and time again.  This country has rejected the right to life of unborn human beings; it has rejected the rights of embryonic human beings to be protected from experiments; it has rejected the rights of children to be brought up in heterosexual marriages, and, now it is in the process of gradually rejecting the rights of the sick, disabled and mentally ill to life.

    Before this onslaught against the dignity and rights of human beings, the Church appears to be powerless and weak.  We are mocked by many politicians, journalists, and scientists as misguided, superstitious, fools and dangerous fundamentalists. 

    Therefore, my advice to you, as Catholic students, during these times is to remember the truth and power of Jesus’ Crown of Thorns.  It is the sign of our resistance to all worldly power that seeks to oppress, that seeks to reduce human beings to being sub-human, to be things with no rights over which they had the power of life and death.

    Through our allegiance to the Crown of Thorns we announce to the world that Jesus’ love for the vulnerable reigns in our minds and hearts; that through our powerlessness and weakness – accepted in faith – God’s almighty power will work through us to transform the world.

    Amen.

    SOURCE: H/T (w/Thanksgiving) Catholic Mom of 10 Militant

    END OF POST

    (Full Text) Ecclesia Semper Reformanda (The Church is Always in Need of Renewal) — A Pastoral Letter on the Future of the Church in the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa

    n44981317619_9830Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

    Greetings of peace and joy to you and all your families. By God’s providence we are privileged to live in northwest Iowa and practice our faith in the Diocese of Sioux City. I am honored to serve you as your Bishop.

    I take great joy in sharing with you my first pastoral letter for our Diocese. It is my hope that this document be a source of instruction and direction for all of us: priests, deacons, consecrated persons, and faithful laity. The points shared in this pastoral letter are basic to the celebration and faithful living of our Catholic faith. They are the foundation of all that we are called to do for the Lord in our Diocese and beyond.

    As I publish this pastoral letter, I do so on the Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus. On this day, the Church prays: “O God, you raised up Saint Teresa by your Spirit so that she could manifest to the Church the way to perfection. Nourish us with the food of her heavenly teaching and fire us with a desire for holiness.” May Saint Teresa be an inspiration to all of us in our desire to grow in holiness.

    This is the Year for Priests promulgated by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. I express to each of the priests in our Diocese my profound gratitude for their faithful witness of holiness and dedication to you, the People of God and to me, their Bishop. Priests are co-workers with the Bishop in the mission given to us by Christ. Please pray for us.

    May all of us, united in love, continue to grow in the same holiness of Saint Teresa and Saint John Vianney as we continue to live our faith in hope and love.

    Your brother in Christ,

    Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless

    Bishop of Sioux City

    I. Introduction

    Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! It has now been almost four joyful years of being your bishop. It has been a time of learning and growth for me as a priest, called beyond my desires and talents, not without God’s grace making up for all that is lacking in me, to be the shepherd for the flock in northwest Iowa. As shepherd, I am called to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), the truth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, inseparable from His Church, “at the same time holy and always in need of renewal and reformation.”1 In order to do this, I have traveled to meet the priests and people of the diocese, always listening, asking questions, studying and, of course, praying about the current state of the Church. Now I offer my understanding of the state and direction of the Church, both universal and particular, at this juncture in her history. I propose this pastoral plan – a vision, so to speak – for the future of our diocese, and some practical guidance for achieving our goals.

    My understanding begins with these personal reflections. I studied and was ordained a deacon and priest during the exciting, almost intoxicating, time of the Second Vatican Council. I am thoroughly a product of that momentous time, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church in centuries. It has formed the context and culture of my entire ministerial life. Like Pope John Paul the Great, I have no other desire for my ministry than seeing the hopes and reforms of the Second Vatican Council fully implemented and brought to fruition.2 Like Pope Benedict XVI, I know that, while we have worked hard, there is still much work to do.3 My understanding of this work has grown and deepened over the past forty years. So it must be for all of us. The Church is always in need of renewal because it is made up of us, imperfect human beings. This is the deepest reason: as individuals and as a Church, we are always called to grow, change, deepen, repent, convert, improve, and learn from our successes and failures in the pursuit of holiness and fidelity to Jesus Christ and the mission He has given us. Moreover, we need to do this in the midst of an ever changing world, culture and society.

    I have experienced this as a priest and now, through the biggest change of all for me, as a bishop. Despite my own unworthiness, I have been blessed abundantly by the Lord Jesus Christ in his call to me, in the graces of my episcopal ordination, and in your support and cooperation. I am happy and blessed to be your bishop. Having been called by God and the Church, I want to do my part to fulfill His mission among you. Thus, we need serious reflection and evaluation of the current state and direction, challenges and opportunities, for faith and ministry in our Lord Jesus Christ in our Diocese.

    II. The Second Vatican Council and the New Evangelization

    As is well known, Blessed Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council to be the moment of renewal for the Church in the modern world. The world had changed a great deal since the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Counter-Reformation, the so-called Enlightenment, and the secular revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Church now found herself beset on all sides by a world that could no longer understand her, and from within by an unfortunate tendency to isolation, fearing engagement with the rapidly changing world.

    In opening the Council, Blessed John stated that the “greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council” was twofold: “that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be [both] guarded and taught more efficaciously.”4 Later in the speech, he elaborated on this: “The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.”5 The teachings of the Church, our identity and culture as Catholics, must be loved and guarded, yet brought forth and taught in a way understandable to the modern world.

    Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul the Great constantly preached the same thing in calling for a “New Evangelization” of the faithful, our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, and all those who do not know Jesus Christ or the Church. This New Evangelization was to be “new not in content but in ardor, methods, and expression.”6 It is readily apparent from his teaching and ministry that for Pope John Paul the Great, the New Evangelization was the true fruit of the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, the Council was the beginning and blueprint for evangelization in the modern world. He explicitly stated this as his particular mission at the time of his election, and he lived it to the end.7 He spent his entire pontificate interpreting and implementing the Council’s documents according to the light of the Holy Spirit, given in virtue of his office, amid the changing circumstances of the Church and the world.

    We now find ourselves forty-four years since the close of the Council. Many questions still need to be asked and answered. Have we understood the Council within the context of the entire history of the Church? Have we understood the documents well? Have we truly appropriated and implemented them? Is the current state of the Church what the Council intended? What went right? What went wrong? Where is the promised “New Pentecost”?

    Pope Benedict XVI reflected on these important questions in an address to the Roman Curia in December, 2005:

    The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult? Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or – as we would say today – on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarreled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

    On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform,” of renewal in the continuity of the one subject – Church – which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

    The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council.8

    Notice, first, Pope Benedict’s honest acknowledgement that the implementation of the Council has been difficult and is not complete. Notice also his clear-sighted grasp of how two rival interpretations have led to different “camps” within the Church. This division has weakened our identity and mission.

    It is crucial that we all grasp that the hermeneutic or interpretation of discontinuity or rupture, which many think is the settled and even official position, is not the true meaning of the Council. This interpretation sees the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church almost as two different churches. It sees the Second Vatican Council as a radical break with the past. There can be no split, however, between the Church and her faith before and after the Council. We must stop speaking of the “Pre-Vatican II” and “Post-Vatican II” Church, and stop seeing various characteristics of the Church as “pre” and “post” Vatican II. Instead, we must evaluate them according to their intrinsic value and pastoral effectiveness in this day and age.

    Therefore, we must heed the Holy Father’s point that one interpretation, the “hermeneutic of reform,” is valid, and has borne and is bearing fruit. This hermeneutic of reform, as described above, takes seriously and keeps together the two poles of identity (the ancient deposit of faith and life) and engagement with the world (teaching it more efficaciously).

    Lastly, the Holy Father, going into greater detail later in the address, explains that the “spirit of Vatican II” must be found only in the letter of the documents themselves. The so-called “spirit” of the Council has no authoritative interpretation. It is a ghost or demon that must be exorcised if we are to proceed with the Lord’s work.

    III. The Current Context

    There was a great excitement immediately after the Council: excitement for innovation, change, freedom, renewed dynamism. There was a great desire to implement the Council immediately, with the best of intentions. In doing so, the Church after the Council achieved many things. The Council’s aggiornamento brought about a great breath of fresh air, a new freedom and excitement about being Catholic. However, this era of change and freedom took place during a most tumultuous time. The 1960’s and 1970’s brought about a wholesale change within our culture and society, so that it seemed that everything was “up for grabs.” The Church seemed to be going the same way as society, suggesting that nothing was certain or solid. If the Church could change some things, it could change anything and everything. Sometimes we set out to convert the world, but were instead converted by it. We have sometimes lost sight of who we are and what we believe, and therefore have little to offer the world that so desperately needs the Gospel. A pendulum effect began in the Church and has not yet stopped swinging. In the effort to correct exaggerations or one-sidedness in various areas, the reform often times swung to the exact opposite pole.

    This pendulum swing can be seen in the areas of liturgy, popular piety, family life, catechesis, ecumenism, morals, and political involvement, to name just a few. It seems to me that in many areas of the Church’s life the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” has triumphed. It has manifested itself in a sort of dualism, an either/or mentality and insistence in various areas of the Church’s life: either fidelity to doctrine or social justice work, either Latin or English, either our personal conscience or the authority of the Church, either chant or contemporary music, either tradition or progress, either liturgy or popular piety, either conservative or liberal, either Mass or Adoration, either the Magisterium or theologians, either ecumenism or evangelization, either rubrics or personalization, either the Baltimore Catechism or “experience”; and the list goes on and on! We have always been a “both/and” people: intrinsically traditional and conservative in what pertains to the faith, and creative in pastoral ministry and engaging the world.

    My brothers and sisters, let me say this clearly: The “hermeneutic of discontinuity” is a false interpretation and implementation of the Council and the Catholic Faith. It emphasizes the “engagement with the world” to the exclusion of the deposit of faith. This has wreaked havoc on the Church, systematically dismantling the Catholic Faith to please the world, watering down what is distinctively Catholic, and ironically becoming completely irrelevant and impotent for the mission of the Church in the world. The Church that seeks simply what works or is “useful” in the end becomes useless.

    Our urgent need at this time is to reclaim and strengthen our understanding of the deposit of faith. We must have a distinctive identity and culture as Catholics, if we would effectively communicate the Gospel to the people of this day and Diocese. This is our mission. Notice that this mission is two-fold, like the Second Vatican Council’s purpose. It is toward ourselves within the Church (ad intra), and it is to the world (ad extra). The first is primary and necessary for the second; the second flows from the first. This is why we have not been as successful as we should be in bringing the world to Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ to the world. We cannot give what we do not have; we cannot fulfill our mission to evangelize, if we ourselves are not evangelized.9

    With all this in mind, how do we, the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, reclaim and strengthen our faith, identity and culture as Catholics so as to engage more effectively in our mission?

    IV. Pastoral Priorities for

    the Diocese of Sioux City

    1. We must renew our reverence, love, adoration and devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, within and outside of Mass. A renewal of Eucharistic Spirituality necessarily entails an ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s reform of the liturgy as authoritatively taught by the Church’s Magisterium, the promotion of Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass, regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Eucharist and our Mother.

    The Eucharist is the “source and summit”10 of the Christian life because it contains our entire spiritual good, namely, Jesus Christ himself. His “once and for all”11 sacrifice is made present on our altars, offered to the Father on our behalf and received as food for our pilgrim journey. All that we are and do should flow from our participation in the Eucharist and lead back to it. It is absolutely central to our identity and faith as Catholics. It enables us to engage in our mission. Without a proper reverence, love, adoration and devotion to the Eucharist and the liturgy, we are lost.12

    The primary purpose of all liturgy, and especially of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the worship of God. We sometimes forget this. We go to Mass to worship God, simply because He deserves to be worshiped, and we, his creatures, ought to worship him. Too often we forget that God is transcendent and ineffable, incomprehensibly greater than we can imagine. He is infinite truth and goodness shining forth in radiant beauty. He has created us, keeps us in existence, and redeems us from our sins. In short, He is worthy of our worship. He comes to us at Mass as a Father through His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. He makes Himself tangibly present to us in the assembly, the ordained ministers, and the proclaimed Word of God. He is also present most especially and immediately in the Eucharist, which has a perfect and infinite value before His eyes. He graciously comes to us, not only to be with us, but also to raise us up to Heaven, to the Heavenly liturgy, where we worship in union with all the angels and saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the eternal offering of Jesus Christ to the Father on our behalf. Thus we enter the heavenly sanctuary while still on earth, and worship God in the full manner that He laid out for us!

    When we worship God in this way, He sanctifies us, that is, He makes us holy. This is the second purpose of the Liturgy. We are made holy by Jesus when we participate in His divine Sonship, becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We are changed, transformed from the inside out. This comes about through hearing and acting on His Word and by being strengthened and steadily sanctified by a worthy reception of Holy Communion. This in turn leads to a true communion of saints within the local and universal Church. Too often, the purposes of our participation in the liturgy, worship and sanctification, are passed over in a misplaced attempt to “create community,” rather than to receive it as a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s activity within us.

    Since, in the Church’s liturgy, we meet God in a unique way, how we worship – the external rites, gestures, vessels, music, indeed, the building itself – should reflect the grandeur of the Heavenly liturgy. Liturgy is mystical; it is our mysterious encounter with the transcendent God, who comes to sanctify us through the sacrifice of Christ made present in the Eucharist and received in Holy Communion. It should radiate Heavenly truth and goodness. This radiance, the splendor of truth, is called beauty. Our liturgy should radiate true beauty, reflecting the beauty of God Himself and what He does for us in Christ Jesus. It should lift up our soul—first through our intellect and will, but also through our senses and emotions—to adore God as we share already in Heaven’s eternal worship. In this vale of tears, the liturgy should be a lodestar, a transcending place of wonder and comfort in the midst of our day-to-day lives, a place of light and high beauty beyond the reach of worldly shadows.13 So many people only connect with the Church, and sometimes with prayer and God, through Sunday Mass. Should we not offer an experience of beauty and transcendence, compellingly different from our day-to-day lives? Should not every facet of our offering be proportionate to the divine reality?

    Many small details can make liturgy either beautiful or banal. In recent decades, in place of beauty and “noble simplicity,”14 our main principle for discerning and choosing the “little things” has tended toward utility, ease, and even cheapness. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, before his election as Bishop of Rome, wrote the following about Church music, that is easily applicable to all parts of the liturgy:

    A Church which only makes use of “utility” music has fallen for what is, in fact, useless. She [the Church] too becomes ineffectual. For her mission is a far higher one. As the Old Testament speaks of the Temple, the Church is to be the place of “glory,” and as such, too, the place where mankind’s cry of distress is brought to the ear of God. The Church must not settle down with what is merely comfortable and serviceable at the parish level; she must arouse the voice of the cosmos, and by glorifying the Creator, elicit the glory of the cosmos itself, making it also glorious, beautiful, habitable and beloved…. The Church is to transform, improve, “humanize” the world – but how can she do that if at the same time she turns her back on beauty, which is so closely allied to love? For together beauty and love form the true consolation in this world, bringing it as near as possible to the world of the resurrection.15

    Pope John Paul the Great, addressing some bishops of the United States on October 9, 1998, recognized the same urgent spiritual needs:

    To look back over what has been done in the field of liturgical renewal in the years since the Council is, first, to see many reasons for giving heartfelt thanks and praise to the Most Holy Trinity for the marvelous awareness which has developed among the faithful of their role and responsibility in this priestly work of Christ and his Church. It is also to realize that not all changes have always and everywhere been accompanied by the necessary explanation and catechesis; as a result, in some cases there has been a misunderstanding of the very nature of the liturgy, leading to abuses, polarization, and sometimes even grave scandal. … The challenge now is to move beyond whatever misunderstandings there have been . . . by entering more deeply into the contemplative dimension of worship, which includes the sense of awe, reverence and adoration which are fundamental attitudes in our relationship with God.16

    It is imperative that we recover this wonder, awe, reverence and love for the liturgy and the Eucharist. To do this, we must feel and think with the whole Church in “reforming the reform” of the Second Vatican Council. We must accept and implement the current stream of magisterial liturgical documents coming from the Holy See: Liturgiam Authenticam (2001), the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal, and its new General Instruction on the Roman Missal (2002), Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2002), Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003), Spiritus et Sponsa (2003), Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), Sacramentum Caritatis (2007), and Summorum Pontificum (2007).

    It seems that all is not well with the Liturgy, and the Church is trying to help us. The pendulum swings, the hermeneutic of discontinuity, and the divisions within our Church have been seen and felt in the Liturgy more than anywhere.

    The Church’s Magisterium, not our private opinions, is our authoritative guide in this ressourcement. The liturgy belongs to the entire Church, and in a special way to the faithful – not to a particular Diocese or parish, and certainly not to individual priests. I exhort everyone, especially our priests, to keep up with the Church. I expect them to read, study, and understand the above documents and their inner logic and place within the ongoing reform of the Church. It is vitally important that we offer resplendent worship to God alone, with understanding and excellence, obedient to the Church. My own liturgies at the Cathedral, though imperfect, are also meant to be exemplary for the whole Diocese. It is a grave error and a form of clericalism, whether by clergy or lay ministers, to change the liturgy, or even to choose ungenerously among legitimate options, to suit only our own preferences and opinions. This respect for the whole of Tradition is not simply for the sake of “rules and regulations”; this is not legalism, as some have said, but our love for Christ, so that from His Eucharist with all its preeminent beauty and sanctity, He can shine forth for all to see and love.

    The Council’s goal in reforming liturgy was, of course, to facilitate the “fully active and conscious participation”17 of all the faithful. We have made great strides in this area. In the same address to bishops cited above, the Holy Father said:

    Full participation certainly means that every member of the community has a part to play in the liturgy; and in this respect a great deal has been achieved in parishes and communities across your land. But full participation does not mean that everyone does everything, since this would lead to a clericalizing of the laity and a laicizing of the priesthood; and this was not what the Council had in mind. The liturgy, like the Church, is intended to be hierarchical and polyphonic, respecting the different roles assigned by Christ and allowing all the different voices to blend in one great hymn of praise.

    Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word,

    song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.

    Conscious participation calls for the entire community to be properly instructed in the mysteries of the liturgy, lest the experience of worship degenerate into a form of ritualism. But it does not mean a constant attempt within the liturgy itself to make the implicit explicit, since this often leads to a verbosity and informality which are alien to the Roman Rite and end by trivializing the act of worship. Nor does it mean the suppression of all subconscious experience, which is vital in a liturgy which thrives on symbols that speak to the subconscious just as they speak to the conscious. The use of the vernacular has certainly opened up the treasures of the liturgy to all who take part, but this does not mean that the Latin language, and especially the chants which are so superbly adapted to the genius of the Roman Rite, should be wholly abandoned. If subconscious experience is ignored in worship, an affective and devotional vacuum is created and the liturgy can become not only too verbal but also too cerebral.18

    Full, active and conscious participation: we have made great strides in this over the years. But often this has happened in a superficial, partial way resulting from a narrow and truncated interpretation of these terms. It is time to dig deeper, “to put out into the deep,”19 into a new and authentic liturgical spirituality that is both old and new, active and contemplative, historical and mystical, Roman and Iowan, familiar and challenging. All of this also applies to our “fully active and conscious participation” in liturgy outside the Holy Mass, especially in Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Marian devotions, and the Liturgy of the Hours.

    Eucharistic Adoration is not, as some have said, a distraction from the central meaning of the Mass, or from the reception of Holy Communion. It is instead a great help and one that I wholeheartedly support and encourage in the parishes of this diocese. Eucharistic Adoration is an extension of our reception of Holy Communion, and brings about a deeper longing and preparation for our next reception. Just as you cannot be exposed to the sun without receiving its rays, neither can you come to Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament without receiving the Divine Rays of His grace, love and peace.20 I exhort all communities of the diocese to explore ways of making the Eucharist more central in our lives through periods of Exposition, Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and Eucharistic Processions.

    In far too many places and among too many of our people, the regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation has fallen by the wayside. This must be remedied if we are to grow in humility and holiness, and truly benefit from the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. Without this Sacrament, we lose a sense of sin in our lives, and overlook the obstacles it places in our path. Unless we confess our sins, they fester in our hearts, corrupting our good works and spiritual practices.21 Indeed, many, without knowledge and unheedingly, now receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, making their Communion unfruitful at best and damning at worst.22 Too many parishes only offer one hour of Confessions, and sometimes less, on Saturdays. I exhort and encourage priests to make themselves available in a generous way for this great Sacrament, on days and times convenient for the faithful. If priests set aside time, and preach on the need for repentance and sacramental confession, they will come.

    Devotion to the Blessed Mother, such an important part of our tradition and spirituality, also leads to a deeper appreciation and love of the Blessed Sacrament. She is the Mother of the Eucharist, the one who gave Jesus Christ to the world. She is also our Mother in the Order of Grace. “Having been Assumed, body and soul, into Heaven, she does not lay aside her saving office,”23 but always and everywhere leads souls to Her Son, telling them, “Do whatever He tells you.”24 When we are fervently devoted to the Blessed Mother, especially through the Rosary and Consecration to Her, she leads us to her Son, most especially present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

    The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole Church. By this constant prayer, we consecrate the day and all its activities to our Savior, and offer ourselves in union with His suffering. Priests and deacons are required to pray the office every day. It is and can be a great source of support and help in pastoral ministry and growth in personal holiness. The Church has always desired that the faithful also share in this Liturgy. I encourage all parishes to consider how they might develop such opportunities.

    2. We must strengthen catechesis on every level, beginning with and focusing on adults. If we, who are supposed to be mature in faith, do not know the Catholic Faith well, how can we live it and impart it to our children and future generations of Catholics?

    Our relationship with God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is the absolute center and purpose of faith. Christian faith is primarily a mystical relationship with God. We are made sons and daughters of the Father, partakers of the Divine Nature. We become by grace what Christ is by nature.

    But how can we be in relationship with God if we don’t know Him? We must be catechized; literally, we must have the faith “handed over” to us. This means four things. First, faith is a gift. We receive the gift of faith from God, through the hands of those faithful teachers who live it deeply, especially in the family. We don’t make or define faith; we either accept it, completely as it is, or not. Second, the structure and content of faith – the doctrines and disciplines defined by the Church’s teaching authority – are the structure and content of this mystical relationship. All this, too, is received as part and parcel of the gift of faith, and cannot be picked over “cafeteria-style.” Third, we are saved by receiving and accepting this whole faith. Faith changes us, beginning with Holy Baptism and the full sacramental life in which we meet and love and worship God. From this meeting, faith changes our nature, our values, our goals, our tastes, everything. We become “new creations,” radically new and remade in the image of Christ. Fourth, we are never fully catechized. We are never perfect in faith, having nothing more to learn, to understand, to grow in. As long as we live in this world, we remain pilgrims, struggling to love and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

    At the heart of Christianity and catechesis is not an idea but a person, the person of Jesus. He is the primary and essential object of our teaching; everything else is taught with reference to Him. Furthermore, Jesus is the primary teacher – anyone else who teaches is simply Christ’s spokesperson. Each catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus, “my teaching is not my own, but his who sent me.”26 Our message is Christ’s message, not our own opinions.27

    Jesus’ teaching is the same today as it has always been: the Deposit of Faith, both written (Scripture) and handed down (Tradition), always rooted in Sacred Scripture and interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium. Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church must be the primary sources of formation for our catechists and their teaching. Especially important in the communication of the Gospel today is the inseparability of Christ and the Church. Many people seem to think that the Church is an after-effect, an accident of history rather than something directly willed by God. Instead, the Church is an essential aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, directly willed and structured by Him, endowed with the Holy Spirit, the fullness of truth and all the means of salvation. She is no mere human institution, despite the sinful human beings who comprise her in this world, but His Sacrament, Bride and very Body. She is the Kingdom of God, visible in human history, already but not yet perfected in Heaven. A love of “our Mother and Teacher” the Church should be fostered at every level, not primarily as an institution, but as a holy mystery to be contemplated, loved, suffered for and renewed by our commitment.

    We receive and accept the fullness of faith in the Church both objectively and affectively. Before the Second Vatican Council, our catechesis in the United States was very strongly formal and aimed at the head. We memorized concise answers to common questions, and followed the disciplines of the Church because that was what Catholics did. We knew the answers to “what” and “how,” but not the deeper answer to “why.” We fell into a shallow formalism; we did not use the form for its true end, namely, a deep, personal, intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms our hearts. After the Council, we swung wildly in the opposite direction: our catechesis became very strongly affective in order to emphasize the relational aspect. We tried to mine our experience of God’s love for us, to learn how to love God deeply, personally, and intimately in return. But without the formal knowledge of faith, experience alone is not a solid teacher. As a result, two generations of us now have a very poor knowledge both of the Catholic Faith and of Jesus Christ. A religious illiteracy and ignorance pervades many sectors of the Church; it is an open wound in her side. We need a solid, systematic, and comprehensive catechesis, not eschewing “what” and “how,” but also answering also “why,” faithful to the entire Deposit of Faith and the Church’s Magisterium, forming both head and heart.28

    Despite the Church’s constant emphasis on the primary importance of adult catechesis, we continue to focus, sometimes exclusively, on youth and adolescent education.29 It is the Church’s constant teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children, yet we continually fail to provide them with the requisite formation, knowledge, and skills. Instead, we attempt most, if not all, the teaching in schools and parish programs! How can parents and parishioners live the Catholic Faith and impart it to others if they don’t know it themselves? I learned a long time ago in my seminary studies, “Nemo dat quod non habet” — no one can give what he does not have. Youth and young adult catechesis cannot be healthy unless we have rigorously well-formed adults who witness the Catholic Faith in their lives, in teaching their families, and in the Church and the public square.

    For this to take place, the leadership of the clergy and catechists is irreplaceable. As Pope Paul VI taught us, “The modern world listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if it listens to teachers it is because they are first witnesses.” At the foundation of our catechesis must be personal witness to the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.30

    I am convinced with Pope John Paul the Great that the “the more the Church, whether on the local or the universal level, gives catechesis priority over other works and undertakings, the results of which would be more spectacular, the more she finds in catechesis a strengthening of her internal life as a community of believers and of her external activity as a missionary Church.”31

    3. The first two pastoral priorities, renewal in Eucharistic Spirituality and Catechesis, will foster faithful families that are the foundation of the Church and the society. We are called to protect, build up and foster holy families in our midst, without whom the Church and the world perish.

    “A man and a woman united in marriage form a family together with their children. God instituted the family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children.”32 This seems really basic, but it is worth repeating in our day and age when the family has sometimes lost its centrality and cohesiveness, and is under constant attack from cultural and ideological forces. Not only are its purposes sometimes unknown or ignored in practice, but God’s authorship of marriage and its nature (and hence its priority over arbitrary civil law) is flatly denied. Therefore we must be attentive to protecting and strengthening family life. We need holy families, lest the Church and the world perish.

    The natural family, divinely ordered throughout human history, is sanctified and elevated by Christ to a Sacrament of the New Covenant.33 The Catechism of the Catholic Church and Tradition call this the “domestic church.”34 Sacramental marriage is the source of holiness for the spouses, and through them the children. The Christian family is meant to be a school of faith, hope and love, a miniature of the universal church. It is a holy place, a sanctuary, where each has distinct roles and responsibilities, where the faith is passed on, nurtured, lived and deepened. It is a place where spouses love each other “as Christ loved the Church,”35 and pass that same type of love on to their children through natural and supernatural rearing. It is a place where children learn what it means to be human, generous, kind, selfless, obedient, Christ-like and fruitful for their neighbors, the Church and the world. How can this happen if they are not aided by the Church? How can this happen if they do not know the power of the Eucharist, Reconciliation, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the conviction of the faith through proper catechesis?

    Now, “the family is the original cell of human society and is, therefore, prior to any recognition by public authority. Family values and principles constitute the foundation of social life.” Therefore, “society, while respecting the principle of subsidiary, has the duty to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Public authority must respect, protect and foster the true nature of marriage and the family, public morality, the rights of parents, and domestic prosperity.”36

    If this is the duty of the state towards the family, how much more is the obligation laid upon the Church! We have a grave responsibility to build up and nurture holy families in our midst. We must do so by strengthening their Catholic faith, identity, and culture through the above pastoral priorities, but also by sustained preaching and well-crafted pastoral ministry programs. We must give concrete help against the corrosive effects of pre-marital promiscuity, cohabitation, contraception and abortion, pornography industry, easily executed divorce, and infidelity. But we must also guard against and equip families to resist the breakdown of the family that sometimes happens through over activity, the domination of communication technologies and novelties, and the cult of fun and entertainment, to name just a few dangers.

    A concerted effort by the diocesan staff, pastors, priests and deacons, catechists and, of course, parents to find concrete, creative ways of strengthening family life in our communities is an urgent necessity. A renewal of family life is a sure recipe for the renewal of the Church and our society, and it must receive our creative attention and pastoral concern.

    4. If we renew the Eucharistic, catechetical, and family life of our diocese, we will simultaneously foster a culture where young people can more readily respond to the radical calls of ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life.

    It is no secret that the Church is struggling to fill the ranks of her priests and religious. Why would anyone give their life to the Church and her faith, unless they already know it, love it, and live it? The lack of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life is not a mystery; it is precisely a crisis of faith. Where Catholic faith and life flourish, vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life also flourish. If we are faithful in the above objectives or pastoral priorities, I am confident that vocations will come. If the Eucharist is the center of our lives, so that we worship God alone; if catechesis is strong, so that we know and love God intimately; if families are strengthened through our pastoral ministry, so that the common priesthood sets an inspiring example, then Catholic faith and life will flourish. When the Church and her faith are strong, our willingness to accept God’s call will also be strong. This will be especially true for our young people.

    There are many things that we can and should already be doing to foster vocations. Nothing is more important than the personal example of joyful, virtuous priests and religious, living disciplined lives of self-sacrifice, faithfully obedient to the Church, willing to share with young people their dedication to Christ’s more demanding call. As I noted before, “the modern world listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.”37 The personal witness of a boy’s parish priests to the holiness, grandeur, and beauty of priesthood, to the joy that fills the struggle to die to self for the sake of Christ and His Body, does far more in fostering vocations to the priesthood than any possible program. Likewise, the negative example of unhappy, depressed, uncaring and joyless priests kills vocations. The same holds true for religious.

    In addition, personal invitations to consider the priesthood and consecrated life should always be a priority in our relationships with young people. Young people want and need to be challenged, and are inherently attracted to the highest ideals. Community life, shared discipline, and self-sacrificing service to the poor, weak, and vulnerable are especially attractive to youth today. We must challenge them to purge their idealism of all that is not God, by our committed example, devotion to the Eucharist, solid catechesis, and strong Catholic families. Only then we can honestly ask them seriously to discern a call to Holy Orders or religious life.

    Impassioned preaching on the importance, inner logic, and beauty of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God is also important. The over-sexualization of our culture and the erosion of marriage as a Sacrament blind us to the value of the celibate life. Marriage and celibacy are not opposed to each other, but rise and fall together. When one is understood, elevated and lived well, it brings about renewal in the other. Celibacy is a precious imitation of Christ, a spousal relationship with Him and the Church, a sign of the life to come in heaven. It is a practical way of serving the Church and the world. It has been present in the Church from the beginning and must not be allowed to die out.

    Lastly, we must also continue our efforts at creative programs of discernment, such as the recently begun Project Andrew Dinners and forthcoming discernment retreats. But these will never be successful unless we build within our parishes and the homes of the faithful a “culture of vocations,” always seeking the will of God in our lives and service to others. Parents play an all important role in encouraging and supporting vocations in the Church.

    5. We must acknowledge and embrace the missionary character of the Catholic Faith and the vocation of all Catholics to be, not only disciples, but also apostles.

    “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass.”38 Our discipleship of Jesus will always be imperfect and incomplete if we fail to preach the Gospel. Moreover, our faith will wither and die if we do not embrace our call to be apostles. The Church is inherently missionary. Sharing our faith is an intrinsic duty of charity. Each in different ways and according our own circumstances and abilities, we must all be evangelists. The “New Evangelization” called for by Pope John Paul the Great flows from our deep Eucharistic spirituality, our solid catechesis, our deeply Catholic family lives, and our readiness to discern and accept fully God’s call to live only in Christ. This new evangelization must also be dynamic, orthodox and creative in reaching out to Catholics no longer practicing their faith, our separated brothers and sisters of various communities and those who do not know Jesus Christ and his Church.

    It seems to me that we have largely lost confidence in the power of God and His Word to change hearts, to pierce “between soul and spirit, joints and marrow.”39 This confidence can only come from inner conviction in the power of Christ to heal and save. We must accept His infinite grace and mercy ourselves, actually be healed in our own sins, and truly believe, before we can convincingly ask others to accept and believe.

    It is not our task to worry about success. Rather, it is our task to be faithful to our imitation of Christ who came to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. We need to have confidence in God, in his Word, in the truth of the Gospel and its inherently compelling nature. We must plant and water, and believe that God will give the growth. As He promised: “Just as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it fruitful … so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty but shall accomplish that which I purpose.”40 In taking up the call to evangelization, we must witness with the way we live our lives, and then define that life as explicitly Christian, announcing the Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We must be willing and able to defend our faith. We must “always be ready to give the reason for the hope that is within us.”41

    As I said above, we are called to do this in different ways. It often happened that after the Second Vatican Council, eager and enthusiastic Catholics were immediately given ministerial positions in the Church as volunteers or paid employees. This is good and necessary, part of the common priesthood of serving the Church. Even more necessary, however, is that the laity take up their apostolate within the world. This also flows from the different natures of our priesthood. The pastors of the Church are called to exercise their ministerial priesthood toward the faithful by preaching and teaching, caring for souls, offering the Sacraments, and shepherding the faithful. But the laity have a more important task, and a much bigger pulpit. “The laity are given this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become ‘the salt of the earth.’42 Thus, every lay person, through those gifts given to him, is at once the witness and the living instrument of the Church itself.”43 The laity are called to sanctify the temporal order: to bring Christ in their heart, head, and hands into their families, workplaces, professions, schools, and the public square; to show love for Him among their children, friends, coworkers, and even acquaintances. Thus the lay faithful exercise their prophetic, priestly and kingly vocation, received in Holy Baptism. To list all the opportunities around us to do so would be impossible; most importantly, I want to call forth their genius, creativity and zeal to tell me and my clergy how this can be done here and now.

    V. Conclusion

    “Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a ‘proof’ of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not yet.’ The fact that this future exists changes the present. … Faith gives life a new basis, a new foundation. … Above all, it is seen in the great acts of renunciation, from the monks of ancient times to Saint Francis of Assisi and those of our contemporaries who enter modern religious Institutes and movements and leave everything for love of Christ, so as to bring to men and women the faith and love of Christ, and to help those who are suffering in body and spirit. … For us who contemplate these figures, their way of acting and living is de facto a ‘proof’ that the things to come, the promise of Christ, are not only a reality that we await, but a real presence: he is truly the ‘philosopher’ and the ‘shepherd’ who shows us what life is and where it is to be found.”44

    My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the time I have been among you I have learned how admirably strong is the faith to which you cling, yet how far it is from the “fullness of faith” to which we are called by our loving Savior. We truly need today those “great acts of renunciation” for the sake of Christ: not so much renunciation of our material things, as of our false attachments to both material and spiritual things. In order to strengthen our devotion to Christ in the Holy Eucharist and worship God rightly, we need to renounce any attachment to how we worship currently. To improve the spiritual depth of how we perform the Church’s liturgy, we will need to renounce attachment to worldly expectations and long-standing habits. To spend more time adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we need to renounce attachment to how we currently use our time. To deepen our intimate love for God in our hearts and heads, we need to renounce attachment to whatever is not God that is filling our hearts and heads. To live in more intentional and holy Catholic families, we need to renounce attachment to distractions, sins, and imperfections that harm our domestic churches. To accept the divine plan God has for each of us, we need to renounce attachment to our own plans. To change the world for Christ, we need to renounce attachment to how we want the world to be for ourselves.

    Renunciation is hard work. It is a kind of martyrdom, a dying to self for love of Christ. But “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”45 Renunciation is possible, in faith and with faith, as our Holy Father has reminded us in Spe Salvi. I know this faith exists among us, sustaining us in all our struggles and tribulations, making it possible to accept change and growth. I know that the future of what this Diocese is called to be already changes the present of what this Diocese is and is not. By God’s grace, let us all urgently hope and work together untiringly, to renounce whatever may keep us from loving God totally, for our salvation and that of all our neighbors.

    We have an exciting challenge before us. I am convinced that God has great things in store for the Church of the Diocese of Sioux City. God desires each one of us to grow in holiness. Let us abandon all to Divine Providence, knowing that “in reality, holiness consists of only one thing: complete loyalty to God’s will.”46

    Footnotes/references

    1 Lumen Gentium #8

    2 E.g., Christifideles Laici, #2: “In looking over the years following the Council the Synod Fathers have been able to verify how the Holy Spirit continues to renew the youth of the Church and how he has inspired new aspirations towards holiness and the participation of so many lay faithful. This is witnessed, among other ways, in the new manner of active collaboration among priests, religious and the lay faithful; the active participation in the Liturgy, in the proclamation of the Word of God and catechesis; the multiplicity of services and tasks entrusted to the lay faithful and fulfilled by them; the flourishing of groups, associations and spiritual movements as well as a lay commitment in the life of the Church; and in the fuller and meaningful participation of women in the development of society. At the same time, the Synod has pointed out that the post-conciliar path of the lay faithful has not been without its difficulties and dangers. In particular, two temptations can be cited which they have not always known how to avoid: the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political world; and the temptation of legitimizing the unwarranted separation of faith from life, that is, a separation of the Gospel’s acceptance from the actual living of the Gospel in various situations in the world.”

    3 Homily of 8 December 2005, on the 40th Anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council; e.g., “If we live in opposition to love and against the truth – in opposition to God – then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life but act in the interests of death. All this is recounted with immortal images in the history of the original fall of man and the expulsion of man from the earthly Paradise. Dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely reflect about ourselves and our history, we have to say that with this narrative is described not only the history of the beginning but the history of all times, and that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking, illustrated by the images in the Book of Genesis. We call this drop of poison ‘original sin’.”

    4 Pope John XXIII, Oct 11, 1962

    5 Ibid.

    6 Address to the Assembly of CELAM (March 9, 1983), III: AAS 75 (1983), 778. See also Ecclesia in America, 6.

    7 E.g., Inaugural Address of Pope John Paul II, October 22, 1978 : “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it.”

    8 Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2005.

    9 Paul VI, Evangelium Nuntiandi, #15: “The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love.”

    10 Lumen Gentium #11; Sacrosanctum Concilium #10.

    11 Hebrews 7:27; see also Ecclesia de Eucharistia #11.

    12 Sacrosanctum Concilium #5-7; Mysterium Fidei #3-7.

    13 See J.R.R. Tolken, The Lord of the Rings (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987) p. 901.

    14 Sacrosanctum Concilium #124.

    15 Joseph Ratzinger, Feast of Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1986) p. 126.

    16 Pope John Paul, Address to the Bishops of the United States, October 9, 1998.

    17 Sacrosanctum Concilium #10.

    18 Pope John Paul, Address to the Bishops of the United States, October 9, 1998.

    19 Lk 5:4

    20 Hab 3:2-4; Morning Prayer for Friday II. See also Jn 1:1-9.

    21 Lumen Gentium #11; CIC 959ff.

    22 I Cor 11:27-29; Ecclesia de Eucharistia #9 (and notes 5-8), #19-20, 36.

    23 Lumen Gentium #62.

    24 Jn 2:5

    25 Rom 8:14-17; Catechism of the Catholic Church #460, and notes.

    26 Jn 7:16.

    27 Catechesi Tradendae #5-6

    28 Catechesi Tradendae #27, 21

    29 See Catechesi Tradendae #43, Christus Dominus #14, Ad Gentes #14

    30 Evangelii Nuntiandi #41.

    31 Catechesi Tradendae #15.

    32 Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church #456.

    33 Gaudium et Spes #48; Apostolicam Actuositatem #11.

    34 Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church #456.

    35 Eph 5:25.

    36 Ibid. #457-458.

    37 Evangelii Nuntiandi #41.

    38 Evangelii Nuntiandi #14.

    39 Hebrews 4:12.

    40 Isaiah 55:11.

    41 1 Pet 3:15.

    42 Mt 5:13.

    43 Lumen Gentium #33.

    44 Spe Salvi, #7-8.

    45 Tertullian, Apologeticum #50.

    46 Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, transl. J. Beevers (Image, 1993) p. 24.

    Fr. Corapi – To Bear Witness To the Truth: An Unequivocal Moral Obligation for All Christians

    christ

    by Rev. John Corapi, SOLT, STD

    Fr. John Corapi

    Fr. John Corapi

    Every Catholic and, indeed, every Christian faithful to the Gospel, has the moral obligation to bear witness to the truth, “in season and out of season, convenient or inconvenient,” accepted or rejected. This mandate is nothing new, of course. It’s as old as the Old Testament, and as new as the New Testament. Nonetheless, I’m afraid that it has become more necessary than ever to remind ourselves of it.

    The Magisterium formally teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2471, quoting Sacred Scripture, “Before [Pontius] Pilate, Christ proclaimed the He has ‘come into the world to bear witness to the truth’ (Jn 18:37). The Christian is not to be ‘ashamed then of testifying to our Lord’ (2 Tm 1:8). In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep ‘a clear conscience toward God and toward men’” (Acts 24:16).

    Let me give you one definition of equivocation: “A statement that is not literally false but that cleverly avoids an unpleasant truth; intentionally vague or ambiguous.” How about this for an example: “A woman has the right to choose.” Choose what? A less vague, ambiguous, and equivocal statement would be, “A woman (or man) has the right to choose to perpetrate homicide. Or, “A nation has the right to facilitate, enable, or legislate genocide.”

    Oh, excuse me, that would be an unpleasant truth, or maybe an “inconvenient truth,” as the inventor of the internet, Al Gore, might say.

    The Catholic Church unambiguously and formally teaches:

    The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them [IMPELS THEM] to act as witnesses of the Gospel and the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. WITNESS IS AN ACT OF JUSTICE THAT ESTABLISHES THE TRUTH OR MAKES IT KNOWN (see Matthew 18:16).

    The recent travesty involving the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to the President of the United States to give the commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of laws degree is the antithesis of Catholic and Christian witness to the truth. A lawyer who vigorously, publicly, and consistently support an anti-life and anti-family litany of evils will now receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from what is arguably the most prestigious Catholic University in America.

    A picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed, what thousand words will be conveyed by the picture(s) of Mr. Obama receiving his honorary doctorate and sending off the graduating class at Notre Dame University?

    This will be a dark day indeed for the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic Church that permitted it to happen. In the end, the bishops have the right and the duty to decide if the University of Notre Dame can any longer claim “Catholic” credentials.

    Meanwhile, the obligation to bear witness to the truth weighs more heavily than ever on each one of us. We have rapidly entered into a new era of persecution of the Church and the truth that she professes and teaches, reminding us again,

    “The disciple of Christ must not only keep faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” (Lumen gentius 42; Dignitatis Humanae 14).

    Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32-33).

    God Bless You,

    Fr. John Corapi

    Message For Lent: Pope Benedict XVI

    1. Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk 16,13). Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church. In his Letters, Saint Paul speaks of this in regard to the collection for the Jerusalem community (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27).

    2. According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbor. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, material goods bear a social value, according to the principle of their universal destination (cf. n. 2404)

    In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. In the face of the multitudes, who, lacking everything, suffer hunger, the words of Saint John acquire the tone of a ringing rebuke: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (1 Jn 3,17). In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.

    3. The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Jesus asserts, “so that your alms may be done in secret” (Mt 6,3-4). Just a short while before, He said not to boast of one’s own good works so as not to risk being deprived of the heavenly reward (cf. Mt 6,1-2). The disciple is to be concerned with God’s greater glory. Jesus warns: “In this way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5,16). Everything, then, must be done for God’s glory and not our own. This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbor, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the center of attention. If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God’s glory and the real well being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause, we place ourselves outside of the Gospel vision. In today’s world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave His entire self for us. How could we not thank God for the many people who silently, far from the gaze of the media world, fulfill, with this spirit, generous actions in support of one’s neighbor in difficulty? There is little use in giving one’s personal goods to others if it leads to a heart puffed up in vainglory: for this reason, the one, who knows that God “sees in secret” and in secret will reward, does not seek human recognition for works of mercy.

    4. In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20,35). When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor 5,15). Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbor in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy. Our Father in heaven rewards our almsgiving with His joy. What is more: Saint Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins: “Charity,” he writes, “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4,8). As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing with the poor what we possess disposes us to receive such a gift. In this moment, my thought turns to those who realize the weight of the evil they have committed and, precisely for this reason, feel far from God, fearful and almost incapable of turning to Him. By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God; it can become an instrument for authentic conversion and reconciliation with Him and our brothers.

    5. Almsgiving teaches us the generosity of love. Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo forthrightly recommends: “Never keep an account of the coins you give, since this is what I always say: if, in giving alms, the left hand is not to know what the right hand is doing, then the right hand, too, should not know what it does itself” (Detti e pensieri, Edilibri, n. 201). In this regard, all the more significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of her poverty, cast into the Temple treasury “all she had to live on” (Mk 12,44). Her tiny and insignificant coin becomes an eloquent symbol: this widow gives to God not out of her abundance, not so much what she has, but what she is. Her entire self.

    We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus’ passion and death, who, as Saint Paul writes, made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8,9); He gave His entire self for us. Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow His example. In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love? The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence. Love, then, gives almsgiving its value; it inspires various forms of giving, according to the possibilities and conditions of each person.

    6. Dear brothers and sisters, Lent invites us to “train ourselves” spiritually, also through the practice of almsgiving, in order to grow in charity and recognize in the poor Christ Himself. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Apostle Peter said to the cripple who was begging alms at the Temple gate: “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk” (Acts 3,6). In giving alms, we offer something material, a sign of the greater gift that we can impart to others through the announcement and witness of Christ, in whose name is found true life. Let this time, then, be marked by a personal and community effort of attachment to Christ in order that we may be witnesses of His love. May Mary, Mother and faithful Servant of the Lord, help believers to enter the “spiritual battle” of Lent, armed with prayer, fasting and the practice of almsgiving, so as to arrive at the celebration of the Easter Feasts, renewed in spirit. With these wishes, I willingly impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

    From the Vatican, 30 October 2007

    BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

    © Copyright 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana