Category Archives: Catholic Saints

True Devotion: It began so simply

FrankDuffReginaCoeli
Pioneer of the lay apostolate, Frank Duff

Story Credit: Alive! Br. Steven Hackett OP

The Second Vatican Council, opened in Rome on 11 November 1962 by Pope John XXIII, continued until 8 December 1965, when it closed under Pope Paul VI.

Bishops from every part of the globe took part, many of them famous names, most of them unknown outside their own territory.

In August 1965 an Irishman was appointed as a lay auditor to the Council, the first Irish layman ever to have been invited to sit in on Council sessions.

Aged 76 at the time, he had “some misgivings” about going to Rome, given the state of his health. At Easter, in danger of death, he had received the anointing of the sick. But he was determined to be there.

At the moment when he arrived in St Peter’s Basilica, where the Council meetings were taking place, Cardinal John Heenan of Westminster was addressing the assembly.

He observed the Dublin man quietly slipping into his seat. At once the Cardinal interrupted what he was saying to announce that Frank Duff had arrived.

Immediately, and as one, the 2,500 bishops rose to their feet to give the Irishman a warm and prolonged ovation.

“It was an unforgettable moment,” wrote Cardinal Suenens, later, “the thanks of the universal Church to the pioneer of the lay apostolate.”

Though he would never accept the title, Frank Duff was, in fact, the founder of the Legion of Mary, the only global organisation ever established by an Irishman, and probably Ireland’s greatest contribution to the universal Church.

Born on 7 June 1889 in Dublin, Frank entered the civil service after leaving school.

In 1913, aged 24, he joined the St Vincent de Paul Society. Until then, he said, he was “a very casual Catholic. I wouldn’t miss Mass, but that’s all you could say about it.”

From this point his religious commitment began to grow, particularly under the influence of an uneducated shoemaker, Joseph Gabbett, a recovering alcoholic.

Gabbett had developed his own apostolate to Dublin’s poor and Duff was drawn into it more and more.

“I was incredibly captivated by Gabbett, because I had never met anyone like him,” he wrote. In particular, Gabbett’s devotion to the Mother of God made a deep impression on him.

About this time he began to recite the rosary each day, and during Lent in 1914 he began to take part in daily Mass, a practice he continued until the end of his life.

A couple of years later he began a League of Daily Mass, enlisting others who promised to attend Mass each day. A register from that time contains more than 1,000 names, most of them inscribed by Duff himself.

By this time too, prayer and spiritual reading were taking up more of his time, increasing his dedication to his work with the poor.

It was, however, his discovery of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, by St Louis Marie de Montfort, that was to change his life.

Some members of the St VdeP would sit around after the weekly meeting discussing various topics. One week the topic was the True Devotion.

Duff tried to read the treatise half a dozen times, but couldn’t take it. Then came “the sudden realisation that the book was true.”

In the summer of 1921, now aged 32, Frank was among a group of Pioneers who organised a meeting to discuss the True Devotion. The meeting took place in mid-August.

From this meeting a number of Pioneers, including six women, decided to begin visiting the patients in a local hospital for the poor.

This led to the forming of an association which placed itself under the patronage of Our Lady of Mercy. On Wednesday 7 September, at a meeting attended by Duff and the local curate, officers for the group were appointed.

Mrs Elizabeth Kirwan, aged 64 and the only woman of mature years, became the president, and the meeting followed the general pattern of a St VdeP meeting.

In time this would be recognised as the first meeting of what would later be called the Legion of Mary. The group expanded rapidly to 70 members and it was decided in July 1922 to begin a second group.

In November 1925, when a new title for the organisation was being discussed, Duff suggested that the name not have a national tag as the organisation might expand more widely than Ireland.

The Legion of Mary was Duff’s suggestion, and though there was some resistance to it, the name was finally chosen and would, in time, become famous through the whole world.

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Feast of Holy Mary, Mother of God 2012 : Preparation for Total Consecration to Our Lady

1st January 2012

Because on this feast that the Church declares a day dedicated to prayer for world peace, we find that the world needs it. To Jesus through Mary is the way…

From Le Blog Monfortain:

Everything else pales into insignificance before these three words: “Mother of God”. They are the thread which, from age to age, binds into one piece of cloth the whole tradition of the Church.

“The mother of my Lord,” says Elizabeth. “The child with his mother,” writes St Matthew. “Born of a woman,” adds St Paul. “Mary Theotokos”, that is: “Mother of God”, the inhabitants of Ephesus would cry out in the year 431, when the Council of Ephesus proclaimed the dogma. “Born of the Virgin Mary,” the Creed sings. For Jesus is only truly a man if you are truly his mother. The reality of the Word of God made flesh implies just this.

Jesus, “having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end,” St John says, speaking of the Passion; but this “to the end” was true right from the day that God took flesh in you, from the moment of your “yes” to the angel.

“Mother of God”: I would never have enough silent time to contemplate these three words. Like plants in the desert, that wait for days, perhaps even years, for a drop of rain in order to germinate, we must say them over and over again until your Son brings them to fruition in us.

All ages are amazed! “The one that the universe sings about but can never contain, is present in your womb,” Virgin Mother, “daughter of your Son, humble yet raised high more than all creatures.” You who fashioned the Christ, create his image also in me, holy Mary, Mother of God.

(Jacques Loew, o.p., Mon Dieu dont je suis sûr, Fayard-Mame, 1982, pg. 177)

ST. LOUIS DE MONTFORT’S formula for total consecration to Jesus through Mary….

For the benefit of those desiring to make the complete preparation recommended by the Saint, the Montfort Fathers in the United States have assembled in one book the various prayers and meditations conducive to an adequate preparation for total consecration to Jesus through Mary.

Here’s the Link from Knights of Divine Mercy.

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Why are these Christian schoolchildren learning to pray like Muslims in this mosque in France?

FRENCH TRANSLATION: Awakening to religions, but also immerse themselves in the places of worship. From St. Peter's College in Essarts, students in fifth, curious and open, laid their eyes on the mosque. A rich exchange followed with Ali Bensaada, chaplain to the jails. Through this visit, the college will have a picture of where Islam is lived. A good way to understand the most of their curriculum, interested in early Islam.

…Because false ecumenism is a cancer on the Body of Christ, the Church, that’s why…

Saint Peregrine (Pellegrino) Laziosi (Latiosi) (1260 – 1 May 1345) is the patron saint for those suffering from cancer. After viewing the following pics, perhaps it’s time for a novena on behalf of the Church in France afflicted so terribly with spiritual cancer, whose adults (in great numbers) no longer attend mass, but apparently find no problem with introducing young baptized hearts into the spiritual phenomenon of Islam.

Fifth grade students from Saint-Pierre Dessessart visit mosque in La Roche

I make this defender of the faith statement my own concerning refuting perverted Catholicism, as it is in this case: “The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is and must remain the center of all Truth on earth, until He comes again. To that end, we will continue to attack falsehood wherever we see it… Seek the Truth; find the Way; live the Life. Please God, and live forever.” 

EDITOR NOTE: This story first appeared in October within the online mag Ouest France; was reported on by Rorate Caeli, as well as other sources I can’t recommend here, as they themselves are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

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VIDEO: Let Us Pray for the Vandals of Rome.

It is written of all men concerning God, that “They shall look on him whom they pierced.” [John 19:37]. And like the unbelieving Apostle Thomas, these hooligan’s too will drop to their knees, if not their bellies; yes, their souls as well as flesh will lie open in obedience to the all-powerful presence of the Creator of heaven and earth… They will look upon His Pierced Heart and every wound he suffered on behalf of their every transgression; and at that very moment, a great lament will take hold within their own hearts, marking them indelibly with regret–because they offended the all-holy Mother of God before her Son–the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let us pray, as surely as Mary, the Queen of Peace is, that this occurs within the lives of these vandals before The Last Judgement–that what is also written within sacred scripture, may be true of them: “He who is forgiven much, will love much.” [Luke 7:36-50]

VIDEO: http://pt.gloria.tv/?media=205626

[TEXT] The Divine Mercy Novena: Begins on Good Friday

Jesus asked that the Feast of the Divine Mercy be preceded by a Novena to the Divine Mercy which would begin on Good Friday.  He gave St. Faustina an intention to pray for on each day of the Novena, saving for the last day the most difficult intention of all, the lukewarm and indifferent of whom He said:

“These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.’ The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy.”

In her diary, St. Faustina wrote that Jesus told her:

“On each day of the novena you will bring to My heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy … On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls.”

The different souls prayed for on each day of the novena are:

DAY 1 (Good Friday)  – All mankind, especially sinners

DAY  2 (Holy Saturday) – The souls of priests and religious

DAY 3 (Easter Sunday)  – All devout and faithful souls

DAY 4 (Easter Monday) – Those who do not believe in Jesus and those who do not yet know Him

DAY  5 (Easter Tuesday) – The souls of separated brethren

DAY  6 (Easter Wednesday) – The meek and humble souls and the souls of children

DAY  7 (Easter Thursday)– The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus’ mercy

DAY  8 (Easter Friday) – The souls who are detained in purgatory; 

DAY  9 (Easter Saturday) – The souls who have become lukewarm.

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy may also be offered each day for the day’s intention, but is not strictly necessary to the Novena.


First Day
Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me.”

Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.


Second Day
Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious,

and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind.”

Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service,* that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard — upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.

* In the original text, Saint Faustina uses the pronoun “us” since she was offering this prayer as a consecrated religious sister. The wording adapted here is intended to make the prayer suitable for universal use. 


Third Day
Today bring to Me all Devout and Faithful Souls,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. These souls brought me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were a drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness.” 

Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in great abundance to each and all. Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It. We beg this grace of You by that most wondrous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection. Thus may they never fail in love or lose the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages. Amen.


Fourth Day
Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, 

I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”  

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord’s original words here were “the pagans.” Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.


Fifth Day
Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church*,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.”  

Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord’s original words here were “heretics and schismatics,” since He spoke to Saint Faustina within the context of her times. As of the Second Vatican Council, Church authorities have seen fit not to use those designations in accordance with the explanation given in the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (n.3). Every pope since the Council has reaffirmed that usage. Saint Faustina herself, her heart always in harmony with the mind of the Church, most certainly would have agreed. When at one time, because of the decisions of her superiors and father confessor, she was not able to execute Our Lord’s inspirations and orders, she declared: “I will follow Your will insofar as You will permit me to do so through Your representative. O my Jesus ” I give priority to the voice of the Church over the voice with which You speak to me” (497). The Lord confirmed her action and praised her for it.


Sixth Day
Today bring to Me the Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of  Little Children,

and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.    

Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father’s favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.


Seventh Day
Today bring to Me the Souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy*,

and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death.

Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God:

Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.

*The text leads one to conclude that in the first prayer directed to Jesus, Who is the Redeemer, it is “victim” souls and contemplatives that are being prayed for; those persons, that is, that voluntarily offered themselves to God for the salvation of their neighbor (see Col 1:24; 2 Cor 4:12). This explains their close union with the Savior and the extraordinary efficacy that their invisible activity has for others. In the second prayer, directed to the Father from whom comes “every worthwhile gift and every genuine benefit,”we recommend the “active” souls, who promote devotion to The Divine Mercy and exercise with it all the other works that lend themselves to the spiritual and material uplifting of their brethren.


Eighth Day
Today bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory,

and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.”   

Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.


Ninth Day
Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm,

and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.” 

Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.


Diary, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul (c) 1987 Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Stockbridge, MA 01263. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Read more:http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/novena.htm#ixzz1KEX6diiV

SOURCE: EWTN

HAT TIP/Y. Bontkowski

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Behold, your spiritual mother…

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:25-27).

The Catholic Church: Gift of Love, Truth and Life

By F. K. Bartels
1/23/2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
+++
It was bishop Fulton J. Sheen who said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” It is helpful to contemplate how the Church came to exist, and the price our Lord paid to give birth to her.
GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) — Although it is fashionable in some circles to view the Catholic Church as merely one institution among others, it is vital to properly understand who and what the Church is, for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ sacrificed his sacred humanity on the cross for the sake of his holy Bride. It was therefore God himself who willed that the Church should exist. As the sacrament of salvation and the gateway to eternal life, the Church exists as a definite and specific institution, invisible and visible, divine and human — a gift of love, truth and life. 

There is in fact a great deal of misunderstanding in contemporary society about Mother Church. It would not be an exaggeration to state that if Christ had not founded her as a definite and specific Church, then the fullness of truth our intellects so thirstily crave would be inaccessible: we would be doomed to grope in a world of darkness without hope of understanding the reality of those things which are beyond what is readily apparent to the senses. In absence of the Church, we could not know with certainty the truth about salvation and redemption, grace and free will; nor of the eschatological realities each man must eventually face; nor could we even understand what a human person is. Christ, of course, knew all this. Therefore, the Way, the Truth, and the Life who is our Savior (see Jn 14:6) founded his Church as an apostolic institution of unity, holiness, and catholicity.

Though it is the Church who dispenses the words of truth and the sacraments of life, and who carries the faithful in her womb as they journey along in God’s providential plan, there are some who willingly isolate themselves from such beautiful gifts. For some view her through sterile, calculating eyes as an human institution only; one who ceaselessly attempts to shackle modern man with ever-tightening moral constraints. In this way, she is viewed with suspicion, and thus whatever moral word she may proclaim with love for the freedom and safety of her children is dismissed as an undue, legalistic imposition that stymies freedom.

Others see the Church in an entirely abstract way, as if she did not exist as Mother Church whose words transmit the fullness of truth, but rather as a vague concept that simply and only refers to the manner in which Christians share a relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ. In this view, the Church is seen as a non-institution, indefinite and unspecific: the word Church is reduced to “church,” and with that reduction the fullness of its meaning is lost. Consequently, the words “church” and “Christian” are often thought to be synonymous. However, being a member of the latter group does not necessarily imply full communion with the former. While it is true that by virtue of their baptism all Christians are incorporated into the Church, it is important to distinguish between full and partial communion. In order for one to be in full communion with Christ’s Bride, it is necessary to be a practicing Catholic who gives assent to all that the Church teaches.

There are still others who view the Church through the warped lens of indifferentism. The fullness of truth transmitted by the Church is regarded with cold disinterest; ruled by pragmatism, the fleeting events of contemporary society are given the utmost priority, and thus worshiped as idols; truth and religion are seen as distant, trivial issues hardly worth fretting over, for there is little time for it all. The ramification of such an insane attitude is that the breadth and depth of religious truth is madly considered to be mere inconsequential clutter.

Jesus Christ Suffered And Died For The Church

It was bishop Fulton J. Sheen who said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” It is helpful to contemplate how the Church came to exist, and the price our Lord paid to give birth to her.”Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:25-27).

Many theologians see in this sacred moment on Calvary the formation of the first cell of the Church. Hans Urs Von Balthasaar commented on the fruits of the relationship conferred on Mary and John by our Beloved Savior: “From this original cell of the Church established at the Cross will come everything which will form the organism of the Church” . It is there, at the base of the cross, in an act of unwavering faith confronted with intense emptiness, pain and sorrow, that the gift of Church as a community bound in Love is conferred upon the Virgin Mother and the beloved disciple. This new way of life is immediately and fully embraced, for the disciple takes Mary into his home “from that hour”.

“In order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, . . . the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (Jn 19:31-34).

In his book, God Is Near Us, then Cardinal Ratzinger writes, “From his side, that side which has been opened up in loving sacrifice, comes a spring of water that brings to fruition the whole of history. From the ultimate self-sacrifice of Jesus spring forth blood and water, Eucharist and baptism, as the source of a new community.” Thus this Cardinal who would soon become Pope Benedict XVI was able to say, “The Lord’s opened side is the source from which spring forth both the Church and the sacraments that build up the Church.”

In this sacred, incomparable event on the cross, the Person of Jesus Christ is revealed: The Son of God and Son of Man willed to die for humanity, and, in that astonishing moment which will forever leave men speechless, he has lovingly formed in the midst of a chaotic world an island of truth and security: his Bride, the Catholic Church. This gift of love, truth and life flowed forth in divine abundance as an organic, living reality of oneness, whose beating heart is Christ himself.

The Church: Monarchical And Hierarchical Authority

Our understanding of the Church would be incomplete if we overlooked St. Matthew’s gospel. After Simon Peter confessed that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replies, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (16:17-19).

In Matthew’s gospel we clearly see that the Church is founded by Christ as a definite and specific institution; i.e., Christ founded the Church — not “churches”. Authority is conferred on St. Peter as leader, who is given the “keys to the kingdom,” and the power to “bind” and “loose”. The implication of this fact is that Peter had a primacy or special place among the apostles. Here, with St. Peter as earthly head, we see the visible monarchical structure of the Church. It stands to reason that Christ would install a leader at the helm of his Church, for without one she would quickly fall into division and disarray. Analogies always fall short; nevertheless, we should note that any business or corporation would not long survive without a leader. In Matthew 18:18, Christ gives the authority of binding and loosing to the other apostles — though Peter remains at the helm — forming the hierarchical structure of the Church.

Some object to the claim that St. Peter was First Bishop of Rome and leader of the Church. There is the notion that Christ founded his Church on St. Peter’s faith only; that Peter had no actual leadership role, and that he was but merely a figurehead. Some presently treat the office of the papacy in such a manner. But no one gives the “keys to the kingdom” to faith; no one confers the power to “bind” and “loose” on faith. Christian faith is the theological virtue by which the mind and will assents to God’s revelation: it is a movement of the intellect and choice of the will to love the God of infinite goodness with all one’s heart. Faith is saying “yes” to the Word. Faith in itself cannot possess the authority to “bind” and “loose”. Authority is granted to people. In this case, it is conferred on the Church, an authoritative monarchical and hierarchical institution, who is the Body of Christ and who possesses the fullness of truth.

The early Church Fathers were firmly convinced of the primacy of Peter and of a definite and specific Church instituted by Jesus Christ. Thus, on looking into history, we find the notion of a vague, non-institutional church entirely foreign to the Christian community.

On the unity and authority of the Church, St. Ignatius wrote: “You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God.  Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. . . . Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, A.D. 105).

It is especially noteworthy that Ignatius, a man of Antioch, first writes, so far as we know, of the term Catholic Church; for it was also at Antioch that, as the Acts of the Apostles indicate, the followers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians (see Acts 11:26).

St. Cyprian, writing in about A.D. 251: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ . . . On him he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church, 4).

It was St. Cyprian’s understanding of the reality of the Church that compelled him to write this vital truth: “He who has turned his back on the Church of Christ shall not come to the rewards of Christ; he is an alien, a worldling, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother. Our Lord warns us when He says: ‘he that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.’ Whosoever breaks the peace and harmony of Christ acts against Christ; whoever gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ” (Ibid.).

We return to the Crucifixion. God Incarnate, through Whom all things were created and are sustained, sacrificed himself and died on the cross for his Church: a definite and specific, divine and human institution of oneness who exists as the Body of Christ. Our Savior died for the immense and incomparable gift of his Church: the sacrament of salvation whose sole purpose is to guide humankind to its eternal end. The Church is a sign and instrument of Christ’s salvation: it is within the loving arms of Mother Church that God’s children receive the sacraments in which they are swept up into the life of the Holy Trinity. Such a gift is priceless and beyond all comparison. It should never be overlooked, dismissed or rejected; rather every Christian should flock to Mother Church, the gateway to life eternal.

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F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever have. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com

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