Tag Archives: Pope John XXIII

Extraordinary Form Coming to Southern Oregon

ADAMKOTAS30263_663335972431_6442910_n

 UPDATE — The first quarterly Mass in the Extraordinary Form offered at Our Lady of the River will be this Sunday, February 10th 2013, at 6 PM.

ROGUE RIVER: It’s confirmed… What was previously known as the Tridentine Mass, or Traditional Latin Mass, and most recently, the “extraordinary form” of the Mass, will be periodically offered to worshipers at Our Lady of the River Catholic Church in Rogue River, Oregon.

The first Mass is scheduled for Feb 10th,2013, at 6 pm.

ADAMKOTAS420035_306336446081758_565442446_nAs you may recall, Pope Benedict XVI liberalized celebration of the extraordinary form in September of 2007 in his Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, which lifted restrictions on celebrations of the Mass according to the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII.

According to my Pastor, Fr. Bill Holtzinger–who authorized the periodic Mass–announcements and details concerning the new offerings are forthcoming.

But, here’s what we know:

The celebrant will be Father Adam Kotas, from the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Crescent City, California.

After messaging Father Kotas myself on his Facebook page to confirm him as celebrant of the new offering, he replied and affirmed. And most kindly, offered up some helpful suggestions for those of us unfamiliar with the traditional form. He highly recommends reading up on it to familiarize ourselves with the mass before attending, in order to help us appreciate it a lot more.

I’ve provided the suggested links, as well as a bio on Fr. Kotas below.

On a final personal note: I would like to thank both Pastors, Fr. Holtzinger and Fr. Kotas for the opportunity for our family to experience the extraordinary form. 

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE LATIN MASS

“What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” — Pope Benedict XVI’s Moto Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, 2007.

· The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is our opportunity to stand on Calvary with our Lady, St. John and the holy women and offer ourselves to Jesus just as He offers Himself for us on the cross.

· At Mass we unite ourselves with Christ, who offers us with Himself to God the Father. It is the way that we render perfect adoration unto the Father. And we do this as a community, not simply as individuals gathered together. In this process the priest represents all of us and presents all of us to God.

· Thus, the priest offers this form of the Mass facing the same direction as the people, because he is taken from among the people to render sacrifice to God. He is not excluding the people, but rather he is leading the faithful in offering worship and sacrifice.

· All face ad orientem (to the East) because the East, according to St. Augustine, is where Heaven begins (symbolized by the rising sun), and it from the East that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. Thus we face the East in joyful anticipation of our salvation.

· The Traditional Latin Mass is divided into two main parts: The Mass of the Catechumens (the purpose of which is to offer prayer and to receive instruction) and The Mass of the Faithful (by which we re-offer the sacrifice of Calvary and receive Holy Communion).

TIPS FOR ATTENDING YOUR FIRST LATIN MASS (Low Mass)

1. While at first glance the Extraordinary Form of the Mass may seem very different from the Mass you are used to attending, it is helpful to realize they each have a similar structure. Mass begins with prayers, moves through the readings (or lessons), the Gospel, the liturgy of the Eucharist, reception of Holy Communion, and closing prayers with a blessing.

2. Don’t worry if you can’t “keep up” with what the priest is saying, or you can’t find the right page of your missal or booklet. It may take a few times before things start to feel comfortable and you become familiar with the flow of the Mass. If you get lost, just keep giving thanks to Jesus for His sacrifice and prepare your soul to receive Him in Holy Communion.

3. The readings (lessons) and the Gospel are first read in Latin, and then repeated again in English before the priest begins his homily.

4. The daily readings and certain prayers are not included in the red Mass booklets. If you decide to come to the Latin Mass on a regular basis, you will probably want to buy a full Latin Missal, which has all the readings and prayers for any Mass you might attend.

5. The Pater Noster (Our Father) is prayed aloud by the priest, with the congregation joining only for the final line: sed libéra nos a malo (but deliver us from evil).

6. To receive Holy Communion, approach the altar and kneel at the next empty spot at the altar rail. The priest will place the sacred Host on your tongue while saying the words, “Corpus Dómini nostri Jesu Christi custódiat ánimam tuam in vitam æternam. Amen.” (May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul unto life everlasting. Amen.). You do not need to say “Amen”. When the person next to you has finished receiving Communion you may rise and walk back to your seat.

7. After the final blessing the priest will read the Last Gospel (the beginning of the Gospel of St. John). Afterwards, he will kneel before the altar and lead the congregation in the prayers after Mass. These include: the Hail Mary, Hail Holy Queen, the Prayer to St. Michael, and the prayer “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us” (3 times).

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LATIN MASS

Q. I don’t know Latin. How am I supposed to know what is happening during Mass?

A. Easy-to-use booklets are available at the back of the church for you to borrow for the duration of Mass. These red booklets have the words in Latin on the left and in English on the right. They also include illustrations to help you follow the movements of the Mass, as well as brief explanations about the parts of the Mass.

Q. Why is it so quiet during Mass? I can’t hear what the priest is saying!

A. During most of the Mass the priest prays to God on our behalf in a low voice. It is not necessary to hear what he is saying, however, you may follow along in the Mass booklet or Missal. This silence means there are less distractions and more time to meditate on the mysteries of our Faith and on Christ’s love for us.

Q. Why don’t we get to say anything? I want to participate in the Mass, too!

A. Since Vatican II, many people have become used to the idea of the laity having specific verbal or physical opportunities to participate in the liturgy. This idea comes from the Latin term participatio actuosa. However, the actual meaning of this “active participation” specifically refers to an interior participation by being attentive during Mass, praying, and giving thanks to God for His many gifts. Our prayers are joined with the entire Communion of Saints who are worshiping God along with us during the Mass. While we cannot see or hear them, they are there – actively participating, too. So, while you may be quiet and still on the outside, your mind and soul should be very active during Mass.

Q. Why do some women wear veils? Do I need one?

A. Women traditionally were required under canon law to cover their heads during Mass. While this tradition fell out of practice after Vatican II, it is still appropriate for women to veil their heads, but not required. Many women view it as a way to give honor to God present in the Holy Eucharist, and also as an act of humility.

MORE LATIN MASS RESOURCES

Una Voce America – Support and resources for the Latin Mass

St. Sylvia Latin Mass Community – A PDF tip sheet for attending the Latin Mass

The Catholic Liturgical Library – Latin and English prayers of the Latin Mass

Sancta Missa.org – more Latin Mass resources & educational material

adamstf_oxzhuxFather Adam Kotas was born in Poland on November 15, 1984 and moved to Chicago, IL when he was eight years old. He lived in Chicago with his family in Polish neighborhood and attended a Polish Church in Chicago where thousands of recently arrived Polish immigrants gathered to worship in their native tongue. From an early age Father Adam felt a calling to the priesthood as he admired his parish priest in Poland and the priests he came in contact with at his parish in Chicago. At the age of 14, Father Adam entered Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago in August of 1999 where he graduated in 2003. Father Adam always wanted to be a missionary to spread the Good News of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard it. He wanted to particularly work with the poor. Right after attending the high school seminary he spent a year with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary group of priests and brothers whose main mission is to spread the Good News to the poor, in their pre-novitiate program in Miramar, FL where he attended St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, FL. St. John Vianney Seminary in Miami, FL is a bilingual seminary (English-Spanish) and this is where Father Adam first came into contact with Spanish. He studied Spanish diligently and ministered in the Spanish speaking parish in Miramar as well as at other nearby Spanish speaking parishes. After spending a year discerning whether the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were the right fit for him, Father Adam decided he was not called to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and left the pre-novitiate program. He returned to Chicago where he sought admission to St. Joseph College Seminary on the campus of Loyola University Chicago. Father Adam was accepted into the seminary formation program and at the same time he was accepted into the undergraduate program at Loyola University Chicago. Because Father Adam had accumulated many Advanced Placement college credits while in High School and because he took many more than the required minimum credits per semester while at Loyola University Chicago he graduated Cum Laude after only spending 2 years at Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy and Spanish in May of 2006.

Upon his graduation from College Father Adam entered the graduate theological seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago in Mundelein, Illinois where he spent a year. After one year at Mundelein Seminary Father Adam transferred to Ss. Cyril and Methodius seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan. Ss. Cyril and Methodius seminary is a Polish-American theological seminary whose main mission is train priests for missionary service in the United States of America. Priests who graduate from Ss. Cyril and Methodius seminary serve in places around the United States where there is a lack of priests. While at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary Father Adam met Father Thomas Diaz who was at the time the vocation director for the Santa Rosa diocese within whose boundaries St. Joseph Parish in Crescent City is located. St. Joseph Parish is the last parish in the diocese of Santa Rosa going north. The diocese of Santa Rosa is comprised of Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties. During his three years at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary Father Adam was ordained a deacon at the seminary on April 23, 2009. For one year while at the seminary Father Adam served as deacon at St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Father Adam graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in May of 2010 with a Masters of Divinity degree. He was ordained right after his graduation to the priesthood by the former bishop of the diocese of Santa Rosa, the Most. Rev. Daniel F. Walsh. The ordination took place on May 22, 2010 at St. John the Baptist parish in Napa, California.

During his time at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary Father Adam was given the opportunity to study at the University of Detroit Mercy. He pursued a Masters of Arts degree in Religious Studies. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from the University of Detroit Mercy in May of 2010. Thus Father Adam not only has a Masters of Divinity degree (M.Div) but also a Masters of Arts degree (M.A.).

Father Adam is fluent in English, Spanish and Polish. He also reads and understand Latin as he studied Latin for four years. Because he knows fours languages from different language families he is able to communicate and read and comprehend many other languages.

Father Adam was appointed right after his ordination to the priesthood as Parochial Vicar (Assistant Pastor) at St. Francis Solano Catholic Church in Sonoma, CA. While at St. Francis Father Adam was responsible for the growing and ever expanding Hispanic ministry. Under Father Adam’s leadership the Hispanic community grew dramatically and many ministries were started at St. Francis including 3 different youth groups.

Father Adam was appointed interim administrator of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Calistoga in February of 2012. He remained in that post unit June 18, 2012 when Bishop Robert Vasa appointed him as Pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Crescent City, California. St. Joseph Church is the only Catholic Church in Del Norte county and this makes Father Adam the only priest in the entire county.

Father Adam leads St. Joseph’s with a passion for the Gospel. He is focused on strengthening the parish with Bible studies, retreats, missions, and engaging liturgies that call attention to the need to be re-evangelized as Catholic Christians in the 21st century. Father Adam is known for his humor and infectious laughter. He is very approachable and easy to talk to and always available to anyone that seeks his guidance and input. Do not hesitate to call on him for spiritual help. Father Adam emphasizes that he is a priest for all people whether they are members of St. Joseph Church or not. Father Adam is a very welcoming and loving priest who tries to make the Masses he celebrates welcoming celebrations of God’s loving presence in our lives.

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.

A clarification on seeking orthodoxy within the two forms of the Roman Liturgy, ordinaria and extraordinaria

Received a fraternal correction today on Facebook concerning the orthodoxy we seek within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass… First, my comment on the release of INSTRUCTION ON THE APPLICATION OF THE APOSTOLIC LETTER SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM :

“It’s about time, it’s about space, it’s about orthodoxy taking its rightful place…”

The correction came…

The absence of a Mass in the Extraordinary Form is not an indication of a lack of orthodoxy. Indeed, the Holy See’s instruction itself says: “6. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church.”.

I couldn’t agree and support this statement more. It’s a teaching of the Church.. However, I could supply ample proof(s), from this blog alone, of disobedience to mass norms and resulting unorthodox liturgical practices played out within the Mass. The crisis of disobedience and irreverence seemingly ever-present within the Church in our days is exemplified here, and like many I’m just simply tired of abuses found within the Mass. Not to mention having to sit through Protestant-nized masses offering us musical treats similar to the following…  

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.

What has been the result of the Second Vatican Council?: ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO THE ROMAN CURIA OFFERING THEM HIS CHRISTMAS GREETINGS Thursday, 22 December 2005

[picapp src=”e/f/5/d/Pope_Benedict_XVI_004e.jpg?adImageId=4864100&imageId=5047489″ width=”500″ height=”377″ /]

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,


Expergiscere, homo:  quia pro te Deus factus est homo – Wake up, O man! For your sake God became man” (St Augustine, Sermo, 185). With the Christmas celebrations now at hand, I am opening my Meeting with you, dear collaborators of the Roman Curia, with St Augustine’s invitation to understand the true meaning of Christ’s Birth.

I address to each one my most cordial greeting and I thank you for the sentiments of devotion and affection, effectively conveyed to me by your Cardinal Dean, to whom I address my gratitude.

God became man for our sake: this is the message which, every year, from the silent grotto of Bethlehem spreads even to the most out-of-the-way corners of the earth. Christmas is a feast of light and peace, it is a day of inner wonder and joy that expands throughout the universe, because “God became man”. From the humble grotto of Bethlehem, the eternal Son of God, who became a tiny Child, addresses each one of us:  he calls us, invites us to be reborn in him so that, with him, we may live eternally in communion with the Most Holy Trinity.

Our hearts brimming with the joy that comes from this knowledge, let us think back to the events of the year that is coming to an end. We have behind us great events which have left a deep mark on the life of the Church. I am thinking first and foremost of the departure of our beloved Holy Father John Paul II, preceded by a long period of suffering and the gradual loss of speech. No Pope has left us such a quantity of texts as he has bequeathed to us; no previous Pope was able to visit the whole world like him and speak directly to people from all the continents.

In the end, however, his lot was a journey of suffering and silence. Unforgettable for us are the images of Palm Sunday when, holding an olive branch and marked by pain, he came to the window and imparted the Lord’s Blessing as he himself was about to walk towards the Cross.

Next was the scene in his Private Chapel when, holding the Crucifix, he took part in the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, where he had so often led the procession carrying the Cross himself.

Lastly came his silent Blessing on Easter Sunday, in which we saw the promise of the Resurrection, of eternal life, shine out through all his suffering. With his words and actions, the Holy Father gave us great things; equally important is the lesson he imparted to us from the chair of suffering and silence.

In his last book “Memory and Identity” (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005), he has left us an interpretation of suffering that is not a theological or philosophical theory but a fruit that matured on his personal path of suffering which he walked, sustained by faith in the Crucified Lord. This interpretation, which he worked out in faith and which gave meaning to his suffering lived in communion with that of the Lord, spoke through his silent pain, transforming it into an important message.

Both at the beginning and once again at the end of the book mentioned, the Pope shows that he is deeply touched by the spectacle of the power of evil, which we dramatically experienced in the century that has just ended. He says in his text:  “The evil… was not a small-scale evil…. It was an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which availed itself of state structures in order to accomplish its wicked work, an evil built up into a system” (p. 189).

Might evil be invincible? Is it the ultimate power of history? Because of the experience of evil, for Pope Wojty³a the question of redemption became the essential and central question of his life and thought as a Christian. Is there a limit against which the power of evil shatters? “Yes, there is”, the Pope replies in this book of his, as well as in his Encyclical on redemption.

The power that imposes a limit on evil is Divine Mercy. Violence, the display of evil, is opposed in history – as “the totally other” of God, God’s own power – by Divine Mercy. The Lamb is stronger than the dragon, we could say together with the Book of Revelation.

At the end of the book, in a retrospective review of the attack of 13 May 1981 and on the basis of the experience of his journey with God and with the world, John Paul II further deepened this answer.

What limits the force of evil, the power, in brief, which overcomes it – this is how he says it – is God’s suffering, the suffering of the Son of God on the Cross:  “The suffering of the Crucified God is not just one form of suffering alongside others…. In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order:  the order of love…. The passion of Christ on the Cross gave a radically new meaning to suffering, transforming it from within…. It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love…. All human suffering, all pain, all infirmity contains within itself a promise of salvation;… evil is present in the world partly so as to awaken our love, our self-gift in generous and disinterested service to those visited by suffering…. Christ has redeemed the world:  “By his wounds we are healed’ (Is 53: 5)” (p. 189, ff.).

All this is not merely learned theology, but the expression of a faith lived and matured through suffering. Of course, we must do all we can to alleviate suffering and prevent the injustice that causes the suffering of the innocent. However, we must also do the utmost to ensure that people can discover the meaning of suffering and are thus able to accept their own suffering and to unite it with the suffering of Christ.

In this way, it is merged with redemptive love and consequently becomes a force against the evil in the world.

The response across the world to the Pope’s death was an overwhelming demonstration of gratitude for the fact that in his ministry he offered himself totally to God for the world; a thanksgiving for the fact that in a world full of hatred and violence he taught anew love and suffering in the service of others; he showed us, so to speak, in the flesh, the Redeemer, redemption, and gave us the certainty that indeed, evil does not have the last word in the world.

I would now like to mention, if briefly, another two events also initiated by Pope John Paul II:  they are the World Youth Day celebrated in Cologne and the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, which also ended the Year of the Eucharist inaugurated by Pope John Paul II.

The World Youth Day has lived on as a great gift in the memory of those present. More than a million young people gathered in the City of Cologne on the Rhine River and in the neighbouring towns to listen together to the Word of God, to pray together, to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, to sing and to celebrate together, to rejoice in life and to worship and receive the Lord in the Eucharist during the great meetings on Saturday evening and Sunday. Joy simply reigned throughout those days.

Apart from keeping order, the police had nothing to do – the Lord had gathered his family, tangibly overcoming every frontier and barrier, and in the great communion between us, he made us experience his presence.

The motto chosen for those days – “We have come to worship him!”, contained two great images which encouraged the right approach from the outset. First there was the image of the pilgrimage, the image of the person who, looking beyond his own affairs and daily life, sets out in search of his essential destination, the truth, the right life, God.

This image of the person on his way towards the goal of life contained another two clear indications.
First of all, there was the invitation not to see the world that surrounds us solely as raw material with which we can do something, but to try to discover in it “the Creator’s handwriting”, the creative reason and the love from which the world was born and of which the universe speaks to us, if we pay attention, if our inner senses awaken and acquire perception of the deepest dimensions of reality.

As a second element there is a further invitation: to listen to the historical revelation which alone can offer us the key to the interpretation of the silent mystery of creation, pointing out to us the practical way towards the true Lord of the world and of history, who conceals himself in the poverty of the stable in Bethlehem.

The other image contained in the World Youth Day motto was the person worshipping:  “We have come to worship him”. Before any activity, before the world can change there must be worship. Worship alone sets us truly free; worship alone gives us the criteria for our action. Precisely in a world in which guiding criteria are absent and the threat exists that each person will be a law unto himself, it is fundamentally necessary to stress worship.

For all those who were present the intense silence of that million young people remains unforgettable, a silence that united and uplifted us all when the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the altar. Let us cherish in our hearts the images of Cologne:  they are signs that continue to be valid. Without mentioning individual names, I would like on this occasion to thank everyone who made World Youth Day possible; but especially, let us together thank the Lord, for indeed, he alone could give us those days in the way in which we lived them.

The word “adoration” [worship] brings us to the second great event that I wish to talk about:  the Synod of Bishops and the Year of the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II, with the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia and the Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, gave us the essential clues and at the same time, with his personal experience of Eucharistic faith, put the Church’s teaching into practice.

Moreover, the Congregation for Divine Worship, in close connection with the Encyclical, published the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum as a practical guide to the correct implementation of the conciliar Constitution on the liturgy and liturgical reform. In addition to all this, was it really possible to say anything new, to develop further the whole of this teaching?

This was exactly the great experience of the Synod, during which a reflection of the riches of the Eucharistic life of the Church today and the inexhaustibility of her Eucharistic faith could be perceived in the Fathers’ contributions. What the Fathers thought and expressed must be presented, in close connection with the Propositiones of the Synod, in a Post-Synodal Document.

Here, once again, I only wish to underline that point which a little while ago we already mentioned in the context of World Youth Day:  adoration of the Risen Lord, present in the Eucharist with flesh and blood, with body and soul, with divinity and humanity.

It is moving for me to see how everywhere in the Church the joy of Eucharistic adoration is reawakening and being fruitful. In the period of liturgical reform, Mass and adoration outside it were often seen as in opposition to one another:  it was thought that the Eucharistic Bread had not been given to us to be contemplated, but to be eaten, as a widespread objection claimed at that time.

The experience of the prayer of the Church has already shown how nonsensical this antithesis was. Augustine had formerly said:  “…nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit;… peccemus non adorando – No one should eat this flesh without first adoring it;… we should sin were we not to adore it” (cf. Enarr. in Ps 98: 9 CCL XXXIX 1385).

Indeed, we do not merely receive something in the Eucharist. It is the encounter and unification of persons; the person, however, who comes to meet us and desires to unite himself to us is the Son of God. Such unification can only be brought about by means of adoration.

Receiving the Eucharist means adoring the One whom we receive. Precisely in this way and only in this way do we become one with him. Therefore, the development of Eucharistic adoration, as it took shape during the Middle Ages, was the most consistent consequence of the Eucharistic mystery itself:  only in adoration can profound and true acceptance develop. And it is precisely this personal act of encounter with the Lord that develops the social mission which is contained in the Eucharist and desires to break down barriers, not only the barriers between the Lord and us but also and above all those that separate us from one another.

The last event of this year on which I wish to reflect here is the celebration of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council 40 years ago. This memory prompts the question: What has been the result of the Council? Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what occurred in these years the description that St Basil, the great Doctor of the Church, made of the Church’s situation after the Council of Nicea:  he compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things:  “The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamouring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith…” (De Spiritu Sancto, XXX, 77; PG 32, 213 A; SCh 17 ff., p. 524).

We do not want to apply precisely this dramatic description to the situation of the post-conciliar period, yet something from all that occurred is nevertheless reflected in it. 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 quarrelled 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. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council’s deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.

In a word:  it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.

The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one. However, the Constituent Assembly needs a mandator and then confirmation by the mandator, in other words, the people the constitution must serve. The Fathers had no such mandate and no one had ever given them one; nor could anyone have given them one because the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and was given to us so that we might attain eternal life and, starting from this perspective, be able to illuminate life in time and time itself.

Through the Sacrament they have received, Bishops are stewards of the Lord’s gift. They are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Cor 4: 1); as such, they must be found to be “faithful” and “wise” (cf. Lk 12: 41-48). This requires them to administer the Lord’s gift in the right way, so that it is not left concealed in some hiding place but bears fruit, and the Lord may end by saying to the administrator:  “Since you were dependable in a small matter I will put you in charge of larger affairs” (cf. Mt 25: 14-30; Lk 19: 11-27).

These Gospel parables express the dynamic of fidelity required in the Lord’s service; and through them it becomes clear that, as in a Council, the dynamic and fidelity must converge.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity is countered by the hermeneutic of reform, as it was presented first by Pope John XXIII in his Speech inaugurating the Council on 11 October 1962 and later by Pope Paul VI in his Discourse for the Council’s conclusion on 7 December 1965.

Here I shall cite only John XXIII’s well-known words, which unequivocally express this hermeneutic when he says that the Council wishes “to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion”. And he continues:  “Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us…”. It is necessary that “adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness…” be presented in “faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another…”, retaining the same meaning and message (The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p. 715).

It is clear that this commitment to expressing a specific truth in a new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital relationship with it; it is also clear that new words can only develop if they come from an informed understanding of the truth expressed, and on the other hand, that a reflection on faith also requires that this faith be lived. In this regard, the programme that Pope John XXIII proposed was extremely demanding, indeed, just as the synthesis of fidelity and dynamic is demanding.

However, wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the Council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing.

In his Discourse closing the Council, Paul VI pointed out a further specific reason why a hermeneutic of discontinuity can seem convincing.

In the great dispute about man which marks the modern epoch, the Council had to focus in particular on the theme of anthropology. It had to question the relationship between the Church and her faith on the one hand, and man and the contemporary world on the other (cf. ibid.). The question becomes even clearer if, instead of the generic term “contemporary world”, we opt for another that is more precise:  the Council had to determine in a new way the relationship between the Church and the modern era.

This relationship had a somewhat stormy beginning with the Galileo case. It was then totally interrupted when Kant described “religion within pure reason” and when, in the radical phase of the French Revolution, an image of the State and the human being that practically no longer wanted to allow the Church any room was disseminated.

In the 19th century under Pius IX, the clash between the Church’s faith and a radical liberalism and the natural sciences, which also claimed to embrace with their knowledge the whole of reality to its limit, stubbornly proposing to make the “hypothesis of God” superfluous, had elicited from the Church a bitter and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern age. Thus, it seemed that there was no longer any milieu open to a positive and fruitful understanding, and the rejection by those who felt they were the representatives of the modern era was also drastic.

In the meantime, however, the modern age had also experienced developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution.

The natural sciences were beginning to reflect more and more clearly their own limitations imposed by their own method, which, despite achieving great things, was nevertheless unable to grasp the global nature of reality.

So it was that both parties were gradually beginning to open up to each other. In the period between the two World Wars and especially after the Second World War, Catholic statesmen demonstrated that a modern secular State could exist that was not neutral regarding values but alive, drawing from the great ethical sources opened by Christianity.

Catholic social doctrine, as it gradually developed, became an important model between radical liberalism and the Marxist theory of the State. The natural sciences, which without reservation professed a method of their own to which God was barred access, realized ever more clearly that this method did not include the whole of reality. Hence, they once again opened their doors to God, knowing that reality is greater than the naturalistic method and all that it can encompass.

It might be said that three circles of questions had formed which then, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, were expecting an answer. First of all, the relationship between faith and modern science had to be redefined. Furthermore, this did not only concern the natural sciences but also historical science for, in a certain school, the historical-critical method claimed to have the last word on the interpretation of the Bible and, demanding total exclusivity for its interpretation of Sacred Scripture, was opposed to important points in the interpretation elaborated by the faith of the Church.

Secondly, it was necessary to give a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern State that would make room impartially for citizens of various religions and ideologies, merely assuming responsibility for an orderly and tolerant coexistence among them and for the freedom to practise their own religion.

Thirdly, linked more generally to this was the problem of religious tolerance – a question that required a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions. In particular, before the recent crimes of the Nazi regime and, in general, with a retrospective look at a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel.

These are all subjects of great importance – they were the great themes of the second part of the Council – on which it is impossible to reflect more broadly in this context. It is clear that in all these sectors, which all together form a single problem, some kind of discontinuity might emerge. Indeed, a discontinuity had been revealed but in which, after the various distinctions between concrete historical situations and their requirements had been made, the continuity of principles proved not to have been abandoned. It is easy to miss this fact at a first glance.

It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church’s decisions on contingent matters – for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible – should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within.
On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change.

Basic decisions, therefore, continue to be well-grounded, whereas the way they are applied to new contexts can change. Thus, for example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.

It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.

The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself (cf. Mt 22: 21), as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time. The ancient Church naturally prayed for the emperors and political leaders out of duty (cf. I Tm 2: 2); but while she prayed for the emperors, she refused to worship them and thereby clearly rejected the religion of the State.

The martyrs of the early Church died for their faith in that God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this very reason they also died for freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith – a profession that no State can impose but which, instead, can only be claimed with God’s grace in freedom of conscience. A missionary Church known for proclaiming her message to all peoples must necessarily work for the freedom of the faith. She desires to transmit the gift of the truth that exists for one and all.

At the same time, she assures peoples and their Governments that she does not wish to destroy their identity and culture by doing so, but to give them, on the contrary, a response which, in their innermost depths, they are waiting for – a response with which the multiplicity of cultures is not lost but instead unity between men and women increases and thus also peace between peoples.

The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.

The Church, both before and after the Council, was and is the same Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, journeying on through time; she continues “her pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God”, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 8).

Those who expected that with this fundamental “yes” to the modern era all tensions would be dispelled and that the “openness towards the world” accordingly achieved would transform everything into pure harmony, had underestimated the inner tensions as well as the contradictions inherent in the modern epoch.

They had underestimated the perilous frailty of human nature which has been a threat to human progress in all the periods of history and in every historical constellation. These dangers, with the new possibilities and new power of man over matter and over himself, did not disappear but instead acquired new dimensions: a look at the history of the present day shows this clearly.

In our time too, the Church remains a “sign that will be opposed” (Lk 2: 34) – not without reason did Pope John Paul II, then still a Cardinal, give this title to the theme for the Spiritual Exercises he preached in 1976 to Pope Paul VI and the Roman Curia. The Council could not have intended to abolish the Gospel’s opposition to human dangers and errors.

On the contrary, it was certainly the Council’s intention to overcome erroneous or superfluous contradictions in order to present to our world the requirement of the Gospel in its full greatness and purity.

The steps the Council took towards the modern era which had rather vaguely been presented as “openness to the world”, belong in short to the perennial problem of the relationship between faith and reason that is re-emerging in ever new forms. The situation that the Council had to face can certainly be compared to events of previous epochs.

In his First Letter, St Peter urged Christians always to be ready to give an answer (apo-logia) to anyone who asked them for the logos, the reason for their faith (cf. 3: 15).

This meant that biblical faith had to be discussed and come into contact with Greek culture and learn to recognize through interpretation the separating line but also the convergence and the affinity between them in the one reason, given by God.

When, in the 13th century through the Jewish and Arab philosophers, Aristotelian thought came into contact with Medieval Christianity formed in the Platonic tradition and faith and reason risked entering an irreconcilable contradiction, it was above all St Thomas Aquinas who mediated the new encounter between faith and Aristotelian philosophy, thereby setting faith in a positive relationship with the form of reason prevalent in his time. There is no doubt that the wearing dispute between modern reason and the Christian faith, which had begun negatively with the Galileo case, went through many phases, but with the Second Vatican Council the time came when broad new thinking was required.

Its content was certainly only roughly traced in the conciliar texts, but this determined its essential direction, so that the dialogue between reason and faith, particularly important today, found its bearings on the basis of the Second Vatican Council.

This dialogue must now be developed with great openmindedness but also with that clear discernment that the world rightly expects of us in this very moment. Thus, today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican Council:  if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.

Lastly, should I perhaps recall once again that 19 April this year on which, to my great surprise, the College of Cardinals elected me as the Successor of Pope John Paul II, as a Successor of St Peter on the chair of the Bishop of Rome? Such an office was far beyond anything I could ever have imagined as my vocation. It was, therefore, only with a great act of trust in God that I was able to say in obedience my “yes” to this choice. Now as then, I also ask you all for your prayer, on whose power and support I rely.

At the same time, I would like to warmly thank all those who have welcomed me and still welcome me with great trust, goodness and understanding, accompanying me day after day with their prayers.

Christmas is now at hand. The Lord God did not counter the threats of history with external power, as we human beings would expect according to the prospects of our world. His weapon is goodness. He revealed himself as a child, born in a stable. This is precisely how he counters with his power, completely different from the destructive powers of violence. In this very way he saves us. In this very way he shows us what saves.

In these days of Christmas, let us go to meet him full of trust, like the shepherds, like the Wise Men of the East. Let us ask Mary to lead us to the Lord. Let us ask him himself to make his face shine upon us. Let us ask him also to defeat the violence in the world and to make us experience the power of his goodness. With these sentiments, I warmly impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.

SOURCE 

END OF POST