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Why do we have priests?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 21, November 2014 Categories: Clergy

Priesthood in Roman Catholicism is rooted in two Old Testament images of priesthood. The first is the high priesthood of Moses' brother Aaron, which exercises three main responsibilities: worship and sacrifice, rendering the divine proclamation, and instruction of the people concerning divine law. The second image derives from God's covenant that names all of Israel a holy people, a royal priesthood. In the sacramental language of the church, the tri-fold leadership component of priesthood is bestowed with Holy Orders, while the corporate sense of priesthood springs from Baptism.

The Christian understanding of priesthood is grounded in Jesus, who is compared with the Levitical high priest in the exalted theology of the Letter to the Hebrews. First Peter also describes the church as a priesthood of believers. In the tradition of the early church, however, there were no individual priests to speak of. Perhaps the term seemed too confusing in a society already inhabited by Jewish and "pagan" priests. Instead, Christian leadership derived from the local bishop, who presided at Eucharist and provided guidance and governance. Each bishop was assisted by local presbyters, and as the church expanded territorially, the roles of presbyters stretched to include presiding at Eucharist. Priesthood, used at the end of the second century to describe the role of the bishop, gradually was extended to include the presbyterate. At this time episcopacy, presbyterate, and diaconate took on their normative divisions of responsibility.

After Constantine legalized Christianity in the 4th century, the orders of clergy took on a greater resemblance to hierarchies familiar to the Empire. Concurrently, the monastery phenomenon was growing in authority, and priesthood began to absorb the monastic ideal of separation from the lay state.

In medieval times, priesthood was increasingly identified with its liturgical powers in the Eucharist, minimizing its ministerial role and relationship to the community. After the Protestant Reformation rejected the non-biblical distinctions between clergy and laity, the Council of Trent (1545-63) upheld and strengthened them. The image of the Catholic priest was heavily reinforced in its distinctive character as the man set apart, both celibate and religious, who evokes the sacrifice of Christ in the actions of the liturgy and in his very being. It took a later Council, Vatican II, to reassert the dignity of the priesthood of the baptized, and to re-present priesthood as an extension of the bishop's pastoral ministry, locally expressed. The three-fold mission of preaching, sacramental ministry, and community leadership rebalanced the service of Holy Orders.

Scriptures: Exod 19:5-6; Deut 33:8-10; Letter to the Hebrews; 1 Pet 2:4-9

Books: The Theology of Priesthood - Donald Goergen, Ann Garrido, eds. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000)

Ministerial Priesthood in the Third Millennium - Ronald Witherup, et. al. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009)

Why do we "respect life"?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 17, November 2014 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
Second Vatican Council

From the opening pages of our scriptural tradition, we learn that life is a gift from God. Human life is literally animated with the divine breath, imparting a dignity to humanity that is indelible. For this reason, we declare that life is sacred, holy, participating in God's own life at its roots.

In the Bible we also learn that life is a choice, freely and fatefully determined: "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live by loving the LORD...." (Deut 30:19-20) Throughout the generations of the Bible, we come to appreciate that life is so precious to God that God will sustain, heal, and restore it when necessary. Jesus comes into the world as "the way, the truth, and the life," and offers himself as "the bread of life." (Jn 14:6; 6:35) In fact, because life has such significance, God proposes resurrection as the ultimate measure to preserve our lives for eternity.The motto "respect life" originated in the pro-life movement which sprung into action after the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in Roe v. Wade. This movement certainly found strong grounding in biblical tradition as well as church history. Its call to honor the human dignity and rights of every person also echoed teachings of the Second Vatican Council like Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the World). Church theologians later broadened the call to respect life by speaking of a "consistent ethic of life" that considers human dignity and rights at both ends of the spectrum and in every circumstance throughout life. This is sometimes referred to as the "seamless garment" ethic, a term popularized by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago.

A consistent ethic of life concerns itself with decisions pertaining to conception and child-bearing, as well as death and dying. It also considers justice issues like poverty, immigration, capital punishment, the conditions of warfare, a living wage, the treatment of workers, racism and prejudice, and any stance that threatens the dignity or rights of a person or group. It would be inconsistent to respect the right of every person to be born, and otherwise to deny certain people rights and dignity once they're among us.

The phrase "respect life" remains popularly associated with the pro-life (anti-abortion) movement. A consistent ethic of respect for the gift of life is not a boutique option for Christians, however, but central to our purpose.

Scriptures: Gen 2:7; Ps 36:10; Ezek 37:1-14; Jn 10:10; Rom 14:7-9; Gal 2:20

Books: The Consistent Ethic of Life - Thomas Nairn, ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008)

The Seamless Garment - Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008)

Why do we honor martyrs?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 10, November 2014 Categories: Church History
Michelangelo's Final Judgement

The word martyr means witness. To die in testifying to your faith unites the martyr to Christ in death as in life. Martyrdom was a common fate among the first Christians, who early on were victims of mob violence (as in the death accounts of the deacon Stephen and apostle James in Acts), and later executed en masse by order of the Empire in the third century. Documents such as The Martyrdom of Polycarp (157) and The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas (203) give us a good picture of what fidelity to the faith might cost in those generations. Constantine's Edict in 312 made Christianity lawful, after which the number of martyrs in the West precipitously declined.

Early Christians believed that the dead awaited the time of Final Judgment before attaining heaven. Martyrs, however, achieved heaven at once because of their deep communion with the death of Christ. Even if a martyr had not yet been baptized, their blood shed for the faith qualified as a form of baptism. Martyrs' graves became sites of pilgrimage and annual celebrations of Mass on their death anniversaries, including funerary banquets. Churches were built over their tombs. The relics of martyrs were honored and often relocated to other churches and basilicas. Such relics are still placed in altars today.

The idea of martyrdom as the ultimate form of Christian death made it prudent to discourage the provocation of martyrdom in some circumstances. Gradually the ascetic ideal of the monastery came to be viewed as "spiritual martyrdom" that was equally esteemed.

Christian martyrdom did not disappear from history after the fourth century, of course. In times and places where religion becomes politicized— Japan in the 16th century, Uganda in the 19th century, Mexico in the early 20th century, or the Middle East today—martyrdom resurfaces. The period of the Reformation saw both Protestant and Catholic martyrs who died for their doctrinal positions. Missionaries of every era face the possibility of death whenever they enter unfamiliar cultures where their motives are mistrusted.

In the modern era which is highly politicized, identifying martyrs among the faithful dead has become increasingly complicated. While the deaths of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany or Bishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador were clearly heroic, it's less clear to some whether they died as a result of their politics or their faith. Being declared an official church martyr may be beside the point. If we die with Christ, we are guaranteed to live with him.

Scripture: 2 Macc 6:18—7:42; Acts 6:8—8:1; 12:1-3; 2 Tim 2:11-12; Rev 7:13-17; 17:6

Books: The Big Book of Martyrs - John Wagner (New York: Paradox Press, 1997)

Christian Martyrs for a Muslim People - Martin McGee (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2008)

What is a patron saint?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 07, November 2014 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
St. Monica

Depending on the name we received at baptism, each of us has a special intercessor or protector in the heavenly communion known as our patron saint. The saint can also, technically, be an angel. But either way, having help on the celestial end of Christian reality is a distinct advantage.

The practice of selecting a patron has early roots in Christianity, as the catacombs make clear. When the mostly-adult converts of the Roman Empire were received into the church through baptism, they often took the names of apostles or early martyrs. The history of a particular patron might figure into the identification one felt with him or her: by manner of occupation, personal suffering shared, or desirable virtue to be emulated.

In time, the patronage of saints was extended to entire nations, professions, illnesses, or other special needs. Also, individual parishes and whole dioceses are given into the patronage of particular saints. In light of these layers of patrons, each of us probably has quite a few celestial personalities to call upon in time of need. 

If you're a United States citizen, you have the patronage of Mary under her title Immaculate Conception. If your home is in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, you have a link to Francis of Assisi as well. Your parish may be St. Gabriel's, so add an angel to your spiritual Rolodex. If you're a lawyer, you can call upon Thomas Moore. If you're a lawyer in San Quentin, you have the attention of Dismas, the "good thief" at Golgotha and patron of prisoners. Trouble with your eyes? Call on St. Lucy. Lose something? St. Anthony is your guy. Have a headache? Teresa of Avila can help. In desperate situations, keep St. Jude Thaddeus especially close. And if you ever get to go fishing again, Andrew the Apostle is at your service. Your baptismal name, or a variant of it, will tell you who your number one patron is.

Some of us have distinctly modern names that don't evoke our Christian ancestry. Families in recent times have unevenly considered the celestial partnership between the communion of saints in this world and the next. Yet in each generation, names tells us we belong somewhere: to this clan, that nationality or society. Some are named for no other purpose than fashion, or to engage a veneer of second-hand celebrity. If you don't seem to have a natural patron, by all means choose one. There are plenty standing by and at your service.


Scripture: significance of naming: Gen 2:19; 3:20; 17:5, 15-16; Exod 3:13-15; Matt 1:23; 16:17-18; Luke 1:59-66

Books: Dictionary of Patron Saints' Names - Thomas Sheehan (Huntingdon, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2001)

This Saint Will Change Your Life - Thomas Craughwell (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2011)

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Is there truth in other religions?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 23, September 2014 Categories: Church History,Doctrines & Beliefs,Ecumenism

World Religiions1
"In this age of ours, when men (sic) are drawing more closely together and the bonds of friendship between different peoples are being strengthened, the Church examines with greater care the relation which she has to non-Christian religions." So begins a breakthrough document from Vatican II, Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions). This statement released a theological revolution in 1965. Catholicism went on record calling the human family one community sharing a common destiny in God.

All religions seek answers to the great human questions about life, meaning, happiness, death, and mystery. To the extent they arrive at a revelation of the true God, they participate in truth known to the Christian faith. Nostra Aetate notes that Hinduism deeply respects meditation and divine mystery, expressed in stories and philosophies that support the ways of love. Buddhism critiques the present world's inadequacies and proposes disciplines to liberate the human spirit through compassion and mindfulness. Other religions of the world present a "program of life" inclusive of doctrines, moral precepts, and sacred rites. All of these assist human beings in the quest for God and truth and are therefore honorable.

 "The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions." (no. 2) This is a strong proclamation that deserves to be more widely known. It doesn't absolve the Church of its obligation to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, which it regards as the fullness of truth.

 Muslims have a great affinity with biblical religion as heirs to the faith of Abraham. Islam acknowledges one Creator God, almighty and merciful, who chooses to be revealed to humanity. Muslims honor Jesus as a prophet and Mary as a holy woman, and anticipate final judgment and the resurrection of the dead. They practice prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, all mutually esteemed by the Church.

Judaism is mentioned in Nostra Aetate and a second Council document, "Guidelines on Religious Relations with the Jews." Both affirm the intimate place of the Jewish people in the designs of God, never forsaken by the covenant which binds them for all time. Linked to Christians by biblical tradition; the Jewish leadership of the early church; liturgy, feasts, and ritual formulas—there is no room for discrimination or prejudice against the Jewish community. New global realities make dialogue and understanding between all who seek God a mandate for the future.

Scripture: Acts 16:26-27; Rom 2:6-8; Gal 3:7; Eph 2:14-18; 1 Tim 2:3-4

Books: No Religion Is an Island: The Nostra Aetate Dialogues - Edward Bristow (New York: Fordham University Press, 1998)

Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue (Rediscovering Vatican II) - Edward Idris Cassidy (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2005)

What do Catholics believe about war and peace?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 15, September 2014 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Mission & Evangelization,Church History

Church teaching on international order was first comprehensively presented in 1963, with Pope John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). It declares that peace can only be realized on earth if God's will regarding social obligations are established first. This document treats the imperative for observing human rights to food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care and other necessary services, linking these rights to duties. Pacem in Terris also obliges governments to serve the common good of their people, and asserts that nations have rights and duties that must be respected by other nations. Relationships among nations must operate in the spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and liberty.

Recognizing that problems between nations can surpass the ability of the nations in question to resolve them, Pacem in Terris calls for a collaborative worldwide authority to assist in finding effective solutions. The outline for peace on earth is therefore four-fold: between individuals, within nations, between nations, and across the planet altogether. Each has both rights and responsibilities to observe.

When war becomes a reality nonetheless, how are Catholics to respond? Until the time of Constantine in the 4th century, Christians did not take part in war. Origin took a dim few of soldiering and a brighter view of the contribution Christians made to society through prayer. Augustine introduced just war theory: that the use of force could be a legitimate response to evil if other means failed. In the Middle Ages, Franciscans and Protestant Waldenses started movements of nonparticipation in war craft. Later "peace churches" like Anabaptists, Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren emerged from these roots. When Pope Paul VI became the first pope to speak to the United Nations, his declaration—"No more war! War never again!"—reflected his experiences in the two devastating wars of Europe. It also reflected a growing emphasis in church teaching that the morality of war in the modern military age often nullifies the old criteria for just war, since the waging of such war creates as much evil as it seeks to curtail.

Church teaching since Vatican II doesn't forbid Catholics military involvement. It does praise all who renounce violent means. It recommends thoughtful consideration of just war principles in the decision to take up arms. Catholic organizations like Pax Christi are dedicated to the peaceful resolution of world conflicts. But the discernment of the individual remains an open question.

Scriptures: Hos 2:14-23Ps 85:10-11Isa 9:6; Lk 1:79; Matt 2:13-145:5-9Jn 14:27Eph 2:13-22

Books: After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice - Mark Allman and Tobias Winright (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2010)

Christian Peace and Non-Violence: A Documentary History - Michael Long, ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000)

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Why do some buildings have feast days?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 11, August 2014 Categories: Liturgy,Church History

St. John Lateran Basilica                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               To be exact, three days on the liturgical calendar honor buildings—and another celebrates a chair. Since most Catholics think of feast days as memorials of saints and martyrs, the notion of venerating places and furniture can sound more than a little odd.

The church calendar also recalls important revelatory events in the life of Jesus like Epiphany, the Ascension, or his Baptism; a theological "feast" celebrating God as Trinity; sacramental celebrations like the Body and Blood of Christ; and birthdays like the Nativity of John the Baptist, Mary, and Jesus. Marian days include title feasts for names under which we honor Mary, including Our Lady of the Rosary and the acknowledgment of her Queenship.

So not all feast days honor saints, and not all focus specifically on people. Back to celebrations of "things." The three buildings plus chair annually honored are as follows: the Dedications of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Aug 5), Basilica of St. John Lateran (Nov 9), the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles (Nov 18), and the Chair of Peter (Feb 22).

The four patriarchal basilicas are ancient in origin, and are all in Rome. The Lateran is important as the episcopal seat of the bishop of Rome, a.k.a. the Pope's cathedral, and is the highest-ranking Catholic church. Originally the property of the Laterani family, it was called the Church of the Savior after being donated to the Church by Constantine in the 4th century. The pope's official residence was on the grounds of this basilica until 1309 when papal offices moved to Avignon. The Lateran was damaged by earthquakes (in 443 and 896), barbarian invasions (455 and the 700s), and fires (1308 and 1360). It was rededicated to St. John the Baptist after the rebuild of 905, and for its many resurrections is symbolic of the Church's resilience through history.

St. Mary Major was built in the 4th century, according to legend, after snow fell on the site in August. It was formerly known as Our Lady of the Snows. St. Peter's Basilica was built over the crypt where Peter is believed to be buried. Over 130 popes also rest there. St. Paul's Outside the Walls honors the relics of Paul. The Chair of Peter, housed at the Vatican, is a wooden throne gifted to the pope in 875. It represents the fullness of papal authority derived from "sitting in Peter's seat."

Scriptures: Isa 2:1-5; Matt 21:12-13; 1 Cor 3:9-17; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:19-22

Books: The Jubilee Guide to Rome: The Four Basilicas, the Great Pilgrimage - Andrea Braghin et. al. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1998)

The Major Basilicas of Rome - Roberta Vicchi (New York: Scala Press, 1999)

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How do you figure Transfiguration?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 11, August 2014 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Scripture
Christ at the Transfiguration
Transfiguration, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Toledo  (Flickr)

This question engages Scripture scholars and casual gospel readers alike. The Transfiguration is easy enough to describe: Jesus the teacher and miracle worker is suddenly and visibly changed on a mountaintop. He is revealed to his three closest disciples as a heavenly-connected personality claimed by a celestial voice as the Beloved Son. Jewish scholars also note that the other two heavenly beings appearing with Jesus—Moses and Elijah—shared with Jesus special roles in the age to come because of their unique end-of-life celestial "translations". This event seems more like the metamorphoses of gods familiar to Greco-Roman mythology than the Jewish tradition, however. So what's it doing in the New Testament?

First thing to note: Gospel Greek deliberately avoids the term metamorphosis in this account, an attempt to sever any "pagan"
comparison. The brilliance of Jesus' face recalls the radiance of Moses after his mountaintop communication with the Divine. The enveloping cloud also echoes the Sinai experience, and Peter's suggestion of booths or tents evokes the Tent of Meeting where Moses later encountered the Holy Presence. The simultaneous appearance of Moses and Elijah, representatives of Law and Prophecy, serve as firm anchors to the Hebrew story. No reference outside the tradition is intended or necessary.

But what are we to take away from this event? Scholars offer three possibilities. One is that this event, first noted in Mark and later retold in Matthew and Luke, is Mark's misplaced resurrection story. Early versions of Mark did not include the resurrection narrative, so this story might have been intended to foreshadow the hope of Easter. The second idea is that this story is a theological reflection of the first-generation church: a symbolic way of reconstructing what Jesus meant to them—and to us. He is the New Moses, the ultimate Prophet, the Teacher-Messiah anticipated by both Moses and the prophets.

The third theory is that the Transfiguration is a private vision Peter had—perhaps on the feast of Tabernacles or Booths while reading the appropriate Scriptures—in which the truth about Jesus "came together" for him, before or even well after Easter. Both the gospels and the Second Letter of Peter suggest that Peter had a special understanding of this event that carried with him into anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus. Saint Paul goes further to declare that we will ALL be transfigured if we keep our sights trained on Christ.


Scripture: Mk 9:1-13; Matt 17:1-13; Lk 9:28-36;Deut. 18:15; Exod. 24:15-16; 34: 29, 35; Lev. 23:42; 2 Kgs 2:11; 2 Cor 3:18; 2 Pet. 1:16-18; see also Jn 12:28-30

Books: Rooted in Detachment: Living the Transfiguration - Kenneth Stevenson (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2007)

Seeing the Word: The Transfiguration (The Saint John's Bible series) - (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2010)

What is the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 20, June 2014 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Immaculate Heart of Mary2
FLORES Santa Marta by Juan J. Prieto Iglesias

Also known as the Holy Heart of Mary, the Immaculate Heart of Mary devotion has its origins in early writings about Mary's maternal love for her son which is mirrored in her love for the church. By the Middle Ages many prayers and much theological attention was given to the heart of Mary open to the world as the mother of mercy.

The image varies in its details, although Mary's heart is always externally perceptible and is generally wreathed with roses and radiant with fire or light. The image sometimes includes a small sword driven through her heart or seven smaller daggers piercing her heart. These recall the prediction of Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary's heart in her union with her son. The multiplication of swords to seven recalls a tradition of Mary's seven sorrows from medieval times popularized by the Servite order.

Seventeenth-century French missionary Saint John Eudes linked the devotion to that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Eudes wrote of the mystical union between the hearts of the Son and his Mother: "You must never separate what God has so perfectly united. So closely are Jesus and Mary bound up with each other that whoever beholds Jesus sees Mary; whoever loves Jesus, loves Mary; whoever has devotion to Jesus, has devotion to Mary." As a result of his teachings we often find these two images paired in portraits of open and accessible hearts on fire in similar poses.

The feast was first celebrated liturgically in 1648 as a result of Eudes' promotion. Pope Pius VII authorized the devotion altogether in 1805. Attraction to the Immaculate Heart soared after the Fatima apparitions in 1917 in which it was reported that the Virgin Mary herself invited the church to contemplate this image and its implications. The feast of the Immaculate Heart was originally added to the universal calendar in 1944 on August 22—although that date is now reserved for the memorial of the Queenship of Mary. The memorial of the Immaculate Heart has been moved to the Saturday immediately following the solemnity of the Sacred Heart in June.

Just as Sacred Heart devotions involve commemorations on the First Fridays of every month, Immaculate Heart devotions are celebrated on the First Saturdays. The practice includes receiving the sacrament of reconciliation and Holy Communion on five consecutive First Saturdays as well as reciting five decades of the rosary and meditating on the mysteries.

Luke 2:22-35, 43-45; 1:46-55; Matthew 2:13; John 19:26-27

"Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary" by Father Matthew R. Mauriello

Into the Heart of Mary: Imagining Her Scriptural Stories by Rea McDonnell, S.S.N.D. (Ave Maria Press)
The Seven Sorrows of Mary: A Meditative Guide by Joel Giallanza, C.S.C. (Ave Maria Press)
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What is the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 11, June 2014 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality

Sacred Heart2
The image of the open, accessible heart of Jesus on fire and often pierced by thorns is both ancient and modern. Since the Middle Ages mystics like Julian of Norwich, Frances of Rome, Bonaventure, Mechtild, and Gertrude had ecstatic experiences of the love of Jesus described as both fiery and wounded.

These aren't fanciful or subjective descriptions. In the gospels Jesus presents his heart as the focus of instruction for his disciples: "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matthew 11:29). Jesus also tells them he's come to set the earth on fire: "And how I wish it were already blazing!" (Luke 12:49) Later in the Passion stories Mark and Matthew depict Jesus bruised by a crown plaited from thorns, and John's gospel reports the heart of Jesus being pierced with a lance to ensure he's dead before his body can be removed from the cross. The image of a fiery, wounded heart is a conflation of these details that have come to embody the love of God as incarnated by Jesus.

Scripture scholar Stephen Binz notes: "In the biblical writings, the heart is the center of the person, the core of one's inner life and personality. It is the source of one's deepest motivation, decisions, memories, and desires. For this reason, the heart is the place in which a person encounters God." By means of the image of the Sacred Heart, the encounter between the divine heart and ours is mutual.

Carthusian monks of the 16th century and missionary Jesuits promoted the image. Religious orders dedicated to the Sacred Heart sprang up everywhere on the mission trails. Seventeenth-century French missionary Saint John Eudes was the first to give a substantial theology to the devotion, and so the image as we know it today is often attributed to him. In the same century cloistered sister and mystic Margaret Mary Alacoque began having visions which included private revelations of a devotional regimen dedicated to the Sacred Heart. The reception of Holy Communion on the First Fridays of every month, a holy hour of Eucharistic adoration on Thursdays, and honoring the image of the Sacred Heart in every Catholic home grew from the popularity of her revelations.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was first officially celebrated in 1765. This solemnity is observed on the Friday after the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus in June. The entire month of June is also dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 11:29; 27:29; Mark 15:17; Luke 12:49; John 19:33-37; Revelation 1:7

"The Sacred Heart of Jesus" and "An Introduction to the Spirituality of the Heart" from the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
"History of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus"

The Sacred Heart of Jesus (Threshold Bible Study) by Stephen J. Binz (Twenty-Third Publications)
A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
by James Kubicki, S.J. (Ave Maria Press)

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What is humility?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 16, May 2014 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Doctrines & Beliefs
HumilityHumility is just about the exact opposite of everything you see in the world nowadays! Our 21st-century moxie is entirely egocentric. As the T-shirt says, "It's all about me." So to discover the essentials of humility, you have to experiment with self-emptying and change the channel from us to the Ultimate Other.

Here's a channel-changer. In describing the virtue of humility, the Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Saint Augustine's saying: "Man is a beggar before God." Pride leads you to exalt yourself, rely on your own resources, and claim your own achievements. By contrast humility recognizes that everything comes from God and belongs to God. Therefore to God alone go all praise, honor, and glory.

When you begin with God and not with yourself, your perspective on reality does a dramatic shift. God's will comes first. "Not my will, but yours be done," as Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. The radical humility of the Son of God is echoed in the submission of his mother to that same divine will in the story of the Annunciation: "Let it be done to me according to your word."

Love also begins from God and is not initiated from your personal well of goodness. "God is love," John's first letter declares. Therefore: "We love because God first loved us."

Life itself has its genesis in God—hence the name of the Bible's first book. When you choose the perspective of a humble heart, you become aware that your proper orientation as creatures should be one of obedience—that is, attentive listening—to God's call rather than egoistic self-determination. It's precisely the attitude of obedience that led to the salvation of the world, as Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the community at Philippi: "[Jesus] humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." Paul explains that humility means putting other people ahead of yourself, thinking of their needs rather than monologuing about yours. That is so countercultural, jaws will drop whenever you attempt it.

Yet humility was the avenue of the saints that got them where they were going. Abbot Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was so convinced of its necessity that he urged his monks to adopt the four most important virtues: "Humility, humility, humility, and humility." Take it from Jesus, Mary, the the gospel evangelists, and the saints: If you're not coming from humility, you're not going anywhere in the spiritual life.

Mark 14:35-36; Luke 1:38; 18:9-14; Philippians 2:3-11.

The Way of Humility by André Louf, O.S.C.O. (Cistercian Publications)
The Way of Humility by Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio (Pope Francis) (Ignatius Press)
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Is it possible to prove the existence of God?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 06, May 2014 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Church History,Doctrines & Beliefs
Thomas Aquinas
by Fra Bartolomeo

This modern question has a medieval backwater through which we must wade to consider a coherent response. Ancient peoples rarely questioned the existence of a divine being (or beings), although they often wondered whether the Deity was rooting for or against humanity in any given circumstance. Even as late as the Middle Ages, the theologians who posited arguments for God's existence didn't personally question the matter: They were merely tying up loose philosophical ends. Eleventh-century Saint Anselm was first, offering an ontological proof—that is, a proof based on the meaning of the term "God": If we can imagine the greatest reality which is God, and a real thing is greater than an imaginary thing, then God must be that real and not only imaginary greatness.

Two centuries later Saint Thomas Aquinas raised five proofs for God's existence— motion, causality, possibility and necessity, gradations, and governance—each of which follows a similar argument. Take motion, for example: When something moves, there is a mover that causes the motion. God is the First Mover that set everything in motion. Or consider causation: Actions have consequences, but somewhere there is a Cause which originally caused everything else. Or gradation: A good thing points to a better, which presumes a best. God is that which is Best.
Arguments like these are philosophically neat, but they didn't withstand the keen rational edge of the 18th-century Enlightenment gang. In Philosophy 101 courses every student learns how David Hume and Immanuel Kant discovered flaws in the medieval proofs. Kant, at least, saw the idea of God as necessary for morality to be possible. In the same period William Paley argued for God's existence from the intricate design of the world, which presumes a grand Designer the way a watch found on a beach presumes that someone left it there because it didn't just spring from the sand. This proof isn't really much distinct from the Aquinas approach.

The Bible offers no proofs for God's existence. As a product of revelation, it seeks to tell us about God's nature, not to prove that God is real. Revelation is abundantly useful for people of faith and quite problematic to people without it. So when the church says that the Creator can be known from creation, that is a statement of how God can be understood by those who seeking understanding. It doesn't suggest how God can be rationally proven to those who are skeptical of the religious enterprise altogether.

Mark 10:51-52; 11:22-24; Luke 11:9-13; 2 Corinthians 5:7

Thomas Aquinas, "Reasons in Proof of the Existence of God" from the Summa Theologia

An Introduction to Catholic Theology by Richard Lennan (Paulist Press)
Spirituality Seeking Theology by Roger Haight (Orbis Books, 2014)

How “Roman” is the Roman Catholic Church?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 30, April 2014 Categories:
St. Peter's SquareView of St. Peter's Square in Rome.

How “Roman” is the Roman Catholic Church? And “Why is it Roman at all?” is an equally good question, considering that Christianity started in Palestine. Even before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and the essential ruin of that city by Rome in the year 70 A.D., many Jewish Christians had already moved on. Paul was all over Asia Minor with the gospel of course, and early church tradition has it that Peter was in Rome by 42 A.D., in a loose sense “governing” the nascent church from the center of the present Empire for 25 years before being martyred in a wider purge by Roman authorities in 67 A.D. Since then 263 men have succeeded him (not counting rivals to Peter’s Chair known as antipopes), and most of them have ruled and died in Rome.

Some popes were sent into exile from Rome by disgruntled emperors. A few 13th-century popes never managed to get to Rome before their deaths. And some in the 14th century, during the so-called “Babylonian Captivity” of the papacy, preferred their palace in Avignon, France. But for most of the past 2,000 years, popes have not only ruled from Rome but ruled Rome itself. It’s no wonder that 124 popes were born there.

The papacy, however, never presumed to be an Italian privilege. It’s important to remember that Italy as a nation is a relatively new development. As historian Paul Johnson puts it, “Italy” was a world unto itself, a microcosm of the global society, a collection of city-states that resisted nationhood from the time of the Roman Empire until the late 18th century. Because of that, many popes, especially early on, had origins elsewhere: Palestine and the Near East (9); Greece and France (17 each); Germany (6); Africa (3); lands of the Goths and Sardinia (2 each); and at least one pope from Hungary, England, Portugal, and Poland. Not to mention a recently elected Italian from Argentina.

Rome always understood itself as a city without national confines, which is why popes address an annual message urbi et orbi: to the city and the world. Official documents still use Latin, the language of the Empire. Certain ritten mandates are called bulls (from bulla, for documents “sealed” by the Emperor). The papal pallium worn by the pope was part of the Roman imperial insignia. In fact, until the Lateran Treaty of 1929 recognized the "sovereign independence of the Holy See,” the Vatican did not acknowledge the Italian state. However global its responsibility and authority, the church’s Roman-ness isn’t fading anytime soon.

Matt. 16:18-19; 28:16-20; Acts 28:11-31; the Letter to the Romans

The Vatican by Michael Collins (DK Adults)
A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Presentby John W. O’Malley (Sheed and Ward)

How do can you deal with sinful thoughts?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 22, April 2014 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

I'd like to introduce the word temptation into the discussion. Say, for example, you see something desirable in a store and are seized with the impulse to take it. While having the thought cross your mind isn't sinful in itself, the contents of the thought are unethical and could lead to actions that are properly the realm of sin. Because thoughts are the starting point of action, Jesus said the contents of your heart are a matter for concern. When you hate, you are already on the road to murder. When you lust, you are already on the path of sexual impropriety. When you think about stealing, you have awakened the spirit of greed.

So when confronted with the so-called sinful thought, the goal is not to entertain it. Deliberately choosing to mull over the idea and spending time on developing the outcome gives temptation a chance to root down and develop into tangible action. A fleeting thought becomes an occasion of sin when you cultivate and enjoy the fantasy of stealing, causing injury to an enemy, or ravishing the stranger or coworker. Therefore it's appropriate to identify a thought as sinful at once and by its proper name: Hello, Greed! Here's that old serpent Lust again! Why, Envy, long time no see! Anger, my old friend, sorry you can't stay long. Most of the thoughts you term sinful have a root in one or more of the seven “capital” sins: pride, greed, anger, envy, lust, sloth, and gluttony.

Once you name a fleeting impulse properly, you can do what Jesus did when confronted by a tempting idea: banish it with authority. We see how this works in a gospel scene where Saint Peter suggests that Jesus doesn't have to suffer in order to fulfill his mission. Not willing to escape the reality of his redeeming role even for a moment, Jesus cries: "Get behind me, Satan!" If the spirit of evil has a long history in you and won't retreat easily, you can do what the apostles did: invoke the authority of Jesus: "In the name of Jesus Christ, get lost!" Jesus also notes that some forms of evil have great staying power and can only be driven out by prayer. When dealing with addictive forms of temptation, communal support as found in recovery programs may also be useful.

Genesis 3; Matthew 6:13; 16:21-23; Mark 14:38; Luke 4:1-13

Support for the obsessively scrupulous person at Scrupulous Anonymous

Freedom from Sinful Thoughts by J. Heinrich Arnold (Ploughshare Publishing)
Understanding Scrupulosity: Questions, Helps, and Encouragement by Thomas M. Santa, C.Ss.R. (Liguori Publications

What is virtue?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 14, April 2014 Categories: Church History,Doctrines & Beliefs
VIRTUES trampling vices from Strasbourg Cathedral.

The 4th-century bishop Gregory of Nyssa described the aim of the virtuous life as "to become like God." That may sound intimidating as a life goal, but it's certainly moving in the best possible direction. Virtue comes from the Latin word for "force" and you can think of it as the driving force of good behavior. The more we exercise a particular virtue, the more habit-forming it becomes. Because the same is true of vice, choosing to create easy habits of virtue is a better match for the Christian life.

The church speaks of four cardinal ("hinge") virtues upon which a moral lifestyle depends. These are prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Prudence is the pilot virtue: It guides you in discerning what the right course of action is. It relies on habits of prayer, reflection, and spiritual counsel. Justice is pro-active in seeing that relationships between individuals, or between society and individuals, are correctly enacted. Justice is especially concerned with the common good—that what emerges from a course of action brings about the best for all concerned.

Fortitude is the strength that enables you to persevere in right actions despite opposition, suffering, and temptation. Temperance is the virtue Saint Paul often calls self-control or modesty. It is the mastery of the self that releases you from slavery to the senses or passions so that you can choose your way with the freedom of the children of God.

Along with the cardinal virtues, the church has identified three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love. Saint Paul defines them as the three things that last when the whole world passes away. As the term theological suggests, these three pertain to God because they begin with divine instigation, are motivated by the Spirit, and seek God as their ultimate end. Faith means trusting in God with every life decision—not simply believing doctrinal statements about God. Hope enables you to look beyond your present circumstances, no matter how troubling or limiting, into future "Kingdom" realities confidently. Love, the "greatest" virtue according to Paul, is also the one that binds the rest together. The best definition for the practice of love remains Paul's wonderful passage in 1 Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind."

Wisdom 8:7; Romans 5:1-2; 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13; Colossians 3:15; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 10:23

The virtues in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Good Life: Where Morality & Spirituality Converge by Father Richard Gula, S.S. (Paulist Press)
Everyday Virtues
by John W. Crossin (Paulist Press)

Does God get angry?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 01, April 2014 Categories: Scripture,Doctrines & Beliefs

Does God have emotions like ours? As God is the great Unseen, it's impossible to guess. What the Bible does reveal is that Jesus, the divine Son, enjoyed the full complement of human feelings while in our human midst. These included love and friendship, pain and fear, amusement and frustration, and certainly anger. The righteous anger of Jesus is demonstrated in several memorable events, like the cleansing of the Temple, the rebuke of Peter with the words "get behind me, Satan!", or the denunciation of the "whitewashed tombs" of the Pharisees and scribes whose religious example was largely hypocrisy.

The Bible does have a lot to say about what we popularly describe as the wrath of God. While it's easy to interpret that as divine outrage, it's properly understood as an expression of divine justice. Because we get even when we get mad, it's not instinctive for us to imagine that God is simply about the business of restoring justice by means of judgment. We're convinced God must be "punishing" us because he's really, really mad. In the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, God's wrath is directed sometimes at the enemies of God's people and sometimes at the people themselves—depending on who's in the wrong. Historical books like Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah hold plenty of examples of God's wrath, sometimes described as a future "day" when divine debts will be settled.

Job mentions God's wrath nine times; the psalms refer to it 25 times. The theme of divine wrath is developed most powerfully in the prophetic tradition, where it comes up 85 times. Even Isaiah, the prophet of soft themes like “Emmanuel” and the faithful servant, mentions God's wrath 17 times. Meanwhile Ezekiel, who never shrinks from wild expressions, brings up divine wrath 28 times.

Compare these numbers with the gospels, where God's wrath is mentioned exactly four times over four accounts—a dramatic reduction. While Pauline letters return to the wrath theme 15 times, many of those refer to judgment rendered to those who trust in the law, which they cannot hope to fulfill, rather than Christ, who bears the burden for us. Revelation, the big book of judgment, mentions divine wrath a relatively slender 13 times and restoration at least as often. The Wisdom tradition (Proverbs, Sirach, Wisdom) and later writings contain references to wrath, but it's often that of kings, criminals, and family members as much as of God. The biblical bottom line seems to be that God's anger is nothing to worry about. God's justice, however, is a much greater concern.

Exodus 32:10-12; 34:6-7; Joshua 22:20; 1 Samuel 28:18; Isaiah 63:3-6; Matthew 3:7; 16:21-23; 23:13-36; Luke 21:23; John 2:13-25; 3:36

A Faith That Frees: Catholic Matters for the 21st Century by Richard Malloy (Orbis Books)
A Worker Justice Reader, edited by Kim Bobo (Orbis Books)

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Why do we have a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 24, March 2014 Categories: Sacraments,Doctrines & Beliefs,Liturgy
 RCIA symbols
To those who recall a time before 1988—the year when the church mandated the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults for every parish—the RCIA feels like a new thing Catholics are doing. Actually it's a very old thing the church ceased to do long ago and decided to revive for good reasons.

These days we number seven discreet sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Penance, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. This list was codified at the 16th-century Council of Trent, when many church practices were enshrined to define Catholicism against its rivals during the Protestant Reformation. Inadvertently that led to a loss of the interconnectedness of all sacramental actions: the relationship between the “healing sacraments,” for example, or the mutual dignity of the “vocation sacraments.” Above all, parsing distinct sacramental theologies broke the integrity of the “initiating sacraments”: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. These were originally inseparable events which the RCIA process seeks to restore in the Catholic consciousness.

From the time of the early church it was understood that Baptism confers the Holy Spirit on the recipient, as the New Testament frequently attests. The activity of the Spirit is the "confirmation" the initiate now shares with the whole church. To withhold that sign for years, as we routinely do with children who receive Confirmation a decade or more after Baptism, creates a chasm in understanding this sacramental pairing. It's why some theologians call Confirmation "a sacrament in search of a meaning."

Similarly, once a person is baptized and confirmed, he or she is eligible for full participation in the life of the church–including a place at the Table of the Lord. The early church rightly understood the three initiating rites as a single event to be celebrated together after the proper season of preparation. What the modern RCIA process does is restore the period of preparation and the natural integrity of these sacramental actions. It gives us all a richer understanding of what these sacraments mean, even if we didn't receive them in a threefold way ourselves.

The modern church has yet to figure out how all this should work in light of infant baptism, practiced with urgency since the 4th-century development of the doctrine of original sin. Right now children receive slivers of membership until maturity, as the church "supplies" their faith by proxy until they're fully catechized.

Acts 2:41-47; 19:1-6; Romans 6:3-11; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27-29

Explanation of the RCIA from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Heart of Faith: A Field Guide for Catechumens and Candidates by Nick Wagner (Twenty-Third Publications, 2010)
Invitation to Catholicism by Alice Camille (ACTA Publications)

Why do we fast?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 07, March 2014 Categories: Scripture,Doctrines & Beliefs

Religious Fasting
Why fast? Survival requires us to eat and drink. When we refrain from these most basic activities, it reminds us that "we do not live by bread alone." Fasting provides you with an opportunity to affirm your faith in God's providential care. It's the most direct act of faith you can make.

Fasting as a spiritual practice falls into the category of sacrifice, which has a long biblical tradition. Ancient peoples gave over the first fruits of their harvests and the choicest animals of each herd in seasonal, ritual sacrifices to God. These were sometimes burned, sometimes consumed by the priests (who were landless and had no other source of income), and sometimes shared with the entire community in celebration of the abundance God provides. As in other acts of religious sacrifice, fasting takes something away: in this case, the prerogative to sustain yourself at will. Surrendering this freedom for a predetermined period of time fortifies humility and reminds you of your vulnerability and weakness.

Fasting stirs you to contemplate justice. Many in this world go without food routinely. How might you respond to their need with charity, in service, or by changing systems and choices?

Fasting motivates you to pray in a deeper, richer way. The spirit of humility and the call to almsgiving that self-denial initiates in you enhances your prayer. It removes the barriers of false pride and possessiveness that can diminish prayer or make it superficial. Fasting makes you ready to get real with God.

Nobody enjoys giving up the freedom to eat, even when it's a short-lived preparation for a medical procedure or a voluntary "cleanse" of the body. Because you don't want to do it, it's regarded as a penitential practice. It enables you to enter into solidarity with the sinner as well as your hungry sisters and brothers. Just as you're tempted to break the fast and eat, others are tempted to actions that are personally or communally destructive. Resistance is a symbolic resistance for the sake of those who are led into temptation.

When you think of everything fasting can do—encourage fidelity and humility, awaken the spirit of justice, enhance prayer, assist those who are tempted—the question becomes: why not fast?

Deuteronomy 8:3; 1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 1:12; Ezra 8:21; Joel 1:14; Jonah 3:5-10; Luke 4:3-4; Acts 9:9

Fasting by Carol Garibaldi Rogers (Sorin Books)
The Spirituality of Fasting: Rediscovering a Christian Practice
by Charles M Murphy (Ave Maria Press)

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What are the qualifications for being pope?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Monday 24, February 2014 Categories:
POPE Francis: Qualified.
If you’re considering the position, I recommend starting your preparation early; in fact, adolescence is not too soon: The youngest pope, Benedict IX, was 15 when elected in 1032, but as BIX abdicated at age 27, a youthful beginning does not promise a lengthy papacy. The papal bell curve doesn’t seem to favor either end of the age spectrum generally. Only five popes to date have been 80 or older out of the starting gate. The average pope across history was 55 when he began his service to the church in that capacity. But remember: People didn’t always enjoy the longevity they do now. These days popes typically begin in their 50s, 60, and 70s. For the record, 14 popes ruled for less than a month, and the longest-reigning one, Pius IX, lived for 31 years and seven months in that role.

So what should you do in the meantime to get ready for the role? Some popes were laymen (I should note: Being male improves your chances for election considerably, notwithstanding the long-held legendary attraction of Pope Joan), but the vast majority were ordained. So priesthood is a plus, topped off with a wonderful Roman education at a pontifical institute of learning, a high-level job in one of the offices of the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy, and doing time in highly visible diocesan chanceries in large cities. Attaining the status of bishop and cardinal tremendously increases your odds even though it’s not required by church law.

Medieval and renaissance popes had the advantages of coming from princely or aristocratic Roman families, but never mind if you don’t have a fine pedigree. Sixtus V was the son of a laundress, and Pius X the child of a seamstress. A few popes were renowned preachers, like the Franciscan Sixtus IV, and others were learned as lawyers, professors, and poets. But as many had their beginnings as monks, anchorites, even a hermit—though that latter didn’t work out so well when Celestine V, elected against his will at age 85 in 1294, abdicated after six months to return to his hermitage.

In centuries past it was helpful to know how to organize a crusade or at least to command an army, though that’s no longer a particularly useful papal skill. In the 10th century being wicked wasn’t a deal-breaker, but most popes have been well-meaning men and more than a few were martyred or popularly acclaimed as saints.

On skills needed for leadership: Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 8:34-36; 9:33-37; 10:42-45; Luke 22:24-30; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Timothy 3:1-7

"24 popes, some good, in years leading up to first millennium" by Joseph Gallagher, National Catholic Reporter, 3/17/95

By Eamon Duffy: Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes and Ten Popes Who Shook the World (both from Yale University Press)
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Is it OK for Christians to be rich?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Saturday 08, February 2014 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Doctrines & Beliefs
Stacks of Benjamins

Wealthy folks have told me they reject Christianity categorically because it's a religion for poor people. The gospel, however, is for "all the world," including every zip code. The task for rich Christians is to make sure that the distance between zip codes isn't so vast that the wealthy forget their commitments to the disadvantaged.

The suspicion that the well-to-do aren't welcome among the people of God doesn't come from the Old Testament. In biblical theology prosperity was a key way Israel's God was understood to demonstrate who the righteous were. Even within the ancient "prosperity gospel," however, was an admonition to care for the stranger, widow, and orphan—those most at risk in society. Practices like gleaning leftovers in the fields, community-wide festival days, and jubilee remittance of debts were ways Hebrew society provided for all its members and sought to restore the balance when the gap between haves and have-nots became too wide.

The writing prophets of the 9th through 5th centuries B.C. were very vocal about the plight of the poor and the responsibility of the rich precisely because this balance had not been maintained. The wider the chasm between a society's privileged and needy classes, the louder the prophetic call for justice became.

Jesus does come among us as a poor man without property or high station. Through him God chooses to identify with the vulnerable who also have no place to lay their heads at night. The Gospel of Luke is particularly strident in its reprimands to the wealthy class—an indication that "Theophilus," to whom this gospel is addressed, is a well-heeled Greek or representative of a community of Greeks for whom the urgent call to establish justice is especially appropriate. Stories like that of the rich man who came to Jesus and went away sad; of Zacchaeus who actively cheated his neighbors; or that of the rich man who ignored poor Lazarus to his peril, were alarms intended for Luke's target audience. None of these stories condemn the reality of wealth, but all compel the listener to make better choices.

It's the love of money, not proximity to it, that's defined as the root of all evil. In this sense the poor are just as likely to fall into the idolatry of money as the rich are. If "in God we trust" is really your motto, giving some coins away won't hurt.

Proverbs 29:7, 14; 30:7-9; Sirach 4:1-10; 13:23; 27:1-3; 34:21-22; Amos 6:1-11; Luke 21:1-4; 1 Corinthians 11:18-29; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; James 2:1-13; 5:1-6

Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium

The Moral Measure of the Economy by Chuck Collins and Mary Wright (Orbis Books)
All They Want Is My Money? Tips for Stewardship
by Patricia Rice (Liguori Publications)

What is the Roman Catholic view of work?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Thursday 23, January 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Scripture,Doctrines & Beliefs

Consider what we’re doing right now. You want to learn something. I need to earn something. What you learn and I earn in this exchange is good for both of us and by extension for our families and communities and our employers. It honors the dignity of the human need to grow and produce, contribute and participate. In that sense, God, who spent the first six days of the world working and who made us in the divine image, gives us the vocation of work as our contribution to the ongoing creation of the world.

CATHOLIC teaching supports the dignity and
well-being of workers, including their safety.
Credit: GRP Technique & Service, Dresden.

People often think of work as that dreaded something they have to do. The church teaches that work is a human right and also a duty. It’s good for individuals and good for society—that is, it serves the common good. Three conditions are imperative for the dignity of labor: that what is produced is not more important than the person producing it; that work contributes to the unity of society and doesn’t tear it down; and that workers have a say in what they’re doing and the conditions under which they do it.

If that sounds incompatible with certain present economic formulas, that's because it is, or can be. Here church social teaching meets and debates with the marketplace. Since the time of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter Rerum Novarum, Catholic social doctrine has emphasized that economies ruled strictly by supply-and-demand, exalting product-derived wealth over every other consideration, are not compatible with Christian principles. People have obligations to each other: to work hard and honestly and to make their best contribution to their employer, coworkers, and community.

At the same time, the employer has responsibilities, too: for workers’ safety and welfare, to pay a just wage which provides a fair living for employees and their families, and to permit the organization of unions. The state likewise owes the worker legal protections. Workers are not means to an end; rather, their dignity is the end, and that’s safeguarded only when their livelihood is.

Catholic social teaching rejects a pure market standard; insists on a living family wage; questions great compensation disparities between the highest and lowest salaries in an organization; challenges discrimination in hiring and wages; is concerned with workplace conditions; and addresses the right to nonsalary benefits like accessible health care. In Pope John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical On Human Work, written on the 90th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, he examines not only the dilemmas of the modern corporate world of work but also explores the spirituality of work as it enhances shared human life.

Genesis 1:27; 2:1-3; Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Psalm 62:11; Matthew 6:19-21, 24; 20:1-16; Luke 10:7; 12:16-21; 1 Timothy 5:18; 6:8-10, 17-19

On Human Work (Laborem Exercens) by Pope John Paul II

From the Heart of the Church: The Catholic Social Tradition by Sister Judith A. Merkle, S.S.N.deN. (Liturgical Press, 2004)
Spirituality@Work by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce (Loyola Press, 2005)

What is Baptism?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 08, January 2014 Categories: Sacraments,Doctrines & Beliefs
Catholic Baptism (Gianni/Flickr)

Let's start with a misconception about Baptism: that it's some sort of "blessed insurance" for the afterlife. For the record, the church doesn't teach that baptism gets you into heaven any more than it says it definitively slams the door on those who are not baptized. So, if it doesn't guarantee salvation, what does it do?

Since the earliest generation of the church, baptism was regarded as the rite of membership in the Body of Christ. According to Saint Paul, it makes us one with Christ as surely as it provides us with the indwelling Holy Spirit. The third aspect, in Paul's theology, is that it makes us church. The deep respect the church holds for this sacrament is illustrated most profoundly in the fact that the Catholic Church doesn't re-baptize Protestants who later join in full communion. Once a Christian, you're already "in Christ.”

The sign of water as purifying and healing is older than the New Testament era. In bathing rituals of ancient times, lepers are cleansed (see General Naaman's story in the Book of Numbers) and impurities reversed (after touching the dead or being in contact with blood). Just before the gospel era, Gentile converts were received into Judaism through a process involving circumcision, baptism, and Temple sacrifice. The Jewish sect at Qumran, which we know as the Dead Sea Scrolls gang today, was already insisting that the interior disposition of a person had to change or the ritual was meaningless.

The baptism of John—which John himself admitted awaited a greater "baptism by fire" from "one who is to come"—explicitly added the dimension of repentance to the rite. John's baptism was available to Gentile soldiers as well as Jewish citizens and wasn't intended to make anyone Jewish, much less Christian.

Jesus accepts baptism from John, but not because he needs to repent. Jesus identifies himself with the sin of humanity which John is so anxious to wash away. Just as Jesus embraces human weakness by his baptism, we gain a share in divine strength through this same action. We repent sin and its ancient claim on us (“original sin”). Adults are instructed in the way of faith before receiving the sacrament (through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), just as children are instructed (catechized) after receiving infant baptism. In both instances the conversion of heart, mind, and life are imperative. Baptism inaugurates the journey. The close identification with Christ it anticipates remains the work of a lifetime.

Leviticus 14:8-9; Numbers 19:17-21; Isaiah 1:16-18; Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:4; Acts 1:5; 19:1-6; Romans 6:3-11; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27-29

"Baptism in the New Testament: Origins, Formulas, and Metaphors" by Arland J. Hultgren in Word & World

Baptism (Understanding the Sacraments series) by Lawrence E. Mick (Liturgical Press, 2007)
To Live in Christ—Baptism (Growing in Daily Spirituality series) by Richard Reichert (Paulist Press, 2006)



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