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August 21, 2019

Inter Mirifica

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Synopsis

Inter Mirifica is the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the media of social communications. It was the second document of the Council to be promulgated by Pope Paul VI (December 4, 1963) and the last for that year. The provisions of this document apply to almost everyone in today’s society, especially since media have surpassed unidirectional broadcasts and have become omnidirectional forums for social interaction.

Summary

INTRODUCTION

  1. The Church welcomes and promotes technological discoveries that can reach and influence the whole of human society, communicating most readily news, views and teachings of every sort.
  2. Media can be of great service (i.e. entertainment, instruction, etc.) if properly utilized, but may be used for evil as well; thus, it is a duty of this Synod to address concerns regarding social communication.

CHAPTER I: ON THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH

  1. The Church has always been obliged to preach the Gospel, and considers it a duty to do so using the media of social communication and to instruct men in their proper use; thus, the Church has the right to have and employ these media as necessary/useful in Christian instruction (with assistance from Pastors and laity).
  2. Proper use of these media requires knowledge and conscientious practice of the norms of morality. The nature of what is communicated, the character of the media, and all circumstances/conditions under which communication takes place must be considered as the propriety of the message can be affected or changed. The influence of these media can be subtle, masking the real impact or need to reject.
  3. Ready access to news allows all to understand current events and contribute to the common good; thus, men have a right to this information (need-to-know basis), assuming it is true and complete (bounded by justice and charity) and its communication is proper and decent (respect for moral law and for rights and dignity of the individual).
  4. When it comes to the arts, the absolute primacy of the objective moral order must be upheld in light of controversies arising from false teachings about ethics and aesthetics.
  5. Depictions of moral evil can deepen our knowledge of humanity and, through drama, reveal and glorify truth and goodness, but should be subject to moral restraint, lest they harm instead of benefit souls (e.g. arouse base desires).
  6. Every member of society must fulfill the demands of justice and charity and thus strive to form and spread sound public opinion (which has great power today).
  7. Free-willed consumers of these media are obliged to favor options expressing moral goodness, knowledge, and technical merit, and to avoid those that lead to spiritual harm and evil. They may rely on the judgments of competent authorities and their instructed consciences.
  8. All such comsumers, but especially the young, should learn moderation and self-control, deepen their understanding of what they consume, discuss these matters with teachers and experts, and learn how to make sound judgements on them. Parents have a serious duty to guard againt communications that may be morally harmful, in the home or under other circumstances.
  9. All involved in the production and transmission of social communications have the primary responsibility for thier proper use. This is evident based on their influence. They should never put their agenda ahead of the common good, always respect morality, be mindful of the youth in thier audiences, and entrust religious content to experts.
  10. The public authority has special responsibilities to protect the common good: to safeguard true and just freedom of information (freedom of the press), to encourage spiritual values, culture and the fine arts, to guarantee the rights of consumers, to help fund projects (especially when they benefit children). and to enforce laws that protect public morals and the welfare of society.

CHAPTER II: ON THE PASTORAL ACTIVITY OF THE CHURCH

  1. All Catholics should unite immediately to make effective use of media in various apostolic endeavors as appropriate. Harmful developments should be expected, especially where urgent efforts to advance morality and religion are needed. Pastors should fulfill their duty in this respect as part of their ordinary preaching responsibility. The laity (who consume the media) should bear witness to Christ and help in the pastoral activity of the Church through their various talents.
  2. Regarding specific types of media:
    • A truly Catholic press should be set up (by Church or laymen) to instill a fully Christian spirit into readers, to form/support/advance public opinion in accord with natural law and Catholic teaching, and to disseminate/explain news concerning the life of the Church. The faithful should be advised to spread and read this press for the formulation of judgments.
    • Decent films should be effectively promoted (e.g. through involvement in production, critical approval and awards, patronizing theaters owned/managed by Catholics, etc.).
    • Catholic radio and television programs (family-oriented) should be promoted, inviting people to share in the life of the Church and learn religious truths. Catholic stations must maintain excellent standards in programming.
    • Drama should serve the cultural and moral betterment of audiences.
  3. Priests, religious, and laymen with the proper skills for adapting media to the objectives of the apostolate should be appointed. Laymen (including critics) should be provided technical, doctrinal, and moral training.
  4. Instructional programs in the use of media (tailored for audiences of different cultural backgrounds and ages) should be encouraged in Catholic schools, seminaries, and lay apostolates (with aid of catechetical manuals).
  5. Catholic organizations and individuals should support media both financially and with technical ability, so as not to let the message of salvation be delayed/impeded.
  6. Every diocese should (one day) annually instruct the faithful on their responsibilities and invite them to pray and contribute funds for this cause (funds to be dedicated to this area).
  7. The Pope has at hand a special office of the Holy See, and the Council Fathers request that he extend the duties and competence of this office (including all media including the press) with the aid of experts from various countries, including laymen.
  8. Bishops must watch over, promote, and guide the works and undertakings by apostolates in their own dioceses, including the exempt religious.
  9. National offices for affairs of the press, films, radio and television are to be established everywhere (under a Bishop or committee thereof) and given every aid for the purpose of instructing the consciences of the faithful and to foster and guide their work in media.
  10. Said national offices should co-operate on an international plane, working also with international Catholic associations legitimately approved by the Holy See alone.

APPENDICES

  1. The aforementioned special office of the Holy See (c.f. 19) is to issue a pastoral instruction expressing the general principles and norms of this sacred Synod.
  2. The Synod is confident that these instructions and norms will be accepted and religiously kept by all Catholics, and that by using them they will experience no harm as they brighten the world. All men of good will, especially those in charge of the media, are invited to turn them (by their proper use) solely to the good of society. As with ancient art, may these new discoveries glorify the name of the (unchanging) Lord.

Observations

  • It is uncanny how the theme of this document from 1963 is so relevant even today:
    • Social communication is highly-influential, and thus powerful.
    • It can be used for good or evil.
    • Its proper use must be taught and learned. Everyone has some responsibility.
    • The Church must take an active role in ensuring proper use.
  • The notion that depictions of moral evil can be beneficial (#7) is interesting. Did this mark a departure from prior Catholic thought?
  • The consumption of social communication should prompt discussion and understanding. (#10) Commentary is a built-in feature of most social-media platforms today — which is what makes them social. The problem is that the ability to comment does not ensure a response by teachers and experts, nor does it necessarily promote sound judgement. Indeed, commentary is often rude and insulting, and leads to arguments, and it promotes a basal judgement tenable to the parties involved in the discussion (which may or may not represent society or a part thereof in any meaningful way).
  • Note the responsibility assigned to parents in #10.
  • The entertainment industry as a whole has proven that it is not interested in taking on the responsibility of a moral authority (#11), but is completely motivated by profit and catering to whatever appeals to the masses in order to obtain it. As morality declines, the purity of the content follows.
  • Government (at least in the U.S.) shows little interest in protecting morality either. Might this be a result of the alleged “separation of church and state” or of the philosophy of personal freedom of the individual at all costs?
  • The Church has indeed leveraged media outlets for the betterment of Catholics everywhere. (#14) EWTN is a great example.
  • The diocese is supposed to dedicate one day annually to educating the faithful and raise funds for Catholic media. (#18) Does this actually happen? Is this just a second collection?

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July 16, 2019

Sacrosanctum Concilium

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Synopsis

Sacrosanctum Concilium is the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the sacred liturgy. It was the first document of the Council to be promulgated by Pope Paul VI (December 4, 1963). The provisions in this document eventually led to the New Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) about seven years later.

Summary

INTRODUCTION

  1. Four goals of the Council:
    • increase vigor to life of the faithful
    • adapt institutions that can change to fit the times
    • promote Christian unity
    • call all of mankind to the Church
  2. Through the liturgy, the Church is made sacred.
  3. Practical norms should be established in the promotion and reform of the liturgy. These norms apply primarily to the Roman rite, but the principles and some norms apply to all rites.
  4. Obeying tradition, the various rites are held equal, to be preserved and fostered, and thus revised carefully.

CHAPTER I: GENERAL PRINCIPLES FOR THE RESTORATION AND PROMOTION OF THE SACRED LITURGY

I. The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Church’s Life

  1. Christ, the Word made flesh, is the instrument of our salvation and perfect reconciliation with God. In Him we have the fullness of divine worship.
  2. The Apostles were sent to preach and to accomplish the work of salvation through the sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist.
  3. Christ is present in all liturgical celebrations (whole public worship): in the priest, in His Body, the Church, and in the Eucharist.
  4. The liturgy is a foretaste of Heaven.
  5. The liturgy is not the entire activity of the Church, for men must first be converted and do penance.
  6. The Church moves toward the liturgy and receives her power from it. The liturgy moves the faithful to be united in holiness.
  7. The faithful must be properly disposed lest they receive God’s grace in vain. Pastors must ensure that they are fully aware and engaged in the rite.
  8. Spiritual life is not limited to liturgy, but includes prayer: fraternal, interior, constant.
  9. Popular and ecclesial devotions in accord with laws and norms commended, but always surpassed by liturgy.

II. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

  1. Achieving the goal of full and active participation of the faithful in the liturgy begins with the priesthood.
  2. Liturgy professors must be trained.
  3. Liturgy courses to be required in seminaries/houses and principal in theological faculties, taught under theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects.
  4. Clerics in seminaries/houses to be given liturgical formation in spiritual life, with proper direction to foster understanding and participation.
  5. Secular and religious priests to be helped to understand the rites and live a liturgical life.
  6. Pastors must promote liturgical instruction of faithful and their active participation by word and example.
  7. Radio/TV transmission of rites (especially Mass) to be done with discretion and dignity under leadership of bishop-appointed persons.

III. The Reform of the Sacred Liturgy

  1. Some elements of liturgy are divine and immutable, others are not. Holy things should be expressed with more clarity. General norms hereby established:

A. General norms

  1. Liturgical regulation resides with the Apostolic See, with the bishop according to law, and with Competent Territorial Ecclesiastical Authority (CTEA) (limited). Priests may not change the liturgy.
  2. Tradition must be retained. Revisions require careful investigation. Unnecessary innovations must be avoided. New forms must grow organically from existing ones. Avoid notable differences in rites used in adjacent regions.
  3. Love of Scripture to be promoted. Lessons, prayers, collects, songs, actions and signs are derived from Scripture.
  4. Liturgical books to be revised ASAP by experts. Bishops worldwide to be consulted.

B. Norms drawn from the hierarchic and communal nature of the Liturgy

  1. Liturgical services are not private functions, but concern individuals in different ways according to rank, office and participation.
  2. Communal celebration is preferred over (quasi)private, especially Mass and administration of the sacraments.
  3. Each person (minister or layman) should perform (only his) office completely.
  4. Servers, lectors, the choir, etc. exercise genuine liturgical functions and should do so with sincere piety and decorum. They should be properly trained.
  5. Active participation includes acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, songs, actions, gestures, bodily attitudes, and reverent silence.
  6. Liturgical books to include rubrics for the people’s parts.
  7. No special honors for private persons or classes of persons aside from those for liturgical function, sacred Orders, or civil authority (when by law).

C. Norms based upon the didactic and pastoral nature of the Liturgy

  1. Liturgy is worship, but also instruction, not only in lessons and readings, but in prayer and song.
  2. Rites should be simple, short, clear, non-repetitious, commonly comprehensible, and self-explanatory.
  3. To connect words with rites:
    • There should be more reading from Scripture (varied and appropriate).
    • The sermon should be well-placed, exact, faithful, scriptural and liturgical, and focused on salvation (especially through the liturgy).
    • Liturgical instruction can include short directives and should use prescribed (or similar) words.
    • Bible services encouraged, especially on special days and when no priest is available (but Deacon or bishop-appointed person should preside).
  4. Regarding language:
    • Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
    • Use of the vernacular language may be advantageous to the people and may be extended, first for readings and directives, then for prayers and chants.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will decide extent of use of the vernacular language, pending approval by the Apostolic See.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will approve translations of Latin texts into the vernacular language.

D. Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples

  1. Rigid uniformity not desired (unless faith or communal good is implicated; e.g. superstition or error). Genius and talents of races respected. Must harmonize with liturgy.
  2. Legitimate regional variations/adaptations (e.g. rubrics) permitted in liturgical books, but substantial unity of Roman rite must be preserved.
  3. CTEA (c.f. 22) will specify adaptations in sacraments, liturgical language. music, art, etc. per norms of this Constitution.
  4. Greater difficulties when more radical adaptation needed:
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will consider elements of tradition and culture and submit them to Apostolic See for consent.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will be allowed to experiment within limits.
    • Liturgical laws often raise difficulties, especially in mission lands, requiring employment of experts.

E. Promotion of Liturgical Life in Diocese and Parish

  1. The bishop is the high priest of his flock and liturgical life of diocese centers around him.
  2. But he can’t be everywhere, so local parishes under pastors are set up, and sense of community encouraged.

F. The Promotion of Pastoral-Liturgical Action

  1. Zealous liturgical promotion/restoration is sign of God’s protection and the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
  2. CTEA (c.f. 22) will set up a well-advised liturgical commission to regulate pastoral-liturgical action and to promote studies and necessary experiments before adaptations are proposed to the Apostolic See.
  3. Every diocese (or several together) to have a commission on sacred liturgy under the bishop to promote the liturgical apostolate.
  4. Every diocese should also have commissions for sacred music and for sacred art (these may be combined with commission on sacred liturgy).

CHAPTER II: THE MOST SACRED MYSTERY OF THE EUCHARIST

  1. Christ gave the Church the Eucharist to perpetuate His sacrifice of the Cross.
  2. The faithful should not be strangers or silent spectators, but take part in the offering with the priest and learn to offer themselves.
  3. The following decrees maximize pastoral efficacy, especially on Sundays and obligatory feasts.
  4. The Mass is to be revised to clarify it’s parts and their connection, to be simplified but its substance preserved, with some parts discarded and others restored.
  5. Scripture readings are to be expanded over the course of several years.
  6. Greater importance is to be placed on the sermon. It should not be omitted on Sundays and feasts.
  7. The intercessory “Prayer of the Faithful” is to be restored, especially on Sundays and feasts.
  8. The vernacular may be used, especially for the readings and intercessory prayer, but also to parts pertaining to the people (c.f. 36 & 40). The people should also be able to say/sing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin.
  9. Communion under both kinds may be granted as the bishop sees fit.
  10. The two liturgies that make up the Mass (i.e. Word & Eucharist) form a single act of worship and the faithful should be encouraged to participate fully.
  11. Concelebration extended under specified circumstances.
  12. A new rite for concelebration to be written.

CHAPTER III: THE OTHER SACRAMENTS AND THE SACRAMENTALS

  1. Sacraments sanctify men, build up the body of Christ, and give worship to God, but they also instruct, so the faithful should understand them.
  2. Sacramentals signify effects (esp. spiritual) obtained through Church’s intercession, properly disposing men and occasionally making them holy.
  3. The proper use of material things can (almost?) always be directed toward sanctification and praise.
  4. Some rites have made the use of these unclear, and so revision is necessary.
  5. The vernacular is particularly useful (c.f. 36) and rites will be prepared ASAP (c.f. 22)
  6. The catechumenate (period of instruction for converts) is to be restored.
  7. Initiation rites in mission lands can be adapted when compatible. (c.f. 37-40)
  8. Simple and solemn rites of adult baptism to be revised considering restored catechumenate, and new Mass written.
  9. Infant baptism rite to be revised, clarifying roles and duties of parents and godparents.
  10. Baptismal rite to have variants for large groups, mission lands, emergencies, etc.
  11. “Order of supplying what was omitted in the baptism of an infant” to be replaced. New rite for receiving validly baptized persons into the Church.
  12. Baptismal water may be blessed during the rite with short formula, except during Eastertide.
  13. Confirmation rite to be revised for clarity. Baptismal vows to be renewed. New introduction for Confirmation rite outside of Mass to be added.
  14. Penance rite and formulas to be revised for clarity of nature and effects.
  15. Extreme unction should more fittingly be called “anointing of the sick” and can be administered who one begins to be in danger of death, not when it is imminent.
  16. Continuous rite to be prepared for anointing of sick between confession and viaticum.
  17. Anointings and prayers to be adapted to correspond with varying conditions of the sick.
  18. Ordination texts and ceremonies to be revised. Opening speech by bishop may be in vernacular. All bishops present may lay hands in consecration of new bishop.
  19. Marriage rite to be revised to signify the grace and clarify the duties of the spouses. Regional customs retained. CTEA (c.f. 22) can create regional rite in conformity with law.
  20. Matrimony to be celebrated between sermon and intercessory prayers. Prayer for the bride may be in the vernacular. If outside of Mass, epistle and gospel readings and blessing required.
  21. Sacramentals to be revised to enable full participation and new ones added as needed. Reserved blessings to be few and in favor of ordinaries. Some may be adminitered by qualified lay persons in special circumstances.
  22. Rite for consecration of virgins to be revised. Religious profession/renewal to be created to achieve greater unity, sobriety, and dignity. Profession/renewal in Mass preferred.
  23. Burial rite to express clearly the paschal character of death and regional traditions are to be considered. This extands to liturgical color.
  24. Burial rite for infants to be revised, and special Mass provided.

CHAPTER IV: THE DIVINE OFFICE

  1. Praying the divine office is another way the Church ceaselessly praises the Lord and intercedes for the salvation of the world.
  2. It makes the whole day holy. It is prayed by priests, others by Church ordinance, and the faithful (in approved form).
  3. They fulfill the duty of the Church and represent her before God.
  4. Scripture can inspire pastors to offer praises of the hours more vividly. (1 Thes 5:11; John 15:5; Acts 6:4)
  5. That it may be better and more perfectly prayed, the Council decrees…
  6. Traditional sequence of hours to be restored to genuinely related to times of the day.
  7. Specific rules for Lauds and Vespers (chief hours), Compline, Matins, Prime (suppressed), Terce, Sext, and None.
  8. The divine office is the public prayer of the Church and a source of piety; thus adaptations may be made to make its use more profitable.
  9. Psalms distributed over more than one week. Revision of psalter to consider use of Latin, Latin Church tradition, etc.
  10. Regarding readings: more Scripture to be covered, other readings better selected, and martyrdom/lives of saints agree with historical facts.
  11. Hymns to be restored to original form, mythology and non-Christian content removed, additional selections to be added as occasion arises.
  12. Each hour to be prayed close to its canonical time.
  13. Choral-office communities bound to celebrate in choir every day in addition to Mass (e.g. orders of canons, cathedral/collegiate chapters, major orders, etc.).
  14. Major-order clerics not bound to office in choir are bound to pray the entire office every day. (c.f. 89)
  15. Rubrics can define when liturgical service can be substituted. Ordinaries can dispense or commute the obligation.
  16. Members of dedicated institutes perform the public prayer of the Church, even if in approved short form.
  17. Clerics not obliged to choir urged to pray in common. All should pray as perfectly as possible, both internally and externally. It should be sung as often as possible.
  18. Pastors should celebrate chief hours (esp. Vespers) in common in church on Sundays and feasts. Lay people are encouraged to participate.
  19. Regarding Latin:
    • Latin to be retained. Ordinary can grant use of vernacular (c.f. 36) for individuals for whom it is an obstacle.
    • A competent superior may grant use of (approved) vernacular, even in choir, to nuns and members of institutes.
    • A cleric can use the (approved) vernacular if praying with the faithful or people in previous line item.

CHAPTER V: THE LITURGICAL YEAR

  1. Christ’s work of salvation must be celebrated on various days throughout the year (Sundays, Easter, etc.).
  2. The annual cycle honors Mary as well, who has an inseparable with salvation.
  3. The annual cycle memorializes the saints and martyrs as faithful examples.
  4. Traditional seasonal discipline completes formation of the faithful through instruction, prayer, penance, and merciful works.
  5. The Church celebrates the paschal mystery every 8th day (Lord’s Day, Sunday). The faithful are bound (required) to celebrate.
  6. The liturgical year to be revised, and the seasons preserved/restored to suit modern times, their specific character to be retained, with local adaptations allowed (c.f. 39-40).
  7. Propers for feasts of the Lord should take precedence over propers for saints’ feasts.
  8. The twofold character of Lent (baptismal and penitential) should be emphasized.
  9. Lenten penance should be both internal/individual and external/social, take into consideration regional circumstances, and encouraged by CTEA (c.f. 22). The paschal fast should be kept everywhere on Good Friday and into Holy Saturday.
  10. Feasts of saints who are truly of universal importance should be celebrated by the universal Church; others can be left to particular Churches, nations, etc. to venerate.

CHAPTER VI: SACRED MUSIC

  1. Music is the greatest art in the Church and is integral to solemn liturgy. Scripture, the Fathers, and the Popes agree. “[T]he Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship.”
  2. Liturgical worship is more noble in song, including the faithful with assistance of ministers. (c.f. 36, 54, 63, 101; i.e. use the vernacular)
  3. Sacred music to be preserved and choirs promoted, but bishops and pastors must ensure active participation of the faithful. (c.f. 28, 30)
  4. Music must be taught in seminaries, novitiates, houses, schools, etc. by trained teachers. Higher institutes of sacred music should be founded. Composers and singers (esp. boys) must be liturgically trained.
  5. Gregorian chant should be given first place, but polyphony and other forms should not be excluded. (c.f. 30)
  6. Three books of chant to be prepared (typical, critical, simple).
  7. Religious singing of faithful to be fostered so that norms and rubrics can be met.
  8. Missionaries to be trained in music so that worship can be adapted to incorporate native genius/art in mission lands.
  9. The pipe organ should be given first place, but other instruments may be used with consent of CTEA (c.f. 22, 52, 37, 40), only if suitable for sacred use and edification of the faithful.
  10. Composers should cultivate sacred music, not limited to music for large choirs but for small one and the faithful. Texts must conform to doctrine. Scripture and liturgical sources should be used.

CHAPTER VII: SACRED ART AND SACRED FURNISHINGS

  1. The Church has always been a patron of the arts and has admitted changes in materials and style as art progresses.
  2. The Church has not adopted a particular style. Her treasury of art must be preserved. Modern art must give due reverence and honor.
  3. Ordinaries should seek beauty (not sumptuous art), remove works repugnant to faith/morals/piety or that are mediocre, and build churches suitable for celebration of and full participation in the liturgy.
  4. Placement of images in churches for veneration to be maintained, but in moderation and in proper spatial order.
  5. Ordinaries judge the art, giving a hearing to the diocesan commission on sacred art, to experts, and to other commissions (c.f. 44-46).
  6. Bishops should imbue artists with spirit of sacred are and of liturgy in person or through priests. Artists should be trained. Artists imitate God the Creator.
  7. Canons and statutes to be revised regarding material things: building, altars, tabernacles, baptisteries, images, vestments, etc. CTEA (c.f. 22) empowered to make regional adaptations.
  8. Clerics to be taught about the history and development of sacred art.
  9. Pontificals reserved for those with episcopal rank or particular jurisdiction.

APPENDIX: A DECLARATION OF THE SECOND ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF THE VATICAN ON REVISION OF THE CALENDAR

  • The Council would not object to assigning Easter to a particular Sunday of the Gregorian calendar provided that non-Catholic Christians agree.
  • The Council would not object to designing and introducing a perpetual calendar into civil society provided that a seven-day week with Sunday is preserved.

Observations

  • The first session of Vatican II convened on October 11, 1962. Pope John XXIII died the following June. Within a month, Pope Paul VI is elected, and the second session began September 29th, 1963. This document was promulgated just over two months later, on December 4.
  • Many of the visible differences between the old Mass and the new Mass are not found in Sacrosanctum Concilium. In fact, it may come as a surprise to some that many provisions and decrees contradict common practices found in the Mass today, including:
    • Latin is not eliminated, but is specifically retained, and the vernacular is reserved for certain uses
    • Gregorian chant is given preference over all other forms of sacred music
    • Pipe organs are given preference over all other instruments
    • Celebrating Mass versus populum is not mandated or even mentioned
  • The phrase “active participation” is prolific throughout.
  • Many revisions are called for, but there are very few details or limits.
  • There are a lot of provisions made for “mission lands” and regional variations/adaptations.

March 24, 2017

What Does “Catholic” Mean Anyway?

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My recent post covering the five Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch to the Churches in Asia gave rise to some interesting discussions online, including one about the origin of the word “Catholic”. I knew the general answer, that the word means “universal” and that Ignatius was indeed the earliest author to use it, but I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted to dig deeper. Here is the result of my research.


Ignatius of Antioch

A discourse on the meaning of the word ‘catholic’ would hardly be complete without some mention of Saint Ignatius of Antioch who used it to describe the Church in his letter to the Smyrnæans in approximately A.D. 108. His message to the believers in Smyrna was clear: be subject to your bishop in all things concerning belief. This is the earliest known writing in which the Church is referred to as ‘universal’ and that leads many people to the conclusion that Ignatius was the first to give the Church her name, or at least the first to coin the phrase. Nothing in the text, however, supports the hypothesis that Ignatius was trying to do either. It appears more likely that he was using a common adjective to describe the whole body of believers everywhere, and that the phrase caught on amongst early Christian writers.

Here is an excerpt taken from the eighth chapter of Ignatius’ letter to the Smyrnæans (taken from NewAdvent.org). The key line of interest has been emphasized and the phrase Catholic Church rendered in bold:

Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. [Smyrnæans 8]

Here is the emphasized line in Greek (from TextExcavation), again with Catholic Church in bold:

οπου αν φανη ο επισκοπος, εκει το πληθος εστω, ωσπερ οπου αν η Χριστος Ιησους, εκει η καθολικη εκκλησια.

I would take the time to provide a word-for-word translation of the entire excerpt, but it’s not really necessary for this discussion. There are online lexicons and translators for that purpose, so if you are not familar with Greek, now might be a good time to check out some of these tools.

εκκλησια

Let’s start with the noun in this phrase. This is the less controversial of the two words. Almost always rendered in English as ‘church’, the word ekklēsía really just means assembly or gathering, as in a group of people assembled together. It was the term used to refer to the principal assembly of the Athenian democracy over 400 years before Christ walked the Earth. So, which assembly of believers Ignatius is talking about? Since the letter was written for the Chirstians in Smyrna, is he only referring to that assembly? Obviously, no. Ignatius clarified his message by modifying this noun with the adjective καθολικη.

καθολικη

This adjective is actually a combination of two root words: κατά (katá) + ὅλος (hólos). According to Strong’s Concordance, κατά (2596) is a preposition that can have various meanings, such as “down from”, “throughout”, and “according to”. Likewise, ὅλος (3650) is an adjective that means “all”, “whole”, or “entire”. Note how the words are combined into a single adjective, καθολικη. When used to modify the word ekklēsía, one might read the phrase as “according to the entire assembly” or “throughout the whole church”. It requires no stretch of thought to see why the word “universal” is used in translation.

To take this one step further, please note the spelling of the word. The suffix identifies the word’s declension, which is a fancy way of saying number, case, and gender in a single word. Taking a glance at the Wiktionary entry for καθολικός, we can easily determine that for three grammatical cases, this variant of the word modifies a female noun (which εκκλησια is) and is singluar. Ignatius is talking about one church. This implies a level of unity beyond that of the local church and her bishop. Ignatius did not consider the Christian communities to be a loose federation of independent congregations, at least when it came to matters of faith.

Another Look

Now that we have examined the key words in question, let’s reconstruct the line in English based on the Greek above. Again, I am not going to explain every word as they can easily be referenced online. I used the Greek Dictionary Headword Search engine in the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University to translate the line as follows:

The place where lights the bishop, there the multitude is one; even as, where is Christ Jesus, there is the whole assembly throughout.

Ignatius is clearly drawing an analogy that makes perfect sense in his plea for the Churches in Asia to remain in unity with their respective bishops who are, themselves, in unity insofar as the teaching of the faith is concerned. What’s more, this concept of the whole assembly of believers being ever-present with Christ is an expression of what Mircea Eliade would call sacred time and space, though whether Ignatius intended to convey this idea or if it was a product of divine inspiration will be left for discussion at another time.

Word Usage

Some make the argument that Ignatius coined the word καθολικη, based primarily on the observation that the word is not used in the Bible to describe the Church…in fact, it doesn’t appear at all in the Bible. (Such people also tend to be Fundamentalist Christians who only know the word “Catholic” as a proper name and who want to prove that the Church’s universal authority is illegitimate by claiming that Ignatius invented the word after the age of the Apostles and therefore it isn’t “Biblical”.) However, if the word καθολικη (or more properly, καθολικός) existed prior to the time of Christ and the Apostles (and was even found to be commonly used), then there should be instances of it in other Greek texts that predate the New Testament. Whether or not these texts are part of Sacred Scripture is, of course, immaterial, but it never hurts to start there.

The words κατά (2596) and ὅλος (3739) both appear numerous times in the New Testament (480 and 1411 respectively). The word καθό (2526), which means “according to”, is found four times (Rom 8:26, twice in 2 Cor 8:12, and 1 Peter 4:13). The word καθόλου (2527), which is an adverb meaning “entirely” or “at all”, is found once, in Acts 4:18: they instructed them not to teach at all in the name of Jesus. Browsing through Hatch & Redpath’s 1897 Concordance to the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), a similar pattern emerges: many references to the root words, a handful to καθό and καθόλου, and none for καθολικός. So, the root words and some similar words appear in the Bible, but the specific usage we are seeking here is not present.

A search of other Greek texts proves to be more fruitful. Again, using the Greek Dictionary Headword Search engine in the Perseus Digital Library, a search for words starting with καθολ resulted in over sixty hits across eleven works. Nine instances were found in the Histories of Polybius (200-118 B.C.), two of which concern making a “general assertion” (καθολικῆς ἀποφάσεως). The geopgrapher Strabo (63 B.C.-A.D.24; thus immediately prior to Jesus’ public ministry) used it in his work on Geography. The excerpt …ὥστ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἔνεστι καθολικῶς εἰπεῖν ἐπὶ τῶν ἀπεριλήπτων τὸ πλῆθος… [Strab. 17.3] is translated in the accompanying English translation as “…so that it cannot be asserted generally of places indefinite in number…”, but could probably be reduced to “…it cannot be generally said…” So much for the notion that Ignatius was the original inventor of this word.

There are examples of the word being used by writers contemporary to Ignatius as well. The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus (A.D. 50-135) used the word six times in his Discourses. One sample drawn from that work is καθολικοῦ μέμνησο [book2, chapter 2], which is rendered in the accompanying English version as “Remember, then, the general rule…” but which could probably be simplified as “Remember generally…”. In a work called Tetrabiblos by Claudius Ptolemy (A.D. 100-170; yes, the same Ptolemy famous for his geocentric model of the universe), there can be found thirteen separate instances of the word with usages similar to those found in Polybius, such as to describe a calling, a custom, etc. Two more instances can be found in M. Antonius Imperator Ad Se Ipsum by Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180). And so on and so forth. Even if the Perseus Digital Library contains a complete collection of ancient Greek texts, there is proof enough that the compound word καθολικός was common in ancient Greek texts, making Ignatius’ single use of it even less extraordinary.

Incidentally, the largest number of search hits (21 occurences) arose from the Church History according to Eusebius (~A.D. 260-341), six modifing the “assembly” (same usage as Ignatius), four in reference to letters or letter writers (i.e. epistles, as in the Catholic Epistles of Peter, Jude, James, and John), and the remainder modifying various other words to describe general knowledge, direction, order, etc. So, while this adjective was starting to grow in usage, it was still not used to refer exclusively to the Church, even in the Fourth Centruy writings of the Church Fathers.

Conclusion

Ignatius was not attempting to give a name to a universal church, or to coin a new phrase, but was simply using a common adjective to describe the collective of all Christian believers everywhere. In the long run, of course, that is what eventually happened. “Catholic Church” is a proper name that, today, specifically identifies an assembly of people around the world that is rooted in a common belief, and whose “headquarters” (if you want to call it that) is located in Rome. It is slightly more complicated than that, of course, because the Roman Church is just one of many that belong to this more universal collection of Churches, but then, this makes Ignatius’ message even more understandable for modern Catholics.

Addendum: New Questions

Doing this research has brought to mind two additional questions that will make for some interesting study in the future.

First, at what point in history did the word ‘Catholic’ become part of the proper name of the Church, and thus an adjective that exclusively associates whatever it modifies as belonging to the same? One might expect to find this usage prevailent in the writings of the Protestant Reformers and possibly even in Catholic writings in the years leading up to the Reformation. I have seen some claims online that explain how the Church didn’t have to qualify itself as Catholic until Protestant thought became widespread and uncontrollable. Perhaps this was the same reason καθολικός became so popular amongst the Church Fathers, as they were often combating the early heresies and wrote about how these strange beliefs contradicted the Church’s universal teachings.

Second, why does καθολικός not appear in Sacred Scripture? This may be much harder to answer, as it requires a deep understanding of ancient Greek and how the language evolved over time. It may have to do with the level of sophistication with which the various authors wrote. All of the examples given above where the word appears are from works written by scholars, philosophers, scientists, and even an Emperor! Their education, and thus their, command of the Greek language was undoubtedly superior to those common men who roughly incribed the stories of the Apostles while in hiding for fear of Roman persecution. Likewise, translation of ancient Hebrew writings, most of which had already been passed from age to age as oral traditions, into Greek may have dictated the use of simple language.

Perhaps these questions have already been answered in some scholarly works just waiting for me to discover.


July 28, 2016

Catholic Mass Bible Readings Coverage

ShortURL: wp.me/pb7U7-1Q3


Do Catholics read the Bible? You bet they do! But some other Christians want you to think otherwise. Here’s a good lesson on how to lie with infographics.


The Accusation

Catholics are often accused of claiming to be Christian and yet not reading the Bible. In one respect this is true, because the average Catholic is less likely to sit down and read the Bible from cover to cover in the same way an Evangelical Christian might. Like anything else, Catholic and Evangelical populations could be surveyed and the results analyzed statistically, and in doing so you will likely find plenty of people who do not fit the stereotype: Catholics that read their Bibles all the time and Evangelicals that don’t.

In Reality

What Evangelicals don’t realize is that Catholics hear much more of the Bible than they read. There are four readings (OT, Psalm, NT, Gospel) assigned for each holy day of obligation (i.e. all Sundays and certain feast days). There are also three “cycles” arranged such that the Gospel of Matthew is covered in Cycle A, Mark in Cycle B, and Luke in Cycle C. The Gospel of John is spread across certain days throughout the year, but especially in the seasons of Lent and Easter.

The Infographic

A year or so ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted an infographic, which can be found here on imgur, that plots the readings throughout the liturgical the year. The imgur post includes a bit of explanatory information about how to read the graph, followed by the following note to the reader: “Notice all of the blank space. Only 14.2% of the entire bible is read during mass over the course of three years.” Yikes! Only 14.2%? That’s not a lot!

Something’s Not Quite Right

Yes, the graph shows a lot of blank space; however, notice that time is depicted on the X-axis. This means that the plotted area does not actually represent the pure volume of content. How should this graph be read then?

Assumptions

I decided to conduct a little test to see how accurate the 14.2% claim actually is. To do this, the following assumptions were made:

  1. The graph is intended to be an accurate representation of the data.
    Which is the claim being made, right?
  2. Each of the black hash marks represent one holy day.
    There are 52 Sundays and about 5 non-Sunday Holy Days of Obligation, making 57 total. The year is depicted as a 286-pixel block, which means each mark should be 5.02 pixels wide on average. Indeed, spot-checking reveals that most are either 6 or 7 pixels wide, with a few as short as 4 pixels.
  3. Each of the black hash marks represent a unique section of Scripture.
    It is unclear exactly how the volume of content is presented here. Do the marks represent whole chapters? Individual stories? Segments of verses? But it doesn’t really matter, because the next assumption is that…
  4. The height of the plotted area represents 100% coverage of Bible content.
    The plotted area is 741 pixels in height. According to multiple sources on the Web, the Protestant Bible contains 1,189 chapters, which is greater than 741, so each mark can’t represent a chapter exactly. The Catholic Bible contains a few additional books, but not enough to allow for each pixel to represent two chapters.

Method

The test required some simple graphical manipulation of the picture using a paint program (in the case I used GIMP). There were three basic steps:

  1. Remove time from the graph.
    This was done by extending each of the black hash marks to fully cover the year in which it was found. I did this for all marks in all three years, and then cut most of each year out, leaving only a thin ribbon to represent it’s coverage.
  2. Find the cumulative coverage.
    Using the layers feature, I moved a copy of each year’s content volume to form a column of combined (or cumulative) coverage.
  3. Compress the volume to determine percentage.
    This was tedious, but I removed all blank space between the bands of black on a copy of the cumulative column, resulting in a 315-pixel bar, and placed it on top of a grey, 741-pixel tall background.

The Result

My cumulative coverage columns are shown to the right of the original graph below. The columns for Cycles A, B, and C are labeled accordingly, the combined coverage column is labeled with a Sigma, and the percentage coverage column with a percent sign. The result is that a whopping 42.5% of the Bible is read during Mass on Sundays and Holy Days alone.

Lectionary_Coverage

Notice that there is essentially full coverage of the Gospels over three years, nearly full coverage of the rest of the New Testament, a heavy concentration on certain Old Testament books (e.g. Genesis, Exodus, major prophets like Isaiah), and lighter coverage on books that even Protestants don’t pay much attention to (e.g. Numbers, Kings, Chronicles, minor prophets, etc.).

Conclusion

The poster’s claim that only 14.2% of the Bible is read during days of obligation is incorrect. This is obviously not a perfect test, because there are a lot of assumptions and unknowns about how the original author is depicting the data; however, the margin between 14.2% and 42.5% is far too wide to be simple error.

Is the imgur poster trying to mislead you, assuming you will simply take the graphic at face value? Maybe. I have considered the possibility that the 14.2% claim was based on the percentage of the plotted area covered by black pixels, in which case the poster actually misinterpreted the graph. It is not clear whether or not the person who posted the graphic on imgur and the author of the graphic are the same person.

Wait, There’s More…

This infographic covered readings for holy days on which Catholics are required (yes, not expected, but required by Church law) to attend so that they may hear them, live them, and share them with others. What is not covered are the readings for the rest of the week! Most Catholics don’t attend daily Mass, but those that do will hear even more of the Bible! You can visit the Liturgy page on the USCCB website for more details on that.


October 3, 2015

Year’s Minds Calendar

Filed under: Christianity — Brandon @ 5:46 pm
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ShortURL: http://goo.gl/67Lpa1


“Year’s mind” is the commemoration of a deceased member of the faithful on the anniversary of his or her death. This is often a celebration of the Holy Mass (a requiem), or may simply be a formal prayer ritual. Strictly speaking, this commemoration is held one year after death, though it is not uncommon that some formal remembrance be made on the anniversaries thereafter. Certainly, it is the duty of all faithful Catholics to keep the souls of the departed in their prayers, whether or not they are in need of intercession. Prayer is never wasted as a result of our simple ignorance, and the graces dispensed for this act of spiritual mercy will flow to whoever needs it as God sees fit.

What better way to remind yourself to pray for your loved ones than to set up a year’s mind calendar in your calendar software? Many people record birthdays, and this works basically the same way. It can be recorded as an all-day event or a 10-minute appointment with God — either way, the important thing is that it catches your attention and brings you to prayer. Added bonus: set it up as an annually recurring event and you won’t have to remember to copy your calendar each year.


January 5, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Filed under: Christianity — Brandon @ 12:00 pm
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ShortURL: http://goo.gl/dcFW8I


Today, January 5th, is the twelfth day of the Christmas season according to the Church’s liturgical calendar. To celebrate, I decided to write a little post on various aspects of this observance.


‘Tis The Season…

In the Catholic Church, the Twelve Days of Christmas is a time of celebration to commemorate the Nativity of Jesus. The dates always fall on December 25th through January 5th, and is immediately followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. In the Latin (Roman) Rite, the first day (December 25th) is a Holy Day of Obligation; whereas, it is required for the faithful in the Eastern Churches to observe January 6th as the primary Christmas celebration, whereupon it is the Baptism of Jesus that receives the focus, and not the visitation of the Magi. Anglicans and Lutherans also celebrate (or at least recognize) this season, the major difference being that for them the Twelve Day period defines the entirety if Christmastide, which (currently) extends through the Sunday after Epiphany for Catholics.

…To Be Jolly

Western secular culture has tried to change the meaning of the Twelve Days over time. Americans especially love a crescendo, so the Twelve Days are often represented as a sort of countdown to Christmas. If there are going to be twelve days in Christmas, then certainly the last will be the biggest and loudest celebration, and that, as everyone knows, falls on the 25th of December by tradition. This is the same cultural movement that favors “countdown calendars” to Advent calendars (though in a way, that’s really what the Advent calendar is). In this context, however, the end of the countdown marks the day when, through the receipt of material goods, one can reasonably expect to feel the most jolly (as opposed to being joyous over the gift of hope for eternal salvation given by an almighty and merciful God). And where might the idea of linking the Twelve Days with progressive gift-giving have originated?

The Song

Oh right, the song. You know, the one about the singer’s true love granting an increasingly elaborate and expensive array of gifts to win her (gender assumed) favor. To be honest, I have never liked that song, if for no other reason than that I find the repetition and even the tune itself extremely annoying. Not to mention that it has nothing to do with Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas. I’m not trying to be a humbug here — quite the opposite in fact!

My interest in the song did pique when I received an e-mail that was making the rounds a few years ago about “The Real Meaning to 12 Days of Christmas”. It explained how the song was written as a tool to catechize young Catholic children in England where Catholicism had been outlawed. The singer’s “true love” is God, of course, and the singer is the Church / the believer / the Christian. Each gift is suppose to represent a gift from God:

  1. Partridge in a pear tree :: Jesus Christ who died on a tree
  2. Turtle doves :: the Old and New Testaments
  3. French hens :: faith, hope, and love
  4. Calling birds :: the four Gospels
  5. Golden rings :: the Pentateuch
  6. Geese a-laying :: the six days of creation
  7. Swans a swimming :: the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
  8. Maids a milking :: the Beatitudes
  9. Ladies dancing :: nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  10. Lords a-leaping :: the Ten Commandments
  11. Pipers piping :: the eleven faithful disciples (sans Judas)
  12. Drummers drumming :: the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed

At first blush this sounds great, but as it turns out, this whole idea is a fabrication of modern times. This should be obvious in light of two bits of information. First, the order (and even the number) of gifts varied each time the song was published and the lyrics we use today are from the 1909 version; thus, the use of the gifts as a mnemonic device for memorizing the theological points listed above is anachronistic. Second, none of the items listed above would separate Catholics from Protestants, so what would be the value in secretly encoding them into song? Perhaps, I will dig a little deeper into why this rumor was started, and if I do, I will update this post.


October 15, 2014

Through Faith, Not Works

Filed under: Christianity — Brandon @ 7:25 am
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Short URL: http://goo.gl/UaDR9W


Are good works required for salvation or is faith alone sufficient?


I cannot understand how someone who not only (supposedly) reads the Bible but claims it to be their sole deposit of faith can deny or downplay the role of good works in salvation. Whenever I enter into a discussion (read: debate) on this topic, the other person almost invariably turns first to Ephesians 2:8-9, which states that salvation is a gift from God and not something that we can earn (which is true). While they are still glowing with pride for being able to recite the passage verbatim, I ask them what verse 10 says. Unless they have a Bible with them, they usually don’t know. (Go ahead, look it up) It says that God created us to do good works. And these are not random acts of kindness, but tests of faith that he established for us to encounter ahead of time. Then, if I am prepared, I present them with any number of passages that illustrate the importance of performing good works, the most powerful of which (IMHO) is 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, in which St. Paul states, “…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:2 NIV)

One of several typical (conditioned) responses will follow. The most common is that the performance of good works is simply a sign that the person is already saved, a notion which in my mind portrays Christians as a mindless-yet-extremely-loving swarm of zombies. I ask how they reconcile that belief with Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31-46) and they tell me that someone who claims to be saved but does not perform good works is really not saved at all, never was. If they are on their game, they then cite Matthew, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven”, to which I reply with the remainder of the verse, “…but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21 NIV) Sometimes, I will ask if they believe that love is an exercise of free will. Seeing where I am headed with this question, the reply is often that those who are saved are moved by God (the Holy Spirit in particular) to do good works, so no, it is God’s will and not free will. How then did Adam and Eve, who started off in God’s grace, choose to disobey? To not love God enough to keep his one and only commandment (not to eat the fruit of that one tree)? To dispute free will is to call the entire doctrine of original sin into question. It is useful to remind them that Paul told the Philippians to obey and “work out” their salvation, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Php 2:12-13 NIV) Sorry, the free will of believers is not up for negotiation.

As a last resort, the other person may circle back around to Ephesians 2:8-9 (despite the fact that I agreed with them the first time and despite what was said about verse 10) and they will make the claim that the Catholic church bases salvation on good works alone. At last, I have an opportunity to teach them something, for what holds true for so many tenets of Catholic teaching applies here too. This is not a matter of faith or works but one of faith and works. Both are required, because in reality, they are not two separate things, but one thing. I recently heard a priest give an excellent and concise explanation of this in a sermon. He said that any external sign or work must be a reflection of an interior conversion of the soul. A non-Catholic Christian will usually appreciate it when a Catholic recognizes that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23 NIV) This means, of course, that we constantly have opportunities to undergo conversion, to change our minds, to experience μετάνοια (metanoia). Giving ourselves to others (our time, our love, not just our money) is the way by which we are able to see our true selves and to walk toward God. Doing good works is not filling out a spiritual bingo card. It is not simply the expression of the soul already saved, but of the soul in the act of being saved.


September 21, 2014

Crucifying Jesus All Over Again

Short URL: http://goo.gl/XJKoAO


Have you ever been told that the Roman Catholic Church crucifies Christ over and over again with each celebration of the Mass? I really don’t mean to rant, but…


I’m tired of hearing other Christians preach that Catholics crucify Jesus ‘again’ in the celebration of the Mass. After all, it is plainly stated in the Bible that Jesus died on the cross once for all for the forgiveness of sins, and that no new sacrifice can be made. (Hebrews 6-10; yes, read it all) I think these other Christians would do well to read the first seven books of Leviticus, where they would learn that not all sacrifices decreed by God were for the atonement of sin. If the Mass (specifically, the Eucharist) was intended to be a sacrifice for atonement, then I would agree that the Church missed the mark somewhere along the way; however, the Mass is not a sacrifice for atonement at all, but one of thanksgiving. That is what the Greek word eucharsitia means. Atonement could only be made by Jesus, but we celebrate in the sacrificial feast at his command.

In reading these chapters, they might also learn that sacrifices are not simple affairs. A fellowship offering, for example, can include not only an animal sacrifice (Lev 3), but also an offering of loaves of bread (Lev 7:11-21). Two Jewish celebrations that together commemorate their liberation from slavery in Egypt, the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, fit this pattern. The Paschal Lamb must be eaten on the night of the sacrifice, but the feast is perpetuated for seven days through the consumption of bread prepared for this purpose. Likewise Jesus died on the cross to free mankind from the bondage of sin, and perpetuated for all time the feast at the last supper using a very special bread (c.f. John 6). It must be perpetuated for all time because it is the final atonement. Paul asks rhetorically, “is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ [and] is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16 NIV) Indeed, the sacrifice of Jesus is complete; therefore, let us keep the feast.

Addendum
For anyone who has never encountered anti-Catholic rhetoric on a grand scale, please read The Mass Insults Jesus Christ. The author relies heavily on the same chapters from Hebrews that I reference above, though the verses have been taken out of context and contorted to “support” his thesis. Of all of the holes in his argument, I will expound upon one for the sake of illustration. Toward the bottom of the first large section, Hebrews 6:6 is quoted (I love how he makes sure the reader knows that the text is from the NAB, as though he caught Catholics contradicting their own Bible). This quote is then followed by his own analysis (emphasis retained):

Notice, in this last Scripture, St. Paul’s statement that repentance is impossible for anyone who is continually recrucifying Jesus Christ again and again! Jesus Christ died once and for all [eternally]. He is not to be recrucified again and again for any reason. As long as He is being so recrucified, it is impossible to come to repentance. Therefore, any person who continually practices the Mass cannot be saved as long as they continue!!

Read that same passage (which actually begins with verse 4, by the way) in the NIV translation (used heavily by Protestants) and you will find that it obviously means something totally different from what the author suggests. The falling away refers to apostasy. True repentance of sin is impossible for he who had once been filled with the Spirit and the fire of Christ but who has since rejected him altogether (e.g. became atheist or something other than Christian). In other words, it’s not possible to reignite that fire genuinely if it has been purposely put out once already. To try is to crucify Jesus again. And while I understand that the author considers Catholicism as a “falling away” from “true enlightenment”, his analysis of the text is just plain wrong. There is no mention of the Mass whatsoever (except perhaps the reference to tasting the heavenly gift in verse 4), nor is there any word indicating that the recrucifying is a “continual” process (yes, I checked the Greek to be sure). What’s more, the tone of finality in the passage doesn’t jive with the author’s notion that (reading between the lines here with tongue planted firmly in cheek), if those Catholics would just stop going to Mass, then maybe some of them could finally repent and be saved!


August 28, 2014

The Vatican Diaries

Short URL: http://goo.gl/f6PwVN


The Vatican Diaries
This is a short review of The Vatican Diaries, written by John Thavis, narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner.

John Thavis, a native of Minnesota, enjoyed a thirty-year career as a journalist covering the Vatican for Catholic News Service. He was first hired in Rome in 1978 as a headline writer, and after returning home for a brief time, he decided to relocate the family to Italy, where he soon found a home at CNS. He retired in 2012 and moved back to the States to focus on his own writing fulltime. The Vatican Diaries was published in early 2013.

What a book! Thavis shares his unique perspective on life in the Vatican, drawing from various events of two papacies, both mundane and spectacular. His main themes are these: that the Vatican isn’t the well-oiled machine that many people think it is, and that just about every news story that emanates from within its walls is usually backed by another, more obscure, and usually more interesting story.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of this work. Early on, the sarcasm meter spiked so high that I started to wonder if this was an honest work or some sort of anti-Catholic rhetoric written by a particularly cynical insider. I had nothing to indicate that the author was even Catholic! He told of the frustrations that journalists face when following the Supreme Pontiff around the globe, and how even if the press corp misses an event altogether, the stories still get written, often using secondary sources like televised event coverage. After a while, though, it started to sound like this guy really knew his stuff. Some stories you just can’t make up. I eventually decided that the sarcasm was just a product of his style. After all, journalists are supposed to write provocative pieces, balanced or not, right?

Many of the topics covered will not come as a surprise to anyone who pays even mild attention to Catholic headlines. There is ample (and vividly frank) discussion about various scandals of course, particularly the recent ones concerning priestly abuse. Also covered are the schismatic foundation of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), impediments in the cause for the canonization of Pope Pius XII, and Pope John Paul II’s visit with the rock band U2. Some stories, however, cover very obscure topics and are not the stuff of mainstream journalism. These stories are intricately detailed and are admittedly interesting, but were surely included not for their widespread appeal, but because Thavis himself found them amusing. One such story (perhaps my favorite in the whole book) describes how a vast Roman burial ground was discovered during excavation for a new Vatican underground parking garage. Is it always this interesting when archaeology meets politics? Thavis’ admiration for John Paul II cannot be veiled, but you can tell he wasn’t quite so enthused with Benedict XVI; well, that is until he finally discovered what really made the German prelate tick…but, you’ll just have to read the book to find out what that is.

Malcolm Hillgartner’s narration is excellent. Non-fiction books are very often narrated by the author, especially those written by politicians, professors, or others whose professions require a high capacity in public speaking. I thought I was listening to Thavis reading his own work, and it was only after I noted the steady cadence in this recording that I looked to the jacket for verification that I was listening to a professional narrator. Hillgartner’s performance is in no way flat. He puts emphasis on all the right words and is able to keep the listener engaged, which is why I first assumed it was Thavis.


August 6, 2014

August 6, 2014: Conclave Facts, Catholic America, Project Data, Toothpick City

20 Fun Facts About Papal Elections
This post by Dr. Taylor Marshall will undoubtedly come in handy someday. It’s a distillation of interesting facts from the history of Papal conclaves. I’m surprised how many questions I had to field from non-Catholic friends during the last two elections (and how much misinformation I had to correct). I wish I had seen this earlier!

If America Were A Fully Catholic Country…
While we are on his site, here is an article that I printed off a while back that’s been hanging around my cubical ever since. It’s a nice thought, but it’s predicated on the assumption that Catholics will actually start behaving (and voting) like Catholics. Making that happen is going to take a lot of work and prayer indeed!

3 Kinds of Data To Help Avoid Project Management Failure
The success of a project is more subjective than you might think. This post by Ashley Coolman explains how data from past projects, the members of the project team, and resource consumption can help define better project guidelines and improve the chances of success.

Rolling Through The Bay
I dug this one up while cleaning out some old e-mails. Fourth-generation San Franciscan Scott Weaver built an amazing sculpture of the City by the Bay out of toothpicks. His website includes a brief about the history of the sculpture, and the Exploratorium has posted a video on YouTube that shows the artist sending ping pong balls on tours through various parts of town.

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