Thursday, January 26, 2006
1. Building the Church.
Let’s say I want to establish the Church somewhere. How do I go about it? It could be building the Church out of a community of unbelievers or re-evangelizing a flagging community of believers.
2. How listeners learn the Faith.
Let us keep in mind that a soul can only learn from the Catholic Church as its teacher, and as a learner who is a part of a community that makes up the Catholic Church. “Faith lives in the WE, (that is the Church) or else it is not alive,” Pope Benedict stated in “The Yes of Jesus Christ.” We cannot “build our personal faith in a private dialogue with Jesus.” For Faith to be alive it must live in the ‘we,’ the Christian community. This cannot be accomplished instantaneously in souls. It could take a life time.
3. What should they learn?
From the Apostolic Commission, they must learn all the commandments of Christ and how to obey them. The Church, as a community, teaches us those commandments and how to obey them and we must learn them within the community, the Church.
4. Another way of saying it.
Putting it another way: the Evangelical Life is the fulfillment of the Beatitudes. How long does it take to teach a soul to be “pure in heart?” Usually a life time. Then when will you teach the next Beatitude? When you teach the first Beatitude to the next soul, the first soul is beginning to forget it, in which case he must be reminded.
5. See how long it takes.
If this is done to an entire Diocese, considering what must be done and the time it takes to do it, there is no way of attaining this goal of establishing the Church anytime soon. I can almost imagine how St. Augustine did it in England and St. Boniface in Germany. They went as a community, teaching crowds as a community, and then teaching each soul who responds to the grace of conversion within the community, the Church.
Initially each member of the community must strive towards charity. It is only by doing so that they will receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit that will enable the community to reach charity. And only after that can the community, fortified with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, lead other souls towards Charity, thus uniting that soul to the same community, the Church. The community needs the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to attain the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity that leads to salvation and a fortiori perfection. The same gifts are needed by the community to lead souls in the acquisition of the infused knowledge of the divine mysteries. This is what will enable them to explain the truths to their listeners and guide souls to the heights of charity.
Now, in most Catholic Church communities, whether laymen or religious these gifts are not evident. No wonder they cannot reach Christian perfection or charity. They have not reached a level of spirituality wherewith they become deserving to receive the gifts, thus unable to reach Christian perfection.
6. Too large to start with.
A Diocese is a crowd too large to handle. Just teaching the commands of Christ and how to obey them can take a lifetime. How much more to actually obey those commands. A Parish is, also, too large.
7. One by one.
After talking to a crowd, Christ had to attend to His followers one by one. To build the mystical body of Christ, we have to attend to each soul and guide it to union with Christ as a branch is united to the vine. Usually you cannot get a group and unite them to Christ instantly. It is often a singular and personal effort: one by one. This is difficult even within a family. It is evident among converts, evidently a one to one relationship.
It is only possible in a family or group that has become one heart and one mind moved by God and has responded to the first call of conversion (commonly referred to as the purgative state.) A small community, bent on living the fullness of the Gospel freely, without pressure or threat. A group that is serious in following Christ.
Only within such communities can Christ teach us and within where we can learn the ways of God. And it is only in this community can a soul come in contact with Christ. It is only here where the Church can be experienced and thus a place of access to fellowship with Jesus. Outside such communities the Church becomes abstract and unreal, Pope Benedict XVI wrote.
The Oneness, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church can be viewed only in such small communities. Then they become fruitful having become the Church, the place where faith is born and the place of rebirth into the truth. ( Painting is "Saint Benedict and community" by Luis Morales, 1509-1586)
Friday, January 13, 2006
1. Strong rumors have it that the first encyclical of Pope Benedict is on Charity. Well, what else should we expect? Charity is the ultimate goal of the Catholic Religion. Christ summarized His teachings simply into Love of God and Love of neighbor. It is why Christ came and died for us. It is what makes up the Mystical Body of Christ. It is the heart of Theology. It is the only Way, Truth and Life. It is the goal of Christian perfection. It is the only thing Jesus requires of us.
2. Charity, unlike other subjects, is not learned from lectures, books, theology, and seminars. Charity, like everything else in the Catholic Religion is learned in a very unique way. All other ways of learning charity leads to confusion if not heresies.
3. The apostles and the early Christians knew this way of learning. In our days, St. Therese reminds us how. “Not a single book and no theology guided me.” The knowledge of Charity is an infused knowledge. It is a vision. It is a mystical experience of the face of Christ. It is a knowledge kept from the worldly wise and given to mere children. To Children! Yes, that’s why Christ required that we become like little children. There is no other way. Christian Spirituality is nothing else but a process of becoming children again. Whether it is Benedictine, Dominican or Carmelite spirituality, the goal is to become like children again; to be more precise, to regain the humility of children.
4. This is primitive Christian spirituality of denying oneself: taking up one’s cross and dying with Christ in order to resurrect with Him into a new birth. It is the traditional teaching on mortifications, daily dying to oneself, little by little, by giving up one’s will.
5. Since the entire Catholic religion is an integral part of Charity, no part of this religion can be understood apart from this vision seen from the eyes of a humble child.
6. Study our religion with the slightest pride and you’ll understand nothing. Depending on the degree of your humility, you will understand accordingly. In fact, if one reaches the perfection of humility, which is described by St. Benedict and St. Bernard as the 12th degree of humility or the 7th degree as enumerated by St. Gregory, you will find yourself face to face with Christ in Charity.
7. Pride! What a word. It brings up the image of Satan himself. And the world today is ruled with the pride of life. How can they learn the truths of our religion? Impossible! This is the reason why so many cannot understand the simpler teachings of Pope Benedict XVI. A recent example is the clarification that unbaptized babies go straight to Heaven. Nothing could be simpler and clearer and yet I am amazed at the contrary reaction. How can they expect to understand Charity which is the perfection of Christian Life?
8. Pope Benedict goes directly to Charity because he wants to demolish all religious pretenses. Love, Himself, has said: “I came to divide…. I came to bring fire….to burn away all stubbles….” And the Pope intends to fan this fire into a conflagration. He plans to whip the undeserving out of God’s Church. He is aggressive. He loves war. (Painting is "St. Frances of Rome giving alms," by Baciccio, 1675.)
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Much has been written on Liturgical abuses. Some were small things that could make the Mass illicit but not invalid. Some are serious enough to invalidate the Mass. I would like to put my attention on one serious neglect that could invalidate the Mass. This is the Intention.
The Sacraments are the Church’s main instruments in the sanctification of souls. For them to benefit all concerned, the Sacraments must be administered properly: Matter and Form must be strictly observed; and … THE MINISTER MUST HAVE THE RIGHT INTENTION. Since seldom is there problem with regard to Matter and Form I will forego discussing these. The problem often lies in the intention.
In Theology, we were taught that if someone asks for Baptism with the wrong intention, say, to be baptized a Catholic in order to win a nice girl in marriage, that wrong intention could invalidate the Sacrament. We must have the right intention -- to have faith, for we are asked: “What do you ask of the Church?” And we answer: “Faith.”
The Priest must also have the right intention when it comes to celebrating the Sacrifice of the Mass. Just as in Baptism, the great spiritual effects take place in the soul because of the power given by Christ to the Matter, Form and Intention. If one does not conform to Christ’s instruction there will be no sacrament.
In the Sacrifice of the Mass, there is usually little problem with the Matter and Form, being wheat bread and grape wine. The problem is usually in the Intention.
The Sacrifice of the Mass is first and foremost an act of Sacrifice. It is supposed to commemorate the Sacrifice of Christ, “Do this in commemoration of Me.” And the sacrifice of Christ took place at the moment when He died on the Cross.
We can say that the life of Christ may be divided into three stages. The first is when His Body and Blood were united when He was alive. That would be from the time He was born of the Blessed Virgin until His death on the cross. The second is when He died described as when there was a separation between His Body and Blood. This was just for a moment. And the third is when He resurrected from the dead. Here His Body and Blood were united to each other, glorified and united to His Divinity. This is from His Resurrection to all eternity.
The Sacrifice is not commemorating His life from His birth to His Passion. The Sacrifice of the Mass, specially the Consecration, is commemorating that brief moment in Christ’s life when His Body was separated from His Blood; the time He was dead. Of course, His Body was always united to His Divinity, just as with His Blood. But the Sacramental commemoration is that moment the Blood was separated from his Body. When the priest reaches the consecration, his intention must be to commemorate that brief moment. It is the Matter, Form and this Intention which Christ empowered to transform the bread and wine into His Body and Blood. If one element, like the Intention, is defective, then Transubstantiation does not take place; there is no Consecration, no Mass. A defective Intention is when the priest is recalling or commemorating the Nativity or Easter during Consecration. That would be a defective Intention. At the moment of Consecration, he must know that he is commemorating that brief moment in the life of Christ when His Blood was separated from His Body, when He was dead. He is commemorating the incident in a sacramental manner; it is the Intention through which the power comes to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
There is a rule that says that virtual intention is sufficient; meaning to say, from the time the priest is ordained he may say, this is my intention every time I say Mass in the future. And that would be enough. But a priest could make a thousand intentions before he says mass. Would that not interfere and nullify his virtual intention? What if he says tomorrow I will not say mass? Then he changes his mind and says Mass. Does that not nullify his previous virtual intention? So many things could happen, which theologians are uncertain that could invalidate the mass. Why not play safe? Whenever a priest says Mass he must make the proper intention, to commemorate that brief moment in the life of Christ, as he goes into the consecration. A lot of parts in the mass and the prayers while vesting in the Sacristy should remind him of this. But with the countless stimuli that bombard him before consecration, there is still the possibility that he might forget to make the proper intention before the consecration…. in which case, we have no Mass.
Monday, January 02, 2006
“In Mary…we meet the essence of the Church.” Mary is the mother of the Church and the first daughter of the Church -- the mother and the virgin daughter.
The Immaculate Conception is a type of the Church, for to be truly “Church” it must be immaculate and conceived “not by the will of man but by the will of God.”
The Immaculate Conception gives birth to Christ. Immediately we are reminded that the motherhood of Mary is the motherhood of the Church: that Christ may be born in souls that make up the mystical Body of Christ.
Indeed, Mary and the mystery of the Church are inseparable just as she and Christ are.
We see it clearly that when the Apostles were alive the Church was apostolic, besides being One, Holy and Catholic. But after Pentecost, the Church, remaining One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, became Marian.
This is not a new mark or new characteristic of the Church. It is just a summary of the four traditional marks of the Church. It is just a new type prophesied at the beginning of Genesis, with reference to the eternal battle that will exist between the devil and his cohorts and the woman and her offsprings. This also will be prophesied later on in the Apocalypse by St. John, when he presented this type of the Church as “the woman clothed with the sun.”
Mary, as the type of the Church, represents this. She is mother of Christ. But Christ, today, exists in His mystical Body the Church and, therefore, she is mother of the Church. But the Church, the future bride of Christ, the Bridegroom, must be a virgin. And Who is the worthiest of virgins in Christ’s Mystical Body, but Mary? Here is where Mary becomes Mother and Virgin daughter at the same time. As mother of the Mystical Body, Mary’s role in heaven is to help form the mystical Body of Christ, the Church, seeing to it that the members of the Mystical Body are, primarily, spiritual virgins and if possible also, though not necessarily, physical virgins.
With Mary representing both the Mother of the Church and the worthiest virgin member of the Church, it would be just right for us to describe the Church of the Apocalyptic times as Marian. And St. John did not hesitate to describe the Church as “The Woman.”
For each individual, the message is clear. To belong to this Church, your life must be like Mary. Your life must be withdrawn from the world, silent, working on what is essential for existence, mindful of God and being His handmaid. Of course, the Gospels had already described this life and further explained by the Fathers of the Church. But how many Catholics can envision this way of life in an entire and unified way? Much more put it into practice?
Doesn’t that life bear the description of monastic life, a life primarily meant for lay people?
(Painting above is "Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari," by Titian, 1490-1576.)