Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, encouraged the priests in this 'Year of the Priest' to contemplate the truths of the Catholic Church. The first time I heard those words were during my seminary days while taking up 'Asceticism, Contemplation and Christian Perfection.' It is the normal way to salvation for all souls. This is to go through the life of Repentance, Faith, Hope and Charity. And perfecting the theological virtues with the help of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. This means 'being perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect.'
St. Thomas of Aquinas noted that before the apostles could go out and preach they had to undergo the following steps. First, they had to live a life of repentance as preached by the Old Testament (and specifically by St. John the Baptist.) Added to this they had to perfect their life of repentance as taught by Christ (during His 30 years of hidden life) in the New Testament. Secondly, they attained faith when they left all things (when Christ called them to follow Him.) Thirdly, their imperfect faith had to be tested during Christ's passion when they doubted. Fourthly, their faith was strengthened after the Resurrection. Fifthly, they had to undergo the final instructions of Christ on how the perfect faith of the Church should look like at the Second Coming. Sixthly, they had to undergo the dark night of the senses when their senses would no longer sense Christ with His Ascension into heaven. Seventhly, they had to be united with one mind and heart in Bethany by a life showing the obedience of the Church (Bethany means 'obedience'). And eightly, they had to be fortified by the presence of the Holy Spirit for their incoming work. This Catholic Doctrine is very much different from the many Charismatic movements that believe they can reach the 8th state without passing the seven previous stages.
To contemplate the truths of the Catholic Church one has to reach the perfection of Faith, Hope and Charity with the help of the gift of wisdom and while experiencing the peace of Christ. This is what ascetical and mystical theology taught us. And we were taught that this is the normal way of going to heaven. If our priests have not contemplated on the truths of the Church it means they do not know those truths. If they do not know the truths they cannot teach it to their parishioners. If both the parishioners and priests do not know the truths then .........who is Catholic? St. Thomas was clear in saying that no one should go out preaching and being instruments of salvation unless they had reached the eighth step, i.e. fortified by the abiding of the Holy Spirit.
The reason the Pope called the ' Year of the Priest ' is to remind all to contemplate the truths of the Church. But considering the steps one must take to reach that contemplative state, and considering that most priests have to start from step one, how promising is the possibility of accomplishing this goal during Pope Benedict's reign.
Taking the cue from the words of Pope Benedict when he observed that the cause of the problems in the priesthood today is the 'lack of conversion' or as he said more exactly during his Lenten talks, 'the inability to repent' we are now talking of a more serious problem. St. Augustine described contemplation as the highest Beatitude with fear of the Lord as the first step towards it. Pope Benedict is hinting on the fact that many have not yet reached the first Beatitude due to inability to repent or undergo the so-called first conversion.
Why are souls unable to repent or have their first conversion? Because they do not know what it is and how to go about it. This is sad because these are taught in the Liturgy of the Mass during the whole year. This is briefly summarized during the Lenten Season, our knowledge of it is perfected up to the Ascension. And the 34 Sundays between Pentecost and Christ the King tells the steps on how to perfect our Faith, Hope and Charity that makes us able to contemplate the truths of the Catholic Church.