"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Occult Has Demonic Influence

Bishop Donald W. Montrose

By the "occult," we are speaking of some supra-human or supernatural influence that is not from God. We commonly associate the occult with that which has demonic influence. In the United States today the occult has become much more popular than it was twenty years ago. Today, there is popular Satanic music, Satanic street gangs, an increase in Satanic worship, a more widespread use of the horoscope and study of the signs of the zodiac, and Satanic games that can be purchased. In spite of this, many people do not take the occult seriously. They laugh off the notion of the Power of Evil as actually being a part of the "real" world in which we live.

I do believe that demonic influence is very real and that it constitutes a dangerous threat to our spiritual well-being. What is written here is, at best, a brief summary of a reality that I have no desire to spend much time exploring. My purpose is simply to give you enough knowledge to be able to at least suspect the presence of the occult so that you can avoid it completely.

In the letter to the Ephesians (1:3-10), St. Paul tells us that God chose us in Jesus Christ before the world began. We are called to be holy and without sin in his sight. God called us to be his children through Jesus Christ. In Jesus and through his Blood we have been saved and our sins forgiven. This is how generous God our Father has been with us. And He has given us the wisdom to understand this mystery, this plan He revealed to us in Christ.

We are Baptized and Confirmed Christians. In both of these sacraments we have renounced Satan, all his works, and the empty promises of the kingdom of darkness. In these Baptismal promises we profess our faith in Jesus Christ and in the Church. Now the kingdom of God is absolutely opposed to Satan's kingdom. Salvation in Jesus Christ presupposes our rejection of the kingdom of darkness. Our life, though, is a spiritual warfare. In the first letter of St. John (1 Jn. 5:18-20) he tells us two things. First of all, we who are born of God (by Baptism and the Holy Spirit) are protected by God so that the Evil One cannot touch us. But he also tells us that the whole world is under the Evil One.

The Evil One can tempt us, but he cannot touch us directly unless we open the door for him. We should not fear Satan nor should we be constantly looking for him in the ordinary happenings of our life.

Do not concentrate on the Evil Spirits, but fix your eyes and your faith upon Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are saved by Jesus Christ alone, through prayer, our adherence to the Word of God in the Bible, and through the sacraments, especially through the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

In our prayer we should not forget to involve Mary, the Mother of God, who has crushed the head of the ancient serpent (Gen. 3:15). Devotion to Mary is a powerful means of protection in our daily life.

What is the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of darkness like? It is a lie that seeks to resemble the Kingdom of God. Read Isaiah (14:12-15). It is about Satan. The prophet tells us that in his heart Satan is determined to be like God.

Therefore, in Satan's kingdom he wants everything that is in the Kingdom of God. But his kingdom is a lie; it is false. In the kingdom of darkness, there is false worship and adoration; there is evil prayer. He offers us false happiness and peace. He holds out to us dark wisdom and knowledge. This is how he tempted Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5). Satan said: "No, God knows well that the moment you eat it (the forbidden fruit) your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad." In his kingdom, Satan also offers us a health that is unto death, and a protection that is false. Just as we picture the angels of heaven singing and worshipping God, there is also a special music that is evil in the kingdom of darkness.

Satan's kingdom is a lie. He wants to be like God. But in the very first of the Ten Commandments, God told Moses: "I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods that are proposed to us in the kingdom of darkness. " St. Paul tells us to be on our guard: "The Spirit says clearly that some men will abandon their faith in later times. They will obey lying spirits and follow the teaching of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1). Let us hold fast to our faith in the Lord Jesus and his Church. Our salvation is brought about by Jesus Christ alone, through prayer, by reading and studying the Word of God in the Bible, and through the presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our tabernacles.

When the Israelites were about to come into the promised land, the Lord God gave them many commandments that had to do with the true worship that He desired, and the false worship that He hated. These same commandments hold for us today.

"When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abominations of the people there. Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord, and because of such abominations to the Lord, your God is driving these nations out of your way. You, however, must be altogether sincere toward the Lord, your God" (Deut. 18:9-13).

The Lord says that we must be sincere with Him. We cannot have it both ways. Jesus said: "He who is not with Me is against Me" (Matt. 21:30). We have to be firm in our resolution to follow the Lord alone.

Let us now consider some examples of forbidden knowledge and power.

When we talk about forbidden knowledge, we simply mean knowledge that is obtained outside of God's influence or the normal way that human beings obtain knowledge. None of us knows the future; from our knowledge of particular circumstances we can know what might possibly happen. This is one thing. But to seek knowledge of the future or intimate knowledge about another person, apart from God, and through the help of clairvoyance or spirits is what is meant by forbidden knowledge.

Forbidden power is a kind of magical power that produces effects apart from God and in a way that is beyond ordinary human means.

The Kingdom Of Darkness And Forbidden Knowledge

"Do not go to mediums or consult fortune tellers, for you will be defiled by them. I, the Lord, am your God" (Lev. 19:31). "Should anyone turn to mediums and fortune tellers and follow their wanton ways, I will turn against such a one and cut him off from his people" (Lev. 20:6).

Astrology, Horoscopes Are Pagan Customs

Fortune tellers try to predict the future through the use of occult, magic, or superstition. It is forbidden to seek knowledge of the future by using playing cards, tarot cards, the crystal ball, the study of the hand, the stars, examining the liver of dead animals, shooting arrows, the Ouija board, or any other superstitious means.

A medium is a person who has immediate or secret knowledge either by some questionable power of his own or through the power of an evil spirit that works through him. In l Samuel chapter 3, read how King Saul consulted a medium and died the next day. 1 Chronicles 10:13 says that Saul died because of this.

Astrology And Horoscopes

Jeremiah 10:2—"Thus says the Lord: Learn not the customs of the pagans and have no fear of the signs of the heavens, though the pagans fear them." By studying the stars and planets an astrologer casts a horoscope on the basis of the month and the day of an individual's birth. The horoscope is a prediction of events likely to occur in a person's life based upon the movement of the stars and planets. Even though millions of people follow horoscopes with greater or lesser interest, this is still a type of fortune telling. Even if you say you do not believe in horoscopes, and only read your own for fun, you should abandon this practice. The daily horoscope can easily influence us from time to time. It is a way in which we open ourselves to the occult.

If you want to live in the Kingdom of God, renounce horoscopes and all other means of fortune telling. Any playing cards, Ouija boards, or other things used for fortune telling should be destroyed.

The Kingdom Of Darkness And Forbidden Power

Witchcraft or superstitious magic is used to produce effects that are beyond the power of man. These effects may be good or bad and are brought about by the use of magical words or gestures, or the use of magical herbs, powders, liquids or similar things. There is often a specific invocation of the devil. Physical evils are directed against individuals because of hatred or jealousy. We have all heard about sticking pins in dolls, the evil eye, the eating of cursed food or drinking a liquid, that through the power of darkness is to cause harm, sickness, or death. This is witchcraft. Today, witches can be found almost everywhere, and often they are presented in a positive light. Just remember everyone involved in false worship, seeking forbidden knowledge, or using forbidden power should be absolutely avoided.

There is also an increased interest in African witchcraft—voodooism. The gods of voodooism are good and bad. Usually a voodoo service begins after sunset and ends in the early morning. It often includes a bloody sacrifice of a goat or chicken. There is prayer and singing. The gods are supposed to briefly enter into the persons during the ritual.

In voodooism and witchcraft, Catholic objects such as images of saints, crucifixes, candles, holy water and Catholic prayers are sometimes used, as well as other objects and prayers. Do not be fooled by the apparent religious nature of what happens.

If you have any objects or written prayers that have been used in witchcraft or given you by a witch, they should be completely destroyed.

If you have been involved in witchcraft you must renounce the devil, renounce the witchcraft in which you have been involved and all witchcraft, ask God's pardon, and confess your sin to a priest. In Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) there is Divine Power needed to free one from the influence of evil.

Charms And Amulets

This is a form of magic in which the particular object is believed to have power to attract the good or to ward off evil. These are particularly bad when given to us by a fortune teller, spiritualist, "curandero" or some person involved with the occult. When the object is worn on the person or carried in the purse or placed in the home, it means that the influence of evil is always present there with us.

Examples are: carrying garlic in the purse in order to always have money, keeping an open pair of scissors for good luck, keeping special herbs in a jar, wearing a crescent around the neck or a necklace of garlic, putting alfalfa and flowers in front of a statue, placing figures of oriental or Indian gods in the house, and so on. Much of the modern jewelry worn about the neck is now actually representative of something used in witchcraft. Usually people wear this jewelry innocently.

We must be careful not to use religious medals or statues in a superstitious way. No medal, no statue, nor religious article has any power or luck connected with it. A medal, statue or candle is only a sign of our prayer asking the saint to intercede with God for us. All worship is given to God and to Him alone.

All of the objects described above or any other objects used in a superstitious way should be effectively thrown away or destroyed. If we are wearing jewelry that corresponds to a zodiac sign, or if we wear something that is representative of witchcraft, we can open ourselves unwittingly to the kingdom of darkness. People wear religious medals because they seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the saints, and they desire the protection and the blessing of God. Wearing something that represents the occult, even in an innocent way, is symbolic of our being under the power of darkness. We should not hesitate to get rid of this type of jewelry. Either we want to be in the Kingdom of God or we don't.

Renounce Satan, renounce the use of charms and ask God's pardon. If you deliberately carved such an object to ward off evil or to attract good luck, it would be well to mention this when you go to Confession.

Place your faith, not in the kingdom of darkness, but only in Jesus Christ who cures, who saves, who protects and who loves us.

Spiritualists Or Spiritualistic Churches

Spiritualism involves a communication with the dead or with the spirit world by some psychic or occult means.

Great care is to be used because many people are fooled. There can be the use of the Bible, holy water, statues of saints and Catholic hymns. Spiritualists often believe in the Fatherhood of God, doing good to others, personal responsibility for what one does, reward for good deeds and punishment for evil deeds. Many are Christian or even Catholic and profess faith in Jesus.

But there is always a dangerous attempt to communicate with the dead or with spirits in some way. It can be through a seance, or perhaps the person just seems to go into a trance.

Sometimes spiritualists are involved in healing, witchcraft, fortune telling or even blessing homes to protect them. Sometimes they believe in reincarnation as well.

Reincarnation (Theosophy)

This is the belief that the soul, after death, passes into the body of another human being, an animal, a plant or even an object. Many oriental religions or cults believe this. In Hinduism the god Vishnu is believed to have several reincarnations as a fish, a dwarf, as the person of Rama, and as Krishna in the different ages of the world. This is contrary to the Bible and to all Christian belief in the afterlife. "It is appointed that men die once, and after death be judged" (Heb. 10:27).

Those involved with spiritualists must renounce Satan, renounce spiritualism, ask God's pardon, and confess their sin to a priest.

Curing Sickness Through Superstition ("Curanderos" And "Santeros")

It doesn't matter if there are statues, holy water, crucifixes, prayers to Jesus, Mary and the saints, if there is any superstitious practice it is evil. These are some examples:

—using charms or a tomato to wash one's body, putting the remainder under the bed,

—cleaning one's body with eggs or lemons and burning the materials with charcoal,

—using rose water and alcohol for healing. (In one case this was prepared by placing a skeleton in the water for six hours, followed by singing and praying over the water.)

Sometimes a "curandero" gives a special vitamin to take or even prescribes "Catholic" prayers to be said. None of these "prayers" should be said in these circumstances because they were prepared under the influence of evil.

Other examples include:

—taking a special bath prepared with wine, flowers, bread, cinnamon, black sugar, and water from a river.

—wrapping a person in a special bandage, cutting off piece by piece, and burying it in a recent grave in the cemetery.

These are just a few of the superstitions used, but there are many more.

Sometimes people pray to God and to the saints and then go off seeking relief through the kingdom of darkness. Many times God does not heal through prayer or doctors because He wants the soul to be healed first of hatred, jealousy, or some other sin. God knows what He is doing. We have to choose either the power of God or the power of evil. If you have any objects used in these false cures, destroy them. Renounce Satan, renounce this sin, ask God's forgiveness and confess your sin to a priest.


Although hypnotism is now used sometimes by respectable doctors, dentists and therapists, it was linked in the past with the occult and with superstition.

Even when it is legitimate, there are certain real dangers that must be very carefully considered. In hypnotism, one surrenders for a time his own capacity to reason; there is a dependence of the one hypnotized on the will of the hypnotist; also there can be unfortunate aftereffects that result from this technique.

Except for a very serious reason, avoid submitting to a hypnotist; never do it for the purpose of entertainment.


In our day, hard rock music played by "satanic" musical groups presents additional problems. This music often glorifies Satan and also, at times, awakens desires to commit suicide, to use drugs, and to misuse sex. The music is also known to encourage physical violence. Even hell is proposed as a desired end of life. The evil is found in the musical combination of words, rhythm and noise. Records or tapes of this kind should not be kept in the home but should be destroyed, even if they have cost a considerable amount of money. Choose the Kingdom of God!

Devil Worship

It goes without saying that praying to the devil, worshipping Satan, reading the Satanic bible, or taking part in a Black Mass which mocks the crucifixion of Jesus and the Eucharist are among the most serious sins that one can commit.

In some Satanic worship, there is at times sacrifice to Satan by a horrible killing of animals, and even the murder of human infants. The secrecy surrounding this activity enables the "Church of Satan" to obtain a certain respectability in our society. It has the same legal standing as any other church.

Do not be deceived; being involved in this false church is a very serious matter. Catholics who wish to repent must resign from the false religion at whatever cost, renounce Satan and their sin in all their heart, and confess this sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The New Age Movement

Although virtually unknown a few years ago, this movement is gaining in popularity on an international level. On the surface it appears to be a "peace" movement, but in my estimation, it definitely belongs to the occult. This is because it presents some basic characteristics that are identified with the occult, even though Satan is not mentioned.

For example, the "god" of the New Age is not the God of Christianity and Judaism. The New Age god is more like an impersonal energy or force of which the whole universe consists. This is a form of pantheism. For us God is Creator and Lord of all. We are his creatures. In the New Age, Jesus becomes one of the many spiritual masters who discovered his higher self. It is believed that in the New Age we can also be enlightened, and this through our own efforts not through revelation and the grace of God.

The New Age Movement is sometimes called a peace movement. Somehow, it is said, that when we become a part of this "Harmonic Convergence" we can bring to bear a mighty power that is beyond ourselves for achieving world peace. But when we talk about any power that is not from God, and beyond ourselves we are really talking about the occult.

Do not be deceived by the talk about ecology, the beauty of nature in the world, and the fundamental goodness of the apparent goals of this movement. Those who join the New Age Movement are entering a movement dealing with occult spiritual power. It is not a spiritual power that comes from God, but from the Kingdom of False Light and Darkness.

The Kingdom Of Darkness

This kingdom offers a false peace and happiness in sin. Man is capable, especially in heaven, but even here on earth, of experiencing a deep joy and a deep peace given by God. Many of us have experienced this. The false joy offered, for example, in the sin of drunkenness or drug abuse. This false joy is also offered in the sins of sex before marriage, adultery after marriage, or homosexuality.

When people are deeply involved in these sins, or in murder, violent anger or in deep hatred, jealousy and unforgiveness, they are really living in the kingdom of darkness and can open themselves up to the possibility of direct attacks from the evil spirits.

The danger today is that sin has become very "respectable" in our society. Sex before marriage, adultery, heavy social drinking, abortion, and homosexuality have all attained a certain "respectability." They do not seem so bad. That is because they are not bad in the kingdom of darkness.

Eliminating The Kingdom Of Darkness

Our homes should be sacred, peaceful places in which to live. Our homes need to be clean. We should not let them become dirty or allow disorder by having junk and filth accumulate in our drawers and closets. The power of evil abhors cleanliness.

Remove anything in your home that has had something to do with witchcraft, a spiritualist, a curandero, a medium, an oriental religion or cult or that has been used in a superstitious way. Destroy it or see to it that it is destroyed. Do not keep jewelry that is symbolic of witchcraft or is a sign of the Zodiac. Remove and burn all pornographic pictures and magazines—even those that have been put away in a drawer, closet or trunk. Get rid of all religious literature that does not agree with the basic truth of our faith that Jesus Christ is divine. He is the Son of God, our only Savior who brings us to the Father. Remove and destroy literature from the Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, Unity, Science of Mind, Scientology, Hare Krishna, Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Divine Light Mission, Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, the Children of God and the Way International. None of this or similar literature should be around our homes. Do not allow the influence of evil to come into your home through television. Carefully monitor the programs that are seen. The values taught by television advertising are not the values preached by Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapters 5, 6 and 7.

In The Home—Seeking God's Presence

Although you are not a priest, as a baptized Catholic you have a power that you do not realize. St. Paul, in his letter, told the Ephesians this truth (Eph. 1:19): "How very great is his power that works in us is the same as the mighty strength which He used when He raised Christ from death and seated Him at his right side in the heavenly world. " Think about that for awhile! The power of prayer is greater than we know.

Although we do not have the power of an ordained priest, we can ask God to protect and bless our homes. It is good for us to keep blessed water in our homes and use it frequently. If we wish to ask God's blessing on our own homes, we can say a simple prayer of blessing and then sprinkle holy water in each room. Such a prayer of blessing could be something like the following:

"Heavenly Father, we ask your blessing upon our home. In the name of your Son Jesus we ask to be delivered from sin and all evil influence. Protect us from sickness, accidents, theft and all domestic tragedies. We place our home under the Lordship of Jesus and consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. May all who live here receive your blessing of peace and love."

An "Our Father" and "Hail Mary" could also be recited.

The consecration of the family and the home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is another beautiful Catholic custom. We need to have a crucifix and pictures of the Sacred Heart and Our Blessed Lady in our homes. We want home to be a sacred place.

There needs to be a place in the home where the members of the family come together to pray. In some Mexican families the custom of having a little altar with pictures or statues, not only of Jesus, Mary and the saints, but also pictures of members of the family is observed. It reminds us to pray for them.

Freeing My Own Self From The Power Of Evil

Through his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus has broken the power of the Evil One. When the influence of evil is perceived in one's own life, it most frequently comes about from personal sin. Family members suffer because of the sin of an individual member of the family. It is through the sacred power that the Lord has placed in his Church that the evil of sin is conquered.

Through medicine, psychology and other human means, suffering can often be alleviated. But Jesus in his Church, has given us basic helps that are often neglected.

In our day the Sacrament of Reconciliation has fallen into disuse. There exists a power in this sacrament to break the power of the Evil One and sin that is not possible otherwise.

Our faith in the Eucharist is weakened. In this sacrament is the power and presence of Jesus Himself. Persons who have actually needed exorcism from the power of the Evil One have been cured by sitting in church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, an hour each day, for one or two months. These were very difficult cases.

Our Blessed Mother has been designated by God as the one who crushes the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:1s). The Rosary is a very powerful means of protection and salvation. Many sons and daughters have been saved from the power of sin and the loss of faith through the perseverance of their parents in saying the Holy Rosary.

The "Evil Eye" Or "Hex": A Special Note

Once in a while people are afraid because they believe that someone has looked upon them with an "evil eye," placed a "hex" upon them or has done something by means of witchcraft to bring them under the destructive power of the enemy. What about this problem?

My own personal beliefs are as follows: Jesus is Lord and God. He is Lord and therefore has dominion over both the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness. Satan has no dominion over the Kingdom of Light. He is allowed a limited dominion over the Kingdom of Darkness.

Therefore, if I am baptized and am living in the Kingdom of Light in the state of Sanctifying Grace, Satan has no dominion over me unless through fear I open the door to his influence. Sanctifying Grace means that I am sharing in a mysterious way in the life of God Himself and He is dwelling in my soul (Rom. 5:5; 2 Cor. 6:16; John 14:23). However, when I commit a mortal sin, a serious sin, then I lose Sanctifying Grace and begin to live in the Kingdom of Darkness. Even though I have been Baptized and possibly Confirmed, I become somewhat vulnerable. As I persist, unrepentant in serious sin, I become vulnerable to the influence of Satan.

When we are living in the Kingdom of Light, in the state of Sanctifying Grace, we should simply reject all fear, and place our confidence in God and in Our Lady, then live according to the advice previously given in this article as far as the Kingdom of Darkness is concerned.

Again, however, there is the difficulty of defining sin in our present age. We have to define sin according to the Gospel and the official teaching of our Church as it has been handed down by the Church's Magisterium and not define it by the viewpoint of the modern age which has been contaminated. Many people live in sin and have false peace, because their conscience has been formed, not by the Gospel, but by the spirit of this age. They may be leading very respectable lives, be law-abiding citizens, and in the estimation of people, leading good lives. But if they are not living according to the Ten Commandments, the Gospel, and the moral teaching of the Church, even in just one area that concerns serious sin, they are probably living in the Kingdom of Darkness.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, (as well as all of the sacraments) are very special weapons that Jesus gave to his Church to overcome the Kingdom of Sin and Darkness. We need to use these sacraments as Christ meant them to be used and have no fear of the enemy. If one has a heavy problem in this regard, I suggest daily Mass and Communion.


There are many and varied ways in which sin and evil are presented to us in an attractive way. This article presents some ways that many of us rarely think about. I pray this article will be a source of knowledge and help for those who read it.

A Pastoral Letter by Most Rev. Donald W. Montrose, Bishop of Stockton, CA

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Continuity and Discontinuity in Liturgy and Theology

New Liturgical Movement



The fundamental problem in modern Catholic theology, as in modern Catholic worship and life, is rupture and discontinuity with Tradition—that is, the modernism of breaking with the living identity of the past by introducing novelties of various kinds. In a way, it matters little whether the error is patripassianism, transignification, or contraception: all are attempts to tear the seamless garment of Christian truth. This truth is one, indivisible, integral, catholic. Attack a part and you attack the whole; reject a part and you reject the whole. Indeed, a potent sign of the catholicity of a theologian is precisely whether he can see the whole in the part and the part in the whole. Could one start with any dogmatic or moral truth and work one’s way to all the others, or at least show the consistency, the harmony, between them?

While Pope Benedict XVI strove mightily to overcome this rupture with the Tradition, the Church, humanly speaking, is still in a state of utter confusion and disarray, as it has been for the past half century. One need only consider how the Mass has been seriously damaged by the abandonment of ad orientem worship, a practice once universal in East and West, which St. Basil and St. John Damascene, among other Fathers, considered to be of apostolic origin—a conclusion that all recent research supports. Or one might consider the abandonment of sacred chant, also an ancient and constitutive element of Catholic worship, which, it seems, no intervention of the Magisterium has ever been able to reintroduce, given the adamantine non serviam that rises up against any effort to affirm or re-assert continuity with the Tradition.

The crisis of today’s theology is a crisis of identity, mentality, and heart. It is therefore also a crisis of prayer, of public prayer, divine worship, in which our Catholic identity is most of all expressed, nourished, and consolidated.

The hermeneutic of continuity in theology—the principle of going back to the primary sources (ad fontes) in company with, and as disciples of, St. Thomas Aquinas—is matched and supported by living the sacred liturgy as this treasure was and is handed down to us. Continuity in theology is matched by continuity in liturgy; rupture in theology is matched by rupture in liturgy. There is a complementarity, a mutual causality. It is no surprise that those who love Catholic theology in its fullness, in its rich tradition, also love Catholic liturgy in its fullness and tradition, or quickly fall in love with it once they have had the blessing of being exposed to it.

Those who believed that theology had to “come of age,” that it had to modernize itself out of pastoral considerations, were the very ones who deliberately left behind St. Thomas and tended either to exalt the Fathers or to throw in their hat with modern philosophy—and sometimes did both. One cannot miss the striking similarity with the liturgical reformers, who, having won the confidence of Paul VI, reveled in the antiquarianism, “the more ancient and simple, the better,” that had been condemned only a few years earlier by Pius XII, and who, at the same time, and seemingly without feeling the shame of self-contradiction, introduced novelties invented whole cloth from modern ideas.

This strange fusion of antiquarianism and modernism had one practical result: the unanimous exclusion of the fruits of the Age of Faith, the medieval synthesis, whether we are speaking of St. Thomas’s intellectual synthesis or the theological, devotional, and aesthetic synthesis of the sacred liturgy in its highest embodiment. The same people who rejected Thomism and scholasticism rejected the “elaborate courtly and pietistic Mass.” The same people who rejected Gothic architecture, or even, in many cases, any kind of traditional ecclesiastical architecture, have a tendency to ignore or contradict magisterial teaching from the eighth to the twentieth ecumenical councils, with particular contempt for the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. All of this is of a piece, utterly self-consistent. Antiquarianism means rejecting the Tradition’s manifestation and development over time, means rejecting the hermeneutic of continuity, and therefore it slips comfortably into bed with modernism, with the exaltation of the pure immanent now, the “modern man” who is ever changing. Ironically, antiquarianism always ends up rejecting much of what constituted ancient Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy, in favor of the alleged needs of the present moment, which, in turn, is taken as carte blanche for novelty.

Catholic theology venerates and studies primary sources as they deserve to be studied: Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, the Doctors (including, above all, the Common Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas), as well as the Magisterium. To do anything else will be to enter into a different kind of theology altogether, one that is not Catholic, however many superficial resemblances it may display. One must say the same about the liturgy: an institution that is true to Catholic theology will also, of necessity, venerate, cherish, embrace, and provide Catholic liturgy in its traditional fullness. The sacred liturgy is not only the “source and summit of the Christian life”; it is also the supreme repository and living witness of Tradition. It is a theological source par excellence, not only by transmitting the Faith in its integrity, but even more by being the actualsource of our ever-deepening participation in the mystical Body of Christ, which the mere study of sacred doctrine, in and of itself, cannot be.

As you cannot fit a square peg into a round hole, you cannot fit classical theology into a modernized liturgy. Liturgy as such, with its love for imitation, quotation, allusion, typology, symbolism, repetition, and, most generally, ritual continuity with what is always done in the same cultus of the same mystery, is inimical to modernity’s restless shifting among transient, ambiguous, wilful significations that hold their ground only as long as someone consents to keep them. Iconodulia and iconoclasm are forever at war. As Protestantism is not one confession but many contrafessions (if I may coin a word), potentially infinitely many, so too modern man, the Promethean self-creator and self-destroyer, is whatever he wishes himself to be, without reference to any unmoved rock of certainty, without reference to a pre-existent, determinate, authoritative belief and practice. Hence, to the extent that one is thinking and acting liturgically, one will be unmodern and, indeed, anti-modern, whereas to the extent that one is thinking and acting in a distinctively modern way, one will be anti-liturgical and anti-traditional.

As uncomfortable as it may be to admit this profound opposition, I believe it is sufficiently clear that its effects have been playing out with increasing magnitude and accelerating pace ever since the period of the Enlightenment and, above all, during the past fifty years, when the “isms” of the Enlightenment (liberalism, individualism, subjectivism, indifferentism, moral relativism, etc.) found a warm welcome in the Catholic Church. We are living in a period when, thanks be to God, these same principles are being more and more recognized as the poisonous lies they are, and are beginning to be pushed out of the sanctuary and out of the classroom, albeit not without much resistance.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Receiving Holy Communion in the Hand Debate

Thursday, April 24, 2008

First Let's Consider the Case For Receiving Holy Communion in the Hand

by Rev. Paul J. McDonald

The history of Communion in the hand is often presented in certain quarters as follows: From the Last Supper on, Holy Communion was, as the norm, continually given in the hand. So it was during the age of the martyrs. And it continued to be so during that golden age of the Fathers and of the liturgy after the peace of Constantine in 313 A.D. And it continued to be the common practice until at least the tenth century.Thus for over half of the life of the Church it was the norm.

An argument for the above is held to be found in a text of St. Cyril of Jerusalem's fifth Mystagogic Catechesis (21f), which he preached to neophytes in 348 A.D., in which he counsels the faithful to "place your left hand as the throne of your right one, which is to receive the King [in Holy Communion]" (apudL'Osservatore Romano. English edition of June 14, 1973, p. 6). This Father of the Church further counsels great care for any Fragments which might remain on one's hands.

According to some critics' version of history, popular in certain quarters, Communion on the tongue became the universal norm in this way: During the Middle Ages certain distortions in the faith and/or in approaches to it gradually developed. These included an excessive fear of God and an over-concern about sin, judgment and punishment, as well as an over-emphasis on Christ's divinity-- so emphasized as to down-play His sacred humanity or virtually deny it; also an over-emphasis on the priest's role in the sacred liturgy, and a loss of the sense of the community which the Church, in fact, is. In particular, because of excessive emphasis on adoring Christ in the Holy Eucharist and an over-strict approach to moral matters, Holy Communion became more and more rare. It was considered enough to gaze upon the Sacred Host during the elevation. (In fact, in certain critics' minds the elevation, exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament find their origins during the 'unfortunate' Middle Ages, a period whose liturgical practices we would do well-- so they think-- to rid ourselves of.) It was in this atmosphere and under these circumstances, they argue, that the practice of Communion in the hand began to be restricted. The practice of the priest placing the consecrated Bread directly into the mouth of the communicant thus developed and, they think, was unwisely imposed.

The conclusion is rather clear: We should get rid of this custom. We should forbid or at least discourage the Communion on the tongue practice whereby the faithful are not allowed to "take and eat," and should return to the pristine usage of the Fathers and Apostles, namely, Communion in the hand.

It is a compelling story. It is too bad that it is not true.

Now Let's Consider the Case For Receiving
Holy Communion in the Tongue
The sacred Council of Trent declared that the custom whereby only the priest-celebrant gives Communion to himself (with his own hands), and the laity receive It from him, is an Apostolic tradition. (1)

A more rigorous study of available evidence from Church history and from writings of the Fathers does not support the assertion that Communion in the hand was a universal practice which was gradually supplanted and eventually replaced by the practice of Communion on the tongue. Rather, facts seem to point to a different conclusion: Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461) is an early witness of the traditional practice. In his comments on the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel he speaks of Communion in the mouth as the current usage: "One receives in the mouth what one believes by faith." (2) The Pope does not speak as if he were introducing a novelty, but as if this were a well established thing.

A century and a half later Pope St. Gregory the Great (died in 604) is another witness. In his dialogues he relates how Pope St. Agapitus performed a miracle during Mass, after having placed the Body of the Lord into someone's mouth.

We are not claiming that under no circumstances whatever did the faithful receive by their own hands. But under what conditions did this happen? It does seem that from very early times on, it was usual for the priest to place the Sacred Host into the mouth of the communicant. However, during times of persecution, when priests were not readily available, and when the faithful took the Sacrament to their homes, they gave Communion to themselves by their own hand. Rather than be totally deprived of the Bread of Life, they could receive by their own hand. The same applied to monks who had gone out into the desert, where they would not have the services of a
priest and would not want to give up the practice of daily holy Communion. St. Basil the Great (330-379) indicates thatreceiving of Communion by one's own hand was permitted precisely because of persecution, or, as was the case with monks in the desert, when no deacon or priest was available to give It. (3)

In his article on "Communion" in the Dictionaire d'Archeologiae Chretienne, Leclerq declares that the peace of Constantine in 313 A.D. served toward bringing the practice of Communion in the hand to an end. After persecution had ceased, evidently the practice of Communion in the hand persisted here and there. Church authority apparently judged that it invited abuse and deemed it contrary to the custom of the Apostles.

Thus the Synod of Rouen, France, in about 878 directed: "Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layman or laywomen, but only in their mouths" ("nulli autem laico aut feminae eucharistiam in manibus ponat, sed tantum in os eius"). (4) A non-ecumenical Council of Constantinople known as "In Trullo" in 692 A.D. prohibited the faithful from giving Communion to themselves (which is of course what happens when the Sacred Particle is placed in the hand of communicants), and decreed a censure against those who would do so in the presence of a bishop, priest or deacon.

Promoters of Communion in the hand generally make little mention of the evidence we have brought forward, but do make constant use of the text attributed above to St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived in the fourth century at the time of St. Basil. But scholars dispute the authenticity of the St. Cyril text, according to Jungmann-Brunner, op. cit., p. 191, n.25. It is not impossible that the text is really the work of the Patriarch John, who succeeded Cyril in Jerusalem. This John was of suspect orthodoxy, as we know from the correspondence of St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine.

But is it not a form of clericalism to allow the priest to touch the Sacred Host and to forbid the laity to do the same? But even priests were not allowed to touch the Blessed Sacrament except out of some need to do so. In fact, other than the celebrant of the Mass itself, no one else receiving Communion, not even a priest, could receive It in the hand. And so, in the traditional liturgical practice of the Roman Rite, if a priest were assisting at Mass (and not celebrating) and if he wished to receive Holy Communion, he did not do so by his own hand; he received on the tongue from another priest. The same would be true of a Bishop or even a Pope. When Pope St. Pius X was on his deathbed in August of 1914, and Holy Communion was brought to him as Viaticum, he did not and was not allowed to receive in the hand. He received on the tongue according to the law and practice of the Catholic Church.

"Receiving Communion On The Tongue;
An Invitation For Greater Reverence!"
This confirms a basic point: Out of reverence it seems better that there be no unnecessary touching of the Sacred Host. Obviously someone is needed to distribute the Bread of Life. But it is not needful to make each man, woman and child into his own 'eucharistic minister' and multiply the handling and fumbling and danger of dropping and loss of Fragments. Even those whose hands have been specially consecrated to touch the Most Holy Eucharist, namely the priests, should not do so needlessly.

As for the present situation, in those countries where the indult for Communion in the hand has been granted by the Holy See, an individual bishop may forbid the practice; but no Bishop has authority to forbid the traditional way of receiving Our Lord on the tongue.

But surely the Apostles received Communion in the hand at the Last Supper? It is usually presumed that this was so. Even if it were, though, we would point out that the Apostles were themselves priests, or even Bishops. But we must not forget a traditional custom of middle-eastern hospitality which was in practice in Jesus' time and which is still the case; that is, one feeds his guests with one's own hand, placing a symbolic morsel in the mouth of the guest. And we have this text of St. John's Gospel (13:26-30): "Jesus answered, 'It is he to whom I shall give this Morsel when I have dipped It.' So when He had dipped the Morsel, He gave It to Judas... So, after receiving the Morsel, he [Judas] immediately went out..."

Did Our Lord place this wet Morsel into Judas' hand? That would be rather messy. Did He not perhaps extend to the one whom He addressed later in the garden as "friend" the gesture of hospitality spoken of above? And if so, why not with Holy Communion, "giving Himself by His own Hand"?

Communion in the Hand vs Communion in the Tongue Reference Sheet

Fr. Paul McDonald, Pastor, St. Patrick's Church

Friday, September 27, 2013



By: Charles Krauthammer

9/13/2013 11:30 AM

The president of the United States takes to the airwaves to urgently persuade the nation to pause before doing something it has no desire to do in the first place.

Strange. And it gets stranger still. That “strike Syria, maybe” speech begins with a heart-rending account of children consigned to a terrible death by a monster dropping poison gas. It proceeds to explain why such behavior must be punished. It culminates with the argument that the proper response — the most effective way to uphold fundamental norms, indeed human decency — is a flea bite: something “limited,” “targeted” or, as so memorably described by Secretary of State John Kerry, “unbelievably small.”

The mind reels, but there’s more. We must respond — but not yet. This “Munich moment” (Kerry again) demands first a pause to find accommodation with that very same toxin-wielding monster, by way of negotiations with his equally cynical, often shirtless, Kremlin patron bearing promises.

The promise is to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The negotiations are open-ended. Not a word from President Obama about any deadline or ultimatum. And utter passivity: Kerry said hours earlier that he awaited the Russian proposal.

Why? The administration claims(preposterously, but no matter) that Obama has been working on this idea with Putin at previous meetings. Moreover, the idea was first publicly enunciated by Kerry, even though his own State Department immediately walked it back as a slip of the tongue.

Take at face value Obama’s claim of authorship. Then why isn’t he taking ownership? Why isn’t he calling it the “U.S. proposal” and defining it? Why not issue a U.S. plan containing the precise demands, detailed timeline and threat of action should these conditions fail to be met?

Putin doesn’t care one way or the other about chemical weapons. Nor about dead Syrian children. Nor about international norms, parchment treaties and the other niceties of the liberal imagination.

He cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East(Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran.

At which point the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972.

The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms-control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.

So much for Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must go. Indeed, Putin has openly demanded that any negotiation be conditioned on a U.S. commitment to forswear the use of force against Assad. On Thursday, Assad repeated that demand, warning that without an American pledge not to attack and not to arm the rebels, his government would agree to nothing.

This would abolish the very possibility of America tilting the order of battle in a Syrian war that Assad is now winning thanks to Russian arms, Iranian advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah shock troops. Putin thus assures the survival of his Syrian client and the continued ascendancy of the anti-Western Iranian bloc.

And what does America get? Obama saves face.

Some deal.

As for the peace process, it has about zero chance of disarming Damascus. We’ve spent nine years disarming an infinitely smaller arsenal in Libya — in conditions of peace — and we’re still finding undeclared stockpiles.

Yet consider what’s happened over the last month. Assad uses poison gas on civilians and is branded, by the United States above all, a war criminal. Putin, covering for the war criminal, is exposed, isolated, courting pariah status.

And now? Assad, far from receiving punishment of any kind, goes from monster to peace partner. Putin bestrides the world stage, playing dealmaker. He’s welcomed by America as a constructive partner. Now a world statesman, he takes to the New York Times to blame American interventionist arrogance — a.k.a. “American exceptionalism” — for inducing small states to acquire WMDs in the first place.

And Obama gets to slink away from a Syrian debacle of his own making. Such are the fruits of a diplomacy of epic incompetence.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What the Secular Media Doesn't Know about Pope Francis

September 22, 2013

By Alicia Colon

In recent columns in the mainstream press, columnists have been distorting gleefully the Pope's recent statements to make it appear he's the liberal that will bring the Catholic Church in line with their own agenda. (See: What the Pope really said.)

In actuality, Pope Francis is no more likely to approve gay marriage or homosexual activity than any other pope. If the media were less agenda-driven, they would be trying to debunk a miracle that defies explanation and which involves Pope Francis when he was a bishop in Argentina in 1996.

For many Christians, Holy Communion is a symbolic ritual, but Catholics believe it is in fact His divine body and blood. This sounds absolutely nuts, but it's a matter of faith. However, I had never heard about the Eucharistic miracle until a friend sent me a YouTube video explaining what it was all about.

On August 18, 1996 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at Holy mass, a woman discovered a discarded host on a candleholder and brought it to Fr. Alejandro Pezet who placed it in a container of water inside the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The following Monday, August 26, upon opening the tabernacle, the priest was astonished to find that the Host had become a bloody substance and he notified his Bishop Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis I), who gave instructions that the bloodied flesh be photographed. When the photographs were taken on September 6, the bloodied flesh had grown significantly in size. After it had been kept in the tabernacle for a few years the Bishop decided to have it scientifically analyzed since it had not suffered any visible decomposition.

This is where the weird part comes in, and I am still puzzled why this miracle, which has been well-documented and verified by church officials, is less publicized than the Shroud of Turin which still remains officially uncertified.

In 1999, in the presence of then Cardinal Bergoglio, Dr. Ricardo Castanon, an atheist at the time, sent the fragment to New York for analysis, but did not inform the team of scientists its origin so as not to prejudice the study. One scientist, Dr. Frederic Zugibe, a cardiologist and forensic pathologist, determined that the substance was real flesh and contained human DNA, and furthermore he concluded was a piece of heart muscle.

There were two witnesses to these tests, Australians, journalist Mike Willesee and a lawyer Ron Tesoiero. I Googled both names and found their detailed testimony on You Tube videos of what they describe as a Eucharistic miracle. Both men knew where the sample came from and were dumbfounded when Dr. Zugibe said that the sample came from a heart that was alive at the time the sample was taken. He further concluded that white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, indicating that the heart had been under severe stress. They then told the doctor that the sample had been kept in distilled water for three years before being sent out for analysis. Dr. Zugibe said that there was no way to explain this scientifically, and when they explained that the sample came from a consecrated Host made of white unleavened bread, he said it was a mystery beyond his competence.

Yet this was only the beginning of what would be a phenomenal enigma. DNA tests on the sample showed it to be that of a male, AB positive blood type. What is extraordinary about this fact is that the DNA is the exact same match as another Eucharist 'miracle' that took place in the 8th century in Lanciano, Italy confirming that both samples came from the same person.

The Lanciano sample is over 1200 years old and the elements can still be seen today. The flesh, which is the same size as the large host used in the Latin Church, is fibrous and light brown in color and becomes rose-colored when lighted from the back. The blood consists of five coagulated globules and has an earthly color resembling the yellow of ochre.

Odoardo Linoli, a professor in anatomy and pathological histology who has examined the Lanciano sample has verified that it is real flesh and the blood is real blood. The flesh and blood belong to the human species. It is from the muscular tissue of the heart. He has confirmed that in the sample we see : the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and also the left ventricle of the heart for the large thickness of the myocardium. The flesh is a heart complete in its essential structure. Both the flesh and the blood showed no evidence of preservatives (or other added chemical agents of any kind) being used.

So what does this all mean? Atheists have made many efforts to debunk the Lanciano 'miracle' but as far as I have determined, the most they have been able to do is spread doubt about the sample originating as a communion wafer. I haven't encountered much of any campaign to debunk the Buenos Aires sample as yet and that may be why the Church hasn't publicized it heavily.

In all the interviews since his ascension to the Papal chair, no one has asked Pope Francis what he makes of this alleged miracle. Perhaps, they've never heard of it. I certainly knew nothing about it and I'm a practicing Catholic. I certainly would find investigation of this 1996 discovery more interesting than whether the Pope is a radical liberal.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/09/what_the_secular_media_doesnt_know_about_pope_francis.html#.UkJx6_RHsrI.facebook#ixzz2fth7T88I
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How Traditional Catholic Architecture Better Fulfills the Plan of God

By: Msgr. Charles Pope

Catholics have often endured the charge that we are an unbiblical Church. Strange accusation, really, for the Church that collected the Scriptures, determined the canon of Scripture and preached it for 1,500 years before there ever was a Protestant denomination. The fact is we are quite biblical and often in ways that are stunningly powerful.

For the Church, the Scriptures are more than merely ink spots on a page. The Scriptures are manifest and proclaimed in how we live, how we are organized hierarchically, our sacraments, our liturgy and even in our buildings.

Long before most people could read, the Church was preaching the Gospel. And to do so, she used the very structure of her buildings to preach. Many of our older builds are a sermon in stone and stained glass.

The Scriptures come alive in our art, statues, paintings, and majestic stained glass windows that soar along the walls of our Churches like jewels of light. Even the height and shape of our older churches preach the word. The height draws our sights up to heaven as if to say, Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at God’s right hand (Col 3:1). And the shape of most of our older churches is the shape of a cross. As if to say, May I never glory in anything, save the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 6:14).

My own Parish Church is a sermon in stone and wood and glass. It is designed around the Book of Revelation, Chapters 4 and 5 in which John is caught up into heaven and describes it in detail. The fundamental design of the sanctuary drawn from Revelation 4 and 5 includes the throne-like altar (Rev 4:2), seven tall candles around the throne (Rev 4:5), the four living creatures in the clerestory windows above the altar (Rev 4:6-8). At the center of the altar is the tabernacle wherein dwells the Lamb once slain who lives forever, Jesus (Rev 5:6). Around the throne (altar) are seated the twenty-four elders (Rev. 4:4) symbolized by the 12 wooden pillars on the back sanctuary wall and the 12 stained glass windows of the Apostles in the transept windows. The multitude of angels who surround the throne (Rev 5:11) are symbolized by the blue and gold diamonds on the apse wall.

I have assembled pictures of these details along with the scripture texts from Revelation in the following PDF document: Holy Comforter Church in Washington DC and the Book of Revelation

In effect the builders of my Church (built in 1939) were saying, when you walk into this church, you have entered heaven. Indeed, it is a replica of the heavenly vision of John. And when we celebrate the liturgy it is more than a replica for we are taken up to heaven in every Mass where we join countless angels and saints around the heavenly altar. There we worship God with them. We don’t have to wait for some rapture, we go there in every Mass.

But there is more! For what John saw in heaven is none other than what God had prescribed to Moses. Moses was told quite explicitly by God how to construct the ancient sanctuary, the tent of Meeting in the desert. The layout, materials and elements are all carefully described.

And, having given these details God says, Now have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. (Exodus 25:8-9) And again God later says, See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain (Ex 25:40). And yet again God repeats: “Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain(Ex 26:40).

The Book of Hebrews, commenting on this pattern says why God insists on the following of the pattern so exactly: They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. (Heb 8:5). In other words, the Ancient Temple was a replica, or a pattern really of the heavenly sanctuary.

Most older Catholic Churches maintain the basic pattern of what Moses was shown. Note this diagram, comparing the layout of the sanctuary in my parish church, Holy Comforter St Cyprian (HCSC) with the layout temple:

In the photo just below, you can see the remarkable similarity more visually. The pattern is even etched on the floor of my church which echoes a detail about the layout of the temple that Ezekiel described:

So there were four tables on one side of the gateway [of the sanctuary] and four on the other–eight tables in all–on which the sacrifices were slaughtered. (Ez 40:41)

Here below (on the left) is a depiction of the setup of the Tent of Meeting as it was when the people were still in the desert, next to a picture of my parish church sanctuary showing the remarkable similarity:

Note the way the scroll work on the floor of my parish (right) matches the four tables on either side in the sanctuary where the animals were slaughtered. The fiery square and horned altar in the photo of the temple (left) is represented by the horned square on the floor of my church (right). In the photo on the left of the ancient sanctuary, the holy place, and the holy of holies towers in the back, as does the high altar and tabernacle in my parish church on the right.

Simply put, the builders of my parish church remarkably depict the ancient temple and also the vision of heaven in the book of Revelation. This is what Church building should do: exemplify the heavenly sanctuary, a plan which God himself gave. Sadly, modern architecture has departed from the plan significantly. But in recent years, there has been something of a return, a trend for which we can only be grateful.

The Catholic Church is surely a biblical Church. My very building shouts the Word! We Catholics preach the word not only with ink and speech, but also in stone, wood, glass, liturgy and the arts, all to the glory of God.

Here is a video of some of the details of my parish.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Catholic Funerals and the True Perspective of Faith

Catholic World Report

Liturgical abuses during funeral Masses have the potential to obscure important realities of the Faith.

William L. Patenaude

CNS photo

You’re probably witnessing liturgical abuses when the woman in the pew behind you asks out loud, “What the hell is he doing?”

This happened at a funeral. A visiting celebrant (at a parish that I do not belong to) left the sanctuary before we prayed the Our Father. He repositioned people in the front few pews and lead the prayer while holding the hands of various family members and pall bearers, even though the coffin was in the way. This followed and preceded other changes to the liturgy that brought too much attention to the celebrant, confused the family, frustrated the servers, and had the rest of us wondering what would happen next.

Funeral liturgies should be what they are intended to be: powerful moments of transcendence that point us to questions that only faith in Jesus Christ can answer—questions about death and life, sin and salvation, humanity and God. The faithful, the lapsed, and the uninitiated should experience in ways proper to each the promises and mysteries of revelation.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “[t]he death of a member of the community…is an event that should lead beyond the perspectives of this world and should draw the faithful into the true perspective of faith in the risen Christ” (par 1687).

This leading us beyond is a means of catechesis and evangelization. But when funerals become events of liturgical showmanship or poor (if not heretical) catechesis—or when they center on the sentiments of the survivors rather than the salvation of the deceased—the Church cannot teach as she ought. Nor can she evangelize as she must.

A funeral or a Mass of canonization?

Of the Catholic funerals I’ve attended, many have contained one or two (or more) emphatic statements that the deceased (along with all family members that have gone before them) are most certainly with God in heaven. If it were not for the proclamation of Scripture or the prayers of the liturgy one might never hear the words hope or mercy.

When hope that the deceased will enter into heavenly glory is conveyed as certainty, the funeral Mass becomes just another therapeutic moment of letting go rather than a Eucharistic offering to God, who does not wish us to let go but remain in communion with him and the deceased. After all, everyone who dies needs our prayers.

There are understandable pastoral temptations to suggest instant sainthood—especially if the preacher knew the deceased well. But putting to one side the Church’s lengthy investigations of the miraculous, we typically aren’t privy to a person’s particular judgment. This implies a more pressing pastoral need to preach the truth.

A woman I’ve known since childhood (I’ll call her “Sandy”) lost her husband after years of illness. Speaking with her a few weeks after the funeral, Sandy cried as she struggled to say these words: “I don’t know where my husband is anymore.”

During the days before and after the funeral, friends and family stressed with certainty that her husband was in heaven with God. But if she really believed it, why was she so uncertain when we spoke?

Sandy had not practiced her faith in years. But she knew her husband better than anyone—even her children. During our conversation it became clear that she had honestly evaluated his life and wasn’t so sure about his place in heaven. And so she wondered, what other option was there?

Fortunately, the funeral celebrant hadn’t made promises that he couldn’t be sure of. His homily stressed the need to pray for the deceased. He spoke of the paschal mystery, the forgiveness of sins, and God’s desire for justice and mercy. He preached about purgatory because he knew he was preaching to the lapsed—to a family that needed to hear this good and realistic news.

Sandy’s grief would not be easily consoled, but at least the disposition of her husband’s soul—her not knowing where he is—didn’t force a choice between the improbable perfect and the potentially unthinkable. Now having access to knowledge of purgatory, truth slowly comforted her anguish.

Funeral homilies that promise sainthood over the more likely need for purgatory may discourage the living from praying for the dead. They also force the poorly catechized and the uninitiated to choose between what little they know of heaven and what they fear most about hell. And often, as Sandy demonstrated, no matter how many times a loved one hears that the deceased is in heaven, it is understandable if they spend the rest of their lives secretly wondering otherwise.

On the other extreme, should the faithful and the lapsed (who may only attend Mass at funerals) hear over and again that everyone goes to heaven, why wouldn’t they think that the same applies to them and those they love, like their spouses and children?

Preaching instant sainthood thus comes with terrible consequences: it either sows unrealistic certainty or despair among survivors or it falsely assures us that no one really has “sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (cf. Rom 3:23). And if that is the case, what need is there for prayers for the dead, the grace of God, and the Church that offers it sacramentally?

We all become angels?

Then there is the expectation that when we die we become angels. No matter what is revealed in the Gospel or spoken in the Eucharistic prayers, the poorly catechized often add pleasant but gnostic imagery of souls becoming not like angels, but actual angels—beings who are and who will remain pure spirit and intellect and have no need of physical bodies.

Thus what we know about being human—of having a body and a soul—contrasts with the expectation that our eternal rest will include only half of who we are, or were. And that comes with uncomfortable implications. If by the grace of God we do meet our loved ones after our death, such a gnostic version of heaven offers no hope of ever hugging them again or enjoying the goodness of creation’s physicality.

I know from the death of my long paralyzed, bed-ridden aunt that there is comfort in knowing that one’s broken body is no longer a cause of suffering. Thus we speak of “being released” from our fallen bodily existence. But this does not imply that this separation is a good and intended end for all eternity. No wonder so many Catholics—even among the practicing—are forgetting our promised rise in eternal, bodily glory.

Those attending a Catholic funeral who do not know the treasures of Christ’s revelation—perhaps it is their first time at a Catholic Mass or their first time in years—could very well hear talk of becoming angels and think that Catholicism isn’t really different than those comforting New Age beliefs that come without the expectations of moral and physical sacrifices. And if that were truly the choice, which belief system do you think they will choose?

God is the author of death?

A common refrain among the lay faithful and even some celebrants is that death has some intended place in God’s plan. “God has a purpose for this,” we hear well-meaning friends tell an inconsolable widow, as if God takes pleasure in the consequences of sin.

Lost is the understanding that the only death ordained by God—the only one that can bring eternal salvation—is the death of Jesus Christ. All others deaths, our own included, are not of divine origin.

Again, there are pastoral inclinations to tell shocked survivors that good can come from the death of a loved one. But this is different than implying that death is necessary or that the cosmos will somehow be better off because your teenage daughter died of bone cancer.

People know that death isn’t right, even if hearing otherwise brings brief comfort. When time offers the opportunity to reflect on the goodness of life and the unfathomable losses of death, survivors discern that while God may bring good out of evil, he should not and does require its existence to bring about some good.

The importance of the liturgy for the living and the dead

I’ve noticed that many funerals at many parishes are accompanied musically by “On Eagles’ Wings” and “I Am the Bread of Life.” Families probably demand this music because that is all they have ever heard at funerals.

And while I’ve watched only one celebrant rearrange people in the front pews to hold their hands, many do preach Masses of Canonization. They might even tell us that the deceased, who is now an angel, is making spaghetti in heaven with their mother, father, spouse, and anyone they ever knew and loved—not that I would have anything against a heavenly banquet that includes pasta, but there are other things that need to be stressed, things about salvation, which we find only in the Gospels and hear the Eucharistic Prayers.

Many funerals offer a eulogy. If so, we will likely hear an understandably emotional but uncatechized friend or relative tell funny stories about the deceased. After we all laugh, they may instruct us that God has brought the deceased home through willing the terrible evil of death. Sadly, many may remember only these words.

All this contrasts with a recent funeral of a man whose son is a seminarian. The church provided a transcendent beauty focusing on the paschal mysteries. It was a worthy setting for the celebrant’s homily, which centered on the deceased’s faith in the Eucharist. (The poor man had suffered greatly after an accident and found undeniable comfort when he would be brought the Body of Christ.) The funeral hymns soared and the many seminarians in attendance served with great dignity. There was no eulogy—the readings, the homily, and the prayers of the Eucharist had said what needed to be said. All this made for a moment of profound grace and solace—a moment of divine continuity. Even the uninitiated could tell that something important was happening, that Someone important was present.

When funeral liturgies are thus oriented and conducted, we are all reminded of realities far greater than the offerings of errant and comfortable words that do not last. We remember (or perhaps learn for the first time) what Christ has done for us. And we find hope in what he promises: that in communion with God and with the saints, we can offer our prayers in expectation that the person we love might be offered true joy in heaven.

About the Author
William L. Patenaude

William L. Patenaude M.A., KHS is a columnist for the Rhode Island Catholic and serves on the Diocese of Providence's Committee for Evangelization. A 24-year employee with Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management, he also writes at Catholic Ecology . He is currently writing a book titled The Basics of B16: Five Things Everyone Should Know About Pope Benedict XVI.

Monday, September 23, 2013

10 Reasons for Priestly Celibacy


SEPTEMBER 19, 2013

To our sex-obsessed culture, priestly celibacy seems a hard teaching of the Church, a heavy burden that must be borne with ascetic grit and iron resolve.

But that’s not how the popes of the twentieth century saw it. In their words, celibacy is the “choicest ornament of our priesthood” (Pius X), “one of the purest glories of the Catholic priesthood” (Pius XI), and a discipline that makes the whole life of the priest “resound with the splendor of holy chastity” (John XXIII). Such lofty words were inspired by the rich and profound theological reasons for a celibate priesthood—reasons worth bearing in mind as the old debate over it has flared up into the news. Here are ten of them:

1. Priests as Christ figures. Above all else, the Catholic priest is an alter Christus—“another Christ.” This is clearest in the sacrifice of the Mass, when the priest acts in the person of the Christ in offering the Eucharist. Celibacy configures priests more completely to Christ, who lived a perfectly chaste life. Thus they not only “participate in His priestly office” but also share “His very condition of living,” Pope Paul VI writes in the encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus.

2. Marriage to the Church. In Scripture, the Church is often depicted as the Bridegroom of Christ. In celibacy, the priest, as an alter Christus, witnesses through his life to the marriage of Christ to His Church. “In virginity or celibacy, the human being is awaiting, also in a bodily way, the … marriage of Christ with the Church, giving himself or herself completely to the Church in the hope that Christ may give Himself to the Church in the full truth of eternal life. The celibate person thus anticipates in his or her flesh the new world of the future resurrection,” John Paul II writes in his apostolic constitutionFamiliaris Consortio.

3. Spiritual fatherhood. Through celibacy, priests give themselves over wholly to the service God and His Church. Just as a father is uniquely dedicated to his children, so also the priest should be dedicated to his parishioners. As one Jesuit priest at Georgetown University recently put it in the Washington Post: “I do not have my own biological children, but I have over 6,000 here on Georgetown’s main campus! I have many sons and daughters who call me ‘Father.’” John Paul II describes this as a “singular sharing in God’s fatherhood’”(Pastores Dabo Vobis).

4. Celibacy as sacrifice. In renouncing married life, the priest also links himself with Christ’s own sacrifice on the Cross. “In a similar way, by a daily dying to himself and by giving up the legitimate love of a family of his own for the love of Christ and of His kingdom, the priest will find the glory of an exceedingly rich and fruitful life in Christ, because like Him and in Him, he loves and dedicates himself to all the children of God,” Paul VI writes. This ultimately is the purpose of human sexuality—to be a “a genuine sign of and precious service to the love of communion and gift of self to others,” writes Blessed Pope John Paul II in Pastores Dabo Vobis.

5. Celibacy as angelic purity. Celibacy is not only a sacrificial act. It is also a mark of purity. Just as Christ offered Himself as a pure and spotless victim, so should the priest. Moreover “a purity of heart and a sanctity of life” befit the “solemnity and holiness” of the office, Pope Pius XI writes in the encyclical Ad Catholici Sacerdotii. Some have described this otherworldly purity as angelic: “The priest must be so pure that, if he were to be lifted up and placed in the heavens themselves, he might take a place in the midst of the Angels,” St. John Chrysostom said.

6. Loneliness as a link to Christ. Even the loneliness a priest may experience may unite him more closely with Christ, according to Paul VI: “At times loneliness will weigh heavily on the priest, but he will not for that reason regret having generously chosen it. Christ, too, in the most tragic hours of His life was alone—abandoned by the very ones whom He had chosen as witnesses to, and companions of, His life, and whom He had loved ‘to the end’—but He stated, ‘I am not alone, for the Father is with me.’”

7. Time for prayer. As much time as those in married time spend in prayer, priests should devote even more, Church Fathers taught, according to Ukrainian Catholic theologian Roman Cholij. One basis for this view is 1 Corinthians 7:5, where St. Paul is giving advice to those who are married: “Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.” It follows that priests, who do not have another person to “return” to, should have more time for prayer.

8. Perfection of the Israelite priesthood. Catholics look back to the Old Testament priests as forerunners. They understand that the priesthood did not end with Christ—it was reborn and renewed through Him. In the Old Testament, Levite priests were allowed to marry, but celibacy was required while they were serving in the sanctuary. For the Church Fathers, the Catholic priesthood was the “perfection” of the Levitical priesthood, according to Cholij. “Hence … if the Levites practised temporary continence when in the sanctuary, so much more should Christian priests, always ready to serve, practise continence,” Cholij writes.

9. Detachment from the world. Celibacy is but one example of a broader detachment from all things of this world—something necessary in order for the priest “to follow the Divine Master more easily and readily,” according to Pope Pius XII in his apostolic exhortation Menti Nostrae. “Sanctity alone makes us what our divine vocation demands, men crucified to the world and to whom the world has been crucified, men walking in newness of life who … seek only heavenly things and strive by every means to lead others to them,” Pius X writes in his apostolic exhortation, Haerent Animo.

10. A living sign of heaven. In heaven, men will neither marry nor will women be given in marriage—instead, they will be like the angels, as Christ says in Matthew 22:30. In a special way, celibacy makes priests living witnesses to this future reality. As Paul VI put it, priestly celibacy “proclaims the presence on earth of the final stages of salvation with the arrival of a new world, and in a way it anticipates the fulfillment of the kingdom as it sets forth its supreme values which will one day shine forth in all the children of God.”

By Stephen Beale

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1