Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Christ or Christendom?

There is much consider as the culture many of us live in secularizes, that is, divorces us from a tangible Christian perspective, manner of being, and how we live in a world with diverse opinions. Today, we have to ask about Christ or Christendom. It is said that Saint Augustine asked, what there is of Christian among Christians is Christ.  He is orienting our attention not to an idea but to a person, a meeting, an encounter, with a person. Emphatically we all have to state that to be a Christian is to be in contact with a person, Jesus the Christ. Being Christian does not mean moral norms, cultural ideology, and precepts of the Church. Morality, culture and precepts within an ecclesiology are extraordinarily important, but they are secondary in accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and adhering to Him; it is also a firm belief in heaven (salvation).

Is Christ important, or are consequences of Christ? We all have to come to terms with how we let what and who we believe in impact the way we live. That is, does Jesus Christ really mean something to you and does said belief  have consequences in the manner of how you live? As a friend of Jesus Christ, what does it mean to hold to an “economy of salvation”? How do we interpret history of the Christian era? What role does true faith play in this period of history? Where are we as Christians in this history? Does eternal life with the Trinity mean anything anymore?  In order to do so we have to be as objective as possible; our ideological impulses have to be put aside so as to deal with reality without rewriting the past.

Start now in developing a more coherent, mature faith in Jesus Christ and then in His Church. You ought to read the following articles to begin (remember not to form conclusions yet) your thinking on the subject:

Discernment of Church leadership

There is a tendency to think of the Catholic Church in political terms (liberal or conservative) and not in theological terms (communio, salvation, proclamation of the kingdom, sacraments, discernment, etc). I think some of the those who use political terms to describe the Church do so neither know the distinctions that need to be made nor the horizons of the gospel and magisterium of the Church. The Church is asking for the Good News, not personal news. Indeed, the human heart not ideology is what the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church) are aiming to serve. Conversion to Jesus Christ is hardly a liberal or conservative set of ideas.

Having said this, I think it is fair to point out that some segments of the papacy over time have treated the Church as a political pawn in the game of chess. They have do so to the detriment of the pursuit of salvation in Christ Jesus. We do notice how a pendulum swings in certain ecclesial administrations, corrective or not. As a friend points out, one only has to study the periods surrounding Popes Gregory XVI and Pius IX. He notes, “This plague of obscurantism was followed by the more enlightened reign of Leo XIII.”

What ought the laity and lower clergy hope for —discern—in the episcopal and cardinal appointments? Certainly not more of the same. The binary of left-right is inaccurate not matter if it is fitting secular manner of judgement. I think it is fair to say that too many journalists like some of the those working for big media centers do the world a disfavor by obscuring the issues in pointing out silly comparisons and contrasts in the hierarchy such as clothes and fine living (cf. Burke and Wuerl). Each churchman brings to the table certain level of sophistication and expertise.

We need, we desire, a church and therefore for all the leaders: a capacity to preach, to offer the sacred Liturgy with the transcendentals in mind, who are able to read literature other than canon law, morality and speculative theology, who are able to consult with a wide range of people and experience (discernment), who are not afraid of women (and men), who are able to enjoy the creative works of a museum and a symphony, etc. Get my drift?

The Catholic Church needs real men (and where able, women) who have a real humanity and not a reductionistic view of creation. Holy Church wants in her leadership a Trinitarian vision with a recognition of paternity, filiation, spiration, procession and mission. We are all tired of the status quo of the psycho-sexual, anti-intellectual, economic and theologically weak types. These problems are encountered not merely in the secular clergy and religious (Benedictines, Jesuits, Salesians, Dominicans and Franciscans) but also in the laity.

May all things be done so that God may be glorified!

Fr. Harrington Receives Heartfelt Tributes

Daniel Harrington SJOne of my former professors of Scripture is battling cancer.  Please offer a prayer for him. Jesuit Father Daniel Harrington was honored for his tremendous work in sacred Scripture. His notes and wisdom are still fresh in my mind. He is in his final year of teaching; this coming semester he is scheduled to teach three courses. Father Harrington’s many years of teaching, writing and research is a testament to the hard work of faith and reason that we ardently need.

The Harvard educated Jesuit priest served as editor of New Testament Abstracts since 1972; edited the eighteen-volume Sacra Pagina series of New Testament Commentaries (Liturgical Press) and wrote “The Word “ column for America magazine for three years. His bibliography, however,  is more extensive. Not long ago Harrington and Christopher R. Matthews published Encountering Jesus in the Scriptures (Paulist Press, 2013), a collection of scholarly essays exploring who Jesus was in the first century—and what he means for us today. Putting biblical theology to work for the people of God in the Archdiocese of Boston, Harrington has been on the staff at St. Agnes Church in Arlington and at St. Peter’s in Cambridge.

Father Harrington remarked,

“It has been my privilege as a member of the Society of Jesus for more than 50 years to immerse myself in the study of the Bible — the ancient languages, the forms of expression, the culture settings and the theological significance.”

“The old saying ‘If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life’ certainly applies to me. It’s all been a joy.”

Read about the event here.

The beauty of Vinicio Riva

Vinicio Riva and familyMail Online carried the story of Vinicio Riva, the man embraced by Pope Francis. The full story is here. Vinicio Riva’s story is compelling.

A previous post on the pope’s gesture of love is here.

Here’s an excerpt which gives hope:

Mr Riva recollected: ‘He [Pope Francis] came down from the altar to see the sick people. He embraced me without saying a word. I felt as though my heart was leaving my body.

‘He was completely silent but sometimes you can say more when you say nothing.’  

‘First, I kissed his hand while with the other hand he caressed my head and wounds. Then he drew me to him in a strong embrace, kissing my face.

‘My head was against his chest his arms were wrapped around me. It lasted just over a minute, but to me it seemed like an eternity.’

Go, and do likewise. What more has to said?

The Plight of Churches in the Middle East – Revisited

ravennaxcTheologians and bishops from the Catholic and Orthodox Church meet frequently to discuss topics of mutual concern fostering not only good friendships but also doing some intellectual work in an effort to know what each other holds to be to true and how each Church works pastorally.

There are times one gets the impression that these consultations are great for mutual understanding but lack an identifiable concrete plan for full, visible and concrete unity. Statements, discussions, lunches and other collaborative efforts are noble and worth supporting. Who could pass up good food and discussion. Yet, there has to be more. This is especially helpful in humanitarian efforts and developing a friendship in Christ as a brothers and sisters. But can we ask, what the concrete goal is for the theological consultations like this one?

What follows is the Statement of the Members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, Mississauga, Ontario October 26, 2013.

In 2011 we, the members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation* deplored the devastating losses in the Christian communities of the Middle East in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring.” Today the situation of many of the Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine has become catastrophic.

Together with the 2013 Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, we repudiate all violence and demand action by responsible authorities to end the kidnapping, torture, and killing of Christians and all civilians. We also appeal for the release of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both of Aleppo, Syria.

Pope Francis in exhorting the international community “to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation… May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.”

As the Canadian Council of Churches has stated, “We are concerned for the safety and security of all the people in the region, but in particular, the weak, vulnerable and powerless. The spread of sectarian violence puts all generations throughout the region at risk and is a menace to the hopes and dreams of the younger generations.”

With the Clergy-Laity Conference of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, we “deplore the wanton destruction of Christian churches, monasteries, convents, orphanages and hospitals throughout the Middle East….We call upon the leaders of our nation to protest these unspeakable acts of terror and to work unceasingly to bring to an end the heinous genocide of our brethren.”

When one part of the body suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26). As Orthodox and Catholic Christians, we therefore have the responsibility to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters. We call upon our communities to continue to pray for the churches and for peace in this part of the world. We urge the leadership of our churches to continue to intervene vigorously in behalf of the Christians of the Middle East, who live in fear for their lives, their communities, and the very future of Christianity in the region.

*The members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation are appointed by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America and, on the Catholic side, by both the Canadian and United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops.

Some notes:

Members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation of meet every five years in Canada. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops hosted this year’s meeting.

The Consultation was co-chaired by Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, and by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The Consultation engaged in discussions pertinent to Orthodox – Catholic relations around such matters as synodality, papal primacy, priestly celibacy and the role of the laity.

Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Ph.D., of Brown University and Sr. Susan K. Wood, SC, of Marquette University provided a summary of papers already presented on the role of the laity in the two churches; Father John Erickson, emeritus dean and professor of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, presented his paper on “Conciliarity or Synodality? Historical Notes on a Modern Issue”; Father John Galvin, of The Catholic University of America, presented a paper by Msgr. Thomas J. Green, “Lay Ministries in the Church: Comparative Reflections on the Eastern and Latin Codes”; and Father Peter Galadza, of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute summarized previously published papers on celibacy, marriage and the priesthood.

The Consultation reports that a panel discussion and meeting between seminarians from St. Augustine’s Seminary (Catholic) and The Greek Orthodox Theological Academy of Toronto. Among the many things shared, there were reflections on the Consultation’s 2010 agreed statement, “Steps Towards a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future.”

Metropolitan Sotirios, of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto host lunch and Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto also encouraged the seminarians and members of the Consultation in their important work. The next meeting is scheduled for June 2-4, 2014.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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