Category Archives: Theology

Traditional Catholicism has virtue

In an April 2012 Wall Street Journal article by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White, “Traditional Catholicism is Winning” the authors calmly present the data of what is happening in the various sectors of the Church that are prospering, that is, thriving, in an authentic way. Clear teaching and beautiful liturgical practice leads to human flourishing. As I am fond of saying, communion with the Divine Majesty leads to one’s greater freedom in Christ Jesus.

Pairing the word “traditional” with Catholicism gives some people the hives. Knee jerk reactions to all sorts of things happen and the reasonable and the holy are marginalized. The trouble is that as Catholics we’ve been sloppy in living the gift of Catholic faith and we’ve been too easy with regard to the manner in which we live it. In short, we’ve experienced  these past years a lack of coherence in the areas of what we believe, how we pray and how we live. It all has to hang together in an authentic way. Otherwise the faith becomes moralism –lifeless.

It is true that we have to be very clear on what we mean, how we live the faith, and why we do what propose to do. Remember that Catholicism bridges the gap between faith and reason; it does not abandon the mind, nor does it rely merely on liturgical practice. Catholic faith is totality of reality, revealed and natural.

The authors of the article say,

They are attracted to the philosophy, the art, the literature and the theology that make Catholicism countercultural. They are drawn to the beauty of the liturgy and the church’s commitment to the dignity of the individual. They want to be contributors to that commitment—alongside faithful and courageous bishops who ask them to make sacrifices.

and 

Cardinal Francis George, the longtime leader of the Chicago archdiocese, once gave a homily that startled the faithful by pronouncing liberal Catholicism “an exhausted project . . . parasitical on a substance that no longer exists.” Declaring that Catholics are at a “turning point” in the life of the church in this country, the cardinal concluded that the bishops must stand as a “reality check for the apostolic faith.”

Read the whole article. You will want to read it, and reflect –and then do your part.

Family in Society

More reflection on the Synod of Bishops’ working document:

The synod will have to reflect on how to promote in today’s world a ministry which encourages the participation of the family in society. Families are not only the subject of protection by the State, but must regain their role as active agents in society. In this regard, the following challenges emerge: the relationship between the family and the workplace; the relationship between the family and education; the relationship between the family and health; the family’s ability to bring generations together so as not to neglect the young and the elderly; the situation of the rights of the family institution and its specific relationships; and the promotion of just laws, such as those that ensure the defense of human life from its conception and those which promote the social goodness of an authentic marriage between a man and a woman. (34)

The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, 2014

The Christian witness today in light of the family

The Holy See’s office for the Synod of Bishops release its working document for our –particularly the synodal participants– reflection, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. One of the very interesting paragraphs that deserves personal attention is paragraph 15 which is noted below. But before you get there, it would be could for all of us to give some attention to the first paragraph of the Preface of the same document where it says,

The proclamation of the Gospel of the Family is an integral part of the mission of the Church, since the revelation of God sheds light on the relationship between a man and a woman, their love for each other and the fruitfulness of their relationship. In these times, a widespread cultural, social and spiritual crisis is posing a challenge in the Church’s work of evangelizing the family, the vital nucleus of society and the ecclesial community. This proclamation of the Gospel of the Family takes place in continuity with the synodal assembly on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith and the Year of Faith, announced by Pope Benedict XVI.

I find this to be a key section that deserves lots of time:

Some episcopal conferences argue that the reason for much resistance to the Church’s teaching on moral issues related to the family is a want of an authentic Christian experience, namely, an encounter with Christ on a personal and communal level, for which no doctrinal presentation, no matter how accurate, can substitute. In this regard, some responses point to the insufficiency of pastoral activity which is concerned only with dispensing the sacraments without a truly engaging Christian experience. Moreover, a vast majority of responses highlight the growing conflict between the values on marriage and the family as proposed by the Church and the globally diversified social and cultural situations. The responses are also in agreement on the underlying reasons for the difficulty in accepting Church teaching, namely, the pervasive and invasive new technologies; the influence of the mass media; the hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; the growing secularism; the prevalence of ideas that lead to an excessive, selfish liberalization of morals; the fragility of interpersonal relationships; a culture which rejects making permanent choices, because it is conditioned by uncertainty and transiency, a veritable “liquid society” and one with a “throw away” mentality and one seeking “immediate gratification”; and, finally, values reinforced by the so-called “culture of waste” and a “culture of the moment,” as frequently noted by Pope Francis. (15)

The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, 2014

How does one identify what it means to be an “authentic Christian witness”? What does the author hope for us to identify as ways to approach and follow the teaching of the Church? What does the author mean by “communal”? What are Catholics doing already to live the communal? How do we address the challenges noted in the paragraph?

Hans Urs von Balthasar remembered

Von BalthasarToday is the anniversary of death of Hans Urs von Balthasar, the renowned theologian of our era. Remembering Balthasar I also recall my dear friend, Jesuit Father Edward T. Oakes, who did much to make Balthasar’s theological perspective known and used.

Father Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–1988), a Swiss Catholic theologian, is remembered as one of the 20th century’s great theologians yet was not never a university professor nor invited as a theological expert at the Second Vatican Council. Balthasar’s theological and philosophical output was massive which has influenced the course of theology today. His key idea was the idea that God’s relation to creation is the convergence of of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  It was Oakes who would remind me that Balthasar was the “kneeling theologian,” that is, appreciating the contemplative and liturgical tradition and indicating the way I ought to reflect on the Divine Majesty versus the academic or “sitting” theological approach (most often credited to people like Karl Rahner).

In 1929, he entered the Society of Jesus with a doctorate in literature. During theological studies for priesthood he found himself discouraged by the neo-scholastic theology offered having been attracted to the Church Fathers. He and the Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth had mutual interest in theological thinking; Balthasar later wrote a book on Barth.

From experience we know that we all have our complements. Balthasar’s was doctor and mystic, Adrienne von Speyr, whom he had received into full communion with the Church. Their complementarity was friendship in the Lord looking for greater communion in the Divine, Trinitarian Life. Balthasar and Speyr founded a Secular Institute, the Community of St John –which you can read about in the book, Our Task, that tries to bridge religious and lay vocations. At this point he was dismissed from the Society of Jesus.

In 1988, John Paul II announced his intention to name Balthasar to the College of Cardinals. He had been offered the red hat before, but declined its acceptance. He died two days before the consistory on June 26, 1988.

“In the trinitarian dogma God is one, good, true, and beautiful because he is essentially Love, and Love supposes the one, the other, and their unity.”

Prayers for Hans Urs von Balthasar: priest, theologian, cardinal-designate.

Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization

Holy Family ABronzinoIn advance of the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Marriage and family, the “instrumentum laboris,” —the working document of 75 pages— offers a broad picture of the ways the Catholic Church witnesses to the Gospel and teaches and lives the moral life and the significant work that needs to be done to adequately address contemporary challenges. The office for synods published “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.

The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is the third of this category. One might say this is the first synod with such wide interest, international participation in the initial stages and hope for good work going forward.

The Pastoral Challenges of the Family” is based on the feedback and analysis requested from the national various Conferences of Bishops around the world late in 2013. So, besides the questionnaire, the document also incorporates the concerns of those who sent their reflections directly to the Pontifical Council for the family with the appropriate theological reflection. This is the first Synod for Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri.

The Holy Father has placed the work of the Synod under the patronage of the Holy Family. The Synodal prayer concludes the instrumentum labors.

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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