- Sunday, 23 December 2012 23:43
The New Haven Register’s Michael Bellmore has something to say to me in “Lapsed Catholic has a confession to make.” His struggle with Christian faith is not unique to him, nor is the struggle for living coherently. Earlier this evening I had a conversation with friends about faith, meaning and struggle for truth in the lives we lead. I was privileged to be invited to a gathering at a friend’s house sharing in an interesting conversation with his niece who’s a freshman at Providence College and who just read Saint Augustine’s Confessions as part of a Western Civ class. Wow! Someone is still reading Augustine’s Confessions. Admittedly, the book is challenging for a well-educated person, and yet I find it clarifies my own journey and the path most people make in life.
To be honest the first line of the article gave me the feeling, “Oh, hear we go again, another angry, complaining, silly reporter trying to give another black eye to the Church.” But I read the article and I found something else. I found a young man searching for meaning, reaching out in anxiety and finding friendship, mercy and forgiveness: a stony heart exchanged for new one.
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- Tuesday, 28 August 2012 07:03
LET me speak of
another celebrated conquest of God’s grace in an after age, and you will see
how it pleases Him to make a Confessor, a Saint, Doctor of His Church, out of
sin and heresy both together. It was not enough that the Father of the Western
Schools, the author of a thousand works, the triumphant controversialist, the
especial champion of grace, should have been once a poor slave of the flesh,
but he was the victim of a perverted intellect also. He who, of all others, was
to extol the grace of God, was left more than others to experience the
helplessness of nature. The great St Augustine (I am not speaking of the holy
missionary of the same name, who came to England and converted our pagan
forefathers, and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, but of the great
African Bishop, two centuries before him)–Augustine, I say, not being in
earnest about his soul, not asking himself the question, how was sin to be
washed away, but rather being desirous, while youth and strength lasted, to
enjoy the flesh and the world, ambitious and sensual, judged of truth and
falsehood by his private judgment and his private fancy; despised the Catholic
Church because it spoke so much of faith and subjection, thought to make his
own reason the measure of all things, and accordingly joined a far-spread sect,
which affected to be philosophical and enlightened, to take large views of
things, and to correct the vulgar, that is, the Catholic notions of God and
Christ, of sin, and of the way to heaven. In this sect of his he remained for
some years; yet what he was taught there did not satisfy him. It pleased him
for a time, and then he found he had been eating for food what had no
nourishment in it; he became hungry and thirsty after something more
substantial, he knew not what; he despised himself for being a slave to the
flesh, and he found his religion did not help him to overcome it; thus he
understood that he had not gained the truth, and he cried out, “Oh, who
will tell me where to seek it, and who will bring me into it?”
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- Tuesday, 22 May 2012 10:16
At Monday’s lunch with many of the cardinals –not all–Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the struggle he and they are engaged together: for good against evil. Not exactly a lite topic for discussion for a lunch celebrating one’s 85th birthday and 7th anniversary of election to the Chair of Saint Peter, but a point that is true and needs to be addressed.
In reading his text (below) you will notice the Pope’s use of the concept ecclesia militans – the Church Militant – which he admits is “old fashion” but still fitting today. When we say “the Church Militant” it means all living Christians who struggle against sin, the devil, or as the Apostle Paul says “..the rulers of the darkness of this world” and “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
“Church Militant” has two other sisters, “Church Triumphant” and “Church Suffering” that give context to Christian life in light of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints and of what we know the Church to be.
The quick definition of the “Church Triumphant” (Ecclesia Triumphans), indicates those who live in the beatific vision, they see and are seen by God; we say these people are in heaven. The feast day for those in heaven is November 1, All Saints Day. When we speak of the “Church Suffering” (also called the Church Penitent, Ecclesia Penitens; or Church Expectant, Ecclesia Expectans), we believe that this group of believers are the souls in purgatory. The feast day is All Souls, November 2.
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- Monday, 13 February 2012 15:11
Today, the Holy Father announced his Good Shepherd Sunday missive on vocations. Singed on 18 October 2011, Benedict wrote this letter for the 49th World Day of Prayer for Vocations that’s celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday. The Pope’s message is exactly what I was trying to teach to the RCIA people yesterday: God’s love is total and our love for Him needs to be an icon –that is, mirrored– to the world. His theme this year is: Vocations, the Gift of the Love of God. A few paragraphs of the text follow:
In a famous page of the Confessions, Saint Augustine
expresses with great force his discovery of God, supreme beauty and supreme
love, a God who was always close to him, and to whom he at last opened his mind
and heart to be transformed: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever
ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was
outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged
into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with
you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they
would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my
deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed
your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted
you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your
peace.” (X, 27.38). With these images, the Saint of Hippo seeks to
describe the ineffable mystery of his encounter with God, with God’s love that
transforms all of life.
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- Friday, 09 September 2011 16:31
Yesterday’s installation of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput as the new Archbishop of Philadelphia was beautiful on all avenues: music, word, gersture. One of many beautiful parts of his homily was on the ministry (vocation) of the bishop. For that part he quoted the great bishop and Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo. You may think I am cynical by saying this, but I wonder sometimes how often our bishops live up to their vocation as the Church has expected and how often they reflect on the words of a brother such as the eminent Augustine. Perhaps not often enough. AND that is likely the reason Archbishop Charles mention the vocation his homily.
What follows is a terrfic teaching on this vitally vigorous vocation of the Church.
Thanks be to God for the Archbishop!
St. Augustine of Hippo, speaking in the 4th century captured the role of the bishop in these words:
“Jerusalem had watchmen who stood guard . . . And this is what bishops do. Now, bishops are assigned this higher place” — the bishop’s chair in the basilica -“so that they themselves may oversee and, as it were, keep watch over the people. For they are called episkopos in Greek, which means ‘overseer,’ because the bishop oversees; because he looks down from [his chair] . . . And on account of this high place, a perilous accounting will have to be rendered [by the bishop] – unless we stand here with a heart such that we place ourselves beneath your feet in humility.”
Another time, on the anniversary of his episcopal ordination, Augustine described the bishop’s duties in the following way:
“To rebuke those who stir up strife, to comfort those of little courage, to take the part of the weak, to refute opponents, to be on guard against traps, to teach the ignorant, to shake the indolent awake, to discourage those who want to buy and sell, to put the presumptuous in their place, to modify the quarrelsome, to help the poor, to liberate the oppressed, to encourage the good, to suffer the evil and to love all men.”
It’s crucial for those of us who are bishops not simply to look like bishops but to truly be bishops. Otherwise, we’re just empty husks — the kind of men Augustine meant when he said,
“You say, ‘He must be a bishop for he sits upon the cathedra.’ True – and a scarecrow might also be called a watchman in the vineyard.”