This week, the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is meeting in Cyprus to discuss the crucial issue of the role of the “Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church During the First Millennium”. This is THE critical obstacle to unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and I am very happy to see that they are discussing it.
MEMBERS of Orthodox Christian unions along with clerics and monks yesterday disrupted a Paphos conference between Orthodox and Catholic Christians.
The unions, monks from Stavrovouni monastery and Larnaca clerics were protesting against the conference and demanding that Archbichop Chrysostomos II cancel it.
It was day one of the conference of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
The protesters claimed the dialogue between the two churches aimed in the submission of the Orthodox Church to the Pope.
The archbishop expressed his displeasure at the protest and asked the participants to visit him on Monday.
The Joint Commission is made up of representatives of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and aims in restoring communion between them.
The two churches split in the 11th century in what became known as the Great Schism.
The protest caused the cancellation of the programme.
Paphos Bishop Georgios said everyone stresses that “there are differences, there are serious differences; a thousand years of division have increased our differences.”
“But times today necessitate reconciliation, despite our Churches going through hate and animosity, today we understand that we need to cooperate,” Georgios said.
I understand the history behind the resistance of some Orthodox to ecumenical dialogue. They are afraid it will be a re-occurrence of the Council of Florence, which most Orthodox see as a capitulation of Orthodox bishops to the demands of papal primacy, mostly for political reasons. Yet I still find their reaction sad. Even if they believe that reunion will only occur if Rome submits to the demands of Orthodoxy, is not dialogue a place to start that process? How can it hurt? No Orthodox bishop today is saying that they accept the Vatican I definitions of papal primacy, so why do they fear that this might occur?
Pray that all those involved in these conferences – as well as the protesters – might have a deep desire for unity in the Body of Christ, have confidence in the Holy Spirit to guide these discussions as He wills, and work to make that happen.
In 409 AD hundreds of Christians were beheaded for their faith. “Among them” – said Msgr. Sako – “a widow named Scirin-Miskenta, with two children, and general Tahmazgerd”, who carried out the decree of the king, who ordered the massacre. “Seeing their faith, serenity and the trust of the widow” – continued the prelate – “Tahmzgerd converted to Christianity” and as a result was “beheaded later.” Around 470, to commemorate the massacre of Christians, the bishop of Kirkuk Maruta “built a sanctuary” on the hill where “the martyrs were buried”. The “Red Church”, as it is called, unites Christians and Muslims and is now “the graveyard of the Chaldeans”; the relics of martyrs, custodied on the main altar, have always been a destination for the processions of the faithful.
Unfortunately, martyrdoms are not just past events for Iraqi Christians; it is a living reality that is present every day:
The history of violence and persecution against Christians has continued uninterrupted. Abductions, kidnappings, assassinations, fleeing families are the dramatic testimony of a “chain of martyrs” – underlines Msgr. Sako – “that continues. Our country is dotted with shrines tomartyrs that people constantly visit, it is a spirituality of martyrdom”.Christians find the strength to “remain faithful” in the “Holy Spirit, but also in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist.” “In every Mass” – added the archbishop of Kirkuk – “we are called upon to make the sacrifice of Christ in our life, in his words; take, break, give … Do this in memory of me: this is the sacred history of Christians and … their journey”.
Pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq that they might be strengthened by the prayers of the martyrs of their country, and that those beautiful seeds might one day grow into a full garden.
Regular followers of this blog know that I have no love for Twitter; you can simply search on “Twitter” in this blog to see why I am not a fan of the micro-blogging service. I admit it is a quixotic campaign and a lonely one as well. But three guesses on what I thought when I saw this headline:
I’ve always thought that the Orthodox have the coolest saint names. St. Simeon is not simply “St. Simeon,” he is “Righteous Simeon the God-receiver”. Maximus is “St. Maximus the Confessor”, and St. Theophan is “St. Theophan the Recluse”. With these names you immediately get a sense of the mission God called them to. Sorry to say, but you don’t get that with names like “St. John Fisher” or “St. Maximilian Kolbe”. I am sure that if St. Isaac Jogues, whose memorial we celebrate today, was an Eastern saint, he would have a name like “St. Isaac the Eight-Fingered”.
Why such a name? Because before his eventual martyrdom at the hands of the Mohawks, he was brutally tortured by them for 13 months. During this time two of his fingers were either eaten or burned off. As a priest, this was a serious problem, as only the thumb and forefinger were allowed to touch the precious Host, so he was canonically not allowed to say Mass any longer. However, Pope Urban VIII gave him special (and quite rare) permission to celebrate Mass due to his status as a “living martyr”. What is most amazing is that after his incredible torture he returned to the Mohawk mission where he was eventually clubbed to death and beheaded.
Tertullian famously said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. If this is true (and I believe it is), then St. Isaac Jogues is one of the few seeds of the North American Church, and we should beg his intercession for our country. One of the most obvious flowers of this Church is Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who was born at the approximately the same place that Jogues was martyred only ten years later.
I am very excited as next summer I plan to take a pilgrimage with my family to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs which is located at St. Isaac’s martyrdom site. It is holy ground and a source of many spiritual blessings.
St. Isaac Jogues (the Eight-Fingered), pray for us!
A number of people recently have asked me about the status of my book, Who Do You Say That I Am? Encountering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. I turned in the completed manuscript to Our Sunday Visitor back in June, but the book will not be published until September 2010. Why the delay? Our Sunday Visitor publishes a lot of books, and their schedule is to release their books twice a year: in the Spring and in the Fall. Their Spring line-up was already set by the time I turned in my book, so I was put in the Fall 2010 lineup.
Soon my editor will be going through the manuscript and I’m sure giving me a thousand ways to improve it. Right now I am collecting endorsements for the book (BTW, if you are a big muckity-muck Catholic and want to endorse the 2nd-best Catholic book about Jesus in 2010 [Pope Benedict's 2nd volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" being the best of course - but I doubt he'll ask anyone to endorse his book], feel free to contact me!).
There has been a bit of a stir recently because shock comedian Sarah Silverman proposed that the Pope sell all of the Vatican’s possessions in order to feed the poor of the world. Anyone who is familiar with Silverman knows that this is her shtick: say outlandish, politically-incorrect things in a vulgar way in a feeble attempt to be funny.
But what Silverman and many others may not know is that once a Pope actually did agree to sell all the possessions of the Vatican! Pope Paschal II lived in the 12th century, during the time of the great lay investiture crisis, when the Pope and the Emperor battled over who had authority to appoint bishops. During this crisis, Pope Paschal II actually offered to Emperor Henry V that he would sell all of the Vatican’s possessions acquired since the time of Charlemagne if Henry agreed to renounce lay investiture. They did sign a compact to that effect, but the Romans rose in revolt and didn’t allow it to happen.
So I guess Ms. Silverman isn’t as shocking as she thinks she is.
Here is a tradition I didn’t know: when you have your 12th child, you have a bishop baptize him or her. But that is exactly what happened here in Maryland recently, as Kolbe Peter Fatzinger, the 12th child of Rob and Cecilia Fatzinger, was baptized by Bishop Martin Holley (the Auxiliary Bishop of Washington DC who is himself the 8th of 14 children) a few Saturdays ago.
Earlier the [Bishop Holley] told participants through the beautiful sacrament of marriage, Kolbe’s parents became co-creators with God – and the new baby is a “product of that love,” Bishop Holley added.
“Out of the sacrament of marriage is born all the other sacraments,” Bishop Holley later said. “The graces from (his parents’) marriage continues to be perpetuated in the life of this young boy – who will eventually make a decision of his own life,” whether that choice be marriage, a vocation to the religious life or a faithful lay person.
As the eighth of 14 children, Bishop Holley seemed right at home in front of the Fatzinger family. A large family teaches you Gospel truths, Bishop Holley noted. Children learn about God’s love through their parents – their first teachers. Later, children are taught how to love their neighbors by learning to love their siblings. “We often refer to the family as the ‘domestic church,’” Bishop Holley told the Catholic Standard.
He pointed out the younger children in the family who were gathered around their older siblings and parents watching them intently. “All eyes are looking at their parents,” Bishop Holley said. “The graces that come from marriages, are important for society, and so important for the continuation of the Church,” Bishop Holley said. “Marriage gives life to all the other sacraments.”
Or, as Mother Teresa once said, “big family, holy family.” And the Fatzingers seem like quite a family. They have only been married 20 years, yet have 12 children and already one of them is in the Seminary!
May God continue to shower His blessings on the Fatzingers!
Following up on this post and this post, I want to call attention to a video about “Hosting a Windows 7 Launch Party”. If you want to know exactly how NOT to evangelize, watch how Microsoft does it (if you can – I do not believe it is possible for a rational, sane person to watch this entire video all the way through):
Too often we think evangelization just involves events and programs. But the best evangelization should not be forced; it is one person naturally sharing with another the joy that is in his heart. I’m not saying we don’t hold evangelization-related activities (after all, I organize my parish’s door-to-door effort twice a year), but even those activities should be focused on individuals personally sharing with others the hope that is within him. That is the best soil in which the Holy Spirit can work.
Okay, time for a contest: the first person who can watch this entire video all the way through – with the sound on and eyes on the screen the whole time – receives the first “Divine Life Voluntary Mortification Award”. With that you get a free subscription to the Divine Life blog – what a deal!
The Evangelical WORLD Magazine has an editorial posted called Church Hoppin’ to Rome, in which the author, Anthony Bradley, attempts to explain why so many young Protestants are becoming Catholic. Bradley especially credits the instability of the typical Protestant upbringing:
I was recently in a room full of young adults raised in evangelical America. To my surprise, there was not a single person who had been raised in one congregation or denomination—they’d all changed churches at least two or three times. I’m not surprised, then, that we find among this generation a longing for tradition and consistency—especially in a culture of broken families and high levels of geographic mobility. People want to call something “home.”
He also references Scot McKnight’s well-known article “From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic” which I highly recommend for an Evangelical look at the “Catholic problem” (although I find it humorous that he could only think of tiny Wheaton – home of the Evangelical Wheaton College – as the central city of Evangelicalism). McKnight’s article gives four main reasons for Evangelical-Catholic conversions: (1) a desire for certainty, (2) a desire for history, (3) a desire for unity, and (4) a desire for authority.
Bradley continues his own article by noting the lack of unity within Protestantism, the problem of using Scripture as really the only rule of faith, and the lack of an intellectual tradition in most of Protestantism.
I think there is much truth in what Bradley writes; after all, if there were no problems within Protestantism, why would any of its members look elsewhere? But what I don’t see in Bradley’s aticle is a deeper look at the reasons for Protestantism’s problems, especially its profound disunity. Why is it that since Luther put the nail in the Wittenburg door, Protestantism has been fundamentally a history of schisms and divisions? Why has it never been a united church, even on such essentials as the meaning of Baptism and the Eucharist? Bradley notes that the Catholic and Orthodox churches often have a unity that is “often cosmetic,” yet any honest observer of the various Christian traditions has to marvel at the unity of both those communions compared to the divisions of Protestantism. There must be something fundamentally different in the foundations of Protestantism and the apostolic churches which has led to such different results.
I think a major reason so many Protestants have become Catholic recently is that they have realized that after 500 years of divisions, there is really no chance for them to find “one body, one spirit, one faith” like they can in the Catholic Church. It is just not possible in a community that is founded on each person’s individual interpretation of the Bible. As more and more Evangelicals realize this, the path from Wheaton to Rome will get more and more traffic.
Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church and one of the greatest spiritual writers of all time. When reading her works, I will often find pithy statements which strike me by their depth and wisdom. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Prayer and comfortable living are incompatible.”
“It is a great good to think that if we try we can become saints with God’s help.”
“It is true that we cannot be free from sin, but at least let our sins not be always the same.”
“How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything save in opposing you?”
“Be gentle to all, and stern with yourself.”
“I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.”
“Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”
“There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.”
“Pain is never permanent.”
And, of course, one of her most famous quotes shows that the good saint had a sense of humor:
“Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few!”
If you are interested in reading some of St. Teresa’s works, I recommend starting with The Way of Perfection. It is relatively easy to read, yet contains a wealth of spiritual treasures.
I have a Systems Analysis degree and have been involved with computers in a professional capacity for almost 20 years now. In that time I have used all the major operating systems – Windows (all flavors since 3.0), Mac and Linux. I have my own opinions about each OS, but what I especially find interesting is the followers of each one, especially followers of Windows and Macs. What does this have to do with Christianity? Bear with me.
Windows supporters generally are corporate types who simply like Windows because everyone uses it and it is the most compatible with the software they want to use. But you rarely find a true fan of Windows who isn’t in the pay of Redmond. They just like being part of the System and are content with the status quo.
Mac fans, however, are almost extreme in their devotion to the Apple OS. They love both its underlying technical strengths as well as its aesthetic beauty. They will tell any who will listen (and many who won’t) how great Macs are and why everyone should buy one. They admit the price is steep for a Mac, but well worth it.
I was thinking recently that this is quite similar to the religious battles of the first centuries of Christianity. Windows represents the old pagan religion of the Empire: most people followed it, but few were devoted to it and most recognized its weaknesses unless they were in the pay of the Emperor.
Macs, on the other hand, represents Christianity: it had a small, but devoted, band of followers who recognized the high cost of following Christ, but sought to convert others to their faith nonetheless. They saw it as a beautiful faith with a rock-solid intellectual core underlying it.
(And I guess Linux fans are the Gnostics: an esoteric faith with few followers that is difficult to follow and no one really understands anyway. )
Oh, and I’ll give you one guess as to my own favorite OS.
Mark Shea has a wonderful article over at Catholic Exchange about the need for Catholics to evangelize like St. Paul. He begins by noting the Catholic attitude about evangelization:
Ask your average Catholic about evangelization and you get a mumble and a shrug. Evangelization? That’s what Evangelicals do, isn’t it?
It’s not that Catholics think it’s bad (though some are, in fact, actively hostile to it since it smacks to them of “imposing our values” on others). Rather, it is that most Catholics simply have no idea what to do. So we console ourselves with that saying of St. Francis that he never actually said: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.”
That apocryphal Franciscanism would be great advice—if we really were preaching the gospel at all times by our lives. But for many of us, evangelizing is near the bottom of our “to do” list. We shift uncomfortably in our seats as we drive past the little fundamentalist church sign that says, “If you were charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” We tell ourselves that our faith is “deeper” then mere talky Evangelical chatter.
My own experience is similar. After converting to Catholicism from Evangelicalism, I never once considered that I should stop evangelizing; now I just have the advantage of evangelizing about the fullness of the faith. Some Catholics, however, seem to think that my conversion won’t be complete until I drop that whole “evangelization” thing. Evangelization isn’t something that Catholics “do”. But in many cases, I think that this aversion to evangelization is due to fear: fear that we will be rejected, fear that we will fail, and also fear that we won’t know what to say. The first two fears are only overcome by a deeper interior life, but the third fear is one that should not even exist. As Mark notes:
Many Catholics wonder if there is some sort of technique they need to master in order to bear witness to their faith. They fear that if they have not taken some sort of course in evangelization, or studied theology for a decade, or otherwise jumped through various hoops, they cannot evangelize. For such folk, the Holy Father has liberating news. In his announcement of the Year of Paul on June 28, 2007, Benedict XVI said that Paul’s success was not due to some “refined strategy” of salesmanship or philosophical wrangling. Instead, the Holy Father essentially said that Paul’s achievement was due to his extraordinary personal involvement springing from his total dedication to Christ, despite all obstacles.
In short, Paul really believed this stuff. He acted exactly like a man who really had met the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus and was now perfectly convinced that Jesus had conquered death, forgiven his sins, and laid upon him the charge to tell the world. Because he really believed, he was willing to “pay personally for [his] faith in Christ, in every situation.”
Today try to find a way to evangelize – invite a friend to Mass, tell someone something about your faith, recount a positive story about your large family – there are a thousands of ways to evangelize. Pick one and do it!
The relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the beautiful “little flower” and Doctor of the Church, are currently being venerated by thousands of people in England, somewhat surprisingly given the vast secularism which has gripped that country in recent years. A blog has been set up to follow the relics around the country, with pictures from the various places they are traveling.
Venerating relics is probably one of the “weirdest” practices of the Church for modern non-Catholics (and even many Catholics). I remember as a Protestant looking with distaste at Catholics who would get excited about bones, for goodness’ sake. Aren’t we a bit beyond that?
But in fact, the veneration of the relics of saints is one of the deepest traditions of the Church. Christians would make great sacrifices in the Early Church to protect the remains of the saints and martyrs in order to venerate them. The Emperor Julian the Apostate complained that Christians had “filled the whole world with tombs and memorials to the dead.” St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote that “When the faithful look at the relics it is as though with the eyes, the mouth, the ears, indeed all the senses they embrace the living body itself still blooming with life. With tears of reverence and tender feeling they address prayers of intercession to the martyr as though he were actually present there before them.”
This veneration of the relics of the saints and martyrs is consistent with the incarnational nature of our faith. We believe that matter has been redeemed by Christ through his becoming man for our salvation, and thus the bodies of those who followed him faithfully are holy and will eventually be glorified on the Last Day. We venerate these precious relics and allow them to bring us closer to the saints.
May God bless England during this time of grace and may St. Thérèse pray for them!