On a happier note, Catholics Come Home continues their excellent work to bring fallen-away Catholics back into the Church:
Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category
Over a year ago, I wrote about a dispute in Cleveland which arose as a result of the bishop closing some parishes. I noted that no matter how the bishop handled the parish closings, Catholics must remain in communion with him and recognize that he has the authority to take these actions. One of the men involved in fighting the bishop, Bob Kloos, commented on my post and defended his position.
Now it looks like Mr. Kloos and others have gone the way of so many others who dispute the authority of their bishop: schism.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Defying the authority of their bishop, parishioners and their priest from the closed St. Peter Catholic Church in downtown Cleveland celebrated Mass Sunday in leased commercial space they transformed into a church independent of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.
The move by the new Community of St. Peter puts members in danger of excommunication because they had been warned by Bishop Richard Lennon, who shuttered St. Peter’s in April, not to hold worship services in places without his approval.
Still, about 350 people, joined by their spiritual leader, the Rev. Robert Marrone, gathered for their first Mass and communion in their new home — a newly renovated, century-old building on Euclid Avenue and East 71st Street.
“This feels real good,” said parishioner Bob Kloos of Cleveland Heights. “This is the handiwork of hundreds of people over many, many months.”
This is so very sad. Whenever anyone removes themselves from the communion of the Church we should all weep in sorrow; nothing good can come out of it. Unfortunately, too many Catholics today do not recognize vital connection between following Christ and being a member of his Body here on earth, the Church. The Protestant ethos – in which we follow Christ individually and without reference to others – has inflicted Catholics far too often.
Of course, all of this is evidence of poor catechesis, so it should not be surprising that it is the former pastor of St. Peter’s who is leading the charge:
“I see this as an act of disobedience, not a schism,” Marrone said in an interview before the new space was opened. “But I suspect we’ll get accused of schism.”
This is nothing but double-talk: disobedience is schism. When you disobey a legitimate order of your bishop (and there is no question that this closing was a legitimate action by the bishop), you put yourself into schism. Fr. Marrone probably realizes that disobedience (and its attending “rebel” image) plays better in the press than schism.
Pray for these members of the former St. Peter’s parish that they might return to communion with the successor of St. Peter, the Pope.
Recently, the Archdiocese of Washington had a “Seminarian Family Day” in which current seminarians and their families gathered to celebrate Mass and enjoy a picnic. The purpose of the day was to recognize the importance of the family in a young man’s decision to pursue the call to the priesthood. Our diocesan paper reported on the event, and something struck me about the families of the three seminarians they profiled:
Doug Powell, the father of seminarian Jonathan Powell, said he is proud of his son’s decision to explore a vocation to the priesthood…
He and his wife, Tam, the parents of 12 children, have tried to foster vocations in their home by being open about faith, committing to family prayer and homeschooling their children, he said…
Kimberly Schnitker, the mother of seminarian Max Schnitker and a parishioner of St. John Vianney Parish in Prince Frederick, said her family fosters vocations by attending daily Mass, praying the rosary, homeschooling their children and maintaining friendships with priests who are an “inspiration to them.”
Michael Berard, a parishioner of St. Hugh Parish in Greenbelt whose son, Jack Berard, is a seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, said he and his wife, Pat, fostered vocations in their home by striving to be living examples for their 10 children.
Did you notice what I highlighted? One seminarian family has 12 kids and homeschools, another homeschools, and the third has 10 children. What is common about these three families? They are counter-cultural.
In today’s society, there is probably nothing more counter-cultural than a religious vocation. Choosing to be celibate, obedient and poor is the trifecta of counter-cultural choices in the over-sexed, rebellious and materialistic culture of death in which we live. Those who are immersed in our culture are going to have an extremely hard time hearing the call to the religious life, which is why parents need to live in counter-cultural ways. Do your kids watch the same TV shows, wear the same clothes, go to the same schools, have the same number of siblings and entertain themselves the same way as every other child? Not every Catholic family is going to homeschool or have a large number of children, but every Catholic family is called to counter the culture of death in which we live in some way. Along with giving their children a more solid path to holiness, parents may very well be helping to solve the vocations crisis in our country as well.
One of the key rallying cries of the first Protestant Reformers was that they were resisting the “Pelagianism” of the Roman Catholic Church. Pelagianism is the belief that man, under his own power, is able to obtain salvation; the grace of God is superfluous to this process. The Reformers believed that the Catholic Church of their time, with its emphasis on works in the process of salvation, was preaching a doctrine dangerously similar to the 4th century Pelagius. They, on the other hand, believed that our works were useless for our salvation and instead believed God alone saves us without any involvement of ours.
Thus, on the surface, these two belief systems – Protestantism and Pelagianism – appear to be in complete opposition. But I would posit that they share an underlying error, and that is presumption. Presumption is the sin in which one believes that it is guaranteed that he is going to heaven. As Joseph Pieper once wrote, it is a “perverse anticipation of fulfillment.” Instead of hoping that one will be saved, the presumptuous person assumes it as fact. But of course no one can know with 100% surety that he will be saved until after his death occurs.
So how do both Pelagians and Protestants presume their salvation? A Pelagianist believes that by his own power he can guarantee salvation and the forgiveness of his sins; God “owes” him salvation based on his good works. A Protestant believes that God alone, without any work of his, will effect his salvation with absolute certainty; in this case God “owes” him salvation based on His supposed promises: he is “assured of his salvation.” In both cases, the person presumes more than he can know.
Both of these attitudes, of course, are erroneous. The proper attitude of the Christian is hope, not presumption. The Christian believes “in hope we are saved” (Romans 8:24). Although we are great sinners, we trust in God’s mercy to save us, but we also know that we must cooperate with this mercy in order to one day see Him face-to-face. Our life as pilgrims here on earth is full of tension between the possibility of damnation and the promise of salvation. And hope is the proper Christian response to that tension, as it recognizes with humility our great sins, but trusts in the even greater mercy of God.
Note: The basis for this post came from Joseph Pieper’s wonderful book “On Hope.”
One thing I have noticed about strong religious orders, such as the Franciscan Friars (and Sisters) of the Renewal or the Sisters of Life, is that their members are joyful. Whenever I talk to one of them, I can’t get a smile off my face, because their joyfulness is so contagious. This joyfulness is attractive and is one of the best means of evangelization; after all, who wouldn’t want to be part of something so full of happiness and fun?
Joy, however, is often an overlooked virtue in the Christian life. But Fr. James Martin gives a great (and hilarious) defense of joy in this speech he recently gave (note: the talk is almost 30 minutes and the audio quality at times is poor, but it is worth it):
H/t: OSV Daily Take
One hundred years ago in this country, there were two factors which determined what parish a Catholic would attend: his geographic location and his ethnicity. If you were a recent immigrant, you went to the closest parish that served your people; if not, you just went to the closest non-ethnic parish. But this is not the case today: many Catholics shop around for a parish that suits their needs and then hop to the one that they like the best. Is this allowed? What are we to make of all this?
It should first be noted that lay Catholics are free to go to whatever parish they desire; they are not bound under canon law to attend their territorial parish. However, canon law does stipulate that a pastor of a parish is responsible for all the souls in that parish’s geographic territory, regardless of whether they attend his parish or not (or even if they are Catholic or not). So, in a certain sense, the pastor of your territorial parish is your pastor no matter if you attend his parish or not.
But even if it is allowed, is it a good idea to do the parish “shop and hop”? Should Catholics just attend their territorial parish or should they search around for a “good” parish? Opinions abound. My in-laws, who grew up before Vatican II, would never have dreamed of attending any parish but their “proper” one; they felt that a Catholic was supposed to support their local parish, no matter their personal opinion of it. However, many Catholics feel that it is necessary for their spiritual well-being to attend the “best” parish they can find.
When I first became Catholic, I was in the group that felt that you should attend your territorial parish unless the pastor there was preaching outright heresy. Even if the liturgy was poorly celebrated, the music stunk, and the pastor preached a “be nice” Gospel, a Catholic should support his local parish.
Then I had kids.
As any parent will tell you, having kids changes your entire perspective; you now see everything through their eyes. And I saw a child being raised in a watered-down Catholic Faith and it scared me. After that point, I decided I would attend the best parish within a reasonable distance because I wanted my kids to experience Catholicism and the Mass in a reverent, enthusiastic environment if at all possible.
Of course, one can take the parish “shop and hop” too far and demand perfection from a parish. But a perfect parish does not exist, and frankly, that attitude is one step away from Protestantism. We cannot expect a parish to be EXACTLY what we want, and we must be understanding of the difficulties of being a pastor. Leaving a parish simply because the music isn’t Gregorian Chant or the pastor’s homilies are dry isn’t a valid reason, in my opinion. And furthermore, we should actively work to improve our parishes; too often I hear people complain about their parishes, but they do nothing to help improve them. A parish doesn’t become faithful by magic, it is done by the hard work and prayers of its members. In the end, though, I see no problem with attending the most faithful parish one can in their general geographic area. It is not an ideal solution, but it is an acknowledgment of reality.
Before anyone says it in the comments, I do understand that many Catholics in this country live in a situation in which there are no parishes around them that are strongly faithful to the teachings and practices of the Church. I sympathize with them and know that this situation can be quite a cross. I pray that they unite their sufferings with our Lord for the renewal of the entire Church, including their own parish.
An interesting sidenote: when my family moved to Gaithersburg, we started attending the closest parish to us – St. John Neumann, which was only about 1.5 miles down the road. It is a great parish and we have happily attended it for years. But about two years ago, I discovered that we actually live in the boundaries of another parish! That parish, which is about 4-5 miles away, is also a great parish, but we decided to stay at St. John Neumann, as we had become active members and had found a spiritual home there. But technically, we unknowingly hopped parishes.
A few stories about new members of the Catholic Church:
Faith and Reason in the Context of Conversion – the story of an Evangelical’s conversion to the Catholic Church
The Pearl of Great Price – another Protestant minister converts to Catholicism
Satan’s greatest success is not when he gets someone to do something that they know is immoral; it is when he gets someone to do something immoral and be convinced that it is not wrong. In the first case, the person can come to repentance and ask for forgiveness, but in the second case they do not even acknowledge they need to repent of their actions.
Such is the case today with artificial contraception. When you take a step back and think about it, it is unbelievable (and diabolical) that just 100 years ago every practicing Christian, no matter their tradition, would acknowledge that artificial contraception is immoral. But today, almost none do; artificial contraception is as normal as cell phones and McDonald’s. As an Evangelical Christian, I never once gave a thought to the morality of using artificial contraception; to me that would be as silly as contemplating the morality of using a fork instead of my hands to eat. This is still the situation in most of the Evangelical world (and scandalously much of the Catholic world as well).
But perhaps the tide is turning:
(RNS) Is contraception a sin? The very suggestion made Bryan Hodge and his classmates at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute laugh.
As his friends scoffed and began rebutting the oddball idea, Hodge found himself on the other side, poking holes in their arguments. He finished a bachelor’s degree in biblical theology at Moody and earned a master’s degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Now, more than a decade later, he is trying to drive a hole the size of the ark through what has become conventional wisdom among many Christians: that contraception is perfectly moral.
His book, “The Christian Case Against Contraception,” was published in November. Hodge, a former Presbyterian pastor who is now a layman in the conservative Orthodox Presbyterian Church, realizes his mission is quixotic.
In the 50 years since the birth-control pill hit the market, contraception in all its forms has become as ubiquitous as the minivan, and dramatically changed social mores as it opened the possibilities for women.
No less than other Americans, Christians were caught up in the cultural conflagration. In a nation where 77 percent of the population claims to be Christian, 98 percent of women who have ever had sexual intercourse say they’ve used at least one method of birth control.
The pill is the most preferred method, followed closely by female sterilization (usually tying off fallopian tubes).
“People are no longer … thinking about it,” says Hodge, 36, who had to agree with a Christian publisher who rejected his book on grounds that contraception is a nonstarter, a settled issue.
“People don’t even ask if there is anything possibly morally wrong about it.”
For more than 19 centuries, every Christian church opposed contraception.
Under pressure from social reformers such as Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, the Anglican Communion (and its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church) became the first to allow married couples with grave reasons to use birth control.
That decision cracked a door that, four decades later, was thrown wide open with the relatively safe, effective birth-control pill, which went on the market in this country in the summer of 1960. Virtually every Protestant denomination had lifted the ban by the mid-1960s.
Even evangelicals within mainline Protestant and nondenominational churches embraced the pill as a way that married couples could enjoy their God-given sexuality without fear of untimely pregnancy.
“It was a reaction to that whole Victorian thing where sex was seen as dirty,” says Hodge, who lives in Pennsylvania.
Official Mormon teaching through the late 1960s was against birth control. But by 1998, the church’s General Handbook of Instructions made it clear that only a couple can decide how many children to have and no one else is to judge.
There remains one massive holdout among major Christian churches—the Roman Catholic Church, which expressed its opposition in no uncertain terms in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae.
To separate the two functions of marital intimacy—the life-transmitting from the bonding—is to reject God’s design, Paul VI wrote.
“The fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman,” Humanae Vitae proclaimed.
Janet Smith, a Catholic seminary professor whose writing and talks have been influential for two decades, puts it this way: “God himself is love, and it’s the very nature of love to overflow into new life. Take the baby-making power out of sex, and it doesn’t express love. All it expresses is physical attraction.”
One of the fundamental doctrines of the Enlightenment is that mankind is improving through time. As the centuries progress, man also progresses – intellectually, morally and even biologically. We are on our way to becoming a race of “super-men” who will dwarf previous generations in every way. Even though this belief cooled somewhat in the wake of the horrific 20th century, it is still an underlying presupposition of the Western world. Yet Scripture and Tradition tell us that before the End of Time and the Second Coming of Christ, great evils will occur, the world will face terrible cataclysms and the Church will be mercilessly persecuted.
So which is it? Is mankind getting better or worse over time? I think we need to break down our analysis into three separate categories: technological, theological and moral.
I think there is no question that technology has advanced incredibly over the years. Man has learned to manipulate nature in ways unimaginable in previous generations. If a man from the 10th century were to visit modern-day America, he would think we were all magicians with incredible powers (and he might also wonder why we talk into tiny boxes pressed to our ears all day). God gave man a wondrous intellect and he has used that power to achieve some unbelievable things.
This one is not so clear-cut. As a strong defender of the belief that the Church’s understanding of revelation over time develops, one might assume that I believe that mankind is progressing theologically. And in one sense, I do. Two thousand years after Christ the Church has had the opportunity to reflect on the deposit of faith given to us by our Lord and understand it better. So in that sense we have progressed. But it would be a mistake to think therefore that we 21st century Christians are “better” followers of Christ than those in the 1st or 5th century. The sources of holiness – primarily the sacraments – have not changed over time and they will not change until the End of Time. The graces we can receive through Baptism or the Eucharist are no different from the graces the first Christians received through these mysteries. Whereas the means to holiness for mankind made an infinite leap with the coming of Christ, it has not changed since his Ascension. So in one sense we have progressed theologically, but in another we have not.
This is the category which I believe we can unequivocally say that mankind has not progressed. The great promise of the Enlightenment was that once people became smarter they would also become good. History has shown this to be an empty promise. The last century mankind completed was the bloodiest of all time, with horrific wars, ethnic holocausts and the slaughter of millions of unborn children. Yes, in many ways society has improved as well; for example, the discrimination against African-Americans here in the United States has lessened dramatically in the past 100 years. But I cannot see how anyone can say that on a whole mankind has morally progressed. What seems to happen is that the victims of our moral failures shift from one group to another over time. But there are always victims of our immorality. This should not surprise us, as the doctrine of Original Sin tells us that all men are born in sin, and as every society consists of sinful men, it too will be sinful.
So, by my count, it appears to be a tie: 1.5 for progressing, and 1.5 against. But let us look more closely at these categories. The fact that we are progressing technologically but not progressing morally is potentially a terrible thing. Is it really progress that we can now obliterate an entire city with one bomb, but at the same time we have not become more moral? One hundred years ago, getting an abortion was a lot of work, now it is practically a trip to the drug store. So it is clear that, unlike Enlightenment thinkers, one should not equate technological and intellectual progress with moral progress. We might be smarter, but that only means that we can be more effective doing evil. It seems like the apocalyptic evils mentioned in Scripture are becoming less and less fantastical.
All of this is not reason for pessimism, however. We do not know the hour of the final days: it may be next week; it may be in 4,000 years. But we do know this: God continues to shower His grace upon us, and we will always be able to grow in holiness and thus personally progress in the spiritual life.
Scientists are quite familiar with the concept of peer review. Whenever a scientist makes a possible discovery, he first informs the scholarly community of his work and allows them to review it. The idea behind this process is that any one expert, no matter how smart or diligent, can make mistakes – but a community of experts will more easily find those mistakes. It is only after something is peer-reviewed that it becomes accepted as valid scholarship.
A similar process occurs in the Church. Throughout her history, people have made claims regarding the deposit of revelation. For example, in the fourth century, a priest named Arius claimed that Jesus was not God, but was instead some great being created by God. He backed his claim by diligent biblical scholarship and then went out proclaiming the truth of his teaching. However, the Christian community tested his claims against what they had been handed on by previous generations of Christians, i.e. against Tradition. They realized that they had been worshiping Christ as God in their liturgies for hundreds of years, so how could he not be God? Even though Arius’ arguments sounded biblically plausible, tradition told the Church that his teachings were false. And eventually, even though it took some time and his arguments swayed many bishops, Arius’ teachings were rejected definitively by the Church. The ‘peer review’ of Tradition, in which the ‘peers’ include all Christians since the time of Christ, found the flaws in his argument.
This peer review process still holds true today, and it applies both to theological scholarship as well as private revelations. If a biblical scholar proclaims a “shocking new discovery” about Jesus (which seems to happen every week these days), the truth of the claim can be reviewed against the beliefs of 2,000 years of Christians. If a person proclaims that they have seen the Virgin Mary and she is giving us a new teaching, tradition can evaluate the truth of this teaching against the teachings of the Church over the centuries. No one person is trusted to know more than millions of Christians through time.
Chesterton famously said that tradition is “the democracy of the dead.” It allows those who have come before us to have their say in what we teach to be true. Like a scientist who needs to be peer reviewed before his work is accepted as valid, so too must all proclamations about the Christian Faith be reviewed by the received teachings of 2,000 years of Christians. Only then will they be accepted as valid.
During the pontificate of John Paul II there were recurring complaints that the pope too liberally tolerated heresy within the Catholic Church. Prominent laypeople, priests, and even some bishops advocated practices and beliefs contrary to the Church’s teachings, yet JPII rarely cracked down on such offenses. The pope’s defenders, however, argued that JPII was doing so in order to avoid a formal schism. If he too quickly punished those who advocated heresy, the argument went, then an even worse schism would rupture the Church.
This tension between tolerating heresy or tolerating schism has been with the Church since the beginning, and Church leaders have always had to tolerate one or the other when dealing with those members who promote something against the teachings of the Church. Pope John Paul II obviously leaned towards tolerating heresy more than schism, and in doing so, he stayed within the more common Western tradition. But this is not the way of the East; in fact, if you look at the history of the Church, a general rule of thumb has been that the West tolerates heresy more than schism, and the East tolerates schism more than heresy.
The very names that have been associated with the Church in the East and the West support this rule. The Church in the West has been known as the “Catholic” Church: “catholic” means “universal” and emphasizes the unity of the Body of Christ throughout the world. The Church in the East has been known as the “Orthodox” Church; “orthodox” means “right belief” and emphasizes the correct teachings of the church. Although there are obviously exceptions, this has been the path taken by each throughout the centuries: the Catholic Church has tolerated heresy in its ranks more liberally, but the Orthodox churches have endured more internal schisms than the West. This also partially explains the fact that the drive for reunification between East and West has mostly originated in the West: we are more willing to endure varied beliefs between us for the cause of unity, but the East is more adamant that our beliefs align fully before we talk unity (for example, note the differing receptions between the East and West to the Council of Florence).
Ecclesiology (the theological understanding of the Church) is the fundamental reason for these different perspectives. In the West, the Church is most often seen as a worldwide Body – each diocese is “part” of the one, universal Church. But in the East, each diocese is seen as the “whole,” even “catholic” (which can also mean “full”) church, and the universal Church is the communion of all these local, “catholic” churches. In fact, it is common to use the singular for the “Catholic Church” but the plural for the “Orthodox churches,” reflecting this essential difference in our understanding of what the Church is. So for a Western Christian, the rupture of one part of the Church is a horrendous calamity, but in the East, even if a part of the Church were to go into schism, one’s diocese still fulfills the meaning of being the “catholic” Church.
So, which way is better? Which should the Church tolerate more: schism or heresy? In an ideal (i.e. unfallen) world, neither would need to be tolerated, as neither would exist. But in our fallen world, both do exist and both must be addressed by the Church. For those of us who live in the West and have seen heresy rampant at times among our ranks, it is easy to long for a stricter stand by the hierarchy, schism be damned. But schism is a terrible breach in the Body of Christ, one that often has a long-lasting impact (consider the fact that two of the greatest schisms of the Church – the Nestorian and Monophysite schisms [both Eastern schisms] – are over 1,500 years old). It is too easy to have an attitude of “let them leave, they aren’t Catholic anyway,” but one must realize that a formal schism has the possibility of institutionalizing heresy or at least non-communion for endless generations to come. Of course, tolerating heresy has its limits as well, for what good is it to be in visible communion if we no longer confess “one Faith?”
Ultimately, the Church abhors both heresy and schism and does everything it can to avoid either. In each case the Church hierarchy must do all it can to avoid schism as well as avoid heretical beliefs or practices taking hold within the Church. As members of the Body of Christ, we must pray fervently for our leaders that when such situations arise they follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in doing all they can to resolve both heretical teachings and schismatic tendencies.
About a year ago, I had never heard of Fr. Robert Barron. Now it seems that every time I turn around online, he is there! And this is a good thing, as Fr. Barron is a wonderful explicator of the Catholic Faith today. Fellow blogger Brandon Vogt recently interviewed Fr. Barron on Catholics in the New Media and other topics. I thought the answer to Brandon’s first question was spot on:
Through “Word on Fire”, your podcasts, blogs, writings, and ambitious documentary, “The Catholicism Project”, you are reaching a multitude of people around the world. As someone using New Media to evangelize the globe, what advice would you give Christians on using these technologies in service of the Gospel, and what dangers lurk within their use?
Fr. Barron: My advice to those who would venture into the new media is to prepare yourself by immersing one’s self into the depths of the Catholic tradition. The great danger of the new media is that it seems to relish the superficial. There has been an ethos within the Church for many years to pursue an accommodationist strategy in regards to the culture, and this has resulted in a public presentation of the Faith that is often nebulous or “dumbed down.” Presenting the Faith as intelligible does not mean that we have to compromise the profundity of our great Tradition. We are the bearers of a Faith that inspired one of the most interesting civilizations that the world has ever known. The faithful are the route of access to this culture and its patrimony which is expressed in art, architecture, literature and theological reflection. The world needs to know all this, but we have to be sure that we know it ourselves before we can even begin to share the Faith with others.
Other than Jesus there is no figure more richly drawn in the New Testament than St. Peter, the leader of the apostles whose feast we celebrate today (along with St. Paul). Reading the Gospels and Acts, one really gets a sense of this loyal, impulsive, courageous and flawed man. Much of his personality comes out in the many declarations of his that Scripture records. Thus, I have decided to list here my 10 favorite St. Peter quotes (I would have also done the same for St. Paul, but I’m afraid I would just end up listing his entire epistles).
Favorite St. Peter Quotes
10) “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11)
9) “We have given up everything and followed you.” (Mark 10:28)
8 ) “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.” (Acts 3:6)
7) “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
6) “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
5) “Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15, 16, 17)
4) “Get up. I am only a man myself.” (Acts 10:26)
3) “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)
2) “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
1) “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16)
Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us!
Baseball fans throughout the Roman Empire are excited about this year’s hot team, the Jerusalem Apostles. After a slow start, the Apostles have caught fire and are dominating the league. Here is tonight’s starting lineup:
1: John Zebedee, centerfield
Clearly the fastest man on the team (he once smoked Simon Peter in a foot race), young John has put up some impressive numbers this year in the leadoff spot. And his amazing eyesight (earning him the nickname, “Eagle Eyes”) has helped him in the field as well, as it seems that he catches everything hit his way.
2:Matthew, right field
Another speedster, Matthew has a gun for an arm, which serves him well in right field. Usually overshadowed by the flashier John, Matthew still produces respectable numbers.
3: Thomas, left field
Probably the most underrated player on the team, he still is trying to live down the infamous scene in the ’33 Series when he questioned his manager’s presence in the clubhouse. But he has always been a strong hitter and proclaims that he would “die” for his team.
4: Simon Peter, 1st base
Team captain Simon Peter has been plagued with inconsistency throughout his career, but management has stuck with him throughout. Although he has a high number of strikeouts, it seems that whenever Peter puts his bat on the ball, it leaves the ballpark for a round-tripper, making him the clear choice for the cleanup role.
5: Andrew, 3rd base
Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, excels at bringing people to home. An RBI machine, he loves to be in the background and allow others, especially his brother, to shine.
6: Philip, 2nd base
Not very well-known outside of a base of hard-core fans, Philip year after year puts up solid, if unspectacular, numbers. Little known fact: Philip actually recruited Nathaniel to play for the Apostles, extolling Jerusalem’s famous manager.
7: Nathaniel, shortstop
Another little-known player, Nathaniel can be counted on to play the game fair. During the sad Steroid Era, no one suspected this player of any shenanigans.
8: Simon the Zealot, catcher
No one, I mean no one, plays with the intensity of Simon. There is fear in the eyes of opposing players when they round third base for a close play at home, and Simon zealously protects the plate like no other catcher. At least three players have gone on the DL after a run-in with Simon.
9: James Zebedee, pitcher
James has been the bulwark of the staff this year. His only weakness is that sometimes he enjoys the limelight too much. He also has a tendency to be sent to the showers early in games.
Long relief: James Alphaeus, Jude Thaddaeus and Matthias
These guys toil in anonymity, but no team is complete without players like this who are willing to do the grunt work necessary to make a team successful. People are still talking about the game that Jude entered in the 3rd inning down ten runs. Everyone thought it was a lost cause, but behind his strong pitching, the Apostles were able to climb back into it and win in extra innings.
Closer: Paul of Tarsus
A newcomer to the team (replacing the ill-fated Judas Iscariot, who gave up the winning runs in last year’s Series), Paul has been sensational in the closer role. He seems made for building on the foundation of others, and he is a remarkable 33 for 33 in save opportunities this year. There have been reports of friction between Paul and team captain Simon Peter, but both deny it is anything substantial.
Many observers felt that last year’s crushing Series defeat would hang over the Apostles’ heads, but their manager has managed to turn that defeat into the driving force for this year’s success. Combined with the announcement of their manager’s retirement at the end of this year, the Apostles’ inspired play in the first half of the season has resurrected dreams of a championship. But they have a small window in which to work: rumors abound that small-market Jerusalem won’t be able to hang onto all their players hitting the free agent market this winter. There is already talk that superstars Simon Peter and Paul are being wooed by the big-market Rome Imperials to play for them next year. But for now, it seems to be Jerusalem’s year.