Monday, November 16, 2009

Now there's a shepherd!

Just think how much different U.S. history would be if thirty years ago American bishops had done this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The expression of faith

As many people who follow Catholic news know yesterday the Holy See released Anglicanorum Coetibus the Apostolic Constitution concerned with the reunification of Anglican individuals and groups with the Catholic Church. There are many interesting pastoral provisions in the document and its supporting Complimentary Norms document that will lead, one hopes, to the joining of many Anglo-Catholics to the barque of Peter.
One interesting point in the document, which may have consequences beyond the Anglican communion is in section I.5:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate.
The legal structure under which individuals, parishes and diocese of the Anglican Communion, and other Anglican groups not now associated with the Communion is the Ordinariate. An Ordinariate is a kind of non-territorial groups headed by an ordinary, probably a bishop. It is most often compared to the way Military diocese are organized, with its own priests and lay members, not under the jurisdiction of the local prelate.
So for members of the Anglican Community who desire to become members of this Ordinariate the standard is that they must believe all that is professed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is not so extraordinary. Anyone who becomes a member of the Church through the process of RCIA is suppose to make this same profession.
So lets think about this... To become a Catholic one must profess belief in the tenets embodied in the Catechism. The Catechism is the authoritative expression of the Catholic Faith. This constitution actually elevates the status of the Catechism.
So how long before the question is ask: What about people who claim to be Catholic, but do not adhere to this authoritative document? Might their status as Catholics be questioned, or at least their self-description as Catholic? This goes for organizations as well as individuals.
As important as adherence to the Creed is, the beliefs of the Catholic Church engenders much more than is stated in those 214 words of the Nicene Creed. Maybe its time we started holding people to them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The feast of the dedication of the Lateran

Today is the feast of the dedication of the Lateran or as it is known by its official title The Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran. The Lateran is the mother church of the whole inhabited world. It is the cathedral of Rome. And while many believe, erroneously, that St. Peter is the Holy Father's cathedral, that honor goes to the Lateran. It was built by the Emperor Constantine during the pontificate of Sylvester I, and dedicated on this day in the Year of Our Lord 324. It is the oldest of the four major basilicas of Rome.
The actually patron of the church is not either of the St. Johns, but rather the Most Holy Savior himself, Jesus the Christ.
The basilica itself has been rebuilt many times over the ages. All four the Rome's major basilicas are assigned archpriests, who are usually cardinals. Agostino Vallin, who is also Vicar of Rome is the current Lateran archpriest.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Souls

The Feast of All Souls is a fitting time to talk about Purgatory.
We will start with the Four Last Things. They are Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven. These are the things we all will face at the end of our mortal life.
It is not possible to speak of Death and Judgment without speaking of sin. It is divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishment inflicted by God's justice. These must be expiated either through sorrows, miseries or calamities in this life or else in the next life. For those who die in isolation from God due to mortal sin the Church teaches that damnation is the result. For those who, through the blessing of the sacrament of Confession, have garnered the forgiveness of their sins there is still punishment, though of a transient and purifying nature.
Christians have always understood that sin is not just a transgression of divine law but also a contempt of the friendship between God and man. It is a rejection of the love that God has shown us through Jesus Christ.
Therefore for the full remission of sins, it is necessary that not only that friendship with God be reestablished, but that also some voluntary reparation be accomplished. Sin effects not only our relationship with God but also our relationship with the whole communion of the Church. Because of this the vestiges of sin may remain to be cleansed after remission of guilt. This is clearly demonstrated by the doctrine on purgatory

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. -St. Gregory the Great
--Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sin is never a personal matter. By sin not only is the individual's relationship with God hurt, but also the solidarity of the Christian Community. However just as the sin of one harms others so to does the holiness of one benefit others. Thus the Christian faithful give each other mutual aid to attain the supernatural aim of the acceptance of salvation, which originates in Christ.

The very ancient dogma of the Communion of Saints thus explains how the efforts of both those already in Heaven, those still undergoing the purification of Purgatory and those still on Earth can be joined in the work of atonement for sin.

So we as Catholics both pray for those undergoing the purification of Purgatory and ask the saints to also pray for them. Because the most perfect prayer and worship of God is contained in the Mass we also offer Masses for the repose of the souls in Purgatory.

A mention on the term “in Purgatory.” The Church does not maintain specifically that Purgatory is a place such as Heaven or Hell or even as the physical Universe is a place. As already mentioned the word Purgatory is used to describe the process of purification that the dead, who are destined for heaven, undergo prior to their entrance to heaven. Informally it is easier to talk of individuals being in Purgatory, though it is prudent to remember that we are not necessarily talking about a concrete place.

Good works, particularly those which people find difficult can also be offered to God for the salvation of sinners. Since the sufferings of martyrs for the faith are considered of great value their work in union with Christ himself is considered to form a repository, a treasury of spiritual merit, which the Church can apply to the perennial debt owed by individuals.

This remission of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven is called indulgence. In an indulgence the Church is making use of its power as minister of the Redemption of Christ, which allows it to authoritatively dispense this remission from the treasury which Christ and the saints have won. This is part of the power of the Pope and the bishops to bind and loose on Heaven and Earth as successors of the Apostles.

The aim of ecclesiastical authorities in granting indulgences is not only to assist the faithful in remission of the punishment due sin but also that of urging them to perform works of piety, penitence and charity.

In the past the practice of indulgences have not always been well understood by the faithful, nor even sometimes by members of the clergy (even high ranking members.) It is forbidden to either sell indulgences or to deny their efficacy.

In the days before Vatican II it was common to talk about indulgences in term of periods of time. The object being to compare a specific indulgence to the equivalent period of penitential work by an individual. Unfortunately this practice often caused confusion among the faithful whereby it was correlated to time spent in Purgatory, which was understood to be a place rather than a process. We no longer speak of indulgences in such a way.

Instead we speak of partial and plenary indulgences. An indulgence is partial if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin. A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

Remember indulgences are only effective for removing the punishment for sins which have already been forgiven, either through the sacrament of Reconciliation for mortal sins or for venial sins through another penitential act, such as the penitential rite at Mass, saying the rosary, etc..

We can always apply an indulgence to the dead either to a specific individual or to the known or unknown dean in general as well as to the living. Specifics on indulgences are given in the Apostolic Document Indulgentiarum Doctrina.

Those who die in God's grace and friendship, once they are perfectly purified live forever with God. As it says in the CCC:

This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called 'Heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. -CCC 1024

We of our own accord do not have the power within us to enter this blessed state. It is only through the power of God manifest in the salvation brought by Jesus Christ that we can attain entrance to communion with God.

So on the Feast of All Souls remember those who are still undergoing the purification of Purgatory and pray for them.