<![CDATA[ Goodbooks Media - Toward a 21st Century Catholic World View ]]>Sun, 14 Jan 2018 11:13:01 -0600Weebly<![CDATA[The Catholic Personality of the 21st Century]]>Thu, 02 Oct 2014 01:57:43 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/the-catholic-personality-of-the-21st-centuryPicture
The Catholic Personality of the 21st Century
by 
Ronda Chervin

Spring semester of 2014 at Holy Apostles College and Seminary saw the debut of Toward a 21st Century Catholic World-View. Fr. Dominic Anaeto was my co-professor and a small group of students read the chapters, wrote answers to the questions for reflection and then engaged in class discussion. Writers of chapters who teach at Holy Apostles campus and some others who live nearby came to discuss their chapters with us. 
In this process it became clear that besides polarities concerning controversial issues, there is also the question of personality. Does shouting ones convictions about Catholic truth, as I, Dr. Ronda often do, lead to changing the mind of someone who disagrees?  Does tolerating all religious ideas of others lead to growth? As Pope Francis so often asks and proves by his own way of approaching others, will we be able to reach out to those hungering for Catholic truth and life, unless we, ourselves manifest joy and love?
With this in mind, I would like to just throw out some of my thoughts about the Catholic personality of the 21st century. 

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How Jesus and His Church Manifest a World-View that Overcomes Polarities

Jesus!  The very person of Jesus manifests the overcoming of polarity. First of all, the polarity between God and man! And, He did not see any opposition between being Lord and being friend? Or, Jesus didn’t present worship as only soaring above the earth to the Father without, at the same time, teaching us to see Him in our needy neighbor. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church and other documents are full of truths that over-arch our divisions.  As Fr. Dominic put it, the Vatican is a brake on false oppositions. For example, The documents of Vatican II present us with the beauty and importance of devotion to Mary. They do not divide Catholics into Fatima Catholics and Medjugorje Catholics!  I would say that old and new are mingled in such matters as re-asserting the eminence of the vows of religious life yet insisting on the universal call to holiness. 

In addition, Fr. Dominic often times stressed that thinking of the Church in terms of polarities can, itself, become a problem. Polarities are also within us. If we become healed of our personal polarities we can better see how to help with polarities outside ourselves!  Fr. Dominic is working on a book of his own on healing and plans to include healing of polarities!

Personality and Dialogue

Over and over again as we discussed the themes in the chapters of Toward a 21st Century World-View, it became clear how important it is to listen to the ideas of others before leaping into refutation mode. So polarized is the Church at present that one word out of the mouth of someone can trigger rejection.  For instance, sometimes if a person even  mentions the word yoga it is assumed that he or she is a New Age nut. 

 “Speak the truth with love” we are urged by St. Paul (Ephesians 4:15). Surely ridiculing the views of other Catholics cannot be a loving approach!  And how about caricaturing those who disagree with us in conversation and/or in practice? What about harsh judgments?

To make sure this point about what I don’t hope for in the Catholic personality of the future, let me give some more concrete examples:

Ridicule: “Those Tridentine Latin Mass (now called the ExtraordinaryForm of the Mass)  priests in their old-fashioned vestments look like robots.”  Or, “Check out Fr. Mike, he looks as if he just got out of bed with his messy hair, and scuffed sneakers.”  

Caricature: “Those social justice priests just use the Mass to recruit for their activist causes.” Or, “Lay people who still believe in transubstantiation and insist that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church, instead of seeing that all religions have symbols and equal value; those bigots never get down in the dirt to help the poor.”

Harsh Judgment: “What with all the scandals in the Church, no wonder no one trusts Catholic priests anymore.” Or, “Those parents who send their children to public schools are just waiting for sin to overtake them.” 

Bear in mind, often such statements are not made in the presence of those we disagree with. However, they perpetuate stereo-typing, and impede any future dialogue as we chuckle and raise our eyebrows over the “wrong” views of others.  

So, what would be the opposite of ridicule, caricature, and harsh judgments?  Dr. Geraghty, our metaphysician, suggested that whenever someone in the Church says something we disagree with, we need to start, in the mode of Thomas Aquinas, by first stating all the reasons why that position could seem right. And, only then, explain why we think something different. 
To refer to the topics I mentioned above, one could begin a dialogue, speaking the truth with love in these ways:

“Oh, you are into yoga.  Many find such exercises helpful for physical health and also for getting peaceful to pray…what is your experience?”  (Then listen!)  “You know I read in this document from the Vatican that we have to be wary of things like yoga because very often they include subtle or not so subtle worship of bad spirits…” (Give examples.)  You might check out the exercise routine we have available in our parish that is just as relaxing and starts with Christian prayer.” 

“You don’t seem to like the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. What bothers you about it?” (Then listen!) “You know I used to feel the same way…(describe what you felt).  But I have these friends who love it.  Did you know that young people who had left the Church sometimes find their way back in because of the sacredness and solemnity of that old Mass?  Maybe you’d like to come with me to this parish where the priest explains what is going on at the Extraordinary Form. He’s not one of those who think the English Mass isn’t valid, or anything like that. He celebrates both Masses.”

“You think Fr. Mike is a slob?  What upsets you about his looks?  (Listen) “I used to think that, too, but then I found out that he has a great pain in his feet and he can only wear loose sneakers...You think this encourages teens to come to Mass in their grundgies?  Well, I agree that it would be better if they dressed more formally, but I’m so glad they are with us at all, that I don’t insist.”

“On the way into coffee and donuts I happened to hear you say that you think social justice priests don’t really believe in the Eucharist, that they’re just recruiting activists for their causes.  Tell me about it? (Listen!)  “I see what you mean. But I’ve known (read about) priests who are into social justice big time who also love the Mass.  One of those gave a sermon quoting John Paul II on how all priests need to celebrate Mass daily if they are to be truly united to Christ.” 
(During a discussion in RCIA) A former non-Catholic Christian is asking about whether the Catholic Church thinks there is no salvation outside of the Catholic church. “Where did you hear that?” (Listen) “I used to think that the phrase no salvation outside the Church meant we thought all Protestants went to hell. Then I read the sections in the catechism about this. It means that all graces flow through the Church and that we believe the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ which He shed for our sins.  But we also believe that those who follow the light that they see, even if they never become Catholics, can also be saved through Christ’s love.”

“You’ve left the Church because of the priest scandals. Tell me about how this impacted you, your family, or others you know? (Listen) “It’s a terrible thing.  Here is how it impacted me…  But, you know, we condemn racism for stereotyping an entire race by the bad traits of some of its members. And you wouldn’t want to leave the United States  because of the evils of slavery in our past history so, why would you leave the Church and all it can give you, because some priests sinned?  I don’t see people stopping watching football because some coaches mess up.”

“You think no Catholic should send their children to a public school. Tell me what aspects of public schools seem to you to be dangerous. (Listen) “I agree with you for the most part because of these and those experiences or facts…However, in some areas of this country the public schools have mostly Christian teachers who get around not teaching religion in creative ways. I knew a man who included in his history courses the reasons for all the religious holidays.  And some parents, where there are no good Catholic schools in their area, form groups to refute whatever is false in the textbooks of their public school children.” 
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We all know that there are areas of disagreement that may never yield to dialogue in particular cases.  A former Catholic who is now a confirmed atheist would not be interested in the approaches I just described. Though, of course, with grace all things are possible. Many, many, Catholics who leave the Church and then revert (come back) point to something someone said, which they dismissed at the time, but the Holy Spirit used to haunt them into questioning their rejection of the teachings of the Church. 

A factor that underlies ridicule, caricature, and harsh judgment is described in some forms of anger-management with the term “symbolic victory.” (See Recovery, International, a movement founded by Abraham Low to overcome the wrong kind of anger, and help with fear and depression.) When in conflicts we feel unable to win others to the right side, as we see it, we feel frustrated, weak, and angry.  But when we ridicule, caricature, and judge harshly, we feel strong and superior. We don’t actually win any victories!  We don’t convince the wrong-headed person of our truths. They may even dig their defenses deeper after talking to us. But we get a “symbolic” victory in the sense that, with those who are on our side, we feel witty, brilliant; united against the enemy.  

At the time of Jesus on earth, the zealots and some Pharisees must have been great at ridicule, caricature, and harsh judgment. They certainly used those weapons to try to defeat Jesus.  What were His “weapons”? Prayer, parables, miracles, redemptive suffering for the forgiveness of all, including those enemies.  

Better vs. Good Doesn’t Equal Right vs. Wrong

During our class in the discussion we began to notice that one cause of polarities is thinking that any preference for some practice in the Church meant that those who had a different but good other practice were simply wrong. For example, if I think it is better to go to Sunday Mass rather than Saturday evening Mass, I can think that it is not only better but also wrong for some to go to Saturday evening Mass.  I can give many reasons why I think it is better to go to Sunday Mass such as, the Saturday evening Mass is shorter, sometimes without music, so it is a cop-out to choose that Mass. But it is not the teaching of the Church that going to Saturday evening Mass is wrong. And, some people may have good reasons to prefer it such as having trouble sleeping and needing to sleep in after a hard night on Sunday mornings without any pressure. 

Of course, there are cases where some people in the Church are clearly right and others wrong such as opposition to the killing of an innocent child through abortion vs. calling oneself a Pro-Choice Catholic.  But even where we are in the right, we must not think that in every conversation we can angrily shove the truth down the throat of those who oppose us or that we must have the last word. 

Going to Charismatic prayer groups can be better for some Catholics than going to a rosary prayer group. But going to any prayer group is usually good unless the group diverges from Catholic teaching or leads people astray in other ways. So, when inviting others to join my favorite group, it is not good to slide into trying to persuade others that going to their group is wrong.

It is wonderful to have a large family. Better, in itself. But for families that have serious reasons to limit the number of their children, it is not wrong to use natural family planning to space them, for example if the mother has chronic ailments which make taking care of many children extremely difficult.  Members of large families should not present the goodness of their choice in such a way as to make smaller families feel that they are inferior and wrong even when they have serious reasons to limit their children and use the morally acceptable method of natural family planning. 
Virtues in the Personalities of 21st Century Catholics

What I am selecting here as virtues I would like to see, certainly does not pretend to cover the entire span of possible good traits.  It is more of a “starter document” to get you, the reader, interesting in thinking about other virtues you would like to see and, of course, thinking about cherishing those virtues for yourself.  By the grace of God may we all have more and more of them, not only to be better evangelists but simply to victimize less people by our negative traits!
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I would love to see Catholics of the 21st century exhibiting a combination of warmth toward others with respect of others. Sometimes, instead, we see friendly Catholics who also are pushy, and domineering, for example in trying to recruit all parishioners into our favorite missions. 

Fr. Dominic Anaeto mentioned how we need to be accepting vs. merely tolerating others, especially those we disagree with.  When we merely tolerate others we basically don’t want to be with them.  Those we accept we can be around in a peaceful way, even if we hope they will come to see the truths we stand for.  David Tate, one of our seminarian students in the class, said that this requires going out of our comfort zones.

Our Pope Francis wants us to be joyful and enthusiastic vs. judgmental and pessimistic. This does not mean pretending that evil is not real, but having faith that the last word is not discouragement but hope in our Savior.

We need to be indefatigable in teaching the truth, insists Kathleen Brouillette, our student and also Director of Religious Education in a parish.  But teaching needs to be complemented by a deep prayer life, so that we don’t get burned out by activism, as emphasized in his papers and oral communications by Tommie Kim.  

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Healing of Memories from the Wounds of Polarity

When conducting the class on Toward a 21st Century Catholic World-View, it became apparent to me that the polarities were not just ideological but also reflective of how wounded we have become by the effects of  opposing ideas.  

This has led me to attempt to write a prayer for healing of memories related to such wounds. 

Jesus, that all may be one was Your ardent wish for Your Church.  Much as we are united in loving You, or we would not call ourselves Christian, yet we are torn apart by division. 

On one side of Your Church we have those suffering from: 

• Dissent among Church leaders weakening our families, parishes, and country, as when priests fail to teach on the necessity of Sunday Mass so that our teens think it is not important.  

• The effects on our children and friends of false moral teachings, as when Catholic ministers and lay people relegate sex outside of marriage, contraception or even abortion to matters of subjective conscience.  

Give us grace to forgive those who have handed on false teachings out of confusion or one-sided perspectives. 

On another side of Your Church we have those suffering from:

• Feeling rejected by other Catholics or by our pastors in our participation in social justice issues involving peace or poverty.  

• Feeling marginalized in the Church because of race, ethnicity, or sex.

• The sense of having been blocked rather than appreciated for creative initiatives.

Give us the grace to forgive those who have failed to support movements of reform out of confusion or one-sided perspectives. 

All of us have suffered from the faults, vices, and negligence not only of our leaders but also those negative traits of others in our families and friends and those at the work-place. 

Give us the grace to forgive each other, in the light of Your mercy, Lord. 

Finally, all of us in the Church are suffering from not having the strength that would come from common belief, practice and, yes, holiness. If we were more united we could better reach out to all those who have such need of You and Your home for us on earth and in heaven. May all who have contributed to Toward a 21st Century Catholic and all who read this book be blessed by the Holy Spirit to “speak the truth with love.”  

 




Questions for Personal Reflection and Group Sharing:

• What are ways you think the person of Christ and the teachings of the Church overarch polarities?

• Can you give examples of ridicule, caricature, and harsh judgment you have found in Catholic conversation? 

• Can you give examples of good dialogues you have had or seen others engage in that offered hope of overcoming polarities? 

• How have you seen “better,” seeming to make “good” into “wrong”?

• What virtues would you like to see in Catholics of the future?

• Would you add anything to the Healing of Memories at the end of this chapter? Or would you want to compose your own closing prayer for Toward a 21st Century World-View?  

CLOSING: 

INSIGHTS FROM THE FINAL SYNTHESIS PAPERS OF STUDENTS IN THE CLASS




Tommie Kim

Holy Apostles College & Seminary































Thomas Kim:  

My Toward a 21st Century Catholic Synthesis

Student Class discussions on the topic “Towards a 21 Century Catholic Synthesis” were a very special learning experience for me. Simply put, a Catholic synthesis ought to be part of the common identity of all Catholics.

The approach of the book provided quite a  diverse perspective. I realized the  in depth analysis of the professors and graduate students of specific topics extended into the wider mission of propagating the gospel.  Since we all long for light as the darkness deepens, it becomes clear that we need  to overcome polarity within our faith if we are arrive at greater  unity. .  “With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognize that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:23).

“The light shone in the darkness and darkness could not overpower it.”(Jn 1:5)  Light and darkness exist in this world.   We all begin with the common goal of evangelization to bring light to the world.  However, we have a tendency to perceive difference and conflict as polarization. If our perceptions lead us to demand an end to all differences, I, personally, would consider such a goal to come from the wrong kind of idealism. We, as humans, all go through a process toward maturity. In the Church the conflicts and tension that exist in our church most often rise from the immaturity of our faith. We cannot define these problems with the word “polarity”.  There is  room for every person’s faith to grow towards maturity through time and experience. What is more important than conflict is the love and the care of the community in order to achieve our common destiny.  In fact, it is not  polarity that matters but rather the lack of teaching of catechism and Catholic faith. 

What I see as even more serious problem is the relative silence of the church in the face of unethical practice such abortion and contraception.  Another problem is an erroneous approach where some activists think religious pluralism within the church even when it comes to doctrine will lead to unification. This is a definite error and the church need to stand behind the Catholic faith.  

On the other hand, there is  polarity within the church.  Each side has its chosen evidence to prove it is right in conflicts with one another.  As mentioned by Dr. Ronda, we do face difficulty finding a common ground between the individual preferences in participating in different groups for prayer, fellowship and mission. The prayer life of each Catholic will vary in ways that no one should claim that one way is right and another wrong. I think that we need to embrace these differences with open minds and with integrity and continue to seek what is common rather than different.   

Victor Frankl in his book about logotherapy approaches human nature through dimensional anthropology.  It is the nature of human beings to perceive objects differently depending on each one’s own life experience.  As in the famous analogy, two blind men who have never seen an elephant before, will have different opinions according to where each man is touching the elephant. One  man will say that elephant has hard skin if the area that he first touches is the foot of an elephant. But the other will say that elephant has soft skin if  the only area that he ever touched was elephant’s nose.  Anyone who has the eyes to see the elephant knows that elephant is a gigantic animal, which the blind men cannot see, and has both soft skin and hard skin. One who is able to see the elephant can lead the blind men, saying to them that none of them is wrong. He can tell the blind men that it is just only one part of a gigantic animal that each has touched and that there is another aspect of an elephant than what each was able to experience.  Separation and division come from an inability to embrace the positions of others. 

St. Paul once was an ardent Pharisee who persecuted Catholic believers, but he converted to Catholic faith. After his conversion, St. Paul in that sense understood different perspectives of faith from both sides. With his real life experience on both sides, he had an incredible persuasive power in proclaiming the Gospel and maintaining his firm belief.  He was even willing to sacrifice his life if only he could lead his people to salvation. Catholic synthesis must be based on love for God, and love for others.  Bryan Mercier, through his reflection on prayer, and Sean who converted from atheist to Catholic also provided good examples of the true face of Catholic synthesis.

Then comes the question: how can we overcome the differences among people who have no such experience of both sides?  The answer is in the Gospel.  Catholic faith should not be perceived or judged through our own human standards.  If we all look towards God and His almighty will, then there is no room for division.  

We must also realize not only unity but also diversity in various missions in the church. The mission of a priest is ontologically unique in its mission. However, depending on which country we are talking about, the role and identity of the priest may vary.  We are aware that there is cultic model and servant leader model role that the Vatican Council tried to unite. Especially in liturgy after the 2nd Vatican Council, there have been conflicts among believers about what is perceived as correct liturgy.  However, if we all have a correct  understanding about church liturgy, these differences can easily be embraced.  As long as the core spirit and understanding of the liturgy is not lost, we should be able to consider the differences in liturgical rite as part of diversity, and not polarity.

In the case of the Korean church, believers used to kneel and received the host in the mouth. Today, the ritual changed so believers generally receive the host with two hands. But no priest should deny the Eucharist to anyone who wishes to kneel or receive in the mouth, now should other believers should show repugnance to anyone who receives differently. Some liturgical rites had to accommodate to the reality of a lack of priests giving sacraments. So both the priest and the believers should respect those who wish to keep the old tradition.  Liturgy can change over time with the need of the present time and it should be considered as part of an accepted innovative effort of the church.

We all need to face these issues with open minds.  We need to identify the root cause of the polarization, be able to build right understanding of Catholic catechism and continue our effort towards Catholic synthesis.  People who reach a higher hill on the mountain can see farther.  People who start to climb the mountain only can perceive part of the view from a lower angle.  People who experienced and built deeper faith with wider perception on the events and view should be able to lead the people following underneath the hill.  It requires love, patience and tolerance. We must be able to learn from others’ experience and not insist on our own standard.  Only when we are able to accept these differences with humble attitude and love for others, we can overcome the differences without conflicts and divisions. The main obstacle to Catholic synthesis is that many believers have a strong tendency to insist on their own perspective and experience.  The cause of polarity in the church narrows down to lack of love and respect for others.  

I still recall the excitement and tremulousness I felt  taking my first step into a new life in the US.  The US is the country that saved South Korea from communist invasion.  The US was the country that deployed their people to save our country from being vanquished in war.  Even after the war, the US saved the lives of many of our people with food and supplies when our land was devastated. The US has always been a dream country for many Koreans, and so it has been for me.  However, the reality that awaited me was very different. The US today is suffering from a multiple of divisions everywhere throughoutthe society from politics to the economy. A country that was built on faith seems to be losing its light, and a country that once was the most powerful country in the globe seems to be weakening.  What is most striking for me is that the main cause of the problem is because of intense polarization in the society.   

Although it is true everywhere on earth, we all now agree that the church is very much affected by wealth and comfort coming through advanced technology.  Individualism, relativism and selfishness have invaded the mentality and life styles of many. However, when it comes to church, I had always thought that the Korean church was suffering more than the church in the US from serious divisions.  As I am going into my 2nd year of living in the US, I am able to learn and see beyond the appearance of the church in the US.  In a certain sense, it seems like the church in the US is suffering from even more divisions within the church, often coming from different racial and cultural background, an income gap that has widened over the years, and differences between generations.  Polarization seems to have grown with the 21 century and issues seems to have become more intense today.  Therefore, it is indeed time that we put effort into working towards a Catholic synthesis.

Kathleen Brouillette – Catholic Synthesis 




But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?  

And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?

And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how

can people preach unless they are sent?  NAB Rm 10:14-15




The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation send all of us out.  Some of us will preach by the way we live in the world as laity.  Others of us will do it by the added grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  But all of us in the Body of Christ are sent.  Sadly, not all of us who share in the royal priesthood of Christ, from the top of the magisterium to the least of His brothers, even begin to fulfill our mission.  The polarities in our Church today are the visible results of the failure to teach, and to explain why the Church teaches what she does.

Although we often preach by example, we more often associate preaching with words.  As we see in Dr. Toolin’s chapter on ecumenical dialogue, it is critical that the words we use mean the same thing to all of us.  It would be quite difficult to reach any kind of understanding, if what is being said and what is being heard are two different things.  We must make our meaning clear and never assume that everyone is on the same page.  One of the ways I do this with my students is to have them explain to me what we’ve just said or read.  We cannot assume that giving information is the same as teaching the truth.

Good parents teach children how to make their way in the world, avoiding the pitfalls and dangers, while taking advantage of aids to success.  Holy Mother Church must teach her children, especially in this day and age, the objective truth of the existence of God, His authority, His design, His love, and His will that we be with Him forever in heaven.  She must teach us how to avoid sin and cultivate virtue, not only pointing out the pitfalls of life in this world, but also why they can be slippery slopes potentially leading to destruction and hell.  It is in this area, in particular, we can see what happens when Catholic schools fail to require courses in basic truth such as we find in Catholic metaphysics.  It is only in the light of understanding the foundational metaphysical truths that we can open ourselves joyfully and gratefully to receive and be formed in the Divine Life of God that is offered to us in the grace of the sacraments of the Church.  

Although I have learned much from my students over the years, one of the sad things they have made abundantly clear is that too many people don’t know Jesus is God.  There must be polarity in the Church when not all Her people realize Jesus is God.  According to a 2010 Pew Forum study quoted by Georgetown University, fully half of our people also don’t know that the Church teaches Jesus is really present in the Blessed Sacrament!  This statistic begs the question, who is teaching and what are they teaching???  Apart from our belief in three Persons in one God, what is more crucial to Catholic faith than the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?  

The Catechism tells us the Eucharist is “the source and summit of our faith.”  Unless those baptized into the mystical Body of Christ understand what the Eucharist means, they will continue to absent themselves from it.  One cannot treasure something which one sees as having only some kind of vague value or worth.  Herein, I believe, lies the problem.  

That the Roman Catholic Church is a treasure can sometimes be her own best-kept secret.  Rather than proclaim the truth more boldly, we sometimes water it down and preach it less, in an attempt to keep from offending anyone.  Perhaps we would do well to be more concerned about offending God.  We have lost our sense of sin.  Not recognizing our need of redemption, or that it was God Himself who suffered and died for our sins, we cannot appreciate the most beautiful gift by which our salvation was wrought, or the need for the holy Mass. 

One case in point is an article by Rod Dreher in Time Magazine September 29, 2013, titled I’m Still Not Going Back to the Catholic Church.  In it, he decries the Church’s preaching of “Christ without the Cross,” and notes

…one Ash Wednesday, I attended a Mass at my comfortable suburban

parish and heard the priest deliver a sermon describing Lent as a time 

when we should all come to love ourselves more.  If I had to pinpoint 

a single moment at which I ceased to be Roman Catholic, it would have 

been that one…Losing my Catholic faith was the most painful thing that

ever happened to me. 




Dreher was seeking redemption from his sins and a challenge to reform.  He needed to be called to change, but was only taught that God is love.  Now a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, he appreciates that the balanced teaching of his pastor includes “love, joy, repentance, and forgiveness – in all its dimensions.”   He takes to heart his pastor’s message that, “…we must love our children enough to teach them the hard lessons and compel them toward the good.”  Dreher expresses a concern that Pope Francis’ 

merciful words will be received not as love but license. The ‘spirit of 

Pope Francis’ will replace the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ as the rationalization 

people will use to ignore the difficult teachings of the faith. 




Here, at Holy Apostles, I have learned so much by reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Documents of Vatican II.  The “spirit of Vatican II” has little to do with the actual documents and teachings of the Council.  Popes through the ages, and definitely of the past century, have written wonderful teachings in refutation of the errors of society.  Why is it that these often don’t seem to get beyond Rome to the people in the pews?  In our first class, Fr. Dominic said there is more commonality than division among the bishops.  For me, one of the sad commonalities among some bishops is their failure to see to the proper education of their people and formation of their priests.  Fr. Dominic pointed out that people leave the Church because of the attitude of priests, homilies, and the attitude of parish secretaries. Why, then, are the chief shepherds of the flock not doing a better job of carefully overseeing the formation of their priests and, through them, their people?

I have known any number of priests who subscribe to homily services and use printed, prepared homilies every Sunday and at daily Mass.  So few of them have received the kind of training in homiletics required here at Holy Apostles!  The responsibility for this, in my opinion, rests squarely on the shoulders of the bishops.  All bishops must require their priests to know the Catechism, be well-trained in the Scriptures, and familiar with the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  Priests need the tools to be effective conveyors of truth and teachers of God’s Word.

Dr. Toolin made a critical observation in her chapter on dialogue, “There is no love in dialogue when we know this information, but withhold it from others who desperately need it.”  I find this particularly true in our own Church.  It has been said that charity begins at home.  Our Holy Mother Church must lovingly impart to her children all the treasures of the Church, her wisdom, each and every way in which she is leading the effort to combine faith and science, how she defends the dignity and rights of workers, how she stands against exploitation in the pursuit of profit, why marriage is the foundation of society and must be defended, and so much more.  These things must be addressed from the pulpit.  There is such a wealth of example within our own Church, yet homilies quote Gandhi, Henry Ford, and other non-Catholics.  Why do our so many of our deacons and priests look to the secular for quotes and examples for their homilies?

By using the early Church Fathers and saints as examples, we can teach the history of our faith and learn to know how we came to be who we are today.  We can see how the early Church celebrated the Mysteries, thereby appreciating what needs to be retained in our liturgy, and where authentic growth needs to include the “legitimate diversity” in our faith mentioned by Dr. Toolin.  

Television shows in recent years have revealed or caused a tendency for people to talk over each other’s words.  If we are polite, we await our turn to talk.  Seldom, however, are we listening to one another.  Listening seems to be a lost art.  It is also symbolic of lost humility.  We are part of a “me” centered culture.  The focus is on what I need, what I want to say, what I believe, what I get out of it.  We have lost not only the sense of sin and humility previously mentioned, but also a sense of obedience, respect for authority, and reverence for God and one another.

Such reverence can only grow from a true understanding of who God is, and who I am in relation to Him.  St. Bonaventure is reported to have described humility as knowing our place under God, and taking it. It is only when we do this that we can treasure the great gift of being a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, love one another as fellow members of that Body, embrace our variety, recognize that our Church truly offers a way of spirituality to nourish every member, enter deeply into prayer with the Head of our Body, reverence the priest who bridges the gap between heaven and hell as he acts in persona Christi, and truly live our lives as a liturgy of sacrifice for God.

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?  

And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?

And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how

can people preach unless they are sent?  NAB Rm 10:14-15



 The Synthesis of the Synthesis by David Tate:

… Over the weeks of the course, there were twelve different authors that were read, offering up their educated views on almost everything from charismatic prayer to the state of scientific advancements and bioethics.  During each session, the class tried to place where on the doctrinal map each topic sat, and to examine more closely the reasoning behind why it was considered to a be polarity.

To get an idea of the power of a polarity, imagine a long iron bar that was magnetized so that it was then an ordinary magnet. That bar is easily cut into two pieces. This is the concern behind the existence of polarities. The communion of the Church is endangered by polarities. There are three things that can be done to reduce the danger of being cut into two. The second thing that can be done is to see if time with dissipate the newness and exoticness of the polarity to shrink to a more passive state. The two things that can be done, if the polarity seems to be permanent, is to bend the two poles around into a U-shaped magnet. This allows a permanent change to be accepted, but the danger of breakage in the middle is vastly reduced. In so doing, the people in the middle understand the need for the polarity. This organic change strengthens the middle.

Looking over the articles that were read, it looks like they could be grouped into three categories. Before examining these categories by merit, let us see what they were individually. In total, there were thirteen different topics discussed. There were: Priesthood, Liturgy, Love & JPII, Spirituality and JPII, Christian Anthropology, Ecumenism, Counseling, Prayer, Metaphysics, Ethics, Peace, and Work. When one looks more closely at these, we find that we can group them into three different categories: the Church. the spiritual person, and the human person. Making a little chart, we see this:




 The Church                The Spiritual Person                           The Human Person
-----------------   ----------------------------             ---------------------------

Priesthood                         Ecumenism                                         Science

Liturgy                              Counseling                                          Ethics

Love & JPII                        Prayer                                                 Peace

Spirituality and JPII           Metaphysics                                         Work

Christian Anthropology


As you might have noticed, two entries do not line up under a heading. The reason for this is because they are ‘bridge’ topics that ended up acting as transitional topics. Christian Anthropology fit nicely right in between the Church and the spiritual person.  And similarly, metaphysics is a good connecting topic between the spiritual person and the human person.

Why would we be able to split up our material today into these three categories? Was it by coincidence? No! There is a very natural (natural for an and natural for God) reason for this observation. We have based our class materials on the fact that humans tend to disagree. Within the Church, God has given to mankind boundaries to live within. Due to the fallen human nature, humans tend to have the habit of disagreeing with God and with each other. When looking at the Christian faith, there is a softening of the ‘polarity’, but it still exists. When we disagree with God, we have the first category, “The Church”. When people disagree with each other, we find the second and third categories. The second category more or less show how we disagree with each other ‘about what God said…’ and the third reflects the differences in people’s options of how life should be lived. Let us take a brief look at each of the three categories.

The first category is the Church. Here we have listed priesthood, liturgy, love and spirituality in John Paul II, and Christian Anthropology as the transition. All these topics deal with aspects of the Church. The Church is very specific about what a priest is to do in the Church. However, even here we find polarities. This has never been more clear than what happened with Christianity in the twentieth century. Connecting very closely to priests and the priesthood is the Liturgy. 

Historically, the Church has always taught that the liturgy contains within it two functions. The first is that it is a sacrifice. The second is that it is a supper (pastoral and communal). The proportionality between the two is where all the problems arise. The opinions about the proportionality are, for the most part, the source of the causes that are behind the division of the monotheistic religions. 

Looking at Pope John Paul II, we see an interesting difference between how the world has received the teaching of this pope (John Paul II), and the present pope (Francis). Pope Francis is a pope for the poor and the down-trodden. This spirit is easily received by the humanistic ego of the world. What human doesn’t receive the question “Can I help you?” with open arms? However, when we look at Pope John Paul II, his invitation to “trust in God, and be not afraid!” was received only moderately. Similarly, his great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was also truly only understood by faithful Catholics. At the present time, the polarities of John Paul II are more un-received. Those of Pope Francis have not yet been shown the testing ground. Some parts of Francis’ love are still hidden.

The transition from the Church category to the spiritual person is easily embodied by Christian Anthropology.  Here we have a premise that promotes man as a naturally assenting being. Bujno did a great job of demonstrating the inherent presence of the light of God’s image in Man through his actions as a race. Here we have the bridge that connects God’s reach to man, and man’s nature that is composed of body and soul. Man has a soul that was created to commune with God in eternal life. So, when we speak of the state of the Church, we must simultaneously speak of the state of mankind.

Moving on to the second and third categories, we delve more specifically on man, and his nature.  In the second category we examine the spiritual person. The polarities here demonstrate that man is a spiritual being. He has been made with a soul. In our topics we see listed: ecumenism, [pastoral] counseling, and prayer. Sitting in the transitional spot is Metaphysics. 

Religion is the important ingredient in the second category. Here it is shown that every culture demonstrates an interest in religion. The first topic of polarity is ecumenism. Man demonstrates himself to be a communal species. It is no surprise that he is communally religious. There is, however, a strange phenomenon where man both desires, but also disagrees, with communal religion. Almost laughingly, the next two topics of counseling and prayer are deeply interwoven in the spiritual person. Humans have been given the powers of a will, an intellect, and passions. Counseling and prayer tap deeply into all of these. Wherever you find the deep human emotions of love and hatred, the feelings and opinions associated with counseling and prayer are not far off.

Transitionally, metaphysics fills perfectly the human hunger to know the universe, and to understand his destiny within it. Only man expresses the desire to feel important in the world.  Geraghty ‘hit the nail on the head’ when he used the term, hylomorphism. Mankind was born with the knowledge that where there is a body, there is a soul (where there is matter, there is form). One of the attributes of God is that he is omniscient. As we have been made in His image, we desire to know as we are known; to know our universe, as it is. Science is the earthly crown that mankind wears. His search to understand his universe is not a vice. It is a virtue. The only shortcoming in his search for answers is his pride. In a summary of this last category, we can only applaud mankind for his great advances in his social agendas of ethics, work, and peace. I would like to take time and ponder someday how far unfallen Man would have gone in science and the socialism. Whether science, or socialism, or religion, does anyone truly need to ask why Posner quotes the young John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla – The Person as Equal to the Other) stating that ‘people must help each other in their [spiritual] journey’. How often do we hurt each other, rather than helping each other?

In conclusion, having met the opinions of twelve different authors, some of them having personally participated in the class, we arrive at a concise summary of the inner nature of the polarities of the 21st century Church. They are all rooted in two points. The first is man’s relationship with God. The picture presented here being that man strives with God. God in his mercy holds out his rod of mercy and patience. The fragmentary, but substantial, evidence is shown by our authors writing about polarities in the priesthood, the liturgy, love and spirituality, and Christian anthropology.

The second point shows how man is not just an animal; nor is he just a rational animal. No, mankind is body and soul stamped with the image and likeness of God. Here our authors easily show that man is a being, active and alive, as a spiritual and fully human person. In Dr. Ronda’s article on ethics, she clearly offers the truth that true ethics is rooted in love. True virtue is truly ethical and comes from the fact that God is love. He is the source of love, goodness, and dignity. All of man’s human attributes are permeated with his spiritual inclinations. 

If we are to know how to comprehend our polarities of the 21st century, then we must go to the source of our differences. Understanding that our misgivings are stemming from something in our relationship with God, we can look to God to find a solution for living with our polarities. Added to this, if we realize that we are a unique species of human beings with overt spiritual qualities, then we can address those areas of our humanity - to not only cope, but to excel, as persons constructed as body and soul. Knowing these tenants of our existence in this life, we can find assurance in the fact that progress can be gained from the ‘problems’ of our polarities.




Polarities in the Church? ……………. Pray Constantly!

Polarities in people’s spirituality? ……Pray Constantly!

Polarities in people’s humanity? .…….Pray Constantly!

“Pray Constantly!”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)




Synthesis of Kathleen Brouillette:

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?  

And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?

And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how

can people preach unless they are sent?  NAB Rm 10:14-15

The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation send all of us.  Some of us will preach by the way we live in the world as laity.  Others of us will do it by the added grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  But all of us in the Body of Christ are sent.  Sadly, not all of us who share in the royal priesthood of Christ, from the top of the magisterium to the least of His brothers, even begin to fulfill our mission.  The polarities in our Church today are the visible demonstration of the need to continue teaching, and explaining why the Church teaches what she does.

Although we often preach by example, we more often associate preaching with words.  As we see in Dr. Toolin’s chapter on ecumenical dialogue, it is critical that the words we use mean the same thing to all of us.  It would be quite difficult to reach any kind of understanding if what is being said and what is being heard are two different things.  We must make our meaning clear and never assume that everyone is on the same page.  One of the ways I do this with my students is to have them explain to me what we’ve just said or read.  We cannot assume that giving information is the same as teaching the truth.

Good parents teach children how to make their way in the world, avoiding the pitfalls and dangers, while taking advantage of aids to success.  Especially in this day and age, teachers in our Holy Mother Church should always teach her children the objective truth of the existence of God, His authority, His design, His love, and His will that we be with Him forever in heaven.  We need to know how to avoid sin and cultivate virtue, not only pointing out the pitfalls of life in this world, but also why they can be slippery slopes potentially leading to destruction and hell.  It is in this area, in particular, we can see what happens when Catholic schools do not require courses in metaphysics.  It is only in the light of understanding the metaphysical that we can open ourselves joyfully and gratefully to receive and be formed in the Divine Life of God that is offered to us in the grace of the sacraments of the Church.  

Although I have learned much from my students over the years, one of the sad things they have made abundantly clear is that too many people don’t know Jesus is God.  We can’t help but see polarity in the Church when not all Her people realize Jesus is God.  According to a 2010 Pew Forum study quoted by Georgetown University in US Catholic, fully half of our people also don’t know that the Church teaches Jesus is really present in the Blessed Sacrament!  This statistic begs the question, who is teaching and what are they teaching???  Apart from our belief in three Persons in one God, what is more crucial to Catholic faith than the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?  

The Catechism tells us the Eucharist is “the source and summit of our faith.”  Unless those baptized into the mystical Body of Christ understand what the Eucharist means, they will continue to absent themselves from it.  One cannot treasure something in which one sees no value or worth.  Herein, I believe, lies the problem.  

The Roman Catholic Church is a treasure to be proclaimed boldly without sometimes watering it down in an attempt to keep from offending anyone.  Since many have lost the sense of sin, and don’t recognize our need of redemption, or that it was God Himself who suffered and died for our sins, such of us cannot appreciate the most beautiful gift by which our salvation was wrought, or the need for anamnesis.

One case in point is an article by Rod Dreher in Time Magazine September 29, 2013, titled I’m Still Not Going Back to the Catholic Church.  In it, he decries the Church’s preaching of “Christ without the Cross,” and notes

…one Ash Wednesday, I attended a Mass at my comfortable suburban
parish and heard the priest deliver a sermon describing Lent as a time 
when we should all come to love ourselves more.  If I had to pinpoint 
a single moment at which I ceased to be Roman Catholic, it would have 
been that one…Losing my Catholic faith was the most painful thing that
ever happened to me. 

Dreher was seeking redemption from his sins and a challenge to reform.  He needed to be called to change, but was only taught that God is love.  Now a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, he appreciates that the balanced teaching of his pastor includes “love, joy, repentance, and forgiveness – in all its dimensions.”   He takes to heart his pastor’s message that, “…we must love our children enough to teach them the hard lessons and compel them toward the good.”  He is an example of what can happen when teachings of the Church are watered down by some priests.

Here, at Holy Apostles, I have learned so much by reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Documents of Vatican II.  The “spirit of Vatican II” has little to do with the actual documents and teachings of the Council.  Popes through the ages, and definitely of the past century, have written wonderful teachings in refutation of the errors of society.  Why is it that these don’t seem to get beyond Rome to the people in the pews?  In our first class, Fr. Dominic said there is more commonality than division among the bishops. Fr. Dominic offered a quote from Bishop O’Malley that three of the reasons people leave the Church are because of the attitude of priests, homilies, and the attitude of parish secretaries… 

Dr. Toolin made a critical observation in her chapter on dialogue, “There is no love in dialogue when we know this information, but withhold it from others who desperately need it.”  I find this particularly true in our own Church.  It has been said that charity begins at home.  We look to our Holy Mother Church to lovingly impart all the treasures of the Church, her wisdom, each and every way in which she is leading the effort to combine faith and science, how she defends the dignity and rights of workers, how she stands against exploitation in the pursuit of profit, why marriage is the foundation of society and must be defended, and so much more.  These things must be addressed from the pulpit.  

By using the early Church Fathers and saints as examples, we can teach the history of our faith and learn to know how we came to be who we are today.  We can see how the early Church celebrated The Mysteries, thereby appreciating what needs to be retained in our liturgy, and where authentic growth needs to include the “legitimate diversity” in our faith mentioned by Dr. Toolin.  

Television shows in recent years have revealed or caused a tendency for people to talk over each other.  If we are polite, we await our turn to talk.  Seldom, however, are we listening to one another.  Listening seems to be a lost art.  It is also symbolic of lost humility.  We are part of a “me” centered culture.  The focus is on what I need, what I want to say, what I believe, what I get out of it.  We have lost not only the sense of sin and humility previously mentioned, but also a sense of obedience, respect for authority, and reverence for God and one another.

Such reverence can only grow from a true understanding of Who God is, and who I am in relation to Him.  St. Bonaventure is reported to have described humility as knowing our place under God, and taking it. It is only when we do this that we can treasure the great gift of being a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, love one another as fellow members of that Body, embrace our variety, recognize that our Church truly offers a way of spirituality to nourish every member, enter deeply into prayer with the Head of our Body, reverence the priest who bridges the gap between heaven and earth as he acts in persona Christi, and truly live our lives as a liturgy of sacrifice for God.

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?  

And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?

And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how

can people preach unless they are sent?  NAB Rm 10:14-15


]]>
<![CDATA[The Christian Shalom Revolution: The Communal Vocation and Practice of Peacemaking]]>Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:19:09 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/the-christian-shalom-revolution-the-communal-vocation-and-practice-of-peacemakingThe Christian Shalom Revolution:
The Communal Vocation and Practice of Peacemaking

by
Marc Tumeinski
Marc Tumeinski is a PhD candidate at the Maryvale Institute (Birmingham, UK), writing a dissertation on an ecumenical understanding of the practice of communal peacemaking, based on a dialogical reading of the writings of Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder and of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. He received an MA in dogmatic theology (summa cum laude) in 2007 from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. His master’s thesis was entitled “The Theology of Peacemaking in the Teaching of Reverend Emmanuel Charles McCarthy.” Marc and his wife Jo live in Worcester, MA, and are members of the Cathedral parish of St. Paul. Inspired by the example of the Catholic Worker movement, started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, they occasionally provide hospitality in their home to those who are poor or homeless.

Dr. Chervin’s Introduction:  

As the author of this chapter points out, even the subject of peace causes conflict for some Catholics. Marc Tumeinski’s chapter in Toward a 21st Century Catholic World-View is not primarily about war and peace. He seeks a wider framework and in more concerned with the spirit of peace-making than about deciding what attitude Catholics should take to past wars or future wars. That said, as the editor of this book, I want to clear the air  by pointing out that  Catholic teaching does not condemn self-defense in personal situations, nor does it teach that no Christian is ever right in defending his or her country. (See the Catholic Catechism: 2302-2317) Just the same, a Catholic, without condemning those who choose self-defense or believe that a war is just, as well as the rules of combat within such a war, may choose personally to witness to peace through refusing to kill other humans under any circumstances.)  Whatever his or her stance about the above options, the concepts advanced in this chapter will cause anyone who is reasonably open to take thought about how to become a witness for peace in many situations or to reevaluate long-standing cynicism. Personally, the reading of this chapter and Marc Tumeinski’s dialogue in the course on Reflecting Together: Toward a 21st Century World-View, inspired me to confront chronic anger in my own life and to long to be more of a peace-maker. Examples of Christian peace-makers that come to my mind are: Martin Luther King’s non-violent resistance to violations of civil rights; Abby Johnson who quit her abortion clinic administration because of the warmth shown her by pro-life activists right outside her establishment; Immaculée  Ilibagiza who, when she met for the first time the man from her own village who massacred most of her family, told him that all she had left to give him was forgiveness. 

As a matter of fact, I realized reading this chapter that the vision of Toward a 21st Century Catholic World-View, is itself an effort at peace-making in our polarized Church. 
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Introduction

“As long as I have breath within me I shall cry out: ‘Peace, in the name of God!’” These words of John Paul II capture the spirit of so many Christian peacemakers in the twentieth century: Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker, Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Northern Ireland Peace People, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Archbishop Denis Hurley, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Community of Sant’Egidio, Martin Luther King, Jr. These people and communities, and so many others, shine as lights of Christian peacemaking, both communally and individually. In their own times and places, they responded to the gospel call to be Christ-like peacemakers: “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9).

Sadly, the very beauty and preciousness of the divine gift of shalom reminds us of the strife, chaos, and disorder that beset our fallen world. Even more tragic, perhaps, is the potential misunderstanding and discord which even trying to proclaim, let alone live out, the gospel of peace can cause, sadly even among fellow Christians. Apathy and even friction can, for example, arise among Christians who reject abortion but are silent about war, or who advocate against war but do not speak out against abortion.

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Of course, an ongoing dialogue about anything vital, such as peace, will always raise tensions. As fallen creatures, even when we share the same goal, we may differ on how we move toward that goal. Furthermore, many Christians have different understandings of the nature of peace and peacemaking. We cannot ignore these tensions. Instead, the question remains: how might we see, acknowledge, and continue to be faithful to the Risen Lamb in the midst of such dialogue and tensions? The purpose of this paper is to explore the vocation of peacemaking, particularly in light of Catholic thought in the twentieth century and with an eye ahead to the twenty-first century, against the backdrop of these questions and tensions.

A Note about Format
Throughout this paper, you will occasionally come across the notations listed below. These are intended to encourage you to further study this topic in more depth.

Links: citations to relevant passages from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, or the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas

Spotlight: a key thinker and writer for our topic

Reflection question: at chapter’s end, questions for your thoughtful consideration during or after the course, individually as well as together with others
Contemporary Lessons of Christian peacemaking

The richness of the theology and practice of Christian peacemaking in the twentieth century should certainly humble us, make us ever more grateful for God’s grace, and inspire us to deeper understanding and further action. For example, the wealth of twentieth-century magisterial documents on peace powerfully revealed the depth of the Church’s concern for peacemaking. 

Spotlights

• Benedict XV: 1914-1922 (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum; Quod Iam Diu; Pacem, Dei Munus Pulcherrimum; Sacra Propedium)

• Pius XI: 1922-1939 (Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio)

• Pius XII: 1939-1958 (Communium Interpretes Dolorum; Optatissima Pax; In Multiplicibus Curis; Auspicia Quaedam; Mirabile Illus; Summi Maeroris; Datis Nuperrime)

• John XXIII: 1958-1963 (Pacem in Terris)

• (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) Gaudium et Spes (1965)

In 1968, the popes began proclaiming annual World Day for Peace messages, calling on Christians as well as men and women of good will to work together for peace. Various Christian denominations produced major teaching documents on peacemaking, such as “In Defense of Creation: The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace” from the United Methodist Council of Bishops (1986), or “The Challenge of Peace” from the U.S. Catholic Bishops (1983). These and other documents bring to our attention the truth that, for disciples of Christ, peacemaking is to be an explicitly Christian act of faith. To be peacemakers is to respond to God’s call to be his sons and daughters (Mt 5:9). Peacemaking is thus a call and a blessing, a vocation and a beatitude. Its source and direction come from the living God.

Link: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #s 73-75

The Christian call to peacemaking is a perennially important lesson, but especially during a time when many would denounce religion as a cause of violence. Part of this lesson of peacemaking that is explicitly Christian was illustrated by an increasing awareness in the twentieth century that the vocation of peacemaking is a gift from God, and thus fundamentally stems from obedient faith, not primarily from human accomplishments or attempts to predict or control human outcomes. This is a hard lesson, especially in today’s world which so emphasizes (immediate) results and outcomes.
John Paul II said, “The Church … has always taught and continues today to teach a very simple axiom: peace is possible.” It is possible because peace is a gift to be accepted, not something that we can create. Christian peacemaking is not ultimately shaped by (intended) results. The results are in God’s hands. This understanding is not meant to undermine the importance of effort—we are called as Christians to act for peace—but rather is meant as a reminder that the ecclesia and disciple are called first and primarily to faithful discernment and obedience. Apparent success in and of itself does not make an act of peacemaking to be Christian; the Gospel is our standard for what is Christian.

As disciples, we are able not only to affirm that peace is possible; we can see and show that peace is possible. As those striving for Christian holiness are the best ‘explanation’ and testimony of discipleship, so those striving for shalom are the best witnesses of Christian peacemaking. Who then are some examples of Christian peacemaking individuals and communities in the 20th century? Note that any set of examples is bound to be limited, and therefore to leave out good examples. This is particularly true in that there are countless Christian peacemakers we will never know about in this world, yet who struggled to live out the Gospel of peace in their daily lives. As well, any set of examples is bound to include ones that some readers will disagree with. I pray that my readers will contemplate the following select examples in the spirit of peace in which I offer them.7As disciples, we are able not only to affirm that peace is possible; we can see and show that peace is possible. As those striving for Christian holiness are the best ‘explanation’ and testimony of discipleship, so those striving for shalom are the best witnesses of Christian peacemaking. Who then are some examples of Christian peacemaking individuals and communities in the 20th century? Note that any set of examples is bound to be limited, and therefore to leave out good examples. This is particularly true in that there are countless Christian peacemakers we will never know about in this world, yet who struggled to live out the Gospel of peace in their daily lives. As well, any set of examples is bound to include ones that some readers will disagree with. I pray that my readers will contemplate the following select examples in the spirit of peace in which I offer them. (note 7)  They come from a variety of Christian denominations as well as from various time periods in the 20th century.
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Day and Maurin
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Bl. Franz Jägerstätter
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Fr. Max Metzger
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Oskar Schindler
Ben Salmon was a Catholic conscientious objector to World War I, who suffered mightily for his witness. Dorothy Day, who with Peter Maurin started the Catholic Worker movement, was a tireless voice for peace: in her hospitality to the poor, writings, presence in Rome in 1965 during the Second Vatican Council, prayer vigils and acts of civil disobedience. Her work for peace was rooted in the dogma of the Mystical Body of Christ and in her rich prayer life as a daily communicant. Blessed Franz Jägerstätter was martyred for refusing to fight in the German army, even in the face of so many who tried to persuade him otherwise, including family, priests and bishops. Fr. Max Josef Metzger was executed by the Nazis for writing a peace plan. Oskar Schindler acted in his own place and time to save Jews from death. The young martyrs of the White Rose spoke out courageously against the Nazi propaganda and killings. The villagers, and their pastor Andre Trocme, of le Chambon in France risked their lives to save many Jewish children and adults. Ernest Gordon, a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp, came, through his faith in Christ and the example of other Christians, to be able to love his enemies (the Japanese guards), and even to minister to them in their need at the end of the war.
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Andre Trocme
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Oscar Romero
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Jean Vanier
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Ernest Gordon
Given the high levels of violence in El Salvador, it is a true grace that we have seen such beautiful witnesses for peace in that country, such as by Archbishop Oscar Romero, the four women martyrs on 4 December 1980, and the Jesuit martyrs of 16 November 1989. The Northern Ireland Peace People have been working for nonviolence for over thirty years. Jean Vanier, founder of l’Arche, writes and teaches on living the peaceable vision of Jesus in a violent, wounded world. Sister Patricia McCarthy, CND, writes, teaches and leads retreats on the theology and spirituality of Christian nonviolence. Other voices for peace include Richard McSorley, SJ and the Catholic Peace Fellowship.  The testament of Fr. Christian de Cherge, murdered in Algeria along with his fellow Trappists, is a profound contemplation on Christian peace and forgiveness. The forgiveness offered by the Amish community of Nickel Mines in response to the school shooting in which several Amish children were killed, speaks to a deep, communal commitment to Christian peace and forgiveness, lived and practiced day in and day out.

In line with many personalist teachings of the twentieth century, we can also point to a greater emphasis on an understanding of Christian peacemaking as both communal and personal: the vocation of individual disciples, as well as of disciples in communion. The last century saw not only many powerful Christian voices calling for peace, but the rise of Christian communities, large and small, going to places of war and violence to strive to be the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13), which in part means to be a witness and agent of peace (Mk 9:50). Thankfully, this emphasis continues to be true across many Christian denominations. Such acts have also contributed at least indirectly to efforts at ecumenical dialogue: brothers and sisters in Christ from different denominations working together for the Prince of Peace has opened doors to ecumenical conversations. Consider, for example, the contemporary dialogues between Catholics and Mennonites, one of the historic  “peace churches.”
Link: 

“Called Together to be Peacemakers: Report of the International Dialogue between the Catholic Church and Mennonite World Conference 1998-2003”

Spotlight: 

• Personalist philosophers and writers—such as Karol Wojtyla, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Jacques Maritain, Peter Maurin

• Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac, Jean Danielou, e.g., in the journal Communio
Practicing the Pillars of Peace

In light of the above lessons, we understand that peacemaking is an act of obedient discipleship, carried out both communally (by Christians in communion) and individually (by the disciple). As taught by John XXIII, and reinforced by John Paul II, Christian peacemaking builds on the pillars of freedom, truth, justice, and love. 

The Church, on the other hand, has always taught and continues today to teach a very simple axiom: peace is possible. Indeed, the Church does not tire of repeating that peace is a duty. It must be built on the four pillars indicated by Blessed John XXIII in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris: truth, justice, freedom, and love. A duty is thus imposed upon all those who love peace: that of teaching these ideals to new generations, in order to prepare a better future for all mankind.

One way to explore these interrelated concepts of truth, justice, freedom, and love—together pointing to peace—is through the lens of shared practice, which we will turn to next.
Practice and Tradition: Background Considerations

In the book Inventing Catholic Tradition, Terrence Tilley describes the concept of shared practice in this way: 

(O)ne learns how to engage in a practice; only then can one know what the practice is and what participation in the practice produces. … Practices are complex patterns of actions. … Novices typically learn how to engage in the practice from skilled participants in a community of practitioners.

Tilley’s description brings out several key elements. Engaging in a practice will help to shape practitioners, particularly when they are joined together within a community. Shared practice forms our intellect, will, and body. Participating in shared practices can also though help to shape community. Common action helps to bond a community of Christian families and persons more closely together. In this sense, we might consider disciples as practitioners or as “agents of practice” in the ways that they strive together to follow and to imitate Jesus. Practices can range from quite simple to the most complex, such as learning to drive a car all the way to learning to do brain surgery. Examples of explicit Christian practices might include: the proclamation and interpretation of Scripture; forgiveness; liturgical practices; catechesis and formation; works of mercy, etc.  Practices are not isolated, of course, but exist within a network of practices and traditions. 

Based in part on the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, Tilley describes a practice as incorporating the following elements: 

• vision

• disposition

• action

• grammar

• memory

• authority

• imagination

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Vision

Vision refers to shared beliefs and convictions about, for example, what the goal of a practice is and the best means to achieve that goal. Convictions are foundational beliefs that communicate, and shape, the nature of a community of practice. Such convictions lie at the heart of a practice. For example, when a person adopts a particular vision, this puts a certain expectation on that person to then act on that belief. If such convictions were changed, the practice itself would be changed. To give an example, if we look at the practice of western law, then one of the beliefs underlying this practice is presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. Change this belief and our whole system of law would change.

Link: Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, II-II, Qs 1-16 (on the topic of faith)

The nature of peace. In light of this understanding, it is essential to reflect on what sacred Scripture reveals about a shared Judeo-Christian vision of peace. In the Old Testament, for example, the word peace (shalom and its linguistic variants) is used over 230 times.

Spotlight:

• So many of the writings of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI provide an excellent example of the deep and wide developments in Scripture study that occurred during the twentieth century (e.g., the three volumes on Jesus of Nazareth, or his text “God’s Word”).

Peace is used to describe: concord between peoples (1 Kgs 5:18); seeking the good of a country or city (Ps 122:6); praying for the welfare of other people (Ex 4:18); physical safety (Ps 4:9); a good death (Gn 15:15); material prosperity (Lv 26:3-6); health (Ps 38:4); friendship (Jer 20:10) and spiritual well-being (Ps 4:9). Peace is associated with love, justice, and truth (Ps 85:11). Man broke shalom by his disobedience of God; yet the Messianic hope of Israel was of a future age of peace (Ps 72:7) that would be universal and everlasting (Is 2:2-4), and of the advent of the Prince of Peace (Is 9:5) through whom God would restore all Creation to wholeness and rightness (Zec 8:12).

Peace is not merely the absence of conflict, violence and war, but is positively characterized in Scripture by the presence of such things as charity, justice, truth, good relations between neighbors and between enemies, freedom of worship, abundance, prosperity and security among all the peoples.For the Christian, the New Testament completes and perfects this understanding of peace. Forms of the noun peace are used over 90 times in the New Testament. We are taught, for example, that in Christ peace has come (Lk 1:79), that Christ bestows peace (Mk 5:34), that Christ died for peace between men (Eph 2:14-18), and that Christ's disciples are messengers of peace (Lk 10:5). Peace is a free gift from God (Jn 14:27) and a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), but peace is also something for which man must work (Eph 4:3; Heb 12:14). Peace is associated with grace (Rom 1:7); life (Rom 8:6); righteousness and joy (Rom 14:17); compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love (Col 3:12-15); as well as wisdom, gentleness and mercy (Jas 3:17).

Christ's peace is different from the peace that the world tries to give (Jn 14:27). Peace with God through Christ leads to inward peace, unhindered by the world’s strife (Rom 5:1; Phil 4:7; Jn 16:33).

The Scriptural reflections above point us to a Christian vision of peace, which is one of the elements underlying the practice of Christian peacemaking.

PicturePope Leo meets Attila the Hun
Dispositions, skills and attitudes

Practices necessitate certain attitudes and skills. Attitudes include “dispositions, qualities of mind and character, affections, emotions.” Therefore, practices help practitioners to develop the skills and attitudes appropriate to carrying out that particular practice. Such skills can become virtues, “part of one’s character.” Furthermore, dispositions inspire a practitioner to move toward the vision of the practice and encourage the use of means appropriate to the vision. Dispositions and attitudes are therefore not only intellectual but affective as well.

Link: Catechism of the Catholic Church, #s 1803-1845

Link: Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, I-II, Qs 49-56 (on the topic of habits and virtues)

If piloting a passenger ship is taken as a generic example of a concrete practice, then related dispositions might include portraying a calm but commanding demeanor in front of the crew as well as the passengers. Engaging in the practice of Christian hospitality—welcoming those in need, practicing the works of mercy—develops and reinforces necessary virtues and capacities, such as generosity and humility. 

Drawing on John XXIII, as mentioned above, John Paul II often spoke of four pillars of peace, which we might fruitfully reflect on as core dispositions necessary to Christ-like peacemaking. These dispositions and attitudes include freedom, truth, justice and love.

With the profound intuition that characterized him, John XXIII identified the essential conditions for peace in four precise requirements of the human spirit: truth, justice, love and freedom. Truth will build peace if every individual sincerely acknowledges not only his rights, but also his own duties towards others. Justice will build peace if in practice everyone respects the rights of others and actually fulfills his duties towards them. Love will build peace if people feel the needs of others as their own and share what they have with others, especially the values of mind and spirit which they possess. Freedom will build peace and make it thrive if, in the choice of the means to that end, people act according to reason and assume responsibility for their own actions.

Link: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #s 197-208 

1. Freedom. Freedom and peace are connected. It is God who gives to each one of us our freedom.

During this year dedicated to the Eucharist, may the sons and daughters of the Church find in the supreme sacrament of love the wellspring of all communion: communion with Jesus the Redeemer and, in him, with every human being. By Christ's death and resurrection, made sacramentally present in each Eucharistic celebration, we are saved from evil and enabled to do good. Through the new life which Christ has bestowed on us, we can recognize one another as brothers and sisters, despite every difference of language, nationality and culture. In a word, by sharing in the one bread and the one cup, we come to realize that we are ‘God's family’ and that together we can make our own effective contribution to building a world based on the values of justice, freedom and peace.

God desires that we freely choose him over all else. A Christian is called and graced to choose God's peace and his ways of peace freely. No one can force peace on us, nor can we impose it on others. We have freely received shalom and are to freely share it. This is never easy, particularly on our own. Yet we are not on our own: Christ has left us the sacraments, and Christ gave us brothers and sisters in faith.,

The Church calls us to look inside ourselves to discover the barriers that prevent us from freely being peacemakers—attitudes of fear, greed and malice; the desire for revenge; sins of pride, resentment, apathy and self-interest. In light of the above, we should consider whether by our example, our words or our actions, we are creating similar barriers to peace in those around us—in our neighbors, but also in our enemies. “Freedom will build peace and make it thrive if, in the choice of the means to that end, people act according to reason and assume responsibility for their own actions.”

2. Truth. “To build peace, it is necessary… to live in truth.” Peace truly describes the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus, and peaceful the nature of those who live in the Kingdom.

Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a task which is never fully completed. And the driving force of evangelical peace is truth. Jesus revealed to man the full truth about man; he restores man in the truth about himself by reconciling him with God, by reconciling him with himself and by reconciling him with others. Truth is the driving power of peace because it reveals and brings about the unity of man with God, with himself and with others. Forgiveness and reconciliation are constitutive elements of the truth which strengthens peace and which builds up peace.

Peace rests on a humble recognition of the truth of God’s transcendence and of man’s inherent dignity as made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). God endows each human being with intrinsic and equal dignity. Peace with God, oneself and others can only be built on the recognition of this inherent dignity in ourselves and in others. The building up of peace and reconciliation demands that we look for God's stamp in every human being—neighbor and enemy—because it is truly present. The sacraments and the shared life of disciples united in Christ help to build up the virtues necessary to see the image of God in the other.

3. Justice. Peace builds on justice, the promotion of the common good. Peace “is rightly and appropriately called 'an enterprise of justice' (Is 32:7).” Justice restores creation and humankind to its divine order or shalom. Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, teaches his disciples about God's justice: “ Which of these three ... was neighbor? ... The scholar of the law answered, 'The one who treated him with mercy.' Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise' ” (cf. Lk 10:25-37).

To build peace, we are to seek God's will in all things. This will help us strive to act with justice and mercy towards all—every neighbor and every enemy—even when others do not treat us mercifully, and even when it seems futile in our estimation. We are called and graced as Christian disciples to live justly, doing good for others, freely sharing God's gifts to us—both material and spiritual—with those in need, because this is what God calls us to. The early Church continues to shine for us as an example of such justice, not justice as the world sees it but as Christ Jesus lived it. Though we so often fail at this, the call and the grace is to keep trying.

The establishment or restoration of justice most often is to be accompanied by forgiveness, because injustice is a result of sin. The Christian is called to extend forgiveness to all, not just to neighbors or to loved ones, but to enemies as well. This is radically, heart-wrenchingly difficult, but brings us even closer to the mystery of the Cross, as well as to the sacrament of the Eucharist. We offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us, and seek forgiveness from those we have sinned against. Justice, forgiveness and penance will slowly but surely help to restore wholeness and shalom to our sinful and fallen world.

4. Love. Peace can only be achieved through love; it is truly a fruit of charity. Christ-like love of God, of neighbor and of enemy will help to bring Jesus' peace to this world. Such love is exemplified for disciples by the life, sacrifice and teaching of Christ the Suffering Servant. “Love will build peace if people feel the needs of others as their own and share what they have with others.”

No man or woman of good will can renounce the struggle to overcome evil with good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love. When good overcomes evil, love prevails and where love prevails, there peace prevails. This is the teaching of the Gospel, restated by the Second Vatican Council:  “the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love.”

Charity is the source of our desire and prayer for peace. “Daily Mass and the daily Rosary and daily works of mercy ... are all one in the authentic Catholic Christian life and therefore must all be part of any authentic Catholic Christian peace movement.”

These four fundamental dispositions toward freedom, truth, justice and love—understood and incarnated in a Christian sense—help strengthen Christian communities and disciples to act as peacemakers in the spirit of Jesus, Prince of Peace.

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Patterns of action

A shared vision and shared dispositions take shape in concrete acts by persons, individually and communally. Patterns of action carried out over time can be thought of as ongoing stories of connected events and experiences. Tilley notes that such patterns of action within a practice are necessarily intentional acts, and so must be carried out in freedom. Note the connection to the disposition of freedom, which is one of the pillars of peace.

Link: Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1749.

Link: Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, I-II, Q 6 (on the topic of voluntary human acts)

Such patterns of action are connected to the vision and dispositions of a particular practice. Beliefs shape actions; Christian beliefs shape Christian acts. For example, genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament makes sense as an action when connected to a belief (vision) that Christ is present in the host and when connected to the disposition of humility. 

Practices are communal, not private. We typically learn what a practice is by seeing it in action within a community. As Yves Congar point out, “The dialogue with the Word is realized in each Christian, but it is incomplete and only fully what God wishes it to be when realized within the whole body.” 

In my experience, Christian peacemaking actions start small, as new daily or weekly habits, and only slowly help to build disciples up to be able to respond more and more, and in increasingly difficult situations, to the vocation of peace. No one starts out as a Dorothy Day or an Oscar Romero; it takes grace, membership in the Church, time, intent, and practice. How can we see these small actions? Examples might include parents who teach and role model to their children a nightly examination of conscience, or who set aside regular time to practice family forgiveness and reconciliation around the dinner table before the evening meal starts. This may remind us of the monastic practice of the  “chapter of faults.” 

To take another example: in many Amish communities, their Lord’s Supper is celebrated less frequently, and requires a period of preparation (e.g., over five or six weeks). If the bishop of a local community knows that there is discord among certain members of that community, he can delay the celebration of the Lord’s Supper until the members reconcile, and will affirm as such during worship. This is one liturgical and communal application of Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:21-24.

During the Mass, we may consciously develop the habit of reminding ourselves, before receiving, that one of the names in the early Church for the Eucharist was pax, peace. Ancient traditions which surround the ‘kiss of peace’ during Mass may also prove to be instructive, even if no longer practiced. For example, the priest-celebrant used to kiss the corporal or even the host, then offer the kiss of peace to the deacon, who would then offer it to the next clergy on the altar, and so on. Kissing the corporal or host, then offering the kiss of peace, was a visible reminder of from whom our peace truly comes. Another ancient practice during Mass in some areas was the use of a small plaque, called a pax board, which was kissed during Mass by the priest-celebrant then brought to the altar rail for those in the congregation to kiss.

Christian peacemaking therefore may consist of many shared patterns of actions, such as: 

• forgiveness,

• asking for forgiveness; initiating a process of forgiveness, rather than waiting for someone else to do it (cf. Mt 5:23),

• willingness to help others reconcile (cf. Mt 18:16), rather than think  “oh, that’s a private matter”; forgiveness is a concern of the whole Church (cf. Mt 18:17),

• regular reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, 

• engaging in dialogue and/or conflict resolution within a Christian community (Mt 18:15-20),

• restorative justice, 

• carrying out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, in small ways and big, particularly with fellow Christians,

• practicing hospitality,

• proclaiming the Gospel in deed and word, at home and in society (cf. Dt 6:7),

• praying specifically and concretely for one’s enemies, in private as well as liturgical prayer,

• loving one’s enemies and one’s neighbors, 

• studying the lives of holy peacemakers to learn from their example,

• asking the saints (such as St. Francis or St.Therese) to intercede for you, that you may receive   the necessary graces to be(come) a peacemaker in the spirit of Jesus,

• starting a Bible study or book club on Christian peace and peacemaking,

• if you are a teacher or a catechist, teach about shalom,

• a wholehearted embrace of the beatitude of poverty, 

• speaking up for the lowly and vulnerable, 

• sharing your testimony about the Prince of Peace, including in public,

• a proper Christian embrace of the suffering that often results from Christian actions in a fallen world (taking up one’s Cross). 

• The lives of the saints beautifully exemplify for us these and other patterns of action tied to Christian peacemaking. Spotlight: Dom Virgil Michel brought out the living link between liturgy and social justice; this is evident in his writings, and in the journal he started, Orate Fratres (now published as Worship)

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Tradition

How might we describe a tradition? Traditions are networks of practices carried out over time by a community. Tradition involves the handing on of specific tradita (e.g., skills, virtues, doctrines, beliefs, practices, etc.), as well as traditio, the process of handing on. 

Link: Catechism of the Catholic Church, #s 74-84 

A tradition is an enduring set of practices that incorporates the components of vision, dispositions and patterns of action. A living tradition is not static, and must be received and then incarnated in each generation of the community.  A tradition that endures over time and is shared among a community will be both universal and particular: universal across time and across the community, and particular in its expression in this particular moment within this particular community or even for this particular member of that community. 

The question is, how can we act as peacemakers in our time and place? Catholicism has a long tradition of peacemaking—both within (i.e., with other Christians) and without (i.e., with non-Christians) the Church. Christian tradition is to be consistent with the apostolic faith while remaining ever new—received, lived within changing circumstances, and handed on to new Christian generations. Our practice of peacemaking is to be obediently faithful to the example of Jesus and the Apostles while clearly responding to the problems of today, to the signs of our times.Link: Gaudium et Spes (on the topic of the ‘signs of the times’) 

Practitioners learn a tradition through participation in a local community. Traditions give us ways of communicating certain ideas and practices. They shape those who live in them, in continuity with past practitioners but also with future practitioners. One of theologian John Thiel’s criteria for the  “canonicity” of a particular Christian tradition is the degree of that tradition’s  “community-forming power.” How well does a certain practice or tradition help strengthen a community’s bonds?

Authentic traditions can be expressed in new ways in new contexts. Such a process is not only inevitable but also necessary in the face of new  “signs of the times.” 

Traditions confer identity on a community: “To be a disciple of Christ is to be a member of his body, to take the stories of the Christian tradition and adapt or adopt them to be one’s own story.” Christian traditions draw on multiple true stories or narratives, from Revelation, Scripture, and Tradition, as well as narratives expounded upon in Church teaching.Religious traditions must engage with questions of grammar, imagination, memory and authority.

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Grammar

One of the primary meanings of grammar concerns the rules of usage in speaking and writing: how words should be used, how they should relate in a sentence, etc. Another definition of grammar speaks to the fundamental principles of an art or science. It is this second definition that concerns us in this paper. Grammar, the guidelines for understanding and participating in a tradition, relates to the three fundamental elements of a tradition: vision, dispositions, and action. 

Rules and grammar “guide the practice, govern behaviors, shape attitudes, and prescribe the beliefs involved in the practice.” Grammar should help us to identify the connections between and among the different aspects of a practice, e.g., how a vision will shape a particular act, how a particular act can reinforce a belief or disposition, how a shared vision gives meaning to acts, and so on. 

Grammar initially grows out of the experiences of a (new) shared practice. In terms of learning a practice, though, grammar mostly come first for initiates (or new disciples, in a Christian context), as a practical heuristic. Even so, practices will be best understood against the backdrop of good examples incarnated by a community of practitioners. 

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Imagination

Traditions are not unchanging but must be lived by their community: “discipleship is a matter of imagination, of creatively extending the patterns set in the Jesus-movement in the first century into new times and places.” Tilley names three related aspects of Catholic imagination: analogical imagination, sacramental imagination and incarnational imagination. First, Tilley describes Catholic imagination as analogical: “and ... and” rather than   “either ... or.” Jesus is God and man; the Eucharist is bread and Body. Peacemaking is corporal and spiritual. Second, all creation and all humanity are sacramental: the divine presence and grace can be discerned in creation as well as in human action. Peacemaking itself is to be a response to grace as well as a sign of God’s grace in the world. Third, the imagination of Catholic tradition is incarnational. The Creator became part of creation. The lived tradition of the Gospel stems from and draws us back to Jesus who is Prince of Peace. Peacemaking is incarnational; it is to act in this world as the hands and feet of Christ who is our peace.

Thiel highlights the necessity of faithful imagination, an imagination in continuity with its origins while remaining open to authentic development. This leads us to the element of shared memory within a Christian community.

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Memory

Faithful imagination has to be rooted in something real. The imagination of the Christian tradition must tie back to the apostolic community created by Jesus. The memory of this foundation is to be incarnated in the actual practice of the community of disciples today. “Memories are carried by a community. To remember who Jesus was and what he did is a practice of discipleship. The practices of discipleship are public and social. They are shared by a group of committed practitioners who have learned how to engage in the practices and how to pass them on.”

Link: Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, I, Q 79, Articles 6 and 7 (on the topic of memory)Authority

For practices and traditions to endure, Christian communities need authentic ways to make authoritative decisions. Christian communities and practitioners therefore are to bear in mind their shared responsibility to God and to authentic sources (fontes) of Tradition.,  Such responsibilities imply making decisions in unity with: Scripture, the apostles, the Church and the Church’s faith and the Magisterium.,  Authentic decision-making and authority call for a constant turning to: the prayers and liturgies of the Church, her pastors, the rhythm of the Church year, and the lives of the saints. 

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Christian Practices

The elements of a shared practice are not so easily distinguished, because practices are holistic. Christian practices are to take Christ as their model, and are dependent on the life-giving gift of grace through the power of the Holy Spirit, on God working in and through person and community.
 
Shared practices are to be tied to the needs and conditions of the human person. For example, Christian practices respond to both the universal and particular, to particular moments in particular places, across generations and societies. In response to divine revelation and open to the gifts of grace, they play out in the messiness of the now-and-not yet. They may be the work of but a minute, yet can be repeated day after day, week after week, year after year, generation after generation. Peace is most often the fruit of long and hard work over time by many people, not solely the result of a single action by a single person. Each person’s acts are important, but Christian peacemaking grows best out of a shared, communal practice.

Practices are part of a whole, a “way of life,” not just their discrete elements of vision, disposition, act, memory, imagination and authority. This is not to say that there are never gaps among these elements or within a community of practitioners.  As fallen human beings, we experience such breaks and gaps every day of our lives. The effects of the Fall, our actual sins, cause gaps and also sneak into the gaps. We remember that it is the divine activity of God that saves, not our own. Jesus creates peace, not us. We receive it as a gift and are to share this gift with others. 

The reality of a network of practices, though not our contemporary language of practice, has been part of the way of life and the teaching of the Christian community since her beginning. Distinctive Christian practices, the example of the lives of Christians coming together and living in response to God’s grace, have often been the primary form of evangelization, charity, service, liturgy and formation.,  The Christian practice of peacemaking in today’s world, too often torn apart by fear and violence, is a light to the world and an invitation to turn and follow Jesus. This is one of the challenges and opportunities for the Church in the twenty-first century.

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The Pilgrim Church

As bearers of and witnesses to the Risen Christ, as missionaries in the footsteps of Christ, as a pilgrim Church in the service of reconciliation and peace, where might we begin to find hope in the century that lies ahead of us? 

• In an increased formation (human, spiritual, intellectual, emotional) in concrete Christian peacemaking practices: within our families, Catholic schools, parishes, seminaries, universities, religious congregations, liturgical celebrations, and sacramental preparation programs. Indeed, Benedict XVI pointed to peacemaking as part of the new evangelization: 

Religious communities are involved in a special way in this immense task of education for peace. The Church believes that she shares in this great responsibility as part of the new evangelization, which is centered on conversion to the truth and love of Christ and, consequently, the spiritual and moral rebirth of individuals and societies. Encountering Jesus Christ shapes peacemakers, committing them to fellowship and to overcoming injustice.

• In a deeper study of and commitment to a vision of peace and peacemaking that is distinctly Christian.

• In local churches and Christian communities which help disciples to cultivate the dispositions which sustain peacemaking.

• In the shared peacemaking actions of Christian communities and disciples, from the very local to the global.

• In the obedient witness of the Church to her Lord, the Prince of Peace.

• In authentic ecumenical efforts of dialogue, reconciliation and peacemaking.

• In a greater ‘seamless garment’ unity between and among various peacemaking efforts (around war, violence, abortion, capital execution, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and so on).

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Conclusion

 “And the LORD said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground’ ” (Gen 4:10). The history of the twentieth century cries out to us with the bloodshed, even by Christians and tragically sometimes with the blessing of Church leaders, as a result of war, bombing, revolution, terrorism, genocide, abortion, and execution. With hindsight and prayerful reflection, such darkness may make those twentieth-century voices who did cry out for peace shine even more brightly for us in our world today. “As long as I have breath within me I shall cry out: ‘Peace, in the name of God!’ ” 

By grace, some in the twentieth century did raise their voices for peace, faithfully echoing the call of Jesus, Prince of Peace and Son of God. We lament and repent of those times, however, when Christian disciples and Churches listened to other voices, to wolves in sheep’s clothing. Our challenge today is to open our ears, so that we can begin to hear these voices of peace in our own time and place, and to strive to become a voice for peace ourselves: from pulpits and in writing, in our homes and workplaces, in our cities and towns, in our schools and neighborhoods, in prayer and worship, in our dioceses and parishes, in congregations and lay movements, and in our church communities. Our challenges are to share the gift of peace with a world that is so hungry for it, and to faithfully hand on the Gospel of peace to the next generation of disciples.

Ever thankful for the divine gift of shalom, therefore, we pray for the grace to receive and share the gift of peace; we pray for the grace to be united in our efforts as peacemakers; we pray for the grace to be open to the gift of shalom received through the sacraments–that we may truly become peacemakers, beacons of light and bearers of salt (Mk 9:50).

(P)rayer for peace is not an afterthought to the work of peace. It is of the very essence of building the peace of order, justice, and freedom. To pray for peace is to open the human heart to the inroads of God's power to renew all things.

Amen!

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McCarthy, Patricia. The Word of God, the Word of Peace. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2001.

McNeal, Patricia. Harder than War: Catholic Peacemaking in Twentieth-Century America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

McSorley, Richard, SJ. New Testament Basis of Peacemaking. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1979.

Musto, Ronald (ed.). Catholic Peacemakers: A Documentary History. Vol II: From the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century, Parts I and II. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition.

Ratzinger, Joseph. On the Way to Jesus Christ. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Schreiter, Robert, R. Scott Appleby and Gerard Powers (eds.), Peacebuilding: Catholic Theology, Ethics, and Praxis.Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010.

Second Vatican Council. (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) Gaudium et Spes. 7 December 1965.

Tilley, Terrence. Story Theology. Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1985.

________. Inventing Catholic Tradition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000.

________. The Disciples’ Jesus: Christology as Reconciling Practice. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008.

Thiel, John. Senses of Tradition: Continuity and Development in Catholic Faith. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Toolin, Cynthia. “ Forgiveness is the Fifth Pillar of fPeace.” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 109(9), 6-13, June 2009.

Tumeinski, Marc. “Works of mercy: Caring for the Hidden Christ.” The Catholic Radical. February-March 2006.

________. “The Pillars of Peace.” Social Justice Review, 100(5-6), 77-80, May-June 2009.

________. “Peace in the name of God.” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 109(10), 56-61, July 2009.

________.  “Love your enemies: Intentio Unionis and Intentio Benevolentiae.” Social Justice Review, 103(3-4), 47-52, March-April 2012.

Volk, Miroslav and Dorothy Bass, eds. Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).

Zahn, Gordon. In Solitary Witness. (Springfield, Ill.: Templegate Publishers, 1986).

RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response of Sean Hurt:

This is a compilation of my thoughts on the Tumenski peacemaking chapter. The italicized sentences are quotes from the chapter indicating the passage I’m commenting on, followed by my comment.

Ben Salmon was a Catholic conscientious objector to World War I, who suffered…

Ok, I know that the author starts this list with a statement that it cannot possibly be exhaustive. But it seems like we discuss a handful of Catholic martyrs in Nazi Germany, and say nothing about the thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who, given the option of renouncing Christ, chose death, torture, and imprisonment ..

Peace is possible…

It’s funny how radical this sounds to the ears of young people. It’s an age of such cynicism, where so many promising –isms of the previous century failed to produce their utopias. Unlike previous generations, I feel ours has so little hope for a better world. What is it that young people look forward to? There is no particular political philosophy that we look to for salvation; and more and more, the youth identify as nonreligious. My wife and I discuss this question: who is the savior of this generation? I think, more and more, the answer is, “oneself.”  So, that simple axiom, peace is possible, sounds refreshing—even extreme because it is a compelling vision, but one whose fruition lies beyond individual effort. 

Peace is not merely the absence of conflict…

I agree with the point made in this paragraph. There’s a broader sense of the word, peace—I’ve heard it termed “positive peace.” Absence of conflicts is such a superficial indicator of what boils beneath the surface. We wouldn’t, for example, say there was “peace” between slaves and slaveholders in the antebellum days, nor in the days of Jim Crow. Presently, in a time of brutal, mass-incarceration of blacks, should we say there is peace for African-Americans in this country? That’s the thing though. In the absence of outward conflict, it’s easy to miss the absence of Peace

 “The Church calls us to look inside ourselves to discover the barriers that prevent us from freely being peacemakers... assume responsibility for our own actions.”

I’ve found this sort of introspection very important. In our everyday interactions we inevitably embroil ourselves in conflicts which damage human solidarity. It’s good to look hard at what role we play in a conflict. Are we really playing the part of peace maker, or are we embroiling ourselves in fruitless and hurtful argument? In conflicts, we are not hapless victims; for the most part, conflicts that we’re involved in continue solely with our own active participation. Frequently, when I start arguing heatedly with my wife, I realize that, at any time, I can stop saying hurtful things, turn around, and make peace and make the discussion constructive instead of divisive.

And the driving force of evangelical peace is truth… Forgiveness and reconciliation are constitutive elements of the truth which strengthens peace and which builds up peace.

As the author stated before, it takes much introspection to realize the deep wounds in our hearts that inspired anger and discord in the first place.  There are so many lies that we build up around ourselves for emotional security or protection and we can be tempted into conflict by one simply undermining these lies. It’s wonderful when we can drop the subterfuge, acknowledge the truth, and see ourselves as broken, wounded little children, and ask Jesus to heal us—to put us back together. I’ve found that he will always help mend our broken, fallen selves in this way.

To build peace, we are to seek God's will in all things…

I’m sorry if this is only tangentially related, but again and again I come back to the phrase stated above. Not just regarding peace, but all aspects of this religion. Similar to how Jesus instructs us to seek first the kingdom of God and then these other (material) things will come, I feel like we must first abandon ourselves to God’s will and then the resolve to work towards peace will come. In my early stage of faith, I’ve come to regard abandonment to God’s will as the central struggle. Those are easy words to speak. To truly live them is difficult, when you consider that God might call you to prison, death, torture, etc., for the sake of peace. I find myself holding back when I say “thy kingdom come; thy will be done” and really meaning, “My will be done” or “Thy will be done, but on my terms.” 

This will help us strive to act with justice and mercy towards all—every neighbor and every enemy—even when others do not treat us mercifully, and even when it seems futile in our estimation.  

 I have some thoughts on this part about futility. As a Peace Corps volunteer, you live with this problem every day. You’re striving to help people and to amend the unimaginable suffering that surrounds you, but the problem is so massive; you’re paralyzed by your own perception of impotency. The situation seems irreparable and effort futile. 

In those situations I had some things about which I’d remind myself: there’s more to mankind than just material things. A gesture of peace that does not have a direct effect can make a profound impact on people around you, as well as yourself. If you take, for example, the problem of a homeless man, how much of the problem is material? Definitely he’s stuck in a financial rut, but that may only be half of it. Maybe the other half is the fact that a thousand people pass him every day and don’t look twice. What does that do to a man’s soul?  There’s something very valuable in making a gesture of mercy to street people—just to prove to them that they’re worth something and that people can care about them. So, maybe a small act of mercy does not improve their material state much, but has a valuable internal impact.  

Before my conversion, Ronda used to pass down all this Catholic literature to me trying to make a subtle influence. Those material things she gave me never worked, but what touched me was her simple, joyful morning greetings, “Good morning, God bless you!” She’d say that to me every morning, and her joy pierced me. We could go on and on with examples, but the point is: as a single individual, you’re only one person with one person’s material influence, but as a soul you can influence all the souls that surround you in a profound but invisible way. 

 No man or woman of good will can renounce the struggle to overcome evil with good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love.

So, this idea of conquering evil with good perfectly illuminates what I was trying to say above. If you acknowledge only the superficial material aspects of action and consequence, this whole notion of good conquering evil is just so ridiculous. A contemporary social-commentator, Derrick Jensen, has parodied this and makes quite a convincing case. It does seem ridiculous; it does seem futile to ask, “So should we have conquered Hitler’s war machine with love?” 

But throughout history, how many would-be-Hitlers never got off the ground because people of peace and goodwill refused to fight? And if violent people want to kill each other for violence’s sake then why should that tempt us into violence? If there are warmongers on one side there will be warmongers on the other willing to fight them.   

This truth is so clear to me now. As a socialist I blamed the lack of peace and justice on other people. These were the evil people that only need to be eliminated to establish justice on Earth. As a Christian, we see evil as something omnipresent, separate from humanity rather than a product of humanity. It exists within each of us, and so the struggle to conquer evil with love is both internal and external. Now I set my crosshairs on evil, the real enemy. Peace will prevail only when all of us are peacemakers. 

The building up of peace and reconciliation demands that we look for God's stamp in every human being—neighbor and enemy— because it is truly present.

I love this truth. Regarding the topic of peace I ascribe high importance to it. When we realize the beautiful truth that each and every person was willed into life by our Creator (especially our enemies), then we can truly value all human life and affirm all people’s humanity. This fact, along with prayer for the people we hate or dislike, is a powerful approach to loving our enemies and Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors.

Beliefs shape actions; Christian beliefs shape Christian acts.

Just from my own personal introspection, I don’t think the relationship between belief and action is simple like this. I think the causality can flow the other direction. I don’t know, but I often wonder how many of our beliefs are there and have always been there, but we never realized that we believe them. I certainly felt this way about belief in God and Jesus. It was my actions— impulsive prayer and a clouded searching that informed me of my beliefs.  In other words, actions informed me of my beliefs. How do we know what we believe? I’m not asking the basic epistemological question. I’m just saying that, for me at least, I can’t know about anyone else, it’s not always clear to me what I believe and sometimes it’s my own actions that clue me in. 

In my experience, Christian peacemaking actions start small, as new daily or weekly habits, and only slowly help to build disciples up to be able to respond more and more.

I agree with this point. Another thing, the author reminds us, “No one starts out as Dorothy Day.” That’s true, but also remember that, when we look at Dorothy Day, we see a lifetime of work. When I was in Peace Corps, I often felt like I was doing nothing and accomplishing nothing. However, two years of work added up, and at the end, when I reported my accomplishments, I was shocked. Looking at those years summarized on paper, it seems like I got so much done. If I could have shown that paper to myself two years earlier, and asked, “One volunteer accomplished all this, can you do the same?” I might have said, “Oh that’s impossible for me!” Even Dorothy Day herself purportedly said, “Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily.”

Ancient traditions which surround the ‘kiss of peace’ during Mass.

I find these ancient traditions and liturgies so beautiful and enlightening (especially the thought of passing on the kiss of peace that comes from Christ). I love all the varied traditions in this religion. I talk a lot to Ronda about this. There are these warm, folksy Masses, high mass, Latin Mass, charismatic Mass and all of the various Eastern Catholic rites. The Church is so rich and I love that she allows this rich diversity in the liturgy. I hope that people try the different traditions. I know of some groups at my parish who attend an Eastern Catholic Mass once a month as a sign of solidarity. I think that’s important. I go into this more below, but we must avoid dividing over differences that don’t matter. Unfortunately, I do see that happening.

 Embracing the diversity of the Church allows us to discern between divine truths of the Church and our preferences. It’s so enlightening to embed yourself in another tradition, because it reveals the universal underlying truths and filters out personal bias. Before I left to Malawi, I had so many personal preferences that I regarded as objective truth. Two years of living in another culture broadens your horizons as you see more of the truth from a different view.

How might we describe a tradition? Traditions are networks of practices carried out over time by a community.

Tradition and peace are not related in a simple way. One could discuss that relationship for a long time. One thing I want to interject is that tradition, almost by default, is a barrier between people. I saw this clearly when I lived in Malawi. Here in America, I see this even between Catholics who agree on some deep level, but disagree over tradition. For example, in the African Church, sacred dance is important. This is their expression of holiness; but I know American Catholics who’d be scandalized if their priest or parishioners did what African Catholics do. So both communities have a tradition of holiness in their Mass, but different traditions of expressing that holiness. One thing I’ve encountered already in my Catholic community is squabbling and division over rather superficial traditions (like a priest is joyful during liturgy of the Eucharist instead of solemn, etc.). 

So, my point is, we should be careful when forming traditions of peacemaking in our communities because any tradition can become divisive. I don’t know what the solution is; maybe it’s fostering attitudes of acceptance or encouraging multicultural experiences. I don’t know. But I think we can agree that it’s not right when divisions form in the church over unimportant or superficial traditions. Of course, we need to be discriminating about heresies and traditions contrary to Church teachings, so it takes contemplation to discern the difference.

For Personal Reflection and Group Sharing

• How have you received and experienced the gift of peace, under both aspects of ‘absence’ and of ‘presence’?

• In what ways can Christian communities receive and hand on a vision of Gospel peacemaking? Reflect on this question in light of the nature of leitourgia. For example, how can bishops, priests and deacons proclaim this Gospel vision of peace through the liturgical celebration of the sacraments? How do disciples dwell in the Word of peace?

• In what ways can Christian communities receive and hand on a vision of Gospel peacemaking? Reflect on this question in light of the nature of leitourgia. For example, how can bishops, priests and deacons proclaim this Gospel vision of peace through the liturgical celebration of the sacraments? How do disciples dwell in the Word of peace?

• How can Christians help one another within community (e.g., family, parish, classroom, workplace, religious order, lay community, etc.) to cultivate dispositions helpful to becoming Christian peacemakers—dispositions toward freedom, truth, justice and love? In what ways do these dispositions reinforce one another? How can those ordained to Christian ministry (as bishops, priests or deacons) nurture in themselves, and within the Christian community, the dispositions toward Christian freedom, truth, justice and love?

• What peacemaking patterns of actions can you imagine, as concretely practiced within a family, a prayer group or Bible study, a workplace, a classroom, a neighborhood, a parish, a religious congregation, a lay community? How can bishops, priests, deacons, religious sisters and brother, catechists, teachers and evangelists carry out such peacemaking patterns of action, and form other disciples to do so as well?

• Based on the framework of vision-disposition-action laid out above, which saints speak to you as exemplars of Christian peacemaking?

• What are some of the traditions of peacemaking that have been handed on to us as Christians, e.g., in our families, parishes, religious orders, etc.? In what different ways have these traditions been handed on, by whom and to whom? How can we now hand on our Christian tradition of peacemaking?

• What are some of the universal elements of the Christian tradition of peacemaking? What are some of the particular elements unique to your own community, time and needs?

• What can we learn from Christians of the past—the early Church, the saints, Christian orders and communities dedicated to peace—about the practice of peacemaking? In what ways can the shared practice of peacemaking help to solidify a local community of Christians?

• What new challenges and signs of the times do Christians face today in regards to the practice of peacemaking? What worldly temptations and idols might draw Christian disciples and communities away from the Gospel of peace? What shared practices can help us to resist and overcome these temptations?

• What narratives of peacemaking can we as Christian churches and disciples draw upon?

• How are the a) Christian vision of shalom; the b). dispositions of freedom, justice, truth and love; and the c) actions of peacemaking connected, in an authentic grammar of Christian peacemaking within a particular community?

• Contemplate some of the key sources (ad fontes: to the sources) of memory in Scripture and Tradition that engender and support the practice of peacemaking. How can we drink from these springs of living water?

• Prayerfully read Matthew 18 on binding-and-loosening, in light of authority and decision-making within the Church, particularly within local Christian communities.


RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response of Sean Hurt:

This is a compilation of my thoughts on the Tumenski peacemaking chapter. The italicized sentences are quotes from the chapter indicating the passage I’m commenting on, followed by my comment.

Ben Salmon was a Catholic conscientious objector to World War I, who suffered…

 I know that the author starts this list with a statement that it cannot possibly be exhaustive. But it seems like we discuss a handful of Catholic martyrs in Nazi Germany, and say nothing about the thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who, given the option of renouncing Christ, chose death, torture and imprisonment. Jehovah’s Witnesses are such outspoken critics of Catholicism—I just hope that the author is not discriminating against them. I know that the Church does not consider their baptism valid, but still it’s an extreme example of heroic peacekeeping that far surpasses some the examples mentioned. Besides, it’s good to acknowledge the good of people we’re tempted to deem enemies.

Peace is possible…

It’s funny how radical this sounds to the ears of young people. It’s an age of such cynicism, where so many promising –isms of the previous century failed to produce their utopias. Unlike previous generations, I feel like ours has so little hope for a better world. What is it that young people look forward to? There is no particular political philosophy that we look to for salvation; and more and more, the youth identify as non-religious. My wife and I discuss this question, who is the savior of this generation? I think, more and more, the answer is, “oneself”.  So, that “simple axiom”, peace is possible, sounds refreshing—even extreme because it is a compelling vision, but one whose fruition lies beyond individual effort. 

Peace is not merely the absence of conflict…

I agree with the point made in this paragraph. There’s a broader sense of the word, peace—I’ve heard it termed “positive peace”. Absence of conflicts is such a superficial indicator of what boils beneath the surface. We wouldn’t, for example, say there was “peace” between slaves and slaveholders in the antebellum days, nor in the days of Jim Crow. Presently, in a time of brutal, mass-incarceration of blacks, should we say there is peace for African-Americans in this country? That’s the thing though. In the absence of outward conflict, it’s easy to miss the absence of Peace

“The Church calls us to look inside ourselves to discover the barriers that prevent us from freely being peacemakers... assume responsibility for our own actions”

I’ve found this sort of introspection very important. In our everyday interactions we inevitably embroil ourselves in conflicts which damage human solidarity. It’s good to look hard at what role we play in a conflict. Are we really playing the part of peace maker, or are we embroiling ourselves in fruitless and hurtful argument? In conflicts, we are not hapless victims; for the most part, conflicts that we’re involved in continue solely with our own active participation. Frequently, when I start arguing heatedly with my wife, I realize that, at any time, I can stop saying hurtful things, turn around and make peace and make the discussion constructive instead of divisive.

And the driving force of evangelical peace is truth… Forgiveness and reconciliation are constitutive elements of the truth which strengthens peace and which builds up peace.

As the author stated before, it takes much introspection to realize the deep wounds in our hearts that inspired anger and discord in the first place.  There are so many lies that we build up around ourselves for emotional security or protection and we can be tempted into conflict by one simply undermining these lies. It’s wonderful when we can drop the subterfuge, acknowledge the truth, and see ourselves as broken, wounded little children, and ask Jesus to heal us—to put us back together. I’ve found that He will always help mend our broken, fallen selves in this way.

To build peace, we are to seek God's will in all things…

I’m sorry if this is only tangentially related, but again and again I come back to the phrase stated above. Not just regarding peace, but all aspects of this religion. Similar to how Jesus instructs us to seek first the kingdom of God and then these other (material) things will come, I feel like we must first abandon ourselves to God’s will and then the resolve to work towards peace will come. In my early stage of faith, I’ve come to regard abandonment to God’s will as the central struggle. Those are easy words to speak. To truly live them is difficult, when you consider that God might call you to prison, death, torture etc. for the sake of peace. I find myself holding back when I say “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done” and really meaning, “My will be done” or “Thy will be done, but on my terms”. 

This will help us strive to act with justice and mercy towards all–every neighbor and every enemy–even when others do not treat us mercifully, and even when it seems futile in our estimation…   

I have some thoughts on this part about futility. As a Peace Corps volunteer, you live with this problem every day. You’re striving to help people and to amend the unimaginable suffering that surrounds you, but the problem is so massive; you’re paralyzed by your own perception of impotency. The situation seems irreparable and effort futile. 

In those situations I had some things I’d remind myself: there’s more to mankind than just material things. A gesture of peace that does not have a direct affect can make a profound impact on people around you, as well as yourself. If you take, for example, the problem of a homeless man, how much of the problem is material? Definitely he’s stuck in a financial rut, but that may only be half of it. Maybe the other half is the fact that a thousand people pass him every day and don’t look twice. What does that do to man’s soul?  There’s something very valuable in making a gesture of mercy to street people—just to prove to them that they’re worth something and that people can care about them. So, maybe a small act of mercy does not improve their material state much, but has a valuable internal impact.  

Before my conversion, Ronda used to pass down all this Catholic literature to me trying to make a subtle influence. Those material things she gave me never worked, but what touched me was her simple, joyful morning greetings, “Good morning, God bless you!” She’d say that to me every morning, and her joy pierced me. We could go on and on with examples, but the point is: as a single individual, you’re only one person with one person’s material influence, but as a soul you can influence all the souls that surround you in a profound but invisible way. 

No man or woman of good will can renounce the struggle to overcome evil with good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love…

So, this idea of conquering evil with good perfectly illuminates what I was trying to say above. If you acknowledge only the superficial material aspects of action and consequence, this whole notion of good conquering evil is just so ridiculous. A contemporary social-commentator, Derrick Jensen, has parodied this and makes quite a convincing case. It does seem ridiculous; it does seem futile to ask, “So should we have conquered Hitler’s war machine with love?” 

But throughout history, how many would-be Hitlers never got off the ground because people of peace and goodwill refused to fight? And if violent people want to kill each other for violence’s sake then why should that tempt us into violence? If there are warmongers on one side there will be warmongers on the other willing to fight them.   

This truth is so clear to me now. As a socialist I blamed the lack of peace and justice on other people. These were the evil people that only need to be eliminated to establish justice on Earth. As a Christian, we see evil as something omnipresent, separate from humanity rather than a product of humanity. It exists within each of us, and so the struggle to conquer evil with love is both internal and external. Now I set my crosshairs on evil, the real enemy. Peace will prevail only when all of us are peacemakers. 

“The building up of peace and reconciliation demands that we look for God's stamp in every human being–neighbor and enemy– because it is truly present.”

I love this truth. Regarding the topic of peace I ascribe high importance to it. When we realize the beautiful truth that each and every person was willed into life by our Creator (especially our enemies), then we can truly value all human life and affirm all people’s humanity. This fact, along with prayer for the people we hate or dislike, is a powerful approach to loving our enemies and Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors.

Beliefs shape actions; Christian beliefs shape Christian acts.

Just from my own personal introspection, I don’t think the relationship between belief and action is simple like this. I think the causality can flow the other direction. I don’t know, but I often wonder how many of our beliefs are there and have always been there but we never realized that we believe them. I certainly felt this way about belief in God and Jesus. It was my actions— impulsive prayer and a clouded searching that informed me of my beliefs.  In other words, actions informed me of my beliefs. How do we know what we believe? I’m not asking the basic epistemological question. I’m just saying that, for me at least, I can’t know about anyone else, it’s not always clear to me what I believe and sometimes it’s my own actions that clue me in. 

In my experience, Christian peacemaking actions start small, as new daily or weekly habits, and only slowly help to build disciples up to be able to respond more and more…

I agree with this point. Another thing, the author reminds us, “No one starts out as Dorothy Day”.  That’s true, but also remember that, when we look at Dorothy Day, we see a lifetime of work. When I was in Peace Corps, I often felt like I was doing nothing and accomplished nothing. However, two years of work added up, and at the end, when I reported my accomplishments, I was shocked. Looking at those years summarized on paper, it seems like I got so much done. If I could have shown that paper to myself two years earlier, and asked, “One volunteer accomplished all this, can you do the same?” I might said, “Oh that’s impossible for me!” Even Dorothy Day herself purportedly said, “Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily”

Ancient traditions which surround the ‘kiss of peace’ during Mass…

I find these ancient traditions and liturgies so beautiful and enlightening (especially the thought of passing on the kiss of peace that comes from Christ). I love all the varied traditions in this religion. I talk a lot to Ronda about this. There are these warm, folksy masses, high mass, Latin mass, charismatic mass and all of the various Eastern Catholic rites. It’s so rich and I love that the Church allows this rich diversity in the liturgy. I hope that people try the different traditions. I know of some groups at my parish who attend Eastern Catholic mass once a month as a sign of solidarity. I think that’s important. I go into this more below, but we must avoid dividing over differences that don’t matter. Unfortunately, I do see that happening.

Embracing the diversity of the Church allows us to discern between divine Truths of the Church and our preferences. It’s so enlightening to embed yourself in another tradition, because it reveals the universal underlying truths and filters out personal bias. Before I left to Malawi, I had so many personal preferences that I regarded as objective truth. Two years of living in another culture broadens your horizons as you see more of the truth from a different view.

How might we describe a tradition? Traditions are networks of practices carried out over time by a community…

Tradition and peace are not related in a simple way. One could discuss that relationship for a long time. One thing I want to interject is that tradition almost by default a barrier between people. I saw this clearly when I lived in Malawi. Here in America, I see this even between Catholics who agree on some deep level, but disagree over tradition. For example, in the African Church, sacred dance is important. This is their expression of holiness; but I know American Catholics who’d be scandalized if their priest or parishioners did what African Catholics do. So both communities have a tradition of holiness in their mass, but different traditions of expressing that holiness. One thing I’ve encountered already in my Catholic community is squabbling and division over rather superficial traditions (like a priest is joyful during liturgy of the Eucharist instead of solemn etc.). 

So, my point is, we should be careful when forming traditions of peacemaking in our communities because any tradition can become divisive. I don’t know what the solution is; maybe it’s fostering attitudes of acceptance or encouraging multicultural experiences. I don’t know. But I think we can agree that it’s not right when divisions form in the church over unimportant or superficial traditions. Of course, we need to be discriminating about heresies and traditions contrary to Church teachings, so it takes contemplation to discern the difference.

Response of Tommie Kim:

Geographically Korea is a bridge connecting the Asian continent and an island, Japan.  Small in size though it may be, the importance of its location has always been a target of invasion by neighboring counties. Korea suffered over 1000 invasions and has been colonized by Japan for 35 years.  After the liberation, the Korean War divided the country into two countries living over 60 years of armistice.  After the cold war, Korea is now the only country on earth that is split into 2 states. The tension never ceased at the border and it seems to be at the highest at present time with the 3rd generation young leader on board in the place of  power.  Young leader Kim is constantly intimidating the South as well as the United States by means of threats of nuclear weapons. There is a fear that the unstable personality of young leader Kim could lead to an accidental decision to attack the South at any minute. In fact, he is practicing numerous local provocations. 

However, what is nevertheless upsetting  is the fact that South has been living under such long years of tension that the people are insensitive to the potential crisis that this young leader may bring about at any moment. It may be a wonder to many visitors or to foreign eyes as to how Koreans can live in peace under such circumstances. South Korea has accomplished remarkable economic growth and is now one of the wealthiest countries.  Economic prosperity resulted in over spending for pleasure. 

Paradoxically speaking, Koreans suffered long years of repeated invasions of our land and our life and many families are still suffering from the pain of broken families between the North and the South.  Koreans, for many years, have had all the reasons to long for peace for many years. Perhaps this is the reason why Koreans have never interrupted the peace of other countries or provoked other countries over thousands of years.  Also, Koreans know more than any other race that a peace cannot be granted, nor last, without strong self-control and discipline. 

The same self-discipline applies to our Christian life.  In this world, it requires constant awareness in order to maintain a solid faith in God and practice peace. Peace does not mean a state of being without conflict or war.  True peace is obtained when we place our will in the hands of God, seeking and acting on God’s will at all times. Only when we unite our will with the will of God and arm ourselves with the gospel, can we become a true medium of peace. 

Korea is still considered a country of missionaries.  Although the number has somewhat decreased, we still have significant number of adult conversions to the Catholic church.  When they are questioned about their  reason for conversion, many of converts say, “to seek peace at heart and mind.”  Faith can offer peace at heart, but this is not the complete peace of Christian faith. There is a need for constant faith education and actual practice of self-purification to obtain true peace.  Peace is not self-fulfillment.

Response of David Tate:

The word concord brings to my mind both of the aspects of peace in the chapter. There is a passive peace that is absence of stress. The second kind is where people or things exhibit a harmony of unity. Because my older sister and younger brother were so many years apart in age, I thought of our family as having more of a passive type of peace. We all seemed to function, but it was not something that was bound together by feelings of joy. It was not until I was in high school when I was on a youth retreat (70’s style) that I noticed in an obvious way a harmony of unity.

Faith has a private mode to it, as well as a communal aspect to it. The Church is obviously a living communal entity. This entity is made of individuals who are supported and empowered by the community. It is wonderful to catch the wave of the human spirit (created by God) that is glowing with joy in being together when you enter a large building (i.e. Church) that has been filled to capacity with people who are enjoying themselves. Even though the details are not something easily agreed upon by the many, it is a wonderful to hear people seeing together. As Latin Chant is starting to make a return into the parishes, one can easily hear the value of non-hymn music in the life of the Church. In some countries, social gathering is a way of life. For those countries where ‘gathering’ is becoming a thing of the past, the Church should take notice. There is something therapeutic about large social gatherings (just ask the Pope!) 

If the term Christian peacemaker can be associated with certain useful characteristics, then the idea of a shepherd has many of these qualities. The shepherd takes interest in the welfare of the sheep. He stands near their activity quietly watching. He occasionally will mingle with them. He intervenes with them, or for them, when the situation arises. To makes a quick to the point remark, the shepherd (as Pope Francis says) smells like the sheep do. If a peacemaker is to function, then he must interact in some similar ways.

The practice of peacemaking reminds me of the principles of good conversation. To make good and healthy conversation, there must be at least two principles at work. The first is that an attitude of inclusivity must be practiced. If one does not feel acknowledged, then how is one to ‘join’ a conversation? Likewise, where is there peace if you feel  no bond or relationship? 

The second principle is that of receptivity. When conversing, everyone takes turns in stopping their talking in order that another’s voice can be heard. Each individual alternates in their participation by either giving (speaking out their statements or questions), or by joining with the others in listening and receiving from the appropriate speaker. Similarly, respect must be offered to the other in a relationship of peace. The other party (parties) needs to feel that when they speak, they are being listened to, their opinions or requests are being received and considered. These two principles are the minimum requirement for peacemaking to take place.



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<![CDATA[The Spirituality of Saint John Paul II]]>Tue, 23 Sep 2014 22:07:04 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/the-spirituality-of-saint-john-paul-iiThe Spirituality of Saint  John Paul II
by Fr. Dennis Koliński, SJC

After completing undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1974, Fr. Koliński did postgraduate study at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, where he received an MA in Slavic ethnography. Many years later, perceiving a call to the religious life and the priesthood, Fr. Koliński became one of the founding members of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, a new religious community of men that was founded at St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago in 1998. He received his MDiv degree following the completion of his seminary studies at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut and was ordained to the priesthood in 2004. After serving as an associate pastor at St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, Fr. Koliński was appointed in 2007 as pastor of his community’s second parish, St. Peter’s in Volo, Illinois. Since 2010, he has been assigned to Holy Apostles Seminary and College as formator and academic advisor for the seminarians of the Canons Regular of St John Cantius. He is also a member of the seminary faculty and helps in seminary formation

Note from Dr. Chervin: 
The word “spirituality” means different things to different people. In the Catholic tradition we associate the word primarily with the witness and writings of great saints or other influential accounts of ardent Christians in their lives and words. Others may think of spirituality primarily as a personal quest for holiness.  Although John Paul II was considered holy even by those outside the Catholic faith, not often has his life and thought been studied as a type of spirituality.  At Holy Apostles, Fr. Dennis Koliński is admired mostly for his courses on liturgy, but he is also a fine confessor and spiritual director. I think you will find his article interesting and helpful.
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When we think of the great Catholic minds of the twentieth century, we can’t help but think of Saint John Paul II, already called by some the “the Great.” His pontificate was not only one of the longest in the history of the Church but also one of the most fruitful. A natural teacher, who was called to guide Christ’s Church at a critical time in her history, he left us with an enormous body of works: official papal documents, papal audiences and public addresses, teachings, academic works, personal writings and literary works. We have only just begun to assess their extent and the impact that they will have for generations to come.

At his death, the people who had gathered in St. Peter’s Square, already sensing “the odor of sanctity,” spontaneously began to call out Santo Subito! For, not only was he a great intellect, perhaps one of the greatest of modern times, he was a charismatic figure, who knew how to connect with the crowds, especially youth. He was a person, who exuded holiness and whose life was so thoroughly immersed in Christ that people knew he lived in a unique, intimate relationship with him.

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Saint John Paul’s teachings brought us many new insights into the faith. But these new perspectives were not only the result of theological reflection. They also often had roots in his own spirituality and the experiences of his life. Now that he will officially be counted among the ranks of the blessed in heaven, it will therefore be important to look more closely at his spiritual life to see what made him a saint and what gave him some of those great insights into our faith. And one cannot adequately speak about the inner spiritual life of this man without considering the complexity of his life and the large role that his native land played in shaping the life of his soul.

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He was born Karol Józef Wojtyła to Karol and Emilia (Kaczorowska) Wojtyła on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, a small city in the foothills of southern Poland. For centuries it had been a regional center of crafts and trade, and by the end of the nineteenth century, it had a very active academic and cultural life. Until the Second World War, Wadowice also boasted a large well-integrated Jewish population.

The Wojtyłas were devout Catholics, and from the beginning, they instilled a love of the faith in their children. They lived in a second-story flat next to the city’s main parish, Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Growing up in such close proximity to it helped cultivate Karol’s spiritual life from an early age. Every day he could see it from the windows of his home and hear the sounds of liturgies and devotions taking place within it. At an early age, he became an altar server and the church was like a second home to him.

However, when he was only nine years old, the tranquility of Karol’s childhood was suddenly shattered with the death of his mother. Instead of remarrying, his father, a retired officer from the Austro-Hungarian army, chose to raise Karol and his brother Edmund alone. He was to be a great influence on the formation of young Karol’s early spiritual life. According to Jerzy Klunger, Karol’s lifelong Jewish friend from Wadowice, the Captain’s outstanding characteristic “was that he was a ‘just man.’ And he believed he had a responsibility to transmit that commitment to living justly to his son.” During those formative early years, the elder Wojtyła had an enormous influence on Karol’s own spiritual development. He would remember his father as a man of constant prayer, whom he would often see praying silently on his knees late at night. His father’s example was for him, in a way, his “first seminary, a kind of domestic seminary.”

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In 1932, only three years after the death of his mother, tragedy struck the family again. Karol’s elder brother Edmund unexpectedly died. The young Karol was now left  with only his father.

Wadowice was a regional center of literary life and theater, which began to interest Karol in his high school years. Mieczysław Kotlarczyk, one of the city’s theatrical directors, had a deep influence on Karol in “the relationship of the proclaimed word to the dynamics of history.” A devout Catholic, Kotlarczyk believed that drama was a means of “transmitting the Word of God,” and that the actor, by opening up the realm of transcendent truth, “had a function not unlike a priest.” One can already see in this the beginning of the development of a certain aspect of Blessed John Paul’s spirituality by means of which he began to realize the power of the word to transform history. As pope, he would write that the Word is the primary dimension of the spiritual life and that the word, even in a literary or linguistic sense, comes close to the Mystery of the Word.

After Karol completed high school in 1938, his father decided that the two of them would move to Kraków where Karol would begin university studies in Polish philology at the Jagiellonian University. It was a much larger city and center of culture where he was able to immerse himself in the theater and literary pursuits that so captivated him.

However, life would radically change very soon. On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and soon occupied the entire country. The entire country essentially became a large war camp, in which everyone and everything was strictly controlled. There were shortages of everything. Poles lived in a state of constant want of even the most basic items. People were routinely arrested, shipped off to concentration camps and shot—priests, religious, professors, workers, students, Catholics and Jews. It was a life of continual uncertainty: whether one would sleep in one’s own bed that night, whether one would have enough to eat, whether one would be alive the next day.

During the Occupation, the Nazis required all able-bodied men to have some type of employment or be shipped out to labor camps. So, when they closed down the university, Karol had to find himself a job. He began work at the Zakrzówek quarry on the south side of Kraków, and then, after a year there, was transferred to the nearby Solvay chemical plant in Borek Fałęcki where he worked for another three years. Up until this time, Karol Wojtyła had lived in the world of academia and the literary arts. But being forced to work with his hands was actually providential because it introduced him, for the first time in his life, to the world of manual labor and common laborers.
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For four years, Karol lived as one of them, coming to know his fellow blue-collar workers as colleagues and becoming intimately acquainted with their personal lives. In those rough and unsophisticated men he discovered an inherent dignity and spirit of Christian charity. Looking back, he considered it a type of “spiritual seminary” where he “began to think more deeply about the meaning of work itself,” seeing it, not so much as a curse of Original Sin, but rather “a participation in God’s creativity.” From this grew a spirituality of work grounded in the inherent dignity of the worker, which would deeply influence much of his later thought, finding expression in his demand for the rights of workers in communist Poland, as well as in his later magisterial teachings as pope.

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Even though Polish cultural activities were banned by the Nazis, Karol secretly began to perform in various small underground theatrical productions. By 1941, he was instrumental in the formation of a new underground theatrical company that would be known as the Rhapsodic Theater. It would be a “theater of the word,” a new form of dramatic experiment that would be “a protest against the extermination of the Polish nation’s culture on its own soil, a form of underground resistance movement against the Nazi Occupation.”, The Rhapsodic Theater had a Christian subtext, “which reflected the New Testament image of the world created through the Word, the Logos,” as a means to fight evil by speaking the truth. This theatrical experience would help form him into the charismatic figure who would later be at home on a stage in front of vast crowds of people. But more importantly, it contributed to his spiritual formation by making him a man, who later as Pope John Paul II, would relentlessly fight evil by speaking the truth.

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During the war, the Wojtyłas belonged to St. Stanisław Kostka Parish in the Dębniki district of Kraków, which was staffed by the Salesian Fathers. He would later recall that the Salesian environment of the parish played an important role in his own spiritual formation.

As the Gestapo systematically took priests of the parish off to concentration camps, the few, who remained turned to laymen to lead clandestine ministries within the parish. One of these men was Jan Tyranowski, a mystic who would have a decisive influence on Karol’s spiritual life. When Tyranowski created a “Living Rosary” for young men in the parish, he asked Karol Wojtyła to be one of its group leaders.

Tyranowski taught his group leaders both the fundamentals of the spiritual life and methods for systematically examining and improving their daily lives. … Members of the Living Rosary pledged themselves to a life of intensified prayer as brothers in Christ who would help one another in all the circumstances of their lives. … The Living Rosary groups also discussed how Poland might be reconstituted as a Christian society after the war.

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Although a very unassuming, self-taught man, Tyranowski was one of the greatest influences on the spiritual life of the young Wojtyła. Karol learned from Tyranowski how to develop his inner spiritual life, opening the path to a more intense prayer life lived in the constant presence of God so that his whole life would be transformed.

Perhaps, the greatest impact that Jan Tyranowski had on the spiritual life of the future pope, however, was when he introduced him to St. John of the Cross, sensing that the saint’s spiritual poetry would appeal to the young student’s love of literature. This, in turn, opened for Karol the door to Carmelite spirituality, which would have a profound spiritual influence on the rest of his life. It was a spiritual perspective that taught him “the imitation of Christ through the complete handing over of every worldly security to the merciful will of God,” [which] “would become the defining characteristic of his own discipleship.” And although it was Jan Tyranowski, who initially introduced Karol to the works of St. John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila, this was not the only Carmelite influence in his life; for during those formative years, occasional visits to the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Kraków would further imprint Carmelite spirituality on his spiritual life. Karol Wojtyła strongly felt that he was destined to be an actor—but that was not to be. His father’s death on February 18, 1941, was to be the decisive moment that changed the course of his life. The loss of his father, the last living member of his family, began a process of detachment in his life. Orphaned before he was twenty-one years old, amidst the harsh reality of war and an increasingly intense spiritual life, Karol gradually came to the realization that he was called to an even greater destiny: to the priesthood. Later in life, he would describe those years as “an evolutionary process of gradual clarification or ‘interior illumination.’” At first, he wanted to enter the Carmelites, but Cardinal Adam Sapieha, the Archbishop of Kraków, convinced him that a man with talents such as his belonged not in a monastery but among the people as a diocesan priest.

PictureCardinal Adam Sapieha
Karol Wojtyła made the definitive decision to enter the seminary in the fall of 1942. Because the Nazis had closed the archdiocesan seminary, Karol began his theological studies in secret while continuing to work in the Solvay chemical plant. Then, in the light of the increasing repression by the occupying Nazi regime, Cardinal Sapieha eventually moved the seminarians to his private residence where he set up an underground seminary.

On November 1, 1946, Cardinal Sapieha ordained Karol Wojtyła to the priesthood in his private chapel. The following day, the young Fr. Wojtyła set off for Wawel Hill where he offered his first three Masses on All Saints’ Day in the St. Leonard Crypt of the Cathedral. 

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Wawel Cathedral
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Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
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St. Florian's
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November 1 was a very unusual day for an ordination but the Cardinal had chosen it because he wanted to immediately send Fr. Wojtyła to Rome to begin graduate studies. There, he completed his doctorate in theology in just under two years and then returned to Poland.

His first assignment was as a curate in the Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in Niegowić, a small village southeast of Kraków. Only eight months later, the Cardinal transferred him to St. Florian’s Parish in Kraków to work as a chaplain to students of the Jagiellonian University. He was well suited to the job and had great success. But seeing Fr. Wojtyła’s talents, Cardinal Sapieha had other plans for him. Despite Wojtyła’s protests, the Cardinal released him from his duties at St. Florian’s in September of 1951 and gave him a two-year academic sabbatical to complete his habilitation thesis. After this, he began lecturing at the Jagiellonian University and the Catholic University of Lublin.

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On July 4, 1958, at the age of only thirty-eight, Pope Pius XII named Fr. Wojtyła auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Kraków. As the motto on his coat-of-arms he chose the now well-known Totus Tuus, an abbreviated form of St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration to Mary: Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea Tua sunt. Accipio Te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor Tuum, Maria.


When Archbishop Baziak of Kraków died in June 1962, the young Bishop Wojtyła was then appointed temporary administrator of the archdiocese. Not long after this, he left for the opening of the Second Vatican Council where he played a key role in some of the Council’s discussions. On January 13, 1964, Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Kraków and then, three years later, raised him to the cardinalate.

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As we know, Karol Wojtyła’s remarkable rise through the ranks of the Church hierarchy didn’t stop there. To his surprise, as much as the entire world’s, he was elected as the 264th Successor of St. Peter on October 16, 1978. Although the cardinal electors saw in him the special gifts that the Church needed at that time, little did they realize that his papacy was to be the third longest in history and one that would forever change both the Church and the world.


The spirituality of this man who became pope from a hitherto little-known land, grew out of and has always been inextricably tied to the history and culture of his country. That is why it is virtually impossible to understand the inner spiritual life of Saint John Paul II without an understanding of Poland’s history and culture.

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Perhaps one of the clearest examples of how the history and culture of this Slavic nation helped define his spirituality is the choice he made for the site of his first Masses the day after his ordination to the priesthood. November 2 is known in Poland as Dzień Zaduszny, a day when Poles visit the graves of their ancestors, decorating them with vigil lights and mounds of flowers. After dark, the cemeteries, lit with the light of thousands of flickering flames, are filled with crowds of people paying their respects to deceased family members and friends. By choosing to offer his first Masses on that day in the Crypt of St. Leonard in Wawel Cathedral, the historic coronation cathedral and necropolis of Polish kings, the newly ordained Fr. Wojtyła had consciously chosen to express his spiritual bond with all of those who lay at rest in that cathedral, showing thereby, his living bond with the history of his nation.

He also saw it as a profound theological moment, for those lying in the sarcophagi of Wawel Cathedral, were members of the Communion of Saints awaiting the resurrection from the dead. Among them were not only kings and queens, bishops and cardinals, but also the great bards of Poland, “great masters of the word, who possessed such enormous significance for [his] Christian and patriotic formation.”

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The history of Poland as a nation began in 966 when Duke Mieszko I, the first historic ruler of Poland, was baptized after his marriage to the Christian Czech princess Dobrawa. In doing so, he placed his country firmly within the sphere of western Christianity. Saints Cyril and Methodius, who had ties to eastern Christianity and who had earlier developed a liturgy in the old Slavonic language, had evangelized the southern reaches of Mieszko’s kingdom, yet he chose to accept Christianity directly from Rome by way of the Czechs, rather than turn to his fellow Slavs to the east. After the baptism of Mieszko and his court, conversion of the rest of the country proceeded for the most part peacefully, quickly and with little opposition. Within several decades, Poland was counted among the Christian countries of Europe recognized by Rome. And before long, Poland became a major defender of the faith.

Today, Poland is not a major country in world politics but it was once one of the great powers of Europe. In 1386, the young Jadwiga, ruling monarch of Poland, married Duke Władysław Jagiełło of Lithuania, joining the two countries in what became one of the largest countries in Europe. It was during the ensuing two centuries that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth enjoyed a Golden Age under the Jagiellonian Dynasty, when it was one of the largest and most powerful countries in Europe, extending from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, and from Prussia on the west to Kiev in the East.
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Many of Poland’s monarchs were devout Catholics. As a defender of the faith one of Poland’s greatest accomplishments was the defeat of the Ottoman Turks under the command of King Jan Sobieski III at the Battle of Vienna. Leaving Warsaw to command the troops of Europe, he first visited major Polish shrines along the way to request heaven’s aid in a crucial mission that would either save Christian Europe or lose it to the Muslims. Upon achieving victory, he proclaimed, in a twist on Julius Caesar’s famous statement: “Veni, Vidi, Deus vicit.” But that was probably the last of Poland’s glory days because the country was already in a political, economic and military decline. 

As the Polish nobility began limiting the powers of the monarchy more and more, Poland’s three powerful neighbors, Russia, Prussia, and Austria began to grow in greed. In 1772, they signed a treaty by means of which they each took possession of a segment of Poland adjoining their country. In an attempt to reform and strengthen the government, the Polish Sejm (i.e., parliament) adopted the first democratic constitution in Europe on May 3, 1791. But by then it was already too late. In 1793, Russia and Prussia confiscated further Polish territories, and in 1795, the three powers adopted a joint agreement by which they divided up the remainder of what was left of Poland between them. Poland ceased to exist as a political state and entered into a long tragic era of its history called The Partitions. It would only be the beginning of two centuries of foreign occupation and suppression.

But Poland continued to exist in the minds and hearts of Poles, despite the fact that they were now divided between three different countries. In spite of efforts to de-Polonize them, Poles managed to maintain their national identity by keeping their culture alive. During this time, “the family became the mainstay of Polishness, which was clearly identified with Catholicism,” which in turn, became such an important part of that identity and so intertwined with Polish culture that before long, to be Polish meant to be Catholic. 

Battle of Vienna, 1683
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The long dark night of The Partitions ended in 1918 when the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, reinstated the Polish state. Independence, however, was not to last long. Only twenty-one years later, on September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded and Poland once more became an occupied country. World War II inflicted severe losses on Poland, both in lives lost and in physical damage to the country. The Nazis not only wanted to exterminate the Jews but also wanted to eliminate the Polish nation. Six million Poles, one sixth of the country’s population, lost their lives, Christians and Jews alike. 

The end of the war seemed to bring hope to many Poles, but even though they had fought on the side of the Allies, the Yalta Agreement turned their country over to the Soviets. A communist government was imposed on them and Poland once more became an occupied country, forced into servitude, this time by its old enemy to the east. Occasional uprisings in the 1960s and 1970s were suppressed until, in 1980, a strike in the Lenin Shipyard of Gdańsk led to the formation of Solidarność, the first independent trade union in the Soviet Block. It was a movement, which spread throughout the Eastern Block, eventually toppling the Soviet Empire. A decade later, Poland became an independent, free country once again.

This was the nation into which Saint John Paul II was born, a nation whose history and culture formed a distinctive Polish mentality and Catholic spirituality. The city, which he called home for forty years and which his heart never really left, was an integral element of that Polish history and culture, which would shape his personal spirituality.

PictureSt. Mary's Basilica in Krakow
Kraków was the former seat of the Polish monarchy. It grew up on the bank of the Vistula River at the base of Wawel Hill where Polish kings built their royal castle and cathedral. So important was Wawel in the minds of Poles that, even after the capital was moved to Warsaw in the seventeenth century, Wawel Cathedral remained the site of royal coronations and the final resting place of Polish kings. In his autobiographical work, Dar i Tajemnica, Saint John Paul recalled what a great experience it was to attend the Sacred Triduum in Wawel Cathedral once during his high school years, at the invitation of Fr. Kazimierz Figlewicz, one of the parish priests in Wadowice. So important was the royal-sacral complex on Wawel Hill in the historical consciousness of Poles, that in the nineteenth century it was often referred to as the Polish Acropolis or Polish Zion. When Karol Wojtyła came to occupy the episcopal seat of the archbishops of Kraków, he had a deep realization that he himself had then become a part of that sacred site.

Kraków had always been a great center of culture in Poland. It was the place where Karol Wojtyła’s own cultural talents and sensitivities matured. It was there that he learned that culture had always played a vital role in the faith, fully conscious that it had also played an important role in the shaping of his own spirituality.

Because of its numerous churches, monasteries, shrines, and miraculous images, Kraków was often called the “Rome of the North.” Since the tenth century it was already a prominent center of Christian pilgrimage. But the fifteenth century, in particular, was a unique and blessed period in the city’s spiritual history. Known as Felix saeculum Cracoviae—“the happy century of Kraków”—it was a period when a number of mystics, later canonized or beatified, lived there. Some of them played an influential role in the spirituality of Saint  John Paul II.

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From among the saints of Kraków’s Felix saeculum, the one to whom Saint John Paul had the greatest devotion was St. John Cantius, patron of the Jagiellonian University, as well as of Kraków itself. Two characteristics of the Saint’s life stand out as something that particularly influenced Saint John Paul: cultivation of the intellect within the context of a life of holiness and an intense love for youth, especially students.

Born in 1390, St. John of Kęty (as he is also known) studied at the Jagiellonian University and then later spent the rest of his life there as a professor of philosophy and theology. Saint John Paul, therefore, saw in the saint a model of what he himself was: a philosopher and a theologian. Throughout his many years in Krakow, he visited the saint’s tomb in the beautiful Church of St. Anne many times and there drew much inspiration from his own patron saint of learning. It was no surprise, therefore, that during his 1997 pilgrimage to Poland, he made a point of visiting the tomb of St. John Cantius, where during a special gathering with professors of the Jagiellonian University, he alluded to the saint, saying: “Knowledge and wisdom seek a covenant with holiness.” It was in St. John of Kęty, that Saint John Paul saw clearly that Christian faith and the pursuit of human knowledge were not mutually exclusive, as many think today. It was the same thought that produced his famous encyclical, Fides et Ratio.
That same perspective revealed itself especially in Saint John Paul’s love for young people and students that he shared with the Saint from Kęty, who once wrote: 
What kind of work can be more noble than to cultivate the minds of young people, guarding it carefully, so that the knowledge and love of God and His holy precepts go hand-in-hand with learning? To form young Christians and citizens—isn’t this the most beautiful and noble-minded way to make use of life, of all one’s talents and energy.

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Saint John Paul II had a particularly great devotion to his early predecessor as archbishop of Kraków, the great St. Stanisław Szczepanowski, bishop and martyr. In fact, upon accepting the papacy, his first inclination was to choose the name Stanisław.

St. Stanislaw was the Thomas Beckett of Poland, suffering martyrdom in 1079 at the hand of King Bolesław Śmiały, an evil and psychologically tormented man, who wanted to restrict the Church’s authority. But because Stanislaw would not cede to the king’s demands, he murdered the bishop as he offered Mass. That’s why, in the face of an evil communist government that wanted to limit the authority of the Church in Poland, Archbishop Wojtyła very much saw himself as a modern-day Stanislaw fighting for the rights of the Church.

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Another of Kraków’s fifteenth century saints, who influenced Saint John Paul’s spiritual life, was St. Jadwiga, Queen of Poland. She was one of those buried in Wawel Cathedral, in whose presence he so desired to be on that November 2 in 1946, as he celebrated his first Masses. She often spent time deep in prayer in front of what is known as the Black Crucifix in Wawel Cathedral. Tradition has it that once while praying in front of the Black Crucifix she heard Christ say: “Fac quod vides.”

The young Karol Wojtyła had served Mass for his confessor and spiritual director, Fr. Kazimierz Figlewicz at the altar in front of the Black Crucifix. He spent time in prayer before it, just as Queen Jadwiga did. When the cardinals approached him in the Sistine Chapel that fateful day in October 1978, asking whether he would accept their choice of him as Supreme Pontiff, he didn’t want to leave his beloved Kraków, but perhaps he remembered what Christ had told Jadwiga “Fac quod vides.

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Among modern-day saints, who contributed to the formation of Saint John Paul II’s spiritual life, was the nineteenth-century saint, Brother Albert. Born Adam Chmielowski, he lost a leg in the 1863 January Uprising against the Partitioning Powers, and eventually became a painter of exceptional talent. However, at a certain moment in his life, he gave up a promising career in art after coming to the realization that God was calling him to a far more important task in life: care for the poor and homeless who lived on the streets of Kraków.
Brother Albert had always held a certain “spiritual attraction” for the young Karol Wojtyła, who at the time when he himself was beginning to leave the world of art—literature and the theater—found in Brother Albert “a certain spiritual reinforcement and model of the radical choice found on the road to a vocation.”,  While stationed at the Church of St. Florian, the young Fr. Wojtyła was inspired by the life of Brother Albert to write his play “Our God’s Brother.”

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The Vision of St. Margaret, Adam Chmielowski
Two other modern-day saints also deeply influenced the young Karol Wojtyła’s spiritual life. One, among the many Polish priests who made the ultimate sacrifice of their life during the Second World War, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe gave him a living model of the priesthood as a life of total sacrifice for others, even to the point of giving one’s life. Of him Blessed John Paul wrote: “at a time when so many priests all over the world are questioning themselves about their ‘identity,’ Fr. Maximilian rises in our midst to answer not with theological discourses, but with his life and with his death, and as a teacher to bear a testimony of the greatest love.”

St. Faustyna Kowalska, who lived and died in the shadow of the Solvay Chemical Plant where Karol Wojtyła worked during the war, helped open up for him, in turn, the riches of God’s infinite mercy, that divine attribute, which a priest must also possess if he is to be “another Christ.” It is no surprise, therefore, that one of his first encyclicals as pope was Dives in Misericordia, which is “the clearest expression of the pastoral soul of John Paul II, and the clearest indication of how that soul was formed by Karol Wojtyła’s experience and understanding of fatherhood.”
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However, the saint that was to have the profoundest influence on the spiritual life of Saint John Paul II was Our Blessed Mother. From the very beginnings of Poland as a Catholic nation, she was accorded a special place in Polish spirituality as both Mother and Queen. Intense devotion to her was always a characteristic trait of Polish mysticism, and so it was for John Paul II.

The Poles always refer to her as Matka Boża, “Mother of God,” and she is portrayed in Polish iconography almost exclusively as a Mother, holding the Christ Child on her arm. But the Poles see her not only as the Mother of Christ. She is also very much their own Mother. Even when portrayed as Queen, she was never someone unapproachable because of her lofty status, but rather someone to whom they could always turn in their most intimate needs.

Mary also holds a privileged place in Polish culture as Queen. Already in the fifteenth century Polish historian Jan Długosz called her Regina mundi et nostra. This was formalized in 1656, during the “The Deluge” when the Swedes overran the country and King Jan Kazimierz, in an official royal act, placed his country under Mary’s protection and named her Queen of Poland, an official title which she holds even to the present day.

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Saint John Paul first learned traditional Polish Marian devotion at home and in the parish. During his grade school years in Wadowice, he and his fellow students would stop at the parish church on the way to school each morning and once again upon returning home in the evening, to pray in front of a revered image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help found in a chapel at the back of the church. He also learned of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in a Carmelite monastery that he would occasionally visit on the outskirts of town.

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Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, a major Marian shrine eight miles from his hometown, however, probably had the greatest influence on the early formation of Karol Wojtyła’s Marian devotion. His father would often take him to the shrine, which made a deep impression upon him as a child. Second in Poland only to Częstochowa, the shrine in Kalwaria attracted tens of thousands of pilgrims each year from southern Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to pray before the miraculous image of Matka Boża Kalwaryjska, which had shed tears of blood in 1641. Most of them were farmers, whose devotion to the Blessed Mother was simple but deep. Their love of the Virgin had a profound effect on the young Karol.

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His Marian devotion, however, underwent a transformation not long after he moved to Kraków. As a young man during the war, “he thought he ought to ‘distance’ himself a bit from the kinds of devotion to Mary he had encountered as a boy in order to ‘focus more on Christ.’” But then he encountered St. Louis Grignon de Montfort, and from his book, True Devotion, Karol learned “that true devotion to Mary was always focused on Christ.” St. Louis de Montfort helped him understand that not only does Mary lead us to Christ but that Christ himself leads us to her. He saw that de Montfort’s Mariology was rooted solidly in the Trinity and from this he began to understand why the Angelus is prayed three times a day.

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In Our Lady of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Saint John Paul saw a mother, who perhaps helped fill the void left by the loss of his own at such an early age. But in Częstochowa she reigned for him as Queen on her throne of Jasna Góra, “The Bright Mountain.” This image, painted, as tradition relates, by St. Luke on the tabletop from the Holy Family’s home in Nazareth has, since its arrival in 1361, played a crucial role in Polish consciousness, which in turn influenced the personal spirituality of our Polish pope. After the attempt on his life in 1981, Saint John Paul presented the bullet removed from his chest to Our Lady in Fatima but he gave the blood and gunpowder stained sash he wore that day to her in Częstochowa.

Whereas Saint John Paul’s Marian devotion is well-known, few people, however, know of his intense devotion to the Passion of Our Lord. As Archbishop of Kraków he would often walk to the Franciscan Church across the street from the Bishop’s Palace to pray the Stations of the Cross. But to fully understand this aspect of his spirituality, we need to return once again to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, not only a Marian shrine, but foremost a shrine to the Passion and Death of Christ. Often called the “Polish Jerusalem,” it began in 1600, when Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, a devout aristocrat, began building chapels and small churches representing Jerusalem’s Via Crucis on a vast tract of his land that he thought resembled the topography of the Holy City. And ever since then, every year during Holy Week, mystery plays reenacting the Lord’s Passion would move from one station church to another amidst vast crowds of pilgrims, who became a part of the Passion drama.

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Eventually, the shrine at Kalwaria Zebrzydowska became a unique complex of forty-two chapels, commemorating both the Lord’s Passion, as well as the life and death of the Blessed  Mother. Not only during Holy Week, but also throughout the year, pilgrims would come there to walk either the four-mile-long Way of the Cross or the stations of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When he was a child, Karol Wojtyła’s father would take him there during Holy Week where he would see the emotional intensity experienced by the thousands of devout pilgrims as they followed “Christ” from station to station, an experience that must have made a strong impact on him as a young boy. And from this, devotion to the Lord’s Passion began to grow.

Throughout his life, he would return to Kalwaria time and time again. In an address that he gave in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska during his pilgrimage to Poland as pope in 1979, he said:

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the sanctuary of the Mother of God and its stations. I visited them many times, beginning in the years of my boyhood and youth. I visited them as a priest. I visited the Kalwarian sanctuary particularly often as Archbishop and Cardinal of Kraków … I knew that I had to come here more often, first of all because there were more and more such matters, and secondly because—strangely enough—they usually resolved themselves after my visit to the stations. … The mystery of the Mother's union with her Son and of the Son with his Mother is seen [here]. … Whenever I came here, I always had the realization, that I was plunging into this reservoir of faith, hope, and charity, which were brought to these hills, to this sanctuary, by whole generations of God's People from this region from which I myself originate.

The influence of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska on the formation of Saint John Paul II’s Marian and Passion spirituality cannot be overestimated. In fact, his spirituality cannot be adequately understood without it. Even as bishop of Rome he continually returned there in his heart. Encapsulating the mystery of this sacred shrine so well during a visit there in August of 2002, he said: 

In a mysterious manner, this place tunes the heart and mind for entering into the mystery of that bond, which united the Suffering Savior with his Mother, who shared his suffering. And in the center of that mystery of love, everyone, who comes here finds himself, his life, his own daily rhythm of life, his weakness and at the same time, the strength of faith and hope—that strength, which flows from the conviction, that the Mother will not abandon her child in adversity, but leads it to the Son and embodies his compassion.

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It is easy to see then, why the acceptance of suffering as a sharing in the Passion of Christ was also a prominent and pervading element of the spirituality of Saint John Paul II. It was a theme that grew out of his own life experience: the loss of his entire family by the time he was twenty-one, the horrors of World War II and the struggles of living under an oppressive communist government. This would have been enough to make one view life from the perspective of suffering. But for Saint John Paul, the roots of this spirituality of suffering go far deeper, into the very history of the nation with which he identified with such intensity.

“Poles show a clear tendency to highlight sufferings as the key to the nation's philosophy of history. For more than three centuries suffering has been a constant historical determinant of Poland and the price paid for patriotism.” In the seventeenth century, the Swedish “Deluge” swept across Poland, destroying churches, castles, cities and villages. It was something from which Poland was never able to fully recover. Then, at the end of the eighteenth century, when Poland was brutally ripped apart in The Partitions, the loss of political independence intensified the sense that suffering was the lot of the Polish nation.

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Deluge of 1655
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“Polish spirituality, however, puts suffering in a different perspective. Suffering is seen as a sign of choseness and the specific mission of Poles. The notion of choseness is historically rooted. It explains all events in the light of the role and position of the Polish nation in God's plans.” With their national identity inextricably tied to Catholicism, Poles began to feel that perhaps Poland was “sui generis the chosen nation, for it always defended the purity of the Christian faith.” And gradually, they began to associate their national sufferings with the sufferings of Christ. The more they suffered as a nation, the more a Passion religiosity emerged in the national consciousness. “Participation in the suffering and Passion of Christ is expressed in the sufferings of Poles. In the first half of the 19th century specific analogies between the lot of the Savior and Poland became part of the Polish religious mind.” The martyred Poland became identified with the martyred Christ, giving rise to what became known as “Polish Messianism,” a sense that Poles were a type of chosen nation with a special role to play, a mission to be the rampart of Christianity, and that this role required that they suffer. The Nazi occupation and communist captivity only intensified this aspect of the national consciousness in which Poland was “crucified” as a nation.

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Although Saint John Paul downplayed the concept of Polish Messianism, the role of suffering in his spiritual life, however, cannot be adequately understood outside of this broader context of Polish history. That’s why, since his childhood, he already saw the spirituality of redemptive suffering as one of the central themes in the Gospels.

By the time he entered the seminary, Karol Wojtyła had encountered a great deal of suffering. He lost his mother when he was only a child, then his brother and finally his father. At his father’s funeral, he remarked: “I never felt so alone.” Life during the Nazi Occupation was characterized by suffering. Shortages of food meant that most Poles lived in a state of constant hunger. The amount of coal allotted was barely enough to keep the chill out of homes and apartments during the bitterly cold winters. Many people, including Karol, had to work long grueling hours in sometimes inhuman conditions. He saw death everywhere in wartime Kraków: professors, priests, religious, laity, young and old arrested at a moment’s notice and then executed. His Jewish friends were rounded up and sent to Nazi death camps. Innocent people were killed by air raids and the lives of many courageous young people, some of them his personal friends, snuffed out as they tried to resist the oppressor through the Polish underground. And there were times when he asked himself: “So many of my friends have perished, and why not me?”

Although Saint John Paul II expected suffering in his life of one kind or another, he kept hearing Christ tell him through the Gospels: “Fear not!” He once wrote:

The Gospel is not a promise of easy success. It does not promise a comfortable life to anyone. It makes demands and, at the same time, it is a great promise—the promise of eternal life for man, who is subject to the law of death, and the promise of victory through faith for man, who is subject to many trials and setbacks.

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From St. John of the Cross he learned that “between God and the human being is an obscure faith in which the intellect knows that, in the ‘night of faith,’ it has to give up attempting to know.” And the Carmelite spirituality that helped form his spiritual life told him that the soul searching for God must go through purification. “In the dark night … one abandons every other security and plunges into a kind of radical emptiness … God can only be known in himself when all of our human attempts to ‘reach’ God are abandoned in complete surrender, which is an act of complete love.”

The Polish Messianism that helped form the spiritual life of Karol Wojtyła said that Poland had a special role to play as a defender of Christianity and that this role required that it suffer. Through the intense suffering of his own life, when he lost “every other security and plunge[d] into a kind of radical emptiness,” Karol Wojtyła gradually began to realize during the intense purification of World War II, that perhaps God was calling him to a special mission, that perhaps he had a special role to play in God’s plan—that perhaps, God was calling him to become a priest, another Christ, and to offer up his life in a similar manner for the salvation of men. It may be that he kept telling us throughout the years of his pontificate, “Be not afraid,” because in the crucible of wartime Poland he discovered that if he abandoned himself totally to God, he would have nothing to fear, for he would gain what was most important—God himself. Karol Wojtyła saw his priesthood as both a great mystery and a great gift. It was the mystery of being chosen by God. For, as Christ once said, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16)

One could, perhaps say, that by the time of his ordination, the spirituality that would influence the rest of Saint John Paul II’s life had essentially taken shape. There was, however, one other aspect of his spiritual life that would not be yet emerge fully until several years into his priesthood: something we might call his spirituality of the body.

When Fr. Wojtyła was assigned to St. Florian’s Parish in Kraków, he immediately began to work with the young university students, who frequented that parish. He taught them about the faith but as they came to him to discuss the most intimate details of their lives and the struggles they were dealing with, especially in their relationships, he also learned much from them about the relationships between men and women. Little-by-little a spiritual perspective on the relationship of the body to the soul in interpersonal relationships gradually began to emerge in his mind, which many years later crystallized into his teachings on the theology of the body.

Although it perhaps looked as if this was something completely new, something totally different, it really wasn’t. In a sense, it reflected the Carmelite spirituality that had such a large impact on Karol Wojtyła’s own spiritual life. For, he thought, if we are made for God, then we have to abandon ourselves completely to him, body and soul, in an act of complete love. And only in that way will we be able to enter into that total union with him for which we are all destined. This he understood in his own life by the total gift of his body and soul to the priesthood.

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The young Fr. Wojtyła also perceived that this same relationship is mirrored in our relationships with each other, especially in the union of man and woman. He told the young students of Kraków, with whom he worked, to surrender themselves to each other in an act of complete self-giving love, body and soul, by which they would come to know and understand what true love is and only then would they discover true happiness.

What he would later formulate in theological terms was born out of a spiritual perspective on the intimate relationship between the body and the soul. His understanding of this relationship wasn’t just a moral code to be followed. It wasn’t just a promise that he made at his ordination. Rather, it was a lived experience in the spiritual life of Karol Wojtyła that could rightly be called a spirituality of the body, a spirituality recognizing that the integrity of the human person includes both the body and the soul.

Saint John Paul II was born into in a unique Catholic culture that was lived intensely by the Poles of his era, a culture that reflected the soul of the nation,  and that would, in turn, form his identity and profoundly influence his spirituality. It was a spirituality rooted deeply in the history of his nation and inspired by saints, whom he encountered along the path of his life. It was thoroughly permeated by a Marian and Passion spirituality, grounded not only in great mystics like St. John of the Cross and St. Louis Grignon de Montfort, but also in the spirituality of his country that he learned from the various spiritual masters that crossed his path. The spirituality of Saint John Paul II was like a rich tapestry woven from many different threads, revealing for us the inner life of a great modern mystic, who has much to teach us about the inner life of the soul.

A deep faith determined not only Saint John Paul’s perspective on the destiny of the world, but also on his own life, in which the principal dimension of his spirituality was “his living bond with Jesus Christ … [for] thanks to this complete union with Christ [he] became like a reflection of him.” He was convinced that everything that took place in his life was the realization of God’s designs.

The twentieth century was an era of overwhelming scientific and technological progress, but also of unprecedented horrors and confusion. As people have tried to make sense of it all, they sought meaning, consolation, and sometimes escape, in various forms of spirituality. Many have sought refuge in vague, esoteric spiritualities that are not grounded in the realities of the human person and the inner workings of the soul. Too few, however, influenced by fads and the promise of some kind of inner gratification, have questioned whether a this or that spiritual path is the best road that can be taken. Too few have asked: are the principles of a given spirituality valid and are they rooted in truth?

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In Saint John Paul II we have an example of how the inner spiritual life of one of the most influential Catholics of the twentieth century was formed not on the basis of vague abstract concepts, but on the realities of his life and the solid principles of Catholic spirituality handed down to him by those, who had gone before him. We see how the various elements that shape a person’s life, if lived within an intense spirit of Catholicism, can shape one’s inner spiritual life.

Although this look into Saint John Paul’s personal spirituality opens up for us the spiritual life of only one individual, it nonetheless, shows us the type of qualities that we should like to see in Catholics of the twenty-first century. By letting the life of Saint John Paul II speak for itself, we have an example of what we might call Catholic realism that can help guide us on our own individual spiritual paths and show us some of the equalities that we should hope for in this new era.

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Saint John Paul II was “Great” not just because he had a great intellect. He was also great because of his great sanctity. He learned theology from study but came to a far deeper understanding of the faith on his knees, which is where one learns not just what God teaches us, but how to think as he does. Blessed John Paul was a great mystic, who lived his life in intimate union with God, who taught him how to think as he does. Saint John Paul’s spirituality was the way in which he lived that union in a unique way and by coming to a better understanding of it we can catch a glimpse into the very soul of a saint.

For Personal Reflection and Group Sharing


1. What are the primary defining characteristics of Saint John Paul II’s spirituality?

2. What are some of the aspects of Saint John Paul II’s spirituality that have found    expression in his writings as pope?

3. Marian devotion is characteristic of many great saints and, as evidenced in Saint John Paul II, the context in which it was fostered has been an important determining factor of the role which Mary plays in their lives. What is the character of your own Marian devotion and what helped shape it?

4. “Spirituality” is a word used very loosely today and can mean almost anything that one wants. What is a true understanding of “spirituality,” especially in the sense of “Catholic spirituality?”
RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response from Tommie Kim: 

I have personally obtained most of my knowledge of the Christian faith and spirituality of  Saint John Paul II’s spirituality through his writings. I was actually in Rome during the last minutes of Blessed John Paul II through his funeral.  I was deeply impressed with thousands of young people that gathered from all over the world shouting together “sancto subito”.  In 2000, I attended the beatification mass for Jacinta and Francisco. Prior to those days, I was able to attend his lectures and homilies when Pope John Paul II visited Catholic University in Korea. In addition, I have always enjoyed his lectures and homilies through Catholic websites and radios. I count it as one of the greatest blessing to have lived in the same era as Pope John Paul II.  

In order to understand the spirituality of anyone, I agree that it requires an understanding of that person’s historical background as well as the family influences from youth.  The history of Poland and its long years of suffering do help me understand that Poland was a country chosen by God for a purpose.  Had there been no Polish history we may not have had such great saints and Pope of all times.  It was even more amazing to realize the fact that the faith of the Poles deepened and strengthened further with suffering.  Poland is identified as a martyred and crucified nation. And the Poles participated in the suffering as they were chosen by God to take special role as defender of Christian faith. I remember seeing a video of Pope John Paul II on his 7-day journey that changed the world.  The most impressive message was how Poles were able to become strong even at a sight of a cross.  The cross was the source of strength for the Pole.  After the shooting attempt at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II gave a  homily at the Fatima.  He mentioned that in God’s providence, there is no coincidence. God’s grace has protected the Pope on the day of the shooting.  “The Gospel is not a promise of easy success. It does not promise a comfortable life to anyone. It makes demands and at the same time, it is a great promise – the promise of eternal life for man…”
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<![CDATA[Perspectives on Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue]]>Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:08:25 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/perspectives-on-ecumenism-and-interreligious-dialoguePicture
Perspectives on Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue
by Cynthia Toolin, PhD



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In this chapter concerning ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, I am focusing on Paul VI’s first encyclical, Paths of My Church (Ecclesiam Suam, 1964). He wrote this encyclical prior to the completion of the Vatican Council II documents dealing with these two issues in whole or in part. In it, he explained the true meaning of dialogue and offered a model for understanding it and engaging in it. These explanations can only be described as countercultural. I believe his approach to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue will resonate with faithful Catholics throughout the coming centuries. 

I will explain the secular understanding of several words concerned with dialogue. Then I will quote Paul VI extensively and examine these quotations to extract the pertinent information about dialogue from them. Lastly, we will compare what the Church teaches about dialogue with popular cultural understandings of it today.

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Secular Definitions
Using www.dictionary.com, I sought definitions for ecumenical, interreligious, dialogue, and unity. The first three of five definitions for ecumenical are pertinent to this chapter: general or universal; pertaining to the whole Christian church; and promoting or fostering Christian unity throughout the world.1 Two definitions of interreligious are: existing or communicating between different religions; and conducted, involving, or existing between two or more religious groups or movements. I think Paul VI would agree that ecumenical pertains to promoting or fostering Christian unity throughout the world and that interreligious involves something between two or more religions. Note, however, that these seemingly benign definitions can be nuanced to refer to a relativistic or synchronistic approach to interactions. The former would refer to all religions being equally valid, equally in touch with “the other” (i.e., God, gods, the universal life force, etc.), or just equal; the later would refer to all religions as having interchangeable components, whether dogmatic or moral, or all being the same in some basic way.

The goal of ecumenism is to promote unity among the world’s Christian denominations.2 By extension, moving outside of Christianity, the goal of interreligious work can be considered  promoting unity among all people. Although there are many processes that can be an aid to moving towards unity—such as combined liturgies, working together to aid the poor, etc.— the most common is dialogue. Note that the distinction between ecumenical and interreligious is an important one as concerns dialogue. Ecumenical is within Christianity (e.g., Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists) while interreligious is between religions (e.g., Christians, Buddhists, Hindus).

Unity with other Christians and with all people regardless of their religion is a lofty goal, and dialogue is an excellent tool to aid in the process of approaching that goal. However, it is not one that is easily engaged in, nor should it be done without a solid foundation in Catholic thought and with extensive practical training. Returning to my research on www.dictionary.com, I found six definitions of dialogue, of which four were pertinent to this chapter: as a noun, a conversation between two or more persons, and an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, especially a political or religious one, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement; and as a verb, to carry on a dialogue or to converse, or to discuss areas of disagreement frankly in order to resolve them. Interreligious dialogue can thus be defined as a conversation that involves an exchange of ideas, opinions, and on areas of disagreement conducted frankly to resolve the issue being discussed. 
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This is not a bad secular definition of interreligious dialogue except that, from a Catholic perspective, it is inexact and incomplete. At minimum, the people involved in the dialogue must be knowledgeable in the dogma and morals of their religions. The dialogue should not be one of opinion, but in as much as possible, of fact. Further, the goal of unity requires that we start the discussion by making sure each party understands the terms, history, and perspectives of the other party. For instance, in Catholicism, marriage is a sacrament while in many if not most protestant denominations, it is not.

In Catholicism, the preborn are human beings who must not be directly aborted; in many Eastern religions, the belief is that if the preborn is aborted it was not his or her time to be reincarnated, and if born, it was his or her time to be reincarnated. The differences in definitions have serious repercussions for any dialogue. Participants to the dialogue are using the same words or phrases, but with sometimes radically different definitions, and additionally with different perspectives, assumptions, beliefs, and moral standards.

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The last word of interest I researched on www.dictionary.com  is unity, because it is the goal of both ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. I found five definitions of unity, and synonyms or antonyms of interest. First, the definitions: the state of being one or oneness; a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one; the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as the parts of a whole or unification; the absence of diversity, or an unvaried or uniform character; and oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons, or concord, harmony, or agreement. The synonyms were singleness, singularity, or individuality (with a note to see union, concert, and unison) and the antonyms were diversity and variety. Formulating a summary definition of unity is difficult, but I would suggest it means undiversified oneness, or all-inclusive sameness. 

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This definition of unity is, to me, dangerous and frightening. Within Catholicism alone there are, for instance, legitimate diversities in liturgy, traditions of spirituality, language, history, and culture. Within Christianity as a whole there are an incredible number of differences in all aspects of what Catholics would define as necessary to be considered Christian, although the range of differences vary by protestant churches.  These particularly include apostolic succession, the use of Tradition and Scripture as the twin sources of revelation, magisterial authority, sacraments, and almost all dogmatic and moral principles. Within the world religions, the other four of “The Big Five”—Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism—vary on issues as basic as what it means to say there is one God and how to serve him, to at least the appearance of many gods, to no belief in God. How can all of Christianity be unified into an undiversified oneness or all the religions of the world (and there are many more than The Big Five) be unified into an all-inclusive sameness? Clearly, this cannot be legitimately done.

When ecumenical and interreligious dialogue are pursued in the wrong way, all philosophies, thoughts, beliefs, morals, and opinions are given equal weight. The unity resulting would be a religion based on the lowest common denominator. What everyone could agree upon would become the new norm (as if a vote on the supernatural, or even the existence of the supernatural, could be taken!) Such a common denominator leads to syncretism, or a combining of components of different religions, and a relativistic approach to the components of all religions, where all are considered equally valid. 
Fortunately, in Paths of My Church, Paul VI writes about a different model.

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Paul VI’s Three Principal Policies

Paul VI itemized three principal policies of his pontificate: it is essential for the Church to attain a deeper self-knowledge, an inevitable result of that self-knowledge is renewal, and together these two lead to dialogue with others.

Background Information: Self-Reflection and Reform


He said, 
[W]e are convinced that the Church must look with penetrating eyes within itself, ponder the mystery of its own being, and draw enlightenment and inspiration from a deeper scrutiny of the doctrine of its own origin, nature, mission, and destiny. The doctrine is already known; it has been developed and popularized in the course of this century. But it can never claim to be sufficiently investigated and understood. (#9)

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Paul VI is saying that we must always try to know the Church better than we currently do. We should strive to understand the mysteries Christ has revealed about her and what he wants her to be. 

This makes perfect sense. Over the last 2000 years multitudes of people within the Church have prayed, studied, and meditated on the Church and her mysteries, and many have succeeded in deepening our understanding of this divine-human institution. Yet, no matter how many holy people are engaged in this process, nor for how long, we must always put more effort into better understanding the Church. We are finite beings and our founder is infinite. We will never exhaust the depths of understanding of what He gave to the Church and what he made her to be. 
We should also focus on the fact that we do not succeed in presenting the ideal image of what Christ wanted the Church to be. Paul VI said,
A vivid and lively self-awareness on the part of the Church inevitably leads to a comparison between the ideal image of the Church as Christ envisaged it…and the actual image which the Church presents to the world today.  (#10)
He mentioned that although there is always some likeness to the divine ideal, the comparison of the actual and ideal images shows that in many ways it does not reflect what Christ wanted.

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Reform

Summarizing Paul VI (#46), reform is needed in the Church to more clearly image the ideal, but that does not mean we are to reform the “essential nature of the Church or its basic and necessary structure.” We do not want to change such things, we want to preserve and restore the features Christ gave the Church. 

[W]e are concerned to restore to the Church that ideal of perfection and beauty that corresponds to its original image, and that is at the same time consistent with its necessary, normal and legitimate growth from its original, embryonic form into its present structure.” (#47)



Nor should we think of reform as a process of adapting to the ways of the world, to “its way of thinking and acting to the customs and temper of the modern secular world,” even though many think this would be the wise course of action. (#48) Additionally, we must fight against the temptations of Naturalism, Relativism, and the attempt to minimize Christianity so it requires no “effort or causes inconvenience.” Paul VI reminded us, “We must be in the world but not of it.” (#49)3

Dialogue

These two principles together, self-awareness and reform, Paul VI argued, lead to the third principle, dialogue. Rather than tell us how to dialogue, he explained the meaning behind dialogue. First is the attitude the Church must adopt when she engages herself with the world at large. (see #58) This issue is clearly a serious one as people in the world and those in the Church do not think or act the same way. He pointed out, we (in the Church) are not entirely separated from, indifferent to, afraid of, nor contemptuous of the world. “When the Church distinguishes itself from humanity, it does so not in order to oppose it, but to come closer to it.” (#63) 

He continued, through self-awareness, the Church will have a clear awareness of a mission received from God, of a message to be spread far and wide. Here lies the source of our evangelical duty, our mandate to teach all nations, and our apostolic endeavor to strive for the eternal salvation of all men…The very nature of the gifts which Christ has given the Church demands that they be extended to others and shared with others. This must be obvious from the words:  “Going, therefore, teach ye all nations,” Christ’s final command to His apostles. The word apostle implies a mission from which there is no escaping. (#64)

We engage in dialogue because we must. It is not a mere conversation, as believed in the secular world, holy conversation. We are obeying a command we have received from God when we engage in dialogue. We are a proselytizing religion, sent on a mission to tell all people the Good News. Our goal in dialogue is to reach unity, but not one in which each party to the conversation holds fast to some ideas and relinquishes others so that an agreement can be reached. Our goal is to engage others to speak truth.
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Having explained why we engage in dialogue, Paul VI turned to the true meaning behind the word. He said, 
To this internal drive of charity which seeks expression in the external gift of charity, We will apply the word  “dialogue.”(#64) Because, the Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which it lives. It has something to say, a message to give, a communication to make. (#65)4

Our dialogue is one of love. We love all our neighbors, because everyone is made in the image and likeness of God, coming from him and called to spend eternity with him. There is no love in dialogue when we know this information, but withhold it from others who desperately need it. 
As God took the initiative in starting the dialogue with man, we have to be the ones to pursue dialogue with others.(#72)5(#72) As God’s dialogue sprang from his love, we have to dialogue with love. (#73) As God’s dialogue did not rest on the merits of those addressed or potential results, we should not set limits to dialogue. (#74) So too freedom—Jesus honored the free acceptance or rejection of those he dialogued with, and we must too. We cannot use external coercion (#75); our dialogue must be accessible to all—we must make it as universal as possible (#76); and for it to be successful, it must proceed gradually and we should wait for God to make it effective. Yet we should not postpone what we can do today. (#77)6
Paul VI explained the seriousness of our approach to dialogue:
If, in our desire to respect a man's freedom and dignity, his conversion to the true faith is not the immediate object of our dialogue with him, we nevertheless try to help him and to dispose him for a fuller sharing of ideas and convictions. (#79)
He continued, 
Our dialogue, therefore, presupposes that there exists in us a state of mind which we wish to communicate and to foster in those around us. It is the state of mind which characterizes the man who realizes the seriousness of the apostolic mission and who sees his own salvation as inseparable from the salvation of others. His constant endeavor is to get everyone talking about the message which it has been given to him to communicate. (#80)
Simply stated, our “[d]ialogue, therefore, is a recognized method of the apostolate. It is a way of making spiritual contact.” (#81)7 When we review the secular definitions of the words dialogue and unity, it is readily apparent how bold and countercultural Paul VI was in this area of his magisterium.

ENDNOTES:

1 The fourth definition of ecumenical is historically accurate. It is, “…of or pertaining to a movement (ecumenical movement) especially among Protestant groups since the 1800s, aimed at achieving universal Christian unity and church union through international interdenominational organizations that cooperate on matters of mutual concern.”

2Note that Catholicism is not a denomination, although it is frequently considered as such in the social sciences and in the popular culture. Denomination is now used to include other religions.

3Paul VI later said,  “But let Us repeat once again for our common admonition and profit: the Church will rediscover its youthful vitality not so much by changing its external legislation, as by submitting to the obedience of Christ and observing the laws which the Church lays upon itself with the intention of following in Christ's footsteps. Herein lies the secret of the Church’s renewal, its metanoia, to use the Greek term, its practice of perfection.” (#51)

4Paul VI said,  “Was not the Council itself given a pastoral orientation, and does it not rightly strive to inject the Christian message into the stream of modern thought, and into the language, culture, customs, and sensibilities of man as he lives in the spiritual turmoil of this modern world? Before we can convert the world-as the very condition of converting the world-we must approach it and speak to it.” (#69)

5See #70.

6I urge you to read the section of this encyclical entitled “Dialogue as a Method.” (#78-95)

7Paul VI suggests a model of concentric circles as a way to engage in dialogue. See #96-115.


For Personal Reflection and Group Sharing

• Can you explain the difference between ecumenism and interreligious dialogue? Give examples of each and try to think of an important topic the participants would discuss.

• Differentiate between the Catholic understanding of dialogue and that of the secular world.

• Differentiate between the Catholic understanding of unity and that of the secular world.

• What are the three principles that Paul VI mentioned in his encyclical? How do the first two impact the third?

• How should our dialogue be modeled on God’s dialogue with us?


RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response of Kathleen Brouillette:

As a young Catholic convert, wife, and mother in my late twenties, I became an advisor with the Youth Group in my parish.  The Pastoral Associate decided that it should be more than a social club.  With that in mind, he decided that we should offer religious instruction to our young people who were now confirmed, and that those who attended our classes would get the first tickets and seats for our outings.

This was before all the safe environment requirements, so we were able to teach classes in our homes.  There were a variety of courses being offered, one of which was a Comparative Religion course, which I taught.  We visited a synagogue, an Episcopal church, an Orthodox Church.  But I came to believe, even then, that our children did not know enough about their own religion to go comparing it to others.  When the Episcopal pastor said to our students, “your Church may have more truth than ours…” I wondered how he could think or say that and not be Catholic. But I decided that what he said was absolutely right and that I needed to teach that truth. From then on, my class was called, “Did You Know…” and I taught as much about the dogma, doctrines, and devotions of our Church as I could.

The chapter on metaphysics this semester reminded me about my HACS Logic course and how critical it is for us to mean the same things when we say the same words.  Dr. Toolin’s chapter emphasizes the importance of knowing what we mean when we dialogue with each other.  Especially significant in that would be: knowing what we mean within the same religion, before we go talking to others.  That’s such a huge issue in our faith.  Our people don’t know what we mean.  If we can’t dialogue within our own Church, how can we dialogue with others?

If we truly love one another, as Christ has loved us, we must tell the truth, whether convenient or inconvenient.  Yes, with love.  Love must motivate us to draw every soul to this message of hope in a hopeless world. As Paul VI says, Jesus gave us “a message to be spread far and wide.”  Dr. Toolin points out, “There is no love in dialogue when we know this information, but withhold it from others who desperately need it.” To that I would add, especially within our own Church. 

Response from David Tate:

… Many times interreligious dialogue gravitates to hot topics like trying to win the debate over a religious point of doctrine, and having the opponent ascent to the correct ideal. There is no need for dialogue to only be at that level. There are many baser needs that are common to all peoples, and this can easily be discussed without heated debate. Some examples of these needs include: food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and the care of children… 

There is an initial premise that makes Catholic dialogue different from secular dialogue. The main difference is a theological difference for Catholics; and an anthropological difference for secular thinking. For the Catholic, God has revealed himself through the true Catholic Church, and sharing those truths with others is no different than trying to give information to someone who does not speak your language. You are trying your best to explain across a barrier of language what the truth is. When one follows the anthropological difference, there is the premise that all religions everywhere are a part of cultural development. In this perspective, all religions, and all cultures, have equal access to the truth. There is no hierarchical difference to be found.

Even though it was expressed that religious unity “is a lofty goal”, it makes life easier to see what kind of unity one is working for. In my own mind, I see ‘unity’ as having three different scenarios: unity in receiving, unity in giving, and unity in living (existence). Very different groups can be unified in a common task depending on the situation. 

A large mammal can be hunted down and killed for food. There are many different animals that consume the different parts of the animal. So, everyone works together to receive the animal as food. Next, in regards to giving, a field might need to be planted. Many people give of their specific abilities (i.e. some break the ground, some clear the weeds, some plant, some water, some guard the plants from predators, others help bring in the harvest. Everyone gives for the common task of seeing a field planted, so that crops can one day be harvested. Finally, and this is the most difficult to attain. 

Unity for the purpose of daily living involves a much deeper relationship. There are many types of relationships. Each type helps afford a unity between different individuals. Relationships can be mutualistic or parasitic, just to give some examples. Catholic unity seeks to see all peoples find their place under the umbrella of the authority of God. Secular unity involves the idea that all may be united by some factor like geography or access to basic needs (i.e. water), but maintaining the old premise, “unity – not uniformity”. In the fullest sense of secular unity, there should be nothing that is imposed upon another.

…The whole pathway of the topic of ecumenism is littered with questions regarding where God’s grace is, and where it is not. When we look around in our daily life, we must have in our mind, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pt 3:9); and “"I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ez 33:11) God’s habitual grace and his actual grace are not things that we control. So, it is only just that we should look at each human person as one who has been given the possibility for becoming a redeemed soul, who will “become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.” (CCC, 1) Dr. Toolin makes this premise with perfect clarity with her statement, “We are a proselytizing religion, sent on a mission to tell all people the Good News.”

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<![CDATA[Parenting and Thomistic Ethics]]>Mon, 15 Sep 2014 21:14:50 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/parenting-and-thomistic-ethicsParenting and Thomistic Ethics
by Jeremie Solak
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Jeremie Solak is an assistant professor of writing at Spring Arbor University. His MA is from the Jagiellonian University, in European studies with an emphasis in literature. He is currently an MA student in philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He and his wife, Celeste, homeschool their children using a classical curriculum designed to raise saints. They live in Michigan.

Note from Dr. Chervin: 
Jeremie Solak was an MA student in a class of mine on moral philosophy. He told me that he wanted to write a book on parenting someday. I suggested that, for starters,  he contribute this essay he wrote for my class. The subtitles are topics in a short set of class notes I wrote called “Basics of Thomistic Ethics.” I see Jeremie Solak’s writing here as pertinent to a twenty-first century world-view because they represent the methods of many Catholic homeschooling parents, this being a choice of more and more parents of the new century.
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I left the Catholic Church for a time. I drifted into various evangelical protestant churches, and eventually I drifted away from all churches. But I came back. I am a returned prodigal, and now I am a son of the Church with my own children. I do not want my children to be prodigals, and while I would prefer returned prodigal children to lost children, my goal is to raise my children so they always stay in their Father’s house.

As I reflect on my own problems and the problems of our society, I think parental failure—prodigal parents—cause the most harm in this country. It is time that prodigal parents return home—to take up their purpose of loving their children by teaching them what is true and good—so that their children may grow up to be good.



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Of the many things that need to happen for parents to become real parents, they must learn to teach their children how to live for the summum bonum. There are nine truths of St. Thomas’s ethics that need to be lived by parents, and those same nine truths need to be taught from parents to their children.

These nine principles will benefit parents and children if parents understand that they love God by educating their children. Next, parents must make sure that they—as parents—are present to their children daily, not as observers, or as an audience that watches their children’s lives on a screen or through a lens, but as active orderers—as junior shepherds in the service of the Great Shepherd.

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A Stained Glass Window in Krakow

Even when I was not going to Mass regularly, I would still occasionally stop by churches to see their stained glass windows. I lived in Krakow, Poland, for two nonconsecutive years. Near the Archbishop of Krakow’s Palace—across the street—there is a church, the , Franciscan Church, and its main stained glass window has an image of Father God. It was created by one of Poland’s most famous artists, Stanilaw Wyspianski and it has a swirling image of the ancient, powerful Creator God.

To several people I have said that it was the stained glass windows that brought me back to the Catholic Church, and recently I was trying to figure out which one was I talking about when I said that. More than any other window, it is the Father God window in the Franciscan Church across the street from Pope John Paul II’s former residence that brought me home from a desolate spiritual land.


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In that same church, I remember going to Mass in the winter, and the church was not heated. The floor was of rough stone, and it was time to kneel. I did not want to kneel. I was freezing. But an older woman—a babcia—kneeled next to me. She had on an old dress—the material of which seemed appropriate for warm weather. Her knees may have been bare. So I was compelled to kneel too, and my knees ache at the memory from the coldness of those stones.

That old Polish woman—who could have been a peasant out of a story book—taught me that we do what we are supposed to do even if it hurts—and we do so especially if it is for God. Also, the church—with flowers painted on its walls—had Father God looking over it. And the beauty of that Church with its stained glass window was a witness to me in my darkness.

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What I Wish My Parents Would Have Told Me

When I was young, I wish my parents would have told me about the powers of the soul. I wish they would have told me that I had an intellect that desires and needs to know what is true and good, that I had a will that sought to choose what is good, and that I had feelings, or passions, that would alternately be of assistance to me or a real danger to me (or both at the same time). I wish my parents would have explained all of this to me so that I understood what it meant to be human—to understand the very nature of the powers that God had given me. Since I think I would have benefited from this, I share these things with my own children.

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Teens Need More Time Than Toddlers

A friend of mine once told me that he and his wife had come to the conclusion that teenage children need more time from their parents than toddlers. At first, I scoffed a bit, but after a quick inventory of my own relationship with my fourteen-year-old daughter, I saw wisdom in his words. And in those words, I also saw an opportunity to better parent my own children.

Recently, we moved to a home that would allow us to have some yard and trees of our own. In the first few weeks in the home, we made a small trail around our property—about a quarter-of-a-mile loop. We did that so we could take walks as a family without getting in the car. Shortly after the trail was made, and with the conversation with my friend fresh in my mind, I took a walk with my daughter just to talk, and later we took a walk in which I told her that I wanted to talk with her about the powers of the soul.

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It is important to know that all persons desire the good because we then may understand something key about the psyche—that we will try to make whatever decisions we make (whatever we will) seem good. Before we make a decision, it must seem good to us. In other words, the will  puts the intellect in its service as a kind of defense lawyer—or a justifier.  We need to be aware of that—even more so about ourselves than for others. I think it is important for children to understand human nature—especially the sin nature—so they may be properly prepared to will what is right.

My own children show a lot of confusion when asked about why they did something wrong; I think that they show signs of having a tendency toward rationalization. I want them to be able to understand this, to detect it, and to help them make better moral decisions. For my younger boys, this means not responding to aggression from their brothers with inappropriate force.

With my teenage daughter this is especially important as she has the potential to do much more harm to herself. A few months ago my wife and I discovered that our daughter had been sending texts in the early hours of the night from our tablet; a high bill is what led us to the discovery. We had noticed that she had been short tempered with her brothers and had seemed more disrespectful to us, but we did not understand that she waiting up until everyone was asleep to text friends.

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We had just moved, and we were feeling a bit guilty about moving her away from her old friends; however, we came to the conclusion that our daughter had made morally bad choices for which she needed to take responsibility. But we also realized that we needed to spend more time with her—to know her better and to become closer so that we could help her learn how to avoid destructive choices and habits.  We applied the principle of teens take more time than toddlers, and we have sensed our daughter becoming more of her true self—the self that God wants her to be and that will make her happiest.

This brings us back to one of the walks with my daughter. We took a walk and talked about the powers of the soul, and she got it. She wasn’t as excited about the knowledge as I was, but she understood the principles; and we have since had more conversations about them to reinforce them. With children we are learning that it is especially important for them to hear important truths regularly and in times and ways that allow for them to clearly hear the message, to take them to heart.

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Use Right Reason to Determine What Is Truly Good and What Is Only Apparently Good

Children need to know how to use the sense—the intellectual abilities—that God has given them. One way in which this is possible is through discussing stories—their meanings and what we may learn from them. The Bible instructs us to talk about the laws of God as we go, and this is especially important with children. I think most children should read J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In the first book of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, there is a scene in the Prancing Pony that gives us a lesson on why it is important to use right reason. Frodo needs to determine if Strider is good or bad, and Frodo says that he seems foul but feels fair. That means that Strider looks on the surface like a bad man, but there is something about him, some traits or properties, that reveal his being good in essence. Explaining that to children— what to look for and why—is to train them how to use their God-given sense, their right-reason.

Children like to know all the possibilities, so the use of right reason when examining people could help them to understand the possibilities:

• A person who appears fair but is really foul.

• A person who appears foul but is really fair.

• A person who appears fair and is fair.

• A person who appears foul and is foul.

If children know the possibilities, they know what to look for. The use of right reason is really necessary in proper trust, especially when parents are raising a child to trust goodness and flee from foulness. Also, it is important to help children to understand that their first impression might be wrong; they need to continue to assess the person—to make sure their judgment fits the data. The use of right reason in this case will help to keep them safe.

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Be Fair and Not Foul: Do Good, Avoid Evil

When my children are in groups with other children when I am not present, I remind them to take care of each other. I tell them—especially the older ones—that they need to keep the younger ones from harm—and that they should band together to protect each other. Conversely, I tell them that if they do something wrong, then they need to ask for forgiveness and apologize. Often I will walk them through apologies to other children. So far, we are good at apologizing but not so good in avoiding actions that require an apology. Our next step is to develop foresight—an element of prudence.

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Our Freedom Is for Choosing Good: Vision

I have five children who are sleeping in their beds, two in Heaven, and another to be born in late spring. Our family experiences a bit of chaos from time to time. One of my dear friends, who has six children, calls it being gloriously overwhelmed. In the midst of the chaos, it is important to take children to a place apart when they are out of sorts, to a quiet spot where a peaceful conversation can be had. I have found that taking one of my children out of contentious situations is an opportunity to help my child understand that freedom is for choosing good and that we need to see life with eternal eyes in order to rightly understand the good in moments filled with conflicting emotions. Wisdom stored up in advance is stored up for storms—for difficult situations. If our children can understand that we prepare ourselves for the challenging times, then when those times arrive, we will be prepared. Surprise is sometimes paralyzing, and while we cannot prepare for every situation, we may develop good habits that will help us through difficult situations.

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My children and I often take walks in the late evening, and often my boys tell me they are afraid. One aspect of right vision and freedom in choosing the good is to see the good resources that we always have available to us: one of those is prayer. So during our walks, I tell my boys this: if you are scared, tell Jesus this—Lord, I am scared, please give me courage and protect me. Additionally, we may remind our children of relevant Bible stories—like the angels that outnumbered the Syrian enemies during the time of Elisha. Our freedom for the good is not just a spontaneous choice made in the moment, but it comes by preparation—by choosing the time in our present to become good through prayer, conversation, reading, and good actions.

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Virtue Is a Habitual Characteristic

I am convinced that one of the things that led to my own prodigal time was that the cardinal virtues were not clearly explained to me over time (they were not guideposts), and I was not held accountable to them or instructed how to recover from error. As a child, I lacked virtue formation.

Even though my wife and I are grateful for all of the good parenting we experienced growing up, we seek to do a better job raising our children then our parents did for us—as most parents do. However, we cannot will a good into being that we do not understand. The truth that virtue is a habitual characteristic must be explained to children. They must understand the concept in words appropriate to their age. Talking with children is a constant reexplanation—a process of finding the right words. The onus of responsibility is always on the parent; if a child cannot understand the meaning, then the parent must find a new way to explain it. (Parents must develop fortitude in this area—and patience.)

The will cannot make good decisions if it does not know the truth. The truth that virtuous people become so by habit must be explained—that each small trial is a gift-opportunity from God to be good for the sake of being good.

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Acquiring Virtue Is Necessary: The Cardinal Virtues Are Obligatory

Another truth and good that children must understand is that virtue is necessary to become habit, and this should be explained—day after day, year after year—so that the child not only understands the truth but also sees—values—the good in the wisdom. Also, children must understand that just as it makes no sense to have freedom so as to do evil, so it makes no sense to do wrong so that we will miss the blessing of happiness.

When explaining happiness to children, it is important that they understand the difference between pleasure and happiness. Pleasure feels good, but happiness is good. Whereas pleasure may be external, happiness comes from being ordered as we ought to be: happiness is being as we were created to be. True happiness and joy are identical twins.

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It is important that our children know virtuous people both in person and through books. Conversely, it is important that children do not watch television unless it is a movie that shows virtue. In an age of prodigal parents, television, music, and the internet have become the co-parents of our society. Guarding children’s eyes is a way to guide their hearts.

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What Makes an Act Good: Law, Intent, and Circumstance

Young children are fearless. The average toddler will fearlessly try pronouncing the most complex words no matter the language. Young children can also understand most words if given a simple definition. As parents, it is important that we honor our children’s potential—both for virtue and intelligence. And as it is important that children a given proper nourishment, they must also be given intellectual, moral, and spiritual food—at least three times a day excluding snacks.

I believe that parents ought to explain to their toddlers what makes an act good, and I think this will make the teen years better for everyone too. If there is a family rule—for example, no texting—then a child cannot have a good act if she texts. Had I made certain my daughter understood the three necessary things that make an act good before she was fourteen, I think she would have made a better decision about texting at night. My teenager, like my toddler, must understand that all three of the following things must be correct in order for an act to be good: (1) the law (whether of the home or natural law or command of God) must be followed; (2) the intention must be a good one; and (3) the circumstances must be correct.

If we do not understand what makes an act good, it is much easier to deceive ourselves; and it is the same for our children. Also, it is always good to remind children that to be good is to be virtuous and happy—with emphasis on eternal happiness with an All Loving God, Jesus Christ.

The Natural Law for Everyone

Besides the laws and commandments given to us by God through revelation, we also have the natural law. The natural law may also instruct our consciences, and it is important for children to know that the natural law is the same for everyone on earth. Before my children leave home, I want each of them to read all of C. S. Lewis’s popular books. One reason for this is because Lewis gets it: he gets what good is. He wrote that God doesn’t want us to be good so that He can love us, but He wants us to be good because he loves us. God knows, of course, that we will be happy if we are good. I want my children to experience his witness to this.

Another reason that we have created a reading schedule for our children to read Lewis is so that they may be able to understand what is good and true by both faith and reason. Lewis frequently points to the natural law, and the natural law—the law written on our hearts—is a basis by which we can talk with those who will not accept or do not believe in the truth of revelation. C. S. Lewis gives us reason to understand moral laws accessible by reason.

It is also helpful to know that Lewis was not a saint before he became a Christian, and I think his experiences in sin and evil allowed him to understand and appreciate the goodness of the good—the goodness of the summum bonum and the fulfillment of living a virtuous life that has its end in God. In this fashion, Lewis can be another guide in helping prodigal parents to return home to be the parents that God wants them to be—they will be happy no other way.
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Pier Georgio Frassati
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Isidore Bakanja
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Alberto Marvelli
For Personal Reflection and Group Sharing

1. What two main challenges do prodigal parents face?

2. What are the means of parenting? What is the end of parenting? How long does it take to train children in the way they should go?

 3. Identify three concepts from the essay that most parents fail to learn themselves and   fail to teach their children.

4. In your own words, explain those three concepts in terms appropriate to a four-year-    old, a seven-year-old, and a sixteen-year-old.

 5. Keeping this essay in mind, what is one principle that each person in the Body of   Christ should understand about the responsibilities of the domestic church?

 6. Write a brief prayer that could be used as an intercession during Mass.

 7. In one paragraph, share a parenting story that you have experienced or heard that embodies one of the Thomistic principles discussed in this essay.


RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response of David Tate:

If parents have one thing going for them, it is the extreme number of hours that children ‘can’ spend with their children, especially in the pre-kindergarten years. If parents can use those hours to impress on the children that it is a world of “we”, and that the “we” means us (your parents) and you (our children), and that they are an integral part of it, I feel that children will develop a sense of attachment and security. This is the parents’ chief weapon for nurturing their children during the early years…The ‘end’ of parenting is to see their kids grow to adults that have a healthy and well balance view of God, themselves, and finally others. Their clarity on realizing that striving for the good (the summum bonum) is what fosters balance will greatly affect a successful striving. When do parents know if their children succeeded? Ummmmmmmmmmm?

We must steer towards the good; we must cultivate virtue. There are more than one goods, but we must reason and chose the right one. I would not say these all come at the same age, and certainly some take longer than others to master. I like hearing that the landscape of life has been properly ordered with things appropriate and things not appropriate. I always thought that if I had been a parent I would have tried to out-silence my kids by waiting for the pregnant pause to finish, and then quietly assure my kids, “It will be all right. This is the way things happen.” 

I saw a Bogart movie one time. It was The Dark Passage. It was one of the handful of films that teamed up Bogie with Lauren Bacall. In the movie, she comforts his anxiety with, “It will be all right, Vincent.” I could feel very deeply the confidence and care that she intended by those words. These are the words I wished my parents would have used. One time, my dad “wished me, luck” on a job interview. It was so empty of hope, mainly due to his own lack of trust in the interview processes, that it consequently threw out any confidence that I thought he had in me. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe I had any skills, it was just that he thought the world did not have a genuine interest in me. Maybe in a contorted spiritual meaning, he ended being right. 

Solak states that, “Acquiring Virtue Is Necessary”. I will alter this with the following, Acquiring Virtue [through Grace] Is Necessary. To keep our Thomism straight, I will clarify that we are given, Faith, Hope, and Charity at our Baptism. These theological gifts must be protected, nurtured, and fostered to grow stronger. The greater they grow, like a string tree, the better they will stand and prosper against the storms of life. In teaching the Catholic Faith, it seems like if we can catechize the faithful into knowing their vertical relationship with God, and their horizontal relationships with others; then the best way to achieve a successful teaching about these two relationships is through the idea that the virtues are strengthened by the work of God’s grace. We put our self in the way of God’s grace by actively pursuing virtuous choices. We can - choose to go to Mass, - choose to practice the other sacraments, and - choose to know better the Bible better. 

Response of Tommie Kim:

The educational system in Korea today is an endless battlefield of competition.  “Winner  takes it all”  is the moto of Korean people;  if you are the first in class, then you are considered a success in life.  Because of this, children under highly competitive environment obviously grow up full of selfishness and parents support this as “the right thing to do” if only their children can do better than others.  In order to win over another, students attend after school classes where Korean students pay significantly high fees to study more so that they can become top of the class.  Because teachers can earn more money by teaching these private classes or at these private institutes, students know that the qualification of the teachers are far better than their teachers at school and they have no respect for their teachers at school. 

Simply put, in Korea there is little room for moral education.  Rather, parents and students have no time for the acquisition of virtue.  Without a  doubt, you will hear back from students and parents in Korea that to become top of the class is good no matter how what you do is contrary to virtue.  Life’s goal for Korean students is simple. Become top of the class, enter the best university and the most money making career and you are the winner of life.  

However, such life is not granted for everyone.  Children who grew up with this one goal, do not know how to make any decision on their own when they are faced with challenges. As a consequence of lack of proper moral education, the suicide rate for Koreans between the age of 10 -19 increased by 57% over the past 10 years, ranking 2nd highest in all of the OECD countries.  Among this number, 39% of the reason is due to bad school performance and an uncertain future due to bad school grades.  This is a serious problem in Korea. 

Parents all want their children to become successful so that they can fulfill the dream parents failed to achieve.  But as Carl Gustav Jung said, “the greatest tragedy of the family is the unlived lives of the parents.”




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<![CDATA[An Approach to Teaching Catholic Ethics in the Twenty-first Century]]>Sat, 13 Sep 2014 19:26:34 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/an-approach-to-teaching-catholic-ethics-in-the-twenty-first-century
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St. Teresa Benedicta a Cruce
“Speak the Truth with Love” (Ephesians 4:15)
An Approach to Teaching Catholic Ethics in the Twenty-first Century
by Ronda Chervin, PhD

I have written a book about ethics entitled Living in Love: About Christian Ethics. This was in the 1970’s. It was reprinted by different publishers three times, each time updated. Now it is part of a series of small books on love called The Way of Love under the title of Making Loving Moral Decisions. I have been teaching ethics for forty-three years!  Just the same, I think it will be a good challenge to think through how I want to teach it now with the theme of overcoming polarities in the Church for a twenty-first century Catholic world-view.

Let me begin with a description of two contrasting ways of teaching Catholic ethics on the extremes.
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Teaching Catholic Ethics A: 

What is important is that we never give the impression that rules are more important than persons. Every human being has a conscience. This conscience should be informed by perennial magisterial Catholic teaching, by the viewpoints of contemporary philosophers and theologians, and then by the individual insights of each Catholic. For example, it is true that the Church teaches that human beings have the right to private property and that all Catholics should be charitable to the poor on an individual basis, but, in terms of a given individual’s conscience, some may think that because of the need for a safety net we may need a more socialistic central government to take care of the poor, but others may think that gives too much power to central government and only more capitalism can improve the lot of the poor by providing more jobs.  Or, to give a very different example,  a couple should thoughtfully read the encyclical Humanae Vitae about contraception, then read what philosophers and theologians have said about the issue, and then consider their own circumstances and come to a decision they can live with.

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Teaching Catholic Ethics B:

Catholics nowadays are “going to hell in hand-basket!” to use the old phrase. They actually think that on morals they are right and the Lord God Almighty is wrong! The constant teaching of the Church comes under infallibility, so where do Catholics come off choosing whatever they wish cafeteria style? Since centralized government leads to socialism and communism, contrary to Church teaching, we should hold on to our private money and property. Since contraception is wrong we don’t need to delve into it to see why, just avoid it. What we need to do is simply give everyone the moral rules in sermons and other catechetical settings and tell them if they don’t agree or practice them they should forget about ever getting to heaven.

Probably none of the readers of this chapter would want to teach ethics exactly in the mode of either A or B. But what would be the mediating concepts that would be a way of teaching the truth, not error, with love, not only with threats?
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Probably none of the readers of this chapter would want to teach ethics exactly in the mode of either A or B. But what would be the mediating concepts that would be a way of teaching the truth, not error, with love, not only with threats?

In this chapter I will present some of the key ideas I have taken from the ethics of St. Thomas, the ethics of  John Paul II and the ethics of Dietrich von Hildebrand that I hope will inspire teachers of ethics in the twenty-first century to be able to “speak the truth with love.” 

Thomistic ethics is noted for using philosophy as the handmaid of theology. It is contrasted in this with what is called Divine Command Morality. The latter, proclaimed by some non-Catholic Christian church teachers, asserts that we do not need to use reason to explain the ethics of the Old and New Testament. Our role is to obey. God’s Word is higher than reason. So, for example, not many, but some Christians influenced by Divine Command Morality might think this way about social justice and about contraception:  “He who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4)  No need to support lazy street people. Or, on contraception, since Onan is killed by God for spilling his seed on the ground (Genesis 38:3-10), that should be enough to outlaw contraception. 
By contrast, Thomistic ethics will include Scriptures such as the ones above about work and about Onan in Scripture, such as the prohibition against magic (Galatians 5:20) which scholars say included contraceptive herbs packed in the vaginas of women)  but it will also include philosophical reasoning in explaining such teachings. Recently I have been reading a biography of Pope Leo XIII (Leo XIII: A Light from Heaven) by Brother William J. Kiefer, SM, Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1961). He points out how strongly Pope Leo showed that natural law ethics upholds the rights of workers over against exploitative capitalists, at the same time showing why socialism and communism were contrary to the right to private property.   Concerning contraception, Thomistic ethics shows how the fertile nature of the human body rules out having sex and at the same time destroying the life-giving seed of the male in the act.  

John Paul II in Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993) would flesh out such Thomistic arguments with a personalist approach. Love is self-giving. The way the pope-philosopher describes the importance of seeing others as persons and not as people to be simply used can be employed to explain the violation of rights of workers. But contraception withholds part of the natural endowment of each person and thwarts the self-giving nature of love.

John Paul II never presented the moral teachings of the Church as a bunch of rules. Instead he carefully explains the human values at stake in each moral teaching.  I like to add that when someone cares very much about a particular ethical matter, that proponent never thinks of it as just a matter of rules. No one working with rape victims would ever say “well, not raping another person is an old rule, we need new ways of thinking about it.” 

With reference to social justice issues, Dietrich von Hildebrand’s value ethics would stress the due response we need to give to the sufferings of others.  In his book Humanae Vitae: A Sign of Contradiction (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1969) von Hildebrand writes about the mentality typical of our times where everything inconvenient is fixed by techniques and pills. This can lead to a value blindness about the mysterious linking of the sexual act to the procreation of a new human being—a visible manifestation of the love of the parents for each other. 

My own writing and speaking concerning social justice makes use of a little, but extreme fictional example I thought of to illustrate the Church’s teaching that “our luxuries belong to the poor.”  Suppose you are going into Wal-Mart with the plan of buying four T-shirts. In front of the store you see a woman on the sidewalk with a baby crying at her breast because she has no milk since she is starving. Would you walk past and buy the four T-shirts or would you buy one T-shirt and use the rest of your money to buy milk for this mother to drink so her baby could live? Well, we know that Mother Teresa’s nuns feed the starving and waste no money on administration since these sisters don’t even have toilet paper in India.  Just the price of a stamp can get money to their Bronx convent from where distribution of donations goes throughout the world. 

In my book, Making Loving Moral Decisions (presently part of the volume The Way of Love, CreateSpace/Amazon 2013) I present imagery about contraception that came to my mind unexpectedly when this issue became so controversial.  For example, many of us were thrilled at the Black is Beautiful movement where people who previously tried to look as much as possible like “whitey” donned beautiful African garments, stopped trying to lighten their skin, and wore fascinating long locks instead of trying to make their hair flat. The analogy I use is that a woman in her fertile period should be saying “I am a beautiful fertile woman. I should not try to get rid of the possibility of babies as could a man who doesn’t have to carry the fruit of his seed.  If a man comes to me he should value my fertility instead of asking ‘is this your bad time.’” (See The Way of LoveMaking Loving Moral Decisions in the section about contraception for more of my reasonings about this thorny topic.)  

Do you see how these ways of teaching ethics avoid the laxity of the “A” method above, or the harshness of the “B”method? 

But I have a new insight now in the twenty-first century about teaching Catholic truths. It came about in this way. I was team-teaching a course with Dr. Sebastian Mahfood to our MA Distance Learning students about refuting atheism.  Many of these students are teachers. The majority of them were dissatisfied with learning only the concepts needed to refute atheism. They wanted more on how to approach atheists with new evangelization methods for converting them to living the Faith. 
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Let’s look at how this would play out with teaching ethics. What I am suggesting here is not new; actually, it is just a fresh emphasis for me, and perhaps for you, readers of this book. In teaching social justice, why not have readings not only from philosophy and theology texts but also from pioneers in Catholic social justice theory and practice such as Dorothy Day? How about bringing in speakers from local Catholic outreaches?


In teaching why contraception is wrong, we need to bring in spouses from the Couple to Couple League to talk about their natural family planning ministry. We need to read books by doctors who have stopped referring women and men to contraceptives and now teaching Natural Family Planning instead. 

The thrust I am highlighting really involves person to person, heart to heart, vs. truth in general. I love to hear how social justice activists work with the needy. I love to hear how Natural Family Planning experts work with each couple to show them how to express their love in new ways during the period of abstinence when they space their births for serious reasons. 

But what about the polarities in the Church concerning conscience?  Aside from over-arching controversies about particular moral teaching, there developed in the last part of the twentieth century two ways of thinking about conscience. One way was to see it as the voice of God and moral truth reminding us of the wrongness of an act or the importance of a contrary act at the time of decision.  A more modern take was the view that individual conscience is the final arbiter of right and wrong.  
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Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book Morality and Situation Ethics (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1966) explains some underlying features of the polarity. Situation ethics is the theory that we don’t need moral rules. We need to bring an intention of love to each circumstance and then let our consciences decide. This view gains the allegiance of many who think of Catholic moral norms not as glowing truths but rather as rigid formulae insisted upon by self-righteous people, especially in the area of sexual morality. What is left out, as von Hildebrand explains, is that self-righteousness and legalism are themselves sins. Instead of laxity, justified by disgust with self-righteousness and legalism, true Christian ethics understands the way being loving includes avoiding all evils.  All moral evils have victims whether they are exploiting the poor or sex-trade workers! 

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Now, remember the problem of existing polarities in the Church we wish to overcome! There are some who emphasize social justice but fail to see how abortion is a one of the most horrifying social justice issues involving the killing of totally innocent babies in the womb. And, on the other hand, some emphasize the tragedy of abortion, but minimize worldwide exploitation of the poor. In a twenty-first century synthesis wouldn’t we hope to have each group feeling much more support for the causes dearest to their hearts from those of the other emphasis? 

Lastly a “holistic”, if you will, approach to teaching ethics should always include prayer.  Prayer for enlightenment, and also prayer for ourselves and others who have learned the hard way, through sin and its consequences, what rebellion against Catholic moral teaching leads to. And prayer, also, for all those, including ourselves, who are tempted to violate such teachings.

Here is what I propose as a possibility for our twenty-first century Catholic synthesis on teaching morals: 
Steps in Teaching—Classroom and One-on-One

• Prayer before, during and after.

• Listen—in class by asking questions; in one-on-one— speak gently with respect.

• Give the teaching clearly and firmly but in a tone full of understanding.

• Suggest readings—especially the Catechism which is written is such a beautiful and loving style.

• Bring in speakers from the field.

• Ask if the students have questions about the teaching.
                                          My prayer as I close this chapter: 
Come Holy Spirit, enlighten us on how to “speak the truth with love.” Banish from us all harsh self-righteousness. Keep us from self-centered laxity. May the light of the truths of our Faith shine on our confused, troubled, and sinful world.
For Personal Reflection and Group Sharing

• When have you experienced Catholic moral teaching shared in a powerful, persuasive, loving manner?

• What specific teachings, other than the ones given in the chapter, have you found to be taught in a lax or harsh manner?

• What moral teachings do you seek greater enlightenment about?

• Is there someone in your life or some who you minister to as a group that you need to approach with the steps outlined at the end of this chapter? 

RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response of Kathleen Brouillette:

The most powerful teaching of the faith I have ever experienced came from my most beloved Fr. Jon Bokron, a young Catholic priest, who was a convert from the Greek Church and a former stock broker, and was dying of leukemia only two years after ordination.  The final homily he gave at the final Mass he would celebrate in our parish was an experience I will never forget.  I am profoundly grateful to have it on video.  His love for the Church was unquestionable, his passion for the faith exemplary, and the power of his words was overwhelming because we all knew he was dying.  Here was a man who could have been bitter, or self-pitying, or questioning everything about the faith.  Instead, he used his last homily to plead with us to believe and live what the Church teaches.  This is the same priest who told me I was addicted to prayers, but not to prayer.  He never, ever watered down Church teaching, yet he was loved by every person who knew him.  

St. Thomas More said we cannot get to Canterbury simply by knowing the way there if we are not willing to walk in that way.  We cannot get to heaven by simply knowing or teaching the faith if we do not live it with love.  God, give us the wisdom to be obedient to the Church you have give us in your love, and to love one another as you have loved us.

Response from David Tate:

(On polarities about ethics) besides the well-known topics like the poor, being wealthy or privileged, and contraception I find that most other teachings can be taught with some kind of bias. I have been observing things as best as I can since my journey started towards a religious life style. I feel that the number one reason behind why it has become so difficult to teach without wavering over to one bias or the other is rooted in the break-up of the family. 

One of the unnatural fruits of the disintegration of the family has become, for lack of a better nomenclature, ‘misplaced respect’. It used to be that there was a set hierarchy in society, and you could give respect accordingly. Children had parents. brothers had sisters; and visa-versa. Grandchildren had grandparents. If you were under eighteen, then you usually travelled with your parents. If you got in trouble, your parents were notified. Nowadays, teachers are unsure of who is the proper authority figure in the family. This pushes the teacher to the extremes. If the teacher does not believe that an authority figure even exists, then they artificially drift off the center. If they are wanting to project church authority, then they come off expounding on the “rules” of the moral teachings. If they are squeamish about sounding authoritative, wanting maybe even to sound politically correct, they will soft-sell the morals of the church, even to young children. My final thought is that we have lost the zeal to say, “the moral bar is much higher than an average person, and we have to strive to conform to it because we, by ourselves, do not measure up.” The “Steps in Teaching” are very good, but they have to come with a peaceful, but authoritative, spirit.         

I think that we have lost one of the great ingredients to true moral teaching. This is the idea that God and life are our teachers, and we must become the student if we are going to learn the moral lessons that are being presented to us. The idea of ‘apprenticing’ is not something that we value anymore. We love “techniques’ because they obey the clock. In an upside down manner, we end up being our own “masters” when we use such-and-such technique. With a technique, we know beforehand what we should be achieving at each step of the process. If we don’t get the payback, then it must have been the fault of the technique – certainly not something in us. Under the old school of apprenticeship, you were ignorant and depended on the sagacity of the master to bring hidden talents or skills out of you that you never had a clue about. For me personally, I feel I am looking for finding some door that will let me escape my own mental prison of measuring my life by my self-training through my personal control over my time and life.

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<![CDATA[Liturgical Man:                                                                         An Anthropology of Light and Liturgy]]>Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:58:44 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/liturgical-man-an-anthropology-of-light-and-liturgyPicture
Liturgical Man: An Anthropology of Light and Liturgy
by Stephen Bujno

With his wife, three daughters and wonderful granddaughter, Stephen lives in Adamstown, PA. He teaches Catholic morality and sacraments to juniors at Berks Catholic High School in the Allentown Diocese. Also, he instructs engaged couples on the unitive and procreative elements of marriage, along with the Church’s understanding on contraception. He presents to adults seeking catechetical certification, courses on both morality and social justice. Stephen has earned an MA in moral theology from the Graduate School of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, and at the time of this writing is a thesis short of an MA in Philosophy from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT. He is also a professional artist and has owned and operated a pottery studio with his wife Tina for over twenty years. He writes regularly, and reads prolifically. Specific fields of interests include social justice, theological anthropology, liturgy, personalism, Bl. Duns Scotus and recent Catholic philosophy. Pray for him!

Note from Dr. Chervin: 
As many Catholics do, I tend to think of liturgy primarily as simply the Masses I experience. Then I may think also of the polarities in the Church about the form of the Mass and the music. Reading Bujno’s interesting essay I realize that we need, in the twenty-first century, much more of a vision of the whole meaning of liturgy if we are to deepen our appreciation of it. 
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To Twenty-first Century Catholics

As our vantage point rises further into the twenty-first century, it will become clearer that three facets of theology are colliding: liturgy, moral anthropology, and spirituality. Any student of liturgy recognizes that the reforms of Vatican II were neither sudden nor unpredictable. The groundwork had been laid, beginning with Pius X through Beauduin, to Guardina, de Lubac to Pius XII up to Vatican II, where a young Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger were influential; no coincidence there as the Spirit was at work.

Now with many misinterpretations of the Council Fathers being ferreted out, the liturgical reform will move forward providing identity to who we are as a people (anthropology) and how we live out our spirituality (life in the Spirit). With God’s continued ‘light’, the centuries ahead will recognize little distinction between liturgy and one’s life, as we now experience it. And in doing so, we will come to a more profound understanding of the human person in relation to God and other men rooted in love.

“Light” and “liturgy” are familiar terms, but it is not immediately clear how they apply to a Christian anthropology. One might ask how light, being such an ethereal metaphor and liturgy such a common experience, help man understand something essential about himself. As with all revelation (natural or divine) there is nothing new anticipated, but always something new to understand. Forty years of marriage does not reveal a “new” love, but it is not the same understanding of the love as when first married. 

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Light is so familiar to man. In and with light one sees, is warmed, is exposed, is drawn to. Light demands both fear and respect. This light signals man to safety and warns him of danger: it greets him each day; it can be benevolent or terrifying; it purifies and makes things durable; it inspires and it encompasses. Light is both far away and yet near; it reveals and can also, in its intensity, conceal. But it can never be hidden. All of those features of light can be found in the context of liturgy. And in turn, liturgy provides the context for understanding man’s nature in terms of this light. 

All is liturgy. Everything in which man participates that is good, true, and beautiful, there he finds himself in a liturgical relation. Liturgy is a fraternity with all creation and an affiliation with man’s Creator. One may think here of “Hegel’s concept of God as unfolding in the universe,” but it is a revelatory measure of man’s grasp of the immutable God.1 Liturgy then subsumes this unfolding, and in orienting man’s being towards God, sets man’s essence. Man is like God. It is the nature of this relational God to give himself as gift. This gift manifests itself in terms of sacrifice.2

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Light then expressed in a liturgical relation, not only establishes itself as being an imaging quality of God in man, but represents the source. LIGHT represents God Himself (there is the created light and uncreated Light). Then all creation, with man being the apex of the Creator’s effort, is drawn into Light by the light that comes from Light. It is a light by which man knows himself and is known in the imago Dei. This is referring to liturgical man; an anthropology of light and it was revealed from the beginning of revelation.

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Offerings to the Lord

Offerings to the Lord were brought by Cain and Abel immediately following Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden of Eden. Questions usually revolve around why Abel’s offering was favored over Cain’s. That does have significance concerning liturgy, for it appears evident that God does have a preference in how he is to be worshiped and what constitutes genuine “sacrifice.”3 This pericope tends to be some literary bridge to introduce a source of strife between the two brothers and demonstrate the extent to which sin has now entered creation: jealousy, murder, deceit, etc. But even though this story is so familiar, an important point often simply gets passed over. Why are they offering to the Lord at all? The reader or hearer accepts the set-up for the plot, when in reality, we do not read of any prescription nor ordinance given to present an offering to their Creator Lord. Sacred Scripture reveals it as an introductory clause; it literally reads, “in the course of time.”4 There was no mention of these offerings being necessary for ‘making amends’ due to the Fall, or recognizing the Lord’s sovereignty for creation, or being an act of justice or gratitude, though the latter two are good candidates. 5 

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The concept of sacrifice is not exclusive to the Judeo-Christian expression of worship. It appears that it simply is an “ancient, primordial rite that from the first day of human history constituted the core of every religion.”6 But in the case here, it is also possible they, Cain and Abel, as sons of Adam, were conferred with a priestly status and the role of a priest is to offer sacrifice.7 One cannot confidently say they were making amends for the Fall; there’s no foundation for that interpretation. And we cannot be sure that these were  the first sacrifices; there’s no reason to assume that Adam and Eve didn’t bring offerings prior. Revelation is quiet on this matter. These rites were creations made in the image of the Creator. The Book of Wisdom states that “He made him in the image of His own eternity.”8 

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One sacrifices in imaging a God who himself freely offers sacrifices (this is communicated in and with the Divine Persons). What resides in God, resides in man for the purpose of making him a participant in the divine holiness.  The understanding of a Trinitarian God and the relationship the Three Persons share expresses in man an extension of their love. These Three Persons are ever communicating in pure act with one another. “God wishing to step freely outside of himself, must create man,” and so did. 9 

In the Trinitarian relation, the Father withholds nothing from the Son, the Son receives all and returns it in sacrifice to the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from that love ever seeking to unite man to the Son in sacrifice and then to the Father in love. This God, in his being is unreachable by man because of  man’s natural limitations and the presence of sin. Man needs the assistance of light to penetrate God’s light. It is those very “modes of existing in which the Divinity can communicate itself to created beings,” giving access into His light.10 The inaccessible then becomes accessible. The love of God then “consumes its opposite (sin) and transforms man into itself, which is Light.”11. This Light and love then sustains man, indeed all creation; “in Him, everything continues in being.”12 

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Man receives this dignity and is conferred this new nature in the Sacrament of Baptism. In this sacrament God “comes to and joins his life with man’s, drawing him into the open fire of God’s love.”13,14 The love of the Father, the work of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit then take on new height as man is transformed ontologically. This change, this imaging, cannot be undone. “The fact of being an image of God is for man a permanent endowment,” an immutable gift of love.15 It is there, in this rite that man, like the second Adam, becomes priest. A priest sacrifices; God sacrifices, therefore, man sacrifices. It is not just a matter of imitating (a mimicking response); man truly presents a sacrifice. God was baptized with sacrifice, and in sacrifice man continues his baptismal vocation.16 Man’s vocation is to be a sacrifice.17 It is not just a difference of measure between God and man; i.e., man does not sacrifice less. Man’s nature is elevated and is truly brought into God’s sacrifice.18 Sacrifice of man and God joined are one presented to the Father who draws all to himself. This is, as St. Augustine states, man being “drawn in love.” by love and for love.19 

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Sacrifice, Love and Worship

Sacrifice, love and worship then are integral to God’s creative act and remain imprinted on man. This defines his self-understanding. This love and worship “means handing over to God a reality that is in some way precious to man,” yet when received is freely returned.20 Man sacrifices to a “God that demands from us not only adoration but also love.”21 There is no mistaking here the beautiful liturgical language describing the relation of man to his God.

For understanding God’s creational relationship with man, it must involve a sacrifice (liturgical), be accepted as favorable (living in His light—recall Abel), and witness to who man is (anthropology). Cain and Abel’s offering of a sacrifice was an ordinary movement towards God; it was not motivated externally even as a demand of justice. God’s chosen people understood themselves in terms of a “people who sacrifice.” Culminating then in the Person of Christ, St. John’s prologue introduces us to the Logos, which carries through to the Transfiguration. There will be a glimpse of man’s eschatological life in the Trinity. 

John Paul II continued this trajectory as it moves through and into the communio personarum where Christ’s light in man (grace) is brought into the God (Light) whom we image. It all is contained in the context of liturgy, which remains the connection of heaven and earth. Now, liturgy as being an intimate experience and the source and summit is nothing new, but the concept of worship and light being anthropological markers (liturgical anthropology) is not well developed or expressed in modern spirituality or moral theology. But as will be shown, the groundwork is present.

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Made in His Image

Made in his image (imago Dei) is traditionally understood as how created man shares in the attributes of the uncreated God. A few paragraphs should be devoted to the Church’s revelation of this dignity before proceeding with grafting liturgical to the understanding. In comparison with other creation myths, the Priestly mythos stands apart; man was not created out of chaos, or as a product of some destruction, or to be the slave of the victor god. Man, in the Judeo-Christian understanding is to be in the image and likeness of God by the will of him who created all from nothing. This God then continues to sustain man with his ruah. “Without this ruah [man] would not have life and would be devoid of consistency.”22 It is the source of life, and it is also the source of worth in every individual. No one can surrender it, nor can it be suppressed by another. And to be like God is to be in him. That is the role of liturgy. For “the goal of worship and the goal of creation as a whole are one and the same—divinization,” which is contingent man’s participation in His non-contingent Being.23       

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The imago Dei firstly is demonstrated in man possessing the spiritual faculties of rationality and free-will. Man is a rational animal, and above the brutes in that he is not a slave to his instincts; for man may choose not to do that which he is urged to do. Man is an animal of reason, who alone among creation can choose to dip below his nature. But he too can rise above, and this rising above instinct manifests itself as freedom. The two are joined and stand together.

Where there is rationality, there is freedom. Where there is instinct alone, there is not freedom and thus, no culpability. So, culpability arises with man’s freedom; whereas being compelled internally (an error of the materialists) or externally (under coercion) may mitigate or leave noculpability.24 And this freedom must be understood in terms of “doing that which we are designed to do” (freedom of excellence) and not as a lack of restraint (the modern notion of freedom being autonomy). To be “tied down” or imprisoned is a privation of freedom to be sure, but a lack of restraints is not necessary for the exercise of authentic freedom (many a martyr was free authentically while under extreme duress and constraint). So freedom is an exercise in aligning our direction with the nature of man, to do that which we were designed to do.

Following rationality and free will, man understands himself to be relational. This is another imaging in which man shares in the nature of the Trinity. God recognized that, “It is not good for man to be alone” because the Trinity of Persons is not alone.25 Those that lack a Trinitarian economy suffer at the expense of their own anthropology. As the Father gives himself to the Son, and the Son returns all to the Father and from the Father and Son proceeds the Holy Spirit, so too man is “built” to give, receive, and issue forth (to create with).

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Another sense of imaging is being supernaturally oriented. Man is a natural being with a supernatural destiny. This is displayed in the way all the baptized are called to live and act as “travelers in a foreign land.” The imprint of this “super nature” is the immaterial soul, as man too is a composite being (body and soul). This nature of man taken on by the Son (Incarnation) elevates man to share in the imaging of the Creator. The Incarnation was “in time”, but “ever present” in the God-Man as the Second Person of the Trinity. It is entirely possible (and in some views probable) that the Incarnation was part of the plan from the beginning. It may not be a reaction countering human fault; i.e., it was planned, not precipitated by man’s weakness. So it follows then that as Christ sacrificed to his Father, man images him in offering sacrifice (which is really a Trinitarian imaging). 

Finally, since man is created by God, he is contingent on God. All things created are contingent. This connects not only all creation to God, but sets all creation in relation to man. Liturgy is the connection between creation and Creator. It provides immunity from any neo-pantheism (often attributed to Spinoza) or an unanchored spiritualism (being spiritual but not religious) rampant in contemporary understandings of worship. This is all a product of removing sacrifice from liturgy, and not identifying liturgy with worship. 

Now one can explore the connection of liturgy in terms of ‘living liturgy’ (spirituality) and of ‘imaging God’ (moral life). But the glimpse given of the Light of God (Transfiguration) and sacrifice being integral to man as ways of knowing man (anthropology) must lead to imaging God by participating in his life (light to theosis). If by sharing in God’s attributes, man images the Creator, then partaking of Divine Life (light) is crucial. Did not the Father assure man, “I say, you are gods?”26 And further, it is only “in his light that we see light.” 

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Contemporary Connotations

Contemporary connotations of these aspects of the imago Dei may raise immediate objections. Can it be that the liturgy offers nothing new, although it might provide a synthesis of all the elements? But liturgy provides a unique role for man. In the Dogmatic Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Fathers specifically spoke of man’s participation in the liturgical sacrifice as actual. But actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem was immediately interpreted by many to mean “playing a role” in the liturgy (lector, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, etc.). Its intended meaning was that the baptized are to offer themselves, united with Christ’s sacrifice through the Holy Spirit to the Father. It is not possible if the anamnesis is absent from the minds of the faithful. There is nothing to anchor the past event in the present. So, it is only grasped as Christ’s sacrifice being “watched,” or maybe the priest’s.28 But the result is the same; it remains distant from man’s life and not connected to those present. And most would be surprised to know who’s present. If it is the entire Church, it includes all the baptized, absent or present (militant), those who have died but are being made holy (suffering) along with those who have entered union (triumphant). 

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If the connection among the baptized is not appreciated, then the relation between the baptized and God has only superficial meaning. It becomes hard to say if there is any true grasp of the reality of the vertical and horizontal relational dimensions. Man’s context rather is reduced to the many familiar and earthly relations one has throughout life; marriage (a great paradigm, but being so misunderstood as a sacrament, its ability to witness becomes distorted), extra familial relations that remain utilitarian (this would be the closest to carnal man’s understanding of imaging God), virtual relations provided by various media (cinema, internet), and so on. If being baptized, but absent, man is still in liturgy, then how does one not live a liturgical life?

This grasp of unity is important, because when misunderstood it not only diminishes solidarity among men, but it also affects man’s contingency on the Creator Lord. All connections seem contrived. It is even emboldened by a misunderstanding of the findings of modern biological evolutionary science. Accepting a poor metaphysics, many welcome the secular proposal that creation either happened without God at all (atheism) or that God is a distant and disinterested observer (Deism). Where man fails here is not in terms of the mechanism, which may be demonstrated materially, but in the contingent relation of man to God, which is an immaterial reality not proper to biology. God’s role is in the sustenance provided by his light and breath. 

For instance, even though all analogies fail, just as heated air keeps a balloon afloat, God’s ruah sustains all creation. If it were to be withdrawn, just as if the flame were extinguished, the balloon would fall and similarly all creation would whither. One might even push it further by suggesting that as the burden of sin is cast off, man rises closer to God (Light from Light) just as a balloon is more buoyant with less of a load. But since contingency carries the price of obedience (following one’s nature) it is rejected. To be contingent, it is thought, is to lack power, and to be susceptible to manipulation. 

Liturgy doesn’t allow that type of distortion; the prize of light in man is unification with both God and all creation. Then this supernatural and natural, the sacred and the profane all come together in the liturgy. They both belong there, pointing to heaven while staying on earth. Most people’s understanding of any supernatural destiny is far off, not relevant for the present. But liturgy places it in the here-and-now. In the epiclesis, it is the supernatural that both communicates and is communicated between man and God, earth and heaven. So, it is not just that the liturgy provides the context for man’s anthropology, it is more of being the arrangement (a sense of form) for man’s imaging of God to come to fruition.

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Liturgical Living

Liturgical living appears, for far too many, rather inconsequential. Here it could be seen as being a stretched term, out of context for man’s imaging. But what else could be the case as the word “liturgy” is often absent in vernacular use? And in terms of defining it, most would be found wanting to provide an adequate response. 

Without offering any extensive treatment, it will be used here to include the priestly and public worship (leitourgeo) of the Church that extends beyond the sacramental rites. It always includes a sensible sign, united with and being a sacrifice whose purpose is to glorify God and sanctify man. So, it would include the Divine Office and liturgies outside of Eucharistic celebrations, but exclude any private devotions.29 

So how does one live liturgically? How is living liturgically identified in terms of man? It is not a peculiar question if there is an understanding that “liturgy is the first source and norm of faith” (orthodoxia prima), [leading to] how man understands himself (homo liturgicus).30 But since personal experience determines cultural influences, man associates his existence (his living) by what is experienced in his flesh and bones. This is well enough, as these things are part of man’s temporal existence and are gifts from God. But it is not the sum of man or adequate for knowing himself. Thinking so splits the sacred from the carnal and limits man to earthy tones alone and only what can be derived from their meanings. How is man transfigured, or how does he transcend his earthly plane? 

One goes to liturgy but how does that spill out into man’s living? The questions, “When does it start?” and “How long will it be?” reveal that separation and the difficulty in identifying one’s life with liturgy. Contemporary man is spiritual at liturgy and temporal in living. But only homo liturgicus can speak to the depth of man’s being and vocation, transcending the perceptible, allowing the “eternal now” to be present. There is “either a humanism in which man is the measure of everything, or the liturgy through which the mystery transfigures and divinizes us.”31 It is in and with liturgy that man truly lives.

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Christendom Is Fractured

Christendom is fractured, but yet all the baptized remain the one Body of Christ.32 So in those faith expressions opposed to any liturgy, a depth of man remains unrealized. Some claim that liturgy is too rigid. Rather, it is argued, that the impulse of the Spirit is thwarted. This is “the notion that religious expression can be genuine only when it occurs in absolute spontaneity...[but that] is a piece of nonsense” as a person can always ascent to what is recited; it need not be rote.33 Yet others don’t shun it as much as they simply do not endorse it. They don’t see it as a way to relate to God, or perhaps they see liturgy as an antiquated way that is now irrelevant. In fact, these Christian denominations pride themselves on being instrumental in having done away with liturgy entirely.

They claim to have moved from a sacramental (liturgical) expression, to what is now referred to as a relational experience (praise and worship). It appears real and leaves one with the impression of feeling close to God. But this evaluates the worship in terms of the participants’ sincerity. So the feelings of gratification are the measure of the experience. But it does not regard worship from the aspect of God’s desire, but rather uses as a benchmark man’s aspirations of being fulfilled. It is only necessary to attend if one needs uplifting.

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There indeed is a semblance of union (the I becomes we), or it would not be attractive. But it remains horizontal. This “we without Christ leads to a superficially anchored pseudo-communion...leading to a mass-egoism.”34 It is not unlike the experience of a sporting event, where there is a sense of community and shared gratification. 

Some congregations even reflect this in the terms they use, referring to their central space of worship as a “sanctorium” (a portmanteau formed from sanctuary and auditorium) replete with all the emotions of a hyped-up event. Missed entirely is that all things sacramental are relational. Ironically then where the sacraments are reduced (or denied), the horizontal relational aspect is reduced. This results in the contemporary worship service being personally subjective, yet collectively gratifying. There is nothing transcendent; it lacks mystery. With this collapse of mystery, all that remains is “a pervasive folksiness and casualness, a self-conscious sense of practicality and immediate relevance.”35 What occurs never moves above an earthly experience. Liturgy is not just an obstacle then ecumenically, but in its absence, man’s imaging of God is reduced.

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The Transforming Light of God

The transforming Light of God can change man who is drawn freely closer to God. If this is not true, then liturgy is a passive act that loses all meaning, an event that one merely attends. Liturgically this change is an interior movement of love, pulled by the Light to make men gods. Tragically this potential departs from those denominations that have retained a liturgical structure, but being “outside” deny any possibility of this type of transfiguration. 

It is true that those ‘liturgical’ churches (sometimes referred to as High Protestant) appear to share the form of worship, but having different ends, so the resemblance is superficial. Change in the individual himself is required by definition, for man to become a god beginning here on earth. If this is not affirmed, then what is the function of liturgy and its end of sanctification?

For example, Martin Luther’s novel theory of  “extrinsic justification” is hostile to this notion. If one holds and “affirms grace alone saves us, [but then adds] the negation that it changes nothing in us so doing,” how can man be transformed?36 This statement may appear polemic, but as the principle of noncontradiction affirms, either man can be or cannot be deified (a participation in him). It is either a sacrifice that transforms man by created light into an image of the Uncreated Light, or it doesn’t. There is no room for intermediaries, hence again the difficulty in common ground concerning this issue. This affects the primary understanding of man as a liturgical creature in that the worshiper becomes disconnected from Sacred Scripture’s recognition of sacrifice being central to man’s relation to God. It also distorts an intra-Trinitarian grasp of relationality. How can sacrifice (liturgy) be pivotal to an understanding of man who reflects this Trinity? It cannot and does not.

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Relevant Worship

Relevant worship, it was already mentioned, is the novel goal of modern religious services.37 It’s often how one chooses a congregation. The religious service must be pragmatic, or applicable to one’s life. The service is deemed necessary to fulfill one’s needs. It becomes one of the ways to satisfy a spiritual yearning, much like a fitness gym is chosen by how well it provides both the environment and services for fitness.38 Dietrich von Hildebrand spoke of those who seek such practical aims as being “flat and limited men.”39 Their utilitarian aspirations subsequently inverts worship? The relevant experience is not viewed in the relation of man to the Worshiped. The question for them is not, “What worship does God desire for man?” but “What worship does man desire for God?” It is considered in terms of its perceived effectiveness to fulfill subjective expectations. So the event can only achieve satisfaction. What then of any real sense of transformation (imago Dei)? The truth is that the worshipper did not expect to be transformed. Transforming man into a god is not even considered something the service is capable of. Sanctification disconnected from justification only permits Christ’s sacrifice and goodness to be applied to man in a judicial extrinsic sense. This is not the occasion to provide an in-depth argument, but it is enough to recognize that one’s position towards justification affects both an understanding of liturgy and of the human person. An inability to transform the individual in a real way (deification) severs the two ends of liturgy. Separated, both ends lose their potency. Does anyone ask what is God’s preference in how he is to be worshiped?

It can now be seen how retaining a liturgical structure does not make one immune from a man-centered worship. If there is not a present and genuine sacrifice, then all that remains possible is some sense of a reenactment, albeit a sincere and pious one. There may even be a real presence affirmed, but it is the sacrifice (work of Christ) that produces the transformation of the elements (ex opere operato). So whether it is the lack of sacrifice, personal relevance, subjective satisfaction, or individual faith, the transformative light is rendered sterile.

This, however is not just a protestant phenomenon. How many congregants leave Roman Catholic or Orthodox liturgies (Mass or Divine Liturgy) expressing little to no satisfaction? Consider comments such as, “I really didn’t get anything out of that.” Does that perceived lack of relevance really differ in essence from those perspectives previously mentioned? I recall the story of one of my liturgy professors, who was confronted with that very question by a couple after Mass. This priest’s reply was, “Good. Maybe you’re finally getting it, because it’s not really about you.” 

It’s not that man should not “get something” out of liturgy, but that any subjective evaluation misses the mark. Both the love of God and love of neighbor, as being the two great commandments, are fulfilled by the objective participation of the baptized in the sacrifice of Christ united to one’s own sacrifice. These two must remain unified, and man can only offer this through liturgical living.

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Questions Arise

Questions arise when one’s personal sacrifices are separated from the action of Christ (our sacrifice at your hands). Worship becomes distilled down to an evaluation of the experience in temporal human terms. Disillusioned by the perceived irrelevance (got nothing out of it), the remoteness of liturgy from life seems more acute. 

For instance, the faithful are told that liturgy is the “source and summit” of their lives. But they cannot understand how. They are told that they are a liturgical people. But they are not certain what that even means. They are told that all the baptized are present in this eternal now liturgy providing genuine communion with God and man. That doesn’t seem to be their assessment of the experience. They are told that it is their sacrifice on the altar. But they are at a loss to articulate any connection. How can liturgy become central to man’s understanding of himself as a person when they are hard-pressed to muster even a definition? If liturgy and life are connected as proposed, and one does not recognize the meaning of the first, there will be no connection possible to the latter. Mass egoism in the sanctorium seems to offer a much more perceptible notion of union, and exhilaration is gladly traded for the unfelt contribution of liturgy. 

It should now be evident that the problem of personal satisfaction being sought in worship, (what it does for them being the gauge), is the very thing that frustrates any transfiguration. This deification (sanctification to be like God) alone has the power to deliver relevance since that is God’s ultimate desire for man. A false expectation in worship limits man’s apprehension of his own quest towards divinity, and an understanding of himself in liturgy and the role of liturgy imbuing every aspect of man’s life.

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Separating the Secular and the Sacred

Separating the secular and the sacred is another underlying cause in this liturgy and life estrangement. The only antidote will be “a radical reorientation toward liturgy breaking that sacred/profane distinction.”40 Think how the mindset of life existing outside of liturgy and consequently liturgy restricted to an event happening “in there” destroys any potential of a liturgical transformation. 

Here again, one strives for an analogy to demonstrate the significance of liturgy and this “light.” Many a homilist has proclaimed that, now filled with grace, the baptized can go out into the world.41 Upon being worn down, man should return to liturgy to be reenergized. What that analogy does is reduce the magnificence of the Eucharistic feast to a charging station, rather than a transformative event. It constricts liturgy to be understood as existing only within the time of gathering. 

But as the liturgy flows into the world, it exists properly in the world in the transformed man (homo liturgicus). Further, the sanctification of man in liturgy is not a power in man, but a relation of God to man. It is a relation that is not reduced necessarily because one is not in liturgy, but dwindles only when the sacred is not recognized outside. It is the baptized man himself who is this sacred image (imago Dei). Liturgy exposes the baptized man as being sacred himself and in the world as a sacred image, i.e., imago Dei. It being the summit meaning it is the destiny of “all apostolic activity, and is the source in that one passes through the Eucharist” as a spark ignited or a flame emboldened. 2 This light of Christ, given in liturgy is not a battery draining. It becomes the relation that sustains man as he continues in a world destroying the sacred/profane distinction.

The worldview of the modern man furthers this disruption by wrongly associating the sacred with the immaterial and the profane with the material. Again, it is a bad metaphysics at play here in the culture. Unfortunately, the effects of Positivism remain, and scientific proofs are recognized as the only reliable and verifiable facts capable of providing certainty. Materialism becomes the norm and all things spiritual are relegated as meaningless. This “dissociation of the material and the spiritual in a predominately materialistic civilization [has]divided society into a secular sphere and an increasingly unimportant otherworldly sphere.”43

The liturgy, only recognized “in church,” is seen as an island of sacred in a sea of profane. It has even blurred the priestly (sacrifice) image in man, as the ordained deal with the sacred and the laity wrestle with the worldly things. The sacred is thought to be better than the other. This gives the false impression that the priest, in dealing with the sacred, is called to live a life of holiness above that of the lay person. And in turn the laity, living in the secular realm cannot live liturgically, for that is reserved for when the laity is in the presence of the priest. This separates any understanding of liturgy as continuing in one’s secular life, so liturgy has no relevance for man’s daily living. And unfortunately, artificially separating the holy from the profane has led to “nourish that ‘clericalism’ that reduces the laity to second-class citizens. The priest then must protect that which is ‘holy.’”44 The holy then is not capable of being sustained out there. The liturgy is viewed as a spiritual gas station and the priest becomes the pump attendant.

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Light from Light

Light from Light, as we profess in the creed, is not restricted to “in there” or only for those ordained. This Light unites and transforms all of creation. But why the word “light”? On the surface it seems to be a metaphor presented between two univocal reiterations (God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God...). Is it just affirming Christ’s divinity? During the battle with the heresy surrounding Christ’s divinity and humanity, the emphasis of the East was to affirm the unity of God, while in the West it was the Threeness of God; the nod appears to have gone to the Eastern Church as we begin our profession saying, “Credo in unum Deum.” 

It is also those Eastern Churches who have maintained man’s capability for deification; becoming light by this Light. It is this spirituality of divinization that protects against holding any fallacious understanding of salvation as getting into heaven, as if it were something assured and the result a guaranteed location rather than a transformation of the person. (Note from Dr. Ronda: Throughout this chapter you will see words like divinization, deification, we are to become gods. This never means we become God in identity as if we become the creator of the universe…rather concerns participation in the divine through grace.)

 That thinking leads one to not fully appreciate the gradation of joining with Christ now. “Light” can speak to that nuanced understanding. Man, through light, is becoming one with the Light in the already but not yet. That is the gift of living in a liturgical relation as sojourners.

Eastern spirituality tapped into this concept of moving towards the Light by the light. In particular there is an appreciation of Gregory of Palamas, to whom Pope John Paul II nodded approvingly.45 Though the quietest aspect (hesychast) removes one from the world, and this separation is a concern, its focus on the uncreated light is of value. Both “lungs of the Church” is not immune from an over emphasis, “Western theology has become reduced to a static form of objectifying God’s transcendence by separating Him (as a primary cause in all things) from the created world.”46 So it may be that both traditions can separate man from the world in different ways and are not immune from a misplaced emphasis. But together they accentuate the issue properly; i.e., the created world is not something to overcome, but yet God’s uncreated light remains in the created world; light is immanent and transcendent. 

The connection may possibly be how God’s ruah sustains man. Is this created light of God (let there be light) sourced in the Trinity reaching out to man? This is how man is granted access to “God [who] proceeds from His essence (inaccessible light). These processions being modes of existing in which the Divinity can communicate itself to created beings” where liturgy provides the context for self-knowing.47 

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Logos and Light

The fullness of that communication is the “the light [which] shines in the darkness.”48 It was the Logos of John’s prologue (God made Man) which brings life to all. “What ‘took place’ in the Logos was ‘life’: this life is the light of humankind.”49,50 It was only by this Light, in this act, that man’s low nature was granted potency to be elevated and perfected. Pseudo-Dionysius said that this is the very reason “God goes forth toward His created world—to share his being or unlimited perfections.”51 

That statement is more profound than a first reading may reveal. A limitless Being, in reason (Logos) sharing and giving of himself to what he has created. And this sharing and giving is all played out in liturgy. There’s a certain culmination occurring (Incarnation), and yet it is a beginning (new life). The Logos in the world is the origin of something not yet complete, yet this “Incarnation is the peak and irreversible finality” of God’s self-communication” to all creation.52

It’s interesting to note the Franciscans hold this apex as always a present idea in the mind of God; i.e., it was not necessitated by the Fall. It was the only way this low nature (man) would ever grasp hold of divine light and love. It must have been and was “Man-delivered.” Think how it is so frequently understood in myths and the popular psyche that God must descend for man to know him. Consider the tower of Babel as an example, where man must rise up to where he is. Transcending the worldly is only through arduously contemplating the divine things. Wasn’t it Plato who taught that “man must make a tortuous ascent of the mountain of wisdom to find truth? [How unlike] Christianity where God descends downward with his message of love and eternal happiness.” 53 It is the Logos, this Light that came down to be light. This Jesus took on man’s nature so that man can be made like him, namely an elemental one (characterized as the body) and a nature of light (pre-glorified).”54 

Regardless of the impetus for the Incarnation (whether God had ordained this from all eternity, or if it was precipitated by the Fall), the light is grace given for man to restore that which would raise him up. The light is in the Lord, the Light is the Lord. For without it, “even the heaven of heaven would have been in itself a dark deep; but now it is light in the Lord.”55 Christ is the source of all light!

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Transfiguring Light

Transfiguring light identifies the significance of man’s deification and the event of Christ on Tabor. It is the source and image of God, as it is man’s revealing God’s presence to other men (imago Dei) and Christ’s revealing God presence in himself (Transfiguration). It was the presence of the Deity in Christ revealed as Christ was transfigured. In his light, man too has that capacity, for when God “transforms us from light to light: he also transfigures us,” revealing in man his deity.  But man is never the source of the light. What is ‘seen’ in man is Christ’s light. Just as the “three Apostles had for some measure of limited time the faculty of seeing the Master as He was,” so too it is a gift to see in man who truly he can be.57 This witnesses to the source of Light itself. As it was for the Apostles after the Resurrection, to see man as he truly will be is an eschatological gift of man’s own transfiguration.58 

After the Resurrection and being brought into the Light, man assumes the transfigured state, even then sustained by the light of heaven. This state increases on man’s pilgrimage as God’s consuming love continues to penetrate man’s heart and life with his “message of love and eternal happiness.” This leads to a deeper revelation, a deepening penetration of the light transfiguring man; a progression of man to and becoming like God in this age of the Spirit until all things are brought to completion into the Light.59 (Note from Dr. Ronda: I think Bujno is emphasizing the positive here, but not denying that, darkened by sin, and individual doesn’t just climb up the mountain, but continually falls down on the path, and needs to be cleansed. 

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Liturgy and Light

Being in relation with God, revealed by light in liturgy, love between God and man increases by design. Two lovers grow deeper in their intimacy as one reveals himself to the other. This love is a source of knowledge. Christ came, was made visible so that man might know him. And by the Ascension, “the visible has become invisible. This has happened in order that the invisible—the fire of uncreated grace might become visible in us.”60 Man now must reveal him. Not only does man rise above the nature that the Logos lowered himself to assume, but man reveals that nature (light) to others and to all creation. This renders false any distinction between the sacred and profane.

This baptism then, this light is an identity for man. In “becoming contemporary with the Pasch of Christ in the liturgy of the Church [man discovers] an anthropological reality.”61 It is through God’s energy (the immanent transcending), manifested in the created order where God and man are joined.62 These energies, and one should not be hesitant to use the word, “are not effects foreign to the divine essence; they are not acts exterior to God, depending on His will.”63 They are created and God is uncreated, but they allow man to share in the life of Christ as the Spirit gives to man freely the love of the Father. Baptism gives man this light. Clement of Alexandria put it succinctly saying, “being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; then made perfect, then made immortal.”64 This has to have meaning for the human person. This has to be a primary marker of man’s identity. It is God’s grace given to man. It belongs to man in a real way. It becomes part of who he is in himself (anthropology). 

Man cannot be sustained apart from the Logos. Man is contingent on God, but it is his light made ours. Augustine phrases it as “from [God] arises our garment of light.”65 As the world receives the unfolding (apokalypto) of God’s love, liturgy is the paramount touching of these two realities (temporal and supernatural) and two spheres (sacred and profane) in the life of man.66 It is where the edges of each melt, if not practically dissolve, making any clear demarcation difficult to identify. Then the Spirit (ruah) of God communicates freely; man is “made free” to “worship (and serve) Him without fear.”67,68 In this worship (liturgy) man can attain “the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance.”69 His uncreated grace (the source) is given to guide man’s nature to life and love (the summit). It culminated in the Incarnation, but for man it begins in Baptism. Man has been given the capacity for divinity. 

This truth unmasks the error of liturgy as something ‘being done’, separated from the relationship of man’s love (and all creation’s longing) for God. Man is being made holy to be like God, through light in liturgy; this is an adequate anthropology. This grace-filled light is “ever the love which quieteth this heaven, welcomes into itself with such salute, to make the candle ready for its flame.”70

Endnotes

• Maloney, SJ, George A. A Theology of Uncreated Energies, The 1978 Père Marquette Theology Lecture, Marquette University Press, April 16, 1978, p. 104.

• This is important to retain, for modern connotations present  “gift” as something superfluous, or unnecessary for the giver, requiring no ‘sacrifice’. Consider only the great gift of Christ on the Cross.

• In another instance about  “right worship,” Pope Benedict XVI points out in The Spirit of the Liturgy, that “the freedom to give right worship to God, appears, in the encounter with Pharaoh, to be the sole purpose of the Exodus.” p. 20.

• Some translations read, “At the end of days”, without specifying whether it refers to a  “creation week” or a  “harvest season.”

• Aquinas does place religion under the cardinal virtue of justice.

• Schmemann, Alexander, Eucharist, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987, p. 101.

• Commentary on this speculates that both Cain and Abel may have had priestly status in    their family and therefore duties before the Lord. This would then assume that oblations were anticipated in accordance with their state, in line with their nature.

• Wisdom of Solomon 2:23b, RSV.

• Rahner, Karl, The Trinity, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004, pp. 89-90).

• Lossky, Vladimir, In the Image and Likeness of God, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974, p. 40.

• Corbon, Jean, The Wellspring of Worship, (  Ignatius Press, 1998) p. 222.

• Cf. Colossians 1:12-22 (consider too how this understanding does not permit a static relationship with God, or the concept of a distant  “hands-off” God. If he were to withdraw his breath, man would cease to exist; that’s intimacy!

• Pope Benedict XVI, I Believe in One God, ( St. Paul’s Publishing, 2012) p. 29.

• “In the early Church, Baptism was called the Sacrament of Illumination.” Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, I Believe in One God, p. 132.

• Gelin SS, Albert, S., The Concept of Man in the Bible, David Murphy, Tr., (:Alba House, 1968) p. 29.

• Luke 12:50, RSV.

• Cf. Romans 12:1.

• Cf Acts 14:8-18 Where St. John Chrysostom states of Paul and Barnabas, “For a tongue of fire was added to their human nature...[and this] fire is never something that is simply due to another and therefore exists beside him.” Pope Benedict XVI, Images of Hope, (:Ignatius Press, 2006) pp. 72-73.

• Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine. Rex Warner, Tr. New American Library, 1963 (cf. XIII, 9,10). 23

• Pope Benedict XVI, The Spirit of the Liturgy, (Ignatius Press, 2000), p. 27.

• von Hildebrand, Dietrich, Liturgy and Personality, Sophia Institute Press, 1985, p. 74.

• Gelin SS, Albert, S., The Concept of Man in the Bible, David Murphy, Tr., Alba House, 1968, p. 17.

• Pope Benedict XVI, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 28.

• Cf. Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 1993, §63.

• Genesis 2:18, RSV.

• Cf. Psalm 82:6a.

• Cf. Psalms 35:9b.

• The baptized are priests (universal priesthood). Until that identity is returned to all, the dignity of one’s baptism cannot open up any possibilities of genuine sacrifice.

• In the Liturgy of the Hours, the baptized priestly person is the sensible sign.

• Irwin, Kevin W., Liturgical Theology-A Primer, The Liturgical Press, 1990. p. 29.

• Corbon, p. 233.

     

• This will always be understood here as the baptized People of God (cf. Lumen Gentium, Ch. 2). Those coming into the fullness of the Catholic Church are not converts properly speaking. If they are baptized validly, they are in the Body of Christ. Anything short of that is an affront to the dignity of baptism and the work of the Spirit in man.

• Rahner, Karl, The Practice of Faith, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1983) p. 173.

• von Hildebrand p. 46.

• Mannion, p. 108.

• Bouyer, Louis, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, Scepter Publisher, 2001 p. 168.

• Ironically, service is aptly named as it is indeed a service to God, not man.

• Religious freedom should not be thwarted, as it is preparation for the fullness of truth.

• von Hildebrand, p. 54.

• As spoken by the Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann, in Irwin, Kevin W., Liturgical Theology: A Primer, The Liturgical Press, 1990, p. 42.

• The concluding rite exclaims ite missa est, meaning “you are being sent.” This implies to bring the liturgy into the world.

• Cf. Synod of Bishops, XI Ordinary General Assembly, The Eucharist: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, Lineamenta, 2001, §2.

• Mannion, p. 77. 24

• Schmemann, Alexander, Eucharist, p. 20.

• Every moment of the Incarnation is to unite to man—concerning the hesychast controversy, “to emphasize the concrete possibility that man is given to unite himself with the Triune God in the intimacy of his heart.” Cf. Pope John Paul II, “Eastern Theology has Enriched the Whole Church”, Angelus Message, 11 August 1996.

• Maloney, pp.8-9.

• Lossky, p. 40.

• John 1:5, RSV.

• Logos “is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself.” Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, I Believe in One God, St. Paul’s Publishing, 2012. p. 19.

• Maloney, pp. 42-43.

• Maloney, p. 66.

• Rahner, Karl, The Trinity, p. 90.

• Chervin, Ronda, The Way of Love, Volume III, “Making Moral Loving Decisions,” 2010.

• Canty, Aaron, Light and Glory-The Transfiguration of Christ in Early Franciscan and Dominican Theology,  The Catholic University of America Press, 2011) p. 95.

• Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine. Rex Warner, Tr. New American Library, 1963, p. 321 (XIII. 8).

• Corbon, p. 227.

• Maloney, p. 88.

• Cf. Canty, p. 93, John of La Rochelle brings up an objection, raised but not properly satisfied by Alexander of Hales, asking “how is it that Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances are not properly referred to as transfigurations.”

• Pope Benedict XVI, who followed him wrote his doctorate thesis on Bonaventure who understood all ages as a progression towards the  “age of the Spirit.”

• Lossky, p. 65.

• Pope Benedict XVI, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 58.

• St. Gregory of Nyssa uses the word “energy” to describe the bond between God and his creatures… “every essence has an energy if it is to be more than possible; this is God’s manifestation in the created order.” Cf. Maloney, p. 72,

• Lossky, p. 54.

• Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, V.2., Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book I, Chap. VI.  Hendrickson Publishers, 2004 p. 215. 25

• Augustine, (XIII.8), p. 321 (emphasis mine).

• How telling is the fact that John Paul II added the illuminative mysteries to the great prayer of the Rosary.

• “The freedom to give right worship to God, appears, in the encounter with Pharaoh, to be the sole purpose of the Exodus.” Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 20.

68.  Luke 1:74b, RSV.

69.  Cf. Wisdom 7:26

70. Alighieri, Dante, The Divine Comedy, tr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Fall River Press, 2013 Paradiso, Canto XXX - line 46, p. 671.


For Personal Reflection  and Group Sharing: 

• What does the metaphor of light offer in terms of man’s relation to God and other men?

• In what ways is sacrifice necessary to complement the word  “gift”, as in the phrase “giving of yourself to another”?

3.   What are some of the obstacles to grasping the significance of being in liturgy?   Pastorally, how can it be shown as necessary and relevant for the life of man?

4. Why is it so easy to separate the sacred from the secular? How can one help others overcome that false dichotomy?

5.  What is the significance of the Logos and the Transfiguration for a human anthropology?

6.  Pastorally, how can others be guided to grow in love through the Light and liturgy, in order “to make the candle ready for its flame”?


RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response from Kathleen Brouillette:

“It is the nature of this relational God to give Himself as gift.  This gift manifests itself in terms of sacrifice.”  Taken from the second page of Bujno’s article, this may be the single most important sentence of the entire chapter…perhaps of the entire course.  That God sacrifices is key to understanding His love for us, and our required response to Him.  Sacrifice is key to understanding the role of Jesus Christ as Bridegroom of the Church, which is key to understanding the priesthood and married life.  It is key to understanding that we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ and must love and treat one another as such.  It is key to understanding liturgy, grace, relationship, love and worship.

Bujno also suggests that the polarity we experience in the Church, especially since the second half of the twentieth century, really began with Adam and Eve, and continued with Cain and Abel.  We have taken that polarity in a different direction, completely away from sacrifice, toward fulfillment of me.  It is important for us to remember that God has revealed to us how He wishes to be worshiped.  This is not about man, his will and self-fulfillment – the focus is to be on GOD. We must see ourselves in Him on our way to divinization.  “One sacrifices in imaging a God who himself freely offers sacrifices.”  “Man’s vocation is to be a sacrifice.”  Who believes that?????  To how many has the concept even occurred???  

Bujno further speaks of being free to do that which we are designed to do, but mankind leans more toward being free of restrictions to do his own will than on doing the will of God. Man’s focus on his relational nature is more about being able to do what he wants, when he wants, with whomever he wants.  And rarely is the object of that desire God. Too many see this life as an end in itself.  There is precious little thought of heaven except as some delightful place of reward where everyone goes after having done whatever they want in this life on earth.

How is it possible for people to live liturgically when they seldom, if ever, participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?  And, at the risk of repeating my position in every single chapter, how can they offer full, active, conscious participation in the liturgical aspect of life if no one ever teaches them about it????  How many people know, let alone meditate upon, the fact that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a participation in the heavenly liturgy?  How many people know they need to prepare for this experience?  When the music director in my parish plays before Mass, it seems to be a signal to the people that now is the time to talk to your neighbors, and to talk louder in order to hear one another over the organ.  There is no thought of talking to God, or of being silently in His Presence, or of offering the Mass.  There is no thought of talking to Christ within us when we return to our pews after Communion.  There is no thought of becoming divinized, or of taking this grace out into the world to be its light.  It’s part of a check-off list:  go to Church, receive Communion, take the kids to religion class.  Or, don’t do any of these things because, “I don’t get anything out of it.”

But it isn’t about what we get.  We have to live liturgy and be it.  If we understand that we are made in the image of God, that He wishes us to worship Him according to His will, that He sacrifices and we are to do so as well, that liturgy gives us the grace to become more and more like Him and to be light for one another, then we change the world by the way we live in it, and God will be all in all!

Response of David Tate: 


Reading Bujno’s first section regarding his theological and anthropological use of light, I am reminded of several words. Knowing, Understanding, and even Security are words that come to my mind. Bujno writes,” With God’s continued ‘light’, the centuries ahead will recognize…” He invites a similar common denominator with his word, recognize. Reading Bujno, I am reminded of my days of when I was an avid John Wayne films fan, especially his Westerns. One classic scene shows Wayne and others sitting around a campfire. Night has fallen, and there exists an aura of light where everyone is easily seen. Beyond a certain point, the light fades and what lies beyond sits invisibly behind the curtain of darkness. Many times for drama sake, some mysterious or intimidating sounds breaks the sound of the soft campfire conversations. The startling sound sends everyone to the task of producing a gun for protection. The light of the campfire provides visibility to life, and a sense of security against the curtain of blackness that encroaches ever closer as the fire dies down. With this metaphor I feel that the idea of light in man’s understanding of others (especially God) is wrapped up in the dual sense of giving light, but also for pushing back the darkness.

The lesson from Nature and from God is that the act of creating life is the ultimate in “giving”. The parents of children give of their time, talent, and treasure to provide for their young what the young need for survival into adulthood (food, warmth, protection, sometimes nurturing). It has been made clear that the greatest example of caring and giving are demonstrated by some form of sacrifice. In the history of man, the most moving stories are those of people that give their life for the sake of another’s survival. The most explicit act of giving rests on the fact that the one being given to cannot provide for itself. Bujno mentions, ”relational God to give himself as gift.” God’s act of giving to Mankind is the Gift of Himself in the Second Person of the Trinity who became Flesh, in order to die a death upon a Cross for the sins of all mankind. This is the visible sign of God’s relationship with Man that did not want, nor was able to, provide a way out of his sinfulness. Like the old hymn says, “We owed a debt we could not pay. God paid a debt He did not owe.” God’s greatest Gift was Himself in the Paschal sacrifice.

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<![CDATA[Joseph Ratzinger and Democratic Socialism]]>Mon, 08 Sep 2014 20:54:15 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/joseph-ratzinger-and-democratic-socialism1Picture
Joseph Ratzinger and Democratic Socialism
by Fr. Peter Kucer, MSA 

Fr. Peter Kucer, MSA, is an instructor of Church History and the Interim Academic Dean at Holy Apostles College & Seminary.  He completed his STD in Systematic Theology from the Catholic University of America in January, 2012, and worked in parish ministry before being appointed to the faculty at Holy Apostles in the fall of 2013.  His interests include the relationship of Catholic doctrine to history, politics, economics and scientific reasoning.  While teaching he is studying these relationships from the standpoint of stability and change.  Another relationship that is of great interest to him is between Catholicism and Judaism again from the standpoint of continuity and change.

Note from Ronda Chervin: Many Catholics in the United States simply assume that democracy, as in our history, is the only form of government that could be good under any circumstances. The views of Cardinal Ratzinger, later, of course, Pope Benedict VI, as explained by Fr. Kucer, help us to think the issue through freshly. I think it will be characteristic of 21st century Catholics to be seeking new forms of social justice. 
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It is common for US Catholics to assume that the only viable political options are between Communism, or a totalitarian form of Socialism, and Capitalism.  What is not typically known is that there are other viable alternatives other than these two.  In this article, I will focus on one such alternative referred to by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.  From this point forward, in order to avoid confusion between the papal office and the office of a theologian, I will refer to Ratzinger and not to Benedict XVI.  

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In Europe Today and Tomorrow, Ratzinger positively describes democratic socialism, a political system that is neither Communism nor is Capitalism.  According to Ratzinger, “In many respects democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine; in any case, it contributed toward the formation of a social consciousness.”  After this assertion, he clearly distinguishes democratic socialism from Communism or what Ratzinger calls totalitarian socialism.  In describing the totalitarian aspects of this type of socialism Ratzinger writes:

The totalitarian model, in contrast, was associated with a rigidly materialistic and atheistic philosophy of history: history was understood deterministically as a process of advancement that passed through a religious and then a liberal phase so as to arrive at the absolute and definitive society, in which religion becomes a superfluous relic from the past and the business of material production and trade is able to guarantee happiness for all.  The scientific appearance of this theory conceals an intolerant dogmatism: spirit is the product of matter; morals are the product of circumstances and must be defined and practiced according to the goals of society: everything that fosters the coming of that final state of happiness and morality.  Here the values that had built Europe are completely overturned.  Even worse, there is a rupture here with the complex moral tradition of mankind: there are no longer any values apart from the goals of progress; at a given moment everything can be permitted and even necessary, can be “moral” in a new sense of the word.  Even man can become an instrument; the individual does not matter.  The future alone becomes the terrible deity that rules over everyone and everything.
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It is important to recognize that for Ratzinger, it is not the political model of socialism which is problematic, but instead it is whether this political form tends towards totalitarianism.  Once a state, whether socialist or capitalist, claims total authority over its citizens’ lives it will, provided it is politically opportune to do so, overlook the fundamental right to life of its citizens, as was demonstrated in Capitalistic Chile under Pinochet’s rule or in the USSR under Stalin.  It is often overlooked, that a democracy, whether representational, as in the US, or direct, as in the case of Switzerland, whether a social democracy as in Germany or a capitalistic democracy as in the US, can share totalitarian features that although not as explicit as in the totalitarian state run socialism of North Korea, where a few “experts” decide the fate of the many, are still present.  

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The main difference between a totalitarian state-run socialism and either a totalitarian capitalistic democracy or totalitarian socialistic democracy is that instead of a few dictating the life of the many, the many dictate the lives of a few.  In totalitarian forms of grounds up democracy, that need not be as obvious as pure mob rule, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and even the right to life of certain individuals, innocent from any crime, can be repealed by the many through a democratic process.  Unfortunately, due to the modern tendency of excessively exalting the qualities of democracy, this possible distortion of democracy is often forgotten.  In countering the modern mythologizing of democracy Ratzinger writes:

The purpose of all necessary demythologizing is to restore reason to its proper place and function.  Here, however, we must once again unmask a myth that confronts us with the ultimate and decisive question for a politics of reason: the myth that a majority decision in many or, perhaps, in most cases is the “most reasonable” way to arrive at a solution for everyone.  But the majority cannot be the ultimate principle; there are values that no majority has the right to repeal.  The killing of the innocent can never become a right and cannot be raised to the status of a right by any authority.


Now that key political terminology that I will use in this essay has been de-idolized, I will proceed in determining the relevancy in US politics of the non-totalitarian democratic socialism that Ratzinger refers to.  In doing so, I will first describe the historical context out of which Ratzinger affirms democratic socialism.  Second, beginning in the light of Germany’s political history, I will examine Ratzinger’s view of democratic socialism and of other political ideologies.  Lastly, both Ratzinger’s positive assessment of democratic socialism and his understanding of the relationship between the mission of the Church and political ideologies in the context of present day US politics will be discussed.
Historical Context of Socialism in Germany:
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Ferdinand Lassalle
Ratzinger’s understanding of socialism, especially its democratic variant, is influenced by how socialism developed in Germany, his home country.  In 1869, August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht founded the German Marxist Socialist party.  In 1875, it merged with the first German organized workers’ party founded in the 1860s by Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864), a German Jew and one of Germany’s first socialist political activists.  After the Marxist Socialist party merged with the Lassalleans, it was renamed in the 1890s as the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany.  In 1911, with the support of the SPD, the National Insurance Code of 1911 was established.  This internationally influential code “integrated the three separate insurance programs into a unified social security system, and compulsory coverage and benefits were extended to white-collar workers.  Survivors’ pensions for widows were also introduced in 1911.”  In 1919, the more radical members of the SPD splintered off to form the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). 
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The KPD, unlike the SPD, was a strict, centrally organized political party whose leadership was intent on implementing the political directives of the USSR’s Communist International (Comintern).  As the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) became Stalinized, the KPD did likewise.  As it was Stalinized, the KPD became a hostile opponent to the SPD.  As described by Beatrix Herlemann, “The strong stance against the hostile ‘brother’ – social democracy – would run like a red thread through the entire history of the KPD.  Only twice – in the context of the popular front policy of 1935 to 1936 and in the forced unification of the KPD and SPD in 1946 – did it retreat from this position, and then only for short periods and because of strategic considerations.”  In the same year that the KPD was founded in, the SPD began to substantially participate in the formation of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), especially with respect to the Weimar’s welfare system.  This welfare system, writes David F. Crew, “[became] a bitterly contested terrain where Social Democrats and Communists battled one another for the support of the German working class.” 

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Adolf Hitler’s coming into power in 1933 signaled the end of the Weimar Republic and its welfare system and the beginning of the German Reich which lasted to 1943.  During the time of the German Reich, Hitler violently suppressed both the SPD and the KPD.  In addition, he set out, with the aid of his National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP) otherwise known in English as the Nazi Party, to transform, according to racist ideology, the inherited Weimar welfare system.  According to Hitler, the racially inferior did not have the right to care under the German welfare system but rather ought to be sterilized, euthanized and even “exterminated”.  The SPD courageously resisted the Nazis’ aim of completely recasting the welfare state according to racist ideology.  This was heroically witnessed to by Kurt Schumacher, chairman of the SPD from 1946-1952.  Because of his resistance to the Nazi party Schumacher spent ten years in a Nazi concentration camp.  

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After WWII and the subsequent fall of the Nazis from power, the SPD emerged, describes Hanna Schissler, “with immense moral authority.”  Unlike many of the other political parties under the Nazis who, explains Schissler, “had been severely compromised by their collaboration with the Nazis…[t]he SPD, in contrast, could claim a stance of unbridled and untainted opposition to National Socialism.”  In the 1950’s, the SPD gained even greater appeal by abandoning its identification with the working class, as influenced by its Marxist’s origins, and instead became a party for all people.  This decision led to significant electoral victories for the SPD in the 1960’s and in the 1970’s.  During this phase of self-transformation the SPD also, out of fear of both Nazi and Stalinist abuse of centralized state power, ceased advocating for state ownership of the means of production.  However, they did retain their goals of maintaining a social welfare state and of implementing, in a democratic manner, a European planned economy.  The latter goal was thwarted by the US Marshall Plan which emphasized free enterprise in Western Europe rather than large-scale socialization. 

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The SPD, as presently known by Ratzinger, is a messy democratic political party that is not highly structured and centralized, as was the KPD and the Nazi party, but rather, as described by Peter Lösche, “is decentralized, fragmented, and flexible.  Local party organizations of various kinds…enjoy a high degree of autonomy, while organizations at the regional (Bezirk) or state (Land) level have their own, very considerable weight.  The party Executive (Parteivorstand) and the party Presidium do not stand at the summit of a centralized, pyramid-like structure; rather, they tend to function separately from the rest of the party.” It advocates a moderate, welfare state and, in a non-totalitarian manner, a moderately, planned economy.  When Ratzinger refers to Democratic Socialism his primary point of reference is the SPD as distinguished from the KPD and the NSDAP, also known as the Nazi party.

 Ratzinger on Democratic Socialism and other Political Ideologies:

When Ratzinger’s remarks on socialism are read in light of the just presented historical context, then it becomes possible to correlate political terms that he uses with specific German parties.  First, Ratzinger’s positive appraisal of democratic socialism is to be understood with reference to the present SPD party which, as previously explained, promotes a welfare state that is moderately planned, democratic, decentralized and non-totalitarian.  Second, Ratzinger’s negative appraisal of the “rigidly materialistic and atheistic”  totalitarian socialism corresponds to Germany’s  KPD party which aimed at creating a state that is the totality of its citizens’ existence.  According to Ratzinger, this form of socialism failed not simply because of its “false economic dogmatism” but more fundamentally due to its “contempt for human rights” and by “their subjection of morality to the demands of the system and to their promises for the future.”  By making morality subordinate to the political system of communism, “man’s primordial certainties about God, about himself, and about the universe” are, argues Ratzinger, lost. 

Although Ratzinger positively appraises democratic socialism, as distinct from totalitarian socialism as exemplified by both Germany’s NSDAP (Nazi)and KPD parties, he is careful to reject any political model, including democratic socialism, as best representative of Catholic life formed by faith. Ratzinger clearly maintains that the Church is not to advocate any model of governance formed by political reason as a practical expression of theological faith. This leads Ratzinger to develop what his former doctoral student Vincent Twomey calls a “theology of politics”  in which faith and political reason are accorded a certain degree of autonomy from one another. This term was coined by Twomey, “to contrast with ‘political theology, a concept that Ratzinger rejects, namely, any theology, such as that of J.B. Metz or the classical forms of liberation theology, that involves the instrumentalization of either the Church or the faith for political purposes or the attribution of sacral or salvific significance to politics.”  
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An example of the Church’s indirect influence on politics is the witness set forth by Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her sisters in their personal dedication to the poorest of the poor.  Although they do not advocate any political ideology, they are not simply acting as a first response, Band-Aid solution to the problem of poverty but rather are, as official representatives of the Church and her politics of a not-yet and present Kingdom of God, challenging the consciences of those who make up and decide various political platforms.  Their courageous witness serve as a constant reminder to politicians of all parties, to take into account the needs of the poor which can never adequately be met only by distant, mechanical and technocratic means.

In defending the relative autonomy of faith from political reason, as well witnessed to by Mother Teresa and her sister, Ratzinger disagrees with theologians who after Vatican Council II “transformed de Lubac’s theology of Catholicity into a political theology that sought to put Christianity to practical use as a catalyst for achieving political unity.”   According to Ratzinger, this transformation does not follow de Lubac’s thought “to its logical conclusion.”   Rejecting this transformation of de Lubac’s thought does not mean, though, that Ratzinger is advocating an individualistic manner of perceiving Christianity in which grace mediated by the Church only has relevance for the individual soul and not also for man as a whole.

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Rather, Ratzinger contends, by conceiving salvation as not only a matter concerning the individual soul but also as drawing people into communion with God and one another, de Lubac was not referring to the political but to Church, considered as a sacrament.  Understood in this manner, the inner politics of the Church, which are a sacramental sign of the heavenly Kingdom in our midst and yet still to come, are to serve as constant challenge to the politics of the world.  For example, in electing their nation’s leader what modern nation state has ever, as the Vatican does in electing the pontiff, prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance?  Even though the Catholic Church does have a sacramentally based politics, this does not mean, though, insists Ratzinger it is to “directly establish man’s secular, political unity; the sacrament does not replace politics; and theocracy, whatever its form, is a misunderstanding.”  For Ratzinger, it is erroneous to view the Church as a sacrament of unity in this world’s political terms, since her unity is not due to her communion with men but to “God’s community with men in Christ and hence the communing of men with one another.”  This communion refers principally to the celebration of the Eucharist.  Consequently, “the Church”, writes Ratzinger explaining de Lubac’s thought, “is the celebration of the Eucharist; the Eucharist is the Church; they do not simply stand side by side, they are one and the same.”

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Through the Eucharist the Church draws men together into a community of faith that, describes Ratzinger, “is different from that of every club, every political party…”  When the Church loses her identity by surrendering to politics, it then loses her “political interest because no spiritual force emanates from her.”   This force, according to Ratzinger, can only be retained by maintaining a clear distinction between both eschatological truths of faith and the Church’s Eucharistic sacramental identity from political goals and political reasoning.  According to Ratzinger, truths of faith which the Church, as an eschatological sign, has sacramental access to cannot be constructed politically by reason on earth.  Similarly, the Church cannot identify a political system as best representing these truths of faith.  This does not mean that the Church is to avoid engagement with the world.  Rather, the Church, in accordance with Ratzinger’s interpretation of Augustine, is to engage in the world by addressing spiritual and physical needs of man.  Addressing the needs of man should not, though, lead the Church to officially formulate in a political theology an ideal political system which is supposedly best suited to meet these needs.  

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Consequently, Ratzinger strongly rejects the political theologies of both Alfons Auer and Johann Baptist Metz.  These two theologians confused truths of faith with political reason by proposing, writes Ratzinger, the “ecclesialization of everything.”  Auer and Metz integrate faith and reason in their common relationship to political reasoning to an extent that Ratzinger does not.  In contrast with Auer and Metz, Ratzinger maintains that even though salvation begins in this world it is not to be politicized, for it is primarily directed beyond this earthly world to the heavenly world, where reason will encounter divine truth without the mediation of faith.  According to Ratzinger, such political theologies attempt to replace the Church’s role of evangelizing the world with truths of faith to be received and which transcend the world with the role of “liberating the world within its worldliness” by actively making truth on earth.

In Introduction to Christianity, Ratzinger further argues that the politicization of theology is contrary to the Christian faith in the Trinity.  In order to understand his reasoning his concept of ontological truth as defined by consciousness, love and freedom needs further explanation.  Ratzinger describes truth in this manner by writing, “if the logos of all being, the being that bears up and encompasses everything, is consciousness, freedom and love, then it follows automatically that the supreme factor in the world is not cosmic necessity but freedom.”  

PictureGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
After defining “the supreme factor in the world” as a rational love which necessarily entails freedom and unpredictability Ratzinger then concludes that “if the supreme point in the world’s designs is a freedom which bears up, wills, knows and loves the whole world as freedom, then this means that together with freedom the incalculability implicit in it is an essential part of the world.”

The above reasoning leads Ratzinger to reject political theology as principally defined by Hegel since Hegelian idealistic political theology, according to Ratzinger, ignores freedom as constitutive to the world including its politics.   In addition to rejecting an idealism that is taken up into political theology, Ratzinger also rejects Marx’s supposedly scientific, political theory which is similar to Hegel’s thought without the theological and spiritual aspect of Hegelian dialectics. Present, therefore, within his rejection of Hegelian political theology is also a dismissal of Marx’s approach to politics.  He spells out his rejection of Hegelian political theology in the following manner. According to Ratzinger, Hegel rejects love as constitutive of God since, as explained by Ratzinger, Hegel views the Triune nature of God as only “the expression of the historical side of God and therefore of the way in which God appears in history.”    Hegel, therefore concludes Ratzinger, is a Monarchist since the description of God as three persons in one divine nature “are regarded as only masks of God which tell us something about ourselves but nothing about God himself.”   

Ratzinger relates the Monarchism of Hegel and its early versions to political theology by writing:

Even in its early Christian form and then again in its revival by Hegel and Marx it has a decidedly political tinge; it is “political theology”.  In the ancient Church it served the attempt to give the imperial monarchy a theological foundation; in Hegel it becomes the apotheosis of the Prussian state, and in Marx a program of action to secure a sound future for humanity.  Conversely, it could be shown how in the old Church the victory of belief in the Trinity over Monarchianism signified a victory over the political abuse of theology: the ecclesiastical belief in the Trinity shattered the politically usable molds, destroyed the potentialities of theology as a political myth, and disowned the misuse of the Gospel to justify a political situation.
According to Ratzinger, such a political theology is contrary to Christian faith since, for orthodox Christianity, God is truly triune in himself and not simply as manifested to man in history.  By being triune, the truth of God is convertible with love.  True non self-centered love, after all, requires the presence of more than one person.  In the Trinity the mutual love the Father has for the Son does not overwhelm the Son but rather is eternally expressed and shared in the Holy Spirit.  In order for love to be true, as we learn from the Trinity, it must be free from compulsion and domination.  It follows that since the world is reflective of the truth of its creator it is “a world defined by the structure of freedom” and, to a certain extent, shares in the incomprehensibility of God.   Due to the freedom and incomprehensibility of the world, argues Ratzinger, no one political system can be promoted, in a Hegelian or Marxist sense, as definitive.  A Catholic approach to politics, as influenced by the truth of the Trinity impressed on all that exists, political unity must never be totalitarian, since this is opposed to the loving non-totalitarian truth of the Trinity, but rather is an assimilating unity that permits legitimate diversity.  Ratzinger, cautiously following Arnold Toynbee’s rejection of Oswald Spengler’s deterministic one-way only biologistic concept of history, which includes political history, brings out the freedom and incomprehensibility of the political processes by proposing more of a “voluntaristic view that places its bets on the powers of creative minorities and on exceptional individuals.”
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Since he asserts that exceptional individuals, in particular the saints, such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, rather than an ideal political system, is how Christianity transforms the political, Ratzinger insists that the eschatological Kingdom of God as proposed by faith is not in itself “a political norm of political activity.”  In rejecting faith as a political norm for political activity he writes, “The Kingdom of God which Christ promises does not consist in a modification of our earthly circumstances ... That Kingdom is found in those persons whom the finger of God has touched and who have allowed themselves to be made God’s sons and daughters.  Clearly, such a transformation can only take place through death.  For this reason, the Kingdom of God, salvation in its fullness, cannot be deprived of its connection with dying.” 

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This view of Ratzinger is in accordance with his manner of defining truth as ultimately a personal reality and not as located in a general, ideal practice set forth by a political ideology.  By being personal, truths of faith are primarily relevant for causing conversions in individuals through their transformation in Christ and not in bringing about a structural political change.  Once again, the non-direct political, but not a-political, example set by Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her sisters well exemplifies this ecclesial way of engaging and challenging the political context she is situated in.

In summary, despite Ratzinger’s positive appraisal for democratic socialism, as primarily understood in reference to the German SPD party, he makes, as demonstrated previously, a clear distinction between political opinion and ecclesial faith.  This distinction follows from his moderate integration of the reason-faith relation that respects a clear differentiation between political reasoning and truths of faith.  

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According to Ratzinger the papacy is to be especially respectful of this distinction by taking care not to side with any one political party.  In this way, he writes, the pope as a non-political center “can be effective against the drift into dependence on political systems or the pressures emanating from our civilization.”  “[O]nly by having such a center” argues Ratzinger “can the faith of Christians secure a clear voice in the confusion of ideologies.” 

Furthermore, according to Ratzinger, in her present “painful ‘between’” state on earth the Church (in this context understood through the ordained and consecrated life) shares in the suffering of mankind “from within” by relating to the world non-politically.  She does so, asserts Ratzinger, by offering moral norms for politics and not by presenting herself as an ideal “political norm of political activity.”  For Ratzinger, the fundamental moral norm to be defended by the Church within the political arena is the right to life.  The killing of the innocent, which includes abortion, “cannot”, declares Ratzinger, “be made right by any law.”  While, for Ratzinger, the Church, as publicly represented by the bishops, is to be a moral authority in the world she is neither to focus her efforts on addressing specific political/economic issues nor is she to advocate any one political ideology.  This does not mean she may not legitimately critique in a broad way specific economic/political positions and events such as the US led invasion of Iraq.  However, it is not her role to come up with a detailed political/economic plan to serve as a blue print for the US, or any other country, to follow.  

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By refusing to be directly political, the Church especially through her bishops and other public representatives, writes Ratzinger, maintains her non-political identity as “an open space of reconciliation among the parties” while avoiding “becoming a party herself.”  Even though Ratzinger does not want the Church, as narrowly defined by the clergy and consecrated life, to officially advocate any one ideology he does not intend this to be interpreted that individuals, including bishops, are not permitted to express their private opinions in this matter.  As we have seen Ratzinger, in expressing his personal opinion, not to be confused with ecclesial faith, clearly states, “In many respects democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine; in any case, it contributed toward the formation of a social consciousness.”  We will now answer the question of how Ratzinger’s private political/economic leanings and public, sacramental representation of the Catholic Church are relevant for the US?  

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Ratzinger’s Political Views in the Context of US Politics:  

As is quite evident in the current US political climate, Socialism is portrayed negatively by both mainstream Democrats and Republicans.  According to a recent poll done by Pew Research, “The word 'socialism' triggers a negative reaction for most Americans, but certainly not for all. Six-in-ten (60%) people say they have a negative reaction to the word, while just 31% have a positive reaction. Those numbers are little changed from April 2010.”  The negative association that the term socialism bears in the US has a particular impact on those who are running for office or are in office.  The term is typically used in order to either discredit an opponent or to reassure the voter that a candidate, by not being a socialist, is a moderate.  

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For example, as reported by Politico, the presidential candidate Mitt Romney avoided calling President Barack Obama a socialist directly since, “I don't use the word socialist or I haven't so far, but I do agree that the president's approach is government heavy, government intensive, and it's not working.”  In commenting on Romney’s statement, Alexander Burns, writing for Politico, then states, “That answer is consistent with Romney's general approach to speaking about the president, describing Obama as a good and well intentioned person who's not up to the job of turning the country around.”  Implied within this comment is that Obama would not be a good and well intentioned person if he were directly promoting socialist ideology.  Later, in his 2012 book, No Apology, Romney attempts to discredit President Obama by associating him indirectly with socialism by writing, “It is an often-remarked-upon irony that at a time when Europe is moving away from socialism and its many failures, President Obama is moving us toward that direction.”  To counteract such an opinion, President Obama explicitly distanced himself from socialism, “When” reports The Nation, “he began talking deficit reduction last summer—with a proposal for a little bit of tax fairness combined with a suggestion that he was open to negotiations with regard to the future of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—Obama went out of his way to explain that his was not ‘some wild-eyed socialist position.’”  

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However, as was described in the first section of this essay similar programs were advocated by the Socialists in Germany, in particular Theodor Christian Lohmann, who under Otto von Bismarck helped to draft Germany’s social security plans.  Lohmann in Communismus, Socialismus, Christenthum proposed reforming Germany by looking to socialist theories for inspiration.

In contrast with the general US fear of socialism, which can be understood as an excessive reaction to the European revolutions of 1848 and the subsequent cold war, Ratzinger is not irrationally frightened by the mere prospect of socialism.  He recognizes it as a political system that, along with other political systems, can be compatible with Christianity as long as it is not expressed according to the totalitarian version.  Democratic socialism, for Ratzinger, served as a “salutary counterbalance” between more radical positions.

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Revolution of 1848
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Starting from its initial premise, democratic socialism was able to become part of the two existing models, as a salutary counterbalance to the radical liberal positions, enriching and correcting them.  It proved, furthermore, to be something that transcended denominational affiliations: in England it was the party of the Catholics, who could not feel at home either in the Protestant-conservative camp or among the liberals.  In Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm, too, many Catholic centrists felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. 

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The “two existing models” that Ratzinger refers to, (the laicist model in which all religions are completely relegated to the private sphere, a tendency in France, and a state supported Church model, evident in German history) do not have direct parallels in the US, especially in relationship to US Catholics who do not as a block of voters gravitate towards one specific party.  Nonetheless, the concept of democratic socialism serving as a “salutary counterbalance” is something that the US political arena could benefit from.  Currently, US politics tends to be bipolar, either Democratic or Republican.  A third intermediary party, whether socialistic or not may help the US political environment to be get out of its entrenched binary thought, become less polemic and more open to dialogue and genuine listening to opposing sides and viewpoints, in accordance with the Catholic concept, inspired by the Trinity, of an assimilating political unity and not a totalitarian political unity.

With that said it is important to acknowledge that Western Europe, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, has been described as experiencing a Eurosclerosis.  This term is used in reference to Western Europe’s difficulty in funding their welfare state, their wide spread low birth rates, their rapidly aging populations, their high unemployment rates, and their slow job growth.  Taking these aspects into account, the question arises as to whether the Western European social welfare state model is a viable one for the US to pattern itself on.  Furthermore, as has been acknowledged by many, if Western Europe had not accepted US aid, for example in post WWII Marshall Plan, and had not relied on US leadership and military protection it would have been impossible for any Western European country to develop and sustain their welfare programs.  Likewise, since the US was relied upon, along with constant barrage of criticisms, as the Western military might to keep chaotic anti-Western European forces at bay, the US was not able to develop a similar welfare program.  It could not, since a significant portion of tax dollars, which could have been used to build up a social safety net, was instead used to support a US military budget that far exceeds any Western European military budget.  Finally, it has been pointed out that Democratic Socialism has been relatively successful in small countries, such as in Denmark and Sweden, since they are small and homogenous.  In contrast, the US is a large and highly diverse country politically, economically and culturally.  Could these differences pose an unsurmountable obstacle for the US in its attempts to enact a similar democratic socialism?

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The issue of whether democratic socialism is viable for the US is not, though, the main one that Ratzinger’s reflection on politics has to offer for US politics.  (Even though, as has been pointed out, a third major party that shares some features in common with European Democratic Socialism could greatly help in ending the current hardened bi-polar political scene in the US.)  What the US can greatly benefit from Ratzinger’s political views is his recognition that since all political parties are necessarily imperfect, theological attempts to so integrate faith with political reason that the two become practically indiscernible from each other ought to be rejected.  Since any political ideology, by being reflective of this fallen world, are imperfect, it is imperative for the Church, in its official capacity, to remain ascetically detached from political parties while, at the same time, encouraging a multitude of political expressions, as long as they are not totalitarian, to spring up and in their competitive struggle for votes and thus purify to one another in their overlapping relationships.  

Ratzinger’s political views on the proper relationship of Church and political ideologies are a direct outcome of his understanding of how reason is to relate to faith.  According to him, although reason and faith are integrated and related to one another, they, at the same time retain a degree of autonomy within their perspective realms.  He, therefore, opposes attempts to couple faith with socialism, as has been proposed in Europe, or in the case of the US, with capitalism as evident in more conservative politics typically associated with the Republican Party. Marrying any political ideology to faith would, according to Ratzinger, abolish, to the detriment of both faith and politics, the vital distinction between faith and politics.  Faith suffers in such a scheme since, at the price of being immanent by being totally integrated with one political system, it loses its transcendence.  Politics likewise suffers in this system since, argues Ratzinger, it would no longer be accountable to a reality that is distinct from it, thus greatly increasing the possibility of political regimes veering off into totalitarianism. According to Ratzinger, by maintaining a clear distinction from any one political system, faith, in respecting the different qualities that each system has to offer, is better able to come to the aid of all political systems.  

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The essential way, for Ratzinger, that faith comes to the aid of political systems is by defending truths that are naturally known within the political realm but often are either ignored or forgotten.  This means that the principle space where truths of faith overlap political reason is defined by positions on specific moral teaching such as on abortion.  Within this space, in which concerns of the Church and concerns of politics overlap one another, the Church, as she is currently doing through the US Bishops, is to remind the political sphere of moral truths that are received by man through his reason and affirmed by the hierarchy of the Church.  In this moral sense faith as lived out by the Church is normative for politics but its normative dimension stops here. Faith is not, contends Ratzinger, to be seen as “a political norm of political activity.”   The truths that the Church is to uphold as normative for political activity, reminds Ratzinger in a memorandum sent to Cardinal McCarrick in 2004 and made public in July of the same year, do not all have the same weight, nor do all have the same degree of clarity on what constitutes a position from being right from wrong.  For example, when it comes to abortion and euthanasia, the Catholic Church teaches that the only legitimate position to hold is that these acts are intrinsically evil, and, consequently, can never be morally justified.  In making these distinctions Ratzinger writes:

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

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Although the Church, as represented by Ratzinger, clearly grants the greatest moral weight to moral issues dealing with the beginning of life and the end of life, this does not mean that moral issues that concern men and women between these two stages are of no importance to the Church.  They certainly are, as repeatedly asserted by Pope Francis.  When it is acknowledged that there exists a healthy, legitimate diversity of opinion among US Catholic on how to address issues such as immigration, taxation and health care reform, then the marked tendency for US Catholics to idolize either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party will diminish.  In addition, when US Catholics resist the tendency to idolize a political party while demonizing the opposing party, they, including those who rightly cannot in conscience vote for the Democratic Party that seems wedded to a pro-abortion position, will be freed to see that even the party they oppose cannot be wrong on all issues in all ways, especially ones concerning pragmatic thought and application.  Idolization, forbidden by the first commandment, prevents one from acknowledging deficiencies within the political party one adopts and blinds one to the need of a purifying presence of another party, and hopefully the purifying presence of more than one.

In summary, the essential teaching US Catholics can learn from Ratzinger’s thought is that the maintenance of clear and not hazy boundaries between political reasoning and truths of faith is ultimately beneficial to politics since it allows the Church to be “an open space of reconciliation among the parties”  and, as a result, grants to Catholics the interior freedom to judge a political party they may adopt according to the supranational ethics encouraged by the Church. The moral supranational ethics of the Church founded in universal truths also encourages Catholics to transcend their political party when it tends towards totalitarianism and to avoid idolizing the political party they adopt.

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Conclusion:
In this essay, we have distinguished Democratic Socialism from totalitarian socialism.  Next we examined the historical context in which Ratzinger positively appraises socialism in its democratic form. This was followed by examining, in light of Germany’s political history, Ratzinger’s take not only on democratic socialism but also on all political ideologies in relationship to the Church’s mission.  Finally, in the context of present day US politics, Ratzinger’s assessment of democratic socialism, while insisting that the Church is never to officially promote any political ideology no matter how attractive it may appear, was discussed. 

These various steps in the thought of Ratzinger were taken with the hope of finding a way to lessen the US’s highly polarized political environment.  We saw that in Europe democratic socialism, by mediating between two political options, helped to bring about greater dialogue and cooperation.  In stating this Ratzinger writes, “Starting from its initial premise, democratic socialism was able to become part of the two existing models, as a salutary counterbalance to the radical liberal positions, enriching and correcting them.”  However, upon appraising some key differences between US and Western Europe political and economic history the question arose as to whether democratic socialism could ever serve the US political environment in such a positive manner.  However, Ratzinger’s ascetic detachment as an official representative of the Church even from persuasive aspects of Democratic Socialism can teach US Catholic a very important lesson.  Following the example of Mother Teresa’s indirect political influence the best way, as proposed by Ratzinger, for the Catholic Church, sacramentally speaking, in the US to have a positive effect on politics is to avoid presenting the faith as “a political norm of political activity.”  This means that great caution is to be taken not to be tempted to wed the faith to what is currently defined as liberal politics or conservative politics.  As pointed out by Ratzinger, such a marriage would contradict the very nature of Christianity, especially as it was lived out in its early stages.  In explaining this Ratzinger writes:

When Christianity was looking in the Roman world for a word with which it could express, in a synthetic way understandable to everyone, what Jesus Christ meant to them, it came across the word conservator, which had designated in Rome the essential duty and the highest service necessary to render to mankind.  But this very title the Christians could not and would not transfer to their Redeemer; with that term, indeed, though could not translate the word Messiah or Christ or describe the task of the Savior of the world.  From the perspective of the Roman Empire, indeed, it would necessarily seem that the most important duty was that of preserving the situation of the empire against all internal and external threats, since this empire embodied a period of peace and justice in which men could live in security and dignity…Nevertheless, Christians could not simply want everything to remain as it was…The fact that Christ could be described, not as Conservator, but as Salvator certainly had no political or revolutionary significance, but it necessarily indicated the limits of mere conservatism and pointed to a dimension of human life that goes beyond the causes of peace and order, which are the proper subject of politics.

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May we as Catholics in the US remind ourselves of this most important lesson taught to us by the early Christians.  Being a follower of Christ does not necessitate that one identifies with a conservative or a liberal political party.  Rather, being a follower of Christ, being a Catholic, primarily entails an ever greater participation in Christ as savior who, regardless of the reigning political ideologies of the day, wishes to purify and redeem all of existence, all ideologies.  As His disciples our principle mission, while not diminishing the role of politics in this world, is to proclaim “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” by relying not on worldly, political wisdom but on the power that comes from the Spirit so that our faith will “rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

Questions:

• Is the political system of democracy necessarily coupled with capitalism?  Why or why not?  

• Can the political system of democracy be coupled with socialism?  Why or why not?

• Can a democracy become totalitarian?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

• What determines when a political system is no longer compatible with Catholic faith?

• Historically, why did Ratzinger claim, “In many respects democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine; in any case, it contributed toward the formation of a social consciousness.”

• Do you agree with Ratzinger’s claim, why or why not?

• According to Ratzinger, how may the Church, when presenting herself officially, legitimately engage the political world?

• Based on the article, how do you suggest a priest, when publicly speaking, represent the Church’s relationship to politics?

RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response from Sean Hurt: 

Like I said in previous comments, in a past-life, I used to consider myself a socialist. So, Ronda sent me this chapter, I think, expecting me to have lot to say about democratic socialism. Rather, I don’t at all. It sort of leaves me cold—like ashes of an old flame. I’m more interested in Ratzinger’s warning about faith, that it’s not “a political norm of political activity” that finds expression in a particular form of governance.

An aspect of the gospel that is so astounding to me is that Jesus' message is perpetually fresh. Christ's truths are so true and yet so impossible... It's not just that they seem unlikely, but they're simply impractical. For example, can I offer up my other cheek or be a lily of the fields? Can I sell all my belongings, hate my mother and carry a cross? As Chesterton pointed out, there is nothing about Jesus' moral teaching that resembles a platitude. I think that's because the heart of the Gospel is rejection of the world for the sake of a deeper reality. It's a fresh message in every age, but nothing if not extreme. 

So, there is no resting for us Christians. It's not a task to be done, but rather an unending ascent up God's holy mountain. In this sense, I can agree with the notion that faith is not “a political norm of political activity”. We cannot content ourselves with human governance because we were designed for God’s kingdom. The saints lead us ever on, ever closer to perfection. Any form of human government ultimately falls way short. Thus, zealous advocacy of a particular government seems to me a dangerous faith in mankind’s self-salvation, and a dangerous level of collusion with the world.   

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<![CDATA[Lessons from Fr. Joseph Owens about Metaphysics]]>Tue, 02 Sep 2014 03:20:32 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/lessons-from-fr-joseph-owens-about-metaphysicsPicture
Lessons from Fr. Joseph Owens about Metaphysics for a Twenty-first Century Catholic Synthesis
by
Richard Geraghty, PhD

Dr. Richard Geraghty is presently teaching philosophy at the House of Studies on the Eternal Word Television Network grounds in Birmingham, Alabama. He is also teaching in the Distance Learning program at Holy Apostles. He has an MA in English from Ohio State and an MA and PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto.  His thesis director was Father Joseph Owens of the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies on the topic The Object of Moral Philosophy According to St. Thomas Aquinas that was later published under the same title. Dr. Geraghty’s other book is The Right Way to Live: A Study of Plato’s Republic for Catholic Students.
Note from Dr. Chervin: In the first sixty years of the twentieth century every Catholic university student had to take metaphysics. The result was a common vocabulary for such graduates, no matter how diverse their majors, when discoursing about such subjects as body and soul or proofs for the existence of God. When metaphysics became an elective, in short order, many Catholic university graduates simply thought that belief in the immortality of the soul or in the existence of God were simply matters of faith. By 2013 this view, augmented by the “cult of tolerance” has led to an inability of many educated Catholics to communicate such truths to sceptics or doubters. This leads to a kind of polarity in the Church between those whose faith is supported by reason and those who may tend to remain Catholics more on the basis of family tradition or blind faith. Dr. Geraghty, a professor of metaphysics for many years, sheds light on how important the study of metaphysics can be as a bridge between faith and reason.  
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Lessons From Fr. Joseph Owens

The purpose of this paper is to cast some light on the challenges confronting the academic program of a seminary and college like Holy Apostles by analyzing the Foreword written by Father Joseph Owens, CSSR. for his book intended for  undergraduates entitled An Elementary Christian Metaphysics. That there are challenges, particularly in the last fifty years or so, is obvious. The answer of Holy Apostles and similar institutions has been and is now to implement a pre-theologian’s program devoted to two years of philosophy in preparation for four years of theology done according to the mind of St. Thomas Aquinas. This program quite naturally brings to my mind the following questions drawn from the Foreword of An Elementary Christian Metaphysics: 1) What is an elementary metaphysics? 2) What is a Christian metaphysics? 3) What is a metaphysics done according to the principles of St. Thomas Aquinas? It is my thesis that the answers Father Owens gives to these questions give us an appreciation of the program of Holy Apostles’ College and Seminary. 

What Is an Elementary Metaphysics?


Owens says: “The following text is called an elementary metaphysics. Its aim is confined to arousing and developing in rudimentary form a habit of mind which will equip the undergraduate student to approach metaphysical subjects” (p. v). It is to form a rudimentary habit of mind beneficial to any educated man or woman. Thus the primary goal is not to train professional metaphysicians or philosophers. The argument is his argument. He speaks as one who already has a philosophical or metaphysical habit of mind acquired after many years of study in the history of philosophy. Therefore he marks off the steps of the argument and then connects them, thus providing the student with an example of what metaphysical reasoning is. It has starting points which are self-evident, middle steps which are connected rigorously, and a conclusion which follows necessarily. It is a demonstration from beginning to end. 
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While some degree of memorizing terms is part of the process (of learning metaphysics) the emphasis is upon understanding the steps of the argument. A philosophical habit of mind is engendered by doing the actual reasoning; there is no substitute for this intellectual labor. The student of course will not catch it on the first bounce. He will have to read and reread the argument to understand it. In metaphysics constant repetition is the mother of insight. What makes reading Owens particularly interesting is his claim that man can by the use of reason alone demonstrate in the most rigorous fashion the propositions that God is a union of essence and existence, that the human soul is immortal, that metaphysics is the highest off all the human sciences. He proceeds to demonstrate what he claims. It is up to the students whether they can make the demonstrations for themselves. Obviously it will take them many years to do this. A six-months semester course will not be enough. But in following the argument they will already have the beginning of a philosophical habit of mind. They will know what they know. And especially they will know what they don’t know. Thus they will be seekers all their lives for an understanding of metaphysics as the highest of all the human sciences for the rest of their lives just as Owens was a seeker all his life. Philosophy is too large a subject for one lifetime, even that of a genius.

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Because philosophy is the highest of the human sciences, Owens takes for granted that it has a place in any undergraduate or graduate program. No one today denies a place to the sciences of mathematics, astronomy, biology, physics and the rest. Why should metaphysics be an exception? It is a human achievement just as the other sciences are. Indeed it is the highest of strictly human intellectual achievements and should be part of any sound program in college education. Hence college students, especially those bound for the seminary, should study metaphysics. Both human reason and the directives of the bishops prescribe this. The philosophical habit of mind has been standard equipment for the educated human being since the time of the ancient Greeks. Lay students and seminarians should be heirs to that tradition. But they should be working heirs, so to speak. You can inherit money without working. But you can’t inherit a philosophical habit of mind without thinking things through. 

Holy Apostles embodies this tradition, thus contributing to the intellectual welfare, not only of lay Catholics and seminarians but of the nation as a whole. The nation has been swamped in the atmosphere that suggests that the study of the modern sciences is the legitimate use of formal reason. As an institution Holy Apostles resists this atmosphere. The highest use of the human intellect is to grasp the truth, to be contemplative, not to change the world or to be practical. To be contemplative is to be truly and fully human. 

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What Is a Christian Metaphysics?

Owens then turns his attention to the notion of a Christian metaphysics. He is using the term “Christian” in the way Pope Leo XIII used it when he called for the reformation of Catholic philosophy. In that view the philosophies found in the theological works of figures like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas may be called Christian. Since there has been controversy about this matter, Owens proceeds to show that the term “Christian philosophy” is sanctioned by long tradition. But before detailing his argument, I will make one note on the difference between faith on the one hand and revealed theology and natural philosophy on the other. Faith comes from what God in the person of Christ has revealed to the Apostles from whom the pope and the bishops are descended. 

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There is only one faith, one priesthood, one Church. That is not because St. Peter and his successors managed to take the truths revealed to them by Christ and then connect them into one coherent whole. Only in God is the message understood as a whole. When it was revealed in human language by Christ, it took the form of mysteries which the human mind cannot fit together in the way it can with the truths derived from its experience of the world. The mind of God in itself is beyond the mind of any man, even that of the Apostles. Thus in order to preserve the purity of this faith down through the ages, St. Peter and his successors have been granted the gift of infallibility when preaching officially about faith and morals. The standard given them by Christ is his teachings. They have but to recall what those teachings and their developments are to have the truth. They are not necessarily professional theologians. They have the higher authority to teach and rule because Christ has given it to them alone.

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Plato
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Augustine
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Aristotle
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Aquinas
Nevertheless theologians have a role in passing on the faith. For example St. Augustine took the best philosophy available in his day, Neo-Platonism, considered it from the viewpoint of the Catholic faith, and created a theology. Likewise St. Thomas Aquinas took the best philosophy of his day, Aristotle’s, considered it from the viewpoint of faith, and created a theology. In doing so he took great care to harmonize his work with that of St. Augustine and other theologians. Since theologies are human works, there are many of them. There is only one faith revealed by Christ. But there are many theologies because there are many minds applying the one deposit of faith to the human condition. 
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A sample of Owen’s argument of how philosophy can be an aid the faith is the Church’s use of the term “transubstantiation” to describe the mystery of bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. It is not on the authority of Aristotle that she does so. Nor is it on the authority of St. Thomas. It is by her own authority that she chooses to use this term as a great help in illustrating the mystery of the Eucharist. Here the mystery is not cleared up. It is just given a form that can be used to counter the subtleties found in false teachings. 

Let me expand on this point by Owens. Consider the teaching of Aristotle and Aquinas that all material things are composed of 1) a form which makes a body the kind of thing it is, (for example a rock, a plant, an animal or a man) and 2) prime matter, the underlying bridge which explains the fact that earth can be taken up by plants which can be eaten by cows which in turn can be eaten by men who in turn die and go back into earth from which they push up daisies, thus starting the whole process of substantial changes all over again. These transformations are as much a fact now as they ever were. Aristotle and Aquinas proved that the teaching of hylomorphism is the only explanation that explains the fact that one substance can change into another.

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Now the fashionable explanation today is that modern science has shown that all bodies are composed of atoms or various particles that by their movements account for all changes in bodies. In this view the teaching of hylomorphism has been outmoded, been put on the shelf along with other theories typical of a prescientific past. Consequently some modern theologians have trouble with the term “transubstantiation.” But they shouldn’t. The fact that bodies are composed of atoms does not displace the explanation that all bodies are composed of substantial form and prime matter. It does not explain how bodies of earth can change into plants, which change into animals, which change into men who finally die and turn into earth and plants. The philosophical theory of atomism does not explain the ordinary facts of experience that substances can change essentially no matter which the modern schools of thought say. 

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Now the Church as such does not get directly into this philosophical debate. Rather she takes literally the event when Christ took up bread, blessed it, and said it was his body. He then took up the chalice, blessed it, and said it was his blood. That is her own teaching based on the words of Christ. When she was looking for words to enshrine this teaching, she came upon Aquinas, who followed Aristotle in saying that bodies undergo their own substantial transformation every day of the week. Now there is a great difference between, for instance, the natural mystery of plants becoming animals through the process of digestion, and the supernatural mystery of bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ through the words of a priest. Nevertheless the Church herself has sanctioned the use of the term “transubstantiation” to ward off heretics who would play fast and loose with the teaching of Christ. Thus to hold to the term of transubstantiation is not only good theology. It is incidentally good philosophy as far as explaining the substantial changes still taking place today as they have taken place since the beginning of time. 

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A sound philosophy can serve the faith of the Church. The faith of the Church can preserve a sound philosophy in an incidental way. In insisting on the truth that bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of Christ, she gives shelter to the ordinary truth that earth and water do become plants which become animals which become men who then go back to earth and water again. A sound view of ordinary experience helps to maintain a sound view of supernatural experience. A sound view of supernatural experience helps to maintain a sound view of ordinary experience. Theology and philosophy go together like the two wings of a bird flying up to the fullness of truth. 

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Consider another use of the hylomorphic teaching in helping to understand the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. The only way we can know with certainty that human beings will get their bodies back again is that it has been revealed by God. There is no evidence this side of the grave that can support such a conclusion. But there is evidence from ordinary human experience that the human soul is immortal because it is a spirit. Plato saw that a spirit cannot be poisoned, crushed, cut up, or destroyed because it has no bodily parts. Once the soul is in existence, it will live forever even after the death of the body. Plato had no great difficulty in taking this position because of his view that the soul is one substance and the body is another, the soul being like a driver and the body like a chariot being driven. Aristotle had trouble with this view because he held that man is a single substance composed of a body and a soul, which is another way of saying that man is a single substance where an intellectual soul or form actualizes the potential found in prime matter. On this view man is a chariot which drives itself. Now in the case of brute animals there is no difficulty about the sensitive soul surviving death. It doesn’t. A sensitive soul needs the organs of the body to operate. Thus when an animal dies, its soul evaporates, so to speak. Aristotle also taught that the rational soul has an immaterial operation called reasoning. But in order to reason man needed the data drawn from the senses. For it was not the nature of man to be a pure spirit, as Plato held. Rather it was the nature of man to be a body informed by a rational form or soul. What would be the point of holding that the soul lived forever if it could not use its intelligence to know anything, even itself? Hence we do not see Aristotle emphasizing the eternal existence of the human soul as Plato. 

How did Aquinas handle this difficulty? He sided with Aristotle in saying that man is a single substance of body and soul, matter and form. He also sided with Aristotle in saying that the soul of man is dependent upon the senses for its knowledge. Yet he concluded that the soul after death could still operate, was aware of itself and of other beings. What was his evidence for saying so? It could not be the evidence or ordinary human experience, which, of course, is the experience of life on this side of the grave, the same evidence that Aristotle had. Then from where did Aquinas draw his evidence? It was from his faith in the teaching of the Church that after death each and every soul was judged by Christ. By faith, then, he reached the conclusion that although the soul was not the pure spirit that an angel was, it still could be conscious of itself, its past activities, and its judge even though the soul did not animate a body as it did on earth. Aristotle could not have drawn this conclusion because he did not have the faith. Aquinas drew it because he did have faith in the teachings of Church.

It follows that between the time of the death of human being and the Last Day a human being is not fully a human being because it does not have a body. While this does not detract either from the joy of the saved or the agony of the damned, it does show the importance of the body on the Last Day. Only then will human beings become fully so. For it is of their very nature that they are not angels, pure spirits, but composites of body and soul. For the saved, the bodies will be glorified bodies. 

This kind of analysis would be impossible without a knowledge of the philosophical demonstrations involved in the teaching of hylomorphism. Nor would it be possible without having faith in the teaching of the particular judgment after death and the general judgment at the end of the world. Again we see the power of faith, which is available to the unlearned.  But it is also available to the learned who then can then do the kind of theology that looks for help from philosophy and the kind of Christian philosophy that can be of assistance to theology.

An accurate knowledge of metaphysics can be of great help in understanding as much as humanly possible such mysteries as the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation. The method to be used is to take the truth of the mysteries for granted and then consider the role that metaphysics has played in its elucidation of such concepts as nature, person, soul, or body by considering the data supplied by human experience of the world as it is.

In doing theology, philosophy is a great help in understanding as much as humanly possible about God’s revelation that he, the One and Only, created the world from nothing, that angels are pure spirits, or that man is a composite of body and soul. These truths taught to children in the catechism as preambles to faith can be sharpened by the study of Christian metaphysics. In doing this the educated adult not only has a stronger intellectual hold on these religious truths. He also has a hold upon how to rank the realities he sees on earth in terms of their ultimate causes. In knowing the relative importance of God, angels, humans, animals, plants, and minerals, the metaphysician has the ability to rank the various sciences dealing with these objects. He has the habit of mind which enables him to deal all the data of human experience, not just the data supplied by the modern sciences of physics, chemistry, biology, and the rest.

We are speaking of course of a Christian metaphysics. There are also atheistic, agnostic, pagan, German or French metaphysics. They all can lay a claim to be philosophical because they all start with some kind of human experience of this world and then derive their consequences in the public and precise way of formal inference. But there is no rule that excludes Christians from looking at the world, deriving their first principle from it, and drawing conclusions that follow from first principles. 
The modern philosophers will of course try to push Catholics out of the circle of philosophers simply because they are Catholics with a Catholic’s interests and concerns that happen to be profoundly human concerns much deeper than those of physicists, biologists, or sociologists. Catholic philosophers refuse to be pushed out of the circle, not in a defensive or frightened way, but in the confident way of people of faith knowing that they have something to contribute to the Human City whether the powers-that-be approve or not. You can’t keep a good man (or woman) down who holds on to their humanity even when they are philosophizing. Their Catholic faith, which they hold in common with children, illiterates, and ordinary people, places them in the flock with the pope as the Vicar of Christ. Their faith enables them to hold onto their humanity. What greater guide do philosophers need in the arduous task of showing what the use of reason alone is capable of doing?     
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What Is a Metaphysics Done According to the Principles of St. Thomas Aquinas?

Owens says: “Though it [his book] derives its inspiration and its guidance overwhelmingly from the reading of St. Thomas Aquinas, it is nevertheless quite hesitant in making the claim to the title of a Thomistic metaphysics” (p. vii). He continues: “The interpretation of St. Thomas’ metaphysical principles are in fact so widely divergent today that any dogmatic claim to present faithfully the original Thomistic doctrine must be regarded as presumptuous, or at least premature” (p. vii). These statements were quite a surprise to me when I first read them over fifty years ago. I was educated under the impression you could take the Summa Theologica and extract the philosophical principles involved. But Owens, following his teacher Gilson, insists that the only purely metaphysical exposition that Aquinas ever wrote was the De Ente et Essentia. Consequently Owens refers to this work in his footnotes while he develops his argument in the body of his main text. The interpretation of the De Ente et Essentia is of course that of Joseph Owens, an interpretation about which other Thomists differ. 

Since I side with Owens on this matter, I have been led to the conviction that the metaphysical tradition is not the same as the tradition of faith. In the faith there is absolutely one authoritative teaching, one pope, one priesthood, one set of sacraments. Should there be any disputes about any of these matters, they are to be settled by the Magisterium of the Church. Now the Church has not decided on the difference between Owens and his opponents. It is not her province. All that she has done is to make St. Thomas Aquinas the Common Doctor when introducing students to their theological and philosophical studies. After that professors and students are free to study others in the Catholic tradition. There is plenty of room for all when it comes to various theologies and philosophies.

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The main extrinsic standard to be used is faith in the teachings of the Church. But even here we have no absolutely clear standard which dispels all confusion. Mary wondered how she a virgin could become a mother. Joseph wondered how his betrothed could be with child when they had not yet come together. And while the angels sang at the birth of the Savior, the Holy Family had to flee into Egypt. It all worked out. God saw to that. But who would claim that the working out was a simple matter of having faith without worrying about where they were going. It then happened that Christ has a quiet life in a village for thirty years. When he finally entered his public life preaching that he was the Messiah, he was crucified for his effort by the powers-that-be. While faith gives the confidence to say Christ is winning even now while the devil seems to have overcome the world, it is a faith that follows the bumpy road amid the encircling gloom, as Newman says. Full clarity comes only with the sight of God face to face in the Beatific Vision. But you have to die first to get to that vision.

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There is a kind of scandal to the followers of St. Thomas Aquinas in the fact that many of his basic principles are still matters of dispute. But that is simply the way that human beings have in trying to understand the human work of a human being though he be a genius. But there seems to be even more of a scandal in seeing faithful Catholics differing about the best way the pope should deal with the modern world. But neither of these disputes about the nature of philosophy or about the Church’s stance to the modern world are really scandals. They are simply the efforts of the faithful in taking one step at a time in discovering what the truth is. Only at the Last Judgment will the veil be completely lifted. In the meantime the faithful muddle through as best they can, certain of the goal they are seeking, but uncertain about the precise way to get there. 

As an institution still existing in this modern world, a remarkable achievement, Holy Apostles College and Seminary embodies the tradition of faith and reason being the two wings by which mankind rises to the fullness of truth. But the line of flight is not the straight shot of a rocket thundering off into the sky. Rather it is the rather wobbly flight of wings moving up and down until the battered birds get to where they’re going.   

The question naturally arises as to whether a knowledge of theology and philosophy is necessary to attain this sight. Of course not! Supernatural faith is given both to the educated and the non-educated.  But let us recall that supernatural faith came to pagans who already had a natural knowledge of God. They had reason and therefore the ability to see the existence of the world as an effect of God’s power. Having reason, they had a conscience that distinguished between right and wrong actions. Thus even before the coming of revelation through the message of Abraham, the Prophets and Jesus Christ, men were able to be saved. But to enter the Gates of Paradise Christ would have to open those gates, which he did by his resurrection and descent into hell. 

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We may conclude, then, that even those who have never heard of Christ may also be saved if they follow their conscience. Now it is hard for us to judge whether individuals do so or not. Today many have been born and raised in a household of atheists or agnostics and so are not responsible for the beliefs they have inherited. How responsible they are for maintaining these beliefs is hard to say. There is the possibility that they have been inconsistent, adhering intellectually to atheistic or agnostics views that are against the natural law while at the same time being merciful and just in their personal relations to others. There are good people despite the evil of their general professions just as there are evil people despite the goodness of their general profession. For better or worse, people can be very inconsistent. Only God is qualified to judge the individual exactly as far as his or her eternal destiny is concerned. While the Church gives the divinely inspired signposts on the path to salvation, God is the final judge of the human being.  

The upshot is that the formal study of metaphysics is beneficial to all those who have the opportunity for higher education. Did not Plato say that metaphysics was preparation for death, which was the gateway to an eternal afterlife? Did not Aristotle say that the contemplation of the gods was the highest activity of human beings in this life? To separate the study of metaphysics, the highest of the human sciences, from the study of the other sciences, which is the practice of the modern university, is a great crime against human reason. This separation will not reduce man to the status of a pagan but rather to the status far below the pagan, that of the totally inhuman that would make even the animals blush if they could. Animals cannot go against their nature. Human beings can, the banishment of metaphysics from the university being a prime example.    



For Personal Reflection and Group Sharing:

• What was your understanding of the word “metaphysics” before reading Dr. Geraghty’s article?

• If you have studied metaphysics, what do you remember as most helpful?

• Do you think that Catholic university education is better with metaphysics being an elective rather than a required course? 

RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER:

Response of Kathleen Brouillette: 

A recent article on yahoo.com listed philosophy as one of the top five useless college majors, citing a high unemployment rate.  Yet that same article reminded me that the consequences of the lack of such education may be not merely unemployment or a decline in the ability to think and reason, but also the eternal loss of souls.

In Fr. Legault’s Logic course (Fr. Legault is a senior professor of Thomistic philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary) we learned Canadian children are required to take Logic from their earliest years.  The vast difference in the way my fellow students interpreted words through life experience rather than their true meaning in Logic showed me how much easier it would be for people to think and to communicate if we all meant the same thing when we speak.  Language is so critical!  If everyone were required to take courses in Metaphysics early in elementary education, we would be using a similar thought process.  While we might not be thinking exactly the same, or be even on the same page, we might be closer to being in the same book or, at least, in the same library, so to speak.  

When Catholic schools became the only ones to require Metaphysics, there was a breach in the educational process between Catholic and public schools in the U.S.  Now, with even Catholic schools no longer requiring Metaphysics and Logic, and so much reliance on technology, education is distancing itself from thinking.  

My granddaughter attends a Franciscan college where she is not even required to take a Catholic religion class, let alone Christian Metaphysics or (other courses in) Christian Philosophy.  Only one religion class is required and she can take Buddhism if she chooses!!  It is a frightening thing to look at the lack of hope in current generations.  It isn’t a far stretch to see that the lack of exposure to and understanding of Metaphysics is depriving our youth of belief in the existence God.  I have Confirmation students who have dropped out of the Religious Education Program because they do not believe in God.  Public schools and their methods are directly involved in such doubts, which lead to hopelessness.  They may even contribute to the loss of heaven for some souls.

We cannot decry the lack of attendance at our Masses and in our Religious Education Programs if we fail to guide our people.  Telling them there is a God and limiting their education to memorization of the Ten Commandments and the Seven Sacraments is not enough.  Unless we help them use their powers of reason to obtain a conviction regarding the existence of God, the corresponding legitimacy of His power and authority, and the promise of eternal life for those who love Him, there will be no faith, no hope, no love, no peace, and a sparsely populated heaven.

Response of David Tate:

Before starting my education in philosophy, I did not know the word metaphysics. If I thought about it, I probably would have gotten it confused as being some kind of weird synonym for paranormal.  Reese (Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion) defines the word as, “the study of ultimates”. Another source defines it as knowing, “what the real nature of things is.”  (The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Paul Edwards) Joseph Owens, in his own book, defines it as, “the study of what comes after the physical.” 

Many years ago, I was standing with someone, and we were looking through my telescope. After looking at a selection of objects, this person turned to me and asked, “What does it all mean?” This response for me typifies what most people seem to think about when they get the opportunity to see a baby born, or a blazing summer sunset, or fly above the earth in a jet at 35,000 feet.  If I had been asked what metaphysics means twenty years ago, I would have liked to have been one of those that answered metaphysically, “It’s about what it all means.”

For all seminarians, I would have to agree with Pope John Paul II, when he stated that,” a solid philosophical formation… is a necessary propaedeutic for theological studies.” (SAPIENTIA CHRISTIANA, 1979, #72) I feel that metaphysics should continue to be a required course for all students; including the lay students.

Response of Tommie Kim: 

The fact that the principle of human intellect and faith are inseparable enabled the Gospel propagation into the Western world.  John Paul II also mentions the important relationship between reason and faith in the encyclical Fides et Ratio. Only when we know and love God, can a human comprehend the truth of the self.    Faith is needed in order to realize that God exists in all events of our lives. Therefore, sound understanding of metaphysics will help build sound theology.  The autonomy of philosophy is necessary for human reason to reach truth.  Therefore, the Church needs to pay attention (to what is happening in the philosophical world) since a false philosophical approach leads into a denial of faith and often into atheism. For any school founded on Catholic faith, I believe that metaphysics needs to be a required course.  Atheistic tendencies are leading many people to pursue only worldly happiness. This tendency develops further into scientism, with its agenda that with scientific development man can dominate the world.  






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<![CDATA[Prayer]]>Fri, 29 Aug 2014 22:07:51 GMThttp://goodbooksmedia.com/toward-a-21st-century-catholic-world-view/prayerPicture
Prayer
by
Bryan Mercier


Bryan Mercier is a thirty-eight-year-old Catholic speaker and retreat leader. He has spoken to adults and teens for the last fifteen years on a wide variety of topics ranging from catechetics and faith formation, to morality, spirituality, and apologetics. He is a student in the MA program at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He has spoken at retreats, seminars, schools, parish missions, local, regional, and national conferences. He has spoken to audiences up to three thousand people and has aired on both TV and radio in different states. Bryan also runs a R.O.C.K. Group Ministries which puts on all-day retreats for Confirmation classes and other teen groups.  Finally, he has written many Catholic Tracts on a wide variety of topics and has recently started a blog. 
Note from Dr. Chervin:  The second half of the twentieth century saw what might be seen as an explosion of prayer: from Christians claiming to have received the gift of tongues, to many discovering how to become closely united with God in  silence at Eucharistic adoration chapels.  Where some abandoned childlike rosary beads, others found that traditional prayer became the source of great comfort—like an umbilical cord to their heavenly mother, Mary. Entering to the first decades of the twenty-first century I sense we are coming to an appreciation of many forms of prayer, old and new, as described so well in the chapter you are about to read.) 
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The Catholic Church has a wealth of wisdom and knowledge when it comes to prayer and the spiritual life. She possesses the greatest tradition of prayer in the history of the world and a track record that has produced countless saints, mystics, and everyday prayer warriors.  Yet, many people continue to be unaware of this spiritual gold mine.

Some individuals have a difficult time connecting with God in prayer.  Others find it difficult to keep a steady prayer life.  Still others possess a solid spirituality but seek to go deeper.  Later in this chapter, we will discuss how to pray along with the different prayer practices the Catholic Church offers.  However, in keeping with the theme of this book, it is first necessary to discuss the different polarizations and condemnations regarding prayer that stem from different groups within the Church.

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Unfortunately, there are always people within the Church who believe that their method of worship is correct or superior.  On the one hand, there may be those who consider traditional prayer as the only acceptable form.  On the other hand, there are those who may posit that a charismatic style of prayer and worship is superior.  There are extremists who assert that if the Mass is not in Latin, then it is not a valid Mass. (Apparently, they know more than the pope and the Holy Spirit who guides the Church).  Others assert that those who do not speak in tongues or utilize the charismatic gifts, are not spiritual or Holy Spirit filled.

Clearly, these extremes, these polarizations are untrue, and the false judgments need to end.  It is important not to condemn what the Church herself does not condemn.  This is the sort of immature spirituality that must be left behind.  Unity and understanding must be cultivated instead.  Just because you personally don’t not like the Latin Mass (or Praise and Worship music), does not mean that they are wrong or false.  The truth is that neither traditional prayer, nor charismatic prayer, is wrong.  Both are Catholic!  Both are authentic expressions of worship, and both are approved by the Church.  Both have an ancient tradition.  Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both are needed.  Moreover, both sides could learn something from the other, even if they still prefer their own style.

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God taught me this lesson many years ago.  Growing up in a traditional household, I was not exposed to anything charismatic until college.  It had never even crossed my mind that such a form of worship existed.  Then, I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville where a portion of the student population were traditional, a portion of them were vibrantly charismatic, and a portion considered themselves to be both (or to rid themselves of labels entirely).

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I'll be honest, upon first encountering the charismatic style of worship, I thought was akin to the “Twilight Zone.”  In my then ultra-humble opinion, it was all just plain odd –disrespectful, unhelpful, and probably fake.  I often stared at these people judgmentally trying my hardest to make them feel uncomfortable.  Moreover, why were they always so happy and joy filled anyway?  It was annoying!  Honestly, I did not understand this style of worship.  However, it would not be too long until God changed my mind.

It all started by going to the more charismatic evening Mass.  (The traditional Mass was too early in the morning for me).  At the beginning, I failed to understand this style of worship.  Before God changed my views, I griped about how everyone was fake or just trying to put on a show.  Apparently, I had an uncanny gift to read each and every person’s heart.  These were typically ignorant thoughts from someone who did not understand something outside his own narrow worldview.  Eventually, I would realize that the celebration of this Mass was very reverent.  The people loved God with all their hearts and gave everything they had to Him.

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It all came to a head when the monthly campus-wide prayer meeting came around.  It was called a “Festival of Praise” (FOP), and it was overtly particularly charismatic in nature.  It consisted of singing to God and praising Him for 2½ hours.  Though I rejected numerous invitations to go, God spoke to my heart and asked me to give it a chance.  Reluctantly, I went, pouting like a spoiled child.  I made sure to arrive complete with a sour face and depressed demeanor.  

A key lesson God has taught me again and again in the spiritual life is that when I am open, (truly open and not merely open when I’m comfortable), my life will be changed.  Astonishingly, the FOPs visibly filled with the Holy Spirit, and they bore good fruit.  They were incredibly prayerful, reverent, vibrant, and powerful, and many times life changing.  To my surprise, most of my major spiritual breakthroughs and deep healings occurred at these FOPs.  

I should note too that some rather large healings and deep spiritual encounters with God also took place at Eucharistic Healing Masses, Eucharistic FOPS, and at Sunday Masses, all of which were extraordinarily powerful experiences.  Once I learned to truly open myself up to the Holy Spirit (something many Catholics have an extremely difficult time doing), then God could work in ways I didn’t consider possible.  Even though charismatic prayer and worship can have the tendency to rely too heavily on feelings, when done properly, it has an amazing ability to transform a person and open them wholly to God.

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To make a long story short, God helped me to understand the different styles of worship.  He showed me that just because I was uncomfortable with one or another, it didn’t make them incorrect.  I learned that some people worship God with outstretched arms, and others on their face.  But, both praised His Majesty with all their being. When I allowed the Holy Spirit to work the way He wanted, and not the way I told Him He must, that is when God blew the doors off my heart and brought me to places I didn’t know possible.  I would never be the same.  

It has been 15 years since those days, and I still have a fire burning in my heart for the Lord Jesus.  Thanks be to God!  God taught me very important lessons about not putting the Him in a box and about opening myself up to His Spirit in different ways.  So, am I charismatic or traditional?  The answer is that I'm Catholic.  A Catholic who is both.  

Sometimes I pray lifting my hands high in the air to praise the God of the universe with all my being.  At other times, I sit or prostrate myself in front of His Majesty saying little or nothing – just aware of His awesome presence in and around me.  Sometimes I praise God through music and audible or inaudible praise.  At other times, my prayer is just to “Be still and know that I am God.”  

Normally, I attend a regular Mass at my home parish, but I used to attend a monthly traditional Latin Mass too.   My wife and I do Praise and Worship every Friday night with our Bible Study group, but we also pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  My wife sang for a Latin chant choir, and the priest who witnessed our wedding celebrates the Latin Mass perpetually.  

Needless to say, I have adequate exposure to many styles and forms of worship within our wonderful Church.  I see the power and beauty of it all.  In all of these cases, I seek to cultivate a deeper contemplative life, a deeper relationship with Love Himself.

Charismatic Protestant are able to join certain denominations.  More traditional Protestants must find other denominations.  Unlike Protestantism, the Catholic Church is not an either/or Church.  It's a both/and Church.  Thank God!  The great thing about the Catholic Church is that there are many different ways to pray and serve God.  There are Franciscans and Carthusians, Dominicans and Trapists, charismatic minded Catholics and traditionally minded Catholics.  None of these are wrong or false, just different.  Moreover, a person should not be judged as wrong or inferior because they pray differently than what you prefer.  Even if there are some abuses in the Church, in some areas more than others, gossiping, complaining, judging, labeling, and compartmentalizing are not helpful.  This is a sure sign of spiritual immaturity.  The Lord Jesus calls us to compassion, to love, and to humble evangelization.  

Over the years, I have learned the majesty and mystery of the traditional Mass and traditional forms of prayer, which can lead you to contemplation and a deep spiritual life.  I have also witnessed the power, joy, and self-donation of Praise and Worship, which when done correctly, can also lead to contemplation and a deep, loving relationship with God.

Some of the super traditional students at my old college ended up becoming charismatic by the end of their tenure, and some of the charismatic students become traditional in their worship and practice.  Most people switch sides, or more accurately, open themselves up to both.  They are rightly open to how the Holy Spirit desires them to pray.  They do not fight Him, close their hearts to Him, or say silly things like, “Oh, that’s just not me, I could never pray that way.”  

While the students at my alma mater might prefer to focus more on one or the other (traditional or charismatic), most of the students see the beauty in the other, and they possess a healthy respect for it, and that is how it should be!  People who limit the Holy Spirit stunt themselves.  We must seek to understand other styles of prayer in the Church and have a respect for them.  If we are against even trying a style of prayer that makes us uncomfortable, then we are not fully open to the Holy Spirit and must pray about that.
Catholic Prayer

Whole books have been written on the topic of how to pray and how to grow in the spiritual life.  Therefore, the main focus of this chapter will be to highlight the different styles of Catholic prayer.  

What Is Prayer?

A deep prayer life is absolutely indispensable for each and every person, priest and lay person alike.  God is calling us all to the heights of holiness with no exceptions.  Prayer is the springboard that helps us arrive at that goal and our ultimate goal of union with God.  

At the simplest level, prayer is a relationship with God who desires more than anything to have a relationship with us.  Prayer is speaking to God and listening; it is setting our hearts on Him and thinking about Him, and it is seeking to do what pleases Him in everyday circumstances.  Saints like St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis De Sales, St. John of the Cross, and others all teach us that there are distinct stages of prayer.  The path begins simply with heartfelt vocal prayer and then proceeds to deeper mental prayer and meditation.  Eventually, infused prayer and contemplation follow, which culminate in a transforming union with God. 

In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI sums up what prayer is in a nutshell; “That is what prayer really is – being in silent inward communion with God. … Praying actualizes and deepens our communion with God. Our praying can and should arise above all from our heart, from our needs, our hopes, our joys, our sufferings, from our shame over sin, and from our gratitude for the good. It can and should be a wholly personal prayer.”  Let's explore what this all means practically.
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Vocal Prayer (Discursive Prayer):

Drawing from the wisdom of the saints and prayer masters, here are just a few suggestions to help enter into vocal prayer and into deeper states of the spiritual life.  As Benedict XVI just correctly stated, one of the most important principles is to pray from our hearts, not just your heads.  A person cannot merely rattled off words routinely into the void or to a vague notion of God.  This is not true prayer and will not help advance you closer to our Lord.  Pope Benedict XVI states the same; “The other false form of prayer the Lord warns us against is the chatter, the verbiage, that smothers the spirit.  We are all familiar with the danger of reciting habitual formulas while our mind is somewhere else entirely.”  Ultimately, prayer should proceed from our love of God.  Prayer must done out of love, rather than because of fear, guilt, or mere routine.  It’s the difference between really desiring to spend time with your boyfriend/girlfriend or doing so merely out of obligation.

Vocal prayer is communication with God. However, before we even begin speaking to Him, it is imperative that we take time to quiet our inner-self and to place ourselves in the presence of God.  Take 30 seconds or so for this task – to focus on God’s presence within you or around you. Be still and be aware of His presence.  When we are aware of God and His presence there listening to us, we will pray with more focus.  Additionally, when we address God, we must speak to Him personally, as someone close, not far away.  The more personal one makes prayer, the more fruitful it will be.

Then, when finally addressing God, speak slowly and speak from the heart. We must focus on every word we are praying while continuing to focus on His presence.  Below are some examples of ways to pray using vocal prayer:  

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Asking
God for the things you need in life, both temporal and spiritual.  Some people only pray for others, never for themselves.  This is a mistake.  We must always ask our Father for the things we need.

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Interceding or praying for others. We can pray for people in need or for people doing well.  The Bible clearly teaches that praying for others; family, friends, relatives, people you have and will evangelize to, and even people in positions of authority is a good thing (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

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Liturgy of the Hours:  A common prayer for the whole church, that the people of Church God prayer together, clergy and laity alike.  This prayer is made multiple times a day and consists of reading, praying, and meditating on the psalms and other Scripture passages.  It also makes use of songs, intercessions, and other prayers.  This is a popular form of devotion that the people in the church pray around the world at the same times every day.

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Worshipping God, or giving Him His due as Creator.  There is so much in this world to praise and thank God for.  When you see, feel, or experience anything that is true, good or beautiful, you should praise God and tell Him how wonderful it is.  We must learn to let our hearts exult in God, and in the good things that He shares with us.  God Himself is infinitely beautiful, loving, perfect, greater than all the pleasures of this earth; He is always worthy of praise and exaltation, every moment of every day.  This worship may take the form of words or interior thoughts all pouring jubilantly from our hearts.

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Praise and Worship:  Many people enjoy singing holy songs to God, commonly known as Praise and Worship.  This is popular in many Catholic countries and in many different prayer styles, including charismatic ones.  People use this method to pray through song to worship God with all their heart, mind, soul, and being.  If done correctly, this music can lift a person to see and to praise the power, beauty and love of God and to experience His deep love and mercy.  It can be very transformative.  Worship music can act as a springboard propelling us toward a deep, fulfilling, and loving relationship with our heavenly Father, our Daddy.

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Chant/Polyphony:  On the other side of the coin, Chant and polyphony music, used mostly in more traditional worship, also cultivates the mind, heart and soul.  It draws the whole being of a person up into the presence of the Lord, and allows that soul to be aware of the transcending greatness, awe, and majesty of God.  It fosters a deep awareness of God and His Holy presence, and it can lead people to deeply meditate on and contemplate His divine Majesty.

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Thanking God for everything He has given us: life, health, family, friends, talents, grace, love, forgiveness, our gifts and talents, and so much more.  Thanksgiving to God should flow freely and often from our hearts.

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Going to Church is the most powerful prayer in the world!  The Mass is a combination of vocal and mental prayer.  All the prayers in the world do not equal the one perfect prayer of the Mass.  The Mass is so powerful because Jesus takes our prayers and perfectly presents them to God the Father on our behalf.  Moreover, Jesus Himself comes to us wholly and fully in the Eucharist where we can commune with Him intimately, and receiving from Him grace upon grace.  This is as close as we can come with the Lord Jesus on this earth.  People claim they “pray at home,” and that’s great, but they cannot receive the Eucharist at home. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic religion and the source of our salvation! 

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The Divine Mercy Chaplet
: The great prayer of mercy where a person meditates on the passion of Jesus while beseeching His mercy for themselves and for the whole world.  

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The Rosary is another powerful prayer which utilizes both vocal and meditative prayer.  Most people don’t realize that the Rosary is a Christ-centered prayer.  It is primarily a meditation on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, while asking Mary to intercede for us, and asking her to help us imitate Jesus, His virtues, His perfect example.  We ask her more than 50 times to pray for us at the two most important times in our lives, the current moment, and the hour of our death.  This form of prayer aids us in mediating on Scripture, helps us to consider how we can improve ourselves, and can lead to deep meditation.

 Notice I did not offer only one method of prayer.  Rather, there are many to employ in the Church’s arsenal.  There are more below too.  While a particular person may lean toward certain prayers, charisms or traditions, there is always something for everyone and none can be condemned.  
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Mental Prayer (Prayer of the heart):

Mental prayer, also known as quiet prayer or prayer of the heart, is indispensable for the spiritual life.  While vocal prayer is indispensable, mental prayer is far more important and efficacious.  As Catholics, it is essential for us to take time to quiet our hearts and our minds, to quiet ourselves from the business of our daily grind, and to just let ourselves be in the presence of God.  This silent prayer is where we find His Majesty, and where divine intimacy takes place.  
St. Theresa of Avila taught that virtue grows incomparably more in quiet prayer verses vocal.  In fact, every saint agrees unanimously that those who don’t meditate or take quiet time with God will remain spiritually stunted.  Some priests have even grown cold through their lack of prayer, especially mental prayer.  Not only do they suffer from it, but their parishes to do.  You can’t give what you don’t have.  St. Padre Pio states that the failure to meditate can be likened to a person who gets dressed every day and then never looks in a mirror. Therefore, they do not know if they is dirty or not.

Unfortunately, it is common to speak to God but not to listen, and this it is equally common to know of God but never really come to actually know Him.  There is a big difference between knowing about, and actually knowing.  It is imperative to unplug from our ipods, computers, phones, and other technology from time to time.  We need to daily cultivate some silence in our lives.  The more we can be at peace in the quiet, the more we will be disposed to meditate, to listen, and to be aware of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  Below are some examples of ways we can pray using mental prayer:  

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Thinking and reflecting on God. Taking quiet time (in church, our bedroom, etc) to think about God, who He is, His plan for our life, His great love for us, or anything else, is a form of prayer. (See more on “Meditation” below).


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Listening to God.  This entails taking good amounts of time in silence, in stillness, to just listen.  We need to cultivate and foster an ability to sit focused on the presence of God in and around us.  A common mistake is to listen with our ears, but God doesn’t speak to our ears.  He speaks to our hearts, and He speaks His own language, a language that can only be learned in the silence.  People say that, “God never speaks to me,” but when was the last time they took 20 minutes in complete silence just to listen?  

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Doing God’s will
Fr. Thomas Dubay, a 21st century prayer master, teaches us that doing God’s will daily is a form of prayer.  Along with our routine prayers, we should be reflecting on what God desires from us in life and in general.  According to St. Teresa of Avila and other mystics, the more we follow God’s will obediently, and the more we rid ourselves of sin (especially and necessarily mortal sin), the more God will draw us closer to Himself, infuse His life within us and commune with us.

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Mantras, or repeating a word/phrase slowly and prayerfully, to help focus our minds on the Lord.  Unlike New Agers who say that this word can be anything, it actually must be a Holy word or prayer.  For instance, it could be the traditional Eastern Catholic prayer, “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  Or just, “Come Holy Spirit,” or I love you Jesus, or whatever prayer proceeds from your heart in love.  You can say them throughout the day to keep your mind focused on God, or for a minute or two before prayer in order to help you focus your mind on God.  

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Just being with God.  Sitting in His presence (whether in church, the couch at home, or in a park) with all of your attention focused on Him.  In this form of prayer, not much is said or thought about; one is completely content just to be in God’s presence without having to do anything – just looking at Him with a simple attentive gaze.  St. Augustine said that, so few people spend time with God for His own sake.  
Prayer times usually consist of asking God for something, or praying for some need, etc.  Whether it is a good or a “bad” prayer time, edifying or dry, fulfilling or a “waste of time,” it is important to practice this faithful obedience to God, learning to be content in His presence, as a servant would be attentive in the presence of his king.  This is required for anyone seeking to grow in a deep and abiding relationship with God.

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Reading the Bible or a Spiritual Book
:  Reading Scripture, the lives of the saints, or a spiritual classic is a perfect way to learn and meditate on our faith, to ponder what we need to change or grow in, and to consider how to live more wholeheartedly for the Lord Jesus.

After vocal prayer, meditative prayer is the next form of prayer in the spiritual life.  All the great saints talk about the necessity of deep prayer and meditation.  In fact, they state that anyone serious about a prayer life should be praying for a minimum of an hour a day, progressing more and more in mental prayer.  

Meditation helps us to grow closer to God spiritually, to grow in virtue and in holiness. 

The Pocket Catholic Dictionary offers a good definition of meditation.  “Meditation: Reflective prayer.  It is that form of mental prayer in which the mind, in God’s presence, thinks about God and divine things. … The objects of meditation are mainly three; mysteries of faith, a person’s better knowledge of what God wants him or her to do, and the divine will, to know how God wants to be served by the one who is meditating.”

Meditation is where we take time to think about God and the mysteries of our faith.  We could ponder the life of Jesus, His death, or His resurrection.  We could also ponder our lives, what God desires from us, how we can follow Him more faithfully, what faults we need to work on and how we can do that.  We can also consider God’s surpassing greatness, His unconditional love for us, and how He demonstrates that love by dying on the cross for us.  We could also meditate on are our final days, our deathbed, heaven, hell, eternity, and much, much more.  In time, and with daily dedication, meditation will bear much fruit in our spiritual lives, leading to infused prayer, transformed lives, and union with God, which should be the goal for each and every one of us.

Pope John Paull II reminds us that, “Jesus urges us to ‘pray without becoming weary.’ Christians know that for them prayer is as essential as breathing … Prayer is not simply one occupation among many, but it is at the center of our life with Christ.”  This sums up our prayer journey in a nutshell; namely, that prayer should not be something we try to squeeze in our day, but it should be our very life, our breath, a large part of our being.  That is why St. Paul exhorts is us to, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Bibliography:

Hardon, John A, Pocket Catholic Dictionary, New York. DoubleDay, 1985.

Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, New York. DoubleDay, 2007.

Pope John Paul II, Go in peace, Chicago, IL. Loyola Press, 2003.

Questions for Reflection:

• What are some of the polarizations in the Church that some Catholics fall into?

• Have you ever found yourself judging or condemning a style of worship, which the Church permits, that is different than yours?  If so, why?

• If you do not like the Latin Mass, would you be open to trying it? Or, at least, do you understand the beauty of that worship, and will seek to possess a deep respect for it?  Why or why not?

• If you would not normally use more expressive prayer, like putting your hands in the air or praising God openly, would you be open to it?  Or, would you at least be open to understanding the meaning of it all and gaining a healthy respect for it? Why or why not?

• Discuss the pride and self-righteousness that may come with wagging fingers at people who worship differently than you do?

• What styles of prayer do you use?  Would you be open to trying ones you are not familiar with?  Why or why not?

• Knowing that prayer is our life, what are the obstacles that you face (or will find yourself facing), and how can you overcome them?

Do you seek to foster a deep contemplative relationship with God, or is your prayer life more on the surface?  Explain.

• Do you read books on prayer to help you grow?

RESPONSES TO THIS CHAPTER: 

Response from David Tate:

In every society, there are social guidelines. I appreciated Mercier’s comment about people feeling their “method of worship is correct or superior”. I felt like there is something beneath the surface of criticism. Many times guidelines support specific themes. These themes might include bodily exposure, gender, social status, linguistic styles, respect for the community, or respect for the individual. One guideline that seems to have been a part of my culture was the idea of not drawing undue attention to yourself. In light of this, I feel I am quick to notice when people are making a spectacle of themselves. One interesting story I recall involves feet. I have seen my share of shod feet, sandaled feet, and bare feet. I do not find “naked” feet shameful, providing that they are following some communal custom. I recall seeing a person once (actually twice) who was not wearing anything on their feet. The circumstances at the time really made me feel like they were making a spectacle of themselves. In like manner, I feel my personal feelings about worship come from the same mold. If there is a style of prayer where people are raising their arms or speaking out loud, I am comfortable with that. What I don’t like is when people, ignoring social cues, practice a worship style that draws attention to themselves. It is possible that I am hitting a common experience with others, in this opinion. 

I strongly feel that styles of worship are guided by social ‘pressures’ and spiritual hungers. Perhaps because of our lack of a set family profile of religion, the Latin Mass was never anything to be criticized; especially since we didn’t have any practical connection with the Catholic Church (i.e. relatives, etc.) I, even though it is exactly opposite of my upbringing, have found it very easy to be in a Charismatic atmosphere when I was craving it. I think that when we allow too much to be controlled by our social surroundings, we are then in need to look at our spiritual lives for signs of stagnancy. There is the immature habit of criticizing others for being different. However, if we have not seen changes in our own spiritual condition, then maybe we need to look more closely at other people’s differences. There are multiple styles of prayer and worship, each one having its specific benefits. 

I have for a long time desired to teach “Forms of Prayer”. I remember seeing a program on TV that discussed a style of therapy for certain mental disorders. What they did was to physically act out the most fundamental movements that we progress through from the time of our birth. Things as simple as lying on our back, waving our arms and legs in the air, practicing making ‘baby style’ noises. These actions were followed by the motions of sitting on the floor with your legs out, crawling on all fours, etc. I have believed that styles of prayer follow a similar training. Actions that our bodies don’t know how to perform cannot be called upon by our mind. There is probably a bunch of psychological explanation to this thinking, but I still prefer a simplistic understanding.

I think that we underestimate the power of the common vices when it comes to “problems”. We love to rationalize away our judgments of others, but it still doesn’t say why we are lacking in our obligation to love others, and to see Christ in them. Just like a parent sees their infant as a baby. We, too, should see others as moving through chapters of growth. It is quite easy to be guilty of vices like envy or coveting or jealousy when we are running down others. Don’t we go through life having the proverbial three fingers pointing back at us when we are pointing at others? 

In brief, I grew up hearing on rare occasion people praying and speaking to God as if He was right there with us. Most of these times, it was during times of thanksgiving. When I was in high school, I went to many positive ‘study-style’ Bible studies. During my college days, I experienced quite a few Charismatic services. I have had experiences that could not have been labeled by any other terms than to say they were directly caused by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Being now a seminarian, I find that my life experiences give me a much closer ‘feather-touch’ regarding the wisdom for things that are individual versus things that are communal. Sometimes I have daydreamed that if I had already a family-given style of prayer, would I have had to go through a time of rebellion like those that were given “religion” as a kid? 

I view my desires and my obstacles to be closely related. I have been learning more and more about the contemplative history of the Church over the last fifteen years. I see that the act of choosing how we spend the day, or even the next hour, has a lot to do with developing our habits. Am I developing my habits of work more than prayer? Individual concerns more than communal? Personal gratification over self-denial? Even the act of deciding about the morning cup of coffee involved great personal issues. I once read that God inhabits not only the praises of His people, but the prayers of His people as well. I whole heartedly agree with Mercier saying “Meditation helps us to grow closer to God”. How often do I really allow others to make decisions for me? I hope to grow in a truer meaning of contemplation that includes my own personal characteristics. Finding out the meaning of contemplation and what my personal characteristics are – this is the life-long challenge.   

Response from Tommie Kim:

It is not until very recently that the Holy Spirit Seminar has been introduced to Korea.  I was a university student when I first learned about Holy Spirit Seminar events. My first experience of such charismatic prayer was simply shocking.   I grew up with devout Catholic parents. I served as altar boy, and  that led me to be accustomed to solemn and quiet Masses.  My first perception of the seminar reminded me of some kind of Protestant activity or act of secularization.  In simple terms, it was a religious shock for me. 

As the week passed by, I started looking at the event from a different perspective.  God is with us at all times. Likewise, God works in each and every one of us in a very different way.  However, I had limited understanding of faith at that time, sort of trapped in my own world so I was not able to accept and perceive the fact that the Holy Spirit could work in such a different way. Since then, friends and people around me recommended that I to join the seminar. Although unwilling and reluctant, I do admit witnessing special experiences through others.  I witnessed a man screaming out of horror against dark forces surrounding him. He ran to grab the priest for help. After receiving sacrament of reconciliation after a life-long distance from that sacrament, he was freed from darkness. I was amazed to see the change that could take place in a man. I perceived the experience as the grace of God.  Such gift of the Holy Spirit not only helps one but all who surround and share the experience. 

In Korea especially in the many cities, all parishes have charismatic prayer groups who offers charismatic Masses and/or overnight prayers.  Sometimes, it requires consistent care and guidance of the priests and sisters of parish in order for the group to grow stronger in faith. However, some other times, it requires a little more freedom and independence of the group to sustain and grow by itself, instead of excessive interference from priests and sisters.  As a worst example, sometimes speakers at the seminar face censor from priests in the form of asking them to provide the speaker’s talk prior to the speech.

The Catholic church in Korea is truly and exceedingly centered on priests and religious. So, it is crucially important that they show a good exemplary model of prayer life. However, priests rarely pray in these days so it becomes difficult to teach proper prayer life to the lay believers. Simply put, externally, we see church growing in numbers and external social activity seems very active. However, there are not enough priests who can lead them to a deeper prayer life.  Moreover, we are seeing priests who enjoy  life even more than the lay believers, some of them even leading the parish into conflicts and division. Priests with radical leftist ideology add to this disappointment that is leading the believers to leave the church. 

Response from Sean Hurt: (Note from Dr. Ronda: At first this response seems too general, and not so related to the chapter, but it really is since it provides a metaphor for all our ways of judging, including judging the way others pray.) 

Unfortunately, there are always people within the Church who believe that their method of worship is correct or superior…

I’m embarrassed to say this now, looking back, that I entered Peace Corps with the quintessential Peace Corps fantasy. The fantasy goes something like this: I’m going to come to this developing country full of humble people. They will see my modern farming techniques and be amazed. Being rational people, motivated by material interest, they will immediately change their life-long habits and conform to modern, developed ways. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the scripture that says, “No one who has been drinking old-wine desires the new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” 

Now, that’s a fantasy. What really happens when you get your boots on the ground? You show these humble people your “developed-world” techniques and receptions range from apathy, amusement, concern (for my mental health) to outright anger! In fact, I’ll tell you what happens. They start thinking it’s I who needs help! They don’t like the way I hang my laundry or how I scramble my eggs! They think, “this fool, he doesn’t know how to do anything right!” After this happens a hundred times, you start to get very frustrated. You think, “These people! They are such closed-minded, sticks-in-the-mud. They don’t try anything new, even though it’s better. It’s their own fault they’re so backwards.  They think they’re right about everything—even down to the minutest detail.”

A lot of people leave Peace Corps with that attitude, and then they return home and realize that their attitudes about Americans have changed. “Americans are so private and unfriendly! They spend so much money on stupid stuff! All they value is work and money!” Just as I judged the Malawians harshly, I started treating American in the same way. Malawi left an indelible mark on my values and beliefs, and when Americans did not see the light I chastised them, “Americans are so closed-minded. They’re stuck in their way; they can’t change etc.” It’s so easy to think that your way is the one right and holy way.

There are lots of lessons to be learned from this example. I hope you can see that our fallen nature tends to inflate the importance of minor details in our own culture. In Malawi, they had ideas about the right way to crack an egg. If you didn’t do it that way, you were just wrong. If you think Americans don’t do this—think again; we’re just as bad.  Now, I’m not advocating some kind of cultural relativism, not at all. Some practices are unacceptable, and battles need to be fought. However, hair-splitting is divisive; it harms human solidarity, and among Christians it destroys unity. 

Consider another lesson. In Malawi, obviously, I was an outsider. As a pariah, I felt vulnerable and weak. That, in turn, led me to defensive thoughts which led to judgment that ended in hate. So, when we’re in the midst—surrounded by another culture, we have to be on guard. Not guarded from the strangers, but from our own proclivity towards rash judgment. 

I think recognizing that we’re in another culture is harder than we think. As I mentioned before, I go to two different parishes. One is more traditional, another contemporary. Honestly, I often feel uncomfortable at the traditional parish. The parishioners are more conservative. They dress a certain way, and look a certain way. They have their own culture and I stick out with my long hair and shaggy beard. But if there’s going to be Catholic unity it will take communication and interaction across divisions. This means putting yourself in situations in which you feel vulnerable, uncomfortable and, often times, judged. Likewise, it means we must take special care to make strangers feel welcome in our Christian community—no matter how strange they seem.  

Response of Fr. Dominic: (Note from Dr. Ronda: Fr. Dominic is the author of the chapter in this book The Priest in Community and taught the first class based on this book with me in Spring of 2014.  During the class, when Bryan Mercier came to dialogue with us, Fr. Dominic took exception to Mercier’s rejection of centering prayer. It became clear that the kind of centering prayer Fr. Dominic teaches, based on early versions of this prayer, was different from the type of centering prayer now often being taught which is critiqued by Mercier. I asked Fr. Dominic to describe to us how he teaches it.)

Concerning Christian centering prayer it is based on focusing on God by consciously disconnecting from other thoughts.  You close your eyes to the surrounding distractions and stop the interior dialogue, the emotions that come with the people you know, and sensory experiences.  Nothing is worth thinking about at this time of centering prayer, not even the thought about yourself.  This is because  How you are “now” is the way you are going to be in the future. The way you see anything is the way you see everything. The way you do anything is the way you do everything.

In doing centering prayer, you simply need to be in the presence of God, not being loaded  down with the past.  There are many biblical images for centering prayer:  Sabbath rest is where you are to get out of the achieving mode, or thinking about who likes you or who doesn’t. Rest is above time. It is eternity in the present moment.  It is being in the inner room of Matthew 6.6, where I am forgiven of all and in all. 

(During the class a question was asked as to whether this means that Catholic centering prayer substitutes the feeling of being forgiven for sacramental confession.  Fr. Dominic explained that it is a good preparation for the sacramental confession. Centering prayer helps to guide against having the sacramental confession as mere ritual, that is, frequenting the sacrament of confession without sincere repentance for ones sins and thereby “being caved into oneself” which is the real meaning of sin as St. Augustine defined it.  With the aid of centering prayer, the penitent after the sacramental confession will have no doubt that God,  who is eternity in the now, has forgiven and forgotten ones sins and therefore, there will be no need of  bemoaning and rehearsing the sins over and over again. Centering prayer helps in evacuating the emotional junk of a life time.)

The passive dimension of centering prayer is where one collapses in the presence of God to be refreshed. It is allowing God  to be in charge and not you.  This is the real meaning of the primacy of grace in the Christian spirituality.  Therefore, the active dimension of centering prayer is cooperating with this grace. 

The great Catholic tradition speaks of the four basic forms of prayer; adoration, petition, intercessory and contemplation.  Centering prayer is closely connected to adoration. When we adore, we open the little ego to the mystery of God. We acknowledge the godliness of god and that our life is not about us. etymologically, adoration is from the Latin words “ad” and “ora” -  meaning to the mouth of.  To adore is to be turned with your whole life towards God so that you are mouth to mouth-face to face with God. Hence, we breathe in the divine grace. God’s glory is not intensified by our adoration rather we become rightly ordered by our adoration, it is ordering our disordered soul. This is what centering prayer does. It shifts our attention from our little ego to god who is eternally in the now.

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