Sunday, January 04, 2009

Your New Year's Resolution:
Five Minutes a Day, Five Days a Week!

With the first full week of the New Year coming up, I have begun to work on my podcast Five Minutes a Day, Five Days a Week once again.

Why not devote just five minutes each day during the week to getting to know your faith better?

I hope you'll check out this coming week's episodes which focus on the Church:
  • Monday: Mary, Image of the Church
  • Tuesday: The Church as the Communal People of God
  • Wednesday: The Church as the United Body of Christ
  • Thursday: The Church as Sacrament
  • Friday: Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom United with His Bride, the Church
Oh, and Happy New Year! Hope your Christmas was blessed!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Incarnation: Jesus Takes on Human Flesh for Our Sake

I hope you have had a chance to check out the latest installment of my new podcast Five Minutes a Day, Five Days a Week. This week's focus is on the Incarnation: Jesus Christ taking on human flesh for our sake. This week's topics are as follows:
  • Monday: Mary's Role in the Incarnation
  • Tuesday: Why Did Jesus Take on Human Flesh?
  • Wednesday: Jesus, Perfect Model of Being Fully Human
  • Thursday: We are Children of God and Fellow Heirs with Christ
  • Friday: Jesus, True God and True Man
Next week will build off of this week. Next week's focus will be on the reasons and ways that God reveals Himself to us, which itself is one of the primary reasons for the Incarnation. Next week's audio files (whose topics will be as follows) should be available by Thursday afternoon:
  • Monday: Mary Reflects Upon and Embraces What God Reveals
  • Tuesday: Why Does God Choose to Reveal Himself to Us?
  • Wednesday: How God Reveals Himself Through Sacred Scripture
  • Thursday: How God Reveals Himself Through Tradition
  • Friday: Jesus, the Fullness of God's Revelation of Himself
Let me know what you think of the new shows!
My hope is that you find them to be vastly improved recently!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Podcast Power-Up!

I have decided to make a big change to my new podcast Five Minutes a Day, Five Days a Week. From now on, I hope to focus on a given subject every week. I also hope to have every recording ready by Sunday for the upcoming week. For example, this week I focus on the four declared dogmas of Mary:
  • Monday: Immaculate Conception
  • Tuesday: Mary, the Mother of God
  • Wednesday: Mary, Ever-Virgin
  • Thursday: Assumption
  • Friday: Importance of the Truths of Mary
I hope you will check it out. In fact, it is so vastly improved that I have removed the old MP3s as I think this new form will be more helpful, less random, and generally better. I hope you agree--let me know!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Five Minutes a Day, Five Days a Week?

This past weekend marked the beginning of the Pauline year, in honor of St. Paul, a true evangelist. In parallel with the beginning of this Pauline year, I have begun recording a new podcast called 5 Minutes a Day,
5 Days a Week
. For those of you who don't know what a podcast is, it's basically a fancy term for a radio-like program in which you can download MP3 audio files to play on your computer or your iPod. (No, you don't need an iPod!)

The idea of this podcast is to encourage you to commit to just
5 Minutes, 5 Days a Week: a small commitment to Jesus and His Church during the week (Monday to Friday) when it's easy to forget what it means to be a Christian.

Why just 5 Minutes? Other than the obvious fact that it would be pretty hard to do a show called "10 Minutes a Day, 10 Days a Week," I chose 5 minutes for the very reason that it's a small commitment. Too often I see people (myself included) making large commitments, only to be discouraged when they fail. What could be easier than downloading 5 shows a week and simply listening to them as you drive to work or walk to class?

As for the content, it will include "all things Catholic." It will not be primarily an apologetics show, though there will be some apologetics involved. There are a number of reasons for my choice of content, but the primary reason is that I want this show to be a show for you personally, not a show about how to defend yourself against those who question you. There are already a number of good apologetics resources online, which I wholeheartedly support. But the focus here will be slightly different. I want the content to be focused on the fundamentals of being Christian; that is, I hope that what I provide will be practical in a day-to-day sense, livable, and more importantly, will help you and I to build a greater relationship with Christ, in addition to a greater understanding of the Church itself.

I am new to this, so I hope you will be patient with me as I figure out how to get the sound quality better (any ideas?) and how to make the content interesting and more accessible for you. Feel free to post questions below (technical or otherwise) in the comments section below and I will answer them. As always, let me know what I can do to improve the content or the technical presentation, and let me know what you find useful or not. In the meantime, I hope you can commit with me to 5 Minutes a Day, 5 Days a Week!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Dulia" for Julia

My sister Julia Anne Reagan died twenty years ago today. It has been my hope for some time to write something of this event and its implications on my life; or perhaps I should say the effect that Julia herself has had and continues to have on my life. And while I simply do not have enough free time to justly write such a piece today, I nonetheless feel as though I would be truly remiss if I were not to share just a bit of dulia for Julia today.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux delivered a series of sermons centuries ago on the Song of Songs. In his particularly moving Sermon 26, he writes of the death of "Gerard...[his] brother by blood":
I have made public the depth of my affliction, I make no attempt to deny it. Will you say then that this is carnal? . . . Yes, I am carnal, sold under sin, destined to die, subject to penalties and sufferings. I am certainly not insensible to pain; to think that I shall die, that those who are mine will die, fills me with dread. And Gerard was mine, so utterly mine. . . And it is he who has gone from me. I feel it, the wound is deep (cf. Jn. 1:20, Rom. 7:14). . .

Our Savior too, looking at Jerusalem and foreseeing its destruction wept over it. And shall I not feel my own desolation that even now presses upon me? Shall I not grieve for the heavy blow so recently received? David's tears were tears of compassion, and shall I be afraid to weep in my suffering? At the tomb of Lazarus, Christ neither rebuked those who wept nor forbade them to weep, rather he wept with those who wept. The Scripture says: "And Jesus wept." Those tears were witnesses to human kindness, not signs that he lacked trust (cf. Lk. 19:41, Rom. 12:15, Jn. 11:35). . . In the same way, our weeping is not a sign of a lack of faith, it indicates the human condition. . .

"You are righteous indeed, O Lord, and all your judgments are right." You gave me Gerard, you took him away: and if his removal makes me sad, I do not forget that he was given to me, and offer thanks for my good fortune in having had him (cf. Ps. 118:137, Job 1:21). . .

You entrusted Gerard to us, you have claimed him back; you have but taken what was yours. These tears prevent me from speaking further; impose a limit on them O Lord, bring them to an end.
Julia, I hope my tears while just reading this are dulia enough.
I love you!

And Lord, you entrusted Julia to us, you have claimed her back; you have but taken what was yours.

These tears prevent me from speaking further.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Spiritual Ecumenism vs. Ecumenical Spirituality

There are many things which confuse us. One is the experience we all have in which we believe we understand what somebody else is saying to us, but we interpret the words of the other person completely wrongly. There are many reasons this can happen, but one is a differing understanding of terminology between persons. This is true in all areas of life; theology and ecumenism are not exceptions. Thus clear definitions of terms are important. In this short piece, I will address the major difference between two commonly used terms in ecumenism, which have altogether different meanings: "spiritual ecumenism" and "ecumenical spirituality." To do so, I will have to address some rather mundane facts about the implications of the terms, but my hope is that by the end, the very key to ecumenism for real unity of Christians will be seen.

Let's take a step back and look at the idea of "Buddhist spirituality," for example. Several things become apparent. First, "spirituality" does not imply anything about God at all. Second, there is no implication in such a term of the Trinity, nor of the (Holy) Spirit. Third, the implied focus in such a term is not so much on the second word, a noun ("spirituality"), as it is on the first word, an adjective ("Buddhist").

The same implications are present in the term "ecumenical spirituality." First, there is no implication of God. Second, there is no implication of the Trinity, nor of the Holy Spirit. Third, the implied focus is not on the second word, a noun ("spirituality"), but on the first word, a noun: "ecumenical." Thus, the focus seems to be on ecumenism or doing things ecumenically, which in turn may or may not imply two parties each making compromises on their beliefs. That is, the implication seems to be on unity at any cost.

Therefore taking an approach towards unity simply with an "ecumenical spirituality" is a mistake, for we cannot treat Christ, the Church, and the teachings of both as mere things to be compromised for the sake of unity. If we do so, we fall into a sort of religious business transaction: "I'll give up my beliefs on the resurrection if you give up your beliefs about Mary. Seems like a fair trade to me!" This route simply leads to giving up Truth for unity.

Rather, the focus should be based in the (Holy) Spirit, which is what the term "spiritual ecumenism" implies. In spiritual ecumenism, the implication is that unity is the work of the Spirit. This, of course, implies prayer to the Holy Spirit for unity.

The Holy Spirit is the only one from whom true unity may come. This is because the Holy Spirit is the only one that can transform us appropriately. Transformation here does not mean merely compromising and trading beliefs for the sake of unity, nor does it mean merely changing one's mind on a whim. While transformation may be intellectual, the most important transformation is deeper. When we pray for unity, the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts towards the Truth. Stated another way: the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts towards Christ, who is the Truth (cf. John 14:6).

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

One Reason Being in Rome, Though Wonderful,
is Tough!

Being in Rome intensifies many things, because in Rome one sees so much of the universality, the catholicity of the Church. One sees more problems from around the world than simply what we hear from CNN and The Economist. One sees how there really is something for everybody within the Catholic Church.

Today, for example, I had a chance to go the Pontifical Commission for Interreligious Dialogue. This was very interesting indeed, because I was with a class (not your everyday sort of field trip) in which I am probably one of maybe three people total (out of the whole class) who are neither a priest or a nun and one of maybe a third of my class who is Caucasion. Accents are thick, the universality is blatant. Imagine a class of Filipino priests and African (not African American) nuns and you're starting to get the picture.

These priests and nuns see everything! People--both the rich and the poor--come to them for help. Imagine questions from these priests and nuns about how we, the Church, are to respond to violence by Muslims (not in New York, but on the local streets of Nigeria), how we are to deal with politicians with their own agenda, how we are to break down walls which divide, and the like. Now imagine that these questions are being answered by a priest in the Roman curia (the upper hierarchy) who has the authority to set up meetings with the Pope directly for interreligious matters.

It's hard to be a lay person from the American suburbs and come away from experiences like this the same. A class with no notes: just listening and an attempt to soak it all in. Tough! And that's just today.

In this picture (sitting next to me in St. Peter's on Good Friday), are some of the most amazing people I've ever met: a few Missionaries of Charity I've gotten to know personally. Ten minutes with them is an accidental, tough lesson on how to live.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Half Shrugging, Half Surrendering

From time to time, all of us ask ourselves “Who am I?” in varying degrees. This is one of those times for me. But juxtaposed in the vicinity of my mind are other questions. “Why am I?” “How am I to be truly me?” All the while in the back of my skull, I hear a light response to questions I ask of God (John 8:58): “I am.” I change, but God remains as He has always been and always will be.

But then, maybe I don’t change as much as I often feel like I do. I was made in God’s own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), with certain traits inherent to me alone. And amidst these physical and emotional traits lie my spiritual traits, which I’m learning to call my charism. So the discerning of this so-called charism continues. Which leads me to some questions which don’t sound altogether new when compared with my earlier questions: What’s my charism? Why’s my charism? How am I to live out my charism?

Sometimes, however, I make God into my own likeness, or liking. I put God in a box, and limit what He can do. Not to say God has limits, but I decide He does. Not just in terms of His power, but in terms of what He has authorized me to do for Him. And so I run away like Jonah. The only trouble is, it’s hard to run from Someone who’s everywhere.

As if this isn’t enough, God doesn’t seem to like it in the box anyway. He always manages to escape when I'm not watching diligently. And after He escapes, He has the perhaps unsurprising (and altogether annoying) tendency to sneak up on me and to nudge me in a different direction. This is exactly what God has been doing in my life recently.

And so, I throw up my hands, half shrugging and half surrendering. Perhaps I have more in common with the legion of demons than I'd like to think I do: “What do you want with...[me], Jesus of Nazareth?” (Mark 1:24)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jesus Christ, the Truth, is Not Opposed to:
"The Spirit Blows Where the Spirit Wills (John 3:8)"

Okay, my friend just responded to my prior little piece on "It's Not So Much What I Think that Matters, It's More What Christ Wants That Matters." In responding to her email, I decided to just pull some random points out of that response into a little makeshift piece of fairly random thoughts about what the Church has to say about how she relates to other religions. (I apologize ahead of time for how out-of-place the Abraham section seems, but I think it is helpful information in understanding the Church's position.)

The Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate)
It's important to note the Vatican II document on The Relation of the Church to Non Christian Religions: Nostra Aetate, because it forms the basis of the Catholic Church's approach to other religions today. It's a relatively short, simple, and I dare say interesting Vatican II document which shows the Church's approach to other religions today. Note that "other religions" in this document does not mean other Christians (e.g. Orthodox and Protestants) denominations. This was partly at the request of non-Catholic Christians that attended Vatican II as observers, and partly because it just makes sense. (If you truly want to know what the Second Vatican Council had to say about the Church's approach to non-Catholic Christians, you will have to read both the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) and the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio). And for a more recent view, you'd probably want to read Pope John Paul II's "On Commitment to Ecumenism (Ut Unum Sint).")

Allow me to switch gears and (relatively briefly) address Abraham, as he is significant in understanding the Church's approach to other religions:
1) Christians, Muslims, and Jews all point to Abraham as their patriarch; 2) Abraham was around long before Islam, before Christianity, even before Judaism; and 3) this is what was said to Abraham (Genesis 22:16):
"[The Lord] said: 'I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you [Abraham] acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son [Isaac], I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing--all this because you obeyed my command.'"
So, there is a strong belief amongst Christians, Jews, and Muslims that this last bit is going to happen: God will bless all the nations through the descendants of Abraham. There are, of course, varying theories as to how this will happen. The general Christian idea is that Jesus (whom God, like Abraham towards Isaac, did not withhold as his only beloved son) is the one who brings blessings to all mankind.

I'm getting deeper than I intended, but let me make two key points here:
1) If you look at the New Testament with regards to Gentiles (which simply means "non Jews"), you see constant statements about how the Gentiles and the Jews can both be saved through Jesus. This is because Jesus is seen as the one who opens blessings to all mankind. This is also why you see John Paul II saying so much in defense of Jews and even asking for pardon, because Pope John Paul II and others believe (in the fullness of time), there will be an ultimate unification of Jews and Gentiles into the kingdom of God; that is, into the Church. In fact, this has already happened somewhat, from the beginning of the Church. From the beginning, Peter and the other apostles preached to Jews (and to Gentiles), whereas Paul, though himself a Jew, focused his preaching on the Gentiles (and indeed their cause). Both Jews and Gentiles entered the Church and continue to do so.

2) I hesitate to bother to say this second point, because it's getting even more theologically deep and that is not my intention. But what is also interesting is how in the very first verse in the book of Matthew and thus the Church (cf. Dean P. Bechard's The Scripture Documents) would say in the first verse of the four gospels: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." The desire here is for the author (Matthew) to show that Jesus is the the descendant promised to both Abraham (for the salvation of all) and to David for: Jesus is the one who blesses all the nations (as per God's covenant with Abraham) and the promised King (as per God's covenant with David). Matthew is ripe with examples of what the Kingdom of God will look like.

Jesus Christ, The Truth, is Not Opposed to:
"The Spirit Blows Where the Spirit Wills (John 3:8)"

Back to other religions: our departure point in the Church and indeed our experience in the world is that there are many different types people around the world, of many different religions. So, if Jesus is to bless all nations, what's the point of being a Christian at all? This is a bit of a quandary. After all, I do believe what my favorite priest says so often: "the [Holy] Spirit blows where the Spirit wills (John 3:8; cf. footnote 4)." And yet I cannot deny that Jesus is "the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6)." So how can we reconcile these seemingly opposed ideas?

Pope Benedict XVI says: "We live on Truth. This Truth is a Person." And thus, we have the answer to Pontius Pilate's question to Jesus that many of us ask every day: "What is truth? (John 18:37-38)" And we understand Who--not merely what--the Holy Spirit is sowing when the Holy Spirit sows Truth in men around the world.

More clearly stated: The Holy Spirit is sowing Christ in the hearts of men and women around the world. And it is through Him, through the Truth, that all shall be set free: "Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, 'If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' (John 8:31-32; cf. John 1:1)" And it is for this reason that Nostra Aetate #2 says:
The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these [other] religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.
"Tolerance" seems to be the word of our era. But note that the Church's position is more than mere tolerance, her position is "sincere reverence." For what? For reflections of the Truth; that is, for reflections of Christ. (Note that the Church certainly does not revere--nor tolerate--anything contrary to the Truth, that is, contrary to Christ.)

How Does Christ Bless The Nations?
But how will Christ bless even those who reject Him in His very essence? For example, how will Christ save those of other religions who reject Him outright? Or if you prefer, how will Christ save those who reject one or more aspects of who He is and what He did on the cross? Well, there is another Second Vatican Council document that addresses this (though not primarily). In #7, Ad Gentes says:
God, "who wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, Himself a man, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:45), "neither is there salvation in any other" (Acts 4:12). Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself "by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it." Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity.
Nearly every sentence is important here, and I recommend re-reading it (now). This statement of the Vatican II Council Fathers makes it very clear that the Church (that is, all Christians) have a sacred duty to preach the Gospel, though "God in ways known to himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel." Furthermore, the Church recognizes that those that are inculpably gnorant of the Gospel--and indeed all--are judged by God Himself (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7).

So, Where Does This Leave us?
As frustrating as the answer may be, the Church humbly states that she does know how God leads "those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel." But this ought not be frustrating, for this is good news. It is good news to know that God does lead others outside his visible Church to Himself. It is good news to know that "the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills, (John 3:8)." And at the same time, it is good news to know that there is no inherent contradiction, for though many do not know His name, it is ultimately Christ that blesses all. After all, "there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved. (Acts 4:12)"

Monday, April 30, 2007

It's Not So Much What I Think That Matters,
It's More What Christ Wants That Matters

Mentioning something about how I don't believe I'm meant to do formal interreligious dialogue or ecumenical work (though I believe informally perhaps), prompted my friend to send me the following message:
I guess because of your comment, it seemed like you were saying that you could never imagine Christianity being united under one common practice. I guess I was curious if the reasoning is because you think certain Christianities or one in particular Christianity is inferior to others. Meaning some Christians are correct while others don't have a good grasp on their practices. Just trying to understand the motives behind your comment, but maybe trying to get into your head is a scary thing?
All of my friends realize this last point to be true, so a question mark is not necessary here. (The reason getting in my head is so scary is somewhat telling though.)

Reading this even now, I have a flood of thoughts, because these are the questions that one begs for inside--and yet dreads--if one loves God and the Church. This is because there is only one "best way to answer" such a question (and one rarely knows exactly what this "best way" is), but even that "best way" will be an answer that one person hates, another hates more, another loves, and another loves more. (The "best answer" is not the same as the "best way to answer" by the way, because the subtlety and "soft skills" to say the objective "best answer" in the way that a particular audience of people will understand it best--and absorb it--is a touchy thing indeed.) On top of this and perhaps more horrifying and exciting at the same time, there is the inherent realization that in answering the question, one's level of understanding and need for growth become obvious to oneself.

Enough of that though. I can't possibly answer the multiple (and implied) questions completely, so here are a few random thoughts:

1. Christians can and will be and are (in different senses) united, but I sadly don't think I have the patience to help make it happen in a formal, fuller, and visible sense. Thank God some people do!

2. Which is a good segue, to saying: of course some Christians are correct and some are incorrect, and some have a good grasp on their practices and some do not. This is the very reason that Jesus told parables (Matt 13:10-15):
The disciples approached him and said, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because 'they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: 'You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.'
Sadly, almost all of us reject this healing in little and big ways. Those in the Church--however you define its bounds-- are no exception, for the Church is made up of both sinners and saints (Matt 13:24-30):
He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."'
That is, Christ predicted long ago that the weeds would grow amongst the wheat. Some people are indeed weeds, others are wheat. And even the wheat, the saints, tend to have their blemishes. If I am a saint, then one of mine is impatience with the lack of fuller, visible unity.

3. There are not "Christianities," there is one Christianity. There indeed are different professions though. The Second Vatican Council addressed this quite directly in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church #15:
The [Catholic] Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter [ie. Christians not unified under the Pope]. For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ [ie. baptism is the visible sign, the sacrament, which points to unity in Christ and membership in His Church]. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits [which are good things]. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined [a key word] with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces [another key word] whereby He is operative [another key word] among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.
This last bit is the point from which my impatience with the lack of a fuller, "visible" unity stems. The third sentence of Lumen Gentium (#1) is "T
he Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race." And yet, the unity of the Church is not visibly present for all the world to see. The world does not see one Church--though it is one Church. Though we are as one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ, the world often enough sees "certain Christianities": if not altogether different, minimally separated. This is the major drawback to an "invisible" unity in my own mind and the source of my impatience. I believe the visibility of a truly unified Church is a message to the world which takes note of whether the Church is visibly unified or not.

But then, why I couldn't do formal ecumenism or interreligious dialogue wasn't the question, nor should it be. Just as visible disunity is opposed to visible unity, my impatience with this is opposed to what ought to be my patience with Christ's timing. Furthermore, the "manner determined by Christ" for full unity ought to be good enough for me and for all Christians.

And thus the dreaded and (to quote myself) "
inherent realization that in answering the question, one's level of understanding and need for growth become obvious to oneself" finally hits home for me: even the wheat needs "purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ [the Church] may shine brightly over the face of the earth."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

An Apology and a Request for Help

"[The Church's proclamation must be] humble, in the awareness that the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ has been received as a free gift (Ep 3:2), and that the messengers of the Gospel do not always fully live up to its demands (Joint Document of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, Dialogue And Proclamation: Reflection And Orientations On Interreligious Dialogue And The Proclamation Of The Gospel Of Jesus Christ, Rome, 19 May 1991, #70c)."
I sincerely apologize to you for being so delinquent in getting something, anything out on my website.

This being said, I need to appeal for help from anybody who has the time and the desire to help me out in the short term. Basically, I have been writing a few works that are essentially longer than I would typically post to my website. While I am in Rome, I have access to some sources [books, articles, and libraries themselves] that I will not have access to once I return to the United States (which will probably occur in June). I have thus been researching a few topics related to these works to which (I believe) God has pointed me. The problem at the moment is that I have too many things to research in too little time. Thus, I need to narrow down the focus a good bit. This is where I can use some help.

More specifically, I have two very different types of help that I need:
1) I need questions that people have about the topics I believe I am supposed to research. The more questions I have the better. This may contrary to the idea of narrowing down my research on these topics. I assure you this is not the case, as I have far too many questions on these topics already (both written down and in my head). Your questions will help me to identify the questions most common for people other than myself. This will help me to narrow down my research to those things which will actually help people, rather than those I find most interesting personally.

If you are interested, please email me a short list or paragraph about what about religion or spirituality has typically interested you most in the past. From this, I can try to choose one or two topics I am looking at which may be most interesting to you (and for which I need questions from you).

2) I have a moderately long list of Bible passages I need to look up, but every minute I spend looking them up is a minute that I can't spend researching (using materials that only exist here in Rome). I have reason to believe that these Bible passages all are related to the topics I am researching (I believe this because the books I have been reading over here reference these Bible passages, but usually do not quote them. It is highly inefficient to have to flip for each reference knowing the library will be closing soon.) I need to be able to quickly group these passages into topics and to be sure that I have thoroughly researched the main topics they contain.

More specifically, what I would need here would be for someone to type up (or to simply cut and paste) passages into a text document or an email. I need this because I need to be able to print out these Bible passages and carry them with me to the library, because the primary library I use here does not allow me to check out materials. I do not care much which version of the Bible you use at this point.

If you can help me out with this, please email me and let me know or just leave a comment out at I will try to split the passages between whomever says they can help (and depending on how much each can help). I do not need immediate responses. (At the same time, the faster I do get responses, the more focused my research can be.)

I realize all of this is a bit unusual, but nonetheless I believe it can help me out a great deal and I have been praying to God that He will show me how to accomplish what I understand that He wants from me (which is a bit overwhelming at the moment). Here, I must add a third area of help: any and all prayers you can lend.

Thanks in advance for any ways you can help and for your continued prayers!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday Reflection: The Repentant Criminal's (Almost) Last Words

In Luke's account of the crucifixion, the two criminals crucified to the left and right of Jesus take very different approaches to Jesus on the cross. In one, we see mockery (Luke 23:39); in the other, we see a strong defense of Jesus and this criminal's famous last words: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42)." It is the words of this second repentant criminal that I want to address, as an Ash Wednesday reflection.

At the same, it is not on the previously-mentioned famous last words of the second criminal that I want to address. Rather, I want to address this repentant criminal's prior words while hanging on his own cross. I am sure some will say that I have missed the point of Luke's account by addressing the criminal as opposed to Jesus' response to this criminal: "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43)." Others will say that I have missed the point by addressing what the criminal has to say about his own condition, rather than by addressing his final plea to Jesus. I assure you that the point regarding the power and the authority Jesus Christ has to save us with His grace and mercy even in the last moment of our lives--if we but turn to Him--has not been lost on me. (Before moving on and without comment, I will only add that while it is nice to know we can cry out to Christ at the last moment, Jesus makes it quite clear that we ought to be careful with this approach: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).")

But earlier in the same passage, we see what seems to me to be one of the major challenges in this account of the crucifixion. We see the repentant criminal not only recognize Jesus as a sinless man (though I will be the first to say that this, in and of itself, is a lot), but also his partial (if not total) realization of his own sinful state. As this repentant criminal says to the unrepentant criminal: "We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal (Luke 23:41)." Herein lies the challenge.

I dare say this non-Christian criminal--sentenced to death--had a better understanding of his sinful state than many of us do. In truth, many of us dare not examine ourselves and who we truly are for fear of what we will find ever-present within: sin, anger, fear, pain, lust, unforgiveness, envy, and the like. Unlike many of us, the repentant criminal seems to take on the attitude present in the words of the Psalmist: "For I know my offense; my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:5)." The truth is, most of us don't want our sins before us. We'd rather ignore them, and simply sweep them under the bed.

Yet this attitude of looking at ourselves as offenders of God, as criminals worthy of a just sentence is one lesson Luke intends to portray. Yes, Jesus can save us from the just punishment we each deserve; He can save us from the wrath of God. But perhaps to truly be able to call out to Him and be heard (again, Matthew 7:21), we must begin to look at ourselves as we truly are. And perhaps, like the repentant criminal, we need to put ourselves--or minimally those personal traits which are offensive and criminal in the eyes of the Lord--on our own cross.
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. --John 12:24-25
I pray that this Lent we can die in ways the Lord would have us die.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What are you doing for Lent?

A Call for Introspection
He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it:You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40)."

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I want to suggest that Lent is an opportunity to do something we might not otherwise do. Many people give up chocolate or caffeine for Lent and admittedly (as a Mountain Dew addict) this can be quite a sacrifice. However, I want to suggest that rather than merely giving up something material for Lent, that it may be possible to do something a bit more radical. That is, I want to recommend the idea of possibly making an attempt at some sort of (small or large) personal transformation.

Lent, among other things, is about contemplating what Jesus Christ did and continues to do to save sinners. It is also an opportunity for introspection. Not to be too cliche, but God helps those who help themselves. Ought we not take the opportunity of Lent to look inside and find one thing we can give up that is keeping us from God (Matthew 9:13, Luke 15:7)? Or, ought we not take the opportunity to look inside and find some spark of Love within us that we can bring to others (Matthew 6:14, Matthew 5:44-47, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3)?

I realize that the sort of introspection I'm calling for is tougher than simply giving up chocolate (or even Mountain Dew). So I decided to put something together that might help spark some ideas. Still, I hope that my call for personal introspection (in prayer, if possible) is not glossed over. I want to recommend looking again at the two greatest commandments for the introspection I'm calling for here (Matthew 22:37-40).

The Greatest Commandment
Again, the greatest commandment is: "You shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5)." It ought to be simple to find one way to love the Lord more:
  • through giving God back the time He gave us by praying or attending Mass
  • through giving up something that keeps us from God or spending time with Him(at work, at home, or in our "free time")--easy examples: wasting time in front of the television, the computer, or magazines
  • through becoming involved at one's parish
  • through learning more about one's faith, via reading the Bible or another spiritual work
The Second Greatest Command is Like the First
Very related, is the second greatest commandment: "The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39b)." In truth, this one can be looked at through two lenses: a)love of neighbor and b) love of self.

In many ways, loving one's neighbor is very much like loving God Himself:

Then the righteous will answer him and say, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?" And the king will say to them in reply, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:37-40)."
Again, it ought to be simple to find one way to love one's neighbor more:
  • through forgiving another whom we have not truly forgiven
  • through helping another person in need: at a soup kitchen or a nursing home
  • through recognizing Christ in a person others ignore
  • through teaching or talking with another about Christ and His saving grace
  • through truly loving a person we interact with daily rather than merely criticizing them
  • through being loyal and faithful to a friend or family member
  • through looking on others with love rather than lust
  • through not giving up on another labeled "a lost cause"
Love of self is often much more difficult to think about, because it is often considered selfish. Yet the verse does not merely end with "Love your neighbor." To think about this sort of love, it must be realized that love of self is not a selfish love or it is not truly love (1 Corinthians 13:5). Love of self is accepting and understanding that each person--including oneself--is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). As beings created in the image and likeness of God, we ought to respect the bodies and souls that God gave us, for each of us is truly a temple:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Just as thinking about love of oneself is often difficult, finding a way to love oneself is often difficult as well. Yet there are still ways to love oneself:
  • through deciding not to destroy God's temple through the misuse of drugs, tobacco, or alcohol
  • through maintaining a healthy lifestyle in terms of food and exercise
  • through dressing modestly so as not encourage others to sinfully look upon oneself as an object
  • through not destroying God's temple through sin
Conclusion and What to Expect
I don't offer any simple answers here. Again, my hope is that this can give some food for thought and I pray that at least a few people will indeed consider what God is calling them to do for Lent that will be truly transforming.

I also don't offer any excuses for the fact I haven't written anything publicly in a while. Rather, I will say that I'm finally settled in Rome and classes just began yesterday for me at the Angelicum (Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas). This means that I will be putting more things on in the upcoming weeks (including a few things I've already written but not had a chance to get online).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Maturing in a View of Jesus, a View of Mary, and a View of Ourselves Through the Rosary
(Complete Three Part Series)

Maturing in our views of Jesus, Mary, and ourselves is often a challenge. But if we desire such maturation, it is altogether possible. And if we pray for it, it is possible. Below is a three part series which focuses on praying the rosary for such maturation: Maturing in a View of Jesus, a View of Mary, and a View of Ourselves Through the Rosary.

Click here for a short list of my best online writings.

This was originally posted in August 2006.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"Atonement & the Flesh of Christ" - Dr. Mary Healy

Atonement & the Flesh of Christ"
Presented by Dr. Mary Healy
Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference
Pittsburgh, PA
October 28, 2006

Dr. Mary Healy's talk focuses primarily on the incorporation of concepts regarding the significance of Christ’s flesh into concepts of atonement, as presented by Father Hoffmann (see the linked page's footnote). Dr. Healy describes this as centering in on the problem of soteriology; specifically, how can we justify why God would save us as He did: through the cross? She describes the formal steps of atonement for Hoffmann and why flesh is itself required in the sacrifice of Christ.

Dr. Healy starts by stating that we must justify why the Father would sacrifice His Son on the cross. For Dr. Healy, this centers on three formal steps of atonement, as presented by Father Hoffman. First, it is God Himself who always seeks atonement from human beings. Second, though the desire for atonement starts with God, the sinner, the one requiring atonement, is not merely the recipient of atonement with God. It is a two-way street; the sinner must act in trying to make reparations, through his or her own free will. Third, God’s passion (ie. pathos) is heavily involved; His wrath is ever-present in desiring the restoration of His covenant with us.

For Father Hoffman, what happens in atonement is that a repentant sinner traverses sin in the opposite direction. That is, sin is rewound as now bearing suffering. Further, God forgives by giving the sinner the ability to bear the suffering and to restore communion. Bilateral reciprocity is required. Sin is abolished by being borne back in. In sin, we experience Hell, because of our separation from Christ. However, in Jesus, this is rewound as sin is abolished by one who never sinned.

Dr. Healy deals with the problem of why God chose the cross for our atonement. In the context of the tri-partite form of atonement from Father Hoffman this becomes obvious. Christ acted for us all, on behalf of us all. He acted in a “pro-structure of being,” in a sincere gift of self. For Dr. Healy, the cross is within the Trinity and represents atonement to the Father.

In integrating the concept of Christ’s flesh into atonement for us, Dr. Healy describes the significance of Christ’s suffering. For Dr. Healy, the suffering present in the Agony in the Garden is not enough. Christ needed to suffer externally--in the flesh--as well, as in the ancient form of animal sacrifice.

This also culminates in three points about flesh within the context of atonement which are particularly important to Dr. Healy. First, in speaking of flesh and sin, Dr. Healy speaks of the fact that flesh does not merely mean our material bodies, but our whole being as viewed from the external, worldly view; this includes our human frailty. Flesh is fundamentally good, and yet the place where our sinful inclinations reside. In Christ’s Incarnation, in what Dr. Healy describes as His “Infleshment,” Christ became fully human, not merely in terms of his body. Christ’s flesh that naturally shrank back was also the vessel for salvation when He ultimately did not shrink back. Second, in speaking of flesh and sacrifice, Dr. Healy speaks of the fact that Christ’s flesh was something that could be destroyed, fully turned over to the Father, and restored (in the resurrection). In this way, Christ’s flesh provided a suitable sacrifice. Jesus, in the flesh, in stating “this is my body” (Mark 14:22) made a choice for holiness, for the common good, rather than sin. (This is directly contrary to the many views prevalent today regarding the flesh, which orient themselves towards sin: “This is my body, and I will do what I want [abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc.] with it.”) Jesus, the Last Adam, rewound the sin of the first Adam. Third, in speaking of the flesh and spousal communion, Dr. Healy points to the fact that Christ’s flesh and solidarity with Trinity makes possible communion with God. She looks to the Bible (in Romans 12, Ephesians 5:22 and 1 Corinthians 7:4) and to Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body which describe sin as adulterous to our spousal communion with God. Atonement is restoration to the marital communion. Ultimately, in these three ways, Christ atones for us by sacrificing himself, not just spiritually, but in the flesh.

This is the fifth in a series of my summaries of various scholastic papers which were presented (and have not been published as of yet) at the "Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference," which I attended in Pittsburgh, PA. -- Tom Reagan

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"St. Athanasius of Alexandria & the Divinity of the Holy Spirit" - Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap

“St. Athanasius of Alexandria &
the Divinity of the Holy Spirit"
Presented by Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap
Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference
Pittsburgh, PA
October 28, 2006

Father Thomas Weinandy’s talk focused primarily on the ideas of the Holy Spirit as presented by St. Athanasius in the 4th Century, as well as a model of the Holy Spirit as actively participating in the Trinity. Father Weinandy speaks first of Athanasius fighting the heresy of Arianism and declaring that Jesus was indeed divine. He speaks of Athanasius then fighting the heresy of the Tropici (see 362) and showing that the Holy Spirit was indeed divine, but not merely a second Son of the Father, nor a Grandson of the Father.

In speaking of the ideas of the Holy Spirit as presented by St. Athanasius, Father Weinandy particularly points to Athanasius’ first letter to St. Serapion of Thmuis. For Father Weinandy, this letter highlights several concepts that we can learn about the Holy Spirit. First, everything received by the Son is given to the Holy Spirit. Second, the Holy Spirit cannot be a creature: all three Persons form one Triad, the Godhead, and therefore none of them are creatures. To declare otherwise is blasphemy. (In addition, but not relating to the Holy Spirit, when you say “Father” you are immediately implying a “Son.” Relationships in life and within the Trinity are extremely important as points of reference.) Third, the Holy Spirit is always referred to by the qualifier “the.” Fourth, if the Holy Spirit does what Scripture says He does, He must be God. We see in 1 Corinthians, for example, that “no one knows God…save the Spirit of God.” Only God can know Himself, as He is beyond the comprehension of His creatures. Fifth, to know the deep things of God (through the Holy Spirit), the Holy Spirit must be in God to know His mind. Without the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t even know God as Father or Son. Sixth, since the Holy Spirit renews preachers, he must not need holiness to give holiness (as say, a highest creature would require). Seventh, the Holy Spirit is called the “quickening” or “life-giving” Spirit; yet, only insofar as the Holy Spirit shares in the incorruptible Life in the Father and the Son can He give incorruptible life. Eighth, in referring to the “unction” (under this link: need to scroll) or “seal” relative to the Holy Spirit, since the Word anoints us, the Holy Spirit transforms us. As we are baptized in the Holy Spirit in baptism, the Holy Spirit brings us to the Son who can cry out “Abba, Father!” Ninth, as temples of the God (which is exactly where God dwells), Christians hold the Holy Spirit, the divine God. Tenth, Athanasius speaks of the fact that the Holy Spirit must be divine since the Son is in the image of the Father and the Holy Spirit is in the divine image of the Son. (In turn, through our baptism, we bear the image of the Son.) Eleventh, the Holy Spirit, being God, must be incapable of change and corruption, because He has all Goodness and Truth. Twelfth, since God is everywhere, the Holy Spirit is everywhere. Thirteenth, we partake of the Holy Spirit, but He does not partake as He is divine in and of Himself. Fourteenth, the Holy Spirit is one, but creatures are many. As there is one Father and one Son, this oneness indicates that the Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit is one in being with the Father and the Son (ie. homoousios, that is, “one substance”).

This all leads to Father Weinandy explaining a model of the Holy Spirit, from the writings of St. Augustine. The Father begets the Son eternally (in kairos). The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father to the Son, because the Father loves the Son wholly and completely. The Son wouldn’t be the Son if he didn’t fully love the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as Love (since God is Love). That is, as the Father speaks the Word eternally in the (Holy) Spirit of Love, the Son cries "Abba, Father" in the (Holy) Spirit of Love.

This is the fourth in a series of my summaries of various scholastic papers which were presented (and have not been published as of yet) at the "Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference," which I attended in Pittsburgh, PA. -- Tom Reagan

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"The Todah and the Eucharist" - Dr. Tim Gray

“Sacrifice of Praise: The Todah and the Eucharist"
Presented by Dr. Tim Gray
Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference
Pittsburgh, PA
October 28, 2006

This talk focused primarily on the todah, a particular type of ancient Israelite peace offering, which focuses on thanksgiving or praise of God. This type of offering is considered was the most important and is particularly significant because it is always liturgical and is always oriented towards God. Dr. Gray describes the role of the todah, its various parts, and ultimately that the Eucharistic offering is in the classic form of both the Passover and the todah.

Dr. Gray first describes the todah as being in a particular context. This offering begins with the gathering of not just the person who will sacrifice, but others as well. It then continues with recounting how God saved you, and the singing of appropriate todah hymns. Next, a sacrifice occurs and just as importantly, a meal as well; sacrifice itself is not enough, you must actually eat the meal as well. Finally, zakar, remembrance, is present. This is not simply a one-time payment of debts, but a rededication of one’s life to God and his loving redemption.

The role of the todah is then described by Dr. Gray in the contexts of Israel, the prophets, and finally, the Psalms. First, in the context of Israel, we see David in finally taking Jerusalem as offering up a todah. Later, we see David reorganize the Levites and specify that they are to give thanks and praise, and “invoke” (which, for Dr. Gray, points to “zacar” and thus “remembrance”) in classic todah form. (Dr. Gray further points to other examples of the todah present in ancient Israel in 1 Chronicles 29, 2 Chronicles 33, Ezra 3, 2 Maccabees 10, and Nehemiah 12.) Second, in the context of the prophets, he points to Isaiah 12 as representative of todah eschatology (as ultimate deliverance). He also points to Isaiah 25 in which the remnant celebrate a todah meal (which in turn, for Dr. Gray, points back to Exodus 15). In addition, he points to the messianic meal as following the form of a todah. Third, in the context of the Book of Psalms, he points to Psalms 113-118 as todah songs, which ultimately provide a backdrop for the Last Supper. The whole Book of Exodus, for Dr. Gray, casts itself as a todah.

Dr. Gray speaks of how the todah hymn is the synthesis of lament psalms and praise psalms. He describes the view of ancient Israelites that in the Messianic age, all sacrifices and psalms would be todah sacrifices and todah psalms. In describing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Dr. Gray points to the fact that Psalm 118, a todah psalm, was sung. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Gray points to the fact that the best Greek translation of todah is eucharistia. This all leads to Dr. Gray’s ultimate point: the Mass itself is cast in the form of a todah as it follows the classic form and context of a todah. We see this not merely in the words of the Mass (“thanks be to God,” “Go in peace,” “do this in remembrance of me,” etc.), but also in the Eucharistic sacrifice itself, instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper.

This is the third in a series of my summaries of various scholastic papers which were presented (and have not been published as of yet) at the "Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference," which I attended in Pittsburgh, PA. -- Tom Reagan

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Jesus and the New Priesthood" - Dr. Brant Pitre

Summary of “Jesus and the New Priesthood”
Presented by Dr. Brant Pitre
Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference
Pittsburgh, PA
October 28, 2006

Dr. Pitre's presentation focused primarily on the Jewish hope for a priestly Messiah and this hope's fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who saw Himself as this Messiah. Dr. Pitre discusses this in terms of the types of priesthood as understood by ancient Jews and Israelites. He then speaks of how the future Messiah was described by ancient Jews and Israelites, as well as the new priesthood that would accompany this Messiah. Next, he spoke of Jesus and his disciples and how they paralleled the priesthood of Moses. Further, he spoke of the new temple that was expected and the new priesthood that was expected as well. Dr. Pitre discussed the temple’s cleansing and Jesus as the Mechizedekian Messiah. Finally, he described the Last Supper and the new sacrifice it presented.

For Dr. Pitre, the Old Testament presents both the Mechizedekian priesthood and Levitical priesthood. There would be a new priesthood still to come. This new priest will be royal as well as priestly, will be permanent, will have the wisdom of Solomon, will be over the Gentiles, will be a virgin, and will be tied to the heavenly Temple and not the Temple of Jerusalem (Testament of Levi 18). Sin will cease in the time of this new priest. The hopes for this priestly Messiah are present throughout the ancient Jewish and Israelite writings (in places such as Psalm 110).

In describing the priestly hierarchy present in Jesus and the disciples, Dr. Pitre shows the parallels to the old priesthood ushered in during the days of Moses. While Moses established the Old Covenant priesthood, Jesus established the New Covenant priesthood. Aaron was the High Priest in the Old, while Peter is chief of the apostles in the New. While there was a core three present in Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu in the Old, there was a core three present in Peter, James, and John in the New. For Dr. Pitre, the twelve pillars and the “young men” associated with them (for the twelve tribes of Israel) parallel the twelve apostles who in turn represent the same twelve tribes. Finally, the seventy elders of Israel along with the Sanhedrin in the Old parallel the seventy appointed and sent out in the New.

Dr. Pitre describes the new temple and the new priesthood and associates both with Jesus. Jesus does more than cleanse the Temple in Jerusalem; he is the new Temple. Jesus ushers in the new priesthood, in “the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:1-6).”

This all leads to Dr. Pitre’s final point, in which he describes the Last Supper and the new sacrifice which Jesus brings in. Jesus both sought to replace the Temple cult and the Temple priesthood in the Last Supper. In addition, Jesus viewed Himself as the priestly Messiah predicted who hosted His Messianic Banquet at the Last Supper. As words used by Jesus, “body and blood” pointed to sacrificial purposes in both Jesus’ death and in the Last Supper itself. Jesus instituted the sacrificial rite of the Last Supper as something that his disciples, as new priests, were to “ remembrance" (Luke 22:19). Finally, in his pointing to the wine as the "blood of the covenant" (Matthew 26:28), Jesus showed that a New Covenant was being established, in a manner similar to that of Moses and the Levitical priests.

This is the second in a series of my summaries of various scholastic papers which were presented (and have not been published as of yet) at the "Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference," which I attended in Pittsburgh, PA. -- Tom Reagan

Monday, November 06, 2006

“Divine Liturgy, Divine Love” - Dr. David Fagerberg

Summary of “Divine Liturgy, Divine Love”
Presented by Dr. David Fagerberg
Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference
Pittsburgh, PA
October 28, 2006

The thesis of Dr. Fagerberg’s presentation focused primarily on the fact that all things in the Church must pass through the hypostatic union before we can use them in liturgy. By “all things,” Dr. Fagerberg really means this; he refers to temples, vestments, Sundays, architecture, art, and priests as examples. In particular, Dr. Fagerberg focuses on the fact that sacrifice itself must also pass through the hypostatic union. This does not diminish or nullify sacrifice, but rather strengthens and perfects it.

The liturgy includes sacrifice through love. In speaking of the liturgy, Dr. Fagerberg states that something is liturgical for being an exercise of Christ. Ritual alone without divine or Christological content is not liturgy. This is because the Christian religion is the religion of Christ (though this is sometimes forgotten). Christ Himself is an eternal sacrifice that unites the human nature with the Word, with the divine.

Sacrifice has a negative connotation today. Still we must remember that the Church reflects the light of Christ (Lumen Gentium 1) and that Christ himself transfigures the world through sacrifice. Further, Christ transfigures sacrifice itself.

In bringing together the work of three other theologians, Dr. Fagerberg speaks of the fact that there are three parts of sacrifice: offering, immolation, and God’ acceptance. Typically, people today focus on immolation in sacrifice, but for Dr. Fagerberg this is incomplete. Further, for most people today, sacrifice may be material or immaterial and may include something or someone, but they forget sacrifice is also to someone.

It would be better stated to state that for Dr. Fagerberg, sacrifice is not merely to someone, but to Someone. The full sacrifice in Mass includes immolation of the humiliated (in the form of “God became Man”) Jesus present in the transubstantiated Eucharist, but this Sacrifice is also done by someone (the Son) to Someone (the Father). The humiliation of Christ became Man is even greater than the humiliation of the cross for Dr. Fagerberg. Still, the victim of the Eucharistic table is not a new victim, but an eternal one.

Dr. Fagerberg puts this in context. In ancient Hebrew and Greco-Roman ways, sacrifice was for religious things, and was never for purposes of renunciation or sadness. Rather, sacrifice was gladly performed and joy accompanied this sacrifice. Sacrifice was always by man to his god or gods. No value was given to the death of the animal sacrificed, but rather to the honor being shown to the man’s god or gods.

Furthermore, it speaking of Louis Bouyer’s work (in Liturgical Piety, 1955, and in Rite and Man, 1963--dates: questionable), Dr. Fagerberg speaks of Bouyer’s changing views over time. In particular, Dr. Fagerberg speaks of Bouyer’s conclusion in the latter work: the sacred was never made out of the profane, and yet the sacred makes itself known relative to the profane (and vice versa). Sacrifice is giving in, not just giving up.

For Dr. Fagerberg, this all leads to looking at sacrifice through three lenses. First, there is a protological lens where “sacrifice is every action done so as to cling to God.” Here, we see G.K. Chesterton’s re-statement of the Greek view that in surrendering something, the man will gain more for losing an ox than God will gain by receiving the ox. For Dr. Fagerberg, “liturgy is doing the world the way the world was meant to be done.” Second, in the soteriological lens, we see that for our salvation, the only sacrifice acceptable would be of a righteous man who clinged not to his own ways, but to God. We ourselves are afraid to unclench our hands from our selves and our ways, due to our fallen ways. Third, there is the eschatological lens in which we see that it was the Father who offered the Son to Himself, fulfilling the three parts of sacrifice. What the first Adam didn’t do, the second did: He clinged to His Father.

In summation, Dr. Fagerberg takes a view of liturgy and sacrifice passing through Christ. It is through Christ that all things are perfected and united with God. Religion is a relation of man to His God. For Christians, Christ is the mediator that perfects our relation to our God. Liturgy and sacrifice must center on the praise of the Lord passing through the lips of the Church. Stated better and more completely, liturgy and sacrifice must be through Christ, who does not separate Himself from the Mystical Body.

This is the second in a series of my summaries of various scholastic papers which were presented (and have not been published as of yet) at the "Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference," which I attended in Pittsburgh, PA. -- Tom Reagan

Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the "Love & Sacrifice: 2006 Letter & Spirit Conference" in Pittsburgh on October 27 and 28. Pulled together by Dr. Scott Hahn's St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, this was a conference of scholars who each presented papers which were formally and informally responded to by their peers. Click on the appropriate link to read my brief summary of what each presented.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Greek Orthodox to Visit the Vatican

I found the following from Catholic World News. This is a direct quote:

Greek Orthodox leader to visit Pope in December

Nov. 03 ( - Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, the ranking prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church, will travel to Rome for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) in December, officials of the Orthodox Church have announced.

Greece was one of the Orthodox countries in which suspicions of the Catholic Church remained most pronounced through the 20th century, and the Orthodox Synod was initially reluctant to accept a visit by Pope John Paul II (bio - news). But the late Pope disarmed critics when he visited Athens in 2001 and issued an apology for the Crusaders' sacking of Constantinople nearly 1,000 years earlier-- an offense still borne in the memories of the Orthodox believers who make up 98% of the Greek population.

Having made some progress in overcoming Greek hostility, Pope John Paul issued an invitation to Archbishop Christodoulos to return his visit. Now that the Greek prelate is set for a trip to the Vatican, the Greek Church announced, "The Holy Synod expressed its joy that this visit will be carried out."

Archbishop Christodoulos will be the first prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church to make an official visit to the Vatican since the Great Schism of 1054. Although he was in Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, that was not considered an official visit.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints Day: A Good Name for A Great Day

I was talking to a friend today and she told me she realized just today during Mass how cool All Saints Day is:

Her: "I realized that All Saints Day is basically a day of celebration for all the Saints."

Me (being a smart alec): "Thus the name."

Her: "I guess I never thought about the fact that it's not just for my favorite saints, but for all the saints."

My friend is so right! All Saints Day is not just for the canonized saints, but for the faithfully departed saints in our families and the unknown saints as well.

And as living members of the communion of saints, though not perfected as our brothers and sisters in heaven, this day is for us too!

Nonetheless, I can't resist pointing to a few of my favorite canonized saints:

Furthermore, though they aren't canonized, I can't resist pointing to a few more people I like to think are in or on their way to heaven and are praying for us right now:

All you angels and saints, all you holy men and women of God:

Pray for us!