Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Only Great Men Can Make Great Men (Part I)

Only great men can make great men. Great systems, great programs and great schools do not make great men.

Out of 265 popes, the majority of them have been good men and good leaders. Some prove to be great and only a handful turned out to be a real disappointment.

However, if one takes a look at the list of these 265 popes, one cannot help but notice something. If you were to divide the list of popes into two equal parts, you will see that the first half of this list is front-loaded with Saints; the second half contains just a few Saints.

For instance, in the first millennium of Christianity there were 74 canonized popes; popes who reached sainthood. In the second millennium, however, there were only 5 canonized popes. Out of all the popes of the first thousand years, about 54% of them were Saints (74 out of 139). In the second thousand years, however, there was a precipitous drop of saintly popes; a little over 4% of all the popes reached Sainthood (5 out of 119).

You might be asking: So what? The reasons behind the huge gap between the first and the second millennium popes will go a long way in explaining why the Catholic Church does not have the influence on civilization it once had.

As a matter of fact, Pope Benedict XV in 1917 asked a very important question in his encyclical, On Preaching the Word. Indeed, many Catholics are asking this same question today: Why is it that the Church in the twentieth-century does not enjoy the same success as the Church in the first three or four centuries?

After all, Christianity was legalized in 313 A.D. with Christians only making up about 10% of the total population of the ancient world. Just 50-60 years later, Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire. In just over 300 years, beginning with the Apostles, the Gospel spread like wildfire. The most powerful empire ever to exist went from suppressing Christianity and executing Christians to worshipping Christ and honoring the Saints. Soon thereafter a Christian civilization was born.

Pope Benedict XV goes on to remind us that Catholic Church in modern times possesses the same Sacraments, the same Gospel, and the same Holy Spirit as did the early Church. So, why do we have different results? Why is it that Christianity seems to be losing ground while Secularism appears to be making great strides?

The answer to this last question has a great deal to do with why the first thousand years of Christianity enjoyed so many popes who were Saints; popes who were truly great men!

More on this in my next blog (click April, 2010 archives to continue).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's Not What You Do...

It is not so much what you say or what you do that changes people's hearts for the better, it is what God does with what you say and what you do that really counts. No doubt, the content of our words and actions should, at all times, be morally good. But the mystery of good and lasting change is brought about through the love that we put into it. The Lord can get the most mileage out of our love and sacrifice.

But there are times when a highly publicized achievement will benefit only a few while small and seemingly unimportant deeds- with God's help -will bring about great changes for many. Psalm 127 says it best: "Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build." Virtue acts quietly. And quite often, its benefits are felt long after the virtue has been exercised.

The Catholic monks of old, known for their prayers and sacrifices before embarking on a great mission, were on to something. They taught us before acting or embarking on some project, make time for prayer and spiritual sacrifices. As such, you will not be the only one acting but God will also act on your behalf.