Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Survival Rates and the Golden Rule

Excerpt from the book, The Rise of Christianity, 1996
By: Rodney Starks

Preface: The following excerpt highlights the great charity of the early Christians and why they multiplied in the first centuries

Survival Rates and the Golden Rule:

At the height of the second great epidemic, around 260, in the Easter letter…Dionysius [a Saint, Bishop and Father of the Church] wrote a lengthy tribute to the heroic nursing efforts of local Christians, many of whom lost their lives while caring for others:

“Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbor and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons and lay men winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.”

Dionysius emphasized the heavy mortality of the epidemic by asserting how much happier survivors would be had they merely, like the Egyptians in the time of Moses, lost the first born from each house. For “there is not a house in which there is not one dead- how I wish it had only been one.” But while the epidemic had not passed over the Christians, he suggests that pagans fared much worse. “Its full impact fell on the heathen.”

Dionysius also offered an explanation of this mortality differential. Having noted at length how the Christian community nursed the sick and dying and even spared nothing in preparing the dead for proper burial, he wrote:

“The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, having thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease: but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.”

But should we believe him?

[T]here is compelling evidence from pagan sources that this was characteristic Christian behavior. Thus, a century later, the emperor Julian launched a campaign to institute pagan charities in an effort to match the Christians. Julian complained in a letter to the high priest of Galatia in 362 that the pagans needed to equal the virtues of Christians, for recent Christian growth was caused by their “moral character, even if pretended,” and by their “benevolence toward strangers and care for the graves of the dead.”

In a letter to another priest, Julian wrote: “I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by the priests, the impious Galileans observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence.” And he also wrote, “The impious Galileans support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.”

Giving Social Values Their Due

Recently Bill O’Reilly, host of O’Reilly Factor, interviewed Britt Hume and Karl Rove on the Republican primary race and the issues that each of the Republican candidates represent. To Hume’s and Rove’s chagrin, to Senator Rick Santorum has brought public attention to issues like contraception, religious freedom, amniocentesis testing and pro-life causes. As you might know, both Hume and Rove are not only Fox News analysts but some would argue that they represent the Republican establishment. And as with any “establishment-types,” they subscribe to their own brand of conventional wisdom, a narrow range of thought, which holds up the economy as the most important issue. On a number of occasions they have suggested that the emphasis on social issues is unbecoming for a presidential candidate.

However, the proposal that economics is more important than social values is like saying the effects are more important than the cause. I would go so far as to say that there is emerging a kind of conservatism that is becoming every bit as materialistic as their liberal counterparts. What many establishment-types fail to reflect on is that the economic crisis of 2008 was man-made. It resulted from a deficit of virtue. The government was eager to promise too much for political reasons and consumers were eager to buy more than what they could afford. Sometimes we forget that the economy is more organic than it is mechanical. Indeed, it is a network of relationships which presupposes a good number of virtues.

For the most part, we assume in our daily transactions that people are good on their word- that they are honest –and that they are guided by the norms of justice. In the absence of these virtues, trust begins to breakdown as it has. And when we no longer trust our neighbor in the free market, consumers naturally turn to the State to redress injustices. In fact, people begin to distrust even themselves.

Pardon the digression, but why is Social Security deemed to be a compassionate service of the government? Why does it give senior citizens (and others) a sense of economic security? Is it not the case that the U.S. government takes a certain portion of “our money” (without us having any say about it) so we can receive it back several years down the road when we retire? We earn no interest on that money. But if we were permitted to invest it, we could earn quite a bit of interest on it. Still, for some reason we believe it to be in our best interest to give a lot of money to the State so that it can give it back at a later time. Unfortunately, it is very probable that my generation will not even see Social Security benefits. Due to the demographic imbalances (the ratio between the elderly and younger tax payers) that are soon to be felt, it simply will not be solvent by the time I retire in 20 years. Have we ever stopped to wonder why it is necessary that the government be the custodian of my retirement funds?

Fewer people are appreciating that today's economic prosperity is feeding off of the social and moral capital from previous generations. But that capital is being spent. With each younger generation, work ethics, valued sacrifice and self-discipline have weakened. Many, if not most, employers see this trend. If we can but understand that the economy is the effect of strong families, a good education and a strong Church, then both political and economic prosperity can be had for the long-term. No doubt, it is the family where self-governance, frugality, stewardship and the virtue of sacrificing immediate wants for long-term interests are fostered.

For those of us who are critical of secular-liberalism it is important to remember the following: Christianity, not conservatism, gave birth to Western civilization or what was once known as Christian civilization. It was from medieval Catholic Europe, that is, from the monastic communities of monks and Renaissance Italy where the free market got its start. It was the Catholic worldview that held that political and economic liberty leads to prosperity.

You probably have heard of Intelligent Design. This is a belief that a Creator, an Intelligence, if you will, had fashioned the order and beauty of the universe. Just the same, Catholics in the first millennium also inferred that there is an "Intelligent Design" of the commonwealth. That is to say, God so apportioned every human being with certain desires, talents and aspirations that if left to their own counsel they would contribute to the greater good of the community. As such, central planning courtesy of a big government was unnecessary. Indeed, when citizens, workers and consumers were free to actualize their God-given potential, everyone benefited from it. Progess was born.

The very idea of progress is Christian. If you take the whole of world history you will find that freedom was the exception, not the rule. Liberty is a stern discipline. When it is exaggerated into license (liberty without limits), then it will be compensated with tyranny. To be sure, this balance of individual freedom with civic order not only produced economic and scientific ingenuity, it was inspired by the Gospel. It was the Gospel of Jesus Christ that instilled the following principles:

• The belief that every person, needy or powerful, was equal before the altar and therefore equal in the public square.

• That we are not to envy and hate political rulers, but rather we are to pray for them.

• That we are to do unto others that we would have them do unto us.

• That we are to do the right thing even when no human being is looking. As believers we know God is always looking.

• That as Christ taught his Apostles, those in authority are not to lord over their subjects.

• That we are to welcome and care for the lowly, that is, children, the infirmed and the poor. And we are to even love those who wrong us.

• That we are to take the plank out of our own eye before we seek to remove the speck out of our neighbor’s eye.

• That we are to be vigilant of using idle words (Jesus says we will pay back every penny), especially as it pertains to the good name of our neighbor.

• And that, if necessary, we are to lay down our life for our brother.

Every single one of these virtues and commands for our Lord makes for a better economic and political environment. These are the principles which made the most prosperous civilization possible. People like Britt Hume and Karl Rove need to know this. After all, if we base our hopes on improving the effects without fixing the cause, if we suffer from the illusion that the economy and the ballot box is where America's restoration lies, then I am afraid we are repeating the same mistakes as the Roman empire and so many other civilizations which died from within.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Humanae Mortis

Excerpts from “Humanae Mortis.”
Originally published in Triumph magazine in 1970

By: Lorenzo Albacete. Lorenzo was a young physicist from Puerto Rico and who later found a priestly vocation.


It is the policy of Sky View to keep the material in the posts as simple as possible. I try to mirror the simplicity of the Gospel and the writings of the Saints. Nevertheless, there are mysteries of our salvation that are complex; the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the doctrine of indulgences, just to name two. This particular piece by Fr. Albacete is a bit academic and philosophical. But if you can stomach an elevated presentation of life, love, death and sacrifice, it will make for a wonderful Lenten reflection! And if you find it difficult to read at times, I encourage you to keep reading. As such, you will understand the fundamental difference between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death.

Humanae Mortis:

“[T]o avoid the confrontation with death is a refusal to live life to its fullest…

This is the truth of life: to be a man every man must surrender his self. To be a man every man must die. Death is the ultimate obstacle to the society that has, all along, not allowed man to be a man. The flight from death is thus a hatred for life.

Death is, first of all, an intensely personal act involving the whole man. Gone are the social supports, the laws, the public myths. Alone with his self perhaps for the first time, the individual at the moment of death is poor in that poverty which all the other poverties only suggest. And taking command of his self in a way never possible to him before, the individual acts: he takes a stand. Out of the personal center of his being, terminating his own life from within, the man dies, he surrenders his self to the root of his personhood, to the Person who called him to be.

Death is also a threat to this society because it is a personal act, and personal acts are free acts, and death is the totally free act. Death, that is, is not totally passive. In its external circumstances, in its inevitability, it is indeed independent of the individual; but ironically, it is precisely in this that death provides the opportunity for an act of freedom…Free to do what? Free to accept or affirm the value of his life; or free to reject it, to judge it valueless. Free, in short, to decide. Death reveals man as a being capable of and called to make a decision. As an extremely personal event, death goes to the heart of the person to elicit the perfect act of the one who is called: a definite response. At last, after all the evasions and partial commitments of life, the individual is compelled to take a stand through which his inner existence is to attain its irrevocable form. Death is man’s highest act, in which he consummates his existence in freedom.

At bottom, every moral decision has this cast. So it is that the ultimate decision, the determining, final stand can be an impossible challenge to the man who has refused throughout life to make a moral decision, or who has seen morality as relative, situational, with no effects on his deepest being. Because the anti-life society is peopled by such men, it must avoid, postpone, and ignore death…

The paradox of death as both the ultimate misfortune and the supreme culmination of life may be clarified in two ways.

First of all, some things can be unfortunate and at the same time necessary and indispensable for us in our fallen human existence. For example, a loss can be healing, a bad experience can be good for us for the very reason that it torments us. It is in this spirit that Christians see in death a just punishment for sin.

The notion of punishment, like the notion of sin, is anathema to the society that cannot understand life. These are the requirements for true appreciation of punishment: a sense of sin, and a sense of having offended Someone. A sense of sin is essential to the understanding of punishment for without punishment appears as an arbitrary oppression, an unavoidable consequence of an unfortunate act. A sense of sin allows a man to realize that he had the capacity to turn away, in clear consciousness and on the basis of a free decision, from what he knows to be the true purpose of life; while if true and false are relative, then of course there can be no such thing as a true punishment…So the anti-life society, which knows nothing about sin, nothing about authority, must see death as a natural catastrophe, as another obstacle to the self-supremacy of man which must be overcome by man’s liberator; technology.

But herein lies the tragedy: punishment is actually liberation, as long as it is accepted freely. To the extent that it is resisted, misunderstood, rejected- to that extent punishment is enslaving. But once it is accepted out of a sense of sin and justice, then it becomes liberating. And it is precisely in the nature of death to require man to decide his attitude with respect to punishment. To the extent that it represents a separation that should not be, to that extent death can be purifying.

The healthy man (the Christian man) knows all of this. His sense of justice enables him to have a latent experience of this “unfortunate” but necessary aspect of death. A latent experience is that unspoken awareness which becomes conscious when a particular occurrence, though unexpected, does not surprise us. It is that feeling, difficult to express, that you should have known all along that things would turn out this way. So it is with death. Our own sense of sin demands it. In this way death, though a misfortune, appears as expected to the man who has tasted life; while to the man or society that has never known life, that exists in an artificial inhuman environment. death appears as a challenge to be avoided…

Man’s most personal act is a response to the call that gives him his personal identity. And the fundamental response between persons, the most central relation between persons, is love. Man’s most personal act must therefore be an act of love.

But in what does an act of love consist? Underlying every act of love is giving, a surrendering of self to the other. The most perfect and total act of love is therefore the total self-giving of one person to another. The life of love is consummated when this self-giving is reciprocated, when it is entirely mutual…The link between love and life is sacrifice. Sacrifice is self-giving, the surrender which manifests love and renders it fruitful in abundance. The Gospel confirms this: the only way for man to gain his life is to lose it, to give it up, to sacrifice it. Sacrifice is an act central to man. The personal act performed by man at the moment of death is sacrifice.

As a sacrifice which fulfills and completes life, death is central to man. And to the extent as a result of sin all sacrifices are painful and difficult and even “destructive” to fallen man so is the ultimate sacrifice, death. At the same time, death, as we have seen, is a culmination, a maturing from within. But the point is that this maturing process is a sacrificial process and therefore for fallen man it is in every one of its stages painful, difficult, “destructive.” But at all costs, the fundamental link between love and life which is this sacrifice and which accomplishes this maturing process, this loving conversation between the person and the Personal Origin of his identity- at all costs must be maintained if man is to be a man.

Here is the overall cohesiveness of the anti-life mentality: It must conquer death, it must destroy death, because the fundamental drive of the anti-life mentality is to destroy the link between love and life wherever it appears.

Before conception: denial of the sacrifice of total self-giving between husband and wife; after conception: denial of the sacrifice of surrendering the needs of the new life; through out life: denial of the sacrifice of living it on its own terms, refusal to accept the gifts of the earth which the Creator has given man, rejection of his invitation to share his life. Now, as a logical extension of this spirit, if science and technology permit, there is to be the rejection of the sacrifice of consummation in the arms of the One who called us.

But this will not succeed. For the Caller became the called, and in the one supreme Sacrifice of the Cross, he sealed permanently the link between love and life, between human love and supernatural life, between man and God.

There is a terrifying possibility. At the moment of death the person himself may choose to break the link between love and life forever, he may refuse to sacrifice. He will damn himself. To the extent that the anti-life society has broken this link, it is already damned.



1. To end on a more positive note: To the extent that the Catholic Church restores this link between life and love- the link being sacrifice -to that extent will souls and America itself be saved. But death has to be accepted as a punishment from God which is but the penalty of sin. If we do accept it as such, Christ, who died on the Cross for us, transforms death into the greatest of all blessings as a passage way to eternal happiness. And in affirming the value of our live at the moment of death, it can be our greatest gift to the One Who created us; that is, if we imitate God's only begotten Son by offering ourselves as a sacrifice to Him.

2. However, the refusal to confront death prevents us from living life to the full. Indeed, the fear of death keeps us in a perpetual state of slavery. “Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) Always in a hurry to accumulate as many pleasurable experiences as possible before our time is up, we fail to see life as it really is and we fail to live this life to the full. Why? Because we are relunctant to sacrifice ourselves in our love for others and especially in our love for God.

Letter of ’71

The Letter of ’71: Abridged and revised (For new Sky View readers)
According to Archbishop Charles Chaput in Render Unto Caesar, in 1970 Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, asserted that the fallout of the Sexual Revolution was nothing that we have seen before. And in response to the precipitous decline in priestly and religious vocations he said that “the city of man is beginning to strike terror in our heart…the Church is becoming extinguished in men’s souls and Christian communities are crumbling.”

Approximately a year later, in 1971, Sister Lucia, one of three seers of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, wrote a letter to her nephew, Valinho, who was a Catholic priest. It could be argued that this letter was one of the most important letters written in the twentieth century. Contained in this letter was her diagnosis as to why “the Church is becoming extinguished in men’s souls.”

To begin with, Father Valinho was equally distressed over the turmoil and the disorientation of the late sixties and early seventies. His concern was validated by Sister Lucia when she wrote, “It is indeed sad that so many are allowing themselves to be dominated by the diabolical wave that is enveloping the world, and they are so blind that they cannot see their error.” To be sure, this “diabolical wave” had been boiling underneath the surface for several decades

Leading up to the early 1960’s, the Catholic Church had every reason to be optimistic about her future. Indeed, during the forties and fifties vocations and church attendance were on the rise. In addition, Church membership in America had nearly doubled in size. However, what Catholics did not see coming- including many of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council when it opened in 1962 -was that the Culture of Death would overflow from the concentration camps of the Third Reich and the gulags of the Soviet Union to the youth, entertainment industry and universities in the West. The spirit of anti-Catholicism was far from dead.

It would seem that this came as no surprise to Sister Lucia. With regard to the abrupt surge of secularism in the world she said, “…the principal error is that they have abandoned prayer.” But it is not only the world that had abandoned prayer. She indicated that the trend was also in the Church. “I am convinced,” Lucia said, “that the principal cause of evil in the world and the falling away of so many consecrated souls is the lack of union with God in prayer. The devil is very smart and watches for our weak points so he can attack us. If we are not careful and attentive in obtaining the strength from God we will fall, because our times are very bad and we are weak.” Quite often we forget that the Church is the Mother of humanity; and what a mother does, children also do. With this, the devil exploited the spiritual neglect of Catholics to great effect.

Sister Lucia reminds Fr. Valinho that when people turn away from God in prayer “everything is lacking to them.” Christ reminds us that we can do nothing without him. This is why, according to the Fatima seer, we must draw close to the Tabernacle and pray fervently.

She said there are two practical advantages of prayer: First, we receive “more light, more strength, more grace and virtue than you could ever achieve by reading many books, or by great studies.” And second, Sr. Lucia told her nephew that “you will accomplish a lot in a short period of time.” The lesson she learned from Our Lady of Fatima was that we should “let time be lacking for everything else but never for prayer!” Psalm 127 says it best: "Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build."

Sr. Lucia said that especially for those in spiritual authority they need “to keep close to God and to tell Him about all their affairs and all their problems before they discuss them with human beings.” That’s right! Treat God as a best friend- the most important person in your life –by consulting with Him before seeking the counsel of anyone else.

Perhaps in colleges and seminaries too much emphasis was placed on scholarly books rather than holiness as a source of knowledge; or in parishes, perhaps too much was made of meetings and planning and not enough on spiritual exercises; or among the clergy, maybe their administrative function was given more importance than preaching the Gospel and forming souls. This could be why Sr. Lucia cautioned Fr. Valinho that a Christian without prayer is like a “hollow and split reed.” Indeed, in the absence of robust spiritual activity ministry is just another process and mission gets bogged down with planning.

With that said the letter does conclude with a positive and affirming note: “See that you take everything with calmness and with great confidence in God. He will do for us what we cannot do ourselves. He will supply for our insufficiencies.”

What can be said for the individual can also be said for the Church. Whatever insufficiencies we have as a collective body of believers, God can make up the difference. But he can only do what we cannot do for ourselves if we regularly turn to him in prayer. As such, in a short time, the Lord is sure to compensate for what has been lost in the last fifty years.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Holding the State Accountable: Catholicism or Islam?

“Let the emperor hear the voice of a free priest…It is unworthy of an emperor to refuse freedom of speech and unworthy of a priest to remain silent…For priests nothing is so dangerous before God and so infamous before men as refraining from expressing their views.”

-St. Ambrose, (Fourth Century A.D.)

“The people have been awakened, as it were, from a lengthy dormancy. In face of the state and in the face of their rulers they have assumed a new attitude- questioning, critical, and distrustful. Taught by bitter experience, they oppose with increasing vehemence the monopolistic reaches of a power that is dictatorial, uncontrollable, and intangible. And they demand a
system of government that will be more in accord with the dignity and freedom of the citizenry.”

-Pope Pius XII, Radio Message Dec. 24, 1944


A Democratic-republic presupposes a network of relationships; starting within the family, extending into neighbors and then rippling out into society at large. Sound economies and political systems are also built upon trustworthy and solid relationships. Historically, any given network of relationships was inspired by religion. What we believe about God’s relationship with man has a profound effect on the interactions people have with each other. These ideas give birth to certain kinds of governments and economies.

In Mohammad’s time (at the beginning of the seventh century), among Eastern Christians, there were many debates about the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity and the divine and human nature of Jesus Christ. For Mohammad, these doctrinal intricacies were deemed too complicated. He wanted a simple doctrine; much like what the Jews already believed: One God who was one person. As for Jesus, he was a prophet but nevertheless just a man. To this day, the simplicity of Islam is attractive to a good many people.

Creation: Through Persons

In contrast to Allah (whose main attribute is power) the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a divine family of Three Persons. You heard it said, “God is love.” He is love precisely because he a family of Three Persons in one divine nature. And these Three Persons are eternally bound in a relationship with one another. From the Father, the Son is generated. The Son was also known as the “thought” or the “wisdom” of God in the Old Testament (Proverbs 8; Sirach 24). But when the Father spoke to humanity, the Son then became known as the Word of God; the Word that would reveal the fullness of the Father. And from the Father and through the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds- as if from two parents -only to unite the Father and the Son in love. It is not only with one another they relate, but through one another. This latter point is key in understanding how the Holy Trinity, the Christian God, interacts with the human race and how people relate to each other.

Take for instance, the creation of the first family in book of Genesis. You will notice the manner in which they were created is a microcosm of how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to one another. After forming Adam’s body, the Lord breathed life into him. And from Adam’s side, Eve was created. But life was given to her only through Adam. And from their spousal love came forth their first born.

Redemption: Through Persons

Moving on to how God redeems humanity, it is important to note that the order of redemption reflects the order of creation. In other words, God redeems and reveals himself in much the same way as he created. In both cases, the Lord uses human instruments to achieve his goal. In Catholic theology, the Church is the oracle of God, the voice of Christ. As for the pope, he is not only the successor to St. Peter. No. The head of the Apostles, according to Catholic doctrine, continues his ministry of leading and teaching the faithful (from heaven) through each pope throughout the ages. And through the words of consecration spoken by every bishop or priest at Mass, Jesus Christ comes to us body, blood, soul and divinity. In the confessional, through the words of absolution spoken by the priest, Christ himself forgives our sins.

The Political Effect of Both:

God’s act of creating through- redeeming through –sanctifying through –and speaking through human means and even matter has inspired democratic principles. If political authority resides in the people, as the Catholic theology holds, then they will take ownership being that it belongs to them. Furthermore, as the custodians and the beneficiaries of political or State authority, citizens are more likely to set up a government that is accountable to them and one that will serve them with justice. Since it is impossible for everyone to govern, it is natural, therefore, that they communicate their political authority to their representative leaders. And it is through these leaders that State authority- originating from God which is then bestowed on the people –is applied.

Mohammad and Sword:

Mohammad was a political and religious leader. He, along with his followers, conquered other nations by the sword. And henceforth they grew in number. In early Christianity, on the other hand, the followers of Christ were put to the sword and as result, their numbers multiplied. Tertullian, an early Church Father, said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Tension between Church and State:

Unlike Mohammad, Jesus Christ never claimed to have political authority. In fact, he drew a sharp distinction between Caesar and God. His kingdom was not to be confused with the State. According to St. Augustine, the tension of City of God and the City of Man would endure until the end of time. Throughout the centuries, this tension would turn into outright conflict; a conflict between the Church and the State. For the first three hundred years of Church history, Christians were martyred by the thousands. It was even reported that out of the first thirty popes, twenty-nine died a martyr’s death. And should we be surprised? Since the beginning of his earthly life as an infant, Herod, representing the State, tried to hunt the new born Messiah down and kill him. At the end of his earthly life, it was Pilate, again, representing the State, who appeased the angry mob by sentencing our Lord to death.

Even with the hostility the State would exercise against Christ and his followers, the Catholic Church always held that political authority comes from God and as such, whatever just laws that are decreed should be obeyed. As St. Paul said, "Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1)

Church Holds Goverment Accountable:

According to Catholic political theology, the authority of the State originates from God. However, this civil authority is communicated or given to the people for whom it is meant to benefit. It is then the people who decide what kind of government they wish to be subjected to. The main principle here is that State or civil authority exists for the people and it is therefore determined by the people. Like the work of creation and redemption, political authority comes from God and is entrusted to citizens of any given nation; and it is through the citizenry that political power is conferred on the ruler.

Autocracies and dictatorships violate these principles. In Islam, political authority does not reside in the people; it instead resides in the State; which is often indistinguishable from the religion of Islam. To be sure, the distinction between Church and State is, at the very least, blurred in Muslim nations. As such, the check and balance benefit, the purpose of which is keep the State in check, is weak at best. To be sure, there is no single institution possessing moral authority, similar to that of the Papacy or Holy See, to offset or challenge an aggressive Islamic State. In any case, the State- Islamic or Christian -needs to be held accountable by an institution of a higher authority. This institution, what Catholics know as the Church, ought to have the interests of the people in mind. Absent this accountability, unlimited power naturally accrues to the government. Indeed, where religion and politics converge into one or where religion is absent all together, very often what emerges is totalitarianism.

Organ-Donation Euthanasia: A Growing Epidemic

Euthanasia is not such a bad word anymore. In fact, the medical practice of prematurely declaring a person as clinically dead is widespread in the West; especially when the patient is an organ-donor. Although the practice of organ donation is morally permissible and is inspired by honorable intentions, nevertheless, what should be borne in mind is that not a few hospitals, hospices and other medical institutions are heavily influenced by the culture of death.

Take Dominic Wilkinson, a physician specializing in newborn intensive care and medical ethics in the UK. In May of 2010 he wrote about organ donation euthanasia without batting an eye. As for those patients who are arbitrarily deemed “hopeless,” he wrote the following:

“We can give them the option in advance to donate their organs if they are ever going to have their treatment limited because their prognosis is deemed hopeless. If the person agreed in advance to be such an organ donor, and an independent committee confirmed that the patient’s prognosis was hopeless and treatment should be stopped, the patient could be taken to an operating theatre in controlled circumstances, given a general anesthetic and have their organs removed. The surgical procedure would be a form of euthanasia. We could call it ‘organ-donation euthanasia’.”

The doctor is quite unapologetic about calling this procedure “euthanasia.” And it seems that it is gaining currency in the United States. I had a conversation with a doctor at my local parish and she confirmed for me that harvesting organs from patients who are supposedly dying is carried out even when there are signs of viability. In such cases, time is the enemy. In order for a patient’s organs to remain viable for a successful transplant there is a great deal of pressure to harvest them while there is still life.

Julie Grimstad, writer and editor of Euthanasia: Imposed Death and the executive director of Life is Worth Living, had issued the warning about the growing temptation of the medical community to prematurely declare a person dead. She said, “Today, death is often hastily declared, not for the patients welfare, but in order to ensure that the desired organs are alive.” Grimstad speaks to the graphic reality of current medical practices when the patient is still alive:

“In the past, a physician pronounced death when there was no breathing, no heartbeat, and no response to stimulation. Today, a person can be judged ‘brain dead’ while his heart is still beating, and his circulation and respiration are normal. In fact, a "brain dead" organ donor may react violently to the stimulation of being cut into to remove his organs. Surgeons have come to rely on a paralyzing drug to keep the donor's body from squirming and grimacing. However, even though movement is suppressed, the donor's blood pressure and heart rate increase, and his heart continues beating until the surgeon stops it just before removing it.”
The truth is that there is no rigid and uniform criterion for determining when a patient is dead. On this point, Julie Grimstad adds the following:

“There are many different sets of criteria for determining ‘brain death.’ A physician is free to use any set of criteria. Thus, a patient could be pronounced dead by one set, when use of another set would determine that he is still alive. It is also important to know that the medical community is divided about whether ‘brain death’ is actual death.”

Keep in mind that when natural death is not respected as that criterion which determines when life ends then medical intervention can fall into arbitrariness. Also, when there is an incentive, perhaps a financial one, to harvest the organs from a patient who is on the threshold of death, then the premature declaration of death will be (and is) a temptation that is difficult to resist.

I would argue that euthanasia has reached epidemic proportions in America. Once this line has been crossed- and it has –it is difficult to reverse course. Indeed, we do not have to go back too far to see where euthanasia will lead. Germany in the 1930’s is one such model. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website does us a favor by reminding us that just as abortion leads to infanticide, euthanasia leads to the murder of other people who are deemed unfavorable:

“The so-called ‘Euthanasia’ program was National Socialist Germany's first program of mass murder, predating the genocide of European Jewry, which we call the Holocaust, by approximately two years…At first, medical professionals and clinic administrators incorporated only infants and toddlers in the operation, but as the scope of the measure widened, they included juveniles up to 17 years of age. Conservative estimates suggest that at least 5,000 physically and mentally disabled German children perished as a result of the child ‘euthanasia’ program during the war years.”

America is growing old. The Baby-Boom generation is now entering the elderly age bracket. As such, when they reach the upper level of the social pyramid, the younger generations will find it difficult to support them; not just economically, but also with providing them medical care in hospitals and other medical facilities. Older patients will far outnumber the younger doctors and nurses. In fact, in many parts of the country, there is a shortage of doctors and nurses already. Because the immensity of the demand, there will be and already is considerable pressure to discharge elderly patients in order to make room for other patients. And are we naïve enough to think this demographic trend will not translate into a greater use of euthanasia programs?

Catholics need to be vigilant. Again, like the legalization of abortion, it will be difficult to reverse if the light of the Gospel is not shown in this dark corner of America. Undoubtedly, the problem of euthanasia will be a prolife cause that is bound to equal that of abortion.

The Rite of Christian Initiation: Old but High Standards

Aidan Kavanagh
The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation
Pueblo Publishing Co.


“The Apostolic Tradition [early Church document] says only that those who come forward for the first time to “hear the word” should be presented to the teachers of the community privately so that their motives can be examined and vouched for the “those who bring them.” Admission to “hear the word” is not a mere formality: whole classes of people- such as pimps, teachers of pagan philosophy, pagan priests, makers of idols or amulets, and men with concubines –are not accepted into this class of learners, or catechumens, unless they first forsake their modes of life. The crux of admission procedure has nothing to say about the intentions of the applicant: it is in his manner of living that is to be ascertained and, apparently, nothing more. From this point on, the applicant, if accepted into the Catechumenate, will be expected to be living in a manner befitting a Christian…”

Adolf Adam
The Foundation of Liturgy: An Introduction of Its History and Practice
The Liturgical Press

The Office of Sponsor:

“The duty of sponsors was to be guarantors to the community of the serious intentions and authentic conversion of the catechumens.”

Council Canons:

Council of Nicea: Canon 12 reads as follows: "Those who by fear and tears and patience and good works prove that their conversion is real and not simulated, when they have completed the prescribed time among the hearers, may fittingly participate in the prayers after which it is at the discretion of the bishop to treat them with an even greater kindness."

The Council of Elvira: "If it is determined that youths who have fornicated after having been baptized may, when they have done legitimate penance and when they have been married, be admitted to communion." (around 300 A.D.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Saint Only You Can Be

Excerpts from "You." Rev. M. Raymond 1957

If you have not been called to become a great saint- a Dominic, a Bernard, an Ignatius of Loyola -you have undeniably been called to become a saint -and that is greatness enough for any man, woman or child.

Time will make you acquainted with your supernatural limitations, just as it did, and yet does, with your natural ones. It is highly probable, that you will never be able to pray as did Teresa of Avila, as Catherine of Sienna or Gemma Galgani. Yet, so long as you have a mind and a will, you can always to your particular kind of praying- and that, indeed, is the only kind by which you can praise your God! Perhaps it already seems quite evident to you that you will never love God as did the Poor Man of Assisi, and bear in your body the five wounds of Christ; or love him as did St. Bernard, the man of Clairvaux who loved the Crucified so ardently that one day Christ unfixed Himself from a cross in order to hug His loving monk. Perhaps you already know that you will never be so aflame with love for God that your body, like that of St. Francis Xavier, will not be able to hold the fire. But so long as you live you will be able to love your God exactly as He wishes to be loved by you.

Perhaps the pithiest and best advice that can be given on this point is: Pray as you can; don't try to pray as you can't! Love your God as you can; don't try to love Him with somebody else's heart! Live with your loving God as you can.

Obviously Christ always acted under the promptings of the Holy Spirit...What keeps you from doing the same? Does not every dictate of reason and demand of decency prompt you to like docility? Since you are His member are you not obliged to follow the lead of your Head? It is the very same Spirit who worked in Christ who works in you. But He must have your cooperation!

Fear not, then, if the Spirit should lead you into the desert to be tempted. Yield yourself to His promptings and you come out of every desert as did the Christ- magnificently triumphant.

Caesar, Depopulation and Crisis: A Secular historian’s insight

Caesar, Depopulation and Crisis: A Secular historian’s insight
30 B.C. – 96 A.D.

In his 1944 book, Caesar and Christ, Will Durant, a secular historian, addresses much of the same themes the Catholic historians featured on Sky View have as it pertains to the Roman Empire, its decline and the eerie similarities it bears with 21st century America. Depopulation, small families, sexual promiscuity, abortion, infanticide, taxes, bureaucracy and birth control are just some of the topics treated in the excerpts below.

Rome: Old and Tired

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has been destroyed from within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes her consuming wars…Cyprian [Saint, Bishop and Church Father], towards 250, answering the charge that Christians were the source of the Empires misfortunes, attributed these to natural causes:

“You must know that the world had grown old, and does not remain in its former vigor. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the sun’s warmth are both diminishing; the metals are nearly exhausted; the husbandman is failing in the fields.”

Signs of Depopulation:

Biological factors were more fundamental. A series decline of population appears in the West after Hadrian. It has been questioned, but the mass of importation of barbarians into the Empire by Aurelius, Valentinian, Aurelian, Probus, and Constantine [Roman emperors] leaves little room for doubt. Aurelius, to replenish his army, enrolled slaves, gladiators, policeman, criminals; either the crisis was greater, or the free population less, than before…

A law of Septimius Severus [a Roman emperor in 200 A.D.] speaks of a penuria hominum- a shortage of men. In Greece the depopulation had been going on for centuries. In Alexandria, which had boasted of its numbers, Bishop Dionysius calculated that the population had in his time (250 A.D.) been halved. He mourned to “see the human race diminishing and constantly wasting away.” Only the barbarians and the Orientals were increasing, outside of the Empire and within.

The Cause of Depopulation:

What had caused this fall in population? Above all, family limitation. Practiced first the educated classes, it had now seeped down to a proletariat named for its fertility; by 100 A.D. it had reached the agricultural classes, as shown by the use of imperial alimenta to encourage rural parentage; by the third century it had overrun the western provinces, and was lowering man power in Gaul [modern day France]. Though branded as a crime, infanticide flourished as poverty grew. Sexual excesses may have reduced human fertility; the avoidance or deferment of marriage had a like effect, and the making of eunuchs increased…Moral decay contributed to the dissolution….Moral and aesthetic standards were lowered by the magnetism of the mass; and sex ran riot in freedom while political liberty decayed.

The condition that Augustus had failed to check- bachelorhood, childlessness, abortion, and infanticide among the older stocks, manumission and comparative fertility among the new –had transformed the racial character, the moral temper, even the physiognomy, of the Roman people.

Social Pressure of Childlessness:

Once the Romans had been precipitated into parentage by the impetus of sex, and lured to it by anxiety for the post-mortem care of their graves; now the upper and middle classes had learned to separate sex from parentage, and were skeptical about the afterworld. Once the rearing of children had been an obligation to honor the State, enforced by public opinion; now it seemed absurd to demand more births in a city crowded to the point of redolence. On the contrary, wealthy bachelors and childless husbands continued to be courted by sycophants longing for legacies.

“Nothing,” said Juvenal, “will endear you to your friends as a barren wife.” “Crotona,” says a character in Petronius, “has only two classes of inhabitants- flatterers and flattered; and the sole crime there is to bring up children to inherit your money. It is like a battlefield at rest: nothing but corpses and the crows that pick them.” Seneca had consoled a mother who had lost her only child by reminding her how popular she would now be; for “with us childlessness gives more power than it takes away.”

The Gracchi had been a family of twelve children; probably not five families of such abundance could be found in Bero’s age in patrician or equestrian Rome. Marriage, which had once been a lifelong economic union, was now among a hundred thousand Romans a passing adventure of no great spiritual significance, a loose contract for the mutual provision of physiological conveniences or political aid. To escape the testatory disabilities of the unmarried some women took eunuchs as contraceptive husbands; some entered into sham wedlock with poor men on the understanding that the wife need bear no children and might have as many lovers as she pleased.

Contraception and Abortion:

Contraception was practiced in both its mechanical and chemical forms. If these methods failed there were many ways of procuring abortion. Philosophers and the law condemned it, but the finest families practiced it. “Poor women,” said Juvenal, “endure the perils of childbirth, and all the troubles of nursing…but how often does a gilded bed harbor a pregnant woman? So great is the skill, so powerful the drugs, of the abortionist!” Nevertheless, he tells the husband, “rejoice; give her the potion…for were she to bear the child you might find yourself the father of an Ethiopian.”

Consequent Rise of Christianity:

[T]he growth of Christianity was more an effect than a cause of Rome’s decay. The break up of the old religion had begun long before Christ…the ethical influence of Christianity upon Roman life was largely a wholesome one. It was because Rome was already dying that Christianity grew so rapidly. Men lost faith in the State not because Christianity held them aloof, but because the State defended wealth against poverty, fought to capture slaves, taxed toil to support luxury, and failed to protect its people from famine, pestilence, invasion, and destitution; forgivably they turned from Caesar preaching war to Christ preaching peace, from incredible brutality to unprecedented charity, from a life without hope or dignity to a faith that consoled their poverty and honored their humanity.

Foregoing the Temptation of Lust in the Desert

Every first Sunday of Lent the Gospel reading at Mass tells the story of Our Lord’s temptation in the desert. Satan tried to bring down Jesus by using three tactics:

1. The temptation of breaking a fast.
2. The temptation of testing God.
3. The temptation of worshiping a creature.

Curiously, one card that the devil didn’t pull from his deck, a card that served him well for centuries, was the temptation of lust. Indeed, he has laid to waste a countless number of souls through sexual temptation; especially in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But one has to wonder why the Evil One did not at least try to use this effective instrument of getting Jesus to sin. After all, Proverbs does say that “Lust indulged starves the soul.” Nevertheless, there is a good reason why Satan didn’t take this approach. And the reason speaks to the nobility of sexual purity (or chastity) and how it is the bulwark of the soul.

Satan knows that a man trained in the ways of chastity cannot be taken down with one or two swipes. After all, if Christ was disciplined enough to fast for forty days he would not be so vulnerable to the temptations of impurity. As Philo said, a first century Jewish philosopher, if you can control your stomach, then controlling the organ below your stomach is that much easier. Indeed, fasting and the practice of chastity are interrelated.

In any case, time in the desert was not on Satan’s side. He had to choose a temptation that would have an immediate impact. But for the onslaughts of lust to corrupt or seduce a man established in sexual purity, time and repeated efforts are needed. More often than not, a frontal attack is not as effective as striking at the side or periphery; that is, where one least expects to be stricken. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that instead of kicking down the front door- which would undoubtedly draw a lot attention and even resistance –the intruder is more successful by gaining entrance into the house through the side window.

In the twentieth century, for instance, promiscuity and wide spread addiction to pornography didn’t just happen overnight. It began in the 1930’s with the acceptance of birth control as being morally acceptable. Then in the early 1960’s, the pill was introduced to the market and the practice of it became widespread. In the late 1960’s all hell broke loose with the Sexual Revolution. From there divorce, homosexuality, unwed motherhood and abortions became socially acceptable. The world was no longer the same. But keep in mind that it all started with the seemingly harmless use of birth control from the 1930’s to the 1960’s that the foundation for the cultural change was quietly laid.

We can find a similar parallel with individuals. Innocence and sexual purity is not bulldozed over as it is chipped away a little at a time. Sexual images and thoughts can be wholly involuntary; indeed, they can invade the mind uninvited. But in the end it all depends on how a man responds to it that will lead him to the slavery of lust or that interior freedom that sanctified souls enjoy. Sin only enters the picture ever so subtly when such thoughts or images are held on to, delighted in or indulged to the point of fantasy. When lust is not nipped in the bud or pulled up from its root, it grows in strength. And just as drug addiction or alcoholism can be a cruel master, so too can the daily vice of lust.

Our Lord, when speaking of sexual temptation, used violent imagery. He said if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If you hand causes you sin, cut it off. Whatever be the cause of lust, a passive approach will not do. Although sexual temptation persists over time in quiet and subtle fashion, the response should immediate, resolute, reasoned through and prayed about. Too few men think through the consequences and the implications of lust and its empty promises. But thinking it through and praying it through it essential.

Every avalanche begins with a snow flake. You may have heard the saying that to sow a thought is to reap an action; to sow an action is to reap a habit; to sow a habit is to reap a character; to sow a character is to reap a destiny. As such, we cannot dismiss the importance of each individual snow flake. That is to say, each sexual image or thought can be an occasion of merit by mentally turning away from it or it can be an occasion of sin by turning towards it and taking delight in it. Indeed, each one can strengthen or erode the soul. And just as lust indulged strengthens lust, to resist it strengthens chastity.

Whatever struggle is required to better attain the virtue of chastity, it is worth it. The benefits are many. Without sexual distractions and entanglement one can better judge relationships for what they really are. Red flags in relationships, character flaws in a prospective spouse and serious incompatibilities are more easily discerned when one is sexually pure for God’s sake. Just as important, the virtue of chastity makes room for the spirit of sacrifice and a readiness to give of oneself. Such a person is in a better position to love, to serve and to resist the devil as Our Lord did.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Four Hundred Years of Silence

Reposted for new Sky View readers:

From about 500 B.C. to 400 B.C. the last of the Old Testament prophets (arguably the prophet Malachi) spoke the words of God to the Jews; this, of course was before St. John the Baptist raised his voice in the desert. He is considered the very last of the Old Testament prophets. Again, for about four hundred years there were no prophets. God was silent, so it seemed.

During this time, after being dominated by one empire after another (i.e. the Assyrian Empire, then the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire and then finally the Roman Empire) the Jews has gained national independence for about a hundred years with the Maccabees as their leaders. But in 63 B.C. the Roman Empire, led by Pompey, conquered the Jews and annexed their land. The Roman Empire, unlike previous empires, was not totally oppressive. They didn't deport the Jews to other lands and destroy whole cities like the Assyrian Empire and the Babylonian Empire did. Rome was more willing to see the conquered nations as partners in governance. Still, many Jews, especially the Zealots (Jewish Jihadists, so to speak) burned with hatred for their Roman occupiers.

When the Blessed Virgin was just a young girl it seemed to the Jews that God was forever silent; that all hope had been lost. Unfortunately, borne from centuries of humiliation and despair was the idea that the Messiah would be a political warrior; one that would liberate Judah from the grips of the Roman Empire. Like so many nations throughout world history, nationalism gripped the hearts and minds of the people of God. They had forgotten that their mission was to serve as God's witness to the nations. Indeed, Israel was not to be an end in itself but an instrument used by God to bring his love and wisdom to the gentile people. We may forget but God never forgets his promise.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to ask, in so many words, if she would be the Mother of Messiah, no one could have imagined what God had in mind. More than a political ruler, the Christ would be God in human flesh! As the prophet Ezekiel said, "For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep." That's right! "I myself!" says the Lord. As he did in the Garden of Eden, the Lord would once again walk the earth with his people. And what a joy it was for the people in Palestine. God Incarnate, unlike human judges and political rulers, will judge with justice and equity. He will give the poor, the lowly and the forgotten a fair hearing. As the prophet Isaiah said regarding him, "Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked." And as for weary searchers of truth and those who despaired of ever knowing God, this same prophet gives hope that these poor souls would be consoled. He said, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone."

Quite often in the life of a believer, the clouds of dreariness will loom and darkness will linger. It would seem, much like the Jews between 400 B.C. and the coming of Christ, that the Lord had forgotten about his people. But just as the suffering God allows can exceed our expectations, so too does his reward. His generosity is never outdone. Just imagine! The Jewish people had been groomed to expect a politician to liberate them from the Romans when in fact the Messiah, as prophecied in the Old Testament, was God himself. It was too little for our Lord to apply politcal remedies to human problems. He was after the very root of what plagued the human soul, namely, sin. And freedom from sin is freedom from Satans dominion; eventually freedom from Satan's dominion tranlates into freedom from family dysfunction, social ills and political oppression. But it all starts with the spiritual order. Everything else follows from this.

God becoming incarnate in the womb of Mary explains her exuberance when she poured forth her Canticle before St. Elizabeth: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior...He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Having witnessed the plight of Israel, the Blessed Virgin Mary knew that when God is silent nothing seems to go well. For the Jews, it was darkest before the dawn. That is to say, before the coming of Christ the words of the Lord were not spoken through his prophets. It had been quiet for centuries. Consolation and the light of wisdom was wanting. To be sure, God allows darkness in our lives so that after having become acquainted with it, we will not take his mercy, his light and his friendship for granted.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Unintended Consequences: Rethinking Diocesan Practices

Reposted for new Sky View readers:

"The bureaucracy is spent and tired…It is sad that there are what you might call professional Catholics who make a living on their Catholicism, but in whom the spring of faith flows only faintly, in a few scattered drops.”

-Pope Benedict XVI

Delaying Action:

Fr. George Rutler once said that the first protocol of any bureaucracy is to delay action. Over the years Catholic dioceses have seemingly evolved into bureaucracies known for just that…delaying action. Initiatives, creativity and taking the risks that come natural to great missions are not known to be fostered within diocesan walls. However, it is of great importance for the New Evangelization that dioceses across the nation are efficient and dynamic centers for spiritual growth.

There has to be a better way than the way your average diocese operates today. Can we not ask the following question: Do Catholic dioceses need to be burdened with layers of bureaucracy and a multiplicity of departments which usually end up stifling initiatives and bold missions? Your typical diocesan visioning processes in which programs and strategies are mulled over do have value. But it is a limited value. It is these limitations that are often unappreciated. The limitations of this bureaucratic approach are twofold:

Diocesan Limitations:

First, planning for programs, ministries and missions in your average diocese is quite often considered a good work or an accomplishment in itself. However, meetings of this nature, by and large, only talk about the work to be done; they are not work as such. Unfortunately, many diocesan and parish offices consider the meetings and the planning of ministries as a ministry itself. As such, bureaucratic-like complacency sets in from having had so many meetings. Herein lays the limitations of programs and visioning processes. From this, the illusion of progress and motion is created. The wheels are spinning but is the cart really going anywhere?

Second, proposed plans or ideas may or may not be adapted to the real life circumstances the individual or the parish is immersed in. Traditionally, the office is not a good laboratory for testing or evaluating ideas as to what will work and what will not work with people. This is why academia has such a poor record of being able to identify with the outside world. Frankly, intellectuals surround themselves with ideas which often serve as a poor gauge of reality. Office bureaucrats suffer from the same handicap. Where the contribution of administrators does come in is with budgets and providing the material means to carry out ministries. However, wisdom must be borne where the rubber meets the road. This is why the emphasis of spiritual activity is important. Initiatives, creativity and practical wisdom which spring from spiritual activity must be the foundation upon which religious programs are made. If, on the other hand, spiritual activity is made to conform to preconceived ideas or the strategies which are baked in offices, then I am afraid that the ministry or mission at hand will be ineffective and sterile.

Spiritual Activity First:

Spiritual activity, more than planning, adapts and responds to the real needs at hand. It is further a better generator of positive developments than ideas being tossed around at meetings. The history of monasticism and the spiritual enterprises pioneered by the Saints are proof to this effect. Monasticism and the spiritual enterprises pioneered by the Saints led to great innovations and developments for society as well as being a source of renewal for the Church.

What many of us have also forgotten is that holiness is one of the best sources of knowledge. St. Therese the Little Flower was declared a Doctor of the Church, yet she held no theology degree. How many times have we been inspired with an insight at Mass, or in prayer or even as we walking to the refrigerator? This is the Lord's way of letting us know that he is the source of knowledge and wisdom. He is the one who takes the initiative. Yes, we have to do our part. But bottom line is that God is the author of truly creative ideas and insights. He is the cause of all that is good and life giving.

Monasticism's Unintended Consequences:

As you may already know, monasticism is a religious movement that gave birth to monasteries where religious brothers, sisters and clerics prayed, studied and worked. It was and still is a venue where intense spiritual activity takes place. What flourished from this font of spiritual life were positive but unintended consequences.

For instance, many of the developments which led the creation of Christian civilization were unintended. New agricultural methods, a cash economy and other free market principles, non-government universal education, the preservation of classic and sacred literature, representative forms of government, and charities were just a few enterprises which sprang from the monasteries. All of these great services to humanity led to a prosperous Christian civilization. St. Benedict, who founded a community of monks in the sixth century, is considered the father of Christian or Western civilization. Yet the curious thing is that he never intended to create a new civilization. His first priority was to glorify God in prayer.

The most effective and life-giving reforms of renewal within the Church were also unintended. Great reformers such as Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Patrick, St. Columban, Pope St. Gregory VII and Pope St. Pius V all came from backgrounds where intense spiritual activity was to be found. These men and their reforms were not the fruit of meetings nor did they come from a pre-planning process. Their work was the fruit of spiritual discipline and activity. They were innovative and bold...the very thing the Church needed at the time.

God's Initiative:

We also need to remind ourselves that God is the initiator and the driving force behind spiritual creativity and productivity. He invites us to be collaborators. We need his cooperation for any mission to work! The first step, therefore, is not planning out strategies at meetings but rather to seek the will of God out in prayer, in the meditation of Scripture and in sitting before our Eucharistic Lord. From a venue friendly to this kind of spiritual activity comes forth life-giving progress and initiatives that are more often than not unintended. The motive of the Saints and Fathers of the Church was to first and foremost glorify God. In doing so they were led to the uncharted waters of progress and renewal.

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. And to be sure, 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."

Office to the Sanctuary:

Walking the talk, as opposed to just talking about the walk, is a legacy of holy men and women. Perhaps the first order of diocesan renewal should be to have perpetual adoration in every parish and to establish small communities of prayer. As such, let missionary initiative and creativity come from these venues of prayer rather than relying so heavily on the sterile environment of the office. After all, it was from these kind of spiritual activities that prolific ministries and enterprises had developed in the Church's history. These are the best kind of unintended consequences; the kind that renews Church and builds-up society. Indeed, the New Evangelization needs to have its unintended consequences. The ones that are so good that only God can foresee.

Bishop Sheen: "A Nation of Traitors"

Before the flag burning of the 1960's- before our public schools demonstrated an aversion to the Constitution and American history- and before it became tolerable for U.S. politicians to disregard the traditions and legacy of the United States of America- Bishop Fulton Sheen said in 1948 that if the family, the school of virtue and self-governance, is compromised in America like it had been in Russia, then we will face similar political challenges the Russians had faced. A breakdown in marital and family loyalties will lead to national disloyalties on a large scale.

Here is an excerpt from Communism and the Western Conscience 1948 (a book I refer to quite frequently):

"Unless America reverses the attitude toward the family and ceases to try to make a success in the domain wherein Russia proved to be a failure, then apart from all moral and religious considerations, three disastrous consequences will follow:

First of all, America will be in danger of becoming a nation of traitors. If the nation reaches a condition where fifty percent of the married couples feel that they can throw overboard pledged loyalty in order to suit their own pleasure or convenience, then the hour has struck when citizens will no longer feel a need to keep their pledge to America as citizens. Once there is a citizenry that does not feel bound to the most natural and most democratic of all self-governing commonwealths, the home, it will not be long until it no longer feels bound to a nation...The traitors of the home today are the traitors of the home tomorrow.

A second possible danger to a nation that does not arrest the decay of the family is the creation of a mentality that will refuse to make sacrifices, suffer trials and inconveniences for the sake of the protection of the country…The fewer sacrifices a man is required to make, the more loath he is to make those few. His luxuries will become necessities, children a burden, and ego a god...Once sacrifice is separated from the home, sacrifice is uprooted from its nation."

As Sheen said, the family is the "most natural and most democratic of all self-governing commonwealths." Fidelity, patriotism and self-governance begins there. But if these virtues are absent in the home, "luxuries will become necessities." That is to say, the welfare state will expand in proportion to the entitlement mentality of its citizens. For as long as the people put out their hands expecting a hand out from their government, there will be politicians who will be willing to accommodate them for the purposes of increasing their own political power. And with the decline of self-sacrifice, the virtue which inspires the initiative to give rather than to receive, the loyalty to God, family and country is sure to suffer decline as well.

The result of this is that America, instead of being the home of the brave will be a haven of traitors. In the 19th century the United States was divided between North and South; that is, between abolitionists and slaveholders. Today, however, this nation is divided between patriots and traitors; that is, between those who love the Christian heritage of America and its founding and those who despise it.

But it must be borne in mind that this great divide begins in the home. Indeed, the first crack in the country's foundation (those initial tremors) is where the division between the husband and the wife begins.

The Essence of Self-Denial

Magnificat’s Mediation of the Day

God instructs the heart not by means of ideas, but by pains and contradiction. The science of this state is a practical knowledge by which one tastes God as the sole good. In order to possess it, we have to be disentangled from all particular goods, and to reach that state of disentanglement we have to be really deprived of them. Thus, it is only through a continual self-contradiction and a long series of all kinds of mortifications, trials, and strippings that one can be established in the state of pure love. We have to arrive at the point at which the whole created universe no longer exists for us, and God is everything.

For that purpose it is necessary that God should oppose himself to all the particular affections of the soul, so that when it is led to some particular form of prayer or idea of piety or method of devotion, when it proposes to attain perfection by such and such plans or ways or by the direction of such and such people, in fact, when it attaches itself to anything whatever, God upsets its ideas and permits that instead of what it thought it would do, it finds in it all nothing but confusion, trouble, emptiness, folly. No sooner has it said, that is my path, there is the person I ought to consult, that is how I should act, then God immediately says the contrary and withdraws his power from the means chosen by the soul.

So, finding in everything only deception and nothingness, the soul is constrained to have recourse to God himself and be content with him.

-Father de Caussade (1751) was a French Jesuit priest, a writer, and revered spiritual director.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rejected by Their Own

"The value of a trial will be to set us apart. Evil must come to reject us, to despise us, to hate us, to persecute us, and then shall we define our loyalties, affirm our fidelities and state on whose side we stand. Our quantity will indeed decrease, but our quality will increase. Then shall be verified the words of our Master: ‘He that gathers not with me scatters.’” (Matthew 12:30)

“Ecce Homo!” Pilate said to the crowd. That is, “Behold the man!” Behold the man, the Christ who stands alone and rejected by his people.

The most effective way we can become one with Our Lord- the greatest form of participating in his Passion -is to be rejected by our own. Out of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, the first one had to be the most painful one of all for Jesus Christ. To have raised up a people of a nation from the time of Moses, to have favored them above all the families of the world and to have been one with them as a fellow Jew in blood and spirit only to be condemned as a criminal had to hurt him more than the very nails splitting open his wrists and feet.

To be an outsider and misunderstood is the lot of God’s closest friends. As far as I know, there is not a single canonized Saint who was not rejected and felt alone at some critical juncture in their life. Jesus warned us as much when he said he came to bring, not peace, but the sword. The Lord’s chosen instrument of pruning and purification is quite often the painful experience of being excluded by those closest to us. By far, the worst pain is to be endured during spiritual desolation, when the soul feels totally abandoned by God himself. The soul can be so deprived of the “sense” of grace that it deems itself to be denied God’s mercy. Not a few Saints were tempted with despair; the feeling of being totally left behind by their Best Friend.

Consider the patriarch Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. He was sold into slavery by his own brothers. For twenty long years it seemed as if God abandoned him. As for Moses, the great legislator of God’s law, he was driven out of Egypt by Ramesses II for forty years. And then we come to King David. Before his anointing as King of Israel, he did not fit in with the rest of brothers and as a result would shepherd sheep by himself. Soon to follow was the prophet Elijah. He was not welcomed in band of the so-called prophets. The only real companion he had was his disciple Elisha. What about the the prophet Hosea? He was instructed by God to marry a prostitute named Gomer (she was to symbolize the infidelity of Israel) only to be rejected by her later on. Indeed, the character and greatness of these patriarchs, kings and prophets of the Old Testament were born from tasting the bitter medicine of being rejected by their own.

Rejection and banishment was no less the chosen instrument used by Christ in fashioning his Saints. "He said, 'The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.'Then he said to all, 'If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily 11 and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.'" (Luke 9:22-24)

Just to name only a few who followed in his own footsteps, there was his own family- the Holy Family. They had to flee Israel to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod. And centuries later there was St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, and St. John Fisher who were rejected and martyred by their English countrymen. Pope St. Gregory VII, a champion of reform and who got the State off of the Church’s back, was driven out of Rome by the emperor Henry IV only to die in exile. About seven hundred years later, St. Alphonsus Liguori was kicked out of the Redemptorist order, the religious order he founded.

In modern times the Lord continued to set men and women apart for his work through the bitter trials of rejection. St. Edith Stein, for instance, was a convert from Judaism to Catholicism. As such, she was estranged from her own people because of her faith in Christ. St. Padre Pio was forbidden by the Vatican to publicly exercise his ministry for ten years. Unable to minister to his people, he became a prisoner of his friary. And there is Bishop Fulton Sheen, arguably the most gifted evangelist of the twentieth century. According to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Bishop Sheen was an outsider with regard to his brother bishops. He never quite belonged.

But our Lord too, never quite belonged! On the Cross, Jesus uttered the memorable words of Psalm 22: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” When feeling abandoned, believers have prayed these very words with our Lord in Spirit. It was as if to say, “God, I know you to be good. You have helped me time and time again. All of my life I have believed in your divine providence. But now, I pray and you do not answer. I seek, but I do not find. I knock, but you do not open the door. Dear God, I am at the end of rope. Who will help me if you do not?”

From the book, The Spirituality of the Old Testament, it captures the plight of the soul when it has felt abandoned by God:

“[S]ouls cease to understand the reason for the trials that afflict them and believe they are separated from God forever.” "[D]ivine conduct," it continues, "seems utterly incomprehensible, even extremely arbitrary and unjust. Everything bewilders them, causing uneasiness, anguish, obscurity. They more they seek God, the more deeply hidden He remains; the more they desire Him, the more he rejects them...they experience a reversal of God’s relationship to them. They seem to be permanently abandoned or even rejected, though divine favor and friendship had been theirs before.”

On Good Friday our Lord stood alone before his people as a rejected King. From the Thursday night to three o’clock Friday afternoon God the Father, in addition to the crowd, had seemed to reject his only begotten Son. Alone our Lord Jesus stood before Pilate and his people. A true outsider! He was born outside of Bethlehem in a cave and he would die outside of the walls of Jerusalem. In the Heart of Jesus, there is a special place for the ostracized and abandoned. They have not been forgotten by the Person who knows what it feels to be forgotten.

Have you been forgotten or excluded from those closest to you? Well then, you have a friend in Christ. Better yet, you are being fashioned in his likeness.

The Male Image of God and the Priesthood


The following post, “The Male Image of God and the Priesthood” was not designed to be a quick read but rather, due to its philosophical and theological nature, it is an depth treatment of why it's important to keep the male image of God as well as the priesthood intact. Any change which assigns the feminine principle or feminine image to God or the priesthood implies a radical transformation of the Christian religion into paganism. C.S. Lewis, an Anglican, once said that you can have your priestess...but it will not be Christianity (ps- this is why so many are leaving the Anglican and Episcopal Churches) Why is this? Why can't we call God Mother, Daughter and Holy Spirit? Why can't we have women priests? Take the time to read this post, in piecemeal if necessary, and you might arrive a better understanding as the male-only priesthood. With the egalitarianism (radical equality) so prevalent on in every sector of society, it is important to know some basic principles in order to debunk it and furthermore help people steer clear from it.

Unfortunately, a 500 or 1000 word post would do this topic an injustice. As such, "The Image of God and the Priesthood" amounts to almost 3000 words.

The Male Image of God and the Priesthood:

Equality Not Sameness:

A friend of mine had recently asked his friends how one explains why Christ instituted a male-only priesthood. Because of the emphasis our society puts on absolute equality- forgetting that equality in no way implies sameness –this question gets asked of Catholics quite a bit. As with non-Catholics not being able to receive Holy Communion, a woman not being able to become a priest is a sore spot for many people. Keep in mind, no matter what answer you provide, it is not likely to have an immediate effect on the inquirer. After all, if one subscribes to egalitarianism- the belief that men and women are not only equal but psychologically, sexually and spiritually the same –then this radical version of equality needs to be discredited before they accept the Christian version of equality.

Overview of Three Answers:

In any case, there are three answers you can give. The first is quick and to the point; although true, it is not likely to win over many skeptics. The second answer better utilizes certain principles that are relevant in our entertainment culture. However, I consider this one to be more like an appetizer; hopefully it will lead to another explanation having more depth.

The third one requires that your listener has a long attention span. Most of the time simple answers are the way to go. But for this one, it really is worth it to chew on this explanation and let it settle. Americans, as Tocqueville once said, have an aversion to meditation and deep thoughts. They are more geared towards the practical doing. True enough. Still, I would press on with this third answer as to why Christ instituted a male-only priesthood. Challenge your audience- be it family, friend or co-worker –to think a little deeper and a little broader. I believe this to be the best answer once the other answers have been exhausted. It explains why C.S. Lewis could say: You can have your priestesses…but it will not be Christianity.

First: The Precedent

As I said, the first answer is quick and to the point: Christ instituted a male-only priesthood. The Catholic Church doesn’t have the authority to change it. And that's that! But this is a "...because I said so!" kind of an answer. It may be true but it is not that satisfying to most. Invariably, you will get a response along the lines of: “Well, at the Last Supper, when the priesthood was officially instituted, only Jewish men were present. Why, then, did the Church go ahead and ordain Gentile men in subsequent decades?” I will leave it to you to explain why the ordination of Gentile men (non-Jewish men) and the ordination of women are apples and oranges. Perhaps the second answer will help.

Second: Acting Out Last Supper

The second answer: The Mass is rightly characterized as a prayer, the most perfect one on earth, which is directed to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. At the heart of this great liturgical prayer is a sacred act or play in which the sanctuary and altar is a kind of stage where the priest plays Jesus. That's right. The priest who presides at the Mass not only recites the words used at the Last Supper when Jesus said, “This is my body...” but he also acts out what Jesus did. Few think of the Eucharistic sacrifice as a play simply because it is often associated with entertainment. Nevertheless, by lifting the host and then the chalice the priest reenacts the part of our Lord at the Last Supper.

Now, even Hollywood can relate to this principle. If a movie were to portray the life of George Washington, for instance, who would doubt that a male actor would be chosen to play his part? True, what happens at the altar is more than just a play or a reenactment. Through the words of consecration the body, blood and soul of Jesus is communicated. Since his body is male in essence, it is only fitting that a male priest mediate the person of Jesus Christ. Indeed, in order to uphold the integrity of the play and the consecration of bread and wine, a male representative is required.

It would seem that the second answer to the question of why only men can be priests is a reasonable one. After all, Hollywood uses male actors to represent men in the story and the same goes from women. No one questions that policy. It would seem in the case of the Mass that requiring male priests to represent Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would apply even more considering the above stated reasons.

When defending the male-only priesthood of Jesus Christ one is almost socially obligated to provide a litany of wonderful qualities of the female sex; as if to apologize for this unchangeable doctrine. But this misses the point. The Catholic priesthood of only men has nothing to do with the personal merit of a man or a woman. The Catholic Church, more than any other religion or institution, honors women throughout the year by celebrating female Saints; most notably the Blessed Virgin who is heralded as the holiest of all the Saints and human beings. Perhaps this is why when the Catholic Faith was most influential just a few centuries ago in Europe, the station of women was elevated far above than what it had been in pagan civilization.

Third: Sexuality, Creation, Redemption

In any case, the male-only priesthood has everything to do with this one fact: Sexuality symbolizes the unseen spiritual world. Indeed, human sexuality and spirituality are so tightly interwoven with one another that to change the attitude or practice of one is to change the attitude or practice of the other.

Man and woman were created in God's image. According to Scripture, God has chosen to reveal not only who he is but the truth of his creation as it relates to himself; especially with regard to God's relationship with the human race. Keep in mind that our culture has become increasingly egalitarian in previous decades. In addition, with the advance of same-sex marriage, the sexual attributes of masculinity and femininity have come to be seen as superficial categories. Some ask, “What is the difference if a child has a father and a father rather than a father and a mother?” “As long as each parent is loving,” they say, “that is all that matters.” Under this radical version of equality, men and women have become neutered to great detriment of humanity.

With that said, we can restore the proper understanding of what a man and what a woman really is by returning to God's revelation. And the bearer of that revelation is the Catholic Church.

C.S. Lewis:

Someone who made a brilliant case for the male-only priesthood was a non-Catholic, C.S. Lewis. In fact, he belonged to the Anglican Church; a church that eventually renounced the male-only priesthood. He points out that God's identity as Father is closely bound up with men being priests; and that God invoked as Father brings to light who we are as his image.

“Suppose the reformer [innovator] stops saying that a good woman may be like God and begins saying that God is like a good woman. Suppose he says that we might just as well pray to 'Our Mother which art in heaven' as to 'Our Father'. Suppose he suggests that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female as a male form, and the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called the Daughter as the Son. Suppose, finally, that the mystical marriage were reversed, that the Church were the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride. All this, as it seems to me, is involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as a priest does.”

Lewis goes on to say, “One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures.”

If it doesn't matter that God is invoked as mother or father then it does not matter if Christ is seen as the bridegroom or bride. To reverse the traditional imagery, dare I say the imagery revealed by God, then it is no exaggeration to say that we will find ourselves in a different religion entirely; one closely akin to ancient paganism. With pagan religious beliefs we will soon be led to pagan morality; you know, the good old gladiator games in the Coliseum and the human sacrifices on the pyramids.

Rarely do people follow doctrines or principles- be it revealed or man-made -to their logical conclusions. Nevertheless, the revealed doctrine that the Priesthood of Christ is to be transmitted through men only preserves the correct belief in the Holy Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is also guarantees the doctrine of how God and his people relate to each other and who we really are. Take away the linchpin which binds only men to the priesthood, and the rest unravels. Sad but true, a fine illustration of this unraveling is to be found in the twenty-first century Anglican Church. It has severed so many of its ties with primitive Christianity. King Henry VIII would not even recognize it.
The third answer of why only men are admitted to the priesthood has a lot to do with what C.S. Lewis touched upon in the previous blog.

Fr. Hauke: Women in the Priesthood?

Human sexuality symbolizes who we are in relation to God. Fr. Manfred Hauke, a German theologian, wrote a book published by Ignatius Press with the title, Women in the Priesthood? In it he gives a philosophical and theological exposition on how masculinity and femininity respectively symbolize different modes and attributes of God. Although his work is quite scholarly, I intend to provide a simpler version of his insights. If you like JPII's Theology of the Body then you might take a liking to Hauke's work.

Man: Something He is Not

First, a man represents something that he is not! His spiritual and psychological nature, as well as his physical anatomy, prjects outward and as such symbolizes the transcendence of God. In other words, the trait of masculinity reveals that God is beyond us, above us and is without limit. Men are restless creatures by nature; much more so than women are. He is constantly driven outside of himself and outside his domestic environment. Rarely is he content with his surroundings; he seeks to venture beyond the horizon. The discovery of the New World, the first flight across the Atlantic ocean, and the landing on the moon, although dangerous enterprises, were envisioned and accomplished by men. Whether it be the quest to conquer the world or the quest to save it, such ambitions are the making of man's spirit. His ambition to transcend space and time is not only a “guy thing,” but it reveals a strong underlying desire for heaven where there are no limitations. However, in the absence of divine grace, this desire for transcendence can be destructive. Hence, high crime rates, terrorism and dictatorships are often the products of masculinity gone wrong.

Woman: Something She Is

We find, however, man's perfect compliment in the female sex. In contradistinction to men, a woman symbolizes something that she is. What she symbolizes- in her physical anatomy as well as her psychological and spiritual nature -is God's intimacy and his indwelling. She, unlike her counterpart, is much more intuitive and sensitive to relationships. This gives her the moral advantage. Indeed, she possesses a keen instinct which allows her to detect problem spots in marriages and in relationships.

After all, human life has its origin within her. Perhaps this is why the book of Genesis used the Hebrew terms “built-up” to describe Eve's creation. In fact, the expression “built-up” is also used to recount the construction of sacred places; most notably the Jewish temple by King Solomon where God chose to dwell. To be sure, just as God dwelt in the holy of holies in the Temple, and just as he dwells in tabernacles in Catholic churches throughout the world, the female womb would come to serve as a sanctuary of the first nine months of human life. In her, human life begins and through her it is nurtured. It can even be argued that two human beings are never so close as when a mother is pregnant with her child.

Male Image Reveals Distinction:

This leads us to why it is important to retain a male-only priesthood and the masculine image of God as Father and Son. It furthermore explains why creation and the Church is depicted in the feminine. The relationship between a man and a woman in terms of procreation reveals the distinction between God and creation; it further illustrates the relationship between Christ and his Church.

At conception, the unity between the mother and the child is ever so close as mentioned above. With this, the distinction is less pronounced between a mother and a newly conceived child than with a father and a newly conceived child. As a matter of fact, father's child can be conceived when he is miles away. Therefore, the creation of human life, or its beginning, is closely bound up with the mother but not so with the father. Indeed, there is a gap, a physical distance if you will, that inheres between the father and the inception of life. Indeed, it is he who learns about the pregnancy from her.

This distinction is important when it comes to God and his creation. There is a profound difference between the Creator and creation as we know from Scripture. The masculine image assigned to God and the feminine character given to creation preserves the distinction between the two. The Lord speaks and the sea, the land, the moon, man and woman came into being. Hence, creation is receptive while its Creator is proactive. However, if a feminine imagery would be assigned to God such as “mother” or “daughter,” then such designations would convey an entirely different kind of God; one that is receptive like creation itself. He would become confused with the world that he created. History demonstrates this.

Is it no wonder then that New Age spirituality and other forms of paganism have their goddesses and also worship nature? I remember praying in a chapel that belonged to a convent of feminist nuns (I was unaware of their orientation at the time) and I happened to read their invocation of “Mother-Earth” and the “four winds” on their prayer cards. Worshiping God as mother quite naturally leads to pantheism- the worship of creation.

St. Paul reminds us that the world before Christ was replete with this kind of paganism. He said the "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes."

The Eucharist: The Life Giving Principle

The leads to the last point about Christ the Bridegroom and his Church the Bride. This, as you can imagine, parallels with the logic of God and his creation. Christ, in his masculine nature, takes the initiative and gives of himself in the Divine Liturgy. At the altar, as with the union between a man and a woman, our Lord gives to his Bride, the Church, his body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. We, as his Church, receive him. And this, of course, is done through the priest who is an icon of Christ. Not only through the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar does our Lord assume the male role in giving us the bread of life, or, if you will, the seed of life; but during the Mass the priest, who represents the Son of God, takes the initiative with the greeting. He begins by saying, “The Lord be with you.” And we, the faithful, who play the feminine role, respond, “And with your spirit.”

The male-only priesthood is loaded with symbolic significance. To alter it would lead to a whole new set of theological errors and moral dissoluteness. And although our culture is doing away with gender differences under the guise of equality, we, the faithful members of Christ's Mystical Body, must refuse to go along.

So next time you greet your parish priest as “father,” know that it stands for much more than a man having authority in the church. It should remind us that God has chosen to reveal himself to us as a Father would to a Son; not as a Master to a slave. And for that, we should be eternally grateful.