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Why do I love catholic church ?

I. The Role of the Bishop in the Church

One of the primary reasons there are in excess of 35,000 religious denominations is the great lack of central leadership.  It seems that everyone is caught up in doing their own thing.  “The Bible is self-interpreting”, they say.  “The Holy Spirit and me”.  If the Holy Scriptures really did have the capacity to be self-interpreting then 100% of the people who read them would come to the same exact interpretation, 100% of the time. There would be no divisions:  Assembly of God, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of God in Christ, Lutheran, Mennonite, Congregational, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.  St. Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Corinthians (14:33), God is “not a god of confusion but of peace” Paul also gives warning about the myriads of divisions: “Ibelong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” (1 Cor. 1:12)…today’s communities can fill in the blanks and point to their respective human founders:  “I belong to Luther”, “I belong to Wesley”…“to Calvin” and countless others. 

It was to the apostles and their successors, the holy order of bishops that Jesus gave the power to bind and loose – not just in the forgiveness of sins but in all things: “Whatever (emphasis mine) you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 18:18). Five chapters later (23:2-3), Jesus clearly exhorted his followers to adhere to those in high office:  “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you.  Nothing here about checking Scripture to see if whatever the Pharisees mandated was biblical.  Note Jesus clearly says… “Do and observe all things whatsoever”. In today’s Church it is not the seat of Moses from whence comes our authority but from the See of Peter — “cathedra” — from the Greek word which means “chair” (and whose feast the Church celebrates is February 22). 

I love the role of the bishops in today’s Church.  My journey through life is greatly enhanced by them.  I mean, I just don’t have to figure stuff out all by myself. My salvation, thankfully, does not rely on my own interpretation of Scripture and other things.  Bishops are like fathers – they ARE fathers – and they, too, have a commission: “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). 

But the role of the bishop is not just about mandates. Bishops enjoy the fullness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  All priests have the power to consecrate the sacred elements at Mass whereby bread and wine become the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Bishops have this same power, of course, but they also have the power to ordain new priests for the sake of the Eucharist. 

The mission of the bishop is, therefore, “To be with God through Christ’s mediation and, as Christ’s emissary, to bring God to men — this is the mission of the bishop. ‘He who does not gather with me scatters’ says Jesus (Mt. 12:30): the bishop’s raison d’être is to gather with Jesus” (Ratzinger*).

I find this statement to be powerful and profound.  The author of Genesis tells how God…“walked about in the garden in the cool of the evening” (3:8). Later“in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) it was God become man who walked among his people in the person of Jesus. Today it is the bishops who walk/minister among us and they are to be “reverenced” according to one of the Church’s greatest bishops, Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Ephesians and “we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself”.

Ignatius further exhorts in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans, “See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father… Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil”.

Bishops are guides on life’s journey – pilgrimage, really – they warn of unseen dangers lurking about; they tell which “foods” are safe and unsafe while helping to locate “shelter” and other needs for one’s personal safety. If I decided to climb Mount Everest, I’d better be willing to put down good money for a very professional Sherpa guide – someone who knows the way far better than me.  I’d want a guide who tells me that the journey is tough but also assures me that the summit is exhilarating.  I’d also want a guide who’s been in business for many years and not someone who’s just set up shop awhile ago. 

The Holy Order of Bishops is, therefore, a great gift of God’s love in the Church. I pray for them daily and remind each and every bishop of St. Paul’s charge to them through the young bishop, Timothy: “O Timothy, guard well what has been entrusted to you” (1 Tim 6:20)…and thank-you, Sweet Bishops, for all you do!

*Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal/Benedict XVI: Called to Communion; Ignatius Press, Chicago; © 1996 p. 96-97

This article is Part 1 of a series. Check back for new articles every Tuesday.

II. Things to love about the mass

 

The Mass—from the Latin, Missa; in Greek, Leitourgos, meaning “the work of the people”.  It is the most sacred and solemn action whereby heaven and earth meet.  It is the place where Catholics find their weekly (even daily) sustenance before heading out anew to live and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in whichever milieu we find ourselves.  It is the holiest of hours.

Based on—but not an exact replication of—Jewish liturgy, it is the communal and public act of worship par excellence to almighty God.  It is he who calls us in Christ Jesus.  It is he who gathers us in the Holy Spirit. In both the Jewish liturgy and the ritual Passover meal a “siddur” is followed—a word meaning “order”…hence the term Seder meal; it follows a strict order and no part may be omitted or altered. Unlike many independent non-denominational services, the Catholic Mass uses a specific order of worship (as do many of the mainline Protestant groups). What makes Mass different from Protestant worship is the belief in the True and Substantial Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

In an article I read a few years ago about an independent church that meets locally in a theatre (complete with cup-holders for coffee!), the pastor made the comment that “If people are really seeking the Lord, he’ll show up”.  At Mass, Jesus IS always present in three ways; all three are confirmed in Sacred Scripture. The first is Jesus’ presence in the gathering of the faithful: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). The second is in God’s Word which Paul asserts is “living and effective,” (Heb. 4:12).  We know this to be true because of its power to change hearts toward our merciful Father because the Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword…able to discern…thoughts of the heart”.  The third manner in which Jesus is present is in his own Flesh and Blood as he himself states in language that is rather straightforward: “Whoever eats (gnaws) my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:54-56).

But…”How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”.   It is the Holy Spirit who consecrates the sacred elements through the hands of a validly ordained priest using the words and gestures as set forth in the New Roman Missal: “Lord, send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts and make them holy so that they may become for us the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Form is important.  The priest extends his hands over the gifts — reminiscent of the Holy Spirit who hovered over the waters and of the same Holy Spirit who came upon the Virgin Mary so that the power of the Most High God overshadowed her and filled her with his presence.

For the Passover meal of the Jews in Egypt, a lamb was to be procured and slain with its blood outpoured.  Not just any lamb — it had to be a male…unblemished. Its blood had to be sprinkled on the doorposts. Yet, that wasn’t enough…the Israelites had to actually eat the lamb as a family.  It was what Jews call a Todah sacrifice — one offered in thanksgiving for having one’s life spared and eaten with one’s family. The word Todah in Hebrew mean thanksgiving; in Greek it is Eucharist. So, too, it is not enough for us today to offer bread and wine — one must partake of it.  Symbolism is not at play here…it cannot. For no symbol on earth has the power to save one…or to give any power or strength for anything.  We have only to look at the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us — the holy martyrs who willingly shed their blood for the Eucharist.  While one or two mainline Protestants may claim to have the “real presence” in their communion, the litmus test is to ask whether they would kneel or bow down and worship Jesus present in the sacred, consecrated host.

The manna in the desert was highly symbolic…the daily bread of the Israelites for their journey, yet still supernatural in origin.  From there it is utterly impossible to go from something of supernatural origin in the OT to merely symbolic in the New Testament.  Had Jesus meant for the Eucharist to be merely symbolic he would have called back those who left him and explained the hidden meaning of his words…but there were none for he was speaking quite literally.

The Jews themselves have a term that they use for their Passover Seder meals even today…it is Zikkaron which is the act of taking something from the past and making it present now.  Jews who gather at the table speak with great joy and thanksgiving at our salvation…what God did for us — not just their ancestors.

But didn’t Jesus give his life for us only once?  Yes, he did — in time.  The Mass is an un-bloody participation in the one bloody sacrifice of Jesus — “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”.  We offer ourselves (for better or for worse), our gratitude and sorrow and weird neighbors and annoying co-workers along with Jesus’ perfect offering.  In fact, I “put” all my cares, concerns, loved ones and gratitudes into the ciborium as it passes by me in the offertory procession.  My cares are not always taken away but rather are deeply transformed and given back to me and others in the form of Bread of all breads, Food of all foods. Again, no form of symbolism has that power.

Paul tells us in Hebrews that Jesus is our eternal high priest.  If his one sacrifice of the cross in time sufficed for all time, why would he be our eternal high priest “where he lives to make intercession for us”? But didn’t it suffice?  Yes…but we offer the Eucharist daily so that we ourselves might participate in it. It is indeed the very same meal of Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper.  If you go to a spaghetti supper at your church and they are serving from 4:00-7:00 p.m., you who eat at 5:45 are present at the very same meal as those who ate at 4:00 p.m. and those who will eat at 6:40. The Eucharist is also an anticipation of the “Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9) because God stands outside of time.  It is the reason why the Last Supper on a Thursday could be a sacrificial meal even though Jesus’ death on the cross was on Friday.

Paul also urges us (in cf. 1 Cor. 11:28-29) to “examine yourselves before (we) eat of the bread and drink from the cup”… and insisted that those who do so in an “unworthy manner…eats and drinks judgment on themselves”. Pretty strong words for just symbolism.  In fact, Paul’s next words are rather shocking to those who do partake in an unworthy manner: “That is why many among you are weak and sick and some of you have fallen asleep (v. 30)!!!   Further (as if that weren’t enough!), “you will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord (v. 27)”.  It is why we do not receive of the Eucharist if we are in a state of mortal sin, also know as grave matter. For more on this see http://www.saintaquinas.com/mortal_sin.html.

Sinner that I am…thus it is that I need this Divine food daily…the Bread of Life…my Beloved Jesus who comes to me quite joyfully in the Eucharist…body, blood, soul and divinity to heal me and to conform me ever more into his image and likeness.

 III. Why we love Mary

  1. “Mary, Mary, quite contrary” is what some could call the one who is so misunderstood in her various titles: Mother of God; the Immaculate Conception, Mary Ever-Virgin and others.  Far from worshipping Mary the Church highly venerates Mary as the fairest among creatures. Let’s unpack these and see where it is that Mary fits in with Catholic teaching.
  2. Mary as Theotokos/Mother of God: Many non-Catholics want to know, “How could Mary have given birth to God – doesn’t that make her better than God?” “Mary only gave birth to Jesus’ humanity”.
  3. Well, let’s see.  In the 5th century the patriarch of Constantinople named Nestorius made the claim that there were two persons – human and divine – in the one man Jesus Christ. His followers (Nestorians) rejected the title of Mary as Theotokos (mother of God) and insisted that Mary be call Christotokos (Christ-bearer) instead.  Yet Jesus is not two persons in the one man, Jesus but rather possesses two natures – fully human and fully divine at one and the same time. One was not absorbed into the other (the heresy Arianism claims that Jesus was not divine and the heresy Monophysitism says that Jesus’ humanity was fully absorbed into his divinity – like sugar in a cup of coffee).
  4. Nestorius was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. At the earlier Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 the Nicaean Creed had been promulgated.  In it is the assertion is that Jesus Christ is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God”. Since this is so, then Mary must be considered the Mother of God for this declaration tells us who Jesus is. The Catholic Church does not make the claim that Mary is the Mother of God from all eternity – nor is she the mother of the Holy Spirit. She is, however, the Mother of God the Son – in time.  To deny her the title of Mother of God is to deny Jesus his rightful title – true God and true man.  Note: There was never a time when Jesus was not divine, but rather from the moment of his conception in Mary’s womb he took upon himself a human nature.
  5. Mary’s Immaculate Conception: Protestants ask the question, “didn’t Mary herself admit to her need of ‘God her savior?’ Doesn’t this mean that she sinned?”  Let’s look at it.    Here the Greek for Savior is SwthrSoter — which means both “deliverer” (as in to deliver from after the fact) and “preserver” (as in one who preserves from before the fact). If you fall and I help you up, I have “saved” you – after the fact. If you trip and I catch you before you fall, I have still “saved” you – but, again, before you fall.
  6. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is not at all about her greatness as if she did anything to merit something; rather, the doctrine is about God’s immense, singular act of mercy. At the Annunciation to Mary, she was greeted by the angel as Kecharitomene (Κεχαριτομενε). The middle part, “charitoo” means “grace”; the “ke” part in front of it means something accomplished in the past but still ongoing now.  An example is someone like Danielle Steele who is a noted author (past tense in noted) but is still currently active/on-going and popular. Now add the “mene” part of the term and it refers to something done to Mary – not done of her own accord. It is all God’s work in Mary – not any grand accomplishment of her own.  The emphasis must be on God’s work…his mercy.  Why bestow such a grace on Mary?  It was God himself who desired to become one like us and thus chose to be born like us.   Mary is often referred to as the new Ark of the Covenant for in her body was the Word become flesh. In the Old Testament the Word of God (meticulously hand-written on the scrolls) was to be placed in an ark made of acacia wood which God himself commanded to “overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out” (Ex. 25:11).  How much more, then, should the Word made flesh reside in an ark (womb) made out of the gold of purity and virginity? Full of grace – it is what we shall all be in heaven for “nothing impure shall enter into it” (Rev. 21:27).
  7. And while it is indeed all about God’s generous gift of grace to Mary, it is not anything that he imposes on her.  Rather, the angel Gabriel awaited Mary’s “yes” as did all of the heavenly hosts.  What God found attractive about Mary to begin with was her openness to receive.  In his book entitled Jesus: A Historical Portrait,  (the late) Jesuit Father Daniel J. Harrington says that in the various episodes of Mary in the life of Jesus, she is described as “one who accepts the word of God and believes that it is being fulfilled in her…” (p. 54).  It was Mary’s openness to God’s word and her willingness to receive it that led to her holiness and allowed her to grow in Grace.  She was able to recognize that, because of God’s choice of her in her lowliness to bear His Son, she was able to proclaim, “from this day all generations will call me Blessed” (Lk 1:48) – but again…not because of any accomplishment on her part but because of God’s great mercy toward her.
  8. The steps to holiness that we should use in order to be like Mary are three-fold:  Mary first received the word of God and welcomed it into her heart (“Be it done unto me according to your word” Lk. 1:38); she then believed that word after pondering it in her heart (“Blessed are you who believed” Lk. 1:45).  From there the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived in her womb. Three steps – receive, believe and conceive. While we won’t conceive in our bodies in the way Mary did, we are all called – male and female – to bring forth Christ in our midst. It’s what each of the saints did.
  9. Mary’s Perpetual Virginity: What many Protestants do not realize is that the three great fathers of the Protestant Reformation were firm believers in Mary’s perpetual virginity….their own followers are the ones who drifted away from their teachings.  From Martin Luther (the German Reformer and best known) to Hulrych Zwingli (the Swiss reformer who preceded Luther) and Jean Cauvin (John Calvin, the French reformer who sought to find middle ground between Zwingli and Luther for they were often at odds with each other) – each insisted on the perpetual virginity of Mary. From Luther: “It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. … Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.” From Calvin:  “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin”. Seehttp://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/maryc2.htm
  10. But didn’t Jesus have brothers and sisters according to the gospels?  No.  Here’s why.  We know that 40 days after the birth of Jesus Mary and Joseph were required to go to the Temple to redeem Jesus according to the Law of Moses.  The prayer Joseph was to recite during this rite starts with the line, “This is my firstborn son born of this woman” Since this ceremony was only for those firstborn males who opened the womb we know for certain that Mary had no other children – male or female – before Jesus. At the foot of the cross, Jesus deliberately places his mother into the care of his apostle John; if Jesus had younger siblings Jewish law would have demanded that he place his mother into their care.   As far as the terms brothers and sisters, there are still plenty of cultures who live within extended families and call all cousins, nieces and nephews brothers and sisters.  Luke himself used a term called circumlocution in describing Paul’s nephew as “the son of Paul’s sister” (Acts 23:16).

The Church does not worship Mary – rather, she highly esteems her…venerates.  The term used for veneration of the saints is “dulia”… “hyper-dulia” for Mary while the term for worship is “latria” – a term never used to describe Mary – only God Most High. The Church invites us to be like Mary – to receive, believe, conceive and so to bearing forth Christ to a world who is thirsting for him and to ponder all these things in our hearts so that we, too, may sing our Magnificat of Praise to the thrice-holy God (Lk 1:46-55). Have you written yours yet?

IV. Why we love the saints?

Having the family background that I do (I am the only one in my family of origin that is still Catholic—everyone else now worships at the local Assembly of God) I have been asked, “Why do Catholics pray to and worship saints?” I have been told that it is idolatry and it takes away from Jesus’ role as the “one mediator between God and mankind” (1 Tim. 2:15).  So, this let us look at saints and their powerful witness and intercession. I have also been asked, “Why don’t you just pray directly to God?”

Let’s look at the term “saints” in general.  There are actually a few categories of them.  In Scripture, St. Paul seems to apply the terms “holy ones” and “saints” inter-changeably….but restricted to those who were baptized into the Faith.  Today we could also add the term “the faithful” to describe the baptized. It is also used to describe all those saints who have died but who have not been canonized—and those whose quiet holiness is known only to God. It is for this reason the Church celebrates them collectively on November 1st—All Saints’ Day.  At first it was celebrated for those who were martyred for the faith; there were so many in the early centuries of the Church that separate feast days could not be held — especially when large groups were persecuted and martyred at the same time. The third “level” of saints in the Church is of those who have been canonized.

But why does the Church make saints to begin with? Actually, it doesn’t.  It is God himself who—from age to age—has raised up certain people unto himself…people to show us the way to the “fullness of charity” (Eucharistic Prayer II) even while here on earth.  They were (and are) all powerful instruments used by God for his purpose.

In the Old Testament God raised up Noah, Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, Judith, Deborah, Esther and many others.  All canonizations are within the context of the Sacred Liturgy which is the highest form of praise one can give to God.  Eucharist means Thanksgiving and we give thanks for the great mercy and example he gives us through these powerful saints to inspire us and give us hope. The process of canonization is lengthy and nothing is done lightly or arbitrarily. Prudence and the test of time are necessary in order to avoid a rush to judgment about the saint’s entry into heaven.  Not only bishops and medical doctors have a part in the determination process but psychotherapists who are well versed in the Catholic Faith as well.

What are the criteria of a person’s life to make them worthy of sainthood? While one might first tend to think about their holiness of life, prayer life, good deeds to others, writings and all the usual matters  or perhaps think of their abilities to work miracles (St. Padre Pio), to levitate (St. Teresa of Avila), to have infused knowledge (St. Joseph of Cupertino), visions (St. Margaret Mary Alacoque), apparitions (Lourdes), bi-location (St. Anthony of Padua) or have survived for several years by consuming nothing but the Holy Eucharist (St. Catherine of Siena) or such other “mystical phenomena”,  the absolute first and highest among all others are obedience to the Church and heroic virtue.

St. Ignatius of Antioch tells us in his letter to the Ephesians that it is not enough to simply honor the bishop — as important as that is.  Rather, “we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord himself”.  One of the great documents that came out of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, calls the bishop the “Vicar of Christ” (¶27).  Why obedience? It was—as Jesus himself said—his “food”; that is, to do the Father’s will (Jn 4:34). When we live our lives in obedience to our holy bishops and/or religious superiors it is then that we resemble Jesus most perfectly. Heroic virtue often goes hand in hand with obedience to the Church for quite often the saints were greatly tested by Church leadership and other religious authority.

Consider St. John of the Cross, the Carmelite monk who was the reformer of the Discalced Carmelite order of men. Although lead by God (and invited/urged by Teresa of Avila) to undertake this great reform, he was thrown into the monastery prison for some nine months, allowed a change of clothes after three months and received little food.  Rather than rebel, it was during this time in the dark, damp, rat-infested prison that John wrote one of his greatest poems—A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ; it is still considered even today as a spiritual masterpiece and one of the greatest works ever in Spanish literature. That’s heroic virtue.

Heroic virtue is refusing to defend oneself in the face of false accusations by religious superiors and being expelled from one’s  community (as in the case of St. Gerard Majella) and relying on God to eventually give defense and bring forth the truth. Gerard was ultimately exonerated and allowed to return to his community. The parents of Thérèse Martin (St. Thérèse of Lisieux) are candidates for sainthood for their heroic virtue of giving all five of their daughters to religious monastic life—four to Carmel with Leonie the middle child going to the Visitation Nuns in Paray-le-Monial. Back then when a woman entered into a monastery, the parents were no longer allowed to see their daughters or, at best, only once or twice a year and only through a grille. Often the parents would suffer hardship in not having anyone to tend to them in their old age. Why suffer all of this? Love of their Beloved Jesus and love of his holy and glorious Church and a strong, passionate desire to imitate him unto death.

“Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their judgment they shall shine
and dart about as sparks through stubble” (Wis. 3:5-7).

Let us now return to our question at hand—about praying to saints. Every Protestant who may read this will admit that they have been asked at one time or other to intercede for someone in prayer.  Yet no Protestant would ever reply, “Don’t ask me…go directly to God with your request”.  If you and I could ask another human (even in our sinfulness) to make intercession for us or the needs of someone else, we can certainly ask the saints who are surely alive in Christ.  Part of the process of canonization is that once a candidate has been declared “Venerable” a miracle must be attributed to his/her intercession before he/she can be beatified.  From there another miracle must occur prior to the canonization.  Miracles that occur through the intercession of the saints and “hold” (a person must be cured for five years before it is accepted…it must also be instantaneous, complete, inexplicable) is the acceptable proof that they are indeed in Heaven.

But—”Jesus is the sole mediator”.  According to Merriam-Webster, a mediator is a legal term—one who “mediates between parties who are at variance”—such as we were before the great Atonement of Jesus on the Cross—we who had gone “astray like sheep” (1 Pet. 2:25).  Jesus then is the sole mediator of our salvation.  The term “mediator” is not the same as “intercessor”. The Greek for “mediator” in this passage is “mesites” (μεσίτης) while the Greek for “intercession” is “enteuxis” (ἔντευξις).  In the same part of Paul’s First Letter to Timothy quoted above he “urges…first of all that prayers, petitions, intercessions “enteuxis” (ἔντευξις) and thanksgivings be made for all people” (2:1) …nothing here about going to God direct. If Jesus is truly the sole mediator of our prayers it is because of both his mercy and generosity that allows us to pray in Christ throughthe Holy Spirit—our prayer is not outside of that of Jesus.

Even in the Book of Revelation the “prayers of God’s people went up before God from the angel’s hand,” (8:4)…not the hand of Jesus.  If this is in a vision to John from Jesus himself, it must be God’s design that it happen this way.  Rev. 5:8 calls the incense itself the “prayers of God’s people”. Therefore when a priest and especially a bishop (because within him lies the fullness of the priesthood and he is Vicar of Christ) uses incense at Mass it is richly symbolic of him sending our prayers and the Eucharistic Sacrifice to God in Heaven—a breath-taking thought! The same thing is said about praying to the Virgin Mary…she keeps nothing for herself and simply directs us, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).  John does not tell us that the embarrassed couple even approached Mary about their dilemma. Ever-watchful mother that she is, she saw a need and acted on it. Her faith in Jesus’ ability brought about his first of many miracles.

Let us never shy away from asking Mary and the holy saints of God in Heaven to pray for and to intercede for us.

V. The great gift of sacraments

even sacraments—seven great gifts of love from God to his Holy Church.  Anyone aged 50 and over can easily recall from their Baltimore Catechism: “A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace”.

Within the Christian family of believers only Roman Catholics and the various Eastern Orthodox churches have seven sacraments. Most Protestant communities have two — baptism and communion; a few observe only baptism or only communion. While the Latin word for sacrament (Sacramentum) is not in Scripture, its Greek translation is: “Mysterion” (mysteries). They have been entrusted by God to the Church by way of the holy apostles and their successors, the bishops as Paul states in 2 Cor. 4:1 — “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God”.  From there, bishops can appoint presbyters (priests) to administer most but not all of the sacraments.

The church  groups the seven sacraments into three groups: the Sacraments of Initiation, the Sacraments of Healing and the Sacraments for Ministry.  But first, let’s look at the definition of sacraments.

An “outward sign”— physical rites within the Church.  Most are imparted by way of the sacred Liturgy. The Sign of the Cross, anointings, blessings and other actions performed by a priest with particular words/prayers.

“Instituted by Christ” — we make the invisible visible by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“To impart grace” — because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in each of the sacraments they do give life-giving grace to those who partake of them.

Here we should carefully note that all sacraments are considered as “Ex Opere Operato” which means that they are efficacious (effective) simply by manner of their being performed and not because of any level of holiness/righteousness by either the priest or by the recipient.  A priest who may be only luke-warm hearted in his ministry still administers the sacraments validly because it is God himself who effects the sacraments by means of the priest and does not originate from the priest himself.

The Sacraments of Initiation

Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. In Baptism water is poured three times over the head of the candidate. He/she is then anointed with sacred oil and is rendered a member of the “priesthood of all believers” and is thus able to assist in offering the sacred Liturgy with the episcopos/bishop and/or presbyter/priest. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and many Protestant denominations baptize according to Jesus’ mandate: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). Some baptize in Jesus’ name only, even while using this same citation of Matthew as well as Acts 19:5.

Baptism leaves an indelible mark upon a person’s soul and can never be undone or repeated. It also forgives sins, according to Acts 2:38, but many Protestant communities reject this even though it is clearly biblical. It also “now saves you” according to the chief apostle himself in 1 Pet. 3:21. In the Catholic Church, in all Eastern Orthodox churches and in most mainline Protestant communities (Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, some Presbyterians and Congregationalists) infant baptism is insisted upon unless an adult elects to become a member of that community. Even at that, the various churches accept each other’s baptism if it was according to the Trinitarian formula.

The idea of being baptized as adults (Believers’ Baptism) only came about in the 16th century with the Anabaptists — a term meaning to re-baptize. Amish, Mennonites, the Assembly of God and many others reject infant baptism and thus require adult baptism for all of its members. For their children they use a ceremony called “baby dedication” in imitation of Joseph and Mary bringing Jesus to the temple to dedicate him. Yet, that act was only for first-born sons who opened the womb…not for females or even second, third, fourth-born, etc. sons because the father had to declare “This is my first-born son of this wife” (see Ex. 13:13-16 and Num 3:45-47).

In the Old Testament it was God himself who decreed that all male children be circumcised at the age of eight days old even though clearly they are incapable of choosing it for themselves; it was important, though, for circumcision made one a member of the sacred covenant with God (Note:  circumcision does not make a person Jewish…they are born Jewish or convert into the faith).  It was unheard of in the days of Jesus and the early Church (and for 1500+ years) for a person to choose his/her own faith because women and children were seen as mere possessions and incapable of deciding when they wanted to be baptized.  It is the primary reason entire households were baptized together.  Even though Jesus himself was baptized as an adult, he was not baptized into anything.  Nor did he need baptism — his holy presence in the water blessed the action of baptism and fulfilled the baptism of John by bringing it to a new level.

Confirmation

This sacrament completes baptism and it is the occasion when the baptized are able to definitively choose the Church for themselves. Like Baptism it also leaves an indelible mark on one’s soul that cannot be undone. The seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit are given at Confirmation: fear of the Lord, piety, knowledge, understanding, counsel, wisdom and fortitude.  The Bishop confirms each candidate individually with the same nine words “Be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit”. Why is a Bishop the one who confirms?  In the early Church the Bishop administered all the sacraments as well as offered the weekly Mass.  However, the Church grew very quickly both in size and geographically making it impossible for him to cover everything.

The saying of Mass and administering baptism was given over to the priests who served within the priesthood of each individual Bishop but because Confirmation is the sacrament that completes the initiation of a candidate into the Church it is still reserved to the Bishop.  Local pastors may Confirm at the Easter Vigil (again, for sheer numbers) but pastors who receive people into the church outside of the vigil must have the Bishop’s expressed permission.

The Holy Eucharist  

Food of all foods, Bread of all breads.  I have covered this Holy Sacrament in my second essay of this series here.

The Sacraments of Healing

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and the Anointing of the Sick.  About Confession the question is often asked, “Why confess your sins to a priest…why not just go to God?” One reason is for humility and not an act of presumption that God has forgiven the sin(s). Many Protestants who go direct to God oftentimes admit to being unsure as to whether God has truly forgiven their sins…or even heard their request for forgiveness.  While Jesus did say to the apostles that “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (Jn 20:23) many Protestants seem to be unaware that Jesus also said “whose sins you retain are retained”.

In order for them to be forgiven or retained they must be heard. Thus three things are necessary before the priest can give absolution:  true repentance of sin(s), a firm intention to “avoid the near occasion of sin” (Act of Contrition) and a form of penance.   The other thing about confessing through a priest is that St. Paul makes clear in 1 Cor. 12:25-26 that “if one part of the body hurts, every other part hurts and is involved in the healing”.  This is also true spiritually. Therefore sin not only affects our relationship with God but with others as well.

When Jesus appeared to his apostles and spoke to them about forgiving and retaining sin he first breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Outside of placing the breath of life into mankind (Gen. 2:7), it is the only time that Jesus breathed on the apostles.

And isn’t there really only one kind of sin rather than the idea of mortal sin?  Why differentiate?  We do so because the apostle John said so: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 Jn 5:16-17). Stealing twenty dollars from someone’s purse cannot be elevated to the level of murder…nor can murder be equated to the level of stealing twenty dollars.

The Sacrament of the Sick

“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord,and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:13-15). How good it is that this great sacrament exists.  Formerly called Extreme Unction because it was the last of four sacraments that use the oil of anointing (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders are the other three), it is now administered to those who are seriously ill or facing surgery and no longer reserved for a person who is very close to death. Therefore it is possible for a person to receive this anointing more than once in life. Incorporated in this sacrament is the sacrament of reconciliation — therefore it is one of sacraments reserved to the priest. The others are Confirmation (unless it is the Easter Vigil or the priest has special permission from the Bishop), the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Holy Orders.

VI. Our life in the sacraments

Holy Orders are the second level of the three ordained functions within the ministry of Jesus Christ. The first level is ordination to the Diaconate (from Diakonos/Diakonoz), meaning one who serves.  Deacons may not hear Confessions nor confect the Holy Eucharist. During the sacred Liturgy his function is as minister of the cup (chalice). Permanent deacons may be married—but the marriage must come first. If his wife dies, he may ask to enter into the priesthood but he must begin anew his seminary training.

The third level of sacred ministry is that of Bishop (from Episkopos/Episkopoz), which loosely means overseer.  I say “loosely” because his role is so much more.  His is the fullness of the priesthood…he is truly Vicar of Christ according toLumen Gentium #27.  All priests must be ordained by a bishop; all bishops must be ordained by three bishops. For an eye-opening experience on the continuity of the Church in terms of Episcopal lineage/apostolic succession, go to this site, and find your bishop’s name.  Read who consecrated him and then follow the line backwards…all the way to the 1500’s—likely when formal records were first kept. Even today 95% of priests and bishops (even Pope Francis) trace their apostolic heritage through Cardinal Rebiba.  His was a time of great battles amongst the various Italian states so it is no surprise that records prior to him are scant, if any.

The second level of sacred ministry is the priesthood (from Presbyteros/Presbutepoz), meaning elder or priest. Priests are “ordained for sacrifice”—a term all Protestants took out of their ordination rites many years ago because they do not believe that the Eucharist is a sacrifice…they believe it to be symbolic only.

Sacred ordination is one of the three sacraments that leaves an indelible mark on the priest’s soul (the other two are Baptism and Confirmation).  He is, according to the rite of ordination a “priest forever”.

When priests are ordained, they marry their cherished spouse the Church in imitation of Jesus Christ who laid down his life for her.  Through that marriage they infuse life into the Church which the faithful lovingly receive, nurture within and bring forth to new life among God’s holy people and for the salvation of all the world. It is the reason he remains celibate—his bride is the Holy Catholic Church.  In union with Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit he makes Jesus truly present—Body, Blood, soul and divinity—at each and every Mass that he says. Jesus himself affirmed celibacy after Peter complained about giving up everything to follow Jesus.  Jesus’ reply to Peter was that there was “no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:29) who would go unrewarded.  Although Peter clearly was married at the time Jesus called him to follow him, (Jesus had healed Peter’s mother-in-law)…Peter’s mother-in-law would not cease to be his mother-in-law because he did not divorce her—but only set his sights and heart on the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus further affirms celibacy when he tells his apostles that “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:12) while also stating that “not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given”. Therefore celibacy is a gift.

Not so long ago my family’s Assembly of God community had five pastors which meant salaries to take care of five wives, many children, five mortgages, cars, college tuitions, etc.  When the time came for them to search for a new head pastor it was determined that his family would always come first, so in times of family crisis the pastor would need to break church engagements to take care of a spouse, child, or in-law. His “interests are divided” (1 Cor. 7:32). On the other hand, when a priest in any diocese dies, the bishop is free to quickly send another priest to take his place without it being a cause of concern or hardship for any wife, child(ren) or mortgage.

Some Protestants make the claim that priesthood is no longer necessary but it was never done away with. Paul speaks of his “priestly service of the gospel” in his Letter to the Romans in 15:16.  All priests serve in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ and not something outside of it. Valid words as said by Jesus and valid matter—”wheat alone” (Canon Law #924, ¶2) for the hosts and “natural wine”—must be used. Most Protestants use grape juice and one or two faith communities use water. For a priest to use hosts made of rice or other grain/seed is to make communion invalid; indeed nothing at all happens…no transubstantiation.  It simply remains as rice and does not become the Precious Body of Jesus.

Holy Matrimony is the sacred act by which one man and one woman enter into a sacred covenant in order to become co-creators with God. They, too, bring forth new life for that is what the relationship is all about.  In imitation of God who infuses life into all things and a priest who mystically infuses life into the Church, so it is the male—the father—who implants life into the body of the woman who receives that life, nurtures it within and brings it forth.  This is why we address God as “Father” for from him all things have their origin.  In human reproduction, too, it is through the male that all of life has its origin.  He then is also called “Father”.

The roles of male and female, of course, are different…but complimentary.  Two males cannot give life one to another and two women cannot receive life one from another.  For there to be new life which springs forth from that deep and intimate union there must be one of each.  Jesus himself stated that the two—male and female—become “one flesh”.

Marriage is meant to be for “the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children” (Canon Law #1055).  Marriage is so important that “It is strongly recommended that those to be married approach the sacraments of penance and the Most Holy Eucharist so that they may fruitfully receive the sacrament of marriage” (Canon Law 1065, ¶2).  It is only the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches that see marriage as a sacrament.  No Protestant community does.

All dioceses have forms they use as part of the interview process/journey with the couple.  Two of the most important questions that it asks are these:

“The Catholic church teaches that marriage is a permanent union to be entered without reservation or intention of divorce. Do you intend the marriage to be such a marriage?”

“The Catholic Church teaches that persons entering marriage must mutually exchange the right to have children of this union (italics mine). Do you intend to give your spouse this right?”

Indeed, that second question comes straight from Sacred Scripture:  “The husband should fulfill his conjugal duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other…” (1 Cor. 7:3-4).

All men and women are made in the “image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26) of God; therefore all people are holy.  This is why the Church in her great wisdom insists that the sacred covenant of marriage takes place before the procreation of children.  It is the same with a priest.  He must be validly ordained by a bishop before he is able to say Mass and to make Jesus present in the Eucharist.   A couple must be validly married with a solemn blessing by the priest before a sacred act—the pro-creation of children.

Because all sacraments are for the people of God and not just for the ones receiving them (the marriage will be lived out in the community and in the Church and not just in the home) then the wedding must take place in a church and not in Aunt Martha’s rose garden or onboard ship.

In the original Greek, the term for “gift” that Paul uses in speaking of marriage is Charisma/Carisma—making it a spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit, just as priesthood is (see 1 Cor. 7:7) . Therefore both Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony give powerful testimony to our loving God who gives such gifts.

VI. The bible is catholic

All teachings of the Church, however, are in harmony with Sacred Scripture.  This essay will look at the trifecta of the Church’s authority: The Bible, Tradition and the Magisterium.

The Holy Trinity is one of the teachings of almost every Fundamentalist community (but not all of them) that is not specifically in the Bible.  Nowhere is the doctrine of the One Godhead as Father, Son and Holy Spirit — co-eternal and co-equal — found in the Bible; but they are “words in harmony with Scripture”, according to the second of the 16 Fundamental Truths of the Assembly of God.  This is important because it is my Assembly of God family and relatives who always love to insist on “chapter and verse”. It seems that they will allow doctrines “not (explicitly) found in the Scriptures” but for Catholics to do this it is perceived as “adding to what is written”. Most of our understanding of the Holy Trinity comes from the extensive writings of the Early Church Fathers such as St. Augustine, St. Athanasius and many others.

The Written Word

Let’s look at where the Bible itself came from.  None of the gospels were written as historical texts or as directives on how to start a church.  Rather, they were written to attest to who Jesus was — “so that you may believe” (Jn. 20:31).  The Acts of the Apostles are a continuation of Luke’s gospel—he tells of the early Church and of Paul’s conversion and missionary travels.  It’s kind of like a journal. Paul’s letters are to those communities where there were issues that needed to be addressed. He wrote personal letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.  Hebrews is a masterful treatise on the eternal sacrifice of Jesus. James wrote  one letter; Peter wrote two letters, John wrote three—plus the Book of Revelation —and Jude wrote one. Other gospels and letters were written but did not make it into the canon of the New Testament.

While many Protestants claim that we “added books” to the Old Testament (The Catholic version has 46 books while the Protestant has 39), all Protestants do agree that we Catholics got it right with the NT because they have the same one we do. The first canon of the NT was promulgated in A.D. 397 at the Council of Orange in Africa. Many Protestants claim that the canon was only put forth at the Council of Trent (held from 1545 -1563); however, this is incorrect.  It was not promulgated then but re-iterated for all time after Martin Luther had decided to take out the Letter to the Hebrews, the Letter of James, the Book of Revelation and the Letter of Jude.  Jude, by the way, makes reference in his letter to the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch—two writings that did not make it into the canon of the New Testament. The New Testament does not come with its own list as to which writings would go into it.

The difference with the Protestant Old Testament and the Catholic one is about which version was used in the time of Jesus.  In his day, Hebrew had fallen out of use as an everyday language; Aramaic had taken its place.  However, with the conquest of Alexander the Great, Greek became the biblical language due to the Hellenistic influence.  The Greek Old Testament (called the Septuagint) contained 46 books but the older Hebrew one (Masoretic text) contained only 39. After the new Christian sect fell out of favor with mainstream Judaism (around A.D. 90) and were driven away, the Jews took the Hebrew version of the Old Testament as their text because the Christians were adept at using the seven “other” books to convert people.

Those seven books, by the way are: Judith, Tobit, Baruch, Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus), the Wisdom of Solomon, First and Second Maccabees, the two Books of Esdras, additions to the Book of Esther, additions to the Book of Daniel, and the Prayer of Manasseh.  Here we have the attestation of the Jews in their own online encyclopedia as to why, ultimately, the Septuagint was rendered “unwelcome”: “it had been adopted as Sacred Scripture by the new faith. A revision in the sense of the canonical Jewish text was necessary”. Further, “The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are in the main taken from the Septuagint; and even where the citation is indirect the influence of this version is clearly seen”. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3269-bible-translations). This tells us clearly that Jesus and his apostles used the Greek Septuagint Old Testament and not the Hebrew Masoretic.  I am uncertain as to why Protestants kept to the Hebrew version of the OT and rejected the version clearly used by Jesus.

Oral Transmission of the Word

As for Sacred Tradition (not tradition w/small “t”), it is another way of handing on the faith—the Latin, “Traditio” means “to hand on”.  Almost all of Paul’s letters were composed before any of the gospels were written. Paul tells us in Acts 20:35 when he addresses the people in Aramaic, he states that he was educated “at the feet of Gamaliel” which is quite significant because Gamaliel was a master of the oral law/tradition.

There was no such thing, of course of anyone having his/her own copy of the bible to look things up.  Protestants will cite the passage that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim 3:16) but it does not say only scripture. In fact, the Scripture Paul was referring to was the Old Testament for the new had not even been formed. In 2 Thes. 2:15 Paul exhorts his readers to “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours” (italics mine) — again, no mention of checking facts in the Bible. In 1 Cor. 11:2 Paul praises the church “because you…hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you”.

We know that according to Paul’s own testimony, everything he learned about Jesus and the Church was from Jesus himself —see 1 Cor. 11:23. It is the only way he could quote Jesus as saying “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) because this quote is nowhere to be found in any of the gospels.  In fact, Paul’s instruction on the celebration of the Eucharist itself (1 Cor. 11:23-26) pre-dates any of the gospels. Paul then goes still further and tells the young bishop Timothy to entrust to faithful people that which he (Timothy) heard from Paul even by way of “many witnesses” (2 Tim. 2:2).

For a good article explaining still more about Tradition, go to this site:http://www.catholic.com/tracts/scripture-and-tradition

The Right to Interpret

As for the Magisterium, it is the teaching office of the Church.  Even though the Church came first, it still serves Sacred Scripture and tradition.  The Magisterium is guided by the Holy Spirit.  All bishops by their ordination have this special gift of the Holy Spirit so long as they are in communion with the Holy Father. For a better understanding of the Magisterium read my article here. The Magisterium is the interpreter of both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition just as the U.S. Supreme Court is the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution. If there were no-one to interpret this great document of ours we would demand that there be an official interpreter of it.

As I stated in my first article on the holy order of bishops, I am glad that my salvation does not rely on my own interpretation of Scripture.  If self-interpretation really were of the Holy Spirit, then 100% of the people would necessarily arrive at the same interpretation 100% of the time for “God is not a god of confusion” (1 Cor. 14:33). But God is one…Truth is one. And as I said then…Thank-you, sweet bishops, for all you do!

VIII. Women have a role in the church

 

One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is that she is a loving mother, always nurturing her children.  I am quite active in the Church, working on my Master’s in Ministry for the Laity.  What will this allow me to do?  Many things: pastoral associate/minister, college/high school chaplain, hospital/prison chaplain (with additional studies); I can work (again with more studies) as a Canon lawyer in a diocesan tribunal or even as a judge; I could be employed as a college president or parish DRE or in other areas as well.  Even though the Church does not have ordained ministry for women I am very happy.  You see, the Church is very correct when she claims that she cannot allow for women’s ordination.  It is not because she does not want to but simply because she can’t. There is no war on women in the Church.

According to one of my favorite authors, Dr. Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, there is no such thing as women priests: “a religion with priestesses would be a differentreligion (italics his) and would implicitly signify a different God…It is…a fact that Jews alone of ancient peoples had no priestesses. For priestesses represent goddesses and priests represent gods” (Catholic Christianity p. 367). It is true that Jesus did elevate the status of women in terms of dignity, but he did not ordain them as priests.  Women were allowed in his company and they did provide for him and his apostles from their means — among them Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Chuza, Suzanna (see Lk. 8:1-3) but this does not make them priests, either.

But what of women priests in other denominations?  First, only the Roman Catholic Church and the various Eastern Orthodox churches have a valid priesthood.  Priests are ordained for sacrifice but Protestants took this part out of their ordination rites some time ago.  Additionally they are not in communion with the Pope. Neither are the Orthodox, but because of their valid apostolic succession the Catholic Church recognizes all seven of the Mysteries/Sacraments of their churches, including priesthood.  Women “priests” in other denominations do not serve at the altar.  They are actually ministers—roughly equivalent to that of the Church’s order of permanent deacons.

In Jesus’ time there were four “sects” within Judaism:  Pharisees and Sadducees (see Mt. 3:7) as well as Essenes (a branch of Pharisees, see here) and the Zealots (Mt. 10:4).  None of these allowed for women to be members of their groups. When the new sect of Christianity (initially it was another sect within Judaism) formed and allowed for women to join as part of the new Church the Greek philosophical societies of the time were astounded at this idea.  It was totally breath-taking! Women could join! The Christian leaders saw Baptism into Jesus as the great equalizer: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is neither male and female…” (Gal. 3:8).

When Paul traveled to the city of Thyatira and was preaching they came upon a woman named Lydia who was a very rich businesswoman (those who worked with purple dyes were wealthy because the color came from a particular kind of seashell that was hard to extract) who, along with her household was baptized and invited Paul and his retinue to stay with her. It was herbusiness, her household, her home…and Paul agreed to stay with her. In the Gospel of John the apostles were “astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman”—and a Samaritan woman at that—(4:27) but Jesus never entered into the house of a woman. He did, however, allow for a woman (Mary Magdalene) to be the first to see him after his resurrection (Jn 20:11-16) and he sent her to bring the good news of his resurrection to the apostles (v. 17)….the “apostle to the apostles”; the Greek term apostoloz/apostolos means one who is sent.

Yet even Hollywood would like you to believe that Mary called Magdalene was somehow one of The Twelve in its depiction of her in Roma Downey’s movie, The Son of God. She was just always there in nearly every scene. I got annoyed with that.

No pope, or priest or holy saint ranks as highly as does the Virgin Mary. All of the great men of the Church look to her as the very model of openness and humility. All of the great men view the Holy Catholic Church as the splendid and spotless bride of Christ.

Mary’s “Yes” to the Father

When Mary pronounced her Fiat to the Father through the angel Gabriel—”Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” she fulfilled herself to the highest degree.  She submitted herself to the word of God and accepted her role as mother of the Word incarnate. In his book Jesus: A Historical Portrait the (late) Jesuit author Daniel J. Harrington said of Mary that in the various prophecies in the gospels she is “described as one who accepts the word of God”…and “believes that it is being fulfilled in her” (p. 54).  Following this great event of the Annunciation in her life, Mary continued to adhere to the words of the angel—even when they now came to her through Joseph.  There was no self-righteous indignation in Mary. No talk about “rights”. Imagine if she had scolded Joseph and asked “Why does this angel now come to you?” Or if she had refused to go to the temple in Jerusalem to be ritually purified on the 40th day after giving birth to a male child (See Lev. 12:1-4)?  In all things Mary submitted herself graciously to the Law and the Word.  She never held to her own agenda or used her status as mother of the redeemer to exempt herself from anything.

Great Women Saints

Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux, Claire of Assisi, Hidegard of Bingen, Jane Frances de Chantal, Mother Theresa of Calcutta and countless other women saints submitted themselves to the authority of the Church and her teachings.  It was Teresa of Avila who persuaded the monk, John of the Cross to undertake the reform of the male Carmelite order, while she reformed the women’s. Though John was much younger she went to him as her spiritual director.  Catherine of Siena was an advisor to bishops and Popes and at times scolded them in her countless letters to them. It was she who convinced Pope Gregory XI to bring the papacy from Avignon, France back to Rome after the papacy had been in exile there from 1309-1378.  Yet none of them fought for their “rights” to be priests. It should be noted here that even men do not have any “right” to priesthood—priesthood is a gift and must be discerned in the Church.

The Role of Language in the Church

Having learned French as my first language, I do not get caught up in inclusive language in the Church. Most of the time when the Church uses the word “man” it means “human being” from the Latin, “homo”. The male of the human species is “vir”.  In Greek the word for “human being” is anthropos/anqropoz while aner/aner is for the male of the human species.  Nothing irks me more at Mass when a priest changes the words of the Creed from “became man” to “became one like us”. Jesus became homo/anthropos AND vir/aner.  As far as God creating woman (Gen. 2:18) as a help-mate (“ezer kenegdo”, in Hebrew) she is not in an inferior role.  She is different but complimentary. She is a compatible helper…one who can call him out (firmly but charitably) in his faults and build him up in his strengths. The idea of inclusive language is strictly American and Western European and wrought about by radical feminists.

Moral Life in the Modern World

What role (if any) do Catholic bishops have in hot-button topics such as contraception, abortion, in-vitro fertilization, gay marriage and other issues?  What parent would not speak out against such dangers as playing in the street, or playing with matches or inhaling helium for the quick high or the myriads of other lurking dangers? Bishops are spiritual fathers and as such they must constantly speak out against dangers of the flesh. No-one has ever done more—or even as much—to protect, defend and safe-guard the dignity of women in the Church and in society as the Catholic Church.  Obviously they’re not in it for popularity’s sake but as loving fathers they must put their foot down and say no to today’s fads, whims, fancies, and hullabaloo—even when as sulking, petulant children we say, “Everyone else is doing it!”

Children have a right to be born of an intimate loving union. Contraception and other means of artificial birth control allow for women to become as chattel—as objects.  It allows men and women to close themselves off and to say “no” to God’s gift/initiative of children to them.  It also allows for illegitimate sex outside of marriage which is procreating children who are made “in the image and likeness of God” without the sacred covenant of marriage that allows for this to happen. Read my previous essay on Marriage here for more on this. In-vitro fertilization has nothing to do with God’s will but that of the couple who insists that it has the “right” to have a child; however, the child is not conceived in love but in a petri dish in a well-lit sterile back room.

Gay “marriage” does not allow for the transmission of any new life and is only for one’s immediate pleasure — sexual relations between a man and a woman is life-giving…literally. It is other oriented.   Abortion is the legitimate killing of one’s own child in the womb.  Unlike the Holocaust of the 1940’s whereby the systematic killing of millions of Jews was ordered by the government, abortion rights advocates take this “new holocaust” to a demoralizing height by encouraging women to offer up/kill their own unborn child for the sake of a more “convenient” lifestyle. Women deserve better than abortion. It is not about their mantra of “It’s my body” because the life they take is not their own. The cunning serpent is once again at play…convincing today’s women to partake of the “fruit” of disobedience.  Yet the fruit — while pleasing and desirous — is poisonous and can only lead to spiritual death. The true antidote for these grave actions is a contrite spirit, reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist and time spent in Adoration.

Here Holy Mother Church and her Bishops are very rich in mercy. And that truth will set them free.

Eucharistic Miracle-Blanot, France – 1331s

The village of Blanot is situated in a long, narrow valley surrounded by picturesque mountains. Inconspicuous because of its location, it was nevertheless favored by God, who honored it with a Eucharistic miracle. The physical evidence of this event is still preserved in the church in which it occurred.

Before relating the miracle, it would be best to recall the manner in which Holy Communion was distributed in the 14th century (and in many places yet today). During Holy Mass, when the time approached for the distribution of Communion, the communicants would approach the altar railing which separated the body of the church from the sanctuary. Taking their places side by side along the length of the railing, they would kneel. At about the same time, two altar boys would approach the railing and take their places one at each end. Reaching down for a long linen cloth that hung the length of the railing on the side facing the sanctuary, each would take his end of the cloth and flip it over the top of the railing. The communicants would then place their hands beneath the cloth. The priest, holding the ciborium containing the consecrated Hosts, would approach one end of the railing and distribute the Hosts as he moved along its length. At the time of the miracle this was the way in which Holy Communion was received at Blanot.

The miracle occurred on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1331, at the first Mass of the day, which was offered by Hugues de la Baume, the vicar of Blanot. Because of the solemn occasion, two men of the parish named Thomas Caillot and Guyot Besson were also serving in addition to the altar boys. At Communion time the two men approached the altar railing, took their places at each end and turned the long cloth over the railing. The parishioners took their places, held their hands under the cloth and waited for the approach of the priest.

One of the last to receive was a woman named Jacquette, described as being the widow of Regnaut d'Effour. The priest placed the Host on her tongue, turned, and started walking toward the altar. It was then that both men and a few of the communicants saw the Host fall from the woman's mouth and land upon the cloth that covered her hands. As the priest was then placing the ciborium inside the tabernacle, Thomas Caillot approached the altar and informed him of the accident. The priest immediately left the altar and approached the railing; but instead of finding the Host, he saw a spot of blood the same size as the Host, which had apparently dissolved into blood.

When the Mass was completed, the priest took the cloth into the sacristy and placed the stained area in a basin filled with clear water. After washing the spot and scrubbing it with his fingers numerous times he found that, far from becoming smaller and lighter, it had actually become larger and much darker. On removing the cloth from the basin he was surprised to find that the water had turned bloody. The priest and his assistants were not only astonished, but also frightened, and exclaimed, "This is the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!" The priest then took a knife and, after washing it, cut from the cloth the piece bearing the bloody imprint of the Host. This square piece of cloth was reverently placed in the tabernacle.

Fifteen days later, an official of the Archdiocese of Autun, Jean Jarossier, journeyed to Blanot to initiate an investigation. With him was the Cure' de Lucenay, a monsignor of Autun, and an apostolic notary. The interrogation of witnesses was conducted in the presence of Pierre Osnonout, the Cure' of Blanot. The results of this investigation were sent by Archbishop Pierre Bertrand to Pope John XXII, who pronounced a favorable verdict and accorded indulgences to those who would celebrate Mass in the parish church of Blanot. Copies of the documents are still kept in the City Hall of Blanot and are described as being in an ancient style which is difficult to read.

The Hosts that remained in the ciborium after the distribution of Holy Communion on that Easter Sunday were never used, and were carefully preserved in the tabernacle. The reason for this is not known, although one might speculate that the priest wished to avoid a possible repetition of the prodigy. In 1706 these Hosts, preserved in good condition after 375 years, were taken in a five-hour procession around the parish of Blanot in observance of the anniversary of the miracle. Taking part in the ceremony were many prelates and a great many people of the parish and the surrounding areas. At the conclusion of the procession, the silver ciborium holding the Hosts was returned to the golden box in which it was kept. This was carefully placed in the main tabernacle of the church.

For many years there were commemorative processions and special observances, but these were discontinued at the start of the French Revolution when violent fanatics were desecrating Catholic churches and taking objects of value.On December 27, 1793, a group of revolutionaries entered the church and boldly opened the tabernacle. The bloodstained cloth, now encased in a crystal tube, was actually handled by one of them, but fortunately was rejected as being of little value. After this desecration of the church, the relic was entrusted to the safekeeping of a pious parishioner, Dominique Cortet. While it was in his home it was venerated and given all respect, yet despite this care, the tube was cracked on both the top and bottom. One of the injuries was caused by M. Lucotte, the Cure' of Blanot, who often kissed it and put it on the eyes of the faithful. The other end was accidentally cracked while it was hidden in the drawer of an armoire.

Following the Revolution, when peace was again restored, many persons were questioned about the authenticity of the cloth within the crystal tube. All agreed that it was the same one that had been kept in the church. After ecclesiastical officials were satisfied as to the relic's authenticity, it was solemnly returned to the church and placed in a box covered with velvet which, in turn, was placed within the tabernacle. Sometime later a new crystal tube was designed for the relic. At either end are rings of gold and copper, with a cross surmounting the top. The tube, with the cloth clearly visible, is sealed and kept within a special ostensorium. This is adorned at its base with four enamel panels which depict events in the history of the relic. Each year on Easter Monday, according to ancient custom, the relic is solemnly exposed in the church of Blanot.

Eucharistic Miracle-Amsterdam, Holland – 1345s

In 1345, a man who was a devout Catholic became very ill. He told his family he would like to receive Holy Viaticum. The family notified the pastor of the then known Old Church. The priest, after administering the sacrament, advised the family, if the ill man threw up (which he was known to do after taking nourishment) they were to empty the contents in the fire. The man threw up and the family did what they were advised to do by the priest, they threw the contents in the fire in the sick room. This incident occurred on March 12th.

Early the next morning, one of the women went to rake the fire and she noticed in the middle of the grate, the Blessed Sacrament in the form of host. A light surrounded it. The woman became upset and immediately put her hand in the fire to rescue the host. This she did without any ill effects to herself. She did not burn her hand. The woman was surprised to find the host was cold! She immediately called in a neighbor and asked her to take the Sacred Host to her home. The neighbor took a clean cloth, placed the host on it and locked it in a box. She then took it home. When the husband of the woman who found the host heard what had taken place, he requested to see it. He tried to lift it off the white cloth it rested on but the Sacred Particle resisted as if to say it did not want to be touched by this man's hands.

A priest was then summoned who took the host and placed it in a pyx. When he went to wash the cloth which held the Blessed Sacrament and return it to the original box, he noticed the pyx was upset and the host was gone!

The next morning the neighbor returned for her original box and cloth. When she opened the locked box she once again found the Sacred Host in it! There was then no doubt that Our Lord wanted this miracle to make known! The priest notified the clergy of Amsterdam and a procession was held to carry the host to the church. The home of the sick man soon became a chapel and as early as 1360 public processions and pilgrims traveled to the site of the miracle.

On May 25, 1452, a large conflagration broke out which left three fourths of the city in ruins. It was during this time, the chapel known as the Holy Room became subject to the flames. Strangely, the monstrance containing the Miraculous Host, (which had been brought over to the chapel from the old church) was spared. In 1456, a new Holy Room was built surrounded by a beautiful church.

Many pilgrims went to visit the shrine seeking cures and spiritual help. One pilgrim, archduke Maximilian, later a Roman Emperor, came seeking a cure in 1480. God heard his prayer and he was cured. In thanksgiving, the archduke dedicated a beautiful window to the Holy Room.

By the second half of the sixteenth century, Catholics in Amsterdam fell under persecution of the Protestants. The Holy Room fell under Protestant rule. In 1910, rather than sell the property to the Catholics, the chapel was torn down. However, devotion to this Eucharistic Miracle still takes place on March 12th at the church nearest the site.

POPE GREGORY VII

Saint Gregory VII, born Hildebrand of Sovana, was Pope from 22 April 1073 to his death in 1085. Gregory VII was beatified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 and canonized in 1728 by Pope Benedict XIII.

One of the great reforming popes, he is perhaps best known for the part he played in the Investiture Controversy, his dispute with Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor that affirmed the primacy of papal authority and the new canon law governing the election of the pope by the College of Cardinals. He was also at the forefront of developments in the relationship between the emperor and the papacy during the years before he became pope. He was the first pope in several centuries to rigorously enforce the Church's ancient policy of celibacy for the Catholic clergy and attacked the practice of simony.

He thrice excommunicated Henry, who in the end appointed Antipope Clement III to oppose him in the political power struggles between the Catholic Church and his empire. Hailed as one of the greatest of the Roman pontiffs after his reforms proved successful, Gregory VII was, during his own reign, despised by some for his expansive use of papal powers.

The Pope having been such a prominent champion of papal supremacy, his memory was evoked on many occasions in later generations, positively and negatively, often reflecting later writers' attitude to the Catholic Church and the papacy. Benno of Meissen, who opposed Gregory VII in the Investiture Controversy, leveled against him charges such as necromancy, torture of a former friend upon a bed of nails, commissioning an attempted assassination, executions without trials, unjust excommunication, doubting the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and even burning the Eucharist. This was eagerly repeated by later opponents of the Catholic Church, such as the English Protestant John Foxe. Joseph McCabe describes Gregory as a "rough and violent peasant, enlisting his brute strength in the service of themonastic ideal which he embraced." In contrast, the noted historian of the 11th century H.E.J. Cowdrey writes, "he (Gregory VII) was surprisingly flexible, feeling his way and therefore perplexing both rigorous collaborators ... and cautious and steady-minded ones ... His zeal, moral force, and religious conviction, however, ensured that he should retain to a remarkable degree the loyalty and service of a wide variety of men and women."

Election to the papacy

On the death of Alexander II which was on 21 April 1073, as the obsequies were being performed in the Lateran Basilica, there arose a loud outcry from the clergy and people: "Let Hildebrand be pope!", "Blessed Peter has chosen Hildebrand the Archdeacon!" Later, on the same day, Hildebrand was conducted to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli and elected Pope there in legal form by the assembled cardinals, with the due consent of the Roman clergy, amid the repeated acclamations of the people.

Internal policy and reforms

His lifework was based on his conviction that the Church was founded by God and entrusted with the task of embracing all mankind in a single society in which divine will is the only law; that, in her capacity as a divine institution, she is supreme over all human structures, especially the secular state; and that the pope, in his role as head of the Church, is the vice-regent of God on earth, so that disobedience to him implies disobedience to God: or, in other words, a defection from Christianity. But any attempt to interpret this in terms of action would have bound the Church to annihilate not merely a single state, but all states.

Thus Gregory VII, as a politician wanting to achieve some result, was driven in practice to adopt a different standpoint. He acknowledged the existence of the state as a dispensation of Providence, described the coexistence of church and state as a divine ordinance, and emphasized the necessity of union between the sacerdotium and the imperium. But at no period would he have dreamed of putting the two powers on an equal footing; the superiority of church to state was to him a fact which admitted of no discussion and which he had never doubted.

          He wished to see all important matters of dispute referred to Rome; appeals were to be addressed to himself; the centralization of ecclesiastical government in Rome naturally involved a curtailment of the powers of bishops. Since these refused to submit voluntarily and tried to assert their traditional independence, his papacy is full of struggles against the higher ranks of the clergy.

This battle for the foundation of papal supremacy is connected with his championship of compulsory celibacy among the clergy and his attack on simony. Gregory VII did not introduce the celibacy of the priesthood into the Church, but he took up the struggle with greater energy than his predecessors. In 1074 he published an encyclical, absolving the people from their obedience to bishops who allowed married priests. The next year he enjoined them to take action against married priests, and deprived these clerics of their revenues. Both the campaign against priestly marriage and that against simony provoked widespread resistance.

Impact on the Eucharist

Gregory VII was seen by Pope Paul VI as instrumental in affirming the tenet that Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Gregory's demand that Berengarius perform a confession of this belief was quoted in Pope Paul VI's historic 1965 encyclical Mysterium fidei: “I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine that are placed on the altar are, through the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and proper and life giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration they are the true body of Christ.”

Death

Pope Gregory VII died in exile in Salerno; the epitaph on Gregory VII's sarcophagus in the city's Cathedral says: "I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore, I die in exile."

ST. LAWRENCE

Life

St Lawrence is thought to have been born in Huesca, a town in the Aragon region that was once part of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. Here he encountered the future Pope Sixtus II, who was of Greek origin, one of the most famous and highly esteemed teachers in Caesaraugusta (today Zaragoza), which was one of the empire's most renowned centers of learning. Eventually, both left Spain for Rome. When Sixtus became the Pope in 257, he ordained St Lawrence as a deacon, and though still young appointed him first among the seven deacons who served in the patriarchal church. He is therefore called "archdeacon of Rome", a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the church and the distribution of alms among the poor.

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that St. Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Saint Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that St Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom and can be compared to the parallel Roman tale of the jewels of Cornelia.

Holy Chalice

According to lore, St Lawrence was able to spirit away the chalice used during Christ's Last Supper to Huesca, in present-day Spain, with a letter and a supposed inventory, where it lay hidden and unregarded for centuries. When St. Augustine connects St Lawrence with a chalice, it is the chalice of the Mass.

For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood. 

According to Catholic tradition the Holy Grail is a relic sent by St Lawrence to his parents in northern Aragon. He entrusted this sacred chalice to a friend who he knew would travel back to Huesca. While the chalice's exact journey through the centuries is disputed, it is accepted by many Catholics that it was sent by his family to this monastery for preservation and veneration. Historical records indicate the chalice has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the ages. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain.

Martyrdom

A well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. As deacon in Rome, St Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor. St Ambrose of Milan relates that when St Lawrence was asked for the treasures of the Church he brought forward the poor, among whom he had divided the treasure as alms. "Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the church’s crown." The prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it (hence St Lawrence's association with the gridiron). After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, "I'm well done. Turn me over!" From this derives his patronage of cooks and chefs, and also of comedians.

Miracles

The life and miracles of St Lawrence were collected in The Acts of St Lawrence, but this is now lost. The earliest existing documentation of miracles associated with him is in the writings of St Gregory of Tours (538–594), who mentions the following:

A priest named Fr. Sanctulus was rebuilding a church of St. Lawrence, which had been attacked and burnt, and hired many workmen to accomplish the job. At one point during the construction, he found himself with nothing to feed them. He prayed to St. Lawrence for help, and looking in his basket he found a fresh, white loaf of bread. It seemed to him too small to feed the workmen, but in faith he began to serve it to the men. While he broke the bread, it so multiplied that that his workmen fed from it for ten days.

Veneration

Due to his conspiring to hide and protect the written documents of the Church, St Lawrence is known as the patron saint of archivists and librarians.

St Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Legendary details of his death were known to Damasus, Prudentius, Ambrose and Augustine. The church built over his tomb, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favorite place for Roman pilgrimages. Devotion to him was widespread by the fourth century.

St Lawrence is especially honored in the city of Rome, where he is one of the city's patrons. There are several churches in Rome dedicated to him, including San Lorenzo in Panisperna, traditionally identified as the place of his execution; the area near the San Lorenzo basilica is called Quartiere San Lorenzo. He is invoked by librarians, archivists, cooks, and tanners as their patron. His celebration on 10 August has the rank of feast throughout the Catholic world. On this day, the reliquary containing his burnt head is displayed in the Vatican for veneration.

PERPETUAL VIRGINITY

MARIAN CORNER

The expression perpetual virginity, ever-virgin, or simply "Mary the Virgin" refers primarily to the conception and birth of Jesus. From the first formulations of faith, especially in baptismal formulas or professions of faith, the Church professed that Jesus Christ was conceived without human seed by the power of the Holy Spirit only. Here lies the decisive meaning of expressions such as “conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary,” “Mary's virginal conception,” or “virgin birth.” The early baptismal formula (since the 3rd century) state Mary's virginity without further explaining it, but there is no doubt about its physical meaning. Later statements are more explicit. Mary conceived “without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolate even after his birth” (Council of the Lateran, 649).

Although never explicated in detail, the Catholic Church holds as dogma that Mary was and is Virgin before, in and after Christ's birth. It stresses thus the radical novelty of the Incarnation and Mary's no less radical and exclusive dedication to her mission as mother of her Son, Jesus Christ. Vatican II reiterated the teaching about Mary, the Ever-Virgin, by stating that Christ's birth did not diminish Mary's virginal integrity but sanctified it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church ponders the deeper meaning of the virgin bride and perpetual virginity (499-507). It also maintains that Jesus Christ was Mary's only child. The so-called “brothers and sisters” are close relatives only.

OUR LADY OF DIVINE SHEPHERED

MARIAN CORNER

ഫ്രാന്‍സിലെ ആമിന്ന്സ് രൂപതയില്‍പ്പെട്ട ആല്‍ബേര്‍ട്‌ എന്ന ചെറു പട്ടണത്തിലാണു "Our lady of divine shepherd"  സ്ഥിതി ചെയ്യുന്നതു.

പന്ത്രണ്ടാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടില്‍ Brebieres എന്ന സ്ഥലത്ത് ആട്‌ മെയിക്കാന്‍ പോയ ഒരു ആട്ടിടയാനണ്‌ മാതാവിന്റെ തിരുസ്‌വരുപം ലഭിച്ചത്‌. അസ്വഭാവികമായ രീതിയില്‍ ആടുകള്‍ ഒരു സ്ഥലത്ത് ഒരുമിച്ചുകൂടുകയും അവിടെയുള്ള പുല്ലു വേരോടെ പിഴുത്തെടുക്കുന്നതും ആട്ടിടയന്റെ കണ്ടു. ഇതു കണ്ട ആട്ടിടയന് ആ സ്ഥലം കുഴിക്കുകയും അവിടെ നിന്ന് ഒറ്റ കല്ലില്‍ തീര്‍ത്ത മാതാവിന്റെ ഒരു രൂപം ലഭകുകയും ചെയ്തു.

   തിരുക്കുമരനേയും എടുത്തുകൊണ്ടുള്ള മാതാവിന്റെ ഈ തിരുസ്‌വറുപത്തിഞ്ഞ് 4 അടി നീളം ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. മാതാവിന്റെ കാല്‍പ്പാതതതിന്റെ ആരികെ നില്‍ക്കുന്ന ഒരു കുഞ്ഞാടിനെയും ഈ രൂപത്തില്‍ കാണാം.

    മാതാവിന്റെ ആ തിരുസ്‌വരുപം ലഭിച്ച സ്ഥലത്ത് ഒരു ചാപ്പല്‍ പണിയുകയും പിന്നീടു ഒരു തീര്‍ഥതാടന കേന്ത്രം ആവുകയും ചെയ്തു. Divine shepherd മാതാവിന്റെ തിരുന്നാള്‍ പല സ്ഥലങ്ങളിലായി പല ധിവസങ്ങളില്‍ കൊണ്ടാടി വരുന്നു.

Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd is located in the small town of Albert in the diocese of Amiens, France.  A shepherd got the holy statue of Mother Mary form a place called Brebieres while he was grazing his sheep. Shepherded found that all the sheep were crowded in one place trying to pullout the grasses.

The shepherd felt it odd and started to dig in the spot by himself. In a short time he uncovered a statue of the Blessed Virgin sculpted from a single piece of solid stone. The statue was nearly four feet tall, and represented the Blessed Mother holding the Divine Child in her arm.

 Later on a chapel was built at the place where the shepherd got statue and it turned to be a pilgrim center.

DIVINE MOTHERHOOD

MARIAN CORNER

Mary's divine motherhood   was proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

Various names are used to describe Mary's role as mother of Jesus. She is called "Mother of God" which translates the more accurately stated Greek term “Theotokos” or “Birth giver of God.”

The Council of Ephesus (431) attributed to Mary the title, Mother of God. This needs to be read against the Council's declaration that in Christ there are two natures, one divine and one human, but only one person. Indeed, according to the Council the holy virgin is the Mother of God since she begot according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh. This decision was further explained by the Council of Chalcedon (451) which says with regard to Mary's divine motherhood:

“...begotten from the Father before the ages as regards his godhead, and in the last days, the same, because of us and because of our salvation begotten from the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as regards his manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten...”

Mary's Divine Motherhood was not the object of an independent or exclusive dogmatic declaration. The statement is embedded in texts defining the person and natures of Jesus Christ. Thus, the dogma of Divine Motherhood becomes an integral part of the Christological dogma. This does not diminish its definitive and binding character. The dogma of Divine Motherhood is generally accepted by all Christian denominations.