Are You Ready To Be A Martyr? (Homily for the feast of St. James)

On 25th July, we celebrated the Feast of St. James the Apostle. One of the most important points the Gospel of that day presents, is the question Our Blessed Lord asks of James and his brother, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” (Meaning – martyrdom!) It is a clear question (that He also asks each one of us). How would we respond?

stdas0086Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and kneeling down, asked a favour of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in you kingdom.”

You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them , and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28)

The first of the Apostles to be martyred was St. James the Greater. Fr. Maximilian (a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate) related a question his mother asked him as he was preparing to enter religious life: “Are you ready to be a martyr?” While St. James won the crown of a red (i.e. bloody) martyrdom, all Christians are called to be martyrs, which means witnesses, and can take the form of the daily “white martyrdom”.

A primary way this martyrdom is lived is selfless service to those around us, especially those less fortunate than us, for in this way we draw close to Jesus Who came to serve and not to be served. Let us keep in heartfelt prayer our brothers in the Middle East as they face the red martyrdom as well.

Here is an audio sermon about this.

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Christians: The world’s most persecuted people

By Paul Vallely in The Independent

The former Chief Rabbi [Jonathan Sacks] is appalled at the lack of protest about the treatment of Christians round the globe, and so should we be.

 

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One woman, at least, is safe. Throughout much of her pregnancy, she had been in prison in Khartoum, capital of the Republic Sudan, living with the dread expectation that she would be hanged once her baby was born. Her crime was that she had married a Christian and been accused by the authorities of apostasy, renouncing her faith, even though she maintained she had never been a Muslim in the first place. on Thursday, Meriam Ibrahim’s eight-month ordeal finally ended when she was flown out of the country to Rome where she, and her new baby daughter, met the Pope in the Vatican.

But it has been a different story for the 3,000 Christians of Mosul who were driven from their homes in northern Iraq last week by Islamist fanatics who broadcast a fatwa from the loudspeakers of the city’s mosques ordering them to convert to Islam, submit to its rule and pay a religious levy, or be put to death if they stayed. The last to leave was a disabled woman who could not travel. The fanatics arrived at her home and told her they would cut off her head with a sword.

Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations. Continue reading…

 

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Lectio Divina: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Hidden Pearl in our Daily Lives

Paris, July 25, 2014 (Zenit.org) Monsignor Francesco Follo

1) The Kingdom of God is like …

The Gospel of today’s liturgy concludes the thirteen chapter of Matthew and at the same time Jesus’ teachings in parables. Even the three short parables proposed today concern the Kingdom of God, which is likened to a treasure hidden in a field (Mt 13:44), to the merchant in search of fine pearls (Mt 13.45), and to a net thrown into the sea (Mt13:47) of life.

The Kingdom of God, source of peace, truth and love, is charity, peace, harmony, joy and salvation given by God to men in His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. This is an absolute novelty in our history and for which – this is the message of the first two “twin” parables of the treasure and the pearl – we must decide promptly and completely. Let’s think for example of Zacchaeus, who “immediately climbed down the tree, went to his house and welcomed Jesus joyfully offering Him the half of his goods to the poor” (Lk 19, 6-8) or of the Samaritan woman, who in joy “left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people: ‘I met the Savior (cf. Jn 4: 28-29). Continue reading

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Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary

joachim-anne1From the very first centuries, tradition said that the parents of the Virgin Mary were called Joachim (“God grants”) and Anne (“Grace – the graceful one”). Devotion to Saint Anne appeared around the 6th century in the East—in some liturgies—and during the 8th century in the West. By the end of the 14th century, it had spread everywhere. Saint Anne is often represented teaching her daughter to read the Bible. A Russian icon, in a beautiful representation of conjugal love, immortalized the kiss Anne and Joachim gave to each other when they learned about the conception of Mary. This is how they

became participants in the mystery of the Incarnation.

“I entrust to the protection of St Anne and St Joachim all the grandparents of the world and bestow on them a special blessing. May the Virgin Mary who—according to a beautiful iconography—learned to read the Sacred Scriptures at her mother Anne’s knee, help them always to nourish their faith and hope at the sources of the Word of God.”  (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus of July 26, 2009) (mariedenazareth.com)

 

st_annewithmary-bPrayer to Saint Anne

Good Saint Anne, you were especially favoured by God to be the mother of the most holy Virgin Mary, and thus grandmother of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

By your intimacy with your most pure daughter and her divine Son, kindly obtain for us the graces that we seek.

Secure for us the strength to perform faithfully our daily duties and the help we need to persevere in the love of Jesus and Mary. 

Amen.

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Near breakdown of 2017 Luther celebration

Martin Luther's 95 theses began a process that carried millions of people out of communion with the successor of Peter (Photo: CNS)
Catholic Herald View from the CatholicHerald.co.uk:

Protestants try to calm row ahead of Luther celebration

Plans by German Catholics and Lutherans to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 have hit the rocks. Catholics are offended that the German Evangelical Church (which includes Lutherans) has not acknowledged a recent ecumenical convergence on the doctrine of justification, one of the great dividing lines between our two traditions.

We cannot pretend to be too dismayed by this setback. Catholics and Lutherans share many beliefs and some liturgical practices (depending on which variety of Lutheran we are talking about). But the fact remains that, for Catholics, 1517 was a bad year. By nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle church, Martin Luther began a process that carried millions of people out of communion with the successor of Peter. Luther was right to criticise the abuses of the medieval Church, though many Catholics, such as Erasmus, were also doing so. But he ended up by identifying the Pope with the Antichrist and watering down the doctrine of the Eucharist, setting a precedent for more extreme reformers who eviscerated the sacraments.

The Catholic Church is right to reassess the Reformation in the light of modern scholarship and warmer relations with Protestants; it must also acknowledge its own terrible mistakes and its role in the tragic wars of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries. But it is wrong to “celebrate” the wound that Luther opened in the body of Christ, and therefore the breakdown of this naïve initiative is no disaster.

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Poverty Should Only Be Voluntary, If It Is To Be Holy

Spot the riches here

Poverty can be either good or bad.

If it causes a soul to be bitter, angry, dishonest, hostile to others, murderous or despairing, then it is a bad thing.

If it causes a soul to be detached from material riches, to be trusting in Divine providence, compassionate and empathetic, more prayerful and clearer sighted in assessing reality, then it is a good thing.

Holy poverty, along with holy chastity and holy obedience forms the basis of the Christian approach to Holiness, closeness to God.

Of course, no human effort can achieve Divine union by itself, only God can do this, but it can dispose a soul to be receptive to God’s good Grace.

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Love

“As for what concerns our relations with our fellow men, the anguish in our neighbour’s soul must break all precept. All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself, because God is love.”

- St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

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Funeral in New Orleans for Unborn Baby killed by Abortion

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During a funeral in New Orleans, Fr. Frank Pavone blesses the body of an unborn child killed by abortion.

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Expulsion of Christians a ‘crime against humanity,’ Mosul bishop says

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

A girl walks past the site of a bomb attack at a market in Baghdad's Sadr City. (CNS/Reuters)

A girl walks past the site of a bomb attack at a market in Baghdad’s Sadr City. (CNS/ReutersBy Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Backed up by death threats and property seizures, the expulsion of the entire Christian community from Mosul is “a crime against humanity,” said an archbishop from Mosul.

Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona said the Islamic State, which took control of Iraq’s second-largest city in early June, is carrying out “religious cleansing.”

“It’s an ugly word, but it is what happened and is happening,” he told Vatican Radio July 22.

Iraq’s Christian leaders are tired of people making appeals and declarations about their plight without backing up their words with real action, the archbishop said.

“Words do nothing today,” he said.

Support and prayers are needed, he said, but “we also expect all Christians to show solidarity with concrete action” and “without being afraid to talk about this tragedy.”

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad said: “We need action first. The world is not bothering with what is happening to Christians in Mosul.”

The world’s leaders, including those of the United States, must live up to stated commitment to promoting what is good, he told Catholic News Service by telephone July 23.

“They must do something, because they can,” he said.

The international community must help those being displaced, not because they are Christians, but because they are human beings, he said. Because it overthrew Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the United States in particular must be asked: “Where are the human rights? Where is the democracy?” he said.

Bishop Warduni called for a complete end to selling weapons to Islamic State fighters.

“There are no words to describe them,” he said. “They have no conscience, no religion. Even though they talk about God, they don’t know God,” he said of the militant group that has declared a caliphate — a state governed by a religious leader.

The militants forced thousands of Christians from their homes, seizing their property and then robbed them of their belongings at checkpoints as they fled the city.

Bishop Warduni said, “They take everything, even a wedding ring from a widow, medicine from the hands of a small child, they just (pour) it on the ground.”

The militants confiscated the cars people were fleeing in, he said, forcing the occupants, including “small children, old people, sick people, to walk on foot in 48-degree (118 Fahrenheit) heat.”

Bishop Warduni was one of a number of Iraqi Christian bishops who gathered in Ankawa, a northern town near Irbil, July 21-22 to talk about the crisis unfolding in Mosul with representatives from the United Nations, UNICEF, Caritas and local government leaders.

At the end of the two-day meeting, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako and bishops from the Chaldean, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Armenian churches called on the Iraqi government to “stop the catastrophe” and guarantee the “necessary protection” needed for Christians and other minorities being targeted by the fighters.

“A crime is a crime, and it cannot be denied or justified. We expect concrete actions to assure our people, not just press releases of denunciation and condemnation,” the statement said.

The bishops also called on the Iraqi government to provide basic services, housing, schools, aid and financial support to those who have been forced from their homes and livelihoods. They thanked the regional Kurdish government for its hospitality and willingness to protect fleeing families.

Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, representing 57 Muslim countries, condemned the forced displacements in Mosul and called the action “a crime that cannot be tolerated.”

“The practices of the Islamic State have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence,” the organization said in a press release July 21.

According to a recent report by the Christian Aid Program, CAPNI, all churches and monasteries in Mosul, numbering around 30 structures, were confiscated and are under the Islamic State’s control.

Crosses were removed from Christian places of worship, which, in many cases, were then looted, burned, destroyed or occupied by the militant group.

Shiite mosques also were demolished and all Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs in the city were destroyed, too, the report said.

Such destruction was endangering many of the nation’s ancient historical, cultural and religious sites, including the tomb of Jonah, which reportedly was broken into in mid-July, the report said.

All non-Sunni communities living in Mosul were being targeted, it said, including Shiite Muslims.

Those who escaped Mosul and found shelter in surrounding villages were still facing hardship, it said, as the Islamic State cut off electric and water supplies to neighboring villages.

There is no drinking water in some areas and the Islamic State was preventing medicine and other hospital supplies from getting past the areas it controls.

The fighters also closed the city’s banks, CAPNI reported, so many people who want to leave Mosul were delaying their departure because they couldn’t access their own bank accounts and they couldn’t find buyers for their homes given the “frozen” housing market, it said.

Most city services have “totally collapsed” and the private sector is “almost paralyzed,” it said.

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Chaldean Patriarch to Christians of Mosul: “We your shepherds will stay with you to the end.” “Our suffering will be salvation to us and others.”

This letter, reproduced from http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com needs no words from me other than to beg your prayers for Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako and the Christians of Iraq in this their persecution.

I’ll start my speech by the Word of Christ as His Word is the source of strength and salvation of us, the poor of this lost world: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock” (Luke 12:32).

Our present pain is associated with our Christianity and with the mystery of our Passover (i.e., Easter). Our suffering if joined to the suffering of our Savior Jesus, “Man of Sorrows”, will turn out to be a blessing and salvation to us and to others. And the current challenges are faced with more faith, hope and prayer and solidarity and wisdom. Be brave in front of what you are facing, do not be afraid, you have deep roots in Iraq, do not give up for frustration and despair, confident that “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) and evil does not last! You are the small mustard seed, the Lord will not let you fall. He is with you today, tomorrow and after tomorrow and forever.

We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices. I repeat, do not be afraid; stay strong as you are with your faith and your hope and love. We thank God for your safety, as no matter what, your life has no price.

God’s blessing be upon you.
Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako
[Chaldean Catholic Church]
July 20, 2014
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The Vatican II Generation: Weeds Amongst the Wheat

Gertrude:

Vatucan ll will arouse controversy for a many years to come. Whilst it gets the blame for most of the wrongs we see around us, I pray that sooner rather than later there might be some absolute clarification of where Holy Church stands on the issues that have, for 50 years divided.

Originally posted on diocesanspirituality:

Liturgical abuseFor a number of years I have struggled with resentments towards what is typically termed the “Vatican II generation.” Keep in mind that this phrase does not mean to generalize an entire bracket of people from one age to another. Rather, it summarizes a group of Catholics who have embraced an ambiguous, erroneous, and distorted vision of Ecclesiology, Sacramental Theology, and Liturgy. In effect, everything the Church teaches from the Natural Law to the Divine Law.  The “Vatican II generation” is not really a generation that embraced the documents of Vatican II either.  If it did, there would be Gregorian chant and Latin regularly practiced during mass…

Here is the problem. Resentment is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. First of all, it indicates a wound for which one has not forgiven his assailant. Forgiveness is not an acceptance of behaviour or even false-doctrine, but rather a sort of…

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The Muslim who gave up his life for Mosul’s Christians

from: http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/iraq-irak-irak-35380/

May the soul of Professor Mahmoud Al ‘Asali, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Christians leave Mosul

(©Afp)

(©Afp) Christians leave Mosul

Chaldean website ankawa.com says a university professor was killed after speaking out against anti-Christian persecution. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has set the jizyah at 450 dollars

Giorgio Bernardelli

He refused to keep silent about the violence agaist Mosul’s Christians  who are forced to choose between converting to the Muslim faith, paying the jizyah (the Islamic tax for non-Muslims) or fleeing. Professor Mahmoud Al ‘Asali, a law professor who lectures on pedagogy at the University of Mosul, had the courage to make a stand against this brutal duress which he believes go against the Muslim commandments. But he paid for this gesture with his life: he was killed by ISIS militants in Mosul yesterday.

 

Chaldean website ankawa.com – one of the news sources that offers the promptest updates on the inferno Christians are experiencing in Iraq – announced the news. Amidst the ocean of tragedies currently being witnessed in the Middle Eastern country, the website did not want to let this act of great courage go unnoticed. Professor Ali ‘Asali knew what he was risking: everyone in Mosul knows that in Raqqa – the Syrian city which the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized last year –there are many human rights activists who have paid for their opposition to ISIS’ acts of intolerance with their own lives. But Al ‘Asali was nevertheless unable to stand by in silence.

 

And so are many other Muslims, who have launched the “I am Iraqi, I am Christian” campaign in response to the letter N’s written on the walls of Christian homes in Mosul. Yesterday some of them turned up outside the Chaldean Church of St. George in Baghdad, with a banner displaying the slogan and posted a picture on Facebook.

 

But these acts of rebellion have not been successful in stopping the madness of Islamic State fundamentalists. And so today, the ethnic cleansing continued, with the jizyah – the Islamic “protection” tax which all non-Muslims are required to pay if they wish to stay or return to Mosul – being applied. The monthly figure to be paid is 450 dollars, which is an impossible sum for anyone living in Northern Iraq to pay.  Today, yet another historic Christian location fell intot he hands of the Islamic State: the building in question is the Syro-Catholic monastery of Mar Benham, close to Qaraqosh, the Christian city in the Nineveh Plain where the majority of Christians have fled to. Monks have been present in mar Benham since the 4th century approximately. “They forced the three monks and some families residing in the monastery to go away and leave the keys behind,” the Syro-catholic bishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Moshe  told Fides news agency. The Bagdadhope blog reported that the monastery underwent restoration work in 1986 and became a pilgrimage destination for Christians and some Muslims too.

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Cardinal Brandmüller Corrects Francis on Celibacy

Francis Speaks, Scalfari Transcribes, Brandmüller Shreds
As a Church historian, the German cardinal refutes the notion according to which clerical celibacy was an invention of the 10th century. No, he objects: its origin is with Jesus and the apostles. And he explains why.
by Sandro Magister 

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ROME, July 19, 2014 – “Perhaps you do not know that celibacy was established in the 10th century, 900 years after the death of our Lord. The Eastern Catholic Church even now has the option for its priests to marry. The problem certainly exists, but it is not large in scope. It will take time, but the solutions are there and I will find them.”

This is the answer on the issue of the celibacy of the clergy that Pope Francis gave to Eugenio Scalfari in the interview granted to the founder of the newspaper “la Repubblica” and guiding light of secular Italian intellectuals, published on Sunday, July 13.

On the same day, a note from Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the press office of the Holy See, clarified:

“If it can be maintained that overall the article conveys the sense and spirit of the conversation between the Holy Father and Scalfari, what was said on the occasion of a previous ‘interview’ that appeared in ‘Repubblica’ must be reiterated forcefully, namely that the individual statements reported, in the formulation presented, cannot be attributed to the pope with certainty.”

In particular, Fr. Lombardi cast doubt on the notion that the pope had proclaimed, with regard to the celibacy of the clergy, “I will find the solutions.”

But he made no objection to the other highly reckless words put into the pope’s mouth, according to which “celibacy was established in the 10th century, 900 years after the death of our Lord.”

A Church historian no less authoritative than German cardinal Walter Brandmüller, for more than twenty years the president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, in fact felt himself duty-bound to demonstrate the lack of foundation for this idea.

He did so with an analysis published in the newspaper “Il Foglio” on July 16, reproduced in its entirety further below.

Scalfari’s previous interview with Francis, which appeared in “La Repubblica” of October 1, 2013, also raised doubts about its reliability. So much so that the following November 15 it was taken down from the official website of the Vatican, where it had been placed among the pope’s discourses and afterward inexplicably reappeared, translated into five languages, only to disappear once again a few days ago.

Scalfari himself admitted that he had accompanied the preliminary draft of that first conversation that he sent to the pope – which did not raise any objections and was published without revision – with a note in which he wrote:

“Keep in mind that some of the things you said to me are not written down here. And that some of the things I attribute to you, you did not say. But I have put them there so that the reader may understand who you are.”

Months later, a second conversation between Scalfari and Francis did not undergo any journalistic “translation,” at the prudential request of the Vatican.

But after the third conversation, which took place last July 10, this time as well without a recording, the pope again gave Scalfari the go-ahead to include his changes, with the results that can be seen.

____________


WE PRIESTS, CELIBATE LIKE CHRIST
by Walter Brandmüller

Dear Mr. Scalfari,

Although I have not enjoyed the privilege of meeting you in person, I would like to revisit your statements concerning celibacy contained in the account of your conversation with Pope Francis, published on July 13, 2014 and immediately disputed in their authenticity by the director of the Vatican press office. As an “old professor” who for thirty years taught Church history at the university, I would like to bring to your attention the current state of the research in this field.

In particular, it must be emphasized in the first place that celibacy by no means dates back to a law invented 900 years after the death of Christ. It is instead the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke that report the words of Jesus in this regard.

Matthew writes (19:29): “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”

What Mark writes (10:29) is very similar: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold.”

Luke (18:29ff.) is even more precise: “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Jesus does not address these words to the masses, but rather to those whom he sends out to spread his Gospel and proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God.

In order to fulfill this mission it is necessary to free oneself from any earthly and human attachment. And seeing that this separation signifies the loss of what is taken for granted, Jesus promises a “recompense” that is more than appropriate.

At this point it is often highlighted that “leaving everything” referred only to the duration of the voyage of proclaiming his Gospel, and that once they had finished their task the disciples would return to their families. But there is no trace of this. The text of the Gospels, in referring to eternal life, are speaking of something definitive.

Now, seeing that the Gospels were written between 40 and 70 A.D., their redactors would have been brought into a bad light if they had attributed to Jesus words that did not correspond to their conduct of life. Jesus, in fact, demands that those who have been made participants in his mission must also adopt his way of life.

But what does Paul mean, when in the first letter to the Corinthians (9:1, 4-6) he writes: “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? . . . Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles and the brethren of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?” Do not these questions and statements take it for granted that the apostles were accompanied by their wives?

One must proceed with caution here. The apostle’s rhetorical questions referred to the right of the one who proclaims the Gospel to live at the expense of the community, and this also applies to the one who accompanies him.

And this obviously brings up the question of who this companion may be. The Greek expression “adelphén gynaìka” requires an explanation. “Adelphe” means sister. And here sister in the faith means a Christian, while “gyne” indicates – more generically – a woman, whether virgin or wife. In short, a female person. This makes it impossible to demonstrate that the apostles were accompanied by wives. Because if this were a case one would be unable to understand why an “adelphe” is distinctly spoken of as a sister, and therefore a Christian. As for the wife, it must be understood that the apostle left her at the time when he became part of the circle of disciples.

Chapter 8 of the Gospel of Luke helps to clarify this. It states: “The twelve were with [Jesus], and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” From this description it seems logical to deduce that the apostles followed the example of Jesus.

Attention must also be called to the stirring appeal for celibacy or conjugal abstinence made by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 7:29ff.): ” I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none.” And again: “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” It is clear that Paul is addressing these words in the first place to bishops and priests. And he himself would have adhered to this ideal.

In order to prove that Paul or the Church of apostolic times did not acknowledge celibacy, the letters to Timothy and Titus, the “pastoral letters,” are sometimes brought out as evidence. And in effect, in the first letter to Timothy (3:2) a married bishop is mentioned. And the original Greek text is repeatedly translated in the following way: “Let the bishop be the husband of a woman,” which is taken to be a precept. But one needs only a rudimentary knowledge of Greek to translate this correctly: “For this the bishop must be above reproach, married only once (and he must be the husband of a woman!), sober and judicious.” And also in the letter to Titus we read: “An elder (meaning a priest or bishop) must be blameless and married only once.”

These are indications that tend to rule out the possibility that a priest or bishop should be ordained who has remarried after the death of his wife (successive bigamy). Because apart from the fact that at that time a remarried widower was not looked upon kindly, for the Church there was also the consideration that in this way a man could never give any guarantee to respect abstinence, to which a bishop or priest would have to devote himself.

THE PRACTICE OF THE POST-APOSTOLIC CHURCH

The original form of celibacy therefore allowed the priest or bishop to continue his family life, but not his conjugal life. For this reason as well the preference was to ordain men who had reached an advanced age.

The fact that all of this can be traced back to ancient and sacred apostolic traditions is testified to by the works of ecclesiastical writers like Clement of Alexandria and the north African Tertullian, who lived in the 2nd-3rd century after Christ. Another witness of the high consideration bestowed on abstinence among Christians is a series of edifying tales of the apostles, the apocryphal ‘Acts of the Apostles’ composed in the 2nd century and widely read.

In the 3rd century the literary documentation on the abstinence of the clergy multiplied and became increasingly explicit, especially in the East. For example, here is a passage from the Syrian ‘Didascalia’: “The bishop, before he is ordained, must be put to the test to establish if he is chaste and has raised his children in the fear of God.” The great theologian Origen of Alexandria (3rd century) also recognized the celibacy of abstinence as binding; a celibacy that he explains and explores theologically in various works. And obviously there are other documents that could be brought forward in support, something that obviously is not possible here.

THE FIRST LAW ON CELIBACY

It was the Council of Elvira in 305-306 that put this practice of apostolic origin into the form of a law. With canon 33, the Council prohibited bishops, priests, deacons, and all other clergy from having conjugal relations with their wives, and likewise prohibited them from having children. At the time it was therefore thought that conjugal abstinence was compatible with family life. Thus even the sainted pope Leo I, called Leo the Great, wrote around 450 that ordained men did not have to repudiate their wives. They were to remain together with them, but as if “they did not have them,” as Paul writes in the first letter to the Corinthians (7:29).

With the passing of time there was an increasing tendency to ordain only celibate men. The codification would come in the Middle Ages, an era in which it was taken for granted that the priest and bishop would be celibate. It was another matter that the canonical discipline was not always followed to the letter, but this should not come as a surprise. And, as is in the nature of things, the observance of celibacy has seen highs and lows over the course of the centuries.

There is, for example, the famous and fiery dispute in the 11th century, at the time of what is called the Gregorian reform. At that juncture one witnessed a split that was so stark – especially in the German and French churches – as to lead the German prelates who were contrary to celibacy to forcibly expel from his diocese the bishop Altmann of Passau. In France, the pope’s emissaries who were charged with insisting on the discipline of celibacy were threatened with death, and at a synod held in Paris the sainted abbot Walter of Pontoise was beaten by bishops opposed to celibacy and was thrown in prison. In spite of this the reform succeeded and a renewed religious springtime took place.

It is interesting to note that the contestation of the precept of celibacy has always coincided with signs of decadence in the Church, while in times of renewed faith and cultural blossoming one has noted a strengthened observance of celibacy.

And it is certainly not difficult to draw historical parallels with the current crisis from these observations.

THE PROBLEMS OF THE CHURCH OF THE EAST

Two questions that are frequently posed still remain open. There is the one concerning the practice of celibacy on the part of the Catholic Church of the Byzantine empire and of the Eastern rite, which does not admit marriage for bishops and monks but grants it for priests on the condition that they be married before they receive the sacrament. And taking precisely this practice as their example, there are some who ask if it could not be adopted by the Latin West as well.

In this regard must be emphasized in the first place that it was precisely in the East that the practice of abstinent celibacy was held to be binding. And it was only during the Council of 691, called “Quinisextum” or “Trullanum,” when the religious and cultural decadence of the Byzantine empire was evident, that the rupture with the apostolic patrimony was reached. This Council, influenced to a great extent by the emperor, who wanted new legislation to restore order in relations, was never recognized by the popes. It was precisely then that the Church of the East adopted its practice. When later, beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries, and afterward, various Orthodox Churches returned to the Church of the West, the problem was posed in Rome about how to deal with the married clergy of those Churches. The various popes decided, for the good and unity of the Church, not to require any modification in their way of life for priests who had returned to the mother Church.

THE EXCEPTION IN OUR TIME

There is a similar motivation behind the papal dispensation from celibacy granted – beginning with Pius XII – to the Protestant pastors who convert to the Catholic Church and want to be ordained priests. This rule was recently applied by Benedict XVI to the numerous Anglican prelates who wanted to unite, in conformity with the apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” with the Catholic mother Church. With this extraordinary concession, the Church recognizes the long and sometimes painful religious journey of these men of faith who have reached their destination with conversion. A destination that in the name of truth leads those directly concerned to renounce even the financial support realized until that moment. It is the unity of the Church, a good of immense value, that justifies these exceptions.

BINDING PATRIMONY?

But apart from these exceptions, the other fundamental question is raised, and that is: can the Church be authorized to renounce an evident apostolic patrimony?

This is an option that is continually taken into consideration. Some think that this decision could not be taken only by a part of the Church, but by a general Council. In this way it is thought that in spite of not involving all the ecclesiastical ranks, at least for some the obligation of celibacy could be relaxed if not abolished outright. And what appears inopportune today could be the reality tomorrow. But if there were the desire to do this one would have to bring back to the forefront the binding element of the apostolic traditions. And one could also ask if, with a decision made in the assembly of a Council, it would be possible to abolish the celebration of Sunday, which, if one wished to be meticulous, has fewer biblical foundations than celibacy.

To conclude, allow me to advance a consideration projected into the future: if it is still valid to contend that every ecclesiastical reform worthy of this definition must emerge from a profound understanding of the ecclesiastical faith, then the current dispute over celibacy would be overcome through a deepened understanding of what it means to be a priest. And if it were understood and taught that the priesthood is not a function of service exercised in the name of the community, but that the priest – by virtue of the sacrament received – teachers, guides, and sanctifies “in persona Christi,” all the more so would it be understood that it is precisely for this reason that he also takes on Christ’s way of life. And a priesthood understood and lived in this way would once again exercise a power of attraction over the finest of the young.

As for the rest, it must be taken into account that celibacy, just like virginity in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven, will always be troublesome for those who have a secularized conception of life. But as Jesus said in this regard: “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

Originally posted at:

http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350847?eng=y

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Genocide of Christians in Syria and Iraq (Mosul)

The genocide being committed in Syria and Iraq against our Christian brethren by throngs of Islamic jihadists, and continuing underway at this very moment of writing, is leaving the rest of the Christian world looking on in utter horror and distress. Brief mentions in the secular press barely do justice to the real savagery and evil of what is occurring there. Please read the various posts on Rorate Caeli – one of the few voices accurately informing the Catholic blogsphere, plus giving some background knowledge of where members of the Church went wrong at the time of Vatican II in not recognising the very real threat radical Islam presents to the rest of the world, and very especially Christendom.

It’s over. Genocide has been accomplished

[Cross removed this week from dome of Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, Mosul, Iraq]

[Cross removed this week from dome of Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, Mosul, Iraq]

For two thousand years, our dearest brethren saw it all from Mosul: Romanized Greeks, Hellenized Persians, Hellenized Romans from all origins later called “Byzantines”, Armenians, Arabs from the desert with a religion of the sword, Egyptians, Crusaders, Mongols, Turks, French and British, “Independence”… Then the clumsiest Empire in history, an Empire unwanted by most voters, unwarranted by the Republic’s own Constitution, led by bellicose hawks motivated by God knows what, justifying their actions on untruths, arrived, upsetting a balance that was not the best, but was best of all possible outcomes (at that moment). Two Vicars of Christ had cried their hearts out in vain warning of the grave danger of an intervention, of the, “extremisms that could stem from it.”

Things were never the same.

For years, we have been warning that support for terrorists in neighboring Syria would surely end badly. But even we could not imagine that it would end so badly so fast and over such a vast area. And yet, the insane Empire-builders are still handing billions and billions, and hundreds of millions of dollars to “moderate” terrorists! Where’s the outrage? Have you contacted your congressman, senator, president, MP, prime-minister expressing your outrage, begging this madness to stop?

Continue reading…

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Nun: The Sign of Genocide

In solidarity with our Persecuted Brethren in Iraq and Syria

In solidarity with our Persecuted Brethren in Iraq and Syria

Nun (ن), the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet (the equivalent of letter N in our Roman alphabet), is the first letter of the word Nasara (نصارى : Nazarenes), the way Muslims have called Christians since the beginning of their invasion of the Christian world in the 7th century — Christians under Muslim rule never called themselves thus, since the intent of Muslims was to portray Christians as a contemptible and disobedient sect.

It is the same name of the equivalent letter (נ) in the Hebrew alphabet (also a Semitic language), and it reminds us of the words of Jeremiah, also crying for an exile of his people sent to Mesopotamia:

Nun. The yoke of my iniquities hath watched: they are folded together in his hand, and put upon my neck: my strength is weakened: the Lord hath delivered me into a hand out of which I am not able to rise. (Lamentations, 1)

In their genocidal physical elimination of Christians from the Mesopotamian city of Mosul, Muslim terrorists marked each Christian-owned institution and building with this letter, for the extermination of holdouts and expropriation of their belongings:

Continue reading…

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We are back to the regular version of Islam: no need for warning labels
And, please, leave the old Catholic Encyclopedia alone

A perfectly European-looking gentleman: Abdülmecid II,  last Turkish Caliph - Paris, circa 1935

A perfectly European-looking gentleman: Abdülmecid II,
last Turkish Caliph – Paris, circa 1935

In the recent past, when we have linked to the Old (1907-1913/4) Catholic Encyclopedia, a very important work of reference for Catholics in the public domain, we have only been linking to and recommending the Catholic Answers version, available here as “The Original Catholic Encyclopedia”.

Why?

There are two main reasons: the first one is that each article includes an image of the scanned page of the original print version so that the reader may be able to verify by himself the accuracy of the transcript.

There is, however, an even more important reason. Allow us to use as an example the essential article on Islam (or rather, on Mohammed and Mohammedanism), written by the great Mesopotamian-born American scholar and Chaldean Catholic priest, Fr. Gabriel Oussani, born in Baghdad and raised in… Mosul, both capitals of the respective Turkish Vilayets of Baghdad and Mosul, which, together with the Vilayet of Basra, would become the new Kingdom of Iraq after the Great War.

This is the famous conclusion to his article:

“In matters political Islam is a system of despotism at home and of aggression abroad. The Prophet commanded absolute submission to the imam. In no case was the sword to be raised against him. The rights of non-Moslem subjects are of the vaguest and most limited kind, and a religious war is a sacred duty whenever there is a chance of success against the “Infidel”. Medieval and modern Mohammedan, especially Turkish, persecutions of both Jews and Christians are perhaps the best illustration of this fanatical religious and political spirit.

Clear, right? Incontestable, right?

Now, if you search for this article in the more famous online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia, this is what you get before you even start reading Fr. Oussani’s words, that were based on a lifetime of personal experience of Islam as a Mesopotamian Christian: “To complement this article, which was taken from the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent recommends a prayerful reading of ‘Nostra Aetate’ from the Second Vatican Council.” This is unfortunately not the only case in which such warning notes are present.

Continue reading…

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Finally, an urgent appeal for prayer from Fr. Ray Blake’s blog: 

Brothers and sisters, pray for our brothers and sisters under threat in Mosul, pray for those who have been forced to leave their ancient homeland. Pray for those who murder, abduct, rape, mutilate, destroy and threaten. We are at the beginning of a Christian Holocaust, will the world leaders act or be as silent and as hard hearted as they were 70 years ago?

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Saint or Ain’t? A Sermon for the 16th Sunday of the Year

By: Msgr. Charles Pope (on Archdiocese of Washington blog)

wheat

We live in difficult times for the Church, and from many sectors the very legitimate cry for reform goes up frequently. Beyond the sexual abuse scandal, there are also deep concerns regarding the uncertain trumpet of Catholic preaching, lukewarm and nominal Catholics, an overall lack of discipline among Catholics, and a lack of disciplining by the bishops and clergy of Catholics, clergy and lay, who cause scandal. In a way, the list is quite long and has been well discussed on this blog, which is, overall sympathetic to the need for reform, and greater zeal in the Church.

But today’s Gospel issues a caution in becoming over zealous to root out sin and sinners from the Church. It is the memorable Parable of the Wheat and Tares. The Lord’s cautionary rebuke to the zealous farmhands who wanted to tear out the weeds, was that they might harm the wheat as well. Wait, says the Lord, leave it to me. There will come a day of reckoning, but it is not now, wait till harvest.

This does not mean that we are never to take no notice of sin or never rebuke it. There is need for discipline in the Church and other texts call for it (see below). But this text is meant to balance a scouring that is too thorough, or a puritanical clean sweep that overrules God’s patience and seeks to turn the Church from a hospital for sinners to a germ-free (and hence people-free) zone.

We are going to need to depend on a lot of patience and mercy from God if any of us are going to stand a chance. Summoning the wrath of God to come on sinners, as some do, may well destroy them as well. We all have a journey to make from being an ain’t to being a saint.

So let’s allow this Gospel to give us some guidance in finding balance between the summons to reform and the summons to patience. The guidance comes in Four Steps.

Continue reading…

 

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