Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Storm and the Wisdom of Sts. Pius X and Anselm

Sometimes we think the Church is in such a crises that she will surely be lost. But fear not! St. Pius X gives us comfort in an encyclical on St. Anselm (Communium Rerum). The last sentence especially struck me:

"But there is comfort for us: the Lord liveth and "He will make all things work together unto good to them that love God" (Rom. viii. 28). Even from these evils He will bring good, and above all the obstacles devised by human perversity He will make more splendid the triumph of His work and of His Church. Such is the wonderful design of the Divine Wisdom and such "His unsearchable ways" (Ib. xi. 33) in the present order of Providence -- "for my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my ways your ways, said the Lord" (Isai. Iv. 8) -- that the Church of Christ is destined ever to renew in herself the life of her Divine Founder who suffered so much, and in a manner to "fill up what is wanting of the sufferings of Christ" (Coloss. i. 24). Hence her condition as militant on earth divinely constrains her to live in the midst of contentions, troubles, and difficulties, that thus "through many tribulations she may enter into the kingdom of God" (Act. xiv. 21), and at last be united with the Church triumphant in heaven.

"Anselm's commentary on the passage of St. Matthew: " Jesus constrained His disciples to enter the boat," is directly to the point: "The words in their mystical sense summarize the state of the Church from the coming of Jesus Christ to the end of the world. The ship, then, was buffeted by the waves in the midst of the sea, while Jesus remained on the summit of the mountain; for ever since the Savior ascended to heaven holy Church has been agitated by great tribulations in the world, buffeted by various storms of persecution, harassed by the divers perversities of the wicked, and in many ways assailed by vice. Because the wind was contrary, because the influence of malign spirits is constantly opposed to her to prevent her from reaching the port of salvation, striving to submerge her under the opposing waves of the world, stirring up against her all possible difficulties" (Hom. iii. 22). They err greatly, therefore, who lose faith during the storm, wishing for themselves and the Church a permanent state of perfect tranquillity, universal prosperity, and practical, unanimous and uncontested recognition of her sacred authority."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Papal Infallibility

"We exhort you, honorable brother, that you obediently listen to what has been written by the blessed Pope of the city of Rome, since blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own see, offers the truth of faith to those who seek. For we, in our zeal for peace and faith, cannot decide questions of faith apart from consent of the Bishop of Rome."
-- Peter Chrysologus of Ravenna to Eutyches, Ep 25

Papal infallibility is one of the most misunderstood dogmas among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Many confuse infallibility for impeccability--an inability to sin. The Pope, however, can sin like any man (and history shows they do). Others think that everything that comes out of a pope's mouth or pen is infallible. This is likewise untrue. Certain sedevecantists and anti-popes fall into this trap. When they (erroneously) judge a recent pope to have professed some error, they are left with no choice to conclude the pope is illegitimate. So, when is the Pope infallible?

The Conditions for Papal Infallibility

Let us look at the actual dogmatic definition from the First Vatican Council:

"Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable."

And from the Second Vatican Council:

"And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith."

So, let's draw out the three conditions 1) Infallibility only applies to doctrines on faith and morals, the revelation of God, the deposit of faith, entrusted to the Church--therefore it does not include teaching on science, historical facts, pastoral policy, other religions, etc. 2) The Roman Pontiff must be exercising his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians--therefore he is not infallible if he is acting in his capacity as bishop over his individual diocese, as a private theologian, etc. 3) Going hand in hand with the previous two conditions, he must be definitively proclaiming a doctrine to be held by the entire Church--therefore he is not infallible when only addressing portions of the Church or when he intends to encourage further speculation or discussion on the doctrine.

In summary, the Pope is infallible when he definitively proclaims the truth of a doctrine which every member of the Church is bound to accept. This usually happens when controversy or confusion arises in the Church over some doctrine and the pope definitively settles the doctrinal dispute.

The Rationale Behind this Dogma

Isa. 59:20 And there shall come a, redeemer to Sion, and to them that return from iniquity in Jacob, saith the Lord. 21 This is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: My spirit that is in thee, and my words that I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.

Why must these definitions be infallible? As the Scriptures and Tradition testify, God has promised that His Church will be indefectible and infallible by the power the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. The Truth revealed by God will always be preserved here. The Bishop of Rome has always had the final say on matters of doctrine--even the definitions of Ecumenical Councils cannot be binding on the whole Church unless they are approved by the Roman Pontiff. For further reading on this authority of the Pope, check out this section of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica (since this entry is not meant to be a defense of the doctrine, but rather an explanation of it, I will refrain at this time from presenting the proofs this authority from Scripture and Tradition). The Pope has authority over the whole Church, so if he were to define an error to be held by the entire Church, the entire Church will have defected--and God has promised this will not happen. Therefore, the pope cannot define error in such a way--he is infallible. It likewise follows that he cannot prohibit the Church from believing truth revealed by God. In this way, according to the Ven. John Cardinal Newman, a contemporary of the definition, infallibility is also "engaged in...the condemnation of particular and given errors."

Examples of Infallibility

It seems to be a popular opinion that there are only two examples of this infallibility being exercised--the two Marian dogmas (Immaculate Conception and Assumption). Since only one was defined before Vatican I, this would lead us to believe the Fathers of the First Vatican Council based their definition on one example. This simply is not the case. In my study of papal writing, I have come across other examples as well. Here we will briefly discuss them (this list is not meant to be exhaustive--it merely represents what I have come across in my personal study):

Leo I, definition of the two natures of Christ
In his famous Tome, Leo settles the Monophysite controversy once and for all by sending his definition to be received by all the bishops assembled at Chalcedon, and thereby to be received by the whole Church. This is a definitive proclamation of a dogma to be held by the entire Church.

Agatho, definition on the two wills of Christ
In this letter, Agatho settles the Monothelite controversy at the request of the Patriarch of Constantinople, by sending his definition to be received by all the bishops gathered for the Third Council of Constantinople, and thereby the whole Church. They received it again as if it came from Peter himself.

Boniface VIII, definition concerning the necessity for salvation of union to the Church governed by the Roman Pontiff
Many find this definition contained in Unam Sanctam problematic. First it bears pointing out that much of this Bull pertains to certain historical conditions in medieval Europe, and not necessarily to the faith of the Church as a whole. But, the last line cannot be disputed as being a definitive proclamation applying to the whole Church. "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." This teaching was later expressed by John XXIII in the 1950s: "The Saviour Himself is the door of the sheepfold: 'I am the door of the sheep.' Into this fold of Jesus Christ, no man may enter unless he be led by the Sovereign Pontiff; and only if they be united to him can men be saved, for the Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ and His personal representative on earth." (Pope John XXIII, homily to the Bishops assisting at his coronation on November 4, 1958Papal Teachings: The Church, Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, Boston, St. Paul Editions, 1962, par. 1556.) What this teaching means is that union to the Church in some way is necessary for salvation, since the divine life flows through the Body from the Head (Jesus) to the members (the Church). Sacramental Baptism and the desire for Baptism, even implicit desire, is enough to create this union. This whole Church by divine ordinance is entrusted and subject to the Roman Pontiff, the successor of St. Peter. It is necessary for salvation to be subject to the pope because it is necessary for salvation to be united to the Church.

Benedict XII, definitions concerning the Beatific Vision and mortal sin
In his constitution, Benedictus Deus, Benedict XII once and for all ends a controversy caused by the erroneous (due possibly to senility) musings of his predecessor, John XXII, who was acting as a private theologian.

Innocent X, definitions concerning the Jansenist errors
In his Constitution, Cum Occasione, Innocent X definitively condemns the Jansenist errors.

Innocent XI, definitions concerning the Quietist errors
In his Apostolic Constitution, Coelestis Pastor , the Quietist errors are judged and condemned with Supreme Apostolic authority by Innocent XI.

Pius VI, definitions concerning additional Jansenist errors
Auctorem Fidei is an additional list of Jansenist errors and are condemned by Pius VI. The condemnations are infallible where they refer to doctrinal truths rather than specific historical conditions.

Clement XI, definitions concerning the errors of Paschasius
In his Dogmatic Constitution, Unigenitus, various errors of Paschasius are condemned by Clement XI and it is later declared that anyone who embraces them is outside the bosom of the Church. Again, infallibility only applies to statements of doctrine, not historical fact or situations.

Pius IX, definition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary
To end any and all doubt, in the Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus , Pius IX definitively proclaims that Mary was born free from all stain of original sin.

Pius XII, definition of the Glorious Assumption of Mary
To end all doubt, Pius XII definitively proclaims that Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven in the Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.

Now, the next two I am going to discuss are controversial--not as to the truth, but as to whether papal infallibility was engaged. While such luminaries as then Cardinal Ratzinger have said they are simply part of the universal Magesterium--and are therefore infallible because they have always been taugh--but papal definitions are infallible in the same way, as well as the mark of the extraordinary Magesterium--I think this universal aspect was emphasized so that people would not think they can dissent from all teachings that are not extraordinarily defined by the pope.

Paul VI, definitive proclaims artificial contraception to be immoral
In Humanae Vitae, Paul VI definitively proclaims artificial contraception and sterilization as gravely immoral. First he proclaims his authority to do so:

"Such questions required from the teaching authority of the Church a new and deeper reflection upon the principles of the moral teaching on marriage: a teaching founded on the natural law, illuminated and enriched by divine revelation.

"No believer will wish to deny that the teaching authority of the Church is competent to interpret even the natural moral law. It is, in fact, indisputable, as our predecessors have many times declared,[1] that Jesus Christ, when communicating to Peter and to the Apostles His divine authority and sending them to teach all nations His commandments,[2] constituted them as guardians and authentic interpreters of all the moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel, but also of the natural law, which is also an expression of the will of God, the faithful fulfillment of which is equally necessary for salvation.[3]"

Before giving the definitive teaching, he states: "Therefore, having attentively sifted the documentation laid before us, after mature reflection and assiduous prayers, we now intend, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to us by Christ, to give our reply to these grave questions."

He is exercising his supreme authority to definitively declare doctrines of faith and morals. Then he issues the definition:

"In conformity with these landmarks in the human and Christian vision of marriage, we must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth.[14]

Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman.[15] Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible."

He, as a result of His Supreme teaching authority granted by Christ has definitively declared the truth to answer all questions concerning the veracity of this doctrine and he has bound all Catholics to obey as a necessity of salvation.

John Paul II, definitively proclaims that only men can be ordained
In his letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis , John Paul II ends all doubt by proclaiming the doctrine that only men can be ordained. This letter is very straightforward and contains the classic and obvious marks of infallibility. The pertinent part is as follows:

"Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

"Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."

As we can see, he specifically declares he is speaking in his role as Supreme Pastor--his ministry of confirming the brethren--and makes it definitively binding on all the faithful. He also specifically says this is not a matter of discipline, but faith and morals. All of the elements are fulfilled explicitly.

Finally, John Paul II, definitivey proclaims the immorality of killing innocents and procuring abortions
In his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae , John Paul II, with the supreme authority of St. Peter, makes two definitions concerning killing the innocent and procuring abortions.

"Seest thou how [Christ], His own self, leads Peter on to high thoughts of Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is Son of God by these two promises? For those things which are peculiar to God alone, (both to absolve sins, and to make the church in- capable of overthrow in such assailing waves, and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while all the world is at war with him), these He promises Himself to give; as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him as "a brazen pillar, and as a wall;"but him to one nation only, this man in every part of the world."
--St. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Gospel of Matthew.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Weapon

Pray the Rosary everyday! But don't take my word for it, check out what these Supreme Pontiffs had to say:

“The Rosary, which in its entirety we never miss, even for a single day of the year, is the most fitting formula for praying and meditating.” –Pope Bl. John XXIII

"The Rosary, if its full sense be rediscovered, carries one to the very core of Christian life and offers an orderly as well as fruitful spiritual and pedagogical opportunity for personal contemplation, formation of the people of God and the new evangelization.” - Pope John Paul II

"Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.” –Pope Pius XI

"The prayer of the Rosary is perfect because of the praises it offers, the lessons it teaches, the graces it obtains, and the victories it achieves.” –Pope Benedict XV

“The Rosary is the richest and most beautiful of all prayers to the Mediatrix of all grace; it is the prayer that touches most the heart of the Mother of God. Say it each day.” --Pope St. Pius X

“Spread the Rosary, the prayer so dear to the Virgin and so esteemed by popes; by it the faithful can best fulfill the command of Christ: ‘Ask and it shall be given; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.’” –Pope Paul VI

"The Rosary is the scourge of the devil." -- Pope Adrian VI

"The Rosary is a treasure of graces." --Pope Paul V

“The Rosary elevates minds to the truths revealed by God and shows us heaven opened." --Pope Bl. Pius IX

John Paul II
Rosarium Virginis Mariae - (On the Most Holy Rosary) October 16, 2002 [Apostolic Letter]

Pius XII
Ingruentium Malorum (On Reciting the Rosary) September 15, 1951

Pius XI
Ingravescentibus Malis (On the Rosary) September 29, 1937

Diuturni Temporis (On the Rosary) September 5, 1898
Fidentem Piumque Animum (On the Rosary) September 20, 1896
Adiutricem (On the Rosary) September 5, 1895
Octobri Mense (On the Rosary) September 22, 1891
Superiore Anno (On the Recitation of the Rosary) August 30, 1884
Supremi Apostolatus Officio (On Devotion to the Rosary) September 1, 1883
Vi E Ben Noto (On the Rosary and Public Life) September 20, 1887

Finally, St. Pius V's public call to pray the Rosary is as urgent today as in his:

Consueverunt Romani
Pope Pius V 17 September 1569

The Roman Pontiffs, and the other Holy Fathers, our predecessors, when they were pressed in upon by temporal or spiritual wars, or troubled by other trials, in order that they might more easily escape from these, and having achieved tranquillity, might quietly and fervently be free to devote themselves to God, were wont to implore the divine assistance, through supplications or Litanies to call forth the support of the saints, and with David to lift up their eyes unto the Mountains, trusting with firm hope that thence would they receive aid.

1. Prompted by their example, and, as is piously believed, by the Holy Ghost, the inspired Blessed founder of the Order of Friars Preachers, (whose institutes and rule we ourselves expressly professed when we were in minor orders), in circumstances similar to those in which we now find ourselves, when parts of France and of Italy were unhappily troubled by the heresy of the Albegenses, which blinded so many of the worldly that they were raging most savagely against the priests of the Lord and the clergy, raised his eyes up unto heaven, unto that mountain of the Glorious Virgin Mary, loving Mother of God. For she by her seed has crushed the head of the twisted serpent, and has alone destroyed all heresies, and by the blessed fruit of her womb has saved a world condemned by the fall of our first parent. From her, without human hand, was that stone cut, which, struck by wood, poured forth the abundantly flowing waters of graces. And so Dominic looked to that simple way of praying and beseeching God, accessible to all and wholly pious, which is called the Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which the same most Blessed Virgin is venerated by the angelic greeting repeated one hundred and fifty times, that is, according to the number of the Davidic Psalter, and by the Lord's Prayer with each decade. Interposed with these prayers are certain meditations showing forth the entire life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, thus completing the method of prayer devised by the by the Fathers of the Holy Roman Church. This same method St. Dominic propagated, and it was, spread by the ??? Friars of Blessed Dominic, namely, of the aforementioned Order, and accepted by not a few of the people. Christ's faithful, inflamed by these prayers, began immediately to be changed into new men. The darkness of heresy began to be dispelled, and the light of the Catholic Faith to be revealed. Sodalities for this form of prayer began to be instituted in many places by the Friars of the same Order, legitimately deputed to this work by their Superiors, and confreres began to be enrolled together.

2. Following the example of our predecessors, seeing that the Church militant, which God has placed in our hands, in these our times is tossed this way and that by so many heresies, and is grievously troubled troubled and afflicted by so many wars, and by the deprave morals of men, we also raise our eyes, weeping but full of hope, unto that same mountain, whence every aid comes forth, and we encourage and admonish each member of Christ's faithful to do likewise in the Lord.

Given at Rome at St. Peter's, under the Fisherman's ring, 17 September 1569, in the fourth year of our Pontificate.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Mandate to Evangelize

There has been some confusion in recent decades concerning whether we still need to evangelize the world. The answer is we do. Here are a couple brief examples of recent popes affirming this traditional teaching:

Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi

"Our words come from the wealth of the Synod [Vatican II] and are meant to be a meditation on evangelization. May they succeed in inviting the whole People of God assembled in the Church to make the same meditation; and may they give a fresh impulse to everyone, especially those "who are assiduous in preaching and teaching,"[9] so that each one of them may follow "a straight course in the message of the truth,"[10] and may work as a preacher of the Gospel and acquit himself perfectly of his ministry.

Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people's salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith -- faith that rests on the power of God.[11] It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life."

John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa

"The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church ... Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize".(69)

"The proclamation of the word of God has Christian conversion as its aim: a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith".(138)

"The Name of Jesus Christ is the only one by which it has been decreed that we can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12). Because in Africa there are millions who are not yet evangelized, the Church is faced with the necessary and urgent task of proclaiming the Good News to all, and leading those who hear it to Baptism and the Christian life."

Religious Popes

Here are some popes who were members of a religious order. It's a pretty impressive list:

Dominican Popes: Bl. Innocent V, Bl. Benedict XI, St. Pius V, Benedict XIII

Franciscan Popes: Nicholas IV, Sixtus IV, Sixtus V, Clement XIV

Benedictine Popes: St. Gregory I, Sylvester II, St. Gregory VII, Bl. Victor III, Paschal II, St. Gelasius II, St. Celestine V, Clement IV, Bl. Urban V, Pius VII, Gregory XVI

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chaplet of Blessed Pius IX

(prayed on standard Rosary beads)

Sign of the Cross:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ,His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Sprit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.

Large bead:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Three small beads:

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us (x3).

Large bead:

By the intercession of Bl. Pius IX, may the Lord grant us the grace to always--with ardent zeal for piety, religion, and love--venerate, invoke, and pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let us always fly with utter confidence to this all fair and immaculate one, in all dangers, difficulties, needs, fears, and doubts. May we always remember that with her protection, nothing is hopeless, nothing is to be feared. Amen.

Ten small beads:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (x10)

Large bead:
By the intercession of Bl. Pius IX, may the Lord grant us the grace of authentic reason to maintain and protect the truth of our Faith, and true faith, to free our reason from all errors and to enlighten, strengthen, and perfect it with knowledge of divine matters. May we always be able to clearly see the distinction between Truth and error, justice and iniquity, so that we may always cling to that Faith which alone can bring us to salvation. Amen.

Ten small beads:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (x10)

Large bead:

By the intercession of Bl. Pius IX, may the Lord grant us the grace to constantly resist the nefarious enterprises of wicked men, who, like raging waves of the sea, foam out there own confusion, promising liberty whereas they are slaves of corruption. May the Lord never permit us to be torn from the bosom of the Catholic Church by the snares of their pernicious errors. Amen.

Ten small beads:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (x10)

Large bead:

By the intercession of Bl. Pius IX, may the Lord grant us the grace to persevere in the true Faith, the faith preserved inviolably in the Church of Rome, and defined infallibly by the Vicar of Christ. Let us always remain in communion with the successors of St. Peter, to whom Our Lord has given charge over His sheep. May we, the Church of Christ, by unity with the Supreme Pontiff, continue to profess the same faith as one flock under one shepherd. Amen.

Ten small beads:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (x10)

Large bead:

By the intercession of Bl. Pius IX, may the Lord grant us the grace to always be eager to attend with all the kind services of Christian charity to the needs of our neighbors, especially those not united to us by the same bonds of faith and love. May He especially grant us the grace to rescue them from the darkness of their errors and guide them to the Catholic faith, and to their most loving mother, the Church, who is ever holding out her arms to receive them lovingly into her fold. Amen.

Ten small beads:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (x10)

Concluding prayer:

O most glorious successor of St. Peter, Blessed Pius IX, faithful servant and vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, your life was an example of unconditional fidelity to the immutable deposit of revealed truth. Continue to show us how to give absolute primacy to God and spiritual values. Help us to abandon ourselves to divine Providence, whose sovereign lordship over human events you never doubted. O you who proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, continue to remind us that in the storms of human life the light of Christ shines brightly in the Blessed Virgin and is more powerful than sin and death. Blessed Pius IX, you who weathered hatred, slander, and violence, and never wavered in your mission of service to the Gospel, pray that we may persevere through tribulations and remain on the straight and narrow path to eternal life. Amen.

Sign of the Cross:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Who is the Greatest Pope of All Time?

As a fan of papal history, I have put together a list of the greatest popes of all time in my humble opinion:

The Greatest
St. Leo I (440-61)
Doctor of Doctrine; fought the heresies of Pelagianism, Manichæism, Priscillianism, and Monophysitism; defined the two natures of Christ in his famous Tome; turned back Attila the Hun and interceded successfully with the Vandals on behalf of the Romans
Other outstanding popes (in chronological order):
St. Peter (32-67)
The first pope; instrumental in establishing the early Church and spreading the Gospel
St. Gregory I (590-604)
Doctor of Hymnology; pastoral rule and liturgical reforms have influenced the Church for centuries
St. Gregory VII (1073-85)
Purified Church through reformation of clergy when the Church had been flooded with immorality
Innocent III (1198-1216)
Battled Albigensian heresy; summoned and presided over Fourth Lateran Council; asserted the rights of the Church and Papacy
St. Pius V (1566-72)
Implemented the Tridentine reforms and directives; stood firm against the many heresies of his day which emerged from the "Reformation"; public call for prayer of the Rosary resulted in the defeat of the Turks at Lepanto
Bl. Pius IX (1846-78)
Defined Immaculate Conception; summoned and presided over the First Vatican Council; battled the errors of Liberalism

St. Pius X (1903-14)
Battled the errors of Modernism; increased Eucharistic devotion
Pius XII (1939-58)
Defined the Glorious Assumption of Mary; saved hundreds of thousands of Jews and others during Nazi persecution
John Paul II (1978-2005)
The face of Catholicism in post-modern world; reinvigorated the Catholic youth; preached around the world; defended and developed Catholic doctrine on life issues, human rights, and human sexuality

Honorable mention: Bl. John XXIII (1958-63), Pius XI (1922-39) , Leo XIII (1878-1903), Bl. Innocent XI (1676-89), Bl. Gregory X (1271-76), , St. Leo IX (1049-54), St. Nicholas I (858-67), St. Damasus I (366-83), St. Clement I (88-97)

Abortion, Society, and the Kingdom of God

This first entry is a response I wrote to a query concerning abortion in America and focuses on the teachings of our current Holy Father, Benedict XVI:

I don't know whether we will see any new right to life laws in the next few years--if we do, it will only be a temporary solution. But we can have hope in the saving Gospel of Our Lord. We can give our children the same hope--Christians have done so in hostile cultures for millennia.

For defeating the culture of death, there is only one true solution--evangelization. True justice will not prevail unless the King of kings is enthroned in the hearts of men. We cannot hope to preach a morality separate from Jesus Christ and hope the relativist secular culture to adopt it. Humanity cannot fully comprehend the dignity of the human person without knowledge of the Divine plan. The very reason we have certain horrific practices in our culture is because morality has been detached from Jesus Christ. Because of our fallen nature, and thereby imperfect reason, all sorts of false moralities can be rationalized when morality is not founded on the Rock. In order to change society, we must spread the actual Kingdom of God, not just the values it embraces. Here is our Holy Father very recently discussing this very issue (he is addressing Canadian bishops, but I think it applies just as much to the rest of us):

"3. Within this perspective, one sees that the fundamental task of the evangelization of culture is the challenge to make God visible in the human face of Jesus. In helping individuals to recognize and experience the love of Christ, you will awaken in them the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, embracing the life of the Church.

This is our mission. It expresses our ecclesial nature and ensures that every initiative of evangelization concurrently strengthens Christian identity. In this regard, we must acknowledge that any reduction of the core message of Jesus, that is, the "kingdom of God," to indefinite talk of "kingdom values" weakens Christian identity and debilitates the Church's contribution to the regeneration of society.

When believing is replaced by "doing" and witness by talk of "issues," there is an urgent need to recapture the profound joy and awe of the first disciples whose hearts, in the Lord's presence, "burned within them" impelling them to "tell their story" (cf. Luke 24:32,35).

Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ's kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere. Canada has a well-earned reputation for a generous and practical commitment to justice and peace, and there is an enticing sense of vibrancy and opportunity in your multicultural cities.

At the same time, however, certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways. In the name of "tolerance" your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of "freedom of choice" it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children. When the creator's divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.

False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls.

Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendor of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed (cf. "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life," 2-3; 6)."

(I encourage everyone to read the entire address, it is brief, but excellent)

So how do we as individuals do this? The answer lies in what John Paul II termed "the new evangelization." Christendom died a slow, yet violent death the last 300 years. The terrible godless political philosophies of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries led to much societal upheaval and tremendous wars and bloodshed on unheard of scales. The Church went on the defensive but it was to no avail. Now we have to go on the offensive--we have to start over. This was the mission of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council--how to re-evangelize the modern world--a world that saw no authority but the state and had separated God from reality, the Gospel from public discourse, and faith from reason.

We all must be missionaries and evangelists again in the world. I know I personally fail often in this regard, but we cannot be afraid to share the Gospel with all we meet. Let's not be afraid to be spurned as religious nuts. Let's not fear other's erroneously accusing us of imposing our Faith. It is through this Faith alone that the world can be saved and that the culture can be brought out of its darkness. Let's invite our non-believing friends to Mass or to other Catholic devotions. Let's pray and do penance so we may practice the kind of personal holiness that attracts others--that makes them curious about our Master. Let us constantly present the saving message of Christ even if it is continually rejected. Let us also continue to work for temporal solutions to the end of sinful practices like abortion--like continue saving the unborn and their mothers outside the abortion clinics or electing those we think will govern in the most just way--but let us also remember that these measures can only close the wound temporarily--it is the Gospel alone that can truly heal our society.