Feast of Mary Mother of the Church

This is the newest feast of the church year as Pope Francis announced way back in March that the feast would be celebrated the Monday after Pentecost. Francis thought that this feast would “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.”

It is fitting that Mary is being honored the day after the we celebrate the “birthday of the church”. Now the title Mother of the Church is an ancient one for Mary as it dates back to St. Ambrose in the 4th century which was rediscovered by Hugo Rahner in 1944. The term has been used notably by Popes Benedict XIV and Leo III. The title didn’t really catch on until Vatican II when Pope Paul VI officially pronounced the title in the Credo of the People of God “The Mother of the Church, carries on in heaven her maternal role with regard to the members of Christ, cooperating in the birth and development of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.” John Paul II mentioned this a bunch of times and Benedict XVI has stated that “‘The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly she learns, that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary on the other hand is not an isolated individual, who rests in herself. She is carrying the mystery of the Church.” This is another great way to look at Mary. This is why we turn to Mary in this Month of May, I hope that in these last ten or so day we can turn to the rosary.

Marialis Cultus

Marialis Cultus is an Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Paul VI about Marian Devotion. Now this is a letter to all the Bishops of the World in a reflection of how Vatican II goes with Mary. This letter is divided into three sections the first looking the history of Marian Devotion focusing on the relationship between the liturgy and devotion to Mary, the second looks at ways to develop as well as renew Marian devotion for the future, the third section take a look at the Angelus and Rosary as methods of devotion that we should use. This is followed by a conclusion which basically says Mary deserves the devotions because she is the mother of graces and her unique role in redemption. As well as that devotion to the Blessed Virgin is an intrinsic element of Christian worship and devotion is paramount importance in living the life of the Gospel.

Part One:  In the first section Paul VI looks at the Roman Calendar and the Missal noting all the dates and mentions of Mary in the liturgy. He also looks that the Lectionary and the Liturgy of the Hours and how tied to Mary these are as well. Paul VI notes that if one studies the history of Christian worship, in fact, one notes that both in the East and in the West the highest and purest expressions of devotion to the Blessed Virgin have sprung from the liturgy or have been incorporated into it.” The second section looks at Mary’s role in the liturgy as a model for us all. Saying that this modeling of Mary has been one of the longest living traditions in the Church.

Part Two:  First noting that in Vatican II the exhortation came out to look at other forms of piety. Here we get into some hard stuff as Paul takes us into the Trinitarian, Christological and Ecclesial notes of the Virgin. These Marian forms of piety need to be “To Jesus through Mary” as we use her as our conduit to Jesus. This section is a bit heady to read. The second section doesn’t make it much easier as it takes the devotion of Mary and roots it in the Biblical, Liturgical, Ecumenical and Anthropological. These is not putting Mary in a box as across the world there are devotions to Mary in all different forms the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Akita, Our Lady of Zeitoun, Our Lady of Kazan, Our Lady of Walsingham. These are all around the world and Mary looks like the people in the area.

Part Three: This one begins by looking at the Angelus and says that we should be praying it more. Then it turns into a nice reflection on the Rosary. It explains a basic Rosary as it is a prayer rooted in the Gospel and consists of the Our Father, Hail Mary and Doxology. Pope Paul then pleads that the Rosary be taken up by Families and prayed together. As it is simple and everyone should know it.

Mense Maio

This seems like good one to look at during May and it is a rather short one as well. This is Paul VI’s encyclical on prayers during May for the preservation of peace.

Mense Maio is fifteen “paragraphs” long it is broken up into 3 main sections the Introduction, Needs of the council and Peace in Jeopardy. This encyclical was given in April of 1965 while the Second Vatican Council was still in session. Paul VI starts off by noting that May is dedicated to Mary and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne. Pope Paul continues by pointing out that May is a powerful incentive to more frequent and fervent prayers, and because our petitions more readily find access to her compassionate heart during it, … for urging the Christian people to offer up public prayers whenever the needs of the Church demanded it or some grave crisis threatened the human race.” His Holiness notes that at this time there is an urgent need for prayer.

First and foremost Paul VI notes the council happening at the Vatican saying although a bunch of thing have been done there is still more to do to adapt the Church in a suitable way to the needs of our day. Then secondarily that Peace is in jeopardy around the globe. This next part seems like it could have been written this past year “Today we see tensions worsening gravely between nations in certain parts of the world, … Once again we see men risking recourse to arms instead of negotiating to settle disputes between opposing viewpoints. Thus the inhabitants of entire nations are subjected to unspeakable sufferings occasioned by uprisings, secret and treacherous warfare, and outright battles. These activities grow more frequent and more bitter each day, and could at any time spark a new and terrible war.” Paul VI then pleas to the leaders of the world and all the people of the world to turn to peace since it is the great gift from God. Pope Paul VI calls for prayers especially those of children and those suffering afflictions.

Let us all follow the advice of Pope Paul VI and pray for the World to become a more peaceful place where people can settle problems using words and not weapons. This can be done by praying the Rosary or some other Marian devotion or even just the Jesus prayer.  As the song goes let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, I hope that we all can become people of peace.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

This is a strange week as there is an option for the readings since Thursday is the Ascension and many places have moved that feast to the follow Sunday so the second reading and Gospel might be those from next week. The readings for this week are Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; and John’s Gospel 14:23-29. or Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20 and John’s Gospel 17:20-26. I will be focusing on the the readings for this week and this week alone.

We hear about how the Apostles were faced with a big decision  “should we just be a Jewish sect, or should we allow gentiles to join as well” or to put it in simpler terms should it stay the same or change. They with the help of the Spirit come up with a unique answer by saying let’s do a little of both. The gentiles can join but they should follow some of the rules and customs of the Jewish people. This questions gets asked throughout the generations in the Church as people wonder if the church has gone too far from the way of the early Church. Just look at all those who wonder if Vatican II was a good thing and would rather to have a post-Trent. However technically we still are a post-Trent Church as both Vatican Councils didn’t take anything away from as the both focused on different subjects. Trent was in response to the reformation and Vatican II was in response to the modern world.

If we had time machines I’m sure that we’d recognize elements of the Church that we know in the Early Church but it is a completely different thing that we have now and I am sure that if we took this time machine to the future we’d recognize elements but it will be something a bit different from what exists today. This isn’t a bad thing at all because we got to this point with the help of the Holy Spirit. Let us all turn to the Holy Spirit to help guide us in all that we do in this upcoming week.

Vatican II: The Decrees

Of the Vatican II documents the decrees are by and large forgotten about behind the Constitutions and Declarations but these Nine Decrees are pretty important. Some actually are pretty interesting as well but others are just dull.

Inter mirifica (Decree on the Media of Social Communication): This document is on the how the Church should interact with media. It states that the Church should use media to evangelize but the media itself should be moral as this is the only way the people can trust in the radio/tv/newspaper/cinema. Bottom line of this decree it is to help with the advancement of humankind’s being and their religious journey. This document has been criticized for not doing much. John Paul II would eventually set up the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 1988, he also in 2005 sort of issued a better document on Communications with The Rapid Development which points out that the Church should be paying “attention to the culture created by communications media” notably the internet. Pope Benedict XVI also touch on this In 2010 when he issued a statement encouraging to all priest to become digital citizens.

Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite): This one says that the Eastern Catholics should be unique rites and retain their own traditions while remaining in communion with the Holy See.

Unitatis redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism): It calls for the reunion of all Christendom, offering something like what the Eastern Catholics have where the unique rites and traditions of the various rites would continue for the other Eastern and Oriental Churches. Of the Reformation Churches there are some other hurdles that would be faced (doctrinal). However, there is some talk of a first step in ecumenicism as we are all baptized.

Christus Dominus (Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church): Here the focus is on the Bishops across the world and that they are all brothers and should work together. This is where the National Episcopal Conference became a requirement for all nations, and some regions of the world also established regional conferences of Bishops as well.

Perfectae caritatis (Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life):  This one looks at religious life. It takes on the life and discipline of those institutes whose members make profession of chastity, poverty and obedience and to provide for their needs in our time. From here came a bunch of adaptations of Religious life, notably the habit being replaced with modern attire. This document is considered controversial as since many religious left religious life and the numbers of vocations hasn’t really recovered.

Optatam totius (Decree on Priestly Training): This one tackles the importance of priestly training and lays down principles which may be strengthened and by which those new elements can be added which correspond to the constitutions and decrees of this sacred council and to the changed conditions of our times. The one like the one on Religious life has been greeted with some controversy as there was a significant drop in priestly vocations in the Western World although some argue this has more to do with secularization, the sexual revolution and backlash against Humanae vitae.

Presbyterorum ordinis (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests): This is just like the one on Bishops or Religious which outlines their role in the modern Church. This time around it for priests, “they do not seek to please men but rather must follow Christian doctrine, living a Christian life, always striving for holiness, and voluntary poverty.” Key aspect in priestly life in the celebration of the Eucharist and recitation of the Divine Office. The role of the priest is like the sower in the parable, casting out seed and hoping that some will land in the good soil so that something with grow for the harvest. This one like the one of Religious life and Priestly training is controversial, with a sharp decline in vocations after this decree came out.

Apostolicam actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity): Here the Bishops offered some advice to encourage and guide lay people in their Christian service. It brings the laity and names them as of a the central importance for the Church. Cardinal Arinze summarizes this up nicely in his book The Layperson’s Distinctive Role that “lay people are called by Baptism to witness to Christ in the secular sphere of life; that is in the family, in work and leisure, in science and cultural, in politics and government, in trade and mass media, and in national and international relations.” I might look deeper into this one at a later time.

Ad gentes (Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church): To the Nations we are all sent out to evangelize, just like the apostles. With the Church’s current effort with the New Evangelization, it might be time for us all to look back here as a place to start the efforts.

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum

Last week I finished the Book of Amos so this week I thought we could look at something about reading the Bible. Dei Verbum is one of the Constitutions set forth at Vatican II and from the title it refers to the Word of God. This document basically talks about how the Catholic Church see the Bible and what it means.

It is broken into six chapters and begins with a preface, which basically says nothing. It is following the lead of the Councils of Trent and Vatican 1 and hopes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love. The first Chapters focuses on revelation. It goes through time and talks about how God has revealed himself to various individuals and this was done through his love for us. God speaks to us as a friend and not only reveals how we should live but also reveals himself to us. To read scripture is to get to know God.

In the second chapter it talks about the Bible itself is a mirror which we can see God. This “Word of God” is an ancient thing as well that has been passed down since the Apostles and it isn’t only the Bible but also the Liturgy, prayers and teachings of the Church passed down to us from Apostles and from the Bishops (Cardinals/Popes) today. Most importantly it notes that although you can read the Bible the official interpreter of the document is the Church herself and it is not above the word itself. The third chapter looks at the “the words of God, expressed in human language” and how the books of the Bible itself were written by many different individuals and the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.

The next two chapters look at the Old and New Testaments respectively. The God of infinite love chose the people of Israel and the Old Testament is where God laid the groundwork for Jesus to come. The New Testament specifically the Gospels are key to the faith. They were written for a certain people in a time and place so that they could see that salvation. Finally the last chapter focuses on how the Church uses Sacred Scripture. It is the heart of the Church and is a living thing. It is present at most liturgical events and should be present in the life of all Christians. Scripture is alive and living. As the Council Father note as they close “Just as the life of the Church is strengthened through more frequent celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, similar we may hope for a new stimulus for the life of the Spirit from a growing reverence for the word of God,”

Over the next two week I will look at Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini and Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu.


Vatican II

Fifty years ago on 8 December Vatican II ended.  As Pope John XXIII began the council with his famous Moon speech, Paul VI ended it with a bunch of messages to all types of people Council Fathers, Rulers, Men of Thought and Science, Artists, Women, Poor, sick and Suffering, Workers and The Youth.

To the Council Father: Paul reminded that they have been working for all these people over the past four years. These Constitutions that they came up with are for all people these can be seen in Gaudium et spes.

To the Rulers of the World: The Council recognized their office but said that God is the source of their office. Paul also tasked them to be promoters of order and peace among all people.

To those of Science and Thought: The Council says that they are seekers of truth and that the church is a companion on the path with the scientists. May they seek the light of tomorrow with the light of today until they reach the fullness of light

To Artists: The Council addresses this to all types of artist (poets and writers, painters, sculptors, architects, musicians, those devoted to the theater and the cinema) saying that if you are friends of genuine art, you are our friends. The church asks for artists to not turn their back on the Church and not be open to the Spirit since the world needs beauty in order not to sink into despair.

To Women: The Council speaks of the Vocation of women, saying that with the World changing so much it is important for women to have a role is it as they are able to bring the humanity out of the inhuman (technology) and stay the hands of men as we grow ever closer to the destruction of the world.

To the Poor and Sick: The Council says that they are not alone and are the preferred members of the kingdom.

To the Workers: The Council acknowledges that they have played a role in the changing of the world and the Church need workers to come back and trust as well as understand them.

Finally To the Youth: The Church looks towards them with Confidence and love as the Church knows that it is the Youth which will be the future. The Church is anxious that the youth try to build up a society which respect the dignity, the liberty and the rights of individuals.

How have the fifty year been? Well under the guidance of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis we have gotten to where we are today. John Paul II helped begin the interpretation, Benedict XVI anchored it in the tradition of the Church and Francis has brought the message to the heart and out to all people.  Vatican II, brought the church into the modern world, It was the opening of a window to let in a breeze, this freshened up the Church a bit but over time some people have been critical of the Spirit of Vatican II by saying that it is a distinct break with the tradition as so much of what have come from have been a sort of forgotten. Some could say that it’s like a Protestantization of the Church at least that’s what I would call it as an American. However from the looks of it Pope Francis has been making some moves but it’s really to soon to say what impact Francis has had.

Nostra Aetate

Nostra Aetate is the Vatican II document which is a Declaration on the Relation of the Church with  Non-Christian Religions. Nostra Aetate was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 28 October 1965. This is the shortest of all the Vatican II documents.

It is five sections and begins with a reflection on how “In our times” as the world is growing closer together the Church should look at the relationship with non-Christian religions.  As we all came from the same place (God) and are all hoping for the same final goal (God). People turn to religions to help the answer the big questions in life What is man? the meaning of life?  sin? purposes does suffering serve? Other religions throughout the world try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways,” comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. Regarding with reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones the Church holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.

The next bit goes into the other big Abrahamic religions and reflects on them. It begins with the Muslims noting the similarities that Christians share with Muslims, the same God, Abraham, Mary and Jesus (although not as God but as a prophet) are all held in esteem in the religion and they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Paul VI and the Bishops gathered in Rome “urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” The focus then turns to the Jewish people as those in the new Covenant are spiritually ties to the old Covenant. It has the important section where it says that “what happened in Christ’s passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.” It’s an earth shaking statement since for a long time the Jewish people were who people blamed for the death of Jesus but Paul VI says that they do not have the right to say that. Then It goes on to re-state what was said in the Papal Bull Sicut Judaeis, that the Church is against all types of hatred and persecutions toward the Jewish people because of our shared father but also the spiritual love expressed in the Gospel.

The whole declaration wraps up with the grand statement that we are all made by God and therefore Brothers and Sisters.  The Bishops in Rome “ardently implores the Christian faithful to “maintain good fellowship among the nations” (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men, so that they may truly be children of the Father who is in heaven.”