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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Matteo Ricci 1552 – 1610 利玛窦; 利瑪竇; 西泰 Xītài)

In 13 History on 2015/11/06 at 12:00 AM

In 1582, Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit barely thirty years old, entered China looking more like a Buddhist monk than a priest.  Like Francis Xavier and later  Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Matteo firmly believed that cultural adaptation was essential for missionaries and that missionaries must adapt to the culture surrounding them unless in some way that culture directly contradicted the Christian faith.

China which considered itself the most ancient civilization of the world believed itself to be the only “real” civilized country in the world.  The Chinese did not believe foreigners had anything of value to teach them and feared the destabilizing effects a new religion might introduce.  China’s government had, therefore, in the past rejected every attempt made to introduce Christianity to China.

Matteo Ricci was born at a unique time when the scientific and technological innovations of the the Renaissance days had reached full bloom.  Matteo had a bag of tricks with him that would fascinate the Chinese.  And that cornucopia of information, new ideas and gadgets included clocks,  prisms, composition of light, perspective, mathematics applied to physics, map-making and printed books.

With genius rapidity, Ricci mastered the Mandarin language of the cultured.  He spoke to them about Christ and skillfully used the wise sayings of the Chinese when those sayings agreed with Christian doctrine.  His success was impressive: “Without going out of the house, we preach to the Gentiles, some of whom are converted.”

Ricci and his Chinese fellow-workers devised a system to write Chinese phonetically.  He then translated scores of western scientific works into Chinese, works that were printed along with a primer on Christian doctrine.

Unbelievably, Ricci was admitted into the Emperor’s court in the Forbidden City.  The Emperor was absolutely fascinated by Ricci and clocks.  Ricci had learned much from his mentor, the famous Jesuit Christopher Clavius, a mathematical genius (the greatest mathematician of his time), the maker of the Gregorian Calendar and a supporter of Galileo.

Possessing a unique sense of history, the Chinese people later often asked: “Why did we not hear of Christianity earlier?  Why is it all new and strange to us?  Had God forgotten us for all the centuries of our ancestors?”  The answer came later, in 1623, when a monument was discovered and authenticated by many scholars.  It was a long inscribed tablet in Chinese relating a Syrian mission to China which started about 600 AD in the days of the T’ang dynasty.  Sadly,  persecutions suppressed this and later efforts.

By the time Ricci died in 1610, he had brought more than four hundred converts to Christianity.  Within years of his death, that number grew to one hundred and fifty thousand.  Matteo Ricci was buried inside the Forbidden City and is the only westerner ever to have that honor.  On his grave marker is inscribed the list of high ranking Chinese who had become Christians. This grave preserved from desecration during the rampage of Mao’s Red Terror.

Robert Bellarmine had also been an advocate of Galileo and Ricci and had supported the permission granting to Chinese priests the permission to celebrate the Mass in Chinese and cover their heads according to the Chinese custom.  With Papal approval, the monumentally difficult task of translating the Bible into Chinese began.  However, the vice-president of the Board of Rites in Nanking destroyed those plans by launching a virulent persecution against Christians.

Matteo Ricci had laid a foundation for the Faith among the Chinese people. The church Ricci planted has stood ever since.  The Catholic Church in China, while mainly underground, is vital and constantly watered with the blood of martyrs, which as Origen said is “seed.”

Complete list of all articles by Jack Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2015/04/24 at 12:00 AM

The whole series:

01 Is It Just Semantics? – Love

02 Is God God or Are You God? – Purpose & change

03 Contemporary Mischief – Same-sex “marriage”

04 Correct Answer? – Divinity of Church

05 Abortion, A Realistic Viewpoint – Abortion

06 Moslems/Muslims – Islam

07 What is Truth? – Truth

08 Being Objective About Being Subjective – The difference between the two

09 Catholic Christians? – Are Catholics really Christians?

10 What is in a Name? – True Christians

11 Baal and the Tooth Fairy – False gods

12 Rest in Pieces? – Societal decline

13 Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin – Blessed Virgin Mary

14 “Now Let’s Not Be Judgmental” – What is true judgment

15 Art of Conscience – Correct conscience

16 Is That Fr. Phillis? – Women’s ordination

17 The 800 lb. Gorilla – Secularism

18 Some Truths About False Gods – False gods

19 Is Any Religion True? – Man is religious by nature

20 The Dropouts

21 The Great Deception – Sin

22 The Unpreached Sermon: “a layman thinking like a priest” – Christmas/Easter Catholics

23 Let’s Get Real – Reality examined

24 The Siblings of Christ?

25 What Could Have Been – Christmas

26 Coming Storm – Coming persecution

27 The Mythical God – False ideas about God

28 And The Blind Shall Lead – False ideas

29 Freedom, A Paradox – Free Will

30 A Helluva Place – Hell & Damnation

31 Consequences – World without God

32 Mind Over Matter – Truth

33 Life in a Mirage – Effects of immorality

33 A Trilogy of the Unreal – Separation of Church & State; Taking “offense”; Necessity of Morality

34 Signs For Our Times – Introduction & Part I: Unity of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

34 Signs For Our Times – Part II: Holiness of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

35 Signs For Our Times – Part III: Catholicity of the Church; Part IV: Apostolicity of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

37 Semantics of Easter – Easter & Christmas Catholics

38 Another Easter? – Easter Sunday

39 The Bible – A Perspective

40 Abstractions? – Liberal/Conservative

41 The Wanderers – God

42 With All Due Respect – Morality

43 Good Intentions – Moral illusions

44 Ideas and Consequences -Illusions

45 Searching For What Is Not Lost – Lapsed

46 Taking Chances – Mercy

47 Dabbling With Dogma

48 What Did You Expect?

45 Deceptive Labels

50 Forgotten, But Not Gone

 

 

 

The New Testament from a Jewish Perspective

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2015/02/06 at 12:00 AM

NOSTRA AETATE (Nostra Aetate is the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council.)  50 years later:

Jewish scholarship on the New Testament has greatly increased in number since NOSTRA AETATE. While there was some Jewish scholarship on the New Testament over the centuries before NOSTRA AETATE, Jews in general have not desired to read or understand the New Testament. This has mostly been due to the harsh statements made by Jesus about Jews and their religious leader in the Gospel, and the accusation by the Church that “Jews killed our Lord.” Centuries of violent and often deadly persecution, pogroms, expulsions, lies and suffering followed. Jews stayed away from this dangerous text, and even those Jewish scholars who wrote about the New Testament, were not widely read by other Jews.

However, three events in the 1940’s prompted a change in Jewish interest in studying the New Testament and in Christian interest in Jewish scholarship on the New Testament. These events are the Holocaust, the birth of the State of Israel, and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The first two were traumatic events that changed relations between Christians and Jews, mostly among clergy, religious, and scholars. Christians began to question what elements in the long development of Christian theology contributed to the Holocaust, while the birth of the State of Israel prompted Christians to ask about God’s character of faithfulness in His covenant to the Jewish people, when the status of the Jewish people changed from wandering to returning home.

Nostra Aetate followed in the 1960’s, opening a new chapter in Christian thinking about Jews, Judaism, and

our relationship to the Jewish community. The church admitted it had been wrong about God revoking the covenant between God and Israel. The covenant was indeed a living covenant, never having been revoked. It also rescinded the deicide charge–“the Jews killed our Lord”–against the Jewish people. Other Christian denominations followed suit and began to reach out to Jews and to the Jewish community. Jews responded, and Christian-Jewish dialogue followed in full force. Jesus’ identity as a Jew, faithful to Judaism, was affirmed by the Church, and Christian scholars became interested in studying the Jewish Jesus to understand the specifically Jewish context and Jewish faith in which Jesus taught. The church needed help from Jewish scholars to accomplish this.

Jewish scholars also became interested in pursuing the New Testament for a number of different reasons, e.g., it was written by Jews and could be studied from a Jewish perspective, it contained elements of Second Temple Judaism not available in other Jewish sources. As Amy Jill-Levine stated in an interview about her book, The Jewish Annotated New Testament, “The more I study the New Testament the better Jew I become.” Likewise, Brad Young, a Christian scholar who studied under David Flusser, a Jewish scholar of the New Testament, said, “If we do not know Jesus as a Jew, we do not know Jesus.”

Because we are often taught by rabbis, and study Jewish sources to understand scripture more fully, we want to offer this study as a way of exposing the breadth of Jewish scholarship on the New Testament that are available, to understand the history and development of this particular scholarship, and to gain new insights into Jesus’ teachings for our faith, life, and discipleship.

At the invitation of the Winnipeg Bat Kol Tri-Diocesan Committee Sister Lucy Thorson gave a conference to a crowd of approximately seventy people on the topic Modern Milestones in Catholic Jewish Relations. Using a power point to illustrate her lecture, Sister Lucy identified the step by step developments within the Church regarding our relationship with Judaism and our Jewish brothers and sisters. Her presentation itemized the various documents, declarations and activities of the Church through the terms of Popes John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. We were led to understand how significant each moment in this history was and how profoundly the Church’s stance has changed during the almost 50 years since Nostra Aetate was written in 1965. Nostra Aetate is the Declaration on the Church’s Relationship to Non- Christian Religions, one of the most influential and celebrated documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Rabbi Alan Green offered insights and perspectives from his experience in dialogue. He noted the accomplishments to date and invited us to consider what the next steps might be here in Winnipeg, challenging the group to consider what steps would be necessary to move forward together and to include Muslims in our dialogue. Rabbi Green brought the evening to a close with a prayerful Shabbat chant.

From the Newsletter of the Sisters of Sion: Dynamic Movement of the Holy Spirit

 

Not Peace but the Sword

In 04 Fr. John McCloskey on 2014/04/03 at 12:00 AM

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THE GREAT CHASM BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM

Robert Spencer, perhaps the foremost Catholic expert on Islam in our country, has written a new book entitled Not Peace But a Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam (Catholic Answers, 2013). Spencer has advised the highest levels of the military on the Islamic threat to the United States, and has authored several books for the general public on the topic of Islam, including Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith.

This book is his most interesting yet, as it makes the case for the fundamental disagreement between Christianity and Islam. Spencer writes: “One of the oddities of contemporary ‘interfaith dialogue’ is that all too often, out of overzealous irenicism, it glosses over, or ignores altogether, the disagreements between religious traditions, as if pretending that they didn’t exist would make them go away.” He expands on the vast differences between Christianity and Islam on the character of God, Jesus and Divine Revelation; the nature of truth and the moral law; religious freedom and other basic rights; life issues, marriage and sexual morality, including the rights and dignity of women.

An example of this great divide: Converts from Islam to Christianity are often hunted in the Muslim world, where virtually all Islamic authorities agree that such individuals deserve death. In fact, Muhammad himself commanded this: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 84:57). In Egypt, at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious and influential educational institution in the Islamic world, an Islamic manual states that a person who has reached puberty is sane, and if he voluntarily apostatizes from Islam deserves to be killed.

The great Catholic author of the early 20th century Hilaire Belloc was prophetic in predicting: “We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future. Perhaps if we lose our faith it will rise.”

Continue reading…
http://www.catholicity.com/mccloskey/not-peace-but-a-sword.html

Fr. John McCloskey

The Role of Church History in Conversion to Catholicism

In 04 Fr. John McCloskey on 2014/03/13 at 12:00 AM

by Father John McCloskey

I am often asked to speak about conversions since I have been instrumental in bringing some people to the Faith. I have been invited to speak chiefly on account of the notoriety of a handful. Some were Protestant ministers of various denominations, others well known men of business, others intellectuals, and some politicians and journalists. A good number have been Jews, one the head of a synagogue when I first met him on the Internet. They represent a few of the many with whom I have dealt. I have written a short piece, available on my website, entitled “Winning Converts” with a companion piece entitled “Recovering Stray Catholics.” I am working on a book on this topic in collaboration with Mr. Russell Shaw to be published by Sophia Institute Press.

Now, what do these “high” level converts have in common? Very little except several traits that are highly valued, at least by this priest. They are all men of high intelligence, with a voracious and insatiable appetite for books, and most importantly, an unending thirst for the truth in all matters religious. Many of them faced familial opposition, the possible loss of reputation, and in some cases possible high political office. But their increasing conviction that they had encountered “the pearl of great price,” the Historical Church that is co-terminus with the Lord and Savior, conquered all doubts. Their assent was not simply “notional” to use Newmanian terms, but truly “real.” In some cases, their conversion was a question of years, or more than a decade of patient dealing backed by true friendship, prayer, and sacrifice. The sweetest words that I have ever heard and, thanks be to God, I have heard them often, are “I want to become a Catholic.”

No doubt, the historical argument was powerful in these conversions. Some of the better known converts have already told their story in print or tape, others will, I trust, do the same in the future. I always required that they read several books on the history of the Church because I do believe the argument, at least rationally, is unassailable—the Catholic Church is true, and no other has ever made a credible claim to be the one that was founded by Him. Either the Lord of History established a church with a visible structure on this earth until He comes again or there is simply no authority that guides and must be obeyed. From the time of the great Schism and the Protestant revolution, the principle of private judgment has given rise to thousands of Christian sects and denominations. That is hardly what was intended when He asked His Father “that all may be one.”

Those men and women whom I have instructed in the Faith over the last 20 years have read Philip Hughes, Ronald Knox, G.K. Chesterton, Robert Hugh Benson, Louis Bouyer, Warren Carroll, Orestes Brownson, Russell Shaw, Ken Whitehead and many others. They have also read many anthologies of converts telling how they came to that “Ancient Beauty, ever new.” History is at the heart of all conversion: personal histories and history as it is written by the historian, Flavius Josephus or Pliny the Younger, or Bede the Venerable or even enemies like Gibbon or Macaulay, all give witness to the One Church.

History, in fact, provides an essential perspective for the mission of conversion, and we must understand the historical moment in which we live. It is a post-Christian era in some respects. This is particularly true in what some decades ago was known as the First World, i.e. Europe and North America. Even though it pains us, it should not surprise us. After all, Christianity has all but disappeared at other times in history, for instance in the Middle East and northern Africa after the invasion of Islam by conquering forces. Now an even more rapid and unsettling de-Christianization is occurring in Europe, through minimal practice of faith in any traditional sense, a collapse of morality based on natural law and the Commandments, and a continental suicide of the native peoples by contraception. Hilaire Belloc, one of the great popular Catholic historians, could not have imagined how wrong he was when he said that:” Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe.” I am sure all of us are aware of the masterful work of historian Philip Jenkins who points out convincingly that the greatest recent growth in Christianity, both in numbers and orthodoxy, has been and will continue to be in Africa and Asia.

As for us in the United State, liberal Protestantism is fading fast with large decreases in membership and almost no creedal belief that distinguishes one sect from another. Virtually all have caved in on the moral issues having to do with marriage, family, and sexuality. “Private judgment” basically assures that Protestant sects and denominations will not evidence any belief in an objective moral teaching through Revelation. The upcoming 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, 1517, will show I think, that mainstream Protestantism in any culture transforming sense is finished in America. And there is no possibility of a Third or Fourth Great Awakening because secularism and the new paganism in a society sated by undreamt of affluence is not going to lead anyone simply to read the Bible and be converted. America is not a Christian nation in any sense other than that probably a plurality of our fellow citizens have been baptized, although that may change in the decades to come.

As for the Evangelicals and fundamentalists, I have great respect and affection for our fellow Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible as the sole source of revelation and salvation. I do not believe, however, that a Christian faith without the sacraments, without the liturgy, and without authority, can bring about a renewal of Christian life in our country. Indeed, without denigrating in any way the numerous dialogues that take place at the diocesan, national, and even international level between Catholics and Protestants, I simply do not believe there is any possibility of any one of the Protestant denominations as a group coming home given the decrepit state of their practice and belief. Ironically enough, it might have been possible 75 years ago when Catholic and Protestants generally shared a common moral belief with important doctrinal disagreements, but not now.

Truth be told, (and indeed are we not all truth-tellers?), there is also little possibility of any of the autonomous Orthodox Churches acknowledging the primacy of Peter and arriving at full allegiance to the dogmas and moral life of the Catholic Church. We know there has been virtually no development of common doctrine after the first seven ecumenical councils in the East. How could there be, given there is no universal shepherd of the Orthodox to call and ratify ecumenical Councils? Indeed, separated from the fullness of truth and the magisterium, the moral teachings in some areas have also deteriorated. The result has been a mystical spiritual theology, of great interest to monks, but not applicable to the Eastern Christian in the street. There is no evangelizing zeal, or lay spirituality. The Eastern Churches are largely sacramental and indeed, if a Patriarch were to return home to Rome, how many of his faithful would there be to follow? We must pray above all for a change in heart in our Eastern Orthodox brethren so we can welcome them home.

Having said all of this, I have to acknowledge openly that the Spirit blows where it will, and God’s grace poured into open hearts can indeed perform miracles of mass or denominational conversion to Catholicism. It can happen when and how the Lord wants, but, I think it safe to say that for the foreseeable future which is our lifespan, converts coming to the fullness of faith will come one by one, or family by family, and occasionally congregation by congregation. And that is the way it should be. Early Christianity grew over the course of some 275 years to its legalization. Starting with Pentecost, it spread from 12 to hundreds and eventually to millions until at the beginning of 4tth century, it composed 10 percent of the Roman Empire. The Church was legalized in 313 and less than a century later was the state religion. The remarkable growth was not the result of mass conversion, but rather of the personal witness in behavior of individual persons and families, including confessors and martyrs fortified by prayer and the sacraments.

We must remind ourselves that each year there are hundreds of thousands of adults who are either baptized during the Easter vigil or received into full communion within the Church. This number is growing, and while always a small percentage of the whole, it does mean that an increasing number of “serious” Catholics are entering the Church, the great majority of them removed from the controversies of the post-conciliar Church in the United States. We may take heart in that younger priests ordained within the last 15 years (given the advanced age of current pastors, they will soon become pastors themselves) are more oriented towards evangelization of persons, families, and the society than those who were ordained prior to the pontificate of John Paul II. The Holy Father’s example of his living the “duc In altum” in order to fish souls without apologies will be the standard modus operandi of bishops and priests certainly well into this new century.

Two other factors are helping to break through the wall of mistrust in this post-Christian era. One is various new ecclesial institutions and movements whose impact is just now being felt in the US. They operate with full approval of the Church, are lay oriented, and by their very nature are apostolic and evangelizing. They provide yet another way for non-Catholics to witness a lived Christianity in the world that over time may bring millions to the Church in the years ahead. One of these movements is the Coming Home Network itself, which has contributed to the conversion of thousands of Protestant ministers into the Catholic Church and will be seen in the English speaking world, I believe, as the 21st century equivalent of the Oxford movement of the 19th century England of my hero, Venerable John Henry Newman to whom we should all pray for the unity of Christians in the Catholic Church. He, as many converts, knew the sleepless nights, the serious study, the long hours of prayer, the fears of loss of income, of friends and even the love of family that is involved in coming home to the Church. Such it will always be for acquiring the pearl of great price.

The second factor is tens of millions of Hispanic immigrants in our country with surely more to come regardless of changes in immigration laws. Sadly and ironically, without them the Unites States would be in negative population growth as we are now hovering at the lowest per capita birth rate in our history as a nation. Abortion and contraception continue to take their deadly toll. Without the Hispanics, virtually all of who are at least culturally Catholic, we as a nation would be doomed to the almost certain fate of continental Europe: demographic suicide within several decades. The catechesis and evangelization of Hispanic Catholics is therefore crucial for the health of the Church and country, an important means of breaking through the wall of mistrust to bring other Christians home.

But far beyond all these signs that, in time, the wall of mistrust will fall looms the magnificent figure of John Paul II. The greatest Pope of the last 500 years will leave much magisterial teaching behind for us to study and implement in the decades ahead. Although he has many important themes in his Pontificate, the one that is clearly closest to his heart and to that of Christ is that all may be one. His ecumenical outreach to his fellow Christians has been tireless and nothing less than extraordinary. He has not spared any effort to reach out to fellow Christians, urging them to recognize and embrace” the fullness of truth” in the Catholic Church, always with great respect and kindness in acknowledging all that is true in their traditions, whether Orthodox or Protestant. In virtually every one of the over 100 papal trips, he has always scheduled, when feasible, meetings with other Christian leaders to extend a hand of friendship and fellowship. At times, he has done so and exposed himself to coolness, indifference, and even insult. In doing so, he imitates the example of the Lord and his Apostle Paul, preaching “opportune et importune” (in season and out).

Pope John Paul’s extraordinary witness alone has been enough for millions to become Catholic and for many millions to return to the Faith. I share his vision of the springtime of the Church in this century and pray that the crowning achievement of this springtime will be the unity of all Christians. The favorite short prayer of Saint Jose Maria Escriva, a man whose example and writings have brought many home to the Church, was “Omnes cum Petro ad Jesus per Mariam (All with Peter, to Jesus through Mary!). May it be so.


Ideas and Consequences

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/12/12 at 12:01 PM

One of the many properties that distinguishes humans from animals is a sense of history. Animals simply have no awareness of history (theirs or anyone else’s), but humans have been involved in history for at least 5000 years of recorded written history.  History is not an exact science; history can be biased or incomplete.  The most important history books are the four Gospels.  They give us a true history because if the events depicted  did not happen, Christianity falls on its face and can be set aside along with Greek mythology.  However, the Gospels are the true history of the life of Christ.  The events described therein really happened in real time; in fact they  more realistic than even the most objective histories today.

The Gospels  were written during the lifetime of many of those who witnessed  many of the events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  There’s no record of any claim that the Gospels are fictional.  When a historical record is controversial, there are those  who attempt to correct the errors or protest that the events described happened as the author claimed.  Again, this did not happen in the case of the Gospels.

Some non-Christian sources also wrote about the fact that Jesus of Nazareth existed.  This indicates that the existence of Christ was known beyond the Jewish world and that the story was not merely a Jewish or Christian fantasy.

No one dies for an idea that he knows is false or fraudulent.  There was no advantage to the writer of the Gospels whatsoever.  In producing the Gospels, it did not make them heroes, in fact, just the opposite.  St. Matthew was martyred for his Gospel.  St. John endured persecution and exile for his efforts, and the other apostles all suffered death rather than deny the content of the Gospels.

The Gospels have been analyzed, scrutinized, examined, re-examined for 2000 years.  Many have attempted to show the Gospels to be a hoax perpetrated by the Apostles and the early Christians, but no one has ever succeeded in proving the Gospels are anything but what the Church says they are.  Adolph von Harnack, a noted rationalist of the 19th century set out to prove definitively that the Gospels were false.  He labored many years, and, finally, he not only could not show the Gospels were false, but he even became a Christian.

The Gospel story has inspired and sustained millions of people for 2000 years.  One of the reasons is that Christianity has not changed its basic doctrines in 2000 years. No other religion can say that; they all have divisions and subdivisions. If nothing else, this shows that Christianity is a divine religion.

There is another factor in the Gospel history that is not alluded to very much: the Gospels were not written for several decades after the death of Christ. Thus, the Gospels are a compilation of what the early Christians believed. It is a fact that stories passed on orally change radically after a just a few transmissions. Yet, the oral Gospel story did not change.  I suggest that the Holy Spirit, observing His duty to protect the Church, simply did not allow deviation from the true history – a miracle of sorts.  Then, too, Christians believe that the Gospels are inspired by God and they could not possibly contain errors or false facts because God, in His very nature, could not inspire what is untrue.

Thus we say without fear of error that the four Gospels depict what was said and done by Jesus Christ in real time, centuries ago in the Holy Land. It all happened, and there is no evidence that it did not.

If the Gospels are true history of real events, there are serious implications for us. The historicity of the Gospels is not in doubt and never has been. If this is true, then we come to a “So what now?”  The Gospels contain divine truth that we cannot avoid, ignore, or reject except at great peril to our eternal life

1. Christ really lived and is a divine being in human form as He said He was; His words and actions are words and actions of God Himself.

2. His words are also of divine origin and were spoken in real time.

3.  His divine teaching is not optional because we are creatures and owe the Creator reverence and obedience.

4. He set up a Church now known as the Catholic Church (again, historical fact), and He intended it to be the chief vehicle of salvation for mankind.

If we accept the historicity of the Gospels, but do not accept the ramifications, we have missed the whole point.  Salvation does not depend on being able to defend the Gospels, but in living them to the best of our ability.

To paraphrase a Gospel verse,”What does it profit a man to know all about the technicalities of the Gospels, but fail to live accordingly.”

The Aim of Ecumenism Is the Unity of Divided Christians

In 07 Observations on 2013/03/13 at 12:00 AM

The close ties between the work of evangelisation and the need to overcome the divisions that still exist between Christians was the central theme of the Holy Father to the members and consultors of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the occasion of their plenary assembly dedicated to “The importance of ecumenism in new evangelisation”.

The Pope stated, “We cannot follow a truly ecumenical path while ignoring the crisis of faith affecting vast areas of the world, including those where the proclamation of the Gospel was first accepted and where Christian life has flourished for centuries. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the many signs indicating a persistent need for spirituality, which is made manifest in various ways. The spiritual poverty of many of our contemporaries, who no longer perceive the absence of God in their lives as a form of deprivation, poses a challenge to all Christians”.

In this context, the Pope added, “we, believers in Christ, are called upon to return to the essential, to the heart of our faith, to bear witness to the living God before the world. … We must not forget what it is that unites us: our faith in God the Father and Creator, revealed in His Son Jesus Christ, effusing the Spirit which revives and sanctifies. This is the faith we received in Baptism and it is the faith that, in hope and charity, we can profess together.

“In the light of the primacy of faith we may also understand the importance of the theological dialogues and conversations in which the Catholic Church is engaged with Churches and ecclesial communities. Even when we cannot discern the possibility of re-establishing full communion in the near future, such dialogue facilitates our awareness, not only of resistance and obstacles, but also of the richness of experience, spiritual life and theological reflection, which become a stimulus for ever deeper testimony”.

Benedict XVI emphasised that the aim of ecumenism is “visible unity between divided Christians”. To this end, we must “dedicate all our forces, but we must also recognise that, in the final analysis, this unity is a gift from God, and may come to us only from the Father through His Son, because the Church is His Church. From this perspective we see, not only the importance of invoking the Lord for visible unity, but also how striving after this end is relevant to the new evangelisation.

“It is good to journey together towards this objective, provided that the Churches and ecclesial communities do not stop along the way, accepting the various contradictions between them as normal or as the best they can hope to achieve. It is, rather, in the full communion of faith, Sacraments and ministry that the strength of God, present and working in the world, will find concrete expression”.

The Pope concluded, “Unity is on the one hand the fruit of faith and, on the other, a means – almost a prerequisite – for an increasingly credible proclamation of the faith to those who do not yet know the Saviour or who, while having received the proclamation of the Gospel, have almost forgotten this valuable gift. True ecumenism, recognising the primacy of divine action, demands above all patience, humility, and abandonment to the will of the Lord. In the final analysis, ecumenism and new evangelisation both require the dynamism of conversion, understood as the sincere desire to follow Christ and to fully adhere to the will of the Father”.

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Montini and Ratzinger

In 07 Observations on 2012/11/16 at 12:00 AM

Cardinal Montini (Pope Paul VI)

“I shall never be able to capture the full richness and depth of Our Lordʼs personality….once we begin to be interested in Christ, our interest can never cease. There is always something more to be known, more to be said….infinitely more. Everything to do with Christ is so rich, there are such depths to explore…”

  Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

“It is in the Gospel we must learn the supreme knowledge of Jesus Christ: how to imitate Him and follow in His footsteps. To learn from Him, we must try to know His life….meditating on the scenes….reading and re-reading the Scriptures…in order to understand the divine meaning of His life on earth..We cannot get to know the real God by trimming Him to fit our normal standards.”

“The Gospels were not intent on giving some kind of biography of Jesus Christ, as a historian might write it, but on giving witness to those things that are essential for us…. Christianity is not an idea, a way of thinking, a plan of action. The essence of Christianity is a person: Jesus Christ Himself.”

Ages of Christendom

In 13 History on 2011/10/21 at 11:11 PM

The Ages of Christendom

In his lecture, the “Six Ages of Christendom” Christopher Dawson delineates the distinctive marks that characterize each stage during which it predominated.  One noted characteristic that all have in common is that one problem has been resolved, another arises.  The life of the Church like that of humans, is a form of constant warfare on many fronts.

Characterizing the Apostolic Age was the reality that “the new born Church was faced almost at once with a change of a more revolutionary character than she ever had to meet subsequently – that is to say- the extension of the apostolate from a Jewish to a Gentile environment and the incorporation in the new society of the great body of new converts drawn from the anonymous mass society of the great cosmopolitan centers of the Mediterranean world from Antioch to Rome itself.”

Having successfully integrated itself into the “dominant urban Roman-Hellenistic culture” the Church created a new Christian literature, both Greek and Latin.  It laid the foundations of a new Christian art, and above all, it created a new society which existed alongside of the established order of society and to some extent replaced it.  There is perhaps no other example of a similar development of which we possess such a full historical record, and apart from its religious significance, it is also of great sociological interest, since the primitive Church was not a mere sectarian cult-organization but a real society with a strong sense of citizenship and a highly developed hierarchical order.”

The second age of Christendom is clearly recognized as beginning with the conversion of Emperor Constantine and the impact on the Byzantine Empire and the factor of the  alliance between Church and State.  From this time until the Muslim tsunami, this period, known as the Age of the Fathers, had “an internal unity and coherence….as the classical age of Christian thought and the fountainhead of theological wisdom.  The Fathers were not systematic theologians in the same sense as St. Thomas Aquinas and the great theologians of later periods.  But they formed the mind of the Church and determined the norms of theological thought that were followed by the theologians of the Christian world in later centuries.  In this way, the three great Cappadocian Fathers, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Gregory of Nyssa remain the classical exponents of Eastern Orthodox theology, while St. John Chrysostom was the classical exponent of Scripture, while in the West St. Augustine was the seminal and creative mind which molded the theological thought of the West, while St. Jerome laid the foundations of the Western tradition of Biblical and historical scholarship.”

This article is limited to considering the first two ages of Christendom.  The quotations are made with permission from an authorized copy of the Christopher Dawson manuscript, the original of which is held by the Department of Special Collections, O’Shanghnessy-Frey Library, University of St. Thomas.

See also: Dawson/Recommended Reading List in this same category (Book Corner) 

Correct viewpoint

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2011/05/09 at 9:53 AM

“All around us there is a constant movement, and ebbing and flowing of currents of opinion, of doctrines, of ideologies, of very distinct interpretations of man and of life….In the midst of all this doctrinal confusion there is a need for a norm of discernment, a clear, steady and profound criterion which allows us to see everything with the unity and consistency of the Christian view of life which knows that everything derives from God and is ordained to God.

The Faith provides us with a stable criterion of guidance and the firmness of the Apostles in putting it into practice.  It gives us a clear vision of the world, of the value of things and of people, of true and false goods.  Without God and without knowledge of the ultimate end of man the world ceases to be intelligible or is seen only from a partial and deformed angles.  ‘Precisely the most pernicious typical aspect of the modern era consists in the absurd attempt to reconstruct a solid and fruitful temporal order divorced from God, the only foundation on which it can endure.’ 1 The Christian should not leave his faith aside in any circumstance.”

1 John XXIII MATER ET MAGISTRA, 1961 cited by Francis Fernandez IN CONVERSATION WITH GOD, Vol II, 58.2.