I Believe in Solemn, Reverent Liturgy Because…

…I believe that as Catholics, we need to act like we know this is true:

“One day, when a priest was celebrating Mass, I saw, at the moment of Consecration, how all the powers of heaven were set in motion. I heard, at the same time, a heavenly music, most harmonious, most sweet. Numberless Angels came down, the chant of whom no human understanding could conceive, nor the tongue of man describe. They surrounded and looked upon the priest, bowing towards him in reverential awe. The devils commenced to tremble, and took to flight in greatest confusion and terror.”

 

~St. Bridget of Sweden

 

 

St. Bridget of Sweden

St. Bridget of Sweden

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Wait, Catholics Actually Read the Bible?

When I first began to consider becoming Catholic, one of the things that most struck me was how Catholic theology is so deeply rooted in the Bible. Growing up an Evangelical, I heard over and over again that Catholicism was unbiblical, even openly hostile to the Scriptures, and that the more Catholics bothered to crack open a Bible, the more would leave their so-called “Church”. 

So when I started reading things like the documents from the Council of Trent–that infamous moment when those pesky Catholic hierarchs tried to stifle the Reformation– I was stunned at how deeply rooted in the New Testament their arguments were. 

Take this passage for example:

“He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved, (Matt 10:22; 24:13) which cannot be obtained from anyone except from Him who is able to make him stand who stands, (Rom 14:4) that he may stand perseveringly, and to raise him who falls, let no one promise himself herein something as certain with an absolute certainty, though all ought to place and repose the firmest hope in God’s help.  For God, unless men themselves fail in His grace, as He has begun a good work, so will He perfect it, working to will and to accomplish. (Phil 1:6, 2:13)  Nevertheless, let those who think themselves to stand, take heed lest they fall, (cf. 1 Cor 10:12) and with fear and trembling work out their salvation, (Phil 2:12) in labors, in watchings, in almsdeeds, in prayer, in fastings and chastity. For knowing that they are born again unto the hope of glory, ( cf. 1 Pet 1:3) and not as yet unto glory, they ought to fear for the combat that yet remains with the flesh, with the world and with the devil, in which they cannot be victorious unless they be with the grace of God obedient to the Apostle who says: We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh, you shall die, but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. (Rom 8:12ff)” 

 

 

~From the Decree on Justification, from Sixth Session of the Council of Trent, 1547 (quote courtesy of Fr. Z)

 

 

Do you notice how every sentence is just drenched with Scripture? 

Here, the Council takes on the doctrine of “eternal security” or “perseverance of the saints”, frequently taught in Calvinist churches, as well as others. The Council Fathers allow the Bible itself to carry the logic of their argument for them, exposing the Reformed innovation for what it is: a doctrine that’s entirely contrary to the teachings of the New Testament.

I know, I was stunned too…

 

The Council of Trent

The Council of Trent

 

 

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“Summorum” After Seven Years

Seven years ago today, Pope Benedict issued a motu proprio (a change to canon law that he initiated himself) known as Summorum Pontificum. Essentially, Pope Benedict allowed for much more widespread and easy access to the Traditional Latin Mass (not to mention other traditional rites and liturgies). Since then, the number of Traditional Latin Masses has boomed across North America and Europe.

I’m not a traditionalist, but my family and I have been attending Latin Masses for close to a year now. And so this anniversary has given me a lot to reflect upon, both as a Catholic and as a still-relatively-recent convert. 

CC Watershed posted a quote today from Pope Benedict from 1997, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. A solid decade before issuing Summorum, Papa Ratzi lays out solid reasoning for the decision. Give the quote a read, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for this brilliant man who served the Church of Jesus Christ so very well and for so many years.: 

I AM OF THE OPINION, TO BE SURE, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won’t it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes today? 

But a simple return to the old way would not, as I have said, be a solution. Our culture has changed so radically in the last thirty years that a liturgy celebrated exclusively in Latin would bring with it an experience of foreignness that many could not cope with. What we need is a new liturgical education, especially of priests. It must once again become clear that liturgical scholarship doesn’t exist in order to produce constantly new models, though that may be all right for the auto industry. It exists in order to introduce us into feast and celebration, to make man capable of the mystery. Here we ought to learn not just from the Eastern Church but from all the religions of the world, which all know that liturgy is something other than invention of texts and rites, that it lives precisely from what is beyond manipulation. Young people have a very strong sense of this. Centers in which the liturgy is celebrated reverently and nobly without nonsense attract, even if one doesn’t understand every word. We need such centers to set an example. Unfortunately, in Germany tolerance for bizarre tinkering is almost unlimited, whereas tolerance for the old liturgy is practically nonexistent. We are surely on the wrong path in that regard.

                    — Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Salt of the Earth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997)
                    Pages 176-177

 

And to all of that, I will simply add a shout-out to those who have benefited from Pope Benedict’s other great liturgical legislation: Anglican Ordinariate folks, we need you! Keep on keeping on, and expand as quickly and as widely as you can!

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What the Catholic Church Actually Teaches About Justification…

Growing up Protestant, I was always told that the Catholic Church believed in “works righteousness”. That is, that you had to earn your way to Heaven by being a good person and doing good works.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I began to read things like the Council of Trent’s Canons Concerning Justification and found passages like this: “If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.”

Wait, what?!

It turns out that the Catholic Church doesn’t even come close to teaching “justification by works” or any such thing. But don’t take my word for it… Here’s a great passage from the Council of Trent’s documents:

“CHAPTER VII
IN WHAT THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE SINNER CONSISTS, AND WHAT ARE ITS CAUSES

This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting.[30]

The causes of this justification are:
the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and life everlasting; the efficient cause is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies[31] gratuitously, signing and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,[32] the meritorious cause is His most beloved only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies,[33] for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,[34] merited for us justification by His most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father, the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith,[35] without which no man was ever justified finally, the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind,[36] and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills,[37] and according to each one’s disposition and cooperation.

For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the hearts[38] of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity.

For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body.[39]

For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead[40] and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity.[41]

This faith, conformably to Apostolic tradition, catechumens ask of the Church before the sacrament of baptism, when they ask for the faith that gives eternal life, which without hope and charity faith cannot give.

Whence also they hear immediately the word of Christ:
If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.[42]

Wherefore, when receiving true and Christian justice, they are commanded, immediately on being born again, to preserve it pure and spotless, as the first robe[43] given them through Christ Jesus in place of that which Adam by his disobedience lost for himself and for us, so that they may bear it before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ and may have life eternal.

CHAPTER VIII
HOW THE GRATUITOUS JUSTIFICATION OF THE SINNER BY FAITH IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD

But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely,[44] these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God[45] and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification.

For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the Apostle says, grace is no more grace.[46]“

~Council of Trent, Session VI, Decrees Concerning Justification

 

So what do you think? Are you as surprised as I once was?

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” ~Ven. Fulton Sheen

 

The Council of Trent

The Council of Trent

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Calvinism vs. the Sacred Heart of Jesus…

Laura McAlister, friend-of-the-blog and graduate student in theology, is currently writing her masters thesis on the theology of the Sacred Heart. She’s got a fantastic post up at her blog called “Calvinism vs. the Sacred Heart” that’s a must-read. Go check it out!

A particularly good passage:

“Amid all the Calvinist theology I’d been taught, I’d also learnt much that was true and good. One of those truths saved me. Jesus is the complete revelation of who God is. 

My view of Jesus was so distorted; my understanding of His teachings all filtered through a Calvinist lenses. So I prayed, begging the Holy Spirit to reveal the real Jesus to me. That’s when I discovered the Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart.

I realised that if I wanted to know God’s will, I had to know God’s heart. I had to know the Heart of Jesus, true God incarnate by the Spirit. As I prayed, “O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in thee”, I read the gospels in a new light. It was the same light that had burst into my life with that first conversion to Christ.

All over again, I met the Jesus who loved and sought all people.”

 

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Heart of Jesus, Abyss of Mercy

The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure worthy, and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart Of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1439

 

This is the final post in my blogging “novena” to the Sacred Heart

 

As we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart tomorrow, I hope that we will cling to this precious truth: the Heart of Christ Jesus is, as the catechism says here, and abyss of mercy. God’s love and pardon await the repentant sinner, and He seeks to give us His grace. By the love of His merciful Heart, Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death, and we are called to honor Him and celebrate the mystery of His passion!

 

Most of Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! We adore you from the abyss of our nothingness; have compassion on us out of the abyss of your mercy!

 

DivineMercy

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Heart of Jesus, Source of Repentance

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is the source of life, since by means of it victory over death was achieved. It is also the source of holiness, since in it sin — the enemy of man’s spiritual development — is defeated. The Heart of the Lord Jesus is the starting-point of the holiness of each one of us. From the Heart of the Lord Jesus let us learn the love of God and understanding of the mystery of sin — mysterium iniquitatis.

Let us make acts of reparation to the Divine Heart for the sins committed by us and by our fellow men. Let us make reparation for rejecting God’s goodness and love.

Let us draw close each day to this fount from which flow springs of living water. Let us cry out with the Samaritan woman “Give us this water”, for it wells up to eternal life.

Heart of Jesus, burning flame of love,
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness,
Heart of Jesus, expiation for our sins
— have mercy on us. Amen.

~Pope St. John Paul II

This is the eighth post in my blogging “novena” to the Sacred Heart of Jesus…

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the reason we can repent. It is only Divine love which gives us the hope of forgiveness, and without the hope of forgiveness, we would not and could not repent. Therefore, salvation flows from the Heart of Christ. When we are empowered by Divine love and grace, we are able to pursue holy lives motivated by our reciprocal love for the Jesus Christ.

And because it is the source of repentance, the Sacred Heart is the source of our hope for eternal life. This Heart has conquered death. Though it was once pierced by a Roman spear, it beats again. Through repentance we are reconnected with the eternal heartbeat of Jesus, and so through his grace we hope to obtain a better resurrection.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Cleanse us from our sins. By your grace, bring us to everlasting life and eternal happiness in your company. Amen. 

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