Friday, August 18, 2017

To My Parishioners In Regards to the Barton Fair

Last weekend I shared at the 10:00 Mass that a letter might be published in the Barton Chronicle, which, among other things, would say that I think the Demolition Derby ("the demo") is a big waste of time and money. This letter was in fact published, and of course several people have commented on it.
I write an explanation here because two separate parishioners, whom I hold in good regard and very much like and respect, ended up sharing the exact same concern with me.
If I capture the gist of their comments correctly, the concern goes as such. The demo-derby is not an intrinsically immoral activity. It is enjoyed by youth (area high school students), including youth in the parish. It is often supported by Catholic parents who deem it a fun, experience building, activity worth the time and money for their children. Why criticize the activity publicly? Won't this risk alienating the youth who have entered the demo, or who want to enter it, to know that their pastor says it is a waste of time and money? 
These concerns deserve a full response, so I intend this note for our parishioners.
In the first place I hope to make clear that this issue was written in with two other issues: the significant amount of time that I, and Catholic parishioners, and St. Paul's School have been putting into the fair these recent years, and the emergence of this burlesque show as a highlight of this year's fair. A third latent issue is our preoccupation with money, which is mixed throughout the consideration. 
Firstly I hope I made it clear, that I deem the burlesque show to be intrinsically immoral, and that it is a true concern, and that I hoped the show was a flop, and that our involvement in the fair as Catholics might keep it from coming back as a feature of the fair. I did go so far as to insinuate that I would rather lose the typical $4,000 donation to St. Paul's School from the Fair Association, than have the fair rely on such immoral shows to have a successful week.
That is fine, but why go from this point to start criticizing something that is not intrinsically immoral? The immediate answer is that I am being sincere. I believe much immorality happens because of the demo derby, not because it is a sin of commission to drive in the demo, but because the intent and circumstances of the demo are connected to many sins of omission. This is precisely why I called it a waste. Waste is usually a sin insofar as it is a sin of omission. Rarely is waste of time or money a sin because of hatred, or envy, or some other sin of commission. Waste is usually due to sloth, or ingratitude, or some other sin of omission. I had not thought about any distinction between our youth and the older demo-derby participants, but the place for this thought will be explained here too.
Let me first explain how my opinion is similar to the view of the editorial, which in 1968 described horse trotting as "cruel, false, exciting, brain crazying, business." I believe the cruelty is when people put in so much time and money for their own enjoyment, yet omit to have compassion on those who would benefit from some of that time and money in the community. People the northeast can be generous and helpful, but they can also be stingy. We have a ways to go to see that it is not weakness or a perversion of justice to do more to help our neighbor. We are a mixed bag when it comes to hospitality and true charity. It exists and is inspiring. But I wish to say that we, in our local society, can do more. Let me say further that I believe the falsity of the demo business is in those families (whom I know) who really can't afford it, but do it anyway, to the detriment of their personal life, and of family life. Maybe it is a small percentage, but I know it is a percentage.
Would that more of the demo-derbying adults would use more of their time and money to as God intended, "honor your father and mother" by putting God first in one's own family. Then a new generation of children and grandchildren might inherit the right perspective on family life, and on using the resources of this earth. Would that the same children and grandchildren might be in a better place to try out a demo-derby once or twice, in a culture with less waste and more balance in life. And, would that it were the norm that people driving in the demo were using it as a means to do fundraising for great causes in the community! You know, like getting lots of sponsors to donate to a church and school while their priest gets to enjoy the demo. If anyone in the community can pick up where Fr. Rupp left off on this, then by all means do try to use the demo to promote a community minded culture for good and Godly causes. I myself am a little busy right now, and in truth, I think it would be a poor use of the time and money that is available to me at the moment. I could make lots of suggestions to those who have the time and money, but I leave all other people free to conclude the consideration on their own. In particular I defer to our Catholic parents to be the good guides and models, and decide if and when and whether it is a good thing for their children to drive in a demo.
[As an aside I will also add that I am dissimilar to the commentator from 1968 in that it seems he was writing like a Puritan, while I am writing as a Catholic. It seems he criticized the horse races in the very fact that they were exciting and brain crazying. That the demo is exciting and brain crazying is clear enough, but I do not criticize it on those Puritan grounds. Hence, I threw in a reference to my little side hobby, the exciting and brain crazying juggling of dangerous instruments. This hobby, however, only receives a very small amount of my time and money.]
To conclude then, the pieces are here spelled out for my reason for bringing up the moral considerations of the fair's biggest single event. The demo is a case study for the whole fair. I must ask, what should we as Catholics be doing with our time and money, and how does the fair as a whole fit in? Is it worth keeping the institutional ties we have right now, through the School, yes, but also through the Knights of Columbus Bingo? I brought up the question, and made it clear that I still think it is worth it. Until someone gets so fed up with their local priest's moral preaching, and just bans him and his parish and school from the fair, I think we will stay involved. But let all know that our moral responsibilities as Catholics are not all fulfilled simply by getting the burlesque show off the brochures.
God bless you.
With Mary, In Christ, 
Fr. Tim Naples

Friday, May 26, 2017

VT Knights of Columbus, Again

The following note was prepared for the June Vermont State Knights of Columbus Newsletter. A resolution on which I comment is posted below, with some more resolutions from the Vermont State Knights of Columbus.

Dear Brothers in Christ,
I encourage counsels to use our 2017 Resolutions from the State Convention as an inspirational and programmatic resource. I have begun to post a few of resolutions on my own personal blog:
A note to make about our state council Resolution #4, which is in Support for Culture of and Respect for Life. Discussion around this resolution brought forward the possibility that some Catholics are unaware of how the misleading term "Death with Dignity" has become a euphemism for Physician Assisted Suicide in our anti-Christian culture. Furthermore, those who are not well informed about this issue, or about Christian ethics, might wrongly argue from our resolution as it is currently worded, that when we condemn the use of this euphemism, we somehow wish that people would lose their dignity at their time of death. It is not so! Let good Catholics be well informed, and clearly show that there is no dignity in any kind of suicide, and it is shameful that "Death with Dignity" has been adopted as the misleading catchword for this lamentable movement in our state and country. 
Some of this information can be added to our culture of life resolution next year to strengthen its statements in support of human life, from conception ton natural death.
Let us continue on with every energetic effort to build a culture of life.
God bless, State Chaplain, Fr. Tim Naples

VT Resolution # 4
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States did sanction abortion on demand throughout this nation; and 

WHEREAS, our Holy Mother Church throughout the world has unequivocally condemned this practice as sinful, and a most grievous affront to Almighty God,
BE IT RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Council, Knights of Columbus urge all Councils and members within the jurisdiction of Vermont to support financially and physically the Pro-Life Movement; and

BE IT RESOLVED, that all councils join as a group, to express their solidarity with our Bishop, Priests and members of our communities who are supporters of the respect for life, from the moment of conception until natural death; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that all brother Knights and their families whenever possible, withdraw any support for any health care provider, whether an establishment, doctor, nurse or health care professional that has publicly endorsed any form of “Death with Dignity”; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that this convention of the Knights of Columbus urges the legitimate authority in capital cases to explore all non-lethal means to defend and protect the people from the aggressor, before seeking recourse to execution; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the President of the United States, our Governor, our two U.S. Senators, our Congressman, and the Vermont Right to Life Committee.

VT Resolution # 5
WHEREAS, the Vermont State Council, Knights of Columbus shares the concern of sexual permissiveness in our society, as expressed by our Bishops; and

WHEREAS, traditional values of love, marriage, and family life are being attacked, deliberately, viciously, and unrelentingly in the name of sexual freedom, which ultimately enslaves its victims in a life that endangers the general population with violence towards women, physical disease, and mental illness; and

WHEREAS, the current emphasis of sex education in schools today promotes sexual freedom and experimentation if it is deemed medically safe, rather than promote moral values and chastity; and

WHEREAS, this liberal sexual education leads to more teenage sex, teenage pregnancy, and teenage abortion;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Council express its disapproval of any sex education in our schools that encourages heterosexual or homosexual activity; and
FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Council, in its 119th Convention, urges the Supreme Council to include in the Crusade for Life Campaign, its opposition to sex education in our schools which promotes and encourages sexual promiscuity; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this Resolution be sent to the Chairperson of the Vermont State Board of Education.

VT Resolution # 6
BE IT RESOLVED, that we never waver in our efforts to promote the church’s understanding of marriage as the faithful, exclusive and lifelong union of one man and one woman joined in an intimate partnership of life and love; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten elected officials to adopt laws and judges to make judicial decisions that affirm the family and the authentic nature of marriage; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we join with the bishops and priests of the United States, Canada and throughout the world in their efforts to achieve legal and constitutional protection at the federal and state levels for the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Random Thoughts on the Lord's Prayer

“Give us this day our daily bread.” 
This is truly a reminder of the manna in the desert. This could also be translated “give us only for today our sustenance from heaven.” It is a reminder of our mortality, that God never promises us tomorrow, but only today.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
The word “forgive” comes from the word “give.” The word, for me, means that forgiveness amounts to giving the same thing twice, or to giving a thing preemptively before it has been taken from us.

In the analogy of monetary debts, if I loaned someone an amount and they did not pay it back, then forgiveness is like me giving them the exact same amount, a second time, as a gift, so that they can pay me back the same amount which they had borrowed in the first place. Thus, I for-gave by giving the same amount twice.

In terms of offenses it means making an excuse for the offense before the offense is even done. It is as if I take the mindset and say, prior to the offense, “you will do this to me but it matters not.” Or, has been said in other words, “before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” That is in anticipation of the sin, the debt is already accounted as nothing compared to the relationship.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Vermont Knights of Columbus

Yours truly just returned from the annual Vermont State Council Knights of Columbus Convention. As State Chaplain for the Vermont Knights of Columbus, I will share some of the statements adopted as resolutions.

There is this one:
WHEREAS, the Catholic Church teaches that the right to religious freedom is based upon the inherent dignity of the human person, which is known through both reason and divine revelation; and

WHEREAS, the right to religious freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; and 

WHEREAS, religious freedom means that all persons are to be free from coercion in matters of belief and conscience, and that no person should be forced to act in a manner contrary to his or her own beliefs or conscience;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we will never waver in our efforts to defend religious freedom as an inherent right of all Americans; and 

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we will remain steadfast in our opposition to any future governmental action or policy that forces Catholic institutions and individuals to violate our most deeply held moral and religious convictions; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that our struggle for religious freedom at this decisive moment in our nation’s history is not only for our sake, but for the sake of our children, our grandchildren and all future generations, so that they too may know a country that is “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the President of the United States, our Governor, our two U.S. Senators, and our Congressman.

And also this one:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that on July 16, 2017, the Vermont State Council sponsor a pilgrimage to St. Anne’s Shrine at Isle LaMotte, under the direction of the State Chaplain; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that every council and their families take part in the Family Pilgrimage to St. Anne’s Shrine.  Families are strongly encouraged to attend; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the installation of the elected State Officers shall take place after the celebration of Holy Mass on July 16, 2017 at St. Anne’s Shrine at Isle LaMotte under the direction of the State Deputy.

Regarding these two (more to follow later) I make a few comments.

First, the National Knights of Columbus have some great initiatives and materials on the efforts in our nation to secure religious liberty. They are worth checking out. Click the link.

And also, as state Chaplain I will, of course, be offering the Mass at St. Anne's Shrine on July 16th. It will be a special 12:30PM Mass, preceded by 11:00AM Rosary and followed by the instillation of state officers, and a barbecue lunch. I here share that I plan to provide a juggling show for entertainment at the lunch.
Therefore I say, consider joining us. And share away.
Fr. Tim Naples

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday for my parish

Text prepared for the Holy Thursday Homily in St. Paul's Church, Thursday April 13th, 2017.

This special Mass of the Lord’s Supper brings us into the unique experience of encountering Jesus among the settings and experiences which he went through, 2000 years ago. On the day he celebrated the Last Supper, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. On the day he died - that will be tomorrow - we will enter into the experience of his passion by fasting and venerating the cross. On the “day” he rose from the dead (really, “the night,” since he rose before sunrise) we will begin the greatest celebratory season in the Church: the Church which is the greatest witness to the fact that he rose and lives even today.
We know that in the course of the Last Supper Jesus did several things. First, he transformed the Passover meal into the Mass, by making the bread become his body and the wine become his blood – mysteriously, miraculously, but really, and truly. This miracle is forever connected with the fact that he died in our place, and this we will explain in just a minute. But we also observe that Jesus told his Apostles to celebrate his body and blood, as the memorial of his death and resurrection, in the same way. So Jesus also made the 12 Apostles priests, and he set up his Church so that priests could always bring these mysteries to the world. And one more thing he did; he gave a picture of service, the most dramatic that he could. He washed the feet of the Apostles, which was a job only laid upon the lowest and most useless of servants.
With all of these things in mind – and we just heard about each of these elements in our scripture readings – let us contemplate a most significant aspect of each.
First: when we celebrate the Eucharist with a priest, we are always reminded of how Jesus died for us. Without Jesus we would all suffer two kinds of “death.” We would suffer both physical death, and spiritual death. Spiritual death is the worst kind. But Jesus knew that if he suffered physical death, it would save us from spiritual death. This is the great message that we should remember tonight in remembering the Last Supper. It connects us to our Lord’s saving death. Without this, the rest of our life would really have no meaning.
With that said, I invite everyone for a moment, to close their eyes, and say this prayer with me.
“Jesus, you are my lord and my savior. I thank you for dying on the cross for me. Forgive all of my sins, and bring me to eternal life. Amen.”
Now, one saying of Jesus I want to focus on specifically, since I have asked middle school students from our school to help represent the washing of the feet. As we just heard, when Jesus was done washing the feet of the Apostles he said “I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you should also do.”
This commandment has a specific meaning for priests, and that meaning can be brought out when there are 12 men of the parish who display the washing of feet. But it has a meaning for all Christians, and I invite you to think about the very specific word that Jesus used: that of an example. He said “I have given you an example.” The washing of the feet should give an example of some particular point. And the point I wish to emphasize to night is that examples of Jesus’s example should be reinforced constantly between each generation of believers. Who has the greater responsibility to give an example, and who has the responsibility to take heed of the example? We, the adults, must give that example of faith to our youth. They do not have the responsibility to give the example to the adults. They have the responsibility to receive that example, and put it into practice.
I hope it makes sense that if I ceremoniously wash the feet of our young students here tonight, the point is not whether they are getting the example of Jesus from me. The point is whether everyone else here is getting the example of Jesus from the Church.
I want our students here to help me give an example to our parishioners, to remind our parishioners that we must give an example to our youth. May I say also that this same pattern should exist when we have our young people participating in the Liturgy each on any given Sunday. I hope that more and more of them can serve, sing, usher, and read at our weekend Masses. But let us not think that they will hold onto ANY of the messages that we receive every Sunday, unless they have a strong example of many other people who step forward in faith, and provide that example of trusting discipleship to our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we display the washing of feet tonight, I invite you to think and to pray about the best ways that we should be passing on to our youth the examples of faithfully loving and following our Lord Jesus Christ.

After that, as we celebrate the Eucharist, and receive our Lord Jesus Christ into our hearts – and then spend some silent time with him at the end of this Mass – I invite you to offer him everything. Not for our youth, but for love of his love alone.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Creed of the Catholic Church

This Lent I am preaching about the Creed of the Church: the Creed that we name after the 12 Apostles, and the Church that those 12 Apostles started with the authority from Jesus himself. (Those homilies are recorded here.) Too many times I have said the Creed at Mass without thinking. I know the full impact of those words, and I should think about it. But is the average Catholic in the pews capable of reflecting on these Scriptural truths to the same depth? Well, anyone who knows their catechism should appreciate the truths of the Creed. Pope Paul VI wanted to remind the Church about all of these truths of our Creed and Catechism, so he wrote an amplified Creed. Various so called Catholic reformers, who fancied themselves on the cutting edge back in the 1960s, were denying many of these truths. It seems incredible that Pope Paul VI needed to put it in writing to say that the Catholic Church does in fact believe these same truths. But he did put it in writing. He made The Credo of the People of God, and it really is a great miniature Catechism, and summary of the essential biblical truths that forge our relationship to Jesus Christ. Catholics should believe all these truths. The Catholic Church believes these things. All of them. If you cannot come to live your life as if you believe these things, you have compromised your Catholicism, and your relationship with Christ. Just as you or I compromise our relationship to Christ when we sin.

June 30, 1968
1. With this solemn liturgy we end the celebration of the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdom of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and thus close the Year of Faith. We dedicated it to the commemoration of the holy apostles in order that we might give witness to our steadfast will to be faithful to the deposit of the faith(1) which they transmitted to us, and that we might strengthen our desire to live by it in the historical circumstances in which the Church finds herself in her pilgrimage in the midst of the world.
2. We feel it our duty to give public thanks to all who responded to our invitation by bestowing on the Year of Faith a splendid completeness through the deepening of their personal adhesion to the word of God, through the renewal in various communities of the profession of faith, and through the testimony of a Christian life. To our brothers in the episcopate especially, and to all the faithful of the holy Catholic Church, we express our appreciation and we grant our blessing.
A Mandate
3. Likewise, we deem that we must fulfill the mandate entrusted by Christ to Peter, whose successor we are, the last in merit; namely, to confirm our brothers in the faith.(2) With the awareness, certainly, of our human weakness, yet with all the strength impressed on our spirit by such a command, we shall accordingly make a profession of faith, pronounce a creed which, without being strictly speaking a dogmatic definition, repeats in substance, with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time, the creed of Nicea, the creed of the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God.
4. In making this profession, we are aware of the disquiet which agitates certain modern quarters with regard to the faith. They do not escape the influence of a world being profoundly changed, in which so many certainties are being disputed or discussed. We see even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty. The Church, most assuredly, has always the duty to carry on the effort to study more deeply and to present, in a manner ever better adapted to successive generations, the unfathomable mysteries of God, rich for all in fruits of salvation. But at the same time the greatest care must be taken, while fulfilling the indispensable duty of research, to do no injury to the teachings of Christian doctrine. For that would be to give rise, as is unfortunately seen in these days, to disturbance and perplexity in many faithful souls.
Await the Word
5. It is important in this respect to recall that, beyond scientifically verified phenomena, the intellect which God has given us reaches that which is, and not merely the subjective expression of the structures and development of consciousness; and, on the other hand, that the task of interpretation—of hermeneutics—is to try to understand and extricate, while respecting the word expressed, the sense conveyed by a text, and not to recreate, in some fashion, this sense in accordance with arbitrary hypotheses.
6. But above all, we place our unshakable confidence in the Holy Spirit, the soul of the Church, and in theological faith upon which rests the life of the Mystical Body. We know that souls await the word of the Vicar of Christ, and we respond to that expectation with the instructions which we regularly give. But today we are given an opportunity to make a more solemn utterance.
7. On this day which is chosen to close the Year of Faith, on this feast of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, we have wished to offer to the living God the homage of a profession of faith. And as once at Caesarea Philippi the apostle Peter spoke on behalf of the twelve to make a true confession, beyond human opinions, of Christ as Son of the living God, so today his humble successor, pastor of the Universal Church, raises his voice to give, on behalf of all the People of God, a firm witness to the divine Truth entrusted to the Church to be announced to all nations.
We have wished our profession of faith to be to a high degree complete and explicit, in order that it may respond in a fitting way to the need of light felt by so many faithful souls, and by all those in the world, to whatever spiritual family they belong, who are in search of the Truth.
To the glory of God most holy and of our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, for the profit and edification of the Church, in the name of all the pastors and all the faithful, we now pronounce this profession of faith, in full spiritual communion with you all, beloved brothers and sons.
8. We believe in one only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of things visible such as this world in which our transient life passes, of things invisible such as the pure spirits which are also called angels,(3) and creator in each man of his spiritual and immortal soul.
9. We believe that this only God is absolutely one in His infinitely holy essence as also in all His perfections, in His omnipotence, His infinite knowledge, His providence, His will and His love. He is He who is, as He revealed to Moses;(4) and He is love, as the apostle John teaches us:(5) so that these two names, being and love, express ineffably the same divine reality of Him who has wished to make Himself known to us, and who, "dwelling in light inaccessible,"(6) is in Himself above every name, above every thing and above every created intellect. God alone can give us right and full knowledge of this reality by revealing Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose eternal life we are by grace called to share, here below in the obscurity of faith and after death in eternal light. The mutual bonds which eternally constitute the Three Persons, who are each one and the same divine being, are the blessed inmost life of God thrice holy, infinitely beyond all that we can conceive in human measure.(7) We give thanks, however, to the divine goodness that very many believers can testify with us before men to the unity of God, even though they know not the mystery of the most holy Trinity.
The Father
10. We believe then in the Father who eternally begets the Son; in the Son, the Word of God, who is eternally begotten; in the Holy Spirit, the uncreated Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son as their eternal love. Thus in the Three Divine Persons, coaeternae sibi et coaequales,(8) the life and beatitude of God perfectly one superabound and are consummated in the supreme excellence and glory proper to uncreated being, and always "there should be venerated unity in the Trinity and Trinity in the unity."(9)

The Son
11. We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. He is the Eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, and one in substance with the Father, homoousios to Patri,(10) and through Him all things were made. He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was made man: equal therefore to the Father according to His divinity, and inferior to the Father according to His humanity;(11) and Himself one, not by some impossible confusion of His natures, but by the unity of His person.(12)
12. He dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. He proclaimed and established the Kingdom of God and made us know in Himself the Father. He gave us His new commandment to love one another as He loved us. He taught us the way of the beatitudes of the Gospel: poverty in spirit, meekness, suffering borne with patience, thirst after justice, mercy, purity of heart, will for peace, persecution suffered for justice sake. Under Pontius Pilate He suffered—the Lamb of God bearing on Himself the sins of the world, and He died for us on the cross, saving us by His redeeming blood. He was buried, and, of His own power, rose on the third day, raising us by His resurrection to that sharing in the divine life which is the life of grace. He ascended to heaven, and He will come again, this time in glory, to judge the living and the dead: each according to his merits—those who have responded to the love and piety of God going to eternal life, those who have refused them to the end going to the fire that is not extinguished.
And His Kingdom will have no end.
The Holy Spirit
13. We believe in the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and Giver of life, who is adored and glorified together with the Father and the Son. He spoke to us by the prophets; He was sent by Christ after His resurrection and His ascension to the Father; He illuminates, vivifies, protects and guides the Church; He purifies the Church's members if they do not shun His grace. His action, which penetrates to the inmost of the soul, enables man to respond to the call of Jesus: Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48).
14. We believe that Mary is the Mother, who remained ever a Virgin, of the Incarnate Word, our God and Savior Jesus Christ,(13) and that by reason of this singular election, she was, in consideration of the merits of her Son, redeemed in a more eminent manner,(14) preserved from all stain of original sin(15) and filled with the gift of grace more than all other creatures.(16)
15. Joined by a close and indissoluble bond to the Mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption,(17) the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate, was at the end of her earthly life raised body and soul to heavenly glory(18) and likened to her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and we believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church,(19) continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ's members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.(20)
Original Offense
16. We believe that in Adam all have sinned, which means that the original offense committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall to a state in which it bears the consequences of that offense, and which is not the state in which it was at first in our first parents—established as they were in holiness and justice, and in which man knew neither evil nor death. It is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men, and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, "not by imitation, but by propagation" and that it is thus "proper to everyone."(21)

Reborn of the Holy Spirit
17. We believe that o ur Lord Jesus Christ, by the sacrifice of the cross redeemed us from original sin and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, in accordance with the word of the apostle, "where sin abounded, grace did more abound."(22)

18. We believe in one Baptism instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Baptism should be administered even to little children who have not yet been able to be guilty of any personal sin, in order that, though born deprived of supernatural grace, they may be reborn "of water and the Holy Spirit" to the divine life in Christ Jesus.(23)

The Church
19. We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, built by Jesus Christ on that rock which is Peter. She is the Mystical Body of Christ; at the same time a visible society instituted with hierarchical organs, and a spiritual community; the Church on earth, the pilgrim People of God here below, and the Church filled with heavenly blessings; the germ and the first fruits of the Kingdom of God, through which the work and the sufferings of Redemption are continued throughout human history, and which looks for its perfect accomplishment beyond time in glory.(24) In the course of time, the Lord Jesus forms His Church by means of the sacraments emanating from His plenitude.(25) By these she makes her members participants in the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, in the grace of the Holy Spirit who gives her life and movement.(26) She is therefore holy, though she has sinners in her bosom, because she herself has no other life but that of grace: it is by living by her life that her members are sanctified; it is by removing themselves from her life that they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for these offenses, of which she has the power to heal her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Word
20. Heiress of the divine promises and daughter of Abraham according to the Spirit, through that Israel whose scriptures she lovingly guards, and whose patriarchs and prophets she venerates; founded upon the apostles and handing on from century to century their ever-living word and their powers as pastors in the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him; perpetually assisted by the Holy Spirit, she has the charge of guarding, teaching, explaining and spreading the Truth which God revealed in a then veiled manner by the prophets, and fully by the Lord Jesus. We believe all that is contained in the word of God written or handed down, and that the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed, whether by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal magisterium.(27) We believe in the infallibility enjoyed by the successor of Peter when he teaches ex cathedra as pastor and teacher of all the faithful,(28) and which is assured also to the episcopal body when it exercises with him the supreme magisterium.(29)
21. We believe that the Church founded by Jesus Christ and for which He prayed is indefectibly one in faith, worship and the bond of hierarchical communion. In the bosom of this Church, the rich variety of liturgical rites and the legitimate diversity of theological and spiritual heritages and special disciplines, far from injuring her unity, make it more manifest.(30)
One Shepherd
22. Recognizing also the existence, outside the organism of the Church of Christ, of numerous elements of truth and sanctification which belong to her as her own and tend to Catholic unity,(31) and believing in the action of the Holy Spirit who stirs up in the heart of the disciples of Christ love of this unity,(32) we entertain the hope that the Christians who are not yet in the full communion of the one only Church will one day be reunited in one flock with one only shepherd.
23. We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church.(33) But the divine design of salvation embraces all men; and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation.(34)
Sacrifice of Calvary
24. We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.(35)

25. Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine,(36) as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.(37)
26. The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.

Temporal Concern
27. We confess that the Kingdom of God begun here below in the Church of Christ is not of this world whose form is passing, and that its proper growth cannot be confounded with the progress of civilization, of science or of human technology, but that it consists in an ever more profound knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ, an ever stronger hope in eternal blessings, an ever more ardent response to the love of God, and an ever more generous bestowal of grace and holiness among men. But it is this same love which induces the Church to concern herself constantly about the true temporal welfare of men. Without ceasing to recall to her children that they have not here a lasting dwelling, she also urges them to contribute, each according to his vocation and his means, to the welfare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to give their aid freely to their brothers, especially to the poorest and most unfortunate. The deep solicitude of the Church, the Spouse of Christ, for the needs of men, for their joys and hopes, their griefs and efforts, is therefore nothing other than her great desire to be present to them, in order to illuminate them with the light of Christ and to gather them all in Him, their only Savior. This solicitude can never mean that the Church conform herself to the things of this world, or that she lessen the ardor of her expectation of her Lord and of the eternal Kingdom.
28. We believe in the life eternal. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ whether they must still be purified in purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies Jesus takes them to paradise as He did for the Good Thief are the People of God in the eternity beyond death, which will be finally conquered on the day of the Resurrection when these souls will be reunited with their bodies.
Prospect of Resurrection
29. We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in paradise forms the Church of Heaven where in eternal beatitude they see God as He is,(38) and where they also, in different degrees, are associated with the holy angels in the divine rule exercised by Christ in glory, interceding for us and helping our weakness by their brotherly care.(39)
30. We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are attaining their purification, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion the merciful love of God and His saints is ever listening to our prayers, as Jesus told us: Ask and you will receive.(40) Thus it is with faith and in hope that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Blessed be God Thrice Holy. Amen.

1. Cf. 1 Tim. 6:20.
2. Cf. Lk. 22:32.
3. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 3002.
4. Cf. Ex. 3:14.
5. Cf. 1 Jn. 4:8.
6. Cf. 1 Tim. 6:16.
7. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 804.
8. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 75.
9. Cf. ibid.
10. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 150.
11. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 76.
12. Cf. ibid.
13. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 251-252.
14. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 53.
15. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 2803.
16. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 53.
17. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 53, 58, 61.
18. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 3903.
19. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 53, 56, 61, 63; cf. Paul VI, Alloc. for the Closing of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council: A.A.S. LVI [1964] 1016; cf. Exhort. Apost. Signum Magnum, Introd.
20. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 62; cf. Paul VI, Exhort. Apost. Signum Magnum, p. 1, n. 1.
21. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 1513.
22. Cf. Rom. 5:20.
23. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 1514.
24. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 8, 5.
25. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 7, 11.
26. Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 5, 6; cf. Lumen Gentium, 7, 12, 50.
27. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 3011.
28. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 3074.
29. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 25.
30. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 23; cf. Orientalium Ecclesiarum 2, 3, 5, 6.
31. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 8.
32. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 15.
33. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 14.
34. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 16.
35. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 1651.
36. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 1642, 1651-1654; Paul VI, Enc. Mysterium Fidei.
37. Cf. S. Th., 111, 73, 3.
38. Cf. 1 Jn. 3:2; Dz.-Sch. 1000.
39. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 49.
40. Cf. Lk. 10:9-10; Jn. 16:24

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Immaculate Conception

Christmas songs are abounding here in the second week of Advent. Omitting some background story, I committed myself to explaining, according to the Catholic faith, what is lacking in a particular popular Protestant Christmas song. I really don’t have to do much to analyze the lyrics of Mary Did You Know, because Fr. Geoff Horton has already done it (and given permission to share, as I do below). However, this all being on my mind, I happen to have noticed the same, soppy, low-Mariology Christmas sentiments almost word for word in another song which I had enjoyed many times. It was almost surprising. Listening to Brandon Heath’s Just a Girl, I was struck even more by the presumed (even if only poetic) assumption of the Biblical ignorance or Scriptural naivety of Jesus’ mother.

Just a girl
Does she even know that she just changed the world?
Does she even know that He will save the world?
Does Mary know that He will save the world?
She's just a girl
Just a girl

It is usually Catholics who are accused of not knowing their Bible. It seems now acceptable in contemporary Christmas songs to insinuate that Mary did not know her Bible. But I offer the simple thought, that if we read our Bibles, we will find that we should be a little more cautious to do so. Here is the caution. One might say Mary was “just a girl” who would not have known her Bible (all the Old Testament Scriptures for us), but reading all of Luke 1:26-56 seems to say otherwise. Gabriel spoke very directly to Mary. I guess you can say it was too direct and all too much over Mary’s head, except for the fact that Mary displays such a thoroughly biblical vocabulary and mindset in the immediately subsequent Gospel events. I need not repeat the entire account of the Visitation or the Magnificat (I’ll paste below). I only point out that if we take it as a literal historical account of the words of Mary with the Archangel Gabriel and with her cousin Elizabeth (something most every Protestant would do), then we get an entirely different idea: Mary could not only recall well known Old Testament prophecies, but she was such a biblically minded woman it was always in her heart to burst forth with praise in the very faith and words of the Old Testament. Mary speaks like she knows Miriam and Moses (Exodus15:1-21). She sings like she has been hanging out with Deborah (Judges ch. 5). She thinks and talks in a way that strangely self identifies with Judith (Judith16:1-17). It is not just the words and way of speaking of these great Old Testament women that Mary has picked up (by a kind of mysterious holy peer influence), it is the great language of salvation – we might almost call it high-falutin’ Bible lingo – that she seemed comfortable throwing around: hesed-mercy, Covenant, Servant of the Yahweh, anawim. To answer these questions that are being asked in our popular Christmas songs, the Biblical picture of Mary seems itself to say, “yes, Mary knew.” She knew her Scriptures. If she could quote such things, she could recognize them, and contemplate their meaning. If we are going to be soppy over Christmas (and I most certainly am myself here and there) I still recommend sentimentalism that doesn't revolve around Mary's supposed Scriptural ignorance
Here is where Catholics especially ought to know better. There have been Catholics who said, “Mary was just a girl. Clearly the words attributed to her are later additions to tradition because they are ‘too perfect’ to be the actual words of a Jewish teenage girl.” Such Catholics might be selling short the grace of the Immaculate Conception. Take St. Therese of Lisieux for comparison. She was “just a girl.” She wasn’t even immaculately conceived or free from the guilt of sin. And yet at the age of 13 she had The Imitation of Christ memorized, "chapter and verse." It’s a small book compared to the Bible, but the comparison shows a little of what would be possible for the Queen of all saints.

In the end, there is no crime in being a sop about poetic lyrics which some find to be rhetorical questions unfitting for more devout opinions of high-Mariology (and Christology at the same time). Some call the above Biblical literalism sentimental. Neither is heretical. But there is one question which cannot be left to theory or sentiment or preference in Christmas music. That is the question whether Christ actually made his mother in the pattern of the new creation. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” 2 Cor. 5:17 applies to the “Woman” of John’s Gospel (John 19:25-27), Mary. Mary was immaculately conceived. Mary’s baby boy did not come to make her new, because he had already made her new. Mary did not need to be delivered. She had already been delivered. She of course knew she was unworthy to be the mother of the savior; but only because she was aware that the grace she enjoyed was never owed her; not because she was a sinner who needed to be delivered and made new. It is not the least inconsistent to say, that along with all of the above, Mary had no knowledge of personally offending God, because she had no guilt of personal sin nor original sin.

So if we are going to be sops who love to sing Mary Did You Know, let us at least correct the one part that would deny the witness of the Scripture, as understood by the Fathers of the Church, as interpreted by the successors for the Apostles and Saint Peter, as has been clearly written in the Catechism, and has been devoutly believed by all the saints. Let us sing the mystery of the Immaculate Conception as a true indispensable Christian doctrine which displays the power of the Cross of Christ; “Mary did you know, that your baby boy is making all things new? This child that you've delivered IS WHO DELIVERED YOU!”

The Follow was written by Fr. Geoff Horton of the Diocese of Peoria Dec. 12, 2010

Did Mary know that her baby would save our sons and daughters?
Yes; Gabriel told Mary more than enough to identify her son as the promised Messiah who would bring salvation.

Did she know that her baby came to make her new?
No, because she didn't need to be made new, having been preserved from all stain of sin from the moment of her Immaculate Conception. Since she was preserved in view of the merits Christ won at His Passion, one might say that He would soon deliver her in a certain sense, though that delivery had already had its effect on her. (I realize that a Protestant songwriter wouldn't think this way.)
And even in that certain sense, yes, Mary knew what HIs mission was. She knew what the prophets had foretold. (See the story of the encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus if you don't think Jesus's redemptive death was in the Old Testament.)

Did Mary know that her baby would give sight to a blind man?
Yes; Isaiah said so.

Did she know that her baby had walked where angels trod? And that His face is the face of God?
Yes; Gabriel told her that her son would be Son of the Most High. For good measure, Gabriel told St. Joseph that the child's name would be "Immanuel", which means "God [is] with us."

The blind seeing, the deaf hearing, etc.? All in Isaiah.
Lord of Creation? Gabriel told her.

Ruler of the nations? Gabriel told her that her son would inherit the throne of David, and the prophets said that David's heir would rule the nations.
Heaven's perfect lamb? Read the Servant Songs of Isaiah. It's in there. (Remember the road to Emmaus.)
So we're left with walking on water and calming the storm as the only two things Mary did not know in advance, and she certainly knew that He could do those things if he wanted.

Yes, Mary knew.

The Account of the Annunciation and Visitation in the Holy Gospel according to Luke
Biblical Cross References from the NAB

1:26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.l 28And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”m 29But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31n Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32o He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”p 34But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”* 35And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.q 36And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived* a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37for nothing will be impossible for God.”r 38Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth. 39During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,s 42cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.t 43And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord* should come to me? 44For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed are you who believed* that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”u
The Canticle of Mary. 46v And Mary said:*
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;w
47my spirit rejoices in God my savior.x
48For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.y
49The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.z
50His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.a
51He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.b
52He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.c
53The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.d
54He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,e
55according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”f
56Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

l. [1:27] 2:5; Mt 1:16, 18.
q. [1:35] Mt 1:20.
s. [1:41] 1:15; Gn 25:22 LXX.
u. [1:45] 1:20.
v. [1:4655] 1 Sm 2:110.
e. [1:54] Ps 98:3; Is 41:89.