Monday, March 30, 2009

“The New Evangelization” (part I)

(part I)

The term New Evangelization became a characteristic expression of Pope John Paul II during his pontificate. Pope Paul VI called evangelism the 'deepest identity' of the Church and Pope John Paul II continued and extended this vision. Beginning with his address to the Latin American Bishops in 1983, Pope John Paul II noted,

The commemoration of the half millennium of evangelization will gain its full meaning if it is a commitment on your part as bishops, together with your priests and faithful: a commitment, not to re-evangelization, but to a new evangelization, new in ardor, methods and expression. Permit me in this regard to sum up in a few words and dwell with you on those aspects which seem to me to be fundamental for the new evangelization.

Following up on the Puebla conference of Latin American Bishops on "Evangelization at Present and in the Future of Latin America" (1979), Pope John Paul II explains, that the New Evangelization means a need to arouse fresh vocations to the priest hood and to "train them properly in the spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral aspects of their calling." Secondly in regard to the laity, both because of the lack of priests but also in light of the self understanding of the Church as seen in Second Vatican Council, bishops ought to be "engaged in forming an increasing number of laity who are ready to collaborate effectively in the work of evangelization" (Origins Vol. 12.41).

Together with the synod Bishops, Pope John Paul II reviewed and extended the goals of Pope Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi in his own Apostolic Exhortation,Christifideles laici, On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in The World (1988). The idea of "the self understanding of the Church as seen in Second Vatican Council" mentioned in 1983, is greatly expanded and clarified in Christifideles laici.

This document begins noting the fundamental dignity and grace received by all the faithful through baptism. Through baptism the lay faithful participate in communion with Christ and become sharers in his ministry through the Church which is his body.

The participation of the lay faithful in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King finds its source in the anointing of Baptism, its further development in Confirmation and its realization and dynamic sustenance in the Holy Eucharist. It is a participation given to each member of the lay faithful individually, in as much as each is one of the many who form the one Body of the Lord (CL 14).

The lay faithful are characterized by a special manner of life. Pope John Paul II notes; "The Second Vatican Council has described this manner of life as the 'secular character': 'The secular character is properly and particularly that of the lay faithful' (LG 32)." Pope John Paul II observes that in ordered to full appreciate the lay vocation one must gain a deeper understanding of the theological nature of this secular character. All the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension but in different ways (CL 15). According to the council the way which is "properly and particularly" theirs is to be expressed in its "secular character" (AA 5). Pope John Paul II explains this secular character by referring to the text of Lumen Gentium;

The laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven (LG 31).

He explains, "The 'world' thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation, because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ." This vocation does not take the lay faithful out of the world, or into seclusion, quoting The Apostle Paul, he notes, "So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God" (1 Cor 7:24).

The prime and fundamental vocation of the lay faithful is the call to holiness. The universal call to holiness is "an undeniable requirement arising from the mystery of the Church" and is rooted in baptism (CL 16). The lay faithful exercise this call to holiness "in a particular way in their involvement in temporal affairs and in their participation in earthly activities" (CL 17). The specific manner of living his out is highlighted in the Pauline scripture, "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col 3:17). John Paul II notes,

Likewise the Synod Fathers have said: "The unity of life of the lay faithful is of the greatest importance: indeed they must be sanctified in everyday professional and social life. Therefore, to respond to their vocation, the lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfill his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ"(Propositio 5).

As we noted above the Fathers of Second Vatican Council admonished us, the "breach between faith and daily life among so many must be considered on of the more serious errors of our time" (GS 43, cf. AA 4). The universal call to holiness implies a response of apostolate and missionary effort. The particular place for this effort for the lay faithful is in the midst of the world and is lived by demonstrating a faithful to a unity of life.

Holiness, then, must be called a fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition for everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation within the Church. The Church's holiness is the hidden source and the infallible measure of the works of the apostolate and of the missionary effort. Only in the measure that the Church, Christ's Spouse, is loved by him and she, in turn, loves him, does she become a mother fruitful in the Spirit (CL 17).

John Paul II moves on to discuss the Church as communion, the diversity and complimentarily of the Spirit's gifts to the Church. He notes;

The various ministries, offices and roles that the lay faithful can legitimately fulfill in the liturgy, in the transmission of the faith, and in the pastoral structure of the Church, ought to be exercised in conformity to their specific lay vocation, which is different from that of the sacred ministry (CL 23).

Quoting the exhortation the Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, the Synod Fathers again highlight the secular nature of the fields of evangelizing activity open to the lay person, "the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, as well as the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. It also includes other realities which are open to evangelization, such as human love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work, and suffering" (CL 17). John Paul II discusses the role of charisms of the Spirit in the life of the Church and the role of the lay faithful in individual and group participation in parish life.

The Chapter on mission notes the intimate connection between being in communion with Christ and the necessity for mission. John Paul II exhorts, "Communion and mission are profoundly connected with each other, they interpenetrate and mutually imply each other, to the point that communion represents both the source and the fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion" (CL 32).

John Paul II notes that there is a need to re-evangelize those regions that were once Christian but have given in to the "constant spreading of an indifference to religion, of secularism and atheism" as well as the spread of sects (CL 34). He notes that, "Only a re-evangelization can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith, and serve to make these traditions a force for authentic freedom" (CL 34). We must work to mend the fabric of society, to "first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations" (CL 34). This is accomplished but revealing Christ's saving power to the "confines of states, and systems political and economic, as well as the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development (CL 34). In a vital synthesis, the lay faithful must allow the Gospel to shine and give testimony in their daily lives. John Paul II notes,

This re-evangelization is directed not only to individual persons but also to entire portions of populations in the variety of their situations, surroundings and cultures. Its purpose is the formation of mature ecclesial communities, in which the faith might radiate and fulfill the basic meaning of adherence to the person of Christ and his Gospel, of an encounter and sacramental communion with him, and of an existence lived in charity and in service (CL 34).

Clearly something more than regular parish life is envisioned here. These communities must offer active participation in the life of the community through words, and testimony but also through missionary zeal. Related to this missionary outreach is the need for the lay faithful to offer systematic work in catechesis, especially parents to their children.

Much of the previous section relates to the mission of the lay faithful in the midst of their ordinary lives. John Paul II continues with a more extraordinary ministry of the lay faithful, who following the example of Aquila and Priscilla (cf., Acts 18; Romans 16:3ff.), will agree to 'go' as missionaries to other countries.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pope Benedict is Right!

Harvard AIDS Expert Says Pope is Correct on Condom Distribution Making AIDS Worse

Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has said that the evidence confirms that the Pope is correct in his assessment that condom distribution exacerbates the problem of AIDS. . . . [more]


Dr. Edward C. Green, is the Director, of AIDS Prevention Research Project, Senior Research Scientist, Harvard School of Public Health and Center for Population and Development Studies, Harvard University.

Link to Dr. Edward C. Green, Harvard University

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Evangelization and Pope Paul VI

Apostolic Exhoration, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Proclaiming the Gospel
By Pope Paul VI

We must remember firstly that Pope Paul VI was the pilgrim pope who named himself after the greatest missionary apostle, St. Paul. Although Pope Paul VI is best known for his work at the close of the Second Vatican Council, he was also the first pope to engage in extensive world travel. His encounter with the devastating poverty and conflict of the Third World caused him to write an important social encyclical on peace and development, called "Populorum Progressio" or "On the Development of Peoples." He was also drawn to express a deep fatherly concern for evangelization.

Evangelii Nuntiandi is an apostolic exhortation which followed a synod of Bishops in 1975. Pope Paul VI begins by discussing the model of Christ as evangelizer. Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God and caries this out through innumerable signs. Those who accept the Good News become a community which in turn evangelizes. Pope Paul VI notes that the task of evangelization is the essential mission of the Church, "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity." (EN 14). The whole Church receives the mission to evangelize.

Pope Paul VI discusses what he calls the essential elements of the concept of evangelization in continuity with the Second Vatican Council. He notes, "Evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new" (EN 18). This transformation reaches the depth of human culture.

For the Church it is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation (EN 19).

Pope Paul VI notes that there is a need to evangelize culture (more correctly cultures). This evangelization cannot proceed in a merely decorative manner. Rather than "applying a thin veneer "cultures must be evangelized "in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots, in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et spes, [GS 53] always taking the person as one's starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God"(EN 19). Every effort must be made to ensure the full evangelization of culture starting with a proclamation by witness. The lives of Christians will stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of others which can be a form of initial evangelization, which must then be made more explicit by "a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Speaking of the steps involved in full evangelization Pope Paul VI observes,

In fact the proclamation only reaches full development when it is listened to, accepted and assimilated, and when it arouses a genuine adherence in the one who has thus received it. An adherence to the truths which the Lord in His mercy has revealed; still more, an adherence to a program of life - a life henceforth transformed - which He proposes. (EN 23).

Fully understood evangelization is "a complex process made up of varied elements: the renewal of humanity, witness, explicit proclamation, inner adherence, entry into the community, acceptance of signs, apostolic initiative" (EN 24). The center and foundation of all evangelization is the clear proclamation that Jesus Christ, died and rose for the dead offering salvation to all men and a gift of God's grace (EN 27). Evangelism also needs to take into account our personal and social life. Pope Paul VI clarifies, "This is why evangelization involves an explicit message, adapted to the different situations constantly being realized, about the rights and duties of every human being, about family life without which personal growth and development is hardly possible,[60] about life in society, about international life, peace, justice and development . . ." (EN 29). This involves a properly understood notion of preaching liberation, of building structures which are more human (EN 36). He notes that the Church cannot accept violence and revolution as a means of liberation (EN 38). We must ensure fundamental human rights and freedom of religion (EN 39).

On the question of the methods of evangelization he notes that they will naturally "vary according to the different circumstances of time, place and culture, and because they thereby present a certain challenge to our capacity for discovery and adaptation" (EN 40). Again he highlights the necessity of the witness of an authentically Christian life (EN 41), and of the necessity of preaching (EN 42), as well as systematic catechetical instruction (EN 44). Again he notes that evangelization must touch lives and give them new meaning (EN 47), especially through the sacraments, and carefully guided popular piety.

The recipients of evangelization are firstly those who have never heard the Gospel, but also those who have been baptized but who live outside the Christian life (EN 52). He notes, "This first proclamation is also addressed to the immense sections of mankind who practice non-Christian religions" (EN 53). Even though the interaction with these immense groups raises "delicate questions that must be studied in the light of Christian Tradition and the Church's magisterium" it is also true that "the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ" (EN 53). Pope Paul VI addresses the problem of secularism and the development of small communities, as well as the universal vocation to mission that individual Churches share in. (EN 62). He then discusses the problem of inculturation. Evangelism "loses much of its force and effectiveness" if it is not adapted to the people (using their language, their signs and symbols), but it must not sacrifice its truth and universality (EN 63).

In his final section Pope Paul VI notes that the whole Church is called upon to evangelize, but that there is a "diversity of services in the unity of the same mission" (EN 66). The Holy Father has the "preeminent ministry of teaching the revealed truth" (EN 67). The bishops as successors to the apostles receive authority to teach the revealed truth and are teachers of the faith (EN 68). The religious bear witness to holiness and the radical demands of the beatitudes (EN 69). They play a role in evangelization when some men and women live a life consecrated to prayer, silence, penance and sacrifice. "Other religious, in great numbers, give themselves directly to the proclamation of Christ" (EN 69). Lay people who live there vocations in the midst of the world, "exercise a very special form of evangelization" (EN70). The lay faithful exercise this evangelization through their ordinary lives.

Their own field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, but also the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. It also includes other realities which are open to evangelization, such as human love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work, suffering (EN 70).

In this last field of life Pope Paul VI the special importance of "the evangelizing action of the family in the evangelizing apostolate of the laity" (EN 72) as well as the apostolate among young people (EN 72). Finally he notes that some lay persons may also feel called "to work with their pastors in the service of the ecclesial community for its growth and life, by exercising a great variety of ministries according to the grace and charisms which the Lord is pleased to give them" (EN 73).

Pope Paul VI concludes with some foundational notions related to evangelization. First, he reminds us that it is not a matter of technique but a work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization (EN 75). The evangelizer must be authentic and not artificial. We must seek to promote unity among Christians (EN 77). The evangelizer must have reverence for the truth (EN 78), and "an ever increasing love for those whom he is evangelizing" (EN 79). The evangelizer must not impose on the consciences of others. We must propose the truth with clarity and respect for free opinions (EN 80). Pope Paul VI concludes by entrusting the task of evangelizing "the hands and the heart of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary" (EN 82).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Concept of Evangelization at VC II (expanded)

Cardinal Dulles points out,
Vatican I spoke rarely of evangelization. They used terms such as "missionary activity, "the propagation of the faith," and "the planting or extension of the church.". . . Building on the kerygmatic theology of the preceding decade, Vatican II made use of evangelical terminology. A comparison with Vatican I, which reflected the 19thcentury mentality, is instructive. Vatican I used the term "Gospel" (evangelium) only once and never used the terms "evangelize" or "evangelization." Vatican II, by contrast, mentioned the "Gospel" 157 times, "evangelize" 18 times and "evangelization" 31 times.
In the Second Vatican Council Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the Fathers describe the Church as the People of God. Using this image they describe the missionary mandate of the Church to proclaim the Gospel "until such time as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves continue the work of evangelizing" (LG 17). Later in the Constitution the Fathers define evangelizing in the chapter on the laity as the, "announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word" and note further that this "takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world" (LG 35). They note, "Consequently, even when preoccupied with temporal cares, the laity can and must perform a work of great value for the evangelization of the world" (LG 17).
The lay faithful are to perform the apostolate of proclaiming the Gospel both with their lives and their words "in the ordinary surroundings of the world" (LG 17). In order to be equipped for this task, the laity must "strive to acquire a more profound grasp of revealed truth", and to insistently beg God for the gift of wisdom (LG 17).
In the Second Vatican Council Decree on the Mission activity of the Church (Ad Gentes), the council Fathers refer both the work of specialized missionaries, and to the ordinary mission of the lay faithful. Specifically in discussing the cooperation of the lay faithful, they note;
Since the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God, this sacred synod invites all to a deep interior renewal; so that, having a vivid awareness of their own responsibility for spreading the Gospel, they may do their share in missionary work among the nations (Ad Gentes 35).
In the Second Vatican Council Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem), the specific mission of the laity is referred to as "the apostolate of evangelization and sanctification" and it is seen to both penetrate and perfect the temporal order (AA 2, 6). Specifically they state the lay faithful;
. . . exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ. (AA 2)
There are several features to note in the previous discussion. First the Church has a duty to proclaim the Gospel. This is not something new, but rather the very nature of her being. Recently the CDF issued a statement on this topic affirming the continued need to evangelize. Although there have been some who have misinterpreted the Second Vatican council documents as teaching that evangelism is not longer necessary, a close reading of the documents shows exactly the opposite. The duty to evangelize is not just a special calling for some, but the duty of all the faithful. The entire lay faithful have a special mission to carry out "the apostolate of evangelization and sanctification" in order to both penetrate and perfect the temporal order (AA 2, 6). The mission field becomes the world each of us live in, in the midst of our temporal affairs we must become the light of Christ to the nations. Even secular culture must be evangelized through the actions of the lay faithful.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Themes in Lumen Gentium Part II


Ratzinger calls the most controversial point in Lumen Gentium point number 8 that the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic subsists in the Catholic Church. (2005, p. 144) The Constitution notes; "This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in (subsistit ) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him" (LG 8). In 1985 the CDF issued a notice concerning Leonardo Boff's "ecclesiology of relativism" (2005, p. 145). Boff denied that the historical Jesus' thought about or founded a Church. There was no "catholic" Church but merely various local Churches. Although some modern scholars have taken this misguided view, the fact that Jesus gathered and group of Apostles and consciously gave them a mission to fulfill in his absence, makes such thinking fruitless to anyone who accepts the historical reliability of the New Testament.

In reference to the passage cited from Lumen Gentium 8, Vatican II changed the earlier formula of Pius XII's Mystici Corporis Christi: "The Catholic Church is (est) the one Mystical Body of Christ." Cardinal Ratzinger comments on the distinction between subsistit and est:

The term subsistit derives from the classical philosophy, as it was further developed in Scholasticism. The Greek word corresponding to it is hypostatis, which plays a central role in Christology, for describing the unity between divine nature and human in the Person of Christ. Subsistere is a special variant of esse. It is "being" in the form of an independent agent. That is exactly what the Council is trying to tell us here. The Council is trying to tell us that the Church of Jesus Christ may be encountered in this world as a concrete agent in the Catholic Church. p. 147

The Universal Call to Holiness

Chapter 5 contains four sections (LG 39-42), including a preamble and three paragraphs, and is the shortest chapter of the constitution. This does not indicate that it is not important; on the contrary, it has a central place because it recalls the principal teachings. (de La Soujeole, p. 40)

The placement of this chapter five in Lumen Gentium is interesting. The Constitution begins with a chapter on the Mystery of Church. The word mystery echos Ephesians 1:9 in the Pauline corpus. The Greek term mysterium is equivalent to the Latin sacramentum. The Fathers of the council tell us, "The Church exists in Christ as a sacrament or instrumental sign of intimate union with God" (LG 1). Having shown the oneness of the Church in Christ the next chapter as the Chapter highlights the catholic nature of the Church. The Church is the People of God, and beginning with Adam and Eve the story of God's salvation history unfolds. God chose Israel to be his special people and now through Christ we too have been "grafted in" to God's People (Romans 11:17). By virtue of our union with Christ all of the faithful share in His priestly and prophetic ministry (LG 10, 12) and share in the missionary character of the Church (LG 17). Chapter three discusses the hierarchical nature of the Church and the episcopate, chapter four is on the laity, chapter five is on the universal call to holiness and chapter six is on the religious state. Chapter six on the religious state explicitly states that the council fathers did not want to describe the religious as an intermediate condition between the clerical and the lay, so they placed it after chapter five. The way in which the chapters are organized underscores the nature of the Church as one, catholic and apostolic before discussing its inherent holiness
(see the chart below). While the faithful of the Church may enjoy many callings the vocation to holiness is universal. The council father's note; "Though there are different ways of life and different duties, it is the same holiness which is cultivated by all who are led by God's Spirit. . ." LG 41.

The Church As a Living Organism*

*adapted with changes from Benoît-Dominique de La Soujeole, O.P.


1.The mystery of the Church

(permanent identity) 

One and unique

Nature of the Church 

2.The People of God

(The mystery in history) 


3.The hierarchical structure of the Church

(the mediation between Christ and the Faithful) 


Edification of the Church 

4.The Laity

(receivers of Apostolic mediation and mission)

5. The universal call to holiness in the Church 


Vocation of the Church 

6. Religious 

7. Eschatological nature of the pilgrim Church and its union with the Church in heaven 

Realization of the Church 

8. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and the Church


The preamble begins by restating that the Church is a mystery and that consequently only faith can grasp its profound identity. The particular issue to believe here is the holiness of the Church, which comes from its union with the only Holy One, Christ Jesus. This holiness is not, however, given and definitive; rather, it calls for the holiness of each member of the community, which is their sole purpose. (de La Soujeole, p. 40) What about the contradiction, the Church is holy, but its members are sinners? Fr. de La Soujeole notes; "It is necessary to distinguish the sancta (i.e., the Church's holy and sanctifying realities: the truth of the Gospel and the authentic sacraments) and the sancti (i.e., the people who receive the sanctifying realities)." p. 41. Fr. de La Soujeole notes;

Thus in remaining faithfully connected to the sources of grace--the Gospel and the authentic sacraments--holiness, as a gift of God, begets holiness when accepted, as the human vocation, which is progressively realized (p. 41).

We can define holiness as the assimilation to Christ and the Gospel's penetration of all aspects of life (p. 41).What about the ways and means of holiness? Lumen Gentium does not give a specific plan but emphasizes the sacraments, the Word of God, prayer, asceticism and sacrifices. Through the practice of virtue the lay faithful should imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values; they will better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God" (LG 36). Even daily work "should climb to the heights of holiness and apostolic activity" (LG 41). Later in the Second Vatican Council Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity the council Fathers note;

"The laity should vivify their life with charity and express it as best they can in their works. They should all remember that they can reach all men and contribute to the salvation of the whole world by public worship and prayer as well as by penance and voluntary acceptance of the labors and hardships of life whereby they become like the suffering Christ." (Apostolicam actuositatem, 16)


de La Soujeole, Benoît-Dominique O.P. "The universal Call to Holiness" in Matthew L. Lamb and Matthew Levering, eds. Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal "The Ecclesiology of the Constitution Lumen Gentium", in Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion. Trans. Henry Taylor (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2005) pp. 123-152.


Gospel Commentary Fifth Sunday of Lent (preview)

Each of our Gospel accounts gives us a unique picture of Jesus' life and ministry. John's Gospel tells us about a number of journeys Jesus made back and forth between Jerusalem and Galilee. Much of St. John's narrative recounts events which take place near Jerusalem. The Gospel also mentions three separate Passovers (John 2, 6, and 12) and this is how we know Jesus' public ministry lasted three years.

Even though the Gospel covers three years of Jesus' life it does not cover them equally. The first long section of John's Gospel (1:19-12:50), which scholars sometimes call the book of signs, covers almost three years. Chapter 12 begins with the six days prior to the final Passover. The next long section from 13:1-20:29 recounts in slow detail Jesus' final night with his disciples and then his passion, death and resurrection. The narrative slows from covering three years of time, to a single night, until finally it recounts the long awaited 'hour' when the Son of Man will be glorified. St. John highlights the climax of Jesus' ministry, the 'hour' of his glorification in the final chapters of his narrative. The 'hour' of Jesus' glorification means his passion, death and resurrection.

The notion of Jesus' glorification is an echo of a passage from Isaiah 53:13 "Behold my servant shall prosper: he shall be lifted up and glorified exceedingly." Jesus identifies himself with the Suffering Servant Songs of Isaiah. Jesus has already made reference to being lifted up earlier in John's Gospel, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up (John 3:14, cf. 8:28). Jesus points to the same idea in the climax of his speech in this Sunday's Gospel, "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32).

Jesus leaves no doubt concerning his mission; "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (John 12:24). Jesus will freely offer his suffering and death as an act of obedience which will substitute for our disobedience. We must follow Christ and like him we must also become a servant. Jesus says, "Where I am, there my servant we be also" (John 12:26). The cost of discipleship is great.

In the anguish of his sacred humanity Jesus cries out, "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour" (12:27-28). The use of 'now' links Jesus anguish to the 'hour' he just mentioned (v. 23). This incident is followed by a miraculous voice from heaven. In the other Gospel accounts we have already seen a voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism and at the transfiguration. The reference to thunder reminds us of Psalm 81:7, "In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder." Even this miraculous revelation, can only be understood through faith in Jesus. The crowd offers various interpretations of the heavenly voice but fails to understand its meaning (cf. 12:37-42).

Jesus makes a clear parallel between the grain of wheat that "falls into the earth and dies" and the Son of Man who is "lifted up from the earth" to draw all men to himself. Discipleship involves becoming one with the Master. St. Paul uses this idea to demonstrate the essential key to our unity with Christ. Referring to our baptism, St. Paul writes, "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). Through baptism we have been joined to Christ. St. Paul makes the same point in Galatians 3:27. He writes, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." We have been incorporated into Christ by means of baptism and the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

St. Augustine comments on the deeper significance of our oneness or communion with Christ in his commentary on Psalm 26. He notes that the practice of anointing in the Old Testament was normally reserved for either the king or the priest. But Christ now holds both offices as both Priest and King in virtue of his anointing or literally being the Messiah or Anointed One. Speaking of Christ, St. Augustine observes, "But not only was our Head anointed; but his body was too, we ourselves. . . . From this it is obvious that we are the body of Christ, being all anointed. In him all of us belong to Christ, but we are Christ too, because in some sense the whole Christ is Head and body" (Exposition 2 of Psalm 26). St. Augustine has perfectly captured the emphasis St. Paul is helping us to understand. We not only become like Christ in Baptism but we actually become a New Creation which is joined to the New Adam—Christ Jesus. This is not a mere exterior conformity but an interior transformation which results in us in a sense becoming Christ himself.

In a more direct way a priest is referred to as an alter Christus, other Christ, or ipse Christus, Christ himself, but St. Paul is saying that all the faithful share in this unity but not in the special powers or munera of the priest. Again St. Augustine notes in his City of God, "all who have been anointed by his chrism we can rightly call christs and yet there is one Christ: the whole body with its Head" (City of God XVII, 4). The Catechism reminds us that, "The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, 'each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ'" (CCC 1547).

By means of our incorporation into Christ through baptism we all share in a common vocation to holiness and apostolate to the world. We are called to literally be Christ to our neighbors and to be transformed into a new creation in Christ. As St. Paul says in Second Corinthians, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Holy Mary, Virgin Most Faithful, Queen of Apostles, pray for us this Lent.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Themes in Lumen Gentium: Part 1

Joseph Ratzinger, Autumn of 1964



While still a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger complained that instead of viewing the Constitution on the Church in its broad theological context, "people have pounced upon individual phrases and slogans and have thus fallen short of the great overall perspectives of the Council Fathers." (Ecclesiology of the Constitution Lumen Gentium, p. 125-126). The Constitution on the Church deliberately follows the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy. "The Church derives from adoration, from the task of glorifying God. Ecclesiology, of its nature, has to do with Liturgy" (p. 126) In the following section I will examn a number of the themes in the Constitution on the Church.


The Church as Sacrament

The first Chapter of the Constitution deals with the mystery of the Church. The Pauline term mysterium is equivalent to the Latin equivalent sacramentum. Dulles notes, "For Vatican II, the idea of the Church as sacrament is of foundational importance. Four times in Lumen gentium (LG I, 9, 48, 59) and six times in other documents (SC 5 and 26; GS 42 and 45, AG I and 5) it so designates the Church. A sacrament is a symbolic expression of the great mystery of grace and salvation centered in Jesus Christ. For the New Testament and the fathers, Christ is the great sacrament or mystery of salvation, but Christ is not complete without the Church, which is his visible and effective presence on earth" (p. 26-27). The theology of the Church as a sacrament has roots in St. Augustine and was likely brought to the Constitution by the German bishops. Some modern scholars have introduced a false notion of the Church as a Sacrament by making a false distinction between the Church as "a mere sign (sacramentum) that points to the reality of salvation" as opposed to the Kingdom of God (res sacramenti). Controversial Catholic scholar, Richard McBrien took the position that while all are called to the Kingdom, only some are called to the Church. Cardinal Dulles points out, "According to the council, the Church and the Kingdom, without being in all respects identical, are intimately conjoined. The Church is "the Kingdom of Christ now present in mystery" (LG 3). In proclaiming and extending the Kingdom, the Church "becomes on earth the initial budding forth of that Kingdom" (LG 5)." (p. 29).


The People of God

The image of the People of God is a distinctive emphasis in Lumen Gentium. Following certain Protestant exegetes this image popularizes popularized "the idea of the Church as the pilgrim People of God still en route to its eschatological destiny" (Dulles, p. 30) This is a biblical image which emphasizes the humanness and humility of the Church against triumphalism. The image has less merit in the Bible and Church Fathers than some suppose. Ratzinger points out, in some detail, that the term could be used to express the unity of the history or salvation that comprehended both Israel and the Church. ("The Ecclesiology of Second Vatican Council", p. 17) The Term is not used in the New Testament except in reference to the Israel. He notes that "Christians can only be the people of God through inclusion in Christ, the son of God and the son of Abraham" (p. 19). Christology must remain at the center and the Church becomes the People of God through the sacraments, hence the notion of the Church as a sacrament. "One only remains faithful to the Council if one always takes and reflects on these two core terms of its ecclesiology together" (p. 19). Did the council intend to elevate the role of the laity by placing this section first before the section on the hierarchy? "It is therefore absurd when from the fact that the chapter on the people of God precedes that on the hierarchy people want to deduce a different conception of the hierarchy and of the laity, as if in fact all the baptized already bore within themselves the powers conferred by ordination and hierarchy were merely a matter of good order" (p. 19). We must remember that as a young theologian, Joseph Ratzinger was at the council.


Communion (communio)

Although the term "communion" does not occupy a central place in the council, the extra ordinary synod of 1985 chose the idea of communion-ecclesiology, correctly understood, as a way of synthesizing the essential elements of the conciliar ecclesiology. (Ratzinger, 2005,p. 130-131) "All the essential element of the Christian concept of "communion" are to be found together in that significant sentence from 1 John 1:3:"that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." RSV

"Fellowship with God is mediated by fellowship of God with man, which is Christ in person; the encounter with Christ brings about fellowship with him and, thus, with the Father in the Holy Spirit; on this basis it unites men with one another. All this is directed towards perfect joy: the Church bears within herself an eschatological impulse" (Ratzinger, p. 130). He continues "the Term "communion" thus has, on the basis of this central biblical meaning, a theological and Christological character, on associated with the history of salvation and also ecclesiology. Thereby it carries within it the sacramental dimension; which appears quite explicitly in the writings of Paul:


16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.


"'Communion' ecclesiology is in its inmost nature a Eucharistic ecclesiology" (Ratzinger, p. 131). The idea of communion is concrete yet spiritual, and both transcendent and eschatological. Later misunderstandings of communion, however, "reduced to the theme of the relationship between the local Church and the Church as a whole" and questions of authority (Ratzinger, p. 132). Eventually the Church had to issue a correction, "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Aspects of the Church as Communion" (1992)



Congar, Yves M. J. Lay People in the Church: A study for a Theology of Laity Trans. Donald Attwater (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1959).

Dulles, Avery Cardinal "Nature, Mission, and Structure of the Church" in Matthew L. Lamb and Matthew Levering, eds. Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Gaillardetz, Richard R. The Church in the Making: Lumen Gentium, Christus Dominus, Orientalium Ecclesiarum (New York: Paulist Press, 2006) [This work is highly unreliable and contradicts the CDF on several points]

Kloppenburg, Bonaventure The Ecclesiology of Vatican II. Trans. Matthew J. O'Connell (Chicago: Franciscan Herald, 1974)

Komonchak, Joseph "Toward an Ecclesiology of Communion" in History of Vatican II ed. Giuseppe Alberigo: English version edited by Joseph A. Komonchak. Vol. VI, The Church as Communion.

de La Soujeole, Benoît-Dominique O.P. "The universal Call to Holiness" in Matthew L. Lamb and Matthew Levering, eds. Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Philips, Gérard "History of the Constitution" in Herbert Vorgrimler, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Vol 1,(New York: Crossroad, 1989, reprint original 1967) p 105-137.

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal "The Ecclesiology of the Constitution Lumen Gentium", in Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion. Trans. Henry Taylor (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2005) pp. 123-152.

_______, "The Ecclesiology of Second Vatican Council" in Church, Ecumenism and Politics Trans. Robert Nowell, (New York, St Paul, 1988) p.3-28

Constitution on the Church

The History of the Schema

For the Constitution on the Church

The Latin title of the Vatican II constitution on the Church is known by its first words, "Lumen Gentium," or the "Light of the Nations." It is Jesus who is the Light of the Nations and the Church shares in this mission through its incorporation into him. As I pointed out in a previous blog, any attempt by the council to modernize or renew the Church was based a rediscovery or resourcement of the Church's past. The new is connected to an organic growth in Tradition. As Cardinal Dulles points out, "Every renewal of the Church," for the council, "essentially consists in an increase of fidelity to her own calling" (UR 6). (Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition, p. 26).

The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War had prevented Vatican I from debating its planned constitution on the church. Only the constitutions on the Catholic faith (Dei Filius) and a second on the papacy (Pastor Aeternus) were promulgated at Vatican I. A preparatory schema for the constitution was prepared entitled De Ecclesia, which had eleven chapters.

Chapter 1: The Nature of the Church Militant

Chapter 2: Church Membership and Necessity of Church for Salvation

Chapter 3: The Episcopate as Highest Grade of Holy Orders; The Presbyterate

Chapter 4: Residential Bishops

Chapter 5: The States of Evangelical Perfection

Chapter 6: The Laity

Chapter 7: The Teaching Office (Magisterium) of the Church

Chapter 8: Authority and Obedience in the Church

Chapter 9: Church State Relations and Religious Tolerance

Chapter 10: The Necessity of Proclaiming the Gospel to All Peoples of the World

Chapter 11: Ecumenism

Its teaching was a blend of the teaching of Pope Pius XII in his encyclicals, Mystici Corporis and Humani Generis and the neo-scholastic ecclesiology of the Roman seminaries. This schema was not well received and a sub-commission was set up comprised of some of bishops and periti (experts) to rework the text. A number of alternate texts had already been written, and the subcommittee chose to follow the proposed text of the Belgian peritus Gérard Philips. The title of the first chapter changed in the second draft of the Schema. Philips recalls the title shifted from , "the nature of the Church militant" to the Pauline term mysterium with its Latin equivalent sacramentum. ("History of the Constitution," p. 111)

Another critical development occurred under the influence of the Belgian Cardinal Suenens, and the Commission for the Lay Apostolate. Borrowing from a distinction in Trinitarian theology, the actions of the Church were described as ad intra, and ad extra. The current schema, De Ecclesia, was concerned with the works within the Church, while the Theological Commission was asked to create a second schema concerning the ad extra works of the Church.

The Second schema comprised of four chapters:

Chapter 1: The Mystery of the Church

Chapter 2: The Hierarchical Constitution of the Church and the Episcopate in Particular

Chapter 3: The People of God and the Laity in Particular

Chapter 4: The Call to Holiness in the Church

There was an immediate proposal to split chapter 3 into the People of God and the Laity and to make the section on the People of God the second Chapter which after some debate was eventually followed as the proposal incorporate a section on Mary into the schema as a sixth chapter. Under the direction of Pope Paul VI a series of "straw" votes were held to pole the bishops on some controversial issues such as collegiality and the nature of the Bishops authority. At the end of the second session the evolving schema now was comprised of six chapters:

Chapter 1: The Mystery of the Church

Chapter 2: The People of God

Chapter 3: The Hierarchical Constitution of the Church and the Episcopate in Particular

Chapter 4: The Laity

Chapter 5: The Universal Call to Holiness

Chapter 6: The Role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church

Further revision of the schema was made during the 1964 intersession. Chapter five on holiness was separated into two chapters, one chapter on the universal call to holiness and a second chapter on professed religious life. The completed schema on the church was sent to the council fathers on July 3, 1964, by Pope Paul VI and with very slight revisions resulted it the following;

Chapter 1: The Mystery of the Church

Chapter 2: The People of God

Chapter 3: The Hierarchical Constitution of the Church and the Episcopate in Particular

Chapter 4: The Laity

Chapter 5: The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church

Chapter 6: Religious

Chapter 7: The Eschatological Nature of the Pilgrim Church

and Its Union with the Heavenly Church

Chapter 8: The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church

Friday, March 6, 2009

Saint Paul and the Universal Call to Holiness

By Scott McKellar
A talk give at the
Co-Workers of the Gospel
Celebrating the Year of St. Paul
Sponsored by

Third Sunday of Lent

St John records the following scene in this Sunday's Gospel,

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there.

Jerusalem by all appearance was a small provincial city in the Judean hills. It was geographically isolated and not on the main trade routes. It had only one natural resource and that was stone. Olive trees grew well in the soil there but not in sufficient quantities to be a major export. The expectations for such a city did not match the reality. Jerusalem was in fact the unrivaled center of Judea and the entire Jewish nation. Even the Gentile historian Pliny the Elder, describes Jerusalem "as by far the most distinguished city not of Judea only, but of the whole Orient" (Natural History, 5.14). The explanation for its importance was the Jewish Temple and the pilgrimages that took place there during the Passover, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Booths. Herod has just renovated the temple using 10,000 lay workers and 1,000 specially trained priests. The Herodian Temple was widely considered one of the most impressive shrines in the ancient world.

The estimated population of Jerusalem varies between 50,000 and 100,000 people within the walls but this population doubled during the festivals. All Jewish people were encouraged to journey on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for these feasts, but due to the cost, many only came once per year or in some cases once in a life time. Every Jew was obliged to pay a half-shekel tax, and pilgrims would bring this tax for themselves and all their kinsmen. The need for animals, food and wine for temple sacrifices generated a great deal of commercial activity around the temple. Historians estimate that some 18,000 priests and Levites had to be supported each year. A huge catering, hospitality and tourist industry existed to care for the pilgrims.

The response of Jesus to this scene is surprising;

He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.

Jesus reacts to seeing the temple used as a place of commerce rather than a place of worship. His actions appear somewhat irascible, but they have clear prophetic significance in light of the Old Testament traditions. Jesus use of the term "my Father's house" is interpreted in light of Psalm 69:10 "Because zeal for your house consumes me, I am scorned by those who scorn you." St. Paul comments on the same verse, "For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, 'The insults of those who insult you fall upon me'" (Romans 15:3). In the Greek translation of the Psalms we find another parallel in Psalm 119:139 which reads, "Zeal for your house wasted me because your enemies forgot your words."

In the first century there were Jewish expectations that the coming Messiah would purge the temple and reconstitute it. Various collections of psalms highlight King David as a type of the coming Messiah who would be a righteous sufferer. Collections of passages like these were used by the early Christians to show that Jesus was the Messiah. Later in John 19:24, St. John quotes Psalm 22 which is a virtual prophetic passion narrative. In Luke 22:37 Jesus identifies himself with as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 42-53.

The Suffering Servant Poems of Isaiah show a progression. In the he First Poem (Isa 42:1-7) the Servant is the chosen one of God, in whom God takes delight (cf. Matthew 3:17; 17:5). He is a suffering meek prophet bringing holiness to all nations. In the Second Poem (Isa 49:1-9) the Servant speaks in the first person. He identifies with all people (v. 3) and gathers the people. In the Third Poem (Isa 50:4-9) we see the persecution and opposition the Servant will receive. Finally in the Fourth Poem (Isa 52:13-53:12) we see an impressive prophecy of the passion and death of Christ.

Jesus did not fulfill directly the earthly expectations of first century Judaism. The Temple of Herod was destroyed in 70 A.D. and the Church itself is seen as the household of God built on the foundation of the Apostles as "a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:21) which points to God's presence in his heavenly "Temple" awaiting the consummation of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 3:12; 7:15; 11:1, 2, 19). Yet at the end of St. John's Revelation, he notes "And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb" (Revelation 21:22).

This is precisely Jesus' point in the close of our Gospel passage,

"Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he spoke of the temple of his body. (John 2:19-21).

The temple worship of the old covenant has been replaced with new covenant in the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are joined to Him through baptism and especially through the Eucharist. We see the implication of this new form of worship in the words of St. Paul,

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 21:1-2).

Let us prepare ourselves this Lent to more worthily offer our bodies as living sacrifices, through prayer, alms and fasting. Let us especially strive to deepen our love for the Eucharist. Let us ask for the help of Our Blessed Mother who says to us, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5).


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Correct Hermeneutic (Interpretation) of the Council


The Church has always known the rules for a correct hermeneutic of the contents of dogma. They are rules inscribed within the texture of faith and not outside it. To read the council supposing that it involves a rupture with the past-whereas in reality it situates itself in the line of the abiding faith-is decisively misleading. That which has been believed 'by all, always, and in every place' is the authentic newness that permits every epoch to feel itself enlightened by the word of God's revelation in Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II, 2000[1]

Avery Cardinal Dulles has written an essay on the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium (On the Church) in a new anthology edited by Matthew L. Lamb and Matthew Levering and entitled, Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition. I highly recommend this work. Cardinal Dulles comments on popular views of the Council and make the following comparisons which popularize a radical interpretation of the Council's impact on Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the Church). The following chart is adapted from his essay, (p. 25).


Before the Council

After the Council

The Church is regarded as an institution founded by Christ with definite and immutable structures.

The Church as a pilgrim community constantly restructuring itself to suit the times.

The Church is regarded as necessary for salvation.

The Church is regarded as one of many places in which people could live a life of grace.

The Catholic Church saw herself as the sole legitimate Church.

The Church is regarded herself as one of many realizations of the Church of Christ, all imperfect.

The Church is saw herself as a divinely instituted monarchy in which all authority descended from the pope.

The Church is regarded as the People of God that governed itself through consensus.


Cardinal Dulles maintains; "All of these generalizations, I maintain, are false. They overlook the nuances both in the preconciliar period and in Vatican II." (p.25)

He notes, "Any aggiornamento that was accomplished was intrinsically connected with the principal of resourcement. "Every renewal of the Church," for the council, "essentially consists in an increase of fidelity to her own calling" (UR 6). (p. 26). In 1985 Pope John Paul II convened an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishop because he was concerned about misinterpretations of Vatican II. The final report of the Synod taught that the teachings of the council should be interpreted "in continuity with the great tradition of the Church" and which includes previous councils and popes. (p. 26)


[1]From an address in Italian John Paul II, "Udienza al convegno internazionale di studio," in Il Concilio Vaticano II: Recezione e attualita, ed. Rino Fisichella (Rome: San Paolo, 2000), 739, a quoted in Dulles, p. 26.


Dulles, Avery Cardinal "Nature, Mission, and Structure of the Church" in Matthew L. Lamb and Matthew Levering, eds. Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).


Monday, March 2, 2009

Miss Manners in the Pew

What is the correct liturgical action to perform before the exposed Blessed Sacrament? Most would probably say we should genuflect on both knees and bow. This is the traditional action required by the old (now extraordinary rite). It seems also to be fairly common practice in KCMO. The new Roman Ritual (ET Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990) Vol. 1 p. 671, however, notes under the heading Exposition of the Holy Eucharist,

II. Regulations for Exposition

84.    Genuflection in the presence of the blessed sacrament, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for public adoration, is on one knee.

I have no problem with people still following the old rite, but given that the new rite says "on one knee" I don't think we should teach people to see genuflecting on one knee as bad liturgical manners. It is actually the correct form.