Legacy of a Visionary: The Life of Pope John XXIII (Part II)

The following is a guest post by Brian W. Geary. The first part of this article can be found here.

Part II: “Obedience and Peace” (1958 – 1963)

Pope John XXIII wave

Obedience and peace. This phrase, while so simple, so brilliantly captures the essence of Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, “The Good Pope.” From a small mountain town, to Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, France, and Venice, Roncalli was driven by a love of service to the people of God, in humble accordance with the promise of obedience he took upon is ordination in 1904. The path wasn’t clear, but Roncalli’s trust in God was, and it was this trust and obedience that must have weighed on his heart in the Conclave of 1958.

It was a rather long conclave (by modern standards). By the end of day three, only black smoke had appeared from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel (admittedly, white smoke did appear for about five minutes, but then turned black again). By the beginning of day four, the smoke was white. A pope had been elected. Inside the Sistine Chapel, the Dean of the College of Cardinals approached the newly elected candidate.

“Do you accept the election, canonically made, of yourself as pontiff?”

The words of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, written on a sheet of paper composed the previous night and during his lunch hour, are worth recounting here: “At the sound of your voice, I am made to tremble, and I fear. For what I know well of my poverty and insignificance is enough to bring me to confusion. But seeing the votes of my brothers…I bow my head and my back to the chalice of bitterness and to the yoke of the cross.”

“What do you wish to be called?”

“I wish to be called John. This name is sweet to us because it is the name of our father. It is sweet to us because it is the name of the humble parish church in which we were baptized; it is the name of innumerable cathedrals scattered throughout the world and first of all the sacred Lateran Basilica, our cathedral….But we love the name John so dear to us and to all the church, particularly because it was borne by two men who were closest to Christ the Lord, the divine Redeemer of all the world and Founder of the Church; John the Baptist…and John the disciple and Evangelist…May God dispose that both of these Johns shall plead in all the church for our most humble and pastoral ministry.”

The new pope was then taken to the traditional “room of tears” to don his new white vestments. Not present during the voting, John’s two assistants were allowed in to see him. In typical Roncalli wit, Pope John looked at them and said, “Well, you see what has happened to me.”

Those familiar with the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis in 2013 will remember the frenzy of activity and media speculation in the following days and weeks. So it was with Pope John XXIII in the fall of 1958. He had chosen a name not used since the fourteenth century (the last person to use it was the Antipope John XXIII). From the beginning he was different, and it was clear this would be a different type of papacy. I think Lawrence Elliott describes one such episode at the beginning of his pontificate the best:

[The official Vatican newspaper] flowered its every reference to the pope with such phrases as “The Illuminated Holy Father” and “The Highest Pontiff,” and prefaced accounts of his public statements with the likes of, “The chosen one, in his inspired and sublime discourse…” [The Pope] wished for an end to inflated and convoluted terminology.

“It’s the twentieth century. Let us have a style that suits the times. Wouldn’t it be better simply to write, ‘the pope said this,’ or ‘the pope did that.’?”
The stricken look on [the editor’s] face impelled John to soften his words. “I myself would prefer it,” he said gently. And, at the other’s final wince of pain, hastily corrected himself: “We would prefer it.” (256)

The papal use of the royal “we” would eventually be done away with by Pope John Paul I in 1978, but it’s clear that John had a different vision for the papacy. According to tradition, popes usually took their meals alone. After enduring several weeks of this, he remarked that he felt “like a seminarian under punishment” and did away with that. In another long-standing tradition (no pun intended), it was dictated everyone kneel when in the presence of the pope. After seeing an aide genuflect out of respect for him multiple times a day, John finally asked, “Don’t you think I believed you the first time?” He even threatened to walk out on an interview if the interviewer didn’t conduct the interview sitting in a chair, rather than on his knees. The first time he sat on his golden throne chair, the Seda Gestatoria, carried high above the crowds in public events, he sadly noted, “It’s windy up here.” He would later joke to the eight carriers of the chair that they should be paid extra, because he weighed so much more than his predecessor.

Soon, he made unannounced trips outside of the Vatican, showing up in unexpected places, and surprising the citizens of Rome from his car. He planned to make visits to every parish in his new Roman diocese. No doubt those who remember the election of Pope Francis will also remember the media frenzy he sparked after choosing to wear his own black shoes, instead of the traditional red. In 1958, every pope in recent memory had worn a set of red velvet slippers. Because of all his traveling, John broke with years of tradition, and had a new set of sturdy red walking shoes made. One gets the feeling he wouldn’t have gotten too worked up over Pope Francis’s choice of footwear.

John XXIII wasn’t one to accept what some had referred to as the “passive papal lifestyle.” Unlike Pius XII, who lived by a strict schedule, John wasn’t about to follow suit. His advisors put up a fuss about his unscheduled walks in the Vatican gardens, saying that they would not have enough time to close the cupola balcony on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, adding with a look of horror that all the tourists might see him. John, with his characteristic good humor, promised he wouldn’t do anything to scandalize them.

So then, it also came as a surprise that only three months into his papacy, Pope John called for an ecumenical council, soon to be known as Vatican II, to “let some fresh air in here,” throwing open his study windows one afternoon. For a man who spent his life in dialogue with the world, with the geographical and intellectual fringes of Christianity, standing by the pillar of truth in a world threatened by secularism, an “open-forum” council was his way of preparing the Church to reach out to the modern world. He was a man of peace to his core, and his landmark encyclical, “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth), written in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, would pave the way for ideological dialogue for years to come. A young Polish priest named Fr. Karol Wojtyla would take this text to heart, and later carry on John XXIII’s commitment to peace and dialogue in the spirit of Vatican II as Pope John Paul II.

Pope John opened the council on October 11, 1962, and the Church would never be same. Sadly he never saw the council closed, and it was up to Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to close it and struggle through its implementation. Shortly before the council opened, John was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer. The disease began to take its toll during the early part of 1963, and he began to suffer from internal bleeding. He spent his last days surrounded by doctors, aides, and friends. As his condition became serious, the pope was confined to his bed, moving in and out of consciousness. A vigil was held in the square outside of the Papal Apartments, and an outdoor Mass for the ailing pope was planned on June 3rd. Pope John XXIII took his last breath as the mass outside concluded with the words, “Go, the mass is ended.”

Coda: The Third Millennium

The body of Pope John XXIII was entombed in the grottoes beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. He was viewed as a father to millions, and an inspiration to an entire generation of Catholics. His body, discovered to be incorrupt, was later moved beneath the altar of St. Jerome in St. Peter’s, and can now be viewed by the faithful. Coincidentally, when he passed away in 2005, the body of John Paul II was laid to rest in the same alcove where Pope John’s tomb once stood. John Paul worked closely with him as a bishop at the Second Vatican Council, and in 2000 he beatified the man he viewed as a father of faith:

How many people were won over by his simplicity of heart, combined with a broad experience of people and things! The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and to the powerful of the world. It was in this spirit that he called the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, thereby turning a new page in the Church’s history: Christians heard themselves called to proclaim the Gospel with renewed courage and greater attentiveness to the “signs” of the times. The Council was a truly prophetic insight of this elderly Pontiff who, even amid many difficulties, opened a season of hope for Christians and for humanity.

Two years later, the mission of Pope John XXIII came full circle, when John Paul made a visit to Bulgaria in the footsteps of his predecessor, presenting Bulgarian Catholics with a relic of their beloved Ambassador/Archbishop/Pope. Exactly fourteen years after his beatification, a group of pilgrims from Pope John’s home diocese of Bergamo gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica with his successor Francis. The two successors of Peter were already being compared for their warmth and humility. Perhaps the words of Pope Francis, the man who cleared the way for John XXIII’s canonization by bypassing the need for a second miracle, summarizes the life of “the Good Pope” best:

Exactly 50 years ago, at this very time, Blessed John XXIII departed this world. Those who, like myself, have reached a certain age have vivid memories of the emotion that spread everywhere in those days. St Peter’s Square had become an open-air shrine, welcoming by day and by night faithful of all ages and social backgrounds, fearful and praying for the Pope’s health. The whole world had recognized Pope John as a pastor and father; a pastor because he was a father. What had made him one? How had he been able to reach the heart of people so different from each other and even many non-Christians? To answer this question we may refer to his episcopal motto, Obedientia et Pax: obedience and peace. “These words”, Mons. Roncalli noted on the eve of his episcopal ordination, “in a certain way sum up my story and my life”. Obedience and peace.

So, maybe like me, you’ll be awake at three in the morning on Sunday to watch Pope Francis (and maybe even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) canonize John XXIII and John Paul II, two men who radically engaged the world, for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, in a new way, ready to bring the light of Jesus Christ to the farthest reaches of the earth. Maybe you’ll watch it on a replay later in the day. That’s cool too. May we learn to look to both of these men as spiritual fathers, as guides, and as intercessors. As we watch these two men elevated to the rank of Saint, let us remember their legacies, so providentially intertwined, and remember the path they laid for us, and for the church in the Third Millennium.

“Finally, may Christ inflame the desires of all men to break through the barriers which divide them, to strengthen the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another, and to pardon those who have done them wrong. Through His power and inspiration may all peoples welcome each other to their hearts as brothers, and may the peace they long for ever flower and ever reign among them.”
- Pope Bl. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris

Popes John XXIII & John Paul II, PRAY FOR US!

Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII

Bibliography:
Elliott, Lawrence. I Will Be Called John: A Biography of Pope John XXIII. New York: Readers Digest Press/E.P Dutton, 1973. Print.
Francis. Address to a group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Bergamo. 3 June 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2014
John Paul II. Homily for the beatification of five servants of God. 3 Sept. 2000. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.
John XXIII. Journal of a Soul. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965. Print.
John XXIII. Encyclical Letter Pacem in terris: Peace on Earth. 11 Apr. 1963. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.
Tobin, Greg. The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church – The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II. New York: HarperOne, 2012.
Weigel, George. The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II – The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy. New York: Image, 2010. Print.
Weigel, George. Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. Print.

About the author:
Brian Geary graduated from the University of Illinois in 2013 with a Bachelor’s of Music Education degree. During his time at Illinois, Brian was involved in the Marching Illini, as well as several choirs at St. John’s Newman Center. He was an active student leader for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, as well as a retreat leader. He has a special interest in the history of the Catholic Church and the Papacy.

Legacy of a Visionary: The Life of Pope John XXIII (Part I)

The following is a guest post by Brian W. Geary

Part I: Sotto il Monte (1881-1958)

Pope John XXIII

Pope John XXIII

Not too long from now, on April 27th, the Catholic Church is going to do one of the things it does best: throw a big party! The occasion? Two popes, arguably two of the most influential in the history of the church (and that’s saying a lot) will be elevated to Sainthood. It’s Catholicism’s way of saying they made our All-Star team.

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you probably know who they are….Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) and Pope John XXIII (1958-1963). Perhaps you’re like me, and grew up in the waning years of John Paul II’s life. I can recall news reports of him waving before enormous crowds, with that huge Polish grin on his face. I remember the love he exuded wherever he set foot. Perhaps you also remember the news reports as his health began to deteriorate, and perhaps you even remember turning on the TV as I did, to learn that he had “gone to the house of his father.” One thing is certain: he electrified a generation, and if you grew up in the 90’s like I did, some would even say you were born in the tail-end of what’s now being called the “John Paul II” generation.

Well, almost ten years have passed since his death, and his face is once again all over the news, as the Church prepares for his canonization. And we should be excited! Yet, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the man who’s being canonized with him, remaining in relative obscurity in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. In fact, the Church owes an incredible debt to the man we know as Pope John XXIII. He’s been revered since his death in 1963, so much so that two of his successors (John Paul I & John Paul II) even chose to honor him when choosing their own papal names. Yet, among younger generations, his name has gotten lost. So who is John XIII, and why is he so important for us today?

When compared to the story of any other famous figure who rose “from humble beginnings,” Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli’s story could almost write itself. He was born in the shadow of the Alps, in the small, out-of-the-way town of Sotto il Monte (literally, “Under the Mountain”) in northern Italy. His family was poor, and his birth in 1881 bumped the number of family members living in their small house to thirty-two. He would eventually have nine more siblings. They were a family of pious Catholic farmers, and it really wasn’t any surprise young Angelo felt the call to the Priesthood at an early age, eventually being ordained in August of 1904. His priesthood was interrupted by a stint of military service in the First World War, and like so many other young men experimenting with their new-found facial hair, grew a mustache. He’d later describe it as a “weak moment on my part.”

Young Fr. Roncalli (Pope John XXIII)

Following the war, Roncalli became a lecturer at the local seminary, and even taught for a bit in Rome. In 1925, Pope Pius XI appointed him ambassador to Bulgaria. The appointment came out of left field, and some have speculated it was due to suspicions that Roncalli was a “modernist” (a rather vague term that grouped together proponents of a rising tide of new and possibly unorthodox ideologies), after maintaining correspondence with a friend and excommunicated priest. After he was elected pope, he settled the question once and for all and asked to see his official Vatican file. Sure enough, written next to his name were the words “Suspected of Modernism.” In anger, and yet with a twinge of wit, he took a pen and wrote on the file, “I, John XXIII, Pope, declare that I was never a Modernist!”

And so, consecrated a bishop, Roncalli ventured to Bulgaria – an Orthodox country with no real Catholic heritage, with little diplomatic experience, where the title of “Archbishop” didn’t carry much weight. And yet, it was this experience that would help pave the way for the Church in the twentieth century, and indeed, Vatican II. Let’s look at a quote from his Journal: “May my ministry be one of reconciliation ‘in word and deeds’, and my preaching ‘not in the persuasive words of human wisdom but in the manifestation of the Spirit and power’ and the authority conferred on me by the Church never be used for my own glory – used not to break down but to build up.” And that’s precisely what he did. Roncalli built relationships with the Orthodox Church, arriving unannounced at Orthodox liturgies and monasteries, breaching a thousand-year gap nobody yet dared to cross. In a part of the world where the Catholic Church was viewed as no more than a missionary outpost, where Catholics even viewed themselves as subordinates of some sort, Archbishop Roncalli brought renewed life and hope. He even sought to establish a Bulgarian seminary to train priests in the Western and Eastern Catholic rites. Sadly the dream was never realized, and the long-awaited funding from Rome never arrived.

The years went on, and he was eventually sent as a diplomat to Turkey and Greece, where he encountered new struggles. Largely ignored by the Vatican, he was at times discouraged. World War II broke out across Europe, and again Roncalli went to work, using his diplomatic skills to send aid to German-occupied areas. As rumors of concentration camps began to leak, he used his network of connections to delay the transfer of thousands of Jews to concentration camps – enough time to get them immigration certificates to neutral countries. As if he had not done enough in his life, he was sent to France in 1944, a country in crisis after the war, with a government ready to oust its own bishops. He plowed forward, working closely with the people he came to serve, fervently defending the faith against an ever-rising tide of communism, socialism, and new existentialist philosophy that threatened the Church.

Pope John XXIII as bishop

Those who knew him personally could never say enough about Roncalli’s sense of humor. For a man of his experiences, to have kept his sense of humor is a testament to his greatness. Once, after overhearing a frustrated French carpenter utter a stream of obscenities so lengthy it could no longer be ignored, he approached the man and said, “What is all this my good man? Why can’t you say sh*t like everyone else and get on with your work?” In another instance, after a microphone malfunction, the Archbishop came down to the floor of the church. “Dear children,” he said, “you have heard nothing of what I was saying. That doesn’t matter. It wasn’t very interesting. I don’t speak French that well.”

In true diplomatic fashion, he was elevated to the rank of Cardinal and appointed Archbishop of Venice, where he told a welcoming crowd at his first mass there, “I commend to your kindness someone who simply wants to be your brother.” Now in his 70’s, age and health had begun to take their toll and Roncalli hoped to finally settle down. Pope Pius XII died in October 1958, and Cardinal Roncalli came to Rome to elect a new pope with a return ticket to Venice in his pocket. It soon became clear that God had different plans for the aging Cardinal.

Check out Part 2!

Cases for the Catholic Church: Sacraments

Mass before the March for Life

About a month ago, I was talking with someone who remarked, “You know, the hardest part about living a relationship with God is that I can’t talk with or touch Him.” Obviously she’s got a ways to go in terms of developing a prayer life, the best way to communicate with our Lord (and the way that Jesus Himself talked with the Father!), but she makes a great point. Would God really just leave us all alone after Jesus ascended into Heaven?

Jesus promised that He would never leave us, saying “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Yet despite that, He ascended into Heaven, so how does this make any sense? First off, God is still with us always. Even the Father personally guided the Israelites personally in the Old Testament times, He is always loving us and desiring the best for us. In addition, the Father and Son gave the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2).

But it makes sense that God would want to give us a tangible way of encountering Jesus through the Church. Jesus gave us the sacraments as signs of God’s love, ways to physically encounter God’s grace. Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to administer the sacraments themselves, and they have continued to carry on this ministry throughout the ages in the Church.

For those who aren’t familiar with the sacraments at all, I sometimes think of them as “power ups” in real life because of the grace that they give. Baptism is like an “extra” life that you get where it initiates you into the Church and is necessary for salvation*. Confirmation is a power up to grow in your faith which gives you more gifts from the Holy Spirit. Confession is how you get “full health again” and God forgives you of your sins. Eucharist is pretty much where you win the game and get to have a meal ZIP with the creator of the game. Marriage… um I guess that one’s pretty self explanatory, I hope, haha. Holy Orders gives men special powers to act in Jesus’ place in administering the sacraments, helping everyone else get their power ups. Finally, Anointing of the Sick is a way to instantly win the game despite being about ready to die.

Ok those comparisons were pretty hilarious for me… but they show the importance of taking advantage of all of the help that we can get in our lives! In video games we try to get the most power ups that we can so that we can do the best. In real life, we should do the same! God has given us help.. the Holy Spirit, the Church, the sacraments, the Bible, so that we wouldn’t have to live our faith all alone.

Instead of doing an in-depth scriptural and general apologetics study at the end to defend each of the 7 sacraments, feel free to check out this more thorough web site: Catholic Apologetics

Dr. Peter Kreeft also defends sacraments as a whole here.

Previous posts on the sacraments:
Baptism: Why Wait?
Confession
Mass: The Liturgy of the Eucharist
Why do Catholics have to go to Mass on Sundays?
Too Wise to Get Married?
Why Can Only Men be Catholic Priests?

Other Cases for the Catholic Church:
Authority
Universality

Cases for the Catholic Church: Universality

When Jesus founded the Church, it wasn’t a bunch of separate churches with their own individual doctrines, but a body with different parts throughout the world. We can see this from how Sts. Peter and Paul jumped from church to church around the Mediterranean Sea, founding churches that supported each other and had the same doctrine and rules.

It only makes sense that if Jesus founded one Church, it would be for the whole world. The word “catholic” comes from the Greek word “katholicos” which means universal. With that in mind, the Catholic Church is the Universal Church for all of humanity founded by Jesus. Only a single Church founded on Christ can fulfill the Great Commission, baptizing and making disciples of all nations.

One of the most beautiful things about the Catholic Church is its universality. No other Church can claim to have 1.2 billion members from nearly every single country on earth. I can attend mass pretty much anywhere around the world, and though I might not know the language, it’ll be the same liturgy with the same Eucharistic Lord and the same beliefs. Do you really think that a Christian missionary in Mongolia is going to have success asking people if they want to be Southern Baptist? In Mongolia people have nothing in common with the American South. The Church must be able to adapt to different cultures without changing the doctrine or liturgy, which has been shown by the Catholic Church time and time again, on all 6 continents.

The most recent cardinals around the world appointed by Pope Francis give a beautiful testimony to the universality of the Church:

Pietro Parolin, Italy
Lorenzo Baldisseri, Italy
Gerhard Ludwig Műller, Germany
Beniamino Stella, Italy
Vincent Nichols, Great Britain
Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Nicaragua
Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Canada
Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Ivory Coast
Orani João Tempesta, O.Cist., Brazil
Gualtiero Bassetti, Italy
Mario Aurelio Poli, Argentina
Andrew Yeom Soo jung, Korea
Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, S.D.B., Chile
Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, Burkina Faso
Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I., Philippines
Chibly Langlois, Haïti

Catholic Population Around the World

Catholic Population Around the World

Other Cases for the Catholic Church:
Authority
Sacraments

Cases for the Catholic Church: Authority

I’m starting a series of posts on why all Christians should be Catholic. I plan on writing a number of different posts covering different angles of this ecumenical issue. This first one is on authority.

Let’s not even take the idea of “church” for granted. Why should we join a Christian church in the first place? How do we decide which Christian church to follow? Don’t you think that Jesus would have helped us out a little bit more with this crucial decision?

Any bible believing Christian would notice that Jesus founded a church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Let’s look deeper into that verse, highlighting significant points:

Point #1: JESUS founded the Church. God founded the Church. Not a human being. It wasn’t “made up” by people who wanted positions of power. Jesus founded the Church so that it would play a role in establishing God’s kingdom on earth, offering salvation to all of humanity and sharing the good news of the Gospel.

Point #2: Clearly, Jesus founds A Church. One Church. Not 30,000, but 1.

Point #3: We can also notice that Jesus founds His Church on a single person, Peter. Peter is the leader of the Apostles, charged by Jesus to “feed my lambs” and “tend my sheep” (John 21:15,16), shepherding/leadership/servant roles to oversee the Church throughout the world. Peter of course went on to become the first Pope, the Bishop of Rome. This line of succession of the Popes continues today as they lead the Church.

Point #4: Jesus guarantees that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. So.. no matter what, the Church will stand. It will not be destroyed. It will not falter in the faith. God’s got this.

So there’s a bunch that we can get out of one verse, and it answered the basics of the our original questions. We can infer from scripture that Jesus founded a Church led by Peter, the first pope.

How about a few more questions on authority:

What gives someone the authority to start their own church? Since Jesus founded one Church, what need is there for any other churches? Jesus founded one Church with no divisions (1 Cor 1:10). He founded the Church as one body with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God (Eph 4:4-5). He founded a Church that is one as the Eucharistic loaf is one (1 Cor 10:17). St. Paul warned against those who create dissensions against what he originally taught the Christians (Romans 16:17) and urged them to be in the same mind and thinking the same thing (Phil 2:2).

What gives someone the authority to determine doctrine? Obviously we can’t just change the doctrine of the Church to be whatever we want it to be, but have to make sure that it squares with God. How is this done? Well, we know that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15). Jesus gave His authority to the Apostles to in Matthew 18:18, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” An example of this was during the first ecumenical council, the council of Jerusalem, in Acts 15:28-29, even highlighting that it is by the Holy Spirit (God!) that the decision was made, which the Church received at its “birthday,” Pentecost. The Church is even shown to represent God in the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11, where St. Peter says “You have lied not to human beings, but to God.” So in sum Jesus gave the Church an authoritative voice in the world representing God, and it can make decisions on doctrine at a council where all Apostles/Bishops are gathered together. (This is very basic, I’m sure I missed some points here.)

What gives someone the authority to interpret the bible? Can anyone do it? If so, how can we explain all of the different interpretations of scripture? Obviously, I’ve been quoting scripture to back up my claims so far. People might argue with my interpretation of scripture. But ultimately I do not interpret scripture myself but learn from how the Church interprets it. We see this in scripture itself in 2 Peter 1:20-21: “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” This means that only by the Holy Spirit can scriptures be interpreted properly, and the Magesterium (teaching body of bishops) of the Church has helped us with this throughout history.

Other Cases for the Catholic Church:
Universality
Sacraments

You Can Tell the State of a Church By…

Whether the members are inviting new people to join them in encountering Jesus.

That’s huge. This is a very simple and easy point… and yet…

IT’S SO HARD!!!

The point of the Church is not to just keep to itself. The point of the Church is not to just take the babies baptized into it and hold their hand until they are buried. The Church’s goal is to set the WORLD on fire with the love of God. If there are people who haven’t heard of Jesus yet in your city or town, then you have a job to do. The point of the Church is to send the members of the Body of Christ (you and I!) on mission.

The point of us “pewfolk” isn’t to just to sit and stand when we’re supposed to. WE ARE THE CHURCH. If your next door neighbor hasn’t heard the Gospel, who do you think is more to blame: your priest or you? Just because we aren’t from a 3rd world country doesn’t mean that our churches can’t be missionary churches. We have to stop accepting complacency in church. In the business world, boards of directors don’t give high fives to CEOs for breaking even, and let’s be frank: our churches aren’t even breaking even. Just because church is “religion” doesn’t mean that everyone should receive a gold star for showing up. Our faith isn’t something that is “nice,” it is something that SAVES LIVES FOR ETERNITY. So let’s see churches strive for a growth mindset. You know, every once in a while we see mega-churches have success, and I think that that’s because they have pastors whose very careers (and paychecks) depend on being able to gather believers in. They do have a growth mindset and a sense of urgency. Do we see that in Catholic churches? Do bishops and priests have that same urgency? Jesus is the director of the board in a sense, and He expects us to “go and make disciples.” Jesus wants the best for the world, He wants as many souls as possible to encounter Him at Mass.

“When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” – Pope Francis

Bishops, Priests, and Deacons have a high calling. Their job is to take care of the flock, their local church. Their job is to make sure that we’re receiving the sacraments (ok not the deacons) and getting instruction in the faith. In many churches, this is lacking. In these cases I have much more compassion for the “pewfolk,” who probably are not only clueless on what to do, but have difficulty even understanding what they believe. In these cases, we need better leadership and catechesis from Church leadership. Praise God, I think that this is improving slowly but surely.

But once a lay Catholic has a firm understanding of the faith and is practicing it, that’s not grounds for sitting around and calling it a life! If we truly have encountered JESUS CHRIST at mass, in confession, in prayer, in scripture, etc., then there shouldn’t be a BRICK WALL thick enough from stopping us from sharing that encounter with everyone that we know!

Now if only he yelled out, “HAVE YOU HEARD OF JESUS?!”

As a leader in the Church, you can see whether you’re doing your job well if you see the laity in your parish taking initiative themselves in sharing the Gospel with others and bringing them along to mass, parish events, and getting them involved. If you see that, then you know that you are successfully sharing Jesus with your parish.

As a layperson, if you have encountered Jesus and have decided to live for Him, then it’s time to take the next steps to fulfill the great commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

Who are the people closest to you in your life? Family, friends, coworkers, fellow students, etc.? Have you shared your faith with them? Have you asked them about their own faith journey? Being vulnerable and kind with them will encourage them to open up with you themselves. The goal isn’t instant conversion, but some sort of growth in understanding Jesus and the message of Christianity. When you think the time is right, then make an invitation. Invite them to mass or some other parish event, depending on where you think they would be comfortable first. Keep making friendly invitations even if they decline, sometimes it takes years for people to try out faith. Don’t pester them, of course. You have to use your own judgement. If you aren’t completely sure how to share the Gospel I’ve got a handy overview for you.

So do you see new people showing up at your church? Go for it and invite new people yourselves! Jesus loves you, but He also loves everyone else who isn’t attending and encountering God!

Pope Francis Favela WYD

“I want the Church to go out into the streets, I want us to defend ourselves against all worldliness, opposition to progress, from that which is comfortable, from that which is clericalism, from all that which means being closed up in ourselves. Parishes, schools, institutions are made in order to come out … if they do not do this, they become a non-governmental organisation, and the Church must not be an NGO” – Pope Francis, WYD 2013

Suffering

In many modern day philosophies, suffering is the ultimate evil, and freedom to do whatever you want is the ultimate good.

We are always hearing people give advice like “just do what makes you happy,” or people saying “it’s my life, I’ll live it how I want.”

But how does this selfish, me-first, mindset play out in reality?

  • The hook up culture alienates men and women, turning them more into goods or services to be desired and used than human beings.
  • Men have zero faithfulness to women so that if they ever get pregnant, they just get out of the picture.
  • Why raise your child in poverty when you could abort and get rid of “the problem”?
  • Many marriages are only measured in months, because they didn’t “sign up” for the hard times, too.
  • If grandma/grandpa is really sick and probably going to die, it’s much less painful (and cheaper) to euthanize instead of paying to have them lay on a hospital bed for another year.
  • If little Bobby in the hospital has an illness and can’t be cured, doctors can euthanize him, even as a child.
  • Hard pornography is available everywhere as is prostitution, without anyone ever thinking about whether the women actually want to be doing what they are doing and sticking up for them.

When it comes down to it, it seems like our culture has no balls. Is anyone willing to stick up for what they believe in anymore? I mean really. We consistently take the easiest way out for EVERYTHING. If we ever have the option to make something in the law less burdensome for us morally, it’s bound to pass through. All in the name of “freedom” or “liberty” or “progress” or “happiness” or “painlessness.” Is this a strong culture? Is this the type of society that we should be proud to be from? Does this bring out the best in humanity, or does it lead individuals down a spiral of mediocrity and selfishness?

This is yet another reason why I love the Catholic Church so much. Is anyone else protesting the moral evils of our time as much as the Church? Has anyone else even had the balls to speak up against popular culture?

When it comes down to it, the idea of avoiding suffering at all costs isn’t even possible. Life doesn’t give us that “option” to control. Suffering is a part of life, and you better find a life philosophy that makes some sense out of it, or even gives you hope through it. We never know if we’ll take another breath, or what’s around the next bend in life.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been in agony. I got injured playing basketball, and my leg ended up swelling up from hematoma. Can’t walk. Can’t sleep. Constant pain. Sounds fun right?

It didn’t destroy me, though. As a human person, suffering is a way of life, and my Catholic Christian religion takes this into account. At every church that I ever go to, right there in the middle behind the altar is a crucifix, like this:

crucifix

Seeing a crucifix reminds me of how God doesn’t just love me, but He loves me enough to be tortured and crucified for me. When I am in agony, I know that He is in agony with me too.

Jesus even desires that I offer up my sufferings for Him and for others. It is a great way to sanctify the difficulties of life.

As a Christian, I understand that life isn’t perfect, but at the end of time all things will be made right. I have heaven and the resurrection to look forward to (hopefully, pray for me!), so I really have nothing to lose in this life as long as I’m all in for Jesus.

I’ve found some joy in my sufferings in being able to offer it up for my family and friends, the students that I work with, the mission trip that I was going to go on, etc. It has also revealed how much love my friends have in helping me out by making me food, getting me water, helping me get around, and more. By serving me, they are serving Jesus in a sense through me. Remember the passage, in Matthew 25:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” – Jesus

Those selfish philosophies? They have no way to explain how to deal with pain and struggle in life. “Just do what you want” doesn’t work when you’re in agony. You can’t will yourself to stop hurting. Instead, we have to toughen up and move on. Those philosophies also especially fall short when someone else is in need. As a Catholic Christian, I am called to serve those in need and love all. Just because a person or relationship isn’t convenient doesn’t mean that I should just drop them. We are faithful and loving within the bounds of the relationship.

I think I rambled a bit too much with this one. I’ll clarify my points to try and salvage it:

  1. Philosophies that do not incorporate suffering and pain are insufficient
  2. Doing whatever gives you pleasure in life is selfish, our culture needs to put more value on selfless love
  3. There actually is hope and purpose in suffering especially for Christians because of our faith
  4. God bless you, hope you’re having a great day :)