Icons of Christ the Servant

Earlier this month, fittingly on June 9th, the feast of the holy deacon St. Ephrem of Syria, Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Michigan issued a pastoral letter entitled, “The Deacon: Icon of Jesus Christ the Servant.”  This pastoral letter is a welcome contribution to the body of teaching on the permanent diaconate, which has been restored in the West since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Even the title of the pastoral letter is instructive. Deacons receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and thus are clerics. There is no such thing as a “lay deacon.” Yet deacons do not share in the priesthood of bishops and priests. Rather, they are ordained for diakonia, or service. They sacramentalize the Church’s call to imitate Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). The deacon exercises this sacred ministry through the Word, the liturgy, and especially acts of charity. So, as the pastoral letter’s title suggests, the deacon should be a living image, or icon, of Jesus Christ the Servant.

It’s disappointing that the good of this pastoral letter has been dampened Continue reading Icons of Christ the Servant

Renewal Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Last week Rorate Caeli published a provocative post entitled, “How has that been working out?” to mark the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelica Testificatio, on the renewal of religious life according to the teaching of Vatican II.

It’s a very good question, and the turbulence and decline of the past 40 or so years give the question a bit of an edge, leading some to place the “blame” for this (and anything else they don’t like about the “post-conciliar” Church) on Vatican II and Pope Paul VI.

There’s a lot to be said about all this, and we can have different opinions about the Church, the state of religious life, etc. I would, however, like to give just a few ground rules for the discussion as faithful Catholics.

(1) The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was a legitimate ecumenical council of the Church, and if one is not careful, one can be on the outside looking in if he/she goes too far in trying to minimize the Council’s authority or teaching, or in second-guessing the actions of Pope Paul VI. One does far better to adopt Pope Benedict’s “hermeneutic of continuity” in that regard.

(2) While this isn’t de fide, it’s probably misguided to think that Vatican II wasn’t necessary and that the post-WWII world and Church were just fine as they were.

(3) “Renewal” is always a good thing, and when it comes to the Church as a whole, renewal does not usually happen overnight.

(4) Sinful mankind is always part of the equation (one of the reasons “renewal” takes awhile!), but it’s subordinate to the grace of the Holy Spirit through which God continually breathes new life into His Church.

(5) The “renewal” of religious life called for at Vatican II and discussed in Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation has continued, despite the setbacks. Those documents need to be read in continuity not only with what came before, but also in continuity with subsequent exercises of the Magisterium, most notably the Synod of Bishops that culminated in Pope John Paul II’s 1996 apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata.

(6) We do well to look forward in hope, as we “put out into the deep” (Luke 5:4) in the new millennium, focusing on all the good that’s happening in the Church, and in particular in religious life. In that regard, the Institute on Religious Life has been a singular voice in upholding the goodness, beauty, and enduring truth of the Church’s living tradition as it relates to the consecrated life.

Man Alive!

The following is taken from the Office of Readings for today’s feast of St. Irenaeus, an important second-century bishop and Father of the Church. This selection from St. Irenaeus contains the famous quote that is sometimes translated, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.”

The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness. Continue reading Man Alive!

Global Communication Online

Nearly two months ago, we reported on the meeting of Catholic bloggers that took place at the Vatican on May 2nd.

This past week, the L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, published an interview with Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, regarding his reflections on this historic meeting.

Archbishop Celli noted that “the Church has something to learn from bloggers,”  including “their way of freely expressing themselves in an up-to-date language.”

He cited the difficulty the young people have  in understanding “ecclesial language.” In that regard, he said that “blogs are sites of authenticity and, at the same time of provocation. They help us to grow, to take a look about us and to understand that in order to be heard we have to use language that can be understood.” Continue reading Global Communication Online

The Vocation of St. John the Baptist

Today is the tenth birthday of my son Samuel John. It’s also the liturgical feast of the Birth (or “Nativity”) of St. John the Baptist. It’s one of the three birthdays set aside for special celebration in the Church, the others of course being the Birth of Jesus (Christmas) on December 25th, and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th.

I thought I would refer our readers to this 2007 article at Catholic Exchange on the birth of St. John the Baptist. I especially appreciate the author’s focus on St. John’s vocation as it unfolded throughout the life of the herald of the Messiah: Continue reading The Vocation of St. John the Baptist

Siblings Following Path to Priesthood, Religious Life

The following uplifting article was recently posted by Patricia O’Connell, a correspondent with the Catholic Free Press, serving the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Meaghan Boland first felt the call to religious life at age 16. She was preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

“It was just kind of the whole preparation,” she said.

Also, in high school, she went on a youth retreat, where she spent time in the presence of Our Lord.

“That drew me into the adoration piece,” she explained.

Meaghan’s faith continued to deepen.

So her parents, Thomas and Virginia Boland, were not surprised by Meaghan’s recent announcement that she wanted to join a convent.

But there was an unexpected twist three years ago when Meaghan’s older brother, James, discerned he had too a vocation. Continue reading Siblings Following Path to Priesthood, Religious Life

Holy Vocations, Paths of Love

This past weekend, awakened by a persistent thunderstorm, I starting browsing Catholic sites and came across two excellent vocation-related blogs not previously mentioned here.

The Holy Vocations blog is primarily geared to those who are considering the priesthood or religious life. If you are discerning a possible vocation as a priest, nun, religious sister, monk, or consecrated virgin, or if you are currently in formation, then this blog is for you.

I also came across the Paths of Love blog, which had a variety of posts, including homilies, photos from recent ordinations, and articles on interesting topics such as how to interpret religious statistics and why consecrated virginity is not itself a sacrament.

The blog is part of the Paths of Love website, which  is dedicated to imparting information and discussion about vocations through the lens of Catholic tradition, drawing upon the Fathers of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and the popes, particularly Pope John Paul II, with a particular emphasis on vocation discernment.

Check them out!

Glorify God in Your Body

Blessed John Paul II has given the Church a great gift in his profound teaching on the theology of the body. The Holy Father emphasized that traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and the family is not in any sense rooted in a contempt for matter or for the body, but on the Incarnate love of the Trinity. This teaching not only helps us understand the Church’s teaching on hot-button issues such as divorce, contraception, and homosexulity, but also the gift of consecrated virginity or celibacy for the sake of the kingdom, as a complete gift of self to God. 
On this subject, the Institute on Religious Life highly recommends this 3-CD audio set by Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P.  Father convincingly shows that Church teaching on human sexuality offers profound spiritual insights for deepening one’s commitment to live with “an undivided heart” and to serve God as an eschatological witness of His Kingdom.

Cardinal Burke: From Wisconsin to Rome

Cardinal Raymond Burke said he thinks often about his humble upbringing in rural Wisconsin and where his Catholic faith has taken him during his lifetime.

“You just keep doing what you believe the Lord wants you to do, and who knows where it [may lead] you eventually,” Cardinal Burke said during a recent interview in his Rome residence. “That’s the only way I can describe it.”

Cardinal Burke, a long-time friend of the Institute on Religious Life, has now served for three years as the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court in the Catholic Church. In this article from the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, he talks about the unfolding of his vocation, from growing up in the heartland of the United States to serving such a vital role in the universal Church.

Successful Chef Enters Franciscan Community

Dennis Narlock has cooked for Hollywood stars and built a well-known local catering business throughout the past three decades. But Narlock plans to walk away from his business and his cooking career at the end of the year. He says he will also give up his personal wealth and all his worldly possessions after joining a recently established Franciscan monastery in the Diocese of Fargo.

For the full story, check out “Leap of Faith: Grand Forks businessman gives up wealth to join religious order,” courtesy of the Grand Forks Herald. Hat tip to The Deacon’s Bench.