Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why an all-male priesthood?

Lourdes pilgrimmage!! I'm off to Lourdes, France, for a week with a group from the Archdiocese. We are taking several malades (ill persons) to the Holy Water of Lourdes, with the hope of spiritual and/or physical healing. Should be great!! If I get a chance, I will make a post from Lourdes; otherwise, I'll resume posting in about a week or so.
We have had a very fruitful discussion on this site about the all-male priesthood. Let me first of all make the point of which many people are unaware: we are all priests because of our Baptism. "(B)ut you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation..." (1 Pet 2:9). When we are baptized, we are all anointed Priest, Prophet, and King just as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King. We all make up the "royal (or common) priesthood".

But "the members do not all have the same function" (Rom 12:4). St. Paul is making the point that we all make up the one Body of Christ, which is the Church, but we are all different members with different roles. If we use his analogy of the human body, we see that the hand and the foot are both parts of the body, but each performs different functions. They are equally important to the body, and the body wouldn't be complete without one of them.

So, when it comes to the Church, we see that Christ calls some members of His Body to serve the other members. We understand these members to make up the ministerial priesthood; the ministerial priesthood serves the royal priesthood. Christ's ministers serve the Church as Christ served the Church: teaching, sanctifying, and governing.

Why did our Lord establish an all-male ministerial priesthood? Why was it that after "he spent whole night in prayer" (Lk 6:13) to the Father, he came down from the mountain and chose twelve men? Why was it that he gave to these Twelve the special ministries of baptizing (Mt 28:19), celebrating the Eucharist (Lk 22;19-20), forgiving sins (Jn 20:20-23), celebrating Confirmation (Acts 8:14-17; 19:5-6), laying hands in Holy Orders (1 Tim 4:14), and anointing the sick (Mk 6:12-13; James 5:14-15)? (btw, the minister of Holy Matrimony is not the priest...it's each spouse)

Christ gave to these men a special ministry so that his ministry would continue. When they perform these sacred duties, it is really Christ performing them. In each of the sacraments, given the proper form and matter, the priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). Proper form is saying the correct words- "This is my body", for example. Proper matter is using the correct material or substance; part of the proper matter required in each Sacrament except Holy Matrimony is a male body for the priest. Since Christ was a male, it is necessary for the priest to be male to act sacramentally in the person of Christ.

Could we use potato chips to celebrate the Eucharist? Would it really be the Body of Christ? No. We have to use the same matter and form that Christ used when he performed the sacraments- water in baptism, unleavened bread in the Eucharist, etc. So, we have to use the same matter when it comes to the minister: a masculine body as Christ himself had a masculine body. Just as transubstantiation occurs in the bread and wine, so too does it occur in the priest. It truly is Christ in the person of the priest.

A couple of final points. Along the lines of what one blogger wrote, just as God has entrusted the task of giving natural birth to women only, so He has entrusted the task of giving supernatural birth to some men only. We have different roles, but we are all equally important to the Body of Christ. Ministerial priests are no better than common priests and vice versa; they are just different roles. God has created males and females to have different roles in His Church but we share the same dignity, made in His image and likeness.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The DaVinci Code & Gospel of Judas

"There is much talk about Judas' betrayal without realizing that it is being repeated" today, said Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa who gives homilies to the Pope. "Christ is being sold again...to publishers and booksellers". Fr. Cantalamessa made these comments on Good Friday because millions of people are being "crassly manipulated by the media" which is more interested in profits and sales than in truth.

Firstly, "The DaVinci Code" is a novel by Dan Brown. It is FICTION. It is not true. It is not based on facts. One of its main themes is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. How can God be married to ONE PERSON? If Jesus was married, then he couldn't love anyone else like he loved his wife. Then, he wouldn't be God. This is heresy! As Fr. Stephen Brett said, it's "much more than fiction: it's blasphemy, heresy, and crudity powerfully packed for maximum sales and maximum damage to the Catholic Church...thuggery masquerading as theology".

You can see a brief, more detailed critique of the DaVinci Code at www.cfalive.org (click on "leaflets" and scroll down). The author of that site, Fr. Thomas Morrow, writes: "If Brown got it wrong on the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar, the Gnostic Gospels, and the Constantine rewrite, his whole argument falls apart. The secret sacred feminine is just a late Gnostic idea that never caught on, because it had no basis in truth. And, of course, the marriage of Jesus is as absurd as it sounds".

Secondly, in light of the recent National Geographic display, "The Gospel of Judas", Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us of what kind of person Judas was and what he did to our Savior. On Holy Thursday, His Holiness said that for Judas, "only power and success are real; love does not count...And he is greedy: Money is more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and His love. He also becomes a liar, a double-crosser who breaks with the truth".

"The Gospel of Judas" is a document from the 2nd or 3rd century that portrays Judas as Jesus' closest disciple. It presents Jesus as asking Judas to betray him, and allowing Jesus to fulfill his mission, thereby gaining Judas the greatest seat in heaven among the disciples. This is in stark contrast to the real Gospels, in which Jesus said: "alas for that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!" (Mt 26:24).

Fr.Brett: "Those who have dismissed the need for the Catechism of the Catholic Church can now see what happens when alternative texts become the catechism of the suspicious".

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Do you believe in the Resurrection?

Happy Easter!! Christ is Risen!! This is Easter week, technically called the Easter Octave. During these eight days, each day is a solemnity (the highest feast day), celebrating Easter each day as if it were Easter Sunday. The time for fasting is over! Now, we feast because the Lord is risen!

The most fundamental question for any Christian is, 'do you believe in the Resurrection?' It may seem like an easy question, and most of us would quickly answer with an obvious 'yes'. But, why do you believe in the Resurrection? What does it mean to believe in the Resurrection? Does Jesus' Resurrection from the dead change your life? Why or why not? In sum, does your life show that you believe in the Resurrection?

This is normally stuff that we Catholic Christians take for granted. But, having just put ourselves in the places of the Apostles and disciples during Christ's passion, death, and resurrection, we should have a renewed sense of the awesomeness of these events. First, we shared in the sorrow and anguish of seeing Christ suffer and die. For his disciples, Jesus' death must have been an amazingly crushing blow. He who showed so much power appeared so powerless. His situation which had brought so much hope seemed hopeless. His life ended. He died. He's gone.

But, then, three days later, He's risen! What utter and incomprehensible joy the disciples had! "I have seen the Lord", Mary Magdelene emphatically told the Apostles. They were beside themselves with happiness, hope, and joy! He who had truly experienced death is now back...truly risen from the dead! There is no limit to his power and majesty! And, so, they lived the rest of the lives in this happiness, hope, and joy. Their lives reflected all that Christ's Resurrection brings - hope in despair, happiness in sorrow, joy in sadness, peace in unrest.

Do I really believe that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried... and on the third day he rose again"? The same flesh and blood that experienced death is now living. If this is true, everything changes. He can conquer anything. For me individually, he can conquer any situation in my life that seems hopeless. For us corporately, he IS who he said he is: the Son of God, our Savior, our Messiah. Everything he said and taught was true. He is the one to follow, and he is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life".

But, if he didn't rise from the dead, he is a liar and a blasphemer. "If Christ has not been raised, (our) faith is vain...we are the most pitiable people of all" (1 Cor 15:17,19)

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Seven Last Words of Christ

"There was never a preacher like the dying Christ. There was never a congregation like that which gathered about the pulpit of the Cross. There was never a sermon like the Seven Last Words."
- Arch. Fulton Sheen, The Seven Last Words (the following is taken from Sheen's book)

Please leave any comments or questions.

The Seven Last Words of Christ
1. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"

His executioners expected Him to cry and curse like all those who had been crucified before Him. Instead, He cried out for the Father to forgive those who were executing and mocking Him (soldiers, Pilate, Herod, etc.).

Do I forgive 'those who trespass against' me?

2. "This day you shall be with me in Paradise"

"No one before (the thief on the right of Christ) was ever the object of such a promise, not even Moses, nor John, not even Magdelen nor Mary!"

Like the thief, do I give my sins to Christ who will then promise me Paradise?

3. "Woman, behold thy son"

'Thy son' is John, who represents us (the Church). "Woman!" is the 2nd Annunciation; "behold thy son" is the 2nd Nativity. We are born of Mary in the 2nd Nativity of the spirit; Christ is born in the 1st Nativity of the flesh.

It has been said that Jesus never denies His Mother anything. Do I ask my Mother to intercede to her Son for me, my friends and family?

4. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

While He is still in union with the Father, Christ brings atonement to all those who have abandoned God, doubt God's presence in their lives, or are indifferent towards God.

Christ knows what I'm experiencing whenever I've been abandoned, rejected, lonely, hurt or isolated.

5. "I thirst"

Not said to anyone there at Calvary, or even to God. He says to all mankind, "I thirst...for love!"

Christ thirsts for my love; do I thirst for His?

6. "It is finished"

Christ triumphantly says this, like an artist who puts the finishing touches on a masterpiece. His work of Redemption is finished, but not complete (see Col 1:24). As the Mystical Body of Christ, we complete Christ's work of Redemption (by taking up our own Cross).

Do I accept crosses in my life with faith?

7. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"

Like the Prodigal Son who returns to his father's house, Christ is on the road back to His Father's House after spending His divine riches of power and wisdom on all humanity for 33 years.

Do I entrust my life to my Father in Heaven?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Now, it's personal

It's hard to believe that this September 11th will mark the 5 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. For all of us, 9/11 was personal. One man in particular, Pat Tillman, took 9/11 very personally. He was a professional football player who was about to sign a multi-million dollar contract. He gave all of that up to join the Army. For him, 9/11 was personal, and he responded by, ultimately, giving his life for the cause...the cause of freedom.

For us in Holy Week, now it's personal. Our Savior, the Son of God, was treated like a criminal by the Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders. Jesus suffered tremendously for me and for you. He shed a lot of blood for all of us... Now, it's personal. How will we respond?

It wasn't until I was in college that I took the events of Holy Week personally. It wasn't until then that I realized that Jesus endured all of this for me. He endured the whipping of the soldiers, being mocked and crowned with thorns, carrying a heavy cross, and hanging on that cross with nails in his hands and feet until he suffocated...for me. "This is my body", Greg, "given up for you"... Now it's personal. How will we respond?

It was actually when I started going to daily Mass in college that I realized that at every Mass, I am a witness to Calvary. The sacrifice on the altar is the same as the sacrifice on Calvary; Jesus tells us this in John 6:51. Christ's flesh and blood on the cross are re-presented on the altar. Whenever we go to Mass, we respond by saying 'Thank you, Jesus'.

Whenever we go to Confession, we respond. The main reason Jesus shed his blood was "so that sins may be forgiven". We have opportunities this week (via Penance services, e.g.) to respond by going to Confession.

We have opportunities this week to respond by participating in the Triduum services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday which remember in a special way all that Jesus went through for us... Now, it's personal. How will we respond?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bishops' statements on immigration

A SFA blogger recently inquired about the statements of the US Catholic bishops on the issue of immigration. Here are some excerpts from a USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) Chairman and our Archbishop, Cardinal McCarrick:

"The bishops do support a number of provisions in the Senate Judiciary committee-approved version of CIRA. Title VI would increase our national security by bringing a large number of the approximately 11 million undocumented aliens currently residing in the United States out of the shadows, subjecting them to security and health checks, and providing those who meet the measure’s stringent requirements a path to permanent residency. Contrary to the claims of opponents, the “earned adjustment” program contained in Title VI of CIRA is not an “amnesty” or “giveaway”. Instead, it would provide an opportunity for hard-working immigrants to earn their legal status over time...

The bishops also support provisions in Title IV and V, which would establish a temporary worker program to permit future flows of workers through legal means (Title IV) and would reorder the family- and employment-based immigration preference systems (Title V). Together, these provisions would adjust our immigration policies so as to both better meet the demand for immigrants and nonimmigrants and to help reunite separated families. These changes, in turn, will reduce incentives for people to come to the United States illegally...

While there is much to support in the Senate Judiciary Committee-reported version of CIRA, the bishops are deeply opposed to several provisions in Title II that would deprive immigrants of due process and even harm immigrants who are currently in the United States legally. We believe that as good as many of CIRA’s provisions are, a number of the provisions in Title II are harmful and should be either stricken or ameliorated during Senate floor consideration of the measure...

Ultimately, the U.S. Catholic Bishops support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that would improve the U.S. immigration system so that it is humane, secure, and reflects the values upon which our nation - a nation of immigrants - was built. We are pleased that the Senate Judiciary Committee reported a comprehensive measure rather than a measure that addressed only one aspect of our immigration problems. This is a good start but the full Senate needs to do more to make it a measure worthy of our nation’s tradition as a welcoming nation...

Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes
Bishop of San Bernardino
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration
April 3, 2006
“The compromise agreed to by the U.S. Senate today is an important step toward reaching an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform legislation. I urge President Bush and the House and Senate leadership to give assurances that the provisions in the compromise, which would assist 12 million undocumented to obtain legal status and eventual citizenship, are retained both on the Senate floor and in the conference committee.

“I also urge legislators to ameliorate or remove harsh enforcement provisions in Title II of the compromise, which would preclude certain undocumented persons from participating in the legalization program, as well as other overly punitive provisions within Title II.

“This is an important time for the future of our nation. I pray that all sides work together to fashion a final bill which creates an immigration system which is secure, humane and respectful of our tradition as a nation of immigrants.”

Cardinal McCarrick
April 6, 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The feminine genius

Please come support our basketball team of DC priests and seminarians, DC 'Hood, this Friday night as we take on a team of adults and teens from Mother Seton parish in Germantown. Game is at 7 pm, April 7, Martin Luther King middle school (13737 Wisteria Dr., Germantown). All are invited!!
We recently had an exchange on this site about women and the Church. At the end of the exchange, I made the point that the Church is the greatest promoter of the dignity of women of any organization in the world. While some people might question the significance of this, I present a small taste of the Church's insights about not only the true dignity of women, but also the genius and devotion that is characteristic of women.

Pope John Paul II exhorted women especially in many ways during his pontificate. He wrote about the dignity of women in his apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (1988). In this letter, the Holy Father wrote about "the distinctively 'feminine' response of faith...about the things of God" (15) and how "women show to Christ... a special sensitivity which is characteristic of their femininity" (16). Also, he points out that at the Cross, "the women proved stronger than the Apostles" (15) and "the women are first at the tomb" (16).

In an Angelus reflection in 1995, he referred to the feminine genius:
"Woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church…[She]is endowed with a particular capacity for accepting the human being in his concrete form. Even this singular feature which prepares her for motherhood, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually, is inherent in the plan of God who entrusted the human being to woman in an altogether special way".

Mary Ellen Bork, a Catholic writer, has commented on the Holy Father's writings and teachings about women. In his teachings, she writes, John Paul II "envisions femininity, renewed by spiritual life, as a dynamic active gift essential to family, society and the Church. What the pope calls 'the feminine genius' is a gift of openness to another person, the opposite of a self-centered focus on 'my rights'".

Mrs. Bork puts the Holy Father's insights in a more general framework. "As Pope John Paul II has taught, women have a key role in returning dignity to the sacrament of marriage and in preserving a culture that is worthy of the human person. These enormously important cultural tasks can be better served by women who are well formed in Christian values and well informed about the cultural battles in the policy arena.
It is as if women hold in their hands the threads that form the basic fabric of society and their efforts to weave these together in a unity will result in a stronger fabric that can resist the centrifugal pull of the culture".

In probably every talk or letter, John Paul II turned to the greatest Christian example of all time, the Blessed Virgin Mary. "Let us look at the Blessed Virgin's example... This is the "genius" of the woman! May Mary's thoughtful sensitivity, totally feminine and maternal, be the ideal mirror of all true femininity and motherhood!" (1995)