Friday, October 28, 2005

The Specific Difference Between Laymen and Priests

The Ecclesiology of Vatican II

It seems that the rush to ministries and calling unordained laity “ministers” is the revival of the anachronism of a clericalized church. Such a church imagined sacramental power politically and located in descending order: Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests and finally, in the last place, the laity. The laity, for centuries, were “`to hunt, to shoot, and to entertain’ not to `meddle’ in concerns about Christian mission.”[1] The ministry of the sacrament of Orders where the ministerial priest stood “in front of” the Church was a position of privileged power that was culturally received and perceived as political.

The revolution of Vatican II consisted in revamping that perspective of the Church from a top heavy clerical structure to the radical equality of the People of God who were distinguished within this equality by a functional diversity: hierarchy, laity and religious. This, in turn, was further nuanced into Communio and ultimately into “Person.”

“The Church is not an apparatus, nor a social institution, nor one social institution among many others. It is a person. It is a woman. It is a Mother. It is alive. A Marian understanding of the church is totally opposed to the concept of the Church as a bureaucracy or a simple organization. We cannot make the Church, we must be the Church. We are the Church, the Church is in us only to the extent that our faith more than action forges our being. Only by being Marian, can we become the Church. At its very beginning the Church was not made, but given birth. She existed in the soul of Mary from the moment she uttered her fiat. This is the most profound will of the Council: the Church should be awakened in our souls. Mary shows us the way.”[2]

The most striking characteristic of this development in understanding is the identity of the entire “people of God” as priests, and the essential difference between the “common priesthood of the faithful” and the “ministerial priesthood.” As in male and female, they are equal but not the same. They are equal as priests, but not the same as ministers. In fact, the laity are not ministers at all (pace today’s common parlance), although they can supplement for ministers in limited non-ordained ministries, by deputation and for a period of time. Further, the common priesthood of the faithful, or laity, exercises a substantial priority over the ministerial priesthood because the very existential of the ministerial is to activate and serve the common as the “Church of Peter” exists to serve the “Church of Mary.”[3] This is because the Church of Mary must engender Jesus Christ in themselves in the secular milieu, while the Church of Peter is at the service of that engendering.

John Paul II is the Pope of the Council. Benedict XVI said: “My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that his [John Paul II’s] documents are assimilated, because they are a rich treasure, they are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council.”[4] He gave the following graphic, global presentation of the exercise of the ministerial priesthood at the service of the common priesthood galvanizing them into fearlessly becoming themselves. They became themselves by the exercise of their priesthood, not ministry, in the secular world of work beginning the Gdansk ship yards.

* * * * * * * * *

John Paul II: Warsaw, June 2, 1979: “Minister”

With the powers of the ministerial priesthood in summo gradu, John Paul II, stood before the people of Poland and gave them back their identity. “After the proclamation of the Gospel, a deep silence fell over the tremendous crowd. Polish Communist Party leader Edward Gierek watched nervously from a window in a hotel adjacent to the square. He, and millions of others, wondered: What would he say? What could he say?
“Karol Wojtyla looked out at a sea of expectant faces, paused – and then gave what may have been the greatest sermon of his life:”

George Weigel paraphrases/quotes: “The Poles,” he insisted, “had a right to think that, to think `with singular humility but also with conviction’ that it was to Poland, today, that `one must come… to read again the witness of His cross and His resurrection.’ This was no cause for boasting, however. `If we accept all that I have dared to affirm in this moment, how many great duties and obligations arise? Are we capable of them?'

“The crowd began a rhythmic chant, `we want God, we want God…’

“It was,” John Paul continued, “the Vigil of Pentecost, so let us return in our imaginations to the Upper Room n Jerusalem. There, the apostles and Mary waited for the Holy Spirit… Just as the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, had gone from the Upper Room and preached in foreign tongues, so, too, was Pentecost `the proclamation of the mighty works of God in our Polish language.’ The mightiest of those works was the human person, redeemed by Christ: Therefore Christ cannot be kept out of history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man. Without Christ, it is impossible to understand this nation, with a past so splendid and at the same time so terribly difficult. It is not possible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, which in 1944 committed itself to an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own rubble, if one does not recall that under this same rubble there was also Christ with his cross which can be found facing the church of Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaw in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe in Oswiecim, if one does not apply, to them also, that unique and fundamental criterion which bears the name of Jesus Christ.”[5]

As soon as the Poles saw that John Paul II was not afraid, they were not afraid. “Solidarity” was born among the workers of the shipyard Gdansk, marshal law was imposed on them by the Communists in 1981. John Paul II wrote Laborem Exercens on the meaning of human work as the key to liberating the inner dignity of the human person. He was shot. Then, in the fall of 1989, Communism fell without firing a shot or dropping a bomb. It fell under the unbearable weight of denying the transcendent dimension of the human person that was released by “not being afraid.” The common priesthood of Poland was recalled and reactivated by the service and daring of the ministerial priesthood of John Paul II “standing before” her making his gift of self to her. It was the service of the Church of Peter to the Church of Mary.

A similar, but even more dramatic call and affirmation to Europe as a whole was given by the Pope to the bishops of Europe in “A Declaration to Europe” on November 9, 1982 from Santiago de Compostela:

“(A) huge vacuum… awaits credible heralds of new proposals of values capable of building a new civilization worthy of man’s vocation.
“There is a need for heralds of the Gospel who are experts in humanity, who have a profound knowledge of the heart of present day man, participating in his joys and hopes, anguish and sadness, and who are at the same time contemplatives in love with god. For this we need new saints. The great evangelizers of Europe have been the saints. We must beg the Lord to increase the Church’s spirit of holiness and send us new saints to evangelize today’s world.”

He concluded:

“Therefore, I, John Paul, son of the Polish nation which has always considered itself European by its origins, traditions, culture and vital relationships, Slavic among the Latins and Latin among the Slavs:
I, Successor of Peter in the See of Rome, a See which Christ wished to establish in Europe and which he loves because of its efforts for the spread of Christianity throughout the whole world;
I, bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church, from Santiago, utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love:

Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots. Return to those authentic values which made your history a glorious one and your presence so beneficent in the other continents. Rebuild your spiritual unity in a climate of complete respect for other religions and other genuine liberties. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God… You can still be the guiding light of civilization and the stimulus of progress for the world. The other continents look to you and also hope to receive from you the same reply which St. James gave to Christ: POSSUM. I can.”

God and the world are still waiting for Europe’s response.

John Paul II did the same to the United States in 1995, and the world is still waiting for us.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Josef Ratzinger

“The Nature of Priesthood”

Ministerial Priesthood as Ontologically Radical

The ultimate “novelty” in the world: Jesus Christ, God-man: “If we seek the true novelty of the New Testament, Christ Himself stands before us. This novelty consists not so much in new ideas or conceptions – the novelty is a person: God, who becomes man and draws human beings to Himself.”[i]

“I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30).
“The Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14, 28).

Reason sags under the load and tension of these three affirmations of Jesus Christ. If I and the Father are one, and yet the Father is greater than I, how can Christ be one with Father (and therefore equal) and yet be less than the Father? This was the struggle of the Council of Nicea in 321. The Church (struggling against the reductionist rationalism of the Judaizers) formulated the Nicene Creed where Christ is “God from God” and “one in substance with the Father.” The intelligence shatters on a being that is equal to another yet not the same, i.e., different as engendered. Nevertheless, we experience the reality of this constantly in sexuality and sonship. We understand it without being able to conceptualize it today[ii]. Male and female are equal without being the same. The son is equal to the Father as man, yet subordinate as engendered son.
The solution is moving from an epistemology of concepts (symbols) to an epistemology of experience and consciousness. In this “horizon,” to be = to be for. The Church formulated this in the three councils (Nicea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon) from 325 to 451. Only now are we beginning to forge a metaphysics of being as resonating between substance and relation thanks to the application of phenomenology and a metaphysics of esse to the believing subject. This was the great intellectual contribution of John Paul II.

This Christological anthropology is the explanation of the Person of Christ and the meaning of priesthood. What is new here is Vat II’s affirmation that Jesus Christ is the revelation not only who God is, but who man is.
Jesus Christ as man is priest. Priesthood means “mediation,” and in Christ this mediation is intrinsic, not extrinsic as in the ancient Jewish and the pagan. Christ, as pure relation to the Father, subdues His human will (laden with sin [2 Cor. 5, 21]) and obeys to death with it: “I have not come to do my own will…” He mediates between Himself and the Father for us. He is Priest of His own existence.

“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you”(Jn. 20, 21).

a) “As the Father has sent me:” This is the ontologically radical profile of the Being of the Son.

As seen above, the Being of a divine Person is intrinsically relational. That means that to be = to be for (another). The Being of the Son is obedience and glorification of the Father. To be One with the Father means “My doctrine is not mine… (Jn. 7, 6). Ratzinger comments:

“Jesus has nothing of His own except the Father. His doctrine is not His own, because even He Himself is not His own, but in His entire existence He is, as it were, Son from the Father and directed towards the Father. But for the same, because He has noting of His own, everything that the Father has belongs to Him as well: `I and the Father are one’ (Jn. 10, 30).”[iii]

b) “Even so I send you:” The Mission of Christ = the Ministry of the Apostles: This way of being of Christ as God-man is passed on to the Apostles intrinsically. Since He is “one with the Father,” the Son can do nothing without the Father. Therefore, the Apostles can do nothing without the Son. “The Son can do nothing of His own accord” (Jn. 5, 19-30); “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15, 5). Ratzinger says: “This `nothing’ which the disciples share with Jesus expresses at one and the same time both the power and the infirmity of the apostolic ministry.”[iv]

c) From Ontology Comes “Power:”

“This `nothing’ which the disciples share with Jesus expresses at one and the same time both the power and the infirmity of the apostolic ministry. By themselves, of their own strength, they can do none of those things which apostles must do. How could they of their own accord say, `I forgive you your sins’? How could they say, `This is my body?’ How could they perform the imposition of hands and say, `Receive the Holy Spirit?’ None of those things which constitute apostolic activity are done by one’s own authority. But this expropriation of their very powers constitutes a mode of communion with Jesus, who is wholly from the Father, with Him all things and nothing without Him. Their own `Nihil posse,’ their own inability to do anything, draws them into a community of mission with Jesus. Such a ministry, in which a man does and gives through a divine communication what he could never do and give on his own is called by the tradition of the Church a `sacrament.’
“If Church usage calls ordination to the ministry of priesthood a `sacrament,’ the following is meant: This man is in no way performing functions for which he is highly qualified by his own natural ability nor is he doing the things that please him most and that are most profitable. On the contrary – the one who receives the sacrament is sent to give what he cannot give of his own strength; he is sent to act in the person of another, to be his living instrument. For this reason ho human being can declare himself a priest; for this reason, too, no community can promote a person to this ministry by its own decree. Only from the sacrament, which belongs to God, can priesthood be received. Mission can only be received from the one who sends – from Christ in His sacrament, through which a person becomes the voice and the hands of Christ in the world. This gift of himself, this renunciation and forgetfulness of self does not however destroy the man; rather, it leads to true human maturity because it assimilates him to the Trinitarian mystery and it brings to life the image according to which were created. Since we were created in the image of the Trinity, he who loses himself will find himself”[v] (underline mine).

The logic of this is inexorable. As things stand terminologically, all are priests by baptism by insertion into the one priesthood of Christ. The People of God is a “priestly people” exercising the priesthood of Christ. This is mediation in the “new sense” of mediating between self and God forming a communio with others that we call church. A distinct sacrament, Orders, revealed by Christ, inserts some of the baptized into the priesthood of Christ as “ministers” in an “essentially different” way to do what Ratzinger has described above: the humanly impossible. All the baptized can perform “functions,” but only those ordained by Orders can “dare” to consecrate and absolve from sin. If all are priests, and the ordained are “ministers,” to confuse the terms, as is happening with the neologism “lay ecclesial minister,” is to wreak havoc with this reveled ontology, and give us a new and mistaken notion of Church. The Church will cease to be a Communio-People of God to be dumbed down into a clerical-political structure.
With grave consequences: Clerical function will trump ontological reality. The priesthood of both laity and minister is emptied of its ontological status. One does “church” things as extrinsic performances rather than exercise the priestly anthropology of intrinsic self-giving (mediation). The secular becomes “secularized” in the pejorative sense (no God), and the Church becomes clericalized. The life of holiness is removed from both.

e) Transition from Apostolic (Gospels) to Post-Apostolic Period (Paul): Essential Difference (sacrament) Between Baptized Faithful and Ministers:

Scripture Basis: In the face of a de facto burgeoning plethora of “ministries,” it is important to see the essential difference not only between the Apostles as ministers and the baptized faithful, but also how this essential difference appears in the immediate post-apostolic period. Ratzinger refers to the “specific difference” that Scripture makes between the “apostolic ministry” and “the common gifts of Christian existence.”

1) “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5, 20)

Ratzinger comments: “God exhorts through the Apostle who is the ambassador of Christ. Here clearly appears that nature of the apostolic ministry which we have already learned constitutes the essence of `Sacrament’ (my underline). This structure of speaking and acting not in one’s own name, but from divine authority appears again where Paul says: `As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way’ (2 Cor, 6, 4).”

2) Paul’s apostolic ministry is referred to as the “ministry of reconciliation” that has been given to him (2 Cor. 5, 18). “Reconciliation with God emanates from the cross of Christ and for this reason it has a `sacramental’ nature… The death of Christ as a historical event is past; it becomes present to us in `sacrament.’” He is referring, of course, to the “ministry of reconciliation” that takes place in the sacrament of Penance that can only be administered by one who has received this “ministry of reconciliation” by Orders.”
Ratzinger concludes the point of apostolic succession: “In the light of these observations, it is clear that the apostolic ministry is clearly distinguished by the apostles in the Scriptures from the common gifts of Christian existence. With great clarity this specific difference also comes to light when Paul says in the first Letter to the Corinthians: `This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God’ (4, 1). This specific difference logically implies the authority of the Apostle with respect to the community which he frequently expresses even in vehement terms when for example, he asks the Corinthians, `Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?’ (421). On the basis of this authority the Apostle may even make use of excommunication, `that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus’ (5, 5).”

St. Paul: Acts with an Authority not His Own:

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. He also it is who has made us fit ministers of the new covenant… (2 Cor. 3, 6)

Ratzinger: “We see the same sacramental structure which is made known to us from the words of the Lord: The apostle acts from an authority which is not his own, he acts from the authority of Christ, not as a member of the community, but as one who stands before the community and addressing it in the name of Christ. This dialogical structure pertains to the essence of revelation. Faith is not something which man thinks up on his own; man does not make himself a Christian by his own meditation or by his moral rectitude. Conversion to the faith always comes from without: it is a gift which always comes from another, from Christ, who comes forward to meet us. Where this `divine outside’ is obscured, an essential structure of the Christian faith is in danger.” [vi]

The ambiguity of the term “minister” applied to almost any church function obscures, and therefore, damages this dialogical structure of faith and the very sense of authority sacramentally imparted by Christ to the Church. It totally obscures the meaning of person as intrinsically relational with the Christological anthropology of priesthood (mediation by self-gift). “Minister” in the sense that it is being used today is “function” and therefore presupposes no intrinsic identity (because there is no sacramental bridge) with the novelty that is the Person of Christ as intrinsically relational.

Absent the sacramental bridge across this ontological divide, the faithful never “stand before” each other, but rather “with each other.” Since faith is always received “from outside” because of the ontological “novelty” that is Christ, where there is no sacramental ministry of Christ, there is no “standing before,” and therefore no “hearing” or receiving in the ontological sense of self-gift that is the reception. It loses the spousal/sexual dimension – and therefore, the communio - that is at the root of the relation of the revealed God to man. Revelation is God’s spousal self-gift in the Person of the Son to man. Faith is the active self-giving reception of the Word into the self (as our Lady, “`kept’ the word and `pondered it in her heart’ [cf. Lk. 1: 38, 45; 2:19, 51) and by means of her whole life accomplished it.”[vii]

After St. Paul?

The ministry of priests and bishops = the ministry of the apostles.

St. Paul to the “presbyters” – “overseers” – “bishops”

“From Miletus, however, he sent to Ephesus for the presbyters of the church; and when they had come to him and were assembled, he said to them: …

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [bishops]. Be shepherds of the Church of God which He bought with His own blood” (Acts 20, 28).

Ratzinger: “Two notions which up until this point were unconnected, that is, `presbyter’ [Jewish converts] and `bishop [pagan converts],’ are here equated; the traditions of Christians stemming from a Jewish background and those of Christians who entered from paganism coalesce and are explained as a single ministry of apostolic succession.”

Therefore, two conclusions: 1) "there is a sacrament involved in the succession since “the Holy Spirit has made you bishops” and 2) the traditions of Jewish and Gentile Christians coalesce. Ratzinger: “Because this gift is conferred by the Spirit it has the dignity of `sacrament.’ The duty of the Apostles to feed the flock of Christ is thus continued. The apostolic structure sends us back to the mystery of Christ, the true Shepherd, who bought His flock `with His own blood.’ In these words not only do the traditions of Jewish and Gentile Christians coalesce, but above all – and this is of even greater importance – the ministry or priests and bishops as to their spiritual essence is clearly shown to be the same as the ministry of the apostles.”

Therefore: There is not such thing as a "Lay Ecclesial Minister:” There is No Sacrament to be such: “It must be said, therefore, that towards the end of the apostolic era in the writings of the New Testament an explicit theology of New Testament priesthood appears. This theology is entrusted to the faithful hands of the Church and constitutes the inalienable core of every theology of Christian priesthood for the rest of time.”[viii]

The Relation of the Ministerial Priesthood to the Common Priesthood of the Lay Faithful

In the Old Testament priesthood, “The essential function of the kohanim (hiereis, priests) is this: to keep the people aware of its priestly character and to labor that it may live as such and glorify God by it whole existence” (J. Colson).[ix]

John Paul II: Christ is to the Church as the Bridegroom is to the Bride. The minister who has been ordained to act in the Person of Christ “stands `before’ the Church and `nourishes and cherishes her’ (Eph. 5, 29), giving his life for her. The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church. Of course, he will always remain a member of the community as a believer alongside his other brothers and sisters who have been called by the Spirit, but in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community… In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ’s spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest’s life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ’s spousal love and thus be capable of living people with a heart which is new, generous and pure…”[x]

[i] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[ii] Which is why we cannot make an adequate defense of heterosexuality in the secular forum nor now the ministerial priest as male Bridegroom and common priesthood of the laity as Bride.
[iii] Op. cit.
[iv] Op. cit.
[v] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[vi] Op. cit.
[vii] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater #20.
[viii] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[ix] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[x] Pastores Dabo Vobis, #22.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Relation of the Ministerial Priesthood to the Common Priesthood of the Lay Faithful

In the Old Testament priesthood, “The essential function of the kohanim (hiereis, priests) is this: to keep the people aware of its priestly character and to labor that it may live as such and glorify God by it whole existence” (J. Colson).[14]

John Paul II: Christ is to the Church as the Bridegroom is to the Bride. The minister who has been ordained to act in the Person of Christ “stands `before’ the Church and `nourishes and cherishes her’ (Eph. 5, 29), giving his life for her. The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church. Of course, he will always remain a member of the community as a believer alongside his other brothers and sisters who have been called by the Spirit, but in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community… In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ’s spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest’s life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ’s spousal love and thus be capable of living people with a heart which is new, generous and pure…”[15]

The Primary Mission of the Common Priesthood of the Lay Faithful: the “Secular” World – Served by the Ministerial Priesthood:

Daniel Cere on Cardinal Newman and John Paul II:

“`Rouse Yourselves’ Towards a `High’ Doctrine of the Laity[16] (Selections):

1. “Newman wants us to aim high: “I want laity…who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand…I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity…I mean to be severe, and…exorbitant in my demands.” (Newman 1889: 390)
“Newman was severe and exorbitant. In delineating the standard for Christian formation, he draws attention to our call to participate in the threefold mission of Christ as priest, prophet, and king" (“The Christian Ministry” Newman 1997: 420). Newman states that “all His followers in some sense bear all three offices.” Though they are “earthen vessels,” nevertheless they are called to “show forth according to their measure these three characters,—the prophetical, priestly, and regal…” (“The Three Offices of Christ,” Newman 1898: 55). “Not the few and the conspicuous alone,” Newman states, “but all her children, high and low,” are bound to “walk worthy” as priests, prophets and kings of Christ and his Church. (Newman 1898: 62)….

2. “The Priestly Vocation and Mission:” “The laity rarely give much thought to their priestly identity. Martin Scorsese, director of the Last Temptation of Christ, once thought that he had a “religious” calling: “I wanted to be a priest. However, I soon realized that my real vocation, my real calling was the movies.” (Graham, 314). Scorsese places priesthood, vocation and calling on a floor with work in the movie industry—he opted for movies. Scorsese’s curious remarks about his “calling” make sense in a culture which has gutted “priest” and “vocation” of any real meaning beyond that of career.
“Clericalized views of the laity try to color in “priestly” tones to lay existence by blurring the essential distinction between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood. We are being priestly to the extent that we share in the activities proper to ministerial priesthood.
“Careerist and clericalized views of the priesthood skew the message of Vatican II and its most outstanding interpreter, John Paul II.. One of the most original contributions of Vatican II was its profound emphasis on the “two” modalities of Christian priesthood: the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood. Vatican II attempted to rouse the laity to a more profound and enriched sense of their participation in the priesthood of Christ.
“It also drew attention to the profound complementarity between the common and ministerial priesthood in a way that moved the common priesthood to center stage.(Rosato) According the John Paul II, the core mission of ministerial priesthood is to maintain and develop the common priesthood. (1980: 227) The ministerial priesthood is ordered to the common priesthood: “the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1547).
“The common priesthood is part of the “mystery” or ontology of the human person. (John Paul II 1979: ch.15) This priestly dimension is not just a question of tasks or functions to be performed; it defines the very nature and stance of the human person before God. John Paul II states that it “expresses in a particularly intimate but fundamental way the existential essence of faith.” The essence of faith is a primordial priestly act of sacrifice or self-giving in which the human person make a gift of himself to God—“commits his entire self to God.” “This commitment, contained in the very essence of faith, is realized most fully in the attitude which derives from sharing in the priesthood of Christ.” (John Paul II 1980: 223-25) John Paul II constantly returns to a pivotal passage in the Vatican II documents: “It follows, then, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.” The Pope states that “when man gives himself to God in this way, he rediscovers himself most fully.” (John Paul II 1980: 225)

The Gift of Self to God: Priesthood expresses the fundamental human vocation—the gift of self to God. In this sense, our participation in the priesthood of Christ is the most primordial of the threefold missions of Christ“the simplest and profoundest expression of faith.” The priestly dimension of human personhood “contains within itself the authentic Christian relationship with God.” “This attitude also expresses the vocation of the person in its existential nucleus.” It is this primordial experience of vocation “to which we must constantly return.” (John Paul II 1980: 224)…

3. “The Prophetic Vocation and Mission:

In his encyclical on faith and reason, the Pope warns that there has been a dumbing down of human thinking in the modern age. The modern mind seems to be systematically begging “the radical questions about the meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence.” The prophetic call lifts the human mind on the “twin wings of faith and reason”.(John Paul II 1998)

“The prophetic mind does not drift into blind faith (fideism) or a narrow rationalism. John Paul II insists that, “the boldness [parrhesia] of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason.” He quotes the words of St. Augustine: “If faith does not think, it is nothing.” “It is an illusion,” the Pope writes, “to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition.” On the other hand, faith should be a goad to thought: “reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.” Faith incites and challenges the human mind to remain open to the ultimate concerns. “It is faith,” John Paul II states, “which stirs reason to move beyond all isolation and willingly to run risks so that it may attain whatever is beautiful, good and true. Faith thus becomes the convinced and convincing advocate of reason.” (John Paul II 1998)
The goal of serious lay formation is to awaken this prophetic identity and mission….

“Prophecy demands fearless and creative engagement of culture. Prophetic thinking invites us to step out of the ideological matrix of our world structure and to critically assess or challenge the dominant cultural trends (Ardener 1989). Young people with little or no connection to Catholic faith, or even outright antipathy, are often fascinated by the critical cultural commentary generated by Catholic faith perspectives. Prophetic thinking is “purgative” (a faith-informed critique of culture) as well as “illuminative” (a constructive presentation of Catholic faith). We must learn the way of the prophet; to speak, to proclaim our faith intelligently, shrewdly, imaginatively. We want, in Newman’s words, “to learn to swim in troubled waters” and to “direct the current.” (Newman 1982: 177, 179)

4. The Kingly Vocation and Mission: “ Participation in Christ’s kingly mission involves a transformation of self-identity. Young lay men and women are not just mundane folk who must fit into the groveling slot that the world has prepared for them. They are men and women who have “the royal blood of the Second Adam” flowing through their veins. Cognizant of “the majesty of that new nature which is imparted to us” they are able to stand aloof from the “ordinary objects which men pursue—wealth, luxury, distinction, popularity, and power” as “mean-spirited and base-minded.” The Spirit of God “stands by us to strengthen us and raise our stature, and, as it were, to straighten our limbs, and to provide us with the wings of Angels, wherewith to mount heavenward” (Newman 1898: 145)
Students of the lay vocation must be educated in the royal nature of their call and become apprentices in the arts of kingship.

“Self-Governance: John Paul II states that kingship is “not the right to exercise “dominion over others.” “It is a manifestation of the “kingly character” of man.” (John Paul II 1979: 138) It involves a regal maturity and self-governance in the private spheres of life.
“ Newman warns that “nothing great or living can be done except when men are self-governed and independent.” (Patterson: 15) The transformation from adolescence to adult lay life involves at least three fundamental tasks of self-governance: choosing an occupation or life-work, making a marriage decision, and finding a social milieu or community. Lay formation must be based on a concept of the human person that celebrates responsible self-governance and self-possession.
“Education in the arts of kingship also involves a call to active involvement in the public sphere. The laity, Newman said, need to learn how to “trust themselves,” to work together, to “fall back on themselves” for support and assistance [secularity is autonomy of self-determination]. (Newman 1889: 388, 391) We are called, in the words of the Holy Father, to “assume leadership,” to build, to rule, to administer, to make a difference in the world. We need strong lay leaders. In so many critical sectors of their apostolate the laity have little in the way of meaningful resources. Where are the robust lay institutions and resources needed to engage the major ethical, legal, and political issues which bear directly upon crucial aspects of our live? We need kings, leaders, politicians, CEOs, who can make “good” things happen in a complex and often bad world….

4a. “The Church, Secular Universities, and Lay Formation:

“Newman puts it simply: “Seminaries are for the education of the clergy; Universities for the education of laymen.” (Newman 1899 III: 240) The mission of the university is essentially linked to the work of lay formation. It prepares the laity for their Christian vocation in the world just as the seminary prepares the clergy for their unique vocation in the church….
“We lack a coherent vision of the Catholic mission in secular universities. There is no substantive intellectual discussion of this mission. Investment of personnel and resources into building effective Catholic apostolates on secular campuses is minimal. We lack robust institutes and think-tanks dedicated to the exploration of this crucial arena of lay formation.
“There are some fundamental reasons why this situation needs correction. First, there are serious practical considerations. Secular universities are, and will continue to be, the academic setting where the vast majority of young Catholic men and women receive their formation. Our brightest and best students in medicine, law, science, and the arts will inevitably be drawn to the world-class secular universities which excel in these fields. Furthermore, the vast majority of our Catholic scholars work with secular settings. Their formation and mission within the university merits serious attention and support.

“Secondly, secular universities can claim to offer a very rigorous and tough training ground for the laity. If the lay vocation is in the world, then the university must prepare them to enter that world. Secular universities do present a clear and ever present danger for Christian faith. But so does the secular world into which young lay men and women will soon be plunged. Vigorous Catholic apostolates on secular campuses should be prepared to meet this challenge with courage, creativity, and enthusiasm.

“Third, the fact that the lines of demarcation between faith and secular culture are clearly drawn may, as Newman argues, prove to be “a great gain.”

Conclusion: Let us take to heart Benedict XVI’s observation to polish television: “I forgot to mention that many documents that he left us – 14 encyclicals, many pastoral letters, and others. All this is a rich patrimony that has not yet been assimilated by the Church. My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that his documents are assimilated, because they are a rich treasure, they are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council. Through these writings he helps us understand what the Council wanted and what it didn’t. This helps us to be the Church of our times and of the future.”[17]

[1] Daniel Cere, “`Rouse Yourselves’ Towards a `High’ Doctrine of the Laity,” Newman Rambler Summer 2000.
[2] J. Ratzinger, The Ecclesiology of Vatican II, L’Osservatore Romano N. 4 – 23 January 2002, 7.
[3] “This Marian profile is also – even perhaps more so – fundamental and characteristic for the Church as is the apostolic and Petrine profile to which it is profoundly united. …The Marian dimension of the Church is antecedent to that of the Petrine, without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary. Mary Immaculate precedes all others, including obviously Peter himself and the Apostles. This is so, not only because Peter and the Apostles, being born of the human race under the burden of sin, form part of the Church which is `holy from out of sinners,’ but also because their triple function has not other purpose except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary. A contemporary theologian has rightly stated that Mary is `Queen of the Apostles without any pretensions to apostolic powers: she has other and greater powers’” Address to the Cardinal and Prelates of the Roman Curia (December 22, 1987); L’Osservatore Romano, December 23, 1987; footnote 55 in Mulieris Dignitatem, DSP 111.
[4] Benedict XVI’s Interview on Polish Television, Zenit, Oct. 16, 2005.
[5] George Weigel, Witness to Hope, Cliff Street Books (1999) 293-294.
[6] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[7] Which is why we cannot make an adequate defense of heterosexuality in the secular forum nor now the ministerial priest as male Bridegroom and common priesthood of the laity as Bride.
[8] Op. cit.
[9] Op. cit.
[10] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[11] Op. cit.
[12] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater #20.
[13] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[14] J. Ratzinger, op. cit.
[15] Pastores Dabo Vobis, #22.
[16] Daniel Cere, Newman Institute of Catholic Studies, McGill University.
[17 Benedict XVI to Polish television on October 16, 2005. Op. cit.

Rev. Robert A. Connor

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Precis-Critique of "Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord"

1) There is a hard and fast distinction based on a sacramental and therefore ontological difference between sharing in Christ the Priest as Body and sharing in the Christ the Priest as Head. The terminology for this distinction is “lay faithful” and “minister” respectively. See Lumen gentium #10.[1]

2) The document “Ministeria Quaedam” (15 August, 1972)[2] blurred that essential difference by transposing to the lay faithful “the functions of the subdiaconate,”[3] pace its intention to the contrary.[4]
John Paul II and the Synod Christifideles laici saw the need to revisit that confusion. It was done in 1994[5] and in 1997.[6]
The commonality of laity and priests as “People of God" is priesthood, not ministry. The entire people of God are such because they share in the one priesthood of Christ.

3) Ministry is a term reserved for that sharing in the priesthood of Christ that acts in His Person as Head and Shepherd of the Church.[7] "Ministry" refers to an ontologically distinct way of being priest from the lay faithful: "The relation of the priest to Jesus Christ, and in him to his Church, is found in the very being of the priest by virtue of his sacramental consecration/anointing and in his activity, that is, in his mission or ministry" (Pastores Dabo Vobis #16).

4) The distinction between common priesthood (laity) and ministers is not a historical development but sacramental from the beginning. Christ instituted Baptism and Orders thereby distinguishing two (2) essentially different ways of exercising his priesthood (mediation). These two essentially different ways correspond to two distinct parts of the analogy of Body in Christ. Ministry pertains to the Head; laity pertains to members. These morphological parts of the analogy of the Body correspond to the spousal distinction between Bridegroom (Head) and Bride (Members). The Body that is the Church is the Bride, that has Mary as Prototype. The Head that is Bridegroom is Christ. The difference is sacramental establishing “indelible character” in each, and therefore of an ontological nature. The Church of Mary (laity) takes precedence over the Church of Peter.[8]

Therefore, laymen and women are priests as mediators primarily to the world and secondarily to the Church in ministries. They are never ministers. Women are incapable of Orders that would ontologically establish them as acting in the Person of the Bridegroom and Good Shepherd (Pastor) who gives up his life for his Bride/Sheep.

5) To blur the distinction between mission and ministry, and ministry and minister creates a confusion that betrays the received teaching of the Magisterium and constitutes a “novelty.” As novelty it is a departure from Magisterial teaching. It concludes by clericalizing the laity and laicizing the clergy to the detriment of both Church and Civil Society.

6)There is the de facto establishment of elitism among the laity, despite the document's disclaimers to the contrary, and therefore a dualism of a perceived “ordained laity” [9] distinct from the mere common laity. This confusion will quicken the decrease of vocations to the ministerial priesthood.

* * * * * * *

[1] “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men (cf. Heb. 5, 1-5), made the new people `a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized… are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood…
“Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ.”
[2] Vatican Council II, Flannery, 427.
[3] Ibid. 428.
[4] “The distinction between clergy and laity will thus emerge with greater clarity, the distinction between what belongs to the clergy and is reserved to them and what can be entrusted to the laity. Their respective natures will thus be more clearly understood;” Ministeria Quaenam; ibid. 429.
[5] “To speak of the `participation of the lay faithful in the pastoral ministry of priests’ it is first of all necessary to reflect carefully on the term `ministry’ and on the various meanings it can have in theological and canonical language.
“For some time now it has been customary to use the word `ministries’ not only for the `officia’ and `munera’ exercised by pastors in virtue of the sacrament of orders, but also for those exercised by the lay faithful in virtue of the baptismal priesthood. The terminological question becomes even more complex and delicate when all the faithful are recognized as having the possibility of supplying – by official deputation given by pastors – certain functions more proper to clerics, which , nevertheless, do not require the character of orders (cf. Canon 230).
“It must be admitted that the language becomes doubtful, confused and hence not helpful for expressing the doctrine of the faith whenever the difference `of essence and not merely of degree’ between the baptismal priesthood and the ordained priesthood is in any way obscured
(cf. `Lumen Gentium,’ 10).
“Similarly, by not making a clear distinction, including in pastoral practice, between the baptismal and hierarchical priesthood, one also runs the risk of underrating the theological `proprium’ of the laity and of forgetting `the specific ontological bond which unites the priesthood to Christ the high priest and good shepherd’ ((Pastores Dabo Vobis, 11
“A great variety of consequences follows from these reflections and should find expression in the revision of the motu proprio Ministeria Quaenam, as explicitly requested by the fathers attending the 1987 synod (Christifideles Laici, 23). Thus in the way it was prepared and carried out, the symposium held over the past few days has been most useful…”
(bold mine); John Paul II, Address on the Participation of the Laity in the Priestly Ministry: Given in Rome by His Holiness on 22 April 1994 to the participants of the symposium.
[6] Some Questions Regarding Collaboration of Nonordained Faithful in Priests’ Sacred Ministry, August 15, 1997; Signed by Congregation for the Clergy; Pontifical Council for the Laity; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Congregation for Bishops; Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. The strongest statement of this unusually authoritative document is a reiteration of the central quote given above in footnote 4 in its own Article I, sections 1) and 2).
However, The document came from the Vatican with an addendum: “The Instruction: An Explanatory Note;” This “explanatory note” said: “3. This document is meant to encourage priests, to encourage vocations and to help the laity – (…) understand how our fundamental equality is compatible with an essential difference… 5. It is good to explain how such abuses have arisen: Our modern frame of mind leads us to understand far more easily the concept of function, and far less easily to understand what is meant by ontological configuration. It is easier to understand that there is a task related to the word, and less easy to understand that there are sacramental actions. We are very sensitive to the demands of functionality and good organization, and might be inclined generously in entrust to others among the faithful anything which does not directly require the ad validitatem powers of the priesthood….
Viewing things otherwise risks interpreting service in the Church as the exercise of power. We are conditioned by the individualist culture we inherited from the 16th century to think in terms of competition, power, efficiency, which means that we are in danger of setting ourselves up against one another instead of understanding that the very same services, when exercised by sacred ministers or by the faithful do not simply have the same meaning, because of the sacramental nature of the Church…” (T)ruth demands that we admit that we are here confronted oby a revealed mystery that is not on the same level as our categories and that the way we use reason must preserve its nature as mystery, and not replace it with our church structures.
6. It is because what is concerned here is a matter of meaning that such treat attention must be paid to the vocabulary that is used, as has begun to be realized in several countries. The terms pastor and minister cannot be used for everything.
7. … May this document lead the laity to become fully aware of what is specific to them and prepare them for the task that is truly theirs in the world and in the Church, rather than encourage them to view as a promotion the fact that they fulfill other tasks that they exercise as substitutes.”

[7] “The priest… in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community. Inasmuch as he represents Christ, the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, the priest is placed not only in the Church but also in the forefront of the Church….’ It is not just what we do [ministerial functions], but our gift of self, which manifests Christ’s love for his flock… The gift of self, which is the source and synthesis of pastoral charity, is directed toward the Church… (This) distinguishes the exercise of the priestly ministry as an amoris officium… The gift of self has no limits…” Pastores Dabo Vobis, 23-23. Besides the power to teach, absolve and celebrate Mass, the layman is not empowered to die for the Church in this way as spouse.
[8] “This Marian profile is also – even perhaps more so – fundamental and characteristic for the Church as it the apostolic and Petrine profile to which it s profoundly united…. The Marian dimension of the Church is antecedent to that of the Petrine, without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary. Mary Immaculate precedes all others, including obviously Peter himself and the Apostles. This is so, not only because Peter and the Apostles, being born of the human race under the burden of sin, form part of the Church which is `holy from out of sinners,’ but also because their triple function has no other purpose except to form the Church in line with ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary. A contemporary theologian has rightly stated that Mary is `Queen of the Apostles without any pretensions to apostolic powers: she has other and greater powers’ (H. U. von Balthasar, Neue Klarstellungen).’" Address to the Cardinal and Prelates of the Roman Curia (December 22, 1987); L’Osservatore Romano, December 23, 1987; footnote 55 of John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem.
[9] “Co-Workers In the Vineyard of the Lord” calls for vocation, selection, formation, public ceremony for conferring “office” and the replacement of the secular workplace by the “ministerial workplace.” This elite, the “lay ecclesial minister” is seeking a structure within the bishops’ conference and congruent powers. It indeed becomes a parallel structure to the ministerial priesthood.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

October 11, 1943: Nihil Obstat on Opus Dei

Today should be a feast for the universal Church since what happened for Opus Dei today in 1943 happened for the universal Church in the promulgation of Lumen Gentium (The “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”) on November 21, 1964 during the Second Vatican Council. On this date in 1943, the Holy See put its hands over Opus Dei approving the radical equality of laity and priests as “sharing one and the same basic theological condition and belong (ing) to the same primary common category.”[1] The founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer remarked: “In Opus Dei we’re all equal. There’s only a practical difference: priests are more bound to place their hearts on the floor like a carpet, so that their brothers and sisters may tread softly.”[2]

In a word, the canonical struggle for Opus Dei to find a juridical mould to hold the radical equality of laymen and priests as having the same vocation, spirituality and formation anticipated the struggle to achieve the radical equality of the “People of God” (soon to be upgraded to the terminology of “Communio”[3]). A like struggle took place in the Second Vatican Council that rewrote its preparatory schemas, most notably Lumen Gentium, from a clericalized and hierarchialized ecclesiology to one calling for recognition of the radical equality of all the baptized in Christ with what can be called a functional diversity of hierarchy, laity and religious.

The History:

With Opus Dei, it all took place in 1943. On February 14, “Fr. Josemaria was celebrating holy Mass in the center of Opus Dei’s women’s branch in Madrid. Suddently, during holy sacrifice a new light shone in his interior. Once again God had entered his life and marked out the way. `When I finished celebrating Mass I designed the seal of the Work, Christ’s cross embracing the world, in the very heart of the world, and I could speak of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross’…
"Fr. Escriva now saw, with a clarity that confirmed the earlier lights, that God wanted … as an integral part of Opus Dei, a priestly body to perpetuate Christ’s actions, especially the Mass, which represents and makes present the supreme immolation of the Cross. The Cross must be inscribed in the world, reaching the four cardinal points, brought by each Christian with his life and work. To make this possible, so that ordinary Christians – with their common priesthood – might be one with Christ and make him present among men, they must be backed by like-minded sacred ministers, as instruments of Christ to communicate life and grace. Hence, as the Church is structured so also must Opus Dei be, in its own way.”

Since the Church had not yet gone through the Second Vatican Council, it would be more accurate to say that Opus Dei was struggling with the absence of a juridical structure and an adequate theology before and in preparation for that the Church was going to go through from 1962 to 1965 and beyond.

“What aims was the founder trying to accommodate? He sought the canonical erection of a priestly [read clerical or ministerial because the laity by baptism are already “priestly”] group or body within the total pastoral phenomenon of Opus Dei, so he could count on priests from the lay ranks of Opus Dei and formed according to its spirit, ascribed to the Work with no change in their secular condition. They would answer to the President General [the problem of incardination had to be solved] for the exercise of their ministry: pastorally tending to the members of Opus Dei and cooperating with them in their apostolic endeavors.

“But the 1917 Code of Canon Law permitted only ascription to a diocese or a religious institute…. Among the non-religious associations or societies, only some, the so-called Societies of common life without vows (title 17, book 2, CIV 1917) enjoyed the faculty of incardinating priests, if with the Holy See’s approval this were established in their constitutions or granted to them by papal indult….

“With the light of February 14, Opus Dei’s founder decided to take a new juridical step. He proposed to the ecclesiastical authority a formula he characterized as `the only viable solution within the framework of the present law. I am ready to yield in the words, so long as the document itself always affirms in a precise way the true substance of our way.’ The step would solve immediate problems, though still not totally satisfactory.

“In choosing this solution for the sake of having priests, the founder did not see Opus Dei as such being transformed into a Society of common life. Rather as he explained in a 1944 Letter, his idea was: `to transform a small nucleus of our Work, made up of priests and some laymen approaching ordination, into a Society of common life without vows, the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross….

The Shortcomings: 1) “Opus Dei appeared as something secondary: as an association proper to and inseparable from the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, when the fact of the matter is that none of these two parts of our Work is secondary. Both of them are principal.”[6] “The priests and lay people who are the protagonists of a single pastoral phenomenon, united in self-giving, are co-responsible for a single mission, to whose realization both actively contribute. The function of the ministerial priesthood consists in making present in the organism of the Work Christ’s face and grace, mainly through the sacraments.”
2) “(E)ven though the new juridical formula clarified that Opus Dei members were not religious, the figure of Societies of common life was seen by most canonists as approaching the religious state. This formula, therefore, could sow confusion. The founder did all he could to stress the differences….
“The founder spared no pains to reflect and safeguard in the best way possible Opus Dei’s secularity. But the limitations of the juridical figure remained. In itself it was incapable of faithfully expressing the reality of Opus Dei. While the additional refinements managed to safeguard the substance, they did not achieve a fully satisfactory fit. It was the `least inappropriate’ solution from among the possible ones.... In 1944 he wrote, `For the moment there is no better arrangement’ … `Let’s pray and live in a holy way,’ he added, `the spirit we have received from God, and he will give us the definitive juridical structure to preserve us faithful to our vocation and to render us effective in the tasks of our apostolate.’
[7][8] The whole of this would have to wait for the creation of a doctrinal and juridical paradigm shift or revolution that would make it possible for Opus Dei to take its correct place as “a little bit of the Church.”[9] This revolution and paradigm shift was the Second Vatican Council.

* * * * * * * * *

The Parallel Between the Radical Equality in Opus Dei (October 11, 1943) and the Radical Equality of All in the Church (November 21, 1964.

The Evolution of Lumen gentium in the Second Vatican Council: As Opus Dei was struggling for diocesan and pontifical recognition as a secular phenomenon where laymen and priests were equally called to holiness, the Church of the Second Vatican Council was going through a like struggle in re-interpreting itself as a people of God that was radically equal with a functional diversity within this same and equal people of being hierarchy, laity and religious. Writ small, Opus Dei was going through what the Church was about to go through writ large:

The first schema for Lumen gentium consisted of, I: The Mystery of the Church; II: The Hierarchy; III. Laity; IV: Religious…. The significance of this is the identity of the Church with the Hierarchy. The Church being considered primarily hierarchy, then comes derivatively, the laity and the religious. Concerning this schema and the others, then-Cardinal Ratzinger commented: “The situation was that proposals had already been worked out in Rome for the composition of the Curia, the commissions. And the expectation was that there would be an immediate vote on the basis of those proposed lists. Now, many of the Father didn’t want that. Then both Cardinal Lienart and Cardinal Frings rose to their feet and said that we cannot simply vote at this time, that we have to get in contact with one another in order to find out who is suitable for what, that the elections have to be postponed. That was the first drumbeat at the beginning of the Council.”[10]

Following on that “the chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium devoted to the People of God was significantly transposed. As is well known, this chapter appeared as the result of dividing into two parts an earlier draft entitled De Populo Dei et speciatim de laicis, which came after the section dealing with the Hierarchy. The new arrangement placed the chapter De Populo Dei second in the Constitution precisely to emphasize the condition which is common to all the christifideles, who are dealt with in greater detail according to their different functions, in later chapters: the hierarchy in chapter III, the laity in chapter IV and the religious in chapter VI.”[11]

Further on, Alvaro del Portillo continues,

“It is extremely useful to trace… the steps of Vatican II…. (I)n drafting the text of the Constitution Lumen gentium an attempt was made to distinguish clearly the view of the People of God as a whole from the various missions fulfilled by the members. Or, in other words, an effort was made to separate clearly the rights and obligations common to all the members of the People of God from those which are specific to particular categories of the faithful: deacons, priests and bishops, (this is to say the members of the Sacra Hierarchia) in one category, the laity in another and religious in a third category. For this reason the division of what was originally one chapter (De Populo Dei speciatim de laicis) into the present chapters II (De Populo Dei) and IV (De laicis)… is highly significant as regards distinguishing the generic concept of `members of the People of God’ (the condition common to all on the place of equality) from the other, specific concept, a typological description of which would center around the characteristic layness (Laicus). Laicus in the terminology of the council does not denote the generic concept of member-of-the-Church, but rather a special category which includes neither clerics nor religious.”[12]

[1] Alvaro del Portillo, Faithful and Laity in the Church, Ecclesia Press, Shannon Ireland (1972) 19.
[2] Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church” Opus Dei in the Church, Scepter (1994)38.
[3] “Communio” is a deeper and more exact formulation of the meaning of the Church than “people of God” since the unity it expresses is not only a likeness in one aspect, but a “pluriformity” of radically disparate persons. The Extraordinary Synod of 1985 says, “The ecclesiology of communion is the central and fundamental idea of the Council’s documents. Koinonia/communion, founded on Sacred Scripture, has been held in great honor in the early Church and in the Oriental Churches to this day. Thus, much was done by the Second Vatican Council so that the Church as communion might be more clearly understood and concretely incorporated into life.” The Synod then says, “Here we have the true theological principle of variety and pluriformity in unity, but it is necessary to distinguish pluriformity from pure pluralism. When pluriformity is true richness and carries with it fullness, this is true catholicity;” The Extraordinary Synod 1985: Message to the People of God.
[4] Fuenmayor, Gomez Iglesias, Illanes, The Canonical Path of Opus Dei, Scepter MTF (1994) 110.
[5] Ibid. 11-112.
[6] Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, Letter, December 29, 1947/February 14, 1966, #160.
[7] Letter, February 14, 1944, #12,
[8] The Canonical Path… op. cit. 128-129.
[9] Pedro Rodriguez, Opus Dei in the Church, op. cit. p. 1.
[10] J. Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth (1997) 71-72.
[11] Alvaro del Portillo, op. cit. 21.
[12] Ibid. 24

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Our Lay of the Rosary - October 7th 2005

The import of the feast is, of course, the protection that Our Lady gave the Christian forces representing the then-Christendom of 1570 in the struggle against Islam and the Turks. Pope Pius V was moved to proclaim Our Lady as “Help of Christians” which has survived to this day in the litany of the Rosary. She continues to be “Help of Christians” in this war which we now wage even more tellingly with ourselves.

Our Lady was writ large in the life of John Paul II. In his October 16, 2002 “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” he said:

“I myself have often encouraged the frequent recitation of the Rosary. From my youthful years this prayer has held an important place n my spiritual life. I was powerfully reminded of this during my recent visit to Poland, and in particular at the Shrine of Kalwaria. The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort. Twenty-four years ago, on 29 October 1978, scarcely two weeks after my election to the See of Peter, I frankly admitted: `The Rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and its depth. (…). It can be said that the Rosary is, in some sense, a prayer-commentary on the final chapter of the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter which discusses the wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church. Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbor, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life.’

With these words, dear brothers and sisters, I set the first year of my Pontificate within the daily rhythm of the Rosary. Today, as I begin the twenty-fifth year of my service as the Successor of Peter, I wish to do the same. How many graces have I received in these years from the Blessed Virgin through the Rosary: Magnificat anima mea Dominum! I wish to lift up my thanks to the Lord in the words of his Most Holy Mother, under whose protection I have placed my Petrine ministry: Totus Tuus!”

The Millennial Mission as Proposed by John Paul II: To Re-cognize the Face of Christ.

Novo Millennio Ineunte proposes that the entire Church “Launch out into the deep.” The purpose is to “experience” the Person of Jesus Christ. Only if we experience Him, will we re-cognize His Face in this situation and that. Here John Paul II and Benedict XVI are profoundly one. They both highlight the same point in an exegesis of Matt. 16, 13-19 and Luke 9, 18.
“Engaging in a kind of first evaluation of his mission, Jesus asks his disciples what `people’ think of him, and they answer him: `Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets’ (Mt. 16, 14). A loft response to be sure, but still a long way – by far – from the truth. The crowds are able to sense a definitely exceptional religious dimension to this rabbi who speaks in such a spellbinding way, but they are not able to put him above those men of God who had distinguished the history of Israel. Jesus is really far different! It is precisely this further step of awareness, concerning as it does the deeper level of his being, which he expects from those who are close to him: `But who do you say that I am?’ (Mt. 16, 15). Only the faith proclaimed by Peter, and with him by the Church in every age, truly goes to the heart, and touches the depth of the mystery: `You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt. 16, 16).

Only Prayer gives the experience of self-gift that is the Person of Christ.

“How had Peter come to this faith? And what is asked of us, if we wish to follow in his footsteps with ever greater conviction? Matthew gives us an enlightening insight in the words with which Jesus accepts Peter’s confession: `Flesh and blood is a reference to man and common way of understanding things. In the case of Jesus, this common way is not enough. A grace of `revelation’ is needed, which comes from the Father (cf. ibid.). Luke gives us an indication which points in the same direction when he notes that this dialogue with the disciples took place when Jesus `was praying alone’ (Lk. 9, 18). Both indications converge to make it clear that we cannot come to the fullness of contemplation of the Lord’s face by our own efforts alone, but by allowing grace to take us by the hand. Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of that mystery which finds ti culminating expression in the solemn proclamation by the Evangelist Saint John: `And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father’ (1, 14).”

Then-Josef Ratzinger would explain: Like is known by Like. Only he who makes the gift of self in prayer can re-cognize Him who is prayer in His very Being. The only person I experience is myself. If I experience myself going out of myself, I can “know” Him whose very Being is to be going out of Himself as Son of the Father. To be the Son is to be the act of glorifying and obeying the Father. His entire Being as Son is to be in relation to the Father.

So also us. If we experience going out of ourselves – by prayer, and turning work into prayer – we “cognize” ourselves and become conscious of who we are in a different way than when we are “trapped” in ourselves. Having cognized ourselves by praying, we can then “re-cognize” Him Who is prayer and transpose the experience and consciousness of who we are (as “other Christs”) to Jesus. Then, we too, like Peter, can say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This is the reason for the Rosary and the Apostolic Letter: Rosarium Virginis Mariae

“Therefore, in continuity with my reflection in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, in which… I invited the people of God to `start afresh from Christ,’ I have felt drawn to offer a reflection on the Rosary… to contemplate the face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, his Most Holy Mother. To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.”

“The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she `wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.’ (Lk. 2, 7).

“Mary lived with hr eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: `She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart’ (Lk. 2, 19; cf. 2, 51)…. In a way those memories were to be the `rosary’ which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life.”

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Third Anniversary of the Canonization of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, October 6, 2005

“The 20th century ended, for the Catholic Church, on October 6, 2002. It ended precisely 40 years after the opening of the Second Vatican
Council in 1962.
“It ended on a warm, blue autumn day in Rome with John Paul II’s canonization of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer the founder of Opus Dei, as a saint.

“In so doing, the Pope presented sanctity as the vocation of every baptized person, and so reiterated the central message of the Second Vatican Council….

“The 20th century was the century that brought the medieval world to a definitive end.

“That old world was `Christendom’… dominated politically by at least nominally Christian kings and Kaisers and aristocratic elites, dominated militarily and economically by Western Europeans, who colonized the world….

“Having experienced the 20th century, the solution seemed evident: the Church needed to `go to ground’ – to de-clericalize, … and to have its members intermingle in all aspects of ordinary human life, indistinguishable in any outward way from other members of society except in the excellence of their work, engaged in as a vocation … a vocation to sanctity in the midst of the world.

“And so, at the Second Vatican Council, the Church made the extraordinary leap, the epochal transformation, from a Church organized along lines that had worked well enough in the medieval age (that was) clerical, to a Church organized to survive and flourish and live out the faith in a `new ge,’ an age of a looming `new world order’…

“The Holy Father pronounced the formula of canonization for the Spanish priest at 10:23 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square. And so, in a certain sense, we may say that we know the exact minute that the old century and the old world ended: at 10:23 a.m. in Rome on a sunny October morning in the year 2002.”

The Formula of Canonization: John Paul II pronounced: “With the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and ours (authority), after have deliberated long and repeatedly invoking divine help and having listened to the advice of many of our brothers in the episcopate, we declare and define Blessed Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer a Saint; we inscribe him in the Catalogue of the saints and establish that he be devoutly honored as such in the entire Church. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Significance of this Canonization: These words show that the canonization is an act whose nature is distinct from the beatification, an act which theologians call a “dogmatic fact” and not simply a confirmation of what came before. In the beatification, the Roman Pontiff exercises the supreme legislative power which corresponds to him in the Church authorizing that one of the faithful be called blessed and receive public cult in particular places according to the modes established by law. In the canonization, on the other hand, the Pope declares and defines as a truth of catholic doctrine that one of the faithful is a saint, and extends his cult to the whole Church. This truth, taught by the supreme Magisterium of the Church in the solemn canonization, requires the definitive assent of the faithful, “founded on the faith in the assistance of the Holy Spirit to the Magisterium of the Church, and on the catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium" (SCDF Nota Doctrinalis on the formula of the Profession of faith, 29-VI-1998, #6 Cfr. John Paul II, Ad Tuendam fidem, 18-V-1998, #3,4).

Before the canonization, anyone who knew the holy life of Josemaria Escriva could have the certainty that he was a saint, and with greater reason after the 17 of May in 1992 when the Church authorized public cult to him. Now, the certainty is of another order as from a superior light. It is the certainty of the faith in what the Magisterium of the Church has definitively taught in the canonization.

We might also say that, since the person of St. Josemaria Escriva was indistinguishable from the his mission,[2] and that he achieved holiness by living out the very spirit he had been given to him, by canonizing the person as saint, the act also canonizes the spirit as truly a way of holiness.

The essential message of St. Josemaria is found in the following statement: “There is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”[3] Alvaro del Portillo commented: “This doctrine is so transcendental that the Church has wanted to proclaim it solemnly in the last Council and to make it into `the most characteristic feature and the ultimate purpose of all the conciliar teaching.’”[4] The last part of this sentence was a quotation from Pope Paul VI.[5]

We could say, then, that with promulgation of the Second Vatican Council as an infallible exercise of Magisterium, together with the canonization of St. Josemaria Escriva that this doctrine and spirit of achieving holiness in ordinary life by the giving of the self pertains to Revelation.

In this sense, we can say that Revelation increases. Revelation has been totally given to us once and for all in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Person of Christ is the total and complete revelation of the Father as His Word. But, as then-Josef Ratzinger commented, “Where there is no one to perceive `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”[6]

And so, revelation will increase as the subjective experience and consciousness of Christ increases. It is in this sense that perhaps we could suggest that this spirit of Josemaria Escriva pertains to revelation due to his experience and consciousness of the Person of Christ, and should be shouted from the housetops without fear or diminution for everyone to put into practice.

[1] Robert Moynihan, Inside the Vatican November 2002, 16-19.
[2] “All those who knew Josemaria Escriva perceived that his person was inseparable from the mission for which God had chosen him. Having been able to form a particularly close and profound relationship with him for 40 years reinforces in my memory this characteristic dimension of his human and spiritual physiognomy. I have seen him, so to speak, in his `first act’ as founder, that is to say in the daily and continuous building of Opus Dei, and as a consequence of the Church, as he affirmed not in vain that the Work exists solely to serve the Church.
“The identification of this very self with his foundational activity implied that Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject;” L’Osservatore Romano, May 28, 1992, 6/7.
[3] Conversations with Monsignor Josemaria Escriva, Scepter #114.
[4] Letter March 1992, #3.
[5] Motu proprio `Sanctitas clarior,’ 19 March 1930, 2.
[6] Josef Ratzinger, Milestones Ignatius (1997) 108-109.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

October 2, The Foundation of Opus Dei

John Allen writes: "Members of Opus Dei date the group's foundation to October 2, 1928, when Josemaria Escriva, then a young Spanish priest making a retreat at a Vincentian monastery in Madred, experienced a vision, revealing to him `whole and entire' God's wish for what would later become Opus Dei. Obviously the vision was not `entire' in the sense that it answered every question, since it required subsequent inspirations to demonstrate to Escriva that there should be a women's branch to Opus Dei (that came in 1930) and that Opus Dei should also include a body of priests, the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross (1943). Yet in some sense, Escriva insisted , the blueprint for Opus Dei was contained in that original experience on the Feast of the Guardian Angels in 1928. Here's how he once described it: "On October 2, 1928, the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels - by now nearly forty years have gone by - the Lord willed that Opus Dei might come to be, a mobilization of Christians disposed to sacrfice themselves with joy for others, to render divine all the ways of man on earth, sanctifying every upright work, every honest labor, every earthly occupation" (John L. Allen, Jr. "Opus Dei," Doubleday [2005] 16).

Allen continued: "Escriva and themembers of Opus Dei are thus convinced that their organiztion is rooted in God's will. As Escriva himself once put it, `I was not the founder of Opus Dei. Opus Dei was founded in spite of me.'"

In an apocolyptic vein, Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican and author of "Let God's Light Shine Forth (The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI)" wrote: "The 20th century ended, for the Catholic Church, on October 6, 2002. It ended precisely 40 years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962.

"It ended on a warm, blue autumn day in Rome with John Paul II's canonization of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei, as a saint.
In so doing, the Pope presented sanctity as the vocation of every baptized person, and so reiterated the central message of the Second Vatican Council....

"Having experienced the 20th century, the solution seemed evident: the Church needed to `go to ground' - to de-clericalize... and to have its members intermingle in all aspects of ordinary human life, indistinguishable in any outward way from other members of society, except in the excellence of their work, engaged in as a vocation... a vocation to sanctity in the midst of the world" ("Inside the Vatican," November 2002, pp. 16-17).

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangles: September 29, 2005.

John Henry Newman: “The Powers of Nature” (Parochical and Plan Sermon 29 [Feast of St. Michael])

“There have been ages of the world, in which men have thought too much of Angles, and paid them excessive honour; honoured them so perversely as to forget the supreme worship due to Almighty God. This is the sin of a dark age. But the sin of what is called an educated age, such as our own, is just the reverse; to account slightly of them, or not at all; to ascribe all we see around us, not to their agency, but to certain assumed laws of nature. This, I say, is likely to be our sin, in proportion as we are initiated into the learning of this world; - and this is the danger of many (so called) philosophical pursuits, not in fashion, and recommended zealously to the notice of large portions of the community, hitherto strangers to them, - chemistry, geology, and the like; the danger, that is, of resting in things seen, and forgetting unseen things, and our ignorance about them.


“(W)hy do rivers flow? Why does rain fall? Why does the sun warm us? And the wind, why does it blow? Here our natural reason is at fault; we know, I say, that it is the spirit in man and in beast that makes man and beast move, but reason tells us of no spirit abiding in what is commonly called the natural world, to make it perform its ordinary duties. Of course, it is God’s will which sustains it all; so does God’s will enable us to move also, yet this does not hinder, but, in one sense we may be truly said to move ourselves: but how do the wind and water, earth and fire, move? Now here Scripture interposes, and seems to tell us, that all this wonderful harmony is the work of Angels. Those events which we ascribe to chance as the weather, or to nature as the seasons, are duties done to that God who maketh nature as the season, are duties done to that God who maketh His Angels to be winds, and His Ministers a flame of fire. For example, it was an Angel which gave to the pool at Bethesda it medicinal quality; and there is no reason why we should doubt that other health-springs in this and other countries are made such by a like unseen ministry. The fires on Mount Sinai, the thunders and lightnings, were the work of Angels; and in the Apocalypse we read of the Angels restraining the four winds. Works of vengeance we likewise attributed to them. The fiery lava of the volcanoes, which (as it appears) was the cause of Sodom and Gomorrah’s ruin, was caused by the two Angels who rescued Lot. The hosts of Sennacherib were destroyed by an Angle, by means (it is supposed) of a suffocating wind. The pestilence in Israel when David numbered the people, was the work of an Angel. The earthquake at the resurrection was the work of an Angel. And in the Apocalypse the earth is smitten in various ways by Angels of vengeance.

* * * * * *

“(S)o there are Spiritual Intelligences which move those wonderful and vast portions of the natural world which seem to be inanimate; and as the gestures, speech, and expressive countenances of our friends around us enable us to hold intercourse with them, so in the motions of universal Nature, in the interchange of day and night, summer and winter, wind and storm, fulfilling His word, we are reminded of the blessed and dutiful Angels. Well then, on this day’s Festival, may we sing the hymn of those Three Holy Children whom Nebuchadnezzar cast into the fiery furnace. The Angles were bid to change the nature of the flame, and make it harmless to them; and they in turn called on all the creatures God, on the Angels especially, to glorify Him…

“Thus, whenever we look abroad, we are reminded of those most gracious and holy Beings, the servants of the Holiest, who deign to minister to the heirs of salvation. Every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every beautiful prospect, is, as it were, the skirts of their garments, the waving of the robes for those whose faces see God in heaven. And I put it to any one, whether it is not as philosophical, and as full of intellectual enjoyment, to refer the movements of the natural world to them, as to attempt to explain them by certain theories of science; useful as these theories certainly are for particular purposes, and capable (in subordination to that higher view) of a religious application….

“Now all these theories of science, which I speak of, are useful, as classifying, and so assisting us to recollect, the works and way of God and of His ministering Angels. And again, they are ever most useful, in enabling us to apply the course of His providence and the ordinances of His will, to the benefit of man… But if such a one proceeds to imaging that, because he knows how things really go on, if he treats the miracles of Nature (so to call them) as mere mechanical processes, continuing their course by themselves. – as works of ma’s contriving (a clock, for instance) are set in motion, and go on, as it were, of themselves, - if in consequence he is, what may be called, irrevererent in his conduct towards Nature, thinking (if I may so speak) that is does not hear him, and see how he is bearing himself towards it; and if, moreover, he conceives that the Order of Nature, which he partially discerns, well stand in the place of the God who made it, and that all things continue and move one, not by His will and power, and the agency of the thousands and tens of thousands of His unseen Servants, but by fixed laws, self-caused and self-sustained, what a poor weak worm and miserable sinner he becomes!”


"Now let us consider what the real state of the case is. Supposing the inquirer I have been describing, when examining a flower, or a herb, or a pebble, or a ray of light, which he treats as something so beneath him in the scale of existence, suddenly discovered that he was in the presence of some powerful being who was hidden behind the visible things he was inspecting, who, though concealing his wise hand, was giving them their beauty, grace, and perfection, as being God's instrument for the purpose, nay whose robe and ornaments those wondrous objects were, which he was so eager to analyse, what would be his thoughts? Should we but accidentally show a rudeness of manner towards our fellow-man, tread on the hem of his garment, or brush roughly against him, are we not vexed, not as if we had hurt him, but from the fear we may have been disrespectful? David had watched the awful pestilence three days, doubtless not with curious eyes, but with indescribable terror and remorese; but when at length he `lifted up his eyes and saw the
Angel of the Lord (who caused the pestilence) `stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem, then David and the elders, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.'"


"Surely we are not told in Scripture about the Angels for nothing, but for practical purposes; nor can I conceive a use of our knolwedge more practical than to make it connect the sight of this world with the thought of another. Nor one more consolatory; for surely it is a great comfort to reflect that, wherever we go, we have those about us, who are ministering to all the heirs of salvation, though we see them not."


"When we survey Almight God surrounded by His Holy Angels, His thousand thousands of ministering Spirits, and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before Him, the idea of His awful Majesty rises before us more powerfully and impressively. We begin to see how little we are, how altogether mean and worthless in ourselves, and how high He is, and fearful. The very lowest of His Angels is indefinitely above us in this our present state; how high then must be the Lord of Angels! The very Seraphim hide their faces before His glory, while they praise Him; how shamed-faced then should sinners be, when they come into His presence."