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“THOU ART PETER, AND UPON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH” – THE POPE, THE VICAR OF CHRIST

“‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also on heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19).

JESUS MADE SIMON PETER THE FOUNDATION STONE OF HIS KINGDOM

Jesus made Simon Peter the rock or foundation stone of His kingdom. In the mind of Jesus all power in His kingdom, the power to teach the divine message, the power to rule men unto salvation, the power to sanctify men for salvation, all these powers were to be centralised in Simon Peter and his successors to the leadership of the apostolic college.

THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM

That the early Christian community recognised this is a historical fact. It was at Peter’s suggestion that the other Apostles elected Matthias to take the place left vacant in the apostolic college by the defection of Judas. It was Peter who first preached the establishment of the kingdom on Pentecost Sunday. It was Peter who worked the first miracle to testify to the power of Jesus Christ. It was Peter who punished Ananias and Sapphira for attempting to deceive the first Christian community at Jerusalem. It was Peter who admitted the first Gentiles into the new kingdom. At the Council of Jerusalem it was Peter who decided to what extent Gentile converts to the kingdom were bound by the old Mosaic Law. It was to Peter that St Paul went seeking confirmation of his own call to preach the Gospel. So great was his authority among the earliest members of the kingdom that even St Paul boasts of having induced Peter to accept his own position on a matter of discipline.

THE SUCCESSION

Peter died as Bishop of Rome, and the Bishops of Rome succeeded to his leadership of the whole Church. Thus it is that we see the Popes, the Bishops of Rome, exercising in the Kingdom of God through the centuries the authority which Jesus had entrusted to Peter.

ST CLEMENT’S LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS

So it was that Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century, sent a letter to the Christians at Corinth asking them to restore to office the priests whom they had illegitimately deposed. His wishes were fulfilled by the Corinthians. In fact, they held his letter in such esteem that it was read during liturgical celebrations just as the letters of the original Apostles. This recognition of the authority of the Bishop of Rome is all the more remarkable since St John, one of the original Apostles, was still alive at Ephesus, much nearer to Corinth than Rome.

‘MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH RECEIVE THE FULL TEACHING OF JESUS FROM THE BISHOPS OF ROME’

At the end of the second century Pope Victor threatened to excommunicate the Asian bishops who refused to celebrate Easter on the date used by the rest of the Church. On the urging of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Victor did not carry out the threat. But the very fact that Victor threatened to do so, and the fact that Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, and therefore a man acquainted with the traditions of the Church both in the East and in the West, felt it necessary in the interests of concord to urge him not to do so, testify to the recognition of his power to rule the whole Church. It should be mentioned also that Irenaeus gives testimony to the fact that members of the Church receive the full teaching of Jesus from the Bishop of Rome.

‘IT IS ST PETER WHO SPEAKS THROUGH THE POPE’

In the third century two bishops of Spain who had been accused of loss of faith appealed to Pope Stephen I. Similarly Pope Dionysius asked Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, who was suspected of adhering to the Sabellian heresy, to make a profession of true faith.

THE COUNCIL OF NICEA

Even though the Council of Nicea – in 325 the first general or ecumenical council of the Church – was summoned at the order of the Emperor Constantine, it was the two legates of the Bishop of Rome who presided. Toward the end of the same fourth century Pope Siricius reminded the bishops of Spain that it is St Peter who speaks through the Pope.

THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON

In the fifth century the General Council of Chalcedon accepted the famous dogmatic letter of Leo as a statement of the true faith against the Monophysite heresy and proclaimed, ‘Peter has spoken through Leo.’ And, as we have previously seen, it was Pope Gelasius who during this century pointed out to the emperors that the Church held its power to rule from God and, thus, independently of the civil authority.

POPE GREGORY THE GREAT

In the sixth century Pope Gregory the Great reorganised the Church in Italy and sought to promote the reform of the Church in Gaul. It was Gregory who sent Augustine of Canterbury to convert England to the true faith.

THE THIRD COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE

In the seventh century the third council of Constantinople accepted the teaching of Pope Agatho against the Momothelite heresy. In the eighth century Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the West. Nicholas I excommunicated the bishops of Trier and Cologne for sanctioning the second marriage of King Lothair. He also intervened in the Photian schism at Constantinople and restored Ignatius to the bishopric of Constantinople.

THE PAPACY WAS INVOLVED IN A LONG STRUGGLE WITH SECULAR RULERS FOR THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH FROM CIVIL AUTHORITY

From the ninth century on, the Papacy was involved in a long and serious struggle with secular rulers for the independence of the Church from civil authority. This struggle reached a climax in the reforming efforts of Pope Gregory VII, who succeeded in freeing the Church from the ’emperor’ King Henry IV of Germany.

THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE BEGINNING NATIONALISM IN THE SECULAR SPHERE

From this time on, the power of the Popes was supreme in matters of religion and Western Christendom generally recognised the supremacy of the Church over the State. But the situation changed after the conflict between Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and Philip the Fair of France. Philip, in an effort to strengthen the French monarchy, sought a great measure of control over the Church in France. Boniface resisted his efforts, but without success. In the fourteenth century the Popes made the mistake of taking up residence at Avignon, within the borders of France. This gave the Papacy the appearance of being too favourable with the French. When finally the Popes returned to residence at Rome after the death of Pope Urban V, the French King Charles V disputed the election of Pope Urban VI and induced some French cardinals to elect Robert of Geneva as Pope Clement VII. This was the start of the Great Western Schism. Until the election of Martin V in 1417 Christendom was troubled and confused at the sight of rival claimants to the See of Peter. In 1417 there were three claimants to the Papacy. This unfortunate situation gave rise to the ‘Conciliar theory,’ the idea that a general council is superior to the Pope. Though Jesus Himself had made Peter and his successors (the Bishops of Rome) the supreme heads of His Church, the schism, coupled with the beginning of nationalism and the consequent desire of some nations (at least on the part of their sovereigns) to achieve independence of the divinely constituted authority of the Popes, gave impetus to the theory that a general council was superior even to the Pope. As a consequence the Popes had to fight against this attempt to destroy the foundations of authority in the Kingdom of God on earth. Pope Eugene IV found it necessary to dissolve the Council of Basel, which pretended to have authority over the Pope himself.

SECULAR RULERS WITH THEIR NATIONALISTIC AMBITIONS SUCCEEDED IN CONTROLLING CHURCH AFFAIRS IN SOME AREAS VIA LUTHER AND ZWINGLI

In the sixteenth century the Popes faced the most dangerous threat to their authority up to that time. In 1517 Martin Luther, a German monk, revolted against the authority of Rome. This sparked a movement which has become known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther, and other reformers such as Zwingli, were aided by kings and princes who sought control of church affairs. Pope Leo X did not act with sufficient force. As a consequence roughly half the Christians of Europe – chiefly those in northern Europe – left the true Church and joined heretical sects. The Council of Trent, which was summoned toward the middle of the century by Pope Paul III, by its reforming measures in the area of Church discipline and by its authoritative statement of Catholic teaching helped to stem the tide. But too much damage had already been done. And so from then until now the world is faced with the spectacle of millions of men, claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, who will not submit in matters of discipline, doctrine or worship to the vicar of Christ, the Pope of Rome.

THE POPE, HOWEVER, DID NOT SWAP CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OR MORAL PRINCIPLE FOR POLITICAL INFLUENCE

One of the results of the so-called Reformation, with the establishment of powerful Protestant states, was that by the seventeenth century the Papacy had been reduced to a state of political unimportance. But it is to the credit of the Papacy that even though the Popes were anxious to restore Christian unity to the world they did not compromise Christian doctrine or moral principle in the effort to do so.

But the decline of papal political influence was less unfortunate than the decline of spiritual and moral influence of the Papacy which accompanied it. Basically the political power of the Papacy was only a reflection of its enormous spiritual influence. Ultimately kings and princes, such as Pepin and Charlemagne, gave grants of land and political power to the Popes because the Popes wielded great spiritual influence over the Christian people of Europe and were a stabilising factor in a war-torn world. But in time this political influence, though only in appearance, came to overshadow the spiritual force which it reflected and bolstered.

But the ‘Reformation’ struck directly at the spiritual authority of the Papacy. Up to the ‘Reformation’ the Church itself, the Church centralised in the authority of the Popes, was the first and the ultimate source of all doctrinal and disciplinary decision. But the ‘reformers’ asserted that the faith and the religious practice of every Christian was based on the right of every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself. For the divinely instituted authority of Peter the ‘reformers’ substituted the authority of the individual mind of the individual man. Naturally those who embraced this individualistic rule of faith no longer looked to Peter, in the person of the Pope, for the teaching of the message of Jesus and its application to the ever-changing conditions of history.

IT BECAME EVIDENT THAT SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES AND STATE POWER DON’T MIX

The weakness, even the falsity, of this new principle became evident very quickly in the multiplication of Protestant sects, each differing from the others in one or more points of faith or religious discipline. Moreover many of these sects, in their efforts to survive, accepted the principle that the local prince or king was the head of the Church.

CONCESSIONS TO NATIONALISM BY PROTESTANTS

This was a concession to the growing principle of nationalism. But it was also a rejection of the real supranational character of the Christian kingdom, and it represented a betrayal of the principle enunciated by Jesus Himself: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ It was in this spirit that the Lutherans in Germany recognised the right of the German princes to determine the religious views of their subjects and that Henry the Eighth made himself the supreme head of the Anglican Church. And so, at least for some time, what began as an emancipation of men from the authority of the Pope in the name of individual liberty became in fact an enslavement of religion to civil authority.

‘AN ENSLAVEMENT OF FAITH TO CIVIL AUTHORITY’

The loss of millions of members of the kingdom to the new heretical sects was in itself a great blow to the Church. But it had an even more insidious result. The princes of Catholic Europe were not slow to see the political advantages gained by the control which the Protestant sovereigns exercised over the Protestant churches in their domains. Anxious to make their own kingdoms as strong as possible in the face of growing nationalistic rivalries, Catholic princes also sought to control the Catholic Church within their own territories. Thus it was that in 1682 thirty-six French prelates, under the urging of Cardinal Richelieu, adopted the famous ‘Gallican Articles’ and sent them to the bishops in France. The ‘Articles’ held that the Pope is subject to a general council, the king is not subject to the Pope and that the Pope is not infallible. It is true that Pope Innocent XII succeeded in persuading Louis XIV of France to annul the ‘Articles.’ But the fact that they were disseminated at all shows that the spirit of anti-papism was to be found in Catholic France. The same tendency to reduce papal influence and enlarge the civil control of religion was shown also in the Febronianism and Josephinism which arose in Catholic Germany. All in all, these movements in Catholic countries coupled with state control of religion in Protestant countries were a concrete manifestation of the growing political theory of the absolute state, the state supreme in all the affairs of human life, even in the affairs of religion.

THE LOGICAL ‘NEXT STEP’ FOLLOWING THE PROTESTANT ‘REFORMATION’

To these religious and political counter-currents seeking to undermine the Church there was added in the eighteenth century the far more formidable adversary of rationalism in religion. The Kingdom of God is always a kingdom founded on faith, in fact on faith in mysteries which cannot be fully understood by the limited powers of the human mind. This faith is sustained in the world by the teaching authority of the Church, an authority sustained by and centralised in the Papacy. When Protestantism divorced the minds of men from this authority it was not long before these same minds were divorced from the divine revelation itself. Under the influence of Locke, Hume and Kant the message of Jesus was reduced to a purely natural religion, founded no longer on a divine revelation to man but now on the limited resources of the human mind. Since the philosophy of the time reduced the powers of the mind to the simple consideration and ordering, not of reality of real things but only of the ‘appearances’ of things, it became fashionable to hold that men could not prove the existence of God or the immortality of the human soul. In such an intellectual atmosphere men tended to become either atheists and irreligious or to found religious values purely on man’s emotions and the pragmatic necessity of supplying ease and satisfaction to these irrational emotions.

IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD…

Thus, in modern times the Papacy, seeking to preserve in the world the true Kingdom of God, has had to attempt to undo the ravages of the ‘Reformation,’ to preserve the independence of the Church [from secular power, also under the guise of Protestantism] and to assert the divine authority of the Christian revelation in the face of the attacks of rationalism. Through the General Council of Trent the Popes replied to the ‘Reformation.’ Through missionary efforts, especially under the central control of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV), the Papacy has carried on its divinely commissioned task to bring the Gospel to all the world. And so, in the providence of God, the losses occasioned by the ‘Reformation’ have been partly offset by the tightening of discipline within the Church and by the recruitment of members of the Kingdom in Africa, the Far East and the Americas.

THE CONTINUED INDEPENDENCE OF THE PAPACY OF ALL CIVIL STATES

In the face of attempts on the part of states to control the Church the Papacy has fought a long battle which is not yet, perhaps, over. The political power and prestige of the Papacy itself declined until in 1870 with the annexation of the Papal States by the newly founded kingdom of Italy it was eclipsed. Under Pius XI, in 1929, the ‘Roman Question’ was settled by the Lateran Treaty with the government of Mussolini. The tiny Vatican State was established and its rights recognised by Italy. In this way the independence of the Papacy of all civil states was formally recognised.

THE RIGHT OF THE CHURCH TO SPEAK IN THE WORLD FOR GOD IS STILL AN UNEASY ONE TO EXERCISE

But the right of the Church to speak in the world for God is still an uneasy one to exercise. This is shown by the fact that the Popes of the last few centuries have found it necessary to make concordats or agreements with modern states guaranteeing to the Church the right to function under certain limitations.

THE POPES CONDEMNED MANY INTELLECTUAL ERRORS OF MODERN TIMES

In the struggle with rationalism the Popes have found it necessary to condemn many of the intellectual errors of modern times. In this regard the Vatican Council convened by Pius IX stands out. The council affirmed clearly the ability of the human mind to discover the existence of God, and to recognise God’s message to men by the divine signs (especially miracles and prophecies) which accompany it in its journey through time. In addition it announced firmly to the world the supreme power of the Pope, the successor of St Peter, to teach, rule and sanctify men. In the face of scepticism it affirmed also the power of the Pope to teach infallible matters of faith and Christian morality.

THE HISTORY OF THE PAPACY SHOWS THAT THE WORDS OF JESUS ARE BEING FULFILLED

The history of the Papacy, then, shows that the words of Jesus are being fulfilled. The Papacy is the rock on which the kingdom is founded, founded so firmly that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the indefatigable defender of the independence of the Kingdom of God. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the faithful guardian of Christian truth, protecting the kingdom against the loss of even the least element of the divine message entrusted to it by Jesus.

THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT (Mt 16:18b)

At the present moment the position of the Papacy as the Vicar of Christ is clear. In the face of political totalitarianism it stands out as the champion of the independence of the spiritual Kingdom of God. In the face of religious indifferentism, of intellectual scepticism and nihilism, the Papacy is the divinely appointed voice of supernatural religion, the champion of both reason and faith. Confronted with irreligious and misguided rationalism, the Church speaks to the world under the guidance of the Popes, the words of God, the divine revelation whose divine dimensions cannot be reduced to the narrow confines of unaided human reason, but whose mysterious depths of truth lie open to the humble eyes of faith.

NO ‘PRISONER’ HAS EVER, IN THE WORLD OF SPIRIT, BEEN MORE INFLUENTIAL IN THE WORLD AT LARGE

It is a remarkable fact that in our contemporary era, at a time when the political power of the Papacy is practically extinguished, the character of the Papacy as the rock on which Christ founded His Church can be seen with outstanding clarity. From Pius IX to Pius XI the Pope was popularly known as the ‘prisoner of the Vatican.’ Yet no ‘prisoner’ has ever, in the world of the spirit, been more influential in the world at large.

THE POPES HAVE STOOD HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST OF MEN IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO FOSTER WHAT IS BEST IN MAN

From Leo XIII to Pius XII the Popes have stood head and shoulders above the rest of men in their struggle to foster what is best in man, to safeguard and raise the spirit of man. In the midst of the political turmoil of the nineteenth century it was Leo XIII who freed the Church from allegiance to any particular form of government. It was Leo who, in the face of the Industrial Revolution and its creation of a landless, poverty-stricken proletariat, proclaimed the rights of the working man and the obligations of capital to provide decent working conditions and an adequate wage for workers. It was he also who revived the sane philosophy and theology of St Thomas Aquinas as an antidote to the intellectual errors of scepticism, naturalism and materialism.

THE PAPACY AFFIRMS THE LIBERTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE FACE OF THE ALL-POWERFUL STATE

Under his successor, Pius X, we see the Church strengthening itself within itself. He inaugurated a liturgical revival, urging the faithful to a greater personal understanding of and participation in the Church’s worship of God through the Mass and the Sacraments. The internal discipline of the Church was strengthened by the clarification and codification of Canon Law, the law which regulates Church discipline.

Pius XI, confronted with the attack on individual freedom by totalitarian philosophies of fascism, nazism and communism, affirmed the liberty of the individual in the face of the all-powerful state. Against the racial bias of these political philosophies, against the theories of racial superiority by blood, he affirmed the equality of all men in the sight of God. Conscious of the need of the Church to bring the message of the Gospel to all men, he encouraged the works of Catholic Action. He urged the Catholic laity to assist the bishops in the work of the apostolate, in the task of leavening an unbelieving world with the elevating yeast of Catholic doctrine and practice. Outside the Church the growth of the practices of divorce and birth control were destroying the moral fibre of society. Pius XI denounced the immorality of [artificial] birth control and asserted the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage.

THE CHAMPIONS AGAINST THE PREVAILING MATERIALISM OF OUR AGE

During this period two great world wars showed how far the bonds of social and political action between the nations of the world had deteriorated. Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII spoke clearly for peace and the cultivation of virtues which maintain peace. Though the nations did not listen, the Popes carried on a worldwide work of bringing succour to those made homeless by the destruction of war.

But the one thing that has become increasingly evident in modern times is that the Church, under the leadership of the Papacy, is the great champion of the spiritual element in human life against the prevailing materialism of the age. This is evident both in the Papal defence of what we might call specific human spiritual values and in the Papal insistence on the validity of the divine mysteries which have been revealed to the Church and which constitute the only true basis of human hope for salvation.

‘MEN AREN’T SIMPLY THE TOOLS OF A MATERIALISTIC STATE’

Thus, under Pius IX, the Vatican Council insisted on man’s ability, as a creature composed of body and spiritual soul, to discover the great fundamental truths of the existence of God and of his divinely founded Church. Leo XIII defended the dignity of all men in an age which was seeking to make men simply the tools of a materialistic state. Pius XI and Pius XII defended man’s freedom as a spiritual being in the face of the encroachment of totalitarian materialism on the sphere of man’s free spirit.

IN A WORLD HAS RETURNED TO THE OLD ERROR OF ADAM, THE ERROR OF SEEKING SALVATION BY ITS OWN UNAIDED EFFORTS…

But, best of all, in a world which has returned to the old error of Adam, the error of seeking salvation by its own unaided efforts, the Popes have, with ever increasing vigour and courage, insisted on the great revealed mysteries which the Church possesses. The worldly prophets of the time preach a universal brotherhood of men founded on the tyranny of an absolute state. Pius XII held out to the world the only possibility of achieving a true human brotherhood of men, the super-union of all men in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. In the Mystical Body of Christ men may achieve that fraternal union with one another which grace and charity make possible. In a secularist world where false prophets seek to institute a world government totally divorced from religious principles Pius XI insisted that all nations must recognise the kingship of Christ. World unity is possible only if men and nations are motivated by truly religious principles. In a world deep in despair because it has been taught that man is only matter doomed to eternal extinction by death, Pius XII fearlessly proclaimed the dignity, the spirituality and the immortality of all men in the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God, body and soul into heaven. To the world’s despair he proclaimed the hope of salvation, the hope of resurrection and immortality.

THE ROCK OF PETER STANDS UNMOVED AS A BEACON OF LIGHT, SET IN ITS PLACE BY THE REAL WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE

In this present age the Papacy stands out once again as the Rock of Peter, the Rock on which God founded His kingdom among men. The furious tides of political opinion and international disputes have stripped the Rock of political power. But this stripping has only served to reveal its essential character. In the midst of the rushing waters of materialism and barbarism, staunch against the breaking waves of war and despair, the Rock of Peter stands unmoved as the first and last champion of man and of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE LAST SUPPER

WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST TO BE ARRESTED AT NIGHT, RATHER THAN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT?

“It was Wednesday, the second day before the Feast of the Passover. The enemies of Jesus were anxious to defeat Him. Having failed to discredit Him, they were now determined to put Him to death. Even though Jesus Himself had refused to accept the role of a political Messias who would lead the people in revolt against the Roman authority, the Pharisees and Scribes were apprehensive that He might stir up such a revolt during the eight days of the Paschal Feast. If He did, then the wrath of Pilate, the Roman Procurator, would direct the power of the Roman soldiery against Jerusalem. To forestall this possibility, they felt, it was necessary to put Jesus to death. But they were also afraid of the people. Many of them had manifested a belief in Jesus. If Jesus was arrested publicly, the people might stir up such a tumult as would induce Pilate to act. How could they take Jesus by stealth?

STABBED IN THE BACK BY ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS

Their problem was solved for them by the treachery of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve Apostles. Each day, after teaching in the Temple, Jesus withdrew at night either to Bethany or to the Mount of Olives. Judas undertook to inform the enemies of His whereabouts, so that they might take Him secretly, without causing any public tumultuous demonstration.

WHAT WAS JUDAS’ REAL MOTIVE OF HIS BETRAYAL?

The action of Judas is the most infamous betrayal in all human history. The opinions of men on the character and action of Judas have varied with their attitude toward Jesus Himself. To some, who reject Jesus as the Messias of God, Judas appears as a follower of the Pharisees. The strength of the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus finally convinced Judas that Jesus was a seducer of the people, a man who would lead the people away from true Judaism. In betraying Jesus Judas would be doing a service to the people and to God. The nobility and purity of this motive, however, are somewhat discoloured by the willingness of Judas to accept thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A REVOLUTIONARY?

Others would like to think that the betrayal was simply a stratagem adopted by Judas to force Jesus to manifest His power and inaugurate the political revolution which Judas desired. Since the Apostles, like the people generally, still looked for political liberation, the actions of Judas, in such a case, would be stripped of their sickening appearance. This is not, perhaps, impossible. But once again the avaricious spirit of Judas and his acceptance of money to betray His Master detract also from the sincerity of his motive.

NO DOUBTS ABOUT HIS PART IN THE EVENTS

On the other hand the one thing clear in the Gospel story is that Judas, who was avaricious, did accept money to betray Jesus. St Matthew states that it was Judas who first mentioned money, saying to the chief priests, ‘What are you willing to give me, and I will deliver him to you?’ (Matthew 26:15).

THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE WILL IN HISTORY

Probably, then, Judas was moved to his action both by disappointment at the refusal of Jesus to become a political Messias and by a love of money.
The fall of Judas is, however, a striking instance of God’s way of dealing with men and the importance of free will in history. God knows that Judas will betray his Master. Yet Jesus chooses Judas as one of the favoured twelve Apostles. This means that, at least at the beginning, Judas was a man of some good will. He could have served his Master faithfully. He could have overcome his own greed for money and power. Jesus, the Son of God, gave him the chance to achieve great spiritual glory. But neither Jesus nor His Father in heaven would force Judas to remain faithful. It was for Judas himself to impress upon history his own likeness as a man of great loyalty or a man of ignominious betrayal.

THE EMPTINESS OF HUMAN REBELLION AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD

The betrayal by Judas is also an instance of the emptiness of human rebellion against the will of God. It was not God’s will that Judas should be unfaithful. ‘Woe to that man by whom he will be betrayed’ (Luke 22:22). But yet, the betrayal will be used by God to accomplish His plan for the salvation of mankind. ‘For the Son of Man indeed goes his way, as it has been determined’ (Luke 22:22a).

WHY THURSDAY, NOT FRIDAY?

On the next day, Thursday, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Feast at Jerusalem. From St John’s Gospel it would appear that the Sadducees were going to celebrate the Paschal Feast on Friday night that year. The intention of Jesus to celebrate it on Thursday night might be explained by the fact that Galileans, present at the feast, would celebrate it on Thursday in order not to defile the Sabbath, which would begin on Friday evening.

THE HISTORY

On Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples entered Jerusalem and went to the upper room of a house (probably the house of a friend of Jesus) to celebrate Passover. Now the Passover meal was a remembrance of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. It was therefore a joyous feast. The joy of the feast was symbolised by the drinking of four cups of wine and the eating of the Paschal lamb. The feast began with the blessing of the first cup of wine. After this bitter herbs were eaten after being dipped in a sauce composed of nuts, fruit and vinegar. The bitter herbs were a remembrance of the bitter oppression which the Chosen People suffered under the Egyptians. The unleavened bread eaten with the meal was a reminder of the haste with which the Jews had had to depart from Egypt; they had not time to bake leavened bread. The sacrifice of a lamb and the eating of it recalled that the blood of lambs, smeared on the door-posts, had caused the angel of death to ‘pass over’ the houses of the Israelites without bringing death to their firstborn, whereas it had passed through the houses of the Egyptians, bringing death to their firstborn. The entire feast celebrated then the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression and from death.

PASSOVER CEREMONIES

After the eating of the herbs the Paschal lamb was brought to the table and the head of the family recalled to all the participants in the feast the deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. The second cup of wine was then drunk and the lamb was eaten. Then the third cup was drunk and an act of thanksgiving offered to God. This was followed by the drinking of the fourth cup and the singing of the Hallel, which was composed of Psalms CXIII, 8-18, CXIV-CXVII.

THIS WAS NOT SIMPLY AN ORDINARY PASSOVER MEAL

It was at such a Passover meal that Jesus ate with His Apostles for the last time before His death. Yet it was not simply an ordinary Paschal meal, for Jesus was soon to die for men and this last Passover of Jesus on earth was also the beginning of a new sacrifice which would replace the old Passover.

THE DEATH OF JESUS WILL INSTITUTE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus began the Passover by saying to the Apostles, ‘I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you that I will eat of it no more, until it has been fulfilled in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 22:15-16). Jesus alludes to His own coming suffering and death. The old Paschal sacrifice of a lamb heralded the deliverance of the Chosen People from slavery and death. The passion and death of Jesus will deliver the human race from the slavery of sin and eternal death. The death of Jesus will institute the Kingdom of God.

THE APOSTLES STILL LACKED UNDERSTANDING OF THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Then Jesus blessed the first cup of wine and said to them, ‘Take this and share it among you; for I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:17-18). Once again Jesus refers to His own approaching death which will establish the Kingdom of God among men.

This reference to the Kingdom of God excited the Apostles and they began to dispute with one another as to which one would be greatest in the kingdom. To us who know the great solemnity of the moment it is somewhat surprising to find the Apostles disputing about so vainglorious a matter at this time. But the Apostles were still worldly-minded and lacking in understanding of the basically spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus at once moved to enlighten them. ‘The kings of the Gentiles,’ He said to them, ‘lord it over them, and they who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But not so with you. On the contrary, let him who is great among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant. For which is the greater, he who reclines at table, or he who serves? Is it not he who reclines? But I am in your midst as he who serves. But you are they who have continued me in my trials’ (Luke 22:25-28).

THE MEANING OF THE WASHING OF THE FEET

Then Jesus rose from the supper table and girded Himself with a towel. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of His Apostles. Simon Peter at first refused to let Jesus do this for him. Jesus said to him. ‘What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter’ (John 13:7). Peter replied, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered, ‘If I do not wash thee, thou shalt have no part with me’ (John 13:8). Peter then allowed Jesus to wash his feet.

After Jesus had washed the feet of all the Apostles He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If, therefore, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed shall you be if you do them. I do not speak of you all. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled,

‘He who eats bread with me has lifted
up his heel against me.’

I tell you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am he. Amen, amen, I say to you, he who receives anyone I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me’ (John 13:12-20).

By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus, Who was the Lord and Master of the Apostles, sought to teach them the lesson of humility. What makes the lesson even more impressive is the fact that Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, even though He knew that Judas was about to betray Him.

WHO IS IT?

Then, while they were eating, Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me’ (Mark 14:18).

The Apostles began to wonder which one it might be. Peter asked John who it might be. John asked Jesus. Jesus replied to him, ‘It is he to whom I shall dip the bread, and give it to him’ (John 13:26).

Jesus then dipped bread and gave it to Judas. Then He said to Judas, ‘What thou dost, do quickly’ (John 13:27). Judas departed to betray Jesus. None of the others, except perhaps John and Peter, understood what was taking place. Some thought that Judas was going to execute some errand for Jesus.

‘THIS IS MY BODY’

After the departure of Judas the paschal lamb was brought to the table and the second cup of wine was served. Then Jesus took bread in His hands, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the Apostles, saying, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Then He took a cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to them, saying, ‘All of you drink this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:27-28).

AT THIS POINT JESUS HAD DEPARTED FROM THE USUAL PASSOVER CEREMONIAL

This was the most solemn act of the Last Supper. It was not simply a usual part of a Passover meal. At this point Jesus departed from the usual Passover ceremonial. Jesus had already promised to give His followers His own Body to eat and His own Blood to drink. Now He fulfils this promise. At His words bread really becomes His Body and wine really becomes His Blood. Moreover the Body and Blood which Jesus thus offers the Apostles are the Body and Blood which will be separated in death on the Cross at Calvary. This is the Body which shall be given for men and the Blood which shall be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is offering His Body and Blood, His life as a sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind. In so doing He is making a new covenant, a new contract between men and God: ‘this is my blood of the new covenant.’ It was customary among the peoples of the Middle East to seal a covenant in blood. Jesus is now sealing a new covenant between God and man by His own Blood shed for the forgiveness of the sins of all men.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

In addition, this is not a rite to be performed just this once. Jesus intends that this sacrificial offering of His Blood shall continue until the final establishment of His kingdom at the end of time. ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ He says. And St Paul tells us, ‘For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he comes.’ St Paul referring, of course, to the second coming of Jesus at the end of time to judge all men and institute the eternal Kingdom of God.

THE NEW COVENANT

By telling the Apostles to repeat His own actions in turning bread into His Body and wine into His Blood and to offer this Body and Blood to God as a sacrifice, Jesus made the Apostles priests, empowered by Him to offer the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, and empowered to pass on this tremendous gift to those who would succeed them in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Jesus blesses, or consecrates, the bread and the wine separately. Thus He symbolises by this ritual and mystical separation of His Body and Blood the actual separation which will take place on the next day on the Cross. At this moment Jesus is, if we may so speak, beginning the inauguration of the new pact between God and men which will be sealed on Friday by the actual shedding of His Blood, the offering of His human life for the sins of men.

UNTIL THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

But this Body and Blood, made mysteriously present under the appearances, the sign of bread and wine, made thus present by the words and the power of Jesus, are not only a sacrifice offered to God. They are also a sacrament, a sacred sign instituted by God to give grace to men. For the Body and Blood thus present under the sign of bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Son of God, the Author of Grace. This is what Jesus meant when He said, ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him’ (John 6:55-57).

‘HE THAT EATETH MY FLESH AND DRINKETH MY BLOOD ABIDETH IN ME AND I IN HIM’

Nor did Jesus, in instituting what we now call the Eucharist, the sacrament and sacrifice of His Body and Blood, cater to any gross cannibalistic understanding of His promise and His action. The eating of His flesh and the drinking of His Blood minister not to the grossly material nourishment of men’s flesh, but rather to the spiritual nourishment of their souls. By receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus His followers attain spiritual union with Him and, through Him, with His Father in heaven.

THE NEW COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MEN

In instituting the Eucharist Jesus had begun a new covenant between God and men. That covenant He was to seal on the next day with His Blood. Judas had already gone to make the arrangeements for His betrayal into the hands of His enemies. Jesus knew that the end of His earthly life was near. But He also knew that His apparent humiliation in death was to end in the triumph of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. So He said to the Apostles, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and, as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so to you also I say it now’ (John 13:31-33).

THE FRUIT YOU WILL BE RECOGNISED BY

But before He ascends to heaven Jesus gives His Apostles a new commandment, a new rule of life, a rule which will enable men to recognise them as the disciples of Jesus: ‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: that as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34-35).

Because of His love for all men Jesus is about to shed His blood as a propitiation to God for the sins of men. As He Himself had said, no man can have greater love for a friend than to lay down his life for the friend. This is the love which Jesus now commands His followers to exercise toward all men. This all-embracing Christian love will be the distinguishing mark of the follower, the disciple of Jesus.

After giving this wonderful but difficult commandment of love the mind of Jesus turns in sorrow to the thought that His Apostles will fail Him in His hour of trial. ‘You will all be scandalised this night because of me,’ He said; ‘for it is written, ‘I will smite the shepherd, and the flock will be scattered’ (Matthew 26:31). Jesus applies to Himself the prophecy of the prophet Zacharias, ‘O sword… Strike the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered’ (Zacharias [Zechariah] 13:7).

But immediately He gives them a note of hope: ‘But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee’ (Matthew 26:32).

‘ALL SHALL BE SCANDALISED’

The Apostles, still not understanding that Jesus must die for the sins of men, and still trusting in His power, protest that they will not desert their Master. Peter is especially vehement in his protestation: ‘Even though all shall be scandalised because of thee, I will never be scandalised’ (Matthew 26:33). Jesus sadly rebuked him for his presumption, saying, ‘Amen I say to thee, this very night, before a cock crows, thou wilt deny me thrice’ (Matthew 26:34).

But Jesus also knows that Peter and the Apostles will repent their failure and will return to Him in faith. And so He says to Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32).

JESUS PRAYED FOR PETER

Why Jesus chose as His Apostles men who would fail Him in His hour of trial is a question which only God can answer with certainty. What is clear to us in the Gospel story is that Jesus knew that the eleven Apostles would repent of their failure and be all the stronger for it. To make certain this turn of events He prays for Peter. He has already promised to make Peter the foundation stone of His Church. Now He prays that Peter, in spite of his failure in the crucial hour of Jesus, will retain his faith and so be able to strengthen the faith of the others. Because Jesus is the Son of God, the prayer will be heard. The faith of the Apostles will be steadfast because the faith of Peter will be firm.

Peter, even in the face of the warning of Jesus, was obdurate in protesting his courageous loyalty. ‘Even if I should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee’ (Matthew 26:35). The other Apostles joined with him in the same resolution.

DIFFICULTIES AHEAD

Jesus had tried to warn them of their own weakness. They would not listen. He tried once again. He reminded them that when He first sent them out to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God they had lacked nothing, they had been well received in the countryside. But now everything would be changed. He Himself would be regarded as a criminal. He referred to Himself the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah], ‘And he was reckoned among the wicked.’ His followers would also be so regarded. Catering for the moment to their fiery Galilean spirit He said to them, ‘Let him who has no sword sell his tunic and buy one’ (Luke 22:36).

Jesus was not counselling His Apostles to spread the Kingdom of God by the sword. But He was trying to impress upon them the difficulty they would face in retaining their loyalty to and their faith in Himself.

The Apostles, however, took up the reference to a sword literally and bravely replied, ‘Lord, behold, here are two swords’ (Luke 22:38). What were two swords against the Temple guards or against the Roman might? But Jesus, knowing that His kingdom would grow by grace and faith and not by the sword, replied indulgently, ‘It is enough’ (Luke 22:38).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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BISHOP OF CARTHAGE A.D. 253: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES NOT DEPART FROM CHRIST, NO MATTER IF OTHER PEOPLE LIKE IT OR NOT

BY ST CYPRIAN +258, BISHOP OF CARTHAGE, OFTEN CALLED “THE AFRICAN POPE”:

“Peter speaks there, on whom the Church was to be built, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear or obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor.

Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another.”

(Letters 66, A.D. 253) Saint Cyprian

 
 

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4th JANUARY, GOSPEL READING (JOHN 1:35-42)

WE HAVE FOUND THE MESSIAH.

As John stood there with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, “Look, there is the lamb of God.” Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, “What do you want?” They answered, “Rabbi,” – which means Teacher – “where do you live?” “Come and see,” he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, “You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas” – meaning Rock.

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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WHAT ON EARTH WILL MY PARENTS SAY IF I BECOME A CATHOLIC?

[I DECIDED TO TALK TO A PROTESTANT CAPACITY]… THOSE TALKS BANGED UPON ME AN UNPLEASANT VISTA OF WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IF I WENT ‘OVER TO ROME’ – THE LOSS OF MY POSITION, MY SALARY, FRIENDS AND ALL; NOT ONLY THE BURNING OF ALL MY BOATS, BUT THE WOUNDING OF MY MOTHER AND FATHER CRUELLY. (FR DUDLEY, RECEIVED INTO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN 1915)

ALL THIS, AS A SCHOOLBOY, I DRANK IN. AND I BELIEVED IT.

“My first introduction to the Catholic Church was being spat in the eye by a Roman Catholic boy at school. He was bigger than me; so I let it pass. But I remembered he was a Roman Catholic.

My next was at a magic-lantern entertainment to which I was taken by my mother. In the course of it there appeared on the screen the picture of a very old man in a large hat and a long white soutane. I must have asked my mother who it was, and been informed briefly that it was the ‘Pope of Rome.’ I don’t quite know how, but the impression left in my mind was that there was something fishy about the ‘Pope of Rome.’

THERE WAS SOMETHING FISHY ABOUT THE ‘POPE OF ROME’

At school, I learned in ‘English history’ (which I discovered later was not altogether English and not altogether history) that there was something fishy not only about the Pope of Rome, but about the whole of the Pope’s Church. I gathered that for a thousand years or more the Pope had held all England in his grip, and not only England but all Europe; also that during that period the ‘Roman’, ‘Romish,’ or ‘Roman Catholic’ Church had become more and more corrupt, until finally the original Christianity of Christ had almost disappeared; that idols were worshipped instead of God; that everywhere superstition held sway. No education; no science.

I read of how the ‘Glorious Reformation’ had come; how the light of the Morning Star had burst upon the darkness; how the Pope’s yoke had been flung off, and with it all the trappings and corruptions of Popery; of the triumph of the Reformation in England; of the restoration of the primitive doctrines of Christ and the ‘light of the pure Gospel’; of the progress and prosperity that followed in the reign of ‘good Queen Bess’; of the freeing of men’s minds and the expansion of thought released from the tyranny of Rome.

All this, as an English schoolboy, I drank in. And I believed it.

Next, I did a thing that we all of us have to do; I grew up. And I grew up without questioning the truth of what I had been taught.

‘I COULD ONLY SUPPOSE THAT SOMEHOW HE HAD MANAGED TO KEEP GOOD IN SPITE OF BEING POPE OF ROME’

The time came when I decided to become a Church of England clergyman. For this purpose I entered an Anglican Theological college. And there I must confess I began to get somewhat muddled; for I could not find out what I should have to teach when I became an Anglican clergyman. Even to my youthful mind it became abundantly clear that my various tutors were contradicting each other on vital matters of Christian doctrine. My own fellow students were perpetually arguing on the most fundamental points of religion. I finally emerged from that theological college feeling somewhat like an addled egg, and only dimly realising that the Church of England had given me no theology. I appreciated later that it had no system of theology to give.

It was during that period at college that I first of all went out to Rome, on a holiday. And whilst there I managed to see no less a person than the Pope of Rome himself. It was Pope Pius X – being borne into St Peter’s on the sedia gestatoria. He passed quite close where I was standing, and I could see his face very clearly. It was the face of a saint. I could only suppose that somehow he had managed to keep good in spite of being Pope of Rome. That incident left a deeper impression on my mind than I was aware of at that time.

I kept a diary of all that I saw in Rome, and wrote in it: ‘I can quite imagine a susceptible young man being carried away by all this, and wanting to become a Roman Catholic.’ I myself was safe from the lure of Popery, of course.

‘I FELT LIKE TELLING THEM THEY COULD PRAY UNTIL THEY WERE BLUE IN THE FACE’

As a full-fledged Anglican clergyman, I first of all worked in a country parish. At the end of the year, however, my vicar and I came to the conclusion that it would be wiser to part company; for we were disagreed as to what the Christian religion was.

I then went to a parish in the East End of London, down amongst the costers, hop pickers, and dock labourers. I went down there full of zeal, determined to set the Thames on fire. I very soon discovered, though, that the vast mass of the East-Enders had no interest at all in the religion that I professed. Out of the six thousand or so in the parish not more than one or two hundred ever came near the church. Our hoppers’ socials in the parish hall were well patronised, however. Great nights they were, with a thrilling din of barrel organ, dancing, and singing. I found the Donkey Row hoppers immensely lovable and affectionate. We had wonderful days with them each September in the hopfields of Kent. It was social work. The mass of them we could not even touch with religion.

I grew somewhat ‘extreme’ in this parish under the influence of my vicar, to whom at first I was too ‘Protestant.’ I remember he disliked the hat that I arrived in – a round flat one. The vicarage dog ate the hat, and I bought a more ‘priestly’ one.

For a year or two things went fairly smoothly and I suffered from no qualms about the Anglican religion. How far I sincerely believed that I was a ‘Catholic’ during that period I find it difficult to estimate now. Sufficiently at any rate to argue heatedly with ‘low-church’ and ‘modernist’ clergy in defence of my claim.

And sufficiently to be thoroughly annoyed with a Roman Catholic lady who, wherever we met, told me she was praying for my conversion to the ‘true Church,’ and a Franciscan Friar in the hopfields who told me the same. I felt like telling them they could pray until they were blue in the face. I remember, too, that whenever I met a Roman Catholic priest I experienced a sense of inferiority and a vague feeling of not quite being the real thing, or, at least, of there being an indefinable but marked difference between us.

‘WE WERE BOTH FLATLY CONTRADICTING EACH OTHER’

It was when I could no longer avoid certain unpleasant facts with which I was confronted in my work as an Anglican clergyman, that the first uneasiness came.

I was in the house one day of a certain dock labourer who lived exactly opposite our church but never darkened its doors. I chose the occasion to ask him – why not? His reply flattened me out; it was to the effect that he could see no valid reason for believing what I taught in preference to what the ‘low-church bloke dahn the road’ taught. I could not give a satisfactory answer to his challenge. I don’t suppose he believed in either of us really; but he had placed me in a quandary. We were both Anglican clergymen, and we were both flatly contradicting each other from our respective pulpits.

It set a question simmering in my mind – Why should a n y b o d y believe what I taught? And a further question – What authority had I for what I was teaching?

I began, for the first time with real anxiety, to examine the Anglican Church. And with that examination I found I could no longer blind myself to certain patent facts, which hitherto I had brushed aside. The Established Church was a church of contradictions, of parties, each of which had an equal claim to represent it, and all of which were destructive of its general claim to be a part of the Church of Christ – directly one affirmed in its unity.

As far as authority was concerned, it was possible to believe anything or nothing without ecclesiastical interference. You could be n extreme ‘Anglo-Catholic’ and hold all the doctrines of the Catholic Church except the inconvenient ones like Papal Infallibility; you could be an extreme modernist and deny (whilst retaining Christian terms) all the doctrines of the Christian religion. No bishop said Yes or No imperatively to any party. The bishops were as divided as the parties. For practical purposes, if bishops did interfere, they were ignored, even by their own clergy. If the Holy Ghost, as claimed, was with the Church of England, then, logically, the Holy Ghost was the author of contradictions; for each party claimed His guidance. These facts presented me with a quandary which appeared insurmountable, and which remained insurmountable.

I have often been asked, since my conversion, how, in view of them, Anglican clergy can be sincere in remaining where they are. My reply has been – they are sincere. There is a state of mental blindness in which one is incapable of seeing the plain logic of facts. I only know that it was over a year before I acted on these facts myself. And I honestly believe I was sincere during that period. Only those who have been Protestants can appreciate the thick veil of prejudice, fear, and mistrust of ‘Rome’ which hampers every groping towards the truth.

COULD CHRIST HAVE ALLOWED A HOAX, AN IMPOSTURE OF THAT MAGNITUDE? IN HIS NAME? THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS EITHER AN IMPOSTOR OR – OR WHAT?

It was about this time that there fell into my hands a book written by a Catholic priest, who himself had once been an Anglican clergyman, who had been faced by the same difficulties, and who had found the solution of them all in the Catholic Church. ‘But the Catholic Church can’t be the solution,’ I said. And there rose before my mind a vision of all I had been taught about her from my boyhood upwards – her false teaching, her corruptions of the doctrines of Christ. The Catholic Church, though, was the Church of the overwhelming majority of Christians, and always had been. If what I had been taught was true, then, for nearly two thousand years the great mass of Christians had been deluded and deceived by lies. Could Christ have allowed a hoax, an imposture of that magnitude? In His name? The Catholic Church was either an imposture or – Or what?

I KNELT FOR HALF AN HOUR BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT. I CAME OUT TERRIBLY SHAKEN – SPIRITUALLY SHAKEN

I began to buy Catholic books to study Catholic doctrines. To read history from the Catholic standpoint. The day came when I sat looking into the fire asking myself: ‘Is what the world says of the Catholic Church true? Or what the Catholic Church says of herself? Have I all these years been shaking my fist at a phantom of my own imagining fed on prejudice and ignorance?

I compared her Unity with the complete lack of it outside. Her Authority with the absence of anything approaching real authority in the Church of which I was a member and a minister. The unchangeable moral code she proclaimed with the wavering, shilly-shallying moral expediency that Protestantism allowed. She began to look so very much more like the Church that God would have made, just as the Established Church began to look so very much more like the church that man would have made.

When I was passing Westminster [Catholic] Cathedral one day I went in and knelt for half an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. I came out terribly shaken – spiritually shaken. It is impossible to describe ; but in that short half an hour what, until now, I had contemplated as a problem, had suddenly assumed an aspect of imperativeness. A problem that had to be solved, not played with. For within those four walls there loomed up before my spiritual vision an immensity, a vast reality, before everything else had shrunk away. The church, whose clergyman I was, seemed to have slipped away from under my feet.

I returned to the East End dazed. That night amongst the hoppers I felt like a stranger moving about.

MY WHOLE BEING REVOLTED AGAINST THE PROSPECT

I went about for weeks in a state of uncertainty, undecided in my conscience as to whether I was morally bound to face things out or not – wretched under the suspicion that what ‘Rome’ said might be true – that I was no priest: that my ‘Mass’ was no Mass at all; that I was genuflecting before – ?; that my ‘absolutions’ were worthless. The more I prayed about it, the more unreal my ministry appeared.

I decided to consult a certain very ‘extreme’ clergyman, whom I believed sincere beyond question (as he was), and a man of deep spiritual piety. I had three or four talks with him in all, the general result of which was to leave me more confused intellectually than ever, but spiritually more at peace; though it took me months before I realised that this peace was a false one, and that I had shelved the matter not from its intellectual difficulties, but for worldly reasons. For those talks had banged upon me an unpleasant vista of what might happen if I went ‘over to Rome’ – the loss of my position, my salary, friends and all; not only the burning of all my boats, but the wounding of my mother and father cruelly. Even more, ‘Rome’ might not accept me for her priesthood; in any case it would be starting all over again, possibly from baptism. If she did not want me for a priest, I should have to…

My whole being revolted against the prospect. It was impossible – such a demand. I had been carried away by emotions. It was a snare of Satan. I should be a traitor to the Church of my baptism. God had placed me here in the Church of England. He was blessing my work as its minister. He had given me endless graces.

I buried myself in that work again, and for a time succeeded in forgetting, or at least stifling, the fears that had been my torment – until the haphazard remark of a photographer (registering my features), an agnostic I believe, opened my eyes to my inability to defend the Established Church’s position; it was to the effect that if Christianity were true, obviously the Roman Catholic Church, with her authority was right.

AN AGNOSTIC WITH NO AX TO GRIND TOLD ME, ‘IF I WERE RELIGIOUS, I’D BE A ROMAN CATHOLIC.’

It was the testimony of a man who had no ax to grind. A Jewish dentist made the same remark in effect to me shortly afterwards. The man-in-the-street testifies the same with his: ‘If I were religious, I’d be a Roman Catholic.’

Whether it was the photographer or not, my fears were released once more from their repression, abruptly and acutely, and this time I resolved that it should be a fight to the finish, either way – that no worldly or material consideration should interfere. The clergyman whom I had consulted had already made one thing clear in my mind – that the issue between Rome and Canterbury, the crux of the whole problem, was the claim of Rome to be the Infallible teaching authority appointed by God, and the denial by Canterbury of that claim. The whole question boiled down to the question of Infallibility, and on that everything else hung.

WHY SHOULD I STAKE MY IMMORTAL SOUL UPON HUMAN OPINION?

I entered upon an intensive study of the point. I read the history of the doctrine, the Fathers and the Councils of the Church, and what they had to say; examined its rationality. At the end of some months I came to the conclusion – that, as far as Holy Scripture, history, and reason were concerned, the Catholic Church could prove her claim to be God’s Infallible Teacher up to the hilt.

It is difficult after all these years to recapture the exact mode of its appeal to my reason; but it was the appeal that the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Church inevitably presents to any man who is prepared to lay aside bias, prejudice, and preconceptions. I will try to state it in the fewest words possible.

Infallibility is the only guarantee we have that the Christian religion is true. Actually, if I, at the moment, did not believe in an Infallible Teacher appointed by God, then nothing on earth would induce me to believe in the Christian religion. If, as outside the Catholic Church, Christian doctrines are a matter of private judgment, and therefore the Christian religion a mere matter of human opinion, then there is no obligation upon any living soul to believe in it. Why should I stake my immortal soul upon human opinion? For that is all you have if you refuse the Infallible Church.”
– This is part I of “Practical Failure of Anglicanism” by Fr Owen Francis Dudley from “Through Hundred Gates”, The Bruce Publishing Company. Milwaukee, WI, USA: 1938, pp. 308; reprinted in “Christ to the World” (International Review of Documentation and Apostolic Experiences), N 6 Nov-Dec 2009 Vol. 54; email: md2249@mclink.it

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 16:13-19)

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” he said, “who do you say I am?” Then Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ,” he said, “the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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TODAY’S RESPONSORIAL PSALM (PSALM 33)

R. From all my terrors the Lord set me free.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad. (R.)

Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free. (R.)

Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called, the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress. (R.)

The angel of the Lord is encamped
around those who revere him, to rescue them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He is happy who seeks refuge in him. (R.)

ALLELUIA

Alleluia, alleluia!
You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.
And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.
Alleluia!

 

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