Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 21, 2005

Many of us have had our eyes focused on the city of Cologne, Germany, for the past week, watching the events of World Youth Day 2005 unfold. Since I’m writing this column before our youth have even left for Germany, I can only offer predictions and expectations. By next week, however, we will have firsthand accounts of the first World Youth Day of Pope Benedict XVI from our returning pilgrims. The stories will certainly be told and retold, sharing the graces with all of us from this gathering for months and years to come.

My memories of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, Ontario, with Pope John Paul II are still fresh and vibrant, and I know that our pilgrims will be deeply touched by the Holy Spirit in their encounter with the Vicar of Christ, the Servant of the Servants of God, our Pope.

Coincidentally, this weekend’s readings speak eloquently of the “Petrine Ministry” or the role of St. Peter (and his successors) in the Church. The first reading gives the background for the analogy used by our Lord in the Gospel: the “keys to the kingdom of heaven.” These keys are the symbol of authority; they represent the office of the King’s Steward, who governs in the king’s absence. Matthew’s Gospel completes the story with the beautiful testimony of St. Peter in the divinity of Christ. After receiving Peter’s confession of Faith, Jesus responds with the monumental words, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”

These words are inscribed in Latin around the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, in golden letters that are six-feet tall: words intended, not just for St. Peter’s benefit as the first pope, but for all 264 of his successors, to Pope Benedict XVI. What a profound statement of faith this is – and what a guarantee! We are blessed as Catholics to share the same Faith as our ancestors, guaranteed by the Infallibility of the Teaching Authority of the Church (or Magisterium), confirmed by the Pope and shared by the Bishops in communion with him. Jesus, always faithful to His promises, has promised that His Church will never teach error in Faith or Morals, always preserving His teachings and the Sacraments until the end of time.

This does not mean that every pope is a saint, or that he always makes the best decisions. Nor do Christ’s words guarantee that we will always understand His teachings as taught by the Church, or that we will always agree. The declaration to St. Peter presents a great gift and also a challenge. As a gift, we know that the Catholic Church is preserved from error, so we can confidently believe in her teachings since they are taught by Christ Himself; as a challenge, we nevertheless must struggle with the reasons for these teachings, and strive to understand and believe them as best we can. If we don’t understand a teaching, struggle with it, or have a difficult time finding Christ at the heart of some point of doctrine, what do we do? We ought to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and docility, and then we should study Scripture and Tradition to help our understanding. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great place to begin, but prayer is essential in establishing the relationship with Christ that allows us to trust Him and His Church. Then we can shout with all the pilgrims in Cologne, “Viva il Papa!
God bless you all!