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!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for July 30, 2006

The earliest Church Fathers are called “Apostolic” because they were the first successors of the Apostles to whom Christ had entrusted His Church. St. Clement of Rome was the first of the Apostolic Fathers, the fourth pope (after Sts. Linus and Cletus), and an important figure for preserving the unity of the Church. His feast day is November 23.

Little is known for certain about St. Clement himself; a fourth-century account describes his martyrdom under the reign of the emperor Trajan. According to the story, after having been banished to Crimea, Pope Clement converted the people through miraculous means; in response, the emperor ordered him to be fastened to an anchor and thrown into the sea. In the 9th century, while on crossing the Black Sea to evangelize the Khazars, St. Cyril discovered the relics of the saintly pope and returned them to Rome, where they were placed in the high altar of the basilica of San Clemente.

Many writings are attributed to St. Clement, but we possess only one letter that Clement surely wrote: the Epistle to the Corinthians. This letter was received with such universal respect throughout the early Church that in some places it was regarded almost as Sacred Scripture and read during the Liturgy; some early manuscripts of the New Testaments letters even include St. Clement’s letter immediately following the inspired books.

St. Clement composed his Epistle in Greek sometime after Nero’s persecution in 68 A.D., although it is more likely that it followed Domitian’s persecution of 93 A.D. St. John (the Apostle and Evangelist) was still alive at the time and living in exile on the Island of Patmos; nevertheless, a particular controversy in Corinth required the attention – and intervention – of the successor of St. Peter, to whom our Lord had given the universal jurisdiction of the Church.

Certain men of the Church of Corinth had begun a revolt against the legitimate authority; Clement wrote to them on behalf of the entire Church to re-establish correct order and the proper authority of the Church in Corinth. The letter is beautiful in its simplicity, and the direct yet gentle way in which the pope exhorts the people of Corinth to repentance and renewed obedience and holiness of life provides an excellent model, even today.

He begins by complimenting the Corinthians on their faith and perseverance in unity: “You were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight” (ch. 2). But sadly, “the worthless rose up against the honored, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, and the young against those advanced in years. For this reason, righteousness and peace are now far departed from you” (ch. 3).

Recalling to mind the great stories of the Old Testament, Clement continues through the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul and other contemporary martyrs, urging the Corinthians to repent and imitate these great fathers of our Faith: “Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him” (ch. 7).

After further examples of such repentance, he exhorts the Corinthians to humility: “Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and angry feelings” (ch. 12). Such will bring about peace, even in the order of the cosmos (cf. ch. 20).

He desires to preserve proper order: “Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. … And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits, having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe” (ch. 42). This attests to apostolic succession, which is the guarantor of the Faith, lived out in charity.

“Love,” he says, “admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony” (ch. 49). Finally, he urges those who have separated themselves from this connection to Christ through the bishop, to repent and submit to the Church: “It is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honorable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, you should be cast out from the hope of His people” (ch. 57).

St. Clement reminds us of the importance of the Pope, even from the first century, and the need to be in union with him. Next week, we discover the treasures of St. Polycarp. Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Source of Prayers in Latin and English

As you know, I enjoy praying in Latin. I had discovered the "Thesaurus Precum Latinarum" or "Treasury of Latin Prayers" some time ago, but never mentioned it here. Enjoy the beautiful patrimony of the Church compiled at this useful and helpful website.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for July 23, 2006

The Catholic Church is blessed with a rich heritage of tradition dating to the time of the Apostles. As the Apostles learned from Christ, they “handed on” that teaching through their writings, but also through the Sacraments and other unwritten traditions, preserving the Gospel in its fullness. In fact, our word “tradition” comes from the Latin “tradere,” which means to “hand over” or “hand down.” Therefore, the Apostolic Tradition is a gift handed on from Christ Himself, given to the Church through the ministry of the Apostles and their successors.

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the study of the successors of the Apostles and their extensive writings. Commonly referred to as the “Fathers of the Church,” these holy men lived and passed on the Faith through the earliest days of Christianity. Who exactly are the Fathers of the Church? They are the men, often bishops, who taught and nourished the early Church in Her infancy; the period of the Fathers usually ends with St. Gregory the Great in the West (d. 604) and St. John Damascene in the East (d. about 754). These dates are not fixed, however, and oftentimes St. Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) is described as the “Last of the Fathers,” owing to his stylistic similarity and clarity of doctrine.

The Fathers are further divided into “Greek” and “Latin” Fathers, depending on the language and culture in which they taught; both groups of Fathers develop different aspects of theology and teach in their own style and method. We are indebted to the teaching and lives of these men, who spent their lives at the service of the Church and her growth. Many of their names are well-known to the world, such as St. Augustine, St. Leo the Great, and St. John Chrysostom; others are more obscure, such as Vincent of Lerins and Dionysius.

By studying the Fathers of the Church and their writings, we encounter the Apostolic Faith in a new way, and often are captivated by the beauty and clarity with which these great shepherds fed their flock. Throughout the next year, I hope to be able to open the treasures of the Fathers of the Church through my weekly article, although enough material exists to last for a lifetime of prayer and study.

Apart from the teaching of the Fathers themselves, the method of theology they employed teaches us a great deal as well. Never was it more true that “their theology was learned on their knees.” That is to say, prayer and meditation – on the Sacred Scriptures above all – were the spring from which their doctrine flowed. Not content, however, with simply teaching and passing down the Faith, these men lived the consequences of their teaching to the fullest, with a deep concern for the poor; they often suffered for the Faith as well, and some were blessed to gain the martyr’s crown.

The study of the Fathers and their teaching is usually described as either patrology or patristics, although the distinctions between these two fields are often blurred. What is important, however, is to realize the proximity of the Fathers’ lives to the Apostles, and to the Apostolic teaching; as the Fathers agree on points of theology, morality, and discipline, we have a great resource to assist our own understanding of the teaching of the Church, as well as heavenly intercessors to aid our path to holiness.

The first era of the Fathers of the Church is known as the “Apostolic Fathers,” or those men who knew the Apostles and were their immediate successors. We will begin our study of the individual Fathers next week with the life and writings of St. Clement of Rome.

I pray that your summer vacations are restful and refreshing as well, and that this summer heat hasn’t been too overwhelming! May God bless you all.

As an online resource, enjoy the following sites, all dedicated to the Fathers of the Church:
The Fathers Online
Wikipedia Church Fathers Entry
More Fathers Online
The Way of the Fathers (blog)
"Fathers Know Best" (patristics tracts from Catholic Answers)
Crossroads Initiative Library

Monday, July 17, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for July 16, 2006

Today, apart from the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, is also the memorial of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Having grown up at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish in Wyandotte, this feast-day was a celebration for the whole parish. Honoring Mary under the title of “Our Lady of Mt. Carmel” is a devotion that has grown from the Carmelite tradition since the 14th century; in particular, this Marian devotion is best known by the wearing of the Brown Scapular.

Many of us remember being “enrolled” in the confraternity of the Brown Scapular at the time of First Communion, and wearing the itchy pieces of brown wool around our necks throughout our childhood. But what exactly is the Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and why was it worn? Is it still worn today?

A scapular, in general, is the name for a shoulder-width piece of cloth (usually from the monastic habit) that is placed over the shoulders and extends to the floor in front and back. Originally distinctive to monks, the scapular became known for its symbolism as the “yoke of Christ” (since it is worn over the shoulders, or scapula in Latin) and the armor of Christ (since it covered the habit).

As monastic orders grew, the practice of “third orders” developed, in which laymen and laywomen were invited to participate in the life of the monastic community, while still living a life in the world. These third-order members were married, had families, and worked at ordinary jobs. They were, however, also bound to the monastery with certain requirements; they received a monastic scapular as a sign of this bond, and then also received the privilege of being buried in the full monastic habit when they died.

Many scapulars exist, each associated with a particular religious community. The Brown Scapular, however, is the oldest and remains the most popular; this is the scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and its use and devotion are also recalled on today’s feast. According to Carmelite tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite priest, in Cambridge, England, on July 16, 1251. He had begged her to provide protection for the Carmelites, who were suffering persecution at the time. The legend tells us that our Lady appeared to him and gave him the Brown Scapular, and promised that whoever wore the Scapular faithfully would receive special graces and in particular, her assistance at the moment of death.

There are particular indulgences attached to the Scapular even today, and the pious custom of wearing the scapular is common in many places. The Scapular, however, is not a magic talisman, charm, or amulet; it is, rather, a sacramental of the Church which acts as a means for grace. When we wear the scapular, we should be devoutly committed to daily prayer, regular reception of the Sacraments (particularly of the Eucharist and Penance), and to a life of a charity.

The Great Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to all Carmelites in 2001, on the 750th anniversary of the giving of the scapular. He reminds us:

“The Scapular represents a synthesis of Marian spirituality. It nourishes the devotion of believers, making them sensitive to the loving presence of the Virgin Mother in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a ‘habit’. …Those who put on the Scapular are introduced into the land of Carmel so that they might ‘eat its abundant fruit’ (cf. Jer. 2,7), and experience the tender and maternal presence of Mary, as they commit themselves daily to put on Christ and to make his presence manifest in their lives for the good of the Church and of the whole of humanity.”

Scapulars are still sold in religious goods stores (like Mateja’s on Ford Rd. in Westland, or Our Lady of Grace bookstore at Domino’s farms, or even online); once purchased, the scapular should be blessed and then the person should be enrolled in the Scapular by a priest. Put putting on the Scapular, we are reminded to “put on the mind of Christ,” and live as his faithful sons and daughters.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Joshua Michael Schmiedicke, Requiescat in Pace

Please pray for the four-year-old son of Regina Doman-Schmiedicke, Joshua Michael, who died on Saturday. Regina is an alumna of Franciscan University and is an outstanding author. She's currently working on some great Catholic novels for teens. Visit her website here.

In the meantime, please pray for Regina, her husband Andrew, and their other children Thomas, 2, and Marygrace, 6.

Obituary follows:

Joshua Michael Schmiedicke, 4, of Strasburg died Saturday at Warren Memorial Hospital.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be conducted Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Front Royal by the Rev. Edward Hathaway. Burial will be in Panorama Memorial Gardens.

Joshua was born July 26, 2001, in Front Royal, son of Andrew T. and Regina E. Doman Schmiedicke of Strasburg. He was a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

Surviving with his parents are two brothers, Caleb Schmiedicke and Thomas Schmiedicke; three sisters, Rose Schmiedicke, Marygrace Schmiedicke and Joan Schmiedicke; grandparents, John and Michele Doman and Tom and Candy Schmiedicke; and great-grandmothers, Helen Doman and Joanne Kane.

The family will receive friends today from 7 to 9 p.m. at the church, during which a Christian wake will be held at 8 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to Save A Family Plan, P.O. Box 611832, Port Huron, Mich. 48061-1832.

Arrangements are being handled by the Maddox Funeral Home in Front Royal.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for July 9, 2006

This week, on July 11th, the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Benedict, the great father of western monasticism. Nearly all that we know about Benedict’s life comes from St. Gregory the Great (himself a Benedictine monk) and his writings. Benedict was born in modern-day Norcia, Italy, (about 100 miles northeast of Rome) in A.D. 480, only four years after the “fall of Rome.” During this tumultuous time in Europe, Benedict abandoned the life of nobility and left his studies and wealth to undertake the life of Christian perfection.

After departing Rome with several companions, he took up residence in a town near Subiaco, in an effort to find some peace to discern his next step in radically following Christ. He soon met a monk, Romanus, who gave him a monastic habit and encouraged him to live as a hermit. During the next three years, he remained in a nearby cave, growing in self-discipline and holiness. He gradually gained great fame, and when the abbot of the monastery died, he was prevailed upon by all to take up the task.

Unfortunately, however, the monks were not used to Benedict’s austerities and discipline, and tried to poison him. He survived, and his fame for holiness continued to grow and many came to Subiaco for training in the monastic life, and sought to be subject to Benedict under the vow of obedience. In response, twelve monasteries were built, in which these new monks lived, always looking to Benedict as their father and head.

During this period of Benedict’s life, he forged the practice of monasticism to be the perfect balance of “ora et labora” – “prayer and work”. The monks lived a communal life, working together and praying together, striving as a family to live the fullness of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. As the monasteries grew, however, troubles came to Subiaco; in order to preserve the monks, Benedict moved the foundation to the hilltop of Monte Cassino, which become the great center of the Benedictine life for centuries.

It was here at Monte Cassino that Benedict wrote his famous “Rule,” known throughout the world as the foundation document for Western monastic life. The Rule of St. Benedict describes in detail the entire life of the monk: his prayer, his work, his meals, his rest, and his interior dispositions. The Rule has been the source of inspiration for generations and generations of Benedictine monks, and remains a central part of monastic life today. Many monasteries read a section of the Rule before every evening meal.

One of Benedict’s great accomplishments was to achieve a balance in prayer and work; the austerities were not severe, and the penances not burdensome. The goal of the monastic life coincides with the Christian life: to establish a community with Christ at its center. A unique and distinctive feature of the Benedictine life, however, is the continual chanting of the Psalms.

Known as the Divine Office (or Liturgy of the Hours), the monastic practice of singing the Psalms throughout the day organizes the life of the monastery. The monks assemble to sanctify the hours by chanting the mercies of God. Most of the entire repertoire of Gregorian Chant comes from the monastic Office. Nothing captures the medieval imagination quite like an ancient monastery, with black-robed monks silently processing into their choir-stalls, prepared to offer the “Sacrifice of Praise” on behalf of the entire world.

St. Benedict died at Monte Cassino sometime around A.D. 543. Since then, the Benedictine monks have been responsible for evangelizing Europe and preserving the faith during the darkest times; they have become popes and cardinals; and continue today to witness the need for holiness and sacrifice in the modern world.

St. Benedict, pray for us

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fr. Schall on American Indepedence

Fr. Schall has an excellent essay at Ignatius Insight, wherein he reflects on our Nation's founding and the principles which established the United States of America. It's an excellent thought-provoking piece. Enjoy.

Faith Seeking Understanding for July 2, 2006

Our country celebrates the great national holiday of Independence Day this week, and for all of us it’s an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends, to enjoy the fireworks displays, and to have a long weekend. In the midst of our celebrations, let’s not forget to remember and pray for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who continue to defend American independence on the battlefield. One of the current basic training slogans used by drill sergeants to motivate their troops is “Freedom isn’t free!” May God protect and bless all our service personnel and their families this Fourth of July and may we never forget the high cost of freedom borne by our courageous veterans.

Freedom and independence are blessings cherished by all Americans. Nevertheless, responsibility always accompanies the exercise of freedom; for us to be truly free, we must choose according to the truth. When we exercise our freedom to choose whatever we desire, instead of what we ought to desire, we act contrary to this great gift. Once, I heard an excellent example to illustrate this point:
Someone, desiring to exercise his freedom without restraint, decides to fill his car’s gas tank with lemonade. “No-one,” he said, “can tell me how to operate my car. It’s my car, and I’ll use it however I want.” This man certainly was free to do as he chose; but now, he is a pedestrian.

What is freedom? The Catechism explains: “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility” (CCC 1731). Human freedom flourishes when we choose according to the truth; we become more free the more we continue to choose our greatest good, who is God Himself. Therefore, the saint is the person who exercises his or her freedom perfectly: even though the number of choices may be drastically reduced (since all sinful choices are immediately rejected), the quality of choice is increased because God is the final object of love, which is manifest in every concrete decision.

The opposite? We turn to the Catechism which reminds us: “The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the ‘slavery of sin’” (CCC 1733). Therefore, even though choosing sin may appear to be a broader number of choices, in fact, “there is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just” (ibid.). Just like the man who ruined his automobile, we ruin ourselves when we choose against the exercise of virtue, according to God’s plan for our lives.

In our exercise of freedom, we realize our true dignity as children of God, made in His image and likeness. Happily, we are not left to our own strength to determine what is right, and then to choose those things. Our Lord founded a Church, to which He gave the assurance of constant help from the Holy Spirit; He continues to teach us the truth through His Church. Moreover, God supports us daily with His infinite strength and power, continually bestowing grace when we request His help. Instead of restricting our freedom, the free gift of grace supports and strengthens our free choice.

As we read in the Catechism, “the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world” (CCC 1742). Therefore, even when we are under great stress and anxiety, God’s grace enables us to be self-possessed and act in the true freedom which characterizes the children of God.

Jesus and Mary exemplify this great exercise of freedom for excellence according to the truth. Our Lord freely chose the Cross to save us from sin and death; our Lady freely chose to accept the call to be the Mother of God, with all its suffering and toil. May we imitate this perfect use of the gift of freedom and respond to God’s offer of grace which calls us all to be holy and perfect in his sight, all the days of our life.

Happy Fourth of July!