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!