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 27, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 27, 2006

The Epistle of Barnabas, although highly regarded by the early Church, presents some difficulty for the study of the Fathers of the Church. Its authorship, although attributed to “Barnabas,” is actually unknown. Some have automatically assumed that the Barnabas in question is the co-worker of St. Paul (Acts 4:36; 9:27), although very little evidence suggests this is the case. What is known, however, is its antiquity and connection with the Scriptures; most probably the letter was composed around 131 A.D.

Even though the author of this epistle is not certain, it does offer insight into the belief and practice of second-century Christianity. From the beginning of the letter, Christianity is considered something “handed down” from the apostles: “I should take the trouble to communicate to you some portion of what I have myself received” (ch. 1).

Barnabas urges his readers to live in accord with God’s commandments, particularly since the “last days,” were considered to be upon them: “Let us be spiritually-minded: let us be a perfect temple to God. … Let us meditate upon the fear of God, and let us keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances. … Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are called [of God], we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord” (ch. 4).

A traditional method of interpreting Scripture is to follow “typology,” that is, seeing those events and people as “types” which prefigure events to come. Such a method is even used by our Lord when He instructs the disciples on the road to Emmaus; the Epistle of Barnabas makes extensive use of this: “The good Lord has foreshown all things to us, that we might know to whom we ought for everything to render thanksgiving and praise” (ch. 7) The letter then describes the Jewish “scapegoat,” and similar sacrifices as prefiguring Christ’s own death.

He continues: “Let us further inquire whether the Lord took any care to foreshadow the water [of baptism] and the cross” (ch. 11). After describing several of the Psalms in reference to the water, we read as a type of the Cross: “Moses then makes a brazen serpent, and places it upon a beam, and by proclamation assembles the people” (ch. 12). The bronze serpent was only one such example of the may prefigurements of the Old Testament.

The second half of the Epistle of Barnabas demonstrates the early Christian understanding of “the two ways”: a way of light and a way of darkness. We will see this distinction again in the Didache and other early Christian writings. Barnabas says: “There are two ways of doctrine and authority, the one of light, and the other of darkness. But there is a great difference between these two ways. For over one are stationed the light-bringing angels of God, but over the other the angels of Satan” (ch. 18).

In its description of the way of light, the early Christians faced temptations that remain even today: “The way of light, then, is as follows. … You shall love Him that created you: you shall glorify Him that redeemed you from death. … You shall not commit fornication: you shall not commit adultery. … You shall not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor again, shall you destroy it after it is born. … You shall not be hasty with your tongue, for the mouth is a snare of death. … You shall remember the day of judgment, night and day. … You shall confess your sins. You shall not go to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light.” (ch. 19).

The other way? “The way of darkness is crooked and full of cursing; for it is the way of eternal death with punishment, in which way are the things that destroy the soul: idolatry, … hypocrisy, double-heartedness, adultery, murder, rape, haughtiness, … poisoning, magic, avarice, want of the fear of God” (ch. 20). Also included in this “way of darkness” are those who ignore the needy, oppress the afflicted, and unjustly treat the poor (cf. ch. 20). Human nature remains constant, but God is constantly pouring His grace upon His Church, to enable us to walk in the “way of light.”

He concludes: “May God, who rules over all the world, give to you wisdom, intelligence, understanding, knowledge of his judgments, with patience. … Farewell, you children of love and peace. The Lord of glory and of all grace be with your spirit. Amen” (ch. 21).

Next week, we will meet St. Justin Martyr, Christian philosopher and the first of “the Apologists,” who defended the Faith by rational argument. May God bless you all!

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 20, 2006

Due to the wedding, I was out of town; sorry for the delayed posts...

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 20, 2006

This week, we continue to explore the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr. Longing for martyrdom, he writes to the Romans: “For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die for the sake of Christ. My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me that loves anything; but there is living water springing up in me, and which says to me inwardly, Come to the Father” (Romans, ch. 7).

To some, Ignatius’ words may seem extreme, even foolish, in his desires: “May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray that they may be found eager to rush upon me, which also I will entice to devour me speedily, and not deal with me as with some, whom, out of fear, they have not touched. … Pardon me [in this]: I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple, and have no desire after anything visible or invisible, that I may attain to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let breakings, tearings, and separation of bones; let cutting off of members; let bruising to pieces of the whole body; and let the very torment of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ” (Romans, ch. 5).

How is it that Ignatius can speak with such disregard for his life? He reminds the Romans, and us: “All the ends of the world, and all the kingdoms of the earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die for the sake of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. … Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of Christ, my God” (Romans, ch. 6). St. Ignatius serves as a bold witness to the eternal value of martyrdom, especially in contrast to societies that only see value in the material world.

Unlike his other letters, Ignatius begins his Letter to the Romans with a lengthy introduction, describing and praising the Roman Church: “Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who formed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love” (Romans, intro.). A clear primacy of the Church of Rome existed, even from the end of the first century.

St. Ignatius has a clear love for the Eucharist as well; he defends the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and teaches the Church in Philadelphia that the Eucharist is not only the sign of unity among Christians, It also is the cause of that unity. He writes: “[I] exhort you to have but one faith, and one preaching, and one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ; and His blood which was shed for us is one; one loaf also is broken to all, and one cup is distributed among them all: there is but one altar for the whole Church, and one bishop, with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants” (Philadelphians, ch. 4). Again, he writes: “Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it” (Smyrnæans, ch. 8).

Finally, he writes cautions against heresy in several of his letters. Just as St. Polycarp faced the Docetists, Ignatius, too, was concerned that such Gnostics falsehoods not corrupt and destroy the Faith of the young Church. “Stop your ears,” he writes, “when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly begotten of God and of the Virgin, but not after the same manner” (Trallians, ch. 9). After proclaiming the same truths found in the Apostles’ Creed, Ignatius continues: “If, as some that are without God, that is the unbelieving, say, He became man in appearance [only], that He did not in reality take unto Him a body, that He died in appearance [merely], and did not in very deed suffer, than for what reason am I now in bonds...? In such a case, I die in vain” (Trallians, ch. 10).

His final letter to Polycarp is filled with tender affection for his student, and with the firmness and conviction of passing on the Faith: “I also am the more encouraged, resting without anxiety in God, if indeed by means of suffering I may attain to God, so that through your prayers, I may be found a disciple. … I trust that, through grace, you are prepared for every good work pertaining to God” (Polycarp, ch. 7).

Next week, we will examine the Epistle of Barnabas. God bless you!

A few more wedding photos

Will (the Best Man) making his toast.

The happy couple enjoying dinner.

Cutting the cake.

"One dance to fall in love with you."

Congratulations Chuck and Julia!

Last Saturday, August 19, 2006, my brother 2LT Charles Edward Bloomfield married Julia Lynn Kreiner, in Portland, MI. What a blessing to be able to celebrate the wedding Mass and receive the vows for my brother and sister-in-law! (The wedding festivities did keep me from blogging, but I'm back now...)

Congratulations, Chuck and Julia! We're so happy for both of you, and for our families. May God bless you with an abundance of His grace, and a big, healthy, and happy family!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

15th Century Graduale Romanum

There is an exsquisite item on auction at eBay: a 15th Century Graduale Romanum. The Roman Gradual contains the necessary Gregorian Chants for the Mass (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and Communion), as well as the "Ordinary" of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei).

This is truly a remarkable copy. To quote Indiana Jones: "It belongs in a museum."

(Biretta tip: Shawn Tribe from The New Liturgical Movement. Stop by his excellent page for always timely and insightful content.)

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 13, 2006

Although St. Ignatius of Antioch is older than St. Polycarp, we examined Polycarp’s letter and martyrdom last week to set the stage for examining the life, writings, and martyrdom of Ignatius today. Legend says that Ignatius was the little child our Lord placed in front of the Apostles in Mark 9:36 The legend cannot be proven, but it is certain that he was a direct disciple of St. John the Apostle and therefore another ancient witness to the teaching of the Apostles and the Early Church. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch (in southwestern Turkey), after St. Peter and Evodius. He was martyred in Rome between 98 and 117 A.D. during Trajan’s persecution; his feast day is October 17th.

Seven of the fifteen letters that bear Ignatius’ name are clearly authentic; these he wrote to the Churches in Philippi (Macedonia), Ephesus (Turkey), Magnesia (Central Greece), Tralles (modern Aydin, Turkey), Rome (Italy), Philadelphia (modern Alasehir, Turkey), and Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey). He also wrote a letter to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. Throughout his letters, he urges unity among the Christian faithful and their bishop, as a successor of the apostles.

Ignatius’ letters, above all, testify to the very early understanding of hierarchy in the Church. He mentions the orders of bishop, presbyter (priest), and deacon as a universal practice of the Church: “Beloved, be careful to be subject to the bishop, and the presbyters, and the deacons. For he that is subject to these is obedient to Christ, who has appointed them; but he that is disobedient to these is disobedient to Christ Jesus” (Ephesians, ch. 5).

The bishop is not just the representative of Christ, but also the representative of the Church: “Since, then, I have had the privilege of seeing you through Damas your most worthy bishop, and through your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and through my fellow-servant the deacon Sotio, whose friendship may I ever enjoy, inasmuch as he, by the grace of God, is subject to the bishop and presbytery, in the law of Jesus Christ” (Magnesians, ch. 2).

Obedience to and unity with the bishop is a hallmark of the Faith: “As therefore the Lord foes nothing without the Father, for says He, ‘I can of my own self do nothing,’ so do you neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop” (Magnesians, ch. 7). To the Trallians, he writes: “It is therefore necessary, whatsoever things you do, to do nothing without the bishop. And be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall be found in Him. It behooves you also, in every way, to please the deacons, who are ministers of the mysteries of Christ Jesus” (Trallians, ch. 2).

Sunday (the Lord’s Day) is to be celebrated as a weekly reminder of the Paschal Mystery: “Let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days” (Magnesians, ch. 9).

During his letters, Ignatius reveals his status as a prisoner for the Faith several times, but always with great joy: “For [Christ Jesus] is my hope; He is my boast; He is my never-failing riches, on whose account I bear about with me these bonds from Syria to Rome, these spiritual jewels in which may I be perfected through your prayers, and become a partaker of the sufferings of Christ, and have fellowship with Him in His death, His resurrection from the dead, and His everlasting life” (Ephesians, ch. 11).

His desire for martyrdom is evident: “Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God. … Then shall I be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. … When I suffer, I shall be the freedman of Jesus Christ, and shall rise again emancipated in him” (Romans, ch. 4).

Since his writings are so important, we will continue to explore St. Ignatius of Antioch in next week’s article as well.

On Tuesday, August 15, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a Holy Day of Obligation. We will celebrate Mass at St. John Neumann at 9:00 am and 7:00 pm for the Feast. God bless you all!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Breakfast with Cardinal Arinze

Holy Trinity Apostolate is sponsoring another "Breakfast with the Bishop" event this September. As an added bonus, however, the bishop in question is also a Cardinal.

His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, will be coming to Southeastern Michigan for this event on September 30, at Andiamo Ristorante in Sterling Heights, beginning at 9:00 am.

Joining Cardinal Arinze will be the Archbishop of Detroit, Adam Cardinal Maida, along with auxiliary Bishops Schoenherr, Boyea, Anderson, and Quinn, and from Saginaw, Bishop Robert Carlson.

Registration form is here.

I hope to see many of you there!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Art of Confession

Click over to Rorate Caeli. The post on the Sacrament of Confession is quite good.

Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

Today, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, were pleased to receive four sisters in simple vows, at Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor, MI. What a blessing to be there for the Mass and vows!

Pray for the sisters, especially as they bid farewell to eight sisters who will be journeying to mission fields in Phoenix, AZ, and Hilton Head, SC.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Reflection on the Transfiguration

I said last night's Vigil Mass at 4:30 pm. Unfortunately, after preaching the homily, it didn't seem quite as coherent as I had intended. Here's another try:

Today's feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord teaches us two clear items: first, about our Lord; the other, about ourselves.

First of all, the amazement of the three chosen Apostles, Peter, James, and John, and the mysterious heavenly voice give us a clear indication that Jesus is utterly unique. In fact, this lesson is an important one to learn: Jesus is the Only Son of the Father, made a man by the power of the Holy Spirit, and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit. His Glory is the Glory of the Blessed Trinity -- of God Himself. The presence of Elijah and Moses show us the fulfilment of the Prophets and the Law in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus, therefore, is so much more than a mere man; He is the center and culmination of all history. Everything in heaven and earth is summed up in him. This miraculous appearance of dazzlingly white clothing, teaching from a mountain, with the glory and splendor of God Himself places in humble awe before Jesus.

The vision also teaches us something about ourselves, particularly through the witness of these three Apostles. They seem to miss the point, much as we might as well. Even though this experience was intended to strengthen these men for Jesus' suffering and death, they wander down the mountain wondering "What it means to rise from the dead."

And about six weeks later, these same men fall asleep when confronted with the depths of Jesus' humanity on the Mount of Olives. Peter denies our Lord; James and John flee in fear; only John returns to be at the foot of the Cross.

Not until after the Resurrection -- when they are allowed to tell the story -- does the story really make any sense to them; and this is where we learn the lesson about ourselves. The glory witnessed by the Apostles today isn't only Jesus' glory. We can say that again: the glory isn't only for Jesus. That glory is ours as well, as members of His body, and co-heirs to His Kingdom.

Each of us is destined for the same result: glorious appearance, dazzling clothes, illuminated faces, and life with the Father. Why? Because Christ has gained this victory for us by His own suffering and death, on another mountain -- the Mountain of Calvary. So as we see the depths of His humanity, broken and bloodied on the Cross, we know the glory that is His from all time: the Glory of the Father.

And as the first reading today gives us an example, we enter into this glory at every Mass. When we encounter our Lord today in the Eucharist, may it tranfigure our lives now, and prepare us and strengthen us for our own share in Christ's passion and death -- so that we too might share in our Lord's glory for all eternity.

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 6, 2006

Even though today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, my bulletin article (continuing the Fathers of the Church) is here:

Following St. Clement of Rome, St. Polycarp is the next of the Apostolic Fathers; he was the bishop of Smyrna (now in Turkey) and a student of the Apostle John. When Polycarp was 87 years old (between 155 and 167 A.D.) he was burned at the stake. His feast day is celebrated on February 23rd.

Of Polycarp’s writings, only the Letter to the Philippians has survived. St. Ignatius of Antioch does mention Polycarp in his letters to the Magnesians and Ephesians, as well as addressing a letter to Polycarp himself; the Church in Smyrna also sent a letter to the Church at Philomelium describing his martyrdom.

Like St. Clement, Polycarp sent his letter to a Church originally strengthened by the Apostle St. Paul, demonstrating the unity of the early Church. In this case, however, the Philippians had requested an exhortation from Polycarp, as well as any letters he had from St. Ignatius. He first recalls the letter of St. Paul: “[Paul] when among you accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbor, ‘is the mother of us all’” (ch. 3).

Next, he exhorts his readers to holiness of life, and stresses the true Faith against the errors of the Docetist heresy, which claimed that Christ’s incarnation was only an illusion or appearance (from the Greek dokesis). To resist such heresy, Polycarp recommends: “Forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning; ‘watching unto prayer,’ and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God ‘not to lead us into temptation,’ as the Lord has said: ‘The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (ch. 7, emphasis added). Authentic tradition or “handing down” from the Apostles is the guarantee of the true Faith.

In his encouragement of praying for a particular priest who has separated himself from the Church, he does not suggest harsh means: “Be then moderate in regard to this matter, and ‘do not count such as enemies,’ but call them back as suffering and straying members, that you may save your whole body” (ch. 11).

He reminds his readers to pray: “Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings, and potentates, and princes, and for those that persecute and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that you may be perfect in Him” (ch. 12). The letter finishes by saying that the copies of the letters of Ignatius which they requested are included.

The description of Polycarp’s martyrdom is of later origin, but testifies to the ancient esteem for the martyrs: “Looking to the grace of Christ, they despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by the suffering of a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched, and looked forward with the eyes of their heart to those good things which are laid up for such as endure; things ‘which ear hath not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man,’ but were revealed by the Lord to them, inasmuch as they were no longer men, but had already become angels. And in like manner, those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured dreadful tortures, being stretched out upon beds full of spikes, and subjected to various other kinds of torments, in order that, if it were possible, the tyrant might, by their lingering tortures, lead them to a denial of Christ” (ch. 2).

When demanded by the Roman proconsul to deny Christ and avoid being killed, Polycarp replied with confidence: “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did my any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” (ch. 9). Polycarp was sentenced to be burned alive; miraculously, the fire was not able to burn him, so the executioner pierced his heart with a dagger and his body was burned.

Next week, we encounter another great martyr for the Faith: St. Ignatius of Antioch. May God bless you!