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!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This just in....

I have just confirmed the final dates and itinerary of our next pilgrimage! We will be blessed to travel to the Holy Land this coming March 9 - 18 -- with noted Catholic apologist (and expert in the Holy Land) Steve Ray, and his lovely wife Janet. We will also be joined by Teresa Tomeo (from WDEO's Catholic Connection on AM 990 and AM 1440 in the Detroit and Saginaw area).

Cost: $2699 per person (before December 1, 2006)
To register, or for more information, call Corporate Travel at (313) 565-8888.

View the brochure.

Hope to see you there!

Here are the details:
  • Friday, March 9: Depart USA via overnight flight on scheduled airline to Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • Saturday, March 10: Arrive Tel Aviv Airport where you will be greeted by your guides Steve and Janet Ray. Our motor coach will transport us to our Hotel on the shores of Galilee. Check in for three nights and attend a welcome dinner hosted by Teresa Tomeo and her husband Dominic. Optional visit to shore where Steve gives an introduction. Overnight in Tiberias.
  • Sunday, March 11: Drive to Nazareth for Mass in the Grotto of the Basilica of the Annunciation; visit Church of St. Joseph where the Holy family lived. Then to Cana of Galilee where married couples will can renew their wedding vows. After lunch, drive to Mount Tabor where Jesus met Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration. Half the group will eat at the hotel and half at Aberge Shulamit. Overnight in Tiberias.
  • Monday, March 12: Short drive to Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Then north to Banias (Caesarea Philippi) Where Jesus said, “You are Peter and on this rock.” Return through Golan Heights. Lunch and boat ride on Galilee. Mass at Primacy of Peter Church, walk along the sea, visit Tabgha. The other half of group will eat at Aberge Shulamit. Overnight in Tiberias.
  • Tuesday, March 13: Visit ancient “Jesus Boat” then to Tabgha where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. Visit Capernaum for Mass at St. Peter’s house and and see the ancient synagogue where Jesus taught about eating his Flesh and Blood. Next visit Kursi where the demons were cast in the herd of pigs. Lunch then renew baptismal vows in the Jordan River. Travel through the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem and along the way we will see many biblical places and look across to Moses’ Mount Nebo as we pass Jericho through the Judean Wilderness and up to Jerusalem. Check in to our hotel in Jerusalem for the next five nights. Overnight in Jerusalem.
  • Wednesday, March 14: Early morning Mass at Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Breakfast, then drive to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherd’s Field where the angels appeared. After lunch travel to Ein Karem. Visit the Church of the Visitation and the Church of St. John the Baptist. Overnight Jerusalem.
  • Thursday, March 15: Visit and pray at the Western Wall. Visit the Garden and Church of Gethsemane and the Grotto of the Arrest. Enter St. Stephen’s Gate and visit Bethesda before Mass at the Church of St. Anne where Mary was born. After lunch visit Mount Zion, the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (“where the cock crowed”) and walk the Roman steps. Visit the Upper Room (Cenacle), Dormition Abbey where Mary “fell asleep.” Overnight in Jerusalem.
  • Friday, March 16: Optional 6-7 AM visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with Steve and Fr. Ed. After breakfast pray the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow) ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Drive to the Mount of Olives to visit the Chapel of the Ascension where Jesus rose into heaven. Camel rides. Mass at Dominus Flavit (where Jesus wept) overlooking Jerusalem. Afternoon free for exploring, sleeping, praying, shopping, etc. Overnight in Jerusalem.
  • Saturday, March 17: Optional trip to Dead Sea, Qumran, Jericho and Masada. Some may decide to stay back in Jerusalem. Mass and farewell dinner at Seven Arches watching sunset over Jerusalem. Transfer to the airport for return flight.
  • Sunday, March 18: Return home from Tel Aviv after a memorable spiritual journey to the Holy Land.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Reflection on Today's Gospel

As just one point from my homily this weekend: are we as a society ready to receive all the children into our midst? A reminder of the pro-life message is important, not only today, but every day until unborn children once again receive the protection of law.

Next Sunday, from 2:30 - 3:30 pm, at the corner of Warren and Wayne Roads, in Westland, MI, we will participate in the Life Chain. Please come and voice your support for the unborn.

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 24, 2006

This week, we continue with St. Irenaeus of Lyons and his important work Adversus Hæreses (Against the Heresies), which analyzes and demonstrates the errors of the Gnostic heresies of the second century. In the first book (of five), Irenaeus set forth the errors of the Gnostics; in the remaining books, he explores the Truth.

He begins his teaching with the eternal and uncreated being of God, who has created all things – not as a defect – but as a revelation of Himself: “For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it” (bk. 2, ch. 9, n. 1). Contrary to the Gnostics, who believed that creation was a series of irrational “fragmentation” that progressively distanced itself from its origin, the Catholic faith believes that Creation – and all creatures, including man – have been created by God as good.

Christ, then, does not only come to His creation as an appearance or phantom, but as a man to save all men, as Irenaeus says, “He did not seem one thing while He was another, as those affirm who describe Him as being man only in appearance; but what He was, that He also appeared to be. …Not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age…. For He came to save all through means of Himself – all, I say, who through Him are born again to God” (ch. 22, n. 4).

Continuing, Irenaeus arrives at the Gnostic errors about the nature of God as well. By gradually growing in knowledge (gnosis) they arrived at a purified knowledge of the various levels of “spirits,” who each approach God. In this case, knowing the real truth requires an examination of the Trinity, which Irenaeus offers: “[it was] the Father only who begat, and the Son who was begotten” (ch. 28, n. 6). This may not seem remarkable (since we repeat this in the Creed every Sunday), but this preserves the teaching received from the Apostles, who were taught by Christ Himself.

At the beginning of the third book, Irenaeus provides testimony to the existence of the four Gospels, and their historical context: “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia” (bk. 3, ch. 1, n. 1).

Beyond the Gospels, Irenaeus also bears witness to the importance of the Apostolic Tradition, passed on through the bishops of the Church: “we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, and which is preserved by means of the successions of presbyters in the Churches” (ch. 2, n. 2). The heretics, Irenaeus says, “consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition” (ibid.).

The studied defense that Irenaeus then presents of the continuous succession of bishops since the apostles strengthens our faith in Christ’s care for His Church, even today: “It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and to demonstrate the succession of these men to our own times” (ch. 3, n. 1). Irenaeus does not need to list every diocese, so he chooses Rome to illustrate the constant teaching of the Church, “that tradition derived from the apostles, of the vey great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by the succession of bishops” (ch. 3, n. 2).

As early as the second century, the universality of the teaching authority of Rome was clear, and the norm for the rule of the Faith: “It is a matter of necessity that every Church [diocese] should agree with this Church [Rome] on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously” (ibid.).

Next week, we continue to see Irenaeus’ defense of the Catholic Church and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. May God bless you all!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 17, 2006

St. Irenaeus is perhaps the most important theologian of the second century. As we have seen with the Letters of St. Ignatius, and even the works of St. Justin Martyr, the Church was in her infancy and was suffering persecution throughout the Roman Empire. As such, their works tended to be exhortations to holiness or defense of the Faith. The development of theology, however, was just about to begin. Along with this growth in exploring the Faith came the danger of heresy. Irenaeus responded to the heresies of his time with clarity and firmness.

He was born in the first half of the second century, between 115 and 125 A.D., to a Christian family, most likely near Smyrna in Asia. He seems to have been a disciple of St. Polycarp there; owing to the lively trade with Gaul (modern-day France), the bishop Pothinus was sent as a missionary to Lyons and Irenaeus accompanied him as a young priest. Pothinus was martyred by the Romans, whereupon Irenaeus became the bishop of Lyons. The Roman persecutions were not the only danger to the Church at this time: heresies had also begun to spread. St. Irenaeus of Lyons then began his great work to stamp out heresy and to defend the true Faith until his death sometime around 202 A.D. We celebrate his feast day on June 28th.

Two works remain of great importance: Against the Heresies (Adversus Hæreses) and the Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching. Against the Heresies is a monumental work of five volumes intended to expose and refute the various Gnostic heresies of the time. As we have seen before, gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge; the Gnostic heresies were different ways of searching for a hidden or secret knowledge that would bring salvation. These heresies would appear to use some elements of Christianity, but their beliefs were completely opposed to the Gospel. Since his work is so important, we will spend a few weeks exploring the teaching of St. Irenaeus and the theology that he develops to refute the errors of Gnosticism.

He begins with clarity about error: “These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretense of knowledge [gnosis]” (bk. 1, preface). Continuing, “Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than the truth itself” (ibid.). How often, even today, are the truths of Christianity mocked by the culture, which would present a more attractive “truth” in its place?

What was Irenaeus’ plan? “I intend, then, to the best of my ability, with brevity and clearness to set forth the opinions of those who are now promulgating heresy. … I shall also endeavor, according to my moderate ability, to furnish the means of overthrowing them, by showing how absurd and inconsistent with the truth are their statements” (ibid.).

In the first few chapters of his first volume, he describes the very strange and esoteric beliefs of the Valentinian Gnostics. What becomes alarmingly clear is that the Gnostics used the Scriptures to their own ends, interpreting everything according to their own erroneous doctrines. Foundational to their belief is the dichotomy that must exist between matter and spirit. Irenaeus clearly describes the war that exists between spirit and matter for them: “it is impossible that material substance should partake of salvation, so again it is impossible that spiritual substance should ever come under the power of corruption” (ch. 6, n. 3).

If this were the case, Irenaeus explains, then Jesus Christ could not be “the Word made flesh,” because spiritual beings cannot associate with the material; and as such, this would prevent Christ from saving men by the shedding of His blood. In fact, however, spirit and matter are united in each human person.

The Church is the guardian of the truth of the Faith: “The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith” (ch. 10, n. 1). Moreover, “the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth” (ch. 10, n. 2).

We will continue learning from this great theologian next week. God bless you all!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 10, 2006

St. Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho follows the ancient philosophical method of “dialogue.” The Greek philosophical “dialogue” was popularized with Plato, who often portrayed Socrates in “dialogue” with other philosophers to illustrate the truth of the matter at hand. The Dialogue of Justin is no different; he encounters Trypho, a Jewish man, who asks him to share the truth that he knows. This work opens our minds not only to the philosophy of Justin, but also of second-century Judaism and its relationship to the early Church. Justin agrees to share his beliefs, because “philosophy is, in fact, the greatest possession, and most honorable before God, to whom it leads us and alone commends us” (ch. 2).

Justin then recounts his own encounters with Platonists, Stoics, Pythagoreans, and others, all of which left him wanting yet more. He happened upon an elderly man one day who questioned him about his beliefs, and then opened the Scriptures to Justin. He immediately offers the hope of this Faith to Trypho: “If, then, you have any concern for yourself, and if you are eagerly looking for salvation, and if you believe in God, you may … become acquainted with the Christ of God, and, after being initiated, live a happy life” (ch. 8).

Trypho, however, rejects the existence of Christ, and questions Justin on the Christians’ way of life; Justin describes the New Covenant as fulfilling the old: “The true spiritual Israel, and descendents of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham … are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ” (ch. 11). Justin then uses many examples, particularly from the prophet Isaiah to demonstrate the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in Christ and the Church.

Justin quotes extensively from the Scriptures (the Old Testament) as a common ground with Trypho, upon which to have their dialogue; nevertheless, their understanding varies a great deal. Justin sees the Law and the Prophets as foreshadowing Christ and His Church, fulfilling the Law, and opening salvation to all nations in Christ: “Though a man be a Scythian or a Persian, if he has the knowledge of God and of His Christ, and keeps the everlasting righteous decrees, he is circumcised with the good and useful circumcision [of Baptism], and is a friend of God, and God rejoices in his gifts and offerings” (ch. 28).

Already in the early Church, the Psalms were understood to speak of Christ; Justin explains the prophecies contained in the Psalms as well. Trypho is astonished: “You utter many blasphemies, in that you seek to persuade us that this crucified man was with Moses and Aaron, and spoke to them in the pillar of the cloud; then that he became man, was crucified, and ascended up to heaven, and comes again to earth, and ought to be worshipped” (ch. 38). In an impassioned plea, Justin then opens the Jewish rituals to their deeper meaning in Christ, particularly the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb, the offerings of flour, and the ritual garments.

One of the strongest points and most insistent arguments Justin makes is that this prophecy of Isaiah refers to the Virgin Birth: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Is. 7:10ff., cf. Dialogue, ch. 66, 77, 84). The final and challenging argument is then to determine that this Jesus is in fact God, co-eternal with the Father, and yet also the same man who was crucified, and yet risen from the dead, fulfilling all the prophecies.

Justin concludes by encouraging Trypho and his companions to embrace the Faith: “I exhort you to give all diligence in this very great struggle for your own salvation, and to be earnest in setting a higher value on the Christ of the Almighty God than on your own teachers” (ch. 142).

There are additional works of St. Justin Martyr, including an Address to the Greeks, as well as other fragments of lost writings. Finally, the touching account of his martyrdom recalls his great holiness; Justin, replying to threats of death, said: “Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished, because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Savior” (Martyrdom of Justin, ch. 4).

Next week we will begin exploring the works of St. Irenaeus of Lyon. May God bless you all!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 3, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 3, 2006

St. Justin Martyr begins the next period of patristic study known as the “Apologists.” Unlike the modern use of the word “apology,” the ancient use of this word did not express regret or sorrow, but rather means a reasoned defense of belief. Justin engaged the early second-century Roman Empire with powerful logic, brilliant rhetoric, and unmatched passion for the Catholic Faith. Such a reasoned defense for the moral and intellectual superiority of the Faith grew out of his own life: Justin was a convert from paganism.

He was born in Palestine around the year 100 A.D. The study of philosophy captivated Justin’s early life, but after examining the major philosophical systems of the time, he embraced the Catholic Faith in 130. From this moment on, Justin would describe Jesus Christ as the true teacher and the Faith as the “True Philosophy.” After teaching and defending the Faith, particularly in three works (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, and the two Apologies), Justin was martyred in Rome in 165. The Church celebrates the feast of St. Justin on June 1.

Justin addressed his two Apologies to the Emperor as a defense of the Faith in a hostile imperial climate. He presents his case: “if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment. Justice requires that you inquire into the life both of him who confesses and of him who denies, that by his deeds it may be apparent what kind of man each is” (First Apology, ch. 4). Justin is eager to defend not only the name of Christians, but more importantly, their life.

He continues, “Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, we also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate…; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself” (ch. 14). Following Christ, then, Justin defends the lives of Christians who practice virtue in all things: chastity, generosity, mercy, patience, civil obedience and more (cf. ch 15-17).

The Resurrection, though, is the key to Christianity: “You are now incredulous because you have never seen a dead man rise again. ...It is better to believe even what is impossible to our own nature and to men, than to be unbelieving like the rest of the world, we have learned; for we know that our Master Jesus Christ said, that ‘what is impossible with men is possible with God’” (ch. 19).

After analyzing the prophesies that prove Christianity’s truthfulness, Justin then describes how one becomes Christian: baptism. “As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated … For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water” (ch. 51).

Once baptized, Christians are then admitted to the liturgy: “There is then brought to the [presider] bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost…. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion” (ch. 65).

The Greek word Justin uses in this passage is “eucharistein” – to give thanks. He continues: “This food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these…the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word…is the flesh and blood of that Jesus” (ch. 66). The earliest Christians believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

When do Christians gather? “Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the word; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead” (ch. 67).

Next week, we will hear from Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho. Have a blessed week!