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!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 15, 2006

Before we move on to our next patristic writing, the Shepherd of Hermas, I would like to write briefly about the Pilgrimage to Italy. Many of you know that a group of 45 pilgrims (most are from St. John Neumann) and I are traveling to Assisi, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Rome this week. We depart on Wednesday evening, and will be bringing you with us in our prayers; please pray for safe travel, good weather, and spiritual growth as we visit the tombs of Sts. Francis, Clare, Padre Pio, Peter, Paul, and many others. Since this is a pilgrimage, we will celebrate Mass daily at a different holy site, and promise to remember your needs and intentions.

If you would like to request specific prayers, please e-mail me at and your petitions will be brought with us to Italy. We also have a public papal audience on our itinerary, as well as a visit to the necropolis, or Scavi, beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. I promise to take plenty of photographs to share with you on our return. For any of you who were unable to join us this time, don’t be discouraged: I have just finalized the details for our next pilgrimage to the Holy Land from March 9 – 18, 2007. Stay tuned for more details!

As we change gears and return to our study of the Fathers, the Shepherd (or Pastor) of Hermas offers excellent material for the next few weeks. The Shepherd was one of the most popular pieces of Christian literature during the second through fourth centuries. Often ranked among Scripture, this work was written during the middle of the second century, probably around 160 A.D. The author is technically unknown, although the work attributes itself to a “Hermas” who was the brother of “Pope Pius (I)”; therefore, we cannot study the life or teachings of “Hermas,” but simply examine his writing, which is an excellent example of the piety and spiritual life of the early Church.

The work is divided into three books containing Five Visions, Twelve Commandments, and Ten Similitudes (or Parables). Unlike the authors we have encountered to this point, The Shepherd is not concerned so much with theology as with morality; that is, its goal is to preach conversion and repentance. Such writings are valuable even to us today, not just to see what challenges faced the early Church, but also to allow us to reflect on sin in our own lives and to encounter the merciful love of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Visions begins with Hermas’ encounter with a Lady, who accuses him of sinfulness, especially in his heart; nevertheless, in the second vision forgiveness is offered to him and his family, if they would but repent and amend their life: “Forgiveness will be granted to all the saints who have sinned even to the present day, if they repent with all their heard and drive all doubts from their minds” (Bk. 1, Vision 2, Ch. 2).

The third vision is of a tower, built with a variety of stones representing the Church and all Her different members. Supporting the Church, however, are seven ladies, representing Faith, Self-restraint, Simplicity, Guilelessness, Chastity, Intelligence, and Love (cf. Bk. 1, Vision 3, Ch. 8). Nevertheless, Hermas is cautioned not to seek revelations in prayer: “Make no further demands for revelations. If anything ought to be revealed, it will be revealed to you” (Ch. 12).

In the fourth vision, Hermas encounters a great and terrible beast: “Go therefore and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then you prepare yourselves and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and you spend the rest of the days of your life in serving the Lord blamelessly. Cast your cares upon the Lord and He will direct them” (Vision 4, Ch. 2).

Finally, in the fifth vision, we encounter the shepherd for whom the book is written; this shepherd guides Hermas (and us) through the next two books; the shepherd is actually a guardian angel, sent to enlighten the conscience and direct Hermas to eternal life. We will discover his wise advice next week. May God bless you all … and of course, Go Tigers!