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, February 26, 2007

College of Ss Peter and Paul Banquet

The College of Ss. Peter and Paul is hosting a benefit dinner on Friday, March 16, 2007 at the Inn at St. John's.

We are pleased to welcome Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, as our keynote speaker to address the nature of Catholic higher education.

For more information, or for tickets, see the invitation or please call (248) 347-3649.

Also, we are now able to accept online donations, so if you would like to contribute to the development of the College, please visit or just click here.

Faith Seeking Understanding for February 25, 2007

This weekend we celebrate the first Sunday of Lent, the great season of penance and conversion that prepares the entire Church to celebrate the solemn feast of Easter. The traditional elements of Lenten penance are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We can imagine these three practices to be just like the legs of a stool; if one leg is missing, the stool topples. In the same way, our Lenten preparations will collapse if we do not practice all three.

Prayer is the essential foundation of the spiritual life. Without a rich prayer life, we cannot know God’s will in our life, nor can we fulfill it. Our sufferings become unbearable because they are not united in our wills to the sufferings of Christ; our joys become hollow because they are separated from the Creator of all good things. How do we pray? Prayer is a gift from God, yet it is also a discipline that we exercise. Lent provides an excellent opportunity to strengthen this discipline.

The Liturgy of the Hours or Christian Prayer is an excellent method to pray with the Church through the season of Lent. These are the prayers required for priests and religious brothers and sisters; the laity have been encouraged since the Second Vatican Council to join these prayers, and include this aspect of prayer in their own lives. Principally, the Liturgy of the Hours prays through the book of Psalms in the course of four weeks. It also provides a structure to pray in the morning, mid-day, and evening, giving a context for God to work through the busy-ness of our daily lives.

Even if we don’t pray with the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, other devotional prayers, or novenas can add a particular sweetness to our Lenten discipline, because we encounter Christ each time we open our hearts in prayer. Litanies, particularly of the Saints, the Blessed Mother, or the Sacred Heart also offer an excellent experience of coming to know Christ and the Saints through disciplined prayer. Above all, however, prayer must be regular and planned. By struggling through the difficult and challenging times in prayer and overcoming distractions, we discipline our wills to receive an abundance of grace.

Fasting without prayer is a futile exercise. We may discipline our appetites to some extent, but for what purpose? Joined to prayer, however, fasting becomes a powerful tool to help us overcome all the capital sins: pride, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, and anger. Furthermore, we see our own problems and sufferings in the light of the Cross, which invests them with deeper meaning and purpose. Because we have chosen to suffer voluntarily something small, such as hunger, or the desire for a favorite game, pastime, entertainment, or food, we are better able to endure sufferings that we do not choose. The goal of the spiritual life is conformity to the Cross of Christ.

Finally, we might see in almsgiving a particular “proof” of the effectiveness of Lent. Charity is the measure of our growth in holiness; if, therefore, we were to pray for seven hours a day and eat only a piece of bread and a cup of water each day throughout Lent, and yet not have generous hearts to provide for the needs of the poor and afflicted, our efforts are in vain. Prayer and Fasting are gifts from God to expand our hearts and allow them to be pierced by the soldier’s lance, so that we might, in imitation of our Lord, also pour forth our own lives in loving service.

Almsgiving is also an expression of sacrifice – setting apart as holy – because we take from what we might need in order to generously provide for those who are in great need. Prayerful consideration of how to give alms throughout Lent is an essential aspect of our spiritual lives as well. Do not neglect the “alms” of time spent together with family and friends, particularly those who are most alone. Often this expression of our charity can be much more difficult than writing a check.

May God richly bless your Lenten penances and bring us all to the joys of Easter!

Faith Seeking Understanding for February 18, 2007

The celebration of Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday, Paczki Day, etc.) is this Tuesday, which means that Lent begins the following day. As Catholics, we have the unique blessing to be able to enjoy this day of revelry and merrymaking before the austerities of Lent begin, because we are able to understand that Christ is the cause of all our joy and that our sins require yearly penance. Even so, we should always remind ourselves to be temperate in our indulgences before Lent begins and to deny ourselves good things to prepare our hearts to really celebrate the Resurrection.

Ash Wednesday is a day of Fast and Abstinence, requiring those 14 and older to abstain from eating meat, and requiring those 18 to 60 to fast, eating only one complete meal and two lighter meals that would not equal the larger meal. We will celebrate Mass at 9 am, Noon, and 7 pm on Ash Wednesday, and have distribution of ashes throughout the day. We also recall that Lent is a time of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving; may this Lent be an opportunity to grow in holiness and experience the mercy of God in a deeper and richer way for all of us.

The tradition of self-denial through Lent is part of the traditional Catholic discipline that helps us recognize that our appetites are “disordered.” That is to say, unless we are able to discipline our wills through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we will always be tempted to excess in our desires. We can always eat more, drink more, watch more television, buy more clothes, electronics, or other toys, or indulge ourselves in any number of ways. The discipline of Lent acts as a yearly corrective, reminding us of the need to rely more perfectly on God for our sustenance, and to seek to continually perfect ourselves. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

To share some family news, my brother 1LT Charles Bloomfield left for Iraq last weekend to begin a one-year tour there. He is a field artillery officer and was stationed at Ft. Riley, KS, before his deployment. Please pray for my brother and all our men and women who are serving in the military, but particularly for those who are so far from home. The sacrifices they make on our behalf truly are heroic.

In less than three weeks, I will be traveling to Israel with 100 other pilgrims to spend ten days in and around Jerusalem. You have seen the fliers in the gathering area and the advertisements in the bulletin; I can hardly believe that this trip is almost here. Having never been to the Holy Land, I’m not sure what to expect, but I am confident that many graces will be poured out upon our pilgrimage. In fact, every time I open the Scriptures now, it seems that another geographical location jumps out at me: Judea, Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, etc. I am eager to see these places in person, and to be able to bring your prayers and intentions with us to the ground upon which Jesus himself walked.

We will finish our exploration of the Apostolic Constitutions next week, followed by the beginning of the great St. Augustine. Have a blessed week!

Faith Seeking Understanding for February 11, 2007

Continuing our exploration of the Apostolic Constitutions, as we have for the last few weeks, we move on to book six. This book begins by admonishing bishops to always teach the truth, and to avoid heresies: “Above all things, O bishop, avoid the sad and dangerous and most atheistical heresies, eschewing them as fire that burns those that come near to it. Avoid also schisms: for it is neither lawful to turn one’s mind towards wicked heresies, nor to separate from those of the same sentiment out of ambition” (bk. 6, n. 1).

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same” and “schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (CCC 2089). It seems strange to admonish a bishop to avoid such obvious dangers to the unity of the Faith, but even in the early Church, these problems were not unknown.

Interestingly enough, we continue to read that the apostles’ names were often applied to certain books, in hopes of gaining credibility and authority from their position. Nevertheless, the Constitutions urge not “to receive those books which obtain in our name, but are written by the ungodly. For you are not to attend to the names of the apostles, but to the nature of the things, and their settled opinions” (bk. 6, n. 16).

Next, the author addresses the issue of clerical celibacy; even as early as this writing (fourth century), we see an understanding of the clerical state as preventing future marriage: “it is not lawful for them, if they are unmarried when they are ordained, to be married afterwards; or if they be then married, to marry a second time, but to be content with that wife which they had when they came to ordination” (bk. 6, 17). Although no reason is given for such a teaching, it is clearly not something new or unexpected, but rather simply enforcing the common practice already understood by the Church.

The remainder of the sixth book describes the fulfillment of the Law (of the Old Testament) in Jesus Christ; as we move to the seventh book, however, we return to the themes that we saw in the Didache. That is, the notion of the “Two Ways” is in some sense the charter of the Christian life: “there are two ways – the one of life, the other of death; which have no comparison with one another, for they are very different, or rather entirely separate; and the way of life is that of nature, but that of death was afterwards introduced, – it not being according to the mind of God, but from the snares of the adversary” (bk. 7, n. 1).

Just as in the Didache, we then read all the various actions unbecoming of a Christian, and how to avoid them. Then begins a short section on Christian initiation, describing the various Sacraments. Interestingly, our celebration today retains many of the elements described in the Constitutions: “Beforehand anoint the person with the holy oil, and afterward baptize him with the water, and in the conclusion shall seal him with the ointment” (bk. 7, n. 22).

Likewise, the practice of always gathering on Sunday is essential to the Christian life: “On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God, and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ, and has delivered you from ignorance, error, and bondage” (bk. 7, n. 30).

As we prepare for the beginning of Lent during the next week, we will then turn and examine the early Christian preparation for the welcoming of catechumens, and the nature of their training and education in the Faith. Even today, we can consider Lent a sort of “Spring Training” to practice our Faith more fully, and to enter in each year more deeply to the mysteries of our Lord’s saving life, death, and resurrection.

Have a blessed week!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for February 4, 2007

I just realized that I'm missing a few posts, so I'll try to add them later today. Thanks for your patience!

I can hardly believe that February has already begun, and that Lent begins in just over two weeks. Our Holy Land pilgrimage leaves in just over a month; if you would like me to bring any prayer intentions, please e-mail me or bring a note by the office.

We will continue our exploration of the Apostolic Constitutions this week with Book 4, which begins by admonishing the faithful to have concern for the poor. Corresponding to this is the criticism of the love of money: “For he that has money and does not bestow it upon others, nor use it himself, is like the serpent, which they say sleeps over the treasures; and of him is that scripture true which says, ‘He has gathered riches of which he shall not taste;’ and they will be of no use to him he perishes justly” (Bk. 4, n. 4).

Next, we hear about domestic life: “Fathers, educate your children in the Lord, bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Bk. 4, n. 11). Such education is still essential, always beginning in the home, which is the foundation of the life of the Church. We further read that parents will be held accountable for their children’s decisions: “if the offending children get into the company of debauched persons by the negligence of those that begat them, they will not be punished alone by themselves; but their parents also will be condemned on their account” (ibid.).

Book 5 describes the conditions of those condemned to death for confessing the Gospel; the faithful are encouraged to support the martyrs, to visit those condemned in prison, and to support the families they leave behind. Nevertheless, harsh words are reserved for those who deny Christ: “He that denies himself to be a Christian, that he may not be hated of men, and so loves his own life more than he does the Lord, in whose hand his breath is, is wretched and miserable, as being detestable and abominable, who desires to be the friend of men, but is the enemy of God, having no longer his portion with the saints, but with those who are accursed” (Bk. 5, n. 4).

Although these words sound somewhat harsh to us, considering the Lord’s mercy and compassion, when we imagine the devastation wrought by persecutions in the early Church, we can understand why denying Christ was so horrific. Since we are not faced with such visible and forceful persecution in our society, it is easy to admire the martyrs. Nevertheless, we must constantly defend the Faith by our actions and choices, so that our friends and neighbors would never doubt our obedience to Christ.

We also read about the feast-days to be celebrated by the early Church: “first of all, the birthday which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month; after which let the Epiphany be to you the most honored, in which the Lord made to you a display of His own Godhead, and let it take place on the sixth of the tenth month; after which the fast of Lent is to be observed.” (Bk. 5, n. 13).

A description of the Easter-Vigil also follows: “From the evening till cock-crowing keep awake, and assemble together in the church, watch and pray, and entreat God; reading, when you sit up all night, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, until cock-crowing, and baptizing your catechumens, and reading the Gospel with fear and trembling, and speaking to the people such things as tend to their salvation” (Bk. 5, n. 19). And then, “now the Lord is risen, offer your sacrifice, concerning which He made a constitution by us, saying, ‘Do this for a remembrance of me;’ and leave off your fasting, and rejoice, and keep a festival, because Jesus Christ, the pledge of our resurrection, is risen from the dead” (ibid.).

The continuity in Christian practice, for the sixteen centuries since the Constitutions were produced, never ceases to amaze me; we clearly rely upon our ancestors in the Faith for all that we have. We will continue to explore this document for the next few weeks; have a blessed and holy week!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for January 28, 2007

Last week, we began to explore the Apostolic Constitutions, a fourth-century work that gives us a depiction of the life of the early Church. Knowing our heritage and ancestors in the Faith gives us courage and hope that our own growth in holiness is not only possible, but it is what God desires. The third book of the Constitutions describes different roles in the Church, beginning with widows.

“Choose your ‘widows not under sixty years of age,’ that in some measure the suspicion of a second marriage may be prevented by their age” (Bk. 3, n. 1). Continuing, we read, “the true widows are those which have had only one husband, having a good report among the generality for good works; widows indeed, sober, chaste, faithful, pious, who have brought up their children well, and have entertained strangers unblameably, which are to be supported as devoted to God” (Bk. 3, n. 3).

The unique association of widows in the early Church provided a marvelous network of prayer and charity, as well as example and support for the entire Church. Reading further, we also see that these widows who dedicate themselves to prayer and good works provide an example of holiness; they are not distracted by idleness or gossip as well.

The Constitutions then turn to the distinction between the laity and the priesthood: “Neither do we permit the laity to perform any of the offices of the priesthood; as, for instance, neither the sacrifice, nor baptism, nor the laying on of hands, nor the blessing, whether the smaller or the greater…. For such sacred offices are conferred by the laying on of the hands of the bishop” (Bk. 3, n. 10). This illustrates a clear understanding of the Sacraments as received, and even the handing down of ordination only by a bishop connects the entire Church to the apostles in a very concrete manner.

The document also speaks of a “deaconess,” who was to assist at the baptisms of women; when immersion baptism was still celebrated, and those being baptized wore no clothes when they were immersed, “let a deacon receive the man and a deaconess the woman, so that the conferring of this inviolable seal may take place with a becoming decency” (Bk. 3, n. 16).

After this practical instruction follows a beautiful description of the meaning of baptism: “This baptism, therefore, is given into the death of Jesus: the water is instead of the burial, and the oil instead of the Holy Spirit; the seal instead of the cross; the ointment is the confirmation of the confession; the mention of the Father as of the Author and Sender; the join mention of the Holy Spirit as of the witness; the descent into the water the dying together with Christ; the ascent out of the water the rising again with Him. The Father is the god over all; Christ is the only-begotten God, the beloved Son, the Lord of glory; the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, who is sent by Christ, and taught by Him, and proclaims Him” (Bk. 3, n. 17).

Reflecting on our baptismal call, we can see the great dignity that is conferred by sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ; indeed, it is a sacrament that we could reflect upon daily as a reminder of our true home in heaven, and our new life in the Blessed Trinity.

Finally, we read about deacons, and their responsibility in the Church: “Let the deacons be in all things unspotted, as the bishop himself is to be, only more active; in number according to the largeness of the Church, that they may minister to the infirm as workmen that are not ashamed” (Bk. 3, n. 19). The deacons are further exhorted to “not scruple it, if they should be obliged to lay down their life for a brother” (ibid.). During days of persecution, such a visible witness to the love of Christ must have been a powerful example; many deacon-martyrs grace the list of saints: St. Stephen, St. Lawrence, and St. Vincent, are the most prominent.

Book Three concludes with the requirement on the ordinations of bishops and priests: “We command that a bishop be ordained by three bishops…. But a presbyter and a deacon are to be ordained by one bishop and the rest of the clergy” (Bk. 3, n. 20). This requirement still exists in the Church today.

We will continue with the Apostolic Constitutions next week. God bless you!

Faith Seeking Understanding for January 21, 2007

Having examined the Didache in last week’s article, I would like to explore another work of the early Church that also bears the name of the Apostles: The Apostolic Constitutions. Unlike the second-century Didache, however, the Constitutions are clearly of later origin and never seem to have been regarded as authentically connected directly to the Apostles themselves. Nevertheless, the Constitutions do present a view of fourth-century Church life and practice.

The work is divided into eight books, covering the whole of the Christian life: the first book, on the laity; the second, on bishops, priests, and deacons; the third, on widows and some sacramental life; the fourth, on public works of charity and family life; the fifth, on the martyrs and the liturgy; the sixth, on heresies and the law; the seventh, on the Christian life, the Eucharist, and the Sacraments of Initiation; and the eighth, spiritual gifts and ordination.

Since it would be impossible to cover all the material in this extensive work, I will just present a few pertinent quotations that exhort the early Christians (and us) to greater holiness. To begin, we are encouraged to read Scripture: “Read the books of the Law, of the Kings, with the Prophets; sing the hymns of David; and peruse diligently the Gospel, which is the completion of the other” (Bk. 1, n. 5).

For family life, we read: “Let the husband not be insolent nor arrogant towards his wife; but compassionate, bountiful, willing to please his own wife alone, and treat her honorably and obligingly, endeavoring to be agreeable to her” (Bk. 1, n. 2). And further, “Let the wife be obedient to her own proper husband, because ‘the husband is the head of the wife’” (Bk. 1, n. 8). The expectation is clearly to sacrifice, each spouse for the other, out of reverence for Christ.

In the next book, the character of a bishop is described: “Let him also be merciful, of a generous and loving temper… Let him be also ready to give, a lover of the widow and the stranger; ready to serve, and minister, and attend; resolute in his duty; and let him know who is the most worthy of his assistance” (Bk. 2, n. 3). Why is this? “For you bishops are to be guides and watchmen to the people, as you yourselves have Christ for your guide and watchman” (Bk. 2, n. 6).

In this same book, we also read a brief description of what the church building ought to look like: “Let the building be long, with its head to the east, with its vestries on both sides at the east end, and so it will be like a ship. In the middle let the bishop’s throne be placed, and on each side of him let the presbytery sit down; and let the deacons stand near at hand, in close and small girt garments, for they are like the mariners and managers of the ship: with regard to these, let the laity sit on the other side, with all quietness and good order” (Bk. 2, n. 57).

It seems that even 1600 years ago, human nature was the same: “Let the deacon oversee the people, that nobody may whisper, nor slumber, nor laugh, nor nod; for all ought in the church to stand wisely, and soberly, and attentively, having their attention fixed upon the word of the Lord” (ibid.).

In addition, the importance of common prayer was stressed: “Assemble yourselves together every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord’s house. In the morning saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth…. And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently” (Bk. 2, n. 59).

Finally, we are reminded that our first and most important work is the worship of God: “Follow therefore your trades as by the by, for your maintenance, but make the worship of God your main business” (Bk. 2, n. 61).

We will continue to explore the remaining books of the Constitutions in the next few weeks. Hopefully, we have all been inspired by the tremendous presentation that Fr. J-Glenn Murray offered this past week; I am certain that it will help improve our celebration of the Sacred Liturgy here at St. John Neumann! Have a blessed week.