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, December 03, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for December 2, 2007

Celebrating the first Sunday of Advent is always a challenge when we are in the midst of the “Holiday” or “Shopping” Season. Christmas songs and carols are on the radio and in the stores; the greetings change to “Merry Christmas” (or sadly, “Happy Holidays”) from our cashiers; and every commercial features Santa, reindeer, or elves reminding us to spend, spend, spend. The joy of giving and receiving Christmas presents is a wonderful reminder of the infinite gift given to mankind at the Incarnation – the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made man.

Nevertheless, the focus on shopping and finding “that perfect gift” can obscure the importance of our Advent preparations for the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord. This doesn’t mean that we should lay aside our Christmas cards only to pray or to avoid trips to the malls and stores is search of gifts for our families and loved ones; it does, however, remind us to allow these exterior preparations to find a deeper root in our souls. Then, the long lines can be an opportunity to meditate on Christ’s coming; the extra traffic provides an occasion for blessing (and not cursing!); the inconveniences can be a moment to pause and consider the very difficult journey of our Lady and St. Joseph to Bethlehem and all the difficulties surrounding childbirth in a stable.

This Saturday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (and still a Holy Day of Obligation). It is fitting that we set aside the austerity and longing of Advent to celebrate this singular grace and privilege of our Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary. The Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854, states, “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

Interpreting this theologically power-packed phrase, we learn a great deal: the Immaculate Conception is Mary’s unique privilege, but nevertheless is a result of our Lord’s saving work; furthermore, we learn that Mary was never tainted by sin, though herself still in need of a Savior; and finally, that this particular grace is effected in anticipation, since God is able to work outside of the limits of space and time. Such a unique grace is preeminently fitting for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As the Fathers of the Church recognize, by her “Yes” to the plan God offers at the Annunciation, she undoes the “No” of Adam and Eve; she is, in fact, the New Eve, preserved from sin and perfectly pure to be the mother of Her Divine Son. Dante opens the 33rd Canto of his Paradisio in exquisite praise of our Lady:

O virgin mother, daughter of thy Son,
humble beyond all creatures and more exalted;
predestined turning point of God’s intention;

Thy merit so ennobled human nature
that its divine Creator did not scorn
to make Himself the creature of His creature.”

Have a blessed week!

Monday, November 26, 2007

November 25, 2007

I hope that everyone had a blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day; it is always a blessing to be able to spend time with friends and family in giving thanks for the many gifts God has given to us. This Sunday is also the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. By celebrating this day, we “summarize” our entire year (and indeed all our lives) under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As our King, the Lord Jesus asks for all our hearts, minds, and souls. He is, however, the most generous and benevolent of Kings who has given up His own life for our sake; by turning our lives over to Him, we actually gain freedom, peace, and joy. We live in the truth of who were have been created to be: sons and daughters of the Most High and Triune God, Who is Love itself.

Considering this (and praying to St. Andrew whose feast-day we celebrate on November 30th!) as we prepare for the First Sunday of Advent next week, I would like to return to my commentary on The Golden Compass. It’s often very easy to either criticize a work of fiction without seeing its merits, or simply fire away at modern American culture because we seem so distant from God. What is more difficult, however, is to really engage the culture with the confidence that Christ’s Kingdom will really be victorious.

That is, we know that we have the truth on our side, but often present it with a grim or defeated approach. Or sometimes, we are afraid to allow the truth to be splendid but gentle at the same time. And sometimes, we just simply don’t know what the Church teaches. Therefore, we really need to educate ourselves first and foremost, and then make choices that coincide with this formation. Sometimes it will mean not seeing a movie “everyone is seeing” or sometimes it may mean not continuing a magazine subscription or particular cable channel. Each of these choices has as its foundation the decision to follow Christ as our King.

In the case of The Golden Compass, we cannot be afraid of the ideas Pullman presents, but on the contrary must form our minds to defend the truth of Christianity. Personally, I cannot see the value in supporting such a movie or novel, particularly because the author has even stated publicly in interviews that he is “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief” (cf. Denis Grasska in The Michigan Catholic, 9 Nov 2007, p. 22). Nevertheless, we should be able to address these ideas in conversation and present thoughtful responses to these claims. Educating our children, in particular, must be a constant priority – not only in what the Church teaches, but why. The Church’s teachings are not arbitrary but founded on truth.

The Catechism is an excellent place to begin; even if we find it a little confusing or tough to understand at times, it provides the perfect foundation for our Faith. This “intellectual” formation is an essential way to keep Christ as the King of our lives and culture, and also to not fear when certain ideas may challenge the Church. Christ is the most powerful, and yet gentlest of Sovereigns. His Love provides the foundation for our lives; may we keep Christ the King of our lives and hearts every day – by how we pray, how we think, and work, and play, and most importantly, how we love. God bless you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yes, I'm Back... For Novemeber 18, 2007

I am certain that without some prompting, it will seem strange to finally return to publishing these articles, but I am finally settled in here at Divine Child, and promise to post these items since I write them every week for our bulletin. Particularly important is the concern surrounding Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, so please enjoy.

The secular “Holiday Season” is really upon us in full swing: Thanksgiving comes early this year, the college football season is nearly over, and Christmas advertisements and sales are already overwhelming us. And although Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and presents a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on God’s goodness and the bounty we have received, another important issue is before us. The feasts of the Presentation and St. Cecilia will have to wait!

Christmastime, apart from the shopping and such, has also recently been a time for new movie releases. In particular, I enjoyed waiting for the next Lord of the Rings movie release, or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and also The Nativity Story. Unfortunately, one of this year’s “holiday releases” has all the appearances of being an uplifting and positive spiritual story, but in reality it has the potential to undermine our Faith.

Ever since the Harry Potter controversy, however, I have been wary about blanket condemnations of books or movies. I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series, but felt conversations (not just about magic, but about many different choices) between parents and children would help balance the books and develop their potential to promote authentic heroism, truth-seeking, and self-sacrifice.

Therefore, when I heard about Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, I wondered if the concern might be overworked and decided to read the book for myself. Unfortunately, however, the well-written story cleverly hides a dangerous agenda that seeks to cast doubt about the existence of God and the role of the Church in our life. Obviously, I have not seen the movie which will be released on December 7, but having read the first book (this also being a trilogy) widespread concern is well-founded.

The Golden Compass is the first of three books telling the tale of Lyra Belacqua, a young girl, and her adventures in a world very similar to our own; throughout the book, however, the Church is depicted as an agency of deceit, cunning, and arbitrary authoritarian power. The “Magisterium” and “Church” of the novel are evil and destructive, harming children for their own selfish ends and having little regard for the truth.

Most troubling, however, is the easy way in which Pullman uses these familiar concepts – and even Scripture quotations – while changing their meaning and using them to instill doubt and fear with regard to sin, grace, the Church, priests, and even free will. The philosophical presuppositions of the book rely on using these concepts to undermine God’s free gift of Grace through Jesus Christ and instead replace them with a “naturalistic” approach that will attempt to even prove that God does not exist.

I will continue my reflections on the movie and book in next week’s article, but rather than being afraid of these things, we must be willing to study and defend our Faith. Have a blessed and holy Thanksgiving Day, giving thanks to our Lord for all the many blessings in our lives.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Return to the Blogosphere

I finally logged onto the Blogger Dashboard and realized that it has been significantly too long since I late posted -- in fact, it was before our very memorable trip to the Holy Land. Since returning from Israel, parish life became a non-stop flurry of activity, including a transfer from St. John Neumann to Divine Child in Dearborn.

Please accept my apologies for having disappeared for such a lengthy period of time. Now that I'm getting settled into my new assignment I will do my best to keep the blog updated and current once again.

I don't know if I'll have a chance to offer a thorough recap of the Holy Land pilgrimage, but it was an incredible experience, and we owe Steve and Janet Ray, Teresa Tomeo and her husband Dominic, and Corporate Travel a great debt of gratitude. We were blessed to begin our travels in Galilee and finish with several days in Jerusalem. The personal highlight for me was the opportunity to celebrate a morning Mass at the Holy Sepulchre -- or rather in the Tomb itself.

The Franciscans sang the Mass of the Resurrection and I celebrated at an altar set up in the ante-chamber of the very place where our Lord rose from the dead. Incredible does not begin to describe it.

I will try to catch up as quickly as I can, and I do intend to post briefly on the recent Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum" which clarifies and expands permission to celebrate the Mass under the older form (from 1962).

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Join Us (Digitally!) on Pilgrimage

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, you will be able to join us on pilgrimage to the Holy Land by a "virtual tour." Our pilgrim guide, Steve Ray, has been able to arrange daily videos of our pilgrim group to be made available on his blog at:
You will be able to see the sites we visit, and even leave messages for our group. Please keep us in your prayers, and we will keep you in ours.
I look forward to sharing the photos with you all on my return.

Faith Seeking Understanding for March 11, 2007

In anticipation...

I am on pilgrimage to the Holy Land this weekend and next weekend. If all has gone well, our group should be in Galilee until Tuesday when we go to Jerusalem for the remainder of our time. If you would like to follow our progress and see us on our journey, visit Steve Ray’s blog at Steve is a local Catholic apologist from the Ann Arbor area and has been to the Holy Land more than 40 times; he is our guide for the pilgrimage. He also has several videos that explore Scripture through the geography of Israel and the surrounding area, and his videographer is accompanying us on our pilgrimage. Every evening, they will post a short video clip and greetings from the pilgrims to the website, so please check in on us every day!

Since I don’t have the time to dedicate to beginning our next Father of the Church until I return from pilgrimage, I thought we would explore some of the different Lenten traditions that prepare the Church for Easter in different ways. Of particular interest is the Roman practice of the “Station Churches,” which dates to the third century.

In the early Church, the Pope would travel, accompanied by large numbers of the faithful, to a different church in Rome for every day of Lent. A special Mass was celebrated at each of these churches by the pope, as an expression of the “pilgrimage of Lent” but also as a way to prepare each portion of the city for the great celebration of the Paschal Mysteries at Easter.

During the 14th century, owing to the Avignon Papacy, the practice fell into disuse, but was been restored most recently by Bl. John XXIII in 1959. The pope no longer travels to every Station Church every day of Lent, but he nevertheless begins Lent by celebrating Mass and distribution Ashes at Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill, and celebrates the most prominent of the Liturgies at their respective stational church.

The people of Rome, however, are well aware which church is to be visited each day, and the parishes and monasteries that are honored with the title of Station Church are always filled with great preparations for their particular day. For some time now, the American seminarians studying at the North American College in Rome have developed their own Station Church pilgrimage, and walk each day of Lent to the ancient Station Church and celebrate a 7 a.m. Mass before their day of studies begin. Some of these churches are a great distance from the College, so the students had an added austerity for the Lenten season.

Unlike Ordinary Time, every day of Lent has its own particular readings and Mass prayers: the Opening Prayer, the Prayer Over the Gifts, and the Prayer After Communion. Some of these Masses even retain a mention of the particular grace or virtue connected with the Station Church, but often go unnoticed. Such an abundance of grace is offered to us through the Lenten season; by reflecting on the daily readings and prayers, we are strengthened in our penances and self-discipline and better prepared to celebrate Easter.

The Station Churches also give us the encouragement of the martyrs and the great saints of the early Church, reminding us of the eternal happiness that awaits us in heaven. No matter how great our trials or suffering on this earth, Christ desires to share eternity with us, and the season of Lent helps us better prepare for that eternal celebration of Easter as well.

Next week, even though we will still be on pilgrimage, I will briefly outline the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a preparation for receiving this Sacrament during Lent. This season of repentance allows us to ask God for His Mercy and to receive it with confidence through the ministry of His Church.

May God bless you all, and be assured of my prayers for all of you while I am in the Holy Land.

Faith Seeking Understanding for March 4, 2007

This Friday, March 9, I will be leaving on pilgrimage to the Holy Land for 10 days, with about 100 other pilgrims. We will be staying in Jerusalem and Capernaum, and will have an opportunity to visit many of the holy sites including the locations of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Please keep our group in your prayers and be assured of our prayers on your behalf. Since I have never been to the Holy Land, I am looking forward to returning with a better understanding of the customs and culture of the place where our Lord lived, died, and rose from the dead.

Since I never managed to finish exploring the Apostolic Constitutions in the past few weeks, we can return to them this week; then we can take a break from the Fathers and discover some of the treasures of the Holy Land.

Book Eight is the last book of the Apostolic Constitutions. It addresses the different gifts of the Holy Spirit as they are given to the Church, both in the sense of particular charisms of healing, casting out demons, or prophecy, and also in the gifts of Holy Orders. In either case, the purpose of the gift is to build up the whole Church and to witness especially to unbelievers about the power of God. Therefore, “to be a Christian is in our own power; but to be an apostle, or a bishop, or in any other such office, is not in our own power, but at the disposal of God, who bestows the gifts” (Bk. 8, n. 1).

The heart of the teaching in this section concerns the forms of selection and ordinations, particularly of bishops. The bishop must be, above all, blameless and a worthy candidate; at this time in the Church, it seems as though the people and the priests approved the choice of their new bishop by acclamation and also by public scrutiny. Similar to the current ordination rite of Bishops, three bishops were required to ordain the new bishop. Also, two deacons held the book of the Gospels open over the head of the new bishop, while the prayer of consecration is said.

The prayer for the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons are then included, but unfortunately they are too long to include in this article. Each prayer, though, in its own way, expresses the grace that is imparted to the one being ordained and his role of service in the Church.

An interesting section then outlines the days of rest, particularly with regard to feast days; the goal of the Sunday rest in honor of the Resurrection is to allow for prayer and the celebration of the Liturgy. Also included as days of rest are the Ascension, Pentecost, Christmas, Epiphany, the feasts of the Apostles, and St. Stephen’s day (cf. Bk. 8, n. 33).

Aside from days of rest, however, the early Christians were exhorted to pray frequently by the Constitutions, having prayers at dawn, then in the morning, 9 am, noon, 3 pm, and evening. This section even describes some of the prayers, which are very beautiful; the prayer for the faithful departed is particularly touching: “Let us pray for our brothers that are at rest in Christ, that God, the lover of mankind, who has received his soul, may forgive him every sin, voluntary and involuntary, and may be merciful and gracious to him, and give him his reward in the land of the pious … where all sorrow, grief, and lamentation are banished” (Bk. 8, n. 41).

This concludes the Apostolic Constitutions, which have given us an insight into the early Church’s life and practices. Our next Father will be St. Augustine, but I will spend a few weeks recounting our Holy Land pilgrimage.

The College of Ss. Peter and Paul Educational Foundation is holding a benefit dinner featuring Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz from Lincoln, Nebraska, on March 16th at the St. John’s Center. If you are interested in attending, or in having more information about the College, please call (248) 347-3649.

Have a blessed week!

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!