Old Roman Catholic Church Province of Europe




Why we pray for the departed...

Posted by occesussex on November 1, 2011 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

With the feast of All Souls (Nov 2nd), here are a few quotes explaining why it is that Catholics pray for the departed...

"Communion with the dead. In full consciousness of this communication of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins she offers her suffrages for them. Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective."
- Catechism of the Catholic Church 958 

"Of all prayers, the most meritorious, the most acceptable to God, are prayers for the dead, because they imply all the works of charity, both corporal and spiritual."
- St. Thomas Aquinas

"Unless there were, in the word of God, an absolute prohibition of prayer for the departed, how should we go on praying for those whom we love until they were out of sight, and then cease on the instant, as if 'out of sight, out of mind' were a Christian duty? How should we not rather follow the soul to the eternal throne, with the apostle's [Paul's] prayer 'the Lord grant that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.' (II Timothy 1:18 The departed are included in our Eucharistic prayer, '...by the merits and death of the Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benenfits of His passion.' That we have for the time no more to do with those who loved us here, and whom we loved, must be false, because it is so contrary to love. It belongs to the Communion of Saints, that they shall pray and long for us, who art still on the stormy sea of this world; and that we, on our side should pray for such things as God in His goodness wills to bestow upon them."
- Edward B Pusey

The Meaning of the Mass

Posted by Metropolitan Jerome OSJV on August 25, 2010 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The Meaning of the Mass

Blessed Fulton Sheen


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Posted by occesussex on May 8, 2009 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

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Wasting your life? By Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Posted by occesussex on April 30, 2009 at 2:38 PM Comments comments (0)

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The Devil by Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Posted by orccesussex on April 23, 2009 at 11:31 AM Comments comments (4)

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Reasons to be a Catholic: The Resurrection

Posted by orccesussex on April 15, 2009 at 3:18 AM Comments comments (0)

Though I take it up as the fourth in this series, surely the Resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the first and most obvious reason to be both a Christian and a Catholic, for it is Christ’s Resurrection which bears ultimate witness to the truth of the relationship between man and God which He both revealed and accomplished. Question: How do we know Christ’s teachings are true? Answer: Because He rose from the dead.

Christ himself argued that we should believe in Him because of the works He did. His miracles were a proof that He came from God and, therefore, that His words were true. Indeed, when he drove the money-lenders out of the temple, claiming that it was his Father’s house, he replied to those who challenged his authority by referring them to a stupendous miracle still to come: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again” (Jn 2:19). In several places, Scripture makes clear that He was talking about “the temple of His body” (cf. Jn 2:21)—that is, His own Resurrection from the dead.

The Resurrection, then, is the culmination of all the signs which validate Christ’s authority, the truth of His teaching, the reliability of His message, the reality of His Divine sonship, into which he would incorporate all of his followers. But note that there is a double significance to this formidable proof. In the first place, again, it is the guarantee of the Divine authority behind all of Christ's sayings and everything He instituted. Apostles, bishops, priests, sacraments, the Church: all are guaranteed by the Resurrection to be Divine institutions, established by the One who proved He came from God. The first great significance of the Resurrection, then, is that it directly or indirectly guarantees not only the truth of Christ’s own words but the authority of the Church, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and the efficacy of the whole order of grace.

This is, if you will, the Resurrection’s macrocosmic significance. But what of its microcosmic significance? What of the significance of the Resurrection in that microcosm of the Christian mystery which is my own personal life, my own being? St. Paul addressed this question specifically when he rebuked those who denied the resurrection of the dead:

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor 15:16-22)

In other words, Christ’s Resurrection is the guarantee of our own resurrection, our own personal immortality, not just as disembodied souls but as complete human persons, body and soul united to God. An inkling of what this means may be gained by reflecting on the aging process. As we get older, we sometimes look in the mirror with surprise. We don’t think of ourselves as “old”. We think of ourselves as simply ourselves—the same as ever, the same self we were aware of when we first reflected as children, not necessarily the young self, but certainly the very same self. We find it strange, even a little disturbing, that the body can betray through change, growth, and decomposition this self, this me whom I permanently understand myself to be.

In Christ’s Resurrection, this “permanent me” is guaranteed to enjoy the fullness of life forever: Elevated, purified of sin, perfected, living in unlimited love—but always essentially myself. No other philosophy or religion offers so much or, to put it differently, no other philosophy or religion captures so perfectly what we instinctively understand about ourselves, about our difference from the rest of nature, about the essentially permanent and potentially glorious character of our own being. The reason is simple, for no other philosopher or theologian boasts a resurrection, and when it comes to being Christian and Catholic, all the difference is made by that single, solitary, concrete and miraculous historical fact.

by Dr Jeff Mirus Catholic Culture

Blessed Salt... an interesting scenario...

Posted by orccesussex on March 7, 2009 at 11:34 AM Comments comments (0)

QUAERITUR: blessed salt Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ wdtprs.com

From a reader:

Recently a Protestant friend of mine sent me an article you might find interesting about someone hawking "Christian salt." I don’t know much about the Catholic tradition of blessed salt, except that my mom keeps some near her statue of St. Philomena. The salt in this article is blessed by an Episcopal priest. Apparently the "inventor" dreamed it up as an alternative to the Kosher salt those TV chefs are always talking about.  "An unspecified percentage of the revenue will go toward supporting Christian charities, and if the line proves profitable, Godlewski will attempt to expand the product line with Christian branded rye, pickles and bagels, reports Examiner.com."
Hmmmm. At best this seems like a tacky attempt at creating a sacramental. At worst, it borders on simony and anti-semitism. What do you think? Is blessed salt a legitimate devotion? Do kosher delis undermine Christian culture?

My comments:

I don’t think this has any anti-Semitic dimension.  Kosher salt is used in cooking.  It has a larger grind, or grain.  It is "kosher" or "koshering" salt, not because it’s kosher in itself but because it is used in the processing of kosher meats.  It usually doesn’t have additives, which is why it is handy in cooking.  It is amazing, by the way, how many different sorts of culinary salt you can get, and how different they taste.

The episcopal priest can wave his hands around all he wants.  He cannot bless anything.

But he can commit a sin of scandal by giving the impression of peddling sacred things.

But if he could bless the salt and make it a sacramental, it would be a sacrilege to sell it.

In ancient times (as today) salt was extremely important.  People depended on it for health.  Without the right balance of salt our bodies cannot regulate body moisture properly.  It was precious at times.  The Romans named an important road after salt, the Via Salaria, for salt trade – tied to Rome’s very earliest origins.  Roman soldiers would sometimes be paid in salt, thus "salary" in English.  Think about the upheavals in India when a tax was imposed on salt, and Ghandi led a protest illegally to make salt at the ocean. 

Salt is all over Scriptures, from the lot of Lot’s wife to Our Lord calling His disciples the "salt of the earth". 

In the Old Testament God established a covenant of salt with the people.  Cf. Numbers 18:19: "All the firstfruits of the sanctuary which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to thee and to thy sons and daughters, by a perpetual ordinance. It is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord, to thee and to thy sons."  Remember, salt was precious.  When you shared salt with someone, you created a bond between you.

We say that someone is "worth his salt".  That also means that he is esteemed.  You would invite someone your favor to sit closer to the salt cellar cellar on the table.  You would invite him even to "come a little higher", as Christ speaks of in the parable in Luke 14:10.

Salt is a sign of a bond, but also of permanence, because salt preserves food and keeps water from getting nasty with algae.  In Leviticus 2:13 God tells the Jews that all their offerings must also have salt.  Salt is, in a sense, something that is irrevocable. 

The Lord’s words then about His disciples as being salt, and His warning about salt "losing its flavor", take on greater meaning.  There is a permanence expected in discipleship.

St. Paul talks about how, when we answer people, our words should be "salty": "sermo vester semper in gratia sale sit conditus ut sciatis quomodo oporteat vos unicuique respondere... Let your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt: that you may know how you ought to answer every man."  This means that our words should be engaging, but with more than mere dazzle.  If food is not seasoned with salt, it is boring and we are not getting a necessary nutrient.

Let’s leave the whole low-sodium stuff aside.  Although, that is an interesting metaphor for what happened in liturgy, doctrine and practice in the Church…

In the Church we bless salt and use it for various things.  It is a sacramental.  You can cook with it, of course.  You can also sprinkle it in places as a protection from the attacks of the Enemy.  The Enemy does not like blessed salt!

As in all sacramentals blessing salt is serious business.  Salt is especially serious, however.

You might know that exorcised and blessed salt was used in the rite for blessing water.  The exorcism and blessing for salt is a fearsome thing.

Salt is of those few things actually personally addressed as a creature of God and then exorcised.

Exorcizo te, creatura salis, per Deum + vivum, per Deum + verum, per Deum + sanctum, per Deum, qui te per Eliseum Prophetam in aquam mitti jussit, ut sanaretur sterilitas aquae; ut efficiaris sal exorcizatum in salutem credentium; et sis omnibus sumentibus te sanitas animae et corporis; et effugiat, atque discedat a loco, in quo aspersum fueris, omnis phantasia et nequitia vel versutia diabolicae fraudis, omnisque spiritus immundus, adjuratus per eum qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos, et saeculum per ignem.  R. Amen.

O you creature of salt, I purge you of all evil by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, who commanded by the Prophet Elisha that you be put into water in order that the sterility of the water would be healed: so that you might be rendered a purified salt for the salvation of believers, and so that you might be a healthiness of soul and body to all who consume you, and so that you may put to flight and drive out from a place in which you will have been scattered every phantom and wickedness, and cunning trap of diabolical deceit, and every unclean spirit be solemnly banished by command through Him Who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire. 
R. Amen.

Holy Church does not kid around in these exorcisms and blessings …. in the older, traditional Rituale Romanum at least.  I will not speak of the newer "Book of Blessings" which is nearly useless and should be entirely scrapped.

Finally… I think it is a profoundly dangerous thing to give the appearance of peddling sacred things.  I would be afraid for that person’s spiritual well-being and ultimate fate.

I think the Enemy would be pleased by this mockery of blessing salt and selling it.

Catholic Apologetics I: About Confession...

Posted by orccesussex on March 6, 2009 at 3:05 AM Comments comments (1)

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Vocation: Priesthood by St John Vianney Pt 2

Posted by orccesussex on March 5, 2009 at 5:21 PM Comments comments (0)

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Vocation: Priesthood by St John Vianney Pt 1

Posted by orccesussex on March 5, 2009 at 4:51 PM Comments comments (0)

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Modern Atheism... answers what exactly?

Posted by orccesussex on March 5, 2009 at 12:29 PM Comments comments (0)

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Biretta tip to Fr Ray Blake (St Mary Magdalene, Brighton)

Practices of Lent

Posted by orccesussex on February 24, 2009 at 8:16 PM Comments comments (0)

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Pancake Day!

Posted by orccesussex on February 23, 2009 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Shrove Tuesday was once known a 'half-holiday' in England. It started at 11am with a church bell signalling the start. On Pancake Day, pancake races are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. In 1634 William Fennor wrote in his Palinodia:

"And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne."

But the tradition of pancake racing had started long before that. The most famous pancake race, at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race to the finishing line tossing the pancakes as they go. As the pancakes are thin, skill is required to toss them successfully while running. The winner is the first to cross the line having tossed the pancake a certain number of times.

The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney was so busy making pancakes, that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.

Since 1950 the people of Liberal, Kansas, and Olney have held the "International Pancake Day" race between the two towns. The two towns' competitors race along an agreed-upon course, and the times of all of the two towns' competitors are compared, to determine a winner. After the 2000 race, Liberal was leading with 26 wins to Olney's 24.

In North Somercotes in Lincolnshire in eastern England, a race takes place every year in the village. There are three categories - adults, children from 11 to 16, and under 11s. Each person receives a frying pan and has to race from one end of a field to the other, tossing their pancake at least once every few seconds on the way. As in the Buckinghamshire race, the winner is the first to cross the line, having tossed their pancake several times and with the pancake still intact.

Also, in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, the foreshore road (beach) is closed off, schools close early and all residents are invited to skip in the road.

A Festy cock in Scotland is a ball of extra finely ground meal, wetted until it could be patted and rolled into a round shape, then roasted in the hot ashes from a mill kiln, etc. It was eaten at Shrovetide.

The Pancake Greaze

Another local tradition, the Pancake Greaze, takes place every year at Westminster School in London. A pancake, reinforced with horsehair, is prepared in advance and on Shrove Tuesday tossed into the air "up School". The boys at the school then attempt to get as much of it as they can.

Shrove Tuesday football

Many towns throughout England held traditional Shrove Tuesday football ('Mob football') games dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out with the passing of the Highway Act 1835, which banned the playing of football on public highways. A number of towns have managed to maintain the tradition to the present day including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstone (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshire, SedgefieldBall Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Major (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwall.

Pancake Recipe

For a basic pancake recipe, you will need the following ingredients –

  • 100g (4oz) plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml (1/2 pint) milk
  • optional pinch salt
  • sugar and lemon juice to serve
  • oil for frying
pancake lemon sugar
To make the pancake batter, add the milk, egg and then the flour and blend using an electric blender or food processor. Or if a blender is not available, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the egg and beat well. Then add the milk gradually and beat to make a smooth batter.

Heat a little oil in a large frying pan until hot and then pour enough batter to thinly coat the base of the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes each side.

Shrove Tuesday

Posted by orccesussex on February 23, 2009 at 2:28 PM Comments comments (0)

The word shrove is a past tense of the English verb "shrive," which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by confessing and doing penance. Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving (confessing) that English Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent began. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of "shrovetide", the English equivalent to the Carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe.

In countries of the Carnival tradition, the day before Ash Wednesday is known either as the "Tuesday of Carnival" (in Spanish-speaking countries, Martes de Carnaval, in Portuguese-speaking countries, Terça-feira de Carnaval, in German Faschingsdienstag) or Fat Tuesday (in Portuguese-speaking countries Terça-feira Gorda, in French-speaking countries, Mardi Gras, in Italian-speaking countries, Martedì Grasso, in Sweden, Fettisdagen). 

Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The liturgical fasting emphasized eating plainer food: in many cultures this meant no meat, and in some, no food prepared with dairy or eggs. Therefore, rich ingredients were cooked to use them immediately prior to the commencement of the fast. Pancakes and doughnuts also provided a minor celebratory feast prior to the fast itself.

Intro to Old Catholic Thought Part 1

Posted by orccesussex on February 23, 2009 at 1:18 PM Comments comments (0)

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Why do I, as an Old Catholic, support the Pope?

Posted by occesussex on February 21, 2009 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

A question that has been posed to me, especially of late, and that I feel I ought to respond to publicly is... "Why do you, as an Old Catholic priest, support the Pope [of Rome]?".

An initial response: simply because, despite being an "Old Catholic" I must surely recognise the Bishop of Rome as the historical and legitimate "Patriarch of the West". Now I know that particular title has been "dropped" from the official titles of the Pope (since the 2006 edition of the Annuario Pontificio) but nonetheless, it is an historic title (and completely defensible by resources/references from anitiquity) of the Bishop of Rome - far more so than "Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church"! Also, historically, it is important to remember where "Old" Catholics come from...

"Old" Catholics are so-called because after the promulgation of "Pastor Aeternus" (the doctrine of Papal Infallibility) promulgated the by the First Vatican Council (VCI) in 1870, Catholic scholars and theologians opposed to the doctrine met together in Germany at Munich at what was to become the "First Old Catholic Congress" in 1871, rejecting the "innovation" of the "new" doctrine as defined by the decree. They called themselves "Old Catholics" because they saw themselves as adhering to the Catholic Faith as it had been received and transmitted basically according to the principles of the Vincentian Canon "that which has been believed everywhere and by all" and to the OEcumenical Councils predating 1054 (the divide between the Eastern and Western Catholicates) inspite of VCI and the declarations thereof. What they did affirm about the Papacy was;

"We acknowledge the primacy of the Roman bishop, as it was received by the Fathers on the ground of Scripture. We declare that the dogmas of can only be defined in accordance with Holy Scripture, and that the dogmatic decisions of a Council must be shown to be in harmony with the originally delivered faith of the Church, in the direct consciousness of belief of the Catholic people and theological science."

I hold then, that it is utterly defensible as an "Old" Catholic to recognise and acknowledge the Bishop of Rome (Pope) as the "Chief Pastor" of the historical Western Catholicate, the Church which Old Catholicism claims to be a continuation of. It is for this self-same reason that Old Catholics using the Tridentine Rite, whether in the vernacular or in Latin, have always mentioned the Bishop of Rome as the "Chief Pastor" in the Canon of the Mass. At no time did the Old Catholic Congresses (of Munich 1871, Cologne 1872, Constance 1873 or Bonn 1874) at any time in any of their declarations refute the the primacy of the See of Peter, rather they refuted the exageration of the claims made by the Papal See under Pius IX and sought to "reform" the Church from abuses regarding indulgences, imposed celibacy etc.

It is wholly appropriate therefore, for Old Catholics to share culturally with other Western Catholics, a deep love and concern for the Holy Father. It is wholly natural for them to pray for the Pope and where they can in conscience work collaboratively with him and defend or support him in his role as Prime Bishop of the Western Catholicate in defense of the Catholic Faith. It behoves Old Catholic Clergy to guide their faithful in the proper support that may be shown and demonstrated for the Holy Father, particularly where this does not impede, contradict or otherwise endanger a proper knowledge or understanding of true Catholic doctrine - without falling into the trap of extraneous material that is not consistant with the "received" Catholic Faith or contrary to the spirit or purpose of those declarations of the Old Catholic Congresses.

In short, "Old" Catholics are essentially "Roman" Catholics without adhering to the doctrine of "Papal Infallibility" and that only as it is defined in Pastor Aeternus. Old Catholics do recognise the Primacy of the See of Rome and the Petrine Ministry, it is, if you like, only the "workings out" of it that they disagree upon as it has been defined. Cardinal Newman himself expressed doubts about the decree Pastor Aeternus and many Bishops and theologians at the time were not wholly convinced of it's argument. An Old Catholic can be a Papal supporter without being disingenuous to our position on Papal Infallibility! We should all hope and pray for that day when East and West can come together again in Council to agree and decide on these issues.

For the reasons given above, I find myself, particularly during the present climate of hostility towards the whole Catholic Church targeted particularly at the present moment in the person of the present Pope, needing to demonstrate my solidarity with other Catholics in support of the Holy Father.   Benedict XVI to my mind represents the best hope for reconciliation between the members of the Catholic Church than any other Pontiff, certainly in my lifetime, has before.  Mindful of the fact that his presence and guidance has been evident throughout the pontificate of the last Pope, John Paul II, the Holy Father has shown demonstrable understanding together with distinct theological credibility regarding an appreciation of the whole Catholic Church and Faith consonant with Scripture and Tradition that seeks to reconcile and make whole the "one flock".  Admittedly, it is the area of the "one shepherd" on earth that presents the greatest difficulty and I would suggest the Holy Father should seek dialogue and address sooner rather than later with the other historical and recognised Catholic Patriarchs.

Frequent and assiduous viewers of our online broadcast of the Mass may have noticed of late my inclusion from the Tabula Orationum, the additional Propers Con Perscutores Ecclesiae and Pro Papa, namely the additional Collects, Secrets and Postcommunion Prayers For the Church and For the Pope.   Those who have listened to my homilies may also have picked up my warnings and themes regarding a persecution of the Church now and in our time.  To my mind, we as Catholics, are facing a persecution as great as that which our forbears withstood in the 3rd Century under Diocletian (amongst others).  Similarly we are also battling with apostasy - or as John Paul II called a "silent apostasy" within our ranks. 

Prayers are urgently needed and required for the whole Church, the whole corporate Body of Christ as we need to bear witness to not just an increasingly secularised world but one which is growing in the arrogance that Man is the summit and pinnacle of all creation, is the ruler of life and death and in independent control over his own destiny and that of the whole world.  Humanism - not that utopian principle such as St Thomas Moore extolled, but the new kind which preaches the centralist perspective of "ego" is threatening the moral cohesiveness of human society by extolling the virtue of "self" above all others.  A greater witness than ever needs to be made for "Charity" - not conscience relieving alms giving - but that Divine Love expressed through the Body of Christ - spiritually, sacramentally, corporately, intelligently, compassionately and unselfishly amongst all who believe. 


Posted by orccesussex on February 19, 2009 at 6:03 AM Comments comments (0)

By Fr John Hardman SJ

SACRAMENT OF ORDERS: The sacrament that, by the imposition of a bishop's hands, confers on a man the grace and spiritual power to sanctify others. There are three forms of this sacrament, also called sacramental orders, namely diaconate, priesthood and episcopate. They are not, however, three sacraments, but only one sacrament that is separately administered with three successively higher sacramental effects. It is certain that every baptized male can be validly ordained, although it would be highly illicit to ordain him before the age of reason. It is likewise certain that every baptized male can be validly ordained a priest without previously being ordained a deacon. However, the more probable teaching is that a baptized male cannot be validly consecrated a bishop unless he has previously been ordained a priest.

Ordination of Priests

PRIESTHOOD. Sacrament of the New Law, instituted by Christ at the Last Supper, which confers on a man the power of consecrating and offering the body and blood of Christ, and of remitting and retaining sins. There are two grades or levels of the priesthood, the presbyterate and the episcopate. Normally priesthood refers to the presbyterate and is the second rank of orders, above the diaconate. Only a bishop can ordain priests, who must first have been ordained deacons. In the ordination of priests, the "matter" of the sacrament is the imposition of the bishop's hands upon the individual candidates, which is done in silence before the consecration prayer, of which the following words pertain to the nature of the order and therefore are required for the validity of the act: "We ask you, all powerful Father, give these servants of yours the dignity of the presbyterate. Renew the Spirit of holiness within them. By your divine gift may they attain the second order of the hierarchy and exemplify right conduct in their lives."

PRIEST. An authorized mediator who offers a true sacrifice in acknowledgment of God's supreme dominion over human beings and in expiation for their sins. A priest's mediation is the reverse of that of a prophet, who communicates from God to the people. A priest mediates from the people to God.

Christ, who is God and man, is the first, last and greatest priest of the New Law. He is the eternal high priest who offered himself once and for all on the Cross, a victim of infinite value, and he continually renews that sacrifice on the altar through the ministry of the Church.

Within the Church are men who are specially ordained as priests to consecrate and offer the body and blood of Christ in the Mass. The Apostles were the first ordained priests, when on Holy Thursday night Christ told them to do in his memory what he had just done at the Last Supper. All priests and bishops trace their ordination to the Apostles. Their second essential priestly power, to forgive sins, was conferred by Christ on Easter Sunday, when he told the Apostles, "For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained" (John 20-22, 23).

All the Christian faithful, however, also share in the priesthood by their baptismal character. They are enabled to offer themselves in sacrifice with Christ through the Eucharistic liturgy. They offer the Mass in the sense that they internally unite themselves with the outward offering made by the ordained priest alone.

Modern Catholic Dictionary John A. Hardon, S.J., an Image Book published by Doubleday,
Copyright © 1980, 1985 by John A. Hardon.

Transubstantiation and Reason

Posted by orccesussex on February 19, 2009 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)

By John Young

Protestants reject transubstantiation, and so do many Catholic scholars. The average Catholic is vague concerning the nature of the Eucharistic presence of Christ, and one can sympathize with him, in view of the lack of clear teaching about the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The basic objection to the Catholic doctrine of the real presence is not that it is against Scripture, but that it is against reason. The words of Jesus seem plain enough. "This is my body." This is my blood." "Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you." "My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink." When some of his disciples complained, "This is a hard saying; who can accept it?", he didn't explain that he had not been speaking literally in saying he would give his body to eat and his blood to drink. Instead he let them go. As St. John tells us, many left him because they would not accept this teaching.

Our Lord's words are not interpreted non-literally because that is the obvious way to interpret them, but because a literal interpretation seems to be repugnant to reason. The conservative Protestant theologian Louis Berkhof, in his famous work Systematic Theology, insists that the Roman teaching "… violates the human senses, where it asks us to believe that what tastes and looks like bread and wine, is really flesh and blood: and human reason, where it requires belief in the separation of a substance and its properties and in the presence of a material body in several places at the same time, both of which are contrary to reason." [1]

Among Catholics firmly committed to all that the Church teaches, one finds much confusion and various misunderstandings regarding Christ's Eucharistic presence. Take these questions: Do we receive (for instance) Christ's head and arms and feet? If the accidents of bread were removed, would we see the substance of his body, as though a curtain had been drawn back? Are the bread and wine converted into his soul and divinity? Attempted answers to these questions show up the confusion existing in the minds of most Catholics.

Then there is the grave situation of those Catholics who think transubstantiation is against reason. Common sense and science, they believe, demand its rejection. It is an impossible theory based on the erroneous natural science of Aristotle.

This denial is extremely serious, for the Church teaches infallibly that Christ is present through transubstantiation. As the Council of Trent says, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church repeats: "… by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation." [2] Trent pronounces an anathema against those who deny transubstantiation. [3]

Substance And Accidents

If one thinks transubstantiation is repugnant to reason, this may be due to not having understood what substance is, and how it is related to accidents. We can't see a substance or touch it or taste it, so it may seem unreal. Perhaps we tend to think of it as an inert something, having no function except to support the active qualities shown by the senses. George Berkeley (1685-1753) declared material substance to be a meaningless term. He says: "It neither acts, nor perceives, nor is perceived: for this is all that is meant by saying it is an inert, senseless, unknown substance: which is a definition entirely made up of negatives, excepting only the relative notion of its standing under or supporting." [4]

That notion of substance is grotesque, but it does not seem so to an empiricist philosopher because of his reduction of all knowledge to sense knowledge; and it continues to influence some theologians when they think about transubstantiation. That is one reason for the widespread rejection of this dogma, and the substitution of transignification or transfinalization.

The truth is that denial of the reality of substance is a contradiction of common sense. For something must either exist in its own right, such as water, a tree, a cat: or else it must exist in something else, such as color or shape. What "stands on its own feet," as it were, is a substance; what exists in something else is an accident. Denial of substances leaves color, size, weight and so on without a subject of inherence: which implies a color which is not the color of anything, size which is not the size of anything, weight which is not the weight of anything.

The substance is the essence, the nature, of a thing which exists in its own right. It isn't inert, as Berkeley imagined, but dynamic, for it is the source from which all the powers and activities emanate. The accidents depend on it for their existence and their operation.

Take a stone, by way of example. We experience its hardness, its smoothness, its color, its shape. But the substance that has these attributes eludes our observation. Even were we to break the stone in two we wouldn't see the substance; if we broke it into a hundred pieces we would be no more successful. So we might try some scientific tests, but still the results would be in the order of phenomena.

The substance of the stone is material, but it is not sensible. Yet it is not unknown, for its accidents manifest it. From the accidents perceived by sight and the other senses, the intellect gains an insight into the essence (the substance). Therefore words like stone, water, tree, horse have meaning: each brings to mind the thing named, and we have in our intellect the essence of the reality in question, although never perfectly, for no substance can be perfectly understood through abstraction from sense knowledge.

The dogma of transubstantiation teaches that the whole substance of bread is changed into that of Christ's body, and the whole substance of wine into that of his blood, leaving the accidents of bread and wine unaffected. Reason, of course, can't prove that this happens. But it is not evidently against reason either; it is above reason. Our senses, being confined to phenomena, cannot detect the change: we know it only by faith in God's word.

After the priest consecrates the bread and wine, their accidents alone remain, without inhering in any substance. They can't inhere in the bread and wine, for these no longer exist; nor do they inhere in Christ's body and blood, for they are not his accidents. The Catechism of the Council of Trent says: "… the accidents which present themselves to the eyes or other senses exist in a wonderful and ineffable manner without a subject." [5] St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that God directly sustains the quantity of bread (or wine) in being, and that the other accidents inhere in the quantity. [6] For quantity is the fundamental accident: the others, such as color, exist as quantified—as having extension. There is no such thing as a non-extended color.

Answers To Some Difficulties

I quoted Louis Berkhof's assertion that separation of a substance and its properties is contrary to reason. If we said this happened naturally it would indeed be contrary to reason. But what we say is that it happens through the supernatural action of God. He holds all things in being simply by an act of his will, the accidents depending on their substances as on secondary causes; and in the Eucharist he dispenses with those secondary causes.

What of the objection, also given by Berkhof, that a material body cannot be present in several places at the same time? Well, a substance becomes present in a place because of its quantity; substance of itself is indifferent to place. So when this unique conversion occurs, caused supernaturally by God—a conversion of substance into substance—Christ's body can be present in any number of places, being related to the place by reason of the accidents of bread which are situated there.

Berkhof asserts that it is a violation of what the senses show to be asked to accept that what tastes and looks like bread and wine is really flesh and blood. But what are we tasting and seeing? The accidents of bread and wine which remain after the consecration. They have not changed, and they taste and look as they did before the consecration. There is no denial of what the senses show.

Earlier I mentioned confusion among Catholics about the implications of Christ's Eucharistic presence, and I posed the question: Do we receive (for instance) Christ's head and arms and feet? Many today would be uncomfortable with an affirmative answer, which would savor, to them, of a grossly materialistic view of the Real Presence. Yet it is the right answer. Suppose we didn't receive those parts: then the same would have to be said of all the other parts of his body. So there'd be nothing left! We would not be receiving his body. As the Catechism of the Council of Trent says, in this sacrament are contained "… all the constituents of a true body, such as bones and sinews…." [7]

Another question noted earlier asked whether the accidents are hiding the substance from our gaze, so that their removal would be like drawing back a curtain, allowing us to see Jesus' body. If one is tempted to say yes, a moment's reflection should show that the right answer must be no. A substance can't be seen or tasted or experienced by any of the senses. To think otherwise would reduce substances to the status of accidents, thus making it impossible to see what the dogma of transubstantiation means, and inevitably leading one into bewilderment when trying to explore the teaching.

A third question asked whether the bread and wine are converted into our Lord's soul and divinity. Most orthodox Catholics will instinctively answer yes, because they know well that we receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. But that cannot be the answer, for it would involve the absurdity of a piece of bread becoming God. It would be converted from bread into divinity. A finite piece of matter would become the Infinite Spirit.

The Church teaches that the bread is changed into Christ's body and the wine into his blood, and that his soul and divinity become present through concomitance. He is one indivisible being, so when the bread is changed into his body, the whole Christ necessarily becomes present. But the actual transubstantiation—the changing of one substance into another—is only of his body and blood. It is the change of a material substance into another material substance.

As the Council of Trent says, the body is "… under the species of bread, and the blood under the species of wine, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connection and concomitancy whereby the parts of Christ our Lord, who has now risen from the dead, to die no more, are united together: and the divinity, furthermore, on account of the admirable hypostatical union thereof with his body and soul." [8]

What of the accidents of Christ's body? They too are there; otherwise he would not be fully present. As St. Thomas says: "… since the substance of Christ's body is not really deprived of its dimensive quantity and its other accidents, hence it comes that by reason of real concomitance the whole dimensive quantity of Christ's body and all its other accidents are really in this sacrament. [9] But the mode of their existence is conditioned by the fact that Jesus becomes present through transubstantiation. Substance is converted into substance, and the accidents, consequently, are there in the manner of substance.

Think of quantity. It is the fundamental accident, as we have noted. Normally it is the accident whereby its substance occupies a place; but the essential thing it does is to give the substance parts. And in the Eucharist all the parts of Christ's body are present and are situated relatively to each other. But because of the unique way in which the quantity is there—in the manner of substance—the parts are not spread out in relation to the surrounding place. To put it another way: substance as such is distinct from quantity, and it occupies a place only because of its quantity. But when quantity becomes present through transubstantiation it exists in the manner of substance, and therefore without actual extension.

An insidious obstacle to an understanding of the Real Presence (of course it can never be fully understood in this life) is the almost overwhelming influence of the imagination. The imagination is a picture-making power which accompanies all our thinking; but it is distinct from the intellect and it deals only with what can be seen, touched or in some way sensed. The deeper level of being, accessible to the intellect, is beyond the reach of the imagination. However, the imagination still provides images, and these easily mislead us.

For example, the statement that Jesus is in the Eucharist with all his parts may bring a picture into the imagination of a tiny body small enough to fit in the host. We know it's not like that, but the imagery can still distort one's thought, or block it, or even tempt one to discard the Real Presence in favor of a symbolical or "spiritual" presence.

Deepening Our Faith

A clearer understanding of what God, through his Church, tells us about the Eucharist, and a consideration of the objections to the doctrine, should deepen our faith. Vagueness and perplexity about it are often associated with errors lurking deep in the mind—errors which, if allowed to surface, can bring temptations against faith. A right understanding will dissipate the errors and show that reason need not be embarrassed by transubstantiation, even though it far transcends reason.

Not only that, but exploration of the doctrine makes it more real to us. We realize more clearly that the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ are as truly present as they are in heaven, or as they were when he labored in his workshop in Nazareth. While that realization is dominant, every genuflection will be a conscious act of adoration of the Incarnate God; the Consecration will always absorb our attention; we will never want to hurry out of church as soon as Mass is over.

Jesus comes to us physically because of his great love for us. Anyone who loves wants to be physically close to the one who is loved, but it is sometimes impossible. It is not impossible for God. Divine power changes bread and wine into the real body and blood of Christ, and he dwells physically on earth in every tabernacle, and comes physically into us in Holy Communion.


[1] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1958, p. 652.

[2] DS 1642; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1376.

[3] DS 1652.

[4] George Berkeley, On the Principles of Human Knowledge, section 68.

[5] The Catechism of the Council of Trent, translated by McHugh and Callan, Sinag-Tala Publishers, Greenhills, Phillipines, p. 229.

[6] Summa Theol., III, q. 77, a. 2.

[7] Catechism of the Council of Trent, p. 233.

[8] DS 1640.

[9] Summa Theol., III, q. 76, a. 4.

Mr. John Young, B.Th., is associated with the Cardinal Newman Catechist Centre in Marylands, N.S.W., Australia. He has taught philosophy in three seminaries, and is the author of an introduction to philosophy, Reasoning Things Out, published in the United States by Stella Maris Books, Fort Worth, Tex. Mr. Young writes on philosophical and religious topics for Australian publications. His last article in HPR appeared in March 1997.

© Ignatius Press - The Homiletic & Pastoral Review

"Mother God"

Posted by orccesussex on February 16, 2009 at 6:07 AM Comments comments (0)

 As one whom his mother comforts, so I (God) will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13

The phrase "Mother god" is becoming more popular, even among Christians. This language has several sources. In the recent years, paganism and gnosticism, with their male and female deities, have become more popular. Also feminists, who are disturbed with a God who is Father, have attempted to create a god in their own image. While some may overly emphasize the motherly images of God found in the Bible. As an aside, "Mother god" can be confused with Mary's title, "Mother of God" which is a different topic.

One example that promotes "Mother god" is a book, entitled Heart Talks to Mother God. This book claims to be based on the motherly images of God in the Bible. It is written for children so that they may experience another metaphor for God - "Mother God, who loves them unconditionally." Unfortunately this seems to imply that fathers, including God the Father, cannot love unconditionally. The book reduces Creation to "birthing" where God no longer creates out of nothing but has a womb. Also Jesus appears to have two mothers: Mary and Mother god! This title for God has many strange implications. An important question to ask ourselves is: Do we have the license to change the revealed titles of God to fit our opinions and feelings?

Now we must realize that God is not in our image, but we are made in God's image. We may reject God, but we cannot change or redefine God. Gods of our own making are simply idols (CCC 2779). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states:

In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the differences between the sexes. But the respective "perfections" of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother (Isaiah 49:14-15; 66:13; Psalm 131:2-3) and those of a father (Job 31:18; Jer. 3:4-20) and husband (Jer. 3:6-19). [CCC 370]

Elsewhere in the Catechism:

By calling God "Father," the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that He is at the same time goodness and loving care for all His children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood (Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 131:2), which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents,...[CCC 239]

The Catechism continues by reminding us that God transcends both sexes, parenthood and even creation. The language of faith being rooted in human experience can never express God completely (CCC 40ff).

In the Bible the title "Mother" is never used for God. In the Old Testament (OT), God does use the title "Father" for Himself, but only rarely:

He (King David) shall cry to Me (God), "Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation." [Psalm 89:26; RSV; cf. 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 68:6]

The OT titles for God are mainly political (Lord, King, Master) or military (Fortress, Rock, Shield). It was Christ who first fully developed the title "Abba" for the God of Israel. "Abba" is Aramaic for father and not mother or parent (Mark 14:36). Jesus in the Gospel refers to the God of Israel as "my Father" [Luke 2:49] and "Our Father" as in the Lord's Prayer [Matt. 6:9; 23:9]. In the New Testament (NT) Epistles, the titles "God the Father" [Gal. 1:1; Eph. 5:20] and "God our Father" [Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3] are frequently used. God may at times describe His actions in terms of motherhood, but Moses and St. Paul liken themselves as mothers too (Num. 11:12; Gal. 4:19).

The Divine Nature is pure Spirit (John 4:24), but the second Person of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19) also took upon Himself a human nature. This doctrine is called the Incarnation. God the Son came in the flesh as Jesus Christ. As it is written in the Gospel:

...the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... [John 1: 1 & 14]

(A few references to the divinity of Christ are: John 5:18; 10:30; 20:28-29; Acts 20:28; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13...) Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, was born of Mary as the Son of God:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman... [Galatians 4:4]

The God of Israel is Jesus' Father (Matt. 11:27), while Mary became Jesus' human mother (Luke 1:43). [This is why the Catholic Church calls Mary the "Mother of God" (CCC 495) since she is the mother of the second divine Person, God the Son. Mary is not a "Mother god" since she is only human - a creature of God. She is not the feminine side of God. Nor is she the mother of the Persons: God the Father or God the Holy Spirit.] Jesus was not ashamed of claiming the God of Israel as His Father. He was accused of blasphemy and eventually died for this claim (John 5:18; 19: 7-8).

Some feminists claim that the Bible is biased since it was copied through the many centuries by male scribes. But this claim does not account for the verses that show God in maternal terms (Isaiah 42:14; 49:14-15; 66:13). Surely male-biased scribes would have been scandalized by these and should have eventually removed them. These metaphors, being so few, could have been easily glossed out of the Bible. At least in the OT, the title "Father" is used only rarely for God. Once again we would expect patriarchal scribes to have used that title more often in the OT. Now if Jesus did not really call the God of Israel as His Father, then later scribes would have had to falsify many of Jesus' words in the Gospels. Since the Gospels come to us through many manuscript traditions along with surviving ancient manuscripts, this radical revision would have been made very early in the first century when Christians, who personally heard Jesus, were still alive. Also the Apostles would have had to lie and later be martyred for that lie! Actually these scribes were more motivated in preserving the Word of God than in promoting male chauvinism. In fact, these scribes were scrupulous about transcribing the Word of God exactly.

The political promoters of "Mother god" understand the power of language. The words that we use in our speech influence how we think and act. For example, if I use impure language, I am more prone to commit sins of impurity. Likewise, if we use language that opposes the teachings of the Church and Bible, then we are more likely to reject those authorities. A good book to read concerning power, authority and the politics of language is The Church and the Culture War by Joyce A. Little (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1995).

On page 148 of her book, Joyce Little discusses God as Father. Now the God of Israel is Holy (Psalm 99). The word "holy" is rooted in the word "separated" (1 Chron. 23:13). God, being pure Spirit, has a certain "separation" or otherness to His material creation. This otherness of God is further revealed when He sent His only Son to the world instead of Himself. Even though we are created in His image, God the Father keeps His distance from matter to a certain extent. For this reason, the title "Mother" is not appropriate for God, since the words: "mother" and "matter", are etymologically related (Latin root: mater-). God is not Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Also mothers during pregnancy are biologically joined to their child, but fathers are physically separated. Even though fathers love their children, there is still a certain degree of distance as compared to mothers. Once again this "separation" of father from child is related to the "separation" (Holiness) of God from creation. The God of Israel is called Father not because He is male, but because He is Holy.

Our human words can never adequately express God, Who is both Holy (Psalm 99:9) and Love (1 John 4:16). Unlike human words, Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word, Who can express God completely (CCC 102; Heb. 1:1-3; Matt. 11:27). Christians can call God "Father" because Jesus gave us permission (Gal. 4:6; CCC 2780). Otherwise we would be committing a sacrilege or even idolatry.

In the Bible, God is described by many metaphors including that of motherhood (Deut. 32:18; Matt. 23:37), but never called "Mother" per se. In describing God, we must recognize the problems of our language. Even though our language is inadequate to describe God, it does influence our behavior and how we think of Him; therefore, it must be as correct and precise as possible. We may never find the exact words, but we must avoid using the wrong words. As Christians, we do not have the right to personally change God's title to fit our whims.


Printed with permission from A Catholic Response, Inc.

Old Catholics: PNCC

Posted by orccesussex on February 13, 2009 at 3:18 PM Comments comments (0)
A Polish National Catholic Church in the States

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