Friday, July 30, 2010
When and where the first Catholic "school" began in this country – or the names of the teacher and pupils – remains a mystery: Was it a Spanish Franciscan with a few children in a mission outpost? A member of an early French exploration party, quietly teaching and preaching? A chaplain holding class for young ship's apprentices on the beach where some 16th Century vessel had just anchored? It's hard to say.
What is clear is that Catholic education goes back deep into U.S. history – to at least 1606. That year, expressing their desire to teach children the basics of Christian doctrine, along with reading and writing, the Franciscans opened a school in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. Further north and a bit later, Jesuits instructed such dedicated Native American students as Kateri Tekakwitha, who then taught Indian children in a Christian settlement near Montreal.
Not long after the Revolution ended came the establishment in 1789 of the Catholic school of Georgetown, not so much a college then as an academy for boys aged 10 to 16. Meanwhile, across the continent, the Franciscans were busy establishing the California mission system, whose ministry included the education of Native Americans. The post-Civil War period brought the development of religious orders like Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, founded by heiress Katharine Drexel to meet the educational needs of blacks and Native Americans. In fact, the first school she established was St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1887.
In 1900, an estimated 3,500 parochial schools existed in the United States. Nearly 400 years after that first known Catholic school opened in Florida – after two world wars, the election and assassination of John F. Kennedy, our first Catholic president, the reforms of Vatican II, the Vietnam War, the dawn of a new millennium – Catholic schools have been there for their families, community, nation and church.
Our Love Your Neighbor initiative for August is the support of St. Pius X High School and our young parishioners who attend the only Catholic High School in Albuquerque. Students will be selling raffle tickets to support the school on August 14th and 15th after all Masses. You may win a car, but even if you don’t, you have the satisfaction of knowing that your donation is supporting the formation of our young people attending Catholic schools.
Friday, July 23, 2010
In the Vatican II document Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the spiritual life of believers was addressed: “The spiritual life,” we are told, “is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy.... Popular devotions of the Christian people, provided they conform to the laws and norms of the Church, are to be highly recommended....”
What are “popular devotions” and are there any restrictions placed on them by the Church?
You may already be aware of some popular devotions: praying the Rosary, participating in Eucharistic Adoration, walking the Stations of the Cross during Lent, and reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Because the Church is organic, new popular devotions often emerge and ancient devotions make a comeback. Some that have been gaining in popularity in the past decade are centering prayer, labyrinth, and Taizé.
Centering prayer is a form of contemplative prayer shaped by the spirituality of Catholic mystics like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. It is inspired by Jesus instruction that "when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret." The goal of centering prayer is to "rest" quietly in God's presence.
A labyrinth is a pattern or design which originated in ancient times and has been adapted over the years by various religious traditions as a means of prayer and contemplation. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has a single path which leads to and from the center. In the Christian tradition, labyrinths became popular in the Middle Ages as a symbol of life's spiritual journey and as a substitute for pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Labyrinth prayer has been revived recently by various groups trying to popularize the mystical and contemplative traditions of Christian spirituality. The labyrinth is walked slowly in silence, with a focus on God's presence.
Taizé Prayer is a meditative style of prayer developed by a community of monks in central France. It is a distinctive style of meditative community prayer which uses the repetition of simple chants with periods of silence, readings from Scripture, prayers of praise, and intercession.
The Vatican II document puts these limits on devotions: “… such devotions should … harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy … and lead the people to it, since in fact the liturgy by its very nature is far superior to any of them.” So while popular devotions may lead one to a deeper relationship with God, they do not and cannot take the place of the official prayer of the Church that we call the Mass.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
What is the difference between Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites? This is an issue that can be confusing. The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is one of the seven sacraments of the Church, and its purpose is the healing of body and spirit. This was part of Jesus’ ministry on earth: to heal the sick and forgive sins. This ministry was continued by the Apostles, to whom Jesus gave authority, and by their successors, the bishops and priests today.
Before Vatican II, Anointing of the Sick was only given when death was near; thus, it became synonymous with the Last Rites, and this is the reason there is confusion today. Vatican II, however, returned to the earlier understanding of the sacrament: that it was to be done both for the dying and for those seriously sick.
Ideally, Anointing of the Sick is given to someone at the beginning of an illness. It is also appropriate for someone preparing for serious surgery. There is no need to wait for imminent death to receive this sacrament. A person can request the sacrament from a priest at any time, and it can be repeated if the condition changes, or the situation becomes worse.
The Last Rites, on the other hand, are the last rites a person receives on this earth. The Last Rites can include three Sacraments: Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, and Eucharist or viaticum, which means “food for the journey.” These may be administered at one visit or on separate occasions, and although a lay person may administer viaticum, Reconciliation and Last Rites must be done by a priest.
If a person close to death is not able to communicate or swallow, the Last Rites may consist of only the Sacrament of Anointing. Since death is close, the priest may include special prayers for the dying. Anointing within the Last Rites is less for physical healing than it is for spiritual healing and strength. The Last Rites are given when death is certain, whereas the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick may be given and repeated whenever serious illness occurs.
People should not to wait for this sacrament of healing. At Risen Savior, Anointing of the Sick is celebrated every first Friday of the month. The graces bestowed by God in Anointing of the Sick give strength in times of illness, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, and grace doesn’t wear out or expire. We need God’s healing both of body and soul.
Friday, July 9, 2010
The feast of St. Irenaeus (pronounced “ear-uh-NAY-us”) is celebrated in the summer. The first teachers of Christianity are collectively spoken of as "the Fathers,” and Irenaeus was one of the first Fathers of the Church. It is the extraordinary writings of this man that earned him a place of honor, works which laid the foundations of Christian theology and kept the young Catholic faith from the corruption of heresy.
Irenaeus was born around the year 125, in one of the maritime provinces of Asia Minor, in present-day Turkey. This is an area where the memory of the Apostles was strong and where Christians were already numerous. Irenaeus had the privilege of sitting at the feet of men who had known the Apostles. Of these, the one who made the deepest impression on him was St. Polycarp, a direct pupil of the apostle John. All through his life, Irenaeus told a friend, he could recall every detail of Polycarp's appearance, his voice, and the very words he used when telling what he had heard from John the Evangelist and others who had seen Jesus.
Irenaeus was sent to Gaul, modern-day France, to serve as a priest, and he eventually became a bishop.
The spread of a heresy known as Gnosticism led Irenaeus to thoroughly examine Gnostic doctrine. Gnosticism taught that the creator of the world of matter, the God of the Old Testament, was dark and brutal and was separate from the pure and spiritual God of light, depicted in the New Testament, from whom Jesus emanated. It taught that Jesus only appeared to be born and die, because He never would have allowed Himself to be contaminated by taking on human flesh. The Gnostic movement, with its denial of Christ's humanity, was problematic to the Church in one form or another for several centuries.
Irenaeus’ five-book discourse, Against Heresies, talks about the rebellious sects and the doctrines they promoted. Irenaeus utilized a systematic method of disputing heresies, ultimately contrasting them with the words of Scripture and the teachings of the Apostles. Above all, he cited the authoritative tradition of the Church of Rome, handed down from Peter and Paul through an unbroken succession of bishops. His books, written in Greek and quickly translated into Latin, were widely circulated, and from this time on, Gnosticism was no longer considered a serious threat.
While St. Irenaeus died around the year 203, his writings were used to dispute heretical teaching for many years after his death, earning him the title of “Church Father.”
Friday, July 2, 2010
In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). But elsewhere, Jesus acknowledges the legitimate use of force, telling the apostles, "let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one" (Luke 22:36). How are these passages to be reconciled? In broad terms, Christians must promote peace whenever possible and be slow to resort to the use of arms. But they must not be afraid to do so when it is called for: evil must not be allowed to remain unchecked.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2302-2317) authoritatively teaches what constitutes the just defense of a nation against an aggressor. Called the “Just War Doctrine,” it was first enunciated by St. Augustine in the 4th Century, and has since been adapted to modern times.
Some people have expressed doubts about the compatibility of any armed conflict with Catholic teaching on just war, and many disagree with the wars waged in the Middle East. Despite any misgivings or disagreements, it nevertheless remains that we have Catholic men and women serving overseas who are in need of spiritual, pastoral, and practical support.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services for the United States provides pastoral and spiritual services to those serving overseas. This is a special diocese created by Pope John Paul II in 1985 to serve members of the United States military. It has jurisdiction wherever American men and women in uniform serve.
In cooperation with the Blue Star Mothers, our “Love Your Neighbor” initiative for the month of July is collecting items for our military brethren serving overseas. Blue Star Mothers is a non-partisan, non-political, non-religious organization, supporting their military children while promoting patriotism. The troops are in need of practical, personal items, and they miss some of the comforts of home. Cash or check donations are also needed to ship the care packages. You will find lists and information in the bulletin and collection bins in the lobby.
When members of the military receive packages from home, and especially from our church, they know that they are also getting our love, prayers, and gratitude for their selfless service.