I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH!
Teacher and Mother
Trust the Church of God!
"Trust the Church of God implicitly even when your natural judgment would take a different course from hers and would induce you to question her prudence or correctness. Recollect what a hard task she has; how she is sure to be criticized and spoken against, whatever she does; recollect how much she needs your loyal and tender devotion; recollect, too, how long is the experience gained over so many centuries, and what a right she has to claim your assent to principles which have had so extended and triumphant a trial. Thank her that she has kept the faith safe for so many generations and do your part in helping her to transmit it to generations after you."
(John Henry Newman)
I have been strongly influenced by Hans Urs von Balthasar's writings and have come to see the Catholic Church as "Marian" in her very heart. as well as "Petrine" in her office (notice how the image above has Mary situated in the very heart of the apostolic college). Among several I hope to have available on my website, here is one testimony to the gift and mission of Father Hans Urs von Balthasar to the Church of today and tomorrow. And, for those looking for a meaty introduction to his writings, here is a selection in which von Balthasar discusses "the criterion of Catholic dogma" -- which is none other than "the maximality of love."
Love of the Church in Four Great Architects of Vatican II
The following are testimonies -- and how similar their basic lines! -- of five great theologians of our times, who had great influence before, during, after Vatican II. And four of these were honored by election to the College of Cardinals!
LET THESE MEDITATIONS BE OUR GUIDE TO INTERPRETING THE AUTHENTIC SPIRIT OF THE GREAT COUNCIL OF VATICAN II!
I have felt the power of the holy witness of a great priest-theologian, a dear friend and teacher of von Balthasar's, Fr Henri de Lubac, SJ. His writings on The Church are among the most beautiful ever, and following Vatican II (of which he was a major "architect"), he gave perhaps the most beautiful reflection on the Church I have ever encountered: The Church: Paradox and Mystery.
From the same lover of the Church, Henri de Lubac, I give the concluding portion of the great address he gave at St Louis University, upon receiving an honorary doctorate, speaking to the theme: The Church in Crisis. Magnificent!
Yet another great influence on my own vision of the Church, perhaps the greatest ecclesiologist of our century, Fr Yves Congar OP, knew not only how to do serious and significant research, but how to sing, with tender warmth, the praises of The Church: My Maternal Hearth.
Another wonderful "testimony" by Hans Urs von Balthasar himself on Why I Am a Catholic.
And yet another faith-filled testimony by the great scholar Jean Danielou, S.J., so simple, so profound, and more relevant today than when he wrote it! How I hope you take the time to read this long but heartwarming: I Am In The Church.
For a fifth witness I go to Fr Hugo Rahner, S.J., (the brother of Karl Rahner, S.J.) who wrote this beautiful reflection on The Church: God's Strength in Human Weakness. Of this great group of witnesses, only Fr Hugo was not elected to the College of Cardinals (if he had lived longer, I believe he would have shared that honor with the others--all sharing the one spirit and one love of the Church!).
And even some who are known as "dissenters" often can still speak eloquently about the always renewed youthfulness of the Church.....like these words of Hans Kung (who also played an important role in Vatican II; but sadly his voice seemed, over time, to become more strident and negative--yet here giving testimony to Christ's presence in His Church even today and into tomorrow):
"Why has this Christianity always endured despite all the non-Christian
elements in its history? Because this religion has continually inserted
itself into new cultural landscapes, like a great river which originates
somewhere in a modest way and imbeds itself in an ever new way in the
landscape through which it slowly flows... It is a river which has had
some ruinous falls... But must not one also see the river of goodness,
mercy, willingness to help, and solidarity that from the source, the
Gospel, onward has run through history?.... What sort of power is this
that is at work everywhere? Is it all just chance? All just fate?..."
The Church lives!
This page, I hope, will celebrate some of the unique gifts of the Catholic Church--including something about the Pope and his office in the Church. Especially today, with all the dissent and protesting going on, from without and within the Church--nothing new!--I hope this site will always be a ringing affirmation of the Catholic Church and her teaching office!
***I include here -- with immense joy -- one of the most striking testimonies to the great gift given to the Church in the Office of Peter, the Rock--the entire Second Part of Vladimir Soloviev's Russia and The Universal Church, which may indeed be the strongest affirmation of the necessity and centrality of the Office of Peter ever written, and this from an Eastern Christian!***
Athough included in the larger Soloviev page, I keep this separate as well since it is so dramatic -- Soloviev's unforgettable account of "the Robber Council of Ephesus."
I add here, too, another dramatic moment in the history of the ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church: the great dramatic scene of the closing session of Vatican I -- at which the Constitution "Pastor Aeternus" was promulgated, defining the special place of the Pope in the life of the Church. This majestic dogmatic Constitution was acclaimed amid fitting and dramatic circumstances; I give me own interpretation of this at the end of the piece......
And here's one more striking testimony from a non-Catholic historian to the endurance and vitality of the Papacy, despite all forces to the contrary.).
And here--in iconography--is perhaps the most striking testimony to the actual place of the Petrine Office in the total life of the Church, with the magnificent apse mosaic in St Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome, and wonderful words of Pope Paul VI.
In September of 1998, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement, remarkable for its clarity and balance on The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Faith.
And yet another jewel from the great priest-scholar, Henri de Lubac--here is a wonderful exploration of the great theme of The Primacy and Collegiality as it unfolds in history and has meaning for today.
And so, the more the dissenters dissent, the more I hope to believe -- remembering the words of St Paul that "love believes all things"! The more the critics criticize, the more will I hope to love her! She is my mother, my hearth, my home! She has given me Christ and with Him all good things. And I love her with all my heart and soul! Perhaps a poet can say it better than I am able. In a wonderful article in The Atlantic Monthly the poet/social activist (and friend of Dorothy Day), Ned O'Gorman, sums up my own feelings:
"I think of the
Church, my family, and me in the bark of the
world, growing with it, disappearing now and then into it, living with
it, dying with it, resurrecting with it in the riddle of my life. I
write of the Church from the place it has taken me, as judge, as the
beginning of my poems, as the form of my dreams, and the splendid,
four-dimensional bulk of my salvation."
For those who wish to get a "feel" of the so-called "preconciliar Church," here's a longer excerpt from this quite exquisite essay of Ned O'Gorman's entitled "Catholicism Past". It demonstrates perhaps one of the greatest gifts of the Catholicism in which I was (thank God!) raised: she was the Mistress of shaping a Catholic vision and imagination. She had, of course, her weaknesses, too--but how insignificant compared to her gifts and blessings (as O'Gorman so poignantly, so pointedly, shows). Sadly, too much of today's Catholicism lacks this richness of symbol and non-verbal communication: the sights, sounds, smells, rituals that communicate the core of the faith in a thousand ways (often incredibly beautiful--just look at this stained glass window from Chartres!)---in ways that entered deep, deep in the psyche and spirit and soul especially of the our children--in ways that a verbal Catholicism, an overly rational Catholicism, can not do--and Ned O'Gorman sharply criticizes so much of what has too often replaced the richer Catholicism of the recent past. .I hope you enjoy his piece as much as I have over many years now (and it is more pertinent today than ever!).
The Church will always be beset with various problems--in part, because of us who are her members--sinners! But the Lord has His Plan for His Bride, the Church -- and will not let her go, despite all her resistance and infidelity. This is beautifully shown forth in a meditation by Hans Urs von Balthasar, "The Conquest of the Bride."
The Church of the Saints
This Page on the Church is especially dedicated to (perhaps my favorite) saint, Therese of Lisieux, who prayed that "in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I may be love." And, glory to God, this great Pope, in a decision with incredible significance, has declared in his Apostolic Letter, Divini Amoris Scientia, the little Therese a Doctor of the Church. What a wonderful Church! What a great saint! Thanks be to You, O God, for giving us this youngest of all Doctors and a saint of such simplicity and profoundity!
May her radiance brighten the face and the heart of our Holy Mother, the Catholic Church (and all lovers of Our Lord)--and may this saint of such faith, hope, and love confound the dissenters and "modernizers" and those who think that the *sideshows* of dissent and "calls to action" and "referendums" manifest the authentic nature of Christ's Church! No, the Church shines in the spiritual childhood and poverty of spirit of the Little Flower, Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church! Our Church is above all the Church of the saints (and sinners who know themselves sinners!).
Another patron of this site is St Francis of Assisi--commissioned by Our Lord Himself to "rebuild My Church."
"Our Church is the
Church of the saints. He who approaches her with mistrust sees nothing, but closed doors
and barriers... Our Church, however, is the Church of the saints. To become a saint, what
bishop would not give up his ring, his mitre; what cardinal would not give up his purple,
what pontiff would not give up his white dress, his chamberlains, his Swiss guard and all
his temporal possessions?
Who would not like to have the strength to pursue this wonderful adventure? Because holiness is an adventure, and even the only adventure. He who has once understood this has entered into the heart of Catholic faith, and felt his mortal flesh shudder with a dread different from that of death, a superhuman hope. Our Church is a Church of the saints."
Or as Leon Bloy put it: "There is only one sadness: not to be a saint.
One of the most fascinating stories of the Catholic Church is the strong friendship that characterizes many of the greatest of the saints, including remarkable male-female friendships in Christ. Francis and Claire, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr, come immediately to mind. There are many more! Taking his cue from letters written by the early Dominican, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, to Diana, a Dominican nun, manifesting a deep and tender mutual love, Fr Gerald Vann OP wrote an article I've loved for years, Love Among the Saints (this piece is written, it seems, mostly for "religious" but it has some abiding truth and relevance to all of us).
Once again I turn to Hans Urs von Balthasar and offer here a selection from one of his great works, On the Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, on a great theme: The Humor of the Saints.
And for another good metaphor of the Catholic Church, how about this one: The Biggest Junkyard (sorry Fr R J Neuhaus for so renaming your lovely reflection!).
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There's dance and song and good red wine.
At least I've always found it so:
"MARY IN THE
CHURCH, THE CHURCH IN MARY"
Mary and the Church are the Mother of mercy
"With deliberate naive bluntness, Paul Claudel once declared to a correspondent: 'The holy Virgin Mary, so far as I am concerned, is the Church. I have never found any reason to distinguish them.' What he meant by this, of course, was that in his mind the two realities were indissolubly united. Experience had taught him as much: on one Christmas Eve in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, while he listened to the Magnificat, all the faith of the Church burst through to him. From that moment he frequently returned to the ancient cathedral to pursue his 'theology course.'
His teacher, he tells us, was 'the Holy Virgin herself and with what infinite patience and majesty!' 'Face glued to the choir-grille,' he watched 'the Church live' and this spectacle, that leaves so many men inert and bored, was for him the way to complete understanding and new life. Because, he explains, 'what Paul told me and Augustine showed me, the bread Gregory broke with me with antiphon and response -- there above me were the eyes of Mary explaining all.' The 'maternal and comforting majesty' that then enveloped him was at once that of the Church and of Mary.
All he needed to do, without furthur distinction, was to rely on this twofold and unique mother 'who confers silently in her heart and re-unites in a single focus all lines of contradiction.'"
(Henri de Lubac, S.J)
For another beautiful image of the
Church and reflection that can open up vistas of hope, here is another reflection by the
great Fr Henri de Lubac, on the Church as Mysterium Lunae,
The Mystery of the Moon.
This same profound truth is expressed poetically, with a different image, by Francis Thompson in his beautiful "Lilium Regis" (The Lily of the King).
Not only a tree grows in Brooklyn.....
How blessed I am that I first "met" this great Church first in my own home, and in my own neighborhood, in the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, NY (OLPH). Here the Church was "enfleshed" for me - -here the Catholic vision indelibly shaped my own imagination; here Christ taught me, fed me, challenged me, and became the Alpha and Omega of my own existence -- and here Mary and the Church were joined in my own experience of "Church" ...... here I learned that the only sadness is not to be a saint.... Words cannot describe the experience of growing up in this parish when I did -- truly one of the greatest Catholic parishes in the entire word! O Lord, how can I thank You enough for Your gifts and Provident Mercies? Deep in my heart OLPH lives, and may the seeds sown all those years ago bear rich fruit -- to the praise of Your Glory!
Caught in Peter's Net
"We are all caught in Peter's net, for Jesus has cast it for us." (Peguy)
Through the centuries the Catholic Church has been enriched by great "converts" who came to believe she is indeed the fullness of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Church built upon Peter the "rock", and his successors -- the Church against which the gates of hell will not prevail.
Up to the present time indeed, these converts have discovered the "pearl of great price" in the great gift of Catholic faith. How well they can help "cradle Catholics" appreciate even more this unmerited and undeserved gift from the Father of mercies. And I am reminded here of the famous comment of James Joyce, the lapsed Catholic writer--who when asked by someone if he had joined another Church, exclaimed: "Madam, I may have lost my faith, but I have *not* lost my mind!". (Please, dear non-Catholic Christians, do not take offense at this story. It is hardly "infallible"! But it is, perhaps, a Catholic tale for Catholics, and this site is meant to be a sort of "hearth" for Catholics--yet all are welcome!).
How much the poorer the Church would be without this "great cloud of witnesses"! Just think of the contributions of those like John Henry Newman and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Frederick William Faber, of Gilbert Keith Chesterton , Robert Hugh Benson, Christopher Dawson, Eric Gill, of Ronald Knox, the great Welsh poet, David Jones, Takaski Nagai. Or more recently of Peter Kreeft, Thomas Howard, Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge, Paul and Evelyn Vitz, Sheldon Vanauken (God rest his soul), Dale Vree (editor of The New Oxford Review) and Dale Hudson (editor of Crisis), Scott and Kimberly Hahn, John Michael Talbot, Annie Dillard, the once-abortionist doctor, Bernard Nathanson. How blessed we have been by converts like Blessed Edith Stein and Dorothy Day (the canonizable foundress, along with the saintly Peter Maurin, of the CatholicWorker movement), of another saintly friend, Catherine von Hueck Doherty, by Adrienne von Speyr and Gertrude von le Fort, of both Jacques and Raissa Maritain. Of Angelius Silesius, of Fr Louis Bouyer, Brother Max Thurian of Taize (may he rest in peace), Fr Richard John Neuhaus and Fr George Rutler. And of the great Russian, Vladimir Soloviev as well! The convert scripture scholars like Henrich Schlier (disciple of Rudolf Bultmann), and Eugene Pedersen. The writers like Sigrid Undset, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, and Walker Percy. Americans like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Orestes Brownson, Isaac Hecker, and the son of John Foster Dulles, Fr. Avery Dulles, S.J. The "rocking horse" Catholic, Caryll Houselander, and the convert-in-heart Simone Weil. Deitrich von Hildebrand, Thomas Merton, and a dear friend of mine, Edmund Berman. Another friend wrote a delightful piece about the "ecumenical orthodoxy" of another convert, and one of the finest voices in today's Church, Fr Aidan Nichols, OP. (Let me know of others I might mention, please!).
Now that's quite a group! Many of them saintly and true witnesses to Christ! Thank God for their so varied journies (often difficult), for their joyous homecoming! May they inspire us to cherish our faith all the more! And may their (and our!) example help many others to find their home among us, welcomed and warmed!
"O long sought-after desire of the eyes, joy of the heart, the truth after many shadows, the fullness after many foretastes, the home after many storms -- come to her, poor wanderers, for she it is, and she alone, who can unfold the meaning of your being and the secret of your destiny." (John Henry Newman)
And here is the poem Chesterton wrote the day he joined the Catholic Church:
After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white,
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead.
The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree;
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.
Some Great Catholic Resources on the Web
Fortunately, there are numerous excellent Catholic sites on the web: orthodox, solid, rich in content and links to other resources! Here are a few that can be useful and also gateways to so many treasures. I hope to add more as time goes on but will begin with these sort of "mega-sites" that have served me well.
Of course, there is the official page of the Holy See and of our Holy Father.
There is an official version of The Catechism of the Catholic Church (one of the great gifts of God to our Church in recent times).
There's the Eternal Word Television Network's site with access to thousands of documents relating to our Catholic faith and other rich resources to nourish faith..And perhaps the premier evangelizing outreach among Catholics today!
And for incredible resources of Catholic knowledge and art and culture there's the great site of Christus Rex.
And another site with wonderful resources for Roman Rite and Eastern Catholics is The Catholic Information Network (CIN). This site also sponsors a great number of excellent mailing lists for online discussions.
Another rich site with lots of links to Catholic magazines and newspapers and more is The Catholic Information Center on the Internet (CICI).
Steven Hand works hard at keeping his website, A Catholic Perspective on the News, chuck full of articles and items of interest, from a traditional perspective.
And yet another Catholic "mega-site" with vast treasures is Kevin Knight's New Advent Site. On this site you can find much of the Catholic Encylopedia (the marvellous 1913 edition!) and much more.
The Centre for Faith and Culture at Oxford University in the UK and their excellent journal "Second Spring" is now online as well. A wonderful resource for a Catholic renaissance -- see its wonderful Links Page, for example!
Another lovely site influenced by the "greats" like von Balthasar and de Lubac is named Agua et Ignis (Water and Fire).
Yet another lovely site is Lynn Nordhagen's Cor ad Cor Loquitur Page.
A Dutch Catholic priest has begun a major website honoring one of my own mentors, to whom I owe so much: Hans Urs von Balthasar. Finally a site like this!
Another site dedicated to the great Hans Urs von Balthasar. And speaking to the ecumenical importance of von Balthasar, the webmaster/author is not a Catholic!
Another site: dedicated to the great Henri de Lubac.
And yet another dedicated to Fr Aidan Nichol's new book Christendom Awake! And here you'll find more on von Balthasar and other "greats" like Christopher Dawson. Exciting site.
And a truly amazing and growing site, with a marvelous catholicity, excellent essays, and wondrous links: Dave Armstrong's Biblical Defense of Catholicism.
Another rich page dedicated to Apologetics, in both a Polish and English edition, is Marcin Fijalkowski's Reasons for Hope.
For more information on "CONVERTS" visit William Klimon's wonderful page, The Gates of Bliss -- and if maintained, potentially the most exhaustive resource on Catholic converts on the internet! (Sadly, Bill has not been able to expand much, but there is still fine materials available).
A unique and fascinating page is found at CatholiCity: A virtual cybercity that is home to free, wholesome Catholic Chat Rooms, several popular Crosstalk Email Discussion Groups, a comprehensive keyword-searchable links page, numerous Catholic and Pro-Life organizations, free Catholic audio tapes by Scott Hahn, Fr. John Corapi, and much more. Worth a visit!
For a lovely view of Catholic teachings, the Mystical Rose Page is excellent; and I particularly like her reflections on the Paschal Candle at the Vigil of Easter.
A truly beautiful collection of links can be found on Charlene Fairchild's page, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic (Charlene is not yet a Catholic but seems well on her way!--and a more recent visit indicates Charlene has indeed become a Catholic).
Another page with lots of interesting materials, and lots about the great convert, John Henry Newman, is Lane Core's Catholic Stuff.
An amazing site for information on a huge numbers of the saints, put together by Kathy Rabenstein for her parish of St Patrick's in D.C.
The Patron Saints Index (a tremendous amount on numerous saints, including biographies, prayers, images. A rich site! Its parent site, too, Catholic Community Forum has many fine resources).
The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal order and does much good for the Church and in service of others--and they always have good materials to spread the gospel.
A marvelous site dedicated to Catholic social teaching and "orthopraxis" (right living and righteousness) can be explored at Robert Waldrop's always updated JustPeace Frontpage.
The Catholic Church is a pro-life Church (as Pope John Paul II reaffirmed so strikingly in his encylical Evangelium Vitae) and some fine pro-life sites are Human Life International and Catholics United for Life and the award-winning website for Priests for Life.
Thankfully there are many good Catholic publishing houses emerging these days; and the one that publishes my favorite theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and many other great writers, is the Ignatius Press. Take a look at the rich resources they offer!
If you want to check out one of the new and fascinating Catholic magazines and journals that are informed and orthodox and sometimes even "feisty", take a look at CRISIS (perhaps my favorite journal of all).
Another favorite journal is now online too (but missing many of the stunning photos that fill its pages!) --Inside The Vatican.
And yet another favorite journal also has a site with some of its articles available, The New Oxford Review (which I have read since its earliest days as an Anglican journal and its transition into a Catholic journal -- and its hilarious advertisements!)
The Church is at one and the same time the seamless robe of Christ and Joseph's coat of many colors. Her unity is made more beautiful by her marvelous diversity. Indeed, I believe the Catholic Church is the most "catholic" in her incredible diversity of local Churches and Rites, unmatched and unsurpassed. What a feast awaits those who do not yet know of the various Eastern Catholic Churches and other manifestations of a diversity within the unity of faith and charity!
Yet there are terrible and scandalous divisions and schisms that tear at her unity and her mission; wounds that, God willing, can be healed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Some efforts are being made to bring Christians closer together -- towards the day of full eucharistic communion.
Pray for the fulfillment of Our Lord's Prayer: "That all my be one!" (next page).
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