Category Archives: Holy Orders

A Healthy Body, Mind and Spirit by Deacon Marty McIndoe

There is so much emphasis today on taking care of the body.  I just read a statistic from STATISTIC BRAIN that says Americans spend about 24 BILLION dollars on annual gym and health club memberships each year.  That is a lot of money!   People go to health food stores and shop for healthy products.  This is quite commendable.  The body is a very special gift that God has given to us and we should take good care of it.  What I find disturbing is that people are often very concerned with the physical body and forget about the true wholeness of who we are.  We, as a person, consist of so much more than just the physical body.  We have a mind that needs to be taken care of, and a spiritual side that needs to also be cared for.  Unless we properly feed and exercise all three parts of our person, we will suffer.  I would like to take a look at the body, mind and the spirit and how we can help them to grow healthy.  I see three main things to consider: Intake, Avoidance and Exercise.  I will look at all of these in relation to the body, the mind and the spirit.

BODY – The body is a wonderful creation.  It gives us mobility, sight, hearing, touch, sex and reproduction and the ability to experience so much in God’s creation.  Anyone who studies the body quickly realizes that it is a complex mechanism.  God knew what He was doing when He created our body.  It is up to us to keep the body what it is meant to be.  In order to do that, we need to consider three main things:

1 – Intake:  The foods and drinks that we take in should be healthy for us.  We really should be eating whole grain foods, and lots of fruits and vegetables and nuts.  There is a lot to be said for true organic foods as well as healthy meats.  Our body also needs a great deal of water.  Water not only replenishes the body but also helps to remove toxins.

2 – Avoidance:  Fast foods, processed foods, “recreational” drugs, soda.  Red meats should be kept at a minimum and only healthy oils such as Olive and Canola oils should be used.  It is also good to keep alcoholic beverage to low or moderate use.

3 – Exercise:  Walking, running, swimming and aerobic exercises are very important.  Weight lifting is also a positive thing to do.

 

MIND – There is a saying that “the mind is a terrible thing to waste”.  This slogan was adopted by the United Negro College Fund in 1972.  It was actually one of the most successful campaigns in television history.  The saying is so true.  Our mind needs to be educated and stimulated.  There is no doubt that the mind/brain is very complex.  It, like the body, needs sustenance, avoidance and exercise.

1 – Intake:  The brain/mind is made to take in as much information as possible.  For me that means reading good books and studying various subjects.  I take many various courses, both online and in person.  I also read many different types of books and I love researching things on the internet.

2 – Avoidance:  Pornography is a very serious assault on what the mind is meant to do.  Spending time mesmerized in front of the television is also counterproductive.

3 – Exercise:  When you are reading you are definitely exercising the brain.  When you study for courses you are exercising the brain.  When you just take time to think, you are exercising the brain.   Things like cross word puzzles are great too.

 

SPIRIT – The “thing” that gives us our personhood is the Spirit or Soul.  This is the most precious gift of all.  With that we are like God in that we will live forever.  The Spirit is ultimately what is in charge of the body and the mind.  It works along with the mind to bring us thoughts and reason.  It lifts us up to far above the ordinary.  This Spirit needs Intake, Avoidance and Exercise too.

1 – Intake:  There is no doubt that graces are given to our Spirit by the sacraments of the Church.   Baptism starts the journey and the Holy Eucharist is food for the Spirit.  Confirmation strengthens the work of the Spirit within us and gives us many gifts.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation can lift the Spirit out of the difficulties that sin causes us.  Holy Orders and Matrimony empower our Spirit to work in the vocation that God calls us to.  Even the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick heals the Spirit as it heals the body.  For me, the reception of the Eucharist each day is my daily bread that enlivens my Spirit.  The sacrifice of the mass, and participating in it, again lifts our Spirit.  The pondering of God’s Word in the Bible feeds the Spirit.

2 – Avoidance:  We must stay away from the occult, even things such as Ouija boards.  We must stay away from all the temptations of the Devil.

3 – Exercise:  We should make ourselves available to all of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We should read and pray the bible.  We should spend a considerable amount of time each day in prayer.  Specialized prayers such as the rosary and divine mercy chaplet are great forms of spiritual exercise.  The Church’s Liturgy of the Hours is a fantastic way to pray.  I always recommend that people find a Spiritual Director.

 

In conclusion, we must remember that the Body, Mind and Spirit are all so interconnected that failure to take care of any one of them may harm the whole person that we are.  Because of this interconnection, some things that I mentioned in one subject will actually help not only in that subject but in others as well.  We are one unbelievable miracle and creation of God.  We must take care of who we are.

Romans 12: 1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC – How the Mass Could Save Your Life by Timothy P. O’Malley – reflections by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               You probably noticed that in the topic I called this a reflection, not a book review.  My purpose is to share with you how this book touched me.  I will leave a real book review to those more skilled in the process, like Pete Socks from Catholic Stand.  To begin with, you must know that I absolutely love the mass.  I am a daily communicant and I believe that the mass is the “source and summit” of my faith.  When I saw this book I immediately pre-ordered it.  I highly respect Timothy P. O’Malley as an author and he was writing about a topic that was dear to my heart.  I did worry about the first part of the title, BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC.   I saw it as a cute spin on “born again” but I never considered the mass boring.  The second part of the title was more to my liking, HOW THE MASS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.  I know this statement to be true.

               From the very beginning I saw what Timothy P. O’Malley was getting at in looking at the “boredom” of the mass.  He shows how there is good boredom and bad boredom.  The good boredom is the space where you can allow God to work.  In it we can ponder on the wonders of God at work in the mass.  The bad boredom is really a time where we allow ourselves unhealthy distractions from what God is doing.  The author gives great examples of good boredom and bad boredom.  He really makes you think about how the mind and its thought processes can lift you up spiritually.  There is no doubt that the author has a great love for the mass and for liturgy in general.  I see a lot of myself in him.

               The book takes just about every part of the mass and applies personal stories, as well as scripture and quotes from theologians, Saints, Popes etc. and creates a space for your own personal reflections.  It even includes questions at the end of each chapter to help you reflect on what was just given to you.  Some of the questions even challenge you to actions that will help you in better understanding the gift of the mass and liturgy.  I cannot think of any adult or teen that wouldn’t learn and grow by reading this book.  Whether you are a seasoned Catholic, or a new Catholic, this book is for you.  I can also see that it could be used to help non-Catholics better understand the mass (and hopefully decide that they too need the mass).

               As I said earlier, I am a daily communicant who really loves the mass.  This book gave me some new insights in to the mass and liturgy, even though I have been doing this since I became Catholic in 1973.  It gave me a better appreciation for the signs used in the mass.  His discussion of how when his mind might wander and then get caught up in the smoke rising from the incense in to the light of the sun made me better appreciate the use of incense (which we really do not use enough).  I loved the author’s suggestion of how we really should enshrine THE BOOK in our homes.  For many years we always kept a large bible open in a prominent area of our living room.  Somehow we got away from this.  I now plan on starting doing this again.

               I really loved the chapter dealing with the homily.  As a person who often does both weekday and Sunday homilies, I was moved by what Dr. O’Malley said.  He recalled how one day he took his toddler to the back of the Church because the toddler was fussy.  He admitted that he himself was fussy because the homily was not on target and was too long.  He recalled that the homily was not on target because it did not connect to the Gospel.  It was filled with too many personal stories.  Now, I have no problem with some personal stories, but I realize that everything that I say during a homily must connect to God’s word.  I recalled what was said to me by the Bishop who was ordaining me.   He handed me a book of the Gospels and said, “Believe what you read, Teach what you believe, and Practice what you teach”.  I actually keep a small plaque on my desk saying this so that I always remember what being a deacon is all about.  We too often hear that the Catholic Church suffers from poor homilies.  Actually, I have been lucky that the bishops and priests and deacons that I have been exposed to usually give great homilies.  This book inspired me to be better in my preaching.  It also reinforced my love of liturgy and the mass.  I know that I could tell you more, but I really believe that the best thing that I can tell you is to go out and get the book and read it.  Actually, don’t just read it, ponder it.  God is so good.  Thank you Dr. Timothy P. O’Malley for this gem.

THE BENEFITS OF DAILY MASS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               Attending daily mass is so important to me, and I have been reaping the benefits of it for several decades.  I am retired now and it is easy for me to attend the 9:00am mass, right after I am finished with the gym.  When I was working, I had to attend the 7:00am mass and then go to the gym and then to work.  Either way, I made the decision to go to daily mass and to go to the gym.  I figured I needed to be healthy both spiritually and physically.  It is hard to separate the two.  I would like to share with you some of the benefits I have seen by going to daily mass in hopes that you too will try to attend daily mass or that if you already do, you may find support for what you are doing.

1 – Being in the Presence of the Lord.  I try to get to mass about 20 minutes early so that I can just sit in His presence.  I offer Him praise and sit quietly listening for any Word he may give me.  So often I have grown in my love of Him and grown in my ability to learn to trust Him in all things.  Our God is an awesome God and His love for us knows no limits.  It is so good to be in His presence.  It is unbelievable how a short time alone before the Lord in the tabernacle can improve your prayer life all day long.

2 – Listening to His Word.  Every day at mass we have two readings and a responsorial psalm.  The first reading is usually from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the second reading is from the Gospels.  The Church does a wonderful job of presenting cycles of readings so that you basically go through all of the important parts of the whole bible in three years.  Sundays are set on a three year cycle and weekday readings are set on a two year cycle.  If you only attend Sunday mass, you do not get the fullness of the readings cycle.  Beginning each day listening to God’s Word and the homily about it can really impact you all day long.  The Church also follows different Liturgical Seasons such as Advent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary time.  The weekday readings emphasize the importance of these Seasons on a daily basis.  Immersing yourself in God’s Word is power giving.

3 – Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Jesus made it extremely clear that if we want to be filled with the fullness of life, we need to eat His body and drink His blood (Read John Chapter 6).  I would have to say that His Body and His Blood fill me with graces constantly.   Sometimes there is a reason that I cannot attend the morning mass (snow, Doctor, etc) and when that happens, I feel such a loss.  We are used to taking daily multi-vitamins and daily coffee etc. to pick us up, but to me, nothing picks me up better that receiving Him at daily mass.  The strength given to me by that lasts all day and affects every part of the person that I am.  I believe that I have an abundant life because I receive my Lord every day in the Eucharist.

4 – Experiencing Community.   Daily mass has less people in it than does Sunday mass.  Because of this, you get to meet these people and share your lives with them.  I know this can be true of Sunday mass, but daily mass emphasizes it.  You learn of your fellow parishioners ups and downs and you share a better level of community.  In our parish, every Wednesday we go over to our parish center and share with each other what the readings of the day have meant to us.  We usually have about 20 attend and it is a wonderful experience.  Also, at daily mass you get to know the things that are happening as they happen, not one week later like at Sunday mass.  We always have people who are struggling with health and life issues and daily mass allows us to be more supportive, especially on the days that they need it the most.  Community is a very important gift.

5 – Know your Priests and Deacons.  Daily mass gives us more of an opportunity to know the clergy that support our parishes.  They also get to know you better.  There is usually more time for meeting with the clergy.  You can also get to appreciate the homilies that they give.  You can bring support to them, and they can bring support to you.

               In closing, I cannot emphasize enough how important daily mass is to me.  I feel that I am a much stronger Christian because of it.  I know that I am closer to the Lord, and hear His voice better because of it.  It is also wonderful to know that people all over the world are hearing the same scriptures and receiving the same Lord at the same time I do.  You certainly get a fuller appreciation of the gift that the Church is to the world.  There are so many great books on the mass, but one that really touched me is Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth”.  In it we see that we are really sharing in a little bit of heaven every time we attend mass.  I personally want to do that every day.

               I will end with some quotes that Dr. Taylor Marshall found about the Eucharist.  They say so much.  He says: These quotes remind me of the hidden mystery of the Holy Mass. I plan to review them before Mass during Lent. I’d encourage you to do the same if you also struggle with distractions. I may print them out on a card and put them in my missal:

  1. When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar. ~ St. John Chrysostom
  2. The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass. ~ St. Augustine
  3. If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  4. The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross. ~ Saint Thomas Aquinas
  5. Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s Goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “ATTEND ONE MASS.”
  6. “My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.” Our Lady to Blessed Alan.
  7. When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy, a fragrance, a well-being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  8. There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  9. When we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  10. It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

That last quote from Saint Pio is profound. The entire cosmos is sustained by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…

 

 

Advent Saints – St. Ambrose by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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The Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan.  This was originally built by St. Ambrose and when he died he was entombed here.

               By the time he was 33 years old, Ambrose was a very successful man.  He owned a large estate, was a successful lawyer, was Governor of Milan and was a good friend of the Roman Emperor.   He was just a catechumen in the Catholic faith, but loved God and loved peace.  He lived at a time and in an area where there was great division in the Church over the heresy of Arianism.   In 374 the Bishop of Milan died and those who were for Arianism and those who saw Arianism as a heresy met in the Cathedral to try to determine who the next Bishop would be.  There was so much unrest over this that a riot began to break out between both sides.  Ambrose, as governor, stepped in to try to bring about peace by making a passionate speech, not favoring either side but seeking peace between the two sides.  It was at this time that someone shouted out that Ambrose should be made the Bishop.  The people all seemed to consent and Ambrose said that he couldn’t be, because he was just a catechumen and not even baptized.  Truthfully, it appears that Ambrose was quite happy with his life and did not want to change it.  Now the other Bishops of the Province saw this as a way to avoid making a difficult decision that would certainly upset a large number of people.  They too wanted Ambrose and decided to make him Bishop.  Ambrose quickly ran away trying to avoid this new vocation.

               Ambrose ran to the Emperor trying to get the Emperor to vacate that decision.  The Emperor refused to vacate the decision and told Ambrose that he would make a good Bishop.  Ambrose then went for instructions in Scripture and the Church studying under Saint Simplician.  Ambrose embraced the new vocation fully and was baptized and ordained as Bishop of Milan.  He sold his estate and holdings and gave to the poor.  Ambrose used his skills as a lawyer and orator to fight the Arians in church, court, senate, and even the Emperor’s own family. The same stubbornness that had made him refuse the position in the first place was now his weapon in fighting heresy and pursuing sanctity.

               Besides fighting heresy, Ambrose had to go up against the Goths who were invading the weakened Roman Empire.  The Goths often captured the Christians and offered them up for ransom.  Ambrose said, “It is a better thing to save souls for the Lord than to save treasures. He who sent forth his apostles without gold had not need of gold to form his Church. The Church possesses gold, not to hoard, but to scatter abroad and come to the aid of the unfortunate.  Would not the Lord say to us: ‘Why have you let so many needy perish of hunger? Since you had gold, you should provide for their needs’…Could we say: ‘I feared to leave the temple of God without ornament.’ But that which can’t be bought with gold does not take its value from gold. The best way to use the gold of the Redeemer is for the redemption of those in peril.”

               Not only did Ambrose have to deal with the Goths, but when his friend the Emperor died, the new Emperor tried to take Ambrose’s Church away from him and hand it over to the Arians.  Ambrose refused and was sentenced to death.  Fortunately the people sided with Ambrose and filled his Church.  Roman soldiers were surrounding the Church and the people inside stayed there for days singing songs (this is one of the first written accounts of songs being sung in Church).  They were so loud and filled with faith that even the soldiers outside began singing the songs.  The soldiers were called out for other duties in protecting the Empire.  Ambrose kept control of his Church.  It is interesting to note that later Ambrose helped out the Emperor who was against him.  He showed true forgiveness.

               Ambrose is also known for his work with another great Saint, Saint Augustine.  It was Ambrose who helped Augustine convert to the faith.  Augustine was one of the greatest Saints and impacted the Church tremendously.  Saint Ambrose was certainly a great man who changed history and the Church for the better.

There are many quotes from St. Ambrose.  I share a few of them here.

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.        

Prayer is the wing wherewith the soul flies to heaven, and meditation the eye wherewith we see God.

If it is “daily bread,” why do you take it once a year? . . . Take daily what is to profit you daily. Live in such a way that you may deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily, does not deserve to receive it once a year. 

By Christ’s Passion our weakness was cured. By His Resurrection death was conquered. Still we have to be sorrowful for the world, as well as joyful in the Lord, sorrowful in penance, joyful in gratitude.

It is not the ambassador, it is not the messenger, but the Lord Himself that saves His people. The Lord remains alone, for no man can be partner with God in forgiving sins; this office belongs solely to Christ, who takes away the sins of the world. 

True repentance is to cease from sin. 

Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.

The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt.

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.

The Devil tempts that he may ruin and destroy; God tests that He may crown. 

He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His. He took it not to overturn it but to fill it. 

The Lord was Baptized, not to be cleansed Himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism.  

God by nature is uncompounded, joined to nothing, composed of nothing, to whom nothing happens by accident; but only possessing in His own nature that which is divine, enclosing all things, Himself closed out of nothing, penetrating all things, Himself never penetrable, everywhere complete, everywhere present at the same time, whether in heaven or on earth or in the depths of the sea, incapable of being seen or measured by our senses, to be followed only by faith and venerated in our religion.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. 

 

 

 

              

Advent Saints – St. Nicholas by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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The altar above the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy

Saint Nicholas is one of our very popular Saints.  There are many churches named in his honor and he is the Patron Saint of more causes than any other Saint.  He is the Patron Saint of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, brides, prisoners, archers, students and especially of children.   He is the Patron Saint of many countries and towns and cities, including New York City.   His popularity goes from east to west around the world.  So who was this man, Saint Nicholas?  He certainly was a lot more than the popular Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra which is in modern day Turkey.  He lived in the early 300’s and was known to be a very Holy, devout, loving man.  It is difficult to think of Saint Nicholas without thinking of all the legends that surrounded him.  However, most of these legends just emphasize the great person that he truly was.  We do know that he was the son of wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian.  His uncle was the local bishop.   Nicholas’s parents died when he was quite young.  They left him a significant estate.  Throughout his life Nicholas used that estate to help the poor.  After his parents died, Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara.  During the Roman Diocletian persecution, St. Nicholas was seized, tortured, and imprisoned.  After his release, he continued his many works of charity and served the people of Myra as their bishop.

Nicholas was known for fighting the heresy of Arius.  Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in 325 where Arius tried to push his heresy.  Nicholas became so angered at Arius that he slapped him in the face.  The other bishops censored Nicholas for this, but later he regained his good status.  The love of Jesus and the love of the Church and the love of the poor consumed Nicholas.   Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 in Myra and he was buried in his Cathedral of Myra.  In later centuries, the area fell in to the hands of non Christians and in the year 1087 a group of Italians took his body and moved it to Bari, Italy where it is today.

There are only a few quotes from St. Nicholas in existence today so I will share two of those, as well as a few quotes from others about him.  The last quote is from Anne Frank during the Nazi holocaust.

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”  St. Nicholas of Myra

“Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.”    St. Nicholas of Myra

“Everybody loves St Nicholas, because St. Nicholas loves everybody.”   Fr Andrew Phillips

“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”   Francis P. Church

“Once again St. Nicholas Day Has even come to our hideaway; It won’t be quite as fun, I fear, As the happy day we had last year. Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt That optimism would win the bout, And by the time this year came round, We’d all be free, and safe and sound. Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day, Though we’ve nothing left to give away. We’ll have to find something else to do: So everyone please look in their shoe!” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

 

The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 2 of 3

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The Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus and His disciples visited many times.

We can see by the year A.D. 110, in the writings of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John, yes “that” John, that the Church had bishops that had authority. That they were to obey the clergy and deacons, just as they would the apostles. They were also supposed to regard the bishop as a “type” of the Father. (…hmmm, sound familiar?) Also note that the Eucharist was only valid if the bishop or by a person authorized by the bishop were to celebrate it. They had a council and a college of apostles and without these it could not be called a church. Why? Because Jesus provided an authoritative teaching body in the Church to maintain the Truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. Ignatius even calls the Church, the Catholic Church! Sounds like what we refer to today as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Read for yourself.

Ignatius of Antioch

Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery 1, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries 2 of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.

Be you subject to the bishop as to the Lord, for “he watches for your souls, as one that shall give account to God.” (Heb 13:17) Wherefore also, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order that, by believing in His death, you may by baptism be made partakers of His resurrection. It is therefore necessary, whatsoever things you do, to do nothing without the bishop. And be you subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall be found in Him. It behooves you also, in every way, to please the deacons, who are [ministers] of the mysteries of Christ Jesus; for they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would a burning fire. Let them, then, prove themselves to be such. (Letter to the Trallians 2:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

1- presbytery translates in English as priest, ministers.
2- Mysteries of Christ, also translated as Sacraments 

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

The early church was NOT an unorganized band of Christian followers, but a very organized group, even though they were most of the time practicing their faith “underground” due to persecution. There were no factions or splinter groups that were allowed to stay in operation, but as Ignatius points out, if you were not in union with and under the authority of the bishops, then you were not following the Church that Jesus Christ established.

In the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, also a disciple of John the Apostle, written around A.D. 160 we can see that the Church at the time was Catholic and shows that the church was seen as a unified Church.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 160]). –> Read online in its entirety here

We also see in the writings of Saint Irenaeus in A.D. 189 that he refers to a unified Church. Of important note, this writing comes from his Letter Against Heresies. He is pointing out in the letter that any who teach a gospel outside of the unity of the Catholic Church are teaching heresy.

Irenaeus

The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]). –> Read online in its entirety here

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the church? (ibid. 3:4). –> Read online in its entirety here

Did he say that we are to lay hold of the tradition of the truth? Yes, he did. And how did he say we should solve disputes and questions about what we should believe? We should have recourse to the ancient churches, which at this point in history were only around 200 years old. Still, that is a long time. Yet, here we are 2000 years later, and yet those outside of the Catholic Church, do not follow his advice.

 

LOOK FOR PART 3 ON WEDNESDAY

The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 1 of 3

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Ruins of a Roman Temple in Ephesus that was turned in to an Early Christian Church.  See the crosses etched in to the outside wall.  Ephesus was a thriving Christian city in the first days of the Church.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. ~ Acts 2:42

Many “Bible Alone” Christians will say that the Church of the Bible looks nothing like the Catholic Church. If that were true, then we would expect to find evidence of the first few hundred years of Christianity to support this claim. However, what we do find is evidence to show that the Early Church was indeed Catholic in every way! Many Protestants claim that the Church of the first three centuries was a “pure” Church and base that on a modern reading of Acts 2:42, ignoring that writings of the earliest Christians. They will also claim that it was only after the legalization of Christianity by Roman Emperor Constantine (313 AD) did the Church become “Catholic” and corrupt. However, the doctrines of Post-Constantine Catholicism are the same doctrines that were held by Christians for the preceding three centuries. In fact, the evidence below clearly shows that the beliefs of the Early Church are the same as those of the Catholic Church today in the 3rd millennium.

Again, The Early Church Fathers are so important because: 1) their testimonies prove that the Early Church was Catholic; 2) the councils of Trent and Vatican I declared that no-one may interpret Scripture in a manner contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; 3) all the Fathers were convinced that the original texts of the Bible were absolutely immune from all error. IF, Catholic doctrine had changed “many times” from that of the earliest writings, then the record should reflect this. However, the record shows that the writings of the Early Church Fathers are consistent with the teachings of the modern Catholic Church. Nothing has changed! This is why the councils of Trent and Vatican I attest that the writings of the Early Church are to be regarded as authoritative in respect to the interpretation of scripture. Any interpretation of scripture cannot be in conflict of the testament of the unanimous teachings of Early Church on doctrine. Again, let me clarify…doctrines are those teachings from scripture that deal with items of Faith and Morals, not practices, customs and disciplines which so many anti-Catholics try to say are doctrines. Example, Baptism by sprinkling vs immersion, this is a practice.

The early Church was the Catholic Church. It taught infallibly, gave us the New Testament and was made up of three ranks of clergy, bishop, priest and deacon. The idea of “Scripture Alone” didn’t exist nor could it have as the printing press would not be invented for more than a thousand years. The earliest Christians didn’t even have a New Testament yet. It was a NEW Church. They had to rely upon verbal teaching that was passed down from the Apostles as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Before there was a Bible, there was a Church…

To make sure that the apostolic tradition would be passed down after the deaths of the apostles, Paul also told Timothy, “What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). In other words, he was telling Timothy that it was necessary to keep the traditions and teachings alive. Yes, he was writing letters, but every place a church had been established did not instantly get a copy of those letters. It would take many, many years before they all would be compiled into what we now know as the New Testament. No written Bibles as we know them today existed. This is important to understand.

In the first four centuries of the Church many books, such as the seven letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Clement [the fourth pope] to the Corinthians, the Didache, and The Shepherd were revered by many Christians as inspired but were later shown to be non-inspired. Keep in mind, non-inspired does not imply not important or not authoritative, it just means that they did not see that those writings to be on level with the inspired writings of the Apostles.

The Bible as we know it today didn’t come into being until the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. That is when the Catholic Church defined which books made it into the New Testament and which didn’t. There were many letters and writings that were floating around and they saw a need to settle which were to be considered as inspired, which were important but not inspired, and which were even heretical. The council fathers studied many documents, including, of course, the writings of the Apostles themselves, but it was not until these councils that the Church officially settled the issue of what should be included in the Canon of Scripture.

What did the Early Church look like?

That being said, what did the early Church really look like? Let’s look at the writings of the Early Church Fathers to see the Church that they knew. I bet all the Catholic Christians reading this will recognize their Church, and I’m guessing that most Protestants will not see theirs. But, let’s find out.

In the year A.D 80, we see Saint Clement of Rome, the fourth in line of succession from Peter, who was also a disciple of Peter and Paul, sending a letter to Corinth. Exhorting them to get it together or they would have severe repercussions. Those Corinthians had been causing the Church fits since Saint Paul. Now why was a bishop in Rome telling the Church in Corinth what to do? Because he had authority to do so and that authority was recognized. He is recognized as the fourth Bishop of Rome, the fourth Pope!

Clement of Rome

If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. We, however, shall be innocent of this sin, and will pray with earnest entreaty and supplication that the Creator of all may keep unharmed the number of His elect, which have been counted up in the whole world, through His beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom He has called us from darkness to light, and from ignorance to the full knowledge of the glory of His name.(Letter to the Corinthians 28a [A.D. 80]). –> Read online in its entirety here

LOOK FOR PART 2 ON MONDAY

 

The Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office or Breviary) by Deacon Marty McIndoe

liturgy-of-the-hours

The church has given us so many tools to help us to grow in our faith. One of those tools is the Liturgy of the Hours.  This form of prayer is sometimes known as the Divine Office or The Hours or The Breviary.    The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the Psalms into the age of the church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day, the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. More over, the reading from the Word of God at each hour, with the subsequent responses and readings from the fathers and spiritual masters at certain hours reveal more deeply the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, assist in understanding the Psalms, and prepare for silent prayer.” (CCC 1177).  As a person who has prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for over 40 years now, I can tell you that it is an extremely good way to grow in our Catholic spirituality.  As an ordained deacon, I am required (just as all bishops, priests, sisters and brothers) to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  I do not consider it a burden, but rather an extremely uplifting way of Growing In Our Catholic Faith.  Though not required of lay people, it is something that I would highly recommend.

Along with the celebration of the mass, the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the oldest prayer forms in the Church.  As a matter of fact, the reciting of prayers at different hours of the day and evening goes back into our Jewish roots. In the Psalms we find expressions like, “I will meditate on You in the morning”, and “I Rose at midnight to give praise to Thee” and “evening and morning and at noon I will speak and declare and He shall hear my voice.”  It also says “seven times a day I have given praise toThee.”  The early Christians continued the practice of the devout Jewish people by praying different hours of the day. As a matter of fact, in the book of Acts we learn that the Apostles prayed at midnight and at mid-morning (Terce) and at midday (Sext) and at mid afternoon (None). The prayers at this time consisted of the reading and chanting of the Psalms, the reading of the Old Testament, and then the Christians began adding readings from the Gospels and Acts and the Epistles.  The prayers we do today are very much like what the Church has done from the beginning.  By the fifth century, the Office consisted of Lauds (Morning Prayer), Prime (first prayers), Terce (Mid-morning Prayers), Sext (Midday Prayer), None (Mid-afternoon Prayers), Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Complin (Night Prayer).  We still have these prayer times with some minor modifications.  See the following list for today’s Liturgy of the Hours.

Current Roman Catholic usage focuses on three major hours and from two to four minor hours:

  • The Officium lectionis or Office of Readings (formerly Matins ), major hour
  • Lauds or Morning prayer, major hour
  • Daytime prayer, which can be one or all of:

* Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer
* Sext or Midday Prayer
* Non or Mid-Afternoon Prayer

  • Vespers or Evening Prayer, major hour
  • Compline or Night Prayer

 

The praying of the Liturgy of the Hours only takes a few minutes (about 15+ for the major hours) but is worth every minute you put in to it.  The Liturgy of the Hours can be prayed individually or in a group.  Usually when in a group it is prayed antiphonally, alternating from left to right sides of the Church.  Parts of it can also be sung.  However, praying it privately can be a real help in your own spiritual growth.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about the Liturgy of the Hours:  From #1174 “The mystery of Christ, his Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the Eucharist especially at the Sunday assembly, permeates and transfigures the time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, “the divine office.”  This celebration, faithful to the apostolic exhortations to “pray constantly,” is “so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God.”  In this “public prayer of the Church,”  the faithful (clergy, religious, and lay people) exercise the royal priesthood of the baptized. Celebrated in “the form approved” by the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours “is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses to the Father.”

So, you are probably asking yourself, “how do I pray the Liturgy of the Hours”.  It used to be that you had to buy the Four Volume book set, or abbreviated one volume set, but today we have it available on the Internet and through smart phone apps.  I own the Four Volume Set and used to use that continually.  However, about four years ago I started using the Ibreviary app and I love it.  There are also websites to help you pray it on a full sized computer or tablet.  Instead of listing these out, there are so many, I would suggest you search on “liturgy of the hours”.  You won’t be disappointed in what you find.

Prayer is at the heart of our relationship to God.  The Liturgy of the Hours is one of the best forms of Prayer that I have found.  I pray it every day, along with my rosary and attendance at daily mass.  All of these bring us closer to the God who loves us so much and wants us to have an abundant life.  Please try praying this beautiful prayer form.  It isn’t just for the Clergy and Religious.  It is for lay people too.  God bless you in your journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dynamic Duo: St. Peter and St. Paul – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

StPeterStPaulImage of St. Peter and St. Paul (available at www.orthodoxgoods.com)

June 29th marks the Catholic Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Since these two men are usually considered the most important Christians of the apostolic age, you would think that they would each have their own Feast day.  However the Church, in its wisdom, has always celebrated these two men together.  We can learn a great deal about living as a Christian, and about Church structure, by looking at these two fascinating men and their relationship to each other.  They both died in Rome and their bodies remain there to this day.

According to Roman legend, Rome was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus.  Their background and early raising was quite tumultuous and their decision to found together a new city proved fatal for Remus.  Ambition and sibling rivalry reared its ugly head, but the city of Rome was founded.  Rome became one of the most powerful cities (and Empire) in the world, but it lost its worldly power about 400 years after Jesus was born.  About 25 years after Jesus died and resurrected, two new brothers (in the Lord) founded a new spiritual city of Rome which to this very day maintains its spiritual power throughout the world.  St. Peter and St. Paul have been considered the new co-founders of this spiritual city of Rome.  Early Christian writers made this comparison many times.  We know St. Peter as being the first Pope and St. Paul as being the greatest evangelist, and scripture writer.  Let us take a look at their relationship.

St. Peter was hand chosen by Jesus to lead the Church.  Peter had known Jesus and followed Jesus for many years.  He was a true disciple of Jesus.  St. Paul, on the other hand, never met Jesus until after Jesus died and rose again.  In actuality, St. Paul was an arch enemy of the early Christians because of his zeal to remove the followers of the Jesus sect from his most loved Judaism.  St. Paul was even there for the first martyrdom of St. Stephen.  St. Peter fervently loved Jesus, and St. Paul fervently loved Judaism.  When St. Paul met the Resurrected Jesus, on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, St. Paul was literally knocked to the ground.  This one time meeting with the resurrected Jesus was enough to totally change St. Paul from persecutor of the Church to evangelizer for the Church.  The early Christians, including St. Peter, were quite skeptical but came to see the change in St. Paul and his zeal for building the Church.

We don’t know for certain how many times St. Peter and St. Paul met, but scriptures tell us of three incidents.  The first one seems to occur around the year 51 when in Galatians 1:18 Paul tells us that he went to visit St. Peter in Jerusalem for 15 days.  The interesting part of this is that the word that St. Paul uses for the visit is historeō which has a very rich meaning.  It implies meeting to gather data, to learn, observe and inquire.  Our word history comes from that root.  That must have been an interesting meeting.  St. Peter was probably still somewhat skeptical of St. Paul, and St. Paul was probably trying to learn as much as possible about Jesus and His followers.

In Galatians 2:1 St. Paul tells us of another meeting he had with St. Peter 14 years after the first meeting.  St. Paul came to Peter and James and John, the pillars of the Jerusalem Church, to present to them his form of evangelization and to verify the fruits of his evangelization.  He seems to have been checking with them to make sure he was doing it well.  St. Paul records that they found nothing to add to what he had been preaching and that they recognized him as being the evangelizer to the Gentiles.  They gave him their right hand of fellowship and encouraged him to keep preaching to the Gentiles while they preached to the Jews.  He ended by saying, “They only asked us to remember the poor– the very thing I also was eager to do.”

The third time that scriptures (again Galatians) mention the two meeting is at Antioch.  This some people play up as a confrontation between the two.  However, it appears that it is a great example of collegiality, and fraternal correction.  The background for this meeting goes back to the Council of Jerusalem where St. Peter made the judgment that Gentile converts to Christianity did not have to observe the Jewish kosher laws.  Now when St. Peter was in Antioch, he was staying with many Jewish Christians who felt that new Gentile converts should keep the kosher laws.  Peter even followed the kosher laws when he was with them.  St. Paul brought to the attention of St. Peter that he was being hypocritical.  It appears that St. Paul really did this out of love and for fraternal correction and that the bond of love that they each had for Jesus triumphed.  Later scriptures and tradition show that these two men kept their fraternal love for each other.

We know that towards the end of their lives, both St. Peter and St. Paul move to Rome.  All of the early Christian writers talk about them being the new brothers who formed the new Rome.  This time, however, there was no ambition or rivalry to separate them; quite the contrary.  Tertullian, an early Christian writer born in 155 tells how both St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned together during Nero’s persecution and both were martyred by Nero.  He recalls that they spent many hours together in jail sharing their stories of spreading the Gospel and he added that they blessed each other for their upcoming martyrdom.  St. Peter was crucified upside down (he said he was not good enough to die the same way as Jesus) in the Vatican square and immediately buried in a nearby cemetery, now below St. Peter’s in Rome.  St. Paul was beheaded with a sword.  He was a Roman citizen and due a quick death.   He was beheaded at quae Salviae, which is now known as Tre Fontane (three fountains).  According to legend, when the sword cut off St. Paul’s head, it bounced three times and at each spot where it landed, a spring of water sprung forth from the ground.  His body was taken away and buried nearby.  The beautiful Church of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls stands over his burial place.  It is interesting to note that the Tiber River flows through Rome.  St. Peter was martyred and was buried on one side of the Tiber, and St. Paul was martyred and buried on the other side.  Early Christian writers see this as both “founders” having given their blood to bless both sides of the city.  Though these two dynamic men were individuals, they were seen as a major force of  a unified two.

St. Peter was a simple Jewish fisherman with probably little education.  St. Paul was well educated (taught by the best rabbi in the land) and a Roman citizen.  They both were good Jews.  St. Peter was married and St. Paul was a celibate.  St. Peter was impulsive and St. Paul was enthusiastic.  They certainly had their differences.  They both have in common that when they met Jesus their lives were totally changed.  They both loved Jesus and His Church.  Even though both were quite dynamic men with great leadership skills, they learned how to work with each other for the good of the Church.

For us today, we should see that when we truly love Jesus, we change for the good.  When we truly love the Church that Jesus founded, we learn to work together with each other, even when we don’t always agree with each other.  It is almost incomprehensible to understand how these two men accomplished so much in such a short time.  The only way we can understand that is to see them as lovers of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, who respond to “go forth” and spread the good news and build up the body of Christ.  I can only imagine the great time the two of them are having with Jesus right now.  I look forward to meeting them some day.  St. Peter and St. Paul pray that we too can love Jesus with all that we are.

 

Holy Orders in the Church – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

OrdinationZoomHR098My ordination by Bishop John R. McGann on October 4, 1980 in Sacred Heart Chapel in Brentwood, NY.  I am kneeling and my wife is standing behind me.

Most Dioceses have their ordinations in the month of June, so I thought this would be a good time to look at Holy Orders in the Church.  The word ORDER comes from the ancient Roman language and means an established civil body, or governing body.  All organizations need some form of hierarchy, and the Church is no exception.  However, the Church is not like any other organization, it is supernatural in nature, established by Jesus himself.  When the Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost it made a significant change in them.  It empowered them to spread the good news and to develop the church.  Our modern design of Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest and Deacon) dates back to the very beginnings of the Church.  Since the Apostles were all good Jews, as Jesus himself was, and since God was at work from the very beginnings with the Jewish nation, it is not surprising that our Holy Orders closely resemble the Jewish priesthood.

In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the chosen people were constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  He even chose one of the twelve tribes, Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service.  The priests were “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  Our present day liturgy reflects that close relationship to the Jewish priesthood of Aaron and the Levites.  Here is a sample from the Church’s liturgy:

The Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops:

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . .
by your gracious word
you have established the plan of your Church.

From the beginning,
you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.
You established rulers and priests
and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you. . . .

At the ordination of priests, the Church prays:

Lord, holy Father, . . .
when you had appointed high priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help them in their task. . . .

you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men. . . .
You shared among the sons of Aaron
the fullness of their father’s power.

In the consecratory prayer for ordination of deacons, the Church confesses:

Almighty God . . .,
You make the Church, Christ’s body,
grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple.
You enrich it with every kind of grace
and perfect it with a diversity of members
to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.

You established a threefold ministry of worship and service,
for the glory of your name.
As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi
and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.

 

The Church today has, just as the early Church had, three main offices of ordination.  The first, and highest, is the Bishop.  The second, and closely related, is the Priest.  The third is the Deacon.  The Bishop and Priest are together seen as Sacerdotal (priestly) while the deacon is seen as helpers to the Bishops first, and Priests second.  Usually the Bishop is seen as a Pastor of a diocese and is often needed as a teacher.  The Priest offers the mass in local churches and the Deacon is called to serve where He is directed to by the Bishop.  All three are ordained.  You can see how early this structure was by looking at a quote by St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was born only 17 years after Jesus died.  He said, “Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters (priests) as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.”

The Ordination of Bishops, Priests and Deacons are done only by Bishops who are in the line of apostolic succession.  That means that when Bishop John R. McGann ordained me, back in 1980, I know that he was ordained by a Bishop who was ordained by a Bishop who was ordained by a Bishop…..going back all the way to the Apostles.  This is called Apostolic Succession.  The Church keeps records to ascertain that this occurs.  The power of ordination has thus been passed down by the Apostles to all of us who are validly ordained.  So what is this power?  Quite simply, it is the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is a permanent grace given to allow the ordained minister to carry out his mission within the Church that Jesus himself formed.

We know that no Bishop or Priest or Deacon is perfect, indeed they are human, but the grace of the Holy Spirit still works through them for the building up of the Church.   It is Jesus, and His Spirit that ultimately works through the ordained minister.  The unworthiness of the minister does not keep Jesus from working through him.  St. Augustine states this quite strongly when he says, “As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.”

The man who is ordained must go through a substantial training and preparation program.  At the heart of it has to be his own conversion to Jesus and His Church.  St. Gregory of Nazianzus says it so beautifully, “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized (make divine) and divinizes.”  And the Cure of Ars says, “The priest continues the work of redemption on earth. . . . If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love. . . . The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

Being a Bishop or a Priest or a Deacon is not an easy thing.  However, it is a great thing.  I thank God for calling me and giving me the strength and power to minister as a Deacon.  God knew what he was doing when he set up the Church.  The call to ordained ministry is an important call.  We should all do what we can to encourage men to look in to the ordained ministry.  We should also say a “thank you” to those who serve us now.  God is good.

 

The Lazy Priest by Dan Gonzalez

deaconGospel

Throughout my childhood, I never attended a Mass that was assisted by a deacon. I grew up assuming that it was the role of the priest to read the Gospel.

A closer parish eventually opened which was blessed to have a deacon. I noticed that it was he who read the Gospel week after week. My thought was “Man, that priest is LAZY! He has his helper doing all the work!” Little did I know that it is the deacon who is supposed to read the Gospel—this is what the Church envisions.

The Deacon and the Gospel

In the proclamation of the Gospel, Jesus is speaking to us—Christ himself is addressing his bride, the Church. For that reason, only a deacon, priest or bishop may read the Gospel at Mass—but the Church is quite clear that the preference is for the Gospel to be proclaimed by the deacon:

“The function of proclaiming the readings is by tradition not presidential but ministerial. Therefore the readings are to be read by a reader, but the Gospel by the Deacon or, in his absence, by another Priest. If, however, a Deacon or another Priest is not present, the Priest Celebrant himself should read the Gospel, and moreover, if no other suitable reader is present, the Priest Celebrant should also proclaim the other readings as well.” —The General Instruction of the Roman Missal #59

At least by the 600s, it was the function of the deacon to read the Gospel in the liturgy:

“To the deacons it belongs to assist the priests and to serve in all that is done in the Sacraments of Christ, in baptism, to wit, in the holy chrism, in the paten and chalice, to bring the oblation to the altar and to arrange them…to carry the cross, to declaim the Gospel and Epistle, for as the charge is given to lectors to declaim the Old Testament, so it is given to deacons to declaim the New. To him also pertains the office of prayers and the recital of the names. It is he who gives warning to open our ears to the Lord, it is he who exhorts with his cry, it is he also who announces peace.” —Letter of St. Isidore of Seville to Leudefredus

The ordination of a deacon underscores his ministerial function to proclaim the Gospel. During the ceremony, a newly ordained deacon kneels before the bishop, who places in his hands the Book of the Gospels and says:

“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” —Ordination of a Deacon

However, one must also keep in mind that all priests are deacons—a man cannot receive the Order of Priest without having first received the Order of Deacon. In addition, his priestly ordination does not invalidate or supplant his diaconate.

When celebrating the Eucharist, the priest is performing the function of his ministry. That is why it is preferred, in the absence of a deacon, that a concelebrating priest read the Gospel. But, if the celebrating priest does proclaim the Gospel, he does so by virtue of his deaconate, not as a function of his priesthood.

Instruct the Faithful

The deacon has also been set apart by the Church to instruct the faithful throughout the Mass—it is he who will direct the actions of the people:

  • Let us kneel.
  • Let us stand.
  • Let us offer each other the sign of peace.
  • Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing.
  • Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

The voice that guides the assembly is also the one that proclaims the Gospel—a subtle reminder that the Gospel message is indeed a call to action.

What about you? Who proclaims that Gospel at your Mass? Did your childhood parish have a deacon? Share and let’s learn together!

Check out Dan’s webpage at http://www.massexplained.com/