Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pope Francis Delivers A Remarkable Speech

Address by His Holiness Pope Francis to the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on Novemeber 25, 2014

BREAKING! In an unbelievable speech to the European Union parliament, Pope Francis channelled the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II, obliterating the "dictatorship of relativism" that has brought Europe to social emptiness and political despair. He called upon Europe to re-embrace its Christian history and culture, citing that far from being a threat to secular institutions, Christianity offers values and morals that enrich them. He called for a fusion of solidarity with SUBSIDIARITY, that respects the cultural diversity of Europe and the local governance of peoples. He decried abortion, and the throwaway culture, which leaves the unborn, aged and infirm to die alone. He assailed rampant materialism, corporatism and consumerism, that has left half of the world to starvation while the other half throws away uneaten food. He called for greater stewardship of the ecology and new innovations to better conserve the world's energy. He compared and contrasted the individual with hyper-individualism, wherein man should be free to do what is right, not free to do "whatever he wants." He focused on the nuclear family as the building block of civilisation and called upon governments to protect and promote the family. Most of all, he called upon Europe to return to God and its Christian roots. In what is quite possibly the most significant speech of the 21st cetury (so far) the pope outlined principles that, if embraced, could guide Europe into a new renaissance of greatness, but if rejected, will leave Europe in social ruin, and the European Union on the ash heap of history. This was truly a HISTORIC speech, and it received several applause concluding with a standing ovation. PLEASE WATCH & SHARE!!!!

Transcript below (emphasis mine and commentary mine)...

(Vatican Radio) The full text of the address delivered by Pope Francis to members of the European Parliament, Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday November 25, 2014.
Mr President and Vice Presidents,
Members of the European Parliament,
All associated with the work of this Institution,
Dear Friends,
            I thank you for inviting me to address this institution which is fundamental to the life of the European Union, and for giving me this opportunity to speak, through you, to the more than five-hundred million citizens whom you represent in the twenty-eight Member States.  I am especially grateful to you, Mr President, for your warm words of welcome in the name of the entire assembly.
            My visit comes more than a quarter of a century after that of Pope John Paul II.  Since then, much has changed throughout Europe and the world as a whole.  The opposing blocs which then divided the continent in two no longer exist, and gradually the hope is being realized that “Europe, endowed with sovereign and free institutions, will one day reach the full dimensions that geography, and even more, history have given it”.
            As the European Union has expanded, the world itself has become more complex and ever changing; increasingly interconnected and global, it has, as a consequence, become less and less “Eurocentric”.  Despite a larger and stronger Union, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion. (No kidding. The EU is a tyranny! Christianity, particularly the moral institutes of the Christian faith, are under attack by the EU. Countries are being forced to provide abortion and same-sex marriage.)
            In addressing you today, I would like, as a pastor, to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all the citizens of Europe.
            It is a message of hope, based on the confidence that our problems can become powerful forces for unity in working to overcome all those fears which Europe – together with the entire world – is presently experiencing.  It is a message of hope in the Lord, who turns evil into good and death into life.
            It is a message of encouragement to return to the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent.  At the heart of this ambitious political project was confidence in man, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in man, in men and women as persons endowed with transcendent dignity.      
            I feel bound to stress the close bond between these two words: “dignity” and “transcendent”.
            “Dignity” was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War.  Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in contrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries.  Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person.  This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterized as it is by an enriching encounter whose “distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them”, thus forging the very concept of the “person”.
            Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries.  This is an important and praiseworthy commitment, since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.
            In the end, what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing one’s thought or professing one’s religious faith? (This is huge. The pope is really laying into them. Religious liberty of Christians is threatened not only in Europe but in North America too. This must stop.)  What dignity can there be without a clear juridical framework which limits the rule of force and enables the rule of law to prevail over the power of tyranny?  What dignity can men and women ever enjoy if they are subjected to all types of discrimination?  What dignity can a person ever hope to find when he or she lacks food and the bare essentials for survival and, worse yet, when they lack the work which confers dignity?
            Promoting the dignity of the person means recognizing that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests. (Read religion here. The pope is telling them that people MUST be allowed to practice their religion both in public life as well as private.)
            At the same time, however, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse.  Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts, as if the person were a “monad” (μονάς), increasingly unconcerned with other surrounding “monads”.  The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights.  As a result, the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself. (This hints toward such ideas as gay "marriage" and an absolute right to property. The Holy Father seems to be telling us here that a person's "rights" are not absolute. We do not have a "right" to sin in such a way that harms society as a whole.)
            I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the “all of us” made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.  In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence. (The Holy Father is sounding very distributist here.) 
            To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that “compass” deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation.  Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation.  In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others.  This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate, and also in the young who lack clear points of reference and opportunities for the future.  It is also seen in the many poor who dwell in our cities and in the disorientation of immigrants who came here seeking a better future.
            This loneliness has become more acute as a result of the economic crisis, whose effects continue to have tragic consequences for the life of society.  In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful. (Again, the EU has become a tyranny.)  In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant.  As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions. (Without acknowledging the true transcendent God, the EU becomes a "god" unto itself, and it tends to act that way as well, in true tyrannical fashion.) 
            Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us (He's talking about the 1% here and the corporate elite who are "too big to fail" and manipulate governments.), and especially to the poorest of the poor.  To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings.  Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, (Wow! This is very reminiscent of Saint John Paul II. Centesimus Annus, 15) as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb. (Slam dunk! This is a complete condemnation of the contraception mentality which leads to the murder of the unborn. It is the sacrament of the dictatorship of relativism.)
            This is the great mistake made “when technology is allowed to take over”; the result is a confusion between ends and means”.  It is the inevitable consequence of a “throwaway culture” and an uncontrolled consumerism. (THUD! It's so politically incorrect to say such things, but also so true.) Upholding the dignity of the person means instead acknowledging the value of human life, which is freely given us and hence cannot be an object of trade or commerce.  As members of this Parliament, you are called to a great mission which may at times seem an impossible one: to tend to the needs of individuals and peoples.  To tend to those in need takes strength and tenderness, effort and generosity in the midst of a functionalistic and privatized mindset which inexorably leads to a “throwaway culture”.  To care for individuals and peoples in need means protecting memory and hope; it means taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalization and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it.            
           How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?
            To answer this question, allow me to use an image.  One of the most celebrated frescoes of Raphael is found in the Vatican and depicts the so-called “School of Athens”.  Plato and Aristotle are in the centre.  Plato’s finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say.  Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality.  This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe’s practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems.
            The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements.  A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends. (SLAM! Europe must return to her Christian roots if she wishes to survive.)
            Taking as a starting point this opening to the transcendent, I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of the moment.  I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past (Remember who you are Europe. Remember your history. It is your identity.) to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth.  This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment. (Christianity is your friend Europe!  Not your enemy. It is the key to your future. It won't hurt your secular governments. It can only compliment them, and make them better.)  This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity (The two must balance one another.), and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person.
            I wish, then, to reiterate the readiness of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, through the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (COMECE), to engage in meaningful, open and transparent dialogue with the institutions of the European Union. (I'm right here guys. I want to help, and so do the bishops of the Church. Our spiritual and moral council is at your disposal. We've been here all along. Why don't you just call us sometime?)  I am likewise convinced that a Europe which is capable of appreciating its religious roots and of grasping their fruitfulness and potential, will be all the more immune to the many forms of extremism spreading in the world today (POW! The reason why Europe has suffered so much in the last century, enduring two world wars, communism, and various tyrannies, is because she has forgotten her Christian roots. She has forgotten WHO she is.), not least as a result of the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West, since “it is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence”.
            Here I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice and persecution which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular, in various parts of our world.  Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many. (Ouch! Europe was silent for too long while Christians were slaughtered in the Middle East recently. Some nations in Europe even played and active role, providing funding and political support to their persecutors.)
            The motto of the European Union is United in Diversity.  Unity, however, does not mean uniformity of political, economic and cultural life, or ways of thinking. (G.K. Chesterton said the same thing about America after the Civil War. The EU is imposing a similar kind of uniformity on Europe.)  Indeed, all authentic unity draws from the rich diversities which make it up: in this sense it is like a family, which is all the more united when each of its members is free to be fully himself or herself.  I consider Europe as a family of peoples who will sense the closeness of the institutions of the Union when these latter are able wisely to combine the desired ideal of unity with the diversity proper to each people, cherishing particular traditions, acknowledging its past history and its roots, liberated from so many manipulations and phobias.  Affirming the centrality of the human person means, above all, allowing all to express freely their individuality and their creativity, both as individuals and as peoples.
            At the same time, the specific features of each one represent an authentic richness to the degree that they are placed at the service of all.  The proper configuration of the European Union must always be respected, based as it is on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity (There it is again, solidarity and subsidiarity together. You can't have one without the other.), so that mutual assistance can prevail and progress can be made on the basis of mutual trust.
            Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the European Parliament, within this dynamic of unity and particularity, yours is the responsibility of keeping democracy alive for the peoples of Europe.  It is no secret that a conception of unity seen as uniformity strikes at the vitality of the democratic system, weakening the rich, fruitful and constructive interplay of organizations and political parties.  This leads to the risk of living in a world of ideas, of mere words, of images, of sophistry… and to end up confusing the reality of democracy with a new political nominalism.  Keeping democracy alive in Europe requires avoiding the many globalizing tendencies to dilute reality: namely, angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism (A phrase straight from Benedict XVI), brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems lacking kindness, and intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom.
            Keeping democracies alive is a challenge in the present historic moment.  The true strength of our democracies – understood as expressions of the political will of the people – must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, (Yes, democracies can die, and they are already dying, thanks to the intervention of international corporations that control and manipulate them.) which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires.  This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today.
            To give Europe hope means more than simply acknowledging the centrality of the human person; it also implies nurturing the gifts of each man and woman.  It means investing in individuals and in those settings in which their talents are shaped and flourish.  The first area surely is that of education, beginning with the family, the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society.  The family, united, fruitful and indissoluble, possesses the elements fundamental for fostering hope in the future.  Without this solid basis, the future ends up being built on sand, with dire social consequences. (The family is under attack in Europe as it is in America. Marriage and children are no longer valued, and this is clearly evidenced in the priorities of government, particularly the EU.)  Then too, stressing the importance of the family not only helps to give direction and hope to new generations, but also to many of our elderly, who are often forced to live alone and are effectively abandoned because there is no longer the warmth of a family hearth able to accompany and support them. (The family alleviates great suffering in society. Failure to support the family, results only in increased suffering. However, supporting the family results in less suffering. Capish?)
            Alongside the family, there are the various educational institutes: schools and universities. Education cannot be limited to providing technical expertise alone.  Rather, it should encourage the more complex process of assisting the human person to grow in his or her totality.  Young people today are asking for a suitable and complete education which can enable them to look to the future with hope instead of disenchantment.  There is so much creative potential in Europe in the various fields of scientific research, some of which have yet to be fully explored.  We need only think, for example, of alternative sources of energy, the development of which will assist in the protection of the environment.
            Europe has always been in the vanguard of efforts to promote ecology.  Our earth needs constant concern and attention.  Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us.  This means, on the one hand, that nature is at our disposal, to enjoy and use properly.  Yet it also means that we are not its masters.  Stewards, but not masters. (This is a very Christian principle that some believers have forgotten. Pope Benedict XVI was very adamant about this.)  We need to love and respect nature, but “instead we are often guided by the pride of dominating, possessing, manipulating, exploiting; we do not ‘preserve’ the earth, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a freely-given gift to look after”.  Respect for the environment, however, means more than not destroying it; it also means using it for good purposes.  I am thinking above all of the agricultural sector, which provides sustenance and nourishment to our human family.  It is intolerable that millions of people around the world are dying of hunger while tons of food are discarded each day from our tables.  Respect for nature also calls for recognizing that man himself is a fundamental part of it. (Again, back to Benedict XVI. Environmental protection must be man centred. We can never preserve the environment at the expense of the poor.)  Along with an environmental ecology, there is also need of that human ecology which consists in respect for the person, which I have wanted to emphasize in addressing you today.
            The second area in which people’s talents flourish is labour.  The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions.  This implies, on the one hand, finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers; these are indispensable for their human development.  It also implies favouring a suitable social context geared not to the exploitation of persons, but to ensuring, precisely through labour, their ability to create a family and educate their children. (THUD! If the jobs we create cannot support a family, what are we doing?)
            Likewise, there needs to be a united response to the question of migration.  We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!  The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.  The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions. (American Christians need to remember this too. There are forces both in Europe and in America that enjoy the cheap exploited labour of illegal immigrants. Only by giving these people rights can we stop the exploitation and raise wages across the board.)  Europe will be able to confront the problems associated with immigration only if it is capable of clearly asserting its own cultural identity (which is Christian by the way) and enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of European citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants.  Only if it is capable of adopting fair, courageous and realistic policies which can assist the countries of origin in their own social and political development and in their efforts to resolve internal conflicts – the principal cause of this phenomenon – rather than adopting policies motivated by self-interest, which increase and feed such conflicts.  We need to take action against the causes and not only the effects.
Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
            Awareness of one’s own identity is also necessary for entering into a positive dialogue with the States which have asked to become part of the Union in the future. (Hello... Europe... You are Christian... remember?)  I am thinking especially of those in the Balkans, for which membership in the European Union could be a response to the desire for peace in a region which has suffered greatly from past conflicts.  Awareness of one’s own identity is also indispensable for relations with other neighbouring countries, particularly with those bordering the Mediterranean, many of which suffer from internal conflicts, the pressure of religious fundamentalism and the reality of global terrorism. (Hello... Europe... You cannot deal with Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, if you don't even know who you are.)
Upon you, as legislators, it is incumbent to protect and nurture Europe’s identity, (Yes, government leaders, the buck stops with you!) so that its citizens can experience renewed confidence in the institutions of the Union and in its underlying project of peace and friendship.  Knowing that “the more the power of men and women increases, the greater is individual and collective responsibility”, I encourage you to work to make Europe rediscover the best of itself. (In short, democracy, secularism and civil liberty are institutes incompatible with a society that is devoid of Christian morality. Get a clue folks!)
            An anonymous second-century author wrote that “Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body”.  (Christianity is your soul Europe! By purging yourself of religion, you have made yourselves soulless. It's no wonder the youth no longer trust you.)  The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory.  A two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity.  It is a history not free of conflicts and errors, but one constantly driven by the desire to work for the good of all.  We see this in the beauty of our cities, and even more in the beauty of the many works of charity and constructive cooperation throughout this continent.  This history, in large part, must still be written.  It is our present and our future.  It is our identity.  Europe urgently needs to recover its true features in order to grow, as its founders intended, in peace and harmony, since it is not yet free of conflicts. (And there it is, the core of his message. Europe is dead in the water, and this is the reason why. Recover your Christian identity, or you're sunk!)
            Dear Members of the European Parliament, the time has come to work together (By that he means the state and the Church as a team, working together, not fighting against each other.) in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values.  In building a Europe which courageously embraces its past and confidently looks to its future in order fully to experience the hope of its present.  The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well.  A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals.  A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman.  A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity! 
            Thank you!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mother of the Americas

Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops
by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816-1868)

The year is 1521 AD. The capital city of the Aztec empire falls to Spanish imperial forces, who have just conquered the Mesoamerican culture of the New World. This marks the end of the most advanced civilisation ever produced by the Amerindian (Native American) peoples. From this time forward, all Amerindian would fall under submission to European power. Conquered and humiliated, the Aztec people become second-class citizens in Spanish America. European settlers have no problem perpetuating this status quo. Millions of Aztec people are now living as strangers on their own continental soil. They've lost their sovereignty, power, homeland and in some cases even their freedom. Pride is all they have left, and daily this is subjected to the status quo of second-class citizenship. Orders from the king of Spain, and the pope himself, would eventually bring an end to these abuses. However, the Aztec people have every reason to hate the Spaniards, and everything they brought with them to the Americas -- including their religion. But less than 20 years later, virtually all of them simultaneously accept Jesus Christ and convert to Catholic Christianity by their own free will. The Spanish are left speechless, astonished by what just happened.


Why would an entire civilisation of people, who had been Pagans for thousands of years, and had every right to hate everything the Spanish settlers represented, suddenly and inexplicably embrace the Spaniards' religion as their own?

Saint Juan Diego
by Miguel Cabrera (1695–1768)
The answer is in a supernatural and miraculous visitation from heaven. In 1531 a "Lady from Heaven" appeared to a poor Christian Aztec named Juan Diego at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of Mexico City; she identified herself as the "Mother of the True God," instructed him to have the local bishop build a temple on the site, and as a sign she left an image of herself imprinted miraculously on his cloak (or 'tilma'). The tilma is a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay after 470 years, to the present day, and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.

The image appeared instantly and miraculously in front of many witnesses, some of them local dignitaries. The Lady instructed Juan to gather some roses from the site where she made her appearance to him. Since roses were out of season (it was December), this was to be a sign to the local bishop that the 'Lady from Heaven' had truly appeared to Juan Diego, and his story was true. He gathered the roses into his tilma and carried them to the local bishop who was meeting with some Spanish dignitaries at the time. As he dropped his garment to release the roses, the image of the Lady from Heaven miraculously and spontaneously appeared on the tilma. The bishop and his guests immediately fell to their knees in astonishment.

The Lady's only request was that a temple be erected on the hill where the apparition took place. The reason she gave for this was as follows: "I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows." As the bishop agreed to grant the request, he sent Juan home to his uncle who had been sick with a terminal disease. During the course of the Marian apparitions to Juan, she had promised him that his uncle would be healed, but he had not seen him for a long time. So when he returned to his village, the bishop sent escorts to go with him and record everything they saw. When they got there, they found Juan's uncle well and joyously celebrating his healing. It was then Juan learnt that on the very day the Lady promised Juan that his uncle would be healed, his uncle saw a vision of the Lady exactly as Juan had described to the bishop some time earlier. The two (Juan and his uncle) had not communicated during this whole time. Yet, their description of the Lady was exactly identical. The Lady told Juan's uncle that when he would go to see the bishop, to reveal to him what he had seen and to explain the miraculous manner in which he was healed, that she would properly be named the blessed Image, the ever-virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe.

Now why should the Virgin Mary, appearing to an Indian in 16th century Mexico, and speaking to him in his native language of Nahuatl, call herself “Guadalupe”, a Spanish name?

It is believed that the Lady used the Aztec Nahuatl word of coatlaxopeuh which is pronounced "Gwad-a-lup-eh." Coa meaning serpent, tla being the noun ending which can be interpreted as "the", while xopeuh means to crush or stamp out. So the Lady may have called herself "the one who crushes the serpent." We must remember that the Aztecs worshipped the serpent-god Quetzalcoatl, and annually offered at least 20,000 men, women and children in human sacrifice to their Pagan gods. In 1487, in a 4-day long ceremony for the dedication of a new temple in Tenochtitlan, some 80,000 captives were killed in human sacrifice. Certainly in this case, the Lady 'crushed' the serpent, because within a few years after her apparition to Juan Diego, nine million of these natives were converted to Christianity.

Modern infra-red studies of the image reveal unexplainable phenomena: The image was not painted, and the colour did not penetrate the fibres as would paint. Weaving with such irregular fibres also produced a rough surface which would have distorted any simple surface painting, yet the image one sees is clear and undistorted.

Original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe
photo by Joaquín Martínez Rosado
Most remarkable about this image is the recent scientific research done on the Lady’s eyes. Magnified studies reveal the startling image of reflections, as if they were frozen onto the image the moment it appeared to the bishop and his guests nearly five-hundred years ago. One of the first doctors to study the eyes was Dr. Javier Torroella Bueno, MDS, a prestigious ophthalmologist. In what is the first report on the eyes of the image issued by a physician, he certifies the presence of the triple reflection (Samson-Purkinje effect) characteristic of all live human eyes and states that the resulting images are located exactly where they are supposed to be according to such effect, and also that the distortion of the images agree with the curvature of the cornea. In both eyes, the largest and most obvious reflection is of a "bearded man," probably the bishop's translator who interpreted the exchange between the Spanish speaking bishop and the native speaking Juan Diego.

A new and fascinating kind of analysis of the eyes started in 1979, when Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann, Ph D, graduated from Cornell University, while working in IBM scanned at very high resolutions a very good photograph, taken from the original, of the face on the tilma. After filtering and processing the digitised images of the eyes to eliminate "noise" and enhance them, he made some astonishing discoveries: According to Dr. Tonsmann, from left to right we can see the Indian, Bishop Zumarraga, the translator, and Juan Diego showing the tilma.

The image of the Lady of Guadalupe has great symbolism. The Lady's image is surrounded by luminous light, standing on the moon, and the stars on her mantle reflect the description found in the Book of Revelation: "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1).

These are also symbols of divine victory over the pagan religion of the time. Sun rays were symbolic of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtle. Therefore, the Lady, standing before the rays, shows that she proclaims the true God who is greater than Huitzilopochtle and who eclipses his power.

She stands also on the moon. The moon represented night and darkness, and was associated with the god Tezcatlipoca. Here again, the Lady’s standing on the moon indicates divine triumph over evil.
Moreover, in Christian iconography, the crescent moon under the Lady’s feet also symbolises perpetual virginity and is connected with the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the Blessed Assumption.

The stars on her mantle indicate that she comes from Heaven, her dress is also modelled after that of an Aztec queen. Interestingly, some research attests that the stars on the mantle appear exactly as they would have in the sky before dawn on the Morning of December 12, 1531, when the vision appeared.

The face of the Lady, with its complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes, reflects the physiognomy of a Amerindian. Her eyes are also cast downward, showing humility and compassion. In Aztec iconography, a god looked straight ahead with wide open eyes; the picture here then shows that the Lady does not claim to be God, but only His messenger and loving mother. The Lady is supported by an angel, another symbol of royalty among Amerindian cultures.

Her clothing also has special significance. The rose colour of the Lady's dress has two interpretations, either as a symbol of the dawn of a new era, or as sign of martyrdom for the faith. A red dress is also interpreted as a symbol of virginity in eastern Christian iconography. The gold brooch under her neck represents sanctity. Finally the bow around her waist is another sign of virginity. However this bow has several other meanings in Amerindian culture: this bow was the nahui ollin, the flower of the sun, which was a symbol of plenitude, fecundity and new life. The high placement of the bow and the apparent swelling of the abdomen of the Lady have led many to conclude that she is pregnant in this image.

This image became a symbol of unity between European and Amerindian cultures in Central America. Both peoples could easily identify with it. As a result, virtually the entire Aztec empire (some nine million people in total), all of them Pagan, accepted Christ and converted to Catholic Christianity within a space of just a few years.

Today she remains the patron not only of Mexico, but of all the Americas, including Canada and the United States. She is the symbol of racial unity between the children of European settlers and American natives. She speaks to us only of the Lordship of her divine Son -- Jesus Christ -- and of his victory over the powers of hell. Through this image, the message is clear. The old ways of Pagan devotion to the false gods, must give way to true worship of the one true God. In this truth, all the American peoples (regardless of race and culture) will find unity and peace.

In today's modern world, she is also honoured by Catholics on both American continents as the patron of our hemisphere and the protector of all children -- especially the unborn. In particular, this image of our Blessed Mother has been closely associated with the Pro-Life movement, because of the modern similarity of surgical and chemical abortion to the human sacrifice of ancient Aztec society. The Aztecs sacrificed human beings to their gods, particularly the serpent god Quetzalcoatl, in the hope of gaining favour and prosperity. While modern Americans no longer worship Aztec idols, many do still sacrifice their unborn children to the "gods" of prosperity and convenience. Instead of counting children as a blessing from the Lord, regardless of the circumstances in which they were conceived, modern American culture views them as a burden and an obstacle to material happiness. This attitude can only be spawned by Satan -- the Biblical serpent depicted in Genesis 3 and Revelation 12. The pregnant image of Our Lady reminds us of the blessings of the unborn and identifies the sin of abortion for what it really is -- human sacrifice. The image of Our Lady is the Mother of all the Americas, and she is calling us to remember her unborn Son -- Jesus Christ -- as we work to defend the unborn here in the New World.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mary -- Conceived without Sin

The Immaculate Conception, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
painted AD 1767-1768
As the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8th) approaches, I thought it appropriate to explain the significance of this feast. This is probably the most misunderstood doctrine among non-Catholics. Even some Catholics don't understand it. To be clear, let's define it. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is a dogma, meaning that is is a required belief of all Catholics. In other words, if you don't believe in the Immaculate Conception, then technically speaking, you're not really Catholic. It is defined as the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was herself conceived without the stain of original sin.

Some Protestants contend that the doctrine is "unbiblical," that it "deifies Mary as a goddess," and "diminishes the role of Christ in the redemption of humanity." Such contention is unwarranted, and a little paranoid, as I'll demonstrate below.

The stain of original sin was defined by St. Augustine as the mark of sin inherited by all people from the time of their conception. This means that when the first humans (Adam and Eve) sinned against God, they did so before any of their children were born. Because of this, all children conceived after their sin (i.e. the whole human race), would inherent the stain of the sin they committed. The sin they committed was one of selfishness and rebellion against God. The stain of this sin penetrated all the way through their souls to the flesh itself -- staining it and corrupting it. Thus, all children born of their flesh would inherit this stain of original sin. Think of it as a hereditary trait. It is manifested in the form of pride, selfishness and rebellion. It creates in people the desire to commit various sins: lying, cheating, stealing, lust, rage, etc. It can be seen from the earliest ages of childhood. Every time a small child acts in a selfish way, or becomes rebellious toward his parents, he demonstrates the stain of original sin in his own mind and body. God designed human beings to be totally selfless, giving, and obedient creatures. But this does not describe the human race today. That's because the stain of original sin, inherited from our first parents (Adam and Eve), has twisted and corrupting what God has created. Instead of being selfless, we are selfish. Instead of being giving, we are greedy. Instead of being obedient, we are rebellious. Such is the nature of our fallen human race. Now many Protestants think of original sin as a type of depravity -- moral corruption or innate wickedness -- as if people are "evil" at their core. Catholics tend to see original sin more as deprivation than depravity -- meaning that original sin deprives human beings of what they need to be holy. The desire to be loving and selfless is there, but the deprivation of original sin makes that impossible to achieve on our own.

God cannot tolerate sin, and it must be dealt with. Before mankind can be restored to God, we must first be freed of the original sin that stains and deprives us. This is the reason why God sent Jesus Christ (God made flesh) into the world. His sacrificial death on the cross frees us from all sin, including original sin. But in order for this sacrifice to be atoning for the human race, it must come from a member of the human race. Only a perfect and spotless human being can undo the damage done by our first parents. A perfect duplicate (or copy) of a human being wouldn't be enough. This spotless sacrifice must be a direct descendant of the sinful human race, and he must be divine himself, so that he may atone for all human sins, not just the first one. Protestant Christians understand this concept very well, and teach it in their churches. They know that Jesus must atone for all the sins of the world, and they know he is fully human as well as fully divine. In this sense, Protestants are very "Catholic" in their thinking. What they often fail to consider is that the flesh of Jesus Christ must be truly descended from the sinful human race in order for Jesus to be truly "one of us." If God created a whole new body in Mary's womb from "the dust of the earth" so to speak, essentially a copy of humanity, totally separate from any sinful human genetics, he really wouldn't be human at all. He would be a whole new race, entirely separate from the human race, and completely disconnected from the rest of humanity. He might look like us, but he wouldn't really be "one of us." In order for Jesus Christ to truly be "one of us," he would have to be genetically linked to the human race, and since Jesus only has one biological parent, there is only one person through whom that link can be made. That person is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When Jesus was miraculously conceived inside Mary's womb, at the time of the annunciation by the Angel Gabriel, his human genetic make-up came directly from her. True, his divine nature came directly from the Godhead, but his human nature came from Mary. So Mary is the human genetic link between Jesus Christ (God made flesh) and mankind. There is only one problem. If Mary's flesh was stained with original sin (like the rest of us), than Jesus would have inherited that same original sin nature. Yet the Scriptures clearly tell us that Jesus was without sin. So we have a theological problem. How could Jesus' flesh and blood be "without sin" if he inherited his human flesh and blood from Mary? Granted, he is God, so he can do whatever he wants, but he chose to do it a certain way that was fitting to his desire. Enter the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

From the earliest times, Christians have always believed that Mary was immaculate -- meaning perfect and without sin....
"He (Jesus) was the ark formed of incorruptible wood (Mary). For by this is signified that His tabernacle (body) was exempt from putridity and corruption (sin)." -- (Hippolytus, AD 235)  
"This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one." -- (Origen, AD 244) 
The idea here is that God miraculously preserved Mary from original sin from the time of her first existence (i.e. conception). The idea comes from the Holy Scripture in which the Angel Gabriel says to Mary: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you." -- (Luke 1:28) The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. It expresses a characteristic quality of Mary that is unique. The traditional translation, "full of grace," is better than the one found in many recent English versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of "highly favoured one." Mary was indeed a highly favoured daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that. The grace given to Mary is both permanent and unique. Kecharitomene is a perfect, passive, participle of the Greek word charitoo, meaning "to fill or endow with grace." Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates that Mary was given this grace in the past, but it has a continuing effect in the present. So, the grace Mary enjoyed did not begin at the angel’s visit. In fact, according to meaning the Greek word kecharitomene, it extended over her whole life, from conception onward. She was in a state of grace from the first moment of her existence (i.e. conception).

Now there is nothing particularly new about this concept. Biblically speaking, Mary wasn't the first person God fashioned in a perfect state of grace -- immaculate -- or without sin. The very first examples we have are Adam and Eve themselves. Both Adam and Eve were in a perfect state of grace at their "conception." Though the Scriptures tell us God fashioned them using a different method than normal procreation, it doesn't change the fact that they were made "without sin" (i.e. immaculate). So we could say the first immaculate conception happened in Eden when God formed the first man (Adam) and the first woman (Eve). In many ways, we could even consider the immaculate conception of Mary a "less dramatic miracle" (if we dare) because God still used the normal procreative processes when he fashioned her.

The question that arises is how? How would God fashion Mary "without sin" when both her parents were obviously stained by original sin, and they conceived her naturally? That is the mystery of the miracle. We can only conclude that God had already chosen Mary as Christ's mother, even from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her own mother. That being the case, the only reason why Mary was conceived without sin is because of Jesus Christ. Her body (flesh and blood) was redeemed retroactively, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that wouldn't happen until three decades later, because she was chosen to be the vessel through whom Jesus Christ (The Eternal Word) would enter this world as a human being.

Theologically this is very important, because Jesus received all of his human flesh and blood from Mary. That flesh and blood ought to be unspoiled and unstained by sin. Furthermore, modern science tells us that cells from the mother and child do exchange between them during pregnancy. Jesus and Mary literally shared flesh and blood, as all mothers and their babies do during normal human pregnancy. They were in a state of physical communion during that nine months of pregnancy. That means for Jesus to inherit and maintain a perfect body from his mother, without sin, his physical mother should be without sin as well. Likewise, if Mary was to be in a state of physical communion with her son Jesus, receiving his flesh and blood while he was in her womb, it would be necessary for her to be in a perfect state of grace -- immaculate. While God can do anything he wants, it is only fitting and proper for things to be done this way, and the Scriptures seem to support this with the angelic salutation "full of grace.”

So the doctrine of the immaculate conception does not "deify" Mary as many Protestants falsely believe. Nor does it diminish the role of Christ in the redemption of the human race. You can't even say it's "unbiblical" since the Greek word kecharitomene in Luke 1:28 practically defines the doctrine. Rather, it simply states that Mary was no different than the sinless Eve before the fall. Does this mean that Mary was better than Eve? No. Does this mean that Mary was greater or less than Eve? No. It means she was exactly the same as Eve physically, mentally and spiritually speaking. Does this mean that Mary could have sinned? YES! She most certainly could have followed the example of Eve and disobeyed the command of God. If she had, she would have suffered the same fate as Eve, and carried the stain of original sin herself. But the difference is that when the test was given, Mary chose to obey God whereas Eve did not. Eve's test was in the fruit of the tree. Mary's test was in the fruit of the womb. Eve failed her test, while Mary joyously passed hers. From the moment she responded to the angel, "Behold I am the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" -- (Luke 1:38), she accepted the Lord's will for her, even though she knew it would bring her hardship. Because of that, Mary's purpose was fulfilled. God preserved her without sin, to be like Eve, so she could become the "New Eve," and bring forth the "New Adam" (Romans 5:12-21) who is Christ the Lord.

So now, the question of "why?" arises. Why did Mary choose to obey God, while Eve chose to disobey? Any answer we give is pure speculation, of course, but I think a fair speculation would be the Old Covenant itself. Mary was a Jew. She was raised her whole life to follow the Jewish laws. Tradition tells us she was educated as a child in the Jerusalem Temple, where she served as a consecrated virgin for the Lord. (Protoevangelium of James) Thus Mary had a grace that Eve was not given -- the Mosaic Law. Because of this, she had an understanding of God that was somewhat of a mystery to Eve. Beyond that, unlike Eve, Mary was able to personally witness the effects of original sin all around her. Eve learnt that lesson the hard way, having no prior experience with sin, she introduced original sin to the world with Adam her husband. Mary, in contrast, spent a lifetime toiling in the effects of that original sin, working for survival in a broken world filled with pain and suffering, even though she herself was sinless. This experience, combined with the Mosaic Law, certainly helped to give Mary the courage to say "yes" to a plan that would ultimately bring much more pain and suffering into her own life.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is rich in ancient Jewish symbolism. It is foreshadowed in the Old Testament with the Ark of the Covenant. Hebrews 9:4 tells us that the contents contained inside the Ark of the Covenant were; the stone tablets of the Law (the word of God), along with a jar of manna (bread from heaven) and Aaron's rod (a symbol of the holy priesthood).  All of these are images foreshadowing Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1-4,14), the Bread from Heaven (John 6:31-65) and our eternal High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).

Now the Ark of the Covenant was consecrated to God and considered holy. It was not to be touched by sinful man under penalty of death, and God himself had no problem exacting this penalty, even when a man touched it in an attempt to prevent it from falling (2nd Samuel 6:6-7; 1st Chronicles 13:9-10).  This Old Testament example is designed to illustrate that the ark, which carried the symbols of the Old Covenant, was just as holy as the Old Covenant itself.

Now as I said, the stone tablets, manna and rod were signs foreshadowing Jesus Christ. He is the New Covenant. Thus the "ark" that carried him in her womb is holy too, just as the ark that carried the symbols that foreshadowed him was holy. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant because she carried Jesus Christ in her womb. Jesus, who is the Word of God, the Bread of Life and our eternal High Priest, was carried for nine months inside the "ark" of Mary. She carried him in her arms and on her hip for another two years at least.  If the ark of the Old Covenant was holy, than surely this ark of the New Covenant is even holier.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception points more to Christ than Mary. Though Mary is the object of the doctrine, she is not the subject of it. The subject is Christ, and it is his perfectly sinless body that is being addressed. Through Mary, Jesus inherited the "flesh and blood" of mankind. He bore the genetic code of the fallen human race, yet he did so with one modification, the stain of original sin was removed. The flesh he inherited was immaculate. That immaculate flesh was the gift of his mother -- Mary -- who herself received it as a gift from God. So Jesus really and truly was descended from Adam and Eve through Mary. He really and truly was "one of us," having the same ancestors and genetic code that originated from them. God rehabilitated the original, immaculate nature of humanity in Mary, but her sinlessness didn't help anybody but herself. She was the only beneficiary of this filling of grace (kecharitomene). Mary's sinlessness doesn't save anybody else. It doesn't save me, and it doesn't save you. All God did with the immaculate conception was reset the clock, so to speak, to give one person another chance. For the sake of humanity, and revealing himself in the Law of Moses, God gave one more human being, schooled in that law, a chance to say "yes" for humanity. Her "yes" brought forth the Messiah who would fulfil the Law of Moses, and effectively save the rest of us. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, is a doctrine that points entirely to Jesus Christ. Without him, the Immaculate Conception of Mary makes no logical sense.

In following Jesus Christ, we all become "immaculate" upon our baptism. This is the promise that is given to us. Granted, our bodies (and minds) remain damaged by sin, but this is a temporary condition. Those who are faithful, and endure to the end, not only get to look forward to an afterlife in heaven, but also a future resurrection, in which our recreated bodied will be like those of Jesus and Mary -- perfect and immaculate. In this life, the Christian is privileged to experience an immaculate soul upon the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation. In the next life, however, Christians will be privileged to experience an immaculate body as well.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Monday, November 03, 2014

The Synod and the Ordinariates

Katherine of Aragon Denounced Before King Henry VIII and His Council
Painted by Laslett John Pott, AD 1880

After watching what happened at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome last month, I am now 100% convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the monsignor ordinaries, of the personal ordinariates for Anglicans, need to be given a place in the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family in October 2015. Why? I say this because their presence in the Catholic Church, indeed the reason for their existence as head of the ordinariates, and the very reason for the existence of the ordinariates themselves, is directly related to the modernist attack on the family.

Reunion with Rome has always been a goal for the anglo-catholic movement within Anglicanism. But actual corporate reunion with Rome never really happened until after the radical changes that occurred in the Anglican Communion between 1970 through 2010. It started out subtly, way back in 1930, with the acceptance of artificial contraception in the Anglican Communion. In time however, within a span of about 50 years, this subtle acceptance of childless-sex (sex without openness to the creation of children) exploded into a lax approach toward abortion, militant feminism and "irregular unions" of couples. Indeed, the Church of England herself, originally broke with Rome on the compromise that a man can annul his marriage with his wife (effectively divorce her), on whatever grounds he likes, so long as he's the king of course. It would be ridiculous to assume that Anglicans agreed with that notion on the whole, they didn't, but what could they do? He was the king! He does whatever he likes! Opposing him usually had undesirable consequences. Just ask Saint Thomas More. That however, was a long time ago. The connections of modern Anglicanism to this historical event are sparse, but they do exist. It is an internal struggle within English Christianity, that was in some times subtle, and in other times overt. In recent times however, this struggle has taken centre stage.

The source of the modernist attack on marriage and the family is not religious. It comes from the ideas of the secular world, which is at its heart anti-Christian. King Henry VIII didn't invent it. He succumbed to it. The Church of England did not formulate it. Rather, it tolerated it. Modern times are no different. The modern attack on the Christian family enters the Church through compromise. Christian denominations do not invent these things. Instead they cave into them. They succumb to them. That's what happened in the Anglican Communion, and it happened in many other Protestant denominations too. It's even beginning to happen in the more conservative Baptist and Pentecostal churches in America now. After what we just witnessed in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last October, it NEARLY happened in the Catholic Church too! It seems however, that in the Protestant world, Anglicanism is leading the charge into compromise, particularly in The Episcopal Church in the United States, which not only ordains female priests and bishops (an authority never granted by Christ), but also has no problem blessing the same-sex "marriages" of its members and those it ordains. The other Anglican jurisdictions (Australia, Canada and the Church of England) follow not too far behind. So with the American Anglican jurisdiction leading the way, it is only fitting that some American Episcopalians were the first to lead a pilgrimage of reconciliation back into the Catholic Church.

The Pastoral Provision, which lead to the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite within the Roman Catholic Church, was the prototype of what would eventually become the personal ordinariates for Anglicans worldwide (The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross). During the 1980s through 1990s, many Episcopalian priests were reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church. Some of them were ordained Catholic priests under the Pastoral Provision created by Saint John Paul II. When we listen to them, and learn of their conversion, we hear two things. First, they weren't necessarily running away from something (liberal attitudes within Anglicanism) as they were running toward something. It wasn't about running away from female priests and bishops, or liberal attitudes toward sex, or even modernity in worship styles. That did play a big role, but if that's all they were doing, they could have much more easily joined one of the breakaway Anglican bodies, such as the Anglican Church in North America or the Traditional Anglican Communion. No. They chose a much more difficult path, because they believed in something. In addition to the sacraments, authority of the pope, and the catholicity of the Christian faith, they also believed in the Catholic vision of marriage and the family. Many of these Episcopalian priests, who were married themselves, understood the importance of this primary Christian teaching. The family is the domestic church, and it's the duty of the local church (parish), particular church (diocese) and universal Church (Catholic) to protect it, as well as support it. Marriage is the glue that holds the domestic church (the family) together, and when the glue is watered down through compromise, the domestic church (family) breaks apart. This has drastic negative repercussions on the local church, particular church, and universal Church. As married clergy, they saw the big picture on a very personal level. So they moved to reconcile with the largest Church in the world that holds to that same vision -- the Catholic Church. Second, they were fulfilling their Anglican destiny. The deepest desire of the anglo-catholic movement within Anglicanism is reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church, the Church from which Anglicanism originally came 500 years ago. Yet they wanted to do this as Anglicans. They wanted to be united to Rome, but not absorbed by her, so that they could bring with them not only the liturgy of their Anglican patrimony, but their experiences as well. I'm speaking of 500 years-worth of experience in the Protestant world, living as Protestants, among other Protestant churches. I'm speaking of the important lessons they learnt, the difficulties they overcame, and the sensibility of finding that middle-ground between the Catholic and Protestant ethos. There is something invaluable that former Anglicans have to bring to the table in the Catholic Church's discussions on the family. Who better to exemplify the relation between the Church and the family than a married priest? This is a man who has one foot in each world, and lives it sacramentally every day of his life. Surely the Catholic Church wants to hear from such men. Surely Rome is interested. Surely, the pope will invite them to come, share, and be part of the process. I have no doubt he will.

Beneath the vestments, and within the collar, stand men who's very existence in the Catholic Church is built on this primary question. What is marriage and family in the Christian experience? The separation of the Church of England from Rome was based on this very question. The growth and experience of Anglicanism in the Protestant world has this nagging question ringing in the background. The modern experience of Anglicanism, along with all of the innovations and scandals that have plagued it in recent decades, are based again on this very same question. What is marriage and family in the Christian experience? The creation of the Pastoral Provision within the Catholic Church, and later the personal ordinariates for Anglicans, are based on it as well. It wasn't just about preserving the Anglican Patrimony within the Catholic Church, though that was a huge part, but it was also about providing a space within the Catholic Church for those Anglicans that share in the traditional Catholic vision of marriage and family. This by extension includes the role of the sexes in the life of the Church, as well as other sexuality issues, authority within the Church, and matters related to family life. It's all related. Is it not? This is the core of what it means to be a Catholic within the personal ordinaraites for Anglicans. It is the very reason for our existence. It is the culmination of 500 years of experience: schism, trial, persecution, endurance, patience and finally reconciliation. It's not just about sacred language and beautiful liturgy, through that is a part of it, but it's more than that. It's about what's behind that language and liturgy itself. It's about the history of how it came to be, and why it came to be. It's about who we are as Christians, and what it means to be married and family. Beyond the liturgy, beyond the language, beyond the patrimony, this is perhaps the greatest gift the Anglican ordinariates have to offer to the Catholic Church! It is simply the Catholic Church's own teaching handed back to her; drenched in the blood of English martyrs, assaulted through the ages, defended in the face of church leaders who opposed it, realised fully under the social collapse of Western civilisation, persecuted in modern times, and finally becoming a major cause behind full reconciliation with the Catholic Church. The English schism began over a dispute about marriage, and in the fullness of time, the Anglican ordinariates were created as a resolution to this dispute. Yes, it's all connected!

My wife an I came into the Catholic Church in the year 2000, after a brief journey through Anglicanism. For us, the Canterbury Trail leads into the Roman Road. Prior to this we were Evangelicals. We were also childless. For us, marriage was not clearly defined by our Evangelical experience. We knew it was God's command, and that it was right, but we didn't fully understand why. Our journey through Anglicanism threw this question into our faces. The very meaning of marriage was questioned. I saw on the horizon the eventual consecration of homosexual bishops and the blessing of gay "weddings." I also witnessed the courage of those brave souls within The Episcopal Church, fighting valiantly to prevent the total collapse of Christian teaching on marriage and family. Yet I knew their courageous efforts would be in vain, because I could see the proverbial "writing on the wall." The national leadership of The Episcopal Church would follow the error of King Henry VIII and expand upon it. It was inevitable. We loved the traditions of Anglicanism. We loved the liturgy and the music. We loved everything about it. What we didn't love was the direction it was going on the issue of marriage and family. I remember the bold homilies taught by our Episcopalian priest. He had no problem staring down the evil of divorce, and had no hesitation calling it sin. He was a good priest, and he knew the true meaning of marriage and family. Yet he had little support in the way of the national leadership of The Episcopal Church. Through his teaching, and through the problems going on in The Episcopal Church at that time, we discovered the true meaning of marriage, and we discovered the greatest defender of that truth -- the Catholic Church. We joined the Catholic Church in the year 2000, and we subsequently began having children. In our conversion, our reconciliation with Rome, we were not just running away from liberal attitudes in The Episcopal Church. If that's all we wanted to do, we would have simply returned to Evangelicalism or joined an Anglican splinter group. Rather, we were running toward something. We were running toward the Church that tirelessly defended what we came to believe in. In the process we discovered the sacraments, the meaning of authority, and the universality of the Church. For us, this is all connected, and at the centre of it all is the meaning of marriage and family. This was our Anglican experience.

I do hope our ordinariates will take up the challenge the Extraordinary Synod on the Family has put before us. I'm sure they will, and I look forward to it. I also look forward to the many invigorating and passionate homilies soon to come from our ordinariate priests on this subject. There is no other group of priests so personally tried and tested on marriage and family. Likewise, if he hasn't already done so, I do hope the pope provides some kind of space for our monsignor ordinaries to fully participate in the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family in 2015. I appeal to the Holy Father for this. For I can think of no greater witness to the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage and family, having been tested in the trials of Anglicanism for half a millennium.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!