Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Benedict XVI responds to Mother Angelica's death

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2016 / 02:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Benedict XVI had a special response to Mother Angelica’s death falling on Easter Sunday: “it’s a gift.”
Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, told CNA about the Pope emeritus’ comment March 28.
Mother Angelica, an Ohio-born Poor Clare nun, founded EWTN Global Catholic Network in Alabama in 1981. It has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She passed away March 27, Easter Sunday, at the age of 92.
Her death prompted memorials, eulogies and remembrances from around the world.
In Rome, Monsignor Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, pledged that he would pray for the repose of her soul. Many other priests, religious, and laity in Rome are praying for her.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, said Mother Angelica was an “extraordinary woman, devout believer and media pioneer.”
“Mother Angelica reflected the Gospel commission to go forth and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19), and like the best evangelists, she used the communications tools of her time to make this happen,” he said March 28. “She displayed a unique capacity for mission and showed the world once again the vital contribution of women religious.”
Archbishop Kurtz praised Mother Angelica’s role in founding EWTN, Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and the Knights of the Holy Eucharist.
“Her work, begun in the cloister, reached across the globe. She was a convincing sign as to how even the humblest of beginnings can yield abundant fruit.”
Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, remembered the nun as “a shining example of courage and faith.”
“We mourn her loss, but her legacy lives on in EWTN and in the lives of all those she touched,” Arriaga said.
The Becket Fund is defending EWTN in its legal fight against the federal government’s requirement that its insurance coverage include drugs and procedures that violate Catholic faith and morals, including provision of drugs that can cause abortions. Refusal to comply could result in heavy fines. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June could impact the fate of Mother Angelica’s network.
Other Catholic bishops reflected on the nun’s life.
“In founding and growing EWTN into a major media resource for the global Church, she achieved things almost everyone thought impossible,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a past EWTN board member, said March 27. “She will be sorely missed, but she has left us an on-going gift in the men and women who continue the great service of the EWTN apostolate.”
Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary of Los Angeles, remembered Mother Angelica as “one of the most significant figures in the post-conciliar Catholic Church in America.” She was “the most watched and most effective Catholic evangelizer of the last fifty years.”
He said that during the 1980s and 90s, some of her critics mocked her as a “crude popularizer,” an “arch-conservative,” and a “culture warrior.”
“And yet while her critics have largely faded away, her impact and influence are uncontestable. Against all odds and expectations, she created an evangelical vehicle without equal in the history of the Catholic Church.”
Bishop Barron praised Mother Angelica for “her trust in God’s providence, her keen sense of the supernatural quality of religion, and her conviction that suffering is of salvific value.” He lauded her emphasis on prayer, liturgy, the sacraments, the saints, Eucharistic Adoration, and spiritual warfare.
“Mother endured tremendous suffering, both physical and psychological, most of her life, and she appreciated these trials as opportunities for spiritual growth,” he said.
The bishop granted that Mother Angelica would have recognized she was not perfect. Sometimes her comments were “insufficiently nuanced and balanced,” while her “hot temper” could lead her to characterize her opponents unfairly.
However, the bishop said Mother Angelica will have “a very honored place” in Catholic history.
Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, the diocese where EWTN is headquartered, said Mother Angelica was a pioneer in using the media as a force for good.
“Her greatest gift was her strong reverence for the Lord of the Holy Eucharist and devotion to the Blessed Mother,” he said March 28.
“Mother Angelica has left the Church and world a great legacy through her Eternal Word Television Network and family, which have brought a multitude of people closer to the Lord and his Church,” he continued.
“How providential that her death occurred on Easter Sunday, our celebration of Our Lord’s victory over sin, suffering and death!”

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Mother Who Mothered All

Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN, dies on Easter
Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2016 / 07:00 pm (EWTN News/CNA)

Mother Angelica. Credit: EWTN.
Mother Angelica
The Catholic Church in the United States has lost the Poor Clare nun who changed the face of Catholicism in the United States and around the world. Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.
“Mother has always and will always personify EWTN, the network that God asked her to found,” said EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Warsaw. “Her accomplishments and legacies in evangelization throughout the world are nothing short of miraculous and can only be attributed to divine Providence and her unwavering faithfulness to Our Lord.”
In 1981, Mother Angelica launched Eternal Word Television Network, which today transmits 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400. The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.
“Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who has served on EWTN’s board of governors since 1995. “She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. She had a lot of help, obviously, but that was part of her genius.”
“In passing to eternal life, Mother Angelica leaves behind a legacy of holiness and commitment to the New Evangelization that should inspire us all,” said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. “I was honored to know and be able to assist Mother Angelica during the early days of EWTN. Over the years, that relationship grew, and today the Knights of Columbus and EWTN partner regularly on important projects.”
“Mother Angelica was fearless because she had God on her side,” Anderson added. “She saw what he needed her to do, and she did it! She transformed the world of Catholic broadcasting and brought the Gospel to far corners of our world. That witness of faith was unmistakable to anyone who met and worked with her, and generations of Catholics have and will continue to be formed by her vision and her ‘Yes’ to God’s will.”
Early Life
Born Rita Rizzo on April 20, 1923, few would have predicted that the girl from a troubled family in Canton, Ohio, would go on to found not only two thriving religious orders, but also the world’s largest religious media network. Her life was one marked by many trials, but also by a profound “Yes” to whatever she felt God was asking of her.

“My parents divorced when I was 6 years old. That’s when hell began,” Mother Angelica said in a Register interview published in 2001. “My mother and I were desperate — moving from place to place, poor, hungry and barely surviving.”
The seeds of Mother’s vocation were in a healing she received when she was a teenager. She suffered from severe stomach pain when she and her mother went to visit Rhoda Wise, a Canton local to whom people had attributed miraculous healings. Wise gave Rita a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. After nine days of prayer, Rita’s pain disappeared: She had been healed.
“That was the day I became aware of God’s love for me and began to thirst for him,” said Mother Angelica. “All I wanted to do after my healing was give myself to Jesus.” And give herself to Jesus, she did.
On Aug. 15, 1944, at the age of 21, Rita entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Cleveland and took the name by which the world would come to know her — Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation.
A Promise to God
A life-changing incident then set in motion her abiding trust in Providence.
“In 1946, I was chosen as one of the founding sisters of a new monastery [Sancta Clara] in my hometown of Canton, Ohio,” Mother Angelica said in her 2001 interview with the Register. “One day in the 1950s, my work assignment was to scrub the floors in the monastery.”
“Unlike St. Thérèse, I used an electric scrubbing machine. In an instant, the machine went out of control. I lost my footing on the soapy floor and was thrown against the wall, back first.”
Two years later, the injury had worsened to the point Sister Mary Angelica could barely perform her duties. Hospitalized and awaiting surgery, she was told there was a 50/50 chance she’d never walk again.
“I was panic-stricken and made a bargain with God,” Mother recounted. “I promised if he would allow me to walk again that I would build him a monastery in the South. God kept his end, and through divine Providence, so did I.”
Soon after, she presented her desire to her superior. Confronted with two requests by two different nuns to start separate foundations, the abbess, Mother Veronica, who was Sister Mary Angelica’s novice mistress at the monastery in Cleveland, came up with a novel response.
Mother Veronica mailed two letters on the same day. One, on behalf of Sister Mary of the Cross, was mailed to the bishop of Saint Cloud, Minn.; the other, on behalf of Sister Mary Angelica, was mailed to Mobile-Birmingham, Ala., Archbishop Thomas Toolen. The first nun to receive a positive response from the bishop could proceed with her foundation; the other would abandon her idea. By Providence, Archbishop Toolen responded first, forever wedding Sister Angelica with Alabama.
On Feb. 3, 1961, after various medical problems and potential roadblocks, Rome granted Sister Mary Angelica permission for the Alabama foundation, Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, Ala. At the time, the Catholic population of the region was only 2 percent.
Media Apostolate
Mother Angelica was always a charismatic speaker. Her persuasive talks on the faith reached the ears of those in charge of radio and eventually television. In 1969, she began recording spiritual talks on audio for mass distribution. She recorded her first radio program in 1971, 10-minute programs for WBRC, according to her biography, Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo, host of EWTN’s The World Over.
Encouraged by her new friend and patron Nashville lawyer Bill Steltemeier, she recorded her first television programs seven years later — half-hour programs called Our Hermitage. It didn’t take long for her to warm to the idea of a faithful Catholic media apostolate.
While utilizing a secular studio to produce programs for a Christian cable television network one day in 1978, Mother Angelica heard that the station owned by the studio planned to air a program she felt was blasphemous.
“When I found out that the station was going to broadcast a blasphemous movie, I confronted the station manager and objected,” said Mother Angelica. “He ignored my complaint, so I told him I would go elsewhere to make my tapes. He told me, ‘You leave this station and you’re off television.’”
“I’ll build my own!” responded Mother Angelica.
“That decision was the catalyst for EWTN,” said Arroyo. “It led to the sisters’ suggestion to turn the garage into a television studio.”
Eternal Word Television Network was launched, fittingly, on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15, 1981. That garage became the first television studio and eventually became the control room — the nerve center — for EWTN’s global television programming.
Spiritual Legacy
Mother’s order, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, which began in Irondale with five nuns, moved and  expanded in 1999 to a monastery at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala. The Poor Clares also expanded to new houses in Texas and Arizona.
In November 2015, the Hanceville community was augmented with the arrival of nuns from St. Joseph Adoration Monastery of Charlotte, N.C., which was merged with Our Lady of the Angels, under the leadership of Mother Dolores Marie.
Mother Dolores, who, before becoming a nun, worked for EWTN, described Mother Angelica’s spiritual legacy as a constant striving to respond daily to God’s will.
“When Mother first had her stroke [in 2001], a lot of people said what a shame because she was a voice of the Catholic faith and for the truth,” said Mother Dolores. “But faith tells us that all these 14 years were not wasted at all. Probably her most profound work has gone on in this time, in her silence and suffering. I believe that to be true. Our Lord gave her this time to be truly cloistered in her bed and have that time of deep prayer and intercession and suffering as an offering for the Church and for the world, for our order, for the network, for many things. And ultimately for souls. We won’t know until eternity the value of these past years.”
Mother Marie Andre, one of five nuns who started the Phoenix house and is now the abbess of the Poor Clares’ Our Lady of Solitude Monastery, also recognized Mother’s total commitment to God’s plan.
“She was never fearful of failure, but only fearful of not following God’s will” she added.“Mother described it as a train with several cars. The ‘Yes’ was the engine, with everything else attached to that. If she hadn’t said ‘Yes,’ neither the foundations nor the network would have been founded.”
The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, like EWTN, continues to draw thousands of visitors annually.
“The first thing you detected with Mother was her spousal love of Jesus. She was always telling people, ‘Jesus loves you,’” said Father Joseph Mary Wolfe, one of the original members of the men’s religious community founded by Mother Angelica, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. Currently, there are 15 friars in the community. The friars are largely involved in EWTN’s apostolate.
Father Joseph summed up Mother’s spiritual legacy as marked by her love of Jesus, centered on the Eucharist, a great trust in divine Providence and a strong family spirit.

Mother Angelica’s remarkable trust in divine Providence is evidenced by founding the network without counting the cost, as well as by how she prepared for her live television shows.
“She never prepared for live shows,” said Father Joseph, who used to work for the network as an engineer. “She would just pray with the crew and then go on television and trust that God would give her the words to say.”
On an EWTN television special for her 90th birthday, Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa talked about Mother’s authenticity. “To me,” highlighted Father Pacwa, “one of the most important things about Mother Angelica is that what you saw on TV is what you knew off of the stage as well. There was no difference.”
Bishop Robert Baker of the Diocese of Birmingham offered yet another insight into Mother’s rare abilities over the phone on the TV special. “In a special way, I think George Weigel’s book Evangelical Catholicism summarizes what Mother Angelica was about,” Bishop Baker said. “She not only invented that term, many years ago, but put it into practice concretely — working so beautifully off the Scriptures and bringing the truth and the love and the life of the Gospel of Jesus to so many people, not only to our Catholic household of faith, but to many thousands of people who are not Catholic, in that beautiful way she had of touching lives, bringing so many people into the Catholic household of faith.”
Safeguarding the Church
Commentators say that aside from the foundation of the women’s and men’s religious orders, Mother Angelica also played a larger role. Some have asserted that she helped to safeguard the Church in the United States.
“Mother Angelica has been compared to a powerful medieval abbess. But the mass-media instrument she created has extended her influence for the Gospel far beyond that of any medieval abbess, and even beyond that of many of the last century’s most prominent American bishops,” said Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press. “Her long-term contribution is hard to assess, of course, but there is no doubt that Mother Angelica has helped root the Church in America more deeply in the Catholic Tradition; and at the same time, she has helped make the Church more innovative in how she communicates that tradition. All Catholics in America should thank God for Mother Angelica.”
“Mother Angelica has two important legacies,” said Arroyo. “To the wider world, she’s the first woman in the history of broadcast to found and lead a network for over 20 years. No one else has ever done that.”
“She was such a great support to Pope John Paul II and his successor,” added Arroyo. “Her active ministry ran parallel to Pope John Paul II’s, and she backed him up at a time when so many people were undermining Church authority, distorting the history and nature of the liturgy and popular devotion and confusing Catholic teaching. She showed that the commonsense approach of Catholics was right. She normalized the truth of the faith at a time when it was up for grabs.”
On Feb. 12, Pope Francis sent his greetings to Mother Angelica from aboard his papal plane to Cuba. “To Mother Angelica with my blessing, and I ask you to pray for me; I need it,” the Holy Father said. “God bless you, Mother Angelica.”
Retirement From Leadership
Mother Angelica retired from her leadership of EWTN in 2000. She suffered a stroke the following Christmas Eve. As a consequence, she spent the last years of her life mostly without the capacity for speech. Arroyo said that didn’t weaken her effectiveness.
“While she was unable to speak at length and sound off on the controversies and confusions of the day, what she did through prayer in her suffering was remarkable,” said Arroyo. “It’s certainly not our efforts that have kept EWTN on the air and allowed it to reach people in amazing ways. I attribute it all to the suffering of that one woman in Hanceville.”
Warsaw praised Mother Angelica as an inspiring model of Christian faith.
“The important thing, as Mother Angelica’s life and the lives so many of the saints have shown us, is to be faithful and to persevere,” he noted. “She once said, ‘You have been created by God and know Jesus for one reason: to witness to faith, hope and love before an unbelieving world.’”
“Mother Angelica’s life has been a life of faith; her prayer life and obedience to God are worthy of our imitation,” Warsaw continued. “Everything she did was an act of faith,” Archbishop Chaput agreed.
“She inspired other gifted people to join her in the work without compromising her own leadership and vision,” he said. “I admired her very much, not just as a talented leader and communicator, but as a friend and great woman religious of generosity, intellect and Catholic faith.”

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The War Goes On

In Obergefell v. Hodges, five un-elected Justices ignored the expressed will of an overwhelming majority of Americans, ruling that the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one women, which has existed for thousands of years, is unconstitutional. In the process the majority dispelled the concept “that we are a government of laws, not of men.”

In dissent, Justice Scalia (may he rest in peace) wrote that the majority opinion is “a threat to American democracy,”  and “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government…. A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

We must recall that of the 35 States that voted on the issue of same-sex “marriage”, 32 States chose to preserve the traditional definition of marriage.  In Obergefell, the Court appraised the laws of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  In each of these states, an overwhelming majority of voters voted in favor of traditional marriage: 88% in Tennessee, 74% in Kentucky, 62% in Ohio and 59% in Michigan.

Chief Justice Roberts, doing away with the majority’s legal basis for same–sex marriage, determined, “The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.”  He wrote, “The Constitution itself says nothing about marriage, and the Framers thereby entrusted the States with “[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife.”

Up until Obergefell, since the founding of our nation, and for the last approximately 2,000 years of Christianity, across all civilizations and cultures, the definition of marriage has been the same—the union of a man and a woman. Indeed, Christ said:
“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 19: 4-6)

Considerer the following. In 1857, the Supreme Court used the same substantive Due Process rationale as in Obergefell in its Dred Scott decision to protect the rights of slaveholders to own slaves as property.  As Chief Justice Roberts observed, “Dred Scott’s holding was overruled on the battlefields of the Civil War….”  
This decision, similar to the Courts creation of the constitutional right to abortion in Roe v Wade, will not end the debate. 

In the short term those who do not accept the ruling in Obergefell must ensure that federal and state laws are enacted that will protect the religious freedom of Christians to speak out and to practice their faith. They must also begin to counter the slick, meaningless slogans used by homosexual advocates such as “marriage equality.” 

Families are a sine qua non for the survival of our country. Nevertheless, people who want to have sex with members of the same sex will not be satisfied until every vestige of opposition to same-sex “marriage” is demolished.  Already a wave of persecution has begun against those opposed to their agenda.  Princeton law professor Robert George pointed to the increasing oppression of Christians who oppose a redefinition of marriage. He said that business owners, adoption agencies and workers in several states have already been threatened, pushed out of their industries, or forced to violate their consciences in order to operate their businesses. The Professor pointed out that many government employees have been subjected to disciplinary action and threatened with termination for expressing their biblical views on marriage. Unquestionably there will be efforts to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church as well as other Christian organizations that teach that marriage is the union of a man and woman. The list will continue on. Put on the armor of Christ.
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Benedict XVI: Still With Us

Recently in an interview with Fr. Jacques Servais, SJ, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI showed why he is one of the most perceptive minds on the planet. The Pope emphasized that both faith and the Church come from God, and are neither self-generating nor man-made: “The Church must introduce the individual Christian into an encounter with Jesus Christ and bring Christians into His presence in the sacrament.” 

He then focused on modern man's tendency to ignore any personal sin and need for justification, and to focus instead on the suffering in the world, believing that God has to justify himself for this suffering. The emeritus Pope reflected that God “simply cannot leave 'as is' the mass of evil that comes from the freedom that he himself has granted. Only He, coming to share in the world's suffering, can redeem the world.”

He concluded by again emphasizing that the true solution to evil is the love of Christ: “The counterweight to the dominion of evil can consist in the first place only in the divine-human love of Jesus Christ that is always greater than any possible power of evil. But it is necessary that we place ourselves inside this answer that God gives us through Jesus Christ,” he added, saying that receiving the sacrament of confession “certainly has an important role in this field.”

Receiving confession, he said, “means that we always allow ourselves to be molded and transformed by Christ and that we pass continuously from the side of him who destroys to the side of Him who saves.”

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Good Habits--Where Have they Gone?


One of my favorite memories in my earthly existence is one of observing from my pew prior to the 6:30 am Mass in 1958 the Sisters of Notre Dame DeNamur entering St. Eugene’s from the front-side entrance of the Church, special to them for access from their one-room convent in the adjoining school. It was winter, and the church was dimly-lit. They entered with awe-inspiring reverence, processing in their full habits, the beads of their waist-draped rosaries colliding gently, genuflecting and kneeling in silent preparation for the soon to occur reenactment in a non-bloody manner of Our Lord’s eternal sacrifice first offered on Calvary for our salvation, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The latent aroma of incense and the sight of fresh beeswax candles flickering on the altar, together with the sisters’ silent reverence and obvious practice of what they taught their first graders   –   the importance of reverence in the House of God   –   is an impression which not only convinced me that Jesus lived there (in the Tabernacle), but was also an actual grace which I believe, together with my baptismal grace and my Mom’s faith witness, was instrumental in eventually leading me back into the fullness of Catholic teaching.
Sisters of Notre Dame DeNamur
I do not know now what became of each Sister, but I am sure that whatever their relationship with Our Lord today, they had no idea their first-grader Tim was so inspired by the witness to the real Presence they gave that winter morn. And it has stayed with me.... And so the following:

A Nun Changes Her Habit

Catholic Digest, December, 1963
Used with Permission.

Love is my meaning
In the old one
and In the new one

Tomorrow I will put on the new Religious habit our Community as adopted. Tonight I stand for a minute to impress each familiar detail of the old habit on my mind before I make the change.

 I know that once I begin to remove the pins that hold the black veil in the double starched frame of muslin, I will never put it on again. I let my fingers grip the large beads of the rosary that hangs from my cincture, which I put on for so many mornings with the day’s first prayer still in my mouth: “I will arise and put on Jesus Christ the Crucified whom my soul loves and in whom my heart rejoices.” I will not wear this rosary again. I begin. Take off the veil; take off the stiff muslin wimple so well starched that it holds its rectangular frame for days of strenuous work. Take off the cincture. Lift the rosary from its hook. Take off the heavy black habit. I will never put it on again. I am not being sentimental; this is a moment of real pain. My throat constricts on every unspoken farewell. My eyes burn from tears I have not wept. This was the Religious habit that someone helped me put on as a sign that I would “put on Jesus Christ.” This was the habit that brought an alien weight to shoulders accustomed to shantung, crepe, and cotton pastels. This was the habit on which I dripped wax from the burning candle they put into my hands at the altar, “Let your light shine…”This was the habit in which I vowed “obedience, poverty, chastity-forever: This was the habit in which I have known penance, exquisite joy, and a grief as demanding as silence.

This was the habit that represented my Community to people all over the world who had been taught by my Sisters. It meant that two of us could stand, waiting for a bus on Piazza Venezia in Rome, and be greeted by the words, “You Sisters ever teach in Green Bay, Wisconsin?” We said No, we didn’t teach there but our Sisters do. And the man said, “I know. I was a poor kid then. They were kind to me. Nice to see you.” This habit meant “our” Community, not to us alone, but to others. It was not really important. What you wear is not what matters. What you are does matter, I know it. But still…

 I will put on a new, modified habit in response to John XXIII’s warm and gentle admonition to “open the windows” and Pius XII’s appeal to “conform to modern demands.” My sisters teach in the slums of New York City, struggle through sand and snowstorms in the Dakotas, move through the gracious tea ceremony in Japan, live in lonely mountain huts in Brazil, teach in the barrios of Argentina, crouch on the floor through hurricanes in Guam, do research in university radiation labs, instruct over TV, work—chiefly as teachers,--in 19 countries. “Conform to modern demands.” The obvious—of course, we accept it. Serene obedience came from more than 12,000 women when Reverend Mother and her council in General Chapter prescribed the new garb. But there is always reluctance to change.

What a young girl will wear with ease and grace at 20 is not exactly the dress for the woman of 40, 60, or 80. In Community life, the same garb is worn by everyone. I remember what an artist, working from the scaffolding at a large mural, told some of our Sisters who were working under his direction. (They were having private scaffolding problems of veil and sleeves and starch.) He said it was “after all, better to look medieval than ten years out of date”.

 But we transform the voluminous habit, veil, and starched muslin into a simple-styled black veil, close fitting coif, straight-lined habit. Of course, every woman knows that the more “simple” a dress is, the more careful the fitting, the sewing. We have about an hour after supper when everyone who can comes to the community room for talk, music, cards, or what you will. Now we sewed. Some cut material, some basted, some sewed on machines, some pressed, some fitted. It was funny and sad, wearying, companionable.

 In our Community the ages of the Sisters vary from the high 80’s to the low 20’s. The latter group felt the excitement. The older Sisters felt the pull of the years, the memories, the 50 or 60 years “in our old habit.” One evening, one of us was fitting the new headpiece on a Sister who is about 80. She is active, carrying a full day’s work from 5:15 in the morning till night prayer. Now she took off the old veil and watched the hands of the younger Sister adjust the new veil to her white coif. She looked lovely, and we all told her so. I think she heard us. But she just sat there with great tears rolling down her cheeks looking—not into the mirror—but into the decades of her own dedication.

I have fewer years on which to look. But I remember the hot August evening walking down the crowded New York City street toward a brownstone convent where I would take off my favorite dress, best shoes, and extravagant hat, and put on a postulant’s dress. My father stalked on ahead, not speaking. I kept talking to my sister about nothing at all, and voices rang in my ears “that this was all folly.”

Why was I doing it, anyway? That’s what my father wanted to know. He would not tell me I could not, or should not; he simply thought it was all wrong. I who could marry and bear children. Why, why, why? And I could hardly explain. It was less knowledge that I had than an intuition, confirmed by prayer, that this was the life God wanted for me. In this life I would love Him more purely; I would serve Him in poor children—the poorer, the better. But try to say that to my father.

 I think it was only years later when my father was close to death, and I was visiting him at home, that he understood. He tried to keep up his old delights. And I sat next to him 3 watching a World Series games on TV. Sleep drugged his attention, but in the lucid intervals he would hold my hand and smile and talk a bit. Somehow he knew that the hundreds of boys and girls that I had taught were his. I had not failed him. He had his grandchildren “like olive plants around his table.” (Psalm 128)
But that was later. The uncertainties of the night that I knelt in the convent chapel and the Sisters sang. “My soul doth magnify the Lord for He hath done great things to me,” has helped me to understand the uncertainties of the college girls I teach. They are so terribly concerned, so uncertain, that they try to be flippant and casual. I did, too.

Briefly, as a young Religious, I taught the poor whom I had wanted. After teaching seventh grade in a parish school all week, we rode on Sundays into the countryside and taught catechism after Mass in a small wooden church in the middle of a field.

Four enthusiastic persons who were the choir practiced in the loft; the men had a meeting on parish affairs in the back of the church; in the sanctuary, the priest tried to teach two boys how to be acolytes; to my right, a Sister taught the children, six to nine, fundamentals of Christian doctrine. I taught the others: ten years old and up. It was impossible. It was wonderful. In the aftermath of the depression, some of the children came from families that were truly poor. The priest who drove here on Sundays to offer Mass went to the homes during the week, bringing food, clothing—any kind of help that he could gather for them. He told us Mary Ellen’s story. She was six; the family was large. The day he stopped at their house, they were drinking – for soup—the water in which they had cooked the hot dogs.

Mary Ellen always waited for me after class. One morning she looked up and said, ”You’re so big.” I knelt down so that we could look at each other easily. She put her arms around my neck getting inside the veil and beyond the starched wimple. “Now,” she said, “Love me, love me.”
Wherever Mary Ellen is today, I am still loving her.
 Later I was assigned to teach in college. Walking across campus one day with a girl who was telling me about her plans for a June wedding at the Naval Academy, I suddenly stopped when she said to me, “Why did you do it, Sister?”

 “Do what?”

 “Become a nun.”
I was not better at explaining to her than I had been to my father. “Because I wanted to love God in his poor.” We kept on walking. When we separated for different classes, she said, “We are your poor, Sister.” Out of the mouth of the latest shade of lipstick, I learn much from college girls.
On one occasion when I went back to New York for an educational convention, my sister rode uptown with me on the subway. As I entered a car, a little girl jumped from her place beside her mother, stood in the aisle, and said, “Oh look at the bride,” She was right, too. You never stop wearing your wedding dress.

Tomorrow morning I will put on a new Religious habit. This is my cloister. In this habit I will be better able to serve.

In the 14th century, Juliana of Norwich, an anchoress, dictated a book called Revelations of Divine Love. It was what she had learned from intimacy with Christ. The book could be summed up in the words which she knew to be Christ’s: “Love is my meaning.”

When, under the new wisdom of present-day ecumenism, I was graciously invited to come to a Presbyterian group and tell them “What Is a Roman Catholic Sister,” I had a doubly enlightening experience. First, I tried to understand what the Presbyterians believed, and in learning that I became more grateful for the charity of their invitation. Second, I had to find a way to explain what a Sister is, and what she means to me. I found the answer in Juliana of Norwich and in Mary Ellen. Love is my meaning.”

A few years ago, hurrying between trains, my companion and I stopped in an automat for cup of coffee and a roll. We had almost finished when a poor workman moved to the table. “Get another cup of coffee, Sister,” I knew he needed that quarter as much as the laborer in Victoria station, London, who pressed three big pennies into my hand, and said, “God bless you, Sister.”
Love is the meaning.

 When I studied for a summer at the University of London, I lived in a nearby residence hall. There were almost 150 men and women in residence there, and gradually I understood that some of them had never spoken to a Sister, perhaps never wished to speak to one. But they were too kind not to fulfill the courtesies of every day, and toward the end of the session one of them said what many had intimated. “If there had been two of you, I don’t think I would have talked to you.” And a different follow up “Would you say that you are representative of what a Catholic Sister is?” I don’t know that answer. There are many Sisters who – in one way or another--would be more representative.
But I know something else. Love is my meaning. If this new habit makes it any easier for me to help anyone at all, then this is right for me. Amen.

I must go to sleep. The bell will ring at 5:15 tomorrow morning. We will begin again. Where are you now, Mary Ellen?

“Love me, love me.”

God, let me answer—now that I can spread my arms wide as a cross - I do. I will. 
Sr. Maura Eichner, SSND
"If this new habit makes it any easier for me to help anyone at all, then this is right for me. Amen." I guess it was not right for you, dear Sister.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Ruminations: Presidential Politics 2016

Let’ start with Mr. Trump, who has had multiple marriages and is an adulterer, of which he boasted in his first book. One is reminded of Our Lord’s words to the Samaritan woman: “Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” Trump has made much of his fortune on the back of human imperfections via gambling casinos. His Atlantic City casino featured a virtual strip club. (Keep in mind that one who spends thousands of dollars in casinos that one’s family needs commits a sin (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2413).

Trump’s business successes have been supplemented by shady business practices (many of which have led to lawsuits), problematic associations, loan defaults, the use of political contacts to get what he wants (as with the much-publicized attempt to have eminent domain entreated against a widow who wouldn’t sell her property so he could expand his Atlantic City casino), and a tendency to pressure those who get in his way. (Recall the lawsuit he filed against the Miss USA beauty pageant contestant who went public with evidence that the results were pre-determined).

Trump is not the only 2016 presidential candidate about whom serious character problems can be raised. The American public commonly views Hillary Clinton as dishonest, but she’s still the Democratic front runner. The Clinton shadiness is almost legendary. Think on her behavior in the Benghazi episode, the mounting evidence about abuse of her personal email accounts in apparent violation of espionage laws while Secretary of State, and the questions surrounding foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation and influence buying—all seem to have done little to wound her politically. It seems that for a substantial segment of the electorate, all this is irrelevant (though we await her possible indictment).

What of her opponent? Bernie Sanders, apart from his radical past,  has written about female rape fantasies; divorced his first wife; fathered a child out of wedlock by another woman with whom he cohabited; had an irregular work history before being elected to public office when nearly forty; has a reputation for profligacy; and is now married to a woman who identifies as a Catholic, but is divorced from the father of her children. That he has adhered to his socialism throughout his adult life perhaps says the most about his character.
It indicates a willful resistance to getting a sound intellectual formation, being a student of history, and properly shaping one’s views about the world. (The literature about the problems with socialism and the historical examples of its failures are plentiful--he should start with the encyclicals Quod Apostolici Muneris and Quadragesimo Anno).
To return to Donald Trump: many good people, including Catholics, have been attracted to the Trump campaign because he has taken up issues of legitimate concern: wage stagnation, grossly incompetent governance, wasteful governmental spending, the collapse of immigration law, inept foreign policy, stifling “political correctness”—etc. Trump, however, is distinctly unfit to be president. His entreaties to racial and ethnic fears are offensive to any true Catholic sensibility. He promised to order U.S. military personnel to torture terrorist suspects and to kill terrorists’ families — actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country. May we derive from his career thus far any confidence that he genuinely shares Catholic commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to the principle of subsidiarity and limited constitutional government?                    

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On Catechesis

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." It was thus that Jesus commanded his Apostles, giving them the Holy Spirit that they might explain with authority all that He had taught them. From the beginning, catechesis has always meant the Church’s effort to win disciples for Our Lord, to lead others to faith in Him as the Son of God that they might have the fullness of life in His name. It has also meant to teach these disciples to build up the Church, the Body of Christ, through teaching the Deposit of the Faith in an organic, systematic manner. Until Vatican II, catechesis was primarily doctrinal, consisting in instruction in the didache, the “Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles” before baptism. This doctrine was encapsulated in the Apostles Creed, the twelve fundamental doctrines which in the form of a profession of faith summarized Apostolic teaching. Over time, the fundamentals of the Faith came to be divided into Creed, Commandments, Sacraments and Prayer, the structure of our present-day Catechism.

I am one of the generational Catholics schooled in the Faith by the teaching of the Baltimore Catechism prior to Vatican II, which the postconciliar religious education establishment had branded as defective pedagogy; my quarrel with them is not over their contention concerning the style of teaching, but rather their view that the truths of the Catholic faith on the existence and nature of God, the creation and Fall, the Incarnation and Redemption, and the Church set down in the Baltimore Catechism were defective as well.  

Thus I find Msgr. Pope's recent article enlightening on mistakes made in Catechesis, all of which are discussed in my book....

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Today is Passion Sunday

Before 1970, the season of Lent had a slightly different structure than it does now. If you happen to look at a missal from back then, you'll notice that there are only four Sundays of Lent, followed by Passion Sunday, followed by Palm Sunday. In a current missal you will typically see that Palm Sunday is now labeled “Passion (Palm) Sunday”.
Why is this? What did a separate day signify before 1970?

According to Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year, “This Sunday is called Passion Sunday, because the Church begins, on this day, to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought”. Traditionally, all statues and crucifixes were veiled at the Vespers for Passion Sunday. The Introit, Gradual and Tract all are petitions to save the just from the persecution of the unjust and the Tract even foreshadows the scourging.

Our Gospel: 

A Reading From the Holy Gospel According to St. John (St. John 8. 46-59)

At that time Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews: Which of you shall convince Me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe Me? He that is of God heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God. The Jews therefore answered, and said to Him: Do not we say well, that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honor My Father, and you have dishonored Me. But I seek not My own glory: there is One that seeketh and judgeth. Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep My word, he shall not see death for ever. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that Thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets: and Thou sayest: If any man keep My word, he shall not taste death for ever. Art Thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost Thou make Thyself? Jesus answered: If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing: it is My Father that glorifieth Me, of whom you say that He is your God, and you have not known Him: but I know Him: and if I shall say that I know Him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know Him, and do keep His word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see My day: he saw it and was glad. The Jews therefore said to Him: Thou art not yet fifty years old: and hast Thou seen Abraham? Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. They took up stones therefore to cast at Him: but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple. 

Go Ye Therefore and Teach All Nations

From The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God:

So it is that because of the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, many Catholics do not practice their faith to the point of standing out from those who are ignorant of Christ. In approaching the vexing questions of modern society, too many Catholics take positions based on a liberal-conservative spectrum, rather than on the teachings of Jesus Christ which come to us via His church. Only genuine conversion, metanoia, the fruit of evangelization, will change this reality, allowing Catholics to experience the joy of faithful discipleship. No ideology may substitute for real personal conversion. In essence, metanoia means to question one’s own way of living, to start to see life through God’s eyes, and turn away from conformity to this world. Genuine conversion predisposes us not to see ourselves as the measure of all things, but to a humility that trusts ourselves to God’s love, which becomes the measure of all things. This was the central teaching of Vatican II: a renewed call to the faithful to strive after holiness, which means doing the Father’s will in all things, empowered by His grace.

To date, the finest Catholic evangelization organization I have witnessed is that of St. Paul. So it is with great anticipation that I intend to pray for the success of Synod 16 in the Archdiocese of Detroit:

Synod 16

Archbishop Vigneron speaking
“Synods are by God’s grace something powerful in the life of the Church, a way to grow together. Our community will come together in the midst of the Holy Spirit to discern where He seems to take us in order to re-evangelize ourselves and our culture. By listening to what the members say in the synod, I will be able to discern and ratify the work of the Holy Spirit, and it will be a time of great grace.”

Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit


Jesus Never Said Much About Sex?

Always when I defend the truth about sex, as I did at length in the third chapter of my book, dissenters will say, "but Jesus never said much about sex," this to give assent to the morality of sins of the flesh (especially sodomy). But it is not true:

Gospel for March 13th, 2016 - the Fifth Sunday of Lent
John 8:1-11
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?"This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."
Now what is adultery, if not a sexual sin? Our Lord had MUCH to say about sexual immorality, as does His Church, through which He teaches, as He promised.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Reviewed here.But, I recommend the erudite D. Armstrong:

“Young Messiah” Contains Christological Heresy

Christ in the House of His Parents (1850), by John Everett Millais (1829-1896) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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The Young Messiah is the latest “Bible movie” to appear. The problem is that it’s not (technically speaking) all that “biblical.”  We know very little about Jesus’ childhood, and so the film draws from extrabiblical sources of mostly dubious historical value. For background’s sake, it’s drawn from Anne Rice‘s 2005 novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. Rice has since left the Catholic Church and “organized religion” (I havewritten about the inadequacy of her reasoning in that respect).
As soon as I saw the first TV ad for this movie my immediate reaction was to be suspicious of it. I highly suspected that it would portray the young Jesus in a way that was contrary to the Catholic faith,  in terms of Jesus’ own self-consciousness andomniscience. I haven’t seen it, but this is indeed the case, according to several sources. One of my roles as a professional Catholic apologist is, of course, to be a sort of watchdog, and I write occasionally about religious films, from that standpoint — not from the purely artistic perspective (though I like art — especially music — as much as the next person).
Thus, following that distinction, I’m not asserting (I want to make it clear) that there is no good in it whatsoever or that it can’t possibly be a good movie qua movie, or move people, or even bring some into the faith or a deeper faith walk (God may use whatever and whomever He likes for that purpose); but it is so suspect that I would strongly recommend avoidance of it, lest someone receive wrong theology from it (more on that below).
I was happy to learn that the director consulted Christian theologians and didn’t include some aspects of Rice’s novel that were thought to be too controversial. Indeed,The Young Messiah has been glowingly reviewed by Cardinal Seán O’Malley,Archbishop Thomas Wenski, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
These distinguished men of the Church (I once met Abp. Chaput and am a great admirer of his) seem to see nothing wrong with the movie at all, which (with all due profound respect to the office of bishop, and with trembling) is disturbing to me and a curiosity. Steven D. Greydanus, “everyone’s” favorite Catholic movie critic, wrote analmost ecstatic review. He links to a second piece he wrote specifically about Jesus’ self-awareness. I must, again, respectfully disagree with his summary of the issue of Jesus’ human knowledge (Steven’s not a bishop, but I like his work a lot!). He stated that “when and how Jesus came to the conscious human knowledge of his identity that he did not have at conception is not a matter of clear scriptural teaching or defined Catholic dogma.”
This is untrue. There are several aspects of development of the human knowledge of Jesus (an extraordinarily complicated aspect of Christology) that are legitimate and perfectly orthodox. But not knowing Who He was (or growing into that awareness) is not one of these. Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma is a solid source for the determination of what the Church teaches on a doctrinal and dogmatic level. It will soon be updated, by the way. My good friend, Dr. Robert Fastiggi, of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, is involved in that. Dr. Ott provides the following dogmatic statements (his bolding):
Christ’s soul possessed the immediate vision of God from the first moment of its existence. (Sent. certa.)
. . . Christ’s soul possessed it in this world . . . from the Conception. . . . (p. 162)
Christ’s human knowledge was free from positive ignorance and from error. (Sent. certa.) Cf. D2184 et seq. (p. 165)
Brad Miner, in his review of The Young Messiah in The Catholic Thing (3-12-16) notes the serious theological errors in the film:
The Young Messiah  Christology is appalling.
The movie fails to grasp the truth about Christ’s knowledge of Himself. It suggests that this confused, questioning prodigy had to be taught that He is God. But were that the case, as it clearly is in the film, the boy would not be God. . . .
It is heresy to assert that His divinity was ever hidden from Jesus, that His awareness was developmental.
As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith put it in a 1966 document [Dave: 7-24-66] about “popular” errors following Vatican II:
A certain Christological humanism is twisted such that Christ is reduced to the condition of an ordinary man who, at a certain point, acquired a consciousness of his divinity as Son of God. . . .
As the closing music swells, Jesus addresses his Heavenly Father: “Someday you’ll tell me why I’m here.”
To be clear, Pius XII wrote in Mystici Corporis (1943) that there was never a question in our Lord’s mind about his identity, never a moment of doubt:
For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love.
Neil Madden’s review in Conservative Review (3-10-16) also takes note of these serious theological deficiencies:
“The Young Messiah” depicts Mary and Joseph as having more knowledge about Jesus’ true nature than He does. This is a problem. If Jesus always was God, begotten and not made, surely wouldn’t an omnipotent God know who he was as he was learning and growing in preparation for His mission here on Earth? . . .
Almost as troubling about the storyline are how many of its plot points seem to be adapted from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a heretical Gnostic text which portrays the child Jesus as an omnipotent menace, rather than the Lamb of God and perfect Savior of mankind. . . .
“The Young Messiah’s” rich cinematography and hopeful message undoubtedly have the power to uplift and inspire audiences, but the viewer must be willing to overlook the theological problems of the storyline itself in order to appreciate these qualities. Furthermore, if one wishes to use this film as an evangelization tool, he or she must be ready to clear up any confusion that will arise as a result of the story’s apocryphal speculation.
I wrote about these unfortunately widespread Christological errors in my paper, Jesus Had to Learn That He Was God?: drawn largely from my 2007 book, The One-Minute Apologist. Since I am a mere lay apologist, with no authority, and only the ability (hopefully) to persuade, I cited more authoritative sources (as is my constant custom, wherever possible). The late Fr. William G. Most was a superb Catholic theologian and thinker, of impeccable orthodoxy. I linked to his book, The Consciousness of Christ, which is available online. In chapter 4, he states:
The Epistle to the Hebrews (4:15) is often quoted as supporting a general charge of ignorance in Jesus, one which would, probably, include ignorance of His Messiahship and divinity: “We have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect (kath’ homoioteta) has been tempted(pepeirasmenon) as we are, yet without sinning.” So, the argument goes, since we are ignorant, He must have been ignorant. The basic flaw in this line of thought is that it ignores the literary genre of Hebrews, generally admitted to be homiletic. Within that genre, it is common to speak a bit loosely, and therefore it would be out of place to attempt precise deductions from mere implications. Further, who would know just where to draw the line, if we ignored the genre? Would that text quoted refer to merely external, physical sufferings? Did He have various kinds of bodily diseases like other humans? Mental illnesses? Did He even suffer from psychoses as many persons do? And so on. Common Catholic faith and piety have provided interpretative guidelines that critical exegesis ignores to its own detriment. We are attempting to remain within this tradition.
In his chapter 7, Fr. Most cites magisterial sources:
Only July 3, 1907, the Holy Office, in the Decree Lamentabili directed against the Modernists, a document approved by Pope St. Pius X, rejected the following propositions:
The natural sense of the Gospel texts cannot be reconciled with what our theologians teach about the consciousness and infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.
. . .Christ did not always have a consciousness of His messianic dignity.
Fr. Most concludes in chapter 8:
[R]eason concurs with what the documents of revelation and the Church have taught us, namely, that the human soul and mind of Jesus, from the first instant of its existence, enjoyed the Vision of God. In it Jesus could not help but see His own divinity, and have all knowledge available to Him, as it related to any matter to which He turned His attention. His consciousness was, therefore, fully in keeping with His two natures-human and divine-in one Divine Person.
See also a related article by Fr. Most: “An Ignorant Jesus?”
The most interesting and in-depth treatment of our topic that I cited in my post was “The Double Consciousness of Christ”, by Bertrand de Margerie, S. J. (Faith and Reason, Spring, 1987). Those who wish to truly have a “handle” on these issues are strongly urged to read this entire piece. But here is the “heart” of it:
The Human Consciousness of the Son of God Made Man
In Christ, as we know through Revelation and faith, there are two natures, one divine, the other human. That is, there are two principles of operation. Consequently, consciousness is immediately a quality of the nature, there are two consciousnesses in Christ: one divine, the other human.
However, all the actions of the human nature of Christ, all the actions posited by this human nature, are ultimately ascribed to the divine Person of the Logos acting through its human nature. (Let us not forget that the same Logos, Son of God, acts both as God, as possessing the divine nature, and as man, through his human nature.) So the acts of human consciousness of the Incarnate Son of God are always posited by his divine Person acting through his human nature. The divine Ego of the Son is always both the Subject and the ultimate object of these acts.
In other words, due to the unique Person of Christ which is divine, there is no human consciousness of Christ which would be the consciousness of a Person only human. When Jesus says I, his divine Person expresses in this human word and concept his human consciousness of a divine Self.
This means that the same and unique divine Ego knows himself divinely on one side, humanly on the other. It is not a human ego who would know itself humanly, as in our case. It is a divine Ego who knows Himself not only divinely, but also humanly.
How? On the ultimate basis of the New Testament, on the more proximate basis of traditional Catholic theology (recognizing since the thirteenth century, at least, the existence in Jesus, since his conception, of the act of Beatific Vision as affecting his human intelligence), several modern Catholic theologians have concluded that there is a connection between this act and His human consciousness of his divine Self. Without the permanent elevation of the human mind of Jesus to the act of Beatific vision, that is to say, to the face to face vision of His Eternal Father and of His own eternal and divine Ego, there is no possible explanation of His permanent consciousness of His divine identity.
. . . the general Biblical witness to the divinity of Jesus would oblige us to postulate for Him, ever since the creation and immediate assumption of His soul by the Logos, this beatific vision, this beatifying and immediate experience of His divine Person by his human intelligence–in other words, His human consciousness of His divine Ego.
. . . Nothing in the Gospel indicates in Jesus a becoming conscious of a previously unknown identity: neither the first human words recorded by Luke as pronounced by Jesus, in the Temple of Jerusalem, when He said to Mary: “I had to be in my Father’s house” (Lk 2:48-50, obviously meaning, not Joseph, but his Eternal Father), nor the first declaration of the eternal Father witnessing to His beloved Son during His baptism by John, in the Jordan. Jesus did not learn Who He was: He always knew it; as the Belgian Bishops wrote in 1967, “no one had to tell him who He was.”
If, therefore, someone says that Jesus developed in His awareness of His divinity (was ignorant and then obtained this knowledge), they are wrong: even if it is a bishop. They have somehow missed or misunderstood these magisterial teachings, somewhere along the line. It’s entirely possible for a bishop (even a pope, on very rare occasions) to be mistaken. Their individual opinions (many do not realize) are not magisterial: not even in summaries of a collective of bishops. They’re only magisterial when expressed in an ecumenical council (or at least a synod), in conjunction with the pope’s agreement and approval. The writers and priests whom I cite above are not magisterial, either, but they cite magisterial sources of teaching.
So, back to the film . . . It’s good to discuss and ponder the relationship of cinema to theology, faith, and heresy. No one should “get” their theology from movies, but the fact remains that millions who don’t know any better, will or could be led astray by heresy (which is present in this film). That’s the point. Drama has great power to influence and move a soul. In fact, Jesus of Nazareth in 1977 was instrumental in my devoting my life to Jesus as an evangelical Protestant in 1977. That was an orthodox movie. So was The Passion, which was the most moving and soul-wrenching experience I’ve ever had in a movie theater.
I’m all for the notion of cinema reaching folks who might not otherwise be interested in the gospel and Christianity. I’ve devoted my own life and career to reaching out in every way I can, and to make Catholicism more “accessible.” So I get that; I really do. I’ve been sharing the gospel for 35 years. But if the methods we use (including films) have erroneous theology, then I have a problem with that.  That raises the old red flag.
In my opinion, with error so rampant today, people don’t need anything that will lead them further astray. If a person knew his or her theology well, then they could discern the error and “spit out the bones” so to speak. But the problem is that many people (including even many who are otherwise orthodox) do not understand or fully grasp Jesus’ omniscience and those sorts of complicated things; and it’s because these are very complicated aspects of theology, dealing with the Two Natures of Christ.
It was the same with The Last Temptation of Christ. It worked, strictly viewed as a movie / piece of drama (I saw it), yet it contained blasphemy and heresy (the notion that Jesus was subject to concupiscence and internal temptation).
Movies should ideally be orthodox and not lead astray folks who watch them, completely unsuspecting that the source material is from dubious historical sources. Many (I dare say, most) would simply casually assume that the information that the movie drew from was in the Bible, when in fact much of it is not.
One can view it simply as a film; or one can take a larger view, as to how it may harm people spiritually, by giving them some bad and heretical theology. The less people know about theology, the more dangerous it is to see such a film. I argued in precisely the same way about Harry Potter (back when the theological debates were raging pro and con about that): that it could very well (with it’s explicit occultic elements) be dangerous for those less educated in Christianity, but not so for those who are (like my four children, who are Potter fanatics).
Millions will assume that all of this is in the Bible, and that concerns me. I’ve always held the view that movies purporting to be historical have a responsibility to be as accurate as possible, within the parameters of use of the usual “historical fiction” elements. I have had that discussion with a filmmaker friend of mine (a perfectly orthodox Catholic), who disagrees. But I am looking at it from the point of view of an amateur historian and apologist, whereas he obviously views it from the artistic perspective. He’s thinking about art. I’m thinking about theology, doctrine, and possible effects and influences on people. As an apologist, I have to deal with the aftermath and effects and whatever bad theology is in films like this, and spend time explaining how and why whatever errors are there, are wrong.
Bottom line, then: should a film that is otherwise moving, pleasing drama, edifying, wholesome, liked by many good Catholics, be promoted even if it has serious Christological heresy, because the good outweighs the bad, and it is a supposed “net gain” for the cause of evangelism and making Catholic theology and the history of our Lord Jesus come alive? I say no. The errors are so serious that, to me, they are dealbreakers.
Steven Greydanus panned The Last Temptation of Christ as blasphemous, yet he lovesthis movie. But he is mistaken as to it not containing error. That movie contained the falsehood and heresy that Jesus was subject to concupiscense, and hence, possible successful temptation from the devil. This one contains the falsehood and heresy that Jesus didn’t know Who He was at the age of seven.  That’s two serious Christological errors: both momentous and dangerous in their harmful influence. If one movie is panned and not recommended as a result, so should the other be.
I’d love to see these erroneous elements taken out of the movie (could there not be — as a “compromise” — two versions: a “Catholic” one, similar to the Catholic RSV, that changes just a few Bible passages?). Then we wouldn’t have to have this discussion at all. There would still be much speculation in the film about Jesus’ childhood, of course, but this could (if done properly) be acceptable within certain parameters (in the best sense of “historical fiction”), if it is minus the outright falsehood.
Just as we would never give someone a box of twelve chocolate-covered cherries that contained one that was poisonous, so we shouldn’t recommend a movie that is 90% “good” but contains 10% pernicious Christological heresy. “One bad apple . . .” The thing to do is get rid of the poison and the cancer and the bad apple and the heresy, because all spread, and all gravely harm.
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