This weekend, with Ecumenical Sunday on tap, the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday and Tuesday the gobal kickoff of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity kicked off by Pope John Paul II opening the fourth and final door at St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls with a special ecumenical service where religious leaders from many other Christian faiths will be in attendance, it's time to take note of what is necessary in the long process of seeking unity with our Christian brethren. It doesn't mean selling the farm, but it doesn't mean hogging it either. While so many make claim to Christ, the Roman Catholic Church is the only one which can trace its roots directly to Him. Yet we must win our brethren over with love and understanding. For today's editorial Every Christian claims Christ as their own, yet how many are willing to share Him? , see CATHOLIC PewPOINT
It is sometimes hard to fathom how readers who didn't vote in the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY poll held last year between Easter and Pentecost can be so insulted that their candidate didn't get listed and blame us profusely. It doesn't seem to matter that we repeated in every single profile in the introduction at the left of each profile that this list was chosen by over 23,000 votes on the internet. Since the time voting closed the number still surged to over 25,000. We only changed two people from that list and that came after research where we discovered they did not live their Faith and ergo, not eligible for the list. To protect them, we will not divulge the two people we bumped. The profiles we will take full responsibility for, but who was chosen came solely and exclusively from readers of the DailyCATHOLIC.
Many others have written us suggesting we put these profiles into a book so it can be shared with others, especially those who don't have the internet. We concur fully with that recommendation, but there's the little problem of expenses. If you know of an outlet who will print "Profiles of Encouragement - 100 influential Catholics of the Twentieth Century" we'd be grateful for any leads. Being strictly a non-profit ministry we unfortunately don't have a marketing department which can devote the time to researching and contacting publishers. If we did, we'd have two or three books that could be published in addition to the above. This includes our historical series "Barque of Peter" and "Where the Church is heading in the new millennium" on the state of the Church today. If anyone has any leads out there, we're all ears!
We're also all ears to our plethora of e-mails that flood in here. Keeping up with the massive correspondence responsibilities is no small task. Sometimes those ears get pretty red as in "fuming" when we see how some misinterpret the whole meaning of what we're about. One e-mailer was incensed that we should speak for the Church since we didn't stand outside each church in the United States and take this poll. Pretty difficult to do, wouldn't you say? Even the census bureau can't cover that kind of territory. Wouldn't it be great if the Church did have someone who could stand outside the door of each church in America and remind them what Catholicism stands for, what the Holy Father is saying and that we need to return reverence to our churches.
This coming Tuesday the Holy Father will open the fourth and final Holy Door for the Jubilee Year 2000. This one is at St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls and it is chosen to mark the beginning of the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which will culminate on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the following Tuesday. This year, more than past years, the concept of Christian unity will have more bearing since many leaders from non-Catholic Christian faiths will join the Pope for this ceremony; Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox, etc. This follows the Joint Declaration of Justification signed at Augsburg on October 31, 1999 by the President of the World Lutheran Federation Bishop Christian Krause and the Holy See's representative Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. The signing took place 482 years to the day that the rebellious Augustine monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints Cathedral in this German town.
Quite possibly the celebration over reconciling this major hurdle was misinterpreted by both sides. Many Catholics thought the Church had changed its stance, compromised, if you will, her teaching on sola Fides and sola Scriptura. Protestants thought that with this signing the Church would admit indulgences were wrong. The confusion that ensued shows there is much education yet required to attain unity between Christian faiths. First of all, as Cardinal Cassidy pointed out, the Church did not change anything but rather reinforced what was decreed at the Council of Trent, called by Pope Paul III and concluded by Pope Pius IV and carried out by Pope Saint Pius V. We repeat, the Church has not changed its stance on its Doctrine! Conversely, German Protestants were under the assumption that Rome would do away with indulgences. Many Catholics already thought the Church had shelved indulgences but the Vatican came out with the special Jubilee Indulgences and yes, Virginia, indulgences are very much alive. And they should be. The problems stem from indulgences in the time of Pope Alexander VI to Pope Leo X who were not only lax, especially the former, but also abused indulgences for their own temporal gains. In studying history and the Pontiffs of that time we can empathize with Luther's frustrations. But the facts are he went about it the wrong way. Many say what other recourse did he have and they have a point considering the depravity and corruption in Rome at that time. Consider also the politics of those times and we can see the distrust and protests that ensued. What we're saying is that the Roman Catholic Church was not completely right back then and the Holy Father has admitted as much, asking reconciliation for any wrongs done.
Reconciliation is one of the most difficult things to reconcile because it's easier to forgive than forget. And the latter is what propells nations to war just as the devastaing wars that ensued following the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation and the bitter clashes between the papal armies and Catholic countries against the Protestan emperor Charles V and his growing cache of anti-Catholic allies. Now, nearly 500 years later, there are still problems forgetting. For generations Protestants have been led to believe that Catholicism is the religion of the antichrist, that anything papist is akin to bondage. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is famous for his comment, " There aren't one in hundred who hate Catholicism, but there are thousands who hate what they 'think' is Catholicism."
Pope John Paul II is doing all he can in reconciling with all faiths without compromising the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. He has gone into the belly of many non-Catholic countries and has been received warmly. We couldn't have a better ambassador. But there is much work to be done on both sides of the coin - Catholic and non-Catholic. One way we can work is to share Christ with all and not resent men and women who are preaching Jesus' Word to others even if they are not Catholic. A good first step has been taken by the United States Bishops Conference who have recommended Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Christian martyr in recognizing men and women of all faiths who gave their life for Christ. Some critique his Baptist roots and questionable lifestyle but remember Saint Paul and Saint Augustine, to name just a few, led sinful lives before their conversion. Only God knows the heart. Who are we to judge? Look at the fruits he produced and how far understanding and love for African-Americans have come since his time.
On the Third Sunday of Easter the Holy Father will honor recommended Catholic and non-Catholic martyrs from around the world who were witnesses to faith as recommended by bishops from the universal Church. The Pope will do this in an appropriate setting - the Colisseum in Rome where thousands upon thousands of Christians gave their lives. They gave their lives because of love for Our Lord and all He taught and out of love for their persecutors and executioners early in the first millennium. Now in the embryo stage of the third millennium, we must recommit to their mindset and receive our brethren in love, not pomposity or a condemnation mode, yet at the same time we must firmly, but lovingly inform them of the truths of the Roman Catholic Church and stand tall in affirming it is the only way to salvation. It's not easy. After all, countless generations have been programmed to believe the opposite and convincing them takes the power of the Holy Spirit. That translates to us doing our part by praying and living our Faith. No better testament can be given than that. But it also means not attacking our misguided brethren but rather trying harder to understand where they are coming from and pray for their conversion to the One True Faith in God's time, not ours. Only He can make this possible by touching hearts and minds for the sake of souls. And so, during this upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we must do all we can in contributing our prayers and efforts. After all, before we can present ourselves before God, we must reconcile with our brother as Jesus counsels in Matthew 5: 23-24, "Therefore, if thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother has anything against thee, leave thy gift before the altar and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Yes, we have lots of work to do and very little time to do it in. Centuries of hurt feelings and resentments cannot be overcome in a few days. It takes a true and sincere heart on both sides and it begins with reconcilation for reconciliation is all about clarifying perceptions and clearing-up misconceptions. We have our perceptions of Who Jesus is and what He asks, and misconceptions on who He's addressing. Every Christian claims Christ as their own, yet how many are willing to share Him?
In her column this week, Sister Mary Lucy Astuto looks toward next week when we observe a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from January 18 through January 25th. She points out that unity can only be attained through love, not hate and prejudice. The latter is what has divided us for so many years and God doesn't want that. He wants all of us to be one with Him, reminding us of His two greatest commandments - to love God and love one another. For her column this weekend, Church Unity Week, go to GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER
During Holy Week Services every year, we pray in a very special way for Church Unity, though we pray for it many other times, as well.
At the Last Supper Jesus prayed: "That we all may be one, Father, as You and I are one!" This is the Will of God - that we be ONE.
When I was young, (there was such a time) I used to think that Church Unity would come about by all of the non-Catholics coming to believe as we Catholics believe. I used to think that the leaders of the various denominations would have to get together and "hash" out all of the theological differences between us and that all of the non-Catholics would have to come over "to our side."
But as I have grown older, I have come to believe that when the time comes for us to be "united" by the grace of God, that we will be united, first of all, not by theological agreements, but, first of all, we will be united IN OUR HEARTS. We human beings must first come to love each other as God wants us to love and as He loves us. When all peoples can come to that kind of love, then and only then, can hearts melt enough to be broadminded enough to hear the TRUTH and accept it.
I sometimes wonder how much we really want UNITY and really want division instead. For example, I know a man who is proud to be Catholic. He believes his Faith is the true one. (So do I!) But I heard him say once: "Those #@#%* Protestants!!!" Oh, my! As soon as I heard that, I thought: "This man is missing the whole point of Our Lord's prayer at the Last Supper: "That we all may be one!" With an attitude such as this man had, there will never be unity in God's family. That attitude reflected great pride and lack of love. It made me think of what Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees: "The prostitutes and harlots are getting into Heaven before you!"
There is no parent that I know of that wants their family to be divided. The heart of a mother or a father grieves deeply when they see division in their family.
God's family does so, as well. We belong to God's family and God does not want His children fighting, hating, resenting and mistreating each other.
Some day the scales will fall from our eyes and we shall see ourselves as God sees us. Perhaps it will be then that our knowledge of the reality of own sinfulness and need for God's mercy will enable us to recognize others as better than ourselves. For sure, no one gets to Heaven who does not love.
I intend to pray extra and FAST from January 18 to the 23 next week for the intention of Christian Unity. Will you join me???
God bless you!
Today we continue with our new series in the search to uncover the wonderful treasures of the Church contained in the great Deposit of Faith, concentrating on the Books of the New Testament today with the introduction to Paul's Letter to the Galatians. For the eighty-eighth installment, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH
The Epistle contains a defense of his person and of his doctrine. In indignation he asserts the Divine origin of his teaching and of his authority; he shows that justification is not through the Mosaic Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, Who was crucified and Who rose from the dead; he concludes that consequently the Mosiac Law was something transient and not permanent, that it is not an essential part of Christianity. Nor does he fail to insist on the necessity of the evangelical virtues, especially charity, the offspring of faith.
The subject-matter of the Epistle resembles closely that of the Epistle to the Romans, and also of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. The reason for this similarity is that these Epistles were written when the Apostle was more or less in the same frame of mind, indignant that his converts were being perverted by Pharisaic emissaries.
The Epistle was probably written at Ephesus about the year 54 A.D. It may, however, have been written somewhat later, from either Macedonia or Corinth. Its authenticity was admitted by all antiquity.
We continue with this special series introducing you to the Princes of the Church. Our one-hundred-forty-fifth red-hat we feature, in alphabetical order is 79 year-old Cardinal Paulos Tzadua, the Ethiopian-born Archbishop who has served as shepherd of Addis Ababa since 1977. He was elevated to the cardinalate during the Consistory of May 25, 1985 by Pope John Paul II. For more on Cardinal Paulos Tzadua, see COLLEGE OF CARDINALS COLLECTION
On March 1, 1973 Pope Paul IV named him Titular Bishop of Abila di Palestina and Auxiliary Bishop of Addis Ababa on March 1, 1973. He was ordained and installed on May 20th of the same year. Four years later he was promoted to acting Archbishop of Addis Ababa, the country's capital where he has lived through various bloody coups and a famine in 1985 when millions died. That same year Pope John Paul II recognized Archbishop Tzadua as cardinal material, including him in his Consistory of May 25, 1985. He received the titular church of the Most Holy Name of Mary along a Via Latina and became Ethiopia's first cardinal ever. He serves curial membership in the Congregation for Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. As Ethiopia's only cardinal and archbishop, Cardinal Tzadua oversees 368,000 Catholics in a country of nearly 55 million. Ethiopia has been evangelized since 340 A.D; yet an apostolic delegation was not set up until 1937. Cardinal Tzadua is expected to retire next year when he reaches 80 years and will no longer be eligible for the Sacred Conclave.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the words of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen have been known to launch a thousand images in one's mind, one of the ways this late luminary did so much to evangelize the faith. Because of the urgency of the times and because few there are today who possess the wisdom, simplicity and insight than the late Archbishop who touched millions, we are bringing you daily gems from his writings. The good bishop makes it so simple that we have dubbed this daily series: "SIMPLY SHEEN".
"A wealthy woman once got into Heaven where St. Peter pointed out the masion of her chauffeur. She said: 'If that is my chauffeur's home, think what mine will be.' St. Peter pointed out to her one of the more humble bungalows of Heaven saying: 'That's your home.' 'Oh,' she said, "I could never live there.' St. Peter answered: 'Sorry, Madam, but that is the best I could do with the materials you sent me."
Dear children! This is the time of grace. Little children, today in a special way with little Jesus, Whom I hold in my embrace, I am giving you the possibility to decide for peace.Through your 'yes' for peace and your decision for God, a new possibility for peace is opened. Only in this way, little children, this century will be for you a time of peace and well-being. Therefore, put little newborn Jesus in the first place in your life and He will lead you on the way of salvation. Thank you for having responded to my call.
For the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:
"Now Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who had heard John and had followed him. He found first his brother Simon and said to him, 'We have found the Messias (which interpreted is Christ).' And he led him to Jesus. But Jesus, looking upon him said, 'Thou art Simon, the son of John; thou shalt be called Cephas' (which interpreted is Peter)."