Our Lord intended that all who have been baptized are members of His Mystical Body as He affirmed in John 10: 14-16, “I am the good shepherd, and I know Mine and Mine know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for My sheep. And other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."
This also means Christ came for sinners and that Catholic sinners are still very much part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Unless one cuts himself off by heresy, apostasy, or excommunication, a Catholic sinner continues to be a member of the Church. Those in mortal sin are called “dead members”, for their soul dead in sin.
Indeed the Church is the Church of Saints; but the greatest part of its activities has to be for sinners. Perhaps we may say, without fear of contradiction, that most of the members of the Church are sinners. We all fall away from the ideal, at some time, or other; then the Church calls, to bring us back.
Until we attain Heavenly bliss, there will always be the darkness of sin, the pain of evil. Christ Himself spoke of bad fish with the good, of cockle among the wheat Of the sheep in the fold, one wanders out. But Our Lord longs for the wanderer; let us help bring him back.
God gave Catholics the grace of their holy religion. But He also gave them their free will. And they are free to choose; whether to act in full accordance with His commands and counsels, or whether to practice only a part, or whether to violate those commands. The latter has been the case with such "cafeteria" Catholic groups as We Are church and Call To Action. There is a wide gap between belief and practice; it is that gap that finds more division among Catholics, trying to lure the practical Catholics and nominal Catholics, the latter of which look for every out or change they can to justify their position. While their views may differ from orthodox Catholics, all who call themselves Catholics must believe in all the doctrines entrusted by Christ to His Church, and act in accordance with those doctrines, but these pertain to the field of faith and morals, not to other matters. Therefore, there is no question about “thinking and acting alike,” among more than a billion Catholics in the world. This is another reason there is so much variation in liturgy throughout the world today.
Each Catholic is an individual. He or she must believe that Jesus Christ is God; but with one of their Catholic friends they may differ concerning the best political party to join. They must not deny they Church, but they may argue with the parish priest about who should be one’s favorite Saints or whether shrubbery would look good or not in front of the church, not they cannot argue with the priest over matters of faith and morals, doctrine and dogma.
The Church is for no particular class, whether millionaries, or laborers, scientists, or children; the Church is classless, and for all classes, for all men. This is another reason for so many centuries, especially in this last of the millennium, the Church is seen as the "Church of the poor." Yet all cannot all act and think in one uniform pattern. The different classes among Catholis arise from causes apart from the Church, such as racial, cultural, and social causes. But anywhere and everywhere one can be a good Catholic. Good Catholics believe alike in this: that they are members of a divinely-established Church, the well-being of which it is their duty to further, by striving to attain the perfection indicated by Christ and promoted by the Sovereign Pontiff and the appointed successors of the Apostles - the bishops who have appointed the priests to care for us on a personal basis.
The Church presents us with the ideal, and provides the means to reach that ideal, inviting and urging us, feeding and shepherding the flock. But the Church does not guarantee salvation for all the faithful; because among its doctrines the freedom of the will is as fundamental as the divine authority of the Church. In other words, there is no guarantee of salvation unless man puts his mind, heart and soul into it! Christ has provided the Church as the best vehicle to obtain everlasting life.
The laity helps Christ and His Church in the care of souls by leading lives that will reflect credit on the Church, and by cooperating with their bishops and priests, especially through the Commandments of the Church and living the Gospel as well as remaining in the state of Sanctifying Grace. “Even so let your light shine before men, in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven” (Matthew 4:16).
A good Catholic makes serious efforts to save his or her soul. They keep the commandments of God and the Church. They receive the sacraments. They do all things prescribed by Christ through the Church. Therefore, they must know their religion. They must not be ignorant of Christian doctrine, for by it they learn how to save their soul. By it they learns what to believe, and what to do.
A good Catholic layperson obeys his or her ecclesiastical superiors in spiritual matters, and gives them due respect. They see in their lawful superiors Christ’s representatives on earth. They are loyal to the Church in word and deed. They do not criticise it, or make derogatory remarks about it. Even if their priests may have faults, they try their best not to bring them and the Church into contempt. If the faults are public and grievous, then they may bring the matter to the attention of lawful authority, but always with great prudence.
According to their means, the laity contributes towards the support of the Church. There is a serious obligation which too many Catholics neglect. The Church neds support as much as the civil government. It cannot subsist on air. Religion makes no progress where Catholics are so indifferent as to begrudge their material support. Good Catholics have before them a wide scope of activity if they wish to participate in the work of the Church; there are no barriers between man and God.
Should a Catholic layperson be moved by a spirit of reform, he or she need not cut themself off from the Church by founding a new sect. They should busy themselves within the Fold of the Church, taking active steps to attain the reform they desire without disrupting the teachings, doctrines and dogmas so solid for 2000 years. Recently over the past few decades numerous commendable lay organizations have risen that contribute much to the Church while not tearing it down as others do who would change fundamental doctrine. Rome has recognized these new lay groups and has not only held world conferences for them, but established a special Pontifical Council for the Laity headed by former Archbishop of Denver, Cardinal Francis J. Stafford.
Cardinal Rouco was born in Villalba, Spain on August 24, 1936 during the rebellion begun by Generalisimo Francisco Franco. Antonio grew up during Franco's reign but bypassed politics for the priesthood, attending minor and major seminary at Mondonedo seminary and being ordained a priest on March 28, 1959. After more studies and some pastoral work, he was assigned to the faculty of his seminary teaching fundamental Theology and Canon Law before becoming an adjunct professor at the University of Munich in Germany. He returned to Spain where he joined the faculty of the Pontifical University of Salamanca as an Ecclesiastical Law professor and then promoted to Vice-Rector of the University until 1976. Shortly after the Spanish dictator Franco had died and Juan Carlos became king, the first in decades, Pope Paul VI named him Titular Bishop of Gergis and Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago de Compostela at the age of only forty on September 17, 1976.
Eight years later on May 9, 1984 he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop as the new head of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela and ten years later Pope John Paul II transferred him to Spain's largest See - the Archdiocese of Madrid as its new shepherd where he continues in that post today. In the most recent Consistory of February 21, 1998 last year, the Holy Father made him a cardinal priest bestowing on Cardinal Rouco the titular church of St. Lawrence in Damaso. He has been active with membership in the Congregation of the Clergy and the Congregation for Catholic Education. Though he is older than some of his confreres in the latest Consistory, he represents that orthodox element set in place by John Paul II and a younger look to the College of Cardinals.
Birth of Saint Edward the Confessor, son of King Ethred III and his Norman wife Emma in Islip, England just after the turn of the second millennium. He would go on to become king of England and his piety would cause the citizenry to bestow the name "confessor" on this dedicated saint who died in London on January 5, 1066. He was canonized in Pope Alexander III in 1161.
Cardinal Alessandro Farnese is elected the 220th successor of Peter. He takes the name Pope Paul III and is coronated on Novermber 3rd. His pontificate would last 15 years and it was he who commissioned the master Michelangelo as the "lifetime architect" of St. Peter's Basilica. He created the climate of the "Counter Reformation" and gave official approval to the Society of Jesus as well as calling the 19th Ecumenical Council. He died on November 10, 1549.
Birth of Saint Francesco Caracciolo at Villa Santa Maria in Abruzzi, Italy under the secular name of Ascenio. He would go on to help found the Minor Clerks Regular as a missionary order dedicated to ministering to the sick in hospitals and prisons and die on June 1, 1608 at Agnone, Italy.
The Blessed Mother appears to visionaries Lucia, Francesco and Jacinta at the Cova in Fatima, Portugal for the final time. This was the occasion of the miracle of the sun where over 70,000 saw the sun spin toward them or as they refer to it - "the sun danced."
The Holy Father stated as well that "in the past, the prayer of the Rosary has helped to safeguard the integrity of the faith of the People of God." He also urged faithful to practice this prayer to sustain "the Church's crossing to the Third Millennium, so that she may continue to be 'sign and instrument of the intimate union with God and among all the human people."
Concluding his brief address before the Angelus prayer, the Pope raised his prayers to Blessed Mary, asking the Mother of God to help the Church "be the bridge that unites man with God and human beings among themselves."
The "Mitrokhin Dossier," containing documents copied from the secret files of the KGB after the downfall of the Soviet government, indicates that in the early 1980s the top priority of the KGB office in Rome was to penetrate the Vatican diplomatic service. At the time, the Kremlin feared that Western governments-- especially the United States-- had access to intelligence information from the Vatican. KGB agents were therefore directed to identify and recruit Vatican staff members who might have access to classified information, and could be persuaded to pass that information along to the KGB.
The KGB documents indicate that the Kremlin recognized that it would be difficult to corrupt Vatican officials. However, Soviet intelligence analysts judged that the effort would pay rich dividends, because Vatican diplomats are renowned for their ability to collect sensitive information from all over the world-- precisely because the Holy See has a deserved reputation for guarding secrets.
The Mitrokhin Dossier was compiled by a Western agent within the KGB apparatus, and transmitted secretly to England in 1992. Four years ago the Dossier was made available to the Italian government, and now the Italian prime minister has relayed the documents to a parliamentary charged with investigating the country's intelligence system.
The Dossier lists 261 Italians who are said to have cooperated-- in some cases unwittingly-- with the KGB intelligence effort. The list includes an Italian Franciscan monk, who is now deceased; a Ukrainian-rite Catholic priest; an Italian journalist assigned to the Vatican; and the head of a Roman press agency.
The head of the parliamentary committee which released the Mitrokhin Dossier warned that the listing was not definitive. "We have not yet verified the authenticity and accuracy of the information contained in the documents," he cautioned.
In a recent statement made last week, Father Gumpel clarified as well a series of speculations and misleading data from John Cornwell's book "Hitler's Pope." Regarding the work of the British journalist, Father Gumpel stressed the fact that the book -which contains several unfounded accusations towards Pope Pius XII- was "partial, biased and so unilateral that it makes one wonder what is the true reason that led this man to write this book."
Though written primarily for a popular audience, Pope Fiction enters the debate over the papacy with a depth and vigor that will likely garner the attention (and ire) of papal critics. The book brims with a formidable array of biblical, historical and theological facts. It offers fresh and intriguing insights into issues such as the persistent “Pope Joan” myth about an alleged ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man, was ordained a priest, and was eventually elected to the papacy.
“Pope Joan” is the subject of a recent best-selling book by the same title by Donna Woolfolk Cross, and is the subject of a soon to be released major motion picture, produced by Harry Ufland (producer of “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “One True Thing”). Madrid says he hopes Pope Fiction’s demolition of the Pope Joan myth "will be an antidote to the confusion about the papacy that will inevitably result when this movie is released."
In light of the recent release of Hitler’s Pope, John Cornwell’s polemical book which charges that Pope Pius XII was “silent” in the face of Hitler’s efforts to exterminate European Jews, Pope Fiction offers a much-needed dose of the salient facts, presented in a manner completely accessible to a popular audience.
In the book’s final, explosive chapter Madrid draws on the work of renowned scholars and journalists such as Dr. Peter Gumple, S.J. and Antonio Gaspari to present a comprehensive picture of Pope Pius XII’s vigorous behind-the-scenes role saving Jews during the Holocaust. What emerges is a compelling case in favor of the pontiff, demonstrating that, far from his being tacitly complicit in Hitler’s extermination campaign against the Jews (as critics allege), Pope Pius XII was one of the most indefatigable and effective protectors of the Jews during the Holocaust.
Other hot-button issues Madrid examines include: papal involvement in the Spanish Inquisition, the Galileo Affair, and the Crusades; the scriptural and patristic evidence surrounding Simon Peter’s role in the New Testament Church; the “scandal of bad popes”; the papacy’s track record on slavery; the assertion that an alleged papal title, “Vicarius Filii Dei,” equates with the 666 “Number of the Beast” mentioned in Revelation 13; and examples of popes who allegedly taught theological error. Special attention is given to biblical and historical arguments leveled against the papacy by Evangelical Protestants.
Fr. Ray Ryland, Ph.D., a former Protestant minister and now a Catholic priest and associate professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, praised Pope Fiction, saying it “catalogs and refutes those fictions charitably and completely. Had it been available when I first began to be drawn to the Catholic Church, my journey home would have been years shorter.”
For more on Madrid's newest book, see www.basilica.com.