The Church underwent severe growing pains from the time of Pope Saint Gregory´s death through the thirteenth century and beyond. The split with the Eastern Church and the festering boils of heresies such as Iconoclasm, Monotheietsm, and the worst fears of all - the bloody swath of Islam which slashed its way across the continent of southern Asia, Africa and inflitrated Europe. To stave off this deadly threat to Christianity, the Popes organized a series of Crusades to recoup the land conquered by Mohammed´s Saracens - especially the sacred ground where Christ walked in the Holy Land. For over 200 years these "Holy Wars" were staged, some successful under the leadership of such stalwart commanders as Richard the Lion-Hearted, Emperor Frederick and Saint Louis, King of France. Some, such as the third and sixth Crusades were most successful, but others were bungled and poorly planned. Yet the campaign held the Muslims at bay and opened the door for commerce to the East as well as filling the coffers of many merchants, who in turn contributed to the Church and which, in turn, allowed the Church to fund numerous missionary endeavors and build new monastries and churches. Of the Church´s 21 Ecumenical Councils held throughout her history, eight were convened during the tumultous period we will cover now.
Though the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself did not undergo any dramatic changes after Pope St. Gregory the Great had firmly established - by his papal authority - a set ritual and rubrics to accompany the reverence for this austere and supreme sacrifice, the Church did undergo many trials from 604 to 1300 AD.
As many saints and scholars have said down through the ages: "The Church is the Mass and the Mass is the Church," so therefore the history of the Roman Catholic Church has a significant role in how and why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the focal point of all praise and honor due the Blessed Trinity. From the Last Supper and the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary to this present day of the Novus Ordo, no one observance is more vital, more grace filled than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Through all the trials in her nearly 2000-year-old history, Holy Mother Church gained the necessary strength through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to persevere against all assaults, assured by her Founder Jesus Christ that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"(Matthew 16:18).
During the three hundred years after Pope St. Gregory, the Church was aided by many great saints who fostered the faith, converting thousands upon thousands of pagans. Notable among these saints were: Saint Boniface who brought the Word to countless Slavs in Germany; Saint Bathildes, queen of France who forbade the enslavement of Christians and Saint Omer who baptized thousands of Franks Saint Isidore, a Doctor of the Church; Saint Wulfran who converted countless Normans; Sts. Lambert and Hubert who converted Austria; Saint Ludger responsible for the manifold conversion of countless Saxons; Saint Willibrord who carried on the conversions begun by Saint Patrick in Ireland; and Saint Eligius, a prophet who foretold of what was to come in the next few decades.
They all played a significant role in the conversion to the true faith in the Celtic countries, then England, and later to the heathen tribes of Europe. The great Concil of Nicea (II) took place during this period - 787 in which the true doctrine of the Church was defined. This seventh Ecumenical Council helped exterminate the heresy called Iconoclasm which was fostered by the Greek emperor Leo in 727 when he forbade the veneration of all images as idolatry. This led to many mobs forcibly breaking into churches and destroying priceless works of Christian art and statues. In the year 867 a council of Eastern bishops was held resulting in the breakaway of the Eastern Orthodox Church from Rome. It was not so much doctrinal as political and material, desiring to have more power and jealous of Western influence. But the Church survived despite the great loss in numbers and in the same year Constantinople broke away, the Church of Rome had reached all the way to Kiev in Russia.
In 754 the Lombards invaded Italy, threatening the seat of Christianity. Pope Stephen II begged Pepin, the Frankish king to help. On defeating the Lombards, he deeded the conquered provinces to the Pope. Pepin´s successor Charlemagne, who ruled early in the ninth century, also gave the Popes title to more land and with the king of the Franks´ influence, the way was paved for the Latin Mass to spread throughout continental Europe and beyond.
Christ meant His Church to endure to the end of the world. It is to be indestructible and unchanging, - to possess indefectibility. Christ, God Himself, could scarcely have come, and with such incredible pain and labor have founded a Church which would die with the Apostles. He came to save all men. Those to live in future ages needed salvation as much as the people of Apostolic times.
Christ said too Peter: “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). By the “gates of hell”, He meant all the power of the devil - all kinds of attacks, physical violence as well as false teaching. Christ promises here that the Church would be assailed always, but never overcome. This promise of Our Lord has been proved for almost 2000 years by the facts of history. Not one of the persecutors of the Church has prevailed over it. On the contrary, many of them have come to a fearful end. There will always be Popes, bishops, and laity, to compose the Church; the truths taught by Our Lord will always be found in His Church.
3. After telling His Apostles to teach all nations, Christ said: “Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20). As the Apostles were not to live to the end of the world, Christ must have been addressing them as representatives of a perpetual Church.
The Apostles themselves understood Christ to mean that His Church should endure. After organizing Christian communities, they appointed successors in their place, to live after them and carry on the Church. The Apostles instructed these successors to ordain in turn other bishops and priests. All these acts were to assure the perpetuity of the Church.
Christ intended the Church to remain as He founded it, to preserve the whole of what He taught, and the shining marks which He gave it in the beginning. If the Church lost any of the qualities that God gave it, it could not be said to be indefectible, because it would not be the same institution. Indefectibility implies unchangeability. Our Lord promised to abide by the Church, to assist it, and to send the Holy Spirit to remain in it. God does not change: “Behold I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
International Year of Elderly "I am 67 and I thank the Holy Father for this letter full of hope and meditation," Cardinal James Francis Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said, when meeting with the press to publish the papal text.
"With this letter, the Holy Father makes his 'first hand,' authoritative and affectionate contribution on the real meaning of old age, to this International Year of the Elderly, proclaimed by the United Nations as a preamble to the Jubilee. The end of life is full of color, if seen in the unending light of Christ," the U.S. Cardinal said. It is not accidental, that "the Holy Father concludes with good wishes for life," giving the elderly "the necessary push to continue on the road of life with hope," Cardinal Stafford said.
Very Personal Testimony Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, explained that "the letter is striking testimony of the way the Pope lives and faces problems related to this stage of life. The Pope lives his old age with great naturalness. He is not afraid to show the limitations and frailty of age in front of everyone. He does nothing to camouflage them. When speaking to youth, he is not reluctant to admit "I am an old priest ... but service to the Gospel is not a matter of age." Thus, he continues to fulfill his mission as Peter's successor, looking far ahead, with the enthusiasm of the only incorruptible youth -- that of the spirit -- that this Pope maintains intact. Precisely in this letter, John Paul II speaks about this liberty of the spirit, describing it in relation to openness to the Absolute, as "the human spirit is always young, when it lives oriented to eternity."
Charm of Age "Every age has its charm and tasks," the Polish Archbishop acknowledged, and old age offers the human person a unique opportunity "to understand better the meaning of life and attain 'wisdom of heart,' without hiding the more difficult aspects of this stage of life." "Faced with the mystery of death, only faith and confident abandonment in God's hands can give serenity to old age."
Personal Touches "I find great peace in thinking of the time when the Lord will call me: from life to life!" the Pope says, who in no way detracts from the enjoyment of this life, "but ... places the future in the hands of divine goodness."
The Pope considers life on earth "beautiful, despite its limitations and sufferings, which ought to be lived to its very end." From the Christian perspective, "the twilight of life can be seen as a 'passage,' a bridge between one life and another, between the fragile and uncertain joy of this earth, to that fullness of joy that the Lord holds in store for his faithful servants."
John Paul II concludes his reflection with another personal revelation. "In this spirit, dear elderly brothers and sisters, as I encourage each of you to live with serenity the years that the Lord has granted you, I feel a spontaneous desire to share fully with you my own feelings at this point of my life, after more than twenty years of ministry on the throne of Peter and as we await the arrival, now imminent, of the Third Millennium. Despite the limitations brought on by age, I continue to enjoy life. For this I thank the Lord. It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the Kingdom of God!" ZE99102605
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to appoint his special envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello to oversee East Timor. De Mello, a Brazilian, previously oversaw Kosovo until a permanent administrator was appointed. The resolution also calls for a peacekeeping force of 9,000 to replace the current force now led by Australia.
"The international community must help the people of East Timor, first to rebuild their shattered lives and then to construct the institutions that they will need to become an independent state," said Deputy US Ambassador Peter Burleigh. "We emphasize the need for the United Nations to work in close consultation with the East Timorese."
Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. In August, the region held a Jakarta-proposed referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence. After the pro-independence results were revealed, pro-Indonesia militias, armed and backed by Indonesia's military, went on a rampage, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee the former Portuguese colony before peacekeepers moved in to restore peace.
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States, has told the Italian daily Avvenire that the halt in preparations is the result of "some signals coming from Iraq." The papal voyage-- originally scheduled for December of this year-- has been in doubt since September 29, when an official Iraqi government news service carried a stinging criticism of the Pope, signed by several leading Iraqi intellectuals. The criticism was taken as an indication of the government's viewpoint. In its October 26 report, based on the interview with Archbishop Tauran, Avvenire concludes that the trip may be in jeopardy because the Iraqi government is seeking to gain political advantage from the Pope's visit.
On October 21, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini had told reporters that he still considers the papal trip "probable." But in a sign of new difficulties in relations between the Holy See and the Baghdad government, Archbishop Tauran said that Cardinal Silvestrini was only voicing a "personal desire."
Archbishop Sandoval said as well during his homily that passivity in missionary zeal was being used by protestant missionaries to reach Catholic homes with more energy. He also criticized several mass media organizations that encouraged a culture opposed to evangelical values. This, said Cardinal Sandoval, must encourage Catholics to increase their witness of the Gospel and foster missionary activity.
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October 27, 1999 volume 10, no. 205 DAILY CATHOLIC