He was born into a family of seven on March 5, 1904 in Freiburg, Germany in what is today West Germany. At the age of eighteen he followed in the footsteps of his older brother at the Jesuit seminary in 1922, studying Ignatian spirituality and philosophy in Austria until 1925 when he transferred to Germany for two years continuing his studies and teaching Latin. In 1929 he was sent to a Jesuit Major Seminary in Holland to complete his theological studies. On July 26, 1932 he became a priest in the Society of Jesus Company at the age of 28. After ordination he returned to Freiburg for graduate studies in philosophy under Martin Heidegger, completing his doctoral and postdoctoral studies in Theology at Innsbruck on December 19, 1936. From there the Company assigned him to teach dogmatics at Innsbruck, Austria. But when the Nazis forced the closure of the Theological facility in October 1939, he turned to writing in Vienna until after the war when he resumed teaching in 1945 after a year's pastoral duty in the Bavarian village of Mariakirchen. For three years he taught theology in Pullach before returning to Innsbruck in 1948 to teach Theology and Philosophy for sixteen years. It was here his ideas began to take hold with certain prelates in the Church. In 1964 he succeeded Romano Guardini in the Chair for Christianity and the Philosophy of Religion at Munich, Germany where he remained until 1967 when he was promoted to Professor of Dogmatic Theology at Munster. In 1969 he was appointed to the International Theological Commission which enabled him to implement many of the ideas he had fostered at Vatican II as peritus or expert at the Council. He was named Emeritus at Munich in 1971 for ten years and in 1981 honored as Emeritus at Innsbruck in 1981. These positions afforded him endless hours to write.
Rahner was a prolific writer, and is best known for his thought on the fundamental relationship between the order of nature and the order of grace. Profoundly aware of the problems presented by the secularism of the 20th century, he saw as his task to articulate a Christian response to the loss of the sense of the transcendence of God. Among his major works are Foundations of Christian Faith and The Practice of Faith. His mystical beliefs can be glimpsed in Prayers for a Lifetime and I Remember, a series of autobiographical interviews.
In his work Christmas: The Great Joy, he had this to say about love of God and neighbor, and the incarnation of Christ: "Up, then, and let us be kind at least on this day and this holy night. Perhaps we shall then see that it is not really so difficult, and then we shall also contrive to be so in the new year too. Let us be kind! We have no right to demand a better world if we do not begin the improvement ourselves in our own heart. Let us be kind today! After all we do not have to be malicious and bigger and defend ourselves greedily and anxiously against others. God has come. No one can take Him from us and He is everything!"
Other works included Encyclopedia of Theology, Theological Investigations, On the Theology of Death, Foundations of the Christian Faith,Hearers of the Word, and Meditations on the Sacraments. In all, he wrote nearly 4,000 books and essays throughout his life as a leading Roman Catholic theologian who influenced many. After the war he returned briefly to Innsbruck to teach and then was transferred to Munich and later Munster, Germany teaching theology at both universities.
Perhaps it was his exposure to academia and the liberal atmosphere there but he began to challenge more things. He introduced existential elements into Thomistic Theology which led to his embracing and promoting liberation theology which applied traditional religious thought to specific humanistic problems around the world, particularly in Latin America where it caught on in an alarming manner. Traditionalists took issue with him and his ideas which, to their chagrin, and in retrospect the entire Church, carried a lot of weight during all sessions of the Second Vatican Council. He is considered as having the most influential peritus at Vatican II. He had the ear of Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli who would become John XXIII and Cardinal Giovanni Montini who would succeed John as Pope Paul VI. Rahner introduced some strange things. To the liberals he was a savior, trying to push the Church out of a period of stalemate and bring her into the 20th century, relying less on ancient doctrine for her teachings. To Orthodox conservatives, he was a plague whose ideas ran roughshod over an ecumenical council where the Holy Spirit was shoved into the background. There is truth to both sides. Just looking back over the past thirty years we can see his policies have not worked. Whether that will be his legacy remains to be seen, but his ideas were so radical at times that some prelates challenged him as to heresy.
Rahner offered that the traditional monarch model of the papacy needed to be changed to allow individual bishops more power and a greater role in governing the Church. To this Pope John Paul II has turned away from Rahner's ideals by strengthening the papacy and establishing strict rules for Bishops' Conferences. Rahner also had his doubts about priests remaining celibate, feeling there would not be an interest to lead such a solitary, sacrificial life in the service of God. He blamed the great shortage of priests on those reasons, without realizing, which is uncanny considering his intelligence quotia, that the shortages were due to the lack of role models and evangelizing the faith as well as teaching the traditions of the Church. On this point, Rahner was wrong again for Orders that remain orthodox and loyal to Rome and have not abandoned the true teachings of the Church and emphasize prayer - they are flourishing, especially in third world countries. So much for his celibate argument.
The problems Rahner, for all his smarts, ran into was that he considered every facet of life subject to interpretation. That is the same trap another German fell into - Martin Luther. Rahner embraced, in this editor's opinion, the world too much. He even wrote an essay on the significance of the Beatles, the group who said they were more popular than God. Rahner felt one needed to experience everything in order to interpret God's Will. Funny, that wasn't how the saints felt; that wasn't how Saint Thomas Aquinas felt, or Saint Francis of Assisi, or nearly every other saint up to our present time with Padre Pio and Mother Teresa. And it's not how our present Holy Father feels. Rather he emphasizes turning away from worldly things, for we are basically playing with fire when we delve into the devil's den. Jesus said as much when He said that the way is narrow. It's pretty hard to have motivation to carry our cross and keep our eye on the Prize if our mind is cluttered with things not of God. Recall Our Lord's words in Matthew 16: 26, "For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?"
Yet at times Rahner was a contradiction, for just when you thought he would go off the deep end, he would write something profound and exhibit a deep spirituality such as in his work, Professions - A Look Back at 80 Years during his later days when he wrote, "I am a normal Catholic, priest and Jesuit, for whom Church membership is a necessary component of His loving, believing, hoping relationship with God Himself."
Shortly after writing that work he died in Innsbruck, Austria on March 30, 1984, his teachings and ideals already taking hold in countless parishes throughout the world. The test of time will be the judge of his merits and contributions. To this point this architect of the "spirit of Vatican II" is still considered a liberator by liberals and modernists, but his support is waning as slowly but surely they see the folly of straying too far from obedience to Rome. The difference between Rahner and Hans Kung is basically that Rahner never crossed the line as Kung did. For that Kung has been stripped of his office, Rahner given a funeral send-off with platitudes of greatness and a true visionary of this century. Whichever way you view this Jesuit theologian, it most probably depends on your own leanings and only time will tell; for as Christ says in Matthew 7: 20, "Therefore, by their fruits you will know them."
The format of the Communion has remained intact. However, one of the complaints we hear most often is the socializing that has crept into the ritual around the Lord’s Prayer and the Sign or Kiss of Peace. In our many travels and in the parishes we've been in over the years, some hold hands, others hold their hands out, others fold theirs. That’s fine. There are some who feel a need to grasp their neighbor’s hand in a spirit of community; others who feel the Our Father is a personal prayer and want to pray in that manner. Again, the same principles apply as in the previous paragraph; we should always respect how the other person chooses to worship, trying not to force our own habits on others. This also comes into play during the Kiss of Peace. In a few parishes this is invoked at the beginning of the Mass which seems more appropriate when you consider that we are asking God to reconcile us with our neighbor and Jesus is not yet present in the bread and wine; though He is present in the Tabernacle. Yet the liturgy calls for the Kiss of Peace at this point in the ritual. So be it. One of the problems that arises is how some go overboard during this time, turning it into one big social “hi there” whereas the true intention is to “love one another as I have loved you.”
The Kiss of Peace or Pax was the first instituted, as chronicled in the Catholic Encyclopedia, “as a mark of honor and reverence…as a more formal salute and a mark of brotherly affection of Christians, the Pax or “kiss of peace” was given at solemn Mass after the Agnus Dei. After kissing the altar, the celebrant placed his arms over the arms of the deacon and, while they bowed to each other, the celebrant said Pax tecum (“Peace be to you”) to which the deacon responded with Et cum spiritu tuo (“And with your spirit”). The Pax was then passed on similarly to other clerics present.”
Today, the Sign of Peace is given after the Our Father and this, “while not a kiss in the usual acceptance of the term (though some have considered this proper) is a return to the biblical ‘holy kiss’ of greeting.”
As mentioned earlier, unfortunately this has, in some churches, become a circus with people marching all over the church to shake hands and talk with their neighbor, even to the priest leaving the altar to come down among the congregation. Normally, at the beginning of Mass this wouldn't’be so bad, but at this point in the Mass Our Lord is physically present on the altar, and it seems like a slap in the face, so to speak, to leave Him alone and forgotten while everyone else socializes neglecting Him. In referencing the shape of the cross, it is a case of being too “horizontal” in prayer life and caring more on the human level, than in praying “vertically” to God first. We need to do both but vertically primarily for that represents our prayers to the Divinity; horizontal represents our actions which are ultimately governed by our relationship with God.
There is speculation at the upcoming November conference the National Conference of Catholic Bishops will move this outward sign of greeting to either the beginning of the Mass or after the Gospel before the Offertory which would be much more appropriate. Recent indications are that the bishops are leaning this way and there shouldn't be too much argument over this since it really belongs in the Liturgy of the Word. The formal Kiss of Peace would remain at solemn Mass but only in the Sanctuary itself with the celebrant and deacons as originally intended.
The Agnus Dei is the same from the early times, as is the Domine, non sum dignus - “Lord, I am not worthy… - which basically are the words the centurion uttered to Jesus in Matthew 8:8 and Luke 7:6. The difference is that it used to be said three times in honor of the Trinity. This brings up another point. So often these days "Great Amen," when sung before the Our Father, is repeated six times. Why? The same for the "Alleluia" before the Gospel. What ever happened to three times for the Trinity. It would seem six has seaped in and we all know what that number means. That is why this editor and many others only sing the first three and remain silent for the following three. It is just one of the many indicators of how the Mass has been watered down by various alterations not authorized by Vatican II that have been grandfathered in over the past three decades because of ICEL and other liturgical commissions.
While the priest still says “May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul for everlasting life. Amen”, the former (modified to “you” instead of “me”) was also what the priest said over each communicant, making the sign of the cross over each person with the host before placing it on their tongue from the time of Pope Saint Gregory the Great until the new directives of Vatican II. That was shortened to: “This is the Body of Christ” and “This is the Blood of Christ.” Condensing seems to be the norm in our fast paced society and only in the last few years has it been shortened even more to: “The Body of Christ”, “The Blood of Christ.” Let’s all pray they don’t make it any shorter! They've already tried to speed up this beautiful time of the Mass by littering the church with so many Eucharistic ministers so they can "get it over with" so they can spend more time on announcements and songs during and after Communion.
The Second Vatican Council’s directive of Eucharistic Ministers was actually a throwback to the early Church wherein people would gather up the loose crumbs from the sacred bread of flasks of the sacred wine and take them back home to distribute to family or friends who were not able to partake in the Holy Sacrifice. As the years passed this was abused and the proper reverence was not given to the Body and Blood of Christ. Over the past quarter of a century we can see the abuses mounting regarding this same thing as the distribution of the Holy Eucharist has become a “herd system”-“Speed ‘em up, get ‘em out!”
Holy Communion distributed in the hands has also been mishandled The proper reverence that this is truly the Body of Jesus has given way to a nonchalant manner that one accepts a cookie or a wafer, snapping it up and chewing it immediately. We have, for the most part, lost the devotion and reverence that Gregory established and handed down through the centuries and preserved even to the point that one did not eat or drink anything from midnight on, including water, so that one’s body would be “purified” to receive Our Lord and Savior in Holy Communion. There was so much reverence that we were taught not to let the Sacred Host touch our teeth but to let it dissolve on our tongue. There has been much controversy about receiving on the tongue and receiving in the hands and what God really desires. It goes without saying that to receive Our Lord worthily one has to be in the state of sanctifying grace. This has also been badly abused as Father Don Stefano Gobbi noted in one of his visits to the United States, “So many going to Communion, so few going to Confession!"” We need the Sacrament of Penanace to deter us from falling into sin and the more often we go (such as weekly, twice a month or monthly all of which Our Lady is asking us to do) the more we will build up a resistance to the temptations of sin. Likewise, the more often we attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion the more we are nourished with graces to sustain us and strengthen us.
In the next installment we shall cover part three of the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the Post Communion and dismissal or Ite Missa est.
If all the cardinals are present on the fifteenth day after the death of the Pope, then the conclave begins. If not all the cardinals are present, the conclave is postponed until the eighteenth day. Then the cardinals, after celebrating Holy Mass, gather in the Sistine Chapel, for the elections. And until they have made a choice, they remain in seclusion within a part of the Vatican, reserved for them.
Any male Catholic of whatever country or race, even a layman, may be elected Pope. Should a layman be chosen, he would have to be ordained priest and consecrated bishop, before he may assume the duties of his office. To be validly the Supreme Pontiff, the elected one is required to accept the office. The Pope is elected for life; however, if he wishes, he may resign, and a new Pope would then be elected.
The voting by the cardinals is done on specially-printed ballots. A two-thirds majority plus one is required to elect. Two ballots are taken every morning and evening until a selection is made. As long as no choice is made, the ballots are burned with damp straw; the heavy black smoke coming out from the chimney is a sign to the public usually assembled in the plaza outside that no decision has been reached. But when a candidate receives a two-thirds majority plus one, then he is elected, and the ballots are burned without damp straw. Light smoke issuing from the chimney notifies the eager public that they have a new Holy Father for white smoke curls up and the people in St. Peter's begin rejoicing.
Only cardinals are eligible to vote and only those who have not yet reached the age of eighty may participate. Once a prelate becomes 80 years-old he can no longer take an active role in the College of Cardinals and is therefore an honorary member with no voting privileges. During this last century there have been eight conclaves held beginning with Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto chosen on August 6, 1903 to succeed Pope Leo XIII whose pontificate lasted from 1878 to 1903. Sarto became Pope Pius X and later Saint Pius X. He was followed by Cardinal Francis Della Chiesa who became Pope Benedict XV on September 6, 1914. His successor was Cardinal Achille Ratti who chose the name Pope Pius XI on February 11, 1929. With his death ten years later Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, born in the shadows of the Vatican took the name Pope Pius XII. After a pontificate of nineteen years, Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncali was the surprise choice of the Sacred Conclave on October 28, 1959. He, of course, took the name John XXIII, the first John since 1334. After four years as Sovereign Pontiff, he died on June 3, 1963 during the historic Second Vatican Council he had convened. The College of Cardinals gathered in Rome and chose the Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Giovanni Montini as the 262nd successor of Peter who, on June 21, 1963 took the name Pope Paul VI, the first Paul since 1621. His pontificate lasted until August 6, 1978 when once again the Sacred Conclave convened. They chose the man called the "Smiling Pope" - 66 year-old Patriarch of Venice Cardinal Albino Luciani who, in honor of his two predecessors selected Pope John Paul I. But his pontificate was very short lived, lasting only 33 days before he mysteriously died on September 28, 1978. Within a two month period, the College of Cardinals huddled in the Sistine Chapel again and, in an unprecedented move elected the first non-Italian Pope since Pope Hadrian VI in 1523. He was, of course, Polish prelate Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who honored his predecessor on October 16, 1978 by choosing Pope John Paul II.
With all elections, the most important Personage is not any individual cardinal but the Holy Spirit Whose inspiration they rely on to choose the appropriate successor of Peter who will be the spiritual leader for over a billion Roman Catholics and the most trusted of world leaders.
Cardinal Giambattista Castagna is elected the 228th successor of Peter, chosen to succeed Pope Sixtus V. The Roman born nobleman would take the name Pope Urban VII and be one of the shortest reigning Popes in the history of the papacy, ruling for only 13 days for he died of malaria while preparing to align Church government with the Tridentine decrees. This virtuous and charitable Pope would leave all his wealth for works of charity.
Pope Benedict XV issues his 7th encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus on Saint Jerome.
Pope Pius XII ushers his 24th encyclical in the 12th year of his pontificate in honoring Mary and the importance of reciting the Rosary in Ingruentium malorum.