Peter's counterpart, Saint Paul took a different route to sanctity. Starting out as Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee who was a voracious persecutor of Christians, he was struck from his horse enroute to Damascus as God confronted him directly "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" To impress that this was truly the One, True God, He struck Saul blind, instructing this Jewish persecutor to go into the city of Damascus and wait. After three days God, through His angel, sent a Christian named Ananias to Paul who was still blind. Ananias had been assured by God that "this man is a chosen vessel to Me, to carry My Name among nations and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for My Name" (Acts 9: 15-16). Trusting in God, Ananias approached Saul saying, "Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me - Jesus, Who appeared to thee on thy journey - that thou mayest recover thy sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." As Acts 9: 17-19 relates, "there fell from his eyes something like scales and he recovered his sight, and arose and was baptized." It was then that Saul realized the folly of his ways and turned his fervor to persecute as Saul into a fire of evangelism as Paul in converting countless Jews and Gentiles to the One, True Faith. It was not an easy path for upon his conversion he did as the Lord instructed, first going to Arabia in preparation for the mission God had for him. Paul underwent numerous hardships including shipwreck, rejection, imprisonment and internal bickering but, by trusting in Christ and the Holy Spirit, this fiery saint persevered writing and proclaiming the majority of the epistles of the New Testament. His journeys ultimately brought him to Rome where he received his crown of martyrdom by beheading in 67 AD, shortly after Peter was crucified by the Romans.
If Catholic universities are to become leaders in the renewal of higher education, they must first have a strong sense of their own Catholic identity. This identity is not established once and for all by an institution's origins, but comes from its living within the Church today and always, speaking from the heart of the Church (Ex Corde Ecclesiae) to the contemporary world. The Catholic identity of a university should be evident in its curriculum, in its faculty, in student activities and in the quality of its community life. This is no infringement upon the university's nature as a true centre of learning, where the truth of the created order is fully respected, but also ultimately illuminated by the light of the new creation in Christ. The Catholic identity of a university necessarily includes the university's relationship to the local Church and its Bishop. It is sometimes said that a university that acknowledges a responsibility to any community or authority outside the relevant academic professional associations has lost both its independence and its integrity. But this is to detach freedom from its object, which is truth. Catholic universities understand that there is no contradiction between the free and vigorous pursuit of the truth and "a recognition of and an adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals" (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, n. 27).
7. In safeguarding the Catholic identity of Catholic institutions of higher education, Bishops have a special responsibility in relation to the work of theologians. If, as the whole Catholic tradition testifies, theology is to be done in and for the Church, then the question of theology's relationship to the teaching authority of the Church is not extrinsic - something imposed from outside - but rather intrinsic to theology as an ecclesial science. Theology itself is accountable to those to whom Christ has given responsibility for overseeing the ecclesial community and its stability in the truth. As the discussion on these questions deepens in your country, it must be the bishops' aim to see that the terms used are genuinely ecclesial in character.
In addition, Bishops should take a personal interest in the work of university chaplaincies, not only in Catholic institutions but also in other colleges and universities where Catholic students are present. Campus ministry offers a notable opportunity to be close to young people at a significant time in their lives: "... the university chapel is called to be a vital centre for promoting the Christian renewal of culture, in respectful and frank dialogue, in a clear and well-grounded perspective (cf. 1 Peter 3: 15), in a witness which is open to questioning and capable of convincing" (Address to the European Congress of University Chaplains, 1 May 1998, n. 4). Young adults need the service of committed chaplains who can help them, intellectually and spiritually, to attain their full maturity in Christ.
8. Dear Brother Bishops: on the threshold of a new century and a new millennium, the Church continues to proclaim the capacity of human beings to know the truth and to grow into genuine freedom through their acceptance of that truth. In this respect, the Church is the defender of the moral insight on which your country was founded. Your Catholic schools are widely recognized as models for the renewal of American elementary and secondary education. You Catholic colleges and universities can be leaders in the renewal of American higher education. At a time when the relationship between freedom and moral truth is being debated on a host of issues at every level of society and government, Catholic scholars have the resources to contribute to an intellectual and moral renewal of American culture. As you work to strengthen Catholic education, and as you promote Catholic intellectual life in all its dimensions, may you enjoy the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. On the eve of the feast of Pentecost, I join you in invoking the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in the United States. With affection in the Lord, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, religious and laity of your Dioceses.
The fifth installment of this mega-part series treats the very early years of the Church and how a handful of apostles and disciples kept alive the Word and the Sacraments amidst a mounting campaign to persecute those who called themselves Christians. This campaign was led by the Pharisee Saul who became the great Apostle Paul and helped form the foundations of faith in these embryo years of the Church. Through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass they relived, just as we do today, in an unbloody manner, the Sacrifice on the Cross on which the Lamb offered Himself up for the redemption of all who believe in His words "This is My Body...This is My Blood." Jesus gave His followers the greatest gift He could leave - Himself Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Thanks to the grace of God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the perseverance of the early Christians, who shed their blood, the Church grew in holiness and numbers. This chapter highlights Paul's journeys and the break with Judaism in forming the foundations of this new faith.
There were persecutions both from outside and within. Vicious slander was spread that these Christians were cannibals - practicing human sacrifice.
Meanwhile many of the apostles had began to scatter abroad preaching the Word away from Jerusalem. Saints Philip, Peter and John were evangelizing in Samaria and other regions, all the while baptizing and celebrating the Eucharist with additional prayers that were being added to the liturgy over time. So possessed was Saul with destroying this new "cult" that he would do anything he could to bring them into bondage. Little did he know at the time that the only one in bondage was Saul himself. This realization hit home when, on his way to Damascus, he was struck by "a light from Heaven" (cf. Acts 9) and saw his soul as only God can, which was a forerunner of the great illumination - the "Warning" - which we will all soon encounter.
Through supernatural phenomena and the disciple Ananias, Saul became one of the greatest saints and crusaders for Christ this world has ever known. After convincing the Apostles that he was truly converted, he was sent first to Tarsus, then Antioch and to Cyprus where he became Paul. Though converted to Christianity, Paul maintained his Jewish teaching showing how Jesus had employed the Old Covenant to uphold the New Covenant. Through Paul's teaching, many Jews were transformed. Yet, upon returning to Jerusalem, Paul broke completely from the Jewish law when he said in Acts 13: 46-47, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first, but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord commanded us, 'I have set thee for a light to the Gentiles, to be a means of salvation to the very ends of the earth'."
Thus Paul made it evident there was no need to continue Jewish rites and liturgy to be a disciple of Jesus. In addition, in Jewish law women were not allowed to participate in worship in the synagogue, where in the New Sacrifice there was no segregation save that they be baptized and be sincere in the state of grace. All were equal in the eyes of God (cf. Galatians 3: 27-28). Yet, in keeping with tradition and as Christ had passed on, only men were allowed to officiate as celebrant of the New Sacrifice.
There were also language differences and customs that had to be overcome. Though Jesus spoke, we believe, in Aramaic, most of those who the Apostles and disciples ministered to in the other regions outside Israel spoke Greek. In 1 Corinthians 14: 18-19, Paul makes clear it is vital to reach people in their native tongue so that they understand the Word. Thus, Greek first became the dialect of the New Sacrifice in order to reach more converts and communicate the purpose of their mission. Even to this day some remnants of the Hellenic language remain such as the Kyrie eleison in which we implore God's Mercy at the beginning of every Mass. Also, the Greek word for meal is agape, which means "love feast" and, with the institution of the Mass in Greek, became the memorial of the Last Supper. However, through abuse it became more of a social event rather than the purpose for which it was intended and was soon abolished. The earliest Christians received Jesus under both species of bread and wine. In addition, the Holy Viaticum was carried by deacons to the sick, infirm and those who could not be present at the Mass for legitimate reasons. Many Christians were permitted to have the Blessed Sacrament reside in their homes under great care and protection and even to carry with them, reverently concealed, when they traveled.
Other practices were abrogated as the structure took permanent form. One reason for this was that each local Church community maintained their own traditios and practices and sometimes bolted when asked to blend with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
One practice that remained steady in the early years was the Didache which was a treatise in two parts called the "Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles" written between 65 to 80 AD by Paul, but many attribute its fulfillment to the Second Century. Whenever it came to be, it seemed to be a manual for those missionary disciples who were ministering to believers. Because it was a prayerful groundwork for the celebration of the Eucharist, many perceived it as a manual for the Mass - the first missal, if you will. The Didache was divided into two parts, the first being a moral treatise and the second disciplinary, keying on the administration and ministry of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. It was not only highly regarded by the early Fathers of the Church, but also provided insight into how the early Church was governed and the liturgy practiced and perceived as an initiation rite to be highly guarded from unbelievers.
Even among the Gentiles there were differences regarding the direction the Church should go. Just as there is today, so also in the early days there were arguments over liturgical aspects of the Mass. These controversies even threatened to split Christ's Church during the embryo stages...an element that still exists today in so many circles within and outside the Church.
But, as always in the Church, there is one leader - a shepherd. That first leader was of course, St. Peter, who was personally and indellibly appointed by Christ (cf. Matthew 16: 18-19). In tomorrow's issue we will parallel this same time period on Peter the First Pope.
Canon 899 states: "The celebration of the Eucharist is the action of Christ Himself and the Church; in it Christ the Lord, by the ministry of a priest, offers Himself, substantially present under the forms of bread and wine, to God the Father and gives Himself as spiritual food to the faithful who are associated with His offering. In the Eucharistic banquet the people of God are called together, with the bishop or, under his authority, a presbyter, presiding and acting in the person of Christ; and all the faithful present whether clergy or laity, participate together in their own way, according to the diversity of orders and liturgical roles. The celebration of the Eucharist is to be so arranged that all who take part receive from it the many fruits for which Christ the Lord instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice."
From what is stated above, it becomes evident that next to Christ, it is the priest who is the most important in dignity and office of all of the faithful participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Canon 900 says of him, "The minister, who in the person of Christ can confect the sacrament of the Eucharist, is solely a validly ordained priest. A priest who is not canonically impeded celebrates the Eucharist licitly observing the prescriptions of the following canons." By commentary, it is noted that while any priest may validly consecrate the sacrament, some priests may not do so licitly, such as those who have been deprived of the exercise of their order by a penalty or who have lost the clerical state.
There are two other Canons that speak of the priest as minister. Canon 909 states: "The priest is not to fail to make the required prayerful preparation for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, or the thanksgiving to God upon its completion." Canon 916 addressed the matter of grace sin as it states, "A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible." It should be clear here that a priest in mortal sin, under the conditions mentioned, celebrates validly and licitly and in no way does harm to the confection of the sacrament.
Next installment: The absolute importance of the confection of the Sacrament.