‘The activity of the Holy Spirit is a ceaseless energy affecting the individual members of the body of the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, even as He made that company the principal medium of His energy at the Day of Pentecost, and has been with the Church in abiding love ever since. The world is not left without the Holy Spirit, but in the world the Church is the sphere in which we have the right to expect the working of the Holy Spirit, and in the Church are groups, Religious Orders, congregations, and in such are individuals, and of such are we ourselves.
If we have a religious vocation, it means that the Holy Spirit has especially separated us from the world that we may be taught and given power to yield ourselves to the reception of and the propagation of the life of the Spirit. A religious will love silence and solitude, and will gladly accept humiliation and suffering, for he is continually learning how such things make him a more loyal disciple of the Holy Spirit. It is a travesty of the religious state to think of it as an asylum of repose to which disillusioned people may retire. It is a condition of intense spiritual development, wherein the subject becomes the client of God the Holy Ghost, separated by Him from the world to become a centre of spiritual life.
Again and again in the history of the Church the Holy Spirit has made religious vocations the weapons with which He warred against the enemies of the Church. St Benedict and St Francis are eminent examples of this. What is true of the religious is true of every soul in its own degree. Every soul that God has created has some part, however humble, to bear in the great scheme of the eternal purpose of God, and to fit and enable each soul for its own particular vocation is the work of the ceaseless activity of God the Blessed Spirit’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously pour the Holy Ghost into our hearts: by whose wisdom we were created, and by whose providence we are governed; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Why should one think it necessary to belong to the Church at all, and not content oneself with any group of Christian-minded people whose ways suit one’s temperament? There is, for instance, something very attractive about the methods and manners of the Quakers, with their direct sincerity, their really wonderful history, and their succession of saintly souls.
But when we take up our New Testament, it is altogether impossible to escape the conclusion that our Divine Lord revealed Himself to a society. Christ did not broadcast certain sentences for the crowd to interpret, each in his own way. He did not give to the world disjointed teaching about the Father, and leave the world to form its own conclusions about that teaching. He did quite certainly reveal Himself to a group of people, to a society. He had an inner circle of disciples, and an innermost circle of apostles. He prepared these latter for the catastrophe of the last days, and admitted a chosen three to the innermost sanctuary of His soul, letting them see Him transfigured in His prayer on the mountain and disfigured by the agony of His prayer in the garden. When the catastrophe had accomplished itself, and He had been crucified, and they had forsaken Him and fled, it was back to them that He came in the power of His Resurrection life and continued to teach them in the light of that Resurrection the true significance of the darkness of Calvary. When, with the august ritual of the Ascension, the Sacred Humanity was withdrawn from the sphere of sight and sense and sound, it was upon this group, whom our Lord had trained and to whom alone He had manifested Himself in the great forty days between His Crucifixion and His Ascension, that the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Comforter who proceedeth from thee may enlighten our minds: and lead us, as thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘It was in the spring-time in Galilee, when the flowers appeared upon the earth, that the Resurrection of our Lord took place, and it is in the spring that, to nations of the Western world, the tidings of the Resurrection always come. Just then, when all nature is chanting songs and shouting messages of life resurgent, in the midst of the young leaves, with a carpet of glad flowers, set in a scene of blossom and beauty, is given to us the vision of the Risen Christ. Later, when the promise has been fulfilled and spring has become summer, and the blue sky already holds the secret of the Ascension, comes the messages of the revelation of Pentecost and the power of the Spirit, to rouse those who believe in Him to think of the Christ of power and prevailing purpose.
It is the gospel of the rise of man that is being preached to us now. Goethe once said to a friend, “Tell me of your faith. I have doubts enough of my own”. To us, weary with the knowledge of our many falls, comes our Lord to tell us of a power to rise that may be ours. His end in coming was not to judge but to save the world, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.
The Church is not just an ark from a drowning world, or a place of refuge from a merciless conflagration. It is the power-house wherein we have sacramental points of contact with the Life behind our life. The power behind life is not just force, but purposive creative Personality, and our sacramental communion is contact with the Resurrection life of Christ our Lord’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God: that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Ghost, may manifest thy power among all peoples to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[W]e have heard and received report from the relation of diverse rumours that your bishops are not at all in harmony with the rule of the Catholic Faith according to the precepts of Scripture, and, on account of their animosities and verbal assaults, a grave schism and cruel scandal may arise in the Church of Christ, which the maxim of the Psalmist detests that says, “Much peace have they that love thy law and to them there is no stumbling block”. For truly, obedient harmony in religious matters unites with charity, just as harsh strife contaminates it. For the Psalmist enjoins the unity of brotherhood upon the followers of truth, saying, “God who maketh men of one manner to dwell together in a house”. This house, according to allegory, is understood to be the Church, spread throughout all points of the world. For indeed, heretics and schismatics, foreign to the society of the Church, sprouting up in the world and like, so to speak, the dreadful seed of darnels sown in the midst of a fertile crop, defile the harvest of the Lord by their contentious arguments. But the Apostolic Trumpet [Saint Paul] curbs the disgrace of altercation of this sort: “But if any man seems to be contentious”, he says, “we have no such custom nor does the Church of God… which does not have spot or wrinkle”. Indeed, the evangelical oracles proclaim that peace is the mother of Catholics and the authoress of the children of God’.
from a letter to King Geraint by St Aldhelm, c.639-709
O God, who as on this day didst exalt thy blessed Bishop Saint Aldhelm to everlasting felicity: we pray thee; that by his merits and intercession, thy mercy may bring us unto that place whither he is gone before; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Though it will be transferred to Sunday in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, today is the Solemnity of the Chair of St Peter, the Titular Solemnity of the Ordinariate in the United States and Canada. Here follows a homily, preached on this day, during the Ordinariate’s 2014 pilgrimage to Rome, by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP.
‘According to tradition, the feast of the Chair of St Peter marks the anniversary of the day when St Peter, having borne witness to the divinity of Christ, was appointed by Our Lord to be the rock of his Church — quo electus est primus Petrus papa, as the very ancient Western liturgies have it. Peter is thus the first to be seated in the chair that then comes to symbolise the episcopal office of the pope as bishop of Rome.
…[T]here were at one time two feasts of the chair of St Peter. In the calendar in force until the reform of the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, 18 January marked the feast of the Chair of St Peter in Rome while 22 February that of the Chair of St Peter in Antioch. The second thing to notice is that there is actually a chair in the picture. The chair in question is associated with St Peter’s sojourn in Rome, and, in particular, with a chair venerated since ancient times as the cathedra Petri. Since the 17th century this wooden chair has been enclosed in the bronze of Bernini’s magnificent sculpture, enthroned above the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica and held aloft by the four Doctors of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius and Chrysostom).
The fact that there were at one time two feasts of the Chair of Peter reminds us that Christ consigned to Peter a munus, a ministry, that he exercised first in Jerusalem, and then at Antioch, and only ultimately at Rome. This recognition offsets the danger that the theology of the papal ministry can become, in effect, a theology of the primatial character of the see of Rome. Then we are tempted to concentrate on the history of the exercise of papal ministry by successive bishops of Rome, on the relationship of the bishop of Rome to the college of bishops, on the canonical dynamics of the bishop of Rome’s universal jurisdiction, on the relationship of the bishop of Rome to other patriarchal — and primatial — sees and implicitly to the leadership of other churches and ecclesial communities. Now don’t get me wrong: these are indeed important issues.
But the munus petrinum entrusted by Christ to Simon Bar Jonah is in fact both temporally and logically prior to its location in or its identification with the see of Rome. Before there was a primatial see at Rome, there was the divinely instituted ministry of Peter within the “college” of the Apostles. The primacy of the see of Rome was immediately recognised because it was the see from which Peter and his successors — in the exquisitely apt design of divine providence — would come to exercise their ministry. It could have been Jerusalem where Christ suffered and died under Pontius Pilate, or Antioch where his followers were first called “Christians”. The prominence of Rome — not only geopolitical and cultural, but specifically Christian as the place where the blood of the martyrs was shed and where the Apostles Peter and Paul sojourned and gave their lives for Christ — is naturally not to be overlooked. But the munus petrinum — the office of guiding and teaching and governing the Church — was bestowed upon Peter by Christ before ever he came to exercise it from the cathedra of the bishop of Rome.
And this brings us to the second fascinating thing about this feast: there is actually a chair in the picture, however obscure its history and provenance. An instance of the remarkable concreteness of Catholic sensibility, the association of an existing episcopal cathedra to be venerated spurs our faith and devotion as we contemplate the grace of the petrine ministry. Not for nothing is the chair of Peter considered a sacramental in Catholic theology and practice. Here we touch on the fundamental Catholic conviction that God uses the tangible and visible things of earthly existence both to signify and, uniquely in the sacraments, to bestow his spiritual gifts.
Above all, he uses consecrated persons as instruments of his grace. The Holy Father, the cardinals, the bishops, the priests, and the deacons of the Church: they are the instruments through whom God willed to pour out his grace on us in the Church through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments. In this way, God adapted himself to our human nature — by sending his only Son who in turn commissioned the Apostles and their successors — so that we might receive his word and his grace from other human beings. The hand of another human being blesses us, pours the water of Baptism on our foreheads, offers the body and blood of Christ to us in the Eucharist, and is raised in absolution unto the forgiveness of sins. Through these persons — St Peter first among them — and through these actions and objects, God’s grace is bestowed on us’.
Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP
O Almighty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandest him earnestly to feed thy flock: make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same; that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. I have compared it with the New Religions; but this is exactly where it differs from the New Religions. The New Religions are in many ways suited to the new conditions; but they are only suited to the new conditions. When those conditions shall have changed in only a century or so, the points upon which alone they insist at present will have become almost pointless. If the Faith has all the freshness of a new religion, it has all the richness of an old religion; it has especially all the reserves of an old religion... A thing as old as the Catholic Church has an accumulated armoury and treasury to choose from; it can pick and choose among the centuries and brings one age to the rescue of another. It can call in the old world to redress the balance of the new’.
from Conversion and the Catholic Church, 1926, by G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936
‘I am a Catholic because the Church Christ founded and gave us is our literal, historical, temporal connector to Him. Without the connector, the wire that plugs into the infinite divine electricity, our souls die. We receive His life, His literal blood, through the umbilical cord of the Church’s Eucharist. It literally incorporates us into His corpus, His body.
We also receive His mind through the Church’s teachings. Infallible dogmas can come only from the only infallible mind in existence, the divine mind. But they do not save us; they are only the road map. Unlike Plato and Buddha, Jesus saved us by saying not “This is my mind” but “This is my body”. And not just by saying it but by doing it, by giving us His body, on the Cross and in the Eucharist and in the Church.
…He comes to us in His body today just as He came to us in His body two thousand years ago. And the Church is His body; it is “the extension of the Incarnation”.
The body we receive in Holy Communion is the very same body that He saved us with by offering it on the Cross. He has only one body, but it is in three places: on the Cross, in the Eucharist, and in the Church. And He is in the Church in two ways, or two dimensions, because we exist in two dimensions and so does He in His humanity: He is in the public, external, objective, visible institution that teaches and sanctifies His people, and He is also in the private, internal, subjective, invisible souls and bodies of His people who are baptised into His body and who receive His body into their bodies in the Eucharist and who thus become the cells in His Mystical Body, the Church.
When He said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53), did He mean by His “flesh” His mortal body on the Cross, His sacramental body in the Eucharist, or His Mystical Body in the Church? Wrong question. It’s not an either-or. Remember, He has only one body, not three.
To break with His body the Church is to break with Christ, just as to kiss or hit or heal or kill your body is to kiss or hit or heal or kill you. That’s why St Thomas More gave up his life over his king’s break with Rome’.
Dr Peter Kreeft
‘The untroubled page of history in those early days, to which some profess to appeal, attests the fact that St Matthew 16:19 says that there was then but one Church on earth. There was no second no other, none like it, none beside it; and the centre and head of that Church was the centre and head of the Christian world. It was the city of Rome, and in that city of Rome the See of Rome, the apostolic throne on which sat the successors of the Chief of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. No one doubts this as to history in the past; but the history of the past is supposed to lay no jurisdiction over our consciences now. Men treat history as an idle page, which they may read for their amusement, but refuse as a guide for their consciences. And yet it is indubitable that the one only Church of God, the circumference of which rested on the sunrise and the sunset, had a centre, and that centre was in Rome. Take it then as a mere matter of fact. The Divine Architect, in describing the circuit of His kingdom on earth, placed one foot of His compass in the city of Rome, and with the other traced a circumference which included the whole world. The annals of the Church in succession recognise the Bishop who sat in Peter’s seat as head among the Bishops of the world. I need not wear away your time by citing testimonies. Any one who will take the page of history may read it. I raise no claim, as yet, to anything beyond the fact…
There follows also another truth, and it is an awful one, a truth which springs from the last so inseparably and by so strong a necessity, that I dare not pass it by. If, indeed, God the Holy Ghost being the midst of us, and if it be God the Holy Ghost Who speaks to us through the one Holy Catholic and Roman Church, then it imposes its doctrines on the consciences of men under pain of eternal death. It is under pain of eternal death to disbelieve that which God the Holy Ghost has revealed. To disbelieve what the Holy Ghost, through the Church of God, has taught, incurs the pain of eternal death for those who with their eyes openly reject it’.
Henry, Cardinal Manning, 1808-1892
(Anglican Archdeacon of Chichester 1840-1851; Catholic Archbishop of Westminster 1865-1892)
‘It was not Jesus’ practise to change his disciples’ names: apart from the nickname “sons of thunder”, which in specific circumstances he attributed to the sons of Zebedee and never used again. He never gave any of his disciples a new name.
Yet, he gave one to Simon, calling him “Cephas”. This name was later translated into Greek as Petros and into Latin as Petrus. And it was translated precisely because it was not only a name; it was a “mandate” that Petrus received in that way from the Lord. The new name Petrus was to recur frequently in the Gospels and ended by replacing “Simon”, his original name.
This fact acquires special importance if one bears in mind that in the Old Testament, a change of name usually preceded the entrustment of a mission.
…‘Peter will be the rocky foundation on which he will build the edifice of the Church; he will have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close it to people as he sees fit; lastly, he will be able to bind or to loose, in the sense of establishing or prohibiting whatever he deems necessary for the life of the Church. It is always Christ’s Church, not Peter’s.
…This pre-eminent position that Jesus wanted to bestow upon Peter is also encountered after the Resurrection: Jesus charges the women to announce it especially to Peter, as distinct from the other Apostles; it is to Peter and John that Mary Magdalene runs to tell them that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and John was to stand back to let Peter enter first when they arrived at the empty tomb.
Then, Peter was to be the first witness of an appearance of the Risen One. His role, decisively emphasised, marks the continuity between the pre-eminence he had in the group of the Apostles and the pre-eminence he would continue to have in the community born with the paschal events, as the Book of Acts testifies.
His behaviour was considered so decisive that it prompted remarks as well as criticism.
At the so-called Council of Jerusalem Peter played a directive role, and precisely because he was a witness of authentic faith, Paul himself recognised that he had a certain quality of “leadership”.
Moreover, the fact that several of the key texts that refer to Peter can be traced back to the context of the Last Supper, during which Christ conferred upon Peter the ministry of strengthening his brethren, shows that the ministry entrusted to Peter was one of the constitutive elements of the Church, which was born from the commemoration of the Pasch celebrated in the Eucharist.
This contextualisation of the Primacy of Peter at the Last Supper, at the moment of the Institution of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Pasch, also points to the ultimate meaning of this Primacy: Peter must be the custodian of communion with Christ for all time. He must guide people to communion with Christ; he must ensure that the net does not break, and consequently that universal communion endures. Only together can we be with Christ, who is Lord of all.
Thus, Peter is responsible for guaranteeing communion with Christ with the love of Christ, guiding people to fulfil this love in everyday life. Let us pray that the Primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, will always be exercised in this original sense as the Lord desired, and that its true meaning will therefore always be recognised by the brethren who are not yet in full communion with us’.
from a general audience, 7 June 2006, given by Pope Benedict XVI
‘The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbour of salvation for all in distress. Although the Church is tossed about on the sea, it rides easily on rivers, especially those rivers that Scripture speaks of: The rivers have lifted up their voice. These are the rivers flowing from the heart of the man who is given drink by Christ and who receives from the Spirit of God. When these rivers overflow with the grace of the Spirit, they lift up their voice.
Drink, then, from Christ, so that your voice may also be heard. Store up in your mind the water that is Christ, the water that praises the Lord. Store up water from many sources, the water that rains down from the clouds of prophecy.
Whoever gathers water from the mountains and leads it to himself or draws it from springs, is himself a source of dew like the clouds. Fill your soul, then, with this water, so that your land may not be dry, but watered by your own springs’.
from a letter to pastors by St Ambrose of Milan, c.337-397
O God, who didst set thy blessed Bishop Saint Ambrose in thy Church as a Doctor and defender of the Catholic faith and an example of apostolic fortitude: grant, we beseech thee; that aided by his intercession, we may escape the dangers of error, and never be ashamed to confess thy truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Now the work of the Church is one. Through all the diversities of operations of the Divine Spirit, He is ever tending to the fulfilment of one purpose, the perfecting of the revelation of Christ in His new creation. And that work is in the unseen and spiritual world. The departed are withdrawn entirely from this world of sense, and are in that world only. We are in both worlds. Outwardly in the visible world, by the sacraments of Christ we are brought within the veil, where Christ is, and are called to share in the one life-work of His mystical Body. Those who are wholly within the veil have no sacraments, but the same Holy Spirit energises in them Who works in us through sacraments. And as in the natural body it is during repose that the processes of nutrition are most active, repairing and strengthening the wasted and worn tissues; and as for the fulld development of the human frame there are needed both the periods of outward activity in which there is wear and tear, and trial and strain and fatigue, and the periods of rest in which there is renewing and building up; so may it be in the spiritual life. We have the period of struggle and trial in this life, and of silent working—the secret fashioning and building up by the Spirit of God – in the unseen world. But there is this great difference between the natural and the spiritual life. The former is isolated in each individual bound up in his own personality; the latter is one in all he whole Catholic Church, and it is bound up with the Being of God and with the Person of Christ. “God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son”. The life, we repeat, is one in the one Body of Christ. No supernatural actions of members of that Body can be isolated, for they are actions of the one Life which is by the one Spirit of God. The souls of the departed are still His temples. His working in them and in us is not two separate things, but one. It is true the method and the condition of His working in us and in them are not the same. We are tempted, they are not. In us He works through sacraments, in them, since they are not in the flesh, without sacraments. But the powers of the spiritual life, which was begun in them through sacraments, are being developed and going on to perfection. And we, in offering the Holy Sacrifice, plead for them. The Church Militant, by drinking of the precious Blood of the Saviour, and thus renewing her strength, causes the pulses of that Life-blood to beat with increased force throughout the whole Mystical Body. We members of the Church on earth, by our prayers, are putting forth the spiritual force which is destined to do its part in accomplishing the eternal purpose of God: the Holy Spirit in us working both to will and to do of His good pleasure, guiding our wills to work in perfect accord with the will of God. For the one real force in the whole universe of God is will. This is the highest product of life. In the natural world we see the will of God creating, directing, upholding; and also the angelic wills co-operating with Him in part of that His work. In the spiritual world He calls us also, His human creatures, to take our part, to use our wills. There are two supreme actions of the spiritual world – worship and prayer, the one directed to God alone, without reference to the creatures; the other directed to God, but also having regard to the creatures. It is the Divine purpose that by prayer – i.e., the action of our wills in accord with the will of God – the purpose of God in the new creation should be accomplished. In this we all have our part: the souls of the Martyrs pleading beneath the heavenly Altar, each little Christian child learning to utter its first prayer, each band of devout worshippers at the Holy Sacrifice – all are putting forth spiritual energy, the power of their wills, for one end – “Thy Kingdom come.” And so each is working for all. When we say “Our Father,” we pray for all, for the faithful living and departed, that he would send His grace upon them to enable them to worship and serve and obey Him; we pray that He would give them all things needful for them, that they may obtain remission of all their sins, and find mercy of the Lord in that day. And the prayers of all are directed and inspired by the one Spirit, “Who helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered… because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”’.
from a sermon preached in 1888 by John Wale Hicks, Vicar of St Mary the Less, Cambridge
‘Clement revealed his ideal Church. She was assembled by “the one Spirit of grace poured out upon us” which breathes on the various members of the Body of Christ, where all, united without any divisions, are “members of one another”.
The clear distinction between the “lay person” and the hierarchy in no way signifies opposition, but only this organic connection of a body, an organism with its different functions. The Church, in fact, is not a place of confusion and anarchy where one can do what one likes all the time: each one in this organism, with an articulated structure, exercises his ministry in accordance with the vocation he has received.
With regard to community leaders, Clement clearly explains the doctrine of Apostolic Succession. The norms that regulate it derive ultimately from God himself. The Father sent Jesus Christ, who in turn sent the Apostles. They then sent the first heads of communities and established that they would be succeeded by other worthy men.
Everything, therefore, was made “in an orderly way, according to the will of God”. With these words, these sentences, St Clement underlined that the Church’s structure was sacramental and not political.
The action of God who comes to meet us in the liturgy precedes our decisions and our ideas. The Church is above all a gift of God and not something we ourselves created; consequently, this sacramental structure does not only guarantee the common order but also this precedence of God’s gift which we all need’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O everlasting Shepherd, favourably look upon thy flock: and keep it with perpetual protection, through the intercession of blessed Clement, thy Pope and Martyr, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Chair of Peter obliges all who hold it to say, as Peter said during a crisis time among the disciples when so many wanted to leave him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe; we are convinced that you are God's holy one” (Jn 6: 68 ff.).
The One who sits on the Chair of Peter must remember the Lord’s words to Simon Peter at the Last Supper: “...You in turn must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22: 32). The one who holds the office of the Petrine ministry must be aware that he is a frail and weak human being - just as his own powers are frail and weak - and is constantly in need of purification and conversion.
But he can also be aware that the power to strengthen his brethren in the faith and keep them united in the confession of the Crucified and Risen Christ comes from the Lord. In St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we find the oldest account we have of the Resurrection. Paul faithfully received it from the witnesses. This account first speaks of Christ's death for our sins, of his burial and of his Resurrection which took place the third day, and then says: “[Christ] was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve...” (I Cor 15: 4). Thus, the importance of the mandate conferred upon Peter to the end of time is summed up: being a witness of the Risen Christ.
The Bishop of Rome sits upon the Chair to bear witness to Christ. Thus, the Chair is the symbol of the potestas docendi, the power to teach that is an essential part of the mandate of binding and loosing which the Lord conferred on Peter, and after him, on the Twelve’.
From the homily of Pope Benedict XVI
on the occasion of the Mass of Possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome
Archbasilica of St John Lateran, 7 May 2005
O most blessed Saviour, who didst vouchsafe thy gracious presence at the Feast of Dedication: be present with us at this time by thy Holy Spirit, and so possess our souls by thy grace; that we may be living temples, holy and acceptable unto thee; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church: and, because she cannot continue in safety without thy succour; preserve her evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This is one of the most popular of the collects, especially loved by the clergy who are inclined to include it in any set of prayers they are called upon to say.
And why should they not? It is concerned with the Church, the special family of God to whose service they are pledged, and it emphasises the intimate relation the Church bears to God. It is his Church, the particular instrument of his revelation and redemption, the means by which the work of his Son is continued through the generations, the ‘body’ by which the Christ still functions on the earth.
As such it is of immediate concern to everyone of us. It is not a remote, inaccessible ideal. It is our near neighbour in the local parish church; it brings heaven to the meanest mission altar; it is on our doorstep in the figure of vicar or curate.
...“Let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church”. God’s agape or love, which is the very essence of his being, when it is directed towards men, the human element in the Church, necessarily manifests itself as pity or compassion. From the supreme height of his power and purity we must appear of a frailty that must call out all his desire to protect. Consequently having been cleansed, the Church prays to be defended, having full confidence that God will answer the prayer.
...The fact is that in the midst of all these dangers, open or disguised, the Church cannot continue in safety without God’s succour. We therefore ask him not only to set up a defensive barrier against its perils but also to preserve his Church evermore by filling it with his goodness.
What precisely the goodness of God means in this connection it may not be easy to say. But at least it includes the notion of kindness, which is of the essence of God’s nature and the foundation of all human virtues.
The safety of the Church depends entirely on God’s kindness, that is, compassionate love, and if all depends on kindness, obviously the Church herself must endeavour to reflect the same fundamental virtue. Our essential safety depends on our continued possession of it.
If we become afraid of losing love, or fear that kindness is disappearing from the Church, let us remember that the indwelling life of the Church is the Spirit and that Spirit is love. We can only lose the Spirit by losing life itself, and that the Church can never do’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘You will still, occasionally, read of Protestant fellow countrymen of ours referring to the Catholic Church in England under the contemptuous title of “the Italian Mission”. The name is meant, of course, to twit us with being foreigners, because during the penal times our priests were educated abroad... Who was the first to make it? It was made first by Archbishop Benson, father of Mgr Hugh Benson. And what was he? Archbishop of Canterbury. And why Canterbury? Why that very one-horse, dead-and-alive place on the South-Eastern? Simply because St Augustine, not being able to go on as far as London, had to wait about there for a time and so set up his See there. St Augustine, a Roman envoy sent by the Pope to convert our country to the religion of the Church of Rome. And then an Archbishop of Canterbury describes the diocese of Westminster as an Italian Mission!
Well, we were founded from Rome, and all through the Middle Ages, in spite of the nuisance of living so far away from it, we were known for our loyalty to the Roman See. In St Gregory’s time men were looking to the Church as the one abiding institution; it seemed to them that the break-up of earthly dominions and the shifting of nations which was taking place throughout Europe pointed to mere chaos ahead, unless hope lay in the Papacy. Today there is the same break-up of great dominions; the same shifting of the limits of nationality. The world has altered in its look since we learned our geography, and it has not got to the end of its alteration yet. In this new world men still look to the Catholic Church, and to Rome as the divinely-appointed centre of the Catholic Church, as the one abiding institution which will survive the new chaos. And we, without ceasing to be Angles (those of us who are Angles), will have to rally more than ever around the Holy See as the centre of our true citizenship, that Angelic community which was St Gregory’s gift to us. We ought to be praying earnestly for the Holy Father. We ought to be praying for the conversion of those who, disheartened by the failure of civilisation, are turning to the Church for guidance.
May the King of Angels bring us all to the fellowship of the heavenly citizens; to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen’.
Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
Almighty and merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Pope Gregory to be the servant of the servants of God, and didst inspire him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: preserve in thy Church the Catholic and Apostolic Faith they taught; that thy people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This heavenly city… while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognising that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities that it even preserves and adopts them, so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced. Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and, so far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and makes this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven; for this alone can be truly called and esteemed the peace of the reasonable creatures, consisting as it does in the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God. When we shall have reached that peace, this mortal life shall give place to one that is eternal, and our body shall be no more this animal body which by its corruption weighs down the soul, but a spiritual body feeling no want, and in all its members subjected to the will. In its pilgrim state the heavenly city possesses this peace by faith; and by this faith it lives righteously when it refers to the attainment of that peace every good action towards God and man; for the life of the city is a social life’.
from Book 19, Chapter 17, What Produces Peace, and What Discord, Between the Heavenly and Earthly Cities in The City of God by St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430
O merciful Lord, who didst turn Saint Augustine from his sins to be a faithful Bishop and teacher: grant that we may follow him in penitence and godly discipline; till our restless hearts find their rest in thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Our sufferings are our triumph. Our endurance in your view redounds to our discredit; the fortitude of others to their honour. You may gain popularity by your injustice, but our sufferings and practical example continually attract new converts.
“Why then”, you say, “do you complain that we attack you, if you are willing to suffer; when you ought to love those at whose hands you suffer what you desire?” We are, certainly, willing to suffer; but it is in the same way as a soldier desires war. No one endures war willingly, since alarm and risk are involved in it: the battle nevertheless is carried on with every nerve; and he who complains of it, yet rejoices in it when victorious, because he is acquiring glory and spoil. It is our battle to be summoned to your tribunals, there to contend for the truth at the risk of our lives. It is our victory, too, in that we obtain that for which we contend. This victory gains for us both the glory of pleasing God, and the spoil of eternal life. But we are overwhelmed; yet only when we have won our cause; therefore we conquer, when we are slain; and in fact we escape, even when we are overwhelmed. You can call us then, if you like, “faggot-men”, and “half-axle-men”, because we are bound to the stock of a half-axle, and surrounded with faggots when we are burned. This is the robe of our victory, this is our triumphal vestment, in such a chariot do we celebrate our triumph. Naturally, therefore, we displease those whom we vanquish; for on those grounds we are deemed desperate and reckless men. But this very desperation and recklessness, with you, in the cause of glory or fame, uplifts the banner of valour... Here is a glory, licensed, because of human origin; which is attributed neither to the presumption of recklessness, nor to the persuasion of despair, in its contempt of death and every kind of cruelty; which is as much allowed to be endured for country, territory, empire, or friendship, as it is forbidden to be suffered for God! And yet you cast statues, and write inscriptions, and engrave titles, for all those men to last into eternity: and as far as you can, by means of monuments, you yourselves afford them a kind of resurrection from the dead. If he who hopes for this fact from God, suffers for God, he is deemed insane. But pursue your course, excellent governors, and you will be more popular with the multitude if you sacrifice the Christians to their wishes. Crucify, torture, condemn, crush us. For the proof of our innocence is found in your injustice. It is on this account that God suffers us to suffer this... [N]o cruelty of yours, though each were to exceed the last in its exquisite refinement, profits you in the least; but forms rather an attraction to our sect. We spring up in greater numbers as often as we are mown down by you : the blood of the Christians is a source of new life’.
from Apologeticus pro Christianis, Chapter 50, 197 AD, by Tertullian, c.155-c.240
O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today is the sixth anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate. Being the memorial of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, a defender of the Church's orthodoxy and apostolicity, it was indeed a fitting day on which to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Laus Deo!
‘Irenaeus was first and foremost a man of faith and a Pastor. Like a good Pastor, he had a good sense of proportion, a wealth of doctrine, and missionary enthusiasm. As a writer, he pursued a twofold aim: to defend true doctrine from the attacks of heretics, and to explain the truth of the faith clearly. His two extant works - the five books of The Detection and Overthrow of the False Gnosis and Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching (which can also be called the oldest “catechism of Christian doctrine”) - exactly corresponded with these aims. In short, Irenaeus can be defined as the champion in the fight against heresies.
The true teaching... is not that invented by intellectuals which goes beyond the Church’s simple faith. The true Gospel is the one imparted by the Bishops who received it in an uninterrupted line from the Apostles. They taught nothing except this simple faith, which is also the true depth of God’s revelation. Thus, Irenaeus tells us, there is no secret doctrine concealed in the Church’s common Creed. There is no superior Christianity for intellectuals. The faith publicly confessed by the Church is the common faith of all. This faith alone is apostolic, it is handed down from the Apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God. In adhering to this faith, publicly transmitted by the Apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what their Bishops say and must give special consideration to the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and very ancient. It is because of her antiquity that this Church has the greatest apostolicity; in fact, she originated in Peter and Paul, pillars of the Apostolic College. All Churches must agree with the Church of Rome, recognising in her the measure of the true Apostolic Tradition, the Church's one common faith. With these arguments, summed up very briefly here, Irenaeus refuted the claims of these Gnostics, these intellectuals, from the start. First of all, they possessed no truth superior to that of the ordinary faith, because what they said was not of apostolic origin, it was invented by them. Secondly, truth and salvation are not the privilege or monopoly of the few, but are available to all through the preaching of the Successors of the Apostles, especially of the Bishop of Rome.
For Irenaeus, Church and Spirit were inseparable: “This faith”, we read again in the third book of Adversus Haereses, “which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also.... For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every kind of grace” (3, 24, 1). As can be seen, Irenaeus did not stop at defining the concept of Tradition. His tradition, uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always enlivened from within by the Holy Spirit, who makes it live anew, causes it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church. Adhering to her teaching, the Church should transmit the faith in such a way that it must be what it appears, that is, “public”, “one”, “pneumatic”, “spiritual”. Starting with each one of these characteristics, a fruitful discernment can be made of the authentic transmission of the faith in the today of the Church. More generally, in Irenaeus’ teaching, the dignity of man, body and soul, is firmly anchored in divine creation, in the image of Christ and in the Spirit’s permanent work of sanctification. This doctrine is like a “high road” in order to discern together with all people of good will the object and boundaries of the dialogue of values, and to give an ever new impetus to the Church's missionary action, to the force of the truth which is the source of all true values in the world’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst bestow upon blessed Irenaeus, thy Martyr and Bishop, grace to overcome false doctrine by the teaching of the truth, and to establish thy Church in peace and prosperity: we beseech thee; that thou wouldest give thy people constancy in thy true religion; and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Many have wished that Our Blessed Lord had remained on earth, that we might have heard His voice, seen His compassionate eyes, and brought our children to be blessed by His hands. But He said “I can say truly that it is better for you I should go away; He who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go, but if only I make my way there, I will send Him to you”. If our Lord remained on earth, He would have been only a symbol to be copied – not a life to be lived. By returning to his heavenly Father, He could then send both from the Father and Himself the Holy Spirit that would make Him live on earth in His new Body, which is the Church. The human body is made up of millions of cells, and yet is one because vivified by one soul, presided over by a visible head, and governed by an invisible mind. So on Pentecost, the Apostles, who were like the cells of a body, became Christ’s Mystical Body, because vivified by His Holy Spirit, governed by one visible head, Peter, and presided over by one invisible head, Christ in heaven. Our glorious Church is not an organisation, but an organism. As our Lord once thought, governed, and sanctified through a human body, which He took from the womb of His blessed Mother, so now he teaches, governs, and sanctifies through his Mystical Body, the Church, which He took from the womb of humanity overshadowed by His Holy Spirit. Christ was infallible when He talked through a human body; He is still infallible when he teaches through a mystical Body. Christ sanctified when he forgave sins with human lips; He sanctifies still when he forgives sins through the power of His priests. Christ governed through His human Body, and he governs still. “He that heareth you, heareth Me”. As a drop of blood can live in the body, but the drop of blood cannot live apart from the body, so neither can any of us live the fulness of the Christ Life except in His Mystical Body, the Church’.
from The Meditations of the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, 1944
by Venerable Fulton Sheen, 1895-1979
Today is the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, the Solemnity of Title in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, the Ordinariate in which I am incardinated. Please offer a prayer today for Bishop Steven Lopes, and the clergy, parishes, communities, and faithful of the Ordinariate in the United States and Canada.
‘We are founded on Christ in our faith and our hopes, because, O glorious Prince of the Apostles! we are founded on thee, who art the Rock he has set. We are the sheep of the flock of Jesus, because we obey thee as our shepherd. By following thee, O Peter! we are made sure of our being admitted into the kingdom of heaven, because our Lord gave the Keys of his kingdom to thee. Having the happiness of being thy members, we may also count ourselves as the members of Jesus Christ himself; for He, the invisible Head of the Church, recognises none as his members, save those that are members of the visible Head whom he appointed. So too, when we adhere to the faith of the Roman Pontiff and obey his orders — we are professing thy faith, O Peter, we are following thy commands; for if Christ teaches and governs by thee, thou teachest and governest by the Roman Pontiff.
Eternal thanks, then, to our Emmanuel for that he has not left us orphans; but before returning to heaven, vouchsafed to provide us with a Father and a Shepherd, even to the end of time! On the evening before his passion, keeping up his love for us even to the end, he left us his sacred Body and Blood for our food. After his glorious Resurrection, and a few hours before ascending to the right hand of his Father, he called his Apostles around him, and constituted his Church (his Fold), and said to Peter: Feed my Lambs, Feed my Sheep. Thus, dear Jesus! didst thou secure perpetuity to thy Church; thou gavest her Unity, for that alone could preserve her and defend her from both external and internal enemies. Glory be to thee, O Divine Architect! for that thou didst build the House of thy Church on the Rock which was never to be shaken, that is, on Peter! Winds and storms and waves have beat upon that house, but it hath stood, for it was built on a Rock.
O Rome! on this day, when the whole Church proclaims thy glory by blessing God for having built her on thy Rock — receive the renewal of our promise to love thee and be faithful to thee. Thou shalt ever be our Mother and our Mistress, our guide and our hope. Thy faith shall ever be ours; for he that is not with thee is not with Jesus Christ. In thee, all men are Brethren. Thou art not a foreign City to us; nor is thy Pontiff a foreign Sovereign to us, for he is our Father. It is by thee that we live the spiritual life, the life of both heart and intellect; and thou it is that preparest us to dwell one day in that other City of which thou art the image — the City of Heaven, into which men enter by thee’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Fr Lee Kenyon
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