Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Presbyterorum Ordinis – Part 1

Imprinted with a special character at their ordination, priests share in the ministry of Jesus Christ, in His roles of priest, prophet, and king, in order to build up the Body of Christ; to preach the Gospel to the whole world; and to confect the source and summit of Christian life, the Eucharist. In Presbyterorum Ordinis, or the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, the Vatican II Fathers speak directly to priests, reminding them of the special nature of the priesthood, their ministry, their relationships with other members of the Church, their call to holiness, and the traits and education they should cultivate.

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in the first half of Presbyterorum Ordinis.


* Priests play a “most important and increasingly difficult role” in the modern Church.

* Through their ordination, they receive a share in the ministry of Christ to serve the people as priests, prophets, and kings in imitation of the Lord and to build up the Church.

Chapter I – The Priesthood in the Church's Mission

Nature of the Priesthood

* All believers share in the priesthood of Christ, offering spiritual sacrifices and proclaiming the Word of God.

* Ordained priests, however, receive a special character and “are configured to Christ the priest” that they may “act in the person of Christ the head” under the authority of the bishops.

* The priest's ministry flows from and is geared toward the Eucharist.

* Priests preach the Word and offer the Eucharistic sacrifice for the glory of God and for the salvation and sanctification of humanity.

Place of Priests in the World

* Priests are consecrated, set apart, for the work of God. They are witnesses to Him and “dispensers of a life other than that of this earth.”

* At the same time, their ministry requires them to live in the world and serve their brothers and sisters.

* Priests should cultivate virtues like sincerity, courtesy, and justice that help them relate to others.

Chapter II – The Ministry of Priests

Functions of Priests

* Priests serve as ministers of God's Word. They are co-workers with the bishops in preaching the Gospel to all people; bringing faith to unbelievers; and helping faith grow in the hearts of Christians.

* Through the witness of their lives, their preaching and teaching, and their efforts to treat “contemporary problems in the light of Christ's teaching,” priests bring God's Word to all people, inviting them to conversion and holiness.

* Priests should strive to apply “the eternal truth of the Gospel to the concrete circumstances of life.”

* Preaching and sacraments are naturally joined together. Preaching of the Word is necessary to explain the sacraments while the sacraments draw “their origin and nourishment from the Word.”

* Priests share in Christ's priesthood in a special way that they may celebrate the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

* The Eucharist is “the source and the summit of all preaching of the Gospel.” All the other sacraments and all ministry and “works of the apostolate” are “bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it.”

* The Eucharist is the center of everything, and when the priests and the faithful offer the Eucharist, they are offering themselves, their whole lives.

* Priests instruct the faithful in prayer and penance, offer guidance in the duties of their state of life, and teach them Christian values and morals.

* Priests extend the liturgy throughout every day by the Divine Office.

* They work to create “a house of prayer” in every church and cultivate “liturgical knowledge and art.”

* Priests lead the family of God as fathers and shepherds, directing the faithful toward unity and Christian maturity.

* They guide their flocks in love; encourage all Christians to minister to each other in love; and serve all people, especially the poor and weak.

* Special attention is necessary for young people, married couples, parents, religious, the sick, and the dying, but priests should also work to build community within their parishes and teach each local community to develop a missionary spirit and a strong attachment to the universal Church.

* Community is founded on the Eucharist and tends toward witness and service.

* Priests must not be swayed by “any human ideology or party” but be “heralds of the Gospel” and pastors who strive for “spiritual growth of the Body of Christ.”

Priests' Relation with Others

* Priests must always be united with their bishops. They offer them reverence, cooperation, and obedience. Bishops look on priests as helpers, advisers, brothers, and friends.

* As a result of their ordination, priests are “bound together by an intimate sacramental brotherhood.” They are united in service and purpose as “one priestly body,” so they must help and support each other.

* Priests should frequently share fellowship with one another, even living in community if possible. They should participate in associations and offer “brotherly help,” especially to priests who are struggling.

* In relation to the laity, priests serve as fathers, teachers, brothers, and fellow members of the Body of Christ. They should be servant leaders who appreciate the talents, skills, charisms, and apostolate of the laity and listen to them courteously and seriously.

* Priests shepherd the faithful with love, being peacemakers, “defenders of the common good,” and “unwavering champions of truth.”

* The faithful, in turn, are obliged to treat their priests with filial love and help them in any way possible.

The Distribution of Priests, Priestly Vocations

* Priests share in the fullness of the Church's mission to bring the Word of God and loving service to all people.

* Priests must be flexible and mobile that they might embrace the tasks and locations assigned to them.

* All Christians must pray for and work toward vocations to the priesthood, but priests are particularly responsible to promote vocations through the witness and example of their lives, through preaching, through prayer, and through spiritual direction.

* Parents and educators, along with priests, should encourage vocations and help young people discern.

The full text of Presbyterorum Ordinis is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Nativity of John the Baptist

God Knows Us

Let's spend some time taking a closer look at the verses of Psalm 139 that we heard at Mass today.

O LORD, You have probed me, You know me:
You know when I sit and when I stand;
You understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest You scrutinize,
with all my ways You are familiar.

God knows us more intimately than we can ever imagine. He knows what we are doing at every moment of the day. He understands all of our thoughts. He sees and comprehends all of our work, all of our leisure, all of our rest. He is familiar with all of our motives. In fact, He knows why we do things better than we ourselves do.

* How does this make you feel to know that God knows you and understands you so intimately?

* What does this tell you about God?

* How might you behave differently and think differently if you always kept God's intimate knowledge in mind?

Truly You have formed my inmost being;
You knit me in my mother's womb.
I give You thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are Your works.

God formed us and fashioned us from the very first moment of our existence. He made our bodies and our souls. He gave us our unique physical characteristics and our individual talents. He created us in all our wondrous complexity and beauty. Further, God has sustained us throughout our whole lives, and He does so even now. He thinks about us constantly; in fact, if He stopped for even an instant, we would cease to exist.

* Have you ever taken the time to think about the wonder of your physical and spiritual self? Remember, you are the handiwork of God!

* Reflect on the gifts God has given you. Are you making full use of those gifts?

* God cares for you! All the time! Think about all the ways in which God is sustaining you and caring for you right now.

My soul also You knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to You
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.

God knows and understands your soul, your mind, your heart, your body, everything about you, completely. He lovingly formed your body from the materials of the earth and gave you a spiritual soul. Even before you were born, when no one else could see you, God could see you. He loved you then, and He sees and loves you now.

* Spend some time today thanking and praising God for creating you, sustaining you, knowing you, and loving you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Ad Gentes Divinitus – Part 2

In the second half of Ad Gentes Divinitus, the Vatican II Fathers focus on missionaries, the organization of missionary activities, and cooperation among the various members of the Church.

Here are a few of the topics and ideas you'll find in the second half of Ad Gentes Divinitus.

Chapter IV – Missionaries

* Some Christians receive a special call to the missionary vocation. These Christians are sent forth by the Church “in faith and obedience” to spread the Gospel.

* Missionary work requires a great self-gift. The missionary surrenders himself or herself to God and makes a firm commitment to carry out God's work faithfully.

* Missionaries proclaim the mystery of Christ in love, humility, and obedience. They witness to the Lord with courage even in “the midst of great affliction and abject poverty” and even “to the shedding of blood.”

* Missionaries should be carefully formed spiritually and morally that they might be able to withstand the hardships of mission life through prayer, hope, and a “spirit of sacrifice.”

* Missionaries must also be carefully trained in the Scriptures and Catholic doctrine as well as missiological studies and the history, language, and culture of the people they serve.

* Missionary institutes should work together to provide training and assistance to missionaries.

Chapter V – The Organization of Missionary Activity

* God has given Christians different gifts, so they must “collaborate in the work of the Gospel, each according to his opportunity, ability, charism and ministry” in order to build up the Church and spread the Word of God.

* Missionary activity should be coordinated in an organized and orderly fashion.

* The bishops take primary responsibility for preaching the Gospel and, therefore, for missionary work. They promote, guide, and coordinate missionary activity.

* The Vatican Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith directs and promotes mission activity at the level of the Holy See. The Pope exercises “supreme control over all missionary work.”

* Consultants and experts help bishops and the Congregation through their “learning and experience” in the mission field.

* If missionaries and those in charge of missionary activities are to meet their goals, they must be united and cooperate in training and problem solving.

Chapter VI – Cooperation

* The Church is missionary, and evangelization is the “fundamental task of the people of God.”

* Every member of the Church must undertake a “profound interior renewal” and be conscious of his or her obligation to spread the Gospel and support missionary activity.

* The primary contributions all Christians can make to the missions are “to lead a profound Christian life” of service, love, and witness; to pray; to do penance; to educate themselves about the missions; and to open their hearts if called to a mission vocation.

* The Church's unity and love bears witness to Christ before all people.

* The bishops work in communion and cooperation with one another to meet the needs of the missions through prayer, penance, and promotion of vocations and missionary works.

* Priests share in the bishops' work, promoting zeal for the missions among their parishioners and contributing to the spread of the Gospel as much as possible.

* Professors, too, should raise awareness about the missions.

* Religious institutes must, at the very least, pray vigorously for the success of the missions. Those that are contemplative should offer their prayers and witness. Those that are active should consider providing more human and monetary resources.

* Lay people are called to witness to Christ in word and deed in the world. They should learn about and love the missions and support and promote them in any way possible, especially by offering monetary aid and being open to the call for a missionary vocation.

* Lay people who choose to be active in the mission field should be well trained doctrinally and spiritually.


* The Church must spread the kingdom of God throughout the earth.

* The Council Fathers pray especially for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary that all nations may be led “to the knowledge of the truth...and that the glory of God, which shines in the face of Jesus Christ, might shed its light on all men through the Holy Spirit.”

The full text of Ad Gentes Divinitus is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Planting Seeds

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells two parables, both of which are about seeds. While these parables can be read and interpreted on many different levels, saints and scholars have often noted that they provide important insights into the nature of the Church in the world.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Huh? The Church in the world? But Jesus says that He's talking about the Kingdom of God!” Exactly. The Church is the Kingdom of God. It is the Kingdom already present on earth even though it has not yet reached the fullness of its glory in Heaven. Already but not yet. That is the nature of the Church, the Kingdom of God, in the world.

In the first parable, Jesus explains that a farmer scatters seed on the land and then watches the seed sprout and grow without knowing how it is happening. He lets nature take its course, but he reaps a rich harvest of grain in the end.

Jesus is making a promise here. He knows that He, too, is scattering seed, and that seed will spread throughout the whole world as the apostles go forth to plant the Kingdom of God, the Church. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church will sprout and grow and yield fruit. It will never be wiped out by storm or disease, for God will always protect it even in the most troubled times. It will survive until the harvest, until the end of time, when Jesus will come back and reap a rich crop.

Does Jesus mean that we can simply sit back and do nothing to help the Church grow and spread? Of course not! Do farmers plant their fields and do nothing else? No, they water and fertilize their growing crops, test soil conditions, pluck pesky weeds, chase away seed-stealing birds, and do what is necessary to help their crops flourish. We as Christians do the same. We cultivate faith, hope, and love, encourage virtue in ourselves and in others, examine our consciences, pluck out sin, spread the Word of God far and wide, and do what we must to help the Church flourish in the world. But we also know that, in the end, God is in control.

Jesus' second parable also describes about the Church in terms of a seed, this time a tiny mustard seed that grows into a huge plant. Jesus is probably referring to the black mustard that grew wild in Galilee. It started from a minute seed and could quickly grow up to nine feet tall. According to Jesus, birds could find shade and comfort within the branches of the great mustard plant.

Think for a moment about the beginning of the Catholic Church. At Jesus' crucifixion, only Mary, John, and a few women were left standing beneath the Cross. Three days later, at the Resurrection, eleven shivering apostles were gathered in the upper room. The women had gone to the tomb to do what they could for the Body of Jesus. A few other disciples were scattered here and there, a couple even heading out on the road to Emmaus. The Church was very small, like a mustard seed.

But the Church grew quickly. At that first Pentecost, three thousand people were baptized and joined the early Church. The apostles spread out, preaching the Gospel and founding new Church communities wherever they went.

Today, there are approximately 1.96 billion Catholics in the world, from the 80 or so Catholics who live in the Maldives of South Asia to the over 136,000,000 Catholics in Brazil. The little seed of the Church that started to grow nearly 2000 years ago in Israel is indeed a gigantic, flowering, flourishing tree that provides shelter and comfort to all of us Catholic “birds” throughout the entire world.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Ad Gentes Divinitus - Part 1

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and He has entrusted the fullness of the Christian faith to the Catholic Church. Catholic Christians, therefore, have the obligation to share that fullness with all people throughout the whole world. The Vatican II Fathers addressed this responsibility for missionary activity in Ad Gentes Divinitus, or Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity.

Here is a sample of the topics and ideas you'll find in the first half of Ad Gentes Divinitus.


* Because the Catholic Church is “the universal sacrament of salvation,” she is “divinely sent” to preach the Gospel to the whole world. This is part of her nature.

* The goal of missionary activity is to “save and renew every creature” that all may be “restored in Christ” and be one family of God.

* All the faithful are obliged to spread the Kingdom of God everywhere.

Chapter I – Doctrinal Principles

* The Church is missionary by nature because she shares in the mission of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, according to the Father's plan.

* God created and called a people who share in His life and live in community with each other.

* Jesus Christ is the “true Mediator” between God and humanity. He emptied Himself in the Incarnation and took on human nature so that He might restore humanity and raise it up to share in the divine nature.

* Jesus Christ and His salvation “must be proclaimed and spread to the ends of the earth.”

* The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. The Spirit accompanies and directs all apostolic action.

* Jesus gave His apostles the “Great Commission” when He sent them out to the whole world to preach the Gospel and baptize in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

* The Church continues to carry out the “obligation to proclaim the faith and salvation which comes from Christ.”

* Through missionary activity the Church becomes fully present that she may lead all people to
faith, freedom and peace in Christ” through her life, teaching, sacraments, and other means of grace. In this way, she opens up for all people “a free and sure path to full participation in the mystery of Christ.”

* The missionary task is always the same but is carried out differently according to time, place, and circumstances. Missionary work usually involves “slow stages” and gradual progress.

* The goal of missionary activity, along with spreading the saving Word of God, is planting indigenous particular churches throughout the world.

* The “principal instrument” of missionary activity is “the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” This preaching leads to baptism, which joins people to the Church that they might be further “nourished by the word of God and the Eucharist.”

* The missionary activity that flows from the Church's nature “extends the saving faith of the Church”; “expands and perfects its catholic unity; “is sustained by its apostolicity”; “activates the collegiate sense of its hierarchy”; and “bears witness to its sanctity.”

* Efforts to spread the Gospel are harmed by the disunity of Christians, who must strive “to come together in one flock” and “bear unanimous witness to Christ.”

* God wills that every person know Jesus Christ and be baptized. Faith, baptism, and the Church are necessary. Therefore, missionary activity is necessary.

* Love propels members of the Church to share the spiritual goods they have with all other people for the glory of God and the realization of His plan that all might be one family.

* All people have a longing for God built into their very nature. “In manifesting Christ, the Church reveals to men their true situation and calling” as well as their need for salvation.

* “Elements of truth and grace” are found among non-Christian people. Missionary activity purifies and elevates these elements and “restores them to Christ their source.”

Chapter II – Missionary Work

* There is still much missionary work to be done, and the Church must implant herself among many different groups of people in imitation of the Incarnate Christ, who “committed Himself to the particular social and cultural circumstances” of the people among whom He lived.

Article 1: Christian Witness

* All Christians must witness to their faith in life and word and show that they are new people in Christ through baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit.

* Witness must be founded on love and respect and promoted through contact, dialogue, and mutual knowledge.

* Christians should learn to see the seeds of the Word in the cultures and practices of non-Christians and help these seeds grow through the Gospel.

* The Church stands in solidarity with all people, suffering with them, sharing in their joys and sorrows, and entering into dialogue with them.

* Catholics should collaborate with other Christians and even non-Christians on social and educational projects in mission areas in order to serve both the material and spiritual needs of the residents as well as to promote unity and human dignity and to shine the light of Christ.

Article 2: Preaching the Gospel and Assembling the People of God

* God invites all people to “establish a personal relationship with Him in Christ.” To do this, they must first hear the Gospel and be touched by divine grace. They grow in their relationship through a lifelong spiritual journey.

* After their initial conversion, new believers enter the catechumenate, in which they are formed in the entire Christian life and are already joined to the Body of Christ. They must embrace this stage and their baptism with freedom and pure motives.

Article 3: Forming the Christian Community

* Missionaries “should raise up communities of the faithful” (i.e., particular churches) that they may participate in the “priestly, prophetic and royal offices” of Christ and be a “sign of God's presence in the world.”

* Each community should be “deeply rooted” in its people and cultural riches.

* Lay people play an especially important role in these young churches, for they are the “leaven animating and directing the temporal order from within.”

* Native clergy are key to the strength and stability of young churches, and vocations must be encouraged. Native priests should receive careful doctrinal, pastoral, and spiritual formation. They should also be well-versed in the conditions and culture of their own people.

* Well-trained catechists are extremely important in new communities, for they are co-workers with the priests who help spread the Word of God.

* Religious communities, both active and contemplative, should be founded in new churches.

Chapter III – Particular Churches

* Faith, charity, liturgy, catechesis, and true Christian living must be especially fostered in young churches.

* Bishops and priests should stress that young churches are part of the universal Church and must embrace the Catholic tradition even as they contribute their own riches to the universal Church.

* The local Church is a sign of Christ and represents the universal Church.

* Bishops, priests, religious, and lay people all have important roles to play in establishing and strengthening new particular churches.

* As soon as possible, young churches should participate in missionary activities to help spread the universal Church throughout the world.

* Lay people in young churches work alongside clergy and religious to witness to Christ in word and deed in their families, social groups, and professions. They “transform and permeate” society with the light of Christ as well as purify, guard, and develop their culture.

* Particular churches should “borrow from the customs, traditions, wisdom, teaching, arts and sciences of their people everything which could be used to praise the glory of the Creator, manifest the grace of the Saviour, or contribute to the right ordering of Christian life.”

* Culture is taken up into Christian life and “illumined by the light of the Gospel.”

The full text of Ad Gentes Divinitus is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Little Something Extra...The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The Saints on the Eucharist

Please take some time on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ to meditate on the following quotations drawn from the wisdom of the saints.

* “If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ's love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.” - St. Angela of Foligno

* “When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.” - St. Francis de Sales

* “How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.” - St. John Chrysostom

* “You come to me and unite Yourself intimately to me under the form of nourishment. Your Blood now runs in mine, Your Soul, Incarnate God, compenetrates mine, giving courage and support. What miracles! Who would have ever imagined such!” - St. Maximilian Kolbe

* “Every Consecrated Host is made to burn Itself up with love in a human heart...” - St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars

* “When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now...” - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

* “Lord Jesus Christ, pierce my soul with your love so that I may always long for you alone, who are the bread of angels and the fulfillment of the soul's deepest desires. May my heart always hunger for you, so that soul may be filled with the sweetness of your presence.” - Saint Bonaventure

* “Love tends to union with the object loved. Now Jesus Christ loves a soul that is in a state of grace with immense love; He ardently desires to unite Himself with it. That is what Holy Communion does.” - St. Alphonsus Ligouri

* “The Bread that we need each day to grow in eternal life, makes of our will a docile instrument of the Divine Will; sets the Kingdom of God within us; gives us pure lips, and a pure heart with which to glorify his holy name.” - Edith Stein

* “When you awake in the night, transport yourself quickly in spirit before the Tabernacle, saying: 'Behold, my God, I come to adore You, to praise, thank, and love you, and to keep you company with all the Angels'” - St. John Vianney

* “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life." - Pope John Paul II

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mother Mary, Loving and Pure

There is a pious legend that tells of Mary's Assumption into Heaven. Mary knew that her life on earth was about to end. She was ready to join her Son in her glorious eternal home. According to the legend, she called the apostles to gather around her, for they were her spiritual children, given to her by her beloved Son. She was their Mother, the Mother of the infant Church, and she loved them. But it was time to say goodbye.

The apostles were weeping. They were losing their Mother, and they would miss her horribly even though they knew that she was tired, that she was ready to go home to Heaven. They stood around her as she lay on her bed, grieving and listening to her final words of wisdom. They were all there, Peter, James, John, Matthew, Andrew, Philip, Bartholmew, Simon, Jude, James, and Matthias, all except Thomas. He alone was missing, still on his journey to his Mother's house, hoping and praying to get there in time.

He did not. By the time Thomas arrived, Mary was in the tomb. He must have been devastated, for he hadn't gotten the chance to see her one last time. He begged the others to open the tomb that he might at least gaze upon her face. They pitied him...and agreed.

When the apostles opened the tomb, their mouths dropped open in shock. Mary's body was gone! In its place were flowers, dozens and dozens of flowers. Some versions of the story say that the tomb was filled with roses; others say lilies. Whatever the case, Mary had given her spiritual sons, especially Thomas, a beautiful, fragrant gift to comfort them.

Mary was also giving the apostles, and her spiritual children of all ages, a special reminder about who she is. Flowers have symbolic meanings. Roses, especially red roses, symbolize love. The Immaculate Mary's love was and is inferior only to that of God. Lilies symbolize purity, chastity, and virtue. Mary surpasses all other human beings in these characteristics. As the sinless Mother of God, she is perfectly pure and perfectly chaste. Her countless virtues shine brighter than the stars.

It is fitting, then, that the apostles would be greeted with flowers when they opened Mary's tomb. Her body was no longer there. She had been assumed body and soul into Heaven to be with her divine Son, and she now rules as Queen of Heaven and Earth. But she left behind a special message of love.

Pray for us, Holy Mary, Mother God, most pure, most holy, most loving.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Little Something Extra...The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

A Commission, a Revelation, and a Promise

In today's Gospel, Matthew 28:16-20, the Risen Jesus meets His apostles in Galilee. This reading comes from the very end of Matthew's Gospel. Earlier in Chapter 28, several women encounter Jesus as they are leaving His empty tomb. Jesus instructs them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

The eleven apostles obey Jesus' command, go to Galilee, and climb “the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.” The Greek word for “ordered” here comes from the verb tassō, which can mean “to appoint.” Jesus is about to appoint His disciples to a very important task. The verb can also refer to ordering soldiers (i.e., putting them in ranks). Jesus is essentially marshaling His troops. He's getting ready to send them out to proclaim His Gospel throughout the whole world.

The apostles see Jesus there on the mountain in His risen glory, and they worship Him. They are already beginning to understand that Jesus is God, but they are not yet 100% sure. They still have doubts. The Greek word for “doubt,” distazō, literally means “to stand in two ways.” The apostles are worshiping Jesus, but they still can't completely grasp what is going on. They may be asking themselves, “Can this really be true?"

Jesus reassures them: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” The Greek word for “power” is exousia. It means the ability to do anything, authority, “right and might” not just on earth but also in Heaven. This is a divine power, and it comes from Jesus' union with the Father.

Jesus is now passing some of that power on to the apostles when He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

With these words, Jesus gives the apostles the “Great Commission.” They are to make disciples of all nations, not just the Jews, but the Gentiles, too, the whole world. How will they do this? They will preach the Gospel, of course, but they will also baptize those who hear and accept their message. The sacramental element is strong here. In baptism, the disciples will use both matter and form, water and words, to create new disciples of Jesus Christ, new children of God.

Jesus' words also reveal the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Notice that Jesus uses the singular word “Name” when He speaks about the three Persons of the Trinity. One Name, three Persons. One God, three Persons. Here is the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

The disciples will have more to do even after they have proclaimed the Gospel and baptized the new disciples. Jesus tells them to teach the new Christians “to observe all that I have commanded you.” The apostles will teach doctrine, moral law, proper worship, and everything else that Christians must know if they are to live in an intimate relationship with the Blessed Trinity.

Knowing that the apostles are sure to be overwhelmed by such a task, Jesus ends with a promise, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Jesus would never leave the apostles to fulfill their commission on their own, and He will not leave us as we face the duties of our Christian lives. Instead, He will be beside us always, guiding us home to Heaven where we will share in the divine life of the Holy Trinity for all eternity.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Dignitatis Humanae

Because human beings are endowed with the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God, they possess an inherent freedom, especially in the realm of religion. Although all people must seek the truth and embrace it fully when they find it, no one can be forced to participate in or abstain from public or private religious practices. The Vatican II Fathers wrote Dignitatis Humanae, or the Declaration on Religious Liberty, to lay out the principles and practices of religious freedom in the modern world.

Here are a few of the topics and ideas you'll find in Dignitatis Humanae.

On the Right of the Person and Communities to Social and Civil Liberty in Religious Matters

* Modern people are becoming more and more aware of the dignity of the human person and of the right each person has to exercise responsible freedom without coercion.

* People are demanding freedom, especially with regard to the practice of religion.

* The Council has carefully discerned modern ideas about religious freedom in order to see how they correspond with truth, justice, Sacred Tradition, and the teachings of the Church.

* There is one true religion that God has revealed to humanity through Christ, His Son. This religion exists in the Catholic Church, which has the task of spreading it throughout the world.

* All people are duty bound to seek the truth and “embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.”

* While all people have the obligation to worship God according to the true religion, they must not be coerced into doing so, for this violates their freedom and human rights.

* Instead, the truth, with its gentleness and power, must win over people's hearts and minds.

Chapter I – The General Principle of Religious Freedom

* All people have a right to religious freedom, which means that they “should be immune from coercion” so that “within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others.”

* Religious freedom is based on human dignity and is a civil right.

* Human beings, who are “endowed with reason and free will,” must seek the truth, adhere to it when they find it, and “direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.”

* Freedom is necessary to humans beings that they may seek, find, and embrace the truth.

* The divine law reveals the truth and teaches it to human beings.

* The search for truth takes place through free inquiry, instruction, communication, and dialogue. Seekers help each other in their search.

* No one must be forced to act against his or her conscience nor prevented from acting in accordance with his or her conscience.

* Religion practices must be “voluntary and free” acts both internally and externally. People must be free to express themselves religiously and profess their faith publicly.

* Civil authority must not control or restrict religious activity for either individuals or communities.

* Religious communities “have a right to immunity,” to organize, to worship publicly, to teach their faith, and to promote their institutions.

* Communities have a right to witness to their beliefs and live their faith without hindrance from civil authorities.

* Parents have the right to control the religious life of their families and choose how they want to educate their children.

* Protecting religious freedom is part of promoting the common good.

* Civil authorities should safeguard religious freedom and promote “conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life.” They must also make sure that all citizens are equal before the law and do not face discrimination because of their religious beliefs.

* Religious freedom is regulated by the moral law and must be balanced with justice and the common good.

* The civil authority must keep the peace, protect the rights of all, maintain public order, and safeguard justice and the moral law.

* Truth, freedom, responsibility, morality, and cooperation go together to promote and regulate religious freedom.

Chapter II – Religious Freedom in the Light of Revelation

* The doctrine of religious freedom “is rooted in divine revelation,” has been discerned in greater detail by the Church over the centuries, and “is in complete harmony with the act of Christian faith.”

* A person's response to God has to be free, and “therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will.”

* People should, however, be invited to embrace the fullness of Christianity and express it in their lives.

* Jesus never forced anyone to believe in Him and accept His message. Instead, He patiently invited and persuaded people through love and through His sacrifice on the cross. The apostles followed in His footsteps as does the Church today.

* The Church requires “sacred liberty” to proclaim the Gospel and fulfill her mission. She “claims freedom for herself in human society and before every public authority.”

* Christians must first pray for the salvation of all people. They must also promote the Church's mission, teaching the truth and spreading the Gospel with “confidence and apostolic courage.” As they grow each day in the “knowledge of the truth,” they proclaim and defend it vigorously with “love, prudence and patience.”

* Religious freedom is a necessity that must be promoted and protected throughout the world so that all people will have the opportunity to come to know Christ.

The full text of Dignitatis Humanae is available online at the Vatican website.