Being principled is hard. It stinks in fact. It leads to the most miserable disappointments in yourself and others. Link it to an idealism of sorts that often crashes in self sacrifice at the feet of utilitarianism, having been shackled by the most practical and pathetic of reasons.
Being principled brings perpetual misunderstanding and disappointment to yourself by those who just can’t see why you won’t “get on board.”
Idealists are those who are wild-eyed enough, starry-eyed enough and passionate enough to self-sacrifice or self-destruct for what is right; who just can’t understand those that cave for the practical. If it is right: do it. If it is just and few be there that see it, so what. I could go on. Revolutions are started by the willful idealists; societal structures are changed and mores altered by philosophers who pursue the ends because they are right. Which brings me to my last point.
In the wake of the enlightenment, when truth, morals and religion become hazy and indiscernible in the subjective opinions of the individual, doing and believing the “right” is difficult. And that is another topic.
In my era, an era of gross compromise with pragmatism, the words of Chesterton ring true, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Jesus said, “Obedience is better than sacrifice” and “Narrow is the way that leads to life and few be they that find it.”
The American Experiment has failed miserably.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1.16), and the Church’s mission to the nations begins with Christ’s clarion call to conversion: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1.15)
By our Baptism we are called to receive the Gospel as a complete, coherent, comprehensive Way of Life; in other words, we are called to be disciples, or students, of the Lord Jesus. And to live as true disciples of Christ, everything about us must be measured and guided by the Gospel: our thoughts, words, deeds, relationships, spending habits, political convictions, religious beliefs, leisure activities, lifestyle choices, business decisions … in sum, everything. But this total surrender to Christ is not a restriction of our freedom; rather, this is the evangelical freedom of the children of God — not the license to do whatever we want but the liberty to do everything we should. As the Lord Jesus teaches, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8.32)
Since the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, four popes have summoned the entire Church to the work of the New Evangelization. Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul the Great, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all called us to announce the Gospel with new ardor, new methods, and new conviction, and another way of expressing our dedication to the work of the New Evangelization is to say that we must become Evangelical Catholics, which in turn means that we must let go of all false catholicisms (e.g. cafeteria, casual and cultural catholicism) by accepting the liberating truth of the Word of God and living by grace through faith in the Son of God. Being Evangelical Catholics requires that we know the Gospel, believe the Gospel, live the Gospel, and share the Gospel with others, and this begins and ends for us in the sacred liturgy, the source and summit of the Church’s life. Then what begins in prayer finds expression in our service of those in need and our witness in the public square to the liberating truth of the Word of God. Right worship, right belief, and right living are the most compelling testimony we can offer to the world that the Son of Mary is the Son of God, and we can grow stronger in that public witness by following these Eight Principles of Evangelical Catholicism which lead us to radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship and courageous evangelism.
1. The Lord Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior of all mankind, and no human person can fully understand his life or find his dignity and destiny apart from an authentic friendship with the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we must know Jesus.
2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is divine revelation, not human wisdom, and the Gospel is given to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which together constitute a single divine deposit of faith transmitted authentically and authoritatively by the Bishops in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. We must surrender our private judgments in all matters of faith and morals to the magisterium or sacred teaching office of the Church if we are to receive the whole Gospel.
3. The seven Sacraments of the New Covenant are divinely instituted instruments of grace given to the Church as the ordinary means of sanctification for believers. Receiving the Sacraments regularly and worthily is essential to the life of grace, and for this reason, faithful attendance at Sunday Mass every week (serious illness and necessary work aside) and regular Confession of sins are absolutely required for a life of authentic discipleship.
4. Through Word and Sacrament we are drawn by grace into a transforming union with the Lord Jesus, and having been justified by faith we are called to sanctification and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the good works of the new creation. We must, therefore, learn to live as faithful disciples and to reject whatever is contrary to the Gospel, which is the Good News of the Father’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5. The sacred liturgy, through which the seven Sacraments are celebrated and the Hours of praise are prayed, makes present to us the saving mysteries of the Lord Jesus. The liturgy must therefore be celebrated in such a way that the truth of the Gospel, the beauty of sacred music, the dignity of ritual form, the solemnity of divine worship, and the fellowship of the baptized assembled to pray are kept together in organic unity.
6. Receiving the Sacraments without receiving the Gospel leads to superstition rather than living faith, and the Church must therefore take great care to ensure that those who receive the Sacraments also receive the Gospel in its integrity and entirety. Consequently, before Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, and Marriage are administered, there must be in those who request these Sacraments clear evidence of knowledge of the Gospel and a serious intention to lead the Christian life.
7. Being a follower of Christ requires moving from being a Church member by convention to a Christian disciple by conviction. This transformation demands that we consciously accept the Gospel as the measure of our entire lives, rather than attempting to measure the Gospel by our experience. Personal knowledge of and devotion to Sacred Scripture is necessary for this transformation to occur through the obedience of faith, and there is no substitute for personal knowledge of the Bible. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
8. All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain his Gospel.
For a deeper exploration of these ideas, please read George Weigel’s excellent book Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church.
Father Jay Scott Newman
Pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church (Greenville, SC)
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things, both visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of God the Father, Only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; con-substantial with the Father; through whom all things were made, both those in heaven and those on earth, both visible and invisible; who for us men and for our salvation came down and took flesh, that is, was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, was made man, that is, He received perfect man, soul and body and mind and all that man is, except sin, not from the seed of man nor as is usual with men, but He reshaped flesh into Himself, into one holy unity; not in the way that He inspired the prophets, and both spoke and acted in them, but He was made Man perfectly; for “the Word was made flesh (John 1:14),” not undergoing change, nor converting His own divinity into humanity; – joined together into the one holy perfection and divinity of Himself; – for the Lord Jesus Christ is one and not two, the same God, the same Lord, the same King; and He suffered in the flesh, and rose again and ascended into heaven in the same body, and sits in glory on the right of the Father, about to come in the same body in glory to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom will have no end; and we believe in the Holy Spirit, who spoke in the Law and proclaimed in the Prophets and descended at the Jordan, speaking in the Apostles and dwelling in the saints; thus do we believe in Him: that the Spirit is Holy, Spirit of God, Spirit perfect, Spirit Paraclete, increate, and is believed to proceed from the Father and to receive from the Son. We believe in one Catholic and Apostolic Church, and in one Baptism of repentance, and in the resurrection of the dead and the just judgement of souls and bodies, and in the kingdom of heaven, and in eternal life. But those who say that there was a time when the Son or the Holy Spirit was not, or was made out of nothing or of another substance or essence, who say the Son of God or the Holy Spirit is liable to change or to becoming different, these people the Catholic and Apostolic Church, your Mother and ours, anathematizes; and again we anathematize those who do not confess the resurrection of the dead, and all heresies which are not consistent with this, the true faith. –
After the victory Constantine gained through the power of the Cross which he had seen in the heavens, and whose sign he reproduced in the Labarum, St. Helena, his mother, went to Jerusalem to try to find the true Cross. At the beginning of the second century, Hadrian had Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre covered over with earth, the top of which became a terrace of 100 feet in length, where were erected a statue of Jupiter and a temple of Venus. The Empress had them razed to the ground, and dug up. The laborers found the nails and three crosses. The miraculous cure of a woman authenticated the sacred tree, to which we owe “life, salvation and resurrection”.
St. Helena divided the precious wood in three. One part was deposited in Rome in the church of Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The second in Constantinople and the third in Jerusalem. This last relic having been carried off by the Persians and recovered by Heraclius, this emperor solemnly brought it back to Jerusalem on May 3rd, 628.
Excerpted from Saint Andrew Daily Missal
Pope Francis’ Address at Commemorative Ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of BishopsOctober 17, 2015 | Paul VI Audience Hall – Vatican City
Your Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,
As the XIV Ordinary General Assembly is underway, it is a joy for me to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops and to praise and honor the Lord for the Synod of Bishops. From the Second Vatican Council up to the current Synod on the Family, we have gradually learned of the necessity and beauty of “walking together.”
On this happy occasion I would like to extend a cordial greeting to His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops along with the Undersecretary, His Excellency Archbishop Fabio Fabene, the Officials, the Consultors and other collaborators in the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Together with them, I greet and thank the Synod Fathers and other participants in this Synod gathered here this morning in this hall.
At this time we also want to remember those who, over the course of the last 50 years, have worked in the service of the Synod, starting from the successive General Secretaries: Cardinals Władysław Rubin, Jozef Tomko, Jan Pieter Schotte and Archbishop Nikola Eterovic. I take this opportunity to express my deepest, heartfelt gratitude to those – both living and deceased – who made such generous and competent contributions to the activities of the Synod of Bishops.
From the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome I intended to enhance the Synod, which is one of the most precious legacies of the Second Vatican Council. For Blessed Paul VI, the Synod of Bishops was meant to keep alive the image of the Ecumenical Council and to reflect the conciliar spirit and method. The same Pontiff desired that the synodal organism “over time would be greatly improved.” Twenty years later, St. John Paul II would echo those sentiments when he stated that “perhaps this tool can be further improved. Perhaps the collegial pastoral responsibility can find even find a fuller expression in the Synod.” Finally, in 2006, Benedict XVI approved some changes to the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, especially in light of the provisions of the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, promulgated in meantime.
We must continue on this path. The world in which we live and that we are called to love and serve even with its contradictions, demands from the Church the Church the strengthening of synergies in all areas of her mission. And it is precisely on this way of synodality where we find the pathway that God expects from the Church of the third millennium.
In a certain sense, what the Lord asks of us is already contained in the word “synod.” Walking together – Laity, Pastors, the Bishop of Rome – is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice. After reiterating that the People of God is comprised of all the baptized who are called to “be a spiritual edifice and a holy priesthood,” the Second Vatican Council proclaims that “the whole body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief and manifests this reality in the supernatural sense of faith of the whole people, when ‘from the bishops to the last of the lay faithful’ show their total agreement in matters of faith and morals.”
In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium I stressed that “the people of God is holy because this anointing makes [the people] infallible “in matters of belief”, adding that “each baptized person, no matter what their function is in the Church and whatever educational level of faith, is an active subject of evangelization and it would be inappropriate to think of a framework of evangelization carried out by qualified actors in which the rest of the faithful People were only recipients of their actions. The sensus fidei prevents rigid separation between “Ecclesia” (Church) and the Church teaching, and learning (Ecclesia docens discens), since even the Flock has an “instinct” to discern the new ways that the Lord is revealing to the Church.
It was this conviction that guided me when I desired that God’s people would be consulted in the preparation of the two-phased synod on the family. Certainly, a consultation like this would never be able to hear the entire sensus fidei (sense of the faith). But how would we ever be able to speak about the family without engaging families, listening to their joys and their hopes, their sorrows and their anguish? Through the answers to the two questionnaires sent to the particular Churches, we had the opportunity to at least hear some of the people on those issues that closely affect them and about which they have much to say.
A synodal church is a listening church, knowing that listening “is more than feeling.” It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: we are one in listening to others; and all are listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), to know what the Spirit “is saying to the Churches” (Rev 2:7).
The Synod of Bishops is the convergence point of this dynamic of listening conducted at all levels of church life. The synodal process starts by listening to the people, who “even participate in the prophetic office of Christ”, according to a principle dear to the Church of the first millennium: “Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus tractari debet” [what concerns all needs to be debated by all]. The path of the Synod continues by listening to the pastors. Through the Synod Fathers, the bishops act as true stewards, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, who must be able to carefully distinguish from that which flows from frequently changing public opinion.
On the eve of the Synod of last year I stated: “First of all, let us ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of listening for the Synod Fathers, so that with the Spirit, we might be able to hear the cry of the people and listen to the people until we breathe the will to which God calls us.”
Finally, the synodal process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called upon to pronounce as “pastor and teacher of all Christians,” not based on his personal convictions but as a supreme witness of “totius fides Ecclesiae” (the whole faith of the Church), of the guarantor of obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ and to the Tradition of the Church.
The fact that the Synod always act, cum Petro et sub Petro – therefore not only cum Petro, but also sub Petro – this is not a restriction of freedom, but a guarantee of unity. In fact the Pope, by the will of the Lord, is “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops as much as of the multitude of the faithful.” To this is connected the concept of “ierarchica communio” (hierarchical communio) used by Vatican II: the Bishops being united with the Bishop of Rome by the bond of episcopal communion (cum Petro) and at the same time hierarchically subjected to him as head of the college (sub Petro).
As a constitutive dimension of the Church, synodality gives us the more appropriate interpretive framework to understand the hierarchical ministry. If we understand as St. John Chrysostom did, that “church and synod are synonymous,” since the Church means nothing other than the common journey of the Flock of God along the paths of history towards the encounter of Christ Lord, then we understand that within the Church, no one can be raised up higher than the others. On the contrary, in the Church, it is necessary that each person be “lowered ” in order to serve his or her brothers and sisters along the way.
Jesus founded the Church by placing at its head the Apostolic College, in which the apostle Peter is the “rock” (cfr. Mt 16:18), the one who will confirm his brothers in the faith (cfr. Lk 22: 32). But in this church, as in an inverted pyramid, the summit is located below the base. For those who exercise this authority are called “ministers” because, according to the original meaning of the word, they are the least of all. It is in serving the people of God that each Bishop becomes for that portion of the flock entrusted to him, vicarius Christi, (vicar of that Jesus who at the Last Supper stooped to wash the feet of the Apostles (cfr. Jn 13: 1-15 ). And in a similar manner, the Successor of Peter is none other than the servus servorum Dei (Servant of the servants of God).
Let us never forget this! For the disciples of Jesus, yesterday, today and always, the only authority is the authority of the service, the only power is the power of the cross, in the words of the Master: “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their leaders oppress them. It shall not be so among you: but whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20:25-27). “It shall not be so among you:” in this expression we touch the heart of the mystery of the Church and receive the necessary light to understand hierarchical service.
In a Synodal Church, the Synod of Bishops is only the most obvious manifestation of a dynamism of communion that inspires all ecclesial decisions. The first level of exercise of synodality is realized in the particular (local) Churches. After having recalled the noble institution of the diocesan Synod, in which priests and laity are called to collaborate with the Bishop for the good of the whole ecclesial community, the Code of Canon Law devotes ample space to those that are usually called “bodies of communion” in the local Church: the Council of Priests, the College of Consultors, the Chapter of Canons and the Pastoral Council. Only to the extent that these organizations are connected with those on the ground, and begin with the people and their everyday problems, can a Synodal Church begin to take shape: even when they may proceed with fatigue, they must be understood as occasions of listening and sharing.
The second level is that of Ecclesiastical Provinces and Regions, of Particular (local Councils) and in a special way, Episcopal Conferences. We must reflect on realizing even more through these bodies – the intermediary aspects of collegiality – perhaps by integrating and updating some aspects of early church order. The hope of the Council that such bodies would help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realized. As I have said, “In a Church Synod it is not appropriate for the Pope to replace the local Episcopates in the discernment of all the problems that lie ahead in their territories. In this sense, I feel the need to proceed in a healthy “decentralization.”
The last level is that of the universal Church. Here the Synod of Bishops, representing the Catholic episcopate, becomes an expression of episcopal collegiality inside a church that is synodal. It manifests the affective collegiality, which may well become in some circumstances “effective,” joining the Bishops among themselves and with the Pope in the solicitude for the People God.
The commitment to build a Synodal Church to which all are called – each with his or her role entrusted to them by the Lord is loaded with ecumenical implications. For this reason, talking recently to a delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, I reiterated the conviction that “careful consideration of how to articulate in the Church’s life the principle of collegiality and the service of the one who presides offers a significant contribution to the progress of relations between our Churches.”
I am convinced that in a synodal Church, the exercise of the Petrine primacy will receive greater light. The Pope is not, by himself, above the Church; but inside it as one baptized among the baptized, and within the College of Bishops as Bishop among Bishops; as one called at the same time as Successor of Peter – to lead the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches.
While I reiterate the need and urgency to think of ” a conversion of the papacy,” I gladly repeat the words of my predecessor Pope John Paul II: “As Bishop of Rome I know well […] that the full and visible communion of all the communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells, is the ardent desire of Christ. I am convinced that you have in this regard a special responsibility, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a form of exercise of the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”
Our gaze extends also to humanity. A synodal church is like a banner lifted up among the nations (cfr. Is 11:12) in a world that even though invites participation, solidarity and transparency in public administration – often hands over the destiny of entire populations into the greedy hands of restricted groups of the powerful. As a Church that “walks together” with men and women, sharing the hardships of history, let us cultivate the dream that the rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and the exercise of authority, even now will be able to help civil society to be founded on justice and fraternity, generating a more beautiful and worthy world for mankind and for the generations that will come after us.
(Translation by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, English language media attaché, Holy See Press Office)
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.
We must be prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to be ready to give up even our lives, and a total gift of self to Christ and for Christ. Through your prayers and mine, it is possible to alleviate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it. . . . How many times has the renewal of the Church been brought about in blood! It will not be different this time.
— Pope St. John Paul II
More commentary from Fr. Dwight Longenecker…
Considering the moral and religious metanarrative of the American educational system in its earliest era, it appears that philosophical humanism is a modern novelty. Real nonetheless is its presence in the early history of the United States as a proto-secularism emerging and coexisting with religious cultural structures. This competition continues in the present era, most noticeable in competing philosophies of education, interpretations of history, conflicts over the First Amendment, public expressions of religion, etc. This conflict is evident from the formative years of the American educational system.
A City on a Hill
The American Experiment was forged in the new world; the product of independence from old world civilization and the steady expansion of nascent Protestantism, in its many forms. Hence, the educational enterprise was itself an experiment in largely Protestant catechesis as the emerging nation forged a new identity distinct from Mother England. Algera and Sink (2002) observed that not long ago in the American educational context, “The Bible served as the primary textbook for reading and the daily lessons reinforced a commitment to moral codes of behavior based upon the Scriptures” (p. 163). Moral education and conscience formation have been at the heart of the American educational enterprise. Noting the historical relationship of religion and society early in the Anglo-European context of American education, Walker, Kozma and Green (1989) write: “As it was in traditional English society, education in colonial society was centered in the family, the community, and the church” (p. 48).
Large colonial families, particularly extended families, merged with evolving communities, so much that they were indistinguishable. The interplay of community and family extended the values of the family unit into the public sphere, “. . . and its instruction in the world of work and conduct of life” (p. 49). It was the church and home that provided the moral framework for the education of children, through both catechesis and modeling.
Education for moral stability
In areas of largely Puritan influence, to aid in the stabilizing of families and society in the new world, laws were established in New England that attempted to secure the inculcation of both moral and religious values. As society’s vocational demands increased upon families, education was delegated to the community and the public schools emerged, supported by wealthy benefactors. “ . . . public schooling has developed as an institution controlled by the people that can be used to address problems perceived by the people; that is, the school has been perceived as an instrument for the implementation of public policy” (Walker, Kozma and Green, 1989, p. 50). Though they were the policies of the religious majority, “Religious instruction was believed to foster virtue, a characteristic many of the founding fathers emphasized as necessary to the citizenry of a republic” (Walker, Kozma and Green, 1989, p. 50). Harvard’s General Education in a Free Society (1945) made it clear the purpose of education was to train the Christian citizen: “Nor was there doubt how this training was to be accomplished. The student’s logical powers were to be formed by mathematics, his taste by the Greek and Latin classics, his speech by rhetoric and his ideals by Christian ethics [sic]” (Mattox, 1948, p. 9).
While this general sentiment was prevalent in the early colonies, among the Puritans it was rigorously employed as noted in the New England Primer (1690, a revision of the Protestant Tutor), Noah Webster’s Blue Back Speller (1790) and later Jonathan Fischer’s Youth Primer (ca. 1817). However, not long after the War of Independence with Great Britain, American society began to look to the public schools not simply to support a virtuous citizenry, but to prepare and train children for social and economic advancement (p. 53). The narrow Puritan vision was not shared by all.