The Oldest Christian Prayer

Daily Catholic Prayer—St. Clement: The oldest Christian prayer outside of the Bible

We beg you, Lord, to help and defend us.
Deliver the oppressed.
Pity the insignificant.
Raise the fallen.
Show yourself to the needy.
Heal the sick.
Bring back those of your people who have gone astray.
Feed the hungry.
Lift up the weak.
Take off the prisoners’ chains.
May every nation come to know that you alone are God,
that Jesus is your Child, that we are your people,
the sheep that you pasture.

Saint Clement 100 AD

8 Ideas for Celebrating Advent in 2018 BRANDON HARVEY

8 Ideas for Celebrating Advent in 2018

Each December brings the same temptation for Catholics: Join one’s daily focus with the commercially oriented Christmas frenzy in nearly every corner of modern American society or avoid it for the sake of focusing on living and breathing the meaning of Advent in preparation of the real Christmas season. The tension between the movement of society and Christmas is perhaps not too different than what occurred at the time of Jesus.

Saints Elizabeth and Zechariah heard the news that the birth of Jesus was coming (Luke 1:39-45). Mary and Saint Joseph alone traveled to Bethlehem, where Jesus would be born, for the census (Luke 2:1-5). Jesus was not born in a home or inn surrounded by others; it was a modest event to the human eye with the Holy Family alone being present (Luke 2:6-7). There were some shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) and Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) that later arrived to participate in the blessed event. As we can see, from the very beginning the birth of Christ went unnoticed by most of the corporeal world. We too should not fear having a different rhythm and set of habits for the upcoming holiday season as we prepare through Advent for the true meaning of Christmas: The Nativity of our Lord.

The Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy provides us many insights into celebrating Advent with the heart and mind of the Church. It provides three key themes for the celebration of Advent: “a time of waiting, conversion and of hope” (No. 96). The theme of waiting is to remember the initial coming of Jesus 2,000 years ago in the city of Bethlehem as well as our current waiting for “his final, glorious coming as Lord of History and universal Judge” (No. 96). Conversion is at the heart of the Advent celebrations as we too seek to repent and be ready for the coming of Christ. Hope speaks of our hope of all that is possible by Christ’s grace as we grow in holiness.

Perhaps it might be beneficial to revisit some less often quoted words concerning Advent and Christmas.

In the period of Advent, for instance, the Church arouses in us the consciousness of the sins we have had the misfortune to commit, and urges us, by restraining our desires and practicing voluntary mortification of the body, to recollect ourselves in meditation, and experience a longing desire to return to God who alone can free us by His grace from the stain of sin and from its evil consequences.

With the coming of the birthday of the Redeemer, she would bring us to the cave of Bethlehem and there teach that we must be born again and undergo a complete reformation; that will only happen when we are intimately and vitally united to the Word of God made man and participate in His divine nature, to which we have been elevated.

Mediator Dei by Pope Pius XII, Nos. 154-155

This is a profound call the Church has for us this Advent and every Advent. It is truly to make Advent more than religious activities but rather a period of grace-filled waiting, authentic and deeper conversion, and a renewed sense of hope. Returning to the Directory mentioned above, here are some of the suggested, although not exhaustive, means of celebrating Advent with the mind and heart of the Church:

1. The Advent Wreath is a four-candle wreath used to solicit a sense of waiting and progression while recalling the “various stages of salvation history” that culminates with the coming of Christ (No. 98).

2. Advent Processions have either been to announce the birth of Jesus Christ to the world or to recall the journey of the Holy Family to Bethlehem (No. 99). This is seen in many parishes and neighborhoods under the name posadas.

3. Marian Devotion throughout the season of Advent recalls both the “women of the Old Testament who prefigured and prophesied her mission” (No. 101) and recalls Mary’s faith and role in the events preceding the birth of Christ. Some examples of such devotion include: the Novena of the Immaculate Conception that progresses through the Marian passages from Genesis 3:15 to Luke 1:31-33, and devotions to Our Lady of Guadalupe. These devotions are rooted in and flow towards their corresponding liturgical celebrations (No. 102).

4. Vespers [Evening Prayer] from the Liturgy of the Hours is a means of preparing for Christmas through the daily rhythm of the Church’s liturgical prayer and in a special way through Vespers from December 17th-23rd with the “major antiphons” (No. 103). There are many apps for smart phones for accessing the Liturgy of the Hours easily and the clergy are already praying these liturgical prayers (Code of Canon Law 1174 §1).

In the hope of promoting the themes of waiting, conversion, and hope, I would like to humbly add some additional ideas for celebrating Advent in 2018:

5. The Sacrament of Confession to renew and deepen our conversion to Christ. Confession is also called the Sacrament of Conversion (CCC 1423).

6. Daily Reading of Scripture to recall the major events of salvation history and prophecies related to the coming of Christ by reading these passages, within their broader context. Some examples: Genesis 3:15, Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17, 2 Samuel 7:16, Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 7:14, Jeremiah 23:5, Micah 5:2, Luke 1:1-80. The Jesse Tree is also a wonderful tool in this practice.

7. Eucharistic Adoration to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacrament of the Presence of Christ. This is an excellent opportunity to contemplate the mystery of Jesus as Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

8. Increased Care for the Poor to remember Jesus who was born in the humblest of circumstances and “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

There is not a person on earth that does not hunger for the gift of joy, hope, and meaning. Especially in the times we find ourselves in, we hunger for it even more. Nothing will bring us a better sense of these gifts during the Advent Season than celebrating Advent with the heart and mind of the Church, basking in the grace of God as we prepare for Christmas Mass and Christmastide.

A Reflection on Matthew 16:18-20 by a Non-Catholic GREEK Bible Scholar

A Reflection on Matthew 16:18-20 by a Non-Catholic GREEK Bible Scholar

  1. The Exegetical Examination of Matthew 16:18

This chapter will focus solely upon the exegesis of the verse.37 Of course, the primary exegetical problem of the verse is the identity of the πέτρα. Is Jesus referring to himself as the rock, or is he referring to Peter? Could the rock be Peter’s confession of faith? And what are the implications of each interpretation?

“You are Peter”: A Linguistic Study of Πέτρος (16:18a)

κἀγὼ δέ σοι λέγω. “And I” (κἀγώ) follows the revelation that the Father made to Peter. According to Walter Bauer, the pronoun κἀγώ should be understood as “but I, for my part.”38In other words, Jesus is saying: “My Father has just revealed something to you, but I, for my part, will also reveal a truth to you.” Therefore, the και … δε combination essentially serves as an adversative conjunction.39 Jesus uses the emphatic pronoun, which in light of Peter’s confession, means “I, the Messiah”; it marks the following words as important.40 Peter has made an important statement about Jesus; Jesus, in turn will make an important statement to Peter.41

ὅτι σὺ ει Πέτρος. The ὅτι is a substantival conjunction of content.42 It introduces the direct object clause of λέγω. The σοι should then be taken as the indirect object of λέγω. The σύ here is being used emphatically. Jesus is therefore singling out Peter. He is essentially saying: “You, the man who has just made this important statement; you, to whom my Father has revealed this great truth.”43 This parallels the emphatic σύ in Peter’s confession in v. 16. Here, Πέτροςfunctions as the predicate nominative to σύ.

The word Πέτρος means “stone”44 and occurs 156 times in the New Testament.45 Except at John 1:42, where it is used to clarify the Aramaic Κηφᾶς, Πέτρος) is only used in the NT as the nickname of Simon, one of the original twelve apostles of Jesus.46 It occurs 29 times with Σίμων; of those 29 times, three occur in the Gospel of Matthew (4:18; 10:2; 16:16).47 The original name of the apostle is either Symeon or Simon.48 Symeon is a Hebrew name that was used quite commonly among Jews, but this Semitic form is only used of Peter in Acts 15:14 and 2 Peter 1:1.49 In the New Testament, nine people, apart from Peter are called Simon, and two people, apart from Peter, the patriarch Simeon (Rev. 7:7), and an ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:30) are called Simeon (Luke 2:25, 34Acts 13:1).50 It appears to have been the most prevalent Jewish name between the period of 100 B.C.-A.D. 200, no doubt because it was a patriarchal name that was readily assimilated into Greek.51 It should be noted that the use of the name “Simeon” in 2 Peter 1:1 has been met with some controversy.52 The Gospels, though, consistently use the Greek name of Simon.53 Since there is a similarity of sound between the Greek and Hebrew names, the former probably replaced the latter.54 It is possible that Peter bore both names from the very beginning, especially if he came from Bethsaida, which was under heavy Greek influence.55

Moreover, Simon also bears another name, Κηφᾶς. This name is a Greek transcription of the Aramaic wordֵֹכיפָא .56 The word ֵֹכיפָא means “rock”.57 The Hebrew noun kēph is found in Jer 4:29, Job 30:6, and Sir 40:1458; the common noun kephā appears twice in the Targum of Job from Qumran Cave 11 and several times in the texts of Aramaic Enoch from Qumran Cave 4.59 In the Qumran passages, the word has the sense of “rock” or “crag,” a part of a mountainous or hilly area.60 For years it was thought that Κηφᾶς was not used as a proper name. However, Fitzmeyer has shown that kp  does occur as a proper name in a Aramaic text from Elephantine that dates to the eighth year of the reign of Darius II, hence to 416 B.C.61Thus Peter was not the first person to have had the name, and the existence of Κηφᾶς as a proper name at least makes more plausible the suggestion that a wordplay in Aramaic was involved.62 Κηφᾶς is used to reference Simon most often in the writings of Paul.63 It seems highly unlikely that Paul would simply choose to give Peter an Aramaic name, so it can be safely assumed that Paul knew that Peter was also called Κηφᾶς when he wrote his epistles.64This would indicate a very early use of Κηφᾶς as a proper name, certainly prior to the composition of Matthew.65 This too would lend credence to the arguments that Jesus probably spoke to his disciples in both Aramaic and Greek.66

As previously stated, Πέτρος is used to clarify Κηφᾶς in John 1:42. As a rule, Semitic names of the New Testament period were far more subject to Hellenization than those of the OT.67Often the same name, if it belongs to a NT person, is Grecized68; grammatically, this Hellenization could take place through a variety of ways, but Κηφᾶς-Πέτρος serves as a great example of Hellenization taking place through translation.69 While some have argued that the Κηφᾶς of Galatians is not the apostle Peter70, this is probably not the case.71

“Upon this Rock”: A Linguistic Study of πέτρα (16:18b)

 καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃͅ τῇ πέτρᾳ. The καί merely serves as a connective conjunction, so it should simply be translated as “and.” When used with the dative, ἐπί can be understood in a spatial, temporal, or causal sense.72 Here, a spatial understanding works best, and the word may be understood as “on, upon”.73 The object of ἐπί should be understood as πέτρα.

The ταύτη (“this”) also refers to πέτρα. The use of the article τῇ with the demonstrative pronoun ταύτη, which is in the predicate position, indicates attributive function.74 So, the phrase may be translated as such: “and upon this rock.” The word πέτρα means “rock, stone”; literally, it refers to the rock out of which a tomb is hewn.75 According to Cullman, in the LXX, πέτρα can be used to signify the following: a. “rock or cliff” (Exod 17:6; Ps 80:16); b. place-name or geographical note, (1 Βar 23:28); c. fig. (Isa 8:14), of an unbending character (Isa 50:7) or the hardened mind (Jer 5:3); d. occasionally a name for God (2 Βar 22:2).76 The word occurs fifteen times in the New Testament77; nine of those fifteen occurrences are in the Gospels78; five of the fifteen are in Matthew.79 Only in Matt 16:18 are πέτρα and Πέτρος used in the same verse.


While the argument from Aramaic would work well in proving that the πέτρα in question is Peter, it is by no means certain that Jesus spoke Aramaic here.80 Given the distinct possibility that Jesus may have spoken Greek here, and given the fact that Matthew’s verses are in the Greek, one might do well to stick to a Greek understanding of the πέτρα-Πέτρος word-play. If this is done, a wide variety of interpretations may be obtained. Gundry, for example, argues that the πέτρα is the teachings of Jesus. He argues that Matthew essentially quotes 7:24, so the πέτρα consists of Jesus’ teaching (i.e., the law of Christ).81 But other interpretations are offered as well. Caragounis argues that πέτρα refers to Peter’s confession of faith. He states the following:

It is obvious that if the reference were intended to [be] Peter there were only two alternatives available – which would have put the matter beyond reasonable doubt. The first alternative would be: Σὺ εἷ Πέτροςκαὶ ἐπὶ σὲ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. There would still be a word-play here, in as much as Πέτρος would have been understood to refer to the well-known disciple, while at the same time the thought of building would have reflected on the meaning of Peter’s name, i.e., the idea of a bedrock on which to erect the ἐκκλησία. The other alternative, which is still better, would be: Σὺ εἷ ὁ Πέτρος ἐφ= ᾧ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. Ηere, the word Πέτρος would have been understood doubly as the personal name of Jesus’ interlocutor and as the rock-foundation of the Church. In this case, there would have been no doubt that the rock was Peter. That Matthew chose to use Πέτρος and πέτρα, two different words, whose very collocation marks a conscious juxtaposition, indicates clearly his intention to contradistinguish the two terms… . It is this confession of Jesus as God’s anointed Messiah, a confession that sets Peter and the other disciples apart from unbelieving Jews, a confession which in Matthew’s context exercises a constraining influence on Jesus to come to terms with his hard calling, to direct his steps to the place of duty, seeing behind Peter’s words his Father’s affirmation of his mission and office, that lies at the basis of Jesus’ words to Peter. Peter’s words are not merely an honorific title; they are a challenge, the challenge of Messianic calling, of Messianic suffering, of Messianic community, of God’s kingdom, of reward and glory… . The πέτρα is the content of Peter’s insight, i.e., that Jesus is the Messiah.82

First, Caragounis places a great deal of emphasis on the fact that Matthew chose to use both Πέτρος and πέτρα in v. 18; for him, this proves that Matthew was not equating the “rock” with the apostle. Second, Caragounis argues that Matthew 16 centers largely upon the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. The “unbelieving Jews” (e.g., the Pharisees and the Sadducees) could not see that truth, and though they previously proclaimed him as the Son of God previously (14:33), even his disciples did not openly affirm Jesus as the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi. While Peter accurately identifies Jesus as the divine Son-Christ (and receives a blessing for doing so), the apostle does not stand at the center of Matt 16:18; what is important is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. Other commentators, such McNeile, Allen, and Ryle also support a πέτρα = faith reading of the text. Theologian John Ryle, for example, states the following about the identity of the πέτρα: “To speak of an erring, fallible child of Adam as the foundation of the spiritual temple is very unlike the ordinary language of Scripture… . The true meaning of the “rock” appears to be the truth of the Lord’s messiahship and divinity.”83It should be noted that this view also had the support of some notable Reformers, including John Calvin.84

However, other theologians assert that rock is Jesus himself. This trend started with Augustine, and this was the dominant view dominant throughout the Middle Ages. During the Reformation, both Zwingli and Luther held a Christological interpretation of the verse. In his treatise On True and False Religion, Ulrich Zwingli states the following:

[It] is as though Christ were saying, ‘I was right to give thee the name Peter; for thou art Peter. For staunchly and clearly and unwaveringly [Peter] confesseth that which has saving power for all. I, too, will build my church upon this rock, not upon thee; for thou art not a rock (petra). God alone is the rock on which every building shall be built… . So, thou, Peter, art not a rock.’ For how would the Church have collapsed when he, trembling at the feeble voice of her who kept the door [John 18:17] began to make denial! … That the divine Apostle so understood the words of Christ he himself bears witness, 1 Pet 2:4-5: ‘Unto whom’ – Christ, that is – ‘coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of man, but with God elect and precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house.’ ‘Behold as Christ is a rock,’ you say, ‘so are we rocks,’ But see in what sense Christ is a rock, and in what sense we are rocks. Christ is the rock upon which the building rises, we are the common stones in the building which has its foundations in Christ. Christ alone, therefore, not Peter nor any creature is the rock, built upon which the Church stands fast against all the vicious fury of all the storms.85

Here, Zwingli argues that even in spite of his profession of faith, the apostle Peter cannot be the sturdy “rock” of the Church because he later denies his Lord. If the Church is built upon Peter the man, then it would have surely collapsed when he betrayed Jesus. Zwingli also argues that Peter’s own writings prove that he saw Jesus, not himself, as the “rock” of the Church. For the apostle, Christians are living stones that are used to build up the body of Christ, but Jesus is the living stone upon which the Church rests.

Interestingly, theologian George A. F. Knight holds a similar understanding of the verse. With Zwingli, he argues that Peter never would have understood himself to be the “rock” in question. As a first-century Jew, he would have automatically connected the “rock” with God.86 Throughout the Old Testament, the God of Israel is often called “rock” (Deut 32: 4, 15, 18, 30; 1 Sam 2:2, 22:32, 47; Ps 18:31, 19:14, 28:1, 42:9, 89:26; Isa 30:29). In the whole story of God’s self-revelation through His relationship with Israel, He proved that He was their provider and caretaker – the rock of their faith.87 Like Zwingli, Knight maintains that the rock cannot be either the apostle or his faith because “[in] a matter of only weeks Peter’s faith failed him wholly, and his so-called rock-like qualities became in the High Priest’s courtyard nought but sinking sand.”88 For Knight, then, it is not Peter’s faith that becomes the rock upon which the Church rests; instead, the Church rests on the faithfulness, the reliability, and the rocklike trustworthiness of God.89 Thus, according to Knight, “the rock is none other than God-in-Christ.”90

However, other scholars (such as Keener, Carson, and Ridderbos) argue that the πέτρα is Peter. Against Caragounis, Ridderbos argues that the difference between πέτρα and Πέτρος is rather insignificant. He asserts:

The most likely explanation for the change from petros (“Peter”) to petra is that petra was the normal word for “rock.” Because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man’s name, however, Simon was not called petra but Petros. The word Petros was not an exact synonym of petra, as it literally meant “stone.” Jesus therefore had to switch to the word petra when He turned from Peter’s name to what it meant for the church. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that he was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the church. The words “on this rock [petra]” indeed refer to Peter. Because of the revelation that he had received and the confession that it motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future church. Only Peter is mentioned in this verse, and the pun on his name of course applied to him alone.91

Cullman agrees with Ridderbos’ assessment. He also maintains that since the word πέτρα is feminine in the Greek and has a feminine ending (-α), the New Testament chose a less usual Greek word which had the masculine ending (-ος) for the apostle: Πέτρος.92 Cullman goes on to state that there is no essential difference between πέτρα and Πέτρος, for even though πέτραdenoted a “live rock” and Πέτρος meant a “detached stone,” the distinction was not strictly observed.93 In several instances, πέτρα is used with the meaning “piece of rock” or “stone.”94

Exegetically, it seems least probable that Jesus is referring to himself as theπέτρα. Carson maintains that if Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was the stone while Jesus was the rock, then the more common word to use would have been lithos (which denotes a “stone” of almost any size) and no pun would have existed.95 It is true that there are numerous instances of God the Father being described as “rock” in the OT (see above) and Jesus being described as “rock” or “foundation” in the NT (1 Cor 3:11, 10:4); however, that does not necessarily mean that Jesus is referring to himself (or the Father) as the “rock” of Matt 16:18.96 As a chapter, Matthew 16 does concentrate heavily on the theme of Jesus’ identity, but vv. 17-19 seem to focus particularly on Peter and his statements regarding Jesus’ identity. Therefore, it would seem likely that the πέτρα of v. 18 either refers to the man or to his confession of faith.

If Peter’s confession of faith is the “rock,” then why did Jesus not say “upon this faith” or “upon your words” I will build my Church? According to R. T. France, it is overreaction against the papal claims of the Roman Catholic Church that has inspired some Protestants to view the “rock” as Peter’s faith rather than the man.97 It seems that the word-play and the whole structure of the logion demands that v. 18 is every bit as much Jesus’ declaration about Peter as v. 16 was Peter’s declaration about Jesus.98

It should also be noted that in v. 17, Jesus refers to the apostle as “Simon”. In v. 18, though, Jesus specifically refers to Simon as Peter, the nickname that he had previously given the apostle. If Peter is not in view, why would Jesus deliberately use a word that almost mirrored the apostle’s name? Considering that this is the only place in the entire New Testament corpus in which πέτρα and Πέτρος are used in the same verse, it is difficult to imagine that Jesus was not in some way referring to Peter. This could very well be a case of paronomasia, which is common in the Bible and should not be belittled.99 The only logical explanation is that there is some relationship between the two, and Jesus wanted to make that connection known.

Furthermore, Keener asserts that Jesus does not say, “You are Peter, but on this rock I will build my church”; the adversative δε sometimes means “and” but the copulative και almost always means “and” (with a few exceptions).100 It is true that 16:18 is quite reminiscent of 7:24-27 and ultimately, Jesus’ teaching is the foundation for disciples (1 Cor 3:11), but in this verse, Peter functions as the foundation rock as the apostles and prophets do in Eph 2:20-21.101 If all the apostles and prophets are seen as rocks, does that diminish the unique blessing to Peter? Not at all. Although the apostles may be “rocks” in one sense, Peter is “the rock” in special sense.

In v. 15, Jesus specifically asked his disciples who were present: “But who do you say that I am?” (The term μαθητάς in v. 13 and the plural forms ὑμεις and λέγετε make it clear that he was speaking to more than one disciple.) Only one person responded, namely Peter, and he answered by correctly confessing that Jesus is the Christ. Just as Peter singled out Jesus and unveiled his identity, Jesus now singles out Peter and uncovers his true identity.102 However, Jesus does not assign the role of “rock” to Peter in an arbitrary manner: Peter is the rock because he is the one who confessed Jesus as the Christ here.103 Furthermore, Peter is not given the title because he is inherently worthy to receive it; he is not more righteous than any of the other disciples. Certainly Peter had his failings and shortcomings, as indicated in 16:22-23. But his failures and vacillations do not detract from his preeminence; in fact, his inadequacies probably highlight it.104 Had Peter been a lesser figure, his behavior probably would have been of far less consequence.105 In any case, Peter was able to rise above his shortcomings here and make a profession about the true identity of Jesus; on that basis is his preeminence established.

It has been argued that there may be a Jewish tradition behind the title given to Peter. There is a personal tradition that is connected to Isa 51:1-2, in which Abraham is said to be the rock out of which Israel was broken.106 Davies-Allison notes that there are parallels between Gen 17and Matt 16: in both cases, the reader sees the birth of the people of God (the Jews in one case; the church in the other); in both instances, the birth is associated with one particular individual (Abraham, then Peter); in both texts, the individual has a name change that symbolizes his crucial function (Abraham is the “father of a multitude” while Peter is the “rock” upon which the Church is built).107 While this idea is interesting, it faces the very different metaphor of being hewn from a rock and being built upon a rock.108 Most likely, then, Peter, is probably not meant to be seen as the new Abraham.109 It should also be noted that the Qumran sect was founded upon a “rock”.110 Tractate 1QH 6.25-28 reads: “For Thou wilt set the foundation on rock and the framework by the measuring-cord of justice; and the tried stones [Thou wilt lay] by the plumb-line [of truth], to [build] a mighty [wall] which shall not sway; and no man entering there shall stagger.”111 So, the idea of a community being founded upon a “rock” is present in the Jewish milieu of Jesus’ day.

Certainly, though, questions have been raised regarding this interpretation. After all, if Peter is the “rock” in question, and if he is given a position of preeminence, the question of the disciples as to who would have that place (18:1) seems inexplicable.112 Moreover, in 16:19, Peter is given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” and the authority to loose and bind things on earth; this would seem to imply preeminence, but in 18:18, this authority is given to all the apostles. Surely, Jesus has not forgotten his own words! If such an authority is given to all of the apostles, then it would seem unlikely that Jesus is referring to Peter as the πέτρᾳ. In light of these factors, does the argument hold that the πέτρᾳ is pointing to Peter?

These questions do bring up valid points. It is true that the other disciples were also given the “keys,” and it is true that the disciples later inquire about “who is the greatest.” Despite the fact that Peter was probably voicing the belief of all of the disciples, it was still he who so emphatically declared their conviction.113 However, some theologians, such as Leon Morris114, point to the fact that it was James, not Peter, who became the head of the Jerusalem Church. If anyone were to be assigned a place of preeminence, then, it would seem to be James and not Peter. Even if it is conceded that James was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, that still does not necessarily diminish the primacy of Peter among the apostolic band; this is made evident within the Gospels themselves. In all of the Synoptic Gospels, Peter is named first in the lists of the apostles (Matt 10:2-4Mark 3:16-19Luke 6:14-16); the same is true for the book of Acts (see 1:13). Peter, along with James and John, is included among the innermost circle of Jesus’ apostles; even among this band, though, Peter is listed first (Matt 17: 1-8; 26:37; Mark 5: 37; 9:2-8; Luke 9: 28-26; 13:3). Peter asks questions for the disciples (15:15: 18:21), and on one occasion, outsiders addressed him instead of Jesus (17:24).115 It is Peter who is the leading character in the story of the miraculous catch (Luke 5: 1-11).116 It is Peter who tries to imitate Jesus by walking on water (Matt 14:28).117 It is Peter who is called “blessed” for confessing that Jesus is the Christ (Matt 16:17), and it is Peter who is reprimanded for rebuking Jesus when the latter spoke of his impending death (Matt 16:23). It is Peter who cuts off Malchus’ ear in order to defend Jesus (John 18:10); it is Peter who is rebuked for doing so (John 18:11). It is Peter who denies Jesus three times (Matt 26:69-75Mark 14:66-72Luke 22:55-62John 18:16-18, 25-27); it is Peter who receives a special commission from the post-resurrected Jesus (John 21:15-18). The occurrence of phrases such as “Peter and those who were with him” (see Mark 1:36 and Luke 9:32) is worth noting.118 On the morning of the resurrection, even the angel singled out Peter by saying: “Go and tell the disciples and Peter” that Jesus had risen from the dead. All four of the gospel writers, then, seem to attribute a unique position to Peter.119

Peter is also featured prominently in the first half of Acts. He guides the process of choosing Matthias as a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26); he functions as a preacher within the Jerusalem Church and as a missionary to those who are outside (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43); he is a miracle worker and (as in the case of Paul) some of his miracles resemble that of Jesus (Acts 3:1-10; 5:1-11, 15; 9:32-42); he is the object of divine care and receives visionary or heavenly guidance (Acts 5:17-21; 10:9-48; 12:6-11); and he is a spokesperson for the Jerusalem community (Acts 8:14-25; 11:1-18; 15:7-11).120 Despite the fact that it is James who becomes the leader of the Jerusalem Church, he is not consistently singled out like Simon Peter. Even with James’ eminent position in Jerusalem, it appears that Peter was the leader of the “apostolic band” that is, of the Twelve. It should also be noted that James’ rise in the Jerusalem Church did not occur until after Peter began his missionary work.121Whether the interactions were positive or negative, it appears that Peter became a central apostolic figure because of his close and unique relationship to Jesus.122 Even though the position has its weaknesses, the interpretation of πέτρα as Peter the apostle still seems most likely.

However, the fact that this exegesis points to Peter as the πέτρα in no way endorses a Roman Catholic understanding of Peter’s successors. In fact, the text states nothing about Peter’s successor, papal infallibility, or exclusive authority over the Church.123 Peter’s privilege of being the “rock” is historically unrepeatable.124 Understood in its original sense, Jesus assigns the apostle a unique and unrepeatable position in the spiritual edifice of God.125 On the one hand, the verse speaks of the ἐκκλησία, a fellowship that is to be built in the future, without any time limit being given; on the other hand, the verse speaks about Peter, a human person, whose earthly activity will necessarily be limited by his death.126 Just as Peter’s feeding of the lambs in John 21:16ff is limited by his martyrdom, so is Peter’s status as “rock” of the Church limited by his earthly demise.127 According to Luz, “the rock, the foundation, is fundamentally different from what is built on it, that is, the house.”128 The rock remains, but the house built on it gets higher and higher.129 Even though Peter and the other apostles died, their ministry certainly continued, but in the post-apostolic age it was the apostolic traditions and the writings of the New Testament that “assumed” this ministry.130 Certainly, the apostles appointed elders, deacons, and bishops in the local churches that they founded; this is clear from the New Testament writings themselves (1 Tim 1:1-5, 3:1-13, 5: 17-21, 2 Tim 4:1-5Titus 1:5-9). However, there is no evidence for the succession of the apostles in their apostolic office that is valid for the whole church.131 For instance, the Pastoral Epistles in no way indicate that Timothy or Titus, students of Paul, assumed his role as apostle and giver of tradition. What this seems to mean is that Matthew knows nothing of a perpetual office of Peter; instead, he knows Peter the disciple of Jesus, whose image he preserves for his community.132

“I will Build My Church”: The Role of ἐκκλησία (16:18b cont.)

 οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. Οἰκοδομέω occurs 40 times in the New Testament, and 8 times in the Gospel of Matthew.133 Οἰκοδομήσω is in the future tense, so Jesus is looking forward to building a community on the rock of Peter. 134 The theme of “building” a people springs from the Old Testament (Ruth 4:112 Sam 7:13-141 Chr 17: 12-13: Jer 1:10, 24:6, 31:4, 33:7; Amos 9:11).135 The metaphorical use of “build” here is appropriate for a community conceived of as a spiritual “house” or “temple” (note the description of the church as God’s building in 1 Cor 3:9; Eph 2:19-21).136

The word ἐκκλησία is used 114 times in the New Testament but only twice in the gospels. Both occurrences are in Matthew (16:18; 18:17). According to Walter Bauer, the term can be use to mean the following: 1) “assembly” such as a regularly summoned political body (cf. Josephus, Ant., 12, 164; Acts 19:39); 2) “assemblage, gathering, meeting” (1 Macc 3:13; Acts 19:32); 3) the congregation of the Israelites, especially when gathered for religious purposes (Deut 31:30; Judg 20:2; Josephus, Ant., 4, 309); 4) of the Christian church or community.137 With regard to definition #4, the term ἐκκλησία may be categorized even further; Bauer asserts that in this verse, ἐκκλησία is best understood as “the universal church to which all believers belong.”138The word ἐκκλησία often appears in the LXX, usually as the translation of קָהָל.139 The possessive pronoun μου essentially functions as an adjective and identifies the owner of the church, namely Jesus himself. Peter may be the “rock,” but the church does not belong to Peter, his successors, or to any other church leader; she belongs to Jesus, exclusively and entirely.140

“The Gates of Hell”: The Strength of the Church in the Face of πύλαι ᾅδου(16:18c)

 καὶ πύλαι ᾅδου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς. Πύλη means “gate or door”141and occurs 10 times in the New Testament, with four of those occurrences in Matthew (7:13, 7:14, and 16:18).142 Here, ᾅδης refers to the “nether world, the place of the dead”143; the word appears 10 times in the New Testament, with two occurrences in Matthew (11:23 and 16:18).144 The phrase πύλαι ᾅδουoccurs only here in the New Testament, withᾅδου functioning as an attributive genitive to<ι> <ͅι>πύλαι .145 The phrase “gates of Hades” is a common Semitic expression for the threshold of the realm of death (11:23; Rev 1:18).146 The phrase can be found in the both the Old Testament and apocryphal writings (Job 38:17Isa 38:10; Wis 16:13; 3 Macc 5:51), and in later Jewish literature (1QH 6.24).147 Here, though, the interpretation is a bit more dubious. Gundry argues that given the prominence of persecution in the gospel, Matthew is probably using the phrase to represent death by martyrdom.148 Even in the face of the apostles’ bloody deaths, then, the church will still remain victorious. Other commentators, such as Jeremias, lean towards the πύλαι ᾅδου serving as the forces of the underworld.149 Given the usual understanding of the phrase, it is probably best taken as meaning “the power of death” or simply “death.”150

The word κατισχύσουσιν occurs only three times in the New Testament (Matt 16:18Luke 21:36, 23:23),151 and it is derived from κατισχύω, which means “to win a victory over.”152 In other words, the power of death will not win a victory over the church. It makes sense that the antecedent for αὐτῆς refers to ἐκκλησία rather than πέτρα since “church” is closer in proximity.153 Therefore, the church, as an eschatological community, will never die or come to an end.154 As Keener states: “The church will endure until Jesus’ return, and no opposition, even the widespread martyrdom of Christians … can prevent the ultimate triumph of God’s purposes in history.155


 While some exegetes and theologians assert that the πέτρα of this verse points to Jesus or the confession of Peter, the deliberate use of the πέτρα-Πέτρος pun in 16:18, the only verse in the entire NT that contains both words, seems to indicate the Jesus specifically singled out the apostle Simon Peter as the “rock” in question. Peter is not given this position because he is inherently worthy; instead, he receives this title because he confessed his faith in the Messiah. Under the leadership of Peter, Jesus will build his own community (as seen in Acts), and nothing, not even death itself, will overcome the establishment of this body throughout history. Despite the fact that this exegesis points to Peter as the πέτρα, the verse states nothing about Peter’s apostleship being passed down to future successors. It is the historical Peter who remains the “rock” of the Church156, and the exegesis of Matt 16:18 gives no indication that Jesus was establishing a permanent apostolic see for future Bishops of Rome. END QUOTES


A regal litany to Jesus, King of the Universe {reblogged}

A regal litany to Jesus, King of the Universe

It highlights all of Jesus’ qualities that make him the perfect king.

Kings are often seen as oppressive monarchs who rule as a tyrant over their subjects. While that may be true of some earthly kings, when we give Jesus the title of “King,” we do so because he is the “King of Kings,” the just and merciful king whom we want to govern over us.

He is our protector, our advocate who rides on in battle to fight against the enemy that presses on the gates of the castle. He invites us to take shelter behind the walls while he sacrifices his life for his people.

Jesus is the true king, a ruler to whom we are not afraid to give our full allegiance.

Below is a beautiful litany to Jesus Christ the King, that highlights his many regal qualities and why he is the perfect king.

Lord, have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us, Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

God, our Heavenly Father, Who has made firm for all ages your Son’s Throne, Have mercy on us.

God the Son, Jesus, our Victim-High Priest, True Prophet, and Sovereign King, Have mercy on us.

God the Holy Spirit, poured out upon us with abundant newness, Have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, Three Persons yet One God in the Beauty of Your Eternal Unity, Have mercy on us.

O Jesus, our Eternal King, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, Most Merciful King, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, extending to us the Golden Scepter of Your Mercy, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, in Whose Great Mercy we have been given the Sacrament of Confession, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, Loving King Who offers us Your Healing Grace, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, our Eucharistic King, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, the King foretold by the prophets, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King of Heaven and earth, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King and Ruler of All Nations, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, Delight of the Heavenly Court, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Most Compassionate toward Your subjects, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King from Whom proceeds all authority, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, in whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, we are One, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Whose Kingdom is not of this world, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Whose Sacred Heart burns with Love for all mankind, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Who is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Who has given us Mary, the Queen, to be our dear Mother, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Who will come upon the clouds of Heaven with Power and Great Glory, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Whose Throne we are to approach with confidence, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Who made Mary the Mediatrix of All Graces, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Who made Mary Co-Redemptrix, Your partner in the Plan of Salvation, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Who desires to heal us of all division and disunity, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King wounded by mankind’s indifference, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Who gives the balm of Your Love with which to console Your Wounded Heart, Reign in our hearts.
O Jesus, King Who is the Great I AM within us, our Wellspring of Pure Delight, Reign in our hearts.

Jesus, King of All Nations, True Sovereign of all earthly powers, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, subjecting under Your feet forever the powers of hell , May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, the Light beyond all light, enlightening us in the darkness that surrounds us, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Whose Mercy is so Great as to mitigate the punishments our sins deserve, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, recognized by the Magi as the True King, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, the Only Remedy for a world so ill, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Who blesses with Peace those souls and nations that acknowledge You as True King, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Who Mercifully sends us your Holy Angels to protect us, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Whose Chief Prince is Saint Michael the Archangel, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Who teaches us that to reign is to serve, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Just Judge Who will separate the wicked from the good, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, before Whom every knee shall bend, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Whose Dominion is an everlasting Dominion, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Lamb who will Shepherd us, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Who after having destroyed every sovereignty, May we serve You. authority and power, will hand over the Kingdom to Your God and Father,
Jesus, King of All Nations, Whose Reign is without end, May we serve You.
Jesus, King of All Nations, Whose kindness toward us is steadfast, and whose fidelity endures forever, May we serve You.

Eternal Father, Who has given us Your Only Begotten Son, to be our Redeemer, One True Mediator, and Sovereign King, We praise and thank You.
Loving Jesus, Sovereign King, Who humbled Yourself for Love of us and took the form of a servant, , We praise and thank You.

Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Trinity, Love of the Father and the Son, Who sanctifies us and gives us Life, We praise and thank You.

Mary, our Queen and Mother, who mediates to Jesus on our behalf, Pray for us.

Mary, our Queen and Mother, through whom all Grace come to us, Pray for us.

Mary, our Queen and Mother, Singular Jewel of the Holy Trinity, We love You.

Holy Angels and Saints of our Divine King, Pray for us and Protect us.


There Is No Catholicism Lite. Catholicism Is the Light. By: Stefanie Nicholas

There Is No Catholicism Lite. Catholicism Is the Light.

Stefanie Nicholas

There is an unfortunate tendency within modern-day Catholic evangelism to present the faith as a sort of Protestantism Plus. “We’re all Christians. We all worship the same God. We all revere the same Scriptures. We all are seeking to love Jesus. It’s great that you’re a Christian, but Catholicism is the fullness of Christianity – we have all of the seven sacraments that Christ and the apostles gave us! It’s such a gift!”

Such a statement is problematic for several reasons, but the root problem is not often addressed. The fundamental error is one of not doctrine, but the mindset and strategy of both the apologist and the potential “convert.”

The majority of people today subscribe to a seemingly self-evident framework when seeking to convince someone of the truth of their position. The sales strategy goes something like this: find what is good about position A, note the areas in which position A and position B are already in accord, and present the additional benefits of taking position B.

It seems as though it should work. After all, who would deny himself the best and settle for the mediocre middle ground? Unfortunately, how human beings should act is often entirely different from how they actually do act.

A couple of years ago, as a new breastfeeding mother, I had the opportunity to live out a real-life case study.

I was strongly in the pro-breastfeeding camp, and I noticed something quickly: no matter how gently I defended my decision, the majority of women I spoke to who chose to formula-feed their children were very, very, very offended. No matter what I said, these mothers were unable to hear about the benefits of breastfeeding without assuming I was calling them inferior mothers.

One day, a twelve-minute YouTube video popped up in my recommended videos titled “Breast Is No Longer Best.” The clickbait worked, and the wisdom therein has stuck with me ever since. The breastfeeding educator’s main argument was that breastfeeding is obviously the natural biological standard by which we must measure all infant feeding and that by pointing out the “benefits” of breastfeeding or saying “breast is best,” we are de facto granting that artificial feeding is the baseline by which we must judge the outcomes of infant feeding choices.

As uncomfortable as it may be to say so, the fact of the matter is not that breastfeeding statistically “makes babies healthier.” It is that artificial feeding statistically makes babies sicker!

This same granting of a false baseline is exactly what we see with so many Catholic evangelists. It grants Protestantism the baseline by presenting Christianity as a hazy concept from the get-go, some vague idea of “we all agree on Jesus.” This concept of Christianity is antithetical to Catholicism as the one true Church…and essential to broadly defined Protestantism!

I realized that the sales strategy I laid out above, whether in apologetics for breastfeeding or Catholicism, is poor. It is particularly poor because it seems so self-evidently reasonable that it is easy to fall into.

For as long as I continued to discuss the minefield of infant feeding, I chose to hold to another sales strategy, and I have sought to use that same mindset when defending the Catholic faith: gain a firm understanding of why position B is correct, mentally note the areas in which position A is genuinely in agreement with position B, boldly go on the offensive in areas in which position A is not in agreement with position B, and present the ways in which position A fails to meet the baseline of position B and is therefore inferior.

This may sound clinical, or, in the case of discussing infant feeding, harsh. To the contrary, I believe that it is an act of genuine charity to aid others in making truly informed decisions on important matters, even when it opens us up to retaliation.

If a new mother struggling to nurse through a painful breast infection is told, “Well, your baby might miss out on a few extra benefits of breastfeeding if you quit,” is she likely to be resolute in following her intentions to breastfeed? Is she likely to stand fast when her mother begs to take a turn feeding her grandchild? When she finds herself in a public place with a screaming baby who refuses to latch?

If a Protestant who wants to follow Jesus Christ wherever He leads is told, “Well, you might miss out on a few extra sacraments if you don’t become Catholic,” is that person likely to keep seeking the whole truth or settle for “good enough”? Is that person likely to give up his career as a Protestant pastor? To give up peace with his obstinately Protestant wife?

Following truth is hard. It’s brutal at times. It’s painful. And it’s made even harder when well -meaning people seek to undermine the importance of doing just that by telling us, one way or another, to settle for the middle ground.

Furthermore, for those who choose to place emotion over intellect in guiding their will, there is little that can mitigate the hurt they feel when their choices are criticized. While this does mean we must be charitable and patient, it does not mean we must choose protecting feelings over defending important matters of truth when these two things conflict.

Soothing broken and wounded hearts is important. Understanding is important. Gentleness is important. But nothing – nothing at all – is more important than the eternal salvation of precious human souls made in the image of God.

May our evangelism and apologetics ever be guided by this ultimate truth.


WHY I AM so thankful on Thanksgiving Day: by Patrick Miron

Thanksgiving Day ought to be every day for us Catholics who both know and practice our Beautiful Faith.

We have Jesus to nourish us, to protect us and to Grace Us with His Real Presence.

We have Mary and Joseph to Intercede for us

We have the Seven Sacraments; each desired and Instituted by Jesus; “The Way {singular”}; the Truth {singular} and the Way {singular}.

Amidst these turbulent times; we need to FOCUS on all that WE have been given, and not so much on the trials and Life Test of the day.

No matter our personal situation; our personal life crisis; our loss of a loved one; or a broken family, Jesus tells us “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE THROUGH CHRIST” Phil. 4:13… Have Faith dear ones; Jesus is on our side; and while battles are lost the WAR shall be won, so long as we persevere.

My Prayer for YOU is to have a grateful, Blessed and Joy Filled Thanksgiving.









Natural and Supernatural Faith by R Thomas Richard, Phd.


Well-formed Catholics know that we are infused at baptism with sanctifying grace and with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Some know that these virtues reside in potency, and not automatically in actuality. Infused faith does not automatically make us start believing in God as we should — that is, believing God because He is God and is Truth itself, He who cannot lie or deceive. Infused hope does not automatically make all our acts of hope entirely theological: God-centered, motivated by Him, and directed toward eternal beatitude in His Kingdom. Infused charity does not automatically purify and direct our acts and expressions of love to God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, neighbor as self, and all because of God and in God. In other words, the three supernatural theological infused virtues do not automatically replace natural virtues acquired in us, nor do they automatically elevate and ennoble them, automatically enabling us to live fully in the “new man” made in us by baptism. Yes we are “reborn” in that sacrament. Yes, evangelicals, we baptized Catholics in truth have been “born again.” We do not automatically, however, live — or live in — that new life given us by Christ.

Natural virtues are radically different from the supernatural because they are naturally acquired and not supernaturally infused immediately into the soul. Natural virtues are good because human nature is good and human acquisitions of good, in the pursuit of the good, are good. But they are not perfect: they are not and cannot be the perfect fulfillment of the perfect intention of our perfect God, in His true and complete love for us. In our case, and for our part, our intention and desire ought to be for the perfect! We ought not settle for, or fall back habitually to, the good in preference over the perfect. The good can be, in this case, the enemy of the perfect, if one clings to the good when our vocation is beyond it, to the perfect.

Natural virtues can prepare us for the infused virtues given at baptism. This is important to RCIA catechumens, to learn of — to realize the newness of — what is coming to them, and the importance of seeking, wanting, praying for the actualization in their lives, once a “new Catholic,” of the supernatural gifts coming to them. Natural, acquired faith is radically inferior to infused supernatural faith. The natural acquired belief that there is a God is radically inferior to the inner gift of light that brings embrace of the divine mystery of the inner Life of God Himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three Persons. But the faith in the existence of God acquired by reasoned consideration of the universe surrounding us, the interwoven complexity of the ecosystem — the genius of every participating part and member of every living human person — the human eye alone! — proclaims the existence of a rational and providential, indeed benevolent, God. All that reason can show us generally, the infused gift can illuminate and reveal for us in intimacy; that is, the holy Mystery at the center of all that is. But the light of supernatural faith in the soul is in a sense prepared for, and in a sense supported by, first the natural experience acquired by natural human means.

Natural Faith

Natural faith can be directed toward God, and can have therefore a supernatural object, but its foundation and origin is in the human person himself. It may be “about” God, but it is “of” man. Natural faith is arrived at:

  • by a logical conclusion: “proofs” of God come to by the use of reason;
  • by habit learned in early childhood through parents, culture, upbringing;
  • a presumption accepted because of the example or testimony of others who are respected;
  • by seeing or hearing about a miracle or miracles attributed to the object of faith (God); etc.

Note in all these examples, the object of the faith can be supernatural — God — but it is received naturally — it is “acquired” — by natural human acts. Natural faith is not a supernatural gift from God and is not therefore salvific. As Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8–9)

Fr. Louis Lallemant, SJ (1588–1633), a spiritual director and formator of the Jesuits in the 1600s, had this to say concerning the value of the infused virtue of faith, and the problem of neglect of that supernatural virtue in favor of mere natural abilities, even among those “in religion” — the Jesuits.

FAITH being, next to the clear vision of God, the most excellent participation of the uncreated wisdom, it must not be based upon natural reasons nor our own human inventions. Nevertheless such reasons may serve to subdue the repugnance and opposition of our mind, to rid us of our dullness, and to dispose us to believe, though they cannot be employed as a support to that which we believe by faith, for faith implies the whole authority of God, and is founded on His sovereign and infinite wisdom, which makes it impossible for Him to be deceived, and on His infinite fidelity, which makes it impossible for Him to deceive us. . . .

It is truly sad to see how, in religion, some, and often even the majority, guide themselves only by human reason and natural prudence, scarcely using faith, except so far as not to go against it. They apply themselves to the perfecting of reason and good sense without taking the trouble to increase in faith. It is exactly as if a man were to take great pains with the education of his slave, and neglect that of his son.1

So also, centuries later, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, wrote of failure to live fully in the supernatural virtues, too easily falling back into natural habits and patterns:

Faith is an infused virtue by which we believe firmly all that God has revealed, because He has revealed it and as the Church proposes it.

All the faithful doubtless believe in what God has revealed, but many live very little by the supernatural mysteries which are the principal object of faith. They think more often of the truths of religion that reason can attain — the existence of God, His Providence, the immortality of the soul — or they go no farther than the outward, sensible aspect of Christian worship.

Often our faith is still too weak to make us truly live by the mysteries of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the redemption, the Eucharist, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in our souls. These are holy formulas, often repeated with veneration, but they are pale and lifeless, and their object is, as it were, lost in the depths of the heavens. These supernatural mysteries have not sufficiently become for us the light of life, the orientation point of our judgments, the habitual norm of our thoughts.

Likewise, the motive for our belief in these mysteries is undoubtedly the fact that God has revealed them, but we dwell excessively on several secondary motives which aid us: first, these mysteries are the rather generally accepted belief of our family and our country; next, we see a certain harmony between supernatural dogmas and the natural truths accessible to reason; lastly, we have some slight experience of God’s action in our souls, and this helps us to believe.2

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange points us to the consequences of neglecting, even ignoring, the treasure of one’s infused and supernatural virtues, faith in particular, preferring instead to go first to what is secondary: the natural and the acquired:

In regard to the theological virtues, some, who read the Summa theologica in an entirely material manner, reach the conclusion that our act of faith is a substantially natural act clothed with a supernatural modality: substantially natural, because it reposes formally on the natural, historical knowledge of Christ’s preaching and of the miracles which confirmed it; clothed with a supernatural modality, so that it may be useful to salvation. This modality is often said to resemble a layer of gold applied to copper in order to make plated metal. We would thus have “plated supernatural” life and not a new, essentially supernatural life. [A footnote here reads: See Summa la Ilae. q.63, a.4; Ha Ilae, q.6, a.1.]

According to this conception, the certitude of our supernatural faith in the Blessed Trinity, the incarnation, and other mysteries, would rest formally in the last analysis on the inferior though morally certain knowledge which our unaided reason can have of the signs of revelation and of the marks of the Church. The act of faith would be a sort of reasoning, formally based on a certitude of inferior order. Often this certitude rests merely on the human testimony of our parents and of our pastors, for very few of the faithful can make a critical study of the origins of Christianity. The act of theological faith thus conceived is no longer infallibly certain, and preserves almost nothing that is supernatural and mysterious. It is no longer evident why interior grace is absolutely necessary not only to confirm it but to produce it. This last point was definitely defined by the Church against the Pelagians and the semi-Pelagians.3


The lack of absolute certitude concerning issues of one’s own faith — and hope — and charity — then has a serious consequence in the life of the Catholic Christian. The very foundations of a person’s life are determined by what he deeply believes in, what he ultimately hopes for, what is the fundamental love that drives his heart, his human will, his motivations, his reasons for doing what he does. If the certitude of his foundations rests on the merely natural — his own reasonings, his cultural milieu, even in some cases his contact with supernatural miracles in answer to prayer — then his house is built on sand, and not the rock. Mere moral certitude is sand, compared to the firm rock of God’s own testimony within: God affirming Himself and simultaneously affirming the infallibility of His Truth, in His gift of infused faith.

Moral certitude is far less certain than the faith we are called to, and than the faith that the absolute Truth of Jesus Christ deserves. Consider the passage from James concerning double-mindedness — the man of faith, but of “two-souls” (δίψυχος – dipsuchos): perhaps one for the world and one for the Lord; an attempted “conjoining” of natural and supernatural faith?

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:2–7)

What Then Are We To Do?

Stated simply, we must pray to God for the grace — the actual grace — moment by moment, day by day — for the “bread for the day” (as in the Our Father) by which we can live the life we have been given to live in Him. The infused supernatural virtues will remain potency, capability, until and unless they are actuated by actual grace. Do RCIA catechumens know this? Are they taught this? Are children post-Baptism taught this? Are adults? Do adults, if ever taught this, remember it? Are congregations reminded of this in homilies, in adult formation, in our adult offerings of catechesis?

We are called to holiness, and we are empowered to achieve holiness by grace entrusted to the Church, in our sacraments. Do we know this? Are we taught this? Do we know that we must pray for our “daily bread” — grace to enact holy virtue, daily, hungry to live His life in close communion with Him?

 Fr. Jordan Aumann, OP, explains the need theologically for this actual grace:

The necessity for actual grace in the Christian life lies in the fact that even the just person needs special help from God to avoid all sin and to persevere in grace. Following the teaching of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas maintains that a person in the state of sanctifying grace still needs the further assistance of grace, first, “because no created thing can proceed to any action whatsoever except in virtue of the divine motion,” and secondly, because of the actual state of human nature, subject to ignorance and weakness of the flesh and further hampered by the wounds of original sin. Moreover, even when endowed with sanctifying grace and the infused virtues, the just person needs the stimulus of actual grace to actuate those supernatural powers. Every act of an infused virtue requires a previous movement of grace to set that virtue or gift in motion. This follows from the metaphysical principle that a thing in potency cannot be reduced to act except by something already in act, and since we are dealing with the supernatural order and actions, an actuating grace is needed to initiate a supernatural act.

Actual graces have three functions: to dispose the soul for the reception of the infused habits of sanctifying grace and the virtues, to actuate these infused habits, and to prevent their loss.

Actual grace disposes the soul for the reception of the infused habits either when the soul has never possessed them or when the soul has lost them through mortal sin. In the latter case actual grace will stimulate repentance for one’s sins, the fear of punishment, and confidence in the divine mercy.

Actual grace also serves to activate the infused virtues, {Faith, Hope and Love} and if the individual is in the state of sanctifying grace (for faith and hope can exist without grace), the actuation perfects the infused virtues and is meritorious of increase and growth in the supernatural life.

The third function of actual grace is to prevent the loss of sanctifying grace and the infused virtues through mortal sin. It implies a strengthening in the face of temptations, an awareness of special dangers, mortification of the passions, and inspiration through good thoughts and holy desires.

It is evident, therefore, that actual grace is a priceless treasure. It gives efficacy to sanctifying grace and the infused virtues. It is the impulse of God that places our supernatural organism in operation and prevents us from forgetting that our soul, in the state of grace, is the temple of the Blessed Trinity.4

I would add that actual grace also prevents us from forgetting that our soul, in the state of grace, is a reservoir of holy, potent living water, given to us to be out-poured, given to be over-flowing, given to quench the thirsts of others amid a dry and parched humanity. There is a deadly lukewarmness settled into the souls of many, in our holy Church. There is a drowsiness, a lethargy, a sense of carnal boredom that has turned many in the Church to seek novelty instead of holy Truth, the consumption of entertainment instead of the Body and Blood of holy worship, the artful recital of a well-practiced liturgy instead of the self-emptying, the kenosis, of our cross in union with His.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote of the consequences of “drowsiness” among chosen disciples of Christ. We ourselves are not the only victims of this sin:

Across the centuries, it is the drowsiness of the disciples that opens up possibilities for the power of the evil one. Such drowsiness deadens the soul, so that it remains undisturbed by the power of the evil one at work in the world, and by all the injustice and suffering ravaging the earth. In its state of numbness, the soul prefers not to see all this; it is easily persuaded that things cannot be so bad, so as to continue in the self-satisfaction of its own comfortable existence. Yet this deadening of soul, this lack of vigilance regarding both God’s closeness and the looming forces of darkness is what gives the evil one power in this world. On beholding the drowsy disciples, so disinclined to rouse themselves the Lord says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death.” (Mt. 26:38, from Ps 43:5).5

Shepherds, call us to holiness! Shepherds, lead us to life! Shepherds, awaken us, before all the walls fall.

  1. Louis Lallemant, SJ, The Spiritual Doctrine(London: Levey, Robson, and Franklyn, 1855), Ch. 3, Art. I, “Of Faith”.
  2. R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, vol. 2 (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1948), 301.
  3. R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, Christian Perfection and Contemplation(Rockford, IL: Tan Books, 2003), 63.
  4. Jordan Aumann, OP, Spiritual Theology(Christian Classics, 1980), 79-80.
  5. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth 2 (Kindle edition: 48%, p. 153 of 293, loc. 2036 of 4202).

About R. Thomas Richard, PhD

  1. Thomas Richard, PhD, together with his wife, currently offers parish presentations and adult formation opportunities. He has served as religious formation director for parishes, director of lay ministry and deacon formation at the diocesan level, and retreat director. A former teacher, engineer, Protestant minister, and missionary, he has earned graduate degrees in Catholic theology and ministry, Protestant ministry, and physics. He is the author of several books in Catholic spirituality, which are described on his website,

4 Things we should do to prepare for judgment day: by  Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ 

4 Things we should do to prepare for judgment day

 Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ 

I fear that at my particular judgment, I will see with perfect clarity that far too often, I was “far too easily pleased” and settled for something other than and therefore less than Christ.

If you could pick one sentence that you would rejoice to hear, what would it be?

 “You are cancer-free.”

“Your child has come back to the Faith.”

How about this one?

“Truly, I tell you, this day you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

During November, the Church asks us to pray for our beloved dead, and to think upon the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Last week, I wrote a meditation on death; now let’s look at the Church’s teaching on one’s “particular judgment,” that is, when, as soon as one’s soul leaves the body, one stands before Christ the Judge to give an account of one’s life.

As I write this, I see that according to “How Long Have I Been Alive For?” since I was born, there have passed 20,895 days. (That weighs in at over 500,000 hours, or over 30,000,000 minutes, or over 1.8 billion seconds.) I don’t remember most of them. But I will have to stand before Christ and account for each one of them.

As I write this, I’m packing up for my third move in a year. Jesuits move a lot. (We’re taught: “The only true home for a Jesuit is the road.”) As I pack things up and give other things away, I remember how so often this year I’ve looked at an object and wondered why I’ve been carrying it with me for so long. I look at objects that once meant so much to me, and now I let them go—often gladly, sometimes sadly, and, in a few cases, with regret that I had held onto it all.

When I stand before Christ the Judge, I will undergo a similar process. For every moment of my life, for every act of commission or omission, for every act of decision or indecision, for every choice for or against love, I will give an account—without excuses, without obfuscation, and with clarity about love, betrayal, graces accepted, opportunities missed. I will look at moments of my life, and akin to what I do while packing for a move, I fear that I will have to ask myself, “Why did I ever hold onto that?”

I fear too that at my judgment, I will look at all of the moments of my life, including the ones that I had forgotten, and recall these words of C.S. Lewis:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

I fear that at my particular judgment, I will see with perfect clarity that far too often (and even once is too often!) I was “far too easily pleased” and settled for something other than and therefore less than Christ.

I fear too that at my particular judgment, I will recall these words of Our Blessed Lord:

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).

As I write this, knowing that I must have more days behind me than ahead of me, knowing that I have accumulated regrets, and knowing that my only hope is the merciful Christ, how ought I to spend whatever time remains to me?

  1. I must renew my commitments to prayer, fasting, and penance.
  2. I must fearlessly and stubbornly ask for the grace to banish from my life anything unworthy of my Christian dignity.
  3. I must re-order my life around Christ’s commandments to love God and to love my neighbor.
  4. I must urge others to do the same.

And what about you? How will you spend the remaining time allotted to you? How will you prepare to give an account of your life?

Friends, let’s urge each other on, to cultivate, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, a holy fear, a filial fear, a fear that dreads to offend the one who is loved. And let’s continue to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory, whose time of purification is not yet at an end.

When I write next, I will speak of the glories of Heaven. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.


The Making of an Apostate by REGIS NICOLL

The Making of an Apostate


Interesting, how humans can go through life without giving much serious thought to their faith. Oh yes, they may believe in a supreme Being and an afterlife. They may be members of a church, even leaders or clergy. They may have mouthed their allegiance to our Adversary. But beyond the sanctuary walls, they live as if he and his teachings are largely irrelevant. You have your demonic forebears to thank for this.

After generations assailing their spiritual yearnings, we learned that allowing them a small space for religion is better than allowing no space at all. Surprised?

I know it sounds strange, but the more adamantly they reject religion, the more it occupies their thoughts and conversations. In fact, a hardened atheist is apt to spend more of his mental energies pondering “God” and religion than the most ardent believer.

Remember Siggy Freud, how he was obsessed with the question of “God” till the end of his life. It was even the subject of his last book. Today, dear Dickie Dawkins is following suit. His chart-busting book, The God Delusion, marks the apogee of a career built around the question. It is a cruel irony that the more they insist the matter settled, the more their thoughts are haunted with it, and their lives are directed by it.

That’s because the Enemy has stacked the deck. He fashioned them to run optimally when they are filled with him. If they try to run on anything less, sooner or later, they will experience an itch they can’t scratch, an unease that won’t subside, or … an irrepressible need to rant about a Being that does not exist (funny, how the irrationality of that rarely occurs to them!).

It is the natural consequence of maintaining the swirl of contradictions that their unbelief imposes upon them—like the insistence of universal human rights in a universe bereft of a rights-Giver. For the tortured soul who values intellectual integrity, keeping the throng of conflicting notions spinning in mid-air requires constant effort that, for some, just becomes too much.

Oh, how many we have lost in their twilight years! Who could have imagined that the most celebrated atheist of his time, Tony Flew, would have abandoned a lifetime of disbelief? I fear the same fate awaits our dear Dickie.

Yet those who religiously attend their God in the church hour can, with scant coaxing from us, leave him there. You see, Swillpit, religion is like a vaccine: a little dose can inoculate a patient from its totalizing effects. A trifling measure is all it takes to dull their spiritual senses, making God’s whisperings fade in the cacophony of voices in the world outside.

Content that their spiritual house is in order, they easily drift into lifestyles, and even attitudes, that are practicably indistinguishable from their unbelieving neighbors. And as their neighbors look on, they are left to conclude that a faith that makes no difference in lives of the faithful is one that has no moral authority.

There, my boy, is our silver lining: For should we, hell forbid, lose the immunized believer to his Maker, he has made the job of winning others much the easier for us. Indeed, his kind has done as much (maybe more) to fill our banquet hall as Nietzsche, Freud, or Dawkins. If it weren’t for him, I fear we would be in a famine down here.

As I hope you recall from Tempters Training, we can’t eradicate their transcendent longing, but we can divert their attentions to other objects, like Reason, Nature, or Progress. However, over the course of human history, it has proven to be much more useful and easily accomplished to allow them short rein in their devotion to God. The key is to work with, rather than against, their natural leanings.

One of our top Tempters put it this way: “It’s like the two strategies in pitching baseball: In the first, you get the batter to think your going to throw one kind of pitch, and throw something else. For instance, if he’s looking for a fastball, you throw a change-up. In the second, you find out what kind of pitch the batter likes, and throw it ‘almost there.’ If he likes it low, you pitch it a little too low. If he likes it inside, you pitch it a little too inside. That’s what I do with my playthings—pitch it ‘almost there.’”

Here’s how it works, Swillpit: If they’re looking for love, pitch them lust; if security, pitch self-sufficiency; if grace, indulgence; if rest, sloth. Because of their carnal inclinations, they can be quite easily duped, even willingly so, by these pitches. But far and away, your best pitch is religiosity—religion, reduced to its most superficial and least demanding elements.

Much to our delight, a little religiosity goes a long way. Just an hour a week sprinkled with familiar hymns, perfunctory prayers, and anecdotal preaching is enough to immunize all but the most difficult cases against his promptings for the rest of the week.

Fortunately for you, your man is already in the immunized state. So don’t begrudge his devotional time. Patiently indulge him his hour; then he’s yours, a plaything to immerse in the values we have smuggled into the world.

This will be more challenging now that he has been struck by tragedy. His sister’s painful and untimely death will certainly push his faith, front and center. As long as evil remained a theological concept or something experienced by others, he was content with standard Sunday school answers. Now that Evil has visited his doorstep, he is finding little comfort there.

Although upward thoughts are sure to consume his energies over the next days and weeks, you have a prime opportunity to tip the scales decisively in our favor. Just stay attentive to his moods, and ply your skills according to his vulnerabilities, and you can guide him down a path of thought that progresses from questions to doubts to apostasy.

Have you noticed whether he has begun raising his voice to his Maker: “How could you let this happen? What purpose could this serve? She was so young, with a full life before her. Oh, how we loved her! Where are you when it hurts?”

If not—he will, trust me, he will.

When disasters hit home their thoughts go instinctively to “Why me?”, “Why this?”, “Why now?”, “WHY?” It is a natural crossroads of faith: will they trust God and his promises or their eyes and their circumstances? That’s when we step up sowing doubt into their tortured thinking.

The fact that this fellow had been praying, day and night, for his sister’s healing should make your task all the easier. For the first time in his life he is open to a line of questioning that never troubled him before: “Is God uncaring, negligent or malevolent, or are some problems just too big for him? Can I, should I, submit to a Deity that cannot or will not control a world gone wrong? Maybe he’s just a myth.”

Help him see his loss as part of a pattern of Divine indifference. Draw his attention to the mind-numbing devastation of natural disasters—earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes. But be careful to steer him clear of the truth that, without the phenomena of plate tectonics, his planet would be covered in water, uninhabitable, save for aquatic life.

But a word of caution: Even the commanding leverage we enjoy in cases like this does not ensure our victory. Need I remind you about Job? There was a wretch that experienced the full blast of hellish attention. Yet, bewilderingly, the crushing losses he sustained, and despite the urging of his wife, he refused to turn his back on the Adversary. We’re still trying to figure out what went wrong.

All we know, from centuries and centuries of field experience, is that no amount of personal misfortune guarantees our success. But if we remain vigilant, seeking and creating opportunities to work our wiles, our chances are significantly improved.

So stay at the shoulder of your charge. Occupy his thoughts with questions having no satisfying answers this side of the grave. Convince him that he is owed an explanation, and should demand one. Then, when he lifts his fist to heaven, you can relish the sound of his grinding teeth as he endures the prolonged silence.

That, Swillpit, is one of the sweetest sounds you can enjoy as a Tempter.

Fitfully Yours,


They Kill Kids Like Me, But Let Me Tell You About My Walk: by Mr. Tim Bennett


By Tim Bennett’s Son, Fulton.  Age 3

My mom and sister took me out for a walk today. I really just started walking a few months ago, shortly before my third birthday, but I’m getting pretty fast. I had the best time visiting the chickens and pigs, and my big sister even let me snuggle with one of her rabbits. I can’t talk with any words that others understand, but I know some signs for my favorite things and I told my dad all about my adventure when I got back to the house.

A lot of people who don’t know me mistakenly think that I am a burden and that my life is less valuable than others. Huh?? I don’t want to brag, but I get to see more people smile and laugh than anyone else I know, so I must be doing something right. I have it on good authority that thousands of moms and dads kill children like me every year. That’s sad! Why? What are they afraid of knowing? Dad says that our society is going crazy, and maybe it is, but life is grand.

My dad is a decent man, but I’ve had to teach him a lot about some pretty basic stuff. He worries about being able to care for my mom and brothers and sisters. He stresses about paying bills. And he truly wants to be a good friend and neighbor to others. You see, my dad isn’t all that different from most men, he tries too much to control life, rather than maintain a focus on love. I have absolutely no control over my life, but I don’t worry about a thing because I figured out that simple, genuine love is the best strategy. It gets me through every day and everyone around me is all the better for it. (Don’t tell my dad, but he’s not really in control anyway, which is why I’m trying to get him to come around to my way of thinking.)

When he stops to think about it, my dad recognizes that love is the answer and that all saints and virtuous men have strength that is grounded in love. Dad knows other men who have seemingly figured it out and the curious difference between most of them and me is about 60 or 70 years. I’m not sure why some men never get it and others take most of a lifetime to crack the code, it’s not that difficult. Do they fear letting go of something or not having all of the answers? My dad favors logic, directness, and a steady hand on the helm, but he just hasn’t fully accepted that love only enhances those traits, and in no way diminishes them.

On my adventure yesterday, I shared life with my mom and sister. I walked out in front of them and showed them the way with a pure joy and love that inspired them to want to follow me. I told my dad all about it, so I hope he was listening.

By Fulton Bennett (if he could write