This is how our new church looked yesterday. It will look different in about three weeks
by Bill Tammeus
From the distance of 500 years, the Protestant Reformation, which began Oct. 31, 1517, seems increasingly to have been both avoidable and regrettable.
Had Martin Luther and the Catholic Church then both been more willing to listen, acknowledge error, remove ego from the equation and, in humility, pay attention to the sometimes gentle, often subtle, never coercive Holy Spirit, perhaps the Western church might have held together.
But we cannot change history. The best we can do is change the present and try to shape the future. That seems to be what’s happening between Catholics and Protestants at the upper reaches of authority. Whether it will make any difference to people in the pews is so far unknowable, but we can hope.
The most recent evidence that Catholics and Protestants sometimes are singing from the same page came July 5 at a ceremony in Wittenberg, Germany, where Luther once nailed his “95 theses” to the cathedral door in hopes of a debate that would lead to fixing things he found wrong in the church. (He may have mailed in the theses, but let’s go with the legend.)
At that ceremony, the World Communion of Reformed Churches (in the U.S. think Presbyterians and the United Church of Christ, among others) said it was in harmony with a document (the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification) that the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed in 1999.
In announcing its agreement with that document, the organization of Reformed churches issued its own statement highlighting why it decided the Lutherans and Catholics got it right.
In typical church document language — meaning stilted and extraordinarily careful — the Reformed Churches declared this: “We rejoice together that the historical doctrinal differences on the doctrine of justification no longer divide us, and we experience this as a moment of self-examination, conversion and new commitment to one another manifesting new unity and advancing our common witness for peace and justice.”
So it seems that the Catholic and Protestant branches of Christianity increasingly are singing “Kumbaya” together around the campfire. Are they? And, if so, what does it mean?
Well, as a longtime advocate for both interfaith and ecumenical dialogue and understanding, I hope this is another step toward healing the 500-year-old divide. But I doubt that it changes much inside the walls of Catholic or Protestant churches.
For one thing, I bet you could go to every Catholic and Protestant congregation in the U.S. this Sunday and you wouldn’t find more than .005 percent of the people there who’ve even heard about what the Reformed churches said in July. And I’d be surprised if you could find more than 2 percent of people there who had heard of the 1999 Catholic-Lutheran agreement.
Probably the best to be hoped for would be to find that some folks at those worship services will know that Luther was against the Catholic Church selling indulgences and was in favor of the idea that people are saved by grace through faith.
After that it will be on to such topics as the miserable coffee in the fellowship hall, the upcoming annual stewardship campaign, the need to recruit more Sunday school teachers and the terrific solo at today’s service.
However important the theological battles were 500 years ago — or even 1,000 years ago in the Great Schism — the sad truth today is that many people of faith are biblically and theologically illiterate. They’re more interested in how to live a moral life in an immoral age, and that’s not a bad thing.
In other words, they care much less about “works righteousness” than they do keeping their ethical balance at work and home.
So good for some Protestants and the Vatican for agreeing about some difficult matters of angels dancing on heads of pins. But let’s also focus on reforming the companies making those pins so they don’t exploit workers.
[Bill Tammeus, a Presbyterian elder and former award-winning Faith columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes the daily “Faith Matters” blog for The Star’s Web site and a column for The Presbyterian Outlook. His latest book is The Value of Doubt: Why Unanswered Questions, Not Unquestioned Answers, Build Faith . E-mail him at email@example.com.]
For those unsure about how to pray this staple of Catholic prayer
Pope Pius XI is famous for saying, “If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.”
The Rosary is a powerful prayer, but a surprising number of Catholics are not familiar with it. Older generations are often seen praying it in church or at home, but young people are not always taught how to use the holy beads.
The good news is that it is a simple prayer, one that is easy to pick up on after praying a few decades.
Below is a short beginner’s guide for those interested in the Rosary, but who were never taught how to pray it by their parents, grandparents or religious educators.
Each rosary (the string of beads) has a crucifix at the end of a short extension below the loop. Begin by holding the crucifix and making the sign of the cross.
The very first prayer of the Rosary is the Apostles’ Creed. It is a short profession of faith, affirming your beliefs in the Catholic Church. Recite this prayer while holding the crucifix.
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
A large bead follows after the crucifix. On this bead recite the Our Father.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, Amen.
Pray three Hail Marys on the following three beads. There is at least one tradition that suggests a person should pray for the theological gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity on these beads.
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Before the next bead, holding onto the chain of the Rosary, pray the Glory Be.
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
At the next large bead, meditate on the first mystery of the Rosary and pray the Our Father.
The Rosary is divided up into five sections known as “decades,” called so because each decade contains ten small beads. During these decades it is customary to mediate on a “mystery” from the life of Christ. Tradition assigns different mysteries of the Rosary to each day of the week, but individual piety is not bound to it.
Mondays and Saturdays
The Joyful Mysteries surrounding Christ’s birth: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26–38); The Visitation (Luke 1:39–56); The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1–21); The Presentation of Jesus (Luke 2:22–38); The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41–52)
Tuesdays and Fridays
The Sorrowful Mysteries center on Jesus’ passion and death: The Agony of Jesus in the Garden (Matthew 26:36–56); The Scourging at the Pillar (Matthew 27:26); The Crowning with Thorns (Matthew 27:27–31); The Carrying of the Cross (Matthew 27:32); The Crucifixion (Matthew 27:33–56).
Wednesdays and Sundays
The Glorious Mysteries reflect on the Resurrection and other heavenly episodes: The Resurrection (John 20:1–29); The Ascension (Luke 24:36–53); The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (Acts 2:1–41); The Assumption of Mary into Heaven; The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
St. John Paul II made the most recent addition to the Rosary with the Mysteries of Light, also called the Luminous Mysteries. They fill a gap in the life of Jesus that wasn’t covered by the traditional mysteries of the Rosary: The Baptism in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13–16); The Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1–11); The Preaching of the coming of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14–15); The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8); The Institution of the Holy Eucharist (Matthew 26).
After meditating on the first mystery, pray a Hail Mary on the ten beads that follow. At the end of each decade pray the Glory Be. Some Catholics add the Fatima Prayer at the end of each decade, reciting the words taught by Our Lady of Fatima.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy
Repeat the above instructions for each mystery until reaching the end of the five decades.
At the end of the Rosary the next prayer is the Hail, Holy Queen. You may pray this prayer while holding the medal that joins the crucifix extension to the loop of the rosary.
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to you we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us; and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
To conclude the Rosary some pray the St. Michael Prayer, and then end with the following invocation.
O God, whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation; grant we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
End by making the Sign of the Cross.
“And the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What is you want?’ They answered Rabbi, where do you live? He replied “come and see. (Jn. 1:38-39). So the disciples took up the invitation and followed and spent the day with him. It is unfortunate that we do not have an account of what took place that day. What did they discuss? What was the reaction to this one who The Baptist call the “Lamb of God?” But, if Jesus was true to form, he would have begun to instruct these two would-be disciples in the Reign of God.
How does one begin to instruct another is a very new and novel way of thinking? I would think that the instructor would begin by giving some very broad ideas and concepts that would set the stage, as it were, to more in-depth information. Jesus would most likely invite these two to explore a new way of looking at life, not as we would view it, but as God would view it.
Jesus may have first present the “Broad View of God.” In this view, Jesus would invite the disciples to see that in a world where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds even more. That God’s last world is LOVE and HATE. That God is very hopeful, as hopeful as the old woman who is once heard to boast, “I’ve lived through the Depression and three world wars – I hardly wait to see what happens next!”
Jesus may have invited these men to explore would may be the “Long View of God.” Jesus would ask these disciples to take a new look at what nature shows us every day. That is, life can and does emerge from death. That some things must die that others may be born and that Victory can come from seeming defeat.
At last, Jesus may have invited the disciples to explore the “Value View of God.” Here, Jesus might remind these would – be disciples that being God is about all things. God is able to see everything in perspective and that all things are not equal. Here Jesus would tell the disciples to get their priorities in order. Jesus would tell them several important facts of this new life. First, that GIVING comes before RECEIVING. Two, that BEING is better than HAVING. Third, that GOOD comes from GOOD MEANS and Forth, that PEOPLE are prior to THINGS, and that God is most important above all.
We who have taken up the Lord’s invitation to “come and see” might want to come to understand that God is not looking for perfection. Rather, God is looking for people who are willing to strive towards that perfection to which we are all called. Maybe, just maybe, if we begin to see our world and ourselves through the eyes of God, we might be able to laugh a little more at some of our short comings, be a little more open, forgiving, and at peace with ourselves and those around us. And in this way we might, just might, come to believe that being human is our way to becoming divine.
Peace and All Good
Fr. Vinnie, osf
Be always the first do not wait for others to forgive for by forgiving you become the master of fate the fashioner of life the doer of miracles. To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return you will receive untold peace and happiness.
Here is the program for achieving a truly forgiving heart:
Sunday: Forgive yourself.
Monday: Forgive your family.
Tuesday: Forgive your friends and associates.
Wednesday: Forgive across economic lines within your own nation.
Thursday: Forgive across cultural lines within you own nation.
Friday: Forgive across political lines within you own nation.
Saturday: Forgive other nations.
Only the brave know how to forgive.
A coward never forgives, it is not in their nature.
By Robert Muller (from Dear Abby)
Fr. Raymond Brown wrote: “. . . working within the worldview of his time, Jesus, by driving out demons in his process of healing, is indicating that sickness is not simply a bodily ailment but is a manifestation of the power of evil in the world. . . suffering, tears, disasters and death are representative of alienation from God and of evil. . . the very existence of such factor indicates the incompletion of God’s plan.”
In the Gospel of Mark, we are told that the crowd came to Peter’s mother-law’s house and he cured them. We do not hear about who came, how he healed them or what he healed them of. Dis that beg to be healed? Did they allow the sickest to go first? Mark gives no instructions on how to behave or on what to say.
But, is it all that easy? “. . . no healing, no gift from God comes without some conditions.” William Faulkner once wrote. “The past is not dead –it is not ever past.” This sets the context for God’s condition. The past is not dead. Another southern writer, Flannery O’Connor, wrote in a short story about a father asking forgiveness from his son. The father states; I did not trust you, but please forgive me and forget it.” To which the son replied; “I’ll forget it, but you better not forget it.”
The past is not dead. . .it is not even past. . .the present is the totality of what went before. The acid of our past etches the metal of the present.
Even though we are healed, we still carry the scars that should remind us that we have wondered where we should not have gone. God asks that we remember that. God offers us healing, but that healing must be total me in the past, present, and future. God’s healing should make our lives a celebration of second chances and our prayer should be; “O God of second chances, here I am again.”
Peace and All God
Fr. Vinnie, osf
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work of justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in the world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what other claim cannot be done.
Developed by Rev. Frank Toia
(Based on unpublished material by the Rev. Dr. John Weterhoff.
Our Father, who art in heaven. . .
What do you want to make possible in my life today which neither I nor any other human being can make possible without you?
Hallow be thy name. . .
What are the ordinary and routine experiences of life which you wish to make sacred today?
Thy Kingdom come. . .
In what specific ways do you plan to bring about your Kingdom through me today?
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. . .
What are the “Gethsemanes” in my life today about which I need today as you did, “Thy will be done”?
Give us today our daily bread. . .
What kind of spiritual, physical and emotional nourishment do I need most today?
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. . .
For what action or inaction do I need to be forgiven? Whom do I need to forgive? For what do I need to forgive myself as you have forgiven me?
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. . .
From what do I need to be protected today?
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Thank you, God, for your guidance. Help me to know you are surrounding me with your love all the day long.