Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Catholic laity – face-to-face with bishops

What I am about to tell you is something you’ve never seen in the Catholic Church. If you have seen anything like this, contact me. I’d like to learn more.

In September, I twice saw members of the lay faithful accompany two victims of priestly sexual misconduct into a bishop’s office and help these victims present their story of abuse. I saw the bishop remove two guilty priests from active service. When they learned of it, some Catholics responded with gratitude and relief. Others were upset that their favorite priest had been outed. For many Catholics, a priest’s popularity and the convenience of a Mass schedule trumps concern for a holy priesthood.

What I didn’t see were lawsuits or exposés in the secular press. I didn’t see sheriffs raiding the chancery or ugly protests at Mass. I caught a glimpse of Christ’s Church acting like the Body of Christ with brothers confronting brothers in love and hope. I saw mature laity identifying corrupt clergy and exhorting a mature bishop.

Co-responsibility of the lay faithful

I must stress, however that bishops did not initiate this investigation, discovery, or confrontation. The lay faithful took co-responsibility for Christ’s Church according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The Church is too important to leave to priests and bishops alone. In over20 different passages, St. Paul commands us to love, pray, honor, forgive, encourage, exhort, and admonish one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Laity don’t need canonical authority to hold bishops accountable. Their authority is rooted in something more foundational than canon law. They call upon the moral law, basic human decency. We cannot cooperate with evil. We must expose the hidden things of darkness. By virtue of their baptism, they are obligated to admonish, exhort, and encourage one another and that includes bishops and priests.

The clergy scandal has a silver lining: forcing the lay faithful to exercise co-responsibility for the Church. Laity, of course, won’t vote on revealed dogma. They won’t confect the sacraments. They will insist that our Church be governed by the best HR practices from our flourishing businesses. Sexual harassment is intolerable at any level. Healthy churches, like healthy families, don’t hide, minimize, or deny abuse. Because St. Paul’s vision of the Church drives this new laity, they have stopped murmuring and commiserating with Catholic buddies about the darkness. They have turned on the moral spotlight to properly confront, challenge, and exhort our clergy. Learn more at nomorevictimsmi.org.

Why is it novel for the Church to act like the Church?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, while reviewing crises among the clergy, allegedly wrote in 1972: “Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”

Right now the world sees bishops whose moral authority is on par with Bill Cosby. I know some outstanding converts who would not have come into full communion under these present circumstances. The world deserves to witness a morally and spiritually fierce laity unwilling to compromise the Gospel. We don’t need a club for religious cronies and pious pretenders. We need and are seeing a new movement of Spirit-led communicants striving to give the world a glimpse of Christ’s Kingdom. In September, I briefly witnessed Jesus governing his Church through all its members. The Church was acting like the Church. It shouldn’t be such a novel idea.

AL KRESTA is president and chief executive officer, Ave Maria Communications, and host of Ave Maria Radio’s longtime popular show, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” heard on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.

The Savior arrives as a baby

Christmas could rightly be called the holiday of the senses.

It is the season of lights and tinsel, choirs and carols, the aroma of evergreen and roasting chestnuts. Christmas comes to us with sumptuous meals, hearty laughter, and kisses beneath the mistletoe. Christmas scenes — by the old masters and by modern advertisers — decorate the walls of museums, billboards on the roadside, and cards in the mailbox. For nearly 2,000 years, the world has marked the birth of Jesus as its most festive jubilee. No other day of the year offers the world so many earthly pleasures.

But why? No pope or Church council ever declared that it should be so. Yet every year, Christmas comes onto the calendar like a sudden December wind, like the blinding sun reflected off new snow. It is a shock to the senses, to go from barren winter to the season of lights and feasting.

And so it should be, for the first Christmas — the day when Jesus Christ was born — was a shock to human history.

For millennia, humankind had lived and died, uncomprehending, in its sin, the miseries of this world inevitable and the joys few and fleeting. Then Christmas arrived, and even the calendar went mad. From that moment, all of history was cleft in two: before that day (B.C.), and after that day (A.D.). The world — with all its sights and sounds and aromas and embraces — was instantly transfigured. For the world’s redemption had begun the moment God took human flesh for His own, the moment God was born in a poor stable in Bethlehem.

The greatest Christian poem commemorates this moment when God definitively came to dwell on earth. St. John begins his Gospel by describing a God of awesome power, remote in space and transcending time: a Spirit, a Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him.

This is the God that even the pagan philosophers knew: the Prime Mover, the One, the Creator. Yet, precisely where the pagan philosophers stalled, John’s drama proceeded to a remarkable climax:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

This was shocking news. From the distant heavens, from remotest time, God Himself had come in flesh to “pitch His tent” among His people. Yes, God is eternally the Word, but a word is elusive, and not everyone may grasp it. Now He is also a baby, and a baby may be picked up and held and embraced.

Of all the amazing and confounding truths of the Christian religion, there is none so outrageous as this: that the Word was made flesh, in a particular little town, in a stable filled with animals, on a certain day of the year. The Word was made flesh and changed everything. This makes Christmas the most shocking feast in the calendar.

This is what Christmas teaches us: We have bodies so that we can use them to worship God, as Jesus of Nazareth did. We have bodies so that we can use them to serve others, as Jesus did. We have bodies so that we can bring comfort and consolation and healing, as Jesus did. We have bodies so we can celebrate together, as Jesus did. We have bodies for glory’s sake.

Christmas tells the story of how the flesh became holy, the body was sanctified, and simple earthly joys became hymns of praise to God. We love to hear the story over and over, and we always will love it so long as a scrap of humanity remains in us. L

MIKE AQUILINA is the author of many books, including Faith of Our Fathers (Emmaus Road), from which this essay is adapted. He has hosted 11 series on EWTN Television, and appears weekly on Sirius Radio’s “Sonrise Morning Show.”

Heart, mind and strength

Patrick Novecosky writes that we need to slow down and give Jesus our hearts . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

Those of you who, like me, grew up before the tech boom of the 1980s probably remember a more sedate, laid-back lifestyle. Life moved much slower in the 1950s, ’60s — and even the ’70s.

Your news came on TV at night or in your morning paper. Most radio newscasts lasted a few minutes. But with the advent of the personal computer and the explosion of cable news, the Internet, and hand-held devices over the last 15 years, it’s tough to escape from the relentless 24-hour news cycle.

Some have opted to turn off the noise by ditching their TVs or cutting off the cable. While it’s healthy — and difficult — to tone down the daily barrage of media, the old adage “ignorance is bliss” doesn’t work here. We’re called to be in the world but not of the world. However, that doesn’t mean tuning the world out. It means being aware of what’s going on, knowing your faith and then stepping out  in faith to change the world for the better.

How can we do that? First, be selective in your news sources. The secular mainstream media has an agenda — an unhidden bias  against practicing Christians, most especially against faithful Catholics. Choose your news carefully. And select good Catholic news sources to learn what’s going on in the Church and the culture.

If you’re not already receiving the Legatus Insider, our weekly news digest, see the link at the bottom of this article to sign up.

Putting the Legatus mission statement into  practice is my next advice. Learn your faith, live your faith and spread your faith. If you learn it, you’ll be well on your way to living it. You’ll not only know the “what” of Church teaching, but you’ll know the “why.” The Catechism is essential in this regard. Commit yourself to reading one or two passages a day in your prayer time. It will change you.

Lastly, pray. Get to know Jesus personally. Rote prayers are indispensable, but taking time every day to pour your heart out to him is fundamental if you don’t want the culture — the world, the flesh and the devil — to roll over you. Grounded in teaching and in your relationship with the Lord of the Universe will make you as fearless as the disciples at Pentecost.

Jesus asks us to love God with our whole heart, mind and strength (Luke 10:27). What he desires most is a deep, intimate relationship with each of us. If we move closer to Jesus, we’ll quickly notice that all of the noise in the world cannot disturb the peace he gives us.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief. Sign up for the Legatus Insider by clicking here.

Changing the culture for Christ

Patrick Novecosky writes that our culture has forgotten that it needs a Redeemer . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

If you’ve been following the news at all lately, you probably noticed that in our sophisticated, highly evolved and cultured world, the entire human race is at peace. Harmony among races and between nations allows mankind to live a truly sublime and carefree existence.

Wrong. Muslim radicals are running roughshod over the Christian minority in Egypt, burning churches of Coptic Christians who have lived in that country for nearly 2,000 years. Racial tensions are high in our own country after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in July. At the same time, friction between liberals and conservatives — both in the media and in politics — is at a fever pitch.

So, what’s the problem? Why can’t we find a way to bridge the gaps and create that utopian world described in the opening paragraph? We have advanced technology: We can communicate with people on the other side of the planet at the click of a button. We have volumes of eloquent books filled with theology and philosophy. Surely we could all agree on one of them. And the human race even has the capability to feed every person on the planet if we’d all work together.

The simple answer to this complex problem is this: We need a redeemer … and we are not capable of redeeming ourselves. In fact, self-redemption is an oxymoron. A quick check of the dictionary tells me that “to redeem” means “to buy back” or “to pay a ransom.”

Why do we need to be redeemed? “Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Is 59:2). And St. Peter explains that “you were not redeemed with corruptible things— like silver or gold — from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pt 1:18-19).

The challenge is to convince our immoral and decaying culture that it needs a redeemer — and then to introduce it to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Thankfully, Legatus members are leaders in changing the culture for Christ. They’re producing films, writing books, giving talks, launching media campaigns, filing lawsuits, running for public office and so much more. Curtis Martin and his Fellowship of Catholic University Students are directly evangelizing thousands of young people every year — and training them to go out and do the same. (Click here for related story.)

The workers are few, but the harvest is great. Satan is working hard to destroy God’s ultimate creation — you and me. But if we are faithful and claim the victory in Christ, our destiny is heaven where mankind’s utopian dreams will pale in comparison to what the Lord has in store for us.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Is Jesus your crutch?

Patrick Novecosky writes that we are called to rely on Christ in good times and bad . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

There’s nothing like taking a leisurely walk or bike ride on a beautiful summer morning to start your day in conversation with the Lord. A few years ago, I was doing just that when I spotted some graffiti on a bridge. It simply said, “Jesus Crutch.”

It was meant as a slur, but it got me thinking. We lean on a crutch when we’re hurt and unable to rely on our own strength to get us where we’re going. A crutch helps us on our journey, allowing us to do what we can’t do on our own. Reflecting on the graffiti message, I was struck by the realization that Jesus is indeed my crutch. I lean on him when I feel like I can’t go on. After all, he tells us to come to him when we are weary and he will give us rest. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30).

Legatus members know well how to rely on the Lord. Even though most Legates are well-off financially, they recognize that everything they have is a gift from God to be used for his glory. They also recognize that financial stability in no way ensures a trouble-free earthly existence. Members of the Jersey Shore, New York City and Long Island chapters who were affected by Hurricane Sandy put their trust in the Christ, leaning heavily on him when destruction came knocking last October. (Click here for a related story)

Some Legates lost their homes in the superstorm, while others lost businesses. Everyone in the region was impacted in some way by one of the costliest storms in the nation’s history. But amid the destruction, a spirit of camaraderie and faith-filled generosity arose. Neighbors became friends when they shared tools to rebuild their homes, and acquaintances became closer when they lent a hand to help clear rubble.

Through it all — good times and bad — we are called to rely on Christ as our strength. The more we lean on him, the more we are conformed to his image and become like him. As St. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

The more we rely on Jesus—sustained by a real and active relationship with him—the more he is able to do in our lives. Jesus told St. Faustina, “I am only limited by your lack of trust.” During the lazy days of summer, we could all spend some time each day on the relationship that sustains us during every season of our lives.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Why did Christ establish the Church?

Peter Kreeft wonders: What if Christ didn’t establish the Catholic Church? . . .

Peter Kreeft

The fundamental reason for being Catholic is the historical fact that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and was God’s invention, not man’s — unless Christ, her founder, is not God, in which case not just Catholicism but Christianity is false.

To be a Christian is to believe that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” To acknowledge him as Lord is to obey his will. And he willed the Catholic (“universal”) Church for all his disciples, for all Christians. We are Catholics because we are Christians.

Many Protestants become Catholics for this reason: They read the Church Fathers (earliest Christian writers) and discover that Christ did establish, not a Protestant Church that later became Catholic, but the Catholic Church, parts of which later broke away and became Protestant.

Suppose Jesus had not established a single, visible church with authority to teach in his name. Suppose he had left it up to us. Suppose the Church was our invention instead of his, only human and not divine. Suppose we had to figure out the right doctrine of the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, the sacraments, Mary, and controversial moral issues like contraception, homosexuality and euthanasia. Who then could ever know with certainty the mind and will of God? How could there then be one Church? There would be 20,000 different churches, each teaching its own opinion.

Instead, we do have one Church, with divine authority. As the Father gave authority to Christ (Jn 5:22; Mt 28:18-20), Christ passed it on to his apostles (Lk 10:16), and they passed it on to the successors they appointed as bishops, the teaching authority (Magisterium) of the Church. “Authority” does not mean “power” but “right”—“author’s rights.” The Church has authority only because she is under authority, the authority of her Author and Lord. “No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ’s authority” (CCC 875).

The authority of the Church has been necessary, for example, for us to know the truth of the Trinity. This most distinctively Christian doctrine of all, the one that reveals the nature of God himself, the nature of ultimate reality, was revealed by God clearly only to the Church. It was not clearly revealed to his chosen people, the Jews. It is not clearly defined in the New Testament. God waited to reveal it to the Church.

This authority of the Church, then, is not arrogant but humble, both (a) in its origin, as received from Christ, under Christ; and (b) in its end, which is to serve, as Christ served (see Jn 16) — if necessary, to the point of martyrdom. Blessed Mother Teresa’s oft-quoted saying describes these two things: “God did not put me on earth to be successful, he put me here to be faithful.”

Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, is the best-selling author of over 75 books. This column is reprinted with permission from the book “Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Ignatius Press, 2001).

Catechism 101

Christ is himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal: “In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in his Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body. The holders of office, who are invested with a sacred power, are, in fact, dedicated to promoting the interests of their brethren, so that all who belong to the People of God … may attain to salvation.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #874