Sunday, December 3, 2017

(198) MAY THE OBSERVANCE OF THE QUIN-CENTENNIAL OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION LEAD TO CHURCH UNITY……What the Catholic Church Has to Offer Our Separated Brethren

AMDG

Pope Francis helps to commemorate the quin-centennial of the Protestant Reformation as an ecumenical gestureEcumenism focuses on what unites us more than what divides us.  Since we are in a great spiritual cultural war against atheistic secularism, it is time to fight together instead of fighting each other.  Ecumenism seeks mutual understanding and cooperation through humble and loving dialogue in search for the truth, wherever it may lead us. “That all may be one”…….Pray for Church unity.  


       This year 2017 marks 500 years since the schism against the Catholic Church which history calls the Protestant Reformation.  The Reformation is usually dated to October 31, 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany, when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, sent his Ninety-Five Theses on mostly indulgences and Purgatory to the Archbishop of Mainz and posted them on the doors of the cathedral there.  

      He made more changes later and took out seven books from the Bible ostensibly because they were not written in Hebrew (Tobit, Judith, 1st & 2nd Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch – see http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=438095).  Centuries later they were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls written in Hebrew.
  
During the rest of the 16th century, other reformers followed with their own versions…….Zwingli, Calvin, King Henry VIII, Tyndale, Knox, Wesley, etc.  Towards the end of the 16th Century, Europe was divided among the Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Hussites, Unitarians, Anabaptists, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics (see  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c7/The_Protestant_Reformation.svg).  

      A group of people with a leader within a church would disagree on an issue or two and then form their own church.  Even in little Gallia County in southeastern Ohio, a group of people disagreed with their pastor and went off to form their own church.  In all there are some 35,000 different Christian religions.  Over the centuries, there were a number of persecutions and wars over religion.  See Appendix I on the origin of common Protestant denominations.

      Major division first started over 900 years before in 610 when Muhammad claimed divine revelations and started his own religion, Islam which has roots in both Christianity and Judaism.  Islam acknowledges Jesus, David, Moses, Abraham, Noah, and Adam as prophets.   The Quran devotes the entire Chapter 19 to Mary as the most perfect woman that God ever created.  After Muhammad died, Islam divided into factions, the Sunnis (85% majority) and the Shiites, for example, who disagree on his successor. For a timeline, see http://www.pbs.org/muhammad/timeline_html.shtml

Mary, the ultimate missionary as Our Lady of Guadalupe here, made up for the losses of the Protestant Reformation by bringing 9 million Indians to the Faith.  Above Mary arranges the flowers in the tilma of Juan Diego to present to Bishop Zumaraga as a sign of authenticity of her desire for a church to be built on the site where she could give her love to millions and nurture their faith.  See Blogs #104 and 105 for more detail.
 The Devil, whose root comes from the word division, certainly is happy with a world divided…….nations, churches, communities, families, etc.  He must have been very active through it all.  The Protestant Reformation fractured a previously united Catholic Church in the West; about a third of its members broke away although Our Lady of Guadalupe made up for that loss by bringing 9 million mainly Aztec Indians into the Church by 1540. 

Is this division, strife, violence, persecution, and chaos of today and the last 14 centuries what the Lord wanted?  After all Christ did say: “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).  Especially since the 2nd Ecumenical Council (Vatican II 1962-65), the Church has been promoting Ecumenism to obtain Church unity as God would want.  

Steps to Unity. In 1999 after extensive ecumenical dialogue, the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the Lutheran World Federation reached agreement on Justification by faith and good works, an issue of contention for centuries.  (For greater detail on the Joint Declaration on Justification, click on

     Even Pope Francis joined the commemoration of the 500th anniversary as an ecumenical gesture.  You can read his speech at
http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/10/31/full-text-popes-homily-at-service-for-500th-anniversary-of-reformation/.  They are talking to each other.  That’s progress and hope. That’s love.

From one point of view, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century is the greatest tragedy to hit Christendom since the Schism of 1054 when the Eastern Church separated because of some theological differences and the politics of power.  Today they are generally referred to as the Eastern Orthodox.  In reality the Orthodox are very close to the Catholic Church in regard to doctrine and liturgy.  In fact the Catholic Church recognizes the Orthodox liturgy and sacraments as valid and welcomes their members to the Eucharist.  The big stumbling block now is not doctrinal, but Papal authority.
     
In the 17th Century a number of them returned to Rome under different rites in which they were allowed to keep their traditions and liturgy (1590 Union of Brest, the 1655 Union of Uzhgorod, etc.).  These rites do not violate any dogma, but conform to the cultures of Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and India.    

      The largest of the eastern rites is the Byzantine.  St. Pope John Paul II referred to the eastern rites as one lung of the Church and the Latin Rite (which we belong to) or Roman Catholics as the other lung.  For a great article detailing the different rites, go to https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-other-catholics-a-short-guide-to-the-eastern-catholic-churches.html.
     

In addition the Vatican has allowed 43 Episcopalian parishes and their priests to be what amounts to a sort of sub-rite called an ordinariate, equivalent to a diocese within the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (see https://ordinariate.net/about).  
   
The Counter-Reformation.  Fallen people in a fallen world sin.  Yes, there were abuses at the time of the Protestant Reformation.  There was corruption and laxity.  Indulgences were being sold.  There were corrupt popes.  The Papacy was often very political.  However, corrupt priests, religious, and laity take nothing away from the truth of the Magisterium (Church teaching); “the gates of Hell shall not prevail”.  Authentic reform without compromising Church doctrine was urgently needed.  

As always in times of great crisis, God raised up great reformer saints (See Appendix II) such as St. Charles Boromeo, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, St. Francis de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Vincent de Paul, St Philip Neri, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Thomas More, etc.  Pope Paul III convened the Council of Trent in 1545 and continued off and on until 1563 in 26 sessions.  If only Martin Luther (1483-1546) had been more patient in working for reform!  Reform from within did come to the Church in the Counter-Reformation.  It is said that Luther had regrets with that separation on his deathbed.

















Today secularism is the greatest threat to Christianity and religious freedom that the founders of our Country held so dear.  It has generated so many national problems.  Thus it is time for Christians of all faiths to fight together, not each other.  This would be a giant step towards Christian unity.  People are drifting and there are more unchurched people than ever.  There's enough work for everyone in the vineyard.

   What Our Separated Brethren Would Gain From Unity. One Lutheran pastor complained about all the infighting over doctrine among the synods.  I facetiously remarked:  “What you guys need is a Pope”.  Christ gave the Papacy to us as a gift when He said to Peter:  "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed, even in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:18-19).  Only the Catholic Church can trace itself through papal succession to St. Peter and Christ Himself.



 What the early Church fathers (those who knew the apostles or their protégés) believed remains today as Church teaching in a remarkable consistency of belief over the centuries.  His infallibility on solemn decrees on faith and morals (rarely used) gives the Pope great moral authority. When everyone interprets the Bible in his or her own way, there is confusion and chaos.  The Magisterium of the Church gives uniformity and consistency as shown in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
    
       The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Eucharist.  The very biblical Mass makes present the Last Supper, the Sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner, and the Resurrection in a mysterious way that transcends time (CCC 1330).  Christ, through the priest, sacrifices Himself to the Father in reparation for the sins of the world.  The Jews sacrificed an unblemished lamb to God and then consumed it.  We offer the Eucharist (the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ Himself), the Lamb of God to the Father and then consume it as the bread of life and food for the soul (John 6:53).  
        
       Thus we receive Christ Himself into our hearts for a few precious minutes.  This miracle at every Mass is certainly not beyond the creator of the universe.  Only Catholics (& Orthodox) believe in transubstantiation.  By attending Mass every Sunday for a year, one receives the highlights of the entire Bible.  

       For more detail read my blog article #171 The Awesomeness of the Mass and the Eucharist
http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2016/05/171-awesomeness-of-mass-and-eucharista.html and blog article #189. Why Eucharistic Adoration? What Can You Do During Adoration? Not Boring, Even Exciting
http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2017/06/189-why-eucharistic-adoration-what-can.html.

Exposition of the Eucharist or the Blessed Sacrament
       The Eucharist is present in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church 24/7 accompanied by a sanctuary light.  Thus when one enters a Catholic church, one may sense a certain presence as opposed to another church, especially when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.  The Eucharist is the source, the center, and the summit of the Catholic faith and life (see (CCC 1324 or click on 
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm    and/or http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/brumley_eucharist1_aug05.asp).  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) details, explains, and clarifies Catholic belief.  The book is on line at http://ccc.usccb.org/flipbooks/catechism or http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM.         
       The Sacraments, outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace, are the Church’s treasures.  There are seven: Baptism, Reconciliation (in which our sins are forgiven), the Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.  Each sacrament is a source of special graces for a different purpose.
     
       Mary as our Mother is Christ’s gift to us from the cross (John 19:26-27).  Her role is to nurture our faith and to bring us to her son, to pray for us, to intercede for us, to console us, etc.  She adds another dimension to the faith.  Mary is the ultimate model of woman and mother.  The only religion where a woman has a prominent role is the Catholic Church and the Orthodox as well.  We ask Mary, whom we honor not adore, to pray for us as I would ask you, dear reader, to pray for me.

       The saints are persons of unusual holiness and heroic virtue for us to honor and emulate as models.  Every person can find a saint with whom s/he can identify and ask for intercession and prayers the same as I ask you, dear reader, to pray for me.  Devotions to Mary and the saints are optional.  Canonized saints are similar to members of a Hall of Fame that we honor.
  
Devotions. The Church has a richness, tradition, and depth that no denomination can match.  This can be found in the optional devotions…….adoration & prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, retreats, healing services, a treasury of great books that explain and amplify the Faith and other spiritual works handed down by the great saints, etc.  The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office is the universal prayer of the Church, required of the clergy and religious (priests, brothers, monks, and nuns) and recommended for the laity.

       Redemptive Suffering is a concept practiced by many Catholics that does not contradict common Protestant beliefs.  It is a part of Catholic culture, but there is no obligation to believe or practice it.  A person, who is suffering due to illness, injury, failure, or some other misfortune, has a cross to bear.  “Every man has a cross to bear.”  This calls to mind Colossians 1:24 and Matthew 16:24…….."Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  

     We have the opportunity to unite our cross with the Lord’s cross and offer it up as a dynamic prayer for a particular intention such as Mary advocated at Fatima…….”for the conversion of sinners”.  Really, to save the world........for the Church in crisis, the missions, for our country, for our loved ones.  Thus we can give positive meaning to suffering by making it productive and allowing the cross to bring us closer to God.  Bearing crosses patiently with a positive attitude and complete trust in the Lord will ultimately make us saints. 
   
Share our faith with others as opportunities arise and bring them to the fold.  Christ commanded us to do so (Matt 18:19-20), not only the apostles.  Don’t just keep the faith, SPREAD IT……..in little or big ways by prayer and example, word and deed.

RESOURCES



APPENDIX I

WHO STARTED YOUR CHURCH?

I was praying for Pope Francis this morning and it occurred to me that one fact got very little attention in the media circus that surrounded the Conclave. Today, there are officially more than 30,000 different Christian churches, all teaching different doctrines. How did this splintering and division happen?
It all began about 400 years ago...

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517. This is the oldest of the Protestant churches and began the splintering process.

The Anabaptist religion splintered from the Lutherans in 1520, founded by Nicholas Storch and Thomas Munzer.

If you are a Mennonite your religion is an offshoot of the Anabaptist church founded in 1525 and takes its name from Menno Simons, a former Catholic priest.

If you are Anglican, you belong to the Church of England and your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1605.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Quaker, your religion was foundered in 1647 by George Fox in England.

If you are Amish, your Church was foundered by Jacob Anman in 1693.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in  
England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.

If you are Episcopalian your religion was foundered in 1784 by Samuel Seabury in the American Colonies and is an offshoot of the Church of England.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1829.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed Church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you are a member of the Assemblies of God, your religion was foundered by Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901.

If you belong to the Church of the Nazarene, your religion was started in 1908.

If you are a Jehovah's Witness, your religion was foundered by Charles Taze Russell in 1931.

If you have stopped attending church, you founded your own religion and appointed yourself pope on day/month/year?

If you are Catholic, you belong to the Church that was founded around the year 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Jesus appointed the first Pope (Matthew 16:19) and as Catholics we can trace our apostolic lineage from Peter to Pope Francis. There is something incredibly beautiful and inspiring about that.

For more than 1500 years all Christians were united in one Church (except the Orthodox who broke away in the schism of 1054) . The splintering that has taken place since that fateful day in 1517 when Martin Luther walked away from the Catholic Church has been a failed experiment. Let us pray for Christian unity.

Pope Francis is already captivating the world in his early days. I pray he continues to, so together, we may all re-prose the genius of Catholicism to the people of our times.

-Matthew Kelly 
DynamicCatholic.com
Be Bold. Be Catholic.

APPENDIX II

Great Saints of the Catholic (Counter -) Reformation
St. Ignatius Loyola
–Spain, 1491-1556

St. Theresa of Avila
–Spain, 1515-1582

St. Pius V – Italy (Pope)
1504-1572

St. Charles Borromeo
1538-1584

Alessandro Valignano
–Italy, 1539-1606 (not a saint)

St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle
–France, 1651-1719

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
– France, 1647-1690

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