The Reconquest of Spain

Jesus Christ Savior | Spain was troubled in 997 when the Moor Almanzor usurped the power of the Caliphate and sacked the city and Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest tip of Spain, but spared the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish). (Alamy image: Compulsory baptism of the Moors after the Reconquista, Granada, Spain, 1500. Hand-colored woodcut)

Catholic Spain was the first European territory to suffer Islamic invasion in 711 when the Berber general Ibn Tariq conquered nearly all of Spain except the northern rim. The Visigoth Pelayo held off the Muslims at Covadonga at Asturias in the Cantabrian mountains in 722. Spain, named Al-Andalus by Muslim leaders, prospered under the Umayyad Abd al-Rahman family of Córdoba, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians for a while lived side by side in a spirit of religious toleration.

The discovery of the relics of St. James in a Field of Light in Galicia supported the Catholic heritage of Spain, and a church was built at the pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela by Asturian King Alfonso II (791-842). As recorded in the late ninth-century Chronicle of Alfonso III, Pelayo became the inspiration for the rightful recovery of Spanish territory lost to Muslim invasion.

Spain was troubled in 997 when the Moor Almanzor usurped the power of the Caliphate and sacked the city and Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest tip of Spain, but spared the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish). He took the cathedral bells of the church as a memento of his victory and placed them in the great mosque of Córdoba. With the loss of respect for the Caliphate, Al-Andalus fractured into multiple petty states, known as Taifas.

King Alfonso VI (1065-1109) of León-Castile recaptured Toledo in 1085. El Cid held off the Muslims in Valencia until his death in 1099. King Alfonso I of Navarre and Aragon recaptured Zaragoza in 1118. King Alfonso VIII won a major battle against the Almohad Muslims at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. King Fernando III recaptured Córdoba in 1236 and returned the cathedral bells to the Church of Santiago de Compostela. The Reconquista of Spain, or the unification of Spain under Christian rule, was not formally completed until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, when Granada was captured from the Moors on January 2, 1492.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Cultural Assimilation Has Corrupted the Church in America

by Jason Surmiller | In some ways it is difficult to blame the bishops for their current stance. Their political power conveyed a sense of respectability. In decades past, they could promote their policies, notably through the Democratic Party which became a conduit to support and further the goals of the bishops, such as the building up of unions across the Northeast and Midwest. (image: Carlisle Indian School, Carlisle, Pa. Class in English or penmanship from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA)

To start the year off, the New York state legislature passed the most regressive anti-life law in the history of the U.S. Its governor, Andrew Cuomo, a self-proclaimed Catholic, supported and shepherded the legislation and gleefully proclaimed its enactment. Furthermore, many in the legislature enthusiastically applauded when the law was enacted. Unhappily, many of those people call themselves Catholic. As horribly sad as this situation is, what makes it infinitely more heartbreaking is that the bishops have been relatively silent on the matter. Cardinal Dolan has now spoken about the situation after being challenged, but he apparently has no real plan to confront public officials who support the law. For example, he has refused to ex-communicate the Governor or even entertain the idea that Cuomo is a public heretic despite Cuomo publicly denying the Church’s teaching on abortion.

To be fair to the cardinal, major political figures who support abortion have rarely been censured. For instance, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House from California and the leader of the Democratic party, is still considered a Catholic in good standing both in San Francisco and Washington D.C. If Dolan did censure or excommunicate Cuomo, he would blaze a new trail in relations between the Catholic Church and the state. This would require an awesome amount of courage because, in large part, he cannot expect the support of his brother bishops. In fact, some would probably openly oppose him and even denounce him. There are examples of strong church leaders like Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who stated that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin should not receive communion; yet Paprocki and a few others are the exception. This begs the question: why aren’t the bishops speaking out and trying to bring politicians, like Cuomo, back to the fold? To venture a guess, it is because they do not want to lose the standing in American public life that they have gained over the last century and a half.

The formation of the Catholic bishops’ political mindset began in the late 1800s with Archbishop John Ireland of Minneapolis and his goal to Americanize the Church. He, along with many of his brother bishops, hoped to strip the parish churches of their ethnic identity and persuade their followers to become fully American. The bishops realized that until this happened, Protestant America would look at Catholics as immigrant outsiders, best barred from the country. In order to assuage the Protestants, the bishops knew they needed to develop American Catholics by breaking the ties between the new arrivals and Europe. Also, the Church had to come out in full force supporting American ideas such as freedom of speech and religion.

In time, the bishops were successful in becoming more American, championing American political values, and largely ending the phenomenon of ethnic parishes. In many ways the average Catholic looked like a Protestant. Along with Catholics emulating Protestants, a continuing wave of Catholics immigrating to the U.S. allowed the Church to develop real political power through the ballot box. Unfortunately, during the rise of the Church in the second half of the twentieth century, it did not seem to be concerned with the teachings of Christ. This, in part, led the Church to cover up the sex abuse crimes of its priests. With these crimes finally coming to the surface along with more and more Catholics leaving the Church in part due to disruptions following Vatican II, the bishops have experienced a precipitous loss of political power. Apparently, in response to this, the bishops have decided to quiet their voices and have refused to oppose publics officials as a way to restore some of that long-lost authority.

In some ways it is difficult to blame the bishops for their current stance. Their political power conveyed a sense of respectability. In decades past, they could promote their policies, notably through the Democratic Party which became a conduit to support and further the goals of the bishops, such as the building up of unions across the Northeast and Midwest. Yet, the bishops’ reach did not stop at the political realm. Culturally and socially they were able to set up committees to censor movies and support blue laws. Popularly, people from across the country tuned in to watch Archbishop Fulton Sheen give lectures about the Faith; he even won an Emmy. It was not uncommon to have a priest or saint as the protagonist in a major motion picture like “A Man for All Seasons.” The strongest manifestation of the Church’s influence was that even Protestant politicians came calling for the Catholic vote.

This authority, however, only works when Catholics remain faithful and look to their bishops for direction in religious and secular matters. Unfortunately, Catholics have stopped coming to Church. By and large, the Catholic laity have refused to listen to the bishops in recent years largely because of the scandals. Additionally, the Church has had a hard time keeping people in the pews. News stories come out on a weekly basis reporting on the Church’s massive loss of parishioners. As of today, the Church is scrambling to understand why and implementing evangelization efforts that are not likely to work. In light of this, Church leaders are searching for new ways to maintain their influence in America. Unfortunately, the path the bishops have chosen to influence Catholic politicians—who for all intents and purposes have rejected Catholic moral teaching—is to placate them. Secularly, this makes sense. If you want a place at the table, you cannot publicly bash politicians and throw them out of the Church. If the bishops do, they will lose their place.

The problem for at least the last twenty years, if not longer, is that the Republicans and Democrats have not been listening to the Church. At best, politicians pay lip service to the bishops’ concerns and then work for groups that can actually get them elected. Ironically enough, the bishops excommunicating politicians would most likely have no real effect on political realities. Politicians would then be able to go to their voters claiming they had stood up to the regressive, out-of-step Church. Little if anything would positively happen. Yet, an important goal of publicly calling out politicians would be served: the Faith of the Church would be loudly proclaimed, and no one, Catholic or otherwise, would be confused about the Truth. Additionally, albeit unlikely, a politician might be reconverted to the truth as a result of the bishop’s action.

It is not just the scandals that have destroyed the credibility of the Church (as bad as they are on their own), but it is now politically homeless. First, the Democratic Party has simply rejected much of what the Church holds dear. It has made abortion a non-negotiable plank of their party and supports social issues which have always been opposed by the Church. Sadly enough, the Democratic Party has recently further distanced itself from the Church. Last year, Senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono questioned a judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights of Columbus, implying Knights should not sit on the federal bench. While the Republican Party is, at least ostensibly, pro-life, its economic and immigration policies are not supported by many bishops—although the party itself has not been uniformly in agreement on these matters and such policies are a prudential question open for debate among Catholics. It is no small wonder that in the past few elections the Catholic vote has effectively split between the two parties. What appears to be the most telling sign is that both parties are only making half-hearted attempts to win the Catholic vote. This is most likely because they realize there is no longer a unified Catholic voting block. This is largely true because the bishops no longer influence their people and fewer and fewer Catholics even go to Church.

Despite the gravity of the abortion issue, the Catholic bishops of New York and a great majority of bishops around the U.S. refuse to meaningfully speak out against the different heresies making inroads into the Church. The bishops fear that if they taught more forcefully they would lose their standing in American public life. Perhaps, in the back of their minds, they believe repudiating the political gains made over the past 150 years will revive the charge that Catholics do not fit in. Yet, by doing this, the bishops would finally let go of the pretense that Catholicism has real political power. Only a short time ago, a politician had little hope of winning in New York, Chicago, or Detroit without the support of the local archdiocese, but those days are gone. However, this may not be a bad thing. Catholic entanglement with political power has distracted the Church from its true mission to win souls for Christ and build up the Kingdom. By refocusing on their primary duty, the bishops would better meet the spiritual needs of the faithful while attracting new adherents. A clear and confident religious message will invariably grow the Church and eventually have a salutary effect on civic life and culture—all without compromising any principles.

In the end, the whole point—for the bishops and the whole Church—is to gain more souls for Christ whether or not it means losing respectability in elite circles. To deny people the truth is a hateful thing, and to allow people to languish in error and refuse to offer them a way to salvation is the same as condemning them to hell. The bishops need to remember that their concerns should not only be for earthly things but primarily for heavenly rewards. In the end, it does not profit the bishops to gain worldly acclaim while so many under their care are losing their souls.

Jason SurmillerJason Surmiller recently graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Ph.D. in Humanities, History of Ideas. He is a faculty member of Ursuline Academy of Dallas and an adjunct instructor at Brookhaven College. His first book, European Fascism and the Catholic Church in America: Power and the Priesthood in World War, from IB Tauris is coming out in March 2020.



The Schism of 1054

Jesus Christ Savior | This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque – and the Son – to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son (image, Wikimedia Commons).

One of the most tragic events in Church history has been the Schism of 1054 between what is now the Catholic Church in Rome and the Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople.

The actual event occurred on July 16, 1054. What began as a diplomatic effort between Pope Leo IX of Rome and the Byzantine Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople ended in disaster. The abrasive Cardinal Humbert laid a papal bull of excommunication (after Pope Leo had died) on the altar right during the Liturgy at the Church of Hagia Sophia, which led the Eastern Church to excommunicate the envoy. While the event did not end the relationship between the Eastern and Western Churches, it became symbolic for the distrust and strain between the East and the West that developed through the centuries. The break was sealed in 1204 with the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

Rome and Constantinople had been able to agree through three more Councils. The fifth ecumenical council at Constantinople II in 553 was called by the Emperor Justinian and reaffirmed that there is only one person or hypostasis in our Lord Jesus Christ. In response to the Monothelites, that Christ had only one will, the sixth ecumenical council affirmed the efforts of St. Maximus the Confessor at Constantinople III in 681 and confessed that Christ had two wills and two natural operations (John 6:38), divine and human in harmony. The seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea II in 787 resolved the iconoclast controversy thanks to the writings of St. John of Damascus: since Jesus had a true humanity and his body was finite, it was only proper to venerate holy images of the human face of Jesus, as well as Mary and the saints.

However, the language of Rome was Latin, and that of Constantinople Greek.

There was a difference in perception of Church authority between the East and West. Latin Rome believed the Pontiff, as the representative of Peter, was Pastor and Shepherd to the whole Church, whereas the Greek East saw the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and representative of Peter, as presiding with love in the sense of collegiality, as a first among equals.

This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque – and the Son – to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son. King Recared and his Visigothic bishops converted from Arianism to Catholicism at the Third Council of Toledo, Spain in 587 and were required to add the word filioque to the Creed. Charlemagne in 794 insisted on its addition, so that the phrase read “the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son”. Pope Leo III at the time refused to allow the change and supported the original Creed; however the Papacy finally accepted the addition of filioque at the coronation of King Henry II of the Holy Roman Empire in 1014. The Eastern Orthodox Churches claim that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is the common possession of the whole church and that any change must be made by an ecumenical Council.

Many of the Christian Churches of Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, except the Maronites and the Italo-Albanians, joined the Byzantine or Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Weekly Spiritual Digest: Can I Know God Personally?

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | Jesus came so that each of us could know and understand God in a personal way. Jesus alone can bring meaning and purpose to life.

We have all tried to do good things so that God will accept us and tried to stop doing bad things so that God will be happy with us; but we failed woefully and still cannot connect with God. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags, Is. 64:6.

All religions are the futile attempts of man to connect with God; but in Christ, God seeks out man and connects with him. Here are just three aspects of the Good News.

  1. God came down to look for you.
    Before the fall, man had uninterrupted fellowship with God. At the fall, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord and the Lord had to come searching for them. God activated the plan for the salvation and reconciliation of man to Himself by coming in the form of man. Is. 7:14, Gal. 4:4.
  2. You can know God personally.
    Jesus wants to reveal the Father to you. Matt. 11:27. He is knocking and waiting at the door of your heart because He wants to come in and dine with you. Rev. 3:20
  3. You can have a real relationship with God.
    When you receive and believe in Jesus Christ you automatically become adopted into the family God, John 1:12. God is your Father, Jesus is your brother, Heb. 2:11. Jesus also relates with you as a friend,  John 15:15.

We cannot earn or contribute to this process. All we can do is to respond by accepting what God has done for us. What is the evidence that you know God personally and not just know about Him? Have you accepted His offer? Do you love Him and delight in His ways?

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



The Grass Is Not Always Greener in the East

by Casey Chalk | Guroian is hopeful, but realistic, regarding an East-West union, noting that “sin of the collective and habitual sort is stubborn and not easily overcome. Nationalistic and particularistic proclivities, the desire to cling to power, and false pride and defensiveness can at any moment, and over the long haul, overwhelm all the good reasons for Orthodox Churches to accept the pope’s fraternal invitation.”

Anyone familiar with Orthodox convert (from Catholicism!) Rod Dreher knows that there is much common cultural and political ground between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Guroian affirms this reality when he writes, “North American culture is awash in a feckless brew of expressive individualism, moral relativism, and godless utilitarianism that does grave damage to the human spirit and most certainly challenges the church to reassert its mission to claim this world for God.” Guroian argues that culture lives and dies based on its union with and dependence on the Incarnation and the liturgy. Indeed, man’s creation of culture is analogical to God’s creative work, especially given man being made in God’s image and then given the supernatural life through baptism and having it enhanced throughhis access to the other sacraments. Thus as Western culture becomes increasingly untethered from these (and God, more generally), so it dies, because it is incapable of accurately reflecting God’s work in the world. “Postmodernity is not a new culture. It is the rotting corpse of a thoroughly desacralized Christendom or, alternatively, the empty shell of the Christian cult inhabited by alien ideologies,” he writes.

Guroian takes up this sacramental and liturgical vision in just about every subject in the book. In his chapter on Constantine and the creation of Christendom he explains the Justinian symphonia, or deep alliance between the Church and the State. In contrast to Western conceptions of church-state relations as two competing institutional powers, the Orthodox “vision of Christendom” interprets the Church not as a competing institutional power, but as a liturgical and sacramental presence. Indeed, he uses the hypostatic union of Christ as a rebuttal against a strict separation of church and state. While the West speaks of church and state, the East speaks of church and the world. He recognizes this last as problematic, as it tends to perceive the instruments of the state as “ligaments of the kingdom of God.” Again, in his writing on ethics, Guroian argues that “Orthodox ethics are grounded in liturgy and how the liturgy lends a powerful, transformative, and eschatological vision to Orthodox ethics.” Participation in the Eucharist is the means by which the Church becomes “God’s eschatological polity in the world.” Liturgy is also central to this contrast between Western and Eastern conceptions of marriage: unlike Catholic definitions of marriage that emphasize its contractual and covenantal nature, the Orthodox emphasize its liturgical and healing character, undoing the enmity between the sexes that began at the Fall.

Guroian writes of more significant differences when he gets to Catholic distinctions between symbol and reality and nature and grace, particularly as it relates to the Eucharist. He writes of a Western tendency towards a “dangerous distinction and separation between symbol and reality,” and a “nature and grace” dualism that represents a “radical discontinuity” which the East “finds unacceptable.” This represents nothing less than a “fall” from the Nicene conception of the relationship between nature and grace. Perhaps this contrast might best be described as an Orthodox sacramental and mystical “realism” versus a Catholic metaphysical rationalism and intellectualism, born out of a scholastic tradition that emphasizes propositional understandings of truth and faith. This tends towards eviscerating the true spiritual, divine power of God’s work in the world, says Guroian. Yet much of his critique is not so much against official Catholic doctrine per se, as impressions of it mediated through certain early theological manuals or the writings of modern theologians, and then interpreted by Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann. Indeed, Guroian provides no evidence to substantiate his claims regarding a supposed radical split between nature and grace in Catholic theology. Moreover, if the complaint is with scholasticism, this tradition is not unique to the West—the writings of Maximus the Confessor, John Damascene, and Leontius of Byzantium all contain scholastic elements.

Of course, what would an Orthodox-Catholic discussion be without reference to the papacy? Guroian cites another Orthodox scholar who “discovered no conclusive proof in Scripture or in early Church history for the bishop of Rome’s claim to supreme headship over all Christians.” For example, Christ’s famous declaration in Matthew 16 regarding petra (rock) cannot “refer back reflexively” to Petros (Peter), though no evidence is offered to substantiate this. While willing to acknowledge a contemporary need for a universal ecclesial leadership similar to that of the pope, he calls for a “reformulation of papal primacy” to the oft-heard paradigm of primus inter pares (“first among equals”). Guroian calls on Rome to maintain a primacy of ministry and service, not magisterial authority. He urges popes to use language and take actions that demonstrate more humility, and offer more parity, towards their Eastern episcopal brethren. I see little harm in gestures of comity and humility, especially in days of aggressive secularism, when Catholics and Orthodox should look to historical examples of cooperation, instead of conflict, for ecumenical inspiration.

Guroian is hopeful, but realistic, regarding an East-West union, noting that “sin of the collective and habitual sort is stubborn and not easily overcome. Nationalistic and particularistic proclivities, the desire to cling to power, and false pride and defensiveness can at any moment, and over the long haul, overwhelm all the good reasons for Orthodox Churches to accept the pope’s fraternal invitation.” Indeed, elsewhere he is quite honest about what he terms “the Orthodox escape into ethnic separatism and sectarian spiritualism.” He explains:

The Orthodox are guilty of a comparable sin of dividing the one body of Christ into exclusivist national and ethnic enclaves that they will not let go of even when the opportunity arises, as it has in America…. The bitter pill that the Orthodox must swallow is that they have been complicit in the reduction and separation of the undivided church of which they accuse others.

This has often taken the form of what is called phyletism, or the establishment of national churches that refuse members of other nationalities from liturgical participation and are only administered by ministers from that nationality.

These issues—Roman primacy and Orthodox divisiveness—represent two sides of the same coin that I would present to any Catholic considering leaving for Orthodoxy because of Rome’s contemporary crises. The Catholic Church, unlike her Eastern brethren, possesses a principle of unity that has been essential to her guidance and preservation through the centuries. Surely, she has sometimes been poorly led by the papacy. Yet this principle has enabled the Church to weather precisely the problem that has plagued Orthodoxy—ethnic and national conflicts. Attempts at such “Catholic nationalism” (e.g., Gallicanism or the Polish Catholic Church) have failed, and what remains of these movements reflects only dying branches severed from the source. Furthermore, contrary to Orthodox arguments, there is plentiful historical evidence for Rome’s primacy, not only ministerially, but magisterially.

Finally, God himself has given us reason to believe in the Catholic conception of Roman magisterial authority through the continued availability of motives of credibility. Though some of these are not unique to Catholicism (e.g., miracles recorded in historical Scriptural documents or the testimony of the early Church), others are. No Christian institution has holier saints. No institution has been able, against all odds, to maintain her level of visible unity, nor continued to grow in numbers and holiness. Yes, it’s undoubtedly true, our Church is currently suffering a tremendous crisis, one that is doing terrible harm to her witness to the world. Yet our Church continues to possess the identity, tools, and inner potency to overcome them, as Christ has proven to us generation after generation. It would be foolhardy to leave her now, even for a Church containing all the beauty, truth, and spiritual power of the Orthodox.

Casey Chalk is a graduate student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College.



Church History: Complete Documentary AD 33 to Present

History of the church from the Ascension of Jesus Christ to 2017 (YouTube).

 

Further Reading: Philip Schaff’s Church History: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc1…
History of the Primitive Church: https://archive.org/details/TheHistor…
Eusebius’ Church History: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2501…
Sozomen’s Church History: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2602…
Socrates Scholasticus’ Church History: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2601…
Primary sources: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/ http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/
Father Adrian Fortescue: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/…
Bishop Hefele’s History of the Councils: https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks…

Corrections:

  1. Beirut is in Lebanon, not Syria.
  2. At the time of the Roman Empire, Great Britain would have been known as Britannia rather than England. The name “England” was first used during the Middle Ages, referring to the tribe of Germanic Angles that settled the island after the fall of the Roman Empire.
  3. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only Marian apparition in the Americas to have been approved by the Holy See. Other Marian apparitions in the Americas have been approved by local ordinaries, including Our Lady of Good Success in Ecuador (1572), Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin (1859), Our Lady of Cuapa in Nicaragua (1980), in Venezuela (1984) and Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolas in Argentina (1980s).
  4. At 2:06:35, the correct spelling is “Hugh O’Flaherty”, not “O’Flattery”


The Conversion of Russia to Byzantine Christianity (988)

Jesus Christ Savior | The Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity to Moravia, and Cyril created the Cyrillic alphabet for their liturgy, which became the basis of the Slavic languages, including Russian. (Image, St. Sophia Cathedral – Kiev, Ukraine).

The Byzantine Empire of the East, with its capital in Constantinople, flourished for a thousand years. The Emperor Theodosius the Great proclaimed Christianity as the official state religion of the Roman Empire in 380. The Empire reached its zenith under Emperor Justinian, the author of the Justinian Code of Law, who ruled from 527 to 565. Justinian built the beautiful Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople in 539, which became a center of religious thought.

The writings of the Greek Fathers of the Church such as Saints Basil, John Chrysostom, and Maximus the Confessor influenced the spiritual formation of early Christianity. The Byzantine or Greek liturgy is based on the tradition of St. Basil and the subsequent reform of St. John Chrysostom. The Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity to Moravia, and Cyril created the Cyrillic alphabet for their liturgy, which became the basis of the Slavic languages, including Russian.

Kiev was once the capital of the country of Kievan Rus, which comprised the modern nations of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Influenced by his grandmother Olga, Prince Vladimir of Kiev adopted Byzantine Christianity in 988, converting Russia to the Byzantine Orthodox faith. In the sixteenth century, a Russian mystic Philotheus of Pskof noted that Rome and Constantinople, the second Rome, had fallen, but “Moscow, the third Rome,” stands. The Russian Orthodox Church today is the largest Eastern Orthodox faith with over 110 million members.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Different Ways to Worship the Great God

Biblestudy.org | But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. –John 4:23

The first thing we need to consider, before we begin to worship God, is our attitude. Jesus told the woman at the well, recorded in John 4, something profound in this regard. He states that those who wish to worship the Father must do so in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Many scriptures command that we reverence God such as Genesis 35:1, Exodus 15:1, 1Chronicles 16:29, Haggai 1:8, Mark 1:44 among several others. There are at least seven types or ways, according to the Bible, we can worship our loving Creator.

We can worship our Creator through a grateful declaration of praise, either in public or private. This declaration can also be made through prayer (Ephesians 5:20).

A very special praise and thanking to the Lord took place when Solomon completed the temple, with voices and many instruments of music praising the God of heaven (2Chronicles 5:13).
Joyful Songs
We can worship our Maker through songs like the Psalms. King David especially called on people to make a joyful shout to the Lord and to come before him with singing on our lips (Psalm 100:1 – 2, see also James 5:13 and Colossians 3:16).

Dancing
King David not only offered sacrifices to God when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, he also danced as a form of worship (1Samuel 6:12 – 14)! There was dancing for joy when the sea, through a miracle, killed Pharaoh and his army as they were pursuing the fleeing children of Israel (Exodus 15:20 – 21).

Observing annual feast days
Jesus observed the Feast of Passover during his entire ministry (Matthew 26:17). He also faithfully kept, as his disciples and family did, the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2, 10). The disciples even worshipped by keeping the Day of Pentecost after Jesus had died and rose from the grave (Acts 2:1).

Cheerful help to others
God especially loves those who help others not grudgingly or of necessity but out of a willing heart of service and love(2Corinthians 9:7, 8:1 – 2, Acts 2:44 – 45).

Using our spiritual gifts
We can, in a very real sense, worship God by using the natural and supernatural-given gifts he gave us to serve as many people as we can (1Corinthians 12:1, 4 – 7, see also Ephesians 4:7, 11 – 13, 15 – 16).

Be a living sacrifice
We can worship God by being a living sacrifice, meaning that we dedicate our entire lives to serving him and being a blessing for others!

So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1)

May you be richly blessed as you worship Him in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).



Christianity Thrives Under The Carolingian Empire (732-814)

Jesus Christ Savior | The Carolingian Empire was among the most significant early medieval empires in Europe. It came into being on the turn of the 9th century and came to end by the first quarter of the 10th century. The Empire was very significant for the later history of Europe, being the precursor to the later Holy Roman Empire and to the different monarchies which later ruled different regions of Europe. (image, The Age of Charlemagne – Refers to an important period in the History of the powerful Carolingian empire who’s expansion into other territories had a lasting impact on medieval Europe.)

The Carolingian Empire effectively began with Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian Franks. He stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe at the Battle of Tours near Poitiers in 732, and supported St. Boniface in his conversion of Germany.

His son Pepin and the Papacy formed an historic alliance. Pepin needed the blessing of the Pope in his seizure of leadership of Gaul from the Merovingians. Pope Stephen II, besieged by the Lombards in Italy, was the first Pope to leave Italy and cross the Alps in 754. He named King Pepin Patrician of the Romans,and in turn Pepin swept into Italy and conquered the Lombards, securing the Papal states. Pepin died in 768 and divided his realm between his two sons, Carloman and Charles.

Charles, known as Charlemagne (742-814), took over all of Gaul upon the death of his brother in 771, and soon conquered most of mainland Europe. He was a vigorous leader and ruled until 814. Charlemagne was a strong supporter of Christianity. During his reign, Christianity became the guiding principle of the Carolingian Empire, as the Church established a powerful presence throughout Europe. He instituted a school of learning in his palace at Aachen. In the Middle Ages there was in theory a division between temporal power and spiritual authority, but in practice one saw a strong Emperor take control of some spiritual affairs and a strong Pope take control of some affairs of state. Charlemagne, as Constantine, considered himself the leader of Christendom as political head of state and protector of the Church. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day 800, and this marked the formal alliance of the Carolingian Empire and the Papacy. The historian Christopher Dawson called this the beginning of medieval Christendom.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Weekly Spiritual Digest: Is Jesus Really God?

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | Only God is the omnipresent Spirit who can hear and answer prayer, but Jesus said in John 14:13, “If you shall ask anything in my name I will do it.”

The question, if Jesus is really God has caused different reactions ranging from excitement, confusion, anger and outright rejection by Christians and non-Christians alike. The existence of Jesus Christ is a no contest. He lived here on earth; His genealogy is known. Where and when He was born and the life He lived have all been documented by historians. The claim that He is God is the bone of contention. Here are four reasons to aid our understanding in believing that Jesus is God.

  1. Testimonies that Jesus is God.
    1. The Prophets: Isaiah & John the Baptist: Isa 9:6; 7:14; Jh. 1:1-3
    2. God the Father: Heb. 1:8 & Ps. 45:6.
    3. Jesus Himself: Jh. 8:58, 10:30.
    4. Jesus’ Disciples Jh. 20:28.
  2. Jesus has all the attributes of God – A few will suffice:

    1. Self-existing Jh. 5:26;
    2. Eternal Is. 9:6; and Is 46:9
    3. Holy Jh. 8:46;
    4. Omnipotent Phi 3:21;
    5. Omniscient Jh. 16:30;
    6. Omnipresent Matt. 18:20; Judge. 2 Tim 4:1.
  3. Jesus did things only God can do.
    1. Created the world. Jh. 1:3; Col.1:16.
    2. Raised the dead and Himself too. Lk 7:14, 24:7
    3. Forgave sins. Lk 5:20;
    4. Promises eternal life. John 3:16; Lk 23:43
  4. Jesus Accepts worship – due only to God.
    1. Disciples worshiped Him Matt. 28: 9;
    2. Every knee will bow in worship Ph. 2:9-11
    3. Saints, Angels, 24 Elders, 4 Living Creatures worship Jesus. Rev. 5

Every religion admits that Jesus was a prophet, righteous and sinless but reject His deity. He did not leave us that option. We either voluntarily worship Him now or involuntarily do so when it is too late.

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



The Monks Save European Civilization

by Jesus Christ Savior | Pope Gregory the Great, as a leader and defender of the Holy Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, ensured that the Church would endure and grow during those difficult times, when much change was taking place in the Roman Empire and beyond (Image, Pope St. Gregory the Great 540-604).

The Monastic Orders have been a premium influence on the formation of Christian culture. For not only have they been islands of asceticism and holiness that have served as ideals to a secular world, but also they have provided many if not most of the religious leaders within each historic age, especially during times of renewal and reform. The word monos is the Greek word for one or alone. Monasticism began in the East and spread throughout Europe and saved European civilization.

The practice of leaving the ambitions of daily life and retreating to the solitude of the desert was seen throughout Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, St. John the Baptist (Mark 1:4) an early example.

The father of Christian monasticism was St. Antony of the Desert (251-356), the first of the Desert Fathers. Antony of Egypt took to heart the words of Christ to the rich young man, ” Go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21). He headed across the Nile to a mountain near Pispir to live a life of solitude, prayer, and poverty . Soon many gathered around him to imitate his life, living as hermits in nearby caves in the mountain, and in 305 he emerged from solitude to teach his followers the way of the ascetic. He then moved further into the desert by Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea, where a second group of hermits gathered and later formed a monastery. He lived there for 45 years until his death in 356.

St. Maron (350-410), a contemporary of St. John Chrysostom, was a monk in the fourth century who left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead a life of holiness and prayer. As he was given the gift of healing, his life of solitude was short-lived, and soon he had many followers that adopted his monastic way. Following the death of St. Maron in 410, his disciples built a monastery in his memory, which would form the nucleus of the Eastern Catholic Maronite Church of Lebanon.

The fall of the Roman Empire to the barbarian invasions left European civilization in disarray, for the social structure under one ruler in Rome was destroyed. The preservation of culture and the conversion of the barbarians to Christianity was left to an unlikely group: the monastics of Europe. Their missionary efforts converted one tribe after another, so that eventually all of Europe was united in the worship of the one Christian God.

St. Patrick as Apostle to Ireland founded the monastery of Armagh in 444 and other monasteries throughout Ireland. As the social unit in Ireland and much of Europe at the time was the tribe in the countryside, the monastery was the center of Church life and learning. The Irish monks that followed him converted much of northern Europe. The lasting legacy of the Irish monks has been the present-day form of confession. In early times, penance was in public and severe, often lasting for years, such that Baptism was generally postponed until one’s deathbed. The Irish monks began private confession and allowed one to repeat confession as necessary.

The monk St. Benedict (480-547) was born in Nursia of nobility but chose a life of solitude in Subiaco outside of Rome. Soon he moved nearby to build a monastery at Monte Cassino in 529 and there wrote the Rule of Benedict. Monte Cassino placed all of the monks in one monastery under an abbot. The guiding principle for the monastery was ora et labora, or pray and work. The monastery provided adequate food and a place to sleep and served as a center of conversion and learning. Known for its moderation, Monte Cassino and Benedict’s rule became the standard for monasteries throughout Europe and the pattern for Western civilization.

The first monk to become Pope was St. Gregory the Great (540-604). Born to Roman nobility, Gregory at first pursued a political career and became Prefect of Rome. However he gave up position and wealth and retreated to his home to lead a monastic life. He was recalled to Rome and soon was elected Pope in 590 and served until his death in 604. A man of great energy, he is known for four historic achievements. His theological and spiritual writings shaped the thought of the Middle Ages; he made the Pope the de facto ruler of central Italy; his charisma strengthened the Papacy in the West; and he was dedicated to the conversion of England to Christianity. Gregory sent the monk Augustine to England in 597. The conversion of King Aethelbert of Kent led St. Augustine to be named the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Soon English Benedictine monks were being sent to convert the rest of Europe, such as the English monk Winfrid, better known as St. Boniface, who served from 723-739 as the Apostle to Germany.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Weekly Spiritual Digest: Is Christianity too Narrow?

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

The assertion here is that Christianity has many restrictions and is not inclusive. People want a borderless Christianity. The fact is that every institution that is worth its salt has restrictions and is inclusive only under certain conditions. Christianity is not different. We generally view God’s laws as restrictions from enjoying something good. Which is not true! God’s laws are barriers to protect us from hurting ourselves while enjoying all the good God has made available to us.

Christianity is a relationship with Christ and everyone irrespective of race, age, gender, abilities/inabilities, sinners, etc. are accepted unconditionally. All roads may lead to Rome, but only one Road leads to God – Jesus Christ. Religion is humanity’s attempt to reach God while Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humanity. God is the initiator and not man and He says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matt. 7:13 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Those who argue that Christianity is narrow are not sincere. They willingly accept restrictions in other areas of life. They only know about Christianity and have never experienced the true freedom that being in Christ brings.

Regardless of how Christianity is viewed, the question remains,  are you ready for a committed relationship with Christ knowing God personally came down to look for you and bring you into His Kingdom? So, what is the point of this argument?

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



Pope Francis’s Candid Views on Sexual Morality

by Richard A. Spinello | According to Pope John Paul II, Jesus’s compelling message conveys that the “concupiscent look,” a purely lustful desire for another, is disordered even when a husband looks lustfully at his wife as an instrument of pleasure. Adultery in the heart reduces the other to a sexual object and threatens his or her dignity.

Just weeks before the Catholic Church’s summit on the sexual abuse crisis, the faithful became privy to Pope Francis’s rather unorthodox views on sexual morality. In a book length interview  with Frenchman Dominque Wolton, who accompanied Pope Francis to World Youth Day in Panama, the pope concurs with Wolton’s premise that the most radical message of the Gospel is greed and “money madness.” This message is obscured, however, due to what he sees as the Church’s preoccupation with sexual immorality and deviance.  In his response to a question about how to refocus the Church on this message, the pope speaks in generalities that bristle with clues regarding his true sentiments on chastity along with the import of sexual misconduct among the clergy.

According to the Pope, “There is a great danger for preachers, and it is that of condemning only the morality that is—pardon me—‘below the belt.’ But other sins that are more serious, hatred, envy, pride, vanity, killing another, taking a life … these are rarely mentioned.” He goes on to elaborate that “sins of the flesh are the lightest sins, because the flesh is weak.” On the other hand, the most dangerous sins are “those of the spirit … angelism, pride.”

The pope’s declarations are provocative but highly dubious. First, as he has done so often, Pope Francis constructs a convenient but flimsy straw man: the Catholic preacher preoccupied with sexual sins, who conveniently ignores more serious moral transgressions. Yet just the opposite is true. We hardly ever hear from the pulpit sermons that treat sexual misbehavior and condemn sexual perversion. Second, and more importantly, the pope’s remarks falsely minimize the gravity of sexual sin and sensual egoism. To be sure, Pope Francis isn’t suggesting any doctrinal changes. He doesn’t deny that promiscuity, pornography, masturbation, or other deviant acts are sinful, but he believes that we needn’t worry very much about them. The pope mentions his admiration for a cardinal who confided in him that as soon as someone brings up sins “below the belt,” he immediately says, “I understand, let’s move on.” He makes the penitent or parishioner recognize that “there are other mistakes that are much more important.”

It is quite likely that this casual attitude regarding the vice of lust is shared by many in the hierarchy aside from the unnamed cardinal whom the pope admires so much. We surely find this attitude echoed in the remarks of Cardinal Schönborn at the last Synod on the Family: “The Church should not look in the bedroom first, but in the dining room.” Given the tone and substance of papal writings like Amoris Laetitia, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that this lower profile for sexual sinfulness is at least a tacit theme of this pontificate. This minimization strategy is one way of accommodating to some degree the new moral order ushered in by the Sexual Revolution. Perhaps this cavalier approach also explains why so many bishops who heard “rumors” about Cardinal McCarrick’s perverse misdeeds never took them too seriously until it was revealed that minors were also his victims. And maybe it explains why there isn’t more indignation over the sexual misbehavior of the clergy with young adults and seminarians. The same logic employed by Pope Francis may be operative: there are far more important sins than these lustful encounters and other relatively benign sins associated with concupiscentia. Contrary to the Pope’s opinion, it also accounts for why we hear so little preaching about sexual morality and chastity throughout the Church.

If this dangerous mindset of minimalism prevails at the upcoming summit on sexual abuse, the summit cannot possibly lead to any long-term success. At the deepest roots of the sexual abuse scandal convulsing the Church is a failure to respect and teach the inter-connected virtues of love and chastity. As George Weigel has pointed out, at the foundation of the Catholic Church’s response to this turmoil there must be a retrieval of its profound doctrine on chastity as the integrity of love. Without a sincere renewal of the universal value of chastity the Church can never begin to resolve this massive problem in a satisfactory way.

The pope’s gnostic evaluation of a sexual morality that sharply divides sins of the body from sins of the spirit fails to appreciate the troubling consequences of the Sexual Revolution and the irreparable damage caused by those minor sins “below the belt.” Sexual promiscuity, which has swept through Western culture, has led to the mistreatment and degradation of women and the unravelling of the institution of indissoluble marriage. As scholars like Mary Eberstadt have shown, the chaotic effects of unrestrained sexual profligacy have fallen most heavily on the young and the vulnerable.

To accommodate his view that sexual sins are the “lightest ones,” the pope appears to rely on the proposition that the “flesh is weak,” and this weakness disposes us to noetic and moral frailty. People follow their sexual impulses and find themselves giving in to illicit and irresistible desires. But this is hardly a justification and cannot dispense any person from full responsibility for his or her actions. According to Pope John Paul II, “free love,” or sexual promiscuity that masquerades as love, exploits human weaknesses with the blessing of public opinion. By referring to the seductive power of sensual desire, there is an attempt to “soothe” consciences by creating a “moral alibi” (Letter to Families 14). But what gets easily forgotten by Pope Francis and others who fall for this rationalization are the dreadful consequences of non-marital sexual activity. When these sins happen among married couples and lead to infidelity, the family suffers the painful effects of marital chaos and divorce. How many families have been destroyed or damaged by those who surrender their sexual powers to the rule of emotional and bodily satisfaction?

The urge to satisfy one’s libido can take many forms such as the desire to look at pornographic images. But this urge once satisfied can easily become an obsession and undermine a person’s mature self-possession. In his Confessions, St. Augustine describes with impassioned eloquence how “lust served became a custom, and custom not resisted became necessity” (8.5). A single, lustful act that might lead to such compulsive behavior or addiction must be resisted and not taken lightly. Confessors should not “move on” if they are informed of such potentially disruptive sins, but should ensure the penitent appreciates the gravity and possible ramifications of his or her actions.

Another severe consequence of sexual license is the reliance on contraception, and when contraception fails, abortion as the last resort. Sex for pleasure typically includes the use of contraception, since the birth of new life is an obvious impediment to pleasure when there is no long-term commitment or authentic interpersonal union. However, obstructing the natural function of a person’s sexual powers inevitably involves not choosing other basic human goods such as life-in-transmission (or procreation). It is an illusion to think that we can rebuild and sustain a culture of life without overcoming the blight of sexual license.

Pope John Paul II understood quite well how misguided it is to polarize sins of the flesh with sins of the spirit as Pope Francis has done in this interview. Sexual sins are the result of sensual egoism and transient lust that seek instant gratification. These acts result in the objectification of the person who is used solely as a means for pleasure. Those who regard sins below the belt as generally innocuous fail to consider the depersonalizing character of casual sex. The use of another for mere pleasure or self-gratification is inconsistent with that person’s innate dignity and inevitably leads to emotional and spiritual harm. Use of the other for pleasure, even if consensual, is the exact opposite of love which always affirms the other for his or her own sake.

In addition, sexual relations that are not the sign and means of permanent spousal love but simply the pursuit of self-gratification have implications for achieving romantic intimacy and conjugal communion. By yielding to concupiscence a man does not relate to a woman as a spouse or even as a person but merely as an attractive body. And if a man regards a woman’s body as truncated from her personal reality, she, too, will come to think of her body in the same way. Yet the body is an integral part of the person and thus it cannot be separated from the totality of the person without causing grave damage. According to Saint John Paul II, “lust … brings with it an almost constitutive difficulty of identification with one’s own body” (Theology of the Body 248). As a result, the gift of one’s whole bodily self to the other, the essence of marital communion, becomes quite difficult, because the person has a disintegrated view of the self that does not include the body. Promiscuity, therefore, violates the intrinsic good of marriage because it impairs the person’s capacity for spousal self-donation.

Finally, Pope Francis’s claim that sexual deviance is not the Gospel’s most radical message is true to some extent. We do not find in the Gospels ample material on conjugal morality. Nonetheless, the passages that address the themes of marriage and the vice of lust are quite striking, concise, and clear. They cannot easily be ignored by sincere hearers of the Word.  Just as Jesus shocked his Jewish listeners by proclaiming the indissolubility of marriage (Mk. 10:1-12), he also must have awakened their moral sensibilities when he redefined the meaning of adultery in the Sermon on the Mount: “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5:28).  According to Pope John Paul II, Jesus’s compelling message conveys that the “concupiscent look,” a purely lustful desire for another, is disordered even when a husband looks lustfully at his wife as an instrument of pleasure. Adultery in the heart reduces the other to a sexual object and threatens his or her dignity. Thus, Jesus himself does not lightly regard sins below the belt, since he condemns not only adultery and sex outside marriage but even these lustful desires that corrupt a person’s reason and will. His radical admonition in the Sermon on the Mount is a call to master concupiscence, and this call springs forth from “an affirmation of the personal dignity of the body and sex” (Theology of the Body, 309).

The pope’s casual observations in this interview reveal a mentality on sexual deviance discordant with the Catholic tradition that has always underscored the vital significance of chastity and the gravity of sexual misconduct. This dispiriting discourse with Mr. Wolton does not reflect the wisdom or resoluteness necessary to defend marriage, which is under such savage attack in our current ambient culture. In my book on Pope John Paul II’s theology of marriage, I begin with a reflection on Sister Lucia’s (one of the three children who witnessed the Fatima apparitions) prophetic comments made to the late Cardinal Caffara: “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.”

Marriage and family is the decisive issue for the Church, but the more its leaders marginalize sexual morality and the central importance of chastity, the greater the risk of forfeiting this battle. Many Church leaders are quite content to neutralize Jesus’s powerful but difficult teaching on sexuality and reduce his overall message to “social justice” issues. Chastity, which is the habit of viewing the other as a person who is never to be an object of use, liberates love so that it can evolve into the permanent spousal love of marriage. To assume that illicit sexual practices have little to do with this epic battle over marriage is to live in a house of delusion. Unless the pope and rest of the Catholic hierarchy begin to take chastity and conjugal morality more seriously, these would-be guardians of marriage will become its subtle destroyers.

Richard A. SpinelloRichard A. Spinello is Professor of Management Practice at Boston College and a member of the adjunct faculty at St. John’s Seminary in Boston. He is the author of The Encyclicals of John Paul II: An Introduction and Commentary and, most recently, The Splendor of Marriage: St. John Paul II’s Vision of Love, Marriage, Family, and the Culture of Life.



Pope Leo the Great (440-461)

Jesus Christ Savior | The Council of Chalcedon in 451 was the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supported Leo’s stance that Christ had two natures, Divine and human in perfect harmony, in one Person or hypostasis.

Pope Leo entered the Papacy at a difficult time. Alaric had sacked Rome in 410, and the Huns and the Visigoths were gaining strength. However the Pope proved to be a master statesman and history has deservedly accorded him the title of Pope Leo the Great.

One of his first actions in 441 was to bless the missionary efforts of St. Patrick and to ordain him as Bishop of Ireland.

A tension in Church authority between papal leadership and collegiality of the bishops was developing over theological questions. Rome was the place of martyrdom for Saints Peter and Paul. Rome’s position as the capital of the Roman Empire was also supportive of a leadership role for the Bishop of Rome. The Bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter was the Pastor and Shepherd of the whole Church, as seen with St. Clement of Rome in his First Letter to the Corinthians in 96 AD, and with Pope Leo the Great.

The Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council, in 431 recognized Mary as the Mother of God, which was intrinsic to the human nature (ϕύσις – physis = nature) of Christ. The independent Church of the East in Persia believed in two distinct natures (dyophysite) in Christ and did not accept the wording. Pope Leo synthesized the thought of the differing Schools of Antioch and Alexandria in a letter known as the Tome. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 was the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supported Leo’s stance that Christ had two natures, Divine and human in perfect harmony, in one Person or hypostasis. This set the theology for Roman and Byzantine theology and was important for European unity. However, Eastern Christians in Armenia, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and India who still believed that Christ was one incarnate nature (monophysite) of the Word of God objected to Chalcedon and formed the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Just one year later (452), Attila and the Huns were threatening outside the walls of Rome. Pope Leo met Attila, who decided to call off the invasion!

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



The Writings of St. Augustine (354-430 AD)

Jesus Christ Savior | St. Augustine was a living example of God’s grace that transformed nature. He died August 28, 430, during the sack of Hippo by the Vandals.

St. Augustine (354-430 AD) was the greatest of the Latin Fathers of the Church and a foundational figure to Western Christian civilization. He was born in Tagaste, near Hippo, in north Africa. His mother, St. Monica, was a devout Christian and taught him the faith. However, when he studied rhetoric in Carthage, he began living a worldly life.

He obtained a post as master of rhetoric in Milan, accompanied by an unnamed woman and child Adeodatus, born out of wedlock in 372. The woman soon left him and their son, and Monica joined them in Milan. Under the incessant prayers of his mother, and the influence of St. Ambrose of Milan, he eventually converted at age 32 in 386 AD. Perhaps the most eloquent examination of conscience is found in The Confessions of St. Augustine, where he describes his moment of conversion in the garden reading St. Paul to the Romans 13:14, But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.

Both his mother and son died soon afterwards and he returned in 388 to his home in Tagaste. He was ordained a priest in 391, and became Bishop of Hippo in 395. Augustine was people-oriented and preached every day. Many of his followers lived an ascetic life. He had a great love for Christ, and believed that our goal on earth was God through Christ himself, “to see his face evermore.” Our goal in life should be to please God, not man.

Augustine was one of the most prolific writers in history, and his writings show an evolution of thought and at times a reversal of ideas, as seen in his Retractations. His Scriptural essays on Genesis and Psalms remain starting points for modern Biblical scholars. His commentary on the Sermon on the Mount is still read today. Perhaps most debated are his views on predestination.

St. Augustine is the doctor of grace. In his book Grace and Free Will, he explained simply why he believed in free will. If there was no free will, then why did God give us the Ten Commandments, and why did he tell us to love our neighbor? Augustine’s arguments against the Pelagian heresy set the doctrine of grace for the Catholic Church to the present day. Pelagius thought that man could achieve virtue and salvation on his own without the gift of grace, that Jesus was simply a model of virtue. This of course attacks the Redemption of man by Christ! If man could make it on his own, then the Cross of Christ becomes meaningless! But Augustine saw man’s utter sinfulness and the blessing and efficacy of grace, disposing man to accept his moment of grace, and hopefully ultimate salvation. Grace raises us to a life of virtue, and is the ground of human freedom. “When I choose rightly I am free.” The Council of Orange enshrined Augustine’s teaching on grace and free will in 529 AD.

Perhaps one of his greatest works was The City of God, which took 13 years to complete, from 413 to 426. History can only be understood as a continued struggle between two cities, the City of God, comprised of those men who pursue God, and the City of Man, composed of those who pursue earthly goods and pleasures. He refers to Cain and Abel as the earliest examples of the two types of man. The Roman Empire was an example of the city of man (which had just been sacked by Alaric in 410 and was the occasion of the book).

St. Augustine was a living example of God’s grace that transformed nature. He died August 28, 430, during the sack of Hippo by the Vandals. August 28 is celebrated as his Feast Day in the liturgical calendar.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.