To clarify any confusion I may have produced by my posts of last weekend, I re-offer the two conclusions of Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay of 1992 and Further Clarification from 2014 (publication of the Omnia Opera).


  • The marriage of baptized persons is indissoluble. This is a clear and unambiguous directive of the faith of the Church of all centuries, a faith nourishing itself from the Scriptures. It is a categorical directive, that is not at the disposal of the Church, but is given to the Church to witness and to realize; it would be irresponsible to give the impression that anything on this point could be changed. The “yes” of marriage in the Church participates in that definitiveness that in the definitive decision of God for man at the same time has become visible as human possibility. It continues the “decisive decision” of God for man in the decisive decision of man for man. Marriage is one of those fundamental decisions of human existence that can only be made completely or not at all, precisely because therein man as a whole is involved, as his very self, unto that depth where he, touched by Christ, transformed, is taken into his “I” opened on the cross and open for us all.26This is what is meant when we call marriage a “sacrament”.27


  • “The Church is the Church of the NewCovenant, but it lives in a world in which the “hardness of heart” (Mat 19:8) of the Old Covenant remains unchanged. It cannot stop preaching the faith of the New Covenant, but it must often enough begin its concrete life a bit below the threshold of the scriptural word. Thus it can in clear emergency situations allow limited exceptions in order to avoid worse things. Criteria of such action must be: an act “against what is written,” is limited in that it may not call into question the fundamental form, the form from which the Church lives. It is therefore bound to the character of exemption and of help in urgent need – as the transitional missionary situation was, but also the real emergency situation of the Church union.

Thereby arises, however, the practical question, whether we can name such an emergency situation in the present-day church and describe an exception that satisfies these criteria. I would like to try, with all necessary caution, to formulate a concrete proposal that seems to me to lie within this scope. Where a first marriage broke up a long time ago and in a mutually irreparable way, and where, conversely, a marriage consequently entered into has proven itself over a longer period as a moral reality and has been filled with the spirit of the faith, especially in the education of the children (so that the destruction of this second marriage would destroy a moral greatness and cause moral harm), the possibility should be granted, in a non-judicial way, based on the testimony of the pastor and church members, for the admission to Communion of those who liven live in such a second marriage. Such an arrangement seems to me to be for two reasons in accord with the tradition


Blogger: I hasten to add that in the face of the above which is nothing more than an abstract proposal in 1992 by Ratzinger, that a clarification was  added in 2014 with the publication of his “Omnia Opera,” to wit:

So what can be done concretely, especially at a time in which the faith is being watered down more and more, even within the Church, and the “things with which the pagans[1] are concerned,” against which the Lord warns the disciples (cf. Mt 6:32), threaten to become ever more the norm?

First of all, and essentially, it must proclaim the message of faith in a convincing and comprehensible way and seek to open spaces in which this can be truly lived. The healing of “hardness of heart” can come only through faith, and only where this is alive is it possible to live what the Creator had destined for man before sin. This is why the main and truly fundamental thing that the Church must do is to make faith living and strong.

At the same time, the Church must continue to seek to plumb the breadth and boundaries of the words of Jesus. It must remain faithful to the mandate of the Lord, and cannot even stretch it very much. It appears to me that the “clauses of fornication” that Matthew added to the words of the Lord handed down by Mark already reflect such an effort. One instance is mentioned that the words of Jesus do not address.

This effort has continued over the whole course of history. The Western Church, under the leadership of the successor of Peter, was not able to follow the path of the Church of the Byzantine Empire, which had drawn closer and closer to temporal law, thus weakening the specificity of life in faith. Nonetheless, in its way it brought to light the boundaries of the applicability of the Lord’s words, defining their scope in a more concrete way. Two areas have emerged above all, which are open to a particular solution on the part of ecclesiastical authority.

1. In 1 Cor 7:12-16, Saint Paul – as a personal guideline, which does not come from the Lord but for which he knows he is authorized – says to the Corinthians, and through them to the Church of all times, that a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian can be dissolved if the non-Christian obstructs the Christian in his faith. From this the Church has derived the “privilegium paulinum,” continuing to interpret it in its juridical tradition (cf. CIC, can. 1143-1150).

From the words of Saint Paul the tradition of the Church has deduced that only a marriage between two baptized persons is an authentic sacrament and therefore absolutely indissoluble. Those between a non-Christian and a Christian are indeed marriages according to the order of creation and therefore definitive of themselves. Nonetheless they can be dissolved in favor of the faith and of a sacramental marriage.

The tradition ultimately expanded this “Pauline privilege,” making it a “privilegium petrinum.” This means that the successor of Peter has the mandate to decide, in the area of non-sacramental marriages, when separation is justified. This so-called “Petrine privilege” has not however been incorporated into the new Code, as was instead the initial intention.

The reason was a disagreement between two groups of experts. The first emphasized that the objective of all the laws of the Church, its interior yardstick, is the salvation of souls. This means that the Church can do and is authorized to do what serves to pursue this end. The other group, on the contrary, was of the idea that the mandates of the Petrine ministry did not need to be expanded very much and that it should remain within the boundaries recognized by the faith of the Church.

Since it was not possible to find an agreement between these two groups, Pope John Paul II decided not to include within the Code this part of the juridical customs of the Church, but to continue to entrust it to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, which, together with concrete practice, must continually examine the bases and boundaries of the Church’s mandate in this area.

2. Over the course of time there developed more and more clearly the awareness that a marriage apparently contracted in a valid manner, because of juridical or practical defects, cannot really be concretized and therefore can be null. To the extent to which the Church has developed its marriage law, it has also elaborated in detail the conditions for validity and the reasons for possible nullity.

The nullity of marriage can stem from errors in juridical form, but above all from a lack of understanding. In dealing with the reality of marriage, the Church recognized very quickly that marriage is constituted as such through the consent of the two partners, which must also be expressed publicly in a form defined by law (CIC, can. 1057 § 1). The content of this joint decision is mutual self-giving through an irrevocable bond (CIC, can. 1057 § 2; can. 1096 § 1). Canon law presupposes that adult persons know on their own, on the basis of their nature, what marriage is, and therefore also know that it is definitive; the contrary must be expressly demonstrated (CIC, can. 1096 § 1 e § 2).

New questions have arisen on this point in recent decades. Can it still be presumed today that persons know “by nature” about the definitiveness and indissolubility of marriage, and that they consent to it with their yes? Or has there not perhaps taken place in present-day society, at least in Western countries, a change of mentality that instead makes the contrary to be presumed? Can the intention of the definitive yes be taken for granted, or should one not expect the contrary, that there is already a predisposition to divorce? Wherever definitiveness may be intentionally ruled out, there would not truly take place a marriage in the sense of the will of the Creator and the interpretation of Christ. This makes it clear how important a correct preparation for the sacrament is today.

The Church does not acknowledge divorce. Nonetheless, after what has just been pointed out, it cannot exclude the possibility of null marriages. The processes of annulment must be carried out in two directions and with great care: they must not become a disguised form of divorce. This would be dishonest and contrary to the seriousness of the sacrament. On the other hand, they must examine with the necessary conscientiousness the issues of possible nullity, and, where there may be just reasons in favor of annulment, express the corresponding sentence, opening a new door for such persons. New aspects of the problem of validity have emerged in our time. I have already mentioned above that the natural awareness of the indissolubility of marriage has become problematic in that this entails new tasks for the judicial procedure. I would like to indicate briefly two other new elements:

a. Can. 1095 no. 3 has inscribed the modern difficulty into canon law where it says that there is no capacity of contracting marriage among persons who “on account of psychological factors are unable to take on the essential obligations of marriage.” Today the psychological problems of persons, precisely in the face of a reality so great as marriage, are perceived more clearly than they were in the past. Nonetheless it is good to be on guard against rashly construing nullity on the basis of psychological problems. This would in reality make it too easy to pronounce a divorce under the appearance of nullity.

b. Today there is another question that imposes itself with great seriousness. Currently there are more and more baptized pagans, meaning persons who have become Christian by means of baptism but do not believe and have never known the faith. This is a paradoxical situation: baptism makes the person Christian, but without faith he remains nonetheless just a baptized pagan. Can. 1055 § 2 says that “between baptized persons there cannot exist a valid marriage contract that is not for that very reason a sacrament.” But what happens if a baptized unbeliever knows nothing at all about the sacraments? He might even have the intention of indissolubility, but he does not see the uniqueness of the Christian faith. The tragic aspect of this situation appears evident above all when baptized pagans convert to the faith and begin a completely new life. This brings up questions for which we still do not have answers. And therefore it is even more urgent to explore them.

3. From what has been said so far it emerges that the Western Church – the Catholic Church – under the leadership of the successor of Peter, on the one hand knows that it is strictly bound to the word of the Lord on the indissolubility of marriage, but on the other has also sought to recognize the limits of this guideline in order not to impose on persons more than is necessary.

So on the basis of the suggestion of the apostle Paul and basing itself at the same time on the authority of the Petrine ministry, for non-sacramental marriages it has further elaborated the possibility of divorce in favor of the faith. At the same time it has examined the nullity of a marriage under every aspect.

The 1981 apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” of John Paul II went one step further. At number 84 it states: “Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church […] Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.”

This gives pastoral care an important task, which perhaps has not yet been sufficiently incorporated into the Church’s everyday life. Some details are indicated in the exhortation itself. There it is said that these persons, insofar as they are baptized, may participate in the Church’s life, which in fact they must do. The Christian activities that are possible and necessary for them are listed. Perhaps, however, it should be emphasized with greater clarity what the pastors and brethren in the faith can do so that they may truly feel the love of the Church. I think that they should be granted the possibility of participating in ecclesial associations and even of becoming godfathers or godmothers, something that the law does not provide for as of now.

There is another point of view that imposes itself on me. The impossibility of receiving the holy Eucharist is perceived as so painful not last of all because, currently, almost all who participate in the Mass also approach the table of the Lord. In this way the persons affected also appear publicly disqualified as Christians.

I maintain that Saint Paul’s warning about examining oneself and reflecting on the fact that what is at issue is the Body of the Lord should be taken seriously once again: “A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:28 f.). A serious self-examination, which might even lead to forgoing communion, would also help us to feel in a new way the greatness of the gift of the Eucharist and would furthermore represent a form of solidarity with divorced and remarried persons.

I would like to add another practical suggestion. In many countries it has become customary for persons who are not able to receive communion (for example, the members of other confessions) to approach the altar with their hands folded over their chests, making it clear that they are not receiving the sacrament but are asking for a blessing, which is given to them as a sign of the love of Christ and of the Church. This form could certainly be chosen also by persons who are living in a second marriage and therefore are not admitted to the Lord’s table. The fact that this would make possible an intense spiritual communion with the Lord, with his whole Body, with the Church, could be a spiritual experience that would strengthen and help them.

[1] See Ratzinger’s 1958 article (now on line) of  “The Pagans and the Church.”

Barron on God – Personal and Accessible


Monday, May 14, 2018
JOHN 15:9-17

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus announces to his disciples: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”

Many mysticisms and philosophies of the ancient world—Platonism and Gnosticism come readily to mind—spoke of God or the sacred, but they spoke of it as a force or a value or an ontological source. It was impersonal and at an infinite remove from the world of ordinary experience. These ancient schools find an echo in many modern and contemporary theologies. Think of deism, which was so influential on the founders of the United States, or even the New Age philosophy of our time. These speak of a “divine” principle or power, but one would never dream of addressing such a force as “thou” or of engaging with it in intimate conversation.

Then there is the Bible. The Scriptures obviously present God as the overwhelming, transcendent, uncontrollable, inscrutable Creator of the heavens and the earth, but they insist that this sublime and frightening power is a person who deigns to speak to us, to guide us, and to invite us into his life.

In making that utterance—“I no longer call you slaves, but friends”—Jesus turned all of religious philosophy and mysticism on its head.

Ascension 2018 [From Previous Posts on the Ascension]

The Gnostic Mind: The dualism of matter and spirit. Christ is spirit  and good. He takes on matter which is evil and lives with us for a while. He dies, and ascends – shakes off the matter from Him and returns to the purity of spirit and goodness.


Blogger: Let me make this short: The “I” of Jesus Christ is divine. He assumes the fertilized egg of Mary of Nazareth into Himself as His own humanity. Since His Person is divine, the humanity taken from the Virgin is divinized in Him and by Him. That humanity is now “in heaven.” End of story. Ascension for us is the same process: to enter into Jesus Christ and live His Life.

The ascetical take on the Ascension is the centrality of Jesus Christ as the center and meaning of reality itself – i.e. all creation. Since there is only one Person in Christ, the divine Person; and since all free action is the action of a Person, and that Person is the divine “I” of the Logos-Son Who is total Relation to the Father, and He is the dynamizing principle of the two natures, divine and human, (that are as ontologically distinct as uncreated and created), we are dealing with the absolute center of the universe. Jesus Christ is the meaning of Heaven and Earth. (What is material creation but an extension of His Human Body. Ratzinger will explain below that “heaven” is the divine Person Himself Who acts through His created human nature. And we go to heaven when we enter into Christ. We were created in His image and likeness, Baptized into His Persona and thereby enabled to love as He loves, think as He thinks, know as He knows, work as He works. We can live a divine Life (that is total relation to the Father) as He lived it. The meaning of the human is the divinity of service to the others powered by Christ. We can live the Ascension every day.


Augustine: “He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the son of Man, who is in heaven.

“These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ; he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.”[1]

 Keep in mind: ”Heaven is a creation of theologians at the turn of the second millennium when confronted by the discrepancy between the testimony of Christ that “the time is now here; the kingdom of God has come.” It is not difficult to understand the hopes aroused by such a saying…. [2] Christian theology… confronted by this discrepancy between expectation and fulfillment, in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death. But… the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history.”[3]

Ascension: 2015

Augustine: “He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the son of Man, who is in heaven.

“These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ; he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.”[1]


Keep in mind: ”Heaven is a creation of theologians at the turn of the second millennium when confronted by the discrepancy between the testimony of Christ that “the time is now here; the kingdom of God has come.” It is not difficult to understand the hopes aroused by such a saying…. [2] Christian theology… confronted by this discrepancy between expectation and fulfillment, in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death. But… the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history.”[3]

From Last Year 2014:

     From the Ascension to the Second Coming, there is a wasteland of the absence of Christ who has come 2,000 years ago, and will return at the end for the final judgment. But the intermediate stage in which we are now, the so-called state of the Spirit by Joachim of Flora, is a valley of tears where we are left to our own devices of a truncated Christianity where moral life is the zenith of our achievement, at the end of which harsh Judgment [Doomsday] will come (“Dies Irae”). This state of affairs is what Francis refers to when he speaks of Christian life today, that morality cannot substitute for sanctity. This getting out of self and going to the peripheries for the others who are always poor in love besides the necessities of life has been bypassed and obliterated. In fact, it doesn’t even surface, and the case in point is economic life. There has been no call to sanctity there. To “out” this has drawn down the ire of “conservative” Christianity on Francis. And this is the reason why he persistently asks for prayer on all sides.

                Ratzinger commented: “The term adventus, the translation of the ancient Greek parousia (the arrival of the king and his ongoing and burgeoning presence), has lost its eschatological meaning… [It is obvious that] we are dealing with… a Christianity for which grace and salvation are past, and the future holds only threat and judgment.  Isn’t this shifting of the axis the real cause of the crisis in Christianity? Hasn’t  Christianity elected to make the past its preferred moment in time and so deprived itself of the future?… I have to confess that my impression is of a sensibility welling up from the late mediaeval period by which Christendom became so attached to its past that it lost hold of both present and future. In part, it must be admitted, Gospel preaching was itself responsible for this deadly development  through  a one-sided emphasis on the threat of doomsday….

                “What can we learn from all this? In the first place, the decisive consideration is still looking to our Lord. Eschatology’s meaning and driving force depend upon the power of this waiting on Christ, not on temporal expectations of the world’s end of transformation, no matter of what kind. Furthermore, though past Christian history receives very considerable emphasis, that history is invoked in the Litany as a generator of hope, and so contains a dynamism directed to the future.”[1]

                 I break off to send out a few Christmas cards. What fits in here is the entire content of the spirit of Opus Dei which is to achieve the fullness of the baptismal vocation which is to become not only “another Christ,” but “Christ Himself.” This is the universal call to holiness as announced in Chapter V of Lumen Gentium of Vatican II. Having been made in the image and likeness of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, each human person, created and sinful, has been baptized (or destined for baptism), and therefore, chosen  and called to be another Christ and a Son/Daughter of the Father. St. Josemaria Escriva received the vocation to announce and provide the formation necessary to achieve this universal call in the founding of Opus Dei. Its ground consists precisely in becoming “Ipse Christus” as the normal and ordinary denouement of imaging The Son and Baptism into Christ. Its practical achievement is neither leaving the world (which is to be loved passionately) and taking the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience which are integral parts of “consecrated life,” but rather living out the hidden life of Christ in the exercise of ordinariy work and ordinary secular life. This is the true eschatology which fills the space between the Ascension to “the right hand of the Father” and theparousia of the Second Coming. The petition is Maranatha rather thanDies Irae. It is the time of hope that vibrates as a result of the exodus from the self to, as pope Francis says, living the mission to the peripheries. Amen. Maranatha: Come, Lord Jesus.



[1] J. Ratzinger, “Eschatology,” CUA (1988) 10-12,

Posted by Rev. Robert A. Connor at 2:18 PM No comments:     

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Feast of the Ascension 2014


Mt. 28, 16-20

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…., teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and behold I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world.”


All that I have commanded  you:” Notice: Christ says: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. But he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn. 14, 21).


                The fact is that two angels (“two men… in white garments”[1]) say to them: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven?

Then they returned to Jerusalem [“with great joy”[2]] from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem…”[3]

                The question is: why with “great joy?” Ratzinger writes: “They knew that what had occurred was not a departure; if it were, they would  hardly have experience ‘great joy.’ No, in their eyes the Ascension and the Resurrection were one and the same event. This event gave them the certainty that the crucified Jesus was alive; that he had overcome death, which cuts man off from God, the Living One; and that the door to eternal life was henceforth forever open.

                “For the disciples, then, the ‘ascension’ was not what we usually misinterpret it as being: the temporary absence of Christ from the world. It meant rather his new, definitive, and irrevocable presence by participation in God’s royal power. This is why Johannine theology for practical purposes identifies the Resurrection and the return of Christ (e.g., 14, 18 ff.); with the resurrection of Jesus, by reason of which he is now with his disciples forevermore, his return has already begun.”[4]

                And therefore, the cry of the early Christians was: “Maranatha” (“Come, Lord Jesus”) and not “Dies Irae” (Woe the day that the Lord will return as Judge to this vale of tears) that began after a loss of hope in the real presence of Christ in the world – which in turn was the result of the pervasively false eschatology of Joachim of Flora that proclaimed that we are in a post-Christian time, the time of the Spirit, awaiting the Second Coming. This is given lie to by the eschatological theology of Joseph Ratzinger and the charism given to St. Josemaria Escriva on October 2, 1928.

                Ratzinger reflects on the prototype of the waning hope of Christianity in the  imprisoned John the Baptist’s sending of messengers to Christ asking the question: “Are you he who is to come or should we look for another” (Mt. 11,  3-6)?[5] And Jesus responds: “God and report to John what you have heard and seen: the blind wee, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.”

And the point: “This was probably the final task set the Baptist as he lay in prison: to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God’s obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. In point of fact, we cannot see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely external way that requires no interior commitment. We can see him only becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exists; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-divine: the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God. We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible.”

                Notice that this exegesis demands a metaphysical anthropology of the subject which is objective reality. That is, created ontologically in the image and likeness of God, we are ontologically relational subjects. That is, as the divine Persons are pure relations and not substances in themselves (or else there would be three Gods), so also the only way John could know the divine Person of Christ is to stop paying attention to himself as transfixed on the externals of the coming Messiah (the judge with the winnowing fan in his hand separating the chaff from the grain; the one casting out this adulterous generation and, if need be raising up children of Abraham from the very stones to replace the faithless Jews), and go out of himself. The person of John as turned back on himself as the great prophet was the obstacle to recognizing Christ as the divine Messiah. Therefore, he had to go through yet another conversion himself.

                So also with the invisibility of Christ at the Ascension. Christ is not to be subjected to the objectification of our epistemology of visible image and conceptual abstraction and categorization. We will be able to know Him as He is, the pure Relation to the Father and no-substance in self, only by having Him removed from our sight and demanding the interior change that must take place in us that will make us like Him. Christ has risen, and therefore, He is present in the world at this moment. But the only way to “see” Him is to become “like” Him. That is, we must go out of ourselves “to the peripheries.”

                I think it is similar to what I anticipate Francis is doing with regard to Communion for the divorced and remarried. He is not going to change doctrine. But what is going to have to change is our understanding of what matrimony is. That is, it is a way of sanctity. It is not a mere way of morality where sex becomes “legitimate.” It is precisely the message of Escriva and Gaudium et spes #48: “The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other, a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one… the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone.”

                As posted previously, in 1998, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that “the Council did not break with the traditional concept of marriage, but on the contrary developed it further. When, for example, it is continually pointed out that the Council substituted the broader and theologically more profound concept of covenant for the strictly legal concept of contract, one must not forget that within covenant, the element of contract is also contained and indeed placed within a broader perspective. The fact that marriage reaches well beyond the purely juridical realm into the depths of humanity and into the mystery of the divine, has always been indicated by the word ‘sacrament’ although often it has not been pondered with the same clarity which the Council gave to these aspects… In other words, it needs to be clarified whether every marriage between two baptized persons is ipso facto a sacramental marriage. In fact, the Code [of 1983] states that only a ‘valid’ marriage between baptized persons is at the same time a sacrament (cf. CIC can. 1055, 2). Faith belongs to the essence of the sacrament; what remains to be clarified is the juridical question of what evidence of the ‘absence of faith’ would have as a consequence that the sacrament does not come into being.”

                “During the meeting with clergy in the Diocese of Aosta, which took place 25 July 2005… I invited various Bishops’ Conferences and experts to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. Whether, in fact, a moment of invalidity could be discovered here because the Sacrament was found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare to say. I personally thought so, but from the discussions we had I realized that it is a highly complex problem and ought to be studied further. But given these people’s painful plight, it must be studied further.”[6]

The Point:

                At the Ascension, Christ disappears, but He does not leave. He stays with us but is invisible. He is present in that each one becomes Him. And it is by becoming Him that we experience Him. We become Him and experience Him by going out of ourselves in the apostolate. His Word to us was “Going, teach all nations, baptizing them….” It was for this reason that the apostles returned from Mt. Olivet to Jerusalem rejoicing.

Ratzinger-Benedict XVI on the Ascension:

“What, then, is the meaning of Christ’s ‘ascension into heaven’? It expresses our belief that in Christ human nature, the humanity in which we all share, has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God. Heaven is not a place beyond the stars, but something much greater, something that requires far more audacity to assert: Heaven means that man now has a place in God.

 The basis for this assertion is the inter-penetration of humanity and divinity in the crucified and exalted man Jesus. Christ, the man who is in God and eternally one with God, is at the same time God’s abiding openness to all human beings. Thus Jesus himself is what we call ‘heaven;’ heaven is not a place but a person, the person of him in whom God and man are forever and inseparably one. And we go to heaven and enter into heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him. In this sense, ‘ascension into heaven’ can be something that takes place in our everyday lives.


 “Only in the light of these various connections can we understand why Luke should tell us, at the end of his Gospel, that after the Ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem ‘with great joy’ (Lk. 24, 52). They knew that what had occurred was not a departure; if it were, they would hardly have experienced ‘great joy.’ No, in their eyes the Ascension and the Resurrection were one and the same event. This even gave them the certainty that the crucified Jesus was alive; that he had overcome death, which cuts man off from God, the Living One; and that he door to eternal life was henceforth forever open.


 “For the disciples, then, the ‘ascension’ was not what we usually misinterpret it as being: the temporary absence of Christ from the world. It meant rather his new, definitive and irrevocable presence by participation in God’s royal power. This is why Johannine theology for practical purposes identifies the Resurrection and the return of Christ (e.g., 14, 18 ff.); with the resurrection of Jesus, by reason of which he is now with his disciples forevermore, his return has already begun.


 “That Luke did not have an essentially different understanding of the situation is again clear from today’s reading. In it Christ rebuffs the disciples’ question about the restoration of the Kingdom and instead tells them that they will receive the Holy Spirit and be his, Jesus,’ witnesses to the ends of the earth. Therefore, they are not to remain staring into the future or to wait broodingly for the time of his return. No, they are to realize that he is ceaselessly present and even that he desires to become ever more present through their activity, inasmuch as the gift of the Spirit and the commission to bear witness, preach, and be missionaries are the way in which he is now already present. The proclamation of the Good News everywhere in the world is – we may say on the basis of this passage – the way in which, during the period between the Resurrection and the second coming, the Lord gives expression to his royal rule over all the world, as he exercises his lordship in the humble form of the word.


 “Christ exercises his power through the powerlessness of the word by which he calls human beings to faith. This fact reminds us once again of the image of the cloud, in which the hiddenness and the nearness of the Lord are combined in a unique way. John the Evangelist has conveyed this fusion in an even more drastic manner by the new meaning he has poured into the Old Testament term ‘raise up’ or ‘exalt.’ This word, which had hitherto expressed only the idea of elevation to royal dignity, also refers in John to the crucifixion in which Christ is ‘lifted up’ from the earth. For John, then, the mystery of Good Friday, of Easter, and of Christ’s Ascension form but a single mystery. The cross has a second, mysterious dimension: it is the royal throne from which Christ exercises his kingship and draws the human race to himself and into his wide-open arms (cf. Jn. 3, 14; 8, 28; 12, 32-33). Christ’s royal throne is the cross; his exaltation takes the form of what seems to the outsider the extreme of disgrace and humiliation….” (J. Ratzinger “Dogma and Preaching” Franciscan Herald Press [1985] 62-64).


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Ascension into Heaven: Overcoming the Atheism of the Gnostic Mind

The feast of the Ascension is a reef on which the Gnostic mind runs aground. The Gnostic mind is rationalist and boasts of being theist and realist, but is neither. It induces to the existence of God scientifically from the experience of sensible things, but it is not the Judeo-Christian God. As Robert Sokolowski writes: “No matter how Aristotle’s god is to be described, as the prime mover or as the self-thinking thought, he is part of the world, and it is obviously necessary that there be other things besides him, whether he is aware of them or not. The experience is mediated by perceptions and concepts and not of the “thing-itself.” The realism of phenomenology is that “Man’ experience of anything outside of himself is always associated with the experience of himself, and he never experiences anything external without having at the same time the experience of himself.”[4]

The Gnostic god is spiritual as immaterial, and matter is bad. In this regard, Romano Guardini wrote of the explosiveness of the Word-made flesh: “Who is God? The supreme spirit, and so pure, that the angels by contrast are ‘flesh’! He is the Endless, Omnipotent, Eternal, All-inclusive One in the simplicity of his pure reality. The Unchanging One, living in himself, sufficient unto himself. What possible use could he have for a human a body in heaven? The Incarnation is already incomprehensible enough; if we accept it as an act of unfathomable love, this life and death, isn’t that sufficient? Why must we also believe that this piece of creation is assimilated into the eternity of God’s existence? What for? A bit of earthliness lost and caught up into the tremendousness of eternity? Why doesn’t the Logos shake the dust from him and return to the pure clarity of his free divinity?… Revelation defines such ideas as philosophy or worldly religion, to which Christian thought is by nature and definition diametrically opposed. But then what manner of God is this, with whom Resurrection, Ascension and throning on his right hand are possible? Precisely the kind of God who makes such things possible! He is the God of the Resurrection, and we must learn that it is not the Resurrection that is irreconcilable to him, but part of our thinking that is irreconcilable to the Resurrection, for it is false.”[5]

The Christ of revelation is constantly overcoming our Gnostic Pelagianism where we reduce reality to our way of thinking (which is conceptual, abstract and self-referential – due to sin): “Feel me and see for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Lk. 24, 39-40); “How can this man gives us his flesh to eat?” (Jn. 6, 53). Consider today that the Body of Christ (His very Person) thrones at the right hand of the Father, and that He and the Father spirate the Spirit. That is, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son with His Body: “the Son’s transfigured humanity becomes involved in the eternal spiration of the Holy Spirit, and the immediate consequence of this is that the Spirit is poured out into Christ’s mystical body on earth.”[6] That is a piece of created matter (divine Person) is involved in the generation of God Himself.


John Paul II and the Above as “Context” of the New Evangelization by Joyce A. Little:[7]

The Pope and the context of gender

No Pope has written more on the subject of gender than has John Paul II, and no Pope and very few theologians have done more than he to place all of those issues relating to gender within their proper context. Indeed, John Paul II’s so-called “theology of the body” is an explicit and extraordinarily original theological reordering of all of those issues within the context of the Catholic faith. Few can read his theology without having their own ideas about gender radically changed. Before examining the context in which gender is understood in today’s secularized American society, therefore, I would like first to consider what the Pope has to say about gender and, most especially, what he has to say about the context within which it must be understood.

The starting point

John Paul II points out that the <theological> significance of the human body is rooted in the Incarnation. “Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology—that is, the science, the subject of which is divinity, I would say— through the main door.”[2] This significance is affirmed by Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, which reveal the Incarnation to be an irrevocable union of the divine and the human in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thus St. Paul insists that if Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:17), and that our hope as Christians lies specifically in the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23).

The context: Creation

Although the full significance of the body is given only in Christ, the Pope insists that we must return to Genesis, to “the beginning,” in order to appreciate the context within which the human body and human sexuality are properly to be understood. Genesis reveals that our imaging of God is bound up as much with our bodies as with our souls. “Let us make man in our image—and so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26-27). It is crucial that we recognize here, at the beginning, two decisive facts. First, the differentiation of human beings into male and female is the only distinction among human beings created by God and therefore expressly willed by him; and, second, this differentiation is bound up with our imaging of God. Therefore, as the Pope notes, “The theology of the body, which, right from the beginning, is bound up with the creation of man in the image of God, becomes, in a way, also the theology of sex, or rather the theology of masculinity and femininity, which has its starting point here, in the Book of Genesis.”[3]

This imaging of God is, of course, Trinitarian, as the Pope understands it, but Trinitarian in a radically different way than had heretofore been generally understood. Theologians in the past by and large missed the fact that our imaging of God in Genesis is directly linked to our creation as male and female and therefore understood it to be bound up solely with the individual human being who, to the extent that he is an individual, images the oneness of God and, to the extent that he operates on the basis of intellect, will and memory, images the plurality of the Godhead. The Pope, on the other hand, while affirming that our imaging of God entails the fact that we are beings of intellect and will, nevertheless recognizes that our imaging of the Trinity is directly related to our maleness and femaleness.

The fact that man “created as man and woman” is the image of God means not only that each of them individually is like God, as a rational and free being. It also means that man and woman, created as a “unity of the two” in their common humanity, are called to live in a communion of love, and in this way to mirror in the world the communion of love that is in God through which the Three Persons love each other in the intimate mystery of the one divine life. (<Mulieris Dignitatem>, n. 7)

The Trinity, therefore, is the only context in which we can properly understand ourselves.

Personhood and relationality: God

The Trinity is, of course, composed of three distinct or different Persons in one substance. Most Catholics know this much, but not a great deal more. There are, however, four points about the Trinity which must be understood if we are to fathom ourselves. First, each of the Persons is a subsistent relation. The Father is the relation of paternity, the Son the relation of filiation and the Holy Spirit the relation of passive spiration—spiration because he is spirated by the Father and the Son, passive because he does not spirate himself but is spirated by them.

Second, each of the Persons is distinct and irreducible to either of the other two, because each is in himself a unique and unrepeatable relation. Fatherhood is different from Sonship, and Spiration is different from both of them. In other words, the three Persons of the Trinity are non-interchangeable. That is, the Father is defined by his paternity and cannot be the Son or the Holy Spirit. By the same token, the Son is defined by his Sonship and the Holy Spirit by his Spiration. This may seem obvious, and yet the implications are seldom recognized. To say the three Persons are non- interchangeable means that, because the Father cannot be the Son, the Father literally cannot do anything which is bound up with Sonship per se, just as the Son cannot do anything which is bound up with Fatherhood per se, and so forth. In short, there are things the Father can do that the Son and Holy Spirit cannot, things the Son can do that the Father and Holy Spirit cannot, and things the Holy Spirit can do that the Father and Son cannot. This is reflected in Scripture, for example, in the fact that the Father always begets, commands and sends the Son. It is inconceivable in the revelation as we have received it to imagine the Son begetting, commanding or sending the Father. We have to do here with three distinct, different, irreducibly singular Persons, because they are three distinct, different, irreducibly singular relations.

Third, and I cannot stress this enough, these three relations or Persons are <ordered to one another>. The Father is Person because he is the Father of the Son. He is ordered to the Son precisely insofar as he is Father. There is no question here of his having the ability to enter into whatever sort of relationship he would like to have with the Son. Each of them is related to the other in a specifically ordered way. In the same fashion, the Holy Spirit is not called Spirit because he is immaterial, but because he is spirated from and therefore ordered to the Father and the Son by virtue of that spiration. The fact that they are ordered to one another allows us to speak of the <circumincession> of the Persons, by which they exist not only in distinction from one another but also in some fashion within one another.

Fourth, within the Trinity, each of the Persons, although possessing the fullness of the divine substance and therefore enjoying the fullness of divinity, is nevertheless radically incomplete considered in himself and therefore equally radically dependent upon the other two Persons, since the full reality of the Godhead is realized only in the threeness of the communion. The Father, therefore, is God, but God is not just the Father.

Personhood and relationality: Man

Our creation in the image of God, we might therefore suppose, entails an analogous reading of person at the human level. This means, first, that just as the Persons of the Trinity are communal, not individualistic, so are we. Just as they are relational, so are we. Therefore, the individual human being, considered solely in himself, cannot be the image of God. Moreover, it is not even enough that man be male and female to image God, since male and female considered solely as male and female do not necessarily entail relationality. Once we understand, however, that the man and the woman are created as gift for one another (“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” [Gen 2:18]), it becomes apparent that the man and the woman are called to enter into a relationship with one another and to achieve within that relationship the fullness of what it means to be a male person and a female person respectively.

Not just any relationship will do, however. They are explicitly called to enter into a marital relationship. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Only in marriage does the man become husband and the woman wife, and these are the specific relations they are called as male and female to be. Moreover, only in marriage do these two relations, husband and wife, effect and bring into existence that sacramental bond which constitutes the third element in their imaging of the triune God and makes irrevocable until death their relationship to one another.

That they are sexually differentiated is crucial to their imaging of God, because they are called to image not only the plurality of Persons but also the distinction or differentiation of relations within the Godhead. The relation of husband to wife is different from that of wife to husband in a way that is analogous to the difference between, say, the relation of Father to Son and the relation of Son to Father. The relation of husband cannot be reduced to that of wife, and vice versa. By the same token, the husband and the wife, like the Persons of the Trinity, are also non-interchangeable, that is, the male cannot do those things appropriate to the relation of wife per se, just as the female cannot do those things appropriate to the relation of husband per se.

Third, and again this point cannot be stressed too much, their sexual differentiation is also crucial to the fact that they, like the Persons of the Trinity, are ordered specifically to one another, male to female and female to male. The woman is created for the man, as gift to the man, just as he is created for the woman, as gift to her. This is reflected, first, in the fact that she is specifically created to be a “helper <fit for him>” and, second, in the fact that Adam, which means “humanity,” does not become and is not referred to as male until the point at which Eve is created female. That each is ordered to the other is also apparent in the fact that only the spousal relationship of husband and wife can effect that bond which constitutes the permanence of their relationship even as it makes their relationship an image of the Trinitarian communion of love.

Fourth and finally, both the man and the woman are fully human, but at the same time each is radically dependent upon the other, since each images God not in him— or herself, but only in the “unity of the two.” Indeed, just as in the Trinity, the three Persons are persons only by virtue of the fact that they are related to one another, so analogously the male and the female are persons only by virtue of the fact that they too are related to one another. In the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, “relativity toward the other constitutes the human person. The human person is the event or being of relativity.”[4] The relationality, which is to say the personhood, of the male and the female, therefore, is specifically bound up with the fact that God creates them to be gift to one another.

. . . man now emerges in the dimension of the mutual gift, the expression of which—and for that very reason the expression of his existence as a person—is the human body in all the original truth of its masculinity and femininity.[5]

The nuptial meaning of the body

Here we find ourselves at the heart of what the Pope calls “the nuptial meaning” of the body. The fact that the man and the woman are created to be gift to one another is expressed in the body by virtue of its masculinity and femininity. Masculinity and femininity are two different ways of “living the body” and therefore two different ways of <giving the body>. Both the male and the female are called to give themselves totally to one another, but they are called to give themselves in sexually distinct ways which are expressions of two distinct personal modes of self-giving.

Masculinity-femininity—namely sex—is the original sign of a creative donation and of an awareness on the part of man, male-female, of a gift lived so to speak in an original way. Such is the meaning with which sex enters the theology of the body.[6]

In short, “nuptial” means the capacity to give oneself totally or to love, and the sexual differentiation of the persons, manifested and expressed in their bodies, makes it possible for each to manifest and express that love in a way which is different from but ordered to the other.

The nuptial character of the body also makes it possible for each of them to affirm the value and dignity of the other as a person willed by God for his or her own sake.[7] Each, by the total and disinterested giving of self to the other, affirms the value of the other. In fact this is <the only way> in which the value of another person can be fully affirmed. To give oneself less than totally or out of self-interest is to have some other end in mind than the full affirmation of the dignity of the other person. Therefore the Pope speaks of “that bond that exists between the dignity of the human being (man or woman) and the nuptial meaning of the body.”[8]

At the same time, this full affirmation of the value of the other person is also an expression of that person’s value as sexually different from and therefore non- interchangeable with oneself. The male, in giving himself totally to the female, affirms her value not just as a person but as a female person different from and complementary to himself, upon whom he is radically dependent precisely because of her genuine otherness and complementarity as female. And she, of course, in giving herself totally to him, affirms his value as male in the same way. To affirm the value of the other <as person>, therefore, necessarily means that one is affirming the other as a genuinely different kind of relation from oneself and therefore incapable of being reduced to oneself or to one’s own ends. It also makes possible not only that self-donation by which each fully affirms the value of the other, but also that “welcoming” or accepting of the other by which the value of each is, as it were, doubly affirmed. Thus there is in marriage something analogous to the circumincession of the divine Persons since, as the Pope points out, “the giving itself becomes accepting, and the acceptance is transformed into giving.”[9]

The sole basis for all of this is the sexual differentiation itself, since that is the only differentiation with which God has graced the human race from “the beginning.” Therefore, as the Pope points out, “Human life, by its nature, is ‘coeducative,’ and its dignity, its balance, depends, at every moment of history and at every point of geographical longitude and latitude, on ‘who’ she will be for him, and he for her.”[10] Understanding the nuptial meaning of the body is crucial to understanding ourselves, for, as the Pope concludes, the nuptial meaning of the body “is the fundamental element of human existence in the world.”[11]

Man as sacrament of God

John Paul II speaks repeatedly of the sacrament of creation and the sacrament of man. For those of us raised in the pre-Vatican Church where “sacrament” was used exclusively in reference to the seven sacraments of the Church, such language can be confusing. But early in the life of the Church the word “sacrament” was used to translate the Greek word <mysterion>, and therefore the Pope’s usage of it with reference to creation and man reflects the original breadth of its application. A sacrament, broadly speaking, is an outward or material sign which effects and makes actual that which it symbolizes. Understood this way, the word “sacrament” clearly applies to man in his creation in the image of God as an outward or material sign which makes effective in this world that love which images the communion of love that is the Trinity and which actuates the divine mystery or plan, of which creation is the first step, to unite all things in Christ to God. Man as male and female in the unity of marital love is a “primordial sacrament,” as the Pope puts it, because:

The sacrament, as a visible sign, is constituted with man, as a ‘body,’ by means of his ‘visible’ masculinity and femininity. The body, in fact, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.[12]

This Trinitarian and therefore marital and sacramental constitution of man is the only context within which man can properly be understood, for, as the Pope has said, <Man—it is worth recalling—is of immense value in himself, but he does not have It from himself because he has received it from God, by whom he was created “in his image and likeness”> (Gen 1:26, 27). There is no adequate definition of man but this

[1] Office of Readings of the Ascension.

[2] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means To Be a Christian,” Ignatius (1965) (2006)28.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Karol Wojtyla, “The Acting Person” Introduction, D. Reidel (1959) 3.

[5] R. Guardini, “The Lord,” Regnery  (1954) 412-415,

[6] Han Urs Von Balthasar, “Prayer” Ignatius (1986) 69-70.

[7] Joyce A. Little, “The New Evangelization and Gender: the Remystification of the Body,” Communio Winter 1994 Issue, 2-10.

Ascension Posts New and Old

Thursday, May 25, 2017
6TH WEEK OF EASTER, YEAR I – Really Ascension thursday
JOHN 16:16-20
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus gently tells his disciples of his impending return to his Father in heaven. We tend to read the Ascension along essentially Enlightenment lines, rather than Biblical lines—and that causes a good deal of mischief. Enlightenment thinkers introduced a two-tier understanding of heaven and earth. They held that God exists, but he lives in a distant realm called heaven, from which he looks at a human project moving along pretty much on its own steam, on earth.


On this Enlightenment reading, the Ascension means that Jesus goes up, up, and away, off to a distant and finally irrelevant place. But he Biblical point is this: Jesus has gone to heaven so as to direct operations more fully here on earth. That’s why we pray, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


Jesus has not gone up, up, and away, but rather, if I can put it this way, more deeply into our world. He has gone to a dimension that transcends but impinges upon our universe.


Blogger: And this because being pure Being (Ipsum Esse – as act of all acts and perfection of all perfections) as Creator, He gives “esse” to everything that is. Therefore, God is totally transcendent and totally immanent.

Bp. Barron on Scorsese’s “Silence”- Go to Barron’s last paragraph for what should be the definitive “take”on the movie!


I have long been an ardent fan of Martin Scorsese’s films. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, The Last Waltz, Casino, etc. are among the defining movies of the last forty years. And The Departed, Scorsese’s 2007 crime drama, was the subject matter of the first YouTube commentary that I ever did. It is certainly the case, furthermore, that the director’s Catholicism, however mitigated and conflicted, comes through in most of his work. His most recent offering, the much-anticipated Silence, based upon the Shusaku Endo novel of the same name, is a worthy addition to the Scorsese oeuvre. Like so many of his other films, it is marked by gorgeous cinematography, outstanding performances from both lead and supporting actors, a gripping narrative, and enough thematic complexity to keep you thinking for the foreseeable future.

The story is set in mid-seventeenth century Japan, where a fierce persecution of the Catholic faith is underway. To this dangerous country come two young Jesuit priests (played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield), spiritual descendants of St. Francis Xavier, sent to find Fr. Ferreira, their mentor and seminary professor who, rumor has it, had apostatized under torture and actually gone over to the other side. Immediately upon arriving onshore, they are met by a small group of Japanese Christians who had been maintaining their faith underground for many years. Due to the extreme danger, the young priests are forced into hiding during the day, but they are able to engage in clandestine ministry at night: baptizing, catechizing, confessing, celebrating the Mass. In rather short order, however, the authorities get wind of their presence, and suspected Christians are rounded up and tortured in the hopes of luring the priests out into the open. The single most memorable scene in the film, at least for me, was the sea-side crucifixion of four of these courageous lay believers. Tied to crosses by the shore, they are, in the course of several days, buffeted by the incoming tide until they drown. Afterwards, their bodies are placed on pyres of straw and they are burned to ashes, appearing for all the world like holocausts offered to the Lord.

In time, the priests are captured and subjected to a unique and terrible form of psychological torture. The film focuses on the struggles of Fr. Rodrigues. As Japanese Christians, men and women who had risked their lives to protect him, are tortured in his presence, he is invited to renounce his faith and thereby put an end to their torment. If only he would trample on a Christian image, even as a mere external sign, an empty formality, he would free his colleagues from their pain. A good warrior, he refuses.  Even when a Japanese Christian is beheaded, he doesn’t give in. Finally, and it is the most devastating scene in the movie, he is brought to Fr. Ferreira, the mentor whom he had been seeking since his arrival in Japan. All the rumors are true:  this former master of the Christian life, this Jesuit hero, has renounced his faith, taken a Japanese wife, and is living as a sort of philosopher under the protection of the state. Using a variety of arguments, the disgraced priest tries to convince his former student to give up the quest to evangelize Japan, which he characterized as a “swamp” where the seed of Christianity can never take root.

The next day, in the presence of Christians being horrifically tortured, hung upside down inside a pit filled with excrement, he is given the opportunity, once more, to step on a depiction of the face of Christ. At the height of his anguish, resisting from the depth of his heart, Rodrigues hears what he takes to be the voice of Jesus himself, finally breaking the divine silence, telling him to trample on the image. When he does so, a cock crows in the distance. In the wake of his apostasy, he follows in the footsteps of Ferreira, becoming a ward of the state, a well-fed, well-provided for philosopher, regularly called upon to step on a Christian image and formally renounce his Christian faith. He takes a Japanese name and a Japanese wife and lives out many long years in Japan before his death at the age of 64 and his burial in a Buddhist ceremony.

What in the world do we make of this strange and disturbing story? Like any great film or novel, Silence obviously resists a univocal or one-sided interpretation. In fact, almost all of the commentaries that I have read, especially from religious people, emphasize how Silencebeautifully brings forward the complex, layered, ambiguous nature of faith. Fully acknowledging the profound psychological and spiritual truth of that claim, I wonder whether I might add a somewhat dissenting voice to the conversation? I would like to propose a comparison, altogether warranted by the instincts of a one-time soldier named Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order to which all the Silence missionaries belonged. Suppose a small team of highly-trained American special ops was smuggled behind enemy lines for a dangerous mission. Suppose furthermore that they were aided by loyal civilians on the ground, who were eventually captured and proved willing to die rather than betray the mission. Suppose finally that the troops themselves were eventually detained and, under torture, renounced their loyalty to the United States, joined their opponents and lived comfortable lives under the aegis of their former enemies. Would anyone be eager to celebrate the layered complexity and rich ambiguity of their patriotism? Wouldn’t we see them rather straightforwardly as cowards and traitors?

My worry is that all of the stress on complexity and multivalence and ambiguity is in service of the cultural elite today, which is not that different from the Japanese cultural elite depicted in the film. What I mean is that the secular establishment always prefers Christians who are vacillating, unsure, divided, and altogether eager to privatize their religion. And it is all too willing to dismiss passionately religious people as dangerous, violent, and let’s face it, not that bright. Revisit Ferreira’s speech to Rodrigues about the supposedly simplistic Christianity of the Japanese laity if you doubt me on this score. I wonder whether Shusaku Endo (and perhaps Scorsese) was actually inviting us to look away from the priests and toward that wonderful group of courageous, pious, dedicated, long-suffering lay people who kept the Christian faith alive under the most inhospitable conditions imaginable and who, at the decisive moment, witnessed to Christ with their lives. Whereas the specially trained Ferreira and Rodrigues became paid lackeys of a tyrannical government, those simple folk remained a thorn in the side of the tyranny.

I know, I know, Scorsese shows the corpse of Rodrigues inside his coffin clutching a small crucifix, which proves, I suppose, that the priest remained in some sense Christian. But again, that’s just the kind of Christianity the regnant culture likes: utterly privatized, hidden away, harmless.  So okay, perhaps a half-cheer for Rodrigues, but a full-throated three cheers for the martyrs, crucified by the seaside.

Blogger:  See this in view of Ratzinger’s “The New Pagans and the Church” (below) and the real problem of the brouhaha around “Amoris Laetitia” – and the mission of Pope Francis to the Church, 










Fr. Willie Doyle S.J. – O’Rahilly Biography

Willie Doyle

Courtesy Karl Schlegel

“I paid a visit recently to another wonder of the war (First World War), the Church of Vermelles. Little remains of it now, for the town has been held in succession by the Germans, French, and ourselves (British), and every yard of ground was lost and won a dozen times. The church is just a heap of ruins: the roof has been burnt, the tower shot away, while the statues, Stations, etc., are smashed to dust, but hanging still on one of the broken walls is a large crucifix absolutely untouched. The figure is a beautiful one, a work of art, and the face of our Lord has an expression of sadness such as I have never seen before. The eyes are open, gazing as it were upon the scene of desolation, and though the wall upon which the crucifix hangs is riddled with bullet holes and shell splinters, the image is untouched save for one round bullet hole just through the heart. The whole thing may be only chance, but it is a striking sight, and cannot fail to impress one and bring home the fact that if God is scourging the world as it well deserves, He is not indifferent to the sorrows and sufferings of His    children.”

Consider again the  image/memory of Christ crucified by St. Josemaria Escriva

Christ crucified (28)

PAUL TILLICH AND “THE SHAPE OF WATER” by Bishop Robert Barron: Water is pure flow; Person (in God) is pure Relation and Nothing In and For Self


Blogger: The title and concept of “the shape of water” is fascinating for me because it speaks to what I experience of myself. I am fascinated by water because it is – for me – a plastic symbolization of what I experience myself to be. It took conceptual shape in college when I first got into St. Thomas’s account for God as Ipsum Esse and each being of creation as habens esse. It was esse as act of all acts that spoke to me of what I experienced myself to be. I have always gravitated to water. I have to see it, be close to it, sail on it, listen to it. And this reached a boiling point for me when I stumbled across Ratzinger’s account of the divine Persons as pure relation . The Father was the action of engendering the Son; the Son was the action of glorifying and obeying the Father; and the Spirit as the personification of these opposing relations. And when I wanted to account for this notion of person as “relation,” I knew it could not be the ancient category of “accident” of substance (that which is “in self”) but somehow pure action of “to be” For. And when I found Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes (24) explaining the human person as “finding self by gift of self,” I knew I was home. That is, I become who I am by going out of myself and becoming relational – always toward God – for another. And, of course, it should make sense since this is the meaning of Jesus Christ as Son of God made man, and doubly clarified as the very meaning of man (GS 22). And when I am turned back on myself and look for myself, I get sick of myself. I get worse than “bored.” I can’t stand myself. And you can’t either. So, water is a great image. And here, Barron expostulates on the movie. I don’t know if it’s great. But Barron is great. And the image of water is a great metaphor for the non-reductive mind escaping from the conceptual tangle of Gnostic inwardness and pelagian individualism. Here’s Barron….. Bp. Robert Barron

The Apostolate [on the occasion of the feast of Ss. Philip and James] – May 3

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Three Large Truths from the mouth of Diving Truth: [from a meditation of St. Josemaria Escriva]:

  • Euntes ergo, docete omnes gentes (Mt. 28, 19). (Going, teach all nations): “Teach with your example, even if you are full of errors, even though you have defects.”
  • Sine me, nihil potestis facere (Jn. 15, 5). (Apart from me, you can do nothing). “Why does he tell us to go out – entes- if we can do nothing?”
  • Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat (Phil. 4, 13) (I can do all things in him who strengthens me), “Imagine a vine with branches which can give fruit, fruit which will mature. But if they are torn from the vine, they dry up and end up trodden underfoot by horses or men and are good only for the fire. But the branch which is united to the vine matures and produces wine for the table or the altar.”

 “What must we do? We must be very united with Jesus Christ, our vine. How? With the Bread and the Word: with the Sacred Eucharist and with prayer throughout the day, repeating spiritual communions and telling him affectionate things…

   “If the branch is torn off, even if it has fruit, it rots; it becomes a seething pile of worms: it becomes a means for evil instead of for good. And so, my sons, Euntes ergo docete, sine me nihil!, and omnia possum in eo qui me confortat (I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me).”


On the Occasion of the 90th Birthday of Opus Dei on October 2, 2018

  • “You must realize now, more clearly than ever, that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, secular, and civil activities of human life. He waits for everyday, in the laboratory, in the operating theater, In the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the files, in the home, and in all the immense panorama or work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”[1]
  • “This doctrine is so transcendental tha the Church has wanted to proclaim it solemnly in the las council and to make it into ‘the most characteristic feature and the ultimate purpose of all the Conciliar teaching.’ “
  • Indeed, Gaudium et spes 22 of the Second Vatican Council wrote:


It is critical to realize that the Magisterium of the Church had never declared Jesus Christ [Creator] to be the meaning not only of who God is, but who man is.[2] In point of fact, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that Jesus Christ was “the unique ontological exception which must be treated as such. This exception is an object of highly interesting ontological speculation, but it must remain separate in its box as an exception to the rule and must not be permitted to mix with the rest of human thought.” [3]

Let me comment immediately. In the received anthropology, man has always been considered “from below,” as part of the world. He as perceived as an animal with the specific difference of rationality. [This is enough for Sokolowski to do the phenomenology of declarative speech to find transcendence in the “I” in declaring the immanent: “I say [transcendent subject]- that it is snowing outside” [immanent object] I.e, The “I” is not part of the world in which it is snowing….]. (R. Sololowski, “The Phenomenology of the Human Person” Cambridge 2007, Chpt 1)

But if it is true from the theological perspective that Christ is not the ontological exception to man, if from his exceptional position he is, on the contrary, the fulfillment of the entire human being, then the Christological concept of person is an indication for theology of how person is to be understood as such.” That is, person, divine and human, must be understood as constitutively relational. Thus, an uncreated Person introduces Himself into the created Immanence of human life as Prototype and Protagonist. That means that the human must always be understood in terms of the divine without ceasing to be human. In fact, the meaning of divine and human cannot be understood in independence of Christ. In further fact, the human cannot be understood as independent of Christ since there never was a “natural” man created in independence of the pre-existing Christ.[4]

  • Escriva 2Josemaria Escriva had the experience and consciousness of being “Another Christ” and it was with that experience and consciousness that he obeyed in the establishment and formation of his spiritual sons in that spirit. As divine locution, he heard that Christ wanted to be place at the summit of all human activities, and that this would be done by each one remaining in his/her place in the secular world and becoming Christ by total self-gift.
  • Thus the universal growth of Opus Dei “is in our hands.”

“The Work, now complete, is in our hands, has one very important consequence, which at first sight might seem paradoxical: we have to make the Work a reality! The Work is now complete, and yet we have to do it…. In other words, the Work will be whatever we are, whatever our lives are, whatever the Christian quality of our dedication to God is. Our task is clear and exciting. It is to carry out  Opus Dei in the world, on all the earth’s pathways and cross-roads, in ipso ortu rerum novarum, as our Father once put it in Latin: in the midst of, and even in the very conception of, cultural and social changes. There, the men and women in Opus Dei will be – there they must be! – with their ideals and concerns and their dedicated lives, striving to place Christ at the summit of all human activities.”[5]

Such a program is the culmination (albeit unwittingly) of the modern turn to the subject, not as a vapid subjectivism, but as an ontological realism of Christ as acting person living out His divine relation to the Father in all human affairs as “image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible… All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before al creatures, and in him all things hold together…that through him he should reconcile to himself all things, whether on the earth of in the havens making peace through the bl

[1] St. Josemaria Escriva, “Passionately Loving the World” 1967

[2] I am pointing this out as an historical event after February 14 and October 11, 1943 when Escriva  was given to understand that laymen and priests both have the same vocation to be Christ Himself, and that the ministerial priest (by Orders) must be at the service of the common priesthood of the laity to activate it, both as the one priesthood of Christ (but essentially distinct). Somehow, the meaning of Christ, the Priest, is the meaning of man.

[3] J, Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology” in Communo Fall 1990,  448-450,

[4] See Ephesians 1, 4. “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will…”

[5] Letter, Javier,