Index : I
As we begin the Apostles Creed, I would like to explain the method we will follow in these teleconferences. Each article of the Creed is an ocean of revealed truth. Not just a single conference, nor even a volume could be written about every one of these articles. Literally a dozen libraries would not exhaust the revealed wisdom contained in the Apostles Creed. My plan, therefore, is to briefly explain each of these twelve professions of faith, and then share with you what I consider the single most important spiritual implications of each article of the Creed.
The second article of the Apostles Creed is the foundation of our Christian faith. It is at once a profession of our belief that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ and that the Incarnate God is the Lord, who is the Master of our eternal destiny. Who, then, is Jesus Christ? He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, whom the Father sent into the world to save the human race from sin. Having lost the friendship of God by sin, mankind could not regain this life of grace any more than a man who is dead can bring himself to life again.
Faith in life everlasting is deeper than merely believing that our souls will continue to exist once they leave the bodies when we die. Life everlasting is nothing less than the unending share in Gods own life.
We do not ordinarily associate Christmas with the forgiveness of sins. But we should. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ in order to redeem the human race. So true is this that we merely speculate whether the Incarnation would ever have taken place if sin had not entered the human family. However, having sinned, we are absolutely sure this was the reason why God came into the world.
It may seem strange to begin with the statement that Christ founded the Church during His visible stay on earth. But over the centuries, this has been widely denied by many so-called Christians. They claim that Christ merely inspired a religious movement, or started a reformed movement of Judaism, or was a great leader whose ideals were later adapted and later became what we now call the Church.
But Jesus Christ did found not only a Church, but the Church, the same visible body of believers united under visible authority, which is the Catholic Church.
The third and last part of the Apostles Creed begins with our profession of faith in the Holy Spirit.
Now we express our belief in the Third Person of the Trinity, as the Spirit by whom Our Lady conceived her Divine Son, as the Spirit promised by Christ to those who profess that Jesus is their Lord and Redeemer, and the Spirit who animates the Church as the Soul of the Mystical Body of Christ.
As Christians, we not only believe that the human soul is immortal, but also that the human body is to rise immortal from the grave. However, our souls are spiritual by nature and are therefore naturally immortal. Our souls will never die.
In the short time at our disposal, we will ask and briefly answer a series of questions: How is the resurrection of the body reasonable? Will all human beings rise from the dead? Will each of us receive our own body? What are the qualities of the risen body? What are some implications for our spiritual life?
For the opening conference I thought I would do two things. First, remind ourselves as to why we are making a retreat or, in plainer English, what a retreat is all about
Secondly, in this conference I will do what I have not been doing for some years, and that is to open the retreat with the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
For the first day of the retreat, we are reflecting on what is called the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises. We have seen that there are two basic truths which are part of our faith that undergird this so called "Principle and Foundation." They are, the purpose of our existence and the purpose of the existence of all other creatures, including our fellow human beings and for us, our fellow religious. You see, they too are meant by God to help us reach our destiny.
The first step on the road to sanctity is a knowledge of Godís plan - His plan for the universe at large and His plan for me. In fact, a good descriptive definition of "vocation" is "God's plan for me". But if that is the first and fundamental basis on which we can build the edifice of holiness, the second is the knowledge of self.
Still reflecting on the human side of our nature, we might begin by observing that moral limitations are about the same as moral weaknesses. But this is not the same as sinful tendencies. In essence, sinful tendencies are common to all people and are, as we know, mainly the result of our fallen human nature and of our own past sinful conduct. Our moral limitations or weaknesses, however, are mainly concerned with our "personal character", though when I speak of it, I like to distinguish between what is personal and what is character: personal has to do with our personality, whereas character has to do withcharacter!
For our present conference, I suggest that we reflect on what might be called the obverse of reflection on our past sins and moral weaknesses, and that we reflect on the self-knowledge of our past virtues and spiritual potential.
We are on the subject of self-knowledge, and specifically we are asking ourselves how we can better serve God by improving our knowledge of ourselves. We are still considering our spiritual potential and more specifically our capacity for sacrifice and for generosity. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, one is not quite the other; sacrifice is not exactly generosity.
Consequently, it is not only surprising but should be obvious that what the Church first needs today is for her members to deepen and clarify and strengthen their faith convictions. If their faith is what it should be, all else has the promise of a true renaissance in piety and the service of one's neighbor. But if their faith remains weak or confused, or contaminated with error, the bright promise of a reformation in the Catholic Church will turn out to be a dream or, worse still, a deceptive mirage.
We do not have to go far to find a reason for this extraordinary preoccupation with hope today. There is so much to discourage even the most sanguine observer of world events in our day. In the Catholic Church we are seeing the most extensive defection from priestly and religious commitment certainly in the past five hundred years and perhaps in all of the Church's history. There is confusion in religious education, infidelity in Christian marriage, and the spectacle of a whole nation practicing genocide by contraception and induced abortion on a scale unparalleled in the annals of mankind.
Not the least difficulty we face, however, is to know not so much what Christ meant by the world, because He meant many things but how He wants us to look at the world and deal with it on all the principal levels of our meeting the world.
We do not normally think of Christ or speak of Him as our strength. More frequently we refer to Him in the terms He used of Himself when He said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. Moreover, we usually ask our Lord to give us strength, but we seldom think of Him precisely as not only giving us strength, but as being our strength. What, then, do we mean when we talk about the Savior as literally the strength on which we rely and without whichbetter, without whomwe would be unequal to the trials of life?
If there is anything characteristic about Saint Ignatius, it is his maxim that people make up their minds and decide with their wills. Perhaps a one word description of Ignatian spirituality would be "decisiveness". However, quite apart from this being characteristic of Ignatius, it is also essential to a life of Christian perfection. Indeed, without making both long and short range decisions, holiness is a dream. It will never be achieved.
We know that in Sacred Writing and in the teachings of the Church, the Mass has acquired a variety of synonymous names. It is called the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Eucharistic Liturgy, or simply, the Liturgy; it is the Eucharistic celebration, the Holy Sacrifice, or the Sacrifice of the Altar
All of this reflects the richness of mystery revealed to us by Christ when He instituted the Mass on the night before He died. It also indicates that there has been a remarkable development of doctrine regarding the Mass.
In speaking about holiness it is remarkable how we can overlook the obvious. For example it is obvious that we cannot become holy unless we obtain the extraordinary graces needed to reach sanctity. Hearing about holiness; reading about it; even seeing holiness, does not make one holy. We need grace. It is equally obvious that the graces we need must come to us from Christ since as He told us, "Without Me you can do nothing". If that nothing refers even to salvation, it most certainly refers to sanctification.
Rather surprisingly, Saint Ignatius makes a great deal of the appearances of Christ after the Resurrection. He recounts no less than fourteen appearances. Also, but not so surprisingly, Ignatius believed that Christ's first appearance after His rising from the dead, was to His Mother Mary.
We are hearing so many things about the Holy Spirit these days that it might be well to reflect on the sequence of events which took place on Pentecost Sunday. My plan is first to give the verses from the Acts of the Apostles in which Saint Luke describes what happened at Pentecost in the actual descent of the Holy Spirit and then what happened immediately after Peter's sermon, where he himself was inspired by the Spirit, and how that same Spirit affected and began to shape the first converts. Then we shall reflect separately on the prominent features of what the Holy Spirit does when he descends on the faithful.
The subject of prayer may seem to be a very common place topic. But it is not. With all the interesting subjects to write about, why, of all the prosaic things to still say more about prayer? We might consider that not everything interesting is important, and not everything important is instructivewhereas I think the subject of prayer is all three.
Why pray? We must pray, because God is God and because we are we. This is not a clever phrase; it is at the heart of human existence and the bedrock of our faith. Prayer is so universal among believing mankind as to almost describe believing mankind. It is also insisted upon in Christian revelation. It must be important. It is not only important; it is indispensable. It is essential because it answers the two most fundamental statements we can make about God and ourselves.
We are to be witnesses of holiness to a world that is fast becoming secularized and that acutely needs such a witness if the teachings of Christ are to be effective in cultures that from one viewpoint are more advanced than ever before in history. So they are. But progress creates problems. Just because of this scientific and secular development, these cultures (and especially our own) are running to destruction where and insofar as they lack the vision that only Christ's message to mankind can give.
First, we will ask and briefly answer the question, "What is faith?" Then, more pertinently, "Why is it important?" And finally, "How can we, who have the faith, grow and develop in this virtue which is the substratum of everything else?"
The Council tells us that the Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the Eucharistic Body of the Lord. Why so? Because especially in the Sacred Liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful two kinds of Bread of Life, one from the table of God's Word, and the other from the table of Christ's Body.
The Second Vatican Council told us not only how important the Sacred Scriptures are, but also that the Scriptures are to be the source of our spiritual instruction and especially inspiration. The Church has also gone on record in recommending how we might better profit from the Sacred Scriptures. The Council insisted that there be easy access to the Scriptures. The variety of editions and translations of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, is one development of that recommendation.
In large measure the crisis of faith within Catholic ranks today is particularly a crisis of faith regarding the Eucharist. Although there are many reasons, perhaps the most dramatic is doubt in the reality of Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament
Let us focus on two features of this mystery, first to consider the Eucharist as Reality and then to reflect on the Eucharist as Presence.
The Lord's Prayer is the only prayer that Christ taught directly to His apostles and through them has been teaching the human race. It is an eminently practical capsulization of the faith, because it both tells us what to pray about and how we should pray. Over the centuries, notably by the Fathers of the Church, it has been called the most efficacious prayer we have, outside of the Sacraments themselves.
We have native tendencies in us that tyrannize us, which we so complacently call our "passions". What we talk about as the Seven Capital Sins, I like to call our "Seven Basic Tendencies" as fallen human beings. To ignore the fact that we have to war against ourselves and against the seductions of the evil all around us would be folly.
A balanced understanding of Christ and His Church includes the realization of the conflict with the evil spirit or, as Saint John calls him, the spirit of darkness. Until not so long ago it was not acceptable to even talk about the devil; but all of a sudden it became quite popular. Though much of the popularity is not very deep, it does indicate an instinctive realization in man's heart that there is a world of spirits besides the world of sense, space and time; and not only is there a spirit world which is good but, given the sheer magnitude of evil in the world, there must be in addition to human malice, invisible malice that is at work in the human race today.
Notice that the subject of "Discernment of Spirits" implies a plurality and especially a distinction between one kind of spirit and another. We know from both the teaching of the Church and our own experience that serving God and following Christ is not just a straight, easy, and smooth path. By its very definition it involves conflict and Christ went out of His way to impress us with that fact. This conflict is not only with or within ourselves; or with the world, the human beings outside of us; but also, and mainly for our present purpose, it involves a conflict with the evil spirit.
It is common knowledge that the Holy Eucharist is the center, not only of our faith but of our spiritual life. What may not be so evident, however, is that the cardinal virtue of Christianity, the practice of charity, is intimately tied in with the Sacrament of God's love. We know this from the fact that at the Last Supper Christ did two things, and these two will be the objects of our reflections. He first instituted the Blessed Sacrament; then He gave us His mandate on the practice of charity. In order to appreciate the implications of this relationship, we might profitably look at Christ's teaching on charity and ask ourselves what is distinctive about the love that Christ came to teach, indeed command, at the Last Supper; and then see how the practice of this kind of charity is dependent upon our receiving the graces which come to us only from the Eucharist.
There are many reasons why the love of God should be the object of our frequent meditation and of our prayer. The main reason is that in order to serve God the way we should, although we need a substratum of mental condition, we have to see the intellectual reasons why God ought to be served. Nevertheless, more than condition we need commitment.
We know from reading the writings of the saints and the great friends of God that there are many facets of Christ's Passion which appeal to them and on which they often built an elaborate analysis of the Redemption to make it, as it should be, the cornerstone of all authentic spirituality. But the one aspect around which everything else revolves is our view of the Passion as the most eloquent expression of God's love for man.
There are two ways that we can look at Christ's Passion. We can see it as the great sign, indeed sacrament, of God's love for us in the sense that God Himself could not have done more than have become man; only as man could He suffer and prove that He loves us by that suffering, which is the highest indication and index of love. The first and, in a way, primary attitude that we ought to have towards Christ's Passion, to appreciate God's love for us in the Redemption, is to see it as the great motivating reason for our sacrificial love of God in return. Looking upon what God is and has done for us as the motive for our responding in return is the foundation of our faith.
If there is one hidden theme in the New Testament, it is the fact that while Christ certainly wants His followers to imitate Him in carrying His cross and to deny themselves to prove that they are His disciples, at the same time He promises them not only an eventual and eternal glory with Him in heaven, but already on this earth, a deep-souled happiness.
We know that our Divine Savior placed special emphasis on the fact that what He had begun during His visible stay on earth would be continued and confirmed by the Spirit that He and the Father would send on those who believe. We call them "Promises of our Lord", or simply "The Promise of the Holy Spirit", by which we are assured that after Christ's Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Church that He founded would continue being guided by His Spirit.
We speak of the Holy Spirit in many different ways: as Love, as Gift, as the Paraclete, as the Advocate. All of these titles are biblical and identify some of the profound attributes of the Spirit promised by Christ before His Ascension into Heaven. But there is one that we especially need to recognize today and that is the Spirit as Power.
It is important, even indispensable, that we reflect on the promise of heaven that lies ahead of us. First because happiness on earth, even at its best, is mixed with sorrow. We know that it is not fully satisfying, that it is exceedingly fragile and is very costly in sacrifice. We are constantly reminded by our faith and our conscience that it is highly conditional and above all transitory, for we must all soon die.
"It is just five hundred years since his birth in 1491 at the Castle of Loyola, Spain. During this half millennium, the Church has been under the most severe pressure since her foundation: to conform to the world to which her Founder said He did not belong. Ignatius set down the conditions for preserving the Church's freedom from conformity." - Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The most popular book in the world, after the Bible, is The Imitation of Christ. Since it was published in the early fifteenth
century, it has deeply influenced the spirituality of millions of believing Christians. Its basic theme is that, since Jesus Christ is
true God and true man, by imitating Christ as man, we become more and more like Christ, who is God.
"Since the dawn of Christianity, the divinity of Christ has been the single most frequently and strongly challenged mystery of our faith. We say that the Church is going through the most serious crisis of the twenty centuries of her history. At the center of this crisis is the widespread doubt and denial that Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, is the Son of the Living God. There is nothing else in our Catholic faith that needs to be more clearly understood and firmly believed than Christ's divinity." - Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Excerpts from The Imitation of Christ, written by Thomas A. Kempis.
Though not a dogma of the Church, there is a close relationship between devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of His Mother. Pope Pius XII said it was fitting that after our homage paid to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Christian people should manifest similar piety and love of their grateful hearts for the most loving heart of Mary, our heavenly Mother, through whom we have received the divine life from Christ.
My purpose will be to examine in some detail the influence of Catholic theological principles in our country, with some reference to the past but mostly with emphasis on the future. I shall try to answer, candidly and I hope with some profit, the question: What does Catholic theology offer to the upbuilding of the American mind?
"There are few great men in history who do not have both their ardent admirers and their virulent traducers. Christopher Columbus is no exception. But there is one main difference in the case of Columbus. We can identify his critics by their religious affiliation or ideology." - Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
"Since the Sovereign Pontiff published Humanae Vitae every news medium in the
country has carried statements by a variety of Catholic spokesmen supporting
or condemning the papal teaching. Among these statements the most weighty
was the one issued on July 30 in Washington, D.C., and signed by
eighty-seven theologians, protesting the papal declaration and seeking
widespread support throughout the country. What follows is an analysis of
this statement." - Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
In so much of our prayer, including the liturgy, as well as in scripture and the writings of the saints, the little
phrase "in Him" is seen repeatedly. We say or read it so often that it has become commonplace, and yet it is
a concept filled with opportunity for exploring our relationship with God. We cannot think about what it means to be in
Him without thinking about who this 'Him' is of whom we speak, and contemplate the many dimensions of the concept
of being in Him. We know it is Jesus of whom we speak, but who is this Jesus? Who is He for you, personally?
Having examined some of the ways in which we can contemplate what it means to be In Him, it is fitting to examine how we can
respond to Jesus being in us, to contemplate what is offered by Him, to understand that what He offers is possible, and desired by God,
for each of us, right here, right now. We must also consider what we must do in order for Him to come to us, to reside within us.
Without attempting to do justice to an immense subject, let me touch concisely on these issues, with a view to facilitating the resolution of what some consider the principal crisis of todays missions: 1) How is the Incarnation a valid pattern for Christian missiology, with special reference to the need for adaptation? 2) What are the two historical extremes, mistakenly explaining the Incarnation, and how are they relevant to the matter of adaptation? 3) Authentic Christology as the only valid paradigm for apostolic acculturation.
Chosen-ness in Christ: Covenant of Divine Consummation, How Do We Respond, The Instrument of Divinization.
The Power of His Love, The Ultimate Gift, The Participation of the Holy Spirit, The Mystery of Life is Love, The Time for the
Fullness of the Revelation of Love.
"As the title of our conference indicates, we plan to cover two areas of an immense subject: first, to see something of what is Marxism, and then reflect on its influence in the United States." - Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
"I believe the breakdown of religious life in the Western world is a phenomenon unique in the history of Christianity.There have been, since the last half of this century, more departures from Catholicism, more closings of Catholic churches, more dioceses that have been secularized than ever before in the history of Christianity." - Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
the Real Presence is logically prior to the Eucharist as Sacrifice and Communion. The reason is obvious. Christ must first be really present on earth in the Eucharist, before we can intelligently speak of His offering Himself in the Mass and coming to us in Communion." - Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The Eucharist is the center of Christianity. To understand the Eucharist is to begin to understand why God became man in the person of Jesus Christ.
An introduction to the Eucharist: Let us devote ourselves entirely to knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we want to know
Him. Since love is generally measured by knowledge, the deeper and more extensive the knowledge, the greater will be the love. And if our
love is great, we will love Him equally in pain and consolation.
There is nothing in Catholic Christianity that is either more distinctive or more important than the priesthood. When Christ ordained the Apostles on Holy Thursday night, He promised them that they would continue in their priestly work until the end of time. While the word "priest" is widely used, in the Catholic Church the priest is the one who carries on the work that God became man to establish.
To most Christians, Mohammedanism is only a vague religious movement that somehow gave rise to the Crusades and that presently affects the culture and political aspirations of certain people in North Africa, the Near East and Pakistan. Actually Mohammedanism is the most powerful force among the living religions outside of Christianity, and to many observers its greatest competitor for the spiritual domination of the world.