Author Archive for Tom Schenk

Trinity

The Holy Trinity is the title given to the three Persons in One God.  But how in the world can anyone explain that?

The answer is that we in this world cannot.   It is a mystery beyond our comprehension.  How can there be three separate persons—The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit—but yet still all be the same God?

This is truly a question that we take on faith as Catholics, because our limited human brains simply cannot understand it.  And while we cannot fathom this mystery, as Catholics we know and love this fact of three persons in one God.

This most sublime mystery of the faith is stated as: God is absolutely one in nature and essence, and relatively three in Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who are really distinct from each other, but these Three are consubstantial, that is, identical with the divine substance.

The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, but the doctrine is obvious.  Some of our protestant brothers and sisters (who protests against the Catholic Church) use this strategy against Catholics concerning the word “purgatory,” which also does not appear in the Bible, but yet, just as the Trinity is, the doctrine is defined.  (8:29)

Pentecost

Originally, this was the second feast in rank for the Jews, the celebration of thanksgiving for the harvest and the ending of Passover time.  Later it was also to become a celebration of the giving of the law to Moses at Sinai.

In Christian recognition, Pentecost is the feast celebrated fifty days after Easter or ten days after the Feast of the Ascension.  It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.  It marks the beginning of the active apostolic work and is hailed as the birthday of the Church, for it was through the coming of the Holy Spirit that the Church began to form members of the new kingdom.

As St. Peter spoke on the first Pentecost of the new covenant: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

It is the Spirit who makes effective the New Law and by coming to each one, enables us to profit by and fulfill the acts necessary for salvation.  (8:28)

Singing

Following the most ancient customs and practices, the Church uses music and song in her liturgy.  Music and song has always been a traditional part of the Eucharistic celebration.

In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II, there was a renewal of emphasis upon the singing by the people of God in community.  “Religious singing by the people is to be skillfully fostered, so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics” (SC 118).

Holy Scripture has bestowed praise upon sacred song, and the same may be said of the Fathers of the Church and of the Roman Pontiffs, who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function rendered by sacred music in the service of the Lord.

The texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; indeed, they should be drawn chiefly from Holy Scripture and from liturgical sources.

The reform of the Liturgy brought about by Vatican II placed greater emphasis upon music as a communication medium, a participation in the liturgy by the people, and a renewal of the forms and applications.

All music of the Church should be worthy of the worship of God in whatever celebration this takes place.  Such a effort must be carried on through a training in the priestly and diaconate candidates, liturgical appreciation, and catechesis of all Church members.  (8:27)

Occasion of Sin

An occasion of sin may be a person, place, or thing that offers one the opportunity, inducement, or enticement to sin.  Occasion also involves the internal or subjective inclination to sin.

The occasion may be proximate, that is, when it is such that it almost always results in sin.  This proximate occasion may be free, that is, easily avoidable; or necessary, that is, avoidable only with difficulty, if at all.

It is always, the “better part of valor” to avoid the occasions of sin, even when this means difficulty, for sin has not only a spiritual debilitating effect, but psychologically and physically it has a cumulative effect.

Everyone of common sense knows that to repeatedly be imprudent through, say, the use of drugs, will cause one to become psychologically and physiologically harmed.

Death is the result of sin, not only physical death but the spiritual death that separates the individual from God.  Thus, in the death of Christ and in His resurrection, our death, judgment and resurrection are included.

In Christ and through Him the spiritual death of humankind is done away with, and the person will have life everlasting in the love of God. (8:26)

Charism

Charism is the Greek word used in the New Testament for “favor” or “gratuitous gift.”

Charisms, or spiritual gifts, are special abilities given to all Christians by the Holy Spirit to give them power both to represent Christ and to be a channel of God’s goodness for people.  Whether extraordinary or ordinary, all charisms ought to be exercised in the service of God.

According to Catholic teaching, all the baptized possess one or more charisms (Catechism of the Catholic Church).

Charisms differ from natural talents in several important ways. Charisms are not “in-born;” that is, inherited from our parents; but are given to us by the Holy Spirit, whom we received through Baptism and Confirmation.

Secondly, charisms are supernaturally empowering. In other words, they enable us to have an effectiveness that surpasses our natural, human abilities.

One could use a natural talent for an evil purpose, or for our own enjoyment.  However, God will not allow himself to be used for evil, and charisms are always for the benefit of others, rather than ourselves.

Stigmata

From the Greek, meaning “marks,” this refers in Church use to the visible wounds, scars, or skin abrasions that appear on the flesh of individuals.  They correspond to the wounds suffered by Christ in the crucifixion.

Stigmata are accompanied by pain.  Numerous instances are recorded of this charism having been bestowed on persons of unusual holiness, more than three hundred in all.

The majority of the stigmata are external, visible, and very painful.  There are other marks of Our Lord’s Passion which are not visible, for example, those of St. Catherine of Siena.

St. Catherine at first had visible stigmata but through humility she asked that they might be made invisible, and her prayer was heard. These are called invisible stigmata and are equally painful. (8:24)

Vatican Council I

This council was summoned by Pope Pius IX June 29, 1868.  The first session was held in St Peter’s basilica on December 8, 1869, in the presence and under the direction of the pope.

The purpose of the council, besides the condemnation of contemporary errors, such as, the rising influence of rationalism, liberalism, and materialism, which the Church condemned, was to define the Catholic doctrine concerning the church of Christ.

There was discussion and approval of only two constitutions: “Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith” and “First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ,” the latter dealing with the primacy and infallibility of the bishop of Rome.

The doctrine of papal infallibility was not new and had been used by Pope Pius in defining as dogma, in 1854, the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

The discussion and approval of this latter constitution during the council gave rise, particularly in Germany, to serious controversies which led to the withdrawal from the Church of those known as “Old Catholics.”

The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war led to the interruption and indefinite suspension of the council.  It was in fact never resumed, nor was it ever officially closed.  (8:23)

Sunday

The first day of the week, sometimes called the eight day of the week, also called the “Lord’s Day,” is set aside for public worship.  This was true in the early Church under the Apostles who recognized that the Christian mystery supplanted that of the Old Law, the Sabbath.

On this day, Catholics are obliged by law to assist at the Sacrifice of the Mass.

By grant of the Congregation for the Clergy (January 10, 1970), the faithful, where the bishop considers this a pastoral benefit, may satisfy the Sunday precept of attending the celebration of the Eucharist by participating in the Mass in the late afternoon or evening of the preceding Saturday.  The same grant extends to the time before a holy day of obligation.

The following quotations are just two examples to show that the first Christians understood this principle and gathered for worship on Sunday.  “But every Lord’s Day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.  But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned” (Didache, A.D. 70).

And another, “We keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” (Letter of Barnabas, A.D. 74).  (8:22)

Easter Season

Following the great solemnity of Easter there is in the Church calendar a period of time when the celebration of the Eucharist and the cycle of readings recall the event of Christ’s Resurrection.

The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated as one feast day, sometimes called “the great Sunday.”  The first eight days of the Easter season form the octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord, and in a way, make for the “early hours” of this “great Sunday,” with accounts of the Lord who rose early in the morning, and the early preaching of the disciples who were witnesses to his resurrection.  The singing of the alleluia is characteristic of these days.

The Sundays of this season are counted as the Sundays of Easter.  Following the Sunday of the Resurrection, they are called the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter or the Easter Season.  The period of fifty days ends on Pentecost Sunday.

The Ascension is celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter.  In places, such as the Des Moines Diocese, where it is not a holy day of obligation, it is assigned to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

The weekdays after the Ascension to Saturday before Pentecost inclusive are a preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The Easter Season is a significant time in the Church calendar.

The faithful spend the forty days of lent in prayer, fasting and charity preparing for the great three-day event called the Triduum, and then spends the fifty days of the Easter Season unpacking the Paschal Mystery.  (8:21)

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday occurs as the Sunday feast before Easter.  This day is also called Passion Sunday.  On this Sunday palm leaves are blessed and carried in a procession that follows the blessing ceremony.

The liturgy recalls the entry of Christ into Jerusalem to accomplish his Paschal Mystery.  The Gospel for the day’s liturgy is the account of the Passion taken from the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark or Luke coinciding with the yearly cycle.

Holy Week precedes the feast of Easter beginning with Palm Sunday.  Holy Week is ordered to the commemoration of Christ’s Passion beginning with his Messianic entrance into Jerusalem.

The days of Holy Week, from Monday to Thursday, inclusive, have precedence over all other celebrations as the Passion of the Lord dominates these solemn days.

It is not fitting, except in the danger of death, that baptisms or confirmations be celebrated on these days since they have their natural place in the Easter Vigil.

During the days Holy Week, you may see the crucifix hidden from sight, and if not removed, draped with a violet or red cloth.  (8:20)