Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Beatitudes--Summary of Jesus' Teaching on the Virtuous Life

Fr. John Pasquini, Th.D.

The “Beatitudes”
Summary of Jesus’ Teachings on the Virtuous life

The Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-12)
The beatitudes flow from the gifts of the Spirit and dispose a person to obey these gifts. The beatitudes are reminders that a person cannot be fully human without acknowledging and exploring their spiritual side.  Sadly, the spiritual is repressed by too many in this modern world. 

The beatitude of being “poor in spirit” promotes confidence in God and complete dependence on God (cf. Is. 61:1; Zep. 2:3).  It also engenders a humble predisposition.  The beatitude of being “mournful” is that beatitude which fosters recognition of God’s consolation and comfort. The beatitude of being “meek,” engenders the recognition of one’s place in the kingdom of God (cf. Ps. 37:11). The beatitude of “hungering and thirsting for righteousness” promotes conformity to God’s will and a willing submission to God’s plan of salvation for all.  The beatitude of being “merciful” properly orders the virtue of justice in accordance to the spirit of the law as opposed to the letter of the law.  The beatitude of being “pure of heart” is that assurance that God’s presence will always be with the pure of heart (cf. Ps. 24:4; 42:3).  The beatitude of being a “peacemaker” is one that promotes peace in one’s heart and in the hearts of others.  It promotes a docile, gentle spirit that is ordered to the providential plan of God.  The beatitude that entails being unjustly “persecuted” is that beatitude which empowers one to seek justice at whatever cost, even at the cost to one’s life. 

The beatitudes express the human person’s vocation as a physical and spiritual being.  They shed light on a Christian’s duties and attitudes.  They sustain hope amidst a world of trials and tribulations.  They “proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples.”

The beatitudes express a person’s innermost desire, that person’s desire for happiness.  This desire for happiness has been placed at the very core of the human person in order to draw him or her to God, the source of all happiness.

The beatitudes challenge and confront people.  They force people to make virtuous choices regarding their eternal destiny.  

The Theological Virtues--Being Perfected in Humanness

Fr. John Pasquini, Th.D.

The Theological Virtues--To Be Perfected in Humanness
To open oneself to one’s spiritual side, one opens up a new realm of being.  Virtues naturally acquired through habit and human ingenuity are elevated by the spiritual dimension of one’s being—often referred to as grace—and brought to heroic levels, levels beyond one’s natural faculties.

The virtues of faith, hope and love are called theological virtues because they are infused by God, the divine, as opposed to being acquired by one’s own efforts solely.

The theological virtues empty a person of all that is not for the honor and glory of the divine, of God, and fills such a person with God’s self-communicating, cleansing presence. 

The human virtues are grounded in the theological and enable a person to be animated, informed, and enlivened spiritually.  They elevate, perfect, and heal the deficiency of one’s humanness.  They elevate one from living a good and virtuous life to living a good and heroic life of virtue.

Faith is a gift (Eph. 2:8) aided by the gift of understanding which is in conformity with reason, yet transcends the limits of reason.  Faith frees one from egoism, passions, jealousies, whims, etc., of all that can damage a person’s response to the inner call of grace, of authentic humanness.  Faith elevates, perfects, and heals the intellect, thereby producing the fruits of certitude and firmness in actions.  Faith elevates, perfects, and heals the will, thereby producing the fruits of devotion and confidence.  In faith one’s life is being guided by the light of faith, which guides the individual to his or her eternal destiny of loving God for being God (Rom. 8:28).

Hope is that confidence in the help of God.  Hope helps one to persevere (Mt. 10:22) and overcome trials and tribulations (Rom. 5:2-5).  Hope, because of these trials and tribulations, purifies the person for the love of God (Cf. Wis. 3: 4-6).  Hope is a walk into the mystery of the unknown.  Yet it is a walk with a certain sense of certitude of direction.  Hope makes one advance always more generously toward God by giving one a greater desire for him.  God becomes a person’s end; God becomes all that is hoped for. 
For the spiritual writer John Climacus, “Love, by its nature, is a resemblance to God.”  Love is the conformity of a person’s will to God’s, for all the other virtues follow from the virtue of love (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4).  Love is what makes one human:

1.     Love conquers those inclinations toward vice.
2.     Because of love, earthly things such as pleasures, honors, wealth, health, worldly accomplishments, etc., are loved as they are meant to be loved, genuinely.
3.     Because of love, one seeks to be engulfed in the presence of God, to love him, to think of him, to adore him, to pray to him, to thank him, to ask his pardon, to aspire to him.
4.     One desires, out of the grace of love, to please God more than anything and anyone in the entire created realm of reality.
5.     One seeks to love and know God in one’s neighbor, in spite of the neighbor’s defects.  One loves one’s neighbor for simply being a child of God, a child of God who is beloved by God.  Love of God and love of neighbor merge into one reality.

The human person is incomplete without God.  To be human is to have God hardwired into every dimension of our being and to be awakened to that reality.  Those who develop the physical and spiritual dimensions to their nature experience what it means to be authentically human.  To be truly human means that one experiences life in knowledge, wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, reverence and wonder and awe.  To be genuinely human means that one experiences life in love, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, modesty, continency, and chastity. To be authentically human means that one conquers pride with humility, greed with generosity, lust with chastity, anger with mildness, gluttony with temperance, envy with friendship, and sloth with diligence.  

In faith, hope and love one moves toward enlightenment, peace, and happiness.

Jesus, Teacher of Temperance

Fr. John Pasquini, Th.D.

Jesus, Teacher of Temperance
The virtue of temperance provides balance and moderation in every aspect of one’s life, physical and spiritual.  It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and desires, over excess and deficiency.   Temperance helps one love the way all is meant to be loved.  Temperance is the restraining of appropriate human appetites or desires from the inappropriate desires for worldly goods.  It is commonly associated with the reining in of desires in the areas of reproduction and nutrition (i.e., tactile pleasures such as sex, food, drink…).

The most common allied and interrelated virtues to courage (often referred to as integral parts of temperance) are humility, abstinence, sobriety, chastity, purity, continence, clemency, meekness, modesty, and studiousness. To be temperate, therefore, means that one has at the very least these virtues, these integral parts of temperance.

Humility is the virtue of self-knowledge, to know oneself the way one truly is. 

Jesus exercised the allied virtue of humility.  In John 10:11-18, in the story of the good shepherd, we see this virtue in practice.

11 I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. 13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.
Humility is the doorway to holiness, wholeness, humanness, for it is the doorway to true self-knowledge.  It is not low self-esteem.  Humility avoids unnecessary and unworthy praise, self-seeking, the impressing of others or boasting, and the pursuit of worldly “things” such as fame.  Humility promotes the awareness of the need for growth through the recognition of one’s weaknesses and strengths.  It acknowledges the need for compassion, assistance and strength.  It promotes a clear conscience and the strength to bear much.  It exults in being corrected as an opportunity for further growth and self-knowledge. 
Humility, which implies the awareness of one’s spiritual dimension, helps one to be a person for others and recognizes that all things and activities are to be for the glory and honor of God, and that all of life is part of God’s providential plan.
To be humble is to rejoice in the goods and blessings of others and to rejoice in the freedom that comes with knowing oneself and being at peace with oneself.  The humble person has no need to prove himself and has no need to defend himself. 
The humble person is incapable of jealousy, rudeness, self-interest, quick-temperedness, and all forms of wrongdoing.  The humble person is able to bear and endure all things, for he knows who he truly is, even when others do not.  To be humble is to be free and sincerely human.

Jesus, Teacher of Courage

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Jesus, Teacher as Courage
Courage is a virtue that ensures firmness and constancy in times of difficulty.  It is the virtue that enables one to do good amidst the pressures, temptations, fears, trials, persecutions, and obstacles of life.   It is the virtue that fights all that is contrary to the good, even to the point of the giving up of one’s life for a just cause.  Courage is resoluteness of mind steadying a person to do the good and combat the evil.

The common virtues allied and interrelated to the virtue of courage (often referred to as integral parts of courage) are magnificence, magnanimity, confidence, longanimity and constancy.  To be courageous, therefore, means that one has at the very least these virtues, these integral parts of courage.

Magnanimity and Magnificence
Magnanimity perfects hope and involves the stretching forth of the mind to seek that which is worthy of moral excellence, to that which is honorable, noble.  It is often marked by generosity in the overlooking of injury, insult, pettiness, or general meanness.  The virtue of magnificence is the virtue that enables one to do exceptionally great works at great expense, to stretch forth to the level of excellence that which is larger than the self, to give one’s total, one’s all to an endeavor. 

Jesus exercised the allied virtues of magnanimity and magnificence.  In Luke 23:33-46, in the account at the foot of the cross, we see these virtues in practice.

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. 34 [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”]They divided his garments by casting lots. 35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” 36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37 they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”44 It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon… 46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Jesus was mocked, spat upon, scourged, forced to carry his cross, and raised on a cross for crucifixion.  His only response was “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34).  And when a thief turned to Jesus for forgiveness he gave it. 

How do we respond to injury, insult, pettiness, or cruelty?  Jesus’ crucifixion was followed by peace.  When we respond with an “eye for an eye” (Lev. 24:20) or with our own volleys of injury, insult, pettiness or cruelty, what good do we do?  What do we bring upon ourselves and others? It takes great fortitude and integrity to balance the directive to “turn the other cheek,” (Mt. 5:39) with the directive of being our “brother’s keeper” (Gen. 4:9).  It takes magnanimity to be honorable, noble, and morally excellent.  It is magnificence to give one’s total, one’s all, one’s life to an endeavor.

Saint Francis of Assisi left generations of this world a prayer that poignantly exemplifies the beauty and power of the virtues of magnanimity and magnificence:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love.  Where there is injury, pardon.  Where there is doubt, faith.   Where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light.  Where there is sadness, joy.  O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.     

Jesus, Teacher of Justice

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Jesus, Teacher of Justice

Justice is a virtue that disposes one to respect the dignity and rights of all persons.  It is that virtue that demands fairness or equity between the needs of the individual and the needs of the common good.  Justice demands habitual right thinking and the uprightness of conduct toward neighbor and one’s society.  In other words, justice demands 1) the proper relationship of an individual with one’s community; 2) the proper relationship between the community and the individual; 3) and the proper relationship of one individual to another.

The most common allied and interrelated virtues to justice (often referred to as integral parts of justice) are gratitude, friendliness, liberality, equity, retribution, religion, piety, and observance.  To be just, therefore, means that one has at the very least these virtues, these integral parts of justice.

Gratitude is the virtue that makes us aware of the gifts we receive each day and appreciative of the generosity of the giver.   

Jesus exercised the allied virtue of gratitude.  In Luke 17:11-19, in the account of the cleansing of the ten lepers, we see this virtue in practice.

11 As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” 14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? 18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” 19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.

Imagine you lived during the time of Jesus.  You have a beautiful and wonderful spouse, wonderful children, and a wonderful job.  Your parents, step-parents and cousins are a source of great joy and support. 

One day you wake up and notice something unusual about your skin.  At first you think it is nothing. Perhaps it is only psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis. Then you realize it is much more.   You have contracted leprosy.  Your whole world is overturned.

Because of the contagious nature of leprosy, you are forced to leave your spouse, children, relatives, home, job, and village.  You are forced to wear distinctive clothing covering your sores.  When you walk towards people you are forced to cry out, “leper, leper!” or “unclean, unclean;” you are asked to ring a little bell to warn those ahead of you.  And if you fail to warn those ahead of you, people pick up stones and throw them at you as a warning to keep away.  The words of Psalm 31 become palatable in your life:  “Those who know me are afraid of me; when they see me in the street, they run away….  I am like something thrown away.” 

You have become part of the walking dead.  Your body is rotting away and you feel as if your soul is rotting away as well.  You feel rejected by God and man. 

Never again would you feel the touch and embrace of a loved one.  Never again would you laugh, smile, and enjoy the company of others.  Never again would you see your children grow older.  Never again would you find the comfort of your spouse.  Depression, loneliness, abandonment is what awaits the leper.

By touch and word Jesus healed the lepers.  He then directs the men to the priests in order to be declared clean.  The men are now made new.  They now could return to their spouses, children, relatives, to their neighborhoods and former ways of life.  All things that were lost were now restored. 

Jesus, Teacher of Prudence

Fr John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Jesus, Teacher of Prudence
Prudence is the virtue that disposes one’s reasoning abilities to discern one’s true good in a particular circumstance and disposes the will to achieve it.  Prudence is in the words of Aristotle “right reason in action,” or in the words of Aquinas “the rational direction of human action.”

It is for this reason that prudence is often referred to as the “charioteer of virtues.”  As the charioteer of virtues it guides the other virtues in operating as they should.  It is with the virtue of prudence that moral principles and virtues are applied appropriately and without error to achieve good and prevent evil. 

The most common allied and interrelated virtues to prudence (often referred to as integral parts of prudence) are memory, intelligence, docility, acumen (quick-wit, shrewdness), reasoning, foresight, circumspection, and caution.  To be prudent, therefore, means that one has at the very least these allied virtues, these integral parts of prudence.

One’s memory stores life’s experiences.  The virtue of memory stores the real experiences of life so that they may be accessed and applied in reasoning and actions.  The old cliché is often helpful here:  One who does not know the mistakes of history is bound to repeat them.  Memory implies a perceptive knowledge of the past.
Jesus exercised the allied virtue of memory.  In Matthew 11:20-24, in Jesus’ reproaches to the unrepentant towns, we see this virtue in practice. 

20 Then he began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And as for you, Capernaum:‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’ For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.

People truly repeat the mistakes of the past.  Prophets are persecuted and killed because they tell the truth of the present, based on the patterns of the past.  People too often only want to hear or live the way they want to hear or live.  They do not seek to learn from the past.  They are obsessed with the now.  They seek to manipulate the present to fulfill their present desires or obsessions.  They are unaware of history or ignore history or misinterpret history to fulfill their agenda.   And so the pattern repeats itself.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador preached and witnessed to the Gospel amidst great opposition. People were being killed by death squads by the thousands. Through his preaching in the Church and through the radio he named names, dates, and places where human rights were being violated.  Despite his best friends being murdered, he continued.  As he said, “At the first sight of danger the shepherd cannot run and leave the sheep to fend for themselves.”  Archbishop Oscar Romero was martyred while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980.  Twenty thousand died that year from violence.

There are many Oscar Romeros being martyred today for upholding the dignity due to all people.

Jesus knew life, history, and most importantly people.  Despite his teachings, so many refused to believe in the power of virtue.  Just as the people of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom refused to embrace the prophets of their time, the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum repeated the same pattern by failing to fully embrace the prophet of their time, Jesus. 

Virtue, which brings about harmonious living, leads to happy individuals and happy cultures; vice in the individual and in the culture only leads to misfortunes. 

Jesus brought the past and present into the light and challenged the world to take the best from the past to awaken and nourish the present.

Project Rachel

Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
United Conference of Catholic Bishops

Project Rachel
It is estimated that 43 percent of women in America will have at least one abortion by age 45. 

Project Rachel is a network of caregivers, including priests, mental health professionals and others who provide one-on-one care to those struggling after involvement in an abortion.  Project Rachel may include other resources such as various retreat models, support groups, Bible studies, journaling exercises and prayer efforts, but it is primarily a healing network connecting those in need with counseling and with the sacraments, right in the heart of the Church.

Our society has done women a huge disservice by pretending that abortion erases the experience of pregnancy.  Pro-abortion organizations acknowledge that up to 10 percent of women who have had abortions may develop serious psychiatric conditions afterwards. In addition, at least another 40 percent of women are struggling with abortion-related issues that are not severe enough to be classified as “serious psychiatric” effects….  Some have tucked the event away for years.  Some have been trying to find ways to suppress their pain with medication and alcohol.  Others have wrestled with depression and anxiety disorders, failed relationships, infertility, etc…. 

Women after an abortion need spiritual and psychological healing.  Women may recognize the need for help right after an abortion or years after—with a “trigger incident.”  The Church, through Project Rachel, is there from them!

“The wound in your heart may not yet have healed….  But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope….  The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  You will come to understand that nothing is definitely lost and you will be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living with the Lord” (cf. JP II, Gospel of Life, no. 99).

Real War on Women

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

The Real War on Women
Statistics point to ten percent of women who have had abortions will suffer a severe psychiatric breakdown, and at least another forty percent of women will suffer abortion related psychological issues such as PTSD (often referred to as Post Abortion Trauma), and a variety of other anxiety disorders.  Many others, often years later, due to some “trigger event,” will develop some kind of abortion related issue such as alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, self-mutilation, etc.  They suffer higher rates of infertility and birth-related difficulties (Cf. USCCB, Project Rachel, 2007).

Women who have had an abortion, damaged in their ability to bond with others, experience higher than average rates of divorce and difficulties with interpersonal relationships (ibid.).

Abortion leaves its scar on every woman. 

Giving that at least 600,000 female children—future women—are aborted in the United States every year, given that abortion has secondary victims, women who have procured an abortion, how in the world can pro-abortion advocates argue that being pro-abortion (pro-choice) is being pro-women? 

And what about the twenty-seven out of thirty-three worldwide studies by the most prestigious academic institutions in the world—reported in the most prominent medical journals--who have, over the past forty-three years, found a correlation between abortion and breast cancer!

Contraceptive Mentality
We live in a culture that argues that contraceptives are good for women.  Many women are familiar with many of the side effects associated with contraceptives; few, however, are familiar with the abortifacient dimensions to certain contraceptives (such as the Pill—the combination estrogen-progestogen pill or the progestogen only pill—Norplant, Depro-Provera, RU 486, and Ovral; other similar abortifacients include Lippes Loop and the Copper-T 380 A). 

How many women are psychologically scarred when told of the possible abortion-causing effects of these contraceptives, which most often are not told to them? And when we add all the barrier forms of contraceptives, which studies indicate lead to promiscuity and the resulting consequences of such actions (divorce and sexually transmitted diseases) can we say that we are truly being pro-women by promoting contraceptives?   When the divorce rate is comfortably at fifty percent, when more American couples are living together unmarried than married, when single-parent households are on the rise, when the institution of the family is collapsing, when one out of four Americans will get a sexually transmitted disease (an STD) during their lifetime, can we truly say that a contraceptive-minded culture is pro-women?

And if one should point out the Natural Family Planning methods of birth regulation—such as the highly effective symptom-thermal method—are as effective as the most effective hormonal contraceptives, and if one were to mention that those who practice one of the NFP methods have a less than eight percent divorce rate, you will be ignored by pro-contraceptive supporters. 

Recent studies--albeit still not completely conclusive at this point—are indicating a correlation between homosexuality and hormonal contraceptives. 

Biological, Comprehensive Sex Education
Our culture mocks sex education based on chastity or abstinence or ethics.  Rather many institutions promote, embrace, and cherish a purely biological, relativistic, atheistic, amoral form of sex education, a form of sex education which focuses on the purely biological functioning of the reproductive system with no regard to the spiritual.

Building upon the purely biological, this sex education program’s philosophy is essentially as follows:  “If it is between two consenting adults, it is acceptable.”  No sex act is immoral.  No lifestyle must be judged.” One is an animal like any other, and thus one can for all practical purposes act like any other animal. There is no spiritual dimension to the human person. 

Is this vision of sex and sexuality being pro-women?

We live in a culture that has been deceived into believing clichés.  If you say what is false, or if you lie outright, over and over again, some and perhaps too many people will believe the lie, the cliché.  

Jerome: Translator of the Bible

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Jerome (345-420)
Jerome was born Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus at Stridon on the border between Dalmatia and Pannonia around the year 345/349.  At the age of twelve he went to Rome to study the classics and rhetoric under the tutelage of Aelius Donatus. 
Around 365 he was baptized by Pope Liberius and withdrew to seclusion.  From Rome he went to Trier and began to study theology.  He then made his way to Aquileia and made friends with Rufinus.  In 374 he made his way through Thrace, Bithynia, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, and Antioch.  He then proceeded East to the desert of Chalcis and lived an austere life as a hermit.  In the desert he continued to master Greek and was tutored in Hebrew by a Jewish convert to Christianity.  After two years in the desert of Chalcis, he returned to Antioch and was ordained a priest by Paulinus.
He made his way to Constantinople to study under the genius of Gregory of Nazianzus.  He was instructed in biblical exegesis.  In Constantinople he also made acquaintance with Gregory of Nyssa. 
His first attempts at translation and exegesis were done in Constantinople.  It is there also that his study of Origen began. 
In 382 Jerome accompanied Paulinus of Antioch and Epiphanius to Rome to help settle the Meletian schism in Antioch.
Jerome remained in Rome till 385.  These years would be the most formative years in his life.  Because of his language skills he became the secretary of Pope Damasus and served as his interpreter and translator for all parts of the Roman Empire. 
When Pope Damasus settled on the number of books and which books were to be included into the Bible, he noticed that the variations in translations and texts needed to be addressed.  The pope directed Jerome to make an authoritative text of the Scriptures to be used by the universal Church. 
In 384 Jerome began the work of his life, the work that would give him eternal recognition, the work that would give him immortality.  His reputation as an obsessive reader and writer would serve him well.
While he began his project, he was being rumored as the next pope.  However, Jerome’s temperament did not work to his advantage in Rome.  The immorality of Roman society, Christian and non-Christian, was appalling.  He did not hold back in lashing out against the morality of his time with unrelenting and fixated furor.  His pen and tongue became his weapon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Clement of Rome: Friend of the Apostles Peter and Paul

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

The Pontificate of Pope Clement of Rome (88-97)
In the most ancient lists of popes by Hegesippus (ca. 174), Irenaeus (ca. 180), Eusebius (ca. 324), and Epiphanius (ca. 374) Clement is listed as the fourth bishop of Rome, or the third successor of the apostle Peter.
Clement of Rome holds high honor as one who was well acquainted with the apostolic tradition.  In the Pseudo-Clementines Clement is described as a convert of the apostle of Peter.  According to Tertullian’s account (ca. 200) in The Prescription Against the Heretics (3,2), Clement of Rome was ordained a bishop by the apostle Peter.  In Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (3, 3), Clement is described as being acquainted with the apostles, of walking, talking, and learning from their very words and examples. 

The apostles Peter and Paul were to have a great impact on his understanding of Christianity.  Epiphanius in the Panacea Against All Heresies (27, 6) describes Clement as being particularly acquainted with Peter and Paul, and Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (6, 3) (ca. 324-325) would identify Clement with the Clement described in the letter of Paul to the Philippians (4, 3). 
Because of Clement’s familiarity and common use of the Old Testament in his only surviving work, his Epistle to the Corinthians (ca. 96), it is speculated that Clement was of Jewish origin.
Clement’s epistle is a powerful witness to the life of the early Church.  It was a work of such extraordinary status that, as Eusebius states in his Ecclesiastical History (3, 16), “it was publicly read in the common assembly in many churches.”  Polycarp (ca. 69-156), a disciple of the apostle John, quotes it as Scripture in his Letter to the Philippians and Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-216) argued for its inclusion into the canon of the New Testament.  It would not be till the end of the fourth century that the epistle would lose it canonical status.
Little is known about the death of Clement, but Rufinus (ca. 400) and Pope Zozimus (ca. 417) maintain that Clement died a martyr during the persecution of the emperor Trajan.  It is believed that Clement had been banished to the Crimea and eventually martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians
Clement’s epistle was written to bring about peace and tranquility to the historically unstable community of Corinth.  An uprising had developed over the leadership in the church founded by the apostle Paul.  Many were unsatisfied with the demands that were being placed on them to live out the Gospel message to its fullest, and so a group sought to expel and replace the leadership in Corinth.
Clement in this epistle illustrates the importance of the primacy of the Roman church and of the importance of the Church’s hierarchical structure.  As Clement argues:

[After the apostles received] their instructions from God, and after being assured through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ…, they went forth, empowered with the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the good news of the Gospel….  From land to land and from city to city they preached and from among their earliest disciples they appointed men whom they had tested in the Spirit to act as bishops and deacons…. (42).

Equipped as they were with perfect foreknowledge, [the apostles appointed men to the office of bishop, presbyter, and deacon] and afterward laid down a rule once and for all to the following effect:  when these men should die, other approved men are to succeed to their sacred ministry (44).

Clement reminded the community of Corinth that they had no right to remove those that had been placed in positions of authority by the legitimately recognized bishops and their successors.  Unrolling one’s lineage back to the apostles and ultimately back to Christ was an essential component to the understanding of authority in the Church.
The call by Clement to the rebellious group within the community was to “submit to the presbyters and be chastened to repentance….”  This would have a great impact on the community for they recognized that Clement walked with the giants, that he walked and talked with the apostles Peter and Paul and had learned the Way from them.
These passages are clear indicators of the primacy of jurisdiction of the Church of Rome; otherwise, why would Clement be interfering with a community that was not his?  His writing points out that Clement feels obliged to correct the situation at Corinth.  One even gets the impression that he feels that he has been lax in not addressing the problem earlier than he did.

It is quite relevant to note that the apostle John was still alive at the time of the writing of the epistle.  Yet John who lived to the year 100 sensed no obligation to intervene in the community of the Corinthians or with Clement and the church in Rome.  One may surmise from this reality that the Roman church--from its earliest foundation--enjoyed superiority of honor and jurisdiction by virtue of being the church where the successor of Peter resided.

Polycarp, Friend of the Apostles

Fr. John Pasquini, Th.D.

Polycarp (ca. 69-156)
Polycarp was “instructed by the apostles and conversed with them” and constantly taught those things which he had learnt from the apostles” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5, 20).  Irenaeus (ca. 120-220) in his Letter to Florinus, a disciple of Polycarp, gives a precious account of Polycarp’s background:

I can speak about how Polycarp reported his conversations with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, how he remembered their words, and what were the things concerning the Lord which he heard from them, and about their miracles, and about their teaching, and how Polycarp had received [the faith] from the eyewitnesses of the word of life (5, 20).

In Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (3, 36), Polycarp, a colleague of Ignatius of Antioch, is described as “an apostolic man,” and a “companion of the apostles.”  He was a disciple of the apostle John in his youth and was later appointed by John, according to Tertullian in The Demurrer Against Heretics (32) (ca. 200), as the bishop of Smyrna. 

Polycarp describes himself serving Christ for all his life (indicating perhaps that he was baptized as an infant).  He fought Docetism (particularly as it relates to the denial of Christ’s suffering) and Gnosticism (the belief that matter such as flesh was evil).  His well-known connection with the apostle John moved many back to the Catholic faith.

Polycarp was martyred around 156 AD.  The account of his martyrdom is one of the most ancient in recorded history as well as one of the most memorable.  It is a testimony of what early Christians had to bear in times of persecution:

The multitudes immediately gathered together wood and when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments sought to take off his sandals—something he was not used to doing, because every one of the faithful had always been eager to touch his skin.  For, on account of his holy life, he was even before his martyrdom, adorned with every kind of good.  Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile.  But when they were about to fix him with nails, he said, “leave me as I am; for He who gives me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.”  Then they did not nail him then, but simply bound him.  And placing his hands behind him, he was bound like a distinguished ram chosen from a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 15).

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians
The Philippians wrote to Polycarp requesting words of encouragement and the forwarding of whatever epistles of Ignatius he might have had in his possession.  Polycarp forwarded the epistles of Ignatius and in turn wrote to the Philippians his own epistle of encouragement.
Polycarp’s epistle carried great weight in the communities in which it was read.  Jerome mentions that it was still being read as a divinely inspired work (a work of canonical stature) as late as the fourth century.

The epistle’s primary concern is with the care and duties of the married, the widowed, the young, the virgins, and the clergy. He affirmed the orders of bishop, presbyter (priest) and deacon (5; 6).  He warned the faithful against the heresies of Docetism and Gnosticism and the dangers of greed.  He asked his followers to “persevere unceasingly” in the struggle for salvation and to be generous in almsgiving for “alms deliver one from death” (cf. 8; 10).  He also warned his followers to be careful of the immorality of their time:  “Neither fornicators nor the effeminate nor sodomites shall inherit the kingdom of God” (5).  

The Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, ca. 65-120)
The Didache is one of the oldest existing documents—perhaps the oldest in antiquity—on the Church’s early teachings.  One may very well say that the Didache is the oldest source of Church law and order.  It is believed that the twelve apostles wrote this letter to teach the doctrine of Christ to the Gentiles.  It is also possible that it was written around the year 120, still placing it within the period of those who walked and talked with the apostles.  If it was written at a later date, this would make the author or authors unknown.  Whether written by the apostles or written by an unknown author or authors (with the intention of summarizing the doctrines taught by the apostles to the nations) the text’s antiquity cannot be questioned.  It is a work engulfed in the spirit of the apostolic age, some parts of which can be argued to be older than many books of the New Testament. 

The antiquity of this document is attested to by its obvious Jewish influences, the simplistic baptismal and eucharistic rite (one of the most ancient in history), and the still developing understanding of ministerial roles regarding bishops and deacons (It is interesting that the ministerial roles are clearer in the Sacred Scriptures than they are in the Didache).  

The Didache was well known in the early Church by men like Hermas, Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, Clement of Alexandria, and Eusebius.  Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (3, 25) and Athanasius in his Festal Letter (39) make specific reference to it. 

The Didache seems to have been written in Palestine, Egypt or Syria.  These areas seem to be where the Didache took on almost canonical status.  The Jerusalem Codex of the New Testament contains the Didache within it. 

The influence of the Didache can be seen in the Epistle of Barnabas, in particular with regard to the teaching of the “Two Ways” (4:18-20).  Apparent influences can be seen in the works of Justin, Cyprian, Lactantius, Theophilus, and many others.  To this present day, Christianity bears the imprints of the teachings of the Didache.

The way that leads to life is characterized by obeying the following commandments:

·       Do not murder.
·       Do not commit adultery.
·       Do not be sexually perverted or promiscuous by committing sodomy and fornication.
·       Do not steal.
·       Do not practice magic or engage in sorcery.
·       Do not murder a child by abortion, nor kill it at birth.
·       Do not desire your neighbor’s things.
·       Do not be an oath breaker, nor give false testimony, nor be double tongued, nor speak evilly.
·       Let your word be neither empty nor false but fulfilled in practice.
·       Be not greedy, nor a swindler, nor a hypocrite, nor spiteful, nor conceited.
·       Do not plot wickedly against your neighbor.
·       Do not hate any person, but reprove some, and pray for them, and some love more than yourself.
·       In the Church, confess your transgressions, and do not go to prayer with an evil conscience.

The Didache also reminds the faithful of the importance of baptizing people in the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” of confessing one’s sins to a bishop or priest (4:14), of fasting, of almsgiving, of praying the “Our Father” three times a day, of putting one’s faith into practice, of responding to grace in the work of salvation, and of celebrating “Eucharistic thanks and praise” on Sundays.   The Eucharist is seen as “presence” (10:1-4) and as “pure sacrifice” (cf. Ch. 14).  The faithful are warned:  “If anyone is holy, let him advance; if anyone is not, let him be converted” (10:6).  Finally, the imminent return of Christ is to be kept in the forefront of the life of the Christian: “Many will be offended and lost; they who persevere in their faith shall be saved.  Then shall the world see the Lord coming on the clouds of heaven and all his saints with him” (16:1).

The Didache is one of the most ancient documents to attest to the Catholicity of an all-embracing Christian Church (9:4).