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Posted by on Mar 25, 2012

The Church: LA Religious Education Congress

Hello from Los Angeles!

The Religious Education Congress has been excellent — energizing and enlightening.  There has been a decided focus on some basic topics and themes that have been unpopular with most Catholic progressives — things like sin and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It’s all been integrated in a very interesting way.  I believe it may be in reaction to the accusations of the Catholic Right that everyone else in the Church has fallen off the deep end into perdition.  It is also probably in response to the reality of the need for evangelization regarding the need for God in the first place.

Religion is very un-PC at the moment.  “Sin” as a topic is a “no-no.”  Taking responsibility for hurtful acts is very difficult for most people.  The connection between sin and evangelization is that one cannot be a credible witness to the need for faith if one is living a chaotic or destructive life.  Many of the speakers pointed to the need for good decisions, being able to hear God’s voice in the midst of all the competing voices in our culture — security, money, appearances, status etc. —  and having a spiritual director or a personal spiritual coach in the person to whom one goes for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Matthew Kelly noted, “Holiness is attractive.”  We have so many Catholics outside the Church who have been hurt by someone in the Church that we have to look at how committed we are to our own faith — does it really matter?  We are attracted to a Mother Teresa.  She was only one person — a small one at that.  So, Kelly rightly asked — “What’s with the rest of us?”

It’s a good question — one that we would all do well to take as our focus during these final days of Lent and as we go into Easter.


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Posted by on Aug 15, 2008

Marian Theology: The Feast of the Assumption – August 15

Marian Theology: The Feast of the Assumption – August 15

The Assumption by Murillo

The Assumption by Murillo

August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, dates to the 6th and 7th centuries. The official proclamation of the Assumption by Pope Pius XII in Munificentisimus Deus as an article of faith for Catholics occurred recently, on November 1, 1950. Objections to this teaching cite the absence of support for it in Scripture and in the Fathers of the Church. These same arguments are also made against the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which states that Mary received the benefit of the redemption in advance from the moment of her conception. However, since the theological significance of Mary is intertwined with that of Christ, as mother and son, much of what we say about Mary (Mariology) derives from what we say about the identity and meaning of Christ (Christology).

For most Catholics, Orthodox, Coptics, and Anglicans, images and veneration of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, are part of the very fabric of their faith. This emotional and doctrinal emphasis on Miriam of Nazareth gives many in the Anabaptist and Calvinist traditions emotional and doctrinal heartburn. Some evangelicals are strident in their belief that Marian devotion – at best – detracts from the key act of salvation, which they formulate as “accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.”

The notion of salvation in the apostolic churches is centered on the church community. Christ’s death and resurrection has saved all and we enter into this paschal mystery embodied in the church. Our salvation is entering the faith community, the Body of Christ. From the earliest days, the Fathers of the Church identified Mary as the model of the Church. The following excerpt, taken from Wikipedia’s article on Roman Catholic Mariology, summarizes the position and importance of the Blessed Mother. Please note that the words in parentheses are my own.

Pope Benedict XVI addresses the issue, why Mariology is related to ecclesiology (the theology of the Church). On first sight, he argues, it may seem accidental, that the (Second Vatican) Council moved Mariology into ecclesiology. This relation helps to understand what “Church” really is. The theologian Hugo Rahner showed that Mariology was originally ecclesiology. The Church is like Mary.[96]

The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly she learns, that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary on the other hand is not an isolated individual, who rests in herself. She is carrying the mystery of the Church.[97]

Pope Benedict XVI lamented that this unity of Church and Mary was overshadowed in later centuries, which overburdened Mary with privileges and removed her into a far away distance. Both Mariology and ecclesiology suffered under this. A Marian view of the Church and an ecclesiological view of Mary in salvation history lead directly to Christ. It brings to light what is meant by holiness and by God being human.[98]

It is interesting to note that Pope Benedict XVI laments the removal of Mary “overburdened … with privileges.” This is also the image of Mary lamented by the reformation. However, the close identification of Mary with the Church, in the sense that “Mary is carrying the mystery of the Church,” represents a notion of church that many of the reformers rejected. Consequently, they rejected the image and role of Mary, and with it, the redemptive grace and power of the feminine.

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