The 50th Anniversary of Apostolicam Actuositatem

Today, November 18, 2015, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Decree on the Apostolate of the Lay People, Apostolicam Actuositatem. Along with this decree, we also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. See my article on Dei Verbum at CatholicExchange.com.

This document like all the documents from the Second Vatican Council, take their name from the first words of the document itself. The first words – Apostolicam Actuositatem reflect the first sentence of the document, which says, “in its desire to intensify the apostolic activity of the People of God the Council now earnestly turns its thoughts to the Christian laity” [italics mine].

At first, the Council Fathers could not decide what name to give this decree, although many were suggested, they settled on the Apostolate of the Laity, even though many Fathers disagreed on the word apostolate because it was a word that was associated mainly with the priesthood in the 20th century. The primary purpose of this document was to examine how the laity of the Church, while remaining united to the hierarchy of the Church, could assist in bringing the Catholic Church to the modern world.

To conclude today’s blog post, I give you 10 quotes from this document. There are other gems of theological insight in Apostolicam Actuositatem, but these are the ones that out for me –

1. “The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption, and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, which the Church carries on in various ways through all her members”(#2).

2. “The laity derive the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head; incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, they are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself”(#3).

3. Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity’s living union with Christ…”(#4).

4. “Strengthened by active participation in the liturgical life of their community, they are eager to do their share of the apostolic works of that community. They bring to the Church people who perhaps are far removed from it, earnestly cooperate in presenting the word of God especially by means of catechetical instruction, and offer their special skills to make the care of souls and the administration of the temporalities of the Church more efficient and effective…The laity should accustom themselves to working in the parish in union with their priests, bringing to the Church community their own and the world’s problems as well as questions concerning human salvation, all of which they should examine and resolve by deliberating in common” (#10).

Laity Vatican II cover

5. “Since the Creator of all things has established conjugal society as the beginning and basis of human society and, by His grace, has made it a great mystery in Christ and the Church (cf. Eph. 5:32), the apostolate of married persons and families is of unique importance for the Church and civil society. Christian husbands and wives are cooperators in grace and witnesses of faith for each other, their children, and all others in their household. They are the first to communicate the faith to their children and to educate them by word and example for the Christian and apostolic life. They prudently help them in the choice of their vocation and carefully promote any sacred vocation which they may discern in them” (#11).

6. “In loyalty to their country and in faithful fulfillment of their civic obligations, Catholics should feel themselves obliged to promote the true common good. Thus they should make the weight of their opinion felt in order that the civil authority may act with justice and that legislation may conform to moral precepts and the common good. Catholics skilled in public affairs and adequately enlightened in faith and Christian doctrine should not refuse to administer pubic affairs since by doing this in a worthy manner they can both further the common good and at the same time prepare the way for the Gospel” (#14).

7. “Bishops, pastors of parishes, and other priests of both branches of the clergy should keep in mind that the right and duty to exercise this apostolate is common to all the faithful, both clergy and laity, and that the laity also have their own roles in building up the Church. For this reason they should work fraternally with the laity in and for the Church and take special care of the lay persons in these apostolic works” (#25).

8. “The training for the apostolate should start with the children’s earliest education. In a special way, however, adolescents and young persons should be initiated into the apostolate and imbued with its spirit. This formation must be perfected throughout their whole life in keeping with the demands of new responsibilities. It is evident, therefore, that those who have the obligation to provide a Christian education also have the duty of providing formation for the apostolate” (#30).

9. “Schools, colleges, and other Catholic educational institutions also have the duty to develop a Catholic sense and apostolic activity in young persons. If young people lack this formation either because they do not attend these schools or because of any other reason, all the more should parents, pastors of souls, and apostolic organizations attend to it. Teachers and educators on the other hand, who carry on a distinguished form of the apostolate of the laity by their vocation and office, should be equipped with that learning and pedagogical skill that are needed for imparting such education effectively” (#30).

10. “The most holy council, then, earnestly entreats all the laity in the Lord to answer gladly, nobly, and promptly the more urgent invitation of Christ in this hour and the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Younger persons should feel that this call has been directed to them especially and they should respond to it eagerly and generously. Through this holy synod, the Lord renews His invitation to all the laity to come closer to Him every day, recognizing that what is His is also their own (Phil. 2:5), to associate themselves with Him in His saving mission” (#33).

If you have never read any of the documents from the Second Vatican Council, I suggest you read them. Far too many individuals misquote these documents simply because they have never read them. Along with this document on the laity, I would encourage you to also read Christifideles Laici, the Apostolic Exhortation promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II on December 30, 1988. With the help of the Synod Fathers, the Polish Saint picks up where Apostolicam Actuositatem concluded.

This blog post is dedicated to Fr. Daniel Pattee, TOR, Associate Professor of Theology; Director of Mission and Franciscan Charism at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He was the first who illuminated my mind to these documents. 

The 50th Anniversary of Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration On Christian Education)

Today, October 28, 2015 we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration on Christian Education). Along with this declaration, we also commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Christus Dominus (Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops In the Church), Perfectae Caritatis (Decree On Renewal of Religious Life), Optatam Totius, (Decree On Priestly Training), and Nostra Aetate (Declaration On the Relation Of the Church to Non-Christian Religions).

Out of the sixteen documents produced by the Council Fathers, this is one of the shortest, however, just because it’s one of the shortest does not mean its importance is any less. There are two key elements of this declaration: first, it focuses heavily on “the dignity of the human person.” Unlike other papal documents on education as that focused on the family and institutions, this document focuses its attention on the human person. Education should never be just about graduating from an institution of higher learning, getting a job, and making money. Education truly focuses on the importance of the person as well as the common good of society as a whole. The second element of this declaration points out that Christian parents are the principal and primary educators of their children. For a child to have the most solidified education, the parents must be involved and take an active role in both the classical and spiritual formation.

Since parts of this document have not reached fruition yet, it is now our time to assist the Council Fathers in seeing this document bear the fruit it was meant to produce when it was first promulgated. In the latter part of this declaration, the Council Fathers focus on Catholic universities. In a time where most Catholic universities have lost their Catholic identity and focus solely on secular thoughts, we must also read with this document, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Apostolic Constitution promulgated in 1990 by Pope St. John Paul II.

A quick footnote here: we must keep in my mind that most documents from ecumenical councils don’t take hold in the Church for at least 40-50 years after the original council date. We are now at that point.

Source: Liturgical Press (https://www.litpress.org/Home/Index)

Source: Liturgical Press (https://www.litpress.org/Home/Index)

To conclude today’s blog post, I give you ten quotes from the declaration. There are other good quotes from this document, but these stood out to me when I read it –

1. “All men of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education…True education is directed towards the formation of the human person in view of his final end and the good of that society to which he belongs and in the duties of the which he will, as an adult, have a share.”

2. “All Christians…should learn to adore God the Father in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23), especially through the liturgy. They should be trained to live their own lives in the new self, justified and sanctified through the truth (Eph. 4:22-24). Thus they should come to true manhood, which is proportioned to the completed growth of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13), and make their contribution to the growth of the Mystical Body.”

3. “As it is the parents who have given life to their children, on them lies the gravest obligation of educating their family. They must be therefore be recognized as the being primarily and principally responsible for their education.”

4. “It is therefore above all in the Christian family, inspired by the grace and the responsibility of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught to know and worship God and to love their neighbor, in accordance with the faith which they have received in earliest infancy in the sacrament of Baptism.”

5. “The influence of the Church in the field of education is shown in a special manner by the Catholic school. No less than other schools does the Catholic school pursue cultural goals and the human formation of youth. But its proper function is to create for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity, to help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism as they develop their own personalities…”

6. “But let teachers recognize that the Catholic school depends upon them almost entirely for the accomplishment of its goals and programs. They should therefore be very carefully prepared so that both in secular and religious knowledge they are equipped with suitable qualifications and also with a pedagogical skill that is in keeping with the findings of the contemporary world. Intimately linked in charity to one another and to their students and endowed with an apostolic spirit, may teachers by their life as much as by their instruction bear witness to Christ…”

7. “This Sacred Council of the Church earnestly entreats pastors and all the faithful to spare no sacrifice in helping Catholic schools fulfill their function in a continually more perfect way, and especially in caring for the needs of those who are poor in the goods of this world or who are deprived of the assistance and affection of a family or who are strangers to the gift of Faith.”

8. “The Church is concerned also with schools of a higher level, especially colleges and universities. In those schools dependent on her she intends that by their very constitution individual subjects be pursued according to their own principles, method, and liberty of scientific inquiry, in such a way that an ever deeper understanding in these fields may be obtained and that, as questions that are new and current are raised and investigations carefully made according to the example of the doctors of the Church and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas, there may be a deeper realization of the harmony of faith and science.”

9. “Since the destiny of society and of the Church itself is intimately linked with the progress of young people pursuing higher studies, the pastors of the Church are to expend their energies not only on the spiritual life of students who attend Catholic universities, but, solicitous for the spiritual formation of all their children, they must see to it, after consultations between bishops, that even at universities that are not Catholic there should be associations and university centers under Catholic auspices in which priests, religious and laity, carefully selected and prepared, should give abiding spiritual and intellectual assistance to the youth of the university.”

10. “The sacred synod earnestly entreats young people themselves to become aware of the importance of the work of education and to prepare themselves to take it up, especially where because of a shortage of teachers the education of youth is in jeopardy.”

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in Lumen Gentium, Part III

Today we pick up right we where left off in Part II and finish our discussion on the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chapter 8 of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. For the final post on this short series, we will focus our attention on paragraphs 65-69.

# 65: Although Mary, the perfect creature in God’s creation is free of all sin, the faithful of the Church are not and must strive to reach holiness by overcoming the sin that entrap them. As the faithful seek to rid themselves of sin and strive for personal holiness, they should do so by living the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, which are rooted in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the perfect example of all virtues, the faithful should desire to be like Mary in their daily lives. Mary, in her love for Jesus Christ, looks to bring the faithful in relationship with Him by being the everlasting Mother of all humanity – “The Virgin in our own lived an example of that maternal love, by which it behooves that all should be animated who cooperate in the apostolic mission of the Church for the regeneration of men.”

#66 and #67: Paragraph #66 says, “…Hence after the Synod of Ephesus the cult of the people of God toward Mary wonderfully increased in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation, according to her own prophetic words: ‘All generations shall call me blessed, because He that is mighty hath done great things to me.’ This cult, as it always existed, although it is altogether singular, differs essentially fro the cult of adoration which is offered to the Incarnate Word, as well as to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and it is most favorable of it.”

The cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church that the Council Fathers profess is a theological term, which means devotion. The devotion we show to the Blessed Virgin is not the same we show to God. As Catholics, we don’t worship or adore Mary since worship and adoration are meant for God alone (latria), however, being that she is the great Mother of God, we give her honor and veneration in a higher degree (hyperdulia) than the saints who we give recognition and reverence (dulia).

To avoid against excess and defect, as the faithful we must refrain from false exaggeration towards the Blessed Virgin. By following the Magisterium, who has the final word on all matters of faith and morals, we will come to know authentic doctrine in regards to the many teachings on the Blessed Virgin Mary given to us throughout the centuries. The knowledge of authentic knowledge protects us from the extremes when it comes to the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “…True devotion consists neither in sterile or transitory affection, nor in a certain vain credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to know the excellence of the Mother of God…” (#67).

Theotokos - Orthodox

# 68: To provide hope for the faithful of the Church, the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus, the great Blessed and Immaculate Virgin is assumed into Heaven and Crowned the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Mary is “a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth.” She shines as a beacon of hope until the Lord returns someday.

#69: To conclude Lumen Gentium and this chapter on Our Lady, the Council Fathers make an appeal for unity to the Eastern Orthodox (“separated brethren”), since they are our brothers and sisters in the same faith, and who give honor to the great Mother of God. Just as Mary aided in the early church with her prayers, we now pray that Mary, as the Mother of Unity, will unite us once again. In the end, mothers unite children far better than children unite children.

Knowing full well the impact that this document would make on the Church and the impact of Mary, Mother of the Church, Blessed Pope Paul VI solemnly declared on the closing day of the third session in Saint Mary Major,

“For the glory of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our own consolation, we declare most Holy Mary Mother of the Church, that is of the whole Christian people, both faithful and pastors, who call her a most loving Mother; and we decree that henceforth the whole Christian people should, by this most sweet name, give still greater honor to the Mother of God and address prayers to her.”

It’s been my hope that this series focusing on Our Lady from the Second Vatican Council’s document, Lumen Gentium, has taught you some things you did not know before. Please feel free to pass this part as well Parts I and II on to your family and friends.

The 50th Anniversary of Lumen Gentium

Today, November 21, 2014, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Along with this major constitution, we also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches) and Unitatis Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism).

This document like all the documents from the Second Vatican Council, take their name from the first words of the document itself. The first two words – Lumen Gentium – the light of the nations is in reference to Jesus Christ who is the light to the nations. In the world, it is the Church that reflects the light of the Christ. Lumen Gentium is Christ and that is whom the Church must proclaim to all nations.

Like the document that accompanied Lumen Gentium (De Ecclesia – name during the council), Gaudium et Spes, or Schema 13 (name during the council) is a document with a more weighted subject matter – the permanent position of the Church. Where Gaudium et Spes provides the outward understanding of the Church – the Church is a mission, Lumen Gentium focuses on Holy Mother Church and the question, what does she say about herself? The role of Lumen Gentium is to answer the question by listening to the Holy Spirit in our times. This document focuses on the internal understanding of the Church. As a divine institution instituted by Jesus Christ himself, and given to St. Peter, the Church calls out to the world.

The document is composed of eight chapters: 1. The Mystery of the Church; 2. The People of God; 3. The Church is Hierarchical; 4. The Laity; 5. The Call to Holiness; 6. Religious; 7. The Pilgrim Church, and 8. Our Lady.

To conclude today’s blog post, I give you eight quotes for the eight chapters from the document. There are many great gems of theological insight in Lumen Gentium, but these are the ones that have recently stood out for me –

1. “Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk. 16:15)…Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men – she here proposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission” (#1).

2. “The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ, the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element” (#8).

Lumen Gentium

3. “Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and rules the priestly people; in the person of Christ he effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, participate in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, abnegation and active charity” (#10).

4. “From the marriage of Christians there comes the family in which new citizens of human society are born and, by the grace of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, those are made children of God so that the People of God may be perpetuated throughout the centuries. In what might be regarded as the domestic Church [italics mine], the parents, by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They must foster the vocation which is proper to each child, and this with special care if it be to religion” (#11).

5. “The order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff…It is clear, however, that the office of binding and loosing which was given to St. Peter (Mt. 16:19), was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head (Mt. 18:18; 28:16-20)” (#22).

6. “They [the laity] live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence. There they are called by God that, being led by the spirit to the Gospel, they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as fro within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties” (#31).

7. “But if charity is to grow and fructify in the soul like a good seed, each of the faithful must willingly hear the word of God and carry out his will with deeds, with the help of his grace; he must frequently partake of the sacraments, chiefly the Eucharist, and take part in the liturgy; he must constantly apply himself to prayer, self-denial, active brotherly service and the practice of all virtues…the true disciple of Christ is marked by both love of God and of his neighbor” (#42).

8. “Christ lifted up from the earth, has drawn all men to himself (cf. Jn. 12:32). Rising from the dead (cf. Rom. 6:9) he sent his life-giving Spirit upon his disciples and through him set up his Body which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Sitting at the right hand of the Father he is continually active in the world in order to lead men to the Church and, through it, join them more closely to himself; and by nourishing them with his own Body and Blood, make them partakers of his glorious life” (#48).

For an explanation of Chapter 8 – Our Lady, please read “Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in Lumen Gentium, Part I, Part II, and Part III).

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in Lumen Gentium, Part II

Today we pick up right we where left off in Part I and continue to discuss the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chapter 8 of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. For today’s post, we will focus our attention on paragraphs 58-64.

#58: Although the term, Co-Redemptrix or Co-Redemption are not used in this document, it does mean that the Council Fathers do not teach it – they do. However, because of the ecumenical nature of the Council, the Council Fathers chose not to use the term, but when you read this paragraph carefully, you clearly see Mary’s role as Co-Redemptrix is here.

Within this paragraph, we see three elements of Calvary. First, the Council Father’s say that Mary endured with her only begotten son the intensity of his suffering. She endured the pain of the crucifixion. Second, Mary associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart – one sacrifice from two hearts. Finally, lovingly she consented of the annulation, destruction of the victim being offered, of this victim born of her. She not only tolerated the crucifixion, but also consented to it – “enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.”

It was this paragraph that became the foundation for Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church, Redemptoris Mater. John Paul II says that Mary’s consent to this sacrifice is not only a “spiritual crucifixion” for her, but it’s also her second “fiat” – the second sorrowful fiat of Mary. As she consented at the Annunciation to the Mother of the Redeemer, so too here she consents during his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

#59: Drawing from Pope Pius IX’s Papal Bull, Ineffabilis, and Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissiumus Deus, and his Encyclical, Ad coeli Reginam, the Council Father’s state,

“Finally the Immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords, (cf. Apoc 19:16) and conquer of sin and death.”

Queen Mother

This paragraph speaks of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a clear sign that she was Immaculately Conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. In the Kingdom of God, Mary’s role would then be the Queen Mother. She is Queen over all things – here on Earth and in Heaven.

#60: Drawing from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, the Council Father’s explain a point that is often brought up against Mary as being a mediator – “for there is but one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all (2:5-6).

So how does Mary’s mediation work in relation to St. Paul’s words? First, Mary’s mediation does not compete or obscure the mediation of Jesus Christ. Second, our Lady’s mediation is not an inner necessity. God does not have to use a woman, but He does since it is His will (Gen 3:15). Third, the mediation of Mary is dependent on the one mediation of Christ and fosters union with Christ and the faithful.

#61: Here we see the combination of Our Lady as Co-Redemption, which in turn leads to Mediation. This role is a supernatural role. She is a mother to us in the order of grace – she is Co-Redemptrix and then Mediatrix. It does not make any sense that she would distribute grace, unless she herself first acquired it. In her Immaculate Conception, she receives grace. In her role as Mediator, the term that is often used, and it’s the most ancient title for Mary is Advocate. St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the first to use this term.

#62: This paragraph continues to focus on the role of mediator. Mary’s saving office on earth is always subordinate to that of Christ. This saving office in Heaven, where she intercedes for the gifts of eternal life, is still given to her. Through her intercession, we receive protection and sanctification. Although some disagree that these titles should have been added to this paragraph, we see the titles of: Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. In the original schema (the working document), the only term was Mediatrix of all Grace. Some at the Council objected to this term, however, the Council Fathers insisted that this term was included.

#63 & 64: These paragraphs are transitional paragraphs where we see the Blessed Virgin and Mother as the “type” of the Church. It was St. Ambrose of Milan who first defined Mary as a “type” of the Church. Everything that is true of Mary will apply to the Church in its own degree. The terms, virgin and mother, are two examples of the Church. As a mother, The Church gives birth to the sacraments. As a virgin, the Church is entirety and pure – she is pledged to her spouse, Jesus Christ. The Church is both Mother and Bride – “The Church indeed contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father’s will, by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother” (#64).

Next week, we will conclude with Part III and examine paragraphs 65-69.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in Lumen Gentium, Part I

I have been waiting 2 ½ years to write these next three blog posts featured in the “Mondays with Mary” series. Why have I been waiting three years? Well it’s because the next three “Mondays with Mary” will focus on Chapter VIII of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, which will celebrate it’s 50th Anniversary on November 21.

Chapter 8 is composed of five sections – a. Introduction (#52-54); b. The Function of the Blessed Virgin in the Plan of Salvation (#55-59); c. The Blessed Virgin and the Church (#60-65); d. The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church (#66-67); e. Mary, Sign of True Hope and Comfort for the Pilgrim People of God (#68-69). For Part I, we will examine paragraphs 52-57.

#52: Drawing upon the richness found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (4:4), this paragraph first focuses on how God sent his Son to adopt sons under the law. As the subordinate, the Blessed Virgin serves the adopted in this central role of salvation. It is in Galatians 4:4-6 that we see the summary of salvation. Second, the Father sends the Son, however it’s the Father who is the initiator of human redemption. Next, the Son is the Redeemer. The keystone and recapitulation of salvation lies with Him. Fourth, God send his son born of a woman. Mary is identified as the secondary mediator. As Mediatrix, she mediates the Mediator to the world. Fifth, the fruit of this mission are adopted sons, the entire human race. Lastly, the indication that we are adopted sons, in the presence of the Spirit, He calls us the to call out to Him – Abba, Father!

Furthermore, central to the Son’s mission is the woman, the “glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” This first paragraph is defending the highest conceivable devotion of any creature.

#53: “Redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God…” In this paragraph the Council Fathers make reference to Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, celebrated by the universal Church on December 8. The Immaculate Conception is the highest form of redemption. Through the words of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, we know that Mary was conceived in an immaculate way. It is here she becomes the Mother of God and soon the Mother of All Humanity.

#54: “It does not, however, intend to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified.” Overall, it seems that this statement (paragraph 54 in its entirety) drew battle lines among the Council Fathers. At the time of the Council, the primary discussions focused on the roles and titles of Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. Some argued that the term, mediatrix, was not clear enough. Although these terms never appear in the document, the Council Fathers understand Mary to fulfill these roles. It was thought an ecumenical disaster would appear if Mediatrix of All Graces was contained in the documents since there were Protestant observers present.

Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All Graces

#55: Focusing on the references of Mary as a type in the Old Testament, the Council Fathers concentrate on three primary statements: first, that the woman in Genesis 3:15 (the Protoevangelium – first Gospel) is Mary. Second, the Virgin Birth of Emmanuel in Isaiah 7:14 also points to Mary. Finally, the woman in travail who gives birth and brings forth the child in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2-3 is again Mary. In all three references, there is no mention of a husband. They are virgin women.

The Council Fathers discuss the image of “Daughter Zion” in regards to Mary. This daughter is a faithful servant of Israel and faithful to the covenant even onto to death. “The exalted Daughter of Sion and the new plan of salvation is established, when the Son of God has taken human nature from her, that he might in the mysteries of his flesh free man from sin.” This quote also points to the understanding that Jesus’ DNA comes from Mary.

#56: As the previous paragraph focuses on the Old Testament, here we see the Council focusing on Mary in the New Testament. Drawing from the primary scripture verse, Luke 1:28, where the Angel Gabriel says, “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace’, the Lord is with you!” the Council Fathers declare that it states Mary’s role in Salvation History. This event points to the past in her Immaculate Conception and points to the future where she will dispense graces as Mediatrix.

The Council Fathers draw upon Patristic Commentary and turn to St. Irenaeus and St. Jerome. This is the antithetical parallelism – “Death through Eve, life through Mary” (St. Jerome). Mary is the cause of salvation “for herself and the whole human race.” (St. Irenaeus). The whole mystery of the Immaculate Conception is the cause herself. Mary’s fiat, her “yes” allows for Jesus’ death, her first fruit is done in the Immaculate Conception, outside of time, and then the New Adam and New Eve work together to save humanity. She is the first to receive salvation.

#57: An important paragraph since it focuses on the bonding nature between Jesus and Mary. Here we see that the Son and Mother are united for the goal of Redemption. Referencing the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, this paragraph also points to the traditions in the Church such as the Stations of the Cross. Because of her Immaculate Conception, Mary has infused knowledge that is supernatural, but still has tests of faith (three days Jesus is lost).

For Part II, next week’s blog post, we will examine paragraphs 58-64.

The 50th Anniversary of Inter Mirifica

Yesterday, December 4, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Decree on the Media of Social Communications from the Second Vatican Council known as Inter Mirifica. Along with this document we also celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

When the Council Fathers gathered during the early 1960’s, I guarantee they had no idea how social communications and media would develop and advance from the day this document was promulgated by Pope Paul VI. In the 1960’s, computers were housed in entire rooms, now we have computers in our hands. Technological advances have evolved drastically over the past 50 years, but especially in the past 20 years with the advances in laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

These instruments have not only advanced the world we live in, but the Church is using these same tools, along with the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, other social media outlets and Catholic apps to announce the same Gospel proclaimed by the Apostles 2000 year ago. Proposition 18 from the Synod on the New Evangelization states, “Education in the wise and constructive use of social media is an important means to be utilized in the New Evangelization.”

Many seminarians, deacons, priests, bishops, religious sisters, religious orders, dioceses, archdioceses, and even the Pope (@Pontifex) have Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, or both. The Catholic Blogosphere has exploded in recent years with many lay people developing blogs alongside the clergy and religious to promote the beauty and Truth of Jesus Christ and His Church.

Even with all that is on the Internet in regards to the Catholic Church, I recently heard a statistic that shocked me – only 13% of Catholics that attend Mass each Sunday know of a Catholic online presence. What?!

Although Inter Mirifica has taken hold in the life of the Church, there is still a lot more work to be done, if the the above statistic is true. It really takes about 50 years for documents to make their presence felt in the life of the Church after an ecumenical council. With that being said, the documents of the Second Vatican Council are at the beginning stages of bearing their fruit. It’s an exciting time to be a Catholic!

I would encourage you to read the Decree on the Media of Social Communications, Inter Mirifica, as soon as you can. It’s a short document and one that you will understand. If you have any questions about the document, feel free to contact me.

Below are five quotes that stood out for me from Inter Mirifica

“The most important of these inventions are those media which, such as the press, movies, radio, television and the like, can, of their very nature, reach and influence, not only individuals, but the very masses and the whole of human society, and thus can rightly be called the media of social communication” (#1).

“It is the duty of Pastors to instruct and guide the faithful so that they, with the help of these same media, may further the salvation and perfection of themselves and of the entire human family. In addition, the laity especially must strive to instill a human and Christian spirit into these media, so that they may fully measure up to the great expectations of mankind and to God’s design” (#3).

“First, a good press should be fostered. To instill a fully Christian spirit into readers, a truly Catholic press should be set up and encouraged. Such a press-whether immediately fostered and directed by ecclesiastical authorities or by Catholic laymen-should be edited with the clear purpose of forming, supporting and advancing public opinion in accord with natural law and Catholic teaching and precepts…effective support should be given to good radio and television programs, above all those that are suitable for families. Catholic programs should be promoted, in which listeners and viewers can be brought to share in the life of the Church and learn religious truths” (#14).

“Since the proper use of the media of social communications which are available to audiences of different cultural backgrounds and ages, calls for instruction proper to their needs, programs which are suitable for the purpose-especially where they are designed for young people-should be encouraged, increased in numbers and organized according to Christian moral principles. This should be done in Catholic schools at every level, in seminaries and in lay apostolate groups. To speed this along catechetical manuals should present and explain Catholic teaching and regulations on this matter” (#16).

“It will be the task of the Bishops, however, to watch over such works and undertakings in their own dioceses, to promote them and, as far as the public apostolate is concerned, to guide them, not excluding those that are under the direction of exempt religious” (#20).

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen…Pray For Us!