"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Friday 30 November 2012


source: EWTN

The Holy Father, in the homily he gave in St Peter Basilica on 29 June in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, expressed a desire that "the traditional doctrine of the Filioque, present in the liturgical version of the Latin Credo, [be clarified] in order to highlight its full harmony with what the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople of 381 confesses in its creed: the Father as the source of the whole Trinity, the one origin both of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".

What is published here is the clarification he has asked for, which has been undertaken by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It is intended as a contribution to the dialogue which is carried out by the Joint International Commission between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

In its first report on "The Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in the light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity", unanimously approved in Munich on 6 July 1982, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church had mentioned the centuries-old difficulty between the two Churches concerning the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit. Not being able to treat this subject for itself in this first phase of the dialogue, the Commission stated: "Without wishing to resolve yet the difficulties which have arisen between the East and the West concerning the relationship between the Son and the Spirit, we can already say together that this Spirit, which proceeds from the Father (Jn 15:26) as the sole source in the Trinity and which has become the Spirit of our sonship (Rom 8:15) since he is also the Spirit of the Son (Gal 4:6), is communicated to us particularly in the Eucharist by this Son upon whom he reposes in time and in eternity (Jn 1:32)" (Information Service of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, n. 49, p. 108, I, 6).

The Catholic Church acknowledges the conciliar, ecumenical, normative and irrevocable value, as expression of the one common faith of the Church and of all Christians, of the Symbol professed in Greek at Constantinople in 381 by the Second Ecumenical Council. No profession of faith peculiar to a particular liturgical tradition can contradict this expression of the faith taught and professed by the undivided Church.

On the basis of Jn 15:26, this Symbol confesses the Spirit “to ek tou PatroV ekporeuomenon” (“who takes his origin from the Father”). The Father alone is the principle without principle (arch anarcoV) of the two other persons of the Trinity, the sole source (phgh) of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit therefore takes his origin from the Father alone (ek monou tou PatroV) in a principal, proper and immediate manner.1

The Greek Fathers and the whole Christian Orient speak, in this regard, of the "Father's monarchy", and the Western tradition, following St Augustine, also confesses that the Holy Spirit takes his origin from the Father "principaliter", that is, as principle (De Trinitate XV, 25, 47, PL 42, 1094-1095). In this sense, therefore, the two traditions recognize that the "monarchy of the Father" implies that the Father is the sole Trinitarian Cause (Aitia) or principle (principium) of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

This origin of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone as principle of the whole Trinity is called ekporeusiV by Greek tradition, following the Cappadocian Fathers. St Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, in fact, characterizes the Spirit's relationship of origin from the Father by the proper term ekporeusiV, distinguishing it from that of procession (to proienai) which the Spirit has in common with the Son. "The Spirit is truly the Spirit proceeding (proion) from the Father, not by filiation, for it is not by generation, but by ekporeusiV (Discourse 39, 12, Sources chrétiennes 358, p. 175). Even if St Cyril of Alexandria happens at times to apply the verb ekporeusqai the Son's relationship of origin from the Father, he never uses it for the relationship of the Spirit to the Son (Cf. Commentary on St John, X, 2, PG 74, 910D; Ep 55, PG 77, 316 D, etc.). Even for St Cyril, the term ekporeusiV as distinct from the term "proceed" (proienai) can only characterize a relationship of origin to the principle without principle of the Trinity: the Father.

That is why the Orthodox Orient has always refused the formula to ek tou PatroV kai tou Uiou ekporeuomenon and the Catholic Church has refused the addition kai tou Uiou to the formula to ek tou PatroV ekporeuomenon in the Greek text of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Symbol, even in its liturgical use by Latins.

The Orthodox Orient does not, however, refuse all eternal relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit in their origin from the Father. St Gregory of Nazianzus, a great witness to our two traditions, makes this clear in response to Macedonius who was asking: "What then is lacking to the Spirit to be the Son, for if nothing was lacking to him, he would be the Son? — We say that nothing is lacking to him, for nothing is lacking to God; but it is the difference in manifestation, if I may say so, or in the relationship between them (thV pros allhla scesewV diajoron) which makes also the difference in what they are called" (Discourse 31, 9, Sources chrétiennes 250, pp. 290-292).

The Orthodox Orient has, however, given a happy expression to this relationship with the formula dia tou Uiou ekporeuomenon (who takes his origin from the Father by or through the Son). St Basil already said of the Holy Spirit: "Through the Son (dia tou Uiou), who is one, he is joined to the Father, who is one, and by himself completes the Blessed Trinity" (Treatise on the Holy Spirit, XVIII, 45, Sources chrétiennes 17 bis, p. 408). St Maximus the Confessor said: "By nature (jusei) the Holy Spirit in his being (kat’ ousian) takes substantially (ousiodwV) his origin (ekporeuomenon) from the Father through the Son who is begotten (di’ Uiou gennhqentoV)" (Quaestiones ad Thalassium, LXIII, PG 90, 672 C). We find this again in St John Damascene: "(o Pathr) aei hn, ecwn ex eautou ton autou logon, kai dia tou logou autou ex eautou to Pnewma autou ekporeuomenon”, in English: “I say that God is always Father since he has always his Word coming from himself, and through his Word, having his Spirit issuing from him” (Dialogus contra Manichaeos 5, PG 94, 1512 B, ed. B. Kotter, Berlin 1981, p. 354; cf. PG 94, 848-849 A). This aspect of the Trinitarian mystery was confessed at the seventh Ecumenical council, meeting at Nicaea in 787, by the Patriarch of Constantinople, St Tarasius, who developed the Symbol as follows: "to Pneuma to agion, to kurion kai zwopoion, to ek tou Patros dia tou Uiou ekporeuomenon” (Mansi, XII, 1122 D).

This doctrine all bears witness to the fundamental Trinitarian faith as it was professed together by East and West at the time of the Fathers. It is the basis that must serve for the continuation of the current theological dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox.

The doctrine of the Filioque must be understood and presented by the Catholic Church in such a way that it cannot appear to contradict the Monarchy of the Father nor the fact that he is the sole origin (arch, aitia) of the ekporeusiV of the Spirit. The Filioque is, in fact, situated in a theological and linguistic context different from that of the affirmation of the sole monarchy of the Father, the one origin of the Son and of the Spirit. Against Arianism, which was still virulent in the West, its purpose was to stress the fact that the Holy Spirit is of the same divine nature as the Son, without calling in question the one monarchy of the Father.

We are presenting here the authentic doctrinal meaning of the Filioque on the basis of the Trinitarian faith of the Symbol professed by the second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople. We are giving this authoritative interpretation, while being aware of how inadequate human language is to express the ineffable mystery of the Holy Trinity, one God, a mystery which is beyond our words and our thoughts.

The Catholic Church interprets the Filioque with reference to the conciliar and ecumenical, normative and irrevocable value of the confession of faith in the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit, as defined in 381 by the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in its Symbol. This Symbol only became known and received by Rome on the occasion of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451. In the meantime, on the basis of the earlier Latin theological tradition, Fathers of the Church of the West like St Hilary, St Ambrose, St Augustine and St Leo the Great, had confessed that the Holy Spirit proceeds (procedit) eternally from the Father and the Son.2

Since the Latin Bible (the Vulgate and earlier Latin translations) had translated Jn 15:26 (para tou PatroV ekporeuetai) by "qui a Patre procedit", the Latins translated the ek tou PatroV ekporeuomenon of the Symbol of Nicaea-Constantinople by "ex Patre procedentem" (Mansi VII, 112 B). In this way, a false equivalence was involuntarily created with regard to the eternal origin of the Spirit between the Oriental theology of the ekporeusiV and the Latin theology of the processio.

The Greek ekporeusiV signifies only the relationship of origin to the Father alone as the principle without principle of the Trinity. The Latin processio, on the contrary, is a more common term, signifying the communication of the consubstantial divinity from the Father to the Son and from the Father, through and with the Son, to the Holy Spirit.3 In confessing the Holy Spirit "ex Patre procedentem", the Latins, therefore, could only suppose an implicit Filioque which would later be made explicit in their liturgical version of the Symbol.

In the West, the Filioque was confessed from the fifth century through the Quicumque (or "Athanasianum", DS 75) Symbol, and then by the Councils of Toledo in Visigothic Spain between 589 and 693 (DS 470, 485, 490, 527, 568), to affirm Trinitarian consubstantiality. If these Councils did not perhaps insert it in the Symbol of Nicaea-Constantinople, it is certainly to be found there from the end of the eighth century, as evidenced in the proceedings of the Council of Aquileia-Friuli in 796 (Mansi XIII, 836, D, ff.) and that of Aachen of 809 (Mansi XIV, 17). In the ninth century, however, faced with Charlemagne, Pope Leo III, in his anxiety to preserve unity with the Orient in the confession of faith, resisted this development of the Symbol which had spread spontaneously in the West, while safeguarding the truth contained in the Filioque. Rome only admitted it in 1014 into the liturgical Latin version of the Creed.

In the Patristic period, an analogous theology had developed in Alexandria, stemming from St Athanasius. As in the Latin tradition, it was expressed by the more common term of procession (proienai) indicating the communication of the divinity to the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son in their consubstantial communion: "The Spirit proceeds (proeisi) from the Father and the Son; clearly, he is of the divine substance, proceeding (proion) substantially (ousiwdwV) in it and from it" (St Cyril of Alexandria, Thesaurus, PG 75, 585 A) .4

In the seventh century, the Byzantines were shocked by a confession of faith made by the Pope and including the Filioque with reference to the procession of the Holy Spirit; they translated the procession inaccurately by ekporeusiV. St Maximus the Confessor then wrote a letter from Rome linking together the two approaches — Cappadocian and Latin-Alexandrian — to the eternal origin of the Spirit: the Father is the sole principle without principle (in Greek aitia) of the Son and of the Spirit; the Father and the Son are consubstantial source of the procession (to proienai) of this same Spirit. "For the procession they [the Romans] brought the witness of the Latin Fathers, as well, of course, as that of St Cyril of Alexandria in his sacred study on the Gospel of St John. On this basis they showed that they themselves do not make the Son Cause (Aitia) of the Spirit. They know, indeed, that the Father is the sole Cause of the Son and of the Spirit, of one by generation and of the other by ekporeusiV — but they explained that the latter comes (proienai) through the Son, and they showed in this way the unity and the immutability of the essence" (Letter to Marinus of Cyprus, PG 91, 136 A-B). According to St Maximus, echoing Rome, the Filioque does not concern the ekporeusiV of the Spirit issued from the Father as source of the Trinity, but manifests his proienai (processio) in the consubstantial communion of the Father and the Son, while excluding any possible subordinationist interpretation of the Father's monarchy.

The fact that in Latin and Alexandrian theology the Holy Spirit, proceeds (proeisi) from the Father and the Son in their consubstantial communion does not mean that it is the divine essence or substance that proceed in him, but that it is communicated from the Father and the Son who have it in common. This point was confessed as dogma in 1215 by the Fourth Lateran Council: "The substance does not generate, is not begotten, does not proceed; but it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, the Holy Spirit who proceeds: so that there is distinction in persons and unity in nature. Although other (alius) is the Father, other the Son, other the Holy Spirit, they are not another reality (aliud), but what the Father is the Son is and the Holy Spirit equally; so, according to the orthodox and catholic faith, we believe that they are consubstantial. For the Father, generating eternally the Son, has given to him his substance (...) It is clear that, in being born the Son has received the substance of the Father without this substance being in any way diminished, and so the Father and the Son have the same substance. So the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from them both, are one same reality" (DS 804-805).

In 1274 the Second Council of Lyons confessed that "the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two principles but as from one single principle (tamquam ex uno principio)" (DS 850). In the light of the Lateran Council, which preceded the Second Council of Lyons, it is clear that it is not the divine essence that can be the "one principle" for the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism of the Catholic Church interprets this formula in n. 248 as follows: "The eternal order of the divine persons in their consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as the 'principle without principle' (DS 1331), is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Spirit proceeds (Second Council of Lyons, DS 850)".

For the Catholic Church, "at the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father's character as first origin of the Spirit. By confessing the Spirit as he 'who proceeds from the Father' ("ek tou PatroV ekporeuomenon" cf. Jn 15:26), it affirms that he comes from the Father through the Son. The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (Filioque). (...) This legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 248). Being aware of this, the Catholic Church has refused the addition of kai tou Uiou to the formula ek tou PatroV ekporeuomenon of the Symbol of Nicaea-Constantinople in the Churches, even of Latin rite, which use it in Greek. The liturgical use of this original text remains always legitimate in the Catholic Church.

If it is correctly situated, the Filioque of the Latin tradition must not lead to a subordination of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. Even if the Catholic doctrine affirms that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in the communication of their consubstantial communion, it nonetheless recognizes the reality of the original relationship of the Holy Spirit as person with the Father, a relationship that the Greek Fathers express by the term ekporeusiV.5

In the same way, if in the Trinitarian order the Holy Spirit is consecutive to the relation between the Father and the Son, since he takes his origin from the Father as Father of the only Son,6 it is in the Spirit that this relationship between the Father and the Son itself attains its Trinitarian perfection. Just as the Father is characterized as Father by the Son he generates, so does the Spirit, by taking his origin from the Father, characterize the Father in the manner of the Trinity in relation to the Son and characterizes the Son in the manner of the Trinity in his relation to the Father: in the fullness of the Trinitarian mystery they are Father and Son in the Holy Spirit.7

The Father only generates the Son by breathing (proballein in Greek) through him the Holy Spirit and the Son is only begotten by the Father insofar as the spiration (probolh in Greek) passes through him. The Father is Father of the One Son only by being for him and through him the origin of the Holy Spirit.8

The Spirit does not precede the Son, since the Son characterizes as Father the Father from whom the Spirit takes his origin, according to the Trinitarian order.9 But the spiration of the Spirit from the Father takes place by and through (the two senses of dia in Greek) the generation of the Son, to which it gives its Trinitarian character. It is in this sense that St John Damascene says: "The Holy Spirit is a substantial power contemplated in his own distinct hypostasis, who proceeds from the Father and reposes in the Word" (De Fide orthodoxa I, 7, PG 94, 805 B, ed. B. Kotter, Berlin 1973, p. 16; Dialogus contra Manichaeos 5, PG 94, 1512 B, ed. B. Kotter, Berlin 1981, p. 354).10

What is this Trinitarian character that the person of the Holy Spirit brings to the very relationship between the Father and the Son? It is the original role of the Spirit in the economy with regard to the mission and work of the Son. The Father is love in its source (2 Cor 13:13; 1 Jn 4:8,16), the Son is "the Son that he loves" (Col 1:14). So a tradition dating back to St Augustine has seen in the Holy Spirit, through whom "God's love has been poured into our hearts" (Rom 5:5), love as the eternal Gift of the Father to his "beloved Son" (Mk 1:11; 9:7; Lk 20:13; Eph 1:6).11

The divine love which has its origin in the Father reposes in "the Son of his love" in order to exist consubstantially through the Son in the person of the Spirit, the Gift of love. This takes into account the fact that, through love, the Holy Spirit orients the whole life of Jesus towards the Father in the fulfilment of his will. The Father sends his Son (Gal 4:4) when Mary conceives him through the operation of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35). The Holy Spirit makes Jesus manifest as Son of the Father by resting upon him at Baptism (cf. Lk 3:21-22; Jn 1:33). He drives Jesus into the wilderness (cf. Mk 1:12). Jesus returns "full of the Holy Spirit" (Lk 4:1). Then he begins his ministry "in the power of the Spirit" (Lk 4:14). He is filled with joy in the Spirit, blessing the Father for his gracious will (cf. Lk 10:21). He chooses his Apostles "through the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:2). He casts out demons by the Spirit of God (Mt 12:28). He offers himself to the Father "through the eternal Spirit" (Heb 9:14). On the Cross he "commits his Spirit" into the Father's hands (Lk 23:46). "In the Spirit" he descended to the dead (cf. 1 Pt 3:19), and by the Spirit he was raised from the dead (cf. Rom 8:11) and "designated Son of God in power" (Rom 1:4).12 This role of the Spirit in the innermost human existence of the Son of God made man derives from an eternal Trinitarian relationship through which the Spirit, in his mystery as Gift of Love, characterizes the relation between the Father, as source of love, and his beloved Son.

The original character of the person of the Spirit as eternal Gift of the Father's love for his beloved Son shows that the Spirit, while coming from the Son in his mission, is the one who brings human beings into Christ's filial relationship to his Father, for this relationship finds only in him its Trinitarian character: "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6). In the mystery of salvation and in the life of the Church, the Spirit therefore does much more than prolong the work of the Son. In fact, whatever Christ has instituted — Revelation, the Church, the sacraments, the apostolic ministry and its Magisterium — calls for constant invocation

(epiklhsiV) of the Holy Spirit and his action (energeia), so that the love that "never ends" (1 Cor 13:8) may be made manifest in the communion of the saints with the life of the Trinity.


1 These are the terms employed by St Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, Ia, q. 36, a. 3, 1um and 2um.

2 It is Tertullian who lays the foundations for Trinitarian theology in the Latin tradition, on the basis of the substantial communication of the Father to the Son and through the Son to the Holy Spirit: "Christ says of the Spirit: 'He will take from what is mine' (Jn 16:14), as he does from the Father. In this way, the connection of the Father to the Son and of the Son to the Paraclete makes the three cohere one from the other. They who are one sole reality (unum) not one alone (unus) by reason of the unity of substance and not of numerical singularity" (Adv. Praxean, XXV, 1-2). This communication of the divine consubstantiality in the Trinitarian order he expresses with the verb "procedere" (ibid., II, 6). We find this same theology in St Hilary of Poitiers, who says to the Father: "May I receive your Spirit who takes his being from you through your only Son" (De Trinitate, XII, PL 10, 471). He remarks: "If anyone thinks there is a difference between receiving from the Son (Jn 16:15) and proceeding (procedere) from the Father (Jn 15:26), it is certain that it is one and the same thing to receive from the Son and to receive from the Father" (De Trinitate, VIII, 20, PL 10, 251 A). It is in this sense of communication of divinity through procession that St Ambrose of Milan is the first to formulate the Filioque: "The Holy Spirit, when he proceeds (procedit) from the Father and the Son, does not separate himself from the Father and does not separate himself from the Son" (De Spiritu Sancto, I, 11, 120, PL 16, 733 A = 762 D). St Augustine, however, takes the precaution of safeguarding the Father's monarchy within the consubstantial communion of the Trinity: "The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father as principle (principaliter) and, through the latter's timeless gift to the Son, from the Father and the Son in communion (communiter)" (De Trinitate, XV, 25, 47, PL 42, 1095). St Leo, Sermon LXXV, 3, PL 54, 402; Sermon LXXVI, 2, ibid. 404).

3 Tertullian uses the verb procedere in a sense common to the Word and the Spirit insofar as they receive divinity from the Father: "The Word was not uttered out of something empty and vain, and he does not lack substance, he who proceeded (processit) from such a [divine] substance and has made so many [created] substances" (Adv. Praxean, VII, 6). St Augustine, following St Ambrose, takes up this more common conception of procession: "All that proceeds is not born, although what is born proceeds" (Contra Maximinum, II, 14, 1, PL 42, 770). Much later St Thomas Aquinas remarks that "the divine nature is communicated in every processing that is not ad extra" (Summa Theologica, a, q. 27, a. 3, 2um). For him, as for all this Latin theology which used the term "procession" for the Son as well as for the Spirit, "generation is a procession which puts the divine person in possession of the divine nature" (ibid., a, q. 43, a. 2, c), for "from all eternity the Son proceeds in order to be God" (ibid.). In the same way, he affirms that "through his procession, the Holy Spirit receives the nature of the Father, as does the Son" (ibid., a, q. 35, a. 2, c). "Of words referring to any kind of origin, the most general is procession. We use it to indicate any origin whatever; we say, for instance, that the line proceeds from the point; that the ray proceeds from the sun, the river from its source, and likewise in all kinds of other cases. Since we admit one or another of these words that evoke origin, we can therefore conclude that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son" (ibid., a, q. 36, a. 2, c).

4 St Cyril bears witness here to a Trinitarian doctrine common to the whole school of Alexandria since St Athanasius, who had written: "Just as the Son says: 'All that the Father has is mine' (Jn 16:15), so shall we find that, through the Son, it is all also in the Spirit" (Letters to Serapion, III, 1, 33, PG 26, 625 B). St Epiphanius of Salamis (Ancoratus, VIII, PG 43, 29 C) and Didymus the Blind (Treatise on the Holy Spirit, CLIII, PG 34, 1064 A) link the Father and the Son by the same preposition ek in the communication to the Holy Spirit of the consubstantial divinity.

5 "The two relationships of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Father oblige us to place two relationships in the Father, one referring to the Son and the other to the Holy Spirit" (St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia, q. 32, a. 2, c).

6 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 248.

7 St Gregory of Nazianzus says that "the Spirit is a middle term (meson) between the Unbegotten and the Begotten" (Discourse 31, 8, Sources chrétiennes 250, p. 290). Cf. also, in a Thomistic perspective, G. Leblond, "Point of view on the procession of the Holy Spirit", in Revue Thomiste, LXXXVI, t. 78, 1978, pp. 293-302.

8 St Cyril of Alexandria says that "the Holy Spirit flows from the Father in the Son (en tw Uiw)”, Thesaurus, XXXIV, PG 75, 577 A).

9 St Gregory of Nyssa writes: "The Holy Spirit is said to be of the Father and it is attested that he is of the Son. St Paul says: ‘Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him’ (Rom 8:9). So the Spirit who is of God [the Father] is also the Spirit of Christ. However, the Son who is of God [the Father] is not said to be of the Spirit: the consecutive order of the relationship cannot be reversed" (Fragment In orationem dominicam, quoted by St John Damascene, PG 46. 1109 BC). And St Maximus affirms in the same way the Trinitarian order when he writes: "Just as the Thought [the Father] is principle of the Word, so is he also of the Spirit through the Word. And, just as one cannot say that the Word is of the voice [of the Breath], so one cannot say that the Word is of the Spirit" (Quaestiones et dubia, PG 90, 813 B).

10 St Thomas Aquinas, who knew the De Fide orthodoxa, sees no opposition between the Filioque and this expression of St John Damascene: "To say that the Holy Spirit reposes or dwells in the Son does not exclude his proceeding from the Son; for we say also that the Son dwells in the Father, although he proceeds from the Father" (Summa Theologica, a, q. 36, a. 2, 4um).

11 St Thomas Aquinas, following St Augustine, writes: "If we say of the Holy Spirit that he dwells in the Son, it is in the way that the love of one who loves reposes in the loved one" (Summa theologica, la, q. 36, a. 2, 4um). This doctrine of the Holy Spirit as love has been harmoniously assumed by St Gregory Palamas into the Greek theology of the ekporeusiV from the Father alone: "The Spirit of the most high Word is like an ineffable love of the Father for this Word ineffably generated. A love which this same Word and beloved Son of the Father entertains (crhtai) towards the Father: but insofar as he has the Spirit coming with him (sunproelqonta) from the Father and reposing connaturally in him" (Capita physica XXXVI, PG 150, 1144 D-1145 A).

12 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, nn. 18-24, AAS LXXVIII, 1986, 826-831. Cf. also Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 438, 689, 690, 695, 727.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
20 September 1995, page 3

L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
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Wednesday 28 November 2012


Hildegard and Vianney were transformative preachers, catalysts for change—Hildegard by her presence in what was … a “man’s world;”  Vianney  by living his life as a “sermon of humility” in the Age of Enlightenment, when humanity cast aside spiritual values for …  science and reason. 

Every preacher faces a choice.  One can preach stability, promoting the existing spiritual situation of the congregation. This is preaching what the congregation desires to hear: they are doing well and they are headed for salvation.  On the other hand, one can decide to preach transformation, promoting a higher level of spirituality for a congregation so it can recognize the need to move closer to the Triune God.  Most congregations do not like to hear preaching that tells them to change, making them uncomfortable with the lives they lead.  Transformative preaching takes courage and skill.  A quick review of the preaching lives of two historical preachers might put this concept into better focus.

On the surface, there are few preachers less alike than St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney.  Hildegard of Bingen was a female aristocrat, abbess, and mystic, who was comfortable with Pope Eugenius III, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa.  Jean Vianney was a male of peasant stock who served as a simple parish priest for forty-one years, in the tiny French hamlet of Ars, where he was comfortable with members of his congregation, peasant farmers and shopkeepers.  If that is not enough diffusion, they lived eight centuries apart in totally different historical, social, and political milieus.

This paper argues that both Hildegard and Vianney were transformative preachers, catalysts for change.  Hildegard broke new ground simply by her presence in what was, and is, in many cases, a “man’s world.”  Vianney broke new ground by living his life as a “sermon of humility” in the Age of Enlightenment, when humanity had cast aside spiritual values for a life ruled by science and reason.  Hildegard and Vianney stand out as heroic preachers, whose lives need to be studied for their relevance today.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) was born in present day Germany, the tenth child of a medieval knight and his lady.  She was called to her vocation through visions from God commencing in her early youth.  Edwards indicates that “Hildegard was precociously religious, having her first visionary experience before she was five.” 1  Eventually her visions directed her to write down what she had received.  “While she was writing, her project came to the attention of Pope Eugenius, who read what she had done and commanded her to finish the work.” 2  Using the Pope’s authority, she skillfully expanded it to preaching and, in 1160, Hildegard began preaching publicly in Trier, and other cities along the Main River, a tributary to the Rhine.

Some seven centuries later, Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney (1786 – 1859) followed in the preaching footsteps of Hildegard.  While there is no evidence he received dramatic visions prior to his ordination, we can estimate the influence of his calling to preach by measuring the perseverance he exhibited in becoming a priest, and in his realizing that preaching was a critical characteristic of his vocation. 3  Vianney was born on May 8, 1796, in the small farming community of Dardilly, a few kilometers west of Lyon, France.  His birth occurred a scant three years before the French Revolution rocked the world, destroyed the Old Order, driving priests underground to hide from the Reign of Terror. Lomask tells of a very young Vianney helping hide a priest on the family farm during this period. 4  Despite these, Vianney responded to God’s call.  When the political winds shifted in France, and the Catholic Church was once again allowed to care for the souls of French people, Vianney pursued the call to the priesthood, a call to preach with vigor.  The immediate problem was that “Vianney knew how to farm; he did not know how to read.” 5   Vianney’s lack of a formal education did not stop him from studying endless hours.  He was tutored extensively by his friend and spiritual advisor, Monsieur Charles Balley, the Cure of Ecully.  Balley was a priest of the Diocese of Lyon. He so closely and astutely guided Vianney that he was finally admitted to St. Irenaeus Seminary. However, after six months, the faculty dismissed the future patron saint of the world’s parish priests with the lowest marks they could give.  He fell into despair. But, as Rutler puts it, he then turned to the female of the species, two of them in fact:  “After being dismissed, he went to his mother’s grave and wept.  He then turned to Christ’s own mother … By kneeling in the face of affliction, and saying “Amen,” suffering moved from humiliation to humility … Again, Monsieur Balley gave him a crash course, presenting him for the ordination examination.  Finally, he was ordained as a priest on August 22, 1815 at Grenoble.” 6

Clearly, both Hildegard of Bingen, and Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, were called to preach. However, being called, and being a transformative preacher, are not synonymous.  Craddock adds to the calling theme by stating that those called to be effective preachers are also called to a life of study:

    The hours of study bear directly and immediately on whom the minister is, and the ministers influence, by word and action.  It is in the study that so much of the minister’s formation of character and faith takes place … Study is an act of obedience … It is a time of worship … It is a time of pastoral work … Finally, is it a homiletical act that breeds confidence, and releases the powers of communication. 7

Pasquarello believes, along with Sts Augustine, that the joy of knowing God is essential for the preacher. One of the best ways to know God is to follow the Dominican model which “required constant immersion in liturgical, intellectual, and moral training.” 8  The question before us now is did Hildegard and Vianney pursue a life of study?

That Hildegard of Bingen was a devoted student all her life can be demonstrated by reverse osmosis, in that we can estimate her study by the amount and scope of her intellectual output.  Wilson tells us that “although she was forty-three before she began to write, the writing, and range of her writing, exceeds that of most men of her time.  Her surviving works include biographies of saints; books on cosmology, doctrine, ethics, and medicine; visionary treatises on God’s ways, life’s merits, and divine works; hymns, canticles, and a musical morality play; and several hundred sermons.” 9  Wilson indicates that she was a scholar, self-taught perhaps, but a lifelong scholar, indeed. She hid this with a political savvy because women prophets were acceptable to men of her age; women scholars were not.

Vianney is another personality altogether.  “Though he was of average intelligence ,and his masters never seem to have doubted his vocation, his knowledge was extremely limited, being confined to a little arithmetic, history, and geography, and he found learning excessively difficult.” 10  This, and his failure at the seminary, indicate he was not likely a life-long student. He would have been happy, it seems, to leave the world of books for the simple pastoral duties in the village of Ars.  However, “Monsieur Balley introduced him to most of his favorite writers.  And after a while, he knew them almost on a conversational basis…Gradually, St. Jerome and St. Vincent (De Paul) began to sound like Vianney, if only because Vianney at night had been spending so much time in the land of Jerome and Vincent.” 11  He was often known to walk the thirty-five kilometers to Lyon to buy books for the library at his parish, Notre Dame de Misercorde.

Underlying the call to preach, and acceptance of it, is dedicated study throughout the preacher’s life.  Pasquarello states that the grammar of the preaching life calls us to an integrative way of being and knowing that involves vigorous study, prayerful direction, and loving obedience in the conformity of humanity to the grammar of Christ. 12  Both Hildegard of Bingen and Jean Vianney followed this way to Christ, becoming preachers of excellence, transformative preachers, whom one might even call “agents of change.”  They became the ‘living sermons” of St. Augustine, moving others to see the presence of God in their lives.

Hildegard’s position as abbess gave her preaching authority, but it was limited to preaching to her cloistered nuns.  In 1160, however, “Hildegard emerged even further into public life, embarking on a series of preaching tours … During her second tour, she took the highly unusual step (for a woman) of preaching in public at Trier, followed by public preaching at Metz and Krauftal.  On her third tour, undertaken sometime before 1163, she went north to Cologne and Werden; her fourth, in 1170, took her south to Zwiefalten.” 13

A woman preaching publicly in the Middle Ages is evidence enough of heroic virtue.  What drove Hildegard to preach in public?  Her motivation was to obey God’s commands, and in doing so, she became so transformative because her preaching expressed a need to instigate church reform.  Dryer argues that Hildegard expressed “her religious passion through an intense commitment to reform, virtue, and compassion for others.” 14  Flanagan goes further, arguing that “Official recognition that Hildegard’s work was divinely inspired, served to disarm potential critics, and allowed Hildegard a good deal of freedom to criticize the shortcomings of her spiritual superiors.  She saw herself as continuing the works of the prophets in proclaiming the truths that God wished humanity to know.” 15  It is doubtful that the clergy of the day welcomed many of those truths.  Wilson provides a sample of her preaching to clergy in Cologne, showing Hildegard as a transformative preacher of heroic proportions:

    Oh, my dear sons, who feed my flocks … I have placed you like the sun, and other luminaries, that you may give light to men through the fire of teaching … But you are prostrate and do not sustain the Church.  You flee to the cavern of your delight and, because of the tedium of riches and the avarice of other vanities, you do not fill those under you, nor allow them to seek teaching from you. 16

Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney was a transformative preacher also. But he accomplished change less dramatically than Hildegard, through his humility and perseverance, bringing Christian joy to a listless and sinful congregation.  Today, there are 85 of his sermons extant. “These sermons were written for a lax parish, one that had been without a priest for some time.  They are phrased to jar a spiritually complacent people from their lethargy—to blast them into consciousness about the reality of their situation.  Therefore, they are strong—strongly worded, penetratingly pointed, at man’s own spiritual deception.” 17

Trochu indicates Vianney preached plainly, principally on morality, the sinfulness of a peasant community, where the hardships of life lead to heavy drinking, and promiscuity, at local cabarets.  Reading these sermons today, one is struck by their severity, their seeming lack of compassion.  He was a very direct preacher, giving practical solutions from the pulpit.  This aligns Vianney with “plain style” preachers, which came about as a negative reaction to the Metaphysical School predominate in the early Reformation Period.  A short sample of one of Vianney’s sermons follows.  This particular work is entitled Follow One Master Only.

    Let me put it even more clearly: you would like it if your conscience, if your heart, would allow you to go to the altar in the morning, and dance in the evening; to spend part of the day in church, and the remainder in the cabarets, or other places of amusement; to talk to God at one moment, and the next, to tell obscene stories, or utter calumnies about your neighbor.  Dear friends, you cannot follow the world, and the pleasures of the world, and Jesus Christ with the Cross. 18

Imagine being in the Ars congregation, and hearing these words directed to you by a man people are calling a “living saint!”  These are not words that would make you feel comfortable.  These are the words of a transformative preacher.

We preachers of the 21st century have much to learn from our forebears—men and women like St. Hildegard of Bingen. and St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney.  Studying them helps one come to a decision point.  At the next preaching event, is Jesus calling me to be a preacher of the status quo, or be a transformative preacher?  Craddock puts it another way:

    All of us know that it is in being kind that we become kind, in behaving as Christians that we become Christians.  Is it unreasonable to believe, then, that it is in listening to our own sermons that we become more passionately convinced?  If this is our conviction, then re-experiencing the message as we deliver it cannot fail to be a time of speaking from passion to passion. 19

Hildegard of Bingen and Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney were speaking passion to passion.  They were transformative preachers.

    O.C. Edwards Jr., A History of Preaching (Nashville: Abington Press, 2004), 198. ?
    Ibid., 198. ?
    See Abbe Francis Trochu, The Cure D’Ars: St Jean-Marie Baptists Vianney (1786-1859): according to the Acts of the Process of Canonization and numerous hitherto unpublished documents, trans. Dom Ernest Graf, O.S.B. (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne LTD., 1927) .  This work remains as the premier biography of Vianney.  Trochu’s Chapter XXVIII, “The Great Mystical Experiences of the Cure D’Ars” refers to his visions, all of which take place following his ordination and installation as chaplain and later pastor at Ars. ?
    Milton Lomask, The Cure of Ars (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1958), 20-30. ?
    George William Rutler, The Cure D’Ars Today: Saint John Vianney (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 67. ?
    Ibid., 82-88. ?
    Ibid., 70. ?
    Michael Pasquarello, We Speak Because We Have First Been Spoken: A Grammar of the Preaching Life, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 68. ?
    Paul Scott Wilson, A Concise History of Preaching, (Nashville: Abington Press, 1992), 73-77. ?
    Catholic Encyclopedia, “St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney,” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08326c.htm  (accessed February 27, 2012). ?
    Rutler, The Cure D’Ars Today, 122. ?
    Pasquarello, We Speak Because We Have First Been Spoken: A Grammar of the Preaching Life, 144. ?
    Sabina Flanagan, “Hildegard von Bingen,” Dictionary of Literary Biography, ed. James Hardin and Will Hasty (Detroit: Gale Research, 1995), 70-71. ?
    Elizabeth A. Dryer, Hildegard of Bingen and Hadewijch of Brabant (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2005), 93. ?
    Sabina Flanagan, Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179: A Visionary Life (London: Routledge, 1989) 59. ?
    Wilson, A Concise History of Preaching, 76. ?
    Thomas A. Nelson, “Publisher’s Preface,” in The Sermons of the Cure of Ars, trans. Una Morrissy (Charlotte: Tan Books, 1995), x. ?
    St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, The Sermons of the Cure of Ars, tr. by Una Morrissy (Charlotte: Tan Books, 1995), 25. ?
    Fred B. Craddock, Preaching, 2


Monday 26 November 2012


The Basilica of St Anthony of Padua, where he is buried.

Catholicism before Vatican II appeared to be Christianity interpreted by lawyers.   The mystery of the Cross was reduced to being the paying of a legal debt to the Father by Christ on our behalf;, sins were neatly labelled "mortal" and "venial, and missing Mass on Sundays was mortal"; the Church was held together by jurisdiction that flowed from Rome.  Everything could be controlled by those with the authority to do so, because almost everything was measurable.   Merits were transferable, and indulgences could be measured in days and years, not to say complete remission of punishment due to sin: for yes, people went to hell or purgatory by legal sentencing.

The lawyers made Christian life so simple.   People knew exactly where they were and what they had to do.   The problem was that this legalist version of Catholicism begged so many questions, the least of which being how faithful to the Gospel was all this.

Then came Vatican II where the legalistic version of Christianity simply ceased to lack credibility.  The mystery of the cross is the passage of Christ through loving and humble obedience unto death to the life of the Resurrection, and we and all creation pass through Christ's life, death and resurrection into sharing in the very life of God (theosis); the Church receives its basic unity, a unity of identity, from the absolute identity of each celebration of the Eucharist throughout time and space, just as each consecrated host is Christ, and all together, wherever they are, are Christ.

   The unity of all with the Pope is a consequence of this Eucharistic identity, so that all local churches are identical with the local church of Rome, and Rome can be a model for all without imposing itself on the local churches, and union with the Pope can enable all the churches and their members throughout the world to act as one single Church.   The universal canonical system is built on the eucharistic communion and the ecclesial love that comes from it and not the other way round.    The holiness of each belongs to all, and we are only holy in so far as we can include all in our love which reflects and is an instrument of the love of God in Christ.   Indulgences have Christian meaning in so far as they reflect this mutual co-responsibility in love which binds the Church in heaven and earth as one in Christ.

This sudden withdrawal of a legalistic interpretation has bad consequences in the in-between time, where the faithful have left it behind but have not yet adopted what is to replace it, or, at least, have not yet appropriated for themselves the Vatican II insight into the nature of salvation.   For Vatican II, our  relationship with God consists of our participation in the Mystery of Christ's death, resurrection and ascension,which is celebrated eternally in heaven; and our own lives are taken up into this Mystery by our participation in the Church's liturgy on earth.   It is through the Church in its liturgical celebration of the Christian Mystery that the whole of humanity, and, indeed, the whole of creation obtain their supernatural vocation.

  Priests used to be told that they have a grave obligation, under mortal sin, to say the Office; but the distinction between mortal and venial sin has become blurred, and Christianity is not about legalism: so many gave up praying the Office.   Laity used to be told that they were bound under mortal sin to go to Mass on Sunday; but now they do not pay the same attention to rules, and many, like the pilgrim below, have stopped going to Mass in a regular way.   The priest does not realize that he cannot normally function as a priest without participating in the Prayer of the Church, because it is only out of obedience to the Church that he can love in harmony with the Spirit and thus love the people with Christ's own Love.  The same can be said for members of the laity and their obligation to go to Sunday Mass: it is in Sunday Mass that our lives become united with Christ's Life and we become points of contact between heaven and earth, both for our own benefit and for others.   I cannot help thinking that the child-abuse scandal has reached such proportions because priests have abandoned the idea that all sexual sins are mortal sins, but have not yet truly participated in the life of Christ available in the Eucharist.  There are many transitional problems, in morals, in liturgy, in the relationship between the Vatican and the rest of the Church, because the Vatican II project at all levels has not yet finished.   People, from pope to pleb, need time to change gear, and it is going to take generations before the Church becomes what Vatican II held out to it as a goal.

At the end of this this post there is a video on the "Vatican Implosion", a lecture given by Robert Mickens of the "Tablet".   I agree with his facts, though I also believe that there are many positive trends as well.   I also believe that the Vatican is a bit out of touch.   Anyone who thinks that by forbidding the discussion of women priests the problem will go away must be out of touch.  The same can be said about celibacy.  Also, by not encouraging open discussion of the subjects that concern people, the formation of maverick groups to discuss them is inevitable; and it is they, not the Vatican, that will receive the attention of the media.  This will give the impression to the world that the Vatican uses authority because it refuses to admit the obvious.

Nevertheless, I disagree with his over all interpretation.   It is not all collapse and retreat.   Vocations to the priesthood and sisterhoods are getting less and less, but certain vocations are flourishing, ones that look as though they offer a real alternative to secular life.  Those religious congregations that have adapted their appearance to go unnoticed in the world around them are dying out.   For many congregations, giving up the habit and living "ordinary" lives has become an ecclesiastical form of harakiri.   It is a question of marketing.  The English Dominicans are an interesting example.  After the Council they went around in jeans, banned the bomb and revelled in the New Left.   They also lost vocations.  There is a joke about a phrase written by a Dominican student on a notice that listed those during the year who had left the order and gave information on what they were doing.   The student wrote, "The last one to leave, please turn off the lighta."   Since then, they have reverted to the habit, have put great emphasis on the worthy celebration of the liturgy - something they were not noted for before Vatican II - and stress the monastic side to their vocation.  They are probably the most successful order for vocations in England.   In most countries, there are flourishing examples of Benedictine monasteries and of others that are not doing too badly, considering the "implosion".   Then there are the new communities that have been founded since Vatican II, especially in France, but in Belgium, Spain and Germany as well - I don't know about the United States.   Then there are the movements like the charismatic renewal, the Focolare and many others; and I don't suppose there has been any century that has so many lay people so dedicated - as dedicated as any priest or nun - to work in the Church "full time".   However, there is one thing I have noticed: it is not, on the whole, the "liberal" types that are entering convents, seminaries and monasteries, nor do the most successful movements belong to the liberal wing.   For one and a half years I was assistant priest in a "liberation theology" parish in Cajamarca, Peru.   I noticed that the only people with the spiritual energy enough to participate in the social projects organized  by the parish when their own self-interest was not involved were the Confraternity of the Passion that traditionally organized the Good Friday celebrations and the Confraternity of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.   As far as the laity were concerned, the backbone of the parish was the people with the most traditional piety.   No, if anyone is imploding, it is the liberals.

That the Catholic Church is in crisis is obvious.   We did not foresee it as Vatican II came to a close.  Robert Mickens interprets it as an implosion and seems to believe that the Vatican has had its day.  In contrast, I believe it is a crisis in which the Church re-adjusts to a new position in society in which it can, eventually, be more true to itself.   I agree with the Pope that general councils normally produce chaos, bitterness and division; but that, at the end of the process, the Church comes out better than when it went in; but it takes time.   We are in a time of inevitable change and can only guess at the outcome.   The picture given us in Vatican II of the Church has not yet been realized.   The liturgy is only partially expressing all that Vatican II hoped for.   There is a sense in which the liturgy is bigger than we are, and its formation involves the Holy Spirit as well as liturgists, ecclesiastical authorities and celebrants.  I believe there are more changes to come, in God's good time.  

 The move towards Collegiality has been slow and timid, with two paces forward and one pace back, and there it has stayed.   I am sure that, one day, the model of absolute power with the Pope behaving like an ecclesiastical Louis XIVth will be replaced by a model based on ecclesial communion; but, for that to happen, everyone has to change, not just the Pope and the Vatican.   Using modern methods of communication, it is becoming possible to become one, single communion in Christ to a degree that has never been known before.  However, I think we cannot do it without the help of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches who share with us the Apostolic Tradition.    Also, I don't believe that women priests can be fairly tackled until we can reach a conclusion together with these churches.  The problem is that the Catholic Church is not a political society with powers inherent in itself.   It is the most imperfect of societies because its most important powers, essential for its existence, exist outside it because they are the powers of God, working in the Church.   They are not under the Church's control.   A lonely hermit can be nearer to a solution than a vote in synod.

 I am not troubled that the young priests and religious are more conservative than we are.   This is natural.  That is how societies, including the Church, advance.   I am certain of two things about this: firstly, that young priests grow old and, quite often, mellow and mature with age, but not always; and, secondly, the young priests when the present ones are old will have very different ideas and will be advocating a very different liturgy from the one their elders are accustomed to celebrate.   Anyway, that birettas, pom-poms and lace have anything to do with the worthy celebration of the Mass is a ludicrous idea than can only have a very short life.   On the other hand, if people are well centred in their approach to the liturgy, they can wear birettas, pom-poms and lace if they want to.   I am sure that we oldies who rejoiced at the introduction of the Misa Normativa are making our contribution, and that the modern young conservatives will help us recuperate what, perhaps, in our haste for change, we threw over.  However, further change is called for, and it may take a couple of generations yet to fulfil the task that Vatican II started and to give to the Misa Normativa its final shape.

Time will tell who is right, Robert Mickens or me.   What do you think?

He is young, active, educated. He rarely goes to Mass but admires the saints and believes firmly in the resurrection. This is the profile of the modern devotee of Saint Anthony of Padua
by Sandro Magister (for source click here)

ROME, October 29, 2012 – In Italy "there exists in the Christian people a widespread treasure of humble and everyday heroism, which does not make news but builds history." This was said at the synod by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian episcopal conference. Adding that however "the people whom we meet in our communities often must rediscover the faith or discover it."

In recent days a sociological survey has been published that says a great deal about this widespread and multiform Christianity that characterizes "the Italian exception," but not only that.

The subject of the survey is the pilgrims who go to one of the most visited shrines in the world: the basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua.

Over the span of a year, there are about four million visitors to this shrine. But the survey took a specific portion of these into examination. It concentrated on those 200,000 pilgrims who filed past of the body of the saint over the six days of February 2010, from Monday the 15th to Saturday the 20th, during a rare public display.

They were cold winter days. But the line at the entrance of the basilica was very long, and the walk lasted for hours. Many more people came with respect to the previous display of the body of the saint, in 1981. Then there were 22,000 a day, this time 33,000.

The socio-religious profile of these pilgrims reveals surprising traits.

The first of these concerns their age. The largest group are not the elderly, but the middle-aged, between 45 and 59, 36.6 percent of the total. But above all there was a strong presence of the younger age group, between 30 and 44, 26.4 percent, and of the young, between 16 and 29, 14.1 percent.

Compared to the practicing Catholics who go to Mass every Sunday in Italy, middle-aged to elderly and two out of three of them women, the pilgrims of St. Anthony therefore appear decisively younger. And without significant differences between the sexes.

The second surprising element is education. The visitors of the saint turn out to be more educated both with respect to the average of the Italian population, and, to an even more pronounced extent, with respect to regular practitioners. One out of four has a university degree, and four out of ten have high school diplomas. Moreover, almost all of them are involved in some work activity.

Third finding. A large portion of the pilgrims, about half, go to Mass sporadically: at Christmas, at Easter, and on other rare occasions.

But at the same time – the fourth finding, and the most striking – they demonstrate that they believe in the central truths of Christianity to a much greater extent than regular practitioners. Fully 83.4 percent believe in the resurrection of Jesus and of all. When instead in the neighboring diocese of Rovigo a similar survey found that only 31.4 percent of the population believe in the resurrection, and only 58.5 percent of Catholics who go to Mass every Sunday.

The fifth significant finding, the pilgrims approach St. Anthony not so much to implore a grace or a miracle, but simply to give thanks, or because they are seeking spiritual protection in him.

The survey is much more extensive. But these five traits are enough to construct a profile of the pilgrim that reflects a very modern condition of belief, that brought to light in the capital work of the Canadian Charles Taylor, "A Secular Age."

It is the condition of the believer in a society in which faith in God is only one possibility among others, and in which this freedom of choice does not diminish the fragility and precariousness of the human.

"In an age in which there is a growing individualization of belief," comments Professor Alessandro Castegnaro, the director of the survey, "it is not surprising that there should develop a form of religion that perhaps is not without Church, but certainly with little Church."

It is a form of religion that is called "popular," but is not a relic of the past. It has new and modern traits. Perhaps little elaborated, but simple and strong, like faith in the resurrection and the seeking of the saint as a beacon on the path of life, more than as a wonderworker.

It is a simple faith, made up of direct contact with the divine, with its epicenter at the shrines, with which the territorial institutions of the Catholic Church, the dioceses, the parishes, have a strained relationship.

But it is a challenge that requires from the whole Church a new capacity of invention, because it is a matter of phenomena to some extent new. Castegnaro concludes his analysis, in the collaborative volume that presents the results of the survey, as follows:

"It is rather likely that these forms of religion, just as they have had a past, will also have a future. But these, because of their anthropological configuration and because Taylor is fundamentally right, in Western countries are destined to be of interest to minorities, albeit substantial and always capable of giving rise to mass phenomena. It would be very difficult for this to be 'the religion of the people,' as Paul VI recommended that popular religion should be called. It will be instead the religion of a part of the people, one of the many shapes taken on by religion within the more general process of the pluralization of the forms of belief."


Sunday 25 November 2012


St Elizabeth Feodorovna was clearly a spiritual mother and has had many spiritual children.   In September, I spent two wonderful weeks with the white sisters (Sisters of Mercy) and black sisters (nuns) of St Elizabeth's Convent in Minsk, Belarus.   Just as Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the Catholic hermit and would-be founder, produced several religious families long after his violent death and continues to enrich the Church with his teaching, so St Elizabeth has produced religious families after her martyrdom, enriching the Orthodox Church with her example and teaching.  This is because Christ is Risen, and Christians are more members of the Church and are more active, not less, after they die.   Here is another community inspired by this great saint who was also a granddaughter of Queen Victoria - Fr David

by Anastasia Pika
my source: St Elias Today
their source: Journey to Orthodoxy
A red cross on a white scarf, a white apron, and a modest gaze… One can meet these unusual women everywhere there are people in need, from prisons to closed psychiatric institutions. In Ukraine the largest community of sisters of mercy is in Kiev, at the Church of St. Michael, first Metropolitan of Kiev, on the grounds of the Alexandrov Hospital. ForUm paid them a visit to learn about the life of these modern sisters who have dedicated themselves to serving this noble cause.

The first accounts about help given by sisters of mercy to the suffering date back to the Middle Ages. Communities of sisters existed in the East (Constantinople, Beirut, Jerusalem, Cairo), in Germany, and in Protestant churches in Russia (St. Petersburg, Vyborg, Riga). Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, Protestant nuns and sisters of mercy continually cared for the wounded during military hostilities. In the Russian Empire, voluntary care for the wounded arose as a social movement during the Crimean War of 1854-56. Two courageous women from warring countries – the Englishwoman Florence Nightingale and the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia [formerly Princess Charlotte of Württemberg], the wife of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, brother of Emperor Nicholas I – began actively helping soldiers whose blood was being shed on the battlefield.

One of the most famous followers of this moment in Russia was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, who in 1909 founded the Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy, which resembled a monastic house in its rule of life. A hospital, an outpatient clinic, a pharmacy, a home for orphaned girls, a Sunday school, a library, and a soup kitchen were all constructed in the convent. The Grand Duchess herself, along with her pupils, spent sleepless nights as a nurse at the beds of the seriously ill, assisted at operations, and visited Moscow slums. The sisters lived in the religious community itself, where they followed a monastic way of life without themselves being nuns. They gave temporary vows (for one, three, or six years, and only later for life) and had the option of leaving the convent to get married or of being tonsured directly to the small schema.

The noble work of the sisters of the Convent of Martha and Mary and the martyrdom of its superior served as the ideological impetus for the emergence of a multitude of such communities of mercy in the late 1980s and early 1990s throughout all of historical Russia.
The Sisterhood of Mercy dedicated to the Grand Duchess Elizabeth and the Nun Barbara opened in Kiev in 1998, founded by Fr. Roman Baranovsky, rector of the hospital church dedicated to St. Michael, first Metropolitan of Kiev. Now 145 sisters carry out their obediences at this church.

Their white garments with crosses can be seen as soon as one enters the grounds of the Alexandrov Hospital. Each is busy with numerous obediences.

From noon until late at night there is a line of people around the refectory church waiting to warm themselves and be fed. The sisters prepare and serve food to all comers.

The Psalter is read continuously in church. This is a fairly rare practice, normally performed only in monasteries and convents.

The sisters carry out their obediences in the church and refectory and visit the sick… The principle task of sisters of mercy is to help, comfort, and be with those needing help during difficult times.

Even if today the sisters do not need to remove wounded soldiers from the line of fire, their work has not become any easier. Just as before, their work multiplies good, bringing warmth to every heart.

As St. Inna, a senior sister, told ForUm, today there are around twenty communities of sisters of mercy active in Orthodox churches in Ukraine, the members of which care for the sick, feed and clothe the homeless, and provide religious education.
At the present time, these sisterhoods’ social projects receive no funding from the state, for which reason the sisters are forced to raise funds on their own.

    “All of our funds come from the private donations of parishioners and people who want to help their neighbors,” explains Sister Inna. “For this, sisters go through the markets with donation boxes to collect offerings. This is one of our most difficult obediences. Today love and mercy are not a priority for people. These qualities of soul are not profitable, so the practical world rejects them. But it is thanks to such qualities of soul that a human being can remain a human being, able to love and sacrifice himself for his neighbor. The sisters explain to people that the funds collected are used for the needs of the suffering, people in even more difficult circumstances than their own.”

In order to have at least some source of regular income, the sisters opened a kiosk on the grounds of the church. The earnings go towards purchasing food and medicine for people seeking help.

The sisters also minister to the patients of the psychiatric hospital in Glevaha [outside Kiev] and regularly visit the Orthodox community in the women’s penal colony in Chernigov.
Today we are going with Sisters Catherine and Julia to the Alexandrov Hospital to check on Yuri, who yesterday had a difficult operation on his leg.

    “Helping the sick is not simply a matter of turning them over on their beds or of bringing them food,” says Sister Catherine. “It is about helping people spiritually. If God has placed you on your sickbed, that is already a sign that you should review your whole life – since we are not meant to get sick, but do so because of sin. The sisters prepare Orthodox patients for Confession, invite priests, and bring holy water and spiritual literature. We have even had cases of people who wanted to accept the Orthodox faith and were baptized right in the hospital. The most important task of a sister of mercy is to help the ill to love their illnesses. When someone comes to terms with his illness ­– when he can say, ‘Lord, may Thy will be done’ – then there are cases when everything goes away without any further assistance.”

If someone without means enters the hospital, the sisterhood helps him to acquire the medications he needs.

Yuri had already been brought breakfast this morning, so now it was time for conversation and reading.

The life of mercy is not easy, just as their paths leading to it were not easy.
Sister Catherine has been fulfilling her obedience in the sisterhood for ten years already.

    “First my youngest son died at the age of twenty-seven, and then my mother died. After that I started coming to this church. Hearing Fr. Roman’s preaching warmed my soul, so I reached out here to serve God. I left on a procession in September ten years ago, and I am still here,” she told ForUm

Despite her youth, Julia has been a sister of mercy for four years now. With the rector’s blessing, she regularly travels to the Alexander Nevsky Compound in Jerusalem on obedience.

    “Our sisters go there by rotation for three months,” she said. “They prepare food, clean, look after the orderliness of the compound, and greet pilgrims. Sometimes they lead tours. As is done here, they also read the Psalter continuously.”

Sr. Inna, the senior sister, has three children and her husband carries out his obedience in the skete.

    “I had a completely normal life. I was raised in full atheism, inasmuch as my parents held high-ranking positions under the Soviet regime. It was the same in school: I participated in all the relevant rallies, speeches, and lessons of atheism. But my Orthodox genes nonetheless took hold. Orthodoxy has been in Rus’ for 1,000 years and in every family there are Orthodox people who have pleased God. By their prayers, the Lord leads us onto the path of salvation. We begin to look for the meaning of life and to feel dissatisfaction with what we see around us. Sorrows hasten this process of understanding. My first son has been seriously ill since childhood, but this was not the only thing that changed my life dramatically – although it likely hurried it along in the right direction. I always had an inner quest. One cannot live without faith; one will always believe in something. Even an atheist believes that there is no God, although his faith is meaningless.”

Sr. Inna, the senior sister, told us that any woman can become a sister of mercy, but that she is first required to pass through a trial period.

    “Those sisters who come to us and say ‘I want to be a sister of mercy,’ generally look at this as completing some sort of workload. This is a Protestant approach to Orthodox social service,” she explains. “In Orthodoxy, sisterhoods are inextricably bound with spiritual growth. We do not help our neighbors simply for the sake of helping. It is more important for us to lead someone out of his state of helplessness, depression, and disbelief. The sister’s task is to reveal to a person the spiritual principles that led him to his state of distress. A sister’s trial period is a sort of novitiate to the sisterhood, and is unique for each person. During this period they receive training and attend spiritual discussions covering the principles of Orthodoxy. It is difficult even to imagine how much effort it takes the sisters to overcome their accustomed indifference, hardheartedness, and selfishness. After all, it is only by changing yourself that you become capable of changing others. Mercy is sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is very difficult, for it is the beginning of the love of God. It is when you give away your last piece of candy that Orthodoxy only just begins.”

Sister Inna insists that their sisterhood is only a school of sisters of mercy, among whom there is no genuine Elizabeth Feodorovna.

Today the sisters of mercy dream of the state creating social projects alongside the Orthodox Church, in which they would be able to take part. With such support they could create a community like the Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow and live near the church, open handiwork shops, and even open their own hospital, in which sisters with professional medical training could work.

For the time being, the heirs of Elizabeth Feodorovna’s great work continue their difficult everyday work, offering a good life to those in need.

Fragments of the Divine Liturgy at St.Nicholas Cathedral. Washington DC., November 25, 2012 from George Kokhno on Vimeo.

NOVEMBER 24th: FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING: A Homily preached by Dom Andrew Berry OSB

Daniel 7: 13-14
Revelation 1: 5-8
John 18: 33-37
Christus Vincit! Christus Regnat! Christus Imperat!
Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ rules!

Today we come to the end of the Church’s liturgical year and from next week our attention will turn to the season of Advent and our preparation for the coming of Christ. Today, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the Universal King, and our attention is turned not to the stable in Bethlehem but towards the Kingdom of Heaven where Christ is seated at the right hand of God as the Sovereign Lord of all creation. In today’s celebration we see in Christ the hope of humanity; who shows us who God is, and how we can keep him at the centre of our lives. In Christ we see a God who is close to his creation and to whom each one of us is precious and has value.

Today’s Gospel open to us the fullness of what it means to celebrate Christ as King; for it shows us exactly what kind of King we worship. The Gospel we have just heard comes from John’s passion narrative. The death of Jesus is imminent, we see him bound and humiliated before Pilate. “Are you a King”?  On the surface it seems a strange question for Pilate to ask and leaves us wondering what it is Pilate had heard about Jesus; what had he been told? Yet everything hangs on this question and that is as true now as it was then for whatever the answer Pilate will eventually have to make a choice; we too have to make the same choice for or against Jesus. “I am a king” replies Jesus, “and I came into the world to bear witness to the truth and all who are on the side of truth hear my voice”. What is this truth? It is the truth of the cross; Christ’s kingship is not of this world; for He is a king who rules, not from a royal throne in glory and splendour but from a cross in anguish and pain.

Christ did not come to establish a political sovereignty, but to bear witness to the truth of God’s universal dominion. Christ is the one who saves his people; a King who cares for the weak and the downtodden; who acts justly on behalf of the powerless and those for whom no one cares for. He is the perfect King who acts with mercy, compassion and tenderness; that seeks out the lost and carries them home; he is the one whose voice they hear and gladly obey.

Following this meeting with Pilate, Jesus is taken away scourged and dressed in a purple robe with a crown of thorns on his head. He goes to the cross wearing this crown of suffering; he goes to the cross as king. This is our king one who is victorious over sin and death who is mighty, full of power, who brings life to all who will accept him, all those who are on the side of truth. This is the same king to whom we sing Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus Imperat (Christ conquers, Christ reign, Christ rules).

The cross is not only the place where Christ offers himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of the world it is also the place where he conquers, where he reigns and where he rules and it is from the cross that Christ invites each one of us, sinful though we are, to live in his kingdom where he rules for all eternity. For Christ is the only way, the only truth and it is only in him that life in its fullness can be found; there is no other way to the Father except through him anything else is falsehood and delusionary.

Today’s feast serves to remind us that in baptism we are all given a share in the Kingship of Christ and that we have been sent out into the world, consecrated to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. Like Christ we are called to serve not to be served, to give of ourselves totally and utterly and to love as he loved and to share in his mission of redemption through lives of self-abandonment and service; for the Kingship of Christ has, at its heart, not power, wealth or status but love, compassion and selflessness. We are asked to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel, to reach out to those whose need is greater than ours, to make the Kingship of Christ known to a world that is either ignorant of him or chooses to ignore what he has to say. 

So, as we end this liturgical year we are left with a challenge. To what extent do our lives reflect that of Jesus Christ? To what extent have we/ I allowed Christ to become King of my life, to reign in my heart? Can I declare with St Bernard of Clairvaux: “I will have no other King but the Lord Jesus, for he alone is my King and my God”? Or are our hearts divided, hankering after power and status rather than the path of the Gospel? We are called to be sharers in the Kingdom and co-workers of Christ; his mission should be our mission, his truth must be our truth for it is only then are we truly children of God and servants of Christ the universal King. 


I was "Padre Formador" in their community of charismatic seminarians in 2006, and they are close friends. I am only sorry that I don't arrive in Lima until Tuesday week.

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