Category Archives: Church History

Preacher & Pastor Paul

About St. Paul

The story of energetic, persistent, faithful, intelligent, and well-educated Roman citizen, Saul or Paul of Tarsus, can be an inspiration and example for all of us. A former persecutor of Jesus (the Church), he sets the perfect example of confession, repentance, and full conversion to the Christian faith. He was theologian, traveling evangelist, church planter, and pastor, all rolled into one. In his own words:

The Second Journey

Father Linsky led a discussion about a perfect example of St. Paul’s method of evangelization, his speech to skeptics of left and right, universalists and Calvinists, epicurians and stoics, at the Areopagus in Athens, Greece. This was on Paul’s second of four long and dangerous journeys spreading the Gospel of Jesus. Below is a snip of an interactive map which documents what is said in the book of Acts about each visit on that journey. 

Athens and the Aeropagus

(So far, I have been offered “asparagus” and “esophagus” as corrections to my spelling of aeropagus.) Here is a link to a couple of informative and interesting paragraphs about the location, history, and use of the Aeropagus including the photo below. Note the plaque in the photo. It contains the words of St. Paul’s speech as recorded in Acts 17.

St. Paul’s Audience at the Aeropagus

Here, from the 1st Century writings of Petronius, can be found the quote Fr. Linsky shared about the culture of the people hearing the Gospel from St. Paul: “Truly our neighborhood is so well stocked with deities to hand, you will easier meet with a god than a man.” I doubt it rhymed in Latin so maybe the hand-man connection is just accidental.

As Fr. Linsky said, there were two major schools of philosophy in 1st Century Athens, epicurianism and stoicism. Below, from this website, are two excellent short videos (15 and 8 minutes) explaining stoicism and epicurianism. It is hard to believe these are free online. I have never taken a philosophy course but believe these videos must be worth at least a semester of an introductory course in the subject. It is interesting how pertinent and timely these ideas and issues are even in the 21st century.

The Message of St. Paul to These Seekers of Truth

So, St. Paul knew the interests of his audience and delivered to them what they sought, the TRUTH.  And, though we have no discussion in Revelation of a letter to the Church at Athens or of any Epistles of St. Paul to the Athenians, and although Athens is not mentioned in the Bible except in connection with St. Paul’s visit there, we know that the seeds were planted and a Church established in Athens because “some did join him and became believers.”

 

 

 

 

May 22 – Wed of 5th Week of Easter – First Council

Lessons from the First Reading from Acts 15

The 1st Reading for May 22, Acts 15:1-6 , sets the stage for the 1st Council of the Church, presenting the sensitive issue at stake (circumcision), identifying the council participants (Apostles and presbyters), and introducing the meeting itself. To stick with the Lectionary, one has to wait till May 23rd to see what happened at the meeting, but, unlimited by that, we proceeded to discuss the action taken on whether the Christians were to be bound by terms of the covenant between God and Abraham. (Genesis 17:9-14)

Trouble-making activists were arguing that since the resurrection and arrival of the Holy Spirit, believers were following a different set of rules. Probably very familiar with the words of the Prophet Jeremiah(Jeremiah 4:4) council members made the right decision, even without the benefit of St. Paul’s much later letter to the Romans in which he discussed “circumcision of the heart.” 

Councils of the Catholic Church (22)

A second important issue resolved by this precedent in Acts 15 is the teaching authority of The Church, a precedent which has been followed 21 times down through the centuries. Wikipedia provides a very handy list of the Catholic Church Councils, The 1st Century Council of Jerusalem to the 20th Century Vatican 2, complete with hot links to more information about each. Here is the list copied from the article. I think the links should work.

Council List from Wikipedia

Circumcision Wrap Up

The 15th Century Council of Florence, by the way, according to this footnote in the Wikipedia article, soundly condemned those who “observe” or “practice” circumcision as a religious practice. Still, it raises an interesting trivia question: Is Michelangelo’s David, on display in Florence, circumcised?

Council of Florence

Law and Grace, Works and Faith, and Luther

The discussion about circumcision led deeper and deeper into discussion of law and grace and works vs. grace and Lutheran and Catholic theologies. As a student at a Lutheran seminary I was taught that Father Martin, in his younger years at least, free from any possible dementia, was a faithful Catholic, aligned with the teachings of the church fathers, and that it was actually Pope Leo X who had strayed into such as sale of indulgences to raise money for the church. Luther provided one written defense against the charges against him in the form of an essay, The Freedom of a Christian.

In 2002, nine years before being received into the Catholic Church, I wrote an “academic” paper on Luther’s essay. Then, a year or so after becoming Catholic, I reviewed the paper and published it with some introduction, on my Last of All.net blog on church and faith issues. I read it again just now and still believe it is sound theology consistent with Catholic teaching. If you are interested in such, take a look at it HERE and let me know what you think. I am always willing to listen and learn.

I have often quipped that if Pope Leo X, instead of excommunicating Luther, had just appointed him to a task force charged with organizing, for the Pope’s approval of course, reformation of the Church, the whole Protestant Reformation upheaval could have been avoided. But of course that is not true. The primary drivers of the Reformation were not the “reformers,” but the rise in literacy and the printing press, the beginnings of free enterprise replacement of feudalism, and the beginning of the ending of the unholy alliance of church and state which had allowed secular rulers to dictate the religion of all who lived in their domains regardless of what the citizens believed.

And of course such reform continues. I am personally very thankful for two particular Vatican II (1962-65) changes advocated 400 years earlier by Luther, Mass in the language of the people and increased participation of lay persons in the Mass. I was happily Southern Baptist at the time, preoccupied with college, Karen, and starting my first professional employment and had absolutely zero interest in the Catholic church. But without those two changes, I doubt I would have had the privilege of being received into the Catholic Church at Pentecost in 2011.

Extra: The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

The Christians in the World is the title of an excerpt from this 1st or 2nd century epistle. The excerpt is included in the Office of Readings for 5/22/2019 and can be read at the Vatican website. If you don’t click any other link in this post, click this one and read very early and profound insights about living as a Christian.

Here is a teaser sentence: “They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

If you really get steamed about the Epistle to Diognetus, you can read the whole thing HERE.

 

Pope St. Leo the Great: Wikipedia and New Advent

I am amazed at the work that has gone into well-documented online encyclopedia articles about important Church history matters such as the lives of Saints. Two main ones I use are Wikipedia and New Advent.

Wikipedia and Pope St Leo the Great

Today’s Saint is Pope St. Leo the Great, and curiosity about him led me to this Wikipedia Article. which includes these beautiful words from one of the Pope’s Christmas (45 days till) sermons:

Just following one’s nose through these articles can approximate a theology course. For example, here is a quote from the opening paragraph on St. Pope Leo with a dozen or so hot links to other articles. I hope these links will work even in this blog post.

He is also a Doctor of the Church, most remembered theologically for issuing the Tome of Leo, a document which was a major foundation to the debates of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. The Council of Chalcedon, the fourth ecumenical council, dealt primarily with Christology, and elucidated the orthodox definition of Christ‘s being as the hypostatic union of two natures, divine and human, united in one person, “with neither confusion nor division”. It was followed by a major schism associated with MonophysitismMiaphysitism, and Dyophysitism.[2]

The list of footnotes and references for this and most Wikipedia articles is impressive, and anything not well documented is likely to be challenged and improved or removed. When a section is challenged, readers are notified with this, one instance of which you will see in the Pope St. Leo article.

Wikipedia does not accept advertising and is funded entirely by donations from users and contributors. I have sent in $25 a couple of times since I refer to it often.

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia and Pope Leo the Great

I have to mention New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia also.  It contains an amazing amount of information focused only on the Catholic Church. The language seems a bit flowery to me, and the paragraphs are very long and without headings, but I often go there to see what is available. You can read about its origin HERE.

And, just for comparison, here is the New Advent article on Pope St. Leo the Great. It includes many hot links and a long list of sources but not footnotes. It certainly has a more spiritual and worshipful tone than Wikipedia. It may be an over-simplification to say that Wikipedia will accurately state what the Pope did while New Advent will also tell us how wonderful it was. Nothing wrong with that, but it is different. Wikipedia informs us that about 100 sermons and 150 letters of Pope Leo have been preserved, but the New Advent “Library” actually contains many sermons of St. Leo in a section on Church Fathers.

New Advent is funded by advertising and by sale of downloads of the content. New Advent was born in 1917 and joined the internet in 1997. They post this endorsement by Pope St. John Paul II.

Conclusions and Recommendations

We miss a great opportunity if we fail to use these resources to advance and improve our knowledge of Church History, Theology, and Saints. And, fortunately for me, I don’t have to remember it all since it is always just a click or two or three away. (As a result of writing this little document I will remember much more than if I had only read, and that is the main benefit to me of doing it.) If you see anything in my posts with which you disagree, just let me know that “it needs additional citations for verification.”

 

 

October 10, 2018: All Nations

Future of Secondary Education?

Khan Academy, founded by Sal Khan, who holds three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard,  seems to me to be an incredible new company setting the pace for online education. I expect this team will be a large part of the solution to soaring costs, and associated student debt, of traditional brick and mortar institutions with luxurious student housing.

Below is a helpful 15 minute Khan Academy video presenting an unbiased and respectful view of St. Paul and the early church. The lecturer is using some inexpensive exhibits and a pleasant voice to tell the story just as told in the New Testament. He covers most of the subjects we discussed Wednesday morning including circumcision, Gentiles, and Galatia.

You can check out the Khan Academy website here. You may find some courses to take, “For free. For everyone. Forever.”

All Nations

Part of our Wednesday morning discussion focused on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being a blessing to “all nations,” a theme running through Sacred Scripture. Here are pertinent quotes from the Old and New Testaments containing the phrase “all nations,” or, in the first case, “communities.”

The Patriarchs

To Abraham: Genesis 12:2-3  “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”

To Isaac:  Genesis 26:4  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and give them all these lands, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—

To Jacob: Genesis 28:14 These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.

The Kings (Solomon only)

1 Kings 5:14 Men came to hear Solomon’s wisdom from all nations, sent by all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

 The Prophets

Isaiah 2:2 In days to come, The mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it;
Isaiah 14:9 The nether world below is all astir preparing for your coming; It awakens the shades to greet you, all the leaders of the earth; It has the kings of all nations rise from their thrones.
Jeremiah 3:17 At that time they will call Jerusalem the LORD’S throne; there all nations will be gathered together to honor the name of the LORD at Jerusalem, and they will walk no longer in their hardhearted wickedness.
Jeremiah 27:7 All nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his land, too, shall come. Then it in turn shall serve great nations and mighty kings.
Zechariah 12:9 On that day I will seek the destruction of all nations that come against Jerusalem.
Malachi 3:12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land, says the LORD of hosts.

The Psalmist

Psalm 72:11 May all kings bow before him, all nations serve him.
Psalm 113:4 High above all nations is the LORD; above the heavens God’s glory.

The Evangelists

Matthew 24:9, 14 Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name….And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 28:19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, (The Great Commission)
Mark 13:10 But the gospel must first be preached to all nations.

St. Paul (Last verse of Epistle to Romans)

Romans 16:25-27  Now to him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages  but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.)

Heading for the Rio Grande

And, Tom Gregory announced his new job in McAllen, Texas. Here is the location. rio

 

The website of his new place of service: Juan Diego Academy.diego

September 19th, 2018 – St. Januarius

St. Januarius

Here is information on St. Januarius. He is the patron saint of blood banks, and I am off this morning to the Red Cross Blood Center for my 111th blood donation since retirement.

Diocletian Persecution

St. Januarius lived, and was martyred, during the Diocletian persecution of the Church. Here is a somewhat difficult to read excerpt from Fox’s Book of Martyrs about that persecution.

Ecclesiology: Study of the Christian Church

As we think about the problems we, the Church, face today, consider the meaning of “ecclesiology. “Here is a document on The Ecclesiology of Vatican II  available at the EWTN website. Here is a quote from it: “If until that time (Vatican II) we had thought of the Church primarily as a structure or organization, now at last we began to realize that we ourselves were the Church.

Given that idea of us as the Church, here is my personal current interpretation. I’m not putting this forward as truth but just as testimony to encourage thinking about ecclesiology.

Added 9/21/18: Mass Readings today include this great passage on ecclesiology, St. Paul writing to the Christians in the Church at Ephesus: “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” – Ephesians 2:19-22

Bishop Barron Q&A Online

And, finally, yesterday Bishop Barron went online on reddit.com for a Q&A with anyone wanting to ask him a question. Many prominent persons have done the same on a Reddit feature called “Ask me Anything.” I’m sure it wore the Bishop out. His responses to the questions are worth reading HERE.

April 11 – Stanislaus, Sanhedrin, Schism, Separation

Well, we did cover several topics on April 11.

Saint Stanislaus, Patron Saint of Poland

You can see the exhibit below and listen to the MP3 by going HERE.

stanislaus

First Century Jewish Leadership

The Sanhedrin (Jewish source)

Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes (Jewish Source)

The Great Schism of 1054 (TMI, I suppose)

Wikipedia Article

Quote from Article: Apart from Rome in the West, “many major Churches of the East claim to have been founded by the apostles: Antioch by Peter and Paul, Alexandria by Mark, Constantinople by Andrew, Cyprus by Barnabas, Ethiopia by Matthew, India by Thomas, Edessa in eastern Syria by Thaddeus, Armenia by Bartholomew, Georgia by Simon the Zealot.”[26] Famous also are the seven churches of Asia (the Roman province of Asia), mentioned in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation.

This map is also in the Wikipedia article.

800px-Great_Schism_1054_with_former_borders

Bogomils definition HERE.

How to Get Excommunicated

A 21st Century View published in Catholic Herald