The Chalice of the Last Supper and Saint Laurence of Rome

A curious element of the Roman Canon is that it refers to the chalice as “this chalice”:

Simili modo postquam coenatum est, accipiens et hunc praeclarum Calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: item tibi gratias agens, benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes…

Which I translate as:

In similar way, after He had supped, taking also this precious chalice into His holy and venerable hands again giving thanks to Thee, He blessed it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: All of you, take and drink this…

There is a tradition that the chalice used in Rome was once the actual chalice used by our Lord Jesus Christ at the first Eucharist.

When the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered the beheading of Pope Sixtus II in Rome, the Pope’s deacon named Lawrence sold the gold chalices and precious items and gave the proceeds to the poor. However, there was one item that was preserved. According to legend it was the chalice used at the Last Supper by Christ and served as the personal chalice of Saint Peter who had brought it to Rome. This is why the Roman liturgy reads: “hunc praeclarum Calicem.” Laurence gave this special chalice to a Roman soldier who took it to Spain.

Here is a photo of it paired with a painting from 1560 by Juan de Juanes that incorporated it:

And painted by Juan de Juanes:

If this tradition is valid, then this is the chalice of the Son of God and also the chalice of Saint Peter used by Peter and all popes up till the martyred Pope Sixtus II. The mystery of faith.

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How to Make Your Best Confession using 7 Deadly Sins as Guide

Are you discouraged? Have you lost your energy? Did you lose that kick in your step?

If you want more JOY in your life, then you need to experience more forgiveness…

The best way to experience this joyful mercy (especially before Easter) is go to confession. Most of us received instruction on how to make a confession way back when we were seven years old. Since then, we have received little instruction on how to make a good confession. That’s too bad, because our sins at age 7 are very different than our sins at age 25, 35, 45, etc.

In this video, I’ll explain each of the 7 deadly sins using the acronym PALEGAS and show you how to prepare for your best and most thorough confession of you life.

This video has 33,000 views because people find it so helpful. Click below to begin watching it: Watch Dr Marshall’s How to Make a Catholic Confession

Have a great Holy Week before Easter.

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130: How do we get to Heaven? Wrong Answers for Catholics [Podcast]

I recently asked my children in evening devotions: “How do we get to Heaven?”

Their answer was “Going to confession.” I didn’t really like this answer…

While confession is a necessary sacrament for human salvation, I didn’t like their answer for a few reasons. It has do with highlighting the source of salvation (Christ) and the instrumentality of salvation (His sacraments).

In this podcast I explain the situation and why there’s a better answer to “How do we get to Heaven?”

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Holy Innocents: Why does God allow so many babies to die?

How do Christians account for child martyrdom, child death, original sin and the fact that the majority of Homo sapiens have died before birth?

The feast of the Holy Innocents marks the martyrdom of an unnumbered group of boys aged 2 and under during the reign of King Herod and fulfills the prophecy of St Jeremias:

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.’ (Jer 31:15)

How can children become martyrs if they cannot speak or affirm faith?

These holy innocents are martyrs because they were murdered in odium fidei (in hatred of the Faith). If someone kills a child on accident or even through malice, that child is not a martyr. However, if the murderer kills the child out of hatred for Christ or the Christian faith, then the child is a martyr. Same goes for adults. If a robber shoots a father in his home, he is not a martyr. If an Islamic State terrorists shoots because a man because he won’t renounce Christ, then that victim is a martyr.

Children can become martyrs for the same reason that children are baptized. Other persons can effect persecution (or sacramental grace) upon them. Babies have personal relationships. My babies had “personal relationships” with their mother at the breast immediately (and even before birth). It’s a unique non-verbal relationship. And if that “personal relationship” between mother and baby exists, then a “personal relationship” can exist between a baby and our Triune God.

Parents usher their babies into the eternal life and energy of the Holy Trinity at the baptismal font and so also did Herod’s soldiers baptize the Holy Innocents with their own blood.

Our family asks for the intercession of the boy Holy Innocents every evening and their presence in Scripture and the Catholic Calendar remind us that children die. But why?

Why do children die?

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202) explained how the sin of Adam and Eve passed down to all generations and deprived even infants of the supernatural blessing of Eden.

The Eastern Fathers such as Saint Gregory Nazianzus noted the theological problem of children dying. Children are not guilty of personal sins. Why would God allow them to die. And when they die, where do they go? Heaven? Hell? Perhaps a special place reserved for them?

Saint Gregory and others noted that children die not through their own fault, but on account of being born outside Eden – that is being born under the sin of Adam and Eve. The Eastern Churched calls this προπατορικὸν ἁμάρτημα (propatorikon harmatema) or “ancestral sin.”

The Western Church calls it peccatum originale or “original sin.” Without getting into Eastern vs. Western distinctions, all Christians agree that the penalty of death has spread to all human persons, even children. And we all agree (even the Jansenist or Calvinist) that children die not on account of their own personal misdeeds.

Why do they die? We don’t know, but we trust that their eternal life is better than any life they had here. Whether it is postulated as natural paradise, limbo, or a hope for supernatural Heaven itself, their life is one of peace, rest, happiness, and beatitude.

Do most humans die in infancy?

It’s patently obvious that more than 51+% of members of the race of homo sapiens died before the age of 7. We might even dare to say that 51+% of every homo sapiens died before being born. This is a starting fact to consider from a theological perspective. Most humans in God’s image died prior breathing.

Why is this?

There are a few optional explanations:

  1. Predestination Option: God predestines most humans to die in utero or in infancy because he likes the idea of Heaven (or limbo) being populated with people who have never committed a personal sin against him or another – despite them having been conceived without habitual grace. This theory would posit that every human child receives habitual or sacramental grace prior to death to Heaven OR that they don’t receive habitual grace and so end up in perfect natural (but not supernatural) paradise. And this natural paradise is often known off the cuff as limbo. (Pun intended. The Latin limbus means “cuff”.)

    [NOTE: I should add here that the heretic John Calvin used this argument above (that all deceased babies go to Heaven) in favor of unconditional election. He noted that so many babies die before and after birth (including his own dead children), and so this confirms the fact that God chooses them for Heaven without any faith or merit.]

  2. Pre-Existence Option: The Church Father (but not saint) Origen posited that every human pre-existed in a celestial realm prior to conception in a mother’s womb. Each of these minds erred or sinned in this celestial realm and thus were consigned to a carnal life on earth suiting the measure of their rebellion. So a pre-existent mind that rebelled greatly against the Trinity would be given a very tedious life on earth so that they could merit salvation through Christ. However, a pre-existent mind that only slightly rebelled against the Trinity would be given a very brief life on earth by which they would turn back to God. And these, then, are the little children that die before and after birth. They are the ones who sinned in a lesser degree before being conceived on earth.

    [NOTE: This opinion of Origen is not held by many today – except in a corrupted form by Mormons.]

  3. We don’t really know. I think this is the theological position of most Christians. There is no easily packaged explanation for a pair of parents standing over their child’s tiny grave. There is no easy answer for a woman after miscarriage. It’s never been the position of Christians to dogmatically describe the afterlife for children other than saying: “they do not suffer and they are at peace.” We don’t know much because the Bible says nothing about it. We can only rest on the conviction that God desires all men to be saved and that He is fully aware that 51+% die before attaining the age of reason or before professing faith.

PS: If you’re interested in reading more of my posts on the topic of infant death, limbo, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas etc., check out this series of posts: Unbaptized babies that die: 5 Theories.

Liturgy does NOT mean Work of the People (Against Liturgical Pelagianism)

Examples of λειτουργία from the New Testament

It became quite stylish in the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s to teach that the Greek word for liturgy is λειτουργία (leitourgia) and that this word means “work of the people.” This led to the new idea that λειτουργία or “liturgy” is something that lay people should be leading and even performing within the context of worship.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people”? No.

Photo: Pope John XXIII Celebrating the Eastern Divine Liturgy

Liturgy certainly does not mean “work of the people,” and I’ll show you why from examples in Sacred Scripture. But before looking at Scripture, let’s look at the actual Greek word:

The Word “Liturgy” in Greek

λειτουργία, like so many words in Greek, is a composite. The first word half of the word derives form the Greek word “laos” meaning “people.” (There is also the variation of “leos” which is the Attic Greek version of the same word for “people.”) This word “laos” (or “leos” in Attic) is where we get laity and laypeople. It’s a generic word for a collection of people. The Greek name Menelaos means “withstanding the people” and the Greek name Nikolaos means “conquering the people.”

The second part of the word derives from the Greek word “ergon” meaning “work,” as in ergonomic, energy, and synergy.

When you smash the two Greek words together to describe something you get: leitourgia or λειτουργία.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people” or “work for the people”?

So the term contains the two Greek words for “people” and “work,” but how do we arrange it for its meaning? On one hand, it could be “work of the people,” meaning something the people work out together. On the other hand, it could be “work for the people,” meaning something done for the benefit of the people.

Option 1: Liturgy as “Work of the People”

The kumbaya (Elvis liturgy) crowd of the 1960s and 1970s insisted that it was former – something people work out when they come together. This led to the idea that lay people should lead prayers, read the lessons, prepare the altar, handle chalices, handle the Eucharist, distribute the Eucharist, bless people in the Communion line, and cleanse the vessels. After all, if liturgy means “work of the people,” then the people ought to be up there doing active work.

Option 2: Liturgy as “Work Done for the People”:

The historical, traditional, and received definition of liturgy or λειτουργία is that it is something done by one for the sake of the people. This may come as a crushing blow to the legions of Christians who were taught that liturgy was the “work of the people,” but it’s the plain truth. In Plato and other Greek authors, λειτουργία is something done by one for the sake of the people. Consequently, the Greek term is usually a priestly or political term depending on the context. And in the Bible, it is usually a priestly term, but we will examine one passage in Romans that is expressly political:

Let’s look at Sacred Scripture to settle the debate:

In the account of the birth of John the Baptist, we discover that his father Zacharias is an Aaronic priest of the tribe of Levi. As such, he serves in the Temple as a priest when it is the time of his allotment. [I explain elsewhere how this detail leads us to know that Christ as born in late December.] The passage explains that St Zacharias goes to the Temple to minister and the original Greek word is that he goes there to do liturgy:

And when his time of service (λειτουργίας) was ended, he went to his home. (Luke 1:23)

Did Zacharias gather a bunch of people to worship the Lord? No, the passage explains that his duty was to go into the Temple and offer incense to Yahweh. He did this to ceremoniously present the prayers of the people to God. It becomes obvious that his “liturgy” was something he did as a priest for the benefit of the people, not something he did as a priest with other people present.

Let’s look at another example from Hebrews:

And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship (λειτουργίας). (Heb 9:22)

This is a description of how Moses consecrated the tabernacle and vessels for divine worship in the Old Testament. The tent/tabernacle and the vessels could only be handled and used by the Levites, as they administered them for the benefit of Israel. Once again we see that λειτουργία refers to what is done by a priestly class on behalf of the laity.

The Liturgy of Christ as for the people:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry (λειτουργίας) which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Heb 8:6)

The author describes Christ as a High Priest who now administers a better New Covenant through a better λειτουργία or Liturgy. Once again, this λειτουργία is something Christ is administering on our behalf for our salvation. Notably it is His presentation of His Body and Blood to the Father for our redemption – something that is presented in every Liturgy of the Mass.

Roman Emperor as Liturgizer:

And let’s not forget that Saint Paul calls the evil Emperor Nero a “liturgizer.” In Romans 13, Saint Paul explains how the Roman Emperor (at that time Nero) and all political rulers are “liturgizers””

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant (διάκονός or diakonos) of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers (λειτουργοὶ or leitourgoi) of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Saint Paul identifies the Emperor as διάκονός or deacon and as all rulers as λειτουργοὶ or liturgizers. Be mindful that this Emperor was Nero, and yet he receives sacerdotal titles from Paul.

In fact, the dalmatic (which is worn by deacons) is an imperial garment traditionally reserved for the Byzantine court. I cannot find the source at the moment, but I recall reading once that Constantine was allowed to read Scripture in liturgy while still unbaptized because he was considered to be a quasi-deacon by virtue of his status as Emperor. And the Emperor in Constantinople processed with the Patriarch and the clergy, often in a dalmatic.

Back to “liturgy” in Romans 13. It’s manifest that the Roman Emperor and other Roman rulers are accorded the title of λειτουργοὶ. They are not liturgists designing services. Nero isn’t leading the people in “Gather us in, the rich and the haughty.” Rather these Roman rulers are, according to Paul, appointed by God to administer justice for the people. 

Liturgy as Something Done for People

Liturgy, at least in the Old and New Testament is something priestly or political that is done for the sake of the people. It is communal only in that it is done for others.

A priest saying the Mass alone in a Russian hotel room is doing “work for the people” without anyone else gathered together with him.

Likewise, the Pope gathered at a Mass of 10,000 people is doing “work for the people,” but the people being present doesn’t make it “liturgy.” The liturgy is accomplished in persona Christi for the people. Just as Zacharias was able to do “liturgy” all alone with his thurible in the Temple.

When Christ died on the cross, He administered a new λειτουργία for the people of the world. It was a liturgical act in which nobody participated by dancing, performing, reading from a book, or carrying a vessel. The truly “active participation” was accomplished by the Mother of God, Saint Mary Magdalene, the other women, and by the Apostle John when they lifted up their hearts to the divine Crucified Rabbi on the cross. They painfully and silently received the bloody λειτουργία of Christ on their behalf.

The time has come for us to understand liturgy as sacerdotal and as something done by Christ for His people. Cardinal Sarah summed this up recently with these words:

Liturgy is about God and His work for His people. Whoever tells us that we must celebrate ourselves in the liturgy is undermining biblical liturgy. Liturgy as “work of the people” is liturgical Pelagianism – the heresy that says that man can naturally work for his salvation.

If you’d like to learn about Sacramental Theology and earn your Certificate in Catholic Theology along the way, please join us at the New Saint Thomas Institute. We have a 2 part video on the “Mystical Meanings of the Mass according to Thomas Aquinas” waiting for you:

Learn more about our online theology courses and earn up to 6 Certificates in Philosophy, Theology, and Church History at newsaintthomas.com, the largest global online Institute for theological studies.

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

In the Eucharist do we receive the Body of Mary, too?

A reader named Rey asks:

Dr. Marshall, regarding the Body and Blood of our Lord, is it correct to say that in a way that when we receive the Eucharist that we receive the body and blood of Jesus and Mary, considering that Jesus (as second person) assumed human nature through Mary? In other words, just as Eve’s body was taken from Adam, in the same way, the Second Adam (Jesus) was taken from the body and blood of Mary being His mother? Thus, when we receive communion, it is also in a way receiving the body and blood of Mary through her Son?

My reply:

No, it would be heretical to state that we receive the Body of Mary in the Holy Eucharist. We do not receive the Body of Mary in the Eucharist. This should be entirely rejected.

The Body of Christ is genetically different than the body of Mary and is vivified by a distinct soul in Christ that is not the soul of Mary. A human body relies on the form of the distinct soul animating it. Moreover, the substantial form and matter of Christ’s human body is not that of the Blessed Virgin Mary – even though the Body of Christ is derived from the body of Mary.

This also creates a corporeal regress. If we were to claim that we receive Mary’s body in the Eucharist (because she is his mother), then we could then say that when we eat the Eucharist we are eating the body of Saint Anne (Mary’s mother) and the body of King David and the body of Ruth, et al. – since they are genetic ancestors of Christ. All of this is heretical.

The Body of Christ is the Body of Christ. We don’t receive simply a body in the Eucharist, we receive a Person in the Eucharist – the Divine Second Person of the Trinity along with the human nature that He assumed in the womb of Mary: His body, blood, and soul.

It is, however, perfectly orthodox to say that Mary participated in the Incarnation and that she provided a human body to Christ. We can also state as orthodox the scientific fact that the blood of a mother mixes with the blood of her baby. So we can say that the Precious Blood Christ mixed with the blood of Mary in utero, providing yet another profound sanctification in her beyond that of her sublime Immaculate Conception.

But we should not say that we receive the blood of Mary or the body of Mary in the Eucharist.

ad Jesum per Mariam cum Petro,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

PS: There was an ancient heretical sect in pre-Islamic Arabia that celebrated a liturgical rite in which they claimed to be eating the Body of Mary in a quasi-Eucharist. They were called Collyridians. (Click here to learn more about Marian Heresies.) This may be why Muhammad and the Quran wrongly asserts that Christians believe that Mary is the Third Person of the Trinity. See Quran 5:73-75 and Quran 5:116.

Catholic Doctrine of Justification: Is It Really Legal or Just a Metaphor?

In our previous post titled “Is Our Salvation Based on the Concepts of Debt and Law?” we asked the question about whether the Catholic doctrine of salvation (soteriology) is ontological (based on a transformation of being or human nature) or is it also legal and based on the notion of debt.

Following up from that post, a reader named Jacob asks a great question:

The analysis made sense to me until the claim that it’s not either/or; it’s both/and (I have a passing familiarity with this rule of thumb in Catholic theology).

My understanding until that point was: because salvation is ontological, it truly consists of a real change in my (hopefully!) humanity, and the
legal/financial terminology is strictly metaphorical.

However, the claim about both/and in this context made me think my understand was flawed, and there is a legal/financial reality, not simply a metaphor.

Can you clarify? Thank you so much!
Jacob

Indeed. For the Catholic Christian, the legal/financial is not metaphorical. It is real. Just as Christ established a real/legal covenant (New Covenant), there are real/legal laws and sacraments associated with it. Eg, If you are ontologically changed (baptized and hopefully partaking in divine grace), you are legally obliged to attend Mass on Sunday unless prohibited in some way. There is nothing metaphorical about the gifts of the New Covenants or its moral obligations on the recipients.

Also, when you have sanctifying grace within you (ontological), you are truly justified (made legally righteous with respect to God’s moral law). You’re status as justified is not metaphorical. It is real. Why? Because it is really and truly based on your ontological status as a child of God in union with Christ. 

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

How and Why Catholics can use Language of Imputation

A reader of The Catholic Perspective on Paul, named Dylan asks this question:

I have a question for you from “The Catholic Perspective on Paul.” You make brief conversation about the protestant idea of ‘imputed righteousness’ by way of Luther, but didn’t discuss other verses he may have drawn that idea from. In particular, I know James White (a popular debater on YouTube) likes to quote from Romans 4 and the Psalm therein about the “blessed man to whom the Lord imputes to guilt” and makes a big deal about “God’s imputation of our sins to our account”, saying that even if we can be forgiven by the Sacrament of Penance, we would still be un-blessed because God “blames us” for our sins under the Roman system of Theology. Have you discussed this idea before? I would love to hear your thoughts

I was also curious what translation of the Bible you were quoting from in your books. While similar to the RSV2CE I own, I like many passages you quoted because they seem a bit more poetic than what I’m used to reading. What translation are you using?

Here is my response:

Dylan,

For Luther, Calvin (and White) imputation involves legal fiction. God says we are righteous, but we are not. God says we are not guilty, but we are guilty.
God (in Catholicism) does not impute guilt because Christ has actually taken the guilt away. It’s not legal fiction. The guilt is actually removed by Christ from the sinner’s soul. Hence, it is no longer imputed.
Peter Gertner Crucifixion
  • If Dylan owes me one million dollars, I could just pretend that you don’t owe me (Lutheranism) and say you are forgiven.
  • The Catholic way is that I actually give Dylan a million dollars and the debt is actually paid back to me.
Ultimately, the Lutheran way doesn’t even need Christ to die on the cross since nothing actually needs to be paid or transferred. God the Father just fudges the book-keeping for sinners.
The Catholic actually believes in an ontological (down the being of the soul) change in the soul of the sinner at ontological that is infused with grace, faith, hope, and charity. As long as this bond of charity is preserved, the soul is saved and all the guilt is removed.
I hope that helps.
Godspeed,
Taylor
PS: I use RSV translation but I use my own translation from Greek when I don’t prefer the RSV rendering.

Vader and ShenFu: The Surprising Titles of Priests in Other Languages

This week a priest from Holland named Father Johannes van Voorst liked an Easter photo that I posted on Instagram (drtaylormarshall).

I clicked on his profile and saw that his title is Vader Johannes. Vader. You know, as in Darth Vader.

Vader in Church Procession

I have long known that Vader means “father.” That’s the hook in The Empire Strikes Back: Darth Vader is the “dark father” of Luke.

Yet somehow it never registered with me that those black cassock-wearing priests in Holland would be affectionately called “Vader” by the faithful. Super cool.

So here are some various titles for priest in various languages. I do this to celebrate the 46th nation now represented in the New Saint Thomas Institute for theological studies:

Titles for Catholic Clergy in Various Languages:

Shénfù. Mandarin Chinese refers to Catholic priests with the title “Spirit Father” or shénfù (神父). I was a (Protestant) missionary for a summer in college and I love learning more about Christianity in China. One name for “Catholicism” in Chinese is gongjiào (公教) meaning “universal teaching.”

Shinpu. The Japanese title for a priest. Similar to Chinese. It also means “spirit father.”

Abouna. Syriac or Aramaic for “our father,” as used by Egyptian, Syrian and Palestinian Christians (and the Maronites).

Bathyushka. The Russian title for Orthodox priests, meaning “father.” Incidentally, the wives of Russian Orthodox priests also have a title: Matushka, meaning “mother.”

Cha. Vietnamese for “Father.”

Dom. This is actually a shortened version of the Latin Dominus meaning “Lord.”  Dom is an honorific prefixed to the given name. It derives from the Latin Dominus. It’s used for Benedictines, Carthusians, and Canons Regular in English and French (eg. Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B.). For Portuguese, it signifies a bishop.

Don. Italian and Spanish version “Dom.” Don can be used in writing and in direct address (e.g. Don Bosco). You see this among monastics, but Opus Dei (Spanish in origin) also often refers to their Prelate as Don Avlaro or Don Javier. It’s not by any means restricted to clergy. Don is an honorific in all Spanish cultures. Don Juan of Austria is a notable example.

 

Sagart or Sacart. Irish or Old Gaeilge corruption of the Latin word for priest: sacerdos.

Athair. Irish address for “Father.”

Monsignore. Italian for “my lord.” The final “e” is often dropped. In Romance languages, it’s used to denote bishops, but in English it is restricted to presbyteral Prelates or Chaplains to His Holiness.

Otets. Ukrainian priest is usually addressed as “otets'” (отець), father, and his wife- dobro`dyjka, literally, “one who is doing good deeds” or “benefactress.”

Ojciec. Polish. When addressing a priest (vocative), it is Ojcze.

Padre. Corruption of Latin Pater. Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian for “Father.” It Italy, “Padre” is for mendicant religious priests (e.g. Padre Pio) and “Don” is for diocesan priests (e.g. Don Bosco).

Pappa. In Greek towns, priests are called Pappa, which means “daddy.” Our Latin Papa or Pope is the same word. I suppose each Greek Orthodox priest is papal in his own town.

Părinte. Romanian for “parent” or “begetter.” Corruption of the Latin Parens. There is a Romanian word for “Father” but Părinte is used instead. Romanian Christians address their priests with: “Sfinția Voastră” or “Your holiness” (“Your” in Romanian actually being a “pluralis majestatis”). Sfinția coming from the Latin word sanctitas meaning “holiness.”

Père. French corruption of the Latin Pater meaning “father.”

Abbé. A member of the French secular clergy in major or minor orders. It derives from the Aramaic “Abba” meaning “father.”

Romo. Indonesian for “Father.”

Vader. Dutch for “Father.”

Vater. German for “Father.”

 

Question: Do you know of more priest titles in other languages. Please leave a comment below and I’ll add them to the list. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

How St Francis differed from Martin Luther or Catholic Reform vs. Protestant Reform

How did Saint Francis’ reformation of the Catholic Church (“Francis, rebuild my Church”) differ from Martin Luther’s “reformation”?

For Audio Podcast version of: “My True Opinion of Martin Luther” click here.

Essentially, Francis teaches us that we cannot fight heresy by creating new heresies. Francis always submitted to the Church, the popes, and the bishops.

Whenever “reformation” begins to the buck against the institutional Church, more heresy arises. For example, in many regards the Monophysite heresy (i.e. “Christ has one nature”) was an over-reaction to the Nestorian heresy (i.e. “Christ is two persons”). The Catholic Church has always sought to aim directly at the truth, and not merely at the destruction of error. Too often the refutation of error crosses over into further error.

Similarly, Luther and Calvin sought to displace misunderstandings about grace and merit (i.e. the faulty nominalism spawned by William of Ockham) by creating an alternate vision of grace and merit (which ironically embraced Ockham’s nominalism and repackaged it). Luther’s “solution” was in fact heretical. A quick fix is often faulty. Duct tape can “fix” almost anything – but it eventually gives way to other problems.

The annals of Church history are filled with Catholic Reformers: Paul, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Maximus, John Damascene, Pope Gregory VII, Francis, Dominic, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, et al. Each of these Catholic Reformers retained the unity of Christ’s Church, submitted to church leadership, and patiently brought about renewal. In many cases, each experienced active persecution from other Christians and even fell under the suspicion of heresy. However, their humility and silence eventually vindicated their cause as advocates for the evangelical truth of Christ’s doctrine.

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best examples of patience in the cause of reform. When St Francis went to Rome to seek recognition from the Pope, the Pope dismissed him impatiently and told him to go “lie down with the pigs.”

After a little while, Francis returned smeared with swine feces and stinking to high heaven. When the Pope objected, Francis answered, “I obeyed your words and merely did as you said. I lay down with the pigs.” Suddenly the Pope realized that this was a holy man who was willing to obey even in the face of humiliation. The Pope listened to Francis’ vision for renewal and the rest is history.

When rebuffed by the pope, Saint Francis could have appealed to Sacred Scripture, showing this his pattern of life was poor and lowly like that of Christ. He might even have contrasted his own “biblical life” against the extravagance of the Papal court. Francis may even have rightly rebuked the abbots, bishops, and cardinals for lacking evangelical witness. Instead, Francis followed the path of Christ. He allowed himself to be misunderstood and maligned, knowing that God would bring about his vindication…and God always does.

Contrast Saint Francis to Martin Luther. Luther did not visit Rome for confirmation of his cause, nor did he respect the structures of the Church. In fact, Cardinal Cajetan met privately with Luther and explained how Luther might modify his message so that Cajetan could have it approved by the Roman Curia. If Luther had moved more slowly and charitably, he may have become “Saint” Martin Luther.

Unfortunately, Luther was adamant and stiff-necked. He would not attempt compromise. If the Pope would not agree with him, then he would reject the papacy. Period. Luther would not tolerate any authority that failed to support him immediately and without question. Consequently, when the papal bull arrived, Luther burned it publicly and began to curse the pope as Antichrist.

Note the difference between Francis and Luther. The former moved slowly and humbly. The latter acted independently and rashly. Consequently, the history of Protestantism is marked by rash and hasty division – there are now 36,000 Protestant denominations.

As the Apostle James wrote: “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20). History shows that God does not use “hot-heads” to guide His Church into righteousness. God chooses those who are little, meek, and humble – for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

Herein lies the mystery of Catholic Reform.