We were privileged to see the “smoke boat” or Botafumeiro in action today after Mass. The botafumeiro is the world’s largest incense thurible. It hangs from the ceiling of the Cathedral of Saint James and takes about 5 grown men to swing it through the cathedral. It’s quite the sight.
In this podcast I explain the epic botafumeiro. As promised, in the the podcast I include my video footage of the botafumeiro in action.
Today we arrived at the historic Benedictine monastery at Samos. I detail the building and lament on the collapse of Christianity in Spain (and especially the collapse of monasticism). Click below to listen:
Along the Camino of Saint James in Spain is the sight of a Eucharistic miracle in the church at O Cebreiro.
A poor pilgrim braved a deathly winter snowstorm to come to this church for Mass. The priest made fun of him and a Eucharistic miracle followed. Listen to the podcast below to hear the entire story about the miracle and the chalice:
Our Lord Jesus Christ founded a New Israel with Himself as Davidic King and with Twelve Apostles initiating the new Twelve Tribes of Israel. This is the Messianic Kingdom of the Church.
As one who connects the Old Testament features to Catholic dogma (see this book: The Crucified Rabbi), I’ve always been painfully aware that the term “apostle” doesn’t have a slick connection to Old Testament kingdom language.
Pagan “Boat” Sources for the Term Apostle:
In pagan Greek sources (such as in the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus), ἀπόστολος (apostolos) refers to a political or military delegate or messenger. ἀπόστολος also refers to the commander of a naval force.
In fact, στόλος refers to a naval division or to a colony. So an ἀπόστολος is one who travels out to these naval colonies. Sometimes ἀπόστολος is used to refer to a formal naval dispatch or to an export license to/from these colonies.
So when the New Testament authors adopt this Greek term, they are not merely referring to a local rabbi or preacher. They are using a term that referred to diplomats who traveled to the farrest ends of the earth. It’s a global or catholic term.
Pauline Sources for the Term:
The term ἀπόστολος appears only once in the Greet Septuagint (Greek version of Old Testament) at 1 Kings 14:6 where ἀπόστολος is a translation of the Hebrew שָׁלוּחַ (sha-lach). The term appears 79 times in the New Testament – 68 of which are found in the writings of Paul and his disciple Luke.
It seems that originally ἀπόστολος referred to each of the original Twelve Apostles. However, Saint Paul opened the term to include himself, Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Paul also speaks of false apostles in 2 Corinthians.
In Hebrews, Luke/Paul identify Jesus as “the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Heb 3:1). In this context, apostleship is associated with the high priesthood. This is our biggest hint into how early Christians understood the term ἀπόστολος. It was missionary and priestly. Just as an ἀπόστολος origianlly referred to naval delegates to colonies, so a high priest bridges over water as a pontifex, a bridge builder between God and man.
According to Paul, apostles surpass the various other offices within the Church of “teachers, evangelists, and prophets” (διδάσκαλος, εὐαγγελιστής, προφήτης). In the mind of Paul, an apostle is more than these three. I would argue, that for Paul an apostle is all three of these at once while also being priestly diplomats for Christ.
Are Apostles Political or Priestly?
At first glance into a Greek dictionary, the term ἀπόστολος seems political or mercantile. It’s a civil title. However, the Christians looked to King Melchizedek and King David as “priest kings” or “liturgical kings” as the prototypes for King Jesus. So the political realm collapses into the priestly liturgical realm. This is why Christ is both establishing a “kingdom” (political) and also building at “temple” (priestly). He is king and pontiff. And so also, his political ministers are both political and cultic. The ἀπόστολος is a naval delegate for foreign colonies throughout the world but he is also a sacrificial priest who offers the Gentiles to God as sacrifice and who offers the Eucharist as sacrifice.
Apostles on a Boat:
One final related topic. I couldn’t help but noticed that in Acts, the vivid scenes of Paul traveling by ship may in fact be intentionally recounted with detail to bolster Paul’s identity as ἀπόστολος. In the Greek mind, the ἀπόστολος is primarily naval and thus Paul is literally fulfilling his role as ἀπόστολος (maybe better so than the Twelve!). Also, the stories of Saint James Zebedee going to and from (posthumously) to Spain by boat ratifies James as a true apostle for Jesus. And let’s not forget all the “Jesus in a boat” scenes from the Gospels!
I recently learned from Deacon Greg Kandra that Our Lady of Providence Seminary of of the Diocese of Providence Rhode Island has zero new seminarians:
Over the past five years, between two and six men have entered the seminary every fall but that’s not the case this year.
“Entering the fall we don’t have any new seminarians applying for the Diocese of Providence, which is rare,” Fr. Chris Murphy, the Catholic Diocese of Providence’s assistant vocation director, said Tuesday.
“I cannot remember in recent memory when the last time was,” he added. A look back at the numbers shows a declining trend. Five men entered the seminary in 2012 and six entered in 2013, then the numbers drop to three, two and four in the years that followed.
Over the years, whenever the “priestly shortage” comes up in conversation, someone is quick to reply with some encouragement like this: “Oh yes, but we have so many young orthodox vocations! Things will change in a few years!”
I agree with this encouraging fact: We have some great seminarians! I’ve personally taught Catholic seminarians in America and in Rome and I can confirm that there are some dynamic, orthodox, and impressive seminarians moving into the sacerdotal pipeline.
But I am also aware of a gaping problem that hardly anyone mentions. The seminarian numbers are not there. We are about to fall off a demographic cliff of priestly vocations.
Yes, an impressive seminarian or deacon-seminarian visits your parish during the summer and does fantastic work.
Yes, you see lots of faces on the “Meet our Seminarians” color poster in the narthex after Mass.
Yes, you’re bishop announces yet another round of ordinations this year.
Praise God! I rejoice in all of it…but still…the numbers are lacking. Let’s take a look at priestly demographics:
For priests, we need to pray for quality and quantity:
Here is table of the number of priests in the USA from 1930 to 2015:
The number of priests exploded in 1950 (partly through migration) and peaked out in 1970. After 1975, you see a slow but steady decrease in the number of priests until the decline becomes steep around 1990.
More troubling is the fact that the tsunami of priests ordained from 1970-1980, will be reaching retirement age between the years 2015-2025 (age 25 + 45 years of service = retirement age 70).
Discovering the 1 Priest to every Catholic Ratio:
We have already begun to feel the scarcity of priests and you’ll understand why when you examine the numbers in light of the ratio of priest per Catholics. Check out these numbers:
In 1950, there was 1 priest to every 652 Catholics in the United States.
In 2010, there was 1 priest to every 1,653 Catholics in the United States.
In 2016, there was 1 priest to every 1,843 Catholics in the United States.
A numeric study shows that the tipping point in the USA happened around the year 1983. This is when our priest/Catholics ratio began to tank:
When it comes to priest/Catholics ratio, our priestly manpower is 33% of what it was 1950. Meanwhile there millions more lay Catholics in the pews.
And depending on the city, the ratio can be much worse. Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have pretty discouraging ratios, but none are hurting as badly as my neighboring diocese of Dallas:
Diocese of Dallas: 1 priest to every 6,229 Catholics.
Diocese of Los Angeles: 1 priest to every 3,931 Catholics.
Diocese of New York: 1 priest to every 2,055 Catholics.
Diocese of Chicago: 1 priest to every 1,624 Catholics.
Meanwhile there are model dioceses that have wonderful ratios that beat even the 1950 national ratio:
Diocese of Lincoln: 1 priest to every 598 Catholics.
And the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), which offers the Latin Mass from the 1962 Missale Romanum currently has this ratio in its parishes:
FSSP: 1 priest to every 250 Catholics.
Vocation Decrease among the Jesuits
Compare the growth of the FSSP to that of the global membership of the Society of Jesus:
In 1977, the Jesuits had 28,038 members.
In 2016, the Jesuits had 16,378 members.
The Jesuits have declined 41.5% since 1977. The average age of a Jesuit priest in 2018 is 63.4 years old. Considering that mandatory priestly retirement is age 70, this does not look good for the Jesuits. They will decline by more than 50% in the coming decade. If things don’t change, there will be less than 10,000 Jesuits on earth in the next few years.
[For reference, there are 6,058 (male and female) Dominicans on planet earth in 2018. That’s the size of three Texas high schools.]
Sad but True (plus some Hope):
It is true that we have many great young men in formation to be holy Catholic priests. I’ve spent hours talking with them after class and I know that we will have an excellent crop. The sad news is that it is small crop. A priest is only one man and if you spread him over 3 parishes, he will be less effective.
My prediction is that we will see a great Catholic migration over the next three decades. As that surge of vocations from 1970-1980 begins to retire and depart to their reward, we will see massive parish closings and consolidations. Priests will be rare. It is already obvious that bishops and dioceses like Lincoln Nebraska attract vocations to the holy priesthood. These bishops and their dioceses will thrive. Meanwhile, dioceses like Providence will shrink while they try to import priests from other parts of the world.
The solution is to pray for vocations, but also beg the question:
Why does Lincoln, Nebraska have a plethora of vocations (1 priest to every 598 Catholics!) while others are not only short on vocations but losing priests year after year?
Is it liturgical?
Is it ethnic or based somehow on immigration?
Is it doctrinal?
What leads young men to inquire about a priestly vocation?
How do they organize their altar server programs?
Does youth ministry play a role or not?
How do pastors play a role?
To which seminaries does each diocese send seminarians?
How does seminarian retention rate differ from diocese to diocese?
How is the bishop involved in the vocation process?
If “coffee is for closers,” Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska is drinking Roman double espressos.1 priest to every 598 Catholics. Someone should study the vocations process in place under Bishop Conley of Lincoln.
My personal acquaintance with Bishop Conley (he helped guide me into the Catholic Church in 2006) is that he is orthodox, Thomistic, dignified, fatherly, and favors the template of Ratzinger’s “Spirit of the Liturgy.” And if I’m honest, every single impressive seminarian that I meet…is shaped from the same mold. Like begets like. Like father, like son.
And even if you aren’t on board with the template of “orthodox, Thomistic, dignified, fatherly, Spirit of the Liturgy,” the numbers don’t lie.
Pray for holy bishops, holy priests, and holy seminarians!
Question: How is your part of the world doing with priestly vocations? What makes for a good seminarian? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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.
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.
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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