Several years ago, I was part of a discussion at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) centered around humility. St. Benedict has twelve steps to achieve humility which is Chapter 7 of his Rule. Humility does not come automatically. Like human love, Erich Fromm says in his Art of Loving that we must learn how to love by practice. Some people get it, and some don’t. If you want humility in your heart, you must put it there. This is the Art of Contemplative Practice, doing Cistercian practices and charisms to place yourself in the presence of Christ and wait for the Holy Spirit to overshadow you.

One of the most important reasons that I always say “Wait” for the Holy Spirit has to do with humility. In Chapter 7 of the Rule, St. Benedict has twelve steps to achieve humility for his monks. Because of original sin’s effects, humans always have a penchant for asking God to meet them as though they (humans) order God around. “I’ll pray,” Lord, “but you have to give me what I want.” That first step in chapter seven of the Rule has to do with “Fear of the Lord.” Our discussion about humility began with how to fear the Lord. Some people said it means we must be afraid of God, which is true to some extent. I chimed in that I thought St. Benedict was trying to instill in his monks not to boss God around with all their practices and prayers, as though we are doing God some sort of favor. Remember, it is God we are asking to sit down on a park bench in the middle of winter and overshadow us with his Faith. Fear of the Lord is respecting that God is divine and we are human, that God is God and we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father through Faith.


  1. CHRIST IS NOT ON THE CLOCK –Being present to Christ is unlike a chess match, where each move is clocked. One of my early expectations, and still creeps in from time to time, is that Christ is there for me in my time. Indeed, Christ is there for me, but it is disrespectful for me to think, “Your time is my time.” This is a subtle act of control, very common in the work world in which we live.
  2. CHRIST SAID HE WOULD GIVE ME WHATEVER I ASK, SO I CAN ASK FOR ANYTHING — You have read the passage from the Scriptures that says, “Ask anything in my name and I will give it to you.” Literally, if you ask something, you expect it because it says so in Scripture and, therefore, must be infallible. Try it sometime. Ask to win the Lottery or to have your neighbor lose all their money because they slighted you. God knows what each of us needs and gives that to us when we ask in humility, but maybe not in the way we anticipate or the timeframe we expect. When I began my Lay Cistercian journey, I had a somewhat considerable background in theology. I had to realize who God is and that, once again, in life, I had to start from the beginning (although, in fairness, I carry with me the accumulated experiences of my daily attempts to discover what it means to grow in being human (capacitas dei)). I did grow, and Christ did answer my prayers in silence and solitude, but it was like drinking concentrated orange juice (bitter) until I added the water from a lifetime of struggling to keep Christ as my one Christ Principle at my center.
  3. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET BELIEVE. — I have never seen the face of God, nor the face of Christ, for that matter. I have no idea what the Holy Spirit looks like, although all three persons of the Trinity figure prominently in how I approach life using THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. Abandoning my reliance on reality (two universes of the physical and mental), I actually experience the presence of Love from outside of myself, a Love that overshadows me and calms down the reliance on the promises of the World to show me its way to being fully human.

Fear of the Lord is not being afraid of the Lord as much as, with humility and obedience to what I know God shares with me, to give glory to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will come at the end of the ages. Amen.

Is being in the presence of God a waste of time? I hope so. The folly of God is wiser than all the wisdom of humans put together.



While trolling through the various YouTube streamings on my television, I came upon some topics that I would like to comment upon in terms of what I consider a dangerous temptation for those whose faith is not grounded in Christ Jesus. It is difficult enough for me to stay focused on “having in me the mind of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:5) without these tangential swipes from external sources invading and challenging my center. I refer to the YouTube about the nun whose body is exhumed and preserved in perfect condition.

As one of those who try to be faithful to the Gospel’s call for mercy and forgiveness, I look at the pop-up so-called manifestations or miracles as having the possibility of seducing those who desperately seek a sign that Jesus is real and for something extraordinary in which they can place their trust. I refer specifically to the Fatima letters and even apparitions of Mary and the Saints. To be very clear, the Church is the arbiter of what is true and should be believed (e.g., The Nicene Creed), and I am not objecting to the devotion to Mary or any of the Saints, which I continue to practice. What raises red flags for me is taking these tangential occurrences and placing them as my center. Doing so means I must push any other centers to the side, in my case, Philippians 2:5. St. Benedict says that we “must prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4).


Belief or non-belief, like any human choice, has consequences. Some are intended (we know what they are), but some are unintended (we have outcomes that we don’t anticipate). When looking at placing miracles and proofs of God speaking to us through nature or our imagination, I am reminded that only Christ can be a true center. What does the first Commandment say? I have added the footnotes from the text for you to reflect on the Ten Commandments as keys to keep our focus on God. I encourage you to do a little digging into one of the foundations of our morality. In doing so, keep in mind that the consequence of being led off center by some of these events and people who seek to sow discord and doubt about the Holy Father and what is truth only serves to weaken our core.

The Ten Commandments.*

1Then God spoke all these words:

2a I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,b out of the house of slavery.

3You shall not have other gods beside me.*

4You shall not make for yourself an idolc or a likeness of anything* in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;

5you shall not bow down before them or serve them.d For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation*;

6but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7You shall not invoke the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.* e For the LORD will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain.

8Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy.*

9Six days you may labor and do all your work,

10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God.f You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates.

11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested.g That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.*

12* h Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.i

13You shall not kill.* j

14You shall not commit adultery.k

15You shall not steal.l

16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.m

17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.n

Moses Accepted as Mediator.

18Now as all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blast of the shofar and the mountain smoking, they became afraid and trembled.o So they took up a position farther away

19and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die.”

20Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid, for God has come only to test you and put the fear of him upon you so you do not sin.”

21So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.

The Covenant Code.

22* The LORD said to Moses: This is what you will say to the Israelites: You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven.

23You shall not make alongside of me gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.p

24An altar of earth make for me, and sacrifice upon it your burnt offerings and communion sacrifices, your sheep and your oxen.q In every place where I cause my name to be invoked* I will come to you and bless you.

25But if you make an altar of stone for me,r do not build it of cut stone, for by putting a chisel to it you profane it.

26You shall not ascend to my altar by steps, lest your nakedness be exposed.

* [20:117] The precise numbering and division of these precepts into “ten commandments” is somewhat uncertain. Traditionally among Catholics and Lutherans vv. 16 are considered as only one commandment, and v. 17 as two. The Anglican, Greek Orthodox, and Reformed churches count vv. 16 as two, and v. 17 as one. Cf. Dt 5:621. The traditional designation as “ten” is not found here but in 34:28 (and also Dt 4:13 and 10:4), where these precepts are alluded to literally as “the ten words.” That they were originally written on two tablets appears in Ex 32:151634:2829Dt 4:1310:24.

The present form of the commands is a product of a long development, as is clear from the fact that the individual precepts vary considerably in length and from the slightly different formulation of Dt 5:621 (see especially vv. 1215 and 21). Indeed they represent a mature formulation of a traditional morality. Why this specific selection of commands should be set apart is not entirely clear. None of them is unique in the Old Testament and all of the laws which follow are also from God and equally binding on the Israelites. Even so, this collection represents a privileged expression of God’s moral demands on Israel and is here set apart from the others as a direct, unmediated communication of God to the Israelites and the basis of the covenant being concluded on Sinai.

* [20:3] Beside me: this commandment is traditionally understood as an outright denial of the existence of other gods except the God of Israel; however, in the context of the more general prohibitions in vv. 45, v. 3 is, more precisely, God’s demand for Israel’s exclusive worship and allegiance.

The Hebrew phrase underlying the translation “beside me” is, nonetheless, problematic and has been variously translated, e.g., “except me,” “in addition to me,” “in preference to me,” “in defiance of me,” and “in front of me” or “before my face.” The latter translation, with its concrete, spatial nuances, has suggested to some that the prohibition once sought to exclude from the Lord’s sanctuary the cult images or idols of other gods, such as the asherah, or stylized sacred tree of life, associated with the Canaanite goddess Asherah (34:13). Over the course of time, as vv. 45 suggest, the original scope of v. 3 was expanded.

* [20:4] Or a likeness of anything: compare this formulation to that found in Dt 5:8, which understands this phrase and the following phrases as specifications of the prohibited idol (Hebrew pesel), which usually refers to an image that is carved or hewn rather than cast.

* [20:5] Jealous: demanding exclusive allegiance. Inflicting punishment…the third and fourth generation: the intended emphasis is on God’s mercy by the contrast between punishment and mercy (“to the thousandth generation”—v. 6). Other Old Testament texts repudiate the idea of punishment devolving on later generations (cf. Dt 24:16Jer 31:2930Ez 18:24). Yet it is known that later generations may suffer the punishing effects of sins of earlier generations, but not the guilt.

* [20:7] In vain: i.e., to no good purpose, a general framing of the prohibition which includes swearing falsely, especially in the context of a legal proceeding, but also goes beyond it (cf. Lv 24:16Prv 30:89).

* [20:8] Keep it holy: i.e., to set it apart from the other days of the week, in part, as the following verse explains, by not doing work that is ordinarily done in the course of a week. The special importance of this command can be seen in the fact that, together with vv. 911, it represents the longest of the Decalogue’s precepts.

* [20:11] Here, in a formulation which reflects Priestly theology, the veneration of the sabbath is grounded in God’s own hallowing of the sabbath in creation. Compare 31:13Dt 5:15.

* [20:1217] The Decalogue falls into two parts: the preceding precepts refer to God, the following refer primarily to one’s fellow Israelites.

* [20:13] Kill: as frequent instances of killing in the context of war or certain crimes (see vv. 1218) demonstrate in the Old Testament, not all killing comes within the scope of the commandment. For this reason, the Hebrew verb translated here as “kill” is often understood as “murder,” although it is in fact used in the Old Testament at times for unintentional acts of killing (e.g., Dt 4:41Jos 20:3) and for legally sanctioned killing (Nm 35:30). The term may originally have designated any killing of another Israelite, including acts of manslaughter, for which the victim’s kin could exact vengeance. In the present context, it denotes the killing of one Israelite by another, motivated by hatred or the like (Nm 35:20; cf. Hos 6:9).

* [20:2223:33] This collection consists of the civil and religious laws, both apodictic (absolute) and casuistic (conditional), which were given to the people through the mediation of Moses. They will be written down by Moses in 24:4.

* [20:24] Where I cause my name to be invoked: i.e., at the sacred site where God wishes to be worshiped. Dt 12 will demand the centralization of all sacrificial worship in one place chosen by God.

a. [20:217Dt 5:621.

b. [20:2Lv 26:13Ps 81:11Hos 13:4.

c. [20:4Ex 34:17Lv 26:1Dt 4:151927:15.

d. [20:5Ex 34:714Nm 14:18Dt 4:246:15.

e. [20:7Lv 19:1224:16.

f. [20:811Ex 23:1231:131634:2135:2Lv 23:3.

g. [20:11Ex 31:17Gn 2:23.

h. [20:1216Mt 19:1819Mk 10:19Lk 18:20Rom 13:9.

i. [20:12Lv 20:9Mt 15:4Mk 7:10Eph 6:23.

j. [20:13Mt 5:21.

k. [20:14Lv 18:2020:10Dt 22:22Mt 5:27.

l. [20:15Lv 19:11.

m. [20:16Ex 23:1Dt 19:1619Prv 19:5924:28.

n. [20:17Rom 7:7.

o. [20:1821Dt 4:115:222718:16Heb 12:1819.

p. [20:23Ex 20:34.

q. [20:24Dt 12:51114:2316:6.

r. [20:25Dt 27:5Jos 8:31.

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  • No matter what the world thinks, and this includes people of good will who see a conspiracy under every shade tree, be steadfast in your faith, in season and out of season.
  • Christ alone is my center, and I must struggle daily to keep external forces from trying to unthrone Him.
  • Don’t put your trust in princes. This means seemingly miraculous events that seem to prove God is with us.
  • Take my inspiration for Christ from Mary and the Saints, who resisted the snares of the Evil One and kept their eyes upon Christ alone.
  • Realize that my Faith is weak if I don’t renew it each day with the power of the Holy Spirit in Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Sacred Reading, and converting my life daily to becoming more like Christ (which for me means I am becoming more and more what my nature intended humanity to be).
  • Don’t be seduced by seemingly innocent events that purport to sensationalize external proofs that God exists. The weak need a sign, but no sign will be given to them but the sign of Jonah.

The Demand for a Sign.*

38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher,* we wish to see a sign from you.”u

39He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful* generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.

40Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,* so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

41* At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.

42At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.v

Be careful what you place at your center. You have to live with it forever.


MAGISTER NOSTER: With God, there is always a profound dimension.

Reading becomes so familiar and casual that we sometimes don’t reflect on the deeper meaning contained in words. The Sacred Scriptures, early writings of the Church Fathers, and subsequent Cistercian writers, such as the late Dom Andre Louf, O.C.S.O., are not just to be read but to be assimilated into oneself to form a Way of Living.

One phrase I have always had a problem understanding is “humans are made in the image and likeness of God.” Okay. I read it with the experiences I have had at the time of my reading it. Because I have now grown more in how to penetrate and delve deeper not only into the meaning of words but the context in which they were formulated long ago, in some cases, I see more now and can put together linkages I never imagined before. That is being human.

What does it mean to say humans are made in God’s image and likeness? God has an image in the Book of Genesis called anthropomorphic representation, because the author’s only way to describe what it means to be human and how we got ourselves into the mess we find our nature is to tell a story. Actually, God is divine in nature and has no human image or likeness. To be made in God’s image and likeness must mean something deeper, a meaning more profound than just the words suggest. Is God’s image and likeness a human one, and so God must look like a human? If God is NOT our image and likeness, how can we be made in the image and likeness of something that doesn’t exist, at least using human concepts?

My thoughts are that we are made in God’s image and likeness, but it is not human in likeness and image that is meant here. Remember, the authors, like any of us, write words, but in this case, they are inspired by God and contain a deeper meaning for us to discover at a later time. Genesis speaks of God’s image and likeness and humans being made with those characteristics.


The image of God, who does not have an image like a face or body, must have a deeper meaning. It means that God’s image has one nature and three distinct persons, the Trinity. Think about it. What does God look like? This is the template for an image where three persons exist as one, pure knowledge (the Father), pure Love (the Son), and pure service (the Holy Spirit.) The purpose of life itself is to know, love, and serve God in this world so that we can be happy together in the next. (Baltimore Catechisms, Question 6). God’s image is described in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36. When it says we are made in the image of God, it means we humans have, at our core, the potential to know what it means to be human, the potential to know what it means to love, and have the opportunity to be Christ-entered rather than self-centered. It means that the image of God is the Trinity, made human in our nature through, with, and in Jesus. It means we have the DNA of God in us. We don’t just get this DNA in us without the next part, the likeness of God. The Trinity is the template for how humans move from mere humanity to a deeper level of nature, to know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with God in the next. The Father provides THE LIFE for each of us; The Son provides THE WAY for each of us to walk through the minefield of original sin without it exploding in our faces; the Holy Spirit is THE TRUTH that, when we sit patiently on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait, we find what we seek sitting next to us. Humans can only approach God through our intermediary, Jesus, who is the one who gives us life while on earth and fulfill our humanity when we reach heaven.


We are said to be made in the image and likeness of God. Yet, we are nothing like God, even remotely. The comparison is only meaningful when we look deeper into the likeness of God and ask some questions. Humans, by their own reasoning, are incapable of understanding, knowing, loving, and serving as God intended. To do that takes an act of free will, one which goes to the very essence of who God is (granted, I am just using human reasoning for this), and that is found in the Creed we recite every Sunday. God is one but the Father and Son love each other (filioque), and what proceeds from that is the Holy Spirit. This, as I have discovered in my Lectio Divina, is the likeness of God (realizing, again, all of this is so much straw compared to what God actually is). Am I correct? I hope so.

What I have also realized is that The Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, are the archetype, not just the type for this trait for all humanity, whether people realize it or not. Faith is that added dimension of reality we receive at Baptism when God adopts us as adopted sons and daughters and, as such, inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. God even sent his only Son, Jesus, to not only tell us (The Old Testament prophesies) but show us (the fulfillment of all prophecies and the empowerment of the Church to facilitate each individual human to fulfill their humanity by being able to rise above their human nature to its highest level possible. Mary is an example of what the Holy Spirit can do for all of us. Saint Joesph is the patron of the Church and the example of how the family is the paradigm of the likeness of God. Joseph loves Mary and, in humility and obedience, accepts the will of God to be the foster father of the Christ. The Holy Spirit overshadows Mary with the full love of God, and her cup of humanity is filled so much, not a drop more can it hold without running over. Mary is an example for us of heaven on earth. Mary’s human nature is unlike any before or since. She is literally what we will become in Heaven. Jesus is the product of the Holy Family, both divine and human in nature, nurtured and schooled in how to love, what is most important in life, and how to be fully human. The family is the template for the likeness of God.

That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

INTELLIGENT PROGRESSION: Cosmic integration of all reality

My most recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) this very morning makes absolutely no sense, in terms of the core theme: “…have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” How do you go from that core theme to a series of thoughts about “the devolution of the species?” Is the Holy Spirit just jerking me around, or is there madness to this method? Let me explain my most recent thought progression and you decide.

First, you must do a little homework. Go to and then read one of the recent blogs about intelligent progression (my more accurate term for the generic Darwinistic evolution). I take my inspiration from Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit Paleontologist and author of The Divine Milieu and The Phenomenon of Man.

See If there is one slideshow that encapsulates or rounds up my thoughts, it is this one on It is a confirmation of my view of reality, of how it all fits together. I cried tears of happiness as I watched this magnificent confirmation of The Christ Principle unfold. You MUST watch it.

My quest is to discover, not who God is, but who I am, the fullness of my humanity, which is about all I can hope to do with human energy. With the help and power of Christ, I have expanded that humanity exponentially to include not only the awareness of self and the world but the opening up of a reality for which humans have been intended since creation.

Consciousness and complexity, as shown by this map by Teilhard de Chardin, move. This is evolution, not just of the species, which it is, but also of the physical universe, the mental universe, and the spiritual universe. I am here because I can be aware of how to move to the next level of my consciousness, one that mere human reason cannot empower me to do. With The Christ Principle lifting me up, by being both divine and human in nature, I can now transcend human consciousness by itself and more to a deeper meaning of my humanity, one that is not limited except by the boundaries of knowledge, love, and service.

In this context, I can now read the Canticle of Daniel with fresh eyes, realizing that all creation praises God by being what is it and being faithful to its nature. For me, proving God is a waste of time. However, being aware of how God speaks to me in nature, in the depths of my heart, the place no human wants to look, is forever fresh and exciting. For a Lay Cistercian, each day is a new creation, a way to be present to the ontic possibility of the manifest ability of my humanity in its intended, intelligent progression.

I encourage you, as I did, to read this Prayer of Azariah three times. First, read it for meaning; secondly, read it as your prayer; thirdly, pray that you can be what you read.

Prayer of Azariah.*

24They walked about in the flames, singing to God and blessing the Lord.

25 Azariah* stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud:

26 “Blessed are you, and praiseworthy,

O Lord, the God of our ancestors,

and glorious forever is your name.

27 For you are just in all you have done;

all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right,

and all your judgments proper.

28 You have executed proper judgments

in all that you have brought upon us

and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors.

By a proper judgment you have done all this

because of our sins;

29 For we have sinned and transgressed

by departing from you,

and we have done every kind of evil.

30 Your commandments we have not heeded or observed,

nor have we done as you ordered us for our good.

31 Therefore all you have brought upon us,

all you have done to us,

you have done by a proper judgment.

32You have handed us over to our enemies,

lawless and hateful rebels;

to an unjust king, the worst in all the world.

33 Now we cannot open our mouths;

shame and reproach have come upon us,

your servants, who revere you.

34For your name’s sake, do not deliver us up forever,

or make void your covenant.

35 Do not take away your mercy from us,

for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,

Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,

36 To whom you promised to multiply their offspring

like the stars of heaven,

or the sand on the shore of the sea.

37 For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,

brought low everywhere in the world this day

because of our sins.

38 We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,

no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,

no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.

39 But with contrite heart and humble spirit

let us be received;

As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bulls,

or tens of thousands of fat lambs,

40 So let our sacrifice be in your presence today

and find favor before you;

for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

41 And now we follow you with our whole heart,

we fear you and we seek your face.

Do not put us to shame,

42 but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.

43 Deliver us in accord with your wonders,

and bring glory to your name, O Lord:

44 Let all those be put to shame

who inflict evils on your servants;

Let them be shamed and powerless,

and their strength broken;

45 Let them know that you alone are the Lord God,

glorious over the whole world.”

46 Now the king’s servants who had thrown them in continued to stoke the furnace with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brush.

47 The flames rose forty-nine cubits above the furnace,

48 and spread out, burning the Chaldeans that it caught around the furnace.

49 But the angel of the Lord went down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions, drove the fiery flames out of the furnace,

50and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it. The fire in no way touched them or caused them pain or harm.

51 Then these three in the furnace with one voice sang, glorifying and blessing God:

52 “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,

praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;

And blessed is your holy and glorious name,

praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.

53 Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,

praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.

54 Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,

praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

55 Blessed are you who look into the depths

from your throne upon the cherubim,

praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

56 Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,

praiseworthy and glorious forever.

57 Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

58 Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

59 You heavens, bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.a

60 All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

61 All you powers, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

62 Sun and moon, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

63 Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

64 Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

65 All you winds, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

66 Fire and heat, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

67 Cold and chill, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

68 Dew and rain, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

69 Frost and chill, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

70 Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

71 Nights and days, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

72 Light and darkness, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

73 Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

74 Let the earth bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

75 Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

76 Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

77 You springs, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

78 Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

79 You sea monsters and all water creatures, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

80 All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

81 All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

82 All you mortals, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

83 O Israel, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

84 Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

85 Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

86 Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

87 Holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

88 Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

For he has delivered us from Sheol,

and saved us from the power of death;

He has freed us from the raging flame

and delivered us from the fire.

89 Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,

whose mercy endures forever.

90 Bless the God of gods, all you who fear the Lord;

praise and give thanks,

for his mercy endures forever.”

Reflect on the intelligent progression of reality through time using the Teilhard map provided (unattributed).


I have wondered what it means for Jesus to be my Savior, My Redeemer Lives. There are a couple of ways to grow deeper with this phrase as Lectio Divina. I share with you what I did to move to a deeper level of my humanity, not just on the surface with what I can see, but the endless depths of my human experience that I have yet to fully explore. This Strong’s Concordance is a technical tool that I find helps me in having in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

I use Strong’s Concordance, a way to examine each word in the Scriptures to see its historicity and natural usage of the time. I want you to do the following.

  • Click on this URL of Strong’s Concordance to access it.
  • A page will come up with a window at the top to allow you to search for any words you want.
  • Type in the word “redeem.”
  • Read what the page presents. It should bring up the Hebrew word, “Gaal.”
  • This is the word for Redeemer comes from a word associated with a pawn shop, where a KINSMAN (this is important) goes there to buy back what a family member hocked sometime before.
  • What thoughts does this evoke in you as you think of Christ as Redeemer?


SPIRITUAL READING: Sayings of the Desert Fathers

I offer you what I use as spiritual reading. Remember, reading Sacred Scripture is the deepest part because you become what you read. With these readings and all spiritual readings, you gain wisdom and perspective. Both are necessary, but one is essential.

These readings are not my regular routine reading but provide a real-life look into the process of becoming more like Christ and less like my human self (which ironically allows me to become more fulfilled as a human being). You will see the home page of the Monastery. Click on the tab that says “Prayer+Chant.” That takes you to a page that has a list of options. Choose the one that says “Saying and Stories of the Desert Fathers.” Just browsing in this website is fun for me. Hope you enjoy it as I do.

Peace be with you. This is not the peace that the world gives, the absence of conflict, but the presence of Love.



I have adopted the model of a cosmic universe from the Jesuit Paleontologist Henri Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as how I look at intelligent progression on a cosmic scale. I offer you his URL and some quotes from AZ Quotes.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Love is the most powerful and still most unknown energy in the world.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mystical of cosmic forces. Love is the primal and universal psychic energy. Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Humanity has been sleeping-and still sleeps-lulled within the narrowly confining joys of its little closed loves. In the depths of the human multitude there slumbers an immense spiritual power that will manifest itself only when we have learned how to break through the dividing walls of our egoism and raise ourselves up to an entirely new perspective, so that habitually and in a practical fashion we fix our gaze on the universal realities.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The human person is the sum total of a 15 billion year chain of unbroken evolution now thinking about itself” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


As one who can only aspire to be a Lay Cistercian, my purpose is to seek God by moving from self to God.  That word, moving, is actually key to my attempts. Here are some of my reflections on moving from self to God. One of the monks at Holy Spirit, in our most recent retreat (2018) told us that a big reason monks come to the monastery or Lay Cistercians join a group dedicated to Cistercian practices and charisms is conversion. Conversion means growing from our old self to our new one, denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, and following Christ. Conversion of life is movement. For me, conversion of self to God is a process, one that includes using the Cistercian Way, not a final state of attainment in my lifetime. The journey is the important thing because that is what I wake up to every morning. Each day is a lifetime, each day begins by making all things new.  Like any journey, you need to know where you are going, have a good reason to be on the trip, and prepare for it with food and water, and appropriate transportation. St. Paul calls it a race in Philippians 3 and adds that the reason for his race is that Christ won the race for all of us.


“Quo Vadis Latin for, ‘Where are you going?’; according to a legend first found in the apocryphal Acts of St Peter, the apostle Peter, fleeing the persecutions in Rome, met Christ on the Appian Way and asked him ‘Domine, quo vadis [Lord, where are you going]’. Receiving the reply that Christ was going to be crucified again, Peter understood that this would be in his place; he accordingly turned back and was martyred.

The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and

Our destiny is not pre-destined, it seems.  Our human will can make changes to our behavior, which is the essence of what we call free choice. Some choices are good for us, and some are bad for us. As a loving Father, God sent His Son to tell us what is good for us and what will lead us to live Forever.

In my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5), I thought of the whole concept of pole reversal (don’t ask why, I never know why), and how in our physical world, the North and the South poles have actually reversed in the long history of our planet. I was thinking that everything is bound together as, physical, mental, and spiritual universes. What happens in one universe happens in all of them, although substantially different and in accordance with the Laws of each Universe.


THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE –– Laws, as I understand them, are those principles from which reality flows and which help us explain why things are and how they might be. We muse mathematics, physics, and chemistry, the languages that help us discover what reality is and how matter and energy behave.  I still have a problem with Time, but at least it is effected and affected by matter and energy.  Scientific thought processes measure what is and make conclusions and deductions based on facts (at least those that we hold to be true until further evidence proves them wrong). The scientific human is a tidy thinker, like an accountant. Everything must be in its proper place. Science cannot measure the future but can extrapolate what it might be, using the best evidence to date. If I tell you that humans are the only sentient beings in the whole known universe, you begin the computations (e.g., The Drake Equation) to prove that there could be extraterrestrial life out there, but we have no scientific proof of it, what we do have is logic and probability, which suggests that there may be (I stress the may) life out there.  You can’t rule it out. What has just happened is our projection of what we know to what we don’t know. Science says there may be something out there called Dark Matter and Dark Energy, although we have not seen it. So here the physical universe benefits from the mental universe (the domain of human reason, collectively and individually).

MENTAL UNIVERSE — The mental universe is one reserved for reasoning beings only. Dogs and cats, elephants, and kangaroos are not part of this universe. Have you ever asked your dog a question, such as, what time is it? Did you get an answer? Animals have an animal nature. They share our DNA, they are oxygen-breathing like us, and they reproduce like us, but they are not us. Why is that? Is there some grand design that we can’t quite pull together, something that makes all reality fit together?  So far, we have talked about two-thirds of reality, most of it visible and measurable. When we factor in the mental universe, there are some laws that are not scientific but more subjective and open to interpretation.  Science doesn’t play well in this playground. Too nebulous. They are correct, it is too obtuse sometimes. This is the world where we find meaning and purpose to life, where we find out our purpose in life, where we use all of our knowledge to discover what reality looks like, where we use our mental processes and our history to make sense of reality and to begin to ask questions about how all of this fits together, to discover how to love fiercely, and finally, we know we will die, now what?  Only humans can look at the universe and ask what is it and how is it? Unique people, like the late Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, have advanced enough to peer into how it all fits together.

In just looking around on television, the most unlikely of venues to discover what is meaningful on the planet, I came up with four different ways of thinking about what is of value. I base this on the story of the blind men of Hindustan as they are each asked to describe an elephant. I use all the following languages of being because they have led me to a deeper appreciation of my humanity and where I fit in it. As such they are the bases of the assumptions about why I relate to an unseen God and, actually more important, how I do it each day to grow in my humanity.

THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH-– This is an approach that stresses a rigorous analysis of physical matter using the languages of mathematics, physics, the geologic sciences, statistics, and scientific analyses through position papers. I use this approach as part of my combination of languages to look at reality and try to figure out what being fully human using our next level of evolution might be. The Achilles heel of science is that it only uses the languages of science (only recently acquired through advances in the last hundred years) to look at matter and its properties while denying invisible reality. For me, it is good for what it does, but, it does not have the energy to lift me up to the next level of my consciousness.

THE HISTORICAL APPROACH--I use this approach to search for people who have actually existed and are not fictitious. Do you know Orville Kahl? Orville is deceased and was a television technician in my hometown of Vincennes, Indiana on 6th Street. Orville fixed Muntz televisions way back in the early ’60s.

My point here is, you probably don’t know Orville or his life story, but he did exist and was not a figment of my imagination. I could probably look up on the Internet to find Orville but with great difficulty. The longer Orville lived (one hundred to two hundred years ago) we tend to blur all those fine details about him, if anyone even remembers his name. The Catholic Church of 2023 is much different from the Church of the Apostles. This was a time of transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament, of moving beyond the Temple in Jerusalem to the New Jerusalem which encompasses the whole world. It is the same Church and we can trace back people who lived in some instances.

THE CONCEPTUAL APPROACH– Much of what I think about Jesus and the Holy Spirit is conceptual. I have not seen their historical faces, yet I know that they have a profound presence in my life. I have not seen the face of Hugh of Lincoln, but I know he exists through the historical approach. You may not have ever heard of Hugh of Lincoln. Does that mean he never existed? I hope not. I use the scientific and conceptual approaches most of the time. I postulate about the “spine of reality” that Teilhard de Chardin has as a way to see the continuity and maturation of consciousness from creation to Omega. Is this true? Wrong question for me. I ask, “How can this lead me to use The Christ Principle” to discover deeper meaning about what it means for me to be a human being. You wouldn’t believe where I have been in the depths of my mind. I liken it to, but only a fraction of, what the late Steven Hawking was able to do in his mind with theoretical mathematics and physics. What a mind! Like the scientific approach, this theoretical approach of concepts is based on going to places the mind has dared not travel before and asking the interrogatories.

THE LITERARY APPROACH –– This most popular approach to describing what is meaningful takes the form of classic myth forms (see Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade), stories, similies, fables, archetypal books like Genesis and The Gospel of St. John), plus any other cognitive approach to punch deeper into reality to unleash the buried treasures of archetypes, types, heroes and heroines, Saints, and models of what it means to be fully human as nature intended. It is the human way of communicating what is but cannot be seen, what might be but is just beyond making sense out of it. Myth, far from being a fairy tale is the more intense and archetypal literary device humans have to postulate a reason why we show up on this planet in this time with just the right combination of gases and protections for life to move (intelligent progression).

The Old Testament writings and New Testament fulfillment are designed as a HOW TO book on what to do and NOT do to relate to God. Each age looks at the invisible reality they term God with different lenses. At one point, God is El Shaddai (on the mountain top as with Moses). As they gained experiences of what was true, Israel wrestles with weaving down the path of the covenant, in and out of belief, ups and downs of awareness that God even exists. It sounds like our age is still engaged in that game of yo-yo.  In the New Testament, what was true became not keeping the Law but reading about it (although that was a stage in our awareness of God). Christ came as one to tell us and show us that the Law is not wrong so much as people have not moved from the notion of covenant for a select people, to that select people taking the Word made Flesh to the World and sharing it with those who are not Jewish. All of us are Jewish in our roots (the root of Jesse) but are not Zionists.

Against this development in complex emphases, the early Church termed itself catholic and is open to all humans of all races at all times to the possibility of the manifest ability of The Christ Principle in their individual lives. This is true as long as the individual accepts Absolute Truth as the template against which everything is measured. Not everyone will see this truth, nor agree on what truth is (Pilate’s famous question to Christ, “What is Truth?” Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. If I have Christ in me, and the only way I do that is to put it there EACH AND EVERY DAY.

The Covenant of the Old Testament is my covenant, although it has progressed through New Testament, The Church Universe to this very day.

The Covenant with Christ exists, not twenty centuries ago, but right now for me. I have the Scriptures, Writings of the Early Church (Apostles), Ecumenical and Regional Councils through the ages, and Magisterium all to safeguard the truth for me today, the same one Christ is teaching me right now in my heart of hearts (Matthew 6:5).

My Covenant with Christ began with Baptism with water, when The Father and Holy Spirit shadowed me with their living spirit of truth. I have had to unravel what that Baptismal moment means using all of these languages. Am I correct? I Hope so (upper case is significant).


All of these approaches to truth are based on a reality that is corrupt (physically, mentally, and even spiritually). As such, truth exists in a human condition that has a beginning and an ending. Science is corrupt because the theories of today might not hold up to the advances of human evolution and AI in the future. This is not to say they are incorrect now, as much as they are not absolute truth, admitting of no change and remaining the same in all three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).

It is my contention that there is no absolute truth except in the divine nature of God. When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he is not using the words that we use to describe reality. As the Son of God and our friend, God tells me that I must dump all my preconceived notions to embrace something that my reasoning says can’t possibly be true. Scripture calls this “kenosis” (Philippians 2:5) or emptying of self. When I look at all of the fallacies of the world, one without absolute truth, everything is relative. Science seeks to remedy this by using a way to look at the reality that rises above individual opinions. I like that. My problem has always been that it doesn’t look at everything in its “theory of everything.” Absolute truth exists outside of the human condition or nature and is actually pure energy, the truth of knowledge, love, and of service, yet one nature that is not human nor animal.

I speculate that God (being pure service or sharing) “cannot not” become more in its nature as an end product, so we have the heavenly choirs of angels, Archangels, and the “spine of reality,” as described by Teilhard de Chardin, and ultimately humans (or any other species out there somewhere). Because the source of all that is is God as creator, God’s fingerprints (DNA) are within each atom, molecule, galaxy, Sun, Plante, Earth, living things, animal nature, and human nature.

SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE– The question that has dogged humans since they first knew that they knew is, is that all there is? We do well in our Western culture with what we can see. We do not handle what is invisible very well. Most of what is meaningful is invisible, so it is difficult for the scientific approach to make sense of it.

I need the physical universe as a base for existing. I need the mental universe as a way to make sense of the physical universe and to self-reflect on why I am even here? All I have for tools is my life experiences and those languages I have learned to translate visible and invisible reality into something that I hope makes sense for my next level of evolution as a human, being an adopted son (daughter) of the Father now, and in the life that is incorruptible. It all sounds like a fairy tale. And so it is? Who would believe it, if the Resurrection Moment did not happen?


I have discovered in my own life that there are two bumps that have made me slow down in my thinking about visible reality alone as the only way to discover what exists.

  1. CHRIST REQUIRES THAT I DIE TO MYSELF IN BAPTISM (AND EACH DAY THEREAFTER) TO ENTER A COVENANT THAT IS INCORRUPTIBLE. This is always foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block for the Jews. How irrelevant it seems to find truth by giving away your free will that says you are the center of truth. It is that act of abandonment of everything that is to step out into now only the unknown but one which we can’t even relate as human experiences that is illogical. I can only come to this awareness through Faith (God’s own energy) using what the total life experiences of my reason have afforded me. When I look at the energy of the World to allow me to reach the last stage of evolution as a human, it is not there. The World only gives me human experiences up until I die. Is that all there is? If I have realized each day that I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father, something kicks in at death, the something that kicked in at my Baptism and Confirmation, that sustained me with the bread of Life in Eucharist, that makes me new over and over and over. God doesn’t leave me an orphan. I have learned, over a considerable lifetime of failing to do what Christ says, that all I need is to sit in the back of the Church, like Mrs. Murphy, with eyes lowered, repeating the mantra of the ancient Church prayer, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy of me, a sinner.”
  2. CHRIST REQUIRES THAT, IF I WANT TO HAVE TRUTH IN ME, IT MUST BE TRUTH THAT COMES FROM OUTSIDE ME, EVEN OUTSIDE MY HUMAN NATURE. Where can I get the truth? Depends on whom you are asking? Ask a Democrat what is true and they will say “Follow me, we are the way to go in the future.” Ask a Republican what is true and they will say “Follow me, we are the way to go in the future.” Ask each one of them who has the truth and they say, “We do.” Sounds like a split in the road. The late, great Yogi Berra was known for his witty sayings. I remember one saying that might apply in this case. “When you come up to a Y in the road, take it.” I have reason for a reason. I know that I know. I know what I know from my life experiences both those that are good and those that have damaged me. Hopefully, I have “picked myself up, dusted myself off, and started all over again.” I have the freedom to choose what I want to enable me to be more human. Everyone has the freedom to choose. What people choose, however, can make them free or dead, depending on the choice. God comes into the picture (in Genesis as an archetypal story of what it means to be human) and tells humans what is good and what is bad. The problem is, that humans don’t like to be told anything by anyone at any time. This choice is inside of me but the truth is outside of me, of course, granted that you accept the mindset that God tells us what is good for us and what will kill our spirit. If you don’t accept that, your alternative is that you not only have choices but determine what is good for you based on intuition, human needs, human urges, and animal urges. This is why THE WORLD does not have the power to raise us up to the next level of our human intelligent progression and become more conscious of who we are and where we are going.
  3. There are four types of truth that I have uncovered for me.
  4. ABSOLUTE TRUTH — This is the truth that is contained in the Divine Nature. It is so powerful that it is a person, the Holy Spirit. This truth does not admit corruption or change. It always is. There is no movement nor layers of truth to this Divine Absolute Truth. It is divine energy and admits to no corruption or additions, as does Truth that comes from our human nature.
  5. OBJECTIVE TRUTH — Scientific truth wants to avoid the inconvenience of dealing with invisible reality as part of what makes up reality. As such, they only look at what they can measure and verify as being true. They are correct, of course, in the focus of their measurements but do not account for the invisible reality around us. Objective truth still exists in the mental universe and, as such, is subject to the corruptibility of matter and mind. This truth might be considered the upper society of human reasoning but it is subject to the changes in the information, data, new theoretical constructs, and the ever-growing influence of the James Webb Space Telescope. All of this is good and must continue to evolve and grow in order for humanity to reach its destiny.
  6. SUBJECTIVE TRUTH — Less political but more relevant to me is subjective truth, the thinking that I encounter each day as I move forward in the consciousness of what is both inside and outside of me. Subjective truth is what you think about something or what you think about something. The big logjam of modern thinking is that each person has the right to believe whatever they want and what they want is reality for them. Often, groups of people form thinking, such as Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Atheists, Lay Cistercians, and societal governments. This thinking may or may not be fostered in others by the majority of believers, and it sometimes results in destruction, anarchy, and freakish laws and policies by governments. All of this is subjective truth and no one can challenge your right to choose.
  7. RELATIVE TRUTH — This form of truth is what people want it to be regardless of its relationship to reality. Relativism is the most prominent type of thinking these days. When someone challenges you that this is just your opinion, it is relativism behind the smokescreen. Relative truth is what the individual thinks is true. Add all of this up and you have the hodge-podge that we know as The World of secular thinking. Relative truth does not admit any absolute authority outside of itself.


WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WAKE UP IN A CORRUPT WORLD AND TRY TO SWIM IN THE WATERS OF HUMAN IMPERFECTION? Include in this is: what are good behaviors and what are those behaviors, that, if I do them, will lessen, not strengthen my humanity? How do I use the most powerful animal urge I inherited from my past, the urge to procreate? Why is there evil in the world and where does it come from? Is there a force outside of myself that pulls me towards an unseen fulfillment of my humanity?

HOW CAN I GET THE POWER TO LIFT MYSELF UP TO THE NEXT LEVEL OF MY HUMAN EVOLUTION? What is my destiny? Is there an invisible part of like or am I condemned to live out existence with just what I can see and observe until I die? What part does Christ play in all this cacophony of seeming contradiction and bustling of self-proclaimed prophets that I should follow what they say to reach fulfillment for my human destiny?

WHAT IS ABSOLUTE TRUTH? Who can provide me with a truth beyond my freedom to choose? Why it is necessary for me to give away my YES and NO to a higher power to fulfill my humanity and raise me to the next level of my evolution?

HOW CAN I USE MY HUMAN REASONING AND ABILITY TO CHOOSE WHAT IS GOOD FOR ME TO ACCESS THE DIVINE EQUATION AND RECEIVE CORRECT ANSWERS. I plop into the lifeline of life for seventy to eighty years (82.8) as the only one who ever lived. I have my whole lifetime to discover the meaning or purpose of life, what my purpose in life is, what is the scope of reality, how it all fits together, how I can love fiercely, and what I must do until I die to maintain meaning.

If there is no God, which is hypothetical in my case, I will have answered, at least partially, what my next step in my evolution is and lived here and now with peace, the prosperity of spirit, love of neighbor (still a struggle), and the happiness of knowing that I am part of resonance of the totality of all that is, rather than the dissonance of not knowing, loving or serving humanity.



Here is a reading from the website in the top right-hand corner under the category of Library. It is a treasure trove of source materials for those wanting to delve deeper into contemplation.

Doctor Mellifluus

His Holiness Pope Pius XII
Encyclical on St. Bernard of Clairvaux
May 24, 1953

To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Health and Apostolic Benediction.

The “Doctor Mellifluus,” “the last of the Fathers, but certainly not inferior to the earlier ones,”[1] was remarkable for such qualities of nature and of mind, and so enriched by God with heavenly gifts, that in the changing and often stormy times in which he lived, he seemed to dominate by his holiness, wisdom, and most prudent counsel. Wherefore, he has been highly praised, not only by the sovereign Pontiffs and writers of the Catholic Church, but also, and not infrequently, by heretics. Thus, when in the midst of universal jubilation, Our predecessor, Alexander III, of happy memory, inscribed him among the canonized saints, he paid reverent tribute when he wrote: “We have passed in review the holy and venerable life of this same blessed man, not only in himself a shining example of holiness and religion, but also shone forth in the whole Church of God because of his faith and of his fruitful influence in the house of God by word and example; since he taught the precepts of our holy religion even to foreign and barbarian nations, and so recalled a countless multitude of sinners . . . to the right path of the spiritual life.”[2] “He was,” as Cardinal Baronius writes, “a truly apostolic man, nay, a genuine apostle sent by God, mighty in work and word, everywhere and in all things adding luster to his apostolate through the signs that followed, so that he was in nothing inferior to the great apostles, . . . and should be called . . . at one and the same time an adornment and a mainstay of the Catholic Church.”[3]

2. To these encomiums of highest praise, to which almost countless others could be added, We turn Our thoughts at the end of this eighth century when the restorer and promoter of the holy Cistercian Order piously left this mortal life, which he had adorned with such great brilliance of doctrine and splendor of holiness. It is a source of gratification to think of his merits and to set them forth in writing, so that, not only the members of his own Order, but also all those who delight principally in whatever is true, beautiful, or holy, may feel themselves moved to imitate the shining example of his virtues.

3. His teaching was drawn, almost exclusively, from the pages of Sacred Scripture and from the Fathers, which he had at hand day and night in his profound meditations: and not from the subtle reasonings of dialecticians and philosophers, which, on more than one occasion, he clearly held in low esteem.[4] It should be remarked that he does not reject that human philosophy which is genuine philosophy, namely, that which leads to God, to right living, and to Christian wisdom. Rather does he repudiate that philosophy which, by recourse to empty wordiness and clever quibbling, is overweening enough to climb to divine heights and to delve into all the secrets of God, with the result that, as often happened in those days, it did harm to the integrity of faith and, sad to say, fell into heresy.

4. “Do you see . . .” he wrote, “how St. Paul the Apostle (I Cor. viii, 2),[5] makes the fruit and the utility of knowledge consist in the way we know? What is meant by ‘the way we know’? Is it not simply this, that you should recognize in what order, with what application, for what purpose and what things you should know? In what order–that you may first learn what is more conducive to salvation; with what zeal–that you may learn with deeper conviction what moves you to more ardent love; for what purpose–that you may not learn for vain glory, curiosity, or anything of the kind, but only for your own edification and that of your neighbor. For there are some who want knowledge for the sole purpose of knowing, and this is unseemly curiosity. And there are some who seek knowledge in order to be known themselves; and this is unseemly vanity . . . and there are also those who seek knowledge in order to sell their knowledge, for example, for money or for honors; and this is unseemly quest for gain. But there are also those who seek knowledge in order to edify, and this is charity. And there are those who seek knowledge in order to be edified, and this is prudence.”[6]

5. In the following words, he describes most appropriately the doctrine, or rather the wisdom, which he follows and ardently loves: “It is the spirit of wisdom and understanding which, like a bee bearing both wax and honey, is able to kindle the light of knowledge and to pour in the savor of grace. Hence, let nobody think he has received a kiss, neither he who understands the truth but does not love it, nor he who loves the truth but does not understand it.”[7] “What would be the good of learning without love? It would puff up. And love without learning? It would go astray.'[8] “Merely to shine is futile; merely to burn is not enough; to burn and to shine is perfect.”[9] Then he explains the source of true and genuine doctrine, and how it must be united with charity: “God is Wisdom, and wants to be loved not only affectionately, but also wisely. . . Otherwise, if you neglect knowledge, the spirit of error will most easily lay snares for your zeal; nor has the wily enemy a more efficacious means of driving love from the heart, than if he can make a man walk carelessly and imprudently in the path of love.”[10]

6. From these words it is clear that in his study and his contemplation, under the influence of love rather than through the subtlety of human reasoning, Bernard’s sole aim was to focus on the supreme Truth all the ways of truth which he had gathered from many different sources. From them he drew light for the mind, the fire of charity for the soul, and right standards of conduct. This is indeed true wisdom, which rides over all things human, and brings everything back to its source, that is, to God, in order to lead men to Him. The “Doctor Mellifluus” makes his way with care deliberately through the uncertain and unsafe winding paths of reasoning, not trusting in the keenness of his own mind nor depending upon the tedious and artful syllogisms which many of the dialecticians of his time often abused. No! Like an eagle, longing to fix his eyes on the sun, he presses on in swift flight to the summit of truth.

7. The charity which moves him, knows no barriers and, so to speak, gives wings to the mind. For him, learning is not the final goal, but rather a path leading to God; it is not something cold upon which the mind dwells aimlessly, as though amusing itself under the spell of shifting, brilliant light. Rather, it is moved, impelled, and governed by love. Wherefore, carried upwards by this wisdom and in meditation, contemplation, and love, Bernard climbs the peak of the mystical life and is joined to God Himself, so that at times he enjoyed almost infinite happiness even in this mortal life.

8. His style, which is lively, rich, easy flowing, and marked by striking expressions, has such pleasing function that it attracts, delights and recalls the mind of the reader to heavenly things. It incites to, nourishes and strengthens piety; it draws the soul to the pursuit of those good things which are not fleeting, but true, certain, and everlasting. For this reason, his writings were always held in high honor. So from them, the Church herself has inserted into the Sacred Liturgy not a few pages fragrant with heavenly things and aglow with piety.[11] They seem to have been nourished with the breath of the Divine Spirit, and to shine with a light so bright, that the course of the centuries cannot quench it; for it shines forth from the soul of a writer thirsting after truth and love, and yearning to nourish others and to make them like to himself.[12]

9. It is a pleasure, Venerable Brethren, for the edification of us all, to quote from his books some beautiful extracts from this mystical teaching: “We have taught that every soul, even though weighed down with sins, ensnared in vice, caught in the allurements of the passions, held captive in exile, and imprisoned in the body . . . even, I say, though it be thus damned and in despair, can find within itself not only reasons for yearning for the hope of pardon and the hope of mercy, but also for making bold to aspire to the nuptials of the Word, not hesitating to establish a covenant of union with God, and not being ashamed to carry the sweet yoke of love along with the King of the Angels. What will the soul not dare with Him whose marvelous image it sees within itself, and whose striking likeness it recognizes in itself?”[13] “By this likeness of charity . . . the soul is wedded to the Word, when, namely, loving even as she is loved, she shows herself, in her will, likened to Him to Whom she is already likened in her nature. Therefore, if she loves Him perfectly, she has become His bride. What can be more sweet than such a likeness? What can be more desirable than this love, whereby thou art enabled of thyself to draw nigh with confidence to the Word, to cleave to Him steadfastly, to question Him familiarly, and to consult Him in all thy doubts, as daring in thy desires as thou art receptive in thy understanding? This is in truth the alliance of holy and spiritual wedlock. Nay, it is saying too little to call it an alliance: it is rather an embrace. Surely we have then a spiritual embrace when the same likes and the same dislikes make of two one spirit. Nor is there any occasion to fear lest the inequality of the persons should cause some defect in the harmony of wills, since love knows nothing of reverence. Love means an exercise of affection, not a showing of honor. . . Love is all sufficient for itself. Whithersoever love comes, it keeps under and holds captive to itself all the other affections. Consequently, the soul that loves, simply loves and knows nothing else except to love.”[14]

10. After pointing out that God wants to be loved by men rather than feared and honored, he adds this wise and penetrating observation: “Love is sufficient of itself; it pleases of itself, and for the sake of loving. A great thing is love, if yet it returns to its Principle, if it is restored to its Origin, if it finds its way back again to its fountain-head, so that it may thus be enabled to flow on unfailingly. Amidst all the emotions, sentiments, and feelings of the soul, love is outstanding in this respect, namely, that it alone among created things, has the power to correspond with, and to make return to the creator in kind, though not in equality.”[15]

11. Since in his prayer, and his contemplation he had frequently experienced this divine love, whereby we can be intimately united with God, there broke forth from his soul these inspired words: “Happy is the soul to whom it has been given to experience an embrace of such surpassing delight! This spiritual embrace is nothing else than a chaste and holy love, a love sweet and pleasant, a love perfectly serene and perfectly pure, a love that is mutual, intimate, and strong, a love that joins two, not in one flesh, but in one spirit, that makes two to be no longer two but one undivided spirit, as witness St. Paul,[16] where he says, ‘He who cleaves to the Lord is one spirit with Him’.”[17]

12. In our day this sublime teaching of the Doctor of Clairvaux on the mystical life, which surpasses and can satisfy all human desires, seems to be sometimes neglected and relegated to a secondary place, or forgotten by many who, completely taken up with the worries and business of daily life, seek and desire only what is useful and profitable for this mortal life, scarcely ever lift their eyes and minds to Heaven, or aspire after heavenly things and the goods that are everlasting.

13. Yet, although not all can reach the summit of that exalted contemplation of which Bernard speaks so eloquently, and although not all can bind themselves so closely to God as to feel linked in a mysterious manner with the Supreme Good through the bonds of heavenly marriage; nevertheless, all can and must, from time to time, lift their hearts from earthly things to those of heaven, and most earnestly love the Supreme Dispenser of all gifts.

14. Wherefore, since love for God is gradually growing cold to-day in the hearts of many, or is even completely quenched, We feel that these writings of the “Doctor Mellifluus” should be carefully pondered; because from their content, which in fact is taken from the Gospels, a new and heavenly strength can flow both into individual and on into social life, to give moral guidance, bring it into line with Christian precepts, and thus be able to provide timely remedies for the many grave ills which afflict mankind. For, when men do not have the proper love for their Creator, from Whom comes everything they have when they do not love one another, then, as often happens, they are separated from one another by hatred and deceit, and so quarrel bitterly among themselves. Now God is the most loving Father of us all, and we are all brethren in Christ, we whom he redeemed by shedding His precious Blood. Hence, as often as we fail to return God’s love or to recognize His divine fatherhood with all due reverence, the bonds of brotherly love are unfortunately shattered and–as, alas, is so often evident,–discord, strife and enmity unhappily are the result, so much so as to undermine and destroy the very foundations of human society.

15. Hence, that divine love with which the Doctor of Clairvaux was so ardently aflame must be re-enkindled in the hearts of all men, if we desire the restoration of Christian morality, if the Catholic religion is to carry out its mission successfully, and if, through the calming of dissension and the restoration of order, injustice and equity, serene peace is to shine forth on mankind so weary and bewildered.

16. May those who have embraced the Order of the “Doctor Mellifluus,” and all the members of the clergy, whose special task it is to exhort and urge others to a greater love of God, be aglow with that love with which we must always be most passionately united with God. In our own day, more than at any other time–as We have said,–men are in need of this divine love. Family life needs it, mankind needs it. Where it burns and leads souls to God, Who is the supreme goal of all mortals, all other virtues wax strong. When, on the other hand, it is absent or has died out, then quiet, peace, joy, and all other truly good things gradually disappear or are completely destroyed, since they flow from Him who is love itself.[18]

17. Of this divine charity, possibly nobody has spoken more excellently, more profoundly, or more earnestly than Bernard: “The reason for loving God,” as he says, “is God; the measure of this love is to love without measure.”[19] “Where there is love, there is no toil, but delight.”[20] He admits having experienced this love himself when he writes: “O holy and chaste love! O sweet and soothing affection! . . . It is the more soothing and more sweet, the more the whole of that which is experienced is divine. To have such love, means being made like God.”[21] And elsewhere: “It is good for me, O Lord, to embrace Thee all the more in tribulation, to have Thee with me in the furnace of trial rather than to be without Thee even in heaven.”[22] But when he touches upon that supreme and perfect love whereby he is united with God Himself in intimate wedlock, then he enjoys a happiness and a peace, than which none other can be greater; “O place of true rest. . . For we do not here behold God either, as it were, excited with anger, or as though distracted with care; but His will is proved to be ‘good and acceptable and perfect.’ This vision soothes. It does not frighten. It lulls to rest, instead of awakening our unquiet curiosity. It calms the mind instead of tiring it. Here is found perfect rest. God’s quiet quietens all about Him. To think of His rest is to give rest to the soul.”[23]

18. However, this perfect quiet is not the death of the mind but its true life. “. . . Instead of bringing darkness and lethargy, the sleep of the Spouse is wakeful and life-giving; it enlightens the mind, expels the death of sin, and bestows immortality. Nevertheless, it is indeed a sleep, which transports rather than stupefies the faculties. It is a true death. This I affirm without the least hesitation, since the Apostle says, in commendation of some who were still living in the flesh,[24] ‘You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God’.”[25]

19. This perfect quiet of the mind, in which we enjoy the loving God by returning His love, and by which we turn and direct ourselves and all we have to Him, does not make us lazy and slothful. Rather it is a constant, effective and active zeal that spurs us on to look to our own salvation, and, with the help of God, to that of others also. For this lofty contemplation and meditation, which is brought about by divine love, “regulates the affections, directs the actions, cuts away all excesses, forms the character, orders and ennobles the life, and lastly. . . endows the understanding with a knowledge of things divine and human. It . . . undoes what is tangled, unites what is divided, gathers what is scattered, uncovers what is hidden, searches out what is false and deceptive. It . . . lays down beforehand what we have to do, and passes in review what has been accomplished, so that nothing disordered may remain in the mind, nothing uncorrected. Finally . . . it makes provision for trouble, and thus endures misfortune, so to say, without feeling it, of which the former is the part of prudence, and the latter the function of fortitude.”[26]

20. In fact, although he longs to remain fixed in this most exalted and sweet contemplation and meditation, nourished by the Spirit of God, the Doctor of Clairvaux does not remain enclosed within the walls of his cell that “waxes sweet by being dwelled in,”[27] but is a hand with counsel, word and action wherever the interests of God and Church are at stake. For he was wont to observe that “no one ought to live for himself alone, but all for all.”[28] And moreover, he wrote about himself and his followers: “In like manner, the laws of brotherliness and of human society give our brethren, amongst whom we live, a claim upon us for counsel and help.”[29] When, with sorrowing mind, he beheld the holy faith endangered or troubled, he spared neither toil, nor journeyings, nor any manner of pains to come stoutly to its defense, or to bring it whatever assistance he could. “I do not regard any of the affairs of God,” he said, “as things with which I have no concern.”[30] And to St. Louis of France he penned these spirited words: “We sons of the Church, cannot on any account overlook the injuries done to our mother, and the way in which she is despised and trodden under foot. . . We will certainly make a stand and fight even to death, if need be, for our mother, with the weapons allowed us; not with shield and sword, but with prayers and lamentations to God.”[31]

21. To Abbot Peter of Cluny he wrote: “And I glory in tribulations if I have been counted worthy to endure any for the sake of the Church. This, truly, is my glory and the lifting up of my head: the triumph of the Church. For if we have been sharers of her troubles, we shall be also of her consolation. We must work and suffer with our mother.”[32]

22. When the mystical body of Christ was torn by so grave a schism, that even good men on both sides became heated in dispute, he bent all his efforts to settling disagreements and happily restoring unity of mind. When princes, led by desire of earthly dominion, were divided by fearful quarrels, and the welfare of nations was thereby seriously threatened, he was ever the peacemaker and the architect of agreement. When, finally, the holy places of Palestine, hallowed by the blood of our Divine Savior, were threatened with gravest danger, and were hard pressed by foreign armies, at the command of the Supreme Pontiff, with loud voice and a still wider appeal of love, he roused Christian princes and peoples to undertake a new crusade; and if indeed it was not brought to a successful conclusion, the fault was surely not his.

23. And above all, when the integrity of Catholic faith and morals–the sacred heritage handed down by our forefathers–was jeopardized, especially by the activities of Abelard, Arnold of Brescia and Gilbert de la Poree, strong in the grace of God he spared no pains in writing works full of penetrating wisdom and making tiring journeys, so that errors might be dispelled and condemned, and the victims of error might as far as possible be recalled to the straight path and to virtuous living.

24. Yet, since he was well aware that in matters of this kind the authority of the Roman Pontiff prevails over the opinions of learned men, he took care to call attention to that authority which he recognized as supreme and infallible in settling such questions. To his former disciple, our predecessor of blessed memory Eugene III, he wrote these words which reflect at once his exceeding great love and reverence and that familiarity which becomes the saints: “Parental love knows nothing of lordship, it recognizes not a master but a child even in him who wears the tiara . . . Therefore shall I admonish thee now, not as a master, but as a mother, yea, as a most loving mother.”[33]

25. Then he addresses to him these powerful words: “Who art thou.? Thou art the High Priest and the Sovereign Pontiff. Thou art the prince of pastors and the heir of the apostles . . . by thy jurisdiction, a Peter; and by thy unction, a Christ. Thou art he to whom the keys have been delivered and the sheep entrusted. There are indeed other gate-keepers of heaven, and there are other shepherds of the flock; but thou art in both respects more glorious than they in proportion as thou hast inherited a more excellent name. They have assigned to them particular portions of the flock, his own to each; whereas thou art given charge of all the sheep, as the one Chief Shepherd of the whole flock. Yea, not only of the sheep, but of the other pastors also art thou the sole supreme Shepherd.”[34] And again: “He who wishes to discover something which does not belong to thy charge, will have to go outside the world.”[35]

26. In clear and simple fashion he acknowledges the infallible magisterium of the Roman Pontiff in questions of faith and morals. For, recognizing the errors of Abelard, who when he “speaks of the Trinity savors of Arius; when of grace, of Pelagius; when of the person of Christ, of Nestorious,”[36] “who . . . predicated degrees in the Trinity, measure in majesty, numbers in eternity”;[37] and in whom “human reason usurps for itself everything, leaving nothing for faith”;[38] he not only shatters, weakens and refutes his subtle, specious and fallacious tricks and sophisms, but also, on this subject, writes to Our predecessor of immortal memory, Innocent II, these words of utmost importance: “Your See should be informed of all dangers that may arise, especially those that touch faith. For I consider it meet that damage to the faith be repaired in the particular place where faith is perfectly whole. These indeed are the prerogatives of this See. . . It is time, most loving Father, that you recognized your pre-eminence. Then do you really take the place of Peter, whose See you hold, when by your admonitions you strengthen hearts weak in faith; when, by your authority, you break those who corrupt the faith.”[39]

27. How it was that this humble monk, with hardly any human means at his disposal, was able to draw the strength to overcome difficulties so thorny, to settle questions so intricate, and to solve the most troublesome cases, can only be understood when one considers the great holiness of life which distinguished him, and his great zeal for truth. For, as We have said, he was, above all, on fire with a most burning love of God and his neighbor (which as you know, Venerable Brethren, is the chief and, as it were, all embracing commandment of the gospel), so that he was, not only united to the heavenly father by an unfailing mystical bond, but he desired nothing more than to win men to Christ, to uphold the most sacred rights of the Church, and to defend as best he could the integrity of the Catholic faith.

28. Although he was held in great favor and esteem by Popes, princes and peoples, he was not puffed up, he did not grasp at the slippery and empty glory of men, but ever shone with that Christian humility which “acquires other virtues . . . having acquired them, keeps them . . . keeping them, perfects them”;[39] so that “without it the others do not even seem to be virtues.”[40] Wherefore “proffered honor did not even seem to be virtues.”[41] Wherefore “proffered honor did not tempt his soul, nor did he set his foot on the downward path of world glory; and the tiara and ring delighted him no more than the lecture platform and garden hoe.”[42] And while he undertook so often such great labors for the glory of God and the benefit of the Christian name, he was wont to call himself “the useless servant of the servants of God,”[43] “a vile worm,”[44] “a barren tree,”[45] “a sinner, ashes. . .”[46] This Christian humility, together with the other virtues, he nourished by diligent contemplation of heavenly things, and by fervent prayer to God, by which he called down grace from on high on the labors undertaken by himself and his followers.

29. So burning was his love, particularly of Jesus Christ Our Divine Savior, that, loved thereby, he penned the beautiful and lofty pages which still arouse the admiration and enkindle the devotion of all readers. “What can so enrich the soul that reflects upon it (the holy name of Jesus)? What can . . . strengthen the virtues, beget good and honorable dispositions, foster holy affections? Dry is every kind of spiritual food which this oil does not moisten. Tasteless, whatever this salt does not season. If thou writest, thy composition has no charms for me, unless I read there the name of Jesus. If thou dost debate or converse, I find no pleasure in thy words, unless I hear there the name of Jesus. Jesus is honey on the lips, melody in the ear, joy in the heart. Yet not alone is that name light and food. It is also a remedy. Is any one amongst you sad? Let the name of Jesus enter his heart; let it leap thence to his mouth; and lo! the light shining from that name shall scatter every cloud and restore peace. Has some one perpetrated a crime, and then misled, moved despairingly towards the snare of death? Let him but invoke this life-giving name, and straightway he shall find courage once more. . . Whoever, all a-tremble in the presence of danger, has not immediately felt his spirits revive and his fears depart as soon as he called upon this name of power? There is nothing so powerful as the name of Jesus to check anger, reduce the swelling of pride, heal the smarting wound of envy. . .”[47]

30. To this warm love of Jesus Christ was joined a most sweet and tender devotion towards His glorious Mother, whose motherly love he repaid with the affection of a child, and whom he jealously honored. So great was his confidence in her most powerful intercession, that he did not hesitate to write: “It is the will of God that we should have nothing which has not passed through the hands of Mary.”[48] Likewise: “Such is the will of God, Who would have us obtain everything through the hands of Mary.”[49]

31. And here it is well, Venerable Brethren, to bid you all consider a page in praise of Mary than which there is perhaps none more beautiful, more moving, more apt to excite love for her, more useful to stir devotion and to inspire imitation of her virtuous example: “Mary . . . is interpreted to mean ‘Star of the Sea.’ This admirably befits the Virgin Mother. There is indeed a wonderful appropriateness in this comparison of her with a star, because as a star sends out its rays without harm to itself, so did the Virgin bring forth her Child without injury to her integrity. And as the ray does not diminish the rightness of the star, so neither did the Child born of her tarnish the beauty of Mary’s virginity. She is therefore that glorious star, which, as the prophet said, arose out of Jacob, whose ray enlightens the whole earth, whose splendor shines out for all to see in heaven and reaches even unto hell. . . She, I say, is that shining and brilliant star, so much needed, set in place above life’s great and spacious sea, glittering with merits, all aglow with examples for our imitation. Oh, whosoever thou art that perceiveth thyself during this mortal existence to be rather drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, than walking on firm ground, turn not away thine eyes from the splendor of this guiding star, unless thou wish to be submerged by the storm! When the storms to temptation burst upon thee, when thou seest thyself driven upon the rocks of tribulation, look at the star, call upon Mary. When buffeted by the billows of pride, or ambition, or hatred, or jealousy, look at the star, call upon Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of thy soul, look at the star, call upon Mary. If troubled on account of the heinousness of thy sins, distressed at the filthy state of thy conscience, and terrified at the thought of the awful judgment to come, thou art beginning to sink into the bottomless gulf of sadness and to be swallowed in the abyss of despair, then think of Mary. In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name leave thy lips, never suffer it to leave thy heart. And that thou mayest more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, see that thou dost walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, thou shalt never go astray; whilst invoking her, thou shalt never lose heart; so long as she is in thy mind, thou shalt not be deceived; whilst she holds thy hand, thou canst not fall; under her protection, thou hast nothing to fear; if she walks before thee, thou shalt not grow weary; if she shows thee favor, thou shalt reach the goal.”[50]

32. We can think of no better way to conclude this Encyclical Letter than in the words of the “Doctor Mellifluus” to invite all to be more and more devout to the loving Mother of God, and each in his respective state in life to strive to imitate her exalted virtues. If at the beginning of the twelfth century grave dangers threatened the Church and human society, the perils besetting our own age are hardly less formidable. The Catholic faith, supreme solace of mankind, often languishes in souls, and in many regions and countries is even subjected to the bitterest public attacks. With the Christian religion either neglected or cruelly destroyed, morals, both public and private, clearly stray from the straight way, and, following the tortuous path of error, end miserably in vice.

33. Charity, which is the bond of perfection, concord and peace, is replaced by hatred, enmities and discords.

34. A certain restlessness, anxiety and fear have invaded the minds of men. It is indeed to be greatly feared that if the light of the Gospel gradually fades and wanes in the minds of many, or if–what is even worse,–they utterly reject it, the very foundations of civil and domestic society will collapse, and more evil times will unhappily result.

35. Therefore, as the Doctor of Clairvaux sought and obtained from the Virgin Mother Mary help for the troubles of his times, let us all through the same great devotion and prayer so strive to move our divine Mother, that she will obtain from God timely relief from these grave evils which are either already upon us or may yet befall, and that she who is at once kind and most powerful, will, by the help of God, grant that the true, lasting, and fruitful peace of the Church may at last dawn on all nations and peoples.

36. Such, We hope, through the intercession of Bernard, may be the rich and wholesome effects of the centenary celebration of his most holy death. Do you, all, join Us in prayer for this intention, and as you study and ponder on the example of the “Doctor Mellifluus,” strive earnestly and eagerly to follow his footsteps.

Now as a pledge of these benefits We bestow with heartfelt affection upon you, Venerable Brothers, upon the flocks entrusted to you, and particularly on those who have embraced the Institute of St. Bernard, the Apostolic Blessing.

Given at Rome, St. Peter’s, on the 24th of May, on the feast of Pentecost, 1953, in the 15th year of our pontificate.


1. Mabillon, Bernardi Opera, Praef, generalis, n. 23;
Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 26.
2. Litt. Apost. Contigit olim, XV Kal. Feb., 1174, Anagniae d.
3. Annal., t. XII, An. 1153, p. 385, D-E; Rome, ex Tipografia Vaticana, 1907.
4. Cf. Serm. in Festo SS. Apost. Petri et Pauli n. 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 407, and Serm. 3, in Festo Pentec., n, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 332-b.
5. Cf. 1 Cor., viii, 2.
6. In Cantica, Serm. XXXVI, 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 968c,-d.
7. Ibid., Serm. VIII, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 813-a, b.
8. Ibid., Serm. LXIX, 2; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1113-a.
9. In Nat. S. Joan. Bapt., Serm. 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 399-b.
10. In Cantica, Serm. XIX, 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 866-d.
11. Cfr. Brev. Rom. in festo SS. Nom. Jesu; die III infra octavam Concept. immac. B.M.V.; in octava Assumpt. B.M.V.; in festo septem Dolor. B.M.V.; in festo sacrat. Rosarii B.M.V.; in festo S. Josephi Sp. B.M.V.; in festo S. Gabrielis Arch.
12. Cfr. Fenelon, Panegyrique de St. Bernard.
13. In Cantica, Serm. LXXXIII, I; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1181-c, d.
14. Ibid., 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1182-c, d.
15. Ibid., 4; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1183-b.
16. Cf. I Cor., vi, 17.
17. In Cantica Serm. LXXXIII, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, I 1 84-c.
18. I John iv, 8.
19. De Diligendo Deo, c. L., Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 974-a.
20. In Cantica, Serm. LXXXV, 8; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1 191-d.
21. De Diligendo Deo, c. X, 28; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 99 1 -a.
22. In Ps. CLXXXX, Serm. XVII, 4; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 252-c.
23. In Cantica, Serm. XXIII, 16; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 893-a, b.
24. Col., iii, 3.
25. In Cantica, Serm. LII, 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 1031 a.
26. De Consid. 1, c. 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIl, 737-a, b.
27. De Imit. Christi, 1, 20, 5.
28. In Cantica, serm. XLI, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXLI, 987-b.
29. De adventu D., serm. III, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 45-d.
30. Epist. 20 (ad Card. Haimericum); Migne, P. L., CLXXXII 123-b.
31. Epist. 221 3; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 386-d, 387-a.
32. Epist. 147, 1; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 304-c, 305-a.
33. De Consid., Prolog.; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 727-a, 728-a,b.
34. Ibid., II, c. 8; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 751-c, d.
35. Ibid., III, c. L Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 757-b.
36. Epist. 192; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 358-d, 359-a.
37. De error. Abaelardi, 1, 2; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 1056-a.
38. Epist. 188; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIl, 353-a, b.
39 De error. Abaelardi, Praef.; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 1053, 1054-d.
40. De monbus et off. Episc., seu Epist. 42, 5, 17; Migne, P.L., CLXXXII, 821-a.
41. Ibid.
42. Vita Prima, II. 25; Migne, P. L., CLXXXV, 283-b.
43. Epist., 37; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 143-b.
44. Epist., 215; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 379-b.
45. Vita prima, V. 12; Migne, P. L., CLXXXV, 358-d.
46. In Cantica, Serm. LXXI, 5; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, I 1 23-d.
47. In Cantica, Serm. XV, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 846-d, 847-a, b.
48. In vigil. Nat. Domini, Serm. III, 10; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 100-a.
49. Serm. in Nat, Mariae, 7; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 441-b.
50. Hom. II super “Missus est,” 17; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 70-b, c, d, 71-a.

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Contemplation is not a word exclusive to Benedictine, Carthusian, and Cistercian monks. Other religions practice it. My emphasis will be limited to what I know about Cistercian, and even more selectively, Lay Cistercian contemplation. I always like to offer you the same resources I use in my quest to discover what it means to be fully human as nature intended, using Lay Cistercian practices and charisms (silence, solitude, work, prayer, community, humility and obedience to what I think God wants of me this and each day.

Here is a text I blogged to you previously, but I used it again today, so I thought you might like a refresher. St. Bernard lived about 1090 AD.

Second reading

From a sermon by Saint Bernard, abbot

The stages of contemplation

Let us take our stand on secure ground, leaning with all our strength on Christ, the most solid rock, according to the words: He set my feet on a rock and guided my steps. Thus firmly established, let us begin to contemplate what he is saying to us and what reply we ought to make to his charges.

The first stage of contemplation, my dear brothers, is constantly considering what God wants, what is pleasing to him, and what is acceptable in his eyes. We all offend in many things; our strength cannot match the rectitude of God’s will, being neither one with it nor wholly in accord with it; let us then humble ourselves under the powerful hand of the most high God and be concerned to show ourselves unworthy before his merciful gaze, saying: Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved. And again, Lord have mercy on me; heal my soul because I have sinned against you.

Once the eye of the soul has been purified by such considerations we no longer abide within our own spirit in a sense of sorrow but abide rather in the Spirit of God with great delight. No longer do we consider what is the will of God for us, but rather what it is in itself. For our life is in his will. Thus we are convinced that what is according to his will is in every way more advantageous and fitting for us. And so, concerned as we are to preserve the life of our soul, we should be equally concerned, insofar as we can, not to deviate from his will.

Thus having made some progress in our spiritual exercise under the guidance of the Spirit who searches the deep things of God, let us reflect on how sweet is the Lord and how good he is in himself; in the words of the prophet let us pray to see God’s will; no longer shall we frequent our own hearts but his temple. At the same time, we shall say: My soul is humbled within me, therefore I shall be mindful of you.

The whole of the spiritual life consists of these two elements. When we think of ourselves, we are perturbed and filled with salutary sadness. And when we think of the Lord, we are revived to find consolation in the joy of the Holy Spirit. From the first, we derive fear and humility, from the second hope and love.

This excerpt from a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (Sermo 5 de diversis, 4-5: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 6, 1 [1970], 103-4) is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for Wednesday of the 23rd week in Ordinary Time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Habakkuk 2:5-20.


NEW SKINS FOR NEW WINE: The Lay Cistercian commitment to seek God every day.

The Lay Cistercian Way is more about how the individual Lay Cistercian crafts what it means to take Cistercian spirituality as they know it and live it out each day, simply seeking God in whatever happens. For me, that means doing the Lay Cistercian practices each day as I can and as I have scheduled for that day. A lot of my Lay Cistercian Way is determined for me by my advancing age and its consequences.

One of my most cherished activities is to pass on what I myself have received, knowing that I have filtered my life experiences with The Christ Principle and settled down to just relaxing with this whole notion of being active. What happens for me is primarily new within (which is what the Lay Cistercian Way is all about).Matthew 6:5.

For new novices under the shade of my wing ( or sub umbra alarum suarum), I offer these four ideas about being a novice. Take it from one who realizes he is a perpetual novice in all things Cistercian.

ENJOY THE JOURNEY: You have just begun your exposure to different ideas and different people who have different views of what it means to be a Lay Cistercian. You are not them; they are not you; God is not you; and you, most certainly, not God. In our age of instant gratification, we want to skip from novice to mastery in one day. It is the flush that comes with conversion, wishing that all people you meet can share the joy you feel. They can’t and won’t. My advice is to relax, pace yourself, as Brother Michael recommends, and enjoy the journey each day. That “each day” is important because I am the only one who can offer up to the Father’s glory through, with, and in Christ. Each day is a lifetime, I have come to realize. Enjoying the journey means it takes time, patience, endurance, and sometimes depression, over moving from my false self to my new self in Christ. You are a new wine as a novice, and you don’t need to put it in the wineskins of your past. New wine is what happens on your journey each day, each day. The new wineskins are the Lay Cistercian Ways you absorb into your unique way, all based on the Cistercian traditions and practices of the Trappists who have chosen to call us brothers and sisters. You are not called to be a monk but rather to translate Cistercian Way into your space in time with whatever remains of it, to seek the simplicity of heart, poverty of spirit, and the ability to wait for the Lord in Lectio Divina and other practices. Don’t rush to the parousia. Heaven is now, each day, each time you rise above your false self and convert your mind and heart to be more like the one you love. Savor the martyrdom of ordinary living, recognizing that repetition and sameness are the crucibles in which your spirit is ground to make an acceptable meal of grain for the Lord.

HABITS: Enjoy the journey. Relax and wait for the Lord to catch up to you. Eat your meal one bite at a time, and don’t gorge yourself.

DON’T TRY TO BE LIKE OTHER PEOPLE– As a Lay Cistercian, you are one of a kind, even if you are one of many on Gathering Day. It is this uniqueness that comes from the Holy Spirit in you and your awareness of it in others that makes these monthly meetings so electrifying. Forge your own schedule, your Lay Cistercian Way is not my Lay Cistercian Way. It is in sharing that difference that we become more One in Christ Jesus. It happens almost imperturbably.

HABITS: You are the only Lay Cistercian that is you. Give glory to the Father for your Faith, your Hope, and your Love. Celebrate the uniqueness in others. Relax and wait for the Lord to catch up to you.

ASSIMILATE THE WORD INTO YOUR HEART: The Rule of St. Benedict is our guide to becoming more like Christ. Chapter 4 sets forth many behaviors we must assimilate into our hearts and minds. My particular favorite is “prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” Assimilation means repetition. Repetition means I realize it takes work to carve out time for Christ. We do what it takes to be present to Christ in the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration, Lectio Divina, and Liturgy of the Hours. Take it easy and ease into the more challenging ways of behaving. Some of them won’t make sense right now, such as you must die to self to rise to a new life. All of this takes time. Slow down. Relax and wait for the Lord to catch up to you (or rather for you to slow down enough to listen the “the ear of the heart.”)

HABITS: Patience. Perseverance. Balance. Don’t be afraid.

APPRECIATE WHERE YOU CAME FROM AND WHERE YOU ARE GOING-– At Baptism, you received a tattoo on your spirit, the sign of the cross. It should remind you that “you are dust and into dust you shall return.” As dual citizens of both earth (until we die) ad heaven (begins with Baptism and never ends) we are the product of all those life experiences that were authentic, and even those which caused us to walk off of the path, we could learn from them and in humility ask God for mercy on us. We are intended to live forever. To do that, God has provided us with Jesus, the Messiah, the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Baptism, Christ chose us to be an adopted son or daughter so that we could make the hyperjump from this secular world to the spiritual world. In the Eucharist (the word means Thanksgiving), we go with Christ to the Father to know, love, and serve more in this life so that we can live what we discovered about love on the earth to take with us to heaven. We make our heaven on earth (or our hell…ouch!). That tattoo overcomes the world and permits us, through Faith, to begin the journey to our destiny as fully human. As a Lay Cistercian, appreciate where you came from but also realize that you must struggle while in this world to keep faithful to the stone, which has become the new cornerstone of reality. Lay Cistercian practices and charisms allow us the privilege of placing ourselves in the presence of Christ and bask in the Holy Spirit while we still live on this earth.

HABITS: Humility. Obedience to God’s Will. Cultivating an appreciation to be in the Real Presence of Christ through the Eucharist, Scriptures, and Good Works (Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict), to name a few.

Relax. Be Still. Be Patient. You Are Loved. Learn the Art of Contemplation. Learn to go to the upper room in your heart and pray in silence and solitude. (Matthew 6:5) You have all those Lay Cistercians plus the Cistercian monks and nuns who are praying for us, plus those for whom we pray. Live each day as a lifetime. Pray as you can, says Brother Michael O.C.S.O.


LAY CISTERCIAN PRACTICES: The transforming power of Sacred Scripture.

I am not the person I once was, not just because my cells regenerated, but because my spirit reconstituted itself due to the power of Sacred Scripture. I read and then tried to penetrate the Word’s purpose with the Holy Spirit’s aid. (John 20: 30-31)

Last Sunday, our Lay Cistercian Gathering Day met (I was on the Zoom meeting because I was not feeling well) and talked about the Eucharist. One of my Lay Cistercian colleagues commented on a homily by Father Francis Michael ( where he remarked that when we eat the real flesh and drink the real blood, it does not become us, but because it is Divine, we become more like it. I must confess that I learned about that observation in 1962 during a retreat by a Franciscan friar at St. Meinrad School of Theology (, where I attended. I never forgot that statement. I was pleasantly surprised when someone brought up this concept again, and all those wonderful memories came flooding back. In my imperceptible growth (capacitas dei) from where I was as a Lay Cistercian to where I am now, I thought of how this transformation happens with the Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Eucharist, but most significantly with Sacred Scripture. I like to use the term “Sacred Scripture” rather than “Bible” because the word bible means a book, but when I read “Sacred Scripture,” like Eucharist, it means I become what I read, given my humility and conversio morae (transformation) to be more like Christ and less like me. You have heard the saying: “You are what you eat; the same is true with reading Sacred Scriptures. You are what you read when Christ is the Word made flesh.”

I share with you a Lectio Divina I had on this topic. I take my inspiration from the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. Before I explain the six steps of reading Sacred Scripture, here are some preliminary thoughts I have begun practicing.

Sacred Scriptures are sacred. What sounds like a truism is actually a paradigm for the Trinity. There is One God but three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Another way I put it (I hope I am not heretical) is to say: God is pure energy (100% of God’s nature) that is composed of pure knowledge (The Father), pure love(The Son), and pure service (The Holy Spirit). If you remember, there was a schism in 1090 or so where the Western Church (centered in Rome) split with the Eastern Church (centered in Constantinople) over what is called “The Filioque Controversy.” We in the West think of The Father AND the Son as generating the Holy Spirit, whereas in the East, The Father begets the Son and the Holy Spirit. The East rejected the authority of the primacy of St. Peter, thus setting up a theological hiccup that exists until this day. Service, which is the Holy Spirit is the same one that overshadowed Mary in Luke and the Apostles in the upper room. This “Service” is the person of the Holy Spirit, one that proceeds from the Father and the Son, and the energy between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. I have failed to consider the power of this statement when I am in prayer. It is not my power that transforms anything. That Christ stressed “service” to others as one of his commandments should be no surprise. This “service” produces in us the fruits of our sacrifice and abandonment of self to Christ. Matthew 25 is a famous passage that seems out of place in today’s stress on domination and self-importance. It is no accident that the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles with energy outside of their own humanity. This Second Advocate is service. Just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and allowed her humanity to become what it would be at the end of our intelligent progression, Omega, in the thinking of Teilhard de Chardin, so that same Holy Spirit with the same power of the Resurrection inhabits my wracked and weakened body, to take up residence in my Ark of the Covenant. Realizing this in my daily seeking God in whatever I do means I always carry the Holy Spirit with me unless I lose my equilibrium and fall on my face for lack of humility.

There are tons of writings from people about Christ in the first two centuries after His death. Not all writings are what Christ taught. Did you know there are 25 Gospels and Acts about Christ (Gospel of Thomas, etc…)? What is impressive is that the Early Church quickly relegated the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) to Canonical Gospels, or those when you read them, you become what you read. Other readings from the Church Fathers are just spiritual reading, good to know, but not the same. The Church safeguards us from false teachings, even our own. The Church does not, of itself with all of its sinful members, have the strength to cull out those subtle writings that are heretical and therefore based on false assumptions. It is the Holy Spirit alone. The living body of Christ protects us from evil interpretations of well-intentioned individuals throughout the ages, including the present penchant for fitting the Gospel message to fit the individual rather than take up the cross of ordinary living with Christ.

Judaistic and heretical gospels

Gospel according to the Hebrews

Clement of AlexandriaOrigenEusebius, and St. Epiphanius speak of a “Gospel according to the Hebrews” which was the sole one in use among the Palestinian Judeo-Christians, otherwise known as the Nazarenes. Jerome translated it from the Aramaic into Greek. It was evidently very ancient, and several of the above mentioned writers associate it with St. Matthew’s Gospel, which it seems to have replaced in the JewishChristian community at an early date. The relation between the Gospel according to the Hebrews and our canonical Matthew Gospel is a matter of controversy. The surviving fragments prove that there were close literal resemblances. Harnack asserts that the Hebrew Gospel was entirely independent, the tradition it contained being parallel to that of Matthew. Zahn, while excluding any dependence on our Greek canonical Matthew, maintains one on the primitive Matthew, according to which its general contents were derived from the latter. This Gospel seems to have been read as canonical in some non-Palestinian churches; the Fathers who are acquainted with it refer to it with a certain amount of respect. Twenty-four fragments have been preserved by ecclesiastical writers. These indicate that it had a number of sections in common with the Synoptics, but also various narratives and sayings of Jesus, not found in the canonical Gospels. The surviving specimens lack the simplicity and dignity of the inspired writings; some even savour of the grotesque. We are warranted in saying that while this extra-canonical material probably has as its starting-point primitive tradition, it has been disfigured in the interests of a Judaizing Church. (See AGRAPHA.)

Gospel According to the Egyptians

It is by this title that Clement of AlexandriaOrigenHippolytus, and Epiphanius describe an uncanonical work, which evidently was circulated in Egypt. All agree that it was employed by heretical sects — for the most part Gnostics. The scanty citations which have been preserved in the Fathers indicate a tendency towards the Encratite condemnation of marriage, and a pantheistic Gnosticism. The Gospel according to the Egyptians did not replace the canonical records in the Alexandrian Church, as Harnack would have us believe, but it seems to have enjoyed a certain popularity in the country districts among the Coptic natives. It could scarcely have been composed later than the middle of the second century and it is not at all impossible that it retouched some primitive material not represented in the canonical Gospels.

Gospel of St. Peter

The existence of an apocryphal composition bearing this name in Christian antiquity had long been known by references to it in certain early patristic writers who intimate that it originated or was current among Christians of Docetic views. Much additional light has been thrown on this document by the discovery of a long fragment of it at Akhmîn in Upper Egypt, in the winter of 1886-87, by the French Archæological Mission. It is in Greek and written on a parchment codex at a date somewhere between the sixth and ninth century. The fragment narrates part of the Passion, the Burial, and Resurrection. It betrays a dependence, in some instances literal, on the four inspired Gospels, and is therefore a valuable additional testimony to their early acceptance. While the apocryphon has many points of contact with the genuine Gospels, it diverges curiously from them in details, and bears evidence of having treated them with much freedom. No marked heretical notes are found in the recovered fragment, but there are passages which are easily susceptible of a heterodox meaning. One of the few extra-canonical passages which may contain an authentic tradition is that which describes Christ as placed in mockery upon a throne by His tormentors. Pseudo-Peter is intermediate in character between the genuine Evangels and the purely legendary apocrypha. Its composition must be assigned to the first quarter or the middle of the second century of the Christian era. C. Schmidt thinks he has found traces of what is perhaps a second Gospel of Peter in some ancient papyri (Schmidt, Sitzungsberichte der königlichen preuss. Akademie zu Berlin, 1895; cf. Bardenhewer, Geschichte, I, 397, 399).

Gospel of St. Philip

Only one or two quotations remain of the Gospel of St. Philip mentioned by Epiphanius and Leontius of Byzantium; but these are enough to prove its Gnostic colouring.

Gospel of St. Thomas

There are two Greek and two Latin redactions of it, differing much from one another. A Syriac translation is also found. A Gospel of Thomas was known to many Fathers. The earliest to mention it is St. Hippolytus (155-235), who informs us that it was in use among the Naasenes, a sect of Syrian Gnostics, and cites a sentence which does not appear in our extant text. Origen relegates it to the heretical writings. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says it was employed by the ManichæansEusebius rejects it as heretical and spurious. It is clear that the original Pseudo-Thomas was of heterodox origin, and that it dates from the second century; the citations of Hippolytus establish that it was palpably Gnostic in tenor. But in the extant Thomas Gospel there is no formal or manifest Gnosticism. The prototype was evidently expurgated by a Catholic hand, who, however, did not succeed in eradicating all traces of its original taint. The apocryphon in all its present forms extravagantly magnifies the Divine aspect of the boy Jesus. In bold contrast to the Infancy narrative of St. Luke, where the Divinity is almost effaced, the author makes the Child a miracle-worker and intellectual prodigy, and in harmony with Docetism, leaves scarcely more than the appearance of humanity in Him. This pseudo-Gospel is unique among the apocrypha, inasmuch as it describes a part of the hidden life of Our Lord between the ages of five and twelve. But there is much that is fantastic and offensive in the pictures of the exploits of the boy Jesus. His youthful miracles are worked at times out of mere childish fancy, as when He formed clay pigeons, and at a clap of His hands they flew away as living birds; sometimes, from beneficence; but again from a kind of harsh retribution.

Gospel of St. Bartholomew

The so-called Decretum of Gelasius classes the Gospel of St. Bartholomew among the apocrypha. The earliest allusion to it is in St. Jerome’s works. Recently scholars have brought to light fragments of it in old Coptic manuscripts. One of these Orientalists, Baumstark, would place its composition in the first part of the fourth century. A Gospel of Matthias is mentioned by Origen and Eusebius among the heretical literature along with the Peter and Thomas Gospels. Hippolytus states that the Basilidean Gnostics appealed to a “secret discourse” communicated to them by the Apostle Matthias who had received instruction privately from the Lord. Clement of Alexandria, who was credulous concerning apocryphal literature, quotes with respect several times the “Tradition of Matthias”.

Gospel of the Twelve Apostles

A Gospel of the Twelve Apostles was known to Origen (third century). Other patristic notices give rise to some uncertainty whether the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles of antiquity was really distinct from that of the Hebrews. The greater probabilities oppose their identity. Recently the claim has been made by M. Reveillout, a Coptic scholar, that the lost Gospel has been in a considerable measure recovered in several Coptic fragments, all of which, he asserts, belong to the same document. But this position has been successfully combated by Dr. Baumstark in the in the “Revue Biblique” (April, 1906, 245 sqq.), who will allow at most a probability that certain brief sections appertain to a Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, written originally in Greek and current among Gnostic Ebionites as early as the second century. There exists a late and entirely orthodox Syriac “Gospel of the Twelve Apostles”, published by J. Rendel Harris (Cambridge, 1900).

Other Gospels

It is enough to note the existence of other pseudo-Gospels, of which very little is known beside the names. There was a Gospel of St. Andrew, probably identical with the Gnostic “Acts of Andrew” (q.v., inf.); a Gospel of Barnabas, a Gospel of Thaddeus, a Gospel of Eve, and even one of Judas Iscariot, the last in use among the Gnostic sect of Cainites, and which glorified the traitor.


I read lots of writings from and about Lay Cistercian practices, those from the Early Church Fathers to more current writers, such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and even more contemporary authors like Pope Francis, Thomas Merton, Dom Andre Louf, O.S.C.O., and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen plus Dr. Scott Hahn on the YouTube.

Not all of what I read is Sacred Scripture. Here is my hierarchy of the Sacred.

  • New and Old Scriptures are accepted by the Church as canonical (authentic). This is the Word of God. What I read, I become through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Writings of Early Church Fathers and Ecumenical Councils. This is a spiritual reading about Christ and how each age carries its cross to follow Christ. This includes all documents from the Magisterium, or teaching authority of the Church.
  • Writings of the Saints. This is spiritual reading, but by those whose lives we try to emulate.
  • Writings of St. Benedict and St. Bernard of Clairvaux and other authors on how to be more like Christ and less like our fallen nature (conversio morae).
  • Current writers and YouTubers, Bloggers, and commentators on Lay Cistercian spirituality.

I base the following (loosely, I must admit) on the Lectio Divina steps of the Carthusian Prior, Guido II (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio). Contemplation is the goal, but not easily attained.


SACRA SCRIPTURA PREPARATIO: This is a newly discovered step for me, practiced by Lay Cistercians before their Gathering Day, once a month at the Monastery. It is a detoxification of my day, a refocus on the seriousness of God being present and my approaching the Sacred with a sinful past needing redemption. This is a time I carve out in the day for my silence and solitude, one which I have slowly begun to anticipate with the love that comes from wanting to be present to Christ in that upper room of my heart (Matthew 6:5), where there is just Jesus and me (and the Holy Spirit as Second Advocate).

I try to focus on Chapter 7 of the Rule of St. Benedict, where he advises monks to begin humility with “fear of the Lord.” I usually sit in stillness for five to ten minutes saying the ancient mantra, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner,” over and over.

SACRA SCRIPTURA LECTIO: I select a short passage from the Eucharist readings that day or my favorite one, Philippians 2:5-12, and read it slowly. This dimension is READING THE WORD. I close my eyes (custos oculi) and be still for five to ten minutes (the length is not as important as growing deeper in Christ {capacitas dei}). My unspoken hope is to be with Christ and move deeper to the next step.

SACRA SCRIPTURA ORATIO: Using the same holy text, I reread it, very slowly, but this time as a prayer that Christ and I say together to the Father. Again, I take five to ten minutes to reflect in silence and solitude, conscious that Christ is there next to me, his heart beating next to mine. I am open to what Christ tells me.

SACRA SCRIPTURA COMMUNICATIO: Again, read the same text, and when you have finished, you communicate with the only other person(s) in your upper room, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. First, tell them one item on which you wish to focus. Ask them what they think? Wait for the answer. Listen with the “ear of the heart.” Sit in silence for five to ten minutes (whatever time it takes).

SACRA SCRIPTURA TRANSFORMATIO: The whole idea of reading Sacred Scriptures is to be in the presence of Christ and listen. This step is about reading the text one more time, praying, communicating, and asking Jesus to become what you read. Reflect on this in silence for five to ten minutes.

SACRA SCRIPTURA ACTIO: Pope Benedict XVI suggested that we add an Actio to our Lectio Divina. I like that idea for my scriptural steps. Actio means you commit to taking what you say your transformation is and doing it. This is the service part of prayer, like that which exists between the Father and Son and is the product of love. My product of love is to serve others. Sacred Scriptures are the chief means for me to actually read the words and become what I read so that I can share that with others.

Like any habit of prayerfulness, what might start out as very legalistic (going through each step) becomes more and more about the content than the process as I gain mastery over this technique.



I offer you some of the YouTube readings on my favorite topics as read by Tom O’ Bedlam. I do so without commentary.

The Hound of Heaven


I wonder if there is such a thing as a schizophrenic in religion, such as a person that has two personalities and exists in two sets of behaviors within that personality type. I do not refer to the duality that exists when Baptism makes us heirs to the kingdom of heaven, while we have citizenship on earth.

My thoughts go to a person who says they are Catholic (and that can range from a social Catholic all the way to a Lay Cistercian or other Lay Oblates, such as Benedictine, Franciscan, or Dominican, to name only a few).

  • Here are some observations. I try not to judge (although I still do).
  • Catholics who go to Eucharist because their mom and dad did.
  • Catholics who say they are personally against Abortion but vote to make it legitimate.
  • Catholics do not recognize that they are cross carriers and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
  • Catholics are social butterflies and try to please their spouse and give example to their children, without believing in what they profess in the Creed.
  • Catholics believe so because it is life insurance (fire insurance?).
  • Catholics profess one thing in private and something totally different in public (denying Christ three times like St. Peter).
  • Catholics who have never tried to grow deeper in Christ and feel the weight of discipleship.
  • Catholics who have never read The Catholic Catechism or accessed USCCB’s website. (
  • Catholics who have gone to church faithfully their whole life but don’t know what conversion of life each day, means.
  • Catholics who have compartmentalized their Faith within the Church walls and without.
  • Catholics who call others names, and race and body shaming others while smugly thinking they are superior.
  • Catholics who think their Faith is keeping the rules (which it is) but not growing deeper into Christ’s love in their hearts. It is mercy I seek, says God, not sacrifice.

Read the following text as a prayer and as something you want in your life to keep you balanced and on track.

Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees.

1a Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,

2* saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.

3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.

4b They tie up heavy burdens* [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.

5* c All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.

6* d They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,

7 greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’

8* As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.

9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.

10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.

11e The greatest among you must be your servant.

12f Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13* g “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven* before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.


15* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.

16* h “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’

17 Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred?

18 And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’

19 You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?

20i One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;

21 one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it;

22 one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.

23j “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes* of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others.

24* k Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

25* l “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.

26 Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.

27* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.

28m Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

29* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,* you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous,

30n and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’

31o Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;

32 now fill up what your ancestors measured out!

33p You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?

34* q Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town,

35so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

36 Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.


Here are my ideas about what people who are atheists, agnostics, and schizophrenic Catholics, including myself, do when we first get to heaven.

St. Peter greets each person outside the walls with a smile and handshake. “Welcome to Heaven,” he says, “show me your tattoo and give me the password.” People would likely soil themselves, but there are no pants, no soiling, nothing, just you and St. Peter. I show him my tattoo and the password, and he tells me to wait next to him.

  • “You know,” he says, looking at me, “I get a lot of crazy statements when people first get here and get over their shock.
  • One human said, “Who do you think you are, spoiling my afternoon grilling with my family. Get me out of here.”
  • Another told me, “Why didn’t the Catholic Church tell me about this and what the password is? What is this tattoo you are talking about? I don’t have any tattoos.”
  • Still, another woman told me that the Scriptures did not mention this and that I was wrong to betray the Word of God.”
  • I had another one, an atheist, tell me to “Go to Hell.” At least he was honest. I like that.

Do you know what the tattoo is? How about the password? I am not going to tell you. Life is about trying to find out what it means to be fully human, to move to that next level of our evolution, but one that requires me to choose to do so. It is not the collective conveyor belt of “the spine of reality” that happens because we are travelers in the river of time as it flows inexorably from creation to Omega (Teilhard’s Chart (unattributed)). I own 82.8 years of this time on the river and have accumulated many experiences along the way that contribute to who I am as a human being. Based on what I know, my consciousness speaks to me that the tattoo is the sign of my Baptism, the cross. This means that I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father but it also means that I am raised beyond the paranoia and schizophrenia of ordinary living by the power of Christ, the power of knowledge, of love, and of service to others. Christ alone has the power of the Resurrection to allow me to tag along as I daily seek to convert myself more to that of being fully human, and less to my mere human self. It is a constant struggle, one that has a password for those who are aware of the process. It is the sign of the fish (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior). Anyone who utters this name does so by the power of the Holy Spirit.

With humility and obedience to the Father as my attributes, I can only stumble forward each day, confronting whatever is in my path, knowing that, whatever comes my way, I am walking with Christ.



Assumptions are those ways of thinking that are the foundation of why we believe what we do. When an atheist says “There is no god,” it is because of the assumptions that they hold. It is the god that they assume NOT to be true that they place at the center of their lives. To be fair, they are correct in their assumptions if you hold the same way of thinking to be true. To shift away from the “there is no god” assumption, science is famous for the assumptions it holds in reality. There is a “theory of everything” floating about the Internet, which tries to unify everything into one way of thinking. All of this makes sense if you have the same assumptions, which, by the way, are just as individualistic as snowflakes. Just as those with the assumption that “Jesus is the Son of God, Savior” can be the same, what that means becomes what that individual person experiences in their life about what it means to be human and those choices that have become mindsets or a conglomerate of assumptions (perhaps not all agreeing) that shape our minds and hearts.

From assumptions come language and the basis for moral choices. I have a soft spot in my heart for all those who seek the truth and end up not being able to move beyond two universes of reality (the physical as the basis for humanity and the eighty or so years I carve out of that for my time alive on earth, plus the mental universe so I can reflect on that base and determine the deeper purpose for why I wake up as a human being and not a dinosaur and can say, “Is there anything more to life than death)? Is there another level of evolution for humans that is beyond just what we can see?”

I offer my assumptions (some call it opinion, but it is an opinion that is fantasy to those who can’t make the jump from a reality that has both visible and invisible dimensions) about what reality looks like. Belief comes from my assumptions, but when I run up against what I consider to be a mindset that leads me to a wall over which my reasoning cannot mount, without help, I look around to see what can help my humanity move to what I am convinced is its destiny, and what mindsets are out there with the energy to live me up to the next level of my rationality to one that fulfills my physical and mental dimensions.

What follows is the mindset that I have accepted as allowing my humanity and also my life experiences to not be lost when I die but move to the next level of my intelligent progression. Here are five ways of thinking within the framework of my assumptions about life that have allowed me to see what cannot be seen by eyes alone (this is another way of saying that invisible reality is the deeper part of the visible/invisible duality of the physical universe.

LINKING ALL REALITY TOGETHER — Let me be clear, I don’t claim to have linked everything in a neat bow and then smugly sit back and criticize others for their lack of insights, but rather it is part of my CONVERSIO MORAE, looking at life and wondering what makes it meaningful. Science looks at reality and seeks to show what makes it up and how it works. Nothing wrong what that. I do that myself. But there is more to life. Conversio Morae means I look at life each day and measure myself against what I perceive to be The Christ Principle. I don’t deny scientific inquiry and methodology only that it does get me to what it means to be a fully evolved human. The Christ Principle does that for me. This is one of my mindsets.

CONTINUITY OF TEACHING — Most people look back at the Apostolic period and interpret it from their vantage point of where they are now in life. Continuity of teaching is the mindset that each age must confront its demons and dispel them (or not). What passes on from one generation to another is its heritage (like the Coronation of King Charles III), Christ is the Magister Noster, the great teacher, the visible manifestation of the Father in the person of Jesus the Messiah. Tradition, to have continuity, must be viewed as moving forward and gathering momentum. For The Christ Principle, the core is the same but how it is addressed by each age in the Church is different. There must be an unbroken link with the past, as everything is linked to everything else (even if we don’t know what that is). This assumption is another one of my mindsets.

THE LAST PHASE OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT MUST BE ENTERED BY INDIVIDUALS WITH A YES. The Christ Principle came to make sense out of a life without meaning and fulfillment. The problem with reason is that it can’t make it to the next level of our evolution with some help, just as life itself had a boost from the energy of God. When atheists, agnostics, indifferent humans, those who fail to even ask the question about the next phase of evolution or intelligent progression don’t see what I see (due to Faith or energy from God to illuminate that which is, with reason alone, in darkness), I don’t get angry. This is not a battle of who has the best god, me or you. It is about discovery and using an approach that Christ taught us that we are adopted sons and daughters and that our purpose in life to be fulfilled is to love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole strength and our neighbor as ourselves. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:32ff) This makes perfect sense to be, although I confess I still keep reflecting on what it means. We have reason for a reason. We have free choice for a reason. Animals don’t have what our species had. It is when we accept a higher power than ourselves and abandon the worldly paradigms (money, fame, fortune, sex as an end in itself) that we rise to the next level of our evolution, that of being fully what it means to be a human and adopted son and daughter of the Father. This way of thinking informs how I look at reality.

HEAVEN AND HELL BEGIN WHEN I AM BORN. Baptism gives me the grace and tools necessary to survive the minefields of walking through life in the physical universe without being blown up by Satan by the enticement that whatever I believe must be true because I am the center of my universe. Ironically, I am the center of my universe, and heaven is when I abandon my human inclination to actually fulfill them by rising to another level as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Hell is those bad choices that lead to bad results for this adoption. We are born into a default where sin is the automatic pull on our humanity. Baptism breaks that hold on our nature and restores us to have a choice between good and evil (just like Genesis Chater 2-3). Heaven is those choices that I make to give God the power, my kingdom on earth, and the glory that is due Him by being God, through, with, and in Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. I use this mindset to keep focused on my humanity, while original sin keeps exerting pressure on me to abandon this cross as being irrelevant. My Heaven begins now and continues with all those linkages I make to The Christ Principle. My Hell would be those choices I made that, like Adam and Eve, failed to create a human that has been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb.

EACH DAY IS A LIFETIME — I begin each day anew, starting over. Yesterday’s prayers and sacrifices are for yesterday. Today, I seek God in whatever I do, and how I think (these mindsets plus others) and just relax about sitting on a couch in my upper room and talking with Christ about things that matter to me. Meditation is when I reflect on a passage of Scripture in depth, contemplation is when I sit there and Christ gives me His opinion. Each day, I have the opportunity to move beyond where I am now, called capacitas dei, or Christ must increase and I must decrease. Growing deeper each day in my experiences in knowledge, love, and service comes naturally since I am made in the image and likeness of God. God doesn’t have an image as humans imagine. God is pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service. God shares that with all of us through the mediation of Christ. Christ alone is the way, the truth, and also the life. These are some of my mindsets.



Anniversaries are part and fabric of what it means to be human. Mine are no different, and I mark them (celebration is a bit too over the top for me) each year with the sober realization that I am now one year closer to my death, my parousia, my destiny as a human who has stumbled chiefly through life and failing to love Christ more than loving him when I meet other people.

I am approaching the anniversary of my final promises as a Lay Cistercian. I thought I would share with you some ideas.

I am not the person I was when I made Lay Cistercian promises in 2018. Hopefully, I have diminished in my false self, but Christ has increased. Some days have been better than others, but my movement creeps along despite my penchant for being such a bad person (not morally as much as spiritually).

I am a hostage to my mind and its parameters. Unless I put goodness there, it just sits there, waiting for me to use it appropriately. If I want to love Christ there, I must put it there. The Lay Cistercian practices and charisms ensure that I keep the discipline of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each day. What these moments with Jesus do for me is to be present at my center, The Christ Principle. If I did not do this, like love, it withers on the vine and dries up over time.

A one-time renewal of promises is symbolic. A mindset that says each day I must seek God in whatever comes my way puts love where there is none. It is not without difficulty that this happens because of the aura of original sin that blankets my citizenship as a human being. Fortunately, Christ has lifted me up to become an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. I profess my citizenship in the kingdom of heaven at my annual renewal of promises as a Lay Cistercian.

If we don’t remember our promises, like those wedding promises we all made or the vows we made as a priest, a monk, a nun, a brother, or lay orders (Dominican, Benedictine, Franciscan, and many more), we lose its significance as those milestones become road markers of past experiences long since forgotten by lack of use.


Here is a copy of a blog I wrote for my lifetime promises as a Lay Cistercian in May 2018. With Christ’s help, I make all things new once again (actually, every day, if I am aware of it).

As I look back on my life, which is a very long look, I usually reflect on what is good and try to forget all those times (the majority of my life) when I made a fool out of myself or was outright full of myself. To list all those faults and failures would take a book of many chapters and quotes. I won’t bore you with all those details. I will, however, share with you one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) that looked at the positive things I have learned and try to keep before my eyes each day, in keeping with the perpetual promises I made as a Lay Cistercian, my anniversary of the final profession as a Lay Cistercian. . I share with you this profession of Faith just as I read it two years ago and as I try to live on a daily basis until I pass over to be with Christ.


I, Michael Francis Conrad, a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a community of Catholics living in the world, promise to strive for a daily conversion of life as my response to the love of God.

I commit myself to live in a spirit of contemplative prayer and sacrifice in obedience to God’s universal call to holiness, using daily Cistercian practices and charisms of simplicity, humility, obedience to God’s will, hospitality, and striving for conversion of life to move from self to God.

I thank my wife, Young, and my daughter, Martha, for standing with me on my journey. I ask for prayers from the Monastic community of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit and the Lay Cistercian community, including the  Ecumenical and Auxiliary communities. I place myself in the hands of those already stand before the throne of the Lamb, including Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, the Seven Cistercian Martyrs of Our Lady of Atlas, Father Anthony Delisi and other deceased monks and Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and also Deacon Marcus Hepburn. Finally, I accept the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the constitutions and statutes of the Strict Observance Cistercians as my guide for living the Gospel within the time I have remaining. Ut in Omnia Dei glorificatur.


Here are the five lessons that have shaped my life.

I. HAVE IN YOU THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS. This quote from Philippians 2:5 sums up my life purpose and the motivation that propels me forward to whatever awaits me when my life will change but not end. I use it as my Lectio Divina quote each and every day. I have tried to use it as far back as September 1962 (I don’t remember the day). It is the North on my compass, the reason for trying to transform my life from my false self (seven deadly sins) to my true self (seven gifts of the Holy Spirit). It is why I am here on earth for whatever time I have. It motivates me to want to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for the Lord to come by and grace me with His presence (God, of course, is everywhere). I can’t imagine what I would be without this North on my compass.

II. LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST LOVES YOU— I went from thinking that having the mind of Christ Jesus means I must be in Church as much as I am the Church, the Body of Christ. The Church Universal are all those who have been signed by the blood of the Lamb, and all those whom God deems worthy to be in Heaven. Loving others as Christ loves us means that I don’t judge who goes to Heaven (a subtle form of idolatry) but worry that I am not worthy enough to be an adopted son of the Father.

III. CONTEMPLATION ENTERS THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST — Yes, God’s presence is everywhere, but I am talking about me making a conscious choice to place myself in the presence of Christ in a deliberate prayer. This is a spirituality of one Being, Christ, who is both God and Human nature, being invited to picnic with me. It is my invitation to Christ to be present to me in a unique way, with no agenda or hidden needs on my part. I just want to be present to and with him. Yes, Christ is everywhere, but I am not. In contemplation, I sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and ask Christ to grace me with his presence. Even as I sit in silence and solitude before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic adoration, my prayer is for Jesus to have mercy on me for my lack of Faith and to wait until He wants to talk to me. I don’t want to presume on the mercy of God for me.

IV. TRANSFORMATION FROM SELF TO GOD— If my spiritual life is a room, have I cluttered it with so many useless values of the World that Christ has no room. To make room, I must be humble and admit that I need salvation every day. Each day is a lifetime of trying to move from self to God. It is only due to God’s grace or energy that I can even move or transform myself. I have found Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict of particular helpful in identifying the tools for good works and a list of those attitudes and practices I must perform to move from self to God. Each day, I read Chapter 4 in total or in some parts. My prayer for me is that I might become what I pray for, moving from pride and idolatry of my false self to humility and obedience to the will of the Father.

V. THE PEACE OF CHRIST IN MY HEART — Loving others as Christ loves me has the effect of being one with Christ and the object of that love in those around me. This is not the peace that the world gives, as the Scriptures point out. The Peace of Christ is the result of being in the presence of God in contemplation. The Joy of the Resurrection is the product of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus, without condition, open to the Holy Spirit in humility and obedience to whatever Jesus is telling me. Peace is not the absence of hostility but the presence of love, the real presence of Christ here before me just as he is in heaven sitting on the Throne of the Lamb of God. Faith alone, God’s own energy, enables me to be an adopted son of the Father. Church alone, the Body of Christ, allows me to love others as Christ loves me. It lets your light shine before everyone so that “..they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” I am called to share that peace of Christ with those around me, those marked with the sign of salvation, and those who have not yet accepted Christ. I am called to judge not the motives or hearts of others in the church and let God judge those outside it. This is the peace that is beyond all telling.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

Pray for me and my fellow Lay Cistercians to become what we promise.



Posted on May 3, 2023, by thecenterforcontemplativepractice

My Lectio Divina today (Phil 2:5) was on how blessed I am to be blessed by Christ in what I do.  St. Benedict says that in all things, we should glorify God. I asked myself, what things?  The list is too long to recount here. If you turn to the very end of John’s Gospel, he makes a very practical statement about all those “things” Jesus did and why he did them for us. Read John 20:30.

John 20:30-31 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)The Purpose of This Book30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Three statements stand out for me.

  • Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples.  What signs? Do we know what these signs are from early Apostolic writing?
  • The whole New Testament book is full of signs, signs Jesus did as witnessed and recorded by those who followed him. The fact that Jesus did signs or actions throughout his ministry rather than write a book is a testament to his command to love one another as he loved us. Read Matthew 25:31-45 to read what Jesus wanted us to do with those signs he saved us.
  • They are written for me, a Lay Cistercian about to make Final Promises before Christ, to remind me that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. What I have done as a Lay Cistercian novice and junior professed up to this point is believing I may have life in his name.


This is the end of my five years of discernment and the beginning of my full commitment to seek God using Cistercian practices and charisms from the constitutions and statutes of the Strict Order of Cistercian Monks and Nuns.  It is a lifetime commitment to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. I don’t take this promise lightly because, given Original Sin, it will be a constant challenge to love God with all my heart, mind, and strength, plus my neighbor as myself. I have not achieved this as much as I keep on attempting it and attempting it each day.  This, indeed, is the cross I take up to follow Christ.  As I approach this momentous milestone, one which I do with humility and obedience, I do so in the context of my faith community, other Lay Cistercians, and my faith community at Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida.

As I reflect on my Final Promises, four themes seem to pop up in my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) these days:

  • Silence and Solitude in the Wilderness
  • Practice. Practice. Practice.
  • Return to Your Heart
  • The mystery of Faith, with all its incredible dimensions

Silence and Solitude in the Wilderness —  A monk told a group of Lay Cistercian novices that he wanted to have silence and solitude in his life, and the monastery was the only place where he could secure that without too many distractions.  What is interesting for me is that, as a Lay Cistercian and not a monk, I try to use the same Cistercian practices and charisms that monks do, with a big difference. There is something purifying about the early Fathers and hermits going into the desert to rid themselves of all the distractions of the world and list to Christ in the wilderness. I had a thought about the wilderness, a place of intense silence, and deafening solitude, a condition where you discover who you are in the midst of seemingly no living things, a crucible to crush the temptations of the world to be great in favor of having in you the mind of Christ Jesus.  The thought I had was I live in a wilderness, just as the hermits and early monks did. They had deafening silence; I have a silence that must struggle against the temptations of the world to be god. They had solitude. I live as a pilgrim in a foreign land when I try to practice Cistercian charisms as I try to seek God. The wilderness is not only devoid of life, but my wilderness is also devoid of life. The world is a wasteland of false promises and practices. Every word in the universe of physical and mental (the world) has meaning, but add the spiritual universe, and that word takes on a different meaning because of what Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, taught us. Christ says I do not give you peace as the world gives peace.  Fake prophets tout that they know Jesus and speak for God.  The greatest sin humans can make, made consistently by those who think God is on their side, is to be god. It is not without irony that it is the first commandment.  Adam and Eve’s sin is part of every sin we commit. The silence and solitude that I learned from Cistercian monks help me sometimes to focus on where I am and who I am in the sight of God. The thought is always humbling to me. Lay Cistercian spirituality, especially the charisms of humility, obedience, stability, silence, and solitude, have helped me recognize that the world is actually the wilderness, devoid of the Kingdom of Heaven. We can live in the world but not be seduced by its allurements and temptations to be god. Just because we choose something does not mean it is good for us. Not to be confused, humanism, living in two universes (physical and mental universe), can be noble, fulfilling, and not evil. Like the scientific approach to all life, it is not adequate to live in the spiritual universe, one where loving God is the center and purpose of life and not loving self without God.

Practice. Practice. Practice. — Silence and solitude is the condition in which I find myself; in my case, I live the wilderness of dysfunction and the world’s opinion of what is meaningful. Here are some Cistercian practices I practice over and over and over in order to overcome the temptations of the world.

Lectio Divina: Chief among these Cistercian practices for me is Lectio Divina. I must practice this over and over and over; that habit of Lectio helps me focus on Christ every day for at least thirty minutes.  As a novice, I tried to set aside thirty minutes and used the four steps of Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, and Contemplatio. Five years later, approaching my Final Promise to be faithful to my Lectio for the rest of my life, I don’t count time at all, and I have morphed from sitting in the chapel (although I still do that) to sitting in front of the computer to do Lectio (like I am doing now). Using the ideas and inspiration I have gained from Lectio Divina, I have completed forty-nine books and blogs for this site, all since 2000.

Gathering Day:  This is the one day a month that Lay Cistercians meet in the community to pray, work, and experience silence and solitude together.  During my last five years, since I first was received as a novice, there has been a noticeable shift in my approach to the Sacred, all due, I think, to my appreciation of the Holy Spirit working in and through other Lay Cistercians.  I can’t point to a single instance or person that made this happen. I do know that I am more focused on Christ, have an increased capacity for god in myself, am more tolerant of the views of others, have more peace in my inner self, and look forward to Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Meditation, Rosary, and Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament as not exercises, but as occasions where I sit next to Christ and allow him to show up or not and say what he wants to me without me trying to fill the silence with my own frustrations. Gathering Day is five hours away (one way) by auto. Someone once asked me how I could drive five hours (getting up sometimes at one in the morning to leave for the monastery), and I said this was the pearl of great price, something you would sell all you have to possess. It is not a thing, or property, or fame, or food, or adulation, but simply to be in the presence of God and wait for what happens.  At the end of five years, I can tell you it is worth the drive each month. I have had health challenges during the past five years, including Leukemia (CLL type), in 2014. Through it all, I have tried to keep my eyes on the prize, as St. Paul says in Philippians 3: 7-16. Read the passage in its entirety.

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[a] the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ[b] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Pressing toward the Goal12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[c] but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[d] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[e] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[f] call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us mature be of the same mind; if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

 This Scripture passage expresses what I have in my spirit as I approach Final Promises.

These are not Final Promises but rather hopes born of many, many times I have struggled to place myself next to the heart of Christ.

As a result of Cistercian practice and practice and practice, I am becoming more and more comfortable with faith as a mystery, the Resurrection as an enigma but one that holds my hope to live forever, the sign of contraction as the world, and the Kingdom of Heaven, the purpose of life, my purpose in life (Phil 2:5), what reality looks like, how it all fits together, how to love fiercely as Christ loved us, and how to prepare to live…Forever.

I am content with not knowing everything about Jesus, but rather just trying to have in me each day the mind of Christ Jesus. The struggle for me now is “each day,” not worrying about if Christ will show up.

The Rule of St. Benedict — I do not follow the holy Rule as written, nor, I understand, do Cistercians. I am not a monk, nor live in a place where all the chapters make sense.  I read the Rule of St. Benedict in some form each day, especially Chapter 4 on the tools of good works, the core spiritual behaviors against which I measure my resolve each day and come up wanting. The Prologue is one of my favorite readings (listen with the ear of your heart), and Chapters on Humility and Obedience.   The key for me as a Lay Cistercian is “every day”.  Read the words of the late Dom Andre Louf, who wrote one of my favorite Cistercian books, The Cistercian Way. The Cistercian monks have taught me many wonderful insights that I do not immediately integrate into my spiritual way. One of those insights is to return to your heart.  Here is what Dom Andre Louf writes about the realm of the heart, which propels us to want to love more and more and compels us to sell all we have of the world and follow Him.

Return to your heart.–

“The advice that the ancient fathers unceasingly gave to the novice was, ‘Return to your own heart.’ What does this mean? The young monk soon realizes how difficult it is to approach God to enter into contact with him. We have already described the first two unavailing steps which help him deepen his inner life. An important aspect of this maturing process is the discovery, perhaps at first only the presentiment, of an inner organ that will allow him to enter into contact with God. What is it that we pray to God with? What faculty do we use in order to pray? Do I use my intelligence? Do I reflect on my concept of God, trying to deepen and compare it with other realities I already know? Perhaps I can, to some extent, deduce some conclusions from this, for example, that God is all-powerful, knows everything, is the ultimate reason for my being, and is my creator.

These ideas are useful, but they can lead me to think that in this way, I can come to a full knowledge of God. In fact, they remain superficial and can end by wearying me. They are always open to very plausible counterarguments, which can sometimes shake my perhaps painfully acquired conviction. I must also ask if this reasoning can satisfy my thirst for God. Does reasoning of this kind truly put me in touch with God? The answer, I think, is “No”.

I can, of course, turn to my imagination. I can try to represent God to myself using images that are familiar to me. However, even these images–and they are holy, for they are used by the Church in the liturgy—cannot speak to me interiorly except to the extent that my heart has been made truly receptive to their spiritual depth. There is always a certain danger with feelings in religion. Are they artificial? How can I stir up repentance, sorrow, or love again in my heart unless God himself intervene and lead to them again, buried as they are in the deepest part of myself, in this place he wishes to reveal to me? 

The Bible gives this interior place the name “heart”. The best description of the heart in this sense is given by some Fathers of the church who designate it as “the place of God in us”. There is a place in every man where God touches him and where he himself is constantly in contact with God. This is simply because at every instant God holds us in being.  Ceaselessly we come forth from the hand. The place where this contravenes contact with God takes place deep within me. If I can reach it I can touch God. If I can arrive at a point where I can free myself from every other reality and be the gaze of my spirit to bear on this point exclusively, I can meet God.” (Dom Andre Louf, OCSO, The Cistercian Way, pp.71-71)

There are two dimensions or realms of my spirituality: the mind and the heart. As a Lay Cistercian, I want to use what is best about my humanity to access both the mind and the heart. This is a concept I have not always appreciated, although it has always been there. The Cistercian Way has gradually opened my mind (and thus my heart) to consider the importance of mystery, reality just beyond my knowing, although I know it is real.

The mystery of Faith with all its incredible dimensions — As I approach Final Promises, I am aware that what I don’t know far outweighs what I know. I can live to be one thousand years of age and it would not change. It is not that there is a set body of knowledge out there, as in memorizing the Bible passages, but that what it means is so deep and so mysterious we will never reach the end of all there is to know. In a way, trying to know everything is a form of idolatry. Christ bid us to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is not attainable by only knowing about Christ but by loving Christ by loving others as Christ loved us.


There is a reality out there that we have difficulty possessing in our minds, quite simply because we do not have either the capacity or the capability for our mind to approach it. The Rule of Opposites, one of three rules of the spiritual universe, is one such mental contradiction that our minds do not seem to accept. In the spiritual universe, what is real is the opposite of what we know in the physical and mental universes. Think about it. Everything looks normal because your senses and mind process what it sees, hears, and knows to be true and is consistent with what you know is real. Yet, to be a disciple of the Master, we are called to renounce self and die to self in order to live. It just doesn’t make sense.  Again, that God would become one of us when he does not have to leave the comfort of being God (Phil 2: 5-12) doesn’t make sense. That this sinless God who took on our sinful human nature would die for us voluntarily and then rise from the dead so that we could also rise from the dead makes no sense whatsoever. The whole experience of the mysterious as being more real the more mysterious it is is part of our Eastern Mysticism, a rich heritage of approaching God. In Western (Roman and Greek) thinking about what is real, the more you know about something, the more real it is. In Eastern traditions, the more something is mysterious, the more real it is.  One of the happenings I find myself trying to explain is why I am not more disturbed to spend all my time knowing about God. For example, the more I know about God, the better disciple I will become. The more prayers I say, the holier I am. I am at peace with the fact that I can never approach God the Father except by sitting next to the heart of Christ and joining through him, with him, and in him as he gives glory to the Father in unity with the Holy Spirit. It is not that I don’t try as much as I can to know more, but I am satisfied that knowledge must lead to loving, and knowing and loving automatically produces service to others. Read Matthew Matthew 25:31-46. If you want to get a flavor of mystery, read The Cloud of the Unknowing, I must warn you, it is not for the faint of heart or mind.  The Book of Revelations and the Book of Daniel are more readable but no less mystical documents.

As I approach my Final Promises with Cistercian practices of Lectio Divina, contemplation, and the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4, I am at peace with my mind, not trying to comprehend what is essentially pure knowledge.  Even when I get to Heaven, with God’s grace, I will only be able to “see” that which I was able to link with the Redemptive Act of Christ. What I see now is, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., so much straw compared to what reality is, what God is, what the purpose of life is, How my purpose fits into the purpose of life, what reality is, how it all fits together, how fierce love is the nuclear fission that fuels all of what is, and how well I had in my mind the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5).

I will make my Final Promises to try, with the help of Christ, the Holy Mother of God, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, the Seven Cistercians Martyrs of Our Lady of Atlas, to seek God with all my heart, all my mind, with all my self, and love my neighbor as myself. Final Promises are not final but rather a continuation of what was begun in my Baptism and Confirmation. That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

I add a poem that I wrote about my life.  It seems to sum up where I am on my Lay Cistercian journey.

The Poem of My Life

I sing the song of life and love…

…sometimes flat and out of tune

…sometimes eloquent and full of passion

…sometimes forgetting notes and melody

…sometimes quaint and intimate

…often forgetful and negligent

…often in tune with the very core of my being

…often with the breath of those who would pull me down, shouting right in my face

…often with the breath of life uplifting me to heights never before dreamed

…greatly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to The One

…greatly thankful for adoption, the discovery of new life of pure energy

…greatly appreciative of sharing meaning with others of The Master

…greatly sensitive to not judging the motives of anyone but me

…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian

…happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration

…happy and humbled to be counted worthy of being an adopted son of the Father

…happy for communities of faith and love with wife, daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year

…mindful of the major distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest

…mindful of my center and the perspective that I am loved. moreover, I must love back with all the energy of my heart and strength, yet always falling a little short

…mindful of the energy I receive from The One in Whom I find purpose and meaning…  Forever.

To The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, be glory, honor, power, and blessings through The Redeemer Son in unity with the Advocate, Spirit of Love.

From The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek hope that His words about the purpose of life are true, that He is the way that leads to life…Forever.

With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce love so I can have the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in life and my center…Forever.


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(Latin angelus; Greek aggelos; from the Hebrew for “one going” or “one sent”; messenger). The word is used in Hebrew to denote indifferently either a divine or human messenger. The Septuagint renders it by aggelos which also has both significations. The Latin version, however, distinguishes the divine or spirit-messenger from the human, rendering the original in the one case by angelus and in the other by legatus or more generally by nuntius. In a few passages the Latin version is misleading, the word angelus being used where nuntius would have better expressed the meaning, e.g. Isaiah 18:233:3-6.

It is with the spirit-messenger alone that we are here concerned. We have to discuss

  • the meaning of the term in the Bible,
  • the offices of the angels,
  • the names assigned to the angels,
  • the distinction between good and evil spirits,
  • the divisions of the angelic choirs,
  • the question of angelic appearances, and
  • the development of the scriptural idea of angels.

The angels are represented throughout the Bible as a body of spiritual beings intermediate between God and men: “You have made him (man) a little less than the angels” (Psalm 8:6). They, equally with man, are created beings; “praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts . . . for He spoke and they were made. He commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:2-5Colossians 1:16-17). That the angels were created was laid down in the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). The decree “Firmiter” against the Albigenses declared both the fact that they were created and that men were created after them. This decree was repeated by the Vatican Council, “Dei Filius”. We mention it here because the words: “He that liveth for ever created all things together” (Ecclesiasticus 18:1) have been held to prove a simultaneous creation of all things; but it is generally conceded that “together” (simul) may here mean “equally”, in the sense that all things were “alike” created. They are spirits; the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister to them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

Attendants at God’s throne

It is as messengers that they most often figure in the Bible, but, as St. Augustine, and after him St. Gregory, expresses it: angelus est nomen officii (“angel is the name of the office”) and expresses neither their essential nature nor their essential function, viz.: that of attendants upon God’s throne in that court of heaven of which Daniel has left us a vivid picture:

I behold till thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days sat: His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like clean wool: His throne like flames of fire: the wheels of it like a burning fire. A swift stream of fire issued forth from before Him: thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him: the judgment sat and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10; cf. also Psalm 96:7Psalm 102:20Isaiah 6, etc.)

This function of the angelic host is expressed by the word “assistance” (Job 1:62:1), and our Lord refers to it as their perpetual occupation (Matthew 18:10). More than once we are told of seven angels whose special function it is thus to “stand before God’s throne” (Tobit 12:15Revelation 8:2-5). The same thought may be intended by “the angel of His presence” (Isaiah 63:9) an expression which also occurs in the pseudo-epigraphical “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs”.

God’s messengers to mankind

But these glimpses of life beyond the veil are only occasional. The angels of the Bible generally appear in the role of God’s messengers to mankind. They are His instruments by whom He communicates His will to men, and in Jacob’s vision they are depicted as ascending and descending the ladder which stretches from earth to heaven while the Eternal Father gazes upon the wanderer below. It was an angel who found Agar in the wilderness (Genesis 16); angels drew Lot out of Sodom; an angel announces to Gideon that he is to save his people; an angel foretells the birth of Samson (Judges 13), and the angel Gabriel instructs Daniel (Daniel 8:16), though he is not called an angel in either of these passages, but “the man Gabriel” (9:21). The same heavenly spirit announced the birth of St. John the Baptist and the Incarnation of the Redeemer, while tradition ascribes to him both the message to the shepherds (Luke 2:9), and the most glorious mission of all, that of strengthening the King of Angels in His Agony (Luke 22:43). The spiritual nature of the angels is manifested very clearly in the account which Zacharias gives of the revelations bestowed upon him by the ministry of an angel. The prophet depicts the angel as speaking “in him”. He seems to imply that he was conscious of an interior voice which was not that of God but of His messenger. The Massoretic text, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate all agree in thus describing the communications made by the angel to the prophet. It is a pity that the “Revised Version” should, in apparent defiance of the above-named texts, obscure this trait by persistently giving the rendering: “the angel that talked with me: instead of “within me” (cf. Zechariah 1:9-142:34:55:10).

Such appearances of angels generally last only so long as the delivery of their message requires, but frequently their mission is prolonged, and they are represented as the constituted guardians of the nations at some particular crisis, e.g. during the Exodus (Exodus 14:19Baruch 6:6). Similarly it is the common view of the Fathers that by “the prince of the Kingdom of the Persians” (Daniel 10:13-21) we are to understand the angel to whom was entrusted the spiritual care of that kingdom, and we may perhaps see in the “man of Macedonia” who appeared to St. Paul at Troas, the guardian angel of that country (Acts 16:9). The Septuagint (Deuteronomy 32:8), has preserved for us a fragment of information on this head, though it is difficult to gauge its exact meaning: “When the Most High divided the nations, when He scattered the children of Adam, He established the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God“. How large a part the ministry of angels played, not merely in Hebrew theology, but in the religious ideas of other nations as well, appears from the expression “like to an angel of God“. It is three times used of David (2 Samuel 14:17-2014:27) and once by Achis of Geth (1 Samuel 29:9). It is even applied by Esther to Assuerus (Esther 15:16), and St. Stephen’s face is said to have looked “like the face of an angel” as he stood before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:15).

Personal guardians

Throughout the Bible we find it repeatedly implied that each individual soul has its tutelary angel. Thus Abraham, when sending his steward to seek a wife for Isaac, says: “He will send His angel before thee” (Genesis 24:7). The words of the ninetieth Psalm which the devil quoted to our Lord (Matthew 4:6) are well known, and Judith accounts for her heroic deed by saying: “As the Lord liveth, His angel hath been my keeper” (13:20). These passages and many like them (Genesis 16:6-32Hosea 12:41 Kings 19:5Acts 12:7Psalm 33:8), though they will not of themselves demonstrate the doctrine that every individual has his appointed guardian angel, receive their complement in our Saviour’s words: “See that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in Heaven always see the face of My Father Who is in Heaven” (Matthew 18:10), words which illustrate the remark of St. Augustine: “What lies hidden in the Old Testament, is made manifest in the New“. Indeed, the book of Tobias seems intended to teach this truth more than any other, and St. Jerome in his commentary on the above words of our Lord says: “The dignity of a soul is so great, that each has a guardian angel from its birth.” The general doctrine that the angels are our appointed guardians is considered to be a point of faith, but that each individual member of the human race has his own individual guardian angel is not of faith (de fide); the view has, however, such strong support from the Doctors of the Church that it would be rash to deny it (cf. St. Jeromesupra). Peter the Lombard (Sentences, lib. II, dist. xi) was inclined to think that one angel had charge of several individual human beingsSt. Bernard’s beautiful homilies (11-14) on the ninetieth Psalm breathe the spirit of the Church without however deciding the question. The Bible represents the angels not only as our guardians, but also as actually interceding for us. “The angel Raphael (Tobit 12:12) says: “I offered thy prayer to the Lord” (cf. Job 5:1 (Septuagint), and 33:23 (Vulgate); Apocalypse 8:4). The Catholic cult of the angels is thus thoroughly scriptural. Perhaps the earliest explicit declaration of it is to be found in St. Ambrose’s words: “We should pray to the angels who are given to us as guardians” (De Viduis, ix); (cf. St. AugustineReply to Faustus XX.21). An undue cult of angels was reprobated by St. Paul (Colossians 2:18), and that such a tendency long remained in the same district is evidenced by Canon 35 of the Synod of Laodicea.

As divine agents governing the world

The foregoing passages, especially those relating to the angels who have charge of various districts, enable us to understand the practically unanimous view of the Fathers that it is the angels who put into execution God’s law regarding the physical world. The Semitic belief in genii and in spirits which cause good or evil is well known, and traces of it are to be found in the Bible. Thus the pestilence which devastated Israel for David’s sin in numbering the people is attributed to an angel whom David is said to have actually seen (2 Samuel 24:15-17), and more explicitly, I Par., xxi, 14-18). Even the wind rustling in the tree-tops was regarded as an angel (2 Samuel 5:23-241 Chronicles 14:14, 15). This is more explicitly stated with regard to the pool of Probatica (John 5:1-4), though there is some doubt about the text; in that passage the disturbance of the water is said to be due to the periodic visits of an angel. The Semites clearly felt that all the orderly harmony of the universe, as well as interruptions of that harmony, were due to God as their originator, but were carried out by His ministers. This view is strongly marked in the “Book of Jubilees” where the heavenly host of good and evil angels is ever interfering in the material universeMaimonides (Directorium Perplexorum, iv and vi) is quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologicæ I.1.3) as holding that the Bible frequently terms the powers of nature angels, since they manifest the omnipotence of God (cf. St. Jerome, In Mich., vi, 1, 2; P.L., iv, col. 1206).

Hierarchical organization

Though the angels who appear in the earlier works of the Old Testament are strangely impersonal and are overshadowed by the importance of the message they bring or the work they do, there are not wanting hints regarding the existence of certain ranks in the heavenly army.

After Adam’s fall Paradise is guarded against our First Parents by cherubim who are clearly God’s ministers, though nothing is said of their nature. Only once again do the cherubim figure in the Bible, viz., in Ezechiel’s marvellous vision, where they are described at great length (Ezekiel 1), and are actually called cherub in Ezechiel 10. The Ark was guarded by two cherubim, but we are left to conjecture what they were like. It has been suggested with great probability that we have their counterpart in the winged bulls and lions guarding the Assyrian palaces, and also in the strange winged men with hawks’ heads who are depicted on the walls of some of their buildings. The seraphim appear only in the vision of Isaias 6:6.

Mention has already been made of the mystic seven who stand before God, and we seem to have in them an indication of an inner cordon that surrounds the throne. The term archangel occurs only in St. Jude and 1 Thessalonians 4:15; but St. Paul has furnished us with two other lists of names of the heavenly cohorts. He tells us (Ephesians 1:21) that Christ is raised up “above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion”; and, writing to the Colossians (1:16), he says: “In Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations, or principalities or powers.” It is to be noted that he uses two of these names of the powers of darkness when (2:15) he talks of Christ as “despoiling the principalities and powers . . . triumphing over them in Himself”. And it is not a little remarkable that only two verses later he warns his readers not to be seduced into any “religion of angels”. He seems to put his seal upon a certain lawful angelology, and at the same time to warn them against indulging superstition on the subject. We have a hint of such excesses in the Book of Enoch, wherein, as already stated, the angels play a quite disproportionate part. Similarly Josephus tells us (Bel. Jud., II, viii, 7) that the Essenes had to take a vow to preserve the names of the angels.

We have already seen how (Daniel 10:12-21) various districts are allotted to various angels who are termed their princes, and the same feature reappears still more markedly in the Apocalyptic “angels of the seven churches”, though it is impossible to decide what is the precise signification of the term. These seven Angels of the Churches are generally regarded as being the Bishops occupying these seesSt. Gregory Nazianzen in his address to the Bishops at Constantinople twice terms them “Angels”, in the language of the Apocalypse.

The treatise “De Coelesti Hierarchia”, which is ascribed to St. Denis the Areopagite, and which exercised so strong an influence upon the Scholastics, treats at great length of the hierarchies and orders of the angels. It is generally conceded that this work was not due to St. Denis, but must date some centuries later. Though the doctrine it contains regarding the choirs of angels has been received in the Church with extraordinary unanimity, no proposition touching the angelic hierarchies is binding on our faith. The following passages from St. Gregory the Great (Hom. 34, In Evang.) will give us a clear idea of the view of the Church’s doctors on the point:

We know on the authority of Scripture that there are nine orders of angels, viz., Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Throne, Cherubim and Seraphim. That there are Angels and Archangels nearly every page of the Bible tell us, and the books of the Prophets talk of Cherubim and SeraphimSt. Paul, too, writing to the Ephesians enumerates four orders when he says: ‘above all Principality, and Power, and Virtue, and Domination’; and again, writing to the Colossians he says: ‘whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers’. If we now join these two lists together we have five Orders, and adding Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, we find nine Orders of Angels.

St. Thomas (Summa Theologica I:108), following St. Denis (De Coelesti Hierarchia, vi, vii), divides the angels into three hierarchies each of which contains three orders. Their proximity to the Supreme Being serves as the basis of this division. In the first hierarchy he places the SeraphimCherubim, and Thrones; in the second, the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers; in the third, the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. The only Scriptural names furnished of individual angels are RaphaelMichael, and Gabriel, names which signify their respective attributes. Apocryphal Jewish books, such as the Book of Enoch, supply those of Uriel and Jeremiel, while many are found in other apocryphal sources, like those Milton names in “Paradise Lost”. (On superstitious use of such names, see above).

The number of angels

The number of the angels is frequently stated as prodigious (Daniel 7:10Apocalypse 5:11Psalm 67:18Matthew 26:53). From the use of the word host (sabaoth) as a synonym for the heavenly army it is hard to resist the impression that the term “Lord of Hosts” refers to God’s Supreme command of the angelic multitude (cf. Deuteronomy 33:232:43Septuagint). The Fathers see a reference to the relative numbers of men and angels in the parable of the hundred sheep (Luke 15:1-3), though this may seem fanciful. The Scholastics, again, following the treatise “De Coelesti Hierarchia” of St. Denis, regard the preponderance of numbers as a necessary perfection of the angelic host (cf. St. ThomasSumma Theologica I:1:3).

The evil angels

The distinction of good and bad angels constantly appears in the Bible, but it is instructive to note that there is no sign of any dualism or conflict between two equal principles, one good and the other evil. The conflict depicted is rather that waged on earth between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the Evil One, but the latter’s inferiority is always supposed. The existence, then, of this inferior, and therefore created, spirit, has to be explained.

The gradual development of Hebrew consciousness on this point is very clearly marked in the inspired writings. The account of the fall of our First Parents (Genesis 3) is couched in such terms that it is impossible to see in it anything more than the acknowledgment of the existence of a principle of evil who was jealous of the human race. The statement (Genesis 6:1) that the “sons of God” married the daughters of men is explained of the fall of the angels, in Enoch, vi-xi, and codices, D, E F, and A of the Septuagint read frequently, for “sons of God“, oi aggeloi tou theou. Unfortunately, codices B and C are defective in Genesis 6, but it is probably that they, too, read oi aggeloi in this passage, for they constantly so render the expression “sons of God“; cf. Job 1:62:1 and 38:7; but on the other hand, see Psalm 2:1 and 88 (Septuagint). Philo, in commenting on the passage in his treatise “Quod Deus sit immutabilis”, i, follows the Septuagint. For Philo’s doctrine of Angels, cf. “De Vita Mosis”, iii, 2, “De Somniis”, VI: “De Incorrupta Manna”, i; “De Sacrificis”, ii; “De Lege Allegorica”, I, 12; III, 73; and for the view of Genesis 6:1, cf. St. JustinFirst Apology 5. It should moreover be noted that the Hebrew word nephilim rendered gigantes, in 6:4, may mean “fallen ones”. The Fathers generally refer it to the sons of Seth, the chosen stock. In 1 Samuel 19:9, an evil spirit is said to possess Saul, though this is probably a metaphorical expression; more explicit is 1 Kings 22:19-23, where a spirit is depicted as appearing in the midst of the heavenly army and offering, at the Lord’s invitation, to be a lying spirit in the mouth of Achab’s false prophets. We might, with Scholastics, explain this is malum poenae, which is actually caused by God owing to man’s fault. A truer exegesis would, however, dwell on the purely imaginative tone of the whole episode; it is not so much the mould in which the message is cast as the actual tenor of that message which is meant to occupy our attention.

The picture afforded us in Job 1 and 2 is equally imaginative; but Satan, perhaps the earliest individualization of the fallen Angel, is presented as an intruder who is jealous of Job. He is clearly an inferior being to the Deity and can only touch Job with God’s permission. How theologic thought advanced as the sum of revelation grew appears from a comparison of 2 Samuel 24:1, with 1 Chronicles 21:1. Whereas in the former passage David’s sin was said to be due to “the wrath of the Lord” which “stirred up David”, in the latter we read that “Satan moved David to number Israel“. In Job 4:18, we seem to find a definite declaration of the fall: “In His angels He found wickedness.” The Septuagint of Job contains some instructive passages regarding avenging angels in whom we are perhaps to see fallen spirits, thus 33:23: “If a thousand death-dealing angels should be (against him) not one of them shall wound him”; and 36:14: “If their souls should perish in their youth (through rashness) yet their life shall be wounded by the angels”; and 20:15: “The riches unjustly accumulated shall be vomited up, an angel shall drag him out of his house;” cf. Proverbs 17:11Psalm 34:5-6 and 77:49, and especially Ecclesiasticus 39:33, a text which, as far as can be gathered from the present state of the manuscript, was in the Hebrew original. In some of these passages, it is true, the angels may be regarded as avengers of God’s justice without therefore being evil spirits. In Zechariah 3:1-3, Satan is called the adversary who pleads before the Lord against Jesus the High PriestIsaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are for the Fathers the loci classici regarding the fall of Satan (cf. TertullianAgainst Marcion 2.10); and Our Lord Himself has given colour to this view by using the imagery of the latter passage when saying to His Apostles: “I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven” (Luke 10:18).

In New Testament times the idea of the two spiritual kingdoms is clearly established. The devil is a fallen angel who in his fall has drawn multitudes of the heavenly host in his train. Our Lord terms him “the Prince of this world” (John 14:30); he is the tempter of the human race and tries to involve them in his fall (Matthew 25:412 Peter 2:4Ephesians 6:122 Corinthians 11:1412:7). Christian imagery of the devil as the dragon is mainly derived from the Apocalypse (9:11-15 and 12:7-9), where he is termed “the angel of the bottomless pit”, “the dragon”, “the old serpent”, etc., and is represented as having actually been in combat with Archangel Michael. The similarity between scenes such as these and the early Babylonian accounts of the struggle between Merodach and the dragon Tiamat is very striking. Whether we are to trace its origin to vague reminiscences of the mighty saurians which once people the earth is a moot question, but the curious reader may consult Bousett, “The Anti-Christ Legend” (tr. by Keane, London, 1896). The translator has prefixed to it an interesting discussion on the origin of the Babylonian Dragon-Myth.

The term “angel” in the Septuagint

We have had occasion to mention the Septuagint version more than once, and it may not be amiss to indicate a few passages where it is our only source of information regarding the angels. The best known passage is Isaiah 9:6, where the Septuagint gives the name of the Messias, as “the Angel of great Counsel”. We have already drawn attention to Job 20:15, where the Septuagint reads “Angel” instead of “God”, and to 36:14, where there seems to be question of evil angels. In 9:7Septuagint (B) adds: “He is the Hebrew (5:19) say of “Behemoth”: “He is the beginning of the ways of God, he that made him shall make his sword to approach him”, the Septuagint reads: “He is the beginning of God’s creation, made for His Angels to mock at”, and exactly the same remark is made about “Leviathan” (41:24). We have already seen that the Septuagint generally renders the term “sons of God” by “angels”, but in Deuteronomy 32:43, the Septuagint has an addition in which both terms appear: “Rejoice in Him all ye heavens, and adore Him all ye angels of God; rejoice ye nations with His people, and magnify Him all ye Sons of God.” Nor does the Septuagint merely give us these additional references to angels; it sometimes enables us to correct difficult passages concerning them in the Vulgate and Massoretic text. Thus the difficult Elim of MT in Job 41:17, which the Vulgate renders by “angels”, becomes “wild beasts” in the Septuagint version.

The early ideas as to the personality of the various angelic appearances are, as we have seen, remarkably vague. At first the angels are regarded in quite an impersonal way (Genesis 16:7). They are God’s vice-regents and are often identified with the Author of their message (Genesis 48:15-16). But while we read of “the Angels of God” meeting Jacob (Genesis 32:1) we at other times read of one who is termed “the Angel of God” par excellence, e.g. Genesis 31:11. It is true that, owing to the Hebrew idiom, this may mean no more than “an angel of God“, and the Septuagint renders it with or without the article at will; yet the three visitors at Mambre seem to have been of different ranks, though St. Paul (Hebrews 13:2) regarded them all as equally angels; as the story in Genesis 13 develops, the speaker is always “the Lord”. Thus in the account of the Angel of the Lord who visited Gideon (Judges 6), the visitor is alternately spoken of as “the Angel of the Lord” and as “the Lord”. Similarly, in Judges 13, the Angel of the Lord appears, and both Manue and his wife exclaim: “We shall certainly die because we have seen God.” This want of clearness is particularly apparent in the various accounts of the Angel of Exodus. In Judges 6, just now referred to, the Septuagint is very careful to render the Hebrew “Lord” by “the Angel of the Lord”; but in the story of the Exodus it is the Lord who goes before them in the pillar of a cloud (Exodus 13:21), and the Septuagint makes no change (cf. also Numbers 14:14, and Nehemiah 9:7-20. Yet in Exodus 14:19, their guide is termed “the Angel of God“. When we turn to Exodus 33, where God is angry with His people for worshipping the golden calf, it is hard not to feel that it is God Himself who has hitherto been their guide, but who now refuses to accompany them any longer. God offers an angel instead, but at Moses’s petition He says (14) “My face shall go before thee”, which the Septuagint reads by autos though the following verse shows that this rendering is clearly impossible, for Moses objects: “If Thou Thyself dost not go before us, bring us not out of this place.” But what does God mean by “my face”? Is it possible that some angel of specially high rank is intended, as in Isaiah 63:9 (cf. Tobit 12:15)? May not this be what is meant by “the angel of God” (cf. Numbers 20:16)?

That a process of evolution in theological thought accompanied the gradual unfolding of God’s revelation need hardly be said, but it is especially marked in the various views entertained regarding the person of the Giver of the Law. The Massoretic text as well as the Vulgate of Exodus 3 and 1920 clearly represent the Supreme Being as appearing to Moses in the bush and on Mount Sinai; but the Septuagint version, while agreeing that it was God Himself who gave the Law, yet makes it “the angel of the Lord” who appeared in the bush. By New Testament times the Septuagint view has prevailed, and it is now not merely in the bush that the angel of the Lord, and not God Himself appears, but the angel is also the Giver of the Law (cf. Galatians 3:19Hebrews 2:2Acts 7:30). The person of “the angel of the Lord” finds a counterpart in the personification of Wisdom in the Sapiential books and in at least one passage (Zechariah 3:1) it seems to stand for that “Son of Man” whom Daniel (7:13) saw brought before “the Ancient of Days”Zacharias says: “And the Lord showed me Jesus the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan stood on His right hand to be His adversary”. Tertullian regards many of these passages as preludes to the Incarnation; as the Word of God adumbrating the sublime character in which He is one day to reveal Himself to men (cf. Against Praxeas 16Against Marcion It is possible, then, that in these confused views we can trace vague gropings after certain dogmatic truths regarding the Trinity, reminiscences perhaps of the early revelation of which the Protevangelium in Genesis 3 is but a relic. The earlier Fathers, going by the letter of the text, maintained that it was actually God Himself who appeared. He who appeared was called God and acted as God. It was not unnatural then for Tertullian, as we have already seen, to regard such manifestations in the light of preludes to the Incarnation, and most of the Eastern Fathers followed the same line of thought. It was held as recently as 1851 by Vandenbroeck, “Dissertatio Theologica de Theophaniis sub Veteri Testamento” (Louvain).

But the great Latins, St. JeromeSt. Augustine, and St. Gregory the Great, held the opposite view, and the Scholastics as a body followed them. St. Augustine (Sermo vii, de Scripturis, P.G. V) when treating of the burning bush (Exodus 3) says: “That the same person who spoke to Moses should be deemed both the Lord and an angel of the Lord, is very hard to understand. It is a question which forbids any rash assertions but rather demands careful investigation . . . Some maintain that he is called both the Lord and the angel of the Lord because he was Christ, indeed the prophet (Isaiah 9:6Septuagint Version) clearly styles Christ the ‘Angel of great Counsel.'” The saint proceeds to show that such a view is tenable though we must be careful not to fall into Arianism in stating it. He points out, however, that if we hold that it was an angel who appeared, we must explain how he came to be called “the Lord,” and he proceeds to show how this might be: “Elsewhere in the Bible when a prophet speaks it is yet said to be the Lord who speaks, not of course because the prophet is the Lord but because the Lord is in the prophet; and so in the same way when the Lord condescends to speak through the mouth of a prophet or an angel, it is the same as when he speaks by a prophet or apostle, and the angel is correctly termed an angel if we consider him himself, but equally correctly is he termed ‘the Lord’ because God dwells in him.” He concludes: “It is the name of the indweller, not of the temple.” And a little further on: “It seems to me that we shall most correctly say that our forefathers recognized the Lord in the angel,” and he adduces the authority of the New Testament writers who clearly so understood it and yet sometimes allowed the same confusion of terms (cf. Hebrews 2:2, and Acts 7:31-33).

The saint discusses the same question even more elaborately, “In Heptateuchum,” lib. vii, 54, P.G. III, 558. As an instance of how convinced some of the Fathers were in holding the opposite view, we may note Theodoret’s words (In Exod.): “The whole passage (Exodus 3) shows that it was God who appeared to him. But (Moses) called Him an angel in order to let us know that it was not God the Father whom he saw — for whose angel could the Father be? — but the Only-begotten Son, the Angel of great Counsel” (cf. Eusebius, Church History I.2.7St. IrenaeusAgainst Heresies 3:6). But the view propounded by the Latin Fathers was destined to live in the Church, and the Scholastics reduced it to a system (cf. St. Thomas, Quaest., Disp., De Potentia, vi, 8, ad 3am); and for a very good exposition of both sides of the question, cf. “Revue biblique,” 1894, 232-247.

Angels in Babylonian literature

The Bible has shown us that a belief in angels, or spirits intermediate between God and man, is a characteristic of the Semitic people. It is therefore interesting to trace this belief in the Semites of Babylonia. According to Sayce (The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia, Gifford Lectures, 1901), the engrafting of Semitic beliefs on the earliest Sumerian religion of Babylonia is marked by the entrance of angels or sukallin in their theosophy. Thus we find an interesting parallel to “the angels of the Lord” in Nebo, “the minister of Merodach” (ibid., 355). He is also termed the “angel” or interpreter of the will or Merodach (ibid., 456), and Sayce accepts Hommel’s statement that it can be shown from the Minean inscriptions that primitive Semitic religion consisted of moon and star worship, the moon-god Athtar and an “angel” god standing at the head of the pantheon (ibid., 315). The Biblical conflict between the kingdoms of good and evil finds its parallel in the “spirits of heaven” or the Igigi–who constituted the “host” of which Ninip was the champion (and from who he received the title of “chief of the angels”) and the “spirits of the earth”, or Annuna-Ki, who dwelt in Hades (ibid. 355). The Babylonian sukalli corresponded to the spirit-messengers of the Bible; they declared their Lord’s will and executed his behests (ibid., 361). Some of them appear to have been more than messengers; they were the interpreters and vicegerents of the supreme deity, thus Nebo is “the prophet of Borsippa”. These angels are even termed “the sons” of the deity whose vicegerents they are; thus Ninip, at one time the messenger of En-lil, is transformed into his son just as Merodach becomes the son of Ea (ibid., 496). The Babylonian accounts of the Creation and the Flood do not contrast very favourably with the Biblical accounts, and the same must be said of the chaotic hierarchies of gods and angels which modern research has revealed. perhaps we are justified in seeing all forms of religion vestiges of a primitive nature-worship which has at times succeeded in debasing the purer revelation, and which, where that primitive revelation has not received successive increments as among the Hebrews, results in an abundant crop of weeds.

Thus the Bible certainly sanctions the idea of certain angels being in charge of special districts (cf. Daniel 10, and above). This belief persists in a debased form in the Arab notion of Genii, or Jinns, who haunt particular spots. A reference to it is perhaps to be found in Genesis 32:1-2: “Jacob also went on the journey he had begun: and the angels of God met him: And when he saw then he said: These are the camps of God, and he called the name of that place Mahanaim, that is, ‘Camps.'” Recent explorations in the Arab district about Petra have revealed certain precincts marked off with stones as the abiding-laces of angels, and the nomad tribes frequent them for prayer and sacrifice. These places bear a name which corresponds exactly with the “Mahanaim” of the above passage in Genesis (cf. Lagrange, Religions Semitques, 184, and Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 445). Jacob’s vision at Bethel (Genesis 28:12) may perhaps come under the same category. Suffice it to say that not everything in the Bible is revelation, and that the object of the inspired writings is not merely to tell us new truths but also to make clearer certain truths taught us by nature. The modern view, which tends to regard everything Babylonian as absolutely primitive and which seems to think that because critics affix a late date to the Biblical writings the religion therein contained must also be late, may be seen in Haag, “Theologie Biblique” (339). This writer sees in the Biblical angels only primitive deities debased into demi-gods by the triumphant progress of Monotheism.

Angels in the Zend-Avesta

Attempts have also been made to trace a connection between the angels of the Bible and the “great archangels” or “Amesha-Spentas” of the Zend-Avesta. That the Persian domination and the Babylonian captivity exerted a large influence upon the Hebrew conception of the angels is acknowledged in the Talmud of Jerusalem, Rosch Haschanna, 56, where it is said that the names of the angels were introduced from Babylon. It is, however, by no means clear that the angelic beings who figure so largely in the pages of the Avesta are to be referred to the older Persian Neo-Zoroastrianism of the Sassanides. If this be the case, as Darmesteter holds, we should rather reverse the position and attribute the Zoroastrian angels to the influence of the Bible and of Philo. Stress has been laid upon the similarity between the Biblical “seven who stand before God” and the seven Amesha-Spentas of the Zend-Avesta. But it must be noted that these latter are really six, the number seven is only obtained by counting “their father, Ahura-Mazda,” among them as their chief. Moreover, these Zoroastrian archangels are more abstract than concrete; they are not individuals charged with weighty missions as in the Bible.

Angels in the New Testament

Hitherto we have dwelt almost exclusively on the angels of the Old Testament, whose visits and messages have been by no means rare; but when we come to the New Testament their name appears on every page and the number of references to them equals those in the Old Dispensation. It is their privilege to announce to Zachary and Mary the dawn of Redemption, and to the shepherds its actual accomplishment. Our Lord in His discourses talks of them as one who actually saw them, and who, whilst “conversing amongst men”, was yet receiving the silent unseen adoration of the hosts of heaven. He describes their life in heaven (Matthew 22:30Luke 20:36); He tell us how they form a bodyguard round Him and at a word from Him would avenge Him on His enemies (Matthew 26:53); it is the privilege of one of them to assist Him in His Agony and sweat of Blood. More than once He speaks of them as auxiliaries and witnesses at the final judgment (Matthew 16:27), which indeed they will prepare (13:39-49); and lastly, they are the joyous witnesses of His triumphant Resurrection (28:2).

It is easy for skeptical minds to see in these angelic hosts the mere play of Hebrew fancy and the rank growth of superstition, but do not the records of the angels who figure in the Bible supply a most natural and harmonious progression? In the opening page of the sacred story the Jewish nation is chosen out from amongst others as the depositary of God’s promise; as the people from whose stock He would one day raise up a Redeemer. The angels appear in the course of this chosen people’s history, now as God’s messengers, now as that people’s guides; at one time they are the bestowers of God’s law, at another they actually prefigure the Redeemer Whose divine purpose they are helping to mature. They converse with His prophets, with David and Elias, with Daniel and Zacharias; they slay the hosts camped against Israel, they serve as guides to God’s servants, and the last prophet, Malachi, bears a name of peculiar significance; “the Angel of Jehovah.” He seems to sum up in his very name the previous “ministry by the hands of angels”, as though God would thus recall the old-time glories of the Exodus and Sinai. The Septuagint, indeed, seems not to know his name as that of an individual prophet and its rendering of the opening verse of his prophecy is peculiarly solemn: “The burden of the Word of the Lord of Israel by the hand of His angel; lay it up in your hearts.” All this loving ministry on the part of the angels is solely for the sake of the Saviour, on Whose face they desire to look. Hence when the fullness of time was arrived it is they who bring the glad message, and sing “Gloria in excelsis Deo”. They guide the newborn King of Angels in His hurried flight into Egypt, and minister to Him in the desert. His second coming and the dire events that must precede that, are revealed to His chosen servant in the island of Patmos, It is a question of revelation again, and consequently its ministers and messengers of old appear once more in the sacred story and the record of God’s revealing love ends fittingly almost as it had begun: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches” (Revelation 22:16). It is easy for the student to trace the influence of surrounding nations and of other religions in the Biblical account of the angels. Indeed it is needful and instructive to do so, but it would be wrong to shut our eyes to the higher line of development which we have shown and which brings out so strikingly the marvellous unity and harmony of the whole divine story of the Bible. (See also ANGELS IN EARLY CHRISTIAN ART.)


In addition to works mentioned above, see St. Thomas, Summa Theol., I, QQ. 50-54 and 106-114; Suarez De Angelis, lib. i-iv.

About this page

APA citation. Pope, H. (1907). Angels. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 2, 2023 from New Advent:

MLA citation. Pope, Hugh. “Angels.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 2 May 2023 <;.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Jim Holden.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can’t reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.


For all the theologies and descriptions of the Scriptures, it can all be reduced to the simplicity of me, sitting in the back bench of the Church, eyes lowered (custos occuli), repeating over and over the prayer of penitence, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

  • Meditation is when I think about Christ using a sentence from Scripture (Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.) Contemplation is when Christ speaks to me, using no words but warming me up with the feeling of the Divine Presence.
  • Lay Cistercian practices and charisms helped me to sit on that sofa in the upper room of myself (Matthew 6:5) and just listen for the heartbeat of Christ.
  • Silness of heart and simplicity of just preferring nothing to the love of Christ is all I need.
  • Eucharist is when Christ lifts me up to the Father and all others in a fitting homage because of my adoption as the son (daughter of the Father).
  • If there is no resurrection, St.Paul says, we are scammed by the most significant fraud in history. If there is no real presence in the Eucharist, Christ is not real but symbolic in my heart. It is not worth my trouble and sacrifice to convert myself daily if Christ is not real.
  • To listen to the heartbeat of Christ, I must live in the spiritual universe and listen to what seems like the nothingness of Christ. In fact, it is so faint that I will miss it, if I am not still, and listen the the “ear of the heart.”
  • If I want the Love of Christ in my heart, I must put it there. Each day is a new creation, a new chance to prefer nothing to the Love of Christ, as St. Benedict states in Chapter 4 of the Rule.
  • Christ has prepared a place just for me and all those faithful who confess that Jesus is Lord. There are many mansions there. It is a place that will be consistent with my life experiences on Earth. Everyone’s heaven will be different but linked with the Golden Thread of Christ, which comes from the Father.
  • Each day, take out your Rule of St. Benedict and read at least part of Chapter 4.

“Any old woman can love God better than a doctor of theology can.” ~ Bonaventure

“One day when Thomas Aquinas was preaching to the local populace on the love of God, he saw an old woman listening attentively to his every word. And inspired by her eagerness to learn more about her God whom she loved so dearly, he said to the people: It is better to be this unlearned woman, loving God with all her heart, than the most learned theologian lacking love.” ~ Thomas Aquinas

Mrs. Murphy knows more than all the theologians because she wants to be one with the heart of Christ, not just talking about Him. –The late Father Aidan Kavanaugh. O.S.B.



It seems that when introducing humans to God in evermore intense encounters, there is always that admonition of “Don’t be afraid.” Human reasoning, and the ability to authentically choose what is good for them, seems to have presented itself to selected humans by God in stages, over the ages, or in the fullness of time.

Here is Matthew’s account of The Transfiguration Moment. Feel it.

The Transfiguration of Jesus.*

1a After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.*

2* b And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

3* And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

4 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents* here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5c While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,* then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

6* When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.

7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”

8 And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

I am adding the footnotes from the USCCB passage of Matthew because they give a theological explanation of The Transfiguration. It is always a good practice to look at these footnotes from the passages to read what scholars have to say about the text.

[17:18] The account of the transfiguration confirms that Jesus is the Son of God (Mt 17:5) and points to fulfillment of the prediction that he will come in his Father’s glory at the end of the age (Mt 16:27). It has been explained by some as a resurrection appearance retrojected into the time of Jesus’ ministry, but that is not probable since the account lacks many of the usual elements of the resurrection-appearance narratives. It draws upon motifs from the Old Testament and noncanonical Jewish apocalyptic literature that express the presence of the heavenly and the divine, e.g., brilliant light, white garments, and the overshadowing cloud.

* [17:1] These three disciples are also taken apart from the others by Jesus in Gethsemane (Mt 26:37). A high mountain: this has been identified with Tabor or Hermon, but probably no specific mountain was intended by the evangelist or by his Marcan source (Mk 9:2). Its meaning is theological rather than geographical, possibly recalling the revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:1218) and to Elijah at the same place (1 Kgs 19:818; Horeb = Sinai).

* [17:2] His face shone like the sun: this is a Matthean addition; cf. Dn 10:6. His clothes became white as light: cf. Dn 7:9, where the clothing of God appears “snow bright.” For the white garments of other heavenly beings, see Rev 4:47:919:14.

* [17:3] See note on Mk 9:5.

* [17:4] Three tents: the booths in which the Israelites lived during the feast of Tabernacles (cf. Jn 7:2) were meant to recall their ancestors’ dwelling in booths during the journey from Egypt to the promised land (Lv 23:3942). The same Greek word, skēnē, here translated tents, is used in the LXX for the booths of that feast, and some scholars have suggested that there is an allusion here to that liturgical custom.

* [17:5] Cloud cast a shadow over them: see note on Mk 9:7. This is my beloved Son…listen to him: cf. Mt 3:17. The voice repeats the baptismal proclamation about Jesus, with the addition of the command listen to him. The latter is a reference to Dt 18:15 in which the Israelites are commanded to listen to the prophet like Moses whom God will raise up for them. The command to listen to Jesus is general, but in this context it probably applies particularly to the preceding predictions of his passion and resurrection (Mt 16:21) and of his coming (Mt 16:2728).


One way I look at the whole Transfiguration Moment is another lesson from our great teacher and Magister Noster, Jesus, for humans to discover what it means to be human. For those who have made the jump from the kingdom of earth to the kingdom of heaven (dual citizenship), there is the possibility to not only discover the evolution of consciousness in the physical and mental universes but now to complete our humanity by adding the spiritual universe to our knowledge, love, and service of God.

With this added dimension of reality from the Holy Spirit, I now see The Transfiguration Moment as a TRUTH to add to my WAY, and so have LIFE (or seek an ever-deepening penetration of reality) as consciousness goes from animality to rationality and now to the fullness of what it means to be human.

Nothing is in the Sacred Scriptures by chance, even if humans created all these events. They are there for us to learn about Christ, yes, but also to use these stories and events to help us grow deeper into the ever-expanding Mystery of Faith. This growing deeper is unique to me as Lay Cistercian, as it is to any other Lay Cistercian or person seeking to grow in the grace of Christ (capacitas dei) through daily conversion of mind and heart.

Once again, I anchor all that I meditate and contemplate against the cross, that ultimate sign that what is ultimately real to the world is a fairy tale and that moving deeper into the kingdom of heaven is both collective and individual. I grow as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father both horizontally (from point a to point b) in time and space while in the physical and mental universes (everything has a beginning and an end) where life experiences accumulate, and I add to them with my unique life experiences of trying to prefer nothing to the love of Christ. I also grow deeper in the NOW moment, which is vertical maturity. Horizontal maturity is the race moving inexorably forward in time and space, evolving towards certain points or milestones (e.g., from humanity to spirituality). Here is my Teilhard Map, although I have not located its attribution to date.

The Transfiguration Moment, like the Incarnation Moment, the Baptismal Moment, the Resurrection Moment, and the Ascension Moment, all track forward in both complexity (horizontal and vertical knowledge, love and service) and consciousness (my looking at these Moments and learning how to become more human as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. I own 82.8 years of this “spine of reality,” so far.


Here are some disjointed ideas (those are the ones I seem to be having these days) about what it means for me to grow in Christ Jesus (capacitas dei) against the Terrifying Power of the Resurrection.

  • If I really know God as God is, I would be scared to the point of frying all my neurons (like I would be during a bombardment of neutron emissions).
  • God allows me to relate to pure energy (pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service) through a transformer, one who is both divine and human, one who can translate the unintelligible to make sense with human similies, stories, events, learning points, and all overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. *John 30:30-31.
  • The Transfiguration Moment is one such event in the Scriptures, put there for me to try to assimilate what is verbal into something mental and something mental into human knowledge, love, and service.
  • This out-of-the-ordinary moment brings our adoption to a deeper level of reality, one where Christ’s Father shows off how it is to be a proud papa, saying. “That’s ma boy!” He also had the same saying at the Baptism of Jesus. Mt 3:17.
  • Jesus shows a glimmer of the divine self in the Transfiguration. With just a brief flash of power, the three Apostles are stunned and fall to the ground in fear at seeing a flash of who Jesus is. Make no mistake; that passage is meant for all of us to “wake up” and realize what reality is now in front of us. It is important for me because, using my Lay Cistercian charisms and practices, I purposefully place myself in the presence of God as much as I can remember.
  • The same Jesus who transfigures Himself to the Apostles does so for me (and you) each day if we convert our wills to God. Ironically, we don’t lose our individuality when we give God the YES of our love and free will. We gain everything plus that of being what we should be as humans on the conscious path to our destiny, Omega.
  • The Father tells Christ’s followers with the power of the Baptismal Moment to listen to Him because He is human like them, submitting to human rituals to show God empties Himself for them. The Father tells Christ’s followers in the Transfiguration Moment, using the same language as before, i.e., to listen to Christ but now because he is both human and God. Jesus knew that, but this is a teaching moment for the Apostles (symbolizing all of us who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved).
  • Omega is each day, beginning anew, starting over,, but this time with Christ with us making all things new.
  • In Lectio Divina, the main focus of Cistercian spirituality, Lay Cistercian adaptation of it, there is horizontal and vertical prayer in my lifetime. The template for this vertical prayer comes from the Trinity as a paradigm of reality. One God, three distinct persons, one is not the other, yet all are one.

I remember having breakfast with a group of parishioners from Good Shepherd and a Jewish person was there. He said, “I could never believe in Catholicism because I believe God is one.” Many years later, in fact, this morning, I am reflecting on the Transfiguration with Christ SHOWING a flash of who he is, with the Holy Spirit there and the Father telling us to follow him (like the Blessed Mother told the attendants to “Do What He Tells You,” at the wedding feast of Cana), and thought about this:

  • God is one in Divine Nature
  • God sends His Divine Son to become human Jesus.
  • Jesus reveals that God is not only one, as fulfilled in the Old Testament, but is deeper than that.
  • Humans could never reason that there were three distinct persons in one God. Who would ever believe that?
  • Jesus reveals to us in Lectio Divina how to use pure energy, pure love, and pure service, not how God uses it, but how we can use it.
  • We must work to grow in grace and conversion of heart each day, to sit next to Jesus on the couch and just listen for His heartbeat.
  • God is our unseen paradigm; we can see Jesus if we know how. We can experience The Transfiguration Moment if we abandon our false selves and take on the power of Christ. Christ is not then; Christ is NOW, in each moment, in each day, in each time we take up the cross and follow in His footsteps. You can tap into the terrifying Power of the Transfiguration NOW if you have Faith. Faith is always free, but the wages of sin are always death.

God is good.


THE WAY: Four Inscrutibles

In this series of blogs on Chapter 14 of John’s Gospel, I will share with you what I received from my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations on the significance of THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. Each of these three elements of my Lay Cistercian spirituality has four inscrutables resulting from capacitas dei in each one. What follows is for your reflection about my reflections.


1* “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.

2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

3* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a

4 Where [I] am going you know the way.”*

5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

6J esus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b

7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c

8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,* and that will be enough for us.”d

9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?e

10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.f

11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g

12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.h

13 And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i

14 If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

In the next five minutes, read this passage three times. Each time, pause at verse six to reflect on how it relates to your way in life. Does THE WAY of Christ give your way a way?


Scriptures speak of the Lord’s ways as being inscrutable. The word inscrutable means unbelievable or doesn’t make sense without a key. Use this Scripture to tease out why Jesus became our nature for all humans, not just Jews or Catholics; it is indeed inscrutable.

God’s Irrevocable Call.*

25 I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers, so that you will not become wise [in] your own estimation: a hardening has come upon Israel in part, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in,s

26 and thus all Israel will be saved,t as it is written:u

“The deliverer will come out of Zion,

he will turn away godlessness from Jacob;

27 and this is my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”v

28 In respect to the gospel, they are enemies on your account; but in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs.w

29 For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.x

Triumph of God’s Mercy.

30 Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,

31 so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may [now] receive mercy.

32 For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.y

33* Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!z

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord*

or who has been his counselor?”a

35* “Or who has given him anythingb

that he may be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.c

What follows comes from my Lectio Divina via the Holy Spirit. I do not speak for the Holy Spirit but rather listen to the Spirit of Truth, my second advocate.


It is fitting that the first thing that doesn’t make sense to the Gentiles is the cross. The cross symbolizes the unfathomable contradiction of religion, the sign of derision has become the badge of glory, the stone that the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone, and it is glorious in the eyes of those looking beyond reality because of th and morals. Each Lenten Ash Wednesday, I have the cross traced on my forehead with the words, “Remember, Human, you are dust, and into dust, you shall return.” Even though we do this ritually for one day, those ashes denote an inscrutable truth tattooed indelibly into our The Church exists beyond and outside of my lifetime of eighty-two years (so far) so that I might use that heritage from Christ to overcome the secular notions of faith and spirit.

The cross is a sign of contradiction, which means making sense of what our reason alone tells us is true might not be so. Reality is what we can see, not somebodies opinion, not so? So, putting on the cross means dying to everything the world says makes you a complete human. Those who live deeper into their humanity know that to sustain that unnatural condition of Faith and Energy from God takes work, sometimes making us even doubt our sanity. In Lay Cistercian principles which come from the time-tested Cistercian practices and charisms (humility, obedience, love, silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the community context). I have discovered A WAY that helps me to focus on Christ’s teaching that He is THE WAY.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a

4 Where [I] am going you know the way.”*

5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b


  • Jesus is not only the way but the only way to go to the Father.
  • We go to the Father because we are adopted sons and daughters with heaven as the destiny of our human species.
  • Jesus, being both Divine and Human in nature, takes us by the hand each time we pray, but especially in the Eucharist (Thanksgiving Prayer) and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and says to us “I am the Way. Don’t be afraid. Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart. Let’s go together to the Father as was intended for your human evolution before there was matter and time.
  • The way is the way of the cross. Our road may be rocky (mine was and is) but just because I walk on the way of my life, doesn’t mean it is the wrong road.
  • All of us must work to get to Heaven, realizing Faith is necessary to raise us up and sustain our new covenant relationship as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • Christ won’t walk it for me but challenges me by walking with me as long as I struggle to keep my heart next to His Sacred Heart through prayer and penance (I read the seven penitential Psalms frequently).
  • For each human, their cross is what crosses their paths each day and how they assimilate it into their book of life.
  • The cross is what allows us to rise above the absurdities of life and keep our equilibrium, although the pain still remains.
  • The cross also hints that when I give up my allegiance to the Lord of the World (Satan), I claim my heritage as a member of the Body of Christ, using the Rule of Opposites. Remember our prayer at the Easter Liturgy Baptism: “Do you renounce Satan? And all his allurements?”
  • My way becomes THE WAY of Christ when I choose to do what he told us through Sacred Scriptures and the authorized leaders of the Church (sinful though each one is). Again, the cross is present as the Church weaves and stumbles down the centuries carrying the Ark of the Covenant down a rocky path for collective and individual members. Only Christ or those he designates can touch the Ark of the Covenant. Christ alone is THE WAY, and his way is the cross, as Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen kept pounding into our consciousness. Watch these great men of Faith describe the inscrutable wonder of the cross.


  • The sign of contradiction for Catholics is that reality becomes being a pilgrim in a foreign land.
  • The cross is the difference between secular love and the love of Christ.
  • Unless you take up your (unique) cross, as Christ did, and die to all reality as you know it, you won’t be able to use the key (The Christ Principle) and apply it to what it means for you to fulfill your humanity.
  • The cross Christ carried is more than wood. It is the sin of all humans we hoisted. He is a ransom for many.
  • The cross means that anything or anyone you face each day, you try to have the mind of Christ Jesus in you.
  • The cross Christ carried daily means to love others as Christ has loved you.
  • Loving means being present to the ontic possibility of the manifest ability of all being, no matter if people hate you or speak all ill against you in the name of Christ.
  • The cross means not returning evil for evil when people scream at you and call you pathetic and living in la-la land because you don’t scream back at them and get into a vicious cycle of hatred and mindless anger. Of course, Satan loves this way. Christ is THE WAY, and the cross is how we walk THE WAY with Our Blessed Lord. His are the bloody footprints of the passion; we are the footprints that try to walk in his footsteps.
  • There is no WAY without the cross. There is no cross without THE WAY.
  • Any claiming to be THE WAY must have the cross at their center, not cotton candy.


Here is a blog I wrote a few weeks ago detailing what are the criticisms of the Catholic Church. I turned it around and wrote what I thought the strengths are. Having some additional thoughts on the matter in a recent Lectio Divina, I would like to share my thoughts about Father as the Way, the Holy Spirit as the Truth, and Christ as the Life.

Creating humans was God’s most outstanding achievement in terms of intelligent progression. Imperfect? All matter is there to allow us to use our reason and free choice to say YES to God and NO to sin. You could not have a more imperfect species than humans, yet, God so loved us with all our perfections, denials, sinfulness, and betrayal that it is unbelievable. The move from animality to rationality for humans had some intended and unintended consequences. First, we had to learn to be human, not animal, while retaining the residue of our heritage. This meant there were good choices for being new humans and bad choices, but humans did not know the consequences. Sin entered the world through one man, St. Paul says in Romans 5. That is significant because Genesis is a textbook of the archetype of what it means to struggle with being human. Imperfect and sinful? Yes, humans of all species were loved as worth teaching, but they needed help. Christ became the second Adam to give us adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Jesus gave him life for the ransom of many to show this love.

Humans, in response, still had no clue as to the depths of his love. Peter denied him three times, and Judas committed suicide. Only John was at the foot of the cross with Mary, his mother. Yet, God did not give up on us and sent us to Holy Spirit to blow away the cobwebs and to allow us dual citizenship (we live on the earth until we die, but we are destined to be with that love forever). Now, we get a glimpse of that destiny that fulfills the Genesis Principle with the Christ Principle and allows us to fulfill our destiny as humans as nature intended. Dissonance has become resonance, but we are aware of it only to the extent that we choose God over self. Lay Cistercian practices of capacitas dei (growing more in Christ and less of my false self) and conversio morae, daily having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) is my purpose in life, one that is a human alone with my reasoning would never attain.


Posted on August 13, 2022, by thecenterforcontemplativepractice


I added these to the website Quora to answer one of their questions. With some of these inane questions, no wonder many countries are becoming more atheistic. I don’t blame them, but I offer some ideas that help me with the insanity of false questions. It’s a living.

  • That they ask you to die each day to yourself to rise to new life in Christ Jesus.
  • That they ask you to love one another as Christ loved us.
  • That they ask you to love God with your whole heart, whole mind, and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.
  • That they ask you, when people calumniate and make false statements, do not return evil for evil, but return evil with good.
  • You should be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit and overflow so that people may see your good works and give glory to our heavenly Father.
  • They ask you to grow in the capacity of God each day in silence and solitude.
  • They ask you to forgive those who persecute you and love those who hate you.
  • That they ask you to believe that the words of Christ are as valid today as when he spoke them.
  • They ask you to give glory to the Father, through, with, and in Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
  • They ask you to convert your sinful self each day through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • They ask you to sit quietly on a park bench in the middle of winter with the heart of Christ next to yours and just be fully human as your nature intended.
  • You should do nothing more than seek God each day in whatever comes your way or whoever comes your way with no judgments.
  • They ask you to have mercy on others as Christ has mercy on you.
  • You should pray in the silence of your room (Matthew 6.5) in secret (contemplative prayer) and make no demands on God.
  • You should remember that the first step of humility is to fear the Lord.
  • You should not worship false gods of the world, the first and foremost being yourself.
  • You should do penance for your sins and read the seven penitential psalms with genuine sorrow for offending God.
  • That you should not prevaricate and speak falsely of others.
  • That you should not let the sun go down on your anger.
  • You should do unto others as you want them to do unto you.
  • That you should come to believe in the words of Christ as Messiah. (John 20:30–31)
  • You should not worship false idols such as money, fame, fortune, adulation, false pride, or thinking that you and your thinking are better than others.
  • That they ask you to give up what seems righteous to the world but which is the opposite for those in the kingdom of heaven.
  • That they ask that in all things, you glorify God.
  • That they ask you to watch out for the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour, especially me.
  • They ask you not to place the world’s riches as your center but instead place there God’s riches. Only the rich get to heaven, but it is with God’s riches, not material things.
  • They ask you to have Faith, Hope, and Love and listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit with the ear of your heart.
  • They tell you that without Faith, no proof is possible, but with Faith, no proof is necessary.
  • That, even if there is no god, no higher source, nobody from whom we have a DNA, doing these things would allow us to reach the highest potential of our humanity as intended by our nature.
  • That, in the end, we have Faith so that we can have Hope in the resurrection, and so live now in the love of God (not the world), and serve others as Christ has served us.

Who wants to be a member of that? I do.


Using the cross as our key to measuring the fulfillment of our nature as humans leads to the second incomprehensible element of THE WAY. Having opened the door to the spiritual world through Baptism and Confirmation, Christ bestows on us the possibility of being fully human by being an adopted son or daughter of the Father

This second citizenship is demarked by an act of the will (choice) called Baptism. Christ is the Son of the Father, and Christ loved us so much as to become our nature so that we could become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Remember, no one goes to the Father except through the Son. Jesus tells us and shows us how to overcome the corruptibility of mind and matter by the only way we can fulfill what our nature was about (as explained in the Garden of Eden before the Fall). With the Christ Principle paying the price for our redemption (Philippians 2:5), Christ buys us back from the pawnshop that Adam and Eve sold us in Genesis, (“Gaal” in Hebrew) Christ redeemed us to be able to walk THE WAY through the minefield of our first citizenship, one with the effects of original sin, without getting blown up (if we learn from what Jesus teaches). It is our teaching that all humans are born with the original sin of Adam and Eve (from animality to rationality) according to nature. The problem is, humans don’t know what it means to be human nor do they make choices that will lead them to incorruptibility. Baptism washes away the sin of Adam and Eve, but the residuals remain. This world where we find ourselves is not a bad one, nor one where we can’t find fulfillment, but one where, without help from a higher nature, we cannot push ourselves up using human reasoning and choices informed by secular values and morality. We must be lifted up (passive as that sounds) by the energy of God. Because of the fallibility of our humanity, we can only lift ourselves up higher to become more human (moving from hatred to love, from envy to abandonment, from lust to love.

As a citizen of heaven (adoption) God lifts us up when we lift up our hands to die to ourselves to rise with Christ to what our nature intended before the Fall. As crazy as this sounds, it is when we abandon our humanity with its false assumptions, that we are free to embrace the embrace of Christ through the energy of the Holy Spirit. Here are some characteristics of adoption as the son (daughter) or the Father. Think about that for a moment. Jesus is God’s Son, but so are we.

We are not God but citizens of what God has planned for those who love him on earth. It is our inheritance. Like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, we are the ones who squander our true inheritance to fall back into the swamp of sinful habits. St. Paul writes of this in Galatians 5, where we can choose good or evil but not both. As adopted sons and daughters, we have The Christ Principle as the North against which we navigate the WAY. We have the Sacred Scriptures with the writers of the Early Church to measure out sometimes crazy and heretical thoughts. We have the Holy Spirit to instill in us the humility and obedience we need to say, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

We sell our inheritance and end up with a humanity that, of itself, is incapable of reaching the finality of our inheritance, that of heaven. The citizenship of the world is not bad as much as it is incapable of lifting up us higher to be more human, more moral, more loving, and more helpful to others.

We must die for all that the citizenship of the world has to offer. Or as in the case of the Son in the Parable, make a conversion of heart (conversio morae), realizing that only with the Father is there a redemption from the swamp of Original Sin.

In Baptism, first, God reaches down to pull us up from the swamp of Original Sin and washes us off with the waters of Faith. “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you,”

Two citizenship theory means I live in the world as my base of operations and use the externals of matter and mind for existing, but my vision of reality is enhanced (not changed) by placing The Christ Principle as key to my resolving what it means to be fully human in potential.

  • I move from being a citizen of the world to that a citizen of heaven as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father by following the WAY of Christ.
  • I must be born of water and the spirit.
  • I must live a life based on loving others as Christ loved us.
  • I must die to self (conversio morae) or move from my false self each day in a conscious way.
  • I must walk the path I am on, despite it being rocky, taking up my cross daily in anything that comes my way.
  • I must suffer the martyrdom of ordinary thinking and the heresy of the individual and rise above it to a deeper meaning in routine and boring things in my life.
  • I must rise in, with, and through Christ each day to the glory of the Father through the energy of the Holy Spirit.
  • I must consciously realize that my purpose is to know, love, and serve God through others in this life so that I can continue that in the kingdom of heaven.
  • I must always pray as though everything depends upon God but act always as though everything is my free choice to do the will of God each day, as I know it.
  • I must have a mindset of prayer that links Christ with all I have encountered in my life, and so in the life to come.

This is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.


If you have noticed, THE WAY of Christ is not for the faint of heart. It takes work, and, as viewed from the notion of dual citizenship, it takes energy that does not come from human endeavors. My assumption is that we can become fully human as our intelligent progression is intended only by applying the principles of living that come from God. Left to our own devices, and the constant radiation from exposure to the choices of either good or bad for us, our default tends to be more towards our animal past with the less noble aspects of being human (the magnetic lure of those things in the Seven Deadly Sin and in Galatians 5) that pull us down from seeking to evolve to an ever higher dimension of our humanity–that of adopted son or daughter of the Father.

Jesus told us he would not leave us, orphans, when he left to fulfill what it meant for him to be human and divine nature. In my Lectio Divina over a lifetime, I have culled out six thresholds or principles through which I had to pass, like a snake that has to shed its skin to grow. I share these with you, not that I recommend that you accept what my life has produced or that you follow anything I do. I share these because I am bid to do so strange as that sounds. I don’t even understand it fully myself. I present The Divine Equation.

I came upon this name quite by accident as I am trying to make sense of the various ways people seek to explain or deny God. I realized that the notion of knowing who God is is a waste of my intellectual capital. Far more crucial to find out who I am as a unique human with a lifetime of experiences in what is good or bad for me, is the quest to go to the next level of my intelligent progression.

I have found that the “spine of intelligent design” set forth above, by Henri Teilhard de Chardin in his movement from creation to Omega our destiny as humans, is helpful. This diagram showed me that we are not only not orphans but that was is a WAY for humanity to travel, one where all humanity can get refreshment along the way, one where there is food for the journey (Eucharist) and a physician to fix our spiritual depressions or falls (Sacrament of Reconciliation). This equation I term this the Divine Equation, not because it proves who God is, which is impossible with human languages or reasoning, but because God proves to me who I am by refocusing me on the kingdom of heaven rather than the false promises of the World.

Here are the six questions that God gives humans through, with, and in Christ Jesus, as well as the correct answers (absolute truth that is from the divine nature only) and permeate humans as their capacitas dei permits on a daily basis.

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is the purpose of my life within that purpose?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How can I love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

These questions plus the six correct answers come from God through Christ and down through the ages in the Church Universal. They are called The Divine Equation not because they tell us who God is (Christ gives us these six questions plus the correct answers in human terms) but because they help each of us identify what it means to fulfill our human purpose in life. These six questions must be answered by each human (my assumption) and the answers come from the totality of their life experiences. Many answer these six questions but there is only one set of correct answers. Remember, these six questions help me, the individual, discover who I am as a human being and ever deeper into the Mystery of Faith, the plunge into the unknowing. Jesus is the savior because He is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.

We, humans, have reason and the ability to make choices that shape our values and integrity. Some don’t include God in the equation. It is my contention that our human is only fulfilled through an emptying (kenosis in Philippians 2:5-12) and dying to our false selves and values.


The Father is Magister Noster (our teacher) to Christ; Christ is Magister Noster to the Church; The Church, through the Holy Father, is Magister Noster to me as I pop up into the “spine of reality” to live my 82+ years so far. There are at least four lessons that I must master in my lifetime, lessons that allow me to penetrate more deeply into my humanity, ever-expanding absolute truth. What follows is a blog that I wrote on a few of these lessons from the Magister Noster.


Erich Fromm, the author of The Art of Loving, introduced me to the concept of learning, one where love is not infused as something we get automatically from being born as a human. We must learn what love is over a lifetime of trial and error, plus applying norms and social constructs to test if what we reason is reasonable. Love becomes a process where we accept assumptions about what it means, what is authentic or unauthentic, and why, plus how all of these notions contribute to what it means to be fully human as nature intended.

What follows is my reasoning as to the four learning milestones I have had to learn using my life experiences and trials and errors (sin and grace). These four are called the Art of Living, the Art of Loving, The Art of Discerning Truth, and the Art of Contemplative Practice.

Up to, and including this past year, my focus has been moving from my false self to my true self, which I assumed was to love others as Christ loved me. While still true, I happened to uncover a way to move significantly deeper into my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5). I called this vertical prayer because it is my quest to explore my prayer (Lectio Divine, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Penance, Rosary, Reading Holy Scripture, Reading Early Church Fathers, and Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, to name a few practices).

These four habits, which require work and prayer, are limitless in their integration with The Christ Principle. These four habits are to be used as THE WAY to be living daily in our process of seeking God. Here are some ideas I had as a result of allowing my boundaries to dissolve and asking the Holy Spirit to be my Magister Noster.

  1. The Art of Living — The Father is THE LIFE of all existence. This life is physical living while I am on this earth. While on this earth, I have reason and the ability to make choices for a reason. These two qualities differentiate me from other living things, over which I am the conservator and guardian. I can choose a deeper level of existence, one which my humanity alone cannot propel me to become, although I am constantly compelled to seek it out. (St. Augustine says of this magnetic attraction, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Frances Thompson’s Hound of Heaven has given me profound thinking about the flow of intelligent progression in which I try to discover my purpose. Before I discover the way, I must learn what it means to be fully human as nature intended. The Father gives me life to go to the next step in my awareness of the meaning in life that moves me to the next step in my evolution, the way. The Father teaches us to appreciate life as we are its custodians.
  2. The Art of the Way– The Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, became one of us to show us THE WAY. (Philippians 2:5-12). Note here that the Magister Noster is God the Father, and God the Son, who provides reason and free choice so that we might become more human. The problem with this Art of the Way is that its sign is the cross, an indicator that, to move forward, I must die to everything I know about the world and embrace another set of assumptions that are the opposite of what this human reason and choice tell me is true. This is not normal nor normative to those who just see what is in front of them in life and have no ability to move deeper into reality to ask questions about the essence of what is, which is invisible to the eye. Humans have to learn the way to use Faith informed by reason to at least move forward, even if what they move towards is unclear or doesn’t make sense. This happens only because The Christ Principle has loved us first and said, “Follow me. Step in the footsteps that I made with my passion, death, and resurrection. Just love others as I have loved you.” The Son teaches us the authentic path to walk to understand the complexities of original sin. It is dying to self so that a new reality that is the opposite of the world is deeper right in front of us. Most people can’t look there because of their lack of Faith.
  3. The Art of Truth  This TRUTH is the Holy Spirit and exists outside our human experience. We can’t know God using God’s attributes, only those characteristics of human beings, imperfect but “looking through a foggy glass,” as St. Paul writes. The Scriptures have authorized writings that show us THE TRUTH. The gift of the Holy Spirit to those adopted by the Father and befriended by Christ is the energy to live this cross, the contradiction of being a pilgrim in a foreign land. If the Father is the WHY, and the Son is the WHAT, then the Holy Spirit is the HOW in each age. We have gifts to help us on our collective journey as Church and also our personal journey. They are the gifts of Confirmation by the Holy Spirit, the ability to make all things new in Penance and Reconciliation, food for the daily journey of Christ Himself in Eucharist, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Unction or Healing at the end of our lives. The Holy Spirit teaches those who embrace their new life as adopted sons and daughters and walk the path designed for them as adopted sons and daughters and shown by the map (Scriptures) to do so in the context of my life as I live out each day using the life and the way to embrace objective truth. This is not the objective truth the world thinks it gives, but the abandonment of everything I thought I knew as being so much straw (St. Thomas Aquinas) to discover that this is only the beginning of what it is like being caught up in the third heaven (St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12)I must boast; not that it is profitable, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
  4. The Art of Contemplative Practice: Transfering The Christ Principle to my life (as much as I can absorb). This is the “How” to the “What and Why” of the Christ Principle in my unique life. There is only One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, but my life is unique in that I alone can say YES or NO to the invitation and continuation of God’s triune WAY, TRHTH, and LIFE in me.
  • I find that, whereas I had a loose schedule of doing Cistercian practices (Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Reading Sacred Scripture, and those wrote about contemplative charisms and their effects on them), now, my whole day is one prayer in the morning to evening, where I seek “to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus,” and just wait to see what life brings. It may be my illnesses related to my heart or my ongoing battle with fatigue (my wife calls it laziness). Now, I choose to place myself in the presence of Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to be present. I just wait. My waiting is a prayer of gratitude to the Father for the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love that I have present but clearly have not earned or merited.
  • I find that the five pillars of Cistercian spirituality as I have practiced as I know them (silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community) are one prayer and not separate stages of attainment. My work (being retired to sitting in a chair most of the day) is my prayer. The distinction that my humanity prompts me to make as a result of original sin seems to dissolve into just one prayer, work being prayer and prayer being work. The separation between the world of the flesh (my citizenship of the world) and the spirit (my citizenship of the spirit) becomes more and more the same.
  • I don’t need to prove to anyone else that God is God or that I must prove God to anyone but myself. As I move forward toward the parousia, my mind still challenges those mysteries such as the Trinity, the Resurrection from the Dead, the Real Presence of the Eucharist, the Forgiveness of Sins, and my own failures in my life (not sins so much as just being a complete jerk to those with whom I have encountered). I have learned that all these failures and lost opportunities to love others as Christ loved me that have plagued my whole life are offerings to the Father to be lifted up through the blood of the Lamb and placed on the altar of sacrifice in atonement for my sins and failures.
  • I find that my notion of who God is is, more and more, one who stands at the back of the Church on the last bench, with eyes lowered (custos oculi) and in silence and solitude, just uttering one, all-encompassing prayer, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner.” St. Benedict’s notion of humility, which begins with “Fear of the Lord,” has stuck in my consciousness. I can’t get past the notion that someone so beyond human nature wanted me to discover that what it means to be fully human according to my evolution is only attainable by becoming an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. All I have to do is learn from the Magister Noster that what is real is the opposite of what the world offers (good as it is).
  • I find that I am beginning to understand what it means to “die to self so that I might rise to new life in Christ Jesus.” This dying is not a one-time event. Because I am immersed in the world and thus the effects of original sin, each day is a challenge, a struggle to take up my cross and follow Christ’s WAY. Each of us has our rocky road to walk. The constant in my life is my processing of The Christ Principle each day. I will never achieve mastery. My Lay Cistercian journey is mine alone but in union with all others who are Lay Cistercian and all believers.
  • Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen. –Cistercian doxology

THE FOURTH INSCRUTABLE: The Christ Principle is the template of THE TRUTH.


  • With these four inscrutables, I set forth what I consider to be the four characteristics of THE WAY.
  • The WAY is Christ. What does it mean to say Christ is THE WAY?
  • If I walk the WAY of Christ, it must be the WAY of the cross. Cross does not mean I walk the way of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection, each day, but that it is the ultimate test of Faith, the sign that contradicts. This cross is living in the world of original sin, the default of nature because of the sin of Adam.
  • If humans do nothing, we still suffer pain, must work for our food, suffer an illness, have mental stresses, and eventually die. I do not control time but only have seventy or eighty years to discover what it means to be fully human in this timeframe.
  • We have human reasoning for a reason and the ability to choose, two tools not possessed by other living things. Choose what? Reason what? I hold that humans are the unique species in the whole universe (as far as we can tell)to discover that next level of evolution (intelligent progression).
  • Christ came to show us that the cross is how to address the conclusions of the world that I am the center of the universe. Ironically, I am, but the sign of contradiction means I give that power back to God (complete abandonment to the will of God) so that I can possess the tools needed to see how I can move beyond original sin and its effects. It is only when I give away all that makes sense, that a new reality appears that moves me to the next level in my evolution.
  • For me to exist in the world and not be “of” it, I must use this second inscrutable, that of looking at the world as a pilgrim in a foreign land, a person who has no home in the world but is an adopted son (daughter) of the Father awaiting my fulfillment as a human being in heaven. This duality informs all of my choices because I must still battle the Prince of Darkness who seeks to keep me from my destiny. The choices I make that help me survive life are devious and contain many false paths. The Ten Commandments are God’s instructions to avoid the pitfalls of life. God, through Jesus the Messiah, came to SHOW each one of us HOW to walk THE WAY, even if the road is rocky.
  • Jesus gave us The Divine Equation to help us. This is not an Equation to prove God’s existence but six postulates or questions that each person must answer in sequence to become fully adopted sons and daughters of the Father while we live. Jesus as Magister Noster received these questions and answers from the Father to give to us so that we could increase our capacity to love others as Christ loved us (capacitas dei). With Baptism in water and the Spirit, continued each day, heaven is now (so is hell).
  • The world keeps asking for a sign (proof) that the words of Christ are true. Christ alone is the sign, the answer to the Divine Equation, the template of Truth.


Whenever I take a test, the instructor gives the test a series of questions in the case of The Divine Equation, and then I write out my answer based on the total life experiences of my life on this earth. The instructor then grades the test to see how close I came to the answer. The answers are all uniform, and there is usually only one correct answer, although the context will be unique to each individual. My point in all of this is to say that just because I answered each question doesn’t mean it is correct. It is correct because it conforms with what the instructor taught. These six questions of The Divine Equation have a template, one set of answers that are correct. In the case of this test, Christ, the instructor, has predetermined the correct answer and judges if I have answered it correctly. I don’t understand what is true, just because I took the test and gave some answer I thought was correct.


To know if my answers to the Divine Equation are correct, I must measure them against the template of truth based on the Magister Noster who created them. This is Jesus. “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” To determine what is true, I use my reason to ask how these four inscrutables can help to answer The Divine Equation. The Christ Principle is the one template that completely answers my questions about truth. Other templates have some properties but do not satisfy all four characteristics


The person of Christ is the template, not a figment of the imagination or a cognitive construct.

The Christ Principle contains both divine nature and human and divine nature in Christ.

The answers to The Divine Equation come from the ones who asked humans the questions.

The WAY to discovering who you are as a human reached a barrier that only Christ can raise up. We simply tag along his WAY by walking where he walked and doing what He did.

The Lay Cistercian WAY is sunnonumous with Christ’s WAY.

Each human has a WAY they walk (usually seventy to eighty years, if they are strong). Each Lay Cistercian has a WAY they walk, which is unique. Christ is the WAY, and my challenge is to get as close to that WAY as my way can get. I do that through Cistercian practices and charisms and daily converting myself from my sinful self to my glorious self in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Christ Principle alone has the power of the Resurrection and Ascension to raise me up to the next level of my humanity– to claim my adoption as a son (daughter) of the Father and brother and friend to Christ.

The Christ Principle alone allows me to focus my energies on becoming fully human as nature intended.

The Christ Principle alone gives not only THE WAY, but THE TRUTH so that I can have THE LIFE of the adopted son (daughter) of the Father.

Walking Christ’s WAY, I use my Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Scriptures, Reading Early Church Fathers and Cistercian men and women, Rosary, in silence, solitude, work, and prayer, in the context of community, to seek God each day. I wait for the Lord. Pray this Psalm, with how to walk THE WAY with Christ. Each letter of the Hebrew Alphabet has a thought worth our prayers.


1. Do not be provoked by evildoers;

do not envy those who do wrong.a

2 Like grass they wither quickly;

like green plants they wilt away.b


3 Trust in the LORD and do good

that you may dwell in the land* and live secure.c

4 Find your delight in the LORD

who will give you your heart’s desire.d


5 Commit your way to the LORD;

trust in him and he will acte

6 And make your righteousness shine like the dawn,

your justice like noonday.f


7 Be still before the LORD;

wait for him.

Do not be provoked by the prosperous,

nor by malicious schemers.


8 Refrain from anger; abandon wrath;

do not be provoked; it brings only harm.

9 Those who do evil will be cut off,

but those who wait for the LORD will inherit the earth.g


10 Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more;

look for them and they will not be there.

11 But the poor will inherit the earth,h

will delight in great prosperity.


12 The wicked plot against the righteous

and gnash their teeth at them;

13 But my Lord laughs at them,i

because he sees that their day is coming.


14 The wicked unsheath their swords;

they string their bows

To fell the poor and oppressed,

to slaughter those whose way is upright.j

15 Their swords will pierce their own hearts;

their bows will be broken.


16 Better the meagerness of the righteous one

than the plenty of the wicked.k

17 The arms of the wicked will be broken,

while the LORD will sustain the righteous.


18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless;

their heritage lasts forever.

19 They will not be ashamed when times are bad;

in days of famine they will be satisfied.


20 The wicked perish,

enemies of the LORD;

They shall be consumed like fattened lambs;

like smoke they disappear.l


21 The wicked one borrows but does not repay;

the righteous one is generous and gives.

22 For those blessed by the Lord will inherit the earth,

but those accursed will be cut off.


23 The valiant one whose steps are guided by the LORD,

who will delight in his way,m

24 May stumble, but he will never fall,

for the LORD holds his hand.


25 Neither in my youth, nor now in old age

have I seen the righteous one abandonedn

or his offspring begging for bread.

26 All day long he is gracious and lends,

and his offspring become a blessing.


27 Turn from evil and do good,

that you may be settled forever.o

28 For the LORD loves justice

and does not abandon the faithful.


When the unjust are destroyed,

and the offspring of the wicked cut off,

29 The righteous will inherit the earth

and dwell in it forever.p


30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom;q

his tongue speaks what is right.

31 God’s teaching is in his heart;r

his steps do not falter.


32 The wicked spies on the righteous

and seeks to kill him.

33 But the LORD does not abandon him in his power,

nor let him be condemned when tried.


34 Wait eagerly for the LORD,

and keep his way;s

He will raise you up to inherit the earth;

you will see when the wicked are cut off.


35 I have seen a ruthless scoundrel,

spreading out like a green cedar.t

36 When I passed by again, he was gone;

though I searched, he could not be found.


37 Observe the person of integrity and mark the upright;

Because there is a future for a man of peace.u

38 Sinners will be destroyed together;

the future of the wicked will be cut off.


39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD,

their refuge in a time of distress.v

40 The LORD helps and rescues them,

rescues and saves them from the wicked,

because they take refuge in him.

* [Psalm 37] The Psalm responds to the problem of evil, which the Old Testament often expresses as a question: why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer? The Psalm answers that the situation is only temporary. God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth. The perspective is concrete and earthbound: people’s very actions place them among the ranks of the good or wicked. Each group or “way” has its own inherent dynamism—eventual frustration for the wicked, eventual reward for the just. The Psalm is an acrostic, i.e., each section begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each section has its own imagery and logic.

I have accepted The Christ Principle as the WAY I will use to discover who I really am as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father, the final phase of human intelligent progression. There are other templates that I could follow but I choose this one as being the most authentic. Here are some other types of templates that I use in part but just don’t have the scope of reality nor the energy to bring me to that next level of my (and humanity’s) Omega.

THE SCIENTIFIC TEMPLATE — I use this template as a check to thinking of reality as whatever I believe it to be (e.g. I want to be a tree). The scientific template is my template of choice when I look at the physical reality. Scientific inquiry is about discovering the depths of the physical universe (macro as well as micro) using languages such as physics, mathematics, and chemistry, to name a few). This template fits very well over the physical and mental universes that look at visible reality. It falls short, for me, in that it has no energy to move me to that next level of my evolution, nor does it look at all of reality (it excludes the spiritual universe as being non-existent). When I apply the scientific template to the six questions of The Divine Equation, I do not find answers that transcend matter or time. For this reason, I render until Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s. As a Canon Law Professor once told us, “Science teaches us how the heavens go; Spirituality teaches us how to go to heaven.”

THE SECULAR HUMANIST TEMPLATE — Most secular humanists, those who purposefully exclude any God stuff from how they look at what is true, use a combination of scientific inquiry and logic to make genuine conclusions about reality. I would argue that I am a genuine secular humanist, but one who seeks to learn about the fullness of what it means to be human, only I use The Christ Principle to get me there. These are radically different approaches to truth so each of us has a WAY to walk in order to discover THE TRUTH and so live LIFE as nature intended. I don’t care to prove anything by solving The Divine Equation using The Christ Principle. A secular humanist model whose assumptions are limited to visible reality and to the absence of God as the center of their lives, is, in my estimation, not for me.

THE RELATIVIST TEMPLATE— Relativism is the template of default by many people who tout freedom of expression and the right to choose whatever they want. I do not spend a lot of time thinking about this template, nor do I associate with those who seem to hold its tenants.

THE ATHEISTIC TEMPLATE –– I love atheists, those that I know are genuinely seeking this template as a philosophy for life. If an atheist gives me smirky, snarky, sarcastic comments about god (notice the lowercase), then I usually discount them as I do those supposed Christians who denigrate those “others” who are not as self-righteous as themselves. Forgive me, but I think there will be more atheists in heaven than those who take upon themselves the judgment of being god. May God have mercy on all of us.


THE GOLDEN THREAD: Spiritual Kinship through The Christ Principle.

Jesus called those he loved and who loved him back as friends. Read this most eloquent of texts in their entirety, so you get the context. Note that Jesus calls us friends, in this passage. He has chosen us, we have not chosen Him. Because He first chose us, we are able to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father, through, with, and in Christ Jesus.

The Vine and the Branches.

1* “I am the true vine,* and my Father is the vine grower.a

2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit.

3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.b

4 Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.

5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

6*Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.

7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d

8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.e

9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.f

10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.g

11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.h

12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.i

13* No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.k

16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.l

17 This I command you: love one another.m

If I am linked to the Father through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit, then those with whom I am linked are one with me. In the five charisms of the Cistercian Order, which Lay Cistercians follow, they state: silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. In this context of community or “gathering,” the linkage goes all the way back to Christ. This is not just the Christ that died for our sins on the cross, although it is that. It expands to include all those with whom I experience in my lifetime, both good and evil.


One syncretic analogy I use to help my mind even approach what this means, in reality, has to do with my notion that at Baptism, Christ handed me a golden thread, one which he received from the Father when he became human as a ransom for the many. My task is to pass this Golden Thread through those events, sunsets, and sunrise, situations where I encountered the living Christ, each time I go with Christ to the Father in the Eucharist to give fitting praise and glory, the times I overcame evil by loving those who calumniate or chastise me for Christ’s sake, and all the times I realized that most of my life, I have been a complete failure to recognize Christ in others, relying on my own ego and pride for self-satisfaction.

What I thread with Christ’s Golden Thread, I can take with me to heaven. All human experiences that bring me closer to Christ and farther away from my false self will be my heaven. In this scenario, I wish to link up with as many people as possible. This is where spiritual kinship comes into play for me. I have biological brothers and sisters, but, because of my Baptism and kinship with others through Christ, I have spiritual relationships, ones that are sacramentalized in Matrimony and Holy Orders and maintained through Eucharist and Reconciliation.

Here are a few of the relationships I have established using The Golden Thread. Even though they seem to involve only one person or a small group (ala Lay Cistercians), remember there is but one thread that reaches from my Baptism through to my passover into my new inheritance as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. All of us are linked together by The Christ Principle. Every person I ever met, good or bad for me, is linked with that Golden Thread. When I die, that Golden Thread allows me to take those human experiences that have enabled me to love others as Christ loved me, to the place where Jesus and His mother await me and present to me the inheritance due me by my adoption.


This past April, a new class of Novice Lay Cistercians was received into the group of Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), in Conyers, Georgia. Each new Lay Cistercian novice was assigned a senior member to act as a guide to help them grow in awareness of how to use Cistercian practices and charisms to “grow in Christ.” Cistercians call this “capacitas dei,” or I must decrease and Christ must increase. This is not so much a one-time commitment but rather a Lay Cistercian Way or walk for two years. These senior members stand behind each novice as they make promises to enter the Lay Cistercian Way and receive a medal of St, Benedict to wear, especially at the monthly Gathering Day meetings.

I was fortunate to have been selected to be a guide and companion for three of the new novices, two of them from my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. In reflecting on the significance of my responsibility, I wondered if this was a ceremonial requirement (which it is not) or if it might be something more significant, a depth to which I had hitherto not even considered.

My role as sponsor, companion, or guide to new aspirants to the disciplines of Cistercian spirituality, took on new meaning in terms of this Golden Thread. I use my thread to link up these three novices and one other previous novice together with me. Since Christ is the golden thread, which he received from the Father, as an adopted son (daughter), I have kinship with these novices, not just for a year, but for all eternity. The power of my St. Benedict’s medal, I join with the reception of their new Novice medals (smaller but identical). The St. Benedict medal protects us from the evil one but also links all wearers together in Christ.

Like a godfather or godmother at Baptism, there is a kinship created with that person that lasts forever. There is much more to this concept because I am now aware of the vital dynamic of sharing my “capacitas dei” with these special friends. It is a deeper awareness, a more lasting and enduring relationship than even marriage. It transcends time and links together all those with whom I have threaded the Golden Thread of Christ now, and in the life to come. We are bound together in, with, and through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. The implications of this threading are of great importance to me as I thread my way through life, capturing the treasures of God through Christ to bring with me to create the dimensions of my heaven within what God has in store for me.

Heaven begins with Baptism and is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Recently, I have been revisiting all those old people from my past whom I have brushed against in my lifetime. In humility, and due to the maturation of Christ in me (I am not the same person spiritually that I was even ten years ago), I have been asking Christ for mercy and asking those whom I have slighted and been a complete jerk towards in my past life (and believe me, it is almost everyone I have ever met), seeking their forgiveness for my lack of charity and love and asking for their prayers. This is not just with fellow Catholics with whom my kinship is with the Golden Thread, but also those who have hated me and sought to calumniate my memory. The neat thing about God is that he is the power, the kingdom, and the glory, not me.

I do a virtual linkage in my Lectio Divina with these groups and write their names (known and unknown) in my Book of Life, one that I hand to Jesus at the Last Judgment and seek mercy. Each night before bed, I ask Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Michael to intercede with Jesus on me, such an insensitive person.

  • All the School Teachers I have ever had in Grade School, High School, College, Seminary, Loyola University, and Indiana University.
  • All the classmates I have ever met.
  • Those individuals I have named as written in my Book of Life.
  • All my relatives.
  • Those souls in Purgatory who await conversion of the heart needed to stand in the presence of the Lamb.
  • Those whom I have hurt or slighted by not recognizing Christ in them and instead having a prideful and self-serving heart.
  • For all the times I have not put Christ as my Christ Principle which I use to answer four questions:
  • What does it mean to be fully human as nature intended?
  • What does it mean to love others as Christ loved us?
  • What does it mean to seek the Truth Absolutely?
  • What does it mean for me to be an adopted son (daughter) of the Father?
  • All the monks, especially at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, and St. Meinrad
  • All the Lay Cistercians I have ever met.
  • My four kinsmen and novices who are beginning their Lay Cistercian journey.

All of these plus sunsets, events, occasions with my pet animals, and all the time nature reminded me that winds and showers bless the Lord (The Canticle of Daniel).

I have one drawback, I cannot put this Golden Thread of Christ through anything evil or touched by Satan. It simply will not tread, passing through each time.

When I die, I take my Golden Thread and all its implications with me to my inheritance as an adopted son of the Father.

Here is where it gets scary. I am only talking about those things, people, events, prayers, and contemplations, that are in my life. Each person that I link with also has a complete lifetime of linking together. Add all of us together and this is The Church Universal in Triumph.

When I say Communion of Saints, this is the scope of what awaits each of us in heaven, exploring all those linked realities of all the Saints, the saints, and asking them how they got there with Christ as their Golden Thread. It is mind-boggling.



You can’t make this stuff up, even in Hollywood. The Incarnation Moment is so beyond the ability of humans to put it out of that hat that is so improbable that such an event could occur within normal limits of human experiences. Where does all of this God stuff come from? If the disciples made it up, ad they were undoubtedly its authors, the way that all of it fits together is astounding.

The Incarnation Moment begins with a new paradigm. Using the map (attribution unknown) of Teilhard de Chardin on movement from simplicity to the complexity of reality would be the beginning of the Christoshere. I contend that Israel had developed in a direction that would not have allowed its intelligent progression to move beyond being exclusively inward to keeping the laws. While this is good, it does not allow Israel’s progression to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles. Christ’s becoming human by God reaching down and lifting up Israel to the next level of spiritual evolution, does not make sense to human reasoning, especially if the expectations of the Chosen People are for someone to lead them out of the slavery of the Romans and other hostile nations.

It is significant to see the parallels between Christ and Adam and no less remarkable between the Blessed Mother and Eve. St. Paul writes insightfully about how Christ is the second Adam, how He became sin for us, although He knew no sin. In order for that to happen, Christ’s mother had to be sinless as a vessel to hold the Son of God in her womb and be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, like Adam, is an archetype, beyond that of just a mere type. Adam represents humanity in the book of Genesis, created by God to be a gardener or steward of all that we know exists. Jesus inherits that mantel and expands it to include the earth and into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus had to be God to lift up humanity to the next level of intelligent progression. With Adam, God reached down (a mere human explanation for that which cannot be explained) and lifted humanity up to the next level from animality.

Something wonderful happened when Mary assented to God’s will. This new paradigm began. Mary is the woman who changed time itself, ushering in a new phase of humanity’s journey toward its destiny. With the Incarnation, the choice was restored through Christ. Humans still don’t have the power to lift themselves up to the Father to give their free will as a sacrifice of praise to the Father. Only through Christ, who is now human and divine, can I as individual and we as individuals in the Church Universal, together lift up our hearts to the Lord in prayer, in Eucharist, in Penance, in love, one that is the acceptable sacrifice of Abraham, the fulfillment of the sacrifice of the unblemished Lamb to make atonement for sins and to receive that Lamb as part of the Thanksgiving Covenant. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

in our inexorable journey from creation to Omega, Christ assumes the types of all who went before (Abraham, Moses, David) plus fulfill the prophets’ call to move from sacrificing animals as an expiation for sins to showing mercy toward others. Genesis is a mythical collection of writings to show what it means to be human, inexorably moving forward from reliance on self as the center of reality to a new reality. This reality takes the inescapable movement of humanity from just being an animal who reasons to one that moves to the next level of human evolution, replacing evil behaviors with those that lead to a higher level of humanity. The problem was, and still is, humans must submit their wills to a force outside of themselves, once not easily done without totally abandoning or dying to the old wine in skins. This is the speed bump or what Scriptures call “the sign of contradiction,” to the Gentiles, it seems foolish, and to the Jews always a stumbling block.

Jesus, being both God and Human, fulfills his destiny (John 17) and that of all humans by allowing us to move forward in humanity’s quest toward Omega. There are a couple of requirements now. First, you must be Baptized in water and the Spirit; water signifies death to self and being washed with the Blood of the Lamb of God, and Spirit, the Second Advocate, who overshadows each person as they struggle with the effects of original sin against their adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. This Baptism is the power of the Incarnation in each person who takes up their cross daily and seeks to discover Christ in whatever comes their way.

Being one who has adopted The Cistercian Way, I have dedicated my life remaining to seek mercy for the times I failed to see Christ in specific people I met and seeking their forgiveness, and giving praise to the Father through, with, and in Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. This energy allows humanity to move forward in human space and time to fulfill their destiny while using Faith (energy) informed by reason to make sense out of the chaos of how humans act (especially those in the Church).

The improbability of the Incarnation is not only that God would love such a pitiable broken-down, old Lay Cistercian like me, but that, like Christ taking on the nature of a slave (Philippians 2:5-12), he would take up residence in this temple, knowing how vulnerable and fickle my Faith is because of original sin. With Lay Cistercian practices and Charisms (silence, solitude, prayer, work, in the context of a community of monks), I seek to put Christ each day where there is no Christ, to seek to grow in Christ (capacitas dei) each day, to never take for granted the love which is so strong as I sit on that park bench in the dead of winter waiting for Christ to sit next to me, my heart beating next to His.

The Eucharist, Christ’s living in our midst, is not a symbol, as is the cross. The power of the Incarnation is that each day I pray, each time I lift up my heart to the Lord through, with, and in Christ, I become more human, inching my way to the parousia, wobbling on the rocky road to fulfill my adoption.

In the face of all this astounding love and energy of God, I look at all the effects of original sin around me, all the forgotten homeless because of earthquakes and floods, those innocents preyed upon by pedophiles and incest, all the poverty around me, all those who exploit others in the name of money, power, and pride, and see despair for humanity. The world, if you read statistics, is growing more atheistic (although I believe it is apathy, not atheism). What can I do in the face of all of this chaos?

I choose not to let the world’s sinfulness seduce me into thinking there is no hope. If I want love in my life, I must put it there. If I want Hope (upper case intentional) there, I must do something to put it there. At 82++, I cannot change what I cannot change. However, I do have the power to say YES to having the Holy Spirit overshadow me as I pray for those who seek to destroy humanity, who deny a God they cannot see, who wage war in the name of nationalism, who kill babies as if it was righteous. The truth will prevail because Christ is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.

One thing, I seek is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. I share with you this prayer that brings me comfort, actualized the Incarnation, and restores my faith that all of this is in the Lord’s hands not mine.

Of David.


The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is my life’s refuge;

of whom should I be afraid?

2 When evildoers come at me

to devour my flesh,*b

These my enemies and foes

themselves stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,

my heart does not fear;

Though war be waged against me,

even then do I trust.


4 One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:

To dwell in the LORD’s house

all the days of my life,

To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,

to visit his temple.c

5 For God will hide me in his shelter

in time of trouble,d

He will conceal me in the cover of his tent;

and set me high upon a rock.

6 Even now my head is held high

above my enemies on every side!

I will offer in his tent

sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing and chant praise to the LORD.



7 Hear my voice, LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

8 “Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”;*

your face, LORD, do I seek!e

9 Do not hide your face from me;

do not repel your servant in anger.

You are my salvation; do not cast me off;

do not forsake me, God my savior!

10 Even if my father and mother forsake me,

the LORD will take me in.f


11 LORD, show me your way;

lead me on a level path

because of my enemies.g

12 Do not abandon me to the desire of my foes;

malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me.

13 I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness

in the land of the living.*h

14 Wait for the LORD, take courage;

be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!

These thoughts are my thoughts. These feelings are the ones I feel. I wish to become what the Psalmist states. “Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord.”

Waiting for the Lord.

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST: The hero comes home.

If you have not read the works of Joesph Campbell or Mircea Eliade, not only are you missing a big chunk of how to look at being human with a systematic approach to intelligent progression, but how the Ascension of Christ completes the classic hero myth form in all literature. Here is a blog that I wrote some time ago about the Christ Principle and how He completes the classic human approach to overcoming death to bring life and then completing the cycle (the Ascension). In this reflection, I use outside influences that have shaped how I look at humanity to revisit what I know about The Christ Principle. Christ is indeed the fulfillment of humanity’s search for meaning.

To a great extent, all of us are, in large part, the result of people we have bumped into during our solitary sojourn down whatever paths life has taken us. People and sometimes events have shaped who we have become and that process continues until death has its due. In my own case, as I reflect upon my Lectio Divina verse (Philippians 2:5), I feel immense gratitude that Christ bumped into me and continues to be merciful to such a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian, such as myself. I call this the Christ Principle because everything that informs my life is based on that encounter (not just a one-time meeting, but seeking God each and every day), your life might be different, but I don’t control that, only my own. Of course, there are many, many more people who have contributed to where I am today. One of the learning points I have noticed since becoming a Lay Cistercian is having the ability to see the Holy Spirit in other people with whom I meet as I seek God daily. All of them form a sort of tree with Christ as the vine and we being the branches. There have been ten people who have left their mark on how I look at reality, ten that have an enduring influence on how I approach Christ, The Center of all Reality.

  • Jesus Christ, The Christ Principle, and Center of All Reality
  • Mary, Mother of God, Master of Humility and Obedience to God’s Will
  • Paul of Tarsus, Master Teacher of The Christ Principle
  • Sts Benedict and Scholastica, Masters of Living The Christ Principle
  • St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Master of the Contemplative Heart of Christ
  • Aidan Kavanaugh, O.S.B. Master of the Liturgy as the highest expression of The Christ Principle
  • Erich Fromm, Master of Authentic Love in the Secular World
  • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., Master of Perspective of All Reality using the Christ Principle
  • Antoine de St. Exupère, Master of Looking at what is essential
  • Joel Barker, futurist and noted author, Master of how Paradigm Shifts move humanity forward
  • Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade (I know, that is eleven)

In a series of blogs in the future, I will examine each of these people and how they have helped me have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). In this blog, I will share with you the experiences I had with Father Aidan Kavanaugh and why that is important in how I look at reality.

My relationship with Father Aidan is personal in that he was my instructor at St. Meinrad School of Theology in 1963, teaching a course on Sacramental Theology. That was the extent of my contact with Father Aidan. His classes were memorable, in that I still hold onto four situations and examples that were to remain with me and guide me in how I view reality. In the later part of this blog, you can read for yourself about the impact that Father Aidan had on liturgy in the United States Catholic Church.


My first exposure to Mrs. Murphy, a fictionalized, archetypal character used by Father Aidan to ground the academic theologians in the practical expression of Liturgy as the Body of Christ in the local community. She lifted up all the cares, worries, successes, and challenges of the day with Christ to the Father. What I remember him saying about Mrs. Murphy was that she is the little, old lady in the backbench of Church, eyes closed, faithfully praying to God with all her soul. This lady, said Father Aidan, knows more about the meaning of Faith than all the sophisticated theologians and academics combined. She brings all her struggles and aspirations and lays them at the feet of Christ in humility, simplicity of words, fidelity to the love of Christ, seeking only to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the time, this example just passed right over my head, like so many of the other ideas I encountered. Being in Father Aidan’s class was like taking a sip of water from a fully functioning fire hose. So many wonderful and scintillating ideas were presented in such a modest way, that I found myself struggling to catch just a gulp. I do remember Mrs. Murphy because it has taken me a lifetime to flesh out the significance of what Father Aidan was trying to communicate. It has been only in the last six or seven years that this image has even begun to make some sense to me. My inspiration came from the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in their monthly Gathering Days. Being from Tallahassee, Florida my drive to the monastery, once per month, was five hours away, in Atlanta, Georgia. I very slowly came to see what Father Aidan was alluding to in his avatar of Mrs. Murphy. It is the time I take to place myself in the presence of Christ, in the presence of my fellow Lay Cistercians on gathering day, that makes me open to the Holy Spirit in community. Liturgy is the expression of this living body of Christ which culminates in the Eucharist but which is sustained in the local Gathering in the name of Christ. I am very slowly coming to expand my Faith horizon from Church as someplace I go to for the Sacraments to actually believing that I am the Church wherever I am and that, joined with others of like persuasion, we offer our whole day as sacrament in our search to find God wherever we are. Spirituality becomes not just those times where we formally pray in silence and solitude, although it is that, much more significant is the time we take in our whole day joined with our community of Faith, and all of this joined to the Church Universal as the acceptable sacrifice of our lives in with and through Christ to the glory of the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. Practicing the five Cistercian charisms of silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community is how I have come to address Mrs. Muphy’s challenge of simply being in the presence of Christ and listening. St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., great Doctor of the Church states it so: “One day when Thomas Aquinas was preaching to the local populace on the love of God, he saw an old woman listening attentively to his every word. And inspired by her eagerness to learn more about her God whom she loved so dearly, he said to the people: It is better to be this unlearned woman, loving God with all her heart, than the most learned theologian lacking love.”

Learning Points

  • Mrs. Murphy is an avatar for the person who does not possess profound knowledge about liturgy but rather uses this overshadowing experience of the Holy Spirit to become closer to Christ by doing liturgy.
  • The purpose of both Sacramental Liturgy (Church Universal) and local expressions are to remove obstacles to being present to Christ through the Holy Spirit.
  • It is important for the local Church to have a way to show new catechumens how to be present to Christ.


I can still see Father Aidan writing on the chalkboard. He was talking about how Christ fulfilled not just the Old Testament prophets, but also the hero myth model of Greek and Roman mythology. The Gospel structure did not just pop out of the air but was actually a literary device that cultures used to show a hero who had a mission to overcome, faced great obstacles and overcame them, and rose above (resurrection) all his adversaries and blockages to bring new life to the whole world. The late Dr. Joesph Campbell has written extensively about this topic of hero, savior, messiah, and king of kings. Here is one synopsis of the steps he uses to explain the journey of the hero. In doing research on this idea of a hero, I am struck by the last of applications in the literature about Christ as a heroic figure for the human race. I bring that up because that is exactly what Father Aidan proposed back in 1963. It is not exactly the model that Dr, Campbell uses, but there are so many variations out there that I give Father Aidan poetic license to interpolate it for his purposes. Here is what he wrote on the chalkboard that day (keep in mind, that was back in 1963 and I am now 82 years old). Father Aidan adapted the classic hero myth form from Joseph Campbell.

The Anticipation of the Hero

Birth Of God/Man Jesus into Ordinary Time

The Mission Identified

The Mission as Journey

Helpers in the Mission

The Hero faces and overcomes trials and barriers

The Hero suffers and dies for his Mission

The Hero Rises (Resurrection) with humanity to new life

The Hero Descends into Hell to unite all reality into one, holy, apostolic, and catholic Universal Church

The Hero Ascends to ordinary life again but this time it is supernatural.

The Hero passes on this supernatural life to his followers.

Learning Points

  • I am still learning the application of the hero myth to the Gospel’s account of Christ’s life journey to complete his mission from the Father.
  • This common literary device seems to me to be at the heart of the four Gospels. Each Gospel is different because each writer is different but all use the same literary formula.
  • Christ is the hero of all the heroic stories of salvation from bad or evil.


So far, I have just touched on the importance of Mrs. Murphy as being one who is open to the possibility of all Being and is content to be in the presence of Christ. Next, the heroic myth story is one that Christ did to fulfill the prophets and leave the local Gathering of the Baptized to do what Christ did. And what did he do?

Christ loved each one of us in the context of our faith community so much that he became our nature (Philippians 2:5-12). He did that to not only tell us how to love others but to show us how to love others as He loved us. Liturgy is not just a Eucharistic moment in the life of the community, although it is indeed that. It is the Church gathering the faithful together to lift up their life situations to the Father as did Christ. In the myth hero formula, these would be the obstacles he would face to sidetrack him from his mission. This mission was to re-establish the relationship between divinity and humanity lost by the archetypal choice of Adam and Eve to be god. In the liturgy of the Hours, and the liturgy of the Eucharist, there are moments where we offer up to the Father with, through, and in Christ the glory due to his name as God, living and true. What Father Aidan exposed for me was the purpose of liturgy as a dynamic way to transform my everyday hurts, sufferings, accomplishments, and successes into praise and glory of the Father. Mrs. Murphy is everyman, everywoman, all who use the externals moments provided by the local Gathering to see what cannot be seen and hear what cannot be heard. The community is the living body of Christ, composed of all the individual leaves on that branch, Christ being the trunk and the roots. Liturgy in the broad sense is prayer, those of the community of faithful but also the Church Universal. It is in this sense that the Church Universal is holy while all of its members are sinners in need of God’s constant mercy.


Everything in the above three categories seems to point to the individual in the context of the Church seeking God every day with what life serves up. This was brought home to me in this era of COVID-19 self-isolation when my wife asked me why I don’t go to church anymore. I made a feeble attempt to tell her that my doctor thought I was at high risk of being out in public because of my past battles with Leukemia (CLL type) and having a pacemaker implanted four weeks ago. Her argument was that I was not a good Catholic anymore because I did not go to Church as often as before and she never saw me praying out loud. I used this experience to measure myself against Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, which I read every day, to ground myself in what is essential. In one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations, I actually asked the Holy Spirit if I was a slacker and losing my faith. The thought came back immediately that, far from being lacking in Faith, this COVID-19 test actually made me stronger. Instead of my being a lax catholic because I did not attend church as frequently as before, I realized, thanks to Mrs. Murphy and Father Aidan, that I am Church and that wherever I go, Church goes with me. The fact that I think I am Church does not mean I speak for the Church Universal. It does mean that, like one leaf on the branch of my tree of Christ at Good Shepherd Community, I am one of many leaves who tries to move from self to God each day. I realized also that when I join in my thoughts and Cistercian practices, I am joined with all other individuals who make up the Gathering known as Church. We share one faith, one Lord, one Baptism, and are the living, real presence of Christ on our journey. Seeking God in my daily life is not an isolated event between just Christ and me, but it is the presence of others Baptized in the Faith and adopted sons and daughters of the Father who, together and individually, long to move from self to God in the context of community. The Cistercian charisms of silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community enable me to join with others to give praise to the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology.

Thank you, Father Aidan and my other professors who planted the seed. Even though it has taken a very long time, Christ has given the issue. The choices I make are informed by all those who have, in some way, touched my mind and heart.


Slow down your life and speed up your enlightenment. Here are a series of YouTube blogs by Joseph Campbell, a person who has unlocked the hitherto procrustean approach I had to look at what it means to be human. Myth, such as Genesis and Exodus are the deepest desires of humans, as well as having the framework of historical intelligent progression. If you think of myth as somehow not real, you will completely miss the point of any of the classic heroes who faced obstacles, overcame them, and rose from their natural humanity to something much more fulfilling. Jesus fits into this paradigm and I have used it in my thinking to probe ever deeper into the Mystery of Human Intelligent Progression, informed and fulfilled by the Mystery of Faith.

Christ fulfills the classic mythic hero.

I view these YouTubes as occasions when I can reflect on Christ as a Hero (The Four Gospels) and the steps he took to fulfill this classic evolution of humanity from animality through humanity but with the added dimension of spirituality and the incorruptibility of the last step in human evolution.

I can remember the Sun slicing through the gigantic, three-foot thick, sandstone window openings of our Second Theology class in Sacramental Theology on the first floor of the Major Theology section at Saint Meinrad School of Theology. At the blackboard was the late Father Aiden Kavanaugh, O.S.B., writing down the words, “Mrs. Murphy,” on the blackboard. In 1963, not knowing what I did not know, much less what I should know about theology, I was just trying to stay awake on the warm Spring day in Southern Indiana. At the time, I remember thinking that his explanation of Mrs. Murphy did not make sense. Father Adrian told us to remember that liturgy was about the human heart being able to approach the unapproachable mystery of Faith through using the senses and common human experiences to share what we can share about Word and Sacrament.

Those who were fortunate to hear Father Aiden, recognize that he thought in terms of compound, complex sentences, but his keen insights into the human condition began to formulate how the Sacred informs meaning in each of us in very different ways.

Now, I am merely a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, lucky to comment about life around me and certainly not an eloquent apologist for any approach to liturgics. In this book, Mrs. Murphy looms large as an archetype of us all, an Adam and Eve for relations with the Sacred. Let me use a quote from Fr. Aidan to give you a sense of his eloquent thinking. 

“The liturgical assembly is thus a theological corporation and each of its members a theologian. . . . Mrs. Murphy and her pastor are primary theologians whose discourse in faith is carried on not by concepts and propositions nearly so much as in the vastly complex vocabulary of experiences had, prayers said, sights seen, smells smelled, words said and heard, and responded to, emotions controlled and released, sins committed and repented, children born and loved ones buried, and in many other ways no one can count or always account for.” (On Liturgical Theology, Chapter 7)

 If I understand Father Aidan’s thinking even remotely, it is that the local church is established by Christ to enable its members to communicate and give glory to a God we cannot see, to make sense out of everyday struggles and trials with those we do see, and to find meaning and purpose with a world gone mad with its importance. By loving our neighbor as our self, within the sacramental and non-sacramental context of the local assembly, the Mystery of Faith, we find purpose, pure energy with the source of all reality, and how to love with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength. God will not leave any of us stranded or without food to sustain us on our journey. If our purpose is to be with God…Forever, then the invisible God needs some way to communicate with those who call him Lord and give them food for the journey and the ability to make all things new, over and over. The context in which we find what we need to make sense out of all of this is the local church, linked by heritage and practice to the Apostles. It is the way to touch the invisible God in our midst; it is the way we claim our adoption as God’s sons and daughters.

I think I am beginning to get what Father Aidan was proposing with the archetypal character of Mrs. Murphy, much like Genesis did with Adam and Eve. What has bothered me all these years, up to five years ago, was the concept of Mrs. Murphy. How can an old woman sit in the back of the church and know more than all the theologians and clerics combined? I say five years ago because that was the time I was accepted as a novice Lay Cistercian. With the emphasis on contemplation and Lectio Divina, I found that I gradually morphed into Mrs. Murphy, at least I fancy that I did. I wasn’t worried that I had to comprehend the Mystery of Faith, only that I could approach it in humility and wait. I began to think less of knowing and more of loving through doing. As part of doing this, I wrote down all my thoughts about Mrs. Murphy in 54 books and a blog to keep my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) fresh and relevant to my relationship with the Sacred. Information, Knowledge, and Science are not the end purpose of life, as St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., described in his famous quote about everything he knew about God was so much straw.

Knowledge unlocks the door to the heart, the place where no one wants to look. It is my sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter, waiting for Christ to come by, straining to see him trudging about the bend with his pet Yellow Lab, in the hope that he will sit down next to me.

Mrs. Murphy is that “every person” who has profound simplicity, the simplicity of a human approaching that which the human mind cannot control or grasp, but the human heart can partially capture. We get a glimpse of divine reality, like looking through a foggy glass. For Mrs. Murphy, and now for me, I am satisfied that Christ is my mediator between the Sacred and the World in which I live. With Christ, I access the Mystery of Faith through silence, solitude, work, and prayer, in the context of my two communities of Faith. I am grateful and blessed that Father Aidan planted the seed, I watered it, but it is Christ who gives the issue. And what an issue it is. The hero has ascended back to the Father to complete the mission and to prepare a place for me, an adopted son (daughter) to inherit. I am still learning what that is, but I tell you, I will sell everyTHING I have to be here as I Hope in the Resurrection and my personal ascension to heaven with Christ, Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Michael as my guides.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology


As a result of my Lection Divina, and having reflected on where I am in the process of believing in The Christ Principle, here are some Beatitudes that come to my mind. If you are a Catholic, practicing your faith may not always be peaches and cream but may often be the way of the cross. Just because your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. One thing is clear, nothing can separate us from the heart of Christ Jesus, not ridicule, shaming our practice, discounting our past attempt

  • Blessed are you when those you love laugh at you and disrespect your practice of contemplative Cistercian spirituality, dismissing it as so much fantasy and as just a way to seek attention. Christ gives you the opportunity to bear your cross, eyes lowered, saying only, “Have mercy on them for they know not what they say.”
  • Blessed are you when those around you verbally block your practice of Cistercian practices saying that you should go to the monastery and leave home and don’t return. You have the opportunity to ask God for patience and fortitude to withstand the forces of the evil one.
  • Blessed are you when people call you names such as “loser,” “failure,” and a “fraud,” claiming that God does not like you and what you do. Be glad on that day, for you have the opportunity to return good for evil, love for hatred, and peace for fractioning.
  • Blessed are you when people around you shame you and verbally abuse you because you seek to love others as Christ loved you. You are not far from the kingdom of heaven on earth as you battle for what is the way, what is true so that you and your antagonists might have life, now and forever.
  • Blessed are you when you can feel hatred and demonic presence when others try to split you from The Lay Cistercian Way by shaming others who join you in this quest. Pray for those who shame and blaspheme your God and Cistercian spirituality as not knowing what they do.
  • Blessed are you when your insides feel like they are on fire and to want to abandon your prayer or Lectio Divina because it hurts you to focus on Christ, your reward is to have taken up your cross and carried the martyrdom of the ordinary one step further than before.
  • Blessed are you when you struggle against your sexual animal heritage which leads you to false promises and cotton candy nourishment, for you are being fully human not giving in to pleasure as the sole center of your life.
  • Blessed are you when you realize that you were signed with the cross at your Baptism and are asked by Christ to continually die to your false self and the desires of the World in order to make the Resurrection real for each day of your life. Your reward is doing God’s will and not your own.


This Easter Sunday, some will hunt Easter eggs, some will eat a wonderful Easter meal with their families, and some will disavow Easter altogether as a conspiracy of Jesus’ followers to justify his death by making up a fantasy story about rising from the dead because no one can rise from the dead. Then, there are those who defy reason and logic to reach a level of awareness about a power so awesome in its existence that humans are unable to even fantasize about its properties. Human reasoning has not, nor could it, step out into this energy for a second and survive. Like Stephenson 2-18, the greatest star discovered (so far), human flesh would disintegrate into nothing if it was, in its presence. But there is a greater power than a neutron star or a kilonova, which only exist in the physical and mental universes.


My hypothesis (reflection) is that there are three types of power corresponding to the three types of universes which make up what I call reality.

  1. The Physical Universe — Power in this universe obeys the properties of its nature. This is the universe of matter, and everything follows the rules that exist independent of human intervention. Power is. We can observe it, even try to harness it to some degree in the mental universe using technology and scientific inquiry, and make theories as to why it is, but we are observers looking at this power with human languages and making observations as to its composition. Humans, because we are composed of these elements, belong to this physical universe and must obey its laws. This power is what it is because of the unique combinations of gases, gravity, chemical, and atoms, and they all operate as they are meant to do. They act their nature. There is a limitation to this power, however. It does not know that it has power, it only is. Not a problem, it is acting as intended through intelligent progression. Everything in this universe has a beginning and end. Power in this universe is the dominance of matter and energy, energy requires matter and the accumulation of gases, gravity, dust, and chemical, and it happens naturally. All of this power is supreme and dominates everything in its domain.
  2. The Mental Universe– Power in this universe is enlightenment. Knowledge is the ability to reason and to make choices that ultimately say YES or NO to what we reason. Humans are the only ones in this universe because of these abilities. Power in this universe is knowledge and what to do with it. Each individual human exists for not more than one hundred years (most of them much less) and is subject to the requirements of the physical universe (we need oxygen and an atmosphere for us to exist at all). What gives humans power is twofold: we know that we know, and we can use that to look around our particular environment and ask interrogatory questions. We learn from those that went before and move forward collectively in how to be human, how to love authentically, and the discovery of the template against which all human truth is measured. Humans have a beginning and an ending, both individually and collectively. Within those two poles, we search for meaning and what it means to be fully human. That each person can say YES or NO to any way of thinking is intrinsic to being human. But, there is a problem with what is truth, what is real, how I look at reality to discover the purpose of my life, how it all fits together, how love fits into this whole experience of mine, and now what? These are fundamental and, dare I say, cosmic questions each human must face. We do so with what we have learned and experienced, both personally and from the knowledge of others, such as scientific advancements in the languages that help us probe deeper and ever deeper into reality. But there is another, often overlooked problem humans have. Where they get their information can be solely from what they see and reason to, or, probing deeper into human nature, slowly uncover another universe lurking beneath the physical and mental ones, one that actually is beyond humanity yet perfects it and allows humanity to reach its intended evolution or progressive intelligence as nature intended.
  3. The Spiritual Universe — Power in this universe is the energy from divine nature. Because humans can say YES or NO to anything, especially when it does not make sense to their nature, taking that step into the unknown is fearful. We like to dig our big toe into the water to test the temperature. To reach this next level of maturation, humans must die to all that they know, step out onto the unknown with only the promise of one who has been there and done that, that the water is fine and what awaits you is beyond imagination. That person who took the plunge before us is Jesus, who is both human and of divine nature. We can only enter this universe by saying YES (belief) to the beginning of knowing, loving, and serving others in this life to be happy in the next. It makes no sense to those who only live in the physical and mental universes (good as that can be). Power in this universe is the pure energy of the nature of the divine, or, in my own words, pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service being 100% of its nature. Since this is divine nature, without physical or mental universe constraints of matter, time, living so long, getting sick, having dementia or some other ailment, humans can only reason to it with the limitations of reason (In my case, a lifetime of asking questions about how I can become more and more human when I know I am flawed and corrupt. Power in this universe surrounds the physical and mental universes, overshadowing it with pure energy, awaiting cosmic moments where the need for a surge of this power is needed to fulfill the intelligent progression and keep it on its path of completion to Omega.

It is this pure intelligence (John 1:1 calls it The Word) that was powerful enough to begin all that we know. I have discerned (hypothesized) that the Resurrection Event with Christ is a place in time and space where this pure intelligence met human intelligence and changed reality. Each time this power is needed and used, there seems to be a price to pay for using it. I am still working out the implications of what I observe in my mind and heart.

If you thought this was a one-time deal, I have teased out five other such Resurrection Events corresponding to Six surges in the divine power that was there to lend a hand to nature, humanity, spirituality, and me, personally. I take my inspiration from the work of Jesuit scientist Henri Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his book The Phenomenon of Man.;

I would like to share my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) thoughts about the power of the Resurrection based on a map of Teilhard’s progression, which I like to call intelligent progression using his map to indicate a “spine of reality” from creation (the beginning) to Omega (the ending).

Before you read further, I need to clarify (more for myself than anyone else) some of the assumptions around which I make these reflections.

  • The power of the resurrection exists in the spiritual universe. It makes all things new over and over. The energy of knowledge, love, and service careens down the spine of reality, ever becoming what it is intended to be by its creator, leaving DNA or fingerprints on each atom and time itself.
  • Life comes from life. There were six times that this progression needed a helping hand to reach down from a superior nature to raise it up, not to be God, but to be fully what nature intended before the Fall, adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • The Blessed Mother is one human whom God reached down to allow her to become the absolute fulness of humanity (full of grace). Mary is the Arc of the Covenant that carried Jesus, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit with his power of the Resurrection so He could become a ransom for many and allow us to become what our nature intended.
  • Because of the love Christ had for humans, he is the power, the kingdom, and the glory, the gift humanity gives to the Father for being adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • God lifts up. Humans can only push up their nature to try to become fully human. Human reasoning alone does not have the capacity or the capability to rise to what our nature intended.
  • The power of the Resurrection is a constant flow of energy, not a one-time deal. It permeates everything from creation to Omega, as you can see by Teilhard’s map of progression.
  • I conclude that there are several such Resurrection Moments, each corresponding to a need in the progress of intelligence to keep it from stalling. The steps to Omega are ever-higher movements in our existence toward the top. Each step is too high to reach by human energy alone. Only the one who made the steps for reality to reach its destiny, including humans, lifts us up to the next level of our destiny, one inexorably moving from simplicity to complexity. Such moments occur at critical points where physical and mental energy is insufficient to lift up its intended progression. An intervention is needed, one that is “out of this world.” Divine energy and human destiny kiss to give humanity and reality the boost to take the next step in the progression from creation to fulfillment as adopted sons and daughters in Omega.
  • Here are a few such moments based on the complexity of the divine intelligence that helps human evolution. (See the Teilhard map of these steps below.) The moment of contact between the Word and Matter; the moment of contact between Matter and Life; the moment of contact between Life and Humanity; the moment of Humanity between the Kingdom of the World to the Kingdom of Heaven (spirituality); the moment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth to the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven; the moment in my life where I must plunge into the unknown, seeming to give up reason, free will, to possess what some call fairy tales and gibberish, only to come up for air in a new Kingdom, one whose only rule is to love others as Christ loved us. Finally, as I live out my life in two universes (the world and the kingdom of heaven, I have the power of the Holy Spirit to help sustain me and endure the corrosion of matter and the corruption of time. These are all Resurrection events, like that of The Christ Principle. In this case, the power did not reach down to lift us up, it lifted us up. (Philippians 2:5-12). It happened because a human, a type of what it means to be redeemed to what humanity can become, (Our Blessed Mother) said YES to the NO of Adam and Eve. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s YES was possible because of the Power of the Resurrection, the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. A human cup was filled to the brim with so much energy from God that it could not sustain a drop more without running over, to use a somewhat imperfect simili. We simply say it so casually as “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” What a great description of Unconditional Love, one to which Lay Cistercians and others can only aspire but never master in their lifetimes.
  • The energy source from the physical and mental universes alone is insufficient to raise nature to a different level of competency. Animals can’t make me more human. My human nature, good as it is, cannot push me upward. The higher nature reaches down to grasp me and pull me up.

THE GENESIS PRINCIPLE:(THE LIFE) — Looking at the Teildard map, find “creation” at the bottom of the chart. Before there was something, there was nothing. But this nothing is nothing as humans understand it. Pure energy creates or replicates itself in another form, that of physical reality. Moving to the next level in evolution needs a boost to reach down and lift up to get things moving. John’s Gospel gives us a hint about the origins of matter in the progression of movement from simplicity to complexity when he says that “In the beginning, there was the Word.” (John 1:1) This energy does not come from the physical universe for there was no physical universe, yet the energy to produce something where there was nothing had to come from outside of itself. I suggest it is a nature, a divine nature, who, with one thought, created the beginning of what we know. The creator always creates from the totality of who they are. In the case of God, and I am hypothesizing here, this pure energy was three persons with one nature, divine nature, for lack of a better word. This intelligence left its fingerprints on all matter that is or would evolve, a DNA if you will. All matter, all time, all that is from the beginning to its ending is imprinted with the image and likeness of its creator. As mythologized in the Book of Genesis, this creation is good because its source is good.

The power that created the physical universe and moved it from the complexity of no energy to the energy of natural existence is the same power that raised up the nothingness of the physical universe to set in motion the “spine of reality” towards a point in the future, Omega. It is the energy of The Resurrection of Life. Only a power beyond what we know in the physical or the mental universes can reach down to lift up all physical reality with a thought.

The Psalmist gives us a major hint as to the effects of this power on all that is, in Psalm Read it from the viewpoint of all creation moving to fulfill its destiny as part of the great intelligent progression, as the great cosmologic conglomeration moves to be what nature intended. Here is the Hymn of Daniel on how all creation blesses the Lord. Each blesses the Lord by being what their creator intended them to be.

“Ant. 2 Our Redeemer has risen from the tomb; let us sing a hymn of praise to the Lord our God, alleluia.

Canticle – Daniel 3:57-88, 56
Let all creatures praise the Lord
All you servants of the Lord, sing praise to him (Revelation 19:5).

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord.
You heavens, bless the Lord.
All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord.
All you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord.
Stars of heaven, bless the Lord.

Ant. Our Redeemer has risen from the tomb; let us sing a hymn of praise to the Lord our God, alleluia.

Every shower and dew, bless the Lord.
All you winds, bless the Lord.
Fire and heat, bless the Lord.
Cold and chill, bless the Lord.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord.
Frost and chill, bless the Lord.
Ice and snow, bless the Lord.
Nights and days, bless the Lord.
Light and darkness, bless the Lord.
Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord.

Ant. Our Redeemer has risen from the tomb; let us sing a hymn of praise to the Lord our God, alleluia.

Let the earth bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord.
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord.
You springs, bless the Lord.
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord.
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord.
You sons of men, bless the Lord.

Ant. Our Redeemer has risen from the tomb; let us sing a hymn of praise to the Lord our God, alleluia.

O Israel, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord.
Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord.
Holy men of humble hearts, bless the Lord.
Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord.
Praise and exalt him above all forever.

Ant. Our Redeemer has risen from the tomb; let us sing a hymn of praise to the Lord our God, alleluia.

Let us bless the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Let us praise and exalt Him above all forever.
Blessed are you, Lord, in the firmament of heaven.
Praiseworthy and glorious and exalted above all forever.

Ant. Our Redeemer has risen from the tomb; let us sing a hymn of praise to the Lord our God, alleluia.”

This Resurrection power creates all that is not affected by the movement of matter in its intelligent progression toward what nature intended. It is beyond time, beyond movement, outside the beginning and the ending, yet permeates everything as it moves forward. The Genesis Principle is the feeble attempt of human intelligence to reflect on all of this in terms that make sense to our minds. This is the power to lift up the poor from slavery, of matter from corruption to incorruption, of the mind and heart from the sting of death to fulfill the destiny of the human species, to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

THE GENESIS PRINCIPLE: From matter, and energy to life. This next plateau or step is too great for matter and energy to attain by its own energy. That seems improbable because the energy of a hypernova or neutron star can fizzle human flesh in a nanosecond. Yet, this intelligent progression means that there is something more than sheer power, although we need it to survive.

Life happens. My contention is that the power that is the Resurrection and the Life (God), reached down to give life a hand, one it is incapable of reaching with its own power. This is the power that is life itself, life without movement, a life that is alive (a human term for lack of a better one). Life begets life; in this case, its DNA is imprinted into the genetic makeup of all matter as it moves from simplicity to complexity. How did it take place? We have the languages of each age to address that question. Science, philosophy, theology, existentialism, and even false thinking, such as rationalism and secular popular explanations of life, all vie in saying, “I am the Way.” As an individual, you have reason to choose one that makes sense to you, realizing that only one can be correct.

Life began with one, one cell, one cell that was a new paradigm, one infused with God’s DNA. It followed nature’s dictates and grew. Of course, the condition for sustaining life had to be here also. Did all of this happen by chance? I don’t know. Maybe there was a new paradigm on purpose, as part of some greater direction. What we know as living or bios, happened according to plan. All life, all simple life continued to move towards its destiny, on an earth that had several extinctions along the way. Life finds a way to wiggle through to the next generation. It was not easy but eventually, one species appears to have just enough hutzpah to huff and puff itself up its evolutional path to the next step. Unable to have the energy to lift itself up, life needed help to go from animality to rationality, a totally new paradigm and one that raises the intelligent progression to its next predestined level of being, the human species that has what no other animal has, the power of reasoning and the freedom to choose good or bad outside the dimensions of its nature.

From animality to humanity.

THE GENESIS PRINCIPLE: What does it mean to be human? Humanity did not have a book of instructions on how to be human. Intelligent progression means those first ancestors were not very conscious nor very complex in their humanity. The struggle was to survive as both individuals and as a tribe. Trial and error was the tool of choice to see what worked and what didn’t. Teilhard calls this new paradigm by the name of homogenesis or the birth of humanity. In this crucible of intelligent progression, all it takes is time to gain complexity and consciousness. Time is the great ingredient that makes all things new.

Since humans were made in the image and likeness of divine intelligence, our race took on the look of its source and the characteristics that made God, God, that is, intelligence, love, and service. These three are one reality and coat every THING in its pathway, ” the spine of reality,” with these properties. Just as your life moves forward and you can’t stop it, the inexorable pull to some point out there means you are doing what your nature intended and thus humans are resonant with their nature. But, something began to happen to humans that did not befall other species. Humans had reason, although primitive, and free choice. Their choices were made based on what made them feel good, as we talked about earlier with the theories of B.F. Skinner and operant conditioning. Humans had choices now between choosing what makes them feel good (no pain) and what is right for their nature. No one was there to say, “This is the way, this is truth, this is the life that leads to being fully human as nature intended, one that leads to being resonant instead of dissonant.” This would be a good time to reread the Canticle – Daniel 3:57-88, 56 above.

Try as they might, humans were unable to lift themselves up to a level above their human, once preordained by the source, one that continued to march on inexorably to an invisible conclusion. Put aside any conceptions or misconceptions you have about God and read the Book of Genesis from the viewpoint of a commentary of many authors over a period of time that tries to explain what happened to humanity that they became so seduced by their emotions, and feelings of superiority, sexuality, and power that there was no absolute truth against which all would have equal responsibility. Humans don’t like to be told what to do or how to act. Pride was the downfall of Satan and the failed angels and would taint any humans who would be born into a condition where people died, suffered pain, killed each other, loved each other, and they had to work for what they received as food or modernization of their status. This Book of Genesis gives a way to view why humans seem to act the way they do. What is unique is the introduction of a human-like God that is the absolute genitor of truth and the way. The authors told a story about how humans had it all and lost it because they did not act their nature, and there were consequences to their actions of disobedience. Pride goes before the fall. It would not be until later on in the time that humility would conquer and subdue pride (as an archetype of humanity’s penchant to resist anyone telling them what is right or wrong).

Why did homo sapiens run the gauntlet of intelligent progression successfully while other animals did not or count not? It is my contention that animality needed a lift up from divine intelligence to keep the movement of progression on track as intended from before there was a was. Animality did not possess the power to raise up its evolutionary product to the next step without help. This help is the power of the Resurrection, to lift up all things to what they are intended to be. To use an imperfect analogy but one that humans can sympathize with, God reached down and lifted up Homo Sapiens to put it in a place where the next part of human evolution could thrive and not be stuck against a step too high to reach. This analogy is much like a ship having to go through a series of locks to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific. God is the locks and the water upon which humanity sails along its “spine of reality” towards its destiny.

Genesis is an astounding mythical account of why and how humanity had to learn what it means to be human after rejecting help from God in the Garden of Eden. Choices have consequences and still do to this day. The wages of sin are death to human progress bringing growth to a halt. The world, or our natural environment in which each individual lives out whatever time they have, is corrupt (physically in that we have a beginning and an ending, and morally because our choices might in fact limit our potential). Humans began to make choices of what is good for them and what is bad for them. Unfortunately, many of these choices were so far off the mark and based on their animal instincts inherited from our DNA and need for power, fame, orgiastic sex, alcohol, and drugs (Erich Fromm’s notion of unauthentic love), that the power of the resurrection was needed to show humanity how to act and not just tell us (The Old Testament).

Beginning with the Abrahamic covenant and continuing through to John the Baptist, one person (twelve tribes) was selected as a pilot for the rest of humanity to see if they could get it right. They got much of it correct but were convinced that they alone were to be the chosen race, exclusive of other human progressions. When it was clear that intelligent progression was not going to be a light in the darkness of humanity’s search for the truth, God once more intervened in space and time (The Christ Principle) to SHOW people how to continue their cosmic journey without stalling out.

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: From rationality to spirituality. As Abraham was selected from his people to begin his journey as a wandering Armenian, so it continued through Moses, through a period of judges, kings, and prophets, ending with Judas Maccabeeas and John the Baptist. The Messiah would come to free his people from their sins and shepherd them toward their destiny. This would not be a Messiah just for the Jews but for all humanity, the Jews meant to be knights in shining armor to lead the way for the rest of us. When this was not going to happen, God send his only Son to become human too, once again, lifting up humanity from stalling before this next paradigm. (Read Philippians 2:5-12) Humans or the Jewish people did not possess the power enough to step up to the next level of our evolution. Teilhard’s chart shows this as Christogenesis or God reaching down to a humble maid (Mary) to overshadow her with this Resurrection power to continue our rational evolution to its next intended phase, The Christ Principle. God bends down from divinity to pick up humanity to set it on the next level. This is a new paradigm and, as happens with all moving forward, we start all over from the beginning. It is like being a Senior in High School and high on the totem pole and then going to college (or the Military Academy as a pleb) and starting from scratch. We carry with us, collectively and individually, what went before us, but have new opportunities to see how all of this fits together according to the template of Truth, the Holy Spirit.

The Resurrection Moment comprises:

  • the Incarnation Moment where the power of the Resurrection in the Word becomes flesh;
  • through the Baptismal Moment of Christ where the Father says he is pleased with him,
  • through the wedding feast of Cana Moment where Mary tells us “Do what he tells you,”
  • through the Transfiguration, where The Father shows Christ is God
  • through Passion, the Death moment
  • through to the Resurrection of Christ from the dead
  • through to the Ascension.

The veil in the Temple was torn in two when Jesus died, symbolizing one view but two parts of the Resurrection, that which was before (Old Testament promises) and now all things once again in intelligent progression as nature intended (New Testament fulfillment). This is a completely new paradigm. With the Resurrection, something different, something remarkable happened to our “spine of reality.” Now, God no longer needs to reach down to lift humanity up to the next step. With The Christ Principle being both God and Human, humanity, through, with, and in Christ, lifts us up to that next plateau. Christ is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. God is with us, not just as a transactional analysis type of parent or child, but as a brother. We are, by choice alone, adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs to the kingdom of heaven. At Baptism, we are adopted by the Father; at Confirmation, we are overshadowed by the Holy Spirit for our whole lives; at Eucharist, Christ once again lifts up humanity to the Father and we tag along as grateful disciples and eat the very body and blood of Christ that rose from the dead (the priest lifts up the host at consecration is Christ lifting ALL HUMANITY to the Father, not just Catholics, although we are an integral part of it). We make all things new once more through the Sacrament of Penance and start over once more with Christ as our center. We serve others through Marriage and Holy Orders to sustain us as we move from the lifespan of one individual through generations. We reach the end of our lives with Viaticum and healing from the power of the Resurrection to prepare us to await our judgment in humility and contriteness of heart for all of our transgressions.

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THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: The Sustaining power of the Resurrection. This new paradigm of the Christosphere of movement down the march of time has changed time itself. Before, time was a succession of moments in which individual humans make choices that affect their humanity. Now, individuals have the opportunity to choose to give up the assumptions of the world and plunge into dual citizenship — living in the world in two universes (physical and mental) but having the choice of fulfilling our humanity by adding a dimension called the spiritual universe.

The spiritual universe is only for those who wish it and is the result of choice (belief) in what Christ has revealed as needed to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. There are indeed other religions in the world, but Faith means you choose this Way, this Truth, leading to a Life centered on Jesus Christ and his role in the “spine of reality.”

Because of original sin, human nature is prone to choose itself, its likes, its false assumptions, and its reliance on the individual as the center of all morality. This is a way of saying that to sustain my intention of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-12), I must convert my humanity daily to that of a power that is unrecognizable to reason alone, and a stumbling block to those who have not taken the plunge of Faith and come up on the other side with all that they had before but now as adopted sons and daughters and friends of Christ.

Being a Lay Cistercian is one way that I can do that. This CISTERCIAN WAY takes the WAY of Christ and gives it structure and discipline for me. This new paradigm of The Christ Principle is the pneumatophore, if you look at the Teihard map. Again, it is now the Holy Spirit who has taken the baton from Christ to finish the race with both the Church Universal and allow individual persons to say YES to the power of the Resurrection in their lives as they walk the rocky road of humanity. But, there is a difference now. The Spirit of TRUTH is the template that fits our struggle to discover The Divine Equation and identify the six questions needed to formulate TRUTH and to receive the answers from outside of our corruption of matter and mind. The Divine Equation has nothing to do with discovering who God is. Rather paradoxically, it uses the questions and answers from God to help each one to discover what it means to be fully human. This can only happen when the Holy Spirit overshadows us with the pure energy of the divine nature. We receive it as we care capable and open to the totality of all that is. listening to what that is “with the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict states in the Prolog to the Rule.

Faith comes from God alone and belief comes from me alone. When we meet in prayer divinity kisses humanity and fulfills it. The lesser nature (human) always rises to become more like the more powerful nature, in this case, divine nature. All of my prayers of Lectio, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, Reading Scriptures, and the Benedictine and Cistercian authors, happen because I choose to place myself in the presence of the one I love and wish to sit on a bench in the dead of winter and wait for me to show up next to Christ, listen to His heartbeat, if I can, and sync my heart with His. As a citizen of this world, until my body dies, I struggle each day to start over, trying to stay ahead of the feeling of discouragement and overcoming the martyrdom of ordinary living. The Catholic Church is not the center of my life; Jesus Christ is. The center of the Catholic Church is not me but Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.


There is one reality having three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is revealed by God and not revealed by logic.

There are three universes, the physical or depository of matter, time, and energy; the mental or repository of mental learning about the meaning of the physical universe; the spiritual universe, the conclusion to this Divine Equation about the meaning of what it means to be human, what it means to love authentically, and the template of Absolute Truth against which humans measure their individual and collective answers.

Teilhard de Chardin’s “Spine of Reality” is an attempt to begin to describe the process of humanity moving from simplicity to complexity of intelligent progression (evolution) through various stages. It is the equivalent of theoretical physics looking out at reality and positing “what ifs” about the movement of matter and their equations or theories. It is “existing a step in front of logic and reason,” allowing the mind to look at reality with not only scientific inquiry but also factoring in cognitive trends and theories of “reality” that are not solved by science alone. Is it true? What is true is that the human mind flexes itself to not only include reality it can see but also what is invisible to the eye.

God is the generating plant using the energy of the interaction of pure knowledge (The Father), pure love (The Son), and pure service (The Holy Spirit). There is but one God. God is one, there is no two. The transmission line is the Church; the sole purpose of the Church is to keep the energy flowing (service to others and love of others as Christ loved us) in each age. Each house is wired by the Power Company (the Vatican and each bishop) to bring Christ to each house. In the house, energy can be used by turning on appliances (good works) so that energy is transformed into light, heat, and the reason why our utilities work. Each owner of the house must turn on this power through a fuse box. Failure to turn on the electricity means you have access to it but refuse to use it, thus resulting in darkness and no utilities. There are light switches all over the house, but once more, they must be switched on. How does this story have anything to do with the power of the Resurrection?

The spiritual universe is only entered by an act of free will. This act means the person must do what is seemingly a fairy tale and does not make sense if you use just two universes (the physical and mental). When Jesus went to a town to cure inhabitants, some he could not cure, not because he did not have the power of the Resurrection but because THEY did not have this power. They never thought that is could be possible for such a thing to happen, so they were limited in their Faith (no Faith) as to the possibility of the manifest ability to encounter phenomena outside of their daily routines. Like many of those who hold Science alone can describe true reality, they lacked Faith because they did not think to look there. If you have to prove it, it is not Faith. It is significant in this passage that Jesus did heal those on whom he laid hands. You have this same power of the Resurrection within you because of the Holy Spirit. Are you using it as Jesus intended?


To be clear, this is not a heresy as defined by the Catholic Church, but rather one that I observe to be so insidiously pervasive in society that whole nations and their Judeo-Christian moral compasses have been recalibrated based on a new North. It is the old standard of Idolatry with a relativistic twist.

This is what prompts my thoughts. Because of how I understand original sin and the Genesis narrative on what it means to be human and to use God’s help to fulfill my human intelligent progression, the default for humans is not good, but rather what I think fulfills my urges and animal tendencies inherited from my DNA and animalistic tendencies (sex, pain, domination, all those things in Galatians 5 that come from the flesh).

Humans are created good, like butterflies and honey bees, but unlike animals, they have reason, and most importantly the ability to choose each moment of their lives. Human memory can store some of these choices, and we remember what is good or bad for us so we don’t do it again. The problem comes when God becomes one of us to tell us we must go against those needs and die to these ideas that emanate from our humanity to actually step up to the next level of our evolution, one that requires a choice that seems to contradict nature, reason, and how I feel. Human nature does not possess the power to raise itself up to that next level, just as it had to have help in the transition from animality to rationality. That power is from the source of life outside of matter or mind and is incorruptible. It is pure energy from the source of pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service. We dare not look upon the face of this energy directly, like looking at the Sun without protection. Our protector, our transformer, our mediator, our kinsman is none other than God the Son (Philippians 2:5), who bought us back from having only one option (to learn how to be human using only what the individual mind can assimilate as what is real and what is true about what is real) to that of tapping into what God has revealed to humans about how to reach that next step in the evolutionary intelligent progression of our species. (See Teilhard’s Perspective below to view the “spine of reality” or a cosmic pathway in which we get to choose our individual pathway and achieve the fullness of our human nature. We must work for it. We must endure pain and suffering for it. We must die for it.

IDOLATRY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MIND: The rise in the pro-life approach to life as excluding God in favor of humans being the ultimate decider of life. This is the anarchy of the individual mind to hold whatever they want to believe (which I support), but also its assumption that just because I have the right to believe something makes it suitable.

Heresies are those thoughts that are not authentic regarding the Tradition of the Catholic Church. They are not authentic because the Church has judged them to be shallow and inconsistent with the flow of Faith and its concomitant belief in each age. I am not talking here about a one-time disruption in the chain of logically held principles of morality from the Judeo-Christian tradition (e.g., the ten commandments, Beatitudes, and Scriptures). This is strictly a twentieth and twenty-first-century phenomenon based on intellectual anarchy and the ever-increasing atheism of the world. Check out this site about the rise of atheism. I don’t challenge these statistics at all but rather ask the question, “If it is true that a-theists or a-gnostics are on the rise, and this is true, is there a correlation between this and the rise of movements that permeate legislatures and thus laws in all counties and have won the PR battles on media that one has the right to believe in whatever and society must allow them to do whatever they choose as reality and no one may challenge them or stop them? These opinions have coalesced into prominent and dominant movements to the extent that they have co-opted both lower and higher education in every part of the country and have become the new dogma that no one may challenge without being shamed or blacklisted.

THE PRIMACY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MIND TRUMPS THE PRIMACY OF GOD: If life today is a football game, God is losing. We have Presidents, Congressmen, Congresswomen, and Supreme Court that make daily decisions based on what is easy versus right. Why is that? The notion that God is the one immutable principle against which all are measured is related and degraded to that of your personal opinion that should not be forced on anyone. But, that opinion, strangely enough, is foisted on me in the name of fairness and justice.

Humans don’t want to be told what to do. I don’t. This trait, no doubt inherited in our collective DNA, informs my decision-making. I choose what interests me at the moment. Counting out every other human being on the planet, I make decisions of YES or NO based on my needs. Ironically, this is how our species adapted to being human. No one tells me what is good for me if I don’t want to listen to it. In that, I am different from all other reality. This is one of the reasons I suggest that there is an entirely separate universe, although contained in the physical one that is the basis for our existence.


B.F. Skinner, at least when I studied him at Indiana Universe School of Business, as one way (cognitive is the other) to manage people, stresses the behavior with stimulants and responses (pain or the lack of it). He used rats as proof of operant conditioning, or how we set up situations where we go if there is a treat, and don’t go, if it causes pain. That sounds like what is going on, not only in our society with the moral questions and their individual behaviors but also on a global scale, with some counties bullying others just because they can inflict pain on others to force others to do what they say. This is economic and agricultural blackmail to have others conform to your will. If this sounds familiar, I would argue that it is the default of all behaviors based on Original Sin. Animals, if you recall, don’t have the reason and freedom to move outside of their nature to choose what is unnatural (an aardvark wants to be a butterfly, for example). These behaviors, pain, and avoidance typify what it means to be human without God, without an alternative.

There may be more instincts to move humans to make choices (good for them or bad for their nature), but two that I think “boiled over”the line from animality to rationality are the sex drive and pain. “Boiled over” comes from Teilhard de Chardin’s notion of progressive movement from simplicity to complexity. I call this movement intelligent design because I assume that God created all and left fingerprints (DNA) in the matter based on their respective nature; below is a chart that I find helpful. I don’t have an attribution for it, but it is perfect for understanding the progressive nature of being.

In its search for meaning, humanity, over the centuries, flirted with various taxonomies of what it means to be human, a significant component of which was the notion of gods or something, not them, to which they could make sense out of sexual promiscuity, procreation, sexual deviation, and how humans should act. Pain, no less, was part of the human experience and continues today. We have physical pain, pain that comes from childbirth, pain that comes from cancer, just plain getting old and losing control of our bodies and minds, and aches and headaches. Additionally, there is depression, mental illness, the results of wars and separation, earthquakes, and floods that inflict suffering of a different type than personal pain.

Read the blogs on pain to gain a profound awareness of what it means to be human.

Societies try to deal with these two (and many more) unintended consequences of our “bubbling over” from animality to rationality. Into this crucible of human progression, I am born of parents who nurture me and give me the tools to survive the martyrdom of ordinary living. Being human, although a tiny one, I can and do say YES or NO to what I don’t like because it doesn’t taste good, makes me feel embarrassed, or hurts. I don’t like going to the dentist. This is an excellent example of how humans don’t want pain but need to fill the decay in their teeth with something that does not hurt.

Operant conditioning works well with animals who don’t have human reasoning or free choice. We are the only species I am aware of that can actually choose pain or the contradiction of our nature. If I want to have goodness or what God tells me is good for me (Ten Commandments and Galatians 5), sometimes I must endure pain (physical or psychological) to choose something that is ultimately good for me that my humanity says doesn’t make any sense. If I want love to be there, I must put it there intentionally.

Within the confines of my personal life, I must try to answer three cosmic questions that influence how I move forward in my quest to become more like what my nature intended me to be as a result of intelligent progression.

  1. What does it mean to be human as nature intended? Is death the end or the beginning of something? If my body corrupts, does my humanity continue to mature and evolve after death?
  2. What does it mean to love so fiercely that it propels me to the next level of my nature, to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father and heir to the kingdom? What are the implications of that love each day I am alive?
  3. What does it mean to know the truth,, and how does that make me free? There is no absolute truth among humans because each individual has the power to say YES or NO (they define truth according to their life experiences of good or bad). I am free to choose, but TRUTH means that what I choose must be consistent with absolute TRUTH, not with my whim or fancy of the moment.

Both the questions and answers to these three questions come from our Father, who does not want to see humans floundering in their own inability to move forward in their evolution of knowledge, love, and service. Jesus came to give us The Divine Equation, the six questions and answers God provided to humans for them to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. This inheritance means you have the questions and answers to The Divine Equation. This equation does not tell us who God is, for we have neither the capacity nor the capability to assimilate into our consciousness even if we knew it, which we don’t. Jesus came to be a ransom for the many so that we could appreciate The Divine Equation and begin to see our destiny “as through a foggy window.” We all are challenged to use our reason and choices for THE TRUTH to begin to appreciate the meaning of adoption by the Father. All we can say in response is “Thank you,” (the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ to the Father with us tagging along in fear of the Lord). We know God gives us what we need to survive this sometimes rocky road of Faith by giving us seven gifts of Faith that increase God’s energy and re-establishes our covenant with God.

The Church are those in heaven who have braved the temptations of the world and are now in heaven, those who have died but are given a second chance in Purgatory to do penance and reparation for their sins, and those of us on earth, still trying to stave off the influences of the World and live in the toxic atmosphere of the earth until we reach the next level of our humanity, but in heaven.

Until then, each day, I use Lay Cistercian (Cistercian) spirituality to place myself in the presence of Christ and soak up the energy of the Holy Spirit as I am able (capacitas dei), converting myself to be what I think an adopted son (daughter) is.


  • Go to that upper room within you and lock the door (Matthew 6:5). You are sitting on the couch waiting for Jesus to show up (in reality, waiting for you to calm down and slow down so that you can “listen with the ear of your heart.”)
  • Each day, read some of Chapter 4 (Rule of St. Benedict). There are two habits here: Read Chapter 4 as prayer and become what you pray. The second habit is doing it each day, a much more difficult challenge. Each day.
  • Read some of the Penitential Psalms once a month.
  • Humans don’t like to be told what to do. You must give up or abandon your freedom and die to your false self in order to rise to the newness of adoption in, with, and through Christ, to the glory of the Father. When you come up on the other side, you have it all but in proper order.
  • Neo-idolatry is subtle and devious, making you the center of the universe (which, ironically, you are). It is this gift of “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” that God seeks from you voluntarily. Our model is Christ, in his life and suffering all the way to the cross (our sign of victory).

YOUR CHURCH: The Kingdom of Heaven on earth

What follows is inspirational reading about the notion of the Church. Your heritage has been won by the blood of the Lamb. Your own blood is the price you pay to die to yourself each day and reaffirm God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Church

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The term church (Anglo-Saxon, cirice, circe; Modern German, Kirche; Swedish, Kyrka) is the name employed in the Teutonic languages to render the Greek ekklesia (ecclesia), the term by which the New Testament writers denote the society founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. The derivation of the word has been much debated. It is now agreed that it is derived from the Greek kyriakon (cyriacon), i.e. the Lord’s house, a term which from the third century was used, as well as ekklesia, to signify a Christian place of worship. This, though the less usual expression, had apparently obtained currency among the Teutonic races. The Northern tribes had been accustomed to pillage the Christian churches of the empire, long before their own conversion. Hence, even prior to the arrival of the Saxons in Britain, their language had acquired words to designate some of the externals of the Christian religion.

The present article is arranged as follows:

  • The term Ecclesia
  • The Church in prophecy
  • Its constitution by Christ; the Church after the Ascension
  • Its organization by the Apostles
  • The Church, a divine society
  • The Church, the necessary means of salvation
  • Visibility of the Church
  • The principle of authority; infallibility; jurisdiction
  • Members of the Church
  • Indefectibility of the Church; continuity
  • Universality of the Church; the “Branch” Theory
  • Notes of the Church
  • The Church, a perfect society

The term ecclesia

In order to understand the precise force of this word, something must first be said as to its employment by the Septuagint translators of the Old Testament. Although in one or two places (Psalm 25:5Judith 6:21; etc.) the word is used without religious signification, merely in the sense of “an assembly”, this is not usually the case. Ordinarily it is employed as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew qahal, i.e., the entire community of the children of Israel viewed in their religious aspect. Two Hebrew words are employed in the Old Testament to signify the congregation of Israel, viz. qahal ‘êdah. In the Septuagint these are rendered, respectively, ekklesia and synagoge. Thus in Proverbs 5:14, where the words occur together, “in the midst of the church and the congregation”, the Greek rendering is en meso ekklesias kai synagoges. The distinction is indeed not rigidly observed — thus in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, both words are regularly represented by synagoge — but it is adhered to in the great majority of cases, and may be regarded as an established rule. In the writings of the New Testament the words are sharply distinguished. With them ecclesia denotes the Church of Christ; synagoga, the Jews still adhering to the worship of the Old Covenant. Occasionally, it is trueecclesia is employed in its general significance of “assembly” (Acts 19:321 Corinthians 14:19); and synagoga occurs once in reference to a gathering of Christians, though apparently of a non-religious character (James 2:2) But ecclesia is never used by the Apostles to denote the Jewish Church. The word as a technical expression had been transferred to the community of Christian believers.

It has been frequently disputed whether there is any difference in the signification of the two words. St. Augustine (Enarration on Psalm 77) distinguishes them on the ground that ecclesia is indicative of the calling together of mensynagoga of the forcible herding together of irrational creatures: “congregatio magis pecorum convocatio magis hominum intelligi solet”. But it may be doubted whether there is any foundation for this view. It would appear, however, that the term qahal, was used with the special meaning of “those called by God to eternal life”, while ‘êdah, denoted merely “the actually existing Jewish community” (Schürer, Hist. Jewish People, II, 59). Though the evidence for this distinction is drawn from the Mishna, and thus belongs to a somewhat later date, yet the difference in meaning probably existed at the time of Christ’s ministry. But however this may have been, His intention in employing the term, hitherto used of the Hebrew people viewed as a church, to denote the society He Himself was establishing cannot be mistaken. It implied the claim that this society now constituted the true people of God, that the Old Covenant was passing away, and that He, the promised Messias, was inaugurating a New Covenant with a New Israel.

As signifying the Church, the word Ecclesia is used by Christian writers, sometimes in a wider, sometimes in a more restricted sense.

  • It is employed to denote all who, from the beginning of the world, have believed in the one true God, and have been made His children by grace. In this sense, it is sometimes distinguished, signifying the Church before the Old Covenant, the Church of the Old Covenant, or the Church of the New Covenant. Thus St. Gregory (Book V, Epistle 18) writes: “Sancti ante legem, sancti sub lege, sancti sub gratiâ, omnes hi . . . in membris Ecclesiæ sunt constituti” (The saints before the Law, the saints under the Law, and the saints under grace — all these are constituted members of the Church).
  • It may signify the whole body of the faithful, including not merely the members of the Church who are alive on earth but those, too, whether in heaven or in purgatory, who form part of the one communion of saints. Considered thus, the Church is divided into the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant.
  • It is further employed to signify the Church Militant of the New Testament. Even in this restricted acceptation, there is some variety in the use of the term. The disciples of a single locality are often referred to in the New Testament as a Church (Revelation 2:18Romans 16:4Acts 9:31), and St. Paul even applies the term to disciples belonging to a single household (Romans 16:51 Corinthians 16:19Colossians 4:15Philemon 1-2). Moreover, it may designate specially those who exercise the office of teaching and ruling the faithful, the Ecclesia Docens (Matthew 18:17), or again the governed as distinguished from their pastors, the Ecclesia Discens (Acts 20:28). In all these cases the name belonging to the whole is applied to a part. The term, in its full meaning, denotes the whole body of the faithful, both rulers and ruled, throughout the world (Ephesians 1:22Colossians 1:18). It is in this meaning that the Church is treated of in the present article. As thus understood, the definition of the Church given by Bellarmine is that usually adopted by Catholic theologians: “A body of men united together by the profession of the same Christian Faith, and by participation in the same sacraments, under the governance of lawful pastors, more especially of the Roman Pontiff, the sole vicar of Christ on earth” (Coetus hominum ejusdem christianæ fidei professione, et eorumdem sacramentorum communione colligatus, sub regimine legitimorum pastorum et præcipue unius Christi in Terris vicarii Romani Pontificis. — Bellarmine, De Eccl., III, ii, 9). The accuracy of this definition will appear in the course of the article.

The Church in prophecy

Hebrew prophecy relates in almost equal proportions to the person and to the work of the Messias. This work was conceived as consisting of the establishment of a kingdom, in which he was to reign over a regenerated Israel. The prophetic writings describe for us with precision many of the characteristics which were to distinguish that kingdom. Christ during His ministry affirmed not only that the prophecies relating to the Messias were fulfilled in His own person, but also that the expected Messianic kingdom was none other than His Church. A consideration of the features of the kingdom as depicted by the Prophets, must therefore greatly assist us in understanding Christ’s intentions in the institution of the Church. Indeed many of the expressions employed by Him in relation to the society He was establishing are only intelligible in the Light of these prophecies and of the consequent expectations of the Jewish people. It will moreover appear that we have a weighty argument for the supernatural character of the Christian revelation in the precise fulfillment of the sacred oracles.

A characteristic feature of the Messianic kingdom, as predicted, is its universal extent. Not merely the twelve tribes, but the Gentiles are to yield allegiance to the Son of David. All kings are to serve and obey him; his dominion is to extend to the ends of the earth (Psalm 21:28 sq.2:7-12116:1Zechariah 9:10). Another series of remarkable passages declares that the subject nations will possess the unity conferred by a common faith and a common worship — a feature represented under the striking image of the concourse of all peoples and nations to worship at Jerusalem. “It shall come to pass in the last days (i.e. in the Messianic Era] . . . that many nations shall say: Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth out of Sion, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2; cf. Isaiah 2:2Zechariah 8:3). This unity of worship is to be the fruit of a Divine revelation common to all the inhabitants of the earth (Zechariah 14:8).

Corresponding to the triple office of the Messias as priestprophet, and king, it will be noted that in relation to the kingdom the Sacred Writings lay stress on three points:

In regard to the first of these points, the priesthood of the Messias Himself is explicitly stated (Psalm 109:4); while it is further taught that the worship which He is to inaugurate shall supersede the sacrifices of the Old Dispensation. This is implied, as the Apostle tells us, in the very title, “a priest after the order of Melchisedech“; and the same truth is contained in the prediction that a new priesthood is to be formed, drawn from other peoples besides the Israelites (Isaiah 66:18), and in the words of the Prophet Malachias which foretell the institution of a new sacrifice to be offered “from the rising of the sun even to the going down” (Malachi 1:11). The sacrifices offered by the priesthood of the Messianic kingdom are to endure as long as day and night shall last (Jeremiah 33:20).

The revelation of the Divine truth under the New Dispensation attested by Jeremias: “Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Juda . . . and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, saying: Know the Lord: for all shall know me from the least of them even to the greatest” (Jeremiah 31:31, 34), while Zacharias assures us that in those days Jerusalem shall be known as the city of truth. (Zechariah 8:3).

The passages which foretell that the Kingdom will possess a peculiar principle of authority in the personal rule of the Messias are numerous (e.g. Psalms 2 and 71Isaiah 9:6 sq.); but in relation to Christ’s own words, it is of interest to observe that in some of these passages the prediction is expressed under the metaphor of a shepherd guiding and governing his flock (Ezekiel 34:2337:24-28). It is noteworthy, moreover, that just as the prophecies in regard to the priestly office foretell the appointment of a priesthood subordinate to the Messias, so those which relate to the office of government indicate that the Messias will associate with Himself other “shepherds”, and will exercise His authority over the nations through rulers delegated to govern in His name (Jeremiah 18:6Psalm 44:17; cf. St. AugustineEnarration on Psalm 44, no. 32). Another feature of the kingdom is to be the sanctity of its members. The way to it is to be called “the holy way: the unclean shall not pass over it”. The uncircumcised and unclean are not to enter into the renewed Jerusalem (Isaiah 35:852:1).

The later uninspired apocalyptic literature of the Jews shows us how profoundly these predictions had influenced their national hopes, and explains for us the intense expectation among the populace described in the Gospel narratives. In these works as in the inspired prophecies the traits of the Messianic kingdom present two very different aspects. On the one hand, the Messias is a Davidic king who gathers together the dispersed of Israel, and establishes on this earth a kingdom of purity and sinlessness (Psalms of Solomon, xvii). The foreign foe is to be subdued (Assumpt. Moses, c. x) and the wicked are to be judged in the valley of the son of Hinnon (Enoch, xxv, xxvii, xc). On the other hand, the kingdom is described in eschatological characters. The Messias is pre-existent and Divine (Enoch, Simil., xlviii, 3); the kingdom He establishes is to be a heavenly kingdom inaugurated by a great world-catastrophe, which separates this world (aion outos), from the world to come (mellon). This catastrophe is to be accompanied by a judgment both of angels and of men (Jubilees, x, 8; v, 10; Assumpt. Moses, x, 1). The dead will rise (Psalms of Solomon, 3.11) and all the members of the Messianic kingdom will become like to the Messias (Enoch, Simil., xc, 37). This twofold aspect of the Jewish hopes in regard to the coming Messias must be borne in mind, if Christ’s use of the expression “Kingdom of God” is to be understood. Not infrequently, it is true, He employs it in an eschatological sense. But far more commonly He uses it of the kingdom set up on this earth — of His Church. These are indeed, not two kingdoms, but one. The Kingdom of God to be established at the last day is the Church in her final triumph.

Constitution by Christ

The Baptist proclaimed the near approach of the Kingdom of God, and of the Messianic Era. He bade all who would share its blessings prepare themselves by penance. His own mission, he said, was to prepare the way of the Messias. To his disciples he indicated Jesus of Nazareth as the Messias whose advent he had declared (John 1:29-31). From the very commencement of His ministry Christ laid claim in an explicit way to the Messianic dignity. In the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:21) He asserts that the prophecies are fulfilled in His person; He declares that He is greater than Solomon (Luke 11:31), more venerable than the Temple (Matthew 12:6), Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). John, He says, is Elias, the promised forerunner (Matthew 17:12); and to John’s messengers He vouchsafes the proofs of His Messianic dignity which they request (Luke 7:22). He demands implicit faith on the ground of His Divine legation (John 6:29). His public entry into Jerusalem was the acceptance by the whole people of a claim again and again reiterated before them. The theme of His preaching throughout is the Kingdom of God which He has come to establish. St. Mark, describing the beginning of His ministry, says that He came into Galilee saying, “The time is accomplished, and the Kingdom of God is at hand”. For the kingdom which He was even then establishing in their midst, the Law and the Prophets had been, He said, but a preparation (Luke 16:16; cf. Matthew 4:239:3513:1721:4324:14Mark 1:14Luke 4:438:19:2, 6018:17).

When it is asked what is this kingdom of which Christ spoke, there can be but one answer. It is His Church, the society of those who accept His Divine legation, and admit His right to the obedience of faith which He claimed. His whole activity is directed to the establishment of such a society: He organizes it and appoints rulers over it, establishes rites and ceremonies in it, transfers to it the name which had hitherto designated the Jewish Church, and solemnly warns the Jews that the kingdom was no longer theirs, but had been taken from them and given to another people. The several steps taken by Christ in organizing the Church are traced by the Evangelists. He is represented as gathering numerous disciples, but as selecting twelve from their number to be His companions in an especial manner. These share His life. To them He reveals the more hidden parts of His doctrine (Matthew 13:11). He sends them as His deputies to preach the kingdom, and bestows on them the power to work miracles. All are bound to accept their message; and those who refuse to listen to them shall meet a fate more terrible than that of Sodom and Gomorrha (Matthew 10:1-15). The Sacred Writers speak of these twelve chosen disciples in a manner indicating that they are regarded as forming a corporate body. In several passages they are still termed “the twelve” even when the number, understood literally, would be inexact. The name is applied to them when they have been reduced to eleven by the defection of Judas, on an occasion when only ten of them were present, and again after the appointment of St. Paul has increased their number to thirteen (Luke 24:33John 20:241 Corinthians 15:5Revelation 21:14).

In this constitution of the Apostolate Christ lays the foundation of His Church. But it is not till the action of official Judaism had rendered it manifestly impossible to hope the Jewish Church would admit His claim, that He prescribes for the Church as a body independent of the synagogue and possessed of an administration of her own. After the breach had become definite, He calls the Apostles together and speaks to them of the judicial action of the Church, distinguishing, in an unmistakable manner, between the private individual who undertakes the work of fraternal correction, and the ecclesiastical authority empowered to pronounce a judicial sentence (Matthew 18:15-17). To the jurisdiction thus conferred He attached a Divine sanction. A sentence thus pronounced, He assured the Apostles, should be ratified in heaven. A further step was the appointment of St. Peter to be the chief of the Twelve. For this position he had already been designated (Matthew 16:15 sqq.) on an occasion previous to that just mentioned: at Cæsarea Philippi, Christ had declared him to be the rock on which He would build His Church, thus affirming that the continuance and increase of the Church would rest on the office created in the person of Peter. To him, moreover, were to be given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven — an expression signifying the gift of plenary authority (Isaiah 22:22). The promise thus made was fulfilled after the Resurrection, on the occasion narrated in John 21. Here Christ employs a simile used on more than one occasion by Himself to denote His own relation to the members of His Church — that of the shepherd and his flock. His solemn charge, “Feed my sheep”, constituted Peter the common shepherd of the whole collective flock. (For a further consideration of the Petrine texts see article PRIMACY.) To the twelve Christ committed the charge of spreading the kingdom among all nations, appointing the rite of baptism as the one means of admission to a participation in its privileges (Matthew 28:19).

In the course of this article detailed consideration will be given to the principal characteristics of the Church. Christ’s teaching on this point may be briefly summarized here. It is to be a kingdom ruled in His absence by men (Matthew 18:18John 21:17). It is therefore a visible theocracy; and it will be substituted for the Jewish theocracy that has rejected Him (Matthew 21:43). In it, until the day of judgment, the bad will be mingled with the good (Matthew 13:41). Its extent will be universal (Matthew 28:19), and its duration to the end of time (Matthew 13:49); all powers that oppose it shall be crushed (Matthew 21:44). Moreover, it will be a supernatural kingdom of truth, in the world, though not of it (John 18:36). It will be one and undivided, and this unity shall be a witness to all men that its founder came from God (John 17:21).

It is to be noticed that certain recent critics contest the positions maintained in the preceding paragraphs. They deny alike that Christ claimed to be the Messias, and that the kingdom of which He spoke was His Church. Thus, as regards Christ’s claim to Messianic dignity, they say that Christ does not declare Himself to be the Messias in His preaching: that He bids the possessed who proclaimed Him the Son of God be silent: that the people did not suspect His Messiahship, but formed various extravagant hypotheses as to his personality. It is manifestly impossible within the limits of this article to enter on a detailed discussion of these points. But, in the light of the testimony of the passages above cited, it will be seen that the position is entirely untenable. In reference to the Kingdom of God, many of the critics hold that the current Jewish conception was wholly eschatological, and that Christ’s references to it must one and all be thus interpreted. This view renders inexplicable the numerous passages in which Christ speaks of the kingdom as present, and further involves a misconception as to the nature of Jewish expectations, which, as has been seen, together with eschatological traits, contained others of a different character. Harnack (What is Christianity? p. 62) holds that in its inner meaning the kingdom as conceived by Christ is “a purely religious blessing, the inner link of the soul with the living God“. Such an interpretation can in no possible way be reconciled with Christ’s utterances on the subject. The whole tenor of his expressions is to lay stress on the concept of a theocratic society.

The Church after the Ascension

The doctrine of the Church as set forth by the Apostles after the Ascension is in all respects identical with the teaching of Christ just described. St. Peter, in his first sermon, delivered on the day of Pentecost, declares that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic king (Acts 2:36). The means of salvation which he indicates is baptism; and by baptism his converts are aggregated to the society of disciples (Acts 2:41). Though in these days the Christians still availed themselves of the Temple services, yet from the first the brotherhood of Christ formed a society essentially distinct from the synagogue. The reason why St. Peter bids his hearers accept baptism is none other than that they may “save themselves from this unbelieving generation”. Within the society of believers not only were the members united by common rites, but the tie of unity was so close as to bring about in the Church of Jerusalem that condition of things in which the disciples had all things common (2:44).

Christ had declared that His kingdom should be spread among all nations, and had committed the execution of the work to the twelve (Matthew 28:19). Yet the universal mission of the Church revealed itself but gradually. St. Peter indeed makes mention of it from the first (Acts 2:39). But in the earliest years the Apostolic activity is confined to Jerusalem alone. Indeed an old tradition (Apollonius, cited by Eusebius Church History V.17, and Clement of AlexandriaStromata VI.5) asserts that Christ had bidden the Apostles wait twelve years in Jerusalem before dispersing to carry their message elsewhere. The first notable advance occurs consequent on the persecution which arose after the death of Stephen, A.D. 37. This was the occasion of the preaching of the Gospel to the Samaritans, a people excluded from the privileges of Israel, though acknowledging the Mosaic Law (Acts 8:5). A still further expansion resulted from the revelation directing St. Peter to admit to baptism Cornelius, a devout Gentile, i.e. one associated to the Jewish religion but not circumcised. From this time forward circumcision and the observance of the Law were not a condition requisite for incorporation into the Church. But the final step of admitting those Gentiles who had known no previous connection with the religion of Israel, and whose life had been spent in paganism, was not taken till more than fifteen years after Christ’s Ascension; it did not occur, it would seem, before the day described in Acts 13:46, when, at Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas announced that since the Jews accounted themselves unworthy of eternal life they would “turn to the Gentiles“.

In the Apostolic teaching the term Church, from the very first, takes the place of the expression Kingdom of God (Acts 5:11). Where others than the Jews were concerned, the greater suitability of the former name is evident; for Kingdom of God had special reference to Jewish beliefs. But the change of title only emphasizes the social unity of the members. They are the new congregation of Israel — the theocratic polity: they are the people (laos) of God (Acts 15:14Romans 9:252 Corinthians 6:161 Peter 2:9 sq.Hebrews 8:10Revelation 18:421:3). By their admission to the Church, the Gentiles have been grafted in and form part of God’s fruitful olive-tree, while apostate Israel has been broken off (Romans 11:24). St. Paul, writing to his Gentile converts at Corinth, terms the ancient Hebrew Church “our fathers” (1 Corinthians 10:1). Indeed from time to time the previous phraseology is employed, and the Gospel message is termed the preaching of the Kingdom of God (Acts 20:2528:31).

Within the Church the Apostles exercised that regulative power with which Christ had endowed them. It was no chaotic mob, but a true society possessed of a corporate life, and organized in various orders. The evidence shows the twelve to have possessed (a) a power of jurisdiction, in virtue of which they wielded a legislative and judicial authority, and (b) a magisterial office to teach the Divine revelation entrusted to them. Thus (a) we find St. Paul authoritatively prescribing for the order and discipline of the churches. He does not advise; he directs (1 Corinthians 11:3416:1Titus 1:5). He pronounces judicial sentence (1 Corinthians 5:52 Corinthians 2:10), and his sentences, like those of other Apostles, receive at times the solemn sanction of miraculous punishment (1 Timothy 1:20Acts 5:1-10). In like manner he bids his delegate Timothy hear the causes even of priests, and rebuke, in the sight of all, those who sin (1 Timothy 5:19 sq.). (b) With no less definiteness does he assert that the Apostolate carries with it a doctrinal authority, which all are bound to recognize. God has sent them, he affirms, to claim “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:515:18). Further, his solemnly expressed desire, that even if an angel from heaven were to preach another doctrine to the Galatians than that which he had delivered to them, he should be anathema (Galatians 1:8), involves a claim to infallibility in the teaching of revealed truth.

While the whole Apostolic College enjoyed this power in the Church, St. Peter always appears in that position of primacy which Christ assigned to him. It is Peter who receives into the Church the first converts, alike from Judaism and from heathenism (Acts 2:4110:5 sq.), who works the first miracle (Acts 3:1 sqq.), who inflicts the first ecclesiastical penalty (Acts 5:1 sqq.). It is Peter who casts out of the Church the first hereticSimon Magus (Acts 8:21), who makes the first Apostolic visitation of the churches (Acts 9:32), and who pronounces the first dogmatic decision (Acts 15:7). (See Schanz, III, p. 460.) So indisputable was his position that when St. Paul was about to undertake the work of preaching to the heathen the Gospel which Christ had revealed to him, he regarded it as necessary to obtain recognition from Peter (Galatians 1:18). More than this was not needful: for the approbation of Peter was definitive.

Organization by the apostles

Few subjects have been so much debated during the past half-century as the organization of the primitive Church. The present article cannot deal with the whole of this wide subject. Its scope is limited to a single point. An endeavour will be made to estimate the existing information regarding the Apostolic Age itself. Further light is thrown on the matter by a consideration of the organization that is found to have existed in the period immediately subsequent to the death of the last Apostle. (See BISHOP.) The independent evidence derived from the consideration of each of these periods will, in the opinion of the present writer, be found, when fairly weighed, to yield similar results. Thus the conclusions here advanced, over and above their intrinsic value, derive support from the independent witness of another series of authorities tending in all essentials to confirm their accuracy. The question at issue is, whether the Apostles did, or did not, establish in the Christian communities a hierarchical organization. All Catholic scholars, together with some few Protestants, hold that they did so. The opposite view is maintained by the rationalist critics, together with the greater number of Protestants.

In considering the evidence of the New Testament on the subject, it appears at once that there is a marked difference between the state of things revealed in the later New Testament writings, and that which appears in those of an earlier date. In the earlier writings we find but little mention of an official organization. Such official positions as may have existed would seem to have been of minor importance in the presence of the miraculous charismata of the Holy Spirit conferred upon individuals, and fitting them to act as organs of the community in various grades. St. Paul in his earlier Epistles has no messages for the bishops or deacons, although the circumstances dealt with in the Epistles to the Corinthians and in that to the Galatians would seem to suggest a reference to the local rulers of the Church. When he enumerates the various functions to which God has called various members of the Church, he does not give us a list of Church offices. “God“, he says, “hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors [didaskaloi]; after that miracles; then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28). This is not a list of official designations. It is a list of “charismata” bestowed by the Holy Spirit, enabling the recipient to fulfill some special function. The only term which forms an exception to this is that of apostle. Here the word is doubtless used in the sense in which it signifies the twelve and St. Paul only. As thus applied the Apostolate was a distinct office, involving a personal mission received from the Risen Lord Himself (1 Corinthians 1:1Galatians 1:1). Such a position was of altogether too special a character for its recipients to be placed in any other category. The term could indeed be used in a wider reference. It is used of Barnabas (Acts 14:13) and of Andronicus and Junias, St. Paul’s kinsmen (Romans 16:7). In this extended signification it is apparently equivalent to evangelist (Ephesians 4:112 Timothy 4:5) and denotes those “apostolic men”, who, like the Apostles, went from place to place labouring in new fields, but who had received their commission from them, and not from Christ in person. (See APOSTLES.)

The “prophets”, the second class mentioned, were men to whom it was given to speak from time to time under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit as the recipients of supernatural inspiration (Acts 13:215:2321:11; etc.). By the nature of the case the exercise of such a function could be occasional only. The “charisma” of the “doctors” (or teachers) differed from that of the prophets, in that it could be used continuously. They had received the gift of intelligent insight into revealed truth, and the power to impart it to others. It is manifest that those who possessed such a power must have exercised a function of vital moment to the Church in those first days, when the Christian communities consisted to so large an extent of new converts. The other “charismata” mentioned do not call for special notice. But the prophets and teachers would appear to have possessed an importance as organs of the community, eclipsing that of the local ministry. Thus in Acts 13:1, it is simply related that there were in the Church which was at Antioch prophets and doctors. There is no mention of bishops or deacons. And in the Didache — a work as it would seem of the first century, written before the last Apostle had passed away — the author enjoins respect for the bishops and deacons, on the ground that they have a claim similar to that of the prophets and doctors. “Appoint for yourselves”, he writes, “bishops and deacons, worthy of the Lord, men who are meek, and not lovers of money, and true and approved; for unto you they also perform the service [leitourgousi ten leitourgian] of the prophets and doctors. Therefore despise them not: for they are your honourable men along with the prophets and teachers” (Acts 15).

It would appear, then, indisputable that in the earliest years of the Christian Church ecclesiastical functions were in a large measure fulfilled by men who had been specially endowed for this purpose with “charismata” of the Holy Spirit, and that as long as these gifts endured, the local ministry occupied a position of less importance and influence. Yet, though this be the case, there would seem to be ample ground for holding that the local ministry was of Apostolic institution: and, further, that towards the later part of the Apostolic Age the abundant “charismata” were ceasing, and that the Apostles themselves took measures to determine the position of the official hierarchy as the directive authority of the Church. The evidence for the existence of such a local ministry is plentiful in the later Epistles of St. Paul (Philippians1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus). The Epistle to the Philippians opens with a special greeting to the bishops and deacons. Those who hold these official positions are recognized as the representatives in some sort of the Church. Throughout the letter there is no mention of the “charismata”, which figure so largely in the earlier Epistles. It is indeed urged by Hort (Christian Ecclesia, p. 211) that even here these terms are not official titles. But in view of their employment as titles in documents so nearly contemporary, as the Epistle of Clement 4 and the Didache, such a contention seems devoid of all probability.

In the Pastoral Epistles the new situation appears even more clearly. The purpose of these writings was to instruct Timothy and Titus regarding the manner in which they were to organize the local Churches. The total absence of all reference to the spiritual gifts can scarcely be otherwise explained than by supposing that they no longer existed in the communities, or that they were at most exceptional phenomena. Instead, we find the Churches governed by a hierarchical organization of bishops, sometimes also termed presbyters, and deacons. That the terms bishop and presbyter are synonymous is evident from Titus 1:5-7: “I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest . . . ordain priests in every city . . . For a bishop must be without crime.” These presbyters form a corporate body (1 Timothy 4:14), and they are entrusted with the twofold charge of governing the Church (1 Timothy 3:5) and of teaching (1 Timothy 3:2Titus 1:9). The selection of those who are to fill this post does not depend on the possession of supernatural gifts. It is required that they should not be unproved neophytes, that they should be under no charge, should have displayed moral fitness for the work, and should be capable of teaching. (1 Timothy 3:2-7Titus 1:5-9) The appointment to this office was by a solemn laying on of hands (1 Timothy 5:22). Some words addressed by St. Paul to Timothy, in reference to the ceremony as it had taken place in Timothy’s case, throw light upon its nature. “I admonish thee”, he writes, “that thou stir up the grace (charisma) of God, which is in thee by the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). The rite is here declared to be the means by which a charismatic gift is conferred; and, further, the gift in question, like the baptismal character, is permanent in its effects. The recipient needs but to “waken into life” [anazopyrein] the grace he thus possesses in order to avail himself of it. It is an abiding endowment. There can be no reason for asserting that the imposition of hands, by which Timothy was instructed to appoint the presbyters to their office, was a rite of a different character, a mere formality without practical import.

With the evidence before us, certain other notices in the New Testament writings, pointing to the existence of this local ministry, may be considered. There is mention of presbyters at Jerusalem at a date apparently immediately subsequent to the dispersion of the Apostles (Acts 11:30; cf. 15:216:421:18). Again, we are told that Paul and Barnabas, as they retraced their steps on their first missionary journey, appointed presbyters in every Church (Acts 14:22). So too the injunction to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:12) to have regard to those who are over them in the Lord (proistamenoi; cf. Romans 12:6) would seem to imply that there also St. Paul had invested certain members of the community with a pastoral charge. Still more explicit is the evidence contained in the account of St. Paul’s interview with the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-23). It is told that, sending from Miletus to Ephesus, he summoned “the presbyters of the Church”, and in the course of his charge addressed them as follows: “Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost has placed you bishops to tend [poimainein] the Church of God” (20:28). St. Peter employs similar language: “The presbyters that are among you, I beseech, who am myself also a presbyter . . . tend [poimainein] the flock of God which is among you.” These expressions leave no doubt as to the office designated by St. Paul, when in Ephesians 4:11, he enumerates the gifts of the Ascended Lord as follows: “He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors [tous de poimenas kai didaskalous]. The Epistle of St. James provides us with yet another reference to this office, where the sick man is bidden send for the presbyters of the Church, that he may receive at their hands the rite of unction (James 5:14).

The term presbyter was of common use in the Jewish Church, as denoting the “rulers” of the synagogue (cf. Luke 13:14). Hence it has been argued by some non-Catholic writers that in the bishops and deacons of the New Testament there is simply the synagogal organization familiar to the first converts, and introduced by them into the Christian communities. St. Paul’s concept of the Church, it is urged, is essentially opposed to any rigid governmental system; yet this familiar form of organization was gradually established even in the Churches he had founded. In regard to this view it appears enough to say that the resemblance between the Jewish “rulers of the synagogue” and the Christian presbyter-episcopus goes no farther than the name. The Jewish official was purely civil and held office for a time only. The Christian presbyterate was for life, and its functions were spiritual. There is perhaps more ground for the view advocated by some (cf. de Smedt, Revue des quest. hist., vols. XLIV, L), that presbyter and episcopus may not in all cases be perfectly synonymous. The term presbyter is undoubtedly an honorific title, while that of episcopus primarily indicates the function performed. It is possible that the former title may have had a wider significance than the latter. The designation presbyter, it is suggested, may have been given to all those who were recognized as having a claim to some voice in directing the affairs of the community, whether this were based on official status, or social rank, or benefactions to the local Church, or on some other ground; while those presbyters who had received the laying on of hands would be known, not simply as “presbyters”, but as “presiding [proistamenoi — 1 Thessalonians 5:12presbyters“, “presbyter-bishops”, “presbyter-rulers” (hegoumenoi — Hebrews 13:17).

It remains to consider whether the so-called “monarchical” episcopate was instituted by the Apostles. Besides establishing a college of presbyter-bishops, did they further place one man in a position of supremacy, entrusting the government of the Church to him, and endowing him with Apostolic authority over the Christian community? Even if we take into account the Scriptural evidence alone, there are sufficient grounds for answering this question in the affirmative. From the time of the dispersion of the ApostlesSt. James appears in an episcopal relation to the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 12:1715:13Galatians 2:12). In the other Christian communities the institution of “monarchical” bishops was a somewhat later development. At first the Apostles themselves fulfilled, it would seem, all the duties of supreme oversight. They established the office when the growing needs of the Church demanded it. The Pastoral Epistles leave no room to doubt that Timothy and Titus were sent as bishops to Ephesus and to Crete respectively. To Timothy full Apostolic powers are conceded. Notwithstanding his youth he holds authority over both clergy and laity. To him is confided the duty of guarding the purity of the Church’s faith, of ordaining priests, of exercising jurisdiction. Moreover, St. Paul’s exhortation to him, “to keep the commandment without spot, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” shows that this was no transitory mission. A charge so worded includes in its sweep, not Timothy alone, but his successors in an office which is to last until the Second Advent. Local tradition unhesitatingly reckoned him among the occupants of the episcopal see. At the Council of Chalcedon, the Church of Ephesus counted a succession of twenty-seven bishops commencing with Timothy (Mansi, VII, 293; cf. EusebiusChurch History III.4-5).

These are not the sole evidences which the New Testament affords of the monarchical episcopate. In the Apocalypse the “angels” to whom the letters to the seven Churches are addressed are almost certainly the bishops of the respective communities. Some commentators, indeed, have held them to be personifications of the communities themselves. But this explanation can hardly stand. St. John, throughout, addresses the angel as being responsible for the community precisely as he would address its ruler. Moreover, in the symbolism of chapter 1, the two are represented under different figures: the angels are the stars in the right hand of the Son of Man; the seven candlesticks are the image which figures the communities. The very term angel, it should be noticed, is practically synonymous with apostle, and thus is aptly chosen to designate the episcopal office. Again the messages to Archippus (Colossians 4:17Philemon 2) imply that he held a position of special dignity, superior to that of the other presbyters. The mention of him in a letter entirely concerned with a private matter, as is that to Philemon, is hardly explicable unless he were the official head of the Colossian Church. We have therefore four important indications of the existence of an office in the local Churches, held by a single person, and carrying with it Apostolical authority. Nor can any difficulty be occasioned by the fact that as yet no special title distinguishes these successors of the Apostles from the ordinary presbyters. It is in the nature of things that the office should exist before a title is assigned to it. The name of apostle, we have seen, was not confined to the Twelve. St. Peter (1 Peter 5:1) and St. John (2 and 3 John 1:1) both speak of themselves as presbyters“. St. Paul speaks of the Apostolate as a diakonia. A parallel case in later ecclesiastical history is afforded by the word pope. This title was not appropriated to the exclusive use of the Holy See till the eleventh century. Yet no one maintains that the supreme pontificate of the Roman bishop was not recognized till then. It should cause no surprise that a precise terminology, distinguishing bishops, in the full sense, from the presbyter-bishops, is not found in the New Testament.

The conclusion reached is put beyond all reasonable doubt by the testimony of the sub-Apostolic Age. This is so important in regard to the question of the episcopate that it is impossible entirely to pass it over. It will be enough, however, to refer to the evidence contained in the epistles of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, himself a disciple of the Apostles. In these epistles (about A.D. 107) he again and again asserts that the supremacy of the bishop is of Divine institution and belongs to the Apostolic constitution of the Church. He goes so far as to affirm that the bishop stands in the place of Christ Himself. “When ye are obedient to the bishop as to Jesus Christ,” he writes to the Trallians, “it is evident to me that ye are living not after men, but after Jesus Christ. . . be ye obedient also to the presbytery as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Trallians 2). He also incidentally tells us that bishops are found in the Church, even in “the farthest parts of the earth” (Letter to the Ephesians 3) It is out of the question that one who lived at a period so little removed from the actual Apostolic Age could have proclaimed this doctrine in terms such as he employs, had not the episcopate been universally recognized as of Divine appointment. It has been seen that Christ not only established the episcopate in the persons of the Twelve but, further, created in St. Peter the office of supreme pastor of the Church. Early Christian history tells us that before his death, he fixed his residence at Rome, and ruled the Church there as its bishop. It is from Rome that he dates his first Epistle, speaking of the city under the name of Babylon, a designation which St. John also gives it in the Apocalypse (c. xviii). At Rome, too, he suffered martyrdom in company with St. Paul, A.D. 67. The list of his successors in the see is known, from LinusAnacletus, and Clement, who were the first to follow him, down to the reigning pontiff. The Church has ever seen in the occupant of the See of Rome the successor of Peter in the supreme pastorate. (See POPE.)

The evidence thus far considered seems to demonstrate beyond all question that the hierarchical organization of the Church was, in its essential elements, the work of the Apostles themselves; and that to this hierarchy they handed on the charge entrusted to them by Christ of governing the Kingdom of God, and of teaching the revealed doctrine. These conclusions are far from being admitted by Protestant and other critics. They are unanimous in holding that the idea of a Church — an organized society — is entirely foreign to the teaching of Christ. It is therefore, in their eyes, impossible that Catholicism, if by that term we signify a worldwide institution, bound together by unity of constitution, of doctrine, and of worship, can have been established by the direct action of the Apostles. In the course of the nineteenth century many theories were propounded to account for the transformation of the so-called “Apostolic Christianity” into the Christianity of the commencement of the third century, when beyond all dispute the Catholic system was firmly established from one end of the Roman Empire to the other. At the present day (1908) the theories advocated by the critics are of a less extravagant nature than those of F.C. Baur (1853) and the Tübingen School, which had so great a vogue in the middle of the nineteenth century. Greater regard is shown for the claims of historical possibility and for the value of early Christian evidences. At the same time it is to be observed that the reconstructions suggested involve the rejection of the Pastoral Epistles as being documents of the second century. It will be sufficient here to notice one or two salient points in the views which now find favour with the best known among non-Catholic writers.

  • It is held that such official organization as existed in the Christian communities was not regarded as involving special spiritual gifts, and had but little religious significance. Some writers, as has been seen, believe with Holtzmann that in the episcopi and presbyteri, there is simply the synagogal system of archontes and hyperetai. Others, with Hatch, derive the origin of the episcopate from the fact that certain civic functionaries in the Syrian cities appear to have borne the title of “episcopi”. Professor Harnack, while agreeing with Hatch as to the origin of the office, differs from him in so far as he admits that from the first the superintendence of worship belonged to the functions of the bishop. The offices of prophet and teacher, it is urged, were those in which the primitive Church acknowledged a spiritual significance. These depended entirely on special charismatic gifts of the Holy Ghost. The government of the Church in matters of religion was thus regarded as a direct Divine rule by the Holy Spirit, acting through His inspired agents. And only gradually, it is supposed, did the local ministry take the place of the prophets and teachers, and inherit from them the authority once attributed to the possessors of spiritual gifts alone (cf. Sabatier, Religions of Authority, p. 24). Even if we prescind altogether from the evidence considered above, this theory appears devoid of intrinsic probability. A direct Divine rule by “charismata” could only result in confusion, if uncontrolled by any directive power possessed of superior authority. Such a directive and regulative authority, to which the exercise of spiritual gifts was itself subject, existed in the Apostolate, as the New Testament amply shows (1 Corinthians 14). In the succeeding age a precisely similar authority is found in the episcopate. Every principle of historical criticism demands that the source of episcopal power should be sought, not in the “charismata”, but, where tradition places it, in the Apostolate itself.
  • It is to the crisis occasioned by Gnosticism and Montanism in the second century that these writers attribute the rise of the Catholic system. They say that, in order to combat these heresies, the Church found it necessary to federate itself, and that for this end it established a statutory, so-called “apostolic” faith, and further secured the episcopal supremacy by the fiction of “apostolic succession”, (Harnack, Hist. of Dogma, II, ii; Sabatier, op. cit., pp. 35-59). This view appears to be irreconcilable with the facts of the case. The evidence of the Ignatian epistles alone shows that, long before the Gnostic crisis arose, the particular local Churches were conscious of an essential principle of solidarity binding all together into a single system. Moreover, the very fact that these heresies gained no foothold within the Church in any part of the world, but were everywhere recognized as heretical and promptly excluded, suffices to prove that the Apostolic faith was already clearly known and firmly held, and that the Churches were already organized under an active episcopate. Again, to say that the doctrine of Apostolic succession was invented to cope with these heresies is to overlook the fact that it is asserted in plain terms in the Epistle of Clement 42.

M. Loisy’s theory as to the organization of the Church has attracted so much attention in recent years as to call for a brief notice. In his work, “L’Evangile et l’Église”, he accepts many of the views held by critics hostile to Catholicism, and endeavours by a doctrine of development to reconcile them with some form of adhesion to the Church. He urges that the Church is of the nature of an organism, whose animating principle is the message of Jesus Christ. This organism may experience many changes of external form, as it develops itself in accordance with its inner needs, and with the requirements of its environment. Yet so long as these changes are such as are demanded in order that the vital principle may be preserved, they are unessential in character. So far indeed are they from being organic alterations, that we ought to reckon them as implicitly involved in the very being of the Church. The formation of the hierarchy he regards as a change of this kind. In fact, since he holds that Jesus Christ mistakenly anticipated the end of the world to be close at hand, and that His first disciples lived in expectation of His immediate return in glory, it follows that the hierarchy must have had some such origin as this. It is out of the question to attribute it to the ApostlesMen who believed the end of the world to be impending would not have seen the necessity of endowing a society with a form of government intended to endure.

These revolutionary views constitute part of the theory known as Modernism, whose philosophical presuppositions involve the complete denial of the miraculous. The Church, according to this theory, is not a society established by eternal Divine interposition. It is a society expressing the religious experience of the collectivity of consciences, and owing its origin to two natural tendencies in men, viz. the tendency of the individual believer to communicate his beliefs to others, and the tendency of those who hold the same beliefs to unite in a society. The Modernist theories were analyzed and condemned as “the synthesis of all the heresies” in the Encyclical “Pascendi Dominici gregis” (18 September, 1907). The principal features of M. Loisy’s theory of the Church had been already included among the condemned propositions contained in the Decree “Lamentabili” (3 July, 1907). The fifty-third of the propositions there singled out for reprobation is the following: “The original constitution of the Church is not immutable; but the Christian society like human society is subject to perpetual change.”

The Church, a divine society

The church, as has been seen, is a society formed of living men, not a mere mystical union of souls. As such it resembles other societies. Like them, it has its code of rules, its executive officers, its ceremonial observances. Yet it differs from them more than it resembles them: for it is a supernatural society. The Kingdom of God is supernatural alike in its origin, in the purpose at which it aims, and in the means at its disposal. Other kingdoms are natural in their origin; and their scope is limited to the temporal welfare of their citizens. The supernatural character of the Church is seen, when its relation to the redemptive work of Christ is considered. It is the society of those whom He has redeemed from the world. The world, by which term are signified men in so far as they have fallen from God, is ever set forth in Scripture as the kingdom of the Evil One. It is the “world of darkness” (Ephesians 6:12), it is “seated in the wicked one” (1 John 5:19), it hates Christ (John 15:18). To save the world, God the Son became man. He offered Himself as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). God, Who desires that all men should be saved, has offered salvation to all; but the greater part of mankind rejects the proffered gift. The Church is the society of those who accept redemption, of those whom Christ “has chosen out of the world” (John 15:19). Thus it is the Church alone which He “hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Of the members of the Church, the Apostle can say that “God hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Colossians 1:13). St. Augustine terms the Church “mundus salvatus” — the redeemed world — and speaking of the enmity borne towards the Church by those who reject her, says: “The world of perdition hates the world of salvation” (Tractate 80 on the Gospel of John, no. 2). To the Church Christ has given the means of grace He merited by His life and death. She communicates them to her members; and those who are outside her fold she bids to enter that they too may participate in them. By these means of grace — the light of revealed truth, the sacraments, the perpetual renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary — the Church carries on the work of sanctifying the elect. Through their instrumentality each individual soul is perfected, and conformed to the likeness of the Son of God.

It is thus manifest that, when we regard the Church simply as the society of disciples, we are considering its external form only. Its inward life is found in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, the gifts of faithhope, and charity, the grace communicated by the sacraments, and the other prerogatives by which the children of God differ from the children of the world. This aspect of the Church is described by the Apostles in figurative language. They represent it as the Body of Christ, the Spouse of Christ, the Temple of God. In order to understand its true nature some consideration of these comparisons is requisite. In the conception of the Church as a body governed and directed by Christ as the head, far more is contained than the familiar analogy between a ruler and his subjects on the one hand, and the head guiding and coordinating the activities of the several members on the other. That analogy expresses indeed the variety of function, the unity of directive principle, and the cooperation of the parts to a common end, which are found in a society; but it is insufficient to explain the terms in which St. Paul speaks of the union between Christ and His disciples. Each of them is a member of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15); together they form the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16); as a corporate unity they are simply termed Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12).

The intimacy of union here suggested is, however, justified, if we recall that the gifts and graces bestowed upon each disciple are graces merited by the Passion of Christ, and are destined to produce in him the likeness of Christ. The connection between Christ and himself is thus very different from the purely juridical relation binding the ruler of a natural society to the individuals belonging to it. The Apostle develops the relation between Christ and His members from various points of view. As a human body is organized, each joint and muscle having its own function, yet each contributing to the union of the complex whole, so too the Christian society is a body “compacted and firmly joined together by that which every part supplieth” (Ephesians 4:16), while all the parts depend on Christ their head. It is He Who has organized the body, assigning to each member his place in the Church, endowing each with the special graces necessary, and, above all, conferring on some of the members the graces in virtue of which they rule and guide the Church in His name (4:11). Strengthened by these graces, the mystical body, like a physical body, grows and increases. This growth is twofold. It takes place in the individual, inasmuch as each Christian gradually grows into the “perfect man”, into the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:13, 15Romans 8:29). But there is also a growth in the whole body. As time goes on, the Church is to increase and multiply till it fills the earth. So intimate is the union between Christ and His members, that the Apostle speaks of the Church as the “fullness” (pleroma) of Christ (Ephesians 1:234:13), as though apart from His members something were lacking to the head. He even speaks of it as Christ: “As all the members of the body whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). And to establish the reality of this union he refers it to the efficacious instrumentality of the Holy Eucharist: “We being many, are one bread, one body: for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17 — Greek text).

The description of the Church as God’s temple, in which the disciples are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5), is scarcely less frequent in the Apostolic writings than is the metaphor of the body. “You are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16), writes St. Paul to the Corinthians, and he reminds the Ephesians that they are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophetsJesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building being framed together, groweth up into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20 sq.). With a slight change in the metaphor, the same Apostle in another passage (1 Corinthians 3:11) compares Christ to the foundation, and himself and other Apostolic labourers to the builders who raise the temple upon it. It is noticeable that the word translated “temple” is naos, a term which signifies properly the inner sanctuary. The Apostle, when he employs this word, is clearly comparing the Christian Church to that Holy of Holies where God manifested His visible presence in the Shekinah. The metaphor of the temple is well adapted to enforce two lessons. On several occasions the Apostle employs it to impress on his readers the sanctity of the Church in which they have been incorporated. “If any shall violate the temple of God“, he says, speaking of those who corrupt the Church by false doctrine, “him shall God destroy” (1 Corinthians 3:17). And he employs the same motive to dissuade disciples from forming matrimonial alliance with Unbelievers: “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). It further illustrates in the clearest way the truth that to each member of the Church God has assigned his own place, enabling him by his work there to cooperate towards the great common end, the glory of God.

The third parallel represents the Church as the bride of Christ. Here there is much more than a metaphor. The Apostle says that the union between Christ and His Church is the archetype of which human marriage is an earthly representation. Thus he bids wives be subject to their husbands, as the Church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:22 sq.). Yet he points out on the other hand that the relation of husband to wife is not that of a master to his servant, but one involving the tenderest and most self-sacrificing love. He bids husbands love their wives, “as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Man and wife are one flesh; and in this the husband has a powerful motive for love towards the wife, since “no man ever hated his own flesh”. This physical union is but the antitype of that mysterious bond in virtue of which the Church is so truly one with Christ, that “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. ‘For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh'” (Ephesians 5:30 sq.Genesis 2:24). In these words the Apostle indicates the mysterious parallelism between the union of the first Adam with the spouse formed from his body, and the union of the second Adam with the Church. She is “bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh”, even as Eve was in regard to our first father. And those only belong to the family of the second Adam, who are her children, “born again of water and of the Holy Ghost“. Occasionally the metaphor assumes a slightly different form. In Apocalypse 19:7, the marriage of the Lamb to his spouse the Church does not take place till the last day in the hour of the Church’s final triumph. Thus too St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:2), compares himself to “the friend of the bridegroom”, who played so important a part in the Hebrew marriage ceremony (cf. John 3:29). He has, he says, espoused the Corinthian community to Christ, and he holds himself responsible to present it spotless to the bridegroom.

Through the medium of these metaphors the Apostles set forth the inward nature of the Church. Their expressions leave no doubt that in them they always refer to the actually existing Church founded by Christ on earth — the society of Christ’s disciples. Hence it is instructive to observe that Protestant divines find it necessary to distinguish between an actual and an ideal Church, and to assert that the teaching of the Apostles regarding the Spouse, the Temple, and the Body refers to the ideal Church alone (cf. Gayford in Hastings, “Dict. of the Bible”, s.v. Church).

The necessary means of salvation

In the preceding examination of the Scriptural doctrine regarding the Church, it has been seen how clearly it is laid down that only by entering the Church can we participate in the redemption wrought for us by Christ. Incorporation with the Church can alone unite us to the family of the second Adam, and alone can engraft us into the true Vine. Moreover, it is to the Church that Christ has committed those means of grace through which the gifts He earned for men are communicated to them. The Church alone dispenses the sacraments. It alone makes known the light of revealed truth. Outside the Church these gifts cannot be obtained. From all this there is but one conclusion: Union with the Church is not merely one out of various means by which salvation may be obtained: it is the only means.

This doctrine of the absolute necessity of union with the Church was taught in explicit terms by ChristBaptism, the act of incorporation among her members, He affirmed to be essential to salvation. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Any disciple who shall throw off obedience to the Church is to be reckoned as one of the heathen: he has no part in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:17). St. Paul is equally explicit. “A man that is a heretic“, he writes to Titus, “after the first and second admonition avoid, knowing that he that is such a one is . . . condemned by his own judgment” (Titus 3:10 sq.). The doctrine is summed up in the phrase, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. This saying has been the occasion of so many objections that some consideration of its meaning seems desirable. It certainly does not mean that none can be saved except those who are in visible communion with the Church. The Catholic Church has ever taught that nothing else is needed to obtain justification than an act of perfect charity and of contrition. Whoever, under the impulse of actual grace, elicits these acts receives immediately the gift of sanctifying grace, and is numbered among the children of God. Should he die in these dispositions, he will assuredly attain heaven. It is true such acts could not possibly be elicited by one who was aware that God has commanded all to join the Church, and who nevertheless should willfully remain outside her fold. For love of God carries with it the practical desire to fulfill His commandments. But of those who die without visible communion with the Church, not all are guilty of willful disobedience to God’s commands. Many are kept from the Church by ignorance. Such may be the case of numbers among those who have been brought up in heresy. To others the external means of grace may be unattainable. Thus an excommunicated person may have no opportunity of seeking reconciliation at the last, and yet may repair his faults by inward acts of contrition and charity.

It should be observed that those who are thus saved are not entirely outside the pale of the Church. The will to fulfill all God’s commandments is, and must be, present in all of them. Such a wish implicitly includes the desire for incorporation with the visible Church: for this, though they know it not, has been commanded by God. They thus belong to the Church by desire (voto). Moreover, there is a true sense in which they may be said to be saved through the Church. In the order of Divine Providencesalvation is given to man in the Church: membership in the Church Triumphant is given through membership in the Church Militant. Sanctifying grace, the title to salvation, is peculiarly the grace of those who are united to Christ in the Church: it is the birthright of the children of God. The primary purpose of those actual graces which God bestows upon those outside the Church is to draw them within the fold. Thus, even in the case in which God saves men apart from the Church, He does so through the Church’s graces. They are joined to the Church in spiritual communion, though not in visible and external communion. In the expression of theologians, they belong to the soul of the Church, though not to its body. Yet the possibility of salvation apart from visible communion with the Church must not blind us to the loss suffered by those who are thus situated. They are cut off from the sacraments God has given as the support of the soul. In the ordinary channels of grace, which are ever open to the faithful Catholic, they cannot participate. Countless means of sanctification which the Church offers are denied to them. It is often urged that this is a stern and narrow doctrine. The reply to this objection is that the doctrine is stern, but only in the sense in which sternness is inseparable from love. It is the same sternness which we find in Christ’s words, when he said: “If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin” (John 8:24). The Church is animated with the spirit of Christ; she is filled with the same love for souls, the same desire for their salvation. Since, then, she knows that the way of salvation is through union with her, that in her and in her alone are stored the benefits of the Passion, she must needs be uncompromising and even stern in the assertion of her claims. To fail here would be to fail in the duty entrusted to her by her Lord. Even where the message is unwelcome, she must deliver it.

It is instructive to observe that this doctrine has been proclaimed at every period of the Church’s history. It is no accretion of a later age. The earliest successors of the Apostles speak as plainly as the medieval theologians, and the medieval theologians are not more emphatic than those of today. From the first century to the twentieth there is absolute unanimity. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes: “Be not deceived, my brethren. If any man followeth one that maketh schism, he doth not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walketh in strange doctrine, he hath no fellowship with the Passion” (Philadelphians 3). Origen says: “Let no man deceive himself. Outside this house, i.e. outside the Church, none is saved” (Hom. in Jos., iii, n. 5 in P.G., XII, 841). St. Cyprian speaks to the same effect: “He cannot have God for his father, who has not the Church for his mother” (Treatise on Unity 6). The words of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the Lateran (1215) define the doctrine thus in its decree against the Albigenses: “Una est fidelium universalis Ecclesia, extra quam nullus omnino salvatur” (Denzinger, n. 357); and Pius IX employed almost identical language in his Encyclical to the bishops of Italy (10 August, 1863): “Notissimum est catholicum dogma neminem scilicet extra catholicam ecclesiam posse salvari” (Denzinger, n. 1529).

Visibility of the Church

In asserting that the Church of Christ is visible, we signify, first, that as a society it will at all times be conspicuous and public, and second, that it will ever be recognizable among other bodies as the Church of Christ. These two aspects of visibility are termed respectively “material” and “formal” visibility by Catholic theologians. The material visibility of the Church involves no more than that it must ever be a public, not a private profession; a society manifest to the world, not a body whose members are bound by some secret tie. Formal visibility is more than this. It implies that in all ages the true Church of Christ will be easily recognizable for that which it is, viz. as the Divine society of the Son of God, the means of salvation offered by God to men; that it possesses certain attributes which so evidently postulate a Divine origin that all who see it must know it comes from God. This must, of course, be understood with some necessary qualifications. The power to recognize the Church for what it is presupposes certain moral dispositions. Where there is a rooted unwillingness to follow God’s will, there may be spiritual blindness to the claims of the Church. Invincible prejudice or inherited assumptions may produce the same result. But in such cases the incapacity to see is due, not to the want of visibility in the Church, but to the blindness of the individual. The case bears an almost exact analogy to the evidence possessed by the proofs for the existence of God. The proofs in themselves are evident: but they may fail to penetrate a mind obscured by prejudice or ill will. From the time of the ReformationProtestant writers either denied the visibility of the Church, or so explained it as to rob it of most of its meaning. After briefly indicating the grounds of the Catholic doctrine, some views prevalent on this subject among Protestant authorities will be noticed.

It is unnecessary to say more in regard to the material visibility of the Church than has been said in sections III and IV of this article. It has been shown there that Christ established His Church as an organized society under accredited leaders, and that He commanded its rulers and those who should succeed them to summon all men to secure their eternal salvation by entry into it. It is manifest that there is no question here of a secret union of believers: the Church is a worldwide corporation, whose existence is to be forced upon the notice of all, willing or unwilling. Formal visibility is secured by those attributes which are usually termed the “notes” of the Church — her UnitySanctityCatholicity, and Apostolicity (see below). The proof may be illustrated in the case of the first of these. The unity of the Church stands out as a fact altogether unparalleled in human history. Her members all over the world are united by the profession of a common faith, by participation in a common worship, and by obedience to a common authority. Differences of class, of nationality, and of race, which seem as though they must be fatal to any form of union, cannot sever this bond. It links in one the civilized and the uncivilized, the philosopher and the peasant, the rich and the poor. One and all hold the same belief, join in the same religious ceremonies, and acknowledge in the successor of Peter the same supreme ruler. Nothing but a supernatural power can explain this. It is a proof manifest to all minds, even to the simple and the unlettered, that the Church is a Divine society. Without this formal visibility, the purpose for which the Church was founded would be frustrated. Christ established it to be the means of salvation for all mankind. For this end it is essential that its claims should be authenticated in a manner evident to all; in other words, it must be visible, not merely as other public societies are visible, but as being the society of the Son of God.

The views taken by Protestants as to the visibility of the Church are various. The rationalist critics naturally reject the whole conception. To them the religion preached by Jesus Christ was something purely internal. When the Church as an institution came to be regarded as an indispensable factor in religion, it was a corruption of the primitive message. (See Harnack, What is Christianity, p. 213.) Passages which deal with the Church in her corporate unity are referred by writers of this school to an ideal invisible Church, a mystical communion of souls. Such an interpretation does violence to the sense of the passages. Moreover, no explanation possessing any semblance of probability has yet been given to account for the genesis among the disciples of this remarkable and altogether novel conception of an invisible Church. It may reasonably be demanded of a professedly critical school that this phenomenon should be explained. Harnack holds that it took the place of Jewish racial unity. But it does not appear why Gentile converts should have felt the need of replacing a feature so entirely proper to the Hebrew religion.

The doctrine of the older Protestant writers is that there are two Churches, a visible and an invisible. This is the view of such standard Anglican divines as Barrow, Field, and Jeremy Taylor (see e.g. Barrow, Unity of Church, Works, 1830, VII, 628). Those who thus explain visibility urge that the essential and vital element of membership in Christ lies in an inner union with Him; that this is necessarily invisible, and those who possess it constitute an invisible Church. Those who are united to Him externally alone have, they maintain, no part in His grace. Thus, when He promised to His Church the gift of indefectibility, declaring that the gates of hell should never prevail against it, the promise must be understood of the invisible, not of the visible Church. In regard to this theory, which is still tolerably prevalent, it is to be said that Christ’s promises were made to the Church as a corporate body, as constituting a society. As thus understood, they were made to the visible Church, not to an invisible and unknown body. Indeed for this distinction between a visible and an invisible Church there is no Scriptural warrant. Even though many of her children prove unfaithful, yet all that Christ said in regard to the Church is realized in her as a corporate body. Nor does the unfaithfulness of these professing Catholics cut them off altogether from membership in Christ. They are His in virtue of their baptism. The character then received still stamps them as His. Though dry and withered branches they are not altogether broken off from the true Vine (Bellarmine, De Ecciesiâ, III, ix, 13). The Anglican High Church writers explicitly teach the visibility of the Church. They restrict themselves, however, to the consideration of material visibility (cf. Palmer, Treatise on the Church, Part I, C. iii).

The doctrine of the visibility in no way excludes from the Church those who have already attained to bliss. These are united with the members of the Church Militant in one communion of saints. They watch her struggles; their prayers are offered on her behalf. Similarly, those who are still in the cleansing fires of purgatory belong to the Church. There are not, as has been said, two Churches; there is but one Church, and of it all the souls of the just, whether in heaven, on earth, or in purgatory, are members (Catech. Rom., I, x, 6). But it is to the Church only in so far as militant here below — to the Church among men — that the property of visibility belongs.

The principle of authority

Whatever authority is exercised in the Church, is exercised in virtue of the commission of Christ. He is the one Prophet, Who has given to the world the revelation of truth, and by His spirit preserves in the Church the faith once delivered to the saints. He is the one Priest, ever pleading on behalf of the Church the sacrifice of Calvary. And He is the one King — the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) — Who rules and guides, through His Providence, His Church’s course. Yet He wills to exercise His power through earthly representatives. He chose the Twelve, and charged them in His name to teach the nations (Matthew 28:19), to offer sacrifice (Luke 22:19), to govern His flock (Matthew 18:18John 21:17). They, as seen above, used the authority committed to them while they lived; and before their death, they took measures for the perpetuation of this principle of government in the Church. From that day to this, the hierarchy thus established has claimed and has exercised this threefold office. Thus the prophecies of the Old Testament have been fulfilled which foretold that to those who should be appointed to rule the Messianic kingdom it should be granted to participate in the Messias’ office of prophetpriest, and king. (See II above.)

The authority established in the Church holds its commission from above, not from below. The pope and the bishops exercise their power as the successors of the men who were chosen by Christ in person. They are not, as the Presbyterian theory of Church government teaches, the delegates of the flock; their warrant is received from the Shepherd, not from the sheep. The view that ecclesiastical authority is ministerial only, and derived by delegation from the faithful, was expressly condemned by Pius VI (1794) in his Constitution “Auctorem Fidei”; and on the renovation of the error by certain recent Modernist writers, Pius X reiterated the condemnation in the Encyclical on the errors of the Modernists. In this sense the government of the Church is not democratic. This indeed is involved in the very nature of the Church as a supernatural society, leading men to a supernatural end. No man is capable of wielding authority for such a purpose, unless power is communicated to him from a Divine source. The case is altogether different where civil society is concerned. There the end is not supernatural: it is the temporal well-being of the citizens. It cannot then be said that a special endowment is required to render any class of men capable of filling the place of rulers and of guides. Hence the Church approves equally all forms of civil government which are consonant with the principle of justice. The power exercised by the Church through sacrifice and sacrament (potestas ordinis) lies outside the present subject. It is proposed briefly to consider here the nature of the Church’s authority in her office (1) of teaching (potestas magisterii) and (2) of government (potestas jurisdictionis).


As the Divinely appointed teacher of revealed truth, the Church is infallible. This gift of inerrancy is guaranteed to it by the words of Christ, in which He promised that His Spirit would abide with it forever to guide it unto all truth (John 14:1616:13). It is implied also in other passages of Scripture, and asserted by the unanimous testimony of the Fathers. The scope of this infallibility is to preserve the deposit of faith revealed to man by Christ and His Apostles (see INFALLIBILITY.) The Church teaches expressly that it is the guardian only of the revelation, that it can teach nothing which it has not received. The Vatican Council declares: “The Holy Ghost was not promised to the successors of Peter, in order that through His revelation they might manifest new doctrine: but that through His assistance they might religiously guard, and faithfully expound the revelation handed down by the Apostles, or the deposit of the faith” (Conc. Vat., Sess. IV, cap. liv). The obligation of the natural moral law constitutes part of this revelation. The authority of that law is again and again insisted on by Christ and His Apostles. The Church therefore is infallible in matters both of faith and morals. Moreover, theologians are agreed that the gift of infallibility in regard to the deposit must, by necessary consequence, carry with it infallibility as to certain matters intimately related to the Faith. There are questions bearing so nearly on the preservation of the Faith that, could the Church err in these, her infallibility would not suffice to guard the flock from false doctrine. Such, for instance, is the decision whether a given book does or does not contain teaching condemned as heretical. (See DOGMATIC FACTS.)

It is needless to point out that if the Christian Faith is indeed a revealed doctrine, which men must believe under pain of eternal loss, the gift of infallibility was necessary to the Church. Could she err at all, she might err in any point. The flock would have no guarantee of the truth of any doctrine. The condition of those bodies which at the time of the Reformation forsook the Church affords us an object-lesson in point. Divided into various sections and parties, they are the scene of never-ending disputes; and by the nature of the case they are cut off from all hope of attaining to certainty. In regard also to the moral law, the need of an infallible guide is hardly less imperative. Though on a few broad principles there may be some consensus of opinion as to what is right and what is wrong, yet, in the application of these principles to concrete facts, it is impossible to obtain agreement. On matters of such practical moment as are, for instance, the questions of private property, marriage, and liberty, the most divergent views are defended by thinkers of great ability. Amid all this questioning the unerring voice of the Church gives confidence to her children that they are following the right course, and have not been led astray by some specious fallacy. The various modes in which the Church exercises this gift, and the prerogatives of the Holy See in regard to infallibility, will be found discussed in the article dealing with that subject.


The Church’s pastors govern and direct the flock committed to them in virtue of jurisdiction conferred upon them by Christ. The authority of jurisdiction differs essentially from the authority to teach. The two powers are concerned with different objects. The right to teach is concerned solely with the manifestation of the revealed doctrine; the object of the power of jurisdiction is to establish and enforce such laws and regulations as are necessary to the well-being of the Church. Further, the right of the Church to teach extends to the whole world: The jurisdiction of her rulers extends to her members alone (1 Corinthians 5:12). Christ’s words to St. Peter, “I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven“, distinctly express the gift of jurisdiction. Supreme authority over a body carries with it the right to govern and direct. The three elements which go to constitute jurisdiction — legislative power, judicial power, and coercive power — are, moreover, all implied in Christ’s directions to the Apostles (Matthew 18). Not merely are they instructed to impose obligations and to settle disputes; but they may even inflict the extremest ecclesiastical penalty — that of exclusion from membership in Christ.

The jurisdiction exercised within the Church is partly of Divine right, and partly determined by ecclesiastical law. A supreme jurisdiction over the whole Church — clergy and laity alike — belongs by Divine appointment to the pope (Conc. Vat, Sess. IV, cap. iii). The government of the faithful by bishops possessed of ordinary jurisdiction (i.e. a jurisdiction that is not held by mere delegation, but is exercised in their own name) is likewise of Divine ordinance. But the system by which the Church is territorially divided into dioceses, within each of which a single bishop rules the faithful within that district, is an ecclesiastical arrangement capable of modification. The limits of dioceses may be changed by the Holy See. In England the old pre-Reformation diocesan divisions held good until 1850, though the Catholic hierarchy had become extinct in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. In that year the old divisions were annulled and a new diocesan system established. Similarly in France, a complete change was introduced after the Revolution. A bishop may exercise his power on other than a territorial basis. Thus in the East there are different bishops for the faithful belonging to the different rites in communion with the Holy See. Besides bishops, in countries where the ecclesiastical system is fully developed, those of the lower clergy who are parish priests, in the proper sense of the term, have ordinary jurisdiction within their own parishes.

Internal jurisdiction is that which is exercised in the tribunal of penance. It differs from the external jurisdiction of which we have been speaking in that its object is the welfare of the individual penitent, while the object of external jurisdiction is the welfare of the Church as a corporate body. To exercise this internal jurisdiction, the power of orders is an essential condition: none but a priest can absolve. But the power of orders itself is insufficient. The minister of the sacrament must receive jurisdiction from one competent to bestow it. Hence a priest cannot hear confessions in any locality unless he has received faculties from the ordinary of the place. On the other hand, for the exercise of external jurisdiction the power of orders is not necessary. A bishop, duly appointed to a see, but not yet consecrated, is invested with external jurisdiction over his diocese as soon as he has exhibited his letters of appointment to the chapter.

Members of the Church

The foregoing account of the Church and of the principle of authority by which it is governed enables us to determine who are members of the Church and who are not. The membership of which we speak, is incorporation in the visible body of Christ. It has already been noted (VI) that a member of the Church may have forfeited the grace of God. In this case he is a withered branch of the true Vine; but he has not been finally broken off from it. He still belongs to Christ. Three conditions are requisite for a man to be a member of the Church.

  1. In the first place, he must profess the true Faith, and have received the Sacrament of Baptism. The essential necessity of this condition is apparent from the fact that the Church is the kingdom of truth, the society of those who accept the revelation of the Son of God. Every member of the Church must accept the whole revelation, either explicitly or implicitly, by profession of all that the Church teaches. He who refuses to receive it, or who, having received it, falls away, thereby excludes himself from the kingdom (Titus 3:10 sq.). The Sacrament of Baptism is rightly regarded as part of this condition. By it those who profess the Faith are formally adopted as children of God (Ephesians 1:13), and an habitual faith is among the gifts bestowed in it. Christ expressly connects the two, declaring that “he who believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16; cf. Matthew 28:19).
  2. It is further necessary to acknowledge the authority of the Church and of her appointed rulers. Those who reject the jurisdiction established by Christ are no longer members of His kingdom. Thus St. Ignatius lays it down in his Letter to the Church of Smyrna (no. 8): Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be; even as where Jesus may be there is the universal Church”. In regard to this condition, the ultimate touchstone is to be found in communion with the Holy See. On Peter Christ founded his Church. Those who are not joined to that foundation cannot form part of the house of God.
  3. The third condition lies in the canonical right to communion with the Church. In virtue of its coercive power the Church has authority to excommunicate notorious sinners. It may inflict this punishment not merely on the ground of heresy or schism, but for other grave offences. Thus St. Paul pronounces sentence of excommunication on the incestuous Corinthian (1 Corinthians 5:3). This penalty is no mere external severance from the rights of common worship. It is a severance from the body of Christ, undoing to this extent the work of baptism, and placing the excommunicated man in the condition of the heathen and the publican“. It casts him out of God’s kingdom; and the Apostle speaks of it as “delivering him over to Satan” (1 Corinthians 5:51 Timothy 1:20).

Regarding each of these conditions, however, certain distinctions must be drawn.

  1. Many baptized heretics have been educated in their erroneous beliefs. Their case is altogether different from that of those who have voluntarily renounced the Faith. They accept what they believe to be the Divine revelation. Such as these belong to the Church in desire, for they are at heart anxious to fulfill God’s will in their regard. In virtue of their baptism and good will, they may be in a state of grace. They belong to the soul of the Church, though they are not united to the visible body. As such they are members of the Church internally, though not externally. Even in regard to those who have themselves fallen away from the Faith, a difference must be made between open and notorious heretics on the one hand, and secret heretics on the other. Open and notorious heresy severs from the visible Church. The majority of theologians agree with Bellarmine (de Ecclesiâ, III, c. x), as against Francisco Suárez, that secret heresy has not this effect.
  2. In regard to schism the same distinction must be drawn. A secret repudiation of the Church’s authority does not sever the sinner from the Church. The Church recognizes the schismatic as a member, entitled to her communion, until by open and notorious rebellion he rejects her authority.
  3. Excommunicated persons are either excommunicati tolerati (i.e. those who are still tolerated) or excommunicati vitandi (i.e. those to be shunned). Many theologians hold that those whom the Church still tolerates are not wholly cut off from her membership, and that it is only those whom she has branded as “to be shunned” who are cut off from God’s kingdom (see Murray, De Eccles., Disp. i, sect. viii, n. 118). (See EXCOMMUNICATION.)

Indefectibility of the Church

Among the prerogatives conferred on His Church by Christ is the gift of indefectibility. By this term is signified, not merely that the Church will persist to the end of time, but further, that it will preserve unimpaired its essential characteristics. The Church can never undergo any constitutional change which will make it, as a social organism, something different from what it was originally. It can never become corrupt in faith or in morals; nor can it ever lose the Apostolic hierarchy, or the sacraments through which Christ communicates grace to men. The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It is manifest that, could the storms which the Church encounters so shake it as to alter its essential characteristics and make it other than Christ intended it to be, the gates of hell, i.e. the powers of evil, would have prevailed. It is clear, too, that could the Church suffer substantial change, it would no longer be an instrument capable of accomplishing the work for which God called it in to being. He established it that it might be to all men the school of holiness. This it would cease to be if ever it could set up a false and corrupt moral standard. He established it to proclaim His revelation to the world, and charged it to warn all men that unless they accepted that message they must perish everlastingly. Could the Church, in defining the truths of revelation err in the smallest point, such a charge would be impossible. No body could enforce under such a penalty the acceptance of what might be erroneous. By the hierarchy and the sacramentsChrist, further, made the Church the depositary of the graces of the Passion. Were it to lose either of these, it could no longer dispense to men the treasures of grace.

The gift of indefectibility plainly does not guarantee each several part of the Church against heresy or apostasy. The promise is made to the corporate body. Individual Churches may become corrupt in morals, may fall into heresy, may even apostatize. Thus at the time of the Mohammedan conquests, whole populations renounced their faith; and the Church suffered similar losses in the sixteenth century. But the defection of isolated branches does not alter the character of the main stem. The society of Jesus Christ remains endowed with all the prerogatives bestowed on it by its Founder. Only to One particular Church is indefectibility assured, viz. to the See of Rome. To Peter, and in him to all his successors in the chief pastorate, Christ committed the task of confirming his brethren in the Faith (Luke 22:32); and thus, to the Roman Church, as Cyprian says, “faithlessness cannot gain access” (Epistle 54). The various bodies that have left the Church naturally deny its indefectibility. Their plea for separation rests in each case on the supposed fact that the main body of Christians has fallen so far from primitive truth, or from the purity of Christian morals, that the formation of a separate organization is not only desirable but necessary. Those who are called on to defend this plea endeavour in various ways to reconcile it with Christ’s promise. Some, as seen above (VII), have recourse to the hypothesis of an indefectible invisible Church. The Right Rev. Charles Gore of Worcester, who may be regarded as the representative of high-class Anglicanism, prefers a different solution. In his controversy with Canon Richardson, he adopted the position that while the Church will never fail to teach the whole truth as revealed, yet “errors of addition” may exist universally in its current teaching (see Richardson, Catholic Claims, Appendix). Such an explanation deprives Christ’s words of all their meaning. A Church which at any period might conceivably teach, as of faith, doctrines which form no part of the deposit could never deliver her message to the world as the message of GodMen could reasonably urge in regard to any doctrine that it might be an “error of addition”.

It was said above that one part of the Church’s gift of indefectibility lies in her preservation from any substantial corruption in the sphere of morals. This supposes, not merely that she will always proclaim the perfect standard of morality bequeathed to her by her Founder, but also that in every age the lives of many of her children will be based on that sublime model. Only a supernatural principle of spiritual life could bring this about. Man’s natural tendency is downwards. The force of every religious movement gradually spends itself; and the followers of great religious reformers tend in time to the level of their environment. According to the laws of unassisted human nature, it should have been thus with the society established by Christ. Yet history shows us that the Catholic Church possesses a power of reform from within, which has no parallel in any other religious organization. Again and again she produces saintsmen imitating the virtues of Christ in an extraordinary degree, whose influence, spreading far and wide, gives fresh ardour even to those who reach a less heroic standard. Thus, to cite one or two well-known instances out of many that might be given: St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi rekindled the love of virtue in the men of the thirteenth century; St. Philip Neri and St. Ignatius Loyola accomplished a like work in the sixteenth century; St. Paul of the Cross and St. Alphonsus Liguori, in the eighteenth. No explanation suffices to account for this phenomenon save the Catholic doctrine that the Church is not a natural but a supernatural society, that the preservation of her moral life depends, not on any laws of human nature, but on the life-giving presence of the Holy Ghost. The Catholic and the Protestant principles of reform stand in sharp contrast the one to the other. Catholic reformers have one and all fallen back on the model set before them in the person of Christ and on the power of the Holy Ghost to breathe fresh life into the souls which He has regeneratedProtestant reformers have commenced their work by separation, and by this act have severed themselves from the very principle of life. No one of course would wish to deny that within the Protestant bodies there have been many men of great virtues. Yet it is not too much to assert that in every case their virtue has been nourished on what yet remained to them of Catholic belief and practice, and not on anything which they have received from Protestantism as such.

The Continuity Theory

The doctrine of the Church’s indefectibility just considered will place us in a position to estimate, at its true value, the claim of the Anglican Church and of the Episcopalian bodies in other English-speaking countries to be continuous with the ancient pre-Reformation Church of England, in the sense of being part of one and the same society. The point to be determined here is what constitutes a breach of continuity as regards a society. It may safely be said that the continuity of a society is broken when a radical change in the principles it embodies is introduced. In the case of a Church, such a change in its hierarchical constitution and in its professed faith suffices to make it a different Church from what it was before. For the societies we term Churches exist as the embodiment of certain supernatural dogmas and of a Divinely-authorized principle of government. when, therefore, the truths previously field to be of faith are rejected, and the principle of government regarded as sacred is repudiated, there is a breach of continuity, and a new Church is formed. In this the continuity of a Church differs from the continuity of a nation. National continuity is independent of forms of government and of beliefs. A nation is an aggregate of families, and so long as these families constitute a self-sufficing social organism, it remains the same nation, whatever the form of government may be. The continuity of a Church depends essentially on its government and its beliefs.

The changes introduced into the English Church at the time of the Reformation were precisely of the character just described. At that period fundamental alterations were made in its hierarchical constitution and in its dogmatic standards. It is not to be determined here which was in the right, the Church of Catholic days or the Reformed Church. It is sufficient if we show that changes were made vitally affecting the nature of the society. It is notorious that from the days of Augustine to those of Warham, every archbishop of Canterbury recognized the pope as the supreme source of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The archbishops themselves could not exercise jurisdiction within their province until they had received papal confirmation. Further, the popes were accustomed to send to England legates a latere, who, in virtue of their legatine authority, whatever their personal status in the hierarchy, possessed a jurisdiction superior to that of the local bishopsAppeals ran from every ecclesiastical court in England to the pope, and his decision was recognized by all as final. The pope, too, exercised the right of excommunication in regard to the members of the English Church. This supreme authority was, moreover, regarded by all as belonging to the pope by Divine right, and not in virtue of merely human institution. When, therefore, this power of jurisdiction was transferred to the king, the alteration touched the constitutive principles of the body and was fundamental in its character. Similarly, in regard to matters of faith, the changes were revolutionary. It will be sufficient to note that a new rule of faith was introduced, Scripture alone being substituted for Scripture and Tradition; that several books were expunged from the Canon of Scripture; that five out of the seven sacraments were repudiated; and that the sacrifices of Masses were declared to be “blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits”. It is indeed sometimes said that the official formularies of Anglicanism are capable of a Catholic sense, if given a “non-natural” interpretation. This argument can, however, carry no weight. In estimating the character of a society, we must judge, not by the strained sense which some individuals may attach to its formularies, but by the sense they were intended to bear. Judged by this criterion, none can dispute that these innovations were such as to constitute a fundamental change in the dogmatic standpoint of the Church of England.

Universality of the Church

The Church of Christ has from the first claimed to transcend all those national differences which divide men. In it, the Apostle asserts, “there is neither Gentile nor Jew . . . Barbarian nor Scythian” (Colossians 3:11). Men of every race are one in it; they form a single brotherhood in the Kingdom of God. In the pagan world, religion and nationality had been coterminous. The boundaries of the State were the boundaries of the faith which the State professed. Even the Jewish Dispensation was limited to a special race. Previous to the Christian revelation the idea of a religion adapted to all peoples was foreign to the conceptions of men. It is one of the essential features of the Church that she should be a single, worldwide society embracing all races. In it, and in it alone, is the brotherhood of man realized. All national barriers, no less than all differences of class, disappear in the City of God. It is not to be understood that the Church disregards the ties which bind men to their country, or undervalues the virtue of patriotism. The division of men into different nations enters into the scheme of Providence. To each nation has been assigned a special task to accomplish in the working out of God’s purposes. A man owes a duty to his nation no less than to his family. One who omits this duty has failed in a primary moral obligation. Moreover, each nation has its own character, and its own special gifts. It will usually be found that a man attains to high virtue, not by neglecting these gifts, but by embodying the best and noblest ideals of his own people.

For these reasons the Church consecrates the spirit of nationality. Yet it transcends it, for it binds together the various nationalities in a single brotherhood. More than this, it purifies, develops, and perfects national character, just as it purifies and perfects the character of each individual. Often indeed it has been accused of exercising an anti-patriotic influence. But it will invariably be found that it has incurred this reproach by opposing and rebuking what was base in the national aspirations, not by thwarting what was heroic or just. As the Church perfects the nation, so reciprocally does each nation add something of its own to the glory of the Church. It brings its own type of sanctity, its national virtues, and thus contributes to “the fullness of Christ” something which no other race could give. Such are the relations of the Church to what is termed nationality. The external unity of the one society is the visible embodiment of the doctrine of the brotherhood of man. The sin of schism, the Fathers tell us, lies in this, that by it the law of love to our neighbour is implicitly rejected. “Nec hæretici pertinent ad Ecclesiam Catholicam, qæ diligit Deum; nec schismatici quoniam diligit proximum” (Neither do heretics belong to the Catholic church, for she loves God; nor do schismatics, for she loves her neighbour — Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 10). It is of importance to insist on this point. For it is sometimes urged that the organized unity of Catholicism may be adapted to the Latin races but is ill-suited to the Teutonic spirit. To say this is to say that an essential characteristic of this Christian revelation is ill-suited to one of the great races of the world.

The union of different nations in one society is contrary to the natural inclinations of fallen humanity. It must ever struggle against the impulses of national pride, the desire for complete independence, the dislike of external control. Hence history provides various cases in which these passions have obtained the upper hand, the bond of unity has been broken, and “National Churches” have been formed. In every such case the so-called National Church has found to its cost that, in severing its connection with the Holy See, it has lost its one protector against the encroachments of the secular Government. The Greek Church under the Byzantine Empire, the autocephalous Russian Church today, have been mere pawns in the hands of the civil authority. The history of the Anglican Church presents the same features. There is but one institution which is able to resist the pressure of secular powers — the See of Peter, which was set in the Church for this purpose by Christ, that it might afford a principle of stability and security to every part. The papacy is above all nationalities. It is the servant of no particular State; and hence it has strength to resist the forces that would make the religion of Christ subservient to secular ends. Those Churches alone have retained their vitality which have kept their union with the See of Peter. The branches which have been broken from that stem have withered.

The Branch Theory

In the course of the nineteenth century, the principle of National Churches was strenuously defended by the High Church Anglican divines under the name of the “Branch theory”. According to this view, each National Church when fully constituted under its own episcopate is independent of external control. It possesses plenary authority as to its internal discipline, and may not merely reform itself as regards ritual and ceremonial usages, but may correct obvious abuses in matters of doctrine. It is justified in doing this even if the step involve a breach of communion with the rest of Christendom; for, in this case, the blame attaches not to the Church which undertakes the work of reformation, but to those which, on this score, reject it from communion. It still remains a “branch” of the Catholic Church as it was before. At the present day the AnglicanRoman Catholic, and Greek Churches are each of them a branch of the Universal Church. None of them has an exclusive right to term itself the Catholic Church. The defenders of the theory recognize, indeed, that this divided state of the church is abnormal. They admit that the Fathers never contemplated the possibility of a church thus severed into parts. But they assert that circumstances such as those which led to this abnormal state of things never presented themselves during the early centuries of ecclesiastical history.

The position is open to fatal objections.

  • It is an entirely novel theory as to the constitution of the Church, which is rejected alike by the Catholic and the Greek Churches. Neither of these admit the existence of the so-called branches of the Church. The Greek schismatics, no less than the Catholics, affirm that they, and they only, constitute the Church. Further, the theory is rejected by the majority of the Anglican body. It is the tenet of but one school, though that a distinguished one. It Is almost a reductio ad absurdum when we are asked to believe that a single school in a particular sect is the sole depositary of the true theory of the Church.
  • The claim made by many Anglicans that there is nothing in their position contrary to ecclesiastical and patristic tradition in quite indefensible. Arguments precisely applicable to their case were used by the Fathers against the Donatists. It is known from the “Apologia” that Cardinal Wiseman’s masterly demonstration of this point was one of the chief factors in bringing about the conversion of Newman. In the controversy with the DonatistsSt. Augustine holds it sufficient for his purpose to argue that those who are separated from the Universal Church cannot be in the right. He makes the question one of simple fact. Are the Donatists separated from the main body of Christians, or are they not? If they are, no vindication of their cause can absolve them from the charge of schism. “Securus judicat orbis terrarum bonos non esse qui se dividunt ab orbe terrarum in quâcunque parte orbis terrarum” (The entire world judges with security that they are not good, who separate themselves from the entire world in whatever part of the entire world — Augustine, contra epist. Parm., III, c. iv in P.L., XLIII, 101). St. Augustine’s position rests through out on the doctrine he assumes as absolutely indubitable, that Christ’s Church must be one, must be visibly one; and that any body that is separated from it is ipso facto shown to be in schism.
    The contention of the Anglican controversialists that the English Church is not separatist since it did not reject the communion of Rome, but Rome rejected it, has of course only the value of a piece of special pleading, and need not be taken as a serious argument. Yet it is interesting to observe that in this too they were anticipated by the Donatists (Against Petilian 2.38).
  • The consequences of the doctrine constitute a manifest proof of its falsity. The unity of the Catholic Church in every part of the world is, as already seen, the sign of the brotherhood which binds together the children of God. More than this, Christ Himself declared that it would be a proof to all men of His Divine mission. The unity of His flock, an earthly representation of the unity of the Father and the Son, would be sufficient to show that He had come from God (John 17:21). Contrariwise, this theory, first advanced to justify a state of things having Henry VIII as its author, would make the Christian Church, not a witness to the brotherhood of God’s children, but a standing proof that even the Son of God had failed to withstand the spirit of discord amongst men. Were the theory true, so far from the unity of the Church testifying to the Divine mission of Jesus Christ, its severed and broken condition would be a potent argument in the hands of unbelief.

Notes of the Church

By the notes of the Church are meant certain conspicuous characteristics which distinguish it from all other bodies and prove it to be the one society of Jesus Christ. Some such distinguishing marks it needs must have, if it is, indeed, the sole depositary of the blessings of redemption, the way of salvation offered by God to man. A Babel of religious organizations all proclaim themselves to be the Church of Christ. Their doctrines are contradictory; and precisely in so far as any one of them regards the doctrines which it teaches as of vital moment, it declares those of the rival bodies to be misleading and pernicious. Unless the true Church were endowed with such characteristics as would prove to all men that it, and it alone, had a right to the name, how could the vast majority of mankind distinguish the revelation of God from the inventions of man? If it could not authenticate its claim, it would be impossible for it to warn all men that to reject it was to reject Christ. In discussing the visibility of the Church (VII) it was seen that the Catholic Church points to four such notes — those namely which were inserted in the Nicene Creed at the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381): UnitySanctityCatholicity, and Apostolicity. These, it declares, distinguish it from every other body, and prove that in it alone is to be found the true religion. Each of these characteristics forms the subject of a special article in this work. Here, however, will be indicated the sense in which the terms are to be understood. A brief explanation of their meaning will show how decisive a proof they furnish that the society of Jesus Christ is none other than the Church in communion with the Holy See.

The Protestant reformers endeavoured to assign notes of the Church, such as might lend support to their newly-founded sectsCalvin declares that the Church is to be found “where the word of God is preached in its purity, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s ordinance” (Instit., Bk. IV, c. i; cf. Confessio August., art. 4). It is manifest that such notes are altogether nugatory. The very reason why notes are required at all is that men may be able to discern the word of God from the words of false prophets, and may know which religious body has a right to term its ceremonies the sacraments of Christ. To say that the Church is to be sought where these two qualities are found cannot help us. The Anglican Church adopted Calvin’s account in its official formulary (Thirty-Nine Articles, art. 17); on the other hand, it retains the use of the Nicene Creed; though a profession of faith in a Church which is One, HolyCatholic, and Apostolic, can have little meaning to those who are not in communion with the successor of Peter.


The Church is One because its members;

  1. Are all united under one government
  2. All profess the same faith
  3. All join in a common worship

As already noted (XI) Christ Himself declared that the unity of his followers should bear witness to Him. Discord and separation are the Devil’s work on the earth. The unity and brotherhood promised by Christ are to be the visible manifestation on the earth of the Divine union (John 17:21). St. Paul’s teaching on this point is to the same effect. He sees in the visible unity of the body of Christ an external sign of the oneness of the Spirit who dwells within it. There is, he says, “one body and one Spirit” (Ephesians 4:4). As in any living organism the union of the members in one body is the sign of the one animating principle within, so it is with the Church. If the Church were divided into two or more mutually exclusive bodies, how could she witness to the presence of that Spirit Whose name is Love. Further, when it is said that the members of the Church are united by the profession of the same faith, we speak of external profession as well as inward acceptance. In recent years, much has been said by those outside the Church, about unity of spirit being compatible with differences of creed. Such words are meaningless in reference to a Divine revelation. Christ came from heaven to reveal the truth to man. If a diversity of creeds could be found in His Church, this could only be because the truth He revealed had been lost in the quagmire of human error. It would signify that His work was frustrated, that His Church was no longer the pillar and ground of the truth. There is, it is plain, but one Church, in which is found the unity we have described — in the Catholic Church, united under the government of the supreme pontiff, and acknowledging all that he teaches in his capacity as the infallible guide of the Church.


When the Church points to sanctity as one of her notes, it is manifest that what is meant is a sanctity of such a kind as excludes the supposition of any natural origin. The holiness which marks the Church should correspond to the holiness of its Founder, of the Spirit Who dwells within it, of the graces bestowed upon it. A quality such as this may well serve to distinguish the true Church from counterfeits. It is not without reason that the Church of Rome claims to be holy in this sense. Her holiness appears in the doctrine which she teaches, in the worship she offers to God, in the fruits which she brings forth.

  • The doctrine of the Church is summed up in the imitation of Jesus Christ. This imitation expresses itself in good works, in self-sacrifice, in love of suffering, and especially in the practice of the three evangelical counsels of perfection — voluntary povertychastity, and obedience. The ideal which the Church proposes to us is a Divine ideal. The sects which have severed themselves from the Church have either neglected or repudiated some part of the Church’s teaching in this regard. The Reformers of the sixteenth century went so far as to deny the value of good works altogether. Though their followers have for the most part let fall this anti-Christian doctrine, yet to this day the self-surrender of the religious state is regarded by Protestants as folly.
  • The holiness of the Church’s worship is recognized even by the world outside the Church. In the solemn renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary there lies a mysterious power, which all are forced to own. Even enemies of the Church realize the sanctity of the Mass.
  • Fruits of holiness are not, indeed, found in the lives of all the Church’s children. Man’s will is free, and though God gives grace, many who have been united to the Church by baptism make little use of the gift. But at all times of the Church’s history there have been many who have risen to sublime heights of self-sacrifice, of love to man, and of love to God. It is only in the Catholic Church that is found that type of character which we recognize in the saints — in men such as St. Francis XavierSt. Vincent de Paul, and many others. Outside the Church men do not look for such holiness. Moreover, the saints, and indeed every other member of the Church who has attained to any degree of piety, have been ever ready to acknowledge that they owe whatever is good in them to the grace the Church bestows.


Christ founded the Church for the salvation of the human race. He established it that it might preserve His revelation, and dispense His grace to all nations. Hence it was necessary that it should be found in every land, proclaiming His message to all men, and communicating to them the means of grace. To this end He laid on the Apostles the Injunction to “go, and teach all nations”. There is, notoriously, but one religious body which fulfills this command, and which can therefore lay any claim to the note of Catholicity. The Church which owns the Roman pontiff as its supreme head extends its ministrations over the whole world. It owns its obligation to preach the Gospel to all peoples. No other Church attempts this task, or can use the title of Catholic with any appearance of justification. The Greek Church is at the present day a mere local schism. None of the Protestant bodies has ever pretended to a universal mission. They claim no right to convert to their beliefs the Christianized nations of Europe. Even in regard to the heathen, for nearly two hundred years missionary enterprise was unknown among Protestant bodies. In the nineteenth century, it is true, many of them displayed no little zeal for the conversion of the heathen, and contributed large sums of money for this purpose. But the results achieved were so inadequate as to justify the conclusion that the blessing of God did not rest upon the enterprise. (See CATHOLIC MISSIONS; MISSIONS; PROTESTANT.)


The Apostolicity of the Church consists in its identity with the body which Christ established on the foundation of the Apostles, and which He commissioned to carry on His work. No other body save this is the Church of Christ. The true Church must be Apostolic in doctrine and Apostolic in mission. Since, however, it has already been shown that the gift of infallibility was promised to the Church, it follows that where there is Apostolicity of mission, there will also be Apostolicity of doctrineApostolicity of mission consists in the power of Holy orders and the power of jurisdiction derived by legitimate transmission from the Apostles. Any religious organization whose ministers do not possess these two powers is not accredited to preach the Gospel of Christ. For “how shall they preach”, asks the Apostle, “unless they be sent?” (Romans 10:15). It is Apostolicity of mission which is reckoned as a note of the Church. No historical fact can be more clear than that Apostolicity, if it is found anywhere, is found in the Catholic Church. In it there is the power of Holy orders received by Apostolic succession. In it, too, there is Apostolicity of jurisdiction; for history shows us that the Roman bishop is the successor of Peter, and as such the centre of jurisdiction. Those prelates who are united to the Roman See receive their jurisdiction from the pope, who alone can bestow it. No other Church is Apostolic. The Greek church, it is true, claims to possess this property on the strength of its valid succession of bishops. But, by rejecting the authority of the Holy See, it severed itself from the Apostolic College, and thereby forfeited all jurisdictionAnglicans make a similar claim. But even if they possessed valid orders, jurisdiction would be wanting to them no less than to the Greeks.

The Church, a perfect society

The Church has been considered as a society which aims at a spiritual end, but which yet is a visible polity, like the secular polities among which it exists. It is, further, a “perfect society“. The meaning of this expression, “a perfect society“, should be clearly understood, for this characteristic justifies, even on grounds of pure reason, that independence of secular control which the Church has always claimed. A society may be defined as a number of men who unite in a manner more or less permanent in order, by their combined efforts, to attain a common good. Association of this kind is a necessary condition of civilization. An isolated individual can achieve but little. He can scarcely provide himself with necessary sustenance; much less can he find the means of developing his higher mental and moral gifts. As civilization progresses, men enter into various societies for the attainment of various ends. These organizations are perfect or imperfect societies. For a society to be perfect, two conditions are necessary:

  • The end which it proposes to itself must not be purely subordinate to the end of some other society. For example, the cavalry of an army is an organized association of men; but the end for which this association exists is entirely subordinate to the good of the whole army. Apart from the success of the whole army, there can properly speaking be no such thing as the success of the lesser association. Similarly, the good of the whole army is subordinate to the welfare of the State.
  • The society in question must be independent of other societies in regard to the attainment of its end. Mercantile societies, no matter how great their wealth and power, are imperfect; for they depend on the authority of the State for permission to exist. So, too, a single family is an imperfect society. It cannot attain its end — the well-being of its members — in isolation from other families. Civilized life requires that many families should cooperate to form a State.

There are two societies which are perfect — the Church and the State. The end of the State is the temporal welfare of the community. It seeks to realize the conditions which are requisite in order that its members may be able to attain temporal felicity. It protects the rights, and furthers the interests of the individuals and the groups of individuals which belong to it. All other societies which aim in any manner at temporal good are necessarily imperfect. Either they exist ultimately for the good of the State itself; or, if their aim is the private advantage of some of its members, the State must grant them authorization, and protect them in the exercise of their various functions. Should they prove dangerous to it, it justly dissolves them. The Church also possesses the conditions requisite for a perfect society. That its end is not subordinate to that of any other society is manifest: for it aims at the spiritual welfare, the eternal felicity, of man. This is the highest end a society can have; it is certainly not an end subordinate to the temporal felicity aimed at by the State. Moreover, the Church is not dependent on the permission of the State in the attaining of its end. Its right to exist is derived not from the permission of the State, but from the command of God. Its right to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments, to exercise jurisdiction over its subjects, is not conditional on the authorization of the civil Government. It has received from Christ Himself the great commission to teach all nations. To the command of the civil Government that they should desist from preaching, the Apostles replied simply that they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Some measure of temporal goods is, indeed, necessary to the Church to enable it to carry out the work entrusted to it. The State cannot justly prohibit it from receiving this from the benefactions of the faithful. Those whose duty it is to achieve a certain end have a right to possess the means necessary to accomplish their task.

Pope Leo XIII summed up this doctrine in his Encyclical “Immortale Dei” (1 November, 1885) on the Christian constitution of States: “The Church”, he says, “is distinguished and differs from civil society; and, what is of highest moment, it is a society chartered as of right divine, perfect in its nature and its title to possess in itself and by itself through the will and loving kindness of its Founder, all needful provision for its maintenance and action. And just as the end at which the Church aims is by far the noblest of ends, so is its authority the most excellent of all authority, nor can it be looked on as inferior to the civil power, or in any manner dependent upon it.” It is to be observed that though the end at which the Church aims is higher than that of the State, the latter is not, as a society, subordinate to the Church. The two societies belong to different orders. The temporal felicity at which the State aims is not essentially dependent on the spiritual good which the Church seeks. Material prosperity and a high degree of civilization may be found where the Church does not exist. Each society is Supreme in its own order. At the same time each contributes greatly to the advantage of the other. The church cannot appeal to men who have not some rudiments of civilization, and whose savage mode of life renders moral development impossible. Hence, though her function is not to civilize but to save souls, yet when she is called on to deal with savage races, she commences by seeking to communicate the elements of civilization to them. On the other hand, the State needs the Supernatural sanctions and spiritual motives which the Church impresses on its members. A civil order without these is insecurely based.

It has often been objected that the doctrine of the Church’s independence in regard to the State would render civil government impossible. Such a theory, it is urged, creates a State within a State; and from this, there must inevitably result a conflict of authorities each claiming supreme dominion over the same subjects. Such was the argument of the Gallican Regalists. The writers of this school, consequently, would not admit the claim of the Church to be a perfect society. They maintained that any jurisdiction which it might exercise was entirely dependent on the permission of the civil power. The difficulty, however, is rather apparent than real. The scope of the two authorities is different, the one belonging to what is temporal, the other to what is spiritual. Even when the jurisdiction of the Church involves the use of temporal means and affects temporal interests, it does not detract from the due authority of the State. If difficulties arise, they arise, not by the necessity of the case, but from some extrinsic reason. In the course of history, occasions have doubtless arisen, when ecclesiastical authorities have grasped at power which by right belonged to the State, and, more often still, when the State has endeavoured to arrogate to itself spiritual jurisdiction. This, however, does not show the system to be at fault, but merely that human perversity can abuse it. So far, indeed, is it from being true that the Church’s claims render government impossible, that the contrary is the case. By determining the just limits of liberty of conscience, they are a defence to the State. Where the authority of the Church is not recognized, any enthusiast may elevate the vagaries of his own caprice into a Divine command, and may claim to reject the authority of the civil ruler on the plea that he must obey God and not man. The history of John of Leyden and of many another self-styled prophet will afford examples in point. The Church bids her members see in the civil power “the minister of God“, and never justifies disobedience, except in those rare cases when the State openly violates the natural or the revealed law. (See CIVIL ALLEGIANCE.)


Among the writings of the Fathers, the following are the principal works which bear on the doctrine of the Church: ST. IRENÆUS, Adv. Hæreses in P.G., VII; TERTULLIAN, De Prescriptionibus in P. L., II; ST. CYPRIAN, De Unitate Ecclesie in P.L., IV; ST. OPTATUS, De Schismate Donatistarum in P.L., XI; ST. AUGUSTINE, Contra Donatistas, Contra Epistolas Parmeniani, Contra Litteras Petiliani in P.L., XLIII; ST. VINCENT OF LÉRINS, Commonitorium in P.L., L. — Of the theologians who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries defended the Catholic Church against the Reformers may be mentioned: STAPLETON, Principiorum Fidei Doctrinalium Demonstratio (1574; Paris, 1620); BELLARMINE, Disputationes de Controversiis Fidei (1576; Prague, 1721); SUAREZ, Defensio Fidea Catholicoe adversus Anglicanoe Sectoe Errores (1613; Paris, 1859). — Among more recent writers: MURRAY, De Ecclesiâ (Dublin, 1866); FRANZLIN, De Ecclesiâ (Rome, 1887); PALMIERI, De Romano Pontifice (Prato, 1891); DÖLLINGER, The First Age of the Church (tr. London, 1866); SCHANZ, A Christian Apology (tr. Dublin, 1892). — The following English works may also be noticed: WISEMAM, Lectures on the Church; NEWMAN, Development of Christian Doctrine; IDEM, Difficulties of Anglicans; MATHEW, ed., Ecclesia (London, 1907). In special relation to recent rationalist criticism regarding the primitive Church and its organization, may be noted: BATIFFOL, Etudes d’histoire et de la théologie positive (Paris, 1906); important articles by Mgr. Batiffol will also he found in the Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique for 1904, 1905, 1906, and in the Irish Theological Quarterly for 1906 and 1907; DE SMEDT in the Revue des questions historiques (1888, 1891), vols. XLIV, CL; BUTLER in The Dublin Review (1893, 1897), vols. CXIII, CXXI. The following works are by Anglican divines of various schools of thought: PALMER, Treatise on the Church (1842); GORE, Lux Mundi (London, 1890); IDEM, The Church and the Ministry (London, 1889); HORT, The Christian Ecciesia (London, 1897); LIGHTFOOT, the dissertation entitled The Christian Ministry in his Commentary on Epistle to Philippians (London, 1881); GAYFORD in HASTING, Dict. of Bible, s.v. Church. Amongst rationalist critics may be mentioned: HARNACK, History of Dogma (tr. London, 1904); IDEM, What is Christianity? (tr. London, 1901), and articles in Expositor (1887), vol. V; HATCH, Organization of the Early Christian Churches (London, 1880); WEISZÄCKER, Apostolic Age (tr. London, 1892); SABATIER, Religions of Authority and the Religion of the Spirit (tr. London, 1906); LOWRIE, The Church and its Organization — an Interpretation of Rudolf Sohm’s ‘Kirchenrecht” (London, 1904). With these may be classed: LOISY, L’Evangile et l’Église (Paris, 1902).

About this page

APA citation. Joyce, G. (1908). The Church. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 5, 2023 from New Advent:

MLA citation. Joyce, George. “The Church.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 5 Apr. 2023 <;.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can’t reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.


In this recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I asked myself, “How can I see Jesus daily?” Here are some thoughts.

When I go to Church, I see Jesus:

  • The building is consecrated by the Bishop
  • The Church houses the Arc of the Covenant in real terms (tabernacle)
  • The Church is the Holy of Holies
  • At the entrance and exit of any church, I dip my fingers in holy water, the waters of Baptism, to remind me that I am a sinner in need of what is inside.
  • The people inside the Church are those gathered to love others as Christ loves them. Sinners? Each one of us. We all sit on our benches in silence with our eyes lowered and ask Jesus for mercy so that we can extend mercy in turn to others.
  • The cross (at Good Shepherd, Tallahassee) has the risen Christ on the wall behind the altar
  • The altar of sacrifice has been consecrated by the Bishop and contains a remnant of a saint.
  • Priests kiss the altar before and after leaving the Church.
  • The altar is the place on which Abraham placed his son to be killed.
  • The altar is the place where the unblemished lamb sheds his blood to make atonement for sins and to give thanksgiving to God
  • The altar is the object to which I bow when I come into and leave the church. It is not an idol but the gateway to paradise.
  • The baptistry is at the front near the altar.
  • The Eucharist is held on the table of forgiveness for sins by shedding the blood of the spotless lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
  • The eternal flame next to the tabernacle signifies Christ is present in the arc, body and blood, soul and divinity. This is the light early Christians used to leave the lights on for Elijah, the prophet, who would return to save the people.
  • The Stations of the Cross reflect the path Jesus took to redeem us from our sinfulness and the Resurrection.

There are many more ways to see Jesus in Church, but I am running out of juice.

YOUR CHURCH HISTORY HERITAGE: The insights of Eusebius

Here is an early church writer before there was a bible as we know it. I offer you what I myself read and you can make your own conclusions.

Church History (Book I)

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Chapter 1. The Plan of the Work.

1. It is my purpose to write an account of the lines of succession of the holy apostles, as well as of the times that have elapsed from the days of our Saviour to our own; and to relate the many important events that are said to have occurred in the history of the Church; and to mention those who have governed and presided over the Church in the most prominent parishes, and those who in each generation have proclaimed the divine word either orally or in writing.

2. It is my purpose also to give the names and number and dates of those who through love of innovation have run into the greatest errors, and, proclaiming themselves discoverers of knowledge falsely so-called 1 Timothy 6:20 have like fierce wolves mercilessly devastated the flock of Christ.

3. It is my intention, moreover, to recount the misfortunes that immediately came upon the whole Jewish nation in consequence of their plots against our Saviour, and to record the ways and the times in which the divine word has been attacked by the Gentiles, and to describe the character of those who at various periods have contended for it in the face of blood and of tortures, as well as the confessions which have been made in our own days, and finally the gracious and kindly succor which our Saviour has afforded them all. Since I propose to write of all these things I shall commence my work with the beginning of the dispensation [οἰκονομία] of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ[Several manuscripts, editors and translators read τοῦ θεοῦ after χριστόν. But the best manuscripts and sources, included Rufinus, omit τοῦ θεοῦ.]

4. But at the outset I must crave for my work the indulgence of the wise, for I confess that it is beyond my power to produce a perfect and complete history, and since I am the first to enter upon the subject, I am attempting to traverse as it were a lonely and untrodden path. I pray that I may have God as my guide and the power of the Lord as my aid, since I am unable to find even the bare footsteps of those who have traveled the way before me, except in brief fragments, in which some in one way, others in another, have transmitted to us particular accounts of the times in which they lived. From afar they raise their voices like torches, and they cry out, as from some lofty and conspicuous watchtower, admonishing us where to walk and how to direct the course of our work steadily and safely.

5. Having gathered therefore from the matters mentioned here and there by them whatever we consider important for the present work, and having plucked like flowers from a meadow the appropriate passages from ancient writers, we shall endeavor to embody the whole in a historical narrative, content if we preserve the memory of the lines of succession of the apostles of our Saviour; if not indeed of all, yet of the most renowned of them in those churches that are the most noted, and which even to the present time are held in honor.

6. This work seems especially important to me because I know of no ecclesiastical writer who has devoted himself to this subject. I hope that it will appear most useful to those who are fond of historical research.

7. I have already given a summary of these things in the Chronological Canons that I have composed, but notwithstanding that, I have undertaken in the present work to write as full an account of them as I am able.

8. My work will begin, as I have said, with the dispensation [οἰκονομία] of the Saviour Christ — which is loftier and greater than human conception — and with a discussion of his divinity.

9. For it is necessary, inasmuch as we derive even our name from Christ, for one who proposes to write a history of the Church to begin with the very origin of Christ’s dispensation, a dispensation more divine than many think.

Chapter 2. Summary View of the Pre-existence and Divinity of Our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Since in Christ there is a twofold nature, and the one — in so far as he is thought of as God — resembles the head of the body, while the other may be compared with the feet — in so far as he, for the sake of our salvation, put on human nature with the same passions as our own — the following work will be complete only if we begin with the chief and lordliest events of all his history. In this way will the antiquity and divinity of Christianity be shown to those who suppose it of recent and foreign origin[νέαν αὐτὴν καὶ ἐκτετοπισμένην] and imagine that it appeared only yesterday[This was one of the principal objections raised against Christianity. A religion could not be considered true unless it had ancient origins. Hence the Church Fathers laid great stress upon the antiquity of Christianity, and emphasized the Old Testament as a Christian book.]

2. No language is sufficient to express the origin and the worth, the being and the nature of Christ. Wherefore also the Holy Spirit says in the propheciesWho shall declare his generation? Isaiah 53:8 For none knows the Father except the Son, neither can any one know the Son adequately except the Father alone who has begotten him.

3. For who beside the Father could clearly understand the Light which was before the world, the intellectual and essential Wisdom which existed before the ages, the living Word which was in the beginning with the Father and which was God, the first and only begotten of God which was before every creature and creation visible and invisible, the commander-in-chief of the rational and immortal host of heaven, the messenger of the great counsel, the executor of the Father’s unspoken will, the creator, with the Father, of all things, the second cause of the universe after the Father, the true and only-begotten Son of God, the Lord and God and King of all created things, the one who has received dominion and power, with divinity itself, and with might and honor from the Father; as it is said in regard to him in the mystical passages of Scripture which speak of his divinity: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made. John 1:3

4. This, too, the great Moses teaches, when, as the most ancient of all the prophets, he describes under the influence of the divine Spirit the creation and arrangement of the universe. He declares that the maker of the world and the creator of all things yielded to Christ himself, and to none other than his own clearly divine and firstborn Word, the making of inferior things, and communed with him respecting the creation of manFor, says he, God said, Let us make man in our image and in our likeness. Genesis 1:26

5. And another of the prophets confirms this, speaking of God in his hymns as follows: He spoke and they were made; he commanded and they were created. He here introduces the Father and Maker as Ruler of all, commanding with a kingly nod, and second to him the divine Word, none other than the one who is proclaimed by us, as carrying out the Father’s commands.

6. All that are said to have excelled in righteousness and piety since the creation of man, the great servant Moses and before him in the first place Abraham and his children, and as many righteous men and prophets as afterward appeared, have contemplated him with the pure eyes of the mind, and have recognized him and offered to him the worship which is due him as Son of God.

7. But he, by no means neglectful of the reverence due to the Father, was appointed to teach the knowledge of the Father to them all. For instance, the Lord God, it is said, appeared as a common man to Abraham while he was sitting at the oak of Mambre. And he, immediately falling down, although he saw a man with his eyes, nevertheless worshipped him as God, and sacrificed to him as Lord, and confessed that he was not ignorant of his identity when he uttered the words, Lord, the judge of all the earth, will you not execute righteous judgment? Genesis 18:25

8. For if it is unreasonable to suppose that the unbegotten and immutable essence of the almighty God was changed into the form of man or that it deceived the eyes of the beholders with the appearance of some created thing, and if it is unreasonable to suppose, on the other hand, that the Scripture should falsely invent such things, when the God and Lord who judges all the earth and executes judgment is seen in the form of a man, who else can be called, if it be not lawful to call him the first cause of all things, than his only pre-existent Word? [Eusebius accepts the common view of the early Church, that the theophanies of the Old Testament were Christophanies; that is, appearances of the second person of the Trinity. Augustine seems to have been the first of the Fathers to take a different view, maintaining that such Christophanies were not consistent with the identity of essence between Father and Son, and that the Scriptures themselves teach that it was not the Logos, but an angel, that appeared to the Old Testament worthies on various occasions (cf. On the Trinity III.11). Augustine’s opinion was widely adopted, but in modern times the earlier view, which Eusebius represents, has been the prevailing one.] Concerning whom it is said in the PsalmsHe sent his Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Psalm 107:20

9. Moses most clearly proclaims him second Lord after the Father, when he says, The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire from the Lord. Genesis 19:24 The divine Scripture also calls him God, when he appeared again to Jacob in the form of a man, and said to Jacob, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel shall be your name, because you have prevailed with God. Genesis 32:28 Wherefore also Jacob called that place Vision of God [εἶδος θεοῦ] — saying, For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. Genesis 32:30

10. Nor is it admissible to suppose that the theophanies recorded were appearances of subordinate angels and ministers of God, for whenever any of these appeared to men, the Scripture does not conceal the fact, but calls them by name not God nor Lord, but angels, as it is easy to prove by numberless testimonies.

11. Joshua, also, the successor of Moses, calls him, as leader of the heavenly angels and archangels and of the supramundane powers, and as lieutenant of the Father, entrusted with the second rank of sovereignty and rule over all, captain of the host of the Lord, although he saw him not otherwise than again in the form and appearance of a man. For it is written:

12. And it came to pass when Joshua was at Jericho [ἐν ῾Ιεριχὼ] that he looked and saw a man standing over against him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went unto him and said, Are you for us or for our adversaries? And he said to him, As captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and said to him, Lord, what do you command your servant? And the captain of the Lord said to Joshua, Loose your shoe from off your feet, for the place whereon you stand is holy.

13. You will perceive also from the same words that this was no other than he who talked with Moses. For the Scripture says in the same words and with reference to the same one, When the Lord saw that he drew near to see, the Lord called to him out of the bush and said, MosesMoses. And he said, What is it? And he said, Draw not near hither; loose your shoe from off your feet, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground. And he said to him, I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

14. And that there is a certain substance which lived and subsisted before the world, and which ministered unto the Father and God of the universe for the formation of all created things, and which is called the Word of God and Wisdom, we may learn, to quote other proofs in addition to those already cited, from the mouth of Wisdom herself, who reveals most clearly through Solomon the following mysteries concerning herself: I, Wisdom, have dwelt with prudence and knowledge, and I have invoked understanding. Through me kings reign, and princes ordain righteousness. Through me the great are magnified, and through me sovereigns rule the earth.

15. To which she adds: The Lord created me in the beginning of his ways, for his works; before the world he established me, in the beginning, before he made the earth, before he made the depths, before the mountains were settled, before all hills he begot me. When he prepared the heavens I was present with him, and when he established the fountains of the region under heaven I was with him, disposing. I was the one in whom he delighted; daily I rejoiced before him at all times when he was rejoicing at having completed the world.

16. That the divine Word, therefore, pre-existed and appeared to some, if not to all, has thus been briefly shown by us.

17. But why the Gospel was not preached in ancient times to all men and to all nations, as it is now, will appear from the following considerations. The life of the ancients was not of such a kind as to permit them to receive the all-wise and all-virtuous teaching of Christ.

18. For immediately in the beginning, after his original life of blessedness, the first man despised the command of God, and fell into this mortal and perishable state, and exchanged his former divinely inspired luxury for this curse-laden earth. His descendants having filled our earth, showed themselves much worse, with the exception of one here and there, and entered upon a certain brutal and insupportable mode of life.

19. They thought neither of city nor state, neither of arts nor sciences. They were ignorant even of the name of laws and of justice, of virtue and of philosophy. As nomads, they passed their lives in deserts, like wild and fierce beasts, destroying, by an excess of voluntary wickedness, the natural reason of man, and the seeds of thought and of culture implanted in the human soul. They gave themselves wholly over to all kinds of profanity, now seducing one another, now slaying one another, now eating human flesh, and now daring to wage war with the Gods and to undertake those battles of the giants celebrated by all; now planning to fortify earth against heaven, and in the madness of ungoverned pride to prepare an attack upon the very God of all.

20. On account of these things, when they conducted themselves thus, the all-seeing God sent down upon them floods and conflagrations as upon a wild forest spread over the whole earth. He cut them down with continuous famines and plagues, with wars, and with thunderbolts from heaven, as if to check some terrible and obstinate disease of souls with more severe punishments.

21. Then, when the excess of wickedness had overwhelmed nearly all the race, like a deep fit of drunkenness, beclouding and darkening the minds of men, the first-born and first-created wisdom of God, the pre-existent Word himself, induced by his exceeding love for man, appeared to his servants, now in the form of angels, and again to one and another of those ancients who enjoyed the favor of God, in his own person as the saving power of God, not otherwise, however, than in the shape of man, because it was impossible to appear in any other way.

22. And as by them the seeds of piety were sown among a multitude of men and the whole nation, descended from the Hebrews, devoted themselves persistently to the worship of God, he imparted to them through the prophet Moses, as to multitudes still corrupted by their ancient practices, images and symbols of a certain mystic Sabbath and of circumcision, and elements of other spiritual principles, but he did not grant them a complete knowledge of the mysteries themselves.

23. But when their law became celebrated, and, like a sweet odor, was diffused among all men, as a result of their influence the dispositions of the majority of the heathen were softened by the lawgivers and philosophers who arose on every side, and their wild and savage brutality was changed into mildness, so that they enjoyed deep peace, friendship, and social intercourse. Then, finally, at the time of the origin of the Roman Empire, there appeared again to all men and nations throughout the world, who had been, as it were, previously assisted, and were now fitted to receive the knowledge of the Father, that same teacher of virtue, the minister of the Father in all good things, the divine and heavenly Word of God, in a human body not at all differing in substance from our own. He did and suffered the things which had been prophesied. For it had been foretold that one who was at the same time man and God should come and dwell in the world, should perform wonderful works, and should show himself a teacher to all nations of the piety of the Father. The marvelous nature of his birth, and his new teaching, and his&n