Saint Philip Neri wrote, “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.” In today’s messed up world we need all the joy we can get. Memes are a simple way to share your thoughts and laughter with others.
Here’s another issue of Catholic Meme Monday!
That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.
On April 30th, 2000 Pope John Paul II officially designated the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. The designation was in celebration of the canonization of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska– the Polish nun who received the devotion from Jesus! My wife’s Confirmation saint is St. Maria Faustina and in recent years of our marriage I have been more familiar with her teaching by reading the Polish nun’s diary. While I could write for pages about the joys of this feast, I will limit myself to three reasons for why I am grateful for Divine Mercy Sunday.
Judgment + _____________= Love
I bet you can’t guess blank to fill out the equation. Let me give you a clue: the word is in the title of today’s post. You guessed it– mercy! The Church’s renewed focus on Divine Mercy to start the new millennium gave me a renewed focus as well. I grew up usually thinking about the power of God and His ability to judge us. For whatever reason I viewed God more as a judge and less like a merciful Father. Divine Mercy Sunday is a gift that helps remind me that God, though a judge, is a merciful judge and will give me many chances to correct the mistakes I make.
Sacrament of Confession: An Encounter with Mercy
The reading associated with this Sunday’s Mercy Sunday comes from John 20:19-31. Jesus’ first words to his apostles are, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). That is one of the effects of divine mercy. In a world that is constantly pulling me each direction, it is nice to listen Christ’s words.
A second major point from today’s gospel reading is the institution of the sacrament of Confession. Jesus confers this sacrament of healing to his apostles when he say, “”Peace be with you [a second time]. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained'” (John 20:21-23). Time and time again Jesus reminds us of God’s mercy. In the 20th century, Jesus gave St. Faustina this same message. She states in her diary,
“’Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy.’” (No. 301)
My Marriage is a Visible Sign of God’s Mercy
Along with the fruit of the sacrament of Confession, Divine Mercy Sunday infuses life into my marriage. As I stated before, my wife’s Confirmation saint is St. Faustina. It was through the graces received through praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy that quelled any doubt in her mind of joining the Catholic Church. Additionally, I am thankful for Divine Mercy Sunday because this feast day is a great reminder of the amazing mercy my wife shows to me on a daily basis! When I get short or angry at a home situation, my wife is always willing to bestow mercy by the end of the day. I would like to think that I too am making progress– due in large part to St. Faustina and my wife’s intercession– but I have great strides to go still.
If you have never heard of St. Maria Faustina, I urge you to check out her diary from a local library, a friend, or your parish. For those pinched for time, I recommend simply printing off a small list of quotes from her about Divine Mercy and read them a few minutes a day during this Easter Season. I close with Jesus’ words [revealed to St. Faustina], “The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of My Father and draws down an ocean of blessings” (Diary of Maria Faustina No. 320). Thank God for the gift of Divine Mercy Sunday!
Call to Action— Learn the Chaplet of Divine Mercy!
Below is a simple diagram of how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. My family and I prefer to pray it via singing check out this YouTube video on our favorite version!
In this book, Lyra Pitstick tackles the doctrine of Holy Saturday in Christ’s descent into hell. Pitstick, seeks to answer the question concerning the approval of Balthasar’s general theological contributions, by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Balthasar on Holy Saturday
Chapter one contains Balthasar’s treatment on the significance of Holy Saturday, and his theology of this creedal event. Pitstick highlights four main points that underpin the priest’s theology: Christ’s descent completes redemption; Christ’s suffering increases in his descent; Christ became sin and literally underwent the Father’s wrath; and sin is expiating within the Trinity. To quote Balthasar, “Holy Saturday is…a kind of suspension, as it were, of the Incarnation…” (p. 4). Pitstick will focus on this point that Christ suffered after the descent as a major difference between John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s theology, using this approach throughout the rest of the book.
Ratzinger on Holy Saturday
The next chapter relates to Joseph Ratzinger’s theology of Holy Saturday prior to his papal election in 2005. Pitstick shows that the German theologian moves away from the extremity of Balthasar’s theology. Using evidence from Introduction to Christianity (1968), Eschatology (1977), “Meditations on Holy Week,” Introduction (1997), The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000), Mediations on Holy Week (1967) and Behold the Pierced One (1981), Ratzinger’s Holy Saturday theology distances itself from his mentor, Balthasar. According to Pitstick, the major differences between the two theologians is that Ratzinger focuses on God’s apparent, but not real, abandonment of Christ during his descent, while maintaining that there is no suspension in the Incarnation.
Continuing with the theology of Ratzinger, chapter 3 examines his view of the descent, after Ratzinger’s papal election. Here, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas graduate makes use of homilies, encyclicals, and books Benedict XVI wrote to survey his theological development on Holy Saturday. Like his view prior to becoming the Vicar of Christ, Benedict XVI continues to diverge from Balthasar by stressing the apparent abandonment of God in the descent.
How Ratzinger Differs from Bathasar
Another difference Pitstick found is “Ratzinger never asserts as Balthasar does, that the redemption was incomplete on the Cross, that Christ’s suffering intensified after his Death into abandonment in His filial relationship to the Father, that He was literally made sin in His descent, and that the whole Trinity experienced that event” (p. 53). Many times throughout the pages on Ratzinger, Pitstck points out that he utilizes metaphorical language to refer to the descent, and is not quite as clear as he could be with his descent theology (p. 41).
Pope John Paul II on Holy Saturday
Chapter four charts out John Paul II’s Holy Saturday theology. Similar to Benedict XVI, the Polish pope diverges from Balthasarian thought. Where John Paul II differs from Ratzinger is that the former is more direct. According to Pitstick: “John Paul II’s clarity makes his beliefs about Christ’s descent easy to see” (p. 59).
Three specific aspects of John Paul II’s descent theology are highlighted:
The meaning of “descended into hell” relates to Christ experiencing a separation of body and soul
Christ’s descent begins his glorification
Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a non-metaphorical salvation of the just men and women.
Safest Theological Interpretation on Holy Saturday
Referencing the Catechism of the Catholic Church heavily in this chapter, Pitstick maintains that John Paul II’s descent theology remains the closest to the official church teaching. His belief that Christ experienced a separation of body and soul after death is in line with the Catechism number 632. Pistick states, “The RC [Roman Catechism and John Paul II] is also explicit that Jesus did not suffer in His descent” (p. 69). This is in stark contrast to Balthasar’s view that Christ suffered during the descent.
Between the analysis of chapters six and seven is a brief tangential section on Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in regards to a parenthetical mention of Balthasar in the Introduction to the The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pitstick provides the content of what Schönborn said about Balthasar, the cardinal’s Holy Saturday theology, and the possible impacts that it has for Balthasar’s theology moving forward.
To be honest, this chapter was a “red herring”. It didn’t add much to the rest of the book. In her comparison of the three theologies of Holy Saturday, Pitstick focuses again on the differences. She provides a clear standard of measurement as she details definitions about the Church’s varying degrees of teaching authority.
Finding Theological Consistency
In chapter seven, Pitstick handles the popes’ praise of Balthasar, and provides ways to reconcile such accolades with the conflicting thought on the descent of Christ. She concludes her analyses with the following position: “There is certainly praise of the theologian, but there is no approbation of specific theses, least of all his theology of Holy Saturday, with which Ratzinger explicitly said he could not concur, and with which John Paul II took an incompatible position in his papal audiences, and promulgation of the CCC” (p. 106).
Pitstick presents a clear and concise summary of the entire book. She reiterates how the three theologians differed on the doctrine of the descent. John Paul II ‘s theology aligned closest to traditional Catholic doctrine, as outlined in the catechism; Balthasar’s view of the theology was the most controversial, and Ratzinger’s theology landed in the middle.
Despite the unnecessary chapter on Schönborn, this treatment on the theology of Christ’s Descent into Hell was an enjoyable and insightful read. Pitstick did a great job of focusing on each theologian individually. She contrasted the differences in their theology well too. Priests and deacons will acquire a new depth and understanding of the Mystery of Holy Saturday. This book will be invaluable to any homiletic and theological toolbox.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2019.
A Prayer Before the Cross
Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today.
Saint Catherine of Sienna wrote, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.
My sins wound me. Damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity. I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.
May Mary Intercede for Us
I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.
Failures, trials, and doubts will surround us throughout life. Uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary brings joys and peace in the struggle. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times.
Holy Thursday is a celebration of The Last Supper Jesus had with his Apostles before his death on the Cross. Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain narratives of this event in their Gospels. The Gospel of John gives a different account where Jesus washes the feet of his Apostles. During the Mass on Holy Thursday the priest washes the feet of parishoners as a sign of service.
This liturgical feast is one of my favorite in the entire church calendar. The institution of the Eucharist takes places on Holy Thursday. I also find the washing of feet as a profound gesture of love and service. Finally, the conclusion of the Mass sets up the stage for Good Friday― Jesus’ Death on the Cross.
Source and Summit
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1324, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Imagine climbing up a mountain and reaching the peak after many days (or weeks). Reaching Holy Thursday is sort of like getting to the top of a spiritual mountain after climbing and learning about the teachings of the Church.
Those in RCIA might find a special appreciation for Holy Thursday as they have been slowly trekking through the teachings of the Church. The peak is the Eucharist― the gift of Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity.
Beginning of the Priesthood
Another important theme in the Holy Thursday Mass is service and the role of the priests. Traditionally, the Church refers to Holy Thursday as Maundy Thursday. This word maundy refers to a foot washing ceremony for the poor. To read the full text click here: The Washing of the Disciples Feet.
Peter refused Jesus’ act of service at first. Jesus told him that unless Peter allowed him to clean his feet he didn’t have a place with him. While it may seem strange to our 21st century mind, washing feet of another in ancient Jewish culture was a symbol of humility and love. Walking was the primary mode of travel and people didn’t have socks or shoes to protect their feet only sandals. Jesus lowered himself as he knelt with a bowl of water to wash his Apostles soles (more importantly this was a sign he intended to cleanse their souls too).
Jesus anointed the Apostles with the sacred office of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Pope Francis reminds us of this truth when he declared in a Holy Thursday homily in 2019, “We [priests] anoint by distributing ourselves, distributing our vocation and our heart. When we anoint other, we ourselves are anointed anew by the faith and affection of our people”.
Eucharist is Food to Sustain Us
Besides modeling servant leadership to his Apostles, Jesus specifically directed the Twelve (or Eleven) to celebrate the breaking of the bread again and again. In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus says,
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Early Church Tradition interpreted Jesus giving us his literal Body and Blood under the guise of bread and wine. Centuries later Saint Thomas Aquinas clarified the theology with his term transubstantiation. A close reading of John 6 will show Jesus had many opportunities to clarify whether or not he was speaking literally or figuratively. For more information on the Bread of Life Discourse read my article 3 Reasons Why Critically Reading John 6 Will Convert Protestants.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. He gives us strengthen and resolve to fend off the temptations of the Enemy. Saint Maria Faustina wrote, “Jesus, source of my life, sanctify me. O my strength, fortify me. My commander, fight for me.” Her words point the Eucharist sustains us.
Maundy Thursday and Unity in the Body of Christ
Reception of Holy Communion fosters greater unity in the Body of Christ too. Paragraph 1419 of the Catechism states, “Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints.”
Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. The priest or deacon washing the feet of the laity recalls Christ’ act of service to Peter and the other Apostles. On this Maundy Thursday may be ponder the gift of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. May be in a special way also pray for the Holy Spirit to guide all the clergy to serve with Christ-like love.
How will you serve the Body of Christ this year?
What can you do to show gratitude for Jesus giving us the Eucharist?
How can you support your local priest(s) in their ministry?
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the most sacred time in the Christian calendar Holy Week. As a cradle Catholic who attended Catholic schools my entire life, I have heard the extended gospel readings about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem many times. On top of that I studied graduate level theology and read spiritual works for fun. I am not telling you this to boast, but rather to set forth my struggle when it comes to these important feast days: how can I learn something new when I have heard the same readings that I nearly have them committed to memory!
Same Old Story
Sadly, I had this same mindset this morning before Mass. Remarkably, we arrived at the church with a few minutes to spar. After we found a pew, our three year-old starting asking about food (the #1 topic for toddlers!), specifically granola bars. To my dismay, I realized that I failed to stock the mass bag with snacks. I figured Palm Sunday 2019 would end up in a power struggle with a toddler and bitterness over not being able to pay attention to the liturgy. Miraculously, he did not dwell on the granola bars, and I was able to listen to all of the readings including the entirety of the LOTR length Gospel feature!
In between working to keep our children assuaged and paying attention to the Gospel, I noticed a peculiar line that I never heard before. Well, I probably heard that verse, but it probably never registered on my theological radar because I grew lukewarm in my faith. Making a mental note for me to check the passage later I continued to listen to the Gospel. Later in the day, I looked up Luke’s Gospel and found that peculiar verse—Luke 23:12. It reads “Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though had been enemies formerly.”
Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend
The classic cliche “an enemy of my enemy is my friend” rings true for Herod and Pilate’s relationship in Palm Sunday’s Gospel. Both men were earthly rulers: a Jewish king and a Roman prefect. During the first century, the Roman Empire occupied the land of Judea. Charges against Jesus in Luke 23:2 include “tax evasion” against the Romans and blasphemy as he claimed to be God.
According to Christian tradition, the historian Eusebius, ““Luke, who was by race an Antiochian and a physician by profession” (Eccl. Hist. 3.4). The meticulous nature of St. Luke’s prose especially in the prologue of his Gospel makes his passing reference at the sudden friendship of Herod and Pilate mysterious.
Both Herod and Pilate presided over the trial of an innocent man. Both leaders gave in to external pressures to sentence an innocent victim to death. The former had John the Baptist beheaded at the behest of his vile wife, and of course Pilate caved into the pressures of the Jewish religious leaders to have Jesus Crucified. American author Leo Buscaglia declared, I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.” Neither Herod nor Pilate “hated” John and Jesus. They balked at sentencing, but because of their weak wills, lukewarmness, and ultimate selfish desire to stay in power they caved to social pressures. Herod and Pilate’s actions showed an apathy over love of God.
Will You Display Half-heartedness this Holy Week?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2094, “lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.” Wow! I did not realize the harshness associated with a lukewarm attitude. Possessing a spiritual “meh” attitude poses dangers of losing out on love. Will you aim to be holy the WHOLE holy week or merely haphazardly? The Holy Spirit prompted me to wake up when I heard Luke 23:12. Lent 2019 I have been mostly a Herod or a Pilate— apathetic toward true love seeking mostly control of my life. The good news is Holy Week is here. We can re-start our faith journey with a triumphal entry like Jesus. Let us ask for the gift of humility and the courage to avoid spiritual lukewarmness.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 13, 2017.
God is Not Satan’s Biggest Rival
According to St. Louis de Montfort, “[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary ). Even though I am a life-long Catholic this quote caught me off guard. It seemed too intrepid and I thought it was statements like this that bred the Catholic caricature in the mind of Protestants.
I have since been graced with the understanding that the above quote by the French saint is true and a vital truth in our Catholic faith. Earlier this week I start a Marian consecration with my parish disciple group [communal level] and with my wife [private level]. This will culminate on the centennial anniversary of Mary’s Apparition at Fatima.
Like with most of my daily blog topics, my original topic I wanted did not match what I actually wrote. Today is no different. To be honest, I had an urging of the Holy Spirit to write about Mary during my drive back to work during the noon hour. Let me explain why I believe Mary is the prime foe to Satan. I will incorporate Scripture, writing from St. Louis de Montfort, and my own personal experience as evidence to back this claim.
Enmity Predicted in Genesis 3:15
Listen to the words of the inspired writer in Genesis, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head,while you strike at their heel.” The word enmity actually means malice, hostility, or antagonism. No simple division occurred between the woman [Mary] and the serpent [Satan]. There is an antagonistic battle between the two. Interestingly enough, this theme is found in the other bookend of the Bible in the Book of Revelation.
Opposites Don’t Attract
Unlike the adage, “opposites attract” or the truth revealed when playing with magnets, in the case of Mary versus Satan—OPPOSITES DO NOT ATTRACT! St. Louis de Montfort sums it ups both concisely and beautifully, “What Lucifer lost by pride Mary won by humility” (True Devotion 53). Mary’s powerful intercessory power comes from her intimate union with God through her silent prayer and pondering heart. The devil as his weapon of choice is noise and chaos. He wants to increase the “decibels” so our spiritual life never takes root in the silent pondering before God.
Bullies Are Scared of Their Victim’s Mothers
A friend of mine told our discipleship group earlier this week, “Satan will hate you for starting this Marian consecration”. I curiosity asked, “How so?” He went on to tell about his temptations and struggles when he began a similar journey a few years ago. His foreshadowing came true today.
My family’s morning started off hectic and the stress only increased and even doubled down as the day went on. But viewing Mary as the greatest enemy of Satan makes perfect sense of today’s turmoil.
Bullies like Satan tend to get really self-defensive when their victims’ mother intervenes. If anyone bullied my son, I would warn the bully ahead of time to be more afraid of my wife than me. In a similar way, the silent salvo our Salve Regina unleashes on the Devil may intensify during the ensuing days of my Marian consecration.
Before I conclude, I do want to provide a qualifying statement to any non-Catholic reader. I do not intend to place Mary at the equal level of God. She is not God. However, Catholics honor Mary as the most perfect creation of God. We also honor her as the Mother of God.
I will leave you with words of wisdom from St. Louis, “The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary” (True Devotion 16). Let us thank God for allowing Mary to be a doorway upon which we may experience God’s graces.