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I have started a new feature I'm calling "Ask Father". In this, I will be answering your questions about the Church, the faith, whatever. If you would like to submit a question (or questions) for me to answer, just send them to me by email at


Explanation of the Traditional Latin Mass | History Corner Archive

September 27, 2020, Bulletin... ASK FATHER - VESTMENTS

Question: Why do your vestments look the way they do, and what is that thing on your arm?

Answer: I'm going to unpack this question a little bit beyond what it is asking. Addressing the first part: there are several different styles of vestments. The most common style that you will see in most Catholic churches is called Gothic. It's the kind that drapes down over the arms, almost to the wrists and is much more billowy. Historians will argue that this style is probably one of the oldest. The second most common style you will see is called Roman, or more colloquially, fiddleback. This is the style that I wear. It is thought that as vestments developed, the Roman style came out of the Gothic as one that allowed for more free movement of the priest's arms. At the same time, due to the stiffer nature of the back of the vestment, it also allowed for more elaborate designs that wouldn't be affected by the draping fabric of the Gothic style.

The reason that I choose to wear Roman style instead of Gothic (if given the choice) is because my mother made most of the vestments that I wear on a daily basis; and I find the Roman style to simply be more comfortable. It frees up my arms, it allows for better ventilation as I'm not slathered in polyester, and because the designs on the back are more ornate - it's a much nicer image for the congregation to look at, in my opinion.

As for the "thing on my arm", that is called a maniple. It is one of the six different kinds of vestments that a priest may wear for the celebration of the mass. The vestments worn by a priest, in the order he puts them on, are: amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole, chasuble. The vestments that are required for a priest to wear for the celebration of the mass are the alb (as long as it completely covers the collar), cincture, stole, and chasuble. Up until 1972, the amice and the maniple were required as well. Now they are optional, but I and many other priests choose to wear them still due to the theological and historical symbolism.

The amice is a linen cloth, usually rectangular in shape, with two long ties on the top two corners. The purpose of the vestment is to cover the shoulders and the collar, as the amice is traditionally tucked into the collar thus covering it entirely. Originally it may have also functioned as a hood of sorts, but that has fallen out of use. The history of that still remains, however, since when the priest puts on the amice, he is supposed to first touch it to the top of his head before bringing it about his shoulders. The prayer that accompanies the amice also harkens back to this original use, as it says, "Place upon me, O Lord, the helmet of salvation, that I may overcome the assaults of the devil".

The alb is put on next, which is the long, white garment, sometimes ornamented with lace on the fringes. The purpose of the alb, being white which contrasts the typical black that a priest would normally wear, symbolizes the self-denial and chastity befitting a priest. It hangs down to the ankles to remind the priest that he is bound to practice good works until the end of his life. The prayer for the alb reads, "purify me, O Lord, and cleanse my heart so that, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, I may enjoy eternal joys".

The cincture, which looks like an ornate rope with tassels on the ends, is then tied around the waist. The practical purpose of the cincture is to secure the flowing alb so that it doesn't impede anything. But its liturgical character is tied (no pun intended) to the alb in regards to the purity and chastity that the priest is called to live. The prayer for the cincture reads, "Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me".

Next comes the maniple, or the thing on my arm. It fell into disuse after Vatican II but was never abrogated. It's similar to the stole but much shorter. It can be tied around the left forearm, or in my case, an elastic band secures it in place. It derived from a handkerchief that the Romans wore knotted on their left arm. It was used to wipe away sweat or tears. Medieval writers regarded the maniple as a symbol of the toils of the priesthood. Since it is strictly a mass vestment, it's removed during the homily, since technically the homily is outside of the mass. The prayer for the maniple reads, "May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors".

The stole is the distinctive element of the ordained minister and is always worn in the celebration of the sacraments. It indicates, more than any other garment, the state of ordained office. It also represents the authority of the priest from a spiritual standpoint. The prayer reads, "Lord, restore the stole of immortality, which I lost through the collusion of our first parents, and, unworthy as I am to approach Thy sacred mysteries, may I yet gain eternal joy".

Last is the chasuble, from the word "casula". This derives from the typical form of the vestment that, at the beginning, completely covered the sacred minister who wore it. It servers as a form of humility, covering the stole of authority (rather than wearing the stole outside of the chasuble which should never be done), as well as adding 'weight' and 'burden' to the priest as he labors in the Lord's vineyard. This can be seen in the vesting prayer which reads, "O Lord, who has said, 'my yoke is easy and my burden light', grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace".

If you have any questions you would like answered, just send me an email at

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32


September 20, 2020, Bulletin... ASK FATHER - RECTORY REMODEL

For those who may have missed it, below is the homily I delivered last weekend talking about the restart of our rectory project. Donations and pledges may be mailed to the office, dropped in the collection, or placed in the mailbox outside of the parish office.

When this church was built in 1879, the rectory was originally directly to the east of the church. When it was clear that the church was going to be expanded to include the transepts and the apse, the old rectory was in the way. And so, 128 years ago, in 1892, the new rectory was constructed as a monastery for the Franciscans who staffed the parish. As a monastery, it was designed very simply: you had a kitchen, a dining room, a front office for business, and then the individual cells where the monks lived. Each cell was approximately the same size with thick brick walls built between them, and each monk would have his own cell. The only common area would be the dining room and the church.

And then in 1914, the Franciscans left and the Diocesan priests came in. They knocked down a wall upstairs to create a larger room at one end and put pressed tin ceilings in many of the rooms upstairs and down. In the 1950's, a large renovation of the entire rectory took place. The kitchen was redone, more walls were knocked down upstairs to create double-room suites for the new associate pastors, Fr. Sinclair and Fr. Spike. Plaster ceilings were covered with acoustical tiles. In the 60's and 70's, paneling and drop ceilings were added over the original walls in many rooms, but the work began to be more isolated. Now it was done based on a specific want for a specific room, and so the rectory began to look more like a trip through a 20th century design catalog. Depending on which room you were in, you could travel from the 1920's to the 50's to the 70's and the 90's. But as concern was only for the specific rooms a pastor was living in or using, the rest of the rather large building was left to slowly deteriorate. The electricity was old knob and tube connected to a fuse box that looked like it should've exploded years ago. Between the first and second floor, the attic, and sacristy, there are 52 windows. To my knowledge, only one could open and close properly in 2019. Original plaster walls are cracked; and the outline from the oven and drop in range from the 1950's can still be seen on the kitchen cabinets. Old cast iron plumbing is well past its expiration date and half of the second floor is un-air-conditioned and unlivable due to neglect.

When the new roof was put on the church and the rectory, it was asked whether the building should just be torn down because of the state of it. Luckily, it didn't happen. With the new roofs in place, the incredible restoration of the church took place and has made this church, without a doubt, the most beautiful church in our diocese. The school was blessed to receive a large bequest which allows us to handle any maintenance issues that could arise as well as tackle much-needed upgrades for those two buildings. But there are four (4) buildings on our lovely campus. This amazing and generous generation of parishioners that you all comprise have left untold blessings for the future St. Columban parishioners, and it's time to complete that legacy for the future St. Columban pastors. Thanks to the generosity of so many of you already, we've been able to replace most of the wiring, installing a breaker panel that doesn't instill a sense of danger and death when you look at it. There are 52 new windows that open, stay open, and amazingly close as well. The dining room was restored to its original design while also incorporating some of the salvaged tin ceilings from upstairs. The first floor hallway, thanks in large part to Deacon Armentrout while he was here during the lockdown, has been restored to its original form. One of the upstairs guest suites has also been completely renovated from floor to ceiling.

But there's still much left to do. The kitchen is badly in need of a renovation, there exists no common living room in the entire house, and half the second floor needs a complete overhaul. Kim's office, the pastor's suite, new storage areas, new paint for almost every wall. It would be very difficult for me to get up here and ask people to donate money to fix my house, but this isn't my house. It's yours. It will always belong to you. Eventually I'll be assigned somewhere else; and perhaps for many of you, that time can't come soon enough. But this project is not about me and my comfort; it's about the longevity of the parish, the strength of the parish, the vibrancy of the parish. If we complete the restoration as it's designed, we will have three (3) guest rooms plus the pastor's suite. If you build it, they will come. While we're not large enough for an associate pastor, having a nice space for multiple people tends to attract the Diocese's attention, and they send seminarians and transitional deacons.

There is so much that this parish has to be proud of. The rectory is a grand building and has the potential to be as much of a treasure to live in as this church is to have mass in. When I found the receipts for the high altar from 1904, it had all of the names of the donors and the amounts given. No amount was deemed too small to not be included. It was a true parish effort to have this altar paid for, just as it was a true parish effort to have this church restored. We need the same full parish effort with the rectory. No donation is too small; no support is too little. Based on the remaining work that needs to be done and estimates that have been collected, we've set as a target sum to be raised from today at $150,000. It's a lot to ask for when there is so much going on in the world, and with old houses you're always running into unexpected issues. The mantra I've adopted throughout this project so far is "the house always wins", and it's not usually said with a smile. But I know that if we complete this project, restoring the house to its former glory while providing the modern upgrades it so desperately needs, the house will win and will keep winning for decades to come. In the coming days, you will be receiving in the mail pledge cards. I ask you to prayerfully consider what gift you might be able to make. I will say without hesitation that I've so far put 10% of my yearly income into various upgrades around the house, as well as pulling up layers of old floor and tearing down paneling, (I'm really good at the demolition parts). I say that not to brag, but to underscore that I'm not asking you to do something that I'm not willing to do myself. Let's complete the legacy together.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20:1-16a


September 13, 2020, Bulletin... ASK FATHER

Question: What are the Last Rites? What's the difference between the Last Rites and Anointing of the Sick? Why is it important for Catholics to receive the Last Rites?

Answer: One of the major misconceptions about the Last Rites is that they are a sacrament unto themselves. The Last Rites are actually three sacraments said in a particular order: Confession, Viaticum, Anointing of the Sick. The Last Rites are given to someone who is seriously ill or in the process of dying, and they are ordered by importance. This isn't to say that certain sacraments are more important than others from a spiritual standpoint, but in the case of an emergency, certain sacraments become more important based on their purpose.

Confession is first because sacramental absolution properly disposes us to receive the sacraments. That's why I push it all the time in my homilies and the frequent use of the sacrament should be a habit of any faithful Catholic. Also, because it is only through sacramental confession and absolution that mortal sins can be forgiven, and mortal sins are barriers for us achieving salvation, we want those absolved as soon as we can. I've given the Last Rites to someone who died a few minutes after I arrived and so it's important that confession happens first. Attached to confession with the Last Rites is something called the Apostolic Pardon. This follows the absolution and carries with it an indulgence. An indulgence is a remission of temporal punishment due to sin. In short, our sins build up temporal punishment regardless of absolution. This temporal punishment is then spent in purgatory in addition to us losing our attachments to sin. Indulgences are ways for us to work spiritually here on earth to reduce that time. Since nothing unclean can enter heaven, we must be free of our temporal punishment and our attachments to sin. Every human being has attachments to sin (for if we didn't, we would literally be perfect), which are removed in purgatory. That's why it's absurd to say that anyone would go straight to heaven. That would imply that this person never committed a sin on earth. However, purgatory isn't a bad place because it has one exit, so its bad rap is really unearned. Anyway, the Apostolic Pardon imparts an indulgence and is only given by a priest during the Last Rites. If the person is not conscious, the priest may still grant absolution and the Apostolic Pardon.

Second is Viaticum, which translates as food for the journey. This is our "last meal" so to say. It is the final Eucharist we receive while on this earth. The Catechism states, in regard to Viaticum, that, "communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of 'passing over' to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: 'He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day'. The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father" (CCC 1524). If the person is unconscious or cannot take food, Viaticum is not given.

Third and last is Anointing of the Sick. Because Anointing carries a physical sign with it (the oil of the sick), it is often the most recognized and emotional because of that physical nature. However, ironically, it's the least important of the three in this case. The reason for that is because Anointing of the Sick is not associated with physical healing. It can be received as many times as someone would like it, but its purpose is not to heal someone physically, but rather strengthen them spiritually against the temptations that are associated with sickness. When we're sick, we're more vulnerable to sin. Not necessarily in action, but in thought. Being physically sick, physically weaker, makes us naturally more vulnerable. Anointing is designed to strengthen our resolve in order to ward off these temptations. That is why Anointing is often done before surgery, even if the surgery is not necessarily life-threatening. It is done at the end of the Last Rites because in many cases, someone receiving them does not die immediately. Therefore, Anointing of the Sick helps to strengthen that person through their final hours or possibly days on this earth.

It's important for Catholics to receive the Last Rites for all of the reasons clearly stated above. No one in this world is perfect; and we're in need of these sacraments until we take our last breath. But our desire for these sacraments has to start now, while we're still healthy and able to receive them in the church. I can't tell you how much it pains me when I hear of the death of someone in town, but I know that I was never called out to them. Oftentimes when hospice calls, I tell them that I'm on my way immediately which surprises them. My response is always that I take no chances when it comes to things this important; and, in many cases, it turned out I was right to be expedient. Do not roll the dice with eternity on the line.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sirach 27:30-28:7; Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35


September 6, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - Unification and Leo XIII

After the unification of Italy, King Emmanuelle passed the Law of Guarantees in 1870 which regulated the new relations between Church and state. It said that the pope retained the honors and immunities of a sovereign, that he retained the Vatican, the Lateran, and Castel Gandolfo, that he would receive 3.5 million Lire each year for compensation of territory that was lost, and that he would appoint all Italian bishops. However, Pius IX refused this and pronounced himself a prisoner. This would be the pope's "official" status until 1929 when Mussolini would agree to an independent Vatican State.

In Germany, Otto von Bismarck became Chancellor to the king of Prussia in 1871. The king wanted to extend Prussian influence but lacked the political skills to do so. Bismarck was then asked to lead the country in that regard. He believed the desire for unification would transcend the north/south, Protestant/Catholic issues. So Bismarck drew Prussia into wars with surrounding powers to incite other Germans to support them. With each conflict, more states joined Prussia. In 1871, after defeating the French, Bismarck met with the heads of 25 German states and Wilhelm I was proclaimed emperor of a new unified German empire.

Bismarck still saw the Catholic Church as a threat. In 1872, Germany passed the Falk Laws in an attempt to dismantle Catholic unity within Germany. It subjected Catholic schools/seminaries to state control, prohibited religious orders from teaching, and expelled the Jesuits from Germany. Any priest/bishop that didn't recognize state control over the Church would be fined or imprisoned. This ushered in Bismarck's internal policy known as Kulturkampf (culture struggle) with the aim of ridding Germany of Catholicism. However, there was massive resistance from the pope and Germans to the Falk Laws. When Pius IX died, Bismarck ended the Kulturkampf and wrote Leo XIII, the new pope, a letter of apology. This allowed him to save face by not having to write it to Pius IX before he died.

Leo XIII was elected in 1878 after the death of Pius IX who reigned 32 years, second longest after Peter who was pope for 35 years. Leo was the first pope in 1500 years to not exercise temporal power as he had no official state that he controlled. This allowed him to focus purely on the pastoral needs of the Church and to formulate Catholic teaching. He became the model for the modern pope and would write 87 encyclicals, of which we'll look at three notable examples.

Inscrutabili Dei, "On the Evils of Society" (4/21/1878), briefly states all of the accumulated problems affecting contemporary society. These were: a widespread subversion of primary truths, contempt of law, an insatiable craving for things perishable, as well as a reckless mismanagement, wasted, and misappropriation of public funds. Leo quotes St. Paul's letter to the Colossians in defense of his thesis, saying, "beware, lest any man cheat you by philosophy or vain deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ". He also emphasized the role of papal authority in preserving the future of the Church.

Immortale Dei, "On the Christian Constitution of States" (11/1/1885), shows understanding for liberal political movements while clearly transmitting the Church's doctrine on the dynamics/role of civil society. God is the root and source of all political authority. Both civil and divine authority have a duty and responsibility to God, and civil authority is ultimately an expression of God's plan.

Rerum Novarum, "On Capital and Labor" (5/15/1891), is the most widely received, praised, and influential of his encyclicals. A large part of it was dedicated to the refutation of the principles of socialism, where all property is in common and administered by the state. Leo condemned it as an attack on human freedom and dignity. He said that the loss of private ownership would cause harm to the human family because government intrusion/control over the family is bad. He also condemns the capitalism of the industrial age. He said that it laid upon the poor a yoke little better than that of slavery. He argues against the notion that the wealthy and poor should always be in conflict. They should exist in harmony but have duties to the other. The worker must perform the work agreed upon while the employer must pay a just wage to support a "frugal and well-behaved wage-earner".

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20


August 30, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - Pius IX and Vatican I

In 1854, Pope Pius IX solemnly defined the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception. Now, this had been more or less believed over time. In 1439, the Council of Basel had ruled that the Immaculate Conception was a pious opinion in accordance with faith, reason, and scripture. The Council of Trent had also declared that Mary had no original sin. It's just that the exact nature had never officially been defined as a dogmatic statement of the Church. And so the doctrine itself was not surprising; it was the way that Pius IX did it that was surprising. He consulted with bishops before making the proclamation, but it was defined solely on his authority as the pope. He himself spoke as the voice of the Church. He did not speak as first among bishops or within the context of an ecumenical council as all popes had done before. This was the first time in history that pope himself spoke infallibly. In 1858 in Lourdes, France, St. Bernadette had a vision in which Mary proclaims herself as the Immaculate Conception, thus vindicating what Pius IX had done four years prior.

In 1864, Pius IX released the encyclical entitled, "Quanta Cura", which contained what he called the Syllabus of Errors. In this, he attacked ideologies and opinions that challenged the Church's authority. These included socialism, Gallicanism, rationalism (not what you think), and the separation of Church and state. The Ultramontanists had wanted an all-out denouncement of liberal thought and the Syllabus of Errors more or less answered their desire. It condemned many errors that were prevalent in 19th century Europe. These included Pantheism, naturalism, false tolerance in religious matters, socialism, communism, secret societies, errors regarding the Church and her rights, and errors regarding matrimony. Luckily none of these exist anymore... Enemies of the Church saw the document as an affront to the modern state and a rejection of modern culture. Others saw it incorrectly as an infallible document because they thought that all papal documents are infallible, which is untrue.

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1869, Pius IX opened the First Vatican Council. The first topic on the agenda was discussing papal infallibility and what that actually entailed. Up to this point, Catholics held diverse opinions on the topic. Some said that the pope spoke simply as first among bishops. His role as a leader didn't mean that Church authority lay exclusively in the pope himself. Others saw the pope as infallible in all letters, encyclicals, and teachings.

Arguments against infallibility would include times in the past where popes have been accused of teaching heresy. For example, there have been popes who were subscribed to the Arian heresy in addition to the Galileo incident. However, none of these fall under papal infallibility because any teachings from so-called heretical popes have been shown to be either made under duress or simply misunderstood. In regards to Galileo, it was the Holy Office, which advises the pope on doctrinal questions, that had handled the affair as well as the punishment. Also, the issue was a disciplinary one, not doctrinal. Discipline doesn't fall under infallibility. Arguments in favor of papal infallibility can be found in both Scripture and Tradition. In Scripture, you have Matthew 16:18 (keys given to Peter), Luke 22:31-32 (prayer of Christ specifically for Peter as the head of the church), John 21:15-17 (whole of Christ's flock entrusted to Peter). In Tradition, St. Irenaeus claimed that conformity with the Roman bishop was proof of Apostolicity of doctrine. There are many statements recorded with the gist of "Peter has spoken through (reigning pope of the time)". Augustine said, "Rome's reply has come, the case is closed" in regards to a heresy. There is also specific/indirect reference at the Councils of Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople III (680), Constantinople IV (869), and Florence (1438).

The original title of the document was, "On the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff". The problem was that this implied the person was infallible, when he is not. It's the teachings that are infallible. The final title was, "On the Infallible Teaching Authority of the Roman Pontiff".

On July 19, 1870, Franco-Prussian War broke out and the French garrison protecting Rome left and the Papal States fell to the Italian Unificationists. The council was disbanded and was never formally picked up again.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:2-2; Matthew 16:21-27


August 23, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - Revolutions of 1848 and Ultramontanism

In the year 1848, revolutions erupted in every capital city across Europe except for London because it rained, and so they decided to go home. The revolutions began in France (no surprises there) in February. An accidental shot that was fired into a mob sparked a full-scale insurrection. The king fled and the bourgeois liberals set up a provisional government in Paris, but it was unstable. The rural French elected conservatives who disbanded the urban workgroups that were set up by the previous government, the urban workers then protested, then a new election is held in which Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of the previous Napoleon, is elected. Three years after his election, he did what his uncle did very well and orchestrated a coup d'etat after which he proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III.

The revolution in Germany began in March and was started by liberal students who took to the streets after hearing about the French protests. Their main objection was the system set up by Metternich after the fall of Napoleon which they saw as undemocratic.

The revolutions in central Europe were all linked to a desire for national unity. Central Europeans wanted independent states that were based on ethnicity rather than arbitrary territorial boundaries. The protests spread to the capitals of Hungary (Budapest) and Bohemia (Prague). Over 800 delegates from the German-speaking world met in Frankfurt because they wanted to consolidate the Hapsburg and Prussian Empires into a new German state. However, the Protestants in the north and the Catholics in the south could not reach an agreement. During the talks, Austria regained control of Vienna from the rioters (peaceful protests, no doubt), Russia suppressed the revolts in Hungary, and then Prussia backed out of the talks which halted any progress for German unification.

Revolution and nationalism soon spread to Italy where the people wanted a unified Italy behind the pope. However, Pius IX rejected the idea of a Federal Italy with him in charge. Despite his popularity among the people, his opposition made him the enemy. Rome was then overrun with nationalists who would control the city for over a year. Pius IX feared the loss of the Papal States, and with them the loss of the independence of the Church. In his eyes, if the Church was beholden to another nation state, it wouldn't allow her to be truly an independent Church. Pius called on the Catholic powers of Europe to help retake Rome and Napoleon III answered and took Rome with French troops. Pius IX, once seen as a champion of liberalism, was now very wary of Italian unification and those who supported it. Cavour, one of the unificationists and a Freemason, closed all monasteries in the region of Piedmont, which Pius IX took as a bad omen for the Church in regards to Italian unification.

Two schools of Catholic thought developed in the 19th century at two German universities over the idea of Liberalism. In Mainz, liberal ideas were seen as too secular, too rational, and too anti-clerical. They saw the pope as the last defender of the Catholic cause. These people became known as Ultramontanists, which means "over the mountains". This was because they looked to the pope for support and leadership and he was located over the alps from where they were, so it's a very literal moniker.

In Munich, they recognized the inevitable trend towards liberal democracy. They sought to build bridges between the Church and democratic regimes, thinking that Church leaders could co-exist with liberal ideas. They also believed that dialogue with the modern world was beneficial for the future of the Church.

John Henry Cardinal Newman, and Anglican convert to Catholicism, saw Ultramontanists as creating a "Church within a Church", subservient only to Rome. In his mind, they dismissed liberal ideas too immoderately. He said, "we are shrinking into ourselves, narrowing the lines of communication, trembling at freedom of thought, and using the language of dismay and despair at the prospect before us".

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20(121)


August 16, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - Liberalism and the Post-Napoleonic Church

After Napoleon's defeat, representatives from the victorious alliance of Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia met at the Congress of Vienna. They wanted to make sure that their countries remained strong and prepared to defend themselves against future aggression. The mastermind of the congress was the Austrian, Clement von Metternich. He worked to extend Austria's domains as well as block Prussia and Russia from gaining too much power.

The members of the congress were wary of a new ideology known as liberalism. It originated from the Enlightenment and featured a democratic form of government based on liberty and equality rather than a monarchy. However the term liberalism is ambiguous. It refers to a disposition rather than a definite set of principles. It bases society and its rules on the General Will of the people and many of its principles regarding human rights reflect the Natural Law.

Monarchies were seen as out of date. Constitutional governments and free societies that emphasized man's ability to solve social problems, such as poverty, ignorance, and superstition, reflected liberal principles. It glorified absolute individual freedom and supported the overthrow of any government that limited that freedom. Liberal thinkers believed that freedom of religion, conscience, speech, and press were incompatible with Catholic teaching (spoiler alert: they're not). But the Church was simply associated with monarchies. Liberal ideas were not necessarily anti-Christian. For example, in the U.S., freedom of religion ended the Catholic persecution that existed during the English rule.

The Church was seen as an ally to anti-liberal movements in Europe; but in reality, it was attacked from both sides. Conservative regimes tried to reassert control and establish national churches that were Catholic, but independent from Rome. Liberal reformers took the French Revolution path and tried to secularize their countries to minimize the Church's influence, especially in education.

Germany was dominated at the time by the northern Protestant state of Prussia. Prussia began introducing policies aimed at undermining Catholic influence in Germany. In 1825, a law was passed that required children to be raised in the father's religion. Prussians were then sent into Catholic states to marry Catholic girls, hoping to eventually establish Protestant leadership in these states. In response, Pius VII required all Catholics who married outside the faith to instruct their children in the faith. Catholics responded well and began unifying behind the pope.

In the United States, Baltimore became the first diocese in 1789 and encompassed the entire country. In 1808, Pius VII creates the dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown (which eventually moved to Louisville, KY) to deal with increased immigration. Baltimore was named as the metropolitan see at this point. In 1820, the dioceses of Charleston and Richmond were added and then Cincinnati in 1821. By 1850, immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Italy, and eastern Europe made Catholicism one of the largest Christian denominations in the country. This led to a fierce anti-Catholic backlash from the Protestant majority. Many Catholic churches were burned and some Catholics were even lynched.

In Britain, the support of England by Pius VII during the Napoleonic Wars helped to ease ill feelings toward Catholics in England. In 1829, Parliament passed the Catholic Relief Act which restored civil rights to British Catholics and even allowed them to hold parliamentary seats.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28(118)


August 9, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - Reign of Terror/De-Christianization of France

King Louis XVI was put on trial for treason and was executed on January 16, 1793. The continued unrest made the Convention issue a state of emergency and form the Committee of Public Safety to suppress counterrevolutionary factions. The committee was dominated by Maximilian Robespierre who never hesitated to use brutal and unjust means to achieve his ends.

Any religion was deemed as counterrevolutionary. In November of 1793, the Committee launched a program of de-Christianization. Representatives were sent into the countryside to close churches, hunt down priests, and punish anyone accused of hiding clergy. The Cathedral of Notre Dame was dedicated as a temple to the Goddess of Reason. Churches were vandalized, books/crucifixes were burned, statues/relics were destroyed, and sacred vessels like chalices and ciboria were melted down to make cannons. Bounties were offered for turning over priests and any priest that resisted was executed within 24 hours. Mobs massacred entire monastic communities. In place of Catholicism, the Committee set up a state-sponsored Deistic religion. The mass was replaced with a civil ceremony celebrating the Goddess of Reason. A 10-day week was instituted to suppress the Lord's Day. Saints days and other feast days were replaced with celebrations of reason, liberty, and the republic.

Most of this was met with great resistance. Attacks and executions angered the working masses and Robespierre himself was eventually executed as his policies went too far. In 1794, power shifted back again to the bourgeoisie. They threw out the 1793 constitution and set up a new republic governed by a ruling party known as the Directory.

The Directory, however, was a weak party formed in reaction to the extremists and their policies were particularly hard on the Church. Oppressive laws were restored regarding priests who refused to take the Oath of the Republic which led to thousands being killed or exiled. The Directory was hoping that the Church would die out due to lack of leadership.

In 1797, the Directory held France's first free election to choose permanent members of the legislature. Traditionally-minded candidates who were tired of revolution promised to work for peace and promote a constitutional monarchy. Louis XVIII was in exile waiting to return if they did. Several royalists were elected and this outraged the bourgeoisie. To find a middle ground, they turned to a young general who had been having military success (something rather unknown to the French) in northern Italy fighting the Austrians.

Napoleon Bonaparte was successful and self-sufficient. The civilian government in Paris was dependent upon him to administrate France's military acquisitions which gave him a lot of independence. The Directory promoted his expansionist policies, so he supported them. Therefore he was also upset with the election results of 1797. So Napoleon sent his general Augereau to organize a coup d'etat in Paris. This annulled the elections, threw out the constitution, and restored the previous bourgeoisie leadership.

In 1799, Napoleon joined civilian leaders who had given up on the republican model of government. On November 9, 1799, there was another coup d'etat and troops stormed the legislature and proclaimed the formation of yet another new republic that was headed by three consuls. Napoleon became the First Consul.

In his first term as Consul, Napoleon reorganized the republic to restore peace and order. He also restored religious freedom, realizing that the Catholic faith was deeply rooted in the French people. It was the revolution's suppression of religion that caused the desire to return to the Old Regime. He restored relationships with the clergy, securing a commitment to fidelity as opposed to making them take the Oath of the Republic.

In 1801, Napoleon proposed a Concordat with the Church, repealing the revolutionary laws that were harmful to the Church. However, many of the proposals were ultimately trying to make a Gallican church and thus Pope Pius VII initially rejected it. A final version was agreed upon and signed on August 15, 1801.

After the Concordat of 1801, many thought that the relationship between Church and state was fixed. However, the government then passed a series of restrictions that limited the Church's independence. A provision in the Concordat allowed for certain restrictions based on "public safety". What resulted from these restrictions were known as the Organic Articles. The Organic Articles were a combination of the Gallicanism of Louis XIV and the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. They forbade the publication of papal documents, decrees of councils, and the convocation of synods without consent of the government.

In 1805, Napoleon asked Pius VII to annul his brother's marriage; and as we know from history, when kings ask popes to annul marriages, it always ends well. Napoleon wanted the annulment so his brother could remarry for political reasons, and the pope refused. Napoleon then threatened to abolish priestly celibacy throughout Europe, suppress more religious orders, and establish a French Patriarch to oppose the pope's authority in France. The pope still refused; and so Napoleon marched his army on Rome, claiming to be a successor to Charlemagne. That allowed him to claim the right to revoke the "Donation of Pepin" which originally created the Papal States.

In 1808, Napoleon seized portions of the Papal States and assumed jurisdiction over the pope. Pius VII excommunicates all responsible, and Napoleon has the pope imprisoned in Savona, France, for six years.

After Napoleon's failed invasion of Russia in 1812, a coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia, and England marched on Paris to force his abdication. Pius VII eventually returns to Rome; and when Napoleon is finally exiled to St. Helena, the pope showed mercy to him when he learned that Napoleon wanted a priest while in captivity. Napoleon would reconcile with the Church before his death on May 5, 1821.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28(118)


August 2, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The French Revolution

The French Revolution was the culmination of centuries of political and social erosion. The transition into the modern age had put strains on economies which led to inflation, job shortages, and overall social inequality.

France was the largest and wealthiest country in Europe at this time. It was considered the cultural and intellectual center of Europe as well, meaning that France had an impact in Europe in all fields. This included one effect of the revolution which was a widespread rejection of the Church as a teacher and guide for society.

French society was divided into three groups, known as Estates. The First Estate was comprised of clergy. This was then divided between wealthy/influential clerics and the great majority of poor parish priests. The Second Estate was comprised of about 400,000 nobles who enjoyed more power after the death of Louis XIV. They also exempted themselves from taxation which left France's tax coffers empty. The Third Estate was comprised of the other 97% of the population. It included a middle class of wealthy people that couldn't claim noble status along with the poorest of the poor.

France was thrown into financial crisis due to Louis XIV's wars, lavish lifestyle, inordinate spending on the monarchy, no tax collections, and supporting the American Revolution. Because of the crisis, Louis XVI convened the Estates General in 1788, which was a meeting of representatives from each of the states. The last time it had met was 1614. The Third Estate rejected the old model and decided to form themselves into what they called the National Assembly. When the king attempted to suppress them, they refused to obey his commands. The king then ordered 20,000 troops to Paris. On July 12, 1789, riots broke out due to food shortages and on July 14, a mob attacked the Bastille. This is most famous for being a prison, but at that time there were few prisoners. The main reason was it was also an arsenal. They seized 40,000 muskets and tipped the balance of power in their favor. Bastille Day is marked as the beginning of the French Revolution.

On August 26, 1789, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was issued. According to it, all men were born equal and held rights to liberty, property, security, and resistance. Law itself was understood as the expression of the general will of the people. Therefore everyone was subject to it. In regards to religion, the Declaration was quite vague. It alluded to religious tolerance as long as religious beliefs did not "disturb the public order established by law". Since public order is rather interpretive and the law was considered the general will of the people, this vague statement was rather dangerous to religious tolerance.

Since the Catholic Church was associated with the Old Regime, it was a target for persecution. The Assembly hoped to balance the budget by seizing the Church's wealth and landholdings. Approximately 1/5 of the land in France was owned by the Church. This is akin to what Henry VIII did as well. The Assembly passed laws confiscating all Church lands, disbanding monasteries, and redistributing the land. This put the country against the Church, which was a shame because the Church was really the only institution that was trying to help the country's situation through its vast charity network.

The National Assembly wanted to establish a Gallican Church, (from the Latin, 'Gaul', which designated France during the Roman Empire), that would serve as a social arm of the secular government. Therefore they produced the Civil Constitution of the Clergy which dealt with everything from the number of bishops to the length of travel allowed to priests. Priests would be chosen by local assemblies while all citizens, including non-Catholics, would choose the hierarchy (bishops). It reorganized the salary structure, reducing the status of clergy to state officials and their authority to that of civil servants. It prohibited clergy from leaving their parishes for more than two weeks, which meant they didn't have enough time to travel to Rome and back, and it outlawed the publication of papal documents.

Pope Pius VI only privately condemned the document because he was hoping the French bishops themselves would be more vocal. If the pope threw his mitre into the ring, it could have the reverse effect of galvanizing the French even more against the pope. Only 4 out of 134 bishops acknowledged the Civil Constitution, but 30,000 out of 70,000 priests acknowledged it. This created a schism in the French church between priests and bishops. In 1791, Pius VI publicly condemned it and several large regions of the country would also reject it.

On June 20, 1791, King Louis XVI attempted to flee France. He wanted to secure foreign aid against the Jacobins, who were members of the Assembly who worked to uproot all of the traditional institutions of the Old Regime. Unfortunately for him, he was caught and brought back as a prisoner. Hoping to contain the revolutionary fervor, Austria and Prussia formed an alliance to invade France and restore the king. The Jacobins believed that the French Revolution could not succeed unless it spread to every nation in the world. They wanted to create a federation of republics, and therefore sought to sow unrest in countries around Europe.

However, military defeats and internal unrest that stemmed from the fact that the bourgeoisie dominated the Assembly and kept the commoners out, led to riots. On August 10, 1792, a mob of working-class people stormed the prison where Louis XVI was being held. They established a commune government in Paris and wanted to establish a more democratic constitution. They created a strictly republican model of government, abolishing the monarchy and emphasizing the jurisdiction of neighborhood clubs/assemblies to open the democratic process up to everyone.

This constitutional convention declared 1789 "Year One" of the new political age. This founding of the French Republic became known as the second French Revolution.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21


July 26, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Scientific Revolution

Scientific discoveries began to prove the effectiveness of human reason. Many, therefore, began to believe that the study and science/nature could help correct all of the problems of society, such as poverty, disease, and war. These discoveries also brought with them new skepticism. Anything that didn't fall under the umbrella of scientific explanation was dismissed or regarded with disdain. Basically, if you couldn't prove it, then it couldn't be called true. Rationalism took precedence over faith; and the Church was seen as an enemy of scientific progress and a promoter of superstition.

Rene Descartes was a mathematician who hoped to attain for philosophy the same kind of absolute certainty that came with math. In 1637, he published his "Discourse on Method" which advanced his principle of "systematic doubt". He argued that given the subjective knowledge of the individual, there was no way to achieve knowledge with absolute certainty. He claimed that human knowledge was essentially flawed and that only the awareness of one's own existence was certain. Even if one doubted his own existence, he knows that he exists because he's able to doubt that existence. This led to his famous phrase, "Cogito ergo sum", "I think, therefore I am." This roots everything through a person's subjectivity. He believed that man was incapable of knowing truth that is metaphysical (that which transcends empirical data). This ultimately places a huge wedge between faith and reason.

Up through the middle ages, people were satisfied with the Greek model of the universe which put the earth at the center. It made sense given what we see from earth and from the Scriptural understanding of heaven and earth. Nicholas Copernicus, a Polish priest, postulated a heliocentric view putting the sun at the center of the universe. This helped to explain planetary motion and was confirmed by Brahe and Kepler.

Galileo combined observation, experimentation, and application into a new scientific method. Galileo's discoveries, however, were coming at a time when churchmen were growing defensive and wary of science. During the Protestant Revolt, the Church had come under attack for advocating human reason and scholastic education while seemingly neglecting Scripture. So the Church was now trying to give more emphasis to using Scripture to explain her origins. Thus the Church was placed in the position to balance this and the new scientific advances.

Some of Galileo's observations contradicted interpretations of Scripture, and this would bring him into conflict with ecclesiastical authorities. Because the Church was trying to demonstrate faithful adherence to Sacred Scripture, authorities condemned Galileo's work. However, despite Church authorities doing this, Galileo was still supported by Pope Paul V and his successor Pope Gregory X.

In 1632, Galileo presented his work, "Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World". This work defended the Copernican theory and ridiculed the geocentric theory. The pope at the time, Urban VIII, understood the geocentric fool in Galileo's work, called "Simplicio", to be the pope himself. Church authorities objected and asked Galileo to present the findings as a hypothesis and not a declaration, which honestly isn't that harsh. However, Galileo refused and he was imprisoned.

It's important to note that technically, Galileo was wrong. He defended the Copernican view which put the sun at the center or near the center of the whole universe, which is incorrect. It's more correct than geocentrism but still ultimately incorrect.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12, Romans 8:28-30, Matthew 13:44-52


July 19, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Church in the Enlightenment, part 2

Across the channel in merry old England, the Stuart Kings rose to power after the death of Elizabeth I (these are the Stuarts, here are their names: James, Charles, Charles, and James). They sought to replicate the absolute ruling style of Louis XIV. James I was the son of Mary Stuart of Scotland (Mary, Queen of Scots). However, despite his mother's Catholic faith, James was raised Protestant and came to the throne in 1603. Any affection that James might have had for Catholicism disappeared with the "Gunpowder Plot" of 1605 when Guy Fawkes, a Catholic, plotted to blow up Parliament and the King.

"Remember, remember the 5th of November, the gunpowder, treason, and plot! I know of no reason, why the gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot!"

After this, there was a renewed persecution of Catholics. James also used religion to solidify his power. Catholic education became illegal both at home and abroad. There were also heavy fines for attending Anglican services. Calvinism was also seen as a threat to religious unity. Puritan churches were tolerated, but tithes were paid to the Anglican church to show loyalty to the king. This taxation led to a group leaving in 1620 (pilgrims) for toleration in the new world. In 1634, George Calvert received permission to create a colony in the New World as a refuge for Catholics. It's always easy to remember which colony this was: MARYland.

Charles I succeeded his brother in 1625 and tried to centralize the bureaucracy around the crown. This did not go well. No guarantee of religious toleration made the Calvinist-dominated parliament rather unhappy. When Charles tried to force Anglican uniformity on the Scottish and Puritans, it led to the English Civil War from 1642-1649. From the war came the Calvinist dictator Oliver Cromwell, who established a puritanical regime and beheaded Charles (Regicide!) Cromwell ruled as "Lord Protector" from 1648-1658 in the style of a military dictatorship.

After Cromwell's death, Parliament returned power to Charles II, son of Charles I. He had been in France with the rest of his family in exile. This softened him towards Catholics as France was a Catholic nation that had treated them well. So Charles allowed Catholics to practice their faith in their own homes which was a big step forward for Catholics in England.

However, in 1685, Charles II dies without an heir. Therefore it goes to the next oldest brother, in this case, his brother James. James had converted to Catholicism in France. Normally, parliament would have tried to block his ascension to the throne, but they chose to allow it because James was old and his daughter, who would be his successor, was Protestant. But then James' wife gives birth to a son (and boys trump girls in the line of succession despite their age) and he's baptized Catholic. This new successor then threatened to establish a new Catholic dynasty and threaten Protestantism in England. 

Parliament then claimed the "right to revolution" put forth in John Locke's "Two Treatises on Government". Locke had argued that whenever a monarch violated the social contract with his subjects, the people had the right to replace the ruler with someone of their own choosing. This would be used later in a document written sometime around 1776. Claiming this right, the English launched the bloodless Glorious Revolution in 1688. James was forced to abdicate and power was given to his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange. William and Mary (after whom the famous university is named) passed the Act of Settlement in 1701. This barred Catholics from politics and prohibited Catholics from sitting on the throne.

Members of the Royal Family were therefore barred from marrying Catholics. This was not changed until 2015. However, while a Catholic is no longer removed from the line of succession, he/she could still not become the monarch because the monarch is still the head of the Church of England.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43


July 12, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Church in the Enlightenment, part 1

Monarchs began to reorganize their nations in order to assume more absolute power. In addition, new political philosophies that focused on the rights of the individual and the power of reason replaced religious beliefs. Proponents of the Enlightenment would conceive philosophies that dismissed divine revelation and the Church's teaching authority as well.

The best example of an absolute monarchy comes courtesy of France. Cardinal Richelieu worked to unify France after the Thirty Years War. He argued that only strict loyalty to the King could provide effective cohesion. During this time, Thomas Hobbes wrote his famous work, "Leviathan" which claimed that man was a selfish beast. According to Hobbes, when left alone, life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Therefore, without a strong political structure, people will destroy each other. Richelieu used this to vindicate his positions.

King Louis XIV of France was a strong supporter of a national French church. This would be Catholic, but independent of Rome. Louis saw himself as king and high priest, subject only to God. However, unlike Henry VIII (who was a certified lunatic), Louis was deeply religious and his "priestly" actions stemmed from an authentic spiritual reality. Because he was an absolute monarch, it simply didn't make sense to him that any other earthly person (i.e. the pope) could possibly be in charge of anything regarding Louis. So his issue was administration, not doctrine.

Therefore Louis XIV had the French clergy issue the "Four Gallican Articles" in 1682. The word Gallican stems from the Roman Empire's name for France, which was Gaul. The articles claimed that the King of France was independent of the pope when it came to temporal matters. A general council enjoyed higher authority than the pope. Papal authority was limited to ecclesiastical law, and the pope's dogmatic decisions were not irrevocable until approved by a council. Basically, if a council is the highest authority, and a council is made up of local clergy, and local clergy are subjects of the King, and the King is an absolute monarch, then really the King is the one in control. The pope condemned these articles (naturally) and refused to appoint new bishops. This is where Louis and Henry took different paths. Whereas Henry just cut England off completely, Louis never saw himself in conflict with the papacy. Therefore in 1693, Louis agreed to disavow the four articles.

In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes that was passed at the end of the Huguenot Wars. This was due to the rise of a new heresy known as Jansenism. Cornelius Jansen was a bishop in Belgium who dedicated his life to formulating his own theory of grace. His ideas adapted a rigid Calvinist approach to Catholic teaching. In his work, "Augustinus", Jansen claimed that man was entirely free in the state of innocence (pre-original sin) and his will tended to do what was right. Original sin, however, made man a slave to sin and all his actions then reflected a sin-ridden soul. Therefore man's only hope was God's grace. However, God only granted salvific grace to a small number (predestination). Therefore Christ didn't die for all men since most were predestined to damnation. Eventually this led to denying the validity of confession and only the "just" should receive holy communion.

Now, Jansen (who was a bishop), never meant to contradict Church teachings (despite succeeding in doing so spectacularly). Upon his death, he left his work to a friend with the disclaimer to accept whatever decision the Church made concerning his book. Pope Innocent X condemned it (obviously). But despite this, it spread quickly in France but was suppressed by Louis who saw them as schismatic and threatening to his authority.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23


July 5, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Wars of Religion, part 2

Across the channel in the merry old land of England, Elizabeth I sought to strengthen her position and consolidate power. She would intervene in the Low Countries, Germany, and France, all on behalf of the Protestants. She then intensified persecutions of Catholics in England under threat of Spanish Invasion, hoping to eliminate any possible support should the Spanish land on English soil. The rise of Presbyterianism in Scotland aided her in her anti-Catholic efforts.

John Knox founded the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. He encouraged violence against Catholics and his preaching led to a wave of iconoclastic attacks that resulted in the destruction of many churches and monasteries. Scottish Lords, driven primarily by the same secular motives as those in France, signed a document known as the First Covenant. It adopted a Calvinistic profession of faith that also rejected all jurisdiction of the pope.

With the persecutions in England and the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, the legitimate heir to the throne, Philip II of Spain decided to take action. Philip had been married to Mary I, so he had a distant claim to the throne. He planned an invasion in 1588, but poor planning and poor weather led to the loss of the Spanish Armada. This solidified English naval supremacy and Protestantism in England.

The Thirty Years War (which lasted 30 years from 1618-1648), will permanently divide Germany between Protestants and Catholics. In 1555, the Peace of Augsburg had established Cuius regio, huius religio (whose region, his the religion). This meant that whatever religion the prince was, his region was officially that religion. This pacified each region from infighting. However, Calvinists were not included in that, and they sought to gain territory from both sides. The war is divided into four phases: Bohemian (like the Rhapsody, 1618-1625), Danish (like the pastry, 1625-1629), Swedish (like the meatballs/chef, 1630-1635), and French (like the fries, 1635-1648).

Bohemian Phase:
The nobility in Bohemia was predominantly Protestant. The current Holy Roman Emperor (HRE), Matthias, tolerated them. The nobility feared a new Catholic (Hapsburg) HRE. There were seven electors that elected the HRE: three were Protestant and three were Catholic. The tie-breaking vote was the King of Bohemia, the current HRE, Matthias. He names the Hapsburg Catholic Ferdinand of Styria as his successor. The nobles in Bohemia were so outraged that they threw two emissaries of the HRE out of the window of the Castle in Prague. This is known as the Defenestration of Prague (the word was actually invented for this and is Latin for "out of the window"), and marks the mobilization of the resistance to the new HRE and the beginning of the 30 Years War.

The nobles rejected Ferdinand and chose Frederick of Palatine as their choice. Frederick used Dutch/English support to raise an army and defend Bohemia. Ferdinand raised his own army and defeated the Protestants at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620.

Danish Phase:
Christian IV, King of Denmark, wanted to extend Danish influence. He used Dutch/English/French support to stop the Catholic resurgence under Ferdinand. Ferdinand raised another army under General Wallenstein who would drive the Danes back and recapture much of Northern Germany for Catholics. Ferdinand then issued the Edict of Restitution which returned to the Church all land confiscated by Protestant states in 1555.

Swedish Phase:
The Swedish King, Gustavus Adolfus, became concerned with Ferdinand's growing power. Ferdinand had to disband Wallenstein's army under pressure from the electors because it was running wild through the countryside. Adolfus, a brilliant military commander, then invaded and his army pushed quickly through Germany, defeated the Catholics over and over. However, Adolfus died in 1632 at the Battle of Lutzen which would mark the turn of the Swedish phase. Diminishing support and lack of leadership halted the Swedish advance.

French Phase:
Cardinal Richelieu in France saw that the German princes were beginning to unite against the Swedes. This was a problem because the French feared a united Germany. But let's be honest, when would a united Germany ever be a problem for the French? Anyway, Richelieu came out openly for the Swedes showing that he wanted the war to continue. The French invaded, the Spanish invaded, armies clashed and Germany was destroyed. The population in Germany would fall by a third and nearly three quarters of the peasant population would die.

In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia brought an end to the war and an end to the hopes of a united Germany. France guaranteed that each of the 300 sovereign German states would be recognized as independent. This made it impossible for the states to function together as a political unit which is exactly what France wanted.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30


June 28, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Wars of Religion, part 1

The Wars of Religion are broken down into four different conflicts: the Revolt of the Low Countries, the Huguenot Wars in France, the Struggle for Britain, and the 30 Years War (which lasted 30 years). We will address them in that order.

Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, leader of Spain, the Spanish Netherlands, and Spanish America, abdicates the throne in 1557. His son, Philip II, gets Spain, the Netherlands, Milan, Naples, some western Mediterranean islands, and Spanish America. He then married Bloody Mary of England, giving him partial influence there; and in 1580, the entire Portuguese empire comes under his control. So, in summary, he had a lot of stuff. Philip was an ardent Catholic who sought to root out heresy within his empire.

In the low countries (modern day Belgium and the Netherlands), each of the 17 provinces that made up the area was a state unto itself. Each had its own legislature and its own customs. Charles V, and later Philip II, would allow for practically independent governing there which made them popular rulers. And when Protestantism began to creep in, it only affected a minority and Charles V was very tolerant despite his own laws against heresy. Philip would change that.

Philip sent Spanish governors to the low countries to enforce his policies against heresy and the local rulers revolted. Now, this revolt was both political and religious. It was political because the local leaders resented the interference from the foreign governors. It was religious because Philip was trying to institute the reforms of the Council of Trent by restructuring local dioceses. This attempted restructuring caused abbots and bishops to lose the power they had become accustomed to.

In 1566, Calvinists launched an iconoclastic campaign. Over 1000 churches were plundered. The local populations were understandably outraged at the minority that perpetrated this. Philip, however, treated all subjects in the area as guilty. He sent a Spanish army to quell the rebellion instead of letting the locals handle it. Thousands were sentenced to death, and the lucrative trade in the area stopped, angering more people against Philip. William of Orange then invaded the low countries with an army of German mercenaries.

The little Catholic support that was left in the area disappeared when the Spanish army mutinied in 1576 because they hadn't been paid. Known as the Spanish Fury, soldiers pillaged the land and killed over 6000 people. The local governments then passed the "Pacification of Ghent" which granted toleration of worship to everyone... except Catholics. Practicing the Catholic religion was no longer allowed in the north where the Calvinists were in charge.

In order to regain control, Philip's new general, Alessandro Farnese, promised to return individual control back to the 17 provinces. Those who feared William of Orange's growing power went back to Spanish rule. To consolidate what he already had, William united the seven northern provinces who declared independence from Spain and reorganized as the new Dutch Republic. The ten southern provinces remained loyal to Spain and formed the new Spanish Netherlands.

Nobles in France who were seeking to maintain their independence from the increasingly absolutist policies of the French monarchy became Protestants, called Calvinist Huguenots. So again, we see conversion for political, rather than spiritual or theological reasons. Calvinism spread quickly in France as the image of the Church and papacy had been significantly diminished. This was used as a pretext by the nobles against the monarchy.

There were three main factions when it comes to the Huguenot Wars: the Guise, the Huguenots, and the Politiques. The Guise were descendants of Charlemagne, Catholic, and had a distant claim to the French throne. The Huguenots were led by nobles who sought to undermine the Guise family. They also fought for local liberties in religious worship. The Politiques had no strong religious ties but used the situation to further their own ambition. The most famous of these was Catherine de Medici.

In 1563, Francis, Duke of Guise, was assassinated, and civil war broke out between the Catholics and the Huguenots that would last 18 years.

Catherine de Medici's son, Charles IX, was king, and the Huguenot, Admiral Coligny, was a close advisor. Catherine feared the influence Coligny would have; and, by extension, her lack of influence, so she wanted him assassinated (naturally). There were many Huguenots in Paris attending the wedding of Henry of Navarre (Huguenot prince) and Margaret (Catherine's daughter). Catherine then spreads the rumor that an insurrection is being planned by the Protestants in Paris during the wedding. The Catholics then plan a preemptive strike.

On August 24, 1572 (Feast day of St. Bartholomew), Catholics took to the streets butchering Protestants. Admiral Coligny was among the casualties (so mission accomplished I suppose). In Paris there were roughly 2000 victims, but the violence spread, and another 2000-100,000 were estimated to be killed. In retaliation, the Huguenots hired mercenaries, and the Catholics did as well (20,000 Catholic churches were looted and destroyed). To put that number into perspective, we have less than 100 parishes in our entire diocese. Thousands of priests and religious were also killed.

Eventually, Henry of Navarre claims the throne but reconverts to Catholicism under pressure from his advisors who said that the Protestant minority is not something he should place his trust in.

In 1598, the Edict of Nantes was issued. It allowed every noble who was also a landholder the right to hold Protestant services in the privacy of his own household. It allowed the legal practice of Protestantism in towns where the majority was Protestant, and it granted the same civil rights to Protestants as Catholics had.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42


June 21, 2020, Bulletin... 

Ask Father (#2)

Question: Matthew 5:39 states that we should not offer resistance to the wicked. How does this passage relate to current events such as general media hype, Antifa, CHAZ, etc. And how does one discuss the current events with others without stirring the devil's desire of disgust, frustration, and hatred?

Answer: An excellent question for this present and chaotic time. It's the age-old adage of "turn the other cheek", which Jesus says immediately following the above passage. It's the non-violent Christianity, the passive lambs that many think we're called to be. Let's break this question down into a few sections and address each individually.

First, it's important to note that what Jesus is talking about in this famous passage is not that we can never be violent. There is such a thing as righteous anger; and I would direct you to Jesus' attitude toward changing money and selling animals in the temple area. Jesus did not turn the other cheek when He witnessed the desecration of the temple; and we, too, are not called to turn the other cheek when faced with similar injustices. That being said, Jesus' anger was righteous as there was a true injustice being committed. Our anger must also be righteous if it's to flare up.

So, looking at the specific examples that were asked, let's think rationally (because the media, Antifa, and the people in CHAZ/CHOP certainly aren't). When it comes to the media, it's fair to say that most of our so-called "journalists" these days are really activists. They are, in essence, creating crimes themselves that they can then report on. Our constant bombardment of media, whether it's social, mainstream, or what have you, can cause us to become so locked in to their narrative that we allow them to dictate the mood we're in. But that's just it: we're allowing them to dictate our mood. There's no reason that we have to be angry when we turn on the news. There's no reason that we even need to turn on the news. We allow ourselves to become angry because we're witnessing, in many cases, a highly processed narrative that's designed to make us angry. Because when we're angry, we become divisive, and when we're divisive, we seek more and more to find a narrative that either makes us happy or continues to fuel our seemingly righteous anger. But in reality, most of what we witness on the news doesn't affect us at all. Now I'm not advocating sticking our head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the world outside our town, but we can't allow ourselves to go to pieces about things that don't directly affect us. So in this regard, we offer no "resistance" to the wickedness of the media because we allow them to fulminate on their own without actually affecting us.

Antifa, CHAZ, and other such things follow a similar pattern as to the media. These are groups of bored individuals who have been fed a particular narrative about the world and are preying on the weakness and timidity of their communities and their politicians. But Antifa and its tactics and anyone who would declare, however stupidly and with no ability to sustain themselves whatsoever, that they're their own country, become unjust aggressors. Members of Antifa who rely on terrorist styles of violence, anonymity, and general cowardice to accomplish their means do not have the ability to call themselves just. Therefore, as an unjust aggressor, we have every moral right to defend ourselves if our lives become in danger. For example, if someone breaks into your house to do you harm, they are an unjust aggressor, and you have the right to defend yourself. And so while we're asked to offer no resistance and turn the other cheek, we are not asked to do so if we're actually in danger. But as of right now, Antifa and CHAZ aren't causing direct threats to us here; so for us to saddle up our trucks and head on out to Washington would not fall into the "just" category.

Now, we can move on to the second part of the question which is how we discuss these issues with others. Well, it's always easy to talk about these things with people who agree with you and to commiserate together. However, often times that can still lead us down the pathway of being uncharitable. It's also very easy to share those feelings of disgust and frustration with those who agree with you and that can often keep those feelings simmering far longer than they should. So the question to ask yourself would be whether or not the topic is worth discussing if both parties agree. What I mean is that if both parties are equally frustrated and disgusted at something, it can help to blow off some steam, but if the conversation is going to allow those negative feelings to stay with you longer, then it might not be worth it. It can be therapeutic to know that you're not the only one who feels a certain way, but we just have to be careful that we're keeping our "righteous anger" in check, lest it devolve into something far worse.

When it comes to discussing these issues with people who disagree with you, things can become a bit thornier. We're always told not to discuss religion and politics because people tend to not change their minds very often when it comes to those topics and also tend to have rather stalwart feelings. But, the collapse of proper discourse in our society today will continue to be catastrophic for our being able to live with each other, and so here are a few pointers.

First, never, and I mean never engage with someone on social media. Even if you know who the person is, it's not worth it. You cannot control the conversation, you cannot control who is in the conversation, and you cannot really talk in real time. All you are doing is venting your anger at someone who may not even really exist for all you know. Use social media for keeping up with friends and looking at funny videos of cats. Otherwise, it's a vicious hell-scape of emotion and turmoil.

Second, always approach any conversation with another person of a different viewpoint from the understanding that you may be wrong. While I'm not the kind of person to engage in a religious conversation from that standpoint, I have to allow for the possibility, no matter how minute, that I could be wrong. If I have that, then I'm open to what the other person is saying. If I'm not even open to what they're saying, then why are we even talking?

Third, put yourself in their position. Where are they coming from? To understand the other person is to have patience and compassion for them. We want them to have patience and compassion for us and our viewpoints, and we must be willing to have it for theirs. If not, then I ask again why we're even talking.

If we're going to talk to someone about controversial issues, we need to be open about it; otherwise we're the very thing we claim to hate. We become the righteous warriors in our own mind while allowing our "opponent" to continue to see us as the intransigent adversary who refuses to listen. Most people simply want to be heard; and if we truly listen, we begin to realize that we have more in common than in opposition. The death of debate and real conversation will inevitably lead to the death of our common society. Unless we're willing to live in segregated communities based on religious and political affiliations, then all people have to simply be willing to talk to each other.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jeremiah 20:10-13; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33


June 14, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Catholic Revival, part 2

The Council of Trent would reopen in 1551, two years after the death of Pope Paul III, under the reign of Pope Julius III. It continued its discussion of the sacraments until a group of Protestant theologians arrived in Trent. They demanded participation in the council. What they also demanded was that all of the work already done by the council be thrown out and the whole thing started again.

Shockingly, session 15 of the council began to honor their request by at least postponing consideration of any further issues. However, the arrival of the Protestant League of Schmalkalden, a militaristic league, placed the council members in danger and so the council was again temporarily closed. Pope Julius III then dies in 1555.

The council wouldn't reopen again until 1562 under Pope Pius IV. It held nine sessions in three months which was quite impressive for the time. It finished up the discussion on the sacraments, covered the topics of the veneration of saints and relics, defined the true nature of indulgences, and established the seminary system for the education and training of priests.

However, despite the council's sweeping accomplishments and scope, there was another outside threat (besides the Protestants) that had the potential to destroy the reform. In fact, this threat had the potential to destroy all of Europe.

The Muslim Turks reached the height of their power in the mid-16th century. Pope St. Pius V worked to unite the Christians against this threat to Europe. In 1565, the island of Malta was attacked by 30,000 Turks, which was defended by only 600 Knights of Malta (formerly Knights Hospitallers from the Crusades) and 8000 other enlisted men. The Maltese would outlast the summer-long siege, but the Turkish fleet was undaunted.

As the Turkish fleet amassed near Greece, Pope Pius V feared that it would bring Europe to its knees within the year. The Venetians and the Spanish, the two largest Christian fleets in the area, combined to defend Europe. Pius V urged every Christian to prepare for the naval battle by praying the rosary. On October 7, 1571, the two fleets met at the Battle of Lepanto. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Christian fleet defeated the Muslim force; and in thanksgiving, Pius V declared October 7th to be the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This victory secured Europe and it secured reform.

Ask Father (#1):
Question: In the Apostle's Creed, it says Jesus "descended into hell". Can you explain what that means?

Answer: When Adam and Eve committed the first sin, the gates of heaven were closed to humanity and would not be open again until the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Therefore, no one was entering into heaven apart from Elijah (who was taken up in a chariot of fire) and possibly Moses (because he was seen with Elijah conversing with Jesus at the Transfiguration).

It's important to always keep in mind, however, that God doesn't punish the righteous. We cannot be punished for faults that aren't ours. So those who were righteous who died after Adam and Eve were in a sort of "limbo" awaiting the sacrifice of Christ. Some depict this place just outside of hell, but the location isn't important. What's important is that there is no suffering involved, but there is also no paradise. So when Jesus "descended into hell", what He was doing was descending to this "limbo" as all other human beings had done before Him. Therefore He was fully sharing in our human nature up to and including what happened when we died. But, He did not descend there as just a place for Him to go, but rather He descended as Savior. The gates of heaven were thrown open to the faithful departed after His death and He descended to free the righteous from that temporary existence.

And so on the third day when He "rose from the dead", He was rising from that place. I hope that makes sense and answers your question! If you'd like to ask a question, just send me an email.

Scripture Readings Corpus Christi - Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58


June 7, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Catholic Revival, part 1

Protestant reformers thought that a successful council aimed at reform would undermine their changes. Therefore, they used political and military influence to thwart any kind of Catholic revival. Martin Luther had pointed out some changes that needed to occur within the Church, specifically uneducated priests, the abuse of indulgences, and an overall moral/spiritual lethargy.

Pope Paul III is credited with starting what became the Catholic Revival. He excommunicated Henry VIII in 1538 and placed England under interdict. An interdict is an ecclesiastical censure that prohibits certain individuals or groups from participating in certain rites and services are banished from having validity in the territory. In 1537, Paul appointed a commission to study the needed reforms. He wanted to call a general council but he faced many obstacles in doing so. Many feared calling a council because some reforms might undermine the benefits they were receiving.

Lutherans wanted total acceptance of their positions (which were heretical by definition) before a council. They wanted to be on equal footing with the Catholic bishops present. They demanded only the gospels be used in deliberations and pronouncements as well. When they realized they wouldn't get their way, they attempted to disrupt the council by any means necessary.

Secular rulers were also opposed to a council because they feared a loss of their perceived independence from the Church or any disruption that might be caused by an official condemnation of Lutheranism. Originally the council was to be held in Mantua, but King Francis I of France wouldn't allow French bishops to attend, and Charles V didn't want it in an Italian city. It was decided that the council would be held in Trent, which was an Italian city, but one under Charles V's control. However, war broke out between Francis and Charles and that would delay the council for another three years.

The Council of Trent officially opened on December 13, 1545. It would last for 18 years at irregular intervals and throughout three pontificates. These pontificates were not concurrent. When a pope dies and a council is being held, the council is paused. The new pope can decide to keep it paused, to continue it, or to end it. Originally, Trent was presided over by three papal legates. Particular congregations would discuss the topic of each session. The decisions of these congregations would be sent to to the general congregation for review. Final promulgation would occur at the end of each session. All decisions were sent to the pope for his final approval.

The first seven sessions addressed doctrinal issues, and the first topic was sacred scripture. It was decided that in matters of faith and morals, the Tradition of the Church together with the Bible is the source of Catholic belief. This is opposed to the Protestant notion of scripture alone. The Latin Vulgate, translated by St. Jerome, is the authoritative text and the books contained in it were the complete canonical list of books.

The second topic was original sin. The council discredited the protestant notion that original sin destroyed human freedom. Baptism makes people "sons of God" who can freely choose to cooperate with God's salvific mission. Good works, guided by faith, are necessary for salvation. This is opposed to the protestant notion of faith alone.

On the sacraments, the council identified those seven instituted by Christ and proceeded to examine each in turn. The council addressed the need to provide better training for clergy as well. It was decreed that a bishop having charge over more than one diocese was strictly forbidden, and strict laws were devised for the appointment of bishops. The council was temporarily closed in 1549 when Pope Paul III died.

Scripture Readings The Most Holy Trinity - Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, John 3:16-18


May 31, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The English Revolt, part 2

Nearly a third of English property was held by the Church and this netted a gross income of nearly 300,000 pounds/year. So Henry issued the "Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries" which had some 318 monastic houses closed. The larger monasteries soon followed, and all property/possessions were seized by the state. There were some uprisings during this, but they didn't amount to much.

Despite the break with Rome, Henry still considered himself a Catholic. He continued to fight against the introduction of Lutheran ideas into England. In 1539, he asks Parliament to adopt his "Six Articles" that determined the main teachings of the English church. They were: transubstantiation, communion under one species, masses for the dead, the sacrament of penance, vows, and celibacy of the clergy. In other words, they were all Catholic in nature.

Henry soon tired of Anne Boleyn; and he was also upset that she hadn't given him a son. He also blamed her for the presence of Lutheranism in England. Added to that, he had also fallen in love with one of her attendants: Jane Seymour (love is fickle and ironic). Thomas Cromwell brought charges of adultery against Anne Boleyn (he was really good at false charges), and Anne was beheaded in 1536. Henry then married Jane Seymour, and she finally bore him a son: Edward. Edward was a sickly child, but he had a pulse. Jane, however, did not, as she died in childbirth.

Thomas Cromwell then tried to unite England and Protestant Germany after Jane dies and arranges a marriage between Henry and Anne of Cleves. However, because of this union, Henry was drawn into a conflict with Catholic Spain. For this, he had Cromwell executed for treason. Henry ends up annulling his marriage to Anne of Cleves (who he would take care of  the rest of his life). On the same day as Cromwell's execution, Henry marries Catherine Howard, because apparently if you're a wife of Henry, you can only be named Catherine, Anne, or Jane. Catherine Howard has an affair and she's beheaded in 1542. Henry then marries Catherine Parr in 1543. So it went Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine, Catherine. Catherine Parr helps reconcile Henry with Mary and Elizabeth, his two children from Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn respectively. An Act of Parliament puts both women back in the line of succession after Edward. Henry then dies in 1547 at the age of 55.

After Henry's death, the Six Articles were repealed, and Cranmer (still a secret Lutheran) set about trying to make England a Lutheran-Calvinist country (so no longer secret). Many revolts broke out because of this; and Edward VI, being young and sickly, was not able to do much at all. Edward dies at 15. Because the next in line is Mary, Catherine of Aragon's Catholic daughter, they tried to usurp her authority but support was with her.

Mary was an ardent Catholic like her mother. She repealed all Edwardian acts and reunited England with Rome in 1554. She then married Philip II of Spain to strengthen her hand. Mary had Cranmer and other opponents tried for heresy and burned at the stake. In total, 277 were executed under her rule, earning her the title of Bloody Mary. Mary will die in 1558 after only five years on the throne and no heir. Therefore it fell to Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn.

Elizabeth's claim was questioned; but if not her, it would have fallen to Mary Stuart of Scotland who had just married the King of France, which was not good. While maintaining the outward appearance of Catholicism, the Church of England began to get a lot of Protestant doctrine. Elizabeth issued the 39 Articles which kept the old organization of the church, but prayer was along Protestant lines. She would heavily persecute Catholics, executing 189 priests and imprisoning thousands for practicing their faith.

Scripture Readings Pentecost - Acts 2:1-11, 1 Corinthian 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23


May 24, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The English Revolt, part 1

This was not based on theological or dogmatic issues. The issue was papal authority, specifically about the King's marriage. In fact, during this time the Church in England was in great shape: support for the Church was high and scandal was low.

The Tudors had been in power since the War of the Roses. Henry VII (7th) had strengthened England by avoiding war and allying with Spain by betrothing his oldest son to Catherine of Aragon. His oldest son was Arthur. Arthur marries Catherine in 1501 but then dies suddenly in 1502 of an unknown ailment. Catherine claims that the marriage was never consummated and there is evidence to support this. The second son, Henry, is then asked to marry Catherine to preserve the alliance but he needs a dispensation from Rome since technically Catherine is his sister by marriage.

The marriage is happy... at first. Their oldest child was their daughter Mary; and there were several sons but all died before the age of one. As Catherine aged, Henry realized he wouldn't have a male heir. He was also drawn towards Anne Boleyn, one of Catherine's attendants. Seeking to end his marriage, Henry tried to use a passage from Leviticus to say that the dispensation should never have been given, and he was now being punished for taking his brother's wife.

Cardinal Wolsey was the chief legate sent to Rome on Henry's behalf to seek an annulment. He attained consent from Rome to begin the trial of annulment in England where he could have influence on its outcome. Pope Clement VII was cautious, however, because he realized that England could fall into schism over this issue. He also had to contend with Catherine's nephew, who just so happened to be the most powerful ruler in Europe: Charles V.

Before judgment was reached, the pope ordered the case brought to Rome. Henry declares Wolsey a traitor, strips him of his power, and orders him back to London. However, Wolsey will die in a monastery on the return trip.

Henry then turns to his friend, Thomas More, in hopes that he might sway the mind of the pope. Thomas helps Henry reform the Church in England but doesn't go anywhere near the annulment issue. Henry then names Thomas Cranmer the Archbishop of Canterbury, the top Church job in England. Thomas Cranmer also happened to be the personal confessor of Anne Boleyn and a secret Lutheran (you can't make this stuff up).

Cranmer then officiates the marriage between Henry and Anne (who's now pregnant) in a secret ceremony in 1533. He then nullifies the first marriage and recognizes the new one and the new heir as legitimate. This new heir is another daughter: Elizabeth. However, since all of this was basically illegal given the current system, Henry needed a new one.

The Act of Supremacy was then released in which the king was proclaimed the supreme head of the Church in England and Anne Boleyn was recognized as queen. Elizabeth would then become heir to the throne. The pope was no longer recognized as having even religious authority in England. All subjects of the crown were required to take an oath of allegiance to the king, and anyone who spoke against the Act would be punished by death.

The only bishop in England who didn't go along with this was John Fisher, bishop of Rochester. He refused to sign the oath and was imprisoned. In hopes of saving his life, Pope Paul III made John Fisher a cardinal while in prison assuming that Henry wouldn't kill a cardinal. However, this enraged Henry so much that he had John Fisher (now St. John Fisher) beheaded in 1535.

Thomas More, Chancellor of England and life-long friend of Henry's, refused to take the oath as well. He was imprisoned because he knew he couldn't be executed for refusing to take it, only if he spoke against it, which he never explicitly did. Thomas Cromwell (Henry obviously felt comfortable with people named Thomas), the new Chancellor, used perjured testimony to get a conviction, and Thomas More was beheaded two weeks after John Fisher.

Don't worry, this gets even crazier...

Scripture Readings The Ascension of the Lord - Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20


May 17, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Peasant Rebellion and John Calvin

The German princes had little in common with Luther's theology. They saw his rebellious nature towards the pope as a way to rid themselves of the Church's authority and claim its lands. Denying the authority of the Church was seen as a model for denying secular authority as well. If personal interpretation of scripture was supreme, then who's to say who should be ruling either? So in 1524, peasants rebelled across Germany.

Luther was called upon by the princes to condemn the uprising (which was basically his fault) and he urged the princes to strike against the peasants! He said "nothing is more devilish than sedition" which is a phrase absolutely slathered in irony. Over 100,000 men, women, and children were killed and hundreds of villages were burned.

Charles V was facing a civil war within his realm and an offensive from the Turks from outside. In hopes of forming an internal alliance against the Turks, Charles called an assembly at Augsburg. The Augsburg Confession established the basic tenets of Lutheranism. It understated the basic theological differences between Lutheranism and Catholicism. The papal legate who was at the assembly noted the need to reform the abuses within the Church. Luther dies in 1546 without ever reconciling with the Church.

John Calvin was born in 1509 in France. In contrast to Luther he was middle class, an intellectual, and a layman. He discovers the teachings of Luther at the University of Paris but due to a misunderstanding had to flee and settled in Basel, Switzerland in 1535.

Calvin wrote The Institutes of the Christian Religion which began as an apology (defense) of Protestantism written to the King of France who he hoped to convert. It contains four books with Calvin's view concerning Protestant theology and church organization. Basically, it was a law manual codifying the principles of Luther.

Calvin said that ultimate authority is in the scriptures, and they are the only source of revelation (as opposed to Scripture and Tradition, which is Catholic teaching). Calvin rejects the power of human freedom to do works because human nature is totally corrupted, rotten, and vicious. Calvin deviates from Luther because Calvin denies all sacramental grace while Luther maintained baptism and the Eucharist. Calvin was also iconoclastic in regards to crucifixes, statues, sacred paintings, vestments, altars, confessionals, and stained glass windows, which is why his churches had all of the charm of an insane asylum. His followers moved through towns destroying everything like that they could. Calvinists will ultimately be responsible for the destruction of thousands upon thousands of sacred items.

Calvin believed in predestination, which says that salvation depended solely on God's free decision. Some were predestined to heaven and most were predestined to hell, which is actually double predestination. The "elect" had some inclination of their salvation by their good moral behavior and earthly success. Damnation was necessary to show God's great justice. I think the problems of claiming that people are predestined to hell are pretty self-explanatory.

Calvin arrived in Geneva in 1536 amid religious turmoil His initial reforms were considered too severe; but when he returned in 1541, he converted the government into a theocracy with him in unofficial control (he was never elected). No expression of religious freedom was tolerated. The Catholic creed was forbidden, no prayers could be said in Latin, and no words of sympathy or recognition for the pope were allowed. Any disagreement with Calvin could result in punishment.

Worship was reduced to simply prayers, sermons, and singing psalms. There were punishments for dancing, card-playing, drinking, braiding hair, or falling asleep during sermons (something to be said for that last one...). Calvin called upon everyone to forsake materialism and seek the holiness of the elect, which sounds like a great plan except that if you're predestined to hell, there's not a lot of motivation to do anything good. Calvin was the foundation for Presbyterians, Huguenots, and Puritans.

Scripture Readings Sixth Sunday of Easter - Acts 8:5-8; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21


May 10, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner

After Luther flees, he takes refuge in Saxony and is protected by the Duke in the castle in Wartburg. During this time, he writes Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian. It is in these works that he works out more fully his theological principles.

Luther believes that sinfulness is impossible to overcome, and man can never fully escape the deceptive attraction to sin. This is a horrible way to look at human nature because it can imply that our nature is intrinsically bad which then leads to many questions about the human nature of Christ, etc. Luther argued that since every act is essentially sinful, good works cannot play a role in perfecting the human person or obtaining forgiveness. So basically, this is seeing sin in everything a human being does no matter what, which makes sense if you suffer from scrupulosity which Luther did. Therefore, according to Luther, the individual can simply have faith in God and it's through this faith that God will grant salvation. Salvation is not matter of perfecting oneself for God by taking advantage of His grace, but rather simply believing that God's mercy will ultimately grant salvation. Apparently, "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" were words we were supposed to ignore.

Luther thought the soul will always remain corrupt, but through faith, the grace of Jesus Christ covers over sin so that one might be saved. The delightful image that Luther used was that we were snow-covered feces. Our souls are the fecal matter and the grace of Jesus Christ is the snow that covers us and makes us look clean. The problem (well, one of the problems) with this is that nothing unclean can enter heaven, and yet Luther is saying that our corrupt souls will enter heaven as they are, albeit a bit colder I suppose.

Luther refers to justification through faith alone as his major theological discovery. Romans 1:17 states, "For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The one who is righteous by faith will live'". In this passage, Luther finds the answer to his scrupulosity. Of course, the operative word that is missing from that passage (or any passage in the Bible) is the word "alone", but we'll get to that later. Luther sees (incorrectly) in Romans 1:17 that only through faith does one become righteous. Good deeds, penance, and works of charity do not contribute to righteousness, and faith alone saves a person. This is false and nowhere in scripture is this view supported as Luther states it.

From all of this Luther develops four theological principles in reaction to what he saw as false teachings of the Church: sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, and solo Christo. Sola scriptura (scripture alone) says that scripture is the sole authority on faith and doctrine. He rejects tradition's link with scripture, the authority of the councils, the pope, and the idea that the Holy Spirit guides the Church. Sola fide (faith alone) dismisses the value of corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a means to attaining righteousness. Sola gratia (grace alone) states that every good action is the direct result of God's saving grace since it's beyond human capacity to do good. Solo Christo (Christ alone) states that Christ must be the sole content of the scriptures, the mediator of grace, and the subject of faith. Luther objected to the Letter of St. James in the Bible because he thought it was insufficiently centered on Christ. It's probably just a coincidence that the Letter of St. James also says that faith without works is dead.

Luther attacked the sacraments because he said that God doesn't need material means through which He could impart grace. He rejected all but the Eucharist and baptism because of their "explicit" institution in the gospels. However, Lutherans do not believe in transubstantiation like Catholics do. Luther then wrote On Monastic Vows and The Abolition of Private Masses in which he attacks celibacy and the monastic life. He claimed that living celibacy was an impossible burden (it's not) and called for all religious to break their vows and marry. Luther then married an ex-nun in 1525.

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday of Easter - Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12


April 26, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Protestant Revolt - Martin Luther, part 2

In 1517, the Archbishop of Magdeburg, Albrecht of Brandenburg, sought to become the Archbishop of Mainz. This would cost him a tax of 31,000 gold ducats. Albrecht was forced to borrow money from the Fugger family at a high interest rate. At the same time, St. Peter's Basilica was being constructed and this put a heavy financial burden on the Church in Germany. Albrecht requests that a special papal indulgence be instituted and preached throughout his diocese as a means of raising funds. The proceeds from this indulgence will be split between Rome and the Archdiocese of Mainz.

However, this brought Albrecht into conflict with his neighbor, the Duke Frederick of Saxony, who had collected a great number of relics to be put on display for veneration, specifically for All Saints Day on November 1st. The papal indulgence that Albrecht would get would draw many pilgrims, and specifically their money, away from Frederick. He was not happy. This competition for the pockets of the faithful was certainly worthy of criticism; and on October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Cathedral in Frederick's realm.

None of the theses were explicitly heretical, but they were implicitly heretical because they directly undermine the teaching authority of the Church. They criticized the use of indulgences in general by saying that they distract sinners from true repentance. Luther argued that indulgences imply the forgiveness of sin through human as opposed to divine authority. Luther questioned the validity of indulgences since the Church seemed to usurp the authority of Christ in His role as mediator of grace and reconciliation. Luther apparently hadn't read Matthew 16:19 or John 20:22-23, but I digress.

It was academic custom to offer an argument in this manner and invite public debate, so the posting of the theses was not the dynamic bombshell people make it out to be. The Cathedral door was basically a bulletin board at this time. However, the advent of the printing press allowed copies of the 95 theses to be printed and distributed without context or explanation to an uneducated public.

The theses were not immediately condemned and many rallied behind Luther, applauding his criticism of the abuses that distracted the Church from her spiritual mission. The Archbishop of Mainz sent a copy to Pope Leo X and Cardinal Cajetan was tasked with the rebuttal letter that was sent to Luther. However, Luther then issues the Resolution on the Virtue of Indulgences which basically restated his position, and then he was summoned to Rome.

Luther believed his arguments were sound and before he could go to Rome, the Duke of Saxony intervened and instead arranged a public debate between Luther and Cajetan in Augsburg. To summarize the debate, they spoke past each other and got nowhere. However, Luther still didn't want to break with the Church. He even wrote the pope showing his desire for the problem to be solved. Luther was unconvinced theologically and was winning support which reassured and justified him in his own position. However, the support for Luther wasn't for his theology but rather what people interpreted simply as dissent.

Luther debated again in Leipzig in 1519, this time against Johann Eck, one of the foremost theologians of the day. He forced Luther to expound on his positions more extensively than ever and that led to the root of the issue which was direct opposition to the Church. Luther got backed into a corner and doubled down, and by the end of the debate Luther was clearly heretical.

Pope Leo X issued a bull that gave Luther two months to retract his opinions or be excommunicated. Luther responded by burning the bull and a Code of Canon Law in a bonfire. Luther said it was symbolic because the pope himself should be burned (which isn't over-exaggerating at all). He then wrote (he loved to write), "Against the Bull of the Anti-Christ", (subtle) which called for an all-out rebellion against the Church. Charles V called an assembly which questioned Luther again and Luther refused to retract his positions. He was then given 24 hours safe passage before being subject to execution.


April 19, 2020, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Protestant Revolt - Martin Luther, part 1

Words matter, and when the Protestant Revolt is referred to as the Reformation and the subsequent Catholic Revival is labeled the Counter-Reformation, you get a distinct image that the Church refused to reform and then tried to push against reform. The word "Revolt" is more accurate, especially since the word "Protestant" literally denotes a protest.

The world that existed in the early 16th century was ripe for people to question the teachings of the Church. There was political chaos from the Hundred Years War (which lasted 116 years), a breakdown of feudal loyalties because of the massive amount of death caused by the Black Death, and a tarnished moral authority of the papacy due to schism and political preoccupations. In the Church itself you had simony, nepotism, the abuse of indulgences, and the improper veneration of relics. Clerics were failing to keep their promises of celibacy and obedience, instead being corrupted by the lure of wealth and worldliness. In addition, the level of education of parish priests had declined as well. Many of them couldn't read or write in Latin and because their theology was weak, faithful Catholics would turn to superstition/witchcraft because the priest couldn't teach them why they should not do that.

During the Renaissance, the papacy and the Church as a whole were big patrons of the arts. That's a good thing because without that patronage, many of the artistic treasures we have today would not exist. However, in order to pay for these splendid works of art and beautiful churches, the Church sold Church offices and even indulgences. That's a bad thing. The cost of maintaining the works of charity provided by the Church was very expensive as was simply running the Church. All of these factors led to an increased abuse of indulgences, specifically their sale. An indulgence, by the way, is the remission of temporal punishment due to sin. In other words, a shorter stint in Purgatory.

Martin Luther was born in Saxony in 1483. His father wanted him to study law but in 1505, Luther joined the Augustinian friars. He took vows and was ordained after only nine months in the monastery. In the monastery, Luther had a problem with scrupulosity. Scrupulosity is like spiritual hypochondria. One imagines sin where none exists or grave sin when it's not. Serious scrupulosity is considered a psychological condition.

Because of this, Luther began to see God as a righteous lawgiver and administrator of justice. This severe image of God was stirred by the culture in Germany at the time which placed a heavy emphasis on damnation, divine justice, and absolute necessity of contrite repentance. This fostered the notion of a god who would deal out abundant punishment and whose wrath towards sinners was difficult to appease. This idea of God made Luther increasingly angry. Thinking that God would withhold forgiveness/salvation from him because he was a sinner, Luther sought comfort through intense prayer, fasting, and penance. None of this, however, would soothe his inner turmoil.

Then Luther encountered the writings of William of Ockham, who was a heretic. Ockham taught that man could not overcome sin on his own. Meritorious human action must be willed by God. This reduced man's ability to perform good deeds. This notion appealed to Luther as it complimented the spiritual turmoil he was suffering. Luther then misreads St. Paul and St. Augustine looking for these same ideas of Divine Justice and man's sinfulness. So basically, man is incapable of doing good things on his own and good things must therefore be willed by God. So it makes sense that Luther feels like he's always sinning because Ockham basically says he is.

Next week, we'll look at the events that led to the posting of the 95 Theses.


April 5, 2020 Bulletin... The History Corner - New Monarchs

Before we jump into the Protestant Revolt, we're going to quickly go over the political situation across Europe in some key countries so we're up to speed on who's in charge (and possibly who's on first, but honestly I don't know because he's on third).

Due to the Hundred Years War (which lasted 116 years), the French kings had developed a professional army. King Louis XI of France then absorbed Burgundy when the Duke of Burgundy died without an heir. He then instituted a perpetual tax that meant he didn't need to call on the Estates General to get more funds. Since France was more or less victorious in the Hundred Years War (which lasted 116 years), the country was unified in spirit. Louis XI then sought to remove all restrictions to the exercise of his authority by instituting a type of Conciliarism within the Church in France.

In England, after the Hundred Years War (which lasted 116 years), England entered into the War of the Roses. From this conflict will arise the Tudor kings, and in particular, Henry VII. Henry would expand trade, encourage private enterprise, and avoid war, all of which allow the country to prosper. He also offered his son to marry the daughter of Queen Isabella of Spain, who was Catherine of Aragon.

In Spain at the beginning of the 15th century, there were five kingdoms on the Iberian peninsula: Portugal, Castile, Leon, Aragon, and Granada (which was Muslim). The population was comprised of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The various languages and feuding nobility made Spanish unification unlikely. The Catholic Church was the most transcending force across the peninsula. Isabella of Castile was extremely devout, and she strove to strengthen the Church in Spain. She married Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469 which united the two largest kingdoms in Spain. This paved the way for the Reconquista.

In 1492, Spanish forces captured Granada and officially drove the Moors out of Spain. However, many believed that Jews and Muslims who had converted to Catholicism were either acting as spies for the Moors in Africa (which many were) or still practicing their old religion in secret (which many were as well). Under the principle of "unity of faith", Isabella expelled Muslims and Jews who would not convert. She then instituted the Spanish Inquisition to ensure patriotism, orthodoxy, and true conversion (which obviously no one expected).

In the 15th century, Germany was a confederation of 89 cities, 200 principalities, and 3 major bishoprics (which are territories under the jurisdiction of a bishop). The emperor (Holy Roman Emperor) was elected and his authority over this confederation was extremely limited. After 1356, the right of electing the emperor fell to seven electors. Four were princely lords: the Count of Palatine, Duke of Saxony, Marquis of Brandenburg, and the King of Bohemia. The other three were ecclesiastical lords: the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne.

In 1452, the Hapsburgs came to power and would rule for the next 400 years. Charles V was elected in 1519 and would unite the inheritances of his four grandparents: Austria, the Netherlands, Castile, Spanish America, and Aragon with its Mediterranean and Italian possessions. He was the most powerful ruler in Europe when he was elected. His authority was feared by German nobles and the French, and he would be undermined by continual Turkish threats and the Protestant Revolt which we'll start next week.


March 29, 2020 Bulletin... The History Corner - Humanism and Renaissance Popes

Universities began placing greater stress on rhetoric, grammar, and history rather than theological studies. Students also began to study Greco-Roman works as well. Basically the education was becoming much more secular. Greco-Roman art and culture were given new-found priority and enthusiasm. A renewed emphasis on the humanism of antiquity led to an increased emphasis on the individual: its form, beauty, and usefulness in society. The Renaissance world concentrated on manís abilities rather than God's omnipotence. Medieval man was primarily focused on the next world while the renaissance man was focused on the here and now, which he felt he had more control over.

Humanism denotes a certain mood and intellectual climate which focuses on the richness of the human spirit over the almost exclusive theological focus of the medieval era. It's a relatively ambiguous term because those that fall under the term varied in their aims and beliefs. Therefore there are several types of humanism: aesthetic, Christian, pagan, theistic, atheistic, and secular.

Humanists revived the study of the many texts and authors of Ancient Rome and Greece. However, many humanists displayed an inordinate reverence for pagan thinkers and writers. The Church developed a Christian humanism that looked at the goodness of man through the lens that he is made in the image and likeness of God. This Christian Humanism then carried over into the artwork done for churches.

Michelangelo embodied the renaissance man who excelled in many disciplines. He was a sculptor, painter, and architect of almost superhuman capacity. One quality of his art was his depiction of the contours of the human body in such a manner that the grandeur of man comes out with overwhelming force. One only needs to look at his sculpture of David to see this. Michelangelo was supported financially by several popes and was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel, which was actually his first real attempt at painting (clearly beginner's luck). He painted the ceiling on his back and it took him nearly four years. The paint that dripped from the ceiling as he did so nearly left him blind. He was also the designer of the dome for St. Peter's Basilica.

The popes during this time lived more like worldly princes than vicars of Christ. They tried to strengthen the temporal power of the papacy after the issues with the Western Schism. Pope Nicholas V (1447-55) had three tasks he set for himself: make Rome a city of grand monuments again, make Rome a center of art and literature, and strengthen (both spiritually and politically) the capital of Christendom. He restored churches, repaired the Roman infrastructure, and cleaned up the city. He's also the pope who founded the Vatican library because he had a great love of collecting rare books.

Pope Callistus III (1455-58) secured artistic treasures for the Vatican. However, he was preoccupied with the threat from the Ottoman Turks, making him call crusades to push them out of Europe. This proved to be futile as France and England were engaged in the 100-years-war (which lasted 116 years), and Germany was at odds with Poland and Hungary (some things never change). Callistus III was the pope who reversed the sentence against Joan of Arc and proclaimed her innocent.

Sixtus IV (1471-84) was devoted to maintaining Church strength and independence against growing nationalism in Europe. He tried to stop the abuses that were arising in the Inquisition (bet you didn't expect that), and he also built the Sistine Chapel which is why it bears his name (Sistine is the anglo for Sixtus).


March 15 & 22, 2020, Bulletins... The History Corner - The Avignon Papacy and the Western Schism

The papacy began to go through a rough patch with its relationship to France which resulted in turmoil for the papacy. Coupled with that, the Italian peninsula was becoming increasingly volatile, breaking into small city states all vying for power. Because of the tumultuous relationship with the papacy, the French king decided to influence the papal election. The Archbishop of Bordeaux was elected to the papacy and took the name Clement V. He also happened to be a personal friend of the French king. In order to avoid the chaos in Rome, he relocated to Avignon which was near the French border.

Clement surrounded himself with only French cardinals and never left France until he died. From 1305-1377, all of the popes (all of them French) would reside in Avignon. This became known as the Babylonian Captivity of the papacy. England and Germany then began to view the papacy as simply a puppet of the French king rather than the supreme pastor of the universal Church and for good reason. This caused an increase in the idea of the nationalization of the Church.

In 1324, Marsiglio of Padua, former Rector of the University of Paris, asserted the supremacy of secular rulers over the papacy. He claimed that the faithful were the true authority of the Church. He claimed that the pope derived his authority from a General Council, made up of clergy and laymen and directed by the state, rather than Christ. The emperor, as a representative of the people, had the right to depose and punish Church officials and dispose of Church property as he saw fit. This bodes well since we know that Holy Roman Emperors were always perfect and not corrupt at all.

St. Catherine of Siena consecrated her virginity to Christ at age 7. She joined the Dominican Order at age 16 and experienced visions and strong mystical experiences, including conversations with Christ. In 1366, she underwent a mystical experience common to a number of saints known as a "spiritual espousal". It is a mystical marriage in which Christ tells a soul that he takes it for His bride. The apparition is accompanied by a ceremony in which Mary, the saints, and angels are all present. After the espousal, the soul receives a sudden surge of charity and an increased familiarity with God.

After her espousal, she lived extreme poverty amongst the sick and constantly suffered physical pain. She went long periods without food, except for Holy Communion. However, she was always radiantly happy and full of practical wisdom and spiritual insight. She would then have a vision of heaven, purgatory, and hell, during which God would ask her to enter the public life and heal the wounds of the Church.

She began imploring Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. It turned out that Gregory had a secret desire to return to Rome, but it was a personal vow that he had never disclosed to any human being. God revealed this desire to Catherine. Catherine then told the pope to, "fulfill what you have promised". That's how Gregory knew she was sent from God. On January 17, 1377, Gregory returned to Rome as pope.

Now that the papacy was back in Rome, the Romans demanded an Italian pope. After Pope Gregory died and after 70 years of absence and only French popes, a mob of Romans invaded the conclave and demanded it. The cardinals decide in their wisdom to elect an Italian who takes the name Urban VI. At this point, because papal names can become a bit confusing and this story has all of the makings of great television, I'll start making sure you know who the legitimate popes are. Urban VI was a legit pope. Even after the mobs had settled down, the cardinals confirmed that Urban VI was legitimate. They thought that he would be docile and malleable, but it turned out that Urban VI (legit) was inflexible and an aggressive reformer. Urban (legit) clearly stated that there would be no return to Avignon, and he even began to condemn the materialistic lifestyle of the cardinals (which is never a good idea).

The French cardinals returned to Avignon and declared that Urban VI (legit) was actually invalidly elected due to fear of the Italian mob. They therefore hold their own election and elect Clement VII (antipope). An antipope is a false claimant to the papacy in opposition to the pope who was canonically chosen. With the election of Clement VII (antipope), Europe was divided in their allegiances. This is due to several reasons, but the most important are: communication was poor so it was hard to control the narrative and Avignon was an actual papal residence, the cardinals who elected the antipope were real cardinals, and their rationale that Urban VI (legit) was invalidly elected were believable.

This situation of dueling popes lasted for 22 years before any action was taken. Each branch, the legitimate popes in Rome and the antipopes of Avignon, had continued to elect successors when their respective popes died. Many within the Church felt that only a council could solve the problem. However, this resulted in a heresy: conciliarism. Conciliarists contended that councils could depose rival claimants to the papacy and choose a compromise candidate.

So in 1409, conciliarists held a council in Pisa that deposed both popes and chose Alexander V (antipope) to replace them. However, the authority of this council was rejected by both current popes and key monarchs. This then created a worse problem: 3 popes. So we have the legitimate popes in Rome, the antipopes in Avignon, and the antipopes of this new Pisan line. Once again, things in the past have been innumerably worse for the Church and yet we soldier on.

So the Holy Roman Emperor decides enough is enough and "convinces" antipope John XXIII (Pisan line) to call a council at Constance and resign his position, which he does. Pope Gregory XII (legit) sends a legate to the council and says that he will abdicate if the council recognized him and his predecessors as legitimate (which they were). Antipope Benedict XIII (Avignon) refused to cooperate. This lost him a lot of support because he was the only "pope" to refuse to solve the problem which everyone wanted solved. The council recognized Gregory and his predecessors and chose Martin V. Martin V became the only recognized pope.

Conciliarism continued and many councils were called to direct the leadership of the Church but lack of participation and support made many of these councils fail. In 1439, it was decided that three essential characteristics must be maintained for a council to be valid: it must be called by the pope, presided over by the pope or his official legate, and the decrees were only valid if they were accepted and approved by the pope.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Lent (March 15, 2020)- Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42


March 8, 2020, Bulletin... Rectory Open House - It was recommended to me to keep the same column, more or less, in the bulletin for this week for those who may have been traveling last week and not seen the message.

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Lent - Genesis 12:1-4a; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9


March 1, 2020, Bulletin... Rectory Open House

I mentioned before the end of the year that we were planning on beginning the large project of renovating and restoring the rectory. As many of you already know, that project has begun. Before anything official began, several generous parishioners donated some money which allowed us to get a few of the projects off the ground. In my column this week, I will layout the general plan of the project with as many specifics as will fit.

The first step is to address the glaring infrastructure issues that the rectory is facing. Apart from the new roof, most of the infrastructure is in bad shape. This first step includes replacing all of the wiring in the rectory (currently in progress), replacing all of the windows on the first floor, second floor, and attic (all have been ordered) because most do not open, close, stay open, stay closed, or provide adequate insulation, and replacing and updating all of the cast-iron plumbing that still remains. We are also investigating getting any tuck-pointing and other exterior foundation sealing looked into as well.

This project is not just about updating old, ineffective, and borderline dangerous aspects of the building, but also restoring aesthetically and functionally the building as a whole. It is designed to make every space in the building functional, livable, and similarly designed and appointed. A rectory is designed differently than a normal house. A rectory is designed for one or more single men, who are not related to each other, to live under the same roof. This means that rectories are designed with multiple small "apartments" for each occupant, which would include a bedroom, a sitting room, and a full bathroom, with shared communal spaces such as a living room, dining room, and kitchen. Because the rectory was initially designed as a monastery, this presents its own set of unique challenges.

There is currently no communal living room in the rectory. If I want to sit somewhere more comfortable than a dining room with a guest, we either need to go to my office or go to my private sitting room. There are four rooms on the west side of the second floor that do not have air-conditioning or that have been renovated in any way since the mid-1950's. The laundry machines are in the kitchen, the public bathroom (should someone in the office area need to use the bathroom) is within the private residence area, and the kitchen has been only partially updated since the mid-1950's.

Currently there is a bedroom on the first floor with a full bathroom. This room will be converted into a communal living room. In the office area, a small half-bath will be constructed that will allow the office area and the residence area to be fully independent for the privacy of the rectory occupant(s). In those four vacant rooms upstairs, the air-conditioning will be extended and a new guest suite that mirrors the design of the pastor's suite will be constructed, giving the rectory a total of three complete suites, each with a bedroom, full bathroom, and a sitting room. The laundry machines will be moved upstairs into a bathroom in the hallway which will be converted into a laundry room (since it won't need to be a bathroom anymore), and the kitchen will be completely redone. The plaster will be repaired, the surfaces re-painted, and the floors restored as much as possible.

One thing you will notice in the rectory is that some floors and old walls have been exposed. This was done to show what it used to look like. While we won't be able to fully restore everything, the desire is to match the older look as closely as possible with modern appointments to preserve the historical integrity of the building when it was at its peak. It's a similar desire as with what was done with the restoration of the church. The estimated cost right now for the project is $200,000. This is based on quotes we've received from contractors and analysis of what needs to be done elsewhere in the house.

My sincere gratitude goes out to all who have already helped with their time and talent and to those who have helped with their treasure. None of this will be possible without your financial support. I humbly ask for your assistance to make the home for our priests something we can be truly proud of. Because the project has already begun due to the generosity of many, we ask that you prayerfully consider what you can give to help make this project a finished reality. We cannot proceed any further than we've gone without your help. We ask that donations or pledges be made out to St. Columban Parish by the weekend of March 14/15. This is not a long time; but the sooner the donations and pledges are received, the less time I'm living in a construction zone. Donations may be placed in the collection basket, dropped off at the parish office, or mailed in. Please indicate that the donation is for the rectory project. All donations are kept in a separate account that has been earmarked for this particular project. Any and all who have questions, comments, and concerns should not hesitate to reach out to me, and I will be more than happy to address them.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings First Sunday of Lent - Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11


February 23, 2020, Bulletin... The Lenten Season

This Wednesday (02/26/2020) is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season. The Ash Wednesday mass times will be 8:15am, which will include the whole school, and 6pm. I would like to use this week's column to talk about Lent and what we will be offering here at the parish.

Of course, one of the most famous things about Lent are the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry Dinners. Those dates are Feb. 28, Mar 6, 13 & 27, and the time is from 5-7pm at Bishop Hogan. These are wonderful opportunities to not only support the Knights and the great work they accomplish throughout the year but also to grow in parish fraternity and community unity as many non-Catholics come to these events. It is an opportunity for us as a parish community to show the greater Chillicothe area who we are and what we're about during this penitential season. Abstinence from meat during Lent is a very visible and tangible reminder for Catholics that allows us to connect ourselves more closely with the sacrifice on Calvary that we commemorate most intimately on Good Friday.

But what many don't know is that abstinence from meat on Friday is not just contained to Lent. In fact, the Church asks that every Friday, Catholics abstain from eating meat. The exception that came about was that another suitable penance could be substituted outside of Lent on Fridays as opposed to not eating meat, but unfortunately most are unaware of this and don't substitute anything. I would encourage you all, as we move through the mandatory abstinence of Lent, to reflect upon this practice when we enter the Easter Season and beyond.

Adults aged 18-59 are also asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in addition to abstaining from meat on both days. The fast, a laudable spiritual and physical practice, means that we can have one normal-sized meal and two smaller meals that together, would not equal the normal meal. Fasting is a wonderful way to focus the mind on spiritual matters, because although the rumbling of our stomachs makes us immediately think of food, our next thought goes to the fast and the reason we're doing it.

I used to weigh 250 pounds when I was in college. At one point, I dropped all the way to 175 through what is called a "crash diet" and exercise. A crash diet is basically not eating a lot and minimizing caloric intake dramatically in order to facilitate weight loss. The problem with that is that you don't learn to actually eat right, you just eat less. I wouldn't recommend it as a long-term solution. But I mention this because at night I would often go to bed hungry, but that was a reminder that I was trying to become healthier and when I eventually did, I wanted to do everything I could to maintain that health. In like manner, when we fast and abstain from meat, we need to remember we are trying to grow spiritually; and if we persevere, we will want to maintain that spiritual growth no matter what.

On Fridays we will have Stations of the Cross at the parish at 6pm. The Stations of the Cross are a wonderful way for us to come more face to face with Christ's sacrifice, as they allow us to meditate and reflect more directly on every suffering step our Savior went through to gain for us the prize of salvation. I highly encourage all to attend and to even make them yourselves during Lent if you're unable to make the official time. The church is normally unlocked during the day.

Also, on the Tuesdays of March 3, 24, 31, and April 7, following the 6pm mass, we will have a soup dinner hosted by the Altar Society in the cafeteria of the school, and I will present a scripture study as well. One of the subjects I've formally taught was a course on the scriptures, and there are many nuances to passages we feel like we know so well that we're actually unaware of. I hope that through these sessions I can help expand your knowledge of the Word of God which will then help when we hear these passages during mass.

I pray that you all have a very fruitful and blessed Lenten Season. My prayers are continually for all of the parishioners here and students in our school. I am so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful and generous community, and not a day goes by that I don't stand in awe of the great honor that has been bestowed upon me to be your pastor.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48


February 16, 2020, Bulletin... Universities and Scholasticism

The demand for education increased dramatically by the mid-eleventh century. Schools that were based around cathedrals and monasteries were also being outgrown. So three cathedral schools in Paris that were all individually successful formed a corporation, called a universitas, that protected their renowned professors and combined each school's disciplines. A similar pattern to this began to emerge all over Europe.

The coursework for these original universities was known as the Studium Generale (general study). This consisted of theology, philosophy, law (both civil and canon), medicine (called physics), and the arts. The arts were broken down into two further sections: the trivium and quadrivium. The trivium consisted of Latin grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The quadrivium consisted of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

Before one could enter one of these schools, he or she must have been able to both read and write in Latin. A student studied the trivium first; and once completed became a bachelor of arts. The student would then spend 5-6 years studying the quadrivium before earning a master of arts. If one wanted to earn a doctorate, the student would begin debating his or her professors and prepare formal responses to tough questions posed by the superiors. As you can see, our modern system is actually a watered-down rendition of what it used to be (at least in my opinion).

Scholasticism (science of the schools) was a series of methods that came from a teaching technique developed in the universities. How it would work was a scholar would read an ancient and/or authoritative text. A list of contradictory statements to this text would then be drawn up. Through logical reasoning, the class would then try to reveal the underlying agreement between all of the points of contradiction, hoping to attain the central and underlying truths of the work. Basically, by trying to prove the text wrong, you would find the truth within the text. It's like playing your own devil's advocate.

St. Anselm would find Church Fathers' statements from matching texts and see where the statements differed. These seemingly contradictory statements were compared in the classroom through debate and argument to hopefully find the underlying truth behind these supposed contradictions. Peter Lombard said that questioning is the key to perceiving truth.

St. Thomas Aquinas spent the majority of his work rectifying a philosophical problem that arose from the rediscovery of Aristotle. There was a fear that Aristotle's work would undermine Christianity. Aquinas would end up integrating Aristotelian philosophy with Christian belief, showing that it was actually an added tool for theology.

What Aristotle claimed was that the universe was infinite and the soul was mortal. Basically, the exact opposite of what Catholicism teaches. An Arab philosopher, Averroes, said that if a philosophical truth and a theological tenet contradicted each other (as in this case), the philosophical truth was superior. He claimed that since philosophical conclusions are drawn through demonstration as opposed to theology which he claimed was formed by opinion, the philosophical truth must hold pride of place.

Aquinas' response to this "Double Truth Theory" is that theology is superior because of the absolute veracity of divine revelation (presupposing of course that God exists... which He does). Philosophy is the servant of theology if the philosophy is purified of its falsehoods. The role of theology, according to Aquinas, is to guide, correct, and modify philosophical principles so that they reflect eternal truths. Philosophy must submit to the guiding light of theology. Reason can only take us so far. If you separate faith and reason, you will hit a brick wall and simply implode upon yourself like a dying star (i.e. Descartes, but we'll get to him later).

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sirach 15:15-20; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37


February 9, 2020, Bulletin... The Inquisition, part 2

The Inquisitors themselves were special judges appointed by the pope who examined and judged the doctrinal opinions and moral conduct of suspicious individuals. They often worked in the civil system of justice but with papal authority. They had to adhere to a strict canonical procedure that was established to prevent corruption. They could also only work in their area with the permission of the local bishop. Most of the Inquisitors were members of the Dominican and Franciscan orders, due to their education and vows of poverty (preventing bribes).

The process for the Inquisition began with a month-long "term of grace". This would give those in the area a chance to go before the inquisitor, confess their sins, and do penance. If someone who was accused simply confessed, then there would be a light penance; something like making a pilgrimage or fasting. If someone was accused and did not confess, then there would be trial. The accused would be asked to swear their innocence on the four gospels. The judges would also remind the accused that punishment awaited if they were convicted without a confession.

If there was still no confession, they were subject to close confinement. They would be visited by someone who had already been tried who would try to convince them to simply confess if they were indeed guilty. If there was a particularly serious offender, they would be confined to a different inquisition prison.

Evidence was absolutely necessary for a conviction. At least two witnesses were required and many judges required more. Unfortunately, there were few witnesses for the defense as they might then be suspected as well. Any false witnesses were punished without mercy. The accused was not allowed to know the names of the accusers, but the accused could submit a list of alleged enemies. That way, if the accusers were on that list, that would be taken into account. The accused could always appeal to a higher authority, including the pope. In addition to the Inquisitor, boni viri (good men) were frequently called upon. This would be up to 80 men of high respect who were independent of the case and they were called to decide two questions: culpability and punishment. However, they were purely advisory.

When it came to the final verdict, most punishments were humane. Good works were usually ordered, such as helping to build a church, visiting a church, donating a chalice, making a pilgrimage, etc. The harshest penalties were imprisonment and various degrees of exclusion from the community.

It was the civil authorities who were the harshest, not the Church. They punished convicted heretics as normal criminals were punished during those times. The crime of heresy was seen by the vast majority of the population as a severe crime in need of severe punishment. In the same way that we have different levels of crime today (going 15 over the speed limit vs. 1st degree murder) so did those in that time, and heresy was seen as one of the most grievous because it threatened to tear apart society which was held together by the Church.

The Spanish Inquisition (bet you didn't expect that) actually lasted into the 18th century. It coincided with the Reconquista, the re-conquering of Spain from the Muslims, which was completed in 1492. Spain had been divided for 700 years, and the Inquisition was used to promote and retain Spanish unity under a common Christian religion. Civil authorities took it over in 1480. It was used primarily to root out spies that stayed behind to try to disrupt Spain so the Moors could return from North Africa. Less than 2% of heretics were actually condemned to death in the Spanish Inquisition.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 58:7-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16


February 2, 2020, Bulletin... The Inquisition, part 1

Right up there with the Crusades, when it comes to events in the Church's history that are misunderstood and looked upon as almost entirely negative, is the Inquisition. The key to understanding why the Inquisition happened is to fully understand the historical context. It might be difficult to put ourselves in the same mindset, but if you purely look at the Inquisition with a modern, secular mindset, then you look at it through a biased lens.

Early Christian emperors believed that one of their chief duties as emperors was to use their political and military power to protect orthodoxy (right belief) in the Church. The Catholic hierarchy (bishops, cardinals, pope) was not in favor of stern measures against heresy, as they felt it was inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity. In the middle ages, the Church became tied socially, politically, and economically to European life. King Peter of Aragon said, "the enemies of the Cross of Christ and violators of the Christian law are likewise our enemies and the enemies of our kingdom, and ought therefore to be dealt with as such". Catholic doctrine and practice was no longer a matter of private belief at this point. Its stability and validity allowed for and protected the stability of Europe. Heretical attacks on the Church were treated as serious threats against the Christian world.

Enter the Albigensian heresy. Albigensianism appealed to a misunderstood sense of Christian piety and self-sacrifice. It saw the soul as good, but the body as evil. It was known for its extreme austerity and radical asceticism, driven by a hatred of war, physical pleasure, and even matter itself. There were two gods that governed the universe: the good god was spiritual, and the bad god was physical. All things of the temporal world were considered evil and dangerous. Albigensianism was openly hostile towards Christianity. It rejected the mass, the sacraments, and the hierarchy. Albigensians also rejected feudal government and refused to abide by oaths and allegiances. They were therefore unaccountable to any authority, religious or civil. They were against marriage and the propagation of the human race. They also saw suicide as a way to obtain spiritual purity. Now, with all of that, you'd assume that they would die out on their own, but many didn't hold the most extreme views of suicide and anti-propagation. Because of all of this, both civil and religious authorities saw this heresy as a threat.

In 1208, an Albigensian killed a papal legate of Pope Innocent III. The pope then called a crusade against the Albigensians in France. This purging lasted for over 20 years, but many adherents were still scattered throughout Europe. French kings and Holy Roman Emperors applied capital punishment to the Albigensians. Civil authorities were becoming increasingly more involved with the prosecution and punishment of heretics simply to maintain civil order. Pope Gregory IX became anxious when he saw civil authorities stepping into these matters of faith and doctrine. Basically, the pope saw civil authorities judging whether or not someone was a heretic, which has to do with faith, not law. Therefore, in 1231, Pope Gregory established the Inquisition as a means of detection and purgation of heresy in general.

Next week, we'll look at the inquisitorial process and say a little about the Spanish Inquisition (which you did not expect, because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition).

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Presentation of the Lord - Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40


January 26, 2020, Bulletin... The Crusades, part 3

After the initial expeditions, soldiers and princes lost the religious passion that had fueled the excitement of the First Crusade. Jews and Muslims in Europe also became the subjects of increased violence due to the fervor.

The main objectives of the crusades ultimately didn't happen. They did hold back Turkish expansion into Europe for about 400 years, however, and gave Christians more consciousness of their Christian unity. The contact with Eastern Christian culture through the exchange of people, goods, and ideas also affected the intellectual life of Europe. Pilgrimages were made easier as Muslims entrusted the Christian holy places to the Franciscans. The crusades also influenced military technology. After the initial invasions it was primarily defensive, so Christians became more skilled in constructing castles and siege equipment. The crusades also encouraged travel and fostered new curiosity for foreign culture. Missionaries moved into Asia and eventually made it to China.

Another outcome of the crusades were the Military Orders. They came from the necessity to defend holy sites as well as pilgrims. They combined military and religious life, emphasizing dedication, discipline, and monastic organization. They were bound by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and were devoted to the care and defense of pilgrims. We'll look at two examples of Military Orders.

The Knights Templar were founded in 1118 when nine French knights founded the Poor Brothers of the Temple of Jerusalem, or Templars. The order was approved by the papacy in 1128. St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a Rule for them based on the Cistercian Rule. The order was seen as a way to temper the bad habits of knights and tie the mission of the crusaders to the mission of the Church. They took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and lived lives of monastic warriors. They were organized as soldiers, clergy, and lay brothers from the lower ranks of society to help the aristocratic soldiers.

The Templars maintained safe routes from Europe and safeguarded money coming from the West. This led to them becoming bankers based out of Paris. With the fall of the Holy Land, they expanded their banking empire in Europe. King Philip of France felt threatened by their wealth and influence and therefore charged them with heresy, sacrilege, sodomy, and idolatry. You know, the basics. He extracted "confessions" from members through torture and the Templars were suppressed officially in 1312.

The Knights Hospitalers were founded as the Knights of the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem in 1130. They grew out of an already existing work of charity consisting of the care of sick pilgrims. They also served as a medical corps to the crusaders. After the fall of Acre in 1290, they retreated to the island of Rhodes. After Rhodes fell in 1523, the Holy Roman Emperor gave them the island of Malta. The order still exists today as the Knights of Malta. 

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 8:23-9-3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23


January 19, 2020, Bulletin... The Crusades, part 2

The First Crusade is dated from 1095-1099. There was no direct support for it from any monarch in Europe (although at that time, most were either excommunicated or in conflict with the papacy). Preachers took the pope's message all over Europe and armies from the entire continent marched east. The armies were divided into four groups that were set to meet in Constantinople, comprised of mainly French and Normans from France and Italy. Along the way, they would pick up more enthusiastic people.

The campaign began in 1097. The crusaders conquered Nicea, Antioch, and finally Jerusalem in 1099. At the time, the Muslims were politically divided, making a proper defense difficult. The crusaders organized the Holy Land into a system of counties, fiefs, and principalities based on the feudal system in Europe. Muslims who lived in crusader-won territories were generally allowed to retain their property, livelihood, and religion. The issue became that many Christians didn't settle in the Holy Land after it was conquered. Most simply went home.

The Second Crusade was a result of the Turks recapturing Edessa in the north of Palestine in 1144. King Louis VII of France and the Holy Roman Emperor (HRE) Conrad II set out to capture Damascus and establish defenses for the Kingdom of Jerusalem. This was ultimately unsuccessful and many were convinced that God was punishing the West for its sins. Lay piety movements arose in Europe to purify Christian society so it would be worthy of victory in the east.

The Third Crusade is dated from 1189-1192 and is the background for the famous Robin Hood stories. Richard the Lionheart of England, HRE Frederick I, and King Philip of France all set out on crusade. Their goal was simply to defend the remaining Christian kingdoms. The Muslims had unified under Saladin. Saladin had unified the near east into a single entity by preaching Jihad against Christians. The Third Crusade was triggered by the Battle of Hattin in 1187 when the forces of Saladin wiped out the Christian army and even captured a relic of the True Cross.

In 1191, Richard's army defeated Saladin and Richard approached Jerusalem. However, he refused to lay siege to the city because he didn't want to destroy it. Saladin and Richard signed a treaty which re-established the Kingdom of Jerusalem... but without the actual city of Jerusalem.

The infamous Fourth Crusade is dated from 1201-1204. Differences between East and West caused the crusaders to divert course and instead they simply sacked Constantinople. They were in debt to the Venetians and they wanted to use the wealth of Constantinople to pay it back. Needless to say, this solidified the break between East and West.

In the Fifth Crusade, the crusaders attacked Egypt by land and sea but were unsuccessful. In the Sixth Crusade, the crusaders achieved the transfer of Jerusalem to crusader control through negotiation but the treaty only lasted ten years. It was then re-captured by Muslims.

The Seventh Crusade again re-captured Jerusalem but it was lost shortly after. The Eighth Crusade saw Louis IX of France (future St. Louis) attack Egypt, but he failed. In 1290, a fleet of warships set out for Acre on the Palestine coast which had been the crusaders' main base since the Third Crusade. However, Acre fell to the Muslims after seven weeks of siege and this effectively ended the crusades.

Next week, we'll talk about the outcomes and some criticisms of the crusades.

Scripture Readings 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34


January 12, 2020, Bulletin... The Crusades, part 1

I think it would be safe to say that the crusades (generally speaking) is one of the, if not the most, controversial parts of Church history. Much of that controversy, however, is due to misinformation and revisionist history that took over in the modern era. We are only now beginning to expose the truth behind many of the misconceptions that surround the crusades.

The word "crusade" refers to many things today, but originally, referred to eight expansive military expeditions by Christians between the years 1096-1270. They were primarily to the Holy Land and Egypt but also against Muslim expansion in Spain and even against heretics. The word itself comes from the Latin for cross ("crux") which was worn as a badge on the crusader's outer garments. After pronouncing a solemn vow, each warrior received a cross from the hands of the pope or one of his legates.

The fighting between the Muslims and Christians had remained relatively dormant after Charles Martel's victory at Tours in 732 in the West and Constantinople holding strong in the East. In the 11th century, the rise of the Fatimite Muslims in Egypt brought renewed persecution to Christians. The Seljuk Turks - a militant nation - persecuted Christians especially in Palestine and Syria. In 1071, the Seljuks defeated the Byzantine army and directly threatened Constantinople. By this point, two thirds of the original Christian world had been taken by Muslim forces.

The East looked to the West for help, and despite the Schism in 1054, there were sympathies as well as the hope that the schism could be healed. In 1095, Blessed Pope Urban II held a council in Clermont, France to rouse support for the East. He proclaimed an organized assault in defense of Christian Europe. Originally, it was not thought of as an offensive, but rather defensive to stave off Islamic expansion. At some point, Christianity had to defend itself or it would have been taken over by Islam. Islam was born in war and grew the same way. Muslim thought at the time divided the world into two spheres: the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Any non-Muslim religion had no abode.

The struggle was especially bad for pilgrims. The journey to the Holy Land was already harsh. Many were robbed, beaten, or killed as it was. Pope St. Gregory VII was ready to invade the Holy Land with 50,000 crusaders 20 years earlier, but the lay investiture controversies made that impossible.

The crusaders had two objectives: fend off Muslim expansion into Byzantium and free the Holy Land for safe pilgrimage. The motivation of the crusaders was primarily religious. A defensive war plus a religious pilgrimage equaled an act of religious devotion. They understood that God would reward those who fought for the good cause of defending Christendom. There were also indulgences for those who fought in crusades. An indulgence is a remission before God of temporal punishment due to sins. There were also other incentives, including reduction of taxes, reduction of debt, and guaranteed protection for the families of crusaders. Crusaders also took the vow of the cross, expressing sentiments of piety, self-sacrifice, and love for God.

Next week, we'll begin to look at the crusades individually. Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Baptism of the Lord - Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17


January 5, 2020, Bulletin... Epiphany

Epiphany (also known as Twelfth Night, Theophany, or Three Kings Day) marks the occasion of a time-honored Christian tradition of "chalking the doors." The formula for the ritual, adapted for 2020, is simple: take chalk of any color and write the following above the entrance of your home: 20 + C + M + B + 20.

The letters have two meanings. First, they represent the initials of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, who came to visit Jesus in His first home. They also abbreviate the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: "May Christ bless the house." The "+" signs represent the cross, and the "20" at the beginning and the "20" at the end mark the year. Taken together, this inscription is performed as a request for Christ to bless those homes so marked and that He stay with those who dwell therein throughout the entire year.

The chalking of the doors is a centuries-old practice throughout the world, though it appears to be somewhat less well-known in the United Sates. It is, however, an easy tradition to adopt, and a great practice whereby we dedicate our year to God from its very outset, asking His blessing on our homes and on all who live, work, or visit them there. The timing for the chalking of the doors varies somewhat in practice. In some places, it is done on New Year's Day. More commonly, it is performed on the traditional Feast of the Epiphany: the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Most often the chalking takes place after Epiphany Mass, and can be done at any church, home, or dwelling. Traditionally the blessing is done by either a priest or the father of the family. This blessing can be performed simply by just writing the inscription and offering a short prayer, or more elaborately, including songs, prayers, processions, the burning of incense, and the sprinkling of holy water.

Practicing traditions like the chalking of the doors helps us to live our Faith more concretely and serve as an outward sign of our dedication to Our Lord. Our homes are also the place where many of us will make the greatest strides in our spiritual growth, through observance of daily prayer, spiritual reading, and work offered as an oblation to God. The chalking of the doors of a home encourages Christians to dedicate their life at home to God and to others. Seeing the symbols over our doors can help to remind us, while passing in and out on our daily routines, that our homes and all those who dwell there belong to Christ. It also serves as a reminder of the welcoming the Magi gave to Jesus. We should strive to be as welcoming to all who come to our homes to visit us! Below, I've provided some examples of how this ceremony can be performed. This ceremony of the blessing of the home and inscription of the initials of the three Magi above each door can be performed either by a priest or the father of the family. The feast of manifestation, or Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. In the dioceses of the United States this feast has been moved to the Sunday between January 2 and January 8.

Prayer: On entering the home,
Leader: Peace be to this house.
All: And to all who dwell herein.
All: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
Leader: Our Father...
And lead us not into temptation
All: But deliver us from evil.
Leader: All they from Saba shall come
All: Bringing gold and frankincense.
Leader: O Lord, hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come to You.
Leader: Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.
Leader: Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee - Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.
All: And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.
Leader: Let us pray.
Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home may be sprinkled with holy water. The inscription: 20+C+M+B+20 is written above each entrance door of the home, or simply the front door.

Another possible prayer to say during your chalking:
May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Jesus who is your incarnate Word, now and forever. Amen.
God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only-begotten One to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Loving God, bless this household. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness, and abiding in your will. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

However you do it, it's a rich tradition and a worthy invocation of God's blessing and a great conversation starter for your guests. For every person who asks about the inscription, there's an opportunity to spread this authentically Catholic practice during the Epiphany.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Epiphany - Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12


December 29, 2019, Bulletin ... The Great Schism, part 2, and the Lay Investiture Controversies

The Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, was heavily influenced by Photius, whom we discussed earlier. Cerularius regarded the papacy with disgust. He closed Latin parishes in Constantinople and the consecrated hosts were even trampled upon. Cardinal Humbert in Rome made these atrocities known to the pope who then entrusted Humbert with the papal reply. Humbert told Cerularius that it was impossible to excommunicate the pope. He said, "either be in communion with Peter or become a synagogue of Satan."

Two legates, Humbert and Frederick of Lorraine, were sent to Constantinople. On July 16, 1054, Humbert attended the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia and denounced the Patriarch for refusing papal authority. Upon the high altar he laid a document excommunicating the Patriarch. However, technically, the legates didn't have the authority to do this. The pope had died while they were journeying to Constantinople and thus their authority to act in his name had died as well. The documents were burned by the Patriarch. On July 24, 1054, a council in Constantinople declared that the West had perverted the faith, and the Patriarch excommunicated the pope. Thus began the Great Schism which continues to last until this day.

Back in Germany, Otto I wanted to secure his power through alliance with the Church. He exercised authority over the Church in Germany in three ways: lay investiture (appointment of bishops/abbots by secular rulers), assertion of royal power over local churches where the person who owned the land the church was on could make the ecclesiastical appointments, and the appropriation of ecclesiastical funds. He was crowned emperor by Pope John XII in 962 and became the first official emperor of what became known as the Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy nor Roman).

The lay investiture controversies came about because there was little distinction between Church and state in most places. It was common for bishops/abbots to wield considerable political influence. Due to the overall negative effect on the Church, reforming popes realized they needed to retain control over the appointments of bishops to reduce political corruption. Enter Pope Gregory VII, who reigned from 1073-1085.

Pope Gregory VII was a monk of Cluny, blessed with an iron will, energy, and relentless perseverance in the face of adversity. He released the Dictatus Papae (Dictate of the Pope). This outlined specific powers bestowed by God that rested on the pope alone, such as convening/ratifying councils, defining tenets of the faith, and the appointment/removal of bishops. He also claimed the papacy could depose temporal rulers. He levied harsh penalties for simony as well.

Henry IV (Holy Roman Emperor or HRE) appointed the bishop of Milan in defiance of the pope. Pope Gregory deposed him as emperor, released his subjects from his rule, and excommunicated him. Henry traveled to meet the pope and stood outside where the pope was staying, barefoot in the snow and dressed in sackcloth. The pope refused to see him because he doubted his contrition. Three days later, the pope agreed to meet and granted Henry absolution. One year later, Henry again disobeyed the pope, but this time he installed Clement III as an anti-pope. Gregory was forced to flee and would die in exile.

In 1122, the Concordat of Worms was signed between the Holy Roman Empire (neither holy nor Roman) and the papacy. Spiritual investiture was left to the Church. Temporal investiture was left to the state. Simony was also condemned (because when in doubt, condemn simony). The emperor did maintain a sort of "veto power" because some bishops had temporal authority that was bestowed by the emperor. Should he refuse to invest those bishops, he would indirectly force the Church to choose someone else that he would invest.

Scripture Readings Feast of The Holy Family - Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23


December 22, 2019, Bulletin ... Rectory Restoration

As we end the Advent Season and begin the joyous celebrations of Christmas, I wanted to use my column to talk with you about an upcoming project here at St. Columban that is long overdue. On our campus here we have four buildings: the church, the school, the primary building, and the rectory. Over the past few years, three of those have received upgrades, restoration, large donations, and other work. The fourth, the rectory, has not. Typically, one's own house is the first priority when something needs to be fixed. For priests, it must be the opposite. Despite the fact that we live full time in the rectory, our duty is to everything and everyone else first before ourselves, and this includes our own house.

The last major work done on the interior of the rectory was most likely in the 1950's. Since then, the work has been isolated and done solely where the individual pastor was living. Thus the rectory now is a hodgepodge of different styles, repair, and stages of livability. Here are some quick facts about the current state of the rectory:

None of the wiring in the rectory is grounded; and the basement still has fuses primarily as opposed to breakers. This is nowhere near what residential code allows. There are 44 windows on the first and second floor alone. Right now, only one opens and closes normally. Others either don't open, won't stay open, or won't close without significant effort. Most of the plumbing is cast-iron which has a life of about 100 years. We are past the expiration date for most, if not all, of it. When it goes bad, it happens from the inside out, and you don't know it until it's too late. The bricks on the exterior are wood-fired, and many are in need of tuck-pointing. Only half of the second floor is what I would deem "livable". The air-conditioning only feeds into half, and the rooms on the west side are in dire states of disrepair (but don't worry, the bullet hole will be preserved!). The basement was almost entirely filled with mold but has since be remediated. There were large drainage issues around the downspouts which have also been fixed. However, there is still some foundational work that needs to be done as well. And these are just the bones of the building. As for the aesthetics, that's a whole other column.

We here at St. Columban are very proud (as we should be) of our history and what we have here. The rectory, originally built as a monastery, is a beautiful building. It has just unfortunately been neglected for many decades as a whole. The purpose of this project is to repair and update what needs to be done and then to renovate the interior so as to make full use of what we have. In the coming weeks, many more details, photos, and information will be provided to you as there have been several of us that have already been addressing the issues that we can. The reason I mention this to you now, without many of the finer details of the project laid out, is because I was advised to say something before the end of the year. Many like to make donations before the calendar year is complete; and if you were looking for something to donate to, this project is certainly a worthy choice. For anyone who would like to make a donation, I would be more than happy to meet with you and answer any questions you have so you don't feel as if you're making this donation blind or to a vague project. As I said, the specifics are all still being worked out, but a comprehensive presentation will not be available before year's end.

I wish you and your families a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. While I have only been here about six months, it feels very much like home. The warmness, kindness, and generosity of this community is unlike any I've ever experienced. I look forward to what we will be able to accomplish together.

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 7:10-14, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-24


December 15, 2019, Bulletin ... The Great Schism, Part 1

To fully understand the Great Schism, we must look first to the differences that had developed over time between the East and the West. The pope had dual jurisdiction. He is the Patriarch of the West, but he's also the Patriarch of the universal Church. For political and theological reasons, the East tended to minimize the latter. The East tended to ally themselves with their national churches. There was also the issue of what was called "Caesaropapism". This was the relationship between the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople and the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Patriarch crowned the emperor, and the emperor promised to protect the Church. The Patriarch often acted as part of the government and the emperor often acted as part of the Church. Then you have the relationship between the religious and the laity. In the West, monasteries worked with their surrounding populations. In the East, the religious mostly lived in seclusion, which limited their influence on the laity (which was typically a calming and educational influence).

The Council of Toledo in 589AD (not an ecumenical council) added the phrase "and the son" to the creed, or in Latin, "filioque". By 800, this would be standard in the western Church. It clarified the theological point that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son, not just from the Father and through the Son. The creed never denied that point, it just failed to mention it explicitly. The Patriarch of Constantinople refused the addition, even though most evidence suggests that the Eastern Church Fathers believed it. Eastern scholars argued that the West had violated the Council of Chalcedon's (451) injunction not to change the creed. However, adding the word "filioque" amounts to a clarification, not an alteration. However, this sows more seeds of division between the East and West.

Then you get what's called the Photian Schism, which lasts from 857-867 and has all of the trappings of a reality TV show. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Ignatius, refused to give a government official communion because there were rumors of an adulterous affair. The emperor, Michael III, deposed Ignatius and elevates a man named Photius to the position, even though Photius was a layman. However, Ignatius refused to step aside. The emperor and Photius send letters to the pope asking him to send legates to handle the situation. The pope sends legates, but they're bought off by the emperor and Photius. The bribed legates then tell the pope that Photius is the rightful Patriarch, which is false.

The pope discovers their treachery and excommunicates the legates. He writes letters to Photius and the emperor claiming that the legates exceeded their authority and he demands that Ignatius be reinstated. Then, a local council in Rome in 863 voids any agreements the legates had made and formally denies Photius as the rightful Patriarch as well as any appointments he might have made.

Photius, meanwhile, was busy opposing Latin missionaries working in Bulgaria. He claimed it was the missionary territory of Constantinople. He also charged the papacy with tampering with the creed. His goal was to stir a popular uprising against Rome and the pope's authority.

In 867, a new emperor sought reconciliation and at the Council of Constantinople IV (8th ecumenical council), Photius was removed and Ignatius was reinstated. Unfortunately, the feelings about the missionaries and the "filioque" controversy kept tensions high.

Ignatius then dies in 877 and the position of Patriarch is open, and guess who gets it: Photius! He's eligible, the position is open, so Rome can't oppose the appointment. Photius then decides to excommunicate the entire Western Church, citing liturgical irregularities and altering the creed. It was, perhaps, an over-exaggeration. Eventually, Photius is forced to resign again, but the feelings he stirred up in the people are not forgotten.

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11


December 8, 2019, Bulletin ... Rorate Mass

On Saturday, December 14, instead of the normally scheduled 8:15 Latin mass, we will have what is called a "Rorate Mass". The mass will still be the Traditional Latin Mass, but it will begin at 6:45am instead of 8:15. The Rorate Mass takes its name from the opening words of the Introit which comes from Isaiah 45:8: "Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem." "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior."

The reason for the change in time is that the Rorate Mass is supposed to begin before sunrise. It is a votive mass in Mary's honor that is said during Advent. It is also lit only by candlelight. We will have personal candles for the faithful to hold in addition to all of the candles (and some extra!) lit on and around the high altar. In the dimly lit setting, the priest and the faithful prepare to honor the Light of the world, Who is soon to be born, and offer praise to God for the gift of Our Lady. As the mass proceeds and sunrise approaches, the church becomes progressively brighter, illumined by the sun as our faith is illumined by Christ.

The readings and prayers of the mass foretell the prophecy of the Virgin who would bear a Son called Emmanuel and call on all to raise the gates of their hearts and their societies to let Christ the King enter; asking for the grace to receive eternal life by the merits of the Incarnation and saving Resurrection of Our Lord. I hope that you will all be able to join us on Saturday morning before dawn to welcome the day as we will soon welcome Our Lord.

Sunday, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and also the Second Sunday of Advent. As such, in the new calendar, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is transferred to Monday and is NOT a holy day of obligation. However, in the old calendar which is followed by the Traditional Latin Mass, the Immaculate Conception is not moved from Sunday. Therefore, Monday, December 9, is not the Immaculate Conception in the old calendar, but rather a weekday in Advent. Because the Traditional Latin Mass is offered on Mondays, that is why the Feast does not appear on our liturgical schedule. If you have any questions or need any clarifications on this, I will be happy to help.

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12


December 1, 2019, Bulletin... Corruption, Feudalism, and Cluny

Difficulties and corruption began to arise due to political intrigue and jealous greed among emperors, popes, and the Roman nobility, as well as foreign invasions. Most popes at the time were either too weak to resist the nobility or too corrupt to try. This led to a series of short papacies with the occasional murder.

Pope John VIII was poisoned and beaten to death in 882. Pope Stephen VI exhumed the corpse of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, and placed the body on trial (no I'm not joking). The body was found guilty, and Pope Stephen cut the three fingers used for blessings off of the body and threw the corpse to the mob who dumped it in the Tiber. Immediately after, Rome was hit by an earthquake that wrecked the Lateran basilica. Pope John XII was elected at age 18 and his papacy was marked by hunting and banqueting. He also engaged in blatant simony, which is the selling of Church offices.

Feudalism is a contractual system between a king and his vassals. In return for the lord's military protection, vassals would pay him in money, labor, or other services. Some vassals were wealthy landowners who chose to ally themselves with the lord. Most, however, were serfs who were simply tied to the land with almost no rights, simply as a means for protection.

Feudalism increased the interaction between secular (state) and ecclesiastical (Church) leaders in Western Europe. The Church was still a major landowner in most parts. In exchange for protecting the Church, secular rulers demanded control over Episcopal (bishop) appointments. This had always been demanded in the past, but a strong central Church had always opposed it. With nobility controlling a weak papacy, secular rulers took it upon themselves to be the ultimate authorities in the Church.

This would spawn several abuses in the Church. It led to simony (which keeps popping up like a pesky pimple). It also led to nepotism, which is the appointment of family members to important positions. Bishops and abbots would receive extra money from lords in exchange for favors. Many bishops would marry and have children, then bequeath their title to their children. Not to downplay in any way the current issues besetting the Church, but as you can see, the past wasn't very rosy and yet the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, always finds a way to survive. In many cases, abuses such as these result in the flourishing of orthodoxy (right belief) which happens in reaction to the abuses.

A perfect example of this is Cluny. In 909AD, William the Pious donated land in the town of Cluny, in Burgundy, for a new monastery. St. Berno, Cluny's first abbot, settled there with 12 monks who instituted a renewed commitment to the Rule of St. Benedict and imposed demanding austerities on themselves. As their reputation spread, Cluny became a center of saintliness in troubled times.

Neighboring monasteries began using the Cluny model to reform themselves. The big difference between Cluny and other monasteries was that Cluny only had one abbot over every Cluniac monastery, rather than placing an abbot at each monastery. This would help curb abuse. When the main church at Cluny was finished in 1132AD, it was Europe's largest church. It was 555 feet long, which is the height of the Washington Monument in D.C. By 1100AD, Cluny had 1,450 houses across Europe with more than 10,000 monks.

Scripture Readings First Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44


November 24, 2019, Bulletin... Charlemagne and the Papal States

After Charles "the Hammer" Martel defeated the Muslims at the Battle of Tours in 732, his son, Pepin the Short, consolidated power among the Franks with the blessing of the Church. Pepin was anointed king by St. Boniface in 751. This began the complicated allegiance between the Carolingians and the papacy.

The papacy expected protection from the Franks in return for its recognition of them as legitimate rulers. Pope Stephen traveled to meet Pepin when the Lombards were threatening Rome and the Byzantines had no intention of protecting Italy. The pope then publicly anointed Pepin and his sons. He also threatened to condemn anyone who disobeyed them. This was designed to show that the Church could bestow secular authority to kings. Pepin then destroyed the Lombard army and secured Rome, Ravenna, and Perugia. These territories were then organized into what became known as the Papal States. The pope became a sovereign for the first time, and this would last until 1870 when Italy united itself as a nation.

This establishment of the Papal States and the creation of the pope as a temporal sovereign ruler was both beneficial and troublesome. It was beneficial because the Church enjoyed independence from secular authorities. It was troublesome because the temptations of secular power affected even the papacy.

Charlemagne was the son of Pepin the Short. He combined military skill with political ability and was also fluent in Latin and Greek. In 773, the pope sought help to defeat the Lombards again. Charlemagne came to the rescue with the Frankish army and was treated as a hero upon entering the city of Rome. He was even given the ancient title of Patrician of Rome. Charlemagne named himself the King of the Lombards and thus united all of the Germanic tribes.

In 800, Charlemagne marched into Rome to investigate charges of corruption against Pope Leo III (not to be confused with the iconoclastic Emperor Leo III). The Roman nobility had imprisoned the pope and when he escaped, he begged Charlemagne to restore him to power. After Leo was declared innocent, he crowned Charlemagne emperor in 800. This made Charlemagne a descendant of the old Roman emperors.

Charlemagne was known for inducing conversion through terror and other hostile means. It's important to note that while the Church did support Charlemagne, she never approved or sanctioned conversion through these means. The only type of conversion that the Church supports is a true conversion of heart, not a conversion based in terror or fear of death.

Scripture Readings Christ the King - 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43


November 17, 2019, Bulletin... Celebration of 140th Anniversary of Church Dedication

As it was announced last weekend, on Sunday, November 24, at 2pm, we will have a Solemn High Latin Mass to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the dedication of our beautiful church. If you have never experienced a Solemn High Mass or even a Latin mass before, I highly encourage you to attend. The full array of the beauty of the Latin Rite, of which we are all members, will be on display. It's also a bye-week for the Chiefs.

What makes a Solemn High Mass different than the low mass which is celebrated on Monday and Saturday mornings already is that it is a much fuller expression of the rite. The low mass is said by the priest with or without a server. There is no music, and there cannot be more than two servers. Everything about a low mass is relatively simplistic. A Solemn High Mass involves more servers, music, as well as more clerics. There is a deacon and a subdeacon in addition to the priest. I am very grateful to Fr. Eric Schneider, pastor of St. Ann's in Plattsburg and St. Joseph's in Easton, and Fr. Kevin Drew, pastor of St. Joseph's in Trenton and Immaculate Conception in Princeton, for taking time out of their busy schedules to assist in these roles. They are both priests within our deanery, and it's a wonderful display of fraternity and unity within our local church as well to have them.

For those who might be skeptical because of the mass being in Latin and possibly unfamiliar in general, I have a few suggestions to help. First, I recommend reading my explanation on the Traditional Latin Mass that can be found in its entirety on the parish website. Second, I recommend coming to one of the low masses this week, either on Monday morning or especially Saturday morning, the 23rd, which is the feast of St. Columban. Third, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have in general. I'm always more than happy to offer explanations about the liturgy. Also, we will have booklets which will have the translations of the prayers and readings as well.

I've said many times that one of the beauties of the Traditional Latin Mass (for me personally) is the lack of pressure on the faithful. When I first began attending masses in Latin, it was only because I spent the night at a friend's house and that's where they went. I didn't understand what was going on, and I felt like I had to say and do the right things, otherwise I would be doing something wrong. But the more I began to understand the mass, the more I realized that all that is required of the faithful is to simply pray. The faithful offer their sacrifice through the priest but the manner in which they do that is up to them. They may respond with the servers and/or choir or not. They can spend the whole time kneeling and praying the rosary in the back of the church. What's important is the mindset. All you need to do is offer prayer along with the priest and you've fulfilled your role. In reality, it's very little pressure as opposed to needing to respond at certain times, etc.

The final thing I'll mention is the beautiful image that we will be on that Sunday afternoon. On an altar that's 115 years old, in a church that's 140 years old, with many last names the same as back then, we will offer the august sacrifice of the mass as one parish community, unbroken for 162 years and, by the grace of God, unbroken for decades and centuries to come. The chalice that I will be using is 62 years old and was the ordination chalice of Fr. Sinclair, whose first assignment was here in 1957 and taught at the high school.

I, as your servant in Christ, will face the same direction as you, leading us toward God and heaven. I know that some are uneasy about the priest facing the same direction as the congregation; and for that conversation, I will leave you with two points. First, the priest is offering the sacrifice on behalf of the people. In a way, he is "driving" the mass. Would you ever get on a bus where the driver was facing you and not the road? Second, the chalice I mentioned is gold-plated. As such, it's highly reflective like a mirror. When I elevate the chalice at the freestanding altar on the weekends, I see the high altar and the tabernacle behind me. That's a beautiful image. However, when I use it at the high altar, I have God within the chalice itself, and reflected in it I can see you. I see all of you reflecting off the vessel which holds God Himself. That's a more beautiful image and a more complete image. On the 24th, I hope to see the reflected image of a full church, the same as it would have been all of those years before.

Scripture Readings 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Malachi 3:19-20a; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19


November 10, 2019, Bulletin... The History Corner - The Iconoclastic Controversies

It's important to explain how the Eastern and Western Churches began to grow apart. The city of Byzantium was renamed Constantinople by Constantine in 330AD. Byzantines were Roman in their laws, Greek in their culture, and oriental in their habits. As a result, Byzantine Christianity developed differently than the west. In the west, lack of political structure gave rise to missionaries and the concept of universality. In the east, any missionary activity tended to result in national churches and ultimately many schisms.

An icon is a flat, two-dimensional picture of Christ, Mary, or one of the saints. They are aids for Christian piety with highly ritualized prayer before them. They are seen as an invitation to prayer, not something to be worshiped. The word "iconoclast" literally means "image breaker". It was a title given to those who opposed icons but today usually refers to someone who is generally against religious art/imagery. By the 8th century, abuses of icons had sprung up among the faithful. They believed that icons held special powers which led to more superstition. The first commandment also states that you shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above. However, this is referring to that which would then be worshiped itself.

The First Iconoclasm: Emperor Leo III ruled from 717-741AD. His first goal was unity. He wanted Muslims and Jews to convert to Christianity, but both groups opposed icons. In 726AD, he issues an edict declaring that all icons were occasions for idolatry and ordered their destruction. Pope St. Gregory II officially condemned Leo's edict, and when many Eastern monks refused to give up their icons, Leo III had them killed and their icons destroyed. Pope St. Gregory III (not the II) convened two councils in Rome that condemned Leo and excommunicated him. Leo III continued his policies, however, and because of this the Eastern and Western Churches were not in communion on this matter. Constantine V succeeds Leo III and continued the policy of iconoclasm. He convened the non-ecumenical council of Hiereia in 754AD which was carefully orchestrated to give him the results that he wanted.

In 780, Empress Irene, the mother to the child-heir of the empire, convinced Pope Adrian I to convene a council. The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem were not allowed to attend, however, by their Muslim ruler. The council, Nicea II (the 7th ecumenical council in 787), declared the acceptance of the veneration, not worship, of icons. It also officially denounced iconoclasm as a heresy. Icons may be venerated through acts of respect and honor, such as bowing, lighting candles, and burning incense. These acts are honoring the person the icon represents, not the image itself. Only God is worthy of absolute adoration.

The Second Iconoclasm: The second iconoclasm lasted from about 815-843AD. It was begun by Emperor Leo V to strengthen the influence and power of the military. Iconoclasm was still popular in the military and upper tiers of society and Leo hoped to solidify his base. In 843, Empress Theodora deposed the Patriarch of Constantinople who was an iconoclast. Under the new Patriarch, iconoclasm was finally suppressed. As a side note, Patriarch is a title given to an Archbishop who rules a specific city/archdiocese of historical note/importance. There were five major Patriarchs: Rome (the pope), Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria.

Scripture Readings 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38


November 3, 2019, Bulletin... The History Corner - St. Benedict, the Rise of Islam, and the Conversion of the Barbarians

St. Benedict is considered the father of western monasticism. He lived from 480-547AD. He was educated in Rome, but the moral decay of the city caused him to leave the city and live as a hermit. Others began to join him as his reputation of sanctity increased. Eventually, he would found twelve monasteries around Italy. The 13th monastery, Monte Cassino, was where he would spend the later years of his life. Monte Cassino was tragically destroyed during World War II by Allied bombers, but the tombs of Benedict and Scholastica were unharmed, and the monastery was rebuilt to its original specifications.

At Monte Cassino, St. Benedict composed his famous Rule. The Rule of St. Benedict would be adopted by almost all monastic communities in medieval Europe. He divides life into four parts, each comprising a totaled amount of time during the day. Chanting the psalms and reciting prayers in community was to comprise four hours. Private prayer and scripture reading was to comprise four hours. Physical labor was to comprise six hours, and meals and sleep were to comprise ten hours. Monastic life is lived in common, and no one is to own private property. Benedict intended the monastery to be a family and a self-sustaining community.

Muhammad died in 632AD, and within 80 years of his death, Islam spread from the Indus River, through north Africa, and into southern Spain. In 711AD, all of Spain fell. In 732, Muslims crossed the Pyrenees into France where they were met by Charles "the Hammer" Martel. After Martel defeated the Muslims at the Battle of Tours, they never crossed into France again. They attempted to take Constantinople twice but were defeated by Emperor Leo III.

Unlike most of the Germanic tribes who were practicing the Arian heresy, the Franks were not even Christian. Then the Frankish chief, Clovis, was introduced to a beautiful Christian princess, St. Clotilda. She worked to convert her husband, but the early death of their first child convinced Clovis that the Christian god was ineffective. While fighting another tribe, Clovis promised that if he was victorious, he would convert. After his victory, he was baptized along with 3000 of his troops. Clovis then conquered and annexed the rest of Gaul, uniting it under the Christian banner.

Spain was Christian while under the Roman Empire, claiming to have been evangelized by St. James. The Visigoths, who were Arian, conquered Spain and orthodox Catholicism lagged. With the Muslim conquest, it all but disappeared except in the north. It was until 1492 that Spain would be fully Christian again.

As a priest, St. Patrick was commissioned by the pope to aid the bishop of Ireland. On the way to Ireland, he was informed of the bishop's death, and Patrick was consecrated the new bishop upon his arrival. Within a generation of St. Patrick's work, all of Ireland had converted. St. Patrick promoted the founding of many monasteries in Ireland which gave rise to Irish monasticism.

Irish monasticism didn't follow the Rule of St. Benedict but rather the more austere Eastern monasticism. Anything that could be done to deny the body comfort was done to bring the soul closer to God. By the early 6th century, Irish monasteries were the most important centers of learning in all of Europe. There weren't even any diocesan priests in Ireland, just the monks. By the 800's, their influence began to decline as tensions rose with the mainland and Viking invasions plagued the island.

Scripture Readings 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10


October 27, 2019, Bulletin... The History Corner - Later Heresies and the Rise of Monasticism

There are a few more heresies I'd like to mention that occurred around and after the Council of Nicea and Arianism, mostly because in many ways these heresies still exist today, just under different names.

Donatism was around from about 311-411AD. It rejected the validity of sacraments that were celebrated by priests and bishops who had formerly betrayed their faith during the persecutions. They even re-baptized people who joined their movement because they only considered the sacrament valid if they did it. St Augustine was their biggest opponent. He taught that Christ is the true minister of every sacrament. The worthiness of the person celebrating it is separate from the validity and efficacy of the sacrament. In today's world, with sin abounding amongst clergy as much as anyone, it's important to remember who the true minister of the sacrament is.

Pelagianism was around from the late 300's-431AD. The basic premise is that man can be redeemed and sanctified without grace. Salvation can be achieved solely through human endeavor. That's like saying that I'm going to build a rocket and fly to heaven. It's trying to achieve the supernatural through natural means. We do this today, where people claim that as long as they're good people, they'll go to heaven, ignoring the fact that we require the grace we receive from the sacraments in order to do this.

The traditional fall of Rome and the Western Roman Empire is dated in 476AD. The fall of Rome brought about the collapse of intellectual activity in the west. The loss of literacy meant that people could no longer read the scriptures. Academic training was limited to priests and religious. Roads became unsafe, crime increased, and cities and towns shrank. The Church shifted then to evangelize the "barbarians" now living in the former Roman Empire. This meant less philosophy and theology.

Monasticism is a way of life characterized by prayer and self-denial lived in seclusion from the world and under a fixed rule with professed vows. Those who enter seek to model themselves on Christ by dedicating their lives to prayer and penance. There are two types of monasticism: eremitical and cenobitical. Eremitical is individuals living the ascetic life, also sometimes called a hermit. Cenobitical is monastic life lived in community. Monasticism started with the eremitical life with St. Paul of Thebes and St. Anthony of the Desert. The cenobitical life was started by St. Pachomius in Egypt.

Monasteries served three purposes for the Church: they were a source of great spiritual strength, they served as seminaries for priests and bishops, and they functioned as centers of evangelization of the barbarian tribes through various forms of education. Monasteries also had three major effects on Europe: first they helped recover and evangelize rural society. As cities emptied out, communities became scattered and isolated. Monasteries were founded around them to educate and evangelize the population. They had an intellectual effect as they were the chief centers of learning until universities. The monks would study and copy the literary works of Greco-Roman civilization to preserve the texts and the knowledge. Monasteries also had a civilizing effect on Europe. The Germanic peoples were not very "civilized", and monasteries helped to change that. The tribes were attracted to the holiness and goodness of the monks/nuns. They in turn taught the tribes carpentry, masonry, ironwork, and how to farm.

Scripture Readings 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14


October 20, 2019, Bulletin... The History Corner - Arianism and the Council of Nicea

The ancient cities of Antioch and Alexandria became prominent sites of both theological study and debate. Each school of theology emphasized a different aspect of Christ's nature. The Alexandrian school gave special status to Christ's divinity and the unity of His person. Unfortunately, this special status would lead to some denying His humanity. The Antiochene school emphasized more of the humanity of Christ and tended to isolate Christ's human and divine natures.

Arius lived from 250-336AD. He was a priest in Alexandria, but he studied in Antioch. He was very charismatic as well. He studied Neo-Platonism and was very familiar with Gnosticism. So you can see that he was basically the perfect storm to become a heretic! Arius claimed that Jesus is neither God nor equal to the Father. This would stem from his studies at Antioch accompanied by Neo-Platonic thought. He uses passages from Scripture to defend his point, namely that the Son was sent by the Father to do the Father's will. He claimed Christ was an exceptional creature and was raised to the title of Son of God because of His fidelity to God's will. Neo-Platonism held that God was absolutely one and could not conceive of anything coming from it that would be equal to it. However, the rejection of Christ's divinity would then lead to obvious questions about both the Trinity and redemption.

Over 100 North African bishops asked for a detailed explanation of Arius' thoughts on Christ's divinity. After receiving it, they condemned Arianism in 320 but Arius refused to recant.

The issue of Arianism began to divide the entire empire. Constantine pushed for a council to be called that would settle the issue. In 325, the bishops gathered in Nicea. The council was conducted entirely in Greek. The pope was not present but was represented by a papal legate that has the authority of the pope to represent him. According to legend, it was at the Council of Nicea that St. Nicholas rose up while Arius was speaking and punched him in his face. Many dispute that claim, but I personally love the image of Santa Claus decking a heretic.

St. Athanasius proposed a statement of Catholic belief regarding the divinity of Christ that included the Greek term "homoousios" ("of the same essence/substance"). The Latin translation would be "consubstantialis", or in English, "consubstantial". The Church used Greek philosophy to explain the mystery of Christ. The words chosen were "hypostasis" ("person") and "ousia" ("substance"). The person is the who, the substance is the what. So Christ is one person with two natures. Christ is one hypostasis and two ousia. This is why we refer to it as the Hypostatic Union. The Greek language was very precise, so by using Greek, the Council avoided the vagueness that was causing much of the confusion. So the statement of belief that came from the Council became known as the Nicene Creed.

However, the creed that we say every Sunday mass is not the same creed that came from the Council of Nicea. The creed we say today is longer and came from the Council of Constantinople in 381. The sections about the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Church, baptism, the forgiveness of sins, and the Resurrection are all longer than what came out of Nicea. So, technically, while we call the creed the Nicene Creed, the technical name is the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. But that's a bit of a mouthful...

Scripture Readings 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8


October 13, 2019, Bulletin... The History Corner - Councils and Church Fathers

Various heresies will cause the Church to call councils in order to formally combat them. The first truly ecumenical council was the Council of Nicea in 325 (the Council of Jerusalem is not always counted in the official count). There have been 21 total ecumenical councils, the most recent being Vatican II from 1962-65. The first six councils addressed Christological heresies (heresies dealing with Christ). Current Canon Law grants the power to convene a council only to the papacy. The pope governs the council, and only he has the power to accept or reject the decrees of it. If a pope dies during a council, then the council is halted until a new pope is elected, and he then decides whether or not to continue it. The most recent example of that is Vatican II, when John XXIII died and Paul VI decided to continue.

Ecumenical councils are not the only kind of councils. There's a diocesan council, which is made up of the bishop and representatives from the local clergy, religious, and laity, and they discuss diocesan Church discipline/procedure. Provincial councils are the assembly of the metropolitan archbishop with his other bishops. In our case, it would be the four dioceses in the state of Missouri. A plenary council is comprised of all bishops of a nation. An ecumenical council summons all of the bishops in the world. It has the highest authority, and its definitions regarding faith and morals are infallible.

Church Fathers share the following characteristics: orthodox doctrine, holiness, notoriety, and antiquity. The title is not conferred by the Church (such as Doctor of the Church would be), but rather it's just a traditionally held title. They are divided into the Latin Fathers (West) and the Greek Fathers (East). The golden age of the Church Fathers was between the years 320-461AD. The last recognized Church Fathers died in 636AD for the West and 750AD for the East. The study of their writings is referred to as Patristics.

St. Ambrose of Milan lived from 339-397AD. When the people of Milan demanded that Ambrose become their bishop, he wasn't even Christian. He was still a catechumen. He was baptized, ordained, and installed as bishop on the same day. He was a defender of the Church's independence from the state. He excommunicated the Roman Emperor Theodosius (who had made Christianity the official religion of the empire) because he had slaughtered 700 villagers in Greece. The emperor was forced to do public penance for 8 months before being returned to a state of grace in the Church.

St. Jerome lived from 345-420AD. His two passions were the ascetical life and scholarship. He spent 4-5 years in the desert as an ascetic learning Hebrew. He translated the Bible from its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) into Latin, which became known as the Vulgate, since Latin was the common, or vulgar, tongue. The Vulgate is still used as the base text for the Church today.

St. John Chrysostom lived from 347-407AD. He was a preacher and commentator on the Bible and became such a good preacher that earned the name "Chrysostom" which means "golden-mouthed". He was named Patriarch of Constantinople by the emperor but preached against moral depravity, including that of the royal family. It's never wise to antagonize a royal family, although we must admire his courage and conviction. The empress had him removed and banished not once, but twice. He would eventually die on a death march.

Scripture Readings 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19


October 6, 2019, Bulletin - The History Corner - Early Heresies in the Church

St. Thomas Aquinas defines a heresy as "a species of unbelief, belonging to those who profess the Christian faith, but corrupt its dogmas". This is not the same as unbelief, meaning different religions like Islam, Judaism, etc. Orthodox ("right belief") Christianity derives from what we call the Deposit of Faith. The Deposit of Faith is the sum of all truths revealed in Scripture and through Tradition and entrusted to the care of the Church. Heresy derives from this same source, this same Deposit of Faith, but then denies or alters some part(s) of it.

There are two ways one can enter heresy. Material heresy is not willed by the person. It's the ignorance of truth, misunderstanding, non-comprehension, erroneous judgment, etc. It's a mistake but a mistake that needs correction. Formal heresy is when one freely chooses to hold doctrines that are clearly contradictory to those of the Church or doctrines that have been condemned by the Church as false.

The first heresies were all about Christ since Christ is the center of the Church. To understand where these heresies were coming from, we need to understand the different philosophical thoughts that were prevalent. Neo-Platonic thought reasoned to what it called a "Supreme Being". This Supreme Being creates through an emanation of lesser beings. One of these lesser divine beings was called the "logos". The problem is that John uses the word "logos" in his gospel to refer to Jesus, the second person in the Trinity (logos is a very ambiguous word in Greek). Neo-Platonic thought saw their "logos" as elevated, but less than the Supreme Being. Therefore, many heresies connected the Neo-Platonic "logos" to John's "logos" and denied the divinity of Christ or at least divinity that is equal to the Father.

One of the most widespread of the early heresies was called Gnosticism (silent "G"), which comes from the Greek meaning "knowledge". Basically, salvation could be achieved through knowledge. According to Gnosticism, a secret knowledge regarding God and the origin/destiny of man had been given to a select few. Its cosmology pits the Demiurge (creator god of the material/visible world) against the Divine Being, from which the Demiurge had originated. The Demiurge was the author/ruler of the material world, and since material is imperfect, it would naturally be antagonistic to the perfect divine world. The Divine Being is the agent of goodness while the Demiurge propagates evil. A divine spark, belonging to the Divine Being, could be found in some people. A redeemer came in order to release the sparks so that they could return to the Divine Being, but this was only possible if the individual understood the secret knowledge of the redeemer's teaching and practiced the appropriate rituals.

Now, how could Christians possibly fall into this heresy? Simple: just replace the following words and read the description again. Divine Being = God. Demiurge = Satan. Divine Spark = soul. Redeemer = Jesus. Secret knowledge of redeemer's teaching = Jesus' teachings. Appropriate rituals = sacraments. If you replace those words, then it starts to sound like basic Christianity - to a degree. That's what makes heresy so dangerous and insidious.

Scripture Readings 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10


September 29, 2019 Bulletin - Last weekend, we had two major fundraising events at the parish: the Fall Festival and the Quinn 5K. Both events, in order to be successful, needed good weather on a weekend with nothing but rain forecasted. When I was in seminary, I was told that the best thing to do to ward off unwanted rain was to pray the Memorare prayer to Mary as much as you can. When I looked at the forecast, I lit a candle on the Marian altar and said the first Memorare. Every time I thought about the weekend (which was often) or spoke with someone about it, I would pray one and encourage them to do the same. As the weekend approached, the forecast became more and more certain that rain would persist all weekend.

On Saturday, the rain tapered off around 7-7:30am, just before the run began. It started again after the race. On Sunday morning, as our amazing volunteers struggled with tents in the pouring rain, it appeared as if the whole event would be forced inside. However, when I walked over from the rectory at 11:45 with an umbrella, by the time I reached the gym doors, I no longer needed it. The sun came out, tables and chairs were set up for people to eat and watch the Chiefs game outside, and the rain held off even for the cleanup.

Mary is a powerful intercessor. Anyone who thinks that God's hand wasn't present that weekend as He watched over our parish and its events would be mistaken. Through Our Lady's intercession and the mercy of God, our fundraisers were both successful. Never doubt the power of prayer. Never doubt the power of Mary's intercession. Never doubt that our parish's devotion and love for God aren't rewarded. I am so grateful to Our Lord and our tremendous volunteers for a successful weekend, and it excites me to think what we'll be able to accomplish, with God's help, in the future. For if God is for us, who can be against us?


June 9, 2019 - I would like to use this week's column to introduce myself to all of you. This will allow me to preach about Pentecost this weekend as opposed to preaching about myself. I was born and raised in the northland of Kansas City, about 15 minutes from the airport. I attended Rockhurst High School and graduated in 2007 before heading to the University of Dallas to study history. My dream was to become a high school history teacher. However, after two years, I discerned that God was calling me to the seminary instead. I graduated from Conception Seminary College in 2011 and attended the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, OH. I was ordained on May 23, 2015; and my first assignment was to teach full time at Bishop LeBlond High School (don't worry, all of my shirts are going into storage). I taught there for three years and also coached the boys and girls soccer teams as well. So I have been to Chillicothe several times but only to the high school and only on the visitor's sideline. After three years, I was assigned to St. Therese Parish in Parkville, MO, the largest parish in our Diocese, as the associate. While there, I also helped a bit at St. Pius X High School, helping to coach their soccer teams as well (and those shirts are going into storage as well). While there, I coached against my former teams at LeBlond; and I mention this, not because I'm a turncoat, but because I'm fiercely loyal. And while it might be awhile before I'm wearing the red and black of the Hornets, know that I am very happy to be here and look forward to the many ways in which I can serve the great community that we have here. One final note: there will undoubtedly be some things that will change from what Fr. Kneib did and while some change is always expected, I do not intend any of it to be disruptive. There is always a reason for why I do what I do, which means if you ever have a question about it, you will get an answer. I pray that my tenure here is long and fruitful, and know of my prayers for all of you as we start this new journey together.

A Duty Sanctioned - Parishioner Brenda O'Halloran has written a book based on the story of us. The book is entitled A Duty Sanctioned. You may read an excerpt by clicking on the book image here. We hope you will purchase your very own copy of the book to read in its entirety and to also help with this very worthwhile fundraising endeavor! TO ORDER: Contact Kim at the church office (email subject: Book Order). We prefer that you pick your order up at the church office, but mailing options are available (applicable shipping costs apply).

GUIDE TO OUR STATUES: A guide is available on this website to help you learn about the statues in the church. Mouse over the General Information tab at the top of any page to see a dropdown menu with a link to the guide or click here...

RESOURCES - Here are some resources available to aid us in being more knowledgeable about our faith. Please consider the following to determine which might be the best for you.

Flocknotes - an email service which sends a passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, gospels, or the diary of St. Faustina to you daily.

Magazines and Online Print - The following are available online and in print. Please click on the link or call the number to learn how to subscribe.

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St. Columban Catholic Church 1111 Trenton Street, Chillicothe, MO  64601
Phone: 660-646-0190

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