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Explanation of the Traditional Latin Mass | History Corner Archive

October 24, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Service
Holy Orders, Part 1

The seventh and final sacrament to be discussed is Holy Orders. Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. Thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry which has three degrees/levels: episcopate (bishop), presbyterate (priest), diaconate (deacon).

The word "order" in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio (ordination) means incorporation into an ordo (order). So each level of Holy Orders is its own order: the order of bishops, the order of priests, and the order of deacons. Other groups also receive the name of order: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows, etc. Integration into these groups was done through an ordination. Today, the word ordination is reserved specifically for those joining the one of the three holy orders. It also goes beyond simply joining the order because it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a sacred power which can come only from Christ Himself through His Church.

Through the ordained ministry, specifically bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as the head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers. However, this presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the minister is preserved from all human weakness, especially sin. The power of the Holy Spirit doesn't guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While it does guarantee the efficacy of the sacraments regardless of the sinfulness of the minister who celebrates them, it obviously doesn't guarantee that the minister will be a holy and good person.

Holy Orders, like baptism and confirmation, leaves an indelible (permanent) mark. Therefore,  once someone is ordained, they cannot be "unordained". Like baptism and confirmation, Holy Orders is confirmed ultimately once; but if one is ordained a deacon, then priest, then God forbid a bishop, they are receiving a greater fullness of the same sacrament. In a way, you could liken it to confirmation conferring the fullness of the Holy Spirit that was begun with baptism, even though those are two different sacraments. However, to the point above, a priest (for example) is a priest forever regardless of his ministerial status. Priests are granted faculties at their ordination which are the things that he's permitted to do by the bishop who ordains him. These faculties can be revoked so that the priest can no longer serve in any public ministry. A priest can be "laicized" (to become a lay person again) by the Vatican. What this really does is not unordain someone but rather release them from the obligations of the clerical state. They are still technically a priest. However, the only thing that they can do in that state is hear someone's confession who is in danger of death. Otherwise, they cannot exercise any priestly function again.

Each degree of Holy Orders has its own function. Deacons are ordained to serve the priests and bishops as was their original function in Acts of the Apostles. They can baptize, witness marriages, and perform funeral rites outside of mass. Additionally, they proclaim the gospel and can preach. Priests, whenever they are doing any of those things, are exercising their diaconal role which they received when they were first ordained deacons. Likewise, whenever a bishop says mass, hears confessions, or anything else that a priest can do, is simply exercising his priestly role which he received at his priesthood ordination.

There are two types of deacons today: transitional and permanent. Transitional deacons are those men that are pursuing ordination to the priesthood. They must be ordained a deacon before priest. Often times, they're ordained a deacon before their final year in the seminary. Someone who is ordained a transitional deacon has the right to be ordained a priest within three years of his diaconate ordination unless he was to do something that would make him irregular for priesthood ordination. Permanent deacons must be at least 35 years old before ordination (for transitional deacons I believe it's 23 or 24 as you must be at least 25 to be ordained a priest. Permanent deacons may be married at the time of their ordination; but if one is ordained a permanent deacon and is not married, he cannot then go get married afterward. Deaconesses (women deacons) existed in name only in the early Church. They were not ordained, but rather they were conferred that title as their role was to help with baptisms which were done fully nude. Therefore, "deaconesses" aided the women who were being baptized, and deacons aided the men. When baptism was no longer done in the buff, the role of a deaconess became obsolete.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52


October 17, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Service

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. This covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.

Scripture begins and ends with marriage. In Genesis, we have the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God; and in Revelation, we have the vision of the wedding feast of the Lamb. Throughout Scripture, it speaks of marriage and its mystery; its institution, the meaning God has given it, its origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal in the new covenant of Christ and His Church. Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another. Woman is created from man and thus the two, through marriage, literally become one flesh.

Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning. The permission given by Moses for divorce was one of the many concessions in the Deuteronomic Law made for the hardness of the Israelites' hearts. The insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed in Jesus' time and seemed like an impossible burden. However, by coming to restore the original order of creation, disturbed by sin, He Himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses are able to receive the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.

In the Latin Rite of the Church (to which we all belong), marriage is typically celebrated within the context of mass. The reason is because of the connection of all the sacraments to the Paschal Mystery. The Eucharist is also the memorial of the New Covenant when Christ united Himself to the Church, His bride. So it's fitting for the spouses to seal their consent to give themselves to each other within the same context. However, it is completely permissible to simply have a wedding ceremony. A wedding ceremony comprises of the procession, readings, homily (obviously the highlight), the exchange of consent/rings, and the nuptial blessing. Often times, when one spouse is not Catholic and thus most likely so is his or her entire family, a wedding ceremony is chosen as it's more familiar to non-Catholics.

The sacrament of marriage is unique among the sacraments insofar as the minister of the sacrament is not an ordained person. The spouses act as the ministers because it is by their exchange of consent that the sacrament is conferred. The priest, deacon, or bishop act as the witness of the Church.

In order for the sacrament to be valid, the parties must be free to marry and freely express their consent. To be free means that they're not under any constraint and they're not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical (Church) law. The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. So no shotgun weddings allowed. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking, then the marriage is invalid. Also, if it was determined that one or both of the parties weren't of sound mind at the time of the consent, it's invalid. So no drinking before the wedding.

The minister of the Church receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to Church form. Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. However, dispensations may be given for good reasons, including getting married outside the Church by a non-Church officiant. But these must be granted before the wedding and are not retroactive. Additionally, permissions and dispensations are required for Catholics to marry baptized and non-baptized non-Catholics. I've never known for these permissions to not be granted.

Marriage is a thorny issue these days and has now become more about the wedding/reception than about the sacrament and the indissolubility of it. Marriage has also become very secularized and thus a "Church wedding" isn't something that many Catholics think they need or want, unfortunately to their own detriment. As I mentioned recently in a homily, any "irregular" marriage situation you think you might be in is fixable. Please do not hesitate to come talk to me about how it can be rectified. I promise you it will be worth it.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45


October 10, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Healing
Confession - Part 2

The confession of our sins, even from a purely human standpoint, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through our admission of guilt, we look squarely at the sins we're guilty of, take responsibility for them, and open ourselves again to God and to the communion of the Church. And confessing our sins to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament. The Council of Trent said that when Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest. "For if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know". It's ok to legitimately forget sins in confession because to forget is not intentional. If we withhold sins, though, then the absolution isn't valid.

According to the Church's command, the faithful are bound by an obligation to faithfully confess any mortal sins committed at least once per year. Anyone aware of mortal sin should not receive communion, as doing so constitutes the sin of sacrilege since we're knowingly putting the Eucharist in a spiritually unclean vessel: ourselves. If we do commit a mortal sin, we should seek recourse to the sacrament as soon as we're able. We're only bound to confess mortal sins in confession, technically. Venial, which is to say less-serious, sins need not be confessed, but doing so is a good practice as it makes us more acutely aware of all of the little ways we sin all the time.

When we confess mortal sins, we're also obligated to confess them in kind and number. Basically, what exactly did you do and how many times. The reason is that we shouldn't be committing so many mortal sins that we have no idea what we're doing or how many times. And if we're going so long between confessions and allowing mortal sins to pile up into uncountable numbers, then we need to go to confession far more often.

Before going to confession, one needs to make a good examination of conscience. There are many resources online to help guide someone through a good examination. When you do, my suggestion is to write it down, either on your phone where it can be easily deleted, or on a small piece of paper. I used to use post-it notes in the seminary and then flush them down the toilet afterwards. A good examination of conscience makes it to where we're not forgetting sins or continuing to do things that we didn't realize were serious sins.

Confession is not the hypothetical game. Do not confess sins as if you're not sure if you did them. Either you did or didn't. So phrases like, "if I've ever done X", "for any times I may have done Y", aren't helpful because you're not truly taking responsibility for an action. You did it or you didn't do it. If you're not sure or can't remember, then just say you did them. Better safe than sorry and it's not like there's extra judgment on the priest's part. Confession is also not about what everyone else did that caused you to sin. The priest doesn't need to hear about how awful other people are and how that caused you to sin. The priest doesn't need to hear about how you try to be a good person. We assume that you do because you're there. Be direct, be frank, and be honest. I've heard it all. You will not surprise me, and you will not shock me.

Confession is also not spiritual direction. What I mean by that is that because confession is before mass, and I have presumably more than one person wanting to go and a hard deadline when I need to leave, I tend not to give advice that's unsolicited unless I feel there's a good reason to do so. If you'd like to discuss certain things at a greater length, then please either make an appointment for confession or an appointment to see me in spiritual direction which carries nearly the same weight of confidentiality as confession.

The seal of confession is absolute. I cannot reveal anything said in the confessional. Ever. I would be automatically excommunicated by Church Law. I cannot even confirm to someone that a person even went to confession. I cannot indirectly violate the seal of confession by treating someone differently based on what they said or doing anything based on information learned in the sacrament. It is absolute. You cannot think of a scenario where the seal could be broken because if you could, then it wouldn't be absolute. Go to confession!

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews:12-13; Mark 10:17-30


October 3, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Healing
Confession - Part 1

This sacrament is known by several names. Some call it confession, others penance, and others reconciliation. Each conjure a specific connotation in regard to the sacrament. Confession calls to mind the actual disclosure/confession of sins to a priest which is an essential element of the sacrament. Penance refers more specifically to the sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction. Reconciliation calls to mind the love of God who reconciles us both to Himself and the Church.

Since this sacrament is basically exclusive to the Catholic Church and even within her ranks is not usually listed as the most favorite or practiced, it's important to understand it as much as we can. A good question to start with is why we need confession when we have baptism? Baptism has made us "holy and without blemish", but the apostle John says that if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. While baptism does cleanse us of original sin and, if baptized later on, of all sins prior to baptism, it doesn't make us stop sinning afterward, nor does it continue to forgive sins that we knowingly commit following our baptism.

We all still carry concupiscence, which is to say we still carry the inclination to sin. With this inclination, we obviously struggle with a variety of sins throughout our lives which may change for various reasons over the course of our lifetime. It is hoped that with the availability and use of confession, we learn to overcome our sins with the grace of God which comes to us through this sacrament. The worst trap we can fall into is to think that we don't really sin, or at least we don't really sin in any serious way. A protestant notion that's quite prevalent is that we do of course sin, but our sin is continually covered/washed away by the grace received in baptism. That's a nice thought, but it's also saying in reality that we're no longer liable for the sins we continually choose to commit. It takes away the responsibility of our sin which confession brings to the forefront.

It is true to say that only God forgives sin. The Church doesn't dispute this and in fact says it quite openly. However, He quite clearly imparted His own apostles with His power to forgive sins. Additionally, He gave them authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. Matthew 16:19, I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. The office of binding and loosing was given to Peter but was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to him. There are several scriptural passages that all reflect this ministry.

True penance requires the sinner to endure all things willingly, namely, to be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction. That is from the Catechism published after the Council of Trent 500 years ago. So firstly, the penitent must be contrite. He must actually be sorry for the sins he's committed. Being sorry for a sin doesn't mean you don't think you could potentially do it again. Being truly contrite is not wanting it to happen again. As a bad example, I don't want the Chiefs to lose again, but I know that it's a very real possibility. In theory it's not, but let's be honest about it. That doesn't change my feelings about it now. The same holds true with our actions. When we commit a sin, which we no doubt greatly enjoyed at the time since we tend to enjoy most of the sins we do which is why we do them, we can still be contrite about the fact we committed the sin. However, if we're not actually sorry for it at the base level, then it cannot be confessed. We can feel justified about our sins, but that doesn't change the intrinsic nature of the sin. We tend to rationalize the sin, making it not really our fault and thus minimizing blame. We're sorry that we did it, but it really wasn't totally our fault. That mentality lessens our contrition because we're shifting blame away from ourselves and putting on another person or on something circumstantial.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Genesis 2:18-24; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16


September 26, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Healing
Anointing of the Sick

Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finite nature. Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, and sometimes even despair and revolt against God. The Church received the charge to heal the sick from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer and intercession. The live-giving presence of Christ is particularly active through the sacraments.

At the Council of Trent, the Church said that the sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord. From ancient times we have testimonies to the practice of anointings with blessed oil. Over the centuries, the sacrament became used almost exclusively for those at the point of death, hence the received name of "Extreme Unction". The Second Vatican Council revised the rite of the sacrament.

It is not a sacrament for those only at the point of death. If someone who is in bad health receives the sacrament and recovers, they could receive it again if they became sick again. It is a sacrament that can be received as many times as necessary. Only priests and bishops are ministers of the sacrament.

The celebration of the sacrament, like all others, is liturgical in nature when done in its fullness. Those who wish to receive the sacrament should be in a state of grace and therefore confession is recommended before receiving the anointing. The priest or bishop will begin by silently laying their hands on or over the sick person. This is a silent prayer of the minister to the Holy Spirit. The minister then anoints the forehead of the person by saying, "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit". Then the minister anoints both palms of the person while saying, "may the Lord Who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Amen." If the person being anointing is a priest or bishop, then the backs of the hands are anointed because the priest or bishop's palms were anointed with Sacred Chrism during their ordination. A proper concluding prayer, depending on the particular circumstance, concludes the rite.

The effects of the sacrament are generally misunderstood. Anointing of the Sick is not necessarily associated with physical healing. The idea is not that when you're anointed you are now healed of all afflictions and if that doesn't occur then something went wrong. The first grace of the sacrament is one of strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. It's a spiritual strengthening, not necessarily a physical one.

There is a union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of the sacrament, the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's passion. Suffering, which is a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning. It becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.

If the person who receives the sacrament is in danger of death, then there is the preparation for their final journey. It completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life, when baptism sealed new life in us, and when confirmation strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father's house.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48


September 19, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation
Eucharist, Part 3

You've hopefully heard me use the phrase, "Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ" several times in my homilies. The theology of the Eucharist is that what we are consuming is actually the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It's not a metaphor, it's not a symbol, it doesn't represent something or stand in for something. It is actually the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This crucial distinction alone is what separates Catholics from protestant denominations. So while in some areas we may have similar beliefs and practices as, say Lutherans, when it comes to the Eucharist which is the source and summit of our entire faith, we differ dramatically. And that's where it counts.

Many have probably also heard the word "transubstantiation" before as well. This word is used to describe what happens to the bread and the wine when it becomes the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. And how it works is actually explained by a concept that has its roots in Greek philosophy several centuries before Christ was born. The philosophical concepts were not used to create the teaching, but rather to explain it.

In John 6, the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus uses increasingly blunt and almost graphic language to describe the Bread of Life/the Eucharist. At one point, the original Greek that the gospel was written in has the connotation of crunching on the bones of Jesus when He speaks of Himself being the Bread of Life. Each time He explains it, He gets more specific. The reasoning is that He didn't want there to be any question about how literal He was being. And He was so literal that everyone but the apostles leaves Him. If He was just being symbolic or metaphorical, then how would the teaching be so difficult for everyone? Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus gives the apostles the bread and says that it's His body. This connects back to John 6. Jesus says that His body is literally the Bread of Life, then He gives them the bread and says it's His body, and the apostles connect the dots. However, since the bread at the Last Supper did not turn into Jesus' right thigh or something, how can what He said in both instances (John 6 and the Last Supper) be true?

Everything has two sets of characteristics: accidental and substantial. A thing's accidental characteristics are the attributes of the thing that are tangible and detectable with our five senses. How it looks, smells, tastes, sounds, and feels. A thing's substantial characteristics are what make it one thing and not something else. The essence, the being of a thing that is not tangible but knowable. For example, a wooden table has its accidental characteristics that we're all familiar with. It's substance is that of a table. It's what makes it a table and not a sculpted pile of wood. We call it a table because that's its form/essence/being. You could sit on a table, but you don't call it a chair. If the table is broken down into its original parts, you don't call it a table. You call it wood and screws and nails. With me so far?

So bread and wine have accidental and substantial characteristics. Their accidental characteristics are known to us because we can sense them. Their substantial characteristics are also known to us, even though we cannot detect them with our senses. When the consecration happens, the substantial characteristics are changed but the accidental characteristics are not. So what we have is a transubstantiation of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. We can't see it, taste it, smell it, feel it, or hear it, but we have faith that it occurs because otherwise Jesus is a liar. He's a liar because what He said in John 6 wasn't true. He's a liar because what He said at the Last Supper wasn't true. Since it's not a good starting place to call Jesus a liar, we know that the substance of the bread and wine is what changes while the accidents remain the same. But the substance is what matters. The substance is what makes us human beings and not piles of differentiated human cells. Our nature, our essence, and our being are what matter, not our varying accidental characteristics.

And so, it is only by faith that we can truly see and believe what is presented to us in the Eucharist. But because it looks the same before and after, it's very easy for us to forget and more easily dismiss the reality. But the reality is that we're receiving the actual divine substance of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ and how we receive it and treat it should always reflect that.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37


September 12, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation
Eucharist, Part 2

As early as the second century, we have writings from St. Justin that detail the general outline of the mass which show that from the earliest days, the structure of the mass has remained the same throughout history. The liturgy develops organically, meaning that changes occur over time as we better understand the theology of the sacrifice of the mass.

The mass itself is broken down into two main sections: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Introductory Rite contains the entrance antiphon, which is substituted with a hymn when the mass has music, the sign of the cross, and greeting. Next, the priest invites the faithful to acknowledge their sins in the Penitential Rite, which includes the Confiteor ("I confess") and the Kyrie ("Lord, have mercy"). Next comes the Gloria, if the mass includes one. Glorias are restricted to feast days of the first and second class, meaning Sundays and major feast days of saints or of the Lord.

The main section of the Liturgy of the Word follows with the readings from scripture. Again, depending on the class of the day, you'll have one or two readings from scripture, typically one reading from each testament depending on the liturgical season, plus the psalm. The climax of the Liturgy of the Word is, of course, the gospel, which we reverence by standing for it. Technically, the homily/sermon is outside of the mass, since its text is created by the celebrant or homilist. That's why I remove the maniple from my left arm before giving it, because the maniple is a vestment solely used for the mass. When I take it off, it symbolizes that something outside of the mass is occurring. The difference between a homily and a sermon is that a homily is based almost entirely on the readings. A sermon can address any theological, scriptural, or moral topic. We all secretly know that my homilies are the highlight of everyone's life; but for now, we'll just keep that between ourselves. Also, if you're reading this while I'm giving my homily... don't.

Following the homily/sermon, if there is one (they are only mandatory on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation), comes the creed which is only said on feast days of the first class. Petitions may follow in some form, but they are optional during the week and their length/number is to be determined by the celebrant.

The offertory follows where the priest offers to God the offerings of the people, namely the bread and the wine, and symbolically cleanses himself to offer the one, perfect sacrifice of Christ.

The Eucharistic Prayer follows; and this is the heart and the summit of the celebration. It begins with the preface where we give thanks to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, lifting up our hearts to the Lord as is right and just.

During the Eucharistic Prayer, or the Roman Canon (which is the one I always use unless it's a funeral), the priest invokes numerous saints by name, all of whom were martyrs for the early Church. The priest then extends his hands over the gifts in the "epiclesis", asking the Father to send His Holy Spirit upon the gifts. The consecration comes next and the priest, standing in the person of Christ, speaks the same words over the bread and wine. Once spoken, they are elevated so that the faithful can see and venerate what has now substantially changed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

After the rest of the Canon, we come to the Communion Rite, which begins with the Lord's Prayer. The priest then offers the peace of Christ to the faithful directly, and optionally, the faithful may offer it to each other. Again, this is a part of the mass that has always been optional. After that the priest receives communion and completes the sacrifice. Technically, he is the only one required to receive communion at mass, as he must do so to complete the sacrifice he has offered. The Concluding Rite follows communion with the post-communion prayer, final blessing, and dismissal.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 50:4c-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35


September 5, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation
Eucharist, Part 1

The holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our entire faith, completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist. All of the other sacraments and all of the other ecclesiastical ministries and works are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church.

We refer to the Eucharist by several different titles, each one evoking certain aspects of it. The word Eucharist has a Greek root which means thanksgiving, because the celebration of it is an act of thanksgiving to God. We call it the Lord's Supper because of its connection with the Last Supper of our Lord at which He instituted it. We call the mass the Holy Sacrifice because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ and includes the Church's offering. We also use sacrifice of praise, spiritual sacrifice, and pure and holy sacrifice. We call it Holy Communion because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ who makes us sharers in His Body and Blood to form a single body.

At the heart of the Eucharist are bread and wine, the signs under which the Eucharist is made present to us. We use these because we as His Church are faithful to His command to do this in memory of Him. And what He did when He said that was use bread and wine. They also signify the goodness of creation which is recalled in the prayers during the offertory (spoken aloud at daily mass here), which say that they are the work of human hands, but above all are fruit of the earth and of the vine; gifts from our Creator. The Church also references the old testament priest Melchizedek who brought out bread and wine, a prefiguring of the Church's own offering.

The three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as St. Paul have given us the account of the institution of the Eucharist. John's gospel reports the Bread of Life discourse in chapter 6 in the synagogue of Capernaum. These words prepare for the institution of the Eucharist as Christ calls Himself the bread of life. By celebrating the Last Supper and instituting the Eucharist in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to His Father by His death and resurrection is anticipated in the Passover and celebrated in the Eucharist. This fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in glory of the kingdom.

During its institution, Jesus tells His apostles to do this in memory of Him. The command to repeat His actions and words until He comes again does not just ask us to remember Him and what He did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration of the memorial of Christ. From the beginning the Church has been faithful to this command. Acts 2 speaks of the people devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. Because it is a direct command from our Lord and God, the Church gives it the gravity that it deservers. Our free choice to not follow the command of God thus constitutes a grave and mortal sin.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 50:5-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35


August 29, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation

By the sacrament of confirmation, the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed. Confirmation has its roots with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles at Pentecost. This is the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit that we receive at baptism. The apostles would impart to the newly baptized the laying on of hands, giving them the same gift of the Spirit they had received. Very early on, to better signify this gift by material means, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This is why the Eastern churches call the sacrament Chrismation. In the West, we say confirmation, which suggests that this sacrament confirms baptism and strengthens baptismal grace.

In the first centuries, confirmation was almost always tied immediately with baptism into one ceremony. Eastern churches have kept this tradition, even with infants, and so it is the priest that baptizes who also then confirms. We have this in the West whenever anyone above the age of reason is baptized. They are then immediately confirmed as well. Most are familiar with the tradition of baptizing the infant but then waiting to confirm by the bishop later. The Eastern tradition gives more unity to the sacraments of initiation, and the Western tradition gives those confirmed more unity with their bishop who is actually doing the confirming.

The anointing with chrism that is done in confirmation leaves an indelible, permanent mark. It is a spiritual seal of the Holy Spirit. Those who are marked with this seal share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which He is filled, so that their lives may give off the "aroma of Christ".

When confirmation is celebrated separately from baptism, which is the norm in the Latin Rite Church, the liturgy itself begins with the renewal of baptismal promises and the profession of faith by the confirmands. The bishop then extends his hands over the whole group, signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit from the direct successor of the apostles. The bishop then anoints each confirmand on the forehead with chrism. The saint which the confirmand has chosen as his/her patron is said by the bishop, who then adds, "be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit". The bishop then offers the newly confirmed the sign of peace.

It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as granted upon the apostles at Pentecost. It brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace. It roots us more deeply in the divine sonship, unites us more firmly to Christ, increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us, renders our bond to the Church more perfect, and gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the cross.

Every baptized person not yet confirmed can and should receive the sacrament of confirmation. In the West, as said before, we tend to wait until after they've reached the age of reason, but in danger of death, children not yet at that age should still be confirmed. Preparation for the sacrament should aim at leading the Christian toward a more intimate union with Christ and a more lively familiarity with the Holy Spirit in order to be more capable of assuming the apostolic responsibilities of Christian life.

The ordinary minister of confirmation is the bishop. In danger of death, any priest can administer confirmation. Additionally, any priest who baptizes someone above the age of reason automatically has the faculty to confirm the person immediately. The bishop has the right to confirm all Catholics within his diocese. So someone who is baptized Catholic as an infant or below the age of reason is confirmed by the bishop. However, the bishop can extend the faculty of confirming already baptized Catholics to a priest in certain circumstances. The most common is when a Catholic who was baptized but never confirmed "reconverts" at the Easter Vigil. Since this is common, the bishop extends the faculty to priests for the Easter Vigil when the priest submits the specific names of the people needing to be confirmed on that occasion. Individual cases can also be delegated to the priest depending on the circumstances.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23


August 22, 2021, Bulletin... Sacraments of Initiation

The seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, holy orders, marriage, anointing of the sick, and reconciliation are broken down into three groups - these are the sacraments of initiation, of service, and of healing. The three sacraments of initiation are baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist. These lay the foundation of every Christian life. Paul VI said that the faithful are born anew by baptism, strengthened by confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments, they receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.

The word "baptism" comes from the Greek "baptizein" which means to plunge or immerse. The "plunge" into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial into Christ's death from which he rises up by resurrection with him as a new creature.

Baptism was prefigured in several different ways in the Old Testament. From creation itself water has been the source of life and fruitfulness. Genesis said that water was overshadowed by the Spirit of God at the moment of creation. Noah's Ark is seen as a prefigurement of salvation by baptism because through it people were saved, and the world was cleansed through the water of the flood. The crossing of the Red Sea is a very easy comparison, for it was through the waters of the Red Sea that the children of Israel were literally set free from slavery. It is also prefigured in the Israelites crossing the Jordan, for it was through the crossing of that water that the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

All of these Old Testament prefigurations find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He began his public ministry by having himself baptized by John in the Jordan. After his resurrection, he commands his disciples to baptize all nations. Jesus voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of sinners, which is what John was doing, as a manner of self-emptying. He had no sins to confess and be forgiven for, but in order to fully identify with us, Christ underwent baptism because we are all in need of baptism. He chose to go through what we must go through. The same can obviously also be said about his death. Through his action, he also sanctified baptism.

The Church has been celebrating baptism since Pentecost. After Peter's speech, about 3000 people were baptized after witnessing the miracle. St. Paul said that through the Holy Spirit, baptism purifies, justifies, and sanctifies. Today, the celebration of the sacrament combines multiple symbols with physical and metaphysical realities. The sign of the cross at the beginning marks the one who will be baptized with the imprint of Christ. Since baptism signifies liberation from sin and from the Devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens on the breastplate. The baptismal water is consecrated by a prayer through which the Church asks that the power of the Holy Spirit be sent upon the water. Then the essential part of the rite follows, by which the sacrament is made valid. The water is poured over the head, the water must flow off the head, and the celebrant says, "[name], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." If any part of that is altered, the baptism is not valid. The person is then anointed on the forehead with Sacred Chrism. Chrism is only used in sacraments that leave an indelible (permanent) mark: baptism, confirmation, and holy orders. The white garment traditionally worn symbolizes that the person baptized has "put on Christ". Then a candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the new Christian.

Those who can receive baptism are anyone who has not yet been baptized. You cannot be baptized more than once which is why the Church recognizes protestant baptisms that use the above formula. Adult baptism was very common in the early Church but so was infant baptism. Children are born with a fallen human nature and tainted with original sin, so they have the need of the new birth in baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer baptism shortly after birth.

The ordinary ministers of baptism are bishops, priests, and deacons. Anyone can be an extraordinary minister of baptism when there is danger of death present. They still must use the above formula when doing so.

Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than baptism that assures entry into eternal life. However, while God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, He Himself is not bound by His sacraments. The Church has always held that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received baptism are baptized by their death, called a baptism of blood. In regard to children who die without baptism, the Church teaches that we entrust them to the mercy of God, knowing that He desires for all to be saved. Children who are not baptized but are not yet at the age of reason haven't made a conscious act of sinning against the will of God. Thus, they cannot be punished eternally for acts they never committed.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69


August 15, 2021, Bulletin...
The Liturgy of the Church

Before talking about the seven sacraments individually, the Catechism goes into great detail regarding the celebration of the liturgy within the Church. Liturgy is an action of the whole Christ, which is to say the entire Church. Each sacrament involves the celebration of a liturgy which takes on different forms depending on the sacrament, who is celebrating it, when it happens, and where it happens. All members, the whole community, celebrate the liturgy, but not all of the members have the same function. Certain members are called by God to a special service in the community. These servants are chosen and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which the Holy Spirit enables them to act in the person of Christ. The common priesthood of all the baptized, each according to his function, celebrate together in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Celebrations of the sacraments are woven together from signs and symbols. The meaning of these signs and symbols is rooted in the work of creation and in our culture, specified by the events of the Old Covenant and fully revealed in the person and work of Christ. We need signs and symbols to communicate with others, such as through language, gestures, and actions. The same principle holds true for our relationship with God.

Holy images are also very important in our liturgical celebrations. The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the incomprehensible and invisible God, but rather the incarnation of the Son of God. All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ, including images of Mary and other saints. They truly signify Christ who is glorified in them. The beauty of the images should move us to contemplation of the glory of God and keep our minds always focused on Him. That is why churches are decorated with icons, statues, and murals that depict holy things. Churches that are white-washed and don't contain any religious imagery don't avail themselves as a sacred space when the liturgy isn't being celebrated because the place takes on the look of a normal space when not in use. You cannot walk into St. Columban and think that's it not a sacred place regardless of the time of day.

The liturgical celebrations of the Church are all situated around the liturgical year. From the time of Moses, the people of God observed fixed feasts, such as Passover. They happen at the same time each year as a constant reminder of what God has done for us. In like manner, the Church has established the liturgical year as a way of keeping our lives rooted in the liturgy regardless of the day or time of year. The year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, then moves into the Christmas season, ordinary time part 1, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and then ordinary time part 2. Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox which is why it moves. Ultimately, the liturgical year is focused on Easter as the feast of feasts. Christmas, being a fixed date, determines the beginning of the year, but everything following is based off of when Easter occurs. Included throughout the year are the recurring feasts of the saints who have suffered and been glorified with Christ. They are presented to us for the two "I's": Imitation and Intercession.

The liturgical celebrations of the Church are not confined to any particular space. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. However, when religious liberty is not being threatened, we build buildings for divine worship. They are not just gathering places, but make visible the Church that lives in a particular place. I would stand to argue that our church makes the Catholic community in Chillicothe very visible and showcases our devotion through its beauty. Within the church itself, there are certain furnishings that are (or should be) present. The altar is where the sacrifice of Christ is made present. Our high altar elevates our hearts, eyes, and mind to God as His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity are made present upon it. The tabernacle is always to be situated in a most worthy place and with the greatest honor, according to Pope Paul VI. Ours is right where it should be, for it contains the source and summit of our entire faith and thus should be in the heart of the focal point of the church: the high altar. Those who would argue that it should be placed off to the side would need to explain why the source and summit of something should be found off to the side somewhere. The ambo is where the word of God (and mediocre homilies) are proclaimed and thus deserves a high place of honor as well. The chair of the priest, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, should express his office of presiding over the assembly and directing prayer. The beautiful sedilia (plural Latin for seats) certainly expresses this.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab I; Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56


August 8, 2021, Bulletin...
Sacraments: Introduction

Over the next few weeks, we'll be looking at the sacraments of the Church in depth as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) explains them. The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and marriage. A sacrament is defined as "an efficacious sign of God's grace, instituted by Jesus Christ, and entrusted to the whole Church". It is through the sacraments that divine life is dispensed to us.

The Council of Trent in 1547 stated infallibly that it is through our adherence to the scriptures and apostolic tradition that we profess that all seven sacraments were instituted by Christ. The mysteries of Christ's life are the foundations of what He would dispense in the sacraments, through the ministers of His Church. Sacraments are powers that come forth from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in His Body, the Church.

The Church is ultimately the authority that determined the sacraments, their celebration, and their number. In the same way, she set forth the canon of scripture and doctrines of the faith. This comes from the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with which the Church is imbued. The number and celebration of the sacraments have come into form over the centuries, so it's always important to remember that things develop organically in the Church. Those who would point to "how things were done originally" as a way to justify a sudden change in things today do not understand this organic development and seek to simply do something based on an antiquarian argument. The sacraments are "of the Church" in the sense that they are by her and for her. They are by the Church because she is the sacrament of Christ's action at work in her through the mission of the Holy Spirit. They are for the Church since they manifest and communicate to men, most of all in the Eucharist, they mystery of communion with God.

The Church acts in the sacraments as a priestly community. Through baptism and confirmation, all Church members form a priesthood of the baptized which allows them to celebrate the liturgy. Those who have received holy orders, namely deacons, priests, and bishops, are appointed to nourish the Church with the word and grace of God. The ordained ministry is ultimately at the service of the priesthood of all the baptized, namely the people of God. Priests guarantee that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to His Son was then committed to the apostles, and through them to their successors, the bishops, and their collaborators, the priests. The three sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders confer a sacramental character/seal by which the Christian shares in Christ's priesthood and is made a member of the Church according to different states and functions. It is an indelible mark, meaning it remains forever.

The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ, and to give worship to God. They are signs, but they also instruct. They presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express faith, which is why they are called sacraments of faith. The Church's faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates a sacrament, she confesses the faith received from the apostles. The ancient Latin phrase, "lex orandi, lex credendi", means the law of prayer is the law of faith. The Church believes as she prays. For this reason, no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.

When they are celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious, meaning to give effect, because Christ Himself is in them at work. It is ultimately Christ who is acting in the sacraments. The Church affirms that the sacraments act "ex opere operato", meaning "from the work it is worked". So the worthiness of the particular minister is of no consequence, meaning that the priest/deacon/bishop could be a horrible person, but that doesn't change the efficacy of the sacrament. From the moment the sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ acts in it and through it.

Sacraments are necessary for salvation for those. Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51


August 1, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

The Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature, by definition, is highly symbolic. I start with this because so often people like to interpret Revelation very literally, even more so than other books in the Bible. This will cause a lot of problems because it's not designed to be treated literally. Much of the Bible isn't either. Ezekiel and Daniel are also apocalyptic in some respects, so Revelation is not a unique style in the Bible.

The historical setting of the book is important to note as well. In 67AD, Emperor Nero sends Florus to be governor of Judea. He began his term by massacring hundreds of innocent people in Jerusalem. A bold move, to say the least. The province was already on the verge of open revolt, and then it does revolt, and the Jews have the upper hand which historically is rare. Vespasian is sent in and has military success. Nero commits suicide in 68, Vespasian is named emperor; and his son, Titus, remains to handle the Jewish problem. The Christians, meanwhile, fled to the mountains. The Romans sieged Jerusalem, and over a million Jews died. Others were sold as slaves or thrown to lions in the arenas. The Temple was also completely destroyed. It would never be rebuilt, and thus the world of the old covenant was gone.

John describes the heavenly liturgy in terms of things we can experience with our senses. The real truth of the heavenly liturgy is beyond our comprehension until we reach heaven ourselves. The structure of the book is similar to the structure of mass. Revelation 1-11 is the Liturgy of the Word. There are the readings of letters to the seven churches, and the scroll is sealed with seven seals. Revelation 11-22 is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is the pouring out of the chalices and the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Revelation begins with a vision of heaven. In Rv 1:12-16, John uses the phrase "one like a son of man" which means one who looked human. This is Jesus Christ in His heavenly glory. He tells John not to be afraid. Christ then dictates seven letters, one to each of the seven churches. These reflect what was going on in those churches at that time. The letters are also addressed to the whole Church, calling everyone to turn back to Christ. The whole first section is really a call to repentance. John's vision of heaven sees God enthroned with all the heavenly beings forever worshipping Him.

Next, John sees a scroll sealed with seven seals. No one on earth or in heaven is able to open the scroll. The Lion of Judah (which is a 
symbol of Christ) is found worthy. But it's not a lion, it's a lamb. Then He begins to open the seals. The first seal brings four riders on four horses. The first rides out to conquer, the other three bring war, famine, and death. These are the things the people of Judea suffered in the Jewish war at that time. The rest of the seals are opened, sending frightened people to caves to hide, like the Christians did. It is an assurance that God will protect the faithful. It says that 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes will be marked on their foreheads with the seal of the servants of God. This number is not literal. Twelve obviously symbolizes the tribes of Israel and the apostles. To add a 100 or 1000 to a number is to indicate a perfection of that number. So 12,000 is considered the perfect amount, whatever amount that actually ends up being. Also, the word "mark" is from the Hebrew letter "tau" which is shaped like a cross. Christians receive that mark when they're baptized. The total number of 144,000 also represents those who fled during the Jewish revolt.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51


July 25, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Sacraments in Scripture

The definition of a sacrament is an efficacious sign of God's grace, instituted by Jesus Christ, and entrusted to the whole Church. There are seven sacraments, all of which were instituted by Christ, and all of which are found in scripture. The Protestant notion that not all sacraments are in scripture is simply not backed up by scripture itself.

Baptism is a new birth in water and the spirit according to John 3:5. Baptism is the only sacrament that is technically necessary for salvation. What I mean by that is that if one were only to receive baptism and then die before committing any sin or receiving another sacrament, they would achieve salvation. There is a clear institution in Matthew 28:18-20, when Christ tells the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Today, the ordinary minister of baptism is a deacon, priest, or bishop. However, in an emergency, anyone can baptize as long as they use water and the Trinitarian formula that Christ gave the apostles in the gospel.

Confirmation can be found more explicitly in Acts of the Apostles in both ways common today. In Acts 19:5-6, it shows the tradition of baptizing and confirming at the same time. This is done today for adults who are entering the faith and it's also how it's done by the Eastern churches. In Acts 8:14-17, those who had already been baptized were waiting for the apostles to come and lay hands on them. This is like waiting for the bishop, a successor of the apostles, to come and confirm those who were baptized as infants. Confirmation completes our baptism with the full conferral of the Holy Spirit.

The Eucharist is obviously instituted at the Last Supper. Matthew 26:26-29 is one of the passages that mentions it. When we connect Jesus' words at the Last Supper with His words in the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, we understand that the Eucharist is substantially Jesus Christ and not merely a symbol as many believe it to be.

Penance is a bit more controversial because no one likes admitting that they're wrong, but it nevertheless is scriptural. Baptism washes away sin but it doesn't make us perfect. In John 20:22-23, Jesus breathes on the apostles and says whose sins they forgive are forgiven and whose sins they retain are retained. Venial (less serious) sin harms our relationship with God. Mortal (serious) sin breaks it. To repair that broken relationship, we must be forgiven and to do that, we must confess those sins with honesty and contrition. James 5:16 says to confess sins to one another, doubling down on the idea that we can't just confess to God and be done with it. There is no humility and admitting to God that you did something wrong that He already knows you did. Jesus clearly gave His apostles the power to forgive/retain sins. The Church uses that power to bring Christians back into a right relationship with God.

Anointing of the Sick is mentioned in the verses immediately preceding the verse about confessing sins to one another in James. James 5:14-15 says that anyone who is sick should go to see the presbyter (priest) and that he will pray over and anoint the sick person. Jesus left His healing power to His disciples. Oil was always part of the ritual. Mark 6:13 says that the disciples drove out many demons and anointed those who were sick. Anointing of the Sick is not necessarily associated with physical healing. It prepares us to face the challenges of illness so that we may ward off sin.

Holy Orders has three levels: bishop (supervisor), priest (elder), and deacon (helper). All three are mentioned in the New Testament as part of the original Church hierarchy. This can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1.

Marriage goes all the way back to Genesis 1:27. However, it is sanctified by Jesus at Cana where He performed His first public miracle. It is similar to His sanctifying of baptism when He participated in it Himself after John had already been doing it.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2 Kings 4:42-44, Ephesians 4:1-6, John 6:1-15


July 18, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

Luke works very hard in Acts of the Apostles to show that Paul has the same authority as the other apostles. When composing the book, Luke parallels Paul's ministry with Peter's to demonstrate their similarity since no one would doubt Peter as an apostle.

Paul was chosen for a specific reason: to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. To do this, Paul had numerous qualifications. He was classically educated which taught him to speak to Greeks and Romans in their own terms. That same education grounded him in logic so he could make important distinctions in Christian doctrine. His study of Hebrew scripture, otherwise known as the Old Testament, gave him the ability to argue against Jewish authorities who disagreed with him. And finally, his Roman citizenship that he inherited from his father kept him safe.

Paul understood that the new covenant was the fulfillment of the old. Therefore, it was natural that the gospel would be preached first to the Jewish people. However, unlike the old covenant, the new covenant was for all people. The Council of Jerusalem said that Gentiles could not be held responsible to the Mosaic Law, so a natural question to be asked would be what the point of the Law ever was since it no longer applied. Paul explains that the Law was like a custodian/tutor. Wealthy Romans would have a private custodian/tutor for their son. This person was a slave but had absolute authority over the son. As an adult, the son was then only subject to his father. The Law was our custodian, but with the revelation of Christ, we grew up in faith.

Paul takes several missionary journeys traveling primarily through Asia minor (modern day Turkey), Greece, and Rome. Eventually he ends up in Rome as a prisoner because as a Roman citizen, he could appeal his case directly to the emperor. As a prisoner (he was basically under house arrest), he could still receive visitors and write letters. He meets Luke there who writes down his journeys for Acts of the Apostles. Several of Paul's epistles were written while he was a prisoner, known as the captivity letters. Paul dies on the same day as Peter during the persecution of Nero. He's beheaded outside the city because as a Roman citizen, he earned a clean and quick death. According to legend, his head bounced three times, each time causing a spring of water to burst out of the ground. This place has a church over it today and is called Tre Fontane (Three fountains).

All of the apostles would meet similar fates. Peter was crucified upside-down because he didn't feel like he deserved to die in the exact same way as Christ. Andrew was crucified on a cross in the shape of an X for similar reasons at Patros, in Greece. That's why it's known as a St. Andrew's cross. James the greater was the first apostle to die in 44. He was beheaded in Jerusalem. Bartholomew was flayed alive in Armenia after bringing the gospel to Persia. Matthew died in Ethiopia but the method is unknown. Thomas went as far as India and was martyred there. James the less was thrown off the temple in Jerusalem. Then he was beaten to death. Philip was killed by Jews in what is now central Turkey. Simon was crucified in Syria after evangelizing all over Africa. Jude was beaten to death in Mesopotamia. And John, who wrote the fourth gospel, Revelation, and three letters, was exiled to the island of Patmos after they tried to boil him alive, but it failed.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34


July 11, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Father is on vacation this week.

Scripture Readings 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13


July 4, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Stephen, Saul, and the Council of Jerusalem

After Pentecost, with the ranks of the Church now swollen with 3000 additional converts, the Sanhedrin were eager to try to shut it down. However, in order to actively persecute the apostles, the Sanhedrin needed something concrete that the Jewish people could get behind just like they did with Jesus. And the easiest charge to bring was the same they brought against Jesus: blasphemy. Stephen was one of the first converts, and he was also one of the first seven deacons ordained by the apostles. He made some powerful enemies when he bested them in a debate in Acts chapter 6. In anger, his opponents brought him before the Sanhedrin where Stephen made a long speech in his defense. He told them how the coming of Christ had been prophesied all the way through the Old Testament but lecturing the Sanhedrin on their own scriptures did not improve his standing among them. Then Stephen had a vision of the heavens opening with Jesus there as the Son of Man, which was also claiming that Jesus was God, the same claim Jesus had made that sent the Sanhedrin over the edge before. It did so again, and they drove Stephen out and stoned him to death. This first martyr was the catalyst for the Jews to begin persecuting the entirety of the fledgling Church in the area.

During this persecution, another of the original seven deacons, Philip, is told by an angel to go down into the desert where he encounters and Ethiopian eunuch who is in the court of the queen of Ethiopia. Ethiopia at the time was very civilized and also very wealthy. Philip hears him reading Isaiah and joins him in the chariot where he explains that the prophecy is referring to Jesus. Philip then explains the gospel to the eunuch who then asks to be baptized. This is the first time that a gentile had been baptized as a Christian and also an example of how the gospel was to be spread to all nations. To the Romans, Ethiopia was the farthest point of the known world, and so in principle, it's also fulfilling the command of Jesus to go to the ends of the world.

Saul was a fanatical Pharisee who was leading the persecutions against Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. We're first introduced to him at the martyrdom of Stephen when those who were stoning Stephen laid their cloaks at Saul's feet. He was overseeing the execution. Saul was Jewish, but his father was a Roman citizen and Saul inherited this citizenship. Roman citizenship was not something that everyone had just because they lived in the empire. It was very exclusive, very prestigious, and would open many more doors, so to speak, than not being a citizen. So Saul's full name was Saul Paulus (Paulus being the Roman name). Saul decides to go to Damascus because he heard that Christians were there as well. On his way, he's struck blind off of his horse and hears the voice of Jesus asking him why Saul is persecuting Him. Saul is sent to Damascus where he's to wait for Ananias, whom Christ sends to Saul. Ananias was wary to go because he knew who Saul was and what he was doing there. However, Ananias goes and baptizes Saul. Saul then tries to meet up with the other apostles, but they're also wary of him because of his past. Barnabas will testify to Saul's true conversion and he's then accepted by the apostles as a true believer.

Now that more and more gentiles were converting straight to Christianity, a question arose amongst the apostles and Jewish converts: did one need to be Jewish before becoming Christian. There was a general assumption that you did since Jesus was Jewish and Christianity is a fulfillment of the Law of Moses. It wasn't an unfair or unjust assumption. Cornelius was a Roman commander, and he was also what was called a Proselyte of the Gate, which was someone who was, for lack of a better term, half-Jewish. He was told in a vision that he should send for Peter, so he sends some of his men to seek him out. Then Peter is given a vision while he's asleep and in the vision, an angel spreads before him a bounty of non-kosher foods and tells Peter to eat them. Peter refuses, as he's always been an observant Jew. The angel replies that what God has made clean, Peter shall not call unclean. Gentiles were considered unclean by strict Jewish standards. After the vision, Cornelius' men arrive and take Peter to Cornelius who then asks to be baptized. Peter baptizes the household and sees that they all received the Holy Spirit.

Meanwhile, Saul was preaching primarily to the gentiles and gaining thousands of converts. But then the question arose again as to whether someone needs to be Jewish first. Saul and Barnabas were in Antioch, which is where Christians were first called Christians, when inspectors came from Jerusalem claiming to have been sent by James. They told the gentile converts that they couldn't be saved unless they were circumcised and followed the Law of Moses. Even Peter hesitated to admonish the inspectors, which Saul took note of. The apostles then called the first Council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. Eventually, Peter spoke, referencing his vision and Cornelius, and as Peter was the pope/chief of the apostles, his word was final. The only stipulation the gentile converts were asked to do was not to eat food offered to idols (false gods) and a few other minor dietary restrictions.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6a


June 27, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Birth of the Church

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared and taught the disciples for 40 days. The number 40, of course, usually pertaining to times of trial and repentance. Here we see the number also correlating to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert preparing for His ministry. When Jesus ascends 40 days after the resurrection, He tells the disciples to stay in Jerusalem. The reason for this is because they have yet to receive the Holy Spirit. The ascension is always traditionally celebrated on a Thursday which is 40 days after Easter Sunday. It's been moved to the following Sunday in most dioceses in the US because that means one less Holy Day of Obligation. It's a bit insulting to think that we can't handle another one; and thus it bumps the Sunday, but they didn't ask my opinion.

The apostles were also told before Jesus ascends that they are to restore the Davidic Kingdom and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus reigns in heaven and leaves His ministers on earth to handle the earthly affairs of the kingdom. The restoration of the Davidic Kingdom, however, starts first in Israel. The 12 apostles represented the 12 tribes of Israel, but Judas has now killed himself so the apostles realized that they needed to appoint another to take Judas' place. Acts 1:21-26 is where we have the selection of Matthias. The apostles were careful to choose someone who had known Jesus the whole time and most importantly, had not abandoned Him when He taught the Bread of Life discourse. That left two men and the apostles cast lots so as not to formally make the decision themselves, and the lots fell to Matthias.

Ten days after the ascension and 50 days after Easter, we get Pentecost. Pentecost now signals the end of the Easter season in today's liturgical calendar. Pentecost, however, was also a feast for the Jews. It was the celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai. Therefore, Jews from all over the near east were gathering in Jerusalem for it. In Acts 2:1-4, we get the decent of the Holy Spirit as of tongues of fire upon the apostles. This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. Then, the apostles went outside where there were vast crowds and began speaking in tongues. What this meant is not the gibberish sound that people tend to make today when they "speak in tongues", but rather the apostles speaking and every person understanding them in their native tongue at the same time. The corollary would be a person getting up and speaking, and three people there, one who speaks English, another Spanish, and the third French, all understanding the person in that particular language. In other words, a miracle. Those who were disbelievers simply claimed that the apostles were drunk. This event, though, is a development in the relationship between God and man. Covenants made throughout history bound the human and the divine. Jesus Christ, both human and divine, completed this relationship and established a new covenant. Pentecost is how our relationship with the divine continues until the second coming. The Holy Spirit is given to the apostles to establish Christ's Church on earth. The Holy is present in the Church and remains the principal means through which Christ is present in the world.

Peter then proceeds to give a short sermon once the initial miracle of the apostles speaking in tongues has occurred, and he has everyone's attention. He begins by explaining what the people are seeing at that moment: the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was foretold by the prophet Joel, which the Jews would've been familiar with. By quoting Joel, Peter is letting the Jews know where they are in their own history. These are the last days, when the Christ has already come. Next Peter reminds the crowd of the miracles worked by Jesus. Miracles were signs from God that should've told them who Jesus was. Then Peter tells them that the crucifixion was actually part of God's plan, which would've been shocking to most people since it seemed like a failure. Then Peter quotes Psalm 16, written by David to explain who Jesus was. In the psalm, David could appear to be talking about himself, but he's actually talking about Jesus. David calls his son "my Lord" because the Son of David is also the Son of God who lives and reigns at the right hand of God the Father. When Peter is finished, the people ask what they should do, and Peter says they need to be baptized - 3000 were baptized that day.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7,9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43


June 20, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

What was normal for the Romans at the time was to put the bodies of crucified criminals in a public grave. However, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus so that he could lay Him in a proper tomb. Pilate agreed and Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had come to Jesus by night in John's gospel to question Him about His teachings (this is the famous John 3:16 passage), brought myrrh and aloes for a traditional Jewish burial. The tomb was dug into the rock on the side of a hill with a stone that took more than one person to move it placed in front of it. The Jewish leaders then posted a guard at the tomb in case any of Jesus' followers might attempt to take the body and then claim that He had risen from the dead.

Jesus died on a Friday, the day before the Sabbath. However, Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday, so Jesus dying around 3pm didn't give a lot of time for a proper embalming. If they were not only working on the Sabbath but also touching a dead body, they would've defiled themselves, so the body was only partially embalmed. This is why after the Sabbath, on Sunday morning, the women were coming to the tomb at all: to finish the work.

Mary Magdalene discovers the tomb empty with the stone rolled back. Since it took more than one person to move it, Mary goes to tell Peter and John that someone has taken the body of Jesus and they don't know where. Upon returning to the tomb with Peter and John (with John casually mentioning in his own gospel that he was a faster runner than Peter), the disciples see the tomb but doubt. Mary remains after they leave, and Jesus appears to her first. She then tells the other disciples about her encounter, but there is still doubt among them.

In Luke 24, we get the story of the two disciples, not part of the twelve, who are on the road to Emmaus. Jesus appears to them as a traveler and asks them why they're upset and what they're talking about. He forces them to explain all that has happened and then admonishes them for not understanding the scriptures that He had tried to teach them when He was alive. So He opens the scriptures to them verbally, explaining how every event that happened was prophesied and needed to occur, including the resurrection. They then invite Him to stay with them and when He breaks the bread, their eyes were opened to who He was but then He disappears from their sight. This demonstrates the importance of the Eucharist, for even though their hearts burned within them when He opened the scriptures to them on the road, He was truly known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In John 20:20-23, Jesus appears to the apostles only in the upper room. Only God had the power to forgive sins, but now Jesus gives that power to the apostles. He is entrusting the ministry of reconciliation to His apostles and the bishops, their successors, and the priests as the bishops' collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. The Catechism states that bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins. Unfortunately, not all of the apostles were there the first time Jesus appeared. Thomas was gone. When the other apostles tell him that Jesus had appeared to them while he was gone, Thomas doubts, which is really something he can't be blamed for since the concept of resurrection is unique in history. Unless Thomas saw the wounds of Jesus himself and put is finger in the nail marks and his hand into His side, then he would not believe. Thomas demonstrates the human desire for empirical proof; proof that we can experience with our five senses. Just a verse or two later, Thomas gets his wish as Jesus appears to all of the apostles again. Thomas puts his hand into Jesus' side, and his eyes are opened. But blessed are those who have not seen and believe. Thomas, according to tradition, will end up taking the gospel all the way to India.

The apostles returned to Galilee, as in Mark's gospel, the angel told Mary to tell the apostles that Jesus would go before them to Galilee. Once there, they went back to doing what they knew best: fishing. In John 21:4-8, Jesus appears on the shore and John again recognizes Jesus first. Peter jumps in and swims while the others bring the boat to shore. On the shore, there's a charcoal fire. The term "charcoal fire" appears only one other place in the entire New Testament: earlier in John's gospel in the account where Peter denies Jesus three times. So now there's the same fire, and Jesus will give Peter the ability to undo that denial three times. He asks Peter three times if he loves Him, and Peter answers "yes" to all three. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. There are multiple words for "love" in Greek and this passage uses two of them: agape and phileo. There's debate about which is the more profound love, and most scholars point to agape being the more profound.

Jesus asks Peter if he "agape" loves Him, and Peter responds that he does "phileo" love Him. The second question uses the same pattern. Then the third time, when Peter becomes distressed that Jesus asks a third time, Jesus asks if Peter "phileo" loves Him, and Peter responds that he does "phileo" love Him. One interpretation that you could draw is that Jesus is not only having Peter undo the denial, but also testing him. Agape love could be something so profound that Peter as a human being is incapable of it. So Peter responds that he loves Jesus with "phileo", the most he's able to, as opposed to lying and saying that he's capable of a love that he's really incapable of having. So then Jesus meets him where he's at with the third question which resolves everything.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Job 38:1, 8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41


June 13, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Sanhedrin, Pilate, Crucifixion

When Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin, it says that they brought many false witnesses against Him. What the high priest had done was bribe witnesses to come forward to testify against Jesus. The reason they did this was because they didn't want to take any chances. The more witnesses, the better their case. The problem was that the stories of the false witnesses didn't agree with each other, so doubt was still being sewn as to Jesus' supposed guilt. So this causes the high priest to bypass the witnesses' testimony and ask Jesus a direct question: are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? Jesus answers "I am", which is the English translation of the divine name, "Yahweh". Orthodox Jews don't even say the divine name. Not only did Jesus say the name, but He also by extension claimed to actually be God. If this wasn't true, it would be blasphemy. Obviously it is true, but since the Jews didn't believe it, they simply saw His statement as blasphemous. This alone was a sufficient charge to condemn Him to death.

However, unfortunately for the Jews, the Romans were in charge and Jewish leaders didn't have the legal recourse to formally condemn someone to death. Only the Roman governor could do that. The Jews could be their own judges in religious matters, but not when it came to a death sentence. In the meantime, Judas is having second thoughts and is trying to repent. The Sanhedrin doesn't want their money back which was the only way Judas thought he could be forgiven. So while Judas technically repents, he never understood what Jesus had tried to teach him about forgiveness. So he falls into despair over his decision and kills himself. This is not true repentance because true repentance, coupled with the forgiveness of God, cannot lead to despair. The despair stems from a misunderstanding of divine forgiveness being absolute.

So in order to get Jesus condemned to death, the Jews take Him before Pontius Pilate. Blasphemy was a sufficient charge for the Sanhedrin, but not for Pilate. For him to condemn Jesus to death, he needed something that was a direct threat to Rome. The Jews understood this so they claimed that Jesus claimed that He was the King of the Jews. For Pilate, he could see this as the start of another insurrection, because if there was something the Romans knew about the Jews, it's that they insurrected (not a word) a lot. Pilate, however, wanted nothing to do with the situation, but the Jews helpfully pointed out that they didn't have the power to put anyone to death. So Pilate questions Jesus but sees Him purely as a harmless philosopher. He then has Herod question Jesus because Jesus was from Galilee, but Jesus refused to speak to Herod at all. So Pilate scourges Jesus in the hopes of appeasing the bloodlust of the crowd, even though he found no crime in Him. The crowds demand crucifixion. There was nothing special about crucifixion at the time. That was simply the "lethal injection" or "electric chair" of the time for the Romans. When Spartacus led his slave revolt, when it was put down, the Romans crucified 6000 slaves on the road to Rome as a message. Pilate still refused to comply, but the trump card was when the Jews claimed that if Pilate released Jesus, he was no friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar. Word would reach Rome that Pilate was allowing what, on paper, would look like open rebellion. Pilate understood the optics and finally ordered the crucifixion.

Jesus carried His cross to Golgotha, which means place of the skull. Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh but He refuses. This was offered as a painkiller which would've reduced the suffering. Jesus refused because He didn't wish to reduce any of the suffering. Above most crucifixes today are the letters INRI, which is an abbreviation of the Latin, "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum", which means, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". The inscription was written in three languages: Hebrew (for the Jews), Latin (for the Romans), and Greek (for everyone else since Greek was a common language). The sign was found a few centuries later by St. Helen and can be seen in the church of Santa Croce in Rome.

Jesus is then offered a sponge soaked in sour wine on a branch of hyssop. Hyssop was what was used to sprinkle the blood of the Passover Lamb in Exodus. This was the cup of consummation. After He drank it, He said, "It is finished". In Latin, "Consummatum est". Then He died. The curtain that physically separated the dwelling place of God in the temple from people was torn in half. This signified the end of the world of the Old Covenant. Jesus descended to Hell, not as a torment, but because that was where all humans went before His death. This was Him fully experiencing death. He descended as Savior and there He saved the souls of all of the just ones who had died after the Fall of Adam and Eve who had been waiting for redemption.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34


June 6, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Last Supper, Gethsemane, Peter's Denial

As we know, the Last Supper was the Passover feast that Jesus celebrated with His apostles. So what we now know as the mass takes its origins from the Jewish Passover celebration. Passover was celebrated with four "cups". After a solemn blessing, the first cup was drunk. This was followed by the eating of bitter herbs that symbolized the bitterness of captivity in Egypt. Then the Passover story from Exodus 12 was read. After this, the second cup was drunk. Then the main meal of lamb and unleavened bread was eaten and the third cup was drunk. This was called the cup of blessing. Afterwards, Psalms 114-118 were sung and the fourth cup was drunk. This was called the cup of consummation.

When Jesus celebrated Passover with His apostles, He did something different. In Matthew 26:26-29, we get the account of Jesus giving the apostles bread and wine and saying the famous words that they are His body and blood. This cup that He gave them was the third cup, the cup of blessing. When He referred to it as the blood of the covenant, He was referring to the ratification of the covenant between God and Israel, but now He was introducing a new covenant. Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus says after the third cup that He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until He drinks it new with them in His Father's kingdom. So what's important to note is that they didn't finish the Passover meal before they left. They sung the Psalms but never drank the fourth cup, the cup of consummation. This was the most important part of the Passover meal.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus explained to them what was going to happen. He then told His disciples to wait while He prayed. He took Peter, James, and John with Him, but no one else. What was different about those three was that they were witnesses to the Transfiguration while the others were not. In Mark 14:35-36, Jesus asks His Father if it was possible, to take the cup away from Him. This cup that He's referring to is the cup of consummation. A good question that's asked is why He asked for it to be taken away. Obviously, He knew what was going to happen, so this line could imply a conflict between His human and divine natures. We know theologically that His natures were never in conflict because that would cause a contradiction to happen and contradictions can't exist together, so the line would seem to have been better left omitted. However, His asking to have the final cup removed from Him if possible, knowing that an excruciating death was part of it, expresses the horror that death is to human nature. If He never expressed any horror at the idea of death, especially a death like His would be, then we could argue He wasn't fully human because no human would want to go through with that without some trepidation. His acceptance of the Father's Will shows the supremacy of God's Will over ours and His acceptance of His death as redemptive.

Jesus is then arrested; and Judas, His betrayer, points Him out to the guards with a kiss. The reason Judas uses this method was because a kiss was how any disciple would greet his teacher. That's why Jesus makes a reference to Judas using this method: he was treating Jesus like a faithful disciple would while simultaneously betraying Him. Jesus has accepted His fate and is ready to drink the final cup, so He goes peacefully with the guards.

Peter is then recognized by three different people; and of course, each time adamantly denies knowing Jesus. Upon his third denial, a cock crowed twice. And only in Mark's account do we get the actual number of crows. The others simply say that the cock crowed. The reason for Mark's specificity was again that most likely Peter was Mark's main source for information and that event would certainly have been seared into Peter's mind. In Luke's account, when the cock crowed, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered the words that Jesus told him - that he would deny Him three times, and wept. In a way, Peter betrayed Jesus the same as Judas, but Peter was capable of repentance whereas Judas was not.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Corpus Christi - Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26


May 30, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: What Jesus Taught, Part 2

The Sermon on the Mount begins in Matthew chapter 5 with the famous Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The Beatitudes take up and fulfill God's promises, beginning with Abraham, by ordering them to the kingdom of heaven. They respond to the desire for happiness that God has placed in the human heart, teaching us the final end to which God calls us: the Kingdom. The also confront us with decisive choices concerning earthly goods, purifying our hearts in order to teach us to love God above all things.

We spoke last week about the teaching of the last shall be first and the first shall be last being a circular idea. In Luke 6:24-26 ("woe to you who are rich"), it's clear that those who are attached to worldly things have the least chance at the Kingdom of Heaven. The idea being that if you have good things in this life, you tend to hold onto those things and neglect the next. You don't want to lose your stuff, thus you orient yourself to this world and what it offers rather than God. Matthew 19:20-24 demonstrates this with the rich young man who goes away sad because he didn't want to sell all that he had to follow Jesus. But ultimately this is based on a mindset, not necessarily your possessions. It is certainly possible to be wealthy and to be very righteous as well.

Probably the most difficult teaching of Jesus is also the simplest. Luke 6:27-36 - love your enemies. Ultimately the idea is that Christian forgiveness is unlimited. There's the famous question of how many times one must forgive, as many as seven times? Jesus answers in two different ways: not seven but 70 times 7. Or not seven but 77. These aren't hard and fast numbers, meaning that if you forgive someone 77 times, then the 78th time they wrong you you get to punch them in the face. 70x7 or 77 are repetitions of the perfect number: 7. That implies unlimitedness. In addition, Christ is also referencing a passage from Genesis regarding Lamech, a descendent of Cain in that evil line. Lamech said that if Cain would be avenged sevenfold, then surely Lamech would be avenged 77-fold. Lamech is making the same unlimited reference, but referencing revenge. Christ uses the same reference to undo the revenge ethic and turn it into forgiveness.

Speaking of forgiveness, we then have the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. We're all familiar with the basics of the parable: ungrateful younger son takes his inheritances, blows it on women and booze, has to work with the swine, then comes home ashamed. The son returns with the conclusion that he doesn't deserve anything good from his father based on all of his behavior up until that point, yet he's treated like a returning hero, much to the chagrin of the older brother (and let's face it, older brothers are always jealous of their younger brothers). The older brother is indignant even though for him, absolutely nothing had changed. The reason he was mad was because he thought it was unfair that the younger brother wasn't punished more than he already had been. This is a normal human response. Our mentality is for strict justice. God's grace is different. We don't deserve it most of the time. But God's grace is given out of love, not out of deserving.

The most important teaching that Jesus gave was the Bread of Life discourse in John chapter 6. This is when Jesus says that He is the Bread of Life. Coupled with His words at the Last Supper, this is the foundation for our belief when it comes to the Eucharist. In John 6:35, Jesus says, "I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." On its own, this could be easily construed as metaphorical. He's like bread and wine with His teachings, or something of that sort. Jesus knows that those who are listening are assuming He's being metaphorical, so He persists. In John 6:51 He says, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." So here it's a little more literal at the end, saying that this bread is His flesh. So now the Jews are starting to raise some eyebrows and get confused, because this is starting to sound a bit like cannibalism. Jesus persists further in John 6:53-58. You must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. In the original Greek, the connotation of the words implies crunching on bone. Basically, when He was finished, there was no way to get away from what He was saying. His body is actually the Bread of Life and it's not symbolic. This causes just about every one of His followers, except the apostles and few others, to leave. Then at the Last Supper, He shows them the bread and says this is my body, and the same with the chalice of wine. And even there one could say that He was being symbolic but not with the very literal and graphic language used in John 6. So you put them together and you get the teaching of transubstantiation: the substance of the bread and wine changes completely into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ while the accidental characteristics (things you can experience with your five senses) remain the same.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Most Holy Trinity - Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20


May 23, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
What Jesus Taught

When Jesus was teaching, some believed what He said and gave up everything to follow Him. Others tried to kill Him simply based on the words He spoke as they mistakenly took them as blasphemous. Some of His teachings were so difficult that those who had given everything up to follow Him gave up on Him. Jesus' most common and well-known teaching tool was the parable. A parable is a short story or example based on life experience that illustrates a principle. If the parable is difficult to understand, it's because the principle it's based on is hard to understand.

One of the seemingly most simple parables of Jesus is the wise man who built his house on rock and the foolish who built his house on sand. This is found in Matthew 7:24-27. The wise man's house was built on rock; therefore, when the weather came, it withstood it. The foolish built his house on sand; and when the weather came, it fell down. The first layer of meaning that jumps out to the most basic of listener is that if you do what Jesus says and follow the teachings laid out, then you will be secure because His teachings are providing you (the house) with a firm foundation. However, there is a deeper layer of meaning that would've been understood by the Jewish audience Jesus was speaking to. The "wise man" was understood to be Solomon, as Solomon became the symbol of wisdom to the Jewish people. And Solomon built "a house"; specifically, the original Temple. And he built this "house" on a "rock", called the Foundation Stone. The Foundation Stone is a large rock that sits in the center of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. So the Lord's House is built upon a rock, like the wise man's in the parable. We see something similar in Peter's confession about Christ in Matthew 16:17-18. You are Peter, and upon this "rock", I will build my Church. Jesus is building His Church on a rock as well.

In Mark 1:15, the first thing we hear from Jesus is that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. This is the theme of everything that Jesus taught. The rest of His teachings tell us what it's like and how to live in it. In the Kingdom, we act out of love, not obligation. Obligations in our faith are rules that are designed to teach us what's important, that we may then understand to love these things rather than despise them. Many rules parents give to children are designed to teach them to love certain things in life that they might not if the rules didn't keep them centered on them. We also hear that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. This confuses some people as those who are "first" in this world seem destined to be last despite the fact it might not be their fault that they were "first". They might also be incredibly devout people. The way that I personally interpret this teaching is that it's circular: first is last, last is first, and around and around. There is no beginning or end to a circular line; therefore, there is no distinction in the Kingdom of Heaven like there is on earth. We don't deserve the reward God has for us, but He gives it because of His own love for us. And the only way to the Kingdom is through Christ, and then it is our duty to show everyone else the way.

In the Kingdom, we also obey the spirit of the law, not merely the letter. God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Obeying simply the letter of the law is not enough. Obeying the letter of the law on its own is simply going through the motions without any true devotion or love. The Law of Moses was meant to teach the people of Israel how to be holy. But in order to do that, it had to make concessions because we're still sinful people. It was clear on Sinai that the sinfulness of the Israelites would be too much to all be a nation of priests. So the second law in Deuteronomy made concessions so that the people could still follow the law but it wasn't too strict as to be impossible to follow. For example, the Mosaic Law allowed divorce. This was a concession, not a recommendation. That's what Christ alludes to in the gospels. It was a concession for sinfulness but not something that should be aspired to. We make concessions for children all the time, gradually reducing them as they grow (hopefully) so that they're ready to face a world with consequences (hopefully).

The famous parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates the letter vs. the spirit of the law. A lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what the law says, and he replies to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says that's correct and that if he does that, he will live. Then the lawyer gets legal and asks Jesus who his "neighbor" is that he needs to love as himself. He wants to live by the letter of the law. Tell me exactly who I need to love as myself. Then Jesus tells the famous parable, and we have the two examples of the priest and Levite not helping the man who was robbed. The reason they didn't help was not because they were jerks, but because the body looked dead. If either had touched the body (notice Jesus uses a priest and Levite, not just a normal Jewish person), they would've been made ritually impure. The Samaritan doesn't have the same thought and simply helps. So the letter of the law, based on this parable, would be that your neighbor would be just other Jews at the most extreme. The spirit of the law is that every human being is your neighbor, and we are called to love them as we love ourselves.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

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


May 16, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
What Jesus Did

When it comes to the many things that Jesus did (His actions), we'll analyze just a few of them so as to not get too bogged down. Jesus' first public miracle was at the wedding in Cana. This event is only chronicled in John's gospel and happens after Jesus is baptized. In John 2:1-11, when Mary tells Jesus that they have no wine, subtly telling Him to fix the problem, Jesus responds by saying "my hour has not yet come". Many would argue that what He means is that His public ministry isn't supposed to start then, which could make sense if He didn't then immediately perform the miracle. What He meant by His "hour" is His suffering on the cross. The true wine is provided by Christ by His suffering on the cross. This is when His "hour" comes. This is celebrated in the Eucharist when the wine becomes the Blood of Christ. So in reality, it was more of a reminder to His mother that while He would provide the party with wine, it would just be wine, and not the true wine that would be offered later.

Also early in John's gospel, immediately after the passage about Cana, Jesus cleanses the temple. Many people think that this is quasi-sinful, since Jesus appears to get angry and destroy things unnecessarily. It's obviously not a sin since Jesus cannot sin because of His divine nature. We need to understand the difference between righteous anger and wrath. In Ephesians 4:26, it says to be angry, but not to sin. This shows that one can be angry without sinning, so long as that anger is righteous. This would be spurned by some injustice. The vendors in the temple were selling religion. Jews had to pay a temple tax in temple currency in order to get into the temple. Unfortunately, everywhere used Roman currency since they were in charge. Roman currency had the face of the emperor on it, whom the Romans worshipped as a god. Since you didn't want the face of a foreign god going to pay for the temple to the one true God, you needed to change your money. Money changers at the temple would happily do this for you, keeping a percentage while they did. The Jews were also obligated to offer animal sacrifice for their worship. If you weren't able to bring an animal from home due to the hassle, merchants would sell animals at the temple at an inflated price, like stores in an airport. John places this scene at the beginning of Jesus' ministry while the synoptic gospels place it near the end. There's a chance that it could've happened more than once, or John was simply arranging the events differently. There is no contradiction between the gospels even with the different arrangement. The story illustrates that Jesus is bringing a new covenant. The old religion equaled big business. In the new age, the spirit of the law, not just the letter, would be the important thing.

Miraculous healings were prophesied by Isaiah to occur with the coming of the messiah. Therefore they would've been one of the first things faithful people expected to see. Back in those days, sickness was thought to be bound with sin. It was the sinfulness of people that then was manifested by their physical sickness. While not true, from a medically ignorant people, it makes sense that you couldn't be a sinful person and yet remain physically healthy because of how the physical and spiritual were so closely tied together. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus tells a sick person that their sins were forgiven. He didn't heal him, He just said his sins were forgiven. Only God could forgive sins, so Jesus is equating Himself to God when He says this. He's called a blasphemer because nothing is equal to God. He then heals the man when He realizes what people were thinking and then to them, the sins were forgiven because the man became physically healed.

In Matthew 9:27-30, Jesus heals two blind men. Their only knowledge that Jesus could heal people would've been what people told them, since they obviously couldn't have witnessed it themselves. Jesus tests that faith and it's confirmed when He heals them. Their eyes were blind, but their hearts were not. For the scribes/pharisees, their eyes saw everything and yet their hearts were still blind. They refused to see the spiritual truth of what was happening in front of them. Even the demons recognized Christ while the pharisees refused to. In Mark 1:23-27, Jesus casts out the demon solely through the power of His word. He does no other action. This is also how God creates: through the power of His Word.

Jesus obviously got into a lot of trouble with the pharisees for many things, but one that was very bad was eating with sinners, particularly tax collectors. Tax collectors were bad because they sent to Rome what Rome wanted. Rome didn't care, however, how much was collected overall, just as long as they got their portion. So tax collectors took more to make a profit. Even an honest tax collector was scorned because of who he represented: Rome. Calling a tax collector to be an apostle was profound, but eating at his house with other sinners was even worse.

There were two rules to follow back then: don't talk to women in public and don't ever talk to a Samaritan. Jesus did both. Samaritans descended from the Israel/Assyrian transplants. By ministering to them as well, Jesus fulfills the promise that the whole kingdom of Israel will be restored. Jesus also treated women the same as men. Most of His faithful followers were women; and the resurrection was revealed first to a woman: Mary Magdalene.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Ascension of the Lord - Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20


May 9, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Baptism of the Lord/Temptation in the Wilderness

John the Baptist is mentioned in all four of the gospels, which is no small feat. While the three synoptic gospels and John all have many things in common, the fact that John the Baptist is explicitly mentioned in all four underscores the important role that he had. John was a Levite, so he was a member of the priestly tribe, and he was also the cousin of Jesus since he was the son of Elizabeth, who was a cousin of Mary.

In Mark 1:6, John appears dressed in camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist. He was eating locusts and wild honey as well. This may seem like an odd fashion choice, but it was chosen for a reason. The great prophet Elijah dressed exactly the same. Because it wasn't a common wardrobe, it would've made John instantly recognizable as imitating the dress of the prophet. There are similar examples we could use today about characteristic dress of people of history.

His message was clear: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. People came from all over to confess their sins and be baptized. His influence became so strong that the government began to fear him. They feared that he might attempt to overthrow the government or perhaps lead a revolt against the Romans. Either way, it wouldn't end well for Israel if that happened. However, despite this, John never lost sight of the fact that he was simply a forerunner. John was repeatedly asked if he was the Christ, the promised messiah, but John always said no and that there would be one coming after him who would be greater whose sandals John was not worthy to untie. There was a prophecy in the book of Malachi that was interpreted as Elijah returning before the Christ arrived. Because John dressed the same, he fulfills this prophecy which Christ Himself will attest to later in the gospels. The purpose of John the Baptist was to turn the hearts of the people toward Christ and prepare them for His arrival. John is therefore the last of the prophets because the whole point of the prophets was to prepare for the coming of the messiah.

A good question that is often asked is why Jesus wanted to be baptized. He certainly didn't require it as He was sinless and also God. The reason was that it was part of His identifying with us. He chose to go through what we must go through. David and subsequent kings of Israel were also all anointed by Levites. Since John the Baptist was a Levite, his baptism of Jesus was a de facto anointing, thus showing that Jesus is the true king and Son of David.

After Jesus is baptized, a dove descends. This dove represents the Holy Spirit, but it also represents the Flood. Baptism, like the Flood, is a new creation. And in the past when kings were anointed, the spirit of the Lord was upon them. Likewise after Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit literally was upon Him. The Catechism states that the baptism of Christ is part of the acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God's suffering servant, similar to crossing the Red Sea or crossing the Jordan into the promised land. It is a beginning. Christ also sanctifies baptism by His participation in it and makes it a sacrament. By extension, the waters of the Jordan and all water become an instrument of salvation.

After His baptism, Jesus prepares for His ministry by fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, the symbolism of 40 being times of trial and repentance. During this time, He was tempted by the Devil, but in reality the temptations were more like tests. Jesus couldn't sin because He was God and that would be against His nature, so there was no real temptation to do it. However, as fully human, it was fitting for Jesus to face the same temptations that had caused others to sin.

Satan knows that Jesus is truly human and so his first attack is to Jesus' stomach. The true temptation here is to lead Christ away from suffering and toward Himself, since turning stones to bread isn't intrinsically sinful. If Satan could lead Jesus away from suffering when He's hungry, perhaps Jesus would go away from suffering when He's on the cross. Jesus' answer is that God's plan is more important than human hunger.

The second test is when Jesus is taken to the top of the temple and told to throw Himself off so the angels will catch Him. The temptation is to test God's own words about the safety of the messiah and prove that He is the son of God. The answer is that you shall not test the Lord. Forcing God's hand, as it were, shows a lack of faith and an idea of legalism: this is what it says, this is what will happen. It's a business-like approach to religion which is pagan.

The third test is when Jesus is offered the kingdoms of the world. In essence, to be the messiah that was expected: a conquering hero. There would be no suffering on the cross. This would make Jesus "like God" which was the same temptation as Adam, as well as worship a false god (Satan), which is the same temptation as the Israelites in the desert. The answer is to worship the Lord your God alone. Jesus repeats the same trials as those who had come before Him, but He overcomes them as we are all called to do.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Sixth Sunday of Easter - Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17


May 2, 2021, Bulletin...
On Indulgences and the First Public Mass of a Newly Ordained Priest

In my column this week, I'm going to take a stab at explaining as clearly as possible what an indulgence is, what is required for obtaining one, and how this ties in with the upcoming celebration of the first mass of the future Fr. Armentrout.

According to the Catechism, an indulgence, "is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church [...] An indulgence is partial or plenary accordingly as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin." Ok, so what does that actually mean?

The Catechism goes on to explain more precisely this definition. In order to understand this, we need to remember that sin has a double consequence. Mortal sin breaks our relationship with God. It deprives us of communion with God and makes us incapable of eternal life should we die in a state of mortal sin. That's why it's so important for us to go to confession whenever we're in a state of mortal sin, which is far more often than many realize. When we're deprived of eternal life due to our own actions, this is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. Venial sin doesn't break our relationship with God, but it does harm it. Every sin, even the less-serious venial ones, carries an unhealthy attachment to something of this world. That's why we commit sins: because we have an attachment to some aspect of that sin. These attachments to sin which we have must be purified before we may enter heaven, as Revelation states that nothing unclean may enter heaven. This purification therefore needs to happen either on earth or in purgatory, should we not die in a state of mortal sin. The purification of our attachments to sin is called the "temporal punishment" of sin.

When we go to confession, we're purified of our eternal punishment of sin, since we confess our mortal sins and obtain absolution for them. We're now restored to our relationship with God; and this can only be done through sacramental confession. However, there still remains the temporal punishment because even though we've been absolved, we still tend to have those attachments to sin and thus will most likely sin again. If we die in a state of grace, which is to say that we're not in a state of mortal sin, then we're spared the eternal punishment of hell, but many still carry these attachments to sin and thus require the remission of the temporal punishment. This is what purgatory entails, but the remission can also happen while still alive. This is where indulgences come in.

Indulgences, whether partial or plenary, are gained through specific works and actions that are designated by the Church. These include works of devotion, penance, and charity. They are things that direct our thoughts and actions to God, and by doing so, turn our minds away from sin, thus helping to remove those attachments to sin that we have. There are numerous ways to gain indulgences that can be found online and elsewhere and are too many to list here. What is also required to gain the indulgence, in addition to whatever the specific indulgence might be, is to go to confession within a week on either side of when the indulgence is done, receive communion in the state of grace, and to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

A plenary indulgence, which is a full indulgence, is granted to a priest on the occasion of the first mass he celebrates and to the faithful who devoutly assist (which means attend) the same mass. So for all who are planning to attend the first mass of the future Fr. Armentrout, you will receive a plenary indulgence if you also do the other requirements (confession, communion, and prayers for the pope's intentions). There will be multiple priests in attendance; and my desire will be to have both confessionals staffed prior to the mass by visiting priests.

A first mass is a truly blessed event, and one that is unfortunately rare in most parishes. It hasn't happened here this century; and a first mass done as a Solemn High Latin mass hasn't been done here in quite a bit longer. It will be an experience unlike any other; and despite the fact that many may feel uncomfortable given that it's a Latin mass, the programs provided will help you follow along. The music will be provided by the Benedictines of Mary from Gower, MO. I know that Deacon Armentrout is very appreciative of the support that you've provided him along this long and almost-finished journey. I hope to see you all there as we celebrate its completion.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday of Easter - Acts 9:26-31, 1 John 3:18-24, John 15:1-8


April 25, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Nativity and Childhood of Jesus, Part 2

For the birth of Jesus, we look to the Gospel of Luke who has probably the most complete account. Being the historian, Luke is very careful about the historical setting of Jesus' birth. It's during the reign of Caesar Augustus, Quirinius was the governor of Syria, and Caesar wants the whole world to be enrolled. Modern historians do not have an exact date for when those three events came together or what "enrolled" actually meant. However, we must remember that the point was for the original audience, not the audience reading it 2000 years later insofar as the dating goes.

To be properly enrolled, Joseph has to go to Bethlehem which is where his family is from. Because everyone was doing the same thing, the inns are all full. So as we know, Christ is born in a stable and laid in the manger. While most who were being enrolled would not have cared about such an event, the shepherds in the field that night were given quite the scare. When the angel appears to the shepherds, it uses very specific titles so that the shepherds would know that the messiah had been born. These titles were "savior": the one who would rescue the people from their captivity, "Christ": the anointed one and promised successor of David, and "Lord": the one who sits at God's right hand. Shepherds were outcasts to most people, but David was a shepherd and so the birth of the Son of David was announced first to the shepherds.

Then we have the Epiphany, which is the visit of the Magi. When they arrive in Jerusalem and tell Herod that they're here to worship the King of the Jews, he's not terribly excited to find out that's not him. Herod would've been well aware of the prophecies that talk of the coming Messiah, and not wanting to displaced as ruler, he wants nothing to do with the Messiah. Herod asks for an exact location so that he can eliminate the problem and sends the Magi on their way. The gifts of the Magi that we're so familiar with all have symbolic meaning in the prophecies. Gold and frankincense were prophesied by Isaiah to be brought by all nations to the God of Israel. Myrrh was added to the holy oil used to anoint the priests of Israel which we see in Exodus. It is also used to anoint bodies for burial, so there is foreshadowing with it as well.

It was custom for children to be presented in the Temple 40 days after they were born, here again using 40 as a time of purification. When they arrive, Simeon recognizes the Christ and prophesied the fulfillment of the promises made to the Son of David, which were glory to Israel and salvation for all nations. This demonstrates that the faithful still remained despite Herod's restorations and those who actually saw him as a messianic figure.

The Magi knew something was off about Herod and were warned in a dream not to go back to him. Joseph is then warned in a dream to flee the area and seek refuge in Egypt. The reason for Egypt was because Alexandria's population was about 25% Jewish at the time and so there was a large community they could stay with. Additionally, the Roman Empire's road network and safety meant they could easily travel there. The easiest way for Herod to eliminate his supposed problem, since he didn't know exactly where the Messiah was, was to kill every male child under the age of 2, just to be safe. This isn't a stretch for him since he murdered his own sons. We also get the Old Testament comparison of what happened to the Jews in Egypt and how Moses was spared.

After Herod's death, the Holy Family was able to return to Israel, specifically to Nazareth. All of the gospels besides Luke don't pick up Jesus' life again until adulthood. In Luke, we get the story of Jesus in the Temple at age 12. This helps to illustrate his total consecration to His mission that flows from His divine sonship. Mary and Joseph are still not fully aware of what Jesus is saying/meaning when they speak to Him in the Temple, and this is again part of the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus spends the majority of His life sharing the condition of normal human beings: work, schedule, obedient Jew to the Law of God, and obedient to His parents. He chooses to go through all of the states of growth, both physical and intellectual, that all of us must go through.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Easter - Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18


April 18, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Nativity and Childhood of Jesus, Part 1

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God becoming flesh, is the central event in history because it's how we date things, even if modern woke people try to change the labels. B.C. means Before Christ, and A.D. stands for "Anno Domini" (year of the Lord). BCE and CE (before the common era and common era) are just ways of removing God from things while keeping the exact same system. There is no year zero, because zero means nothing, so time goes from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D., although modern scholars now think Jesus was actually born sometime between 4-6 B.C. due to an error in the way the monk who calculated the dating system did it. Regardless, the Incarnation is the union of two natures in one person: human and divine. The divine nature is Jesus Christ, the Son of God existing from all eternity, and the human nature was Jesus born at a particular time/place and dying at a particular time/place. This is part of the mystery of the Incarnation: the Son of God assumes a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it.

Matthew's gospel begins with a genealogy as stated before and is the beginning of the entire New Testament. His genealogy mirrors Genesis 5:1, emphasizing again the Jewish audience for his gospel. They would've been very familiar with this account and wording. He also sets up Christ as the new Adam; Adam as he should have been. Matthew's genealogy is arranged in three groups of 14. Three is, of course, trinitarian, and 14 is double 7, which is double perfection. The Hebrew language uses letters to represent numbers, similar to Roman numerals (I, V, X, etc.). In Hebrew, Daleth (D) was 4 and Vav (V) was 6. There are no vowels in Hebrew, so David's name would've been spelled DVD. Those letters added together equal 14. The symbolism of the genealogy is meant to show that Christ is the ideal and perfect heir of David.

Matthew divides history in his genealogy with his three groups: The covenant with Abraham (Abraham to David), the covenant with David (David to the Babylonian Exile), and the Babylonian Exile (Exile to Jesus). Both covenants had promises that would not be fulfilled until Christ and the exile had not truly ended. Although a remnant had returned to Israel, many were still scattered throughout the Mediterranean. Christ will bring all together again into the Kingdom of God.

Mary's role, of course, cannot be understated. At the Annunciation, when Mary asks for clarification from Gabriel as to how exactly she will become pregnant since she had no relations with a man, Gabriel says that the power of the Most High will "overshadow" her. The word "overshadow" is used very deliberately to mirror the Old Testament. When God first dwelt in the tabernacle in the meeting tent that the Jews built in the desert, His presence "overshadowed" it. The idea here is that when Mary conceives, she will also be overshadowed, meaning that the same presence, the true presence of the Lord, will be dwelling within her. This makes Mary the new Ark of the Covenant. There is also a stark difference between Mary and those in the Old Testament. Her fiat, her submission to God's will, contrasts with the rebellious nature of the Jews in the Old Testament. Not clouded by sin, Mary has no objection to the will of God and fully submits. We have the same capacity, but it's harder and harder to accept God's will the more that sin clouds our minds and souls.

We also see Mary as the Ark of the Covenant when we compare her visit to Elizabeth with David bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, which happens in 2 Samuel 6. "David arose and went" to bring up the Ark, while in "Mary arose and went" to visit Elizabeth. David asks, "How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?" while Elizabeth asks, "Why should the mother of my Lord come to me?". David was "leaping and dancing before the Lord", while John the Baptist leapt for joy in Elizabeth's womb at Mary's arrival. On its way to Jerusalem, the Ark and David remain at someone's house for three months, while Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Easter - Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48


April 11, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
New Testament Books Overview

We must always remember that the New Testament does not replace the Old Testament. It fulfills it. St. Augustine said that the New Testament was hidden in the Old Testament and that the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. Without the New Testament, the Old Testament is just a collection of tragic stories and unfulfilled promises. In light of the New Testament, we see the Old as a gradual unfolding of God's plan of salvation.

The books of the New Testament can be organized in the same way as the Old: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophecy. The Law are the four gospels, the History is Acts of the Apostles, the Wisdom are the Epistles, and Prophecy is the Book of Revelation.

All four gospels tell the same story, but each tells it from a different point of view. Each emphasizes different details because each is writing to a different audience. The different details are important because they will speak more to a particular audience. John's gospel is the most unique of the four, and the other three are known as the synoptic gospels because they are so similar. Due to the amount of similarities, there is speculation that they're related. The old theory is that Matthew's gospel is the oldest because it's the first listed and it's also the longest (28 chapters). The most popular theory now is that Mark is the oldest; but in the end, it's all speculation. And even though all four gospels are different, they never contradict each other. Now we'll look at the basic overview of each of the four gospels.

The author of Matthew was Matthew the apostle, who was also a tax collector originally. The audience for the gospel was mostly Jews. We know this because Matthew shows how Jesus fulfills the Jewish expectations of the Messiah. He also begins his gospel with a genealogy to show how Jesus is directly descended from David. Matthew tends to let Jesus speak for Himself. For example, the Sermon on the Mount takes up three chapters, and Matthew simply reports what Jesus says without adding his own words.

The author of Mark was most likely a disciple of Peter. He wrote his gospel based on the stories Peter told him. Mark tends to include little details that others do not that would've been recalled by someone who was actually there. His audience was most likely Gentile Christians living in Rome because that's likely where he wrote it when Peter was there. It's the shortest of the four gospels (16 chapters), and many believe to be the earliest. It is also a very straightforward account, jumping from one event to the next and using the word "immediately" a lot.

The author of Luke was a physician who was very well-educated and traveled with Paul. His audience were Gentile converts because he emphasized Jesus' ministry to all nations, not just the Jews. In his opening paragraph, Luke mentions that "many" had already compiled narratives about Jesus' life, so a good question would be why is he writing one as well? There are two reasons: first, to give an orderly account, which he mentions, which would indicate that many are either poorly written or not very helpful to people. The second reason is because he had information that no one else did. Only Luke mentions the Annunciation, the baby in the manger, the visit of the shepherds, and Jesus teaching in the temple at age 12. It is then very likely that Luke traveled to see Mary, who would've been the only person at all of those events.

The author of John is the apostle, known in the gospel itself as the "beloved disciple". He emphasizes Jesus as the Word incarnate, and his audience was mostly likely Jewish Christians, but possibly second generation Christians as well. John was the youngest apostle and the last to die, so his gospel was written later. His verbiage speaks to a group of people familiar with the basics and thus ready for something a little deeper and more theological.

Acts of the Apostles is a sequel to Luke's gospel. This is the only reliable history that we have of the early Church. Luke was an eyewitness to many of the events in the book which is why you see it switch between "they" and "we".

The Epistles are letters written to churches founded by the apostles. They addressed specific problems and incorrect teachings that arose, as well as simply being more general. Some are addressed to the Church as a whole. Paul wrote the majority of them and these were addressed to specific churches and specific people. The Catholic epistles are addressed to the whole Church, and these would be James, 1&2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude. The overarching messages of these letters are telling Christians to live their faith and warning against false teachers.

The Book of Revelation was written by the apostle John. It is apocalyptic literature and is, therefore, by definition, highly symbolic. This is a difficult book to discuss because interpretations can vary wildly due to the amount of symbolism contained within it.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Divine Mercy Sunday - Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31


April 4, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: New Testament World

Before we start looking at the New Testament texts themselves, it's important to understand the world that the events of the New Testament occurred in. After the successful Maccabean revolt, in Israel, the high priest was also the secular ruler. This was a total blending of Church and state. From 135-106BC, John Hyrcanus is the high priest/ruler of Israel. He wanted to purify the entire country of any remaining pagan influences. So he gave everyone in the country a choice: be circumcised or leave. Being circumcised entailed taking on the whole of the law of Moses in addition to the physical aspect. Almost everyone agreed to it, and those that didn't left, so the country became 100% Jewish practically overnight. Hyrcanus also destroyed the temple of the Samaritans which soiled the relationship even more. He did this because, of course, the Samaritans worshipped God incorrectly because they worshipped Him as one among many gods. Hyrcanus reconquered almost all territory that belonged to the Davidic Kingdom bringing Israel back to its former glory.

However, there was one step that he didn't take to fully attempt to reestablish the Davidic kingdom, and this step was taken by his successor: Aristobulus. He proclaimed himself king and high priest. Thus it seemed as if all of the prophecies of the Messiah had been fulfilled: the country was whole, it was Jewish, and it had a Jewish king. The only problem was that Aristobulus was not in the line of David. He was a Levite. Thus the united Israel quickly became divided again between two rival parties, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

The word "pharisee" comes from a Jewish word meaning "the separated". According to them, the only way for the Jews to be faithful was to keep themselves pure, and the Law alone wasn't sufficient enough to accomplish this. Therefore, even normal Jewish families should imitate the rituals and purity of the priests. The Pharisees refused to associate with Gentiles and even entering the house of a Gentile would defile a Jew. So to distinguish themselves from the Gentiles, the Pharisees over-exaggerated their distinctly Jewish customs.

These beliefs are actually kind of justifiable if you recall the history of Israel up to this point. Any time Jews associated with pagans it led to trouble. The problem with all of the things the Pharisees pushed was that the Law then became a burden. Everything was external: how you dressed, how you observed the Sabbath, your dietary laws, etc. The Pharisees themselves evaded these burdens with skeptical interpretations of the Law (thus making them the hypocrites that Jesus calls them). By the time of Christ, the Pharisees were very powerful and most people assumed they were as righteous as they claimed to be. However, their way of life rejected the Davidic covenant which was to be an international and inclusive covenant.

The Sadducees were the heirs of Zadok, who was Solomon's priest. They were supposed to have been priests in Jerusalem forever. They thought that the best way for Judaism to survive was to cooperate with the Gentiles. The Sadducees had the most power in the Jewish government. For them, only the Torah, the five books of Moses, were canonical scripture. They did not believe in life after death or any kind of resurrection from the dead. And since they only accepted the Torah, they didn't accept any of the additions and interpretations of the Law by the Pharisees.

So the difference between Israel at this point in history and Israel when it was a divided kingdom was that politically Israel was one nation, but internally it was divided which is just as dangerous for survival. Luckily, our country isn't divided internally at all. And while the kingdom never officially split up, there were several civil wars between factions vying for the throne. It was during one of these civil wars that the Roman general Pompey the Great, rival of Julius Caesar, intervened on behalf of one side and helped them to capture Jerusalem. Judea was then established as a Roman province that allowed Jewish kings to rule but as tributaries to Rome. In 40BC, a man named Herod convinced the Romans to install him as king in Judea. Now, by any standard you use, Herod was insane. He murdered three of his own sons so brutally that a Roman general remarked that he'd rather be Herod's pig than his son. Herod sent lavish gifts to Rome to remain in its favor, and he was also not even Jewish. His was an Edomite. He pretended to be Jewish and claimed that he had returned from exile. He rebuilt the temple quite lavishly which was by far his greatest work. It was more glorious than Solomon's according to historical accounts. So people actually began to think that Herod might be the messiah. After all, Israel was one, the temple was more glorious, people were coming from far away lands just to see it, and Israel was prospering economically. Sure, Herod was a murderer and a tyrant, but David was an adulterer. Tomato tomato. After his death, the Romans split the kingdom four ways between his sons that he hadn't murdered. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee during Christ's ministry.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Easter Sunday - Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John - 20:1-9


March 28, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Minor Prophets

There are twelve "minor" prophets in the Old Testament, but we will only briefly examine five, just to give you a sense of what these books contain if you're not already familiar with them. Hosea is a relatively easy prophet to nail down insofar as when it was written because he gives us a list of kings that reigned in both the north and the south. The southern kings mentioned span from 767-686BC, while the northern kings reigned from 782-752BC. Since Hosea was a prophet to the north, the fact that he even mentions the southern kings could reference the legitimacy of the Davidic line as opposed to the instability in the north. The purpose of the book was to demonstrate the steadfast love of God for Israel despite her continued unfaithfulness. This is done symbolically through Hosea's marriage. Hosea marries a prostitute, and she bears children which the Lord commands him to give symbolic names: Jezreel, Not-Pitied, and Not-My-People. The idea here is that God is the faithful husband, and Israel is the prostitute. The children themselves are prophecies for how God will then deal with his unfaithful spouse.

The name Joel means "Yahweh is God", which helps to emphasize the message of Joel which lays stress on God as the Sovereign One who has all creation and the nations under His power and control as the God of history. The date of the book is impossible to determine with certainty, so scholars date it anywhere from 835-400BC. The problem is that there is textual evidence to support both ends of the spectrum. The key theme centers around what Joel refers to as the Day of Yahweh. He uses a recent drought and locust plague that strikes Judah without any warning as a lesson to warn of a future invasion of Judah in the Day of Yahweh. Of course, the people can always repent, but naturally, they don't. There is also a promise of future deliverance that when the day comes, those that call upon the name of the Lord, which will be a faithful remnant, will escape harm.

Amos means "burden-bearer". He was a sheepherder from Judah (south) but was a prophet to the north. The date is somewhere between 790-763BC, just before Israel is defeated by the Assyrians. The message is simple: fiery judgment from Jerusalem all the way north. He then lists seven nations and details the oracles and judgments against them, ending with Judah and finally Israel. Among these oracles against the nations, there are several sins listed: social injustice, immorality, idolatry, and rebellion against God. Luckily we don't do any of these anymore. What we learn from the oracles is that God holds all nations of men accountable, cruelty and apostasy (denial of the faith) are treated the same since nations who do not believe in God cannot commit apostasy, heathens are judged for violations of basic principles of righteousness, and the people of God are judged by faithfulness to God (or lack thereof).

Micah means "who is like God". He was from Judah near Jerusalem; and the date of the book is roughly 735-700BC. The message of the book is present judgment, future blessings. The judgment is coming because of Judah's unfaithfulness, but blessings will come because of God's faithfulness. This would be in the person of Christ. The book contains three oracles: coming judgment with a promise of restoration, God's condemnation of Judah with a glimpse of the future hope, and God's indictment of Judah with a plea for repentance and promise of forgiveness. The pattern of God's prophets at this time was to proclaim the coming judgment which involved captivity, then provide a basis for the judgment which would describe the nature of their sins and departure from God, then a promise that God would one day restore the good fortunes of the Israelites, but it would require repentance and involve a remnant. Micah's purpose was two-fold: to warn the people so they can repent as necessary and to encourage the people because hope for the future will encourage them in the hard times to come. This follows the present judgment, future blessings model.

Malachi means "my messenger". He is the last prophet in the Old Testament and the last until John the Baptist. There are no kings by which to date the book, but events and happenings in the book are also recorded in Nehemiah. Malachi rebukes Israel for intermarriage with heathens which is mentioned by Nehemiah in his second term as governor. This would date the book about 432-425BC. The form of the book is unique because it takes the form of a debate. An assertion/charge is made against someone, an objection to the charge is voiced, and the objection is answered with evidence of the charge's validity. Ten times Malachi asserts a charge against Israel. The people are portrayed as disagreeing with him, and the prophet answers with the preciseness of their guilt before God.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Palm Sunday - Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15;47


March 21, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

The Book of Proverbs is concerned primarily with the development and assessment of godly character. A godly man does not only profess truths, but he practices them as well. No other book in the Bible stresses the development of godly character more than Proverbs. But as said, it also teaches us how to assess the character of others. For example, 1:8-19 teaches that the wicked should be avoided; 29:24 says we should not partner with thieves (so don't go into politics, basically). Scripture 17:9 says gossipers are not good friends; while 17:17 says true friends are faithful, and 27:5-6 says true friends will also be truthful and honest with you.

Proverbs eliminates any distinction between the sacred and the secular (non-sacred). We often like to separate our faith from the rest of our lives. We think that our faith only works in the world of ideas and the theoretical, but when it comes to "real life" it's not applicable. It's not that we don't know enough about our faith, it's that we fail to do what we know to be right. Proverbs eliminates this separation by keeping everything tied in the "regular world" as opposed to "in church".

Proverbs also wants to teach us how to be wise rather than smart. There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Without wisdom, knowledge can be used for evil means. A doctor can withdraw a small amount of fluid from a pregnant woman to see if the baby has any genetic disease. This can also tell the sex of the baby. The couple then hears that the baby is perfectly healthy, but it's not the sex they want, so they decide to have it aborted. This is using knowledge that we have without the slightest trace of wisdom.

Wisdom is personified as a woman in the book. In chapter 9, we see the comparison between Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly. Both are similar in their introductions, but one (Folly) professes a seemingly easier path to "wisdom". If one is not careful, they can fall into the abyss of folly. It's a good comparison of good and evil, where because evil is simply a lack of good, depending on how much good is left in whatever it is, it can be difficult to tell the difference between what is good and what is evil. True wisdom helps us to tell this difference and make the right decisions.

Proverbs teaches us that what is good is also what is right. The primary aim of the book is to teach us how to be righteous. Those who pursue happiness as their goal will not find it, but those who pursue holiness will also find their happiness. This is part of the book's aim to look at life realistically. Proverbs describes life as it is, not necessarily as it should be. For example, in chapter 17, there are two verses, 8 and 23, that say that while perverting justice with a bribe is wrong, a bribe in general can be the way things can get done. This isn't ideal, but it's also reality. To be wise and righteous you must see the world as it really is. Those who appear to be wise and righteous while looking at the world through rose-colored glasses won't be either because they are seeing a distorted reality.

The proverbs are a form of Hebrew poetry. While our poetry is typically arranged by similar sounds, Hebrew poetry is arranged by similar thoughts in parallel statements. There are three kinds of parallelism in the book. Antithetical parallelism is the contrasting of two ideas. The second line usually starts with "but" and contrasts the idea of the first line. Proverbs 10:27 - Fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. Synonymous parallelism restates the idea of the first line but in a different way. It is meant as a continuation, not a contrast. Proverbs 1:8 - Hear, my son, your father's instruction and reject not your mother's teaching. So the second line has the same idea as the first, just phrased differently. The third type is synthetic parallelism. This expands upon what was stated in the first line as opposed to synonymous which is a restating. Proverbs 21:13 - Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves call out and not be answered. So this is more than a restating, as the second line takes the idea of not helping the poor and expanding it to include the person not receiving help themselves should they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

Next week, we'll take a look at some of the minor prophets in the Old Testament before turning our attention to the New Testament.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday of Lent - Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33


March 14, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Psalms

The Hebrew name for the book is actually "Praises" rather than Psalms. Now this is not because all of the psalms are about praise, but because the entirety of the psalms made up a manual of temple service which was chiefly of praise. So the name "Praises" was given to the manual itself. In Greek, the word "psalmos" meant the twang of strings of a musical instrument. The equivalent word in Hebrew meant "to trim", meaning a poem of "trimmed" and measured form. These words demonstrate that a psalm was a poem of set structure to be sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments.

There are a total of 150 psalms, but they are numbered differently in the Hebrew bible and in the Vulgate/Septuagint. In our modern lectionary, we use the Hebrew numbering of the psalms. In the Latin mass, the Vulgate is used, and thus has a different numbering of the psalms which is off by one for most of the psalms. The Vulgate/Septuagint combines psalms 9 and 10 while the Hebrew bible separates them. It has since been agreed that they should have been combined but no one is willing to change things/admit they were wrong. Thus the numbering is off by one until the Hebrew bible combines psalms 146 and 147. So the only psalms numbered the same in both versions which are used at both masses celebrated here are 1-8 and 148-150.

The Book of Psalms, or Psalter, is divided into five books, each ending with a doxology which is a short verse praising God. Book 1 is psalms 1-41, Book 2 is psalms 42-72, Book 3 is psalms 73-89, Book 4 is psalms 90-106, and Book 5 is psalms 107-150. Book 5 doesn't have a doxology because psalm 150 is itself a grand doxology for the entire collection. This division comes from early Jewish traditions. David gave the five books of psalms to correspond to the five books of the Law given by Moses. All but 34 psalms have their own titles in the Hebrew psalter. The Septuagint provides titles to these 34 psalms (called orphan psalms in Hebrew Tradition). The titles tell us at least one of the following things about the psalm: its author/collection, its historical occasion, its poetic characteristics, its musical setting, and/or its liturgical use.

Some Jewish traditions attribute all of the psalms as being written by David. In Christian tradition, it's uncertain. St. Ambrose and St. Augustine make David the sole author. Others claim there must be multiple authors due to multiple authors being named in the psalms themselves. In 1910, the Biblical Commission stated that it can't be denied that David is the chief author. It also can't be denied that David is the author of those psalms that are cited under the name David. 73 psalms in the Hebrew bible claim David as their author. Many times the book is referred to as the Psalms of David or something similar. Whether this implies all of the psalms are his or whether he's just the primary author remains subject of debate.

The psalms can also be arranged in chief groups. First is alphabetic or acrostic. These psalms have lines, which in Hebrew, start with words whose first letters follow a certain pattern. For example, in psalm 119, the first 8 lines start with words beginning with the Hebrew letter ALEPH, the second 8 lines start with words beginning with the Hebrew letter BETH, etc. Ethical psalms teach moral principles, an example being psalm 15. Psalms of praise are about... praise, such as psalm 103. Historical psalms review the history of God's dealings with His people, like psalm 106. Imprecatory psalms invoke God to bring evil upon one's enemies, such as psalm 69. Messianic psalms pertain to the coming Messiah, an example being psalm 2. Penitential psalms express sorrow for sins committed, like psalm 51. Songs of Ascent or Songs of Degrees were possibly psalms sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem to observe the feast days. They are grouped together as psalms 120-134. Psalms of suffering are the cries of those suffering affliction, like psalm 102. And psalms of thanksgiving are psalms of grateful praise to God for blessings received, such as psalm 100.

These various styles can be used for teaching, as responsive for liturgies, meditation, praise and devotion, and prayer/petition. Christ uses psalms to teach, citing them in the Beatitudes. Saints Paul, James, and Peter also reference psalms in their New Testament writings. Many psalms possess basic principles of righteousness which still hold true today. Christians should study the psalms to receive this instruction in righteousness.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday of Lent - 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21


March 7, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Job

With the Maccabean revolt, we've reached the end of the history of the Old Testament, that is, the historical events of Salvation History leading up to the New Testament. However, before we delve into that, I'd like to look at some other books individually in the Old Testament, starting with some of the wisdom books and of those, start with the Book of Job.

All wisdom books have several things in common: they are secular in nature and not terribly concerned with God's miraculous works in our world. They do not concentrate on the history of Israel. They ask questions about the problems of life that affect all people, not just Israel, and they express joy in coming to know God. They were developed during the golden age of Israel; a time when people weren't just concerned with survival.

The Book of Job deals with universal questions: why does evil exist if god is good, why do bad things happen to good people, why do evil people prosper, and why do suffering and death exist? There are two basic types of evil: moral evil, an example of which would be innocent people being killed by terrorists; and natural evil, which would be things like natural disasters and diseases. The Book of Job questions the idea that good things happen to good people and that evil is a punishment for bad behavior.

We are introduced to Job as being from Uz, which is not in Israel. This is to show he is not a Jew and thus not one of the chosen people. The ideas in the book are intended to be universal. The numbers associated with Job's possessions and family are symbolically perfect. This is to show that Job is "perfect", so not a candidate for punishment as the ancient way of thinking would have gone. Then, we get a conversation between God and Satan and Satan's insinuation that Job is only good because he's been showered with blessings. Satan attests that good behavior is only the result of circumstance rather than inherent virtue. God gives Satan the power to inflict evil upon Job but does not allow him to physically harm Job.

The first trial sees all of Job's possessions and family taken away (apart from his wife), but he himself is not harmed. He utters the famous phrase, the lord giveth and the lord taketh away and does not curse the Lord. So Satan ups the ante, saying it's only because Job hasn't been harmed physically that he continues to praise God's name, so God gives Satan power to harm Job, but he cannot kill him.

Job then is struck with sores and other bodily afflictions and incorrectly assumes that the evil is coming from God. What is happening is evil allowed by God but not authored by God. We then meet Job's three friends. The main division of the book is poetical. It's a succession of speeches and replies by Job's friends and his reply to each. The friends are convinced that the trouble is the result of wrongdoing on the part of Job. They consider Job to be a great sinner and assume that his claims of innocence are hypocrisy. Job protests that God is punishing him and by doing so fails in his reverence toward God. To Job, God is a severe, hard, and inconsiderate ruler rather than a kind Father.

Job's expressions of irreverence are, at most, venial sins which humans can never fully avoid. Job also claims that his words are involuntary expressions of pain; but unfortunately for him, go too far for God's liking. Eventually, God responds by absolutely verbally blasting Job through a wall in four of the most glorious chapters in the Bible where God goes after Job relentlessly. I love it.

Job then recants at the end of the book of what he said about God; and his recant is emblematic of how we tend to sin because we temporarily blind ourselves to God. We understand God's power and our need to be in communion with Him when we go to confession. It's a back and forth; but when we do recognize God and understand His love for us, He generously restores us to grace.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Lent - Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians1:22-25; John 2:13-25


February 28, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Maccabean Revolt

In order to understand the environment surrounding the revolt of the Maccabees, you need to understand the major historical events that occurred in the centuries prior to it. In 538BC, Cyrus the Great issued the edict which allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon. Cyrus was the leader of the Persian Empire, the most powerful empire the world had seen up until that point. In 490, the Persians attempted to invade Greece but were defeated at the Battle of Marathon. Ten years later, they tried again and faced off against the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, eventually being defeated by the Greeks at a later battle. The second defeat of the Persians produced a loose confederation of Greek states which would be the height of their power and influence. They began to push the Persians back away from Greece, but the alliance slowly broke up as old rivalries and issues returned to the forefront.

In 338, Philip of Macedon finished his campaign to subdue the Greek peninsula, and with Greece again under one banner, he turned his attention to attacking Persia. However, before he can invade, he is assassinated. He is then succeeded by his son, Alexander the Great. Alexander invades Persia in 334; and after three years, defeats the Persian king, Darius. In 326, he had made it as far as India, but his army mutinied and refused to march further. Alexander returned to Babylon where he would die suddenly in 323 without an heir. His empire is then divided into four parts, each ruled by one of his generals.

One of the lasting legacies of Alexander's brief empire was Hellenization. This is the process of making civilizations Greek in their practices. Alexander brought the Greek culture with him wherever he conquered and introduced Greek philosophy, language, religion, and customs. This culture actually unified the near east because the over-arching culture provided a mechanism for people to trade and understand each other. Unfortunately, the division of the empire was particularly bad for Jerusalem. At first, it was controlled by the Ptolemies of Egypt. All in all they weren't too bad. But they came into conflict with the Seleucids, another division of the old empire, and the two fought for control of Palestine. The Seleucids were victories and at first they weren't too bad either. Greek culture was everywhere, but the faithful Jews were left alone.

This all changed with Antiochus IV who became king of the Seleucid empire. He called himself "God Manifest", so clearly he was quite humble. His subjects called him "Out of His Mind". His desire was to totally Hellenize the entirety of his empire by forcing out any cultures that remained. At the time in Jerusalem, whoever the high priest was, he was also the secular ruler, so church and state were exactly the same. Antiochus, however, decided to sell the position to the highest bidder. This would not end well.

The Greeks saw local deities as manifestations of their own gods. So they see a temple dedicated to the most high God and just decide to make it a temple to their most high god: Zeus. This meant they also introduced Greek styles of worship which were... different. Everyone was forced to take part in the sacrifices offered to the Greek gods including eating the food sacrificed which often included non-Kosher pork. When the Jews refused, Antiochus resorted to torture. This is shown quite explicitly in 2 Maccabees 7.

The resistance to all of this becomes formally led by Mattathias, an old priest and his sons who refuse to participate in the pagan sacrifices. They didn't really believe that they could succeed in overthrowing the Seleucids, but they knew that it was better to die than be unfaithful to God. After Mattathias dies, Judas Maccabeus became the leader of the revolt and had stunning military success. They are able to recapture the Temple and purify it after it was used for pagan sacrifices. Today, the purification of the Temple is celebrated as Hanukkah. Their victories continued, and they were able to conquer most of the old Davidic kingdom, making alliances with Sparta and Rome while they were at it. So in 125BC, over 400 years after the fall of Judah to the Babylonians, there finally existed another Jewish Kingdom.

The Books of Maccabees gives us a good insight into what Jews believed during this time which is several centuries after the last prophetic book was written and relatively close to the time of Christ. The word "Israel" referred only to the faithful remnant, not everyone of Jewish descent. Many Jews also believed in the resurrection of the dead by this point and the concept of saints. They believed that martyrdom is better than apostasy (renouncing the faith). They understood that God judges His people as a father judges his children; Israel's sufferings came because they need discipline, not because God wants revenge. They also believed it was good to pray for the dead which we see in 2 Maccabees 12:40-45. This is where we get vindication for the idea of purgatory where we pray for those who have died in order to speed their journey to heaven as opposed to praying to them as if everyone went straight to heaven after death.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Lent - Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians1:22-25; John 2:13-25


February 21, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Post-Exile

It's not often that a foreign king is treated with a lot of respect by the Jews, but in the case of Cyrus, King of Persia, he is actually considered a "messiah". He's called an anointed one in the scriptures; and it is he and his Persian Empire that conquer and defeat Babylon. Cyrus expanded his empire by war, but he kept it together by inspiring loyalty in his subjects. Conquered peoples were allowed to keep their own customs as well as worship in their own ways. So for the Jews in exile, Cyrus was seen as a liberator. When the Persians capture Babylon, the Babylonian Exile is ended and the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. They weren't forced to go, and many chose not to.

Jerusalem hadn't been lived in for over 50 years, and thus it was still a wreck. The first thing they did upon their return was lay the foundation for a new temple. In Ezra 3:11-13, it mentions how once the foundation was laid, the elders began to weep, not because they were overjoyed, but because they knew by the foundation that it wouldn't be as grand as what had been built before. They didn't have the money or the manpower available to recreate what Solomon had built.

As mentioned before, the Samaritans were still in the area, being the offspring of Jews and those transplanted to the area by the Assyrians. They worshipped God, but only as one of many gods. The faithful remnant that had returned from Babylon understood that their trouble had been because they didn't offer proper worship to God. Therefore when the Samaritans offered to help, the remnant kept their distance because the Samaritans didn't worship God properly. This offended the Samaritans who then actually tried to stop the building of the Temple. They told the new King of Persia that the Jews in Jerusalem were not building the temple but rather their own defenses so they could rebel. Due to Israel's history of rebelling against empires, it wasn't a hard sell, and the project was ordered halted. After some time, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah renewed enthusiasm for the project. The Israelites were building beautiful homes for themselves, and the prophets asked why they were doing that while the house of the Lord is in ruins? This is the same mentality for priests when it comes to their rectories. We focus on the church first and our house second which is no doubt why the rectory was never tended to properly over the past years. The new king of Persia found the original edict that allowed the temple to be built and the project continued.

Ezra was a scribe who was given authority by the king to appoint judges and magistrates in Judah. His dream was to restore a purified Israel in the promised land and became the moral leader for the Jews. He taught them the Law and edited the scriptures as well. Nehemiah became the governor in Jerusalem and fortified the defenses of the city to protect it from attacks from surrounding Samaritans. He took no salary and this example needed to carry over to the rest of the Jews. The biggest problem he was facing at the time was hypocrisy. The rich would buy and sell slaves despite it going against Mosaic Law; and to atone for it, they would make a small sacrifice in the temple. It's very similar to the mortal sin of presumption, when we commit mortal sins or any sin because we know that we can simply go to confession to right the wrong. We're presuming on God's mercy. Added to that, the animals they were offering in the temple were the worthless ones in their flock, so it wasn't really a sacrifice. It would be akin to giving up something for Lent that you really don't do anyway, and thus there really is no sacrifice. What God ultimately desires is righteousness.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings First Sunday of Lent - Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15


February 14, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Time of Isaiah and Jeremiah

The Samaritans get a lot of flack in the gospels; and it's clear that the Jews don't have a high respect for them. Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom before it was destroyed, so Samaria was in Israel and occupied by Jews. The reason the Samaritans are despised 700 years later during the time of Jesus is because after the Assyrians destroyed the kingdom, they re-settled the area with people from other lands. Those then intermarried with the few Israelites that were left in the area that the Assyrians ignored. Their descendants were therefore not fully Jewish. They worshipped God, but they worshipped as one among many. They were not always faithful or considered part of the Jewish heritage.

Isaiah was a prophet to the good king Hezekiah in Judah. Hezekiah was a serious reformer, tearing down pagan altars, tearing down places where people worshipped God in the wrong way, and even going so far as destroying the bronze serpent Moses had made in the wilderness because people had begun to worship that too. Isaiah had already been a prophet to three bad kings prior. He was called to bring Judah to repentance. He was also prophesying for the days when Jerusalem would be the spiritual capital of the world. The main themes in the book of Isaiah are repentance - that judgement will come if there is not repentance, the unconditional promises to David - that the faithful remnant of Judah will return to establish a new kingdom in Jerusalem, and that the kingdom will be restored more glorious than ever under a new ruler.

The son of Hezekiah was Manasseh who took over after his father died and was the exact opposite of his father. He restored the worship of foreign gods, and he even burned his own sons as offerings to pagan gods. The Assyrians attack Jerusalem and Manasseh is captured and carried off in chains. While in prison, he prays to the Lord for deliverance, and he is indeed returned to Jerusalem. After this experience, he got rid of his pagan altars and restored worship to God.

The king Josiah was a great reformer. The Book of Deuteronomy had been lost for years in the archives of the temple, and it was "re-discovered" during the reign of Josiah. The people had forgotten the second law in Deuteronomy, and Josiah read the law to the people who then swore to keep all of the commandments of God.

After Josiah died, Judah went downhill pretty quickly. This is the time of the prophet Jeremiah. Egypt made Judah a tributary, and then Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonians who had defeated the Assyrians. The Babylonians stripped the temple of its furnishings and left the city in ruins. And still there was no repentance. Jeremiah tried to warn everyone, and for his troubles he was imprisoned, beaten, thrown down a well, and threatened with death. The last king of Judah attempted to rebel against Babylon with Egypt (which had worked so well for the north). Jeremiah told the king that it would be of no help because Judah's fate had been sealed. He prophesied that the destruction would be so great that creation itself would be undone. However, even with the Flood, God preserves a faithful remnant, and with this remnant, God will create a new covenant.

In 586BC, Jerusalem is attacked again and completely destroyed, including the temple. The population is taken prisoner to Babylon, and the Babylonian Exile begins. While in exile, the Jews remembered God because they had nothing left but Him. Being surrounded by paganism made them realize what they had lost. Many books in the Old Testament were edited into their final forms during this period of exile.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45


February 7, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Divided Kingdom

Upon the death of Solomon, his son, Rehoboam, was set to succeed him. The problem was that Rehoboam only knew a life of luxury from growing up in Solomon's court. In 1 Kings 12, a group of Israelites comes to Rehoboam and asks him to lighten the work they'd been having to do under Solomon. Rehoboam tells them to come back in three days, and he takes counsel with two groups of people: one group is old and the other is young. The older men advise him to do as the people ask for it will show good faith. The younger men advise Rehoboam to increase the taxes and burdens as a show of strength and that's the course that Rehoboam takes. The ten northern tribes secede and name Jeroboam as their king. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain faithful to the king in the south.

The prophet Abijah tells Jeroboam, now king of the northern kingdom (called Israel, while the south was called Judah), that the separation of the kingdom was part of God's plan, but Jeroboam didn't trust in God. His new subjects were looking fondly down at Jerusalem and the temple and thinking that maybe they shouldn't have seceded. Jeroboam, in a bid to keep his kingdom and his people separate, decides that going back to the golden calf system was a good idea, since that worked so well the first time. So he fashions TWO golden calves, because two bad things are definitely better than one, and tells his people that they are the gods that brought them out of Egypt. In both kingdoms, you had a series of good and bad kings. Good kings brought people back to worshipping God, while the bad kings introduced foreign gods. This time period became the time of the prophets.

King Ahab was one of the most wicked kings in the northern kingdom of Israel. He marries a Sidonian princess named Jezebel, who persuades Ahab to worship Baal. Ahab has a temple constructed to him and then Jezebel persecutes the prophets of the Lord. So for one of the worst kings, we get one of the greatest prophets: Elijah. The name Elijah means "the Lord is my God", and the first thing we hear is that he can stop the rain with his prayers. Elijah often worked through God's miracles to demonstrate God's power, not his own. In a famous story, he goes up against 450 prophets of Baal. The rules were simple: each side builds an altar and prepares a sacrifice but doesn't light the fire. The real god would send fire from heaven to light it up. The prophets of Baal try everything but eventually give up. Elijah then soaks his altar with water for dramatic effect and then after he prays, fire incinerates the altar, including the stones. The prophets of Baal are then killed by the mob.

After this ordeal, Jezebel is clearly angry at Elijah, and he flees to Sinai. Here is where we get the story of God's presence passing by. God was not in the earth, wind, and fire (pun intended), but rather in the tiny whispering sound, demonstrating that while we often look for cataclysmic signs from God, if we're not truly listening, we might miss Him. Elijah's successor is Elisha (which isn't confusing at all), and once Elisha is anointed, Elijah is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (pun intended).

What the northern kingdom of Israel feared most were the Assyrians. The Assyrians had a policy of resettlement as insurance against rebellion. They scattered the populations they conquered around their empire so they wouldn't be able to band together against them. The last king of the north, Hoshea, tried an alliance with Egypt against Assyria, but that was discovered by the Assyrians, to whom Israel was paying tribute already to avoid attack. The Assyrians then besieged Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, and destroyed it, resettling the entire population of the 10 tribes and beginning the Diaspora of the Jews, when they lived outside of the promised land.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19; Mark 1:29-39


January 31, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Davidic Covenant and Solomon

The covenant with David, the 5th covenant made so far (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses preceding), is laid out in 2 Samuel 7:11-16. In this passage, it says that the Lord will make David a house, meaning David will be the founder of a dynasty. The Lord will establish the kingdom of David's dynasty, meaning David's son will be the ruler of a kingdom. David's son shall build a house, meaning a temple which will be built by Solomon. The Lord will be his father and the son of David will be God's own son. The Lord will not take His love from him, meaning God will never disown David's line like Saul's. Finally, David's throne shall be established forever, meaning the dynasty of David will never end. Some of these promises will be fulfilled by Solomon, others by Christ.

There are some key differences between the covenant with David (Zion) vs. the covenant with Moses (Sinai). Jerusalem has now replaced Sinai as the center of Israel's religion. The Mosaic covenant circulated around the tabernacle which was contained in a movable tent for nomads. The Davidic covenant will have the temple; a permanent structure that draws all to it. The Mosaic covenant was a national covenant that was for Israel only. The Davidic is an international covenant that reaches all nations through Israel. The Mosaic covenant was exclusive, designed to keep nations out while the Davidic is inclusive and inviting nations in. The Mosaic covenant was defined by the Torah, the law to keep Israel separate, while the Davidic was defined by the Wisdom literature that speaks to all mankind. Finally, the Mosaic covenant had as its service a sin offering to atone for sins while the Davidic had the "todah". In Greek, the word would be "Eucharist", which is an offering in thanksgiving.

The Davidic covenant had seven primary features to it. The first was kingdom, as it would make Israel more than just a nation. Second was dynasty, because the covenant was made with the whole dynasty of David. Third was God's own son, as the anointing of David and his successors made them adopted by God. Fourth was unlimited, because in time and space the Kingdom will be everlasting. Fifth was Jerusalem which became the new spiritual center of the world. Sixth was the temple which was the architectural sign of the covenant. Seventh was wisdom, which was the new law of the covenant that was accessible to all.

There were also three secondary features to the covenant, all of which have a New Testament corollaries. The first was the Queen Mother who is the only one that the king bows to. This is correlated with Mary. The second is the prime minister, the chief among the servants. This is correlated with Peter, the first pope. The third is the thank offering which was the primary liturgy in the temple. This correlates with the Eucharist.

After David dies, his son Solomon, whom he had with Bathsheba, the wife he stole from Uriah the Hittite, takes over. God comes to Solomon in a dream and tells him that he can ask for anything he wants. Solomon's request is that he's given wisdom so that he can govern the people God has set him over. Solomon then becomes a symbol of wisdom. David's military success had vastly increased the size of the kingdom and Solomon's wisdom and reputation would draw in visitors and traders from nearby kingdoms. Solomon also married into alliances, as was common practice up until the last century or so (World War I was basically fought between monarchs who were cousins).

One of the countries mentioned that Solomon married into was Egypt. 1 Kings 3:1 mentions that Egypt sent a princess to Solomon's court. This is significant because Egypt never sent their children to other courts, but rather everyone sent them to Egypt. Whichever kingdom was more prestigious and powerful is where the couple would live. This demonstrates not only the important placement of Israel, but also the power and prestige during Solomon's reign. We hear that at one point, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that those numbers are not entirely accurate. Those numbers are, though, symbolically perfect, showing that he'd intermarried with all nations and extended his dominion, in some way, over all of the earth. However, as we know, polygamy in the bible always leads to some sort of misery. Ultimately these foreign wives would drive Solomon away from God.

The reputation of Solomon would draw in many visitors, one of the most famous being the Queen of Sheba. Her visit shows us that all people are now being drawn to God as the covenant was meant to do. The wisdom of the kingdom was expressed in the wisdom literature, namely the proverbs. The Book of Proverbs contains several collections of wise sayings, many Solomon's and some others, including some that were by pagan authors. The reason that the bible includes pagan authors is because all wisdom comes from God and a true believer never rejects wisdom no matter where it's found.

Eventually, Solomon's pride would get the better of him. He overly taxed his people so they had to labor for Solomon to pay it off, and they began to question his leadership. Then his foreign wives convinced him to build temples to their own gods as well and things took a turn for the worse for Israel.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28


January 24, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
King Saul and King David

When the Israelites decided they needed a king to unite them, they turned to Samuel. Samuel had been the last of the Judges, but he was quite old, and his sons were not worthy to succeed him. So the Israelites asked Samuel to appoint them a king. This might sound rather insulting to Samuel; but in reality, they weren't rejecting Samuel, they were rejecting the Lord and rejecting being a nation set apart that was not ruled by a king like everyone else. Moses had actually prophesied this happening and the second law from Deuteronomy had provided for this occasion. Samuel warns the people that from a king they will get taxes, military service, and oppression (luckily that only comes from a monarchy so we're totally safe from that), but even with that warning, the people were insistent.

Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin which was the smallest tribe. He happened to come to where Samuel was because he was having some livestock issues, but Samuel appointed him as king. He anointed Saul with oil which was the visible sign that Saul had been chosen. He therefore became the anointed one, which in Hebrew is "messiah" and in Greek, "christ". An anointed one is someone chosen by God and anointed to be the leader and savior of God's people. Obviously with Jesus that term has taken on a whole separate significance; but before Jesus, it was a term used more often and for more people.

At first things went rather well for Saul. He defeated one of their more powerful enemies and everyone thought they'd made the right choice in wanting a king. Then the power started to go to his head. In a war with the Philistines, when all hope seemed lost, Saul needed God's help. Samuel told Saul to wait for him to arrive to offer sacrifices, but Saul was impatient. Saul therefore offered the sacrifices before Samuel arrived. The reason this was a problem was because Saul only did it because he wanted something from God. He wasn't doing it out of reverence and love for God, and his impatience proved that. When Samuel found out, he told Saul that his own line would not endure and thus Saul's son would not be king.

Saul is then told to destroy the Amalekites and put everything under the ban. The "ban" was when Israel did not take spoils of war but rather destroyed everything. The reasoning for this is simple: war brings spoils and thus can be enjoyable for the winning side. If you're always getting rich off of war, you want to do it more and more. If you're only waging war to destroy your enemies, and you make no gains other than safety, you only go to war when it's necessary. By having everything put under the ban, God ensures that Israel will not go to war simply for spoils, but rather only for defense. Unfortunately, Saul's men do not put everything under the ban and take spoils from their conquest. Samuel confronts Saul, and Saul understands the mistake he made, but it's too late for him. Samuel tells him the final punishment for his disobedience. First, it was he would have no dynasty, and now he will lose the kingdom.

The Lord sends Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint the new king. When David is chosen, Samuel anoints him, and thus David becomes the anointed one as there can be only one (like the Highlander). The spirit of the Lord left Saul and transferred to David, and immediately Saul became tormented by an evil spirit. Saul is also still under the impression that he's the king. When he was tormented, the only thing that would soothe him was music, and it just so happened that David was the best musician in the land. So David becomes a member of Saul's court, and Saul is still unaware that David has been anointed by God. Eventually, Saul dies and David officially becomes the king. He chooses Jerusalem to be his capital because it didn't belong to any of the 12 tribes. This is the same reasoning that Washington is its own district and is not part of any state. The capital being "neutral" means that no tribe or state has influence over it. David also brings the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, thus making it the political and spiritual capital of Israel.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20


January 17, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Joshua and Judges

The Book of Joshua details the conquest of Canaan, or the holy land/promised land. The Israelites would never actually fully drive their enemies out of the promised land, and this led to an almost constant struggle with them for both power and religious fidelity. The first target of the Israelites was Jericho. Some claim that Jericho is the oldest city in the world as the settlement goes back to the Stone Age.

When God told Joshua it was time to cross into Canaan, Joshua sent two spies to scout the city. It turned out that the reputation of the Israelites had preceded them. Everything they had done, from the Lord drying up the Red Sea to them defeating kings and armies in the desert, had come to the ears of the Canaanites. The spies sought refuge in the house of Rahab, a harlot, and promised her that if she hid them, her and her family would be kept safe. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, the ark of the covenant preceded them and the waters again dried up so they could cross. This is seen as a "type" of baptism for Christians; when Christians, the new Israel, pass through the waters of baptism to the Promised Land.

The famous story of the fall of Jericho is, of course, the Israelites being told to simply march around the city for seven days and on the last day to blow the trumpets and lift up their voices and the walls would come tumbling down. It would stand to reason that it was done in this manner, as opposed to Israel laying a conventional siege, so that the miraculous nature would strike fear into the enemies of Israel. When the city is taken, Rahab and her family are saved as promised. She marries an Israelite according to the genealogy of Matthew's gospel which makes her an ancestor of Christ.

Joshua kept the Israelites faithful to God while he led them. When he knew that he was dying, he summoned the heads of the tribes together. He pleads with them to obey the law of God and even gives them a chance to back out and go another way. Basically he says that if being faithful to God is going to be too much work for them, it's better to simply say so and not be faithful than to say they will be faithful and then not be in the future. Be honest rather than make a promise you can't keep. The Israelites swear they will be faithful (I'm sure they meant it this time), and Joshua seals the covenant with them. Afterward Joshua dies, and the heads of the tribes were actually faithful to their promises up until they died as well. Then it all begins to fall apart.

This leads into the Book of Judges. The Book of Judges follows the same pattern over and over again: the people fall away from God, then they become oppressed by another nation, a judge is raised up to lead Israel, and the people are delivered from their enemies. Then it all happens again in the same order. This happened so often and so easily because the Israelites had failed to fully drive out the Canaanites. Some of the people in the land already were very difficult to conquer, such as the notorious Philistines, and so the Israelites just chose to ignore them and live next to them. The problem with that was there were several key differences between the Israelites and the Canaanites they left alone that made the Israelites rather envious. The Canaanites were city dwellers, had temples made of stone and houses made of brick. The Israelites were used to being nomads and living in tents. So this sophisticated-looking civilization starts to look rather attractive, and in conjunction, the religion that happened to go with this attractive, sophisticated civilization. Added to that, the Israelite tribes were not always united and would often fight amongst themselves. This made them easier prey for their strong neighbors. Since all of the stories in the Book of Judges are basically the same, we won't look at any individually. The most famous of the Judges would be Samson and his notorious affair with Delilah. Eventually, the state of anarchy that Israel was falling into made them take action for themselves, and they decided that the only way they could ever be united was to have a king.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; John 1:35-42


January 10, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Leviticus is a Latin word meaning "having to do with the Levites." In the Hebrew tradition, it's known as the Manual for Priests. Contained within Leviticus are many, many different laws, the purpose of which was to teach Israel how to be a holy people. So in another way, the book can also be seen as a manual for holiness. In fact, the word "holiness" occurs 87 times in the book.

It starts with instructions for sacrifices and for the consecration of priests. So the priests begin following these instructions and then, very much in form, almost immediately disobey them. In Leviticus 10:1-2, priests who offer the sacrifice incorrectly are consumed by fire. While this sounds very harsh, what this shows is how seriously the laws were to be taken. Quite frankly, given all of the abuses that occur within the mass throughout the world on an almost daily basis, I think we could use one or two instances of this to get some wayward priests back on track...

There were also laws about what food they could eat, which we're still familiar with as Kosher laws. These specific rules have more to do with them apart from just health. For example, they're told that they cannot eat shellfish or pork, but both of those are quite healthy for people to eat. So if a neighbor were to offer a Jew pork or shellfish, they would have to refuse because of the Kosher laws. What this does is constantly remind the Jewish people that they're different. They were set apart as God's people and strict dietary laws would be a constant reminder of this. The laws also made them ultimately governed by God, since that's Who gave them the laws. This concept was unique in the world.

The Book of Numbers is known in the Hebrew tradition as In the Wilderness. This is the book where we hear of Israel's famous 40 years of wandering in the desert. Now something that's rather interesting is that many people think that they were simply lost or something along those lines, but that's not the case. The trip from Egypt to the promised land would normally have taken 11 days, and they also knew the direction they were to go. The problem was they failed to trust in God.

The Israelites approached the borders of the promised land and sent scouts to check it out. They reported back that the land was rich and abundant but also that there were already people living there who seemed to be very strong and very big. Thus we see the familiar pattern again where the Israelites grumble that they would've been better off in Egypt as opposed to coming to this land and facing what they incorrectly perceived as "giants". So what happens in Numbers 14:26-31 is that every person who had been saying non-stop that they were going to die in the wilderness will actually do so. They fail to trust that God will be with them as they enter the promised land, and so they never get to enter it. The Israelites will end up wandering around the desert for 40 years, constantly rebelling against God and Moses as those who originally left Egypt and refused to trust in God slowly die off.

In Numbers 20:2-12, the people once again need water and say it would have been better if they had stayed in Egypt. Moses, fed up, strikes the rock with his staff angrily and water pours out. However, what he did was very bad for two reasons. First, he struck the rock in anger, which seems justified, but when you're basically performing a miracle from God, having rage while you do it is not. The second thing is that when he struck the rock, since the people were asking him to do something, he actually made it seem as if it was him performing the miracle rather than God. Because of this, neither Moses nor Aaron would enter the promised land either, although Moses would glimpse it before he died.

The word Deuteronomy means "second law". Due to Israel's increased unfaithfulness in the wilderness, they required a second law. The law in Exodus would have made them a nation of priests. They were clearly not ready for that. Deuteronomy was a law for them to be just another nation-state. It also takes into account that Israel will not always be holy and will fall away from time to time. The Book of Deuteronomy is a series of speeches that Moses gave when they reached the edge of the promised land. At this point, everyone who had originally left Egypt, apart from Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, had died. Everyone else had been born and raised in the wilderness.

It starts with an introductory speech in which Moses reminds the new generations where they came from and what led them here. Then he restates the important parts of the Exodus law. The Ten Commandments are listed again; the only difference being that the last two commandments are switched. In Deuteronomy, do not covet your neighbor's wife precedes do not covet your neighbor's property. Then there's the constitution of Israel: a new law for living the promised land, followed by the ratification of this constitution. Next, Moses lays out a prophetic road map, telling the people how they will forsake the Lord and bring curses upon themselves, but that a future restoration and blessing will follow. Finally, the book concludes with the last days of Moses. He sees the promised land from a distance but never enters. He was buried in a secret grave by God so that the Israelites would not fall into idolatry and go to worship at the grave of Moses at any point in the future. There is speculation by some that Moses was taken up into heaven like Elijah will be because he is seen conversing with Christ and Elijah at the Transfiguration.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Baptism of the Lord - Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11


January 3, 2021, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Golden Calf

The exodus from Egypt was akin to the Declaration of Independence for Israel. Like America's, it didn't specify a form of government or any laws. We needed to wait for the Articles of Confederation/Constitution for that. For Israel, as long as they followed Moses' instructions, they did well. However, with Moses gone for 40 days and 40 nights (a number associated with times of trial and repentance), they fell into some old habits.

The Israelites demand that an image of "their god" be made, and Aaron, unfortunately, obliged. He crafted a golden calf. The reason for a calf was because it represented the Egyptian god, Apis, who was an Egyptian fertility god. In Exodus 32:3-6, it says that the Israelites "sat down to eat" and then "rose to play". Because Apis was a fertility god, the way that one worships a fertility god was, shall we say, immoral celebrations. That's what you do when you worship fertility gods. It also showed that the people had already renounced the covenant.

As the Israelites "played", God lets Moses know that something bad is happening. He refers to them as "your people" to Moses, not "my people". That simple word choice shows that God is disowning the Israelites as they disobey Him. God then gives Moses a choice. He offers him the chance to be a new Abraham, to have a new people instead of this one which doesn't seem interested in following the rules. Moses chooses to be selfless and instead pleads for Israel. By doing so, he spares them from the wrath of God. When Moses descends and sees the "play", he smashes the tablets on the ground in anger. He knew already what was happening because God told him, so what he actually saw must have been far worse than simply the Israelites bowing down to a golden calf. The smashed tablets, then, are symbolic of the broken covenant.

Israel's sin here was actually similar to the sin of Adam and Eve. They had a unique relationship with God that they chose to destroy. The original covenant would have made the entire nation a nation of priests. Because it was clear that a universal priesthood was not a good idea, the tribe of Levi, the Levites, became the priestly tribe. This ultimately protects the people from themselves. The Levites act as mediators, stopping the people from approaching God directly in a state of unworthiness. Something similar exists today with the sacrament of confession and really all of the sacraments. The priest acts as the mediator between God and men, offering the sacrifice to God on behalf of the people (which is why he faces the same direction: he's offering the sacrifice and talking to God primarily). Also, by being the custodians of the sacraments, it's the job of the priest to make sure that those who receive them are in a state that is worthy. This involves not only absolving sins from the confessional but also instructing the people as to what sins they might be committing. If one doesn't really know and approaches unworthily, then they do themselves a disservice.

So now that Israel has shown that they don't do well with relatively lax laws, they would now be governed by incredibly strict and specific laws. The laws handed down were different than human laws. Human laws (mostly) are meant to simply keep order in society, not just make people do things for no good reason or for reasons unproven. The laws handed down to Israel are meant to do more than just keep order. Even though God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt, they were still slaves to Egypt's gods. With laws of ritual purity, God meant to teach them humility. They would have to live apart from other nations so they would not be infected by other religions. They were told to make regular sacrifices to God, always sacrificing an animal they had worshipped as a god in Egypt. The laws were not intended solely as a punishment for their disobedience, but rather as instruction and rehabilitation. It's the same intention as a parental punishment. Punishments from parents to children are designed (in theory) to keep the child from getting into trouble again, not because the parent stopped loving the child.

The Book of Exodus ends with the building of the Tabernacle. It was the portable temple that would be God's dwelling place in the midst of His people. When the New Testament was written, the writers would have been using the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint (because it was written by seventy scholars). In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it uses the word "overshadowed" to denote God's presence in the tabernacle. In Luke's Gospel, when Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son, he explains to Mary that the power of the most high will "overshadow" Mary. So the implication is that it's the same divine presence (Jesus) that will dwell within Mary that also dwelled in the desert with the Israelites.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

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


December 27, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: The Ten Commandments

Once the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, they realized they had a problem: they had no food packed for the journey. They saw starvation as an inevitability and immediately began looking fondly on their days in Egypt where they had food, ignoring the fact that they were basically enslaved. This mentality demonstrates the dichotomy of the material and the spiritual. People see "things as good" only when they're satisfied materially. If you have enough stuff, enough money, enough food, then things are good. This ignores the spiritual which is ultimately where our minds should be focused. The Israelites seldom made distinctions between a life free from slavery and filled with devotion to God, and slavery in Egypt with a full stomach.

So they beseech Moses for help who then turns to God. God sends manna from heaven for the Israelites to eat. The word "manna" means "what is it", because the Israelites didn't really see it as bread that they recognized. But with food, you need drink. The same pattern followed where the Israelites moaned to Moses about how much better Egypt was because there was water, and so God had 
Moses strike the rock with his staff and water poured out. Manna and the water from the rock are both "types". Manna is a "type" of Eucharist because it's bread from heaven. Christ Himself will make this comparison as well. The water from the rock is a "type" of Christ. Christ gives us living water to drink, and from His pierced side flowed blood and water.

After three months of wandering, the Israelites reach Mount Sinai. The Lord is now ready to make a covenant with His people, if they want it. What God is planning to do is to make Israel a kingdom of priests. He has chosen them to bring His word to the rest of the world. God would speak to them directly and have a personal relationship with them. So Moses goes up the mountain, but God is going to speak so that all will hear Him so that they'll believe. However, it turns out that just the voice of God will frighten the people so much that they ask that Moses speak to them on God's behalf.

God then hands down the Ten Commandments: You shall have no other gods but God alone, you shall not take the name of the Lord in vain, keep holy the Sabbath, honor your father and mother, you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet your neighbor's property, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. After the commandments are handed down, Moses goes back up the mountain where a more detailed law was given to him. When that was finished, the covenant was sealed with a sacrifice. After this, the elders were invited up onto the mountain as well to behold God. They saw God, and yet they did not die. The reason is because after the covenant was sealed, Israel was a nation of priests speaking directly to God.

The Ten Commandments sum up and proclaim God's law. They outline how to love God and how to love our neighbor. The first three are all about loving God, the last seven are about loving your neighbor. You cannot honor another person without blessing God, his/her creator. In like manner, you cannot adore God without loving all men. Thus the commandments bring religious and social life into unity. The commandments also relate to the natural law. The natural law contains those rules which regulate moral behavior that are available to us through the application of human reason. Many of the commandments can be understood without divine revelation, such as not killing or not stealing. We know these things to be bad for the good of society because of our reason. However, worshipping no other gods or keeping holy the Sabbath are things that we would not know simply by reason, and thus they had to be transmitted to us by divine revelation. The Ten Commandments are actually a privileged expression of the natural law because they were made known to us by both divine revelation and human reason.

Moses goes back up the mountain alone for 40 days and 40 nights. Remember that the number 40 is usually associated with times of trial and repentance. While on the mountain, God shows Moses the pattern of the tabernacle. The tent would serve as a traveling temple for the people as they wandered in the desert. It was supposed to mirror the heavenly temple. At the center of it would be the Ark of the Covenant which would store the tablets of the Law. This would also be God's throne on earth; a shadow of His heavenly throne.

Luckily, the Israelites will remain completely well-behaved while Moses is gone and not do anything they're not supposed to...

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings The Holy Family - Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40


December 20, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
Plagues and Passover

Moses delivered his not-so-famous statement to Pharaoh, which was not, "Let my people go!", but rather let God's people go into the wilderness for three days to offer sacrifice. Unfortunately for the Pharaoh, he doesn't care about some God he's never heard of. In his mind, if the Hebrews can plan 3-day ceremonies, then they obviously have too much free time on their hands. So Pharaoh increases their workload even more and the Hebrews blame Moses and Aaron for this.

In total, 10 plagues are sent upon Egypt. The way to look at them is as nine plagues plus the final plague: the killing of the first born. The first nine can be seen as three cycles of three. The first two will carry a warning with them, the third will not, then the cycle repeats.

The first plague is the Plague of Blood, where the Nile river is struck with the staff and turns to blood. Pharaoh is warned of this plague by Moses, as God tells Moses to, "Go to Pharaoh in the morning...". The second plague is the Plague of Frogs. Moses is again warned of this plague as God tells Moses to "Go in to Pharaoh...". However, the first two plagues don't phases Pharaoh because his so-called magicians are able to somehow recreate the plague with their "magic". As such, Pharaoh doesn't fear a God which can be at least mimicked by his own magicians. The third plague is the Plague of Lice/Gnats. There is no warning to Pharaoh about this plague; and not even his magicians could mimic it. However, Pharaoh remained obstinate.

The fourth plague is the Plague of Flies; and the cycle starts again. Moses is told by God to "Go to Pharaoh in the morning...". This plague also carries a difference from the first three: the plague doesn't affect the Hebrews. The flies went everywhere except where the Hebrews were living. This made it obvious that they were being protected. When Pharaoh saw that the Hebrews weren't affected by the plague, he was ready to negotiate. His suggestion to Moses was that the Hebrews could simply take a break from their work and offer sacrifice to God while still in Egypt. However, Moses tells Pharaoh that their sacrifice would be abominable to the Egyptians. The reason for this is because God wanted them to sacrifice cattle, sheep, and goats. The Egyptians worshipped these animals as gods, or at least as the manifestation of their gods. Therefore, the Hebrews would be seen killing Egyptian gods which the Egyptians would probably not be fans of. Because the Egyptians worshipped these things, the plagues are also seen as judgments on the gods of Egypt. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile as a god, a bull, and a frog as well. When plagues affected these things, God was using things they saw as sacred and showing them that they really were not. And seemingly after each plague, Pharaoh was ready to listen, but once the plague went away, he would back out of any deal.

The fifth plague is the Plague on Egyptian Cattle, once again carrying a warning. The sixth plague is the Plague of Boils and had no warning. Then the cycle repeats again. The seventh plague is the Plague of Hail, which had a warning. The eighth plague is the Plague of Locusts, which came with a warning, and the ninth plague is the Plague of Darkness which had no warning.

Now we come to the final plague. Moses' initial warning to Pharaoh was that Israel was God's first-born son, and if Pharaoh refused to let them go, then God would slay Pharaoh's first-born. The death of the first-born would also not be exclusive to the people but also to the animals as well, showing again the symbolic killing of Egypt's gods. The instructions given to Moses for the Passover were very specific. The bread should be unleavened because they would not have time to let it rise. The lamb should be roasted, not boiled, and they should eat with their traveling clothes on, as though they were in haste. The Israelites were to observe a week-long Passover every year after this so that they would never forget what God had done for them.

The Passover lamb is a very common image and "type" of Christ. The blood of the Passover lamb was to be sprinkled on the doorposts to save the Israelites from death, and it was the Blood of Christ that saved us all from eternal death.

Following the death of the first-born, the Egyptians were now demanding that the Israelites leave. Pharaoh once again has a change of heart when he came to grips that his cheap labor had left and decides to pursue the fleeing Israelites. When the Israelites realize that Pharaoh is going to attack them, we see the beginning of a soon-to-be familiar pattern. Whenever there's a problem, the people turn to Moses and complain that they would have simply been better off staying in Egypt. Moses will then beseech the Lord for help, and they will be delivered. As the Egyptians are crossing the parted Red Sea, their chariot wheels get stuck in the mud, and the entire army is killed. And so without the sword, Israel defeated the mightiest empire in the world at the time, and the victory belonged to God alone. The crossing of the Red Sea is also a "type" of baptism, because through the waters of the Red Sea, the Israelites were saved from certain death.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Fourth Sunday of Advent - 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38


December 13, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Captivity and Moses

When we ended the Book of Genesis, Jacob and his family had moved to Egypt because of the famine that had spread throughout the land. Joseph and his position in the Egyptian government had made this quite easy for the Hebrews and also because of Joseph's position, the relationship between Egypt and the Hebrew people was quite good. The Hebrews became quite rich and owned much of the best land. Unfortunately, they were not remain simply guests for much longer.

In the first few verses of Exodus, it says that a new pharaoh arose that "did not know Joseph". Now this was several hundred years after Jacob's family had moved there, but it was unlikely that the pharaoh had never heard of Joseph. Since there was a large group of foreigners occupying space in Egypt, who they were and how they got there would have been well-known. What is more likely is that the new pharaoh wanted nothing to do with the Hebrews and refused to recognize the good relations they had with them. The pharaoh says that his fear is the Hebrews will "join our enemies", meaning that their loyalty was in question should Egypt ever be invaded. It was the same accusation leveled against Christians in the Roman Empire.

His solution to the Hebrew problem is slavery and lots of it. However, that doesn't work very well, so he decides that they need more slavery and harsher tactics. This also doesn't work very well at slowing down the growth of the Hebrew population, so his solution is to murder the sons that Hebrew women have. The reason he goes after just the sons and not all of the children is because the daughters, having no Hebrew sons to marry, would be forced to marry Egyptians and all of their inheritance would pass back to Egyptians and they would get their land back. Pharaoh was playing the long game.

During this program of killing the Hebrew sons, Moses is born and put in a basket in the river by his mother to save him. He is found by Pharaoh's daughter who names him Moses, which means "brought up out of the water". She then asks for a Hebrew woman to nurse him and they get his actual mother to be his nurse. Moses grows up in the palace with all of the privileges associated with it, and he's also aware of his true identity thanks to his mother who tells him. He starts to realize how the Hebrews are being treated and one day sees and Egyptian treating a Hebrew badly. Moses kills the Egyptian and buries him. Later, two Hebrews are fighting and Moses tells them to stop, and one asks if Moses is going to kill him like the Egyptian. Moses realizes that the crime is known and must flee for his life.

He goes to Midian and stops by a well, the greatest pick-up destination in the ancient world. While there he protects some women from shepherds who had driven them away from the well and then he waters their flock for them. The women were the daughters of the priest of Midian and one of them, Zipporah, is given to Moses in marriage. They have a son named Gershom. Moses settles down in Midian and that would have been the end of him as an important figure, but God heard the cries of His people and was ready to deliver them from Egypt.

One day Moses comes across a bush that is burning, but the bush is not being consumed by the flames. This strange sight draws him in, but he stops when he hears the voice of God. He immediately covers his face because no one is to look directly upon God no matter what form He takes. God introduces Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is important because if He was just the God of Abraham, the Egyptians could claim Him because Hagar, Abraham's wife's maid, was Egyptian. If it was just Abraham and Isaac, then the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, could lay claim. This was the God of the people of Israel who were now slaves because that's where Jacob's family went. God says that He is here now because He has heard the cry for freedom of His people and wants to send them to the promised land.

Moses is reluctant because he knows that he's still a wanted man in Egypt. Added to that, he's not sure even though God says that He'll be with him. And so Moses asks for God's name so that he can tell the Hebrews who sent him when they inevitably ask. God's answer is "I am who am", or "I am". In Hebrew, this is Yahweh. It is the sacred name of God that orthodox Jews will still not utter to this day. Despite all of this, Moses is still reluctant. This is a familiar pattern and is called the pattern of the reluctant prophet. 1. God chooses the prophet. 2. Prophet doesn't want to be chosen. 3. Prophet tries excuses as to why they shouldn't go or be chosen. 4. God answers every excuse. 5. Prophet does what God asks.

The message that Moses then delivers to Pharaoh is not the one people think. It wasn't him going to him and saying, "let my people go"! Rather, Moses asks for pharaoh to let the Hebrews go into the desert for three days to offer sacrifice to God. That's it. Nothing about freedom or less work, just go to worship. The Lord knows Egypt will be stubborn, and pharaoh refuses. Thus begin the famous plagues.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Third Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28


December 6, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:
The Patriarchs, part 2

After Jacob's vision of the ladder and God's renewal of the Abrahamic covenant with him, Jacob stops at a well. As we know, a great place to find a wife. There he meets Rachel and instantly falls in love with her. Rachel was the daughter of Laban who was Jacob's uncle. Some sources say Laban was Jacob's cousin; but regardless, Rachel and Jacob were cousins. After working for Laban for a month, Laban asks Jacob what he wants in return for his work.

Laban has two daughters: Leah is the older one, and Rachel is the younger one. Traditionally, the older daughter would be married off first, so when Jacob asks for Rachel's hand in marriage, the request is unusual. Jacob was in love with Rachel and, according to the scriptures, Leah wasn't that good looking. Jacob promises to work seven years for Laban in exchange for Rachel's hand in marriage and Laban agrees.

After seven years have elapsed, Jacob asked for Rachel to be brought to him so that they may consummate the marriage. Laban gives a banquet for the whole town, and when Jacob is nice and drunk, Laban sends Leah in to Jacob, not Rachel, and the two consummate. This is the true act of marriage, not a set of vows as we see it today. Therefore, when Jacob wakes up and realizes what had happened, he's quite mad at Laban because he was now married to Leah. His consent was not a factor but rather simply the act of consummation. Laban says that it's the custom to marry the older daughter first, regardless of what he'd said earlier, and then tells Jacob that if he works another seven years, he'll get Rachel as well. Jacob agrees and seven years later is married to Rachel. One thing to note is that polygamy, whenever we see it in the Bible, always leads to some sort of misery. There is never an instance in the scriptures when polygamy exists and everyone and everything is just great. This underscores the value of monogamy, which wasn't terribly common in the ancient world. However, God's laws have always been counter-cultural, even way back then.

So Jacob now has two wives: Rachel and Leah. Rachel was loved more, but she was barren. Leah wasn't loved by Jacob, but she bore sons. Leah bore Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Rachel, because she was barren, then gives her maid to Jacob to have sons, just like Sarah had done with Abraham. This maid bears Dan and Napthali. Leah, because she hadn't given Jacob any sons for a bit, decides to give her maid to him as well. This maid bears Gad and Asher. Then Leah is apparently able to have sons again, and she bears Issachar and Zebulun. Then apparently Rachel is no longer barren and finally has a son, and this is Joseph. Much later, Rachel will bear a second son, Benjamin. So Jacob has twelve sons by four different women. These twelve sons will be the twelve tribes of Israel.

Now Esau returns to the story; and Jacob hears that he's coming to see him with a retinue of 400 men. Jacob assumes the worst and assumes that Esau is still bent out of shape about him stealing his birthright, so Jacob gets his family out of harm's way and sends gifts to Esau in the hopes of appeasing him. Then, Jacob has a strange vision at night. In this vision, Jacob is wrestling an angel at night. When it's daybreak, the angel asks Jacob to let him go, but Jacob refuses unless the angel blesses him. The angel then asks for Jacob's name, and when he tells him, the angel replies that he shall no longer be known as Jacob, but rather as Israel. Israel means, "he who strives with God". Jacob meets with Esau, who had apparently gotten over the grudge, and all of that was settled. Then later, God appears to Jacob and confirms that his name will now be Israel. He tells Jacob to be fruitful and multiply (which he had already done quite well, I'd argue) and says that an assembly of nations will rise from his loins. The phrase, "be fruitful and multiply", which we hear at the creation of Adam and Eve, signifies just that - a new creation. This creation is the people of God.

Fast forward now to when the sons of Jacob are much older. Joseph is given a coat of many colors by his father. After all, Joseph (before Benjamin was born) was the only son of Rachel who was the one that Jacob truly loved. This gift of the technicolor dream coat was given as an obvious show of favoritism which did not do much to make Joseph's 10 older brothers happy. Added to that, Joseph wasn't very tactful with them. He told them of dreams that he had which showed him ruling over his 10 brothers. In another dream, he was ruling over his father and mother as well. The brothers took offense at this and pushed him into a well. Reuben, the oldest, convinced the others not to kill him but rather sell him into slavery.

Joseph is sold to some passing traders who take him to Egypt. Once there, Joseph was favored by the Lord, and so wherever he went and whatever he did was blessed. This allowed him to quickly rise to a position of great power and authority. Joseph filled the Egyptian stores with grain because the Lord told him there would be a famine there after years of prosperity. This famine struck the entire near-east, including modern day Israel. So everyone goes to Egypt to get grain because they have a surplus, including Joseph's brothers. However, when they arrive, they don't recognize Joseph because he's older, his name is different, and he speaks through an interpreter. Eventually Joseph reveals himself to them and Jacob's entire family moves to Egypt. This is the settling of the Israelites in Egypt and the beginning of what will be the captivity in Egypt. This is also the end of the Book of Genesis.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Second Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, Mark 1:1-8


November 29, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: The Patriarchs, part 1

All of God's promises to Abraham that we talked about last week were to be fulfilled through Isaac. However, before they could be fulfilled, Isaac needed to start his own family and for that, he needed a wife. Abraham told him that he should not marry a Canaanite (which is where they were living) because he was afraid that Isaac would get absorbed into their pagan customs. It was the same problem that happened when the line of Seth began to intermarry with the line of Cain.

Abraham sends his servants back to Mesopotamia to find a wife and on the way they stop at a well. Wells were natural gathering places for women because it was their job to fill the jugs with water. There they meet Rebekah, and she becomes the wife of Isaac. For a long time, Rebekah was childless just like Sarah, but eventually she has twins: Esau and Jacob. However, even in the womb, there was something different about them. They seemed to be fighting each other in her womb as if two nations opposed to each other. Esau was born red all over, as if he'd been struck again and again. Esau is close to the Hebrew word for "red". Jacob was born holding onto Esau's heel. Jacob means "he takes by the heel". Esau was Isaac's favorite and Jacob was Rebekah's favorite.

One day, when Jacob was making food, Esau comes in quite hungry and says that he would give away his birthright for what Jacob is making. Jacob agrees and this immediately shows that Esau thinks only in the short term while Jacob thinks in the long term. A birthright in those days meant that you were head of the family and received a double inheritance. Of course, it was unlikely that Isaac would honor this so-called trade so Esau figured he was in the clear.

Then we get the famous deception of Isaac by Rebekah and Jacob. Esau goes out to find game and prepare it for Isaac. Meanwhile, Rebekah dresses Jacob to feel like Esau (Isaac was now blind). When Jacob goes in to see Isaac, Isaac gives his blessing to Jacob, thinking that he is Esau. This blessing is to be the head of the family and bestow the birthright. Then Esau comes back and Isaac realizes that he's been deceived. However, he begins to shake violently because blessings, like the one he had given to Jacob, were absolute. It could not be retracted or changed. So when Isaac realizes he was deceived, he was terrified because he had given away the birthright to someone else whom he didn't know at the time. Once he realized it was Jacob, things were better. But this conflict between Jacob and Esau would be a prophecy for two future nations: Israel and Edom. These nations were mortal enemies. Jacob was the father of Israel and Esau was the father of Edom.

In the immediate aftermath of Jacob stealing the birthright of Esau, Jacob has to flee because Esau is going to kill him. Jacob flees to Haran where his uncle Laban lived. In Genesis 28:12-14, Jacob has a vision of a ladder with angles ascending and descending. Here, God renews the Abrahamic covenant with Jacob. This was God's way of blessing Jacob as Isaac's rightful descendant. Even though Jacob had tricked his way into it, he received the blessing from Isaac, and God recognized it as well.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings First Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37


November 22, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures:

When we're introduced to Abram in Genesis chapter 12, one of the first things we're told is that he's 75 years old. The reason this is significant is, quite simply, that he's old. He's not the ideal person to be starting an entire new life, and yet he's chosen.

God makes three promises to Abram in Genesis 12:1-4. These are: land and a nation, kingship and a name, and that he will be a blessing for all nations. The land that he's promised is Canaan, and he's promised land because a nation needs land. Kingship and a name means that God will found a dynasty upon the name of Abram, a lowly and humble man. A blessing for all nations means that God will use Abram to bring salvation to the whole world. These promises are all fulfilled in subsequent covenants. The first promise, land and a nation, are fulfilled through Moses. Kingship and a name are fulfilled through David, and a blessing for all nations is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.

Now let's break these promises down individually. The first promise, land and a nation, is difficult for Abram to believe. He's rather old (75) and his wife, Sarai, is barren. An old man and a barren wife tend not to be the ideal candidates for starting an entire people. The promise is a good thing because it is considered a great blessing to have numerous descendants. However, the more time that passed since God made this promise, the more Abram was cautious about how this could actually come to pass. In Genesis 15:1-8, God makes the famous promise that Abram's descendants will be as numerous as the stars and the sands on the seashore. However, this time, Abram asks for proof that this promise will actually come true. In ancient times, serious oaths were sworn with sacrifices, and the most solemn way to swear an oath in this fashion was to cut a sacrifice in two and walk between the two halves (your guess as to why is as good as mine). And so we get God telling Abram to prepare a sacrifice and cut it in two, then God descends as a smoking fire pot and passes between the two halves. This is how Abram knows God means His oath. An interesting side note is that in the lectionary, it used to say brazier instead of fire pot, but too many lectors pronounced brazier as brassiere. That's true.

For the second promise, kingship and a name, the only way to found a dynasty on someone is for them to have their own children. Here we have a problem because Sarai is not only very old, but she's barren. So she thinks that God might have meant that Abram wasn't to have children through her. There was an ancient custom of a wife's servant having relations with the husband and then the husband and wife claim the children as their own. So Sarai's servant, Hagar, has relations with Abram and has Ishmael. However, Sarai becomes indignant at Hagar and casts both of them out. Ishmael then becomes the father to the Arabs. In Genesis 17, God confirms the second promise by changing Abram's name to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. The outward sign of the covenant is established as circumcision, and Sarai's name is changed to Sarah as God promises a child through her. She has Isaac, which means "he laughs", because Abraham laughed when he heard that his 90-year-old wife would bear a son.

Following the birth of Isaac, in Genesis 22, we have the famous sacrifice of Isaac. This shows the depth of Abraham's faith. He doesn't bargain or ask for clarification, he simply does. One of the reasons for this is that among the pagans in Canaan, child sacrifice was common. So why would Abraham think that his God is any different in asking for it, despite the fact it would destroy his line? But in the passage are some key elements that many miss. Often times, Isaac is depicted as quite young, implying that Abraham tricked Isaac into everything, and it wasn't until he was bound that he realized what was going on. This isn't true. When Abraham and Isaac separate off from the other servants, Isaac is carrying the wood. This would not have been a small amount of wood, and thus it shows that Isaac isn't that young or that small. Abraham is also about a thousand years old at this point, so he easily could've taken him. Then, when Abraham goes to bind him, Isaac would be fully aware of what's going on and could have fought back. Isaac is clearly a willing participant in this whole affair.

Isaac's willingness makes him a "type" of Christ. A "type" in Old Testament literature, is something that prefigures something in the New Testament. Isaac is a type of Christ because Christ, too, could have resisted, but didn't. The father was offering his beloved son, the son submitted to the will of the father, Isaac carried the wood for his sacrifice like Christ carried His cross, and in the end, God provides the sacrifice Himself. In the case of Isaac it was the ram, and in the case of Christ, it was God Himself providing the perfect sacrifice. God's final promise to Abraham, that he will be a blessing to all nations, will be fulfilled because Isaac will marry and bear children, thus continuing the line all the way down to Christ.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Christ the King - Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46


November 15, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: T
he Fall of Man

We all know the story of the Fall of Man, facilitated in part by the serpent. A good question to ask is why Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command. They literally had one job to do, or in this case, not do. It all stems from pride which is why pride called the root of all sin. The serpent, which in Hebrew the word means "powerful evil creature", tempts them to believe that if they eat of the tree they will become like God. This desire to be equal to God, the same as Satan's and those fallen angels that followed him, is a very powerful desire, but it is unattainable. But our pride often clouds our minds when it comes to what we can and cannot actually achieve.

God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit and the serpent tells them that they won't die. God and Satan were both right but were talking about two different things. Satan was speaking of a physical death; and he meant it in terms of them not dying instantly. God was speaking of a spiritual death which they did die. By eating the fruit, Adam and Eve lost supernatural life, original holiness, and original justice. They chose to love themselves more than God.

And after it happens, God asks Adam where he is in the garden as if He doesn't know, which of course He does. The reason God asks them where they are and why they were hiding was because He was giving them a chance to confess. However, instead of immediately showing contrition for their disobedience, they make excuses. Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent. An interesting question to ask would be what would've happened if they had just confessed right then and there?

With the fall comes the curse. All of the good things that God blessed humanity with would now be cursed in some way because of their sin. The task to be fruitful and multiply will now be painful for the woman when she bears children. Work was supposed to be a joy but will now be filled toil and will not always be fruitful. The gift of life itself will now end with physical death, which is inevitable. Family life, which is in itself an image of God's love, is now marred by sin and so will not always be loving.

Before the fall, evil was confined to the supernatural realm. Adam and Eve allowed evil to enter our physical world. This is shown immediately afterward with Cain and Abel. Both sons bring sacrifices to God, and yet only Abel's is pleasing to God. This is not because God preferred Cain to Abel or animals to vegetables but rather because Cain was envious of his brother's sacrifice. Cain's mindset was bad from the beginning; and so the sacrifice, which was good in and of itself, was marred by Cain's envy, and the Lord obviously knew that which was why it wasn't pleasing. This is the first example of sin following the fall of Adam and Eve.

After Cain kills Abel, Adam and Eve have Seth, a third son who is the replacement for the righteous son that was killed. Cain and Seth each have their own line of descendants: Cain's is evil, thinking of themselves first, and Seth's is righteous, thinking of God first. However, the lines begin to intermarry; and the righteous line of Seth is then corrupted by the line of Cain. This is the beginning of the almost full corruption of humanity which precipitates the flood.

God plans to destroy everything in the flood apart from Noah, his family, and two of every creature. The reason God does not destroy Noah and his family as well and just start completely over is because Noah and his family are righteous. God will never punish those who are righteous. In the preparations for the flood, two numbers pop up: 7 and 40. These numbers are significant because 7 represents creation and the swearing of a covenant, while 40 always represents periods of trial and repentance. 40 years wandering in the desert, 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, 40 days of Lent, etc.

A question that is asked all the time is whether or not the flood really happened as was described. Some modern theories point to events in history that could have been the flood. Basically there were large scale floods at certain points in history that could have been interpreted by the author as the whole world flooding. Also, the Hebrew word for "world" can also mean "country". That would change things as well if the whole country was flooded as opposed to the whole world. However, what really matters in this passage is not whether the world literally flooded and two of every creature set sail with a man and his family, but rather what the passage says about humanity's relationship with God.

The covenant with Noah is a second creation. God gives Noah and his family dominion over the earth like He did with Adam and Eve. Noah and his family weren't free from sin, though, so what was the point? The point was that Noah was provenly righteous. Even though he carries original sin, he proved he could still live a more or less righteous life. The flood is also a precursor to baptism. The old world sin is washed away, but we still carry the potential of sin with us after baptism. However, we've received God's blessing and His promise that He will not destroy us.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Thirty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time - Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30


November 8, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Creation

When it comes to the story of creation, the most important thing to remember from the outset is that it was never meant to be a scientific explanation of how the world came into being. It is meant, rather, to explain the order of creation. We look at creation as two sections: the first three days and the last three days. The first three days create environments and the last three days create rulers of those environments.

On the first day, what is created is night and day, light and darkness. God creates simply by the power of His word. He speaks and creation occurs. This is why we refer to Christ as the Word if you recall John's gospel: and the Word became flesh. This is a confirmation that Christ is a member of the Trinity, existing always. He was present at creation through God's Word.

On the second day we get sky and sea, and on the third, land and vegetation. God is creating a world with a structure. He is creating environments in which His creatures will live.

On the fourth day, we get the first of these rulers when the sun and the moon are created. They are the rulers for the environments of the day and night. On the fifth day, the birds and the fish are created to rule the environments of the sky and the sea. On the sixth day, beasts of the field for the land/vegetation and finally human beings to have dominion over all of the rulers.

On the seventh day, God rests. In Hebrew, the phrase "to swear a covenant" is based off the word for seven. So the implication with God resting on the seventh day is that God is swearing a covenant with the universe He created. The seventh day is a capstone for all of creation and carries with it that symbolism. Time and space exist for us, but not for God, meaning He is outside of both space and time. He isn't governed by it. God fills all of space and time which means God's divine presence can't actually move. He cannot move because if He did, then there is now a place where He is not (which is what movement implies). So when we say that God cannot move, it's not a restriction but rather something that cannot happen due to His nature. The number of days in the creation story is irrelevant, meaning the number mentioned is symbolic, not literal. The question that's answered in the creation story is "why", not specifically "how".

The second story of creation in chapter 2 of Genesis is specifically about the creation and purpose of man and woman. Adam's role, according to the scriptures, is to "till and keep" the garden, depending on the translation you're using. These are the same words that will be used by the Hebrew priests when they describe their own duties in regards to the Temple of the Lord. They use this same phrase to show that creation itself, represented by the Garden of Eden, is a temple.

When God sees that Adam is unhappy being alone, He decides to find a suitable companion for him. God parades every animal in creation before Adam, who proceeds to give them all names, to see if any is a suitable partner. Obviously, none of them are and God also knows this. So the question to ask is why God goes through this motion of showing Adam every animal, knowing that none will suffice. The reason is that it shows Adam that he, and by extension all of us, are different than all of the other animals. We are the only ones imbued with a rational soul. We are the only ones created in the image and likeness of God. And when modernity tries to elevate other animals to the same "human rights" as human beings, what they're actually doing is reducing the status of human beings to the level of simply animals.

When Eve is created, she is done so through God taking a rib from Adam and creating her from him. This shows that man and woman are created to be a communion of persons: "bone of my bone" and "flesh of my flesh". They are complementary to each other, and so in marriage, they truly become one in a union that both unitive and procreative.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Thirty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time - Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13


November 1, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures: Old Testament Overview

A common question that's asked is why do Christians need to know the Old Testament? Christianity is about the worship of Jesus Christ as God who doesn't appear until the New Testament, so what benefit do we get from studying the Old Testament? The answer to those questions is given in the first verse of the New Testament: Matthew 1:1. It's the list of ancestors of Jesus Christ which is also a summary of Old Testament history. This is how Jesus is related to the Old Testament. If we do not understand the Old Testament, we cannot understand the New. The New Testament does not replace or cancel out the Old, it fulfills it. The whole point of the Old Testament is to prepare for the coming of Christ. The authors of the Old Testament really didn't know this, but that does not matter.

The books of the Old Testament are organized into four categories: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophecy. The books of the Law are first because they are the foundation of the Old Testament. Prophetic books are last because they look to what has yet to be.

There are five books of the Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These are also referred to as the Torah (Law), Pentateuch (five books), or the five books of Moses. Genesis tells the story of creation, the origin of the nation of Israel, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and the Technicolor dream coat, and ends with Joseph and his family living in Egypt. Exodus is the story of the Israelites in Egypt, Moses, the escape from Egypt, and the Ten Commandments. Leviticus is named for the priestly tribe of Levi and is a book of laws, mostly dealing with religious observances. It is very explicit and very detailed in this regard. Numbers is a census of the twelve tribes of Israel and the story of the 40 years in the desert and the Israelites' near-constant rebellion against God and Moses. Deuteronomy, which means second law, repeats the Ten Commandments and also contains new laws for living in the promised land.

The Historical Books come next and begin with Joshua which tells the story of the conquest of the Holy Land. The Book of Judges is the time immediately afterward, when the people were constantly disobeying God, and then judges were raised up to help free them from their enemies. Judges were military or other leaders, not judicial judges as we would think of them. The Book of Ruth is about a foreign woman who converts to Judaism. Her great-grandson is King David, making her a relative of Christ. 1 Samuel deals with the first king of Israel: Saul. 2 Samuel is the story of David after Saul's death and includes the covenant with David. 1 Kings is King Solomon, the prophet Elijah, and the building of the Temple. 1 Chronicles is much of the same history as 1 and 2 Samuel, but from a different point of view. 2 Chronicles is much of the same as 1 and 2 Kings but focusing on the southern kingdom of Judah. Ezra is the story of the Jews coming back from the Babylonian Exile, and Nehemiah is about restoring the city of Jerusalem and the people promising to live by the Law of Moses. Tobit is a story about a pious man living in the exile and is where we hear the name of the archangel Raphael. Judith is about an heroic woman who saves Israel and her success was due to her trust in God. Esther is about an Israelite woman who becomes the queen of Persia, saving her people from the plot of evil enemies. 1 and 2 Maccabees are the end of the Historical Books but chronologically are between the prophets and the New Testament. They tell the story of the Maccabean revolt.

The Wisdom Books are mostly written in verse, telling us how we should live. The Book of Job is a long poem that asks the question: why does God let bad things happen to good people? Psalms is a collection of religious poems/songs, mostly attributed to David. Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings, mostly attributed to Solomon. Ecclesiastes is a long meditation on vanity. The Song of Songs is the world's most famous love poem which is seen as an allegory for Christ's love for His Church. Wisdom is a poem in praise of wisdom (shock). Sirach tells us how to live a good life and how to live in the real world without compromising our faith in God.

The prophets were sent by God to bring His words to His people. The things that were primarily prophesied about were disasters, comfort, and the messiah. There were four "major prophets" and thirteen "minor prophets". The four major prophets were Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah, and you can remember them because they spell out JEDI. Isaiah's prophecies are the clearest in regard to the coming of Christ, Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Judah (southern kingdom), Ezekiel is apocalyptic literature and full of strange visions, and Daniel was a prophet in exile in Babylon. The other prophets: Baruch, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, mostly foretell specific prophecies for their time while including messianic prophecies which are all fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings All Saints Day - Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a


October 25, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW
Understanding the Scriptures; The Bible as Literature

The Bible is sacred because it's the word of God. This is pretty simple. The Bible is literature because it's a written work. Because it's a written work, it uses literary forms and devices that are found in all written work. We always need to remember that the Bible was actually written by a human being who was also inspired by God. There are numerous types of literature that are found in the scriptures: stories, poems, dialogue, figurative language, parables, records, etc. So many different authors in different times result in the variety that we see. The Bible is also ancient literature. We must take into account the situation at the time when a particular book and/or passage was written. The same thing could be presented in different fashions depending on certain things such as the author, the audience, and the historical conditions.

Ultimately, the Bible is religious. Every passage in the scriptures has two senses: the literal and the spiritual. The literal sense is what the author intended to express. In other words, what is the passage saying on its face? The spiritual sense is the meaning of the passage when read under the influence of the Holy Spirit in light of the mystery of Christ. These senses should never be in contradiction. For example, the parable of the mustard seed in which Jesus stipulates that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. This is not a scientific fact. So does that make Jesus a liar? The author of the passage is a liar? Or did they just not know? The point of the passage is not to make a scientific argument for the size of seeds, but rather to point out that having faith "the size of a mustard seed" can result in great things. So the two senses of the passage are not in conflict, nor is the passage in err because its intention was not to be a scientific fact.

Our history is never objective. History, as we know, is written by the victors and thus it is always written from a point of view that belongs to someone. Scriptural history, however, is ultimately written by God and is therefore His point of view. Because of that, scriptural history is completely unbiased. The important thing about history to the biblical writers is what it tells us about God's relationship with His people. The famous people in our history are kings, emperors, presidents, generals, etc; people that are elevated in the scheme of society. The famous people in biblical history are seemingly ordinary people: fishermen, tax collectors, farmers. While we don't see them now as ordinary people because of our knowledge of the Bible, imagine how they were viewed by their contemporaries. Jesus Himself is maligned for being simply the son of a carpenter. Ordinary people carry God's message. That's why the Bible tends to ignore people like emperors and kings for the most part and concentrates on those who were truly important. In fact, the Israelites never even had images made of their own kings. The only image of an Israelite king that we have is one from the Assyrian Empire, where the Israelite King Jehu was bowing before the Assyrian king.

The main story of the Bible is the story of Salvation History: the story of how God's plan to save us was worked out over thousands of years. Salvation history is seen as a series of covenants over the course of time. A covenant is more than just a contract. It unites the participants in a family relation; something that is meant to last and cannot be broken. That's why marriage is a covenant. Throughout history there have been six covenants and each has built on the one previous to it. The covenants don't replace each other, they build upon each other. The first covenant was with Adam. It was quite simple: be fruitful and multiply and it was formed with a couple. The second was Noah, which was the second chance for humanity. It was formed with a family. The third was Abraham which was God creating a new nation and forming a covenant with a people. The fourth was Moses which gave a law and a homeland for this nation of people. Then the fifth was David which gave a King for this nation. Then was Christ who was the savior for the nation. Each built upon the one before it.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40


October 18, 2020, Bulletin... BIBLE OVERVIEW

In this series, I will attempt to give a general overview of the key points in the Bible, that of salvation history. This will look at the story of salvation from Genesis through the gospels. It won't be totally comprehensive and cover every book but rather the unifying thread that is woven throughout. To begin, however, it's good to look at an overview of the Bible itself.

The Bible is composed of 73 books and 2 testaments. This is different than the Bible used by Protestants which contain 66 books. The seven books that are left out of Protestant bibles are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and parts of Daniel and Esther. Luther adopted the Jewish scriptures for his old testament in a way of subverting Church authority. The reason the Jews left those seven books out is because they were originally written in Greek as opposed to Hebrew. The three original languages of the Bible are Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic (although no book is composed entirely of Aramaic).

All scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. What this does not mean is that the scriptures were dictated and then written down. This is called dictation theory and is incorrect. Divine inspiration is mysterious insofar as it is 100% human and 100% divine (like Christ Himself). How this works exactly, we're not sure. But this does mean that every book has a human author and a divine author.

Now as to who actually wrote what, that is up for debate. The Torah or Pentateuch (first five books) are traditionally attributed to Moses. This is in dispute because Deuteronomy chronicles the death of Moses and then continues afterward. However, nothing is impossible for God; so, in theory, the argument could be moot. As for the historical books of the Old Testament, there is no agreed upon author to my knowledge. It's always safe to attribute the prophet the book is named after for the prophetic books, and David and Solomon are responsible for many of the Wisdom books. The New Testament is much easier as almost all books have the author in their title. Acts of the Apostles was written as a sequel to Luke's gospel, and Revelation was written by the apostle John. God, of course, is the ultimate author. But He had humans write it so we could actually understand it. Each book was written by a particular person, in a particular place, at a particular time, and for a particular group of people. This was specifically for those people to be able to understand it. However, there is also a timeless nature to the scriptures. Messages from them can be re-applied today even if they don't ring literally true.

Scripture is also not our only source of Catholic beliefs and teachings. The Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) which claims that scripture is the only source of teaching. The Catholic belief (which is backed up by scripture itself) is that scripture and Tradition work together. Both are divine. Scripture is obviously the word of God and Tradition comes to us originally from Christ and is handed on through the apostles and their successors. Thus, like the scriptures, it is divine in origin.

Because the scriptures are divine in origin, they are inerrant (without err). This can sometimes be a stumbling block for people because if you read some passages in scripture, they seem to be factually inaccurate and thus in error. But it's important to remember that the truth is not just in the words themselves on the page, but in the meaning and the message. It's always good to ask ourselves what the passage is actually trying to say. Because if the Bible was truly inspired by God (which it was), then it cannot err at its core.

As for the interpretation of scripture, anyone can do that. However, only the pope and the Magisterium can interpret the scriptures infallibly. I can interpret them however I want, but my interpretation and yours are secondary to the Church authority's interpretation. This allows the Church to maintain uniformity of understanding when it comes to the word of God.

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b; Matthew 22:15-21


October 11, 2020, Bulletin... ASK FATHER #1 - FREE WILL

Question: If God knows everything that we're going to do and how everything is going to happen, then how do we have free will? Isn't everything just predetermined?

Answer: Free will is a tricky subject when it comes to dealing with the omnipotence of God. I'm going to try to answer this without getting too philosophical. The first distinction that you need to make is between knowledge of something and the predetermination of something. To say that something is predetermined means that no matter what actions you take, the thing is going to happen. If you have knowledge that something is going to happen, that doesn't necessarily mean it's predetermined.

God knows everything we've done and everything we're going to do. He sees all of space and time at once. He has that complete knowledge. However, what we're going to do is not predetermined because He's not controlling us. We have the ability to make our own choices, in total freedom of will, and God knows what those choices are going to be. Just because God knows what we're going to do and when we're going to do it doesn't mean that we don't have the freedom of will to act. The example I used to use with my high school students is that I knew that when the bell rang, they were all going to get up and leave the classroom. That didn't mean that they didn't have the freedom of will to remain in their seats. I didn't force them to leave, nor was their leaving predetermined. I knew it was going to happen, though, and sure enough, when the bell rang, they all left. God's knowledge of our actions doesn't make them predetermined.

Another way to reinforce the fact that we clearly have free will is that God doesn't stop us from doing horrible things that He knows we're going to do. Evil things are still allowed to happen that God had full knowledge of. That doesn't make God a horrible person because if He did step in and stop us from acting badly, then we wouldn't have free will. People like to blame God for the horrible things that happen because He has the power to stop them, but really we shouldn't be angry at the omnipotent creator of the universe, but rather at those who are the ones actually making the decisions. The desire to blame God for things that aren't His fault ultimately stem from our unwillingness to take real responsibility for anything these days. If God steps in and stops someone one time from acting freely, then freedom of will is compromised, and we become little more than pieces on a chessboard.


Question: What is the best way to overcome temptation/addiction?

Answer: This is a very general question; and I'm not a medical expert, so I won't speak on anything relating to chemical addictions and the like. However, addictions to sin are quite common as we let sin become part of our lives and then eventually we're sinning out of habit more so than out of intention. However, we want to be careful about simply ascribing habit to certain sins if we're doing so to try to lessen our culpability.

As temptation is always the precursor to sin which can then lead to an addiction, the best thing to do is to figure out how to overcome the temptation. If you remove the temptation, then eventually the addiction can fizzle out as well because we're no longer tempted to even do it. For example, if you're addicted to a certain type of food or drink that's bad for you, eliminating your ability to have it will remove the temptation. You can't be tempted to do something that you can't actually do. I'm not tempted to fly to Mars because I can't do it. It'd be interesting, but it's not tempting because in order to be tempted, I have to be able to satiate the temptation.

When it comes to most temptations, the best way to begin to overcome them is to identify where and when the temptations are the most prevalent. For example, if you're tempted to view pornography on your computer, it would stand to reason that it's in a private place. Would you be as tempted if the computer was in a public space where people could easily see the screen? When are you most tempted? Because temptations only occur when the ability to do whatever it is exists, we need to identify those instances and then try to take concrete steps to take ourselves out of those situations. This is not always possible; and in those cases, more will power and prayer are necessary, and perhaps the intervention of another person or people. Ultimately, temptations only have the power over us that we give them. We get lazy, bored, depressed, etc. and stop trying to fight against them which allows them to take hold over us. The longer we push back against the temptations, the more power we have over them, and eventually they fade because we understand the goodness of life lived away from the temptations rather than life lived enslaved to them.

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

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 25:6-10a; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 


October 4, 2020, Bulletin... ASK FATHER - BOOK OF GENESIS

Question: What's the Catholic view on the Book of Genesis? And if we believe in the Big Bang Theory, why would God choose to start that way and let the dominos fall rather than creating everything Himself like Genesis describes?

Answer: Let me premise this by saying that I'm not a biblical scholar or expert. I say that from the outset because while I've studied the bible far more than most, only the pope and the magisterium (the pope and the bishops in union with him) can speak infallibly on the subject. I can therefore speak to what I know and approach this question from the standpoint of logic and some basic biblical theology.

First and foremost, Catholics are not biblical fundamentalists. Biblical fundamentalists treat the bible as literal; what it says is exactly what happened. So if the bible said that it rained cats and dogs, then literal cats and dogs were falling from the sky (and 2020 ain't over yet, so we can't rule that out). And so because Catholics are not biblical fundamentalists, we approach the bible from the standpoint that it's 100% true but not necessarily meaning everything it says should be taken literally. So if the bible says it's raining cats and dogs, we understand that to be a metaphor for it's raining heavily. It does not make the statement untrue, but it's also not literal.

So in regards to the Book of Genesis specifically, we need to be very careful about the literal interpretation of it. Literally speaking, it's hard to follow through with the first few chapters of Genesis. The biggest problem is immediate: Adam and Eve had three children - Cain, Abel, and Seth. These are all males... and you can now see the immediate problem. That is always my first argument for people who think that the bible is to be taken literally. If the author had meant it literally, they should've added a female character in there somewhere for the whole "be fruitful and multiply" bit.

The question above asks more to the creation story which is another bone of contention. Genesis says that God created the universe in six days. But here's the question: what did the author mean by a day? Did they mean a literal 24 hours? Or are they speaking more to a delineation of time itself? Perhaps the word "day" simply means a divider. The way that the creation story is laid out is rather symbolic. The first three days all create environments. You have day and night, sea and sky, land and vegetation. The next three days create rulers for those environments: sun and moon, birds and fish, land animals and finally human beings who have dominion over the creation since we're created in God's image.

Time and space exist for us but not God. God fills all of space and time all at once. Think of it like this: can God move? Not counting Jesus when God assumed a human form, can the divine presence of God move? The answer is no. The answer must be no because if God's presence can move, then there is now a place where He is not. For when something moves, it occupies a new space and vacates another. Since God fills all of space and time, His divine presence "can't" move. I put "can't" in quotes because it's not a restriction, but rather something that is simply contrary to His nature. And so since time and space do not exist for God because He fills all of them all at once, the number of "days" in the story is not the point. The number is symbolic, the order of creation is symbolic. What the creation story is doing is answering the question of why, not how.

The modern theory of creation, the so-called Big Bang Theory (which was thought of by a priest, by the way) does not contradict Genesis. It contradicts it from a literal standpoint, but not from the truth of the passage which is that God created the universe. Nowhere in the Big Bang Theory does it disprove God's existence. The problem with the follow-up question is the premise - that God set the universe in motion like a science experiment. There is nothing in the Big Bang Theory that disproves God's hands working in creation. We think that the only way God can create is how a human being would create. But God creates through His Word; He creates in ways that we cannot fully understand. So we can see natural sciences acting in natural ways, or we can see the hand of God. If we limit our understanding of God to simply what we can experience with our five senses, we're going to miss 99.96% of how God interacts in our universe every day.

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

Your servant in Christ, Fr. Koster

Scripture Readings Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43


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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