She Shall Crush Thy Head: 6 Examples of Women “Crushing” the Heads of Men in Scripture

Listers, in Genesis our first parents suffered a curse due to their fall into sin. One condition of the Fall was that God would place enmity between the woman and the serpent – but the phrase explaining the enmity and what will happen due to that enmity has been a matter of much debate. To wit, should it read he shall crush thy head or she shall crush thy head or even they shall crush thy head?1

Notice older translation below from the Douay-Rheims Bible:

“And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” Douay-Rheims Bible2

Modern Catholic texts read he shall crush your head:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” RSV-CE

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” NAB3

Proponents of the prophecy reading and she shall crush often cite the strong biblical typology of women killing men by “crushing” their head. The typological pattern of a woman killing a man via “crushing” their head occurs three times in the Historical Books and five times overall in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha – the mount named the skull.4 Thus, you have a woman crushing the head of the serpent through the victory of Christ.5


And She Shall Crush: Typology in Holy Scripture

1. Jael

The debate is pertinent to the Book of Judges due to the story of Jael as a type cast of the woman “crushing” the head:

"Jael and Sisera, by Artemisia Gentileschi." Wiki.
“Jael and Sisera, by Artemisia Gentileschi.” Wiki.

Sisera, in the meantime, had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of the Kenite Heber, since Jabin, king of Hazor, and the family of the Kenite Heber were at peace with one another. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord, come in with me; do not be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a rug.

He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink. I am thirsty.” But she opened a jug of milk for him to drink, and then covered him over. “Stand at the entrance of the tent,” he said to her. “If anyone comes and asks, ‘Is there someone here?’ say, ‘No!'”

Instead Jael, wife of Heber, got a tent peg and took a mallet in her hand. While Sisera was sound asleep, she stealthily approached him and drove the peg through his temple down into the ground, so that he perished in death. Then when Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man you seek.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg through his temple.6


2. The Tower & Abimelech

“The biblical account of the Battle of Thebaz begins in the middle of the siege. Already, Abimelech has taken most of the city and comes upon a heavily fortified tower. The civilians head towards the top of the tower while he fights his way through. Abimelech successfully fights most of the way towards the tower, however he was struck on the head by a mill-stone thrown by a woman from the wall above. Realizing that the wound was mortal, he ordered his armor-bearer to thrust him through with his sword, so that it might not be said he had perished by the hand of a woman.”7

Gustave Dore, "The Death of Abimelech." Wiki.
Gustave Dore, “The Death of Abimelech.” Wiki.

And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city, and killed the people that were in it; and he razed the city and sowed it with salt. When all the people of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith. Abimelech was told that all the people of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the men that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bundle of brushwood, and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men that were with him, “What you have seen me do, make haste to do, as I have done.”

So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women. Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the people of the city fled to it, all the men and women, and shut themselves in; and they went to the roof of the tower. 52 And Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 And a certain woman threw an upper millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called hastily to the young man his armor-bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, ‘A woman killed him.'” And his young man thrust him through, and he died.8


3. Head of Sheba

“When David returned to Jerusalem after the defeat of Absalom, strife arose between the ten tribes and the Tribe of Judah, because the latter took the lead in bringing back the king. Sheba took advantage of this state of things, and raised the standard of revolt, proclaiming, “We have no part in David.” With his followers he proceeded northward. David seeing it necessary to check this revolt, ordered Abishai to take the gibborim, “mighty men,” and the body-guard and such troops as he could gather, and pursue Sheba. Perceiving Amasa to be delaying his pursuit of Sheba, David appointed Abishai and Joab to join the expedition. Having treacherously put Amasa to death, Joab assumed the command of the army. Joab and Abishai arrived in the North of the nation at the city of Abel-beth-maachah, where they knew Sheba to be hiding. They besieged the city. A wise woman from the city (unnamed) convinced Joab not to destroy Abel Beth-Maacah, because the people did not want Sheba hiding there. She told the people of the city to kill Sheba, and his head was thrown over the wall to Joab.”9

Illustration from the Morgan Bible of Joab approaching Abel-beth-maachah and Sheba's head being thrown down (2 Samuel 20). Wiki.
Illustration from the Morgan Bible of Joab approaching Abel-beth-maachah and Sheba’s head being thrown down (2 Samuel 20). Wiki.

And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah; they cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart; and they were battering the wall, to throw it down. 16 Then a wise woman called from the city, “Hear! Hear! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, that I may speak to you.'” 17 And he came near her; and the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Listen to the words of your maidservant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” 18 Then she said, “They were wont to say in old time, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel’; and so they settled a matter. 19 I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel; you seek to destroy a city which is a mother in Israel; why will you swallow up the heritage of the LORD?”

Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David; give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.10


4. Judith

In the Book of Judith, “The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, Judith remains unmarried for the rest of her life.”11

Judith Beheading Holofernes (1610-1620), by Cornelius Galle der Ältere - Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris).
Judith Beheading Holofernes (1610-1620), by Cornelius Galle der Ältere – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris).

So Judith was left alone in the tent , with Holofernes stretched out on his bed, for he was overcome with wine. 3 Now Judith had told her maid to stand outside the bedchamber and to wait for her to come out, as she did every day; for she said she would be going out for her prayers. And she had said the same thing to Bagoas. 4 So every one went out, and no one, either small or great, was left in the bedchamber. Then Judith, standing beside his bed, said in her heart, “O Lord God of all might, look in this hour upon the work of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. 5 For now is the time to help thy inheritance, and to carry out my undertaking for the destruction of the enemies who have risen up against us.” 6 She went up to the post at the end of the bed, above Holofernes’ head, and took down his sword that hung there. 7 She came close to his bed and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, “Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!” 8 And she struck his neck twice with all her might, and severed it from his body. 9 Then she tumbled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the posts; after a moment she went out, and gave Holofernes’ head to her maid, 10 who placed it in her food bag. Then the two of them went out together, as they were accustomed to go for prayer; and they passed through the camp and circled around the valley and went up the mountain to Bethulia and came to its gates.12


5. Queen Esther

Gustave Dore, "Esther Accuses Haman."
Gustave Dore, “Esther Accuses Haman.”

Along with being the New Ark of the Covenant and the New Eve, Mother Mary is also the new Queen of the Kingdom. One of the key roles of the queen-mother was to intercede for her people. In the Davidic Kingdom, Bathsheba comes before the throne of her son to intercede for the people. In the New Davidic Kingdom, Mary comes before her son and intercedes for her people. In light of this queenly intercessory role, Queen Esther serves as a type of Mary, because she interceded for her people as well. It is probably due to the already strong Marian underpinnings that Esther is traditionally also listed among the women who “crushed” the head of a man. As Judith decapitates a man by severing his head from the neck, Esther intercedes and a man is hung on the gallows by his neck. It also helps that Scripture states that the plot of Haman comes “upon his own head.”

For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to crush and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his wicked plot which he had devised against the Jews should come upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.13


6. Mary & Golgotha

The skull of Adam at the foot of the Cross: detail from a Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, 1435. Wiki.
The skull of Adam at the foot of the Cross: detail from a Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, 1435. Wiki.

The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha at the foot of the Cross. “In some Christian and Jewish traditions, the name Golgotha refers to the location of the skull of Adam. A common version states that Shem and Melchizedek traveled to the resting place of Noah’s Ark, retrieved the body of Adam from it, and were led by Angels to Golgotha – described as a skull-shaped hill at the centre of the Earth, where also the serpent’s head had been crushed following the fall of man. This tradition appears in numerous older sources, including the Kitab al-Magall, the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, the Cave of Treasures, and the writings of Patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria. It is also suggested that the location’s landscape resembled the shape of a skull, and gained its name for that reason.”14

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24* so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” 25* So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26* When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 28* After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.15


  1. Jimmy Akin: For an in depth treatment of the languages, see Who Will Crush the Serpent’s Head? []
  2. Note on v. 15 from DRB commentary – [15] She shall crush: Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent’s head. []
  3. Notes on v. 15 NAB – “He will strike . . . at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer’s words would be, “They will strike . . . at their heels.” However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (⇒ Wisdom 2:24; ⇒ John 8:44; ⇒ Rev 12:9; ⇒ 20:2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because “the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil” (⇒ 1 John 3:8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman’s offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.” []
  4. Golgotha: ORIGIN from late Latin, via Greek from an Aramaic form of Hebrew gulgoleth ‘skull’ (see Matt. 27:33). []
  5. Women of the Gen. 3:15 Prophecy: in Judges you have Jael and the woman who drops the millstone on Abimelech in chapter nine; the head of Seba in II Samuel 20:16; it occurs again with Judith and in the book of Esther. []
  6. 4:17-22 []
  7. Abimelech. []
  8. Judges 9:45-54. []
  9. Sheba, Son of Bichri. []
  10. II Samuel 20:15-22. []
  11. Judith. []
  12. Judith 13:2-10 []
  13. Esther 9:24-25; cf., “You will therefore do well not to put in execution the letters sent by Haman the son of Hammedatha, because the man himself who did these things has been hanged at the gate of Susa, with all his household. For God, who rules over all things, has speedily inflicted on him the punishment he deserved.” 16:17-18; also, “Three selections from the Book of Esther are used in the Mariology of the early Christian writers and in the Catholic liturgy (Est 2:16-18; C:12, 14-15, 25, 30; and 8:3-8, 16-17).” []
  14. Wiki, citing,  Mount Calvary. Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. III (New York: Robert Appleton Company). 1908. []
  15. John 19:17-30; cf., “And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).” Mark 15:22; “And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).” Matthew 27:33; Luke 23:33. []

7 Prayers for God to Defend & Cleanse His Holy Catholic Church

Madonna Del SoccorsoListers, the gates of hell have not and will not prevail against the Church. As the Catechism states: “Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Our Lord then declared to him: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’ Christ, the ‘living Stone’, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.”1 Moreover, “from the incarnate Word’s descent to us, all Christian churches everywhere have held and hold the great Church that is here [at Rome] to be their only basis and foundation since, according to the Savior’s promise, the gates of hell have never prevailed against her.”2 Catholics should also remember that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. The Church teaches, “The Church is one because of her “soul”: ‘It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity.'”3 When the Church faces both internal and external threats, it is easy to fall into anxiety, gossip, and despair. Remember, however, that these are contrary to virtue – especially the virtue of hope – and that the faithful should hold up the Church and her leaders in prayer. The following prayers were selected due to either their focus on the Church, the leaders of the Church, or the general petition of divine protection against evil.




1. For the Lord to Defend and Cleanse His Church

May your continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church; and, because without you she cannot endure in safety, may she ever be governed by Your bounty. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.


2. Keep the Church Faithful to Christ’s Mission

Heavenly Father, look upon our community of faith which is the Church of your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to witness to his love by loving all our fellow creatures without exception. Under the leadership of the Holy Father and the Bishops keep us faithful to Christ’s mission of calling all men and women to your service so that there may be “one fold and one shepherd.” We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.


3. Prayer for the Preservation of the Faith

O my Redeemer, will that dreadful time ever come, when but few Christians shall be left who are inspired by the spirit of faith, that time when Thine anger shall be provoked and Thy protection shall be take away from us? Have our vices and our evil lives irrevocably moved Thy justice to take vengeance, perhaps this very day, upon Thy children? O Thou, the beginning and end of our faith, we conjure Thee, in the bitterness of our contrite and humbled hearts, not to suffer the fair light of faith to be extinguished in us. Remember Thy mercies of old, turn Thine eyes in mercy upon the vineyard planted by Thine own right hand, and watered by the sweat of the Apostles, by the precious blood of countless Martyrs and by the tears of so many sincere penitents, and made fruitful by the prayers of so many Confessors and innocent Virgins. O divine Mediator, look upon those zealous souls who raise their hearts to Thee and pray ceaselessly for the maintenance of that most precious gift of Thine, the true faith. We beseech Thee, O God of justice, to hold back the decree of our rejection, and to turn away Thine eyes from our vices and regard instead the adorable Blood shed upon the Cross, which purchased our salvation and daily intercedes for us upon our altars. Ah, keep us safe in the true Catholic and Roman faith. Let sickness afflict us, vexations waste us, misfortunes overwhelm us! But preserve in us Thy holy faith; for if we are rich with this precious gift, we shall gladly endure every sorrow, and nothing shall ever be able to change our happiness. On the other hand, without this great treasure of faith, our unhappiness would be unspeakable and without limit! O good Jesus, author of our faith, preserve it untainted within us; keep us safe in the bark of Peter, faithful and obedient to his successor and Thy Vicar here on earth, that so the unity of Holy Church may be maintained, holiness fostered, the Holy See protected in freedom, and the Church universal extended to the benefit of souls. O Jesus, author of our faith, humble and convert the enemies of Thy Church; grant true peace and concord to all Christian kings and princes and to all believers; strengthen and preserve us in Thy holy service, so that we may live in Thee and die in Thee. O Jesus, author of our faith, let me live for Thee and die for Thee. Amen.


4. Prayer to the Sorrowful Mother for the Church and the Pontiff

Most Holy Virgin and Mother, your soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the passion of your divine Son, and in His glorious resurrection, you were filled with unending joy in His triumph! Obtain for us who call upon you, to be such partakers in the adversities of holy Church and in the sorrows of the Sovereign Pontiff as to be found worthy to rejoice with them in the consolations for which we pray, in the charity and peace of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.


5. Prayer for the Authorities of the Church

We pray Thee, O Almighty and Eternal God,
who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations,
to preserve the works of Thy mercy;
that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world,
may continue, with unchanging faith,
in the confession of Thy name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy,
to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal,
and sanctity of life our chief bishop, N.,
the Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ in the government of His Church;
our own Bishop, (or Archbishop,) N.,
(if he is not consecrated, our Bishop-elect);
all other Bishops, Prelates, and Pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed
to exercise among us the functions of the holy ministry,
and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee, O God of might, wisdom, and justice,
through whom authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgments decreed, assist,
with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude,
the President of these United States,
that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
and be eminently useful to Thy people,
over whom he presides,
by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion;
by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy;
and by restraining vice and immorality.
Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress,
and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our role and government; so, that they may tend to the preservation of peace,
the promotion of national happiness,
the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge,
and may perpetuate to us the blessings of equal liberty.

We pray for his Excellency the Governor of this State,
for the members of the Assembly,
for all Judges, Magistrates, and other officers
who are appointed to guard our political welfare;
that they may be enabled,
by Thy powerful protection,
to discharge the duties of their respective stations
with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise to Thy unbounded mercy
all our brethren and fellow-citizens,
throughout the United States,
that they may be blessed in the knowledge,
and sanctified in the observance of most holy law;
that they may be preserved in union,
and in that peace which the world cannot give;
and, after enjoying the blessings of this life,
be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray Thee, O Lord of mercy,
to remember the souls of Thy servants departed
who are gone before us with the sign of faith,
and repose in the sleep of peace:
the souls of our parents, relations, and friends;
of those who, when living, were members of this congregation;
and particularly of such as are lately deceased;
of all benefactors who,by their donations or legacies to this Church,
witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship,
and proved their claim to our grateful
and charitable remembrance.
To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ,
grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment,
light, and everlasting peace,
through the same Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior.



6. Prayer to the Virgin: Remedy Against Evil Spirits

August Queen of Heaven, sovereign Mistress of the Angels, thou who from the beginning hast received from God the power and the mission to crush the head of Satan, we humbly beseech thee to send thy holy legions, that under thy command and by thy power they may pursue the evil spirits, encounter them on every side, resist their bold attacks, and drive them hence into eternal woe.

Who is like unto God?

O good and tender Mother, thou willest always to be our love and our hope.

O Mother of God, send thy holy Angels to defend us and drive far from us the cruel enemy.

Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and keep us. Amen.5


7. Traditional Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.6



Related Lists on SPL

  1. CCC § 522, fns. removed. []
  2. CCC § 834, citing, St. Maximus the Confessor, Opuscula theo.:PG 91:137-140. []
  3. CCC § 813; remember that in Latin the soul is the anima – it is that which animates; thus, the Holy Spirit, as the soul of the Church, animates the Church. []
  4. Composed by Archbishop Carroll in 1800; Prayers 1-5 are taken from Catholic Prayers. []
  5. “Indulgenced by St. Pius X on July 8, 1908. Original text from the prayer dictated by Our Lady to Father Cestac on January 13, 1864. It is recommended to learn it by heart.” Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. []
  6. EWTN Translation. []

Friendship in the Trinity: 4 Thoughts on Christian Friendship

“The union of Father and Son would be incomplete if their love did not beget a third entity, the Holy Spirit, which both proceeds from and returns the love of Father and Son.”

Listers, “There is nothing closer to the heart of a twenty year old,” states Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., “than that of friendship: how it is gained and how it is lost. If you do not understand this, you do not understand life.” [i] The ability to develop friendships is one of the greatest gifts of human nature. Friendship is close to all of our hearts and can dramatically impact our happiness and fulfillment. In order to better understand the nature of friendship and its impact upon us, we must develop a proper understanding of the human person. The study of friendship goes back to the ancient Greeks, particularly Aristotle, who recognized the importance of friendship in both our personal lives and in public affairs. Ultimately, the Greek view of friendship fell short without the Christian insight of sin and grace – and most of all – the understanding that the human person is created in God’s image and likeness. A Christian view of friendship, therefore, must explore God’s own essence, which is Triune and relational. This understanding is enhanced by the Incarnation of Christ, which radically transforms the classical view of friendship. Today, many factors threaten the development of healthy and authentic friendships. By recovering a Christian understanding of friendship, we can once again foster healthy friendships in our daily lives.


1. Imago Dei

In the Book of Genesis we read that, “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”[ii] Here the scriptures present us with an understanding of the human person that is modeled after the very likeness of God. Human beings, therefore, share in the essence of their Creator. This not only reveals to us our dignity as human persons, but also the mystery of our being. We are a reflection, or, a “mirror” of our Creator, as St. Augustine describes.[iii] Our entire being shares in a likeness of God, which means all that we experience – including friendship and love – must be modeled after our Creator.

Genesis offers another passage that speaks to human nature and our longing for friendship. In chapter two we read that, “The Lord God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.”[iv] God then proceeded to create “wild animals” and “all the birds of the air,” but “none proved to be a helper suited to the man.” Finally, God created woman, and it is only woman who satisfies man. It is only another human person who “suits” man’s loneliness. Woman fulfilled man in way that “all the birds of the air” could not. Adam, filled with joy, exclaimed, “this one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” How beautiful is this exclamation of Adam. In Eve he finds a part of himself, and he is able to form a deep bond with her.

Genesis shows us that even God recognizes that “it was not good for man to be alone.” Man is somehow insufficient or incomplete without friendship. As Sister Mary Ann Fatula, O.P. argues, life without friends would be “hellish.”[v] God also found that life would be unbearable without others present around us. Only when man and woman were created did God pronounce all of creation as “very good.” [vi] Friendship, then, is “very good” and completes the beauty of creation.


2. God as Trinity: Friendship within the Godhead

"Stained glass window from Leicester Cathedral presents the Doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity in a heraldic form." - Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.
“Stained glass window from Leicester Cathedral presents the Doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity in a heraldic form.” – Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.

It is now necessary to discuss the “image and likeness” of God by which the human person was created. Fr. Schall describes the investigation of God’s nature as, “the most exciting and basic of all topics, the one that really gets to the heart of things, of why things are and why things are as they are.” [vii] Joseph Ratzinger describes the Christian understanding of God as, “the Three-in-One, as he who is simultaneously the monas and the trias, absolute unity and fullness.” [viii] God is both one and plural. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: entirely one, yet three distinct Persons who exist in relation to one another. According to the Dionysian principle, the goodness which unites two beings will necessarily result in a further diffusion of goodness. The union of Father and Son would be incomplete if their love did not beget a third entity, the Holy Spirit, which both proceeds from and returns the love of Father and Son. Ultimately, the Trinity’s love diffuses outward toward all of creation.

God did not need to create. His creation is a sheer gift of love. Pope Benedict XVI reflects on the mystery of this gift, remaking that, “love knows no ‘why’; it is a free gift to which one responds with the gift of self.” [ix] This reality of self-gift and love is present within the Trinity and overflows into all of creation. The gift of marriage and the family, for example, beautifully participates within the self-gift and love of the Godhead. The life and nature of the Godhead not only overflows outside itself, but is also reflected in creation. We are truly “marked” by God through our friendships. Understanding the Triune friendship of God helps us to better understand the image in which we were created. As Fr. Schall writes:

 “The notion that we are persons related to others in our very being and knowing is itself a long-range result of our reflecting on what Father, Son, and Holy Spirit might mean, on Word and Love as expressions of our relatedness to others and to what is.” [x]

Through our friendships we are imitating the divine friendship that exists in the Godhead.


3. What is friendship?

David and Jonathan - St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Fr. Lawrence, OP, Flickr.
David and Jonathan – St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Fr. Lawrence, OP, Flickr.

Before proceeding further, it may be helpful to develop an understanding of the nature of friendship that we experience in our daily lives. Aristotle, wrote one of the earliest reflections of friendship in the fourth century B.C. Friendship was so important to him that he devoted two chapters in the Ethics to the topic, more so than any other subject in the book. Aristotle begins by distinguishing three different types of friendship. The first type is what he describes as friendships based on utility, where the friends involved derive some benefit or good from the other. The partners involved do not care for the good of the other, but rather, for their own benefit. Aristotle explains, “when the motive of friendship is usefulness, the partners do not feel affection for one another per se but in terms of the good accruing to each from the other.”[xi]

The second type of friendship is based on pleasure. Aristotle writes, “the same is true of those whose friendship is based on pleasure: we love people not for what they are, but for the pleasure they give us.”[xii] Aristotle believes that these two forms of friendship are problematic because “the friend is loved not because he is a friend, but because he is useful or pleasant.” [xiii] These two friendships occur incidentally, perhaps based on chance circumstances, like a neighbor or classmate. They are also short-lived because one’s pleasures and needs eventually change as time moves on.

The third type of friendship is what Aristotle calls the “truest” and most “virtuous” form. It is friendship based on goodness, where both friends will the good for the other and help each other strive for goodness and virtue. Aristotle notes that, “those who wish for their friend’s good for their friend’s own sake are friends in the truest sense.” [xiv] These friendships last far longer than the previous two types of friendship because the friends care deeply for one another and they are not based upon incidental occurrences. This view of friendship, as willing the good for the other, eventually becomes the basis of Catholic teaching on marriage, contraception, and love. Aristotle argues that good friendship also, “seems to hold states together, and lawgivers apparently devote more attention to it than to justice.” [xv] Friendship, according to Aristotle, is at the root of human relations and impacts humanity not only on a local level, but on a national level as well.

Aristotle’s reflections on friendship are important for several reasons. Firstly, his thoughts reveal that even in the ancient pre-Christian world friendship was still at the heart and center of human affairs. Friendship shows us that human nature abides over time and is truly universal. Aristotle also shows us the importance of friendship on both a local and global scale. Society truly could not function without friendship. In fact, Aristotle argues, the sign of a bad government is one that prevents human flourishing and virtuous friendships. Aristotle is helpful because he defines and distinguishes various types of friendship, but he ultimately falls short of the Christian view because he does not have a developed understanding of human love, sin, and grace. Aristotle, for example, did not believe that men and women could have “true” friendship because he believed they were not equal. He also was skeptical of the idea that we can have friendship with the divine, an idea St. Thomas Aquinas criticizes. It is here that Christianity and the Incarnation entirely transform the classical view of friendship as developed by Aristotle.


4. I Call You Friends

Human friendship is forever transformed through the Incarnation of Christ. Our entire life is now “enchanted” and blessed, because Christ has entered into it. He “dwelt” among us and experienced joys, sorrows, pains, laughter, and friendships. Everything we experience, then, is transformed into something divine because Christ has also shared in it. Nothing we experience is in vain. Friendship, however, takes on a new and more prominent role through the Incarnation. Through Christ, our friendships are no mere replicas of the divine life, but rather, an intimate communion in and with the life of God.

Additionally, Christ’s Incarnation makes it possible for man to enter into friendship with God. Since there is an “infinite inequality between God and us, we could never become equals with God,” which would make friendship with God impossible because “friendship means a certain equality between friends” who can “love us with reciprocal, mutual love.” [xvi] However, there is good news: God desires our friendship. Christ breaks through the barrier between God and man, firstly through his fleshly dwelling, but also through his deliberate desire to become our friends. Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped at,” and so he no longer calls us servants, but “but friends.” [xvii] Sister Fatula reflects on this reality, writing that:

In his own person Jesus shows us the infinite ache of the Triune God to be close to us… nothing could satisfy God’s longing to be near us, nothing except becoming flesh of our own flesh. In this radical kinship with us, we would know God’s heart in a way we could never have known otherwise. God’s becoming flesh for us has brought us the inconceivable gift of a more deeply familiar friendship with God. [xviii]

Aquinas also discovered that through Jesus, we obtain the Father’s intimate friendship with us in person, thus making our friendship with the divine possible. [xix]

Pope Benedict summarizes the gravity of this event, reflecting that, “[Jesus] calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way.” [xx] Through Christ’s Incarnation and friendship we enter into the very life of God. Similarly, our human friendships also share and participate in this divine life, not only because of their participation in Christ’s friendship and the life of the Trinity, but also because we are saved together in a community of believers. While we retain our individuality, we are saved as a “Church,” as Fr. Clark observes, a community of persons bound together in faith and friendship with one another and God. [xxi] Finally, St. Augustine notes in his Confessions after the loss of his dear friend, that because of death, only Christian friendships are eternal as they are redeemed in the glory of Christ’s resurrection. [xxii]



I will conclude this brief list on friendship with beautiful words of reflection from Pope Benedict XVI shortly before his resignation as pontiff: He states,

“‘No longer servants, but friends’: this saying contains within itself the entire program of [our] life. What is friendship? Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing. Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with God’s will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself.” [xxiii]

Pope Benedict helps us to summarize our reflections on friendship. Our desire for friendship stems from the very source of our creation: God. Through our being made in the image and likeness of God, we are a reflection the nature of the Godhead, which is relational. In Christ’s Incarnation, we not only reflect, but also participate in the very nature of God by becoming his friend and creating friendships with other human beings. It is in entering this friendship with God that we “become truly ourselves” as we are reunited with the very source of ourselves, which is the loving and all good God.


Louis Cona Profile

Louis Cona is an undergraduate at Georgetown University studying Government and Philosophy. He serves and coordinates the Traditional Latin Mass on campus and is an active member of the Georgetown Knights of Columbus.






[i] [i] Schall, James V. “A Final Gladness.” 7 December 2012. Georgetown University. Youtube.

[ii] Gen 1:26-27

[iii] Augustine, “On the Trinity,” XV.

[iv] Gen 2:18

[v] Fatual, “Thomas Aquinas: Preacher and Friend,” 36.

[vi] Genesis 1:31

[vii] Schall, “The Order of Things,” 35.

[viii] Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” 178.

[ix] Pope Benedict XVI, meeting with seminarians, 19 August 2005.

[x] Ibid, 37.

[xi] Aristotle, “Ethics”, 218. Publisher: Pearson. Translator: Martin Ostwald

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid, 219.

[xv] Ibid, 215.

[xvi] Fatual, “Thomas Aquinas: Preacher and Friend,” 61.

[xvii] Phil 2:16, John 15:15

[xviii] Fatula, 60-61.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Pope Benedict XVI, homily on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, 29 June 2011.

[xxi] Clark, “Five Great Catholic Ideas.”

[xxii] Augustine, “Confessions,” Bk IV, Chap IV-IX.

[xxiii] Pope Benedict XVI, homily on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, 29 June 2011.


On the Privilege of Being a Woman: 7 Quotes on True Femininity

When the time has come, nothing which is man made will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness.

Click to view it on Amazon.
Click to view it on Amazon.

Listers, what is true femininity? In her excellent short work entitled The Privilege of Being a Woman, Alice von Hildebrand deftly describes true femininity. In history, women have either been “denigrated as lower than men” or “viewed as privileged.” In Privileged, “Dr. Alice von Hildebrand characterizes the difference between such views as based on whether man’s vision is secularistic or steeped in the supernatural. She shows that feminism’s attempts to gain equality with men by imitation of men is unnatural, foolish, destructive, and self-defeating. The Blessed Mother’s role in the Incarnation points to the true privilege of being a woman. Both virginity and maternity meet in Mary who exhibits the feminine gifts of purity, receptivity to God’s word, and life-giving nurturance at their highest.”1

Alice von Hilderbrand is a Catholic philosopher and theologian, whose late husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand, was also a Catholic intellectual giant. Alice has written many works, including The Privilege of Being a WomanThe Soul of a Lion: The Life of Dietrich von Hildebrand, and an autobiography, Memoirs of a Happy Failure. Alice von Hildebrand is also a member of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.2


1. Like Men

“Unwittingly, the feminists acknowledge the superiority of the male sex by wishing to become like men.”


2. Immortal Creation

“One thing is certain: When the time has come, nothing which is man made will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness. In this light, the assertion of de Beauvoir that ‘women produce nothing’ becomes particularly ludicrous.”


3. Way to Holiness

“A woman’s way to holiness is clearly to purify her God-given sensitivity and to direct it into the proper channels.”


4. Harmony in the Saints

“These Saints, masterpieces of God’s grace, combine all great male virtues with female gentleness. Great female saints, while keeping the perfume of female gentleness, can show a strength and courage that sociology usually reserves to the male sex. It is typical of the supernatural that such apparently contradictory features can be harmoniously united.”


5. Feelings in the Noble Heart

“It is unwarranted to regard women as inferior because feelings play a central role in their lives. If the feelings vibrating in their hearts are noble, appropriate, good, legitimate, sanctioned, and pleasing to God, then they are precious jewels in God’s sight.”


6. Purity

“Deep down, society understands that women’s purity is a linchpin of any Christian society; nay, of any civilized society. When she betrays her mission, not only is God offended but in wounding herself spiritually she wounds the Church and society at large.”


7. Suffering

“Just as Christ has suffered the agonizing pains of the crucifixion in order to reopen for us the gates of heaven, so the woman has received the costly privilege of suffering so that another child made to God’s image and likeness can enter into the world.”


  1. Quote taken from Amazon book description. []
  2. Order of St. Gregory the Great – Wiki. []

10 Really Short Prayers to Say During the Day

In his epistle to the Catholics in Thessalonica, St. Paul encouraged them to be in a constant state of prayer. He wrote, ‘Always rejoice. Pray without ceasing…’ Over the melliena since he wrote thats he Church has developed many short prayers that can be said throughout the day.

Listers, in his epistle to the Catholics in Thessalonica, St. Paul encouraged them to be in a constant state of prayer. He wrote, “Always rejoice. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all. Extinguish not the spirit.”1 In her attempt to follow this mandate, Holy Mother Church has over the centuries developed thousands of prayers and devotions for the Faithful to use. Along with the two public prayers of the Church – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass & the Liturgy of the Hours – there are plenty of incredible short invocations that a Catholic can whisper under his or her breath throughout the day. Whether its right before you walk in to give a presentation and you whisper Come Holy Spirit, or right after that car narrowly misses you on the highway and with a sigh of relief you say Domine non sum dignus. The opportunity to pray throughout the day is ever-present, but often times we are not sure what to pray. The following list is a primer of the many short prayers Catholics can say throughout the day for a variety of occasions.2


1. Come Holy Spirit

0.63 seconds

Under the heading of Come Holy Spirit, the Catechism of the Catholic Church comments on this short invocation:

“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Every time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace. Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action.

If the Spirit should not be worshiped, how can he divinize me through Baptism? If he should be worshiped, should he not be the object of adoration?

The traditional form of petition to the Holy Spirit is to invoke the Father through Christ our Lord to give us the Consoler Spirit.23 Jesus insists on this petition to be made in his name at the very moment when he promises the gift of the Spirit of Truth.24 But the simplest and most direct prayer is also traditional, “Come, Holy Spirit,” and every liturgical tradition has developed it in antiphons and hymns.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Heavenly King, Consoler Spirit, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, treasure of all good and source of all life, come dwell in us, cleanse and save us, you who are All Good.

The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer. He is the artisan of the living tradition of prayer. To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all. It is in the communion of the Holy Spirit that Christian prayer is prayer in the Church.

Though Come Holy Spirit is woven throughout many Catholic prayers, one of the more popular uses is in the following invocation:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.

R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.3


2. Thy will be done.

0.76 seconds

The short prayer thy will be done invokes the prayer our Savior taught us – the Lord’s Prayer. Though saying the invocation softly under your breadth certainly calls to mind the entirely of the Lord’s Prayer, the specific line reads in full – thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.4


3. My God and my all.

1.03 seconds

Deus meus et omnia! The short invocation my God and my all has a long history in the Church and currently serves as a motto within the Franciscan Order. The origin of the phrase from a Franciscan perspective comes from a story about St. Francis staying up all night in prayer. The good saint, “lifting up his eyes and hands to heaven, and saying, with great devotion and fervor: ‘My God, my God’. And so saying and weeping continually, he abode even until morning, always repeating: ‘My God, my God,’ and nothing else.”5


4. Domine non sum dignus.

1.51 seconds

The Domine non sum dignus prayer – Lord, I am not worthy – is a longstanding acknowledgement of one’s unworthiness to receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. While that is certainly its most proper context, it can be used during the week as we ask for grace or experience some unexpected mercy.


5. O Heart of Jesus, all for Thee.

1.73 seconds

This short petition to the Heart of Jesus certainly shares similar characteristics to the prayers uttered in the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. While this specific line is not mentioned, any of the lines within the litany could also serve as short invocations. For example:

Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.

Many find the imagery surrounding the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be stunning and certainly something on which it is worthy to mediate. These short invocations – though part of a larger devotion – can be an excellent way to incorporate the Sacred Heart into your day. Praying Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us is another excellent short invocation.


6. O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

1.78 seconds

The short prayer is taken directly from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. The passage in pertinent part reads:

The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.6

The phrase is also incorporated into the Jesus PrayerLord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. While worthy of an entire independent conversation, the importance of the Jesus Prayer in Eastern Christianity is analogous to the prominence of the Hail Mary in the West. In Latin, this prayer reads – Domine Iesu Christe, Filius Dei, miserere me peccatorem.


7. Sit nomen Dómini benedíctum!

2.00 seconds

Blessed be the Name of the Lord! According to Fisheaters, “this prayer is a reparation for blasphemy. If one hears someone take the Name of the Lord in vain, it is good to say this prayer. The response to this prayer is “ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum!” (“from this time forth for evermore!”) or “per ómnia saecula saeculórum” (“unto ages of ages”).”7


8. All you holy men and women of God, pray for us.

2.18 seconds

Along with this invocation to all of the saints, any petition to any saint serves as an excellent short prayer. Which saint should you have pray for you? Each saint has a patronage over some area in life. St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron of academics and often prayed to by students and professors alike. St. Ambrose is a patron of students but also of bee keepers and domestic animals. St. Catherina of Siena is the patron against fire, miscarriages, and sexual temptation. Do not make the mistake the protestants do. Saints are not demigods over certain aspects of Creation. Imagine you struggle with alcoholism and you have a friend who did as well but has now been sober for over twenty years. Would you not go to him for prayer? His experience and virtue in this area seasons his prayers to God. He is intimately aware of the struggles you face. So too with the patronages of the saints. Their purview is predicated according to their experiences they had in life. A student does not pray to St. Thomas Aquinas, because the Angelic Doctor is the demigod of academics. He prays to him because his experience and virtue in academics lends him an excellent soul to join the student in prayer before God. Invoking the saints and particularly your personal patron saint throughout the day is an excellent practice.


9. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

2.80 seconds

Do not overlook this prayer. Like all commonly used prayers, it is in danger of becoming hackneyed. Invoking the Most Holy Trinity and making the sign of the cross is an excellent way to for a Catholic to bless themselves as they go about their day.


10. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

3.61 seconds

A wonderful prayer from the Roman Rituale included in both litanies and in prayers used while saying the Holy Rosary.



More on Prayer

  1. I Thess. 5:16-19, DR. []
  2. Timing of Prayers: The prayers are listed in order from shortest to longest, and the timing is certainly not scientific – unless you count sitting at a coffee shop with an iPhone timer scientific. []
  3. Latin: Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende. V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur. R. Et renovabis faciem terrae. Oremus. Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere; et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. []
  4. Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”) on the Lord’s Prayer. []
  5. Source: The Story of Deus meus et Omnia in the Franciscan Tradition. []
  6. Luke 18:11-13, DR. []
  7. Fisheaters – A handful of the prayers in this list were adopted from the longer list of short invocations listed on the traditional Catholic site Fisheaters. []

Lamentabili: The 65 Errors of the Modernists Condemned by the Church

Listers, “there is no road which leads so directly and so quickly to Modernism as pride.” Pope St. Pius X fought with all of his heart and soul to defend the Church against the heresy of modernism. One of the gifts he gave Holy Mother Church was the Syllabus of Errors entitled Lamentabili Sane Exitu. As the traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli explains: “In a warm July day in 1907… the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition (which would be renamed simply as Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1908) made public a list, a new Syllabus of errors against sane Catholic doctrine, by way of the Decree Lamentabili sane exitu, approved by Pope Saint Pius X. The heresy of Modernism was going to be successfully stopped and kept under control for several decades, and the glorious history of the Catholic Church during the first half of the 20th century would be built on the foundations of those papal measures of 1907: Lamentabili, the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (which would be published in September of that same year), and the motu proprio Præstantia Scripturæ Sacræ (November 18, 1907).”1 As an introduction to Pope St. Pius X’s fight against modernism, SPL has gathered together 12 memes that represent the best of his quotes in Restore All Things to Christ: 12 Memes on Pope St. Pius X with Explanations & Sources.

Following Rorate Caeli, SPL has included the headnotes of “one of the most well-known commentators of the Syllabus of Lamentabili, Monsignor Franz Heiner.” The good monsignor sets the sixty-five errors into seven distinct categories. The added headnotes are below in red. In addition, SPL has inserted a few footnotes where further context and reading may help more fully discern the modernist error.


Pius X
July 3, 1907

With truly lamentable results, our age, casting aside all restraint in its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human race. Thus it falls into very serious errors, which are even more serious when they concern sacred authority, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and the principal mysteries of Faith. The fact that many Catholic writers also go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church herself is extremely regrettable. In the name of higher knowledge and historical research (they say), they are looking for that progress of dogmas which is, in reality, nothing but the corruption of dogmas.

These errors are being daily spread among the faithful. Lest they captivate the faithful’s minds and corrupt the purity of their faith, His Holiness, Pius X, by Divine Providence, Pope, has decided that the chief errors should be noted and condemned by the Office of this Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition.

Therefore, after a very diligent investigation and consultation with the Reverend Consultors, the Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, the General Inquisitors in matters of faith and morals have judged the following propositions to be condemned and proscribed. In fact, by this general decree, they are condemned and proscribed.


I. Errors 1 to 8: Attacks to the Magisterium of the Church, to its authority, and to the obedience it is owed.

1. The ecclesiastical law which prescribes that books concerning the Divine Scriptures are subject to previous examination does not apply to critical scholars and students of scientific exegesis of the Old and New Testament.

2. The Church’s interpretation of the Sacred Books is by no means to be rejected; nevertheless, it is subject to the more accurate judgment and correction of the exegetes.

3. From the ecclesiastical judgments and censures passed against free and more scientific exegesis, one can conclude that the Faith the Church proposes contradicts history and that Catholic teaching cannot really be reconciled with the true origins of the Christian religion.

4. Even by dogmatic definitions the Church’s magisterium cannot determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.

5. Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human sciences.

6. The “Church learning” and the “Church teaching” collaborate in such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the “Church teaching” to sanction the opinions of the “Church learning.”

7. In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced.

8. They are free from all blame who treat lightly the condemnations passed by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by the Roman Congregations.


II. Errors 9 to 19: False exegetic propositions, opposed to the divine origin of Sacred Scripture.

9. They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures.

10. The inspiration of the books of the Old Testament consists in this: The Israelite writers handed down religious doctrines under a peculiar aspect which was either little or not at all known to the Gentiles.

11. Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.

12. If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the supernatural origin of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same as any other merely human document.

13. The Evangelists themselves, as well as the Christians of the second and third generation, artificially arranged the evangelical parables. In such a way they explained the scanty fruit of the preaching of Christ among the Jews.

14. In many narrations the Evangelists recorded, not so much things that are true, as things which, even though false, they judged to be more profitable for their readers.

15. Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the Gospels were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine of Christ.

16. The narrations of John are not properly history, but a mystical contemplation of the Gospel. The discourses contained in his Gospel are theological meditations, lacking historical truth concerning the mystery of salvation.

17. The fourth Gospel exaggerated miracles not only in order that the extraordinary might stand out but also in order that it might become more suitable for showing forth the work and glory of the Word lncarnate.

18. John claims for himself the quality of witness concerning Christ. In reality, however, he is only a distinguished witness of the Christian life, or of the life of Christ in the Church at the close of the first century.

19. Heterodox exegetes have expressed the true sense of the Scriptures more faithfully than Catholic exegetes.


III. Errors 20 to 26: False exegetic propositions, which falsify the origin and the intrinsic value of Divine Revelation.

20. Revelation could be nothing else than the consciousness man acquired of his revelation to God.

21. Revelation, constituting the object of the Catholic faith, was not completed with the Apostles.

22. The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths which have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort.

23. Opposition may, and actually does, exist between the facts narrated in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s dogmas which rest on them. Thus the critic may reject as false facts the Church holds as most certain.

24. The exegete who constructs premises from which it follows that dogmas are historically false or doubtful is not to be reproved as long as he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves .

25. The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities .

26. The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their practical sense; that is to say, as preceptive norms of conduct and not as norms of believing.

27. The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels. It is a dogma which the Christian conscience has derived from the notion of the Messias.


IV. Errors 27 to 38: Denials of the most important dogmas of Christianity, related to the Person of the Divine Redeemer, to his Divinity, to his supernatural knowledge, to the expiatory character of his sufferings, Passion, and Death, and to his bodily Resurrection.

28. While He was exercising His ministry, Jesus did not speak with the object of teaching He was the Messias, nor did His miracles tend to prove it.

29. It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far inferior to the Christ Who is the object of faith.

30 In all the evangelical texts the name “Son of God” is equivalent only to that of “Messias.” It does not in the least way signify that Christ is the true and natural Son of God.

31. The doctrine concerning Christ taught by Paul, John, and the Councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon is not that which Jesus taught but that which the Christian conscience conceived concerning Jesus.

32. It is impossible to reconcile the natural sense of the Gospel texts with the sense taught by our theologians concerning the conscience and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.2

33 Everyone who is not led by preconceived opinions can readily see that either Jesus professed an error concerning the immediate Messianic coming or the greater part of His doctrine as contained in the Gospels is destitute of authenticity.

34. The critics can ascribe to Christ a knowledge without limits only on a hypothesis which cannot be historically conceived and which is repugnant to the moral sense. That hypothesis is that Christ as man possessed the knowledge of God and yet was unwilling to communicate the knowledge of a great many things to His disciples and posterity.

35. Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.

36. The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other facts.

37. In the beginning, faith in the Resurrection of Christ was not so much in the fact itself of the Resurrection as in the immortal life of Christ with God.

38. The doctrine of the expiatory death of Christ is Pauline and not evangelical.


V. Errors 39 to 51: Denials of the institution of the means of salvation by Christ through his Church, particularly the Sacraments, and of their efficacy.

39. The opinions concerning the origin of the Sacraments which the Fathers of Trent held and which certainly influenced their dogmatic canons are very different from those which now rightly exist among historians who examine Christianity.

40. The Sacraments have their origin in the fact that the Apostles and their successors, swayed and moved by circumstances and events, interpreted some idea and intention of Christ.

41. The Sacraments are intended merely to recall to man’s mind the ever-beneficent presence of the Creator.

42. The Christian community imposed the necessity of Baptism, adopted it as a necessary rite, and added to it the obligation of the Christian profession.

43. The practice of administering Baptism to infants was a disciplinary evolution, which became one of the causes why the Sacrament was divided into two, namely, Baptism and Penance.

44. There is nothing to prove that the rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation was employed by the Apostles. The formal distinction of the two Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation does not pertain to the history of primitive Christianity.

45. Not everything which Paul narrates concerning the institution of the Eucharist (I Cor. 11:23-25) is to be taken historically.

46. In the primitive Church the concept of the Christian sinner reconciled by the authority of the Church did not exist. Only very slowly did the Church accustom herself to this concept. As a matter of fact, even after Penance was recognized as an institution of the Church, it was not called a Sacrament since it would be held as a disgraceful Sacrament.

47. The words of the Lord, “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23), in no way refer to the Sacrament of Penance, in spite of what it pleased the Fathers of Trent to say.

48. In his Epistle (Ch. 5:14-15) James did not intend to promulgate a Sacrament of Christ but only commend a pious custom. If in this custom he happens to distinguish a means of grace, it is not in that rigorous manner in which it was taken by the theologians who laid down the notion and number of the Sacraments.

49. When the Christian supper gradually assumed the nature of a liturgical action those who customarily presided over the supper acquired the sacerdotal character.

50. The elders who fulfilled the office of watching over the gatherings of the faithful were instituted by the Apostles as priests or bishops to provide for the necessary ordering of the increasing communities and not properly for the perpetuation of the Apostolic mission and power.

51. It is impossible that Matrimony could have become a Sacrament of the new law until later in the Church since it was necessary that a full theological explication of the doctrine of grace and the Sacraments should first take place before Matrimony should be held as a Sacrament.


VI. Errors 52 to 63: Attacks on the divine foundation of the Church, of her essential constitution, and activities.

52. It was far from the mind of Christ to found a Church as a society which would continue on earth for a long course of centuries. On the contrary, in the mind of Christ the kingdom of heaven together with the end of the world was about to come immediately.

53. The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution.

54. Dogmas, Sacraments and hierarchy, both their notion and reality, are only interpretations and evolutions of the Christian intelligence which have increased and perfected by an external series of additions the little germ latent in the Gospel.

55. Simon Peter never even suspected that Christ entrusted the primacy in the Church to him.3

56. The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not through the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political conditions.

57. The Church has shown that she is hostile to the progress of the natural and theological sciences.

58. Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved with him, in him, and through him.

59. Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement adapted or to be adapted to different times and places.

60. Christian Doctrine was originally Judaic. Through successive evolutions it became first Pauline, then Joannine, finally Hellenic and universal.4

61. It may be said without paradox that there is no chapter of Scripture, from the first of Genesis to the last of the Apocalypse, which contains a doctrine absolutely identical with that which the Church teaches on the same matter. For the same reason, therefore, no chapter of Scripture has the same sense for the critic and the theologian.

62. The chief articles of the Apostles’ Creed did not have the same sense for the Christians of the first ages as they have for the Christians of our time.

63. The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.


VII. Errors 64 and 65: Calls for the “reform” of the Church.

64. Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted.

65. Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism.

The following Thursday, the fourth day of the same month and year, all these matters were accurately reported to our Most Holy Lord, Pope Pius X. His Holiness approved and confirmed the decree of the Most Eminent Fathers and ordered that each and every one of the above-listed propositions be held by all as condemned and proscribed.


PETER PALOMBELLI, Notary of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition

Modernism is a most pernicious heresy, because it is not the corruption of a single orthodox belief; rather, modernism corrupts the believer’s mode of thinking, coloring everything a person believes with a heretical shade. Modernism has also been assumed into the general culture of modernity; thus, any individual born in the West is ingratiated into this heretical way of thinking – even from childhood. The worst part, however, is that since the Second Vatican Council, the Church – at least in the majority – has dropped her campaigns against modernism and has continued on as if it were a conquered thing of the past. In reality, modernism is probably the greatest threat to the Church and has claimed the majority of the faithful – not because they self-described as modernists, but because they are suffering from a disease no one has ever told them even exists. As Rorate Caeli states,  “It is painful to notice that so many of these errors (condemned by Saint Pius X under pain of excommunication, as he would expressly establish in the aforementioned motu proprio) persist to this day, and have become even dominant interpretations among ordinary Catholics, and especially among theologians, under the eyes of the successors of the Apostles: Kyrie eleison!”


Further Reading:

  1. Restore All Things to Christ: 12 Memes on Pope St. Pius X with Explanations & Sources
  2. 4 Steps to Understand the Crisis of Modernity
  1. Rorate Caeli: The Pascendi Centennial Year: 100 years of Lamentabili sane exitu. – All Rorate Caeli quotes are pulled from this article. []
  2. SPL Note: Errors #32-35 deal specifically with the identity of Christ and Christ’s own knowledge of that identity. For an example of an error, many held (and still hold) that Christ was not aware he was God or even aware he was the Messiah. His statements that would seem to import that he did know these realities were really Christ just speaking in faith. SPL’s HH Ambrose has written a detailed list walking the reader through St. Thomas Aquinas’ teachings on Christ’s knowledge. For example, in Scriptures, Christ as times seems to know everything, even what people are thinking, at other times, he seems to not know certain things only the Father knows, and finally, Scripture speaks of Christ “growing” in wisdom. How then do we properly speak of Christ’s knowledge as the Second Person of the Trinity with both a human and divine nature? See 8 Considerations on Whether Christ has Acquired, Infused, or Beatific Knowledge. []
  3. SPL Note: Regarding the papacy, SPL has submitted a 12 Step Biblical Guide to the Papacy & Infallibility. The list demonstrates that the Son of David, Christ the King, selecting a Vicar to watch over his Kingdom would have been an intelligible and arguably an expected move by a people, the Jews, who were expecting the return of the Davidic Kingdom. The concept of a Vicar of the Davidic Kingdom is deeply rooted in the Old Testament. []
  4. SPL Note: Unfortunately, this modernist error persists even today, and its pernicious character has led many astray. The premiere rebuke of this theory was submitted by Pope Benedict XVI in his (in)famous Regensburg Address. In short, His Holiness laid out three stages of “de-hellenization,” in which he showed the original Jewish and Greek culture that gave rise to the New Testament had been jettisoned by the West in three stages. Most important, the idea that there is a “pure” Hebrew faith apart from its historical context of a hellenized culture was a rallying cry for the Protestant Reformation – entire protestant heresies are predicated upon this modernist error. In fact, this modernist error is arguably one of the first errors and a foundation for many others. []

The Real Presence: 13 Memes on the Holy Eucharist

Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.

Listers, the Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of the following memes focus on the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, which is often referred to as the “Eucharistic Discourse.”1 It is the cornerstone passage on understanding how the faithful participate in Christ’s eternal sacrifice. Take time to read the passage and note how Christ continually pushes back against the crowd. When He claims to be the bread of life, the crowd murmurs against him. Christ responds with an even more bold statement and receives even more criticism. Finally, Christ claims:

Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.

For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.

After Christ commands his disciples must eat his flesh and drink his blood, a unique situation arises. Scripture notes, “After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.” Christ makes no attempt to pull these sheep back into the fold by clarifying to them that his statements were metaphorical; rather, he lets the literal interpretation – which would be scandalizing for any Jew of that time – stand. Second, even Christ’s chosen twelve are dumbfounded. Note the reaction of the leader of the disciples, St. Peter, when Christ asks them if they too will leave: “And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” It is their faith in Christ as the Son of God that anchors them to his side, despite the gravity and troubling nature of the discourse they just received.

In the end, the Eucharistic Discourse becomes one of the most important sections of Scripture. It should be a mainstay for all Catholics and a source of contemplation Catholics return to often. If you have not read it, please take the time to do so.2


14 Memes on the Holy Eucharist


Eucharist Adoration Meme


Eucharist Meme 8


Eucharist Meme 7


Eucharist Meme 4


Eucharist Meme 9


Eucharist Meme 1


Eucharist Meme 2


Eucharist Meme 6


Eucharist Meme 5




Eucharist Meme 14


Eucahrist Meme 15


Eucharsit Meme Cartoon

  1. Eucharistic Discourse: All Scripture citations are taken from the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible. While the entirety of John six is important for context, the Eucharistic Discourse is generally considered to be verses 31-71. []
  2. Eucharistic Discourse Sources: Catholic Answers has an article entitled, What Catholics Believe About John 6 and another entitled, Christ in the Eucharist. Both are helpful. The excellent blog Shameless Popery has a meticulous article explaining why Christ was being literal in John six. SPL has a basic but foundational list on the Eucharist entitled, 46 Basic Questions on the Holy Eucharist taken from the Baltimore Catechism. []

The Story of the Magi in 12 Works of Art

isters, the Three Magi are wrapped in mystery yet remain an indispensable part of the Nativity Narrative. The term magi has strong connections to a Persian religious caste that produced pagan priests for Medes.

Listers, the Three Magi are wrapped in mystery yet remain an indispensable part of the Nativity Narrative. The term magi has strong connections to a Persian religious caste that produced pagan priests for Medes. It is arguably the same caste from which the Zoroaster of  Zoroastrianism arose. The priestly caste held much clout amongst the people and watched the stars as part of their religious adherence. Mitigating the pagan connection of the term magi, the sojourners were also known as wise men. The Western Church has traditionally celebrated three wise men: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. In contrast, the Syrian Christian tradition recounts the three magi as Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas, while the Ethiopian, Armenian, and Chinese traditions all hold to different names. Furthermore, no patristic Father claims the magi were kings nor is there a general consensus on how many there were.1

Adoration of the Magi. Panel from a Roman sarcophagus, 4th century CE. From the cemetary of St. Agnes in Rome.
Adoration of the Magi. Panel from a Roman sarcophagus, 4th century CE. From the cemetary of St. Agnes in Rome.

While the Gospel narratives lack many details, they do highlight the faith of the three wise men. The Gospel of St. Matthew tells their story:

When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet:

And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.2

The following pieces of art recount the story of the magi and their importance in the Nativity Narrative.

Gothic Style: 13th-century French glass at Canterbury Cathedral with the full story of the Magi and typologically related scenes. Canterbury Cathedral, upper half of Poor man's Bible window.
Gothic Style: 13th-century French glass at Canterbury Cathedral with the full story of the Magi and typologically related scenes. Canterbury Cathedral, upper half of Poor man’s Bible window.

St. Andrew's Anglican Cathedral, Sydney. The Magi, one of a set of 27 windows illustrating the life of Jesus and his teachings as described in the Gospels. manufactured by John Hardman and Co. of Birmingham, about 1860.
St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral, Sydney. The Magi, one of a set of 27 windows illustrating the life of Jesus and his teachings as described in the Gospels. manufactured by John Hardman and Co. of Birmingham, about 1860.

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy: The Three Wise Men" (named Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar). Detail from: "Mary and Child, surrounded by angels", mosaic of a Ravennate italian-byzantine workshop, completed within 526 AD by the so-called "Master of Sant'Apollinare". credit Nina-no, wikipedia.
Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy: The Three Wise Men” (named Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar). Detail from: “Mary and Child, surrounded by angels”, mosaic of a Ravennate italian-byzantine workshop, completed within 526 AD by the so-called “Master of Sant’Apollinare”. credit Nina-no, wikipedia.

The Journey of the Magi, Stefano di Giovanni (1392–1450). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The Journey of the Magi, Stefano di Giovanni (1392–1450). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Journey of the Magi by James Tissot, 1894. Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
The Journey of the Magi by James Tissot, 1894. Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The three Magi before Herod, France, early 15th century. Stained glass: colored glass, grisaille; lead. Restored by F. Pivet, 1999.
The three Magi before Herod, France, early 15th century. Stained glass: colored glass, grisaille; lead. Restored by F. Pivet, 1999.

Albrecht Altdorfer, c. 1530, the Adoration of the Magi. Oil on panel.
Albrecht Altdorfer, c. 1530, the Adoration of the Magi. Oil on panel.

Early Renaissance: Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Early Renaissance: Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Mannerism. Jacopo Bassano, the Adoration of the Magi. 16th Century. National Gallery of Scotland.
Mannerism. Jacopo Bassano, the Adoration of the Magi. 16th Century. National Gallery of Scotland.

Adoration of the Magi, Rubens, 1634. Baroque and Rococo style. King's College Chapel, Cambridge.
Adoration of the Magi, Rubens, 1634. Baroque and Rococo style. King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.

Early Medieval Western: German illuminated manuscript with two scenes of the Magi, c. 1220.
Early Medieval Western: German illuminated manuscript with two scenes of the Magi, c. 1220.

Massacre of the Innocents

Following the departure of the magi, Herod committed what is now known as the Massacre of the Innocents. The Gospel of St. Matthew 2:16 states:

Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

SPL has catalogued the massacre in the list The Massacre of the Innocents in 10 Works of Art

"The Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem" by Matteo di Giovanni
“The Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem” by Matteo di Giovanni

  1. The Magi: For more information about the Magi see The Biblical Magi and the Catholic Encyclopedia article, The Magi. []
  2. St. Matthew 2:1-12, Douay-Rheims Version. []

Sanctifying & Actual Grace: 34 Questions on the Effects of Redemption

God gives to everyone He creates sufficient grace to save his soul; and if persons do not save their souls, it is because they have not used the grace given.

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism for teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and it simplifies even the most complex theological questions. All the lists taken from the Baltimore Catechism may be found here.


On the Effects of the Redemption


Q. 450. What is an effect?

A. An effect is that which is caused by something else, as smoke, for example, is an effect of fire.


Q. 451. What does redemption mean?

A. Redemption means the buying back of a thing that was given away or sold.


Q. 452. What did Adam give away by his sin, and what did Our Lord buy back for him and us?

A. By his sin Adam gave away all right to God’s promised gifts of grace in this world and of glory in the next, and Our Lord bought back the right that Adam threw away.


Q. 453. Which are the chief effects of the Redemption?

A. The chief effects of the Redemption are two: The satisfaction of God’s justice by Christ’s sufferings and death, and the gaining of grace for men.


Q. 454. Why do we say “chief effects”?

A. We say “chief effects” to show that these are the most important but not the only effects of the Redemption — for all the benefits of our holy religion and of its influence upon the world are the effects of the redemption.


Q. 455. Why did God’s justice require satisfaction?

A. God’s justice required satisfaction because it is infinite and demands reparation for every fault. Man in his state of sin could not make the necessary reparation, so Christ became man and made it for him.


Q. 456. What do you mean by grace?

A. By grace I mean a supernatural gift of God bestowed on us, through the merits of Jesus Christ, for our salvation.


Q. 457. What does “supernatural” mean?

A. Supernatural means above or greater than nature. All gifts such as health, learning or the comforts of life, that affect our happiness chiefly in this world, are called natural gifts, and all gifts such as blessings that affect our happiness chiefly in the next world are called supernatural or spiritual gifts.


Q. 458. What do you mean by “merit”?

A. Merit means the quality of deserving well or ill for our actions. In the question above it means a right to reward for good deeds done.


Q. 459. How many kinds of grace are there?

A. There are two kinds of grace, sanctifying grace and actual grace.


Q. 460. What is the difference between sanctifying grace and actual grace?

A. Sanctifying grace remains with us as long as we are not guilty of mortal sin; and hence, it is often called habitual grace; but actual grace comes to us only when we need its help in doing or avoiding an action, and it remains with us only while we are doing or avoiding the action.


Q. 461. What is sanctifying grace?

A. Sanctifying grace is that grace which makes the soul holy and pleasing to God.


Q. 462. What do you call those graces or gifts of God by which we believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him?

A. Those graces or gifts of God by which we believe in Him, and hope in Him, and love Him, are called the Divine virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.


Q. 463. What do you mean by virtue and vice?

A. Virtue is the habit of doing good, and vice is the habit of doing evil. An act, good or bad, does not form a habit; and hence, a virtue or a vice is the result of repeated acts of the same kind.


Q. 464. Does habit excuse us from the sins committed through it?

A. Habit does not excuse us from the sins committed through it, but rather makes us more guilty by showing how often we must have committed the sin to acquire the habit. If, however, we are seriously trying to overcome a bad habit, and through forgetfulness yield to it, the habit may sometimes excuse us from the sin.


Q. 465. What is Faith?

A. Faith is a Divine virtue by which we firmly believe the truths which God has revealed.


Q. 466. What is Hope?

A. Hope is a Divine virtue by which we firmly trust that God will give us eternal life and the means to obtain it.


Q. 467. What is Charity?

A. Charity is a Divine virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.


Q. 468. Why are Faith, Hope and Charity called virtues?

A. Faith, Hope and Charity are called virtues because they are not mere acts, but habits by which we always and in all things believe God, hope in Him, and love Him.


Q. 469. What kind of virtues are Faith, Hope and Charity?

A. Faith, Hope and Charity are called infused theological virtues to distinguish them from the four moral virtues — Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance.


Q. 470. Why do we say the three theological virtues are infused and the four moral virtues acquired?

A. We say the three theological virtues are infused; that is, poured into our souls, because they are strictly gifts of God and do not depend upon our efforts to obtain them, while the four moral virtues — Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance — though also gifts of God, may, as natural virtues, be acquired by our own efforts.


Q. 471. Why do we believe God, hope in Him, and love Him?

A. We believe God and hope in Him because He is infinitely true and cannot deceive us. We love Him because He is infinitely good and beautiful and worthy of all love.


Q. 472. What mortal sins are opposed to Faith?

A. Atheism, which is a denial of all revealed truths, and heresy, which is a denial of some revealed truths, and superstition, which is a misuse of religion, are opposed to Faith.


Q. 473. Who is our neighbor?

A. Every human being capable of salvation of every age, country, race or condition, especially if he needs our help, is our neighbor in the sense of the Catechism.


Q. 474. Why should we love our neighbor?

A. We should love our neighbor because he is a child of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and because he is our brother created to dwell in heaven with us.


Q. 475. What is actual grace?

A. Actual grace is that help of God which enlightens our mind and moves our will to shun evil and do good.


Q. 476. Is grace necessary to salvation?

A. Grace is necessary to salvation, because without grace we can do nothing to merit heaven.


Q. 477. Can we resist the grace of God?

A. We can, and unfortunately often do, resist the grace of God.


Q. 478. Is it a sin knowingly to resist the grace of God?

A. It is a sin, knowingly, to resist the grace of God, because we thereby insult Him and reject His gifts without which we cannot be saved.


Q. 479. Does God give His grace to every one?

A. God gives to everyone He creates sufficient grace to save his soul; and if persons do not save their souls, it is because they have not used the grace given.


Q. 480. What is the grace of perseverance?

A. The grace of perseverance is a particular gift of God which enables us to continue in the state of grace till death.


Q. 481. Can we merit the grace of final perseverance or know when we possess it?

A. We cannot merit the grace of final perseverance, or know when we possess it, because it depends entirely upon God’s mercy and not upon our actions. To imagine we possess it would lead us into the sin of presumption.


Q. 482. Can a person merit any supernatural reward for good deeds performed while he is in mortal sin?

A. A person cannot merit any supernatural reward for good deeds performed while he is in mortal sin; nevertheless, God rewards such good deeds by giving the grace of repentance; and, therefore, all persons, even those in mortal sin, should ever strive to do good.


Q. 483. Does God reward anything but our good works?

A. God rewards our good intention and desire to serve Him, even when our works are not successful. We should make this good intention often during the day, and especially in the morning.

49 Questions on the Sacrament of Confession

It is a grievous offense willfully to conceal a mortal sin in Confession, because we thereby tell a lie to the Holy Ghost, and make our Confession worthless.

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism for teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and it simplifies even the most complex theological questions. All the lists taken from the Baltimore Catechism may be found here.

Questions on the Catholic Faith


Baltimore Catechism No. 3 – Lesson 19



Q. 776. What is Confession?

A. Confession is the telling of our sins to a duly authorized priest, for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness.


Q. 777. Who is a duly authorized priest?

A. A duly authorized priest is one sent to hear confessions by the lawful bishop of the diocese in which we are at the time of our confession.


Q. 778. Is it ever allowed to write our sins and read them to the priest in the confessional or give them to him to read?

A. It is allowed, when necessary, to write our sins and read them to the priest, as persons do who have almost entirely lost their memory. It is also allowed to give the paper to the priest, as persons do who have lost the use of their speech. In such cases the paper must, after the confession, be carefully destroyed either by the priest or the penitent.


Q. 779. What is to be done when persons must make their confession and cannot find a priest who understands their language?

A. Persons who must make their confession and who cannot find a priest who understands their language, must confess as best they can by some signs, showing what sins they wish to confess and how they are sorry for them.


Q. 780. What sins are we bound to confess?

A. We are bound to confess all our mortal sins, but it is well also to confess our venial sins.


Q. 781. Why is it well to confess also the venial sins we remember?

A. It is well to confess also the venial sins we remember: 1.(1) Because it shows our hatred of all sin, and 2.(2) Because it is sometimes difficult to determine just when a sin is venial and when mortal.


Q. 782. What should one do who has only venial sins to confess?

A. One who has only venial sins to confess should tell also some sin already confessed in his past life for which he knows he is truly sorry; because it is not easy to be truly sorry for slight sins and imperfections, and yet we must be sorry for the sins confessed that our confession may be valid — hence we add some past sin for which we are truly sorry to those for which we may not be sufficiently sorry.


Q. 783. Should a person stay from confession because he thinks he has no sin to confess?

A. A person should not stay from confession because he thinks he has no sin to confess, for the Sacrament of Penance, besides forgiving sin, gives an increase of sanctifying grace, and of this we have always need, especially to resist temptation. The Saints, who were almost without imperfection, went to confession frequently.


Q. 784. Should a person go to Communion after confession even when the confessor does not bid him go?

A. A person should go to Communion after confession even when the confessor does not bid him go, because the confessor so intends unless he positively forbids his penitent to receive Communion. However, one who has not yet received his first Communion should not go to Communion after confession, even if the confessor by mistake should bid him go.


Q. 785. Which are the chief qualities of a good Confession?

A. The chief qualities of a good Confession are three: it must be humble, sincere, and entire.


Q. 786. When is our Confession humble?

A. Our Confession is humble when we accuse ourselves of our sins, with a deep sense of shame and sorrow for having offended God.


Q. 787. When is our Confession sincere?

A. Our Confession is sincere when we tell our sins honestly and truthfully, neither exaggerating nor excusing them.


Q. 788. Why is it wrong to accuse ourselves of sins we have not committed?

A. It is wrong to accuse ourselves of sins we have not committed, because, by our so doing, the priest cannot know the true state of our souls, as he must do before giving us absolution.


Q. 789. When is our Confession entire?

A. Our Confession is entire when we tell the number and kinds of our sins and the circumstances which change their nature.


Q. 790. What do you mean by the “kinds of sin?”

A. By the “kinds of sin,” we mean the particular division or class to which the sins belong; that is, whether they be sins of blasphemy, disobedience, anger, impurity, dishonesty, etc. We can determine the kind of sin by discovering the commandment or precept of the Church we have broken or the virtue against which we have acted.


Q. 791. What do we mean by “circumstances which change the nature of sins?”

A. By “circumstances which change the nature of sins” we mean anything that makes it another kind of sin. Thus to steal is a sin, but to steal from the Church makes our theft sacrilegious. Again, impure actions are sins, but a person must say whether they were committed alone or with others, with relatives or strangers, with persons married or single, etc., because these circumstances change them from one kind of impurity to another.


Q. 792. What should we do if we cannot remember the number of our sins?

A. If we cannot remember the number of our sins, we should tell the number as nearly as possible, and say how often we may have sinned in a day, a week, or a month, and how long the habit or practice has lasted.


Q. 793. Is our Confession worthy if, without our fault, we forget to confess a mortal sin?

A. If without our fault we forget to confess a mortal sin, our Confession is worthy, and the sin is forgiven; but it must be told in Confession if it again comes to our mind.


Q. 794. May a person who has forgotten to tell a mortal sin in confession go to Holy Communion before going again to confession?

A. A person who has forgotten to tell a mortal sin in confession may go to communion before again going to confession, because the forgotten sin was forgiven with those confessed, and the confession was good and worthy.


Q. 795. Is it a grievous offense willfully to conceal a mortal sin in Confession?

A. It is a grievous offense willfully to conceal a mortal sin in Confession, because we thereby tell a lie to the Holy Ghost, and make our Confession worthless.


Q. 796. How is concealing a sin telling a lie to the Holy Ghost?

A. Concealing a sin is telling a lie to the Holy Ghost, because he who conceals the sin declares in confession to God and the priest that he committed no sins but what he has confessed, while the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, saw him committing the sin he now conceals and still sees it in his soul while he denies it.


Q. 797. Why is it foolish to conceal sins in confession?

A. It is foolish to conceal sins in confession:

Because we thereby make our spiritual condition worse;
We must tell the sin sometime if we ever hope to be saved;
It will be made known on the day of judgment, before the world, whether we conceal it now or confess it.


Q. 798. What must he do who has willfully concealed a mortal sin in Confession?

A. He who has willfully concealed a mortal sin in Confession must not only confess it, but must also repeat all the sins he has committed since his last worthy Confession.


Q. 799. Must one who has willfully concealed a mortal sin in confession do more than repeat the sins committed since his last worthy confession?

A. One who has willfully concealed a mortal sin in confession must, besides repeating all the sins he has committed since his last worthy confession, tell also how often he has unworthily received absolution and Holy Communion during the same time.


Q. 800. Why does the priest give us a penance after Confession?

A. The priest gives us a penance after Confession, that we may satisfy God for the temporal punishment due to our sins.


Q. 801. Why should we have to satisfy for our sins if Christ has fully satisfied for them?

A. Christ has fully satisfied for our sins and after our baptism we were free from all guilt and had no satisfaction to make. But when we willfully sinned after baptism, it is but just that we should be obliged to make some satisfaction.


Q. 802. Is the slight penance the priest gives us sufficient to satisfy for all the sins confessed?

A. The slight penance the priest gives us is not sufficient to satisfy for all the sins confessed:

Because there is no real equality between the slight penance given and the punishment deserved for sin;
Because we are all obliged to do penance for sins committed, and this would not be necessary if the penance given in confession satisfied for all. The penance is given and accepted in confession chiefly to show our willingness to do penance and make amends for our sins.


Q. 803. Does not the Sacrament of Penance remit all punishment due to sin?

A. The Sacrament of Penance remits the eternal punishment due to sin, but it does not always remit the temporal punishment which God requires as satisfaction for our sins.


Q. 804. Why does God require a temporal punishment as a satisfaction for sin?

A. God requires a temporal punishment as a satisfaction for sin to teach us the great evil of sin and to prevent us from falling again.


Q. 805. Which are the chief means by which we satisfy God for the temporal punishment due to sin?

A. The chief means by which we satisfy God for the temporal punishment due to sin are: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving; all spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and the patient suffering of the ills of life.


Q. 806. What fasting has the greatest merit?

A. The fasting imposed by the Church on certain days of the year, and particularly during Lent, has the greatest merit.


Q. 807. What is Lent?

A. Lent is the forty days before Easter Sunday, during which we do penance, fast and pray to prepare ourselves for the resurrection of Our Lord; and also to remind us of His own fast of forty days before His Passion.


Q. 808. What do we mean by “almsgiving”?

A. By almsgiving we mean money, goods, or assistance given to the poor or to charitable purposes. The law of God requires all persons to give alms in proportion to their means.


Q. 809. What “ills of life” help to satisfy God for sin?

A. The ills of life that help to satisfy God for sin are sickness, poverty, misfortune, trial, affliction, etc., especially, when we have not brought them upon ourselves by sin.


Q. 810. How did the Christians in the first ages of the Church do Penance?

A. The Christians in the first ages of the Church did public penance, especially for the sins of which they were publicly known to be guilty. Penitents were excluded for a certain time from Mass or the Sacrament, and some were obliged to stand at the door of the Church begging the prayers of those who entered.


Q. 811. What were these severe Penances of the First Ages of the Church called?

A. These severe penances of the first ages of the Church were called canonical penances, because their kind and duration were regulated by the Canons or laws of the Church.


Q. 812. How can we know spiritual from corporal works of mercy?

A. We can know spiritual from corporal works of mercy, for whatever we do for the soul is a spiritual work, and whatever we do for the body is a corporal work.


Q. 813. Which are the chief spiritual works of mercy?

A. The chief spiritual works of mercy are seven: To admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead.


Q. 814. When are we bound to admonish the sinner?

A. We are bound to admonish the sinner when the following conditions are fulfilled:

When his fault is a mortal sin;
When we have authority or influence over him, and
When there is reason to believe that our warning will not make him worse instead of better.


Q. 815. Who are meant by the “ignorant” we are to instruct, and the “doubtful” we are to counsel?

A. By the ignorant we are to instruct and the doubtful we are to counsel, are meant those particularly who are ignorant of the truths of religion and those who are in doubt about matters of faith. We must aid such persons as far as we can to know and believe the truths necessary for salvation.


Q. 816. Why are we advised to bear wrong patiently and to forgive all injuries?

A. We are advised to bear wrongs patiently and to forgive all injuries, because, being Christians, we should imitate the example of Our Divine Lord, who endured wrongs patiently and who not only pardoned but prayed for those who injured Him.


Q. 817. If, then, it be a Christian virtue to forgive all injuries, why do Christians establish courts and prisons to punish wrongdoers?

A. Christians establish courts and prisons to punish wrongdoers, because the preservation of lawful authority, good order in society, the protection of others, and sometimes even the good of the guilty one himself, require that crimes be justly punished. As God Himself punishes crime and as lawful authority comes from Him, such authority has the right to punish, though individuals should forgive the injuries done to themselves personally.


Q. 818. Why is it a work of mercy to pray for the living and the dead?

A. It is a work of mercy to aid those who are unable to aid themselves. The living are exposed to temptations, and while in mortal sin they are deprived of the merit of their good works and need our prayers. The dead can in no way help themselves and depend on us for assistance.


Q. 819. Which are the chief corporal works of mercy?

A. The chief corporal works of mercy are seven: 1.To feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to ransom the captive, to harbor the harborless, to visit the sick, and to bury the dead.


Q. 820. How may we briefly state the corporal works of mercy?

A. We may briefly state the corporal works of mercy by saying that we are obliged to help the poor in all their forms of want.


Q. 821. How are Christians aided in the performance of works of mercy?

A. Christians are aided in the performance of works of mercy through the establishment of charitable institutions where religious communities of holy men or women perform these duties for us, provided we supply the necessary means by our almsgiving and good works.


Q. 822. Who are religious?

A. Religious are self-sacrificing men and women who, wishing to follow more closely the teachings of Our Lord, dedicate their lives to the service of God and religion. They live together in societies approved by the Church, under a rule and guidance of a superior. They keep the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and divide their time between prayer and good works. The houses in which they dwell are called convents or monasteries, and the societies in which they live are called religious orders, communities or congregations.


Q. 823. Are there any religious communities of priests?

A. There are many religious communities of priests, who, besides living according to the general laws of the Church, as all priests do, follow certain rules laid down for their community. Such priests are called the regular clergy, because living by rules to distinguish them from the secular clergy who live in their parishes under no special rule. The chief work of the regular clergy is to teach in colleges and give missions and retreats.


Q. 824. Why are there so many different religious communities?

A. There are many different religious communities:

Because all religious are not fitted for the same work, and
Because they desire to imitate Our Lord’s life on earth as perfectly as possible; and when each community takes one of Christ’s works and seeks to become perfect in it, the union of all their works continues as perfectly as we can the works He began upon earth.

Islam as a Christian Heresy: 8 Quotes from St. John Damascene A.D. 749

“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist.”

Listers in one of the earliest polemics against Islam, the “superstition of the Ishmaelites” was viewed as a heresy of Christianity. In his  work The Fount of Knowledge, St. John Damascene (c. 675 or 676 – 4 December 749) gifts the Church with one of the earliest summa theologicas. He is considered the last of the great Early Church Fathers and it would be difficult to exaggerate his influence on the Christian East. He is also esteemed in the Western Church as a forerunner to the scholastics and is considered by some as the first scholastic. St. John Damascene is best known for his fight against iconoclasm.1


The Fount of Knowledge is divided into three categories:

  1. “Philosophical Chapters” (Kephalaia philosophika) – “With the exception of the fifteen chapters that deal exclusively with logic, it has mostly to do with the ontology of Aristotle. It is largely a summary of the Categories of Aristotle with Porphyry’s “Isagoge” (Eisagoge eis tas kategorias). It seems to have been John Damascene’s purpose to give his readers only such philosophical knowledge as was necessary for understanding the subsequent parts of the “Fountain of Wisdom”.
  2. “Concerning Heresy” (Peri aipeseon) – “Little more than a copy of a similar work by Epiphanius, brought up to date by John Damascene. The author indeed expressly disclaims originality except in the chapters devoted to Islamism, Iconoclasm, and Aposchitae. To the list of eighty heresies that constitute the “Panarion” of Epiphanius, he added twenty heresies that had sprung up since his time. In treating of Islamism he vigorously assails the immoral practices of Mohammed and the corrupt teachings inserted in the Koran to legalize the delinquencies of the prophet.”
  3. “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” (Ikdosis akribes tes orthodoxou pisteos) – “The third book of the “Fountain of Wisdom”, is the most important of John Damascene’s writings and one of the most notable works of Christian antiquity. Its authority has always been great among the theologians of the East and West. Here, again, the author modestly disavows any claim of originality — any purpose to essay a new exposition of doctrinal truth. He assigns himself the less pretentious task of collecting in a single work the opinions of the ancient writers scattered through many volumes, and of systematizing and connecting them in a logical whole.2


In his passage on Concerning Heresies, his section on the superstition of the Ishmaelites is considerably longer than most. One reason for this attention could be his prolonged battles against iconoclasm, in which the influence of Islam was a significant factor. The following are selected sections from his passage on Islam.


Another depiction of Muhammad in hell for the sin of heresy. He is rendering his body as he rendered the Body of Christ. MS. Holkham misc. 48, p. 42, Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.
Another depiction of Muhammad in hell for the sin of heresy. He is rendering his body as he rendered the Body of Christ. MS. Holkham misc. 48, p. 42, Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.


1. Muhammed devised his own heresy

“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites… From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.”


2. Christ’s shadow was crucified

“He says that there is one God, creator of all things, who has neither been begotten nor has begotten. He says that the Christ is the Word of God and His Spirit, but a creature and a servant, and that He was begotten, without seed, of Mary the sister of Moses and Aaron. For, he says, the Word and God and the Spirit entered into Mary and she brought forth Jesus, who was a prophet and servant of God. And he says that the Jews wanted to crucify Him in violation of the law, and that they seized His shadow and crucified this. But the Christ Himself was not crucified, he says, nor did He die, for God out of His love for Him took Him to Himself into heaven.”


3. Christ denied saying, “I am the Son of God and God.”

“And he says this, that when the Christ had ascended into heaven God asked Him: ‘O Jesus, didst thou say: “I am the Son of God and God”?’ And Jesus, he says, answered: ‘Be merciful to me, Lord. Thou knowest that I did not say this and that I did not scorn to be thy servant. But sinful men have written that I made this statement, and they have lied about me and have fallen into error.’ And God answered and said to Him: ‘I know that thou didst not say this word.” There are many other extraordinary and quite ridiculous things in this book which he boasts was sent down to him from God.”


4. Where did Scripture foretell Muhammad?

“But when we ask: ‘And who is there to testify that God gave him the book? And which of the prophets foretold that such a prophet would rise up?’—they are at a loss. And we remark that Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, with God appearing in the sight of all the people in cloud, and fire, and darkness, and storm. And we say that all the Prophets from Moses on down foretold the coming of Christ and how Christ God (and incarnate Son of God) was to come and to be crucified and die and rise again, and how He was to be the judge of the living and dead. Then, when we say: ‘How is it that this prophet of yours did not come in the same way, with others bearing witness to him? And how is it that God did not in your presence present this man with the book to which you refer, even as He gave the Law to Moses, with the people looking on and the mountain smoking, so that you, too, might have certainty?’—they answer that God does as He pleases.”


5. Where are the witnesses?

“When we ask again: ‘How is it that when he enjoined us in this book of yours not to do anything or receive anything without witnesses, you did not ask him: “First do you show us by witnesses that you are a prophet and that you have come from God, and show us just what Scriptures there are that testify about you”’—they are ashamed and remain silent.”


6. What do the Muslims call Christians?

“Moreover, they call us Hetaeriasts, or Associators, because, they say, we introduce an associate with God by declaring Christ to the Son of God and God… And again we say to them: ‘As long as you say that Christ is the Word of God and Spirit, why do you accuse us of being Hetaeriasts? For the word, and the spirit, is inseparable from that in which it naturally has existence. Therefore, if the Word of God is in God, then it is obvious that He is God. If, however, He is outside of God, then, according to you, God is without word and without spirit. Consequently, by avoiding the introduction of an associate with God you have mutilated Him. It would be far better for you to say that He has an associate than to mutilate Him, as if you were dealing with a stone or a piece of wood or some other inanimate object. Thus, you speak untruly when you call us Hetaeriasts; we retort by calling you Mutilators of God.’”


7. On Women

“As has been related, this Mohammed wrote many ridiculous books, to each one of which he set a title. For example, there is the book On Woman, in which he plainly makes legal provision for taking four wives and, if it be possible, a thousand concubines—as many as one can maintain, besides the four wives. He also made it legal to put away whichever wife one might wish, and, should one so wish, to take to oneself another in the same way. Mohammed had a friend named Zeid. This man had a beautiful wife with whom Mohammed fell in love. Once, when they were sitting together, Mohammed said: ‘Oh, by the way, God has commanded me to take your wife.’ The other answered: ‘You are an apostle. Do as God has told you and take my wife.’


As shown by the artwork above, the Middle Ages also viewed Islam has a heresy. In Dante’s Inferno, Canto XXVIII, Muhammad is depicted as “twixt the legs, Dangling his entrails hung, the midriff lay Open to view…” Muhammad suffers the punishment of the schismatics: having his body rent from chin to anus for how he rent the Body of Christ. The great Catholic thinker Hilarie Belloc (1870-1953) is also known for his treatise on Islam as The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed.

  1. Fount of Knowledge: A digital download of Catholic University of America’s translation is available (here) and an except may be viewed online (here). Furthermore, a larger excerpt on Islam from Fount of Knowledge may be read on an Orthodox website (here). Another translation is available in its entirety online, but SPL is unfamiliar with the translation (here). []
  2. St. John Damascene Information: Biographical information and the structure of the Fountain of Wisdom is adapted from the Catholic Encyclopedia article. []

We are an Easter People: 15 Questions on the Resurrection and Ascension

The Resurrection is the greatest of Christ’s miracles because all He taught and did is confirmed by it and depends upon it. He promised to rise from the dead and without the fulfillment of that promise we could not believe in Him.

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism for teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and it simplifies even the most complex theological questions. All the lists taken from the Baltimore Catechism may be found here.

Questions on the Catholic Faith


Q. 405. On what day did Christ rise from the dead?

A. Christ rose from the dead, glorious and immortal, on Easter Sunday, the third day after His death.


Q. 406. Why is the Resurrection the greatest of Christ’s miracles?

A. The Resurrection is the greatest of Christ’s miracles because all He taught and did is confirmed by it and depends upon it. He promised to rise from the dead and without the fulfillment of that promise we could not believe in Him.


Q. 407. Has any one ever tried to disprove the miracle of the resurrection?

A. Unbelievers in Christ have tried to disprove the miracle of the resurrection as they have tried to disprove all His other miracles; but the explanations they give to prove Christ’s miracles false are far more unlikely and harder to believe than the miracles themselves.


Q. 408. What do we mean when we say Christ rose “glorious” from the dead?

A. When we say Christ rose “glorious” from the dead we mean that His body was in a glorified state; that is, gifted with the qualities of a glorified body.


Q. 409. What are the qualities of a glorified body?

A. The qualities of a glorified body are:
1. Brilliancy, by which it gives forth light;
2. Agility, by which it moves from place to place as rapidly as an angel;
3. Subtility, by which material things cannot shut it out;
4. Impassibility, by which it is made incapable of suffering.


Q. 410. Was Christ three full days in the tomb?

A. Christ was not three full days, but only parts of three days in the tomb.


Q. 411. How long did Christ stay on earth after His resurrection?

A. Christ stayed on earth forty days after His resurrection, to show that He was truly risen from the dead, and to instruct His apostles.


Q. 412. Was Christ visible to all and at all times during the forty days He remained on earth after His resurrection?

A. Christ was not visible to all nor at all times during the forty days He remained on earth after His resurrection. We know that He appeared to His apostles and others at least nine times, though He may have appeared oftener.


Q. 413. How did Christ show that He was truly risen from the dead?

A. Christ showed that He was truly risen from the dead by eating and conversing with His Apostles and others to whom He appeared. He showed the wounds in His hands, feet and side, and it was after His resurrection that He gave to His Apostles the power to forgive sins.


Q. 414. After Christ had remained forty days on earth, whither did He go?

A. After forty days Christ ascended into heaven, and the day on which be ascended into heaven is called Ascension Day.


Q. 415. Where did the ascension of Our Lord take place?

A. Christ ascended into heaven from Mount Olivet, the place made sacred by His agony on the night before His death.


Q. 416. Who were present at the ascension and who ascended with Christ?

A. From various parts of Scripture we may conclude there were about 125 persons — though traditions tell us there was a greater number — present at the Ascension. They were the Apostles, the Disciples, the pious women and others who had followed Our Blessed Lord. The souls of the just who were waiting in Limbo for the redemption ascended with Christ.


Q. 417. Why is the paschal candle which is lighted on Easter morning extinguished at the Mass on Ascension Day?

A. The paschal candle which is lighted on Easter morning signifies Christ’s visible presence on earth, and it is extinguished on Ascension Day to show that He, having fulfilled all the prophecies concerning Himself and having accomplished the work of redemption, has transferred the visible care of His Church to His Apostles and returned in His body to heaven.


Q. 418. Where is Christ in heaven?

A. In heaven Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.


Q. 419. What do you mean by saying that Christ sits at the right hand of God?

A. When I say that Christ sits at the right hand of God I mean that Christ as God is equal to His Father in all things, and that as man He is in the highest place in heaven next to God.

36 of the Most Necessary Questions on Our Lord’s Passion and Death

“We call that day good on which Christ died because by His death He showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing.”

Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism for teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and it simplifies even the most complex theological questions. All the lists taken from the Baltimore Catechism may be found here.

The Passion of Our Lord





Part A: 369-404

Q. 369. What do we mean by Our Lord’s Passion?

A. By Our Lord’s Passion we mean His dreadful sufferings from His agony in the garden till the moment of His death.


Q. 370. What did Jesus Christ suffer?

A. Jesus Christ suffered a bloody sweat, a cruel scourging, was crowned with thorns, and was crucified.


Q. 371. When did Our Lord suffer the “bloody sweat”?

A. Our Lord suffered the “bloody sweat” while drops of blood came forth from every pore of His body, during His agony in the Garden of Olives, near Jerusalem, where He went to pray on the night His Passion began.


Q. 372. Who accompanied Our Lord to the Garden of Olives on the night of His Agony?

A. The Apostles Peter, James and John, the same who had witnessed His transfiguration on the mount, accompanied Our Lord to the Garden of Olives, to watch and pray with Him on the night of His agony.


Q. 373. What do we mean by the transfiguration of Our Lord?

A. By the transfiguration of Our Lord we mean the supernatural change in His appearance when He showed Himself to His Apostles in great glory and brilliancy in which “His face did shine as the sun and His garments became white as snow.”


Q. 374. Who were present at the transfiguration?

A. There were present at the transfiguration — besides the Apostles Peter, James and John, who witnessed it — the two great and holy men of the Old Law, Moses and Elias, talking with Our Lord.


Q. 375. What caused Our Lord’s agony in the garden?

A. It is believed Our Lord’s agony in the garden was caused:
By his clear knowledge of all He was soon to endure;
By the sight of the many offenses committed against His Father by the sins of the whole world;
By His knowledge of men’s ingratitude for the blessings of redemption.


Q. 376. Why was Christ cruelly scourged?

A. Christ was cruelly scourged by Pilate’s orders, that the sight of His bleeding body might move His enemies to spare His life.


Q. 377. Why was Christ crowned with thorns?

A. Christ was crowned with thorns in mockery because He had said He was a King.


Q. 378. Could Christ, if He pleased, have escaped the tortures of His Passion?

A. Christ could, if He pleased, have escaped the tortures of His Passion, because He foresaw them and had it in His power to overcome His enemies.


Q. 379. Was it necessary for Christ to suffer so much in order to redeem us?

A. It was not necessary for Christ to suffer so much in order to redeem us, for the least of His sufferings was more than sufficient to atone for all the sins of mankind. By suffering so much He showed His great love for us.


Q. 380. Who betrayed Our Lord?

A. Judas, one of His Apostles, betrayed Our Lord, and from His sin we may learn that even the good may become very wicked by the abuse of their free will.


Q. 381. How was Christ condemned to death?

A. Through the influence of those who hated Him, Christ was condemned to death, after an unjust trial, at which false witnesses were induced to testify against Him.


Q. 382. On what day did Christ die?

A. Christ died on Good Friday.


Q. 383. Why do you call that day “good” on which Christ died so sorrowful a death?

A. We call that day good on which Christ died because by His death He showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing.


Q. 384. How long was Our Lord hanging on the cross before He died?

A. Our Lord was hanging on the Cross about three hours before He died. While thus suffering, His enemies stood around blaspheming and mocking Him. By His death He proved Himself a real mortal man, for He could not die in His divine nature.


Q. 385. What do we call the words Christ spoke while hanging on the Cross?

A. We call the words Christ spoke while hanging on the Cross “the seven last words of Jesus on the Cross.” They teach us the dispositions we should have at the hour of death.


Q. 386. Repeat the seven last words or sayings of Jesus on the Cross.

A. The seven last words or sayings of Jesus on the Cross are:

1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” in which He forgives and prays for His enemies.
2. “Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise,” in which He pardons the penitent sinner.
3. “Woman, behold thy Son” — “Behold thy Mother,” in which He gave up what was dearest to Him on earth, and gave us Mary for our Mother.
4. “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” from which we learn the suffering of His mind.
5. “I thirst,” from which we learn the suffering of His body.
6. “All is consummated,” by which He showed the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning Him and the completion of the work of our redemption.
7. “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” by which He showed His perfect resignation to the Will of His Eternal Father.


Q. 387. What happened at the death of Our Lord?

A. At the death of Our Lord there were darkness and earthquake; many holy dead came forth from their graves, and the veil concealing the Holy of Holies, in the Temple of Jerusalem, was torn asunder.


Q. 388. What was the Holy of Holies in the temple?

A. The Holy of Holies was the sacred part of the Temple, in which the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and where the high priest consulted the Will of God.


Q. 389. What was the “Ark of the Covenant”?

A. The Ark of the Covenant was a precious box in which were kept the tablets of stone bearing the written Commandments of God, the rod which Aaron changed into a serpent before King Pharaoh, and a portion of the manna with which the Israelites were miraculously fed in the desert. The Ark of the Covenant was a figure of the Tabernacle in which we keep the Holy Eucharist.


Q. 390. Why was the veil of the Temple torn asunder at the death of Christ?

A. The veil of the Temple was torn asunder at the death of Christ because at His death the Jewish religion ceased to be the true religion, and God no longer manifested His presence in the Temple.


Q. 391. Why did the Jewish religion, which up to the death of Christ had been the true religion, cease at that time to be the true religion?

A. The Jewish religion, which, up to the death of Christ, had been the true religion, ceased at that time to be the true religion, because it was only a promise of the redemption and figure of the Christian religion, and when the redemption was accomplished and the Christian religion established by the death of Christ, the promise and the figure were no longer necessary.


Q. 392. Were all the laws of the Jewish religion abolished by the establishment of Christianity?

A. The moral laws of the Jewish religion were not abolished by the establishment of Christianity, for Christ came not to destroy these laws, but to make them more perfect. Its ceremonial laws were abolished when the Temple of Jerusalem ceased to be the House of God.


Q. 393. What do we mean by moral and ceremonial laws?

A. By “moral” laws we mean laws regarding good and evil. By “ceremonial” laws we mean laws regulating the manner of worshipping God in Temple or Church.


Q. 394. Where did Christ die?

A. Christ died on Mount Calvary.


Q. 395. Where was Mount Calvary, and what does the name signify?

A. Mount Calvary was the place of execution, not far from Jerusalem; and the name signifies the “place of skulls.”


Q. 396. How did Christ die?

A. Christ was nailed to the Cross, and died on it between two thieves.


Q. 397. Why was Our Lord crucified between thieves?

A. Our Lord was crucified between thieves that His enemies might thus add to His disgrace by making Him equal to the worst criminals.


Q. 398. Why did Christ suffer and die?

A. Christ suffered and died for our sins.


Q. 399. How was Our Lord’s body buried?

A. Our Lord’s body was wrapped in a clean linen cloth and laid in a new sepulchre or tomb cut in a rock, by Joseph of Arimathea and other pious persons who believed in Our Divine Lord.


Q. 400. What lessons do we learn from the sufferings and death of Christ?

A. From the sufferings and death of Christ we learn the great evil of sin, the hatred God bears to it, and the necessity of satisfying for it.


Q. 401. Whither did Christ’s soul go after His death?

A. After Christ’s death His soul descended into hell.


Q. 402. Did Christ’s soul descend into the hell of the damned?

A. The hell into which Christ’s soul descended was not the hell of the dammed, but a place or state of rest called Limbo, where the souls of the just were waiting for Him.


Q. 403. Why did Christ descend into Limbo?

A. Christ descended into Limbo to preach to the souls who were in prison — that is, to announce to them the joyful tidings of their redemption.


Q. 404. Where was Christ’s body while His soul was in Limbo?

A. While Christ’s soul was in Limbo His body was in the holy sepulchre.

The Agony of the Cross: 2 Thoughts on How Christ Can Suffer Grief and Have Beatific Knowledge

How can Christ call out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” if he has the grace of Beatific Knowledge?

Listers, St. Thomas Aquinas asks the question, “Whether Christ’s entire soul enjoyed blessed fruition during the Passion?” In other words, how can Christ call out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” if he has the grace of Beatific Knowledge? St. Thomas’ article is presented in part.


1. The Problem

In Summa Theologica III.46.8, Aquinas reiterates a common concern regarding Christ’s suffering on the Cross and his Beatific Knowledge:

It would seem that Christ’s entire soul did not enjoy blessed fruition during the Passion. For it is not possible to be sad and glad at the one time, since sadness and gladness are contraries. But Christ’s whole soul suffered grief during the Passion, as was stated above (Article 7). Therefore His whole soul could not enjoy fruition.

Beatific Knowledge comes from one experiencing the Beatific Vision. The beatific vision, the vision of the blessed, or the “science of vision” are all univocal terms that refer to the knowledge of one who has seen God in his essence. St. John refers to the beatific vision when he says that the faithful departed will see God “as he is.” Turning to the biblical tradition within St. John’s Gospel, Christ’s relationship with the Father appears to be in a beatific manner. Christ says, “not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father,” and furthermore, he states “but you have not known [the Father]; I know him.” Moreover, St. John records, “he who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard.” These passages seem to “put it beyond doubt that the revelatory power of Christ originated not in a revelation made to him nor in his faith, but in the direct knowledge he has of the Father.”1 As articulated in the question, if Christ’s soul had seen God and did indeed have the Beatific Vision, then the fruition of that comprehension would have filled Christ’s soul with immense gladness; however, since Christ suffered grief and cried out in abandonment on the Cross, Christ must not have had Beatific Knowledge.


2. The Answer

Aquinas disagrees with this argument. He answers:

The joy of fruition is not opposed directly to the grief of the Passion, because they have not the same object. Now nothing prevents contraries from being in the same subject, but not according to the same. And so the joy of fruition can appertain to the higher part of reason by its proper act; but grief of the Passion according to the subject. Grief of the Passion belongs to the essence of the soul by reason of the body, whose form the soul is; whereas the joy of fruition (belongs to the soul) by reason of the faculty in which it is subjected.

Can contraries be in the same subject? Aquinas believes so, because he believes that though the higher powers of the soul can have fruition or be glad, the lower powers may suffer. An excellent example of these “contraries” is a mother giving birth. The mother can rejoice in the childbirth, but that does not thwart the lower faculties of the soul from suffering. The higher power of the intellect may be glad that she is giving birth to her child, but that does not stop the lower powers of the senses from suffering. In the midst of joy, there can come a scream of pain. Many who advocate Christ did not have Beatific Knowledge do so on the grounds that if Christ had that fruition of seeing God he would be unable to experience many of the emotions we see him display in the Gospels. In other words, his soul would be so overflowing with the grace of seeing God in his essence he could not be sorrowful or grieve. Christ’s humanity would seem strikingly inhuman as he played out his earthly life.

As in his treatment on the knowledge of Christ, Aquinas tends to “de-mythologize” the idea of Christ having Beatific Knowledge. What then is Christ’s comprehension of the Divine Essence? St. Thomas posits that the soul of Christ could not fully comprehend the Divine Essence. In holding to Christ as one person with two distinct natures, Christ’s soul would have limitations proper to a created soul. As St. Thomas avers, “it is impossible for any creature to comprehend the Divine Essence,” because “the infinite is not comprehended by the finite.”2 Returning to the childbirth example, one of the characteristics of a created rational soul would be that the higher faculties could comprehend a situation and even rejoice in it, while the lower faculties suffered through it. Similarly, Christ’s higher faculties would enjoy the Beatific Knowledge, while the lower faculties suffered. Like the mother crying out, Christ’s cry of abandonment does not negate his Beatific Knowledge.

  1. Did Christ have Beatific Knowledge? – the commentary on whether or not Christ had Beatific Knowledge comes from the SPL list 8 Considerations on Whether Christ had Acquired, Infused, or Beatific Knowledge. []
  2. Knowledge of Christ: For a detailed account of the knowledge of Christ see 8 Considerations on Whether Christ had Acquired, Infused, or Beatific Knowledge. []

8 Considerations on Whether Christ had Acquired, Infused, or Beatific Knowledge

The knowledge of God’s essence, the infused intelligible species, and the acquired phantasms all flow harmoniously within the knowledge of Christ. The efficient cause of humanity’s perfection maintains his human perfection.

A Word of Caution
In his epistle to I Corinthians, St. Paul writes, “I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh.” The following Thomistic contemplation on the knowledge of Christ is meat. SPL has written extensively on St. Thomas Aquinas and the majority of our lists are written in such a way that any Catholic may pick them up and glean some wisdom from our Common Doctor. The following consideration on Christ’s knowledge is a deeply scholastic reflection that presupposes a good deal of familiarity with Aquinas. Those wanting a quality introduction to the Angelic Doctor can reference Pope Benedict XVI Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas or see our introduction to the distinction between knowledge and wisdom or read our primer on the Queen of the Sciences. That said, we begin what is really in itself a primer on the subject of Christ’s knowledge.



The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) infallibly declared that Christ was one person with two distinct natures: a human nature and a divine nature. The Tome of Pope Leo – a letter articulating Pope Leo’s position on Christology – was read at the Council. The pontiff states, “therefore in the entire and perfect nature of very man was born very God, whole in what was his, whole in what was ours.”[1] Furthermore, predicated upon the dogma of the two natures of Christ, the Third Council of Constantinople (A.D. 680) confessed, “two natural wills in Him and two natural operations.”[2] The implicit import of affirming two natural operations within Christ is that “there are in Christ two modes of knowledge, one divine (common to the three Persons of the Trinity) and the other human, in Christ’s human intellect.”[3] Without a genuine human operation and mode of knowledge, Christ’s rational soul would be ineffectual. Moreover, Christ’s role as Savior appears to necessitate true human knowledge insofar as that knowledge “is the basis for his free human decisions and consequently of his capacity to merit salvation for us.”[4] However, the divine nature in Christ necessitates a divine knowledge, which would seem to intimate that Christ held the Beatific Vision. Returning to the Tome of Pope Leo, the pontiff submits what has now been entitled the Communication of Properties or Idioms. He states, “each of the natures retains its proper character without defect; and as the form of God does not take away the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not impair the form of God.”[5] The words of Pope Leo have become the Christological standard in understanding the properties of Christ. It stands then that the knowledge of Christ presents the theologian with a particular dilemma: how can Christ have true human knowledge and possess the Beatific Vision? Likewise, how can one person be both acquiring knowledge in a genuine human mode and truly possess the perfection of human knowledge in the Beatific Vision? Can Christ be simultaneously moving toward an end and in possession of the end? In navigating the question of Christ’s knowledge, the Catholic intellectual tradition has posited three modes of knowledge: acquired, infused, and beatific. Turning more particularly to the Thomistic tradition, in following the standard of Pope Leo, St. Thomas strives to show how Christ held all three forms of knowledge without imposing a defect on the human or divine nature.


1. On Acquired Knowledge

Acquired knowledge is knowledge which “a man comes to know through his own efforts.”[6] It is the natural epistemic method of human persons. In Disputed Questions on Power, St. Thomas examines in detail the mode of acquiring knowledge. He states at first there is the “thing which is understood” or rather the intelligible object.[7] Secondly, there is the “intelligible species, by which the intellect comes to be in act.”[8] The intelligible species is the form of the thing extracted from the object, “by which the intellect comes to be in act,” and is “considered as a principle of the action of the intellect.”[9] It is the “first act,” that leads to the “second act” of actually comprehending the object. The intelligible species is impressed into the mind as first act, thus the intelligible species “comes to be in act through some form” – the form extracted from the object – “which must be the principle of the action.”[10] The “second act” is that which finds its end, its term in forming a concept. The “conception of the intellect” – which is never the object itself, but always in the mind – is the conceptual form from the understanding of the object.[11] As St. Thomas explains, “the conception of the intellect is ordered to the thing understood as to an end: for the intellect forms in itself a concept of the thing that it might know the thing understood.”[12] The conception of the intellect may be seen clearly in the distinction of the interior word and the exterior word. St. Thomas states, “The conception of the intellect in us is properly called a ‘word’ for this is what is signified by an exterior word.”[13] In human speech, a word does not “signify the intellect itself” nor does it signify the “intelligible species,” but the spoken word signifies the interior or inner word – that is the conception of the intellect, “by mediation of which it is referred to the thing [the original intelligible object].”[14]

For the sake of clarity, it may advisable for us to place St. Thomas’ cognitional theory within a basic example. A person sees the tree and the intelligible species of the tree is impressed on their mind. St. Thomas considers this the first act. The second act is the person’s intellect understanding the intelligible species of the tree. The understanding of the intelligible species forms a concept of the tree in the intellect, which is the term or end of the second act. The individual then has an “inner word” of the tree, which then can be spoken as the “exterior word.” The spoken word or exterior word then mediates the understanding of the individual’s conception of the original tree to the other individual.


2. Agent & Possible Intellect

The Angelic Doctor’s cognitional theory brings to the surface two modes of the intellect: the agent or active intellect and the possible or passive intellect. In examining the rational soul of men, St. Thomas observes the soul “is in potentiality to knowing intelligible things,” and “it is like a tablet on which nothing is written.”[15] However, the human intellect is capable of learning and thus the possible intellect is the potency to understand. The agent or active intellect is then operation by which the possible intellect is moved to act. As St. Thomas avers, “the proper operation of the active intellect is to make intelligible species in act.”[16] Abstracting intelligible species, the agent intellect reduces the possible intellect into act, by what it sees in the phantasm or intelligible material object.[17] The extracted intelligible species from the phantasm becomes a habit informing the intellect. The habit is formed because the agent intellect also reduces the understanding into the concept and that concept is habitually called upon for understanding.


3. Whether there is Beatific Knowledge in Christ

With a basic understanding of St. Thomas cognitional theory natural to man, we may turn to the knowledge of Christ. In light of the fact that that which is higher orders that which is lower, the beatific knowledge of Christ must be treated prior to any of the two lower forms of knowledge. The beatific vision, the vision of the blessed, or the “science of vision” are all univocal terms that refer to the knowledge of one who has seen God in his essence. St. John refers to the beatific vision when he says that the faithful departed will see God “as he is.”[18]

The Trinity Icon
The Trinity Icon

Turning to the biblical tradition within St. John’s Gospel, Christ’s relationship with the Father appears to be in a beatific manner. Christ says, “not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father,” and furthermore, he states “but you have not known [the Father]; I know him.”[19] Moreover, St. John records, “he who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard.”[20] These passages seem to “put it beyond doubt that the revelatory power of Christ originated not in a revelation made to him nor in his faith, but in the direct knowledge he has of the Father.”[21] If Christ did not have the beatific vision then he would need faith, but “Scripture is notably silent” about Christ’s faith.[22] In fact, Christ is “never depicted as a believer,” but is rather shown as “someone who knows God intimately and directly.”[23] St. Thomas predicates his philosophical argument upon Scripture’s affirmation of Christ’s direct knowledge of God. Referring to St. John’s Gospel, St. Thomas notes that Christ “knew God fully, even as He was man.”[24] St. Thomas observes that all men have their teleological end in God and therefore man “is in potentiality to the knowledge of blessed.”[25] It is by the “humanity of Christ” that “men are brought to this end” of Beatific Vision.[26] Here St. Thomas argues what is commonly called the principle of perfection: “hence it was necessary that the beatific knowledge” should “belong to Christ pre-eminently, since the cause ought always to be more efficacious than the effect.”[27] According to this principle, if there was a time when Christ did not possess the end or rather the beatific vision, then the end that humanity is brought to could not be derivative of Christ’s humanity. However, since humanity is brought to the end by the humanity of Christ, then it seems necessary for Christ’s humanity to have the perfection of the efficient cause. However, could it be stated that Christ’s beatific knowledge is only necessitated after the Resurrection, because “from that point onwards Christ’s humanity effectively leads men to heaven”?[28] In spite of this claim, Christ must be seen as “mediator, the one who unites men to God” could be lacking the mediation required to bring man to God at any time.[29] If there was a privation of mediation in Christ, then “he would have needed mediation,” but this cannot be as he is the “first and only mediator.”[30] According to St. Thomas, it stands then that the biblical tradition and scripturally predicated philosophical principles reveal Christ to have knowledge that is in the manner of the blessed.


4. On the Manner of Christ’s Beatific Knowledge

What then is Christ’s comprehension of the Divine Essence? St. Thomas posits that the soul of Christ could not fully comprehend the Divine Essence.[31] In holding to Christ as one person with two distinct natures, Christ’s soul would have limitations proper to a created soul. As St. Thomas avers, “it is impossible for any creature to comprehend the Divine Essence,” because “the infinite is not comprehended by the finite.”[32] Returning to St. Leo’s communication of idioms, is Christ’s inability to grasp the Divine Essence fully a defect between the natures? No defect is inferred to the Divine nature as all questions of Christ’s knowledge are rooted in his humanity. To argue Christ’s divine nature or the Word did not have beatific vision would be ad absurdum. Regarding the human nature, there is no defect, because Christ’s soul is perfected according to its natural capacity. Therefore, Christ’s human nature comprehends the Divine Essence according to the natural perfection of the human soul, which is the perfection needed in order for him to be the efficient cause of humanity’s reaching the beatific end.

Christ as Judge, a selection from the Sistine Chapel.
Christ as Judge, a selection from the Sistine Chapel.

What then is the knowledge that Christ comprehends? St. Thomas addresses this issue in two ways. First, Christ knows “whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time.”[33] “In this way,” St. Thomas states, “it must be said that the soul of Christ knows all things in the Word.”[34] The Angelic Doctor predicates his view upon the “dignity” of Christ and his role as “Judge.”[35] As he says, “no beatified intellect fails to know in the Word whatever pertains to itself,” and thus to the position of Christ as Judge “all things to some extent belong, inasmuch as all things are subject to Him.”[36] Therefore it is necessary for one “appointed Judge of all by God” to have the knowledge of all in order to judge perfectly. However, Christ has been placed Judge over a reality in act, not over all realities in potential. In this light, St. Thomas makes his second statement: “to such things as are in potentiality, and never have been nor ever will be reduced to act,” it appears “some of these are in the divine power alone, and not all of these does the soul of Christ know in the Word.”[37] If Christ’s soul could “comprehend all that God could do,” then it would appear he would be able to comprehend the Divine Essence, simply.[38] St. Thomas states, “every power is known from the knowledge of all it can do,” but the finitude of Christ’s soul cannot comprehend the infinitude of God’s power. However, could Christ’s finite soul comprehend the finite power of creatures? St. Thomas says that Christ does comprehend the power of creatures, because in comprehending the Word “the essence of every creature” is comprehended.[39] Furthermore, to comprehend the essence is to comprehend the “power and virtue and all things that are in the power of the creature.”[40] It stands then, St. Thomas posits Christ’s beatific knowledge as necessary to his role as Judge and must know all things – including the potentialities of creatures – in order to judge perfectly.


5. Whether Christ had any knowledge besides the Beatific?

St. Thomas submits three reasons why Christ must have knowledge other than beatific or rather created knowledge. Firstly, predicated upon the belief  that Christ’s unadulterated human nature has a true rational soul, it is fitting for Christ to have a possible intellect. “Now what is in potentiality is imperfect unless reduced to act,” and Christ must have “a perfect human nature, since the whole race was to be brought back to perfection by its means.”[41] Again, Christ’s role as mediator and the principle of perfection necessitate Christ’s perfection in being the efficient cause of man’s perfection. All human perfections must be present within Christ’s humanity. Furthermore St. Thomas’ second point reveals if the beatific knowledge rendered Christ’s rational soul ineffectual, Christ’s human nature would suffer defect.[42]  Thirdly, “some created knowledge pertains to the nature of the human soul, viz. that whereby we naturally know first principles.”[43] It stands then that predicated upon Christ’s necessity to be perfectly human, he must have knowledge other than the beatific.


6. On Christ’s Infused Knowledge

Infused knowledge is not ascertained by the intelligible species being extracted from the intelligible object, but rather by the intelligible species being infused directly into the intellect by God. The cognitional mode of divine fusion appears to be demonstrated best by the biblical prophets, whose prophecies are not the product of human reason. Did Christ have this infused knowledge? St. Thomas quotes St. Paul, that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”[44] First however it must be shown why if Christ has beatific knowledge is not infused knowledge superfluous? St. Thomas observes that the mode of “cognition by infused species includes no opposition to beatific cognition.”[45] The opposite of the beatific vision is faith. As St. Thomas states, “the essence of faith [is] to have reference to the unseen,” whereas beatific knowledge is gleaned by one who has seen God’s Essence.[46] The prophets, while having infused knowledge, would still have to have faith, for they have not seen God; while Christ who has seen the Divine knowledge, maintains beatific and infused knowledge without the need of faith.

Again St. Thomas appeals to the necessity of Christ’s human perfection in all things and posits that Christ must have infused knowledge perfectly. Therefore, “the Word of God imprinted upon the soul of Christ” the “intelligible species of all things to which the possible intellect is in potentiality.”[47] However, it would seem that there is now a contradiction between the beatific and infused knowledge of Christ. As matter cannot have two simultaneous forms, neither “can the soul receive a double knowledge at once” or rather simultaneously receive a perfect and imperfect intelligible form.[48] However, St. Thomas posits a distinction between the modes. The beatific knowledge is “not by a species,” because the Divine Essence is not known by an intelligible form or species.[49] The “Divine Essence is a form exceeding the capacity of any creature whatsoever,” and thus the intelligible species cannot be fully comprehended. Infused knowledge however does use intelligible species, for God imprints the intelligible species to the possible intellect. Therefore, in knowledge of the Divine Essence there is nothing competitive with the human intellect comprehending intelligible species “proportioned to its nature.”[50]

Fr. Raymond Brown has observed, “each of the four Gospels attributes to Jesus the ability to know what is in other’s minds, to know what is happening elsewhere, and to know the future.”[51] Certainly not exhausting the examples, it can be noted that Christ knew the past of the woman at the well, the details of St. Peter’s betrayal, and, of course, foretells of his own death and resurrection.[52] Returning to the concept of the perfection of Christ’s humanity, “it is very fitting that he should have grace in the highest degree.”[53] Further, the “Holy Spirit reposes in Christ with all his gifts and in all his fullness.”[54] It appears then that with the Thomistic arguments and the Scriptural evidence there “is no reason to deny that Christ has infused knowledge.”[55]


7. On the Acquired Knowledge of Christ

Holding to the same principle of perfection, it appears that Christ must have acquired knowledge in order to avoid defect. As adumbrated, acquired knowledge denotes an active intellect, and thus to deny Christ acquired knowledge is to render a part of Christ’s soul ineffectual. The Angelic Doctor avers “what has not its proper operation is useless” and as mentioned above the operation of the active intellect is to “to make intelligible species in act, by abstracting them from phantasms.”[56] Therefore St. Thomas claims, “it is necessary to say” that Christ has acquired knowledge via the proper operation of the active intellect.[57]

"Christ in the Temple"  by Heinrich Hofmann, a selection.
“Christ in the Temple” by Heinrich Hofmann, a selection.

In spite of this claim, it would seem that Christ acquiring any knowledge would be in direct contradiction with the beatific and infused modes of knowledge. How can it be said that Christ knew the intelligible species of all things past, present, and future and grew in knowledge? Whereas Scripture has seemingly affirmed Christ’s beatific knowledge in seeing God face to face and Christ’s infused or prophetic knowledge, it also affirms that Christ acquired knowledge. The clearest example is in St. Luke’s Gospel: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”[58] The tortuous nature of the question of Christ’s knowledge is exemplified in the “great theologians like St. Bonaventure, Scotus, Suarez, and even St. Thomas in his earlier works, denied that Christ had genuinely acquired knowledge.”[59] While these theologians generally predicated their view upon “dignity of the Word made flesh,” it appears via an ineffectual active intellect to submit a defect in the rational soul of Christ.[60] In a holding to Pope Leo’s principle, St. Thomas recants his former view and posits “it must be said that in Christ there was acquired knowledge, which is properly knowledge in a human fashion.”[61] The objection is put forward that “nothing can be added to what is full” and thus “the power of Christ’s soul was filled with intelligible species divinely infused.”[62] St. Thomas notes that neither the beatific nor infused cognitional mode utilizes phantasms in order to extract an intelligible species, thus “it behooved [Christ’s knowledge] to be also perfected with regard to phantasms.”[63] St. Thomas is illuminating the fact that without acquired knowledge Christ would lack phantasms, which Christ must have or he lacks a natural function of the rational soul.

What then is the role of an active intellect upon a possible intellect, which by infused knowledge, reveals all possible intelligible species? In other words, what does it practically mean for Christ to acquire knowledge? It is here that St. Thomas de-mythologizes Christ’s beatific knowledge. Beatific and infused knowledge “produce the whole all at once” and therefore they were immediate and perfect “in the beginning.”[64] However, acquired knowledge “does not produce the whole at once, but successfully” and therefore “by this knowledge Christ did not know everything from the beginning.”[65] Further, St. Thomas observes St. Luke’s passage records that Christ “increased in knowledge and age together.”[66] In accordance with holding to a perfect human nature, Christ’s beatific and infused knowledge could only be in proportion to the faculties of Christ’s rational soul. Christ’s acquisition of phantasms and human limitations reveal the certain “perfection appropriate to age” and “experience available.”[67] It seems St. Thomas’ theory does not offer a defect to either nature. A cup that is perfectly filled with water still only holds its given amount, albeit perfectly. In this light, Christ’s humanity growing in knowledge is predicated upon his age, i.e. the development of his intellect. If the limitation is ignored, it could be argued that Christ’s humanity would be cognizant of the beatific and infused knowledge regardless of the soul’s capacity, e.g., Christ could be cognizant in utero, which is ad absurdum. It is then that there was a proper habit of the active intellect in extracting the “intelligible species from phantasms.”[68] However, the habit of infused knowledge would “be there from the beginning” and be “perfect infused knowledge of all things.”[69] Therefore, whatever intelligible species Christ’s active intellect abstracted from the phantasm, was already found perfectly by the actualization of the infused knowledge upon the possible intellect – in accordance with the capacity of Christ’s age specificity and human limitation. St. Thomas’ theory would account for how Christ was found to wise even at a young age – e.g., in the temple – but still be able to grow in wisdom. In this, St. Thomas holds together the divine knowledge and faculties proper to human cognition without conferring a defect on either one.


8. Beatific, Infused, and Acquired Harmony

In accordance with Pope Leo’s communication of idioms at Chalcedon and the two distinct operations of Third Constantinople, St. Thomas holds together a genuine human mode of cognition with beatific knowledge. The knowledge of God’s essence, the infused intelligible species, and the acquired phantasms all flow harmoniously within the knowledge of Christ. The efficient cause of humanity’s perfection maintains his human perfection.





Aquinas, St. Thomas. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Vol. IV Summa Theologica III  (New York: Benziger Bros., 1948)

Levering, Matthew. Christ’s Fulfillment of Torah & Temple: Salvation According to Thomas Aquinas. (Notre Dame: ND Press, 2002)

Ocariz, F. L.F. Mateo Seco, & J.A. Riestra. The Mystery of Jesus Christ. (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1991)

Schaff, Philip & Henry Wallace, Eds. Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Vol. 14 (Peabody: Hendrickson Pub., Inc., 2004)



St. Thomas Aquinas. Disputed Questions on Power, Q. VIII, a.1.

[1] Schaff, Philip & Henry Wallace, Eds. Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Vol. 14 (Peabody: Hendrickson Pub., Inc., 2004), 255.

[2] Aquinas, St. Thomas. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Vol. IV Summa Theologica III  (New York: Benziger Bros., 1948), III.18.1

[3] Ocariz, F. L.F. Mateo Seco, & J.A. Riestra. The Mystery of Jesus Christ. (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1991), 149.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Schaff, 255.

[6] Ocariz, 150.

[7] St. Thomas Aquinas. Disputed Questions on Power, Q. VIII, a.1. Class Handout.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] ST III.9.1 – n.b. St. Thomas differs from John Locke’s “blank tablet” insofar as the Angelic Doctor holds to that tablet being formed by first principles.

[16] ST III.9.4

[17] Phantasm – the image in the imagination, the form of an object in the imagination; the active intellect can extract the intelligible species from both an understood material object or an imagine object, i.e., phantasm

[18] I John 3:2, RSV

[19] John 6:46; 8:55. RSV. Emphasis added.

[20] John 3:32. RSV. Emphasis added.

[21] Ocariz, 153.

[22] Ibid., 154.

[23] Ibid.

[24] III.9.2; cf. John 8:55

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.; cf. Heb. 2:10

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid., 155.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] III.10.1

[32] Ibid.

[33] III.10.2

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] III.9.1

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] III.9.3. – Col. 2:3

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] III.9.3 – the beatific being perfect and the infused being imperfect

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51]Levering, Matthew. Christ’s Fulfillment of Torah & Temple: Salvation According to Thomas Aquinas. (Notre Dame: ND Press, 2002), 32.

[52] Ocariz, 153. – Jn 4:17-18; Mk 14:18-21, 27-31, Lk 22:31-39; Mt 12:39-41, Lk 11:29-32; Other examples: Jn 1:47-49, 11:14; Mk 9:33-35; Mt 24:1ff; Mk 13:5ff

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid., cf. Is II:1-3

[55] Ibid.

[56] III.9.4

[57] Ibid.

[58] Luke 2:52

[59] Ocariz, 150.

[60] Ibid.

[61] III.9.4

[62] Ibid. Obj.2

[63] Ibid. Ad.2

[64] III.12.2.Ad.2

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ocariz, 152.

[68] III.12.2

[69] Ibid.

The 2 Books by Cardinal Ratzinger that Will Change Your Life

“Politics is the realm of reason – not of a merely technological, calculating reason, but of moral reason, since the goal of the state, and hence the ultimate goal of all politics, has a moral nature, namely, peace and justice.”

Listers, if Catholics are to live a life of virtue then there are two primary sciences – bodies of knowledge – all Catholics should study: the “Noble Science” and the “Queen of the Sciences.” The corpus of writings from Cardinal Ratzinger is as vast and as it is impressive. An excellent survey of his writings can by found in Abram’s The 6 Books of Pope Benedict XVI Every Catholic Should Read. The list at hand takes a different approach.

A Unique Review: Why were these works chosen?
It is typical of a positive book review to go into great detail lauding the message and delivery of the particular author. For the review at hand, we take a different approach and presuppose that Cardinal Ratzinger’s works are brimming with solid Catholic erudition and strike with a clear and orthodox Catholic tone. The purpose of the review is to step back from the works and truly understand the overall sciences in which they are written. It is to move the reader from thinking of works as well written on this or that subject, to understanding that different bodies of knowledge are not isolated from each other. In fact, the word we use for understanding the proper ordering of knowledge is wisdom. The higher bodies of knowledge – higher sciences – order the lower ones; thus, if one truly grasps the importance of a higher science and can study an excellent work on that science, it will have “trickle down” effect on all the other areas in their life. It is in this focus that we must first explain the science and then suggest a work by Cardinal Ratzinger.

The Noble Science

According to Aristotle’s Politics, man is by nature a political animal. It is by nature that humans gather together and form political bodies. Human political order begins with the household and the natural relationship between a husband and a wife. Built upon the natural order of the family, society grows from the village and then to the self-sufficient city. This concept of the”city” is known as the polis, which is a philosophical term referring to any political body under a single government, i.e., a socially and economically differentiated political community. For Aristotle, the polis is as natural to humanity as the forest is to the earth. Man, his household, his communities, are all natural sub-political parts of the polis. Aristotle posited that any person who could live without the polis must be either a beast or a god. The polis is natural to man and man needs the polis. He needs community and order. The order that the polis gives man allows man to live and live well.

Aristotle, The Louvre – via Wikicommons Sting aka Eric Gaba

How then should the polis be ordered? Since the polis is a natural institution populated by political animals, man, as the rational animal, must reflect upon nature and act according to reason. When man acts according to his reason, according to what is most properly natural to him as the rational animal, then these acts become habits and good habits are referred to as virtues. Aristotle claims that the virtue that belongs to the polis is justice, because justice is the virtue of proper order. As Aristotle says, “just as man is the best of animals when completed, when separated from law and adjudication he is the worst of all.” It is in the polis that man is able to live well, because it gives an architectonic order to all the areas of man’s life. It is the polis man finds a natural completion, which is in practicality the “greatest of goods.” This is why politics is referred to as the “Noble Science.”1

In his introduction to the Politics, St. Thomas Aquinas lays out a brief explanation of why politics is the Noble Science. There are two primary categories of sciences: the speculative and the practical. The speculative sciences are ordered toward the “knowledge of truth,” the contemplation of “natural things,” while the practical sciences are ordered toward a work – things made by man -that imitate nature. Within the practical sciences, there are things man will make that are ordered according to a specific use, e.g., a ship or a house, and a things specific use is ordered toward a specific good, e.g., ships for sailing; however, man can also make things which have as their specific end the ordering man himself, e.g., laws. The things that have their end in the proper ordering of man come together as a whole in the polis and since the end is always greater than the means the polis is “therefore necessarily superior to all the other wholes that may be known and constituted by human reason.” Aquinas’ statement has two parts: the polis is superior to all other wholes and is the greatest whole constitute by human reason. Following Aristotle, we see that the first claim is because the polis gives order to all other areas of man’s life and the second claim is become the order of the polis is derived by human reason contemplating nature, i.e., natural law and the virtues.2

Within practical science there are the mechanical sciences that deal with an agent acting upon an external matter, e.g., a smith or a shipwright. In distinction to the mechanical sciences there are the moral sciences. The moral sciences deal with the actions that remain with the agent, e.g., deliberating, willing, choosing, etc. The political science is therefore a moral science, because it is concerned with the ordering of men and their actions. Aquinas concludes, “If the most important science, then, is the one that deals with what is most noble and perfect, of all the practical sciences political science must necessarily be the most important and must play the role of architectonic science with reference to all the others, inasmuch as it is concerned with the highest and perfect good in human affairs.” The order of the polis – its laws, et al. – is derived from nature or natural law, man’s habitual obedience to these natural and rational laws is virtue, and the natural virtues are prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

Yet, how does one apply the timeless truths of natural law and virtue to a modernist world that was born out of an explicit rejection of Catholicism? It is one thing to speak of the polis and another to apply it to a liberal democracy. One of the defining attributes of St. Thomas Aquinas was his ability to engage his era and all its ills and imperfections. As Catholics living within modernity, how do we work for a proper polis? Cue Cardinal Ratzinger. Values in a Time of Upheaval is a short and often overlooked work of political brilliance. St. Peter’s List has previously called attention to this work by including it in our 6 Books for a Proper Introduction to Catholic Political Thought. For a student of Catholic political thought, a collection of politically orientated essays by the ironclad mind of Cardinal Ratzinger – now Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome – is a godsend. The text is a compilation of essays and speeches given by the illustrious Cardinal over the span of several decades. It is a short work that lends itself to a brief but fruitful reading. The reason it will “change your life” is it comments on the Catholic understanding of the Noble Science couched in a world given over to modernist theory and praxis. To what degree Cardinal Ratzinger did or did not adhere to St. Thomas Aquinas is not the question put forth here. The genius of the work is that it is a bridge between the principles of Catholic political thought and the world around us. It challenges the reader to engage the polis by going into great detail on the role of a Catholic citizen within an Enlightenment based democracy. In his own words:

“The state is not itself the source of truth and morality […] Nor can it produce truth via the majority.”


“In place of utopian dreams and ideals, today we find a pragmatism that is determined to extract from the world the maximum satisfaction possible. This, however, does not make it pointless to consider once again the characteristics of the secular messianism that appeared on the world stage in Marxism, because it still leads a ghostly existence deep in the souls of many people, and it has the potential to emerge again and again in new forms.”


“Politics is the realm of reason – not of a merely technological, calculating reason, but of moral reason, since the goal of the state, and hence the ultimate goal of all politics, has a moral nature, namely, peace and justice.”


“The totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century promised us that they would set up a liberated, just world – and they demanded hecatombs of victims in this cause.”

One dichotomy that exemplifies the problem Catholicism has with modern political thought is the notion of individual rights. As the good Cardinal mentions several times in his work, the rights of an individual are seen in the modern West as autonomous moral universes that often clash with one another. Rights have become little more than desires and products of the unadulterated human will. In contradistinction, the Catholic tradition never focused on rights at all – it focused on someone external to the individual citizen, natural law. Just skimming this particular dialogue – individual rights v. natural law – pours forth a host of explanations and answers on why Catholicism is at such odds with the world around it. Those more interested in Cardinal Ratzinger’s work can reference SPL’s collection of political quotes from the work: 29 Quotes on Political and Religion by Cardinal Ratzinger. One of the best treatises on a Catholic’s response to living in a modernist democratic regime was a document composed by the CDF under the good Cardinal entitled: Doctrinal Note: The Participation of Catholics in Politica Life. Moreover, proper Catholic political thought has been a mainstay topic at SPL and a catalogue of our lists on the subject can be found at The Educated Catholic Voter: 10 Lists on the Catholic Citizen. As Catholics may we study the highest whole of human reason, the Noble Science, so that we may live well ordered lives and work toward a society where all may live well.


Theology, Stanza della Segnature by Raphael

The Queen of the Sciences

If politics is the noble and architectonic science of human affairs, how does a Catholic approach politics and theology? In the time of Augustine until the thirteenth century nature and natural law sat in a jarring juxtaposition with the revealed truth of God. In fact, many theologians proposed that there were two truths: one of nature and one of divine revelation – a traditional Islamic answer. The Church was then given a gift: the Common Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas proposed that faith and reason were and must always remain in harmony with one another. Grace is not isolated from nature, is it not a replacement of nature, and it is not contradictory to nature. In essence, grace perfects nature; thus, if you have a science based on nature, say politics, and a science based on grace, say theology, then the science of theology should perfect and elevate the natural science of politics. In this light, theology – more truly the unerring Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church – is the “Queen of the Sciences” that perfects all other sciences by properly ordering them according to the virtues.

However, what does it mean when we say a higher science orders the lower?

The official “Sede Vacante” stamp following Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.

Imagine the construction of a house. There is a plumber to handle the plumbing and a carpenter for the carpentry. And though these two arts are distinct, the two artisans must work together. Even if both workers excel within their own field, the overall order of the home will suffer if they are not in harmony.

However, neither plumbing nor carpentry can speak to how the home must be built as a whole. What is needed is a higher principle that can order both plumbing and carpentry to the proper goal of building a home. The principle is architecture; therefore, while the plumber and the carpenter may be wise concerning the principles of their respective arts, it is the architect who is wise concerning the order of the house. He is the wisest concerning the house, because his wisdom orders the lower principles according to the higher. In his own words, St. Thomas Aquinas states, “For since it is the part of a wise man to arrange and to judge, and since lesser matters should be judged in the light of some higher principle, he is said to be wise in any one order who considers the highest principle in that order.” According to St. Augustine, “order is the appropriate disposition of things equal and unequal, by giving each its proper place.” As seen with the architect, wisdom is knowledge properly ordered, and the wise must have the prudence to do it.

The highest cause, the Uncaused Cause, the cause the universe and its order, is God. Theology – more specifically the Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church – is the architectonic study that is most properly wisdom, because the “knowledge of divine things” sheds light on the appropriate order of all other things. Now, let us be clear. God is not only known through his self-revelation in Jesus Christ and in Scripture, but also in the imprint of the Creator upon Creation. Hence, the Catholic Church finds herself guarding and elucidating both Sacred Scripture and Nature. Certain truths, like the Trinity or the Incarnation of Jesus Christ had to be revealed to us, because they are above human wisdom. Other truths, such as the natural virtues, were discernible by human reason. These revealed and discerned truths are guaranteed by Christ and His Church and compose the Sacred Doctrine that orders all things and is rightly called the Queen of the Sciences.

The examples are endless, because Sacred Doctrine orders everything from our souls to our finances. However, say a technological break through leads to a scientifically astonishing surgical procedure. Now say that technology is used for abortions. Just as the carpenter cannot speak to the proper order of a home as a whole, neither can science – as much as it tries – speak to the whole order of existence. We see this particularly in its inability to speak on moral order. It is not that science is necessarily deficient, but rather its judgments are limited by its empirical purview. Much like the plumber and carpenter, it begs for a higher principle to order its steps.

Our world is saturated by debates that fall directly into this dialogue. Whether it be stem cell research, gay marriage, education, or abortion, differing guiding principles are in steep competition. There is always a “highest principle” at work, but unfortunately many see that principle as the unhindered human will. How then does the Spirit of the Liturgy relate to this concept of the Queen of the Sciences? At first glance there appears a disconnect between the focus of the the Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church as the Queen of the Sciences and Cardinal Ratzinger’s work on the Liturgy; however, the acute connection between the two is that for most Catholics it is precisely in the liturgy that they are catechized. It is in the liturgy that they see and believe and have their minds ordered toward the understanding that God and his wisdom is the highest principle. Our post-Vatican II world is suffering what is arguably the most comprehensive catechetical crisis since the Reformation and Catholics will never be well catechized and never succeed at a “New Evangelization” until the liturgy is brought back into a “hermeneutic of continuity” with the overall Sacred Tradition of the Church. Attempting to evangelize before one is well catechized puts the cart before the horse. What Holy Mother Church needs is a liturgical reform – and arguably a reverent liturgy that truly reflects the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would be the greatest evangelical tool. In this belief, we turn to the work of Cardinal Ratzinger.

SPL’s John Henry writes, “Spirit of the Liturgy is in my opinion a book that all Christians of the True Faith should not only own but read often. Cardinal Ratzinger served as one of the chief theologians for the Second Vatican Council; thus, he possesses the ability to show the ‘liturgical development along the path sketched out by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.'”3 There is a famous book with the same title written by Romano Guardini that the good Cardinal uses as his inspiration:

“My purpose here is to assist this renewal of understanding of the Liturgy. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve. The only difference is that I had to translate what Guardini did at the end of the First World War, in a totally different historical situation, into the context of our present-day questions, hopes and dangers. Like Guardini, I am not attempting to involve myself with scholarly discussion and research. I am simply offering an aid to the understanding of the faith and to the right way to give faith it’s central form of expression in the Liturgy.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

John continues, “this work can be understood by all: scholars, theologians, historians, parish priests, religious, and most important of all the laity. Cardinal Ratzinger uses historical, biblical, philosophical thought in order to express what Catholic worship is was and should be.” The Cardinal’s work is considered an instant classic by those working to restore the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Arguably one of the most poignant passages is his comment on the Golden Calf pericope in the Old Testament:

“But the real liturgy implies that God responds and reveals how we can worship him. In any form, liturgy includes some kind of ‘institution’. It cannot spring from imagination, our own creativity – then it would remain just a cry in the dark or mere self-affirmation…”

“No where is this more dramatically evident than in the narrative of the golden calf… the cult conducted by the high priest Aaron is not meant to serve any of the false gods of the heathen. The apostasy is more subtle. There is no obvious turning away from God to the false gods. Outwardly, the people remain completely attached to the same God. They want to glorify the God who led Israel out of Egypt and believe that they may very properly represent his mysterious power in the image of a bull calf.”

Ratzinger’s reading of the Golden Calf episode is unique insofar as it is often read as a complete turning away from the God of Israel and modern readers condemn the Israelites as abandoning the true God; however, the Cardinal states that it is more subtle. It is not a complete abandonment, but rather the Israelites with their high priest were attempting to worship the true God of Israel as they saw fit. This reading turns the story from one modern Christianity normally  passes over in judgement of the Israelites to one capturing the very heart of modernist Christianity. It echoes the core of all protestantism and unfortunately resonates in much of today’s Catholic population. The Cardinal sums up his reading by stating, “the worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult,” and “the narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship.”

This is but a glimpse of the profound liturgical insight found within Cardinal Ratzinger’s work. Within an understanding of the Queen of the Sciences and her all encompassing order, read The Spirit of the Liturgy with an eye towards renewing the mainstay of all Catholic catechesis and evangelism: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


Why these works will change your life
We return to our original premise, that these two works by Cardinal Ratzinger will change your life. The why is now better understood. Yes, it is because the good Cardinal writes in an acute and clear manner and always bears the mark of orthodoxy, but it is also because you – as the reader – will have a greater appreciation for the sciences in which the works are written. The Cardinal’s ideas and quotes will find fertile ground within the wisdom of the reader, because the reader will know the architectonic ordering affect that both the Noble Science and the Queen of the Sciences have on their life. Understanding the order of knowledge allows one to be truly wise and order their lives in an holistic Christ-like manner.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Common Doctor of the Universal Church, pray for us.
St. Thomas More, patron of statesmen and politicians, pray for us.
Mother Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

  1. ARISTOTLE: Further comments on Aristotle’s Politics may be found at The Political Animal and the Philosopher King and Understanding Aristotle: 22 Definitions from the Politics. []
  2. AQUINAS: The Angelic Doctor’s commentary on Aristotle’s Politics may be found at Aquinas’ Introduction to the Politics. []
  3. Quote take from The Catholic Answer []

In Defense of the Papacy: 9 Reasons True Christians Follow the Pope

“And I will place on his should the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.”

Listers, glory and honor to God for giving us the grace of the papacy. The Pope is the “Advocate of Christian Memory” and he holds the King’s people to the King’s laws until our Savior returns. Each year on February 22nd the Church celebrates the Cathedra Petri – the Chair of St. Peter.

This feast brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter, and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope. We celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle, and renew our assent to the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined ex cathedra, and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium.

The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on 18 January, in commemoration of the day when Saint Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch, commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on 22 February. At each place a chair (cathedra) was venerated which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass. One of the chairs is referred to about 600 by an Abbot Johannes who had been commissioned by Pope Gregory the Great to collect in oil from the lamps which burned at the graves of the Roman martyrs. — New Catholic Dictionary1

To commemorate this holy feast day SPL brings you a defense of the papacy with references to Scripture, the Western Church Fathers, the Eastern Church Fathers, and of course, the Medieval Popes.


The article addresses the following questions:

  1. Did St. Peter hold any primacy amongst the Twelve Apostles?
  2. Did Christ charge St. Peter with the office of the papacy?
  3. Did St. Peter exercise his ministry from Rome?
  4. What about the controversy of Sts. Peter and Paul?
  5. Did the papacy continue after St. Peter and if so, to whom?
  6. Did the Early Church speak of a hierarchal Church with bishops?
  7. What of those who started their own “churches”?
  8. What did the Eastern Early Church Fathers say about the Petrine Ministry?
  9. Are all people subject to the papacy?


The following list is certainly not exhaustive. The Scripture studies alone could fill up volumes and a proper study of Church history is a lifetime of academic work; however, we’ve catalogued a quality sampling of sources with biblical and textual citations in order that you may be able to defend or maybe even discover for the first time the grace of the papacy.


Holy Scripture

1. St. Peter was Prince of the Apostles

“Prince of the Apostles” means that St. Peter held a certain primacy over the other eleven. Understanding St. Peter’s unique position among the twelve and the unique ministries he exercised lays an excellent groundwork for a discussion of Christ’s founding of the Papacy. There are three primary topics of focus for exploring the biblical articulation of the primacy of the Petrine ministry.


St. Peter’s Place of Primacy Among the Twelve

Sts. Peter, James, and John are a special group of disciples that are allowed to witness the Transfiguration2 and accompany Christ to the Mount of Olives.3 In each event, St. Peter, the Rock, is singled out. At the Mount of Olives, Christ finds all three asleep, but it is St. Peter he addresses. During the Transfiguration, it is St. Peter who speaks for the disciples. In St. Luke 5:1-11, Christ calls his first disciples, and the first is Simon Peter. According to Cardinal Ratzinger, the “call of Peter appears as the original pattern of apostolic vocation par excellence.”4 Every time the disciples are listed, St. Peter is listed first.5 Furthermore, when referring to the disciples, sometimes only St. Peter is mentioned by name, e.g., “And Simon and those who were with him,” and “Now Peter and those who were with him”.6 St. Peter is the only one to try to walk on the water (Mt 14:28ff) and he is the one that brings up the famous question of how many times we must forgive.7 Even St. Peter’s shadow was an instrument of healing.8


Significance of the Name Change

While it was common for Rabbis to give nicknames or new surnames to their disciples, e.g., the Sons of Zebedee as the “Sons of Thunder,” it was uncommon to change a disciple’s first name. Christ gives Simon the new name “Peter” or Kephas (or Cephas) meaning rock.9 In the Old Testament, God changing someone’s name denoted a special calling, a new vocation, e.g., Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, etc. St. Peter’s name change denotes that he will have a special vocation among the twelve. Obviously Christ was also referred to as the Rock, because he is the foundation of all things. However, in the rabbinical tradition, Abraham was also referred to as a rock: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… look to Abraham your father” .10 Cardinal Ratzinger comments:11

Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and thus sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the Resurrection, now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man.


The Papal Office Given to St. Peter by Christ

After the Resurrection, Christ appears to the Twelve and has a unique conversation with St. Peter. Christ, the Shepherd, asks St. Peter three times if he loves him. St. Peter responds yes all three times – presumably this passage should reflect his three denials. Christ also tell St. Peter and Peter alone: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep. As the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter must care for the flock.12 In Lk 22:31-34, two major Petrine themes are evident. First, Satan has taken a special interest in St. Peter. He will fail, but will repent. Second, after St. Peter has “turned again” to Christ, Jesus commissions him to “strengthen the brethren.” Another mission given only to St. Peter.

In Matthew 16:13-20, the most famous unique call is given to St. Peter: to be the foundation of the Church and to exercise the authority of keys of the kingdom. The office given to St. Peter is that of the Vicar within the Davidic Kingdom. The Vicar governs in the King’s stead, according to the King’s rules, while the King is gone.13 St. Peter is the Vicar of Christ, the Pope.


Concluding Thoughts and Suggested Reading

For all of this information plus a brief handling of the relationship between Sts. Peter and Paul, please reference 13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles. The page citations and Scripture references for this section are taken from Cardinal Ratzinger’s Called to Communion, which was featured in The 6 Books by Pope Benedict XVI All Catholics Should Read.

A selection from “Christ’s Charge to Peter,” Raphael (1515)

2. Jesus Christ Founded the Papacy

According to Holy Scripture, the Office of the Papacy was instituted by Jesus Christ. In fact, he was the only person who had the authority to create such a position. SPL’s article 10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy discusses the following questions:

  1. What type of kingdom did Christ intend to bring?
  2. What role did Christ intend for Saint Peter?
  3. What is the biblical backing for St. Peter’s role in accordance with the Davidic Kingdom?
  4. What is the position and what is its purpose?
  5. What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about St. Peter and the Papacy?
  6. But in Greek, St. Peter’s name is Petros and Christ says, “upon this petra,” so Christ was not referring to St. Peter, was he?
  7. Isn’t Christ The Rock?
  8. I am a Christian, how can I follow both Christ and the Pope?
  9. How can I have a personal relationship with Christ and have a “middle man,” the Pope?
  10. Scripturally, what would be the overall reason Christ would want a Vicar for his Church?

We will address the first three questions here, because they lay out a proper biblical understanding of the Office of the Papacy.


1. What type of kingdom did Christ intend to bring?

Jesus Christ was descended from King David and referred to as “Son of David”14. King David was promised a descendent who would not only “rule forever,” but would sit on “David’s throne” forever15; thus, any conversation of what is and what is not properly intended by Christ, regarding his Kingdom, must be couched within the template of the Davidic Kingdom16.


2. What role did Christ intend for Saint Peter?

In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Christ asks his disciples “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” St. Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then says to St. Peter:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Christ’s intention for the role of St. Peter within the kingdom is twofold: Christ changed Simon Bar-jona’s name to Peter meaning rock and he will be a foundation for Christ’s kingdom on earth, the Church, and secondly, St. Peter is given the “keys of kingdom,” which come with great authority17. It is important to note this is one of the few times Christ ever mentions the “Church.”


3. What is the biblical backing for St. Peter’s role in accordance with the Davidic Kingdom?

If Christ is giving St. Peter a role within his Church, his kingdom of God on earth, then it must be part of the Davidic Kingdom. The symbols of authority given to St. Peter are the “keys of the kingdom.” Looking to the Old Testament, it is clear that Christ is rewording a passage from Isaiah that speaks of a position within the Davidic Kingdom:

And I will place on his should the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.

Here a position within the Davidic Kingdom is described which has the key of authority to open and close, and is considered a position of security and authority when the King is away. Christ, who will sit on David’s throne forever, is using an Old Testament verse to elucidate a New Testament Kingdom position.


A section of the “Martyrdom of St. Peter” by Leonello Spada (1576–1622)

Early Church

3. St. Peter Exercised his Ministry from Rome

Bl. John Henry Newman said it best: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” History paints an overwhelming picture of St. Peter’s apostolic ministry in Rome and this is confirmed by a multitude of different sources within the Early Church. Catholic Encyclopedia states:

“In opposition to this distinct and unanimous testimony of early Christendom, some few Protestant historians have attempted in recent times to set aside the residence and death of Peter at Rome as legendary. These attempts have resulted in complete failure.”

Protestantism as a whole seeks to divorce Christianity from history by rending Gospel message out of its historical context as captured by our Early Church Fathers. One such target of these heresies is to devalue St. Peter and to twist the authority of Rome into a historical mishap within Christianity. To wit, the belief has as its end the ultimate end of all Catholic and Protestant dialogue – who has authority in Christianity?

The article 11 Reasons the Authority of Christianity is Centered on St. Peter and Rome is a sampling of the praise of and adherence to the Petrine Ministry – The Papacy. While the list gives three quality examples of Scripture connecting St. Peter with Rome, we will look here at a few choice quotes from the Early Church.


Taught in the Same Place in Italy

Bishop Dionysius of Corinth, in his letter to the Roman Church in the time of Pope Soter (165-74), says:

“You have therefore by your urgent exhortation bound close together the sowing of Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both planted the seed of the Gospel also in Corinth, and together instructed us, just as they likewise taught in the same place in Italy and at the same time suffered martyrdom” (in Eusebius, Church History II.25).


St. Peter Announced the Word of God in Rome

In his “Hypotyposes” (Eusebius, Church History IV.14), Clement of Alexandria, teacher in the catechetical school of that city from about 190, says on the strength of the tradition of the presbyters:

“After Peter had announced the Word of God in Rome and preached the Gospel in the spirit of God, the multitude of hearers requested Mark, who had long accompanied Peter on all his journeys, to write down what the Apostles had preached to them” (see above).


Come to the Vatican and See for Yourself

The Roman, Caius, who lived in Rome in the time of Pope Zephyrinus (198-217), wrote in his “Dialogue with Proclus” (in Eusebius, Church History II.25) directed against the Montanists:

“But I can show the trophies of the Apostles. If you care to go to the Vatican or to the road to Ostia, thou shalt find the trophies of those who have founded this Church.”

By the trophies (tropaia) Eusebius understands the graves of the Apostles, but his view is opposed by modern investigators who believe that the place of execution is meant. For our purpose it is immaterial which opinion is correct, as the testimony retains its full value in either case. At any rate the place of execution and burial of both were close together; St. Peter, who was executed on the Vatican, received also his burial there. Eusebius also refers to “the inscription of the names of Peter and Paul, which have been preserved to the present day on the burial-places there” (i.e. at Rome).


Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us.

4. The Early Church on Sts. Peter and Paul

“Many modern day academics enjoy setting St. Peter and St. Paul in enmity with one another,” states SPL author Catherine, “however, the over emphasis of Galatians 2:11-14 by modern scholarship fails to acknowledge that even though they had a disagreement their mission of spreading the Gospel was the same. In this spirit, I present to you five reflections by members of the early church on the mutual impact that St. Peter and Paul had on the early church. Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to let St. Peter and St. Paul’s example of faithfulness unto death be your focus today and everyday.” Out of Catherine’s excellent list, we will focus on one particular passage by St. Irenaeus:

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meeting; [we do this, I say] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; also [by pointing out] the faith they preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
Against Heresies 3.3.2.

Along with the above quote, the other four passages from the Early Church demonstrate the Fathers focusing on Sts. Peter and Paul as brothers in the faith and fellow martyrs – not enemies vying for power within the Church. For a more biblical focus of the relationship between Sts. Peter and Paul see the above-mentioned list on St. Peter as Prince of the Apostles.


Crucifixion of St. Peter – Masaccio, AD 1426

5. The First Popes of the Catholic Church

In cataloguing the first ten popes of the Catholics Church, SPL hoped to address a few misconceptions. The first would be that the office of the papacy was simply given to St. Peter and then closed upon his death. The necessity of a Vicar of Christ with the Keys of Kingdom is present until the King returns and the Keys are returned to him. Secondly, we hoped to address the pernicious error that the papacy is a historical fiction within the Early Church and it did not materialize until medieval times. For our purposes, we’ll select the two popes that followed St. Peter from The First 10 Popes of the Catholic Church.


Pope St. Linus (67-76)

All the ancient records of the Roman bishops which have been handed down to us by St. Irenaeus, Julius Africanus, St. Hippolytus, Eusebius, also the Liberian catalogue of 354, place the name of Linus directly after that of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter. These records are traced back to a list of the Roman bishops which existed in the time of Pope Eleutherus (about 174-189), when Irenaeus wrote his book “Adversus haereses”. As opposed to this testimony, we cannot accept as more reliable Tertullian’s assertion, which unquestionably places St. Clement (De praescriptione, xxii) after the Apostle Peter, as was also done later by other Latin scholars (Jerome, Illustrious Men 15). The Roman list in Irenaeus has undoubtedly greater claims to historical authority. This author claims that Pope Linus is the Linus mentioned by St. Paul in his 2 Timothy 4:21. The passage by Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.3.3) reads:

After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy. His successor was Anacletus.

We cannot be positive whether this identification of the pope as being the Linus mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21 goes back to an ancient and reliable source, or originated later on account of the similarity of the name.


Pope St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)

The second successor of St. Peter. Whether he was the same as Cletus, who is also called Anencletus as well as Anacletus, has been the subject of endless discussion. Irenaeus, Eusebius, Augustine, Optatus, use both names indifferently as of one person. Tertullian omits him altogether. To add to the confusion, the order is different. Thus Irenaeus has Linus, Anacletus, Clement; whereas Augustine and Optatus put Clement before Anacletus. On the other hand, the “Catalogus Liberianus”, the “Carmen contra Marcionem” and the “Liber Pontificalis”, all most respectable for their antiquity, make Cletus and Anacletus distinct from each other; while the “Catalogus Felicianus” even sets the latter down as a Greek, the former as a Roman.


The Martyrdom of Saint Clement c. 1480

6. The Apostles Appointed Bishops

The Early Church was the Early Catholic Church. First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians is an orthodox window into the infancy of the Church (AD 97) and particularly into the structure of the Church. The Early Church is not an ambiguous or mysterious time. It is a well recorded period with a great number of writings from the Early Church Fathers. Clement lived in Rome only a stone’s throw away from the Coliseum. He is seen as a successor to St. Peter and is considered the fourth Pope of Rome, following St. Peter, St. Linus and St. Anacletus.

Chapter XLII outlines a clear theology of succession from Christ to the Apostles to the Bishops of the Church. As an early Christian, how do you know if you belonged to the true Church? Well, does your community have a bishop? Did your bishop come from the Apostles who came from Christ our Lord who came from God the Father? It should be stressed this epistle is dated AD 97.

“The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”


In Chapter XLIV, St. Clement shuts the book on any doubt that the apostles chose and declared men to lead as bishops after their death. It is apostolic succession in a clear and practical manner articulated in AD 97.

“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.”

It is important to note the universal authority in which Pope St. Clement I is writing. One cannot miss how early in the life of the Church this writing is and how the Church is already a hierarchal body that respects the teachings of the Bishop of Rome. Pope St. Clement I even commands the Corinthians at one point – this note and other are commented on in The Apostles Appointed Bishops: 9 Teachings from St. Clement AD 97.


The Schismatics of Dante’s Inferno by Gustave

7. Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan

The Pope as the Vicar of Christ and as the Advocate of Christian Memory stands as tent peg holding down the Universal Church of Christ, and no list on Church unity would be complete without the (in)famous epistle of St. Cyprian, AD 250.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is not returning to our world for a harem of “churches.” There is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it was founded by Christ and charged by him to St. Peter and the Apostles. However, there are now and always have been those groups that attempt to rend Christ from his Church – to recreate that which God gave us, the Church. In AD 250, St. Cyprian wrote an outstanding work entitled On the Unity of the Church. The epistle focuses especially on the topic of schism and those who would set themselves up as Church leaders and/or start their own “churches.” Without question, these groups are proto-protestant groups and the saint’s arguments apply just as much to our modern schismatic and heretical groups as they did to his ancient schismatic groups.18


The New Way of Satan

“He [Satan] has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity. Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way [paganism], he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way [schism/heresy]. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness.”


Upon This Rock

“There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.”


Can the Spouse of Christ Be Adulterous?

“The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”


Those Who Start Their Own Church Vomit Poison

“These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate; whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech doth creep like a cancer, whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of every one.”


Priests and Sacrifice

“What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?”

Without a doubt this epistle of St. Cyprian is one of the most quotable letters of the Early Church Fathers. For more commentary and more unabashed Catholic quotes visit Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan: 11 Teachings from St. Cyprian AD 250.


St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.

8. The Eastern Fathers Supported the Petrine Ministry

Often times the papacy is misunderstood a “characteristic” of Western Christianity. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Catholic Church embraces the Eastern Catholic Churches along with the Roman Church and they are united in doctrine under the Holy Father, the Pope. SPL has catalogue an extensive collection of quotes from the Eastern Church Fathers supporting the Petrine Ministry.

St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (d. A.D. 638)

“Teaching us all orthodoxy and destroying all heresy and driving it away from the God-protected halls of our holy Catholic Church. And together with these inspired syllables and characters, I accept all his (the pope’s) letters and teachings as proceeding from the mouth of Peter the Coryphaeus, and I kiss them and salute them and embrace them with all my soul … I recognize the latter as definitions of Peter and the former as those of Mark, and besides, all the heaven-taught teachings of all the chosen mystagogues of our Catholic Church.” – Sophronius, Mansi, xi. 461


St. Theodore the Studite of Constantinople (d. 826)

Writing to Pope Leo III:

Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven. (Theodore, Bk. I. Ep. 23)


Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (649)

Writing to Pope Theodore:

O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)


SPL has listed over 50 quotes of the Eastern Church Fathers: The Early Church in Jerusalem Followed the Pope: 7 Quotes from History, Constantinople: 25 Quotes from the Eastern Fathers on the Petrine Ministry, and Rome is the Apostolic Throne: 24 Quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus.


St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Vicar of Christ, pray for us.


9. All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope

The following is a short compilation of quotes taken from previous Ecumenical Pontiffs of Rome: “Outside the Church there is no hope for salvation.” These quotes show us the confidence that our previous Bishops of Rome have had in their authority given by God Himself to be the Vicar of Christ here on Earth. As St. Augustine said, “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.”

“The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved.”
Pope Innocent III, ex cathedra, Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD)


“We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam (1302 AD)


“You see, dearly beloved sons and venerable brothers, how much vigilance is needed to keep the disease of this terrible evil from infecting and killing your flocks. Do not cease to diligently defend your people against these pernicious errors. Saturate them with the doctrine of Catholic truth more accurately each day. Teach them that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the community of His children.[Rom 1; Heb 11; Council of Trent, session 6, chap. 8.] There is only one true, holy, Catholic church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord,[St. Cyprian, epistle 43.] outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.[St. Cyprian,de unitat. Eccl.] Thus, there can be no greater crime, no more hideous stain than to stand up against Christ, than to divide the Church engendered and purchased by His blood, than to forget evangelical love and to combat with the furor of hostile discord the harmony of the people of God.[St. Cyprian, epistle 72.]”
Blessed Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quidem

Happy Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, listers. More medieval quotes on the papacy can be found at All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope.

  1. Introduction to the Chair of St. Peter – SOURCE []
  2. Mark 9:2-8 []
  3. Mark 14:33 []
  4. Called to Communion, by Cardinal Ratzinger, 54 []
  5. Matt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13 []
  6. Mk 1:36; Lk 9:32 []
  7. Mt 18:21 []
  8. Acts 5 []
  9. John 1:42; Mt 16 []
  10. Is 51:1-3 []
  11. 56 []
  12. John 21 []
  13. Is. 22 []
  14. Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48 []
  15. I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31 []
  16. cf. Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-3; Jer 33:14-15, 17, 19-21, 26; Ps 132:10-14, 17; Luke 1:31-33, 68-71; II Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5, 22:16; Rom 1:3 []
  17. Matt 16:13-20 []
  18. Novatian: Another impetus of the epistle was the first “anti-pope” who attempted to claim he was holier than the rest of the Church and claimed moral superiority, especially in not wanting to ever extend forgiveness to sins post-baptism. []

6 Books by Pope Benedict XVI Every Catholic Should Read

With the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, we wanted to share with you part of his lasting legacy as a theologian and teacher. In the history of the popes, it is hard to find anyone as easy to read and understand.

Listers with the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, we wanted to share with you part of his lasting legacy as a theologian and teacher. In the history of the popes, it is hard to find anyone as easy to read and understand. His writings are, moreover, a beautiful blend of timeless and timely teaching, and at the center of all of his writings is the ever present search for the “Face of Christ” in his own personal relationship with Christ.


Pope Benedict XVI on SPL:


1. Introduction to Christianity

Possibly the most important book to understanding the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI, this is also the oldest book in this list. Originally written in 1968, this work is the most time-specific writing in this list, but the timelessness of Ratzinger’s “narrative Christology” reveals a process of encountering Christ in our own time and present situation while rooting that encounter within the walls of the Church.




2. Called to Communion

In this work Ratzinger explores the fundamental nature of the Church and its relation to today’s world. The first four chapters explore the origin of the Church, papal primacy, the relationship between the universal and particular Church, and the nature of the priesthood. In the fifth chapter, which is maybe the most relevant to us today, Ratzinger discusses the nature of reform, i.e. the necessity of institutional and juridical means to help the Church speak and act in the era in which She finds herself. On this matter he says, “Reform is ever-renewed ablatio—removal, whose purpose is to allow the nobilis forma, the countenance of the bride, and with it the Bridegroom himself, the living Lord, to appear.” This emphasis on personal encounter is an element of Evangelism found throughout his writings.


3. Jesus of Nazareth Vol. I

The most important of the series, this exegetical work lays out, in his foreword, his preferred methodology for the interpretation of scripture, which is ultimately a search for a personal relationship with Christ. This work, like the others in the series, sets an example for how to read and study Scripture. Simply titled, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict clearly leaves behind any search for the Second Person of the Trinity separate from the humanity of Christ. It is a culmination of a life of searching for a relationship with an historical figure who is both God and Man.



4. The Spirit of the Liturgy

The original title of this book in its original language, “The Spirit of the Liturgy: an Introduction,” indicates more about its relation to the work that inspired it, namely, “The Spirit of the Liturgy” by Romano Guardini. Ratzinger admits in the preface that Guardini’s work was fundamental to much of his own formation with regard to liturgy, which is ultimately the greatest possible encounter we have in this world with the God for whom we seek and long. Ratzinger again roots his ideas in Sacred Scripture and draws out from them the principles that define Christian worship.



5. Jesus of Nazareth Vol. II — Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection

The second part to his opus, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict XVI continues to explore the “figure and message of Jesus.” Christ’s figure and message culminate in the decisive events that surround His death and resurrection. These events are in themselves an expression of His message. In another way, they are the final word on the “figure” of Jesus and therefore the culmination and conclusion to the first part.




6. Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives

In his own words, His Holiness describes his book,  “It is not a third volume, but a kind of small ‘antechamber’ to the two earlier volumes on the figure and the message of Jesus of Nazareth.” Since the infancy narratives are not a source of Christ’s message, they do not fall into the purview of the earlier two volumes. It is a third part that, in a limited way, helps us to see and encounter the figure of Jesus. The Holy Father writes, “My hope is that this short book, despite its limitations, will be able to help many people on their path toward and alongside Jesus.”

Listers, check out Pope Benedict XVI to browse our complete catalogue of lists that reference the beloved “German Shepherd.”

Modern Man Has Lost His Way: 13 Comments on the Western Heritage of Christ and Socrates

“The controversy as to the relations between Pope and Emperor, stripped of its non-essentials, was a controversy as to the end and purpose of life on earth.” – J.W. Allen

Listers, Father James V. Schall S.J. is one of the preeminent Catholic political thinkers of our time. Fr. Schall’s “The Point of Medieval Political Philosophy” is found within his collection of excellent essays entitled The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical & Political Essays (p. 151-161). SPL highly recommends the work and has previously recommended the erudition of Fr. Schall in the list 6 Books for a Proper Introduction to Catholic Political Thought. The essay focuses on Catholicism’s heritage and belief that Faith and Reason are harmonious – an orthodox claim not found in Judaism or Islam.1 The problem is that this heritage of faith and reason that built the West is now no longer found in modern man. Fr. Schall’s essay is an excellent and brief commentary on what modern man can learn from the medieval political mind.

SPL has selected various quotes, provided titles, and in certain cases provided footnotes with commentary and/or lists for further reading. All quotes are taken from the essay and are attributed to Fr. Schall unless otherwise cited.


1. Socrates and Christ

“We should… formally receive as European citizens every new generation, at an adequate time, and during the ceremony present to each youth a copy of a book bearing the text from Plato describing the death of Socrates, and from the Gospels, describing the death of Christ, not merely because they are the two spiritual fathers of Europe but because they both perished at the hands of the state.” – Spanish philosopher Salvador de Madariage, receiving the International Charlemagne Peace Prize


2. Political Realism

“All medieval thinkers had read their Augustine, who told them not to be surprised if such dire events as the killing of Socrates and of Christ should happen again and again in this world, in their very midst, in their very cities. Boethius, who was killed by an emperor, and Sir Thomas More, who was killed by a king, at the far ends of the middle ages, can be said to stand as proof of this possibility. The Augustinian heritage of “political realism” has prepared us for what ought not to happen but still does happen among us.”2


3. Political Animals

“Medieval men came later to read Aquinas, who told them that the state, while it could indeed be ruled by wicked men and be configured in distorted regimes, also, as Aristotle maintained, had something positive to accomplish, by and for honorable men in and about this world. Man was a political animal, even in the Fall, even before the Fall. The polity was not simply or primarily the result of original sin, even though that sin had plenty to do with how it appeared among us and why there were recurring disorders that the state could not seem effectively to remedy.”3


4. Pope and Emperor

“The controversy as to the relations between Pope and Emperor, stripped of its non-essentials, was a controversy as to the end and purpose of life on earth.” – J.W. Allen


5. Man Both Belongs to and Transcends the Politics

“Medieval political philosophy is the effort to think properly about politics when man, in his one given being, both belongs to and transcends the civitas, the civil community. […] For medieval thinkers, politics had a place within overall intellectual order. But it did not form the intellectual order itself.”


6. What is Philosophy?

“Philosophy itself is the effort to understand, by the unaided power of the human intellect, what is, in its causes and its wholeness.”


7. The Erroneous Two Truths Theory

“The famous ‘two truths theory’ in Arabic and late medieval theory sought to propose a workable solution for any problems between revelation and reason whereby the two could ‘contradict’ each other; that is, though contradictory, both could be true. This move, however, split the integrity of the human mind in two. Medieval theory, including medieval political philosophy, at its best, however, found enough reason in revelation and enough perplexing lacunae in reason to lead it to suspect that the whole includes both in some coherent order.”4


8. A Block to Islam’s Progression

“One of those blocks (that prevent the ‘Middle East from entering the mainstream of modernity’) is the orthodox tenet that the Koran and the scriptures contain all the knowledge required to deal with the problems of contemporary society.” – Arnold Beichman of Milton Viorst


9. Islam Is a Political Religion

“For Christianity, revelation is not a substitute for experience or for the books of the political thinkers about the proper rule of the city. The Koran, on the other hand, is conceived to be a description of the best city or regime. All regimes not embodying its strictures are held to be inferior. That is, revelation is a law.”


10. The Silence of the Muslim Philosopher

“For the Muslims, the law has replaced politics, so that the philosopher has to become a strictly private man in order to survive. Unlike Socrates, the philosopher is not killed by the state; rather he is simply reduced to silence or irrelevance.”


11. Catholic Mystery, Not Uncertainty

“Medieval theory did not consider the human mind every to match or comprehend the divine mind and its relationship through eternal law to the order of things. There was a certain contentment with mystery, but a mystery that was bathed in light and not confusion. All intelligence, including human intelligence, was able to know after its own manner.”5


12. The End of Medieval Thinking

“The transition from William of Occam and Marsilius of Padua to Hobbes marks the end of medieval thinking. The divine will, presupposed to nothing but itself, presupposed to no divine reason in Occam and Marsilius, becomes political will in Hobbes, again a will presupposed to nothing but itself.”


13. The Most-Telling Absence

“This book is the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, the philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages, the absence of whose presence has defined our modernity.”6

  1. Faith and Reason: An example of this claim would be that both Judaism and Islam are law based religions – both political religions – while Catholicism is a religion of dogmas (and properly understand as transpolitical). The latter requires a harmony of faith and reason to ascertain the truth of the dogma, while the former requires only obedience to the law. This observation is a classic understanding and has been expressed by both Fr. Schall and the Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss. []
  2. Further Reading: While St. Augustine gifted the idea of “political realism” to Catholicism, his own political thought had a significant gap – nature and natural law. SPL has addressed this lacuna in Augustinian political thought in the list The Enchanted Forest: 6 Political Teachings from St. Augustine. Furthermore, SPL has also catelogued many of St. Thomas More’s prayers in the list Lets Kill All the Lawyers. []
  3. Further Reading: Understanding Aristotle, his political thought, and his contribution to Western Civilization has become a main topic on SPL (An exhaustive list of articles with Aristotle here). The most pertinent list to understand Fr. Schall’s comments is Political Animals and the Philosopher King: 9 Thoughts from Book One of Aristotle’s Politics. []
  4. Two Truths Theory: Particularly with the dawn of Aristotle, both Catholicism and Islam struggled to understand the relationship of reason and faith. The struggle was epitomized with Aristotle’s rational articulation of nature as an enclosed system of laws, i.e., natural law. Before Aquinas, Averroes, the Islamic philosopher, submitted a “two truths theory” – one truth of revelation and one truth of reason. []
  5. Mystery & Uncertainty: The medieval mind’s mystery bathed in light may be seen in how the Incarnation is at its heart a mystery, but by the light of reason men have contemplated and explored the mystery – even thought there is mystery, man may know certain things with certainty   The modern mind sees the mystery within Catholicism and misuses it to bathe the entire religion in uncertainty, unraveling dogmas and sacred tradition. []
  6. Further Reading: SPL has written extensively on Aquinas (click here) and on the subject of law (click here); however, the best starting point for a thomistic understanding of law is Law and the Common Good: 9 Introductory Catholic Questions. Enjoy. []

20 Quotes from Christmas Homilies Around the World 2012

“It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred.”

Listers, Merry Christmas. We’ve gathered quotes from Christmas messages from around world and provided links for the full texts.


No Room for God

“Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.”

“There is no room for him [God]. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger.”

“It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred.” – Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas Eve homily 2012 [Full Text]


The Infant’s Dream

“He was born poor, lived poor and chose freely to have no privileges. He experienced fatigue, pain, cold, hunger, thirst, fear, persecution, flight and later, his own death and self-sacrifice. He wanted to be a true “son of man,” sharing in our sufferings and our hopes, happy to be one with us, accepting the attention and maternal tenderness of his Mother, and finding sufficiency in the food and clothing that the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph could offer him.”

“He was born for the poor, the oppressed and the suffering, for the simple and ordinary people who have not lost hope in God. He came for transgressors and sinners.”

“Behold this Infant’s dream, that all human beings become brothers, because they all have one God and Lord, who is the Father of all, the Father who shows compassion to all and who watches over all!”

“And you, Mary our mother, who lavished your maternal attention on your divine Child, protect the children of the world from all evil and sow in their hearts the seeds of faith, hope and goodness.” – 2012 Christmas Homily of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal. [Full Text]


We Work to Dispel the Darkness

“The belief of the shepherds who heard the voices of angels, and of the people who heard the shepherds’ testimony, set into motion a sharing of faith that has endured for more than two millennia and has spread to all corners of the world.”

“The ancient world of Bethlehem needed the faith and enthusiasm of those who would proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ, and so does our world today. In too many ways the darkness of oppression, persecution and lack of respect for human dignity threatens to overshadow us, and in too many ways the truth that each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God is denied.”

“We must work together as brothers and sisters to dispel the darkness and to help one another to live the call to holiness. By doing so we give the greatest and most enduring gift; the gift of life in Jesus Christ.” – Cardinal Sean of Boston, Christmas homily 2012 [Full Text]


Truth has Sprung Out of the Earth

“Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth have indeed met; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven.”

“God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him. Porta fidei!”

“Yes, may peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims. Once again I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.”

“May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians.”

“Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have become incarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. That child is the Son of God; he is God appearing in history. His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity. May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace.” – His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi Christmas Message 2012 [Full Text]


Those Who Cannot Find Peace

“My heart, the hearts of all believers, of all people of good will go out to all those who cannot find peace at this time, especially those who have suffered at the hands of fellow Christians; Christian officials, priests, religious, teachers.”

“Mary’s son Jesus was not born as a prince, not even in a good middle class home, but in a cave used as a stable at the back of a small residence. Tradition, not the Scriptures, placed an ox and an ass there, but a stable remains a place for animals even when it has been cleaned up.”

“The light of Christ shines through this darkness, brings us peace and calls us to goodness and love. It offers strength and healing to every person who suffers. We should never forget this, especially at Christmas.” – Christmas message from Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney 2012 [Full Text]


The Infant Warmed by Straw

“For two thousand years the tenderness of a new-born infant warmed by the straw and the heat generated by animals has inspired generations of believers.”

“Christmas invites us to pause before the manger and place our aspirations and needs before the Prince of Peace. Christmastime calls us to consider the Word which became flesh, dwelt among us, and freed us from sin. There never has been, is not now, and never will be anyone not saved through the merits of Jesus Christ.” – Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services of the United States, Christmas Message 2012 [Full Text]

15 Thoughts from Pope Benedict XVI’s Outstanding Christmas Eve Homily 2012

“It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Listers, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI delivered a must-read homily this Christmas Eve.The following is the papal message in its entirety supplemented by SPL headlines. Moreover, SPL has highlighted some of the more memorable and acute quotes in red.

“We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger.” – Pope Benedict XVI

1. I Come to You as a Child to be Loved

Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendor of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me. ;

2. What if They Knocked on My Door?

I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). ;

3. Do We Really Have Room for God?

The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for him. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. ;

4. No Room for God in Our Thinking

But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the “God hypothesis” becomes superfluous. There is no room for him. ;

5. No Room for God in Our Desires

Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger. By reflecting on that one simple saying about the lack of room at the inn, we have come to see how much we need to listen to Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). Paul speaks of renewal, the opening up of our intellect (nous), of the whole way we view the world and ourselves. ;

6. Softly He Knocks

The conversion that we need must truly reach into the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognize him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world. ;

7. The Song Radiates Within

There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels’ hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Savior: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” God is glorious. God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendor of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds. ;

8. Corrupted Religion

Linked to God’s glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where he is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone. Now it is true that in the course of history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. ;

9. Distortions of the Sacred

We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred. While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honor in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. ;

10. Into the Darkness the Light Shines

Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is “Emmanuel”, God with us (Is 7:14). And down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine. ;

11. Swords Beaten into Ploughshares

So Christ is our peace, and he proclaimed peace to those far away and to those near at hand (cf. Eph 2:14, 17). How could we now do other than pray to him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares (Is 2:4), that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practice violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people “with whom you are pleased” – people according to your image and thus people of peace. ;

12. A Holy Curiosity

Once the angels departed, the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened for us (cf. Lk 2:15). The shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem, the Evangelist tells us (cf. 2:16). A holy curiosity impelled them to see this child in a manger, who the angel had said was the Savior, Christ the Lord. The great joy of which the angel spoke had touched their hearts and given them wings. ;

13. Step Outside Our Habits

Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go “across”, daring to step beyond, to make the “transition” by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist. ;

14. The Land Where the Lord Lived

Let us go over to Bethlehem: as we say these words to one another, along with the shepherds, we should not only think of the great “crossing over” to the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem and all those places where the Lord lived, ministered and suffered. Let us pray at this time for the people who live and suffer there today. Let us pray that there may be peace in that land. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbors: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace. ;

15. Make Haste for the Things of God

The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen.