- What is the Sacrament of Confirmation
- Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
- Most Precious Blood of Jesus
- Family and Marriage
- Articles and notices
I was reading an article from the AFA Journal, a conservative Protestant publication that perhaps some of you may recognize as being from the American Family Association. In this particular article on freedom of conscience, I found a number of contradictions that point out the illogical arguments within today’s secular society as pertains to Freedom of Conscience. For example, the Protestants want the Government to support their religion; yet they do not want the government to tell them what they can and cannot do—although the government does so to every other entity it supports. Another example, the Protestants say marriage is a secular affair—not a Sacrament; yet they want to dictate to the state what marriage is—in fact, now wanting to claim marriage is a religious affair. One reads in this particular article:
“During the Reformation,” Barton said, “leaders advocated that the state and the church should be two entities. Dividing the two, it was argued, would restore the rights of conscience and rebuild the voluntarianism of Christianity.” The Protestant Reformation reached England when King Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife and the Pope wouldn’t allow it. Henry split from Rome and established the Church of England with himself as its supreme leader. Pilgrims and Puritans [later] objected to this power grab on theological grounds [i.e., their own grounds], stating Jesus Christ is the only leader of the church. (Heart of Liberty Is Freedom of Conscience, AFA Journal, July 2018, 18-19; bracket insert added)
In other words, when government acted to their advantage, what a government did was fine, such as separate from the Roman Catholic Church. When it did not, the government was wrong, such as opposing Protestants establishing a theocracy in opposition to the state. I say this because arguments based on freedom of conscience fall flat if there is a separation of church and state because the spheres are not defined if there is no one deciding authority. Roman Catholics have it in the Magisterium of the Church. I believe Justice Anthony Kennedy summed up this conflict when, in the recent NIFLA vs. Becerra decision, he wrote in a concurring opinion: This law [forcing one business to promote another state supported business] is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression.” What one ends up with is messages, narratives, speeches, thoughts, expressions but no truth because no one has the authority to say what is the truth—not even the state. Then one goes back to Pontius Pilate’s question: What is truth?
Of course, the Conciliar Church is not that authority. The Conciliar Church doesn’t oppose anything the Democratic controlled government does today because it lost its moral power through compromise. In The Conversation Mary J. Henold wrote the June 25, 2018 article How Catholic women fought against Vatican’s prohibition on contraceptives in which she relates that Catholics in America already imbibed the Protestant freedom of conscience concept well before Vatican II since regarding contraception: Their choice to disregard this teaching started well before the letter [Humanae vitae of 1968] was released. Among American Catholic women, for example, as of 1955, 30 percent used artificial contraception. Ten years later, that number had reached 51 percent, all before the ban was reiterated in 1968. (https://theconversation.com/how-catholic-women-fought-against-vaticans-prohibition-on-contraceptives-94544?) And now Conciliar Catholic women are more likely to use contraceptives than any other group of women. It is the same with abortion. And because of this freedom of conscience, most Conciliar Church issues are now directed toward helping illegals, LGBTQ, and welfare generational dependents—and all these Conciliar Church agencies receiving the majority of funding through the government where the government informs them what exactly they can and cannot do, thereby, as Justice Kennedy declares, imposing its own message—as an extension of the secular government. There are no Church agencies to keep Catholic families who are legal citizens together by preventing divorce or help to support those Catholic American families in financial difficulties who are legal citizens—causing the demise of Catholic families in America. June appropriately was accepted as the month to honor the father of the family and thereby the family itself as intact: Father, Mother and children. Everything but fatherhood and the family is celebrated now. May faithful Catholics hold to the teachings of the Church concerning marriage and never invoke freedom of conscience to separate themselves from their family and thereby also God.
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor
WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION?
by Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Sacrament of Confirmation
Saint Thomas Aquinas, writing his Summa Theologica, is the first theologian to devote himself to the Sacrament of Confirmation in a complete and separate framework. Except for short references, previously Confirmation was usually treated together with the Sacrament of Baptism. Question 72 of the Summa provides twelve points for consideration of the Sacrament, which is a general outline for all the Sacraments in consideration.
The first question, Article 1, Thomas proposes is: Is Confirmation a sacrament? The arguments in his time opposed to Confirmation being a sacrament dealt primarily with the scriptural proof surrounding the institution of the Sacrament by Christ:
Objection 1. It seems that Confirmation is not a sacrament. For sacraments derive their efficacy from the Divine institution, as stated above (III:64:2). But we read nowhere of Confirmation being instituted by Christ. Therefore it is not a sacrament.
Objection 2. Further, the sacraments of the New Law were foreshadowed in the Old Law; thus the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 10:2-4), that “all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.” But Confirmation was not foreshadowed in the old Testament. Therefore it is not a sacrament.
Secondarily, its necessity and effects:
Objection 3. Further, the sacraments are ordained unto man’s salvation. But man can be saved without Confirmation: since children that are baptized, who die before being confirmed, are saved. Therefore Confirmation is not a sacrament.
Objection 4. Further, by all the sacraments of the Church, man is conformed to Christ, Who is the Author of the sacraments. But man cannot be conformed to Christ by Confirmation, since we read nowhere of Christ being confirmed.
Saints Thomas references not Scripture, but the Church which spoke through Pope Melchiades (311-14):
On the contrary, Pope Melchiades wrote to the bishops of Spain: “Concerning the point on which you sought to be informed, i.e. whether the imposition of the bishop’s hand were a greater sacrament than Baptism, know that each is a great sacrament.” (Decreta)
Thomas does not refer, then, to Scripture because there is no direct command to confirm, such as in Baptism, where Christ says: Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:19); or, the Holy Eucharist, when Christ says: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me (1 Cor. 11:25; cf. Luke 22:19) He thereby expresses that the teaching of the Church is sufficient to prove Confirmation is a Sacrament. Saint Thomas goes on to explain why Confirmation is a Sacrament:
I answer that, The sacraments of the New Law are ordained unto special effects of grace: and therefore where there is a special effect of grace, there we find a special sacrament ordained for the purpose. But since sensible and material things bear a likeness to things spiritual and intelligible, from what occurs in the life of the body, we can perceive that which is special to the spiritual life. Now it is evident that in the life of the body a certain special perfection consists in man’s attaining to the perfect age, and being able to perform the perfect actions of a man: hence the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 13:11): “When I became a man, I put away the things of a child.” And thence it is that besides the movement of generation whereby man receives life of the body, there is the movement of growth, whereby man is brought to the perfect age. So therefore does man receive spiritual life in Baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration: while in Confirmation man arrives at the perfect age, as it were, of the spiritual life. Hence Pope Melchiades says: “The Holy Ghost, Who comes down on the waters of Baptism bearing salvation in His flight, bestows at the font, the fulness of innocence; but in Confirmation He confers an increase of grace. In Baptism we are born again unto life; after Baptism we are strengthened.” And therefore it is evident that Confirmation is a special sacrament.
If Confirmation is a Sacrament, then it must have been instituted by Christ. Thomas, therefore, rejects the opinions of those who would claim otherwise:
Reply to Objection 1. Concerning the institution of this sacrament there are three opinions. Some (Alexander of Hales, Summa Theol. P. IV, Q. IX; St. Bonaventure, Sent. iv, D, 7) have maintained that this sacrament was instituted neither by Christ, nor by the apostles; but later in the course of time by one of the councils. Others (Pierre de Tarentaise, Sent. iv, D, 7) held that it was instituted by the apostles. But this cannot be admitted; since the institution of a new sacrament belongs to the power of excellence, which belongs to Christ alone.
And therefore we must say that Christ instituted this sacrament not by bestowing, but by promising it, according to John 16:7: “If I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you.” And this was because in this sacrament the fulness of the Holy Ghost is bestowed, which was not to be given before Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension; according to John 7:39: “As yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
As to finding a foreshadow or type of the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Old Testament, there was no permanent rite prefiguring the giving of the Holy Ghost and the Angelic Doctor explains in Reply to Objection 2. Confirmation is the sacrament of the fulness of grace: wherefore there could be nothing corresponding to it in the Old Law, since “the Law brought nothing to perfection” (Hebrews 7:19). The necessity of the Sacrament is stated in the reply to the third objection:
[A]ll the sacraments are in some way necessary for salvation: but some, so that there is no salvation without them; some as conducing to the perfection of salvation; and thus it is that Confirmation is necessary for salvation: although salvation is possible without it, provided it be not omitted out of contempt.
The Reply to Objection 4 brings to completion the idea of a Sacrament, which is (1) an outward sign, (2) instituted by Christ (3) to give grace. Confirmation gives the fulness of grace in the words Thomas:
Those who receive Confirmation, which is the sacrament of the fulness of grace, are conformed to Christ, inasmuch as from the very first instant of His conception He was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This fulness was made known at His Baptism, when “the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape . . . upon Him” (Luke 3:22). Hence (Luke 4:1) it is written that “Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from the Jordan.” Nor was it fitting to Christ’s dignity, that He, Who is the Author of the sacraments, should receive the fulness of grace from a sacrament.
After showing that Confirmation is truly a Sacrament, the Angelic Doctor then proceeds to speak of the matter of the Sacrament. Scripture and the Fathers speak of the laying on of hands and only later is there the mention of an anointing. It is certainly not possible to prove that the Apostles anointed those to be confirmed with oil, but it has been seen as a necessity for validity later in the earliest recordings of the administration after the Apostles. Saint Thomas appears, in his second article on Confirmation, to seek why the anointing is necessary as the Church teaches: Whether chrism is a fitting matter for this sacrament? Again, he does this in the arguments of the time over the matter for the Sacrament of Confirmation:
Objection 1. It seems that chrism is not a fitting matter for this sacrament. For this sacrament, as stated above (Article 1, Reply to Objection 1), was instituted by Christ when He promised His disciples the Holy Ghost. But He sent them the Holy Ghost without their being anointed with chrism. Moreover, the apostles themselves bestowed this sacrament without chrism, by the mere imposition of hands: for it is written (Acts 8:17) that the apostles “laid their hands upon” those who were baptized, “and they received the Holy Ghost.” Therefore chrism is not the matter of this sacrament: since the matter is essential to the sacrament.
Objection 2. Further, Confirmation perfects, in a way, the sacrament of Baptism, as stated above (65, 3-4): and so it ought to be conformed to it as perfection to the thing perfected. But the matter, in Baptism, is a simple element, viz. water. Therefore chrism, which is made of oil and balm, is not a fitting matter for this sacrament.
Objection 3. Further, oil is used as the matter of this sacrament for the purpose of anointing. But any oil will do for anointing: for instance, oil made from nuts, and from anything else. Therefore not only olive oil should be used for this sacrament.
Objection 4. Further, it has been stated above (III:66:3) that water is used as the matter of Baptism, because it is easily procured everywhere. But olive oil is not to be procured everywhere; and much less is balm. Therefore chrism, which is made of these, is not a fitting matter for this sacrament.
Saint Thomas doesn’t exclude the laying on of hands, but again turns to the teaching authority of the Church requiring the anointing: On the contrary, Gregory says (Registr. iv): “Let no priest dare to sign the baptized infants on the brow with the sacred chrism.” Therefore chrism is the matter of this sacrament.
Continuing, he then explains the significance of holy Chrism:
I answer that, Chrism is the fitting matter of this sacrament. For, as stated above (Article 1), in this sacrament the fulness of the Holy Ghost is given for the spiritual strength which belongs to the perfect age. Now when man comes to perfect age he begins at once to have intercourse with others; whereas until then he lives an individual life, as it were, confined to himself. Now the grace of the Holy Ghost is signified by oil; hence Christ is said to be “anointed with the oil of gladness” (Psalm 44:8), by reason of His being gifted with the fulness of the Holy Ghost. Consequently oil is a suitable matter of this sacrament. And balm is mixed with the oil, by reason of its fragrant odor, which spreads about: hence the Apostle says (2 Corinthians 2:15): “We are the good odor of Christ,” etc. And though many other things be fragrant, yet preference is given to balm, because it has a special odor of its own, and because it confers incorruptibility: hence it is written (Sirach 24:21): “My odor is as the purest balm.”
In the replies, Saint Thomas expands on his understanding of the manner of the administration of the Sacraments, particularly Confirmation:
Reply to Objection 1. Christ, by the power which He exercises in the sacraments, bestowed on the apostles the reality of this sacrament, i.e. the fulness of the Holy Ghost, without the sacrament itself, because they had received “the first fruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23). Nevertheless, something of keeping with the matter of this sacrament was displayed to the apostles in a sensible manner when they received the Holy Ghost. For that the Holy Ghost came down upon them in a sensible manner under the form of fire, refers to the same signification as oil: except in so far as fire has an active power, while oil has a passive power, as being the matter and incentive of fire. And this was quite fitting: for it was through the apostles that the grace of the Holy Ghost was to flow forth to others. Again, the Holy Ghost came down on the apostles in the shape of a tongue. Which refers to the same signification as balm: except in so far as the tongue communicates with others by speech, but balm, by its odor. because, to wit, the apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost, as teachers of the Faith; but the rest of the believers, as doing that which gives edification to the faithful.
In like manner, too, when the apostles imposed their hands, and when they preached, the fulness of the Holy Ghost came down under visible signs on the faithful, just as, at the beginning, He came down on the apostles: hence Peter said (Acts 11:15): “When I had begun to speak, the Holy Ghost fell upon them, as upon us also in the beginning.” Consequently there was no need for sacramental sensible matter, where God sent sensible signs miraculously.
However, the apostles commonly made use of chrism in bestowing the sacrament, when such like visible signs were lacking. For Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iv): “There is a certain perfecting operation which our guides,” i.e. the apostles, “call the sacrifice of Chrism.”
Reply to Objection 2. Baptism is bestowed that spiritual life may be received simply; wherefore simple matter is fitting to it. But this sacrament is given that we may receive the fulness of the Holy Ghost, Whose operations are manifold, according to Wisdom 7:22, “In her is the” Holy “Spirit . . . one, manifold”; and 1 Corinthians 12:4, “There are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit.” Consequently a compound matter is appropriate to this sacrament.
Reply to Objection 3. These properties of oil, by reason of which it symbolizes the Holy Ghost, are to be found in olive oil rather than in any other oil. In fact, the olive-tree itself, through being an evergreen, signifies the refreshing and merciful operation of the Holy Ghost.
Moreover, this oil is called oil properly, and is very much in use, wherever it is to be had. And whatever other liquid is so called, derives its name from its likeness to this oil: nor are the latter commonly used, unless it be to supply the want of olive oil. Therefore it is that this oil alone is used for this and certain other sacraments.
Reply to Objection 4. Baptism is the sacrament of absolute necessity; and so its matter should be at hand everywhere. But it is enough that the matter of this sacrament, which is not of such great necessity, be easily sent to all parts of the world.
(To be continued)
Dr. Pius Parsch
The Church’s Year of Grace (1959)
SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Baptism – Eucharist
In accordance with ecclesiastical law, holy water is blessed every Sunday before the principal service in parish churches. The celebrant then proceeds to the altar, and after he has intoned the antiphon Asperges me, he sprinkles the altar and the people while the choir continues the verse. Translated, this antiphon says: “Sprinkle Your saving water upon me, Lord, to cleanse me; for if You wash me, I will become more white than snow.” Immediately Psalm 50 is begun: “Have mercy on me, O God, in accordance with the greatness of Your mercy.” Now just what does all this mean? The holy water serves as a reminder of the baptismal water that cleansed our souls from original sin; it should now purify us from the sins of the past week; it should now re-cleanse the baptismal garment that perhaps became somewhat spotted. Accordingly we pray a penitential psalm asking that our baptismal robe “be made more white than snow.” Furthermore, since sprinkling with holy water denotes a renewal of baptism, this ceremony is performed only on Sunday because Sunday is the day par excellence for the administration of this sacrament.
Such the significance of the rite. But how is it possible to renew baptism? Through holy Mass, through the holy Eucharist. Baptism has conferred divine life with all its concomitant blessings, but the holy Eucharist preserves and perfects that life. On the portal to every Sunday, therefore, two words may be inscribed in huge letters: BAPTISM – HOLY EUCHARIST. It would be particularly apropos today.
- Text Analysis.It seems that the key to the formulary is had in theCollect. Here God is addressed as the divine Gardener; it is He who plants the germ of religion in our souls and brings it to maturity. The Easter-Pentecost season is like a garden in which the divine Caretaker places seedlings. These should now be growing, well protected from bugs and blight. Today’s Mass text enumerates various means employed by the heavenly Gardener to make His work successful. The Epistle lists the first of these, baptism. Baptism is the fountain emitting a constant flow of eternally life-giving waters. Every Sunday means baptism, the day for refurbishing baptism’s graces. The second means employed comes to the fore in the Gospel, the holy Eucharist. By It the plantings are continually nourished, preserved, protected, cleansed.
The various chants of the Mass are helpful in voicing our heart’s response to God’s gardening. In the five chanted texts we can discern a graduation from conflict to victorious peace and rest, from distraught petition to the serenity of a soul aglow with celestial light. The first step is made at the Introit, Ad te, Domine, clamabo, The Gradual goes a step further, confident of a goodly answer. Trust in God becomes stronger as we sing the Alleluia verse—the third stage. The fourth takes us into the “marvels of Your mercies,” Easter’s graces (Off.). At last, with the Communion antiphon, we reach the summit, transfigured in God. Our hearts sing jubilantly: “I will approach and bring an offering of joy to His tabernacle! I will sing, I will give thanks to the Lord.” Thus do the chants touch the life of Easter grace, that life about which the divine Gardener is so concerned. An excellent Mass formulary for Sunday because its every text turns our attention to the growth of that divine life bestowed at Easter.
- Holy Mass (Dominus fortitudo).Characterize today’s formulary as a genuine “Easter Mass.” We are shown the relation that the liturgy of the Word bears to the liturgy of the Eucharist, how the doctrinal content of a Mass formulary mirrors that which actually takes place in the sacrifice-mysterium, i.e., the actualization of the work of redemption at the present time and its application to us. The Gospel in particular provides a fine picture symbol for the Mass action. EverySunday a great (Christian) multitude is gathered with Jesus in the parish church. Now as then He first preaches. He speaks to us in the Epistle, in the Gospel, in the sermon. After that He again says: “I have compassion on the multitude. The week is long, and if I send them away fasting to their homes, they will faint on the streets of daily life.” Jesus is thinking of souls. Straightway He nourishes them, not, of course, by multiplying ordinary bread but by changing it into His own Body.
The Epistle puts us into the context of Easter blessings. Through baptism we were all plunged into the likeness of Christ’s death; we became new men, walking in newness of life; we died to sin to live only for God! All these Paschal blessings should be refreshed in us today by means of the holy Eucharist. Give a few extra moments today to the chants of the Proper. Note and try to assimilate the spirit of the Introit, its trust and confidence. We are God’s “anointed” (in baptism), God’s “people,” God’s “inheritance.” The consciousness of being God’s own elect, of having Him as “Shepherd,” places this soul-stirring prayer on our lips. Yes, “the Lord is the strength of His people, the all-powerful protector of His anointed. Save Your people, Lord, and bless Your inheritance; govern them and exalt them day after day” (pray the entire Psalm 27). A profitable meditation could easily be made on the Collect.
God must be my all, my beginning, my progress, my end. He is the good Gardener over my soul. He “sows” divine love in my heart, He “gives increase” of spiritual life, He “cherishes and protects” the plantings of virtue, He weeds and waters and “wards off” enemies.
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