- What is the Sacrament of Confirmation
- Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
- Our Lady of the Snows
- Family and Marriage
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The greatest mystery, which is highlighted in the Incarnation, is that God can enter into His creation and change that which the laws of nature (He, Himself, established the laws so He is not bound) would naturally accomplish. This faith is what separates us as Catholics from even the Protestants, let alone the Atheists, Agnostics and Deists. Faith cannot be interpreted as a “religious experience” that even secular psychiatrists and neurologists will say is nothing more than a chemical reaction in the brain that can be reproduced. It is not as the Modernists say, subjective revelation that grows with experience where each comes to his or her own attainment of a supreme being and cannot, therefore, be dogmatized. It might fit in perfectly with Sociology, but it is all made up and has no relation with God as He is. Faith is God immediately revealing Truths that one could not know naturally. He first, through Creation, entered time and did so for each act of creation, resting after its completion. He entered into His creation when He walked with Adam (cf. Gen. 3:8); and, as Saint Paul says, God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, . . . by whom also he made the world. (Heb. 1:1,2) If God can intervene—which is why one prays and not just as a gamble, but believing God can intervene, today’s feast for us in Nevada, Our Lady of the Snows, expresses the intervention of God in behalf of His Mother and for that of the Church, which Mary has a motherly care for. Here God allowed it to snow where a church was to be built expressing His desire that we should honor His Mother. True miracles, that which is contrary to natural laws though not contrary to goodness, show God continues to intervene. As we invoke the Mother of God to intercede for us, let us believe that she is there with her Son as the Mother Queen presenting our requests and that if it is good for us and leads to our salvation Christ will grant her requests. Too often we pray because we are obliged but do not expect an answer—showing our lack of faith. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima continue to give witness both to Mary’s intercession and Christ answering the request of His Mother as He did during the wedding feast of Cana (cf. John 2:1ff.). As Our Lady of Snows is patron for Nevada (Diocese of Reno) and we pray to her to watch over our state, so should all the faithful pray to patrons of their state and local that intercession may be may for God’s intervention.
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
Having discussed the matter and form of the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Doctor goes on to speak of the sponsor in Article 10. Whether he who is confirmed needs one to stand for him [to hold him]? The Latin, teneri (to be held) instead of stare (to stand) gives rise to the first objection and its cynicism. The next seeks an answer as to why a sponsor, and the third presents a rational reason, but does not apply as normally a man is to stand for a man and a woman is to stand for a woman, though the passage the objector cited is misrepresented. Thomas presents the arguments opposed to sponsorship as follows:
Objection 1. It seems that he who is confirmed needs no one to stand for him. For this sacrament is given not only to children but also to adults. But adults can stand for themselves. Therefore it is absurd that someone else should stand for them.
Objection 2. Further, he that belongs already to the Church, has free access to the prince of the Church, i.e. the bishop. But this sacrament, as stated above (Article 6), is given only to one that is baptized, who is already a member of the Church. Therefore it seems that he should not be brought by another to the bishop in order to receive this sacrament.
Objection 3. Further, this sacrament is given for spiritual strength, which has more vigor in men than in women, according to Proverbs 31:10: “Who shall find a valiant woman?” Therefore at least a woman should not stand for a man in confirmation.
The answer by Saint Thomas in referring to who may and may not be sponsors gives testimony that it is the teaching of the Church for confirmandi to have a sponsor:
On the contrary, Are the following words of Pope Innocent, which are to be found in the Decretals (XXX, 4): “If anyone raise the children of another’s marriage from the sacred font, or stand for them in Confirmation,” etc. Therefore, just as someone is required as sponsor of one who is baptized, so is someone required to stand for him who is to be confirmed.
This is followed by an explanation of the state of the confirmandi and why one stands for him or her.
I answer that, As stated above (Art. 1, 4 and 9), this sacrament is given to man for strength in the spiritual combat. Now, just as one newly born requires someone to teach him things pertaining to ordinary conduct, according to Hebrews 12:9: “We have had fathers of our flesh, for instructors, and we obeyed [Vulgate: ‘reverenced’]” them; so they who are chosen for the fight need instructors by whom they are informed of things concerning the conduct of the battle, and hence in earthly wars, generals and captains are appointed to the command of the others. For this reason he also who receives this sacrament, has someone to stand for him, who, as it were, has to instruct him concerning the fight.
Likewise, since this sacrament bestows on man the perfection of spiritual age, as stated above (2 and 5), therefore he who approaches this sacrament is upheld by another, as being spiritually a weakling and a child.
The Doctor goes on to reply to each of the objections:
- Although he who is confirmed, be adult in body, nevertheless he is not yet spiritually an adult.
- Though he who is baptized is made a member of the Church, nevertheless he is not yet enrolled as a Christian soldier. And therefore he is brought to the bishop, as to the commander of the army, by one who is already enrolled as a Christian soldier. For one who is not yet confirmed should not stand for another in Confirmation.
- According to Colossians 3 (Galatians3:28), “in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female.” Consequently, it matters not whether a man or a woman stand for one who is to be confirmed.
This last answer seems to address the objector’s misrepresentation of Proverbs 31:10, since it justifies the allowing of the godmother to stands for her godchild.
Thomas then regresses to the proper minister of the Sacrament. It is known that in the Oriental Church a priest administers confirmation with baptism (and the child is also given the Holy Eucharist). During this time of Saint Thomas’ life when the Church was attempting to re-unite the Oriental Churches with the Roman Church there was the legitimate question as to whether the Oriental priests could give Confirmation and Saint Thomas must have reflected upon this answer since it was being discussed. Most were of the mind of forcing the Greeks to follow the Latin customs, which was partly done when the Venetians conquered Constantinople in 1204. So Thomas addresses the question in Article 11: Whether only a bishop can confer this sacrament? Innocent III (1198-1216), in a letter Cum venisset to Basil, Archbishop of Tirnova (Bulgaria), Feb. 25, 1204, wrote:
The imposition of the hands is designated by the anointing of the forehead which by another name is called confirmation, because through it the Holy Spirit is given for an increase (of grace) and strength. Therefore, although a simple priest or presbyter is able to give other anointings, this one, only the highest priest, that is the bishop, ought to confer, because we read concerning the Apostles alone, whose successors the bishops are, that through the imposition of the hands they gave the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts8:14 ff.; cf. DB 419).
And Innocent IV (1243-1254) wrote to the Bishop of Tusculum his letter Sub Catholicae (March 6, 1254) while Legate of the Apostolic See among the Greeks:
Moreover, let bishops alone mark the baptized on the forehead with chrism, because this anointing is not to be given except by bishops, since the apostles alone, whose places the bishops take, are read to have imparted the Holy Spirit by the imposition of the hand, which confirmation, or the anointing of the forehead represents. (Cf. DB 450)
Surely these decisions and historical events influenced Saint Thomas in giving the objections and the response to the question. The objections, therefore, take on some legitimacy.
Objection 1. It seems that not only a bishop can confer this sacrament. For Gregory (Regist. iv), writing to Bishop Januarius, says: “We hear that some were scandalized because we forbade priests to anoint with chrism those who have been baptized. Yet in doing this we followed the ancient custom of our Church: but if this trouble some so very much we permit priests, where no bishop is to be had, to anoint the baptized on the forehead with chrism.” But that which is essential to the sacraments should not be changed for the purpose of avoiding scandal. Therefore it seems that it is not essential to this sacrament that it be conferred by a bishop.
Objection 2. Further, the sacrament of Baptism seems to be more efficacious than the sacrament of Confirmation: since it bestows full remission of sins, both as to guilt and as to punishment, whereas this sacrament does not. But a simple priest, in virtue of his office, can give the sacrament of Baptism: and in a case of necessity anyone, even without orders, can baptize. Therefore it is not essential to this sacrament that it be conferred by a bishop.
Objection 3. Further, the top of the head, where according to medical men the reason is situated (i.e. the “particular reason,” which is called the “cogitative faculty”), is more noble than the forehead, which is the site of the imagination. But a simple priest can anoint the baptized with chrism on the top of the head. Therefore much more can he anoint them with chrism on the forehead, which belongs to this sacrament.
Saint Thomas turns to Pope Eusebius, who had a very short reign (April-August 310), and seemingly referenced by Popes Innocent III and IV. Gregory the Great (590-604) lived three hundred years after Eusebius.
On the contrary, Pope Eusebius (Ep. iii ad Ep. Tusc.) says: “The sacrament of the imposition of the hand should be held in great veneration, and can be given by none but the high priests. Nor is it related or known to have been conferred in apostolic times by others than the apostles themselves; nor can it ever be either licitly or validly performed by others than those who stand in their place. And if anyone presume to do otherwise, it must be considered null and void; nor will such a thing ever be counted among the sacraments of the Church.” Therefore it is essential to this sacrament, which is called “the sacrament of the imposition of the hand,” that it be given by a bishop.
I answer that, In every work the final completion is reserved to the supreme act or power; thus the preparation of the matter belongs to the lower craftsmen, the higher gives the form, but the highest of all is he to whom pertains the use, which is the end of things made by art; thus also the letter which is written by the clerk, is signed by his employer. Now the faithful of Christ are a Divine work, according to 1 Corinthians 3:9: “You are God’s building”; and they are also “an epistle,” as it were, “written with the Spirit of God,” according to 2 Corinthians 3:2-3. And this sacrament of Confirmation is, as it were, the final completion of the sacrament of Baptism; in the sense that by Baptism man is built up into a spiritual dwelling, and is written like a spiritual letter; whereas by the sacrament of Confirmation, like a house already built, he is consecrated as a temple of the Holy Ghost, and as a letter already written, is signed with the sign of the cross. Therefore the conferring of this sacrament is reserved to bishops, who possess supreme power in the Church: just as in the primitive Church, the fulness of the Holy Ghost was given by the apostles, in whose place the bishops stand (Acts 8). Hence Pope Urban I says: “All the faithful should, after Baptism, receive the Holy Ghost by the imposition of the bishop’s hand, that they may become perfect Christians.”
Defending, therefore, that any valid bishop has the power to Confirm, and interpreting the teaching of the Church that Bishops alone have the right to Confirm, and showing that no priest has the power itself or the right, the Doctor still accepts the teaching that expresses the Pope can grant priests the power to Confirm, not because a priest has the power, but is restricted, but by delegation through seeming Apostolic Tradition found in the Oriental Church. Therefore, articulating that no priest can administer Confirmation of himself, and the attempt by him to do so is null and void. The problem of the Greek priests would not be resolved until the next century when the Pope granted that, because of tradition, those priests of the Eastern Rites in the Balkans and Orient could confer Confirmation, but those priests of the Eastern Rite in Italy could not confer the Sacrament. Clement VI (1342-52) wrote on September 20, 1351, to the Consolator, the Catholicon of the Armenians, Super quibusdam, in which he sets out the Churches teaching on priests and confirmation:
You have given responses which influence us to ask the following from you: first, concerning the consecration of chrism, whether you believe that the chrism can rightly and deservedly be consecrated by no priest who is not a bishop.
Second, whether you believe that the sacrament of confirmation cannot ordinarily be administered by any other than by the bishop by virtue of his office.
Third, whether you believe that by the Roman Pontiff alone, having a plentitude of power, the administration of the sacrament of confirmation can be granted to priests who are not bishops.
Fourth, whether you believe that those confirmed by any priests whatsoever, who are not bishops and who have not received from the Roman Pontiff any commission or concession regarding this, must be anointed again by a bishop or bishops. (Cf. DB 571-74)
That is, first, only a bishop can consecrate holy Chrism; second, only a bishop can confirm by virtue of his office; third, a pope can grant the power to a priest to confirm; and, fourth, without papal permission, a priest’s attempt to confirm is invalid. Therefore, Saint Thomas holds to this teaching in his replies:
Reply to Objection 1. The Pope has the plenitude of power in the Church, in virtue of which he can commit to certain lower orders things that belong to the higher orders: thus he allows priests to confer minor orders, which belong to the episcopal power. And in virtue of this fulness of power the Pope, Blessed Gregory, allowed simple priests to confer this sacrament, so long as the scandal was ended.
Reply to Objection 2. The sacrament of Baptism is more efficacious than this sacrament as to the removal of evil, since it is a spiritual birth, that consists in change from non-being to being. But this sacrament is more efficacious for progress in good; since it is a spiritual growth from imperfect being to perfect being. And hence this sacrament is committed to a more worthy minister.
Reply to Objection 3. As Rabanus says (De Instit. Cleric. i), “the baptized is signed by the priest with chrism on the top of the head, but by the bishop on the forehead; that the former unction may symbolize the descent of the Holy Ghost on him, in order to consecrate a dwelling to God: and that the second also may teach us that the sevenfold grace of the same Holy Ghost descends on man with all fulness of sanctity, knowledge and virtue.” Hence this unction is reserved to bishops, not on account of its being applied to a more worthy part of the body, but by reason of its having a more powerful effect. (To be continued)
Dr. Pius Parsch
The Church’s Year of Grace (1959)
ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Ephpheta – Be opened
In reviewing the Sundays of the Pentecost season, we should not try to seek for or to impose any systematic or artistic arrangement; for a priori schematic methods are alien to worship and liturgy. Nevertheless, no good reasons can be brought forward against an analysis of content; and analysis is often aided by a certain measure of classification, whether such classification was historically intended or not. At the beginning of the Pentecost sequence there occur three Sundays that can be called “Recruiting Sundays” (2nd, 3rd, 4th after Pentecost) because the Gospel each Sunday points out God’s efforts toward having souls enlisted in the kingdom of heaven (viz., the parables of the Great Supper, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Miraculous Catch of Fish). The three most recent Sundays (8th, 9th, 10th) formed a trilogy with emphasis on sin (viz., the story of the unjust steward, faithless Jerusalem, the penitent tax-gatherer). The present three Sundays likewise have a common theme; they form a triad treating the sacramental grace-life of the Church as related to (a) baptism; (b) the healing power of the sacred mysteries; (c) gratitude for spiritual purification.
- Text Analysis.As already noted, today’s liturgy begins a series of three Sundays with stress on the primary sacraments in liturgical life. These three formularies break the “two ways” theme sequence proper to past Sundays (7th-10th). Setting forthmysterium pictures of the Church’s inner life, the Mass texts treat of baptism and the Eucharist; they are, therefore, more closely associated to the Easter mystery than other recent formularies. In the various prayers we may observe two threads of thought that lend a certain unity to the Mass, viz., Easter and summertime.
Easter. The formulary under consideration is another excellent example of an Easter or baptism Mass. The Readings bring Easter theology to mind, while the chants give voice to Easter sentiments. The Entrance Chant makes us realize the holy environment we are in; it is a sanctuary consecrated to God where the faithful stand in most intimate communion with one another; the “strength and power” that God gives to His people refer, of course, to the blessings of this morning’s liturgy. After the Collect we hear Paul describing the great Easter mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. At the end of his discourse he becomes very personal: “By the grace of God I am what I am . . . . “
During the Gospel I am standing at the baptismal font. Through its graces I received a new sense of hearing, a new tongue, a new ability to understand. The Mass is a classical example of how the ancient Church could achieve transcendent unity where text unity, strictly speaking, was absent, by keeping her heart close to the Easter theme of baptism and spiritual resurrection.
Summertime forms the setting for today’s Mass liturgy. Because of this circumstance we have the joyous, festal spirit emanating from the chants. The Offertory hymn voices gratitude to the Giver of all gifts; the Communion antiphon teaches us how to honor God through the proper use of the goodly fruits of summertime, the crops that are being gathered into the barns and the ripening vineyards; for “now the heavy clusters are taking on luscious color upon the smiling hills of the Roman Campagna” (cf. Schuster). An inspiring Mass indeed for a beautiful summer morning!
- Holy Mass (Deus in loco).The words of the Introit remind us what our parish church actually is. It is here that our God lives and reigns as King. It is our Father’s house, the lovely home of God’s children, where all are of one mind and heart, bound together by the bond of love. Here on the “Lord’s Day” all gather round their Father and King. And He bestows strength and courage to continue the battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. So our setting of home and peace changes into a battleground (Ps. 67). Like a well-trained army Christians march through the world, the enemy fleeing at their approach.
These two settings, symbolizing Christian life, come before us again in the Kyrie and Gloria. For the joy of redemption attained (Gloria) is the reward for our longing cries for mercy (Kyrie). With a Collect the service of prayer closes. Cast in an unusual affectionate style, this prayer first acknowledges God’s infinite goodness in granting blessings so superabundantly, then pleads forgiveness for known sins, and concludes by imploring those favors for which we hesitate to ask. It is a Collect in which the two principal petitions of the Our Father may be sensed; onward toward the kingdom of God—away from every semblance of sin.
Now listen to God’s words. St. Paul rises to speak and from his lips come Easter tidings. We picture him as once he stood before the Church at Corinth heralding the greatest truth of the faith, viz., Christ died for our sins and He has risen again! The Apostle lists proofs for Christ’s resurrection, adding his own experience last. For to him also did Christ appear. Once he was sick, deaf and dumb, a child born out of due time. Now he recounts how he received the grace of baptism and adds a personal reflection: “By the grace of God I am what I am; but His grace did not remain fruitless within me.” Throughout his life St. Paul remembered how sorely he needed redemption.
Now imagine yourself standing before the baptismal font on the vigil of Easter. Deaf and dumb you come to Christ, your soul’s Physician. He places His finger in your ear and on your tongue to heal you. And instantly you are able to hear and to speak, and your soul is illuminated for heaven. Joy is the dominant mood of the Gradual and Alleluia. The former is constructed antiphonally, i.e., the first verse constituting the antiphon for Psalm 27, which begins with the second verse. The newly baptized could well regard this antiphon as an Easter hymn.
Sincerest gratitude for redemption is the gift I bring to the altar as my Offertory oblation. Psalm 29, a noble thanksgiving hymn, is at the same time a song of self-surrender. The Secret beseeches divine mercy in order that the gifts offered may be pleasing to God and beneficial to us. And now in the Sacrifice proper the work of redemption becomes actuality and touches us here and now. We heard that Christ died for us sinners and rose again; now He is here upon this altar, the Lamb immolated and glorified. During the Mass the Lord of Easter comes to us as He once came to the five-hundred brethren upon the hillside, as He appeared to Paul on the way to Damascus.
In the Eucharistic Banquet my Savior approaches and says to me: There is still much blindness, much deafness, much dumbness in your soul. Always, however, as at baptism, He continues: “Ephpheta, “Be opened.” New light pours into my soul! And He adds: What you received at baptism I wish to preserve in you, to confirm it and to enrich it unto the day of My Second Coming. The Communion antiphon unfurls a beautiful panorama of God’s blessings in the fields and vineyards. But since mention is made specifically of wh
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