Vol 15 Issue 20 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
May 14, 2022 ~ Saint Boniface, opn!
1. Sacrament of Penance
2. Fourth Sunday after Easter
3. Saint John Baptist de la Salle
4. Family and Marriage
5. Articles and notices
Recently a topic of confusion has been encountered again. This concerns that of what the Catholic Church teaches concerning her authority in matters of faith and morals and what the Church allows to be taught as far as a matter that is not yet decided or may be believed but does not have to be believed, or is erroneous and forbidden. When the Church Magisterium (Pope and bishops in communion with him and upholding the Catholic Faith) was functioning prior to the establishment of the Conciliar Church of Vatican II, the Catholic Church had instituted the Holy Office and the Ordinaries (Bishops set over a diocese) themselves would assign knowledgeable priests to review and determine whether what one had written, before publication, was contrary to Catholic Faith and Morals, not necessarily that it was certainly true—and there was usually a subscript to the granting of the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, such as:
The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal and moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.
Of Mary there is never enough is a quote from Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. To praise and sing her praises, to have a devotion to her, to recognize her position in the work of Redemption, to make sure we pray her Rosary, wear her Brown Scapular, join her Confraternities, etc., these should be promoted. The approved apparitions and those messages the Church has accepted as valid are worthy to be known.
There are some, though, who depart from True Devotion to Mary. To contend with people who argue over who is correct about the life of Christ and Mary as one chooses Mary of Agreda, another Anna Catherine Emmerich or Maria Valtorta and any other visionary is miserable. They miss the point that these writings are the subjective visions of these persons, not Divine Revelation. What is worse, many of these disputants never even read the Gospels; which being Scripture, is Divine Revelation, that is, what one must believe in order to be saved as a Catholic. They are sometimes like those rejecting Baptism in voto: They interpret Scripture not according to the Catholic Church, they select—like Protestants—texts that support their hypothesis, find a Doctor of the Church (e.g., Saint Gregory Nazianzen) who speaks about baptism and take his words out of context, all the while rejecting every other Doctor of the Church, as well as all the other Church teachings (Papal and Conciliar), and all other examples that contradict their non-Catholic position, then tell anyone who does not accept their innovative heresy that unless one accepts the error one is not Catholic. How tragic that their faith is totally in their error to the rejection of the Catholic Faith and salvation. Like Our Lord’s words concerning the Pharisees one can only say: Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit. (Matt. 15:14) That is, they demand others to accept their erroneous opinion as a matter of Faith, which error is outside the purview of the Faith: you cannot believe in error.
Certainly I agree with Sister Mary Amatora, O.S.F, a frequent visitor to my natural family, that the 1950s seemed to usher in a great Marian Age—and certainly many Catholics are grateful as they attached themselves to the Blue Army and other Marian Movements at the time helping them to understand the situation of the times. But I don’t remember any of these movements promoting Mary as an end in itself. In truth, most recognized and emphasized that they, like Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, saw Mary leading the faithful to Her Son and repeating the only Scripturally recorded words Mary says once Her Son begins His Public Life: Whatever He [Christ] says, do! Today there are so many movements profiting off Mary as an end of itself that their followers must believe that Mary, not Christ, will save them. I received one book that even made Mary the fourth person of the Godhead.
Theologically speaking, and according to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Mary received her privileges—the Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Assumption, etc.,—not of being Mary as of herself, but because God freely chose her to be the Mother of the Christ, the Eternal Word Incarnate and bestowed these prerogatives upon her. There cannot be a cult of Mary that is divorced from and not subject to her Divine Son.
But today it seems these various movements con Catholics into believing Mary will save them by magic if they can convince a Protestant in the Vatican to consecrate Russia and everything will change—well this man did and nothing has changed. What is the true message of Fatima? (1) cease offending God because He is already so much offended, (2) Pray, (3) Do penance and sacrifice for the conversion of poor sinners. In no sense would Mary contradict herself, having told Saint Bernadette at Lourdes—if we accept her words—: I cannot promise you happiness in this life, but only in the next.
But, as I have already mentioned in the past, because the faith is not being taught, Catholics have adopted the J-h’s Witnesses’ Millenarism that they will have a thousand year reign of ruling over the world in an earthly paradise instead of the reality that is repeated every time the Apostles’ Creed is professed: From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. On Sundays the Church repeats the same in the Nicene Creed. This means that when Christ returns, it will be for the final judgment, not to begin an earthly paradise. Catholics look forward to heaven and life everlasting.
Let us honor Mary this month by listening to her Divine Son, by reading—since we are able—the Word of God, particularly the Gospels in which we read the Life of Christ and His Mother.
As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor
WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
The Church’s Forgiveness of Sins as a Sacrament
The Outward Signs of the Sacrament of Penance
4. Appendix: No Revival of Sins
Sins the guilt of which has been remitted cannot revive, though individual theologians of early Scholasticism held otherwise. As Christ Himself remitted sins unconditionally and absolutely, He also gave the Church the power of forgiving sins unconditionally and, therefore, finally. The revival of sins would necessarily involve the confession again of all sins previously forgiven and thus might even involve re-Baptism. Individual Fathers, like St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great, in view of the Parable of the Merciless Servant (Mt. 18, 23, et seq.), speak of the return of sins but with a special meaning, i.e., that through a new grievous sin the former condition of separation from God and the eternal punishment are incurred anew. S. th. III 88, 1.
§ 17. The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance
The Sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation to those who, after Baptism, fall into grievous sin. (De fide.)
The Council of Trent draws a parallel between the necessity of the Sacrament of Penance and the necessity of Baptism (D 895). Each must be regarded both as a necessity of precept (necessitas praecepti) and a necessity of means (necessitas medii). The necessity of precept is by Divine institution; the necessity of means derives from the purpose of Penance, i.e., the reconciling of lapsed Christians once more with God. In case of necessity actual reception can be replaced by the desire of the Sacrament (votum sacramenti).
The Fathers’ conception of the necessity of the Sacrament of Penance is expressed in the frequent equiparation to Baptism, and in expressions such as “laborious Baptism” (St. John Damascene, De fide orth. IV 9), “Baptism of Penance” (Filastrius, De haer. 89), “Baptism of Tears” (St. Gregory Nazianzus, Or. 39, 17), “Baptism by Penance and Tears” (St. John Damascene), or “second saving board after shipwreck ” (secunda post naufragium tabula; St. Jerome, Ep. 130, 9).
The Church has more closely defined the Divine commandment expressed in the institution (praeceptum divinum implicitum) by obliging all the faithful to go to confession at least once a year. This was decreed by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and by the Council of Trent as a General Church Law. The obligation begins with the years of discretion, that is, from the beginning of the use of reason, about the seventh year. D 437, 918, 2137; CIC 906. According to the more probable opinion, a person who has committed no grievous sin is not subject to this law since one is not obliged to confess venial sins.
The Minister and the Recipient of the Sacrament of Penance
§18. The Minister of the Sacrament of Penance
1. Bishops and Priests the Sole Possessors of the Power of Absolution
The sole possessors of the Church’s Power of Absolution are the bishops and priests. (De fide.)
The Council of Trent defined against Luther: Si quis dixerit, . . . non solos sacerdotes esse ministros absolutionis, A.S. D 920; cf. 670, 753. The word “sacerdos” designates both the bishop and the presbyter.
Christ promised the power of absolution to the Apostles only (Mt. 18, 18) and transferred this power to them only (John 20, 23). The power passed from the Apostles to their successors in the priesthood, the bishops and the presbyters. The hierarchical constitution of the Church demands that the judicial power of absolution cannot belong to all the faithful indiscriminately, but only to the members of the hierarchy.
According to the testimony of Tradition, the direction of all matters connected with Penance was, in the Primitive Christian era, in the hands of the bishops and the presbyters. According to St. Cyprian, the forgiveness of sins and the giving of the peace of the Church took place “through the priests ” (per sacerdotes: De lapsis 29). St. Basil decrees that the sins must be confessed to those to whom the ministration of the mysteries of God are entrusted (Regulae brevius tractatae, reg. 288). St. Ambrose says: “This right is given to the priests only (solis sacerdotibus) ” (De poen. I, 2, 7). St. Leo I remarks that the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Penance can only be achieved by the prayers of the priests (supplicationibus sacerdotum). (Ep. 108, 2; D 146).
2. Confession to Deacons and Laymen
Absolution given by deacons, clerics of lower rank, and laymen is not Sacramental Absolution. (De fide.)
St. Cyprian (Ep. 18, 1) and the Synod of Elvira (can. 32) allow deacons to grant the reconciliation in the case of necessity. Whether by this absolution from sin or only absolution from excommunication is to be understood, is uncertain. The penitential books, codices of laws and the theologians of the early Middle Ages (Lanfranc) prescribe confession before a deacon in the case
of necessity. Whether this was regularly associated with absolution appears very questionable. Since the end of the twelfth century, Synods raised objections on the ground that the deacons are not possessors of the power of absolution. For an historical understanding of deacon-confession it must be observed that in antiquity the chief weight in the process of the sacramental forgiveness of sins was attached to the satisfaction. In the early Middle Ages the main emphasis was laid on the acknowledgment of sins as a salutary self-accusation, and in consequence the significance of the priestly absolution substantially receded. For these reasons it was customary in the early Middle Ages to confess sins to lay people if a priest could not be reached. The greatest extension of lay-confession was due to the pseudo-Augustinian treatise De vera et falsa poenitentia (eleventh century). Many Scholastic Theologians, for example, Petrus Lombardus (Sent. IV, 17, 4) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Suppl. 8, 2) declare that it fulfills the obligation. Scotus, who wrongly placed the essence of the Sacrament of Penance exclusively in the priest’s absolution, declared against the necessity of lay confession. The post-Tridentine Theologians contested it, because it could easily be used in proof of the Reformers’ view of the general lay priesthood. As an expression of a penitential disposition and of a desire for the Sacrament, lay confession could effect justification ex opere operantis.
In the Greek Church all matters connected with confession were preponderantly in the hands of the lay-monks from the end of the images controversy (about 800) down to the 13th century. The forgiveness of sins practised by them was erroneously regarded as Sacramental Absolution. The custom rested on the error which goes back to Origen, that only Spirituals (Pneumatics) could forgive sins and communicate with the Holy Ghost.
(To be continued)
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers
M. F. Toal
THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY
John xvi. 5-14
At that time: Jesus said to his Disciples: I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgement. Of sin: because they believed not in me. And of justice: because I go to the Father; and you shall see me no longer. And of judgement: because the prince of this world is already judged. I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall show you. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall show it to you.
II. ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, BISHOP AND DOCTOR
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
John xvi. 5-15. Severe is the effect upon the soul of despondency; and we need much fortitude if we are to resist this feeling with courage, taking from it what may be of profit to us, then putting the rest from us. For despondency has its uses. For when we commit wrong, ourselves or other men, then is it truly a good thing to grieve. But should we fall into the ordinary human misfortunes, then to give way to despondency is of no value whatever. And when despondency shook the not yet confirmed Disciples, see how Christ restored them by a rebuke. For they who had before questioned Him without end; as when Peter said: Whither goest thou? And Thomas: Lord, we know not whither thou goest: and how can we know the way? And Philip: Show us the Father (Jn. xiii. 36; xiv. 5, 8); these men, hearing now that, they will put you out of the synagogues, and that men will hate them; and that they who killed them, will think they do a service to God, became so despondent that they were wordless, and had nothing to say to Him.
And He reproached them for this, and said to them: I told you not these things from the beginning, because I was with you. And now I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou? But because 1 have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. For excessive sorrow is a danger to the soul; and a danger that leads to death. Because of it Paul says: Comfort him lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow (II Cor. ii. 7).
But, He says, I told you not these things from the beginning. Why did He not tell them these things from the beginning? So that no one might say He was as it were guessing from what was wont to happen. And why did He begin to speak of so painful a subject? These things I knew from the beginning, He says, and I did not speak of them, not because I did not know about them, but because I was with you. And this He said in a very human way, as though saying: because you were safe, and could ask me for whatever you wished; and also because it was against Me the attacks of the enemy were directed; and there was no need in the beginning to speak of these things.
But did He not tell them these things? Did He not call the Twelve together, and say to them: You shall be brought before governors and before kings, and they will scourge you in their synagogues (Mt. x. 18, 19). Why then does He say: I told you not these things from the beginning? Though He foretold arrests and scourgings, He had not told them that slaying them would be regarded as so meritorious that it would be held as doing a service to God. This would have caused them the most profound despondency: that they should be regarded as the equal of blasphemers and robbers. Besides, He here also foretold the sufferings they would undergo at the hands of the Gentiles; and told them also, but now more strongly, what they would suffer from the Jews; and that these things were now about to happen.
And now I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. It was no small consolation to them that He knew the depth of their despondency. For they were out of their minds with anxiety, because of His going from them, and also through fear of the terrible things that were to come; for they did not know if they could meet them with courage. Why did He not tell them these things afterwards, when they had received the Holy Ghost? That you may learn how extremely worthy they were. For if they did not, though yet unstrengthened by the Holy Spirit, turn away, overwhelmed though they were with sorrow, consider what they would be when filled with grace. For had they then heard these things, and stood firm, we would have said all this was due to the Holy Spirit. Now it is the fruit entirely of their own mind; showing clearly how great was their love of Christ; Who was now testing their yet untried spirit.
But I tell you the truth. See how He again consoles them. I do not speak to please you, He says; but, though you be grieved beyond measure, it is better that you should hear. You desire that I remain with you; it is better otherwise. It is the duty of a Protector not to spare his friends, in what is to their advantage. If I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you. What do they say to this, they who have not a true belief regarding the Spirit? Is it fitting that the Master leaves, that the servant may come? See how great is the dignity of the Spirit?
But if I go, I will send him to you. And to what gain? When he is come, he will convince the world; that is, they will not do these things unpunished, when He comes. What has been done already (by Me), is enough to answer them. But when these things are also done by Him, when doctrine is more perfected, and miracles greater, yet more shall they be blamed; seeing so many wonders done in My Name: so that the proof of the Resurrection becomes ever more striking. Now they are able to say, ‘this is the son of the carpenter, whose mother and whose father we knew’. But when they see death overcome, evil driven away, the one that was lame from birth now walking upright, demons cast out, the immense outpouring of the Spirit, and all this done at the invocation of My Name, what will they say? The Father has given testimony of Me; the Spirit will also give testimony. He bore witness to Me at the beginning; and once again shall He do this.
What does He mean by, He will convince the world of sin? This means He will take away all their excuses, and make clear to them that they have been offending most unforgiveably. And of justice, because I go to the Father; and you shall see me no longer; that is, that I have led a life of perfect justice: and the proof is that I go to the Father. For since they were forever accusing Him that He was not of God, and therefore called Him a sinner, and a transgressor of the Law, this ground of reproach will also be taken from them. For if the accusation that I am not of God shows me to be a sinner, then when the Spirit shall show that I have gone thither, and not for a time, but to abide there forever (for this is what you shall see me no longer means), what then will they say?
See how by these two means their evil suspicion is removed. For to work miracles is not in the character of a hardened sinner (for a sinner cannot work miracles); neither is it the sign of a sinner that He should dwell with God for ever. And so you can no longer say that This Man is a sinner; or that He is not of God.
And of judgement: because the prince of this world is already judged. Here again He begins to speak of justness; that He has cast down His adversary. This no sinner could do; neither had any just man among men been able to do this. That he was condemned through Me, they shall know who shall hereafter tread upon him; and who shall clearly see the meaning of My Resurrection: the Sign of Him Who has passed sentence upon him. For he could not hold Me. And since they declared that I had a devil, and that I was a deceiver, these things will also be seen as false. For I could not have overcome him had I been subject to him through sin. But now he is condemned, and cast out.
I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. It seems to Me better that I go; so that you may be enabled to bear them, when I go. What then does this mean? Is the Spirit greater than You; that what we cannot bear now, He will then enable us to bear? Is His power and efficacy the greater? Far from it! For the words He shall speak are Mine. And so He says: He shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall show you. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shew it to you. All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine.
For since He had said, He will teach you, and bring to your mind (xiv. 26), and console you in affliction (which He has not Himself done), and that it is expedient for you that I go, and that He should come, and that now you are not able to bear (what I have to say), but then you will be able to bear them, and that He will guide you to all truth; and lest hearing all these things, they should think that the Spirit is the Greater, and so fall into grave error, He for this reason tells them that, He shall receive of mine; that is, whatever I have said to you, He shall say the same.
When he says, He shall not speak of himself, He means, nothing contrary, nothing of His own outside what I say. As for this reason when speaking of Himself He said: I speak not of myself (xiv. 10); that is, nothing outside of that which My Father has said; so the same is to be understood regarding the Holy Spirit. The words of mine mean: of the things which I know, of my own know-
ledge. For my knowledge and that of the Holy Spirit is one.
And the things that are to come, he shall show you. He raised up their minds; for the race of mankind are eager for nothing so much as to know the future. It was because of this they asked: Whither goest thou? Which is the way? To deliver them from this anxiety He says: He will foretell all things to you, lest they come upon you unawares.
He shall glorify me. How? In My Name He will give you powers. For since upon His coming they will work yet greater wonders, He again emphasises Their equality of honour, and says: He shall glorify me.
St. John Baptist de la Salle, Confessor
1. St. John was born of a prominent family of Rheims, France, on April 30, 1651. His virtuous mother fostered the natural abilities and inclinations of her boy and trained him in Christian virtues. He received his first Holy Communion at an early age, and from that time on he felt drawn to the clerical state. His parents would have been pleased to see their first-born son acquire an influential position in the world. It was the age of Louis XIV and France stood at the height of her power, her political and intellectual influence, and her national splendor. John might have obtained the highest dignities, talented and educated as he was; but he chose otherwise. At sixteen he received a canonry at the cathedral of Rheims. He made his theological studies at the seminary of St. Sulpice, in Paris, and at the world-famous Sorbonne. In this school he was given the assignment of instructing poor children in the catechism, and in this way he became familiar with the elementary school system. After the death of his father and mother John directed, in his home, the education of the six other children, and also completed his own theological studies at the same time. Ordained in 1678, he devoted himself with tireless zeal to his priestly duties.
In 1679 St. John was asked to provide schools for poor boys in Rheims. Applying himself enthusiastically to the project, he was able, in a few weeks, to open two free schools with a staff of five teachers. It was now clear to him that God was calling him to conduct such schools and to prepare Catholic teachers. Consequently, he founded a religious society for this purpose. In spite of objections from his relatives, he resigned his canonry in 1683. During the years of famine that followed John distributed his possessions among the poor. Likewise, in 1684, he founded the society of the “Brothers of the Christian Schools.” Thus he became the creator of the modern “Teachers College,” and the elementary school with class instruction. In Paris he founded industrial schools and Sunday schools for the young laborers and mechanics. Near Rouen, he started a boarding school with technical and secondary instruction, a school of correction for wayward boys, and a penal institution for youthful criminals. St. John died on April 7, 1719. His last words were: “I adore the holy will of God in whatever He may permit to happen to me.” At the time of his death his Congregation numbered twenty-seven houses with three hundred School Brothers. Pope Leo XIII beatified him in 1888 and canonized him in 1900.
2. “He who gives welcome to such a child as this in my name, gives welcome to me” (Gospel). St. John devoted his life to the children of the poor. For their sake he became poor and suffered many privations. When a few teachers joined him in the work, he established community life and discipline and thus founded his Institute. Before long they were conducting free schools in various parts of France, and in Rome. He realized that proper education would be decisive in the future of his boys. His convictions are expressed in the following quotation: “All disorders [in grown-ups] are generally the result of their having been left to themselves, or poorly trained. It is almost impossible to remedy matters once they are older, because then it is difficult for them to overcome bad habits. There is a distinct advantage in bringing boys up well.”
With this understanding and conviction, St. John put all his resources to work for the proper education of boys. People recognized in him a benefactor and began to entrust their children to him. Soon all his schools were filled. His first concern was for the poor, but his extraordinary gift for organization and his love for boys effected far-reaching reforms in the entire school system. Unique success was the result of the spirit in which he understood, taught, and trained the boys; but his principal means of accomplishing results were prayer and good example. It was his rule, “If you want your pupils to do good, do good yourself. You will convince them more effectively by wise and virtuous conduct than by all your words.” Again he assures us: “You will accomplish your purpose rather with the help of the Spirit of God and the fullness of His grace, obtained by the power of prayer alone, than by means of natural learning.” Essentially, it was love for Christ that urged St. John to devote his life to the education of poor children. He received them in the name of Christ and for the sake of Christ. Thus he experienced the truth of our Lord’s promise: “He who gives welcome to such a child as this in my name, gives welcome to me.”
“His treasure is safely preserved in the Lord’s keeping, and wherever faithful souls are met, his alms deeds will be remembered” (Lesson). Shortly before the second World War, the “Brothers” had approximately 1,300 houses in 64 countries, with a personnel of some 15,000 Brothers in 8,900 schools. This was the hundredfold blessing on a modest beginning, the fruitful seed of which was the Founder’s sacrifice of his personal fortune and his dignity as a canon. “Blessed is the man . . . who has no greed for gold, puts no trust in his store of riches. Show us such a man, and we will be loud in his praise” (Lesson). The less St. John relied on earthly powers, the more abundantly heaven showered blessings upon him. The tiny seed grew into a mighty tree; not without many hindrances, however. First, there was envy and hatred in the hearts of certain salaried teachers of the city. They made unjust attacks on the Brothers and even accused them before the French Parliament. Then came the Jansenists, who spread slanders and rumors about St. John. Nor was it only outside teachers who caused trouble; one of his own Brothers betrayed him, with the result that flourishing foundations were ruined. Finally, the trouble became so serious, on account of lies and calumnies, that De la Salle had to relinquish the leadership of his Society. Still, in spite of all these trials and injustices he remained calm, composed, and satisfied. His only weapons of defense were an unshakable trust in God, complete surrender to the providence of God, and profound humility. He was utterly indifferent to praise and blame, gratitude and ingratitude from men, because he was intimately united with God.
3. De la Salle was a unique, ingenious teacher; yet the chief root of his enduring success was his holiness. “Vain is the builder’s toil, if the house is not of the Lord’s building” (Ps. 126:1). St. John is a shining model for anyone who wants to be a good educator: “I adore the holy will of God in whatever He may permit to happen to me!”
Collect: God, who didst raise up the holy confessor John Baptist to promote the Christian education of the poor, and to confirm the young in the way of truth, inspiring him to gather together a new family in the Church, grant us this grace: that his pleading and example may fire us with zeal to glorify Thee by saving souls, and enable us to become sharers of his crown in heaven. Amen.
CANA IS FOREVER
COUNSELS FOR BEFORE AND AFTER MARRIAGE
By Charles Hugo Doyle (1949)
Chapter Six: THE GREAT SACRAMENT
Now since the sacramental character of marriage is ofttimes denied today, it might be well to have a ready answer for those who raise such an objection. Only recently I heard a nationally famous radio broadcaster say that marriage did not become a sacrament until the middle of the fourteenth century. I took him to task and pointed out that the prime requisite for a sacrament is that it has been instituted by Christ. The other two requisites are that it is an outward sign and that it gives grace. I hastened to inform him of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (5:32), in which he wrote these words when comparing marital love with the love of Christ for His Church: “This is a great Sacrament [or mystery]: but I speak in Christ and in the Church.” In case he might think that I was attempting to use this text to prove immediately the fact that matrimony, for a Christian, is a sacrament, I hastened to quote the following from THE SACRAMENTS, by Rev. Isidore O’Brien, O.F.M.: “As explained, the Greek word mysterion, “mystery” (which St. Paul employs here) was often used for “sacrament.” In this text Catholic theologians so understand it. The King James Version of the Bible translates it “mystery.” But this literal translation does not exclude the Catholic significance of “sacrament.” The civil contract is not a “great mystery”; it is not mysterious, in the sense of being transcendentally sublime, unless it is a Sacrament. St. Paul describes matrimony as the symbol, the sign of Christ’s union with the Church: and not, let us note, in the sense of a certain loose resemblance. It is a sign of that union because of the spiritual love by which Christ loves and rules the Church and by which the Church cleaves to Christ as a wife to her husband. Christ’s union with the Church sanctifies the Church. The sacramental union of marriage sanctifies husband and wife in the holy state of matrimony.
We have, therefore, in the marriage contract between Christians, as described by St. Paul, the three essentials of a Sacrament: an external sign, internal grace, and institution by Jesus Christ.
It is worthy of note that the Council of Trent derived its main argument for the sacramentality of marriage, from the teachings of the Fathers and the early councils, and from the universal practice and belief of the Church. Let us here examine a few excerpts from the works of the early Fathers.
St. Ignatius, writing in the second century, said: “But it is fitting for those who marry—both with the men and the women—to accomplish their union with the consent of the bishop that their marriage may be according to God and not according to lust.”
Tertullian, in the same century, wrote: “How can we find words to describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church joins together and the oblation confirms (the Mass) and the blessing seals, the angels report and the Father ratifies.”
And should you need to prove that the Church has always been the careful guardian of marriage and that marriage before a priest is in no way a modern invention, read these words of Timotheus of Alexandria, successor to the See of St. Athanasius, written in the third century A.D. “If any one call in a cleric, to unite in marriage but he shall hear that the marriage is unlawful . . . ought the cleric to accede or to make the oblation? Answer—Say to him, if the cleric hear that the marriage is unlawful, the cleric ought not to become a partaker of another’s sins.”
Again, this matter is well summed up in the following ancient Anglo-Saxon ordinance: “At the Nuptials there shall be a Mass-priest by law who shall with God’s blessing bind their union to all posterity.”
When in the sixteenth century the professors of Tubingen University sought to win the Greek Church to the creed of the reformers, the Greek Patriarch Jeremias indignantly scouted their suggestion that his Church could ever be won to their doctrine of only two sacraments. Testifying to the unvarying belief of the Oriental Church in the seven sacraments, including matrimony, he terminated their overtures with a scornful refusal. Thus eloquently do the voices of Christian tradition testify to the sacramental character of matrimony equal to the other six sacraments. Marriage, too, was instituted by Christ.
Speaking of the so-called Reformation, it might be only justice to say that if there is little or no respect today for marriage either as a binding contract or a sacrament, the blame can be laid to the reformers themselves. Most non-Catholics are shocked to read that Calvin taught that “there is nothing more sacred about marriage than there is about agriculture, architecture, shoemaking or hair-cutting.” Luther was just as vigorous in condemning the sacramental character of marriage, saying that “claims of sacredness for marriage are a mere jest.” In Luther’s words lies the secret of marriage failures today—men and women continue to make a joke of it.
Be this as it may, the task of present-day Christians is to follow the laws of God and of His Church and safeguard themselves against the pagan onslaughts of the modern world. Christian lovers might well repeat often the poetic prayer of Thomas Moore:
O guard our affection, nor e’er let it feel
The blight that this world o’er the warmest will steal.
While the faith of all round us is fading or past,
Let ours, ever green, keep its bloom to the last.
Pope Pius XI, in his famous Encyclical letter “Casti Connubii,” already referred to, expresses the benefits of the sacrament of matrimony in the following terms:
(1) Husband and wife possess a positive guarantee of the endurance of the marriage bond.
(2) They are provided with a strong bulwark of chastity against the incitements to infidelity, should they arise.
(3) They are freed from anxiety lest in advanced years the partner prove unfaithful.
(4) The human dignity of man and woman is maintained.
(5) Mutual aid is assured.
(6) It perfects natural love, confirms the indissoluble union and sanctifies both man and wife.
(7) Christian marriage opens a treasure of sacramental grace from which is drawn the supernatural power of fulfilling the rights and duties of married life faith fully, holily, perseveringly till death.
(8) In addition to sanctifying grace, the sacrament bestows particular gifts, dispositions, seeds of grace, by which the natural powers are elevated and perfected.
(9) It assists the parties in understanding and knowing intimately, in adhering to firmly, in willing effectively, and in successfully putting into practice those things which appertain to the married state, its aims and duties.
Little wonder then that Dr. Paul Popenoe, director general of the American Institute of Family Relations, and author of “Marriage, Before and After,” could say: “Those who consider marriage a sacrament are naturally more disposed to turn it into success than are those who look on it as merely a ninety-day option.” Remember that, before you choose a mate who does not or will not hold that marriage is a sacrament.
The marriage of baptized persons is ruled not only by the divine law of God but by the Canon Law of the Church, and this without prejudice to the power of the civil authority over the merely civil effects. To the Church alone belongs the right to safeguard the sacraments and therefore the marriage of the baptized, since the contract of marriage is a sacrament. Since there is no distinction, it is not possible that the State should regulate marriage as a contract, and the Church should be allowed to regulate it as a sacrament. The power of the Church is legislative, judicial, and coercive. Legislative, inasmuch as it can lay down laws for valid and lawful marriages; judicial, since it can decide marriage and coercive, because it can threaten and punish those guilty of dereliction of marital duties.
Having established the sacramental character of marriage and the Church’s exclusive and independent authority over Christian marriage in respect to validity and lawfulness, let us get down to the practical application. Those who plan to marry should follow the Shakespearean advice and get you to a Church and have a good priest who can tell you what marriage is.
It is strongly advised that those who plan to marry ought to approach the girl’s pastor a good month or more in advance of the date set for the wedding. In case of mixed marriages, the Catholic’s pastor is the one to be consulted. It is important, and it will save time, if on that initial visit you bring certain essential documents.
Catholics planning marriage should surrender to the priest on their first visit:
(1) A recent copy of your baptismal certificate
(2) Your First Communion certificate
(3) Your Confirmation certificate
(4) And in the case of a man a Letter of Freedom from his own pastor, stating that to the best of his knowledge he is free to marry.
In the case of a non-Catholic who plans a mixed marriage a baptismal certificate should be brought along as well as a letter from some well-known person, stating his belief as to the freedom to marry of the subject.
In any case, and especially where a mixed marriage is planned, we cannot overstress the importance of calling on the girl’s pastor one month or more in advance of the date chosen for the marriage, since some dioceses demand that the non-Catholic take six instructions before the wedding.
Unless a special dispensation from publication of banns is requested and obtained in writing from the Bishop, three Sundays or two Sundays and an intervening Holy Day must be allowed for the publication of the names of the two Catholic parties at the principal masses in the parish church of both persons concerned. (To be continued.)
Father Krier will be in Eureka, NV, (Saint Joseph, Patron of Families) May 19. Confirmations will be administered by Bishop Martin Davila on May 29, here at Saint Joseph’s in Las Vegas.
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