Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Reforming The Catholic Church!

I have been reading the invaluable works of Henri de Lubac S.J. and the Dominican Yves Congar, both of whom contributed to writing the documents of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). In the 50th anniversary of the Council, it is, therefore, very opportune to recall the reform of the Catholic Church by the Council.

One of these reforms is the recognition of the Catholic Church of "Collegiality" which although not literally in the documents, constitutes a  deepening of understanding and a recovery of tradition forgotten by Popes since the major schisms in the first 1000 years of Christianity. Collegiality means that governance of the Catholic Church is not as superficially understood the prerogative of the Bishop of Rome alone, but is shared by all bishops of the Catholic Church who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. This development is enshrined in Vatican II and, properly understood, cannot be over-ridden by a statement of any of the Congregations of the Roman Curia who wish to restore the supremacy to the Holy See of Rome in every matter. I recall Gerald Cardinal Carter, the late Archbishop of Toronto, who said once that the bishop does not derive his authority from the Bishop of Rome, but from Christ in view of the Apostolic tradition. Yves Congar commented on this same doctrine of collegiality that Vatican II rebalanced the imbalance created by the unfortunate events that hastened the end of Vatican I in 1870.

More significant is the contribution of the Melkite Catholic bishops who participated in Vatican II with vigour. We recall the interventions of Maximus IV Patriarch of Antioch for the Melkite Catholics. He said that the liturgical reform of the Latin Churches spoken about in the Council has already been for centuries in the Eastern Churches. The liturgy in the Eastern Church has always been celebrated in the local language. The celebration of the Eucharist in the Eastern Churches has always been in the offering of  both the body and blood of Christ together and never separated. With the reforms of Vatican II, the Western Roman Church started the movement of celebrating the Eucharist, at least on Holy Thursday, to offer both the body and blood of Christ. 

In the past few years, due to sexual scandals of a few bishops and priests, some voices raised the concern that Rome should authorize the elevation of some married men to the sacramental order of priesthood if found worthy. In spite of continuing opposition from Rome to these voices, the time has come to look again at this old tradition supported by the Apostle Paul and maintained to-date in all the Eastern Churches Catholic or Orthodox. For the sake of reunion of Christians, it is about time that Rome recognizes that the 11th century Gregorian Reform which ordered a disciplinary change to create celibate priests can always be reversed if needed. The Roman Catholic Church needs many more priests than the current celibate and aging priests.  In Canada, for example, Roman Catholic parishes are increasingly being served by priests from India and Africa. Moreover, the materialist way of life has been contagious to generations of Catholics who are trying to stay faithful to the Catholic tradition, yet see up to 40% of their families disintegrating due to unfaithfulness of spouses. Priests have not been immune to this phenomenon. A few of them have been unfaithful to their vows of chastity especially with children entrusted to their care. The media take every opportunity to exaggerate the percentage of unfaithful priests but Rome has instructed all the dioceses to report any child sexual abuse by priests to the civil authorities. The media, however, has already tarnished the face of Catholicism in the Western hemisphere. Although there is always a risk of the married priest giving priority to his family over his parish, this is by far less risky than finding a celibate priest engaged in inappropriate sexual relationship. Pastoral requirements demand going back to the ancient tradition. Look to the East! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Marriage Today

At Jesus the King Church, this past Friday I led a discussion with more than 30 adults both young and older about love of couples and marriage today. The discussion was inspired by an interview/Web-chat on TVO’s The Agenda which can be seen here:

I wish to thank all participants who provided insights into their own experience on this morally important topic. We started the session with a reading from Genesis 2: 18-24 that reminded us of the reason a woman fulfills man’s desire for joy and life, and he too is her joy; for the woman complements man; their love to each other in marriage transcends the ups and downs of emotions and commits them together for a lifetime.That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. (Gen. 2: 24). We also ended the session with a hymn sung by Ivan and played by Sonia.

The Discussion

It is impossible to summarise every thought. I will give below some examples.

A bright single young man revealed how women, both single and married, chase him in the office through suggestive text messages in order to kiss him or make love with him. He explained that this kind of temptation is available in North America and Europe, and, we are sure, in the Middle East too. TV and the Internet are used to promote individual instant pleasure in some of their channels. Schools are sometimes too liberal for Christians. In a way, this reflects a trend in Western society where observance of strict sexual moral values has declined since the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

When asked what criteria she has in mind for selecting a suitable partner for life, a single young woman said she looks for a smart and caring man who is well cultured and probably of the same culture. Did a prospective spouse have to be rich? Most single persons said ”no.” I asked individuals of a group of recently married couples “What was the most important characteristic that made you choose your spouse?” One said “Her balanced personality” but did not deny that she looked pretty to him. A female spouse said “What matters is love and harmony. We help each other as much as we can” Other married couples echoed the importance of the good/wise personality.

When I asked a married lady whether she would leave her husband if she found her soul mate, her answer was no. Yet, without suspecting any lady or man in the meeting, I am aware of cases where the husband cheated on his wife and left her with their kids to live with another woman.  The negative impact of separation of spouses on children is enormous, said a married lady echoing recent studies that show how children of divorced parents become more prone to mistrust the other and divorce their spouses.

Older people in the meeting gave advice to the younger ones. One lady said her children introduced to her the girls they were planning to marry because in marriage a harmony between the families of both sides helps marriage. In the expensive life we live, both husband and wife usually have to work until retirement. During their work hours, they entrust their little kids to the grandparents where they are nourished and taught the basic Christian behaviour and manners.

As a husband for 30 years I spoke about my own experience. It is true that my wife and I have made sacrifices, for example not having a car for the first 9 years in Toronto, yet were able to give our kids the best education in moral and academic excellence in spite of my health condition. My wife has always supported me in the good and hard times and in all times when I was hospitalized.  What happened with us is in my opinion a blessing from God. As in any marriage, ups and downs in emotions are a fact of life but what matters is commitment and faithfulness beyond solely emotional or sensual attractions. To my young ones I say love is larger than infatuation although it may start with it. Marriage is for life! I will have to write more about it in another time.

Near the end, I asked Fr. Youhanna Hanna to give us a word since he is also a parent. It is amazing how the Lord called him to be father of a family and also of the community. Fr. Youhanna spoke about his experience and God in the middle of the love experience. After all, it is true love that comes from God that really matters. I will have to ask him to send a little word of what he said.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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