Holiness of Life and Martyrdom for the Faith

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke,
Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 20, 2012

The witness of holiness of life is, in fact, martyrdom, in one form of another. In the words of the Holy Scriptures, it is dying to self, in order to live for Christ. It is what the Servant of God Father John A. Hardon, S.J., called “the palpable fact of every true follower of Christ.” When we hear the word martyrdom, we tend to think exclusively of those who have given their blood out of faithful love of Christ, who have been killed because of hatred of Christ and of the Christian faith. Red martyrs or martyrs of blood give the highest form of witness and are our models in giving daily witness to our love of Christ, even though we may not be asked to pour out our lifeblood. Through their martyrdom, they also win for us so many graces for our daily living. In the words of the Servant of God Father Hardon, “through their sufferings we are made richer, as through their merits the whole Church becomes more holy.”

Saint Thomas More, husband and father and a high-ranking member of the government of King Henry VIII, was a martyr for the faith in the 16th century. In the face of imprisonment and execution, he steadfastly listened to the voice of God, rather than the voices of men who insisted that he act according to the human way of thinking, alienated from the wisdom of God, from the moral law. At his trial on July 1, 1535, Saint Thomas More held firmly to the living Tradition of the Church, which forbade him in conscience to acknowledge King Henry VIII with the title of Supreme Head of the Church. When, during the trial, the Chancellor rebuked him, citing the acceptance of the title by so many bishops and nobles of the land, Thomas More replied, “My lord, for one bishop of your opinion I have a hundred saints of mine, and for one parliament of yours, and God knows of what kind, I have all the General Councils for 1,000 years…”

When the Duke of Norfolk accused him of malice in his response, Thomas More replied, “What I say is necessary for the discharge of my conscience and satisfaction of my soul, and to this I call God to witness, the sole Searcher of human hearts.” Thomas More was condemned to death. The reason for his death sentence was hatred of the Catholic faith and specifically of its teaching on the primacy of Saint Peter as the Vicar of Christ on earth. Rightly, Thomas More declared on the scaffold, as he was about to be beheaded, “I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.” The Saint served his king well by obeying God, Who revealed His truth to him through Thomas More’s conscience, instructed and informed by the example of the saints and the magisterium. So, too, we only serve well our brothers and sisters when we first serve God with fidelity and without compromise, following His voice, our conscience.

This is part I of a multiple-part publishing of the article, “Holiness of Life and Martyrdom for the Faith” by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis. Part II will be published next weekend’, May 26 – 27, and Part III will be published the weekend of June 2 – 3.


A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
May 20, 2012

Jesus Ascends the Throne-the Ascension
It is fitting to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We rejoice to see the holy city roll out the red carpet and hail Jesus as the promised Messiah.

The problem is, however, that the only crown they gave their king was a crown of thorns.This week the Church recalls a far more important victory procession. The Solemnity of the Ascension celebrates the triumphal entry into the heavenly Jerusalem, the true and eternal City of God. The inhabitants of that city did not cry “hosanna” one day and “crucify him” the next. Suffering is over. Death has been defeated. There is nothing left for Christ but glory.

“Sanctified and consecrated in God’s truth”
Today’s passage is part of what is often called Jesus’ “priestly prayer” because he is picture as praying for his apostles, the first priests. While it is legitimate to see the prayer in this fashion, it is a narrow interpretation, much too narrow for John’s intent which was to reassure all those in the community for which he was writing and not only its leaders.

The apostles in this story represent the whole community, everyone who is embraced by the love of Jesus and therefore by the love of God. Jesus prays to the Father to take care of each one of his followers, to protect them from evil, to perfect them in goodness, to promote their growth in grace. The Irish blessing summarizes exactly the meaning of this prayer:

“Until we meet again, may God hold you all in the palm of his hand.”

The Ascension of the Lord: Taking on the Snakes and Poisons of the World.
“These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18

In some of the rural communities of our countries, ministers and their congregations take this passage literally. As a test of faith some will plunge their hands into a box of rattlesnakes, pull one out and hold it in front of the congregation. Others will drink strychnine poison. Some will survive. Some will be bitten by the rattlers. Some will die from the poison. Now these simple rural communities view the survivors as positive examples of the faith of the entire community. They view those who are bit by the snakes or who die from the poison as examples of the weakness of the community’s faith.

The Dead Sea Scrolls
Of great interest to textual scholars are the Dead Sea Scrolls, the remains of an Essene library found in caves at the north-west end of the Dead Sea in the late 1940s at a site called Qumran.

The scrolls provide our oldest copies of any portion of Scripture, including a few manuscripts that date to the third century (200s) BC. The majority, however, were copied in the period 150 BC—AD 68.

Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?
I was brought up as an Evangelical fundamentalist Christian and when we read the verses in the Bible that spoke of Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” we concluded that they were the other children of Joseph and Mary. What I didn’t know is that this idea was unheard of in the early church, and that even the Reformers–Martin Luther, John Calvin and the others did not hold to this view.

The Catholic Church had always taught that the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus mentioned in the gospels were Jesus’ “kinsmen”–either the children of Joseph by an earlier marriage or more likely–members of Jesus’ extended family. The original Biblical languages are short on vocabulary for extended family members and so cousins and nephews and half brothers were all called “brothers”.

Is Christ Literally Sitting on God’s Right Hand? – Saint Augustine Explains
Tomorrow is the Ascension of Christ and this holy day sometimes prompts the question, “When Christ ascended to the Father how exactly did He sit at His right hand if God the Father doesn’t have a hand?”

Saint Augustine of Hippo answers this question for us in his homily on the Creed. He explains first how sedit need not literally mean sit down. This is important since St Stephen saw Christ “standing” at the right hand of the Father. Sitting refers to His habitation, not His position.

Pondering the Great Reversal That Is Coming
One of the strong traditions of Scripture is of the great reversal that will one day come for many. I have often been sobered by it when I consider how blessed I have been in this life. I have also been consoled by it when I struggle to understand why some people in this world seem to suffer so much more that I do, or others do.

Life seems a very uneven proposition if we only look at this side of the equation. Only God sees the whole picture, but to some extent, he has revealed that those who have suffered much in this life will be more than rewarded in the life to come and that there will be a great reversal.

What is the significance of a novena? Why nine days?
And eating together with them, [Jesus] commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. (Acts of the Apostles 1:4)

Before Christ ascended into heaven, he commanded his Apostles to remain in the city of Jerusalem for the nine days until the feast of Pentecost, and there to await the descent of the Holy Spirit. With this, our Savior instituted the practice of the Christian Novena – nine days of prayer, especially in preparation for a solemn feast or in petition for some special grace.

Does John 6:63 Refute the Real Presence?
A couple of my Evangelical friends were recently talking with me about John 6 and the Eucharist. If you haven’t read it recently, you should. In it, Jesus states repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, that He is the Bread of Life, that our eternal salvation is tied to eating His Body and drinking His Blood, that His Flesh really is true Food and His Blood really is true Drink. The question that I asked when we were going through the passage was, “If Jesus was trying to say that the Eucharist is really His Body and Blood, what more could He have said?”

Did Christ Experience an Ascension or an Assumption or Both? Checking the Greek and Latin
Catholics sometimes make the claim that while Christ “ascended” into Heaven, our Blessed Mother was “assumed” into Heaven. The difference, they say, is that Christ ascended by His own divine power; but that Mary was raised by the power of God. The apologist using this argument usually seeks to show Protestant objectors that Mary’s assumption is categorically different than Christ’s ascension.

Such an argument is fundamentally correct and in accordance with orthodox theology, but the vocabulary isn’t correct. As a result the argument can be a little confusing.

Visionary who reported eight apparitions of Mary dies aged 90
The girl who saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Banneux, Belgium, died last week at the age of 90.

Mariette Beco reported eight apparitions of the Virgin Mary between January 15 and March 2 1933, in the small town south-east of Liège.

A statement on the website of the shrine of Our Lady of Banneux said: “Mariette’s last years were those of most elderly persons with both joys and sufferings. The rector of the shrine of Banneux, Fr Leo Palm, had several encounters with Mariette. He remembers her as a person loved by her family and attached to her son and her grandchildren. Mariette also mourned her two daughters, one who died in her childhood, the second who died in 2008, aged 61.”

6 Types of Catholic Churches: The Basics
Listers, there are many kinds of Catholic Churches, and each kind has further subclasses which make for a rather confusing classification system. Here is a quick list comprised of highlights from the Catholic Encyclopedia pages on various kinds of Churches.

1. Cathedral: The chief church of a diocese, in which the bishop has his throne (cathedra) and close to which is his residence; it is, properly speaking, the bishop’s church, wherein he presides, teaches, and conducts worship for the whole Christian community. What properly constitutes a cathedral is its assignment by competent authority as the residence of the bishop in his hierarchical capacity, and the principal church of a diocese is naturally best adapted to this purpose. Such official designation is known as canonical erection and necessarily accompanies the formation of a new diocese.

Navigating Medjugorje
A reader writes:

I understand your abundance of caution in discerning whether the Medjugorje phenomenon is truly of divine origin, but you seem to have taken your disbelief a step further to veiled hostility and subtle denunciation. That is up to Holy Mother Church to pontificate about. I await with hopeful expectation the Church’s official decision, which I will support, either way!

Do Good Works Merit the Soul in Mortal Sin? And 10 Others Questions on Indulgences
Q. 839. What is an Indulgence?

A. An Indulgence is the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to sin.

Q. 840. What does the word “indulgence” mean?

A. The word indulgence means a favor or concession. An indulgence obtains by a very slight penance the remission of penalties that would otherwise be severe.

Q. 841. Is an Indulgence a pardon of sin, or a license to commit sin?

A. An Indulgence is not a pardon of sin, nor a license to commit sin, and one who is in a state of mortal sin cannot gain an Indulgence.

The problem of miracles
Writing about the miraculous — apart from baseball — is a tricky task. The key to a good miracle story is its tone. If a writer is too deferential to his subject he becomes an apologist. Too harsh and he becomes an antagonist. Adopting the voice of the village atheist or a credulous devotee fails the test of sound journalism.

There are some wonderful contemporary apologetic essays on miracles, Frederica Mathewes-Green’s piece “Why C.S. Lewis is So Irritating!” springs to mind, while Christopher Hitchens and some other members of the new atheists fraternity have equally well written critiques of the miraculous.


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