Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Pope to Priests: Present an entire vision; plus a note on 'Clerical Reform' and 'Orbis Catholicus'

The Holy Father's catechesis today was on Peter Lombard, the outstanding 12th century theologian and author of 'The Sentences'. Pope Benedict emphasised in the English resume of his earlier longer Catechesis, that this work "is a collection of four books of patristic texts, carefully selected and ordered for use in the teaching of theology. 'The Sentences' became the standard introduction to theology for centuries, influencing the thought of scholars such as Saints Albert the Great, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas. The Church requires such organic presentations of the Catholic faith, in which each individual article of faith reflects the unity of God's revealed truth and the majesty of his saving plan. Peter Lombard's work thus served a need which, in our day, is also met by the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'. Among the most enduring contributions of the 'Sentences is Peter's definition of a sacrament as an outwad sign and cause of grace, and his teaching on the sevenfold number of the sacraments. During this YEAR FOR PRIESTS, I encourage priests as ministers of the sacraments, and all the faithful, to grow in union with Christ and His Church."

In the longer Catechesis the Holy Father had exhorted priests and theologians to present an entire vision of the faith and not a fragmented one. He gave simple examples of how Peter achieved this, and one of these struck me particularly. Peter Lombard asks the question: "Why was Eve created from Adam's side? The answer: Eve was not meant to be Adam's slave, but his companion. She represents the sacrament of Christian marriage and the relationship between man and wife. Also the image foretells the relationship between Christ and His bride the Church and of His love for her that is expressed in the blood and water which flowed from His pierced side after he had died on the Cross. This to me is a clear example of something my spiritual director and I have often happily agreed upon: 'Isn't our Faith wonderful! It is all of a piece! Everything connects with everything else!'

I'm sure you will have noticed some particular features of Pope Benedict's current series of catecheses on medieval theologians. He always brings them to life so that they are no longer mere names or ciphers from a distant and irrelevant past; he shows us how their teaching IS STILL CRUCIALLY RELEVANT to our own times and to all times; in so doing, he demonstrates why and how the maintenance of the 'hermeneutic of continuity' is of such an essential and ineluctable importance; and in this year which he has especially dedicated to them, he always brings out a special message for priests themselves.


Meanwhile on the blogosphere, two of my favourite authors have items of interest to Spiritual Mothers of priests. Fr. S. at 'Clerical Reform' has begun a series of posts on "The Priesthood" and 'Orbis Catholicus' has a pithily pointed and effective post "I Love the Priesthood" Link to these posts here and here.

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