Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Dutch in the History of Biblical Scholarship, cont.

Descartes’ methodology of doubt has as a corollary his break from all tradition, particularly the Aristotelian tradition that had dominated European Christian thought for centuries.  For Descartes, philosophy is the project of an individual mind (namely his own), not a conversation of minds through history.  Of course, Descartes is almost na├»ve in his failure to realize his own indebtedness to the Western tradition, since the language and concepts in which he communicates are themselves the patrimony of a long intellectual history.  Nonetheless, Descartes is dismissive and contemptuous of the accomplishments of those who have come before him, and he does not regard them in any sense as a source of truth or illumination.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Dutch in the History of Biblical Scholarship

An odd set of circumstances had me doing some work in an area wherein I usually don't research or publish, namely, the history of biblical scholarship. 

One of several surprises I came across in the process of researching for a little essay, was the significance of my ancestral homeland, the Netherlands, to the development of modern thought, and particularly modern biblical scholarship.

During the wars of religion that characterized the post-Reformation period and dominated the seventeenth century (1600's), the Netherlands established their independence from Spain and reached the brief zenith of their economic and military power on the global stage.  The relative political tolerance in the Netherlands in this time period, particularly in and around the capital Amsterdam, attracted all manner of radical intellectuals whose writings anticipated and provoked the "Enlightenment," which did not "arrive" in most of the rest of Europe until the eighteenth century (1700's).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Eating the Flesh of the Messiah: The Feast of Corpus Christi

 This weekend is another great liturgical feast, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, otherwise known as Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi is one of a handful of feasts that celebrates the very gift of the Eucharist itself.  It is one of my favorite feasts, because the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was instrumental in my becoming Catholic.

Back in the Fall of 1999 I was reading through the Apostolic Fathers and came to this passage in Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Smyrneans (c. AD 106):

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cardinal Mahony Explains the "Pallium"

Over at his blog Cardinal Mahony has offered a great explanation of the "Pallium" (i.e., the white band worn around the neck of a bishop; cf. the ancient image of Innocent III).
"About 400 members of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are en route to Rome for the bestowal of the Pallium upon Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, by Pope Benedict XVI on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
But what is the Pallium? It is a circular band about 2" wide, worn about the neck and having two pendants--one hanging down in front and one behind. It is worn over the chasuble at Mass. Every February two lambs are blessed each year and their white wool is used to make the Pallium. The wool is presented to the Pope, and Sisters then make the Pallium for the new Archbishops.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Problem with Tenure

I'm not totally against tenure in principle, but in practice it has become a major source of problems in academia. Check this out:

Pope Benedict: The Psalms as the "Great Prayerbook"

"In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we have looked to a number of Old Testament figures who represent models of prayer. We now turn to the great "prayerbook" of sacred Scripture: the Book of Psalms. These inspired songs teach us how to speak to God, expressing ourselves and the whole range of our human experience with words that God himself has given us. Despite the diversity of their literary forms, the Psalms are generally marked by the two interconnected dimensions of humble petition and of praise addressed to a loving God who understands our human frailty. In Hebrew, the Psalms are called Tehellim or songs of praise; the prayer of praise is, in fact, our best response to the God who even at times of trial remains ever at our side. Many of the Psalms are attributed to David, the great King of Israel who, as the Lord’s Anointed, prefigured the Messiah. In Jesus Christ and in his paschal mystery the Psalms find their deepest meaning and prophetic fulfilment. Christ himself prayed in their words. As we take up these inspired songs of praise, let us ask the Lord to teach us to pray, with him and in him, to our heavenly Father.

I welcome the participants in the Congress of the European Society of Clinical Neurophysiology, with good wishes for their deliberations. I greet the Catholic educators from Canada and the United States meeting in Rome. I also greet the officers of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. My welcome goes to the American seminarians taking part in a study program in Rome, and to the novices of the Missionaries of Charity. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, Scotland, Sweden, Indonesia and the United States, I invoke God’s abundant blessings."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Trinity Sunday

This weekend we observe the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, a liturgical feast which celebrates the central mystery of the Christian faith.

Belief in the Trinity distinguishes Christians from adherents of all other world religions.  Hinduism is pantheistic, Buddhism agnostic.  Islam and Judaism hold to monopersonal monotheism.  Jews consider the Trinity erroneous, Muslims find it offensive.

Although the truth of the Trinity cannot be demonstrated, and must be accepted by faith in God’s revelation of Himself, nonetheless, philosophical meditation on the nature of love lends credibility to this act of faith.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why We Chose "The Sacred Page" ("")

In conversations lately it has been revealed to me that some people have missed how cool the title of this website is. I have to explain it in case others have missed it. Indeed, I'm still stunned that the domain was available.

Yes, the title "The Sacred Page" works well for this blog because it is a term used for Scripture in Christian tradition and this is a blog about biblical studies. In particular, as explained under the mast above, the title is meant to echo Dei Verbum 24, a passage from the Second Vatican Council that speaks of the need for Scripture to remain the "soul" of theology.

But "The Sacred Page" also works as a title for a website devoted to Scripture study because the term "page" is also used for a website, e.g., your "homepage". However, as I always explain, the title is a reference to Scripture, not so much for this website (the authors here do not consider themselves "sacred authors" or, in any way, "inspired"--though John is quite inspiring!).

Just thought I'd point that out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why Tongues of Fire?

While we are still close to Pentecost I thought I'd just cover a little bit of ground I've covered before here.

Of course, we all know the story from the book of Acts which relates how the Spirit came and descended upon the apostles in the form of those “tongues of fire”. But I’ve always wondered―why tongues of fire?

Of course, one thing Pentecost does is reverse the scattering that took place at Babel where languages--or "tongues"--were confused.

But recently I discovered another possible background. Let me explain.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Let the Fire Fall! Reflections on the Readings for Pentecost

The Lectionary provides a wealth of Scriptural inspiration for this weekend’s celebration of the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.

As usual, there is too much beauty and richness for us to deal with it all in depth.  I was minded only to deal with the Sunday Mass Readings, but the Vigil’s selections are just too rich to pass without a brief comment on each:

Thursday, June 09, 2011

JP Catholic: A Catholic University for the 21st Century

Partner with John Paul the Great Catholic University from JP Catholic University on Vimeo.

Go here to learn more about how you can help.

Archbishop Gomez on Why He Has Joined Facebook and Twitter

Archbishop Gomez is now using social media websites as part of his ministry! This is great! I've put certain parts in black. My comments are in the red brackets.
Are you on Facebook? I am now.

Not long after I put up my “public figure” page on Facebook, more than 800 people have “liked” it — from all over the world.
Some are old friends, others are new friends. It is exciting to meet so many people who want to share their faith in Jesus Christ and their love for his Church. Already I have new people to pray for and new people to pray for me and our great Archdiocese.

This new world of social media, mobile devices, and digital technologies, is very interesting to me.

I started my Facebook page, and my new Twitter account, because as a bishop I am called to be a servant of souls and a servant of the Gospel. The Church must always be where her people are. More and more, our people are on the Internet. [This is a bishop who gets it. The world is changing; we can't simply witness to the Christian faith using the methods of the 19th century--or even the 1990's! Those days a gone! While holding on to what is good, we also need to embrace new methods. The whole world has gone on-line--it's time for the Church to meet them there.]

They are using these new media and technology to build friendships and community, to express their spiritual needs, and to nourish their faith. [Well said! All three of these areas are important. And what comes first is building friendships and community. To often we want to just "nourish" people's faith. Unfortunately, we do so in an individualist way and forget that, as humans, we are social animal!]

I have long believed that as a Church we need to increase our pastoral presence in this digital “environment.” [Indeed, he was talking about this long before almost any one else!]

The Church has always found ways to use new media to spread the Gospel — beginning with the printing press, then radio, television and cable, and now the Internet. [And yet we seem to have forgotten this. How many young Catholics are really going into new media with a heart to evangelize? By the way--shameless plug--if you're interested in taking up this challenge, check out JP Catholic. We specialize in precisely this--watch this video and this one.]

The early Christians were able to spread the Gospel so rapidly because the Roman Empire had a vast network of roads. This enabled missionaries to travel to every part of the known world to preach the good news face-to-face.

I believe we have a similar opportunity now in the avenues opened up by the Internet.

Pope Benedict XVI has described the world of on-line communications and social networking as a "digital continent". [Pope Benedict is awesome.] That is a powerful image for us to reflect on.

As the Church sends missionaries to every continent, we now need to send missionaries to proclaim the Gospel in this new digital continent also. 

This is not only the work of bishops and priests. It is the work of everyone in the Church. We are all called to evangelize this new “continent.”

This new continent has its own landscape, its areas of danger and unknown. The people who “live” in this continent have their own languages, customs and cultures. We have to learn all about this continent in order to evangelize it.

The message of the Gospel never changes no matter where it is preached or what media we use to deliver it. But we need to always be looking for the “language” that best communicates our Lord’s saving truths.

I plan to use my Facebook page as a way to listen and to talk to people. Because of my pastoral duties, it won’t be possible for me to respond personally to every message that people post on my digital “wall.” But I have already begun to post messages and to pray for those who write to me.

I hope that through sharing my homilies and these columns I write and my reflections on my ministry, I can help build a “virtual” community of genuine faith and prayer.

I want to use this new media to help people become more aware of God’s presence in their lives. I want to help them appreciate the Church’s deep spiritual wisdom and the practical relevance of her teachings.

Many people are concerned about the possibly harmful aspects of this new media. I am too. And I plan to use my “new pulpit” on Facebook to speak about these things from time to time.

But our first task as a Church is to claim this new media for the service of the Word of God.

In his preaching, St. Paul speaks of Christ this way: “To us has been sent the message of this salvation” (Acts 13:26). 
We need to use this new media to proclaim Jesus as the one “message” that can truly change people’s lives. He is the Word that everyone is waiting to receive.

Let us pray for one another as I venture into this new digital “continent.”

I hope all of you who are on Facebook will join me. I will be offering regular updates of my “status” and invitations to prayer and spiritual growth.

In two weeks, I leave on pilgrimage to Rome to receive my Archbishop’s pallium from Pope Benedict XVI. I am planning to use Facebook to update you often during this time of grace for our Archdiocese and for me.

So let us ask the intercession of Our Lady of the Angels, that all of us may use every medium we have to deliver the message that salvation is found in her only Son, Jesus Christ.

A Thought for the Approach of Pentecost

Here's a thought I came across while reading in preparation for the Feast of Pentecost this Sunday:
"And so, there cannot be faith in the Holy Spirit if there is not faith in Christ, in his sacraments, in his Church. A man cannot act in accordance with his christian faith, cannot truly believe in the Holy Spirit, unless he loves the Church and trusts it. He cannot be a coherent Christian if he limits himself to pointing out the deficiencies and limitations of some who represent the Church, judging her from the outside, as though he were not her son."
--St. Josemaria Escriva, fom the homily "The Great Unknown," in Christ is Passing By.

Monday, June 06, 2011


"Of recent commentators the number is almost infinite.  Their superabundance makes it difficult for the reader to know which to choose … Among commentaries which are so divergent in their interpretations, you do not know which one to prefer and follow. Many, moreover, are so wordy that not only students but even learned scholars who devote themselves entirely to Sacred Scripture do not have the time and leisure to read them (not to mention the intellectual strength and endurance)."
Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide, S.J., from his Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, published c. 1630.

Friday, June 03, 2011

God Mounts His Throne with Shouts of Joy: The Readings for Ascension Day

In the Diocese of Steubenville, as well as in most of the USA, Ascension Day is observed this Sunday.  I wish the traditional observance on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter was retained, but reality is what it is.

Therefore, this weekend we will look at the powerful readings for Ascension Day. 

This is an unusual Lord’s Day, in which the “action” of the Feast Day actually takes place in the First Reading.  We typically think of all the narratives of Jesus’ life as recorded in the Gospels, overlooking that Acts records at least two important narratives about the activity of the Resurrected Lord (Acts 1:1-11; also 9:1-8).

In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

NBC Today's Show Meets the Pope

I can't wait for tomorrow's broadcast!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

John Paul II and the Trinity: Webinar Today!!!

For anyone who might be interested, today (Thursday, June 2) @ 6pm I will be doing a special on-line event for JP Catholic. You will be able to hear a presentation of mine called, "John Paul II on the Trinity as the Model for the Family" and then there will be a Q & A. Go here to sign up for this free event!

Here are the details as they appear on our school's website:
In the 30-minute online webinar, Dr. Michael Barber will discuss Blessed John Paul the Great on the Trinity as the Model for the Family, and will focus on his understanding of God, family, and culture and how a true understanding of the family can Impact Culture for Christ. It is followed by a Q&A session with Dr. Barber. To register for the 6:00 pm lecture on Thursday, June 2nd, please click here.