Tuesday, November 3, 2015


The Sistine choir continues to amaze us with their improved singing and chanting. Please note that the propers are chanted, the Mass is primarily in Latin and very sober and beautiful. I've concelebrated as the only concelebrant at this altar with the main celebrant when our choir sang at an evening Sunday Mass at the Basilica there. The Mass was in Italian and while I know and understand Italian at a child's level, I've taught myself to read it which I find more difficult that Latin or Spanish to read. So you can only imagine how my heart skipped a couple of beats when the priest-celebrant during the Eucharistic Prayer pointed to the part he wanted me to pray  which was in Italian. I had not looked it over ahead of time but I rose to to occasion, I think and also I think I sounded like a true Tuscano.  Also, I sat in the chair which would be to the right of the pope facing him.

This Mass was this morning:

Vatican Radio: Pope Francis said just as Jesus knelt to wash the feet of his closest disciples, so he calls all his ministers today to renew their commitment to service in his Church. Just as Jesus came to serve and not to be served, the Pope insisted, so his ministers are called in turn to be pastors, ready to give their lives for their flock. In the eyes of this world, he said, those who serve are seen as losers: but in reality it is those who give their lives and lose themselves in the love of Christ who will overcome death and give life to the world.

Pope Francis recalled the words of Jesus that “God so loved the world” that he sent his Son as a servant to take on our sins and to save us from death by dying for us. Just as the Israelites were saved from death, after being bitten by poisonous snakes, by looking at the bronze snake that Moses held up on a pole, so Christ saves us from death through his death on the Cross.

To our eyes, death seems dark and fearful, just as those who died from snake bites in the desert were full of fear and suffering. Yet Jesus took fully upon himself all these contradictions, the Pope said, so that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life”.

This style of service and humility, he continued, has much to teach us. Though we find it hard to accept this mystery, he said, the secret lies in the strength of God’s love for us. Through the mystery of Easter, Jesus not only conquered death but transformed evil into good – not through words, but deeds, not on the surface but at the root. He has transformed the Cross into a bridge towards life and we can do the same if we choose to follow his example of service and humility.


Marc said...

This sounds like Pelagianism.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc, I think it is too, but it might be the fault of the one who translated the Italian into English, at least I hope.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Here's a better translation from the Vatican and fuller. Do you still detect Pelagianism?

“This is how the Son of God lowered Himself to us, stooping like a servant to us to take on all that is ours, to the point of throwing open the doors to life. … This style of God, Who saves us by serving us and annihilating Himself, has much to teach us. We imagine a triumphal divine victory; instead Jesus shows us a very humble victory. Raised on the cross, He lets evil and death beset him, while He continues to love. For us it is difficult to accept this. It is a mystery, but the secret of this mystery, of this extraordinary humility, consists entirely in the strength of love. … In this way Jesus not only takes away evil, but also transforms it into good. He does not change things with words, but with actions; not in appearance, but in substance; not on the surface, but at the root. He transforms the cross into a bridge to life. We too can be victorious with Him, it we choose dutiful and humble love, that remains victorious for eternity. It is a love that does not shout and does not impose itself, but rather knows how to wait with trust and patience since, as the Book of Lamentations reminds us, “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord”.
“As we offer this Mass for the our dear brother cardinals and bishops, let us ask for ourselves what the apostle Paul exhorts us to do: 'Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things'. May the resurrection of the Lord be enough to let us be free of the worries of ephemeral things, that pass and vanish into nothing. May He be enough for us, He in whom there is life, salvation, resurrection and joy. Then we will be servants according to His heart, not functionaries who offer their services, but rather beloved children who give their life for the world”.

Marc said...

I still detect Pelagianism, but not as strongly as in the summary of the article that you originally posted. There is an undercurrent of semi-Pelagianism here in that the suggestion is that our works have some necessary effect on our salvation.

Part of the problem with the new progressivist ethos in the Church is that it will always tend toward Pelagianism or semi-Pelgianism. That is, after all, the most effective way to sell people on the idea that they need to be involved in social projects.

The final part of this is the most telling. What does it mean for people to "give their life for the world"? We do not live or die for the world -- we live and die for God. We are to give our life to God and forget the world.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

But faith and good works are necessary for salvation but God's sanctifying grace makes this possible. Good works do merit actual grace.

Giving one's life for the world should be read in the context of Jesus' sacrifice for the salvation of the world, that we participate in that mystery by following him, but our ability to do this is a gift and a part of the sanctifying and actual graces we receive and yes, can merit actual graces.

Marc said...

There is no doubt that good works merit actual graces.

You have to be careful to note, though, that good works do not merit the initial converting grace (Pelagianism) and do not merit salvation in themselves (semi-Pelagianism).

For good works to merit at all, one must already be in the state of sanctifying grace. The problem that I am discussing with regard to the modern ethos is two-fold in that it first fails to take into account the necessity of being in the state of grace and second fails to go beyond the idea of works as an end in themselves.

George said...

Then we will be servants according to His heart, not functionaries who offer their services, but rather beloved children who give their life for the world”.”

Can't it be read that Pope Francis is saying here, " beloved children (of God) giving their lives for the (salvation) of the world."

By faith in Christ, we are God’s beloved sons and daughters.

John 3:2
"Beloved, we are God’s children now"

Ephesians 5:1
" So be imitators of God, as beloved children;"

Matthew 3:17

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”

When Pope Francis says the following, "not functionaries who offer their services", is he addressing
clerics? It seems not unreasonable to think that he is.

What you say about the modern ethos is a good point. Good works are those in which we co-operate with God's grace. They have no value in and of themselves, nor in and of themselves are they sufficient as a means of acquiring grace. It is the grace and generosity of God that gives any good that we do value in acquiring grace.

Gene said...

There has always been an undercurrent of semi-Pelagianism in Catholic theology. The Catholic view of reason, the Imago Dei, and nature/grace insures it. One just has to keep reminding oneself to follow Augustine and understand that this is a bit of Catholic theology that needs correction.

Victor W. said...

Alleluias during a Requiem? Purgatory is passee I see. I suppose everyone gets to heaven if they just believe. If St Gregory the Great weren't in heaven, he'd be rolling in his grave. No thank you, you can keep your Bugnini Requiem.

George said...

There is no semi-pelagianism to be found in Catholicism with a true, proper, and authentic understanding of the Church's belief and teaching in how God's grace operates. Really, from a certain perspective, there is not all that much that divides semi-pelagianism from superstition. Grace is an unmerited gift. We do not receive grace as one who works a certain number of hours and then receives a paycheck for his labors.
We receive God's grace when we co-operate with His work of sanctification within us. It is an unmerited gift.Christ and His grace are always present in the Eucharist but if we are not free from mortal sin, the grace available is not going to have its intended effect. In fact, our attachments to those things which we put before God(even though our sins be only venial), means that it won't have the full effect it could have.
There is a co-operation with God's grace when we couple our faith with good works. It is our faith and God's grace which give our good works value, which otherwise, in and of themselves, would have no spiritual value. In viewing the Faith from a semi-pelagianism perspective, why do any good work at all, even pray?
It has rightly been condemned as a heresy because it is incompatible with the Catholic faith.

Faith make the works worthy of merit. Without good works faith is unproductive, without faith good works are ineffective. ... plenty of good works increase the vitality of faith.

- Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini (1839-1905), Bishop, Feast day June 1

As far as St Augustine-he is considered to be among the greatest,if not the greatest of theologians.

Gene said...

George, I agree that, if properly understood, the Pelagian elements in Catholicism can be reconciled with Biblical theology. However, this has been a standard issue in theology for centuries and always come into play when studying the Doctrine of Reconciliation and in dialogue between Calvinists and Catholic theologians. There are some subtleties in Catholic thought that lend themselves to a Pelagian interpretation. Augustine (about who I agree with you) would say that even faith is a gift, unmerited, and that good works are also a gift of Grace. Human initiative is the issue, regarding which Augustine and the Calvinists give no credence, but which the Catholic doctrine of Imago Dei seems to place on a higher level.

Gene said...

PS Also, there is the issue of making faith into a "work"...a problem that Baptists and Catholics have in common. LOL!