Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Thursday, October 23, 2014

These Doctors Have the Prescription for What Ails the Catholic Church

Back in 2010 I ordered a book from Tan Books entitled The 33 Doctors of the Church.* I got it because I was interested in finding out more about who those Doctors were, what they taught, & why they were made Doctors of the Church.

The book was written by the late Fr. Christopher Rengers, O.F.M. Cap. He passed away at the age of 92 in 2010. Fr. Rengers was a prolific author. He also had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe & led pilgrimages twice a year to Mexico City & the Shrine there. Additionally, & not surprisingly, he was also a strong defender of the rights of the unborn. On 21 January 1977, the eve of the annual March for Life, he said Mass in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine. That was followed by an all night prayer vigil. That was the start of the annual Mass that grew to include priests, Bishops & Cardinals from around the US. The all night vigil continues each year as well.
The book had its origins in the naming of a fellow Capuchin, St Lawrence of Brindisi, as a Doctor of the Church by St. Pope John XXIII in 1959. The book was substantially finished in 1967. Then in 1971 Venerable (very soon to be Blessed) Pope Paul VI added St. Catherine of Siena & St. Teresa of Avila. Finally, St Therese of Lisieux was added by St. Pope John Paul II in 1997.* The finished work was published by TAN Books in 2000.*
Now we usually think of someone in the medical profession when we hear the word doctor. But the word is actually derived from the Latin word docere. "to teach." It meant that the person was qualified to teach on the subject he had studied.
The Doctors of the Church were clearly qualified to teach. & while some of them spent years in study others didn't. But the one common factor was that they were ultimately taught by the Holy Spirit no matter what other education they may have had.
But their knowledge also had a spiritual ability to analyse

The book is organized into a chapter for each Doctor. The order was based on the birth of each doctor. In doing so, an interesting fact is noticed, with a couple of exceptions, the Doctors seem to appear in clusters & usually in periods where the truths taught by the Church were being questioned or even denied & often heresies offered to replace them.
The 1st group of 13 wrote & taught in the 4th & 5th Centuries. That was the era of the Arian, Manichean, Monophysitism & Nestorian heresies.
Another group of 6 appeared during the 16th & 17th Centuries. That was the time of the Protestant Reformation (rebellion) started by Martin Luther, Calvin, etc. Some of these Doctors wrote to defend the teachings of the Catholic Church. Some wrote with the aim of convincing people to return to the Church. Others wrote to help Catholics to grow stronger in their faith.
Each chapter provides a biography of the saint as well as a look at some of what they wrote.
While I have read the various chapters over the past 4 years, I recently decided to start reading the entire book in the order found in the book. As I have been rereading their stories I realized how they had plenty to say about the problems we are facing today. That also meant that they would face rejection by various factions in the Church today as well. & as I will show, that means those on the right as well as the left.
Some of them faced exile, persecution & arrest for daring to speak the truth against those who claimed to be Catholic but supported heretical views instead. Others faced death threats. But all of them remained faithful to Jesus & His Catholic Church.
I said that some would be criticised & condemned by both the left & the right. A good example is St. Ambrose. Yes, the same Ambrose who brought St. Augustine into the Catholic Church & has 1 of the Western rites named after him, The Ambrosian aka Milanese rite.
Here is what he had to say about the social obligation of the rich:
"It is not from your own goods that you give largesses to the beggar; it is a portion of his own which you are restoring to him.  What was given for all in common you usurp for your own benefit. The earth belongs to all, not to the rich only. You are consequently paying back a debt; do not go away and think you are making a gift to which you not bound." (De Nabuthe, XII, 53)
You will notice he didn't say a word about the government's obligation, just that of the rich.
As for the beggar: "Never were there so many beggars as today. We see coming to us strong, hearty fellows, who have no other title but their vagrancy, and who claim their right to despoil the poor of what they earn and empty their purses. A little does not satisfy them; they must have more. They trick themselves out in a way to render their demands more urgent, and make up false descriptions of their social condition in order to swell the gifts they receive. To give credence too benevolently to their stories means to exhaust in a short time the alms set aside for the subsistence of the poor. There must be, therefore, a limit. Let them not go away empty-handed, but let not him who helps the needy to live become the prey of schemers. Let us not be inhumane, but let us not deprive extreme indigence of all support." (De Officiis, II, 16)
St. Ambrose makes it clear we have the responsibility to help the truly needy. But he would definitely condemn those who rip off the system along with those who abet them who blindly, & sometimes not so blindly, look the other way in the name of a false compassion.
If you think they attacks on Cardinal Burke have been vicious because of his stand for authentic Catholic doctrine, then look at the example of St. Athanasius. At the Council of Nicea he helped to champion  the doctrine of the divinity of Christ against the Arians. 5 months after the Council, the then about 30 year old Athenasius was made bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. But 5 times during his almost 47 years as Bishop he was driven into exile by his Arian enemies with the help of the emperor. The most active included a fellow bishop, & supporter of the Arian heresy, Eusebuius of Nicomedia.
Then let us not forget St. Catherine of Siena. She was not afraid to correct civil leaders like Queen Joanna & the King of France & even Cardinals.  Now we see too many politicians that abandon their faith for power, thus supporting things like legal abortion.  What she said to Queen Joanna could just as easily be applied to Nancy Pelosi or VP Joe Biden. "You have abandoned the councils of the Holy Spirit to listen to the Evil One; you were a branch of the true Vine, and have cut yourself off with the knife of self-love. You were the beloved daughter of your Father, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, and now you have abandoned him."  
St. Lawrence of Brindisi wrote at the time of the Protestant reformation. Some of what he wrote was to counter what Luther & the Protestant Reformation was proclaiming. But, he could also be considered as the father of not only modern Mariology, but modern Josephology. In The Incarnational Circle he talks about God's plan to not only have a virgin-mother for His Son, but that she would be united to a virgin-husband. This means that St. Joseph was predestined in the eternal plan of creation in the 1st place after Jesus & Mary. It also means, among other things, that Joseph was predestined to be the virgin Father of Christ.
Sadly his writings on The Incarnational Circle are not readily available in English. This is also all too true of the writings of many of the other Doctors as well.
Those are only a few examples of how relevant the lives & teachings of the Church Doctors are for us today.  Some of their writings are aimed at the clergy, others for the laity. But all sought to uphold the eternal truths of the Catholic Church & help all members to live their faith to the fullest.
What they have taught is sorely needed today. Like the times of the early Church Fathers when heresies were rampantly promoted in the Church, we see the errors of the Modernist heresy being promoted. Like the time of the Protestant Reformation there is confusion about what the Catholic Church actually teaches & how we are to live our lives. The now 35 Doctors* of the Church provide the clarity we need to answer those heresies & clear up the confusion. They truly have the prescription for what ails the Catholic Church today.
* The book was updated this year to include the 2 new Doctors, St. John of Ávila and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Papa Benedetto added to the list. The book is now entitled The 35 Doctors of the Church.


The information about the latest to join the list was written by Dr. Matthew E. Bunson K.H.S. While TAN still has the older edition available at a reduced price, I would recommend that you get the updated edition instead. I haven't had the chance to order it yet, but it is on my list.


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