Three More SCG Chapters on the Sacrament of Holy Orders

gospel commission

The “minor” orders:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 75

The order of Bishops and the pope:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 76

Clergymen need not be virtuous in order to give the sacraments:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 77

SCG: Anointing, Holy Orders + An Emmy?

Fra Angelico ordination

Extreme Unction:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 73

Holy Orders:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 74

Back in February of 2020, Kerri O’Brien of ABC8 News in Richmond came to visit St. Joseph’s in Martinsville, to report on the situation.

They have nominated Kerri and her producer for an Emmy Award for the report! Congratulations. Hope you win it, Kerri 🙂

Final SCG Chapters on the Eucharist, and the First on Penance

st-john-vianney-confession

In Chapter 62 of Book IV of Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas outlined reasonable difficulties in believing in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. The last one involved our custom at Mass of breaking the Host.

…It even seems absurd to say that the subject of the breaking of the bread at the Mass is the Body of Christ…

Since Christ’s Body, risen from the dead, and subject to no injury or corruption at this point, cannot be broken.

St. Thomas provided the key to solving this difficulty in Chapter 63. Now, in Chapter 67, he answers this particular objection. 

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 67

Next, St. Thomas comments on the saying of Christ that supported all the objections to the Real Presence, Namely:

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 68

Finally, to conclude the section on the Holy Eucharist, St. Thomas considers the use of leavened vs. unleavened bread.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 69

passover seder plate

The next section of Book IV considers the Sacrament of Penance. St. Thomas begins by considering whether an initiated Christian can sin.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 70

Solution to Difficulties with the Real Presence

Ecce Agnus Dei

In Chapter 62 of Book IV of Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas laid out a number of serious difficulties with crediting the Church’s faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Those difficulties include:

How the Body of Christ comes to be on the altar, how His Body can occupy this precise space that was previously occupied by the bread and wine, and how the Body of Christ can have the appearance, taste, and smell of bread, and His Blood the appearance, taste, and smell of wine, not to mention the capacity of bread and wine to nourish and inebriate, or the capacity to spoil or burn.

St. Thomas provides the idea necessary to resolve these difficulties in Chapter 63. The consecration of the Host and Chalice brings about the transformation of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of the Body of Christ. The consecration does not entail bringing about the presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in their proper dimensions in space.

buy the world a coke

This distinction is indeed subtle, but we can understand it, if we think of a loaf of bread.

Let’s say it’s Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel. A distinct substance.

The entirety of Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness is in every slice of the loaf, and in the loaf as a whole, and in even a small bite of one slice. Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness does not, in and of itself, occupy space. It occupies space through the dimensions of the bread, and Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness and the dimensions of the loaf are not the same thing. After all, there are tens of thousands of loaves of the same kind of bread all over the world right now. You don’t have to know how many, in order to know what Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness is.

So if you hold a slice of the bread in your hand to put some mustard on it, you are actually dealing with two things: the reality of Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness, and the size and shape of the slice.

Or think of Coca-Cola. The entirety of Coca-Cola-ness resides in a 12-ounce can, or a 2-liter bottle, or the tank for a soda fountain that dispenses Coke. If you go to Mickey D’s and fill a cup with Coke, you’re actually dealing with two things: Coca-Cola-ness and the size of the cup.

The consecration at Holy Mass involves the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, a miracle as great as the creation of the universe out of nothingIt is also involves a second miracle of similar grandeur: the entire dimensions in space of the bread and wine remain, with everything attendant upon that: that is, the sensible qualities and capacities.

With this solution, St. Thomas does not intend to make it easy to believe in the consecration; he cannot do that. The Angelic Doctor concedes, in fact: believing in the Real Presence is super-humanly difficult, and it should be. Only the grace of supernatural faith suffices. We believe by virtue of a gift from heaven.

What St. Thomas does show, however, is: what we believe by supernatural faith about the Blessed Sacrament does not contradict reason; it is not impossible; it is not absurd. When we premise that God Himself brings about the miracle, the whole thing does make sense.

Solution to difficulties regarding the place of the Body and Blood of Christ:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 64

Solution to difficulties regarding the sensible qualities of the consecrated Host and chalice.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 65

Solution to difficulties regarding the capacity of the consecrated sacrament to nourish you or make you drunk, or to rot or burn.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 66

SCG on the Sacraments

Rogier Van der Weyden Seven Sacraments altarpiece

Three short chapters.

On having visible sacraments

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 56

On the sacraments of the Law, and of the Gospel

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 57

And on the number of the sacraments, which reflects what is necessary for the propagation and sustenance of bodily life…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 58

Precious Blood Here and Now

Everybody know that, during July, the Church reflects especially on the Precious Blood of Christ? Each month of the year has a theme for reflection. July is the month of the Precious Blood.

If I might, I would like to draw a stark contrast between two ways of understanding the world. I don’t intend to be divisive or un-ecumenical. But I think we might profit spiritually by meditating on this contrast.

First, let’s take note of this fact: human beings occupy the world in one way: locally. A human being always occupies a particular place. We may have a ‘globalized’ economy; we may have the world-wide web; we may have Facebook friends in other time zones. But no human being ever has, or ever will, exist in the world without being in a particular place. One particular town, or city, or borough, or farmhouse, or shack, or hut: one place.

tabernacleSo the contrast is this: Everyone, without exception, stands, or sits, or reclines, somewhere. Among all the billions of people, occupying all their particular locations, some of those people believe themselves to be near the Precious Blood of Christ, which brings salvation; some don’t.

And I don’t mean theoretically near, or “spiritually” near His Blood. I mean physically near, as in, “Right now, I stand approximately seven feet away from the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle.” Or: “In a few minutes, I will actually hold a chalice full of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ in my hands.”

Continue reading “Precious Blood Here and Now”

Seven Invisible Visibles

Nate Archibald

Good Shepherd Sunday, and we find ourselves in the season of “special sacraments.”

Our new Catholics received sacraments of initiation three weeks ago. Our vigorous youth have recently been confirmed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, strengthened with the anointing of Christ Himself. Soon our little ones will receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion for the first time. Then, in the cathedral in Richmond, and in cathedrals all over the world, young men will be ordained. And some of us will have some weddings and baby baptisms to celebrate soon, too.

We hear the Lord Jesus clearly say to us today, “I am your Shepherd.” We know that He uses many means to shepherd us to heaven, but the sacraments above all. So let’s pause and meditate for a moment on the sacraments.

How many sacraments has the Lord given to His Church? Seven. Seven. Good number. Like the seven days of the week, the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven golden lampstands in the heavenly tabernacle—not to mention the jersey number worn by Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, Pete Maravich, John Elway, David Beckham, Nate Archibald, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, and Joe Theismann.

Continue reading “Seven Invisible Visibles”

Daze and Confuse Over Supreme-Court News

Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII, entombed in the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Given the state of public discourse (at least what I have heard of it), I think a thoughtful Christian might find him- or herself thoroughly confused by the “gay-marriage” cases which the Supreme Court will hear this week.

Some preliminary observations:

1. No true Christian would ever think it acceptable to abuse or mistreat anyone–including, certainly, any homosexual person. 2. Any member of any generation prior to ours, upon hearing that the Supreme Court of a major nation would consider the possibility of “gay marriage,” would laugh out loud, because it must be some kind of joke. 3. This problem which we have at hand is, in fact, enormously profound; it cannot be settled without simultaneously questioning whether or not divorce should–or even can–be legal; it requires a Christian to put American patriotism in its proper place in the hierarchy of loyalty, namely, under religion and allegiance to the Church.

If there were two fishbowls in which people could live, the one being “secular” and the other “Christian,” then we Christians could say to the state: You have your laws of marriage, and we have ours, and let’s just leave each other alone.

council_of_trent
The Council of Trent

But there aren’t two fishbowls. There’s just one, in which God calls people into His Church at different points in their lives, in which men and women with different priorities meet each other and fall in love with each other and have children together, in which the Church fulfills Her sacred mission for the good of every human being.

If you will permit me, I would like to say first that I think the key fact, the fundamentally decisive reality, is this:

Every individual human being has a mother and a father. There is no way to come into existence as a human being without a mother and a father.

It seems to me that all sound doctrine in the fields of marriage law, sociology, social work, psychology, child care, marriage counseling, religion, home economics, education, developmental psychiatry, neonatology, pediatrics, addictions counseling, even interior design: all theories and teaching must be based on the fact that every human being ever (except for Adam, Eve, and Jesus Christ) has had, has, and will have a human mother and a human father. In other words: without my mother and my father, I simply would not exist. Any person of love and decency thinks of all people (and especially children) in this light: every person has a mother and a father.

When anyone experiences sexual attraction towards someone whom he or she cannot think of marrying, this is a cross, a burden, a trial, a difficulty. We owe it to our neighbors to help each other struggle through these challenges. The more purely we love each other in Christ, the more we can help homosexual people to be chaste–and all people to be chaste. Because all of us, at some point or another, experience sexual attraction towards people we cannot think of marrying.

Now, to what the Church has taught in the past:

Council of Trent:

It is something singularly execrable to violate the freedom of matrimony.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve were free to marry. If someone had tried to tell them that they weren’t, the world might never have known the need for diapers. But no one told them not to. So they did it.

Before sin entered the world, I think we can say, there was no need whatsoever for external laws of marriage. But sin did enter. So the Savior had to come.

wedding cakeNow: We hold that the Savior restored marriage to its original state of permanence and exclusivity.

Christ made marriage a sacrament of His grace.

Marriage, indeed, has, from the beginning, been a sign of the union of God and man, destined to last forever in heaven. By the power of Christ, Who shed His blood on the cross for His beloved Bride, marriage is now such a sign again.

The sacred sign has been entrusted to the Church.

Hopefully, dear reader, you have noticed that this means that there is no such thing as “civil marriage.” Never has been and never will be. Marriage is inherently sacred, inherently religious, inherently Godly. God made Adam and Eve out of elements that only He could fashion into human persons, and He endowed them with the power to bring new human persons into the world–through marriage. Spouses co-operate with the Creator in bringing new people into the world and into the Church.

Marriage and child-bearing, therefore, establish the situation in which a state or nation can exist. The fundamental fact, when it comes to this week’s Supreme Court cases, is this: The state has the prerogative to establish laws pertaining to certain practical exigencies of married life. But civil authority does not have the power to establish any laws regarding what marriage is, or whether or not a particular marriage bond can or does exist.

A state might be a tranquil and beautiful republican democracy; it might be a repressive dictatorship; it might be a monarchy—doesn’t matter. Under no circumstances whatsoever does any civil authority have the prerogative to establish what marriage is, or to determine who is married and who isn’t, or who can marry and who can’t. That prerogative belongs solely to God, and the only competent judges in such matters are those who have been designated as such by the proper authorities in God’s Church.

Canon 12 of Session 12 of the Council of Trent:

If anyone says that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges, let him be anathema.

Pope Leo XIII:

Marriage was not instituted by the will of man, but, from the very beginning, by the authority and command of God; it does not admit of plurality of wives or husbands; Christ, the Author of the New Covenant, raised it from a rite of nature to be a sacrament, and gave to His Church legislative and judicial power with regard to the bond of union.

So, please, dear brothers and sisters, let us not be confused. We certainly hope that the Supreme Court will not make a decision which, in the long run, will prove to be utterly laughable. But they might make such a decision.

If and when the time comes when the laughable decision could cause me and other priests, deacons, and bishops, to have to pay fines and/or go to jail, we’ll let you know. For now, the people who need our advocacy and prayers are a) anyone involved in health care who, reasonably, refuses to have anything to do with in vitro fertilization and other similar child abuses, and b) case workers confronted with “married” couples who have no legitimate claim to be considered as potential adoptive parents.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that painful things will happen to the Church if the Court makes the wrong decisions on this week’s cases. Time, however, will tell. The fact of the matter is that we really cannot agree with either side’s arguments. Both positions concede to the government an authority which it does not possess.

So I think we should persevere in peace and tranquility. If any of us have marriage cases pending before ecclesiastical tribunals, let’s put it all in God’s hands and trust that the matter will be resolved according to the divine plan.

Where we really need to focus, I think, is in supporting each other in living chaste lives. A poor soul has to be very far estranged from the friendship of Christ to find him- or herself in such a situation that he or she would a) marry and/or have a child with someone whom he or she cannot realistically look forward to living with until death, or b) think of “marrying” someone of the same sex.

Let’s strive to stay close to the chaste and celibate Christ, Who reigns in heaven as the fulfillment of all our desires, and Who shares His life with us in the sacraments and prayers of the Church.

By staying close to Him, each of us does his or her part to help others stay close to Him. “Same-sex marriages,” or second or third “marriages” (with former spouses still living), are not really the concern of anyone who lives daily in the friendship of Jesus Christ.

Let’s hope and pray for the day that no one gives a thought to same-sex marriage or divorce, and let’s be kind and understanding toward everyone who does—and offer them the friendship of Christ, which is the only real answer to their problems.