Not a Democracy

Fra Angelico ordination

Back in Apostolic times, some pagans of Asia Minor venerated the fertility god Dionysus. They kept a festival in honor of Dionysus in the latter part of January. One year, during that festival, they killed St. Timothy. That’s why we keep his memorial at this time of year, right after the anniversary of St. Paul’s conversion to Christ.

In his letter to Timothy, St. Paul refers to how he laid hands on him, consecrating him as a Church official. Also, yesterday was the 53rd anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. Churchill, who famously said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms.”

winston-churchillNo doubt, democracy has a stabilizing effect. And it corresponds to the dignity of the human person to have a vote. But the Church can’t be a democracy, and here’s why.

She has a King. Jesus Christ is the source of all ministry in His Church. He is the one true “official” of the Church, and He appoints Church officials by His own sacred means.

We participate in the life of the Church for a reason: to submit ourselves fully to Christ’s rule. For us members of the fallen human race, freedom from the slavery of sin comes only when we submit ourselves to Christ.

So we can’t think: This Church ought to reflect the votes of the members. We can only think: This Church ought to reflect the will of Her divine Founder.

We can’t think: I have the right as a human being to influence the constitution and laws of the Church. We can only think: I have the right as a human being to receive the good things that Jesus Christ gave to His Church when He founded Her.

We can’t think: The Church would have a more-stable life if only a majority vote could determine its rules and who the officials are. We can only think: The Church, in spite of all the vagaries of human history, has had a more-stable life than any other institution known to man. We can only credit that to the work of the divine Spirit Who does, in fact, govern Her.

St. Paul’s Faithfulness

Like a spiritual father and a good friend, St. Paul wrote to Timothy. Let’s consider for a moment three ways in which the great Apostle kept faith.

1. St. Paul kept faith with his ancestors, the children of Abraham, the nation of Israel. Paul was a rabbi, a zealous adherent of Moses’ law. He undertook his mission as an Apostle of Christ not to depart from his Jewish heritage, but to keep faith with it. Christ had fulfilled the Law and the promises that the prophets received. St. Paul perceived this, and he served Abraham, Moses, and the nation of Israel—by serving Christ.

2. St. Paul kept faith with Christ’s promise of eternal life. Paul never encountered a single event without understanding it by the light of faith. Everything happened to prepare for eternity.

Am I achieving success in organizing a church here in this town? It is for the salvation of souls and the kingdom of God. Am I sick, hungry, and alone because they threw me out of this other town? Then my sufferings serve the cause of building up Christ’s mystical Body. Am I imprisoned in Rome? Then there is a soul in this prison with me that I am meant to touch with the Good News.

Everything by the light of faith—faith in the promises of Christ: The final day will come. The dead will rise. God is the God of the living, not the dead.

3. And St. Paul kept faith with his friends. The New Testament testifies to many wonderful things. But one thing it most certainly testifies to is this: It is the written record of some of the most beautiful, most loving, most intimate and pure friendships that the world has ever seen or ever could see.

Christ taught the human race how to be a friend. St. Paul put the lesson into immediate practice. He prayed for; he lived for; he spent all his intellect and strength for; and then he died for his friends.

Let’s pray that some of St. Paul’s enormous faithfulness will rub off on us.

PS. Don’t forget that quick click on the handy Compendia tab offers you instant access to an extensive collection of Holy-Year-of-St.-Paul material!

Another All-Star Week


Here in the mid-Atlantic, we are enjoying a winter wonderland. For a little perspective, let’s keep this in mind: Down in Melbourne it is 100 degrees on the court for the Australian Open. Novak Djokovic had to forfeit his semi-final match because of heat exhaustion.

Statue of St. Angela Merici in St. Peter's Basilica
Statue of St. Angela Merici in St. Peter's Basilica
Perhaps you remember: Back in early October, we highlighted an ecclesiastical “All-Star Week“. Well, we are in the middle of another one…

On Saturday, we kept the memorial of St. Francis de Sales, heroic bishop, consummate gentleman, and author of a very good book (a few very good books, in fact). Then on Sunday, we kept the feast of St. Paul’s conversion. Yesterday we kept the memorial of St. Paul’s most prominent disciples, Sts. Timothy and Titus.

These apostolic men alone could out-hustle any competitors. But there is more!

Today, we keep the memorial of St. Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursulines. St. Angela is the female equivalent of St. Ignatius Loyola, as Dr. Ann White pointed out in the Jan/Feb 1999 issue of “Review for Religious.”

St. John Bosco blessing some young men
St. John Bosco blessing some young men
Tomorrow, we keep the memorial of the Common Doctor, the Angelic Doctor, the Master of the Schools, the Patron of learning, the greatest genius of all time–St. Thomas Aquinas!

Then, on Saturday, we keep the memorial of St. John Bosco, a.k.a. Don Bosco.

All the other All-Star teams–N.H.L., Pro Bowl, N.B.A., you name it…they all take a back seat to the Church’s all-star team this week.

Message for Catholic Schools Week 2009

st-paul-teachingThe New Testament shows us that St. Paul was a gentle, fatherly man. He was patient and broad-minded. St. Paul communicated successfully with more different kinds of people than just about anyone ever has.

At the same time, the New Testament also clearly reveals that St. Paul was relentlessly precise. He had a prodigious intellect. He put all of it at the service of the truth of God. Christian Revelation is not vague—it involves specifics, facts. Therefore, St. Paul was never vague.

Today is the feast day of two of St. Paul’s pupils, Saints Timothy and Titus.

Let us try to imagine St. Paul as a teacher. Let us imagine him training Timothy and Titus to be bishops.

Continue reading “Message for Catholic Schools Week 2009”