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Visiting the sick in the Year of Mercy by Lambert Mbom

field-hospital-open.jpg

The Basilica of the National Shrine – last Tuesday launched its 2016 Speaker and Event Series with a splendid lecture on “Compassion – The Thirst of God: Visiting the sick as a work of mercy” by Msgr. Brian Bransfield, recently elected General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Francis has given us an incredible year, said Bransfield. In fact, he has given us two gifts namely the notion of the Church as a field hospital where we meet Jesus Christ. And secondly, Pope Francis has introduced us to the Year of Mercy.

In an interview to the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, published in the Catholic magazine, America in September 2013, Pope Francis in answer to the question on the kind of Church he dreams of, responded: “I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle…” This possibly explains why of all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy this first lecture of the year focused on visiting the sick.

The Year of Mercy officially launched last December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and runs through to November 2016, Solemnity of Christ the King.

The Holy Father invites us to deepen our notion of mercy through an understanding of the compassion of God, a compassion manifested in Christ, Bransfield told the over 40 persons that had stayed after evening mass to listen to him.

It is no mere coincidence that this jubilee Year of Mercy kicked off on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception which happens to be the patronal feast of the Basilica of the National Shrine. The Basilica is intimately connected to this Year of Mercy then.

In his recommendations for the celebration of this year, Pope Francis calls on Catholics to reflect on and live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, one of which is visiting the sick. Bransfield submits that compassion is at the heart of visiting the sick.

Drawing from a rich pastoral experience while ministering to the sick in a large parish in his diocese of origin, Philadelphia, he recounted a life changing experience with a dying woman in a hospice room. As he blessed her, she repeated the blessing after him but ended up saying: May the blessing of the Lord come upon you and keep your faith alive. Visiting the sick is an act of faith and benefits both the guest and the visitor.

“We may think we do the sick a favor when we visit them. In some sense we do,” said Bransfield. Christ invites us to the ministry of the sick. He himself touched the leper and entered into the margins of life. The speaker urged all to enter into the uncomfortable space of visiting the sick. They are Jesus Christ to us.

These words echo a favorite theme of Pope Francis namely reaching out to the peripheries.

“We must get out of ourselves and go toward the periphery. We must avoid the spiritual disease of the Church that can become self-absorbed: when this happens, the Church itself becomes sick. […] Between a Church that goes into the street and gets into an accident and a Church that is sick with self-referentiality, I have no doubts in preferring the first. (Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the pre-conclave General Congregation of the Cardinals, March 2013)

Msgr. Bransfield then explained the Christo-centric character of visiting the sick noting that, “When we visit the sick, we imitate Christ the physician; when we visit the sic, we visit Christ the victim. But it is also an act of compassion.” But just what does it mean to be compassionate?

Availing of the parables of the Good Samaritan and Prodigal son, Msgr.Bransfield elucidated the meaning of compassion beyond just feeling sorry for someone. He demonstrated how the anonymous man who fell in the hands of robbers and laid wounded is doubly hurt by the rejection especially of the priest and Levite who passed by. Many of the sick in our community feel this sense of abandonment and rejection in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes, he intimated.

The Samaritan’s action teaches us compassion. The parable recounts that the Samaritan was traveling and was moved with compassion for the victim. The essence of compassion here is conveyed from the Greek meaning of compassion, “splekchne” – inner most places are trembling with the presence of God. The Father in the parable of the prodigal son is also moved with compassion – he is trembling.

We visit the sick because Christ leads us there and he ministers to us and to the sick.

“On the Cross, Christ gives new meaning to all suffering. He cries out: I thirst, he empties everything. In this cry of I thirst, Christ calls us to works of mercy. He invites us to visit the sick: I was sick and you visited me. He draws us to the mercy of God. We enter into God’s mercy as we step closer to those who are sick,” concluded Bransfield.

At the end of the talk, the speaker had the opportunity to autograph some of his books which were on sale in memorial hall out of the Crypt Church where the lecture had taken place. The Next lecture will be on February 17th after the 5:15pm mass.

 

Walk With Francis: Pope Francis in the US by Lambert Mbom

In 30 days’ time, Pope Francis will be in the US on an official and pastoral visit that will bring him to Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia. Ahead of this visit, the archdiocese of Washington D.C. launched a “Walk with Francis” project that invites Christians to honor the pope’s visit by prayer, service and action. Four weeks ahead of this visit, 2278 persons and 54 parishes/organizations have taken the pledge to walk with Francis and 2697 messages shared on social media according to archdiocese’s website, www.walkwithfrancis.org

In preparation for this visit, I have decided to walk with Pope Francis.  I have committed to read five books by and about Pope Francis over the next four weeks. Of course, what better way to begin this journey other than reading his latest encyclical, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home” Even though touted as an encyclical on the environment, commentaries reveal it is groundbreaking in many respects and Franciscan. It sure will make Stephen Beale’s “7 Papal encyclicals that changed the world.”http://catholicexchange.com/7-papal-encyclicals-that-changed-the-world

Were the Pope to call me on my personal cellphone or were I to receive a personal letter in the mail from the Pope, it would be historic. Yet, surprisingly, I left this personal letter unread since May 24th, 2015. Well, since the Pope will be in town, it seems incumbent that one reads this letter so as not to be embarrassed by the question: Have you read the letter I sent to you three months ago?

Child psychologists have us believe that the first two years in the development a child are very important. The veil of obscurity of Rev. Jorge Bergoglio who became Pope Francis tapers off in the first two years of his pontificate. He is the surprised choice to shepherd the Church and in deed he is a Pope of Surprises. Two books that capture the defining infancy of his papacy are, The Church of Mercy: A Vision of the Church and Antonio Tornelli’s, Fioretti-The Little Flowers of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis’ ecclesiology is worth examining to be able to understand his statements and declarations. For an avowed conservative or one with conservative trappings like me, it is imperative to discern where Francis is taking the Church to. In the light of the forthcoming Synod on the Family (October 4-25, 2015), and in preparation for the Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016), the Vatican’s authorized Church of Mercy is a must read.

The Vatican Insider, Tornelli’s “The Little Flowers…” also celebrates the first year of the Francis Pontificate offering “inspiring stories, incidents, encounters, and excerpts from the writings and talks of Pope Francis”

It would be interesting to see the points of convergence and divergence between the two books celebrating the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

To understand where Pope Francis is leading the Church to, it is just fitting to know who he is and where he is coming from.  Austen Ivereigh’s, The Great Reformer: Francis and the making of a Radical Pope is tempting enough and I look forward to devouring it nine months after getting an autographed copy of this work last December at its launch at Georgetown University.

Given that Pope Francis is coming to the United States, it seems appropriate to savor some American flavor and who else but John Allen merits consideration. His most recent publication, “The Francis miracle: Inside the transformation of the Pope and the Church,” is quite enticing.

Join me on this pilgrimage!

Holy Trinity Choir of The Cameroon Catholic Community DC Invites you: Sunday May 31st 2015. By Lambert Mbom

At every event to which we are invited, there is often a dress code: Formal, business casual or casual. For many of us, one distinctive way of celebrating our “Africanness” is by flaunting our traditional garb. In every day jargon, we talk of our “Sunday best” referring to how we dress to Church. It is such a big deal what the First lady wears to any public event. People spend hours speculating and analyzing the dress because it always carries a message. The truth is: our dressing always communicates a message and always indicates the importance we attribute to the said event.

This is no different for the choir. In fact the tradition of wearing choir robes dates as far back as Old Testament when we read David was vested in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who carried the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah, the leader of song; David was also wearing a linen ephod. (1 Chronicles 15:27)

Dr. Schindler, dean emeritus of John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University provides a fitting context when he remarked in an interview:

“The liturgy is an act of worship and at its heart is a pedagogy. Etymologically, it is an instruction that leads people to God. The vestments used are separate from what is worn in everyday life. This becomes an important pedagogical moment. When a person enters the liturgy, they are drawn into something, which requires an effort and an understanding. There is something strange that draws into the mystery. If left with the familiar, then something is lost.”

This seems to be the message for the spectacular event happening on Sunday May 31st 2015 at the Church of the Resurrection, Burtonsville where the Holy Trinity Choir of the Cameroon Catholic Community is organizing a fundraiser to buy choir robes. Beyond the beauty of those angelic and mellifluous voices, this group of young adult Cameroonians seeks to add to the grandeur of the liturgy. Under the distinguished patronage of the pastoral council, this group seeks to raise $6500 to realize this noble ideal.

Join the Cameroon Catholic Community of the archdiocese of Washington DC to bring this dream to fruition. There shall be a musical concert after the 2.30 p.m. mass. Generous donations will be taken up.

Come listen to the consummate Nadege and virtuoso Sam Orock warm your hearts; come and discover the keyboard wizardry of Lazare and Herman. Come enjoy some classy performance from out of this world. It shall be entertaining, relaxing, soul-stirring and a good tonic to spice your week with.

You are specially invited!

Five fetishisms of Lent: Towards a genuine Lenten Spirituality. By Lambert Mbom

Lent is here! Among the Catholic Liturgical seasons (Ordinary time, Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter), Lent seems the least “popular” given its somber outlook and its inner meaning. For 40 days, the Church invites us it would seem to sacrifice, to give up something. The intriguing part of this season is displayed in what I have referred to as the fetishes of Lent.

The season itself kicks off with Ash Wednesday when Catholics are reminded of the need to give perspective to life through those words: Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return. One cannot but wonder what is it about these ashes that many people want to “dirty” their foreheads with. I am sure some people who for one reason or the other cannot receive the ashes on Wednesday would advocate that it be given the day after. The number of people attracted to and by this Catholic tradition is exciting but also raises some questions. When ashes become more popular than Holy Communion or the reception of it then one must wonder what the alluring enticement of ashes are if they do not draw us to Christ?

Once we are reminded of the futility of this life through ashes, we are equally invited to penance which enables us to build intimacy with Christ through Holy Communion. Receiving ashes is a penitential practice which we must build upon throughout Lent especially with the sacrament of reconciliation paving the way for the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ.

During Lent, the Church invites us on the Via Dolorosa to walk the way of the Cross after the example of Christ. Praying the fourteen Stations of the Cross is a popular practice in St Anthony’s parish Njinikom like many Catholic parishes. As a kid, my maternal grandparents compelled me to come with them and I learnt how to say basic prayers in the vernacular and I have never forgotten these. I often found it intriguing that the Church would be full during the Stations of the Cross which preceded mass and immediately after the last station a good number of people left for their farms. It is interesting how people would choose the Stations of the cross over mass.

While I grew up knowing that it is critical to pray all 14 stations every day of Lent except Sundays, I have learnt over the last decade that these are “mere private devotions.” In some places in the U.S, it is one station every day over 14 days while in others all fourteen are prayed once a week. To some acquainted with daily stations, this is a scandal. Again, we must find a true place for these devotions in our lives and eschew the temptation to dramatize these for public display rather than real spiritual gain.

My best experience with praying the stations of the cross is what the Rector of the Spiritual Center helped us to do namely ask each of us to write out our personal meditation on these. May be, this Lent each of us could design our meditations on this devotion. Our daily lives as pilgrims is laced with judgments like Pilate’s, condemnations of others to death in speech and in deed, burdens unto others with our cross, slips and falls many times under the weight of the cross and the list is on. Our life story itself is a reflection of the Stations of the Cross and we could weave these into beautiful meditations.

Another popular day during Lent is Palm Sunday which kicks off Holy Week and celebrates the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. The blessing of palm branches symbolic of those waved to welcome Christ is an equally enticing event. Many people scramble to have these palm branches which they keep in their cars or at home. Some of us seem to ascribe some magical powers to these. It is often very interesting seeing people struggling to ensure that the holy water the priest sprinkles to bless the palm branches actually touches theirs or else it is not blessed. There is the great temptation to exaggerate the significance of these branches and so lose their real value. It is not surprising that the ashes are made from palm branches blessed on Palm Sunday.

Let us fast forward to Good Friday when again many people turn out for the Stations of the Cross. There is no denying it that this is one of the most important days of the year; but the story does not end there. Easter is the most important day of the year and the essence of the Christian message. The Cross is our only hope because beyond it there is the resurrection. Good Friday is the only day in the year when mass is not celebrated throughout the entire Catholic world. The plea here is that we do not misplace our spiritual priorities. This explains why many of us find it difficult to appreciate the many Good Fridays of our lives and move beyond to the Resurrection. As the English saying goes: No crown, no thorns.

On Ash Wednesday, I sent a text message to seven of my good friends, two priests, three Catholic colleagues and two very close friends. I asked them what they thought I should give up for Lent. The responses I got were so enlightening and I will share these at an appropriate moment. In a bid to deflate some of these, I heard myself saying it is not important what they want but rather what do I want to give up for Lent? On further meditation, I believed the right question I should be asking is what does God want me to give up for Lent? I am sure the answer is nothing. Rather God is asking me to do something this Lent.

Like many have said the danger during Lent is to reduce it to a slim cause a time when we give up what we do not like. Giving up meat for Lent in a country like Cameroon where meat is a delicacy is a worthwhile exercise but it would be more gratifying if booze is given up. But again, it is not just giving up food and drink for the time being – postponed consumption where we starve during Lent to glut the appetite and be drunk at Easter. What we give up is important but equally important is why we give up and what happens to what we have given up.

Lent is an invitation to love ourselves and our neighbors. Maybe our Lenten journey would be more meaningful if we rediscover the meaning of those beautiful words of St. Paul’s hymn of love: If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor.13:3)

Celebrating May as Catholics – Five things to Consider by Lambert Mbom.

We are still in the highs of Easter as we enter the third week of Easter. It is the Resurrection: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! One of the best messages I heard on Easter is Pope Francis’ beautiful Easter vigil homily in which he invited us Catholics to: “Return to Galilee.” On the Resurrection morning, the first witnesses heard this from the angel and then from the risen Christ. Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. The Holy Father explains the meaning of the invitational challenge to return to Galilee. First it means a re-reading of the central events of the life of Jesus in the light of this new beginning, the supreme act of love.

It is also an invitation for each of us to remember and celebrate our baptism. As Pope Francis says: “For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. ‘To go to Galilee’ means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience.”

During this Easter, let us seek to rediscover the meaning of our Baptism. We must ask ourselves the question: “Where is our Galilee?” For those of us who were baptized as infants, Easter presents us with the unique opportunity to “claim” our baptism. We are encouraged to find out when we were baptized and to “re-live” that moment every Easter. The blessing with holy water and the paschal candle that burns throughout Easter are eloquent reminders of our Baptism. Embark on the spiritual journey to the place where we first encountered Christ.

Perhaps, throughout this month let us take the time to meditate on what Easter means to us as a community and as individuals. What does the Resurrection mean to me? What does it mean to say we are an Easter people? It is important to avoid the danger of complacency – whereby Easter becomes a mere cyclical return of the seasons over which we have no control. As an Easter people we are invited to show the power of life over death, exude joy and above all, live in and bring hope. Easter reminds us of those very famous words, the sadness of Good Friday makes way to the joy of Easter. Such is the rhythm of Christian life. The cross is not the last word.

Easter is already warming up to be very exciting with the wonderful gift of two new saints. They are not just the ordinary regulars but two great contemporary giants of our faith: St John XXIII, who convened the famous Second Vatican Council that revolutionized the Church and St John Paul II. For young adults like some of us, the memories of St. John Paul II are still very fresh in our minds and hearts. These are our contemporaries who walked this “vale of tears” and appreciate better our daily struggles. For over two and half decades, the universal Church prayed daily at every mass for our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II and during prayers of the faithful. We prayed for the Pope and today we are invited to pray with and through the Pope now a saint.

 May we be inspired by these words of the Preface the priest uses during mass for saints – holy men and women: “You renew the Church in every age by raising up men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses of your unchanging love. They inspire us by their heroic lives and help us by their constant prayers to be the living sign of your saving power.” There could be no better way of living the joy of this Easter other than enjoying it with these two new saints. In order to be inspired by their heroic lives we must seek to get to know them better. How about buying a biography on each of the recently canonized Popes and reading it. One of the greatest tragedies of Catholicism is the abundance of literature we posses and yet many remain ignorant of the faith. During this month, let us resolve to learn something from their lives. Above all, let us seek their intercession for our daily needs. Saints Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, pray for us.

A critical ingredient in St. Pope John Paul II’s pontificate undoubtedly is his dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary. May is celebrated throughout the Catholic world as a Marian month. This is in honor of the Blessed Mother’s apparition at Fatima, May 13, 1917. During this month, we shall also celebrate Mother’s day on May 11th. We are invited to treasure not just the genius of the woman but also the amazing gift of motherhood. Hence, we must reflect on what it means to be not just a woman but above all what it means to be a mother? In fact, the challenge is to come to terms with not only what it means to be a Catholic woman and one who belongs to an apostolate but also a Catholic mother? How Catholic are we?

In a very special way, this month must be dedicated to the Catholic women apostolate of our Cameroon Catholic community in DC metro area who are in crises. The bickering, the rancor, bitterness and division fueled by a vaulted ambition to be in control no matter the cost by a coterie of know-it-all, high-class and well connected women expressed in pidgin as “over-sabis” are clearly not Marian virtues. It may sound outrageous but truth be told, it is not enough to pray the rosary! If these are the fruits of their bimonthly meetings praying the rosary, then we must reexamine our prayers.

Do we just recite the rosary or do we pray the rosary? May we grow in our devotion to Mary especially throughout the course of this month of May. During this month, let us seek to mirror the virtues of Mary, with and through whom we pray. Like St Pope John Paul II taught us in that beautiful encyclical on the rosary:With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. This month let us return to Mary’s school and sit at her feet to contemplate with her the face of the Risen Christ.

During this month when we get to celebrate mother’s day, it is also incumbent upon each of us to celebrate the motherhood of the Church. It is time for us to reexamine what does it mean to belong to the Catholic Church? Is the Church just a structure where we go to worship? Is it the dominant all male hierarchy which hardly understands women and above all contemporary issues? If Baptism makes us members of the Church – God’s family and the Church is mother, let us draw out the meaning of this for our spiritual edification. What is my relation to holy mother, the Church?

By some strange twist and divine providence, the Church launched the month of the rosary by inviting us to celebrate May 1st as feast of St Joseph, the worker. The Church celebrates the value of human labor. Work is good, it is noble and it is divine. In one of his homilies on one of these celebrations of May 1st, St Pope John Paul II drew out this significance of work when he said:

If the Son of God was willing to learn a human work from a man, this indicates that there is in work a specific moral value with a precise meaning for man and for his self-fulfillment. In the Encyclical Laborem Exercens, I mentioned precisely that “through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes more a human being” (n. 9) How can we not recognize then the great dignity of work, whatever kind it may be in its concrete expression? How can we not see the fundamental role that it fulfills in the life of the individual, of the family, of society?

This month many people are graduating from school and will be in the job market. May they ask the powerful intercession of St Joseph, the worker to afford them good jobs. May all those searching for jobs implore the intercession of St Joseph. And for all those who work, there is an invitation to rediscover the true meaning of work. There is the temptation to view work only in its economic value and forget its intrinsic spiritual value. To work is to pray and we are saved because we work or better still we are saved in and through our work.

In sum, the five things Catholics can do during May include the following:

–       Celebrate Easter by recalling and reliving our Baptism

–       Pray the Rosary

–       Avail of the intercession of Sts. Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II

–       Celebrate our mothers and the motherhood of the Church

–       Celebrate St Joseph the worker and express the value of work.

 

ABCs of the Solemnity of the Assumption by Lambert Mbom.

On August 15 every year, the universal Catholic Church gathers in prayer to celebrate the fact that “The most Blessed Virgin Mary when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven where she already shares in the glory of her son’s resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His body.” This is a scandal to many and a stumbling block to many non-Catholic Christians.

There could be no better place to seek an understanding of this doctrine than reverting to the papal document – Munificentissimus Deus(MD) issued by Pope Paul XII in 1950 defining the dogma of the Assumption.

The title of this document, (which following the tradition of papal document is always the first couple of words of the document) literally translated as “The Most bountiful God” explains the heart of this doctrine: God in His bountiful Goodness brings Mary, the mother of God, body and soul into heaven.

An important distinction worth making here is between the Ascension of Christ into heaven and the Assumption of Mary into heaven. In the creed we profess that Christ ascended into Heaven but with Mary we talk of the Assumption. The ascension is in basic English in the “active voice” while the assumption is “passive.” While Christ ascends into heaven, Mary is assumed into heaven. Without the Ascension of Christ, there is no Assumption. It would seem then that to question the assumption is to question the ascension.

In a certain sense, the Assumption is essentially liturgical. Like we read on the US Bishops’ website,“The Liturgy is the ‘the participation of the people of God’ in the work of God.’ It is ‘the exercise of the priestly office of Jesus in which God is worshipped and adored and people are made holy.’ God begins the work of sanctifying people in time and space and brings that work to completion.

In essence, the Solemnity of the Assumption is God’s work. It is first and foremost God’s work. Mary herself proclaims in the Magnificat: I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy word. The Assumption then is a continuation of the fulfillment of the Fiat.

Pope Pius XII makes it abundantly clear that the Assumption is a privilege. His lavish usage of this term throughout the entire document is an important indicator of the contours of the teaching. The almost extravagant use of the term, “privilege” underlines the fact that it is not the Pope who sends Mary to heaven or Mary who brings herself to heaven. In this sense, the Assumption is not an invention but a discovery.

On what basis should we believe in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary?

Anyone scouring the bible for a direct reference to the Assumption will not find one. Does that ipso facto discredit the assumption? That would be an epic instantiation of the literalist reading of the bible. If one with an open mind scans through Scriptures, the doctrine of the Assumption will no longer be a strange doctrine.

The words of the angel Gabriel to Mary at the annunciation are quite significant: Hail, Full of grace… Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. (Lk.1:28). One cannot fail to draw the inner connection between Mary’s blessedness and the blessedness of the fruit of her womb: Jesus. Notice here the angel uses the same term for both Jesus and Mary. I am not in any way insinuating that both are equal for Christ is God and Mary, human; yet we find in this text ingredients for the doctrine of the assumption.

In Jn. 12:32 Christ declares: And I when am lifted from the earth will draw all men to myself and further on in Jn. 14:3. He specifies: “And I will go and prepare a place for you and I will come back and take you with me so that where I am, there you too may be found.” Against this background, isn’t it within the realm of the rational to believe that Christ has begun fulfilling this by bringing Mary into heaven, body and soul?

Beyond this even, let us stay at the human plane. There is an abundance of evidence that within families most sons are more attached to their mothers while daughters are to their fathers. Not in any sense of nepotism, one would expect Christ to accord his mother a place in his Kingdom not just because Mary is his mother but beyond this because she is his first disciple.  Christ brings Mary to heaven not just because she is his mother but above all because she is his first disciple. And like Christ himself specifies that whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister and mother. (Mtt.12:50)

In the document, we find Pope Pius XII adducing St Francis de Sales who asserts that “it is wrong to doubt that Jesus Christ has himself observed in the most perfect way, the divine commandment by which children are ordered to honor their parents.” He then adds, “What son would not bring his mother back to life and would not bring her into paradise after her death if he could?” (MD 35)

St Alphonsus of Ligouri also writes that “ Jesus did not wish to have the body of Mary corrupted after death since it would have redounded to his own dishonor to have her virginal flesh, from which he himself had assumed flesh reduced to death.”

As the pope referencing the Scholastics notes, “Out of filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives, which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy mother. (MD 25)

 

The dogma of the Assumption builds on four doctrines of the Catholic Church namely the doctrine of Original sin, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the divine motherhood of Mary and lastly, the Resurrection.

The papal document provides three “benefits” (for want of a better term) of celebrating the solemnity of the Assumption:

–       The celebration of the Assumption is an advantage to the human society. In one of the prefaces the priest prays: Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness yet our desire itself to thank you is itself your gift.” The solemnity of the assumption adds nothing to God and to Mary. It is for us. As the text specifies, “it is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother.”

–       By meditating on the example of Mary, the hope is that Christians can become more and more convinced of the value of human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others. By the Assumption we are reminded that this life is not the end; there is a beyond, which must always be in the horizon.

–       It is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.

To one and all then, Happy Big Day Maria!!!

Intercommunion: A Few Clarifications by Lambert Mbom.

May I preface my remarks by observing that Holy Communion also known as the Holy Eucharist, altar sacrament (excuse the pidgin) is one of those hot potato issues along side Mary, Scriptures, the priesthood among others.
It is in the spirit of the Year of the Faith (October 2012 – November 2013) that I dare an explanation on this mystery of our faith. Through this exchange, intellectual or more precisely digital, I hope to be enriched and above all in the process help clarify any doubts.
By the way, it is quite interesting that the architect of this debate,* a Protestant of Presbyterian extraction with “langa throat” for things Catholic, reverts to a Catholic document to defend his thesis: Some Christians can receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church under some very special circumstances at some special events. It is worth noting that the proponent does not evoke the cardinal principle of Protestantism “Sola Scriptura – Scriptures Only.”
Before I go into the kernel of the argument, I would like to propose that the relevant biblical text worth pondering on the issue under consideration is 1 Cor. 11:17-34. Except otherwise stated all biblical quotes are from the Good News Translation.
v. 28: So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink the cup.
v. 29: For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink.
v. 30: That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment.
 
The text is quite clear on why non-Catholics are not allowed to receive Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. It is basically a question of meaning. For Catholics, during consecration, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. For others, at least for Presbyterians, it is just a symbol or may be just symbolic. This is no small difference. It is an essential difference.
Let us leave aside the question of the reasonableness of this teaching until someone brings it up for discussion. It suffices to mention here though that Christ said: “This is my body…This is my blood” and not this is a symbol of my body. We do not share the same meaning of the Eucharist. Hence in receiving Holy Communion, either the recipient is making a bold affirmation of Catholic doctrine, in which case why does the individual not follow the proper channel and officially become Catholic? Else, it is downright bad will and outright disrespect. Out of impunity, it would seem with the recipient insinuating: what can you guys do? In which case this becomes a scandal and a sacrilege.
Secondly, the nomenclature used to describe this reality is carefully chosen. It is communion, a communio, a common union. As a “comm-unity” we share a common faith. It is as a community that we profess the common faith in the Body and Blood of Christ. It helps build and foster the unity. Communion is both a precondition for Holy Communion and the source of communion. To receive communion you must be in communion with the Church and this is also the source of the communion.  Kenneth is not in communion and so why receive Holy Communion.
It behooves me at this point to mention that unity is not uniformity. There is unity in diversity and so to hide behind Christ’s prayer for unity: May they all be one – is at best deceptive and disingenuous.
But Kenneth Ndeh would readily claim that he agrees with these and would add that Canon Law makes provision for special circumstances where intercommunion is possible.  These extenuating circumstances are listed in the instruction by USCCB. For the purpose of this discussion, permit me quote the last part of the instruction:
This is why the USCCB guidelines, which are published in the back of every missalette, exclude weddings, funerals and other such occasions as appropriate for intercommunion. The occasions would be individual, normally determined by a pastor after consultation with the bishop, or, in accordance with norms drawn up on the basis of this canon (paragraph 5).
 
First of all this is circumscribed to the United States of America. I have not done any research to ascertain what the practice is in other parts of the world. At least, I know in Cameroon this is not the case.
What is more the instruction talks of special events like weddings and funerals. In addition to many other conditions to be fulfilled, it clearly specifies that it involves a process.
Let me use an example close to home: Jude Ambe’s wife is a Presbyterian but on their wedding day she received communion under both species in the Catholic Church. Suffices it to mention here that it was a mixed marriage for which dispensation was required and duly granted from the Bishop at the request of the pastor of Resurrection parish. As you would note, the above policy is specific and notes that the occasions would be INDIVIDUAL (emphasis mine).  Mr. Ambe’s wife cannot continue to receive communion at every wedding because she was given dispensation. It was a onetime thing for a specific event. Other Presbyterians cannot now claim that at every wedding or funeral they would receive communion.

Mr. Ndeh, clearly under some very extreme circumstances an individual at a particular event can receive Holy Communion. To the best of my knowledge you have not fulfilled any of those conditions and you continue to make a mockery of our Catholic Faith. Thank God that it is among Catholics. Why not go try the Muslims?

* This article was originally published on the listserv of Sacred Heart College Ex Students (SHESA – DC)

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