My nephew, Paul Bauer, was shot and killed yesterday while chasing a suspect down a stairwell in Chicago. He was off-duty at the time and had no need to do so except it was his duty. A thirty-one year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, Paul had no compunctions about doing his duty–it was the only thing to do. As far as he was concerned, he could not ask the many men under his command to do something, he would not do himself. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter whom he loved dearly. At the time of his death, he was also caring for his mother and father who are not in good health. If anyone believed strongly in the fourth commandment–to honor one’s father and mother–it was Paul Bauer. Everyone truly loved this man: after a recent snowstorm, he used his snowblower to clear the sidewalk for his entire neighborhood block. His sisters and the many members of his extended family ask Almighty God to take Paul quickly up to heaven where he can enjoy the benefits of a life well-spent. I ask those of my community to also pray that he be given the mercy in his final judgment he so richly deserves.
Why was the olive tree mentioned so many times in the Bible? It existed in the Holy Land long before the Hebrews arrived. Olives may be eaten cooked or raw. The oil that is pressed from the fruit of the tree was used in cooking, lighting rooms, in medicine, and for religious anointing. Its wood was considered so valuable that Solomon used it to make the cherubim within the Temple. Yet, the tree grew so slowly that it seemed to live forever. Perhaps, its slow growth was due to the stony soil so pervasive together with a sun that never seemed to hide in Israel. In any case, the tree’s properties enthralled the Scripture writers who saw in this amazing tree a similarity between the human inhabitants of Judea and a bountiful, durable tree that can handle any adversary. See Eugenios for more on early Judeo-Christian lives. goo.gl/MPqLV6
Footwear worn two thousand years ago in the Middle East were of two kinds ordinarily. The traveler might wear hard hob-nailed sandals to make them stand up to long journeys. The day-to-day wear was more likely to be a camel-skin shoe with a sole made of palm-bark or rush. Neither shoe nor sandal were worn with socks. The Jews had brought back from Mesopotamia, the half-boot to which some later modified to include the four bands of the Romans. For inside wear, the common bedroom slipper, with which we are so familiar, was sometimes worn. However, in the sanctuary of the temple and in all holy places, everyone, regardless of rank, was required to walk barefoot.
The Royal Palace of Turin in Northern Italy houses some of the most beautiful tables ever designed with inlaid wood scenes encompassing the life and times of Jesus Christ. When one considers the time needed to layout and form the pictures with such amazing detail one can only gasp in wonder. How long were these skilled men, these artisans, apprentices before taking on such intricate scenes?
My good friend Barrie Schwortz, took the attached photos while a member of a scientific group (STERA) investigating the Shroud of Turin in 1978. With his permission, one of the tables is shown here. You can read more about the Shroud at www.Shroud.com. This website includes more original papers and scientific data on the Shroud, pro and con, than any other website in existence.
My novel (The Hidden Saint: The Sixteenth Century Church in Crisis) includes a scene in which St. Charles Borromeo walks barefoot over the Italian Alps to visit the Holy Shroud which is now housed in its own chapel adjoining the west wing of the Royal Palace of the House of Savoy in Turin. See my facebook account at www.goo.gl/2lWm2v and stay informed.
Over the centuries, thousands of priest-scientists have searched for the truth in nature using scientific principles and contributing significantly to human knowledge. The Augustinian abbot, Gregor Mendel, determined the basic laws that govern the passage of traits within a species. It was his discovery of dominant or recessive genes that became the key to modern genetics. For this reason, he is called the Father of Modern Genetics.
A Belgian priest, Georges Lamaître, a professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven, first proposed the Big Bang theory as the origin of the universe. He called his work a “hypothesis of the primeval atom” or the “Cosmic Egg.” Lamaître was also the first scientist to conclude that through this “creation-like” event, the universe was not only expanding, but that the expansion was actually accelerating. The latter contention was confirmed in 1990 with the Hubble Space Telescope.
From its very origins, the Church has supported and encouraged scientific discovery for the knowledge gained helps us to better understand the nature of God. We learn who he is by studying his creations. We believe that the Holy Scriptures, the prophets, and Jesus Christ told us about God and what it is that he wants from us. The apostles and their successors, our bishops, carry this message forward. They are supported in their efforts though supernatural events, miracles generated by Jesus Christ. Christians contend that miracles are divine interferences with the physical laws of nature. They are preternatural, which means beyond nature, and visible. Is this God’s way of saying, “Pay attention”? Certainly our priest-scientists are interested in anything that challenges the laws of nature. If it were possible to prove the miracles of Christ were natural events, they would like to be the ones to do so.
Before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, Aramaic-speaking Jews read and taught from the Hebrew Scriptures. Many books were considered religious in nature, but there was no precisely defined Jewish Canon of the Scriptures. The Jews of Samaria believed only the first five books of Scripture (Torah) were divinely inspired for they were the teachings given to Moses. However, the wider-held Pharisaic Tradition believed that the oral law, passed down from the time of Moses, including all the explanatory and supplementary writings deriving from it, were just as inspired and authoritative as the Torah.
The Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria wanted the Septuagint to include translations not only from the written Torah but also from the books derived from the oral law (those of the Pharisaic Tradition). There is no question that the quality and style of the translations in the Septuagint vary considerably from book to book. After all they were translated by many different hands over more than two centuries.
When the translations began in 280 BC with the Torah (Pentateuch in Greek), few objections were voiced by Jewish authorities overseeing the project. The Septuagint was so highly regarded at the time of Jesus Christ, that the evangelists used it as their source document in writing the Gospels.
When Jewish scholars met at Jamnia in the last decade of the first century, the number of Hellenistic Jews in the Diaspora using the Septuagint significantly exceeded the number of Jews using the Hebrew Scriptures. The growth of Jewish conversions to Christianity owed a great debt to the reading and preaching from the Septuagint. Read more from Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of Catholic Tradition (goo.gl/MPqLV6).
About fifteen years after the conclusion of Vatican Council II, Mother M. Angelica, a cloistered nun, turned the garage of Our Lady of Angels monastery in Irondale, Alabama into a television studio. She had two hundred dollars and twelve cloistered nuns with no television experience to assist her.
On January 27, 1981, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) received its FCC license and became the first Catholic satellite television station in the United States. It began broadcasting pre-taped programs to sixty thousand homes four hours a day.
By its thirty-third year, EWTN had grown to become the largest religious media network in the world using satellite television, AM and FM radio networks, a worldwide short-wave radio station, an Internet website, and a publishing arm. It is available to over 230 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories.
EWTN offers a wide variety of both taped and live programs in English, German, French, and Spanish, commercial free, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. All are family and religious programs from a Catholic perspective.
Its website (www.ewtn.com) is the largest Catholic website in the United States. The EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network broadcasts through over 235 affiliate radio stations, Sirius XM satellite radio, and such apps as EWTN Network, iTunes Radio, iHeart Radio, and TuneIn Radio. More than five thousand affiliates worldwide are now connected to a conglomerate that was started in a garage by a Catholic nun.
There are numerous other television and radio stations that carry Christian programming, from theological debates and biographies of the saints to children’s stories. Even the Vatican has its own television station (www.ctv.org) created by John Paul II in 1983, two years after Sister Angelica started her network.
This story and many more concerning the history of the Catholic Church may be found in Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of Catholic Tradition now available through Amazon.com ( click on goo.gl/w9h5H2 ).
Heresy has been with mankind for millennia as have courts dealing with it. Early in the second century, the philosopher Celsus wrote that Christians persecuted dissidents with death, burning, and torture based on the Old Testament. The Christian apologetic Origen answered Celsus by explaining that one must distinguish between the law received from Moses binding on all Jews, and that given by Jesus Christ, which was binding on all Christians.
Origen, the most influential Christian in the third century, claimed that Christians were no longer bound by the Mosaic Law, and therefore no longer required to kill, burn, or stone violators of the Mosaic Law. The law they followed was a Christian law established by Jesus Christ to love even our enemies. Saints Augustine, Ambrose, and Leo agreed with Origen.
However, beginning in the twelfth century France there is no question that Christians ignored this commandment of Christ and were in fact burning and killing. The Church had ordered the inquisition to find whether the accused is guilty or innocent of heresy and nothing more. To their shame, the inquisitors sometimes exceeded this duty. Yet, the secular authorities were more than willing to take up the slack on their part and that reflected back on the Church. That they were a creature of their time is no excuse.
Remember Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and their adherents all believed in punishing heresy with death. Even Heinrich Bullinger, the successor of Zwingli as head of the Zurich Protestant church, announced the principle that heresy could be punished like murder or treason. It is not to the credit of the Catholic Inquisition that other religions held this principle, only that it reflected society in the sixteenth century.
Most of the time the penalty for those found guilty of heretical actions, but who repented, seems to have consisted of penances like wearing a cross on one’s clothes, going on a pilgrimage, ect. When unrepentant, the heretic was usually turned over to the secular authorities for final sentencing, which depending on local prescriptions, resulted in such findings as banishment, imprisonment for life, or burning at the stake. The inquisitors knew what to expect from the local civil authorities and so did the heretics.
For more on the life and times of the mid-sixteenth century, read The Hidden Saint: The Sixteenth Century Church in Crisis. For Amazon pricing go to goo.gl/MJaXfs. To join my facebook page go to goo.gl/2lWm2v.
In the sixth century, St. Benedict (480–543/4) wrote monastic rules which would be applied not only in the monasteries he founded in Italy, but in most of the monasteries established throughout Europe. Even today, fifteen hundred years later, his Rule is the most common set of instructions used by monks and monasteries. His directives for moderation and reasonableness reduced the excessive asceticism found in some of the early hermits.
The growth of communal living among the monasteries following the Benedictine Rule was immense. As the years passed, those entering the monasteries were younger than the first monks and this necessitated they be given an education. The ability to read and understand Scriptures was paramount, of course, for Origen had written: “Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
However, the abbots of these monasteries recognized the value of studying medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and Greek philosophy as well. Care of fellow monks and the general population required that someone read about and practice the science of herbal medicine and surgical procedures. Astronomy allowed the monks to know when the calendar required religious practices to take place. Philosophy and logic permitted the student to argue and understand the reasoning behind much of the orthodox, heretical, and schismatic movements as well as the thinking of Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato.
In effect, many of the monasteries from the sixth century to the Middle Ages became the forerunners of universities. Not only were the monks taught religious and secular subjects, but many of the scholarly types from the secular world came to these monasteries to learn as well. The education formerly found only in such schools as the Catechetical School of Alexandria had spread throughout the Eastern and Western Christian communities.
Medical wings for ill monks became hospital wings for the local population and then separate hospitals for the larger community. Expertise in medical practice became almost the exclusive property of the monastic community. How quickly we forget who and how care came to be given to the general population from a selfish generation.
For a more complete picture of such benevolence, read my book Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of Catholic Tradition by going to goo.gl/w9h5H2.
In 382, Pope Damasus asked his secretary, Jerome, to take the four Gospels, then found in Old Latin with loose translations from the original Greek, and put those four Gospels into a coordinated and more elegant Latin version. Many different hands had translated the earlier version without any central control and the result had been numerous translation errors and a vocabulary of local colloquialisms. The opposition, particularly in Italy, was enormous for the Old Latin version was considered sacred writing and to change it was considered sacrilegious.
However, the pope wanted to adhere to the basic intent of the ancient Greek writers, and if this meant to change the Old Latin version where the original purpose was clearly at variance, then so be it. When the upset population insisted that tradition required continued use of the Old Latin version, Jerome responded that he was not flouting tradition, but restoring tradition.
To that end, Jerome did not write the Gospels in the order of Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark as the Old Latin version did, but restored the order of the earlier Greek version; that is from Matthew to Mark, Luke, and then John. The pope’s motive for the rewrite was to have the readings in the liturgy be as uniform as possible whether in Gaul, Egypt, Rome, or Cappadocia. Too many local variations had popped up and heresies were not easily defeated.
When the New Testament was completed and long after Damasus had died, Jerome began translating the books of the Old Testament into Latin. These books had been written in Greek about six hundred years earlier, and some scriptural books in Hebrew and Aramaic had been written as much as a thousand years earlier. Jerome knew four languages and studied the original documents, especially the Greek and Hebrew documents. He also consulted with Jewish and Greek specialists regarding the Old Testament scriptural books. Once completed, his clarity of exposition and elegance of diction soon overcame any objection to his Bible.
The resulting Bible called the “Vulgate” or “Version Commonly Used” Bible was adopted by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century as the official Latin Bible of the Catholic Church. Numerous versions have been published since to take into account the latest in linguistic and biblical studies.
To learn more about the life of Jerome and his works, read my novel The Scholar’s Challenge. Go to goo.gl/MPqLV6 to acquire it or to read more about it.