Tuesday, April 6, 2010

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 5, Easter Tuesday)

It is the fifth day that we are praying the Divine Mercy novena.  And it is being prayed worldwide, not only by we few (we happy few) YIM Catholic readers and writers, but by other Catholic Christians as well. They hail from every clime and place, to borrow a phrase from the Marine Corps hymn. And on this day from all of us around the globe, Our Lord asks us to pray for the unity of His Church.

Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.

Can Humpty-Dumpty be put back together again? Can all of the denominations that emerged from the Protestant Reformation merge back into The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church again?  Can the Great Schism with the Orthodox Church be resolved? Maybe not in our lifetimes and definitely not without prayer.

I have a dear friend who said to me once that it is obviously God's will that the Protestant Reformation came about.  In the age of self-evidence, that might make some sense.  However, free will leads to many unintended consequences. Break-ups happen daily by the thousands in our culture. For example, is divorce God's will? Not according to the Triune God.  And isn't the break-up of Christendom akin to divorce? Let us remember "as they return to unity" as we pray,

Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son's Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages.—Amen.

The following excerpt is from a chapter of The Faith of Our Fathers written by James Cardinal Gibbons. Gibbons was the Archbishop of Baltimore in the late 19th and early 20th century. In fact, he died in office having served in this capacity for 47 years. Do you think that is amazing? From the Wikipedia citation we find that at that at age 34 he was already a bishop and,

His vicarate, the entire state of North Carolina, had fewer than seven hundred Catholics. In his first four weeks alone in North Carolina, Gibbons traveled almost a thousand miles, visiting towns and mission stations and administering the sacraments. He also befriended many Protestants, who greatly outnumbered Catholics in the state, and preached at their churches. Gibbons made a number of converts, but finding the apologetical works available inadequate for their needs, he determined to write his own; Faith of Our Fathers would prove the most popular apologetical work written by an American Catholic.

Keep in mind, these travels in North Carolina were right after the conclusion of the Civil War.  Faith of Our Fathers was first published in 1876. The 63rd (!) edition (published in 1907) can be read in its entirety on the YIM Catholic Bookshelf. Archbishop Gibbons includes lots of Bible passages to back up his work. Like I've said before, we're a Bible-believing Church. So grab yours (if you'd like) and follow along as you read this short section prior to praying the Chaplet.

The Unity Of The Church.

By unity is meant that the members of the true Church must be united in the belief of the same doctrines of revelation, and in the acknowledgment of the authority of the same pastors. Heresy and schism are opposed to Christian unity. By heresy, a man rejects one or more articles of the Christian faith. By schism, he spurns the authority of his spiritual superiors. That our Savior requires this unity of faith and government in His members, is evident from various passages of Holy Writ.

In His admirable prayer immediately before His passion, He says: " I pray for them also who through their word shall believe in Me; that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me,"(John 17. 20,21) because the unity of the Church is the most luminous evidence of the divine mission of Christ. Jesus prayed that His followers may be united in the bond of a common faith, as He and His Father are united in essence, and certainly the prayer of Jesus is always heard.

St. Paul ranks schism and heresy with the crimes of murder and idolatry, and he declares that the authors of sects shall not possess the kingdom of God (Gal 5. 20,21). In this epistle to the Ephesians, he insists upon unity of faith in the following emphatic language : "Be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all."(Eph 4. 3-6) As you all, he says, worship one God, and not many Gods; as you acknowledge the same divine Mediator of redemption, and not many mediators; as you are sanctified by the same divine Spirit, and not by many spirits; as you all hope for the same heaven, and not different heavens, so must you all profess the same faith.

Unity of government is not less essential to the Church of Christ than unity of doctrine. Our divine Savior never speaks of His Churches, but of His Church. He does not say : "Upon this rock I will build my Churches," but, " Upon this rock I will build my Church,"(Matt 16. 18) from which words we must, conclude, that it never was His intention to establish or to sanction various conflicting denominations, but one corporate body, with all the members united under one visible Head; for as the Church is a visible body, it must have a visible head.

The Church is called a kingdom: "He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end"(Luke 1.32,33). Now in every well regulated kingdom there is but one king, one form of government, one uniform body of laws, which all are obliged to observe. In like manner, in Christ's spiritual kingdom, there must be one Chief to whom all owe spiritual allegiance; one form of ecclesiastical government; one uniform body of laws which all Christians are bound to observe; for, "every kingdom divided against itself shall be made desolate."(Matt 12. 26)

Our Savior calls His Church a sheepfold. "And there shall be made one fold and one shepherd."(John 10.16) What more beautiful or fitting illustration of unity can we have than that which is suggested by a sheepfold ? All the sheep of a flock cling together. If they are momentarily separated, they are impatient till reunited. They follow in the same path. They feed on the same pastures. They obey the same shepherd, and fly from the voice of strangers. So did our Lord intend that all the sheep of His fold should be nourished by the same sacraments and the same bread of life; that they should follow the same rule of faith as their guide to heaven; that they should listen to the voice of one Chief Pastor, and that they should carefully shun false teachers.

His Church is compared to a human body. "As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office; so we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of the other."(Rom. 12. 4,5) In one body there are many members, all inseparably connected with the head. The head commands and the foot instantly moves, the hand is raised and the lips open. Even so our Lord ordained that His Church, composed of many members, should be all united to one supreme visible Head, whom they are bound to obey.

The Church is compared to a vine, all whose branches, though spreading far and wide, are necessarily connected with the main stem, and from its sap they are nourished. In like manner, our Savior will have all the saplings of His Vineyard connected with the main stem, and all draw their nourishment from the parent stock.

The Church, in fine, is called in Scripture by the beautiful title of bride or spouse of Christ (Rev 21. 9) and the Christian law admits only of one wife.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet can be found here.