Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 12, 2018

Kerygma, Hierarchy of Truths, Card. Burke and Alpha

There are books and programs in circulation today among Catholic parishes and dioceses, which offer themselves as means for renewal – for evangelization – among Catholics. These books and programs focus on what they understand to be the kerygma – the preaching of the Gospel – of New Testament times. I wrote a blog essay (1) on the need for this basic preaching, a need that exists because so many Catholics have been “sacramentalized”, and “institutionalized” as Catholics, but never “evangelized” to become deeply converted personally to Christ as His disciple.

Catechesis – “religious education” as it used to be called in the recent past – ought to recognize and begin to correct the problem, by persistently stressing our fundamental need to be given over to Him, to Christ, with all our heart, mind, soul and strength! We ought never to reduce catechesis to detached, classroom-like teaching of mere ideas about religion (even about the true religion of the Catholic Faith! Catechesis must always be what it always has been – a spiritual “passing on” of holy, divine, living Truth concerning God and life in Him. Catechesis must always be an encounter with the living God, a transforming experience, a meeting with Jesus, a movement of continuing conversion and communion in Him.

So, the kerygma – the Gospel as first taught – is necessary. We must know – with a knowing that demands response and obedience – that Jesus Christ is our saving Lord and God. That in Him is Life, and apart from Him is death.

BUT – yes, there had to be a “but” – The beginning is not the entire truth. The call to salvation is not the whole life of salvation. The kerygma is not the whole Gospel. And the contemporary books and programs that present meals and videos and fellowship and talk about Jesus and how wonderfully He can improve our lives, is not the totality of God’s call to and intention for us. The Catholic Faith has been growing in the Truth of God since those early days of the preaching, in the early days of His Church – as Jesus promised it would!

Hierarchy of Truths
A Church directory for catechesis – and for catechists who teach the Faith – the General Catechetical Directory, 1971 (2), includes a discussion of truths that must be included in a Catholic catechetical program. Certainly it does not list everything that must be included, but it gives four basic headings under which the necessary truths can be organized: a “hierarchy of truths” that flow from these fundamental four. The paragraph is this (formatted with bullet-points for clarity):

GCD #43 — In the message of salvation there is a certain hierarchy of truths, which the Church has always recognized when it composed creeds or summaries of the truths of faith.

This hierarchy does not mean that some truths pertain to faith itself less than others, but rather that some truths are based on others as of a higher priority, and are illumined by them. On all levels catechesis should take account of this hierarchy of the truths of faith. These truths may be grouped under four basic heads:

  • the mystery of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Creator of ail things;
  • the mystery of Christ the incarnate Word, who was born of the Virgin Mary, and who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation;
  • the mystery of the Holy Spirit, who is present in the Church, sanctifying it and guiding it until the glorious coming of Christ, our Savior and Judge; and
  • the mystery of the Church, which is Christ’s Mystical Body, in which the Virgin Mary holds the pre-eminent place.

These four basic heads of truths include some very, very telling doctrinal requirements for a catechetical book or program to be truly Catholic! I say “telling” because some of the very popular current books and programs for catechesis, circulating today among Catholic parishes and dioceses, are exposed by these requirements as not Catholic, but are better characterized more as quasi-Catholic or even Protestant. Some are embarrassingly silent concerning the rightful place of the sacraments – especially the Holy Eucharist, – of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church in the development of doctrine and transmission of Sacred Tradition – indeed silent concerning the place of the Church itself, and of the significance and importance of Mary, mother of God, mother and model for all Christians, Mary the pre-eminent member of His Holy Church.

Card. Burke, and Alpha
There are solid Catholic programs of catechesis, and of evangelization! One, the Marian Catechist Apostolate (3) initiated by Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J. (whose cause for beatification is now going forward), is currently being directed by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, D.D., J.C.D. Now these are two men whose judgments on the Catholic Faith I can respect! Here is a brief history of the Apostolate, on their website:

Father Hardon’s catechetical mission expanded with the catechetical study program, which he wrote for the Holy See after Pope John Paul II requested Mother Teresa to educate her Missionaries of Charity to become catechists. This catechetical course, studied by the Missionaries of Charity worldwide in their formation, has been adapted into home study courses for laity, entitled the Basic Catholic Catechism Course (16 lessons) and the Advanced Catholic Catechism Course (36 lessons). This course serves as the formation program for the Marian Catechist Apostolate, founded by Father Hardon in 1985 in order to train the laity to be catechists and evangelists in the modern world. This apostolate was directed by Father Hardon until his death, and is now headed by International Director Archbishop Raymond L. Burke.

On the other hand, Card. Burke has written critically (4) on one of the several contemporary programs now presenting themselves as “successful” programs for evangelization for Catholics:

TO: All Members of the Marian Catechist Apostolate
FROM: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
International Director of the Marian Catechist Apostolate
SUBJECT: Directive to Marian Catechists regarding the program “Alpha in a Catholic Context”
DATE: December 3, 2015

It has come to my attention that a program called “Alpha in a Catholic Context” has been recommended to some Marian Catechists.

Having studied the program, both from the perspective of doctrine and methodology, I must make it clear that the program may not be used, in any form, in the Marian Catechist Apostolate and that Marian Catechists are not to become involved with it.

While, like so many similar programs, Alpha may seem to offer a more attractive and effective form of evangelization and catechesis, it does not have the doctrinal and methodological foundations required for the teaching of the Catholic Faith. Marian Catechists should continue to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church, together with the courses of the Servant of God Father John A. Hardon, S.J., and my “Commentary on the General Directory for Catechesis.”

I recall to all Marian Catechists the words of Pope Saint John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte [At the beginning of the new millennium] (5) regarding those who think that, before the challenge of a new evangelization, the Church needs to discover “some magic formula” or invent a “new program”: “No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you.”

The saintly Pontiff reminded us that the program by which we are to address effectively the great spiritual challenges of our time is, in the end, Jesus Christ alive for us in the Church. He explained:

The program already exists: It is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ Himself, Who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in Him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with Him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a program which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. (No. 29)

The Servant of God Father John A. Hardon, S.J., understood profoundly the truth of Pope John Paul II’s words and, through the spiritual and doctrinal formation of the Marian Catechist Apostolate, as he so faithfully and wisely developed it, Marian Catechists understand the same truth and are not allured or deceived by stories of a “magic formula” or a “new program.” In short, Marian Catechists understand that our program is holiness of life which flows from a profound knowledge and ardent love of Christ Who is alive for us in the Church.

In the days of the heterodox priest Arius, late in the 4th century, his false teaching threatened the first of the foundational mysteries of the Catholic Faith: God is a Trinity.  This grave error became wide-spread, to such an extent that St. Jerome wrote, “the whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian”.  Today, it seems that many, many in the Church are willing to trade pearls of sublime divine Truth, entrusted to His Church, for thin theology embracing what is popular, neither threatening nor demanding, and ecumenically “safe”.  Holy Lord, awaken your Church!






(4)Letter posted on


Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 7, 2018

The Choice

St. Augustine saw it clearly, a long time ago (in the AD 400’s) that ultimately there are two options in this world, and only two. There are two cities – two cultures – two lives to choose from: one is for life, the other for death. A man can be for life, or he can be for death. A woman can be for life, or she can be for death. A medical doctor can be for life, or for death. A soldier can be for life, or for death. A political leader can be for life, or for death. A preacher, a policeman, a priest, a politician, a bishop, a banker, a candlestick maker, a monk or a money changer can be for life, or he can be for death. The older I get (a journey that keeps accelerating in pace, faster and faster as the days go by…), the simpler I see that life actually is. The choices all come down, when the dust settles, to one of two: are you for life, or are you for death?

St. Augustine’s insightful words deserve repeating, and pondering:

Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. … In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. ….
(Augustine, The City of God, Book XIV, Chapter 28: Of the Nature of the Two Cities, the Earthly and the Heavenly)

St. Augustine points straight and simply to the one single difference that makes all the difference, ultimately: what is loved, finally, in the center – the heart of the human person? What is the guiding intention in the heart? Where does the directional compass of the man’s life point? Where does he turn for counsel in daytime or darkness, in sufferings or comfort, in hopes or fears, in victories or defeats, in vigor or in the shadow of death? Who is King – who is God – in his life? Is he, himself, his own “MVP” (“Most Valuable Person”) in his life? Is he himself King and Lord of his life? Or is the only God who IS, his God?

Of course, few travelers on the road to death realize what is there at the end of their journey. It seems a very pleasant path – or least, it is definitely the best they can find that gives them the most of what they want. It could always be better, certainly! If they could, they would take a job that pays more money and requires less of their time and effort. They would much prefer a nicer house, and longer vacations, and earlier retirement, and a better car, and more money, and a bigger TV, and … well, one could go on and on. No one has everything they want!

Except, of course, for those who want for nothing at all.

Even those who know enough to desire to want nothing – these are on the path to the path to it all. There, maybe, is the beginning: to realize that no “thing” can ever be enough to satisfy a hunger set into our hearts by God our Creator, a blessed hunger for eternal beatitude, eternal good, eternal life. That is the life we were made for and need to search for until we find it! This is the life that Jesus came to give us: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)

God has given us the path to Him, and to life. Jesus – He is the way and the truth and the life. His way is not that of self-gratification and self-aggrandizement, just the opposite. His is the way of the Cross, of self-denial for the sake of love, of self-emptying for the good of others – even of one’s enemies. To be a Christian is to choose this path – to love this path for His sake – to love the Cross for His sake – to love being last and not first, all and anything for His sake, all for Him – the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, that we might in Him give ourselves away for His sake.

This present post is an extension of the last blog posted, only a few weeks ago: Our Greatest Enemy and Obstacle – The Enemy Within.  It might be helpful to read the two together.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 26, 2018

Our greatest enemy and obstacle: the enemy within

It is tempting to see this or that as “the problem” in our lives.  If this were different, if that were changed, if not for this obstacle or that person, and on and on – then, ah yes then, my life would be so much better!  But no, not really.  The greatest enemy and obstacle to our greatest happiness is within us.  I am my own worst enemy, and I work at my own defeat using exactly the most deceitful tragedy that you or I could imagine:  we defeat ourselves precisely by loving ourselves the wrong way, and excessively so at that.  Inordinate self-love is at the root of all our misery, and of all of our sin.  It is inordinate self-love, in the end, that keeps us far from God our Savior and Redeemer, God in Whom is our final vocation, and our complete happiness.

Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. has given the Church a great book in his Spiritual Theology.  It can be found on Amazon HERE, and on-line for free access HERE.  A very helpful passage on self-love is below:

Detachment from created things is absolutely indispensable for arriving at Christian perfection, but it would be of little avail to detach oneself from external things if one is not likewise detached from one’s own ego, which constitutes the greatest of all the obstacles to one’s free flight to God. St. Thomas states that egoism or disordered self-love is the origin and root of all sin. St. Augustine says: “Two loves have erected two cities: self-love, carried to the extreme of disdain of God, has built the city of the world; the love of God, carried to the point of disdain for one’s self, has constructed the city of God. The one glories in itself; the other glories in the Lord.”

Precisely because it is the root of all sins, the manifestations of self-love are varied and almost infinite. So far as it affects spiritual things, self-love becomes the center around which everything else must rotate. Some persons seek themselves in everything, even in holy things: in prayer, which they prolong when they find sweetness and consolation in it, but which they abandon when they experience aridity; in the reception of the sacraments, which they seek only for sensible consolation; in spiritual direction, which they consider a note of distinction and in which, therefore, they always seek the director who is most popular, or who will let them live in peace with their egoistic values and selfish aims; in the very desire for sanctification, which they do not subordinate to the greater glory of God and the good of souls, but which they direct to themselves as the best ornament of their souls here on earth and as the source of increased happiness and glory in heaven. We would never finish if we were to attempt to list the manifestations of excessive self-love.

The soul that aspires to perfect union with God must strive energetically against its own self-love, which subtly penetrates even holy things. It must examine the true motive for its actions, continually rectify its intentions, and not place as its goal or the goal of all its activities and efforts anything other than the glory of God and the perfect fulfillment of his divine will. It must keep constantly in mind the decisive words of Christ himself, who makes perfect self-abnegation the indispensable condition for following him: “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps” (Luke 9:23).

Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 1, 2018

On the Interior Life – Dom Chautard

Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O., a French Trappist/Cistercian monk and abbot. lived from 1858 to 1935. His widely read and appreciated book, The Soul of the Apostolate, concerns the dynamic and crucial relationship between fruitful work in Christ, and one’s life of prayer, or “interior life.”

The spiritual, supernatural life that is essential to a faithful Catholic Christian, is often referred to as one’s “interior life”. The “apostolate” refers to the work of the Church done in His name – works that all the members ought to contribute to, our share in His mission.  In this time of Lent, especially, as we focus on our inner life, our hearts, our causes and desires that direct us, I want to recommend to my readers a chapter from Dom Chautard’s book – if you go to the link above, to his Book, the chapter is Part 1, 3. “What is the Interior Life?”. The chapter, or the whole book, can be read on-line or downloaded to your computer.  I recommend reading the whole chapter 3 at least.

Here is a brief portion from the eleven “Truths” concerning the Interior Life, from Dom Chautard’s The Soul of the Apostolate:

FIRST TRUTH. Supernatural life is the life of Jesus Christ Himself in my soul, by Faith, Hope, and Charity; for Jesus is the meritorious, exemplary, and final cause of sanctifying grace, and, as Word, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, He is its efficient cause in our souls.
The presence of Our Lord by this supernatural life is not the real presence proper to Holy Communion, but a presence of vital action like that of the action of the head or heart upon the members of the body. This action lies deep within us, and God ordinarily hides it from the soul in order to increase the merit of our faith. And so, as a rule, my natural faculties have no feeling of this action going on within me, which, however, I am formally obliged to believe by faith. This action is divine, yet it does not interfere with my free will, and makes use of all secondary causes, events, persons, and things, to teach me the will of God and to offer me an opportunity of acquiring or increasing my share in the divine life.
This life, begun in Baptism by the state of grace, perfected at Confirmation, recovered by Penance and enriched by the Holy Eucharist, is my Christian life.

SECOND TRUTH. By this life, Jesus Christ imparts to me His Spirit. In this way, He becomes the principle of a superior activity which raises me up, provided I do not obstruct it, to think, judge, love, will, suffer, labor with Him, by Him, in Him, and like Him. My outward acts become the manifestations of this life of Jesus in me. And thus I tend to realize the ideal of the INTERIOR LIFE that was formulated by St. Paul when he said: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.”….


Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 8, 2018

A Holy Death



Two faithful Catholic friends many miles away, in Canada, a few years ago met the last trial we will face on this earth: death.  These friends Gaby and her husband Gene followed this blog, sometimes left responses — but we share something much more important than this blog: we share a love of Christ, and His Church.  Some years after Gene’s passing, Gaby wrote her reflections on that time, and shared them with Deborah and me.  The simplicity and depth of Gaby’s thoughts on Gene’s death greatly moved me — I asked if I could post her thoughts here, on the blog.  Gaby graciously agreed, knowing that Gene too would be eager to share anything that might help brothers and sisters in Christ, prepare for and meet that most special day – and meet it well.  Here are her reflections:


Monday the 15th of September 2014 : Eugene entered the hospital.

Wednesday 17th of September 2014 : In the morning I saw the psychiatrist, Dr. F. M____, who said Gene will never get better, but he could live like this for years. He had very advanced Dementia, and had all kinds of problems since several years. He had many tests done. He now could not walk alone, he needed help to eat, and he was lost and disoriented.

The Important Decision and the Last Moments

           In the past, Gene and I had spoken about our last wishes. We both agreed to the same wish. In case of severe incurable disease, severe sickness, coma, paralysis, or anything similar, we both want to see the priest, go to confession, and have the last sacraments. This request is absolutely our priority above all else. Afterwards, we both had the following wishes; not to be reanimated, not to be given anything to speed our death, or to lengthen our life. Just let nature take its course.

The doctor explained that as Gene was, he could live a number of years, but choking or pneumonia could take him away anytime. Since he was vulnerable to both of these problems, she wanted to know, that given Gene’s quality of life, did I want them to reanimate him should this happen. I told her what we had discussed, I added that I wanted more time, and I would get back to her.

I then contacted the hospital chaplain so he could give Gene the last Sacraments. This priest, contrary to the purpose of his duty as a chaplain, simply refused!  He promised me he would come as soon as he would be called, day or night, as he was living right next to the hospital. He wants to wait until the last minute. Since Gene was still conscious, and he was in a very vulnerable state, and I knew his desires, this refusal left me most dissatisfied. It left me like hanging in the air. I did not expect this refusal. I could not understand the reasoning, especially since I asked him right there at the hospital! What was the logic? This left me totally perplexed!

I then went to see our parish priest who said he would have done it, if he were at the Oasis, but he did not want to step on another priest’s duty. I could not understand his position, since I knew he had agreed to go see others at the hospital. We sometimes invited him home for dinner. On one occasion, Gene had even asked this priest he agreed to give him the last Rights when the time would come, and our friend had assured Gene in an affirmative answer, that he would. We had been friends since 1974, for 40 years, and yet, when the time came, he refused!

Now being met with again another refusal, I was confused, lost, and felt so alone and abandoned. It was a total let down, by the ones who are supposed to be there in time of need! Being refused for a second time, and by a friend, or so I thought… I did not give my answer to the doctor, and I simply lingered as I felt it was too fast and I was disheartened…

I knew Gene was a man of faith and I did not worry about his spiritual state, however, I also knew he would absolutely want the last sacraments! And we both understood how very special this sacrament is, as it can give all sorts of graces. Moreover, it can even eradicate the punishment due to sin, thus crossing the threshold of this world to eternity, going straight to heaven!

It is obvious that some members of the clergy, even shamefully, priests who work with the dying, do not know the teaching of the Church regarding the last Sacraments!!!

In conversation with him, it is easy to see he surely does not know that this is a sacrament of the living, meaning one must be in a state of grace to receive it, and it should be administered as much as possible when the person is conscious. Also, anyone over 65 may receive the last sacraments if they are sick, if they are to be operated, or if they are getting on in years, even if they are not in immediate danger of death. Gene was in a vulnerable condition, that was a situation which should definitely not have been refused, but one cannot argue with this priest, because he knows everything…

I was upset and, so sad. Looking back, I now reproach myself for not being more firm. I wish I would have aggressively demanded what should have been done!

October 2014

           Thursday the 2nd of October 2014: At 7:30 PM Gene choked. They reanimated him and broke his ribs. A member of the family was not pleased I had not said “no code” because she felt it was simply making her father suffer needlessly. I must say if he would have gone that night, I would have found it really difficult because I was not with him, and I was not ready for that shock. I was called at home, and I arrived at the same time as the priest who had a big smile saying: “See! I told you I would be here!”  Ha…! Yes, he was there… however, he would not have arrived on time if Gene had not been reanimated.  Also, now the last sacraments are given in a rush, while my poor husband is in a coma, and while I am busy with the doctor!! This is not the way a good priest prepares a soul to cross the threshold from this world to eternity!! I called the children as I was told my husband could die any minute.

He was moved to the palliative care unit and from that moment on, Gene was not left alone not a single minute. I said the prayers for the dying. I prayed the chaplet of the Divine Mercy, and the rosary. Gene had his scapular medal on him, but I placed his brown scapular and placed his rosary in his hands along with a small crucifix and a Saint Benedict medal. I also sprayed holy water all around him.

L_____ was the first to arrive with G____. I was so pleased when P___, a friend of mine living at the Royal, came in and asked to say the chaplet of the Divine Mercy, out loud. What a gift! I was so pleased with her, I thanked her many times!

Although I was told that Gene would not live until my son could arrive from Fredericton three hours away, there was lots of time because, to the staff’s surprise, he lived for 24 hours. We all had time to speak to him. We were told that hearing is the last sense to leave. I did not know this, so we were told we should speak to him as though he could hear us, although he was in a coma, and had “the rattle of death.”

Friday the 3rd of October 2014: Our children L____, M____, and G____ were at his side, with me, Gene’s sister J____, and her husband J___ arrived in the morning. We all spent the whole afternoon with him. At night, nearing the end, a few times he opened his eyes a small slit, and I had the impression he could see me with one eye. Afterwards, we continued to speak to him, each our turn, for only a short while. On the last hour I prayed out loud, I prayed and cried. When I did not know which prayer to say anymore, because I was lost for words, I sang some old hymns in spite of crying, but I did not want to stop, and sang until the very last minute. The last one was “J’irai la voir un jour” (I will go see her some day). This was one of my mother’s favourites and it’s also one of my favourites.  At 7:40 PM Gene died, and I closed his eyes.

Saturday the 4th of October 2014: In the afternoon, I went to church to meet with the choir director and chose the songs for the funeral, and I requested an “Ave Maria.” I also asked for, “J’irai la voir un jour” as the last song, when the coffin would be carried out the church. Since I have some English relatives, I had requested two beautiful English hymns, but I was disappointed since the man who sings them so well could not come.

Monday the 6th of October 2014: The funeral was at 2:00. I was most surprised to see my H______ nephews from Fredericton. J____ and his wife H_____, came in spite of having her leg in a cast. J____ came in spite of the fact that he had a very serious injury on his foot, due to diabetes. And P___ came from Three Rivers. It was a real treat to see them! I so appreciated their presence! They are my deceased sister’s sons! M____, our son, did the reading, and L____ our daughter, did the prayers. Father W____, our friend, who had known us for 40 years, spoke very well. He mentioned that Gene was very musical. It was a small but nice funeral.

Gene had many talents, he was especially good at playing Chet Atkins’ unique finger style technique. He played Leona Boyed’s Classical style, and he also enjoyed playing some Flamingo. His music was soft and peaceful. However, he was a withdrawn, shy person, and preferred to play mostly for himself.

Picture2T____, a good friend of mine, send me a picture of a man in the arms of Our Lord. This is the picture of a suffering skinny man holding the crown of thorns. When I saw this, it went straight to my heart, as I found it so striking and with a definite association with Gene… At the end, Gene was skin and bones; he had suffered much through the years. He told me he offered all his sufferings for the conversions of our children.

At the funeral mass this sad picture, along with Gene’s picture playing the guitar, were on the communion rail for all to see.

After the funeral mass, we went downstairs for a nice lunch. It was good to meet members of the family, especially the relatives we had not seen for a long time, and also the many friends.

Tuesday the 7th of October 2014: The burial was at Notre-Dame du Rosaire at 2:00 PM. Now, the custom is that nobody goes to the graveyard anymore. However, I definitely wanted to go, and our children seemed eager to accompany me. The funeral director said a few prayers; I sprayed holy water all over and around the coffin. M____ and G___ are the ones who held the ropes to lower the wooden box. G___ later told me he was pleased to do this, as it was like a “closing, his last goodbye”.  Yes, it was our final goodbye… but he is not forgotten…


Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 4, 2018

Reevaluating Time Schedules…

These are trying days!  The world has been living under the shadow of nuclear war for a long time now – as a child the 1940’s, I remember the drills in school to prepare for a nuclear attack.  We were to duck under our desks, head between our knees, hand over back of neck, eyes shut, waiting for further instruction.  I suppose the adults understood more clearly the world-wide catastrophes that would follow, after the explosive effects began to smother and strangle, and radiation began to poison, life throughout the biosphere.

It is difficult to imagine such horrors, but even the possibilities cast new light on the end-time prophesies of Holy Scripture.  What seemed so impossible if not very distant, in these end-time prophesies, is beginning to be yes, possible, and maybe not as distant as we would like.  A boy-god king in North Korea has weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, biological – and he seems to have nothing inside himself to restrain the beast.  The world has had such rulers before, but never before have they had such deadly power to inflict catastrophic horror upon so many, around the whole world.

Being a Christian is a great comfort, in such a time.  We have a foundation of faith that helps us to understand the temporary – the passing – nature of this life here and now.  This life is a trial, a life-long moment of testing, and also of opportunity to build upon and strengthen the foundation of our individual lives with lasting values, with enduring treasures, with eternal blessings.  We are invited to, and we must, use our moments well.

Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
making the most of the time, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit,
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,
always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. (Eph 5:14 -20)

In his Letter to the Ephesians Paul used the familiar analogy among all humans, of battle, of war, to help Christians see more deeply into the struggles we face.  Our battle, finally, is a spiritual and interior one:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace;
besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,….(Eph 6:10 -18)

Paul’s exhortations are good ones, my friends: we need to take them seriously!  We need to guard our hearts (a breastplate of righteousness), to be careful to love and value all that God loves and values!  We need to guard our minds, our thinking (the helmet of salvation), to be careful to protect right thinking, discerning truth from lies!  We need “the shield of faith” in this battlefield of amoral and godless political correctness.  We need “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” because He, the living Word, is Truth.  Jesus Christ taught us,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jn 14:6)

So many people – so many Catholics! – continue to use up so much precious time, with trivial pursuits.  As if we had “all the time in the world”!  No, for every man and woman there is a last day, a last hour, a last breath.  And a last time for prayer, for Holy Scripture, a last time for worship in Holy Mass, a last Holy Communion, a last act of holy charity for God, for a friend, for a stranger, for an enemy.  A last moment to live the life of Christ here and now, for the glory of God.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | December 9, 2017

St. Therese of Lisieux and “Spiritual Childhood”

Many spiritual men and women in the Church have reflected long and beautifully, on the remarkable example of St. Therese of Lisieux.  This holy woman, who died so young at age 24, left a legacy and a light of holiness that have helped and guided many to a deeper spiritual life.  Here is a brief part of a biography of the saint (1):

At the age of 14, on Christmas Eve in 1886, Therese had a conversion that transformed her life. From then on, her powerful energy and sensitive spirit were turned toward love, instead of keeping herself happy. At 15, she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux to give her whole life to God. She took the religious name Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Living a hidden, simple life of prayer, she was gifted with great intimacy with God. Through sickness and dark nights of doubt and fear, she remained faithful to God, rooted in His merciful love. After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: “My God, I love You!”

The world came to know Therese through her autobiography, “Story of a Soul”. She described her life as a “little way of spiritual childhood.” … Therese’s spirituality is of doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love.

There is a radical difference between the holy “spiritual childhood” that Therese lived – which is a spirituality many have sought to learn from and grow into – and the contrary spiritual imperfection for a Christian of “childishness,” that is, spiritual immaturity and an obstinate resistance to grow in the life we are called to, in Christ.

What are the differences?  I will quote Fr. John Harden, S.J., listing his six descriptors of spiritual childhood, and after each one I will comment, I hope in ways that can help answer the question.  Here are the six descriptors by Fr. John Harden (Fr. JH) (2), followed by my comments (TR):

1. Fr. JH: Spiritual childhood knows nothing of spiritual pride. It never glories in whatever graces it receives from God, but acknowledges them as sheer gift of His love.

[TR Comments:  The lack of spiritual pride indicated is not present in a childish adult, certainly, but instead the reverse is found: prideful attribution of all of one’s spiritual “accomplishments” to one’s own efforts – whether the “accomplishments” are real or only imagined.  Divine graces received – whether real or falsely presumed – are considered only due and deserved in justice.]

2. Fr. JH: Spiritual childhood realizes that natural means cannot achieve sanctity. Without prayer, the sacraments, and cooperation with graces received, holiness is a mirage.

[TR Comments:  The childish Christian has little if any grasp of the concept “sanctity”, nor of the call to holiness.  These realities, being of the supernatural, are hardly within the horizon of the childish one.  His universe is of the natural, the senses, the material, the tangible, the concrete.  His prayer life and his sacramental life are shallow at best, and seem to him entirely adequate and satisfactory as they are.]

3. Fr. JH: Spiritual childhood has no illusions of self-reliance in danger and temptation. Immediate petition for divine help is the only guarantee of being able to overcome the surges of passion or the instigations of the evil one.

[TR Comments:  For the childish Christian, spiritual dangers that ought to concern him do not, and temptations that are very dangerous for him are not recognized.  Sin itself is hardly his concern – as lacking for him as is his concern for holiness.]

4. Fr. JH: Spiritual childhood presupposes a lively faith in God’s existence. In fact, as a person grows in spiritual childhood, there is a keen awareness of God’s presence in everything that touches one’s life.

[TR Comments:  For the childish Christian, “faith” is more a vague word for a very vague concept, than a vital living reality.  If he were asked “Does God exist?” he would most probably answer “Sure!”  The question would be of the same category as, “Does the sun exist?” – this is the category of presumptions largely irrelevant to the childish one’s life, which is about personal gratifications here and now.]

5. Fr. JH: Spiritual childhood has a practical confidence in God’s power and mercy. Thus the virtue of hope becomes so strong that no matter how humanly impossible the future may seem, there is peaceful trust that God will provide loving care.

[TR Comments:  All of these realities – confidence, divine power and mercy, hope, trust in God – are supernatural realities immediate and present in the spiritual childhood of one authentically in the beginnings of the life of grace.  But they are present in the childish Christian – if at all – in an attenuated and minimal degree, largely overwhelmed in the natural world of the senses, the material, the tangible.  The childish Christian wants what he wants when he wants it, and he wants it now.]

6. Fr. JH: Spiritual childhood has confident recourse to Divine providence. It sees the hand of God behind every so-called happening, and believes there is no such thing as chance.

[TR Comments:  For the childish Christian, “luck” is a far more realistic factor in life than “Divine providence.”  There is good luck and there is bad luck, and gambling is more reasonable than praying, unless one is praying for good luck.]

Fr. John Harden continues (3),

If we look still closer at St. Therese’s importance for our times, it becomes even more clear as we see the virus of pride infecting so many people in our day. As the popes are at pains to explain, whatever else the modern world needs, it is a rediscovery of the meaning of Christ’s teaching about becoming like little children. He could not have been more solemn than when He warned us, “Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). This injunction was always necessary but it is crucial today when human achievements in the material world have intoxicated millions with self-conceit and widespread oblivion of God.

In Baptism, the beginning of the life of grace, a new vital force has been received into the soul of the recipient.  This vital force is the life of God, in which we can have a personal human participation.  This promised gift is the new heart, and right spirit, prophesied of old and begun in human history through the outpouring of the love of Christ through His Holy Cross.  This life is intended by God that it grow, that it mature, and reach fruitfulness.

Because the life of grace in the soul is intended to grow and mature, it is a travesty and an affront to God, that His precious gift – of His precious life – be stifled and choked and abused and wasted, in a childish life-long tantrum of self-centeredness!  But in the child-like innocence of beginning, in the openness of authentic fertile childhood, His life is glorified and the child in Christ grows, as it is intended to do.  St. Therese shows us the fruit of faithfulness to His grace, and the world and the Church are blessed by her life, brief though it was.

St. Therese, pray for us.



(2) Fr. John Hardon, S.J. –

(3) ibid.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | November 24, 2017

America, One Last Chance, Revisited

One year ago after the surprising, stunning upset of the presidential election of Donald Trump, I wrote a blog post of my thoughts. I was grateful to God, to the point of tears in my praise and relief and thanksgiving! I had seen much of the America I grew up in, slipping away under increasingly “progressive” godless and man-centered secular ideology – that is, Big Government take-over of more and more of America, leaving less and less of all that had made this nation good in the past, and thus in many senses “great.”

Many Americans in that election cycle knew, in their hearts, that something deep and fundamental had become wrong in America – and needed to be set right. Politicians on both sides of our two-party, three-branch system of government had found ways to deadlock true governance of the country while at the same time assuring their re-elections and self-advancing careers. It had become a “swamp” – and “Drain the Swamp” became a rallying cry for this non-politician, questionably a Republican, ignore-the-rules candidate for President – and he won.

I wrote one year ago, in the blog America: Is This One Last Chance?, and it is true now as then: “Yes I believe it was a miracle! I believe God intervened because of the prayers of His faithful ones.” The following is from that blog post:

Do you know how close we came to losing this nation – to putting this nation of laws, with a Constitution to protect us and our human rights, into the hands of lawless Judges who feel free to make up laws and rights as they see fit? Do you know how close we still are to falling so far from “One nation under God” to a fragmented, shattered confederation of hostile tribes and identity groups under an all-powerful federal rule by whim and imperial fiat? The Lord has been very patient with us, His Church, as the darkness of the world around us continued to grow only darker.

I believe this, however, concerning the Church: He is giving His Church one more chance. He is God and I am not, and I don’t know that I personally would have given us another chance, so prodigal have we been with our blessings. But He is God and He has given us this one more chance to be who we are, and to be what we are sent to be: Light! We are sent to be His holy light in this dark world.

Where has the Church been, through the decades when this nation was in such grave moral decline? The nation morphed from a culture of life to a culture of death – from a predominantly Judeo-Christian nation to a predominantly materialistic and godless one. The light of revealed truth – even the light of the natural moral law – has been receding, dimming, fading into the horizon while an amoral darkness has begun to envelop the country. Barbarism, cruelty, animal-like inhumanity has crept in. And where has the Church been, as this enemy of souls was infiltrating every facet and corner of America?

What has the Church been doing, instead of her holy mission? Whom has she been serving, when she was not serving her Lord and God? What have our parishes and pulpits been occupied with, when they were not occupied with the upbuilding of her people in holiness, and nurturing them toward the fulness and the maturity of Christ?

Has the Church learned anything, this past year? Has the Church changed her sleepy lukewarmness, her unnatural treaty with the world and the loves of the world, her shameless counterfeiting and compromising of her mission to “make disciples, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”? I see no evidence. I see rearranging the furniture and lowering the shades, lest too much light come in. I hear no wailing with grief at the interior ruination of His Holy City, the hunger of His people abandoned, the CEO bishops, the manager-priests, the preachers reading their mail-order homilies, the shameful excuses for adult formation if and where any at all even exists. Church, will you dare to tempt God, even after He has given you this time to repent?

Isaiah heard this from the Lord, many years ago. It seems relevant to us now:

Isa 66:1  Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?
Isa 66:2  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.
Isa 66:3  “He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like him who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a cereal offering, like him who offers swine’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like him who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;
Isa 66:4  I also will choose affliction for them, and bring their fears upon them; because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes, and chose that in which I did not delight.”

I will close this post, with the same paragraph I closed with, one year ago:

The more pressing question is, what will we do now? Will we seek holiness, as is our vocation? Will we be light, as is our mission? Will we be witnesses, as we are sent to be, of His life-giving Spirit? Will we see the one door open before us – the door that may be the last chance we will have – to seek His will and do it? Will we pray with all our hearts to do His will no matter the cost? Will we offer Him all that He has entrusted to us, in hope that He may use it, and us, for the glory of His work in this His creation? Thy Kingdom come, Father! Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven! Hallowed be Thy name.


Posted by: Thomas Richard | November 7, 2017

What Is Happening, America?

What is happening to America? Why the coarseness of public discourse? Why the divisions and deep-seated hostilities of social group against group, of race against race, of political party against political party? Why the random eruptions of mass murders of total strangers, with no apparent motive at all? Why the carefree rejection of standards and norms held to be sacrosanct for centuries, now discarded in one generation? Why the rejection of personal responsibility – of “adulthood” itself – and instead a clinging to adolescent behaviors, language, games and norms into age 30’s and beyond? Why the abandonment of marriage and family, for careless sex and no strings attached? Why this astonishing ambiguity about what bathroom to use?

Or maybe more to the point (I am getting to the point, I promise), why is the world racing to self-destruction – why is the human species hell-bent on suicide?

My answer: because most of the human species sees no light, but only growing darkness – most see no way out of this doomed existence beyond “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

Men have been so successful at expelling God from human society, that His light, the light of Truth, the light of hope, is become extinguished. Even before the great Gift to humanity, of His divine Incarnation, even before Christ came, men had some light of Truth to guide them. Men had from the beginning, and persisting even after the Fall, God’s gift of the natural moral law has been set into the hearts of all men, to guide them toward the good, and away from the evil. That intrinsic, instinctive moral compass was a guide for mankind scattered everywhere around the world. But even that foundational moral compass, informing human conscience and guarding the moral lives of men, is now in the process of being expelled from human hearts. This is satanic: it is poison from hell. Cloaked with the approbation of secular society, known as “political correctness,” this new godless moral guide is indeed poison from hell. It is quenching every spark and glimmer of the righteous light of God, and presenting the counterfeit: a guide to godlessness, a guide promising freedom but delivering blindness, promising life by the path of death, recipe to the self-destruction of the species.

Where is the Church? Where is the voice of God in this wilderness; where, a new John the Baptist? Where is the adult in this room of semi-conscious children? Where are the men and women of grace, temples of the living God, disciples and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ – sent to be light in this world? We don’t know that we need light, until we realize that it is dark and getting darker! You who are reading this, do you realize how dark it has become, in your lifetime? Do you realize the level of insanity that has been embraced in this dysfunctional world of “political correctness”? Do you realize the need for Christ in the vacant, impoverished, starved hearts of men and women across this nation? He does! He knows, and He is looking at us – at us, His Church.

You who are reading this: do what you can do, because He is with us. To whom much is given, much is required – so to deacons, priests and bishops, given so much for the Church, I pray that you will “do what you can do,” because many more will listen to you. Clergy, do not be afraid of the Truth! Do not be afraid to listen to it, and hear it, and believe it! Do not be afraid to preach it, and teach it, and live it! Do not be afraid of the Truth, because the Truth is Life!

To my fellow lay men and women in the Church, do what you can do! First and always, pray! And receive with thanksgiving our “bread for this day” – whether Holy Eucharist, or the Truth and power of His Holy Word in Scripture, or His precious Presence with us in prayer – He is with us! Do all with holy charity, because charity – God’s own divine love – cannot be without fruit, and fruit that endures. We must endure: remain in Him, as branches in the vine, because apart from Him we can do nothing! But in Him, in our living Lord Jesus Christ, all things are possible: even light – unquenchable light – in darkness, even life – unending life – out of death.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 26, 2017

Foundations of Marian Devotion in the Early Church

This is the oldest known image of the Virgin Mary (seen apparently nursing the infant Jesus on her lap). It is located in the Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria in Rome.  It is dated circa A.D. 150.

I was recently startled to hear a Catholic telling me that, in the Catholic Church, devotion to Mary is “optional,” and that besides, devotion to Mary did not even start in the Church until the AD 431 Council of Ephesus, when Mary was officially designated Theotokos (God-bearer, or Mother of God)! (1) Before that, she asserted, “there was no Marian devotion”! She continued to assert the optional character of any devotion to Mary with this, “Saying the Rosary is not a requirement for salvation.” Well, that part is correct, but what hardness must there be in her heart, that she would close herself so legalistically against the Mother of Our Lord? I have heard some anti-Catholic evangelicals say such things before – but this was the first time I heard them from a Catholic.

Some research that I have gathered and passed on below shows that, in fact, Marian devotion – and solid reason for it – is very old in the Church. There is much more that could be said, but I’ll focus on two early Church fathers, in whom we find very early foundational insights into the special place God gave to Mary in salvation history – honor that calls forth the devotion of the faithful. This is not counting direct, obvious New Testament Scriptural evidence itself – earlier still – that reveals the honor due to Mary! She is His mother, after all! But sadly, it is amazing how the New Testament itself can be “interpreted” to say almost anything the unbeliever wants it to say.

1) Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr (born ~100-110, died ~165) left us a record of theological insights in the early Church into Scriptural foundations for the personal role, and significance, of Mary the virgin mother of Jesus. In such insights we can see, beginning in or before Justin’s time, the theological foundation – and basis, or explanation – for Marian devotion in the early Church. Of course Mary deserves honor! But there is more. More than “mere” human respect because she is His biological mother, certainly more than mere sentimentalism, Christians were beginning to see and understand, very early in Church history, God’s intended personal significance of the Virgin Mary in His holy work of redemption among men.

We will see in Justin’s teaching, the perspective of God’s work of salvation as one of a second act in creation, to correct the fall into sin and darkness: a new genesis, a new life for humanity. Thus he points us back to the Scriptural Book of Genesis, to Adam and Eve, and entry of sin into mankind. Justin immediately sees a significance in the virginity of Mary, in parallel to the virginity of Eve while she and Adam were still in the Garden. Important to notice, in this writing is his vision of Mary’s place in God’s work – that it was so much more than a mere bridge for the Son, from heaven to earth, from divinity to God-man. Mary was to be more than a mere “vessel” for the Incarnation – she was to be a new Eve, a second Eve as Jesus would be the second Adam in Paul’s witness in Scripture. Let us listen to this, from Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho (2):

.. [Christ Jesus, Son of God] became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, ‘Be it unto me according to your word.’ (Luke 1:38) And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.

Note the many parallels with Genesis, concerning Mary and Eve:
Eve believed the lie of the serpent; Mary believed the word of God from the Angel Gabriel.
Eve conceived death following her freely chosen disobedience to God; Mary conceived Life following her submissive obedience to God.
Eve the virgin mother of human death; Mary the virgin mother of eternal Life.

Mary will give new meaning to Eve’s given name as “mother of all living” (3), as Jesus will give new meaning to the significance of Adam (that is, “Man”), in His title as “Son of Man,” the second and the last Adam. That is, Mary’s personal free act of faith, in the grace she received from God, was instituting His re-creation, His new genesis of humanity, His new beginning with the Virgin Mary replacing and correcting Eve as the second virgin “mother of all living.”

1 Cor 15:21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being.
22 For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
45 So, too, it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being,” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
46 But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual.
47 The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.
48 As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.
49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

2) Irenaeus of Lyons

Mary’s role as the new Eve, mother of the new creation, was further developed a few decades later by Irenaeus of Lyons (born ~140-160, died ~202). Irenaeus personally was linked with apostolic testimony, hence giving a special weight to his theological understandings. As a young man he had been in contact with Polycarp, and with others who had known the apostles directly. Irenaeus himself wrote (4), “As I heard from a certain presbyter, who had heard it from men who had seen the apostles, and from others who had heard them…”

Irenaeus continued the view of Justin, of God’s correction of the first creation of man, fallen into darkness and sin, that “we might recover” what was lost with a new creation in Christ. He wrote (5):

… when He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam— namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God— that we might recover in Christ Jesus.
For as it was not possible that the man who had once for all been conquered, and who had been destroyed through disobedience, could reform himself, and obtain the prize of victory; and as it was also impossible that he could attain to salvation who had fallen under the power of sin—the Son effected both these things, being the Word of God, descending from the Father, becoming incarnate, stooping low, even to death, and consummating the arranged plan of our salvation….

Mary’s part and role in this work was also amplified by Irenaeus, including his teaching of the correspondence of Mary with Eve, in a Chapter entitled, “Christ assumed actual flesh, conceived and born of the Virgin.” (6) Here, he noted the essential singular role of Mary – that is, her virginal motherhood – in the Incarnation: from her He received to Himself a human body. Here, Irenaeus continues the theme of recovery: what was lost by Eve would be restored by Jesus, but through Mary (7):

In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise “they were both naked, and were not ashamed,” ((Gen 2:25) inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death [causa mortis], both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation [causa salutis], both to herself and the whole human race.

And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve… And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.

The positive role that Irenaeus sees in Mary is remarkable, and significant. God’s work in Christ is primary, of course, in the Incarnation, in the work of the salvation of man – yet Mary has a crucial though always secondary role, in the making right of man’s history. We can hear, here, the foundational nature of her personal place in God’s plan – again, correcting and replacing Eve as mother of the living:

[Jesus] was making a recapitulation of that disobedience which had occurred in connection with a tree [in the Garden], through the obedience which was [exhibited by Himself when He hung] upon a tree, [the effects] also of that deception being done away with, by which that virgin Eve, who was already espoused to a man, was unhappily misled—was happily announced, through means of the truth [spoken] by the angel to the Virgin Mary, who was [also espoused] to a man. For just as the former was led astray by the word of an angel [of Satan, a serpent], so that she fled from God when she had transgressed His word; so did the latter, by an angelic communication [Gabriel to Mary], receive the glad tidings that she should sustain God, being obedient to His word.

And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way the sin of the first created man receives amendment by the correction of the First-begotten [Son], and the coming of the serpent is conquered by the harmlessness of the dove, those bonds being unloosed by which we had been fast bound to death.

Irenaeus, in a concise summary, makes explicit the dual recapitulation in God’s plan: Jesus repairing the fall of Adam for all humanity, and secondarily Mary, the Virgin repairing the disobedience of the virgin Eve (8):

And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life. For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation. For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin.

An excellent work on Marian devotion in the early Church, now published in English, is Mary and the Fathers of the Church. (9) I am greatly indebted to the author of this work, Luigi Gambero, for his research into the contributions of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons in the development of Marian devotion in the early Church, the subject of this article. Mr. Gambero sees clearly the positive personal role of the Virgin Mary in God’s work of salvation in Christ, particularly in the faith of Irenaeus, which he has summarized below:

In this perspective we can understand why Irenaeus calls Mary causa salutis [“cause of salvation”], precisely because she is the antitype of Eve, who was causa mortis [“cause of death”]. Her role is not limited to her purely biological and negative status as Virgin Mother; no, her cooperation includes moral and spiritual motives. For example, her obedience to the word of God was conscious and voluntary; her consent to the plan of salvation had a soteriological character, since she knew that the Incarnation of God’s Son was happening for the sake of human redemption.

This last sentence, clearly seen in the early Church writings cited here, demonstrate the recognized causes in Scripture for the honor and devotion due to Mary. She was given a part of crucial importance to the redemption – not merely her “biological” role, but her moral and spiritual cooperation as well, and her part in the undoing of the fall in Genesis. Mary is indeed, and was seen to be so, very early in Church history, the New Eve – “mother of the living” in the New Creation in Christ.

In closing, we pray the “Sub Tuum Praesidium,” an ancient prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the oldest known prayer to Mary for her intercession, the oldest known version of which is found on a 3rd century Egyptian papyrus. The Greek texts clearly show the term “Theotokos” – “Mother of God”- in the prayer. It is still prayed today.

Latin (10)
Sub tuum praesidium confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

We fly to thy patronage,
O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.

(1) Note, however, the use of that term is found in the prayer to Mary – the “Sub Tuum Praesidium” – dated back at least to the 200’s. See the prayer at the end of this article.
(2) St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho Ch. 100,
(3) Gen 3:20 – The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
(4) Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, Bk 4, Ch. 27, #1 –
(5) Against Heresies, Bk 3, Ch. 18, #1-2,
(6) Against Heresies, Bk 3, Ch. 22 –
(7) Against Heresies, Bk 3, Ch. 22, #4 –
(8) Irenaeus of Lyons, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 33 –
(9) Luigi Gambero, S.M. Mary and the Fathers of the Church, trans. Thomas Buffer (San Francisco, Ignatius Press 1999) p. 56
(10) This Latin version, and the English, is found on



Older Posts »