Sunday, April 14, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 61

In today’s episode, on Good Shepherd Sunday, I address the following:

  1. Good Shepherd Sunday Reflection & Call to Action
  2. The Other Sheep Not of This Fold, and It’s Not the Mormons
  3. How Fasting on Vigils Was Reduced Over Time

I would like to thank CatechismClass.com for sponsoring this episode.  CatechismClass.com, the leader in online Catholic catechism classes, has everything from online K-12 programs, RCIA classes, adult continuing education, marriage preparation, baptism preparation, confirmation prep, quince prep classes, catechist training courses, and much more. Use discount code Easter25 to save 25% off the Easter Season Course.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2024
How Fasting on Vigils Was Reduced Over Time

Click for a larger image. Holy Saturday is not included as it is covered separately by Lenten regulations.

What are Vigils?

Even though the Great Fast of Lent has ended, our fasting has not ended. There are many other days of fasting this year, such as Ember Days and Vigils, which are still coming this year. Understanding fasting on Vigils is something that has been forgotten by the average Catholic today. And rediscovering this practice will help us better celebrate the feastday following the vigil while allowing us more shared days of penance.

Some feasts have vigils associated with them. The term “vigil” is used in several ways. It most properly refers to an entire day before a major feast day (e.g., the Vigil of Christmas, which refers to the entire day of December 24). This kind of vigil is a liturgical day in itself and marks the following day as a day of greater liturgical significance. This is the proper meaning of a vigil. In a similar way, the Catechism of Perseverance, published in 1849, states: “The word vigil signifies watching. The vigils are the days of abstinence and fast which precede the great festivals of the year. There are five; those of Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Assumption, and All Saints. In some dioceses, the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul is also preceded by a vigil.”

NB: A Mass using the Sunday propers that is anticipated (i.e., offered) on a Saturday evening is sometimes, though incorrectly, called a vigil. This practice, however, is a post-Vatican II novelty and not part of Catholic Tradition, so I counsel Catholics to never attend such “vigil Masses” on Saturday evenings.

Definition of Key Terms in the Vigils Table:

Fasting: Fasting refers to how much food we eat. It means taking only one meal during a calendar day. The meal should be an average-sized meal as overeating at the one meal is against the spirit of the fast. Fasting generally means that the meal is to be taken later in the day. Along with the one meal, up to two snacks (technically called either a collation or frustulum) are permitted. These are optional, not required. Added up together, they may not equal the size of the one meal. No other snacking throughout the day is permitted. Fasting does not affect liquids, aside from the Eucharistic Fast which is a separate matter.

Abstinence: Abstinence in this context refers to not eating meat. Meat refers to the flesh meat of mammals or fowl. Beef, poultry, lamb, etc. are all forbidden on days of abstinence. Abstinence does not currently prohibit animal byproducts like dairy (e.g., cheese, butter, milk) or eggs, but in times past, they were prohibited. Fish is permitted along with shellfish and other cold-blooded animals like alligators. In times past, days of fasting were always days of abstinence as well; however, not all days of abstinence were days of mandatory fasting.

Partial Abstinence: Partial Abstinence refers to eating meat only at the principal meal of the day. Days of partial abstinence do not permit meat to be eaten as part of the collation or the frustulum. Partial abstinence started only in 1741 under Pope Benedict XIV as a concession and as part of a gradual weakening of discipline. Beforehand, days of abstinence were days of complete abstinence.

NB: The table concerns only fasting and abstinence for Vigils and thus omits other possible days of fasting and/or abstinence: Lent, Ember Days, Rogation Days, etc.

Explanation of Key Changes to Vigils in the English-Speaking World:

1. On March 9, 1777, Pope Pius VI reduced for English Catholics days of fasting to consist of the Ember Days; the forty days Lent; Wednesdays and Fridays in Advent; and the vigils of Christmas, Whitsun Sunday (i.e. Pentecost), Ss. Peter and Paul, and All Saints.

2. As mentioned in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record from 1882, Pope Benedict XIV in 1755 removed 18 feasts from double precept and reduced them to single precept. Shortly thereafter in 1778, Pope Pius VI reduced the number of holy days to 13. And as the Record states, "On this occasion, the obligation of hearing Mass was removed, as well as the obligation of abstaining from servile works." The Record continues: "the number of those Vigils to which the obligation of fasting had been attached [as of 1778] was in fact but eight - these being the Vigils of the feast of St. Laurence the Martyr (August 9th), and of seven of the nine suppressed feasts of the Apostles." No fasting was observed beforehand on the Vigil of St. John on December 26 or the Vigil of Ss. Philip and James on account of them always falling in Christmas and Pascaltide respectively.

3. The Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul ceased being a fast day in America by 1842. In Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and Canada the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul remained a day of fasting and abstinence up until the 1917 Code of Canon law. In 1902, the Holy Father granted a special dispensation for Catholics in England from fasting on the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul in honor of the coronation of King Edward VII, illustrating historical proof of its observance in the early part of the 20th century.

4. "The Catholic's Pocket Prayer-Book" published by Henri Proost & Co in 1924 notes "in the United Kingdom (except during Lent), abstinence is not binding on Ember Saturdays or on any Vigil that immediately precedes or follows a Friday or other day of abstinence."

5. Effective with the 1917 Code, fasting and abstinence were no longer observed should a vigil fall on a Sunday as stated in the code: "If a vigil that is a fast day falls on a Sunday the fast is not to be anticipated on Saturday but is dropped altogether that year." Before 1917, the fast of a Vigil that fell on a Sunday was observed instead on the preceding Saturday.

6. On January 28, 1949, the United States bishops issued modified regulations on abstinence in America again after receiving a ruling from the Sacred Congregation of the Council. Partial abstinence replaced complete abstinence for Ember Wednesdays, Ember Saturdays, and the Vigil of Pentecost.

7. In March 1955, Pope Pius XII abolished the liturgical Vigil of All Saints. The US Bishops requested an official determination from Rome on whether the custom of fasting and abstinence on the suspended Vigil of All Saints had also been terminated. They received a pre-printed notice in a response dated March 15, 1957, stating: "The Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites...looks simply to the liturgical part of the day and does not touch the obligation of fast and abstinence that are a penitential preparation for the following feast day." The US Bishop thereafter dispensed both the fast and partial abstinence law for the Vigil of All Saints.

8. On July 25, 1957, Pope Pius XII commuted the fast in the Universal Church from the Vigil of the Assumption to the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception on December 7, even though he had previously abrogated the Mass for the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception. 

9. In 1959, Pope John XXIII permitted the Christmas Eve fast and abstinence to be transferred to 23rd. While the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland kept the penance on December 24, other nations, including Canada and the Philippines, transferred it to December 23.

10. As stated in a January 1960 issue of the Catholic Standard and Times, following an October 1959 meeting, the Bishops of Canada issued new regulations taking effect in 1960 that provided that the law of abstinence henceforth will apply only on all Fridays of the year, while the regulations for fast and abstinence will apply only on four days—Ash Wednesday; Good Friday; December 7, the vigil of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and December 23, the anticipated vigil before Christmas.

How are Vigils Observed?

There are two characteristics of vigils: penance and prayer. 

As to penance, many liturgical vigils, if not all, were originally also days of fasting and abstinence. Over time, the fasting and abstinence was dropped from many. By the time of the Catechism of Perseverance, there were only a few such vigils. But the days of fasting and abstinence differed – including on vigils in various places. For instance, by 1893, the only fasting days kept in Rome were the forty days of Lent, the Ember Days, and the Vigils of the Purification, of Pentecost, of St. John the Baptist, of Ss. Peter and Paul, of the Assumption, of All Saints, and of Christmas. This is summarized from the Handbook to Christian and Ecclesiastical Rome. In just a few years, Rome would abrogate the fast on the Vigil of the Purification and on the Vigil of St. John the Baptist. By the 1917 Code of Canon Law, fasting vigils were dropped universally to only four days: Vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints, and Christmas. These are what Americans at that time were aware of, but previously, there were differing vigils.

By 1917, there were, however, still many other liturgical vigils on the calendar that were not obligatory days of abstinence at that time. For instance, before the changes to the Roman Rite liturgical calendar in 1955, nearly all feasts of the Apostles were preceded by a vigil. And the Church put those days in place to help us prepare for the importance of the feast of an Apostle, since all feasts of the Apostles were in former times Holy Days of Obligation. We have lost the importance of the feast days of the Apostles, I believe, in part due to losing the vigils. We can change that for ourselves by observing those feast days in our own prayer lives. And the same is true for the Vigil of All Saints (i.e., Halloween), a traditional day when we would fast and abstain from meat, but which is neither found in the Novus Ordo calendar nor even in the 1962 Missal.  Hence any of the older vigils (e.g., the Vigil of St. Lawrence, the Vigil of Epiphany, the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, etc.) can and arguably, should, be observed with fasting and abstinence even if they are not obliged under penalty of sin. 

The second key feature of vigils is prayer. 

The Catechism of Perseverance explains this aspect well: “How should we spend the vigils? Whatever be our age, we should spend those days in a more holy manner than other days, in order to prepare for the celebration of the festival and to receive the graces which God always gives more abundantly at that time.” Praying an extra rosary, making time for mental prayer, and even praying into the evening as the vigil becomes the feastday itself are all worthwhile practices to make vigils slightly more penitential and all the more prayerful.

While we know that Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation should be spent in prayer, attendance at Holy Mass, and in avoidance of servile work, we often pay little mind to vigils since the Church over the past several decades has virtually eliminated them. But we must honor our Lady of Fatima’s call for penance and can model our example after that of our forefathers who observed the vigils in preparation for the feast.

Works Cited:

1. Great Britain (1776): American Ecclesiastical Review (Hardy and Mahony, 1886), vol. 11, p. 469.https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_American_Catholic_Quarterly_Review/lz0QAAAAYAAJ 

2. USA (1789): American Ecclesiastical Review (Hardy and Mahony, 1886), vol. 11, p. 469.https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_American_Catholic_Quarterly_Review/lz0QAAAAYAAJ 

3. USA (1909): O'Neill, J.D. (1909). Fast. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05789c.htm

4. Great Britain (1909): O'Neill, J.D. (1909). Fast. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05789c.htm

5. Canada (1909): O'Neill, J.D. (1909). Fast. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05789c.htm

6. CIC (1917): Peters, Edward N.  1917 Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law: in English translation, with extensive scholarly apparatus.  San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2001. https://www.jgray.org/codes/ 

7. Canada (1952): https://sspx.ca/en/rules-fast-abstinence 

8. USA (1962): Rev. Heribert Jone, “Moral Theology: Englished and Adapted to the Laws and Customs of the United States of America,” (Newman Press, 2009), p. 285.

9. Canada (1962): The Catholic Standard and Times, Volume 65, Number 19, Published January 29, 1960. https://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/?a=d&d=cst19600129-01.2.77&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------- 

10. Great Britain (1962): 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal, (Angelus Press, 2004). 
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Sunday, April 7, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 60

In today’s episode, on Low Sunday, I address the following: 

  1. Who was the First Person Christ Appeared to After His Resurrection?
  2. Traditional Blessing of Homes and Food for Easter
  3. Pope St. Leo the Great
  4. The Litany of Loretto Explained

This episode is sponsored by PrayLatin.comPrayLatin.com offers Latin prayer cards to learn and share prayers in the sacred language. Learn your basic prayers in Latin conveniently on the go. Practice your pronunciation with easy-to-follow English phonetic renderings of Latin words. PrayLatin.com offers prayer cards in various formats, including Latin-English rosary pamphlets with the traditional 15 mysteries. Shop for additional Latin resources like missal booklets, server response cards, and more. Visit PrayLatin.com today.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Sunday, March 31, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 59

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Embracing Tradition: The Timeless Appeal of Catholic Handcrafted Products from Italy

In the heart of Italy, where the echoes of ancient traditions reverberate through cobblestone streets and historic cathedrals, lies a cherished artistry deeply intertwined with faith: the crafting of Catholic religious items. From intricately carved crucifixes to delicately painted icons, these handcrafted products serve as tangible expressions of devotion and artistic excellence. Rooted in centuries-old techniques and infused with spiritual significance, Italian-made Catholic artifacts continue to captivate believers worldwide, offering a connection to both the divine and the rich cultural heritage of the country.

The tradition of crafting religious artifacts in Italy can be traced back to the early days of Christianity, when skilled artisans dedicated themselves to creating sacred objects for worship and reverence. Over the centuries, this art form evolved, drawing inspiration from diverse cultural influences and artistic movements while remaining steadfast in its commitment to preserving the essence of Catholic faith.

One of the most iconic symbols of Catholicism, the crucifix, holds a special place in Italian craftsmanship. Crafted from various materials such as wood, marble, or precious metals, each crucifix is meticulously designed to evoke a sense of reverence and contemplation. The artisans, often working within family-owned workshops passed down through generations, imbue these sacred symbols with profound spiritual meaning, paying homage to the sacrifice of Christ and the redemption it represents. Many beautiful options are available from this religious e-shop that offers over 80,000 handcrafted Catholic items, religious gifts and church supplies.

In addition to crucifixes, Italian artisans excel in crafting a wide array of religious items, including statues, rosaries, and religious jewelry. Each piece is crafted with meticulous attention to detail, reflecting the artisan's reverence for the subject matter and dedication to their craft. Whether it's a marble Madonna delicately sculpted to perfection, or a rosary intricately crafted from Venetian glass beads, these handcrafted treasures serve as tangible reminders of faith and devotion.

The process of creating these exquisite pieces often begins with the selection of the finest materials. Italian artisans have access to a rich array of resources, from Carrara marble to Florentine gold leaf, allowing them to bring their artistic visions to life with unparalleled beauty and craftsmanship. Many artisans also draw inspiration from Italy's rich artistic heritage, incorporating elements of Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic styles into their work to create truly timeless pieces.

What sets Italian-made Catholic products apart is not just their aesthetic appeal but also the deep spiritual significance imbued into each creation. Every stroke of the brush, every chisel mark, carries with it a sense of reverence and devotion, elevating these artifacts beyond mere objects and transforming them into vessels of faith. For the artisans, crafting these religious items is not just a profession but a sacred calling, a way of honoring their faith and contributing to the spiritual lives of others.

Beyond their spiritual significance, Italian-made Catholic products also serve as ambassadors of Italian culture and craftsmanship to the world. Renowned for their quality and beauty, these handcrafted treasures have found their way into homes, churches, and museums across the globe, showcasing the enduring legacy of Italian artistry and devotion.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional craftsmanship, fueled by a desire for authenticity and a deeper connection to the past. As mass-produced goods increasingly dominate the market, discerning consumers are turning to artisanal products, drawn to their unique character and the stories they embody. In this age of mass production and rapid consumption, Italian-made Catholic products stand as a testament to the enduring value of craftsmanship and the timeless appeal of faith.

Moreover, the purchase of these handcrafted items not only supports local artisans and their families but also helps preserve a centuries-old tradition for future generations. By investing in Italian-made Catholic products, consumers become custodians of a cultural heritage that spans centuries, ensuring that the artistry and devotion of Italy's artisans continue to thrive in the modern world. Use code CAT10 for 10% off an order on www.holyart.com today! 

In conclusion, the tradition of crafting Catholic religious items in Italy is a testament to the enduring power of faith and artistic expression. From the humblest crucifix to the grandest cathedral, these handcrafted treasures embody the beauty, reverence, and devotion that have defined Italian craftsmanship for centuries. As we continue to navigate an ever-changing world, the timeless appeal of Italian-made Catholic products serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us of the enduring legacy of faith and the enduring power of the human spirit.

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Sunday, March 24, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 58

In today’s episode, on this solemn Palm Sunday, I address the following: 

  1. 10 Suggestions for Holy Week
  2. How Palm Sunday Changed Already by the 1962 Missal
  3. Keeping Spiritual Priorities First in the Family

This episode is sponsored by PrayLatin.comPrayLatin.com offers Latin prayer cards to learn and share prayers in the sacred language. Learn your basic prayers in Latin conveniently on the go. Practice your pronunciation with easy-to-follow English phonetic renderings of Latin words. PrayLatin.com offers prayer cards in various formats, including Latin-English rosary pamphlets with the traditional 15 mysteries. Shop for additional Latin resources like missal booklets, server response cards, and more. Visit PrayLatin.com today.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Friday, March 22, 2024
Liturgy of the Land - Sanctify Our Land Once Again

Many people today desire a simple life that is closely connected to land, whether it be gardening, farming, or ranching. There is a spiritual draw to a non-consumeristic lifestyle that places God, the family, and the home at the center of all activity. This “agrarian conversion” has led many families to seek out rural communities and leave behind the suburban life.

Over ten years ago, two Catholic friends, Jason M. Craig and Thomas D Van Horn, experienced a similar agrarian conversion inspired by past Catholic land movements and a growing desire to work with their wives and children, going deeper than just “supporting” them financially. Both began a journey, perhaps with a tad too much romanticism, toward land-based life on farms. All these years later, the two have been tempered by the unyielding realities of land and limitations and have gained significant insights into the reasons, challenges, and possibilities of homesteading and farming. 

In The Liturgy of the Land: Cultivating a Catholic Homestead, Craig and Van Horn present the practicalities and theological aspects behind the desire for a productive, holy home. Our current culture understands the economy in efficient consumeristic terms, but our Catholic Faith tells us differently. The productive homestead is the center of economic life, and the family is at the center of the homestead. This book aims to bring the stories from their experience into a presentation and proposal of homesteading as a way of life, considering the principles (why?) and the practicalities (how?). May we do so under the patronage of St. Isidore the Farmer, who is honored in some places on March 22. And here is just one great excerpt worth meditating upon today:

Most people know that our technology-loving, post-industrial society is new. For centuries upon centuries prior—literally from the beginning of time—the work com- mon to most men the world over was finding, growing, securing, and preserving food. These acts were foundational for staying alive, but providing for bodily needs also grew into beautiful and intricate cultures where food wasn’t just important for staying alive but for living a life. This is because we, as man, must provide food like the beasts, but our work builds up into culture because we have souls. Intertwined with and sanctified by the Church, the life of prayer, work, fasting, and feasting formed a single life, an inte- grated whole. In the vast countryside of Christendom, the work of God (worship) and the work of the land was the life of the people, a single life undivided.

I was given an advanced copy of some of the text and I have to say it is quite inspiring and something I do recommend. Please check it out through Tan Books, especially as we are now in the spring season.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024
Is St. Joseph's Day Traditionally Still A Fasting Day?

Since St. Joseph’s Day falls during Lent, it coincides with the traditional Lenten fast which traditionally required 40 days of fasting and 46 days of abstinence from meat. Per the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Friday abstinence is still required on St. Joseph’s Day even where it is kept as a Holy Day of Obligation. And would the fast of Lent still be observed? The answer is unequivocally yes.

The question of whether Holy Days of Obligation abrogate the requirement of Friday abstinence outside of Lent is mentioned in the 1917 Code:

On [Sundays] or feasts of precept, the law of abstinence or of abstinence and fast or of fast only ceases, except during Lent, nor is the vigil anticipated; likewise it ceases on Holy [Saturday] afternoon (1917 Code, Canon 1252 § 4).[1]

The 1917 Code is explicit – feasts of precepts do not remove the requirement to fast or abstain during Lent. The only way that the obligation would be removed during the season of Lent would be if a dispensation would be specifically offered by the lawful Church authorities for a particular day.

It must be further noted that the removal of the obligation of penance on Holy Days of Obligation outside of Lent only applies to areas that observe the day of precept. It is not based on the Roman calendar, as affirmed by the Commission on the Code in a 1924 article in the American Ecclesiastical Review. Hence, when January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, falls on a Friday, it is still a mandatory day of abstinence in America and France and other places where it is not a Holy Day of Obligation. In contrast, Canada, Rome, and places that keep it as a Holy Day do not have to observe fasting and/or abstinence on that particular Friday. This, however, only applies to Holy Day of Obligation outside of Lent. And this change only started with the 1917 Code – beforehand, it was still a day of abstinence on Fridays regardless if it was a day of precept or not, unless a specific dispensation was issued by the Pope himself.

In 1954, Pope Pius XII issued such a decree granting bishops the permission to dispense from Friday abstinence for the Feast of St. Joseph which that year fell on a Friday. A March 26, 1954, article of The Guardian elaborates: 

“Bishops throughout the world have been granted the faculty to dispense their faithful from the law of abstinence on the Feast of St. Joseph, Friday, March 19. The power was granted in a decree issued by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, which said it acted at the special mandate of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. The decree published in L’Osservatore Romano made no mention of a dispensation from the Lenten fast.”

As such, St. Joseph’s Day did not permit the faithful to eat meat on Fridays in Lent unless such a specific dispensation were offered, which was very rarely done. Likewise, to those who maintain the 1917 Code’s requirement to also fast all forty weekdays of Lent – which was observed since the Early Church – St. Joseph’s Day remains a day of fast. Surely St. Joseph would want us to produce worthy fruits of penance during this holiest season as we prepare for the Pascal mystery.

Unfortunately, the 1983 Code of Canon Law which aligns with the many Modernist changes in the Church weakly states:

The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (1983 Code, Canons 1251 – 1252).

It should be noted that traditionally St. Joseph’s Tables, even when transferred to Sunday, were always meatless. For centuries, even Sundays in Lent were days of abstinence – just not fasting.

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.

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Sunday, March 17, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 57

In today’s episode, on Passion Sunday, I address the following: 

  1. Customs for Passion Sunday
  2. Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in Lent
  3. Customs for St. Patrick’s Day

I would like to thank CatechismClass.com for sponsoring this episode.  CatechismClass.com, the leader in online Catholic catechism classes, has everything from online K-12 programs, RCIA classes, adult continuing education, marriage preparation, baptism preparation, confirmation prep, quince prep classes, catechist training courses, and more. It is never too late to study the fullness of the Catholic Faith, and CatechismClass.com is the gold standard in authentic Catholic formation online. Check out their special Lenten Study Course now available for 25% off with discount code LENT25.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Saturday, March 16, 2024
Is St. Patrick's Day Traditionally Still A Fasting Day?

Definition of Fasting vs. Abstinence

Fasting refers to how much food we eat and, historically, when we eat it. It means taking only one meal during a calendar day. The meal should be an average-sized meal as overeating at the one meal is against the spirit of the fast. Fasting generally means that the meal is to be taken later in the day. Along with the one meal, up to two snacks (technically called either a collation or frustulum) are permitted. These are optional, not required. Added up together, they may not equal the size of the one meal. No other snacking throughout the day is permitted. 

Abstinence in this context refers to not eating meat. Meat refers to the fleshmeat of mammals or fowl. Beef, poultry, lamb, etc are all forbidden on days of abstinence. Abstinence does not currently prohibit animal byproducts like dairy (e.g. cheese, butter, milk) or eggs, but in times past they were prohibited. Fish is currently permitted along with shellfish and other cold-blooded animals like alligators. In times past, days of fast were always days of abstinence as well; however, not all days of abstinence were days of mandatory fasting.

The Church's Law in 1917

The days of obligatory fasting as listed in the 1917 Code of Canon Law were the forty days of Lent (including Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday until noon); the Ember Days; and the Vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints, and Christmas. Partial abstinence, the eating of meat only at the principal meal, was obligatory on all weeks of Lent (Monday through Thursday). And of course, complete abstinence was required on all Fridays, including Fridays of Lent, except when a holy day of obligation fell on a Friday outside of Lent. Saturdays in Lent were likewise days of complete abstinence.

The Church's Law in 1962

By 1962, the laws of fasting and abstinence were as follows as described in "Moral Theology" by Rev. Heribert Jone and adapted by Rev. Urban Adelman for the "laws and customs of the United States of America" copyright 1961: "Complete abstinence is to be observed on all Fridays of the year, Ash Wednesday, the Vigils of Immaculate Conception and Christmas. Partial abstinence is to be observed on Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays and on the Vigil of Pentecost. Days of fast are all the weekdays of Lent, Ember Days, and the Vigil of Pentecost." If a vigil falls on a Sunday, the law of abstinence and fasting is dispensed that year and is not transferred to the preceding day. Father Jone adds additional guidance for the Vigil of the Nativity fast: "General custom allows one who is fasting to take a double portion of food at the collation on Christmas Eve (jejunium gaudiosum)."

History of St. Patrick's Day in Lent
    
For the Irish (and for Irish Americans), St. Patrick's Day is both a cultural milestone and, traditionally, a very significant spiritual day. Even traditional Catholics are not sure, due to conflicting information, if St. Patrick's Day was a day of fasting and abstinence during Lent on non-Fridays. Can I Eat Meat on St. Patrick's Day on a Friday in Lent is a different topic as Friday abstinence is universally mandatory and binding under pain of mortal sin.

The first record of dispensation from Lenten fast and/or abstinence on St. Patrick's Day was early in America's history at a time when all of Lent, aside from Sundays, were days of mandatory fasting for those between the ages of 21 and 60 (health exceptions aside). With the growing number of Irish immigrants to America in the early 1800s, special attention was given to dispense from fasting when St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday. This was done for the members of the Charitable Irish Society of Boston in 1837 and would become customary in the United States. The dispensation in 1837 "was granted on the proviso that all diners gave a small sum to charity." But this was in Boston, which was an epi-center of Irish Americans.

Back in Ireland, St. Patrick's Day was a Holy Day of Obligation and still, without special dispensation, a day of mandatory fasting and abstinence. Interestingly, "The Catholic's Pocket Prayer-Book," published by Henri Proost & Co. in 1924, notes that for Australia and New Zealand, all days in Lent were days of fasting "except Sundays and St. Patrick's Day." The same pocket guide lists the days of fasting and abstinence for Ireland and lists no such exception. Yet even for Australia and New Zealand, no exception for abstinence existed on St. Patrick's Day in 1924.

Conclusion

Hence, except for Australian and New Zealand Catholics, Catholics in other countries were to still fast and abstain on St. Patrick's Day. It was only not a fasting day when it fell on a Sunday in Lent, since there is no fasting on Sundays. However, it is still possible to celebrate with Irish Soda Bread and other vegan foods.

For a separate discussion of Can I Eat Meat on St. Patrick's Day on a Friday in Lent, see that article.

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.
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Sunday, March 10, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 56

In today’s episode, on Laetare Sunday, I address the following: 

  1. The Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
  2. Laetare Sunday as Mothering Sunday
  3. 10+ Great Ideas for Lenten Almsgiving

This episode is sponsored by PrayLatin.comPrayLatin.com offers Latin prayer cards to learn and share prayers in the sacred language. Learn your basic prayers in Latin conveniently on the go. Practice your pronunciation with easy-to-follow English phonetic renderings of Latin words. PrayLatin.com offers prayer cards in various formats, including Latin-English rosary pamphlets with the traditional 15 mysteries. Shop for additional Latin resources like missal booklets, server response cards, and more. Visit PrayLatin.com today.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Laetare Sunday as Mothering Sunday

This upcoming Sunday is Laetare Sunday, the day of respite in the midst of the asceticism of Lent. Laetare Sunday is a day for us to celebrate in anticipation for the upcoming feast of Easter. We have only three weeks of Lent left to make greater progress in the spiritual life.

The following is taken from the St. John Cantius Website:

Laetare Sunday is also known as "Mothering Sunday" because of the Epistle reading that speaks of how not the Jews, but those who come to Christ, regardless of their ancestry, are the inheritors of Abraham's promise:

For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, and the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman, was born according to the flesh: but he of the free woman, was by promise. Which things are said by an allegory. For these are the two testaments. The one from mount Sina, engendering unto bondage; which is Agar: For Sina is a mountain in Arabia, which hath affinity to that Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But that Jerusalem, which is above, is free: which is our mother. For it is written: Rejoice, thou barren, that bearest not: break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he, that was born according to the flesh, persecuted him that was after the spirit; so also it is now. But what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman. So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free: by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.

Galatians 4:22-31

The old practice of visiting the cathedral, or "mother church" of the diocese on this day is another reason for the name. In England, natural mothers are honored today, too, in a manner rather like the American "Mother's Day." Spring bulb flowers (daffodils, for ex.) are given to mothers, and simnel cake is made to celebrate the occasion (this cake has also become an Easter Cake of late, however). The word "simnel" comes from the Latin "simila," a high grade flour.

The rose vestments on Laetare Sunday is a custom originating in the fact that, as a symbol of joy and hope in the middle of this somber Season. Popes used to carry a golden rose in their right hand when returning from the celebration of Mass on this day. Way back in 1051, Pope Leo IX called this custom an "ancient institution." Originally it was natural rose, then a single golden rose of natural size, but since the fifteenth century it has consisted of a cluster or branch of roses.

The popes bless one every year, and often confer it upon churches, shrines, cities, or distinguished persons as a token of esteem and paternal affection. In case of such a bestowal, a new rose is made during the subsequent year.  The golden rose represents Christ in the shining splendor of His majesty, the "flower sprung from the root of Jesse," and it is blessed with these words:

O God! by Whose word and power all things have been created, by Whose will all things are directed, we humbly beseech Thy Majesty, Who art the joy and gladness of all the faithful, that Thou wouldst deign in Thy fatherly love to bless and sanctify this rose, most delightful in odor and appearance, which we this day carry in sign of spiritual joy, in order that the people consecrated by Thee and delivered from the yoke of Babylonian slavery through the favor of Thine only-begotten Son, Who is the glory and exultation of the people of Israel and of that Jerusalem which is our Heavenly mother, may with sincere hearts show forth their joy. Wherefore, O Lord, on this day, when the Church exults in Thy name and manifests her joy by this sign, confer upon us through her true and perfect joy and accepting her devotion of today; do Thou remit sin, strengthen faith, increase piety, protect her in Thy mercy, drive away all things adverse to her and make her ways safe and prosperous, so that Thy Church, as the fruit of good works, may unite in giving forth the perfume of the ointment of that flower sprung from the root of Jesse and which is the mystical flower of the field and lily of the valleys, and remain happy without end in eternal glory together with all the saints.

For more Catholic customs throughout the liturgical year, see "Restoring Lost Customs of Christendom" published by Our Lady of Victory Press.
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Sunday, March 3, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 55

In today’s episode, on the Third Sunday of Lent, I address the following: 

  1. The Readings for the Third Sunday of Lent
  2. The Feast of the Five Holy Wounds
  3. The Protestant Attack on Lenten Penance
  4. The Errors of Donatists and Why They Matter Today

This episode is sponsored by MyCatholicWill.com. MyCatholicWill.com provides simple and effective tools to pass on the heritage of faith and positively impact future generations of Catholics across the country. Ensure your legacy and family are protected while also leaving behind a way to support the Church. Use discount code catholiclife20 to save on your order.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Sunday, February 25, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 54

In today’s episode, on the Second Sunday of Lent, I address the following: 

  1. The Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent
  2. How the Traditional Latin Mass Reinforces Lent as a Fast
  3. Early Christians Fasted Even from Water During Lent

This episode is sponsored by PrayLatin.comPrayLatin.com offers Latin prayer cards to learn and share prayers in the sacred language. Learn your basic prayers in Latin conveniently on the go. Practice your pronunciation with easy-to-follow English phonetic renderings of Latin words. PrayLatin.com offers prayer cards in various formats, including Latin-English rosary pamphlets with the traditional 15 mysteries. Shop for additional Latin resources like missal booklets, server response cards, and more. Visit PrayLatin.com today.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Thursday, February 22, 2024
The Protestant Attack on Lenten Penance

In the Middle Ages, abstinence from meat on Fridays and during Lent was not only Church law – it was civil law as well. And people gladly obeyed these laws out of respect for the teaching authority of the Church. Yet after the Protestant revolt which began in 1517 and continued through the middle of the 1600s, this was to change. Zwingli, the protestant leader from Switzerland, directed multiple attacks against the merits of good works, including fasting and abstinence through the infamous “The Affair of Sausage” in 1522. He audaciously claimed that since Scripture was the only authority, sausages should be eaten publicly in Lent in defiance. 

The same occurred in England, which followed the revolt of Luther and his peers. King Henry VIII, who was previously given the title “Defender of the Faith” by Pope Leo X for his defense against Luther, succumbed to heresy and schism when he broke from Lord’s established Church on earth in 1533 to engage in adultery. Church property was seized. Catholics were killed. Catholicism was made illegal in England in 1559 under Queen Elizabeth I, and for 232 years, except during the brief reign of the Catholic King James II (1685 – 1688), the Catholic Mass was illegal until 1791. Yet the Anglicans at least kept the Catholic customs of abstinence for some years.

English Royalty proclamations supporting abstinence of meat continued to occur in England in 1563, 1619, 1625, 1627, and 1631. The same likewise occurred in 1687 under King James II. After the Revolution in 1688 and the overthrow of Catholicism by William III and Mary II, the laws were no longer enforced and officially removed from the law books by the Statue Law Revision Act in 1863. Similar changes occurred throughout Europe as Protestants reviled the fast.

Protestants largely abandoned fasting and other forms of mortification altogether in a complete rupture with the practice of all of Christianity back to the Apostles themselves. While some Lutherans and Methodists will voluntarily keep fasting days, it is uncommon and not practiced under obligation. Methodists, who were founded by John Wesley in the 18th century, for instance, if they do fast, are more likely to observe the “Daniel Fast” during the season of Lent, which is categorized by abstinence from "meat, fish, egg, dairy products, chocolates, ice creams, sugar, sweets, wine or any alcoholic beverages" as taken from the Book of Daniel 10:3. 

By the 1900s, the Episcopalian Church, the American branch of Anglicanism, largely abandoned all fasting and abstinence by re-writing their Book of Common Prayer (BCP):

The 1928 BCP in its table of fasts listed ‘other days of fasting on which the Church requires such a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion.’ These included the forty days of Lent, the Ember Days, and Fridays. No distinction was made between fasting and abstinence. The 1979 BCP dropped the Ember Days from the list and refers to both Lenten weekdays and Fridays outside of the Christmas and Easter seasons as Days of Special Devotion ‘observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial’ (p. 17). While this permits the traditional observance of Days of Abstinence, it clearly leaves the nature of the special acts of discipline and self-denial to the individual. 

Even amid the Protestant revolt, weakening discipline continued even in Catholic nations. For example, the twice-weekly fast on Wednesday and Friday goes back to the Apostles. In Ireland for instance the use of meat on all Wednesdays of the year was prohibited until around the middle of the 17th century.  This harkened back to the vestige of those earlier times when Wednesdays were days of weekly fasting as Father Slater notes in “A Short History of Moral Theology” published in 1909:

The obligation of fasting on all Wednesdays and Fridays ceased almost entirely about the tenth century, but the fixing of those days by ecclesiastical authority for fasting, and the desire to substitute a Christian observance at Rome for certain pagan rites celebrated in connection with the seasons of the year, seem to have given rise to our Ember Days… About the tenth century the obligation of the Friday fast was reduced to one of abstinence from flesh meat, and the Wednesday fast after being similarly mitigated gradually disappeared altogether. 

Of course, Lent was not an invention of the Middle Ages. Lenten fasting goes back to the very Apostles themselves!  The great liturgist Dom Guéranger writes that the fast which precedes Easter originated with the Apostles themselves:

The forty days’ fast, which we call Lent, is the Church’s preparation for Easter, and was instituted at the very commencement of Christianity. Our Blessed Lord Himself sanctioned it by fasting forty days and forty nights in the desert; and though He would not impose it on the world by an express commandment (which, in that case, could not have been open to the power of dispensation), yet He showed plainly enough, by His own example, that fasting, which God had so frequently ordered in the old Law, was to be also practiced by the children of the new…The apostles, therefore, legislated for our weakness, by instituting, at the very commencement of the Christian Church, that the solemnity of Easter should be preceded by a universal fast. 

The Catechism of the Liturgy by a Religious of the Sacred Heart published by The Paulist Press, New York, 1919  affirms the apostolic origin of the Lenten fast: “The Lenten fast dates back to Apostolic times as is attested by Saint Jerome, Saint Leo the Great, Saint Cyril of Alexandria and others.” In the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus wrote to Pope St. Victor I inquiring on how Easter should be celebrated while mentioning the practice of fasting leading up to Easter.


Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence. Want to go deeper into knowing the Catholic Faith? Check out the resources of CatechismClass.com.
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Sunday, February 18, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 53

In today’s episode, on the First Sunday of Lent, I address the following: 

  1. The Readings for the First Sunday of Lent
  2. The Stational Church Devotion
  3. 20 Pious Practices for Lent

I would like to thank CatechismClass.com for sponsoring this episode.  CatechismClass.com, the leader in online Catholic catechism classes, has everything from online K-12 programs, RCIA classes, adult continuing education, marriage preparation, baptism preparation, confirmation prep, quince prep classes, catechist training courses, and more. It is never too late to study the fullness of the Catholic Faith, and CatechismClass.com is the gold standard in authentic Catholic formation online. Check out their special Lenten Study Course now available for 25% off with discount code LENT25.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Sunday, February 11, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 52

In today’s episode, on Quinquagesima Sunday, I address the following: 

  1. The 2nd Edition of the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting & Abstinence
  2. The Readings for Quinquagesima Sunday
  3. Votive Feast of the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ Deformed in the Passion
  4. Customs for St. Valentine’s Day
  5. Ash Wednesday Fasting & Abstinence Rules

This episode is sponsored by PrayLatin.comPrayLatin.com offers Latin prayer cards to learn and share prayers in the sacred language. Learn your basic prayers in Latin conveniently on the go. Practice your pronunciation with easy-to-follow English phonetic renderings of Latin words. PrayLatin.com offers prayer cards in various formats, including Latin-English rosary pamphlets with the traditional 15 mysteries. Shop for additional Latin resources like missal booklets, server response cards, and more. Visit PrayLatin.com today.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Thursday, February 8, 2024
Honey Does Not Violate the Traditional Lenten Fast

For those who strive to observe the stricter Lenten fast which requires abstinence from both meat and animal products all of Lent, a question arises on if eating honey would violate the fast.  Honey starts as flower nectar collected by bees, which gets broken down into simple sugars stored inside the honeycomb. The design of the honeycomb and constant fanning of the bees' wings causes evaporation, creating sweet liquid honey. Honey's color and flavor vary based on the nectar collected by the bees

Honey is produced by bees, but honey is not an animal product at least in the sense of avoiding flesh and “all that comes from flesh”. Bees are not mammals. So the product produced by bees is not forbidden on days of abstinence. What was forbidden for centuries was meat along with lacticinia. Father Hardon notes in the definition of lacticinia: "Milk (Latin, lac) and milk products, e.g., butter and cheese, and eggs or animal products formerly prohibited during Lent, along with flesh meat. In the early Middle Ages lacticinia were forbidden even on Sundays during the Lenten season." Honey does not fall into that category.

Even those groups that still observe strict Lenten abstinence allow honey. This is seen for instance in the Orthodox tradition which, in some places, still keeps abstinence from animal products at least for monks. Seasonal European Dishes by Elisabeth Luard, published in 2013, references this by noting that honey was allowed: "Orthodox pre-Revolution Russians ate only vegetables, fruit, bread and honey during Lent. The Romanians ate only Indian corn and beans. Bulgarians ate only black food for mourning - black bread, black olives, black beans in olive oil, and prunes. The full fast was often limited to the first and last weeks only."

May God grant everyone a most blessed Lenten fast with its strict abstinence from meat and lacticinia. 

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.

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Sunday, February 4, 2024
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 51

In today’s episode, on Sexagesima Sunday, I address the following: 

  1. The 2nd Edition of the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting & Abstinence
  2. The Readings for Sexagesima Sunday
  3. The Commemoration of the Passion of Christ (Tuesday after Sexagesima)
  4. Upcoming Feastdays this Week

I would like to thank CatechismClass.com for sponsoring this episode.  CatechismClass.com, the leader in online Catholic catechism classes, has everything from online K-12 programs, RCIA classes, adult continuing education, marriage preparation, baptism preparation, confirmation prep, quince prep classes, catechist training courses, and more. It is never too late to study the fullness of the Catholic Faith, and CatechismClass.com is the gold standard in authentic Catholic formation online. Check out their special Lenten Study Course now available for 25% off with discount code LENT25.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Rejecting the Filioque Is A Heresy

It is evident with the crisis in the Catholic Church concerning not only the sexual abuse crisis but also the crisis in the Liturgy after Vatican II that some Catholics have become disillusioned with the current Catholic hierarchy. From an outside perspective, some might ask why they should remain Catholic and not convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, which is known for reverent, ancient liturgies under the name of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (or St. Basil the Great at some times). But on a deeper analysis, there is no refuge in Orthodoxy. While we often think of the Orthodox as schismatics and not as heretics, the doctrinal crisis has also affected them. In fact, the Orthodox are also heretics from the true Christian Faith in more than half a dozen ways as enumerated in the article "Should A Catholic Convert to Eastern Orthodoxy?"

"I am the Father are One" (John 10:30)

The Baltimore Catechism succinctly states, “In God there are three Divine persons, really distinct, and equal in all things – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” The Roman Catechism, the most authoritative catechism ever written, expresses the reality that Almighty God – the one and only God – is in fact a Trinity of Persons. The Catechism explains the role of the three Divine Persons in the Incarnation:

"It is a principle of Christian faith that whatever God does outside Himself in creation is common to the Three Persons, and that one neither does more than, nor acts without another. But that one emanates from another, this only cannot be common to all; for the Son is begotten of the Father only, and the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. Anything, however, which proceeds from them extrinsically is the work of the Three Persons without difference of any sort, and of this latter description is the Incarnation of the Son of God.

"Of those things, nevertheless, that are common to all, the Sacred Scriptures often attribute some to one Person, some to another. Thus, to the Father they attribute power over all things; to the Son, wisdom; to the Holy Ghost, love. Hence, as the mystery of the Incarnation manifests the singular and boundless love of God towards us, it is therefore in some sort peculiarly attributed to the Holy Ghost."

We do not believe in three gods but in one God. The Athanasian Creed, one of the earliest professions of faith, confessed since at least the fifth century, declares:

“Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. But there are not three gods, but one God. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Ghost is Lord. There are not three lords, but one Lord. For according to Christian truth, we must profess that each of the Persons individually is God; and according to Christian religion, we are forbidden to say that there are three gods or three lords.”

How is it, then, that there is a God the Father, a God the Son, and a God the Holy Ghost, but only one God? There is one divine substance, and three divine Persons. You and I are each only one substance and one person, but God is one substance and three Persons. Each of the Persons is fully divine and wholly possesses the divine substance. As Jesus Himself said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

The Trinity is One. We do not confess three gods, but one God in three Persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.” The divine Persons do not share the one divinity among Themselves but each of Them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Ghost is, i.e., by nature one God.” In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215): “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.”

What is the Filioque Controversy?

The Great Schism, also known as the East-West Schism, refers to the split between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church, which culminated in 1054 AD. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and the legates of Pope Leo IX excommunicated each other. This formal declaration of excommunication marked the official schism between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Papal authority, the Filioque controversy, and even the practice of Saturday fasting, among other differences, brought about this schism.

The Filioque controversy is the theological dispute that centers around the phrase "and the Son" (Latin: for Filioque) in the Nicene Creed, which originally stated that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father. The controversy arose between the Western and Eastern Christian churches.

In the early centuries of Christianity, the Nicene Creed was widely accepted in both the Eastern (Greek-speaking) and Western (Latin-speaking) parts of the Christian world. The original version of the Nicene Creed, as established at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, declared that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father. However, the Western Church later added the phrase "and the Son" (Filioque) to affirm the double procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son.

The Roman Catholic Church had first introduced the phrase “and the Son” (Filioque in Latin) at the Third Council of Toledo in 589. The Lyons Council II stated the doctrine firmly:

We profess faithfully and devotedly that the Holy Ghost proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two principles, but as from one principle; not by two spirations, but by one single spiration. This the holy Roman church, mother and mistress of all the faithful, has till now professed, preached and taught; this she firmly holds, preaches, professes and teaches; this is the unchangeable and true belief of the orthodox fathers and doctors, Latin and Greek alike. But because some, on account of ignorance of the said indisputable truth, have fallen into various errors, we, wishing to close the way to such errors, with the approval of the sacred council, condemn and reprove all who presume to deny that the Holy Ghost proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, or rashly to assert that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son as from two principles and not as from one.

The Filioque Defended at the Ecumenical Councils

The Second Council of Lyons began on May 7, 1274, in the Cathedral of St. John. The Pope gave a sermon outlining his threefold plan for the Council — to unite the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, to send a Crusade to the Holy Land and to reform the morals of the clergy. On June 29th, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the entire Council and the Greek ambassadors took part in a High Mass sung by the Pope. The Credo (Nicene Creed) was sung in Latin and then again in Greek with the phrase “Qui a Patre Filioque procedit” (who proceeds from the Father and the Son) sung three times. The Greek acceptance of this doctrine was an important step towards the reunion of the two Churches. 

Yet, debate continued for centuries as this was again a point of disagreement at the Council of Florence in 1438. The Emperor and Patriarch agreed that the debates should begin, and on October 8, 1438, the delegates discussed the addition of “From the Son” (Filioque) to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. This was discussed in fourteen public sessions until December 13, 1438. Mark Eugenicus, the Metropolitan of Ephesus, claimed that the addition of the Filioque clause to the Nicene Creed had been against the Council of Ephesus in 431. While Mark Eugenicus was the main speaker for the Greeks, the Western Church answered through several speakers. The sessions were lively but the Latin speakers were unable to change Mark’s position.

March 1439 saw eight sessions between the 2nd and 24th where the procession of the Holy Ghost was debated. The Western Church argued that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and the Son while the Greek Church through Mark Eugenicus insisted that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only. Giovanni da Montenero, a Dominican provincial of Lombardy proved the Latin Church’s assertion through the use of Scripture, the writings of the Western and Eastern Fathers and the Councils. Da Montenero’s presentation convinced some of his hearers but not all. The Greeks were not used to metaphysical arguments or syllogisms in their theological discussions but they were very impressed by da Montenero’s quotes from the Eastern and Western Fathers.

Through this, a glimmer of light appeared. The Eastern Saints had stated that the Holy Ghost was produced “from both” and “through the Son” while the Western Saints wrote that the Holy Spirit came “from the Father and the Son.” Now it is axiomatic that Saints, whether East or West, cannot err in matters of faith for they are inspired by the same Holy Spirit. Therefore the words of both the Eastern and Western Saints must be true even though they expressed themselves differently. Bessarion, the Metropolitan of Nicaea and Greek delegate, phrased it this way: "The western and eastern Saints do not disagree, for the same Spirit spoke in all the Saints. Compare their works and they will be found harmonious."

The majority of the Greek delegates voted in favor of the Filioque doctrine. There were further debates about other points of contention. It was decided that both unleaven and leaven bread would be allowed for the Eucharist. Purgatory was defined and the primacy of the Pope was affirmed. None of these questions were answered without lengthy debate and it was not until July 5, 1439, that first the Greeks and then the Latin delegates signed the decree of union. (Parts of the decree are included in the Documents section beginning “Let the heavens rejoice…”) Mark Eugenicus refused to sign the decree even after discussions with the Pope. On Monday, July 6, there was a procession to the Cathedral in Florence followed by a Pontifical Mass. Cesarini read out the decree in Latin, asking the Pope and Latin prelates if they agreed. They all proclaimed Placet (it is agreed upon). Bessarion read out the decree in Greek then requested the Emperor and the Greek prelates to acknowledge the truth of the decree. They also stated their agreement. A Te Deum was sung and the delegates left the Cathedral praising God with psalms. The Council continued and reunited the Roman Church with other Eastern Churches — the Armenians (1439), the Copts (1442), the Syrians (1444), the Chaldeans (Nestorians) and the Maronites of Cyprus (1445). In 1443, the Council left Florence to continue at the Lateran Palace in Rome.

The Greeks left for home on October 19, 1439, and arrived in Constantinople in February 1440. Sad news awaited the Emperor — his wife had died. This may explain why he failed to act promptly when some of the Eastern prelates who had remained behind in Constantinople refused to have anything to do with those who had agreed to a union with the Roman Church in Florence. There were soon more overt acts against the union of the Churches. Anthony, Metropolitan of Heraclea, made a public repudiation of his signature to the document in Florence. Mark Eugenicus wrote and spoke against the union. Early in 1441, a group of prelates who had signed the decree in Florence disavowed the union.

The new Patriarch of Constantinople, Metrophanes, (Patriarch Joseph had died at the end of the Council of Florence) declared in favor of the union and wrote an encyclical proclaiming it. However, his voice was not enough to overpower the flair and common touch of Mark Eugenicus’ writings. In 1444 the Papal fleet and army joined with Venice and Hungary to fight the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish army of about 60,000 men attacked the Christian armies of about 20,000 to 30,000 men at Varna on November 10, 1444. A brave effort to capture Murad II, the leader of the Ottomans, by the young King of Hungary and his 500 horsemen failed and the Christians were defeated. Many Christians were killed and the way to Constantinople was open to the Turks who did indeed capture the city in 1453. In the years 1450 to 1451, the Eastern Orthodox Church convened a Council in Constantinople and rejected the decree from the Council of Florence. The pro-union Patriarch was dismissed and the Orthodox Athanasius was appointed to take his place.

So what was the point of those years of arguments, of careful research, of endless discussions? Even though the union did not last, several points of doctrine were discussed and defined. Giovanni da Montenero’s masterful examination of the procession of the Holy Spirit through Scripture, the writings of the ancient Fathers and the Councils is just one example of the intricate and intense work that went into these definitions. For those years in Ferrara, Florence, and Rome, hundreds of men gathered to understand difficult theological concepts with the sincere wish to reunite. Perhaps in some hearts, this wish was joined with the hope for help in defeating the Turks or other less than purely selfless motives. Still, they continued — the illness of the elderly Patriarch and the Emperor, the monetary difficulties of the Pope, the homesickness and worry over their homeland, the frustrations between two different cultures — and all of these pressures delivered arguments that give us a deeper understanding of our faith. For more on the Councils, see the book "Nicea to Now."

The Church Fathers Defended the Filioque

Church Fathers in the West, such as St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430), supported the Filioque clause. St. Augustine emphasized the unity of the Trinity and argued that the Holy Ghost's procession from both the Father and the Son was consistent with the shared divine essence of the Trinity.

The Orthodox churches - and there are several that are not in communion even with one another - deny that the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, proceeds from the Father and the Son. Those interested in the Church's treatment of this should look into Father Henry Chadwick's "The Early Church" or "Fr. John Meyendorff's "Byzantine Theology," which address this well. The Church Fathers all believed in the Filioque as well as shown in a powerful video debunking the errors of the Orthodox churches. All those who want to learn the truth should be compelled to watch that video.

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