francis-reading

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 17 March 2016 to 13 April 2016.

Angelus

Apostolic Exhortation

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The phenomenon of migration raises a serious cultural issue which necessarily demands a response.” @Pontifex 31 March 2016
  • “Passing through the Holy Door, let us put our trust in God’s grace, which can change our lives.” @Pontifex 1 April 2016
  • “To be merciful means to grow in a love which is courageous, generous and real.” @Pontifex 2 April 2016
  • “Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” @Pontifex 3 April 2016
  • “Christian faith is a gift which we receive in Baptism and which allows us to encounter God.” @Pontifex 4 April 2016
  • “The Lord asks us to be men and women who radiate the truth, beauty and the life-changing power of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 5 April 2016
  • “The Jubilee is a year-long celebration, in which every moment becomes a chance for us to grow in holiness.” @Pontifex 6 April 2016
  • “I encourage you to bear witness to Christ in your personal life and families: a witness of gratuitousness, solidarity, spirit of service.” @Pontifex 7 April 2016
  • “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The family is the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The word of God is a source of comfort for every family that experiences difficulty or suffering.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The family is a good which society cannot do without, and it ought to be protected.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “People with disabilities are a gift for the family and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “No one can think that the weakening of the family will prove beneficial to society as a whole.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “The strength of the family lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “Our teaching on marriage and the family cannot fail to be inspired by the message of love and tenderness.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “Every family, despite its weaknesses, can become a light in the darkness of the world.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Love opens our eyes and enables us to see the great worth of a human being.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Each new life allows us to appreciate the utterly gratuitous dimension of love.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “It is important for a child to feel wanted. He or she is not an accessory or a solution to some personal need.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Open and caring families find a place for the poor.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “The divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. They are not excommunicated.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “To know how to forgive and feel forgiven is a basic experience in family life.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “Fidelity has to do with patience. Its joys and sacrifices bear fruit as the years go by.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “Children are a wonderful gift from God and a joy for parents.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “The family is where we first learn to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “The home is the place where we learn to appreciate the beauty of the faith, to pray and serve our neighbor.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “It is essential that children see that prayer is something truly important for their parents.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “To understand, forgive, accompany and integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The Church must pattern her behavior after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever, it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The Lord’s presence dwells in families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.” @Pontifex 13 April 2016

Papal Instagram

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Pope Francis is having his "Inaugural Mass"? What's happens in this Mass, and why is it important?Pope Francis’s much anticipated document on the family has now been released.

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

 

1) What are the basic facts about the document?

It is called Amoris Laetitia (Latin, “the joy of love”), and it is what is known as a “post-synodal apostolic exhortation.”

An apostolic exhortation is a pastoral document in which the pope exhorts the Church. Although it contains doctrine, its primary focus is on pastoral care. (Apostolic exhortations are different than encyclicals, which do focus primarily on doctrine.)

When a pope issues an apostolic exhortation in response to a meeting of the synod of bishops (a gathering of bishops from around the world), it is called a post-synodal (“after the synod”) apostolic exhortation.

Amoris Laetitia was written in response to two meetings of the synod of bishops—one held in 2014 and one in 2015, both of which were devoted to the subject of the family.

You can read it here.

 

2) What subjects does the document cover?

It is a document that is 255 pages long, so it covers a wide array of topics connected with the family in today’s world. In his own summary of its contents, Pope Francis explains:

I will begin with an opening chapter inspired by the Scriptures, to set a proper tone.

I will then examine the actual situation of families, in order to keep firmly grounded in reality.

I will go on to recall some essential aspects of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family, thus paving the way for two central chapters dedicated to love.

I will then highlight some pastoral approaches that can guide us in building sound and fruitful homes in accordance with God’s plan, with a full chapter devoted to the raising of children.

Finally, I will offer an invitation to mercy and the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us, and conclude with a brief discussion of family spirituality (AL 6).

At the two synods of bishops the subject of pastoral care for those who are divorced and civilly remarried and of people with a homosexual orientation were discussed.

Although these are not the focus of Amoris Laetitiae—and, in fact, represent only a small part of what it has to say—they also represent the subjects many people will be most interested to know about, so they are what we will cover here.

 

3) What does the document say about homosexuality?

It says very little. It notes that same-sex unions “may not simply be equated with marriage” (AL 52). It also says:

During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children.

We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.

Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.

In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex” (AL 250-251).

And that’s it. Contrary to the hopes of some, the document did not attempt to reframe the Church’s teaching on same-sex activity or same-sex unions.

 

4) What does the document say regarding Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to give Holy Communion to some who are divorced and civilly remarried after a “penitential period.”

Nothing. This proposal is not brought up.

 

5) Does the document propose a specific, concrete solution to the problem of divorced and civilly remarried.

No. After reviewing a variety of defective marital situations in which people may find themselves, the document states:

If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases (AL 300).

Instead, the document articulates a set of principles to be applied to the pastoral care of such individuals.

 

6) What are these principles?

The chapter discussing them is more than 5,500 words long, so we can’t cover them fully, but they include:

  • Not watering down the Church’s teaching on marriage
  • Helping people grow toward realizing the Church’s teaching on marriage in their own lives
  • Recognizing that people in defective situations are not all in the same situation
  • Helping integrate such people into the life of the Church, based on what is possible in their individual cases.

 

7) What does the document say about not watering down the Church’s teaching on marriage?

In articulating the Church’s basic teaching, it states:

Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society (AL 292).

Later, it states:

In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur. . . .

A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves.

To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being (AL 307).

 

8) What does the document say about helping people grow toward realizing the Church’s teaching on marriage in their own lives?

It says:

The Fathers [of the synods] also considered the specific situation of a merely civil marriage or, with due distinction, even simple cohabitation, noting that “when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring, and demonstrate an ability to overcome trials, they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage” (AL 293, emphasis added).

It also says:

Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth” (Familiaris Consortio 34).

This is not a “gradualness of law” but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law.

For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being “advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life” (ibid., 9).

 

9) What does the document say about people in defective situations not all being in the same situation?

It says:

The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment.

One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins.

The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 84).

There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid” (ibid.).

Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family.

It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family (AL 298).

 

10) What does the document say about helping integrate such people into the life of the Church, based on what is possible in their individual cases?

It says:

I am in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal. . . .

“Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services, which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted.

“Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel.

“This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children, who ought to be considered most important” (AL 299).

It also says:

Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17).

Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.

Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest (AL 297).

And it says:

Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on what steps can foster it and make it grow.

Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.

For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it.”

These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions,” or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favors (AL 300).

 

11) Does the document foresee any possibility for sacramentally absolving and giving Communion to people who are civilly remarried if they are not living as brother and sister?

It does. In the main text of the document, it begins by noting certain principles to be taken into account, stating:

For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.

The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.

Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.

More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values,” or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. . . .

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735).

In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability” (CCC 2352).

For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved. (AL 301-302).

The document thus envisions the case of a person who may be living in an objectively sinful situation but who is not mortally culpable because of a variety of factors of a cognitive or psychological nature.

Nothing in this is new. The Church has long recognized that people living in objectively grave sin may not be in a state of mortal sin. Consequently, the document goes on to state:

Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin—which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such—a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end (AL 305).

At this point the text contains a footnote which states:

In certain cases, this [i.e., the Church’s help toward him growing in grace and charity] can include the help of the sacraments.

Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038).

I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039) (AL footnote 351).

The document thus envisions administering sacramental absolution and holy Communion to those living in objectively sinful situations who are not mortally culpable for their actions due to various cognitive or psychological conditions.

Since they are not mortally culpable, they could be validly absolved in confession and, being in the state of grace, they could in principle receive Communion.

 

12) Does the document say how common such situations are?

No. However, the fact it only makes this application of the principles in a footnote suggests that such situations are not common and that they are not to be presumed.

The same is indicated by the large number of cautions contained in the text regarding such things as:

  • The obligation to proclaim God’s full vision of marriage, not watering it down with “a lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal” (AL 307).
  • That people in such situations should either become sacramentally married (AL 293) or separate (AL 298) or live as brother and sister (cf. AL footnote 329).
  • People who flout Church teaching on marriage need to listen to the Gospel message and convert (AL 297).
  • That misunderstandings like a “priest can quickly grant ‘exceptions’” must be avoided (AL 300).
  • That cognitive or psychological conditions must exist which keep a person’s objective grave sin from becoming mortal (AL 301-302, 307).
  • The need to avoid scandal (AL 299).

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

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new-testamentIt’s surprising, but with a little sleuthing, we can get good estimates of when the authors of the New Testament were born.

Let’s put on our detective hats and see what we can learn about Paul and his circle of New Testament authors.

(Yesterday we looked at the Twelve and the brethren of Jesus.)

 

Paul

We first meet Paul in Acts 7:58, at the stoning of Stephen, where Luke describes him as “a young man named Saul.”

Since the Jewish authorities were imposing the death penalty on Steven—something they were normally forbidden by the Roman authorities to do (cf. John 18:30), this event likely occurred during the period immediately after Pontius Pilate’s dismissal as governor in A.D. 36, before the new governor arrived.

Someone described as “a young man” is likely between 20 and 30, with an average age of 25. However, given the leadership role that Paul was granted in persecuting the early Church, we will assume he was 28. If Paul was that age in A.D. 36 then he would have been born around A.D. 8.

This becomes a key date for helping us determine the ages of Paul’s companions.

 

Mark

We first hear of John Mark in Acts 12, which takes place in A.D. 43. At the end of this chapter, Mark accompanies Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, and he subsequently became their junior travelling companion on the First Missionary Journey (cf. Acts 13:5), though he soon left their company and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).

Based on our estimate of Paul’s year of birth, he would have been around 35 in A.D. 43, and Mark would have certainly been younger.

How much younger is hard to say, but we may have something of an analog in Timothy—the junior companion of Paul whose age we can most closely estimate.

As we will see below, Timothy began travelling with Paul when he was very young. It is probable that he was around 17 years old at the time.

This is probably unusually young for a Pauline traveling companion, but it indicates the kind of age that Paul’s junior companions could have at the beginning of their travels.

Mark was probably a bit older than this, though still a young man. We will assume that he was 23 when he first began travelling with Paul and Barnabas, in which case he would have been born around A.D. 20.

 

Luke

Although Luke was a travelling companion of Paul, he was a different kind of companion. The evidence we have indicates that he was more independent than Paul’s unmistakably junior companions (Mark, Timothy, Titus).

One line of evidence that indicates this is that he is not always with Paul in Acts. There are some passages—known as the “we” passages, where he uses the word “we” to describe the movements of Paul’s party. In these passages, he is present, but the “we” passages are interspersed with other passages where the party’s movements are described in the third person. Luke thus does not seem to have been with Paul on those occasions.

Also, unlike the unmistakably junior companions, we don’t have his absence explained by statements that Paul sent him on a mission (cf. Acts 19:22, 1 Tim. 1:3, Tit. 1:5). It thus seems that Luke may have made more of his own decisions about travel.

This is consistent with Paul’s description of Luke as “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). Physicians commanded more respect than junior associates who had no other career, and Paul was probably reluctant to give Luke commands the way he did other companions.

Physicians also tended to be older. Even in the ancient world, becoming a doctor would have required a comparatively lengthy apprenticeship, and Luke would have acquired his profession and practiced for some time before becoming Paul’s companion.

All of this speaks to Luke being more of a contemporary of Paul rather than a junior companion. Since he was still young enough to travel extensively (and amid conditions of hardship; cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-27), and since he was a subordinate, if somewhat independent companion, he probably wasn’t notably older than Paul.

We will therefore assume that they were approximately the same age.

We first encounter Luke in Acts 16:10, when Paul is in Troas and the first “we” passage begins. This appears to have taken place in A.D. 49, when Paul—and by extension Luke—would have been around 41 years old.

We thus estimate that Luke would have been born around A.D. 8.

 

Paul’s Co-Authors

Unusually for writers in the ancient world, Paul lists three individuals—Sosthenes, Silvanus, and Timothy—as co-authors of some of his letters. Though people seldom think of these men in this light, they therefore count as New Testament authors, and so we will estimate their ages.

 

Sosthenes

The most mysterious of the co-authors is Sosthenes. Paul lists him as having helped in writing 1 Corinthians, which he penned around A.D. 53 from Ephesus, during the period referred to in Acts 19:10.

Scholars have debated whether he is the same Sosthenes mentioned in Acts 18:17, who Luke describes as “a ruler of the synagogue” in Corinth and who was beaten by a crowd.

This is possible, but it is not certain. Unfortunately, Luke does not give us enough detail about this Sosthenes, and it is not even clear if he is a Christian or a non-Christian Jew.

It is possible, if he were not a Christian at the time, that he later became one and relocated to Ephesus (perhaps due to further persecution in Corinth), and so Paul decided to include him as a co-author since the Corinthians already knew him.

Since “Sosthenes” was an uncommon Greek name and since Paul introduces him to the Corinthians in a way that suggests he is familiar to them (referring to him simply as “our brother”; lit., “the brother”), we will assume that he is the same person.

The ruler of a synagogue would not be young, and the crowd would presumably not beat an elderly man. It is thus probable that Sosthenes was between 40 and 60 at the time. We will assume that he was 50 at the time of the beating, which would have taken place in A.D. 51.

We thus assume that Sosthenes was born around A.D. 1.

 

Silvanus

We first hear of Silas (aka Silvanus) in Acts 15:22, where he is describe as one of the “leading men among the brethren” in Jerusalem. He, along with Judas Barsabbas, is sent from the Jerusalem Council to take a letter with the council’s results to Antioch.

The council took place in A.D. 49, and the fact Silas was then a leading man in Jerusalem means that he was not a young man. Also, Luke tends to note it when he introduces a young man (cf. Luke 7:14, Acts 7:58, 20:9, 23:17-18, 22), though not always (see below).

Silas was not too old to travel, though. Indeed, he was still able to travel in the mid-A.D. 60s, because he was the letter carrier for 2 Peter (1 Pet. 5:12).

He was also willing to accept a subordinate position to Paul on the Second Missionary Journey (Acts 15:36-18:22), so he probably was not significantly older than Paul.

All of this suggests that he was approximately Paul’s contemporary, so we will place his birth in A.D. 8, making him 41 at the time of the Jerusalem Council.

 

Timothy

We first meet Timothy in Acts 16:1, when Paul visits Lystra. Unusually, Luke does not introduce Timothy as a young man, though he must have been, for in 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul tells Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth.”

Acts 16:1 took place in A.D. 49, and 1 Timothy was written around A.D. 65—sixteen years later! For Timothy to still be described as young at that point means he must have been very young when he became Paul’s travelling companion.

The fact he is listed as a co-author after Silvanus in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 also suggests he was younger than Silvanus.

A man of 40, or even a man near 40, would not have been despised for his youth, and so Timothy must have been in his early-to-mid 30s in A.D. 65, making him a teenager when he joined Paul.

We will assume that he was around 17 in A.D. 49, which would place his birth around A.D. 32.

 

John the Elder

There is a final figure we need to consider. Although John son of Zebedee is traditionally regarded as the author of the Johannine literature in the New Testament (i.e., John, 1-3 John, Revelation), there is reason to think that another figure—who the Church Fathers refer to as “John the Elder” or “John the Presbyter”—was responsible for at least some of it.

Thus St. Jerome and Pope Benedict XVI held John the Elder to have been the author at least of 2 and 3 John (both of which are addressed as being by “the Elder”). It is thought he may have had a role in other Johannine books also.

If he was responsible for any of these books, when he would have been born?

This is difficult to determine. The patristic evidence indicates that John the Elder was an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, making him at least a contemporary of he apostles.

The fact he is referred to as “the Elder” also suggests he was not a young man when he was in his literary prime. If he wrote 2 and 3 John, he was probably in his late 50s or 60s at the youngest.

Unfortunately, without knowing more it is hard to establish any firm date, so we will assume that he was a rough contemporary of the apostles and would have been born around A.D. 4.

 

Conclusion

From the above, we can establish the approximate birth years of the traditional authors of the New Testament as follows:

  • Matthew: A.D. 4
  • Mark: A.D. 20
  • Luke: A.D. 8
  • John: A.D. 7
  • Paul: A.D. 8
  • Sosthenes: A.D. 1
  • Silas: A.D. 8
  • Timothy: A.D. 32
  • James: 25 B.C.
  • Peter: A.D. 1
  • John the Elder: A.D. 4
  • Jude: 13 B.C.

Or, to put them in chronological order:

  • 25 B.C.: James the Just
  • 13 B.C.: Jude
  • D. 1: Peter and Sosthenes
  • D. 4: Matthew and John the Elder
  • D. 7: John son of Zebedee
  • D. 8: Paul, Luke, and Silas
  • D. 20: Mark
  • D. 32: Timothy

Bear in mind that these are only approximations. People in the ancient world did not keep track of birth years as rigorously as we do, and we have very incomplete evidence. The actual years undoubtedly vary somewhat from these.

However, the estimates provide a starting point for answering questions like, “Could the traditional authors of the New Testament have written the books attributed to them?”

That’s a subject we’ll talk about soon.

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

twelve apostlesWouldn’t it be neat to know more about the apostles?—like when they were born?

How about members of Jesus’ family?

It turns out, we can figure that out with more reliability than you might suppose.

Let’s put on our detective hats and see what we can discover . . .

 

A Key Insight

I was a child in the 1970s. It was a tumultuous time. It followed the youth rebellion of the late 1960s, and there were many, similar youth rebellions and protest movements in different parts of the world in the ’70s.

Listening to TV and radio reports of everything that was happening, I couldn’t help but notice that—over and over again—the people involved in these movements were young. It didn’t matter where in the world they were—Iran, West Germany, South Korea, or anywhere else—it was always young people and “students” who were involved.

The pattern was so striking that I asked my father—a university professor—why it was always young people involved in these revolutionary movements.

I don’t recall his exact words, but my memory is that he said they had less to lose. Young people haven’t yet put down roots in society. They haven’t married, gotten jobs, and established families, and so they could join revolutionary movements without threatening the lives that they were building for themselves and their loved ones.

One thing that I’m sure my father didn’t mention, though it’s true, is that passions also run high in youth. It’s part of the nature of the beast. In adolescence, our hormones are famously raging, and part of that continues into young adulthood.

Thus St. Paul warns St. Timothy:

Shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22).

St. Paul undoubtedly meant the sexual passions that rage during youth, but youth is a passionate time for many reasons, not all of them sexual. Young people feel everything with a special passion, and that is part of what leads them into revolutionary movements all over the world.

Including Palestine.

Including in the first century.

In view of this, we would expect that the majority of the followers of the revolutionary movement started by Jesus of Nazareth would be young.

Specifically: They would be younger that he was.

I mean, if he was leading a revolutionary movement of young people, it is unlikely that the average age of his followers would be higher than his! Individual followers may have been, but this would not have been the norm.

That raises an important question . . .

 

What are the dates for Jesus’ birth and ministry?

Most scholars today think that Jesus was born around 6 B.C., and possibly earlier.

This date is based on the idea that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who they hold to have died in 4 B.C.

The Gospel of Matthew indicates that Jesus was as much as two years old when Herod died (see Matt. 2:16), which would require a date of 6 B.C. or earlier—if Herod died in 4 B.C.

However, Herod did not die if 4 B.C. Instead, he died in 1 B.C. As a result, it turns out that the Church Fathers were correct in placing the birth of Jesus in 3/2 B.C.

Luke reports that John the Baptist began his ministry “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (Luke 3:1), or A.D. 29. He also reports that Jesus began his ministry (very) shortly after John and that “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23).

This fits with the date established for his birth. If he was born in 3/2 B.C. then, bearing in mind there is no “Year 0” in the B.C./A.D. system, he would have been “about thirty” in A.D. 29. (In fact, his 30th birthday would have fallen in A.D. 29 if he was born in 2 B.C., due to the absence of a “Year 0”).

Since we can show that Jesus was crucified on April 3, A.D. 33, that means he was between 33 and 34 years old at the time of the Crucifixion.

This gives us a basis to calculate the probable ages of the apostles and the New Testament authors.

 

The Ages of the Twelve

If Jesus was thirty when he began his ministry and the twelve apostles tended to be younger than him, their average age would be somewhere in the twenties.

It’s hardly likely that Jesus was leading around teenagers—people around half his age—so the twenties are the correct time. Let us suppose that they were, on average, twenty-five years of age at the time Jesus’ ministry began.

If so, the average apostle would have been born around A.D. 4.

We can refine this estimate in a few cases, though, because among the Twelve there were at least two sets of brothers—Peter and Andrew (sons of Jonah) and James and John (sons of Zebedee).

We have no evidence that they were twin brothers. Twins are very uncommon, and we already have reason to think that Thomas was a twin (that’s what both his Aramaic and Greek names mean), so Thomas probably wouldn’t have been called “the Twin” (John 11:16) if there were other twins in the group.

Protocol would indicate that the brothers named first were older, so there must be some time between the births of the elder brothers (Peter and James) and the younger brothers (Andrew and John).

Although it is possible that only a year separated the older from the younger, this is unlikely. Not only do couples typically delay the resumption of marital relations after a birth, in the ancient world, ordinary mothers breast fed their children, which tended to delay the next pregnancy. There were miscarriages, stillbirths, and cases of infant mortality. Half of all children were girls, and there could even be an intervening brother who did not follow Jesus. Between these factors, a considerable amount of time is likely to have passed between the birth of the older brother and that of the younger. We will estimate the period as being six years.

This means that we may estimate Peter and James as having been born three years earlier than the average estimated birth year (i.e., in A.D. 1) and Andrew and John as being born three years later (i.e., in A.D. 7).

This would give us estimated birth years for three of the traditional authors of the New Testament:

  • Peter: A.D. 1
  • Matthew: A.D. 4
  • John son of Zebedee: A.D. 7

 

The Brethren of the Lord

Two of Jesus’ “brothers”—James the Just and Jude—also authored books of the New Testament.

There have been attempts to identify them with the apostles known as James son of Alphaeus and Jude Thaddeus.

However, this is implausible, because John’s Gospel unambiguously indicates that Jesus’ “brothers” were not disciples during his ministry, stating, “even his brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). It is thus scarcely likely that two of them were among the apostles that followed him during his ministry.

We thus can’t use the average age of apostles to determine the age of these two figures. However, we may be able to determine their probable ages in another way.

If the theory—common in Protestant circles—were true that they were Jesus’ younger half-brothers (born to Joseph and Mary) then we might estimate their birth years based on Jesus’ birth year. However, this view is excluded by other information we have, which indicates that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus.

Since the time of St. Jerome, it has been common in Western Catholicism to propose that the brethren of the Lord were cousins. If so, we have no way of telling whether they were older or younger cousins (or both). We would know only that they were of the same generation as Jesus, which we could have determined anyway.

However, the earliest proposal for who the brethren of the Lord were—a proposal that dates to the A.D. 100s, making it older than either of the above views, and which has always been the view maintained in Eastern Catholicism and Eastern Christianity—is that they were Jesus’ step-brothers, that is, children of Joseph by a prior marriage. As an elderly widower, Joseph was not seeking to begin a family and thus was willing to serve as the guardian of a consecrated virgin like Mary.

If so, the brethren would have been older than Jesus—but by how much?

The Gospels identify Jesus’ brethren as James, Joses (Joseph), Jude, and Simon (Matt. 13:55, Mark 6:3a). They also indicate that he had at least two “sisters” (Matt. 13:56, Mark 6:3b).

We have already taken into account the effect that sisters would have had on the average gap between surviving sons, so if the above list reflects the birth order of Jesus’ brethren (as is probable), we may estimate that James was the oldest, that Joses was six years his junior, that Judas was twelve years his junior, and that Simon was eighteen years his junior.

We must also allow time for Joseph’s first wife to pass and for him to grieve and then become the husband of Mary. We will assume that this represented three years, since men with small children (as Simon would have been) tended to remarry quickly in the ancient world.

After marrying, it was customary to wait a year before beginning cohabitation, and Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit during this period.

That would give us the following estimates for the births of Jesus and his brethren:

  • James: 25 B.C.
  • Joses: 19 B.C.
  • Jude: 13 B.C.
  • Simon: 7 B.C.
  • Jesus: 3/2 B.C.

Of course, these are only estimates, and Jesus’ brethren—or some of them—may have been born much less than six years apart.

On the other hand, around A.D. 378, in his Panarion, St. Epiphanius of Salamis reports a tradition that James died at the age of 96. From Josephus, we know that James was martyred in A.D. 62, in which case he would have been born in 35 B.C., so the above estimates might be too late rather than too early.

Either way, however, the brethren would have been significantly older than Jesus, which may explain their attitude of disbelief during Jesus’ ministry. As Jesus said, a prophet has no honor in his own family.

From their perspective, Jesus was the much younger son of their father’s second wife, and it took the miracle of the Resurrection to convince them that he was the Messiah.

UP NEXT: We can also figure out when the other authors of the New Testament were born. Stay tuned!

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

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pope-francis-st-patrickThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 24 March 2016 to 30 March 2016.

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Annointed with the oil of gladness to pass on the joy of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 24 March 2016
  • “Jesus loved us. Jesus loves us. Without limit, always, to the end.” @Pontifex 24 March 2016
  • “Impress, Lord, in our hearts the sentiments of faith, hope, love and sorrow for our sins.” @Pontifex 25 March 2016
  • “The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.” @Pontifex 25 March 2016
  • “To live Easter means to enter into the mystery of Jesus who died and rose for us.” @Pontifex 26 March 2016
  • “Jesus Christ is risen! Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!” @Pontifex 26 March 2016
  • “Every Christian is a “Christopher”, that is, a bearer of Christ!” @Pontifex 27 March 2016
  • “Jesus shows us the real face of God, for whom power does not mean destruction but love, and for whom justice is not vengeance but mercy.” @Pontifex 28 March 2016
  • “If we open ourselves up to welcome God’s mercy for ourselves, in turn we become capable of forgiveness.” @Pontifex 30 March 2016

Papal Instagram

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mirrorheadlineOn Easter Sunday Matt Drudge was carrying the following headline:

POPE: Defeat ISIS with ‘weapons of love’ . . .

The link was to this story by the UK’s Mirror, which itself carried the headline:

Pope Francis says defeat Islamic State ‘with weapons of love’ during Easter message

The headline is utterly false—as well as an example of incompetent journalism.

The headline makes it look like the pope was advocating some kind of nonviolent approach to ISIS, and that’s simply not what he was doing.

Here are the facts . . .

 

1) What message was the story referring to?

Although the story did not say so, it was the pope’s Easter Urbi et Orbi message.

Every Christmas and Easter, pope release an Urbi et Orbi (Latin, “to the city and the world”) message. It addresses concerns in the city of Rome and the world at large.

The official English translation of this message is not yet out, but the Italian original is here.

And here’s a Google Translate version.

UPDATE: Here’s a translation provided by Edward Pentin.

 

2) Did the pope say anything about Iraq?

Yes. He mentioned it twice, first saying that he hoped the “message of life” would “promote a fruitful exchange between peoples and cultures in other areas of the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Libya.”

Then he expressed closeness to the victims of terrorism “in different parts of the world, as has happened in recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Iraq.”

 

3) But he didn’t mention the Islamic State?

Nope. Not once.

 

4) Does he say anyone should defeat anybody with “weapons of love”?

Nope. Not once.

 

4) Does he mention “weapons of love”?

Yes. He says that “With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death.”

 

5) Are you quoting from Google Translate for that?

Nope. I’m quoting from the Mirror article itself.

 

6) Wait. You mean the Mirror article itself quotes the pope saying God (not humans) has (not should) defeated evil and selfishness (not the Islamic State) and in the past (not the future)? That’s completely different than what its headline says!

That’s right.

 

7) Who writes newspaper headlines?

They can be suggested by the authors of the pieces, but ultimate control of them is in the hands of editors—who frequently write them.

 

8) Who wrote and edited this piece?

The piece was written by John Shammas, whose Twitter profile describes him as “Half Irish, Half Iraqi.”

I have not yet been able to establish who edited the piece or whether the author or editor wrote the headline.

 

9) Can we let the author off on the grounds that the editor may have written the headline?

Unfortunately, no. The first paragraph of the article reads:

Pope Francis has urged the world in his Easter message to use the “weapons of love” to combat the evil of “blind and brutal violence” following the tragic attacks in Brussels.

That is not what the pope said. The only time he referred to anyone using “weapons of love” was when he applied this metaphor to God’s action in the past.

 

10) Regardless of how the blame should be apportioned between the reporter and the editor, can this be chalked up to anything less than journalistic incompetence?

No. Both the article and the headline lead the reader to think that the pope said something which he did not say.

They both take a phrase that the pope used to describe God’s past action and made it appear that the pope applied it to man’s future actions.

That’s at least incompetence.

It may even be worse than incompetence. It may be malfeasance.

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

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Easter is the most important day of the Christian calendar, even more important than Christmas. Here are 9 things you need to know.

The great day is finally here: Easter, the most important day of the Christian calendar. More important even than Christmas.

What happened on this day?

Was Jesus’ resurrection a real, historical event?

How does the Church celebrate this day?

Is Easter a pagan holiday?

Here are 8 things you need to know.

 

1. What happened on Easter?

Among other things:

  • The women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.
  • They saw angels, who told them he wasn’t there.
  • They went to tell the apostles, who initially didn’t believe them.
  • Peter and the beloved disciple rushed to see the tomb and found it empty.
  • Mary Magdalen, in particular, had an encounter with the risen Christ.
  • So did the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
  • So did Peter.
  • So did all the apostles except Thomas (who would have one later).
  • Jesus had risen from the dead!

To read about the events in the New Testament, you can use these links:

 

2. Was Jesus’ Resurrection a real, historical event or something else?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

 639 The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness.

In about A.D. 56 St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians:

“I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. . .”

The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus.

 

3. What is the significance of the empty tomb?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

 640 . . . The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.

Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection.

This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter.  The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”.

This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb’s condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.

 

4. What significance to the post-Resurrection appearances of Christ have?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

641 Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to encounter the Risen One.

Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ’s Resurrection for the apostles themselves. . . .

642 Everything that happened during those Paschal days involves each of the apostles – and Peter in particular – in the building of the new era begun on Easter morning.

As witnesses of the Risen One, they remain the foundation stones of his Church. the faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them.

Peter and the Twelve are the primary “witnesses to his Resurrection”, but they are not the only ones – Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the apostles.

643 Given all these testimonies, Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact.

 

5. What significance does Christ’s Resurrection have for us?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

651 “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

The Resurrection above all constitutes the confirmation of all Christ’s works and teachings.

All truths, even those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification if Christ by his Resurrection has given the definitive proof of his divine authority, which he had promised.

 658 Christ, “the first-born from the dead” ( Col 1:18), is the principle of our own resurrection, even now by the justification of our souls (cf Rom 6:4), and one day by the new life he will impart to our bodies (cf Rom 8:11).

 

6. How do we commemorate this day?

The big celebration of Easter was on the evening of Holy Saturday. It was the Easter Vigil Mass. Consequently, Easter Sunday celebrations–at least as far as the Church is concerned (as opposed to all the egg hunts and baby ducks and marshmallow peeps)–is more restrained.

According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschalis Solemnitatis:

97. Mass is to be celebrated on Easter Day with great solemnity.

It is appropriate that the penitential rite on this day take the form of a sprinkling with water blessed at the Vigil, during which the antiphon Vidi aquam, or some other song of baptismal character should be sung.

The fonts at the entrance to the church should also be filled with the same water.

 

7. What is the role of the “Paschal [i.e., Easter] candle”?

Paschales Solemnitatis explains:

99. The paschal candle has its proper place either by the ambo or by the altar and should be lit at least in all the more solemn liturgical celebrations of the season until Pentecost Sunday, whether at Mass, or at Morning and Evening Prayer.

After the Easter season the candle should be kept with honor in the baptistry, so that in the celebration of Baptism the candles of the baptized may be lit from them.

In the celebration of funerals, the paschal candle should be placed near the coffin to indicate that the death of a Christian is his own passover.

The paschal candle should not otherwise be lit nor placed in the sanctuary outside the Easter season.

 

8. Is Easter a pagan holiday?

Absolutely not!

Here’s a video I did on precisely that subject:

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

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On Holy Saturday the earth waits in stillness for the Resurrection of the Lord. Here are 9 things you need to know about it. On Holy Saturday the earth waits in stillness for the Resurrection of the Lord. Here are 9 things you need to know about it.

Everytime we say the creed, we note that Jesus “descended into hell.”

Holy Saturday is the day that commemorates this event.

What happened on this day, and how do we celebrate it?

Here are 12 things you need to know.

 

1. What happened on the first Holy Saturday?

Here on earth, Jesus’ disciples mourned his death and, since it was a sabbath day, they rested.

Luke notes that the women returned home “and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).

At the tomb, the guards that had been stationed there kept watch over the place to make sure that the disciples did not steal Jesus’ body.

Meanwhile . . .

 

2. What happened to Jesus while he was dead?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.

Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:

“It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Saviour in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”

Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

634 “The gospel was preached even to the dead.” The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment.

This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

 

3. How do we commemorate this day?

According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:

73. On Holy Saturday the Church is, as it were, at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting.

It is highly recommended that on this day the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer be celebrated with the participation of the people (cf. n. 40).

Where this cannot be done, there should be some celebration of the Word of God, or some act of devotion suited to the mystery celebrated this day.

74. The image of Christ crucified or lying in the tomb, or the descent into hell, which mystery Holy Saturday recalls, as also an image of the sorrowful Virgin Mary can be placed in the church for the veneration of the faithful.

Fasting is also encouraged, but not required, on this day.

 

4. Are the sacraments celebrated?

For the most part, no. Paschales Solemnitatis explains:

75. On this day the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Holy Communion may only be given in the form of Viaticum.

The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.

The prohibition on saying Mass applies to the part of the day before the Easter Vigil Mass (see below).

Baptism in danger of death is also permitted.

 

5. What is the Easter Vigil?

A vigil is the liturgical commemoration of a notable feast, held on the evening preceding the feast.

The term comes from the Latin word vigilia, which means “wakefulness,” and which came to be used when the faithful stayed awake to pray and do devotional exercises in anticipation of the feast.

Easter Vigil is the vigil held on the evening before Easter.

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

80. From the very outset the Church has celebrated that annual Pasch, which is the solemnity of solemnities, above all by means of a night vigil.

For the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope, and through Baptism and Confirmation we are inserted into the Paschal Mystery of Christ, dying, buried, and raised with him, and with him we shall also reign.

The full meaning of Vigil is a waiting for the coming of the Lord.

 

6. When should Easter Vigil be celebrated?

Paschales Solemnitatis explains:

 78. “The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday.”

This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept into many places in violation of this ruling, whereby the Easter Vigil is celebrated at the time of day that it is customary to celebrate anticipated Sunday Masses.

Those reasons which have been advanced in some quarters for the anticipation of the Easter Vigil, such as lack of public order, are not put forward in connection with Christmas night, nor other gatherings of various kinds.

7. What happens at the Easter Vigil?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

81. The order for the Easter Vigil is arranged so that

  • after the service of light and the Easter Proclamation (which is the first part of the Vigil),
  • Holy Church meditates on the wonderful works which the Lord God wrought for his people from the earliest times (the second part or Liturgy of the Word),
  • to the moment when, together with those new members reborn in Baptism (third part),
  • she is called to the table prepared by the Lord for his Church—the commemoration of his death and resurrection—until he comes (fourth part).

 

8. What happens during the service of light?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

82. . . . In so far as possible, a suitable place should be prepared outside the church for the blessing of the new fire, whose flames should be such that they genuinely dispel the darkness and light up the night.

The paschal candle should be prepared, which for effective symbolism must be made of wax, never be artificial, be renewed each year, be only one in number, and be of sufficiently large size so that it may evoke the truth that Christ is the light of the world. It is blessed with the signs and words prescribed in the Missal or by the Conference of Bishops.

83. The procession, by which the people enter the church, should be led by the light of the paschal candle alone. Just as the children of Israel were guided at night by a pillar of fire, so similarly, Christians follow the risen Christ. There is no reason why to each response “Thanks be to God” there should not be added some acclamation in honor of Christ.

The light from the paschal candle should be gradually passed to the candles which it is fitting that all present should hold in their hands, the electric lighting being switched off.

 

9. What happens during the Easter Proclamation?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

 84. The deacon makes the Easter Proclamation which tells, by means of a great poetic text, the whole Easter mystery placed in the context of the economy of salvation.

In case of necessity, where there is no deacon, and the celebrating priest is unable to sing it, a cantor may do so.

The Bishops’ Conferences may adapt this proclamation by inserting into it acclamations from the people.

 

10. What happens during the Scripture readings?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

85. The readings from Sacred Scripture constitute the second part of the Vigil. They give an account of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation, which the faithful are helped to meditate calmly upon by the singing of the responsorial psalm, by a silent pause and by the celebrant’s prayer.

The restored Order for the Vigil has seven readings from the Old Testament chosen from the Law and the Prophets, which are in use everywhere according to the most ancient tradition of East and West, and two readings from the New Testament, namely from the Apostle and from the Gospel.

Thus the Church, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” explains Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

Consequently wherever this is possible, all the readings should be read so that the character of the Easter Vigil, which demands that it be somewhat prolonged, be respected at all costs.

Where, however, pastoral conditions require that the number of readings be reduced, there should be at least three readings from the Old Testament, taken from the Law and the Prophets; the reading from Exodus chapter 14 with its canticle must never be omitted.

87. After the readings from the Old Testament, the hymn “Gloria in excelsis” is sung, the bells are rung in accordance with local custom, the collect is recited, and the celebration moves on to the readings from the New Testament. An exhortation from the Apostle on Baptism as an insertion into Christ’s Paschal Mystery is read.

Then all stand and the priest intones the “Alleluia” three times, each time raising the pitch. The people repeat it after him.

If it is necessary, the psalmist or cantor may sing the “Alleluia,” which the people then take up as an acclamation to be interspersed between the verses of Psalm 117, so often cited by the Apostles in their Easter preaching.

Finally, the resurrection of the Lord is proclaimed from the Gospel as the high point of the whole Liturgy of the Word.

After the Gospel a homily is to be given, no matter how brief.

 

11. What happens during the baptismal liturgy?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

88. The third part of the Vigil is the baptismal liturgy. Christ’s passover and ours is now celebrated.

This is given full expression in those churches which have a baptismal font, and more so when the Christian initiation of adults is held, or at least the Baptism of infants.

Even if there are no candidates for Baptism, the blessing of baptismal water should still take place in parish churches. If this blessing does not take place at the baptismal font, but in the sanctuary, baptismal water should be carried afterwards to the baptistry there to be kept throughout the whole of paschal time.

Where there are neither candidates for Baptism nor any need to bless the font, Baptism should be commemorated by the blessing of water destined for sprinkling upon the people.

89. Next follows the renewal of baptismal promises, introduced by some words on the part of the celebrating priest.

The faithful reply to the questions put to them, standing and holding lighted candles in their hands. They are then sprinkled with water: in this way the gestures and words remind them of the Baptism they have received.

The celebrating priest sprinkles the people by passing through the main part of the church while all sing the antiphon “Vidi aquam” or another suitable song of a baptismal character.

 

12. What happens during the Eucharistic liturgy?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

90. The celebration of the Eucharist forms the fourth part of the Vigil and marks its high point, for it is in the fullest sense the Easter Sacrament, that is to say, the commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross and the presence of the risen Christ, the completion of Christian initiation, and the foretaste of the eternal pasch.

92. It is fitting that in the Communion of the Easter Vigil full expression be given to the symbolism of the Eucharist, namely by consuming the Eucharist under the species of both bread and wine. The local Ordinaries will consider the appropriateness of such a concession and its ramifications.

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

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If Jesus died on the cross in A.D. 33 and made forgiveness possible, how does that apply to people who lived before or after this event? (Like us!)

Good Friday is the most somber day of the Christian year.

It is the day our Savior died for us.

It is the day we were redeemed from our sins by the voluntary death of God Himself at the hands of man.

Here are 9 things you need to know.

 

1. Why is this day called “Good Friday”

It’s not for the reason you might think.

Despite the fact that “good” is a common English word, tempting us to say the name is based on the fact that something very good (our redemption) happened on this day, that’s not where the name comes from.

Precisely where it does come from is disputed. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from “God’s Friday” (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not speciallyEnglish.

It is also argued that the name is based on a Medieval use of the word good where it meant “holy.” Thus “Good Friday” would have come from “Holy Friday,” the same way we have Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.

 

2. What happened on the first Good Friday?

Quite a number of things. During the night, Jesus had been arrested and taken before the high priests Annas and Caiaphas. It was during this time that Peter denied him.

According to the gospels, Jesus:

  • Was taken before Pilate in the morning
  • Sent to Herod
  • Returned to Pilate
  • Was mocked and beaten
  • Saw Barabbas released in his stead
  • Was crowned with thorns
  • Was condemned to death
  • Carried the crushing burden of his cross
  • Told the weeping women what would happen in the future
  • Was crucified between two thieves
  • Forgave those who crucified him
  • Entrusted the Virgin Mary to the beloved disciple
  • Assured the good thief of his salvation
  • Said his famous seven last words
  • Cried out and died

In addition:

  • There was darkness over the land
  • There was an earthquake
  • The veil of the temple was torn in two
  • Many saints of the Old Testament period were raised
  • A soldier pierced Christ’s side and blood and water flowed out
  • Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body
  • He was buried in Joseph’s own tomb
  • A guard was set over the tomb
  • All Jesus’ friends and family grieved at his death

If you’d like to read the gospel accounts themselves, you can use these links:

 

3. How do we celebrate Good Friday today?

According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:

58. On this day, when “Christ our passover was sacrificed,” the Church:

  • meditates on the passion of her Lord and Spouse,
  • adores the cross,
  • commemorates her origin from the side of Christ asleep on the cross,
  • and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world.

 

4. Are fast and abstinence required on Good Friday?

Yes. Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

60. Good Friday is a day of penance to be observed as of obligation in the whole Church, and indeed through abstinence and fasting.

For more information on the requirement of fast and abstinence, you should click here.

 

5. Are the sacraments celebrated on Good Friday?

For the most part, no. Good Friday is the only day of the year on which the celebration of Mass is forbidden.

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

59. On this day, in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist.

Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion alone, though it may be brought at any time of the day to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration.

61. All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick.

Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells.

Baptism in danger of death is also permitted.

 

6. What liturgical celebrations occur on this day?

The principal one is known as the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. It includes:

  • A liturgy of the word
  • The adoration of the cross
  • A Communion service using hosts already consecrated.

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

63. The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion is to take place in the afternoon, at about three o’clock.

The time will be chosen which seems most appropriate for pastoral reasons in order to allow the people to assemble more easily, for example shortly after midday, or in the late evening, however not later than nine o’clock.

 

7. How is the cross venerated?

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

68. For veneration of the cross, let a cross be used that is of appropriate size and beauty, and let one of the forms for this rite as found in the Roman Missal be followed.

The rite should be carried out with the splendor worthy of the mystery of our salvation: both the invitation pronounced at the unveiling of the cross, and the people’s response should be made in song, and a period of respectful silence is to be observed after each act of veneration—the celebrant standing and holding the raised cross.

69. The cross is to be presented to each of the faithful individually for their adoration since the personal adoration of the cross is a most important feature in this celebration; only when necessitated by the large numbers of faithful present should the rite of veneration be made simultaneously by all present.

Only one cross should be used for the veneration, as this contributes to the full symbolism of the rite.

During the veneration of the cross the antiphons, “Reproaches,” and hymns should be sung, so that the history of salvation be commemorated through song. Other appropriate songs may also be sung (cf. n. 42).

 

8. What happens after the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion?

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

71. After the celebration, the altar is stripped; the cross remains however, with four candles.

An appropriate place (for example, the chapel of repose used for reservation of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday) can be prepared within the church, and there the Lord’s cross is placed so that the faithful may venerate and kiss it, and spend some time in meditation.

 

9. Are other devotions appropriate to Good Friday?

Paschales Solemnitatis notes:

72. Devotions such as the “Way of the Cross,” processions of the passion, and commemorations of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not, for pastoral reasons, to be neglected.

The texts and songs used, however, should be adapted to the spirit of the Liturgy of this day.

Such devotions should be assigned to a time of day that makes it quite clear that the Liturgical celebration by its very nature far surpasses them in importance.

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 7 December 2015 to 23 March 2016.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Letters

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “… That families in need may receive the necessary support and that children may grow up in healthy and peaceful environments.” @Pontifex 12 March 2016
  • “Pray for me.” @Pontifex 13 March 2016
  • “The Sacrament of Reconciliation allows us to draw near to the Father with trust to have the certainty of his forgiveness.” @Pontifex 14 March 2016
  • “God is truly “rich in mercy” and extends it abundantly upon those who appeal to Him with a sincere heart.” @Pontifex 15 March 2016
  • “As we exit the confessional, we will feel his strength which gives new life and restores ardor to the faith. After confession we are reborn.” @Pontifex 16 March 2016
  • “No one can be excluded from the mercy of God. The Church is the house where everyone is welcomed and no one is rejected.” @Pontifex 17 March 2016
  • “The greater the sin, the greater the love that must be shown by the Church to those who repent.” @Pontifex 18 March 2016
  • “I am beginning a new journey, on Instagram, to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God.” @Pontifex 19 March 2016
  • “Let us come to Him and let us not be afraid! Let us come to Him and say from the depths of our hearts: “Jesus, I trust in You!”” @Pontifex 20 March 2016
  • “Let us take our Christian calling seriously and commit to live as believers.” @Pontifex 21 March 2016
  • “I entrust to God’s mercy all those who lost their lives. #Brussels” @Pontifex 22 March 2016
  • “With how much love Jesus looks at us! With how much love He heals our sinful heart! Our sins never scare Him.” @Pontifex 23 March 2016

Papal Instagram

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