Mary was a ‘courageous woman’ up to the end, Pope Francis says

 

 

Commemorating the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John which recounted Jesus’ final moments on the cross. Mary, the pope said, had heard Simeon’s prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart and knew that her son would one day give his life for humanity.

“At the very end, she is there, standing, looking at her son” on the cross. “Maybe she heard comments: ‘Look, there is the mother of one of the three delinquents.’ But she remains. Silent. She is the mother, she does not deny her son,” the pope said Sept. 15 in his homily during a morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Commemorating the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John which recounted Jesus’ final moments on the cross.

Mary, the pope said, had heard Simeon’s prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart and knew that her son would one day give his life for humanity.
Yet she followed Jesus the whole time, which is why “we say that Mary is the first disciple,” the pope said.

Francis told those gathered in the chapel with him that the scene of Mary at the foot of the cross is something to be contemplated in silence rather than explained.

From the cross, “‘woman,’ – her son says – ‘behold your children.’ He doesn’t say ‘mother,’ he says ‘woman,’” the pope said. “A strong, courageous woman; a woman who was there to say, ‘This is my son: I do not deny him.’”

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Taken from: https://cruxnow.com/cns/2017/09/15/mary-courageous-woman-end-pope-francis-says/

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Catholic Benefits Association presses Trump to end contraceptive mandate

Catholic Benefits Association presses Trump to end contraceptive mandate

President Donald Trump talks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. (Credit: Evan Vucci/AP.)
August 30, 2017
The Catholic Benefits Association, based in Castle Rock, Colorado, and representing more than 1,000 Catholic health care providers, has been the largest single plaintiff challenging the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. The association first sued the government in March 2014. CBA members are facing $6 billion in accumulated penalties should the issue fail to be resolved.

“This is a problem that’s easily remedied,” Douglas C. Wilson, CBA’s chief executive officer, told Catholic News Service. “It was created by Obama’s regulatory administration and it can be undone by the Trump administration just as easily.”
In an August 18 letter, Wilson asked the Trump administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to stop defending the mandate in court and agree to a permanent injunction protecting the plaintiffs in all cases. The letter also urged the White House to adopt, unchanged, a proposed HHS regulation, submitted in May, to exempt employers with conscientious objections from having to comply with such mandates.
The mandate requires employers to provide coverage for contraception and abortifacients, opposed by Catholic moral teaching, under penalty of fines.
Wilson said he has not yet received anything other than a pro forma White House acknowledgement of the letter.
Asked about it during an August 24 news conference, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, “I’m not sure if (Trump is) aware of the complaints or any specific places where that’s being ignored.”
On May 4, Trump, in a Rose Garden ceremony, announced an executive order, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.”
“Your long ordeal will soon be over,” he announced to religious groups that included the Little Sisters of the Poor, whose Supreme Court victory in 2016 was widely considered the beginning of the end of the contraception mandate. “We are ending the attacks on your religious freedom.”

RELATED: Post-Bannon, do Catholics have sway in the Trump White House?

The CBA, based in Castle Rock, Colorado, and representing more than 1,000 Catholic health care providers, has been the largest single plaintiff challenging the mandate. The association first sued HHS in March 2014. CBA members “are facing $6 billion in accumulated penalties should this fail to be resolved,” Wilson said.
In July, the CBA filed a motion with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver asking for affirmation of its 2014 injunction blocking implementation of the mandate. But on July 31, Justice Department lawyers opposed the motion and asked that the appeal be kept alive.
“They cited only some unspecified efforts to reach a regulatory resolution outside of the judicial process, but we have no guarantee that such a resolution will be either timely or sufficient,” Wilson’s letter argued.

(HHS Secretary Tom Price) “believes that the Little Sisters, eighty Catholic bishops, and hundreds of other religious employers should win their lawsuits. The president likewise has promised the religious employers victory. But for whatever reason, the Justice Department keeps defending Obama’s contraception mandate in court,” Eric Kniffin, a CBA lawyer said.
Wilson added, “It seems that this issue never crosses the finish line”.

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Taken from: https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2017/08/30/catholic-benefits-association-presses-trump-end-contraceptive-mandate/

Pope Francis at Angelus: all have role in building Church

27/08/2017 14:13

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.
Gospel episodeAhead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father reflected on the day’s reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, in which the Lord asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus said to Peter in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Pope: Christ build Church on firm foundations

Pope Francis said the Lord continues to build His Church in our present day. “Even with us today,” he said, “Christ desires to build His Church, this house solid foundations, which nevertheless does not want for cracks, and which always needs to be reformed, repaired, as in the time of St. Francis of Assisi.”

No “stone” is useless

Pope Francis likened people who have received the Gospel, and those for whom the Gospel in intended, to the little stones that often cause us the most trouble when we feel them underfoot, or that appear ill-suited to use in the edification of grand structures, saying that no one is without some part to play, some role to fill as building material.
“No stone is useless,” he said.

Click below to hear our report

Mp3

“Rather,” the Pope went on to say, “in the hands of Jesus [the littlest stone] becomes precious, because he picks it up, looks at it with tenderness, works it with his Spirit and puts it in the right place, where He had ever a mind to put it, and where it can be most useful to the whole building.”

Pope Francis: I’m saddened by ‘perfect’ Catholics who despise others

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VATICAN CITY (CNS)—God did not choose perfect people to form his church, but rather sinners who have experienced his love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.

The Gospel of Luke’s account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how his actions went against the general mentality of his time, a way of thinking that saw a “clear separation” between the pure and impure, the pope said Aug. 9 during his weekly general audience.

“There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect,” the pope said. “And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad.”

Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the pope reflected on Jesus’ “scandalous gesture” of forgiving the sinful woman.

The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.

Although Jesus’ love toward the sick and the marginalized “baffles his contemporaries,” it reveals God’s heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Pope Francis said.

“How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes—or better yet—with the heart of God, meaning with hope,” he said. But “Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices.”

Oftentimes, the pope continued, Christians become accustomed to having their sins forgiven and receiving God’s unconditional love while forgetting the heavy price Jesus paid by dying on the cross.

By forgiving sinners, Jesus doesn’t seek to free them from a guilty conscience, but rather offers “people who have made mistakes the hope of a new life, a life marked by love,” the pope said.

The church is a people formed “of sinners who have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God,” Pope Francis said. Christians are “all poor sinners” who need God’s mercy, “which strengthens us and gives us hope.”

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Taken from: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/08/09/pope-francis-im-saddened-perfect-catholics-who-despise-others

Pope reflects on Transfiguration, summer vacation at Angelus

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis focused his Angelus reflection on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which is celebrated each year on 6 August. “The event of the Transfiguration of the Lord,” he said, “offers us a message of hope: it invites us to encounter Jesus, to be at the service of our brothers.”

The disciples’ journey to Mount Tabor, he continued, helps us “to reflect on the importance of detaching ourselves from worldly things, in order to complete our journey to the heights and to contemplate Jesus.” This involves conforming ourselves to Christ’s attitude of “attentive listening and prayer,” which allows us to welcome the Word of God into our lives. Summer time, the Pope said, can be a providential moment to grow in our commitment to seek after and encounter the Lord. “In this period, students are free from their scholastic commitments, and many families take their vacations; it is important that in the period of rest and of detachment from daily occupations, the strength of the body and of the spirit can be restored, deepening the spiritual journey.”

These spiritual heights, though, are not an end in themselves. Following the experience of the Transfiguration, the disciples came down from the mountain with “eyes and hearts transfigured by the experience of the Lord.” Pope Francis said that we too can “come down from the mountain, recharged by the power of the divine Spirit, to decide on new steps of authentic conversion, and to constantly bear witness to charity as the law of daily life.” This transfiguration will allow us to be “signs of the life-giving love of God” for all, especially those who suffer.

In the Transfiguration, the Pope said, we hear the voice of the Father saying, “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him!” Pope Francis encouraged us to look to Mary, “the Virgin of Listening,” and pray that she might help us “to enter into symphony with the Word of God, that Christ might become the light and the guide of our lives.” He concluded his reflection by entrusting everyone’s vacations to God, and by praying for all those who are unable to take vacations, that summer may be for them, too, a time of relaxation, “gladdened by the presence of friends and joyful moments.”

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Taken from: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/08/06/pope_reflects_on_transfiguration,_summer_vacation_at_angelus/1329231

Enemies of Christianity declaring new war on religion

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Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun

CHRISTIANS, prepare for persecution. Open your eyes and choose stronger leaders for the dark days.

I am not a Christian, but I am amazed that your bishops and ministers are not warning you of what is already breaking over your heads.
How mad that Queensland’s Education Department can now warn schools against letting students praise Jesus in the playground.
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The department has put out reports telling state schools “to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in (religious instruction) are evangelising to students who do not participate”.
It gives examples of what students must not say in the playground — such as “knowing about Jesus is a very important thing”, or “God, please help us to use our knowledge to help others”.
Nor may students hand out Christmas cards or decorations.
What do these bureaucrats fear from children inspired by Christ?
Is it that stuff about loving your neighbour? Or that instruction to respect the dignity of every human life that makes Christians the enemy of totalitarians?
But this ban on playground talk of Jesus is only the most shocking salvo of the new war on Christians.

media_cameraPastor Campbell Markham is facing an anti-discrimination complaint arising from blog posts he wrote relating to the marriage debate. Picture: Peter Mathew

Last week, two Christian preachers were summoned to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for preaching their faith’s stand on traditional marriage and homosexuality.Hobart pastor Campbell Mark­ham and street preacher David Gee, from Hobart’s Cornerstone Church, were denounced by an atheist offended by, among other things, Markham quoting a verse from the Bible.
We’ve seen this before. Hobart’s Catholic Archbishop, Julian Porteous, was two years ago ordered by this tribunal to tell by what right he spoke against same-sex marriage.
How cowed the churches have been before this looming persecution, now picking off vocal Christians, one by one.
Just this year, Sydney University’s Student Union threatened to deregister the university’s Evangelical Union unless it stopped insisting members declare their faith in Christ.
Meanwhile, same-sex marriage extremists bullied Coopers Brewery into taking down a video of a Christian MP Andrew Hastie debating same-sex marriage, and lobbied IBM, PwC and Sydney University to punish staff belonging to a Christian group opposed to gay marriage.
Last week, 70 pro-Safe Schools activists picketed a church to abuse people at an Australian Christian Lobby meeting as “bigots”.

media_cameraA sign explaining why Coopers Beer is not being served at a hotel earlier this year. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Last year, an ACL meeting was cancelled after the hotel venue was bombarded with threats.The state-funded SBS joined in by banning an ad by Christians defending traditional marriage, yet ran one for an Ashley Madison dating service for adulterers.
The Greens are the political wing of this attack on Christianity, and are demanding churches lose their legal freedom to hire only people who live by their faith.
The media, too, often cheer this war, using as their excuse the sexual abuse of children by some priests and ministers decades ago.
Rarely do they admit the average gap between the alleged offences by Catholic priests and the lodging of complaints is 33 years. That suggests the churches did crack down on paedophiles decades ago.
But this vilification has had its effect. The Census shows the proportion of Australians calling themselves Christian has dropped from 74 per cent in 1991 to 52 per cent now.
No wonder, when the weaker churches cower before the persecution.
Last week, some even licked the boots of the anti-Christian ABC when it launched yet another attack, smearing churches as the haven of wife-beaters.

media_cameraChristians are more inclined to volunteer, donate and keep families together, surveys show. Picture: Brendan Radke.

This ABC series led off with a ludicrously false claim: “The men most likely to abuse their wives are evangelical Christians who attend church sporadically.”A week after I proved this untrue, the ABC edited its reports to replace that false claim with another: “Overall, the international studies indicate that intimate partner violence is just as serious a problem in Christian communities, as it is in the general community.”
Wrong again. Professor Bradford Wilcox, author of the American study the ABC cited as proof, complained “the (ABC’s) story … does not square with the evidence that church­going couples, in America at least, appear to be less likely to suffer domestic violence”.
In fact, Christianity produce better citizens in many ways.
Surveys show Christians are more inclined to volunteer, donate and keep families together.
So what do the enemies of Christianity wish to achieve by smearing, silencing and destroying this civilising faith? What would they replace it with?
With the atheism that preaches every man for himself? With Islam?
Or with the green faith that has not inspired a single hospital, hospice, school, or even soup kitchen?
Yet the persecution is starting. Are the churches ready?
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Taken from: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/andrew-bolt/enemies-of-christianity-declaring-new-war-on-religion/news-story/043ebd5d04cf40934e983d391d5658bd

British author challenges dubia cardinals, calls abuse of Pope ‘satanic’

Stephen Walford, a British Catholic author, has challenged the four cardinals who submitted doubts about ‘Amoris Laetitita’ to Pope Francis to change course, arguing they’re largely wrong on the merits and also fueling a ‘satanic’ form of abuse directed at the pontiff on traditionalist and conservative websites and blogs.

ROME – In an essay published by “Vatican Insider” today in three languages, a British Catholic author has challenged the four cardinals who submitted a set of dubia, or doubts, about Amoris Laetitia to Pope Francis to drop their opposition, arguing they’re largely wrong on the merits and fueling abuse directed at the pontiff and his supporters.

“We cannot come to any other conclusion than Pope Francis …has legitimately made possible the reception of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried in certain carefully considered cases where grace is working in their souls, and a sincere desire to strive for holiness is present,” Stephen Walford writes.

“If we cannot accept this premise,” Walford adds, “then we are not accepting the teaching of previous popes.”

Walford also warns the four cardinals about forces in the Church their perceived resistance to Pope Francis is encouraging.

“The abuse from many, including those who run websites and traditionalist blogs aimed at the Holy Father and those who are loyal to him, is nothing short of satanic,” he writes.

“In the desire for the unity of the Church around Peter, it is essential to affirm the pope has the authority – ratified in heaven – to make disciplinary changes for the good of some divorced and remarried souls, and so I ask you to bring to an end this situation by accepting the constant tradition of the Church that popes are free from error in matters of faith and morals,” he says.

Walford’s last book, Communion of Saints (Angelico Press), carried endorsements from two cardinals – Gérald Lacroix of Quebec, and George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Church in India – as well as two members of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, one of whom is also a former chief of staff for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.

Given that Vatican Insider is edited by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, who’s known to be close to Pope Francis, Walford’s essay is likely to be seen as reflecting views held by key figures around the pontiff.

The dubia were submitted to Francis in September 2016, and then made public in November when the pope did not respond. The four cardinals presenting them were Italian Carlo Caffarra, American Raymond Burke, and Germans Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner.

The cardinals asked the pope to respond to five questions, one about whether Amoris Laetitia indeed permits divorced and civilly remarried Catholics in some cases to receive the sacraments, and the others about whether certain previous Church teachings on marriage, conscience and sin had been amended.

On the first point, Walford says the cardinals appear to “have trouble accepting the two authentic interpretations of Pope Francis” affirming that sacramental discipline has changed. One, Walford said, came in response to a question from American journalist Frank Rocca aboard the papal plane returning from Lesbos in April 2016, shortly after the document appeared, and the other in a letter to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region in his native Argentina in September 2016 approving their draft guidelines for implementing Amoris.

Walford cites several papal and Vatican documents to assert that Francis has the authority to make such a change, and concludes that “there is no possibility of a formal correction,” an idea that Burke floated at one stage, “in relation to matters of faith and morals taught as part of the magisterium.”

On the other dubia, Walford contends that the cardinals are basically overreacting, saying that even after the publication of Amoris Laetitia:

  1. “The teachings on the indissolubility of marriage remain.”
  2. “Each person must strive to follow the moral teachings of the Church.”
  3. “Divorce is an evil, and adultery is always evil — even if guilt can be reduced or erased altogether.”
  4. “Consciences must be formed. Nowhere does the text allow anyone to come to the conclusion they can do as they please.”
  5. “In no way does Pope Francis suggest that irregular unions are a ‘good’ alternative option to the original marriage. However, it cannot be denied that grace is at work in some of these unions.”

Walford concludes by asking the four cardinals to reverse course, in part because he argues their stance is emboldening ugly currents within the Church.

“You may or may not be aware that there is a growing section of traditionalists and even some conservative Catholics who see you as the standard bearers for the rejection of this papacy,” he said. “I know from experience that some of it is deeply troubling … You are their role models, and that is an intolerable situation.

“In reality, there is no confusion but only outright rejection and defiance towards the legitimate pope and his magisterial teachings,” Walford writes. “If all the cardinals had accepted and defended Pope Francis’s clear teaching, there would have been no fuel for the dissenting fire.”

Walford’s essay is published simultaneously by Vatican Insider in English, Spanish and Italian.

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Taken from: https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2017/06/27/british-author-challenges-dubia-cardinals-calls-abuse-pope-satanic/

Pope Francis: The Church is called to reflect the Trinity’s goodness

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.- Through God’s mercy the Church can become an image of the communion and goodness of the Trinity, Pope Francis said Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.
“The Christian community, though with all its human limitations, can become a reflection of the communion of the Trinity, of its goodness and beauty,” he said Jun 11 during his Angelus address.

“But this – as Paul himself testifies – passes necessarily through the experience of the mercy of God, of his pardon.”
The Pope’s address on Trinity Sunday reflected on the “mystery of the identity of God,” which so affected St. Paul.
“God is not distant and closed in on himself,” Francis reflected, “but rather is the Life which wishes to communicate itself; he is openness; he is the Love which redeems man’s infidelity.”
God’s revelation “has come to completion in the New Testament thanks to words of Christ and to his mission of salvation,” he said.

Christ “has shown us the face of God, One in substance and Triune in Persons; God is all and only Love, in a subsisting relationship that creates, redeems, and sanctifies all: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
The Son of God showed that God first sought us, and revealed that eternal life is precisely “the immeasurable and gratuitous love of the Father that Jesus gave on the Cross, offering his life for our salvation.”
“And this love, by the action of the Holy Spirit, has irradiated a new light upon the earth and in every human heart that welcomes it.”
“May the Virgin Mary “help us to enter ever more, with our whole selves, into the trinitarian Communion, to live and bear witness to the love that gives sense to our existence,” Pope Francis concluded.

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Taken from: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-the-church-is-called-to-reflect-the-trinitys-goodness-76906/

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The Family as the Icon of the Holy Trinity

My nephew Tom came home from first grade in anguish. At dinner he could barely keep the tears out of his six year old eyes. When his parents pressed him to find out what was wrong, he replied that “this kid at school says I have a funny name.” His parents glanced at each other, thinking, “‘Tom Shea’ is a funny name?” So summoning their best parental wisdom, they told him to ignore the kid and he would go away.
Of course, this didn’t work. The kid kept it up for another day or two till Tom was really beginning to worry: maybe he did have a funny name.
Finally, Tom’s parents decided it was time to take action. Reasoning that they would have to go talk to his folks, they asked at dinner that night, “What’s the boy’s name, Tom?”
Tom looked at them, blinked his big blue innocent eyes and said, “Farquhar Muckenfussen, Jr.”
Minutes later, after Tom’s parents had crawled out from under the kitchen table (whence they had slid in their uncontrollable convulsions of laughter), wiped the milk off the wall (don’t laugh with your mouth full) and daubed the tears from their eyes, they explained to their little boy what other issues might be driving little Farquhar to bully Tom about his name.
I think of this story often when I reflect on the place of the Christian in the world. For like Farquhar, the world is constantly trying to tell us Christians we have a funny name. Worse still, it is constantly laboring to tell our children the same. Children, say the worldly, should be called “Madonna” or “Beavis” or “Dennis Rodman” or “Bart Simpson” or “Trent Reznor” or “Ted Turner.” They should be victims who can only be helped by the State or consumers who exist to service the machine of commerce. They should be so wealthy they need nobody or they should be so obsessed with equality that they are jealous of everybody. They should be Imperial Autonomous Selves accountable to none or they should be wards of the State dependent upon all. They should be Rugged Individuals or Workers in the Hive. They should join the herd of independent minds and accept the fact that the basis of society is the State… or the Corporation… or the Individual (we’re not sure yet) and get with the program of building the secular Tower of Babel. But they should not be Christians. Christians are strange. Christians have a funny name.
The reason Christians have a funny name is because we are neither fish nor fowl. We think pleasure, wealth and the created order are not gods but gifts. We think that the State, the Corporation, and the Individual are nice things but not ultimate things. And, supremely, we believe that the Family, not the State, the Corporation, or the Individual, lies at the very heart of a healthy social order and even points us to eternity. For we believe that the Family is the Icon or living embodiment of the life of the Holy Trinity Himself, who created the social order and calls us to eternal life.
Catholic teaching says the Family is the basic building block of society. It is the oldest human institution, according to revelation. Older than the state, the Church, Israel, the Patriarchs, paganism and Noah. It goes all the way back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. And it is rooted in a God whose oneness is the oneness, not of singleness but of love between the three Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, then, the author of Genesis captures this sort of oneness when he writes “in the image of God created he man, male and female created he them” (Gen 1:27). For Genesis, it is male and female together who express the image of God. And just as the union of love between the Father and Son is a fusion of love so real that from it proceeds the Holy Spirit, so we see a sort of shadow of this in the sexual union of man and woman bringing forth children. It is not good for man to be alone, because humanity is in the image of a Trinitarian God. The family images in flesh what God is in Spirit.

The nature of the Trinity and the nature of the family are then primordially linked in some unthinkable way. When we are baptized, we are called by name into the life of the Blessed Trinity. But it is our mothers and fathers who are called to teach us our names, not just with word but with their very being. Fathers and mothers are great high priests who stand in the place of God in a way no Pope or bishop could ever hope to do. Families–those great roystering messes of praise and poop, panic and pleasure–give flesh to the vision of the Trinity in the lovely, painful and beautiful expression of real human beings living out the gospel under grace. They are icons, windows on to a miracle. In their faces, we see the first face of Christ we will ever meet. By them, we are enrolled in the primal school of charity. Under their fumbling caresses and awkward disciplines, we are introduced to the touch of God’s own hand. From them, we learn our names and discover that we are not Wards of the State, Slaves of the Corporation or Rugged Individuals but sons and daughters called into the life of the Blessed Trinity with a name we can honor, a home we can love and an eternity we can rejoice in.

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Taken from: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/the-family-as-the-icon-of-the-holy-trinity

Census in Luke 2

2015.12.11 

by

 Damien F. Mackey

  

 

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

 Luke 2:1-3 (NIV)

 

 

 

This NIV translation of the Greek of Luke 2:1:

 

Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην·

 

appears to me potentially to over-extend the meaning of the Greek phrase, πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην, in the same way as I noted in:

 

Creationists will interpret the Hebrew kol ha aretz in modern global terms

https://www.academia.edu/33327003/Creationists_will_interpret_the_Hebrew_kol_ha_aretz_in_modern_global_terms

 

that the Hebrew word kol can be greatly over-extended (in geographical terms) in connection with ha-aretz.

Clearly, there is no specific reference to “Roman” in the Greek, thereby allowing for the word, οἰκουμένην, to convey a more local meaning.

According to Strong’s Concordance (http://biblehub.com/greek/3625.htm) the word means: “Definition: (properly: the land that is being inhabited, the land in a state of habitation), the inhabited world, that is, the Roman world, for all outside it was regarded as of no account”. However, Luke the Evangelist was writing a Gospel that pertained to Israel, which had little regard for “the Roman world”.

 

Now Daryn Graham, in his convincing effort to account for this historically much-disputed census account, has queried another part of the NIV translation of Luke 2, thereby giving it a whole new meaning (http://thebirthofjesuschrist.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/ancient-history-archaeology-and-birth.html):

 

 

Ancient History, Archaeology and the Birth of Jesus Christ

 

 

By Daryn Graham

Even though the countless Christians throughout the ages have differed significantly from person to person, all have but one true test of faith and that is the belief in Jesus Christ being none other than the Son of God, and indeed, God himself. According to the Bible which contains the earliest surviving accounts of Jesus life, Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem in the Roman province of Judaea, during which time a census was being taken. Of course, once we determine exactly which census that was we can also discover the precise date for Jesus’ birth. But as to which census that was has left many an accomplished modern historian without an answer. However, doubting the accuracy of the Bible on these grounds is literally jumping hastily to unnecessary conclusions. As with so many things ancient, a little investigative work can help to fill in the picture. As I will now explain, the birth of Jesus Christ as told of in the Bible is firmly rooted in solid historical facts, and this is true also of the census during that humble, yet historically momentous and epoch-making birth.

The Census

The problem many historians in the past have faced is that the most common English translations of Luke’s gospel’s description of the census can be translated several ways. But, of course, considering millennia have passed since Luke wrote it, it is forgivable that some things have been lost in translation. The common NIV translation reads: “Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria) And everyone went to his own town to register.”[1] The problem for past historians is that the particular detail regarding Quirinius in this NIV translation can not have been the intended meaning by Luke. True, there was a census in Judaea during Quirinius’ governorship which began in 6AD,[2] but it was certainly not of the entire Roman Empire. The 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus made that crystal clear by writing Quirinius’ census was confined only to Syria to determine the local inhabitants’ tax payments.[3] Of course, it is unlikely that Luke, who was a meticulous historian, was incorrect – it is rather that case that the translation itself is incorrect. But considering that even the influential, though at times unreliable, 4th century AD Christian historian Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History maintained this reading[4] it is understandable that it has gained so much credibility.

We can be sure of Luke’s true meaning when we consider the following. There are two other translation possibilities raised by experts, the second of which discussed here is perfectly consistent with archaeological and historical records and is, I firmly believe, Luke’s intended translation. But for the sake of interest, we will look at both. The first possibility some say should read: “This first census was taken when Quirinius was governor”.[5] But this is on very shaky ground. For one thing it is known by historians that it was not the first census decreed. The Res Gestae Divi Augusti, (The Accomplishments of the Divine Augustus) written by the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar himself, shows that Augustus carried out previous censuses in 28BC and again in 8BC[6] – years before Quirinius’ governorship of Syria. The Res Gestae was written by Augustus in his final years in the early 1st century AD and was inscribed on the walls of temples around the empire. It has been preserved for us today in the temple of Rome and Augustus at Ancyra (Ankara in modern Turkey). Fragments from Pisidia (also in modern Turkey) have also survived. It is doubtful Luke, who wrote his Gospel only about 50 years later, was not aware of such facts as the ones recorded in Augustus’ Res Gestae. But the second alternative translation held by some experts and very much so myself to be Luke’s intended one, however, makes all of the ancient evidence fall into place with Luke’s original meaning, showing that his Gospel is historically precise and grounded in solid fact. According to this translation the census described by Luke originally in ancient Greek was not taken ‘while Quirinius was governor’ but ‘before Quirinius was governor’.[7]

In regard to which of Augustus’ censuses before Quirinius’ governorship Luke could have referred to, the solution is crystal clear. The 28BC census was taken of Roman citizens alone, so that one is ruled out. However the 8BC census, which was not only for Roman citizens, but also for the whole empire’s population, is exactly like the one Luke referred to. Inscriptions discovered in Spain, Cyrene and Turkey show that the purpose of it was for everyone in the empire to register their allegiance to Augustus – an effort that resulted in a large measure of peace throughout the Roman world. An inscription from Turkey reads, “I will be loyal to Caesar Augustus and to his children and descendants all my life in word, in deed, and in thought.”[8] Another from Spain says, “Of my own volition I express my regard for the safety, honor and victory of the Emperor Caesar Augustus…”[9] The wording of the oath of allegiance in Judaea was probably somewhat similar to these. Incidentally, in later years the Romans conducted such censuses to determine taxes, but that was not yet the case of the actual one we are looking at. So, the translation that the census Luke referred to was the one before Quirinius’ term holds up to scrutiny, and that it involved ‘entire Roman world’ is verified by the archaeological findings.

You may be wondering, as have I in the past, why Luke bothered to describe the registration ‘before Quirinius’ at all – why not write who really was governor of Syria at the time of the 8BC census? There is a good answer for that. The ‘entire Roman world’ census Luke referred to was a huge undertaking that spanned years under many governors throughout the whole massive empire. Papyrus found in Egypt a century ago show it took place there in 9BC,[10] while inscriptions discovered more recently indicate it was conducted in Cyrene around 7BC,[11] Spain in 6BC[12] and Paphlagonia (in northern Turkey) in 3BC.[13] As to when it took place in Judaea, Josephus, is of help. He stated Judaea registered during Saturninus’ governorship of 8-6BC, adding that the census there was brought to a close nearly a year prior to the end of that governorship.[14] Given that in those times the period for registration lasted for a whole year, this means that Saturninus began conducting it soon after he entered office in 8BC. As you can appreciate, it must have been so much easier for Luke, then, to simply use the basic terms he did than go into such endless particulars his audience would have been quite familiar with anyway.

As to what was involved in that census, Luke summed it up well – “everyone went to his own town to register”.[15] By comparing this statement with the archaeological evidence, it is clear, thankfully, that in this case nothing at all is lost in translation. Papyri preserved in Egyptian sands are impressive in number and a few even show what was involved in a Roman census. In one papyrus, recording an edict for a census by a Roman governor of Egypt in 104AD, all Egyptians were required to return to their hometowns for registration. It even states “anyone found without a permit [to stay away from their hometown] thereafter will be severely punished”.[16]

In those days it was essential for the Romans to maintain ties between its empire’s population and their homelands in order to sustain the local economies. In that way landlords had a ready and constant supply of tenants. A census was one means of achieving that end. Although Joseph lived in Galilee when Augustus ordered his census, his lineage went back to King David, and hence he had to travel to Bethlehem, David’s hometown.[17] But of course, as always, there were some exceptions to the rule. In Alexandria, Egyptians needed to remain there to keep the city going could obtain permits to stay there to register.

Luke’s remark that ‘everyone went to his own town’ is also historical. In an actual census declaration preserved on papyrus from the Egyptian village of Bacchias dated to 91AD it is clear that the male head of the household took himself and his family to his own hometown where he registered himself firstly, then his house, and then his family. In the case of that particular declaration, it was written down by a village secretary because those registering were illiterate.[18] In Joseph’s case, though, he may have possessed the literary skills to write his own declaration. As a carpenter, Jew, and inhabitant of the Galilee during his time he could have been well-versed in geometry and the Jewish scriptures.[19] Jesus’ ability to read may also be a strong indication that the rest of their family, including Joseph, could also read and write.

This all means that Luke’s gospel is much more than a collection of stories. Its narrative is factual and reliable. As Luke wrote, Jesus must have been born sometime between early 8BC to early 7BC during the empire-wide registration conducted before Quirinius’ governorship of Syria. Of course, I would love to take the credit for determining this approximate date of Jesus’ birth, but I must confess I am not the first by a long stretch. The famous ancient Christian Tertullian, a legal expert from northern Africa, writing over a century earlier than Eusebius a few years after the turn of the 3rd century AD, recorded that indeed Jesus was born during Saturninus’ governorship of Judaea.[20] This is important because Tertullian had valuable access to official Roman records and was thus in a perfect position to know such a fact.

In case you were wondering, as for why the turning of our era takes place in our calendar 8 years later – it is actually a mishap. In the 6th century AD, the monk Dionysius, while reforming the calendar, wrongly dated some key historical events, and so his miscalculations are with us today.
But besides Luke’s gospel, another Biblical book also describes events surrounding Jesus’ birth – the Gospel of Matthew – and it is also very useful. This gospel provides us with valuable insight into the life of Jesus since Matthew was a disciple of Jesus himself. Like Luke, Matthew wrote that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He also wrote that he was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who ruled Judaea during Saturninus’ governorship during the census mentioned by Luke. So given Luke’s gospel’s trustworthiness, that Matthew’s one agrees with it places it too on solid historical ground.

….

[1] Gospel of Luke, 2. 1-3.
[2] Acts of the Apostles, 5. 37. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 17. 13. 5.
[3] Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 17. 13. 5., 18. 1. 1.
[4] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 1. 5.
[5] Lewis, N., & Reinhold, M., (eds.) Roman Civilization: Selected Readings, vol 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990) p308.
[6] Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 8.
[7] Barnett, P., Is the New Testament History? (Sydney: Aquila Press, 2004) p111.
[8] Lewis, N., & Reinhold, M., (eds.) Roman Civilization: Selected Readings. Vol 1. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990) p589.
[9] Ibid., 590.
[10] Ramsay, W., The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915) p255f.
[11] Lewis, N., & Reinhold, M., op cit., p592.
[12] Ibid., p589-590.
[13] Ibid., p588-589.
[14] Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 17. 2. 4. According to Josephus (Jewish Antiquities, 17. 4. 3.) Saturninus’ replacement by another governor, Varus, in 6BC, took place at least 7 months after the conclusion of the census conducted by Saturninus, meaning it must have been carried out between 8 and 7BC given that they took up a whole year in Roman times.
[15] Gospel of Luke, 2. 3.
[16] Lewis & Reinhold, op cit., Vol 2., p308-309.
[17] 1 Samuel, 16.
[18] Lewis & Reinhold, Vol 2., p309.
[19] Millard, A., ‘Literacy in the Time of Jesus’, in BAR July/August 2003, pp37-45.
[20] Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4. 19.