Friday, October 24, 2003

The Freedom of the English Church

Canterbury Cathedral

Being of English descent, I will forever find the study of English church history to be fascinating. Just studying about the life of one of my great friends, St. Thomas More, has introduced me to the richness and beauty of English Christianity.

When Henry VIII took upon himself the title Supreme Head of the Church in England, More refused to accept this title and later referred to both the Magna Carta of 1215 as well as Henry's coronation oath in 1509 to prove that, under English law, the immunity of the English Church was guaranteed.

The Magna Carta promised the following:
In the first place we have granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs forever that the English Church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English Church, we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III, before the quarrel arose between us and our barons: and this we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs forever. We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.
And in his coronation oath, Henry VIII swore to the following:
Sire, will you grant and keep by your oath confirm to the people of England the laws and customs given to them by the previous just and god-fearing kings, your ancestors, and especially the laws, customs, and liberties granted to the clergy and people by the glorious king, the sainted Edward, your predecessor?
   I grant and promise them.

Sire, will you in all your judgments, so far as in you lies, preserve to God and Holy Church, and to the people and clergy, entire peace and concord before God?
   I will preserve them.

Sire will you so far as in you lies, cause justice to be rendered rightly, impartially, and wisely, in compassion and in truth?
   I will do so.

Sire, do you grant to be held and observed the just laws and customs that he community of your realm shall determine, and will you, so far as in you lies, defend and strengthen them to the honour of God?
   I grant and promise them.
Now, after reading all of this, compare it with the Act of Supremacy of 1534, passed through parliament, which stated:
Be it enacted by authority of this present Parliament that the King, our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England, called Anglicana Ecclesia...
So what became of the freedom enjoyed by the English Church from temporal authority? Does the American Church enjoy such freedom within the United States? So long as we have a government that does not have the ability to pass legislation favoring or opposing an establishment of religion. I posit that this freedom has been and can be threatened when government attempts to take upon itself authority to regulate religious affairs. Christians are often accused of violating the supposed separation of church and state, though the original intent of Jefferson's statement was to ensure that the government could not interfere with the affairs of religion. Do you think there are those who wouldn't mind interfering from time to time?

St. Thomas More lost his head because he stood on his principles regarding the freedom of the English Church, not merely in English law, but in obedience to the authority of Christ as guaranteed by union with the See of Rome. He recognized that there was an authority given by God that no temporal, political power may revoke or take upon itself.

For an interesting discussion on the final resting place of his severed head, check out this article: Opening the Roper Vault by Hugh Albin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A Prayer by St. Thomas More

Written while imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Give me the grace, Good Lord

To set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men's mouths.

To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.

Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.

Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.

To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.

Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.

To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.

To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.

To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.

Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.

To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.

More WYD Pictures

I found another young adult blogger who was also at World Youth Day.

Check out his own pictures by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Pop vs. Soda

Finally, some research has been done. In Alabama, where I'm originally from, all sodas are called generally called Coke, even Pepsi. When I lived in Nebraska for two years, everything was Pop, and it made no sense! And in California, I hear soda much more, which makes more sense to me!

Monday, October 20, 2003

Going to Confession...
Thou shalt confess thy transgressions in the Church, and shalt not come unto prayer with an evil conscience.
This is the path of life.
The Didache, Ch. 4:14. [AD 70]
Fr. Rob Johansen has some very powerful and candid things to say about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I also have some things to say about going to confession. Perhaps it was because I didn't yet fully understand its spiritual aspects, even though I understood the sacrament intellectually, but for nearly four years after being baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church, I went to confession only a handful of times - maybe two or three times at the most. Over the last two years, thanks be to God, I have been successful in my attempts to embrace the sacrament of reconciliation approximately once a month, and it has changed my spiritual life in more ways than I ever anticipated it would. I think a lot of my initial hesitation, or perhaps my initial naivete, regarding the sacrament was because it was not emphasized or even particularly encouraged at the university parish I attended.

Don't get me wrong - the parish did offer private confession, but it only advertised it as being for 30 minutes a week, or by appointment. Suffice it to say, many members of the congregation with whom I spoke about this had never taken the opportunity to go, some not for several decades. I had a very good relationship with the former pastor, and so those times that I did visit the sacrament, I had no problem doing face-to-face confession with him. However, there was never an option for anonymity should the penitant desire it, and I felt as though I easily gave in to the laissez-faire culture of the parish and let laziness and pride take control.

There was always something that ran contrary to my laziness. The longer I went without going to confession, even though I wasn't in a state of mortal sin, the more I felt like I should go, not out of an overwhelming sense of guilt, but of a desire to keep myself in check and embrace the grace of forgiveness freely given through the merits of Christ. But my pride fought that all the way as I began to convince myself that I was no great sinner, that I didn't need reconciliation to develop a healthy communal and spiritual life.

What motivated me to start going again was when I heard a priest friend say that the measure of your pride is the measure of your shame, and the measure of your shame is the measure of how much you need to embrace the sacrament. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the only place where you can come before Christ, in the ministry of the priest in persona Christi and say I'm 100% guilty and get off scott-free. Before eventually leaving that parish, I began going to regular confession at churches in the surrounding area, and the more frequently I went, the easier it became to conquer pride. I don't consider myself to be an overscrupulous person, but the grace from the sacrament has helped me pin-point the areas of my life that I need to give to God; to allow Him to transform those areas with grace so that I might be more conformed to the image of Christ and reflect that in my relationships with others. It seems perfectly regular, and I couldn't imagine a healthy Christian life without it. Reconciliation is also intimately linked with the Eucharistic Liturgy. Frequent confession and frequent reception of Holy Communion, along with a desire to allow Christ's grace to transform us from the inside out, is a sure way to bring about true holiness and true freedom. Our lives then become ones of service. This is true reformation.
Moreover, how much are they both greater in faith and better in their fear, who, although bound by no crime of sacrifice to idols or of certificate, yet, since they have even thought of such things, with grief and simplicity confess this very thing to God's priests, and make the conscientious avowal, put off from them the load of their minds, and seek out the salutary medicine even for slight and moderate wounds, knowing that it is written, "God is not mocked." God cannot be mocked, nor deceived, nor deluded by any deceptive cunning.
-St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise On The Lapsed, Ch. 28 [AD 251]


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