LATERAN BASILICA-WORLD FREEDOM DAY
Psalm 119, Verse 79
those who fear you turn to me, those who acknowledge your testimonies.
As the believer finds trouble from the world, he prays that he may find help from the Lord's people. The very sight of our Father's family is cheering. It brings not only fellowship but help. For the wise distribution of gifts in the body—each having his own gift—was ordained for the mutual help and sympathy of the several members. It is painful therefore to see Christians often walking aloof from each other, and suffering coldness, distance, differences and distrust to divide them from their brethren. Who then will not pray, that he, who has the hearts of all his people in his hand, would turn the hearts of those that fear him and know his testimonies, unto their brethren? It was the honor of Mordecai, that he was "accepted of the multitude of his brethren." In the primitive church, "Demetrius had good report of all men, and of the truth itself" and the members of the church generally" did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart; praising God, and having favor with all the people." 'Then,' as Chrysostom exultingly exclaims, 'the Church was a little heaven.' Then they could say to each other—"Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" and even their Heathen neighbors were awed and constrained into the confession—"See how these Christians love one another." Alas! that our Jerusalem should no longer exhibit the picture of a "city compact together"— that so many "walls of partition" should separate brother from brother, so that our Zion has very rarely been exhibited in her "perfection of beauty," when "the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." with prejudice and misconception divided Job from his friends. Want of forbearance cankered the union of the members of the Church of Rome and even prevailed to separate chief friends — Paul and Barnabas. Diversity of sentiment injured the influence of brotherly love at Corinth. And thus it has been in every successive age of the church so that the full answer to the Redeemer's prayer, and the grand display to the world of the Divine original of the gospel, is yet to be manifested.
But as "the communion of saints" was the peculiar feature of primitive Christianity, and ever since has formed an article of her faith; in proportion as we return to the primitive standard, we shall hold closer fellowship with each other—as" members of one body" "considering one another, to provoke unto love and to good works" —"bearing one another's burdens"—and "receiving one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." Want of Christian self-denial presents the main hindrance to this "keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." But—admitting that some of the brethren are "weak in the faith" in comparison with ourselves—are we then to be 'rolling endlessly the returning stone,' obtruding always the same stumbling-offence upon them?
We are "not to please ourselves" in compelling them to adopt our views; but rather to "receive them, and bear their infirmities." Accursed be that charity, that is preserved by "the shipwreck of faith!" But though scriptural truth must never be denied, there are times when it may be forborne. The Apostle "knew and was persuaded of the Lord Jesus, that there was nothing unclean of itself" yet he would rather allow even the misconception of conscience, until clearer light should be given, than endanger the unity of the church. Liberty must give place to love; and for himself, he would rather restrain himself from lawful indulgence, than hazard the safety of a weaker brother, or turn from one that loved his Savior. Wherever, therefore, in the judgment of Christian charity, we discover those "that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity" we must be ready to give them our very hearts, to view them as brethren, as one with ourselves, and to welcome them with brotherly love, as those whom, with all their infirmities, Jesus "is not ashamed to call his brethren."
We must be ready to turn to them, as those that fear God, and have known his testimonies. And does not the believer's anxiety for the company and assistance of the Lord's people rebuke Christian professors, who are far too closely linked to the society of the world?
Surely, if the lovely attraction of many of its most avowed votaries can compensate for the absence of their Savior's image, they can have but little relish for that heavenly enjoyment, which unites the children of God together in close and hallowed communion with God. And do we not see a proof of the deteriorating influence of this worldly spirit, in their readiness to feel disgust at the infirmities of the real brethren of the Lord, and to neglect the image of Christ in them, from the unsightliness of the garb, which may sometimes cover it? But let us mark the completeness of the Christian, combining the fear with the knowledge of God. Knowledge without fear would be self-confidence. Fear without knowledge would be bondage. But the knowledge of his testimonies, connected with an acquaintance with his ways, molds the character of men of God into the spirit of love; and qualifies them, "as fathers" in the gospel, to counsel the weak and inexperienced.
Should we, however, be excluded from the privilege of their intercourse; or should they be prevented from turning unto us; may it not be the appointed means of leading us to a more simple dependence on Divine teaching and grace, and to amore blessed anticipation of our Father's house in heaven, where all will be harmony, peace, and love?'
We shall carry truth and the knowledge of God to heaven with us; we shall carry purity thither, devotedness of soul to God and our Redeemer, Divine love and joy, if we have these beginnings here, with whatsoever else of permanent excellence, that hath a settled, fixed seat and place in our souls now: and shall there have them in perfection. But do you think we shall carry strife to heaven? Shall we carry anger to heaven? Envying’s, heart-burnings, animosities; shall we carry these to heaven with us?
Let us labor to divest ourselves, and strike off from our spirits everything that shall not go with us to heaven, or is equally unsuitable to our end and way, that there may be nothing to obstruct and hinder our "abundant entrance" at length into the everlasting kingdom.'
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Today the liturgy celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.” In fact, this basilica was the first to be built after Emperor Constantine’s edict, in 313, granted Christians freedom to practice their religion. The emperor himself gave Pope Miltiades the ancient palace of the Laterani family, and the basilica, the baptistery, and the patriarchate, that is, the Bishop of Rome’s residence — where the Popes lived until the Avignon period — were all built there. The basilica’s dedication was celebrated by Pope Sylvester around 324 and was named Most Holy Savior; only after the 6th century were the names of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist added, and now is typically denominated by these latter. Initially the observance of this feast was confined to the city of Rome; then, beginning in 1565, it was extended to all the Churches of the Roman rite. The honoring of this sacred edifice was a way of expressing love and veneration for the Roman Church, which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch says, “presides in charity” over the whole Catholic communion (Letter to the Romans, 1:1). On this solemnity the Word of God recalls an essential truth: the temple of stones is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which in their letters the Apostles Peter and Paul already understood as a “spiritual edifice,” built by God with “living stones,” namely, Christians themselves, upon the one foundation of Jesus Christ, who is called the “cornerstone” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20-22). “Brothers, you are God’s building,” St. Paul wrote, and added: “holy is God’s temple, which you are” (1 Corinthians 3:9c, 17).
The beauty and harmony of the churches, destined to give praise to God, also draws us human beings, limited and sinful, to convert to form a “cosmos,” a well-ordered structure, in intimate communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of saints. This happens in a culminating way in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the “ecclesia,” that is, the community of the baptized, come together in a unified way to listen to the Word of God and nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ. From these two tables the Church of living stones is built up in truth and charity and is internally formed by the Holy Spirit transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself more and more to the Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, in this way becomes the spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.
Dear friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she helps us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love.
— Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, November 9, 2008
Things to Do:
- Learn more about St. John Lateran;
- This basilica represents the place of baptism, so it would be a good time to renew your baptismal promises.
- It also represents heaven, so we can meditate on the joys of heaven and God's generosity in giving us sufficient graces to be saved.
- Since St. John Lateran is the Pope's church, say a prayer for our Holy Father.
- From the Catholic Culture Library: Mother Church of the World.
Carl Sagan born 1934
One of the most well-known gurus of scientism was the late Carl Sagan, best known for his popular television series "Cosmos." Sagan was unrelenting in his insistence that the methods and speculations of science are absolutely necessary for the proper understanding of all reality. Science, then, surpasses any other form of knowledge, including religion. In the "religion" of scientism only matter is eternal. "Mother Earth" was for Sagan the only god to be worshipped, as is the case for many who espouse New Age thinking.
In his book "Cosmos," Sagan wrote that "our ancestors worshipped the Sun, and they were far from foolish. And yet the Sun is an ordinary, even a mediocre star. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, does it now make sense to revere the Sun and stars?" (p. 243).
Put even more simply, scientism is the belief that whatever cannot be experienced by the senses, i.e., seen, touched, heard, etc., simply does not exist. First and foremost, this means that God does not exist because he cannot be subjected to scientific observation and proof.
Recently, scientism has taken a curious turn. Last year scientists at the National Institutes for Health in Bethesda, Md., performed experiments that convinced them that what religion calls the moral conscience is, in fact, nothing more than basic brain activity. Remaining true to the tenets of scientism, these scientists would allow no explanation of moral action other than the claim that that's the way our brains are wired.
What is interesting, however, is that, instead of using science to discredit religion, these scientists seem to be claiming that what people of faith have known all along can now be substantiated by the scientific method. It's an intriguing twist, but in the end scientism reigns supreme.
Harvard neuroscientist and philosopher Joshua Greene, as good an example of scientism as anyone, has stated that his goal as a scientist is "to reveal our moral thinking for what it is: a complex hodgepodge of emotional responses and rational (re)constructions, shaped by biological and cultural forces . . ." There it is. For Greene — as for all good proponents of scientism — not only do conscience and morality have no objective meaning or content or even less do they come from God, the human person is ultimately understood to be no more than the product of cultural and biological forces.
Several decades ago, a Russian cosmonaut returned from his first venture into space and proudly announced that he had been into the heavens and could now verify that God was nowhere to be seen. This finding, of course, fit nicely into the atheistic picture of reality that prevailed in the Soviet Union of those days.
More than simply a glib pronouncement on the non-existence of God, however, the remark was expressive of what has come to be known as "scientism." Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, provides a good definition of scientism: "Scientism is the scientific worldview that encompasses natural explanations for all phenomena, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces empiricism and reason as the twin pillars of a philosophy of life appropriate for an Age of Science."
This way of thinking is becoming more and more acceptable in what has been called our "age of science." It has infected even people of faith. Nowhere is it more obvious than in the implicit — and even explicit at times — agreement that conscience is, in fact, nothing more than what I think and feel about a particular subject. My own personal thoughts are understood to be little other than the effects of the culture in which I live. And so, even for some Catholics, the moral conscience has little to do with God or his revelation or the natural law. Rather, conscience has everything to do with how I, as an individual, perceive reality. What else could account for the sad fact that many Catholics believe that a crime like abortion could be morally justified in certain situations?
In an age of relativism such as ours, it is vitally important that we appreciate that God is the source of all truth and meaning. He created that world and all that is in it. It is his law that governs right behavior. It is his truth that informs and binds every human conscience. It is his truth that is communicated authoritatively by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings" (No. 1783).
World Freedom Day
In many parts of the world, freedom is something that is taken for granted—the freedom to choose any religion we want (or no religion at all), the freedom to be in a relationship with the person we love, the freedom to travel…the list goes on. Unfortunately, there are many, many places in the world where these freedoms are not available to most people, who are forced to live empty, unfulfilling lives so the rulers of their countries don’t have them thrown in jail or worse. If you don’t know what it means to be afraid to voice your opinion, then you can consider yourself very lucky to live in a place where liberty is a priority as well as a basic human right. And like all good things, liberty should be celebrated, and that’s what World Freedom Day is all about. The World Freedom Day is a federal observance commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall. The day commemorates the end of communism in Eastern and Central Europe and was designated in 2001 by President George W. Bush. It was created to celebrate the reunification of loved ones separated by the Iron Curtain and differing ideologies, and ultimately serves to acknowledge that the resolve of the masses can shift boundaries, break unfavorable resolutions and ultimately determine the type of leadership they desire so as to live is a freer, more fair society.
How to Celebrate World Freedom Day
· The day is celebrated in different ways, depending on who’s celebrating. Conservative groups such as the College Republicans and Young America Foundation encourage students to celebrate the day through activism projects and flyer campaigns, while on the other hand, political activists and commentators see the day as an occasion to recognize President Ronald Reagan as one of the most instrumental personalities in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
· If you are not living in the United States and therefore cannot be politically active in the ways described, don’t worry! There are still plenty of ways you can celebrate this day. Doing some reading about Ronald Reagan is a good start, regardless of your nationality, but there are other figures that played large parts in the fall of Communism as well. Among them are for example Margaret Thatcher, often called the “Iron Lady” due to her determination and resolve, who personally worked with Reagan to undermine the Communist regime.
· Yet another example of a person who was instrumental was a Pole named Karol Wojtyła, more commonly known as Pope John Paul II. The pope helped ordinary Poles and East Europeans banish their fear of Soviet Communism, convincing them that liberation was possible. The prime minister restored her country’s failing economy by reviving the “vigorous virtues” of the British people. The president rebuilt America’s military power, its national morale, and its position as leader of the free world.
· All three of these figures, working together, brought down an evil empire and changed the world for the better, and these are the people that deserve remembrance on World Freedom Day. The Cold War was a time of tension and uncertainty for the West and misery and destruction for the East, so taking the time to find out a bit more about the people that helped put an end to all of this is the perfect way to celebrate this day.
· Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: Today's Fast: Purity
· Make reparations to the Holy Face-Tuesday Devotion
· Pray Day 8 of the Novena for our Pope and Bishops
· Tuesday: Litany of St. Michael the Archangel
· Offering to the sacred heart of Jesus
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