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Treasure of the Magisterium

I am beginning my study of The Apostles by Pope Benedict XVI. When I picked this book up I was expecting to read the individual stories of the first followers of Christ. Naturally, I assumed I would identify with aspects of some them and their stories would guide me to more closely walk with Christ. However, this work is much bigger than the stories of a few individuals. It is the story of the conception and birth of the Church. With Jesus as the cornerstone, the Apostles form the foundation for the teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium. Those on the outside of the Church look at the Magisterium as an onerous, oppressive construct. However, once inside the Church, the Magisterium is truly liberating. Pope Benedict describes it:

The gift of communion is safeguarded and promoted in particular by the apostolic ministry, which in turn is a gift for the entire community. The Apostles and their successors are therefore the custodians and authoritative witnesses of the deposit of truth consigned to the Church, and are likewise the ministers of charity.

Jesus offers each of us Sanctifying Grace through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. However, he established the Church as the vehicle through which we would find this Grace. Therefore the study of the Apostles is as much a study of the Communion of Faith as it is the study of the conversion of individuals.

Yesterday, in his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Benedict continued his teaching on St. Jerome. St. Jerome is known for translating the Bible into Latin. His work is known as the Vulgate. He was convinced that every Christian should study the Scriptures. However, the study of Scripture is not meant to be an individual endeavor, isolated from the Communion.

However, St. Jerome took great care to place the study of Scripture in the context of Church authority, the Pope continued. "For Jerome, a fundamental criterion for interpreting Scripture was that it should harmonize with the magisterium of the Church." In translating and understanding the Bible, St. Jerome looked to the teaching Church for guidance, and for assurance that his own views were not mistaken. Pope Benedict recalled a telling quotation from Jerome: "He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me."

Jesus said he would build his Church on the foundation of a “rock”. This “rock” was led by Peter and supported by the rest of the Apostles. This confidence in our foundation allows us to be sure of our footsteps as we follow Christ. We are not walking on the shifting sands of popular opinion and contemporary fads. Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a former Anglican priest but now Catholic, offers an assessment of the current turmoil in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Anglicans need to ask the big authority questions. Where is an authority that is both historical and yet adaptable for the modern world? Where is an authority that is both universal and local? Where is an authority that is congruent with both Scripture and the 2000 year tradition of the Church? Where is an authority that is both intellectually satisfying yet accessible to the illiterate? Where is an authority that speaks with uncompromising candor yet is compassionate to the sinner? Where is an authority that transcends all national, historical and contemporary ideologies yet gathers the truth from them all into a new synthesis?

Anglicanism in its various national allegiances, ideologies, theologies, liturgies and spiritualities can never do this.

Catholicism can. Build on the Rock.

As news outlets continue to report on the upcoming papal visit to the United States, we will continue to hear more and more inane commentary about how the Pope and the Catholic Church as a whole are so out of step with American Catholics and need to be enlightened. The reality is far too many American Catholics are so out of step with the Church and need to be enlightened about the treasure of the Magisterium. As Pope Benedict XVI says in The Apostles:

Truth and love are the two faces of the same gift that comes from God and thanks to the apostolic ministry, is safeguarded in the Church and handed down to us, to our present time!


Anonymous said…
Yes what a wonderful Apostolic church we belong to...
David Jackson said…
I've been championing this book in our RCIA I help teach. I think it's a must read for all Catholics and anyone coming into the faith.
kat said…
As a former Episcopalian I know what a mess they are in, and the danger the Catholic Church could fall into if the liberals/modernists have their way. The careening off the right path obviously began with the seperation from Rome, but the jumping off the cliff started with accepting artificial birth control, female priestesses, and now openly gay priests and bishops. We will likely witness the implosion of the Anglicans in our lifetime. My husband and I jumped the Tiber 8 years ago, seeing the logical conclusion that this author refers to.

Come home and find the strength of the Rock!

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