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February 26, 1982     Arkansas Catholic
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February 26, 1982
 

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[FEBRUARY :26, 1982 PAGE 2 J ero v tSeeds of Blood oca "o s to the priesthood in Poland have increased eom dramatically. This is especially significant in these days when the priesthood there is a hazardous occupation, judging by reports of jailings and beatings of the clergy. The 1981 statistics submitted to Rome by the 27 Polish (arch) dioceses and the 39 male Religious orders list 632 ordinations for that year. That was a 52 per cent rise over the 480 or- dinations in 1971. That this dramatic increase is no fluke is borne out by fur- , ther statistics: the number of seminarians in 1981 was up 57 per cent over 1971 to a total of 6,285 men. Ten years earlier, Polish seminaries listed 4,088 students. Both statistics serve only to support the axiom coined as far back as apostolic times: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." The Colosseum in Rome, where Christians were literally served up to the lions, was not only not the site of Christianity's uprooting and demise (as its persecutors presumptuously predicted it would be), but was just the opposite. There, in- stead, was Christianity's seedbed and life-source. What in Rome became axiomatic became so also in Poland, in Warsaw and Gdansk and the mines of the southwest: blood is seed. To what other cause can we attribute a Karol Wojtyla's otherwise foolhardy enrollment in a seminary forced un- derground by the Nazi occupation of his country? " How else do we account for, three decades later, a Cardinal Wojtyla's emergence from a nation under the heel of Com- munist oppression and his entrance onto the world stage as the first Polish Pope ever? Essays in Catholic Free Press Diocese of Worcester, Mass. Theology On Fasts and Fasting By Father Richard P. McBrien Few changes in the post- Vatican II Catholic Church have been more dramatic than the nearly total disap- pearance of fasts and fasting. One might suspect, in fact, that there are younger Catholics who don't even know what the words mean. A fast day was one on which only one full meal was allowed. The other two meals were to be light meatless meals, not to equal together another full meal. There was to be no eating between meals. The law of fasting applied to all Catholics between the ages of twenty-one and fifty-nine, unless excused or dispensed. On days of fast and ab- stinence, meat could not be taken at any of the meals. Abstinence from meat bound every Catholic over the age of seven on every Friday of the year, unless otherwise dispensed or excused. Both fast and abstinence were required on Ash Wed- nesday, the Fridays and Saturdays of Lent, the Ember Days and the' vigils of Pen- tecost, the Immaculate Conception, Christmas and Easter. There were twelve Ember Days: the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after December 13; after the first Sunday of Lent, after Pentecost and after September 14. Fasting alone was required on all of the other days of this was a very rigorous program of sacrifice. And for many it was. But the genius of Catholicism has always been its ability to adapt. For every rule, it seems, there is a dispensation. The law of fasting was no exception. The sick were not bound. But who were "the sick?" That left a fairly broad area for personal, prudential judgment. To be sure, there were many who were so scrupulous that they could never excuse themselves, no matter how serious the illness. But most people were sensible and took legitimate advantage of the Church's concession to practicality. Persons who did extremely hard work were also not bound (the so-called Workingmen's Indult). But, again, what constituted "extremely hard work?" And, finally, those "who would otherwise be deprived of sufficient food" were "also excused. That item was large enough to drive a truck through it. Again, the Church was encouraging people to use their heads. The law of fasting was not designed to make the followers of Christ miserable, but rather to equip them better for service of God and their neighbor. Indeed, Jesus explicitly warned his disciples not to "look dismal" when they fast, as the hypocrites do. "But Lent, except Sundays. when you fast, anoint your On the surface, of course, head and wash your face, that Pope John Paul II has urged Catholics to make known their reactions to presentations by the press, radio, and television. Guardian readers may do this by mailing their com- ments to: Communications Department Diocese of Little Rock P.O. Box 7417, Little Rock, Ark. 72217 Letters will be duplicated and forwarded to networks, stations, sponsors or newspapers involved. Question: - I have read reports that the U.S. Bishops recently made a statement against nuclear weapons and even stated that our govern- ment's nuclear policy is immoral. What is the truth in this? A. -- At the November, 1981, meeting of the U.S. Bishops, a position paper was read by Archbishop Bernardin, head of the committee on War and Peace. He traced the teaching of the Church in papal statements and other documents of the past cen- tury. Among the documents, he highlighted the statement on war by Vatican Council II. One of its paragraphs says: "Any act of war aimed in- discriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against GOd, and man him- self. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating con- demnation" ( Church in the Modern World, 80). He cited also the statements of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II that the use of atomic weapons as at Hiroshima should never be allowed to happen again. Because it is doubtful that a so-called "limited" nuclear war is possible, there is a serious moral question whether any use of nuclear weapons is legitimate. Archbishop Bernardin referred also to the 1979 testimony of Cardinal Krol before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that even the possession of nuclear disarmament. He had further stated at that time: "We need to be convinced that some actions can never be taken, even for survival...As people of faith, we are expected to have our own principles, to be prepared to live by them and, in faith,' to accept the con- sequences of doing so." The committee's full report is due for the Bishops' meeting in November, 1982. This paper was to alert the Bishops to the serious moral questions raised by nuclear weapons and to urge them to pray and study about this issue to prepare for the meeting, as well as to guide their own decisions and ac- tions on the matter. Question: - A priest was quoted as telling some children that when we receive Communion, it is not only the Body of Jesus, but also the body of our brothers and sisters. Please comment on this. He told them to say "Amen" twice to com- memorate this. A. - Second-hand reports are seldom precise, so we cannot presume that the priest in question would agree exactly with the way he was quoted. The point he was making was probably that the Eucharist is a sacrament of unity, bonding us not just to Jesus but to the members of his Body. There is a distortion in receiving Communion while remaining closed to someone. That is why our bishops keep telling us about arms is morally tolerable only the danger of receiving this as a means to buy time for sacrament while practicing Letters to the Editor racism or social ostracism. St. Paul criticized the Corinthians for a divisive Eucharist: "Your meetings are not profitable but harm- ful" ( 1 Cor 11 : 17). The Sacred Host and the Precious Blood are, of course, the body and blood of Jesus, not of someone else. But receiving Jesus' body find blood worthily joins us in a special way to our brothers and sisters. Question: - What is the Church's stance on reading the Bible? Since SL Paul said that all Scripture is good for edification, shouldn't we be more encouraged to read the Bible for the daily uplifting of our souls, besides prayer? A. -- Your question is sur- prising, because the Catholic Church is emphasizing Bible reading now more than it has in several hundred years. Vatican Council II spoke forcefully: "This sacred Synod earnestly and specifically urges all the Christian faithful, too, especially religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures 'the ex- celling knowledge of Jesus Christ' (Phil 3:8). 'For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ' (St. Jerome). Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in divine word, or through devotional reading, or through in- structions suitable for the purpose and other aids which, in our time, are commendably giou available everywhecese to the approval atfa I o support of the she|'Ro c the Church" (Ded Revelation, 25). sem Our Bishop is o[G shepherds es peci#ivi n couraging Biblelt of through the pariath Studies. For infnell write: Scripture Stme't Box 7565, Little NHis 72217. Question: - If Spirit's ins only to the original Bible, where does people who cannot or Hebrew or don't have acc original text? A. -- Biblical applies to all slations as well original text. Question: - What mean when he said and earth will pass a  A. -- He was dissolution or created universe it at the end of "heaven," he meant Question: -- Must v right hand to put in the mouth even left-handed? A.-- No. Father Jerome questions from subscribers. should be Rev. Jerome O.S.B., New 72865. Readers Express Their V" Ask Prayers Dear Editor: The struggle for freedom in Poland is critical not only for that country, but for the whole world. In response to the Holy your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:17- 18). Not only was the individual Catholic encouraged to ex- cuse himself or herself from the law when the situation demanded it, hut Church officials also had the authority to dispense from the law. For a "just cause," a parish priest could dispense in- dividuals, families, his whole parish and visitors to his parish. A bishop enjoyed the same power with respect to his diocese. He also could delegate other priests and confessors to dispense in particular cases. In the earliest centuries of the Church, Lenten fasting (the most demanding of all -fasting programs) was limited to two or three days. The first mention of. a period of forty days occurred in the canons of the Council of Nicea in 325, and there were various ways of computing this. In some places, even a two- or three-week fast was regarded as fulfilling the spirit of the forty days period. Contrary to our usual im- pressions of the Middle Ages, the fast was eased somewhat in that period, not made more rigid. Whereas only one meal had been allowed in earlier centuries, a second, light meal was introduced. And fish could also be taken, where The Guardian welcomes letters to the editor. Letter writers should strive to be concise and accurate. A letter must bear the writer's signature, but the writer's name will be withheld from publication on request. Letters will be edited to conform to space requirements and standards of good taste.--The Editors. Father's call for solidarity with the Polish people, we have initiated the enclosed appeal for PraYers for the successful outcome of Poland's heroic undertaking -- for without supernatural aid, it is not likely to succeed. We hope that you will be able to donate space for this appeal so that Catholics everywhere may be encouraged to pray for Poland in her hour of greatest need. Solidarity with Poland --Pray the Rosary "While I thank all those who are now praying for Poland, I ask them continue to pray. It is an important problem not only for a single country, but also for the history of man." -- Pope John Paul II, January 1, 1982. Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II has appealed to all Catholics for solidarity with once it had been forbidden. Therefore, the history of the Lenten fast is a story of flexibility. Today, only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and ab- stinence. The Catholic ChurCh urges its members instead to focus on generosity toward those in need and on ap-. propriate religious exercises and devotions. Is this really the un- fortunate compromise that some on the right have made it out to be? And was the pre- Vatican I] Church as rigid and unreasonably strict as others on the left have made it out to be? We all have something to learn from the history of fasting. the people of Poland in their courageous struggle to throw off the yoke of oppression and to achieve the basic human rights of religious and political freedom of their native land. Poland desperately needs our prayers to relieve the suf- ferings of her people and to guide events by supernatural aid so that the Polish blood which has already been shed in the name of freedom will not have been shed in vain. Now is the time to show our solidarity with the people of Poland by offering a Rosary every day -- or even a single decade -- at home, in the car or wherever the opportunity affords, to Our Lady, Queen of Poland, that she will defend her people in their hour of need. A Rosary takes little time, but its power is beyond measure. Let us at least do this for Poland. Her triumph can be purchased with our prayers. Catholics United for the Faith, Inc. New Rochelle, N.Y. Mission Rosaries Dear Editor: The Lenten season of 1982 will have a special significance for prayer and penance due to a general increase in devotion to the Rosary now going on in several countries, especially in mission areas. In 1981, nearly 2,600,000 new mission Rosaries were made and freely distributed to those in need. For the four-year period ending 1981, over 9,100,000 new mission Rosari dstributed, but only i of the requests can care of. If any of like information on mission Rosarie Rosary-making Catholic groups been asking for send to those in Living Rosary may send a addressed stamped to the address below. Lawrence B. Albany, ] IdentllCohon No Published Weekly by TIt Press, Inc 2,$00 N Tyler S! , Entered aS second class t 21, 1911, at the post ottice 0 Arkansas, under the Act March 8, 1897 Second class postag el L,tt0e Rock SUB $700 per year in the Canada 1900 Foree PUBLISHER MOST REVERE lq ANDREWJ Bishop of k it tie PRIEST CON REV BERNARD E MANAGING EDIT MR. WILLIA/ w I EDITOR MR. KARL A, Adclross All Oe11rtments FORREST PARK