Dear Editor, It almost felt as if Easter has come a week early with this week’s copy of your paper (IC 11/4/2019).
Fr Martin Browne’s article on ‘Getting the most from the Easter Triduum’ spelled out perfectly just what we’ve been building up to these last few Lenten weeks and reminding us that we can best appreciate Easter as the heart of our Faith when we grasp that the Triduum enables us to see how Crucifixion and Resurrection are bound together.
It was particularly powerful to read Fr Browne explain how none of the days of the Triduum make sense without the others, with our Easter experience being deepest when we take part in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Celebration of the Passion on Good Friday, and then Mass – ideally the Easter Vigil – on Easter Sunday. Along the way there were all manner of valuable little details, the kind of things that – aside from being well worth reflecting on – would be great in a table quiz: which Mass does not feature a final blessing or dismissal, when does the Church not celebrate Mass?
Elsewhere, while we constantly hear that of ‘green shoots’ of life in our Church, in true Easter style this week’s paper opted not to feature claims of this, instead showing those shoots starting to grow.
‘Limerick laughter in a Dominican youth club’ was a real sign of hope, especially given how this youthful project is taking place at a church that only a couple of years ago was locking its doors because of our Church’s vocational decline over recent decades. ‘Brewing fraternity’, meanwhile, was a fascinating study of how Cork’s religious orders and young Catholics have come together to lay groundwork for reaching out to a generation that has never really known our Christian message. Well done!
Dundalk, Co. Louth.
An odd omission from Dr Zagano’s piece
Dear Editor, Dr Phyllis Zagano’s article on deaconesses (IC 4/4/2019) is remarkable for its failure even to mention one of the works which examine this subject most thoroughly – Deaconesses: An Historical Study ( published in an English translation in 1986 by Ignatius Press) by the late Aime Georges Martimort, a Toulouse priest and patristics scholar who was a consultor at the Second Vatican Council.
Martimort made some very important points in the conclusion of his book, points which were made only after he had conducted an exhaustive review of the relevant evidence. Among the most salient of those points are:
First, that only one document, the Didascalia, “presented the institution of deaconesses to us as a ministry in the true sense of the word”; second, that the insitution “lasted only as long as adult baptisms were the norm”, that it was “geographically limited” and “rapidly became obsolete”; third “during all the time when the institution of deaconesses was a living institution, both the discipline and the liturgy of the churches insisted upon a very clear distinction between deacons and deaconesses”; and finally that any restoration of the institution “could only be fraught with ambiguity”.
It is also clear that much of the evidence presented by Martimort is at variance with some of the assertions made by Dr Zagano-in a letter, alas, there is not enough space to detail them. But it is odd, given the differences between Dr Zagano’s case and that presented by the late French scholar, that she does not refer to his work.
Belfast, Co. Antrim.
Jesus came at just the right time!
Dear Editor, I enjoyed reading Colm Fitzpatrick’s article in his Questions of Faith column (IC 21/3/2019), entitled ‘Why did Jesus come when he did?’ He asks whether this might be an inconsequential question – not at all. There’s great scope for exploring God’s plan for humankind!
The time was ripe for God to send his son – the Roman Empire was flourishing and means of communication were highly developed, thus making it a lot easier for Jesus’ disciples to carry out his command to spread the Gospel than it would have been in earlier times. This was the hypothesis put forward during a Scripture study course I attended a few years back. It sounded a very legitimate reason to me.
The Roman historian and senator, Tacitus, refers to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate. Scholars accept his testimony as authentic and of historical value as an independent Roman source. Wikipedia has a very informative entry ‘Tacitus on Christ’ which is well worth reading.
Foxrock, Dublin 18.
Historical background of Humanae Vitae is crucial
Dear Editor, I feel bound to address contextual matters of Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae which I believe to have been unfortunately misused as the touchstone of orthodoxy, especially in the appointment of bishops to our Church.
A much richer and valid understanding of Humanae Vitae would come from an understanding of the basic sexual ethic that all relationships should be open to the life of God. This is fundamentally a pastoral question and not to be mis-used as a megaphone doctrinal statement. Judge not and you’ll not be judged. Pope Benedict himself has stated that even when a prostitute uses a condom, this could be a first step.
Pope Paul VI himself could just not have foreseen the AIDS crisis and tragedy. Pope Francis has famously used the metaphor of our Church as that of a Field Hospital. Other valid Church teachings come into play, e.g. the lesser of two evils. Pope Paul admirably left this classic pastoral question to the informed consciences of the couple. Unfortunately scratch many prototype liberals and you will be unlikely to find the same agape love, respect and tolerance which implicitly come from the Gospels.
Basically Humanae Vitae’ s prophetic voice must be seen in a neo-Malthusian North-South perspective. Saint Paul spoke and taught of the mystery and holiness of marriage. Respect, holiness and mystery go hand in hand. Many of our bedrock credos are caught not taught. Our Lord himself said the virtuous man falls seven times daily.
Fundamentally Humanae Vitae should be seen as a positive affirmation of God’s grace and love to all humankind and for all creation. Everybody is invited to serve and contribute to the Kingdom. Only God can plumb the vast mysteries and depths of the human heart and what it means to be human yesterday, today, tomorrow and in eternity please God.
Finally, Vatican II was the first time our Church attempted to approach the gift of marriage equally in terms of relationships and not procreation. This is the historical background of Humanae Vitae and should not be ignored.
Philip John Griffin,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.