Jan 25, 2008

New Bishop for Springfield, MO

My friends in south Missouri are elated over the overdue appointment of a new Bishop. Fr. James Vann Johnston Jr., J.C.L. has been named bishop for the Roman Catholic diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, MO and will be ordained and installed the weekend after Easter on March 31.

Fr. Vann Johnston is currently Chancellor of the Knoxville, TN diocese and pastor of the large new Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa, TN, a suburb to the south of Knoxville. Fr. Johnston's parish sponsors perpetual adoration of the Eucharistic Sacrament, and prays the rosary before daily Mass. The active parish with almost 1,200 Mass attendees every weekend also sponsors a twin parish in Thomonde, Haiti.

Bishop-elect Johnston is the oldest of four children and holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee. Before entering the seminary, he worked from 1982-85 for an engineering consulting firm in Houston. He was ordained a priest in 1990.

One of the most interesting facts about 48-year old Fr. Van Johnston is that three years ago, he and two other priests were nationally recognized for saving a father and his two children during a hiking vacation in Montana. He has recognized the benefits of fasting in the public media:
“Christians have to practice some form of self-denial; otherwise, it begins to affect the soul. We become prone to what’s often referred to as sloth and/or gluttony. We begin to live our lives to fulfill whatever urge or hunger that we have rather than loving God and loving our neighbor and serving them in love. Christ often teaches his disciples about the importance of detachment to the things of this world.”
The interview of Fr. Johnston at KnoxNews on the subject of the old Latin Mass is even more interesting.

The Rev. Vann Johnston, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, says the Latin-only controversy has not affected this area. He explains that Bishop Joseph Edward Kurtz has granted permission to two churches in the diocese to offer the Mass in Latin: "This came about after a petition was passed asking that Latin be offered, but the people who signed it indicated they did not believe it was the only true Mass. They respect and legitimize Mass done in English and Spanish, or whatever the language of the people; but they loved the poetry, the music, the tradition of the Latin, and they wanted it offered for those reasons."

The first church in the Knoxville Diocese to offer the Latin Mass was St. Therese in Cleveland, which began offering the traditional Mass in 2004 on the first and third Sundays of each month. Now, beginning Sunday, it will also be offered on the second and fourth Sundays at St. John Neumann in Farragut.

"I'm comfortable with that," says Johnston. "The people asking for it are faithful Catholics, and their motivations are not related to schismatic groups. The Latin Mass is very beautiful."

He agrees people today are longing for a sense of the holy, but that, if done reverently and in accordance with the mind of the church, the English and the Spanish Mass have the same spiritual components and value as the Latin.

"They, too, can and do feed people's hunger for the sacred," he says.

The current Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau has finally given in to many requests for the old Latin Mass and will now allow it to be offered in several churches, but my friends have reported that start dates have been amorphous. It is now known that the first old Latin Mass in the diocese will be celebrated at 4 p.m. Feb. 10 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Springfield, MO.

Jan 23, 2008

The Necessity of Baptism

I am greatly uneasy, even horrified, by Avery Cardinal Dulles' article on Who Can Be Saved? published in the February 2008 issue of FIRST THINGS. Dulles' words appear very different from those of Jesus, His apostles, the evangelists, and the early Church Fathers who spoke of the necessity of Baptism to be saved.
Who, then, can be saved? Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God’s promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted. But that same grace brings obligations to all who receive it. They must not receive the grace of God in vain. Much will be demanded of those to whom much is given.
Does anyone else see how the word "saved" is cheapened by Dulles, especially when it is disassociated from Christian Baptism that gives the soul sanctifying grace to make it pleasing to God? For comparison, read the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Baptism which holds Baptism to have definite matter and form, requirements for a valid sacrament.

The beliefs of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are described earlier in Dulles' article. If you really want to answer the question of who will be saved to receive God's reward in heaven, learn from these two saints--not from Dulles. Most importantly consider well the clear words of the Gospel of John: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."