Category Archives: Grad School/Seminary

First Day of 20th Grade!


I’ve always loved the start of a new school year! I love learning, and there’s something intoxicating about the smell of new office supplies. After a three year hiatus, I have returned to grad school as of the past Spring semester. Today, I start classes for Fall semester. I will be taking Synoptics and Foundations of the Christian Moral Life. I can’t wait to begin!

With me in the photo are Brandon (my co-worker, who is on his 17th year of school), and Jarrod (my supervisor, on year 24 and his 2nd Master’s degree). We thought it would be fun to add our photos to the slew of “First Day” photos cropping up on Facebook.

What is “Busy”?

Hi! My name is Jenn, and my life exists somewhere between hyper-organized and utter chaos. I don’t mean any sort of happy, balanced medium, but more like a madly swinging pendulum that leaves me exhausted and out-of-sorts. Any of you have the same problem?

I have so many ideas for what my “ideal state” would look like, but rarely have the time (or money) to implement or follow through on them. But slowly, some things are falling into place.

Late summer last year, I got my first Erin Condren planner. I went with a paper planner because Google Calendar just wasn’t working. Any time I really needed to see my schedule, either my phone battery was dead, or it was on an itty bitty square on my screen that said +22 items for the day. It was nearly impossible for me to make plans while away from my computer (meaning my work computer, since my home computer was having issues). Also, with a dead battery most of the time, people would tell me dates, but I’d forget to add them to my calendar by time I got home. And 99% of the time, my phone’s ringer was off, so the “alarm” feature didn’t help me a bit.

Enter my ECLP where I can use brightly colored pens, markers, and stickers! Even though it seems a little silly at times, it makes me happy and I USE THIS THING! I can honestly say that it makes a huge difference, and therefore is worth the time and money that I put into it.

Back to the busyness of my life…

In May, I started grad school again after a 3 year hiatus. This fall, I will be taking 6 credit hours, as well as working full time plus. (The plus is because I’ll also be working as much overtime as I can because grad school is expensive and I have to take at least two classes per semester). And let’s not forget my mitochondrial disease, because at any time, it can wipe everything off my calendar. 😦

Here is the plan:

I use my Erin Condren for my main schedule, including blocking out chunks of time for events, meetings, etc. The vertical layout works perfectly for me, as I tend to think about my days chronologically and prefer to plan in weekly increments. The monthly view in my ECLP is where I keep track of birthdays and bills.

Since I get sick a lot, and since my plans need to be flexible, I don’t do a lot of pre-planning, since I don’t like to have a lot of “Canceled” or “Rescheduled” stickers in my planner. So, I tend to use sticky notes as placeholders for things I plan on attending. Outside of using mini sticky notes for pre-planning bigger events, I was also using larger sticky notes to write down everything that I did in the day, so that I could record the highlights of my day in my EC later. I like being able to look back at the things I have *done* as well as what I’m looking forward to.

But then, I started having the problem of losing my large sticky notes. I’d have to try and remember what I did on a given day, and that was HARD! But I finally have a solution for that! Back in May, I received my first Emily Ley Daily Simplified Planner. It didn’t start until August, so I had to wait to use it. But now, I use this to record all of the messy details of my day instead of using sticky notes!

I made an agreement with myself that I wouldn’t use stickers in my Emily Ley. I wanted this to be strictly functional, and I wanted to be able to put all kinds of personal details like addresses and phone numbers where necessary in it, without worrying about what I was going to post online later. And I’m sticking to that… mostly….

Emily Ley! Watch for my latest blog post today at to see how I'll juggle work, grad school, and illness this semester!

Between my weekly overview (ECLP) and my detailed view (EL), I pretty much will have things nailed down. BUT! I have one more planner! I got an Erin Condren horizontal layout planner that I will be using to track things in my faith life. Church, Scripture reading, prayer, reflection, etc. This also, is mostly going to be a personal planner/journal and won’t get as much IG or blog “face time” as my main ECLP, but don’t think that it won’t be used just as much! 🙂

So, now you know the planning tools that I will use to manage my work schedule, doctor appointments, class and homework schedule, and faith life. I will go more into depth on the actual planning of things in future posts (since this one is fairly long already!). I can’t wait to see what you are using to manage the busyness of your days!

May We All Be One


Love craves unity.

We are physical beings as well as spiritual beings.

For these reasons, tangible expressions of love are so necessary. It is not enough that I am told that I am loved, but I need to see it, hear it and feel it. I need that hug, that kiss, that hand on my shoulder. We have an inborn need to profoundly connect with other people.

I was reminded of this by my latest reading:

Brothers, when we were bereft of you for a short time, in person, not in heart, we were all the more eager in our great desire to see you in person. (1 Thes 2:17)

It is not only other human persons for which we have this desire for unity but, most of all, for God. Which is why God gave us the sacraments, so that we can, tangibly, come into contact with Him. Through the sacraments, we can concretely encounter and interact with Christ. In Reconciliation, we can not only know that we are forgiven, but we can hear it said, “I absolve you….” In the Anointing of the Sick, our sick bodies are touched and the oil remains as a reminder of the healing freely given. In the Eucharist, it is Christ Himself whom we take into our bodies under the appearance of bread and wine. God effects in us the very unity which we crave. Would that we truly come to know what it is that He is doing.

In addition to this idea of tangible unity, the other thing this verse brings to my mind is the idea of intercessory prayer. I truly believe that prayer unites people. As I pray for you, my heart is softened toward you and I become better able to love you as God loves you. I believe this is why Paul says, “…we were bereft of you…in person, not in heart.” While they may have been physically separated, Paul continued to remember them, and not just in abstract recollections of memory, but — because heart in Paul’s day meant something more like the center of your will, rather than the center of your emotions — remembered them in prayer, where he was actively willing for their good.

Which brings me back to:

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. (John 17:20-21)

The Paper with All the Sheep!

Jennie Miller

June 15, 2010

Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist

The Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of Christian life (Lumen Gentium 11).  As the source, all sacramental graces flow from the primordial sacrament which is Jesus Christ, and all sacraments are intimately tied to the celebration of the Eucharist.  As the mystical Body of Christ, it is the whole community which celebrates the liturgy (CCC 1140).  When we sin, we damage our relationship with God.  When we freely consent to commit a grave sin with full knowledge of its sinful nature, we sever our relationship with God and no longer have access to these sacramental graces.  But God, in His infinite mercy, has given us a way to restore our relationship with Him:  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9 Revised Standard Version).

I think it is important to take a moment and reflect upon to whom we are supposed to confess our sins.  When appearing to the apostles after the Resurrection, Jesus tells them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained,” (John 20:23).  The Church has understood this to mean that we should confess our sins to the priests, who share in the authority passed down from the apostles for the binding and loosing of sins.  The Catechism tells us more about this special duty of the presbyters and bishops:

The ordained ministry or ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood.  The ordained priesthood guarantees that it is really Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church.  The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors:  they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.  The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments, (CCC 1120).

 What it is saying is that through the ministry and particular charism of the ordained priesthood, our liturgy has efficacy by the power of the Holy Spirit to unite us with the graces freely offered to us by our Father, to enable us to grow in holiness so that one day we may enter into the divine life of the Trinity. 

The priesthood is a wonderful vehicle for understanding the mystery of how the Sacrament of Reconciliation relates to the celebration of the Eucharist, perhaps especially in the analogy of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus uses this analogy to instruct the disciples,

“I am the door of the sheep…, if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture….  I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.  So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again,” (John 10:8-17). 

Here, He is talking about sacrifice, access to the divine life, and the gathering of people as duties specific to the shepherd.  Already, we can see an interweaving of the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist.  In the laying down of His life, our Shepherd, by His action on the cross, has made it so that our sins could be forgiven.  It is precisely this sacrifice that we experience in the confessional when our sins are forgiven, and it is precisely this sacrifice to which we are made contemporary at Mass.  In the confessional, we are reconciled with God and restore our relationship with Him as adopted sons and daughters, as sheep passing through the door of the Lord into the life of the Trinity.  By partaking of the Eucharist, we are taking the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord into ourselves and uniting ourselves with all the sheep in all of the folds into the one flock, the one Body of Christ.  “I know my own and my own know me…,” can be seen as a dialogue between the two sacraments.  In confession, we pour out our innermost selves to the priest standing in personae Christi – we let God know us.  In the liturgy of the Word, the Lord speaks to us – He tells us of Himself.  It is true that God is all-knowing and doesn’t need our verbalization to know us in all respects, but there is a stronger bond of love formed when self-truth is proclaimed willingly, when we make ourselves humble and vulnerable. 

The shepherd views feeding the sheep, protecting the sheep and seeking after lost sheep as all aspects of what it means to be a shepherd.  He seeks after the lost, brings them back into the fold and feeds and cares for them.  In an analogous way, the priest reaches out to the people, reconciles them back to God in the sacrament of penance and feeds them at the celebration of the Eucharist.   Just as sheep left alone will scatter, so too do we, especially if we absent ourselves from the sacraments, tend to drift away from the Lord and into sin.  We are in constant need of conversion and a restoration of our relationship with God after we have sinned, and a strengthening in Him and in one another as affected in the Eucharist.  “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects,” (James 5:16).

The two sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance are very closely connected.  Because the Eucharist makes present the redeeming sacrifice of the Cross, perpetuating it sacramentally, it naturally gives rise to a continuous need for conversion, for a personal response to the appeal made by Saint Paul to the Christians of Corinth:  “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).  If a Christian’s conscience is burdened by serious sin, then the path of penance through the sacrament of Reconciliation becomes necessary for full participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, (McCarthy, 2003, p.67).

All of our lives should be devoted to continual conversion as we strive towards greater unity with God and each other.  We do this in many ways as we “share in the sufferings of Christ, [endure our] own difficulties, carry out works of mercy and charity, and adopt ever more fully the outlook of the Gospel message,” (ROP 2).  We acknowledge the fact of our continued need for conversion especially during the Act of Penitence in the Introductory Rite, where we confess that we are sinners, and ask pardon of God and of our neighbors (ROP 4).  In this statement, we recognize the fact that our sins are not private, but that “one person’s sin harms the rest even as one person’s goodness enriches them,” (ROP 5).  “Basing itself on scripture and tradition, [Vatican II] teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation:  the one Christ is mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church,” (Lumen Gentium 14).  All of the faithful comprise the Body of Christ, but this is most evident during Mass when “the priest stands at the chair and, together with the whole gathering, makes the Sign of the Cross.  Then he signifies the presence of the Lord to the community gathered there by means of the Greeting.  By this Greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest,” (GIRM 50).  Because this gathering of the faithful as Church is a sacrament of unity and because we most fully enter into that unity of the Body of Christ when we feed from the one loaf, it is most important that “…if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift,” because there can be no division within the Body of Christ (Matthew 5:23-24).

Because we cannot have division within the Body of Christ, whether between ourselves and God or between ourselves and our brother, we have a particular responsibility to equip all the faithful with the tools that they need for continual conversion.  It is our responsibility as Church to ensure that the faithful are properly catechized in our faith.  This is primarily the responsibility of parents as the primary educators of their children, but cannot be neglected by any member of the Church as we all work to further understand the mysteries contained within the Deposit of Faith and grow in holiness.  As stated in Lumen Gentium previously, “the Church is necessary for salvation,” (14).  Because of this, we are called to proclaim the Gospel to all we come across, bringing people into the community of the Church, for the salvation of all mankind.  Evangelization is a requirement and a priority for Christians.  Further, we have a duty to properly form our consciences so that we can live holy lives and avoid sin wherever possible.  Reflecting upon an Examination of Conscience, usually done prior to the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, can be a useful tool to help us see where we have fallen short of God’s ideal, but we should approach life being constantly aware that we are to be a light to others.  Our faith is not something which happens once a week at Mass, but rather at all times in all places.  Because our sins are not personal but affect our community, perhaps it is most fitting that we do celebrate the Sacrament of Penance at times in community, so as to highlight to the faithful this aspect of unity.

Since the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Eucharist are so closely linked, it is helpful to have the liturgies be available in chronological proximity, so that one may be reconciled to God and then feed on Him and be welcomed back into the unity of the Body of Christ.  For this reason, and also to highlight the connection between the sacraments, many parishes have adopted the practice of having scheduled times for Reconciliation on Saturday, to prepare the faithful for the Sunday liturgy.  Some parishes have set aside time prior to every Mass for the celebration of Reconciliation; and most parishes/dioceses plan for communal penance services with individual confession and absolution, particularly in the seasons of Advent and Lent.

Elements of the Sacrament of Penance can be seen in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, beginning with the Act of Penitence which can contain the Confiteor and Kyrie Eleison.  “This rite concludes with the priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance,” (ROP 51).  While it does lack the efficacy of the sacrament, it serves to remind us of our sinful nature, to draw our hearts to conversion and to foster a sense of connection and unity within the congregation.  In the Presentation of the Gifts, we offer our entire selves back to God, in response to His sacrifice which has freed us from the bonds of sin.  “The priest then washes his hands at the side of the altar, a rite that is an expression of his desire for interior purification,” (GIRM 76).  While not a prayer that the lay faithful say with the priest, it is an appropriate time for each person to ask God for his own interior purification prior to receiving the Eucharist.  “In the Lord’s Prayer a petition is made for daily food, which for Christians means preeminently the Eucharistic bread, and also for purification from sin, so that what is holy may, in fact, be given to those who are holy,” (GIRM 81).  The Rite of Peace which follows not only asks for the Lord’s peace to be given to us, but also allows for us to exchange our peace with our neighbors – in a way an “I forgive you” to the “I’m sorry” of the Confiteor – and a recognition of our unity, prior to the reception of the Eucharist, which is the penultimate symbol of our unity.  Just after the fractioning, the faithful along with the priest pray, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” again calling to mind our sinful nature and continual need for humility, conversion and reconciliation, yet prayed in hope and knowledge of the Lord’s mercy, (Bouley, 1992, p. 292; GIRM 84).  “As often as the sacrifice of the cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch is sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7) is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out,” (Lumen Gentium 3).

Similarly, elements of the Sacrament of the Eucharist can be seen in the Sacrament of Penance, beginning with the greeting of the penitent by the priest and the Sign of the Cross.  This is then followed by the reading of the Word of God.  Through the ordained ministry of the priest and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is the one who hears our confession and forgives us of our sins.  The Sacrament of Penance reconciles us back into the life of the Church and makes us ready to participate in the worship of the Church.  In order to be properly disposed to receive the Eucharist, the rite calls first for the penitent to have a genuine sense of contrition, “which is ‘heartfelt sorrow and aversion for the sin committed along with the intention of sinning no more.’,” (ROP 6).  In light of this sincere conversion of heart, the penitent will confess his sins to the priest after undergoing a thorough examination of conscience.  “Confession requires on the penitent’s part the will to open the heart to the minister of God and on the minister’s part a spiritual judgment by which, acting in the person of Christ, he pronounces his decision of forgiveness or retention of sins in accord with the power of the keys,” (ROP 6).  This interchange between the penitent and the priest is essential, because this is not a work of the penitent or a work of the priest, but rather an encounter with the living God.  “True conversion is completed by expiation for the sins committed, by amendment of life, and also by rectifying injuries done,” (ROP 6).  The penances given during Reconciliation should work to fix any relationships, with God and with neighbor, which have been damaged by the sin and should help the penitent to grow in holiness.  It is most appropriate that the penance would be related to the sin committed and, if possible, be an action rooted in the corresponding virtue to that sin.  Just as Christ manifests as the Blessed Sacrament so as to join with us physically, He also through the laying on of hands encounters us in the Sacrament of Penance, precisely at the time He tells the penitent, through the words of the priest, of his absolution of their sins (ROP 6).  Because this event of our reconciliation is made possible because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the celebration of the sacrament is also a celebration of the Paschal mystery, (Martinez, 2003, p. 197).  We are given access to the same mystery which is re-presented to us at every Mass.  With individual Reconciliation, there is, perhaps, more of a realization of the fact that God was crucified for you, by name.  At Mass, the nuance is more towards the realization that God came for all.  There is not a dichotomy between the two ideas, rather both are appropriate to the understanding of Christ’s Passion.

In conclusion, the two sacraments of Penance and Eucharist are intimately linked.  They flow into and through each other as the Sacrament of Penance re-establishes a right relationship with the people and God and prepares them for the reception of the Eucharist; while the Sacrament of the Eucharist points people to their eschatological end and reminds them of the continual conversion necessary to reach this end and enter into the divine life of the Trinity.  Tying them both together is the presbyter, standing in the place of the Good Shepherd, as

Christ places the lost sheep on his shoulders and brings them back to the sheepfold, and the Holy Spirit resanctifies those who are the temple of God or dwells more fully in them.  The expression of all this is the sharing in the Lord’s table, begun again or made more ardent; such a return of children from afar brings great rejoicing at the banquet of God’s Church, (ROP 6).



Bouley, A. Ed.  (1992).  Catholic Rites Today: Abridged Texts for Students.  Collegeville, MN:  The Liturgical Press.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1994.  New York, NY:  Doubleday.

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.  Vatican II, November 21, 1964.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), 1975.

McCarthy, B.  (2003).  The Eucharist.  Goleta, CA:  Queenship Publishing.

Rite of Penance (ROP), 1973.

St. John Fisher

Here is my eagerly anticipated research paper on St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, for your reading enjoyment! 🙂

Jennie Miller


St. John Fisher

Although there has been some controversy over the dating of St. John Fisher’s birth, due to clues such as his statement that he was “very young when made bishop,” and the timing of his graduation with his bachelor’s degree, Rev. Bridgett determines that St. John must have been born in 1468 or 1469 (Bridgett, 1922, p. 6-7).  Interestingly, it is noted that St. John’s paternal aunt married into the Wycliffe family (of early dissident John Wycliffe fame), which was devoutly Catholic despite the family’s notorious member (Bridgett, 1922, p. 8).  Despite his father’s death when he was quite young and his mother’s subsequent remarriage, St. John’s family was “united in affection to the end,” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 10).  He received a good education and was sent to Cambridge in 1483, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1487 and a Master’s degree in 1491 (Bridgett, 1922, p. 11-13).  He was highly esteemed at Cambridge, serving as proctor and being elected to be Master of Michael House in 1497 (Bridgett, 1922, p. 19).  It was around this time that his relationship with Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and mother to King Henry VII, began (Bridgett, 1922, p. 19).  In 1501, St. John received his Doctorate in Divinity, and the following year was called by the Countess to serve as her chaplain and confessor (Bridgett, 1922, p. 19).  In a letter addressed to his mother, King Henry VII says of Dr. Fisher:

I am well minded to promote Master Fisher, your confessor, to a bishopric; and I assure you, Madam, for none other cause, but for the great and singular virtue, that I know and see in him, as well as in cunning [i.e., talent] and natural wisdom, and specially for his good and virtuous living and conversation. And by the promotion of such a man I know well it should encourage many others to live virtuously and to take such ways as he doth, which should be a good example to many others hereafter (Bridgett, 1922, p. 24).

One example of his virtuous living came following the death of Lady Margaret.  She had left him a sum of money to be used at his discretion, regarding this bequest, he writes, “[It] should be spent for the good of my own soul, in the education of theologians, than squandered on my relatives, or wickedly and uselessly consumed for vain purposes, according to the custom of the world.  And this I do, not only for my own soul, but by my example to excite others to lend a helping hand to the college” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 33).  A papal bull dated October 14, 1505 officially conferred upon him the bishopric of Rochester (Huddleston, 1910).  In this same year, he was made Chancellor of Cambridge University, a position he would hold for life (Huddleston, 1910).

            In fitting with his virtuous life and scholastic affiliations, Bishop Fisher was a staunch defender of orthodoxy, particularly during the early years of the Protestant Reformation.  Because of his renown as a great preacher, he was chosen to preach against the German heresies on May 12, 1521 when the books of Luther and others were burned publicly in the presence of Cardinal Wolsey (Bridgett, 1922, p. 50).  Perhaps his most well-known defense of orthodoxy is a book he wrote in response to Luther, The Defence of the Priesthood.

            While St. John Fisher was highly regarded for his scholarship and position at Cambridge and his defense of heresy, “we know enough to be sure that no energy, spent elsewhere, was at the expense of his primary duty to his own people.  He was known, not only throughout England, but to all Europe, as the model of a perfect bishop” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 53).  Even King Henry VIII, prior to the events surrounding his divorce, was known to rely upon the Bishop of Rochester over all other bishops (Bridgett, 1922, p. 54).  Upon his episcopal consecration, St. John took, as was common of English bishops in that time, both an oath of allegiance to the pope as well as an oath of allegiance to the king and his heirs (Bridgett, 1922, p. 57).  While the diocese of Rochester, which was formed by St. Augustine, was the smallest diocese in England, St. John was not concerned with seeking a wealthier see and was noted to say that “it was safer to have fewer souls and less money to account for, and that he would not desert his poor old wife for the richest widow in England” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 59, 61).  He led such an austere life, that his friend, Erasmus, was noted to say of his home, “As to me, I could not live in such a place three hours without being sick” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 62).  In his personal life, he was known for his devotion to daily prayer and the Mass (Bridgett, 1922, p. 65-6).  “The ordinary fasts appointed by the Church he kept very roundly, and to them he joined many other particular fasts of his own devotion, as appeared well by his own thin and weak body, whereupon though much flesh was not left, yet would he punish the very skin and bones upon his back.  He wore most commonly a shirt of hair, and many times he would whip himself in most secret wise” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 68).  He was always furthering his education and was said to have “the best private library in England, perhaps in Europe” and even taught himself Hebrew and Greek so that he could study the Scriptures in their original languages (Bridgett, 1922, p. 92, 94-5).

            Trouble began for St. John with Henry VIII’s bid for divorce from Catharine.  “He sought divorce from the pope, not as if the pope could dissolve a valid marriage, but on the ground that his marriage had been null and void from the beginning….  [His] contention was . . . that the pope was not omnipotent, and that he [Pope Julius II] had gone beyond his power in trying to remove impediments which God had placed, and to bind in marriage where God forbade to bind” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 142-3).  At this time, Bishop Fisher served Queen Catharine as counsellor, appearing before the Legatine Court where “he startled his hearers by the directness of his language and most of all by declaring that, like John the Baptist, he was ready to die on behalf of the indissolubility of marriage” (Huddleston, 1911).  As bold as he was in court, St. John did not reach this position quickly, but as he says, “[t]he matter was so serious, both on account of the importance of the persons concerned, and on account of the injunction given to me by the king, that I devoted more attention to examining the truth of it, lest I should deceive myself and others, than to anything else in my life” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 162). 

“One consideration,” he writes, “that greatly affects me to believe in the sacrament of marriage is the martyrdom of St. John Baptist, who suffered death for his reproof of the violation of marriage. There were many crimes in appearance more grievous for rebuking which he might have suffered, but there was none more fitting than the crime of adultery to be the cause of the blood-shedding of the Friend of the Bridegroom, since the violation of marriage is no little insult to Him who is called the Bridegroom” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 175).

After this, the matter was taken up in Rome, bringing “Fisher’s personal share therein to an end, but the king never forgave him for what he had done” (Huddleston, 1911).  In 1930, as Henry VIII continued to attempt to usurp the authority of the Church, the bishops of Rochester, Bath and Ely appealed to Rome.  Henry issued an edict to forbid appeals of this nature and had the three bishops arrested and held for a short time (Huddleston, 1911).  On May 15, 1532, the Act of the Submission of the clergy was passed and St. Thomas More resigned the chancellorship (Bridgett, 1922, p. 221; Huddleston, 1911).  That June, while the king tried to convince the opponents of his divorce that the pope favored his cause, Bishop Fisher publicly preached against the divorce, and subsequently found himself, “in danger of prison and other trouble” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 223-4).  “The king had determined to have the Bishop of Rochester out of the way during the public farce of Queen Catharine’s citation and divorce by Cranmer, and the coronation of Anne Boleyn, lest one voice should be heard in indignant protest.  Cranmer was consecrated 30th March [1533], and Fisher was arrested on 6th April” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 226).  He was released following Anne’s coronation on 1 June (Huddleston, 1911).  In March of 1534, the Act of Succession was passed whereby people were compelled to take this oath “acknowledging the issue of Henry and Anne [and not Princess Mary by Queen Catharine] as legitimate heirs to the throne, under pain of being guilty of misprision of treason” (Huddleston, 1911).  Because taking the oath meant condoning the violation of Henry’s marriage to Catharine, St. John refused to take the oath and was sent to the Tower of London on April 26, 1534 (Huddleston, 1991).  In May of 1535, Pope Paul III elevated St. John to Cardinal, in the hopes that this would improve King Henry’s treatment of him in prison; however, this only infuriated Henry and caused him to arrange for a trial for St. John Fisher, charging him with treason by way of refusing to recognize him as the head of the Church (Huddleston, 1911).  St. John was found guilty and condemned to drawing, hanging and quartering, but because they feared he would not survive the journey to the location where this was typically carried out, the Cardinal was taken to Tower Hill where he was beheaded (Bridgett, 1922, p. 391-2).  It is reported that his last words upon the scaffold were;

“Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s holy Catholic Church, and I thank God hitherto my stomach hath served me very well thereunto, so that yet I have not feared death; wherefore I do desire you all to help and assist me with your prayers, that at the very point and instant of death’s stroke, I may in that very moment stand steadfast without fainting in any one point of the Catholic faith, free from any fear. And I beseech Almighty God of His infinite goodness to save the king and this realm, and that it may please Him to hold His hold hand over it, and send the king good counsel” (Bridgett, 1922, p. 396).

            St. John Fisher’s contributions to the Catholic Church are many, including his numerous extant letters and two books (The Defense of the Priesthood and Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms).  In a time of great unrest, uncertainty of the true authority of the Church and scandalous example of many clergy within the Church, St. John stood out as a bishop of uncompromising principle and ironclad integrity.  He not only lived as a shining example for others, but he would preach publicly and publish material so as to defend the faith and instruct the people on the orthodox teachings of the Church.  After his martyrdom, his head was place on a pole on London Bridge. 

Fisher’s head kept its form and features so well and so lifelike that, after a few days, people began to gather in front of it, praying for the intercession of the saint whose head it was. Hundreds of people from London and its suburbs made daily pilgrimages to the place. Instead of being a threat, the sight of the head was an encouragement to the firm believers in the faith of Christ (McCann, 1938, p. 258).

St. John’s impact is felt today most keenly in his amazing witness.  This is also an age of uncertainty, where modernism and relativism reign supreme.  St. John shows us how to have unfailing faith in objective Truth.  As Bishop of Rochester, he shows today’s priests how to live out their vocations, by keeping your flock your first priority, by always learning and seeking out Truth, by defending that Truth as vigorously as necessary and, ultimately, by having trust in the Lord.  Perhaps Mr. Smith best states the importance St. John Fisher and his fellow martyr St. Thomas More have for us today when he says:

In these black days when many countries are the scene of a determined attempt to destroy the works of God; in these days when all the interests and needs of man, religious, cultural, economic, are threatened on every side; in these black days John Fisher and Thomas More return to earth, bidding us to be of good cheer. God is still the master of the centuries and His paths still lead onward to the light. Secondly, the Martyrs have returned to encourage us in the daily martyrdom of life…. [T]hrough constant faithfulness to his duty of the moment . . . each built up . . . a character capable of answering the supreme call when that call came (Smith, 1935, p. 295).


Bridgett, T.E.  (1922).  Life of Blessed John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and Martyr Under Henry VIII.  4th ed.  London:  Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd.

Huddleston, G.  (1910).  St. John Fisher.  In The Catholic Encyclopedia.  New York:  Robert Appleton Company.  Retrieved April 13, 2010 from New Advent:

McCann, P.  (1938).  A Valiant Bishop Against a Ruthless King.  St. Louis, MO:  B. Herder Book Co.

Smith, R.L.  (1935).  John Fisher and Thomas More:  Two English Saints.  New York, NY:  Sheed & Ward Inc.

Philosophical Foundations 1/20/10

Descartes – French – Jesuit education
He’s not really a skeptic. He wants to prove the existence of God, and that the mind is distinct from the body.

He keeps re-centering himself on doubting everything that comes from the senses.

Movie: “The Name of the Rose”
At this time, the Sorbonne was a very well-respected center of learning.

Natural credulity principle

Descartes – would have had to do Ignatian spiritual exercises

Meditation 1
The senses have deceived us. Dreams. Mirage. Typical sense deception. Small things.
Atypical sense deception – people are robots; props looking like trees and barns. Matrix. Logical possibilities, if not probable.

Dreams – he could be dreaming – problem because it is not real. When you are dreaming, unless it’s a lucid dream, you think it’s real.
But dreams are based on things which actually exist. We have an idea of corporeal nature in general. Had to have gotten this from experience.

First principles come from disciplines such as arithmetic and geometry.

If God lets me be deceived sometimes, could He let me be deceived all the time?

We have feelings of certitude about things which are false.

Can you really withdraw your assent to all beliefs? Not really.

“-doxy” = “belief”

If you do this, you are making yourself crazy. It is our natural tendency to be credulous.

He doesn’t start with beliefs, but with the method of doubt.
Descartes believes we can control our assent.

He concentrates on knowledge and not action because to live in the world, we need to believe in certain things, e.g. the floor, etc.

He hypothesizes an evil genius.
Everything he’s known before could be false. About discernment. What is the truth?

Satan as both a person/presence and a privation of good.

If you think you are continually getting misinformation, it makes a certain amount of sense to try and get rid of all prior knowledge and re-discover truth.

Doxastic habits

Meditation 2

External senses (5)
Internal senses: memory, imagination, common
Descartes rejects all sense information.

If I was persuaded, then I must have existed. If I was deceived, then I must have existed.

If I think “I am, I exist.” – This is necessarily true.

Nicomacian ethics – Aristotle

We perceive that we perceive
We think that we think

This means that we exist

Something beyond the thinking that thinks.

Can a thought exist without a thinker?
If you stop thinking, do you stop existing?

[Lack of critical thinking – lack of true living, true citizenship?]

Maybe thinks of some sort of power of thought. He identifies his “I.” He identifies his self with thought. I am this mind, this reason. He hasn’t said anything about a soul yet. But, doesn’t there need to be some substance underlying these powers? We are not always thinking – it is sometimes on and sometimes off.

He’s looking for something we do that doesn’t involve the body. We need our body to sense things. (Dreaming uses internal senses.) They used to think internal senses were located in the brain and external senses were located in the sense organs.

Mind connected to the brain – evidence;

Brain injury
You can consume things that affect your thinking

Is there any part of the mind which doesn’t depend on the body?

Hemispherectomy – re-learn or re-wire functions onto remaining tissue

Mind as a power of the soul

Mind is connected to the brain, but can transcend the brain.


Sight : Color Mind : Brain
Mind : Image Sight : Eyeball

The mind needs something to think with

Images come from imagination, which come from the brain. A reverberation of sense perception. We learn from particulars, from examples.

Mind and soul are technically distinct.

(Descartes – certain he exists. He’s a thinking thing. Doesn’t know about the body.)

Soul – according to Aquinas – in an act and a potentiality. Mind is one potential of the soul. Soul and the body are actualized (come into existence) together/at the same time.

Example of the wax:

Pretty much everything about it changes as it gets close to the fire.

Do we actually see wax? No. We sense the accidental properties. Wax is just a concept of my mind underlying these accidentals. Preference for mind, which can think more universally than your imagination or your senses.
It is extended, flexible, mutable.
Mind alone perceives the essence of the wax.

Things we see that we don’t really see:

Man walking across the street, but could be a robot
We never see concepts – wind is a concept
We speak in universals. We don’t see essences.

Descartes wants to get very precise.

Philosophical Foundations 1/13/10

Descartes – I think therefore I am

Jesuit schools
Thought he could prove the existence of God

But his philosophy ends up lending itself to atheist and agnostic belief structures

He was looking for absolute certainty

Kant – starts with subject and moves to the world, unlike other philosophers

What does Descartes think the human person is?

Dualism = mind/body separation

Thinking substance and extended substance
Body is not who you are as a person

Catholic outlook – without either body or soul, you are not a person

(Aquinas says only separated souls are currently in heaven, and are not persons)

[If reasoning is bad to some Protestants, how can they believe in solo scriptura?]

Soul – exists like a substance after death, but isn’t a substance

We all have a collection of beliefs.
In the bottom, in the foundation, are the beliefs upon which the other beliefs rely and which are self-evident, such as 1+1=2. There are incorrigible beliefs – which other people can’t call into question, such as what’s going on in your head.

Many people believe that to be rational means that you need to have arguments supporting your belief structure

Do I have to prove everything I know?

We have many more beliefs than concrete knowledge.

Start from particular beliefs, don’t start with a method.

Epistemology – the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge; it asks: What is knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? What do people know? How do we know what we know?

Intuition – what you know without argument; understanding without apparent effort; the act by which the mind perceives the agreement or disagreement of two ideas

Dark night of the soul – contemplation in the presence of God – mystical knowledge of God – intuition through inspiration. 460 – through charity this knowledge is communicated to the intellect – intellect is unable to operate – the darker the night, the closer you are to God. When we get charity, we become like God –> connaturality – to know something by becoming like it.

For Your Reading Pleasure (or Pain)…

. . . I give you . . . my research paper on St. Patrick!  🙂

Jennie Miller

St. Patrick

St. Patrick was born to noble, Christian parents in the year 387 A.D. (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 1; Conyngham, 1885, p. 2).  His father, Calpurnius, was British and a Roman citizen and his mother, Conchessa, was related to St. Martin of Tours (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 1).  Even in the beginning, St. Patrick was known to be a special child:

Miracles presided even over the birth of the Saint.  As no priest was to be found, the infant was taken to be baptized by the blind hermit, Gornias, who dwelt in the neighbourhood.  A difficulty arose from the want of water with which to perform the ceremony.  Gornias, however, inwardly enlightened, took the tiny hand of the babe and with it traced the sign of the cross upon the earth, with the result that a spring of water gushed forth.  Bathing his own eyes first, the hermit forthwith saw, and was able to read the baptismal rite, although before this he had been unacquainted with letters (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 7).

 Many other miracles have been attributed to St. Patrick; however, scholars have found reason to doubt the veracity of some of the stories, and feel that at this point it is impossible to distinguish truth from legend (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 13).  However,

[t]he general conclusion to be drawn from the stories is, that the Saint was brought up strictly, taught to labour with his hands, and trained to endure privations and hardships with courage.  The activity of his temperament, his natural cheerfulness, generosity and kindness of heart, had full scope in the healthy outdoor life he led, while the tender affection of his guardians shielded him from all harm.  His mind was already drawn to God by faith and confidence, his conversation was with the angels, and no shadow of evil had yet crossed his path (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 13-14).

 When he was sixteen, it is thought that he was captured by the sea-king, Niall, and brought to Ireland to be sold in the slave markets (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 16).  He was bought by a petty king of Dalaradia named Milcho and brought to the region of the mountain named Slemish (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 20).  His task was to mind a herd of swine in the woods (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 20-21).  This solitary work gave St. Patrick much time for self-reflection and prayer and led him to a significant conversion to God (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 21).  While serving under Milcho, he found companionship with the native Irish, learning the language and culture, and gaining a desire to want to bring these people to know God (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 22-23).  After six years of captivity, he escaped and found his way back to Britain.  Shortly after his return, he had a vision wherein the Irish called to him to show them the path to salvation (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 37).  Knowing that he was not yet ready for this mission, St. Patrick sought to further his education under the direction of his relative, St. Martin, the bishop of Tours, at the monastery of Marmoutier (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 40).  After the death of St. Martin, St. Patrick went to Auxerre and then to Lerins, an island in the Mediterranean (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 45-47).  After many years in Lerins, he returned to Auxerre and may have been called back by the British Church to help defend against the Pelagian heresy (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 50-51).  During this time, he continued to hear the cry of the Irish children for his return (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 51).  St. Patrick sought an audience with Pope Celestine I and was granted permission to evangelize Ireland (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 56-57).  St. Patrick was ordained a bishop; and in the year 432, he set out for Ireland (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 57-61).  Upon reaching Ireland, he headed for the region of his captivity, making disciples along the way (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 63-64).  Before St. Patrick’s arrival, his former captor, Milcho, committed suicide lest he be converted from his Druidic faith (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 71). 

On Holy Saturday, 433 A.D., the High Kings of Erin were to celebrate their festival, “[b]ut until the sacred flame was seen to burn on Tara’s hill all fires were strictly prohibited” (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 77).  Ten miles away, St. Patrick was setting up camp on the hill of Slane, preparing for the Easter festival (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 79-80).  When darkness fell, St. Patrick lit the paschal fire, inciting the wrath of the High King, who had not yet lit his own fire (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 81).  The druids in the company of the High King told him of St. Patrick’s fire that “unless it is quenched on the night on which it was made, it will not be quenched till doomsday” (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 82).  The High King and his party confronted St. Patrick and a wizard named Lochru verbally attacked him, going so far as to blaspheme the Blessed Trinity (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 85).  At this, St. Patrick called upon the Lord to kill the blasphemer, who was then raised into the air and fell onto a rock, dying in the presence of the crowd (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 86).  The High King, Laeghaire, was angered and ordered St. Patrick’s death, but while the soldiers advanced on St. Patrick, the sky darkened and the earth shook and the soldiers were confused to the point of killing each other and fleeing (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 87).  King Laeghaire invited St. Patrick to Tara, with the intention of ambushing him and killing him on the way; it was during this journey that St. Patrick is purported to have composed “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 90).  He remained in Slane and Tara for Easter week, teaching the Gospel and, on April 5, 433, baptized Conall, the brother of the High King (Moran, 1911).  Because “this was the first public administering of baptism, recognized by royal edict . . . , the fifth of April is assigned ‘the beginning of the Baptism of Erin’” (Moran, 1911).  In the year 440, St. Patrick began the work of converting the province of Ulster (Moran, 1911).  He traveled to Meath, Leinster, and Munster, directing his efforts “to combat error in the chief centres of authority, knowing well that, in the paths of conversion, the kings and chieftains would soon be followed by their subjects” (Moran, 1911).

St. Patrick was upset when soldiers of Coroticus took some of his new Christians to be sold into slavery and wrote the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, in which he excommunicated them (Thurston & Attwater, 1999, p. 171).  This action may have incited the British bishops into an examination of St. Patrick’s ministry, to which he responded by writing his Confession (Thurston & Attwater, 1999, p. 171)“St. Patrick continued until his death to visit and watch over the churches which he had founded in all the provinces in Ireland.  He comforted the faithful in their difficulties, strengthened them in the Faith and in the practice of virtue, and appointed pastors to continue his work among them” (Moran, 1911).

What St. Patrick contributed to Church life was a Celtic form of Christianity, which was not far from the traditions and practices of the Druids (Tennant, 2000).  He had a unique way of teaching theology using nature:

Perhaps the most famous legend connected with Patrick is that of the explanation of the Trinity or Triunity by way of the shamrock.  The story is that the Irish disciples of Patrick had difficulty with the understanding of a God who is at one and the same time one and three.  So Patrick stooped down and picked up a shamrock and showed how it was at once three and one.  Apparently the Irish were satisfied with the explanation and have never wavered in their Trinitarian orthodoxy from that day to this (O’Donoghue, 1987, p. 25).

 “Perhaps the most enduring feature of Irish Christianity through the centuries is its missionary spirit, which assuredly owes much to Ireland’s patron saint” (Thurston & Attwater, 1999, p. 168).  “It is recorded in his Life that he consecrated no fewer than 350 bishops,” (Moran, 1911).  In addition to baptizing many of the Irish people and ordaining priests and bishops, St. Patrick also founded several churches and monasteries, including Sabhall and Donagh-Patrick, which remain to present day (Moran, 1911).  “The tender devotion of the people of Ireland to the Blessed Mother of God owes its origin to the seeds planted by St. Patrick,” (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 67).  He was a great example to the Church of a life led in piety and penance (Moran, 1911).  “When not engaged in the work of the sacred ministry, his whole time was spent in prayer” (Moran, 1911). 

            St. Patrick’s impact is greatly felt today, as attested to by the pervasiveness of tales of St. Patrick even in secular culture.  His feast day is found on many calendars and it is tradition in many areas to wear green and “be Irish” on that day, affirming St. Patrick’s ties to Ireland.  Of greater import than the secular traditions that we have is the spiritual and religious legacy left by him.  He leaves behind him a message of hope, “not only the hope of attaining a better life after the exile of this world, but the strong hope . . . that, however dark the present may appear, there are better days to come even here below.” (St. Patrick, 1911, p. 27).  The fact of our western culture may owe its existence in part to the actions of St. Patrick, for:

[I]t is Patrick’s conversion of Ireland that makes possible the preservation of Western thought through the early Dark Ages by the Irish monasteries founded by Patrick’s successors. When the lights went out all over Europe, a candle still burned in Ireland. That candle was lit by Patrick (McSorley, 1997).

 St. Patrick’s missionary spirit so affected the culture of the Irish people that its effects are felt even in our own country.  “The rapid progress of Catholicity in America is mainly owing to the increase and faith of the Irish.  They have been the pioneers of Catholicity here, and their generous zeal for the faith has covered the land with magnificent temples for Divine worship” (Conyngham, 1885, p. 108). 


Conyngham, D.P.  (1885).  Lives of the Irish saints and martyrs.  New York, NY:  Excelsior Catholic Publishing House.

McSorley, A.M.  (1997).  The St. Patrick you never knew.  Retrieved December 9, 2009 from American Catholic:

Moran, P.F.  (1911).  St. Patrick.  In The Catholic Encyclopedia.  New York:  Robert Appleton Company.  Retrieved November 13, 2009 from New Advent:

O’Donoghue, N.D.  (1987).  Aristocracy of soul:  Patrick of Ireland.  Wilmington, DE:  Michael Glazier, Inc.

St. Patrick:  Apostle of Ireland.  (1911).  London:  Sands & Company.

Tennant, D.  (Director).  (2000).  St. Patrick:  Apostle of Ireland.  [Motion picture].  (Available from Janson Video, Inc., Harrington Park, NJ  07640).

Thurston, H. & Attwater, D. (Eds.).  (1999).  Butler’s lives of the saints (2nd ed)  (Vol. March).  Collegeville, MN:  The Liturgical Press.