Month: April 2019


                “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:32)

It’s a very embarrassing moment for a lawyer trying a case in front of a jury when the judge says, “Please call your next Witness,” and that next witness hasn’t shown up. Witnesses are very important (and nothing is more valuable to a lawyer than a competent, credible and honest witness), and this concept of “witness,” of credible witnesses, has a definite place in Christianity (indeed, in the painting above we see the risen Christ appearing to the apostles along the shore of Lake Tiberias – as recorded in John 21).

In 2 Peter 1:16 the concept of witness is elaborated upon by the apostle, who says:

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1: 16)
And at John 21:24 another apostle – obviously John – signs his affidavit of authenticity at the end of his Gospel by stating:
“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” (John 21: 24-25)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was a real and historical event: “The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness” (CCC 639). Clearly there are aspects of our Lord’s Resurrection which transcend the limitations of time and space – still the event itself was witnessed in history and dramatically changed the lives of those who witnessed it. Peter, speaking on the day of Pentecost, says:God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32)

Relying on his apostolic credentials, Saint Paul writes powerfully about the historical reliability of  Jesus’ Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, stating: 

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”  (1 Cor. 15: 3-8)

The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus” (CCC 639). In this famous passage (just quoted above) Paul mentions 500 hundred witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, and he further adds that some of these witnesses have died, which means that most are still alive and can provide corroborating testimony! Five hundred witnesses would make for a long trial!

The great Biblical scholar C.H. Dodd comments on this concept of witness as it pertains to the resurrection. He states: “The main weight [regarding the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection] … is placed on the testimony that Jesus was ‘seen’ alive after death, by a number of his followers….” (The Founder of Christianity, page 167). Dodd adds: Something had happened to these men, which they could describe only by saying they had ‘seen the Lord’. This is not an appeal to any generalized ‘Christian experience’. It refers to a particular series of occurrences, unique in character, unrepeatable, and confined to a limited period” (p.168). Dodd therefore concludes:

“[For] the original witnesses [the resurrection of Jesus was] an immediate, intuitive certainty. They were dead sure they had met with Jesus, and there was no more to be said about it….Now they were new men in a new world, confident, courageous, enterprising, the leaders of a movement which made an immediate impact and went forward with an astonishing impetus.” (p. 170)
Almost all of these apostles went on to convincingly confirm that they witnessed the resurrected Jesus with the witness – the Greek word “martyr” literally means witness – of their own lives, which is a most powerful testimony. Who are we today – some 2000 years later – but the living beneficiaries and stewards of the most important testimony ever given: “CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!

Tom Mulcahy, J.D.

Image: James Tissot, Christ Appears on the Shore of Lake Tiberias (Public Domain, U.S.A.)
References: The Founder of Christianity by C.H. Dodd, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15.

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      “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10)

We know that life is a mystery –  and yet we want to understand why there is life, and so much life. The other morning there was a loud noise coming from the back gutter of my house, so I opened a window upstairs and a bunch of Blue jays flew away – a beautiful sight to see! Everywhere we go the world is teeming with life – life, beautiful life!

But it was not supposed to be so! From everything I’ve read, inanimate matter, which preceded organic life, is utterly incapable of generating biological life. Like everywhere else in the universe, there should be physics and chemistry, but the stunning world of biology on planet earth is quite a surprise!!, and in a very real sense it is something akin to the miraculous. “The evolution of modern cells is arguably the most challenging and important problem the field of Biology has ever faced” (Carl Richard Woese, famous American microbiologist).

“…no life, no biology, only physics and chemistry….we only have evidence that it happened on one planet, after a lapse of half a billion to a billion years.  So the sort of lucky event we are looking at could be so wildly improbable that the chances of its happening, somewhere in the universe, could be as low as one in a billion billion billion in any one year.  If it did happen on only one planet, anywhere in the universe, that planet has to be our planet—because here we are talking about it”  (Richard Dawkins, Climbing Mount Improbable).

The Catholic Church claims to repeat on its altars each day this stunning transformation of inanimate or non-living matter into biological life through, anthropologically speaking, the incantation of a priestly blessing over bread and wine. The whole thing seems (without faith) wildly improbable, and yet in the well documented literature of Eucharistic miracles there appears to be compelling evidence that it has happened on more than one occasion. Amazing, but then again biological life itself is wildly improbable (see Joan Carroll Cruz’ well researched book, Eucharistic Miracles, which documents many stunning miracles of such sort)!

We come, then, to the person of Jesus Christ, who claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In his teachings he accentuates over and over again the central point that the meaning of life is eternal life. “In the preaching of Jesus everything is directed immediately toward Eternal Life” (Father Garrigou-Lagrange). The Gospel of John, in fact, is often referred to as the “Gospel of Eternal Life.” Now we have this amazing phenomenon that a group of apostles witnessed the dead cellular structure of Jesus’ crucified body come back to life! Jesus, in fact, went out of his way to demonstrate to the apostles – and on more than one occasion – that his resurrected body was a real, human body, the very body he had before his death (“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” – Luke 24:39).

Thus, the apostles were not left wondering whether they had seen Jesus in the flesh following his death and burial – Jesus went out of his way on multiple occasions to make sure that they had!  And these apostles were men that went on to live heroic lives, to suffer and die for what they had witnessed, spawning the amazing rise of the Christian faith despite insurmountable obstacles, and without any resort to violence.

The mystery of life most certainly involves the stunning interplay between inanimate, inert matter and living things. And perhaps in this light it should not be so stunning, after all, that God can bring dry bones back to life! (see Ezekiel 37).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

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“Is not this better [said Dimmesdale to Hester on the scaffold] than what we dreamed of in the forest?” (Chapter 23)

Henry James, the famous novelist, wrote a note about The Scarlet Letter in which he called it “the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth” in the United States. His main criticism of the novel was that it contained “a great deal of symbolism…I think, too much.” The point, however, is that symbolism is very important to understanding The Scarlet Letter, and in this short note I will make much of two very important symbols used by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the novel, namely, the scaffold and the forest. I will maintain that the scaffold, formally a penal instrument of punishment, shame and humiliation, is ultimately a symbol of salvation, and the forest a symbol of freedom from conventional moral restraints. Especially by the use of these two symbols, I hope to demonstrate that all four of the main characters in The Scarlet Letter – Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Mr. Roger Chillingworth and Pearl – were saved (and by saved I am referring ultimately to the Christian meaning of that term, although it has other meanings as well).

Let me get straight to my main point (knowing that you are already familiar with the facts of the novel): no one is saved in The Scarlet Letter unless he climbs up upon the scaffold. In other words, the pathway to salvation in the novel is directly connected to the scaffold. Dimmesdale flees the scaffold, or mounts it in a cowardly and imaginary fashion under the cover of darkness, when no one can see him, and thus suffers incredible interior pain throughout the course of the novel due to the concealment of his sin (and Hawthorne’s psychological description of Dimmesdale’s acute suffering is quite remarkable). Hester Prynne, by contrast, who was forced to undergo the public humiliation of standing on the scaffold (as described in the opening chapters) fairs much better. Her mental well-being and fortitude is impressive, and her growth in virtue as described by Hawthorne in Chapter 13 results in her being called a “Sister of Mercy.” Nevertheless, there is a temptation within Hester’s soul that attracts her to the illusion of salvation offered by the forest (and one can naturally sympathize with her attraction to the type of (seemingly) liberating moral calculus offered by the forest given the Puritanical oppression she has heroically endured).

But the forest is not the pathway to true salvation. In that famous scene near the end of the novel, where Dimmesdale and Hester meet in the forest, the temptation is placed in their hearts to see in their love something greater than the moral restraints that prohibit it, Hester arguing that their forbidden love “had  a consecration of its own.” Their plan of escape, which can never amount to a true escape, is to get out of Boston and sail to England, and live a new life (along with their daughter, Pearl). The forest thus symbolizes a freedom not found in the civilized world, a freedom that would romantically overshadow (or overpower) the stigma of sin. But the narrator (speaking for Hawthorne) comments:

“Such was the sympathy of Nature—that wild, heathen Nature of the forest, never subjugated by human law, nor illumined by higher truth—with the bliss of these two spirits! Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create a sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world. Had the forest still kept its gloom, it would have been bright in Hester’s eyes, and bright in Arthur Dimmesdale’s!” (Chapter 18).

But as soon as Dimmesdale leaves the forest and reenters the civilized world he is attacked by diabolical temptations so vehement that he is on the verge of saying blasphemous, vile and wicked things to people passing by (most of whom are associated with his congregation).  At some point, upon returning home, Dimmesdale must sense or discern that his spiritual life is under attack (“…am I given over utterly to the fiend?” he wondered on his walk home) and that no amount of miles between himself and Boston can ever really solve his underlying problems of guilt and concealment. This is clearly supposition on my part, but it seems to be confirmed later when Dimmesdale says to Chillingworth, “Ha, tempter! Methinks thou art too late,” which evidences the Reverend’s change of heart (and one theory is that Dimmesdale’s change of heart was the result of his preparation for his Election Day sermon, but in any event Hester recognizes a definite change in him on Election Day before he delivers the sermon). Thus, the true path to freedom for Dimmesdale will be to mount the scaffold of guilt and confession, to “unconceal” to all what he has been hiding for seven years. It is on the wooden beams of the scaffold that he can unveil his heart to the crowd, and reveal publicly his true situation.

I thus turn to the final, dramatic scene on the scaffold that takes place after the procession on the day of the Governor’s inauguration, following Reverend Dimmesdale’s very moving Election Day sermon, three days after the meeting of Hester and Dimmesdale in the forest. In the lengthy but crucial quotes set forth below (from chapter 23) you can see clearly that Dimmesdale, Hester, Pearl and Chillingworth all make it on to the scaffold, which I have referred to as a symbol of salvation in the novel. Here we find Dimmesdale being helped by Hester and Pearl to mount the scaffold of his final confession (one might even say, in proper context, being helped to carry his cross).

“Hester Prynne,” cried Dimmesdale, with a piercing earnestness, “in the name of Him, so terrible and so merciful, who gives me grace, at this last moment, to do what—for my own heavy sin and miserable agony—I withheld myself from doing seven years ago, come hither now, and twine thy strength about me! Thy strength, Hester; but let it be guided by the will which God hath granted me! This wretched and wronged old man is opposing it with all his might!—with all his own might, and the fiend’s! Come, Hester, come! Support me up yonder scaffold!”

The crowd was in a tumult…they remained silent and inactive spectators of the judgment which Providence seemed about to work. They beheld the minister, leaning on Hester’s shoulder, and supported by her arm around him, approach the scaffold, and ascend its steps; while still the little hand of the sin-born child was clasped in his. Old Roger Chillingworth followed, as one intimately connected with the drama of guilt and sorrow in which they had all been actors, and well entitled, therefore, to be present at its closing scene.

“Hadst thou sought the whole earth over,” said [Chillingworth], looking darkly at the clergyman, “there was no one place so secret,—no high place nor lowly place, where thou couldst have escaped me,—save on this very scaffold!”

The salvific nature of the scaffold is thus confirmed by Chillingworth who states that Dimmesdale’s only escape from Chillingsworth’s evil machinations is the scaffold. The dramatic scene on the scaffold thus continues:

“Thanks be to Him who hath led me hither!” answered the minister.

Yet he trembled, and turned to Hester with an expression of doubt and anxiety in his eyes, not the less evidently betrayed, that there was a feeble smile upon his lips.

“Is not this better,” murmured he, “than what we dreamed of in the forest?” ***

“For thee and Pearl, be it as God shall order,” said the minister; “and God is merciful! Let me now do the will which he hath made plain before my sight. For, Hester, I am a dying man. So let me make haste to take my shame upon me!”

And so we finally reach the climax of the novel, Dimmesdale’s powerful confession of guilt:

Partly supported by Hester Prynne, and holding one hand of little Pearl’s, the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale turned to the dignified and venerable rulers; to the holy ministers, who were his brethren; to the people, whose great heart was thoroughly appalled, yet overflowing with tearful sympathy, as knowing that some deep life-matter—which, if full of sin, was full of anguish and repentance likewise—was now to be laid open to them. The sun, but little past its meridian, shone down upon the clergyman, and gave a distinctness to his figure, as he stood out from all the earth, to put in his plea of guilty at the bar of Eternal Justice.

“People of New England!” cried he, with a voice that rose over them, high, solemn, and majestic,—yet had always a tremor through it, and sometimes a shriek, struggling up out of a fathomless depth of remorse and woe,—“ye, that have loved me!—ye, that have deemed me holy!—behold me here, the one sinner of the world! At last!—at last!—I stand upon the spot where, seven years since, I should have stood; here, with this woman, whose arm, more than the little strength wherewith I have crept hitherward, sustains me, at this dreadful moment, from grovelling down upon my face! Lo, the scarlet letter which Hester wears! Ye have all shuddered at it! Wherever her walk hath been,—wherever, so miserably burdened, she may have hoped to find repose,—it hath cast a lurid gleam of awe and horrible repugnance round about her. But there stood one in the midst of you, at whose brand of sin and infamy ye have not shuddered!”

It seemed, at this point, as if the minister must leave the remainder of his secret undisclosed. But he fought back the bodily weakness,—and, still more, the faintness of heart,—that was striving for the mastery with him. He threw off all assistance, and stepped passionately forward a pace before the woman and the child.

“It was on him!” he continued, with a kind of fierceness; so determined was he to speak out the whole. “God’s eye beheld it! The angels were forever pointing at it! The Devil knew it well, and fretted it continually with the touch of his burning finger! But he hid it cunningly from men, and walked among you with the mien of a spirit, mournful, because so pure in a sinful world!—and sad, because he missed his heavenly kindred! Now, at the death-hour, he stands up before you! He bids you look again at Hester’s scarlet letter! He tells you, that, with all its mysterious horror, it is but the shadow of what he bears on his own breast, and that even this, his own red stigma, is no more than the type of what has seared his inmost heart! Stand any here that question God’s judgment on a sinner? Behold! Behold a dreadful witness of it!”

With a convulsive motion, he tore away the ministerial band from before his breast. It was revealed! But it were irreverent to describe that revelation. For an instant, the gaze of the horror-stricken multitude was concentred on the ghastly miracle; while the minister stood, with a flush of triumph in his face, as one who, in the crisis of acutest pain, had won a victory. Then, down he sank upon the scaffold! Hester partly raised him, and supported his head against her bosom.

But could there possibly be grace for the evil Mr. Chillingworth who kneels down next to Dimmesdale on the scaffold? The scene continues:

Old Roger Chillingworth knelt down beside him, with a blank, dull countenance, out of which the life seemed to have departed.

“Thou hast escaped me!” he repeated more than once. “Thou hast escaped me!”

“May God forgive thee!” said the minister. “Thou, too, hast deeply sinned!”

He withdrew his dying eyes from the old man, and fixed them on the woman and the child.

And then we come to one of the most touching scenes in the book which speaks to the remarkable transformation of the child, Pearl, who is, in essence, given her humanity back upon the the scaffold (she who had been made essentially unreal by her father’s concealment) .

“My little Pearl,” said he, feebly,—and there was a sweet and gentle smile over his face, as of a spirit sinking into deep repose; nay, now that the burden was removed, it seemed almost as if he would be sportive with the child,—“dear little Pearl, wilt thou kiss me now? Thou wouldst not, yonder, in the forest! But now thou wilt?”

Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father’s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it. Towards her mother, too, Pearl’s errand as a messenger of anguish was all fulfilled.

Finally, just before he dies, Dimmesdale says his goodbye to Hester.

“Hester,” said the clergyman, “farewell!”

“Shall we not meet again?” whispered she, bending her face down close to his. “Shall we not spend our immortal life together? Surely, surely, we have ransomed one another, with all this woe! Thou lookest far into eternity, with those bright dying eyes! Then tell me what thou seest?

“Hush, Hester, hush!” said he, with tremulous solemnity. “The law we broke!—the sin here so awfully revealed!—let these alone be in thy thoughts! I fear! I fear! It may be, that, when we forgot our God,—when we violated our reverence each for the other’s soul,—it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter, in an everlasting and pure reunion. God knows; and He is merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all, in my afflictions. By giving me this burning torture to bear upon my breast! By sending yonder dark and terrible old man, to keep the torture always at red-heat! By bringing me hither, to die this death of triumphant ignominy before the people! Had either of these agonies been wanting, I had been lost forever! Praised be his name! His will be done! Farewell!”

That final word came forth with the minister’s expiring breath. The multitude, silent till then, broke out in a strange, deep voice of awe and wonder, which could not as yet find utterance, save in this murmur that rolled so heavily after the departed spirit.”

So then, who was saved? And I reply: all of them! We can see rather easily from the quotes above how God’s mercy fell upon Dimmesdale and Pearl, but what about Chillingworth and Hester?

Did Dimmesdale’s prayer of mercy for Chillingworth on the scaffold work? Apparently so. We read in the novel that “nothing was more remarkable than the change which took place, almost immediately after Mr. Dimmesdale’s death, in the appearance and demeanor of the old man known as Mr. Chillingworth.” Is one act of great charity sufficient to save a soul? We read that Chilingworth died “within the year,” but that in his last will and testament he bequeathed (rather amazingly) “a very considerable amount of property, both here and in England, to little Pearl, the daughter of Hester Prynne,” all of which supported a very fine existence for Pearl (who Hawthorne intimates got married and had a child across the sea). All of this evidences a changed heart and a saved soul for the man who had been the very embodiment of revenge.

But what about Hester Pyrnne? Did she go back to the forest, so to speak, to find her salvation there (on her own terms)? We know that “for many years” after Dimmesdale’s death she left New England and ventured somewhere “across the sea.” But Hester ultimately returns to New England because, as Hawthorne tells us, “there was a more real life here for Hester Pyrnne…here had been her sin; here, her sorrow, and here was yet to be her penitence.” And there from her cottage, where she had so long lived in isolation, Hawthorne tells us she ministered to the needs of women “who besought her counsel” because they were wounded in love or could find none at all. And so ends The Scarlet Letter, and the woman who wanted to flee New England ends her life there in gentle penitence, caring for other women harmed by the difficulties of life and love.

And the “A” on Hester stands for “Able,” and the scaffold she three times stood upon for salvation.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Hester Prynne & Pearl before the stocks, an 1878 illustration for the book by Mary Hallock Foote (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Note/References: The critical essays in The Scarlet Letter, A Norton Critical Edition were valuable (see especially the essays by Carpenter, Fogle and Stewart). Hoffman adds: “The salvation of Pearl depends upon Dimmesdale. Until he acknowledges himself her father she can have no human patrimony, and must remain a Nature-spirit, untouched by the redemptive order that was broken in her conception” (p. 371). One could also argue that the salvation of Chillingworth depended upon Dimmesdale. It was Dimmesdale, too, who seems to have played a certain role in the salvation of Hester. The unity of these four main characters on the scaffold at the end of the novel warrants additional reflection.

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“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10)



Reflecting on our Lord’s resurrection is always a profitable exercise. Indeed, if someone were to ask you why you  are a Christian, would not the best response be that you believe in the risen Christ? Yes! We are Christians because we believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead! We read in Acts that “with great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all” (4:33). We meditate on the Lord’s resurrection because it is the source of great power and favor, a power so great that it will one day raise up the bodies of all believers to Eternal Life! Here, then, are ten short reflections regarding the resurrection of Jesus.

1. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

Jesus tells Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). Frankly, the verse is quite stunning and seems to me to be one of those special verses that’s geared up to have a high-level impact on our lives. Ask Martha, for she saw Jesus raise her brother back to life after Lazarus had been dead in the tomb four days. Certainly this is a verse we should meditate on! Deep reflection on this verse will no doubt “increase the temperature of our love for Jesus” as we see, more and more, that the resurrected Jesus is the source of blessings so transformative in scope that it would probably blow our minds if we could presently experience the unspeakable joys of Heaven that await us. But right here on planet earth it is a great comfort to know that the power of Jesus’ resurrection is flowing forth to us through so many channels of grace, thus giving us strength and hope to persevere through so many of life’s trials and difficulties. In short, we need POWER to persevere, and Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, which means he is the source of amazing power (sufficient even to overcome death)! In any event, I expect this verse to “do a good work in your soul” if you make it the subject matter of a short meditation, or even if you just repeat it continuously throughout the day with joy in your heart.

2. The Resurrection of Jesus is a Saving Event

Besides being an historical event, the resurrection of Jesus is primarily a saving event. In this light Saint Paul teaches that Jesus was “delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The Resurrection of Jesus “is more than a miracle and motive for faith. It is a saving event in its own right, since the dying and rising of Jesus together constitute the victory over sin and death. Baptism gives us a share in this double victory, for through it we die to sin and rise to new life with Christ” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p. 263).

“The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, ‘so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life’ Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace. It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ’s brethren, as Jesus himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: “Go and tell my brethren.” We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 654).

We cannot discount the resurrection of Jesus as a saving event because it is only through His risen life that we are brought into that “newness of life” which constitutes the fullness of our salvation. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Therefore, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

3. The women as the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection powerfully affirm its authenticity.

One scholar of the Lord’s resurrection, Professor William Lane Craig, offers the following insights regarding the very first witnesses to the resurrection – who were all women with respect to encountering the empty tomb and the risen Lord himself (see John 20: 10-18; Matthew 28: 1-10). “Certainly these women were friends of Jesus. But when you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what’s really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discovers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine….Women’s testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of law. In light of this, it’s absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women who were friends of Jesus. Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb – Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that- like it or not – they were the discovers of the empty tomb. This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing (The Case For Easter, pp. 49-50).”

4. There were multiple resurrection appearances by Jesus which left the apostles fully convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead.

For quick reference here is a summary of the ten resurrection appearances of Jesus (eleven if you include the appearance to St. Paul on the road to Damascus). Here’s the link:

The Ten Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Christ |

It is a point not to be underestimated that Jesus made multiple resurrection appearances over the course of forty days. Thus, the apostles were not left wondering whether they had seen Jesus in the flesh following his death and burial – Jesus went out of his way on multiple occasions to make sure that they had! Consequently, you have complete unanimity among the remaining eleven apostles that they had seen the risen Christ. By way of contrast, we don’t have a case here where six of the apostles claimed to have seen the resurrected Christ, whereas three denied it, and two were not sure. And these were men that went on to live heroic lives, to suffer and die for what they had witnessed, spawning the amazing rise of the Christian faith despite insurmountable obstacles, and without any resort to violence.

As the great Biblical scholar C.H. Dodd states:   “The main weight [regarding the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection] … is placed on the testimony that Jesus was ‘seen’ alive after death, by a number of his followers….” (The Founder of Christianity, page 167).  Something had happened to these men, which they could describe only by saying they had ‘seen the Lord’. This is not an appeal to any generalized ‘Christian experience’. It refers to a particular series of occurrences, unique in character, unrepeatable, and confined to a limited period” (p.168). Dodd therefore concludes:

“[For] the original witnesses [the resurrection of Jesus was] an immediate, intuitive certainty. They were dead sure they had met with Jesus, and there was no more to be said about it….Now they were new men in a new world, confident, courageous, enterprising, the leaders of a movement which made an immediate impact and went forward with an astonishing impetus.” (p. 170)

5. Through the Risen Christ comes the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit 

“The Resurrection of Jesus is the total outpouring of the Spirit in the world, the flowing into creation of the immense flood which pours out from the Father in the Son” (F.X. Durwell, Holy Spirit of God, page 10). The Catechism of the Catholic Church amplifies Father Durrwell’s insight:

“This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn” ( CCC #1287).

In the theology of Saint Paul it is the saving power of the Gospel that empowers us to lead holy lives. The guiding theme of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, according to a former professor of mine from years ago, is power leading to life. We are in a state of moral helplessness without the saving power of the Gospel. But where does this power leading to life come from? It comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ! As Paul states at the very beginning of Romans:

“This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1: 1-4).

The full power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed by Jesus’ resurrection. Christ’s resurrection has ushered in the messianic age where the people of God will be led by the Holy Spirit! As Paul states in Romans 8:

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (8:9-11).

In short, through the eschatological power of Christ’s resurrection we who have faith in Christ live in the realm of the Spirit, which is the POWER which enables us to be truly holy.

6.. The Eucharist is intrinsically linked to the Resurrection of the body of Jesus

There is no Holy Eucharist without the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And what is this body and blood of Jesus Christ but the resurrected Jesus! Jesus had certainly lost a tremendous amount of blood during his passion, and his body was badly mangled, but his physical life was restored to him – and gloriously so – by his resurrection. When we go to Mass, therefore, we go to the resurrection, and we receive the resurrected Christ – body, blood, soul and divinity.

The “Catholic Church professes that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. Jesus said: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink (Jn 6:51-55). The whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the ‘Real Presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist. This presence of Christ in the Eucharist is called ‘real’ not to exclude other types of his presence as if they could not be understood as real (cf. Catechism, no. 1374). The risen Christ is present to his Church in many ways, but most especially through the sacrament of his Body and Blood” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).

7. Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession during one of his resurrection appearances.

Jesus wished to continue his ministry of the forgiveness of sins through the Apostles and their successors. Thus, following his glorious resurrection, Jesus conferred on the apostles the power to forgive sins, a power Jesus himself had exercised during his earthly ministry. It is recounted in John’s Gospel that, during a resurrection appearance, Jesus met with the apostles and said to them, in particular: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he said this, he breathed on them , and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 21-23)

Confession, thus, is a Resurrection gift from Jesus who has passed on his ministry of forgiving sins (what we call the Sacrament of Confession) to the apostles and their successors.  From our Lord’s Resurrection blossomed this great gift for the
Paragraph 1461 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church thus states:

Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation, bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed, bishops and priests, by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t know how to say this: forgiveness of sins is the greatest need every person has. Jesus, in His Infinite Wisdom, and in His genius as the leader of souls, has willed that forgiveness of sins be readily available from his priests, where the concrete actions of forgiveness, absolution, and spiritual guidance can take place in a powerful and effective manner appropriately tailored to our human situation, and leading thus to an authentic spiritual resurrection of our souls!

8. The Resurrection appearances of Jesus point to the sacramental life of the Church

At no. 1116 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it states that “Sacraments are ‘powers that comes forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant.” In the following resurrection appearances Jesus alludes to, or makes reference to, the sacramental life of the Church.

Baptism:  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….” (Matthew 28:19; see also Mark 16:16).

Eucharist:  “Then the two told what had happened on the road [to Emmaus], and how they had recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). See CCC 1329, which states, in part: “The Breaking of Bread…. It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection, and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.“

Confession:  “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 22-23). See number 7 above.

Confirmation:  “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20: 21-22). The Catechism of the Catholic Church cites this verse at no. 1287 in its section on the Sacrament of Confirmation. “Here we see that the risen humanity of Jesus has become a sacrament of the divine Spirit” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p. 199). See also CCC 1116.

Priesthood.  Jesus, by empowering the apostles with the priestly function of forgiving sins in John 20: 21-23, confirms the existence of the ministerial priesthood. Moreover, when Jesus reconfirmed Peter as the head of the Church during his resurrection appearance to the apostles by the Sea of Tiberias (see John 21: 1-19), he simultaneously reaffirms the duty of the ministerial priesthood to care for his sheep (“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” (John 21: 15 ). See also CCC 1551 (in the section on the Sacrament of Holy Orders) which references John 21: 15.

Anointing of the Sick:  “[T]hey will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:18). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1507, references this verse in its section on the Anointing of the Sick, saying, “The risen Lord renews this mission [of healing the sick] – “In my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” –  and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name. These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly ‘God who saves.’ ”

Marriage:  I do not believe there are any direct references to marriage in the resurrection appearances of Jesus. However, St. Paul speaks to the sacramental nature of marriage in Ephesians 5 by stating that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church (“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. . . . This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church” – Eph 5:25, 32); and during his earthly ministry no one spoke more strongly about the divine origin of marriage, as well as its indissolubility, than Jesus (see Matt. 19: 3-10). The power flowing from Jesus’ resurrection is therefore the catalyst for life-long sacramental marriage between a man and a woman (“By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, [Jesus] himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God” – CCC 1615).

9. Jesus’ wounds are a special manifestation of his resurrection.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Jesus’ resurrection is the existence of wounds of crucifixion on his resurrected body (see John 20: 20). We are all familiar with the apostle Thomas being invited by the resurrected Jesus to touch his wounds (John 20:27). And at Luke 24: 36-41 Jesus appeared to his disciples saying “Peace to you.” But Luke recounts that the apostles “were startled and frightened, and supposed they that they saw a spirit.” Jesus then said: “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings arise in your hearts? See my hands and feet , that it is I myself; handle me; and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible relates that Jesus’ reference to his hands and feet in this passage pertains to “the nail marks” which “demonstrate that Jesus’ risen body is the same body that was crucified only days earlier. He carries these marks of his earthly sacrifice with him when he ascends into heaven (Rev. 5:5).”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion. Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm” (no. 645).

The spiritual lesson here is that Jesus, even in his resurrected body, never wants us to forget how much he suffered in order to prove his love for us and secure our salvation. As a gifted spiritual writer once said, let us never forget the sufferings of the Lord. Father Faber adds: “O for some corner, the least, the lowest, and the last in the world to come [Heaven], where we may spend an untired eternity in giving silent thanks to Jesus Crucified!”

A wonderful reflection on our Lord’s glorious wounds, building on the thoughts of Saint Thomas Aquinas, can be accessed via the following link:

Glorious Wounds—Christ’s and Ours – Homiletic & Pastoral Review

10. Jesus reestablished Peter as head of the Church during one of his resurrection appearances.

In one of the most beautiful of his resurrection appearances, Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21: 1-25), “and none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the lord’” (John 21: 12-13). And they ate breakfast together, utilizing a charcoal fire (John 21: 9). Here, again, we see Jesus hard at work building up his apostles to ready them for the demanding work of evangelization. In this instance, Jesus directed his comments to Peter, stating:

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21: 15-19)

Peter had previously stood by a charcoal fire in John 18 when he denied Jesus three times. Now, in the presence of another charcoal fire, and in order to restore and reaffirm Peter as head of his Church, Jesus leads Peter to express love for Jesus three times. Each of these three times Jesus implores Peter to take care of his sheep, and on the third time Jesus alludes to Peter’s manner of death, where Peter will “stretch out [his] hands” on a cross in imitation of Jesus.


Jesus is the resurrection and the life. All power in heaven and earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18). “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1: 18-23).

The historical authenticity of the resurrection of Jesus’ body from the dead is well proven by the Gospel writers, especially by the numerous accounts they provide of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, and the subsequent witness of the apostles shows they were fully convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead. Indeed, almost all of these apostles went on to convincingly confirm that they witnessed the resurrected Jesus with the witness – the Greek word “martyr” literally means witness – of their own lives, which is a most powerful testimony. Moreover, Jesus demonstrates by his resurrection his great concern for the Church – this by establishing the Sacrament of Confession during one appearance, and by reaffirming Peter as head of the Church on another, and by the retention of his sacred and glorious wounds on his resurrected body in order to remind us that by “his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the source of all good things for us! Gather in for your eternal welfare the incredible “POWER flowing from his resurrection” (Phil 3:10).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: I see the use of Father Faber phraseology in the first reflection, such as will “increase the temperature of your love,” and will do a “good work in your soul,” and make it the “special object” of your prayer or meditation, and we are “in need of power.” The tone and content of the first reflection is certainly under the influence of Faber who often states that in our earthly condition we could not tolerate the torrents of Heavenly joy. The second reflection originates from Dr. Scott Hahn’s tape series on the resurrection, where he places a special emphasis on the resurrection as a saving event, with special reliance on F.X. Durwell’s works on the resurrection.

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“Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer (Hebrews 8:3). Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 8:1)

The reason why the daily Mass is the greatest event on planet earth each and every day is because it makes present to us in time and space the ever-living prayer within the heart of Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven. What is this prayer? It is the offering of Jesus to the Father of his Calvary sacrifice that is perpetuated by our Eucharistic liturgy (just as Jesus commanded it to be when he instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday as a memorial of his passion and death).

Imagine you have your own personal priest…and that priest is able to offer on your behalf a most beautiful sacrifice to God –  a sacrifice of Infinite value, a sacrifice which is a universal cause of all graces, a sacrifice containing every possible grace needed for your sanctification. How awesome would that be!  And what does Hebrews 8:1 say?: – it says that we do have such a priest who is in heaven right now. And this high priest, says Hebrews, is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices on our behalf (Hebrews 8:3) And how is this done?: – most especially through the Mass, through the Eucharistic sacrifice, through the gifts of bread and wine. And so the true priest at every Mass is Jesus (see CCC 1137).

It is true that the Holy Mass is the Memorial of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. But as a memorial ceremony normally involves the remembrance of someone who is dead, the Mass is altogether unique because Jesus is alive – indeed He is Risen and Glorified!  Jesus is the true Priest who celebrates each and every Mass! So when you go to Mass you are going to a liturgical gathering to pray with Jesus and to join in with Jesus to offer to the Eternal Father Jesus’ Infinite sacrifice which won our redemption. It is therefore an awesome privilege to attend Mass and to make this offering to the Father with our High Priest, Jesus, and to offer yourself to the Father in union with Jesus. In Holy Mass the sacrifice of Calvary is made present to us in a sacramental manner through the ongoing priestly ministry of Jesus Christ (see CCC 1362-1368).

Indeed, there are additional powerful words in the Epistle to the Hebrews about Jesus’ ongoing priestly ministry in Heaven (words that should really give us great encouragement!). In the seventh chapter of Hebrews we read: “… because Jesus lives forever [in Heaven], he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25; CCC 519).

Moreover, the author of Hebrews identifies Jesus’ never-ending priesthood in Heaven as the true fulfillment of the Order of Melchizedek, the very first priesthood mentioned in the Old Testament (see Genesis 14). In fact, the Order of Melchizedek is mentioned multiple times in Hebrews! This is a very significant point for Catholics because the “thanksgiving offering” made by the priest Melchizedek in the Old Testament was that of bread and wine (Genesis 14:18), which constituted a “communion sacrifice” per Dr. Scott Hahn. Jesus is identified in Hebrews as “the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24). The true sacramental sign of this New Covenant is identified by Jesus as the Holy Eucharist (“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” – Luke 22:20). As such we are advised in Hebrews not to neglect ‘to meet together” for the New Testament liturgy (Hebrews 10:25), the Mass, of our High Priest, Jesus Christ (see CCC 692).

The time-transcendent dimension of Jesus’ unique and unrepeatable sacrificial death on Good Friday is such that he is referred to as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Dr. Scott Hahn comments: “The Mass is the ‘once for all,’ perfect sacrifice of Calvary, which is presented on heaven’s altar for all eternity. It is not a ‘repeat performance.’ There is only one sacrifice; it is perpetual and eternal, and so it needs never be repeated. Yet the Mass is our participation in that one sacrifice and in the eternal life of the Trinity in heaven, where the Lamb stands eternally “as if slain’ (Rev. 5:6).” It is in this light that Jesus could institute the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday as the true memorial and making present of his sacrificial death which would be historically consummated the following day, Good Friday. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice” (CCC 1367).

CONCLUSION: The Mass, then, is the ever-living prayer present in the heart of Jesus Christ.  It’s where the full power of Christ’s universal sacrifice and offering is made present on earth. What a privilege it is for us to attend this daunting and holy ceremony which connects heaven and earth, and to unite our hearts and our prayers to Jesus’ loving oblation to the Father. And then to partake of the fruit of this sacrifice – the supernatural food which feeds our souls. At Mass Jesus is the priest, the victim and our holy communion. “Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: My source for this note is Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s essay, “Assistance at Mass, the Source of Sanctification,” Chapter 31, Volume 1, of The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life, pages 407-413 (TAN). It is Father Garrigou-LaGrange who states that the the Mass is “the oblation ever living in the heart of Jesus” (p.407). Father Garrigou-LaGrange also states that the Mass “is the greatest act of each of our days,”  that the Mass is “a universal cause of graces,” and that the Mass contains “all the graces we need for our sanctification.” You can see that I have incorporated these precise observations of Father Garrigou-LaGrange in my note. I am also relying on Scott Hahn’s talk, “The Meal of Melchizedek,” and his book, The Lamb’s Supper. The following sections of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, mentioned in The Lamb’s Supper, reinforce some of the key ideas in this note pertaining to the profound value of the Mass:

The celebrants of the heavenly liturgy

1137 The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us, “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”: “the Lord God.”1 It then shows the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain”: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.”2 Finally it presents “the river of the water of life . . . flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.3

. . . is present in the earthly liturgy . . .

1088 “To accomplish so great a work” – the dispensation or communication of his work of salvation – “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,’ but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.”‘11

1089 “Christ, indeed, always associates the Church with himself in this great work in which God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is his beloved Bride who calls to her Lord and through him offers worship to the eternal Father.”12

. . . which participates in the liturgy of heaven

1090 “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory.”13

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“The encyclical on moral problems ‘Veritatis Splendor’ took many years to ripen and remains of unchanged relevance.” (Pope Benedict XVI in 2018)

“The drafters of Amoris Laetitia knew that the teaching of Veritatis Splendor posed a serious challenge. That is why, astonishingly for one of the longest papal documents in history, including some 400 footnotes, there is not a single reference to Veritatis Splendor.” (Father Raymond de Souza)

About a year ago, the Vatican released a letter written by Pope Benedict in which it had intentionally deleted Benedict’s specific reference to the great encyclical on Catholic morality (written by Pope John Paul II), Veritatis Splendor. When the redaction was discovered, the whole matter was very embarrassing to the Vatican (and, as it turned out, in light of the full letter, one could see that Pope Benedict XVI vigorously defended the magisterial authority and importance of Veritatis Splendor).

Just this past week, Pope Benedict XVI released a new letter in which he once again brings to the Church’s attention the critical importance of VERITATIS SPLENDOR, and this in the specific context of the horrible sexual morality crisis confronting the Catholic priesthood and the Church.

In his letter, Pope Benedict recounts the Catholic morality and Catholic moral theology “crisis” that entered the Church in the 1960s, and reached “dramatic proportions in the late ’80s and ’90s.”

This crisis of morality, says Pope Benedict in the letter, “was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed…. Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; [there could be] only relative value judgments. There no longer was the [absolute] good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.”

It is at this point that Pope Benedict makes reference to Pope John Paul II and Veritatis Splendor, stating:

“Pope John Paul II, who knew very well the situation of moral theology and followed it closely, commissioned work on an encyclical that would set these things right again. It was published under the title “Veritatis splendor” on August 6, 1993, and it triggered vehement backlashes on the part of moral theologians. Before it, the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” already had persuasively presented, in a systematic fashion, morality as proclaimed by the Church….

The pope was fully aware of the importance of this decision at that moment and for this part of his text, he had once again consulted leading specialists who did not take part in the editing of the encyclical. He knew that he must leave no doubt about the fact that the moral calculus involved in balancing goods must respect a final limit. There are goods that are never subject to trade-offs.”

Pope Benedict then tells us that Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on Catholic moral theology, Veritatis Splendor, “was published on August 6, 1993 and did indeed include the determination that there were actions that can never become good,” which  “were always and under all circumstances to be classified as evil” (my emphasis).

Referencing Veritatis Splendor, the Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine (Our Sunday Visitor), published in 1997, specifically states that the Church’s teachings therein about mortal sin “are decisive,” having “been taught insistently by the Church” with the “degree of universality and firmness associated with infallible teaching of the ordinary Magisterium.” Pope John Paul II seemed to say as much in Veritatis Splendor when he said:

“Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical and which is today being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuials but also for the whole of society, with the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts” (No. 115).

Now we come to the heart of the problem, namely, the clear and unmistakable attempt to modify or nullify the teachings of Veritatis Splendor through the Papacy of Pope Francis. Unless you have your head buried in the sand, the whole momentum of the Pope Francis Papacy has been the publication of Amoris Laetitia, following a careful build-up to the Apostolic Exhortation by way of a “Year of Mercy” and the “Synod on the Family.” Amoris Laetitia – most especially in nos. 301 through 303 –  incorporated the very moral theology arguments rejected as erroneous in Veritatis Splendor. The broad principle articulated in Amoris is that, under particular or “given circumstances,” God sometimes approves of acts that are otherwise known to be mortally sinful. For an overview of this stunning development, which shocked the Catholic world, see my post:

Again I repeat, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has now authored two letters to the Church during the Papacy of Pope Francis. In both letters he has specifically highlighted the importance of Veritatis Splendor to the ChurchDo you get what he’s trying to say? The Vatican (or at least the responsible agents therein) was so disturbed by Pope Benedict’s reference to Veritatis Splendor in Benedict’s first letter that they redacted it. Now, in a second letter, Pope Benedict is once more calling our attention to Veritatis Splendor, and this in special reference to the immorality crisis in the Church.

Following the publication of Amoris Laetitia, the Church’s greatest living Professor of moral theology, Germain Grisez, sent a lengthy letter to Pope Francis in which he said:

“When a bishop acts in persona Christi, fulfilling his duty to teach on matters of faith and morals by identifying propositions to which he calls upon the faithful to assent, he presumably means to state truths that belong to one and the same body of truths: primarily, those entrusted by Jesus to his Church and, secondarily, those necessary to preserve the primary truths as inviolable and/or to expound them with fidelity. Since truths like these cannot supersede or annul one another, papal or other episcopal statements made while teaching in persona Christi must be presumed to be consistent with one another when carefully interpreted. Thus it is a misuse of such a teaching statement to claim its support without having first sought so to interpret it.

Furthermore, if an apparent inconsistency emerges after careful interpretation, a teaching statement that is not definitive is misused unless it is understood with qualifications and delimitations sufficient to make it consistent with Scripture and teachings that definitively pertain to Tradition, each interpreted in the other’s light.”

In light thereof, Pope Francis was under every obligation to follow the clearly authoritative Veritatis Splendor for the reasons stated above. Moreover, the point would seem abundantly clear, and it is abundantly important to the future of the Church – where Amoris Laetitia contradicts Veritatis Splendor, especially where Amoris attempts to call good actions which can never be called good (as in nos. 301-303), such an interpretation of the moral law is, ipso facto, invalid as violative of the clear prohibitions in Veritatis Splendor.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

Image Attribution:  Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a solemn mass on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius X. By: Mangouste 35. October 9, 2008. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license (per Wikipedia).


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(Blessed Marmion was beatified by Pope John Paul II)

 “There is no practice more useful for our souls than the Way of the Cross made with devotion. Its supernatural efficacy is beyond compare” (Blessed Abbot Marmion)

One way to be more closely united to Jesus is to walk the Way of the Cross with him – that is, to become more fully immersed in these sorrowful and historical events which recount the final hours of the Lord’s life by walking them with Jesus (and which were endured by Jesus for the sake of our salvation and for no other reason). “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ ” (Matthew 16:24).

Because the Saints and great spiritual writers remind us emphatically about the good work that is done in our souls by way of devotion to our Lord’s sorrowful passion, we should constantly be on the outlook for devotions that might have the ability to increase our love for our crucified Lord. Here is an ancient devotion of the Church, The Way of the Cross, which might be very helpful to many of us. After making The Way of the Cross in April of 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words:

“The Way of the Cross is not something of the past and of a specific point on earth. The Lord’s cross embraces the world, his Way of the Cross goes across continents and time. We cannot just be spectators on the Way of the Cross. We are involved.” 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the teaching of Pope Benedict, stating a point of capital importance:

“The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.” (CCC 1085)

When we walk with the Lord on the road to Calvary we are not merely reliving a past event! Far from it – the Cross of Christ is the very answer to the riddle of human existence (reaching us now at this very moment with its saving power)!

There is a beautiful chapter in Blessed Abbot Marmion’s book, Christ in His Mysteriesabout the incredible efficacy of The Way of the Cross devotion (Blessed Marmion, pictured above, died in 1923, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II). It is always helpful to get spiritual advice from a “Saint.” He says: “This contemplation of the sufferings of Jesus is very fruitful. After the sacraments and liturgical worship, there is no practice more useful for our souls than the Way of the Cross made with devotion. Its supernatural efficacy is beyond compare” (p.267).

Blessed Marmion elaborates that when “you accompany the God-Man along the road to Calvary, with faith, humility and love, with the true desire of imitating the virtues He manifests in His Passion, be assured that your souls will receive choice graces which will transform them little by little into the likeness of Jesus and Jesus Crucified” (p. 270 ). Blessed Marmion then provides his own Way of the Cross meditations for all fourteen stations (see pages 271-284). These are powerful words from a great spiritual guide!

Here is a devotion you can do with your kids at Church utilizing the Stations of the Cross, or meditatively at home using the various devotional booklets on The Way of the Cross, the one by Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri being very popular. Don’t cast off this devotion of the The Way of the Cross as some ancient ritual no longer relevant to your walk with the Lord. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all need to practice walking with the Lord to Calvary, learning from the Lord how to embrace the crosses of our daily lives.

Wishing you a very blessed Holy Week!

 Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
References: The quotes from Pope Benedict and  the Catechism of the Catholic Church were found in Chapter 5 of The Seven Secrets of Confession by Vinny Flynn. It is Father Leen in his book, Why the Cross?, who states that “it is clear that the gospel is the gradual revelation of the cross as the key to the riddle of existence” (p.90). It is Father Faber who reminds us that Christ’s mysteries do an actual work “in our souls.”
Photo Attribution: Public Domain, U.S.A.

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“Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there…. “(John 20:6)

When you think about it, it really is an amazing thing that there is a Shroud of Turin! Is there really anything else like it (perhaps there is, I don’t know)? And if it finally turns out that the Shroud is a forgery from centuries ago, you would still have to say that the man who forged it was the genius of his times, even scientifically and artistically ahead of anything we could produce like it today (see the two studies I reference below).

The renowned Catholic historian, Warren H. Carroll, who died in 2011, clearly believed in the supernatural origin of the Shroud of Turin. Professor Carroll was especially impressed by the scholarship of Ian Wilson regarding the historical continuity and preservation of the Shroud (see Vol. 1 of the six volume A History of Christendom, where Professor Carroll refers on a number of occasions to the Shroud of Turin in a very favorable manner).

But in this note I simply intend to bring to the reader’s attention a very concise summary of two major scientific studies that help to validate the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin – remembering, of course, that faith is a supernatural virtue, certainly not opposed to science, but not dependent upon scientific verification of a purported relic.

1. The STURP in-depth scientific examination of the Shroud of Turin (1978)

The “primary goal” of the the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc., (STURP) “was to determine the scientific properties of the image on the Shroud of Turin, and what might have caused it.” STURP “consisted of a team of American scientists and researchers that spent over two years preparing a series of tests that would gather a vast amount of Shroud data in a relatively short period of time. In October of 1978 the STURP team spent 120 continuous hours conducting their examination of the Shroud. To this day, scientists around the world use the data gathered by STURP for their Shroud research” (source: shroud.coman excellent site on the Shroud of Turin).

According to a National Geographic article on the Shroud of Turin, “the U.S.-led Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), …was granted an unprecedented five days of continuous access to the shroud itself in 1978. The project’s 33 members ran the gamut of scientific disciplines, and their credentials included high-level posts at 20 major research institutions. They arrived in Turin with seven tons of equipment and worked in shifts 24 hours a day. An associate team of European scientists acted as expert observers” (from Why Shroud of Turin Secrets Continue to Elude Science by Frank Viviano, April 17, 2015, available online).

The National Geographic article further states: “Their analyses found no sign of artificial pigments. ‘The Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist,’ the project’s 1981 report declared. ‘The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin.’ But the report also conceded that no combination of ‘physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances’ could adequately account for the image. The Shroud of Turin, the STURP team concluded, ‘remains now, as it has in the past, a mystery.’”

The main findings of the STURP scientific study of the Shroud of Turin are summarized nicely by physicist Paolo Di Lazzaro:

“The Shroud is not a painting, no pigment, any directionality, not a scorch. The image encodes cloth to body  distance, and it is present in both contact and non contact areas. The image is superficial, no more than 0.6 microns thick (work by others has shown 0.2 microns ). Invisible halos surround blood. Blood went on before image (no image beneath blood). The blood stains contain hemoglobin and serum albumin. Calcium and strontium and iron are uniformly present on the Shroud in small quantities (Paolo Di Lazzaro, ATSI 2014 Bari).”

Here is the official summary of STURP’s conclusions courtesy of a link provided by shroud.comSummary of STURP’s Conclusions.

2. The Five Year Study of the Shroud of Turin by the National Agency for New Technologies (2011)

In December of 2011 ABC News reported (in an article available online) that a recently concluded study by a group of Italian scientists “refuted the popular notion that [the Shroud of Turin] was faked during the Middle Ages. Experts at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development have concluded in a report that the famed purported burial cloth of Jesus Christ could not have been faked.”

ABC News reported that “the Italian researchers, who conducted dozens of hours of tests with X-rays and ultraviolet lights, said that no laser existed to date that could replicate the singular nature of markings on the shroud. They also said that the kind of markings on the cloth could not have come from direct contact of the body with the linen. The Italian scientists said the  marks could only have been made by ‘a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation.’ ”

According to the National Geographic article mentioned above, “the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) conducted five years of experiments, using state-of-the-art excimer lasers to train short bursts of ultraviolet light on raw linen, in an effort to simulate the image’s coloration” and “published its findings in 2011.”

Relying on quotes from physicist Paolo Di Lazzaro of ENEA, the National Geographic article continues (as placed in italics), stating: The ultraviolet light necessary to [simulate the image] “exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today,” says Di Lazzaro. It would require “pulses having durations shorter than one forty-billionth of a second, and intensities on the order of several billion watts.” If the most advanced technologies available in the 21st century could not produce a facsimile of the shroud image, he reasons, how could it have been executed by a medieval forger?

For believers, the radiation thesis suggests that a “divine light” in the tomb might have seared the crucified form of Jesus Christ onto the shroud. “One could look at hypotheses outside the realm of science, a sort of miracle,” says Di Lazzaro. “But a miracle cannot be investigated by the scientific method” (end of article).

Here is a link to The ENEA team report, which published its findings in 2011 (scroll and click on the word “published”).


Based on the two in-depth scientific investigations outlined above, namely, the STURP study and the ENEA study, it certainly does not appear that the image on the Shroud of Turin was made by human hands. The supernatural origin of this great relic of the Church cannot be ruled out, and even appears now to be the most likely explanation of this scientifically inexplicable image which is claimed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ (for an informative video on the Shroud, see the link below).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: At Wikipedia (Turin plasch.jpg), Public Domain, U.S.A.

An informative video on The Shroud of Turin (click on the following link): 15 Minute Video: Russ Breault explains his take on the Shroud of Turin.  From

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“Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)

“The worst kinds of unhappiness, as well as the greatest amount of it,” says Father Faber, “come from our conduct to each other.” Thus, he says, “if our conduct…were under the control of kindness,” we would live in a vastly happier world.

I have a little note I taped to the top rim of my computer screen which says, KINDNESS/POWER, but I have to admit that kind words do not always come out of my mouth when someone interrupts me while I’m zoned in on the internet world. Kindness is a huge virtue in the spiritual life, and one we need to put into practice more and more.

Father Faber mentions that kindness is a “considerable power.” He says that it is kindness that “makes life more endurable,” and which has the power to “make life’s capabilities blossom.” Faber says that “kindness is the overflowing of self upon others. We put others in the place of self. We treat them as we should wish to be treated ourselves.” Faber adds that “kindness adds sweetness to everything.”

The purpose of this short note is to suggest that kind words are a considerable power we have at our disposal. In fact, Faber says that kindness is “an immense power.” Grace-filled kindness is so powerful that this virtue can ripen into a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). A fruit of the Holy Spirit, which involves a certain perfection of a supernatural virtue, is an enormous power. We should therefore pray to the Holy Spirit for an increase of the virtue of kindness.

Faber says that “kindness seems to know of some secret fountain of joy deep in the soul” and that it offers us a “peculiar participation in the spirit of Jesus.” He says that “men do not sufficiently understand” the “value” of kindness. “The interior beauty of a soul through habitual kindliness of thought is greater than our world can tell.”

Father Faber says there is “hardly a power on earth equal to” kind words. He further points out that there are so many “fortunate opportunities” to be kind. When you think about it, the opportunity for great heroism may never come our way, but we can say kind things all day long! And what do kind words cost us? Virtually nothing! But what is lost if we fail to speak kindly? As Faber points out, kind words are not only remedial, helping those in need of encouragement, they actually produce happiness. He says, “how often have we ourselves been made happy by kind words.” It “would be worth going through fire and water to acquire the right and to find the opportunity of saying kind words.”

Faber says that “not only is kindness due everyone, but a special kindness is due everyone.” And “is there any happiness in the world like the happiness of the disposition made happy by the happiness of others?,” Faber asks. “There is no joy to be compared with it.” “Kindness is the turf of the spiritual world, whereon the sheep of Christ feed quietly beneath the Shepherd’s eye.”

Let us make a resolution, then, to be an “apostolate of kindness.” Let us reflect on what a great virtue kindness is, and what power it has to bring sunshine and happiness where there is gloom and discouragement. And through kind words the “bruised reed” will not be broken, and the “flickering candle” will not be extinguished (see Matt. 12:20), and we will see that “our neighbor is our refuge” and self “the demon foe” (George MacDonald).

I spoke a word of praise today – 
One I had no need to say – 
I spoke a word of praise to one,
Commending some small service done;
And in return, to my surprise,
I reaped rewards of mountain size.
Such a look of pleasure shone 
Upon his face – I’ll never own 
A gift more beautiful to see
Than that swift smile he gave to me.
I spoke one little word of praise, 
And  sunshine fell on both our ways.   
(from The Gift of Wonder by renowned poet Helen Lowrie Marshall)
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. As you can see, I am relying almost completely on Father Faber’s famous essay, “Kindness,” in his book, Spiritual Conferences (TAN). Although a long essay it is well worth reading and meditating on. Faber’s point that a special kindness is due to everyone, if taken to heart, has the power to increase our personal holiness. One word of caution: kindness and praise must be sincere and genuine. A false kindness, a calculated kindness, is easily detected. That is why we should pray to the Holy Spirit for the supernatural growth of the virtue of kindness.

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