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Robert Lazu Kmita | Remnant Columnist, Romania

In practice, we can hardly say that we recognize the same church, the same religion.

One of the major challenges that any art creator faces relates to the difficulty of “imitating,” of representing sanctity. Usually, as we see in the famous sculpture The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680),[i] the artist depicts in a very corporeal and external manner the indescribable realities of mystical life. Typically, he does not personally know how an ecstasy is or what it concretely means to be a saint. Bernini had no experience comparable to the “transverberation” of Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582). For a similar reason, actors and actresses who portray saints find themselves in a difficult situation. How can they imitate individuals in communion with God, which is hard for us ordinary people to understand? The success of a film about the life of a saint depends entirely on the answer to this question. And those cinematic creations that have convincingly portrayed the lights and shadows of sanctity are rare. One such creation, a truly gem, is A Man for All Seasons (1966) by Fred Zinnemann. Although each of us can imagine Saint Thomas More (1478–1535) based on preserved sources, Paul Scofield’s brilliant performance offers us a plausible portrait of the author of Utopia.

One of the most serious errors widespread today is designated by the term “papolatry.” This error is not manifested through denial but rather through an excessive affirmation of the Pope’s authority and privileges. To designate it, there is at least one alternative term, namely the concept of “hyperpapalism” proposed by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski in his comprehensive monograph, The Road from Hyperpapalism to Catholicism (Arouca Press, 2022). However, the most commonly used word remains the former. In this article, I want to explain as clearly as possible the meanings of this term. I hope to respond to some of the common criticisms made by those Catholics who perceive this term as an attack directed against the pontifical function itself and its attributes.

In a homily on May 7, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI made one of the important statements regarding the authority of the Pope. The following words, in particular, have remained in my mind:

“The pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: The pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.”[i]

In the context of the current pontificate, inaugurated over ten years ago in 2013, there is no fiercer debate than that surrounding a disturbing question: can a pope be a heretic? Setting aside the opinions of non-Catholic Christians, I will note something we all know, namely that Catholic faithful are divided into two camps. On one side, those who criticize the current pontificate and, even more so, accuse Pope Francis of heresy.[i] On the other side, those who, relying on a certain interpretation of a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, believe that the papal office is accompanied by a special type of providential protection that excludes the possibility of a heretical pope.[ii] Although well-known, I will still quote the two key verses around which the entire debate revolves:

A gift from Michael

Apart from the bitterness caused by Fiducia Supplicans, last Christmas brought me an unexpected joy. After more than thirty years, I re-watched Frank Capra’s film, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). The one to whom I must express gratitude for this (re)discovery is Michael J. Matt. When he saw my small list of family movies that can be enjoyed during the Christmas holidays, he expressed surprise that I hadn’t mentioned this particular title. Drawing my attention to one of the most significant cinematic creations, Michael gave me an unforgettable gift.

In the sacred texts of the New Testament, there is a definition of faith that always gives us food for thought. It belongs to the Holy Apostle Paul and is found in the first verse of the 11th chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews:

“Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.” (Latin: “Est autem fides sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentium.”)

In one of the most valuable books dedicated to the art of meditation, Religious Meditations,[i] Father Pierre Chaignon S.J. (1791–1883) emphasizes one of the essential aspects of how a Christian can effectively change his life by drawing closer to the demands of holiness. How? Certainly not through general, vague, and non-committal resolutions. The effectiveness of a good meditation depends on specific decisions applied with wisdom to our personal lives. Thus, Father Chaignon proposes an eloquent example:

“Let’s assume you have decided: ‘I will be patient in adversities.’ It is too vague a resolution and therefore sterile. (…) Try, therefore, to change and narrow down this general resolution. Two means are available to you for this. You could say: ‘I will be patient in such and such a situation;’ or: ‘If I am given some suffering to endure, I will think that it is too small compared to the hell I deserved.’ (…) In one way or another, your decision will be limited and therefore very good.”

The fake communist world

In Romania under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the concepts of “surrogate” or “substitute” had become commonplace. The lack of basic goods – especially food and clothing – was something ordinary. The long lines in front of the stores were the only constant thing you would see everywhere. Against widespread poverty, the only defense ordinary people had at their disposal was humor. That’s all that remained for them. One of the most well-known jokes from that period goes like this:

The Lesson of the Saints: From Abba Agathon to Andrew Wouters

A holy old man who lived in the 4th century of the Christian era, Agathon, left us one of the most important teachings regarding the essence of Christian life. We learn this from the famous anthology of sayings and stories preserved from the ascetic saints and hermits of the Egyptian desert, where the following is narrated:

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