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Header-The Holy Trinity

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which states that God is One in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Ghost – is central to our Catholic faith. This awesome teaching is so far beyond human understanding that it could only be known through revelation.

Yet as lofty and mysterious as it is, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity does not contradict our reason, nor totally elude our grasp. The great St. Patrick, when evangelizing Ireland, made the mystery “palpable” by using the humble shamrock, with its three leaves on the one stem, as an example.

Thus God is a pure, eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent spirit with one nature and one substance, but three distinct persons, the second of which, the Son, became man to redeem mankind from the original stain of Adam and Eve.

 

Pray: Novena to the Holy Trinity

 

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Scriptural Examples

Image 1 - The Holy TrinityWhilst the triune nature of God was known in the Old Testament, the clarity with which the mystery of the Holy Trinity is revealed in the New Testament is truly remarkable.

In St. Luke’s Gospel (1:35), the Archangel Gabriel says to the Virgin Mary: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, it is the Father Himself Who gives witness to the Son: “And lo, the heavens were opened…And behold a voice from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt. 3:16.

And while Jesus often speaks of His Father to His Apostles, He also distinctly mentions the Spirit to them in such passages as John 15: 26: “But when the Paraclete comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.”

Later, as Our Lord commands His disciples to spread the Gospel throughout the world, the triune nature of God shines forth in full splendor in the baptismal formula He entrusts to them: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. 28:19. Notice one name but three persons.

Even Satan, while tempting Him in the desert, endeavored to pry from Jesus His true identity: Was He the Son of God? Matt.4:3, 6.

 

The Trinity Attacked, and Defined, through the Centuries

Image 2 - The Holy TrinityThroughout the history of the Church, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity has been challenged by multiple heresies. Thus, as early as 259 AD, Pope Saint Dionysius was already defending the Trinitarian doctrine against the heretical errors of Sabellius who held that God had three “faces” or “masks” rather than being three distinct persons within the Godhead.

One of the most extensive declarations of the Church on the Blessed Trinity dates from 675 AD and was issued in Toledo, Spain, at that time in the throes of an Islamic invasion, whose Koranic claim branded Christians as idolaters because they adored Jesus Christ as God.

In 1213, in face of the Albigensian heresy which believed in a good and an evil source to creation, the Fourth Lateran Council defined: “We firmly believe and profess without qualification that there is only one true God, eternal, immense, unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent, and indescribable, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit: three persons but one essence, and a substance or nature that is wholly simple.”

Thus has the Church defended, and defined, the Trinitarian Dogma down through the centuries and into modern times.

 

Our God, not Distant, but a Friend

And so, through divine revelation and the definitions of the Church’s Magisterium based upon this same Revelation, we can know who our God is: one in substance, three in personhood, eternal, creator of all things visible and invisible, all powerful, everywhere present.

But such an awesome Creator is not distant from His creation. Our God is Love, and Love, by its very nature, is communicative. A marvelous aspect of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which has inspired and drawn the saints through the ages, is what is called the “indwelling of the Trinity”.

Image 3 - The Holy TrinityThis doctrine teaches that not only is God present everywhere in a general way, but with those who keep His commandments, and live in His grace, He establishes an intimate relationship.

Our Lord Jesus pointed to this “indwelling” at the Last Supper when He said: “I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth whom the world can never receive because it neither sees him nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you.”

And just so we don’t think the Spirit alone dwells in us, Jesus clarified: “If any one loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” John 14: 16, 23. So, not only the Holy Spirit, but the Father and the Son dwell in a soul keeping “His word”.

The indwelling of the Holy Trinity begins at Baptism and continues so long as that soul remains in God’s friendship and grace. Serious sin “expels” this presence, but can be regained with repentance, and a sincere sacramental confession.

Just as with any other relationship, we can grow in friendship with our three divine guests by prayer and the practice of the Christian virtues. The saints took this friendship all the way to deep union, a state that gave them uncommon love, joy, trust and fearlessness in all they did, even the gift of miracles. This divine friendship is offered to each and every one of us.

Indeed, the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity is central to our faith, and our awesome patrimony.

 


 By A.F. Phillips

 

 Pray: Novena to the Holy Trinity

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 23, 2020

The purer are your words and your glances, the more pleasing...

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November 23

 

The purer are your words and your
glances,
the more pleasing will you be to the
Blessed Virgin. And
the greater will be the
graces that she will obtain for you
from her Divine Son.


St. John Bosco


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Columban

He struggled with purity, and desperate to dedicate himself...

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St. Columban

Columban was born about the year 543 in County Meath, in the Irish province of Leinster, to respectable parents. He was well-educated in grammar, rhetoric, geometry, and the Holy Scriptures. The young Columban resolved early to embrace monastic asceticism and dedicate himself to a strict and disciplined life, abstaining from many of the pleasures of the world. However, he struggled with purity, and desperate to dedicate himself wholly to God, asked the advice of a religious woman who had lived as a hermit for many years.

His mother tried her utmost to deter him from the course of action proposed by the saintly hermit, but Columban took the holy woman’s advice and left Leinster to become a cloistered monk at the monastery of Bangor in County Down. He remained there a number of years before gaining permission from his superior, St. Congall, to evangelize in foreign lands. With twelve companions he traveled to Gaul and set about preaching and teaching the Gospel.

In 590, news of these monks reached Guntramnus, the King of Burgundy, who was so inspired by the holy men that he gave the Irish monk and his companions the ancient Roman castle of Annegray, in the region’s Vosges Mountains, in which to establish a monastery. Within a few years, the increasing number of followers obliged Columban to expand and, with the help of one of the King’s ministers, he obtained from the King another ancient Roman fortification named Luxeuil, on the site of some ancient Roman baths. A third monastery soon followed to house the growing number of disciples. The monks followed a harsh discipline similar to the unusual characteristics of Celtic Christianity: they carried out penances for every transgression, no matter how small, fasted, performed bodily mortifications and prayed at length.

Twenty years after his first monastic foundation, Columban and his fellow Irishmen were expelled from the country. Brunhilda, the wicked and corrupt queen regent, disliked the holy man for his reproach of the immoral ways of her court and ultimately exiled him in 610.

Columban and his monks traveled to Italy where they were welcomed by Agilulf, King of the Lombards. Agilulf gave the monks a dilapidated church at Bobbio to reestablish themselves. Columban himself did much of the repairs in spite of his seventy years of age.

He died at Bobbio in 615 having spent the last few years of his life praying and preparing for death. His followers established monasteries all over Europe.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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