Catholic Family News
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The “Holy” in Holy Father

Photo of Pope Francis' first appearance the night of his election, March 13, 2013

The “Holy” in Holy Father

By John Vennari

March 13, 2014 - Note: Today is the one-year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. CFN readers may recall I was at the Vatican for the event. While in Rome, I did some three-minute TV Spots for Fatima TV's Rome station on the Conclave and the Election. The following is a slightly edited transcript from the first segment we filmed the morning after Pope Francis' election.

We are here at the Vatican on the second day of the reign of the new Pope, Pope Francis. We call the Pope “Holy Father” and I think it would be beneficial for us at this time to step back and take a look at the word “Holy” within the context of the title, “Holy Father,” because it’s a word that is very much misunderstood.

In fact, if you went up to members of 10 different denominations – and I would even say, at this point in time in the Church that even if you went up to 10 different Catholic priests – and you asked each of them for a definition of holiness, each of them will probably give you a different answer compared to the other, and chances are none of them would be right!

But thankfully we have the writings of one of the greatest mystical writers of the spiritual life in the 20th Century: Blessed Abbot Marmion, a great Benedictine abbot, who, based on the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, wrote about this very point.

Holiness consists of a double element: it has a
negative [absent] element and a positive [present] element.

First, we have to start with the holiness of God. In God holiness is the infinite distance from all that is sin, from all that is imperfect, from all that is impure. He is infinitely free from every spot or stain or shadow of imperfection.

That’s the negative aspect, but the positive aspect is that God adheres by an always-present act of His will to the infinite goodness which is Himself in order to conform Himself entirely to all that infinite goodness is.

Now once we know what that model of holiness is, we see that this model is what we see in Our Lord Jesus Christ. He was infinitely free from every spot or stain or shadow of corruption, and He always adhered by an ever-present act of His will to the infinite good which was Himself.

The same model of holiness we see for Our Blessed Mother. She was without stain of sin, She was born without Original Sin, She was free from every spot, stain or shadow of corruption and She always adhered by an act of Her will to the infinite good which is God, in order to conform Herself to His infinite goodness. The same model of holiness is the model for us.

So now we have a better idea of what we see with “Holy Father”, that the Holy Father himself must teach a doctrine that is free from every spot, stain or shadow of corruption, be free from all error, confusion and ambiguity, and he must also teach a doctrine that adheres to the infinite good which is God Himself, to the true and genuine Catholic doctrine taught throughout the centuries.

So this is what holiness is, this is the Holy Father’s duty, and as the Message of Fatima says, we must pray a great deal for the Holy Father, and thus pray a great deal for Pope Francis.

For Fatima TV, I’m John Vennari.

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Pope St. Pius X: The First Duty
of the Pope is Ensure Purity of Doctrine

In the first lines of Pascendi, the 1907 Encyclical against Modernism, Pius stated that one of the "primary obligations assigned by Christ to the office divinely committed to Us of feeding the Lord's flock is that of guarding with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith delivered to the saints, rejecting the profane novelties of words and the gainsay of knowledge falsely so called". He explains that in the face of this Modernist heresy, "We may no longer keep silence, lest We should seem to fail in Our most sacred duty ...”

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