Learning Along with Fr. Chuck

Learning Along with Father Chuck - The Reformations

March 3rd & 4th

The Protestant Reformation started in 1517 and the Counter-Reformation, also known as the Catholic Reformation began with the Council of Trent (1545-1563).  Both ended at the close of the Thirty Years’ War (1648).  Father Chuck’s Sabbatical is focused on these Reformations.  During the next several weeks, you will learn about many aspects of these Reformations.  Topics will include Pre-Reformation figure St. Catherine of Siena and the Western or Papal Schism; Reformation figures include Martin Luther, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri and The Council of Trent.  We are excited to also include Father Chuck’s Patron Saint, St. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, Italy.  

We look forward to sharing more insights into these changing times within the Catholic Church and the positive influence of these key leaders and saints that helped shape the Catholic Church as we know today. 


March 10th & 11th

St. Catherine of Siena was a Pre-Reformation Figure in the Catholic Church.  Born March 25, 1347, Catherine was the 25th child born to her mother.  It is believed that at age 5 or 6, she had her first vision of Christ and by age 7, Catherine vowed to dedicate her life to God.  At age 16, after the death of one of her sisters, Catherine’s parents wanted her to marry her sister’s widower.  Her parents finally relented and allowed her to pursue her devotion to God.  She entered the Third Order of the Dominicans as a lay member which provided the opportunity for young Catherine to stay at home with her family while the Dominican Sisters taught her how to read.

Catherine’s life changing event happened when she experienced her “mystical marriage to Christ” when she was 21 years old.  In her vision, Our Lady presented her to Jesus like a spouse with whom an intimate, communal and faithful relationship existed.  She began caring for terminally ill patients and administered to those on death row, providing spiritual guidance to men and women searching for God.  Political and Social tension began to grow in Italy which provoked Catherine to begin traveling, calling for reform of the Church and for people to turn from sin and profess total love for God. She also worked hard to keep city states loyal to the Pope.  Catherine played a key role in re-unifying the Papacy in Rome.  She and her followers traveled on foot for many months to convince the Pope (Pope Gregory XI) to leave Avignon, France and return to Rome.  He returned 6 months later in January 1377.  (More on the Western or Papal Schism will be next week’s Reformation Topic)

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Sr. Nancy Murray’s portrayal St. Catherine of Siena on April 21st here at Queen of Apostles Parish.  Sr. Nancy’s performance depicts the spunk, humor and feistiness of St. Catherine while drawing parallels between the wars, scandals and politics of the 14th century and the realities of the 21st century.


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March 17th & 18th

The Western or Papal Schism occurred from 1378 to 1417.  During this time, there were three rival popes acting independently.  Shortly after Catherine of Siena pleaded with then Pope, Gregory XI to move back to Rome after nearly 70 years in Avignon, France, the Papacy was returned to Rome in January 1377.  After his death in March 1378, the College of Cardinals, under Roman pressure to elect a Roman or an Italian Pope, elected Pope Urban VI.  Thinking this was a compromise as he was an Italian, but also served in the curia at Avignon, they soon regretted this choice due to Urban’s volatile personality.  All but 4 Italian Cardinals fled to Avignon where they elected another pope, a French cardinal, Clement VII who would reside in Avignon.  Western Europe’s allegiances were split for nearly 50 years. 

  • Roman Line Popes: Urban VI (1378-89); Boniface IX (1389-1404); Innocent VI (1404-06) and Gregory XII (1406-15)
    • Allegiance from Italy, the Germanic Holy Roman Empire and England:


  • Avignon Line Popes: Clement VII (1378-94) and Benedict XIII (1394-1417)
    • Allegiance from France, Scotland and Spanish Castile:

At the Council of Pisa in 1409, yet another pope was elected after neither rival pope supported the council.  Alexander V (1409-10) became the 3rd Pope with John XXIII (1410-15) his successor after his untimely death.

In 1414, the Council of Constance (1414-1418) assembled to address various issues including uniting the church in the wake of a schism between 3 rival popes.  Eventually the schism was resolved by the Council’s election of Martin V in 1417 affirming the Roman Line.  Pope Gregory XII resigned to allow the election of Pope Martin V, while Pope Benedict XIII refused to step down and continued as antipope until 1422.  Antipope John XXIII initially fled from Constance in March 1415 and was eventually arrested.  Ultimately, he accepted Martin’s election, but remained a prisoner until he was released in 1418. 

Throughout the 15th Century, wealthy Italian families often secured positions of Bishops or Cardinals including the papacy for their own members.  Immorality was also found among these religious figures.  The call for Reforming the Catholic Church began by priests, like Martin Luther who opposed what was viewed as false doctrines and clerical wrongdoing.  Key objections include the selling of indulgences, buying and selling clerical offices and overall corruption of the Church’s Hierarchy.  (More on Martin Luther in next week’s Reformation Topic.)


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March 24th & 25th

As the New World was being discovered (1492), the Western European Catholic Church was becoming more involved in the political life resulting in the church’s increase in power and wealth, bankrupting the spirituality in the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.  While other reformers from the past were looking to address the corruption of the Catholic Church, Martin Luther was looking to the theological root of the problem – corruption of the church’s doctrine regarding redemption and grace.

Martin Luther was ordained a Catholic priest in 1507 and became a doctor of theology in 1512 and Bible professor at the University of Wittenberg.  His theology began to contradict that of the Catholic Church as he believed that salvation was not achieved by human work, but by absolute faith in God’s promise of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  After posting his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, the start of the Protestant Reformation was born.  At this time, the Catholic Church was selling indulgences to raise funds to rebuild St. Peter’s in Rome.  However, little was it known that half of the proceeds from indulgences sold in Germany were applied to the huge debt owed by the Archbishop, Albert of Mainz, who owed money to the Pope for appointing him to his high offices.  Luther, through the initiation of Archbishop Mainz, was excommunicated in 1521. 

The Reformation movement diversified quickly.  Other Reformers arose independently of Martin Luther.  Zwingli’s movement in Switzerland combined church and state in service of God; accepting the supreme authority of the Scriptures.  Calvinism spread into England, Scotland, France and the Netherlands emphasizing predestination and salvation through God’s grace versus our own merits.  Another Group of Reformers were the “Anabaptists,” modern day Baptists, Mennonites and Quakers who believe that proper baptism was through public confession of sin and faith and sealed by adult baptism. 

Key contrast of Protestant Reformers from Catholic Church doctrine includes Sin, Grace & Atonement.  Catholic doctrine teaches that through Jesus Christ, our good works and atonement for our sins, God’s grace and salvation are achieved.  Reformers believe Christ won our salvation through His self-sacrifice on the cross and are completely free of having to actively achieve or participate in their own salvation.  As a follower of the Roman Catholic Church, Henry VIII’s Church of England has characteristics of both Catholic and Protestant Traditions after his split from the Pope.  (More on Henry VIII and the Church of England to follow the weekend of April 7/8th.)


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April 7th & 8th

With only his daughter Mary from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, as heir to the throne, King Henry VIII of England knew the importance of a male heir to succeed him as the King of England.  He asked Cardinal Wolsey to intercede to Pope Clement VII for an annulment of this marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn.  The Pope’s refusal led Henry to influence the English Parliament to pass a series of acts that separated the English church from the Roman Catholic Church.  This made Henry not only the monarch, but the head of the English Church.  Henry’s intent was to keep the English Church Catholic but separated from Rome’s hierarchy.  When Anne Boleyn did not produce a male heir after 3 years of marriage and only producing a female heir to the throne (Elizabeth), Henry had Anne arrested on false charges of adultery and she was publicly beheaded at the Tower of London.  Jane Seymour became Henry’s third wife who finally produced a male heir giving birth to Edward in 1537.  Jane died shortly after childbirth. 

Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief minister played a key role in Henry making the break with Rome.  By dissolving nearly 900 religious houses in England including monasteries, friaries, convents, etc., Cromwell brought much needed wealth for the crown through the acquisition of the land and treasures that belonged to these well-funded monasteries.  Much of the land was sold to the nobility of England having a significant impact on the culture and society at the time.  One of the greatest cultural losses caused by the English Reform was the destruction of the monastery libraries.  Only six of them are known to currently be intact.  St. Mary’s Abbey, York (mentioned in Father’s Bulletin Article March 25th) was the largest and richest Benedictine establishment and one of the largest landholders in Yorkshire during its time.  It was closed during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and unfortunately destroyed in 1539. 

While Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell were closing monasteries throughout England, St. Ignatius Loyola was forming the Society of Jesus, known today as the Jesuit Order.  (More on St. Ignatius Loyola and his influence on Philip Neri in next week’s bulletin.)


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April 14th & 15th

The Jesuit Missionaries played a key role in the Counter-Reformation in influencing many European faithful to return to Catholicism after the Protestantism movement.  Founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1534, the order was approved by Pope Paul III on September 27, 1540.  Their primary work was education however, as preachers and catechists, they were also devoted to caring for the young, the sick, prisoners, prostitutes and soldiers.  They also became confessors for many of Europe’s royal and ruling families. 

Soon after its formation, the Jesuit order expanded its missionary work.  St. Francis Xavier was sent by St. Ignatius along with three others to the East.  In 1544, Philip Neri met Ignatius of Loyola.  Influenced by St. Francis Xavier, he wanted to travel to India to carry out Ignatius’ foreign missionary work.  Philip had a demeaner that encouraged conversation with new acquaintances and led his listeners to consider a better way of life through Christ.  He was a true evangelist sharing the Gospel and helping others.  Philip became friends with not only Ignatius of Loyola, but Pius V and Charles Borromeo.  Because of Philip’s ministry and influence, he was quickly dissuaded by his peers from going to India. 

In 1548 along with Fr. Rossa, Philip founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity of Pilgrims and Convalescents, which ministered to the poor who flocked to Rome and relieve patients discharged from hospitals yet too weak to work.  After being ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1551, Philip went to live with Father Rossa and other priests at San Girolamo to carry on his mission, mostly through the confessional.  Because of his large following for his religious conferences, a large room was built over the church in San Girolamo to accommodate his large audiences.  This room was called the Oratory.   Here Philip instituted devotional, charitable and recreational activities including musical performances. 

Philip was known for his playful sense of humor and shrewd wit.  Many miracles had been attributed to him.  Philip died on May 25, 1595, the Feast of Corpus Christi after hearing confessions and receiving visitors.  He was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1615 and canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.

While approving the establishment of the Jesuit order was one of the legacies of Pope Paul III, another was issuing a decree in 1537 for a general council to be held.  Although the Council was delayed until 1545, the Council of Trent, prompted by the Protestant Reformation, has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.  (More on the Council of Trent in next week’s Bulletin.  If you are interested in learning more about St. Philip Neri, please contact Mike Szocs at [email protected] about a repeat showing of the film, “I Prefer Heaven”.)



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April 21st & 22nd

The Council of Trent played an important role in the Catholic Counter-Reformation that was prompted by the growing Protestant Reformation.  The Council was held between 1545 to 1563 with the twofold objective of condemning the principles and doctrine of Protestantism and to clarify the doctrine of the Catholic Church.  Protestants believed that the only source and criterion for Christianity was Holy Scripture.  The Council established that there are two sources: Holy Scripture and the Traditions of the church.  Through this decree, the late 4th century Latin translation of the Bible, known as the “Vulgate” became the official version of the Bible.  This is also when the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (the Nicene Creed) was accepted as the basis of the Catholic Faith.  Additionally, the number of Sacraments was set at Seven: Baptism, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Marriage and Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction).

Protestants believe that by faith alone, we are justified.  The Council of Trent clarified the position of the Catholic Church where we believe that besides faith, we are inwardly justified by cooperating with divine grace that is bestowed freely on us by God.  Another issue addressed by the Council was the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  Luther believed in consubstantiation where Christ’s body and blood coexist with the consecrated bread and wine.  As Catholics and through the Council of Trent, our Doctrine teaches us that the bread and wine become Christ’s Body and Blood through Transubstantiation.  The Mass was defined as a True Sacrifice. 

One of the key controversies that precipitated the Protestant Reformation was the sale of indulgences that would reduce the temporal punishment due to sin.  As Catholics, we believe every sin must be purified either here on earth or after death through purgatory.  The Council called for the reform of the selling of indulgences confirming the church does not have the power to grant them.  Another critical decree that came out of the Council was on clerical morals and the foundation of seminaries. 

Veneration of the Virgin Mary, Saints, images and relics is another distinction between the Catholic and Protestant beliefs.  We Honor Mary & the Saints because they practiced great faith here on earth and by honoring them, we honor God Himself.  Relics are bodies of the saints or objects connected with them or Our Lord.  Images represent these Holy People Chosen by God as well.  We also honor the Saints by naming our children after these Holy men & women.  Did you know, St. Charles Borromeo is Father Chuck’s Patron Saint?!  More on St. Charles in next week’s Bulletin.     



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April 28th & 29th

St. Charles Borromeo was born on October 2, 1538 in Milan, Italy.  His mother was a member of the powerful House of Medici and his father was the Count of Arona.  When his father passed away in 1554, Charles, still a teenager, became responsible for the household.  He continued his studies earning a doctorate in canon and civil law.

After his uncle, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Medici became Pope Pius IV on December 25, 1559, Charles was made a cardinal.  At only 23, young Charles took on many duties including the government of the Papal States, the supervision of the Knights of Malta, the Franciscans and the Carmelites.  In 1560, he was appointed administrator of the Archdiocese of Milan.  He was not yet ordained a priest, but felt the Lord was calling him to the priesthood.  On September 4, 1563 he took his holy orders and was ordained a bishop on December 7, 1563.  Charles officially became the Archbishop of Milan on May 12, 1564.  Even after Pope Pius IV’s death in 1566, Charles was known as an idealistic reformer in Rome. 

As the Protestant Reformation continued spreading throughout Europe, Charles’ mission was to restore the integrity of the Catholic Church.  His strategy included education through establishing schools and colleges for clergy.  The ornate interior of many Catholic Churches was a criticism of Martin Luther and the Protestants.  They were deemed to be a distraction from the worship of God.  The Council of Trent acknowledged this and Charles enforced this reform as Archbishop of Milan.  He even had any inappropriate ornaments and embellishments of his own relatives’ tombs cleared. 

In 1576, the Governor and many of the nobility fled Milan when famine and later the plague struck.  Charles remained and influenced all of the superiors of all the religious communities in the diocese to work together to care for those affected and administer to the dying.  After trying to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people daily, Charles used up his own funds and went into debt.  He finally persuaded the Governor to return.

As Charles was implementing the reforms dictated by the Council of Trent, his unyielding ways made him unpopular with the secular leaders, priests and even the Pope.  In 1584, the heavy burden of his work and position as Archbishop took its toll on him and he became ill with fever.  He died on November 3, 1584 at the age of 46.  Charles was canonized by Pope Paul V on November 1, 1610 and is the patron of bishops, catechists, cardinals, seminarians and spiritual leaders. 

We are so excited to Welcome Father Chuck back next weekend!  We hope you felt you were “Learning Along with Father Chuck!”


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