Opinion & Features

Letters: Being ‘born again’ cannot just be an emotional experience

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To be born again, we need sacraments

SIR – With the greatest respect, I have to differ quite sharply from Fr Rolheiser’s article on the meaning of being “born again” (The Last Word, July 26). When Our Lord speaks of being born again in the Gospel of St John 3:5 3, he is talking about the sacrament of baptism. This the well-known traditional view, and modern Scripture scholarship can also be quoted to support it. Raymond E Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament clearly states (p341): “Jesus explains that only begetting from above enables one to enter the kingdom of God, i.e.begetting of water and Spirit. The Johannine Jesus speaks of the very life of God acquired only when one is begotten of God (‘from above’), which takes place when one is baptised in water and receives God’s Spirit.”

The importance of stressing this point is that baptism is the foundation of the whole sacramental life of God for Christians – including in particular access to the Holy Eucharist. Fr Rolheiser refers to his Evangelical friends who think of being born again as some particularly powerful emotional moment in their lives. This is a misunderstanding of Christ’s teaching. It cannot be understood as some natural emotional or sentimental experience.

Of course, one does not doubt the goodwill of such individuals. and I am sure that Fr Rolheiser’s friends are fine people. It remains a fact that if being born again is regarded as some kind of emotional or other personal experience, it is a very dangerous doctrine. In the first instance some followers of this approach regard such an experience as essential for conversion. Some of them even speak of themselves as “saved” as a result of such an experience. The whole point is that such people are deprived of the whole sacramental structure of which baptism is a basis. Thank God, they may be baptised – but they have no faith in or understanding of where baptism leads.

The Holy Eucharist which would bring them close to the Christ they long for. Yet I have heard “saved” Christians say abominable things about the Holy Mass. The very sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Perhaps some attempt should be made to make them realise what they are missing. St Paul in his Epistles and St John in the Apocalypse insisted on the teaching of true and sound doctrine. In particular, we need true and sound doctrine about the meaning of being born again.

Fr Damian Grimes MHM
Formby, Merseyside

Sources of revelation

SIR – Cardinal Gerhard Müller (Vatican news analysis, July 26) gives us a timely reminder of the two sources of Divine Revelation – Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition – when criticising the preparation document for the Pan-Amazon Synod, in its lack of attention to Holy Scripture and the Church Fathers.

It is surely providential then, that during the said synod this October, Pope Francis will canonise Blessed John Henry Newman. One seminal moment on his road to Rome (described in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua) was the momentous quotation by St Augustine of Hippo in his fight against the Donatist heresy: “Securus judicat orbis terrarum” (“The whole world judges right.”)

He plainly gave the same weight in considering the Church Fathers in matters of Divine Revelation as His Eminence.

Brendan O’Leary
Swansea, West Glamorgan

Mystery over Latin

SIR – Sam U Ho advocates that Tridentine Latin mass be reinstated so that we can recover a sense of the mysterious (Letters. August 4). However, relying on the incomprehensibility of the language of Mass is an inferior way to achieve a sense of the mysterious.

The best way is to ponder on the profound mystery of the real presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements. The mystery of Christ’s presence in the church, his mystical body, and its expression in the Eucharist is so profound, so glorious, that it makes the language in which the Mass is celebrated of quite minor significance.

I served many Tridentine Latin Masses in my early years and learned to love the Mass from them, but I accepted the liturgical changes and have grown in my love of the Mass over the ensuing years. Yes, I have studied Latin, but my feelings for the Mass do not depend upon it or upon the Tridentine liturgy.

Francis Beswick
Stretford, Greater Manchester

Dissipating lay energy

SIR – A letter from John de Waal (July 26) always commands attention. But are we right just to look to our bishops? We are the educated Catholic laity that Blessed John Henry Newman worked for in Dublin and the Oratory School.

We are the successors of the 4th-century laity that Newman showed us adhering to the faith when bishops wavered. When the Faith is slandered or misunderstood, it is surely equally a lay duty to speak out individually or collectively where we have – or can find out – the knowledge.

In May 2018, the Herald reported Michael Maslinski’s resolute and successful campaign to force the BBC to withdraw absolutely its misrepresentation of the Elizabethan Jesuit, John Gerard. Our energy is dissipated infighting instead of focused evangelical study and action groups. As Louis Bouyer pointed out, the energies of bishops are dissipated on tasks that fell to deacons in the early Church. All the more reason why John de Waal and I should be writing to the secular media, not the Catholic Herald.

Tom McIntyre
Frome, Somerset

The Real Presence

SIR –Thank you for raising the issue of belief in the Real Presence (Cover story, August 2). Mostly issues such as these are simply ignored. But in Brisbane, it is now no longer possible as less than five per cent, in some cases, of students actually continue on with the practice of their faith, after they leave school.

Your writer was once Anglican. His view is intelligent and interesting. The solution to the problem may lie with an examination of the miracles of the Eucharist. Children love stories, and if teachers took up the challenge, things could change.

We need another Peter Julian Eymard, or someone like him, to help with adult attitudes. Perhaps the Catholic Herald may come up with a novel idea to arrange for adult attitudinal change.

John Dique
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

SIR – Fr Dwight Longenecker (Aug 2 ) does not mention any of the Eucharistic miracles that can be readily seen on the web by typing in those two words.

The stunning one for me occurred many many years ago in Lanciano, Italy. The dear priest saying Mass did not believe in transubstantiation. As he was holding up the host at the consecration, blood ran from the host down his hand. To this day in the local cathedral that host and congealed blood can be seen. This occurred about 1284!

I believe our bishops should be much more proactive in getting the message across so that there can be no more “symbolic” thinkers.

Anthony Pippet