Eduard Profittlich sermon in Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in 1939



Brothers and sisters beloved in Christ!

When Apostle Paul in Chapter 58 bid farewell to the church of Asia Minor, he invited the representatives of the congregation to meet with him and left in their care the worries concerning the faithful, with the following urgent words: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28).

These admonitions apply to all leaders of the Church, foremost the bishops. The bishops after all, are especially through the sacrament of ordination as bishops, appointed by the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the Church of God. They must, as faithful guardians over the souls, which Christ has purchased with his own blood, take care of the faithful. Therefore, the words of Prophet Ezekiel apply to each bishop: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel:” (Eze 3:17). The prophet, if we ask about the special duty of the bishop, also says: “therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.” The bishop must listen to the words of God, as they are contained in the Bible and the words from the mouth of God and proclaim them to the faithful, according to the demands of the time. It is his serious obligation and responsibility. He must after all, according to the words of St. Paul, in the letter to the Hebrews, watch over the souls of the faithful, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph 4:1). These are the warnings I want to append to the slogan, which I have chosen as my motto for my work as bishop: “Fides et pax” – “Faith and Peace”.

Faith – our holy Catholic faith – is the first asset that I would like to protect and preserve for you by the grace of God. The faith that was gifted to you already in early childhood, without your own services or which you yourself have fought into your hands for, through extensive searching and great sacrifices, must always be holy and dear to you, as the greatest treasure in life. You, after all through this faith, have “in all regards become rich in Christ.” (1 Chronicles 1:5)

I want to draw your attention to a few things.

Our holy Catholic faith first of all gives us great assurance for our life. Everywhere around us today, in questions of religion, there is so much lack of clarity and confusion that we have been gifted with great clarity and certainty, in questions of religion and life. The foundation of this assurance is Jesus Christ himself, the eternal truth, who “was born, and for this cause came into the world, that [he] should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18:37).

All Christians certainly want to base their faith on Jesus Christ. We, however, unfortunately see that outside the Catholic Church, there are still disputes between others, concerning questions of faith and life. We see them as divided and torn into pieces in many churches and religious assemblies, of which each has its own confession. But where do these various Christian beliefs and confessions come from? Is there a diverse Christian truth? “Is Christ sometimes divided into several?” (1 Chronicles 1:13). He is not. There can only be one Christian truth. The confusion however arises from people taking upon themselves the right and power to feel and explain the teachings of Christ, according to their own understanding. And yet Apostle Peter already drew attention to this that “in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16). It is therefore no wonder then that what St. Paul already pointed out is fulfilled, that people let “themselves be swayed and swung, in two directions, from each breeze of teachings.” Ephesians 4:16. Yes, it seems that the time has come, which the same apostle predicted: “That they do not want to like all the teachings, but seek teachers for themselves, according to their own desires, according to how their ears twitch and turn away their ears from the truth, as well as address empty stories.” (2 Tm 4, 3-4).

The danger that people would understand the truth delivered by Christ, according to their own minds, as well as into disputes and differences of opinion with each other, was already foreseen by Jesus Christ in his divine all encompassing knowledge and also found remedies against it. He has founded his church, which Apostle Paul calls “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tm 3:15). He chose twelve apostles in the church and sent them out to preach his truth to the people with the words: “Go ye into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15).

He vowed to the apostles that they would remain untouched by mistakes when preaching their knowledge that: “I will be daily by your side, until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:10). Yes, he vowed to them, that a special advocate “the Spirit of truth” “would guide them into all the truth.” (John 16:13). “The Holy Spirit… will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26). The special advocate – the Holy Spirit – could only possess the duty to keep the apostles from error, in the proclamation of the word of God. It is for this reason that the apostles also felt themselves to be ambassadors of God, through whom God spoke to the people: “We are ambassadors of Christ, as if God were warning you through us.” (2 Chronicles 5:20). It is from here, where the absolute authority arises, which the apostles took upon themselves, when preaching the gospel, according to the words of the apostle: “But even we or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (1 Galatians 1:8).

Christ himself had hinted at the unmistakable authority of the apostles, as the preachers of the word of God, with the words: “Who hears you hears me; who despises you despises me.” (Luke 10:16) Therefore he threatened those who did not believe the apostles also with eternal damnation: “Who believes and is baptized will become blessed, but who does not believe will be condemned.” (Matthew 16:16).

Christ, however, has created his church for all times. Therefore the church must at all times, also be a “pillar and ground of the truth”. Christ has vowed his special support, not only to the apostles personally, but also to those who maintain the profession of an apostle and must continue it, “until the end of the world.” And the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, must “remain forever”, with the apostles of the Spirit and their offspring. (John 14:16). We, however, know very well from the history of the church, that for over a thousand years there was no doubt among Christians that the offspring of the apostles are bishops, foremost the offspring of St. Peter, and as such, they are characterized by an unmistakable authority in preaching the gospel. So, as the student of the apostles, Ignatius said: “Just as Jesus Christ is the Word of the Father, so are the bishops sent out on all the paths into the entire world, to preach the teachings of Jesus Christ.” (Eph 3:2). Elsewhere he adds as in essence the words: “All who belong to God and Jesus Christ abide by the bishop.” (Phil. 3). St. Irenaeus adds, particularly concerning the Roman Church, that “because of its special first position, every church and all the faithful must be in unity with it… Therefore there is no need to look for the truth elsewhere than what can be taken from the church, the apostles having endowed it in plenitude with the entire truth.” (Ad Haer. 3: 4).

The given belief of the ancient church that in the bishops of the Church of Christ, in the forefront with St. Peter, the unmistakable learning authority of Christ and the apostles lives on, has been faithfully preserved without blemish to this day in the Catholic Church. Every Catholic bishop, according to conviction, steps into the lineage of offspring of the apostles, as preachers of the truth of Christ and therefore he also participates in their authority. Conviction has found its expression in the ordination ceremony of becoming a bishop, in which the Gospel is first placed on the shoulder of the bishop and then in his hands. The bishop takes upon his shoulders, the obligation in the name of Christ and the spirit of Christ, to preach purely and unquestionably, the Gospel of Christ to the world.

The profession of unmistakable teaching, now lives on in the Catholic Church, since the times of the apostles, without interruption, this church has truly proven for centuries to be “the pillar and ground of the truth.” The possession of an unmistakable teaching profession, gives steadfast peace with which he steps through the centuries, that in the turmoil of battles of differences of opinion, he faithfully adheres to the truth, entrusted to him by Jesus Christ. He searches and finds in the truth, the answer to the questions and problems that arise again and again. The Catholic Church is the only church offering an unmistakable teaching profession. The Christian community does not feel within itself any disparity in teachings and faithfully maintains the unity desired by Christ.

The unmistakable teaching profession of the church that lives on in the bishops and offspring of Peter are also the great assets of our Church. He is the foundation for our own certainty of faith and strength, for which we are now the envy of many Christians. My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, maintain the certainty and strength of your faith. Hear the admonition of St. Paul: “Be on your guard, stand firmly in faith, be men, become strong.” (1 Chronicles 16:13). Do not let yourselves be deceived by those who claim that surrendering to the unmistakable teaching profession of the Church is to be considered an unbearable restriction of human freedom, claim that the freedom of religious opinion alone is to be considered worthy of modern mankind. The Bible demands “to be obedient to the Gospel”, against these claims (2 Thessalonians 1:8) and “be obedient to the truth” (Galatians 5:7). And indeed in a natural circumstance, a person must listen to the word of truth and surrender to the laws of nature. And just as no freedom is allowed concerning the laws of morality so any freedom concerning religious truth must not keep one from the truth. God would deny himself the truth revealed by Christ, if he would give a person the freedom to remain in error. Obedience to the truth of Christ therefore does not also mean an unworthy restriction of human freedom, but rather it comes closer to true freedom, according to the words of Christ: “If you hold on to my words, then you are my disciples and you sense the truth and the truth makes you free.” (John 8: 31-32). And some amongst you, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, who have had the opportunity to feel uncertainty in religious matters, see that only the possession of truth and obedience to the unmistakable teaching profession of the Church has made you truly free. “Now remain in the freedom, with which Christ has made us free and do not let yourselves be enslaved again.” (Galatians 5:1). Do not let yourselves be led astray by those who “vow freedom, though they themselves are slaves of a vanishing thing” (2 Peter 2:19), who vow truth to you, but are in error themselves.

Let us also try to continually learn to know the truths of our own Catholic faith more and thus grow more in recognition of Christ “in all knowledge.” (1 Chronicles 1:5)

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The living belief in Christ, in salvation through him, that he is the way that leads us to truly eternal happiness, must enliven in ourselves the strong religious strength that provides us with support in all the struggles and difficulties of life. Christ, however, foremost and in plenitude, wanted to endow us with divine strength for the struggles of life, through the wonderful sacrament which he left us at the end of his life, as the greatest gift of his love. In this sacrament, he gives himself up completely, with divinity and humanity, as food for our souls. He “becomes living bread to us that has come from heaven.” (1 Chronicles 1:5) He makes the words of his vow come true: “And the bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world… and like I live through the Father, so must the person who eats me, also live through me.” (John 6).

The Catholic Church, into the hands of which Christ entrusted this greatest gift of his love, has throughout the centuries faithfully maintained and ruled the holy sacrament as his greatest asset. Every day he celebrates holy secrets on thousands and thousands of altars throughout the world, breaks the bread of heaven and calls his children to receive it.

The tremendous lamentation of Prophet Jeremiah states: “Young children beg for bread, there is no one that distributes it to them.” (Lamentations 4:4). Has this lamentation not become in a spiritual way, the truth for many in our modern times and of today’s youth, who in a religious sense, roam the streets of life in hunger, as nobody hands out the “bread of life” to them?”

The children of the Catholic Church however need not die of hunger on the streets of life. The Catholic Church distributes the “bread of life” to its children, as often as the children ask for it. Yes, the more that life struggles to a culmination, the greater the dangers of life are, the more urgently the Church invites its children to attend even daily Holy Communion more frequently.

He invites small children to grow and become stronger through the acceptance of the flesh of the Lord, in a supernatural life. He calls on young men and women that this heavenly sustenance gives them strength to serve God, in austerity and the purity of the heart, amidst the immorality of our days. He calls on men that the bread of life gives them strength and courage of faith, in the current times of lack and weakness of faith. He calls on women and mothers that in their calling of motherhood, in sorrow and pain, as victims and sacrifices of their Christian women’s life, they find the strength and comfort of Christ. So must all who come to the table of the Lord experience its word…

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So hear the calling of the church, the calling of Christ. Accept worthily and regularly the flesh of Christ. It is after all the urgent wish of the Holy Church that all of its children, both big and small, men and women, if possible at least once every month, receive the flesh of the Lord. It is the most fervent wish of the Church that an increasing number of us, in the times of the religious zeal of the first Christians, come back to life again, when many Christians lived so much within Christ that during each celebration of the Holy Mass, they also participated in the Lord’s Supper.

I indeed know that some amongst you, often with respect to the Holy Communion, are affected by several prejudices. But I have hope that you will not let yourself be guided in this matter so much by your senses, but will attempt in true Christian spirit, fulfilling the wishes of the Church, grow in the love of Christ, through the more frequent acceptance of the Holy Communion. More frequent Holy Communion will, in the best possible way, develop and preserve within you the great treasure of faith, deepen and increasingly revive it. The true words of the Lord are: “Who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, remains in me and I in them.” (John 6:27).

Another great asset is born out of deep and living faith, which needs to be maintained and preserved for you: It is peace, the peace of Christ. I would just like to tell you a little about that.