St James Cathedral - Seattle, WA

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What's a Titular Church?

I have to warn you, this article is more on the informative side than usual. Okay. To the be honest, my wife thought it was downright boring. But keep reading, maybe it'll be interesting!

Earlier this month, New York's Timothy Cardinal Dolan wrote in his blog about taking possession of his titular church in Rome. Well if you're not familiar with that, you might want to ask: What's a titular church? And why does Cardinal Dolan have one? Here's the answer.

The first cardinals of the Catholic Church were actually the priests in Rome. For obvious reasons, they were the pope's closest advisers and elected a new pope when the Holy See became vacant. When clergy from outside of Rome were selected to be cardinals, the custom of linking them to a Roman church began.  At that time, a church around Rome was known as a titulus, and someone who held property for the Universal Church was called a titular.  (Titulus/titular are from the Latin meaning title.) Today, cardinals who are designated cardinal priests are given a titular church in Rome from this tradition. The cardinal gets his name and coat of arms at or near the door of the church, but in most cases has little to do with its administrative or sacramental life. In a similar way, cardinals who are cardinal bishops are given one of the Suburbicarian Sees near Rome, and cardinals who are cardinal deacons are also given a titular church called a cardinalatial deaconry. This way, where ever in the world a cardinal resides, he remains symbolically close to the pope.

The other case where the term titular church is used is with bishops who are not heads of dioceses.  These bishops are known as titular bishops.  Auxiliary bishops, papal nuncios, and heads of the Roman Curia are common examples. While these bishops do not function as diocesan bishops, they must still be the bishop of a church or diocese, at least symbolically. As a result, a diocese that no longer exists, called a titular see, is assigned to them. These titular dioceses will always have potential to be reinstated, although this rarely happens.

In modern times, when a diocesan see is suppressed its area is absorbed into another diocese. This could happen for organizational reasons, such as when an area's Catholic population is no longer sufficient to maintain a diocese, or if the see is moved to where the population has increased. In history, dioceses would be suppressed if the city is destroyed by disaster or war, or when conquered by non-Christians (7th century northern Africa for example). These bishops would flee to other dioceses and assist the bishop there, acting in a similar way to today's auxiliary bishops. When the helping bishop would die, there would often be a successor who would take the title of the former diocese with the hopes that it would someday be restored.

So if your diocese has an auxiliary bishop, his job is to assist the diocesan bishop in the same way another priest in the parish assists the pastor.  In some way, the auxiliary bishop actually has a diocese of his own, but it has no cathedral, clergy, or laity, although it probably did at one time (and may again if it is ever restored in the future).

Since 1970, diocesan bishops whose resignations are accepted for retirement are no longer assigned titular dioceses. They are now given the title bishop emeritus of their former diocese (according to Canon 402). The same goes for a coadjutor bishop, which is a bishop designated to assist the diocesan bishop and will succeed him when he resigns or dies. Instead of being given a titular see, he is now titled coadjutor bishop of the diocese that he will eventually oversee. I'm not sure why this was changed, other than the possibility of running out of titular dioceses with the number of retired bishops is growing. If anyone knows the answer, please tell me!

I know this article is a little different from my usual stuff; I decided to let my nerdy side come out a little. The Catholic Church has many neat historical customs and traditions that the everyday Catholic may not know of, so I thought talking about one of them is good once in a while (or this could just be a total bust).

I don't know if the subject of a "titular church" will ever come up in cocktail party talk, but if it does, you'll be well prepared!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Don't Miss Out on the Year of Faith

If you haven't heard, with his apostolic letter Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI has declared a "Year of Faith" from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013.  October 11 commemorates two anniversaries within the recent history of the Church: the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council by Blessed Pope John XXVIII (in 1962) and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II (in 1992).

I don't think the pope did this on purpose, but I'm so glad the Year of Faith is starting during election season in the United States.  Especially this election, we Americans have been so consumed with the political course of our nation that it's easy to forget there's still plenty of other things going on in the world and in the Church.  While it's critically important that we pay attention to our nation's needs, the Year of Faith reminds us to also pay attention to the other needs of God's Kingdom. 

The Year of Faith is a much needed opportunity for all of us.  It's an opportunity to deepen our faith, better our relationship with our Lord, and renew our enthusiasm for the Church.  And we really need this now more than ever.

It's no secret that the average Catholic receives no ongoing education or formation in the faith. Other than a 7-minute homily on Sundays, there may not be anything else.  Of course, there are some considerable exceptions to this.  I've noticed there are at least three groups, and I hope there's even more than I realize.  

Families with school-age children may be the largest group of exception.  When children are catechized (either in a Catholic school or through a parish's religious education program) often the entire family benefits from the catechisis.  This is the group of people that dominates at all parish/school functions, and therefore are more likely to spend time at the parish outside of Sunday Mass.  

Another group are the dedicated retirees- these are the people who keep things going around the parish.  Since they don't have dependent children or the need for employment, these are the people who often have the largest representation at daily Mass and who help take on many of the parish's ministries.  They also have time to read or for personal study (and I'm a little jealous of this).  

The last group that comes to mind are college students and recent graduates.  In contrast to the retirees, this group is incredibly busy with various activities, however they seem to be able to incorporate their faith into their new found adulthood in an enthusiastic way.  These are the folks who fill university Newman Centers.  They go on weekend retreats, mission trips during school breaks, and often enlist in programs like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after graduation, all while advocating for various causes from being pro-life to saving the environment, before going to graduate school or finding a job.

There really is one more exceptional group.  These are the people that make it a point to have ongoing formation in the faith, regardless of where they are in their life.  This is the group that the Year of Faith wants to expand, and turn it into the norm rather than the exception.  This group would have the best of everything: the enthusiasm of the college crowd, the dedication of the retirees, and the attendance rate of the families with school age children.  

Regardless of your state in life or where you are on your spiritual path, each of us can take part in the Year of Faith, and move closer to having regular faith formation in daily life.  You don't have to do anything big like join a religious order or become a missionary (unless that's what God is calling you to).  Here are some simple suggestions that just about everyone can do.

If you're a magazine reader, subscribe to a Catholic magazine.  People have endless magazine subscriptions on just about every topic- cars, fashion, parenting.  What's one more, especially one that provides an opportunity to deepen your faith?  There are plenty to chose from.

Watch some Catholic media.  I know, some of what's on EWTN can be really boring, but there can be some really neat catechetical programming on there.  If you turn it on and don't like what you see, then try again at another time.  There is one series shown periodically on EWTN that I highly recommend, Fr Robert Baron's Catholicism.  I promise, you'll be moved when you watch it.

Depending on where you are, there could be Catholic radio station in your area.  I'm a fan of Relevant Radio.  We no longer have it where I live, but I download a lot of the programming onto my MP3 player and listen during my commute.  It's a great way to hear about current topics that impact Catholics.  For example, they had programming about the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal long before most parishes started to announce it was coming.

If you're on social websites, talk about your faith. You don't have to be preachy, just start with small things like tweet about Sunday Mass, or post pictures on Facebook of you or your family at church or parish events. Jesus doesn't have an online account, so yours will do just fine.

There's also plenty of books that can be read. With two kids ages 2 and under, I don't have much time to sit, but I've heard Pope Benedict's newest book is a decent read.

If your Sunday Mass attendance isn't where it needs to be, then this is another good reason to get to Mass every Sunday. If you are going every week, see if you can add a daily Mass into your schedule one or two days during the week; it will make a difference to you, and also the people around you. If you're already doing that, there's always the Liturgy of the Hours, too.

Whatever you decide to do, don't let the Year of Faith get passed you. There should be some neat events such as conferences or retreats at your parish or around your diocese. Be sure to check your parish bulletin or your diocesan publication for more information!

For more information regarding the Year of Faith, please visit the official website:

Other suggestions for the Year of Faith?  Please feel free to include them in your comments below!

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