Bulletin (July 14, 2002)

Thank you for your Sacrificial Giving. In the “Stewardship” column you will see the amounts given in the first collections of each of our seven weekend Masses. Also the totals of the “two-bit collection” during Spanish, English and Filipino Masses. As you can see, we got off to a pretty good start for our new 2002-2003 fiscal.

Basically we need $10,673 each weekend to meet our operating expenses – that is to be able to pay the salaries of our school teachers and other parish employees, as well as the various program and maintenance expenses of Holy Family. Your support is not only vital, it is all we have. Last weekend a total of $11,153 were contributed in the first collection. I thank you for it.

Also last weekend $1,527 were given at the seven Masses in the collection after communion. As I mentioned in various homilies, we are going to dedicate our second (“two-bit”) collection to “debt elimination.” Whatever you can give is greatly appreciated. If each family gave an extra five dollars each weekend, we could rapidly take care of our “negative cash position” and thus be able to move ahead with vital parish needs, such as religious education and liturgy.

They say that those the Lord loves, He also tests. In the midst of the good news about your financial support of Holy Family, we had a small setback. One of the water pipes, on the west side of our church, broke. Tom Weber acted very quickly to get it fixed, but it is an additional, unexpected expense. Also we had a problem with the washing machine in the rectory, which caused some flooding of the basement, including the “sodality room.” That room is also used for pre-K classes. Again, fortunately, the problem was detected before too much damage was done.

Since we are unable to hire a full time religious education director to replace Sr. Mary Clare Hall, I have asked Fr. Ramon Velasco to work in that area. He of course brings good skills and preparation. As we get closer to Fall, Fr. Ramon will be communicating more of the specifics regarding children’s religious education.

Also I have asked Lin Fulwiler to head up the RCIA and RCIC programs. Lin has guided the adult RCIA for a couple of years now and has done a tremendous job. Also she has organized the Bible Study/Prayer group which meets every Sunday evening. Lin is well prepared and dedicated. We are fortunate to have her services, as well as those who support her in this effort.

There will be opportunities to hear more about parish finances at the Listening Sessions. This past Thursday we had a potluck and listening session for liturgical volunteers. On July 27 we will be holding one for those who participate in Eucharistic Adoration. We want your feedback especially in regard to our parish needs and dreams.

Summer is also, hopefully, a time for relaxation and reading. I would like to recommend two books. The first is a recently published one volume history of the Catholic Church by H.W. Crocker titled Triumph. The book describes how Jesus’ teaching has taken root during two thousand years of history. H.W. Crocker gives it that title not because the human beings who make up the Church are so glorious, but because God’s grace has done marvelous things.

The second book, by Philip Jenkins, is called Hidden Gospels: How the Quest for Jesus Lost Its Way (Oxford University Press, 2001). It looks at the ancient gospels not found in the New Testament, works such as the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, and so on. The book explores the importance of these works for contemporary religious thought. His argument is that these "hidden gospels" have acquired an importance far beyond their real historical value, and, in fact, they serve as the core texts for a full-fledged modern historical mythology.

The myth goes something like this. Once upon a time (we are told) there was the Jesus Movement, which was mystical, radical, feminist, egalitarian, and subversive. As time went by, this movement was destroyed by the rising forces of the Christian church, patriarchal and repressive. The earliest followers of Jesus found their ideas dismissed as "heresy" while the power-maniacs of the Great Church grabbed for themselves the grandiose title of "orthodox." The new world of Churchianity successfully covered its tracks by rewriting most early Christian documents and destroying those that revealed its Orwellian dirty tricks. However, some authentic relics survived in the form of the hidden gospels, which were preserved in the deserts of Egypt. In the twentieth century, these texts re-emerged to astonish the waiting world: We recall the discovery of the collection of ancient documents found at Nag Hammadi in 1945, popularized in Elaine Pagels' best-selling book The Gnostic Gospels. Since the 1970s, documents like the Gospel of Thomas have become a recurrent theme in popular culture, in many thriller novels, in the 1999 film Stigmata, and even in episodes of the X-Files. In addition, the existence of Thomas has stimulated much revisionist Biblical scholarship, notably that associated with the Jesus Seminar. We can even meet New Age believers who characterize themselves as "Thomas Christians" - the name refers to the Gospel of that name and not to the ancient Indian churches who claim St. Thomas their founder.

Here is what one reviewer had to say about Hidden Gospels:

Was Jesus really a subversive mystic whose true teachings were suppressed by an authoritarian church? Has the real nature of Christianity been deliberately obscured for centuries? Do recently discovered texts such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and even the Dead Sea Scrolls undermine the historical validity of the New Testament?

In this incisive critique, Philip Jenkins thoroughly and convincingly debunks such claims. Jenkins places the recent controversies surrounding the hidden gospels in a broad historical context and argues that, far from being revolutionary, such attempts to find an alternative Christianity date back at least to the Enlightenment. And by employing the appropriate scholarly and historical methodologies, he demonstrates that the texts purported to represent pristine Christianity were in fact composed long after the canonical gospels found in the Bible. Produced by obscure heretical movements, these texts offer no reliable new information about Jesus or the early church. They have attracted so much media attention chiefly because they seem to support radical, feminist, and post-modern positions in the modern church. Indeed, Jenkins shows how best-selling books on the "hidden gospels" have been taken up by an uncritical, scandal-hungry media as the basis for a social movement that could have dramatic effects on the faith and practice of contemporary Christianity. Brilliantly researched and sharply argued, Hidden Gospels unearths both the complex agendas and flawed methods of scholars who have created a whole new mythology about Jesus and the early church.

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of many books, including Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Social Crisis and Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History. He lives in University Park, PA.