Articles by Fr. Alan Phillip

Over the years I have done a lot of writing. Some of my better articles are now available on this website. Just click on the "articles" link at the top of this page. These articles cover a wide variety of subjects including:

A Department of Peace
How to Handle Criticism


These articles are copyrighted, but you are free to duplicate them, email them, etc., for non-commercial purposes.  Some are suitable for classroom use.  Others are more appropriate for spiritual reading.  You may wish to discuss some of them around the dinner table.  The article, How to Handle Criticism, I recommend for everyone who is engaged in ministry in their parish.  I wish the Peace Interview would be acted out on national TV.  And as a Passionist, I hope everyone reads the first article, A Story About Us


Church History, Trivia Pursuit
Recent Articles:
ߦ   Church History, Trivia Pursuit
ߦ   Community
ߦ   Corpus Christi
ߦ   Criticism, Giving and Taking
ߦ   Department of Peace
ߦ   Eucharistic Prayer
ߦ   Fear
ߦ   Holy Trinity
ߦ   Listening
ߦ   Love, A Meditation
ߦ   Marriage
ߦ   Marriage Preparation
ߦ   Money
ߦ   Music at Sunday Mass
ߦ   A Story about All of Us
ߦ   Abortion
ߦ   How to Handle Criticism

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     What follows is a "trivia pursuit" quiz in the category of Church history. Try your hand at it. Good Luck!

1. The first Mass, the Last Supper, was celebrated by our Lord and the apostles in an 'upper room". The early Church celebrated Mass in homes. When was the first public church built?

2. Did the apostles wear vestments when they celebrated the Mass?

3. Is the word "Mass" used anywhere in the bible?
4. Did the apostles celebrate Mass daily or just on Sunday?

5. Did the first century Christians celebrate the feast of Christmas?

6. One of the first churches built was St. John Lateran in Rome, 4th century.   Did this church have pews? A tabernacle?  A pipe organ?

7. St. Agnes was martyred in the middle of the 3rd or early 4th century. Did she ever say the rosary?

8. St. Benedict, who died in 546 AD, founded the Benedictine order. He stressed the importance of prayer. Did the first monks make the Stations of the Cross?

9. The early Christians received communion under the form of both bread and wine. We can do this again today. When did this early practice start to decline and eventually stop?

10. When did celibacy become the law for men entering the priesthood?

BONUS: Let's say that a new church building was dedicated in 1928. At the opening Mass, would the choir have sung any hymns in SATB arrangement (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass)?


1. The early Christians did not have religious freedom in the Roman Empire. Many were martyred for the faith. They celebrated Mass in hidden places, such as homes, and in the catacombs. After the Emperor Constantine the Great converted in 312 AD, Christians could celebrate Mass publicly. The first church is believed to have been built by Constantine soon after his conversion. (He built 40 of them.)

2. For the first three centuries of the Christian era priests used no special clothes when engaged in divine services. About the beginning of the 4th century they began wearing something distinctive, called an orarion, or primitive stole. Special clerical clothes for use outside the sanctuary did not exist much before the 6th century. Black has been the color of the priest's garb only since the 17th century.

3. In Scripture it is referred to as "the breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42) and the "Lord's Supper" (1 Cor 11:20). The term "Eucharist" was used frequently during the 2nd century. Other early words were "Sacrifice" and "Liturgy". The word "Mass" (Latin: "Missa"), originally used for only the dismissal of the catechumens, began being used to identify the entire Eucharistic service around the 6th century.

4. Because the Lord rose from the dead on Sunday, it was on Sunday that the early Church remembered and celebrated that "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again". We have no evidence of a daily Eucharistic celebration until the 4th century.

5. The first record of the celebration of Christmas is around the end of the 4th century. It seems most likely that Dec. 25th was chosen as the date for this to counter an old pagan feast. The date of the winter solstice (Dec. 25th in the Julian calendar, Jan. 6th, in the Egyptian), the day that the sun begins its return to the northern skies, was the day the pagans celebrated the birthday of the sun-god, patron of the empire. Christians chose this date to celebrate the birth of Christ, the "Sun of Justice", who is the true light of the world.

6. Early Christian churches had neither pews nor chairs. However, chairs were soon added (at first, just for the clergy). Only in modern times did pews come in for the laity.

The place and manner of the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament have differed at various periods and in different places. Only in the 16th century did a tabernacle placed on the main altar begin to be the normal procedure. This has changed in more recent Church directives.

The early Fathers of the Church rejected all musical instruments from Christian worship. They saw them as associated with pagan rites. However, in 666 AD, Pope St. Vitalian introduced the organ in Rome in order to improve the singing of the congregations. By the 13th century the organ was in general use throughout the Latin Church. (Interestingly, it wasn't until 1400 that the organ keyboard could be played with fingers. Early models had slides that had to be pushed and pulled.)

7. The origin of the rosary goes back to the 12th century. Some early versions had as many as 150 mysteries. It did not become a popular devotion until it was gradually simplified. In 1483 a rosary book was written by a Dominican, cutting down the 150 points of meditation to 15, all of which, except for the last two, correspond to the present mysteries. (The prayer, "Hail Mary", as a popular form of devotion was not adopted until the 11th century, with the second half of the prayer being added during the 15th century.)

8. The first coherently related stations built outside Palestine were erected at the church of San Stefano in Bologna in the 5th century. There were five "stops". Later in Antwerp there were seven. Sometimes there were as many as 20, 30, or even more. The number 14 first appeared in manuals of devotion published in the 16th century in northwestern Europe. Needless to say, it has been a very popular devotion for the Passionists since our founding over two hundred years ago.

9. As is clear from the New Testament, Christ gave the two species separately, and this remained the earliest practice of the Church. It wasn't until the 11th century that this began to change. And after the Council of Trent, bread only was received by the laity in the Latin rite. In recent years we have gone back to the more ancient practice.

10. In the ancient Church married men were accepted into the clergy as long as they were married only once (1 Tim 3:2). However, many of the early clergy practiced celibacy by choice, after the example of Christ. During the first three centuries no law was promulgated prohibiting clerical marriage. The first written law goes back to a local council of Elvira (306 AD). When the First General Council of Nicea (325 AD) debated the issue, the Egyptian bishop Paphnutius, himself unmarried, protested that such a rule would be difficult and imprudent. He further emphasized that celibacy should be a matter of vocation and personal choice. That Council accepted his view. It was the first Lateran Council (in 1123) that placed the obligation of celibacy on all major clerics of the Latin Church.

BONUS: If they were keeping the law, only men sang in 1928. Therefore, no sopranos and altos.

     A directive of Pius in 1903 stated "woman cannot be admitted to the choir". However this was not well obeyed, especially in the U.S. where, as a result, women sang in the choirs with the tacit permission of the bishops. Pius XII (1958) allowed the use of mixed choirs or choirs of women or girls. (Note: Originally, church choirs -- all male, and usually clerics -- sang directly behind or to the side of the altar. The choir loft came in when women joined the choir.)

     Most of the above answers are taken from the New Catholic Encyclopedia (McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1967). Hopefully, you found them interesting and informative. However, my purpose in writing them was not so much for information, but for perspective.

     Many things have changed in the Catholic Church in the last forty years. It has been disturbing to some, exciting to others. Some people have groaned, "We've never done that before". But the facts of history often show otherwise. Knowledge of history not only brings wisdom, but also helps cast out fear. We have survived change. We have even prospered. It helps to know that other eras have faced challenges and grown through them.

     The recent tensions over some theological writings hardly compare to the great battles in the church over the teachings of Arius of Alexandria during the 4th century, or the Eastern Schism of 1054. Again some may or may not like some recent Popes in the church. But the scandalous life of eighteen year old Pope John XII in 955, or the way Alexander VI bought his election to the papacy in 1492 help us see how blessed we have been in recent centuries.

     The Greek philosopher Heraclites believed that "Nothing is permanent except change". Change can be frightening to anyone who likes life to be predictable, and wants answers to be black and white. However from birth to death we are constantly changing, not always for the good but changing. Another thing that helps is to know that we are not facing problems alone. Others often find change unnerving, or confusing, or a threat to inner peace. But to share our worries with others, to pray together over them, to study together, to deepen our love for people and not judge their motives, to grow in understanding of others, and to speak kindly of others even when we disagree with them,- all this helps. The bonds of Christian love help cast out fear.

     Finally, the Lord tells us, "Fear is useless. What is needed is trust". (Luke 8:50) To study the history of the church is to learn once again of the foibles and failures of human beings. That the Church is alive and well today is not due to human wisdom and intelligence. It can only be due to the fact that the Lord kept his promise. "I am with you always, until the end of the world". (Matt 28:20) If we trust in his wisdom, his truth, his power, his forgiveness, his faithful love, he will cast out our fear.

     May the peace of the Lord be always with us.

Fr. Alan

Hi, I picked up a copy of The Passionists Spring 2010 at St. Agnes. I still visit now and then. I liked the saints part on the right hand side. Who is the saint for those of us who inherited an ice cream addiction from our fathers?! And for those of us who go bald on St. Baldrick's day?! Fr. Jack was the first shavee this year. And my third time. Thanks for sharing. Judy
Posted by Judy Harpring at 4/28/2010 7:20:46 PM

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