El Padre Carlos Ravert

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This is the first in a series of columns from Fr. Charles Ravert. This special series focuses on events and personalities from Catholic Church history as well as American and World history to deepen our understanding of past events and see the light of Christ.


Pax et Bonum+Peace and All Good

Baltimore was the first diocese established in the United States of America way back in 1789. I’d like to begin our brief examination of history with a crucial moment in American Catholic history, the synods and councils of Baltimore.

In 1791 the first synod of Baltimore was held. It included Archbishop John Carroll, twenty-two priests. Over the years many more synods and councils would be held at Baltimore to help shepherd Catholics in the newly formed Republic root themselves in the practice of their faith.

Since Baltimore was, at least for a time, the only American diocese, its decisions and provisions were established for the entire country. More than a decade later other dioceses would be established including ours in 1808.

Each of the synods and councils worked through the unique challenges to the life of the American Catholic Church, with special attention to the ministry of priests, the apostolate to Black and Native American peoples, and establishment of the norms and particular law governing the Church in America.

The importance of these ecclesiastical meetings over many years cannot be understated. Not only do many of the outcomes of those meetings influence the American Church today, but also speak to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, ever present with the Church.

Our Lord Jesus promised the Apostles that he would send the Advocate and that he would teach them all things and remind them of everything he had taught them already.

The central lesson the Holy Spirit reminds us of is the greatest commandment of Our Lord Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Whatever other political, social, or canonical issues that took the spotlight during the sessions at Baltimore in those first days, the truth behind them all was God’s love.

The Holy Spirit guided Archbishop Carroll and those first Fathers of Baltimore to build the foundation for a lasting kingdom of Divine love in the American Republic.

As people living in this great country and as Catholics who have inherited the history of Baltimore, we have the singular responsibility and privilege to stand united in freedom and brotherly love while remaining loyal and obedient to our Divine King.

“Love one another as I have loved you” doesn’t mean just love those who love you back, or love only those who look like you, or agree with you, or come from the same neighborhood as you.

“Love one another as I have loved you” means caring for and lifting up all people as the Holy Spirit leads us from day to day, year to year, century to century.

Archbishop Carroll and the synods and councils of Baltimore were guided by a love for God and His people that firmly rooted God’s kingdom of love in this New World.

Although they were imperfect people and we imperfect people have inherited it, the Spirit of the Perfect God is leading us in love always.

So no matter what issues we are facing today, no matter what concerns seem to be center stage may we always remember that everything we do should be motivated by love.


Father Charles Ravert serves as pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Philadelphia.