Why I Hate The Past Tense

Cana, the prefiguring.

The past is dead, it is in ashes, it cannot be brought back. Historians pick over its remains to try to find the cause of death, and in this they are like pathologists of the human condition. By their efforts, they try to trace a reasoned explanation for why humans do what they do, and perhaps uncover the other forces at work in history.

We humans are time-locked and have a very poor natural understanding of eternity. Eternity is where God is at home and is present to every-when and everywhere and everything, always. God has total power over Heaven and Creation, but does not use this whimsically, like some deranged dictator. His rule is reasoned and law-abiding, though He knows how to break the rules if such a break enhances Beauty. We call such breaks “miracles”.

God, like us, likes Beauty. He wants a Beautiful Spouse, worthy of Him. For this He has created His Church, who is bound for blissful espousal to Him in Eternity.

In human time, we can only see a Church unshapely and pocked with sores, far from ready for her wedding day.

In contrast, God sees her great beauty, marred briefly by puppy fat and acne. We must not despair, but instead keep our lamps alight for the Bridegroom’s arrival.

 

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THE MEANING OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

From Fr Robert Barron

At the Transfiguration, Moses was there representing the law and Elijah was there representing the prophets. But why were Peter, James, and John present? And what does this event mean to us today?

St. Thomas Aquinas devotes an entire section in his Summa theologiae to this event. His treatment sums up much of the wisdom of the Fathers, so looking at his reflections may give us some answers.

Aquinas says that it was fitting that Christ be manifested in his glory because those who are walking an arduous path need a clear sense of the goal of their journey. The arduous path is this life, with all of its attendant sufferings, failures, setbacks, disappointments, and injustices, and its goal is heavenly glory, fullness of life with God, the transformation of our bodies.

As he makes his way toward the cross, Jesus accordingly allows, for a brief time, his glory to shine through, the radiance of his divinity to appear. We are not meant finally for this world. This event is meant to awaken our sense of wonder at the world to come.

Next, Aquinas asks about the “light” or the “glory” that envelops Christ during the Transfiguration. It “shines.” Why have people, trans-historically and trans-culturally, associated holiness with light? Well, light is that by which we see, that which illumines and clarifies. But at bottom it is the fact that light is beautiful. Beautiful things shine. Aquinas says that Jesus, at the Transfiguration, began to shine with the radiance of heaven so as to entrance us with the prospect of our own transfiguration.

Finally, Aquinas talks about the witnesses to the Transfiguration, namely Peter, James, John, Moses, and Elijah. Moses stands for the Law. Jesus recapitulates, perfects, and illumines the Mosaic law: “I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” Christ is the new Moses, the new Lawgiver.

Similarly, Elijah stands for the prophets; he was the greatest of the prophets. The prophets spoke the words of God; Jesus is the Word of God. Therefore, the prophetic books are read in his light.

But why is Peter there? Because, says Aquinas, he loved the Lord the most. Why is John there? Because the Lord loved him the most. Why is James there? Because he was the first of the Apostles to die for his faith.

Who gets access to the glory of Jesus? Those who are tied to him through love.

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Purifying the Soul

Meditation (3) taken from ‘An Introduction to the Devout Life’ by St. Francis de Sales.

Almond tree in flower in southern Spain

Almond tree in flower in southern Spain

“THE flowers appear on the earth,” says the Heavenly Bridegroom, and the time for pruning and cutting is come. And what, my child, are our hearts’ flowers save our good desires? Now, so soon as these begin to appear, we need the pruning-hook to cut off all dead and superfluous works from our conscience. When the daughter of a strange land was about to espouse an Israelite, the law commanded her to put off the garment of her captivity, to pare her nails, and to shave her head;even so the soul which aims at the dignity of becoming the spouse of Christ, must put off the old man, and put on the new man, forsaking sin: moreover, it must pare and shave away every impediment which can hinder the Love of God. The very first step towards spiritual health is to be purged from our sinful humours. S. Paul received perfect purification instantaneously, and the like grace was conferred on S. Magdalene, S. Catherine of Genoa, S. Pelagia, and some others, but this kind of purgation is as miraculous and extraordinary in grace as the resurrection of the dead in nature, nor dare we venture to aspire to it. The ordinary purification, whether of body or soul, is only accomplished by slow degrees, step by step, gradually and painfully.

250px-Wenceslas_Hollar_-_Jacob's_ladder_(State_2)

The angels on Jacob’s ladder had wings, yet nevertheless they did not fly, but went in due order up and down the steps of the ladder. The soul which rises from out of sin to a devout life has been compared to the dawn, which does not banish darkness suddenly, but by degrees. That cure which is gradually effected is always the surest; and spiritual maladies, like those of the body, are wont to come on horseback and express, while they depart slowly and on foot. So that we must needs be brave and patient, my daughter, in this undertaking. It is a woeful thing to see souls beginning to chafe and grow disheartened because they find themselves still subject to imperfection after having made some attempt at leading a devout life, and well-nigh yielding to the temptation to give up in despair and fall back; but, on the other hand, there is an extreme danger surrounding those souls who, through the opposite temptation, are disposed to imagine themselves purified from all imperfection at the very outset of their purgation; who count themselves as full-grown almost before they are born, and seek to fly before they have wings. Be sure, daughter, that these are in great danger of a relapse through having left their physician too soon. “It is but lost labour to rise up early and late take rest,” unless the Lord prosper all we do.

The work of the soul’s purification neither may nor can end save with life itself;—do not then let us be disheartened by our imperfections,—our very perfection lies in diligently contending against them, and it is impossible so to contend without seeing them, or to overcome without meeting them face to face. Our victory does not consist in being insensible to them, but in not consenting to them. Now to be afflicted by our imperfections is certainly not to consent thereto, and for the furtherance of humility it is needful that we sometimes find ourselves worsted in this spiritual battle, wherein, however, we shall never be conquered until we lose either life or courage. Moreover, imperfections and venial sins cannot destroy our spiritual life, which is only to be lost through mortal sin; consequently we have only need to watch well that they do not imperil our courage. David continually asks the Lord to strengthen his heart against cowardice and discouragement; and it is our privilege in this war that we are certain to vanquish so long as we are willing to fight.

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Rorate Caeli interview with Cardinal Burke and details of the Cardinal’s visit to the UK

Last week, Rorate Caeli interviewed Raymond Cardinal Burke via telephone on numerous topics. Nothing was off the table for this interview and His Eminence was incredibly generous with his time. He showed himself to be brilliant and yet filled with humility. And his care and concern for traditional Catholics must be acknowledged and appreciated.

In this wide-ranging interview, His Eminence talked about issues ripped from the news such as: Vatican officials threatening to sue bloggers; more priests coming under his authority; the dismantling of the Franciscans of the Immaculate; how traditional Catholics can save their souls in this modern world — and get their children the sacraments in the traditional rite in the face of dissenting bishops; priestly celibacy; daily confusion from Pope Francis; and much, much more.

VATICAN OFFICIALS THREATENING TO SUE BLOGGERS

Rorate Caeli: Your Eminence, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. As the most-read international blog for traditional Catholics, we believe this will give much hope to our readership, and to traditional-minded Catholics everywhere. For our first question: The traditional world, recently, has been stunned by the news that two officials of the Vatican have threatened to sue traditional-minded Catholic bloggers and reporters. Do you agree with this approach, and do think we should expect to see more of this in the future?

Card. Burke: Unless the blogger has committed a calumny on someone’s good name unjustly, I certainly don’t think that that’s the way we as Catholics should deal with these matters. I think contact should be made. I presume that the Catholic blogger is in good faith, and if there’s someone in the hierarchy who is upset with him, the way to deal with it would be first to approach the person directly and try to resolve the matter in that way. Our Lord in the Gospel and St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians instruct us not to take our disputes to the civil forum, that we should be able, as Catholics, to resolve these matters among ourselves. (cf. Mt. 18:15; 1 Cor. 6:1-6)

CONFUSION FROM POPE FRANCIS

Rorate Caeli: After eight years under Pope Benedict XVI, clergy, laymen, even the media became accustomed to clarity. With so much confusion stemming from the daily statements of Pope Francis, confusion from the Synod, et cetera, is it best to focus more on the local and parish level and on the Church’s tradition, rather than looking for specific guidance from Rome on issues of the day?

Card. Burke: Yes, I think that, in fact, Pope Francis himself has given that indication. For instance in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, he says that he doesn’t consider it to be a magisterial teaching. (n. 16) With someone like Pope Benedict XVI, we had a master teacher who was giving us extended catechesis on various subjects. I now say to people that, if they are experiencing some confusion from the method of teaching of Pope Francis, the important thing is to turn to the catechism and to what the Church has always taught, and to teach that, to foster it at the parish level, beginning first with the family. We can’t lose our energy being frustrated over something that we think we should be receiving and we’re not. Instead, we know for sure what the Church has always taught, and we need to rely on that and concentrate our attention on that.

COMMUNION FOR ADULTERERS & ATTACK ON DOCTRINE

Rorate Caeli: Speaking of that teaching and what we’re hearing, you’ve made news lately by saying you will resist any teaching that’s heterodox on marriage, and that Catholics should fight back, which gets to a whole other question we were asking about. What should be the response of faithful Catholics if there is a change in the discipline in regards to Holy Communion for divorced and remarried adulterers?

Card. Burke: I was answering a hypothetical question. Some people have tried to interpret it as an attack on Pope Francis, which it wasn’t at all. It was a hypothetical question posed to me, and I simply said, “No authority can command us to act against the truth, and, at the same time, when the truth is under any kind of threat, we have to fight for it.” That’s what I meant when I said that. When the hypothetical question was put to me, “What if this agenda is pushed?” I said, “Well, I simply have to resist it. That’s my duty.”

Rorate Caeli: How can a faithful Catholic fight back? Is it in his home? Is it on a blog?

Card Burke:  I think you have to keep teaching, in your home and in your own personal life, to hold to the truth of the faith as you know it, and also to speak up about it and to make known to the Holy Father your deep concern, that in fact you cannot accept a change in the Church’s discipline which would amount to a change in her teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Here I think it’s very important to address a false dichotomy that’s been drawn by some who say, “Oh no, we’re just changing disciplines. We’re not touching the Church’s doctrine.” But if you change the Church’s discipline with regard to access to Holy Communion by those who are living in adultery, then surely you are changing the Church’s doctrine on adultery. You’re saying that, in some circumstances, adultery is permissible and even good, if people can live in adultery and still receive the sacraments. That is a very serious matter, and Catholics have to insist that the Church’s discipline not be changed in some way which would, in fact, weaken our teaching on one of the most fundamental truths, the truth about marriage and the family.

DISSENTING BISHOPS & SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM

Rorate Caeli: Getting to something that’s right in Your Eminence’s wheelhouse, how do we fulfill the promise and the mandate of Summorum Pontificum at this particular time in the Church, and what role does Canon Law play in making the traditional Latin Mass available in every parish?

Card. Burke: The law stands as it was given by Pope Benedict XVI, and it has not been changed. The document for its implementation was issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. All of that holds. All of that urges that when there is a desire for the traditional Mass among a group of the faithful, it is to be provided for them.

Rorate Caeli: Sticking to Summorum, for families whose children have never been exposed to the Novus Ordo, yet their local ordinary will not fulfill the mandates of Summorum by granting them traditional Confirmation, should those families take their children to a neighboring diocese or a personal parish like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, FSSP, in order to have them confirmed in the traditional rite?

Card. Burke: They certainly have the right to receive the sacraments in the traditional rite, in the Extraordinary Form. If they can’t receive it in their own diocese, then certainly they could ask their parish priest to give them a note that the child is ready to be confirmed, and then have them confirmed in another place where it is permitted.

DISMANTLING THE FRANCISCAN FRIARS OF THE IMMACULATE

Rorate Caeli: You probably know, we have been covering the disheartening and frightening accounts of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate being dismantled over the last year. Does Your Eminence think that the commissioner, Father Volpi, has been fair? And what does Your Eminence think of Father Volpi’s court mediation statement regarding the founder’s family?

Card. Burke: I really don’t have the kind of direct information on which to make a judgment about the matter. I have to say that, just from an outsider’s view, Father Volpi has taken some very strong actions very quickly. Seemingly, I read the story too, he had to admit that the accusation which he made against Father Stefano Manelli, the founder of the Friars of the Immaculate, and his family members, of somehow misusing the temporal goods of the Friars of the Immaculate, was not true. That’s certainly a very serious matter. Many friars are leaving, and it would seem that there should be some way of dealing with the whole situation in which the order itself wouldn’t collapse, because they were strong, they had a lot of vocations, and they have a great number of apostolates. That’s the part that’s worrisome to me.

Rorate Caeli: There are reports, and frankly we get personal reports of this, of FFI priests saying they’re “fleeing,” they’re “in hiding,” using those words from the current FFI under Fr. Volpi. There’s also reports of bishops taking in FFI priests seeking refuge in their dioceses. Would Your Eminence encourage those other bishops to do the same?

Card. Burke: If there’s a priest who desires to leave his religious community, and this a good priest, and there isn’t anything contrary to the bishop accepting him, I think a good bishop would certainly accept such a priest and try to help him to become a priest in his diocese. There’s a process; it takes time. The priest who is wanting to leave his religious community has to have a welcoming bishop. When a bishop is able to welcome such a priest, I think the bishop should be happy to do that, because it assists a good priest to be able to continue to exercise his priestly ministry.

TRADITIONAL PRIESTS SUPPRESSED BY DISSENTING BISHOPS

Rorate Caeli: What, in Your Eminence’s opinion, are good priests supposed to do who are being suppressed by their bishops? We know of many, though we’re not going to name them publicly. Some have no mission whatsoever now, and they’re living on donations and help from family and friends. Some find it necessary to join independent groups. What is Your Eminence’s advice to those priests who simply want to live, preach and say Mass as all priests did before the Council?

Card. Burke: I would simply urge them to seek a bishop who is receptive to such priests and would try to help them, if he can, or if he can’t help them directly himself, to help them find another bishop who would permit them to lead a good priestly life. That’s all that one can do. Obviously, also, there is recourse to the Congregation for the Clergy. If the priest feels that he’s simply being treated unjustly, then he could ask the Congregation for the Clergy to intervene.

Rorate Caeli:  There are reports that in an attempt to fix the problem we just discussed, an Apostolic Administration for traditional priests and religious may be in the works, in order to solve many of these issues facing them, in terms of living out their vocations strictly according to Summorum Pontificum. Can Your Eminence comment on where in the process that may be — the future of an Apostolic Administration?

Card. Burke: Such a thing is possible. I’m not aware that anything is in process in that regard. Maybe it is, I just haven’t heard about it. Certainly that is a possibility and would be a way of assisting these priests and the faithful who are attached to them to remain in communion with the Church.

MORE PRIESTS COMING UNDER CARD. BURKE’S AUTHORITY 

Rorate Caeli: Now, Your Eminence may have a bias on this question, but would the Sovereign Military Order of Malta theoretically be able to function as an Apostolic Administration, giving faculties for traditional priests and religious?

Card. Burke: Well, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, has incardinated priests. But it did so as a sovereign military order, not as an Apostolic Administration. The Order has a Prelate, appointed by the Holy Father, who participates in the governance of the Order. He is clearly the lawful superior of any priests incardinated in the Order. Right now, we’re studying the whole situation because we have requests from additional priests who wish to be incardinated in the Order. But certainly it has happened in the past, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t continue to happen, not in virtue of the establishment of an Apostolic Administration, but in virtue of the nature of the Order.

PRIESTLY CELIBACY

Rorate Caeli: We were already planning on asking this question months ago when we first started crafting these interview questions, and then the Pope was reported to have said just yesterday the issue of married priests is “on his agenda.” Is priestly celibacy for western priests under serious threat with this pontificate?

Card. Burke: That would be a very serious matter because it has to do with the example of Christ Himself, and the Church has always treasured in her priests the following of Christ’s example, also in His celibacy. I’ve heard this reported, but I haven’t been able to verify it, but that would be, obviously, a very serious matter. The matter was taken up already by a world synod of bishops in the late ’60s, and at that synod there was a very solid reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching on clerical celibacy. I don’t refer to it just as a discipline because it has to do with what from the earliest centuries the Church understood as being most fitting for her priests. It’s something more than a discipline, and therefore I would think it’s very difficult to conceive that there would be a change on this.

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR TRADITIONAL CATHOLICS

Rorate Caeli: What words of encouragement can Your Eminence give to traditional Catholics who are struggling to save their souls and the souls of their children in this modern world, and without, it sometimes seems, any help from Rome?

Card. Burke: I frequently say to those who are writing to me and are expressing such discouragement, or are asking for direction in what seems to be a very troubled situation, that when, in times like this, there seems to be some confusion in the governance of the Church, then we have, more than ever, to steep ourselves in the Church’s constant teaching and to hand that on to our children and to strengthen the understanding of that teaching in our local parishes and our families. And our Lord has assured us — He didn’t tell us that there wouldn’t be attacks on the Church, even from within, but He has assured us that the gates of Hell will never prevail over the Church. In other words, Satan, with his deceptions, will never finally prevail in the Church. We have to have that confidence about us and go about it with great joy and great determination, in teaching the faith, or in giving witness with apologetics to souls who don’t understand the faith or who have not yet become members of the Church. We know that the gates of Hell will not prevail, but in the meantime, our way is the Way of the Cross. And when we have to suffer for the sake of what we believe, what we know to be true, we can embrace that suffering with the knowledge of the final outcome: that is, that Christ is the Victor. He is the one that ultimately overcomes all the forces of evil in the world and restores us and our world to the Father. That is the way in which I try to encourage faithful Catholics. I think it’s important, too, that devout traditional Catholics get to know one another and support one another, to bear one another’s burdens, as the Scripture says. We ought to be prepared to do that and be sensitive to families that might be suffering some particular difficulty in this regard, and try to be as close to one another as possible.

THIRD VATICAN COUNCIL?

Rorate Caeli: Thank you. We only have a few questions left. There are some very loose reports, but from credible sources, of Francis considering calling a Third Vatican Council. Has Your Eminence heard anything about this at all?

Card. Burke:    No, not at all.

PROCESS FOR CHOOSING BISHOPS

Rorate Caeli: Episcopal appointments in the United States were, on average, conservative-leaning under Benedict XVI. That was not the case everywhere. From this arises what is a clear gap with the priests and actual churchgoing faithful of the new generation that are widely conservative, attached to the true catechism, to Catholic moral law, to a reverent Sacred Liturgy. Is Your Eminence in favor of a new orientation in the naming of bishops in the United States and elsewhere? Is the current method for the selection of bishops a good one, in your view?

Card. Burke: I think it is. It involves the consultation not only of other bishops and priests in the diocese, but also the lay faithful. And there is always the possibility for individual members of the laity or groups of lay faithful to make known their concerns to the Congregation for Bishops or the Nuncio. I think that the most important thing is to let the Apostolic Nuncio know, when there’s an appointment of a bishop being considered for a diocese, that there are very many faithful Catholics who  have particular needs and to express those needs.

CURRENT ROLE IN THE CHURCH

Rorate Caeli: What’s Your Eminence’s main focus on work these days?

Card. Burke: My main focus is on the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, helping the Grand Master with the governance of the Order, especially in the spiritual dimension. The Order has a twofold purpose: the defense of the faith, and the care of the poor. The two things honestly go very much together. I’m helping him with questions about the structure of the Order itself in order to fulfill more effectively those two purposes, but also to deal with questions that inevitably come up in any Catholic organization with regard to doctrine and with regard to morals. That’s my main focus. I am also spending time studying and writing on important questions in the Church today.

TRADITIONALISTS RESTORING THE CHURCH

Rorate Caeli: Do you see traditional Catholics taking more of a leading role, in the future, in the restoration of the Church?

Card. Burke: I think so. I find more and more very strong Catholic families who are devoted to the traditional Mass, and I think that those families will have more and more influence in the time to come. If those families influence other families, then obviously there’s a momentum that grows.

Rorate Caeli: Is there anything else that we haven’t touched upon that Your Eminence would like to add?

Card. Burke: Just to encourage everyone to be devoted to the Sacred Liturgy, which is the highest expression of our Catholic faith, the highest expression of our life in God, and to be very devoted to the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and to the teaching of the faith in our homes and in our local communities. The Church has suffered terribly from decades of poor catechesis, such that the faithful, children and young people, even adults, don’t know their faith, and we need to address that because the two things go together. When we know our faith well, then we have a strong desire to worship in accordance with our faith, and at the same time our worship makes us desire more to know our faith. And then, obviously, all of that gets expressed in action by the charity of our lives, especially on behalf of those who are in most need.

Rorate Caeli: That leads to one last question. Your Eminence has mentioned the family in the home many times. Was John Paul II prophetic when he spoke about the Domestic Church?

Card. Burke: Oh, yes. He said that the Church comes to us by way of the family, and that’s true. Christ Himself comes by way of the family. He was prophetic in the sense that he pronounced again what the Church has understood from the very beginning. That term, Domestic Church, is very ancient, and it was repeated at the Second Vatican Council. It’s a very ancient terminology for the family. In that he was prophetic, in the sense that he set forth what God Himself teaches us about the family.

Rorate Caeli: That’s all we have for Your Eminence. Thank you very much for your time today and for your incredible service to Holy Mother Church.

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Cardinal Burke visits England in March


SPUC is pleased to announce a talk by Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Remaining in the truth of Christ on holy matrimony on Friday, 6th March, 2015, at 7 pm, at Abbey Suite, Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Warrington Road, Chester, CH2 3PD. All are welcome. Admission free.

Cardinal Burke is also speaking at SPUC’s youth conference. The SPUC Youth Conference will take place from the 6-8th of March 2015 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Southport. It is a unique opportunity to motivate the pro-life youth to go out and spread the pro-life message. The price of the youth conference is £100, including all meals and accommodation. Contact rhoslynthomas@spuc.org.uk A few sponsored places are available.

 

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Listening

Hear! Hear!

Listening can be either passive and accidental, or active and deliberate. Let me demonstrate by means of a true-life story!

Last night, in the dead of night, I awoke for no discernible reason. My room was in complete darkness apart from all the dimly flashing light coming from various bits of tech on standby.

All I could hear was a very quiet rumbling and ticking, which I could not identify. Was it some portent of doom? Should I investigate it lest it be a presage of domestic disaster?

I lay perfectly still. The sound was not coming from me, at least. I turned my head this way and that trying to localise the source, but had no luck.

In the silence of the night, this tiny sound became louder and louder. I got out of bed and moved around the room, hoping to get a bearing on its source. Ah! There in the corner! I switched on the light, but kept my eyes closed, the better to hear. I moved closer and the sound grew less quiet. My quarry was nearly discovered…..

It was the timer on my electric radiator which was making “all that racket”. My poor simple brother radiator which has kept me warm in the chill of winter for many years, was simply counting out the time until he could next perform his Divine Office by heating my room and preserving my health, unknowing of his heavy responsibility. I was so overjoyed by this discovery, but could reward him nothing that he would esteem.

God Himself, and so many of God’s creatures are keeping a protective eye on us at all times, without our noticing, or thanks, and it makes me sad. Our own blessings go un-thanked. I know what personal ingratitude feels like, as I’m sure you all do.

Why are we so unkind and thankless to the ones who love us? I suppose we’ll have to put it down to original sin.

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The Nature and Excellence of Devotion

Meditation (2) from ‘An Introduction to the Devout Life’ by St. Francis de Sales

Prayer-samuel-at-prayer-by-sir-reynolds-498029The world runs down true devotion, painting devout people with gloomy, melancholy aspect, and affirming that religion makes them dismal and unpleasant. But even as Joshua and Caleb protested that not only was the Promised Land a fair and pleasant country, but that the Israelites would take an easy and peaceful possession thereof, so the Holy Spirit tells us through His Saints, and Our
Lord has told us with His Own Lips, that a devout life is very sweet, very happy and very loveable.

The world, looking on, sees that devout persons fast, watch and pray, endure injury patiently, minister to the sick and poor, restrain their temper, check and subdue their passions, deny themselves in all sensual indulgence, and do many other things which in themselves are hard and difficult. But the world sees nothing of that inward, heartfelt devotion which makes all these actions pleasant and easy. Watch a bee hovering over the mountain thyme;—the juices it gathers are bitter, but the bee turns them all to honey,—and so tells the worldling, that though the devout soul finds bitter herbs along its path of devotion, they are all turned to sweetness and pleasantness as it treads;—and the martyrs have counted fire, sword, and rack but as perfumed flowers by reason of their devotion.bee-on-thyme And if devotion can sweeten such cruel torments, and even death itself, how much more will it give a charm to ordinary good deeds? We sweeten unripe fruit with sugar, and it is useful in correcting the crudity even of that which is good. So devotion is the real spiritual sweetness which takes away all bitterness from mortifications; and prevents consolations from disagreeing with the soul: it cures the poor of sadness, and the rich of presumption; it keeps the oppressed from feeling desolate, and the prosperous from insolence; it averts sadness from the lonely, and dissipation from social life; it is as warmth in winter and refreshing dew in summer; it knows how to abound and how to suffer want; how to profit alike by honour and contempt; it accepts gladness and sadness with an even mind, and fills men’s hearts with a wondrous sweetness.

Ponder Jacob’s ladder:—it is a true picture of the devout life; the two poles which support the steps are types of prayer which seeks the love of God, and the Sacraments which confer that love; while the steps themselves are simply the degrees of love by which we go on from virtue to virtue, either descending by good deeds on behalf of our neighbour or ascending by contemplation to a loving union with God. Consider, too, who they are who trod this ladder; men with angels’ hearts, or angels with human forms. They are not youthful, but they seem to be so by reason of their vigour and spiritual activity. They have wings wherewith to fly, and attain to God in holy prayer, but they have likewise feet wherewith to tread in human paths by a holy gracious intercourse with men; their faces are bright and beautiful, inasmuch as they accept all things gently and sweetly; their heads and limbs are uncovered, because their thoughts, affections and actions have no motive or object save that of pleasing God; the rest of their bodies is covered with a light shining garment, because while they use the world and the things of this life, they use all such purely and honestly, and no further than is needful for their condition—such are the truly devout. Believe me, dear child, devotion is the sweetest of sweets, the queen of virtues, the perfection of love. If love is the milk of life, devotion is the cream thereof; if it is a fruitful plant, devotion is the blossom; if it is a precious stone, devotion is its brightness; if it is a precious balm, devotion is its perfume, even that sweet odour which delights men and causes the angels to rejoice.

When God created the world He commanded each tree to bear fruit after its kind; and even so He bids Christians,—the living trees of His Church,—to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation. A different exercise of devotion is required of each [but] be sure that wheresoever our lot is cast we may and must aim at the perfect life.

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What True Devotion Is

Meditations taken from ‘An Introduction to the Devout Life’ by St. Francis de Sales to help us on way through Lent. 

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YOU aim at a devout life, dear child, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God’s Divine Majesty. But seeing that the small errors people are wont to commit in the beginning of any under taking are apt to wax greater as they advance, and to become irreparable at last, it is most important that you should thoroughly understand wherein lies the grace of true devotion;—and that because while there undoubtedly is such a true devotion, there are also many spurious and idle semblances thereof; and unless you know which is real, you may mistake, and waste your energy in pursuing an empty, profitless shadow.

Arelius was wont to paint all his pictures with the features and expression of the women he loved, and even so we all colour devotion according to our own likings and dispositions. One man sets great value on fasting, and believes himself to be leading a very devout life, so long as he fasts rigorously, although the while his heart is full of bitterness;—and while he will not moisten his lips with wine, perhaps not even with water, in his great abstinence, he does not scruple to steep them in his neighbour’s blood, through slander and detraction. Another man reckons himself as devout because he repeats many prayers daily, although at the same time he does not refrain from all manner of angry, irritating, conceited or insulting speeches among his family and neighbours. This man freely opens his purse in almsgiving, but closes his heart to all gentle and forgiving feelings towards those who are opposed to him; while that one is ready enough to forgive his enemies, but will never pay his rightful debts save under pressure. Meanwhile all these people are conventionally called religious, but nevertheless they are in no true sense really devout. When Saul’s servants sought to take David, Michal induced them to suppose that the lifeless figure lying in his bed, and covered with his garments, was the man they sought; and in like manner many people dress up an exterior with the visible acts expressive of earnest devotion, and the world supposes them to be really devout and spiritual-minded, while all the time they are mere lay figures, mere phantasms of devotion.

images-1But, in fact, all true and living devotion presupposes the love of God;—and indeed it is neither more nor less than a very real love of God, though not always of the same kind; for that Love one while shining on the soul we call grace, which makes us acceptable to His Divine Majesty;—when it strengthens us to do well, it is called Charity;—but when it attains its fullest perfection, in which it not only leads us to do well, but to act carefully, diligently, and promptly, then it is called Devotion. The ostrich never flies,—the hen rises with difficulty, and achieves but a brief and rare flight, but the eagle, the dove, and the swallow, are continually on the wing, and soar high;—even so sinners do not rise towards God, for all their movements are earthly and earthbound. Well-meaning people, who have not as yet attained a true devotion, attempt a manner of flight by means of their good actions, but rarely, slowly and heavily; while really devout men rise up to God frequently, and with a swift and soaring wing. In short, devotion is simply a spiritual activity and liveliness by means of which Divine Love works in us, and causes us to work briskly and lovingly; and just as charity leads us to a general practice of all God’s Commandments, so devotion leads us to practise them readily and diligently. And therefore we cannot call him who neglects to observe all God’s Commandments either good or devout, because in order to be good, a man must be filled with love, and to be devout, he must further be very ready and apt to perform the deeds of love.

And forasmuch as devotion consists in a high degree of real love, it not only makes us ready, active, and diligent in following all God’s Commands, but it also excites us to be ready and loving in performing as many good works as possible, even such as are not enjoined upon us, but are only matters of counsel or inspiration. Even as a man just recovering from illness, walks only so far as he is obliged to go, with a slow and weary step, so the converted sinner journeys along as far as God commands him but slowly and wearily, until he attains a true spirit of devotion, and then, like a sound man, he not only gets along, but he runs and leaps in the way of God’s Commands, and hastens gladly along the paths of heavenly counsels and inspirations. The difference between love and devotion is just that which exists between fire and flame;—love being a spiritual fire which becomes devotion when it is fanned into a flame;—and what devotion adds to the fire of love is that flame which makes it eager, energetic and diligent, not merely in obeying God’s Commandments, but in fulfilling His Divine Counsels and inspirations.

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Who Am I to Judge?

By RONALD MANN on ‘Crisis Magazine

Detail from “Christ Expels Money Changers Out of Temple” painted by Cecco del Caravaggio in 1610.

Detail from “Christ Expels Money Changers Out of Temple” painted by Cecco del Caravaggio in 1610.

I am sick and tired of this “who am I to judge?” silliness. Only God can judge the state of the human soul. But it is pure humbug to suggest we cannot and should not judge human behavior. Reluctance to judge moral behavior is the inevitable consequence of moral relativism and moral subjectivism that has eroded confidence in the ability to determine objective moral truth on which sound judgment is based.

Judgment is an essential component of the exercise of authority. If you do not have the courage to judge, then you should avoid positions of authority. Not being judgmental is a curse of our age. When I cautioned my teenagers not to hang out with so and so, the standard response was “Oh, Dad, you are so judgmental!” Not to judge is a dereliction of duty that afflicts so much of the Church’s hierarchy. It obscures our Lord’s message, sows confusion among the faithful, and undermines lay efforts to fight against the perversions of the day.

Absence of judgment or inept judgment in regard to the pederasty scandal elevated the deviant behavior of a relatively small number of miscreant priests into an international scandal that subjected the papacy to scorn and crippled the Church for several decades. A recent example of the “who am I to judge?” question involved homosexuality and was uttered by Cardinal Dolan in a very public venue.

Cardinal Dolan said the Bible tells us not to judge people. In response to a question on Meet the Press last year about the announcement that football player Michael Sam was a homosexual, Cardinal Dolan replied: “I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya. I don’t think, look, the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say ‘bravo’.”

So, the Bible tells us not to judge people? Consider: “thus says the Lord: you, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me if I tell the wicked, ‘oh, wicked one, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked one from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself (Ezekiel 33: 7 – 9).

Neither Peter nor Paul were squeamish about judging others:

Peter said to Simon the magician “Your heart is not upright before God. Repent of this wickedness of yours … for I see that you are filled with bitter gall, and you are in the bonds of iniquity” (Acts 8: 20 – 23).

Paul said to Elymas, “you son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13: 9 – 10).

Here are some excerpts from the epistles that illustrate judgment:

“[W]hen Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he clearly was wrong” (Gal 2:11).

“[B]rothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit…” (Gal 6:1).

“[T]ake no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them…” (Gal 5: 11).

“[R]eprimand publicly those [presbyters] who do sin, so that the rest will also be afraid” (Tim 5:20).

“[T]herefore, admonish them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith…” (Titus 1:13 – 14).

“[E]xhort and correct with all authority…” (Titus 2:15).

“I am convinced about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another” (Rom 15:14).

“[I]t is widely reported that there is immorality among you… A man living with his father’s wife.… The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst. I … have already, as if present, pronounced judgment on the one who committed this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus…. You are to deliver this man to Satan for the distraction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:1 – 5).

So it is clear that the Bible often encourages judgment of the behavior of others. But those who disdain judgment often cite (Mt 7:1 – 2): “Stop judging that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged…..” This is not an injunction against judgment, but a warning that the judgment should be rendered with a good heart free from hypocrisy, arrogance, meanness of spirit, or hate. Thus “remove the beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5). The principal purpose of a judgment is to help my brother and others avoid debilitating actions and improve. The awesome burden of judging is the realization that we will be “judged as we have judged.” Some cite the incident of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus by those who would stone her as evidence that we should not judge others. Nothing could be further from the truth. The incident manifests God’s mercy and loathing of hypocrisy, but he did judge her behavior as evidenced by his admonition: Go and sin no more.

We honor those men and women throughout the ages, who have had the courage to judge the sinful behavior of others and publicly testify against it. Despite the cost, Sir Thomas More admonished King Henry VIII not to be acclaimed as the supreme head of the Church of England since that would deny papal authority, and he also warned the king that it would be bigamous for him to marry Anne Boleyn. Did not John the Baptist judge when he publicly accused Herod of adultery because he took Herodias for his wife despite her still being married to Herod’s brother Philip? Juries judge defendants all the time.

The quality of a judgment usually depends on the information available to the judge and the impartiality of that judge. A judgment may be positive, negative, or neutral. Once a judgment has been rendered, the question becomes what should we do when asked about it? There are several options. We could say nothing or “no comment” and let the matter drop. We could say nothing publicly and rebuke, admonish, or praise in private. We could announce our judgment in an appropriate forum. Finally, we could use the public forum that posed the question to instruct viewers on precisely what the Catholic position on the subject is and emphasize that we love the sinner but hate the sin.

It is love that sometimes prompts us to speak out when the stakes are high. “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6: 9 – 10). Cardinal Dolan squandered an opportunity to instruct not only the sinner, but also the confused and ignorant about what the beautiful teaching of the Catholic Church is. How could Cardinal Dolan add “bravo” to the end of his response? This poor homosexual must choose either a lifetime of celibate self-denial or risk eternal damnation for indulging in sexual sin.

Most priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes are good men dedicated to the service of God. But they are subject to error, bias, and vanity like everyone else. Sycophancy is an ever present danger. The Peter Principle that states that people tend to be promoted one level beyond their level of competence clearly applies at times to members of the Church hierarchy. Over recent years, we have seen sound judgment too often impaired by cowardice that masquerades as prudence and by capitulation to the zeitgeist that camouflages itself as pastoral concern.

In the modern world, instant widespread communication in many different kinds of media exposes mercilessly the shortcomings that may occur in public conversations and events. Loquacious people like Cardinal Dolan are especially vulnerable. Transparency and candor are welcome characteristics, but the Church hierarchy must learn to control the narrative.

So let us pray that God will give us the courage to make sound judgments and the wisdom to use those judgments for the benefit of his children. Judges would do well to remember Paul’s advice to Timothy: “Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, and that they may return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will” (2 Tim 2: 23 – 26).

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“Crypto-Lefebvrianism” & the Willful Confusion Around the SSPX

Author: Steve Skojec

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I was on the receiving end of the “crypto-lefebrvist” charge yesterday – a neat trick considering that the originator of that term is now sentenced to pay hefty restitution for defaming the founder of a religious order. Still, it would seem that in the minds of some, the charge bears a certain sting. And I suppose it does. I’m a long-standing devotee of the traditional Mass. We go to great lengths to ensure that our children are baptized in the old rite (because what kid these days couldn’t use a double-exorcism upon arrival?)

I came across yet another online discussion this morning about the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (there seems to be a new one all the time) and those who attack them. Sadly, they are always under fire from pretty much all sides, which must only deepen their sense of isolation.

Reading the back and forth, I have to admit that I do not know what to make of the SSPX situation. I have always carefully avoided becoming involved with them, because it feels like a trap. I know there is good being done there. I know good faithful people who are involved. I refuse to accept asinine arguments like the one made by Fr. Paul Nicholson about how Satanic “masses” are less offensive to God than those offered by the SSPX in good faith. But there are questions that demand consideration:

Does anyone here think it’s possible to disagree with the disobedience of Archbishop Lefebvre but still agree with the theological positions he put forth?

Does anyone believe that Rome has been in any way clear about the canonical status of the SSPX, or whether or not people can attend their Masses, support them financially, or even receive other sacraments from them?

Does anyone believe, after taking into account ALL the various pieces of documented evidence which so frequently seem to contradict each other, that they can say with 100% certitude they know that the SSPX is a) in schism or b) not in schism – based solely on the statements of popes, cardinals, and the relevant persons in the appropriate dicasteries and commissions in the Vatican?

Is there a single person reading these words who does not believe that the very existence of the SSPX serves as a perpetual indictment of the Church’s post-conciliar liturgy and ecclesiology, and that any validation from Rome provided to the SSPX beyond the occasional vague updating of the semantics of their status or the lifting of the excommunications would absolutely decimate many of the precepts upon which the current Catholic edifice stands?

Subsequent to this last point: can anyone think of a reason why, considering the modernist/gnostic/neo-pagan political machine that the Vatican has sadly become, we could reasonably expect there to be sufficient interest in Rome to accomplish reconciliation or at least offer sufficient clarification to pull us out of this morass?

It seems undeniable that we (faithful Catholics) are being manipulated by at least some of the Roman officials who should be dealing with this, and quite possibly actively being lied to. The SSPX remains a stigma-by-association deathtrap for all those traditionalists who take pains to maintain clear communion with Rome. If you show any sympathy to the SSPX and their arguments or positions, you, like me, will be branded a “crypto-lefebvrist” or a flat-out schismatic. If you cite any of the clearly-articulated theological arguments made on their websites as part of a discussion, you will be instantly dismissed and the citations disregarded. They are, for all intents and purposes, radioactive. And while they have done things over the years that demonstrate that they share the blame for this, they appear to be intentionally kept in the outer darkness by those whose very job it is to make them a full and licit part of the Church.

Perhaps most important is this: if it is schismatic or somehow un-Catholic to believe the things that they believe, then this means all of our ancestors in the faith should be similarly condemned for believing and worshiping the same way. As an institution, they do not hold a single theological position that is not clearly and unequivocally Catholic. They cannot be condemned because of their theology – it is simply not possible to show it to be in error. They even believe in and promote submission to the Petrine office. (One could cogently argue that they have more respect for the institution of the papacy than even the last few popes have – because those last few have been willing to make changes that no pope, if he desired continuity with his forebears, should have made.) Even the infamous act of disobedience has been presented with a very explicit canonical justification. Agree or disagree that this justification is valid, they do not appeal to their own authority, but to the law of the Church.

Their isolation has damaged them. I have no doubt pride has crept in in some areas, which can be very off-putting to those on the outside looking in. The act of disobedience remains a scandal to many. They are most certainly not perfect.

And yet…and yet they are what the Church was before it abandoned its patrimony. They give every appearance that they are doing their best to be faithful to an authentic Catholicism. Should any of us be surprised that there are many in the Vatican who want to keep them as far away as possible, and keep us confused and wary about them in the process? They represent, to Rome at least, the sort of problem that would by its very solution create more problems than it alleviates. Thus, I cannot accept that the confusion surrounding them is entirely an accident. Too many contradictions in official statements exist; too many distinctions without differences are made. Meanwhile, nothing moves forward, and the majority of Catholics associate all traditionalists with the black legend of SSPX schism.

What do you think?

***

Apart from some comments worth reading on the original blog where the article was posted, there is also this levelheaded article in response to Steve Skojec’s post, with a following very interesting pertinent discussion in the comment section below.

Where do I personally stand? I could not put it better than that of the author of the Opus Publicum response to Skojec in his final paragraph:

“The SSPX—and those who regularly attend their chapels—don’t care. Deo gratias. They have found it necessary in these troubled times to be intentionally hard to the volley of misguided, and sometimes calumnious, criticism which is sent their way on all sides. This does not mean that the Society is closeminded or unwilling to discuss their positions; it only means that they will not let the unfair derision distract them from their apostolate. Contrary to the false claims of others, the SSPX is not out to replace the Catholic Church or her hierarchy. The Society has no interest in vesting itself with the mantle of being the “last true Catholics” on earth. As Skojec makes clear in his article, the SSPX is not perfect. There is reasonable room to disagree with some of the SSPX’s actions and words, including those of their founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Even so, the Society continues to bear good fruit while remaining a thorn in the side of those who would demolish and then rebuild the Church into a worldly institution bereft of Divine mandate and purpose. And for that all Catholics, particularly traditional Catholics, owe them a debt of gratitude.” (My emphasis.)

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A Novice Reminisces about Thomas Merton

From My Unquiet Heart

Part 1

Part 2

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What Is The Endpoint Of Lent, Apart From Easter Sunday*?

This is NOT the endpoint of Lent, God willing.

Forty days and forty nights of devotion to the Lord don’t come easy, especially when it involves fasting and abstinence and extra emphasis on one’s spiritual health via prayer and the Sacraments.

The compleat Christian has the following qualities:

1) They see reality as it really is: truth is truth, lies are lies, the press is the press, Toad is Toad, drama and entertainment are just that, hyperbole is just exaggeration and

CP&S is God’s Only Truth etc. (/irony)

2) They treat every other human being that they meet or think about, with as much reverence as though they and their neighbour have Christ at their very heart,  which they do, no matter how obscured. Jesus saw every person he met in this way.

3)They rely for 1) and 2) on the solid basis that God wants to be worshipped in Spirit and Truth, and Caritas. He said this in Scripture.

Have a happy AND lugubrious Lent, and God be with you all!

 

(*Look away now: the answer is “Saints”)

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Two Meditative Hymns for Lent

Attende Domine

To Thee, highest King,

Redeemer of all,

do we lift up our eyes

in weeping:

Hear, O Christ, the prayers

of your servants.

 Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee!

Innocent, He was seized,

not refusing to be led;

condemned by false witnesses

because of impious men;

O Christ, keep safe those

whom Thou hast redeemed!

 Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee!

__________

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

“We can think of Lent as a time to eradicate evil or cultivate virtue, a time to pull up weeds or to plant good seeds. Which is better is clear, for the Christian ideal is always positive rather than negative. A person is great not by the ferocity of his hatred of evil, but by the intensity of his love for God. Asceticism and mortification are not the ends of a Christian life; they are only the means. The end is charity. Penance merely makes an opening in our ego in which the Light of God can pour. As we deflate ourselves, God fills us. And it is God’s arrival that is the important event.” (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen)

Fr. Z is once again providing 5 minute daily Lenten meditations called “LENTCAzT” to help us on our Lenten journey. Highly recommended!

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England and Liberty: The Problem of Catholicism

From The Imaginative Conservative

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It is undeniable that American constitutionalism and the ordered liberty it provides have historical roots in England. Nevertheless, one might be excused for finding it somewhat ironic that American Catholics join other Americans in seeing themselves as inheritors of a distinctly and specifically English liberty. England itself historically has not been particularly friendly toward religious liberty or Catholics in particular. Why, then, look to England? Is England the only place where liberty flourished? Worse yet, from a Catholic perspective, does the very fact of England’s militant Protestantism during the early modern era explain the rise and maintenance of political freedom, meaning that there is something “unfree” about Catholic politics?

Were it true that only England provides a true history of liberty’s growth prior to the time of modern revolutions, that would be tragic from two points of view. It would show that there is in fact something “anti-liberty” about Catholicism, as Protestants often have claimed. Further, it would seem to excuse the sometimes quite oppressive and even violent treatment of Catholics by English authorities and by those who wish to follow in their footsteps today. Catholics should not need to be reminded that the English government going back to Henry VIII, and coming forward even into the twentieth-century, has been hostile toward Catholicism and Catholics. The martyrdom of numerous priests and bishops such as Thomas More, the sacking of the monasteries, and laws forbidding the saying of Catholic mass and even decreeing execution for priests lasted for centuries. Catholics were disenfranchised until the nineteenth-century and even in the twentieth-century social disabilities were common (e.g. J.R.R. Tolkien, being Catholic, was not allowed to dine with his Protestant colleagues at Oxford). A central justification of these injustices was that Catholics were “loyal to a foreign prince” who sought enslavement of both souls and bodies, imposing the tyrannous hierarchy of Catholicism. Even on the continent, the story often was repeated that Popes ruled their “estates” as tyrants and sought only to expand their temporal authority in order to force reconversions to their faith and re-establish a kind of absolute rule over the bodies and minds of the people. What is more, it has been this vision of Catholicism as intrinsically hostile to human liberty that has fed into an anti-Catholic sentiment in portions of the American public that has damaged religious liberty and constitutional government itself.

If true, the charges leveled at the Catholic Church and her people would be damning, indeed. Were it true that only the particular cultural institutions and developments of Protestant England, along with, perhaps, those of Protestant Holland, could produce political liberty then Catholicism would be riven by internal contradictions. Catholics recognize that, while salvation is the ultimate, highest good, liberty also is a real human good and freedom aids greatly in the development of the human person. If their religion were hostile to liberty, then, they would have to choose between salvation and freedom. Thankfully, ordered liberty is not a purely English phenomenon and Catholicism is entirely consistent with ordered liberty, not merely in theory, but also in historical practice. My purpose, here, is to examine some of the reasons for Americans’ focus on English liberty. Some of these reasons are accidental and some genuinely important. They are worth exploring for what they can tell American Catholics about ourselves and about the requirements for ordered liberty.

Continue reading…

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An Understanding of Temptation

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We had no ‘Lectio Divina’ on the Mass readings this past Sunday, but the Gospel of the three Temptations of Jesus is one that is very important for us to understand as we commence our Lenten journey towards Holy Week. By God’s grace I came across this marvellous Angelus address of Pope Benedict XVI from 2010 for the first Sunday of Lent that gives us some clear insights: 

“The Evangelist St. Luke recounts that after receiving Baptism from John, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit for 40 days in the wilderness, tempted by the Devil. There is a clear insistence on the fact that the temptations were not just an incident on the way, but rather the consequence of Jesus’ decision to carry out the mission entrusted to Him by the Father, to live to the very end of His reality as the Beloved Son Who trusts totally in Him. Christ came into the World to set us free from sin and from the ambiguous fascination of planning our lives leaving God out. He did not do so with loud proclamations but rather by fighting the Tempter himself until the Cross. This example applies to everyone. The World is improved by starting with oneself, changing with God’s grace, everything in one’s life that is not going well.

The first of the three temptations to which Satan subjects Jesus originates in hunger, that is in material need: “If you are the Son of God, command the stone to become bread”. But Jesus responds with Sacred Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Then the Devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the Earth and says: “All this will be Yours if, prostrating Yourself, you worship me.” This is the deception of power and an attempt which Jesus was to unmask and reject: “You shall worship the Lord you God, and Him only shall you serve.” Not adoration of power, but only of God, of Truth and Love. Lastly the Tempter suggests to Jesus that he work a spectacular miracle, that He throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and let the Angels save Him, so that everyone might believe in Him. However, Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test. We cannot do an experiment at which God has to respond and show us that He is God; we must believe in Him. We should not make God the substance of our experiment. Still referring to Sacred Scripture, Jesus puts the only authentic criterion, obedience, conformity to God’s will, which is the foundation of our existence, before human criterion. This is also a fundamental teaching for us: if we carry God’s Word in our minds and hearts; if it enters our lives; if we trust in God, we can reject every kind of deception by the Tempter.”

Temptation could not touch the Son of God, but Man, in his concupiscence since the Fall, is subject to temptation to sin. With a ‘hat tip’ to Chalcedon (from AATW) I reproduce these sage words from St Pope Gregory on how temptation affects us:

“Gregory the Great reminds us that there are three stages to temptation: suggestion; delight; and consent. In temptation we normally fall through delight at what is offered us, and then we consent; for things begotten of the sin of the flesh we bear within us that through which we suffer conflict. But God, incarnte from the Virgin’s womb, came into the fallen world without sin, and suffered, therefore, no conflict within himself. He could be tempted by the suggestion, but the delight of sin could not touch his mind, and so all these temptations were from outside, from Satan, and not from within his nature.”

And finally, from the Imitation of Christ Chapter XIII, 5, comes this advice:

“For first cometh to the mind the simple suggestion, then the strong imagination, afterwards pleasure, evil affection, assent. And so little by little the enemy entereth in altogether, because he was not resisted at the beginning. And the longer a man delayeth his resistance, the weaker he groweth, and the stronger groweth the enemy against him.”

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Lent Ain’t About YOU!

LISTEN TO THIS SERMON by Fr Larry Richards.

It won’t take long, and may change you permanently for the better.

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