Feb 22 – Chair of Peter, Sermon by Pope St Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, (400-461 AD)


-partial restoration Saint Peter (or Saint Peter in his throne), Grao Vasco (also known as Vasco Fernandes), 1506

The Church of Christ rises on the firm foundation of Peter’s faith.

“Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of His power that God in His goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that He has given to others what He has not refused to bestow on them.

The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of Him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.

But when He presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.

Peter says: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus replies: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven (cf Matthew 16:16-17). You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.

He continues: And I say to you (Matthew 16:18) In other words, as my Father has revealed to you My godhead, so I in My turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter (Matthew 16:18) though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one (cf Isaiah 28:16, Ephesians 2:14), the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by My strength, so that which is My very own because of My power is common between us through your participation.

And upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). On this strong foundation, He says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of My Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.

The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.

Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven (Matthew 16:19).

The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.”

*From sermon 4 de natali ipsius, 2-3: PL, 54, 149-151 by Saint Leo the Great, pope.

Love & unity,
Matthew

Feb 22 – Chair of Peter, The Visible Sign of Our Unity


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“Today is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a celebration of the teaching authority of the Vicar of Christ. We don’t usually think of authority as a blessing, but instead as a cost worth paying for the security we enjoy—upon such philosophy was our democracy founded. Yet today we rightly revel in the great gift we have received: living under the authority of Peter.

The Church is founded upon the rock of Peter, upon his confession of Jesus as Christ and Son of the Living God, revealed to him “not by flesh and blood,” but by the Heavenly Father (Matt 16:17). Through the magisterial teaching of the popes, Peter’s headship and governance has continued through centuries and millennia, and has been brought even to us. The Rock of Peter is stable, unmovable, an anchor and comfort in an age that is unmoored and lost. It is given by Christ through the bishop of Rome, the successors of St. Peter, and against it not even the gates of the netherworld will prevail.

The authority of Peter is a spiritual inheritance, stewarded by the Holy Father and belonging to the whole Christian people as they are governed by that authority. But we have an image of it in a physical reality: Peter’s chair. Just as the throne is the place where a king sits to judge, Peter’s chair symbolizes his authority to definitively pronounce teachings. As a symbol of the original, historical chair of Peter, a 6th-century chair resides in a place of honor in Rome. Enclosed in a gilded bronze casing, it is raised in the air, halfway between heaven and earth, shielding those who shelter beneath it, visible to all who enter St. Peter’s Basilica. It is a tangible sign of the continuity in doctrine and authority that has outlived empires and despots, survived attacks physical and spiritual, and thrived amidst the challenges of erroneous philosophies and false religions. It stands fast, a rock on which we shelter and in which we can revel, thanks be to God!

Marco Zoppo (Paduan, 1433 – 1478 ), Saint Peter, c. 1468, tempera on poplar panel, Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.271
-Saint Peter (c. 1468) by Marco Zoppo depicts Peter as an old man holding the Keys of Heaven and a book representing the gospel.


-“The Crucifixion of Saint Peter”, Caravaggio, 1600 until 1601, medium oil on canvas, width: 51 cm (20.1 in), of detail, Cerasi Chapel, Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Peter, feeling himself unworthy to be crucified, since he was not a Roman citizen, in the same orientation as the Lord, requested to be crucified upside down, which was granted.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that no tempests may disturb us,
for you have set us fast
on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Love & unity,
Matthew

#MeToo: Femininity in the Song of Songs

In the Song of Songs, the eros in Scripture, the groom, the masculine, refers to the feminine as “sister”. While this can be most disorienting to modern readers, one must read this not in terms of genetic familiality, but in terms of the family of man. We are all brother and sister to each other. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, Cain replied to the Lord. (Gen 4:9) Yes, you are. And, your sister’s, too, though your parents had no daughter. There are many sisters for whom you, man, are most certainly keeper.

“…”Thus I am in his eyes as the one who has found peace!” 319 John Paul noted that the reason for her peace is that her groom reread the language of the body in truth and therefore discovered the inviolability of her as a person. 320 While this sounds complicated, it is not. She presented herself to the eyes of the man as the “master of her own mystery.” 321 Because she is a person, no one can act on her behalf. She is free to make a gift of herself, and this freedom shows her dignity. He may not choose for her or impose his will upon her.

The groom is aware of this, as indicated by the way he speaks of her. He says, “A garden closed you are, my sister, bride, a garden closed, a fountain sealed.” 322 She is a gift to be received, not an object to be grasped. Because the bride is the “master of the intimate mystery of her own femininity,” she alone can unveil the mystery and make the gift of herself. 323 On his part, the groom is required to have purity not only in his actions, but in his intentions, so as to respect her inviolability.

Because he is conscious that she is a gift, she freely gives herself and responds by saying, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” 324 John Paul continued, “The bride knows that ‘his desire’ is for her. She goes to meet him with the readiness of the gift of self. The love that unites them is of a spiritual and sensual nature together.” 325 This demonstrates why a man cannot love a woman properly as a bride without first loving her as a sister.

After speaking about the woman being a garden locked and a fountain sealed, the love poetry progresses to what John Paul considered the closure and crowning of everything in the Song of Songs. 326 The bride declares, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death.” 327 John Paul exclaimed, “Here we reach in a certain sense the peak of a declaration of love.” 328 She opens to him because he is ready to commit his entire life to her and love her unto death…Earthly love— no matter how intoxicating— is not the ultimate fulfillment of the human heart.”

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 1552-1580, 1588). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

319 Song 8: 10; 109: 4; Cf. 110: 2.
320 Cf. TOB 110: 8.
321 TOB 110: 7.
322 Song 4: 12.
323 TOB 111: 6.
324 TOB 110: 8; Song 2: 16, 6: 3.
325 TOB 111: 5.
326 Cf. TOB 111: 6.
327 Song 8: 6.
328 TOB 111: 6.

Love,
Matthew

Tenebrae Factae Sunt – Darkness Fell: Responsory for 2nd nocturn of Good Friday

Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent Jesum Judaei:
et circa horam nonam exclamavit Jesus voce magna:
Deus meus, ut quid me dereliquisti?
Et inclinato capite, emisit spiritum.
V. Exclamans Jesus voce magna ait: Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.
Et inclinato capite, emisit spiritum.

Darkness fell when the Jews crucified Jesus:
and about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.
V. Jesus cried with a loud voice and said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.
And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

Love,
Matthew

Confession – “Despise not the Blood of Christ!”

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – At the foot of Your Cross, O Jesus, I confess my sins. Pour over me Your Precious Blood that it may purify my soul.

MEDITATION

Penance is the sacrament of Christ’s Precious Blood in which God—according to the eloquent words of St. Catherine of Siena“has bathed us in order to cleanse the face of our souls from the leprosy of sin.” If mortal sin only is the necessary matter of this sacrament, venial sin is sufficient matter, since all Catholic tradition insists on frequent confession, even when one has only venial sins to confess. However, those who confess weekly must take great care lest their confessions become a mere routine, instead of the really vital acts which would enable these souls to profit fully from all the graces offered by the sacrament.

“Do not despise the Blood of Christ!” exclaims St. Catherine of Siena.

Certainly anyone who appreciates it will not approach the sacrament of penance lightly. To this end it is useful to recall that absolution is truly the pouring forth of the Precious Blood which, inundating and penetrating the soul, purifies it from sin, and restores sanctifying grace if it has been lost, or increases this gift if it is already present in the soul. The remission of sin and the imparting of grace are the fruits of the action of Jesus, expressed by the formula the priest pronounces in His Name: “I absolve thee.” At that moment it is Jesus who is acting in the soul, either by remitting sin or by producing or increasing grace. It is well to remember that the efficacy of the absolution is not limited merely to sins that have already been committed, but that it even extends into the future. By means of the particular sacramental grace, the soul is strengthened beforehand against relapses and it is offered the fortitude to resist temptations and to carry out its good resolutions. The Blood of Christ is, in this sense, not only a remedy for the past, but also a preservative and a strengthening help for the future. The soul which plunges into it, as into a healthful bath, draws from it new vigor and sees the strength of its passions extinguished little by little. We see then the importance of frequent confession for a soul desirous of union with God, a soul which must necessarily aspire to total purification.

COLLOQUY

“Sweet Jesus, in order to clothe us again with the life of grace, You stripped Yourself of the life of Your body. The body which You stretched on the wood of the holy Cross is like a lamb which has been sacrificed and which is shedding its blood from every part of its body. In Your Blood, You have created us anew to the life of grace.

“Sweet Jesus, my soul ardently desires to be bathed and entirely submerged in Your Blood … since in Your Blood, I find the source of all mercy; in Your Blood are clemency, fire, piety. In Your Blood, mercy abounds for our faults. In Your Blood, justice is satisfied and our hardness is melted; what is bitter becomes sweet and what is heavy becomes light. And since all virtues reach maturity in Your Blood, O Christ, inebriate my soul, engulf it in Your Blood, so that it will be adorned with real and solid virtues” (St. Catherine of Siena).

O Jesus, if just one drop of Your Precious Blood has the power to wipe out all the crimes of the world, what will it not do in me when You pour it so abundantly over my poor soul at the moment of absolution! O Jesus, revive my faith and give me a complete understanding of the immense value of the sacrament of Your Blood. Only Your Blood can wash away my sins, purify the stains on my soul, and heal and vivify it. Oh! grant that this salutary bath may cleanse my whole being and restore it entirely to Your grace and love!

Through the merits of Your passion, grant, O Lord, that I may always bring to the tribunal of penance a truly humble and contrite heart, an increasingly perfect sorrow for my faults, and a deeper and more sincere horror of anything that offends You, my God. Only if it finds no attachment to sin in me, will Your Precious Blood be able to penetrate the depths of my soul, renew it and vivify it wholly. O Jesus, grant that Your Precious Blood may bear its full fruit in me.”

Love,
Matthew

Truth from the body

“…when judging the morality of any sexual act, this is the question that must be considered: Am I expressing God’s love with my body? 296

God’s love is free, total, faithful, and life-giving. However, modern sexuality is often an inversion of all this: Instead of being free, it is often paid for in prostitution, demanded in sexual abuse, and driven by addiction. Instead of being total, it is often reduced to “hookups,” self-gratification, and empty encounters online. Instead of being faithful, it is often degraded by affairs both physical and fantasized. Instead of being fruitful, it is often contracepted, sterilized, and aborted.

The great sign that God created to be an image of His love for humanity has been systematically dismantled. The task of the Christian is to reconstruct it so that the human body can again become the visible sign of God’s invisible love. How is this possible?

By telling the truth with our bodies.

Because of its spousal meaning, the body is capable of expressing love. But it can also communicate the opposite. Because of this, John Paul spoke of the “language of the body.” Not to be confused with “body language,” which even animals can express through fear, aggression, or excitement, the body speaks the language of personhood; it speaks truth about our call to love like God. This is good news, not a dour list of moral regulations! In fact, Michael Waldstein points out that the Theology of the Body “is not primarily an admonition to follow the law of the body, but a persuasive proclamation of the gospel of the body.” 297

In John Paul’s words, we can evaluate the morality of a sexual act by whether or not a couples’ act possesses “the character of a truthful sign.” 298 For example, during the sexual act within marriage, the bodies of the spouses speak the truth. The body is saying, “I am completely yours. I give myself to you.” The total gift of the body corresponds with the total gift of the person. However, just as the body is capable of speaking the truth, it is also capable of lying. Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is one such example. The bodies are saying, “I am completely yours. I give myself to you.” But in reality, no total gift of self is taking place.

Even though a dating couple might not intend to be deceitful in their relationship, sexual intimacy outside of marriage is a lie in the language of the body. It is not merely that sexual intimacy belongs in marriage, but that intercourse is marital. The words “I take you as my wife/ as my husband” can only be fulfilled by sexual intercourse. 299 The wedding vows become flesh as the words pass on to the reality.

Although we are the authors of the language of the body, this does not mean we can make its meaning relative, determining for ourselves what is good and evil. The subjective expression should correspond with the objective reality. 300 This can be difficult, because John Paul noted that concupiscence brings about many errors in rereading the language of the body. 301 We’re tempted to bend the truth, and this tendency does not end when one enters marriage.

Husbands and wives must be diligent in expressing the truth in and through their bodies. In fact, they have a special duty to do so. Because the body is capable of speaking a language, John Paul noted that husbands and wives are capable of offering a testimony worthy of true prophets. 302 A prophet is someone “who expresses with human words the truth that comes from God.” 303 Their job, as a married couple, is to “proclaim exactly this ‘language of the body,’ reread in the truth.” 304

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 1457-1498). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

296 Cf. Man and Woman He Created Them, 122.
297 Ibid., 127.
298 TOB 37: 6.
299 C Cf. TOB 104: 7; 105: 2,6; 107: 5. f.
300 TOB 103: 2.
301 Cf. TOB 107: 3.
302 Cf. TOB 104: 1; 105: 2; 106: 4.
303 TOB 105: 2.
304 105: 2; cf. 104: 8.

Love,
Matthew

Do you reject Satan? – how St Therese saved my soul

Satan, the Great Deceiver, the Father of Lies, often uses, abuses, the truth by including a sliver, a speck of truth in his lies. That’s the hook. That’s why we fall for it, if we are not well trained, and strong, and have His grace, to resist. The ultimate thing the devils wants is our ultimate despair. Resist him.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” -1 Peter 5:8-9

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3, lines 96-100

However, the devil can be recognized. Even though appearing in the image, form, and likeness of Christ, quoting Scripture, he will have no wounds. The devil cannot suffer for the beloved.

“The devil is a proude spirit, and cannot stand to be mocked.” – St Thomas More

“Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God′s children?”

“I do.”

“Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?”

“I do.”

from the book:

“Do you reject Satan?”

“I do,” I answered.
But trembled at the mention of that name.

“And all his works?”

“I do,” I said again,
looking the bishop in the eye
and praying fervently that I would.

“And all his empty promises?  All his pomps?  All his false show? “

“I do!” But my soul cried out,
“No! I don’t! I’ll never be able
to reject them!”

It was the fall of 1974.

I was the only grownup in a pew filled with teenaged
Confirmation candidates reciting their nervous “I do’s.”
As a recent convert, ex-druggie, long-time drunk, and former soldier, I was acquainted with the night.

Memories of past sins danced in my mind. Nonetheless, that night — and with all my strength — I chose goodness.  (Ed. – a decision that will certainly & ultimately cost you, you must know.  Even unto the Cross.)

* * *

I soon found that Confirmation didn’t banish temptation;
it didn’t drive out despair. Weeks later, troubled by my continued sinfulness and seeking distraction, I happened on the Confirmation gift my sponsor had given me: Fr. Jean D’Elbée’s beloved book on the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who spent most of her brief life in a cloistered convent.

What could such an innocent teach me?

My eyes fell on this passage:

“I ask that from now on, you never let your past sins be an obstacle between you and Jesus.  It’s a ruse of the devil to keep putting our sins before our eyes in order to make them like a screen between the Savior and us.”

A ruse of the devil?

“Think of your past sins to persuade yourself of your weakness; think of them to confirm your resolution not to fall again — that’s necessary — but think of them mainly to bless Jesus for having pardoned you, for having purified you, for having cast all your sins to the bottom of the sea.

“Do not go looking for them at the bottom of the sea!
He has wiped them out; He has forgotten them.”

But I haven’t forgotten them — and I continue to fall.

“I’m not saying that you believe too much in your own wretchedness.  I’m telling you that  you don’t believe enough in merciful love.”

* * *

And in another place:

“Why are you here?
Why were you baptized?
Why have you learned to know
Jesus and to love Him?”  

The answer?

“Because God has chosen you, and preferred you from all eternity, to heap these graces upon you.”

And:

“God’s greatest pleasure is to pardon us. The good Lord is more eager to pardon a repentant sinner than a mother to rescue her child from the fire.”

* * *

That last point makes sense of Our Lord’s words to a holy soul: “Not a single soul falls into Hell that has not torn itself out of my arms.”

No wonder St. Thérèse was able to say, just before her death:

“Even if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence;I would feel that this multitude of offenses would be like a drop of water thrown into the flaming furnace of God’s love.”

V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.
V. God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
R. Amen.
(This is a family service that is directed by one of the parents. The family members renew their baptismal vows and sprinkle themselves with the Easter water.)

Love,
Matthew

St Jerome on the Book of Joel

-from a commentary on the book of Joel by Saint Jerome, priest, Doctor of the Church (PL 25, 967-968) as found in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Second Reading, 21st Week in Ordinary Time.

“”Return to me with all your heart [Joel 2:12] and show a spirit of repentance with fasting, weeping and mourning [Joel 2:12]; so that while you fast now, later you may be satisfied, while you weep now, later you may laugh, while you mourn now, you may some day enjoy consolation [cf Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:4]. It is customary for those in sorrow or adversity to tear their garments. The gospel records that the high priest did this to exaggerate the charge against our Lord and Savior; and we read that Paul and Barnabas did so when they heard words of blasphemy. I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts [Joel 2:13] which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord. After you have done this, return to the Lord your God, from whom you had been alienated by your sins. Do not despair of his mercy, no matter how great your sins, for great mercy will take away great sins [cf Luke 7:41-47].

For the Lord is gracious and merciful [Joel 2:13] and prefers the conversion of a sinner rather than his death. Patient and generous in his mercy, he does not give in to human impatience but is willing to wait a long time for our repentance. So extraordinary is the Lord’s mercy in the face of evil, that if we do penance for our sins, he regrets his own threat and does not carry out against us the sanctions he had threatened. So by the changing of our attitude, he himself is changed. But in this passage we should interpret “evil” to mean, not the opposite of virtue, but affliction, as we read in another place: Sufficient for the day are its own evils [cf Matthew 6:34]. And, again: If there is evil in the city, God did not create it.

In like manner, given all that we have said above – that God is kind and merciful, patient, generous with his forgiveness, and extraordinary in his mercy toward evil – lest the magnitude of his clemency make us lax and negligent, he adds this word through his prophet: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave behind him a blessing? [Joel 2:14]. In other words, he says: “I exhort you to repentance, because it is my duty, and I know that God is inexhaustibly merciful, as David says: Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy, and in the depths of your compassion, blot out all my iniquities [cf Psalm 51:1]. But since we cannot know the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and knowledge of God, I will temper my statement, expressing a wish rather than taking anything for granted, and I will say: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent? [cf Joel 2:14]. Since he says, Who, it must be understood that it is impossible or difficult to know for sure.

To these words the prophet adds: Offerings and libations for the Lord our God [cf Joel 2:14]. What he is saying to us in other words is that, God having blessed us and forgiven us our sins, we will then be able to offer sacrifice to God.”

Love,
Matthew

Memento Mori – Remember Death


-above is a picture of my “memento mori” rosary. I had it especially made. There are few like it. It is one of my favorite rosaries, and, yes, I have a few. 🙂 The Hail Marys are skulls. Please click on the image for greater detail. I apologize, WordPress does not allow me to rotate the image to the preferred vertical orientation, at first. However, if you do click on the image, it will display in the preferred vertical orientation, and if you zoom in you will see the skull beads ever more clearly.

The Roman triumph (triumphus) was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the success of a military commander who had led Roman forces to victory in the service of the state or, originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war.

On the day of his triumph, the general wore a crown of laurel and the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta (“painted” toga), regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly, and even was known to paint his face red. He rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives, and the spoils of his war. At Jupiter’s temple on the Capitoline Hill, he offered sacrifice and the tokens of his victory to the god. Republican morality required that, despite these extraordinary honours, the general conduct himself with dignified humility, as a mortal citizen who triumphed on behalf of Rome’s Senate, people, and gods. Inevitably, the triumph offered extraordinary opportunities for self-publicity, besides its religious and military dimensions.

In Republican Rome, truly exceptional military achievement merited the highest possible honors, which connected the vir triumphalis (“man of triumph”, later known as a triumphator) to Rome’s mythical and semi-mythical past. In effect, the general was close to being “king for a day”, and possibly close to divinity. He wore the regalia traditionally associated both with the ancient Roman monarchy and with the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus: the purple and gold “toga picta”, laurel crown, red boots and, again possibly, the red-painted face of Rome’s supreme deity. He was drawn in procession through the city in a four-horse chariot, under the gaze of his peers and an applauding crowd, to the temple of Capitoline Jupiter. The spoils and captives of his victory led the way; his armies followed behind. Once at the Capitoline temple, he sacrificed two white oxen to Jupiter and laid tokens of his victory at Jupiter’s feet, dedicating his victory to the Roman Senate, people, and gods.

Behind the general, in the same chariot, was placed a slave whose sole responsibility was to remind the general of his mortality as a hedge against excessive pride, the kind that comes before the fall. “Memento mori”, the slave would whisper, “Someday you will die.” We are equal coming in and going out of this world.

Love,
Matthew

Doubt, despair, hopelessness,… & Truth.

The ultimate thing the devil wants is our ultimate despair. Resist him. Eph 6:10-18.

“What is truth?” -Jn 18:38


-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“In the twentieth century, many thinkers became disillusioned with traditional morality. It seemed to be a cold and impersonal list of rules. For something supposedly based on a transcendent God, it was surprisingly powerless to resist changing social conventions. Many took it as a given that received moral norms are nothing more than commonly held ideas about decency, often buoyed by fluffy thoughts about what God supposedly wants. In Sigrid Undset’s 1932 novel Ida Elisabeth, the main character of the same name considers the religion of her mother-in-law, Borghild:

“But all she had been able to get out of it was that Borghild Braatö’s god dwelt in Borghild Braatö’s heart and broadly speaking was of Borghild Braatö’s opinion on all questions, spoke to her through her conscience and gave his approval whenever she made a decision.”

In the face of such a vacuous morality, what is one to do? I will present the contrasting approaches of two Nobel Laureates. The mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell attempted to engineer moral norms to make them more manageable, while the author Sigrid Undset sought to return to a deeper traditional Catholic morality.

Russell’s approach has become characteristic of progressive movements. Since moral norms only express what is socially acceptable, a rational society may modify its expectations. In his 1936 essay Our Sexual Ethics, he argued that while adultery certainly has its downsides, it is just not realistic for most people to avoid it. In centuries past, spouses were seldom separated for long periods. Small villages, where everyone knew everyone else, would discourage indiscretions, while the fear of hellfire would keep the passions at bay. Without those helps, we might as well decide that adultery is okay after all and work around that. At least no one will feel guilty when they inevitably commit adultery. Russell would become a champion of the sexual revolution.

Sigrid Undset took a very different approach. Raised an agnostic, as a young woman she wandered in moral confusion, falling in and out of love, before finally settling down with a man who had abandoned his first wife. This relationship produced three children, but was not to last. One can detect in her work from this period a dissatisfaction with life. Her 1911 novel Jenny explores the tension in the life of a woman whose only moral code is self-respect. She seeks love but is powerless to its fickleness. By the end, one suspects that Undset did not think there was much more to life than this tension.

During the years of her marriage, Undset began asking serious questions. She had long thought that the morality she heard from the Lutheran State Church was no more adequate to explain life than it was to oppose the legalization of divorce years before. But she realized that the human person demanded far more than any socially updated moral code could deliver. This was especially clear in the face of the joy of her own motherhood. In 1919, she wrote against attempts to fix contemporary problems encountered in marriages by the easy means of divorce and looser moral standards. Instead of giving up on the demands of marriage, she argued, the Catholic Church raised it up by making it a sacrament. In 1924, Sigrid Undset was received into the Catholic Church.

Both Russell and Undset felt that the common notions of morality in their societies were, at bottom, social conventions. Both would initially push these boundaries. Russell went on to modify moral codes to perceived convenience. Undset came to realize that neither social conventions nor the experimentation of a young artist could ever come close to explaining the human person. Russell neutered the impulse to marital fidelity so that the base impulse to adultery could go on mostly unhindered. Undset found Catholic sacramental morality to be a gift from God and the only thing that could answer her questions and raise marriage to the heights that she always knew it must reach. For Russell, morality was a list of conventions for personnel management. For Undset, it became not a list of rules nor a code of decency, but rather God’s gift and plan for human happiness. This is not a morality that is imposed, but one that is discovered contemplating the mystery of the human person.”

Love,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ