All posts by techdecisions

Oct 15 – Preachers & Mystics

I have been reading a great deal about Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, recently.


-by Br Juan Macias Marquez, OP

“In recalling today’s feast of the glorious and spirited reformer St. Teresa of Avila, I can’t help but recall, as a Dominican myself, the great gifts that the Order of Preachers and the Carmelites together have given to the Church. This is particularly noted in the interaction between the intellectual contributions of the Dominicans and the mystical legacy of the Carmelites.

One of the most dynamic engagements between the two Orders began in Spain’s famed siglo de oro, the Golden Age. During this period, Spain experienced an incredible flourishing in nearly all of the liberal arts and also a revival in philosophical and theological Scholasticism and Catholic mysticism. Catholic Spain had become arguably the stronghold of the Faith after the onset of the Reformation, especially with the unification of the peninsula by los Reyes Católicos, Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. As a result, an orthodox and vibrant Catholic renewal was fostered. With regards to the intellectual life, the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria helped establish the historic tradition of academic excellence and made expansive developments in law and philosophy at the school of Salamanca. After him would come many learned friar preachers, like Domingo de Soto and Domingo Bañez, seeking to preach not only to Spaniards but to all those they might meet in the New World.

In mysticism, we find the two chief figures, both Carmelites, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. These two legendary reformers were for the most part not directly involved with the schoolmen but neither were they far removed from them. Their culture still retained a dogged commitment to the medieval understanding of the integral nature of the Catholic life; one did not separate intellectual study and the mystical life with as strong a tendency as is common today. For example, St. Teresa herself was a voracious reader, and she was not afraid to make this known, which was bold for a woman in the sixteenth century. In addition, she insisted that her sisters “go from time to time beyond their ordinary confessors and talk about their souls with persons of learning, especially if the confessors, though good men, have no learning; for learning is a great help in giving light upon everything” (The Way of Perfection, Ch. 5). Especially as the reformer of the Carmelite monasteries, she knew that establishing a firm intellectual foundation grounded in the font of the Church’s wisdom would be necessary if her reform was going to perdure. She would pick, for a large portion of her life, a succession of Dominican confessors and advisors trained in the rigorous intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. The most famous of those that St. Teresa sought out was the aforementioned Domingo Bañez. He was her confessor for six years and her advisor off and on for many more.

Jumping ahead a few centuries, we stumble upon a daughter of the holy Mother Teresa, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. It was not the case for St. Elizabeth that she sought out a Dominican confessor or director, but it happened that Divine Providence allotted her one. The preaching of Fr. Irénée Vallée, a popular Dominican preacher in France at the time, captivated her, becoming one of the catalysts for her deep growth in the spiritual life. Saint Elizabeth spent a meager twenty-six years on this earth, so the development of her interior life happened rather quickly. Many of her writings attest to the great advances she made in the understanding of divine mysteries as a result of the doctrine she learned from Fr. Valleé. The friar also was edified by the future saint. He readily refers to her as his daughter. So, here too we see a similar edifying relationship between a Dominican spiritual director and a Carmelite nun.

The last mention goes to the great spiritual master of the twentieth century, Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Father Lagrange is arguably most well known for his project of fusing the thought of St. John of the Cross and St. Thomas Aquinas in his spiritual theology. He recognized the obvious foundations of St. John’s mystical theology on Thomistic principles and thought that he could reunite these disciplines, which were becoming more and more disparate in modern times. He wanted to prove that the serious Christian could find spiritual nourishment in rigorous Scholasticism and the mystical tradition. In his project, Fr. Lagrange shows the fecundity of the relationship between the charisms of the two Orders.

In this fallen world, harmonious things often become separated over time. The saints and theologians mentioned above are a refreshing witness to the power of collaboration for the building up and unification of God’s kingdom. Let us, then, call upon St. Teresa of Avila to help us to live more fruitful, unified lives in the mystical body of Christ.”

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with
Compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.

Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Love,
Matthew

Natural law? Being Human


-“The School of Athens”, Raphael, 1509–1511, Fresco, 500 cm × 770 cm (200 in × 300 in), Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, please click on the image for greater detail

-Jacob Kohlhaas
This article also appears in the July 2018 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 83, No. 7, page 49).

“Broadly understood, natural law refers to a range of moral theories that rely on rational discernment of the natural order as a means of telling good from evil. Within Catholic moral teaching, natural law arguments are commonly invoked to denounce “unnatural” and therefore immoral acts: contraception, same-sex sexual relations, euthanasia, genetic experimentation not in keeping with the God-given dignity of human beings, and many assisted reproductive technologies, for example. But where does natural law reasoning come from and just how does it connect nature to morality?

Despite its robust history within Christianity, natural law morality was initially developed by the Greek Stoic philosophers. Their commitment to living reasonably within nature’s designs produced a universally accessible moral theory based upon the ordinary human powers of observation and rational reflection. Christians appropriated natural law reasoning through the premise that observations of creation ought to reveal aspects of God the Creator’s will. In other words, what is natural is what God intends.

Yet some Christian beliefs challenged this union, particularly the Christian teachings that humans are limited and prone to sin. As such our understanding is always partial and likely to be distorted. While human finitude is natural, Christianity claims that sin is “unnatural” in the sense that it is a distortion of our nature and therefore does not point back to the will of God the Creator. Therefore, to understand nature as it was intended to be, some interpretation is necessary.

Classically the Bible served in this interpretive role as a sort of handbook to understanding reality. However, modern biblical scholarship and modern science have seriously displaced the Bible’s credibility on the factual details of human and cosmic history, if read as history book, which it is not, primarily. While scripture still provides an essential reference point for discerning the will of God, its reliability as a resource for understanding the natural world has diminished while the moral questions we pose to natural law have become increasingly complex. This is the context for the present diversity of natural law theories both within Catholicism and beyond.

All forms of natural law basically agree that the question “What ought I do?” is best answered in reference to the question “What is natural?” But theories diverge in how they discern that second question. Catholic natural law thinkers today tend to fall into two broad camps with significant diversity in each.

The first approach draws more from authority and deductive reasoning and is characteristic of Vatican documents that tend to conserve traditional teachings through appeals to God’s will as rationally discerned.

The second approach leans on contemporary experience and inductive reasoning and has been utilized by a number of Catholic scholars in order to argue for revisions to official Catholic teaching in light of contemporary knowledge.

Numerous current debates within Catholic morality rest at least partially on these differences. While God’s will for us as persons remains the fundamental concern of Christian morality, thoughtful moral discernment within a complex world remains a challenging process.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

“As YOU will…” -Mt 26:39


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

“There are many fascinating stories about St. Catherine of Siena. She once almost got her head cut off. Another time, she caught the head of someone else just after it was cut off. Jesus literally removed her heart and replaced it with is own; she had the scars to prove it. Demons obeyed her. Popes sought her counsel. Jesus taught her to write. She even gave up wine as a child. The list goes on.

Those accustomed to history may see this as another list of fanciful legends which time has attached to a real name. But what is unique about St. Catherine’s hagiography is that her life was written by her spiritual director, Bl. Raymond of Capua, who lived, worked, and suffered alongside her for six years. This makes his autobiography a vivid testimony to a remarkable saint. His work comes alive in unique and gripping ways.

One of the more powerful themes in Bl. Raymond’s writing is that of Catherine’s extreme devotion. Every waking moment of hers, ill or healthy, alone or with others, was devoted to God. Sometimes this took the form of tireless service to neighbor, sometimes of ecstatic prayer, sometimes of preaching. Through it all she was permeated with a positive desire to suffer for the good of God’s kingdom. She was so distressed by the sin in the world that she would suffer anything alongside Jesus so as to join in his redemptive passion.

One of my favorite stories about her is one that, unfortunately, I seldom hear told. Bl. Raymond recounts for us a conversation he had with her about Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. She explained to him that Jesus from the moment of his conception was perfect, and so always desired, with everything he had, to complete his mission, up to and including his passion and death. This desire, while unfulfilled, led to an immense suffering. When he prayed in Gethsemane, “Let this cup pass from me” (Mt 26:39), he was not asking for a reprieve from death, but rather, that the agony of his incomplete mission might be removed soon, by his final passion. But, in obedience, he accepted whatever timing the Father might choose, adding “But not what I will, but what you will” (Mt 26:39). In St. Catherine’s view, Jesus’ pain stemmed not from a fear of death, but from the very opposite, from his having something more to suffer.

Catherine’s desire to suffer for God was so great that she could see in Jesus a desire only to drain his cup of suffering by completing God’s plan. In her mind, Jesus, as a man, could never have desired to leave the cup undrunk. We can imagine both Jesus and Catherine thinking no thought that was not directed to their final goal, ready to face all obstacles in order to suffer what must be suffered. I hesitate to pass judgment over the validity of the exegesis, but it certainly shows a remarkable woman.

Raymond himself was incredulous when she told this to him. He explained to her how all the doctors interpreted it, that Jesus was, as a man, naturally afraid of death, and that he spoke on behalf of all the elect in order to encourage them. Catherine only answered that Scripture can speak to the weak and the strong in different ways, appropriate to each. The interpretation that made sense to Catherine was one of a Jesus who desired to suffer. But Scripture speaks to everyone. Raymond recounts that he was then silenced by her wisdom. The story had a similar effect on me.

You can learn a lot about someone from what they think of Jesus. For this reason, I think this story holds a high place in understanding St. Catherine. It may not be as exciting as some of her escapades across fourteenth century Europe; it may seem less heroic than her grand acts of mortification. But it deserves a higher place than it has received amidst all the stories of saints that dwell in popular memory, decorating religion classes and homilies and children’s books. St. Catherine, pray for us!”

Love, pray for me that I may accept His will,
Matthew

Language of the Body

In a recent debate on my Facebook page, a woman stated her view on sex: “There is no universal purpose, beauty, or reason to sex—that is up to the individuals to decide for themselves.” Trent has also seen this attitude in a recent documentary he filmed that asked college students, “What is sex for?” The most popular answer was: “That’s up to each person to decide for themselves.”

This is a common belief of millions who claim that sex isn’t “for anything” in particular. Sex can be for pleasure, or recreation, or stress relief, or even a cure for boredom. It can be no more significant or meaningful than eating ice cream!

The best way to get past this “feelings-based” approach to sex is by applying the natural law principles we learned in chapter two.

Remind your teens that they should ask what sex “is for” and use the answer to that question to guide their moral decisions.

Designed for Marital Love

If sex is “just for pleasure,” then why do so many people become distraught when their “significant other” has sex with someone else? This pain—universally understood and documented in literature, songs, and poems throughout millennia—is a huge hint that sex isn’t as casual or meaningless as some people claim it is.

Others say that sex is the way we express a deep emotional connection with another person. But we can have a deep emotional connection to many different people (friends, siblings, parents, children) with whom it would be wrong to have a sexual connection.

So, what distinguishes sexual relationships from all other kinds of human intimacy?

The answer is found in the design of the body.

When we look at the body, including the sexual faculty itself, we see that sex is ordered toward a life-long consequence, i.e., the conception of a child. This truth is like a signpost that men and women should not engage in sex before they’ve made the life-long commitment (marriage) that provides the foundation for the fruit of that act (a baby!).

Of course, many people will say that these consequences can be avoided by contraceptive use (which we will address later), rendering sex outside of marriage “no big deal.” But even if contraception didn’t fail often (and boy, it does), pre-marital sex would still be morally wrong with grave consequences. Why? Because it turns people into liars of the highest order.

Let me explain.

Deceptive Body Language

Your teen will probably agree that, in general, the words we speak should be honest and truthful. But we can also “speak” with our bodies to express ideas. For example, a handshake can mean “pleased to meet you” and a hug can mean “I am here for you.” When people use their bodies to communicate what is not true, they often experience discomfort.

Think about the uneasiness you feel when you’re forced to stand too close to a stranger on a bus or subway. Your bodies are expressing the language of social intimacy because they are so close together, but that intimacy is a lie—you don’t even know each other!

Similarly, sex outside of marriage expresses the intimacy of a permanent one-flesh union, but in a relationship (no matter how long it’s been going on) that has no such commitment.

It is a lie, told through the body, that speaks louder than words.

So, when it comes to sex, a teen girl may feel this discomfort when she doesn’t want the guy to see her naked. She may want to “get it over with” in hopes that sex will lead to a fulfilling relationship. Or, she may be sexually willing, but feel crushed when the boy does not contact her again. Boys, on the other hand, may resist being affectionate after sex or even refuse to talk to the girl they’ve slept with, because they don’t want to express with their hearts the deep, marital love they expressed with their bodies.

This discomfort is not some culturally induced guilt from a bygone era; it’s a strong signal that this type of vulnerable intimacy is only appropriate in the safety of a life-long, exclusive commitment. Sex outside of marriage is wrong because the body turns a beautiful truth (“I reveal and give my whole self to you in an irrevocable gift”) into a selfish and harmful lie. When your teens ask, you can give them a simple, reasonable answer:

Sex exists for the expression of marital love. Sex outside of marriage uses the body to express a permanent, fruitful union of love that doesn’t exist between unmarried couples. Sex outside of marriage is a lie, and we must never lie to the people we claim to love.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

An Eye for an Eye

Eph 4:26-27

In my experience (others?), patience is THE most vital virtue of adult life, with life, with others, etc. I try my VERY best ALWAYS. However, my experience with people is that sometimes no matter how many times I patiently repeat what it is I mean, intend, desire, the hearing of others is not happening. Then, and only then, do I allow myself some measured, proportionate, thoughtful, intentional, planned, reasoned, customized act that will be remembered, because it will cause an emotional memory in the other person, i.e. SEE = Significant Emotional Event. There is no such thing as a Christian doormat.


-a gift from my deceased sister. Only she could get away with certain things, my second mother. See you soon.

A devout friend of mine, with a wonderful sense of humor, told me, as she tells others, especially priests, “Don’t pray for patience. God will make you practice.” The priests she tells respond by stopping dead in their tracks, and reply, “You know. You’re right!”

-by Vince Freese

“Not long after my divorce was final, my former spouse and I had a rather cutting verbal exchange. It had something to do with the kids or money, I can’t quite remember. What I do remember is sitting in my car afterward with my head dropped down on my chest feeling very defeated. The two years prior to my divorce, and, now, even after my divorce, dealing with my former spouse was always unpleasant. It was like having to have a root canal– EVERY DAY. I remember thinking, “Okay, well, I guess this is just the way my life is always going to be from now on.” I could not imagine my life not being filled with angst and turmoil due to the difficult interactions with my spouse. It was depressing.

Fast forward ten+ years and fortunately things have gotten a lot better. Not perfect, but certainly much more cooperative and flexible. How did this happen? I made a decision to stop fighting and ended the war. It was hard at first because I had to hold my tongue and control my anger when my ex would follow the same old patterns of emotional guerrilla warfare. However, over time, my setting the example of not engaging in the fighting, actually taught my ex to do the same. It didn’t take too many verbal jabs that went without retaliation for my ex to figure out I was no longer going to play that game. I took the high road, and often times it was the hard road, but it made all the difference.”

Love & freedom for excellence to do the right thing/God’s will,
Matthew

Oct 25 – Sts Chrysanthus & Daria of Rome, (d. 283 AD), Husband & Wife, Martyrs – reading your way into the Church

I have heard in my “travels” of the evangelistic kind, of adults converting to Catholicism by “reading their way into the Church”. Hence, this blog. All is grace.

-by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

“Saint Chrysanthus is one of the many who have experienced how useful and beneficial is the reading of devout books, especially the Gospel. He was born of heathen parents. Polemius his father, stood so high with the emperor, that he was raised to the dignity of a Senator. Chrysanthus’ greatest pleasure was reading; and one day, by special Providence, the Gospel fell into his hands. He read it through most attentively; but not being able to comprehend it, he secretly requested a Christian to explain it to him. This Christian procured him an opportunity to speak to Carpophorus, a holy and very learned priest, who explained to him all he desired to know, and, with the divine assistance, succeeded so well, that Chrysanthus recognized the falsity of the heathen gods, as well as the truth of the Christian religion, and having been properly instructed, he received holy baptism. After this, he appeared no more at the heathen theatres and sacrifices, but associated with Christians, which awakened in his father the suspicion that his son either desired to adopt the faith of Christ, or perhaps was already enrolled among the number of the faithful.


-statue of Saint Chysanthus, Catholic Parish of Saints Chysanthus and Daria, Welcherath, Germany

He called him to account, and as Chrysanthus fearlessly confessed the truth, the angry father cast him into a damp and dark prison, determined to let him die there of hunger. As, however, after a few days, he found him as strong as ever, and as firm in confessing Christ as he had been before, he resorted to other and more horrible means to compel him to forsake Christ. He confined him in a room most luxuriously fitted up, and sent several wicked young women to tempt him, believing that this would be the easiest manner of bringing him back to idolatry. When the first of these women entered, and the chaste Chrysanthus became aware of her intention, he cried loudly to God for assistance, most solemnly declaring that he would much rather die than offend Him. He endeavored to flee, but the room was locked. Hence he did all that was possible under the circumstances. He turned his face away, shut his eyes and closed his ears with both hands, while he continued to pray to the mighty God for assistance. His prayers went to heaven; for the woman was suddenly seized with so invincible a drowsiness, that she sank to the floor, and was carried out of the room. The same happened to the second and the third; and the Saint, recognizing the hand of the Almighty in it, gave due thanks to heaven.

Polemius, however, ascribed it all to witchcraft, and sought in another manner to compass his design. He persuaded Daria, a virgin consecrated to the service of Minerva, to marry his son, in order to draw him gradually away from the Christian faith and bring him back to the gods. Daria consented, and Polemius bringing her to Chrysanthus, introduced her as his future spouse. Chrysanthus, conversing for some time alone with her, told her that he was a Christian, and making her acquainted with the reasons which had induced him to become converted, he succeeded, by the grace of God, in making her promise to embrace the true faith. Not satisfied with this, he explained to her how priceless a treasure chastity is, adding that he was determined to preserve it unspotted. He also said to her that he was willing to marry her, to give her the opportunity of becoming a Christian, but only if she was willing that they should live in perpetual continence. Daria consented cheerfully, after which Chrysanthus announced to his father that he was ready to make Daria his wife.


-statue of Saint Daria of Rome, Catholic Parish of Saints Chysanthus and Daria, Welcherath, Germany

Polemius, greatly rejoiced, ordered a splendid wedding, after which the newly-married couple lived as they had agreed upon, in virginal chastity. Soon after, Daria was secretly baptized, and endeavored to lead an edifying life with her spouse. Both assisted, to the best of their ability, the oppressed Christians, and also used every opportunity to bring the infidels to the knowledge of the true God. For a time they were not molested; but when, at length, Celerinus, the Governor, was informed of their conduct; he gave Claudius, the Praetor, orders to investigate the matter. Hence, Chrysanthus was brought into the Temple of Jupiter to sacrifice to the idols, after the manner of the pagans. As he refused to do this, he was scourged so dreadfully, that he doubtless would have died, had not God preserved him by a miracle. After this, he was dragged, laden with heavy chains, into a dark hole, into which all the sewers of the prison emptied. Being locked up in this foul place, the holy man called on the Almighty, and suddenly the darkness around him gave away to a heavenly light; a delicious odor filled the air, and he was freed from his heavy chains. Claudius, in consequence of this and other miracles, desired to be baptized, with his wife, Hilaria, his two sons, Maurus and Jason, and seventy soldiers who were under his command. The emperor was greatly enraged when this news was reported to him, and ordered Claudius drowned, Hilaria hanged, and Maurus and Jason beheaded.

Meanwhile, Daria also was imprisoned on account of her belief in the Christian faith. She evinced, however, no less fortitude than her holy spouse. She was taken into a house of ill-repute to be a prey to wicked men. Daria, in this danger, called on the great protector of the innocent, and God caused a lion to break from his place of confinement and come running to her, as if to guard her from all harm. When the first man entered the room where the chaste virgin was, the lion seized him, threw him to the ground, and then looked up to Daria, as if to ask her whether he should kill him or not. The tender martyr helped the trembling youth to rise, and reproaching him for his wickedness, she exhorted him to do penance, and succeeded in persuading him to become a Christian. The same happened to two others, who, like the first, left her converted. The tyrant raged when he heard of it, and commanded fire to be set to the room in which Daria was, that she might be burnt with the lion. When the fire was kindled, Daria made the sign of the holy cross over her protector, the lion, and sent him away through the flames uninjured. She herself also remained unharmed, though the room was burnt to ashes. Many other miracles were wrought by her and by Saint Chrysanthus, in consequence of which a great many heathens were converted. At last, both were sentenced to be thrown into a deep sand pit outside the city, near the Via Salaria Nova where, covered with stones and sand, they were buried alive, in the year 283 AD.


-The Martyrdom of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria of Rome; Menologion of Basil II, Menologion of Basileiou; 11th century illuminated Byzantine manuscript with 430 miniatures; Vatican Library; Italy

Considerations

Saint Chrysanthus shut his eyes and closed his ears with both hands, that he might not see nor hear those who had been sent to tempt him. Oh! how wisely he acted! Numberless persons have fallen into vice and have been precipitated into hell, because they did not guard their eyes from gazing on dangerous persons and objects; or because they listened to flatteries or to impure words and songs. Death came upon them through eyes and ears, like a thief through the window. If they had turned their eyes away and closed their ears, if they had left those who spoke immodestly and sang lascivious songs, they would not have become guilty of sin, and would not have been cast into the depth of hell. The pious king David would not have fallen, if he had not been careless in the use of his eyes. And where would he be, if he had not done penance? The beginning of the misfortunes which assailed the strong Samson, and which ended in his death, was his gazing upon Delilah. Sichem, a noble prince, was tempted to sin, as we are told in Holy Writ, by looking upon the imprudent Dina, and being soon after murdered, was cast into hell. We omit innumerable others whose ruin began in the same manner. Each of these shall cry out, during all eternity: “My eye,” (my ear) “has wasted my soul” (Lament iii.). Imprudent looking about and listening robbed them of their innocence, their piety, the grace and friendship of God, and at last, of salvation. If you do not wish to experience the same, keep your eyes, your ears, and in fact all your senses under control. “Hedge in thy ears with thorns,” admonishes the Wise Man, “hear not a wicked tongue.” (Eccl., xxviii.) “Those who listen voluntarily to sinful speeches, give death permission to enter through the window,” writes Saint Theodore. “The eyes are the leaders of sin,” says Saint Jerome. “To preserve purity of heart, it is necessary to keep a guard over our exterior senses,” says Saint Gregory.

Saint Chrysanthus and Saint Daria were thrown into the greatest danger to sin. They were tempted, but without their fault. They resisted, called on God, and did all in their power not to yield, and God protected them from consenting to do wrong. As these Saints were subjected to exterior temptations, so are many souls tempted interiorly; some through their own fault, others without the reproach of the slightest guilt. To the former belong those who spend their time in idleness; who are intemperate in eating and drinking; who neglect prayer and other good works; who, without reason, seek dangerous company, assist at indecent plays, read unchaste or sensational books; who look at persons immodestly dressed or at unclean pictures; who like to listen to, or indulge in improper jests, or songs; who play indecent games; delight in wanton dances and amusements; make friends and acquaintances of persons of little or no virtue; in short, those who in their manners and actions, dispense with Christian modesty. All these can blame only themselves when they suffer from unclean temptations; they themselves give occasion to them. But there are many who, though they avoid all this, are still violently tempted, as was the case with many Saints in this world. These are not to be blamed for their temptations, as they have not, by their conduct, occasioned them.

The former have every reason to fear that they will commit great sins in consequence of the temptations which they themselves have caused; for it is written: “He that loveth the danger, shall perish in it.” (Eccl., iii.) No one will believe such people when they say that they are sorry to be troubled by such temptations. If this is the truth, why then do they give occasion to them? To imagine that these temptations can easily be overcome, without the divine assistance, is presumption; for, God has nowhere promised His aid to those who throw themselves into danger. They are not worthy of it. What else then, can they expect but that they will frequently fall into sin, and finally into hell? Quite differently must those be judged who are tempted without their own fault. If they do all they can, and pray to God for help, they will not be overcome, but may be assured that the Almighty will assist them, as they manifest their love and fidelity to Him by avoiding everything that may lead them into temptation. And who can believe that God will forsake His faithful servants in their fight?

For the two Saints, whose festival we celebrate today, and for many others, He worked miracles to protect them in their danger. Hence, never give occasion to temptations; and if they nevertheless assail you, trust in God; call on Him, and resist bravely. The whole of hell will be unable to conquer you; for, the Almighty will be your protector. “He is a protector of all who trust in Him.” (Psalm xvii.) “He is a protector in the time of trouble, and the Lord will help and deliver them.” (Psalm xxxvi.)”

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In 2008 the Reggio Emilia Cathedral in Modena in Northern Italy faced renovations. The workers discovered more than 300 bones belonging to two skeletons in one of the sealed crypts. The skulls were packed inside a pair of silver-and-gold busts deep in a cathedral vault. The relics of Daria & Chrysanthus were venerated and displayed. Carbon dating showed they belonged to a young man and a young woman in their late teens with a radiocarbon date between AD 80 and AD 340.


-the skull of Daria


-Daria


-before the altar

Love,
Matthew

Custodiam sense: “Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius in sensu” – Aristotle

“Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses.” Peripatetic axiom, St Thomas Aquinas, OP, De veritate, q. 2 a. 3 arg. 19.

In Roman Catholic teaching, “occasions of sin” are “external circumstances–whether of things or persons–which either because of their special nature or because of the frailty common to humanity or peculiar to some individual, incite or entice one to sin.”

In confession, a refusal on the part of a penitent to avoid a voluntary occasion of sin would make it imperative for the confessor to deny absolution. It is not always necessary for the confessor to await the actual performance of this duty before giving absolution; he may be content with a sincere promise, which is the minimum to be required.

“O Lord, guard my senses, so that I may never be separated from You. With Your help, I will keep a vigilant watch over the doors of my soul, and apply myself more fervently to a perfect observance of the rules of modesty which apply to my state in life. I will make the spirit of mortification the guardian of my senses, exercising myself in not wishing to see, hear, or discuss anything but what is required for the fulfillment of my duties. “But if You, O Lord, do not keep my house, I shall watch it in vain” (cf. Ps 127); therefore, with my whole heart I beg You to restrain and moderate my tongue, guard my eyes so that they will not be fed by vanity. “Lord God, King of heaven and earth, deign to direct and sanctify, rule and govern my heart, my body, my thoughts, words, and deeds in Your law and in the works of Your commandments, so that now and forever, by Your help, I may attain salvation and freedom from all evil” (old Roman Breviary).

“Do not permit my senses to go astray, but do You Yourself deign to call them back to You, like the good shepherd who, with his flute, calls his sheep dispersed in the valley. You, more than any other shepherd, have a call so sweet and so powerful that the senses, as soon as they hear it, cannot resist, and quickly come back into the sanctuary of the soul where You await them and to which You call them. O loving Shepherd of my soul, do not refuse to show me this mercy, so necessary for my weakness” (cf. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle [also known as The Mansions] IV, 3).

“Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity—quicken me in Your way” (Psalm 119:37).

Unless we turn away our eyes from vanity, we shall soon contract a deadness of heart. When our affections are alive to worldly things, they are dead to God. Therefore the less we let loose our hearts to these things—the more lively and cheerful the work of obedience. On the other side, the more the vigor of grace is renewed, and the habits of it quickened into actual exercise, the more is sin mortified and subdued.

It therefore concerns those that would walk with God to have their eyes turned away from worldly things. He who would be quickened, carried out with life and vigor in the ways of God, must first be mortified, die unto sin. Speaking of the fruits of Christ’s death, the Apostle mentioned death unto sin—before life unto righteousness (1 Peter 2:25). If any would live with Christ—first they must learn to die unto sin. It is impossible for sin and grace to thrive in the same subject.

One great means of mortification is guarding the senses, eyes and ears, taste and touch, that they may not betray the heart into sin. I put it so general, because the man of God who is so solicitous about his eyes would not be careless of his ears and other senses. We must watch on all sides. When an assault is made on a city, if one gate is open, it is as good as if all were. The inlet and outlet of sin is by the senses, and much of our danger lies there. There are many objects that agree with our dispositions, and by them insinuate themselves into the soul, and therefore things long since seemingly dead will soon revive again and recover life and strength. There are no means to keep the heart, unless we keep the eye. In every creature Satan has laid a snare for us, to steal away our hearts and affections from God. The senses are so ready to receive these objects from without to wound the heart, for they are as the heart is. If the heart is poisoned with sin, and became a servant to it, so are the senses of our bodies “weapons of unrighteousness” (Romans 6:13). Earthly objects have an impression upon them answerable to the temper and affections of the soul—and what the soul desires—the senses pitch upon; and therefore if we let the senses wander, the heart will take fire.

Above all senses, the eye must be guarded. First, because it is the noblest sense, given us for high uses. There is not only a natural eye to inform us of things profitable and hurtful for the natural man—but a spiritual use to set before us those objects which may stir us and raise our minds to heavenly meditations. By beholding the perfection of the creature, we may admire the more eminent perfection of Him that made them: “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20). The perfections of the creature are to draw us to God—and its defects to drive us from themselves. The eye, as it is used, will either be a help or a snare: either it will let in the sparks of temptation, or enkindle the fire of true devotion. These are the windows which God has placed in the top of the building, that man from there may contemplate God’s works and take a prospect of Heaven.

Second, because the eyes have a great influence upon the heart either to good or evil—but chiefly to evil. In this corrupt state of man, by looking, we come to liking, and are brought inordinately to love what we behold. “Seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you used to go a whoring” (Num. 15:39). “If my step has turned out of the way, and my heart walk after my eyes” (Job 31:7). These are the spies of the heart, agents to bring it and the temptation together; the eye sees, and then by gazing, the heart lusts, and the body acts the transgression. It is more dangerous to see evil, than to hear it.” (-Thomas Manton, 1660)

Prayer to Spend the Day Well
-Bl James Alberione

Dear and sweet mother Mary,
keep your holy hand upon me;
guard my mind,
my heart and my senses,
that I may never commit sin.
Sanctify my thoughts,
affections,
words and actions,
so that I may please you and your Jesus, my God,
and reach heaven with you.
Jesus and Mary,
give me your holy blessing;
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

God answers all our prayers


-by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP

“God always answers our prayers. He doesn’t always give us what we ask for. If we ask for something bad, God will of course not give it to us. However, even if we ask for something good, it is often the case that we don’t get what we are asking for. So then, how must we ask God if we want to receive what we are asking for? Let’s consider what St. John tells us: “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him” (1 Jn 5:14-15). We have to ask according to his will.

Of course, it’s not always easy to figure out the particulars of what God’s will is. Since we don’t generally know God’s exact will, it’s right to ask God for good things. We just shouldn’t be too surprised when he gives us something different. Even when two people ask for the same thing, they can receive different individualized responses. For example, take St. Thérèse of Lisieux (whose feast is today) and St. Dominic. Both of these saints desired to be foreign missionaries.

Saint Thérèse writes, “In spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors. I have the vocation of the Apostles. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your Name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But…one mission alone would not be sufficient for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years only, but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages” (Story of a Soul 192).

Saint Thérèse clearly desired to be a missionary, which is a good thing. She even had the opportunity when her monastery was going to send some sisters to Saigon, but unfortunately her health failed her and she was unable to go. Although St. Thérèse never managed to go out to the missions, dying at the age of 24, she always maintained that missionary spirit, offering prayers and sacrifices for those who were missionaries. Eventually, in 1927, she was named Patroness of the Missions by Pope Pius XI. This is hardly something she ever would have thought to ask of God, but it was God’s answer to her prayer.

Similarly, St. Dominic wanted to be a missionary. After a failed mission of escorting a Danish noblewoman for a political marriage to a young prince of Spain (she had died—possibly a euphemism for entering religious life—by the time they arrived to collect her), St. Dominic and his bishop Diego were ready to go out on mission to the northern pagans. The pope, however, told Diego he had to go back to his diocese. Saint Dominic returned with him and put aside thoughts of the foreign missions. For the next 15 years or so St. Dominic would labor close to home in the Midi region of France for the conversion of the Cathars. Toward the end of his life we again see signs of his missionary zeal when, about five years before his death, he made a promise with William of Montferrat that once the Order was established they would go out to evangelize the northern pagans. Saint Dominic even tried to step down as Master of the Order at the first General Chapter of 1220 in order to go out to the missions, but the brothers begged him to remain as Master. He would die soon after. At the second Chapter in 1221, however, Bl. Paul of Hungary was sent with four other friars to establish the Order in Hungary, from which the Dominican Order would go on to evangelize the northern pagans. Although St. Dominic hardly left Spain, France, and Italy, the Order of Preachers he founded would reach far and wide as Dominican missionaries traveled to every corner of the world over the centuries. God answered St. Dominic’s prayer not in his own lifetime, but in the lives of his sons.

These two examples together show how varied God’s response to the same prayer can be from person to person. On the one hand, we have a patroness of the missions, on the other, the founder of a missionary order. It is of first importance that we trust that God hears us and desires to give us good things according to his will. Keeping this in mind, we will not despair if we seem not to get what we want or if God does not answer our prayers the same as he does our friends’ and neighbors’.

Biographical information concerning St. Dominic has been drawn from M.-H. Vicaire’sSaint Dominic and His Times.

(God’s sense of what may be good for us may be, for reasons unknown wholly, holy, and solely except unto God, very different from what our sense of what is good for us is, and infinitely wiser from God’s perspective. We ask God for what we ABSOLUTELY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT!!!!! Maybe the things we ask for in prayer, are, in the grander scheme, ultimately, silly? Superfluous? Not able to show us how strong we are? Or, truly, rather God is? Maybe it is good for us to suffer? Maybe God wants us to grow in greater patience and faith? Maybe God wants us to grow in greater self-knowledge of the gift He has given in us? “Know Thyself!” was not just a decoration at the entrance to Plato’s Academy. Maybe God wants to prove to us surviving the unsurvivable with Him is possible. And, surviving the unsurvivable encourages us toward greater faith.)

Love,
Matthew

Jesus gave His authority to His Church


-“Christ Giving the Keys to St Peter”, Pietro Perugino, 1481-1482, fresco, Sistine Chapel, 330 cm × 550 cm (130 in × 220 in), please click on the image for greater detail

What Does Teaching Have to Do with Authority?

We live in an age skeptical of authority. “Think for yourself” is a standard piece of advice, and slogans like “Question authority” appear on bumper stickers, buttons, and T-shirts. Following crises like the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and other scandals, trust in government officials is at a historic low.

In the twentieth century, an age of radical individualism began, and even if 1960s sayings like “Do your own thing” have passed from the scene, the idea that individuals should make up their own minds about what they should do and believe has remained. The rise of modern science contributed to the anti-authoritarian attitude of our day. Scholars are not supposed to just tell us what to believe. Instead, they should provide evidence supporting the views they endorse.

Between science, individualism, and scandals involving authority figures, moderns are skeptical of authority, and that includes the connection between authority and teaching. People today hold that if a teaching is true, we should be able to produce reasons for it and should not simply accept it on someone’s “authority.”

Jesus Shares Authority with the Church

Although Jesus’ authority as the Son of God is unique to Him, He chose to associate human beings with His mission and gave them a share of authority. Thus when He appoints the Twelve, we read:

‘And He called to Himself His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.’ (Matt. 10:1).

The authority He shared was not just that to work miracles. The twelve disciples were His students (that’s what “disciple” means), and He prepared them to become teachers and sent them on preaching missions:

“These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand!’”(Matt. 10:5-7).

Later, when sending out an even larger group, He underlined the teaching authority He had given them, stating:

‘He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.’ (Luke 10:16).

Jesus also gave the Twelve the authority to govern His Church. He first gave Peter the authority “to bind and loose” (Matt. 16:19), and later He shared this with the other disciples (Matt. 18:18).

As the Church grew, authority to teach and govern was transmitted to others in the local churches.

Thus Paul writes, “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers” (1 Cor. 12:28; cf. Eph. 4:11). It is because of its teaching function that the Church serves as “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Similarly, there are those with governing authority in the Church. The letter to the Hebrews exhorts Christians to “obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account” (Heb. 13:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:12).

Teaching and governing authority are therefore intrinsic to the structure of the Church.”

(While I concur with the author, the need to provide reasoning to the modern person is a blessing to the Church, imho. We must recall crises (“These things must come…”) have always been the impetus for the Church to greater define her teaching and doctrine, improve her catechesis, to call councils, and to initiate reform. Tragic, unpleasant, yes, but necessary. How many humans do you know who change easily? Reform quickly? Admit their shortcomings, mistakes, sins readily? Me neither, especially yours truly. Similarly, in our own lives, tragedy and crises give rise to us growing and deepening our understanding of Scripture, life’s meaning, the importance of gifts and our lives. Wisdom, institutional or individual, and particularly regarding yours truly, with the exception of Solomon, seems not to be granted in a miraculous flash, but hard won. SEE = Significant Emotional Event. Then, we remember, not just in the head, but in the heart and soul, too. Brilliant. Praise Him! Praise Him, Church!!)

Love,
Matthew

Sweet guest of the soul

“O Holy Spirit, You formed our Redeemer in the pure womb of the Virgin Mary; You gave life to Jesus, and directed Him in all He thought, said, did, and suffered during His earthly life, and in the sacrifice He Himself offered to the Father for us on the Cross. When Jesus ascended into heaven, You came upon earth to establish the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and to apply to this Body the fruits of the life, Blood, Passion, and death of Christ. Otherwise, Jesus would have suffered and died in vain. Furthermore, O Holy Spirit, You descended to us at holy baptism to form Jesus Christ in our souls, to incorporate us into Him, to give us birth and life in Him, to apply to us the effects and merits of His Blood and of His death, to animate and inspire us, and to guide and direct us in all that we should think, say, do, and suffer for God. What, then, should our life be? Oh! it should be completely holy, divine, and spiritual, according to the words of Jesus: ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit!’

O Divine Spirit, I give myself entirely to You. Take possession of my soul, direct me in everything, and grant that I may live as a true child of God, as a true member of Jesus Christ; grant that, born of You, I may totally belong to You, be totally possessed, animated, and directed by You.” (St. John Eudes).

“O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, fortify me, console me. Tell me what I should do, give me Your orders. I promise to be submissive to all that You ask of me and to accept everything that You permit to happen to me.” (Cardinal Mercier).

“O Love of the eternal God, sacred communication between the omnipotent Father and His blessed Son, all-powerful Paraclete, most merciful Consoler of the afflicted, penetrate the innermost depths of my heart with Your powerful virtue; brighten with Your shining light any dark corners of that neglected dwelling of my soul. Visit it, fructifying with the abundance of Your dew, all that a long period of drought has dried up and choked. Pierce with the dart of Your love, the depths of my soul; penetrate the very center of my enervated heart and inflame it with Your salutary fire; strengthen Your creature by illumining, with the light of Your holy fervor, the inmost depths of my mind and heart.

I believe that each time You come into a soul, You prepare there a dwelling for the Father and the Son. Blessed is he who is worthy to have You as Guest! Through You, the Father and the Son establish their dwelling in him. Come then, most benign Consoler of suffering souls, Protector in all circumstances and Support in tribulations. Come, Purifier of faults, Healer of the wounded. Come, Strength of the weak, Restorer of those who fall! Come, Master of the humble, rejecter of the proud! Come, O charitable Father of orphans, merciful Judge of widows! Come, hope of the poor, strength of the weak! Come, guiding star of sailors, harbor of the shipwrecked! Come, O unique beauty of all the living, and only salvation of the dying!

Come, O Holy Spirit, come and take pity on me! Clothe me with Yourself, and graciously hear my prayers, that, according to the multitude of Your mercies, my littleness may be pleasing to Your greatness, and my weakness to Your strength, through Jesus Christ, my Savior, who, with the Father, lives and reigns in unity with You, forever and ever. Amen.” (St. Augustine).

“O Holy Spirit, only Your clemency and ineffable love could have held the Son of God nailed to the wood of the Cross, for neither nails nor cords would have been able to hold Him there without the bonds of love. And then, when Christ returned to His Father at His Ascension, You, O Holy Spirit, were sent into the world with the power of the Father, the wisdom of the Son, and Your own mercy, to strengthen the way of the doctrine which Christ left in the world…. O Holy Spirit, come into my heart; by Your power, draw it to You, true God; grant me charity with fear, guard me from every evil thought, warm me, inflame me with Your most sweet love, so that every pain will seem slight to me. O Holy Father and my sweet Lord, help me now in all my actions” (St. Catherine of Siena).

“O Jesus, I offer You my poor love, placing it in the arms of Your ardent Spirit, in the furnace enkindled by Your love. O my Beloved, by Your divine power prepare me for spiritual warfare with the weapons of Your Spirit, since I do not rely upon myself, but on Your goodness alone. By Your unfathomable charity, root out of me anything that is not wholly Yours, so that, by the grace of Your love, invited and restored by Your loving sweetness, I may love You alone. The sweet outpourings of Your Spirit make the burden of life seem brief and light. Deign to cooperate with my works, so that my soul may magnify You eternally. May my life be consecrated to You, and may my spirit rejoice in You, my Savior; then every thought and act will be praise and thanksgiving to You” (St. Gertrude).

“O Holy Spirit, You are the dispenser of the treasures contained in the Father’s bosom; You are the treasurer of the counsels of the Father and the Word. You show us what we should do in order to please the Trinity: You teach us in the intimacy of our hearts by Your inspirations, and exteriorly in our lives by the preaching and advice of Your ministers. The gates of heaven are always open so that grace may come down to us, but we do not open our hearts to receive it. Oh! send down this grace, O eternal Father, send it down, O most pure Word, since You deign to send Your loving Spirit, the Spirit of goodness. O Holy Spirit, how generous You are to us and blessed are they who welcome You! You bring us the Father’s power, the ardent love of the Word!” (cf. St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

Love & the Holy Spirit,
Matthew