All posts by techdecisions

Mar 22 – St Nicholas Owen, SJ, (d. 1606) – Martyr, Artist, Builder of Hiding Places for Priests

????????????????

Nicholas, familiarly known as “Little John,” was small in stature but big in the esteem of his fellow Jesuits.  Born at Oxford, this humble artisan saved the lives of many priests and laypersons in England during the penal times (1559-1829), when a series of statutes punished Catholics for the practice of their faith.

Over a period of about 20 years he used his skills to build secret hiding places for priests throughout the country. His work, which he did completely by himself as both architect and builder, was so good that time and time again priests in hiding were undetected by raiding parties. He was a genius at finding, and creating, places of safety: subterranean passages, small spaces between walls, impenetrable recesses. At one point he was even able to mastermind the escape of two Jesuits from the Tower of London. Whenever Nicholas set out to design such hiding places, he began by receiving the Holy Eucharist, and he would turn to God in prayer throughout the long, dangerous construction process.

Nicholas enrolled as an apprentice to the Oxford joiner William Conway on the feast of the Purification of Blessed Mary, February 2nd, 1577. He was bound in indenture and as an apprentice for a period of eight years and the papers of indenture state that he was the son of Walter Owen, citizen of Oxford, carpenter. Oxford at the time was strongly Catholic. The Statute of artificers determined that sons should follow the profession into which they were born. If he completed his apprenticeship it would have been in 1585. We know from Fr. John Gerard, SJ, a biographer of Nicholas’, that he began building hides in 1588 and continued over a period of eighteen years when he could have been earning good money satisfying the contemporary demand for well-made solid furniture.

St Henry Garnet, SJ, Jesuit Superior in England at the time, in a letter dated 1596 writes of a carpenter of singular faithfulness and skill who has traveled through almost the entire kingdom and, without charge, has made for Catholic priests hiding places where they might shelter the fury of heretical searchers. If money is offered him by way of payment he gives it to his two brothers; one of them is a priest, the other a layman in prison for his faith.

Owen was only slightly taller than a dwarf, and suffered from a hernia caused by a horse falling on him some years earlier. Nevertheless, his work often involved breaking through thick stonework; and to minimize the likelihood of betrayal he often worked at night, and always alone. The number of hiding-places he constructed will never be known. Due to the ingenuity of his craftsmanship, some may still be undiscovered.

After many years at his unusual task, he entered the Society of Jesus and served as a lay brother, although—for very good reasons—his connection with the Jesuits was kept secret. After a number of narrow escapes, he himself was finally caught in 1594. Despite protracted torture, he refused to disclose the names of other Catholics. After being released following the payment of a ransom, “Little John” went back to his work. He was arrested again in 1606. This time he was subjected to horrible tortures, suffering an agonizing death. The jailers tried suggesting that he had confessed and committed suicide, but his heroism and sufferings soon were widely known.

Why should priests need hiding places? From 1585 it was considered treason, punishable by a traitor’s death, to be found in England if a priest had been ordained abroad. Of Owen, the modern edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints says: “Perhaps no single person contributed more to the preservation of Catholic religion in England in penal times”.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.  The last hope for the Catholics collapsed when peace was made with Spain. They had hoped that Catholic Spain, as part of the bargain, would have secured freedom for them to practice their religion. Relief of Catholics was discussed, but James said that his Protestant subjects wouldn’t stand for it.  So there was to be no relief. In fact the screw was tightened again.

Anglican bishops were ordered to excommunicate Catholics who would not attend Anglican services – this meant that no sale or purchase by them was valid, no property  could be passed on by deed or by will.  The level of persecution was higher than ever it had been under Elizabeth.

In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, 1605, the result of the frustration of a group of young Catholics when, after dropping hints of toleration, James I made it clear that there would be no relaxation of anti – Catholic legislation, the hunt for priests accused of complicity centered on Hindlip House. This had been provided with hiding places by Nicholas Owen which proved undetectable. He himself was there and when he emerged after four days of hiding he was arrested.

At daybreak on Monday, 20th November, 1605, Hindlip House was surrounded by 100 men. They began to rip the house to pieces.  In the dark, early on Thursday morning, two men, Owen and Bl Ralph Ashley, SJ, another lay-brother and cook, were spotted stealing along a gallery.  They said they were no longer able to conceal themselves, having had but one apple between them for four days. They would not give their names.

It was hardly likely that Nicholas Owen, of all people, would not have been better provided.  They had twice been tipped off during the previous week that a search was imminent. Possibly they hoped that in giving themselves up they would distract attention from the two priests still in hiding, Fr Garnet, SJ, and Fr Oldcorne, SJ, still hiding in Hindlip House, even to being mistaken for them.  It was a ruse that had worked before. It didn’t work now.  The search was intensified.  The priests were in a hide which had been supplied with a feeding tube from an adjoining bedroom, but the hiding place had not been designed to be lived in for a week. After 8 days they emerged, were arrested and identified. All four were taken to London.

Nicholas Owen, SJ, had been in prison before; he had been tortured before.  He was now taken to the torture room, for the first time, on the 26th of February 1606. His identity as a hide-builder seemed to have been betrayed. “We will try to get from him by coaxing, if he is willing to contract for his life, an excellent booty of priests”.  Realizing just whom they had caught, and his value, Secretary of State, Robert Cecil exulted: “It is incredible, how great was the joy caused by his arrest… knowing the great skill of Owen in constructing hiding places, and the innumerable quantity of dark holes which he had schemed for hiding priests all through England.”

On March 2nd it was announced that Nicholas Owen had committed suicide.  People were simply incredulous. It would have been impossible for one who had been tortured as he had.  The Venetian Ambassador reported home:  “Public opinion holds that Owen died of the tortures inflicted on him, which were so severe that they deprived him not only of his strength but of the power to move any part of his body”.

It seems certain that the suicide story was a fiction concocted by a Government deeply embarrassed to find itself with a corpse in its custody as a result of torture.

For those few grim days in February, writes a historian, as the Government tried to break him, the fate of almost every English Catholic lay in Owen’s hands.

In life he had saved them, in death he would too: not a single name escaped him.

In opposition to English law, which forbade the torture of a man suffering from a hernia, as he was, he was racked day after day, six hours at a time. He died under torture without betraying any secret – and he knew enough to bring down the entire network of covert Catholics in England.

“Most brutal of all was the treatment given to Nicholas Owen, better known to the recusants as Little John. Since he had a hernia caused by the strain of his work, as well as a crippled leg, he should not have been physically tortured in the first place. But Little John, unlike many of those interrogated, did have valuable information about the hiding places he had constructed; if he had talked, all too many priests would have been snared ‘like partridges in a net’. In this good cause the government was prepared to ignore the dictates of the law and the demands of common humanity. A leading Councillor, on hearing his name, was said to have exclaimed: “Is he taken that knows all the secret places? I am very glad of that. We will have a trick for him.”

The trick was the prolonged use of the manacles, an exquisitely horrible torture for one of Owen’s ruptured state. He was originally held in the milder prison of the Marshalsea, where it was hoped that other priests would try to contact him, but Little John was ‘too wise to give any advantage’ and spent his time safely and silently at prayer. In the Tower he was brought to make two confessions on 26 February and 1 March.

In the first one, he denied more or less everything. By the time of the second confession, long and ghastly sessions in the manacles produced some results (his physical condition may be judged by the fact that his stomach had to be bound together with an iron plate, and even that was not very effective for long). Little John admitted to attending Father Garnet at White Webbs and elsewhere, that he had been at Coughton during All Saints visit, and other details of his service and itinerary.  However, all of this was known already. Little John never gave up one single detail of the hiding places he had spent his adult life constructing for the safety of his co-religionists.

The lay brother died early in the morning of 2 March. He died directly as a result of his ordeal and in horrible, lingering circumstances. By popular standards of his day, this was a stage of cruelty too far. The government acknowledged this in its own way by putting out the story that Owen had ripped himself open with the knife given him to eat his meat – while his keeper was conveniently looking elsewhere – rather than face renewed bouts of torture. Yet Owen’s keeper had told a relative who wanted Owen to make a list of his needs that his prisoner’s hands were so useless that he could not even feed himself, let alone write.

The story of the suicide was so improbable that neither Owen’s enemies nor his friends, so well acquainted with his character over so many years, believed it. Suicide was a mortal sin in the Catholic Church, inviting damnation, and it was unthinkable that a convinced Catholic like Nicholas Owen should have imperiled his immortal soul in this manner.”

Father Gerard wrote of him:  “I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular.”  -Autobiography of an Elizabethan

http://www.marysdowryproductions.org/Saint_Nicholas_Owen.html
http://www.medieval-castle.com/architecture_design/medieval_priest_hole.htm

aac484403f87381810dd9ee4cfe81d21 (1)

stnicholasowenstatue

-statue of St Nicholas Owen, SJ

Nicholas_Owen_in_the_manacles

-St Nicholas Owen, SJ, being tortured in the Tower of London, 1606. Engraver Melchior Kusell“Societas Jesu ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem militans”

Edward_Oldcorne;_Nicholas_Owen_by_Gaspar_Bouttats

-engraving, “Torture of Blessed Edward Oldcorne, SJ & St Nicholas Owen, SJ, by Gaspar Bouttats, National Portrait Gallery, London.  The Jesuit hanging from his wrists with weights tied to his feet is suffering the “Topcliffe rack”.  This method of torture was ultimately what killed Nicholas  Owen, as due to his hernia, “his bowels gushed out with his life”.

Catholic stage magicians who practice Gospel Magic, a performance type promoting Christian values and morals, consider St. Nicholas Owen the Patron of Illusionists and Escapologists due to his facility at using “trompe l’oeil”, “to deceive the eye”, when creating his hideouts and the fact that he engineered an escape from the Tower of London.  Many Catholic builders, if they are familiar with him, may say a prayer of intercession to St Nicholas Owen prior to beginning a new project.

“May the blood of these Martyrs be able to heal the great wound inflicted upon God’s Church by reason of the separation of the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church. Is it not one — these Martyrs say to us — the Church founded by Christ? Is not this their witness? Their devotion to their nation gives us the assurance that on the day when — God willing — the unity of the faith and of Christian life is restored, no offence will be inflicted on the honour and sovereignty of a great country such as England.”

–from the Homily of Pope Paul VI at the canonization of Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, including St. Nicholas Owen, SJ, 25 October 1970.

6fee2e247ca1c0824e8a280d547b44cb

-Saint Nicholas Owen, SJ, Felt Softie by SaintlySilver on Etsy, $19.00

Love,
Matthew

Mar 10 – St John Ogilvie, SJ, (1579-1615) – Priest, Martyr of Scotland

John Ogilvie’s noble Scottish family was partly Catholic and partly Presbyterian. His father raised him as a Calvinist, sending him to the continent to be educated. There John became interested in the popular debates going on between Catholic and Calvinist scholars.

Confused by the arguments of Catholic scholars whom he sought out, he turned to Scripture. Two texts particularly struck him: “God wills all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” 1 Tim 2:4, and “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you” Mt 11:28.

Slowly, rejecting Calvinist predestination, John came to see that the Catholic Church could embrace all kinds of people. Among these, he noted, he was particularly impressed with the faith of many Catholic martyrs. He decided to become Catholic and was received into the Church at Louvain, Belgium, in 1596 at the age of 17.

John continued his studies, first with the Benedictines, then as a student at the Jesuit College at Olmutz. He joined the Jesuits and for the next 10 years underwent their rigorous intellectual and spiritual training.

Ordained a priest in France in 1610, he met two Jesuits who had just returned from Scotland after suffering arrest and imprisonment. They saw little hope for any successful work there in view of the tightening of the penal laws. But a fire had been lit within John. For the next two and a half years he pleaded to be missioned there.

It was a time of great persecution of Catholicism in Scotland. “Send only those,” wrote the Earl of Angus to the Jesuit General, “who wish for this mission and are strong enough to bear the heat of the day, for they will be in exceeding danger.”

Wholesale massacres of Catholics had taken place in the past, but by this point the hunters concentrated on priests and those who attended Mass. The Jesuits were determined to minister to the oppressed Catholic laity, but when captured, they were tortured for information, then hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Having grown a beard, learned a little about horse breeding, John was sent by his superiors, and secretly entered Scotland posing as a horse trader or a soldier, named ‘John Watson’, returning from the wars in Europe.

Unable to do significant work among the relatively few Catholics in Scotland, John made his way back to Paris to consult his superiors. Rebuked for having left his assignment in Scotland, he was sent back.

He warmed to the task before him and had some success in making converts and in secretly serving Scottish Catholics. But he was soon betrayed by a false Catholic, arrested and brought before the court.

His trial dragged on until he had been without food for 26 hours. He was imprisoned and deprived of sleep for eight days and nights. For eight days and nights he was dragged around, kept awake being prodded with sharp sticks and having his hair pulled out. His legs were crushed.  His finger nails were pulled out with pliers.  Still, he refused to reveal the names of Catholics or to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the king in spiritual affairs. He underwent a second and third trial but held firm.

At his final trial he assured his judges: “In all that concerns the king, I will be slavishly obedient; if any attack his temporal power, I will shed my last drop of blood for him. But in the things of spiritual jurisdiction which a king unjustly seizes I cannot and must not obey.”  “Your threats cheer me; I mind them no more than the cackling of geese,” he told his captors. Asked if he feared to die Father John replied, “No more than you do to dine.”

After three trials he was convicted of treason for being loyal to the Pope, and denying the king’s supremacy in spiritual matters. Finally taken to the scaffold, Fr. John’s last words were “If there be here any hidden Roman Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have”.  His final prayers were a litany of the saints in Latin and then in English.

Condemned to death as a traitor, he was faithful to the end, even when on the scaffold he was offered his freedom and a fine living if he would deny his faith. After he was pushed from the stairs and began to hang, he threw his concealed rosary beads out into the crowd. The tale is told that one of his enemies caught them and subsequently became a lifelong devout Roman Catholic.  St John Ogilvie, SJ, was hanged and disemboweled 10 March 1615 at the age of 36.

The customary beheading and quartering were omitted owing to undisguised popular sympathy, and his body was hurriedly buried in the churchyard of Glasgow cathedral, in a place reserved for criminals.  No relic of his body has survived.  His courage in prison and in his martyrdom were reported throughout Scotland.

John Ogilvie was canonized in 1976, becoming the first Scottish saint since 1250.

John came of age when neither Catholics nor Protestants were willing to tolerate one another. Turning to Scripture, he found words that enlarged his vision.

Ogilvie (Ref 04)

Prayer to St John Ogilvie, SJ

God our Father, Fountain of all blessing, we thank You for the countless graces that come to us in answer to the prayers of Your saints.  With great confidence we ask You in the name of Your Son and through the prayers of St John Ogilvie, SJ to help us in all our needs.

Lord Jesus, You chose Your servant St John Ogilvie, SJ to be Your faithful witness to the spiritual authority of the chief shepherd of your flock.  Keep Your people always one in mind and heart, in communion with Benedict our Pope, and all the bishops of your Church.  May Your ordained ministers always be exemplars of Your virtue, humility, service, self-sacrifice and love as they tend Your flock.

Holy Spirit, You gave St John Ogilvie light to know Your truth,  wisdom to defend it, and courage to die for it.  Through his prayers and example bring our country into the unity and peace of Christ’s kingdom.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Feb 27 – St Anne Line (1567-1601), Wife, Mother, Martyr, Protector of Priests

saint_anne_line

Anne Heigham was born at Dunmow (Essex), England, around 1565, the second daughter.  Her father was a strict and wealthy Calvinist.  In her teens she and her brother, William, became Catholics and were disinherited and disowned by their family.  In 1585 she married another disinherited convert, Roger Line. Her husband  and her brother were both arrested and imprisoned while attending Mass together.  They were fined and eventually banished.  This left Anne destitute.  Roger Line went to Flanders, where he received a small allowance from the King of Spain, part of which he sent regularly to his wife until his death around 1594.  To support herself, Anne taught, embroidered, made vestments and kept house for priests.

Around the same time, Father John Gerard, S.J. opened a house of refuge for hiding priests, and put the newly-widowed Anne Line in charge of it, despite her ill health. By 1597, this house had become insecure, so another was opened, and Anne Line was, again, placed in charge. On 2 February 1601, Fr. Francis Page, SJ, was saying Mass in the house managed by Anne Line, when men arrived to arrest him, having seen a large number of people congregating at the house (for Mass). The priest managed to slip into a special hiding place, prepared by her and afterwards to escape, but she was arrested, along with two other laypeople.

She was tried at the Old Bailey on 26 February 1601. She was so weak that she was carried to the trial in a chair. She told the court that she was so far from regretting having concealed a priest, she only grieved that she “could not receive a thousand more.” Sir John Popham, the judge, sentenced her to hang  the next day at Tyburn.

Anne Line was hanged on 27 February 1601. She was executed immediately before two priests, Fr. Roger Filcock, nSJ , her confessor, and Fr. Mark Barkworth, OSB, , though, as a woman, she was spared the disemboweling  that they endured. At the scaffold she repeated what she had said at her trial, declaring loudly to the bystanders: “I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand.”

It has been argued (by John Finnis and others) that Shakespeare’s poem The Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove) was written shortly after her death to commemorate Anne and Roger Line and that it allegorically takes the form of a Catholic requiem for the couple.  The poem is secretly a Catholic eulogy. This argument is linked to claims that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic sympathizer.  Like Shakespeare’s couple the Lines had no children.

The Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove) -by William Shakespeare

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou, shriking harbinger,
Foul pre-currer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather’d king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou, treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak’st
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle (dove) fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov’d, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
‘Twixt the turtle (dove) and his queen;
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix’ sight:
Either was the other’s mine.

Property was thus appall’d,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was call’d.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either-neither,
Simple were so well compounded

That it cried how true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none
If what parts can so remain.

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supreme and stars of love;
As chorus to their tragic scene.

THRENOS.

Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix’ nest;
And the turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:–
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

anne_line

St Anne Line Societies are being formed in parishes around the globe for both men and women to assist, support, and pray for our priests.
St Anne Line, pray for married couples.  St Anne Line, pray for c
hildless couples.  St Anne Line, Protector of Priests, pray for us!

When condemned for harboring a priest, St Anne retorted to the judge, “Pity it wasn’t a thousand!”

Love,
Matthew

Lent 2012: …for the sake of Love.

-by Br. Raphael Forbing, O.P. (and MPM…I added “a little”)

“Recently I had the opportunity to speak with a class of third graders about Lent. Focusing on Jesus’ forty-day fast in the desert, I compared it to the Israelites’ forty years in the wilderness and to the “forty days and forty nights” of the Flood. My time with the class was brief, but toward the end I was able to take two questions. The first was, “Why does God allow people to do bad things?” and the second, “If Jesus was God, how come He had to come down to earth and die on the Cross?” Out of the mouths of babes … come tough questions. It didn’t hit me until I had left the classroom that these two particular questions are profoundly connected.

The first question involves the mystery of free will. (An MPM favorite!  Do you accept the responsibility?) God creates us out of love, and He wants us to love Him in return. We know from our own experience, however, that love cannot be forced. Even if the external signs of love are present, it’s not really love unless it comes from within, from the mind and heart, from the whole of one’s being. If God forced us to love him, our “love” would not be free and, therefore, wouldn’t be love at all. In fact, the very idea of forced love is a contradiction in terms, a non-idea, like a square circle or a round triangle. In order to love, we must be free, and, for those of us who do not yet enjoy the Beatific Vision, being free entails the possibility of choosing not to love, of sinning, of doing “bad things.”

This helps us to answer the second question, “If Jesus was God, why did He have to come down to earth and die on the Cross?” The simple answer is, He didn’t have to. He did it freely, out of love, and in so doing he both showed us the depth of his love and set us an example. After all, the greatest sign of love is suffering for another, sacrificing oneself for another, (such husband & wife, parents for children, sibling for sibling, friend for friend, ordained for laity, laity for ordained, one for another, the martyrdom of service): “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Indeed, it is not suffering as suffering that has meaning, but suffering for the sake of love. Jesus’ suffering was for our sake, and the great sign of this is that, although He was free to turn down suffering, to escape, to save us in some other way, instead He embraced the Cross and suffered death.

(I love, sardonically, “supposed Christian” strains whose theology is happy-happy, joy-joy.  No Hell.  No “negativity”, per se.  No truth either.  You know who I mean.  I love to ask,”Explain the Cross to me?”  They can’t.  Because their theology is heresy, it is not possible for them to do so.  Maybe it’s wrong, but it FEELS so right to love to watch them squirm!    Ah, the truth.  I like it too much!  STOP asking us questions, Matt!   You can deny the truth.  By definition, you cannot change the fact it is the truth.

Adam & Eve’s sin was to desire wrongly to be “like God”(Gen 3:5).  Instead, for the sake of love of us, God desired to redeem us by becoming one of us, in all things but sin, to teach us that we might not suffer in and of ignorance, and to suffer bodily for us as a living sacrifice for our sins and to redeem us from condemnation and eternal death, for the sake of and out of Love for us.  Wow!  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is:  the humiliation of the Divine in becoming mortal, the total gift of Self, for the sake of Love, for us. Wow!  In Catholic-speak, a mystery is not something which cannot be known, it is a reality which can never be fully comprehended by mortals-it is infinitely knowable.  Wow. No?  And how disappointed must God be some couldn’t be bothered.  How disappointed, after all that?  What has God not done, in our wildest imaginations and fantasies, to save us from ourselves?  Our perversion of His gift of free will?  Our willful choice to disobey?  To disregard?  What is a just reaction to that by the Almighty?  Truly?  Kyrie eleison.)

Another way of putting this is to say that, although Christ’s death on the Cross was not, strictly speaking, necessary, it was eminently fitting. And it was fitting in more ways than one. For example, just as, in the beginning, a tree was the occasion of our death through the disobedience of Adam, so now another tree—the Cross—is the occasion of new life through the obedience of Christ. Jesus, the new Adam, true God and true man, makes all things new. No longer are we bound by sin, to labor through this life, only to reach its end in darkness and death. Now we have new life in Christ, if only we choose to live in Him, with Him, and through Him.  (Again, just as God freely chose, we are given the mystery and the gift of free will to freely choose, on His terms, always, or not.  To not choose life would seem highly irrational, but people do irrational things always.)

It is true that we do not get to choose the cross that is ours to bear in this life, but whether or not we accept our cross for love of Jesus Christ and for love of the people he has given us, is our choice. We can embrace it or reject it; we can resent it or be healed by it. If this choice makes us sad or afraid, let us take consolation in the fact that a God who has himself suffered so much for us will not abandon us in our suffering. He will be with us and help us, even when we do not perceive it: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).”

“And still under the sun in the judgment place I saw wickedness, and wickedness also in the seat of justice. I said in my heart, both the just and the wicked God will judge, since a time is set for every affair and for every work.  I said in my heart: As for human beings, it is God’s way of testing them and of showing that they are in themselves like beasts. For the lot of mortals and the lot of beasts is the same lot: The one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life breath. Human beings have no advantage over beasts, but all is vanity. Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:16-20

(Remember, no “alleluias” until Easter.  Our Lenten exile.)

Blessed & fruitful Lent.
Love,
Matthew

Feb 21 – St Peter Damian, OSB, (1007-1072), Doctor of the Church, Great Catholic Reformer

stpeterdamian

St Peter Damian was one of the forerunners of the Gregorian Revolution/reformation in the Church of the late 11th century, a revolution marked by the effort to centralize Church governance, establish a distinction between lay and clerical states, and proper revulsion against sexual vice, especially within the clergy and the general reform of the clergy.  Dante placed St Peter Damian in one of the highest circles of his Divine Comedy’s Paradiso.

St. Peter Damian must be numbered among the greatest of the Church’s reformers in the Middle Ages, yes, even among the truly extraordinary persons of all times. In Damian the scholar, we admire wealth of wisdom: in Damian the preacher of God’s word, apostolic zeal; in Damian the monk, austerity and self-denial; in Damian the priest, piety and zeal for souls; in Damian the cardinal, loyalty and submission to the Holy See together with generous enthusiasm and devotion for the good of Mother Church. He was a personal friend of Pope St Gregory VII.  In his lifetime, he served seven Popes, there were sixteen during his lifetime.

St Peter Damian was a monk, a lover of solitude, and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform, initiated by the Popes of the time. He was born in Ravenna in 1007, into a noble family but in impoverished circumstances.  The family was large, Peter was the youngest, and it was reported Peter’s mother was overwhelmed by the care of so many children such that she was not an affectionate or dutiful mother.

Peter had a difficult childhood, he lost both parents at an early age, as well. Put in the care of a brother who mistreated him, Peter’s brother used him more as a slave than loved him as a sibling.  Peter never forgot his poverty and was always kind to the poor he encountered throughout his life thereafter.  Another brother, Damian, the eldest, was a priest in the city of Ravenna and took pity on his younger sibling and took him in.  Damian could see Peter’s intellectual gifts and sent him to be educated at Parma and Faenza.  Peter was so grateful he took his brother Damian’s name.

The Cross was the Christian mystery that was to fascinate Peter Damian more than all the others. “Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ”, he said (Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117); and he described himself as “Petrus crucis Christi servorum famulus Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ” (Ep, 9, 1). Peter Damian addressed the most beautiful prayers to the Cross in which he reveals a vision of this mystery which has cosmic dimensions for it embraces the entire history of salvation: “O Blessed Cross”, he exclaimed, “You are venerated, preached and honored by the faith of the Patriarchs, the predictions of the Prophets, the senate that judges the Apostles, the victorious army of Martyrs and the throngs of all the Saints” (Sermo XLVII, 14, p. 304). The example of St Peter Damian should always spur us, too, always to look to the Cross as to the supreme act of God’s love for humankind.  St Peter Damian also had a very special devotion to the Blessed Mother.

However, the ideal image of “Holy Church” illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time. The eleventh century was rife with corruption within the Church, especially among its clergy.  Peter wrote Liber Gomorrhianus (Book of Gomorrah), which described the vices of priests, including sexual sins, offenses against their vows of celibacy including sodomy, and mainly in their concern with worldly matters, with money, and the evil of simony, the buying and selling of church offices.

For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy.  The practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices was common, such that various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired. For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church’s renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.

Because of his love for monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he obtained permission to return to Fonte Avellana and resigned from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the tranquility he had longed for did not last long: two years later, he was sent to Frankfurt in an endeavor to prevent the divorce of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV from his wife Bertha.

Henry IV was eventually excommunicated for other offenses, entanglements, and interferences in Church affairs, including conspiring and executing a plot to the kidnap and imprison the Pope.  He famously stood in the snow at Canossa for three days, 25-27 January 1077, wearing no shoes, taking no food or drink, wearing a hair shirt, The Walk of Canossa as it is called, as penance imploring that his excommunication by Pope St Gregory VII be lifted.  While meant as remedy to make clear the error of ways, excommunication absolves, it gets technical, the Christian community from Gospel obligations towards the excommunicated, including fealty to a sovereign.  Once having known the love of Christ in the bosom of the Church and having rejected it, Christian duty no longer applies towards the excommunicated.  Repent or lose your crown was the message.  The expression “going to Canossa/nach Canossa gehen”, as in doing penance of some type for some wrong, is still contemporary in Europe.

After another mission, on the journey home to his hermitage, an unexpected illness obliged St Peter Damian to stop at the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Vecchia Fuori Porta in Faenza, where he died in the night between 22 and 23 February 1072.

saint-peter-damian

“Do not let your weakness make you impatient.” -St. Peter Damian

Ercole_de'_Roberti_007

-Saint Peter Damian (far right), depicted with Saints Augustine, Anne, and Elizabeth, by Ercole de’ Roberti (ca 1451–1496)

Prayer of St Peter Damian:

“Have mercy, Lord, on all my friends and relatives, on all my benefactors, on all who pray to You for me, and on all who have asked me to pray for them. Give them the spirit of fruitful penance; mortify them in all vices, and make them flower in all your virtues.  Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: “The Almighty has done great things for me…” Lk 1:49 (l’un des trois)

The battle for the cura animarum (care of souls) is joined.

by His Excellency, Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P.. Secretary in the Vatican Curia of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and Titular Archbishop of Oregon City http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Augustine_Di_Noia, to the Capitulars of the Provincial Chapter, Province of St Joseph, Order of Preachers, on the feast of Bl. John Dominic, O.P., commenting on the abundance of vocations to the priesthood in the Province of St Joseph, 10 June 2010, Providence College, Rhode Island, USA.

“…the post-modern culture of [relativism] leads to moral chaos, personally and socially, and they want no part of it. They see-probably by a pure grace of the Holy Spirit, for their family backgrounds and catechetical training surely cannot explain it!-that human authenticity is possible only by living in conformity to Christ, and, in this particular case, to Christ as the Dominicans know and preach him.

It is not only the practical moral relativism of our time that the 20- to 30-somethings reject. They are also acutely sensitive to the eclectic religiosity, with its doctrinal and theological relativism, that they perceive as a dominant feature of popular culture. It represents, in the eyes of some observers, the triumph of Protestant liberalism, whose core values of “individualism, pluralism, emancipation, tolerance, free critical inquiry, and the authority of human experience” have come to permeate American culture (Smith and Snell 2009, 288). The young men who are drawn to the Dominican Order reject the liberal faith which many of their peers have come accept in some form and which was described by Yale theologian H. Richard Niebuhr in 1937 as being about ‘a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross’” (ibid.). Many of the young men who are drawn to the Order today have a far more direct and intimate acquaintance than most of us with the moral relativism and eclectic religiosity that permeate popular culture. As I stated earlier, for them, with this culture no compromise is possible.

These young men are attracted by the clarity-if not always by the sophistication and subtlety-of the Dominican theological tradition, and by the Order’s recognition of the harmfulness of doctrinal error and its apostolic commitment to doctrinal preaching and theological education. They are repelled as much by the theological muddles that obscure the distinctiveness of the Catholic faith as they are by the moral relativism that thwarts many of their peers “from ever being able to decide what they must believe is really true, right and good” (ibid., 291).

But it is not just the clarity of the Dominican way of thinking, reasoning, teaching and preaching that attracts them. It is something much deeper: not just clarity, but the love that drives it. In the end, it seems to me that these young people are drawn to what Benedict XVI has called “the intellectual charity” and “pastoral yearning” that inspire Dominican apostolic zeal- “a ‘charity of and in the truth’…that must be exercised to enlighten minds and to combine faith with culture…”, the desire “to make ourselves present in the places where knowledge is tempered so as to focus the light of the Gospel, with respect and conviction, on the fundamental questions that concern Man, his dignity and his eternal destiny” (Benedict XVI 2010a, 11).

So, why is God calling all these outstanding young men to the Order, to our province, at this moment? In place of an answer, I have offered some perspectives within which to consider the question. God is drawing these unprecedented numbers of young men to us at this moment for reasons known only to him, even as we strive to be attuned to the signs and hints towards which this bounteous grace moves us.

To be honest with you, I am not certain that we-who did not so much leave modern culture behind when we entered religious life as discover and embrace it-are entirely ready for the kind of radical rejection of the ambient culture, on the one hand, and, on the other, a radical commitment to the Dominican-Catholic alternative way of life that we recognize in the young men being drawn to the Order.

Viewed in this perspective, these new vocations pose a great challenge to us and to our province: Will these young men find with us the fervent Dominican life that they are seeking, or will they find just a modified version of the popular culture that they have left behind? Will they find the apostolic zeal, the warm intellectual charity, the strong communal and liturgical life, the fidelity to the Church, and the radical commitment to Christ that they associate with the historic identity of the Dominican Order?

This is a moment of joy, surely, but it is also a moment of uncertainty. It may be that the vision of a crowded novitiate and studium prompts some concern and even anxiety: What will this cost us, and not just in economic terms, but personally and communally? How can we-I-relate to these young men whose way of thinking seems so different? Are these young friars going to try to change the province? Is God really doing this?

I have tried to address some of these concerns today. We need to acknowledge them-and the fear of the unknown, so to speak, that underlies them-even as we welcome the grace and faith to trust in the goodness and providence of God. But we must be confident that we will surely receive the grace to do great things for God who is already doing great things for us.

For this is the critical point. Certainly, we weren’t prepared for the astonishing grace of the novitiate and studium both bursting at the seams-even simply in logistical terms-but then, with our great devotion to the mystery of the Annunciation, who should know better than we that no one can ever be prepared for the arrival of a pure grace? And, for sure, that grace will bring with it whatever we need to rise to the occasion it affords and the challenges it poses. For this reason, the provincial chapter of 2010 should be full of hope for the future. Despite the particular problems that you will be facing in this chapter-decisions about provincial commitments, unease about the financial condition of the province, concern about the rising cost of health care, and so on-the divine “vote of confidence,” so to speak, has already been cast. If God is for us, who can be against us?  [Romans 8:31]

We need the new way of thinking and the spirit of courage that, according to St. Cyril of Alexandria, come from the Holy Spirit. Allow me to conclude with words from his commentary on the passage of St. John’s Gospel read at Holy Mass this morning: “You can see, then, that the Spirit re-creates…in a new pattern those among whom He is seen to dwell. He readily replaces their desire to think earthly thoughts with the desire to fix their gaze only on the things of heaven; He changes their unmanly cowardice into the spirit of courage. We can certainly see that the disciples experienced this: the Spirit became their armor, so that they did not yield to the attacks of their persecutors but held fast to the love of Christ.” (LH, Office of Readings, Thursday, week 7 of Eastertide).”

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-yPVTY6uvEHw/Tpr7eRdlPAI/AAAAAAAAJLk/7-k0w80FXuY/s928/Picture%2B4.png

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
In saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Separated from Thee let me never be.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee.
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints.
Forever and ever.   Amen.

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.
Alleluia, Alleluia

O sacred banquet!
in which Christ becomes our food,
the memory of his Passion is celebrated,
the souls is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory is given to us.
Alleluia, Alleluia
-St Thomas Aquinas, O.P.


Love,
Matthew

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: Its Cost (deux des trois)

1.  Relativism robs us of meaning.  It inflicts a crisis of meaning, a poverty of purpose.  According to Relativism, there is no point to it all.  None.  Nothing.  No point, whatsoever.  Pointless.  Sheer pointlessness.

        “A spiritual desert is spreading:  an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.” -BXVI, WYD, 2008.  Science can help us answer questions about the matter and energy of the Universe, but not its meaning.  The relativist has to admit he has not discovered the meaning of life, but invented his own.  Lack of a firm sense of purpose leads to either despair or the desperate attempt to avoid life’s most pressing questions through endless distraction or self-deception or self-medication.  It is torturous to be silent and reflective if it means facing the reality that underneath it all is nothing, a vacuum, a pure and absolute void.  Nothing at all.  Forever.  Some define Hell as such.  No Faith, no Hope, no Love, no Trust.  Nothing.  Forever.  Nihilism.

    “False teachers, many belonging to an intellectual elite in the worlds of science, culture, and the media, present an anti-gospel…When you ask them:  What must I do?, their only certainty is that there is no definitive truth, no sure path…Consciously or not, they advocate an approach to life that has led millions of young people into a sad loneliness in which they are deprived of reasons for hope and incapable of real love.” -JPII

2.  Relativism leaves it all up to us.  You are completely on your own.  All alone.  Forever.  Good luck.  (Yeah, right.)  In Relativism, there is no criterion for moral decision making save personal taste.

I love asking people the following question:  “In Genesis, what was the sin of Adam & Eve?”  Many will respond promptly, “They ate the apple!”  An apple is never mentioned, only the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.  But, Adam and Eve’s sin was they desired, wrongly, to be “like God”(Gen 3:5).  Now, isn’t that always the case?  The root of every and all sin?  We prefer to be gods unto ourselves, so much easier, instead of realizing God.  That is the very definition of sin:  the perversion of our relationship as creatures to the Creator.  We pervert our relationship to our Creator by not loving Him nor our neighbor who is a reflection of Him.

When asked what sin is, then-President-elect Barack Obama gave a perfect relativist answer saying, ”Being out of alignment with my values.” http://cathleenfalsani.com/obama-on-faith-the-exclusive-interview/.  Many felons, at the time they committed their crime were acting in perfect alignment with their then values.  Many tragedies among youth and misguided adults occur through their own choices while being in perfect harmony with their then values.  So, clearly, this is a false, wrong, incorrect and misleading answer as to what sin is.

3.  Relativism deprives children of moral formation.

One of the heresies of relativism is the proposition to allow children to discover themselves; to be free.  Rather than freeing our children, we morally abandon them, with the abdication of parental responsibilities, leaving those responsibilities foisted on the child to fend for themselves.  Easier, much easier on the parent, even if they don’t freely, readily, or openly admit this themselves.  Relativist parents say they are acting in the child’s interest, when clearly, even if unconsciously, they are only acting in their own and to the detriment of their children.  If emotionally healthy and mature adults struggle with moral decision making on a daily basis, children cannot possibly sift the complex and confusing moral questions.  It is the abandonment of parental responsibility.  Nothing less.  Those are lazy parents.  God help their children.  Love without truth and truth without love are both forms of unique cruelty; child abuse.  “Only in truth does love shine forth, only in truth can love be authentically lived…Without truth, love degenerates into sentimentality.  Love becomes an empty shell, a false pretense, to be filled in an arbitrary way.  In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.” –Caritas in Veritate, 3.

4.  Relativism separates us from one another.

Relativism removes the notion that we need to conform to a reality that is bigger than our own opinions, values, and preferences.  It erodes the mortar that builds a society.  “…under the semblance of freedom [relativism] becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego.  Relativism retranslates “E pluribus unum = out of many, one” into “E pluribus pluribus = out of many, many”.

5.  Relativism denies the right to life/the dignity of the human person.

Thinking is important, just ask the Nazis, or their victims.  Bad thinking leads to bad action, and tragic results.  When human rights are based on subjective principles – such as relativism offers – life is reduced to an efficiency equation, a utilitarian economy of human life, a dehumanizing of the human person, like calculating the commercial value of the human person, its convenience or inconvenience.  And decided by whom?  Under what criteria?  If you consume more than you produce, you are a liability.  If you’re a fetus, a disabled person, dumb, lacking talent, unattractive, socially awkward, old, uneducated, the wrong whatever, etc.  The Nazis had an expression for it, “Unworthy of life.”  Based on that, at some point, all of us become “unworthy of life”.  Carried to a logical conclusion, a relativist would have to conclude and say, “nothing is ‘wrong’.”  Hey, but we would never imitate the Nazis, would we?  “There is no such thing as truth, either in the moral or in the scientific sense.”- Adolf Hitler.

6.  Relativism makes it easy for those in authority to manipulate others.

“To educate without a value system based on truth is to abandon young people to moral confusion, personal insecurity, and easy manipulation.”  JPII, WYD, 8/12/93.

7.  Relativism threatens freedom of speech.

We see more and more opinions expressed contrary to relativism labeled as “hate speech”, with serious consequences.  We have been here before.  There will be glorious martyrs and saints in our future, I fear and dare to say.  To be so privileged.

8.  Relativism destroys faith.

The main difference between God and us is God never thinks he IS us.

“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism, by intuition.  From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy  of which he is capable.” – Benito Mussolini, Il Duce

Love,
Matthew

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: Its Intellectual & Moral Bankruptcy (trois sur trois)

Is there objective truth?  Is there a proper way to live?  Is there right and wrong?  Beginning with Socrates who answered “yes”, and witnessed to his philosophical convictions and what he taught with his life.  We might call what Socrates witnessed to “ethics”, but what if the requirement were/is stronger?  The antithesis of a belief in objective truth is relativism.

There are no facts, only interpretations.

—Friedrich Nietzsche,
The Will to Power

If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and [for] men who claim to be bearers of an external objective truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascist attitudes.
Benito Mussolini, Il Duce

As a rule, only very learned and clever men deny what is obviously true. Common men have less brains, but more sense.
—William T. Stace

————————————————————————

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked.  -Jn 18:38

Whether you know it or not, you have a philosophy.  No, really.  Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, you do. I do.  Everyone does.  As the maxim goes, “Actions do speak louder than words.”  Our every action, our every choice, our every thought, our anxieties, our fears, our dilemmas, what we rejoice in, what we cry over, what we love, what we despise, all reveal our most intimate philosophy each of us has internalized and adopted, consciously or unconsciously.  Really.  Honestly.  Pardon, or don’t, the expression, “God’s honest truth!” or, popular too, “And that’s the Gospel truth!”, when we really want someone to believe us.  Funny, no?

Relativism is deemed necessary to preserve peace and equality in our diverse world.  It’s widely accepted because it is rarely scrutinized.  It is simply assumed to be true, since it’s cheap, and it’s easy; certainly easier than thinking, seeking the more profound, the truth.  I have a thing about cheap…and easy.  You truly do reap no more than what you sow in this life, at least.  Truly.  Cheap love, cheap faith, cheap grace, cheap hope, cheap relationships, etc.  I have a thing about cheap.  Relativism sounds good – like free money.  Just one teensy-weensy problem.  You knew that was coming, didn’t you.  Didn’t you?  It doesn’t work.  Relativism is intellectual alcoholism or drug abuse.  It is easier, at least it seems initially, to anesthetize than to live life soberly, or in the case of relativism to look the Truth dead in the eye…and deal.  As you may know, I have a problem with the Truth.  I like it too much.

The one dogma of Relativism is that it is absolutely true for everyone.  And, there we go.  It contradicts itself from the beginning.  Ooops.  Problem.  Think.  Think.  Think.  Quick, think.  Think fast!  But what about science?  Relativism says, “ONLY scientifically verifiable statements are true!”  (Whew!  Almost got caught there!)  Except, the previous statement is scientifically unverifiable.  Think about it.  Science never claims ONLY what can be proven through repetitive experiment is true.  Where would that leave new, yet undiscovered knowledge?  False?  Never.  That would be a fantastic and ludicrous scientific statement, take it from a professional applied scientist.  Science says what can be proven through repeatable experiment MUST be true.  Science DOES NOT claim the contrary.  Anyone telling you differently is lying to you.  Trust me.  I studied this stuff and practice it every single day.  Trust me.  In fact, science leaves completely to mystery the more important questions in life, much more important.

People say, “Show me God!”  I say in return, “Show me love.  Give me a pound of love.  Show me hope.  What is its volume?  Show me trust.  What is its mass?”  Why is an ineffable God such a stretch?  People live in and through, literally, Hell (on earth).  Why is a metaphysical Hell so far fetched?  What’s the great leap of faith on that one, seeing constantly around us physical Hells through pain, suffering, disease, discrimination, violence, injustice, etc.?  

I have a theory, and some of my saint friends would seem to support me.  I think Heaven or Hell begins in this life.  Just whiffs, but through the mystery of free will (I am fascinated by the theological implications of man’s free will and God’s gift of it, the questions seem to ALWAYS come back to it) we do start to choose here in this life Heaven or Hell.  God does not sentence us.  No, if truth be told, as Matt defines truth, God help us all, in this life we choose our own eternal disposition, or at least we begin to.  Beginning here and now, in this life.  Not sure if that is theologically sound, or if that would merit a Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur, but as a Catholic expressing a personal opinion, neither do I require either.  Trust me, I checked.

So, if Relativism, albeit intellectually and certainly morally is easy and cheap and untrue, then, logic goes, there MUST be something true?  I love Pilate’s question.  I have spent quite a bit of time meditating on that one over the last couple of years.  Quite a bit of time.  That passage of scripture calls to me.  It calls to me.  

Pilate would fit perfectly in the 21st century, no?  A realist?  A cynic?  A secularist?  A man “with a future?”  One of “our kind of people!”  A company man?  You can see why he was hired, no?  But then again, you can see why the most notorious Nazis and Communists were hired, too, no?  I meet Pontius Pilates constantly, constantly.  Disinterested in anything but self-interest.  Too many of them.  Too few Christians.  Oh, they have the t-shirt, but love is more than a t-shirt you don’t know what it says or means.  You just wear it, cuz you’re “supposed to”.  Habit.  Constantly, constantly.

Since Relativism doesn’t work and is incapable of being consistent, I then find “selective relativists”.  Strongly pro or opposed to certain topics, but indifferent to other, morally related grave issues.  They like what they like, whether they know why or not, and damn it, that’s it!  Brilliant.  Just ‘effen brilliant.  Constantly, constantly.  There’s a joke I heard once about opinions.  They’re like (posterior orifice of the body, I cleaned it up), everybody’s got one and they all stink.  So, my thing is informed opinion.  My opinion is you are entitled to your opinion if it is rationally, not polemically, informed.  And, you better be able to back that up, at least around me.  Call me unreasonable.

My deeply Relativist friends stamp their feet in tantrum saying, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts!”  I say OK and show them the facts, which makes them furious.  Somehow, I’m the bad guy.  Somehow.  How such conclusions are reached in a mind with an intellectual darkness and confusion I, gratefully, do not believe I am burdened with?  Amazing.  Mystery. Mystery.  I know how.  Remove the facts which do not fit your predetermined conclusion, and “it’s all good!”  Stupid.  Insane.  But, that warm self-satisfied, hearing-what-you-want-to-hear feeling is a narcotic.  I like it, too.  Except, I believe I can sense the difference between cheap-and-easy and truth.  You can tell it’s the truth, because it’s harder.  The truth is always hard, no?  Usually, it’s the hardest answer to accept.  That’s how you know it’s the truth.  Because of what it asks of you.  We DO NOT WANT to hear that answer, trust me, but we MUST.  If we can accept the Truth, I hear, the rewards are not bad.  Even in this life…and, inevitably, in this life, the Cross, too.  Always.  Ultimately.  Inevitably.  If you are a disciple of the Truth.

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked.  -Jn 18:38

Jn 14:6

Love,
Matthew

The Wise & The Foolish

wise&foolish virgins
-“Wise & Foolish Virgins”, oil on panel by Frans I Floris, 16th century, 118 × 132 cm, in private collection.

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; let us go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But He answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

-Mt 25:1-13

With the divorce rate in California above 70%, and assaults, disregard, and insults towards and dismissal of the institution of the family, the foundational building block of society, rampant in our modern dialogue, the mockery of the institution that is Hollywood marriages, I thought you might appreciate this reflection.  The sinner always seeks to deceive and delude himself and others, eagerly, of the normality and praiseworthiness, mitigation of his sin. I know I do. How can/could he/she do otherwise? To admit?…The Prince of Lies is a great liar. Gen 3:5.

The nature of things are not changed by calling them something else, no matter how hard we try or want to to justify ourselves to ourselves and to others, to our consciences; to silence, to salve, to inebriate, to numb, to anesthetize, anything, even the eager, quick sale of our souls, at a substantial loss, rather than to listen to that.

The truth is always hardest, yet it remains the truth, regardless of us or our ravings or madness/delusions. We have been here before, many times. Read your history and the Scriptures. Jonah 3:4. This is not new. There is a saying, “There are no new heresies.” We just repackage, recycle, and reoffend. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison. Concupiscence.

BrJohnBaptistHoang-160x160
-by Br. John Baptist Hoang, OP, fellow UVA alumnus

““Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.”
—1 Corinthians 9:25-26

The 2005 film, Cinderella Man, tells the remarkable story of Irish-American boxer James J. Braddock (1905-1974). Braddock, played by actor Russell Crowe, enjoys a successful career as an amateur boxer until life takes a turn for the worse at the threshold of the Great Depression. Like so many other Americans during that tumultuous time, Braddock struggles to make ends meet, barely managing to support his wife and three young children. In the end, however—as the title of the movie suggests—his life plays out like a modern-day fairy tale. His boxing career gradually picks back up, and the film ends triumphantly when he becomes the heavyweight champion of the world. He and his family, as the saying goes, live happily ever after.

Braddock is portrayed as the kind of person we all want to rally behind. Yet our sympathy for him goes beyond mere support for the underdog, mere pity for his life of hardship. There is actually something we come to love in James Braddock: he is a good man. He sacrifices everything he has for the sake of his wife and children. He sacrifices his own pride when he makes a desperate decision to beg for money from the rich and powerful. He risks his own life every time he steps into the ring to fight men who are quite capable of killing him. This is what evokes our admiration and sympathy: to see a man offer himself in love.

Of course, the protagonist has to have an antagonist, and the drama reaches its climax when Braddock faces his nemesis for the heavyweight title: the young and cocky Max Baer. But, whereas in many movies of this type the final fight scene is an epic battle between good and evil, in this film things are a little different. Baer isn’t evil; he’s just foolish. He’s portrayed as a playboy, who spends his time “fooling around” with several women.

Although this is a very inaccurate portrait of the real Max Baer, it is nevertheless a dramatically effective characterization, and it serves to draw out a distinction between two types of people: the just man and the fool. Braddock is the good and just man who remains a faithful husband and father throughout his life, while Baer is the fool who pursues a life of empty pleasure. Of course, Baer, for his part, regards Braddock as the fool, and in a sense this is true. Braddock is a fool for love and goodness; he is a fool in the eyes of the world. But in the eyes of God, he is both wise and just; he is a “good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:3). Heavyweight title or no heavyweight title, his story reminds us that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).”

2670_JamesBraddockFamily-628x408
-James Braddock and Family, North Bergen, New Jersey, 1936. Standing is Braddock’s wife, May, and from left to right are his children: Rose Marie, Howard, and James, Jr.

Love,
Matthew

Vatican’s sex abuse prosecutor says church must amputate to heal

article-32-img1

by John L Allen Jr on May. 29, 2010
NCR Today

When the innocence of children is “trampled upon, broken, sullied, abused, and destroyed,” then “the earth becomes arid and the whole world sad,” the Vatican’s top sexual abuse prosecutor said this morning in Rome.

Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna indirectly critiqued the clerical culture in which abuser priests were routinely given second chances.

Christian friendship, Scicluna said, is “submitted to the law of God,” so if a member of the church is an “occasion of sin,” then a believer “has no other choice … but to cut this tie.”

Weeding out abusers, Scicluna implied, is a form of “divine surgery” intended to save the body by amputating a diseased part.

Scicluna, a Maltese priest who serves as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke as part of a service of reparation for abuse committed by priests and for healing within the church organized by students at Rome’s pontifical institutions. The service took place this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Altar of the Chair of Peter.

Scicluna delivered a homily for the service. Widely considered the Vatican’s top expert on the sexual abuse crisis, Scicluna rarely speaks in public – making his comments this morning all the more significant.

Tapped by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, today Pope Benedict XVI, to handle the canonical response to charges of sexual abuse against priests, Scicluna is widely seen as the architect of the more aggressive approach to the crisis which emerged in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after 2001.

This morning, Scicluna delivered a largely spiritual meditation on the relationship between Jesus and children, saying that “the church, the spouse of Jesus, has always had a special care and solicitude for children and the weak.”

According to the fathers of the church, Scicluna said, a child was “the eloquent icon of innocence.”

In that light, Scicluna argued, destroying the innocence of a child makes the entire earth “arid” and “sad.”

Quoting St. Gregory the Great, Scicluna suggested that such sins are especially heinous when committed by priests.

“After having taken a profession of holiness, anyone who destroys others through words or deed would have been better off if their misdeeds had caused them to die in secular dress, rather than, through their holy office, being imposed as an example for others in their sins. Without doubt, if they had fallen all by themselves, their suffering in Hell would be easier to bear.”

Scicluna contrasted the innocence of children with arrogance and careerism in the church.

“How many sins in the church [have happened] because of arrogance, insatiable ambition, abuse of power and injustices committed by those who abuse their ministry to advance their career?”, Scicluna asked.

He denounced the “futile and wretched motives of vainglory.”

The remedy to such scandals offered by God as the “Divine Surgeon,” according to Scicluna, is to “cut out [disease] in order to heal,” and to “amputate in order to restore health.”

Beyond such drastic measures, Scicluna also proposed the “preventive medicine” of solid formation for future priests, calling on them to be on fire with the faith, making them salt and light for the world.

This morning’s service of reparation included an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a period of guided prayer meditation led by Scicluna, and concluded with a solemn benediction. Students who organized the event said they decided to do so “in the wake of the media attention given in recent months to abuses perpetrated by priests, and in response to the Holy Father’s call to penance in his Letter to Ireland (http://www.zenit.org/article-28701?l=english).”