Category Archives: Theology

Aug 8 – Solemnity (OP calendar) of St Dominic, Ebur Castitatis, “Ivory of Chastity”

“O Lumen”, said at Compline each night in Dominican houses…

“O Light of the Church, Doctor of Truth, Rose of Patience, Ivory of Chastity…”

“…Sadly, however, many in the Church have failed spectacularly in this regard. The Church is currently reeling in the aftermath of revelations that a now former cardinal had for years sexually abused a child and many seminarians. It is even sadder that this is just one of many examples of those in Holy Orders who have abandoned their resolve to remain celibate for the sake of the kingdom. And then there’s the question of who knew about these double lives and failed to take any actions. How many Catholics have become disillusioned with their faith because of such betrayals? How many vocations to the priesthood and religious life have been lost? Sexual infidelity is definitely not compatible with Christian fruitfulness.”
– Fr Robert Verrill, OP, English Province

May 24 is the Solemnity of the Translation of St. Dominic. This unusual feast day commemorates the day St. Dominic’s remains were moved, or “translated,” from their original burial spot behind an altar of the church of San Nicolo della Vigne in Bologna, Italy to a more prominent place in the church in 1233…

The move of St. Dominic’s body was carried out at the request of Pope Gregory IX, about one year before the saint’s canonization on July 13, 1234, only 13 years after his death.

As recorded in a letter by Bl. Jordan of Saxony, one of the first leaders of the Dominicans, the brothers were very anxious before the move of the body, because they were worried that when the wooden coffin was uninterred from the stone sepulcher, the body would give off a foul odor, since it had been buried in a poorly constructed tomb, exposed to water and heat.

But they received a great surprise, because when the tomb was opened, a wonderful and sweet perfume emanated from the coffin instead.

“Its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts,” Bl. Jordan wrote.

He reported that the odor remained and if anyone touched a hand or some object to the body, the odor immediately attached itself and lingered for a long time.

“The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest – it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ,” he wrote.

By 1240, the church containing St. Dominic’s remains had been expanded into a basilica, and renamed for the saint.”
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/why-the-feast-of-st-dominic-is-not-actually-the-dominicans-biggest-feast-day-93473

“Chaste is waste.”
“Virtue can hurt you.”
-popular sayings

“We live in a culture of entitlement. Movies, TV shows, and magazines exhort us to get the love that we “deserve.”

But love defies the culture’s rules. (Ed. is it REALLY love if sought or obtained immorally, selfishly? If the “other” is not a person, but an object or subject to objectification as a resource to be used, abused, and disposed of, is it REALLY love? I don’t recall selfishness, being part of the definition of love? Selflessness, agape, yes. Willing the good of the other, is the definition of love I understand, and am challenged through my own sinfulness to constantly pursue.) It is not something one can “get” in the sense of taking it for selfish reasons. When love is treated as an object to be consumed, it vanishes. “If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned” (Song of Songs 8:7).”

Becoming chaste requires a conscious decision to change perspective. Relationships can no longer be viewed through the lens of entitlement.” –https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/abstinence-and-chastity/10-12-reasons-to-be-chaste

Are you only your anatomy? Is anyone? Is that all you are? A thing? A piece of something? To be consumed, a resource, at the will and how and whim of another more powerful or deceptive? Perhaps an unwanted vermin to be exterminated? Does “reason” play any role in our decisions? Is it possible our “reason” can steer us more towards happiness? Like in every other aspect of life? Are we held to account by reason? For reason? Are we permitted to only be held to account by reason when it is convenient? What kind of a silly, ephemeral, meaningless thing this “reason” you say would be then?

“Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self.” (CCC 2346) The “Gift of Self” IS the definition of love. “You cannot give what you do not have.” -common proverb

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…” -Rm 1:22

Novena to St. Joseph – The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Most Chaste Spouse

O glorious descendant of the kings of Judah, Inheritor of the virtues of all the patriarchs. Just and happy St. Joseph, listen to my prayer. Thou art my glorious protector, and shall ever be, after Jesus and Mary the object of my most profound veneration and confidence. Thou art the most hidden, though the greatest Saint, and art particularly the patron of those who serve God with the greatest purity and fervor. In union with all those who have ever been most devoted to thee I now dedicate myself to thy service; beseeching thee, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Who vouchsafed to love and obey thee as a son, to become a father to me; and to obtain for me the filial respect, confidence and love of a child towards thee.

O powerful advocate of all Christians, whose intercession has never been found to fail, deign to intercede for me now, and to implore for me the particular intention of this Novena.

Present me O great Saint to the adorable Trinity, with Whom thou hadst so glorious and so intimate a correspondence. Obtain that I may never efface by sin the Sacred Image according to the likeness of which, I was created. Beg for me that my divine Redeemer would enkindle in my heart and in all hearts, the fire of His Love, and infuse therein the virtues of His adorable infancy, His purity, simplicity, obedience, and humility.

Obtain for me likewise a lively devotion to thy virgin spouse, and protect me so powerfully in life and death, that I may have the happiness of dying as thou didst, in the friendship of my Creator, and under the immediate protection of the Mother of God. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Triumph of Grace 2

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

Presence of God – May I be all Yours, Lord, and You all mine.

MEDITATION

“God does not give Himself wholly to us until He sees that we are giving ourselves wholly to Him” (Teresa of JesusWay of Perfection, 28). God respects man’s liberty so much that, although desiring to have him share in His divine Life, He actually communicates Himself only in the measure of our consent; when this consent is total, He does not hesitate to give Himself wholly. God responds to the perfect yes of the soul with the “true and entire yes of His grace” (cf. John of the CrossLiving Flame of Love 3,24). To the perfect gift of the will on the part of the soul corresponds the full communication of grace on the part of God; grace is granted in all its perfection, accompanied by the wealth of the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Grace and love necessarily go together, and as perfect adherence to the will of God is the sign of perfect love, it follows that God gives the superabundance of grace to the soul which is completely conformed to His divine will.

St. John of the Cross explains this lofty state yet more fully: “When the will of God and the will of the soul are as one in a free consent of their own, then the soul has attained to the possession of God through grace of will, insofar as can be, by means of will and grace; and this signifies that God has corresponded to the yes of the soul with the true and entire yes of His grace” (Living Flame of Love 3, 24). The soul has given itself entirely to God, and now it receives its reward: God gives Himself to it. The soul, says the Saint, possesses God “through grace of will,” that is, by reason of the perfect communication of grace, which is God’s response to the total gift of the will. By this perfect communication, God gives Himself to the soul, allowing it to participate more and more in His supernatural Being and divine Life, and dwelling in it in a manner ever more intimate and profound.

This is the triumph of grace in the soul. That grace, which was communicated to it in germ at Baptism, and which has increased little by little in the course of the various stages of the spiritual life, reaches maturity when the soul has surrendered itself completely into the hands of God, giving Him its whole will. Not in vain has the soul died to itself; it has died in order to live in God and for God, to live by His life, by His love, by His will. “You are dead,” says St. Paul, “and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3.).

COLLOQUY

“O Lord of heaven and earth! Is it possible, while we are still in this mortal life, for us to enjoy You with such special friendship?… Oh! the joys which You bestow on souls who give themselves entirely to You! What endearments, what sweet words are these, one word of which would suffice to unite us to You. May You be blessed, O Lord, for so far as You are concerned we shall lose nothing. By how many paths, in how many manners, through how many means do You reveal Your love to us! By trials, by bitter death, by tortures, by affronts suffered daily, by Your forgiveness. And not by these alone, but by words that pierce the soul that loves You.

“So, my Lord, I ask You for nothing else in this life but that You should ‘kiss me with the kiss of Your mouth’; and let this be in such a way, Lord of my life, that, even if I should desire to withdraw from this friendship and union, my will may be so completely subject to Yours that I shall be unable to leave You. May nothing ever hinder me, O my God and my glory, from being able to say: ‘Better and more delectable than any other good is Your friendship and Your love.’

“For the love of the Lord, my soul, wake out of this sleep and remember that God does not keep you waiting until the next life before rewarding you for your love of Him. Your recompense begins in this life.

“O my Lord, my Mercy and my Good! What more do I want in this life than to be so near You that there is no division between You and me? And since Your love allows it, I will repeat without ceasing: ‘My Beloved to me and I to my Beloved’” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Conceptions of the Love of God, 3-4).

Love,
Matthew

Triumph of Grace

-from http://vultuschristi.org/index.php/2017/08/saint-dominic-and-the-triumph/

“…Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, “What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?” Saint Dominic’s great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics:
-humble adoration,
-heartfelt pity for sinners,
-and exultation in the Divine Mercy.

Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching has to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

Simple Means

Divine Wisdom has so ordered things that the simplest material means — humble and adapted to our weakness — produce the greatest spiritual effects. Father Raphael Simon, the saintly Trappist psychiatrist, said that, “five decades of the rosary or even three Hail Marys daily may mean the difference between eternal life and death.” The effect of the rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. The fruits of the rosary are well known: among them are detachment from sin and from the occasions of sin, peace of heart, humility, chastity, and joy. The rosary, and all authentic prayer, is always realistic — that is to say, honest about human weakness and sin — and, at the same, full of hope — that is to say, open to the glorious plan of God’s mercy.

The Supplication of the Rosary

If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother “subsidizes” it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: “Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt” (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace.”

-by Br Dominic Verner, OP

“While he thus labored to make his own soul pleasing to God, the fire of divine love was daily more and more enkindled in his breast, and he was consumed with an ardent zeal for the salvation of infidels and sinners. To move the divine mercy to regard them with pity, he spent often whole nights in the church at prayer, watering the steps of the altar with abundance of tears, in which he was heard to sigh and groan before the Father of mercy, in the earnestness and deep affliction of his heart; never ceasing to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.” – From the Chronicle of the Origin of this Order, compiled by Bl. Jordan of Saxony

The tears of our Holy Father Dominic never fail to move and challenge me. There is something haunting and mysterious at the thought of a man weeping in the solitude and silence of a sleepless night on the altar steps. Entering a church at night to find someone in such a state of fervent and distressing prayer is a moving and troubling experience. The state of crisis shatters the thin veil of our quotidian expectations to reveal the startling reality that we are still poor, banished children of Eve, living in the status viatoris, awaiting the glorious coming of Our Lord and the eternal beatitude of Heaven. The encounter with the soul in crisis reminds us of the reality of the cross that we are called to bear with Christ and with one another. Seeing another bearing such a burden awakens our Christian sympathy and draws us out of our private concerns to beseech the Lord of all consolation for his mercy and compassion.

But what is the crisis that confronted Saint Dominic as he wept in fervent petition at the altar steps? Our holy father was not suffering from the betrayal of a spouse, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. His tears were not shed over a personal crisis, but rather the crisis of the “infidels and sinners” who reject the obedience of faith and do not enjoy the salvation offered by Christ. When we encounter the tears of our father Dominic, we are confronted with the reality that those who are closed to faith are lacking the possibility of true and lasting friendship with God, a friendship which requires filial trust and a loyal heart. Saint Dominic was brought to tears at the thought of a soul rejecting such a gift. In Dominic we see the beauty of a soul transfigured by faith, hope, and love in a state of fervent petition; more, we see a participation in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.

These three features of Saint Dominic’s tears in some way characterize the mission of the Friar Preacher. To preach for the salvation of souls, the soul of the preacher must be elevated by grace through the infused virtues of faith, hope, and love. The preacher must be sympathetically aware of the true deprivation suffered by the poor souls who lack saving faith. And the preacher must see his preaching for the salvation of souls as a participation in the saving action of Christ Our Lord. May the same fire of divine love that burned within Saint Dominic be enkindled within us, that we may never cease “to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.”

Love, rely on His grace alone, pray for me, please, please, please,
Matthew

Humanae Vitae: in His image & likeness – Gen 1:27

Humanae Vitae

St John Paul II wrote Humanae Vitae is the “struggle for the value and meaning of humanity itself.” -Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 113.

Paul VI was so shocked by the ferocity of the attacks against Humanae Vitae that he never published another encyclical, though he reigned another ten years.

Contradiction of the Sexual Act

First, contraception contradicts the nature of sexual intimacy, which has a unitive and procreative meaning that belong together. To understand why it is immoral to separate them, imagine if a husband wanted to use his wife for her procreative potential, but had no desire to unite with her on a personal level. To avoid any emotional entanglement, he looked away from her whenever they became physically intimate. His disordered and distorted use of the gift of sexuality is obvious. Contraception is a distortion of the sexual gift for the opposite reason. It seeks the physical and emotional sensation of the marital union while blocking its procreative potential.

In John Paul’s words, the inseparability of the two meanings of the sexual act is nothing else than “rereading the ‘language of the body’ in the truth.” 363 The body has a spousal meaning, and speaks a language of total self-giving. Contraception contradicts this meaning at its core. This is not about conforming to impersonal biological laws, but about conforming our wills to the personal Creator who designed our biology and imprinted His will into our human nature. 364

Sadly, most people view Humanae Vitae as an outdated Vatican document, out of touch with the needs and challenges of modern couples. Standing against the Church, her opponents are painted as compassionate champions of a woman’s right to have access to family planning as a form of health care. What these opponents never seem to ask is the underlying assumption of Humanae Vitae: What if the woman’s body is already perfectly made? What if she doesn’t need drugs, chemicals, and barriers to plan her family? What if she simply needs to be understood, and her fertility reverenced? If a couple can learn the woman’s fertility, consider the outcome: Instead of controlling her body with chemicals and devices in order to conform to their sexual desires, the couple learns to control their sexual desires in order to conform to the perfect way that God has created their bodies. This is authentic sexual liberation. When viewed in this light, it’s easier to see that the Church’s teaching on family planning is not simply true and good, but is most of all beautiful.

Contraception might seem like an advancement for humanity because it allows mankind to rule over one’s nature in a way that makes his or her life more convenient. However, John Paul noted that human progress and development can’t be measured by technology alone, but by what truly promotes the good of man, ethics, and what is authentically humanistic. 365 Contraception has failed on all three of these counts. Once the sexual act was divorced from its link to procreation, all other distortions of sexuality became acceptable. Contraception allowed sex without commitment like never before, and led men to view women as objects rather than respected and beloved companions. 366 This is not human progress.

What many people overlook is that contraception was not invented to prevent the possibility of pregnancy. It was invented to prevent the need for abstinence. However, many problems arise when man seeks to master nature without mastering himself.

Contradiction of Wedding Promises

Contraception is not immoral merely because it divides the two meanings of the marital act. In doing so, it is also a contradiction of the vows and promises that spouses make to one another on their wedding day. As part of the marriage liturgy, spouses promise to give themselves to one another and to welcome children into their lives. Because the sexual act is a renewal of the wedding vows, contraception is a contradiction of those promises. 367

In becoming one flesh, the two not only renew their love for one another, they also become an icon of Christ’s love for his bride, and her receptivity to his divine life. Contraception falsifies this sign. If couples are called to be a visible sign of God’s creative love, then the deliberate sterilization of the sexual act is the inversion of their calling. 368

Contradiction of the Person

Finally, contraception is not merely a contradiction of the meaning of the sexual act and of the wedding promises made by spouses. It is contrary to the identity of the human person. 369 John Paul explained, “The human body in its masculinity and femininity is oriented from within to the communion of persons. . . . In this consists its spousal meaning.” 370 In other words, contraception isn’t immoral because it merely violates the nature of the sexual act, but because in doing so, it violates human nature itself.

Written into our humanity is an invitation to express sexual intimacy as persons made in God’s image and likeness. This is why John Paul stated that God’s law of life was given to man as a precious inheritance— not a burdensome prohibition. When speaking to college students in Poland, he reminded them of the joy one should experience in discovering this, saying, “God who is Father, who is Creator, planted a reflection of his creative strength and power within man. . . . We should sing hymns of praise to God the Creator for this reflection of himself in us— and not only in our souls but also in our bodies.” 371

Through their life-giving love, spouses form an image of the Blessed Trinity on earth. 372 Although theirs is only a faint reflection of the glory of the communion that exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it is their identity and therefore their mission to become who they are. Quoting Pascal Ide, Waldstein remarked that “one can condense the whole argument of the Theology of the Body in the statement ‘Gift expresses the essential truth of the human body.’” 373

If “gift” is who we are and what we are called to be, the language of contraception speaks the opposite. There is no true mutual gift of self or acceptance of one’s self by the other. In John Paul’s words, “Such a violation of the inner order of conjugal communion, a communion that plunges its roots into the very order of the person, constitutes the essential evil of the contraceptive act.” 374

The Center of Conjugal Spirituality

When spouses are aware of their identity, their calling becomes clear. In the words of John Paul, the Holy Spirit stirs up within spouses an “attitude of reverence for the work of God.” 375 This does not dampen the experience of intimacy between spouses, but safeguards it. The Pope pointed out that this reverence has enormous significance for the expressions of affection within marriage, “because it goes hand in hand with the capacity for profound pleasure in, admiration for, disinterested attention to the ‘visible’ and at the same time ‘invisible’ beauty of femininity and masculinity.” 376

Although most people don’t associate the word “chastity” with intimacy, it is a prerequisite for it. As discussed earlier, it is necessary to establish a true communion of persons. Regarding chastity in marriage, John Paul declared that this virtue is “at the center of conjugal spirituality.” 377 Chastity, and the attitude of reverence that guides it, shapes the spirituality of couples and grants them a desire to protect the dignity of the sexual act. This manifests itself not merely in the sexual union, but continually through the various ways in which spouses express their love. 378 After all, a true communion of persons within marriage isn’t simply expressed through sexual intimacy, but through becoming one in mind and heart. This attention to the whole person creates true unity. 379

When spouses live life “according to the Spirit,” it gives them a deep awareness of the holiness of the life they have the capacity to create. 380 Contraception does the opposite because it displays a lack of reverence for God’s work and a lack of awareness of the spousal meaning of the body. 381 Therefore, John Paul stated that this lack of understanding— connected with the contraceptive practices and mentality— is “the anti-thesis of conjugal spirituality. 382

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 1725-1812). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

On his 65th birthday, St John Paul II wrote: “If one day illness touches my mind and clouds it, I do surrender to You even now, with this devotion that will later be continued in silent adoration. If, one day I were to lie down and remain unconscious for long, it is my desire that every hour that I am given to experience this be an uninterrupted thanksgiving, and that my ultimate breath be also a breath of love. Then, at such a moment, my soul, guided by the hand of Mary, will face You in order to sing Your glory forever. Amen.” -written at Mechelen, May 18, 1985.

Love, and bracing for His just judgment, relying on His infinite mercy, pray for me,
Matthew

364 Cf. TOB 124: 6; West, Theology of the Body Explained, 591.
365 Cf. TOB 129: 2; 133: 3.
366 Humanae Vitae, 17; cf. Mary Eberstadt, Adam and Eve after the Pill (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012).
367 Cf. TOB 118: 4.
368 TOB 117b: 3.
369 Cf. TOB 118: 5; 123: 7; 129.
370 TOB 130: 5.
371 Karol Wojtyła, The Way to Christ (San Francisco: Harper, 1982), 55– 56.
372 Cf. TOB 10: 3.
373 Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them, 124.
374 TOB 124: 7.
375 TOB 132: 4.
376 TOB 132: 4.
377 TOB 131: 2.
378 Cf. TOB 132: 4.
379 Cf. TOB 132: 5.
380 Cf. TOB 101: 6.
381 Cf. TOB 132: 1– 2.
382 TOB 132: 2.

Protestant & Catholic: different definitions of grace


-cf Dr. Bryan Cross, PhD, was raised in the Pentecostal tradition, then became Reformed shortly after completing his bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan. He then received an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary. In 2003 he and his wife and two daughters became Anglican. On October 8, 2006, he and his family were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. He has previously taught at Saint Louis University, Lindenwood University, and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. He is presently an assistant professor of philosophy at Mount Mercy University. His personal blog is “Principium Unitatis.”

“When seeking to attain an end, one must keep that end in one’s mind and heart, and ensure that one’s understanding of it is as accurate as possible, to ensure attaining that end. That is no less true in the Christian life, which has heaven as its end. But what is heaven? Is it a garden of earthly delights? A perpetual feast? A planet of our own? A return to the Garden of Eden? Protestant and Catholic accounts of heaven agree that the saints will be in the presence of God in resurrected and glorified bodies, without any suffering, death or sin. Protestant descriptions of heaven typically depict heaven as a place in which sorrow, pain, sin and death have been removed, so that with resurrected bodies the saints eat and drink and fellowship with the incarnate Christ and all the other saints forever on a renewed earth. The Catholic teaching concerning the Beatific Vision is typically not included in Protestant accounts of heaven. That is because Protestant theology has generally not conceived of grace as a participation in the divine nature, and thus has not seen heaven as a culmination of theosis or insertion by participation into the divine life. Hence in Protestant theology the happiness enjoyed by the saints in heaven is not God’s own happiness…

…In other words, the difference between the Protestant and Catholic conceptions of grace leads to different conceptions of what heaven is and what is our essential happiness in heaven. If grace is mere favor (Protestant), and union with God is only covenantal (Protestant), then the happiness of heaven is having Christ and the saints near us forever, and being free from sin in our souls, and free from suffering and death in our bodies forever. But if grace is a participation in the divine nature (Catholic), then the essence of eternal life is union with God in the Beatific Vision (Catholic), which is not everlasting existence (Protestant), but is eternity itself, namely, the “simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life.”1

Any Protestant conception of ‘heaven’ without the Beatific Vision is something like Abraham’s bosom or the Garden of Eden, and is infinitely surpassed by the supernatural happiness of the Beatific Vision, God’s own infinite happiness. But that supernatural end requires grace as a participation in the divine nature, not merely divine favor. (Cf. Scott Clark’s claim that grace is merely divine favor.)

https://aleteia.org/2013/03/12/what-is-the-difference-between-the-catholic-and-protestant-understandings-of-grace/


-by Anna Krestyn, who is a freelance writer and Director of Religious Education at St. Lawrence the Martyr Catholic Church in Alexandria, VA. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Thomas Aquinas College and worked as a publishing assistant at Catholic Answers in her native California before moving to northern Virginia to pursue pastoral work.

Protestants tend to think grace works extrinsically to the person

“One of the great divisions between Catholic and Protestant theology regards the understanding of how grace, the gift of God won for humanity by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, works on the human soul. This division essentially became a disagreement between the Catholic Church and the Protestant reformers of the 16th century about man’s justification, or means of salvation – a matter that remains a source of tension even today.

The Protestant reformers of the 16th century supported the idea that grace works extrinsically on the human person; it does not penetrate and cleanse human nature from within. Martin Luther, a central figure of the Protestant Reformation, taught that after baptism, original sin remained. Grace acts as a sort of cloak which covers the corruption of human nature and makes the person acceptable to God, though underneath he remains depraved. Luther is famously credited with having said that the justified soul is a “snow-covered pile of dung.”

What follows from this understanding of grace is the Protestant teaching that a person’s actions are worth nothing toward his or her justification, since they come from a sinful source. From this has emerged the doctrine of sola fide, or justification by “faith alone”. Evangelical Protestants identify the moment of justification as the moment when the person experiences, for the first time, genuine faith – this moment is what the well-known phrase “born again,” (John 3:3) means for them. Protestants consider good works and taking after the example of Christ as a process of becoming holy, which is distinct from justification.

The Catholic teaching, on the other hand, is that grace does indeed work intrinsically, and that in Baptism the person is truly made a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). “The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ’ (Rom 3:22) and through Baptism,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. And the Second Vatican Council re-affirmed that “[t]he followers of Christ … are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received” (Lumen Gentium, #40).

So baptism fully cleanses the human person of original sin, though the tendency to sin remains and keeps us in need of ongoing grace, especially through the Sacraments. And against the notion of justification by faith alone, the Church teaches that we are saved not only through faith but also through the expression of this faith in good actions. “My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it?” wrote St. James (James 2:14), in the epistle which Luther significantly called a “perfect straw-epistle” compared to the writings of St. Paul, who emphasized the need for faith.

During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI offered a helpful re-casting of this long-standing disagreement between Catholics and Protestants about grace and justification. According to the Pontiff, “the centrality of justification without works, the primary object of Paul’s preaching, does not clash with faith that works through love; indeed, it demands that our faith itself be expressed in a life in accordance with the Spirit. Often there is seen an unfounded opposition between St. Paul’s theology and that of St James, who writes in his Letter: ‘as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead’(2: 26). In reality, while Paul is primarily concerned to show that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James accentuates the consequential relations between faith and works (cf. Jas 2: 24). Therefore, for both Paul and James, faith that is active in love testifies to the freely given gift of justification in Christ.”

Love & His grace,
Matthew

(1) Summa Theologica I. Q.10 a.1.

Why aren’t my prayers answered?

God’s providence, especially the word “providence”, especially with a capital “P”, as it should always, always be spelled in relation to the Deity, is and is a concept, sadly, out of fashion, even in Church circles, today. However, it was not always so. And, regardless of its trendiness, or lack thereof, is reality. And, regardless of its trendiness, or lack thereof, I can tell you, from decades of experience, as the song says,

https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/stephen-colbert-jrr-tolkien-john-henry-newman-and-the-providence-of-god/4904/

STEPHEN COLBERT, J.R.R. TOLKIEN, JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, AND THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
-by Bishop Robert Barron, August 25, 2015

Just last week, Stephen Colbert gave an interview in which the depth of his Catholic faith was on pretty clear display. Discussing the trauma that he experienced as a young man—the deaths of his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash—he told the interviewer how, through the ministrations of his mother, he had learned not only to accept what had happened but actually to rejoice in it: “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was ten; that was quite an explosion…It’s that I love the thing that I wish most had not happened.” Flummoxed, his interlocutor asked him to elaborate on the paradox. Without missing a beat, Colbert cited J.R.R. Tolkien: “What punishments of God are not gifts?” What a wonderful sermon on the salvific quality of suffering! And it was delivered, not by a priest or bishop or evangelist, but by a comedian about to take over one of the most popular television programs on late night.

But what particularly intrigued me was the reference to Tolkien, which was culled, not from The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, but from a letter that the great man wrote to an inquirer, who had wondered whether Tolkien took death with sufficient spiritual seriousness in his literary work. Like Colbert, Tolkien had suffered enormous trauma as a young man. His father died in 1896, when Tolkien was only three, and his mother Mabel took him and his younger brother back to England (the family had moved to South Africa for economic reasons). Upon their return to her hometown of Birmingham, Mabel decided to become a Roman Catholic, a move that was met with enormous opposition on the part of her family, who essentially disowned her and left her in destitution. During this terrible period, Tolkien’s mother turned to the priests of the Birmingham Oratory, who cared for her needs both spiritual and financial and who took a keen interest in her fatherless children.

In 1904, Tolkien and his brother became orphans when their mother died of diabetes. Years later, the famous author mused that his mother was a kind of martyr, since she had been in effect hounded to death for her decision to become a Catholic and to raise her sons in the faith. Frightened, alone, and adrift, the boys were taken in by Rev. Francis Xavier Morgan, a priest of the Oratory. The kindly man, whom Tolkien always referred to affectionately as “Fr. Francis,” became a father figure, instructing the young men in matters both sacred and secular and teaching, as Tolkien would later put it, the meaning of “charity and forgiveness.” Tolkien named his eldest son for the priest, and many have suggested that there is a fair amount of Fr. Morgan in Gandalf and other wisdom figures in the master’s oeuvre. It was assuredly Fr. Francis who taught the young Tolkien, who had endured more trials than any child ought to endure, that “all of God’s punishments are gifts.”

But where had the priest learned that lesson? The Birmingham Oratory(1)  had been established in the mid-nineteenth century by the legendary John Henry Newman, who at the time had just become a Roman Catholic, thereby excluding himself from the institutions of British society. When he set up the Oratory in the industrial city of Birmingham, Newman was passing through a real “Lenten” period, for he was excoriated as a traitor by the Anglican establishment and looked upon with suspicion by Catholics. In time, Newman would reemerge as a cultural leader within British society, and his Oratory would become a center for Catholic evangelism in England. But this would happen only through Newman’s dark night experiences. What his Oratorian disciples, including Fr. Francis, would have taken in is the lesson that “punishments” often turn out to be precious gifts.

What this chain of influences teaches us—and here I come to the point of this essay—is that God’s providence is a mysterious and wonderful thing. Were it not for John Henry Newman’s establishment, through much suffering, of the Birmingham Oratory, there would never have been a Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan, and if there had never been a Fr. Morgan, the young Tolkien boys might easily have drifted into unbelief or spiritual indifference, and if J.R.R. Tolkien had not taken in the lessons he learned from his mentor, he would never have shared the insight about God’s gift that brought such comfort to a young Stephen Colbert in his moment of doubt and pain.

One of the most potent insights of the spiritual masters is that our lives are not about us, that they are, in fact, ingredient in God’s providential purposes, part of a story that stretches infinitely beyond what we can immediately grasp. Why are we suffering now? Well, it might be so that, in St. Paul’s language, we might comfort someone else with the same consolation we have received in our suffering. And that someone might be a person who has not even been born. St. John Paul II commented that, for people of faith, there are no coincidences, only aspects of God’s providence that we have not yet fully understood. The line that runs from Newman to Morgan to Tolkien to Colbert was not dumb chance, a mere coincidence; rather, it was an instance of the slow but sure unfolding of the divine plan.” (Ed. Praise Him, Church!!! Praise Him, for ever and ever!!!)


-by Br Stephen Ruhl, OP

Why aren’t my prayers answered? One often hears this question in relation to requests big and small. Why hasn’t St. Anthony found my keys yet? Why haven’t I been able to find a new job? Why did my cancer come back? Why hasn’t God heard my prayers?

Of course God hears each one of our prayers. His response to our requests, however, is not always what we expect and certainly not always what we desire. Yet he always responds. He sometimes responds with the perfect job listing or with a miracle cure, and in these cases it’s easy to see our prayers being answered. When he answers with another year in the same office, though, or with another failed treatment, it’s difficult to see what God is offering us.

The Collect of the Mass this week offers some insight into this conundrum:

O God, whose providence never fails in its design,
keep from us, we humbly beseech you,
all that might harm us
and grant all that works for our good.

God’s providence never fails in its design. Whatever God sends our way, however he chooses to answer our prayers, his providence is being fulfilled.

It is important to recall, though, the goal of God’s providence. He calls us all to eternal life with him, and our life on this earth is a journey to heaven. In asking God to keep us from harm, we are asking him, most ultimately, to keep us from that which would cost us eternal life. And when we ask God to grant all that works for our good, we are asking, most ultimately, for that which will lead us to heaven.

We can hardly see how the daily struggles, big and small, work in accord with this plan, especially when these difficulties seem opposed to our good. But we trust in God’s never-failing providence, begging him to keep us from harm and to grant that which works for our good. And in doing so, we can be sure he will answer our requests in accord with his divine plan.”

Love & trusting ALWAYS in His Providence,
Matthew

(1) An Oratory is a place for worship and Mass, but not a church. Catholicism has many “technical” terms, for this and for that, i.e. what is a “shrine”, Code of Canon law, canons 1230 and 1231, to be precise!!!  Where, when, whom, how the Eucharist may be “reserved”, or kept on the premises.  It is a VERY SERIOUS thing for Catholics!  Since, any desecration of the Eucharist results in automatic excommunication, Latae sententiae, “it has already passed.”  The first thing ecclesiastical authorities do when they become displeased with less than a church, I HAVE WITNESSED is threaten to personally retrieve the Eucharist from said source of displeasure.  This would be traumatic to Catholics, since beyond being a most serious censure, Jesus would have been removed from the premises!!  And, therefore, Catholics would have no reason to visit this location, and the scandal therein implied, not wanting to be associated.  All a bishop has to do is declare something non-Catholic, and the majority will shun.  Technically, the goal of the Mass is NOT to produce additional Eucharist for reservation in the tabernacle, rather the ideal is to have the People of God consume all consecrated at that Mass.  The reservation of the Eucharist in the tabernacle is a serendipitous accident, in which the faithful can spend time with the Lord at any point the church is open, and that is why Catholic churches try to stay open as much as possible where physical safety, and secondarily where property safety, do not impede.  See how much fun we get to have!!!!!  🙂

The Argument from Conscience


-by Peter Kreeft, PhD

“The argument from conscience, Romans 2: 14-16, is one of the only two arguments for the existence of God alluded to in Scripture, the other being the argument from design, Romans 1:18-20. Both arguments are essentially simple natural intuitions. Only when complex, artificial objections are made do these arguments begin to take on a complex appearance.

The simple, intuitive point of the argument from conscience is that everyone in the world knows, deep down, that he is absolutely obligated to be and do good, and this absolute obligation could come only from God. Thus everyone knows God, however obscurely, by this moral intuition, which we usually call conscience. Conscience is the voice of God in the soul.

Like all arguments for the existence of God, this one proves only a small part of what we know God to be by divine revelation. But this part is significantly more than the arguments from nature reveal about God because this argument has richer data, a richer starting point. Here we have inside information, so to speak: the very will of God speaking, however obscurely and whisperingly, however poorly heard, admitted, and heeded, in the depths of our souls. The arguments from nature begin with data that are like an author’s books; the argument from conscience begins with data that are more like talking with the author directly, live.

The only possible source of absolute authority is an absolutely perfect will.

Before beginning, we should define and clarify the key term conscience. The modern meaning tends to indicate a mere feeling that I did something wrong or am about to do something wrong. The traditional meaning in Catholic theology is the knowledge of what is right and wrong: intellect applied to morality. The meaning of conscience in the argument is knowledge and not just a feeling; but it is intuitive knowledge rather than rational or analytical knowledge, and it is first of all the knowledge that I must always do right and never wrong, the knowledge of my absolute obligation to goodness, all goodness: justice and charity and virtue and holiness; only in the second place is it the knowledge of which things are right and which things are wrong. This second-place knowledge is a knowledge of moral facts, while the first-place knowledge is a knowledge of my personal moral obligation, a knowledge of the moral law itself and its binding authority over my life. That knowledge forms the basis for the argument from conscience.

If anyone claims he simply does not have that knowledge, if anyone says he simply doesn’t see it, then the argument will not work for him. The question remains, however, whether he honestly doesn’t see it and really has no conscience (or a radically defective conscience) or whether he is repressing the knowledge he really has. Divine revelation (Ed. through Scripture) tells us that he is repressing the knowledge (Rom 1:18b; 2:15). In that case, what is needed before the rational, philosophical argument is some honest introspection to see the data. The data, conscience, is like a bag of gold buried in my backyard. If someone tells me it is there and that this proves some rich man buried it, I must first dig and find the treasure before I can infer anything more about the cause of the treasure’s existence. Before conscience can prove God to anyone, that person must admit the presence of the treasure of conscience in the backyard of his soul.

Nearly everyone will admit the premise, though. They will often explain it differently, interpret it differently, insist it has nothing to do with God. But that is exactly what the argument tries to show: that once you admit the premise of the authority of conscience, you must admit the conclusion of God. How does that work?

Conscience has an absolute authority over me.

Nearly everyone will admit not only the existence of conscience but also its authority. In this age of rebellion against and doubt about nearly every authority, in this age in which the very word authority has changed from a word of respect to a word of scorn, one authority remains: an individual’s conscience. Almost no one will say that one ought to sin against one’s conscience, disobey one’s conscience. Disobey the church, the state, parents, authority figures, but do not disobey your conscience. Thus people usually admit, though not usually in these words, the absolute moral authority and binding obligation of conscience.

Such people are usually surprised and pleased to find out that Saint Thomas Aquinas, of all people, agrees with them to such an extent that he says if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error.

So one of the two premises of the argument is established: conscience has an absolute authority over me. The second premise is that the only possible source of absolute authority is an absolutely perfect will, a divine being. The conclusion follows that such a Being exists.

How would someone disagree with the second premise? By finding an alternative basis for conscience besides God. There are four such possibilities:

  1.  something abstract and impersonal, like an idea;
  2. something concrete but less than human, something on the level of animal instinct;
  3. something on the human level but not divine; and
  4. something higher than the human level but not yet divine. In other words, we cover all the possibilities by looking at the abstract, the concrete-less-than-human, the concrete-human, and the concrete-more-than-human.

The first possibility, #1, means that the basis of conscience is a law without a lawgiver. We are obligated absolutely to an abstract ideal, a pattern of behavior. The question then comes up, where does this pattern exist? If it does not exist anywhere, how can a real person be under the authority of something unreal? How can more be subject to “less”? If, however, this pattern or idea exists in the minds of people, then what authority do they have to impose this idea of theirs on me? If the idea is only an idea, it has no personal will behind it; if it is only someone’s idea, it has only that someone behind it. In neither case do we have a sufficient basis for absolute, infallible, no-exceptions authority. But we already admitted that conscience has that authority, that no one should ever disobey his conscience.

The second possibility, #2, means that we trace conscience to a biological instinct. “We must love one another or die”, writes the poet W. H. Auden. We unconsciously know this, says the believer in this second possibility, just as animals unconsciously know that unless they behave in certain ways the species will not survive. That’s why animal mothers sacrifice for their children, and that’s a sufficient explanation for human altruism too. It’s the herd instinct.

The problem with that explanation is that it, like the first, does not account for the absoluteness of conscience’s authority. We believe we ought to disobey an instinct—any instinct—on some occasions. But we do not believe we ought ever to disobey our conscience. You should usually obey instincts like mother love, but not if it means keeping your son back from risking his life to save his country in a just and necessary defensive war, or if it means injustice and lack of charity to other mothers’ sons. There is no instinct that should always be obeyed. The instincts are like the keys on a piano (the illustration comes from C. S. Lewis); the moral law is like sheet music. Different notes are right at different times.

Furthermore, instinct fails to account not only for what we ought to do but also for what we do do. We don’t always follow instinct. Sometimes we follow the weaker instinct, as when we go to the aid of a victim even though we fear for our own safety. The herd instinct here is weaker than the instinct for self-preservation, but our conscience, like sheet music, tells us to play the weak note here rather than the strong one.

Honest introspection will reveal to anyone that conscience is not an instinct. When the alarm wakes you up early and you realize that you promised to help your friend this morning, your instincts pull you back to bed, but something quite different from your instincts tells you you should get out. Even if you feel two instincts pulling you (e.g., you are both hungry and tired), the conflict between those two instincts is quite different, and can be felt and known to be quite different, from the conflict between conscience and either or both of the instincts. Quite simply, conscience tells you that you ought to do or not do something, while instincts simply drive you to do or not do something. Instincts make something attractive or repulsive to your appetites, but conscience makes something obligatory to your choice, no matter how your appetites feel about it. Most people will admit this piece of obvious introspective data if they are honest. If they try to wriggle out of the argument at this point, leave them alone with the question, and if they are honest, they will confront the data when they are alone.

A third possibility, #3, is that other human beings (or society) are the source of the authority of conscience. That is the most popular belief, but it is also the weakest of all the four possibilities. For society does not mean something over and above other human beings, something like God, although many people treat society exactly like God, even in speech, almost lowering the voice to a whisper when the sacred name is mentioned. Society is simply other people like myself. What authority do they have over me? Are they always right? Must I never disobey them? What kind of blind status quo conservatism is this? Should a German have obeyed society in the Nazi era? To say society is the source of conscience is to say that when one prisoner becomes a thousand prisoners, they become the judge. It is to say that mere quantity gives absolute authority; that what the individual has in his soul is nothing, no authoritative conscience, but that what society (i.e., many individuals) has is. That is simply a logical impossibility, like thinking stones can think if only you have enough of them. (Some proponents of artificial intelligence believe exactly that kind of logical fallacy, by the way: that electrons and chips and chunks of metal can think if only you have enough of them in the right geometrical arrangements.)

The fourth possibility, #4, remains, that the source of conscience’s authority is something above me but not God. What could this be? Society is not above me, nor is instinct. An ideal? That is the first possibility we discussed. It looks as though there are simply no candidates in this area.

And that leaves us with God. Not just some sort of God, but the moral God of the Bible, the God at least of Judaism. Among all the ancient peoples, the Jews were the only ones who identified their God with the source of moral obligation. The gods of the pagans demanded ritual worship, inspired fear, designed the universe, or ruled over the events in human life, but none of them ever gave a Ten Commandments or said, “Be ye holy for I the Lord your God am holy.” The Jews saw the origin of nature and the origin of conscience as one, and Christians (and Muslims) have inherited this insight. The Jews’ claim to be God’s chosen people interprets the insight in the humblest possible way: as divine revelation, not human cleverness. But once revealed, the claim can be seen to be utterly logical.

To sum up the argument most simply and essentially, conscience has absolute, exceptionless, binding moral authority over us, demanding unqualified obedience. But only a perfectly good, righteous divine will has this authority and a right to absolute, exceptionless obedience. Therefore conscience is the voice of the will of God.

Of course, we do not always hear that voice aright. Our consciences can err. That is why the first obligation we have, in conscience, is to form our conscience by seeking the truth, especially the truth about whether this God has revealed to us clear moral maps (Scripture and Church). If so, whenever our conscience seems to tell us to disobey those maps, it is not working properly, and we can know that by conscience itself if only we remember that conscience is more than just immediate feeling. If our immediate feelings were the voice of God, we would have to be polytheists or else God would have to be schizophrenic.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Law & Grace


-by A. David Anders, PhD

“The most contentious issue in the Western theological tradition has been the relationship of law and grace.  In the second century, Marcionites stressed grace so much that they completely rejected the Old Testament and what they took to be the God of “law.”  In the third and fourth centuries, the Roman priest Novatian1 Novatian2 and the British monk Pelagius emphasized law and morality to the point of eliminating grace. In the sixteenth century, nothing was more divisive than Martin Luther’s doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. Luther rejected the Catholic tradition with its supposed emphasis on “works.”

The roots of these conflicts are not hard to find. St. Paul took up the relationship of law and grace in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. The apostles and elders treated the question definitively in the first Church council, described in Acts 15. In these sacred texts, we read about the struggle between Hebrew Christians who adhered to the law and Gentiles who came to Christ without the Mosaic Law.  The record of this episode in Scripture guarantees that law and grace will always be a part of the Christian’s theological lexicon.

The first Christian conflicts over law and grace took place in a context far removed from subsequent Church history. The first disciples were mostly Jews from Galilee and Judea. Hellenic Jews from the diaspora quickly joined their ranks, and early Gentile converts came from among the proselytes to Judaism. (The Gentile “God fearers” were those who accepted Jewish belief but did not submit to circumcision or practice the full range of Jewish law.) St. Paul preached mostly in synagogues to Jews and to “God fearing” Gentiles.

The overwhelmingly Jewish character of early Christianity posed a difficulty. Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition demanded the separation of Jews and Gentiles.  The Christian gospel aims emphatically at their reconciliation. The key theological question for early Christians was, “Are Jews and Gentiles reconciled by their mutual adherence to the Law of Moses or simply by their mutual faith in Christ?” Paul’s answer was categorical:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances. (Ephesians 2:13-15)

From context, it is plain that Paul has in mind The Law of Commandments and Ordinances that had created a barrier between Jew and Gentile. In other words, Christ destroyed the Mosaic Law in order to reconcile Jew and Gentile through faith.

In Luther’s day, the question of Gentile circumcision was no longer pressing. As such, Luther operated within a totally different theological context.  He misread St. Paul as a result. For Luther, the rejection of law meant the rejection of morality as the path to reconciliation to God. For Paul, however, it is precisely on the path of morality that the way of salvation is open to Jew and Gentile alike.  “Is God the God of Jews only,” Paul asks, “or of Gentiles too?” (Romans 3:29) It is when Gentiles “who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires. . . They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts.” (Romans 2:14-15)  Thus, God will give eternal life to everyone who does good, first to the Jew but also to the Greek. (Romans 2:7-8)

Where does grace fit into the picture? For St. Paul, the Mosaic Law cannot compel true righteousness. It can prescribe and enforce external ritual and behavior, but law alone does not change the human heart. Real righteousness is a matter of love – the love of God and neighbor (Romans 13:8) – and not simply following a list of ritual prescriptions. And where does love come from? It is the gift of grace. Christ lays down His life for us. We grasp that through faith. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it elicits our loving response.

Shakespeare has a beautiful line: “How can I hold thee but by thy granting?” True love cannot be compelled by law. It can only be elicited by the free gift of oneself. This is the real meaning of the opposition between law and grace. The gospel does not do away with the objective demands of morality. Nor does it rule out morality as the mode of our union with God. (Jesus says that if we love Him and keep His commands, then He will come and dwell with us. — John 14:23) What the gospel promises instead is the gift of love. Through Christ, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. (Romans 5:5) By faith, therefore, and not by ritual prescription, we receive the grace necessary to live the law of love.”

Love,
Matthew

“By their fruits…” Mt 7:16-20, the role of works in salvation


Karl Keating

Faith & Salvation are gifts

“Fr. William G. Most (1914-1997) will not end up numbered among first-rank apologists, but his book Catholic Apologetics Today (now out of print) came to my attention just when I could profit from it. It appeared as I was putting together the newspaper columns that, when collected and revised, became my first book.

Every Fundamentalist I have dealt with—or so it has seemed—has faulted the Catholic Church for teaching, supposedly, that we are saved through good works. We earn our salvation by what we do.

Although I took the usual route of referring Fundamentalists to James 2:17 (“faith without works is dead”), I learned early on that that scriptural verse failed to make much of an impress on them.  A few seemed to be wholly unfamiliar with that book. That might seem unlikely, given that Fundamentalists style themselves “Bible Christians,” but many of them read (or study) only those parts of the Bible recommended to them by their preachers. Those who read the whole of the Bible often have little appreciation of the import of some passages, such as John 6, in which the Eucharist is promised and described. James’s comment on works is another. “Faith without works is dead” either is passed over or, at most, is interpreted to mean that good works have no significance higher than public affirmation of having “accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” Doing good works is a good thing—but not a necessary thing.

It was through reading Most that I adopted a formulation that helped clarify the discussion. It came from his making a distinction between the way James wrote about faith and the way Paul wrote about it. They used the same word but in differing senses.

“Is it true that there is salvation in faith alone?” asks Most. “Definitely, yes!” It is “the chief theme of Galatians and Romans.” Yet James could write that “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24)—a seeming contradiction.

Either salvation is by “faith alone,” as Luther so imperiously insisted, or it is not; either it comes through faith and nothing else or through faith plus something else. Which is it?

Most made the obvious point that the issue here is with the meaning of the word faith as used by the two apostles. The word was not used univocally. James “clearly uses faith to mean, narrowly, just intellectual acceptance of a revealed truth.” To faith in that restricted sense one needs to add good works. We see this confirmed by Paul himself in Romans 2:6: “He will repay to man according to his works.”

Here comes the crucial part. Most says that “Paul does not mean that works can earn salvation—but violation of the law can earn eternal ruin.” (do good/avoid evil*.  how? by doing good!) Paul does not disagree with James, but he uses a broader sense of faith: “total adherence of a person to God in mind and will. This, in turn, implies certain things.” Chief among the implications is that works have a kind of negative role to play in salvation, this being the main takeaway I had from Most. We can affirm that salvation is through faith, but salvation can be forfeited through sin. Salvation is a gift, but any gift can be rejected or returned to the giver. Something taken on by compulsion (Ed. or forced on you, i.e. slavery, the “gift” of faith) is not a gift.

Once a Christian is in the state of grace (Ed. the “readiness/worthiness/ability to receive/having received” the gift), through baptism or through repentance followed by sacramental confession, s/he is, at that moment, “saved”: were s/he to die in that state (Ed. of grace, readiness/worthiness to receive/having received), he would end up in heaven, even if with a sojourn through purgatory. But his/her state is precarious. There is no adult Christian who has not fallen out of grace through sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Someone who has not fallen short of the glory of God, however transiently, is someone who is imbued with God’s grace (Ed. “O Mary conceived without sin…”; Hail Mary, full of grace…, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, etc.); to fall short is to fall into gracelessness.

The key, then, is not to fall out of grace. This where works come in (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!), both good works and bad works. Bad works are sins. Through mortal sins (Ed. those which are serious, intentional, which “kill” the life of grace within us, the symptom being, likely, a guilty conscience, if not scrupulous) we lose sanctifying grace and thus salvation. What about good works? (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!) They don’t earn us salvation but they do something nearly as valuable: they keep us from throwing salvation away. (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!) To persist in good works is to avoid evil works, sins (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!). Those who habitually perform good works habitually avoid (but they do not necessarily always avoid) sins that destroy grace.  (Ed. “The devil’s playground…”, Prov 16:27.)

This was, for me, Most’s most valuable point. The Fundamentalist, thinking about Catholicism’s insistence that good works are necessary, thinks we believe that we bring salvation to ourselves. (Pelagianism) The Catholic can answer by saying that good works are shields against bad works (do good/avoid evil. how? by doing good!) (Prov 16:27.). Without good works, there is no prospect that a Christian can maintain grace in his soul, the opportunities to fall from grace being ubiquitous and, often enough, seemingly irresistible. Help is needed if they are to be resisted, and that help comes in the form of habitually performing good works, whether in the form of prayer, almsgiving, or something else.

It wasn’t that Most told me something I had not known, but he told it to me in a way that I had not seen before, at a time when I needed a clearer way to convey Catholic teaching to those who were sure the Church was teaching something contrary to Scripture.  Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering spectacles of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across spectacles that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision.”

-from https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/faith-and-works-0, this is GOOD!!!  You SHOULD read the WHOLE thing!!!  I didn’t say “easy”.  I just said GOOD!!!!

“Following the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church held an ecumenical council in the Italian city of Trent to deal with the theological questions that were being debated. The Council of Trent issued the Decree on Justification (DJ), which set forth the Catholic position on the subject…This is the case with the idea that we need to earn our place before God by doing works…According to Trent, “none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace (Ed. gift) of justification. ‘For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise,’ as the Apostle says, ‘grace is no more grace’” (DJ 8, quoting Rom. 11:6).

When we come to God and are justified, it happens WITHOUT ANY MERIT ON OUR PART (emphasis added). Neither our faith nor our works—nor anything else—merits justification...If you go through Trent’s Decree on Justification, or the section on justification in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1987-1995), you won’t find the phrase “faith and works.” And you won’t find the word works at all in the Catechism’s section on justification.

This may be surprising, but the fact that the magisterium does not express its teaching in this way is a signal that we need to look more closely at what it says….

…Earlier we mentioned that Protestants tend to conceive of justification as an event that occurs at the beginning of the Christian life (Ed.  “I accept Jesus Christ as my PERSONAL? (what about everybody else?) Lord & Savior! = saved) where we are forgiven and declared righteous by God, and we said that this understanding is true as far as it goes.

But in the Catholic view, there is more to justification than this.

In the first place, God doesn’t simply declare us righteous. He also makes us righteous in justification. Thus the Council of Trent defined justification as “not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inner man” (DJ 7).

So at the beginning of the Christian life (being “saved”), God forgives our sins and gives us the gift of righteousness.

But He’s not done with us!!!  (Ed. how is THIS NOT obvious?) He wants us to grow in righteousness over the course of the Christian life, and, if we cooperate with His grace, we will.

Catholic theology refers to this growth in righteousness using the term justification, so, in Catholic language, justification isn’t something that happens just at the beginning of the Christian life. It happens over the course of the Christian life. (Ed. Phil 2:12)

The Council of Trent harmonizes the necessity of grace and works: “If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or by the teaching of the Law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” (Session 6; can. 1).


-stop screaming. it’s a JOKE!!!! 🙂

Love, and the JOY of DOING (Ps 40:8, Jn 4:34) His will, in faith, by grace.  ALL is grace.  ALL is gift.,
Matthew

* Many proponents and critics of Thomas Aquinas’s theory of natural law have understood it roughly as follows. The first principle of practical reason is a command: Do good and avoid evil. Man discovers this imperative in his conscience; it is like an inscription written there by the hand of God. Having become aware of this basic commandment, man consults his nature to see what is good and what is evil. Ps 37:27, 1 Pet 3:11

The devil made me do it


(One of my FAVORITE movies of all time! Kelly and I often quote it back & forth to each other, especially when Elliot is a wimpy, sunset loving, guitar playing, tuna-eating-dolphin-free marshmallow who lets bullies kick sand in his face, thinking, after reading Alison’s diary, and wishing from the devil, Elizabeth Hurley, to be a sensitive man. Of course, Satan being the father/mother of lies, so Elliot always gets Hell, instead, literally, never the heaven he thought he was bargaining for by offering his soul. How true. I made a custom ringtone from Alison’s final line in this scene. Ever since seeing the movie the first time, I said, out loud, if the devil REALLY looked like Elizabeth Hurley….we might have to talk….JUST KIDDING!!!! I think. 🙂 )


-by Br Albert Dempsey, OP

“One of the most influential and now forgotten historians of the 19th century was the Austrian Dominican Heinrich Denifle. Despite having many administrative responsibilities, Fr. Denifle found time to pour over thousands of medieval manuscripts, making significant contributions to the study of medieval mysticism, the rise of universities, the Hundred Years War, and the life of Martin Luther. During his lifetime, his work was lauded by Catholic, Protestant, and secular scholars throughout Europe.

In his later years, Fr. Denifle examined the general decline in observance among the clergy in the late Middle Ages, as well as the not infrequent counter-examples of heroically virtuous clerics. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Europe endured the threefold calamity of war, famine, and plague; Europe’s population would not fully recover until the industrial revolution. Death claimed the wicked and the pious alike, and the Church herself was rent with schism. Moreover, the prevailing intellectual trend of the age—Nominalism—posited an utterly arbitrary and terrifyingly vengeful God. These factors led many in the late Middle Ages—even priests and religious—to adopt either an extreme asceticism or a nihilistic hedonism. Fr. Denifle observed that the curious thing about many lax priests was that they continued to know right from wrong. Their error lay, rather, in thinking that they could not help but sin when confronted with temptation.

Sound familiar?  Many of our contemporaries still recognize the wrongness of sins like overeating, adultery, slander, and embezzlement. Yet so often we exonerate ourselves by protesting our own lack of freedom: “I just couldn’t help myself.”  Our society is quick to explain disordered actions by pointing to psychological or biological causes, whether traumatic experiences, psychological disorders, or simply being born a particular way. In attempting to alleviate moral guilt, this modern tendency strips the human agent of liberty, reducing him merely to reacting to stimuli rather than making free and creative choices. Yet the Scriptures are quite clear that men—in general—retain moral responsibility for their deeds.  While psychological and physiological disorders may influence human behavior negatively, they are not the only cause of disordered actions.

As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, the possibility for sin rests primarily in the freedom of our created natures. As creatures, we are finite and, therefore, defectable, able to go astray by not loving what we ought as we ought. Moreover, due to the stain of original sin, fallen man is less inclined to good actions. There is ignorance in the intellect and malice in the will, by which we love lesser goods more than we ought. Even our sense appetite is disordered by concupiscence and weakness: we are too desirous of sensual goods, and we are unwilling to strive after difficult goods. Thus, our senses and emotions can often overmaster our impaired intellects and wills, leading us to act unreasonably.

Yet original sin did not corrupt human nature entirely, as though Adam and Eve were transformed into some other sort of creature. Man remains created in the image and likeness of God, a rational creature possessed of intellect, will, and free choice. No matter how disinclined towards virtue he may be in his sinfulness, he retains the seeds of virtue, for the inclinations towards truth and goodness—the goals of virtuous actions—are inscribed in the very nature of his intellect and will. Moreover, the baser powers remain fundamentally subordinated to the higher, yearning to be directed well by free choices. Sin does not destroy our liberty, it merely makes it more difficult to exercise it—to act as we know we ought (see Rom 7:19). Yet God’s grace is capable of penetrating the depths of our fallen nature, healing and elevating it interiorly. Therefore, let us neither despair of ever being able to resist temptation nor protest our inability to act according to right reason. Rather, let us remember that our nature has not been utterly denuded of its freedom, and let us beseech God’s aid in exercising our liberty well despite our woundedness, remembering his teaching, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).”

Behold me, O my God, at Your feet! I do not deserve mercy, but O my Redeemer, the blood which You have shed for me encourages me and obliges me to hope for it. How often I have offended You, repented, and yet have I again fallen into the same sin. O my God, I wish to amend, and in order to be faithful to You, I will place all my confidence in You. I will, whenever I am tempted, instantly have recourse to You. Until now, I have trusted in my own promises and resolutions and have neglected to recommend myself to You in my temptations. This has been the cause of my repeated failures. From this day forward, be You, O Lord, my strength, and in this shall I be able to do all things, for “I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)” Amen.

Mary, Mother most pure, and Joseph, chaste guardian of the Virgin, to you I entrust the purity of my soul and body. I beg you to plead with God for me that I may never for the remainder of my life soil my soul by any sin of impurity. I earnestly wish to be pure in thought, word and deed in imitation of your own holy purity. Obtain for me a deep sense of modesty, which will be reflected in my external conduct. Protect my eyes, the windows of my soul, from anything that might dim the luster of a heart that must mirror only Christ-like purity. And when the “Bread of Angels” becomes my food in Holy Communion, seal my heart forever against the suggestions of sinful pleasures. Finally, may I be among the number of those of whom Jesus spoke, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8)” Amen.

Love, and the peace that comes from His will,
Matthew