Category Archives: Theology

Good vs Evil

We moderns look askance at such a dialectic.  However, my experience has shown me life is exactly this, every day, ever moment, every instant. I wish I had more soothing news, a way out, a loophole. Rather, there is no nuance.  No dissembling.  Straight up.  It has.  It is.  Woe to them that accept it not. Woe to them. Evil is NOT an equal to good. It is the absence of good. Good is a reality. Evil is a vacuum of reality. Hence, evil can never truly overcome good. It can tempt towards despair, but it has no power other than what we acquiesce to. Good is. Evil is not. God allows evil to exist as part of His passive will, that which He allows, only as a means of bringing good out of evil because He is God, and He alone can do this, and does and will.

“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the Faith!!” -2 Tim 4:7. This scripture was engraved on the base of the youthful statue of the patron of my young adult parish, St Paul’s.  My mother asked her catechetical students, see where I get it?  She asked them not to say, “Hello, Mrs. McCormick!” But, rather, “Keep the Faith!” “If my children lose their Faith, I have failed as a mother!” -MDM

Rm 12:21


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“He who endures to the end will be saved” (-Mt 10:22)

It is good to start something, but it is better to finish it (see Eccl 7:8). To endure to the end, our ultimate end, means to die well, to die with our loving trust in God. Blessed are those who die in the Lord, because they will be saved, because they will live in perfect happiness with God in the communion of saints. The very essence of a good life is a good death, because a good death leads to eternal life.

This doesn’t mean that our actions now, before our deaths, are meaningless or unimportant. In fact, the only way to endure to the end is to belong firmly to God in grace, a belonging established throughout our lives.

In a way, all the many actions throughout our lives together make up only one choice. We are offered the possibility in grace of belonging to God forever, of knowing Him, loving Him, and finding perfect fulfillment in Him. We can choose to accept this possibility, to love God. Or, we can choose to reject God, to hate Him. We make this choice through the course of our whole life, a choice which is completed and finalized in our choice at death, a choice which has consequences beyond our death.

The angels were offered the same choice in the moment of their creation. Some chose God, and some chose their own pride. But because they are spiritual, and not bodily, because they have a higher perfection of being than us, they made this choice in a single act and in a single moment.

We are bodily persons, not angelic persons. We make our choice not in a single act, but through the whole course of our lives. That choice, to either accept His gift of grace and to love Him, or to reject Him and hate Him, is cemented at our death. Before that ultimate moment there is always the possibility of conversion, and likewise the possibility of falling away. The direction in which we turn is shaped by each and every one of our actions.

Our lives are, in a way, an anticipation and preparation for our deaths, and for what lies beyond our deaths.

But we are not alone in this preparation. God gives us His grace, purchased by the blood of Christ, and communicated to us in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The saints and angels stand by our side, interceding. Mary, our mother, is our foremost intercessor, as we petition her in the Hail Mary to pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

As we strive to endure to the end, we can turn again and again to Mary. Let us beg her to pray for us now, that we may love God in each of our actions, and at the hour of our death, that we may endure in God’s love until our end, and beyond our end.”

Love,
Matthew

Made this way?

“October 11th was “National Coming Out Day”, and even if you haven’t heard of it, chances are that if you have teens in a public (or even a private) school, they were aware of it.

What does a teen do when faced with acceptance of homosexuality by his or her peers?

What do they say?

In 2017, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines released an ad that went viral on social media, but not for the reasons the company wanted. In an attempt to celebrate “gay pride” month, the ad displayed three sets of “rainbow” airplane seatbelts: one with male and female ends, one with only female ends, and one with only male ends.

The tagline? “It doesn’t matter who you click with.”

The irony of this statement was not lost on social media users as they correctly pointed out that it does matter if your seatbelt can’t actually click to restrain you in an accident. As countless jokes flew across cyberspace, it was good to see people have a moment of clarity in the midst of “gay pride” propaganda.

Everyone knows what a seatbelt is for, and where the parts go, just by looking at it. If you misuse it, you can be seriously injured or killed.

Likewise, we know what our genitals are for and where “the parts” go just by looking at them. And, like seatbelts, if people misuse these parts of the body (including through homosexual behavior) they risk grave physical and spiritual harm.

Both love and reason demand that we not be afraid to defy a wayward culture, and that we use logic to graciously explain why God’s design for our sexuality is the one we must embrace.
Right and Wrong vs. Nice and Nasty

The toughest challenges your teen will face are interactions with friends who either have same-sex attraction or know someone who has those feelings.

Even popular depictions of TV and movie characters who identify as gay or lesbian can reinforce the following idea in your teen’s mind: “I like these people and they’re gay, so I guess being gay isn’t bad after all.” This often leads to the belief that only “haters” or “bigots” would say that these nice people are doing things that could doom their immortal souls.

Even if your teen does believe homosexuality is wrong, he or she may not want to publicly admit it, because that might offend their peers or teachers. That’s why we have to remind our children that everyone struggles with sin, including people we truly like.

An action is not right or wrong because a nice or nasty person committed it. It’s rightness or wrongness comes from whether it corresponds to the natural law (and so it’s right) or it contradicts the natural law (and so it’s wrong).

Here is one of the most common objections that proponents of homosexuality use against natural law arguments – something that your teens are bound to hear:

Claim: “Homosexuality isn’t unnatural, because people don’t choose to be gay. They were born that way.”

Fact: We don’t know exactly what causes people to have same-sex attractions, but genes are not likely the key. Among people with same-sex attractions who have identical (same DNA) twin siblings, it’s common for their twin to be attracted to those of the opposite sex.

But whatever the cause, the belief that same sex attractions are innate (not chosen) does not mean they are natural. You could say, “You know, lots of men feel like they want to have sex with more than one woman. It feels very natural to them, and they may have felt this way that since puberty. But does that make adultery or polyamory natural, or morally right, for humans?” And what of other “sexual orientations” besides just “same sex” or “opposite sex”? I say this delicately, there is a danger in the claim that having a particular sexual desire or orientation means we are “born that way” for some serious (if little talked about) reasons.

When we use our minds and examine the human body, we can see what it is for. Some humans (those with a disorder called pica) have an innate feeling or desire to eat things like glass, hair, or paint, but that doesn’t mean this behavior is natural or healthy.

The digestive system attached to our mouth and throat only makes sense if eating is designed for food. Likewise, the reproductive systems attached to our genitals only make sense if sex is for the “one-flesh”/procreative union that only man and a woman can achieve.”

Love,
Matthew

Language of the Body

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

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

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

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

Designed for Marital Love

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

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

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

The answer is found in the design of the body.

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

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

Let me explain.

Deceptive Body Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love & truth,
Matthew

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

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

-by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Considerations

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

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

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

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

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


-the skull of Daria


-Daria


-before the altar

Love,
Matthew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer to Spend the Day Well
-Bl James Alberione

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

Love,
Matthew

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.