Category Archives: Grace

Irish Catholic Jansenism – #JOY is @#Heart of the Gospel!!!!!

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Jn 5:11

My mother, lovingly, and with the best of intentions for me, used to remind me, frequently, as a child, “The lightning is going to strike you, Mashew!!”  Ostensibly, to keep the straight and narrow.  And, “If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!”  NO PRESSURE!!!

There is a severity in Irish Catholicism, cf joyless Irish nuns of discipline, i.e. Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, Lake Wobegon, MN.  Workhouses for Wayward Girls & Truant Boys, etc.  I thought the Irish were tough, until I met the Polish in Chicago!!  Jeesh!!!  Did anyone else notice how the Polish jokes just stopped dead cold after JPII’s election?  They did.

“…Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?

These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their Groom
Then they’d know, and they’d drop the stones
Concealed behind their rosaries.
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room…”
-“Magdalene Laundries”, The Chieftains, Tears of Stone, 1999

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-Cornelius Jansen (1585–1638), professor at the Old University of Louvain, painting by by Evêque d’Ypres

The heresy of Jansenism is named after Cornelius Jansen, who was the Bishop of Ypres in the early 17th century. His main work, Augustinus, was published after his death. In this work, he claimed to have rediscovered the true teaching of St. Augustine concerning grace, which had been lost to the Church for centuries. Even though he was not strictly a heretic, his writings still caused great harm to the Church.

At that time, the Jesuits were heavily preaching on the mercy of God. This was seen by some as moral laxity. Also the debates with the Calvinists had an influence on Jansen’s thoughts. Without going into the details of the “five propositions from Jansen”, this heresy essentially taught that God’s saving grace is irresistible, though not given to everyone. According to Jansen, a person could neither accept or reject this grace due to his fallen nature. Although persons, who received it, were sure of salvation. Unfortunately not everyone received this saving grace. God decreed who was saved and who was lost. Jansen denied human free will and God’s desire to save everyone (1 Tim. 2:4). Even though the Jansenists hoped to combat the moral laxity of their time through moral rigorism, their denial of human free will and God’s mercy actually promoted moral despair or a carefree, frivolous life style, since personal actions had no effect on personal salvation. Due to the duplicity of its promoters, this heresy harmed the Church for over seventy years.

Summary of Catholic Teaching on Grace & Free Will:

1) The grace merited by Christ is necessary for us for all actions of piety and the exercise of every virtue and should be asked of from God.
2) With the help of grace, all the commandments of God are possible to obey, such that a chaste and holy Christian life without mortal sin is possible. Also, without this grace, we cannot do anything that is truly good, nor even persevere in good except by grace.
3) Grace prevents and aids our wills in such a way that we owe our salvation to God’s grace; if we do fall, it should be imputed to ourselves.
4) Grace strengthens and supplements our freedom, but in no way destroys it.
5) While maintaining the existence and freedom of the will, we should nevertheless remain in a posture of humility, remembering that our will is aided by grace in ways we don’t understand.

I have been trained as a catechist that the Truth, which the Church seeks, is often found in a middle course, a middle way between extremes. This is NOT splitting the difference!!! But, rather, a sincere search for and discovery of the Truth of God. The fact of the matter is, I have been trained, is that Truth happens to often be found in the moderation of extremes.

There are two known poles regarding the theological and metaphysical interplay of grace & free will, from a Roman Catholic perspective. The first, the heresy of Pelagianism, errs in assigning too great a role to free will and debasing God’s grace; the other, of course, is that of Calvinism, in which free will is negated and the operation of grace inflated to the point that we arrive at total (or double) predestination. These extremes are the Scylla and Charybdis of the theology of grace; a truly Catholic approach to this problem must sail skillfully between these two dangers, turning neither to the left nor to the right.

michael_moreland
-by Michael Moreland
May 26, 2015

“The big story coming out of the weekend was the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage, accompanied by barely concealed glee in some quarters at the humiliation of the Catholic Church. Here’s a hypothesis to ponder about the historical reach of theological ideas and the place of Catholicism in different cultures (not so much about the substance of the same-sex marriage debate itself), even if it might not hold up in every detail to scrutiny.

As Damian Thompson writing at the Spectator notes here, the influence of Catholicism in Ireland has waned for various reasons (most especially the sex abuse scandal), and one factor he mentions in passing is “the joyless quasi-Jansenist character of the Irish Church.” Indeed, while the Church’s influence across Europe has fallen, the collapse in those parts of Europe (or places missionized by Europeans) arguably influenced by Jansenism has been ferocious: the Low Countries (we think of Jansenism as primarily a French movement, but Cornelius Jansen himself was Dutch and Bishop of Ypres), France, Quebec, and Ireland. The place of the Church in the culture of those parts of European Catholicism less tinged by Jansenism has fared a bit better: Poland, Austria, Bavaria, Italy, and, most especially, Spain and Portugal and their former colonies in Latin America and the Philippines.

I am simplifying a great deal here, of course. There was, for example, a robust Jansenist movement in parts of modern-day Italy, and, more importantly, it is hard to say how much Jansenist influence there really was in Irish Catholicism (captured by the “quasi-” in Thompson’s essay). Because of English persecution, there were no seminaries in Ireland up through the end of the eighteenth century and so Irish clergy were often trained at Jansenist French seminaries, and there might have been some Jansenist influence in the early days at Maynooth, the Irish national seminary founded in 1795. But the scope of the actual influence of Jansenist ideas on folk Irish Catholicism is much harder to determine, as Thomas O’Connor notes in his 2007 entry on “Jansenism” in The Oxford Companion to Irish History (“The frequent claim that Irish Catholicism was Jansenist-influenced springs from the tendency to confuse Jansenism with mere moral rigorism.”). Jansenism was just one (perhaps small) factor among many contributing to Seán Ó Faoláin’s “dreary Eden.”

If there is something to this, though, we shouldn’t be surprised. Jansenism—with its hyper-Augustinianism, insistence on human depravity, confused doctrine of freedom and grace, other-worldliness, and moral rigorism—was theologically pernicious (condemned in Cum occasione by Pope Innocent X in 1653 and in Unigenitus dei filius by Pope Clement VI in 1713). A Catholic culture shaped by it distorts our understanding of the human person and society, and bad theological doctrines about God, human nature, and sin can wreak havoc even if the institutional forms of the Church endure for a time. Jansenism produced a towering genius in Blaise Pascal and a minor genius in Antoine Arnauld, but it was an unfortunate development in early modern Catholicism. As we think about how to build (or re-build, as it may be) Catholic culture, we would do well to remember that joy is at the heart of the gospel, and a Catholic culture drained of such joy by Jansenism or its cousins will, when the time comes, all too easily be swept away.”

Love & the JOY!!! of the Gospel,
Matthew

Grace is terrifying

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Grace is an eerie thing: subtle, sublime, quiet, small, whispering, unassuming, tiny, easily missed, ephemeral, when new, like sweet incense, or fragrant fresh cooking, but powerful; definitely powerful force.

It gives you ‘new eyes’, new/renewed strength, resolve, to accept, to resist, allowing you to see today, in peace, subtly, like new colors, or shades thereof, the wisdom, the rightness/correctness, and accept in peace what yesterday you would have suffered to protest, easily succumbed to the temptation of? Ask St Paul, Deo gratias!!!!

What if that’s IT? I mean, what if Jesus in calling the scribes and Pharisees ‘blind’ was not using a metaphor? What if sin literally blinds us, spiritually, in a physical sense? Am I making any sense?

What if mortal sin can be felt? Not only in terms of guilt of conscience, but in loss, true loss of vitality of the Spirit to ‘see’, to understand the truth? The Truth as God sees it, ever-clearly, but we, dimly, ever so dimly in near perfect darkness, only dim momentary flashes, if you’re tuned in, receptive, prayerful? The Life of Grace? Scripture tells us no mortal can see God and live. (Ex 33:20)

I realize we are told to believe that literally. It’s just terrifying, terrifying, in the extreme to rub one’s eyes in that realization, to experience it physically/personally oneself. That grace, as subtle, sublime as it is becomes personal? Physically intimate? To oneself? Yikes!!! Holy Supernatural, literally, Batman!!!

Maybe it’s just middle age and fatigue, or, is/was yesterday’s less than healthy menu choices? Surely, other factors affect, but still. I don’t know, but terrifying nonetheless, in possibility, in reality.

Love,
Matthew

Sanctifying Grace: Transformed/Fundamentally Changed/Renewed/Reborn/Made Whole/Made Completely New, not just covered…

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-from http://www.catholic.com/tracts/grace-what-it-is-and-what-it-does

Sanctifying grace implies a real transformation of the soul. Recall that most of the Protestant Reformers denied that a real transformation takes place. They said God doesn’t actually wipe away our sins. Our souls don’t become spotless and holy in themselves. Instead, they remain corrupted, sinful, full of sin. God merely throws a cloak (of snow over dung) over them and treats them as if they were spotless, knowing all the while that they’re not.

But that isn’t the Catholic view. We believe souls really are cleansed by an infusion of the supernatural life. Paul speaks of us as “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Of course, we’re still subject to temptations to sin; we still suffer the effects of Adam’s Fall in that sense (what theologians call “concupiscence”); but God removes the guilt from our souls. We may still have a tendency to sin, but God has removed the sins we have, much like a mother might wash the dirt off of a child who has a tendency to get dirty again.

Our souls don’t become something other than souls when God cleanses them and pours his grace into them (what the Bible refers to as “infused” [“poured”] grace, cf. Acts 10:45, Rom. 5:5 Titus 3:5–7); they don’t cease to be what they were before. When grace elevates nature, our intellects are given the new power of faith, something they don’t have at the merely natural level. Our wills are given the new powers of hope and charity, things also absent at the merely natural level.”

Love,
Matthew

Grace & Catholicism – #nuffsaid

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FredNoltie
-by Fred Noltie

“It is not news to say that many Protestants claim that the Catholic Church teaches a form of salvation by merit in contrast to their own belief in salvation by grace. This claim about the Church’s teaching is of course false, as we have observed many times at this blog. A long time ago I wrote on the same subject, and it seems like a good idea to rehearse the main points I made at that time (along with, perhaps, some additions).

That about covers the gamut, I think, but it is hardly the last word from the Church on the subject. The much-maligned Council of Trent has a thing or two to say as well. By way of summary: “…it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake” (Decree on Justification, chapter IX). Furthermore, the entire seventh chapter (see previous link) of the Decree enumerates the various causes of our justification. As anyone can see, none of them are human efforts; all of them are divine.

This hardly seems necessary since Protestants have been resorting to the “legalism” canard since the sixteenth century, but for the sake of completeness it’s worth observing that the Church today still affirms salvation by grace alone.

Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God. (CCC 1996)

And: “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him” (CCC 153).

And: “Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 154).

Our Protestant brothers’ claim is obviously based upon a deficit of information about the actual facts, which makes the claim invalid.”

Love,
Matthew

The Grace of Final Perseverance

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A little preamble is in order here.  Protestant understanding of grace and Catholic understanding of grace are very different.  This distinction is often overlooked and generally misunderstood, yet it is perhaps the singularly most significant separating difference between Protestantism and Catholicism.

Generalizing across Protestant denominations, mea culpa, “sola fides”, or the doctrine of “by faith alone” implies once one is “saved” by turning from sin and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in faith, that is all that is required.  “Once saved, always saved”, as the saying goes.

Martin Luther was a preacher and author of strong hyperbole.  He is often misquoted, or quoted out of context saying “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong”, or “sin all the more” once saved.  Protestant theology is NOT recommending sin here, but rather implying no sin is stronger than the saving power of Christ.  True.

However, Catholics believe the grace of salvation, too, is freely given and unmerited.  However, Catholicism does put a bit more emphasis on free will, and while grace is a free, unmerited gift, through free will we have the power to reject His love subsequent to our initial acceptance and baptism through our actions and choices.

Think of how a human relationship works, which I have ALWAYS found to be an excellent metaphor for relating to God, and you can see more clearly the Catholic perspective.  God loves us too much to rescind the divine authority He has given us in free will.  There is no authentic love, human or divine, without free will, according to Catholicism.  Hence, the need, as Catholicism states, for the “Grace of Final Perseverance”.

“Mortal sin” is called mortal because the sin is so grave and intentional, again through free will, that it “kills”/destroys the life of grace within us.  It is the life of grace within us which is the relationship with God.  God didn’t change His mind.  We did, and proved it through our choices and actions in free will.

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

“Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death…”

-by Nicholas Hardesty, author PHAT Catholic Apologetics

Final perseverance is that last grace which confirms us in the Lord at the moment of death. It is a free gift of God that preserves or maintains the state of grace in our souls so that we can die in that state. You are in a state of grace when your soul is in righteous standing before God. This gift preserves that state by enabling our will to cooperate with the various means of receiving grace, namely prayer and the sacraments.

The grace of final perseverance also implies that death comes when we are in that state of grace, and not in a state of mortal sin. By that I mean, when a person prays for the grace of final perseverance, he is also praying that death will come in a timely manner, when his soul is in righteous standing before God.

According to Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, final perseverance is basically God practicing his stewardship or loving care over our souls. It is, “an ever watchful superintendence of us on the part of our All-Merciful Lord, removing temptations which He sees will be fatal to us, comforting us at those times when we are in particular peril, whether from our negligence or other cause, and ordering the course of our life so that we may die at a time when He sees that we are in the state of grace.”

Final perseverance can be seen as a single gift of grace, or as the body or collection of graces we have received throughout our whole lives, all coming together to affect our final end. As a single gift, we are reminded of the Good Thief crucified alongside Jesus, who, after living a life of sin, was compelled to convert in his final hour after witnessing the example of Jesus. The grace of final perseverance made that possible.

As a body of graces, we think of the life-long Catholic who sticks ever closer to the sacraments and is evermore devoted to prayer as his age advances and his health deteriorates. And then, when death is surely near, he calls upon the priest to make his last Confession, to receive Viaticum, and to be Anointed. In this case, the grace of final perseverance was actually working throughout his whole life, compelling him to perform the various pious practices that brought him now, in his final hour, to death in the state of grace.

What an extraordinary gift this would be to receive! Extraordinary … and necessary, since we cannot go to heaven without dying in a state of grace. What’s more, this gift only comes by way of God’s merciful response to our entreating Him for it in prayer. This is basically what we’re doing when we say in the Our Father, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (cf. CCC nos. 2849, 2854), and in the Hail Mary, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” We are praying for the gift of final perseverance.

Scripture mentions final perseverance in several places:

Ezek 18:24-28 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die. 25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Wis 4:10-15 There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up. 11 He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul. 12 For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. 13 Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; 14 for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. 15 Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.

Mt 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Jn 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Rom 11:22-23 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

Rom 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.

1 Cor 15:1-2 Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, 2 by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain.

Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Phil 1:6 And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Phil 4:7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Col 1:21-23 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, 23 provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

1 Thes 5:23-24 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

2 Tim 2:12 if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;

1 Pet 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.

2 Pet 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall;

In my mind, any passage that refers to the importance of enduring to the end, continuing in His kindness, standing fast, etc. is also a passage about this grace.”

Love,
Matthew

Grace Hurts

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Like Dietrich Boenhoffer, I hate cheap grace. I do. I despise it.  It’s a sham, a phony, a charlatan, a hypocrite – like me.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, (it is) baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”  { p. 43-4}, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Boenhoffer, 1937.

“All my requests seem to melt down to one for grace,” -Flannery O’Connor, 1962

What did Flannery O’Connor know about suffering and grace? At the age of twenty-six, Flannery would be diagnosed (like her father before her) with systemic lupus erythematosus (“lupus”), a disabling rheumatologic condition. Through chronic pain, recurrent illnesses and medication side effects, Flannery would write with keen insight, acerbic wit and devout Catholic faith. Thirteen years later, she would die. She was only thirty-nine years old. Flannery O’Connor knew suffering and she knew grace – a mean grace.

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”― Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1948-1964.

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”

“This notion that grace is healing omits the fact that before it heals, it cuts with the sword Christ said He came to bring.”

“[The trendy “beat” writers] call themselves holy but holiness costs and so far as I can see they pay nothing. It’s true that grace is the free gift of God but in order to put yourself in the way of being receptive to it you have to practice self-denial.”

Mt 16:24

Love,
Matthew

Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful, Fruitful Love, A Fountain of Grace

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At 49, I like to kid myself I still possess some modicum of “hipness”.  I was never a hipster, really, to begin with, but, I guess, I teach them and have to try to keep the lectures, at least, mildly interesting?

However, it does come as a shock when current, less-than-attractive fashion is pushed right onto my nose?  🙁  I have recently heard two sermons from campus ministers, who are closer to the battle, per se, than yours truly.  There was so much despair.  It really took my breath away.  So much despair…in general, and particularly about marriage.  🙁  Young people have the meme in their heads, why bother?  Why not just live for myself?  Always?  Why not?  Why bother?  Why go through the pain and the suffering of dating?  The compromises of living with the other gender, whom completely DO NOT GET IT!!!!

My observation is that evil is always directly opposed to good.  You know it’s evil because of this orientation.  Clerverly, disguised, well-marketed, slick, shiny, attractive, alluring, but a lie.  Evil is always a lie; he is the father of lies.  Evil NEVER tells you the Truth, that’s how you know it’s evil.  Evil always tells you what you WANT to hear, but you know, in your heart-of-hearts, it is a lie.  Evil HAS a feeling.  It does.  It damnably does.  Evil NEVER entertains, even for a hair-splitting fraction of a second the possibility of the Cross.  Never.  That’s another way it identifies itself.

If, as Catholic theology tells us, sacraments are fountains of grace, what more appropriate means, or motivation does Evil have or need than to dissuade us from the life giving waters of grace?  To be deprived of His Grace is to become the slave of sin and evil.

-from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/marriage/the-meaning-of-catholic-marriage/

by Alice Von Hildebrand

“In our society, the beauty and greatness of married love has been so obscured that most people now view marriage as a prison: a conventional, boring, legal matter that threatens love and destroys freedom.

“Love is heaven; marriage is hell,” wrote Lord Byron 150 years ago. At the time he could not have foreseen the incredible popularity that his idea would have today.

In our society the beauty and greatness or married love has been so obscured that most people now view marriage as a prison: a conventional, boring, legal matter that threatens love and destroys freedom.

My husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand was just the opposite. Long before he converted to Roman Catholicism, he was convinced that the community of love in marriage is one of the deepest sources of happiness. He saw the grandeur and the beauty of the union of spouses in marriage — symbolized by their physical union which leads in such a mysterious way to the creation of a new human person.

He recognized that love by its very essence longs for infinity and for eternity. Therefore, a person truly in love wants to bind himself forever to his beloved — which is precisely the gift that marriage gives him.

In contrast, love without an unqualified commitment betrays the very essence of love. He who refuses to commit himself (or who break a commitment in order to start another relationship) fools himself. He confuses the excitement of novelty with authentic happiness.

Such affective defeatism — so typical of our age — is a symptom or a severe emotional immaturity which weakens the very foundation of society. It is rooted partly in a misunderstanding of freedom. Many people criticize marriage because they fail to realize that a person also exercises his freedom when he freely binds himself to another in marriage.

These critics of marriage do not see that continuity — and especially faithfulness — is an essential characteristic of a truly great personality: he chooses to remain faithful to what he has seen, even though his vision may later become blurred.

In matters of love and marriage, “hell” does not come from fidelity; it comes from lack of fidelity, which leaves men technically unbound but actually solitary: trapped in a shallow arbitrariness and a stifling subjectivism.

Indeed, contrary to Lord Byron and to popular belief, marriage is the friend and protector of love between man and woman. Marriage gives love the structure, the shelteredness, the climate in which alone it can grow.

Marriage teaches spouses humility, making them realize that the human person is a very poor lover. Much as we long to love and to be loved, we repeatedly fall short and desperately need help. We must bind ourselves through sacred vows so that the bond will grant our love the strength necessary to face the tempest-tossed sea of our human condition.

For no love is free from periods of difficulties. But (as Kierkegaard aptly remarks), because it implies will, commitment, duty, and responsibility, marriage braces spouses to fight to save the precious gift of their love. It gives them the glorious confidence that with God’s help, they will overcome the difficulties and emerge victorious. Thus, by adding a formal element to the material element of love, marriage guarantees the future of love and protects it against the temptations which are bound to arise in human existence.

In a relationship without commitment, the slightest obstacle, the most insignificant difficulty is a valid excuse for separating. Unfortunately, man, who is usually so eager to win a fight over others, shows little or no desire to conquer himself. It is much easier for him to give up a relationship than to fight what Kierkegaard calls “the lassitude which often is wont to follow upon a wish fulfilled.”

Marriage calls each spouse to fight against himself for the sake of his beloved. This is why it has become so unpopular today. People are no longer willing to achieve the greatest of all victories, the victory over self.

To abolish marriage is, Kierkegaard tells us, “self- indulgence.” Only cowards malign marriage. They run from battle, defeated before the struggle even begins. Marriage alone can save love between man and woman and place it above the contingencies of daily flux and moods. Without this bond, there is no reason to wish to transform the dreariness of everyday life into a poetic song.

Sacramental marriage

In Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love, my husband introduced these themes which illuminate the value and importance of natural marriage and show the role that marriage plays in serving faithful love.

At the same time, my husband saw that even in the happiest of natural marriages, mortal man — the creature of a day (as Plato calls him) remains terribly finite and limited. Consequently, every merely natural love is necessarily tragic: it will never achieve the eternal union for which it naturally longs.

But when my husband converted to Catholicism, he discovered a wonderful new dimension of marriage: its sacramental character as a fountain/font of grace. St. Paul illuminated the sublime dignity of sacramental marriage in calling it a “great mystery” comparable to the love of Christ for His Church (Ephesians V: 32). Natural love pales in comparison to the beauty of a love rooted in Christ.
As a sacrament, marriage gives people the supernatural strength necessary to “fight the good fight.” Every victory achieved together over habit, routine, and boredom cements the bonds existing between the spouses and makes their love produce new blossoms.

Also, because it explicitly and sacramentally unites the spouses with the infinite love that Christ has for each one of them, sacramental marriage overcomes the tragic limits of natural marriage and achieves the infinite and eternal character to which every love aspires. It is therefore understandable that after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, my husband (who was already the great knight for natural love) became an ardent knight in defense of the supernatural love found in sacramental marriage. His enthusiasm for the great beauty and mystery of faithful love in marriage led to the writing of this work.

It is therefore understandable that after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, my husband (who was already the great knight for natural love) became an ardent knight in defense of the supernatural love found in sacramental marriage. His enthusiasm for the great beauty and mystery of faithful love in marriage led to the writing of this work.

History of marriage

The preparation of Marriage actually began in 1923 when my husband gave a lecture on marriage at a Congress of the Catholic Academic Association in Ulm, Germany. The lecture was a resounding success.

In the lecture he argued that one should distinguish between the meaning of marriage (i.e., love) and its purpose (i.e., procreation). He portrayed marriage as a community of love, which, according to an admirable divine economy, finds its end in procreation.

Even though official Catholic teaching had until then put an almost exclusive stress on the importance of procreation as the purpose of marriage, the practice of the Church had always implicitly recognized love as the meaning of marriage. She had always approved the marriage of those who, because of age or other impediments, could not enjoy the blessings of children.

But conscious that he was breaking new ground in making so explicit the distinction between the purpose and the meaning of marriage, my husband sought the approval of Church authority. So he turned to His Eminence Cardinal Pacelli, then the Papal Nuncio in Munich. To this future pope (Pius XII), my husband expounded his views, and to his joy, received from the future Pontiff a full endorsement of his position.

Cardinal Pacelli’s approval coupled with the success of the lecture on marriage encouraged my husband to expand and develop the lecture into the small volume which you now have in your hands.

Since its first publication in German, Marriage has been translated into most of the major languages of Europe, where it has never lost popularity. When it was first translated into English during World War II, critics received it very favorably and the book enjoyed great popularity, remaining in print through four editions over fourteen years.

It gives me great joy to greet this new edition, which once again makes Marriage available to English speaking readers after an absence of nearly 30 years.

Especially today, this book — revealing the sublime Christian vocation of marriage — is a must for anyone who is anxious to live worthily this great mystery of love.

Thomas a Kempis tells us that “love is a great thing.”
So is marriage.”

Love,
Matthew

The Life of Grace

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-by Amette Ley, Issue #30.1, The Sower Review

‘The relationship between the Christian message and human experience… springs from the very end of catechesis, which seeks to put the human person in communion with Jesus Christ. In His earthly life He lived His humanity fully: Therefore, “Christ enables us to live in Him all that He Himself lived, and He lives it in us”. Catechesis operates through this identity of human experience between Jesus the Master and His disciple and teaches us to think like Him, to act like Him, to love like Him. To live in communion with Christ is to experience the new life of grace.’ (General Directory for Catechesis 116) … Bringing people to understand this(the Catholic understanding of the life of grace) is, of course, at the very core of what catechesis must achieve.

Avoiding the Extremes  

(Ed note:  the Church predictably, historically, regularly, habitually avoids the extremes of any issue.  It has done so throughout its two millenia.  This is one of the ways we know and can come to understand the truth of a matter and the True Faith & teaching of the Church.  If it is an extreme position, in any/either direction, the Church will avoid these in her teaching, and seek a middle ground where it has found and believes always exists the Truth of a matter; not because it is a middle ground, but because the middle ground is where the Truth has historically been found by her.)

In her teaching on grace, the Church avoids two extreme positions. On the one hand, she avoids over-emphasising the weakness of human nature. She accepts that human nature is, of course, limited, corrupted and flawed. But she does believe that what is broken may be mended. God can repair the damage. In avoiding this extreme, the Catholic Church is avoiding the position of some Protestant communities.

On the other hand, the Church also avoids the opposite extreme, that places too much emphasis on the goodness of human nature, that underestimates the harm done to humanity by the Fall. That would lead to the view that salvation is possible though one’s own efforts.

All catechesis on the life of grace has to avoid these two positions. It has to accept that human nature is flawed and wounded by sin, but not fatally so. By doing so it accepts that we can and must participate in our own salvation by our own efforts, but that we cannot achieve it without being joined in communion to the incarnate Word of God, who then enables our weakened nature to begin living His new life.

Pope John Paul II summed up the Catholic understanding in his letter written on the threshold of the new millennium. He said that our catechesis must always reflect that ‘essential principle of the Christian view of life: the primacy of grace…God of course asks us really to cooperate with His grace, and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the Kingdom. But it is fatal to forget that ‘without Christ we can do nothing’ (Novo Millennio Ineunte 38)

What is the life of grace?

We must avoid the extremes. What, then, must we teach? We teach that the life of grace is communion with God. It is a life in union with Him made possible by the Incarnation. Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, united himself with our humanity so that we could have this union with God. St Paul described it as becoming adopted children of God and true heirs of all the love he wishes to give us (Rom 8:15-17). In Roman times, an adopted son gained all the rights and privileges of a natural son, losing all that belonged to his former life. He became a true member of the family into which he was adopted, and was a real co-heir with other sons of his father’s estates, and any debts form his former life were cancelled. The life of grace, then, is life as true members of God’s Trinitarian family.

We begin by teaching that point. Then we can move on to consider something further. We needed to be redeemed from the weakness and corruption caused by the Fall and the presence of sin in the world. For this, the Son of God’s uniting humanity to Himself at the Incarnation was necessary. But more was needed. The Son of God, in His human body, then subjected Himself to death for our sake, and in doing so He actually destroyed death, which could take no hold on Him as He is Life itself. We recall this just after the Consecration at Mass when we say, ‘Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.’ Through his death, Jesus destroyed death for us, and through his resurrection he made sharing in his life possible. In the sacrament of Baptism, we are joined to him. We are made part of his body the Church and so death is destroyed in us also. Our life is a new one.

It is this twofold aspect of salvation which can be lost in explanation at times. God the Son not only redeems us from death, but also enables us to live as adopted sons and daughters of God. And He does all this through His union with us in the flesh.

Purpose, Balance, & Means

What we have, I think, are three teaching points which we will want to cover in our presentation on the life of grace.

Purpose

Firstly, then, we need to be clear about the nature and purpose of the life of grace, which is communion with Christ, and through Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We have seen that by grace, the free gift of God, we are given a share in his own life, the Trinitarian and familial communion of Father, Son and Spirit. We share in this life in the way proper to our created nature – an adopted way rather than a natural way. The grace given to us for this is supernatural. In other words, we are being given more than is due to our nature – even without considering the sinfulness of it. There would have been no way for us to gain this life without the Incarnation – and given our sinfulness, no way for death to have been destroyed without Life Himself subjecting Himself to it, which broke it to pieces and allowed us to share His own life.

But what can be sometimes overlooked is that, although we need this life of grace here and now to enable us to live in the world with integrity and honor, we need it much more to live in the presence of God at the end of this life. Without growth in grace here and now, we shall find it impossible to tolerate being in the presence of Love and Goodness Himself in the hereafter, let alone find pleasure and fulfillment. ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31). Jesus warns us of the dangers of failure to grow in grace in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30). To live in communion with Christ is to experience the life of grace He gives us – and conversely, to break communion with Christ is to lose it.

Balance

Secondly, we ensure that in our catechesis a balance is kept so that we maintain a Catholic understanding of grace. Humanity is unable to redeem itself, but our human nature is not damaged beyond the point of no return. We are truly enabled to respond to God’s love in communion with Christ; what we do, and say and even think is of true significance when it is done in Christ, contributing to his redemptive work in the world.

Means

Thirdly, the sacraments of the Church are our normal means of keeping open the channels of grace in us – the life of grace is nourished and strengthened in us by this means and we are actually enabled to cooperate with Christ in his work of salvation…The whole understanding of how the gift of grace is transmitted to us through Christ’s and the Spirit’s work in the normal sacramental actions of the Church, and its reality in enabling us to cooperate with God, had not been handed on to her. She needed to hear that the Blessed Trinity has given us a share in their life of grace precisely though the sacrament of the Son and the sacramentality of His Church’s actions; this is the means God chooses to be one with us.

‘The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of His own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification.’ (CCC 1999)”

I believe in grace.  I do.  God help me, I do.  I have FELT it!  I, the least of His.  Praise Him!

How consoling!  How nourishing!  How fulfilling!  How strengthening!  Place ALL your trust in Him!  Do it!  And LIVE!!!!

Love,
Matthew

Sin, Temptation & Grace

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Introduction

“One of the most painful ordeals that God-fearing and virtuous souls are made to undergo is that of being tried by temptations. Temptations meet them at every turn and assail them from within and from without.

There is scarcely a day on which they do not experience the full truth of the words penned by St. Paul: “I do not the good that I will [i. e., that I desire to do]; but the evil which I hate, that I do. . . . To will [to do good] is present with me; but to accomplish that which is good I find not. For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do. . . . I am delighted with the law of God according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin that is in my members.” [Rom 7:15, 18-19, 22-23]

From this passage we can see that temptations assail the saint as well as the sinner. No man is exempt from their molestation. They follow us all through life like our very shadow, and they will not cease to trouble us until we have closed our eyes to this world in the hour of death.

Now, the mere fact of being tempted is in itself a heavy cross to those who are resolved to love God to the utmost capacity of their soul and are determined to keep themselves free from the stain of sin.  Sometimes they are assailed only at intervals for a short time; then again for long periods and almost continuously; sometimes only with moderate violence; at other times so vehemently and insistently that they seem to be driven to the verge of defeat and surrender. And this cross, heavy as it is in itself, is made still more so by the fact that often, when the conflict is over, they find it impossible to decide whether they have come out of it victorious and are still in the state of grace, or have gone down in defeat, rendered themselves guilty of sin and thus lost the love and friendship of God.

Not only this: two other factors often contribute to increase their disquietude and unhappiness. First, it may happen that because of a lack of proper instruction, they consider it actually sinful to be tempted; [Ed:  it’s NOT!] and second, they may consider the feelings and sensations that certain temptations, especially those of an impure nature, produce in the body as evidence and proof of willful and deliberate consent to these temptations.

From this it can easily be seen that temptations may become the source of an agonizing martyrdom to those who are poorly instructed in the subject.

And what is often the final outcome of this mistaken idea of the nature of temptations? Nothing less than this: it may lead to failure in the spiritual life. Mistaking their temptations for actual sins, and finding that in spite of their strongest resolutions they cannot keep from being tempted, many lose courage and say, “What is the use of trying any longer? I cannot keep from committing sin, do what I will; I might as well give up.” Thus, lack of proper knowledge induces a fatal discouragement and makes them relax their efforts to avoid sin. In the end, they yield easily to temptations and possibly contract the habit of sin, which may prove fatal to their eternal salvation.

Ignorance of the true nature of temptation paralyzes many a soul and exposes it to the imminent danger of eternal punishment, even though it had been destined to do great things for God and reach a high degree of eternal glory in Heaven. These considerations have prompted the writing of this treatise. It is intended to serve as a guide especially for souls who are tried by the fiery ordeal of temptations, and to point out how these can be turned into the means of greater love of God, increase of grace and merit here and endless glory hereafter.”

-Remler, CM, Rev. Francis J. (1874-1962), (2013-12-10). How to Resist Temptation (Kindle Locations 22-50). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

I believe in grace.

Love,
Matthew

Grace

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I believe in grace.  I can cite you examples in my own life, confidentially, where I have experienced the efficacious power of grace, and for which there is no other explanation I am aware of; certainly, the least of which would be my own efforts.  I believe in grace.  I rely on it desperately.  I seek it constantly.  I pray for it fervently.  I have no other hope; nor, wish any.

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-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP

“It happens whenever a group of people spend a lot of time studying the same thing. Physicists tell quantum-mechanics jokes, musicians tell voice-part jokes, and Dominicans tell virtue-ethics jokes. Often enough, a word means one thing in common parlance and something very different in a specialized context, whether that context be physics, music, or moral theology. In this particular case, we were talking about our struggles in community life, and a brother was self-deprecatingly going through a litany of ways in which he lacks self-control. Summing them up, he profoundly declared, “I am the incontinent man.” Everyone burst out laughing.

Of course, we all knew what he meant. Aristotle defines an incontinent man as someone who thinks things through and knows, in general, what he ought to do; but, when a particular action is required, he succumbs, against his better judgment, to his malformed passions.

In a certain sense, it’s strange that this should happen—strange that someone who knows what he should do, doesn’t do it. On the other hand, it’s a very common experience—one that most of us know only too well—and it’s perfectly described by St. Paul: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I hate” (Rom 7:15).

Clearly, no one wants to live in a state of incontinence. In fact, a defining trait of the incontinent man is that, although he does the wrong thing, he is unhappy about it. (This is in contrast to the truly vicious man, who does the wrong thing and wouldn’t have it any other way.) It’s encouraging, then, that Aristotle suggests that a man can, by effort and training, rise above incontinence and achieve continence, or self-control.

Continence, however, is only half the battle, according to Aristotle. In a certain sense, nothing has changed about the way a continent man approaches an ethical choice. He still reasons to the same correct ethical conclusion, and he still feels the same base passions against it; it’s just that, now, he is able to subdue his passions and do the right thing. Obviously, doing the right thing is better than failing to do so, but is this the best we can hope for? Does the ideal of the moral life amount to gritting our teeth and fighting against our lower appetites, constantly tiptoeing our way through a minefield of passions?

Unfortunately, many really do see the moral life this way. In fact, following Immanuel Kant, some claim that the only way we can know we have done a good act for a good reason, and not from some selfish motive, is by fighting against our natural inclinations. On this view—which many well-intentioned Christians implicitly accept—the moral life is a constant battle against ourselves. The good life is reduced to a mere external fidelity to the Commandments, a joyless battle against disordered passion.

Unlike Kant, Aristotle doesn’t regard continence as the height of human virtue. For him, the truly virtuous man is the man who not only does the right thing because he knows it’s the right thing, but also does it with ease—that is, with the help, not the hindrance, of his passions. In fact, a truly virtuous man’s natural appetites are so attuned to the good that he hardly even needs to deliberate about moral actions. There is nothing pulling him in some other direction. For such a man, Aristotle says, virtue has become “a second nature.”

As inspiring as this picture of the virtuous man is, Aristotle seems to imply that if we aren’t raised this way from birth, we’re simply out of luck. Once we let any of our baser appetites go astray, there’s not a whole lot we can do except constantly struggle not to give in to them. Needless to say, this is not a very happy prospect.

Thankfully, this is where St. Thomas takes up the baton and gives us more hope.

He agrees with Aristotle about the dim prospect of becoming virtuous by natural means. No purely human agency, according to St. Thomas, can heal our moral brokenness. Fortunately, though, the grace of God is intimately at work in our lives, transforming and perfecting our nature, and the power of this grace can lift us out of whatever rut we may be stuck in.

This supernatural perspective teaches us two things. First, while we must continue to strive against the things that lead us into sin, we need not struggle alone. Second, if we try to go it alone, relying only on natural supports, we are ultimately bound to fail.

The grace of God doesn’t just help us attain true virtue; it makes such virtue possible. Even better, it makes the moral life something more than just a constant grind, a mere assent of the will against the angry protest of our passions. It makes it the right ordering of our entire humanity—intellect, will, and emotions—into the person God created us to be. This way, what we know we should do is not only what God calls us to do, but also what we truly desire.

This idyllic portrait of the virtuous man can be hard to accept for those of us still slogging it out in the realm of continence and incontinence. Yet we have the witness of the saints to give us hope. Though well aware of their sinfulness, and even beset by temptations, the saints are not grim figures who stoically suppress all of their passions. Rather, they are caught up in the love of God. They joyfully and wholeheartedly follow wherever He leads, depending on His grace every step of the way.”

Love,
Matthew