Category Archives: Theology

Invitations to demonic possession

“”Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.” -1 Peter 5:8–9

“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.” -St Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002

“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.” -Pope Francis, Halloween 2014

How Do People Become Possessed by Demons?

Exorcists are in general agreement as to how a person becomes possessed by demons. As one exorcist says, “The darkness is there, waiting to receive an invitation.

Exorcists identify three categories of activities and experiences that open a person to demonic possession. We can think of these categories as doors for demonic attacks: they invite demons in, but they do not always result in possession. In fact, as we shall see, full-fledged demonic possession may be extremely rare—depending upon whose opinion we accept.

The first category is referred to as patterns of sin. This does not mean simply being a sinner, since all of us are sinners. Rather, this refers to people who have a habit of serious sin that they like, are attached to, and have no desire or intention of stopping. There is a conscious decision to give one’s self over to the sin. Demons can see this as an invitation to their activity.

The second category of influences that invite demons into one’s life is the occult. Occult practices include Satanism, the use of tarot cards and the Ouija board, and consulting psychics and mediums. This also includes necromancy, the attempt to consult with spirits of the dead for the sake of learning hidden knowledge or future events.

Being a victim of trauma or abuse is a third category of experience that can open the door to demonic possession. The trauma may be witnessing a murder, suicide, or horrific accident; the abuse may be sexual, physical, or psychological.

One exorcist explains that those who go through these experiences can end up living in the dark emotions of anger, rage, resentment, and revenge. He stressed the importance of such victims getting the psychological and spiritual help that they need, in order to have some degree of healing. If they do not, those emotions can weaken their relationship with God, and simultaneously be an opening to a relationship with evil spirits.”

-from the rite of excorcism

Psalm 53

God, by Your name save me,
and by Your might defend my cause.
God, hear my prayer;
hearken to the words of my mouth.

For haughty men have risen up against me,
and fierce men seek my life;
they set not God before their eyes.
See, God is my helper;
the Lord sustains my life.

Turn back the evil upon my foes;
in your faithfulness destroy them.
Freely will I offer You sacrifice;
I will praise Your name, Lord, for its goodness,

Because from all distress you have rescued me,
and my eyes look down upon my enemies.

======

Save your servant.
Who trusts in you, my God.

Let him/her find in You, Lord, a fortified tower.
In the face of the enemy.

Let the enemy have no power over him/her.
And the son of iniquity be powerless to harm him/her.

Lord, send him/her aid from your holy place.
And watch over him/her from Sion.

Lord, heed my prayer.
And let my cry be heard by You…

…I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the mysteries of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by the coming of our Lord for judgment, that you tell me by some sign your name, and the day and hour of your departure. I command you, moreover, to obey me to the letter, I who am a minister of God despite my unworthiness; nor shall you be emboldened to harm in any way this creature of God, or the bystanders, or any of their possessions…

…I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every Satanic power of the enemy, every spectre from hell, and all your fell companions; in the name of our Lord Jesus +Christ. Begone and stay far from this creature of God.+ For it is He Who commands you, He Who flung you headlong from the heights of heaven into the depths of hell. It is He Who commands you, He Who once stilled the sea and the wind and the storm. Hearken, therefore, and tremble in fear, Satan, you enemy of the faith, you foe of the human race, you begetter of death, you robber of life, you corrupter of justice, you root of all evil and vice; seducer of men, betrayer of the nations, instigator of envy, font of avarice, fomentor of discord, author of pain and sorrow. Why, then, do you stand and resist, knowing as you must that Christ the Lord brings your plans to nothing? Fear Him, who in Isaac was offered in sacrifice, in Joseph sold into bondage, slain as the paschal lamb, crucified as man, yet triumphed over the powers of hell. (The three signs of the cross which follow are traced on the brow of the possessed person). Begone, then, in the name of the Father, + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit. Give place to the Holy Spirit by this sign of the holy + cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever…

…I adjure you, ancient serpent, by the judge of the living and the dead, by your Creator, by the Creator of the whole universe, by Him Who has the power to consign you to hell, to depart forthwith in fear, along with your savage minions, from this servant of God, N., who seeks refuge in the fold of the Church. I adjure you again, + (on the brow) not by my weakness but by the might of the Holy Spirit, to depart from this servant of God, N. , whom almighty God has made in His image. Yield, therefore, yield not to my own person but to the minister of Christ. For it is the power of Christ that compels you, Who brought you low by His cross. Tremble before that mighty arm that broke asunder the dark prison walls and led souls forth to light. May the trembling that afflicts this human frame, + (on the breast) the fear that afflicts this image + (on the brow) of God, descend on you. Make no resistance nor delay in departing from this man, for it has pleased Christ to dwell in man. Do not think of despising my command because you know me to be a great sinner. It is God + Himself who commands you; the majestic Christ + Who commands you. God the Father + commands you; God the Son + commands you; God the Holy + Spirit commands you. The mystery of the cross commands +you. The faith of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and of all the saints commands + you. The blood of the martyrs commands + you. The continence of the confessors commands + you. The devout prayers of all holy men and women command + you. The saving mysteries of our Christian faith command + you.

Depart, then, transgressor. Depart, seducer, full of lies and cunning, foe of virtue, persecutor of the innocent. Give place, abominable creature, give way, you monster, give way to Christ, in Whom you found none of your works. For He has already stripped you of your powers and laid waste your kingdom, bound you prisoner and plundered your weapons. He has cast you forth into the outer darkness, where everlasting ruin awaits you and your abettors. To what purpose do you insolently resist? To what purpose do you brazenly refuse? For you are guilty before almighty God, whose laws you have transgressed. You are guilty before His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom you presumed to tempt, Whom you dared to nail to the cross. You are guilty before the whole human race, to whom you proferred by your enticements the poisoned cup of death.

Therefore, I adjure you, profligate dragon, in the name of the spotless + Lamb, who has trodden down the asp and the basilisk, and overcome the lion and the dragon, to depart from this man (woman) + (on the brow), to depart from the Church of God + (signing the bystanders). Tremble and flee, as we call on the name of the Lord, before whom the denizens of hell cower, to Whom the heavenly Virtues and Powers and Dominations are subject, Whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unending cries as they sing: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. The Word made flesh + commands you; the Virgin’s Son + commands you; Jesus + of Nazareth commands you, Who once, when you despised His disciples, forced you to flee in shameful defeat from a man; and when He had cast you out you did not even dare, except by His leave, to enter into a herd of swine. And now as I adjure you in His + name, begone from this man (woman) who is His creature. It is futile to resist His + will. It is hard for you to kick against the + goad. The longer you delay, the heavier your punishment shall be; for it is not men you are condemning, but rather Him Who rules the living and the dead, Who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire…

…Therefore, I adjure you every unclean spirit, every spectre from hell, every satanic power, in the name of Jesus + Christ of Nazareth, Who was led into the desert after His baptism by John to vanquish you in your citadel, to cease your assaults against the creature whom He has formed from the slime of the earth for His own honor and glory; to quail before wretched man, seeing in him the image of almighty God, rather than his state of human frailty. Yield then to God, + Who by His servant, Moses, cast you and your malice, in the person of Pharaoh and his army, into the depths of the sea. Yield to God, + Who, by the singing of holy canticles on the part of David, His faithful servant, banished you from the heart of King Saul. Yield to God, + Who condemned you in the person of Judas Iscariot, the traitor. For He now flails you with His divine scourges, + He in whose sight you and your legions once cried out: “What have we to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come to torture us before the time?” Now He is driving you back into the everlasting fire, He who at the end of time will say to the wicked: “Depart from me, you accursed, into the everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” For you, 0 evil one, and for your followers there will be worms that never die. An unquenchable fire stands ready for you and for your minions, you prince of accursed murderers, father of lechery, instigator of sacrileges, model of vileness, promoter of heresies, inventor of every obscenity.

Depart, then, + impious one, depart, + accursed one, depart with all your deceits, for God has willed that man should be His temple. Why do you still linger here? Give honor to God the Father + almighty, before Whom every knee must bow. Give place to the Lord Jesus + Christ, Who shed His most precious blood for man. Give place to the Holy + Spirit, Who by His blessed apostle Peter openly struck you down in the person of Simon Magus; Who cursed your lies in Annas and Saphira; Who smote you in King Herod because he had not given honor to God; Who by His apostle Paul afflicted you with the night of blindness in the magician Elyma, and by the mouth of the same apostle bade you to go out of Pythonissa, the soothsayer. Begone, + now! Begone, + seducer! Your place is in solitude; your abode is in the nest of serpents; get down and crawl with them. This matter brooks no delay; for see, the Lord, the ruler comes quickly, kindling fire before Him, and it will run on ahead of Him and encompass His enemies in flames. You might delude man, but God you cannot mock. It is He Who casts you out, from Whose sight nothing is hidden. It is He Who repels you, to Whose might all things are subject. It is He Who expels you, He Who has prepared everlasting hellfire for you and your angels, from Whose mouth shall come a sharp sword, Who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire…

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Love, and Divine protection,
Matthew

Sin of indifference

Can we find the happiness we seek in this life?

Man’s sin-damaged nature has something to do with religious indifference.

One person who understood this profoundly was the physicist and mathematician Blaise Pascal, who has often been referred to as the father of probability theory. He could also be justly called the father of modern Christian apologetics.

Few Christian thinkers have thought more deeply and written more astutely about the problem of religious indifference than he. He begins his reflections in the Pensées by beginning with human nature and the fact of our wretchedness without God. We are, to put it bluntly, never satisfied—even to extent of being miserable.

We are broken; and that is why we are always chasing happiness.

And yet we never quite find it in this life, do we?

We can never rest with anything. Although we are never satisfied completely, the closer we become to God the more satisfied we become.

The only antidote to our misery, Pascal concludes, is religion; that is, a relationship—an intimate friendship—with God. We accomplish that most readily by seeking to know and love Jesus Christ since “there is salvation in no one else.”

Only by knowing Jesus can we make sense of life and death, God and humanity. The problem is however that our individualistic modern era wants to resist the antidote. “Men despise religion,” writes Pascal, “[T]hey hate it, and fear it is true.”

And it is because of this fear and loathing of religion that men turn to two distinct strategies of avoidance: diversion and indifference.

Our current concern is with indifference—the end result of diversion and a distinct problem in and of itself.

Whereas diversion involves an effort to distract oneself, indifference involves a lack of effort to sincerely seek a relationship with God.

Pascal is rattled by man’s indifference toward the search for God because, as he rightly sees, how we should best live hinges above all on whether or not eternal happiness is truly possible. “All our actions and thoughts,” he writes, “must follow such different paths, according to whether there is hope of eternal blessings or not….” And yet, man is indifferent. Sin has taken hold, and he could not care less to remedy the effects.

Sin is both the cause and the effect of religious indifference.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Sinning boldly without fear of God

“There is good reason to be astonished that men should sin so boldly in the sight of Heaven and earth and show so little fear of the most high God. Yet it is a much greater cause of astonishment that while we multiply our iniquities beyond the sands of the sea and have so great a need for God to be kind and indulgent, we are nevertheless so demanding ourselves. Such indignity and such injustice! We want God to suffer everything from us, and we are not able to suffer anything from anyone. We exaggerate beyond measure the faults committed against us; worms that we are, we take the slightest pressure exerted on us to be an enormous attack. Meanwhile, we count as nothing what we undertake proudly against the sovereign majesty of God and the rights of his empire! Blind and wretched mortals: will we always be so sensitive and delicate? Will we never open our eyes to the truth? Will we never understand that the one who does injury to us is always much more to be pitied than are we who receive the injury? . . . Since those who do evil to us are unhealthy in mind, why do we embitter them by our cruel vengeance? Why do we not rather seek to bring them back to reason by our patience and mildness? Yet we are far removed from these charitable dispositions. Far from making the effort at self-command that would enable us to endure an injury, we think that we are lowering ourselves if we do not take pride in being delicate in points of honor. We even think well of ourselves for our extreme sensitivity. And we carry our resentment beyond all measure . . . All of this must stop . . . We must take care of what we say and bridle our malicious anger and unruly tongues. For there is a God in Heaven who has told us that he will demand a reckoning of our ‘careless words’ (Matt. 12:36): what recompense shall he exact for those which are harmful and malicious? We ought, therefore, to revere his eyes and his presence. Let us ponder the fact that he will judge us as we have judged our neighbor.”  — Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, p. 49-51

Love & repentance,
Matthew

The Cross

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

Presence of God – O Holy Spirit, teach me the value of suffering, so that I may esteem it and love it as a means of sanctification.

MEDITATION

We must be thoroughly convinced that if the Holy Spirit works in our souls to assimilate us to Christ, He can do so only by opening to us the way of the Cross. Jesus is Jesus Crucified; therefore, there can be no conformity to Him except by the Cross, and we shall never enter into the depths of the spiritual life except by entering into the mystery of the Cross. St. Teresa of Jesus teaches that even the highest contemplative graces are given to souls only in order to enable them to carry the Cross. “His Majesty,” says the Saint, “can do nothing greater for us than to grant us a life which is an imitation of that lived by His beloved Son. I feel certain, therefore, that these favors are given to us to strengthen our weakness, so that we may be able to imitate Him in His great sufferings” (Interior Castle also known as The Mansions, VII, 4). Yes, conformity to Jesus Crucified has more value and importance than all mystical graces! The whole spiritual life is dominated by the Cross and, as the Cross is the central point in the history of the world, so it is the central point in the history of every soul. The Cross gave us life; it will imprint upon our souls the traits of the most perfect resemblance to Jesus; the more we share in His Cross, the more shall we resemble Him and cooperate in the work of Redemption.

In order to attain sanctity, it is evident that we need the Cross. To accept God’s will always and in every circumstance implies the renouncement of one’s own will; it is impossible to be conformed to Jesus in everything, “Who in this life had no other pleasure, nor desired any, than to do the will of His Father” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel I; 13,4), without renouncing one’s own selfish pleasures. And all this means: detachment, crosses, sacrifice, self-denial. It means setting out steadfastly on the way indicated by Jesus Himself: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). This is the path which the Holy Spirit urges and invites us to follow. Whenever we find ourselves looking for things that are easier, more commodious, or more honorable; whenever we notice that we are satisfying our self-love, our pride, or see that we are attached to our own will, let us remind ourselves that all this is far removed from the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and, what is worse, it is an obstacle to His action in us.

COLLOQUY

“O Spirit of truth, make me know Your Word; teach me to remember all He has said; enlighten me, guide me, make me conformable to Jesus as an ‘alter Christus,’ another Christ, by giving me His virtues, especially His patience, humility, and obedience; let me take part in His redemptive work by making me understand and love the Cross.

“O Holy Spirit, I come before You like a little green fruit which will ripen in the sun, like a bit of straw which is to be burned, like a drop of dew to be absorbed by the sun, like an ignorant child who must be taught. O Holy Spirit, giving Yourself to little souls, poor and humble, I present myself to You as one of these, and in this disposition I invoke You: ‘Veni, Sancte Spiritus, sanctifica me!’ Come, Holy Spirit, sanctify me! My desire for holiness is so great! Sanctify me Yourself; make haste to make me holy and a great saint, without my knowing it, in the self-effacement of my daily life.

“I wish to cast myself into You, O Holy Spirit, divine Fire, so that You will complete my purification, destroy my miserable self-love and transform me wholly into love. It is for this that I beseech You to come upon me and direct me according to Your good pleasure. ‘Dirige ados nostros in beneplacito tuo.’ Direct our actions according to Your good pleasure.

“O consuming Fire, divine Love in person, inflame me, burn me, consume me, destroy all self-love in me, transform me entirely into love, bring me to the ‘nothing’ that I may possess the ‘All’; bring me to the summit of the ‘mountain’ where dwells only the honor and glory of God, where all is ‘peace and joy’ in You, O Holy Spirit! Grant that here below—through suffering and loving contemplation—I may arrive at the most intimate union with the Blessed Three, until I go to contemplate Them in the face-to-face vision of heaven, in the peace, joy, and security of the ‘perpetual banquet’” (Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.).”

Love & strength to endure all the crosses we must endure. Put your faith in Him, and NEVER WAIVER!!!! Be as rock!!! The ultimate thing Satan desires is our despair!!!! Resist him!! Solid in your faith!!!,
Matthew

Suffering


-adapted from Br. Luke VanBerkum, OP

“The onslaught of television shows, movies, advertisements, and pop culture can skew the perception of a normal human life. We unconsciously form an idea of what there is to expect in life: peak physical fitness and attractiveness, perfect love, and material happiness. Young people especially can become enamored with this picture, making it the standard of a fulfilling life. But this ignores a very real aspect of our existence: suffering…

By Jesus, we are transformed from dying on the cross. As St. Peter says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24). By Christ’s death and resurrection, we are freed from original sin, and life with God in heaven is made possible.

While we wait in hope for heavenly glory, we suffer during this life on earth because of the effects of sin. Our suffering, though, is not in vain. It is a participation in Jesus’s own suffering: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps” (1 Pet 2:21). Following in Christ’s footsteps by offering up our suffering to God prepares us to continue following in His footsteps unto eternal life. (Ed. Treasury of Merit!!)

Must we suffer with Christ?… Our physical deterioration is inevitable as we age. Wheelchairs and the return of diapers are in our future. Bed baths, walking with a walker, Alzheimer’s, and dementia are all real possibilities. The helplessness and reliance on others that mark this later stage of life can be frightening, and so it is easy to ignore it until we are in the clutches of old age. (…whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Ps 121:1-2)

How can we prepare spiritually for this bodily suffering? With constant practice over a lifetime, we can form a habit of prayer, an awareness of the presence of God, and firmly rooted virtue. Moreover, the Church has given us this season of Lent to consider suffering, particularly the greatest mystery of suffering: GOD suffering on the cross. Contemplating the cross now…prepares us for when our body becomes our cross. Staying close to Christ and His cross transforms this suffering into an eternal reward. Embracing the cross, we are ready to follow Christ into eternal life, where one day our bodies will be glorified supernaturally as we share in God’s life.”

Love, joy, hope,
Matthew

The First Deadly Sin: Pride

Through Pride, Satan fell.

1 “The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. 3 Are you wiser than Daniel ? Is no secret hidden from you? 4 By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. 5 By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud. 6 “ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, 7 I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor. 8 They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas. 9 Will you then say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a mortal, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you. 10 You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ ” 11 The word of the LORD came to me: 12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. 19 All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’ ” -Ezekiel 28:1-19


-by Br Nicholas Hartman, OP

“…St. Thomas wrote that we encounter pride not principally in what we think, but in what we desire (ST II-II 162, a.1 ad 2). Through pride, someone desires something disproportionate. What one thinks does matter, however, since by coveting what exceeds him the proud man severs the strings of his swelling appetites from reality. Frequently because of this severing, he distorts his perception of himself and what is good for him. Instead, conceding both his deficiencies and his dignity, he ought humbly to tether his appetites to reality. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him” (Luke 14:28-29).

Jesus identifies pride in the gospel of today’s Mass: “You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life” (Jn. 5:31-47). The person of Jesus is simultaneously the greatest concession to human deficiency and the greatest affirmation of human dignity. Man rightly desires eternal life and knowledge of God, but he cannot attain these unless God holds him by his right hand. Jesus comes on account of our sinfulness and is the only one who can raise us to life with God. Yet the Pharisees want this life without Jesus.

Similarly, we may try to seek our happiness without Christ, but this is more than tenuous: it is impossible. In an era where human ingenuity has furthered the aims of human health, technology, and scientific knowledge, we have increasingly yielded to the desire to do without God both in society and in our daily lives. Nevertheless, in our quest for self-reliance we are increasingly confounded by questions of an ultimate nature and of a purpose to life…our grandiose desires result in less-than-picturesque outcomes. We either fall far short of our intended goal, or we despair, winding up unhappy. To remedy this, we must modify our desires. Of course we should desire nothing less than eternal happiness. Nevertheless, we should desire this with the help of grace and in the life to come. Jesus promises this happiness, and because we cannot attain it on our own, he gives us the grace. If we seek this grace, we can be confident that he will give it.”

Love, pray for me to especially be given the grace to overcome this sin, this greatest of temptations mine. Lord, make me humble!!! (…with thanks to St Augustine, “But, not yet?” 🙂 )
Matthew

The Light of Conscience

In Catholicism, the conscience is the supreme authority for the individual. Not the Pope, not bishops, not Church law, not even Scripture, except where all of these inform and form the conscience. In a manner of speaking, the buck stops at the conscience, in Catholicism. Having revealed that, you knew this was coming didn’t you, (Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, Patroness of Lake Wobegon, MN, pray for us!) therein lies the obligation to form one’s conscience the best one possibly can.

In this fictional, but all too realistic and abbreviated account, our protagonist, Tom, let’s call him, is in a profound moral quandary.  Ill-catechized, and what’s more, having consciously and incorrectly chosen heresy, probably due to his faulty/too, too limited catechesis, his moral decision making is faulty, at best, especially for the real life challenges we all face, and our fictional protagonist now faces, in particular.  This unfortunate circumstance will inevitably lead Tom to incorrect conclusions/sin.  Bad thinking leads to bad action.  Just ask the victims of the Nazis, or the Communists, or the Khmer Rouge.


-by Br Barnabs McHenry, OP

“…According to St. Thomas (Aquinas), this other Tom finds himself in an eminently unenviable position. On the one hand, his conscience, formed by faulty reasoning, does oblige him to act. Our decisions are based upon our knowledge, even our objectively faulty knowledge and ways of thinking. To decide against one’s knowledge and reasoning process would constitute an internal contradiction of the self. If Tom believes that the situation calls for him to order his mother’s death by lethal injection, then his conscience binds him to this action. Aquinas says his will would be evil—he would be sinning—if it acted against his conscience, though it may objectively be malformed. His bad conscience binds him to sign his mother’s life away.

On the other hand, Aquinas teaches that though the bad conscience may bind, it does not excuse the person. The exception to this principle is the case where a person is morally ignorant through no fault of his or her own. Tom, however, had a Catholic education. Thus, he can be legitimately expected to know that innocent life cannot be harmed for any reason. Indeed, every person can know this truth through the natural law. Therefore, Tom sins if he abides by his bad conscience and carries out the evil action he perceives as good. An objective evil simply cannot become a good because one is under the mistaken impression that it is good.

The light of our human reason, dimmed by sin, is prone to fail. Given this fact, we have two roads set before us. The road of pride and popular relativism ignores this weakness, grasping onto the autonomy of our fragile wills. Conversely, the road of humility acknowledges, as the Angelic Doctor writes, that “the goodness of the human will depends on the Eternal Law much more than on human reason: and when human reason fails we must have recourse to the Eternal Reason” (ST I-II, q. 19, a. 4). We have a pressing need to adequately form our consciences so that they may be ever more in accord with the Eternal Law.

We can be certain of two things. First, a virtuous option always exists, even if it is difficult. Second, God will always offer us the grace to do that act of difficult virtue. In Tom’s case, if he had undertaken the difficult work and formed his conscience according to the Eternal Law, then he would not choose poorly in the sticky situation described above.

In these remaining weeks of Lent, a good practice to avoid finding ourselves in Tom’s predicament may be to seek more earnestly to educate our consciences according to the light of Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Such an endeavor will require we undertake a killing—the death of our intellectual self-sufficiency and independent discernment of what is good and bad. As one hymn puts it:

O teach us all Thy perfect will

to understand and to fulfill.

When human insight fails give light

that will direct our steps aright.”

Love,
Matthew

The God Who does not feel


-by Br Isaiah Beiter, OP

“In this season of penance, we ask God to have mercy. Human mercy involves compassion, looking upon someone’s misery and feeling it as your own. But God, in His eternity, can’t feel misery—he can’t feel anything. I don’t mean that the Holy Trinity does not comprehend what misery is, nor that He does not love. He made our heart in His image (Ps 94:7-11):

They say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice.”
Understand, you stupid people!
You fools, when will you be wise?
Does the One Who shaped the ear not hear?
The One Who formed the eye not see?
Does the One Who guides nations not rebuke?
The One Who teaches man not have knowledge?
The Lord knows the plans of man;
they are like a fleeting breath.

, and He knows most intimately all of our experiences, but not by enduring them Himself. This is because God doesn’t change: He perfectly enjoys an unchanging and infinite happiness beyond happiness. Feelings imply changeability and dependence on another. God is above this.

But don’t we hear about the depth of God’s feeling heart through His prophets? Don’t we hear God cry out, “I writhe in pain!” (Jer 4:10) or that “the Lord takes pleasure in His people” (Ps 149:4)? Does this contradict the unchangeability of God?

No. God speaks this way not to say that we are pulling on His heart, but that His heart is freely given to us: “I have graven you on the palms of My hands” (Is 49:16). The eternal Godhead doesn’t feel sorrow for our misery in the way that we do, but He establishes a covenant with us: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God” (Ex 6:6–7). His mercy is no weaker for the fact that the Divinity has no heartstrings to pull. In fact, it is all the stronger because it flows from a choice that is infinitely free.

That should have been enough for us, but it wasn’t. God’s people continued to complain that He didn’t care for them, that He had tricked or abandoned them: “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword?” (Num 14:3). So all the passages from the prophets above, and many others, express God’s repeated pleas to his wayward people, trying to convey to them the depth of His love.

Consider what it means that God didn’t stop there. If it wasn’t enough for us to know His peace, now He takes upon Himself the ability to feel our misery and death. literally. If it wasn’t enough that He had made a covenant with us, He becomes a covenant Himself. For the Son of God became flesh, the Son to Whom it is said, “I have given you as a covenant to the people” (Is 49:8). God is still unchangeable in His divinity, but in the assumed humanity of Jesus Christ, He truly feels our misery and pain—even unto death. And the blood of this covenant stands forever.

What misery, what mystery, what mercy! He took upon Himself the Lent that belonged to us, and now we follow Him through it, yearning to see His Easter—and call it our own.”

Love,
Matthew

#MeToo: Femininity in the Song of Songs

In the Song of Songs, the eros in Scripture, the groom, the masculine, refers to the feminine as “sister”. While this can be most disorienting to modern readers, one must read this not in terms of genetic familiality, but in terms of the family of man. We are all brother and sister to each other. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, Cain replied to the Lord. (Gen 4:9) Yes, you are. And, your sister’s, too, though your parents had no daughter. There are many sisters for whom you, man, are most certainly keeper.

“…”Thus I am in his eyes as the one who has found peace!” 319 John Paul noted that the reason for her peace is that her groom reread the language of the body in truth and therefore discovered the inviolability of her as a person. 320 While this sounds complicated, it is not. She presented herself to the eyes of the man as the “master of her own mystery.” 321 Because she is a person, no one can act on her behalf. She is free to make a gift of herself, and this freedom shows her dignity. He may not choose for her or impose his will upon her.

The groom is aware of this, as indicated by the way he speaks of her. He says, “A garden closed you are, my sister, bride, a garden closed, a fountain sealed.” 322 She is a gift to be received, not an object to be grasped. Because the bride is the “master of the intimate mystery of her own femininity,” she alone can unveil the mystery and make the gift of herself. 323 On his part, the groom is required to have purity not only in his actions, but in his intentions, so as to respect her inviolability.

Because he is conscious that she is a gift, she freely gives herself and responds by saying, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” 324 John Paul continued, “The bride knows that ‘his desire’ is for her. She goes to meet him with the readiness of the gift of self. The love that unites them is of a spiritual and sensual nature together.” 325 This demonstrates why a man cannot love a woman properly as a bride without first loving her as a sister.

After speaking about the woman being a garden locked and a fountain sealed, the love poetry progresses to what John Paul considered the closure and crowning of everything in the Song of Songs. 326 The bride declares, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death.” 327 John Paul exclaimed, “Here we reach in a certain sense the peak of a declaration of love.” 328 She opens to him because he is ready to commit his entire life to her and love her unto death…Earthly love— no matter how intoxicating— is not the ultimate fulfillment of the human heart.”

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 1552-1580, 1588). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

319 Song 8: 10; 109: 4; Cf. 110: 2.
320 Cf. TOB 110: 8.
321 TOB 110: 7.
322 Song 4: 12.
323 TOB 111: 6.
324 TOB 110: 8; Song 2: 16, 6: 3.
325 TOB 111: 5.
326 Cf. TOB 111: 6.
327 Song 8: 6.
328 TOB 111: 6.

Love,
Matthew

Truth from the body

“…when judging the morality of any sexual act, this is the question that must be considered: Am I expressing God’s love with my body? 296

God’s love is free, total, faithful, and life-giving. However, modern sexuality is often an inversion of all this: Instead of being free, it is often paid for in prostitution, demanded in sexual abuse, and driven by addiction. Instead of being total, it is often reduced to “hookups,” self-gratification, and empty encounters online. Instead of being faithful, it is often degraded by affairs both physical and fantasized. Instead of being fruitful, it is often contracepted, sterilized, and aborted.

The great sign that God created to be an image of His love for humanity has been systematically dismantled. The task of the Christian is to reconstruct it so that the human body can again become the visible sign of God’s invisible love. How is this possible?

By telling the truth with our bodies.

Because of its spousal meaning, the body is capable of expressing love. But it can also communicate the opposite. Because of this, John Paul spoke of the “language of the body.” Not to be confused with “body language,” which even animals can express through fear, aggression, or excitement, the body speaks the language of personhood; it speaks truth about our call to love like God. This is good news, not a dour list of moral regulations! In fact, Michael Waldstein points out that the Theology of the Body “is not primarily an admonition to follow the law of the body, but a persuasive proclamation of the gospel of the body.” 297

In John Paul’s words, we can evaluate the morality of a sexual act by whether or not a couples’ act possesses “the character of a truthful sign.” 298 For example, during the sexual act within marriage, the bodies of the spouses speak the truth. The body is saying, “I am completely yours. I give myself to you.” The total gift of the body corresponds with the total gift of the person. However, just as the body is capable of speaking the truth, it is also capable of lying. Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is one such example. The bodies are saying, “I am completely yours. I give myself to you.” But in reality, no total gift of self is taking place.

Even though a dating couple might not intend to be deceitful in their relationship, sexual intimacy outside of marriage is a lie in the language of the body. It is not merely that sexual intimacy belongs in marriage, but that intercourse is marital. The words “I take you as my wife/ as my husband” can only be fulfilled by sexual intercourse. 299 The wedding vows become flesh as the words pass on to the reality.

Although we are the authors of the language of the body, this does not mean we can make its meaning relative, determining for ourselves what is good and evil. The subjective expression should correspond with the objective reality. 300 This can be difficult, because John Paul noted that concupiscence brings about many errors in rereading the language of the body. 301 We’re tempted to bend the truth, and this tendency does not end when one enters marriage.

Husbands and wives must be diligent in expressing the truth in and through their bodies. In fact, they have a special duty to do so. Because the body is capable of speaking a language, John Paul noted that husbands and wives are capable of offering a testimony worthy of true prophets. 302 A prophet is someone “who expresses with human words the truth that comes from God.” 303 Their job, as a married couple, is to “proclaim exactly this ‘language of the body,’ reread in the truth.” 304

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 1457-1498). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

296 Cf. Man and Woman He Created Them, 122.
297 Ibid., 127.
298 TOB 37: 6.
299 C Cf. TOB 104: 7; 105: 2,6; 107: 5. f.
300 TOB 103: 2.
301 Cf. TOB 107: 3.
302 Cf. TOB 104: 1; 105: 2; 106: 4.
303 TOB 105: 2.
304 105: 2; cf. 104: 8.

Love,
Matthew