Category Archives: Theology

Perfect Resignation to the Divine Will….

“Resignation to the divine will is one of the last and highest attainments of the Christian life. It is what is ultimately to be aimed at, as essential to comfort here–and happiness hereafter.

The Scriptures, daily meditated on, will supply us with instruction.

When we have genuine love to God, we shall be led to such an acquiescence in His wisdom and goodness–that we shall choose His will to take place, rather than ours. And the thought of how soon all things shall be set right in eternity, and that He will make all things work together for our good in this life–will reconcile the mind to anything that God pleases.

In Christ Himself, this resignation was perfect, “Not My will, but may Your will be done!” (Luke 22:42), and as far as we can trust in Him for grace–so far we may receive grace out of His fullness.

“Oh, let us beg for grace to lie as clay in the hands of Infinite Wisdom, Who knows how . . .
to humble our pride,
to bend our proud wills, and
to conform us to the likeness of His beloved Son.”

(Joseph Milner, 1780)””

Love,
Matthew

Will the saved rejoice in the sufferings of the damned? – ST., Suppl., Q. 94

SUMMA THEOLOGIAE, SUPPLEMENT

Question 94. The relations of the saints towards the damned

Article 1. Whether the blessed in heaven will see the sufferings of the damned?

Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed in heaven will not see the sufferings of the damned. For the damned are more cut off from the blessed than wayfarers. But the blessed do not see the deeds of wayfarers: wherefore a gloss on Isaiah 63:16, “Abraham hath not known us,” says: “The dead, even the saints, know not what the living, even their own children, are doing” [St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis xiii, xv]. Much less therefore do they see the sufferings of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, perfection of vision depends on the perfection of the visible object: wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 4) that “the most perfect operation of the sense of sight is when the sense is most disposed with reference to the most beautiful of the objects which fall under the sight.” Therefore, on the other hand, any deformity in the visible object redounds to the imperfection of the sight. But there will be no imperfection in the blessed. Therefore they will not see the sufferings of the damned wherein there is extreme deformity.

On the contrary, It is written (Isaiah 66:24): “They shall go out and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me”; and a gloss says: “The elect will go out by understanding or seeing manifestly, so that they may be urged the more to praise God.”

I answer that, Nothing should be denied the blessed that belongs to the perfection of their beatitude. Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.

Reply to Objection 1. This gloss speaks of what the departed saints are able to do by nature: for it is not necessary that they should know by natural knowledge all that happens to the living. But the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens both to wayfarers and to the damned. Hence Gregory says (Moral. xii) that Job’s words (14:21), “‘Whether his children come to honour or dishonour, he shall not understand,’ do not apply to the souls of the saints, because since they possess the glory of God within them, we cannot believe that external things are unknown to them.” [Concerning this Reply, Cf. I:89:8].

Reply to Objection 2. Although the beauty of the thing seen conduces to the perfection of vision, there may be deformity of the thing seen without imperfection of vision: because the images of things whereby the soul knows contraries are not themselves contrary. Wherefore also God Who has most perfect knowledge sees all things, beautiful and deformed.

Article 2. Whether the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned?
Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned. For pity proceeds from charity [Cf. II-II:30]; and charity will be most perfect in the blessed. Therefore they will most especially pity the sufferings of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, the blessed will never be so far from taking pity as God is. Yet in a sense God compassionates our afflictions, wherefore He is said to be merciful.

On the contrary, Whoever pities another shares somewhat in his unhappiness. But the blessed cannot share in any unhappiness. Therefore they do not pity the afflictions of the damned.

I answer that, Mercy or compassion may be in a person in two ways: first by way of passion, secondly by way of choice. In the blessed there will be no passion in the lower powers except as a result of the reason’s choice. Hence compassion or mercy will not be in them, except by the choice of reason. Now mercy or compassion comes of the reason’s choice when a person wishes another’s evil to be dispelled: wherefore in those things which, in accordance with reason, we do not wish to be dispelled, we have no such compassion. But so long as sinners are in this world they are in such a state that without prejudice to the Divine justice they can be taken away from a state of unhappiness and sin to a state of happiness. Consequently it is possible to have compassion on them both by the choice of the will—in which sense God, the angels and the blessed are said to pity them by desiring their salvation—and by passion, in which way they are pitied by the good men who are in the state of wayfarers. But in the future state it will be impossible for them to be taken away from their unhappiness: and consequently it will not be possible to pity their sufferings according to right reason. Therefore the blessed in glory will have no pity on the damned.

Reply to Objection 1. Charity is the principle of pity when it is possible for us out of charity to wish the cessation of a person’s unhappiness. But the saints cannot desire this for the damned, since it would be contrary to Divine justice. Consequently the argument does not prove.

Reply to Objection 2. God is said to be merciful, in so far as He succors those whom it is befitting to be released from their afflictions in accordance with the order of wisdom and justice: not as though He pitied the damned except perhaps in punishing them less than they deserve.

Article 3. Whether the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked?

Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed do not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. For rejoicing in another’s evil pertains to hatred. But there will be no hatred in the blessed. Therefore they will not rejoice in the unhappiness of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, the blessed in heaven will be in the highest degree conformed to God. Now God does not rejoice in our afflictions. Therefore neither will the blessed rejoice in the afflictions of the damned.

Objection 3. Further, that which is blameworthy in a wayfarer has no place whatever in a comprehensor. Now it is most reprehensible in a wayfarer to take pleasure in the pains of others, and most praiseworthy to grieve for them. Therefore the blessed nowise rejoice in the punishment of the damned.

On the contrary, It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge.”

Further, it is written (Isaiah 56:24): “They shall satiate [Douay: ‘They shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh.’] the sight of all flesh.” Now satiety denotes refreshment of the mind. Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked.

I answer that, A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

Reply to Objection 1. To rejoice in another’s evil as such belongs to hatred, but not to rejoice in another’s evil by reason of something annexed to it. Thus a person sometimes rejoices in his own evil as when we rejoice in our own afflictions, as helping us to merit life: “My brethren, count it all joy when you shall fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2).

Reply to Objection 2. Although God rejoices not in punishments as such, He rejoices in them as being ordered by His justice.

Reply to Objection 3. It is not praiseworthy in a wayfarer to rejoice in another’s afflictions as such: yet it is praiseworthy if he rejoice in them as having something annexed. However it is not the same with a wayfarer as with a comprehensor, because in a wayfarer the passions often forestall the judgment of reason, and yet sometimes such passions are praiseworthy, as indicating the good disposition of the mind, as in the case of shame pity and repentance for evil: whereas in a comprehensor there can be no passion but such as follows the judgment of reason.

Love & His mercy,
Matthew

Moments of Light


-before His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ grants salvation to souls by the Harrowing of Hell. Fresco, by Fra Angelico, c. 1430s


-by Br Nicholas Hartman, OP

“Do you ever have moments when you just know—in a way you did not before—that something you do all the time or a way you think about things is a bit off or wrong? Perhaps you often say things that are not quite true. Perhaps you find yourself in an immoral friendship or harbor an animus against someone unjustifiably. Maybe you fail to do something? Perhaps you rarely give alms or tithe. Maybe you have not frequented Confession in a long time or are not fully on board with the Church’s moral teachings. It could be anything, yet now you see it. Somehow you have never, or not for a long time, questioned what you did or thought. But now it is staring you in the face. Even if it should have been obvious before, now it is as obvious as when something once obscured shines in the light.

And it is disconcerting and destabilizing. Can I really let this thinking in? Am I really lying like this all the time? Am I really the good person I think I am when I am with this friend? If you entertain these thoughts any further, you know you will feel badly about yourself. Perhaps you will not change, but this thinking will spoil what you once enjoyed. Perhaps you will change and give up something you like or endure something you dislike. Perhaps you will endure humiliation or something even worse.

Often these moments of light frighten us. We think we must check them and shoo away the light. Related to these moments is a whole chapter in John’s Gospel where Jesus heals a man born blind. It is worth reading slowly and meditatively.

Once cured, the man born blind is brought to the Pharisees who are confronted with the miracle. The cured man explains, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” The miracle Jesus performs by divine power should illumine for the Pharisees the reality of His ministry’s divine origin—that ministry they have been working against. In flooding the blind man with light, Jesus also throws light onto the paths of the Pharisees, but they refuse to see and [Ed. willfully, Jn 3:19] remain in darkness about Who Jesus is and how they should receive His ministry.

We need not fear these moments of light. If we refuse them, as the Pharisees did, we shut out the light, and the darkness after is greater than before. Before healing the blind man, Jesus instructs, “We must work the works of Him Who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.” Moments of light are critical because when it is night, when we cannot see that we need a remedy, we cannot seek one. We are powerless to choose what we do not know. When these moments of light come—even a dim glimmer of light—we must act. Yet if we refuse the light, we return to a darkness we had a hand in making. After the Pharisees panic and cast out the man born blind, they question Jesus if they too are blind. Jesus responds, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” They refuse the light while claiming to see, and thus they are responsible for their blindness.

But what if we choose to see? When the light of Christ shimmers on our paths, we see our error and run to Him to banish our darkness. We could too easily think this light will destroy our happiness. But the contrary is true! We make vulnerable our hearts, dragged this way and that by sin, to One Who loves us tenderly, Who comforts and strengthens us. We bathe our minds in the light that lets us see clearly the truths about ourselves and about God. We let that light pour into our deepest parts, those hidden away even from ourselves. The light rectifies and purifies our perceptions, making them resilient to the tugging and pulling of wayward passions, especially fear and despair. We rest in Christ’s peace, stirred only by a rolling, bouncing joy rumbling from within and pouring out into our lives. A moment of light is not a threat; it is a chance! When the blind man saw physically, he also saw spiritually. Once he was cast out from the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus found him and made Himself known to him.”

Love,
Matthew

Piety & the Body

Saint Paul declared that the will of God is that each Christian knows “how to keep his own body with holiness and reverence.” 212 More than abstinence or self-restraint, piety is a deep reverence for all things sacred, including the body. If sin dulls our understanding of the meaning of the body and the value of sexuality, piety heightens our sensitivity to the dignity that the body possesses. 213 It is the crowning of chastity, and according to John Paul, “turns out to be the most essential power for keeping the body ‘with holiness.’” 214 It is the Holy Spirit Who empowers each person to view his or her body— and the bodies of others— with such reverence.

Saint Paul also explained why Christians should have such reverence for their bodies when he asked, “Do you not know your body is a temple?” 215 The Holy Spirit dwells in man and in his body as in a temple, and this Gift is what makes every human being holy. 216 Many Christians have heard so often that their body is a temple of the Holy Spirit that the phrase has become almost meaningless. Yet if one pauses to consider the reality of his or her body being a dwelling place of the Blessed Trinity, a newfound appreciation of the body can develop. This deep appreciation of the value of the body and sexuality is the only foundation upon which true purity can be built.

Through the gift of piety, one realizes that lustful indulgence or prudish repression aren’t the only two options when temptations arise. One can recognize the goodness of the body, and instead of merely restraining one’s urges, raise them toward heaven. One begins to practice the habit of quickly affirming the value of the person when concupiscence inclines us to value only the body. This may begin out of a desire to avoid offending God, but with time it blooms into a desire to glorify God in one’s body. Because of sin, this habit requires effort and does not come naturally. However, John Paul declared, “Yet, this meaning was to remain as a task given to man . . . inscribed in the depth of the human heart as a distant echo, as it were, of original innocence.” 217

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 1067-1090). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

212 1 Thess. 4: 4; Cf. TOB 54: 5.
213 Cf. TOB 57: 2, 101: 5.
214 TOB 54: 4.
215 1 Cor 6: 19 (RSVCE).
216 Cf. TOB 56: 4.
217 TOB 19: 2.

sacrifice & sensuality

It is important to recall, in comparison, in terms of vocabulary, English is like a pint glass, Hebrew is like a shot glass, a more ancient language logically more limited, and Greek is like a pitcher, or so I have been told.

“Sacrifice and sensuality are both expressions of spousal love.

John Paul pointed out that for Plato, eros “represents the inner power that draws man toward all that is good, true, and beautiful.” 128 Therefore, eros is not the problem…In the relationship between men and women, true eros draws one to the value of the other in the fullness of his or her masculinity and femininity as a person, not just to the sexual value of the body. This balanced idea of eros leaves room for ethos (the innermost values of the person). John Paul explained, “In the erotic sphere, ‘eros’ and ‘ethos’ do not diverge, are not opposed to each other, but are called to meet in the human heart and to bear fruit in this meeting.” 129 Not only is it possible to unite what is erotic to what is ethical, it is necessary. Within marriage, ethos and eros meet. 130

Although people tend to view ethics as prohibitions and commandments, it is important to unveil the deeper values that these norms protect and assure. 131 The Pope explained: “It is necessary continually to rediscover the spousal meaning of the body and the true dignity of the gift in what is “erotic.” This is the task of the human spirit, and it is by its nature an ethical task. If one does not assume this task, the very attraction of the senses and the passion of the body can stop at mere concupiscence, deprived of all ethical value, and man, male and female, does not experience that fullness of “eros,” which implies the upward impulse of the human spirit toward what is true, good, and beautiful, so that what is “erotic” also becomes true, good, and beautiful.” 132

Jesus did not come merely to redeem the souls of the lost, but to reclaim our humanity— body and soul— with all that makes us human, including our sexual desires. Therefore, the transformation of eros is an integral part of Christian life. 133 Again, this is not about dampening desire. Rather, John Paul explained that putting these principles into practice makes expressions of affection “spiritually more intense and thus enriches them.” 134

Therefore, not only are eros and agape not rivals, they rely upon each other to reach their perfection. In the words of John Paul, “Agape brings eros to fulfillment while purifying it.” 135 Or, as one Orthodox theologian explained, “Without agape, eros remains stunted, partial— finally it collapses and isn’t even eros; the fire goes out and all that remains is the original concern with the self. Such eros has never risen above self-love.” 136 Because it is rooted in self-love, unchastity is “the total defeat of eros.” 137 It is a weak and incomplete form of desire. On the other hand, “Chastity is eros in its holy form.” 138

The Catechism echoes this, saying that purity “lets us perceive the human body— ours and our neighbor’s— as a . . . manifestation of divine beauty.” 139

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 712-714,716-750). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love (Only one word in English, but you know what I mean.),
Matthew

128 TOB 47: 2.
129 TOB 47: 5.
130 Cf. TOB 101: 3.
131 Cf. TOB 47: 6.
132 TOB 48: 1.
133 Cf. TOB 47: 5.
134 TOB 128: 3.
135 TOB 113: 5.
136 Patitsas, “Chastity and Empathy,” 10.
137 Ibid., 42.
138 Ibid., 7.
139 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2519.

Lust

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” -Mt 5:28

“Jesus is obsessed with the heart because whoever wins the heart (love or lust, God or the devil) wins the mind, the eyes, the body, and the soul . . . for eternity. Actions flow from the heart and one’s destiny is forged through one’s actions. Jesus is obsessed with the heart because that is where we know and live the spousal meaning of the body. What’s at stake is the meaning of life: living in God’s image and likeness. 108

The human heart has become “a battlefield between love and concupiscence.” 109 The more concupiscence dominates the heart, the less we experience the spousal meaning of the body and the less sensitive we become to the other as a gift. 110 We begin to see others as objects to be used instead of persons to be loved, and we lose sight of the fact that others are created for their own sake, not for ours. 111

The way one person looks upon another matters, because the look expresses what is in the heart. We reveal by our looks who we are. 112 In his letter on the dignity and vocation of women, John Paul stated: “Each man must look within himself to see whether she who was entrusted to him as a sister in humanity, as a spouse, has not become in his heart an object of adultery.” 113

The Pope acknowledged that Christ’s words on adultery in the heart are severe, and they require us to assess our interior acts, motives, and impulses. 114 He explained, “The inner man is called by Christ to reach a more mature and complete evaluation that allows him to distinguish and judge the various movements of his own heart. One should add that this task can be carried out and that it is truly worthy of man.” 115

Although Christ’s words about adultery in the heart are demanding, they are not a condemnation but a calling. His words are not only a task but a gift. By restating Christ’s words, the Pope was reminding the Church in the midst of our brokenness, addictions, and weakened wills, that our call to love runs deeper than our urge to use. No matter how weighed down our hearts might be under the burden of sin, an echo of Eden remains within them.

John Paul pointed out that the awareness of our sinfulness is a necessary point of departure in historical man, and a condition for aspiring to virtue, purity of heart, and perfection. 116 A general sense of our shortcomings will not suffice. As John Paul noted, Christ “shows how deep down it is necessary to go, how the innermost recesses of the human heart must be thoroughly revealed, so that this heart might become a place in which the law is ‘fulfilled.’” 117

By fulfilled, the Pope did not mean obeyed flawlessly for the sake of conforming to external religious rules. Rather, love is the fulfillment of the law. When one rediscovers the spousal meaning of the body, one can express this through the “interior freedom of the gift.” 118

If the deepest motives of our heart are ruled by the lack of love, which is sin, we are not free to love or to make a gift of ourselves. Moral laws will seem to be nothing more than external constraints that limit our freedom. But when we become aware that the internal constraints of sin are what limit our freedom to love, we will desire to battle against them and experience true liberation. Although this will require us to be demanding toward our heart and our body, true love is not afraid of sacrifice. 119

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 624-665). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

108 Cf. TOB 49: 5.
109 TOB 32: 3.
110 Cf. TOB 32: 3.
111 Cf. TOB 32: 5.
112 Cf. TOB 39: 4
113 Mulieris Dignitatem, 14.
114 Cf. TOB 48: 3.
115 TOB 48: 4.
116 Cf. TOB 49: 7.
117 TOB 43: 5.
118 TOB 43: 6.
119 Cf. TOB 43: 5.

Modesty as Guardian of Love

“When the concept of “modesty” is mentioned in today’s culture— particularly on secular college campuses— any hope of rational dialogue is drowned out by accusations that those who promote modesty are “slut shaming” and advocating “rape culture” by failing to be “body positive.” There is anaphylactic reaction to the word, as if modesty required a woman’s rights to be rolled back to the Middle Ages. But John Paul displayed a sensitive understanding of why the term often ignites such a volatile reaction.

Throughout history, people have blamed the body— particularly of the woman— as the cause of lust. The woman is seen as the seductress, the occasion of sin. But in John Paul’s mind, lust is a problem of the heart, not the body. Blaming the body for lust is a loophole to avoid the true issue: our hearts. 104

If every woman clothed herself from head to toe, lust would remain. Put differently, a thief does not become a philanthropist when jewels are locked away. The cause of theft is not the jewels in the window of the store but the greed in the heart of the robber.

Consider why police sometimes place “bait cars” in high-crime areas. They leave the keys in the ignition of a vacant and unlocked car and put valuable items inside to draw attention to it. People who feel no need to steal walk past the vehicle without difficulty. But those who are inclined to commit larceny often seize upon the opportunity and end up in jail . . . only to blame the police for “setting them up.”

It is the same with the body. Only a mistaken idea of modesty transfers the evil of lust to its object. In human sexuality, the object of desire isn’t evil. In fact, the Pope pointed out that “victory must go hand in hand with an effort to discover the authentic value of the object.” 105 This is one reason why it is so counterproductive to shift the blame of lust to the body; by doing so, a person robs the body of its simple and pure meaning. 106

The body isn’t the problem. If anything, it’s the answer! In fact, one Orthodox scholar noted, “Beauty is the only thing that can make the eye chaste.” 107 After all, virtue can only be gained by love of the good, not by merely warding off evil. What’s needed is not for the body to be permanently veiled, but for its meaning to be unveiled, so that the glory of God can be seen in the body. What’s needed is the transformation of the deepest movements within the human heart.

This is not to say that people ought to wear whatever they wish, without regard for the weakness of others. In fact, modesty plays an essential role in transforming the hearts of those who are inclined toward lust. This is because modesty is an invitation to contemplation. It is a reminder that a person’s body is not public property, nor is it the best thing a person has to offer the world. Rather, the body is an invitation to love. But this spousal meaning of the body needs to be protected from concupiscence, and that is the purpose of modesty.

This isn’t merely a woman’s job. In fact, modesty isn’t the exclusive duty of females any more than lust is the exclusive problem of males. It is the heart of the human person— male and female— that is in need of redemption.”

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 590-620). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

104 Cf. TOB 44: 6.
105 TOB 45: 5.
106 Cf. TOB 31: 1.
107 Dr. Timothy Patitsas, “Chastity and Empathy: Eros, Agape, and the Mystery of the Twofold Anointing,” Road to Emmaus 1, no. 60 (Winter 2015), 7.

Gender?

“Before retiring to bed on a Tuesday night in the Vatican, Saint John Paul II prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, meditating upon the following words from Saint Peter: “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1

Long after others in the papal apartment were asleep, a noise awoke his secretary, Monsignor Stanisław Dziwisz, who left his room to investigate. His room was adjacent to the Holy Father’s, but he noticed that the sounds were not coming from the Pope’s room, but from his chapel. Although late-night prayer was not uncommon for John Paul, Dziwisz peered in to be certain that everything was all right.

The sight was typical: John Paul immersed in contemplation alone before the tabernacle. The Pope usually spoke to God with very simple words, and often prayed during adoration like Jesus did in Gethsemane, talking with his Father. 2 This night, Dziwisz noticed that John Paul indeed seemed troubled. The disturbance he overheard was the Pope speaking aloud to God, asking repeatedly, “Dlaczego? Dlaczego?” (“ Why? Why?”). Out of reverence, the monsignor backed away from the chapel and returned to his room for the night.

John Paul celebrated Mass the next morning, but was unusually reserved during breakfast afterward. The Pope’s typical jovial and engaging demeanor toward the sisters and guests was subdued. Instead of asking questions and conversing about an endless variety of topics, he was recollected and withdrawn. He ate no breakfast, and drank a cup of tea. 3

That afternoon would be an important one: During his Wednesday audience, John Paul was preparing to announce the establishment of two ministries in the Church that would address the problems facing families in the modern world. 4 One of these, the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, would become the main teaching arm of the Theology of the Body. 5

On his way to deliver his message, the Holy Father rode in the Popemobile across Saint Peter’s Square. As he was blessing children and greeting the crowds, gunshots from a Turkish assassin rang out. An ambulance rushed the Pope in his bloodstained cassock to the hospital, where he narrowly escaped death.

Had God given him a premonition of his suffering the night before? The answer to that question will likely remain a mystery known only to John Paul.

Was there a link between his suffering and his efforts to build up marriage and the family? This he affirmed, saying, “Perhaps there was a need for that blood to be spilled in Saint Peter’s Square.” 6 He added, “Precisely because the family is threatened, the family is being attacked. So the Pope must be attacked. The Pope must suffer, so that the world may see that there is a higher gospel, as it were, the gospel of suffering, by which the future is prepared, the third millennium of families. . . .” 7

…While camping at the World Youth Day vigil in Kraków, I spoke with a young woman who was preparing to enter her first year of college at a prestigious university in California. She pulled her phone out of her backpack and showed me where her online college application required her to check the appropriate box to indicate her gender.

There were eighteen boxes to choose from.

I read through the litany of genders, and noticed that two were missing: male and female. (Facebook— which invites its users to identify as one of more than fifty genders— at least offers them the possibility of choosing to be male or female.) The university application, however, did allow the incoming students to choose “cis-male” or “cis-female,” which means that the biological sex one was “assigned” at birth aligns with the gender one chooses for one’s identity.

While some seek to expand upon the number of genders and create a spectrum of options, the ultimate goal of gender theory is not diversity. After all, diversity requires objective differences. The goal is to erase the sexual difference, and thus to eliminate the meaning of the body.

Where is this coming from? The Second Vatican Council prophesied our culture’s sexual identity crisis by stating, “When God is forgotten . . . the creature itself grows unintelligible.” 8 Although the Theology of the Body was written before many of the modern ideas of gender theory became popular, it was ahead of its time in offering a clear answer for them— and for many other key issues about sexuality and the body.

What is the Theology of the Body?

The Theology of the Body is the popular title given to 135 reflections written by Saint John Paul II. As a cardinal in Poland, he (Karol Wojtyła) planned to publish them as a book titled Man and Woman He Created Them. 9 Before this could happen, he was elected pope, and instead delivered the content in 129 Wednesday Audiences during the first five years of his pontificate.

The thousands of vacationers and pilgrims who gathered to see the Holy Father at these audiences had no idea that the Pope’s biographer would later describe the Theology of the Body as a “theological time bomb set to go off, with dramatic consequences, sometime in the third millennium of the Church.” 10

What could be so explosive about a Polish bishop’s theological reflections on the body? To answer this, consider how the human body has been viewed throughout history. Thousands of years ago, Gnostics and Platonists believed that a person’s true self was different from his or her body. One Gnostic sect, the Manicheans, believed that man’s destiny was to set his spiritual essence free from the pollution of matter. Because the body was material, it was not only inferior, but evil. In fact, it was considered a sin for a woman to give birth because she was bringing more matter into existence! Centuries later, puritanism considered the body to be a threat to one’s soul. Meanwhile, the philosopher René Descartes proposed that the soul is like a ghost trapped in a machine.

All these views about the body have one element of truth in common: Our bodies and souls aren’t in harmony. However, the body is not unimportant compared to the soul. Nor is the body something we “have,” or something that encumbers our soul. We are our bodies, and our bodies reveal us. However, our current state is not the way God created us in the beginning. The discord that exists within man is the result of original sin. 11

While some individuals devalued the body and cared only for the soul, others fell into the opposite mistake. Atheists and materialist philosophers argued that the human person is nothing more than his or her body: There is no soul, and the body has no meaning.

Although these ideas might seem like debates reserved for philosophers and theologians, consider what happens when entire cultures accept these misguided notions of what it means to be human. If man has a body but no spiritual dimension, what distinguishes him from other animals? Why should he act differently or be treated differently? On the other hand, if a person’s true identity is found in his spirit alone, then man’s view of himself becomes uprooted from any objective reality. Truth would then be defined by a person’s feelings. As a result, masculinity and femininity would be viewed as social constructs, not realities created by God. But if masculinity and femininity don’t exist, then what becomes of marriage and the family?

Because there has been so much confusion about the meaning of the human body, John Paul set out to present a total vision of man that would include man’s origin, history, and destiny. Instead of arguing from the outside in, offering people a litany of rules, he invited them to seek the truth about reality by reflecting on their own human experience. The writings of Saint John of the Cross played a key role in shaping John Paul’s style of thinking. His philosophical studies on of Max Scheler and other phenomenologists further sharpened his ability to observe human experience. John Paul doesn’t begin by explaining what man ought to do, but by explaining who man is. In the Pope’s mind, people will know how to live if they know who they are.

It has been said that rules without a relationship creates rebellion. This is true with parents and children, and it’s especially true with the relationship between God and humanity. John Paul knew that laws don’t change hearts. When people view morality as a rigid list of imposed regulations, they might temporarily behave themselves out of guilt or fear, but they often abandon the faith. The Pope understood the futility of this approach, and knew that a fresh re-presentation of the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics was overdue.

What the modern world needed was not just a defense of the Church’s teachings, but rather an unveiling of God’s original plan for the beauty of human love. Culture needed something that wasn’t simply intellectually convincing or morally upright, but rather something that corresponded to the deepest yearnings of the human heart.

Unfortunately, many have grown deaf to these yearnings and hear only the urges of the body. But no matter how numb one might be to the deepest aspirations of the soul, everyone can relate to the ache of solitude, the experience of shame, and the desire for communion. In the Theology of the Body, John Paul explored these experiences and more, to reveal how God’s plan for humanity is stamped not only into our hearts, but also into our bodies.

When people discover the Theology of the Body, they often exclaim that they’ve never heard anything like it before. This is because many people learned about sexuality in a religious framework that focused only on what is forbidden and permitted. Others learned about it through the lens of modern sex education, which reduces one’s sexuality to biology and sensuality. This might count as “sex ed,” but it’s not a true education in human sexuality. 12

Properly speaking, “sex” is not something people do. Sex is who we are as male and female persons. The Theology of the Body reminds us of this broader meaning and offers compelling answers to questions such as: Who am I? What does it mean to be human? How should I live? It delves into delicate questions regarding marriage and sexual ethics, but does so while inviting people to rediscover the meaning of life. Through it, one realizes that modern man’s sexual confusion is not caused because the world glorifies sexuality, but because the world fails to see its glory.

For those who have disregarded the Church’s teaching on human sexuality because it seems out of touch with the modern world, the Theology of the Body offers a fresh perspective. Its insights are not pious reflections offered by a theologian who was isolated from the daily struggles of married life. On the contrary, they are the result of decades of personal interactions between a remarkable saint and the countless young adults and married couples that he accompanied through their vocations. These couples attest that although John Paul had a great ability to preach, he had an even greater ability to listen.

The Theology of the Body comes from the heart of a saint who listened intently not only to others but also to the God Who could provide meaning to their lives. He was no stranger to suffering, living under Nazi and Communist regimes and having lost his family by the age of twenty. While such trials might lead some to abandon their faith, John Paul’s was forged by them, as he sought answers to the deepest questions about life’s meaning.

John Paul also possessed a staggering intellect, and according to his secretary, spent three hours each day reading. 13 Although he was dedicated to the intellectual life, John Paul’s prayer life took priority. His colleagues attest that he seemed to be continually absorbed in prayer, as can be seen from the fact that he considered the busy Paris Metro to be “a superb place for contemplation.” 14

His greatest devotion, however, was to the Blessed Sacrament. He never omitted his Holy Hour on Thursdays, even while traveling internationally. If the organizers of his trips didn’t make room for it in his schedule, he would make time and simply arrive an hour late to their program. When his assistants attempted to convince him to decrease the amount of time spent in this devotion, he refused, saying, “No, it keeps me.” 15 He knew that apostolic mission derives its strength from life in God. 16 It is from this man’s heart, mind, and soul that the Church has been given a tremendous gift: the Theology of the Body.

Structure

The Theology of the Body is comprised of two parts. The first focuses on three passages from Scripture, or “words” of Christ. In it, John Paul examined the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding marriage and divorce. 17 Then he reflects upon the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount, in particular those concerning committing adultery in one’s heart. 18 Finally, he turns to Christ’s words regarding the resurrection of the body. 19 By means of these reflections, he explains the redemption of the body. If fact, in his final catechesis, he describes the content of the whole work as “the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage.” 20

The Theology of the Body is thoroughly biblical— as can be seen by the fact that the Pope draws from forty-six books and more than a thousand Scripture citations. However, among all of the passages he quotes, the three mentioned above are his focus. He compares them to the panels of a triptych, which is a work of sacred art consisting of three panels, or parts. When the three images are displayed together, they present a fuller understanding of a topic of theology (in this case, the human person).

The three parts of John Paul’s triptych are original, historical, and eschatological man. Original man is who God created man to be in the beginning, before the dawn of sin. Historical man refers to the current state of humanity, burdened by original sin but redeemed by Christ. “Eschatological” has its roots in the Greek word for “end,” eschaton, and refers to the glorified state of man in heaven. Together, these three epochs of human history form what John Paul called an “adequate anthropology”— an understanding of what it means to be a human person.

In the first part of the Theology of the Body, John Paul used the above three “words” of Christ to explain man’s call to live out “the spousal meaning of the body.” This phrase is the heart of the Theology of the Body. It means that the human body has “the power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and— through this gift— fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence.” 21 (This gift of self can be expressed not only through marriage, but also through celibacy for the kingdom of God.)

In the second part of the Theology of the Body, the Pope analyzed “The Sacrament” which is the “great sign” of Christ’s love for the Church and the love between a husband and wife. He explained what the gift of self means in terms of the “language of the body,” and how men and women are called to live it out, especially as it relates to building their families.”

-Evert, Jason (2017-12-06). Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 63-102, 109-239). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love, His will is perfect,
Matthew

1 Peter 5: 8.
2 Mieczysław Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference, Krakow, Poland, July 27, 2016.
3 Interview with Father Andrew Swietochowski, July 31, 2017.
4 The Pontifical Council for the Family and the International Institute of Studies on Marriage and Family.
5 Diane Montagna, “Online Exclusive: What John Paul II Intended to Say the Day He Was Shot,” Aleteia, May 7, 2016.
6 Pope John Paul II, Memory and Identity (New York: Rizzoli, 2005), 164.
7 Pope John Paul II, Angelus message, May 29, 1994.
8 Gaudium et Spes, 36.
9 Other proposed titles included “Human Love in the Divine Plan” or “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage.”
10 George Weigel, Witness to Hope (New York: Harper, 2001), 343.
11 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2516 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994).
12 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 11 (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1981).
13 Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference.
14 George Weigel, City of Saints (New York: Image, 2015), 232.
15 Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference.
16 Pope John Paul II, Master in the Faith 2, Rome: December 14, 1990.
17 Matt. 19: 8; Mark 10: 6– 9.
18 Matt. 5: 28.
19 Matt. 22: 30; Mark 12: 25; Luke
20: 35– 36. 20 TOB 133: 2.
21 Theology of the Body 15: 1; 32: 1, 3.

Does God exist?

“Traditionally, Catholic theology makes use of a fair amount of philosophy when thinking about what God is…biblical revelation is not irrational and…it does not do violence to natural human reason…biblical revelation not only respects natural human reason. It also invites us to make use of natural human reason in the service of the revealed (Ed. biblical) truth.

…we might immediately ask a series of good philosophical questions, based on our ordinary experience of reality. Do we see signs, for example, in the ordinary realities around us (including ourselves) that things as we know them really are dependent for their existence upon another? Does the order of the world, as far as we can make it out, tend to suggest at least the possibility of an origin in divine wisdom? Does the physical world seem self-explanatory or could there be good reasons to think that the existence of the material world implies the necessary existence of something transcending matter?…the claim that revelation is compatible with natural reason requires at least that there is some kind of possible rational harmony between what we think about the world philosophically based on ordinary experience of the world and what we find being taught in the revelation of the Catholic faith.

…the traditional Catholic insistence on the “proofs for the existence of God” are not first and foremost about trying to gain universal consensus regarding the philosophical question of the existence of God. They are not even first and foremost about trying to show that it is rational to believe that God exists (though this is true and sometimes the arguments help agnostic people see this). The central aim of them, instead, is to show that there is a way of human thinking about God that can reach up toward God even as (or after!) the revelation of God reaches down to human reason, so that the two cooperate “under grace” or in grace. The point is that grace does not destroy human nature but heals and elevates it to work within faith in a more integral way. Thinking about the one God philosophically is meant, in Catholic theology, to be a form of humble acceptance of biblical revelation…This Catholic approach eschews then two contrary extremes: a fideism that would seek to know God only by means of Christian revelation (with no contribution of natural human reasoning about God), and a rationalism that would seek to know God only or primarily by philosophical argument, to the exclusion of the mystery of the revelation of God.5 Faith and reason are meant to work together in this domain, not stand opposed.

The Illative Sense

…The traditional Catholic arguments for the existence of God are not geometrical proofs derived from self-evident axioms, but are something more elevated and deal with a subject matter that is more elusive. They function primarily as intellectual discernments about the nature of reality as we perceive it all the time. They begin from things around us so as to perceive the necessity of a transcendent origin, God the creator, Who remains hidden and hence not immediately subject to the constraints of our “clear and distinct ideas.” That is to say, thinking about God is realistic and philosophical, but it also seeks to acknowledge the numinous character of our existence and the ways that our limited, finite being points toward something transcendent, necessary, and eternal, which is the cause of our existence. Thinking about God in this sense is difficult for the human mind, not because theology is soft-headed, but simply because the subject matter is so elevated and not intrinsically capturable in the way mathematical or empirical topics are.

There are many ways of approaching the question of God philosophically, and the Catholic tradition has given rise (and continues to give rise) to a multitude of rational arguments, some of which are incompatible with one another (such that intense philosophical dispute occurs continually within the Catholic faith, a sign of its respect for the autonomous development of philosophical reason). There are arguments from the metaphysical structure of reality (the being of the world), arguments from beauty, from the very idea of God as perfect (Anselm’s famous ontological argument), from the order of the world, from the moral drama of human existence, from the desire of man for an infinite good, and others as well. Aquinas is often said to have given five demonstrations of the existence of God, but in fact he gives between fifteen and twenty arguments in various locations in his work.6 Many of these have their roots in previous thinkers, particularly Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, and a host of patristic authors.

It is important to note that more than one argument or philosophical way of thinking about God can be true simultaneously. There are various routes up the mountain, so to speak. This is because the world around us is complex and so the complexity of the world can “bespeak” or indicate God in different ways. It is one thing, for example, to note that the existence of interdependent physical realities requires a transcendent, non-physical cause. It is another thing to note that the human being is marked inwardly by a dramatic struggle between moral good and moral evil. These two truths can be indirect indications of the mystery of God distinctly, but also in a simultaneous and convergent fashion. Various truths we come to about the world converge to suggest a larger overarching truth.

This is the case not only for arguments for the existence of God, but also for our larger perspective on religious and cosmic questions more generally. Atheists, for example, often inhabit intellectual traditions of argument that attempt to explain a variety of truths from within a diverse but convergent set of unified theories: “The Bible is a purely human book.” “There are no good philosophical arguments for the existence of God.” “The problem of evil mitigates against claims to the contrary.” “All that exists is in some way purely material.” “Human origins are explicable by recourse to a materialist account of the theory of evolution.” “Whatever moral or aesthetic truths there are within human existence are best safeguarded by secular political systems.” These are all very different claims but they are held by many people as a set of convergent, interrelated ideas about reality, and the more one holds to a greater number of them, the more the others may seem plausible or reasonable. This is something like what John Henry Newman referred to as the “illative sense” of rational assent to the truth.7 We tend to see things in sets or groups of collected truths. Meanwhile, such complex deliberations touch upon the cords of our heart. We are affected by what we want to be true, or what we want not to be true, by our unconditional desire to find the truth or our fears of inconvenient truths. Otherwise said, the heart is both affected by and affects our thinking about major questions like atheism or the existence of God, because there are implications for other aspects of our life and our overall take on reality in a broad sweep of domains.

This is why thinking about the one God is often, for each of us, deeply interrelated to (even if logically distinguishable from) a whole host of other issues…

…Straightforward philosophical reflection about God, then, has its own integrity as a form of argument, or reasoning, but it is also embedded within a web of existential concerns and reflection on a wide array of issues pertaining to reality. The plausibility of believing one thing, especially a truth about God, is connected to the plausibility of believing a great deal of other things.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph. The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Locations 1223-1247, 1251-1285, 1288-1291). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.”

Faith has implications.  Belief is consequential, in SO MANY ways!!!  But, so too, atheism.  Like it, or not.  Eternally??  🙂  Not choosing is a choice.  Jesus compels a choice.  Which do you choose?

Aut Deus, aut malus homo.

Love,
Matthew

5. See here the classic Catholic statement on faith and reason in the document of the First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, April 24, 1870, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, pars. 27–43.
6. On Aquinas’s varied arguments for the existence of God, see John Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought.
7. John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, chap. 9.

The Trinity illuminates everything

“The light of the Trinity illuminates everything…We can think about the Trinity in two basic ways. First, we can start with our concrete, personal, affective relationship to God Whom we encounter and know in the faith as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is an interpersonal knowledge of “I and Thou.” We might call this “intuitive second-person knowledge” of the mystery of God, as when we say to God: “You, Almighty Father, have revealed yourself to me in Christ.” “Oh Holy Spirit of Christ, enlighten and sanctify us!” Second, we can focus on our speculative understanding of God as we consider the mystery theologically. How do we analyze the mystery of Father, Son, and Spirit as the one God?

These two pathways of affective knowledge and intellectual theory are distinct but not separable. In fact, they are deeply interrelated to one another. Consider an analogy to human relationships. It is one thing to come to know another person well in friendship, and another thing to reflect philosophically on the nature of human friendship. The relational, affective knowledge is primary because it is the lived experience of friendship which is irreplaceable, but our own theoretical understanding of friendship not only allows us to analyze what friendship really is, but also can help us live out friendship more perfectly. Heart and intelligence go together. So likewise with the Trinity, supernatural faith alerts us to the real presence of the Father, manifest in the Son made man, and to the gift of the Holy Spirit present in the Church, Who dwells in our hearts by grace. This is a mystical reality that is primary, and is simply given to us to know by grace. We can become more and more aware of it over time through the deepening of our life of faith, interior prayer, and religious worship. However, knowing the Trinity personally, in the darkness of faith, we are also invited into the active consideration of the mystery, the intellectual reflection of theology.

The great works of reflection on the Trinity in the early Church—those of Irenaeus, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, and others—are living meditations that spring from the inner life of faith, and from reflection on scripture and Church doctrine. They are profound intellectual works, but they are also grounded in a deeper mystical life and spiritual aspiration. Gregory and Augustine were trying to find union with God. The idea of study here is not a mere academic exercise. It allows us to grasp better Who it is that we know in the faith and What we worship, to understand how this highest mystery of the faith illumines all other knowledge and understanding of the created world.

For the Christian faith, knowledge cannot be separated from love and is always related to it integrally. As Aquinas says, “formed” faith is faith enlivened by charity, without which our faith (perhaps even very intellectually erudite and nuanced) is dead or lifeless.2 At the same time, we have to insist that theology looks at questions of truth that have an integrity of their own, that are not reducible to the piety and emotional life of believers. Love without a transparent sense of responsibility to the truth usually degrades into sentiment, delusion, or cultural nostalgia. If theology is prayerful and spiritual, it is also probing, analytic, and rigorous in its own right. Theology has to be subject to real challenges and engagements with its external critics as well as with its own deepest internal intellectual struggles and enigmas. Thinking about the Trinity, then, is a spiritual exercise, but it is also a speculative one, and it is above all a search to find the fullness of the truth about God, unabated light free from all error. This search for the unalloyed truth is also itself a very profound element within the spiritual life. After all, Christ Himself claims to be “the truth” Who alone “will make you free.”3 The search for the God of Christianity is a search for the fullness of the truth. Otherwise it has no real purpose.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph. The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Locations 1113-1133, 1136-1147). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

2. Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 4, aa. 3–4.
3. Jn 14:6, 8:32.