Twin sins: despair & presumption


-by Rev. Michael Schmitz | February 29, 2016, Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St Paul

Q. I teach young people who seem to think that, since God loves them, it doesn’t matter how they live.

A. This is a real issue, and I don’t think that the problem is limited to young people. I have met plenty of adults in my time who seem to exhibit the same disposition. What we are talking about are the “twin sins” of despair and presumption. I call them “twin sins” because both the temptation to deny God’s love and the temptation to presume upon God’s love are two sides of the same coin. They have a common root, and they also have a common remedy.

The problem with these twin sins is not that one takes sin too seriously and the other doesn’t take sin seriously enough. Although that would appear to make sense, it isn’t true.

That might even seem to make sense to you. Imagine that you are counseling a person tempted to despair of any hope because of their sins. Imagine someone who felt so awful for their sins that they just couldn’t dream that God could ever love them and raise them out of their brokenness. In that scenario, you might be tempted to advise them to “lighten up” about sin. You might be tempted to assure them that their sins “aren’t that bad.” (Note: there is such a thing as scrupulosity. But being scrupulous isn’t being sensitive to sin; that’s merely being holy. Scrupulosity is seeing sin where there is no sin.)

On the other hand, imagine one of the young people you mentioned. This kind of person claims to know something about God’s love. They might say, “I don’t have to be concerned with following God; He loves me no matter what.” If you were counseling a person in this state, you might be tempted to point out all of the ways that sin wounds the soul (and even often wounds the body!). You might point out all of the ways that sin destroys relationships and leads to death. It might be a very compelling thing to try to describe how truly ugly sin is. And that wouldn’t be wrong. All of those things are true. It might even be that your words could move this person’s heart and mind to take sin more seriously.

But I think that, in both cases, we are called neither to merely invite people to take sin less seriously nor to take sin more seriously. The lasting solution is to take the cross more seriously.

People tempted to despair do not need to take sin less seriously but to take the cross more seriously. If people take the cross of Jesus seriously, they know that there is no sin that Jesus didn’t die for. They know that they are not “beyond saving.” If a person really and truly takes the cross seriously, they would never question whether or not God loved them. Despair would be impossible.

Further, if people tempted toward presumption take the cross of Jesus seriously, they could not possibly dismiss the gravity of their sins. The cross is the price God paid for their sins. If a person takes the cross of Christ seriously, they have to recognize that it is their sin that moved the God of love to embrace suffering and death in order to forgive them.

Despair is the sin of Judas. It is ultimately rooted in pride. It says, “God’s love poured out on the cross is enough to save other people, but it cannot save me.” The person in despair sees the world with themselves at the center. If they would only be willing to realize they are not the center of reality, and that the saving cross of Jesus stands at the center of reality, they would realize they are both worse than they thought and that they are more loved than they could have imagined.

Presumption is the sin of our modern age. It is also rooted in pride. It says, “I do not need God’s (or anyone’s) help.” Or it says, “God understands all things. He will always forgive, even without my repentance.” If this person would only acknowledge that the consequence of each of their sins was the death of God Incarnate, they might not be so cavalier about the need to turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

Ultimately, the answer to both despair and presumption is to take God seriously, to accept his love, and to accept his call to live a new life relying on his grace.”

Amen!

Love & joy,
Matthew

Integrity

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” -Deut 6:4-9

-by DeMarco, Donald, “The Virtue of Integrity”, Lay Witness Magazine, (October 1999).

We need integrity to become who we are, so that we can complement Gods gift to us with our gift to Him.

At the opposite ends of the moral spectrum are holiness and multiplicity. This pairing of polar opposites may seem odd at first, but it is solidly biblical. Holiness is so named because it represents wholeness or unity of personality. God is eminently holy and His saints are holy to the degree they emulate Him. According to traditional orthodox teaching, God, Who is the fullness of Being and of every perfection (Catechism, no. 213), has the character of simplicity. For St. Augustine, God is truly and absolutely simple. And for St. Hilary, God, Who is strength, is not made up of things that are weak; nor is He, Who is light, composed of things that are dim.

Going to pieces

Multiplicity is fragmentation, fractionalization, dispersion, dividedness. It is captured in the colloquial expression going to pieces. Multiplicity in this sense also corresponds to the notion of diabolical, which literally means going off in opposite directions. In Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39 we read about the man who lived in the country of the Gerasenes who was possessed by an unclean spirit. The poor man was out of sorts, to say the least. He would howl and gash himself with stones. Quite literally, he was out of control. His fellow countrymen would bind him with chains and fetters. But he would break the chains asunder, tear the fetters to pieces, and be driven by the devil into the desert.

This poor man submitted himself to Christ, Who commanded the unclean spirit to declare its name. Legion, was the response, for many devils had entered him (Lk. 8:30). Christ then allowed the legion of devils to enter a herd of swine, approximately 2,000 in all, who then rushed with great violence into the sea and were drowned. This spectacle of mass disintegration was indeed terrifying to the swineherds who reported the event to their townsfolk.

Wholeness next to godliness

The difference between God and the devil is the difference between simplicity and multiplicity. We human beings cannot hope to achieve simplicity, but we can achieve integrity and avoid multiplicity.

A favorite theme among 20th-century writers is the fundamental moral importance of personal integrity. The word they often use to describe this state is authenticity. A person should be himself, they insist, and not divide himself into incompatible parts: one for himself and another for the masses.

Because our unity of personality demands the integration of its parts, there is always the possibility that we can break up (dis-integrate) into discordant pieces. But what are these parts that must be integrated if the person is to be whole? There are many lines along which personality can be unified. There is the integrity between word and deed, friendship and fidelity, private life and public life, mind and body, head and heart. But the integrity that is perhaps most basic to a human being is the one that binds one’s being to one’s behavior, endowment to achievement, or giftedness to response.

Claiming our inheritance

God has given us our inheritance and an inclination toward our destiny. We are free to reject this inheritance because we do not think it is good enough. Thus, we may spend our life envying others whom we judge to be more talented, intelligent, attractive, and so on. Or we may decide not to make the effort of claiming our natural inheritance so as to fulfill our destiny. The great Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard distinguished these two dispositions, respectively, as the despair of weakness and the despair of defiance.

We need integrity to become who we are, so that we can complement Gods gift to us with our gift to Him. Although we often lack integrity in ourselves, we are usually quick to recognize and denounce it in others. So it was with that great cinematic legend of yesteryear, the Lone Rangers trusty sidekick, Tonto, who instinctively distrusted the white man who spoke with forked tongue. We detest phoniness, hypocrisy, duplicity, double-dealing, and disingenuousness. We admire integrity, though we know that it often comes at a high price.

Specialization and bureaucracy contribute heavily to the process of disintegration. Politics is another area that poses a formidable challenge to anyone who wants to retain his integrity. On the abortion issue, for example, one commonly hears about politicians who are privately opposed but publicly in favor of it.

That’s entertainment?

Charlton Heston stood up at a Time/Warner stockholders meeting not too long ago and read the shocking lyrics of certain rock songs that passed for entertainment in the judgment of that corporation. He said that he expected he would never again be invited to make a film with Warner Brothers and would win many enemies, but that he had a moral obligation to do what he could to start cleaning up some of the filth that is demoralizing contemporary society. He announced to his stunned audience that his integrity meant more to him than his status in the eyes of Time/Warner. As he read the lyrics that were rife with sexism, racism, and violence, The Time/Warner executives, according to Heston, squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. “They hated me for that.” Nonetheless, much good did result from his address.

The sacrifice of fame and fortune, to whatever extent, however, does not compare with the sacrifice of one’s integrity. In his impassioned speech to the stockholders, Mr. Heston would have done well to quote Kierkegaard: “Or can you think of anything more frightful than that it might end with your nature being resolved into a multiplicity, that you really might become many, become, like those unhappy demoniacs, a legion, and you thus would have lost the inmost and holiest thing of all in a man, the unifying power of personality?”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Temptation

-by Jimmy Akin, “A Daily Defense

Born with Temptations

Challenge: Why would a good God allow people to be born with temptations to sin?

Defense: This is a subcase of the problem of evil. It is mysterious, but we can discern the outlines of the solution.

Elsewhere we have covered other aspects of the problem of evil (see Days 7, 38, and 151). Here we look at the specific question of why God allows people to be born with temptations to sin.

One way of putting the answer is: God created mankind in a state of original justice or holiness. However, when our first parents turned away from God and committed original sin, they lost this holiness and human nature was corrupted in a way that made us prone to sin (CCC 375, 379, 405).

Although the causes were on the spiritual rather than the purely physical level, the situation is similar to that of a person with a healthy genetic code who, by recklessly exposing himself to radioactive material, damages his genes in a way that causes his offspring to be born with birth defects. In other words: We are born with temptations because we inherit the damage done to human nature by sin.

Although this answers the question on one level, it leaves the question of why God would allow this to happen. Here there is an element of mystery, because God could have prevented us from inheriting temptations. However, we can say the following:

(1) God takes our inborn weaknesses into account in assessing how culpable we are. Our culpability for sin is diminished when we are under strong internal pressures. “The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders” (CCC 1860).

(2) God will not allow us to be separated from Him except by a truly free choice of the kind involved in mortal sin (CCC 1037).

(3) God gives us His grace to deal with temptations (1 Cor. 10:13).

(4) God subjects Himself to our weakness. In the person of Jesus, He subjected Himself to conditions like those we experience. “For we do not have a high priest [i.e., Jesus] Who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One Who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15, NABRE).

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Humility


-by Ford Madox Brown, 1852–6, oil on canvas, 116.8 × 133.3 cm (46 × 52.5 in), with frame: 147.5 × 164 × 9.8 cm (58.1 × 64.6 × 3.9 in), Tate Britain Gallery, Millbrand in London, not on view. Please click on the image for greater detail.

Pride was the downfall of Satan/Lucifer and his demons.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Mt 11:28-30

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

Presence of God – O Jesus, You Who were so humiliated for us, teach me how to practice true humility.

MEDITATION

Charity is the essence of Christian perfection, for charity alone has the power to unite man to God, his last end. But for us poor, miserable creatures, whom God wishes to raise to union with Himself, is charity the ultimate basis of the spiritual life? No. There is something deeper still which is, so to speak, the basis of charity, and that is humility. Humility is to charity what the foundation is to a building. Digging the foundation is not building the house, yet it is the preliminary, indispensable work, the condition sine qua non. The deeper, and firmer it is, the better the house will be and the greater assurance of stability it will have. Only the fool “built his house upon the sand,” with the inevitable consequence of seeing it crumble away very soon. The wise man, on the contrary, “built … upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-26); storms and winds might threaten, but his house was unshakable because its foundation was solid.

Humility is the firm bedrock upon which every Christian should build the edifice of his spiritual life. “If you wish to lay good foundations,” says St. Teresa of Jesus to her daughters, “each of you must try to be the least of all” that is, you must practice humility. “If you do that … your foundation will be so firmly laid that your Castle will not fall” (cf. Interior Castle [Mansions] for post on humilityVII, 4). Humility forms the foundation of charity by emptying the soul of pride, arrogance, disordered love of self and of one’s own excellence, and by replacing them with the love of God and our neighbor.

The more humility empties the soul of the vain, proud pretenses of self, the more room there will be for God. “When at last [the spiritual man] comes to be reduced to nothing, which will be the greatest extreme of humility, spiritual union will be wrought between the soul and God” (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, II, 7, 11).

COLLOQUY

“O my God, You make me realize how far I must descend in order that my heart may serve as a dwelling-place for You: I must become so poor that I have no place whereon to lay my head. My heart is not wholly emptied of self, and that is why You order me to descend. Oh! I want to descend much lower so that You will be able to rest Your divine head in my heart and know that there You are loved and understood. O sweet, divine Guest, You know my misery; that is why You come to me in the hope of finding an empty tabernacle, a heart wholly emptied of self. This is all You ask” (cf. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Letters).

O Lord, help me to excavate in my poor soul that abyss of humility which will attract the abyss of Your infinite mercies. Help me to descend, although my pride seeks to rise. Help me to recognize and humbly confess my nothingness and my weakness, although my pride desires so much to have me esteemed as something great. Help me to glory in my infirmities, although my pride always tends to glory in what is not mine, but Your free gift. How true it is, O God, that grace follows an entirely different road from that of nature! Give me the strength to travel on this way with courage, to swim against the current, the muddy, treacherous current of my pride. How can I succeed if You; do not come to help me? But I trust in You, Lord, because I know that You are always ready to uphold the weak who have recourse to You with trust; because I know that, if my pride is great, Your mercy is infinite and Your omnipotence is invincible; because I know that if “anyone is an inactive man that wants help, is very weak in ability and full of poverty, Your eye looks upon him for good, and lifts him up from his low estate and exalts his head” (cf. Sirach 11:12, 13).

O Lord, who is more “full of poverty” than I, who have not yet conquered my pride? Who then is in greater need of Your help?”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Confession: 6 effects


-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

“The Catechism lists six spiritual effects of the sacrament of penance (CCC 1496). For a more fruitful reception of this sacrament, let’s briefly examine each one.

Effect #1: Reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace

This first effect reveals the real horror of sin. By mortal sin, we separate ourselves from God and refuse His grace. By Confession, we are reunited with God. God dwells in us through grace, and by that grace, our souls magnify the Lord. And should we have sinned only in small, venial ways, the sacrament of Penance wipes those away too.

Effect #2: Reconciliation with the Church

Sin also separates us from the Church. This separation is often experienced on a very basic level. Sin pulls us away from our families. It isolates us from our friends. It sours our relationships at work. By Confession, God restores us to the Church. We return to our families and friends with more love to give.  (Ed. to the Catholic mind, sin, even private, personal sin, is never solely, strictly a private, personal matter.  Its effects redound to the eternal public, communal detriment of the public community, believer or not, even if only known objectively and secretly to the sinner, or penitent and his/her confessor, unless resolved in the sacrament solely through the redeeming sacrice of Jesus Christ crucified..  Sin dis-integrates.  His grace integrates.)

Effect #3: Remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins

By mortal sin, we condemn ourselves to hell. Thankfully, through Confession, God freely pardons this punishment. It would be wrong to imagine that God is stingy with such a pardon. As our loving, merciful Father, He delights in pardoning us. He even gives us the very grace to draw us to Confession. At the words of absolution (“I absolve you…”), all the angels and saints rejoice at this remission. They await our entrance to the heavenly banquet.

Effect #4: Remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin

By our sins, whether venial or mortal, we suffer in this present life. Every sin contains some disorder, and this disorder is the sin’s own punishment. If I overindulge my desire for cheese, I’ll soon feel quite uncomfortable. God usually allows us to drink these dregs of our own folly, especially when we are unrepentant. When we humble ourselves and confess, God remits this punishment, at least in part. Whether we choose the easy way or the hard way, God wants to teach us how to love.

Effect #5: Peace and serenity of conscience and spiritual consolation

Many think of devout Catholics as harboring guilt complexes. Such a caricature ignores the power of Confession. This sacrament truly brings peace, even if unfelt in the moment. Anecdotally, it is the repeated experience of the faithful that we leave Confession light-hearted, joyful, and renewed in God’s love.

Effect #6: An increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle

Whether we recognize it or not, the Christian life is a battle. We all fight our inner old man, certain of whose tendencies linger after our baptism. Everyday, we are tempted to forget the true God, to use our neighbors, and to seek our selfish pleasure. In this daily battle, even the saints stumble and fall, even if only in small ways. Confession forgives these failures, and it also strengthens us to overcome vices with virtue. Ultimately, Christ is the true victor. He is our strength. He is our salvation.”

Love & prayers,
Matthew

Bad spiritual habits

Ideas have consequences. They do. They are NOT harmless. Ask the victims of the Nazis or the Communists. Be careful what you wish for? Be careful what you think! Bad thinking leads directly to bad habits which lead to bad outcomes.

“Habits—repeated practices—that make us focus on ourselves rather than God, or stoke undue curiosity about the occult, leave us more susceptible to temptation and other demonic attacks.

Emotionalism

Angels and human beings have immortal souls. Two faculties or powers of the immortal soul are reason and free will. Using our reason, we can think about things such as the morality of a proposed action. Using our free will, we can choose whether to do it. Faculties that we share with animals are senses and emotions. Our emotions are more varied and complex than those of animals, though there is no denying that a dog can be happy, sad, or angry.

We can call reason and free will higher faculties; emotions and senses lower faculties. It is a serious mistake, though one that is common in our culture, to allow the lower faculties to govern our actions. This leads us to believe that a proposed action must be good if it is pleasurable to our senses or if it makes us feel happy. I have heard individuals justify immoral acts by saying, “God wants me to be happy.” This is true, but there are acts that will give us momentary pleasure but not long-term happiness. God wants us to live in eternal happiness, and to use reason rather than emotion and sensual pleasure to guide us there.

The same is true of spirituality. It is a serious mistake to think that emotions provoked during a spiritual experience indicate its depth and value. That is why, as we have seen, the Church instructs us that healing services must avoid hysteria, theatricality, and sensationalism. I have been present at such services where, despite this directive, people are encouraged to cry, make incoherent sounds, and even fall to the ground. A better spiritual experience is one that brings a sense of peace and calm, both during and afterward.

Spiritual Pride

The demons were good when God created them, but they fell from grace because of the sin of pride: “You said in your heart . . . ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit” (Isa. 14:13–14). This illustrates the importance of being spiritually humble; we resist demons by avoiding the very vice that brought them down.

Spiritual Sloth

Sloth can refer to laziness in work and other daily obli- gations; spiritual sloth specifically refers to neglect of our obligations to God. Jesus warned us of the dangers of delaying repentance and neglecting to break our patterns of sin (Matt. 5:23–26; Luke 12:42–48). The Bible often refers to this as having a hardened heart (Eph. 4:18). Another way of saying this is: do not wait until tomorrow to make the good moral choices you can make today. Exorcists say that hardening of the heart, or wallowing in habits of sin, can open us to demonic attacks.

In addition to the usual spiritual means of avoiding spiritual sloth, there is a counseling technique that can be helpful in times of temptation. Before committing the sin, we can mentally put ourselves in the future and think about how we will feel about this moment. Will I be glad I acted this way, or will I regret it? What will the consequences be for others? What will the consequences be for me next week, next month, or next year? And what will the effect be on my immortal soul?

For example, if a man who struggles with drunkenness is considering having a drink, he should not dwell on the plea- sure of the drink. Rather, he should mentally put himself in the future and look at what is likely to happen as a result of this one drink. If he can delay the decision to drink—if he can think about the likelihood of getting drunk, the effects on his family and other relationships/obligations, and the damage to his soul—he may be able to excite his emotions in such a way that the drink is not so desirable. These emotions counteract the pleasurable emotions that demons try to provoke in connection with our particular weaknesses. Furthermore, by developing this thought process into a habit, by God’s grace we can break habits of sin that can be a door to demonic influence.

Casual Occult Practices

In artwork, the devil is often portrayed as a red creature with hooves, a pointed tail, bat wings, and a cruel smirk on his face. It would be beneficial if he actually appeared that way; it would be much easier to identify him and resist his temptations! Unfortunately, his operations are more insidious. This is also true of the occult practices that have become common in our culture. There are Catholics who would never consciously set out to worship false gods, but are lured by seemingly harmless spiritual gurus and practices that contradict the Faith. These are subtle means by which the demons try to gain a foothold and lead people away from God.

Playing with a Ouija board violates the first commandment, since it is an attempt to communicate with spirits in a way that excludes God. We can talk to angels, saints, and the souls in purgatory through their union with God, not through a board game. The only spirits that might respond to a Ouija board are demons and (possibly) human souls in hell, with neither of whom we should communicate.

Having said that, certainly many people have played with a Ouija board as children (I confess I am one of them). Many people my age have told me they did the same, and all have said they are not aware of any spiritual problems as a result. Does this mean that no harm comes from playing with a Ouija board? Definitely not, for two reasons. First, more than half of those in my generation who grew up Catholic are no longer practicing the faith. I am not blaming the Ouija board for that, but neither can we rule out the possibility that it had a negative spiritual influence on some people. Second is a comparison: when I was growing up most people were not wearing seat belts, and I didn’t personally know anyone who was seriously injured or killed as a result of this neglect. Nevertheless, that does not mean it was a good idea or a safe practice.

As with the Ouija board, people who have consulted palm readers, psychics, tarot cards, and horoscopes tell me it was just for fun, and deny suffering ill effects. Certainly they did not become possessed by the devil. But these activities, too, violate the first commandment, and they have the potential of opening doors to the demonic.

As we have seen, although psychics and palm readers have no inherent ability to see the future or other hidden events, demons may use these individuals and fool their customers. Demons can put ideas in their heads, such as information about peoples’ personal lives. When they report this informa- tion, they and their customers wrongly believe the knowledge came from psychic ability, palm reading or other activity. The devil would often prefer to hide his presence, and let us sin through pride (claiming extraordinary powers) and invoking false gods (such as tarot cards or the stars and planets).

Demons can also use people’s grief over dead loved ones to influence them, falsely leading them to believe—through objects being moved, or lights turning off and on—that a medium has made them present in the room. But souls do not return from the dead to leave such vague and mundane signs. And demons can use such false episodes to shake peo- ple’s faith in God’s saving power.”

Praying for safety & protection of all,
Matthew

Imputation?

catholic_gentleman
sam_guzman_wife
-by Sam Guzman, “The Catholic Gentleman”

“Growing up a protestant, I was taught quite young the theological idea of imputation. That is, that Christ died in our place to bear the death sentence that we deserved, and in doing so, transferred His righteousness to us. It was a grand exchange. He takes ours sins and we get credited righteousness. But most importantly, Jesus suffered and died so that we do not have to suffer and die. We escape the cross because Jesus went there in our place.

The Catholic idea of salvation is quite different. Imputation is largely foreign to Catholic theology. Instead, Catholic theology operates on the idea of participation. That is, Christ came to earth and died on the cross, not so that we could avoid death and suffering, but so that He could transform the inevitability of death and suffering from the inside out. By communion with Him, by participation in His cross, we could receive eternal life.

After all, what is the fate of each and every human being? Death. It is the great equalizer. No matter how rich, famous, beautiful, or healthy we are, we will all die sooner or later. Death is the consequence of sin, for sin is a movement away from God Who is Life itself. Sin is therefore by definition non-Life. It is death by its nature. And because our first parents chose sin, death is the fate of every human being.

Our enemy was gleeful at our demise. He meant for our death to be eternal, and for our physical death to be the gateway into eternal doom. But Christ came and changed all that. He embraced death and death could not hold Him. He transformed it from the inside out, changing it from the gateway to eternal death to that of eternal life. In the words of the Byzantine liturgy, “He trampled down death by death.”

Put another way, Christ did not suffer and die so that we do not have to—he suffered and died so that our suffering and death could be transubstantiated into a means of life. He embraced the cross not to keep us from it, but so that our crosses could be changed from instruments of death into healing remedies that bring life.

As baptized Christians, we are members of the body of Christ. We are incorporated into Him and we live in communion with Him. This communion means that we share in His life—not by making some act of intellectual assent, but by living His life after Him. And living His life after Him requires carrying the cross after Him and sharing in His death. The cross is the price of eternal life.

This is the meaning of Jesus when He said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.” -Lk 14:27 Could there be any clearer sign that He did not come to keep us from the cross? No, rather He came to transform our crosses into the means of life.

Having been instructed by Christ himself, St. Paul understood this well. “I die daily.” “I have been crucified with Christ.” “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God and the Wisdom of God.” The cross was always in his heart and on his lips, for it was to him, as it is for us all, the means of eternal life.

Suffering is inevitable. To varying degrees, we will all suffer. And with a similar certainty, we will all die. It could be said that a cross lies at the heart of human existence. But the cross need not be a fate to be feared. Our Lord trampled down death by death. In the greatest paradox of all, He changed death into a means of life. What was once our doom is now our salvation.

“You must accept your cross,” said the holy St. John Vianney“If you bear it courageously it will carry you to heaven.” This Lent, let us not fear or flee the cross, but carry it with love and with hope, as the means not of death but of eternal life.”

Love,
Matthew

Conversion


-“The Conversion of St Paul” on the road to Damascus, by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1600/1601, oil on cypress wood, 237 cm × 189 cm (93 in × 74 in), Odescalchi Balbi Collection, Rome.

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

Presence of God – O Lord, You have created me for Yourself; grant that, with all my strength, I may tend toward You, my last end.

MEDITATION

In…Ezekiel 34:11-16, we read: “For thus saith the Lord God: Behold I Myself will seek My sheep, and will visit them … and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day…. I will bring them to their own land, and I will feed them in the mountains of Israel…. There shall they rest on the green grass.” This is the program which the Lord wishes to accomplish in our souls during the holy season of Lent, in order to lead us by means of it to a life of higher perfection and closer intimacy with Him. He stretches out His hand to us, not only to save us from dangers but also to help us climb to those higher places where He Himself will nourish us.

The point of departure which will make the realization of this divine plan possible is a new conversion on our part: we must collect our powers, desires, and affections, which have been scattered and are lingering in the valley of the purely human; putting them all together, we must make them converge on God, our one last end. In this sense, our Lenten conversion should consist in a generous determination to put ourselves more resolutely in the way of perfection. It means a new determination to become a saint. The desire for sanctity is the mainspring of the spiritual life; the more intense and real this desire is in us, the more it will urge us to pledge ourselves totally. In this first [full] week of Lent, we must try to arouse and strengthen our resolution to become a saint. If other efforts in the past have been unsuccessful or have not entirely reached the goal, this is no reason for discouragement. Nunc coepi–“now have I begun,” or rather: “now I begin”; let us repeat it humbly, and may the experience of our past failures make us place our trust in God alone.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord of my soul and my only good! Why do You not wish that the soul should enjoy at once the consolation of arriving at this perfect love as soon as it has decided to love You and is doing all it can to give up everything in order to serve You better? But I am wrong: I should have made my complaint by asking why we ourselves have no desire to arrive at it, for it is we alone who are at fault in not at once enjoying so great a dignity. If we attain to the perfect possession of this true love of God, it brings all blessings with it. But so [stingy] and so slow are we in giving ourselves wholly to God that we do not prepare ourselves to receive this benefit…. So it is that this treasure is not given to us in a short time because we do not give ourselves to God entirely and forever…. O my God, grant me the grace and the courage to determine to strive after this good with all my strength. If I persevere, You, who never refuse Your help to anyone, will strengthen my courage until I come off with victory. I say courage, because the devil, with so many obstacles, tries to make us deviate from this path” (cf. St. Teresa of Jesus, Life, 11).

Grant, O Lord Jesus, by the infinite merits of Your passion, that I may be converted to You with all my heart. Do not permit me to be discouraged by the continual return of my egotistical tendencies, or by the incessant struggle which I must maintain against them. Make me clearly understand that, if I wish to be completely converted to You, I can never make peace with my weaknesses, my faults, my self-love, my pride. Make me understand that I must sacrifice everything to Your love, and even when I have sacrificed everything I must still say: “I am an unprofitable servant,” O Lord, because everything is as nothing, compared with the love which You deserve, O infinitely lovable One!”

Blessed Lent,
Matthew

Dust? Ashes?

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

“Presence of God – I place myself in Your presence, O Lord; illumine with Your light the eternal truths, and awaken in my soul a sincere desire for conversion.

MEDITATION:

“Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19).

These words, spoken for the first time by God to Adam after he had committed sin, are repeated today by the Church to every Christian, in order to remind him of two fundamental truths–his nothingness and the reality of death.

Dust, the ashes which the priest puts on our foreheads today, has no substance; the lightest breath will disperse it. It is a good representation of man’s nothingness: “O Lord, my substance is as nothing before Thee” (Psalm 38:6), exclaims the Psalmist. Our pride, our arrogance, needs to grasp this truth, to realize that everything in us is nothing. Drawn from nothing by the creative power of God, by His infinite love which willed to communicate His being and His life to us, we cannot–because of sin–be reunited with Him for eternity without passing through the dark reality of death. The consequence and punishment of sin, death is, in itself, bitter and painful; but Jesus, who wanted to be like to us in all things, in submitting to death has given all Christians the strength to accept it out of love. Nevertheless, death exists, and we should reflect on it, not in order to distress ourselves, but to arouse ourselves to do good. “In all thy works, remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin” (Sirach 7:40). The thought of death places before our eyes the vanity of earthly things, the brevity of life–“All things are passing; God alone remains”–and therefore it urges us to detach ourselves from everything, to scorn every earthly satisfaction, and to seek God alone. The thought of death makes us understand that “all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone” (Imitation of Christ I, 1,4).

“Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die … then there will be many things about which you care nothing” (St. Teresa of Jesus, Maxims for Her Nuns, 68), that is, you will give up everything that has no eternal value. Only love and fidelity to God are of value for eternity. “In the evening of life, you will be judged on love” (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Maxims: Words of Light, 57).

COLLOQUY:

“O Jesus, how long is man’s life, although we say that it is short! It is short, O my God, since, by it, we are to gain a life without end; but it seems very long to the soul who aspires to be with You quickly…. O my soul, you will enter into rest when you are absorbed into the sovereign Good, when you know what He knows, love what He loves, and enjoy what He enjoys. Then your will will no longer be inconstant nor subject to change … and you will forever enjoy Him and His love. Blessed are they whose names are written in the Book of Life! If yours is there, why are you sad, O my soul, and why are you troubled? Trust in God, to Whom I shall still confess my sins and Whose mercies I shall proclaim. I shall compose a canticle of praise for Him and shall not cease to send up my sighs toward my Savior and my God. A day will come, perhaps, when my glory will praise Him, and my conscience will not feel the bitterness of compunction, in the place where tears and fears have ceased forever…. O Lord, I would rather live and die in hope, and in the effort to gain eternal life, than to possess all creatures and their perishable goods. Do not abandon me, O Lord! I hope in You, and my hope will not be confounded. Give me the grace to serve You always and dispose of me as You wish.” (St. Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God 15 – 17).

If the remembrance of my infidelities torments me, I shall remember, O Lord, that “as soon as we are sorry for having offended You, You forget all our sins and malice. O truly infinite goodness! What more could one desire? Who would not blush with shame to ask so much of You? But now is the favorable time to profit from it, my merciful Savior, by accepting what You offer. You desire our friendship. Who can refuse to give it to You, who did not refuse to shed all Your Blood for us by sacrificing Your life? What You ask is nothing! It will be to our supreme advantage to grant it to You” (St. Teresa of JesusExclamations of the Soul to God 14).”

Love, & Blessed Lent,
Matthew

Eucharist

-from Catholic Answers: 20 Answers – The Eucharist

“Nearly all Christians celebrate some form of the Eucharist by consuming bread and wine in memory of Christ’s death and Resurrection. Protestants usually refer to the Eucharist as the Lord’s Supper and do not believe that Christ is physically present in the bread and wine at their services or at the Catholic Mass. The various Protestant views on this sacrament can be found along this continuum:

Rejection of the sacrament: Some denominations do not celebrate the Eucharist. For example, the Salvation Army is usually known for its charity work but it is actually a self-proclaimed Christian denomination. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “Catherine Booth, the influential wife of the founder [of the Salvation Army], admired the piety and practices of Quakers, who did not perform baptisms or Communion rites. In keeping with the Salvation Army’s theology of sanctification—the Holy Spirit active in the lives of holy people—she saw all of life as sacramental. Although he did not prohibit the sacraments, William Booth declared in 1883 that the rites would not be endorsed as official worship of the Army.”

A memorial dinner: This view is common among Baptists and other “born-again” Christians. According to one Baptist writer, “the Supper functions as proclamation, the presence of Christ in the indwelling Spirit not only assures forgiveness through the Word; he also convicts of unbiblical patterns of life and thought.” According to this view, the Eucharist is a sign that points us to Christ, but Christ is not present in the Eucharist. Instead, Christ is present in the “indwelling Spirit” of the believer who receives the Eucharist.

A real, nonphysical presence: The Reformed tradition observed by Presbyterians holds that Christ is actually present in the Eucharist, but not in a physical way. In 1647, the Westminster Confession of Faith, a popular confession made by those in the Reformed tradition, said that “Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually [emphasis added], receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death.” This can be considered a “conduit view,” since Christ’s body isn’t located in the bread and wine but is instead made manifest through them.

A sacramental union: In contrast to the Reformed position, Martin Luther held a stronger position on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He claimed that the bread and wine exist in the Eucharist in a natural state while the body and blood of Christ exist in those same objects in a supernatural state. According to Luther, “Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, ‘This is my body,’ even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word ‘this’ indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a ‘sacramental union,’ because Christ’s body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament.” In other words, the consecrated bread and wine fully contain Christ’s body and blood, but they do not become Christ’s body and blood.

A physical change: The Catholic view of the Eucharist is different than the Protestant views because Catholics believe that the bread and wine at Mass actually become the physical body and blood of Christ. After consecration, the bread and wine no longer remain, and in their place is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The Council of Trent taught that in the Eucharist there is a change “of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.”

Eastern Orthodox churches hold the same view of the Eucharist as Catholics, but they sometimes use different vocabulary when describing the physical change from bread and wine into body and blood. Because Eastern Orthodox priests retain valid holy orders despite not being in union with the pope, and because they also subscribe to a belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, a Catholic in an emergency situation (e.g., in danger of death) may receive the Eucharist at an Orthodox service (see Question 14).

The Salvation Army cannot be considered a Christian denomination because it does not teach that its members should be baptized. The New Testament makes it clear that baptism is what brings us into God’s family and takes away original sin (1 Pet. 3:21, John 3:5, Rom. 6, and so on). Even Protestant denominations that deny baptismal regeneration usually still baptize because Jesus commanded that this be done (Matt. 28:19).”

Love,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP