Holy Spirit 3


-Johann Michael Rottmayr, 1714, Karlskirche, Vienna, Austria

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

Presence of God – O Holy Spirit, make me realize Your action in my soul; teach me to recognize it and correspond with it.

MEDITATION

Just as the Holy Spirit dwelt in the most holy soul of Christ in order to bring it to God, so He abides in our souls for the same purpose. In Jesus He found a completely docile will, one that He could control perfectly, whereas in us He often meets resistance, the fruit of human weakness; therefore, He desists from the work of our sanctification because He will not do violence to our liberty. He, the Spirit of love, waits for us to cooperate lovingly in His work, yielding our soul to His sanctifying action freely and ardently. In order to become saints, we must concur in the work of the Holy Spirit; but since effective concurrence is impossible without an understanding of the promoter’s actions, it is necessary for us to learn how the divine Paraclete, the promoter of our sanctification, works in us.

We must realize that the Holy Spirit is ever active in our souls, from the earliest stages of the spiritual life and even from its very beginning, although at that time in a more hidden and imperceptible way. However, His very precious action was there, and it consisted especially in the preparing and encouraging of our first attempts to acquire perfection. By giving us grace, without which we could have done nothing to attain sanctity, the Holy Spirit inaugurated His work in us: He elevated us to the supernatural state. Grace comes from God; it is a gift from all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity: a gift created by the Father, merited by the Son in consequence of His Incarnation, Passion, and death, and diffused in our souls by the Holy Spirit. But it is to the latter, to the Spirit of love, that the work of our sanctification is attributed in a very special manner. When we were baptized, we were justified “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”; nevertheless, Sacred Scripture particularly attributes this work of regeneration and divine filiation to the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself pointed out to us that Baptism is a rebirth “of … the Holy Spirit” (John 3:5), and St. Paul stated: “For in one Spirit were we all baptized” and “the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God” (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 8:16). Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who has prepared and disposed our souls for the supernatural life by pouring forth grace in us.

COLLOQUY

“O Holy Spirit, divine Guest of our souls, You are the noblest and most worthy of all guests! With the agility of Your goodness and love for us, You fly rapidly to all souls who are disposed to receive You. And who can tell the wonderful effects produced by You when You are welcomed? You speak, but without noise of words, and Your sublime silence is heard everywhere. You are always motionless, yet always in movement, and in Your mobile immobility, You communicate Yourself to all. You are always at rest, yet ever working; and in Your rest You perform the greatest, worthiest, and most admirable works. You are always moving, but You never change Your place. You penetrate, strengthen, and preserve all. Your immense, penetrating omniscience knows all, understands all, penetrates all. Without listening to anything, You hear the least word spoken in the most secret recesses of hearts.

“O Holy Spirit, You stay everywhere unless You are driven out, because You communicate Yourself to everyone, except to sinners who do not want to rise from the mire of their sins; in them You can find no place to rest, nor can You endure the evil emanating from a heart which obstinately persists in wrong-doing. But You remain in the creatures who, by their purity, make themselves receptive to Your gifts. And You rest in me by communication, operation, wisdom, power, liberality, benignity, charity, love, purity; in short, by Your very goodness. Diffusing these graces in Your creature, You Yourself prepare him suitably to receive You” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

Love & truth,
Matthew

Fall of Constantinople


-“Mehmed II, Entering to Constantinople”, Fausto Zonaro (1854-1929), please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“In the late thirteenth century, a Turkish ruler known as Osman began the military expansion of the Ottoman Empire. A century later, Ottoman forces were making excursions into imperial Byzantine territory. Ottoman expansion was doggedly focused on one overriding objective: the capture of the “Queen of Cities,” (Constantinople), and the subjection of Christian Europe.

The emperor Constantine, who legalized the Christian Faith in the early fourth century, created the Queen of Cities by moving the imperial capital from Rome to Byzantium. Originally known as “New Rome,” the city was later renamed “Constantinople” for its imperial founder. Constantine spared no expense in building his new capital. St. Jerome, in the next century, quipped that “in clothing Constantinople, the rest of the world was left naked.”

The civic importance and strategic location of the new city assisted in its growth, so that by the end of the fifth century it boasted a population of half a million. Constantinople was a formidable city: it encompassed a perimeter of twelve miles, eight of which were ringed by the sea, and boasted a massive defensive wall, built a thousand years earlier. Many armies, including numerous Islamic hordes, had tried to take the impregnable city and failed. As a result, the city was known among the Turks as “a bone in the throat of Allah,” and among Christians as “the bulwark against Islam.” The city had been conquered only once before by the misguided warriors of the Fourth Crusade, who were invited to the city by a renegade Byzantine prince desirous of the imperial purple. Nearly 250 years later, another army was poised to breach the ancient yet sturdy walls, and lay waste to the Empire.

In the middle of the fifteenth century, Mehmet II, a successor of Osman as sultan, was able to fulfill the great Ottoman dream. Known as the “Drinker of Blood,” Mehmet had dreamed of conquering Constantinople from boyhood and as sultan, he initiated plans designed to end the Byzantine Empire once and for all.

Mehmet learned from the past failed sieges of Constantinople and realized a successful plan required naval and land superiority. In particular, Mehmet knew he had to gain possession of the Golden Horn, a horn-shaped estuary near the city. The sultan ordered a major shipbuilding campaign in order to defeat the Byzantine navy, which was in a state of serious neglect and decline.

Mehmet’s naval plan centered on his fleet blockading the city and preventing any Christian relief and reinforcements from the sea. He realized that control of the Golden Horn would require the Byzantines to guard both the land and sea walls, thereby stretching the city’s defenders and military resources. Previous land sieges failed because the besieging armies could not find a way past the massive defensive walls of Constantinople. So, Mehmet devised a plan to knock the walls down with the use of cannon, but he knew available cannons could not destroy the walls.

Fortuitously, a Hungarian engineer named Urban, who had been rebuffed by the Byzantines, arrived at the sultan’s court offering his services. Urban convinced the sultan that he could cast a cannon large enough to shatter the walls of Constantinople. Once hired, the Hungarian worked for three months to produce the largest bronze cast cannon in the world. It measured twenty-seven feet long with an eight-inch barrel and was thirty inches across the muzzle. The cannon fired a solid shot eight feet in circumference, weighing fifteen hundred pounds, a full mile. The cannon was so large it required sixty oxen and two hundred men to move. Firing the gun was a complex and labor-intensive effort, which limited its effective rate of fire to only seven times a day. With his super gun in tow, the “Drinker of Blood” mobilized his troops and ships and began his march to the walls of the Queen of Cities and on destiny.

The massive Turkish army of 200,000 men arrived outside the walls of Constantinople on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1453. The Byzantine defenders were heavily outnumbered. After arrival at the city and establishing camp, Mehmet offered terms for the surrender of Constantinople, but Constantine XI rejected them. Mehmet ordered his artillery to begin the bombardment of the walls on April 12 and the sixty-nine artillery pieces including Urban’s super cannon battered the walls continuously for six days. Urban’s super cannon unleashed fury on the Constantinopolitan walls but it developed cracks early in the siege and exploded. After the continuous bombardment, Mehmet ordered the commencement of mining operations, in order to weaken a section of the walls, cause a collapse, and result in a breach.

The outnumbered Byzantines fought bravely, but after a month, the situation in the city was desperate. An imperial council of war pleaded for Constantine XI to flee but the stalwart emperor refused. The Ottomans continued their mining operations and assaults, even constructing a siege tower, which the Byzantines destroyed with explosives. The siege continued for another month and, despite the valiant defensive efforts, the city was at the breaking point. On May 29, the sultan ordered the final general assault in the early morning hours. The initial wave was defeated but the Ottoman troops steadily assaulted the walls in wave after wave. A shot from an Ottoman cannon succeeded in breaching the inner enclosure and into the gap poured hundreds of Turkish troops, but they were rebuffed by the Byzantine defenders.

Although his city and his troops were exhausted, Constantine XI believed the tide had turned and victory was near. However, in war, the smallest of actions and the bravery of a few can determine the course of victory. Some Ottoman troops found a postern gate near the Blachernae Palace unguarded, they opened the gate and poured into the defenses where they invested the wall, tore down a Christian banner, and replaced it with the Ottoman standard. Within fifteen minutes, thirty thousand Muslim warriors were in the city. Horrified at the sudden change in the situation, Constantine rushed to the wall to defend his beloved city and empire but perished among the throng.

The twenty-one-year-old sultan had defeated the forty-nine-year-old emperor and became known as Mehmet the Conqueror. Muslim troops ran through the undefended city slaughtering its inhabitants. A large group of citizens sought refuge in Hagia Sophia, the sixth century church built by Justinian the Great and the largest church in Christendom. Mehmet entered the city triumphantly and rode for the church, which he entered and declared a mosque. The sack of Constantinople continued for three days and witnessed the killing of thousands and the enslavement of tens of thousands.

The Queen of Cities, now in the hands of Islam, became known as Istanbul. Despite the pleadings of a series of popes, including Pius II, who personally took the Crusade vow but died before the expedition began, Western rulers were not interested in undertaking crusades to liberate the city.

The fight against Islam was not over. Future battles between Islam and the West were fought on European soil over the next several centuries.”

Love,
Matthew

Theology & Marriage

Dr. David Anders, PhD

“I hoped one of us would get hit by a bus. (I didn’t care which one.)…Murder, maybe. Divorce, never.”

“Thomas à Kempis, the author of The Imitation of Christ, once wrote that it is pointless to debate brilliantly about the Trinity if, by being an arrogant ass, you are displeasing to the Trinity[, and] that is [also] the Catholic point of view.”

“I once asked an attorney who handled both criminal defense and divorce cases if he was ever afraid to defend murderers, rapists, and other serious offenders. “Oh, no,” he said. “Often, you are the only person supporting the accused and they are genuinely grateful. What really scares me are the divorces. You wouldn’t believe how vicious these people can get.””

“With God’s help, prayer is a battle against ourselves. Prayer is where we cast off self-deception, artifice, pride, and egotism. Prayer is where we learn to stand naked before God and transparent to ourselves. Prayer is where we take up the Cross of Christ, allow ourselves to be slain, and entrust our resurrection to God alone.”

“The Church, for a Catholic, is a divine reality, the presence of Christ in the world…The Catholic Church sees Herself as the living embodiment of Jesus, as Christ’s real presence in the world. “Whoever beholds the Church,” said St. Gregory of Nyssa, “beholds Christ.”

…How could something so human — so full of incompetence and flesh and pride and ambition — be the living presence of God in the world?…

I caught a glimpse of something I had never seen before. Salvation isn’t just about going to Heaven when you die, escaping the world, or simply having a personal relationship with Jesus. It’s about being Christ in the world, embracing life with both hands, and raising it all up with as many people as possible in transcendent joy. “Whoever beholds the Church beholds Christ.” That mediocre priest, that baby, that grandmother, that college student, and even that corrupt medieval pope: Could God be present in that? Could a man love that?…

Being Catholic — being Christ in the world — doesn’t exempt you from flesh and blood, even from ambition, pride, and sin…It is a life visibly marked out by and for transcendence.”

“In Catholic thought, contemplation means having a deep, intuitive, almost experiential awareness of God through the life of prayer…the Church teaches that marriage is also a kind of full-time Christian spirituality, and one that offers a deep, interior experience of God.

Keeping this mystical dimension of marriage in view is absolutely necessary if we are to understand how to approach suffering in marriage. For many people today, the fact of personal pain would seem to justify almost any decision meant to relieve that pain. Are you in a difficult marriage? Then why not leave and try something else? Have you discovered that your sexual urges don’t line up with the demands of heterosexual or monogamous marriage? Why deny yourself satisfaction? But the Catholic Faith teaches that such suffering can be supremely meaningful, leading even to a mystical union with God.

One of my major concerns in writing this book is to urge suffering couples to a vigorous practice of the Catholic Faith. My hope is that Catholic couples will discover new strength for their marriages and that non-Catholic couples will consider what the Catholic Faith has to offer…my aim is to point married couples beyond the tools of psychology or natural marriage and to help them embrace a transcendent vision of Christian conjugal life….

I saw our lives potentially bound together through the mystery of suffering, and reshaped through the mystery of redemption. I felt that the universe was giving me a choice: Will you embrace suffering and redemption, or will you shelter yourself through the pursuit of pleasure?…

But I was coming to realize how the Protestant understanding of grace, assurance, faith, and salvation obscured my awareness of myself. Protestant teaching asserts that everything we do is sinful, but everything is forgiven — if we are “saved.” This is not a doctrine that encouraged me in critical self-examination or growth in virtue. By focusing so heavily on my general depravity, sinfulness, and inability to save myself, I felt strangely freed from responsibility to root out individual faults.

In studying Luther and Calvin, I found, however, that my experience was not unique. John Calvin was a man who confessed the sinfulness of humanity but was incapable of confessing his own personal fault. In tens of thousands of pages of material by and about him, I do not recall Calvin ever admitting wrong, apologizing, or taking responsibility for failure. Calvin divided the world into the elect and the reprobate, the pious and the impious — and he was always on the right side while his enemies were always on the wrong side.

Unlike Calvin, Luther had a tormented conscience; he felt he could never do anything right, and it was this profound guilt that drove him to concoct his new theology. Luther was so convinced of his ineradicable corruption, guilt, and sinfulness that he despaired even of God’s grace to change him. Even to try could lead only to frustration. The solution for Luther was not to focus on ethical behavior toward others but on absolving one’s own conscience.

It really is an extraordinary position. “Whoever wants to be saved,” Luther said, “should act as though no other human being except him existed on earth.” In an important sense, the Reformation doctrine of grace flows from this one man’s attempt to assuage his conscience. Luther articulated a brand-new theology, one that simply denied human freedom and insisted that man plays no role in his own salvation.

Now, to say that Luther and Calvin were flawed men is not surprising or informative. We could say that about anyone. Far more important to me was what I learned about how their flaws worked their way into Protestant theology, and ultimately into my life. There were cracks in the foundation of my religious tradition and those cracks found their way into my heart.

What does all this have to do with my marriage? I was discovering that my Protestant theology did not provide an adequate moral compass, sense of hope, or spiritual inspiration to meet the challenges of marriage. My historical studies further shook the foundations of my worldview, challenged me to deeper self-examination, and forced me to explore new answers to my moral malaise.

I became convinced that Reformation theology advanced neither Luther nor Calvin, as human beings, toward holiness. I began to see their theology, rather, as a highly sophisticated form of self-justification. In one sense this was an easy conclusion to reach, since I found in Luther and Calvin the very same flaws I found in myself. Therefore, if I was going to advance out of my morass, I was going to need different guides. Eventually, these concerns pushed me to seek holiness in the Catholic tradition and in the Catholic sacrament of marriage.

The intellectual history of Protestantism became for me a mirror in which to contemplate my own moral and spiritual dilemma. My tradition formed me to expect absolute assurance about salvation, regardless of my own behavior. Revealed in the lives of my Protestant mentors, though, I began to see how this attitude could have harmful effects not only on marriage, but on all manner of social relations.

I came to believe that my mentors and heroes in the faith had been worse than socially awkward: They had been dangerous ideologues, immune to criticism, utterly cocksure, and willing to impose their views with deadly force. This discovery was disquieting, to say the least. I always thought Catholics were the tyrants and ideologues, leading crusades and inquisitions and so forth, but now I was seeing the seed of interpersonal tyranny in my own tradition…

The Puritans of New England attempted to build an entire civilization on the distinction between the elect and the reprobate. Around the same time, the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), which was composed in England to provide an authoritative guide for building such a Protestant civilization, promised that the elect can have an “infallible assurance” of their election.

In Protestant thinking, “elect and reprobate” is not the same thing as “good and bad.” Instead, it is having “true faith” that distinguishes the elect from the reprobate. The elect, by virtue of having accepted that faith, can be infallibly certain that they are elect, even when their lives are morally disordered in other ways. Put crudely, you can meet an arrogant, self-righteous, lecherous egotist who knows for sure that he is one of God’s elect, destined for Heaven.

I was that egotist.”

Anders, Dr. David. The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony (pp. 8, 11, 13, 29-30, 34-35, 44, 49-51). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Did the Ascension really happen?


-Ascension Chapel, Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, UK, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Matt Nelson

“At the climax of the forty days spent with the disciples after his resurrection, Jesus ascended bodily into heaven. Catholics have always understood this to be a literal, miraculous event. We believe it really happened—and as a Church we profess it every Sunday.

But the dogma also has its detractors. Some have made a mockery of the doctrine, likening the “flying” Jesus to an Apollo spacecraft, as was a common jest among atheists in the 60s and 70s. Others deny the possibility of the miraculous altogether. Still others, like Episcopalian theologian John Shelby Spong, read the ascension as non-literal and symbolic: “A modern person knows that if you rise up off the Earth (as in the ascension), you don’t go to heaven. You go into orbit.”

Considering such criticisms, how can Catholics defend the reality of Christ’s ascension?

One might sympathize with Spong’s objection above. After all, isn’t heaven supposed to be “beyond” the physical universe? It’s an interesting objection, one to which C.S. Lewis offered what I find to be a satisfying rebuttal. After His Resurrection, it may have been that Our Lord,

“…a being still in some mode, though not our mode, corporeal, withdrew at His own will from the Nature presented by our three dimensions and five senses, not necessarily into the non-sensuous and undimensioned but possibly into, or through, a world or worlds of super-sense and super-space. And He might choose to do it gradually. Who on earth knows what the spectators might see? If they say they saw a momentary movement along the vertical plane – then an indistinct mass – then nothing – who is to pronounce this improbable?”

So it may have been that Jesus, still in bodily form, chose to ascend not to the stars, but simply from the ground as the beginning of the super-physical journey to heaven. This still assumes, of course, that miracles are possible. But are they?

Miracles are by definition supernatural events; and science only examines natural phenomena. To make a definitive claim about whether miracles can occur, one must look beyond, for example, microscopes and rulers and ask if such events are possible on philosophical grounds. Perhaps you have heard some version of David Hume’s objection that a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. The assumption is that God, if he existed, would have no right to create a supernatural effect in the natural world. But why not? The believer’s claim has consistently been that God is the First Cause of all physical reality. This means he is the creator and sustainer of the natural laws and the things they govern. He is the supreme Lawmaker.

It is absurd to charge him, then, with breaking his own “laws” since he is under no moral nor logical obligation to cause effects only via the normal physical causal relationships he himself upholds. As philosopher Alvin Plantinga has asked, why can’t we think of the laws of nature as descriptors of how God usually treats the matter he has created? And as we find that so many established theories end up being inadequate to explain all relevant phenomena, how can we say we even know with complete certainty what “the laws” are?

Another step in fortifying our defense of Christ’s ascension is to show that there are good reasons to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. If the possibility of Jesus’ resurrection may be rationally entertained, then so may be his ascension.

One of the most effective ways to make the case for the Resurrection is to use the minimal facts approach proposed originally by scholar Jürgen Habermas. This involves considering the historical facts accepted widely by all experts (most skeptics included), then demonstrating that the resurrection, rather than a natural explanation, is the best explanation for them. Such well-evidenced facts—what historian Mike Licona calls “historical bedrock”—include Jesus’ death by crucifixion, the reported appearances of the risen Christ, the empty tomb, and the sudden conversion of St. Paul, enemy and persecutor of the first Christians.

Another theory is that the disciples were hallucinating when they saw the resurrected Jesus. This hypothesis is plagued from the start by the fact that entire groups claimed to see Jesus at one time (1 Cor. 15:3-6). Group hallucinations are unlikely since people share neither brains nor minds. But even if mass hallucinations did occur, what could explain St. Paul’s conversion? What are the chances that he and Christ’s followers would hallucinate the same risen Jesus? The most tenable explanations for all these events involve a real person, Jesus, risen from the dead after his Crucifixion.

Could the account of the ascension itself be questionable? With St. Luke is our primary source, how can we trust that he is telling us history and not an allegory? John Shelby Spong finds this explanation most likely: “Luke never intended his writing to be understood literally. We have greatly misrepresented Luke’s genius by reading it literally.”

The problem with this reading is that Luke explicitly rejects its possibility. The evangelist clearly asserts in the prologue to his Gospel that his intention is to describe real history. Furthermore, when Luke describes the ascension there is no hint of embellishment, which is strange indeed if he did not intend it literally. In the gospel account he simply tells us that Jesus “parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:52). In Acts, he writes that Jesus “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Cold and clinical, like a serious historian interested only in the facts, Luke just tells us what happened—and that’s it. It is also notable that because the Gospel accounts were written only a few decades after Jesus’ crucifixion, there would have been eyewitnesses of Jesus still alive to correct or object to Luke’s account. But there is simply no record of such an objection.

Indeed, Luke’s Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles (which are “companion volumes”) have been touted by scholars of ancient history and archaeology as impressively accurate. The great archaeologist Sir William Ramsay famously acknowledged St. Luke as “a historian of the first rank.” More recent studies of Luke’s historical accuracy, such as that by classical scholar Colin Hemer, have further confirmed the deservedness of this high praise. Thus, when Luke describes Jesus’ bodily ascension into the heavens, we have many good reasons to believe that St. Luke was reporting real history, “a narrative of the things which have been accomplished . . . just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:1).”

Love,
Matthew

Calvinism/Presbyterianism – Predestination & Divine Sovereignty, Part 4 of 4


-John Calvin (1509-1564)


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

“God does not need the world. God is perfection, Himself. He is perfect happiness/contentment, Himself, regardless of whether He creates or not. So why did God create the world? Saint Thomas says that God, in creating, “intends only to communicate His own perfection, which is His goodness” (ST Ia., q. 44, a. 4, co.). Every creature, whether material or spiritual, is an effect of this creative self-communication of God. Yet, God’s generosity is not limited to the production of the natural world. The Holy Trinity chooses to share a goodness beyond the reach of any creature: eternal beatitude, supernatural happiness. Predestination is nothing other than God’s eternal plan to share His own happiness with creatures.

Considered this way, predestination is no longer some esoteric preoccupation of theologians better left unmentioned from the pulpit. No. Predestination is the reason we exist. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Saint Paul promises far more than just consolation to those who endure hardships. The “purpose” he mentions is nothing less than the glory God will bestow upon those “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29), and everything is guided by that purpose.

We should not only think about and ponder this mystery, though. We should live it. But, you might ask, how do we live this mystery? It’s not like the Eucharist, which we consume in Holy Communion, or the audible absolution that we hear in Confession. These mysteries touch us when Christ comes to meet us in the sacraments. There is already something tangible about these mysteries because of the physicality of sacraments. Predestination, on the other hand, exists as a plan in the mind of God, a plan to create the world so that His own happiness may be given to lowly creatures. If we are to live in this mystery, we have to connect with it in a different way.

Living this mystery does not mean wondering with anxiety about whether or not we have been chosen from all eternity, nor does it allow us to become fatalistic about what will happen to us. We live the mystery of predestination by pursuing the same goal that God had in creating us in the first place: eternal happiness with Him in heaven. That’s why God instructs and exhorts us in His revelation. He wants to teach us about this purpose and how to get there. He comes to us and lives in us to empower us to reach it. Saint Peter puts it this way:

His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and power. Through these, He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. … Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, 10)

Saint Peter does not think we change God’s eternal plan by participating in it. That’s not how providence or predestination works. However, the Scriptures are clear in saying that we are really responsible for our eternal destiny and real agents in attaining it. We are not mere spectators but participants relying on God’s grace. We can “make [our] call and election firm” by living the mystery of predestination, which is to be steeped in the superabundant goodness of God’s love.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ…”

In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him Who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”
-Eph 1:3-9, 11-14

Love,
Matthew

Is 40:6-8


-Mater Dolorosa, ca. 1674–85, Pedro de Mena, Spanish, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY. Carved wood sculpture, enhanced by paint and other media, including glass eyes and hair, reached a pinnacle of naturalism and expressive force in 17th-century Spain. Pedro de Mena’s virtuoso manipulation of these materials created startling likenesses of bodies and clothing. They encourage in the beholder an empathetic response to the suffering of mother and son, who appear as exemplars of worldly forbearance in the face of tragedy. Carved details such as the twisted and knotted rope binding Christ’s hands or the Virgin’s thin, deeply undercut drapery are joined by the subtle and descriptive painting in thin glazes of the silver and red brocade of the Virgin’s tunic and the bruises that cover Christ’s flesh. Mena’s desire was to make the figures seem physically present before the viewer. At the same time, they have a dignity and reserve that made them ideal works for contemplation.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“Disease and pandemics have always been a part of human life. While this current disease and the unprecedented world-wide shutdown imposes extraordinary hardships, illness is not a new thing. In fact, this infection embodies and manifests our already frail human condition; it is a shocking reminder of the daily reality we inhabit—not a break or contradiction.

But in the beginning, it was not so. Death and disease are the curse of original sin and the inheritance we receive from our first parents. Because our fallen state of sin is the cause of disease, no human work can completely heal it. No advance in medicine, or epidemiology, or public health policy will eliminate pandemics altogether, for our brokenness is too deep and beyond the reach of mere human progress. And so this coronavirus teaches us our frailty anew and reminds us of what has always been true: we walk in the vale of tears under the shadow of death, our lives are like grass that springs up beautiful in the morning but by evening withers and fades (Ps 90:6).

[There are] three ways to respond to our desperate and fallen state. We could respond with denial, perhaps imagining that scientific progress will fix everything, and ignore our inevitable fate. We have been choosing this option for far too long, embalming ourselves within a cocoon of entertainment and comfort and suffocating trivialities, dulling the latent pain of our precarious existence. Just look at how many shows there are to binge-watch, the vast scope of meaningless social media content, and see a society desperate to avoid an unavoidable experience of existential fragility.

We could also choose to flee, and refuse to live for fear of death. When the crisis hits, whether it’s a global sickness or a much more personal trial, it shakes us awake from our stupor and forces us to confront our mortality. And then we are tempted to run and hide, and shut everything down in terror.

The third choice is a noble one: confront the brokenness of the world and of ourselves, and in the face of danger and death choose courage and strength and virtue. We cannot fix what is so broken, but we can live well and seek what goodness lies in our power. This kind of noble choice traces itself back to the pagan philosophers, and perhaps a desire for this natural goodness lies behind recent interest in the stoic philosophers, or the similar strength exhibited in Jordan Peterson’s advice to “accept the terrible responsibility of life with eyes wide open” (12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, 27). And yet, even this noble choice is not enough. It is not enough, for it leaves us in the clutches of a merciless enemy, and cannot guide us out of the shadow of death.

It can sound harsh to summarize our human condition so bleakly. But only when you appreciate the fragility and brokenness of human life, only when you confront the curse of mortality, can you begin to appreciate the gift that Jesus Christ brings. He came to save us from death. If you’ve been reflecting on death in a time of pandemic, you will know what that means in a deeper way than you did before. He saved us from death. He saved us from disease. He saved us from this.

Marvelously, and in a way only God could imagine, He saved us not by destroying the fact of death, but by emptying death of its power. For the Christian, life is changed not ended: “We were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” (Rom 6:4-5).

And here we find a better choice, which is not so much a choice as a gift. Enlivened by the grace of God poured forth from the pierced heart of Christ, living in these last days and knowing that this world and its vanities are passing away, we can mock death: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Yes, it is true that each one of us will die, and disease brings that truth closer than ever. But there is nothing of value that death can truly and permanently take from you, for by your baptism “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:3).

Life is like this, and has always been like this, but we have a life that is beyond this life. For death and life have contended in that combat stupendous; the Prince of Life Who died reigns immortal.”

Love,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: New Age Jesus?

“Deepak Chopra is an alternative medicine doctor and self-help advocate whose advice sounds profound but, upon closer examination, turns out to be verbose gibberish. For example, consider these two quotes:

“Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.”

“Your consciousness quiets an expression of knowledge.”

The former is a real Chopra quote; the latter is just a random combination of words strung together by an online “Deepak Chopra quote generator.” It’s hard to tell them apart because Chopra’s “wisdom” consists of vague assertions about the mind creating reality combined with scientific jargon. In one article he claims, “Quantum theory implies that consciousness must exist, and that the content of the mind is the ultimate reality. If we do not look at it, the moon is gone.”

Lest you think Chopra is being merely poetic, he really believes that the most fundamental element of reality is consciousness and that we create the world around us (including the moon). He says that once we attain a high level of consciousness we can manipulate reality and accomplish incredible feats, like healing ourselves of cancer. When it comes to Jesus, Chopra promotes a common Eastern view of him as a “guru,” or someone who had achieved a level of introspective knowledge that leads to human fulfillment.

In his book The Third Christ, Chopra says, “Jesus did not physically descend from God’s dwelling place above the clouds, nor did he return to sit at the right hand of a literal throne. What made Jesus the Son of God was the fact that he has achieved God-consciousness.” So Jesus is God in the sense that we are all “God,” or that we all have the spark of “God-consciousness” within us, waiting to be actualized. That’s why Chopra tells us, “Jesus intended to save the world” not by dying for our sins but, “by showing others the path to God-consciousness.”

Man wearing Jesus Christ costume smiling positive doing ok sign with hand and fingers. Successful expression.

But how can that be true if . . .
…“Guru Jesus” is Unhistorical

In his 2008 book Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment, Chopra weaves a fanciful tale to explain how Jesus became so “enlightened.” He takes advantage of the thirty years of Christ’s life between his birth and the start of his public ministry that are not described in Scripture (save for when Jesus’ parents found him in the Temple at the age of twelve) to claim that during his teens and twenties Jesus went on a journey to India, where he learned the secret of enlightenment from other wise men before returning to Galilee.

Chopra’s tale is just another in a long line of speculative stories about Christ’s “hidden years.” They go all the way back to medieval writers, who imagined a young Jesus visiting England with his traveling-tin-merchant father Joseph of Arimathea (an idea later popularized in William Blake’s 1808 poem “And did those feet in ancient time”). The claim about Jesus going to India comes from Nicolas Notovitch’s 1894 work The Life of Saint Issa, in which he claims to have seen an ancient document in a Himalayan monastery that describes how Jesus studied Buddhism in the region. But when other journalists went and visited this monastery, they learned Notovitch had never even been there. But it was a lucrative hoax for him.

In his book, Jesus Outside the New Testament, Robert Van Voorst says that when it comes to Jesus’ alleged travels to India and Tibet, they are as historically worthless as the Quran’s testimony about Jesus we discussed in the previous chapter (of the book). Chopra readily admits that there’s no evidence for his theory in the Bible. After claiming that an unknown German scholar made these claims in the 1940’s (whom Chopra may have mistaken for Notovitch) he concludes, “I went into incubation, meditation, and I allowed this story to unfold. It fits into the category of ‘religious fiction.’”

Chopra also appeals to the apocryphal Gospels, which do have gnostic themes that are similar to New Age thought, as witnesses to the “mystical Jesus.” For example, in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is made so say, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there” (77).

Some scholars claim that the Gospel of Thomas is a first-century work and so it is the most reliable of the bunch. But other scholars, including critical ones like Bart Ehrman, believe that the Gospel’s allusions to other books of the New Testament, its reliance on later Syriac renderings of those texts, and its absence of apocalyptic themes place its composition in the middle of the second century. This alone would make it far less reliable than the first-century canonical Gospels. And that leaves the Guru Jesus theory without any historical basis whatsoever.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Calvin’s reprobation & free will


-The Doctrine of Predestination explained in a Question and Answer Format from a 1589/1594 Geneva Bible, please click on the image for greater clarity

In Christianity, the doctrine that God unilaterally predestines some persons to heaven and some to hell originated with St Augustine of Hippo during the Pelagian controversy in 412 AD. Exactly the time the Catholic Church stopped adopting the teachings of Augustine as doctrine.

Pelagius and his followers taught that people are not born with original sin and can choose to be good or evil. The controversy caused Augustine to radically reinterpret the teachings of the apostle Paul, arguing that faith is a free gift from God rather than something humans can choose. Noting that not all will hear or respond to God’s offered covenant, Augustine considered that “the more general care of God for the world becomes particularised in God’s care for the elect”. He explicitly defended God’s justice in sending newborn and stillborn babies to hell although they had no personal sin. (Limbo, merely a theological idea, not a doctrine, was a Catholic “we don’t know” answer.  Realizing the necessity of baptism for salvation, but also the innocence other than original sin, but no personal sin, seems out of line logically with God’s infinite mercy and love and also His infinite Justice.  Sending the personally innocent to Hell cannot be logical or just.  Truth cannot contradict truth.)

John Calvin taught the latter part of “double predestination” had leaving the remainder of humanity to receive eternal damnation for all their sins, even their original sin. Calvin wrote the foundational work on this topic, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1539), while living in Strasbourg after his expulsion from Geneva and consulting regularly with the Reformed theologian Martin Bucer. Calvin’s belief in the uncompromised “sovereignty of God” spawned his doctrines of providence and predestination. For the world, without providence it would be “unlivable”. For individuals, without predestination “no one would be saved”.

Calvin did not accept the concept of free will, God’s superabundant gift of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ to all, if only for the asking; understanding due to free will and original sin, causing a darkness of the will, soul, and mind, that some would reject this superabundant free gift of eternal life.

Calvinists(Presbyterians) emphasize the active nature of God’s decree to choose those foreordained to eternal wrath, yet at the same time the passive nature of that foreordination.  God gives His grace to the elect, and not to the reprobate, leaving them to themselves, and their ultimate, inevitable damnation. So, you could unwittingly be tempted to argue that there really is no difference between free will and the doctrine of reprobation, but, ahem, as they say, and truly so, the devil is in the details.

This is possible because most Calvinists(Presbyterians) hold to an Infralapsarian, the Calvinist theological discipline of the logical order of God’s decrees, view of God’s decree. In that view, God, before Creation, in His mind, first decreed that the Fall would take place, before decreeing election and reprobation. So God actively chooses whom to condemn, the reprobate, but because He knows they will have a sinful nature, the way He foreordains them is to simply let them be – this is sometimes called “preterition.”

Therefore, this foreordination to wrath is passive in nature (unlike God’s active predestination of His elect where He needs to overcome their sinful nature). So, in order to make reprobation line up with free will you have to do some logical gymnastics and hoops, which Calvinism intentionally makes you do, to come out somewhere near a fruitless effort to seem like free will, tadah; but, it’s really not.

Calvinists hold that even if their scheme is characterized as a form of determinism, it is one which insists upon the free agency and moral responsibility of the individual. How, this editor does not know.

Additionally, Calvinists(Presbyterians) hold that the will is in bondage to sin and therefore unable to actualize its true freedom. Hence, an individual whose will is enslaved to sin cannot choose to serve God. Since Calvinists(Presbyterians) further hold that salvation is by grace apart from good works (sola gratia) and since they view making a choice to trust God (free will/faith) as an action or work, they maintain that the act of choosing cannot be the difference between salvation and damnation, as in the Arminian scheme. Rather, God must first free the individual from his enslavement to sin to a greater degree than in Arminianism, and then the regenerated heart naturally chooses the good. This work by God is sometimes called irresistible, in the sense that grace enables a person to freely cooperate, being set free from the desire to do the opposite, so that cooperation is not the cause of salvation but the other way around.  God saves the elect by fiat of grace to them only and personally, without personal choice or knowledge of the elect, and they cooperate with Him.


-by Karlo Broussard

“John Calvin is famous for teaching that God doesn’t just permit moral evil, but he positively directs sinners to sin. Of “wicked” and “obstinate” men, Calvin claimed that

“[God] bends them to execute His judgments, just as if they carried their orders engraven on their minds. And hence it appears that they are impelled by the sure appointment of God (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 1, Ch. 18, sec. 3; emphasis added).”

Notice that for Calvin sinners don’t sin merely because God allows them to do so (His permissive will). Rather, he “impels” or “bends” (forces) them to sin.

But is it even possible for God to cause someone to sin?

Consider that if God were to move us to sin he would be turning us away from him, away from our ultimate end or goal, “for man sins through wandering away from [God] who is his last end” (Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 3.162). In other words, God would be moving us to not love Him, and if so, He would fail to will the divine goodness more than any other good (cf. Summa Theologiae I:19:9). And this failure would be due either to a lack of knowledge that He is the supreme good, or a failure in due attraction to Himself as the supreme good.

But God can’t possibly fail in knowledge that He’s the supreme good because He’s omniscient. Nor can He fail to be attracted to Himself as the highest good, for that would entail a desire for some good outside the order of reason, which is impossible because He’s perfectly good.

In fact, God can’t fail in any sense. Failure necessarily entails unactualized potential. But God is traditionally understood to be pure actuality, or pure existence itself, the very notion of which excludes the idea of unactualized potential. Therefore, God can’t fail lest He cease being God.

Since God moving us to sin would entail a failure on God’s part, and God can’t fail, it follows that God can’t move us to sin.

Now, someone may just reject this classical notion of God in order to keep the idea that God moves us to sin. But then there’s not much value in a deity that’s finite and subject to defect. This position undermines the very divine sovereignty that folks like Calvin seek to preserve in asserting that God moves us to sin.

The desire to preserve God’s sovereignty is laudable. But there’s another way to preserve it that doesn’t require us to give up divine perfection.

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that God gives some people the assistance of grace that leads them to glory in heaven (an assistance that doesn’t violate human freedom), while He permits others to fall into sin, the consequence of which is deprivation of further graces ordered to salvation (SCG 3.163). And since this is all “ordered from eternity by His wisdom,” so Aquinas reasons, “it follows of necessity that the aforesaid distinction among men has been ordered by God from eternity.”

The preordination of some to be moved to their last end is called predestination. The permissive decree to not uphold someone in the good and allow that person to sin is called reprobation. On this account, both predestination and reprobation belong to God’s providence.

Nothing is lost. God’s nature as pure actuality is preserved because there’s no unrealized potential. He remains the source of all good because those who attain final glory do so because of God’s grace. God’s sovereignty is preserved because not even sin escapes his divine plan, since from all eternity He wills to permit it. Nor is God’s innocence lost because He doesn’t move us to do evil.

Now, someone might object: “This account doesn’t protect divine innocence any more than Calvin’s system, since God could have given the grace to prevent someone from sinning if He wanted to do so.”

First of all, God is not bound in justice to give us what is not our due. In the words of Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, “It is natural [Ed. according God’s will, the natural law, natural revelation] that what is defectible should sometimes fail.”

As finite creatures made in God’s image who are given the gift of freedom, our final end is in Him—not in ourselves. We must therefore direct ourselves to our final end by an act of free will, in collaboration with God’s grace. But that entails the possibility to sin. So, for God to preserve us from sin by grace would be for Him to give us something over and above what’s due to us as finite rational beings. And since God is not bound in justice to himself to give us what’s not due to our nature, it follows that God is not unjust for permitting us to sin.

Now, this doesn’t mean those whom God permits to fall into sin don’t have a chance at salvation. Aquinas teaches that God “for his part, is prepared to give graces to all” (SCG 3.159). He quotes 1 Timothy 2:4 for biblical support: “[God]…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And how does He do this?

“The common and wonted course of justification is that God moves the soul interiorly and that man is converted to God, first by an imperfect conversion, that it may afterwards become perfect (ST I-II:113:10).”

God gives to all the grace that leads to an imperfect conversion, and because this grace has the potential to lead to further good acts meritorious of salvation, there’s a real chance at salvation: “the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (Gaudium et Spes 22).

With regard to the grace needed to perform more-perfect acts, like a more perfect act of conversion, God only withholds it if man resists the order that the first grace has to the more perfect act. Again, Aquinas writes,

“But those alone are deprived of grace, who place in themselves an obstacle to grace: thus he who shuts his eyes while the sun is shining is to be blamed if an accident occurs, although he is unable to see unless the sun’s light enable him to do so (SCG 3.159).”

This allows Aquinas to conclude that “God does not cause grace not to be supplied to someone; rather, those not supplied with grace offer an obstacle to grace” (De Malo q. III, a. 1, ad 8).

God does permit us to sin, but this doesn’t count against God’s goodness because He’s not bound in justice to Himself to prevent us from sinning.  [Ed. His knowledge that we will sin, and that some will be damned, and even whom, does not prevent, or interrupt our free will.  Knowing something does not effect or alter or change or impel a result of the consequence of free will. cf Augustine.  Also, God knows every combination that can happen, so, in that way, God is omniscient.  When we think of God knows the future, we fail in understanding and imagination that as only one possible thread existing preemptive and future.]

As to why God doesn’t rescue every man from sin, and allows some to fall into it, it’s a mystery. As Aquinas says, it “has no reason, except the divine will” (ST I:23:5 ad 3).

So, for anyone who wants to hold to the idea that God moves us to sin, as Calvin believed, he must hold an idea of God as a finite being who is subject to error. The view articulated by Aquinas doesn’t require this of us. It preserves God’s perfection and his divine sovereignty by allowing both predestination and reprobation to be part of God’s providence without having to say God moves us to sin.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Jun 27 – St John Southworth (1592-1654) – Priest & Martyr


-The Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs.  Note the reliquary, “feretory”, of St John Southworth on the right.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

The marble walls and floor were completed in 1931. The life-size figure of St George takes its place as chief patron of the Chapel

St George was a Roman soldier, put to death for his Christian faith about 302AD. His cult was brought to England by the Crusaders, and King Edward III made him patron of England in the fourteenth century.

In this Chapel, which is currently in the process of being decorated with its mosaic scheme, we pray especially for England, and for those who have witnessed to their Catholic faith in our land.

In the center of the floor is a rose, symbol of England; the rose motif is continued behind the altar and around the walls. Either side of the altar the red cross of St George is displayed on marble shields. Panels list servicemen who gave their lives in battle, and who are prayed for in the Cathedral.

On the facing wall is a carving of St George by Lindsey Clarke. Above the altar is the last carving of Eric Gill. It portrays Christ on the cross, not suffering, but gloriously triumphant over death; to his left stands St Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, and to his right St John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. Both men were executed in 1535 for their refusal to deny the Supremacy of the Pope under King Henry VIII.

Normally, St John Southworth, martyred in 1654 at Tyburn (now Marble Arch) for his Catholic faith, lies in a shrine by the grill. His body was brought to the Cathedral in 1930. It is now temporarily housed in the Chapel of the Holy Souls while the decoration of the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs is completed.

At the entrance to the Chapel is a mosaic representing Christ the Divine Healer, erected in 1952 in memory of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Outside the Chapel, a new mosaic records St Alban, the first to shed his blood for the Christian faith on British soil. Alban was a Roman soldier in the Roman province of Britannia. He sheltered, and then changed places with, a persecuted Catholic priest. When arrested, he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and was martyred. The mosaic, by Christopher Hobbs, was unveiled in June 2001.

Lord, we pray for all those who
witness to the Gospel in this land.
May all Christians work to heal
divisions within the Church,
So that together we may bear witness to Jesus Christ.


-reliquary of St John Southworth, the only Reformation martyr whose remains are wholly intact, please click on the image for greater detail.

Saint John Southworth came from a Lancashire family, the principal members of which seemed to have lived at Samlesbury Hall. He is thought to have been born in 1592 and was martyred at Tyburn on 28 June 1654. His family chose to pay heavy fines rather than give up the Catholic faith.

In 1618, John Southworth was ordained a priest at the English College, Douai (Douay) in Northern France. After returning to England, he was arrested and condemned to death in Lancashire in 1626, and imprisoned first in Lancaster Castle, and afterwards in the Clink Prison, London. On 11 April, 1630, at the insistence of Queen Henrietta Maria, he and seventeen others were delivered to the French Ambassador for transportation abroad, but, in 1636, he was reported to have been released from the Gatehouse, Westminster, and was living at Clerkenwell. From there it seems he and Henry Morse, SJ, frequently visited the plague-stricken dwellings of Westminster to administer the sacraments and comfort the sick and the dying. They both also raised money for plague-stricken families. In 1637, he appears to have been based in Westminster, where he was arrested on 28 November, before being again sent to the Gatehouse. From there he was transferred to the Clink and, in 1640, was brought before the Commissioners for Causes Ecclesiastical, who sent him back there. During these various imprisonments Fr Southworth was protected by the Secretary of State to the King, Francis Windebank, who seems to have allowed him relative freedom, and who eventually became a Catholic himself.

On 16 July, John Southworth was again freed, but by 2 December he was once more imprisoned in the Gatehouse. After his final apprehension on 19 June 1654, dragged from his bed by a Colonel Worsley, he was tried at the Old Bailey, where he insisted on pleading guilty to being a priest. He was reluctantly condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered by the Recorder of London, Serjeant Steel, who wept bitterly while reading the sentence.  He was permitted to wear his vestments at this execution, a rare honor.  He was the only Catholic martyr to die under the rule of Oliver Cromwell.  On the day of his martyrdom, he was allowed to make a long speech at the gallows.

Among his last words:

“I am come hither to die, and would willingly speak something…I am a Lancashire man and am brought hither to die not for any crime I have committed against the laws, but for being a priest, and obeying the commandments of my Savior Jesus Christ and for professing the true Roman Catholic and Apostolic Faith, in which I willingly die, and have earnestly desired the same. My study from my infancy was to find out the true and only way to serve God, and having found it, my study was to serve Him.  And I have suffered much, and many years imprisonment, to obtain that which I hope ere long I shall enjoy.

Almighty God sent his only Son my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into this world for the redemption of mankind; and although the least of His sufferings was superabundant satisfaction, yet He rested not so contented, but Himself doeth by word and example give us a rule by which we should be guided: He told St. Peter, thou art a rock, and upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it — which is the true Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.

My faith and obedience to my superiors is all the treason charged against me; nay, I die for Christ’s law, which no human law, by whomsoever made, ought to withstand or contradict… To follow His holy doctrine and imitate His holy death, I willingly suffer at present; this gallows I look on as His Cross, which I gladly take to follow my Dear Saviour…I plead not for myself…but for you poor persecuted Catholics whom I leave behind me.

My faith is my crime, the performance of my duty the occasion of my condemnation. I confess I am a great sinner; against God I have offended, but am innocent of any sin against man, I mean the Commonwealth, and the present Government.”  He was cut short.  Closed his eyes, said his prayers, and the trap door of the gallows swung open.

The Venetian Secretary reported on his execution: he was hung, and was not dead when the executioner “cut out his heart and entrails and threw them into a fire kindled for the purpose, the body being quartered . . . Such is the inhuman cruelty used towards the English Catholic religious.”

The Spanish ambassador bought his body for forty guineas from the executioner and, in 1655, returned it to Douai after the corpse had been sewn together and embalmed (parboiled). In 1656 the recovery of Francis Howard, fifth son of the Earl of Arundel, was attributed to St John Southworth’s relics. When England and France went to war in 1793 St John Southworth’s body was buried in a lead coffin in an unmarked grave below the college for its protection. The grave was discovered in 1927 where it remained hidden until 1927 when the college was demolished to make way for housing.
His major relics were sent to St Edmund’s College, Ware, successor of the English College in Douai. In 1930, his major relics – the only complete body of a Reformation martyr – were brought to Westminster Cathedral, where a shrine was prepared for them.

He was beatified in 1929 and was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.


-please click on the images for greater detail.

So here he lies as he has lain in state
These ninety years in this cathedral crypt
At Westminster. We come to venerate
The relics of a martyr: his heart, ripped
Out of his chest at Tyburn for a priest,
Was sewn back in at Cromwell’s stern behest.
Four times arrested and three times released,
That blessèd little man four times confessed.

His derring-do his daring deeds display,
This doughty representative of Christ.
With face behind a silver mask he lies
And if he cries we cannot see his eyes.
-Peter Hartley

St John Southworth’s feast day is 27 June, which is observed as a Solemnity at the Westminster Cathedral, London, UK.

Love,
Matthew

Plague, the Catholic way

In 1575, the black death/plague descended on Milan [Ed. Ambrosian rite, as Milan was the city also of St Ambrose.  My novice master’s religious name was Ambrose.] The city’s bishop, St. Charles Borromeo, hastened both to action and to prayer. Borromeo sold his own possessions to fund the relief effort and persuaded many wealthy citizens to contribute generously. He organized his clergy to care, materially and spiritually, for all in need. He created and staffed hospitals and quarantine houses. [Ed. we get our word “quarantine” from the forty days plague victims were required to isolate themselves, “Italian: quaranta giorni”.] Concerned by the growing ranks of the unemployed (sound familiar?) he created jobs for, or otherwise supported, large numbers of unemployed workers. Though he instilled strict distancing policies, he was nevertheless desperate not to forego his own personal contact with the suffering. Accordingly, St Charles made everyone, including his own household, treat him as though he had the plague; he went so far as carrying a long pole to keep healthy-looking people at bay when going about his business. He also made a special point of ensuring that the most vulnerable—that is, the orphaned infants whom he took “particular pleasure in rescuing”—received adequate love and attention.

Mindful above all of his flock’s spiritual needs, Borromeo went to great lengths to ensure people, despite everything, received proper religious care: “While he did not neglect their bodies, his principal solicitude was for the salvation of souls.” Most strikingly, at the peak of the epidemic, with churches closed and people confined to their homes, he had outdoor altars erected all around town, “where Mass was said daily, so that all could attend from their homes.” [Ed. the Mass “online” of its day?] He also instituted door-to-door confessions—“the confessor sitting on the doorstep outside, and the penitent kneeling within”—and home-delivery of the Eucharist on Sundays, administering the sacrament at the doorstep “as if they had been cloistered religious.”

“It did not escape him that the forty days of quarantine, if given up to idleness, afforded many temptations to sin; he therefore was heedful to provide that this time should be spent so as to promote the glory of God and the salvation of their souls.” To this end, he organized a number of activities and resources to help his flock homeschool themselves in piety and virtue. Prayerbooks were also distributed to each household, so the whole city might pray in unison at seven times of the day and night, “singing psalms and hymns in two choirs, after the manner of a chapter of canons, and saying suitable prayers, each hour being announced by the ringing of the great bell of the cathedral.” Copies of inspiring readings were translated into the vernacular and published, including works by our third-century friends Sts. Cyprian and Dionysius, relevant sermons and letters from other saints, and an account of the Franciscan St. Bernardine’s ministrations in plague-torn Siena in 1400.

Aged just nineteen, Bernardine volunteered to work in Siena’s plague hospital and encouraged his friends to do likewise. Nursing the sick and dying, he “labored with such readiness and cheerfulness of mind, that it seemed as if he were engaged in the care of his father, of his brothers, or of his own children. This should cause little astonishment, for in serving the sick, Bernardine served God, who is more than father, brother, or son to us.”

And that was not all: To provide still further against the evils of idleness, St. Charles sent round a pastoral letter, suggesting how the rest of their time might be profitably spent in mental prayer and spiritual reading, and granted special indulgences to those who practiced these exercises and prayed for the sick.

According to Borromeo’s biographer, thanks to his concern for the spiritual sustenance of the quarantined, “Milan might at this time have been not unfitly compared to a cloister of religious of both sexes serving God in the enclosure of their cells, an image of the heavenly Jerusalem filled with the praises of the angelic hosts.”

St. Henry Morse (1595–1645) and St. John Southworth (c. 1592–1654) ministered illegally to London’s Catholics during a seventeenth-century outbreak of plague. Though neither liked the other’s methods, they got results. Both were later martyred for these and other “crimes.”

Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig (1911– 1945), was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941 for preaching in defense of the Jews. Imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp, he volunteered to serve quarantined inmates who were infected with typhoid. He contracted and died from the disease. He was beatified a “martyr of charity/love”, instead of a martyr from violence, similar to St Maximillian Kolbe or St Damien De Veuster, in 2016.

St Marianne Cope

Love, trust in Him, always,
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, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine