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Unity: Eucharist & Four Marks of the Church

-by Jan Wakelin

“We often speak of the four marks of the Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Yet during our apologetical endeavors, it would be a missed opportunity not to bring the argument to a climax by unveiling the Eucharist as the mark of Christ’s Church par excellence. The Eucharist is the ultimate mark of Christ’s Church, for the Eucharist not only is a visible sign of each mark, but has the power to maintain the essence of what each mark of the Church represents.

First, the Church is one through the Eucharist. In October 2004, John Paul II graced the Year of the Eucharist with the apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine. In it, the Holy Father recounted several instances in Scripture where Christ was leading His disciples to an understanding of a Church united in him through the Eucharist. In John 6:55, Jesus says, “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” This was shocking to those who heard it—so much so that many left. Jesus asked the Twelve if they too would go away. Peter, speaking for the Twelve, said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In other words, those who understood, though they were shocked by the reality of the words just spoken, refused to abandon Christ’s teaching because they would be abandoning Christ himself.

St. Cyril of Alexandria understood the Eucharist’s ability to unite us with Christ. He said, “As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.”

The Eucharist is, therefore, the sign and cause of unity because the Eucharist is Christ. It was instituted by Christ as a means of drawing us to himself. The Eucharist expresses our unity and also brings it about when we receive him worthily. The fact that we share the same body and blood makes us sisters and brothers in Christ. Even at the natural level we realize that sharing the same blood forms a family bond. Those who are too ill to participate in the Eucharistic celebration are often brought the Eucharist both as a sign of unity and to provide them with spiritual food. Blessed Theophane Venard wrote of the Eucharist, “When the body is deprived of food it languishes and dies; and it is the same with the soul, without the Bread that sustains life.”

By receiving this spiritual nourishment, we, Christ’s body, are equipped to give of ourselves to each other and to him in a more perfect way. The visible structure of the Church maintains the succession of priests who can offer the sacrifice of the Mass and consecrate bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood. “Just as the Church ‘makes the Eucharist’ so the Eucharist builds up the Church” (Dominicae Cenae 4).

The Eucharist also unites heaven and earth. Many who have lost a loved one may experience closeness to that person after receiving Communion or while in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. These feelings may be a result of a deep theological awareness that those who died in grace are alive in Christ; thus, our nearness to Christ in the Eucharist brings us nearer to them as well.

Another way of seeing this fusion of heaven and earth is to realize that when Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, its sacrificial dimension was revealed. Throughout history, Christ offers himself for the salvation of all mankind—but why? So we can live with him eternally. As one family, we, who share the same divine body and blood, will share in the heavenly banquet together—perfected in love and united in that love.

Augustine said of the Eucharist, “O sacrament of love! O sign of unity! O bond of charity! He who would have life finds here indeed a life to live and a life to live by.”

Second, the Church is holy through the Eucharist. The greatest commandments are to love God and neighbor, and the greatest expression of this love is found in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Christ, and it recalls the love he has for us—a love so great that he was willing to become one of us, suffer incredible physical and spiritual pain, and die a human death. Consuming Christ in the Eucharist has the capacity to make us more like him—and thus more holy. “For the partaking of the body and blood of Christ has no less an effect than to change us into what we receive” (Eucharisticum Mysterium 7).

Such thoughts help us to understand St. Teresa of Avila’s words that “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.”

Third, the Church is catholic through the Eucharist. Christ’s presence in the Church makes it catholic, or universal. He is wherever the Church is, and wherever the Church is, there is the Eucharist.

As a universal Church, we have the responsibility of being Christ to others. This means that not only must we say what he said, but we also must do what he did. Jesus admonished sinners, showed mercy, asked for repentance, and demonstrated compassion and forgiveness. He also fed the hungry, healed the sick, and encouraged the poor. He did not deny anyone because of race, sex, age, or state in life. Just as we are to be Christ to others, so we must see Christ in others. He can be found in everyone. When we see Christ in others, we find ourselves. In this way, the Church is also universal.

By participating in the Eucharistic celebration, we are reminded that the loving sacrifice that he made for us, he also made for everyone. All activities of the Church to spread the kingdom of God are linked with the Eucharist and are directed back to it. St. Peter Chrysologus said, “The Eucharist is the link that binds the Christian family together. Take away the Eucharist and you have no brotherliness left.”

Fourth, the Church is apostolic through the Eucharist. The Church is apostolic because her mission in and to the world is a continuation of the work of the first apostles, a mission given to them by Christ. Because this mission will go on until the end of time, the apostles had to make provisions for others to succeed them. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the bishops, who are the successors to the apostles, continue to teach and guide the Church today. All the members of the mystical body of Christ share in this mission and are called to activities that further God’s kingdom. This means they are to spread the gospel of Christ through works of love in their state of life. “But charity, drawn from the Eucharist above all, is always ‘as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 864).

The Church is governed by spiritual fathers representing God. Throughout the Old Testament, genealogies had great importance because they identified individuals as part of a succession of people who shared the same blood and, thus, were part of the same family. Christ continued this linkage by appointing apostles to succeed him, and he gave us the Eucharist so we could all share in the same blood that our brothers and sisters in faith also shared.

So you see how Christ’s body and blood factor into each mark of the Church. The Eucharist both symbolizes the oneness of Christ’s Church and causes and sustains it. Christ is God, who alone is perfectly holy. Christ is present within the Church for which he dies, making it holy. The Church has been entrusted with the Eucharist, and therefore it has the means to make men holy by partaking in Christ. Christ’s Church is universal because he died for each and every one of us wherever we are, whoever we are, and whenever we lived.

St. John de Brebeuf, a Jesuit who was martyred bringing the Catholic faith to the natives of North America, contemplated the mystery of the Eucharist’s universality, saying,

The only external sign of our holy religion that we have is the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. . . . It seems, moreover, that God supplies what we lack and rewards us with grace for having transported the holy sacrament beyond so many seas and having found an abode for it in these poor cabins.

By bringing the Eucharist to the New World, continents were spiritually united. The Eucharist is a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice for all men, and it keeps in our mind the dignity of all men because of Christ’s love for them. The Church’s ability to trace its roots to the apostles assures us that the successors to Peter are part of our family tree and that it is the true Church. The power to consecrate bread and wine has been passed on within the family as our spiritual treasure that keeps each mark of the Church present and its identity authentic.

The reason, therefore, why the Eucharist is the ultimate mark of the Church, the mark par excellence, is that the Eucharist is Christ, Who remains in the Church; sustains it; and, through its members, draws others to himself. Because of the Eucharist, the Church maintains its marks and grows in unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolic works. The Eucharist was instituted because of the Church, and the Church is sustained and grows because of the Eucharist.

Articulating this truth to non-Catholic Christians would resonate in many hearts and draw them into this great mystery of our faith: Christ’s real presence among us. St. John Henry Newman said, “A true Christian may almost be defined as one who has a ruling sense of God’s presence within him.” How much more within us can he be than through the partaking of the Eucharist?”

Love,
Matthew

May 15 – St Dymphna, 7th century – the saint for an age of insanity


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Sean Fitzpatrick

“Euripides said, “Those whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.” That ancient wisdom is playing out before our eyes in the modern world. No one can ignore the unhappiness shackling society, but most pretend to, as a maniac might.

Yesterday, May 15, was the feast day of a girl who resisted an insane, uncouth attack in the name of sanity and decency, at the cost of her home, family, and life. Catholics in the United States especially, as we hopefully anticipate the overturning of a national injustice, should remember this little Irish saint named Dymphna, for we, too, are pressured by the dictates of diseased minds and a culture of madness. Dymphna knows of our plight, as a hero who lost her head to a man who had lost his mind.

St. Dymphna lived in Ireland during the seventh century, the daughter of a minor king named Damon. At age fourteen, she consecrated herself to Christ, following the faith of her pious mother. But Dymphna’s mother died, and left Damon devastated.

The king’s sorrow over the loss of his wife led to a complete mental collapse. His counselors, terrified by the rantings and ravings of their master, perversely suggested he wed his daughter, Dymphna, who bore a striking resemblance to the woman Damon had loved.

In his madness, Damon pursued his daughter, who fled with her guardian, Fr. Gerebran, to what is today Belgium. There she used the money she had brought with her to build a hospital for the poor.

Using her currency, however, put her father on her track. He appeared in a rage, sword in hand, and slew Gerebran. Dymphna, bereft of her only guardian and standing on the threshold of death, still held fast—so Damon slashed off his daughter’s head.

Today, Dymphna is the patron saint of people who suffer from mental disorders, sexual assault, and anxiety. There are many in our time of perversity who suffer from such things. But today’s perversities are not considered perversities at all: pornography; abortion; transgenderism; homosexuality; and clear corruption in media and politics, and even in the Catholic Church.

The agenda of permissiveness sprawls and spreads, removing objective boundaries. At the same time, the free world has also launched several successful systems of restriction and subservience. When contradiction reigns, insanity prevails, for without common sense, there is no natural way to view the world.

Damon’s deranged quest to marry his daughter, in a horror of contradiction, shows how contradiction both makes men mad and marks them as mad—for madmen live by contradiction, in one way or another. This is precisely the sickness saluted in America. Whereas we should fly from it all, as Dymphna did, we learn to live with it. Skepticism, cynicism, and liberalism soon set in, as they must to assuage the soul in such a world. But the culture of contradiction still hangs over us, and people can’t help but be driven out of their minds.

If liberalism gradually dilutes traditional civilization unto destruction, it is not liberating. It is enslaving. It is mental paralysis, locked away in a padded cell with nothing but itself, as G.K. Chesterton famously described in Orthodoxy. The land of the free is becoming a prison, and until identity is loved over ideology, the craziness will continue. Patriotism is impossible when regional character is destroyed, and a people who have no true, meaningful love for their country have lost touch with a basic tenet of human piety and human sanity.

Dymphna showed, together with the holy Gerebran, as all the saints do in some fashion, that men and women can’t be their own saviors. That is a contradiction. Those who surrender to the insanity of contradiction only perpetuate the illusion and the contagion in themselves and in others. They strive to justify their sins and sanctions and redeem those who would live without the Redeemer.

Dymphna is a saint for us all, being brave and unyielding against unreasonable and violent oppression. Following her example, we can face the mental disease caused by a culture of contradiction. Millions of Americans are forgoing their common sense, carried along the stream of insanity like dead things, afraid to take a stand or make a stir. Much of our fear and frustration is rooted in a feeling of helplessness.

We are not helpless, though. We can follow common sense. And if that means being martyrs for truth, in whatever form that may take, then so be it.

Some things, Dymphna teaches us by her life and death, are unendurable and must be steadfastly resisted. Through her intercession, may we all break free from the straitjackets of virtual reality, soft totalitarianism, and the culture of death. That will mean facing the uncomfortable facts of uncommon sense, secular preoccupation, and ecclesial ineptitude. But the truth will set us free—and in that freedom, we will be happy.”

Love,
Matthew

Once saved, better stay saved


-the right panel of a diptych “The Crucifixion, The Last Judgment, by Jan van Eyck, 1440-41, Northern Renaissance painting, a masterpiece of Renaissance art, 11 x 32.5 cm, 4.3 x 12.8 inches 


-by Karlo Broussard

“No, seriously, you could go to Hell. Some Christians think the possibility of going to hell is solely for unbelievers. They don’t believe that a true born-again Christian can lose his salvation, hence the common phrase once saved, always saved.

But for other Christians, hell is a stark reality to contend with, even for justified Christians, since they believe that a Christian can lose the gift of salvation initially received. There are several Scripture passages they commonly turn to for support—e.g., Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-31 and John 15:2-3. Each of these passages warns Christians about removing themselves from the source of salvation—namely, Jesus—which implies the possibility of damnation even for Christians. So it’s more like once saved, better stay saved.

There’s a way to rebut these biblical passages, but we’ll have to see how good it is. To get a good look at it, we can check Protestant theologian Michael Norton in his chapter of the book Four Views on Eternal Security.

Basically, the argument goes, scriptural warnings about falling away from the Faith refer to those Christians who trust only in their baptism rather than in what baptism signifies: faith in Christ. Such Christians, it’s argued, are satisfied with having merely an external relation with Christ. As Norton puts it, these are Christians “in the covenant [via baptism] but not personally united by living faith to Jesus Christ.” Such Christians would be akin to those Jews who trusted in their natural descent from Abraham as grounds for their membership in the New Covenant but were cut off (Rom. 11:19-22).

Note that the interpretive principle here entails that someone can be in the covenant via baptism, and thus a member of the covenant community, but at the same time not be regenerate, or saved, or justified. Now, there seem to be only two ways that this could be true.

Either . . .

A) A believer was initially regenerated through baptism, became a visible member of the covenant community, and then lost that saving grace,

. . . or . . .

B) A believer became a visible member of the covenant community through baptism but was never regenerated in the first place, which implies that baptism doesn’t make someone regenerate, or, as Norton puts it, “united by living faith to Jesus Christ.”

Of course it can’t be A, because then everyone agrees, and there’s no argument. So it has to be B—but B is not true. Baptism does regenerate and unite a person to Christ by living faith.

Consider what Paul teaches in Romans 6:3-4:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore 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.

Paul furthers spell out the effects of this union with Christ through baptism. In verses 6-7, he writes,

We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died [the baptismal death] is freed [Greek, dedikaiōtai] from sin.

What’s interesting about this passage, as pointed out in Catholic circles by apologist Jimmy Akin, is that the Greek doesn’t say “freed from sin.” The Greek word translated “freed” is dikaioō, which means “to put into a right relationship (with God); acquit, declare and treat as righteous.” This is the same word Paul uses when he speaks of our justification by faith: “Since we are justified [Greek, dikaiōthentes] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). So the phrase “freed from sin” in Romans 6:7 can literally be translated “justified from sin.”

Modern translations render it as “freed from sin” because the context is clearly about sanctification. In the verse before Paul speaks of baptismal death, he speaks of those in Christ as having “died to sin.” As quoted above, Paul speaks of those who have died the death of baptism as “no longer enslaved to sin.”

So, for Paul, justification can include sanctification, which is the interior renewal of the soul whereby the objective guilt of sin is removed. And that justification, or regeneration, takes place in baptism.

So the contention that baptism doesn’t make us “united by living faith to Jesus Christ” is false. It has to be. And if so, then we can reject the idea that “trusting in baptism” is somehow to be separated from “trusting in Christ,” and doing the former keeps you off the heavenly guest list.

There’s one more thing to bring up here. The “trusting in baptism” principle fails to account for the other Scripture passages that are often cited for the belief that regenerate believers can lose their salvation, like Galatians 5:4. The text reads,

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Notice that Paul says the Galatians were “severed from Christ” and that they had “fallen away from grace.” Both statements imply that the Galatians were saved, or regenerate, since to be in Christ and in grace is to be free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). If you’re trying to reject the Catholic position on losing salvation, you can’t say here that these Christians merely had an external relationship with Jesus by being members of the Christian community through their baptism. They were in Christ.

Why would Paul speak of the Galatians being in Christ if they didn’t have faith in him? It’s not as if Paul were talking about baptized infants or baptized people who can’t use reason. How can someone who doesn’t fall into these categories of baptized people be in Christ, and thus be not subject to condemnation, and not have faith? Isn’t faith necessary to be free from condemnation, at least for those who can exercise it? It is: “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Heb. 11:6).

In the end, the interpretive principle embedded in the counter-response above introduces a novel theology that we shouldn’t accept as Christians: baptized adults united with Christ but without faith. Paul’s teaching on baptism in Romans 6:3-4, 7, and 17-18, and his teaching that believers can be “severed from Christ” (Gal. 5:4), provide the reason why.

The possibility of hell is not a message just for unbelievers. It’s a message for Christians as well, and a sobering one at that. Let’s not forget it.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Physics allows for the soul


-by Tara Macisaac, The Epoch Times

“Henry P. Stapp is a theoretical physicist at the University of California–Berkeley who worked with some of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics. He does not seek to prove that the soul exists, but he does say that the existence of the soul fits within the laws of physics.

It is not true to say belief in the soul is unscientific, according to Stapp. Here the word “soul” refers to a personality independent of the brain or the rest of the human body that can survive beyond death. In his paper, “Compatibility of Contemporary Physical Theory With Personality Survival,” he wrote: “Strong doubts about personality survival based solely on the belief that postmortem survival is incompatible with the laws of physics are unfounded.”

He works with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics—more or less the interpretation used by some of the founders of quantum mechanics, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Even Bohr and Heisenberg had some disagreements on how quantum mechanics works, and understandings of the theory since that time have also been diverse. Stapp’s paper on the Copenhagen interpretation has been influential. It was written in the 1970s and Heisenberg wrote an appendix for it.

Stapp noted of his own concepts: “There has been no hint in my previous descriptions (or conception) of this orthodox quantum mechanics of any notion of personality survival.”

Why Quantum Theory Could Hint at Life After Death

Stapp explains that the founders of quantum theory required scientists to essentially cut the world into two parts. Above the cut, classical mathematics could describe the physical processes empirically experienced. Below the cut, quantum mathematics describes a realm “which does not entail complete physical determinism.”

Of this realm below the cut, Stapp wrote: “One generally finds that the evolved state of the system below the cut cannot be matched to any conceivable classical description of the properties visible to observers.”

So how do scientists observe the invisible? They choose particular properties of the quantum system and set up apparatus to view their effects on the physical processes “above the cut.”

The key is the experimenter’s choice. When working with the quantum system, the observer’s choice has been shown to physically impact what manifests and can be observed above the cut.

Stapp cited Bohr’s analogy for this interaction between a scientist and his experiment results: “[It’s like] a blind man with a cane: when the cane is held loosely, the boundary between the person and the external world is the divide between hand and cane; but when held tightly the cane becomes part of the probing self: the person feels that he himself extends to the tip of the cane.”

The physical and mental are connected in a dynamic way. In terms of the relationship between mind and brain, it seems the observer can hold in place a chosen brain activity that would otherwise be fleeting. This is a choice similar to the choice a scientist makes when deciding which properties of the quantum system to study.

The quantum explanation of how the mind and brain can be separate or different, yet connected by the laws of physics “is a welcome revelation,” wrote Stapp. “It solves a problem that has plagued both science and philosophy for centuries—the imagined science-mandated need either to equate mind with brain, or to make the brain dynamically independent of the mind.”

Stapp said it is not contrary to the laws of physics that the personality of a dead person may attach itself to a living person, as in the case of so-called spirit possession. It wouldn’t require any basic change in orthodox theory, though it would “require a relaxing of the idea that physical and mental events occur only when paired together.”

Classical physical theory can only evade the problem, and classical physicists can only work to discredit intuition as a product of human confusion, said Stapp. Science should instead, he said, recognize “the physical effects of consciousness as a physical problem that needs to be answered in dynamical terms.”

How This Understanding Affects the Moral Fabric of Society

Furthermore, it is imperative for maintaining human morality to consider people as more than just machines of flesh and blood.

In another paper, titled “Attention, Intention, and Will in Quantum Physics,” Stapp wrote: “It has become now widely appreciated that assimilation by the general public of this ‘scientific’ view, according to which each human being is basically a mechanical robot, is likely to have a significant and corrosive impact on the moral fabric of society.”

He wrote of the “growing tendency of people to exonerate themselves by arguing that it is not ‘I’ who is at fault, but some mechanical process within: ‘my genes made me do it’; or ‘my high blood-sugar content made me do it.’ Recall the infamous ‘Twinkie Defense’ that got Dan White off with five years for murdering San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.”

Love,
Matthew

Apr 29 – St Catherine of Siena, OP, (1347-1380) – United w/Christ’s Mystical Body

“Born on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1347, Catherine was the twenty-third child of the wool dyer Jacopo Benincasa and his wife Lapa. From a young age, Catherine was devoted to Christ and the Church. She wished to join a group of third-order Dominican women known informally as the Mantellate or “Cloaked Sisters” and formally as the Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic. The group of laywomen wore a white woolen dress with a white veil and black cape and lived in their own homes.

Her family desired marriage for Catherine, however, and they persecuted Catherine in an effort to convince her to acquiesce to their plan. Her personal room was taken away and she was given a multitude of chores around the house to keep her so busy that she would have no time for prayer. Distraught at the behavior and unsure how to convince her family otherwise, on the advice of a Dominican friar Catherine cut off her hair to dissuade potential suitors. Finally, she informed her family of the visions of Christ she experienced as a youth and her pledge of virginity out of love for him. This admission finally convinced her father that her desire to join the Mantellate was authentic and so the family acquiesced. Catherine joined the group in 1366 at the age of nineteen.

Catherine experienced a rich spiritual life from an early age, with locutions from Christ and visions of the Savior—the first when she was six—the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Dominic, Sts. Mary Magdalen, John the Evangelist, Peter and Paul, and even King David. When she was still a little girl, a vision of the Blessed Mother prompted Catherine to request her assistance in remaining a virgin for life so that she could be espoused to Jesus. Her prayers were answered and when she was twenty-one, Jesus appeared to her and presented an invisible engagement ring as a sign of their spiritual union. Catherine could see the ring and it remained visible to her for the rest of her life, but it was invisible to others.

Catherine’s spiritual life included also great spiritual gifts and miraculous events. She had great concern for the sick and suffering in Siena, especially those afflicted with diseases that repelled others. Catherine cared for a woman afflicted with leprosy, which she contracted in her hands as a result. When the women died, Catherine buried her, and the leprosy miraculously left, and she was healed. Catherine desired the salvation of all souls and interceded with the Lord on the behalf of others; for this, the Lord gifted Catherine with the ability to know the state of another’s soul. This special spiritual illumination allowed Catherine to sense the “beauty or ugliness” of the souls in her presence but also those she could not see. Souls in a state of mortal sin reeked in Catherine’s presence. In the presence of Pope Gregory XI, Catherine would inform the pontiff that his court, “which should have been a paradise of heavenly virtues” was instead full of “the stench of all the vices of hell.” When in Avignon on a mission to convince the pope to return his residence to Rome, Catherine met a young beautiful woman, who was the niece of a cardinal. The woman could not look Catherine in the eye and when Bl. Raymond of Capua, Catherine’s confessor, asked Catherine about the woman later, that told him the young woman, beautiful on the outside, reeked of decay. The woman was an adulteress and a priest’s mistress.

In 1376, Catherine received a spiritual gift from the Lord reserved to only a few holy saints: the stigmata or the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion. But Catherine begged the Lord not to allow the wounds to be visible on her body, for fear they would attract others out of curiosity and detract from proper attention to Christ. He agreed, and so Catherine suffered silently with the wounds for the rest of her life; they became visible on her body only at death. In one of her many ecstasies, in which she was oblivious and impervious to the outside world, Catherine received a supernatural garment from Christ, which provided the ability to wear the same amount of clothing in winter or summer with no physical discomfort. Catherine wore a single tunic over a petticoat in all seasons thanks to this exceptional gift.

Catherine lived during the time of the Avignon Papacy, when the papal residence and court was in southern France, causing great scandal throughout Christendom. St. Bridget of Sweden (1302-1373) had worked tirelessly to end the scandal and bring the popes back to Rome, sending letters to the popes in Avignon urging their return.

When St. Bridget died, the holy cause passed to Catherine, who wrote to the pope in one letter: “Come, come and resist no more the will of God that calls you: and the hungry sheep await your coming to hold and possess the place of your predecessor and champion, Apostle Peter. For you, as the vicar of Christ, should rest in your own place.” However, Catherine realized that letters were not sufficient to effect such a change, so she decided that a personal visit to France was necessary to bring Christ’s vicar home.

Prayer, virtuous living, trust and hope in divine providence, and respectful obedience to the hierarchy, as found in the life of St. Catherine of Siena, are the foundation of authentic Catholic response to crises in the Church. That foundation will effect genuine change and yield enduring reform in Christ’s Mystical Body.”

Love,
Matthew

Thomism: Etiology/Causation/Causality


-by Br Nicholas Hartman

“What is the difference between God’s causing something to be and my causing something to be? Francesco Silvestri, a.k.a. Ferrariensis (1474–1528), gives us some helpful tips to isolate these two main kinds of cause-and-effect—God’s causing something and a creature’s causing something.

There are a lot of different kinds of beings, and these beings don’t always have a lot in common. Sure, polar bears, ostriches, and earthworms are all animals, but how the moon or the wind or fire are all alike isn’t obvious. Furthermore, what about the kind of being that the act of scratching your head has? Or your posture? Certainly, actions and positions exist—sort of.

What absolutely everything has in common is that they all are, or they exist somehow, even though what that means in each case—for animals, actions, positions, colors, and anything else you can think of—can differ widely. Everything is alike insofar as everything has being. If something is not—it does not have being—then there’s nothing to talk about. It doesn’t share what everything else has, but it’s also not included in everything—it’s nothing (no + thing).

With this in mind, now consider what kind of cause God is. God produces things out of nothing. That means that by creating, he gives something existence—he gives something what it needs to be anything at all. He gives it being. No creature does this.

But suppose you, in your budding artistic practice, paint a canvas red to include in a museum of abstract art. You cause, not being, per se, but redness. Yet you would also seem to cause being; you cause the canvas to be red. And this should seem strange. God is absolutely the cause of being; but you also seem to be a cause of being. Is there a conflict?

Ferrariensis helps clarify how mere creatures cause being in a rather intriguing way. He explains that nothing at all can truly be separate from its being or its existence. Everything, insofar as it is anything, is. That is not to say that there is no distinction between what a thing is (essence) and its being (existence). But a thing’s essence relies on its existence at least in some way if you want to talk about anything at all.

Therefore, when you, a creature, cause a canvas to be red, there’s no way to understand your causing redness without your causing the redness to be. That is, you cause the canvas to be red. Otherwise, you would not cause anything at all. How could you cause redness in a canvas without causing the canvas to be red?

This does not mean that you, mere creature that you are, cause being out of your own resources—out of nothing. You really cause the canvas to be red, but that whole process of creaturely cause-and-effect depends on God’s causing the whole chain of causes to be at every moment.

Ferrariensis helps us to understand how we creatures cause being as a secondary effect. For you, the artist, redness is the primary effect of your painting, but being is a secondary effect, because by causing red in a canvas you cause the canvas to be red. But God causes all of it—you, your act of painting, the canvas, and the red in the canvas—to be absolutely. He holds everything in being: Being is God’s primary effect. And because you cannot cause something without causing it to be—being is a secondary effect of anything you cause—you depend on God to cause anything at all.

This means that at every moment and in everything we do, we depend fully on God to act. But it also means something very beautiful. We’re not like mere characters in a fictional book, who are not only dependent entirely on the author, but also do not have any real causality (unless you suspend disbelief). We creatures are real causes of our effects. We depend on God completely, but our actions are, in a very real way, our own.”

Love,
Matthew

Ipsum Esse Subsistens, Essence & Being, Nothing is included in Everything


(Ed. it is helpful to go all the way back to Plato’s ideas of ‘forms’ first. The good father goes a little fast past primary definitions for the novice.)

Ipsum Esse Subsistens, Existence or Act of Existence Itself, subsistent of Itself or subsisting by Itself, i.e. God. God is being itself. God exists outside of time, i.e. transcendence. God is. God just is. (Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 4, a. 2)


-by Michael R. Egnor, MD

“Metaphysics is the [philosophical] study of the basic structure of reality. It is, in Aristotle’s words, the study of being as being, rather than the study of any particular being per se. Metaphysics is the framework by which we understand reality. We can’t avoid metaphysics — every act of understanding entails a metaphysical framework, a perspective. One might say that our metaphysical perspective is that by which we understand, contrasted to nature itself, which is that which we understand.

Our own metaphysical framework is often opaque to us. We use it, like we might use an intuitive political bias, without really examining the framework we are using. We each have a metaphysical bias — it’s unavoidable, and the important question is: does our bias lead us toward or away from the truth? Gaining metaphysical insight is not easy, but it pays big dividends. It helps us to know the truth — indeed, it is that by which we know the truth.

A Rigorous and Consistent System

St. Thomas Aquinas developed a rigorous and consistent system of metaphysics. He was the first Christian philosopher to insist that faith and reason, properly understood, are never in conflict. Belief in God is not contrary to knowledge of the natural world. St. Thomas’ doctrine was controversial in his day, but it was accepted by the Church in the centuries after his death, and it became the intellectual foundation of the modern world, including the cornerstone of modern science.

Ironically, the correspondence of faith and reason is controversial today, especially in the atheist community. The denial of the compatibility between faith and reason is a lynchpin of atheist arguments for naturalism: atheists insist that science tells us the real truth about the world, and faith in God is superstition. The Thomistic reply is that genuine faith and reason both point to the same truth. The Thomistic understanding of reason and its correspondence with faith offer a powerful reply to atheistic naturalism. For readers who are interested in metaphysics and in these modernist controversies, it’s worthwhile taking a closer look at the principle that is the cornerstone of Thomistic metaphysics.

Essence and Existence

The cornerstone of Thomistic metaphysics is the doctrine of essence and existence. It is this: essence is absolutely distinct from existence. This doctrine, which St. Thomas was the first philosopher to assert unequivocally and demonstrate with rigor, has profound implications for our understanding of reality, of nature, of science and of God. What does St. Thomas mean in saying “essence is absolutely distinct from existence”?

First, definitions. Essence is that which makes something the sort of thing it is. It is, succinctly, all the characteristics that are knowable about something. The essence of a cat is everything about the cat that makes it a cat. Its cat-shape, it’s furriness, its meow, its animality, etc. Some things about the cat, things the cat may do or what may happen to it (projectile vomiting or be eaten) — are not parts of the essence of a cat. They are extraneous to it, although in rare circumstances, they may be true of it. You can see here where that modern notion of “essence” comes from. Essence is what’s important about something, what tells us what something really is. [ Ed. A cat is still a cat, maintains the “essence” of cat-ness, even when it is not projectile vomiting or being eaten. These question arise practically in artificial intelligence.]

And Now for Existence

Existence is that a thing is, rather than what a thing is. The existence of a thing is different from the essence of a thing. I can know the essence of a rock, but it is the rock’s existence by which I stub my toe. I can’t stub my toe on essence, no matter how hard it is.

Prior to St. Thomas, many philosophers considered existence to be a property of something, part of its essence, i.e. Plato. We might say that my cat Fluffy’s essence is that she is shaped like a cat, purrs and meows, likes to play with yarn, and exists.

An Utter Metaphysical Distinction

St. Thomas emphatically pointed out that existence is not, and cannot be, any part of essence. Existence and essence are metaphysically utterly distinct — existence is not a genus, in scholastic terms, but is above every genus. Existence is not a characteristic or property of a thing. It is something much more fundamental.

To understand what Aquinas is getting at, consider again my cat Fluffy. I will describe her to you: she is calico, weighs nine pounds, hates baths, purrs, says “meow” several times a day, is three years old, and is expecting kittens. If you want to know more about her, just ask. I can describe her in any degree of detail you would like.

Now tell me this: does she exist? I have given you her essence, to any level of detail you want, but the fact or fallacy of her existence is not knowable from knowing her essence. In fact, I don’t have a cat. I have a dog. But I can describe my cat completely, and you still can’t know if she really exists.

Unicorns

I can describe anything you like in whatever detail you like, but you can’t know whether it exists or not merely by its description. You can’t know existence merely by knowing essence…unicorns. Essence is not existence. [Ed. Essence meant here as a philosophical term is more than merely creative writing. We all know what an acorn is. That is its essence. That we know what an acorn is.  Specific acorns exist, but that is not what we are talking about.  We are not discussing a specific acorn when we are discussing or imagine acorns.] In modern terms, [unicorns mean] the Venn diagram of existence has no overlap with the Venn diagram of essence.

In Thomistic terms, in order for something in nature to exist, its existence must be joined to its essence. [Ed. Essence, in philosophical terms, is a reality outside the mind of any one or group of persons.  We know there are planets in the galaxy, even if we cannot currently see them.  We have an idea of what a planet is.  The abstract philosophical construct of a planet would still exist even if there were no intelligent creatures to understand the essence of a planet.  It merely requires an intelligent creature to discover the concept of philosophical essence.  Essence was there in philosophical thought all along.  When we discover a new planet its essence, the concept of planet, and its existence, the planet we found, coexist.  It is the essence of planet that even impels us to look for such a thing as a planet, having not discovered the next actual planet we find.] In fact, that is what nature is: distinct essences joined to existence. Things that exist are composites of existence and essence, and existence and essence are really distinct things [philosophically].

So what does this matter? It seems too esoteric to have any relevance to anyone not in a cloister. But its relevance is profound and extends to many aspects of theology and science [i.e. artificial intelligence].”

Love & truth,
Matthew

“Thou shalt not be a white supremacist” really isn’t about that


-by Karlo Broussard

“When you hear the sentiment “thou shalt not be a white supremacist”—it’ll be dressed up a bit, but that’s the meaning—you can rest assured that the moral absolute being expressed here isn’t really about white supremacy. Sometimes it amounts to a form of relativism called global or total, which claims there is no truth. (You’ll find some prominent examples of “thou shalt not be a white supremacist at that link.) Other times, it stops just short of claiming that affirming objective truth is itself a marker of white supremacy—not quite, but it’s pretty close.

Consider, for example, how many cultural institutions recently have been making decisions solely on the basis of some minority status. For example, Joe Biden explicitly announced that he would replace outgoing Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer with “the first black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.” The National Football League recently announced that all thirty-two teams in the league must hire an offensive coach who is “a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority” for the 2022 season. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires racial quotas to be met for a film to qualify for the Oscar for Best Picture. An associate professor at NYU wants “a more racially balanced pattern of citation” in academic papers (and he’s not the only one), and the curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art lost his job for allowing art by white men in his galleries.

The implication in all the above examples is that if an ethnic or racial minority is not given priority in decision-making, then the decision-maker is privileging white people and thus is a white supremacist. This version of the modern absolute “thou shalt not be a white supremacist” might not be tantamount to total relativism. However, it sure is a sister of it.

Consider how truth in each of the above examples is strapped in the back seat of the car—or better yet, thrown in the trunk—and race is put in the driver seat. To value something primarily based on race implies that the truth of the thing’s value is not of the utmost importance. It’s a form of practical relativism: living as if there’s no truth, even though you might not verbally or intellectually affirm that there’s no truth.

Take President Biden’s SCOTUS choice, for example. For Biden, the truth of a person’s legal scholarship was not a primary concern. Rather, race (and the person’s sex) was most important. Even though he may affirm that there’s truth concerning the quality of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s legal scholarship, there may as well be no truth about it, since that wasn’t the primary criterion by which he made his decision, although it should have been.

The same line of reasoning applies to the other examples. The truth of a person’s offensive coaching skills is sidelined (pun intended) in the place of his ethnicity. The spotlight is turned away from the truth of a person’s acting skills in favor of his race. A person’s ethnicity is more fitting for an academic journal than the truth of his scholarship. The truth of the quality of art is replaced by the color of the artist’s skin.

These examples might not entail a total rejection of objective truth, but they do strongly imply that there might as well be no truth at all, since it’s not worth considering as a criterion for determining a course of action when it should have been.

Now, let’s clarify what we are not saying. We’re not saying white people should be given preference for the above roles. Nor are we saying non-white people should be excluded.

We’re also not saying that we should never preference a race for a film role. If you’re telling the story of the horrors of slavery of African-Americans in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, then it’s fitting to have African-Americans, or Africans, play the slaves, since they look most like the historical victims. To look elsewhere to fill these roles would be as unfitting as, say, having a white European male play Bruce Lee. Nor are we denying the fact that some institutions may be racially biased in their decision-making, or that some institutions may have inherited practices that have roots in racial prejudice.

What we are saying, however, is that the above attempts at racial equity show that the modern absolute “thou shalt not be a white supremacist” is not really concerned with truth absolutely, because it is not concerned with the truth about justice. Choosing to hire someone or accept some good based primarily on a person’s race is an injustice. It introduces a disorder between the distribution of a good and its proper cause.

St. Thomas Aquinas tackles this issue using the example of a professorship (Summa Theologiae II-II:63:1). He notes that “having sufficient knowledge” is the proper cause for being hired as a professor, not being named “Peter or Martin,” and not being rich or a relative. Hiring someone to a professorship based on these criteria would be an injustice, since the good of being a professor is not due to someone who has a particular name or how much wealth he has. The good of being a professor is due to having appropriate knowledge for such a position

Similarly, to distribute some good—whether it be a judgeship, a coaching position, an Oscar, a journalistic citation, or a coveted slot on the wall for art—based on race is an injustice. Race is not a proper cause of such goods. Such goods are due only to those whose skills are proportionate to the goods being distributed

Just imagine if President Biden had announced, “My nominee for the Supreme Court justice will be a white man.” Surely, the entire society would have been in an uproar (except for true misogynistic white supremacists). And everyone would be justified, because being a white man has nothing to do with being elected to hold a seat on the Supreme Court.

The same goes for the other examples listed above. Gary Garrels, the San Francisco curator who lost his job, is right: we can’t allow ourselves to fall into “reverse discrimination”—that’s to say, unjust discrimination.

The above decisions not only undermine the truth of justice with regard to distributing goods based on disproportionate causes, but also amount to an injustice particularly to non-white people. This method of selection basically says, “Non-white people are not able to be a proper cause of the distributed good in question.” How is that not racist?

In the end, the modern absolute “thou shalt not be a white supremacist” turns out to be the thing it claims to despise: white supremacy. And such absurdity is due to displacing truth from the driver’s seat when truth and truth alone should be determining the course of our actions.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Domingo Báñez, OP (1528-1604) – Salvation ONLY with God’s grace, free will



-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“Domingo Báñez (1528-1604) was a feisty Basque Dominican Friar and a leading theologian of his era. He was part of the third generation of scholasticism’s Silver Age, centered around the University of Salamanca in Spain where he occupied the prestigious first chair of theology for nineteen years. His fierce intellect was often embroiled in theological controversy in an age when doctrine was a matter of life and death. He deployed his sometimes scathing prose—a departure from the usual academic reserve of the scholastics—in service to the adoration of God and the defense of Catholic teaching. He taught Saint John of Ávila, counseled King Phillip II, and was confessor and defender of Saint Teresa of Ávila.

Βáñez is best known for his leading role in the De auxiliis controversy concerning the grace of God. All Catholics agreed (and still agree) that we cannot be saved without God’s grace. Though we were broken by original sin, God deigns to dwell in our souls and raise us to new life. Our path to salvation has God as its first source at every step and in every good work. Unfortunately, some Protestants taught that there is no such thing as free will because God determines everything, and Catholics in the sixteenth century were divided on how to respond.

Some began to argue that God only gives grace to those whom He knows will make good use of it. Báñez, however, thought this theory was a disaster, worrying that it meant the ultimate reason for salvation was found, not in the mercy of God, but rather in the free choice of man. God would only be reacting to future human choices, instead of giving the grace to choose the good in the first place.

This touches upon many of the deepest and most difficult questions plumbed by man. What is free will? How does God relate to creatures? Why is there evil in our world? Báñez attacked these questions with the full force of the doctrine of the Master, Thomas Aquinas. He attended always to the authority of Scripture, the Fathers, and the Councils, particularly the writings of Saint Paul and Saint Augustine. Báñez contended that the difference between a sinner and a saint is first of all the mercy of God. Yet God never takes away our free will. Rather, he gives us the grace to use it well.

This may sound rather pedantic, but for Báñez the whole Christian life was at stake. Referring to a passage of St. Augustine in which he found his position articulated, the Dominican writes:

“I say before God who judges me, that reading this in St. Augustine and citing him, it gives me great wonder that men who teach prayer and the spirit come to feel so feebly the movement of the grace of God. . . . Because even I, being a sinner as God knows and a man of little spirit and less prayer, but knowing that I am the work of his mercy and that each day he suffers me my ingratitude, reading these words of St. Augustine, have held back tears and, knowing my faults, have invoked the mercy of God that it may efficaciously carry me to him. May God give light to all so that with humility we may attribute to God what is his own, and to ourselves what is our own, that is, sin, in which God has no part, although being able to impede the sin he permits it on account of his secret judgments” (Translated by the author of this post).

For Βáñez, doctrinal arguments mattered because God matters. He fought hard to secure what he believed to be the metaphysical foundation for any sound spiritual life. He remains controversial to this day, even within his own Order, for the views that he defended so vociferously. Nonetheless, when he died, the faithful Dominican commended all his teachings to the judgment of the Church.

May we, too, burn with the zeal for truth that once fired this towering intellect of the Order of Preachers.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Can you lose your salvation? Jn 10:27-29


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Karlo Broussard

“How can the Catholic Church teach that it’s possible for us to lose our salvation when Jesus says that his sheep always hear his voice and that no one can snatch us out of his hand?

Recall that the Catechism warns of “offending God’s love” and “incurring punishment” (2090). To fear incurring the punishment of hell implies that a person can’t have absolute assurance of his salvation. Protestants use 1 John 5:13 to challenge this belief. But there is another Bible passage that some Protestants [64] use to mount the challenge: John 10:27-29:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, Who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

If Jesus says that no one shall snatch Christians out of his and the Father’s hand, doesn’t it follow that we are eternally secure?

1. Jesus’ promise to protect his sheep is on the condition that his sheep remain in the flock. It doesn’t exclude the possibility that a sheep could wander off and thus lose the reward of eternal life.

The condition for being among Jesus’ sheep and being rewarded with eternal life is that we continue hearing Jesus’ voice and following him. Jesus teaches this motif of continued faithfulness a few chapters later with his vine and branch metaphor in John 15:4-6:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.

Just as we the branches must remain in Christ the vine lest we perish, so, too, we the sheep must continue to listen to the voice of Jesus the shepherd lest we perish.

Even the verbs suggest continuous, ongoing action by the sheep and the shepherd, not a one-time event in the past [65]. Jesus doesn’t say, “My sheep heard my voice, and I knew them.” Instead, he says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them” (v.27). His sheep are those who hear His voice in the present.

2. Jesus only says that no external power can snatch a sheep out of his hands. He doesn’t say that a sheep couldn’t exclude itself from His hands.

The passage says that no one shall snatch—take away by force—Christians out of the hands of Jesus and the Father. This doesn’t preclude the possibility that we can take ourselves out of Jesus’ protecting hands by our sin. A similar passage is Romans 8:35-39 where Paul lists a series of external things that can’t take us out of Christ’s loving embrace. But he never says that our own sin can’t separate us from Christ’s love.

Like Paul in Romans 8:35-39, Jesus is telling us in John 10:27-29 that no external power can snatch us out of his hands. But that doesn’t mean we can’t voluntarily leave his hands by committing a sin “unto death” (1 John 5:16-17). And if we were to die in that state of spiritual death without repentance, we would forfeit the gift that was promised to us: eternal life.

3. There is abundant evidence from Scripture that Christians do, in fact, fall from a saving relationship with Christ due to sin.

The Bible teaches that sheep do go astray. Consider, for example, Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep whom the shepherd goes to find (Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7). Sure, the shepherd finds the sheep (Jesus never stops trying to get us back in His flock). But the point is that the sheep can wander away.

The same motif is found in Jesus’ parable about the wicked servant who thinks his master is delayed and beats the other servants and gets drunk (Matt. 24:45-51). Notice that the servant is a member of the master’s household. But because of his failure to be vigilant in preparing for his master’s return, he was found wanting and was kicked out with the hypocrites where “men will weep and gnash their teeth” (v.51). Similarly, Christians can be members of Christ’s flock and members of His household, but if we don’t persevere in fidelity to him we will lose our number among the elect. That Christians can fall out of Christ’s hands due to sin is evident in Paul’s harsh criticism of the Galatians:

Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you . . . You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (Gal. 5:2,4).

If some of the Galatians were “severed from Christ” and “fallen from grace,” then they were first in Christ and in grace. They were counted among the flock, but they later went astray. Not because they were snatched but by their own volition.

Didn’t Jesus give a parable about a sheep wondering away from the flock? (Matt. 18:10-14).

Peter teaches that those who “have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”—that’s to say born-again Christians—can return back to their evil ways: “They are again entangled in them and overpowered” (2 Pet. 2:20). Peter identifies their return to defilement as being worse than their former state, saying, “The last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (vv.20-21). He adds salt to the wound by comparing their return to defilement to a dog returning to its vomit (v.22). Clearly, Peter didn’t believe in the doctrine of eternal security.”

Love & Truth,
Matthew

[64] See Waiss and McCarthy, Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, 381; Norm Geisler, “A Moderate Calvinist View,” in Four Views on Eternal Security, ed. J Matthew Pinson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 71.

[65] See Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981), 357.

Broussard, Karlo. Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs (p. 74-77). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.