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‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mt 6:9)


-by Br Albert Elias Robertson, OP, English Province

“It has always struck me as slightly strange that this promise of divine adoption is offered to the peacemakers. Not in the sense that it should not be offered to them, but rather that, surely, it should be offered as the reward of all the beatitudes. After all, all of the beatitudes school us in the life of grace, and the life of grace is  expressed in our divine adoption.

The question of whether the rewards of the beatitudes are suitably assigned, and whether they refer to this life or the next, vexed the Fathers. Some held, with St Ambrose, that all the rewards of the beatitudes refer to the life to come; while Augustine says that they all refer to this present life. Chrysostom takes a middle way – some are for the future, some are for this life. Aquinas tries to settle the question by, as usual, making a distinction. Some happiness is preparing us for future beatitude in heaven, but some happiness, imperfect but still real, can be attained in this life. ‘For it is one thing,’ he says, ‘to hope that the tree will bear fruit, when the leaves begin to appear, and another when we see the first signs of the fruit.’ St Thomas assigns the beatitude of the peacemakers to 1 a contemplative happiness, which prepares us for the life to come; by making peace we show ourselves to be true followers of God, Who is the God of unity and peace.  2

But how exactly do we achieve this? Part of the way to achieve some sense of the promise offered by this beatitude is to see to whom the offer is made: peacemakers. In the scriptures, this does not have the sense it might have today of blue-helmeted UN military personnel, nor even, in the first instance, those who try to make peace within
and between homes, families, and communities. To jump to this level is already to get ahead of ourselves.

In the Scriptures, peace is richer and fuller. The meaning of the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, connotes a completeness, a wholeness. In the Psalms, peace is the reward of justice, and the crown of the rewards of the just man. Peace has its source in God – it is even a divine name as we hear in Judges when Gideon builds an altar to the Lord, and calls the place ‘the Lord is peace.’3

This revelation of Peace as a name for God finds its fullest expression in the name given to the coming Messiah by the prophet Isaiah: the Prince of Peace; and this 4 promise of peace is manifested by the angels that first Christmas night: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!’ But the true 5 revelation of divine peace is found, ironically, in the cross, where Christ, the Prince of Peace, shows us that the peace He offers, is profoundly different to that of the world. For St Paul, this peace of the cross is, at its heart, a reconciliation of all things in Christ, ‘whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.’ It is in this 6 reconciliation that we find the ultimate expression of the wholeness and completeness that peace means.

But if this peace is something brought about by a divine action, how can we be peacemakers? The peace of the cross flows into our lives through the sacraments. We can see that quite clearly if we think of the words we hear at the end of sacramental confession, ‘The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.’ True peace, which 7 flows from the cross, brings peace to our souls through the sacraments. To understand this, it is worth remembering that the sacraments are the actions of Christ Himself, and 8 their power is rooted in His Passion. So when we go to confession and hear the priest 9 say, go in peace, these are the words of our Divine Healer in the Gospels. The 10 sacraments bring about that wholeness and completeness which is rooted in the reconciliation of the cross. To live an integrated life, to live a peaceful life, we must live a sacramental life. To build peace, to be a peacemaker, means, first of all, bringing peace to our own souls. Only then can this become a peace which we share with others, and bring to perfection within our own society.

To be a peacemaker is, by its very definition to be already a son or daughter of God, because true peace requires that graced communion with God which the sacraments give us. In that sense, this sacramental life are the leaves of a tree which promise good fruit in the future. The fruit of this beatitude promise will only be made manifest when all things are reconciled in Christ at the end of time. Until then, we must live in communion with God Who gives light to our darkness, and Who, through the sacraments, guides us into the way of peace.11″

Love,
Matthew

  1. ST I-II, 69, 2, resp.
  2. ST I-II, 69, 4, resp.
  3. Judges, 6:23-24.
  4. Isaiah, 9:6-7.
  5. Luke, 2:14.
  6. Colossians, 1:20.
  7. Rite for the Reconciliation of Individual Penitents
  8. ST III, 64, 3, resp.
  9. ST III, 62, 5, resp.
  10. Luke, 7:50; 8:48.
  11. Luke, 1:79.

Anti-Catholicism in the USA


-A 1894 print by Udo Kepler shows the pope’s nuncio (ambassador) Archbishop Francesco Satolli, who was appointed in 1893 as the first Papal Delegate to the United States, casting a shadow (looking a like Pope Leo XIII) in 1894 holding a crosier, sitting atop an enormous dome labeled “American Headquarters” and casting a large shadow in the shape of Pope Leo XIII across the landscape of the United States. Several cities, some with buildings labeled “Public Schools,” are encompassed by the shadow of the Pope, including New York City, the U.S. Capitol building, “Memphis, New Orleans, El Paso, Denver, [and] San Francisco.”  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Trent Horn

“In 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that some businesses were exempt from the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate if they had a religious objection to it. After the decision was released, Ronald Lindsay, an advocate for atheism and author of the book The Necessity of Secularism, penned an online essay titled, “The Uncomfortable Question: Should we Have Six Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court?” Lindsay mentioned past Catholic prejudice and his own risk of sounding bigoted, but he still argued that the Court’s ruling could be explained only as the result of Catholics following the rule of the pope rather than the rule of law.

Imagine the outcry if Lindsay had complained about a group of female judges he claimed were biased against men. What if Lindsay had complained that there were too many Jewish judges on a certain appeal circuit? In those cases there would be widespread condemnation, but because Lindsay attacked Catholics, he was given a free pass.

This double standard is nothing new. When we trace the history of Catholicism in the United States back through the centuries we see that not only is anti-Catholicism the last acceptable prejudice, it was also one of the first.


-famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast showing bishops as crocodiles attacking public schools, with the connivance of Irish Catholic politicians.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

Religious “freedom” in the New World

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, British colonists traveled to the New World in search of religious freedom and they found it—but only for their respective churches. Most of the colonies established some form of Anglicanism or congregationalism as their official religion while other Protestants, not to mention Jews and Catholics, were subject to persecution if they did not attend these worship services.

Some colonies would not even tolerate the existence of these religious groups, which is evident in Massachusetts’s “Act against Jesuits and Popish Priests,” passed in 1700, which gave Catholics several months notice that they had to leave the province. Even the colony of Rhode Island, whose tolerance for members of religious minorities earned it the nickname “Rogue’s Island,” forbade Catholics from serving in public office.

Why were Catholics treated so poorly? Many of these early eighteenth-century restrictions were a response to the so-called “Jacobite uprising” in England in 1745 that attempted to install the Catholic Prince of Wales, James Stuart, to the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones. The plan failed, leaving the prince’s father James II as the last Catholic monarch to ever reign over the British Isles.

The other prominent location of Catholics in America was the colony of Maryland, which its founder George Calvert actually called terra mariae, or Mary Land. Even though this colony would become home to the first American diocese, it still had a majority Protestant population. After Calvert’s death, his son Cecil gave the following instructions to the governor of Maryland in hopes that a Protestant majority would not erode the religious freedom Catholic’s enjoyed: “[I]nstruct all the Roman Catholics to be silent upon all occasions of discourse concerning matters of Religion; and that the said Governor & Commissioners treat the Protestants with as much mildness and favor as Justice will permit.”

The Great Migration

By the mid-nineteenth century, the industrial revolution drew hundreds of thousands of Americans out of the farmlands and into urban areas. In the 1840s the Catholic population in these areas exploded after the Irish potato famine brought millions of Irish immigrants to cities like Boston, New York, and Baltimore. These Catholics formed labor unions to protect themselves from violence and discrimination, the latter of which could be seen in “Irish need not apply” signs that littered storefronts across the United States, some as late as 1909.

Despite this hostility, Catholic immigration to the United States accelerated, and anti-immigrant activists blamed increased public welfare spending and rising crime rates on the “hordes” of Catholics flooding the country. Some critics also saw the influx of Catholics as a threat to democracy itself because of Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of “Americanism,” or the heretical view that the Church should have no influence on public policy but should instead adapt to a changing culture.

Unfortunately, many people interpreted the pope’s exhortations for the Church to shape society as a mandate to conquer it and instill a theocracy. Ellen G. White even claimed that Catholics would force all citizens, including her fellow Seventh-day Adventists, who celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday, to worship on Sunday. (Some Adventists still promote this conspiracy theory in a book called National Sunday Law).

The combination of fear and resentment toward Irish, Italian, and German Catholics also fueled the rise of a semi-secret political society called the Know-Nothing Party. The name came from the group’s members who would say they knew nothing about whatever the organization was planning. It’s no surprise they stayed tight-lipped, given that the Know-Nothings used violence and intimidation to keep Catholics and other immigrants from being elected to public office.

On August 6, 1855, what is now called Bloody Monday, armed Know-Nothing mobs controlled the city of Louisville, Kentucky, and made a show of force to prevent Catholics from “rigging” the day’s election. What transpired were a series of beatings, lootings, acts of arson, and murders that resulted in the deaths of at least twenty-two people and the near destruction of the city’s cathedral.

Unfortunately, the Know-Nothings tactics won dozens of state and local elections in the 1850s, when they ran as the American Party. After one of their candidates, Levi Boone, was elected mayor of Chicago, he banned immigrants from the city’s government and police force. The Know-Nothings also sought to ban Catholics from holding public office.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution specifies that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” but this applies only to positions in the federal government. States and local municipalities could exclude atheists, Jews, Catholics, and other religious groups from public office until the Supreme Court’s 1961 Torcaso v. Watkins case ruled that religious tests represented an establishment of religion and were therefore unconstitutional.

The Catholic “menace”

As quickly as the Know Nothings appeared, by 1860 the party was torn apart by the issue of slavery. Anti-slavery Know Nothings became Republicans, while the pro-slavery members joined the Constitutional Union party, which faded out of existence after losing the 1860 presidential election. But the demise of the Know Nothings did not end the spread of their anti-Catholic rhetoric.

The most infamous group that assumed the anti-Catholic mantle was the Ku Klux Klan. Decades before their assault on racial integration, the Klan fought to protect white, Protestant America from “papists” who it claimed were immigrating to conquer America by numbers and even by force. Many Klan members believed that every Catholic parish kept a stockpile of weapons to use in a future war against Protestants.

Even though Klansmen had no qualms about using violence and other intimidation tactics, they considered their most potent weapon against the Church to be mandatory public school attendance. In 1922 the Klan teamed up with the Freemasons to pass the Oregon Compulsory Education Act. They hoped public school would tech Catholic children “civic lessons” and wean them of their troublesome immigrant heritage, including their attachment to their Catholic Faith. The act would also have the practical effect of closing down every parochial school in the state.

Thankfully, after vocal opposition from parents and campaigning by the then-forty-year-old Knights of Columbus, the case was brought before the Supreme Court. In 1925 the Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters that the Compulsory Education Act was unconstitutional and that parents have a right to determine their child’s education.

The Kennedy legacy

Even though the Supreme Court sided with the Church on school choice, Protestant America still viewed Catholics with deep suspicion. In 1928 Al Smith became the first Catholic nominated for the presidency but he lost the election, at least in part, because of his Catholic Faith. In one case, Smith was accused of imposing his Catholic morality on the public because of his opposition to alcohol prohibition, a stance that drew heavy backlash from tee totaling Protestant moralists.

It would be more than thirty years before another Catholic ran for president, and Protestants opposition remained fierce. The famous evangelist Billy Graham convened a group of his fellow Protestants in Montreux, Switzerland, in order to devise a plan to halt the momentum of John F. Kennedy’s campaign.

In the face of this criticism, Kennedy realized the importance of keeping the “religion question” from sidelining his message to voters, so on September 12, 1960, he gave an historic speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association that provided the framework for future Catholics to assuage the fears of non-Catholic voters. He said:

“I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the Church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as president—on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subject—I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.”

So where are we today? According to the Gallup polling agency, in 1958 only two-thirds of Americans were willing to vote for a Catholic presidential candidate. Today, 94 percent would do so, but that willingness often assumes that the candidate will not impose his faith on the American people. This includes not just the imposition of sectarian morality (like legislating mandatory Mass attendance) but the imposition of Catholic principles that all people should be able to recognize from reason alone, such as the right to life for unborn children.

Do Catholics still face prejudice in American politics today? Probably not so long as their Catholic identity is a line in their biography or a photo opportunity of something innocuous like helping at a Catholic food bank. But when Catholic politicians try to defend the unborn’s right to life or the natural definition of marriage, you can bet their faith will become a target for criticism.

But that cannot stop them or us from acting in accordance with our Faith in the public square. To do so would render in vain the many sacrifices Catholics have made that ensure you or I could run for office or even have a voice in the polling place and public marketplace of ideas.”

Love,
Matthew

The Sin of Sloth


– “Sloth (Desidia), from the series The Seven Deadly Sins, Pieter van der Heyden (Netherlandish, ca. 1525–1569), after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, Breda (?) ca. 1525–1569 Brussels), publisher: Hieronymus Cock (Netherlandish, Antwerp ca. 1510–1570 Antwerp), 1558, engraving, 8 15/16 x 11 5/8 in. (22.7 x 29.6 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, NY.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

Representing the vice of sloth, this image belongs to a series of prints of the Seven Deadly Sins, engraved by Pieter van der Heyden after drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The personification of sloth, a shabbily dressed woman, demonstratively sleeps away the time in the central foreground, resting her weight on the back of an ass. The various examples of lazy or slothful behavior, in evidence in the surrounding landscape, colorfully demonstrate the message of the inscription below: “Sloth makes man powerless and dries out the nerves until man is good for nothing.” Each of the seven prints follows a similar compositional scheme, with the personification of the vice accompanied by a symbolic animal in the foreground. Bruegel also adopted a common setting and “look” for the series by depicting each scene in the style of Hieronymus Bosch, to whom Bruegel was often compared. Sloth features an assortment of fantastic creatures and a confused arrangement of hybrid structures reminiscent of Bosch’s work. This reminiscent style, employed consciously by Bruegel, contrasts sharply with the way he depicted The Seven Virtues, a series of prints executed in the following years—all of them set in an accurate version of Bruegel’s contemporary world.

The Deadly Sins are listed by St. Thomas (I-II: 84:4) as:

  1. Pride
  2. Greed
  3. Gluttony
  4. Lust
  5. Sloth
  6. Envy
  7. Wrath

(Saint Bonaventure (Brevil., III, ix) lists the same. The number seven was given by Saint Gregory the Great (Lib. mor. in Job.) XXXI, xvii), and held for most of the Middle Age theologists. Previous authors listed 8 Deadly Sins: Saint Cyprian (mort., iv); Cassian (instit caenob., v, coll. 5, de octo principalibus vitiis); Columbanus (“Instr. de octo vitiis princip.”in”library. Max. vet. Patr. “(, XII, 23);” Alcuin (virtut et vitiis, xxvii and ff.))

Sin of omission


-by Fr Edward McIlmail, LC

“A sin of omission is committed when a person has a duty to do something but doesn’t do it. If a Catholic skips Sunday Mass out of laziness, that is a sin of omission (a serious one). If you saw a person drowning in a river and didn’t throw a rope to him, that too would be a serious sin of omission. Jesus was very clear about what awaits people who are guilty of serious omissions (see Matthew 25:41-46).

“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, a stranger and you gave Me no welcome, naked and you gave Me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for Me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to Your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for Me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

There are certain things we are morally required to do, either because of our state in life (we are baptized Catholics, for instance) or simply because we are human and we have an obligation to show basic charity and respect for the life and property of others.

Now, when you see something that is good but not obligatory, and you don’t follow through and do the good act, that is an imperfection. Fr. Jordan Aumann, OP, in his book Spiritual Theology defined imperfection as “the omission of a good act that is not of obligation or the remiss performance of an act, that is, with less perfection than that of which one is capable.”

Father Aumann goes on to note that “we should not demand perfection in each and every human action, but should take into account the weakness of our human condition. The most that can be demanded is that individuals do the best they can under the circumstances and then leave the rest to God.”

Two points are worth mentioning here. First, by all means, keep working to overcome imperfections in your life. “In the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness” (Lumen Gentium, 39).

Second, don’t get discouraged if you continue to see imperfections in yourself. We are all human and therefore limited and imperfect. And being aware of our shortcomings can help motivate us to stay close to Our Lord in prayer, the sacraments and acts of charity.”


-by Leon J. Suprenant, Catholic Answers

“When many of us think of sloth, we probably conjure up images of an ugly South American animal that eats shoots and actually hangs around. Or maybe we think of unshaven Joe Sixpack lying on the sofa all weekend, not lifting a finger except to open another cold one.

The latter is a fairly apt image of the vice of sloth or its synonyms such as boredom, acedia, and laziness. Boredom refers to a certain emptiness of soul or lack of passion; acedia refers to the sadness that comes from our unwillingness to tackle the difficulties involved in attaining something good; laziness more generally refers to the torpor and idleness of one who is not inclined to exert himself.

Sloth encompasses all these ideas and more. In his Pocket Catholic Dictionary, the late Jesuit Fr. John Hardon, SJ defined sloth as “sluggishness of soul or boredom because of the exertion necessary for the performance of a good work. The good work may be a corporal task, such as walking; or a mental exercise, such as writing; or a spiritual duty, such as prayer.”

One might have the impression that sloth is not a typically American sin. The virtues of diligence and industriousness are deeply ingrained in our nation’s Protestant work ethic. Our youth learn early on that the way to get ahead—at least for those who don’t win the lottery—is by working hard. The early bird catches the worm. Early to bed, early to rise. In a competitive, dog-eat-dog business world, everyone is looking for an “edge,” and that typically comes from outworking the competition.

And even apart from an employment context, when we want to communicate that our lives have been normal and healthy, we report that we’ve been “keeping busy.”

Surely the Church has always championed the intrinsic goodness of human work, through which we become “co-creators” with God and exercise legitimate stewardship over creation. In his 1981 encyclical letter on human work (Laborem Exercens), Pope John Paul II writes: “Work is a good thing for man—a good thing for his humanity—because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being’” (9).

Mightier than the Minotaur

Yet sloth is a sin against God, and not against the time clock or productivity. The fact is that it’s possible to work too much, in a way that’s not in keeping with our dignity and ultimate good. The essence of sloth is a failure to fulfill one’s basic duties. Surely one such duty is the human vocation to work. Yet another such duty is the enjoyment of leisure, to take time for worship. The gentleman lying on the sofa may be a more popular image of sloth, but the workaholic, who’s on the job 24-7 and in the process neglects God and family, is the more typical manifestation of sloth in our culture.

Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it this way:

In the United States the difficulties are not a Minotaur or dragon—not imprisonment, hard labor, death, government harassment, and censorship—but cupidity, boredom, sloppiness, indifference. Not the acts of a mighty, all-pervading, repressive government, but the failure of a listless public to make use of the freedom that is its birthright. (qtd. in William J. Bennett, “Redeeming Our Time,” Imprimis, November 1995)

Work and leisure are both products of human freedom, and both are intimately tied to our ultimate good. Most of us understand and periodically struggle with the natural aversion to work, but why do we find it so difficult to enjoy leisure? Why do we consign ourselves to joyless workaholism instead of striking a healthy balance in our lives? There are many reasons for this strange phenomenon, but I’d like to point out a few contributing factors that reflect the spiritual malaise of our time.

First, Pope John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical on the Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), identified “the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man” (21). He noted that “when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life” (21). The Holy Father was speaking to us: We in the west have largely lost the sense of God, leading to a loss of our own sense of purpose or mission. This has inexorably led to the societal emptiness and lack of passion that Solzhenitsyn saw so clearly decades ago. A striking correlation exists between the rise of secular atheism and boredom, as the reduction of human existence to the merely material divests it of its intended richness and meaning. This can only lead to the worldly sadness that leads to despair and ultimately death (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10).

Amusing Ourselves to Death

The most typical way of dealing with this tragedy is by not dealing with it, so as a society we tend to flock to entertainments. Certainly, these things are not bad in themselves, but excessive recourse to them reveals a flight from the depths of the human condition to the comfort of shallow pastimes. These pursuits are rightly called diversions, because they divert us from facing a life from which the living God has been excluded. For some, these diversions may be sports, television, or the Internet, among other possibilities. For others, work becomes a diversion, an escape. When it does, it ceases to be a manifestation of virtue and instead feeds the vice of sloth.

In addition, modern man tends to define himself by what he does and what he has. Yet, leisure isn’t about producing and owning, but about being—in other words, resting in God’s presence. We often fail to recognize the immense God-given dignity and value we have simply by being who we are, which is prior to anything we might accomplish in life. In Augustinian terms, without allowing for leisure, our hearts are forever restless, and our sense of worth gets tied to what we’re able to produce. This utilitarian mindset not only drives us to overwork but it also negatively affects how we value others. That’s one reason why our society has such a difficult time valuing the elderly and the infirm in our midst.

Further, as the pursuit of success, acclaim, or riches becomes the source of our personal worth, these human goods in essence take the place of God in our lives. Few of us probably set out to become idolaters, but that’s what we’ve become if our choices and work habits are ordered toward serving mammon, not God (Matt. 6:24; CCC 2113).

In response to all this, I offer a three-part plan for battling and overcoming the vice of sloth.

1: Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

I recently had the occasion to reread Pope John Paul II’s magnificent 1998 apostolic letter Dies Domini, on keeping the Lord’s Day holy. It’s hard to single out “favorites” from among John Paul’s voluminous writings, but surely this meditation on the Lord’s Day will benefit Christians “with ears to hear” for many generations to come.

I heartily recommend this apostolic letter as spiritual reading. Perhaps we can even give up an hour or so of sports (.asp) this Sunday to soak in some of the Holy Father’s insights as to what Sunday is all about in the first place.

One passage of Dies Domini really struck me: “[The Sabbath is] rooted in the depths of God’s plan. This is why, unlike many other precepts, it is not set within the context of strictly cultic stipulations but within the Decalogue, the ‘ten words’ which represents the very pillars of the moral life inscribed on the human heart” (DD 13).

Sunday Mass is not simply another requirement imposed on us by a Church that’s obsessed with “rules.” Rather, the obligation to remember to keep the day holy is prefigured and rooted in the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, which in turn is rooted in the very act of creation. And by creation I mean both God’s creation of the world, from which he took his rest on the seventh day, and God’s creation of us. This call to worship, to rest from servile labor, to take stock of all that God has given us, is inscribed in who we are, and we are acting against our own good when we fail to remember to keep Sunday holy. As our Lord noted, the Sabbath is made for man, and not the other way around.

On top of all that, we are commanded to “remember” to keep the day holy, which suggests that we might tend to “forget.”

When it comes to tithing our money, assuming that we even make an effort to support the Church financially, we look for the minimum we can get by with. Nobody ever says, “Is it okay to give more than 10 percent?” or tries to imitate the widow in the Gospel (Luke 21:1-4). Instead, we tend to give a mere pittance of what we’re able to give—certainly not enough to affect our overall spending habits. God asks for our first fruits and we give him our spare change.

In a similar sense, God asks us to tithe our time, to give him one day per week. We’ve reduced the Lord’s Day to Sunday Mass, and even then we squawk if it lasts more than 45 minutes. We can’t get out of Church fast enough once we’ve “done our time.”

But as long as we view the Sunday obligation minimally and as a burden, we’re missing the point. While Sunday Mass is the source and summit of our Christian life for the week, the entire Lord’s Day should be set aside for God and family—in other words, for leisure and for freedom from servile labor. Surely there must be some flexibility in application especially given our diverse, secular culture, but I daresay just as we can probably do a better job of tithing our money, we can do a better job of remembering to observe the Lord’s Day.

2: Take stock of our schedule.

Time is one of our most valued commodities, and we should spend it in a way that reflects our values and priorities. Getting the Lord’s Day right is the first and most important step, but we still have six other days to order correctly. Faith, family, work, and other pursuits are like ingredients that need to be added at the right time and in the right measure to make a tasty dish. If we don’t take the time to read and follow the recipe, the ingredients won’t come together in the way we’d like.

That’s why it’s so important for individuals, couples, families, and communities to take the time to identify their priorities and commitments and schedule their days and weeks accordingly. For those of us who tend to be lazy “underachievers,” a schedule will keep us on task to make sure we meet our obligations. For those of us who tend toward workaholism and to be driven by the tyranny of the urgent, a schedule will make sure that we make time for prayer, reading to the kids, or other priorities that might get shoved aside if we’re not vigilant.

3: Cultivate virtue.

If we’re not actively engaged in cultivating virtue, then our lives will start looking like my lawn. There are some patches of grass, but each day there are also more weeds. Overcoming vice and developing virtue go together, just as it’s not enough to pull weeds without also planting and fertilizing the new grass.

When it comes to sloth, the corresponding virtues are justice, charity, and magnanimity. Sloth is about fulfilling our obligations to God and neighbor, which brings into play the various manifestations of justice. However, the motivation for fulfilling these obligations should be supernatural charity, which moves us out of our small, self-serving world so that we might live for others.

When the spiritual laxity of sloth overtakes us, we are like a football team that has lost its momentum. We are set back on our spiritual heels and feel ill-prepared to do what is necessary to turn the tide. From this perspective, we can see how the “end game” of sloth is despair, as eventually the negative momentum snowballs, and we lose the will to compete. Magnanimity, however, literally means being “great-souled”; it is the virtue that gives us the confidence that we can do all things in him who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13), that we can truly run so as to win (1 Cor. 9:24).

Each time we act against our disinclination to pray, as well as work into our day habits of prayer (e.g., saying a Hail Mary when we’re stopped in traffic) and sacrifice, we are replacing sloth with virtues that will help us become saints. And it all starts with getting up off the couch and onto our knees.”

Love & virtue,
Matthew

Giving God His due


-by Pastor Sean Cole, Sean Cole is the lead pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Sterling, Colorado.

“The French mathematician Rene Descartes took the Western world by storm in the late 1600’s with his famous line from his Discourse on a Method: “I think; therefore I am.” This one phrase helped launch the Enlightenment in Europe and has been the center of many philosophical debates for centuries. Out of the burning bush, the Almighty God gives to Moses a far greater, more famous, and more powerful phrase that puts the one above to shame. God reveals Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14 with these words: “I AM who I AM!”

He is the inexhaustible God. Our LORD never tires. He has no beginning and no end. He is infinite. He is limitless. He is self-existent. He is sovereign. He is eternal. He is incomprehensible. Moses captured God’s identity as the Great I AM in Psalm 90:2 which states, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Theologian Geerhardus Vos gave this excellent description: “The name gives expression to the self-determination, the independence of God, we call His sovereignty . . . The name signifies primarily that in all God does for His people, He is self-determining, not moved upon by outside influences.”

Now, here’s the paradox of this beautiful truth of God as the Great I AM. If God is absolutely sovereign and has no needs and is self-existent, and is all-knowing and all-powerful and cannot be moved by outside influences, then why does He command us to worship Him? Why give Him glory? Isn’t He already intrinsically glorious?

Does God even need us to praise Him? One concept you should get out of your vocabulary is that God “needs” anything. God doesn’t have any needs – especially from us as sinful humans.

The LORD, the Great I AM, sovereignly rules over heaven and earth, yet in His amazing providence, He created us for HIS GLORY. He formed and made us as His children so that we would display His glory back to Him in joyful worship. Isaiah 42:8 reads, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” This word for “glory” in the Old Testament Hebrew is “kabod.” It means “weighty” or “to be heavy.” As His creation, we should view God as weighty and worthy of honor. The glory of God consists of His splendor, majesty, weightiness, holiness, and power that comprise His intrinsic nature as the Great I AM.

Even though God is inherently glorious, the Scriptures call us to reflect or display or ascribe to Him the glory due His name. Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.” What does it mean to “ascribe” glory to God? Do we add to His glory? Do we somehow make Him more glorious than He already is? Is there some deficiency in God that we must correct so that He can somehow become glorious?

Absolutely not! To ascribe glory means to give Him what He alone deserves. We don’t add a measure to His glory, but we reflect back to Him the glory that He inherently has.

The word for “glory” in the New Testament is “doxa” which means to honor someone’s reputation or to make much of his name. A comprehensive view of the Scripture demands that we make much of God by giving proper honor to Him with our worship. He is worthy. He is majestic. He is powerful and glorious. As a result, we are called to consistently display God’s glory with the totality of our lives. Would you humbly bow before the Great I AM and worship Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!”

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

“Presence of God – Help me, O God, by Your grace, to render You all the homage of which I am capable.

MEDITATION

BalancedScaleOfJustice for post on justice and religionJustice leads us to render to each one what is his due. But when it is a question of justice to God, we can never succeed in giving Him all that we owe Him, in making Him a suitable return for all His gifts, in paying Him the worship and homage which are due His infinite Majesty. We can fulfill our obligations to others according to justice, but we cannot do so with regard to God. However much man does, it will always be far less than what justice demands. Therefore, justice to God creates in us an urgent need to give ourselves to Him without reserve, without measure, without calculations, in other words, to make a complete gift of ourselves to God, in an attempt to render Him all the homage of which He, by His grace, has made us capable.

Because our justice is insufficient, we should have recourse to Jesus “who of God is made unto us … justice” (1 Corinthians 1:30), not only in the sense that He justified us from sin, but also in that He came upon earth to give the Father, in the name of all mankind, the worship worthy of Him. Therefore, we should seek in Jesus, in His wounds and His precious Blood, all that will make up for our insufficiency, and pay our debt to God; and we shall find it superabundantly. Even though we have consecrated ourselves to the service and worship of God, we are always useless servants, always His great debtors; this, however, should not discourage us but should serve to stimulate us never to lessen, never to draw back in our dedication to God. At the same time, it ought to urge us to appeal with immense confidence to Jesus, our Savior and Mediator.

COLLOQUY

“What return shall I make to You, O God, for all You have given me? Reason and human justice require me to give myself entirely to You from whom I have received all that I am, and they enjoin me to love You with all my strength. But faith teaches me that I should love You still more than this because Your gifts are greater than I am. You have given me not only my being, but also, by grace, Your being.

“If, because You created me, I ought to give myself entirely to You, what should I add in exchange for my redemption? When You created me, You gave me myself; when You redeemed me, You gave me Yourself, and by so doing, You gave me back to myself. Given and then returned, I owe myself to You in exchange for myself; I owe myself twice. But what can I give You, my God, in return for Yourself? Even if I could give myself to You a thousand times, what am I compared with You?

“I will love You, O Lord, my strength, my support, my refuge, my redeemer. I will love You for Your gifts, according to my measure, which certainly will be less than the just measure, but will not be less than my capacity for loving You. Doubtless, I shall know how to love You more when You deign to give me more love, and yet I shall never be able to love You as much as You deserve. Your eyes have seen my imperfection, but the names of those who have done all that they could are written in Your book, even if they could not do all they should” (St. Bernard).

“I invoke You, omnipotent Father, by the charity of Your omnipotent Son; nor do I know of any other intercessor, if not this One who made Himself a propitiation for our sins. I beseech You through Him, the High Priest, true Pontiff and Good Shepherd, who offered Himself as a sacrifice and gave His life for His flock; I pray to You through Him who is seated at Your right hand interceding for us, to give me the grace to bless You and praise You and glorify You together with Him, with intense compunction of heart, with many tears, and with great reverence. He is my advocate with You, God the Father; He is the sacred Victim, pleasing to You, perfect, offered in the odor of sweetness and acceptable to You” (St. Augustine).”

Love,
Matthew

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Mt 5:8


-by Br Daniel Benedict Rowlands, O.P., English Province

“No one shall see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). Thus did the Lord speak to Moses. It is indeed true that only the angels and saints enjoy an unimpeded vision of the Holy Trinity: “for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). So, if this beatitude describes heaven, what does it teach us pilgrims? We can make progress by recognising that eternal life does not abruptly begin at death. In that magnificent formula of St Thomas, “faith is the beginning of eternal life”.

The all-too-familiar capacity of the human soul for self-centredness is matched by its astonishing capacity for self-forgetfulness. The soul in love with God yearns to lose its own life in order to be filled with the fullness of God (cf. Eph. 3:19). Losing our life for Christ’s sake liberates us to partake of the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4); the beatific vision isn’t an arbitrary reward for the feat of self denial. Purity of heart describes the state of a soul rendered capacious enough at the depths of its being to be wholly filled with the divine life. St Paul surely speaks out of this condition when he declares: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20).

Purity is so often mentioned in the context of sexual morality, yet for the ancients, the heart was the seat of the rational faculties rather than the physical senses. It is precisely this intellectual dimension of purity that we have uncovered. St Peter implicitly gives voice to it when he relates that God has cleansed the hearts of the gentiles by faith (cf. Acts 15:8). Faith is formally in the intellect: it is the assent of the intellect to the divine truth, at the command of a will cooperating with grace.

A living faith is of course a “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Through love, we cling to God with our wills, desiring union with Him, as he draws us to himself. We depend on love for this experiential contact, for the infinity of God’s being remains beyond the ken of every creature, even the divinized intellects of the blessed. That said, the intellect in its human mode certainly does help purify our faith. Through the light of reason, nourished by Sacred Scripture, Church teaching, and sound spiritual counsel, we learn to identify all those things in our lives which are not God. In so
doing, our love is purified, reserved ever more exclusively for the Creator instead of creaturely idols.

Human reasoning, however, is itself one of those things able to distract us by becoming our principal focus, or worse turning our attention to ourselves in the act of knowing. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Cleansing by faith can therefore only be perfected by God Himself: “if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour” (Ps. 126:1). It is by the Holy Spirit, and especially the gift of understanding that the heart is lifted up to exalt in the depths of the blessed Trinity, and not in itself. It is through persistent prayer that we must boldly ask for this gift. “Lord, increase our faith” (Lk 17:5). In an instant, more may be disclosed than we can tell (cf. Ps. 39:6), for there is at work in us a power able to accomplish abundantly more than we can imagine (cf. Eph. 3:20). Yet, our preparation to receive such a gift is to patiently wait in darkness, walking by faith, and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

“A pure heart create for me, O God” (Ps. 50:12). Almighty and eternal God, Thou who created man on the sixth day, send forth Thy creating Spirit and realize the sixth beatitude in us; recreate in us pure hearts, so that the light of Thy countenance may penetrate us, and, as our likeness to Thee is restored by the vision of Thy refulgent glory, that same light may stream out from us for the illumination of the world.”

Love,
Matthew

How to lose your soul


-“The Romans in their Decadence” (French: Les Romains de la décadence) is a painting by the French artist Thomas Couture, first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1847, a year before the 1848 Revolution which toppled the July Monarchy. It was the most highly-praised work at the Salon. Reminiscent of the style of Raphael, it is typical of the French ‘academie’ style between 1850 and 1900. It now belongs to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

Love,
Matthew

Sacrilege: two truths & a lie

https://www.wect.com/story/38641433/transformation-underway-at-property-where-nuns-actors-and-a-large-wild-animal-spent-the-night/

Don’t even think of asking a priest about your own confession, or even alluding to it outside of the seal of the sacrament. It’s rude as it puts the priest in an untenable situation. He will likely look away, change the subject abruptly. They are trained that way. Priests are trained when it comes to confession, “it never happened”, and the penalty of latae sententiae “automatic” excommunication for breaking the seal of the confessional in which a priest would have to stop any sacramental ministry and assume a life of prayer and penance under the direction of his bishop.  So, don’t do it.  Be polite.  You should know “it never happened”, too.  Since God does not remember.  And, the devil never lets us forget.  One of the many ways you can tell them apart.  Even if the devil looks like God, but no wounds, since the devil cannot, by definition, suffer for others.


-by Br Jordan Zajac, OP

“There’s a hotel in Wilmington, North Carolina located on the grounds of a former convent, where nuns used to live and pray. The convent had been closed some years ago, and recently it was converted into this hotel.

As a way of acknowledging the history of the property, the owners decided to get “creative,” turning one part of the old convent into an amenity for their guests. No clear explanation for it is given on the hotel website’s FAQ page. It’s not even mentioned when you check-in. Instead, it’s just listed on a hotel map for guests to discover themselves. It involves a modified confessional. What you do is enter the confessional with your key card, sit down, and take up a keyboard that’s there. What’s next? Well, you’re encouraged to type in your deepest, darkest secret. It’s completely anonymous, but your answer gets recorded in the system. To compensate your candidness, upon the wall it will then randomly select and display what a previous guest typed in. You reveal your darkest secret—the worst choice you’ve made—and you get to learn about someone else’s.

This amenity seizes upon something fundamental to the fallen human condition, but at the same time it twists it. You could say this hotel confessional contains two truths and a lie.

The first truth is: when it comes to the things we have done that we’re not proud of, the natural instinct is to hide them. Hide them from others, from God, even from ourselves. We try to ignore them, but we carry them with us.

A second truth is that we all have a desire to be free. Freed from what we keep hidden. From what we’re ashamed of.

The lie is this: that we can somehow get rid of the things we’re not proud of all by ourselves. You can just type it in anonymously and leave it there. As if learning someone else’s deepest sin can free you from yours. It’s a false form of forgiveness. You walk into this hotel confessional with all your sins, and when you walk back out they’re all still there. Something has been recorded, but nothing has been deleted.

If I stayed at this place, I would ask for a refund.

Yet even then, I would still be stuck with all my baggage. “I remained to myself a place of unhappiness,” says St. Augustine about his life of sin, “in which I could not abide, yet from which I could not depart” (Confessions, Bk 4, ch. 7).

Confession is about freedom. It marks a departure and a new beginning in which to abide. A beginning where all has been forgotten. When the priest says the words of absolution, it’s like those sins get erased and the eternal hard drive is wiped clean (cf. Ps 51:11). Properly speaking, it’s inaccurate to suggest the omniscient, immutable Creator can forget something—or anything, ever. But at the same time, He wishes to inspire deep confidence in the reality of His mercy and the relationship with Him that’s restored by His forgiving the guilt of our sins.

When St. Margaret Mary Alacoque first started receiving visions of Christ, Who asked her to promote devotion to His Most Sacred Heart, she of course had a hard time finding people who believed her. No priest wanted to be her spiritual director or confessor. The first time she met Father Claude de la Colombière, SJ, he was also dismissive. He told her, “If Jesus appears to you again, you go back and ask Him what the last mortal sin was that I confessed. If you can tell me that, then I’ll be your spiritual director.”

Our Lord did indeed appear to her again, and she asked Him. Jesus looked at her and all he said was, “I don’t remember.”

Love,
Matthew

Pope Francis: “Where calumny is, there is the devil.”


-“The Calumny of Apelles”, by Sandro Botticelli, created ca 1494-1497, tempera on panel, 62 cm × 91 cm (24 in × 36 in), Uffizi, Florence. Botticelli made this painting on the description of a painting by Apelles, a Greek painter of the Hellenistic period. Apelles’ works have not survived, but Lucian recorded details of one in his ‘On Calumny’: “On the right of it sits Midas with very large ears, extending his hand to Slander while she is still at some distance from him. Near him, on one side, stand two women—Ignorance and Suspicion. On the other side, Slander is coming up, a woman beautiful beyond measure, but full of malignant passion and excitement, evincing as she does fury and wrath by carrying in her left hand a blazing torch and with the other dragging by the hair a young man who stretches out his hands to heaven and calls the gods to witness his innocence. She is conducted by a pale ugly man who has piercing eye and looks as if he had wasted away in long illness; he represents envy. There are two women in attendance to Slander, one is Fraud and the other Conspiracy. They are followed by a woman dressed in deep mourning, with black clothes all in tatters—she is Repentance. At all events, she is turning back with tears in her eyes and casting a stealthy glance, full of shame, at Truth, who is slowly approaching.” Please click on the image for greater detail.

-by Edward Pentin

4/13/2020

“For the third time in as many weeks, Pope Francis has warned not to speak ill of others, and again mentioned the devil in another striking homily this morning in the chapel of the Vatican’s Santa Martha residence.

Calumny, he said, is worse than sin and is the direct expression of Satan. “We are all sinners; all of us. We all commit sins. But calumny is something else. It is of course a sin, too, but it is something more,” he said, according to a Vatican Radio report.

“Calumny aims to destroy the work of God, and calumny comes from a very evil thing: it is born of hatred. And hate is the work of Satan. Calumny destroys the work of God in people, in their souls. Calumny uses lies to get ahead.” Be in no doubt, he said: “Where there is calumny, there is Satan himself.”

He then gave the example of St. Stephen, who was a victim of calumny, wrongly accused of bearing false witness, and was martyred because of it. The Church’s first martyr, the Pope said, does not repay falsehood with falsehood. Instead, he “looks to the Lord and obeys the law”, being in the peace and truth of Christ. It’s the way of martyrdom, he said, and there have been numerous examples of those who have witnessed to the Gospel with great courage.

But he added – and later repeated – that the age of martyrs “is not yet over” and that “even today we can say, in truth, that the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries.”

“The Church has many men and women who are maligned through calumny, who are persecuted, who are killed in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith,” the Holy Father continued. “Some are killed because they teach the catechism, others are killed because they wear the cross … Today, in many countries, they are maligned, they are persecuted … they are our brothers and sisters who are suffering today, in this age of the martyrs”.

This age of “such great spiritual turmoil” reminded the Pope of an ancient Russian icon that depicts Our Lady covering the people of God with her mantle: “We pray to Our Lady to protect us, and in times of spiritual turbulence the safest place is under the mantle of Our Lady. She is the mother who takes care of the Church. And in this time of martyrs, she is the protagonist, the protagonist of protection: She is the Mother. (…) Let us state with faith: Mother, the Church is under your protection: Care for the Church.”

This is the third time at these early morning Masses that the Pope has warned against speaking poorly of others. Last month he said it was the equivalent of selling someone “like a commodity,” not unlike Judas, who sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. A few days later, he warned against gossip, saying that complaining behind each other’s backs is a temptation that comes “from the Evil One, who does not want the Spirit to dwell among us and give peace.”

Since his election last month, the Pope has also made frequent references to the devil. Observers have noted this emphasis with interest, especially as explicit mentions of the devil largely fell into disuse in the years following the Second Vatican Council. With his disappearance from Church texts, exorcists complained that the rite of exorcism had become useless against demons.

Pope Francis’s frequent allusions to “Satan” and the “Evil One” may well be part of an effort —one that Benedict XVI had already begun — to cast out the presence of evil and so bring back healing and harmony to the Church, and to parts of the Vatican in particular.”

Love,
Matthew

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ (Mt 5:7)


-by Br Bede Mullins, OP, English Province

“‘What a cheek you have, to want to ask for something you are chary about giving!’ That’s what St Caesarius of Arles had to say to those of us who like to think of mercy as one of the cuddlier concepts of Christian faith: we like to tell ourselves about the relief that comes with forgiveness, the understanding of weaknesses, the realization that we are loved and accepted by God even with all our faults. When people talk about mercy, they usually think of these things – and they aren’t far wrong, because St Paul tells us that Christ died
for us while we were sinners still.

But there’s the rub – Christ had to die for us, an agonizing, literally excruciating and bloody death; the Holy One had to become accursed for our sakes. Graham Greene speaks memorably of the ‘appalling strangeness of the mercy of God’. Mercy comes at a price: mercy on our sins comes at the price Christ rendered for our sake on the cross. For the original readers or hearers of Matthew’s Gospel, the price-element of mercy (and its practical implications) would perhaps have been more obvious, since the word for ‘merciful’, eleemon, recognizably shares a root with the word for ‘almsgiving’, eleemosyne. If people did indeed make that connection when listening to the beatitudes, they would be thinking with the mind of St Paul, when he exhorted the Corinthians to give to his collection for the Church in Jerusalem by appeal to the graciousness of the Lord Jesus: ‘though He was rich, He made Himself poor for your sake, so that you might be enriched by His poverty’ (2 Cor. 8.9).

Mercy, then, is not just something we receive; it makes a demand on us, from two directions. Looking first to the future, we are told time and again that we cannot expect to receive in time to come what we are not willing to give now. There is something initially illogical about mercy; it revolts the instinct for justice.  Justice desires order, including orderly retaliation, but mercy involves the disruption of order: letting go an injustice done to oneself, or giving assistance (financial or otherwise) where it isn’t strictly due. And that disruption of order is always a cause of more or less suffering for the one who shows mercy. But if we don’t take the step to be merciful – to lose face in a feud, to make the effort of an unexpected kindness – the same vicious cycle of strict justice or unrepaired injustice will carry us away in its sweep, and we shall end up not knowing how to receive mercy. Think in this connection of the character of Javert, in Les Miserables: his heart is so steeled by the unswerving desire to see justice done that, in the face of genuine mercy, he can only destroy himself – such a world as admits mercy does not to him make sense.

But the second demand is laid upon us from something past: the already-accomplished mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Christ died for you leaving an example, that you should follow in his steps’, St Peter tells us (1 Pet. 2.21): that is the example of His becoming poor that we might be made rich. He has already broken the iron rule of strict justice, by reaching down from heaven to earth and overcoming all the hard and fast separations of the natural and moral order: for in Him not only heaven meets earth, but the immortal puts on mortality, almighty God becomes a man; in Him the ruler of all becomes a servant; Israel’s privileges were vouchsafed by the keeping of a strict covenant, whereas in Christ blessings are made to abound freely among all the nations. This is the Man in Whom history is transformed, the center-point that gathers into a new orbit sin-scattered humanity. Because of Him, mercy really is possible; still more, if we are to belong to Him, mercy is imperative.

Past and future meet in the present; their demand is upon us now. You will forgive me the platitude, because in this case it might illuminate something about these demands. So far the picture suggests that Christ has shown mercy to us, we show mercy to other people, and at the end Christ will bestow on us the final mercy of everlasting life. The Gospel, however, suggests that our mercy is never directed away from Christ.  Becoming poor, He identifies Himself with those to whom we can show mercy – and is that not perhaps the strangest of his mercies? ‘Whatever you did in mercy to the least of my brethren – you did it to me’ (Matt. 25.40).”

Love, be merciful to me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.
Matthew