-by Bp Robert Barron, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
“I have recently returned from World Youth Day in Lisbon, where I gave five presentations, each one of which, as I promised, was evangelical in purpose. I made that promise in response to Cardinal-elect Américo Aguiar, the organizer of the international gathering of young people who had assured us, a week before the meeting, that he had “no interest in converting anyone to Christ or to the Catholic Church.” Though my talks were enthusiastically received by crowds ranging up to twelve and thirteen thousand, I found myself rebuked, upon my return, by papal biographer Austen Ivereigh in the pages of Commonweal. Apparently, I did not understand the subtleties of Bishop Aguiar’s mind and had failed to grasp the key distinction between evangelization and proselytism. On Ivereigh’s reading, the former is, evidently, “facilitating an encounter with the living Christ” while the latter is “converting others to the Catholic Church.” In fact, Ivereigh goes so far as to say that any effort at conversion to the Church “contradicts” authentic evangelization.
Well, one scarcely knows where to begin responding to the confusions on display here. The most obvious is the painful wedge that Ivereigh drives between Jesus and his mystical body. The Church is not a collectivity of like-minded devotees of the “living Christ,” whom they presumably have found outside of the stifling confines of the ecclesial institution. Rather, the Church is Christ’s body, the visible means by which he is known, the vehicle that he employs to convey his life to the world. This understanding of the Church is implicit in the Lord’s famous parable of the sheep and goats—“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to me”—as well as in the various accounts of Paul’s conversion, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Therefore, if one wants an encounter with the living Christ, in the full sense of that term, she must seek communion with Christ’s mystical body, the living organism of the Church. The late Cardinal George of Chicago often remarked, “Just as you can’t know me apart from my body, you cannot know Christ apart from the Church which is his body.” A Jesus existing apart from his Church, it seems to me, is not “the living Christ” but rather a gnostic fantasy.
A second confusion is terminological. What Ivereigh is calling “evangelization” is, in point of fact, “pre-evangelization.” One can indeed prepare the ground for Christ in a thousand different ways: through invitation, conversation, debate, argument, the establishment of friendship, etc. One might legitimately say, at this stage of the process, that one is not pressing the matter of conversion, but one is most definitely paving the way for it. Unless it conduces toward real evangelization, pre-evangelization is an absurdity. And Ivereigh’s identification of “proselytism” and “converting others to the Catholic Church” is just plain ridiculous. If he is right about this, then Pope Francis, who has for ten years consistently spoken out against the p-word, is a fierce opponent of converting people to the Catholic Church! I can offer a correction, as it were, from the horse’s mouth. When I was still a bishop in California, I participated, with my brothers, in a wide-ranging, three-hour conversation with the Pope, during our ad limina visit. In the course of that session, one of the bishops asked Francis to clarify the distinction between evangelization (which the Pope obviously favors) and proselytism (which he obviously doesn’t). The Holy Father clearly stated that by “proselytism” he means an attempt at evangelization that is aggressive, brow-beating, condescending, and disrespectful. I can assure you that he most certainly did not imply that it is tantamount to bringing people into the Church.
During the confusing and often heated discussions around the meaning of “synodality,” I have found it useful to turn to the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and I believe that consulting that classic text might prove helpful in this context as well. Jesus walks with and carefully listens to His erstwhile disciples, even as they move in the wrong direction. All of Pope Francis’s teaching on listening and accompaniment is beautifully congruent with the opening of this narrative. It was a necessary propaedeutic, but what emerges from this, if I might put it this way, pre-evangelistic conversation is a relatively superficial and disjointed understanding of the Lord: they have many of the facts right, but they don’t see the pattern. It was indeed an encounter with Christ, but no careful reader of the story would conclude that it rendered anything close to an adequate understanding of Jesus.
After listening for some time, Jesus speaks and does so definitively: “How foolish you are; how slow to understand.” Then He immerses them in the Scriptures, explaining how all of the revealed word points toward Him, relating to Him as type and pre-figurement. Though their hearts are burning within them, the two disciples still do not fully see the Lord. Only when He breaks the bread do they recognize Him, whereupon He vanishes from their sight. At that, the two disciples, who were initially walking the wrong way, turn back to Jerusalem and, with excitement, join the eleven apostles. As commentators from the ancient world to the present day have remarked, this story is a sort of icon of the Mass, including a kind of Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist, and concluding with a sending on mission. The point is that Jesus is fully encountered only in and through the Eucharistic liturgy, the prayer par excellence of the Church. Apart from a real conversion to the Church, where word and bread are broken open, people will have, at best, a fragmented sense of who Jesus is.
Ivereigh concluded his criticism of me by maintaining that I was someone who, out of fear, is “clinging to identity and difference.” Well, I can assure him that fear has nothing to do with it, but otherwise, guilty as charged. I proudly cling to the identity of the Church of Jesus Christ and declare it to all the world as something different indeed, a uniquely liberating form of life.”
Love and truth,
-please click on the image for greater detail
CCC 846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is His Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; He is present to us in His body which is the Church.
He Himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door.
Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336
-by Bp Robert Barron, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
“You have probably heard by now that a statement made by Bishop Américo Aguiar has caused quite a stir. Aguiar is the auxiliary bishop of Lisbon, Portugal, and he is the chief coordinator of the upcoming World Youth Day. Moreover, he was, in a very surprising move, just named a cardinal by Pope Francis. So he is a man of considerable weight—which is one reason why his remarks have gotten so much attention. He commented, in reference to the international gathering over which he is presiding, “We want it to be normal for a young Catholic Christian to say and bear witness to who he is or for a young Muslim, Jew, or of another religion to also have no problem saying who he is and bearing witness to it, and for a young person who has no religion to feel welcome and to perhaps not feel strange for thinking in a different way.” The observation that excited the most wonderment and opposition was this: “We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all.” I will admit that the remark of his that disturbed me the most, however, was this one: “That we all understand that differences are a richness and the world will be objectively better if we are capable of placing in the hearts of all young people this certainty,” implying that fundamental disagreement on matters of religion is good in itself, indeed what God actively desires. Lots of Catholics around the world have been, to put it mildly, puzzled by the cardinal-elect’s musings.
In the wake of the controversy, Bishop Aguiar, to be fair, has walked back his statements quite a bit, insisting that he meant only to criticize the aggressive, brow-beating manner of sharing the faith that goes by the unlovely name of “proselytizing.” (I must say that this clarification still does nothing to explain his straightforward assertion that he does not want to convert young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church.) But for the moment, I will let that go and take him at his word. Nevertheless, I would like to address a wider cultural issue that his intervention raises—namely, the simple fact that most people in the West would probably consider his original sentiments uncontroversial.
Behind so much of the language of tolerance, acceptance, and non-judgmentalism in regard to religion is the profound conviction that religious truth is unavailable to us and that it finally doesn’t matter what one believes as long as one subscribes to certain ethical principles. Provided one is a decent person, who cares if he or she is a devout Christian, Buddhist, Jew, or Muslim—or nonbeliever? And if that is the case, then why wouldn’t we see the variety of religions as a positive, one more expression of the diversity that so beguiles the contemporary culture? And given this epistemological indifferentism, wouldn’t any attempt at “conversion” be nothing more than arrogant aggression?
As I have been arguing for years, and pace the current cultural consensus, the Catholic Church places an enormous emphasis on doctrinal correctness. It most assuredly thinks that religious truth is available to us and that having it (or not having it) matters immensely. It does not hold that “being a nice person” is somehow sufficient, either intellectually or morally; otherwise, it would never have spent centuries hammering out its creedal statements with technical precision. And it most certainly does maintain that evangelization is its central, pivotal, most defining work. St. Paul himself said, “Woe to me if I do not evangelize” (1 Cor. 9:16); and Pope St. Paul VI declared that the Church is nothing but a mission to spread the Gospel. Neither the first-century St. Paul nor the twentieth-century St. Paul thought for a moment that evangelizing is tantamount to imperialism or that religious “diversity” is somehow an end in itself. Rather, both wanted the whole world to be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is precisely why every institution, every activity, every program of the Church is dedicated, finally, to announcing Jesus. Some years ago, when I was an auxiliary bishop in California, I was in dialogue with the board members of a Catholic high school. When I commented that the purpose of the school was, ultimately, evangelization, many of them balked and said, “If we emphasize that, we’ll alienate most of our students and their parents.” My response was, “Well, then you should close the school. Who needs one more secular STEM academy?” Needless to say, I was never invited back to address that board! But I didn’t care. When any Catholic institution, ministry, or outreach forgets its evangelical purpose, it has lost its soul.
The same goes for World Youth Day. One of Pope St. John Paul II’s greatest contributions to the Church, World Youth Day has always had, inescapably, an evangelical élan. It delighted the great Polish pope that so many of the young people of the world, in all of their diversity, came together at these gatherings, but if you had told him that the true purpose of the event was to celebrate difference and make everyone feel comfortable with who they are, and that you had no interest in converting anyone to Christ, you would have gotten a look to stop a train.”
Love & truth,
-by Steve Weidenkopf
“Time is an essential component of the Christian Faith because Christians believe that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became flesh and entered human history. From the earliest centuries, Christians focused on chronology and dating important events in salvific history.
The ancient world was also concerned with time and calendars to mark religious, cultural, and political events. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans (and others) created calendars. The Jewish people crafted a calendar (based on the lunar months) that was modified throughout their history.
The early Church, being born into the Roman Empire, had its understanding of time and dating impacted by the Julian and Jewish calendars. One of the first crises in Church history concerned the proper method for dating the celebration of Easter. In the eastern provinces many Christians used the Jewish method for dating Passover so that Easter was celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan, regardless of the day of the week. The Church in Rome, as well as in Alexandria and Jerusalem, celebrated Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox. The different methods for calculating the celebration of Easter became such a contentious issue that the revered St. Polycarp (d. 155) traveled to Rome to meet with Pope St. Pius I (r. 140-155) to discuss the matter, which was not officially resolved until the fourth century, when the Council of Nicaea mandated the Roman method.
After the early fourth-century Great Persecution under the Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305), the Church marked events with the nomenclature the Era of Martyrs to highlight the sacrifice of these brave witnesses of the Faith and to replace the prevailing Era of Diocletian, which dated documents based on the emperor’s reign. This nomenclature remained in effect until the sixth century, when the monk Dionysius (d. 544), nicknamed “Exiguus” (meaning “the little” and used, more than likely, as a self-deprecating title) introduced the Era of the Incarnation as a dating method.
Dionysius was a native Greek-speaker who also knew Latin. He desired to make the writing of Greek theologians accessible to Latin-speakers, so he spent most of his time translating various works. He also had an interest in chronology. Dionysius believed that time should not be dated according to the reign of Diocletian, the great persecutor of the Church, but rather should be centered on the birth of Christ. Adopting this method would erase the memory of Diocletian and highlight Jesus, who entered human history in the Incarnation.
Dionysius Exiguus’s Era of the Incarnation was used first in Italy and then later in some areas of Spain, but widespread use first began in England, where the method was adopted at the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD.
The next important event in the Christian marking of time was the designation of events as “Before Christ (B.C.)” and as Anno Domini, “The Year of the Lord,” (A.D.), which had been utilized earlier but became well known from the works of the English saint and Doctor of the Church Bede the Venerable (672-737). As a young boy, Bede was entrusted to an abbot of a Northumbrian Benedictine monastery for his education. Recognized for his intellect, Bede was a brilliant student who loved learning. He studied Scripture and wrote commentaries on the Pentateuch and the Gospels. His greatest influence was exerted in historical writings, especially through his book on the Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoples. Bede told the story of the English making reference to the dating of events in the “Year of the Lord” (Anno Domini).
Bede recognized that Christ is the center of history and that the telling of time should be rooted in a chronology based on the Incarnation. Bede produced other chronological words, including On the Reckoning of Time, in which he recounted the history of the world from Creation to his own time in eighth-century England.
Despite the influence of Bede’s writings, widespread application of dating events as A.D. did not occur until the time of the Charlemagne in the early ninth century. The king of the Franks and emperor was the first major secular ruler to mandate the use of A.D. as a dating device throughout his empire. But even with Charlemagne’s endorsement, the method was not utilized by the papal chancery until the tenth century. Eventually, the method became the universal standard of dating in the West and remained so until the modern age.
After centuries of acceptance, the use of B.C./A.D. as the standard dating convention has come under attack in the post-Enlightenment world because of its association with Christ. Secular humanists, including various academics and scientists, have embraced the use of “Common Era (C.E.)” and “Before the Common Era (B.C.E.)” to replace A.D. and B.C. in the spirit of “inclusivity” so that non-Christians are not offended by the dating methodology.
Some proponents of B.C.E./C.E., which changes merely the nomenclature and not the Christian dating baseline, advocate that the change is not a “politically correct” attempt to denigrate Christians but is based on historical usage in the scientific and academic communities since the seventeenth century and is more exact than B.C./A.D. Other commentators believe that the use of B.C./A.D. is rooted in Christian anti-Semitism and akin to a Christian conquest of time or even a form of colonization. Accordingly, some academics now criticize the use of B.C.E./C.E. because the terms attempt to hide the Christian connection (like a “yellow sticky note,” in the phrase of one academic) rather than celebrate the world’s diversity.
Regardless, the use of B.C.E./C.E. is common in the modern world, with some countries (England, Wales, Australia) mandating its usage in official school curriculum. The terminology is common in textbooks and popularly written histories in the United States as well.
How should Catholics approach this terminology? Names and terms are important, and their usage communicates beliefs and convictions. (For example, the use of the term anti-abortion rather than pro-life by various news organizations illustrates their position on the issue.) In a modern world where speech is weaponized and where propaganda flourishes, it is vital for Catholics to use language and terms that reflect Christian belief and history. The use of B.C./A.D. proclaims that the truth that the Incarnation was the central event in human history and that Jesus is the Lord of history, and so it is proper and praiseworthy to continue to utilize this centuries-old terminology.”
Love & truth,
-by Ali ibn Hassan
“The nature of marriage has been a subject of much discussion and debate over the last couple of decades. Receiving somewhat less attention are the differences among religions over marriage, particularly the differences between Islam and Christianity. In many respects, Islam and Christianity share a common view of the importance of marriage, but there are some significant differences that all Christians should understand.
The Catholic faith teaches that marriage is an unbreakable bond between a man and a woman. The foundations for this understanding can be found in both the Old and New Testaments:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” . . . Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 1:27-28, 2:24).
Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:28-33).
The Catechism builds upon God’s call to this fruitful, loved-filled, and unbreakable bond:
The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (1601).
Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God, from whom comes our help (CCC 1605a).
To Catholics, marriage between baptized persons is a sacrament, which has the meaning of oath or covenant. This covenant bond is a lifelong exchange of persons with God as witness. This exchange forms the basis for a community of love that reflects the sacrificial and holy love God has for his people and is ordered for the good of the man and woman and toward the begetting and education of children. We heed Christ’s words—“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9)—so, after a baptized couple consummates a validly contracted marriage, it is impossible to break that union except by death. (Non-sacramental marriages, where one or both spouses are unbaptized, are also ordinarily indissoluble except in certain rare cases.)
Like Christianity, Islam values marriage as an important institution for the building of family and society and an integral part of salvation. Various hadiths (traditional religious sayings) bear this out. For example: “There is no foundation that has been built in Islam more loved by Allah . . . than marriage. . . . Allah loves no permissible like marriage, and Allah hates no permissible like divorce” (Mustadrak al-Wasa’il). “Whoever gets married has safeguarded half of his religion” (Wasa’il al-Shia).
The Quran and tradition give further guidance and reasons to marry:
And marry off the single among you and among the righteous of your male and female slaves. If they are poor then Allah will supply their needs from his generosity. And Allah is expansive, knowing. And let those who do not find marriage hold back until Allah grants them of his generosity (Quran 24:32-33).
O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty, and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual desire” (Sahih al-Bukhari).
Whoever chooses to follow my tradition must get married and produce offspring through marriage (and increase the population of Muslims), so that on the Day of Resurrection, I shall confront other Ummah (nations) with the (great) numbers of my Ummah (Wasa’il al-Shia).
Marriage is so important within Islam that no other option is recognized as praiseworthy. Unlike Catholics, who view celibacy for the sake of the kingdom as a high calling, Muslims see the permanent celibate life as unnatural, given men’s sexual needs and the community’s need to grow. Muslims are encouraged to marry early in life in order to avoid forbidden sexual relations (known as zina).
The Arabic word most often associated with marriage is nikah, which means “contract.” A widely quoted definition from influential Salafi cleric Ibn ‘Uthaimin states that marriage is “a mutual contract between a man and a woman whose goal is for each to enjoy the other, become a pious family and a sound society.”
Now, a contract is a promise regarding an exchange of goods. A Muslim marital contract is brokered between two men—the husband-to-be and a representative for the wife-to-be. The contract stipulates the exchange of a mahr, or “bride price,” in exchange for the woman’s hand. It dictates that married life be conducted in accordance with the Quran and requires consent by the woman and two witnesses.
The first and most common category of marriage is the nikah between one man and one woman. A second category, though, is called a nikah mut’ah, or temporary marriage. This type of “marriage” is common in Shia Islam and is designed to make otherwise illicit sexual acts licit by a short-term legal arrangement. Although most Sunni Muslims reject nikah mut’ah, they accept nikah misyar, in which both prospective husband and wife agree to give up certain normal marital rights, like living together, equality between wives, rights to income, and rights of homekeeping, in order to be married. This can be understood as a middle ground between a nikah and a nikah mut’ah.
In addition to these different types of marriage, in Islam, one man can have multiple wives and contract several different types of marriages at the same time. “And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four” (Quran 4:3). This verse and others like it condone polygynous relationships (between one man and multiple women—but not one woman and multiple men). Men are allowed to marry up to four women, provided that they can treat them all equally (see Quran 4:129).
Classically, Muslim men were also allowed to conduct sexual relations with their female slaves, a practice that was brought back recently by ISIS and is found in the Quran: “And they who guard their private parts except from their wives and those their right hands possess [concubines] . . . they will not be blamed” (23:6).
Divorce by either party is allowable within Islam, though it is discouraged. “And when you divorce women and they fulfil their term [of their ‘Iddah, or post-divorce waiting period], either keep them according to reasonable terms or release them according to reasonable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress [against them]” (Quran 2:231).
If either party violates the conditions of the signed marital contract or if they have irreconcilable differences, they can obtain a wide variety of types of divorces: from khul’ (mutual contractual divorce initiated by the wife) to talaq (a variety of simple ways for the husband to repudiate the wife, usually requiring a waiting period before the divorce is finalized) to three different types of divorce oaths and finally judicial divorce. Historically, this last right was given to men only, but recently, in some places, women have been given the right to divorce as well.
So although from a distance Christian and Muslim marriages may look a lot alike, there are major differences. Marital contracts within Islam elevate marriage above the mundane while allowing for the reality of man’s frailty, but Islam’s allowance for multiple wives, temporary sexual arrangements, and partial forms of marriage expose a baser contractual view of marriage that falls far short of God’s plan for lifelong covenantal relationships.”
-by Mostafa Ghandar
“Marriage in Islam
The institution of marriage and family is pivotal in Middle East societies, both ancient and modern; perhaps the biblical genealogy of the Old Testament is an indication of this fact. Marriage practices, customs and traditions evolved throughout many thousands of years in this central part of the ancient world.
When the Divine Message of Islam was revealed in the sixth century AD, it was a revolutionary reformation of all aspects of human life: economic, social, and political, and of course religious. Among these was the reformation of marriage practices that prevailed in the pre-Islamic times or ages of ignorance (Al-Gahiliah). These reformations included: limiting the number of wives a man can marry to only four after it was unlimited; allowing women to carry their own family name, and have their financial independence, because they were allowed to trade in their own name and maintain their wealth separate from the husband.
Perhaps marriage in Islam is best described in the following two verses from the Holy Quran, the words of the All Mighty:
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ. ( الروم 21 )
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.” (30:21)
وَاللّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَزْوَاجِكُم بَنِينَ وَحَفَدَةً وَرَزَقَكُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ أَفَبِالْبَاطِلِ يُؤْمِنُون وَبِنِعْمَتِ اللّهِ هُمْ يَكْفُرُونَ. (النحل 71 )
“And Allah has made for you wives of your own kind, and has made for you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and has bestowed on you good provision. Do they then believe in false deities and deny the Favors of Allah” (by not worshipping Allah Alone). An Nahl, 72
Please note the emphasis in the first verse on love and mercy, and on the family in the second verse. This in itself was an important reformation, indicating the necessity of Divine guidance as to the very basic elements of successful marriage, and successful human love, and the family.
Islamic marriage laws together with the inheritance laws regulate the relationships in the basic unit of the human society, the family, in a manner that promotes fairness and dignity, as well as the emotional needs of both the woman and the man and all members of the extended family: in-laws and siblings. So Marriage laws in Islam, while they regulate the relation between men and women in a perfect balance, also foster the preservation and welfare of a healthy relationship in the immediate and the extended family, and in society as a whole.
In Islam, marriages are not considered to be ‘made in heaven’ between ‘soul-mates’ destined for each other; they are not sacraments. They are social contracts which bring rights and obligations to both parties, and can only be successful when these are mutually respected and cherished.
It is interesting to note that in most western countries including Australia modern marriage laws adopted the principles of the Islamic Marriages as a social contracts and departed from the 13th century ideas of marriage as sacraments. In fact the system of marriages registration and marriage celebrants was developed in the ninth century Egypt by the Fatimid’s.
Islamic Contract of Marriage:
In Islam marriage is a formal agreement or a contract (Aqqd Azwag, Aqqed Alqran or Nikah) between a woman and a man, which creates the marital relationship. A marriage contract has a number of essential conditions, and also it can include special conditions that the two parties may wish to include and agree upon.
The Prophet (SAW) said that marriage is the most favored institution by Allah (SWT). As such it is the most important agreement a Muslim will enter into in his life.
The formal conditions or requirements for a valid marriage are as follows:
- The Offer and Acceptance (Al Ijaab Wa Qboul):
1.1. The essential requirement of the contract is the Offering and Acceptance known as Ijaab and Qabool. These statements verify the mutual agreement of the parties concerned and create the marriage relationship.
1.2. The Ijaab and qabool should be stated in clear, well defined words, in one and the same sitting, and in the presence of the witnesses. The person conducting the ceremony may help the two parties to say the offering and accepting words.
1.3. Ijaab and Qabool should be in a language understood by both parties. Qabool should be in the past tense to indicate that acceptance has actually happened and has been completed.
1.4. While documenting the marriage contract is not a requirement, yet it is important to document it for future reference and to preserve the rights of the husband and wife.
- Eligibility of Bride and Groom:
2.1. The groom must be a chaste Muslim having attained the age of puberty. He must not be related to the bride by any of the permanently prohibiting blood, breast feeding, or marital relationships, such as his sisters, paternal and maternal aunts, daughters, grand daughters and others.
2.2. He must not be prohibited from marrying the bride for any of the temporary reasons stipulated in the Quran and Sunnah. For example if a man has four wives, then all other women become temporarily prohibited from him. Another example of a temporary reason is that as long as a man is married to a particular woman, all of her sisters become temporarily prohibited for him.
2.3. The requirement a bride must fulfill is that she must be a chaste Muslim, Christian or Jew. She must not be married to another man, and must not be related to the groom by any of the permanently prohibiting blood, breast feeding, or marital relationships in addition to not being prohibited from marrying the groom for any of the temporary reasons.
- Bride’s Permission and Consent:
3.1. Without the bride’s permission, the contract of marriage is null and void, or may be invalidated by the Islamic authorities at the bride’s request.
3.2. The minimum required permission may be done by either voicing her approval or through a passive expression such as remaining silent when asked about a potential husband and simply nodding her head, or making any other motion to indicate that she does not object to the marriage.
3.3. The Prophet (S.A.W) said: “A deflowered unmarried woman (i.e. widow or divorcee) may not be married without her expressed approval; and a virgin may not be married without her permission, and her silence indicates her consent.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
- The Woman’s Wali (Male Guardian):
4.1. The next requirement for a valid contract of Marriage is for the protection of the woman’s rights, and that is the approval of the woman’s guardian known as the wali. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “A marriage (contract) is not valid without a wali.” (Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi)
4.2. Normally, a woman’s wali is her father. If, for any reason, her father is unable to act, her wali would then be her next closest blood relation: the grandfather, uncle, brother, son and so on. The guardian or wali should ascertain the suitability and capability of the prospective husband and review any special conditions and make sure that the bride understands and agrees to it.
4.3. If the bride does not have a Muslim blood-relative as a wali, the Islamic authority, represented by the ruler or judge, would appoint a wali for her. In non-Muslim communities the local Muslim Minister of Religion (Imam) or an elder Muslim can act as the wali of a woman, with her consent.
- The witnesses:
5.1. Another requirement for the validity of a marriage contract is the presence of at least two trustworthy Muslim male witnesses. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “A marriage is not valid without a wali and two trustworthy witnesses”. (Ahmad, Ibn Hibbaan, and others, Authentic according to al-Albaani)
- The Mahr (Dowry):
6.1. The mahr or Sadaqq (Dowry) is a gift given by the man to the woman, on the occasion of the marriage. Allah (SWT) said:
“وَآتُواْ النَّسَاء صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً فَإِن طِبْنَ لَكُمْ عَن شَيْءٍ مِّنْهُ نَفْسًا فَكُلُوهُ هَنِيئًا مَّرِيئًا“
And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart, but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any blame (as Allah has made it lawful). (an-Nisaa, 4)
6.2. Allah (SWT) also made a commandment regarding this by saying:
فَمَا اسْتَمْتَعْتُم بِهِ مِنْهُنَّ فَآتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةً وَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا تَرَاضَيْتُم بِهِ مِن بَعْدِ الْفَرِيضَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا
6.3. “… so with those with whom you have enjoyed sexual relations, give them their Mahr as prescribed; but if after a Mahr is prescribed, you agree mutually (to give more), there is no sin on you. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All Wise”(An-Nisaa, 24).
- Other Conditions:
7.1. At the time of the marriage contracting, either the bride or the groom may wish to set conditions whose violation would invalidate the contract. This is acceptable as long as the conditions do not violate any Islamic principles. An example of a condition may be that a woman stipulates that she remain in a particular homeland or country during their marriage, or that the wife may have the right to terminate the marriage by divorcing her husband.”
Love & truth,
-by Corrado Giaquinto, “Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” c. 1765, oil on canvas, 171 cm (67.3 in); width: 123 cm (48.4 in), private collection, please click on the image for greater detail
“O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!” -traditional added at the end of McCormick family grace
-by Dr Kody Cooper
“What is June for? The sixth month’s name derives from the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and goddess of marriage and fertility. June was a time for the seeds of new life: sowing crops, weddings, and the beginning of fruitful marriages. In short, June has long been associated with love. And indeed, in the late modern West, we are presented with two rival visions of love to celebrate in June, each with its own sexual ethic and account of the virtues: Pride, which contends “love is love,” and Humility, which proclaims “God is love.”
The denomination of June as a season of “pride” can be traced back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969, which followed upon a police raid of a gay bar. The following June, gay-rights activists organized a commemorative march and demonstration in New York City, and activists adopted the moniker “Gay Pride.” The man who takes credit for coining the term explained his reasoning: “The poison was shame, and the antidote is pride.”
Hence, Pride Month was born of a desire to combat shame within the gay community. This desire can be understood in light of the Christian sexual ethic that had informed American mores to a degree but had already been rejected by many American elites.
In the traditional Christian view, temperance is a cardinal virtue, and shamefacedness is an essential component of it. Temperance considers the pleasures of touch, particularly the pleasures of the table and the bed. The temperate person exercises moderation in these pleasures, avoiding both excess and deficiency. Integral to temperance is shamefacedness, a kind of fear, which is an aversion of desire away from some evil. Shamefacedness is the fear or recoiling from some action that is disgraceful.
The part of temperance that deals with sex is called “chastity,” and it is the virtue by which reason governs sexual desire. The traditional Christian understanding of sexual desire is teleological. It is a gift from God imbued with intrinsic meaning and purpose: to join man and woman in the special bond of marital friendship and that is typically generative of new life. In short, sex was understood to be unitive and procreative such that in the marital act, lovers fully gave of themselves to become “one flesh,” a unity that imaged Trinitarian Love. Chastity therefore meant checking desires for sex that strayed outside of this order, and the chaste person exercised virtue when he recoiled at—was ashamed of—such actions. On this view, heterosexual and non-heterosexual persons alike were required to govern their desires by the virtue of chastity.
While the intellectual and social seeds of the sexual revolution had long been germinating, the 1960s saw the Christian understanding of sex overthrown. In 1964, most American states had laws on the books that restricted access to contraception, for contraception thwarted the teleological purpose of sex. But in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court struck down anti-contraception laws as violative of the Constitution, upending the classical Christian natural law logic that such laws presupposed. With the recently invented technology of the birth control pill now widely available, no longer was it presumed that sex was essentially tethered to procreation. Rather, sex became a form of recreation for the expressive self. And this, quite logically, led the gay community to wonder: Why should expressive individualism and recreation be restricted to married heterosexuals?
The promoters of Pride worked out socially and morally what was already implicit in the new legal order. The law is a tutor, and it taught that sex was no longer essentially unitive, procreative, and marital. Why then should homosexual sex be considered shameful? Of course, residual shamefacedness about gay sex remained ingrained in the mores of many Americans. But such attitudes, increasingly cut off from the Christian understanding of the meaning of sex—and the vibrant institutions that embody and sustain that vision—were readily redescribed as “poison.” The antidote was to call for a new virtue: “pride.” Pride functioned as a new sort of fortitude: the habit by which members of the gay community would individually and collectively come out of the closet with confident self-assurance and claim their equal rights in a transformed social order. The older shamefaced attitudes that had been parts of temperance would now increasingly appear as vices: the ignorant prejudice or animus of bigots.
Pride’s popular slogan “love is love” is thus a fitting shorthand for its sexual ethic. Because sex is not inherently a one flesh union of husband and wife, but rather an avenue for self-expression and recreation, no one form of romantic love has any moral superiority over any other. They are all equally “love” and therefore should be treated with absolute moral, social, and legal equality.
The contrasting vision of Christian Humility is “God is Love.” It is antithetical to love as conceived by expressive individualism because Love Itself calls the beloved not to self-expression, but to humble obedience—that is, to make a gift of oneself as an abode for Him to reign in our hearts (John 14:23-24). The Church proclaims this message to the world in the month of June in a special way that is deeply intertwined with the story of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the beloved disciple of Christ’s Sacred Heart.
Born on July 22, 1647 in France, Margaret Mary was still very young when she consecrated herself to God: “O my God, I consecrate to Thee my purity, and I make Thee a vow of perpetual chastity.” In offering up her sexuality as a gift to God, she was given the lifelong gift of chastity and an accompanying “horror” of “anything against purity”—and provided an example of holiness particularly relevant to all whose vocation is not to marriage.
Her Divine Suitor eventually directed her to join the Visitandines. Already extremely advanced in the spiritual life—she had had several visions of Our Lady and Our Lord—obedience was an ongoing drama. Our Lord asked of her various prayers, sacrifices, and penances, but they sometimes conflicted with the commands of her superiors. When the saint beseeched Christ for help, he replied to her that she should do nothing of what he had commanded her without her superiors’ consent: “I love obedience, and without it no one can please Me.”
Humble obedience and the sacrifice of the desires of the self are thematic in St. Margaret Mary’s life. She struggled interiorly to heed Christ’s commands and acknowledged her weakness and inability to do what He asked without His aid. She had entered the convent on one condition: that she could never be forced to eat cheese, to which she was extremely averse. When her Sovereign Master asked her to eat cheese at a meal, she resisted for three days, until in answer to her prayer the Lord said: “There must be no reserve in Love.” She ate the cheese, and recalled that “I never in my life felt so great a repugnance to anything.” Indeed, to conform her more perfectly to himself, Christ identified all that was most opposed to her predilections, and increasingly required her to act contrary to them.
This and many other sufferings conformed her to the crucified Christ and were the essential preconditions to the revelation of His Sacred Heart, which involved such ecstatic spiritual delights that she could not describe them. Christ revealed His Heart to be as a mighty furnace, a throne of flames shining like the sun, encircled by a crown of thorns with the Cross seated upon it. The saint was asked to honor His Sacred Heart with a feast day that would fall in June, in order to manifest to mankind anew His infinite love for them. This would ultimately be fulfilled two hundred years after St. Margaret Mary’s death, when Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to a Solemnity in 1889.
Christ’s Sacred Heart—as both His literal heart of flesh and the self-sacrificial gift of himself for the world that it symbolizes—burns with a love of charity by which he has a just claim on our hearts, on the obedience of our wills. Its radiant brilliance reminds us that God’s love radically extends to all persons, regardless of any predilections they might have that do not conform to His will. It is only through our free choice to nail the desires of the self upon the Cross that His Sacred Heart is permitted to be enthroned in each of our own.
While the contrasts of Humility’s vision with Pride’s are apparent, we should note that, for many, the celebration of Pride Month can be well intentioned. The desire to show compassion, as well as to be acknowledged, recognized, and affirmed, are healthy in their root because they stem from the fundamental human desire to be loved and cared for. Pride’s vision of love is fundamentally flawed, but not because persons who do not identify as heterosexual are of any lesser dignity. From the traditional Christian perspective, it is flawed in as much as it was built upon a rejection of the moral order that God established and the refusal of humble obedience to and reliance upon the One who sacrificed Himself to help us fulfill it. Pride’s vision of love must end in disappointment. For by His Sacred Heart, Jesus loves each of us infinitely more than any creature could, including ourselves. It is humbling to admit that we are not sufficient unto ourselves to love. But our Divine Lover promises a joy beyond anything worldly love promises, if only we will offer ourselves as gifts to Him, and allow Him to transform us into the beautiful creatures we were created to be.”
For the love of God and willing the good of others,
Whatever happened to sin?
“The month of June is Pride Month. You may have noticed. For thirty days, corporations, universities, local businesses, community organizations, and government institutions take a break from their perennial praise of the LGBTQ+ movement to demonstrate (especially to those surveilling online) that they are really, really—really—committed to the cause. Although the symbol of Pride has struggled to keep up with the exponential growth of qualifying identities, celebrants communicate their fidelity in the form of rainbow-saturated company logos, sidewalk displays, oversize billboards, and even Pride-themed onesies, pick-up trucks, and ice-cream.
But what, precisely, is being celebrated? There are numerous bumper-sticker responses: “love is love,” “acceptance,” “being who you are,” and even, incongruously given the corresponding statistics, “joy.” But how does any of this relate to pride—pride in what exactly? Examining the assumptions and implications of the Pride movement leads to some unsettling conclusions.
Before digging deeper, it’s important to separate Pride ideology—a system of thought that seeks to advance specific cultural and political goals—from individuals who do not fit traditional sexual and gender categories. It’s likely you know someone, are related to someone, or maybe even a parent to someone who’s in this group. You likely love them very much and they may, indeed, be exceptionally lovable. You certainly don’t want to hurt them, and, in fact, that may be the reason you’ve hesitated to say anything about their professed identity. Setting aside the scurrilous knee-jerk accusations of “hatred” and “phobia” that inevitably accompany any skepticism, or even, ironically, curiosity about the meaning of the Pride movement, the search for clarity should recognize that addressing the topic honestly may cause real, even if unintended, pain to good people. And so it goes without saying, to draw on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, that truth must never be separated from charity.
But who I am to say anything about the “truth” of Pride? Though this question is usually taken as a blow in defense of the movement (Who are you to judge?), it, in fact, opens the first line of critique: What separates Pride from traditional hetero-centric morality? In other words, what makes Pride ideology true, or at least truer, than competing worldviews in such a way that its advocates are not merely imposing their values on society because they have the power to do so?
It’s important to keep in mind that there are only two possible responses to the question of moral truth: either (a) it doesn’t exist (thus all truth is relative), or (b) it does exist, meaning that there are moral principles that are universally, objectively true. Pride ideology often finds itself in the first category, moral relativism, under the declarations, “This is my truth” or “This is our truth.” Those may sound like objective truth claims on the surface; however, if there is no “the truth” lying beneath “my/our truth,” then there is no way to distinguish it from an expression of emotive preference. If this is the case, then the whole Pride movement would be based on an irrational (or at least a-rational) imposition of will on those who disagree with it—which, in turn, would render it analogous, in both method and substance, to how tyrants and bullies operate (“Obey and celebrate me because I say so”).
To escape this assessment, the Pride movement must make the case that they are advocating for something that everyone ought to believe not because they are saying it but because it is, in fact, true. In this case, those who disagree with Pride ideology would be wrong to do so because they would be holding false beliefs. What might those truth claims look like and what implications would they have? Let’s return to some of the bumper-stickers.
“Love is Love”
It’s not clear what this statement means, but it seems to imply at least two things: (1) All individuals’ internal sexual attractions should be considered equally morally valid (if not praiseworthy), no matter who or what the object of desire is (if the movement were only advocating for non-sexual relationships then it would not find opposition, certainly not from traditional morality); (2) All individuals ought to be able to act on those internal attractions whenever and however they desire, provided there is mutual consent and no subjectively defined “harm” occurs—indeed, such sexual expression is to be encouraged and feted.
Are these two statements about love true? That’s a complex question, but let’s assume that Pride ideology affirms them as such. If that’s the case, however, then, given the variety of human beings’ empirically observed (which is not to say natural) sexual proclivities and behaviors, these conclusions necessarily follow: (1) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to engage in hetero- and homosexual relationships with immediate biological family members; (2) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to express their desires to have sexual relationships with children (now rebranded as “Minor Attracted Persons”), even if they are not currently free to act on those desires legally; and (3) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to have sexual relationships with non-human animals, provided they don’t violate anti-cruelty laws. These are the implications of believing “love is love” is true, even if we don’t see them represented on parade floats yet.
“Be who you are”
Drawing on the meaning of “love is love,” this claim implies that individuals’ subjective feelings morally authorize them to (attempt to) appear on “the outside” what they experience themselves to be on “the inside.” This tenet of Pride lies at the heart of transgenderism and, in general, being “queer,” which includes a justification (and celebration) of surgically slicing off healthy breast and genital tissue and forcing women to compete against men in sporting events. However, if it’s true that individuals should be celebrated for making their outside look like their inside—and everyone else must accommodate their wishes—then Pride must also affirm that we praise trans-abled individuals for snipping their healthy spinal cords, trans-species individuals (also known as “Furries”) for demanding societal respect for non-ironically donning animal costumes in public, and even trans-age individuals for dictating that they be cared for like infants, including while in prison. (It is crucial to note that once age, like biological sex, becomes subjective, the moral prohibition against practicing pedophilia dissolves). All this, too, follows from the ideology’s internal logic.
Though this word sounds especially innocuous, Pride ideology transforms its meaning into “Shut up and don’t ask questions, bigot.” To “accept” is not to tolerate; it is to recognize as normal. “Acceptance” thus mainstreams the movement’s definitions of the nature of the human body, the purpose of human sexuality, and the rights of individuals to do as they please according to the dictates of Pride’s principles. At the same time, and consequently, it both stigmatizes what was once considered normal as “abnormal” and marks anyone who critically questions the new normal as a bigot (for only a bigot would be against “acceptance”). In other words, “acceptance” is both the shield and weapon of Pride: it protects the movement from scrutiny by tarring all objections, a priori, as prejudiced.
Holding tight to the distinction between ideologies and individuals, it’s important to highlight that there are some people who, though they fall outside traditional gender and sexual typologies for various reasons (though most likely not genetic ones), are resisting elements of the Pride movement. (One such group is called “Gays against Groomers.”) Yet Pride ideology still remains dominant in the US and most of the West, despite the fact that, according to its own assertions, it is either (a) a subjective, relativistic morality that imposes itself on the Pride-nonconforming by the brute force of its cultural and political power, or (b) a putatively universal morality that, based on the logic of its own principles, permits and encourages incest, bodily mutilation (including of children), pedophiliac attraction (if not practice), bestiality, and the silencing of dissent.
In short, a candid assessment of Pride reveals it to be either dictatorially arbitrary or fiendishly depraved. There is no amount of kaleidoscopic fanfare, corporate-sponsored enthusiasm, or coercively moralizing legislation that can wish this conclusion away. To embrace the Rainbow!™ necessarily entails embracing its shadow. Pretending otherwise, fantasizing that we can dethrone heterosexuality and reality-based biology as natural and normative without letting the full panoply of Pandora’s Box of perversion out into the world, is, itself, to be bigoted—against reason and the evidence of our own eyes. ”
For the love of God and willing the good of others,
Anti-Catholics claim that the early Church took John chapter 6 symbolically. Is that so?
Let’s see what some early Christians thought, keeping in mind that we can learn much about how Scripture should be interpreted by examining the writings of early Christians.
Ignatius of Antioch, who had been a disciple of the apostle John and who wrote a letter to the Smyrnaeans about A.D. 110 said, referring to “those who hold heterodox opinions,” that “they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh that suffered for our sins and that the Father, in his goodness, raised up again” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2, 7:1).
Forty years later, Justin Martyr wrote, “Not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66: 1-20).
Origen, in a homily written about A.D. 244, attested to belief in the Real Presence. “I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence” (Homilies on Exodus 13:3).
Whatever else might be said, the early Church took John 6 literally.
In fact, there is no record from the early centuries that implies that Christians doubted the constant Catholic interpretation. There exists no document in which the literal interpretation is opposed and only the metaphorical accepted.
Why do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals reject the plain, literal interpretation of John 6? For them, Catholic sacraments are out because they imply a spiritual reality-grace-being conveyed by means of matter. This seems to them to be a violation of the divine plan. For many Protestants, matter is not to be used but to be overcome or avoided.
One suspects that, had they been asked by the Creator their opinion of how to bring about mankind’s salvation, Fundamentalists would have advised him to adopt a different approach. How much cleaner things would be if spirit never dirtied itself with matter! But God approves of matter-He approves of it because He created it-and He approves of it so much that He comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine, just as He does in the physical form of the incarnate Christ.
The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is present—body and blood, soul and divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine. This teaching is based on a variety of Scriptural passages (see 1 Cor. 10:16–17; 11:23–29; and, especially, John 6:32–71).
The early Church Fathers interpreted these passages literally. In summarizing their teaching on Christ’s Real Presence, Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly writes: “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).
Kelly also writes: “Ignatius roundly declares that . . . the bread is the flesh of Jesus, the cup his blood. Clearly he intends this realism to be taken strictly, for he makes it the basis of his argument against the Docetists’ denial of the reality of Christ’s body. . . . Irenaeus teaches that the bread and wine are really the Lord’s body and blood. His witness is, indeed, all the more impressive because he produces it quite incidentally while refuting the Gnostic and Docetic rejection of the Lord’s real humanity” (197–98).
He continues: “Hippolytus speaks of ‘the body and the blood’ through which the Church is saved, and Tertullian regularly describes the bread as ‘the Lord’s body.’ The converted pagan, he remarks, ‘feeds on the richness of the Lord’s body, that is, on the Eucharist.’
The realism of his theology comes to light in the argument, based on the intimate relation of body and soul, that just as in baptism the body is washed with water so that the soul may be cleansed, so in the Eucharist ‘the flesh feeds upon Christ’s body and blood so that the soul may be filled with God.’
Clearly his assumption is that the Savior’s body and blood are as real as the baptismal water. Cyprian’s attitude is similar. Lapsed Christians who claim communion without doing penance, he declares, ‘do violence to his body and blood, a sin more heinous against the Lord with their hands and mouths than when they denied him.’
More testimony from the Church Fathers
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible [Letter to the Romans 7:3 (c. A.D. 110)].
If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood? (Against Heresies 4:33–32 (C. A.D. 189)].
He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh that is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him? [ibid., 5:2].
ST. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA
“Eat my flesh,” [Jesus] says, “and drink my blood.” The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children [Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3 (c. A.D. 197)].
-by Alice von Hildebrand (1923-2022)
“Is pleasure sinful? Some religious movements, such as Puritanism or pietism, certainly seem to think so. For them, religion is severe, for we are sinners threatened at each turn with damnation. Pleasure is the preferred tool of the devil to coax us into the abyss, so the religious man views pleasure as an archenemy and orders his life accordingly. The more somber life is, the better. God is judge, always on the lookout to condemn sinners to eternal punishment.
On the other side of the spectrum, we find thinkers like the ancient Greek Aristippus of Cyrene and the father of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), who considered any pleasure, as long as it produced happiness, good. “Let a man’s motive be ill will,” Bentham wrote; “call it even malice, envy, cruelty; it is still a kind of pleasure that is his motive: the pleasure he takes at the thought of the pain which he sees or expects to see his adversary undergo. Now even this wretched pleasure taken in itself is good.”
Where does the Christian stand between these two extremes? One of the many paradoxes of our faith is that, while we are told we should live in fear and trembling, aware that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8), we are further told, “Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice” (Phil. 2:18). Can’t Christianity be accused of contradicting itself?
That certain activities are pleasurable is something God has put in human nature. Food, drink, rest, and moderate physical activity are pleasant and are meant to be. But the natural pleasures, legitimate as they are, can be abused. In moral evils such as gluttony, drunkenness, and laziness, the evil is not in the pleasure itself, but in its abuse. The fact that I know that someone enjoys a good meal and a choice wine does not give me any information about his moral standards.
But things become very different as soon as the person in question is addicted to any innocent pleasure. It is one thing to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner; it is another to spend most of the time drunk. This type of addiction betrays a lack of moral seriousness that is bound to have dire consequences. For God has created man to serve him on this earth and enjoy him eternally in heaven, and even if such people do not do anything evil, they certainly fail to serve God as he ought to be served.
The situation becomes radically different the moment a person, in order to attain a particular pleasure, uses illegitimate means. That a person is a gourmet and enjoys refined food is not morally evil; that he steals in order to be able to afford this pleasure is immoral.
Moreover, there are pleasures that should be avoided for the very reason that they are harmful. I would venture to say that if a person has full knowledge of tobacco’s harmful effects and chooses to become addicted to nicotine, he has committed a morally culpable action. Our health is God’s gift, and we have no right to jeopardize it. It is noteworthy that this fact is difficult for many to perceive: the tendency in our fallen nature is to assume that we have a ” right” over our own bodies, while in fact our bodies are God’s property. All gifts come from him, and we should never forget that we are stewards and not masters.
The pleasures that spring from immoral actions—such as cruelty (even toward animals), sadism, and the whole gamut of sexual perversions—are intrinsically evil, and the only proper response to them is horror and rejection: “Go away, Satan!” When such temptations arise—don’t forget: we’re not responsible for temptations, but only for yielding to their evil attraction—we should remember that moral abominations call for a radical cure and the use of radical means to protect ourselves from falling into an abyss of filth.
Once, according to legend, when Francis of Assisi was tempted by the flesh, without a moment’s hesitation, he threw himself into a bush of thorns. He did not “flirt” with the temptation. Not only did he reject it, but he inflicted upon himself a sharp physical pain that forced his attention on the immediate physical suffering—a radical way and efficient way of repelling the temptation’s vicious appeal.
Though someone who is tempted by the devil to view pornography may not be responsible for the temptation, if he keeps yielding to it, he invites its inevitable reappearance. Remember, we must run away. No one can force us to look at filth. To the one who lives in front of God, these types of “pleasure” evoke nothing but nausea. Nothing can justify our yielding to them. They degrade us in a very deep way and call for a radical condemnation. Clearly, such pleasures had no appeal prior to original sin, whereas we can assume that legitimate pleasures were more pleasurable still prior to the Fall.
Any “flirting” with obscene pleasure—such as looking at pornography even briefly or infrequently—leaves traces in the imagination that can create huge obstacles to our transformation in Christ. Anyone may be tempted; those who have never been subject to these abominations should realize that it is purely through God’s grace that they have been protected. But he to whom Satan presents these horrors should spew them out and run away.
This leads me to a related topic that I will mention only briefly. One of the regrettable changes that has taken place in the Church following Vatican II is the practical elimination of asceticism. Founders of religious orders have always insisted upon its importance for the “liberation” of man, leading to true freedom. I am referring not only to a limited sleep, to modest food, and to little or no wine, practices that limit the range of legitimate pleasures. I am also speaking of certain practices which are painful, such as long fasts, abstinence, and such disciplines (highly recommended by Francis de Sales—see Introduction to the Devout Life).
The news media have been so efficient in misinforming the faithful about the true teaching of Vatican II that, all of a sudden, novel practices were introduced in religious orders that would have made their founders cry. Discipline was in great measure abolished. Monks, nuns, and priests discovered that they were “unfulfilled” and left their monasteries, convents, and vocations in droves. But a good psychologist will tell you that the most unfulfilled persons are frequently those whose primary focus in life is self-fulfillment.
To abandon any form of asceticism is to sap Christian life of one of its essential aspects: death to ourselves. Dying to ourselves makes little sense in a world that has become so secularized that it has totally lost the sense of the supernatural and the radiant world that it opens up to the weak and imperfect creature that is man. Christ said in the gospel that there are some devils that can be conquered only by prayer and sacrifice. This should be a guideline today for those who are attracted by moral filth.
What should be the Christian’s attitude toward legitimate pleasures? Granted that he should never allow himself to become a slave of pleasures (innocent as the pleasure may be), he should view them as refreshments that God in His goodness has placed in the paths of his pilgrim children struggling in this vale of tears. Augustine tells us that weary travelers should gratefully accept to rest in an inn placed on their difficult path in ascending the mountain of the Lord. No doubt some heroic souls choose to renounce virtually all pleasures, not only to become “free,” but also because sacrifices are pleasing to God and can benefit brothers in need. Under wise spiritual guidance, they choose to suffer for those who seek nothing but pleasures.
Not everyone is called to put ashes on his food like Francis of Assisi (who, at the end of his life, apologized to his body—”Brother Ass”—for having treated him so badly). But every Christian is called upon to view pleasures not only as something subjectively satisfying, but as a beneficial good, manifesting God’s kindness, a kindness that should trigger gratitude in our soul. Indeed, gratitude—a forgotten virtue—should be a basic Christian attitude. And, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.””
Love & Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinful man,
-by Br Bertrand Hebert, OP
“Augustine occupies a privileged place among the Western Church Fathers that Aquinas invokes. Despite their affinity, some have proposed a division between these great theologians. Augustine’s theology is often characterized as “affective” while Aquinas is labeled merely “rational.” This distinction is misleading in many ways, and it implies that Augustine’s theology lacks reason or that Aquinas’s theology is lifeless.
For both of these theological giants, affection and reason belong together. Theology is not just something nice to think about. It matters what you think, precisely because our salvation is mediated through the mysteries of the faith.
We can see this approach in both Augustine’s and Aquinas’s writings on the mystery of the Trinity. Bridging the “gap” between reason and affect, Trinitarian theology is both an intellectual and spiritual exercise. Augustine and Aquinas both modeled this, as Father Gilles Emery, O.P. explains in his essay “Trinitarian Theology as a Spiritual Exercise in Augustine and Aquinas.” Both Doctors show how understanding the complexity of man’s mind and heart reveals an intimate relationship between us who know and love and God who is the Knower and Lover. This theological investigation can be difficult; it “exercises” the soul in a real sense. But it also prepares the soul for communion with the Triune God whose very being is Truth and Love.
For Augustine, elucidating the mystery of the Trinity requires great mental effort, but it also demands devotion. Our efforts to understand God must be informed by love because “the more one loves God, the more one sees Him” (Emery, 7). Because we are seeking the most supreme truth in such an endeavor, our souls must be trained through a kind of “spiritual gymnastics.” This theological regimen strengthens us to rise to the heights to see God and is purified through prayer, penance, and a life of virtue. Moved by God’s grace, theological study prepares us to see God in a limited way in this life and propels us to behold Him in the beatific vision.
In his theology, Aquinas follows Augustine’s approach and builds on it. He delves into the mystery of the Trinity through speculative study, in order to enable believers to grasp the truth of God more deeply. Growing in knowledge of the Trinity both aids our contemplation and provides us with the means to defend the faith against error. Aquinas understands that by studying God, we come to recognize that our own knowing and loving is a mirroring of God Who is Knowing and Loving. This realization gives spiritual consolation to those who dwell in the darkness of this passing world, yearning for the light of the life to come.
As Augustine and Aquinas both demonstrate, true theology requires rational precision, but also an affective inclination to God. As the theologian—indeed any believer—rises to grasp the lofty mysteries of the Trinity he becomes ever more conformed to the God he seeks, and he receives already a foretaste of that vision he hopes to enjoy in glory.
Studying the Trinity stretches our minds. Theology that is both loving and rational lifts the soul in sacred study and puts one in contact with God. The shared theological approach of Augustine and Aquinas—integrating both reason and affection—is a model for teachers and students today. By seeking God through both wisdom and love, our deepest desire for God can be satisfied. God has made us for Himself, and both our hearts and minds are restless until they rest in Him (cf. St Augustine).”