-Mater Dolorosa, ca. 1674–85, Pedro de Mena, Spanish, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY. Carved wood sculpture, enhanced by paint and other media, including glass eyes and hair, reached a pinnacle of naturalism and expressive force in 17th-century Spain. Pedro de Mena’s virtuoso manipulation of these materials created startling likenesses of bodies and clothing. They encourage in the beholder an empathetic response to the suffering of mother and son, who appear as exemplars of worldly forbearance in the face of tragedy. Carved details such as the twisted and knotted rope binding Christ’s hands or the Virgin’s thin, deeply undercut drapery are joined by the subtle and descriptive painting in thin glazes of the silver and red brocade of the Virgin’s tunic and the bruises that cover Christ’s flesh. Mena’s desire was to make the figures seem physically present before the viewer. At the same time, they have a dignity and reserve that made them ideal works for contemplation. Please click on the image for greater detail.
“Disease and pandemics have always been a part of human life. While this current disease and the unprecedented world-wide shutdown imposes extraordinary hardships, illness is not a new thing. In fact, this infection embodies and manifests our already frail human condition; it is a shocking reminder of the daily reality we inhabit—not a break or contradiction.
But in the beginning, it was not so. Death and disease are the curse of original sin and the inheritance we receive from our first parents. Because our fallen state of sin is the cause of disease, no human work can completely heal it. No advance in medicine, or epidemiology, or public health policy will eliminate pandemics altogether, for our brokenness is too deep and beyond the reach of mere human progress. And so this coronavirus teaches us our frailty anew and reminds us of what has always been true: we walk in the vale of tears under the shadow of death, our lives are like grass that springs up beautiful in the morning but by evening withers and fades (Ps 90:6).
[There are] three ways to respond to our desperate and fallen state. We could respond with denial, perhaps imagining that scientific progress will fix everything, and ignore our inevitable fate. We have been choosing this option for far too long, embalming ourselves within a cocoon of entertainment and comfort and suffocating trivialities, dulling the latent pain of our precarious existence. Just look at how many shows there are to binge-watch, the vast scope of meaningless social media content, and see a society desperate to avoid an unavoidable experience of existential fragility.
We could also choose to flee, and refuse to live for fear of death. When the crisis hits, whether it’s a global sickness or a much more personal trial, it shakes us awake from our stupor and forces us to confront our mortality. And then we are tempted to run and hide, and shut everything down in terror.
The third choice is a noble one: confront the brokenness of the world and of ourselves, and in the face of danger and death choose courage and strength and virtue. We cannot fix what is so broken, but we can live well and seek what goodness lies in our power. This kind of noble choice traces itself back to the pagan philosophers, and perhaps a desire for this natural goodness lies behind recent interest in the stoic philosophers, or the similar strength exhibited in Jordan Peterson’s advice to “accept the terrible responsibility of life with eyes wide open” (12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, 27). And yet, even this noble choice is not enough. It is not enough, for it leaves us in the clutches of a merciless enemy, and cannot guide us out of the shadow of death.
It can sound harsh to summarize our human condition so bleakly. But only when you appreciate the fragility and brokenness of human life, only when you confront the curse of mortality, can you begin to appreciate the gift that Jesus Christ brings. He came to save us from death. If you’ve been reflecting on death in a time of pandemic, you will know what that means in a deeper way than you did before. He saved us from death. He saved us from disease. He saved us from this.
Marvelously, and in a way only God could imagine, He saved us not by destroying the fact of death, but by emptying death of its power. For the Christian, life is changed not ended: “We were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” (Rom 6:4-5).
And here we find a better choice, which is not so much a choice as a gift. Enlivened by the grace of God poured forth from the pierced heart of Christ, living in these last days and knowing that this world and its vanities are passing away, we can mock death: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Yes, it is true that each one of us will die, and disease brings that truth closer than ever. But there is nothing of value that death can truly and permanently take from you, for by your baptism “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:3).
Life is like this, and has always been like this, but we have a life that is beyond this life. For death and life have contended in that combat stupendous; the Prince of Life Who died reigns immortal.”
“As the modern world struggles to handle the impact of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, commentators are making comparisons to previous viral outbreaks such as the Influenza Pandemic (or “Spanish Flu”) in the early twentieth century or the Black Death in the fourteenth century. Although historical comparisons can be helpful in some situations, they are not always beneficial because the context in which these events occurred is often not sufficiently acknowledged.
The Black Death is one of the best-known calamities in human history, but the society it ravaged and its impacts on Christendom and the Church are not widely understood. Given the current health crisis gripping the modern world, it may be profitable to investigate the period in an effort to shed a different light on the current situation.
In the mid-fourteenth century, a nasty virus carried to Europe by merchants from the East attacked Christendom. Known at the time as “the pestilence,” “the plague,” or “the great mortality” (the term “Black Death” was coined first in the sixteenth century but entered popular usage in the nineteenth century), it began in China, spread to Mongolia, the Byzantine Empire, and the Crimea, from which it entered Sicily and spread throughout Europe. Every country in Christendom was affected except Poland and Bohemia, which had limited merchant activity with the rest of Europe.
England suffered greatly from three waves of the plague over the course of a century. So great the devastation that the country did not return to its pre-plague population of six million until the mid-eighteenth century.
The deadly pestilence occurred in three forms: bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic plague. Bubonic plague produced painful buboes in the lymph nodes, especially in the groin, armpits, and neck. Symptoms included high fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, convulsions, and dizziness. The septicemic plague involved an infection of the blood and produced black and blue marks on the body, abdominal pain, and other symptoms. The pneumonic plague produced shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing as the infection settled in the lungs.
-physician protective gear of the 14th century. The belief was disease was caused by bad smells, which certainly accompany disease after the fact. But, the belief in bad smells as a cause led to the masks seen here. The beak was filled with sweet smelling herbs, or such, and the entire outfit certainly lessened the direct contact with germs to a horrific degree, which supported the use of the garment and mask and theory in lieu of anything more enlightened. So, while the beak and outfit looks awful and chilling, it did have a practical intended purpose.
Medieval doctors did not have accurate knowledge of the transmission of germs and immunology, so a wide spectrum of treatment options was employed, including enemas and bloodletting. Some doctors endorsed abstinence from seafood, sexual activity, and bathing. Jacme D’Agramont, a Spanish physician and professor at the University of Lerida, wrote in his book Regimen of Protection against Epidemics that, “habitual bathing is also very dangerous, because the bath opens the pores of the body and through these pores corrupt air enters and has a powerful influence upon our body.”
Although the plague affected parts of Europe differently, recent estimates put the overall death rate at fifty percent of Christendom’s total population over a two-year period. Cities were devastated and many urban dwellers fled to the countryside in an attempt to escape the pestilence. The volume of deaths was staggering as thousands died daily. In the Burgundian village of Givry the annual death rate before the plague was forty; in 1348, the village lost 650 souls. The southern French city of Avignon, home at this time to the popes, witnessed 11,000 deaths over a five-week period. The calamity produced extreme reactions. Some people believed the plague was punishment from God for the sins of humanity, so they publicly practiced extreme penances, such as scourging. A group known as the Flagellants developed. They preached doctrinal errors and ran afoul of the Church hierarchy because of their unorthodox and unauthorized preaching and penitential processions. The chronicler Heinrich of Herford recorded their vicious flagellations and wanderings from place to place:
“I have seen, when they whipped themselves, how the iron points became so embedded in the flesh that sometimes one pull, sometimes two, was not enough to extract them. They wandered the land… but when they came to cities, towns, and large villages and settlements, they marched down the street in procession, with their hoods or hats pulled down a little to cover their foreheads.”
The Flagellants required members to pledge not to leave the fraternity without permission of superiors, to practice silence, never to scourge themselves to the point of illness or death, to give alms to the poor, and to pray for an end to the pestilence. The people generally viewed the Flagellants favorably due to their overall appearance of piety and extreme penances. The Church, however, found the Flagellants independent streak troublesome and their unorthodox preaching unacceptable. Pope Clement VI (r. 1342–1352) suppressed the group in 1349 in the bullInter Solicitudines.
In searching for an explanation for the outbreak of the plague, some Christians blamed the Jewish people. Rumors circulated in southern France and Spain, where the majority of Europe’s Jews lived, that the Jews had poisoned wells with the plague. Sadly, these rumors led to pogroms, mostly in German areas, in the fall of 1348, eventually encompassing nearly a hundred cities and towns by 1351. During the violence, Jews were burned, robbed, expelled, and forced to convert to the Christian Faith in order to spare their lives. Some Jews chose immolation and other forms of suicide rather than suffer at the hands of the mobs.
The Jewish community in Strasbourg suffered greatly as 900 Jews out of a population of 1,884 were killed. In some areas, bishops protected the Jewish people from harm. Notably, the Jewish community in Avignon, site of the papal residence, did not suffer because of the plague due to papal protection. Additionally, Pope Clement VI issued the bullSicut Judeis in July 1348 declaring the Church’s protection of Jews throughout Christendom. Pope Clement highlighted the false charge against the Jews about the plague:
“It does not seem credible that the Jews on this occasion are responsible for the crime nor that they caused it, because this nearly universal pestilence, in accordance with God’s hidden judgment, has afflicted and continues to afflict the Jews themselves.”
The impact of the great pestilence on Christendom was widespread. Europe suffered great economic turmoil as trade was reduced and society witnessed a severe shortage of laborers. Spiritually, people gravitated to the Faith and sought solace in prayer and the sacraments.
The Church lost nearly forty percent of its priests to the Black Death. Some towns saw the death of ninety percent of priests. The English clergy died at an alarming rate, including three archbishops of Canterbury in the span of a year. Monasteries suffered immensely as the plague wiped out entire religious communities. The high percentage of clergy deaths because of the plague produced a shortage of priests, which the Church tried to ameliorate by lowering the minimum age of ordination from twenty-five to twenty. Although understandable given the circumstances, this action produced a cadre of inexperienced, young, and poorly formed priests. The quality of the priesthood suffered and with it the Church as a whole, as ecclesiastical abuses became widespread in the fifteenth century, leading—many believe—to the Protestant Revolution in the sixteenth century.”
My time is swiftly rolling on
When I must faint and die;
My body to the dust return
And there fergotten lie.
Let persecution rage around
And Antichrist appear;
My silent dust beneath the ground;
There’s no disturbance there.
To call poor sinners to repent
And seek their Savior dear.
My brother preachers, boldly speak
And stand on Zion’s wall.
Confirm the drunk, confirm the weak
And after sinners call.
My loving wife, my bosom friend,
The object of my love,
The time’s been sweet l’ve spent with you,
My sweet and harmless dove,
My little children near my heart
My warm affections know.
From each the path will I attend.
O from them can I go?!
O God, a father to them be
And keep them from all harm,
That they may love and worship Thee
And dwell upon Thy charm.
How often you have looked fer me
And often seen me come.
But now I must depart from thee
And nevermore return.
My loving wife, don’t grieve fer me,
Neither lament nor mourn;
Fer I will with my Jesus be
And dwell upon His charm.
The time is swiftly rolling on
When I must faint and die,
My body to the dust return
And there forgotten lie.
Let persecutions rage around,
Let Antichrist appear;
Beneath the cold and silent ground
There’s no disturbance there.
Through heats and cold I’ve toiled and went
And wandered in despair;
To call poor sinners to repent
And seek the Savior dear.
My brother preachers, boldly speak
And stand on Zion’s wall.
Confirm the strong, revive the weak,
And after sinners call.
My little children, near my heart,
And nature seems to bind,
It grieves me sorely to depart
And leave you here behind.
Oh Lord, a father to them be
And keep them from all harm
That they may love and worship Thee
And dwell upon Thy charm.
My loving wife, my bosom friend,
The object of my love,
The time’s been sweet I spent with thee,
My sweet, my harmless dove.
Though I must now depart from thee
Let this not grieve your heart,
For you will shortly come to me
Where we shall never part.
Won’t you spare me over ’til another year
Well what is this that I can’t see
With icy hands takin’ hold of me
Well I am Death, none can excell
I’ll open the door to Heaven and Hell
Whoa, Oh death
someone would pray
Could you wait to call me another day
The children prayed, the preacher preached
Time and mercy is out of your reach
I’ll fix your feet til you can’t walk
I’ll lock your jaw til you can’t talk
I’ll close your eyes so you can’t see
This very hour, come and go with me
I’m Death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To draw up the flesh off of the frame
Dirt and worm both have a claim
Won’t you spare me over ’til another year
My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel upon my head
My head is warm my feet are cold
Death is a-movin’ upon my soul
Oh, Death how you’re treatin’ me
You’ve closed my eyes so I can’t see
Well you’re hurtin’ my body
You make me cold
You run my life right outta my soul
Oh Death please consider my age
Please don’t take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you will move your icy hand
The old, the young, the rich or poor
All alike to me you know
No wealth, no land, no silver no gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul
Won’t you spare me over til another year
Won’t you spare me over til another year
Won’t you spare me over til another year
“According to legend, the phrase “memento mori” may have originated with the Roman empire. Allegedly, when victorious Roman generals returned from battle, in the midst of their festivities, a slave or another low-ranking citizen would follow them around and whisper “memento mori,” or some other reminder that their earthly glory was temporary.
Even before the Roman empire, meditation on death and the last things was a common practice of ancient philosophers like Plato, who once said that philosophy was “about nothing else but dying and being dead”.
The phrase and the practice was then incorporated into medieval Christianity – death was especially poignant as the plague spread throughout Europe and Asia, killing millions of people within the span of just a few years.
“Memento mori” was such a popular religious theme in this period that it inspired a genre of art, music and literature.
Memento mori myths and the Brothers of the Dead
One of the most common myths surrounding “memento mori” is that the phrase is used by monks, particularly the famously-ascetic Trappist monks, as a form of greeting among brothers.
Fr. Timothy Scott, a Trappist brother and priest, said that this myth originated with a now-obsolete order of French monks called “The Order of the Hermits of Saint Paul,” who came to be known as the “Brothers of the Dead.”
According to “La Sombre Trappe,” by Fr. M. Anselme Dimier, this order “pushed its tastes for the macabre to the extreme,” wearing scapulars with skulls and crossbones, and kissing a skull at the foot of the cross before each meal.
The words “Memento Mori” were found on the seal of the order alongside a skull and crossbones, and skulls were prominently displayed in most parts of the monastery, including in each brother’s cell.
The brothers of this order were also known for greeting each other with “Think of death, dear brother,” and rumors have spread that the Trappists adopted this tradition, even after the Brothers of the Dead were suppressed by Pope Urban VIII in 1633.
“In no period of the Order’s history, in no Trappist monastery, have these words been in usage; the brothers greet one another in silence, as in the early days of the Order of Citeaux,” Dimier wrote.
Fr. Scott confirmed that a silent greeting “is the constant tradition and practice of the Order.”
How Trappists “memento mori”
Trappists are a branch of Cistercian monks, a reformed branch of the Benedictines, who desired to live the Rule of St. Benedict more authentically.
But while Trappist brothers don’t use “memento mori” as a greeting, other reminders of death have been present in the Trappist order, particularly in older monasteries, Fr. Scott said.
In his book “A Time to Keep Silence”, Patrick Leigh Fermor recalls these symbols of death, particularly present in Trappist monasteries during the 18th and 19th century.
“Symbols of death and dissolution confronted the eye at every turn, and in the refectory the beckoning torso of a painted skeleton, equipped with an hourglass and a scythe, leant, with the terrifying archness of a forgotten guest, across the coping of a wall on which were inscribed the words: ‘Tonight perhaps?’”
Fr. Scott added that he has heard of several other monasteries with various “memento mori” traditions, such as the monastery of la Val Sainte in Switzerland, which kept a white-wood cross and a skull in the middle of the refectory, or dining hall. Another Trappist monastery in France had the words “Hodie mihi, cras tibi” (Today I die, tomorrow it will be you) written above the door leading to the cemetery.
These skulls, inscriptions, and the various prayers for the dead help the brothers “to keep in mind that our time on this earth is limited and what we do now matters for eternity,” Fr. Scott said.
“We will be accountable one day before God for all that we do. It makes no sense to waste the precious time that has been allotted to us. We must use it to do good and to love others now.”
“However, the theme of memento mori, remembrance of death, needs to be set within the larger theme of the memory or mindfulness of God,” he added. “The monastic life is oriented primarily toward cultivating a living relationship with the persons of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who have been revealed to us in the Son, Jesus Christ, and who, through his passion, death, and resurrection have called us to full communion and fellowship with them now and in eternity.”
The bone churches of Europe
Several orders of monks, including the Capuchins, Franciscans, and the Cistercians, are also known for having built churches or crypts decorated almost exclusively with the remains of their forebearers, a stark “memento mori” for any visitors to these sites.
One of the best-known such churches, sometimes called an Ossuary, is the Capuchin crypt beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto in Rome, Italy, which includes six chapels, five of which are covered in the skeletal remains of Capuchin friars of yesteryear.
The crypt was built in the 1630s, when Pope Urban VIII ordered some Capuchin friars to set up residency at the Church, and asked that they bring the remains of their bygone brothers with them, so that they would not be abandoned.
In total, an estimated 4,000 skeletons, from friars deceased between the 1520s – 1870s, decorate the insides of the various chapels. The various crypts include a crypt of the resurrection, a crypt of skulls, a crypt of leg and thigh bones, and a crypt of pelvises. A plaque in on display in the crypt reads: “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”
Allegedly, this Roman ossuary inspired a similar “Bone Church” in Prague, in the Czech Republic. There, the Sedlec Ossuary, built by Cistercian monks, is decorated with the remains of an estimated 40,000 people.
The reason for the large number of remains dates back to the 1200s, when a Cistercian monk returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he brought back dirt from Golgatha, the hill where Christ was crucified, and sprinkled that dirt in the cemetery at the monastery.
As word of this holy dirt spread, the cemetery became a popular place in which to buried. By the time the plague hit, the number of people requesting burial in the cemetery became so great that the monks began exhuming the bones, storing them in the church, and using them for interior decoration.
The Church has been restored several times and is no longer in possession of the Cistercian order, but the popular site receives thousands of visitors annually.
A third popular “Bone Church” is the Capela dos Ossos, in Évora, Portugal, next to the Church of St. Francis.
Built by a Franciscan in the 16th century, the chapel has similar origins to the Czech Ossuary, in that it became a creative way to store the bones contained in cemeteries running out of room to house remains.
Reportedly, the monk also believed that the Church could be a force for the Counter-Reformation, and a good place for Catholics of the area to come and remember their mortality.
Like the Roman ossuary, the bone church in Portugal has several “memento mori” themed inscriptions, including Ecclesiastes 7:1 “A good name is better than good ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.”
Dominicans – the best order in which to die
For Dominican friars, their “memento mori” comes every day when they recite prayers for the dead, said Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, professor of moral theology for the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies.
The Dominicans pray for the dead so frequently that it’s become part of a joke, he told CNA.
“There are many reasons you want to live in the other orders – the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Jesuits – but out of all of them, you want to die with the Dominicans, because we constantly pray for the dead,” he said.
Whenever a Dominican friar dies, all the priests in his province celebrate a Mass for him. The order also prays what is called the “De Profundis” – a daily prayer, typically before a main meal, that includes praying Psalm 130 in remembrance of all of the men of the province whose death anniversary is on that day.
Dominicans also celebrate an additional “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day” – they celebrate these feasts with the Church on Nov. 1 and 2, but then they celebrate a second round of these feasts on Nov. 7 and 8, particularly praying for the Dominican saints and souls.
“In terms of praying daily for the dead, it is a constant reminder of our own mortality, that heaven and eternal life is the goal, and it’s also a reminder that death is something that we all face,” Guilbeau said.
“When we die, we go alone, there’s no one who accompanies us in that at that moment. But by praying for those who have gone before us in death, we get a sense of that union and community that endures into the next life, and insofar as we aid the dead by our prayers, they’re waiting for us and aiding us by their prayers. It’s a daily reminder of the common prayer that we have for each other.”
“In terms of…sleeping in our coffin or having skulls on the desk, we don’t do that,” Guilbeau said, but he added that the black cape that Dominicans wear is meant to serve as a physical “memento mori” for the order.
The daily reminder of death isn’t something “macabre or depressing,” Guilbeau added, “but it’s something hopeful and joyful, that this veil of tears is not the end of our existence, it’s not the goal.”
“If we live in the love of Jesus Christ and we live in the light of the Holy Spirit, there’s constant preparation and help and grace and strength for that moment when we pass from this life to the next,” he said.
Therefore, for the saint, death isn’t something to be feared, but welcomed and embraced like a sibling, Guilbeau said, recalling the words of St. Francis who once wrote in his “Canticle of the Sun”: “Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death, from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.”
I have a mature friend who said to me “(S/he)’s not Catholic. So, they don’t understand death is not a bad thing.” [“It has been transformed by Jesus Christ.” cf. CCC 1009] CCC 988-1065.
CCC 1020 “The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards Him and an entrance into everlasting life. When the Church for the last time speaks Christ’s words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strengthening anointing, and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance:
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the Almighty Father,
Who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,
Who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
Who was poured out upon you.
Go forth, faithful Christian!
May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints. . . .
May you return to [your Creator]
Who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life. . . .
May you see your Redeemer face to face.”
Love, peace, trust in Him, all will be well,
“As creepy as it may seem to us to be led into the barren desert in order to be tempted by the Evil One, what we actually see before us is a magnificent triumph. Our Lord had all the human emotions that we have, and at one point in His life He even shows fear (more on that in Holy Week!). But here, led by the devil, carried by him over a distance and high up in the air, and tempted most explicitly, he shows absolutely no fear of him in spite of his malice and power. The Fathers teach us that the Lord underwent temptation by the devil to provide us with an example of how to resist the devil. He means for us to do just as he did and vanquish the tempter.
So what are we to do? First off, Jesus fasted and prayed, and kept vigil, as the “forty nights” imply. St. John Vianney taught that when the devil sees someone praying a little more, doing a little fasting, and sleeping a little less, he becomes fearful of that person. How much must the demons fear Christ, Who did all these things, and of the saints who persevered in them! They likewise must fear our taking up these spiritual weapons, and so they discourage us from them with a million excuses big and small.
Secondly, notice how Jesus uses sacred words to answer the devil’s attempts. We must contradict the evil insinuations of the devil with the words of the psalms and prayers of the Church, with the Most Holy Name of Jesus, the sweet name of Mary (the demons particularly fear that because though she is a mere human being she has humiliatingly more power than they do). We need this method very much. Our Lord had a very well-ordered emotional life, and His imagination and memory were all in perfect order; we on the other hand are driven by angry thoughts, lustful thoughts, grandiose thoughts, self-pitying thoughts. These are real temptations and we should contradict them with God’s name and His holy word spoken as an urgent prayer.
Nowadays there is a lot of talk among devout people about demonic possession, obsession, deliverance, and so on. A lot of this is good, but it will help us a great deal if we take the attitude of St. Teresa of Avila in her struggles and set aside fear of such things. It is sin we should fear, not the devil. She confidently asserts these words of encouragement in her autobiography (there is also an important message to priests here!):
“Not a fig shall I care then for all the devils in hell: it is they who will fear me. I do not understand these fears. “Oh, the devil!, the devil!” we say, when we might be saying, “God! God!” and making the devil tremble. Of course we might, for we know he cannot move a finger unless the Lord permits it. Whatever are we thinking of? I am quite sure I am more afraid of people who are themselves terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself. For he cannot harm me in the least, whereas they, especially if they are confessors, can upset people a great deal, and for several years they were such a trial to me that I marvel now that I was able to bear it. Blessed be the Lord, who has been of such real help to me!”
The great Teresa, Doctor of the Church, even goes on to say in the same context that one deliberate venial sin does us more damage than all hell put together! This means that when it is a question of temptation, we should fear ourselves more than anyone else. To be sure, God is the Judge and He looks mercifully on our weaknesses and forgives us lovingly and most willingly, but our sin is our own. We cannot blame it on the devil, saying with the old comedian of my youth, “The devil made me do it!” (Ed. That is actually also theologically factually impossible. It would violate our free will, a gift from God, a mighty, divine, and preeminent grace. Satan cannot compel. He can only tempt, make us weary, make us doubt, exploit our own weaknesses, if we, and God, allow him. In the case of God, it is to test our faith, as in the Book of Job.)
So let us set aside fear as Christ did, and use the means that He used to vanquish the devil.
Our Lady and Joseph, her holy spouse, whose feast we will celebrate this month, will watch over us as they did over their young Son as in youth and young manhood Who undertook the works of fasting and prayer and vigils for the salvation of the world. It is not for nothing that Mary’s spouse is thus invoked: “St Joseph, obedient to God, humble, silent, Terror of demons, Pray for us!””
THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that there is an intermediate state after death, like purgatory, when the Bible says that the only place for a Christian to be (besides this life) is heaven?
Referring to a soul’s “entrance into the blessedness of heaven,” the Catechism teaches that it will enter either “through a purification or immediately” (1022). This presupposes that it’s possible for a soul to die in God’s friendship but yet not be present with the Lord in heaven. Some Protestants view Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 as contradicting this belief. Paul writes:
“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
Since the Bible says that for a Christian to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord,” there can’t be any intermediate state in the afterlife.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
1. Paul doesn’t say what the challenge assumes he says.
Protestants who appeal to this passage often fail to realize that Paul doesn’t say that “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord.” Paul simply says, “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” and that “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Protestants may reply that although Paul doesn’t exactly say what the challenge claims, that’s what he means. Are they right? Does the logic follow? Does the statement, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” mean the same as, “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord”?
Suppose I’m at work, and I’m wishing that I could instead be away from work, and at home. Can we conclude from this that if I’m away from work, I must automatically be at home? Doesn’t seem like it. I could be away from work, eating lunch at McDonald’s. I could be away from work, on my way home, but sitting in traffic. So, it’s fallacious to conclude from this verse that, once away from the body, a Christian must immediately be present with the Lord.
2. Even if we concede the interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:8 that the challenge asserts, it still doesn’t rule out purgatory.
But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the interpretation this challenge offers of 2 Corinthians 5:8 is true, and that to be away from the body is to be immediately present with the Lord. That still wouldn’t pose a threat to purgatory.
First, because the challenge assumes that purgatory involves a period of time (during which we are “away from the body” but not “with the Lord”). But as we’ve seen, the Catholic Church has never defined the precise nature of the duration of purgatory. We simply don’t know what the experience of time is beyond this life. If purgatory did not involve a duration of time as we know it, it would be perfectly compatible with the challenge’s interpretation of this verse.
A second reason is that the challenge assumes purgatory is a state of existence away from the Lord. But, as we have also seen, purgatory could very well be that encounter with the Lord that we experience in our particular judgment, as we “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). This makes sense because Paul describes the soul’s judgment as being one of a purifying fire (1 Cor. 3:11-15). It makes sense for God’s presence, not his absence, to be part of our soul’s purification.
COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Shouldn’t you make sure that the Bible passage you use to challenge a Catholic belief actually says what you think it says?
AFTERTHOUGHT: The early Christian writer Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-220) affirms the existence of a state after death before entering heaven when he writes, “Inasmuch as we understand the prison pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades [Matt. 5:25], and as we also interpret the uttermost farthing to mean the very smallest offense which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection.”
-Dante’s Purgatrio, Canto 2, Katerina Machytkova, please click on the image for greater detail.
— by Valerie Schmalz, Catholic San Francisco [10.30.2013]
1. Purgatory exists: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states there are three states of the church, those who are living on earth, those who are in purgatory, and those who are in heaven with God.
2. It is not a second chance: The soul is already saved. Purgatory is a
place to pay off debts for sins that were forgiven but for which sufficient penance had not been done on earth.
3. It is not an actual place: Blessed John Paul II said in an August 4, 1999 general audience that purgatory was a state of being: “The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence.” Pope Benedict XVI said in a January 12, 2011 general audience, “This is purgatory, an interior fire.”
4. Purgatory is not punishment but God’s mercy: “Few people can say they are prepared to stand before God,” says Susan Tassone, author of “Prayers, Promises, and Devotions for the Holy Souls in
Purgatory” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012). “If we didn’t have purgatory
there would be very few people in heaven, because it would be heaven or hell. It is his mercy that allows us to prepare to be with Him in heaven.”
5. Our prayers for the souls in purgatory help them achieve heaven:
“The doctrine of purgatory recalls how radically we take love of
neighbor,” says Sulpician Father Gladstone Stevens, vice rector and
dean of men at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park. “The
obligation to pray for each other does not cease when biological life
ends. God wants us to always pray for each other, work for each other’s redemption.”
6. The souls in purgatory can intercede for those on earth but cannot pray for themselves: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 958) states: “…the church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead;…Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”
7. God does not send souls to purgatory – each soul sends itself to
purgatory: Once a soul sees itself with the light of God, it realizes it
cannot stay in his presence until all imperfections are wiped away. “The soul chooses,” Tassone says.
8. There is no fire in purgatory: But each soul is aflame with the pain of being separated from God and with the desire to be purified so it can be in the beatific vision. Each soul also feels joy knowing it will one day be with God, Father Stevens and Tassone say.
9. There is a special day and month to pray for the souls in purgatory:
November 2 or All Souls’ Day is the day set aside and November is the month in the liturgical calendar to pray especially for all the souls who are in purgatory. November 2 is called “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed,” but the church asks us to pray always for each other, including for the souls in purgatory.
10. Prayers for souls in purgatory always count: Pope Benedict says in his encyclical “Spe Salve” (“On Christian Hope”), regarding the souls of the dead, “…in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.””
Love, Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinful man,
-“Dante kneeling before celestial helmsman”, Purgatorio, Canto 2.28, by Doré, Gustave, c.1868, engraving, The vision of Purgatory and Paradise by Dante Alighieri (London and New York: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin [1868?], please click on the image for greater detail.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).
The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.
What Happens in Purgatory?
When we die, we undergo what is called the particular, or individual, judgment. Scripture says that “it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). We are judged instantly and receive our reward, for good or ill. We know at once what our final destiny will be. At the end of time, when Jesus returns, there will come the general judgment to which the Bible refers, for example, in Matthew 25:31-32: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” In this general judgment all our sins will be publicly revealed (Luke 12:2–5).
Augustine said in The City of God that “temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment” (21:13). It is between the particular and general judgments, then, that the soul is purified of the remaining consequences of sin: “I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper” (Luke 12:59).
The Catholic Church, Purgatory, and Money
One argument anti-Catholics often use to attack purgatory is the idea that the Catholic Church owes the majority of its wealth to the doctrine of purgatory. But the numbers just don’t add up.
When a Catholic requests a memorial Mass for the dead—that is, a Mass said for the benefit of someone in purgatory—it is customary to give the parish priest a stipend, on the principles that the laborer is worth his hire (Luke 10:7) and that those who preside at the altar share the altar’s offerings (1 Cor. 9:13–14). In the United States, a stipend is commonly around five dollars; but the indigent do not have to pay anything. A few people, of course, freely offer more. This money goes to the parish priest, and priests are allowed to receive only one such stipend per day. No one gets rich on five dollars a day, and certainly not the Church, which does not receive the money anyway.
But look at what happens on a Sunday. There are often hundreds of people at Mass. In a crowded parish, there may be thousands. Many families and individuals deposit five dollars or more into the collection basket; a few give much more. A parish might have four or five or six Masses on a Sunday. The total from the Sunday collections far surpasses the paltry amount received from the memorial Masses.
Is Purgatory a Catholic “Invention”?
Fundamentalists may be fond of saying the Catholic Church “invented” the doctrine of purgatory to make money, but they have difficulty saying just when. Most professional anti-Catholics—the ones who make their living attacking “Romanism”—seem to place the blame on Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from A.D. 590 to 604.
But that hardly accounts for the request of Monica, mother of Augustine, who asked her son, in the fourth century, to remember her soul in his Masses. This would make no sense if she thought her soul would not benefit from prayers, as would be the case if she were in hell or in the full glory of heaven.
Nor does ascribing the doctrine to Gregory explain the graffiti in the catacombs, where Christians during the persecutions of the first three centuries recorded prayers for the dead. Indeed, some of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament, like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity (both written during the second century), refer to the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Such prayers would have been offered only if Christians believed in purgatory, even if they did not use that name for it. (See Catholic Answers’ tract The Roots of Purgatory for quotations from these and other early Christian sources.)
Why No Protests?
A study of the history of doctrines indicates that Christians in the first centuries were up in arms if anyone suggested the least change in beliefs. They were extremely conservative people who tested a doctrine’s truth by asking, Was this believed by our ancestors? Was it handed on from the apostles? Surely belief in purgatory would be considered a great change, if it had not been believed from the first—so where are the records of protests?
They don’t exist. There is no hint at all, in the oldest writings available to us (or in later ones, for that matter), that “true believers” in the immediate post-apostolic years spoke of purgatory as a novel doctrine. They must have understood that the oral teaching of the apostles, what Catholics call tradition, and the Bible not only failed to contradict the doctrine, but, in fact, confirmed it.
It is no wonder, then, that those who deny the existence of purgatory tend to touch upon only briefly the history of the belief. They prefer to claim that the Bible speaks only of heaven and hell. Wrong. It speaks plainly of a third condition, commonly called the limbo of the Fathers, where the just who had died before the redemption were waiting for heaven to be opened to them. After his death and before his resurrection, Christ visited those experiencing the limbo of the Fathers and preached to them the good news that heaven would now be opened to them (1 Pet. 3:19). These people thus were not in heaven, but neither were they experiencing the torments of hell.
Some have speculated that the limbo of the Fathers is the same as purgatory. This may or may not be the case. However, even if the limbo of the Fathers is not purgatory, its existence shows that a temporary, intermediate state is not contrary to Scripture.
“Purgatory Not in Scripture”
Some Fundamentalists also charge, “The word purgatory is nowhere found in Scripture.” This is true, and yet it does not disprove the existence of purgatory or the fact that belief in it has always been part of Church teaching. The words Trinity and Incarnation aren’t in Scripture either, yet those doctrines are clearly taught in it. Likewise, Scripture teaches that purgatory exists, even if it doesn’t use that word and even if 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a place other than purgatory.
Christ refers to the sinner who “will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:32), suggesting that one can be freed after death of the consequences of one’s sins. Similarly, Paul tells us that, when we are judged, each man’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). Now this loss, this penalty, can’t refer to consignment to hell, since no one is saved there; and heaven can’t be meant, since there is no suffering (“fire”) there. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory alone explains this passage.
Then, of course, there is the Bible’s approval of prayers for the dead: “In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin” (2 Macc. 12:43–45). Prayers are not needed by those in heaven, and no one can help those in hell. This verse so clearly illustrates the existence of purgatory that, at the time of the Reformation, Protestants had to cut the books of the Maccabees out of their Bibles in order to avoid accepting the doctrine.
Prayers for the dead and the consequent doctrine of purgatory have been part of the true religion since before the time of Christ. Not only can we show it was practiced by the Jews of the time of the Maccabees, but it has even been retained by Orthodox Jews today, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that the loved one may be purified. It was not the Catholic Church that added the doctrine of purgatory. Rather, the Protestant churches rejected a doctrine that had always been believed by Jews and Christians.
Why Go to Purgatory?
Why would anyone go to purgatory? To be cleansed, for “nothing unclean shall enter [heaven]” (Rev. 21:27). Anyone who has not been completely freed of sin and its effects is, to some extent, “unclean.” Through repentance he may have gained the grace needed to be worthy of heaven, which is to say, he has been forgiven and his soul is spiritually alive. But that’s not sufficient for gaining entrance into heaven. He needs to be cleansed completely.
Fundamentalists claim, as an article in Jimmy Swaggart’s magazine, The Evangelist, put it, that “Scripture clearly reveals that all the demands of divine justice on the sinner have been completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It also reveals that Christ has totally redeemed, or purchased back, that which was lost. The advocates of purgatory (and the necessity of prayer for the dead) say, in effect, that the redemption of Christ was incomplete. . . . It has all been done for us by Jesus Christ, there is nothing to be added or done by man.”
It is entirely correct to say that Christ accomplished all of our salvation for us on the cross. But that does not settle the question of how this redemption is applied to us. Scripture reveals that it is applied to us over the course of time through, among other things, the process of sanctification through which the Christian is made holy. Sanctification involves suffering (Rom. 5:3–5), and purgatory is the final stage of sanctification that some of us need to undergo before we enter heaven. Purgatory is the final phase of Christ’s applying to us the purifying redemption that he accomplished for us by his death on the cross.
Nothing Unclean or Purged
Catholic theology takes seriously the notion that “nothing unclean shall enter heaven.” [Ed. not just covered: cleansed completely, new, to make new again, from the inside out.] From this it is inferred that a less than cleansed soul isn’t fit for heaven. It needs to be cleansed or “purged” of its remaining imperfections. Sanctification is thus not an option, something that may or may not happen before one gets into heaven. It is an absolute requirement, as Hebrews 12:14 states that we must strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
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“Matthew 12:32 is often a go-to passage for Catholics when it comes to purgatory. The text reads: “Whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote that, from this passage “we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come” (Dial. 4, 39). The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses this quote as support for its definition of purgatory as an after-death “final purification of the elect” (1031). Since purgatory involves the forgiveness of unrepented venial sins (along with the purification of any remnants of past forgiven venial or mortal sins—e.g., unhealthy attachments to created goods, unpaid debt of temporal punishment), some conclude that Jesus affirms the existence of purgatory.
But some Christians don’t think this passage supports purgatory. They argue that Jesus’ use of the phrase “either in this age or in the age to come” was simply a matter of emphasis—an exaggerated expression used to convey the idea that the sin against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. Just like we don’t take Randy Travis to mean that there are two distinct stages in which he’s going to love his beloved when he sings, “I’m gonna love you forever and ever,” so too we shouldn’t take Jesus to mean there’s a distinct “age to come” where some sins can be forgiven when he says, no forgiveness “either in this age or the age to come.”
For support, they appeal to Mark’s parallel passage: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29; emphasis added).
How can we respond?
The first thing we can say is that Mark’s version doesn’t preclude the reading of Matthew’s account in support of Purgatory. For if Jesus excludes forgiveness of the sin against the Holy Spirit in the only two states of existence where forgiveness can occur—in this life and in the intermediate state between death and the final judgment—then it would follow that the one who sins against the Holy Spirit “never has forgiveness.” The eternality of this sin would be because it can neither be forgiven in this life nor in the next. On this reading, Mark simply emphasizes the eternal nature of the sin without specifying the reason why. Matthew, on the other hand, provides a ground for why the sin can never be forgiven. Thus, Mark’s version doesn’t require that we reject purgatory based on Matthew 12:32.
“Okay,” our interlocutor might reply. “Maybe Mark 3:29 doesn’t prove that Jesus intended his phrase ‘this age or the age to come’ to be an exaggerated expression. But since that’s all we got to work with, doesn’t it seem reasonable to read Matthew 12:32 in light of Mark 3:29?”
No, it doesn’t, because Mark 3:29 is not the only relevant information that we have.
We know that Matthew’s Jewish audience already believed that some sins could be forgiven in the afterlife (cf. 2 Macc. 12:46). Given this knowledge, it doesn’t make sense that Matthew would include the saying “no forgiveness either in this age or in the age to come” if all he meant was that this sin is never forgiven. To do so without clarification seems only to reinforce the Jewish belief about sins being forgiven in the afterlife.
Since Matthew doesn’t give any sort of clarification, and he includes the saying knowing what his Jewish audience believed about sins being forgiven in the afterlife, it’s reasonable to conclude that the “age to come” in Matthew 12:32 is not merely a restatement of what Mark says in Mark 3:29 (that the sin against the Holy Spirit is never forgiven) but an extra tidbit for his Jewish audience about the afterlife.
Further, Jesus uses “the age to come” elsewhere in the gospels, and not merely for emphasis—it clearly refers to a distinct state of existence beyond this one: the afterlife.
Consider, for example, Mark 10:29-30 (see also Luke 18:30), where Jesus says those who leave house, brother, sister, mother, father, and land for his sake will receive a hundredfold return “in this time . . . and in the age to come eternal life.”
Jesus’ reference to “the age to come” is not merely a rhetorical flourish. Rather, Jesus speaks of “this time” and “the age to come” as two distinct states of existence (this life and the next), both of which consist of people receiving rewards for giving up everything for him.
Similarly, in Luke 20:34-35 Jesus speaks of “this age” as referring to this life, when men are given in marriage, and “that age” as the afterlife, when men are not given in marriage. Jesus clearly intends this distinction to be taken literally, conveying a truth about the age to come—namely, there is no marriage.
A critic might respond that an appeal to the above passages (Mark 10:30 and Luke 20:35) fails because the Greek word for “age to come” in Matthew 12:32, mellō, is not used in those passages. Rather, “the age to come” in Mark 10:30 translates the Greek phrase aiōni erchomenō and “that age” in Luke 20:35 translates aiōnos ekeinou.
This is true. But given that “this age” (Greek, toutō aiōni) in Matthew 12:32 is juxtaposed with mellonti (“the age to come”), which means “to occur at a point of time in the future which is subsequent to another event and closely related to it—to be about to,” we can conclude that Jesus has the same idea in mind as when he speaks of aiōni erchomenō in Mark 10:30 and aiōnos ekeinou in Luke 20:35. This is why the English translation of Matthew 12:32 translates the Greek as “the age to come” even though the Greek word for “age,” aiōn, is not used.
Therefore, it’s fair to read Matthew 12:32 in light of Mark 10:30 and Luke 20:35, where Jesus speaks of “the age to come” or “that age” as a reference to the afterlife. And since Jesus’ implication in Matthew 12:32 is that some sins can be forgiven in “the age to come,” or the afterlife, we have at least one aspect of purgatory confirmed by Jesus—after-death purification of unrepented venial sins.
This reading of “the age to come” as a reference to the afterlife is further supported by the fact that mellō is used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to the afterlife. See, for example, Ephesians 1:21, 1 Timothy 4:8, and Hebrews 2:5, 6:5, and 13:14.
In this debate, no one disagrees with the scriptural passage that one who sins against the Holy Spirit “never has forgiveness.” But this is so because for Jesus it’s a sin that cannot be forgiven in either state of existence where sins can be forgiven—in this life (“this age”) or in the intermediate state between death and the final judgment (“the age to come”). Mark’s reference to the “eternal” nature of the sin against the Holy Spirit, therefore, doesn’t prevent the use of Matthew 12:32 in support of the Church’s doctrine of purgatory.”
Love, Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinful man,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine