Category Archives: Theology

Love is love?

“Love wills the good of the other person.” CCC 2514-2533


-by Karlo Broussard

““Love Is Love.” It’s the new mantra of our culture, the moral wisdom of the age. It’s the battle cry of a movement led by those not so wise as a sage. (Channeling my inner Dr. Seuss.)

Joining the fray, the Coca-Cola Company has launched its “Love Is Love” campaign in Hungary. Peppered throughout train stations, on billboards, and on their Hungarian Facebook page, their ads feature both opposite-sex and same-sex couples with the hashtag #loveislove. The campaign came days before this year’s “Love Revolution”-themed Sziget Festival, a week-long music-and-art event held annually in Budapest.

The message of this slogan is a no-brainer: “Male or female? Who cares? Love is love, and it’s all good!” As Coca-Cola stated in a recent e-mail, the ads “do indeed try to convey a message . . . our belief that everyone has a right to love and that the feeling of love is the same for all” (emphasis added).

Kudos to those who developed the slogan; it has rhetorical force. It appeals to something innate: the desire for romantic love. In particular, it proposes love as the foundation of a sexual relationship, which is noble and worthy of praise (something we can’t say about the motivations behind the “hookup” culture).

But when you think it through, “Love Is Love,” the way it is used in this slogan, simply can’t be true.

Consider, for example, that when the slogan is used, “love” is rarely defined. And when it is defined, it’s usually called a “feeling,” as Coca-Cola Co. did in its defense of the ads. (Not too different from “Taste the feeling!”)

The problem is that it is so easy to hijack the word “love” and justify almost anything. The grotesque North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), for example, does just that. It seeks to justify sexual acts between adult males and young boys in the name of “love,” stating on its website,

NAMBLA’s goal is to end the extreme oppression of men and boys in mutually consensual relationships by . . . educating the general public on the benevolent nature of man/boy love (emphasis added).

Adopting the same reasoning as the Coca-Cola Co., NAMBLA appeals to the rights of all to express love through their bodies: “We support the rights of youth as well as adults to choose the partners with whom they wish to share and enjoy their bodies.”

Every bit of so-called wisdom that “Love Is Love” embodies—the feeling of love is the same for all and that everyone has a right to express that love—justifies the abuse that NAMBLA promotes.

Now, someone will inevitably respond, “What NAMBLA promotes isn’t true sexual love. Minors aren’t in a position to understand what’s involved in a sexual relationship. Therefore, they can’t really consent. The slogan ‘Love Is Love’ is meant only to express the idea that biological sex is irrelevant to romantic love and its expression in sexual activity among consenting adults.”

A member of NAMBLA, however, could counter and say sexual relationships with minors are consensual, as indicated in the above quote. But that aside, when push comes to shove, those who live by “Love Is Love” don’t really think all sexual love is equal. For these people, some things rob sex of its power to express true love, such as young age.

But if biological age has something to do with determining appropriate or inappropriate expressions of sexual love, perhaps biological sex does as well? Why should we think biological sex is exempt? Perhaps sexual activity among members of the same sex is not a legitimate expression of sexual love.

The only way we can know whether this is true or not is to know whether same-sex sexual activity involves willing what’s good for the beloved concerning his or her sexual powers, since the essence of love is to will the good of another (Summa Theologiae I-II:26:4; II-II:23:1).  [Editor:  In the natural order, and according natural law, the good, the fruit of sexual intercourse, is children.  Sexual intercourse was designed by God to unify a married couple and to further participate in God’s ongoing creation, and for NO other reasons!  Using human beings as a means to an end is abuse, not love.  The end never justifies the means, ever!  Although difficult, there is always a holy option however difficult it may be. Seeking pleasure for the sake of pleasure reduces human existence to a piece of entertainment only to be thrown away when it no longer gives us a thrill.]

If same-sex sexual activity is not a good use—but an abuse—of our sexual powers, as traditional sexual ethics claims, then to engage in it is to reject the order of the good inscribed in the nature of human sexual activity. It would be an expression of contempt to use the good of human sexuality against what is good for the human person, as if the latter is a kind of evil to be supplanted or an obstacle to be removed.

The perversity of such behavior would be akin to a doctor who engages in her activity of healing as a doctor only to make someone ill. In such a scenario, the doctor positively rejects her good as a doctor—namely, healing— as an evil to be avoided. For a doctor to reject the order of a good doctor can only merit the charge of being an evil doctor.

Similarly, if same-sex sexual activity is an abuse of our sexual powers (which this author proves it is), then it entails a rejection of the human good for sex.

But actions that entail a rejection of the order of the human good cannot possibly be expressions of authentic love, even if they are done in the name of love. Such actions would be directly opposed to love, showing disdain for the other rather than appreciation. In the words of Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II), such a love could only be called an “evil love.”

In light of this, it becomes evident that the “Love Is Love” slogan is a smokescreen that distracts us from the real question: does same-sex sexual activity will the good of the other?

If it does, then the slogan is a true bit of moral wisdom. But if it doesn’t, then the slogan’s wisdom just ain’t “the real thing.”

Who wants a mantra that’ll come back to haunt ya?”

Real love,
Matthew

Purgatory 2

“Purgatory’s materiality refers to the persistent set of characteristics associated with purgatory that have been a continuous problem from its inception as a doctrine in the thirteenth century to the present. It has been variously described as a location on earth, as a place where souls are at once physical and spiritual, and as a condition that demands bodily mortifications and severe penances. In this sense, materiality is a category that encompasses three important sites where purgatory has presented theological, scientific, and logical difficulties for church theologians, scholastic philosophers, and others who have been responsible for working out the philosophical support for the doctrine: place, body, and performance. From the twelfth century to the present, representations in various sources, including medieval chronicles, exempla, early modern periodicals, and, later, in pamphlets, books, and magazines, and today on websites and in books, have depicted purgatory variously as a location on earth, a place simultaneously spiritual and physical, and, most recently, as a more abstract condition of souls experiencing the pain of loss. The version of purgatory as a physical location persisted into the nineteenth century. Pre-doctrinal representations of purgatory shifted so much with respect to historical context that it is impossible to identify a linear progression from that of a physical place to a condition of soul. However, this progression becomes pronounced in the modern era and by the mid-nineteenth century conceptions of purgatory as a place were subject to anti-Catholic polemicists and were actively discouraged by Church authorities. I have not encountered anyone, currently, who believes purgatory is a place on earth. Taking a “long view,” of purgatory suggests that material representations of purgatory have been discouraged in favor of representations clothed with abstract words such as process, state of soul, or condition. The progression from a “place” to a “condition” has been fraught with dramatic twists and intrigues, and even today the issue of purgatory’s material status is not definitively settled. Contemporary Catholic devotional literature about purgatory focuses on the material locations of place, body, and performance that were the focuses of purgatory devotions in eras past…

…statements about purgatory participate in a long tradition of interpretations of the doctrine that seem to have little in common with official definitions. Papal statements about purgatory, from its official codification as a Roman Catholic doctrine until today, emphasize its status as an afterlife “state” or condition, and deemphasize its material, concrete characteristics. Writing during the Council of Trent (1545–1563), Pope Pius IV insisted that attention to purgatory’s material aspects, such as where it is located and what types of punishments occur there, should be discouraged. “The more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, [should] be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude.”6 Currently, papal discussions of purgatory, while briefer, are substantively no different. In his General Audience address of 1999, Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, stated that the term “purgatory,” “does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence.” And, on January 12, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI noted that the fifteenth-century mystic St. Catherine of Genoa did not focus on “purgatory as a place of transit in the depths of the earth,” or “as an exterior fire.” Rather, purgatory was an inner state.7 Shortly after, the Catholic News Service published an article that eliminated any possibility that the pope would be misunderstood as to purgatory’s physical reality. It was titled “Purgatory Is a Process, Not a Place.”8

Despite papal statements about it, authors of popular narratives about purgatory have characterized it very differently. In their reports and anecdotes, purgatory is a physical place of suffering. Souls in purgatory are depicted engulfed in real, not symbolic, fire, the evidence of which include burned charcoal–colored handprints on tables for the living to consider, such as can be found in the Purgatory Museum in Rome. It is tempting to suggest that these narratives are in tension with official, cleric-authored proclamations about purgatory. While in some instances this is the case, in other contexts it was clerics and theologians who wrote about purgatory as a place, and scholastics also wrote about the physical evidence left by souls in purgatory. What persists throughout these various narratives and their historical contexts, however, is the problem presented by purgatory’s materiality. Purgatory’s place, which has been described variously as being in Ireland [Editor: Definitely], or in Italy, in the middle of the earth, or as a place next to hell, has been a problem for those who attempt to locate it, and also for those who have participated in a tradition that downplays its concrete features. The following chapters examine several cases where the physicality of purgatory is its best advocate and its most problematic feature. In other words, this book is a history of the problem of purgatory—it’s characterization as a physical place of real, not symbolic, suffering.

While it may have been more common to associate purgatory with an actual earthly location in medieval Europe, as stated previously this belief persisted into the nineteenth century. For hundreds of years, and contrary to the proclamations of most popes on the subject, purgatory was believed to be either on earth or in the middle of the earth. I was not surprised to hear of (some people’s) belief that purgatory was on earth, and I am certain that her belief is not like the belief that prompted medieval knights to undertake journeys to Ireland in search of the real purgatory. But nonetheless what is important is that (some people) associate purgatory with an earthly place, not a condition. This inclination to attribute spatial and physical characteristics to purgatory, and the problems this creates, is intrinsic to its history. Scholastic theologians of the thirteenth century, who were most responsible for providing the theological support for the new doctrine, questioned where it was on earth, and they rarely questioned if it was on earth. William of Auvergne (1180–1249) posited the existence of two purgatories, one on earth, and the other somewhere else, perhaps near heaven. As recently as 1863, the French periodical “Le Liberateur des Ames du Purgatoire,” edited by the French priest Celestin Cloquet, described how the souls in purgatory resided inside the earth. Purgatory’s place on medieval and early modern world maps, or mappa mundi, persisted even as the Garden of Eden and heaven, the two most mapped religious destinations, gradually disappeared.”

Love,
Matthew

6. Council of Trent, The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Ecumenical Council of Trent: Celebrated under the Sovereign Pontiffs, Paul III, Julius III and Pius IV (1848) (Ithaca: Cornell University Library Press, 2009), 233.
7. “Purgatory Inflames Hearts with God’s Love, Pope Says,” Catholic News Agency, Vatican City, January 12, 2011.
8. Cindy Wotten, “Purgatory Is a Process, Not a Place, Pope Says at General Audiences,” Catholic News Service, January 12, 2011.

Purgatory


-Dante and Beatrice in Gustave Dore’s “Submersion in the Lethe”, 1903


-by Br Cyril Stola, OP

“We’re called to become saints. The Father desires that we be united in friendship with him in this life in order that we might forever dwell with him in heaven. The heavenly union with God is a perfect union that can begin on Earth, but it can also be inhibited by sin. Since it acts against this union, sin is the greatest evil of all. In the words of the Catechism, “nothing has worse consequences for sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world” than sin (CCC 1488). When we sin, we cloud our consciences, build vices, and harden our hearts. Sin hurts our relationships with each other and with God. God’s mercy blots out our sins, but it does not automatically fix the ways in which sin warps us.

Over time, growth in grace and virtue can put our inner selves back into order. Throughout the course of life, the Holy Spirit takes repentant sinners and makes them radiant with divine life and estranges them from sin and vice. He especially effects this through prayer, the sacraments, and redemptive suffering. This process is one of purification. Those who fully embrace the Spirit’s actions live with hearts that seek God alone, and they immediately enter heaven when they die. Not all who revere God, however, come to such a point in life. Their time runs out before they’re fit for the heavenly union; they are united with God, but imperfectly so. Hope is not lost, however. In his mercy, God gives us an intermediate state between heaven and Earth where he purges away the sins and impurities that still inhibit our union with him. He gives us purgatory.

In purgatory, God puts men and women face to face with their sins. There, they fully understand how they acted against God, and they cannot grasp for any distraction or rationalization in facing even the smallest things that still separate them from God. Saint John Henry Newman puts this reckoning in stark terms in “The Dream of Gerontius.” In the poem, a guardian angel addresses his charge, an old man who just died a holy death with his sins absolved:

And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinn’d, as never thou didst feel.

His state now allows him to see his past sins on a spiritual level; he hates that he committed such acts. This is a painful realization because sin is a painful reality. If we could see sin as it truly is—an offence against God⁠—we would never sin. Purgation is like physical therapy after surgery, it’s painful but ultimately it heals. God reveals sin in order to remove all traces of it and to bind up our injured souls.

Dante expresses the healing of purgatory beautifully at the end of the “Purgatorio”—the second part of his Divine Comedy. There, Beatrice chastises Dante for abandoning the love he had for her and God and for choosing to obsess over futile things instead. Faced with the shame and gravity of his sins, he weeps and then gets plunged into the waters of the Lethe. The Lethe, according to Greek mythology, makes one forget the whole of life. Dante, however, adapts this river to suit his higher vision. His Lethe makes one forget his sins and the warped mentality they gave him in life; it restores lost innocence and heals interior wounds. It makes a person like a little child, ready to enter the kingdom of heaven.

That purgatory purifies, heals, and brings souls to holiness is a great mercy and a source of hope. Even men and women who have struggled with sin all their lives, but not yet reached “sainthood” in this life, can be made perfect after death and thereafter dwell with God. Let us thank God for the gift of purgatory and pray for those who dwell there, that God’s work in them may be complete.”

Love,
Matthew

The Divine Attributes – Immutability


-by Dave Armstrong

“Orthodox, historic Catholic theology holds that God is…immutable. Descriptions such as “jealousy” applied to God are usually held by orthodox theologians to be anthropomorphic (intended to make God more comprehensible to limited human beings, rather than being literally true). Here are some typical statements in this regard, by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas:

“God’s anger implies no perturbation of the divine mind. It is simply the divine judgment passing sentence on sin. And when God “thinks and then has second thoughts” this merely means that changeable realities come into relation with his immutable reason. For God cannot “repent” as human beings repent, of what he has done, since in regard to everything His judgment is fixed as His foreknowledge is clear … But it is only by the use of such human expressions that Scripture can make its many kinds of readers whom it wants to help to feel, as it were, at home. Only thus can Scripture frighten the proud and arouse the slothful, provoke inquiries and provide food for the convinced. This is possible only when Scripture gets right down to the level of the lowliest readers.” -(St. Augustine, City of God, 15:25)

“It is written, I AM the Lord, and change not. (Mal. 3,6) I answer that, From what precedes, it is shown that God is altogether immutable. First, there is some being, whom we call God, and that this first being must be pure act, without any admixture of potency, for the reason that, absolutely, potency is posterior to act (Q.III, A. 3). Now everything which is in any way changed is in some way in potency. Hence it is impossible for God to be in any way changeable.-(Summa Theologica, First Part, Q.9, art.1)

“God is said in turn to repent; not in the sense that his eternal disposition has changed, but some effect of his is changed. Hence Gregory says: “God does not change his plan, though at times he may change his judgment”, not, I say, the judgment which expresses his eternal disposition, but the judgment which expresses the order of inferior causes, in accord which Ezechias was to have died, or certain people were to have been punished for their sins. Now such a change of judgment is called God’s repentance, using a metaphorical way of speaking, in the sense that God is disposed like one who repents, for whom it is proper to change what he had been doing. In the same way, he is also said, metaphorically, to become angry, in the same sense that, by punishing, He produces the same effect of an angry person.”-(Summa Contra Gentiles, Bk. 3, Pt. 2, q.96:15)

Let’s examine now Catholic dogma regarding these matters. First, I consult Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (edited in English by James Canon Bastible; translated by Patrick Lynch, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974, from the fourth edition of May 1960; first published in German in 1952):

God is absolutely immutable. (De fide.)

The 4th Lateran Council and the Vatican Council teach that God is immutable (incommutabilis) D 428, 1782. Holy Scripture excludes all change from God and positively ascribes to Him absolute immutability . . .

The Fathers exclude all change from God . . .

St. Thomas bases the absolute immutability of God on His pure actuality, on His absolute simplicity and on His infinite perfection . . .

(pp. 35-36)”

Now I shall cite Henry Denzinger: The Sources of Catholic Dogma (I have the 13th edition of 1954; translated by Roy J. Deferrari; Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications). All bolding is my own.

LATERAN COUNCIL IV 1215

Ecumenical XII (against the Albigensians, Joachim, Waldensians etc.

The Trinity, Sacraments, Canonical Mission, etc.*

Chap. 1. The Catholic Faith

(Definition directed against the Albigensians and other heretics]

428 Firmly we believe and we confess simply that the true God is one alone, eternal, immense, and unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent and ineffable, Father and Son and Holy Spirit: indeed three Persons but one essence, substance, or nature entirely simple. The Father from no one, the Son from the Father only, and the Holy Spirit equally from both; without beginning, always, and without end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal and omnipotent and coeternal; one beginning of all, creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual, and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body. For the devil and other demons were created by God good in nature, but they themselves through themselves have become wicked. But man sinned at the suggestion of the devil. This Holy Trinity according to common essence undivided, and according to personal properties distinct, granted the doctrine of salvation to the human race, first through Moses and the holy prophets and his other servants according to the most methodical disposition of the time.

THE VATICAN COUNCIL 1869-1870

Ecumenical XX (on Faith and the Church)

SESSION III (April 24, 1870)

Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith *

[ . . . ]

Chap. 1. God, Creator of All Things

1782 [The one, living, and true God and His distinction from all things.] * The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, omnipotent, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in intellect and will, and in every perfection; who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world; most blessed in Himself and of Himself, and ineffably most high above all things which are or can be conceived outside Himself [can. 1-4].

That’s only the beginning; there is much more:

ST. MARTIN I 649-653 (655)

THE LATERAN COUNCIL 649

(Against the Monothelites)

The Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.*

254 Can. 1. If anyone does not confess properly and truly in accord with the holy Fathers that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit [are a] Trinity in unity, and a unity in Trinity, that is, one God in three subsistences, consubstantial and of equal glory, one and the same Godhead, nature, substance, virtue, power, kingdom, authority, will, operation of the three, uncreated, without beginning, incomprehensible, immutable, creator and protector of all things, let him be condemned [see n. 78-82, 213].

COUNCIL OF LYONS II 1274

Ecumenical XIV (concerning the union of the Greeks)

Declaration Concerning the Procession of the Holy Spirit *

[The Most Exalted Trinity and the Catholic Faith]

[ . . . ]

Profession of Faith of Michael Palaeologus *

[ . . . ]

463 He will come to judge the living and the dead, and will return to each one according to his works whether they were good or evil. We believe also that the Holy Spirit is complete and perfect and true God, proceeding from the Father and the Son, coequal and consubstantial, co-omnipotent, and coeternal through all things with the Father and the Son. We believe that this holy Trinity is not three Gods but one God, omnipotent, eternal, invisible, and unchangeable.

A Decree in Behalf of the Jacobites *

[From the Bull “Cantata Domino,” February 4, Florentine style,

1441, modern, 1442]

703 The sacrosanct Roman Church, founded by the voice of our Lord and Savior, firmly believes, professes, and preaches one true God omnipotent, unchangeable, and eternal, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; one in essence, three in persons; . . .

* * * * *
(ST. SERGIUS I 687-701)

COUNCIL OF TOLEDO XV 685

Protestation concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation *

[From “Liber responsionis” or the “Apologia” of Julian,

Archbishop of Toledo]

294 . . . We have found that in that book of response to our faith, which we had sent to the Roman Church through Peter the regent, it had seemed to the Pope already mentioned (St Benedict II) that we had carelessly written that first chapter where we said according to divine essence: “Will begot will, as also wisdom, wisdom,” because that man in a hurried reading thought that we had used these very names according to a relative sense, or according to a comparison of the human mind; and so in his reply he commanded us to give warning saying: “In the natural order we recognize that the word takes its origin from the mind, just as reason and will, and they cannot be changed, so that it may be said that, as the word and the will proceed from the mind, so also the mind from the word or the will, and from this comparison it seemed to the Roman Pontiff that the will cannot be said to be from the will.” We, however, not according to this comparison of the human mind, nor according to a relative sense, but according to essence have said: Will from will, as also wisdom from wisdom. For this being is to God as willing: this willing as understanding. But this we cannot say concerning man. For it is one thing for man not to will that which is, and another thing to will even without understanding. In God, however, it is not so, because so perfect is His nature, that this being is to Him as willing, as understanding. . . .

The Catholic Encyclopedia reiterates the above (“The Nature and Attributes of God”):

Immutability

In God “there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (James 1:17); “They [i.e. “the works of thy hands”] shall perish, but thou shalt continue: and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the selfsame and thy years shall not fail” (Hebrews 1:10-12, Psalm 101:26-28. Cf. Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). These are some of the Scriptural texts which clearly teach Divine immutability or unchangeableness, and this attribute is likewise emphasized in church teaching, as by the Council of Nicaea against the Arians, who attributed mutability to the Logos (Denzinger, 54-old No. 18), and by the Vatican Council in its famous definition.

That the Divine nature is essentially immutable, or incapable of any internal change, is an obvious corollary from Divine infinity. Changeableness implies the capacity for increase or diminution of perfection, that is, it implies finiteness and imperfection. But God is infinitely perfect and is necessarily what He is. . . .

Divine Knowledge

That God is omniscient or possesses the most perfect knowledge of all things, follows from His infinite perfection. In the first place He knows and comprehends Himself fully and adequately, and in the next place He knows all created objects and comprehends their finite and contingent mode of being. Hence He knows them individually or singularly in their finite multiplicity, knows everything possible as well as actual; knows what is bad as well as what is good. Everything, in a word, which to our finite minds signifies perfection and completeness of knowledge may be predicated of Divine omniscience, and it is further to be observed that it is on Himself alone that God depends for His knowledge. To make Him in any way dependent on creatures for knowledge of created objects would destroy His infinite perfection and supremacy. Hence it is in His eternal, unchangeable, comprehensive knowledge of Himself or of His own infinite being that God knows creatures and their acts, whether there is question of what is actual or merely possible. Indeed, Divine knowledge itself is really identical with Divine essence, as are all the attributes and acts of God; but according to our finite modes of thought we feel the need of conceiving them distinctly and of representing the Divine essence as the medium or mirror in which the Divine intellect sees all truth.

The article on “Eternity” highlights the same notions of immutability and transcendence of time:

. . . That is how and why we represent the Divine existence as a life. It is a life, moreover, not only without beginning or end but also without succession — tota simul, that is without past or future; a never-changing instant or “now”. It is not so difficult to form some faint notion of a duration which never began and shall never end. We hope that our own life shall be endless; and materialists have accustomed us to the notion of a series stretching backward without limit in time, to the notion of a material universe that never came into being but was always there. The Divine existence is that and much more; excluding all succession, past and future time-indeed all time, which is succession-and to be conceived as an ever-enduring and unchanging “now”. . . .

If, now, we apply to the time-line what we have been attempting in that of space, the infinite, unchangeable point which was immensity becomes eternity; not a real succession of separate acts or changes (which is known as “time”); nor even the continuous duration of a being which is changeless in its substance, however it may vary in its actions (which is what St. Thomas understands by an aevum ); but an endless line of existence and action which not only is not actually interrupted, but is incapable of interruption or of the least change or movement whatsoever. And as, if one instant should pass away and another succeed, the present becoming past and the future present, there is necessarily a change or movement of instants; so, if we are not to be irreverent in our concept of God, but to represent Him as best we can, we must try to conceive Him as excluding all, even the least, change or succession; and his duration, consequently, as being without even a possible past or future, but a never beginning and a never-ending, absolutely unchangeable “now.” This is how eternity is presented in Catholic philosophy and theology. The notion is of special interest in helping us to realize, however, faintly, the relations of God to created things, especially with regard to His foreknowledge. In Him there is no before or after, and therefore no foreknowledge, objectively; the distinction which we are wont to draw between His knowledge of intelligence or science or prescience and His knowledge of vision is merely our way of representing things, natural enough to us, but not by any means objective or real in Him. There is no real objective difference between His intelligence and His vision, not between either of these and the Divine substance in which there is no possibility of difference or change.

. . . it is not true to say that God either saw or foresaw anything, or that He will see it, but only that He sees it. . . . It is only in relation to the finite and mutable that there can be a before and after. And when we say, that, as faith teaches, the world was created in time and was not from eternity, our meaning should not be that the existence of the Creator stretched back infinitely before He brought the world into being; but rather that while His existence remains an unchangeable present, without possibility of before or after, of change or succession, as regards itself, the succession outside the Divine existence, to each instant of which it corresponds as the centre does to any point in the circumference, had a beginning, and might have extended indefinitely further backward, without, however, escaping the omnipresence of the eternal “now” . . .

Sources

The basis of all later treatment of the question of eternity is that of ST. THOMAS, I, Q. x. For a fuller exposition see SUAREZ, De Deo, I, iv; IDEM, Metaphysica, disp. l, ss. 4 sq.; LESSIUS, De perfectionibus divinis, IV.

….The salvation or damnation of every soul is known to God and decreed from eternity. Therefore, there is no change. It always was what it is. For God it simply “is” because He is at all times “now.” An omniscient being cannot change His “mind….”

…Protestant theologian John Frame has written a very informative article that is, I believe (unless I missed something) harmonious with Catholic teaching: “Open Theism and Divine Foreknowledge”. This can clear up many questions about “contingency” and conditional prophecies. See also the Catholic Encyclopedia article, “Prophecy”, though it doesn’t specifically address the issue of how God presents prophecies in relation to His foreknowledge and omniscience, and immutability.

For an extremely interesting (but not exclusively Christian or Catholic Christian) philosophical treatment of these sorts of issues, see “Prophecy” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy); also, “Immutability” in the same work. And “Divine Simplicity” and “Eternity”. Also, along similar lines: “God and Time” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Also, St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa: First Part, Q. 10: The Eternity of God.

Paul Helm: J. I. Packer Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, has written a book defending the divine timelessness view: Eternal God: A Study of God Without Time (Oxford University Press, 1988). IVP (evangelical publisher) has put out a book: God & Time: Four Views. Protestant (?) writer George Pytlik defends God’s timelessness: “Can God Change His Mind?” (part one / part two). John Frame gives a very brief reply too.

Did the Incarnation affect God’s immutability, though? No:

“It is to be remembered that, when the Word took Flesh, there was no change in the Word; all the change was in the Flesh. At the moment of conception, in the womb of the Blessed Mother, through the forcefulness of God’s activity, not only was the human soul of Christ created but the Word assumed the man that was conceived. When God created the world, the world was changed, that is, it passed from the state of nonentity to the state of existence; and there was no change in the Logos or Creative Word of God the Father. Nor was there change in that Logos when it began to terminate the human nature. A new relation ensued, to be sure; but this new relation implied in the Logos no new reality, no real change; all new reality, all real change, was in the human nature. Anyone who wishes to go into this very intricate question of the manner of the Hypostatic Union of the two natures in the one Divine Personality, may with great profit read St. Thomas (III:4:2); Scotus (in III, Dist. i); (De Incarnatione, Disp. II, sec. 3); Gregory, of Valentia (in III, D. i, q. 4). Any modern text book on theology will give various opinions in regard to the way of the union of the Person assuming with the nature assumed.’ -(Catholic Encyclopedia: “The Incarnation”; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas’ related comments in the Summa)”

Love & mind blown,
Matthew

How demons deceive us

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith. -1 Peter 5:8–9

“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.” -Saint Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002

“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.” -Pope Francis, Halloween 2014

How Demons Deceive Us

Although the powers of demons are infinitely weaker than the powers of God, they are still greater than those of humans, and their powers can fool us if we are not careful. For example, only God knows all things, including the future. God does not see time in a linear fashion as past, present, and future; rather, he sees all times at once. Everything that ever has been, is now, and ever will be, is present to him at once.

Demons, however, exist in time as we do, so they do not know the future. However, they are very intelligent and can make it appear that they know the future. One might think of them as extremely accurate weathermen: they don’t know the future, but they can make very good predictions.

Demons also have knowledge of human beings throughout history, and thereby know all human languages, including ancient ones. As we will see later, signs of demon possession include knowledge of things that the possessed individuals could not have known on their own, as well as the ability to speak languages that they have never heard.

Demons have the power to communicate with other demons and with human beings. However, being pure spirits, they communicate in a spiritual rather than a physical way.

Aquinas maintained that demons could affect our imagination. This ability does not differ greatly from our powers of communication. We communicate ideas to one another all the time through speaking and writing. Every time we turn on the television, read a newspaper or magazine, or search the Internet, we see advertisements. These are nothing more than someone trying to plant ideas or images in our imagination.

A particularly frightening ability of demons involves how well they know our personal habits. We have only to think of people whom we know very well. When they talk to us, we often know more of what is on their minds than they say, due to hints in their affect: we notice their tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

Because of demons’ greater intelligence, memory, and powers of observation, they are much better at interpreting human behavior and thought than we are. The demons can listen to us and observe us carefully, and may be able to see or hear subtle physical signs that show our emotions. Therefore, even though God alone knows all of our thoughts, demons can readily analyze what we are thinking and feeling, and make accurate predictions.

Demons can also deceive us through their ability to move physical objects. An example of telekinesis by a demon can be seen in the book of Job (1:13–19). In that biblical account, the devil caused lightning to kill the shepherds and sheep. In the same story, demons also caused a great wind that destroyed the house of Job’s children, thus killing them. The Gospels tell us that demons caused a herd of pigs to run off a cliff, fall into the lake, and drown (Mark 5:1–13).”

Love & Lord save us!!
Matthew

Oct 2 – Guardian Angels


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

This little prayer focuses on four verbs to describe the activity of our guardian angels, and each teaches us something about the role of our guardian angels in our lives.

To light. For millennia the image of enlightenment has been used for instruction and teaching. Saint Thomas reminds us that, in terms of intellect, humans are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Every angel, even the least of them, is categorically superior in intelligence. This means that our guardian angels, even apart from their gifts of grace and glory, can teach us a thing or two. That’s exactly what St. Thomas says they do. Since our minds are weak and can easily fail, our guardian angels help us to hold onto the truth more firmly, and so we ask our guardian angels to enlighten us (ST I q. 113, a. 1).

To guard. True to their name, guardian angels also protect us from the assaults of the enemies of God. Saint Thomas gives this as reason to believe that even Adam, in the state of innocence, would have had an angel guardian (ST I q. 113, a. 4). In the same place, he states that even when we fall (as Adam did) into temptation, our guardian angels keep us from being harmed as much as the tempters want.

To rule. Since our guardian angels are not simply teachers of truth, but ministers of divine government, they never forget that their purpose in teaching is to lead us back to God. In this manner, we ask them not only to enlighten us with teaching, but also to rule and direct us toward the good. For, as St. Thomas tells us, even though we know the natural law, we sometimes struggle to apply it well, needing our angels to assist us (ST I q. 113, a. 1).

To guide. Like guarding, guiding can be understood defensively. For while a ruler might give direction from afar, a guide assists along the way by pointing out pitfalls in the path. While our guardian angels don’t and can’t make our decisions for us, they can give us nudges here and there to keep our feet on the narrow path.

These activities of our guardian angels are not extraordinary or miraculous. Their guardianship belongs to the execution of Divine Providence, much like any parent’s guardianship of children. Let’s make a new effort to appreciate and call upon these faithful angels, who are always willing to help us.”

Holy Guardian Angels!! Pray for & protect us!!!
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #4: Fortitude 2, The Narrow Gate

CCC 1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” Ps 118:14 “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33

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

Presence of God – Teach me, O Lord, to act courageously, trusting in You.

MEDITATION

“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matthew 11:12). Neither good resolutions nor good desires suffice to make a saint. These must be translated into action; but precisely in the accomplishment of this work, great difficulties are encountered, causing many to stop in discouragement or actually to turn back from the way they have begun. These are weak souls who become frightened in the face of fatigue, effort, and struggle. They lack the virtue of fortitude, or at least, are deficient in it. This virtue enables us to face and bear whatever difficulty, whatever hardship or sacrifice we may encounter in the fulfillment of duty. Difficulties and sacrifices will never be wanting for, although “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction … narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life” (Matthew 7:13,14). Hence, it would be an illusion to pretend that the way to sanctity is easy and agreeable, as it would equally be an illusion to think that one could persevere in it without constantly practicing the virtue of fortitude. On the contrary, the greater the perfection to which a soul aspires, the stronger and more courageous it must be, because the difficulties it has to face will be greater.

When Jesus wished to praise the Precursor, He said, “What went you out into the desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (Matthew 11:7). No, John the Baptist was not a weak man who could be shaken by the wind of difficulties; his was the strength of one who, to uphold the law of God, did not fear to incur his king’s displeasure and to courageously face martyrdom. Elsewhere, speaking of the victory over sin and the devil, Jesus praised the strong man: “When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth” (Luke 11:21). This is a picture of the soul that possesses the virtue of fortitude: it is well armed and cannot be frightened by any struggle, temptation, or other obstacle; rather, in the midst of all this, it remains in peaceful security because its strength comes from God Himself.

COLLOQUY

“O God, You have seen the weakness of our human nature; You know how weak, frail and miserable it is; therefore, You, the sovereign Provider, who in all things have provided for all the needs of Your creatures, You, the perfect Repairer, who have given a remedy for all our ills, You gave us the rock and fortitude of will to strengthen the weakness of our flesh. This will is so strong that no demon or creature can conquer it if we do not will it, that is, if our free will, which is in our own hands, does not consent.

“O infinite Goodness, where does such great strength in Your creature’s will come from? From You, sovereign, eternal Strength because it shares the strength of Your will. Hence, we can see that our will is strong to the degree in which it follows Yours, and weak to the degree in which it deviates from Yours because You created our will to the likeness of Your will, and therefore, being in Yours, it is strong.

“In our will, O eternal Father, You show the fortitude of Your will; for if You have given so much fortitude to a little member, what should we think Yours to be, O Creator and Ruler of all things?

“It seems to me that this free will which You have given us is fortified by the light of faith, for in this light it knows Your will, which wishes nothing but our sanctification. Then our will, fortified and nourished by our holy faith, gives life to our actions, which explains why neither good will nor lively faith can exist without works. Faith nourishes and maintains the fire of charity, because it reveals to our soul Your love and charity to us, and thus makes it strong in loving You” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #6 – Piety

ANGELUS, Pope St John Paul II

Sunday 28 May 1989

PIETY

1. Our reflection on the gifts of the Holy Spirit leads us today to speak of another important gift, piety. With it, the Spirit heals our hearts of every form of hardness, and opens them to tenderness towards God and our brothers and sisters.

Tenderness, as a truly filial attitude towards God, is expressed in prayer. The experience of one’s own existential poverty, of the void which earthly things leave in the soul, gives rise to the need to have recourse to God in order to obtain grace, help and pardon. The gift of piety directs and nourishes such need, enriching it with sentiments of profound confidence in God; trusted as a good and generous Father. In this sense St Paul wrote: “God sent his Son,… that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son,…” (Gal 4: 4-7; cf. Rom 8: 15).

2. Tenderness, an authentically fraternal openness towards one’s neighbour, is manifested in meekness. With the gift of piety the Spirit infuses into the believer a new capacity for love of the brethren, making his heart participate in some manner in the very meekness of the Heart of Christ. The “pious” Christian always sees others as children of the same Father, called to be part of the family of God which is the Church. He feels urged to treat them with the kindness and friendliness which are proper to a frank and fraternal relationship.

The gift of piety further extinguishes in the heart those fires of tension and division which are bitterness, anger and impatience, and nourishes feelings of understanding, tolerance, and pardon. Such a gift is, therefore, at the root of that new human community which is based on the civilization of love.

3. Let us ask the Holy Spirit for a renewed outpouring of this gift, entrusting our prayer to the intercession of Mary, sublime model of fervent prayer and maternal tenderness. May she, whom the Church salutes in the Litany of Loreto as the “Singular vessel of devotion”, teach us to adore God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4: 23) and to open ourselves with meek and receptive hearts to all who are her children, and therefore our brothers and sisters. Let us ask her in the words of the “Salve Regina”, “…O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!”.

“O Holy Spirit, guide my soul, because all who are led by the Spirit of God, are truly the sons of God. You teach me that I have not received the spirit of bondage to live in fear, but the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby I can cry to God: ‘Abba, Father!’ You Yourself give testimony to my spirit that I am a child of God and a joint-heir with Christ: because, if we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified with Him” (cf. Romans 8:14-17).

“My God, send forth Your light and Your truth, that they may shine upon the earth: for I am like land that is dry and barren, awaiting Your light. Pour forth Your grace from above; water my heart with the dew of heaven; send down the waters of devotion to wash the face of the earth, to bring forth good and perfect fruit. Lift up my mind oppressed with the weight of my sins, and raise all my desires toward heavenly things, that having tasted the sweetness of supernal happiness, I may have no pleasure in dwelling on the things of this earth.

“Draw my heart to You, and deliver me from all vain human consolations, none of which can fully satisfy my desires or make me happy. Unite me to Yourself by the inseparable bond of Your love; for You alone are sufficient for the soul that loves You, and without You, all is vain and of no value” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ III, 23:9, 10).

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #7: Fear of the Lord


-please click on the image for greater detail

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

Presence of God – O Lord, grant that I may fear but one thing: that of displeasing You and being separated from You.

MEDITATION

The Holy Spirit invites us to His school: “Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:12). This is the first lesson the divine Paraclete teaches the soul desiring to become a saint. It is fundamental and most important because, infusing into the soul hatred of sin, which is the greatest obstacle to union with God, it insures the development of the spiritual life. In this sense Holy Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (cf Sirach 1:16).

To educate us in the fear of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, instead of placing before our eyes pictures of the punishment and pains due to sin, instead of representing God as a stern judge, shows Him to us as a most loving Father, infinitely desirous of our good, and He presents us the touching picture of God’s favors and mercies. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, have I drawn thee,” whispers the Holy Spirit in the depths of our soul; “You are not servants, but my friends, my children” (cf. Jeremiah 31:3; cf. John 15:15). Captured by love for such a good Father, the soul has but one desire, to return Him love for love, to give Him pleasure and to be united with Him forever. Consequently, it fears nothing but sin, which offends God and alone can separate it from Him. What a difference there is between this filial fear, which is the fruit of love, and servile fear, which arises from the dread of punishment! It is true that the fear of judgment and the divine punishment is salutary and in certain cases can serve greatly to hold a soul back from sin; but if it does not change gradually into filial fear, it will never be sufficient to impel the soul on to sanctity. Fear that is merely servile contracts the soul and makes it petty, whereas filial fear dilates it and spurs it on in the way of generosity and perfection.

COLLOQUY

“My God, although I desire to love You, and although I know the vanities of the world and prefer to serve You rather than them, I can never be sure while I am here below, that I shall never again offend You. Since this is true, what can I do but flee to You and beg You not to allow my enemies to lead me into temptation? How can I recognize their treacherous assaults? Oh! my God! how I need Your help! Speak, O Lord, the word that will enlighten and strengthen me. Deign to teach me what remedy to use in the assaults of this perilous struggle! You Yourself tell me the remedy is love and fear. Love will make me quicken my steps; fear will make me look where I set my feet so that I shall not fall. Give me both, O Lord, for love and fear are two strong castles from the height of which I shall be able to conquer every temptation. Sustain me, O God, so that for all the gold in the world, I may never commit any deliberate venial sin, however small” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Way of Perfection 39, 40, 41).

“My Lord and my God, all my good consists in being united to you and placing all my hope in You. If my soul were left to itself, it would be like a puff of wind, which goes away and does not return. Without You I can do no good, nor can I remain steadfast. Without You, I cannot love You, please You, or avoid what is displeasing to You. Therefore, I take refuge in You, I abandon myself to You, that You may sustain me by Your power, hold me by Your strength, and never permit me to become separated from You” (cf. St. Bernard).”

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #2: Understanding

“The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD, and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.” -Isaiah 11:2–3

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

Presence of God – Come, O Spirit of understanding, and enlighten me!

MEDITATION

As we advance toward God, we encounter many difficulties, not only because of creatures obstructing our path, but also because of the impenetrability of the divine mysteries. To enable us to surmount the former, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid with the gift of knowledge; to overcome the latter, He comes to our aid with the gift of understanding.

Our intellect is incapable of seizing the infinite. Although gifted with faith, its manner of understanding is always human, proceeding by means of ideas and limited concepts, which are totally inadequate to express the divine realities. Revelation itself comes to us in human language; therefore, it cannot tell us what God is in Himself, nor manifest to us the intimate essence of revealed truths. Proceeding with the virtue of faith alone, we are constrained to stop, so to speak, at the surface of the divine mysteries. We know with certitude that they have been revealed by God; we adhere to them with all our strength and yet we do not succeed in penetrating them. However, what faith alone cannot do, it is able to do with the help of the gift of understanding. This gift surpasses our human way of comprehension and enlightens us in a divine way; it makes us “intus legere,” that is, “read within” the divine mysteries, with the light, with the understanding of the Holy Spirit Himself.

It is a swift, deep penetration which, while adding nothing new to what we already know from revelation, does make us understand the inner meaning of the revealed truth. The gift of understanding tears off, so to say, the outer coverings of the propositions and human concepts, allowing us to see the substance of the divine mysteries. Faith tells us that God is Trinity; the gift of understanding tells us nothing more, it does not make us see, nor does it explain this mystery to us, but it does make us penetrate it. Under the influence of this gift, the soul not only believes that God is One and Three, but it has the intuition that the mystery of the Trinity is essential to the divine nature and that it reveals better than anything else the perfection, the power, and the infinite love of God.

COLLOQUY

Come, Holy Spirit, come light divine!

“O light that sees no other light, light that obscures all other light, light which is the source of all other light, brightness compared with which all other brightness is darkness, and all other light obscurity; supreme light, not darkened by blindness, not clouded by darkness, not obscured by shadows; light that no obstacle impedes, no shade divides; light illuminating all things together and forever, absorb me in the ocean of your brilliance, that I may see You in Yourself, and myself in You, and all things beneath You” (St. Augustine).

“How can I approach You, O Holy Spirit? You dwell in inaccessible light, and are Yourself all light, knowledge and splendor, while I dwell in a place of darkness and am nothing but ignorance and rudeness.

“Meanwhile, O divine Spirit, I beg You with confidence to illumine me. Reveal to me the divine greatness and the divine mysteries, so that I may adore and acknowledge them. Disclose the wiles of the devil and of the world, that I may avoid them and never fall again; reveal to me my miseries and my weaknesses, my errors, my prejudices, my obstinacies, the artifices of my self-love, so that I may hate and correct them. But, O beneficent light, above all illumine my soul, that it may know what You wish of me: make me understand well the charm of Your attractions and of Your grace, and all that I must do to merit the beneficent influence of Your goodness, so that I may correspond with complete fidelity; O loving Spirit, sustain me in this fidelity unto death” (Fr. Aurillon).”

Love,
Matthew