Category Archives: Theology

Too much religion


-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“In his Summa Theologiae, qq. 81-100, St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the virtue of religion, whereby we render due worship to God our creator. It may seem odd that Thomas devotes 20 questions to this virtue, each composed of several articles. Questions 92-95, in particular, deal with vices of excess. Vices of excess broadly concern “overdoing it,” as opposed to vices of defect. For example, consider the virtue of courage: cowardice is the defect, and foolhardiness is the excess. Thomas then dedicates four questions to excessive religiousness.

At first sight, this is confusing. It is easy to understand that insufficient religiosity is bad for the soul, but how can we be too religious? An admonition to be “less religious” may seem like an arbitrary rule that does us no good. Sins of excess in matters of religion, however, do not consist in giving too much worship to God, but in giving improper worship, or worshipping the wrong things. By teaching us how to properly render worship to God, the Church focuses and strengthens our worship, and protects us from evil. These “rules” are actually valuable insights from the spiritual masters.

God commands us to worship no other gods (Ex 20:2-6). St. Thomas explains that idolatry—the worship of other gods, or of creatures as if they were gods—is the most grievous of sins because it so thoroughly distorts our relationship to God. The honor that should only be given to the source of all being is given instead to what is lesser.

Aside from worshipping the wrong God, we can worship in the wrong way. We do, of course, have the freedom to pray in our own words in most settings. Our prayer, however, must conform to true doctrine. In liturgies, especially the Mass, our prayer must conform to certain norms, because it was handed on to us through the apostles and their successors, and ultimately from Jesus Himself. We cannot invent our own religion and pray according to our own ideas. Offering right worship ensures that the focus of our worship is really God and not idols or our own conception of God.

St. Thomas’ teaching also strengthens our faith. He speaks of an external worship that is disproportionate to the internal state. If we perform numerous grandiose religious acts without making an effort to change our hearts, what we offer is empty. It is, for example, required that we desire not to sin again when we go to the Sacrament of Confession, even if we know that we probably will sin. Confession is not a magic fix that gets us around God’s commandments. Any worship that is not attached to some desire for the good (however feeble) is no worship at all.

Finally, proper worship protects us from the demonic. It belongs to God alone to disclose future events that are not naturally knowable, or to miraculously circumvent the laws of nature. If we try to usurp this power by practicing magic, astrology, or any kind of divination (ouija boards, tarot cards, fortune tellers, palm readers, and healing crystals are common modern examples), we take for ourselves what belongs to God. In all of these cases, we attempt to take for ourselves what only God can give. He alone can give supernatural help. If we find such help from elsewhere, it is not from any friend of God.

St. Thomas seeks to teach us how to worship properly, so that we may more easily understand and develop our relationship with God. God is the only Creator and sovereign over His creation, and we can do nothing without Him. Our worship must always be anchored in this reality.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 4 of 4)

Grace and good works affect others not only in natural, but in mystical ways

Reading Exodus 20, the Torah, again:

Exodus 20:5-6

“…I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

The good we do, by the grace of Christ, ripples out into the universe and builds up His Body:

Colossians 1:23-24

“If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven: whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the church…”

When we cooperate with grace — when we pray, give alms, fast, offer up our sufferings, etc. — we literally strengthen the Body of Christ in a mystical way! Christ Himself and all the Saints of 2,000 years (by the grace of Christ) have built up His Mystical Body (the Catholic Church) and laid up a “treasury of merit” or “spiritual treasury,” as it is also called. In the same way we or others detract from the Body of Christ through sin, we and others add to this treasury — and receive the fruits thereof when we receive an indulgence, for we are one in the Body of Christ:

Romans 7:5

“We being many, are one body in Christ, and every one, members one of another.”

And read once again I Corinthians 12:26:

“And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”

The Church was given the power to bind and loose

To Peter was given the Keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16) and the power of binding and loosing (forbidding/permitting, condemning/acquitting). In exercising this power of the Keys, the Church has the authority to determine certain practices which help us to to benefit from the treasury of merit and alleviate the temporal effects of sins we’ve confessed and are already forgiven for. This is an indulgence.

That the Church was given the power to forgive the eternal effects of sin through the Sacrament of Penance makes it easier to understand how the Church also has the power to alleviate the lesser, temporal effects of sin. The Church whose priests were given the authority by Christ to forgive the guilt of sin and thereby, by the Blood of Christ, eliminate the eternal punishments for sin, surely also has the authority to pardon the temporal punishments of sin.

Love,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: Homosexuality

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Mt 5:17

“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Cor 6:9-10

“Whenever the topic of homosexuality and the Bible comes up, it doesn’t take long before someone says, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality!” In a 2012 interview, former president Jimmy Carter essentially did that when he said:

“Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born, and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things—he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.”

Some go a step further and claim that Jesus affirmed homosexual behavior. For example, one pro-gay Christian website claims that the centurion who sought Jesus’ help to heal his servant in Matthew chapter eight was actually in a sexual relationship with that servant. Their primary evidence for this comes from the centurion’s use of the term pais to describe the servant, which they say refers to a male lover. From this they conclude, “Jesus restores a gay relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a gay man as an example of faith for all to follow.”

Regardless of what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality in the Bible, this counterfeit Christ would never condemn homosexual behavior today. He would instead affirm such behavior as part of healthy relationships that are morally equivalent to marital love between men and women.

But how can that be true if . . .
…Jesus Never Affirmed Homosexual Behavior

Just because Jesus healed someone it doesn’t follow that Jesus affirmed everything that person did. When Jesus healed ten lepers, only one of them returned to give God glory for his healing, but that doesn’t mean Jesus endorsed the religious laxity of the other nine (Luke 17:11-19)

Similarly, even if the centurion and his servant had a sexual relationship, does it follow that Jesus’ miracle meant he affirmed the practice of older men purchasing younger male sex slaves? I doubt the revisionist critic would say, “Jesus restores a master-slave relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a slave-owner as an example of faith for all to follow.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows compassion to people in spite of their sins, and his healings and deliverance from harm are invitations to further spiritual salvation. For example, Jesus saved the woman caught in adultery from being executed, not so that she could return to her sinful ways, but so that she could repent of them. That’s why he said to her, “do not sin again” (John 8:11).

That said, there is no evidence that the centurion and his slave actually were involved in a sexual relationship. New Testament professor John Byron writes:

“The Greek noun pais is used in the New Testament twenty-four times and has a range of meanings that include “adolescent,” “child,” and “servant.” [In the Greek Old Testament] it appears numerous times and it always refers to a “servant.” There are no occurrences of the term anywhere in the Bible that can be interpreted a referring to the junior partner in a homosexual relationship.”

Other attempts to tease out of Scripture hidden pro-homosexual meanings are similarly dubious. It’s no wonder, then, that the arguments for a “gay-affirming” Jesus are usually arguments from silence—arguments based on what Jesus did not say. They claim, in so many words, that since Jesus never condemned homosexuality he must not have seen anything wrong with it.

But we actually don’t know if Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, because Jesus said many things that are not recorded in Scripture (John 21:25).

For example, when Paul was in Ephesus he spoke to the elders of the churches there, exhorting them to provide for the needs of the Church in Jerusalem. He then said to them, “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Even though Paul relates this saying of Jesus in a way that suggests it’s well known, nowhere is it recorded in the Gospels. This is one indication of how some of Jesus’ teachings were not written in the accounts of his life but were passed down through oral means (what Catholics call Sacred Tradition).

Since there is an unbroken tradition of Christians condemning same-sex behavior from the beginning of the Church’s history, we can safely conclude this tradition comes from Jesus and the apostles. Indeed, it would be downright bizarre if Jesus approved of homosexual behavior only to have all his followers teach the opposite—including Paul, whom Jesus chose as an apostle and inspired author but who clearly condemns homosexual behavior in his own writings (Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Tim. 1:10).

The Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson is in a legal marriage with another man, yet when it comes to Jesus’ silence on homosexuality he admits, “One cannot extrapolate affirmation of such relationships from that silence.” Robinson instead claims that all “we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence is that He was silent on the issue.”

I wonder if Robinson would likewise say that “all we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence on polygamy, incest, bestiality, idolatry, and child sacrifice is that He was silent on those issues.”

He likely wouldn’t, because Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on, for example, murder show He would never have supported child sacrifice and so it is an absurd question to ask. Likewise, Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on sexual immorality show He would never have supported sexual activity between people of the same sex, or any kind of behavior that violated the universal moral law.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 3 of 4)

The temporal effects of sin affect others not only in natural, but in mystical ways

As far back as the Old Testament, it is made clear that the temporal effects of sin affect others who may not have committed personal sin. The greatest and first example is that of the sin of Adam and Eve which resulted in the fall of man from grace and in his propensity for corruption and personal sin which we call “original sin.”

The Pentateuch (i.e. Torah, the first five Books of the Bible) also speaks of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children:

Exodus 20:5

“…I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.”

1 Corinthians 12:26 demonstrates that what affects one member of the Body affects another:

“And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”

These concepts seem foreign to those who live in the modern Western world’s radically individualistic culture, but they are Scriptural fact. They may seem “unfair” (as though life with our fallen nature is supposed to be fair), but that it is true is obvious by looking at the often sad lives of the poor children of “crack-whores,” or the parents of those who tend to end up in and out of Juvenile Hall, etc. This is not to say that those who suffer the consequences of their ancestors’ sins are doomed! No! All are called to Christ and His Church, and Jesus will judge us as individuals by looking at our hearts, wills, deeds, and intellect, taking into consideration factors which mitigate culpability. Nonetheless, the basic idea that our sins affect others not only in obvious temporal ways, but in mystical ways, is Biblical.

All of these temporal punishments, though painful, are merciful. Without discipline and punishment from God, we would continue in our ways, remain unrepentant, and then suffer the eternal consequences of doing so. A father who does not discipline his children is a bad father who is setting up his child for greater troubles down the road. God, though, is a good Father:

Hebrews 12:5-11

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as His son.’ -Prov. 3:11,12

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 2 of 4)

Mortal sin

A sin is considered to be “mortal” when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God’s saving (sanctifying) grace, i.e. destroys the life of grace necessary for salvation within the soul.

Sanctifying grace

Sanctifying grace plays the part of the means, indispensable and Divinely ordained, to effect the redemption from sin through Christ and to lead men to their eternal destiny in heaven.

Sin has two different types of effects — eternal and temporal

Sin has both eternal consequences and temporal consequences. Sin, even private sin is communal and has negative effects If I were to repent and receive forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, the eternal consequences of mortal sin– satisfied for by Christ at Calvary — are no longer an issue (Deo gratias!) because I receive the effects of His atoning Sacrifice (I will have been justified) when I reconcile with the Church through a good Confession.

But I still have to pay for the temporal consequences of my sin because God is not only merciful, He is just. An example is that of a child who steals a candy bar and then then tearfully, with true contrition, confesses his crime to his parent. The parent, being loving and good and merciful, as our Father in Heaven is, will forgive that child, not turn the child over to the police (Hell) and allow the child back in the parent’s “good graces”(sanctification) — but he will also still expect the child to pay back the store from which he stole (temporal justice).

Another example is the common one of, say, an imprisoned murderer repenting and coming to know Christ (sanctification) — but who still must serve out his time in prison or give up his life as punishment (temporal justice). Or, yet, an offender is forgiven by the offended in court (sanctification), but society requires he still pay his debts: prison, probation, restorative justice, restitution, may the offended as whole as possible, if possible (temporal justice).  Christ’s redemption, while whole and total towards God’s justice, also requires temporal justice.  Salvation is not a “get out of jai free” card in terms of temporal justice.  It is in terms of eternal justice, but not temporal.

No temporal consequences to one’s sinful actions in this life would not make sense.  It does not make sense to society.  It does not make sense in term of justification and salvation, hence, Purgatory, for that temporal justice unsatisfied in this life through acts of love and virtue, the love of others, the forgetting of self, suffering united with the suffering of Christ on the Cross.  Suffering endured by those not baptized, with faith in the redemptive nature of Christ’s passion, is just plain old unredemptive, meaningless suffering, without merit, sense, or purpose, pointless.  Just suffering for suffering’s sake.  Sucks to be you suffering.

The temporal effects of repented sins that are not paid for in life through the effects of natural law, personal penance, penance given by the priest at Confession, or mystical penances given to me by God, suffering endured in this life, are paid for in Purgatory. St. Augustine, in City of God (A.D. 419), sums up Catholic thinking on such things:

“Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment [i.e. when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead]. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow.”

Purgation — the process of making satisfaction for debt caused by sin so that we may become perfect, divinized, and enter Heaven — is quite Scriptural, of course. Allusions to purgation are found all over the Bible; but it is summed up most clearly in the following two verses:

Matthew 5:25-26

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (part 1 of 4)

In her doctrine (teaching) on the nature of humans, the Catholic Church holds the middle ground as true between two opposing theories, that humans are both body AND soul. That is NOT splitting the difference. The Church’s one mission is Truth. He is Truth. And, typically, the Truth is found between extremes, typically. Heresies tend toward one extreme or the other, as is typical of heresies.

We don’t have a souls. We are souls and have bodies, imago Dei, made in the image and likeness of God, Himself; from and through which each person receives their inestimable value and divinely given dignity, without qualification.

Through original sin, we lost our original justice/righteousness. We lost immortality and our original innocence having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We, justly, earned suffering, death, ignorance and lust; ignorance and lust often leading to suffering and death.

By the disobedience of our original parents, sin entered the world.

CCC 1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods…. It has been defined [by St Augustine] as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”

CCC 1850 Sin is an offense against God…. Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to the contempt of God.”

Sin is social

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, Pope John Paul. II says that the “mystery of sin”

“is composed of [a] twofold wound which the sinner opens in himself and in his relationship with his neighbor. Therefore one can speak of personal and social sin: From one point of view, every sin is personal; from another point of view, every sin is social insofar as and because it also has social repercussions.”

All sin is social, says John Paul II, in this regard: It wounds our relationship with our neighbor. No man is an island.

This does not mean that sin is not personal at all; and it does not mean that “external factors” in a society are to blame for a person’s sins. That would be a misreading. The pope is clear in pointing that out.

“Sin, in the proper sense, is always a personal act, since it is an act of freedom on the part of an individual person and not properly of a group or community. This individual may be conditioned, incited and influenced by numerous and powerful external factors. He may also be subjected to tendencies, defects and habits linked with his personal condition. In not a few cases such external and internal factors may attenuate, to a greater or lesser degree, the person’s freedom and therefore his responsibility and guilt. But it is a truth of faith, also confirmed by our experience and reason, that the human person is free. This truth cannot be disregarded in order to place the blame for individuals’ sins on external factors such as structures, systems or other people.”

That is important. Only an individual can be responsible for sin. “Social sin” does not mean that society sins, or that society bears the burden of guilt. What it does mean is that every sin, to one degree or another, has a consequence for others.

“To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others.”

To sin is to wound not only yourself but a brother or a sister. It puts you out of right relationship with God, out of right relationship with yourself, and also out of right relationship with other human beings (who are themselves the image of God). In that way, all sin wounds the Christ in your brother or sister.

The pope expands on this thought:

“Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. According to this first meaning of the term, every sin can undoubtedly be considered as social sin.”

It is not just “society,” in the secular sense, that is wounded by each sin, but the society of the Church itself. The Body of Christ also bears the wound. Even to that extent alone, all sin is “social”, and tragic, and devastating in its effects.

It is important to work to change laws. But changing laws will be, in John Paul II’s words, “ultimately vain and ineffective” unless we also convert souls.

Love,
Matthew

Catholics ONLY WORSHIP GOD!!!!!!!! – dulia, hyperdulia, honor, veneration vs latria, adoration, worship

Americans honor Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy, etc. We have monuments to them. We visit their tombs.  We prize, we even donate to the Smithsonian, things that they wore, touched, owned.  We visit the gifts shops associated with visits to places important to them or their lives and buy items, souvenirs, mementos, pictures of them.  We tell stories of our trips of doing so with pride. We leave flowers and candles there, or put our souvenirs out in our homes that remind us of them for all to see.  We even leave cards, teddy bears, flowers, balloons, and candles at sites of tragedy, to express our sympathy, or we send them to others for the same reason, or to express joy or gratitude, or maybe just to win their favor.

Granted the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints are a little better connected, politically. So, we might ask their help with the Big Guy, seeing as it’s all about relationships, and, as I said, they are pretty well connected. We ask our friends and neighbors to pray for us, or they offer to in times of challenge. So, why not those even better connected than they, assumedly. That’s IT!!!! The rest is just artwork.

Those who accuse Catholics of worshipping anything other than God are hypocrites, obviously. Did ‘I’ say that? 🙂

-by Kathy Schiffer

“Repeat after me: Catholics do not worship Mary.

Catholics do not worship Mary.

Catholics do not worship Mary.

I mention this because that scurrilous claim has turned up several times recently in my comment boxes. The accusation has shown up in response to various posts, tossed in by some well-meaning, God-fearing Christian who wants to protect society from the Catholic Church.

In his or her mind, prayer to the Mother of God is the ultimate evidence of apostasy: The Bible clearly says that we should have no false gods, and by gosh (he thinks), praying to Mary is just off-the-charts idolatry. Why, doesn’t Exodus 34:14 mean ANYTHING to you?

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Exodus 34:14 (NIV)

So let’s talk about it.

The Catholic Church teaches that God alone is worthy of worship. However, there are those among us who, because of their heroic virtue, are deserving of acclaim and honor.

This is true in everyday society. A best-selling author, an actor, an athlete, a favorite teacher–all, by virtue of their excellence in a field of endeavor, earn your acclaim and respect.

So, too, in the spiritual realm: We hold in high regard those who, by their virtuous lives, have demonstrated how to better love God and our fellow man. We call those virtuous people whose lives we admire, and who are now in heaven with Christ, “saints.” And Mary, Jesus’ mother, is even more deserving of our admiration and praise.

The Church teaches that there are three types of honor which are due to those who are holy:

Dulia. This is the honor and recognition which we accord to the saints. Perhaps they died as martyrs rather than deny God; or they worked great miracles, since their friendship with God meant that He granted their prayers for healing or restoration; or they simply, as Therese of Lisieux, lived holiness in their own “little way.”
Hyperdulia. This is, to put it simply, lots and lots of dulia. This is the very special honor we accord to Mary, the Mother of God.  Latria. This is true worship, and is given only to God.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, writing in his Summa Theologiae (II-II, q. 103, a. 4; III, q. 25, a. 5), explained:

“In more technical terms used by the Tradition to draw this important distinction, devotion to Mary belongs to the veneration of dulia, or the homage and honor owed to the saints, both angelic and human in heaven, and not to latria, or the adoration and worship that can be given only to the Triune God and the Son incarnate. Because of her unique relationship to Christ in salvation history, however, the special degree of devotion due to Mary has traditionally been called hyperdulia. While latria is owed to her Son by reason of unity of His divine and human natures in the Person of the Word made flesh, hyperdulia is due to Mary as truly His Mother.”

One of Catholicism’s most frequently uttered prayers is the Hail Mary. But is this idolatry? No–it’s Scripture.

The words are drawn from the greeting in Luke 1:28, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

And from Luke 1:42, the words spoken by Mary’s cousin Elizabeth:

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…

So no, Catholics don’t worship Mary. In our prayer, we ask Mary to intercede for us with her Son. And He will listen because, as James 5:16 tells us,

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

But did you ever meet someone who really doesn’t understand the important difference in how we pray to God and how we pray to Mary and the saints?

If some Catholics fail to follow the Church’s teaching on these matters it certainly doesn’t impinge on the teaching of the Church. (Ed. For instance, a Catholic-esque heresy which has arisen lately, they do with some frequency, as do all other heresies, or they make a comeback, is Santa Muerte. The Catholic Church does EVERYTHING in its power to dissuade and condemn this false and evil icon.} It merely means that some in the Church are uncatechized and not understanding or practicing what the Church teaches.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Love,
Matthew

Chains that bind


-by Br Luke VanBerkum, OP

“Some chains are taken off and some are put on.

We hear in Scripture, “The Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains” (Ps 69:33), and again, “He led them forth from darkness and gloom and broke their chains to pieces” (Ps 107:14). The Lord is the breaker of chains!

What, then, do we make of the Gerasene demoniac? The devil had come to possess this man, and his fellow townspeople had tried to bind him in chains in an attempt to control the devil. But, “no one was strong enough to subdue him” (Mk 5:4)—the devil easily made him destroy these bonds.

Does the devil offer the same freedom from bondage as the Lord? Assuredly not: it is a mirage that still leaves him bound. This false freedom is called license, and such a “freedom” only leads to “bruising” (Mk 5:5) of the soul.

Alone we can do nothing to bind the devil and come to true freedom. “No one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property,” Jesus tells us, “unless he first ties up the strong man” (Mk 3:27). The Gerasene demoniac was possessed: he had become the house for the strong man, the devil. He needed someone stronger than the strong man.

‘Thus says the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.’ (Is 49:24-25)

Jesus looked on the possessed man with compassion, and then, as the Lord promised, he entered the strong man’s house. With His mighty word, He bound the devil and cast him out into a herd of swine. He then plundered the house—rather, He claimed the man for God and restored him to his right mind and right place at the feet of Jesus (Lk 8:35).

We, too, need Christ to break into our souls when we are bound by sin, when the strong man in his cunning has ensnared us in his chains. We seek in hope those effective words—“I absolve you from your sins”—that bind up the strong man and transform the soul.

Such transformation propels us into the great mystery of love. Those things that the devil attempts to use against us are recast in love for the salvation of our souls. Thus, we have saints who—in the face of the devil—freely choose to wear chains about their bodies. These are not chains of sin. They are “chains of love in which they allow themselves to be entrapped, so that they will love [God],” St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes (Office of Readings, Aug 1).

These chains of love come in various forms. For St. Dominic an actual iron chain adorned his waist as an act of penance. Acts of penance only come from intense love for souls. Desiring the salvation of every soul, like his savior Jesus Christ, St. Dominic lovingly chose to undergo significant pain as an offering for the forgiveness of sins.

You and I will most likely not don chains in such a way, but we can still consider other, lighter, chains of love. This is why we take on penances, or mortifications, during Lent. We love Jesus, and inspired by this love we seek to offer something alongside His offering on the cross for the salvation of our own soul and the souls of all sinners.

The devil uses chains to bind, but Christ breaks them. We use chains to love, and these Christ helps us carry.”

Love,
Matthew

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” -Heb 10:31



-by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP

“It is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. -Heb 6:4-6

It is one thing to reject God before being baptized and receiving faith. It is another thing entirely to sin mortally after having received such great gifts that God gives to those who love him. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews equates it with crucifying Jesus Christ a second time. This is a circumstance in which a healthy fear would help improve our long-term happiness.

Proverbs says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (9:10). While no one likes being afraid, it really is a good thing at the beginning of the spiritual life. Fear keeps us from doing some pretty foolish things. I, for one, would have jumped off a lot more and taller things as a small child and broken many bones had I not had a healthy fear of heights. Fear is a great counter to curiosity, a temptation that can easily lead us to sin for the perceived novelty of it. Every child learns right from wrong in the first place because of fear of punishment from a parent. Fear of the Lord, then, helps us to avoid sin and to do good, but this is only the beginning of wisdom.

Wisdom is the consideration of the highest cause and the right ordering of everything else in relation to that cause (ST II-II.45.1). Fear helps us to recognize God as that highest cause. This is the first step in becoming wise. Further, wisdom perfects love. Those who are wise love better than those who are foolish. This is because love is directed first and foremost to God. After loving God, we love creatures according to their relationship to God. Thus, we love people more than pets. Since the wise know how everything is ordered, they also know how to love appropriately. Therefore, wisdom produces perfect love and “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). So we have come full circle: from fear to wisdom to perfect love back again to fear, but this time to cast it out.

Once we love, fear is no longer needed. While it may be better never to have been born than to sin after having once accepted Christ, the fear of offending the Lord by sin will eventually lead us to the perfect love of God and eternal happiness with Him in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Suffering & Merit


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

“When we look at Jesus, we often (and rightly) say that by suffering and dying for us, He merited our salvation. His passion and death are causes of our salvation. Nonetheless, St. Thomas tells us that sufferings and toils are meritorious only insofar as they are borne willingly (ST I-II q. 114, a. 4, ad 3). The strength to bear these difficulties willingly comes from love. In other words, it is by Christ’s love, His charity, that His passion and death become causes of our salvation. The immensity of His sufferings manifests His love: “God proved His love for us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Elsewhere the same Apostle says, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her” (Eph 5:25-26). The motive and power of Christ’s suffering is found in His infinite love.

Difficulty and suffering have a complex relationship with charity and merit. St. Thomas gives us two ways to consider it. “First, from the greatness of the work” (ST I-II q. 114, a. 4, ad 2). Great charity motivates great work, and so the difficulty is a sign of the charity and its merit, not the cause. Bringing the Gospel to unknown lands as a missionary or finding the means to serve the poor in a country plagued by poverty may involve many obstacles and difficulties; it is charity that works through them. “Secondly, from the defect of the operator” (ibid.). Tasks that involve self-denial and suffering are difficult because our own desires get in the way. We don’t want to clean the bathroom because it means we can’t relax or play a game instead. This sort of difficulty is healed by charity. By charity we love God above all and our neighbor for God’s sake, so we find not only supernatural strength but also a desire to perform those good actions that cost us time or treasure. In each case, we see that the grace of charity lies at the heart of merit.”

Love,
Matthew