Category Archives: Christology

The Answer Who searches for us

Planetary Nebula NGC 2818, Hubble Space Telescope

Heb 13:14

JPKern

-by Br John Paul Kern, OP (Br John Paul converted to the Catholic faith while studying mechanical & nuclear engineering at Penn State)

““Why?”

It’s probably the most frequently asked question of all time.
Children can’t stop asking it.

In education, asking “why” is frequently encouraged. Some say that you should ask at least five whys to get to the root of an issue.

Asking why is the starting point for philosophy and its wildly popular offspring, the modern scientific method, which seek to answer why things are the way they are, by means of rational arguments or empirically testing hypotheses. Asking why extends to all areas of life. Why is something right or wrong? Why do I exist?

St. Thomas Aquinas agreed with Aristotle, who famously enumerated four types of causality (quinque viae), which correspond to the four ways in which one can answer the question why.

Aristotle wrote, “We do not have knowledge of a thing until we have grasped its why, that is to say, its cause,” and the fullest knowledge of a thing is knowledge according to each and every cause that makes a thing what it is.

I was therefore rather surprised to hear Richard Dawkins (aka, a leading atheist, one of the Four Horsemen of the non-apocalypse) , a leading biologist, boldly state during a televised dialogue with Cardinal Pell that it was silly to try to pursue knowledge of a thing through certain types of causality. The cardinal then explained that different methods are needed for exploring different types of causality. Their dialogue follows:

Cardinal Pell: “[Modern empirical] science tells us how [and by what mechanisms certain] things happened [in terms of material and proximate efficient causality]. Science tells us nothing about [final causality or purpose, such as] why there was a big bang or why there was a transition from inanimate matter to living matter… [or] why be good?”

Dawkins: “Why, in the sense of purpose [end, or final cause]… is not a meaningful question. . . . What you can say is what are the [material and efficient] causal factors that lead to the existence of mountains, the same with life, the same with the universe.”

Cardinal Pell: “It’s part of being human to ask why we exist. Questioning distinguishes us from the animals, to ask why we’re here. Science has nothing to say about that. Whatever it might say about mountains it can’t say what is the purpose of human life.”

Dawkins: “It may be a part of human nature but that doesn’t make it a valid question [audience laughs]. What’s funny about that? The question why is not necessarily a question that deserves to be answered. . . . Why is a silly question. . . . ‘What is the purpose of the universe’ is a silly question, it has no meaning.”

“Why” is a silly question which has no meaning? I would argue that “why,” in this sense of purpose, is the most important question of our lives!

But for people like Dawkins who embrace scientism, because the scientific method doesn’t address questions of purpose or final causality, purpose and final causality must not exist! So, they say, stop asking such questions!

In addition to pointing out that lack of sufficient time, effort, methods, or tools in a discipline has never caused anything not to exist, I must note that without understanding the purpose of our existence, our lives seem to become pointless, meaningless, and valueless, drifting to nihilism.

Dawkins mentions the consolation he tries to find in a life without a given purpose. “We therefore have to make up our own meaning in life. We have to find our own purposes in life.” Dawkins imagines such a life as a choose your own adventure story, which is free and fun.

In addition to noting the many people with seemingly unlimited resources who have come to utter ruin by this approach to life, the monstrous consequences of ideologies and organizations that choose the wrong purpose, and the universal human experience of questioning in the midst of suffering, I would point out that Dawkins himself can’t help looking for a purpose for life: “We have to make this planet as good as we possibly can.”

But what makes a planet, person, life, society, or the universe good? I must ask what the nature and purpose of a thing is in order to judge whether it or my intended action for it is good. One doesn’t help a fish by leaving it out of water, or help a plant grow by keeping it “safe” indoors away from sunlight.

The things we most desire in life—freedom, love, and happiness—also require a knowledge of nature, which includes purpose. If I want to love someone, which is to intend what is good for them, I must understand what is good for them. If I want to be free to be truly happy, I must know what human flourishing is.

Major challenges in our society, such as confusion over what marriage is and a great deal of unhappiness, stem from a failure to understand the purpose of human life. Dawkins and others who refuse to acknowledge that anything has purpose seem doomed to fail in finding the answer to the most important questions in life, society, and the universe.

Fortunately, on the first anniversary of his canonization, St. John Paul II reminds us of a key passage from the Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et spes: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light… Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” (§ 22). The Pope immediately identifies this Christ as “the Redeemer of man” (Redemptor hominis § 8).

Jesus is the answer to our deepest questions, even the questions we are afraid of or refuse to ask. And in this, despite our weakness and ignorance, lies our hope: Jesus Christ, the Way to God the Father, the Truth Who gives us true freedom, and the Life in Whom we find our ultimate happiness, does not wait for us to ask the question but instead He, The Answer, seeks us.

Jesus Christ, Redeemer of Man, save us!

St. John Paul II, pray for us!”

Love,
Matthew

Buddy Christ!!!!? :) Pope: “There are no free agents!”

Comic relief, even in Lent.  🙂

Buddy_christ

I don’t know about you, but as a life-long Catholic, I am just put off by Catholics or otherwise who speak too familiarly of the Lord?  Gives me the willies.  Just does.  A little reverential distance, respect help.

I do have, however, one of these. It is my newest, favorite possession.  It makes me smile!!!  🙂  I know the Lord is present when I sense Holy Joy!!!  I am a Jesus freak!!!  Thank you, God!!!  🙂

buddy_christ2

from http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1402635.htm

-by Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service, June 25, 2014

“VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians are not made in a laboratory, but in a community called the Church, Pope Francis said.

At his weekly general audience June 25, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the Church, telling an estimated 33,000 people that there is no such thing as “do-it-yourself” Christians or “free agents” when it comes to faith…

…Pope Francis described as “dangerous” the temptation to believe that one can have “a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ without communion with and the mediation of the Church.”

Words not found in Scripture:  nice, relationship, tolerant, diversity….

Martin Luther’s famous words about standing by what he thinks the Bible teaches are “Popes and councils have erred in the past. Unless I’m convinced by Scripture and reason, here I stand.” And that’s what it means to be a Protestant.

The individual Protestant is the ultimate interpretive authority, and that under Protestantism, not only popes and councils are error-prone, but all people and churches and denominations are, so who are we supposed to follow? Who teaches the truth of God without error?  Answer = The Holy Spirit, aka The Spirit of Truth.  Jn  14:17, 16:13.

from http://www.catholic.com/tracts/proving-inspiration

Cardinal John Henry Newman, CO, DD, a convert from Anglicanism, and under consideration for beatification, Cardinal Newman put it this way in an essay on inspiration first published in 1884: “Surely then, if the revelations and lessons in Scripture are addressed to us personally and practically, the presence among us of a formal judge and standing expositor of its words is imperative. It is antecedently unreasonable to suppose that a book so complex, so unsystematic, in parts so obscure, the outcome of so many minds, times, and places, should be given us from above without the safeguard of some authority; as if it could possibly from the nature of the case, interpret itself. Its inspiration does but guarantee its truth, not its interpretation. How are private readers satisfactorily to distinguish what is didactic and what is historical, what is fact and what is vision, what is allegorical and what is literal, what is [idiomatic] and what is grammatical, what is enunciated formally and what occurs, what is only of temporary and what is of lasting obligations. Such is our natural anticipation, and it is only too exactly justified in the events of the last three centuries, in the many countries where private judgment on the text of Scripture has prevailed. The gift of inspiration requires as its complement the gift of infallibility.” 

“I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so.”
-St Augustine, Against the letter of Mani, 5,6, 397 AD.

Acts 8:30-31

Love,
Matthew

Dec 25 – The Incarnation & The Theological Virtues

Theological-Virtues

Founding Mothers & Fathers of the United States were trained in Virtues, literally, as children.  It was foundational to their education.  See books by Bill Bennett.  The Virtues led and formed the framework in their alphabetical training, reading, and writing.  It does not bode well, this practice & these virtues have fallen out of practice/ fashion in their creation, imho.

In Christian philosophy, theological virtues are the character qualities associated with salvation. The three theological virtues are:

  • Faith – steadfastness in belief.
  • Hope – expectation of and desire of receiving; refraining from despair and capability of not giving up.
  • Love – selfless, unconditional, and voluntary loving-kindness such as helping one’s neighbors.

They occur in the Bible at 1 Corinthians 13:13.

In Catholic theology, it is held that these virtues differ from the Cardinal Virtues in that they can not be obtained by human effort. A person can only receive them by their being “infused”—through Divine grace—into the person.

The theological virtues are so named because the object of these virtues is the divine being (theos). Other virtues have vice at their extremes, and are only virtues when they are maintained between these extremes. In the case of the Theological Virtues, they do not contribute to vice at the positive extreme; that is, there is no vice in having an unlimited amount of faith, hope, or love, when God is the object of that virtue.  (Ed. There is no such thing as “too much of a good thing” with the Theological Virtues, as their ultimate aim is God, Himself.)

More than one vice can be the opposite of each theological virtue:

  • Lack of faith may give place to incredulity (as in atheism and agnosticism), blasphemy or apostasy.
  • Lack of hope may give place to despair or cynicism.
  • Lack of love may give place to hatred, wrath or indifference.

Symbolism:

Theological Virtues are often depicted in art as young women. The symbols most often associated with them are:

Faith – cross, pointing upward, staff and chalice, lamp, candle
Hope – anchor, harp, flaming brand, palm
Charity – flaming heart, with children, gathering fruit

john_sica
-by Br John Sica, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas explains the fittingness of the Incarnation in several reasons, including how it raises our minds and hearts to an increase in faith, hope, and charity. Here I highlight a few of these reasons with respect to the Nativity of Christ and its manifestation.

1. Faith.

Faith, as St. Thomas defines it, is the habit of the mind whereby eternal life is begun in us, making the will assent to what is non-apparent. Faith rests in God as First Truth Speaking. St. Thomas says that faith “is made more certain by believing God Himself Who speaks.” In Jesus Christ, we literally hear God’s own words, from His own mouth. St. Augustine says that, “In order that man might journey more trustfully toward the truth, the Truth itself, the Son of God, having assumed human nature, established and founded faith.”

But note that Jesus became an object of faith before He began His public ministry. Indeed, Simeon takes the child Jesus in his arms and proclaims Him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32). St. Thomas says that “the Magi were the ‘first-fruits of the Gentiles,’ who were to believe in Christ.” Simeon’s prophecy was already fulfilled in the Magi, who sought Him in response to the sign of the star and who did Him homage.

2. Hope.

Consider what hope is. The theological virtue of hope relies firmly on God for what is necessary for eternal life. In hope, our human will clings to the goodness of God for us. Augustine says, “Nothing was so necessary for raising our hope as to show us how deeply God loved us. And what could afford us a stronger proof of this than that the Son of God should become a partner with us of human nature?” Why should the Incarnation correspond to hope, as St. Augustine suggests? In hope, we formally depend on God’s merciful omnipotence: that He is omnipotent shows us that He can save us, and that He is merciful—as shown by the Incarnation—shows us that He wants to.

In the Incarnation, God pulls out all the stops. One Dominican commentator has noted that “no greater way is intelligible by which God could communicate Himself to the creature” than by uniting human nature to His Person. Seeing the Christ child in the manger, we know that God took the most extreme means to save us from sin, and we have confidence that He will continue to offer us the means to be rescued from our sin and given sanctifying grace.

3. Love.

While hope clings to God as good for us, charity clings to God as good in Himself. The divine goodness is what primarily motivates us to charity. But secondarily, St. Thomas explains, it is aimed at “other reasons that inspire us with love for Him, or which make it our duty to love Him,” and these “are secondary and result from the first.” The Incarnation is the greatest of these secondary reasons. The history of Christ’s Nativity and infancy counts powerfully towards this. Seeing that Christ became a weak and helpless infant becomes, for us, a motive to love in return. As Augustine said, “If we have been slow to love, at least let us hasten to love in return.”

Love breaks forth in acts of joy and peace. We experience joy in the possession of the good and peace when we are at concord, even within ourselves. At the Nativity the angels announce good news of a “great joy” (Lk 2:10), and their hymn of praise wishes “peace” among men of good will (Lk 2:14). All of this is because the Savior is born in the city of David, whose Nativity incites us to the acts and effects of love.”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 1 – Mater Dei

theotokos_moses

-Theotokos, “God-bearer”, icon, 16th century, Moses before the burning bush, notice the Christ seated on His mother’s lap who IS the burning bush of the OT before whom Moses kneels & removes his sandals.

In the few meaningful, thoughtful exchanges I have had with Muslims & Jews regarding the Christian belief, once in Kuwait, where a small Kuwaiti man in local attire held my hand as we walked back to his camera shop, men holding hands and walking is not a sign of erotic attraction but purely of friendship, photos of US Presidents &  Saudi kings walking hand-in-hand, are plenty & current, and then with a rabbi in Chicago, the objection is NOT the Resurrection!  A man rising from the dead, no problem!!!  It is the Incarnation.  That God would have to take a shit, Muslim objection.  Let alone suffer horribly?  Meekly?  At the hands of his enemies?  God?  Is 55:8-9.  Or, a Perfect Man?  Not within the Jewish tradition.  David, the best of Jewish heroes, was a bastard!  Bathsheba was just the cherry on parfait.  Apologies for any interpreted, unintended, vulgar pun.  Read your OT.


-by Br Alan Piper, OP

“Of all the traditional titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary—e.g., “Tower of David,” “Gate of Heaven,” “Queen of Angels”—perhaps the most impressive is “Mother of God.” The transcendent omnipotence of divinity is entrusted to the gentle intimacy of maternity, even to a certain unassuming and gentle young woman. It’s not, of course, that Mary was the source of God as such (the opposite is the case). The meaning of “Mother of God” is that the person to whom she gave birth in human flesh, whom she nursed and raised, was and is God.

But the maternity of Mary is real only if Jesus is also really human, and only if he received his humanity from her. The early Church had to withstand the mistaken idea that God’s dignity cannot allow that the Word’s embodiment and suffering be more than a mere appearance. St. John writes, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn 1:7). In opposition to this error stands the Mother of God. One could apply the phrase “a body you have prepared for me” (Ps 40:6) both to the immaculate Mary and to the body that she was prepared to provide for Jesus. She is the only human being to whom Jesus had an immediate family tie. And she is the only one to whom he bore a true family resemblance. In the face of Mary we perceive something that will be reproduced in the embodied God.

There are a few texts that seem to diminish the importance of Mary’s motherhood but actually further disclose it. Once, when a woman from the crowd cried out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you!,” He corrected her, saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk 11:27-28). The wonderful irony is that no one was more attentive to that word and more obedient to it than the mother of Jesus. What is perhaps her most distinctive utterance comes at the start of her motherhood: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum—”be it done unto me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). In Mary’s obedience and in her meditation on the word, we begin to see the deeper meaning of her familial relation to Jesus: “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21).

Called to be the mother of the Son, Mary came to share by grace in the life of the so-called divine family that is the Trinity. At the scene of the Incarnation, Mary is surrounded by the Holy Trinity: “The Lord is with you,” which arguably refers to the Father; “you will bear the Son of the Most High”; “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Lk 1:28, 32, 35). The Son became man in her, and in the Son Mary came to share by grace in the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). This is the purpose of the Son’s coming: “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman . . . so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). Here Mary’s motherhood is interwoven with her daughtership.

As daughter of God, Mary is the pattern of our own glorification. As mother of God, she is also mother of her Son’s body, the Church. She intercedes for us and continues to give birth to Him in our hearts. This is part of the message of today’s feast. The Church repeats to us what Jesus said to John: “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27).”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 26 – Jesus, welcome to our nightmare!!! Exactly.

RozdestvoHristovo_RublevBlagSoborMK

-Andrei Rublev, Nativity, 15th century (please click on the image for greater detail)

luke hoyt

-by Br Luke Hoyt, OP

“St. Stephen’s memorial is always the day after Christmas. But somehow, it always surprises me. We’ve only just arrived at the cozy stable with the little baby under the shining stars, and now we have to commemorate the Church’s first martyr, a guy who was stoned to death?

Sometimes I feel a similar surprise when I see traditional iconographic depictions of the Nativity. I mean, I know that “Away in the Manger” is a little saccharine. But some of these icon Nativity scenes make it look like Jesus was born in a haunted graveyard. In his swaddling clothes, Jesus looks like a little mummy child. Not only is Mary not holding her baby – she’s not even looking at him. Instead of a stable with a dusting of snow on the roof, they’re in a cave – a cave which looks like some rent in the earth which reveals the realm of Hades. And where is Joseph? He’s huddled in a corner with a serious expression on his face, being addressed by some creepy old guy – who happens to be the devil.

After the kinds of Nativity scenes that many of us are used to, this is like a Christmas-themed nightmare.

The question arises, then: what is the Church’s Tradition saying to us in all of this, in its artistic tradition and its liturgical calendar?

It’s saying that Christmas is not a holiday for the content of the world.

Jesus was not born in a secret oasis, removed from the world’s darkness and pain. He was born in that battleground which is our earthly existence, in this world which is indeed something of a haunted graveyard.

We sometimes suppose that the holidays (and perhaps especially Christmas) are events which only happy people with lots of friends and family are entitled to enjoy. And maybe that is the case with some holidays. But it’s not the case with Christmas.

Christmas is a holiday for the broken of the world. It is a holiday for those who feel the darkness and loneliness of the cave; for those who experience, with St. Joseph, the temptations of the Evil One, struggling to maintain faith in the Christian mystery; for those who, like Jesus in his swaddling burial clothes, feel the weight of their feeble mortality; for those who, like St. Stephen, experience the hatred of the world.

Each Christmas, to all the broken and lonely people in the world, Jesus says: this one’s for you.”

Mt 11:5-6

Paolo_Uccello_-_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_WGA23196

-Paolo Uccello, 1435 (please click on the image for greater detail)

St Stephen Martyr, Protomartyr of Jesus Christ, pray for us sinners!

Love & Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Jesus Christ: True Masculinity

vitruvian-man

-“Vitruvian Man”, Michelangelo, 1490 AD, pen and ink with wash over metalpoint on paper, 34.4 cm × 25.5 cm (13.5 in × 10.0 in), accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius, ~75-15 BC. It is kept in the Gabinetto dei disegni e stampe of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, in Venice, Italy, under reference 228. Like most works on paper, it is displayed to the public only occasionally.


-by Fr James Brent, OP & Fr. Benedict Croell, OP.  Fr. James Brent OP is an assistant professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America.  Fr. Benedict Croell OP is the director of vocations for the Eastern Province Dominicans. Both live with their community of almost 90 friars at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!  It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.” -Psalm 133

“Jesus of Nazareth is the ultimate example of the vocation of a man. He reveals in Himself what men were meant to be and who men are called to be even still today.

Today many men find themselves confused about what it means to be a man. Various philosophies and movements in our society have undermined once widely received standards of true masculinity. For example, it was once widely understood that a man was supposed to protect his wife and his children. But today it is common to see men escorting their pregnant girlfriends into abortion clinics. Once upon a time, it was widely understood that sexual intimacy with a woman was the privilege that comes with making a life-long commitment to her in marriage, but today the widespread use of pornography has all but wiped out any sense of intimacy in human sexuality.

Furthermore, the shifting demands of feminist ideology have sent mixed messages to men about how they are to act around women. Is the man supposed to pursue the woman in a romantic relationship, or is he to be pursued? Is he supposed to pay for her dinner as a sign of gentlemanly respect? or is he to let her to pay in acknowledgement of her self-sufficiency as a woman? These and a host of other examples are the everyday confusions confronting men.

There are two extremes at work in our society. At one extreme we find a kind of hypersensitive male: insecure, indecisive, excessively preoccupied with emotions and the way he looks. At the other extreme, we find a kind of machismo male: egotistical, emotionally hard, indifferent to others, and ready to use women for his own pleasure.

How are men today to find their way through this disorientation about the meaning of masculinity?

Jesus Christ is the way. Jesus stands as the point of balance between these two extremes. He is gentle but firm, He is full of strength and power, but places that strength and power at the service of all, including women. He speaks with women and interacts with women, always telling the truth and always affirming their dignity and worth. Even though He is filled with the power to cast out demons, to heal and to walk on water, He is meek and humble of heart. He radiates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, purity, and self control. He even lays down his life on the cross, crucified in weakness (2 Cor. 13:14). He emptied himself, and took the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7). In all of these ways, Jesus shows us what true masculinity is.

All men are called to imitate Him, but this is not easy. In fact it is impossible to do this by our natural strength. True masculinity is too complex and the balance it requires is too difficult to determine. No man could possibly imitate by his own natural strength the masculinity of Jesus. But the good news is that Jesus – now risen from the dead – offers to men everywhere a share in His own true masculinity. The true masculinity of Jesus is a gift He offers to us by grace. The best way for men to live in our complex world is to turn to Jesus and to ask Him for this grace. Let us ask the Lord in prayer, to imprint upon our souls through the grace of the Holy Spirit a living share in the true masculinity of Jesus.

Sometimes people get the impression that religious life or priestly vocation is emasculating.  After all, how can a man, who gives up a salary earning job, gives up a wife, and makes a vow/promise of obedience, truly become a man?

Religious life seems to take away three things that men often use to show off their masculinity: big money, beautiful wife, and personal independence. But it is precisely here that religious life and priestly vocation shows it’s power to make a man to be a man. For true masculinity does not lie merely in big money, a beautiful wife and personal independence. And the vows of poverty,  and/or promises of celibacy and obedience remove from a man’s life the illusory possibility of finding his masculinity in these things.

A man who is called to religious life or priestly vocation is called to identify with Jesus in a profound way, and by identifying with Jesus, he finds the meaning of true masculinity.”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 16 – St Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM, (1647-1690), Visionary of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

sacred-heart

My parents had a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart as I was growing up.  Mara attends Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary School.  We attend the parish in Sun Prairie, WI as well.  My hope is that Mara will attend Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart here in Madison, WI.  Each night, at grace, my parents and I would add to the grace, “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”: fifty-six years of marriage and six children.

Roman Catholics celebrate the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM, the French nun whose visions of Christ helped to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart throughout the Western Church.

Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in July of 1647. Her parents Claude and Philiberte lived modest but virtuous lives, while Margaret proved to be a serious child with a great focus on God. Claude died when Margaret was eight, and from age 9-13 she suffered a paralyzing illness. In addition to her father’s death as well as her illenss, a struggle over her family’s property made life difficult for Margaret and her mother for several years.

During her illness, Margaret made a vow to enter religious life. During adolescence, however, she changed her mind. For a period of time she lived a relatively ordinary life, enjoying the ordinary social functions of her day and considering the possibility of marriage.

However, her life changed in response to a vision she saw one night while returning from a dance, in which she saw Christ being scourged. Margaret believed she had betrayed Jesus, by pursuing the pleasures of the world rather than her religious vocation, and a the at the age of 22, she decided to enter a convent.

Two days after Christmas of 1673, Margaret experienced Christ’s presence in an extraordinary way while in prayer. She heard Christ explain that he desired to show his love for the human race in a special way, by encouraging devotion to “the Heart that so loved mankind.”

She experienced a subsequent series of private revelations regarding the gratitude due to Jesus on the part of humanity, and the means of responding through public and private devotion, but the superior of the convent dismissed this as a delusion.

This dismissal was a crushing disappointment, affecting the nun’s health so seriously that she nearly died. In 1674, however, the Jesuit priest Father Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, became Margaret’s spiritual director. He believed her testimony, and chronicled it in writing.

Fr. de la Colombiere, SJ, – later canonized as a saint – left the monastery to serve as a missionary in England. By the time he returned and died in 1681, Margaret had made peace with the apparent rejection of her experiences. Through St. Claude’s direction, she had reached a point of inner peace, no longer concerned with the hostility of others in her community.

In time, however, many who doubted her would become convinced as they pondered what St. Claude had written about the Sacred Heart. Eventually, her own writings and the accounts of her would face a rigorous examination by Church officials.

By the time that occurred, however, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had already gained what she desired: “To lose myself in the heart of Jesus.” She faced her last illness with courage, frequently praying the words of Psalm 73: “What have I in heaven, and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God?”

Merazhofen_Pfarrkirche_Chorgestühl_links_Margaretha_Maria_Alacoque

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tombstmargaretmaryalacoque

-tomb of St Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM.  Her remains were disinterred after burial for 140 years.  What you see above is a waxified skeleton for veneration.

“Our Lord frequently told me that I should keep a secluded place for Him in my heart… where He would teach me to love Him” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“It seems to me that the happiness of a soul consists entirely in conforming to the most adorable will of God; for in so doing the heart finds peace and the spirit joy and repose.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque 

“My greatest happiness is to be before the Blessed Sacrament, where my heart is, as it were, in its center.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque 

“But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“Love keeps Him there [in the Blessed Sacrament] as a victim completely and perpetually delivered over to sacrifice for the glory of the Father and for our salvation. Unite yourself with Him, then, in all that you do. Refer everything to His glory. Set up your abode in this loving Heart of Jesus and you will there find lasting peace and the strength both to bring to fruition all the good desires He inspires in you, and to avoid every deliberate fault. Place in this Heart all your sufferings and difficulties. Everything that comes from the Sacred Heart is sweet. He changes everything into love.”
-St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM

Love,
Matthew

Sep 2 – The September Massacres & The Authority of Jesus Christ

alphaomega

joachimkenneyop
-by Br Joachim Kenney, OP

“For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out” (Luke 4:36). Jesus stupefies the people of Capernaum in the Gospel today by the authority with which He speaks, an authority that even drives out demons by a simple command. It’s interesting to consider that the response of the people to Jesus’ authority was one of wonder and respect. It’s questionable whether He would get the same response today.

Our reaction to authority is often one of opposition. The reluctance to accept authority has long been embedded deep in man’s soul.

However, in the last few hundred years with the advent of liberalism and its stress on individual autonomy, this reluctance has come to be embraced by society at large as something good.

A cruel and bloody manifestation of this occurred on this day in 1792 in Paris when over 200 Catholic priests were executed in the course of the September Massacres of the French Revolution.

While there are not any executions of clergy going on in the West today, people, even many of those professing to be Catholic, still ignore the authority of the teachings of Christ’s Church.

When they think of the Church, they often think of an institution seeking to control the lives of its members by imposing lots of arbitrary rules on them. “Why doesn’t the Church mind its own business?” they ask. Docility can be fostered, I think, by getting an accurate understanding of the nature of authority.  (Ed. note:  it is this editor’s oh so humble opinion, the crowds recognized the Lord’s authority due to His holiness of life, not merely to his powers over demons, or other objects.  We are all aware of those who possess great power and wealth.  However, our obeisance, not withstanding sycophants, is given only to those who blow us away with their holiness of life.)

The basis of God’s authority – and hence of the Church to whom He has delegated this authority – is that He created the universe and sustains it in existence at every moment.  (If God stopped thinking about creation, it would vanish, classical catechesis goes.)

All things participate in His existence. He is the source of all and has made each thing, including human nature, according to some plan or idea that He has of that thing. “In wisdom you have made them all,” the Psalm 104:24 says.

God has instilled a marvelous order in creation, and He knows every one of His creatures better and more intimately than we know ourselves.

Just as an ENGINEER 🙂 can explain how to use a design of his in a way that will achieve the purpose for which he made it, so in a far more magnificent way, God explains to man through the teaching of the Church how to achieve the purpose for which man is made – everlasting happiness with God in heaven.

It is out of concern for the flourishing of her children that the Church teaches us to avoid sin and grow in virtue. The power of Christ’s grace, dispensed through the sacraments that He instituted, makes this possible. Christ vested the Church with His authority. It is only by entrusting ourselves to her care that our struggles with our own demons can be won.”

AMEN!!!!!!

Love,
Matthew

Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Many of you know, the McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart. Our family custom is to add, after grace before meals, the following, in unison:  “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”

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-by Br Luke Hoyt, OP (Br Luke, prior to joining the Order, earned a degree in piano performance from the University of Michigan and studied philosophy as a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum.)

“When St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary, several centuries apart from each other, encountered Jesus in visions, they both did something curious. Ears pressed close to Jesus’ breast, they listened.

And they heard a heartbeat. With rapt attention, they listened to the Heartbeat of Jesus.

This is the act of a lover. When you are in love with someone, you want to know them entirely, to be one with them. In an exchange of spiritual goods, you want to live within the beloved, and you want that person to live within you. If you could locate one spot which somehow centered that other person, you would want to figuratively both step inside that spot, and also reach for it and hold it–tenderly and reverently–to place it deep inside yourself where it would be forever treasured.

For the human person, this spot is the heart. The heart is the locus of the “I.” And therefore to listen to the heartbeat of a beloved is to try to reach out and touch that “I,” to put your finger on another’s self, to cherish the sound, so to speak, of their existence.

This is what St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary sought in listening to Jesus’ heart. They were in love with their God, and were therefore spellbound by the sound of His Heart.

But when you listen to a human heart, you notice something within it. You notice a wound.  This is the case with every human heart. As soon as you locate it, you discover that it is broken and crying out in some way.

And Jesus’ heart is no exception. It is beating; it is alive. But it is also pierced. It bleeds. We ourselves pierced it, and now it flows and flows and flows.

But mysteriously, because it flows, the desire of the lover is answered.  The lover, finding the “I” of the beloved, can do more than listen to the heartbeat.  He or she can actually touch the very lifeblood which that heart beats and take it into his or her own self.

And when this happens, our hearts become like Jesus’ heart: filled with his blood. Because our hearts are also wounded, pierced like His, they too will flow – and flow and flow. But as they flow, they will spread the blood of the beloved wherever they go. And other hearts will in turn be transformed, and these also will flow.

And when the whole world is filled with our God’s blood, we will no longer need to strain our ears, listening for His heartbeat  For we will be within Him, within His Most Sacred Heart.”

Love,
Matthew

What does it mean to be “Alive!”?

-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP (Br Thomas graduated from Stanford University with a PhD in Physics before joining the order.)

“As someone who has made it far enough into your day to turn on your computer and start reading this blog post, I doubt that you are harboring many doubts about whether or not you are alive, let alone whether life exists at all. It might surprise you to know that this exact worry was aired in a recent op-ed by Ferris Jabr, an editor for Scientific American. He boldly claims that nothing is truly alive and, what’s more, that this knowledge is “liberating.”

On the surface, life seems like one of the most obvious parts of nature to understand. The squirrel runs, the rock doesn’t. The seed sprouts and grows into a full blown tree, the log just sits there. Some things move and grow and reproduce of their own accord, other things need a good shove to get them going. The difficulty, as always, is in the details. Growing crystals, self-replicating molecules and parasitic viruses seem to mimic some of the powers we attribute to life, and provide counter-examples that make the definition of life more difficult for biologists to nail down.

Jabr’s revelation is that we need not be worried about the definition of life, because life is merely a mental construct anyways—there is nothing there to define. He argues that because there is no identifiable property or set of properties that scientists have been able to agree upon as the defining aspect of life, it simply is not there. Life is a “pure concept” that can be useful at times, but can just as easily be set aside. Everything that exists is really just a particular arrangement of fundamental particles, and we can find some of the features of life at many different levels of these arrangements from chemicals to whole biospheres. Life just becomes a useful way of labelling certain kinds of complexity we encounter in the real world and, unbound by a hard and fast definition, we are free to use it as we see fit.

Needless to say, there are a whole host of objections to Jabr’s proposal—scientific, philosophical, and theological. In fact, it’s a bit hard to decide where exactly to begin. One could argue for a robust definition of life as an internal principle of movement, object to Jabr’s implicit reductionism that assumes we can simply explain everything as collections of molecules, or present the whole host of ethical and legal ramifications to trivializing the concept of life.

Here, I simply want to link Jabr’s argument to a number of other skeptical arguments that seek to overturn common sense ideas in the name of science—and argue we’re better off for it. It’s an undeniable fact that modern science, particularly since the beginning of the twentieth century, has revealed that the world we live in is more complicated, wonderful, and at times bizarre than people ever expected. Nevertheless, the fact that we now take for granted almost unimaginable concepts like wave-particle duality and curved spacetime does not mean that the purpose or goal of science is to come up with weird ideas and to overturn our natural expectations. Scientific investigation of the very large and the very small did not reveal that our everyday assumptions completely fail. It clarified the bounds in which our everyday assumptions actually work, namely everyday applications.

Skeptics like to claim that a single difficult case can invalidate our preconceived notions, no matter how much previous experience and reasoning they are based on. Yet our understanding of the world and of nature, properly considered, need not be some well-constructed but fragile house of cards that cannot bear even the slightest jostle. Aristotle had a helpfully robust view of what it meant for something to be natural, namely that it happened “always or for the most part.” This is not simply a premodern “fudge factor,” but a deep insight into the fact that nature is at once usually reliable and a bit unpredictable, and this particular balance of consistency and fallibility allows for the beautiful order amongst all of its pieces.

While Aristotle applied the principle to understanding natural processes, in an analogous way we can apply it to our definitions and reasoning about those processes. Life is “always or for the most part” easily identifiable. The fact that there are inanimate substances that seem to mimic aspects of life need not destroy our confidence in the fact that there really is a difference between living and non-living. We should not look at difficult cases with fear for the possibility of life, but embrace them as a fascinating opportunity to work out the bounds of our understanding of life.

A full response to Jabr and his argument would need to actually address his concerns about the definition of life and the difficult cases he brings up. While I think just such a response is possible, it is worth noting that the skeptical perspective—that a few counter examples is all it takes to overturn consistent and well supported ideas about nature—has a tendency to create worries no one ever really had, and to solve them in a way no one really appreciates. A healthy view of natural philosophy can accept the corrective and enlightening role of difficult cases without fearing that it will lose the very foundation it was built upon in the process.”

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Rev 22:13

Love,
Matthew