Category Archives: Happiness

We were made for happiness. It is our natural end. 2

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part 3: Life in Christ (1691 – 2557)
Section 1: Man’s Vocation — Life in the Spirit (1699 – 2051)
Chapter 1: The Dignity of the Human Person (1700 – 1876)
Article 2: Our Vocation to Beatitude (1716 – 1729)
II. THE DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS
1718 The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it:
We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.13

How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.14

God alone satisfies.15

13. St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1,3,4:PL 32,1312.
14. St. Augustine, Conf. 10,20:PL 32,791.
15. St. Thomas Aquinas, Expos. in symb. apost. I.

Summa Theologiae I-II, Questions 1-5

-from https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/thomas-aquinas/

“Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) is one of the towering figures in Western philosophy and theology, so great that he is even called the “angelic Doctor” by the Roman Catholic Church.  Within a twenty year span he wrote over forty books, including his masterpiece The Summa Theologica, in which he constructs a vast system integrating Greek philosophy with the Christian faith.   In the second part of this great work, as well as Book 3 of his shorter volume Summa contra Gentiles, he sets out a systematic answer to the question of what human happiness is, and whether it can be obtained in this life.   His ultimate answer is that perfect happiness (beatitudo) is not possible on earth, but an imperfect happiness (felicitas) is.   This puts Aquinas midway between those like Aristotle, who believed complete happiness was possible in this lifetime, and another Christian thinker, St. Augustine, who taught that happiness was impossible and that our main pleasure consists merely in the anticipation of the heavenly afterlife.

Thomas Aquinas was born in the castle of Roccasecca, north of Naples, to a wealthy aristocratic family. After studying at the University of Naples, however, he renounced his noble heritage, made a vow of celibacy, and determined to become a monk. He entered the Dominican order and studied with Albertus Magnus (also known as Albert the Great), who had initiated the great project of integrating all knowledge with Christianity. This meant not being afraid of empirical science or the contributions of the great Arabic philosophers, who had already synthesized the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle with their Muslim faith. Aquinas was so stout in stature, and so silent in class, that he was called “The Dumb Ox” by his fellow students. Albert however, responded: “You call him a Dumb Ox, but I tell you this Dumb Ox shall bellow so loud his bellowing will fill the world.”

Aquinas was ultimately assigned as a lecturer to various Dominican houses in Italy, but his real task was the masterpiece, his Summa Theologica, “The Summation of All Theology,” which sets out an entire book dedicated to the question of happiness. For twenty years Aquinas worked on this project, but on a night in December 1273 after celebrating Mass he experienced a mystical vision that shattered his entire aspirations. After that night he never wrote another word, and he died six months later. On his deathbed he is reported to have pointed to all of his books and said “After what I have experienced, all that is just straw.” As we shall see, this is most ironic when considering Aquinas’ views on happiness, since in the Summa one of his main conclusions is that true happiness consists in a mystical (beatific) vision of God that is only possible in the afterlife.

The Doctrine of Double Happiness

Already in his Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas had taken a position similar to St. Augustine’s, that perfect happiness is not possible in this lifetime. Aquinas takes seriously St. Paul’s assurance in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that “for now we see as through a glass darkly, but then we see face to face.” This world is too plagued with unsatisfied desires to achieve that ultimate good which we all seek by nature. Furthermore, God has basically created us with a desire to come to perfect knowledge of Him, but this is hidden from us while in our mortal bodies. True knowledge of God would require being able to see him directly, but this is only possible by a completely purified soul. When this occurs, we will experience the ultimate pleasure—a pure and everlasting bliss that will be the satisfaction of every human desire and the obliteration of every sadness or worry.

However, unlike St. Augustine, Aquinas goes on to maintain that we can achieve a kind of “imperfect happiness” here on earth. In this he is undoubtedly influenced by Aristotle, who argued that happiness depends on the actualization of one’s natural faculties. The highest faculty the human being possesses is Reason, from which it follows that we can achieve happiness in this life in proportion to the level of truth accessible to Reason. As he writes:

Man’s ultimate happiness consists in the contemplation of truth, for this operation is specific to man and is shared with no other animals. Also it is not directed to any other end since the contemplation of truth is sought for its own sake. In addition, in this operation man is united to higher beings (substances) since this is the only human operation that is carried out both by God and by the separate substances (angels). (Summa Contra Gentiles, book 3, chapter 37)

While the perfect realization of Truth will only occur in heaven where we will perceive God “face to face,” there is an imperfect counterpart of that vision here on earth. Thus Aquinas is lead to make a distinction between “perfect happiness” which he calls beatitudo, and “imperfect happiness” called felicitas. By making this distinction, Aquinas is able to tone down the pessimistic view of human nature expressed by St. Augustine, including the doctrine of Original Sin. As Aquinas writes, “Human Nature is not so completely corrupted by sin as to be totally lacking in natural goodness.” We have an impulse in us that seeks God and other impulses that pull us down to worldly pleasures. However, it is possible to begin the process of healing in this lifetime by exercising the natural virtues that Aristotle talks about—the virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, justice, friendship, etc. Furthermore, God in his grace has now revealed to us three additional virtues: those of faith, love and hope. These will pull us through to the final end so long as we begin the effort.

Happiness as Knowledge of God

Aquinas is uncompromising in his view that our true happiness can only be found in knowledge of God. No other worldly good or pleasure can truly provide us with the ultimate good we seek. As he argues in the Summa Theologica:

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is that perfect good which entirely satisfies one’s desire; otherwise it would not be the ultimate end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e., of man’s desire, is what is universally good; just as the object of the intellect is what is universally true. Hence it is evident that nothing can satisfy man’s will, except what is universally good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone, because every creature has only participated goodness. Therefore, God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of the Psalms (102:5): “Who alone satisfies your desire with good things.” Therefore, God alone constitutes man’s happiness.” (Summa Theologica Part 2. Q.1. Article 8)

This passage illustrates well Aquinas’ unique blend of rigorous logical reasoning with his use of Scripture which reveals to us the same truth through other means, in this case the mouth of the prophet. Nothing can contradict the Truth: hence if Reason and Revelation are valid pathways to truth, they must ultimately be reconcilable. So Reason confirms to us what we already know deep down in our hearts: that our ultimate desire lies in absolute perfection, which can only be found in God, the absolute Being.

Thus for Aquinas we must make a sharp distinction between enjoyment and happiness. Enjoyment pertains to worldly goods and physical pleasures: but these tend to be very short-lived. And even if all of our worldly desires were satisfied—even if we were to experience every possible enjoyment—we would remain unhappy, since we would still have a nagging feeling that something is missing. Today Aquinas would point to the experience of many rich people and celebrities as evidence for this truth. Despite having every worldly good—fine foods, cars, houses, vacations, friends, family—many of them remain deeply unhappy, even spiraling into the misery of drugs and suicide. Aquinas would explain this as follows: when every enjoyment is felt, the soul begins to crave for something more than mere enjoyment. But if one has no knowledge of this “something more” or doesn’t know how to go about finding it, the enjoyment turns to pain and suffering. This also explains why we see a lot of billionaires suddenly change towards the middle or end of their lives: that nagging feeling that there is something more results in charitable work or an orientation to a higher purpose in life.

One might, however, question Aquinas’ insistence that perfect happiness is only possible in the afterlife. Is it possible to purify the soul in this lifetime, so that one can possess a direct experience of Ultimate Reality? The Buddhists and Hindus certainly think so: they can point to certain individuals such as the Buddha who have obtained absolute enlightenment. And there is a mystical side to monotheistic religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as well, according to which the ultimate goal is Oneness with God, which has been attained by various saints or prophets throughout history. Aquinas’ own mystical experience at the end of his life might be just such an example: perhaps he actually achieved a beatific vision of God, a vision so strong that it rendered all of his words obsolete.

Conclusion

Aquinas held the following views about human happiness:

  • Perfect happiness (beatitudo) is not possible in this lifetime, but only in the afterlife for those who achieve a direct perception of God
  • There can be an imperfect happiness (felicitas) attainable in this lifetime, in proportion to the exercise of Reason (contemplation of truth) and the exercise of virtue.
  • Virtue is to be divided into two categories: 1) the traditional Aristotelian virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, friendship, etc., and 2) the theological virtues revealed to man through Jesus Christ: faith, hope, and love.
  • There is an important distinction between enjoyment and happiness. Enjoyment concerns satisfaction of worldly desire. Happiness concerns obtaining our absolute perfection, which by definition can only be found in the absolute Being, which is God.

Bibliography

Aquinas, Thomas; Mary T. Clark (2000). An Aquinas Reader: Selections from the Writings of Thomas Aquinas. Fordham University Press.

Aquinas, Thomas (2002). Aquinas’s Shorter Summa. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press.

Davies, Brian (2004). Aquinas: An Introduction. Continuum International Publishing Group.

McMahon, Darrin (2006). A History of Happiness. Atlantic Monthly Press.

See also Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Aquinas

Love & His Joy, which He alone can give,
Matthew

Doubt, despair, hopelessness,… & Truth.

The ultimate thing the devil wants is our ultimate despair. Resist him. Eph 6:10-18.

“What is truth?” -Jn 18:38


-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“In the twentieth century, many thinkers became disillusioned with traditional morality. It seemed to be a cold and impersonal list of rules. For something supposedly based on a transcendent God, it was surprisingly powerless to resist changing social conventions. Many took it as a given that received moral norms are nothing more than commonly held ideas about decency, often buoyed by fluffy thoughts about what God supposedly wants. In Sigrid Undset’s 1932 novel Ida Elisabeth, the main character of the same name considers the religion of her mother-in-law, Borghild:

“But all she had been able to get out of it was that Borghild Braatö’s god dwelt in Borghild Braatö’s heart and broadly speaking was of Borghild Braatö’s opinion on all questions, spoke to her through her conscience and gave his approval whenever she made a decision.”

In the face of such a vacuous morality, what is one to do? I will present the contrasting approaches of two Nobel Laureates. The mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell attempted to engineer moral norms to make them more manageable, while the author Sigrid Undset sought to return to a deeper traditional Catholic morality.

Russell’s approach has become characteristic of progressive movements. Since moral norms only express what is socially acceptable, a rational society may modify its expectations. In his 1936 essay Our Sexual Ethics, he argued that while adultery certainly has its downsides, it is just not realistic for most people to avoid it. In centuries past, spouses were seldom separated for long periods. Small villages, where everyone knew everyone else, would discourage indiscretions, while the fear of hellfire would keep the passions at bay. Without those helps, we might as well decide that adultery is okay after all and work around that. At least no one will feel guilty when they inevitably commit adultery. Russell would become a champion of the sexual revolution.

Sigrid Undset took a very different approach. Raised an agnostic, as a young woman she wandered in moral confusion, falling in and out of love, before finally settling down with a man who had abandoned his first wife. This relationship produced three children, but was not to last. One can detect in her work from this period a dissatisfaction with life. Her 1911 novel Jenny explores the tension in the life of a woman whose only moral code is self-respect. She seeks love but is powerless to its fickleness. By the end, one suspects that Undset did not think there was much more to life than this tension.

During the years of her marriage, Undset began asking serious questions. She had long thought that the morality she heard from the Lutheran State Church was no more adequate to explain life than it was to oppose the legalization of divorce years before. But she realized that the human person demanded far more than any socially updated moral code could deliver. This was especially clear in the face of the joy of her own motherhood. In 1919, she wrote against attempts to fix contemporary problems encountered in marriages by the easy means of divorce and looser moral standards. Instead of giving up on the demands of marriage, she argued, the Catholic Church raised it up by making it a sacrament. In 1924, Sigrid Undset was received into the Catholic Church.

Both Russell and Undset felt that the common notions of morality in their societies were, at bottom, social conventions. Both would initially push these boundaries. Russell went on to modify moral codes to perceived convenience. Undset came to realize that neither social conventions nor the experimentation of a young artist could ever come close to explaining the human person. Russell neutered the impulse to marital fidelity so that the base impulse to adultery could go on mostly unhindered. Undset found Catholic sacramental morality to be a gift from God and the only thing that could answer her questions and raise marriage to the heights that she always knew it must reach. For Russell, morality was a list of conventions for personnel management. For Undset, it became not a list of rules nor a code of decency, but rather God’s gift and plan for human happiness. This is not a morality that is imposed, but one that is discovered contemplating the mystery of the human person.”

Love,
Matthew

Gender?

“Before retiring to bed on a Tuesday night in the Vatican, Saint John Paul II prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, meditating upon the following words from Saint Peter: “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1

Long after others in the papal apartment were asleep, a noise awoke his secretary, Monsignor Stanisław Dziwisz, who left his room to investigate. His room was adjacent to the Holy Father’s, but he noticed that the sounds were not coming from the Pope’s room, but from his chapel. Although late-night prayer was not uncommon for John Paul, Dziwisz peered in to be certain that everything was all right.

The sight was typical: John Paul immersed in contemplation alone before the tabernacle. The Pope usually spoke to God with very simple words, and often prayed during adoration like Jesus did in Gethsemane, talking with his Father. 2 This night, Dziwisz noticed that John Paul indeed seemed troubled. The disturbance he overheard was the Pope speaking aloud to God, asking repeatedly, “Dlaczego? Dlaczego?” (“ Why? Why?”). Out of reverence, the monsignor backed away from the chapel and returned to his room for the night.

John Paul celebrated Mass the next morning, but was unusually reserved during breakfast afterward. The Pope’s typical jovial and engaging demeanor toward the sisters and guests was subdued. Instead of asking questions and conversing about an endless variety of topics, he was recollected and withdrawn. He ate no breakfast, and drank a cup of tea. 3

That afternoon would be an important one: During his Wednesday audience, John Paul was preparing to announce the establishment of two ministries in the Church that would address the problems facing families in the modern world. 4 One of these, the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, would become the main teaching arm of the Theology of the Body. 5

On his way to deliver his message, the Holy Father rode in the Popemobile across Saint Peter’s Square. As he was blessing children and greeting the crowds, gunshots from a Turkish assassin rang out. An ambulance rushed the Pope in his bloodstained cassock to the hospital, where he narrowly escaped death.

Had God given him a premonition of his suffering the night before? The answer to that question will likely remain a mystery known only to John Paul.

Was there a link between his suffering and his efforts to build up marriage and the family? This he affirmed, saying, “Perhaps there was a need for that blood to be spilled in Saint Peter’s Square.” 6 He added, “Precisely because the family is threatened, the family is being attacked. So the Pope must be attacked. The Pope must suffer, so that the world may see that there is a higher gospel, as it were, the gospel of suffering, by which the future is prepared, the third millennium of families. . . .” 7

…While camping at the World Youth Day vigil in Kraków, I spoke with a young woman who was preparing to enter her first year of college at a prestigious university in California. She pulled her phone out of her backpack and showed me where her online college application required her to check the appropriate box to indicate her gender.

There were eighteen boxes to choose from.

I read through the litany of genders, and noticed that two were missing: male and female. (Facebook— which invites its users to identify as one of more than fifty genders— at least offers them the possibility of choosing to be male or female.) The university application, however, did allow the incoming students to choose “cis-male” or “cis-female,” which means that the biological sex one was “assigned” at birth aligns with the gender one chooses for one’s identity.

While some seek to expand upon the number of genders and create a spectrum of options, the ultimate goal of gender theory is not diversity. After all, diversity requires objective differences. The goal is to erase the sexual difference, and thus to eliminate the meaning of the body.

Where is this coming from? The Second Vatican Council prophesied our culture’s sexual identity crisis by stating, “When God is forgotten . . . the creature itself grows unintelligible.” 8 Although the Theology of the Body was written before many of the modern ideas of gender theory became popular, it was ahead of its time in offering a clear answer for them— and for many other key issues about sexuality and the body.

What is the Theology of the Body?

The Theology of the Body is the popular title given to 135 reflections written by Saint John Paul II. As a cardinal in Poland, he (Karol Wojtyła) planned to publish them as a book titled Man and Woman He Created Them. 9 Before this could happen, he was elected pope, and instead delivered the content in 129 Wednesday Audiences during the first five years of his pontificate.

The thousands of vacationers and pilgrims who gathered to see the Holy Father at these audiences had no idea that the Pope’s biographer would later describe the Theology of the Body as a “theological time bomb set to go off, with dramatic consequences, sometime in the third millennium of the Church.” 10

What could be so explosive about a Polish bishop’s theological reflections on the body? To answer this, consider how the human body has been viewed throughout history. Thousands of years ago, Gnostics and Platonists believed that a person’s true self was different from his or her body. One Gnostic sect, the Manicheans, believed that man’s destiny was to set his spiritual essence free from the pollution of matter. Because the body was material, it was not only inferior, but evil. In fact, it was considered a sin for a woman to give birth because she was bringing more matter into existence! Centuries later, puritanism considered the body to be a threat to one’s soul. Meanwhile, the philosopher René Descartes proposed that the soul is like a ghost trapped in a machine.

All these views about the body have one element of truth in common: Our bodies and souls aren’t in harmony. However, the body is not unimportant compared to the soul. Nor is the body something we “have,” or something that encumbers our soul. We are our bodies, and our bodies reveal us. However, our current state is not the way God created us in the beginning. The discord that exists within man is the result of original sin. 11

While some individuals devalued the body and cared only for the soul, others fell into the opposite mistake. Atheists and materialist philosophers argued that the human person is nothing more than his or her body: There is no soul, and the body has no meaning.

Although these ideas might seem like debates reserved for philosophers and theologians, consider what happens when entire cultures accept these misguided notions of what it means to be human. If man has a body but no spiritual dimension, what distinguishes him from other animals? Why should he act differently or be treated differently? On the other hand, if a person’s true identity is found in his spirit alone, then man’s view of himself becomes uprooted from any objective reality. Truth would then be defined by a person’s feelings. As a result, masculinity and femininity would be viewed as social constructs, not realities created by God. But if masculinity and femininity don’t exist, then what becomes of marriage and the family?

Because there has been so much confusion about the meaning of the human body, John Paul set out to present a total vision of man that would include man’s origin, history, and destiny. Instead of arguing from the outside in, offering people a litany of rules, he invited them to seek the truth about reality by reflecting on their own human experience. The writings of Saint John of the Cross played a key role in shaping John Paul’s style of thinking. His philosophical studies on of Max Scheler and other phenomenologists further sharpened his ability to observe human experience. John Paul doesn’t begin by explaining what man ought to do, but by explaining who man is. In the Pope’s mind, people will know how to live if they know who they are.

It has been said that rules without a relationship creates rebellion. This is true with parents and children, and it’s especially true with the relationship between God and humanity. John Paul knew that laws don’t change hearts. When people view morality as a rigid list of imposed regulations, they might temporarily behave themselves out of guilt or fear, but they often abandon the faith. The Pope understood the futility of this approach, and knew that a fresh re-presentation of the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics was overdue.

What the modern world needed was not just a defense of the Church’s teachings, but rather an unveiling of God’s original plan for the beauty of human love. Culture needed something that wasn’t simply intellectually convincing or morally upright, but rather something that corresponded to the deepest yearnings of the human heart.

Unfortunately, many have grown deaf to these yearnings and hear only the urges of the body. But no matter how numb one might be to the deepest aspirations of the soul, everyone can relate to the ache of solitude, the experience of shame, and the desire for communion. In the Theology of the Body, John Paul explored these experiences and more, to reveal how God’s plan for humanity is stamped not only into our hearts, but also into our bodies.

When people discover the Theology of the Body, they often exclaim that they’ve never heard anything like it before. This is because many people learned about sexuality in a religious framework that focused only on what is forbidden and permitted. Others learned about it through the lens of modern sex education, which reduces one’s sexuality to biology and sensuality. This might count as “sex ed,” but it’s not a true education in human sexuality. 12

Properly speaking, “sex” is not something people do. Sex is who we are as male and female persons. The Theology of the Body reminds us of this broader meaning and offers compelling answers to questions such as: Who am I? What does it mean to be human? How should I live? It delves into delicate questions regarding marriage and sexual ethics, but does so while inviting people to rediscover the meaning of life. Through it, one realizes that modern man’s sexual confusion is not caused because the world glorifies sexuality, but because the world fails to see its glory.

For those who have disregarded the Church’s teaching on human sexuality because it seems out of touch with the modern world, the Theology of the Body offers a fresh perspective. Its insights are not pious reflections offered by a theologian who was isolated from the daily struggles of married life. On the contrary, they are the result of decades of personal interactions between a remarkable saint and the countless young adults and married couples that he accompanied through their vocations. These couples attest that although John Paul had a great ability to preach, he had an even greater ability to listen.

The Theology of the Body comes from the heart of a saint who listened intently not only to others but also to the God Who could provide meaning to their lives. He was no stranger to suffering, living under Nazi and Communist regimes and having lost his family by the age of twenty. While such trials might lead some to abandon their faith, John Paul’s was forged by them, as he sought answers to the deepest questions about life’s meaning.

John Paul also possessed a staggering intellect, and according to his secretary, spent three hours each day reading. 13 Although he was dedicated to the intellectual life, John Paul’s prayer life took priority. His colleagues attest that he seemed to be continually absorbed in prayer, as can be seen from the fact that he considered the busy Paris Metro to be “a superb place for contemplation.” 14

His greatest devotion, however, was to the Blessed Sacrament. He never omitted his Holy Hour on Thursdays, even while traveling internationally. If the organizers of his trips didn’t make room for it in his schedule, he would make time and simply arrive an hour late to their program. When his assistants attempted to convince him to decrease the amount of time spent in this devotion, he refused, saying, “No, it keeps me.” 15 He knew that apostolic mission derives its strength from life in God. 16 It is from this man’s heart, mind, and soul that the Church has been given a tremendous gift: the Theology of the Body.

Structure

The Theology of the Body is comprised of two parts. The first focuses on three passages from Scripture, or “words” of Christ. In it, John Paul examined the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding marriage and divorce. 17 Then he reflects upon the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount, in particular those concerning committing adultery in one’s heart. 18 Finally, he turns to Christ’s words regarding the resurrection of the body. 19 By means of these reflections, he explains the redemption of the body. If fact, in his final catechesis, he describes the content of the whole work as “the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage.” 20

The Theology of the Body is thoroughly biblical— as can be seen by the fact that the Pope draws from forty-six books and more than a thousand Scripture citations. However, among all of the passages he quotes, the three mentioned above are his focus. He compares them to the panels of a triptych, which is a work of sacred art consisting of three panels, or parts. When the three images are displayed together, they present a fuller understanding of a topic of theology (in this case, the human person).

The three parts of John Paul’s triptych are original, historical, and eschatological man. Original man is who God created man to be in the beginning, before the dawn of sin. Historical man refers to the current state of humanity, burdened by original sin but redeemed by Christ. “Eschatological” has its roots in the Greek word for “end,” eschaton, and refers to the glorified state of man in heaven. Together, these three epochs of human history form what John Paul called an “adequate anthropology”— an understanding of what it means to be a human person.

In the first part of the Theology of the Body, John Paul used the above three “words” of Christ to explain man’s call to live out “the spousal meaning of the body.” This phrase is the heart of the Theology of the Body. It means that the human body has “the power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and— through this gift— fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence.” 21 (This gift of self can be expressed not only through marriage, but also through celibacy for the kingdom of God.)

In the second part of the Theology of the Body, the Pope analyzed “The Sacrament” which is the “great sign” of Christ’s love for the Church and the love between a husband and wife. He explained what the gift of self means in terms of the “language of the body,” and how men and women are called to live it out, especially as it relates to building their families.”

-Evert, Jason (2017-12-06). Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 63-102, 109-239). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Sexual Identity

(CCC 2333) “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”

(CCC 2393) “By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”

Body and Soul

(CCC 364) “The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”

Pope Francis

Encyclical letter Laudato Si’ (2015)

(# 155) “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an ‘ecology of man’, based on the fact that ‘man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will’. It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

(# 56) “Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.’ It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasized that ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.’ …It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to Updated August 7, 2019 3 replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”

(# 285) “Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for ‘thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation… An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.’ Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centeredness and self-absorption. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension ‘to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.’

(# 286) “Nor can we ignore the fact that the configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture, experience, education, the influence of friends, family members and respected persons, as well as other formative situations. It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore. But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories. It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame. Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy ‘exchanges’ which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure. A rigid approach turns into an over accentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership. This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development of children’s specific identity and potential.”

Address to Priests, Religious, Seminarians and Pastoral Workers during the Apostolic Journey to Georgia and Azerbaijan (October 1, 2016)

“You mentioned a great enemy to marriage today: the theory of gender. Today there is a world war to destroy marriage. Today there are ideological colonizations which destroy, not with weapons, but with ideas. Therefore, there is a need to defend ourselves from ideological colonizations.”

Address to the Polish Bishops during the Apostolic Journey to Poland (July 27, 2016)

“In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] ‘gender’. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible! “In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: ‘Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator’. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a ‘raw’ state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the ‘raw’ state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. ‘This is the age of sin against God the Creator’. That will help us.”

Address to Équipes de Notre Dame (September 10, 2015)

“This mission which is entrusted to them, is all the more important inasmuch as the image of the family — as God wills it, composed of one man and one woman in view of the good of the spouses and also of the procreation and upbringing of children — is deformed through powerful adverse projects supported by ideological trends.”

Address to the Bishops of Puerto Rico (June 8, 2015)

“The complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.” Full text General Audience on Man and Woman (April 15, 2015) “For example, I ask myself, if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution.”

Address in Naples (March 23, 2015)

“The crisis of the family is a societal fact. There are also ideological colonializations of the family, different paths and proposals in Europe and also coming from overseas. Then, there is the mistake of the human mind — gender theory — creating so much confusion.”

Meeting with Families in Manila (January 16, 2015)

“Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family.”

Pope Benedict XVI


Encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (2005)

(# 5) “Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great ‘yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will.”

(# 11) “While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete’… Eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who ‘abandons his mother and father’ in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become ‘one flesh’. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfill its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage.”

Address to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” (January 19, 2013)

“The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great ‘yes’ to the dignity of persons called to an intimate filial communion of humility and faithfulness. The human being is not a self-sufficient individual nor an anonymous element in the group. Rather he is a unique and unrepeatable person, intrinsically ordered to relationships and sociability. Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.”

Address to the Roman Curia (December 21, 2012)

“These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term ‘gender’ as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

Address to the German Bundestag (September 22, 2011)

“…There is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.”

Pope St. John Paul II

Letter to Families (1994)

(# 6) “Man is created ‘from the very beginning’ as male and female: the light of all humanity… is marked by this primordial duality. From it there derive the ‘masculinity’ and the ‘femininity’ of individuals, just as from it every community draws its own unique richness in the mutual fulfillment of persons… Hence one can discover, at the very origins of human society, the qualities of communion and of complementarity.”

(# 19) “…the human family is facing the challenge of a new Manichaeanism, in which body and spirit are put in radical opposition; the body does not receive life from the spirit, and the spirit does not give life to the body. Man thus ceases to live as a person and a subject. Regardless of all intentions and declarations to the contrary, he becomes merely an object. This neo-Manichaean culture has led, for example, to human sexuality being regarded more as an area for manipulation and exploitation than as the basis of that primordial wonder which led Adam on the morning of creation to exclaim before Eve: ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (Gen 2:23).”

Theology of the Body

Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006)

(# 9:3) “The account of the creation of man in Genesis 1 affirms from the beginning and directly that man was created in the image of God inasmuch as he is male and female… man became the image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning.”

(# 9:5) “Masculinity and femininity express the twofold aspect of man’s somatic constitution… and indicate, in addition… the new consciousness of the meaning of one’s body. This meaning, one can say, consists in reciprocal enrichment.”

(# 10:1) “Femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity. Precisely the function of sex [that is, being male or female], which in some way is ‘constitutive for the person’ (not only ‘an attribute of the person’), shows how deeply man, with all his spiritual solitude, with the uniqueness and unrepeatability proper to the person, is constituted by the body as ‘he’ or ‘she’.”

(# 14:4) “The body, which expresses femininity ‘for’ masculinity and, vice versa, masculinity ‘for’ femininity, manifests the reciprocity and the communion of persons.”

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World (2004)

(# 2) “In this perspective [i.e., that of gender ideology], physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”

(# 12) “Male and female are thus revealed as belonging ontologically to creation and destined therefore to outlast the present time, evidently in a transfigured form.”

Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (1975)

(III) “… There can be no true promotion of man’s dignity unless the essential order of his nature is respected.”

Congregation for Catholic Education

“Male and Female He Created Them”: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (2019)

(# 1) “It is becoming increasingly clear that we are now facing with what might accurately be called an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and sexuality. In many places, curricula are being planned and implemented which “allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason”. The disorientation regarding anthropology which is a widespread feature of our cultural landscape has undoubtedly helped to destabilize the family as an institution, bringing with it a tendency to cancel out the differences between men and women, presenting them instead as merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning.” ** This entire document deals with gender theory and education. The above is the first paragraph.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

(# 224) “Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: ‘Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. . . .’ According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage” (emphasis in original, internal citation omitted).

Pontifical Council for the Family

Family, Marriage and “De Facto” Unions (2000)

(# 8) “In the process that could be described as the gradual cultural and human de-structuring of the institution of marriage, the spread of a certain ideology of ‘gender’ should not be underestimated. According to this ideology, being a man or a woman is not determined Updated August 7, 2019 8 fundamentally by sex but by culture. Therefore, the very bases of the family and inter-personal relationships are attacked.”

(# 8) “Starting from the decade between 1960-1970, some theories… hold not only that generic sexual identity (‘gender’) is the product of an interaction between the community and the individual, but that this generic identity is independent from personal sexual identity: i.e., that masculine and feminine genders in society are the exclusive product of social factors, with no relation to any truth about the sexual dimension of the person. In this way, any sexual attitude can be justified, including homosexuality, and it is society that ought to change in order to include other genders, together with male and female, in its way of shaping social life.”

USCCB: Various Documents

Chairmen Letter to U.S. Senators regarding ENDA Legislation (2013)

“ENDA’s definition of ‘gender identity’ lends force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality, which a person may choose at variance from his or her biological sex.”

ENDA Backgrounder (2013)

“ENDA defines ‘gender identity’ as ‘the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.’”

“ENDA’s treatment of ‘gender identity would lend the force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender’ as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. Second, ENDA’s treatment of ‘gender identity’ would adversely affect the privacy and associational rights of others. In this respect, ENDA would require workplace rules that violate the legitimate privacy expectations of other employees… Third, ENDA would make it far more difficult for organizations and employees with moral and religious convictions about the importance of sexual difference, and the biological basis of sexual identity, to speak and act on those beliefs.”

Chairmen Statement on ENDA-style Executive Order (2014)

“[The executive order] lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent… “The executive order prohibits ‘gender identity’ discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that ‘gender’ is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees.”

Chairmen Statement on Department of Labor Regulations (2014)

“The regulations published on December 3 [2014] by the U.S. Department of Labor implement the objectionable Executive Order that President Obama issued in July to address what the Administration has described as ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ discrimination in employment by federal contractors. . . . [T]he regulations advance the false ideology of ‘gender identity,’ which ignores biological reality and harms the privacy and associational rights of both contractors and their employees.”

Chairmen Statement on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (2013)

“Unfortunately, we cannot support the version of the ‘Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013’ passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate (S. 47) because of certain language it contains. Among our concerns are those provisions in S. 47 that refer to ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’ All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union.”

Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th Edition)

(# 53) “Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.” (No. 70) “Catholic health care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization.”

For further related USCCB resources, see:

• USCCB, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009), https://www.usccb.org/resources/pastoral-letter-marriage-love-and-life-in-the-divine-plan.pdf

• USCCB, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care (2006), https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/homosexuality/upload/minstry-persons-homosexual-inclination-2006.pdf

• Made for Each Other (video, viewer’s guide, and resource booklet), available at www.marriageuniqueforareason.org

Love, His will is perfect,
Matthew

1 Peter 5: 8.
2 Mieczysław Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference, Krakow, Poland, July 27, 2016.
3 Interview with Father Andrew Swietochowski, July 31, 2017.
4 The Pontifical Council for the Family and the International Institute of Studies on Marriage and Family.
5 Diane Montagna, “Online Exclusive: What John Paul II Intended to Say the Day He Was Shot,” Aleteia, May 7, 2016.
6 Pope John Paul II, Memory and Identity (New York: Rizzoli, 2005), 164.
7 Pope John Paul II, Angelus message, May 29, 1994.
8 Gaudium et Spes, 36.
9 Other proposed titles included “Human Love in the Divine Plan” or “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage.”
10 George Weigel, Witness to Hope (New York: Harper, 2001), 343.
11 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2516 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994).
12 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 11 (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1981).
13 Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference.
14 George Weigel, City of Saints (New York: Image, 2015), 232.
15 Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference.
16 Pope John Paul II, Master in the Faith 2, Rome: December 14, 1990.
17 Matt. 19: 8; Mark 10: 6– 9.
18 Matt. 5: 28.
19 Matt. 22: 30; Mark 12: 25; Luke
20: 35– 36. 20 TOB 133: 2.
21 Theology of the Body 15: 1; 32: 1, 3.

Who cares?

“Intellectually serious Catholics need to come to terms with (basic theological questions)…(As Catholics, we need to speak about the faith in a) coherent and serene way, but also as people who are intellectually happy. Theology is never reducible to the utilitarian function of apologetics. Theology is about happiness. Happiness is as much in the intellect as in the heart, and it stems from understanding the truth about ultimate things, and being headed in the right direction, being oriented existentially. We derive our moral stability in large part from having a perspective on the world that is realistic and profound. Happiness for Aristotle is unimpeded activity. The highest, most vivifying thing we can do is contemplate the truth. So understanding God deeply and rightly in light of revelation gives the intellect unimpeded activity and liveliness about what is most ultimate. It also gives us the stability of seeing things in perspective, and a peace that cannot be diminished even in the midst of the trials and travails of life. What grim stoicism and utilitarian efficacy cannot deliver, the work of theology can: the serenity of rest in God Himself.

The idea of leaving our intellect behind to become spiritual is very strange and inhuman. However, it is a view that is very widespread, sometimes in conservative Christian circles, but more often in liberal Protestant and Catholic spheres. The vulgar commonplace form is the saying “I’m spiritual but not religious(SBNR).” The idea is that dogma constricts, and that religious practices blind us to the fact that God is larger than our conceptions and rituals. Spiritual people transcend the limits of dogma, creed, and regulation to live on a higher plane of spiritual awareness or a unity with God and others that is beyond all concepts. In fact, that is a very anti-intellectual viewpoint, marked by a latent despair of finding the truth about God.

But what about the counter-charge? Don’t religious intellectuals simply seek to trap God within the constraint of their manmade systems? It is true that our conceptual knowledge is partial and that the mystery of God is not reducible to our partial knowledge of God’s mystery. But we only aim rightly at God in and through our real knowledge of God, and this does entail language, concepts, thinking, and acting in ways that integrate us into the life of the Church. In other words, to live spiritually for God we need to make right use of dogma and theology. The early twentieth-century Catholic Modernist movement claimed that profound religious experience always transcends dogmas and relativizes them. This idea is based, however, on a superficial notion of mystery. Religious experience does not take place merely in our conceptions of the truth (as if holding to Church dogmas were somehow a sufficiently spiritual act), but it also does not take place by transcending conceptions either (as if giving up dogmas of faith were a super-spiritual act of mental asceticism). The goal, in fact, is to pass through the dogmas to the mystery that they signify, and to find God in and through the true teachings of scripture and tradition. Dogma is the guardian of mystery. It alerts us to its presence, and orients us toward God in constructive ways.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph. The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Locations 936-958). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

We were made for happiness. It is our natural end.

be·at·i·tude
/bēˈadəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
noun: beatitude, plural noun: beatitudes
1. supreme blessedness.

“Since happiness is the perfect and sufficient good, it must needs set man’s desire at rest and exclude every evil. . . . Wherefore also according to the Philosopher (Ethics, 1:9), happiness is the reward of works of virtue. — St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 5. arts. 4, 5

“Now I wish to tell you further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him. Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kindness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible. Good men produce and prove all their virtues on their neighbor. . . .” — St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue

“Perceived lack of intimacy and belonging is clearly a threat to our happiness and, indeed, is a real evil when evil is understood as a lack of a good that should be present…As St. Irenaeus stated so well eighteen centuries ago, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.”13

One hundred years before Irenaeus’s birth, God made Himself visible and explained in His own words why He came to the people on earth: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). St. Thomas Aquinas added that God intends for us a twofold happiness: an imperfect happiness while here on earth and a perfect happiness in heaven.

Starting with Aristotle and concluding with St. Matthew, Thomas tells us: “The Philosopher, in placing man’s happiness in this life (Ethics, 1:10), says it is imperfect, and after a long discussion concludes: We call men happy, but only as men. But God has promised us perfect happiness, when we shall be as the angels . . . in heaven (Matt. 22:30).”14 And what are the keys to both kinds of happiness? We saw in this chapter’s first quotation that St. Thomas Aquinas claims that virtues hold the keys to happiness.

Virtues are habits or dispositions to know the truth and to do the good. They perfect our powers as human beings made in the image and likeness of God with intellects and wills. They perfect the capacities of our intellects to know what is true, and the capacities of our wills to rein in our passions and desires to keep us from doing what is wrong and to guide us toward what is right. The more we embrace and build these capacities, the happier we become and the less susceptible to negative attitudes and emotions, including those that accompany excessive, prolonged loneliness.

Now, there are important natural virtues, such as temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence, long known to great pagan philosophers. And literally thanks be to God, there are also supernatural, theological, or infused virtues that the Father and the Son freely bestow on us through the workings of the Holy Spirit: faith, hope, and love (also called charity). All the virtues work together to guide us toward that imperfect happiness we can experience on earth and the perfect eternal bliss we hope to share: the beatific vision of God in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Vost, Kevin. Catholic Guide to Loneliness (Kindle Locations 379-389, 391-417). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

13 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV, 20, 7, as cited in Mons. Phillipe Delhaye, Pope John Paul II on the Contemporary Importance of St. Irenaeus, no. 10, http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/irenaeus.htm.
14 Summa Theologica (ST), I-II, Q. 3, art. 2.

Greek philosophy & Truth

Raphael_School_of_Athens
-Raphael’s ‘School of Athens’, 1504, please click on the image for greater detail.

The Catholic Church makes some rather strong claims, now and consistently throughout her two thousand year history.  These claims, while understood by serious Catholics, are in modernity, couched in such language as to deliver “truth-in-love” without necessarily exasperating or panicking the listener out of either fear, defensiveness, or anger.  These are not the hallmarks of intentional dialogue, either by secular mores or Christian.

Well and good, I say.  There is no rational, proper, or polite reason to put emotive obstacles in the way of potential candidates, listeners, aspiring admirers, or intellectual curiosity seekers of the Church.

However, for the sake of brevity and clarity, let us be clear here.  The Catholic Church’s primary claim, in a nutshell, is “We are made for happiness!”  Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?  Nah.  That almost everyone, except the mentally or emotionally ill/disturbed, sadists, or other misanthropes may take issue with.  Catholic thinkers, though, would argue even the negative Nells above are still seeking happiness.  It is irrational not to seek happiness.  The Church would add, though, for those who seek it through disordered means it is impossible to find; truly, completely, without equivocation.  Those merely in denial need not apply.  They will only add to their sorrows.  Truth is a bitch, because it is the hardest thing to hold and maintain.  It costs, but its rewards are sweet and infinite, transcending this mortal existence.

Another word the Church uses is beatitude, or utmost bliss.  We are made for this bliss, always have been, the Church would say, whether in Eden or Heaven.  The Greeks struggled to understand their/the world.  They understood intellectual or theoretical perfection such as a circle, or a triangle, or the aesthetic perfection of mathematics.  They also understood the imperfection of reality.  What made a tree a tree?  How did things unknown/unknowable grow into things recognizable and known?  How can this be?  It is from the earliest Greek thinkers the idea and word “soul” comes.

Early thinkers among the Greeks were known as Sophists.  Contrary to their name, they believed nothing was knowable, there was no objective truth or morality, and, basically, anything goes.  This type of thinking, ideas have consequences, led the Athenians into pointless wars, un-winable wars with its adversary Sparta.  When the Athenians had been defeated as an independent city-state for the last time, along came Socrates, who had been a soldier, but now began asking questions of “experts” whom, he assumed, should know the “why” of their expertise.  They did not.

David_-_The_Death_of_Socrates
-‘Death of Socrates’, Jacques-Louis David, 1787, oil on canvas, 129.5 cm × 196.2 cm (51.0 in × 77.2 in), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, please click on the image for greater detail.

For Socrates, “knowledge is virtue, and ignorance vice”.  What is a good life?  What is good?  What is evil?  How should we live?  He became so annoying to the elites of Athens with his questioning, making them them plainly appear the fools they were, Athens held a trial and condemned Socrates to banishment or death.  Few stories save the Passion of our Lord itself, strive in the Western mind to be more compunctive than the trial and death of Socrates.

Plato was the student of Socrates, and attempted to continue his work by opening a school.  The motto “Know Thyself” was placed over the door of Plato’s Academy and marked an important change of emphasis in Greek and other philosophy, one from studying external mysteries of the universe, to the equally, or moreso, daunting interior exploration.

For Plato, attempting to explain the nature of theoretical perfection of the mind versus the reality of the world surrounding us, those two realities bifurcated into a theoretical realm of perfection “Ideas”(Heaven?), as Plato called them, and the physical world, which Plato held askance as almost not real because of its constant change and nature of being in flux from the perfect.  As  advanced as Plato’s reasoning was, he could not reconcile the concepts of permanence and change in a single world.

Along comes Aristotle, a student of Plato, teacher of Alexander the Great, and inspiration for St Thomas Aquinas.  Aristotle rejected Plato’s two worlds concept.  Rather, Aristotle explained the physical world in terms of form (or theoretical/intellectual perfection) and matter, which changes.  He also explained the concept of the material world’s ability to change as act (fully realized reality) and potency/potential, the ability of something in its current state to become something else.  Act & potency made me think of kinetic and potential energy, but I digress.

Socrates had made knowledge the equivalent of virtue. Aristotle, however, emphasizes the fact that to know is not the same as to do. In the realm of acting the fact of free will makes it possible for us to choose in contradiction to what we know is right. He stressed, therefore, the importance of developing the virtues in man for the strengthening of the will and for the control of the animal appetites.”1

Through reason ALONE we can come to proofs by reason that God does indeed exist, even Aristotle acknowledged this.  It is beyond the scope of this post to explore them, but they exist.  You can google them.  🙂

Love & reason,
Matthew

  1.  Sullivan, Daniel J. (2015-09-23). An Introduction to Philosophy: Perennial Principles of the Classical Realist Tradition (Kindle Locations 696-698). Ravenio Books. Kindle Edition.

Made for happiness…3 kinds

made4happiness

In Catholic theology, man was made for happiness.

stevenjonathanhummelsburg

-by Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

“One thing all humans have in common is that we all want to be happy. In America, it is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right to pursue happiness along with the rights to life and liberty. It seems like all our energies go into pursuing happiness in these strange times. Everyone today seems to do what they do because it will make them happy, hardly anything could be more normal. It has always been this way. Can you imagine someone saying to themselves “I am going to do this because I know it will make me unhappy?” It is unlikely.

The pursuit of happiness is big business in America and it probably always has been. All of technology is geared towards making things that make us happy. All popular entertainment is directed at making us happy. Our schools, the mass media, politicians, psychologists and even our lawyers would like to help make us happy. We ourselves are encouraged nonstop to pursue happiness. What a great irony it is today to notice how unhappy everyone seems to be. The world can be a miserable place, especially considering the efforts we make to be happy. Have you ever wondered why so many people are so unhappy these days? We ought to try to figure out why. First, we must define the term happiness.

What is happiness?

There are at least three different ways to understand happiness. There is modern American happiness we associate with wealth and health. We can call this appetitive happiness because it is grounded in our sense appetites. Winning the lottery is most likely to make us happy. We are content to get the new iPhone, or a new car, or a good job etc. The difficulty with this definition of happiness is that it is really more like contentment and it is temporary. The things that make us happy by this definition fade quickly and we must be off to pursue the next thing that will kick-start our serotonin production. If we take a step back from this kind of happiness we begin to notice that nothing really ever satisfies us for very long and no matter how much we end up getting, it is never enough.

A second kind of happiness we can associate with what the Ancient Greeks called “eudaimonia.” This is a very good kind of happiness associated with the acquisition of virtue. Eudaimonia translates as a good and lasting spiritual state resulting from developing habits of excellence. This kind of happiness is particularly associated with the right use of the intellect and is grounded in the moral and intellectual virtues discovered and elucidated by the greatest minds of ancient philosophy. The primary virtues associated with eudaimonia are the cardinal virtues of prudence, fortitude, justice, and temperance. The Greeks understood that to pursue and achieve excellence was the way to live the good life. Those who are able to achieve excellence in virtue are generally very happy, and the happiness is lasting and fulfilling.

The third kind of happiness is blessedness. Christians call it beatitude. It is associated with the rightly ordered will. While eudaimonia obtains happiness in this life, beatitude aims at eternal happiness. The one who teaches us about this kind of happiness is Jesus Christ, the one true teacher in the Sermon on the Mount found beginning in Matthew 5. Beatitude is achieved when a soul submits his will to the will of God and cooperates with grace to become perfected. A soul inspired by the beatific vision is one who seeks excellence not only in the cardinal virtues mentioned above, but seeks to be perfected by the acquisition and infusion of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

What is the problem today?

We might easily observe today that the world encourages us to pursue worldly happiness. We ourselves may pursue this kind of contentment and wonder why all of us seem never to be content for very long. Even if we are pursuing the wrong kind of happiness, and even if we know it, and even if we can’t seem to stop, there is a much deeper and more difficult problem that lies at the root of our restlessness today. This is in our misunderstanding of the nature of how things work. We are likely to invert the right order of things concerning being and doing.

C.S. Lewis described a principle of first and second things. First things are permanent and lasting, like the virtues and God. Second things are temporary like cars and iPhones. He explained that we ought to put first things first and second things second because if we put second things first and first things second we will lose both first and second things. He goes on to explain that if we put first things first we will get both first and second things. To use an agricultural metaphor, we might see agricultural labor, seeds and roots as permanent things while the fruit that is produced from the tress as the second things. You can see that if we seek the second things of the fruits, as we often do today, that we may get the fruit, but whether we eat it or let it rot, it will not last long. On the other hand, if we focus on agricultural labor to create the proper conditions for the trees, the trees will grow, produce fruit, and continue to produce fruit.

Our problem today is that we put second things first. Perhaps our most fundamental mistake is that we have inverted being and doing. Being is a first thing and doing is a second thing. We believe that what we do will determine who we become, but this is exactly upside down. It is who we are that determines what we will do. So instead of doing things that we think will make us who we want to become, we ought to cultivate the habits of being constituting the moral and intellectual virtues acquired by the saints. When we have become what God intends for us, then we will do good works. If we try the opposite, our attempts at good works cannot be fruitful, we will not become saints. It is when we become like the saints that we can produce good works.

So we might understand by analogy that what the tree is (being) produces (doing) its fruit. If a tree is an orange tree it will not produce an apple, and it had to be an orange tree first before it could even produce oranges, not the other way around. In Matthew 7:16, Christ said “you will know them by their fruits.” What we do comes forth from who we are. We are not what we do, what we do comes from what we are.

Which kind of happiness will you pursue?

When the world talks about happiness, it is not the same kind of happiness God intends for us. The world’s notions of happiness are about the acquisition of second things. The ancient Greeks and Jesus speak about the habits of being constituted by first things. Of course, the best kind of happiness is beatitude. It requires eudaimonia, the right use of the intellect, to serve in the acquisition of the truth in order to see rightly what is good and what is evil. It also requires that our contentment with second things be subordinated to the right use of reason that supports the rightly ordered will.

The grand irony in all this pursuit of happiness business is that those who seek primarily material happiness may end up getting what they want temporarily, but they always end in loss and despair. Those who seek beatitude also get what they seek, and it is a difficult endeavor, often beginning in loss and misery, but ending in glory. Job lost all the goods of second things and suffered greatly in the process, but because he maintained excellence in the virtues by his habits of being, he ended not only happy with his relationship with God, but contented by restoring the second things he had lost. It is a difficult thing to pursue virtue. It is not terribly difficult to pursue money. As we live out our inalienable right to pursue happiness, let us be wise in which kind of happiness we choose to pursue.”

Love & beatitude,
Matthew

Joy vs happiness – “Joy always endures. Joy comes from Love.”

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I have met joyless Catholics. I keep meeting them. They seem the most obsessed with rules, regulations, compliance, and everyone else’s lack thereof. They scare me the most of all the Catholics I meet.

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-by Br Nicholas Schneider, OP

“Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ has produced significant reaction and commentary, both positive and negative. Many in the media have focused on the social, political, and economic implications of the document. Sadly, most commentators have looked past the obvious: the second word of the text and the title: joy. “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (EG 1).

Joy is such a central aspect of our faith. Unless we are filled with joy, we have no message of Christ to bring to the world. The accounts of the martyrs throughout history are full of descriptions of them going to their deaths with great rejoicing and full of joy. Joy reorients us away from our self-focused lives and onto what is really important. Mother Teresa used the acronym JOY as an aid to remind us of the proper ordering of the importance of things: Jesus, Others, You.

Joy is thus an important aspect of living out our faith, but as St. Thomas Aquinas notes, joy is not a virtue in itself.  Referencing St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, St. Thomas comments that joy is “an act, or effect, of charity” and thus is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Summa Theologica II-II, q.28, a.4). Joy proceeds from and is caused by love. One could even say that joy is the external expression in our lives of our love for Jesus Christ. Our joy is what others see and experience through our attitude and actions. Pope Francis notes that “joy always endures” even if parts of our “lives seem like Lent without Easter” (EG 6). Our joy depends not upon the external circumstances of our life, but only upon our love of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew
Happy New Year!