Category Archives: Theology

Fidei Donum – saving faith is a gift of grace; stony hearts & souls

Faith is a theological virtue, which along with hope and charity, is a gift from God. But how is this so?

Theological virtues—unlike the human or cardinal virtues (justice, prudence, fortitude (courage), temperance) —are not acquired through human effort. Rather, they are “infused”; or “grafted” is another word used informally, to describe this effect in us. God uses faith like a binocular or telescope. You begin to see more with faith, you begin to understand God with faith. In God’s own time. In God’s own way, To God’s own degree for the part of His plan He has intended for you. Work with Him, people. Work with Him.

God gives everyone this potential to take that first step. In certainty the faith which is there must have you work with it. This is the gift which God gives to us. We all have this potential built inside us to know more. The problem though is we ignore this gift. We put it aside or we take other tools which will not help us. The best avenue to build up this faith is of course the Church. The Church enables us with the right tools to begin to grow in faith to take that first step into the second step. The Holy Spirit as well will help us to increase this faith.

Faith is called an infused virtue because it cannot be acquired through our efforts alone, unaided by grace. Whoever seeks the truth will find it, because God is Truth, and whoever seeks God can only do so by an effect of His grace.

God offers graces to everyone; if we cooperate, we will receive Faith. The intellect still plays a part, but it is inferior to faith, which elevates our faculty of reason, enabling us to perceive spiritual truths with greater clarity.

Many have converted to Catholicism for what appear to be intellectual reasons, but conversion is fundamentally a movement of the will towards God, Who enlightens our intellect and our hearts.

Fidei Donum, (Pope Pius XII, 4/21/1957)

“1. The gift of faith, which through the goodness of God, is accompanied by an incomparable abundance of blessings in the soul of the Christian believer, clearly requires the unceasing homage of a grateful heart to the divine Author of this gift.

2. Indeed, it is faith that allows us to draw near to the hidden mysteries of the divine life; it is faith that encourages us to hope for everlasting happiness; it is faith that strengthens and consolidates the unity of the Christian society in this transitory life, according to the Apostle: “One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.”[Eph 4:5] It is chiefly by reason of this divine gift that our grateful hearts of their own accord pour forth this testimony: “What shall I render to the Lord for all that He hath rendered unto me?”[Ps 115:12]

3. In return for so divine a gift as this, after the due submission of his mind, what can a man do that will be more acceptable to God than to carry far and wide among his fellowmen the torch of truth that Christ brought to Us? By their zeal in promoting the sacred missionary efforts of the Church, a zeal that generously feeds the fire of Christian charity, men, ever mindful of the gift of faith, may in some way make a return to Almighty God; by so doing and imparting to others according to their ability the gift of the faith that is theirs, they are visibly manifesting their gratitude to the Heavenly Father….”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
PART ONE
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH

SECTION ONE
“I BELIEVE” – “WE BELIEVE”

CHAPTER THREE
MAN’S RESPONSE TO GOD

ARTICLE III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF FAITH

Faith is a grace

153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “my Father who is in heaven”.24 Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”25

Faith is a human act

154 Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths He has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises (for example, when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to “yield by faith the full submission of. . . intellect and will to God who reveals”,26 and to share in an interior communion with him.

155 In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”27

Faith and understanding

156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God Himself Who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”.28 So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.”29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”.30

157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God Who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

158 “Faith seeks understanding”:33 it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in Whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens “the eyes of your hearts”34 to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God’s plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. “The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by His gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood.”35 In the words of St. Augustine, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”36

159 Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God Who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny Himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.”37 “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, Who made them what they are.”38

The freedom of faith

160 To be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.”39 “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. . . This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.”40 Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom. . . grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to Himself.”41

The necessity of faith

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One Who sent Him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 “Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.'”43

Perseverance in faith

162 Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.”44 To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;45 it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.46

Faith – the beginning of eternal life

163 Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God “face to face”, “as he is”.47 So faith is already the beginning of eternal life:

When we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy.48
164 Now, however, “we walk by faith, not by sight”;49 we perceive God as “in a mirror, dimly” and only “in part”.50 Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.

165 It is then we must turn to the witnesses of faith: to Abraham, who “in hope. . . believed against hope”;51 to the Virgin Mary, who, in “her pilgrimage of faith”, walked into the “night of faith”52 in sharing the darkness of her Son’s suffering and death; and to so many others: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”53

25 DV 5; cf. DS 377; 3010.
26 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008.
27 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,2,9; cf. Dei Filius 3:DS 3010.
28 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008.
29 Dei Filius 3:DS 3009.
30 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008-3010; Cf. Mk 16 20; Heb 2:4.
31 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,171,5,obj.3.
32 John Henry Cardinal Newman, Apologia pro vita sua (London: Longman, 1878) 239.
33 St. Anselm, Prosl. prooem.:PL 153,225A.
34 Eph 1:18.
35 DV 5.
36 St. Augustine, Sermo 43,7,9:PL 38,257-258.
37 Dei Filius 4:DS 3017.
38 GS 36 § 1.
39 DH 10; cf. CIC, can. 748 § 2.
40 DH 11.
41 DH 11; cf. Jn 18:37; 12:32.
42 Cf. 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40 et al.
43 Dei Filius 3:DS 3012; cf. Mt 10:22; 24:13 and Heb 11:6; Council of Trent:DS 1532.
44 1 Tim 1:18-19.
45 Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32.
46 Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.
47 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2.
48 St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, 15,36:PG 32,132; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,4,1.
49 2 Cor 5:7.
50 l Cor 13:12.
51 Rom 4:18.
52 LG 58; John Paul II, RMat 18.
53 Heb 12:1-2.


-by Br Damian Day, OP

“Saul stood by with a heart harder than the stones striking Stephen. Unconvinced by Stephen’s eloquent preaching, unmoved by his miracles, blind to his angelic countenance, blinder still to his burning love, the eyes of Saul’s soul, sealed shut by the weight of stone scales, saw only darkness.

How many of our co-workers, friends, neighbors, loved ones, seem similarly unseeing before the love that has flooded our hearts? Yes, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (Rom 5:5), which burn when we hear those words, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; Abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

How much it pains our hearts to see our loved ones wandering without that one thing that can satisfy—and more than satisfy—the tortured depths of the human heart.

How can these signs and wonders, miracles, words of wisdom, acts of charity, the love of martyrs, not move all hearts? Yet, Saul stood stubborn seeing Stephen see the Son standing at God’s right hand in glory.

Is the love that fills our hearts so weak, so unattractive, so insufficient?

Love is a subtle thing, patiently plodding, plowing forward when the ground seems all stones where never a thing could grow. But persistently, consistently, love works, bursting forth unexpectedly with abundant fruit.

As the mob disbanded, retrieving their coats from Saul’s watch, leaving Stephen’s blood soaking the stones, all the deacon’s mighty words and deeds, all his eloquence, his very love, seemed insufficient.

But even as Saul scattered the Church, Stephen’s love worked behind the scenes. St. Fulgentius of Ruspe says that in “his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.”

With love never growing tired, Stephen loved those unmoved by what he loved most. Stephen’s insistent love shattered the dark, adamant stone of Saul’s heart, which the Lord converted after the likeness of his own heart. Has ever a heart changed so much?

Stephen’s blood watered the stony soil of Saul’s soul. Like the Lord he loved, Stephen became as a grain of wheat that, unless it “falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). That fruit we still taste whenever we receive the words of Paul’s preaching or behold them shake the soul of a St. Augustine.

May we love those dearest to us as Stephen loved Saul, yea, as Christ has loved us, loved us to the end (Jn 13:1).

Love, I believe, Lord, help my unbelief! Mk 9:24
Matthew

Purifying fire

Pr 17:3

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

Presence of God – My God, from all eternity You have gone before me with Your infinite love; increase my love for You.

MEDITATION

“What shall prevent God from doing that which He will in the soul that is resigned, annihilated, and detached?” (John of the Cross Ascent of Mt. Carmel II, 4,2). This statement of St. John of the Cross makes you understand that God has an immense desire to work in your soul, to lead you to sanctity and to union with Himself, provided you commit yourself into His hands, despoiled of every attachment, annihilated in your self-love, entirely docile, malleable, and adaptable to His action. The Lord comes to your assistance with purifying trials in order to empty you of self, to detach you from creatures, to immerse you in true humility, but at the same time He helps you to grow in love, the strong bond which must unite you to Him. All the work which God accomplishes in your soul is done in view of making you advance in this virtue; exterior and interior trials, humiliations, powerlessness, aridity, struggles, and tempests are meant in the divine plan to extinguish the illusory fires of self-love, pride, earthly affections, and all other irregular passions, so that only one fire may burn within you, ever more intensely and strongly, the fire of charity.

The more the Lord purifies you, the more your heart will be freed from all dross and become capable of concentrating all its affection upon Him. Walk, then, in this way by accepting purification in view of a deeper love, and by orientating your whole spiritual life toward the exercise of love. What you suffer, suffer for love, that is, suffer it willingly, without rebellion or complaint, and then, in the measure that your soul is humbled, despoiled, and mortified, it will also be clothed with charity. The trials which God sends you have the purpose not only of purifying your heart, but also of dilating it in charity. They aim at deepening your capacity for love; not, certainly, a sensible love, but a powerful love of the will, which tends toward God through pure benevolence, independent of all personal consolation, its sole pursuit being His glory and good pleasure.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord of my soul and my only Good! When a soul has resolved to love You, and forsaking everything, does all in its power toward that end, so that it may the better employ itself in Your love, why do You not grant it at once the joy of ascending to the possession of this perfect love? But I am wrong: I should have made my complaint by asking why we ourselves have no desire so to ascend, for it is we alone who are at fault in not at once enjoying so great a dignity.

If we attain to the perfect possession of this true love of God, it brings all blessings with it. But so [ungenerously] and so slow are we in giving ourselves wholly to God that we do not prepare ourselves as we should to receive that precious love which it is His Majesty’s will that we should enjoy only at a great price.

There is nothing on earth with which so great a blessing can be purchased; but if we did what we could to obtain it, if we cherished no attachment to earthly things, and if all our cares and all our intercourse were centered in heaven, I believe there is no doubt that this blessing would be given us very speedily…. But we think we are giving God everything, whereas what we are really offering Him is the revenue or the fruits of our land while keeping the stock and the right of ownership of it in our own hands…. A nice way of seeking His love! And then we want it quickly and in great handfuls, as one might say.

O Lord, if You do not give us this treasure all at once, it is because we do not make a full surrender of ourselves. May it please You to give it to us at least little by little, even though the receiving of it may cost us all the trials in the world.

No, my God, love does not consist in shedding tears, in enjoying those consolations and that tenderness which for the most part we desire and in which we find comfort, but in serving You with righteousness, fortitude of soul, and humility. The other seems to me to be receiving rather than giving anything ….

May it never please Your Majesty that a gift so precious as Your love be given to people who serve You solely to obtain consolations.” (Teresa of Jesus The Book of Her Life 11).

Love,
Matthew

Unity


-please click on the image for greater detail

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

Presence of God – My God, Thou hast created me for Thyself; grant that I may return to Thee and unite myself to Thee by love.

MEDITATION

The whole life of man is a return journey to God: he came from God and must go back to Him. The more complete this return, the more intimate his union with God will become and the better will he have attained the end for which he was created: he will be perfect and eternally happy. St. Thomas teaches that a being is perfect when it attains its end; thus the perfection of man consists of union with God in rejoining God and uniting himself to Him, his last end. Man finds in union with God all that he can desire: he finds his peace, the assuaging of his hunger for the infinite, of his thirst for love and imperishable felicity. “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee.” (St. Augustine). Man finds his eternal happiness in union with God; and the life of heaven is nothing else than this union carried to its ultimate perfection, wherein man gives God the greatest glory and the greatest love which, in turn, redounds to man’s own eternal beatitude.

The soul that truly loves God does not resign itself to waiting for heaven in order to be united to Him, but desires ardently to anticipate this union here below. Is this possible? Yes, Jesus has said so: “If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him; and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him” (John 14:23). Our Lord Himself tells us in these words the condition for living united to Him: love. “He that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Love is the great power which unites us to God even in this life, where, imprisoned in matter, we cannot yet enjoy the direct contact, the face to face vision of Him.

“The end of the spiritual life,” says St. Thomas, “is that man unite himself to God by love” (Summa Theologica IIa IIae, q.44, a.1, co.). By steps of love, gressibus amoris, we advance toward our last end: union with God. Such is the great ideal which should illumine and direct our whole life, the great goal which, with the divine assistance, we can attain even here below, as far as is possible in our state as pilgrims.

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus, who will give me the grace to form one only spirit with You? Rejecting the multiplicity of creatures, I desire indeed, O Lord, Your unity alone! O God, You are the only One, the sole unity necessary for my soul! Ah! dear friend of my heart, unite this poor soul of mine to Your singular goodness! You are entirely mine, when shall I be all Yours? The magnet draws iron and holds it fast to itself; Lord Jesus, my Beloved, be the magnet of my heart: draw, hold fast, unite forever my spirit to Your paternal heart! Oh, since I was made for You, how is it that I am not in You? Submerge this drop, which is the spirit You have given me, in the sea of Your goodness, from which it proceeds. Lord, seeing that Your heart loves me, why do You not lift me up to You, as I so much desire? Draw me, and I will run in the odor of Your ointments until I cast myself into Your arms and never move from thence forever. Amen” (St. Francis de Sales).

“O Lord, who could describe how great a gain it is to cast ourselves into Yours arms and make an agreement with You: You will take care of my affairs and I of Yours.

For what am I, Lord, without You? What am I worth if I am not near You? If once I stray from Your Majesty, be it ever so little, where shall I find myself?

O my Lord, my Mercy and my Good! What more do I want in this life than to be so near You that there is no division between You and me?

O Lord of my life, draw me to Yourself, but do it in such a way that my will may ever remain so united to You that it shall be unable to leave You,” (Teresa of Jesus Conceptions of the Love of God 4-3).

Love,
Matthew

God is simple

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

Presence of God – O Lord, Thou Who art infinite simplicity, simplify my mind and my heart, that I may serve Thee in simplicity of spirit.

MEDITATION

God is the unique simple Being because He is one in His essence and in all His perfections. When St. Thomas speaks of God’s simplicity, he presents it as the absence of all that is composite. In God’s simplicity there are not quantitative parts as there are in us who are composed of body and soul. God is simple because in Him there is no matter; He is pure spirit. Angels are also pure spirits; but angels are composite beings because their essence is like ours, distinct from their existence. The angelic essence does not exist by itself but has only the capacity to exist; in fact, no angel, as likewise no man, can exist if God does not call him to life. In God, on the contrary, there is supreme simplicity, infinitely superior to that of the angels: in Him essence and existence are identical. His essence exists of itself; He is the eternally subsistent Being.

Neither do the innumerable perfections of God create in Him any multiplicity: God is not composed of goodness, beauty, wisdom, justice, but He is, at the same time, the infinitely good, beautiful, wise, and just Being. There is no distinction in Him between substance and quality, because all is substance; His infinite perfections are His very substance. God contains in one, unique and most simple perfection, the perfection of His divine Being, all the multiple perfections we find divided among creatures in addition to thousands and thousands of others, somewhat as a million dollars contains the value of many dollars. God’s simplicity is not, then, poverty, but infinite riches, infinite perfections which we ourselves ought to reflect.

Consider how rich God is in innumerable perfections and how He possesses them all in the same degree. Consider, on the other hand, how poor you are in virtues and if you have any at all, how limited they are, how mixed with faults! Moreover, for one virtue which you possess in some slight degree, how many others you lack! God is simple; you, on the contrary, are complicated! Contemplate the divine simplicity and try to imitate it by means of true simplicity of soul.

COLLOQUY

“O most high God, in Your one and simple Being You are all the virtues and grandeurs of Your attributes; for You are omnipotent, wise, good, merciful, just, strong, and loving, and You possess other infinite attributes and virtues of which we have no knowledge. You are all these things in Your simple Being.

O wondrous excellence of God! O abyss of delights, which are the more abundant in proportion as Your riches are all contained in the infinite simplicity and unity of Your sole Being, so that each one is known and experienced in such a way that the perfect knowledge and absorption of the other is not impeded thereby, but rather each grace and virtue that exists in You is light for some other of Your grandeurs, so that through Your purity, O divine Wisdom, many things are seen in You when one thing is seen” (John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 3, 2.17).

“O divine Essence, bottomless and boundless abyss of wonders! O unfathomable ocean of greatness, O Unity of my God, O Simplicity, O Eternity without beginning and without end, to Whom everything is continually present! O Immensity, which fills all things and contains all things! O Infinity, which embraces all imaginable perfections, O Immutability, O Immortality, O inaccessible Splendor! O incomprehensible Truth, O abyss of Knowledge and Wisdom, O Truth of my God…. O divine Power, creating and sustaining all things! O divine Providence, governing all! O Justice, O Goodness, O Mercy, O Beauty, O Glory, O Fidelity!… O great God, in You I adore all the grandeurs and perfections which I have been contemplating, as well as all the innumerable and inconceivable others which are, and will remain, unknown to me. I adore You, praise You, glorify and love You for all that You are. Oh! how my heart rejoices to see You so great, and so overflowing with every kind of treasure and splendor! Certainly, if I possessed all these grandeurs and You had none of them, I would want to strip myself of them at once and give them to You” (St. John Eudes).

Love,
Matthew

Moral law. Obedience to God.

“Conscience has absolute, exceptionless, binding moral authority over us, demanding unqualified obedience. But only a perfectly good, righteous divine will has this authority and a right to absolute, exceptionless obedience. Therefore conscience is the voice of the will of God“.80

“Man has within his breast a certain commanding dictate, not a mere sentiment, not a mere opinion or impression or view of things, but a law, an authoritative voice, bidding him do certain things and avoid others. What I am insisting on here is this, that it commands; that it praises, blames, it threatens, it implies a future, and it witnesses of the unseen. It is more than a man’s own self. The man himself has no power over it, or only with extreme difficulty; he did not make it, he cannot destroy it.”82

“I cannot escape the stroke of conscience.” -cf Venerable Matt Talbot

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Ps 9:10

“The formidable atheist philosopher J.L. Mackie reflected in The Miracle of Theism that objective, prescriptive moral facts “constitute so odd a cluster of qualities and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events, without an all-powerful god to create them. If, then, there are such intrinsically prescriptive objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them.”63 According to Mackie, the best explanation of objectively binding moral truths is God. But since he is an atheist, he rejects such truths on account of them being too inexplicable and unintelligible in a Godless world.”64

“Our sense of moral values and duties in a Godless world can be grounded in nothing more than our emotions and desires. Ultimately, then, it matters not how one feels about actions like rape or murder; it matters not what one thinks about them: none of our subjective powers are powerful enough to make a moral sentiment objectively binding for one and all. So unless God exists there is no rational ground for believing in objective, mind-independent morality. Skeptics must face this hard-to-swallow fact—and many have. Agreeing with Dostoevsky, the atheist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre admits, “Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn.”65 Or as Alex Rosenberg puts it, if atheism is true then “ANYTHING goes.””66 (emphasis added)

-Nelson, Matt. Just Whatever: How to Help the Spiritually Indifferent Find Beliefs that Really Matter (Kindle Locations 1015-1022, 1024-1032, 1202-1206, 1210-1215). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & His will, as He gives me the grace to know and to do,
Matthew

63 J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 115-116.
64 See also J.L. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (London: Penguin Books, 1990).
65 Jean Paul Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism,” lecture at Club Maintenant in Paris, October 29, 1945.
66 Alexander Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011), 3.
80 Peter Kreeft, “The Argument from Conscience,” in Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 36-41.
82 Cited in Robert Spitzer, The Soul’s Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015), 73.

Modern Thomism

…we will come under the final judgment of God and are subject to the constraints and possibilities of that judgment. We’re invited to avoid hell and find heaven, a view that isn’t typically welcome among our secular contemporaries, but which has implications for them as well as us. The “gentlemen’s agreement” of secular liberalism is that we ought not attempt to find public consensus upon questions of life after death or the dogmatic truth content of revealed religion. In some ways dogma is considered impolite in a secular context because it could be seen as politically or socially divisive. Although the opposite is true in some real sense because dogma tends to outlive many passing cultures and is a force of unity, vitality, and the renewal of intellectual life. Thinking through traditional dogmas invites us as modern people to think about the longstanding vitality of those doctrines—why they’re pertinent to persons throughout time and history and a stimulus for the intellectual life. Knowledge of what was profound wisdom in a forgone era is typically the best source of illumination for anyone who wishes to re-articulate the conditions of meaning for the future. The temptation in our own age is to think the opposite, as if we need to be in some kind of radical rupture with the past in order to articulate the conditions of meaning for the future. This is a pattern you find in Descartes or in the opening pages of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason or in Nietzsche in a more radical way. But you have people who tend to be both novel and preserve the past; I think this is true of Plato. Plato was very radical, but he also wanted to preserve the heritage of the past Greek religious traditions that came before him. Aristotle, too, is typically very careful in the first book of most of his works to show the insights that come before him and then he introduces a new order of learning and thinking. In general the great medievals like Bonaventure and Aquinas show how the past has contributed to the ongoing project of what they’re undertaking. In our own era Alasdair MacIntyre has been exemplary in showing how this kind of recovery and articulation of principles allows renewed engagement with the contemporary world around oneself.

I think Thomism functions best as an identification of principles and an engagement with contemporary intellectual questions.

I may be optimistic, but I think there are many modern questions Thomism addresses and answers. Thomism helps provide a realistic philosophy of nature, what it means that there are changing substances around us that have identifiable properties by which we can provide taxonomies for the natures of things and understand the ways in which they act upon each other. Aquinas is a phenomenal student of human nature, so he takes very seriously man’s physicality and animality, but also shows his emergent rational properties and freedom in their distinctiveness. He shows there are immaterial features to human knowledge and freedom that denote the presence of an immaterial form or spiritual soul. There’s also the whole architecture of virtue ethics Aquinas provides that is increasingly having an influence in the circles of analytical ethics. His study of the cardinal virtues—justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude—provides terrific insight into the nature of a person. We’re longing for that in a culture in which there’s a great deal of intellectual instability and nostalgia for consensus. Often people want to impose consensus artificially through politics, which is a very superficial way to gain unity. That politics pervades the university, which is in crisis because there is deep absence of consensus about reality. Aquinas’s general anthropology and moral theory can give us the basis for a much deeper agreement about what human beings are and the structure of moral life than can any identity politics.

Religion doesn’t go away when you banish it from the university. It comes back in other forms, some of which are perfectly innocuous, but others of which are very dangerous. Aquinas is very realistic about the possibilities of pathological religious behavior; he calls it superstitio, the vice of disordered religion. The human being can become, very easily, irrationally religious, as, for example, in the cases of a banal religious emotivism or religiously motivated terrorism. The great conflicts we have between religionists and secularists, it seems to me, are very helpfully addressed by the harmony of reason and revelation in Aquinas, which allows the soul to flourish because the soul is meant for transcendence. Modern secular culture is asphyxiating. The soul needs to be open to the transcendent mystery of God to really experience the full freedom of its own intellectual life, its own voluntary life, its aspiration to the good, and its deepest desires for transcendence and meaning. A culture without an intellectual religious horizon is a truncated culture, but a culture that’s religious at the expense of the intellectual life is also a very unhealthy culture—so how do you get that right? I think Aquinas really helps us understand our natural religious aspirations in a balanced way.

-George, Robert P.. “Mind, Heart, and Soul: Intellectuals and the Path to Rome” (Kindle Location 1115-1153). TAN Books. Kindle Edition.

Love & Thomism,
Matthew

Evil never delivers…


-Lady MacBeth, 2016

Except if it’s UberEats!!! 🙂

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” -Is 1:18


-by Br Cyril Stola, OP

“In a famous scene of a famous play, a semi-conscious Lady Macbeth wanders around the stage and feverishly rubs her hands together in an attempt to clean blood from them, blood which only she can see. Out of pride and lust for power, she had ascended to the throne by plotting the King of Scotland’s murder. Despite the success of her plan, the weight of sin and guilt drew her into madness. Thus, we see her struggling with the blood: “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand,” “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” And yet the spot of blood remains. Nothing she does can clean them.

Her husband, Macbeth, once remarked to her, “For mine own good, all causes shall give way, I am in blood stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.” He thought that killing a few more people would consolidate his power, but more bloodshed brought no peace. Such is the way of evil. Evil makes seemingly simple promises, but in return it always demands more and more. It never delivers.

Evil brought Lady Macbeth to despair. She is trapped by her deeds, and she has no hope. The blood that she had expected to give her a glorious crown gave her ruin, and she knows no redemption. Her hands are stained, seemingly forever.

Little does she know that there is, in fact, a blood capable of cleansing her hands. The saints, we are told, “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). They themselves sinned, but “they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom 3:24-25).

God is a father who welcomes his prodigal children with fanfare and open arms. He is willing to forgive because He desires the children He created to be restored to their proper place: with Him. God does not accept irredeemable situations. He wants to forgive, and God’s forgiveness can be scandalous to us because He desires to forgive even the worst sins, sins for which no one else can make satisfaction. He only asks contrition of the heart, confession to one of his priests, and penance.

No one can reverse all of the consequences of their sins (Ed. in Catholic theology there is the guilt due to sin, which is remitted in the confession and absolution of sins in the confessional, and the recompense due to justice (penalty) occasioned by the sin, as well.  Like when the accused is forgiven by the victim in court, but must still satisfy the penalty determined by the justice system.  Confession is NOT a get-out-of-jail-free card, but it is a don’t-be-damned-to-Hell card.  It is hoped, not guaranteed, the penance prescribed in the confessional will satisfy the righteous justice of the Almighty, but if not completely, additional works of piety, mercy, etc., or even adding to the Treasury of Merit, or, if still not satisfied after life, Purgatory), and, in cases of crime, they need to accept the penalties that justice demands. Nevertheless, we owe it to God to recognize and to accept His mercy. Thanks to God’s mercy, we should never despair. Heaven is possible, and we can be redeemed. With the sacrament of penance, even the worst sinner can turn back to God, trusting that when he prays, “Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Ps 51:9), God hears his prayer and will clean even scarlet hands.”

Love,
Matthew

Good vs Evil

We moderns look askance at such a dialectic.  However, my experience has shown me life is exactly this, every day, ever moment, every instant. I wish I had more soothing news, a way out, a loophole. Rather, there is no nuance.  No dissembling.  Straight up.  It has.  It is.  Woe to them that accept it not. Woe to them. Evil is NOT an equal to good. It is the absence of good. Good is a reality. Evil is a vacuum of reality. Hence, evil can never truly overcome good. It can tempt towards despair, but it has no power other than what we acquiesce to. Good is. Evil is not. God allows evil to exist as part of His passive will, that which He allows, only as a means of bringing good out of evil because He is God, and He alone can do this, and does and will.

“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the Faith!!” -2 Tim 4:7. This scripture was engraved on the base of the youthful statue of the patron of my young adult parish, St Paul’s.  My mother asked her catechetical students, see where I get it?  She asked them not to say, “Hello, Mrs. McCormick!” But, rather, “Keep the Faith!” “If my children lose their Faith, I have failed as a mother!” -MDM

Rm 12:21


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“He who endures to the end will be saved” (-Mt 10:22)

It is good to start something, but it is better to finish it (see Eccl 7:8). To endure to the end, our ultimate end, means to die well, to die with our loving trust in God. Blessed are those who die in the Lord, because they will be saved, because they will live in perfect happiness with God in the communion of saints. The very essence of a good life is a good death, because a good death leads to eternal life.

This doesn’t mean that our actions now, before our deaths, are meaningless or unimportant. In fact, the only way to endure to the end is to belong firmly to God in grace, a belonging established throughout our lives.

In a way, all the many actions throughout our lives together make up only one choice. We are offered the possibility in grace of belonging to God forever, of knowing Him, loving Him, and finding perfect fulfillment in Him. We can choose to accept this possibility, to love God. Or, we can choose to reject God, to hate Him. We make this choice through the course of our whole life, a choice which is completed and finalized in our choice at death, a choice which has consequences beyond our death.

The angels were offered the same choice in the moment of their creation. Some chose God, and some chose their own pride. But because they are spiritual, and not bodily, because they have a higher perfection of being than us, they made this choice in a single act and in a single moment.

We are bodily persons, not angelic persons. We make our choice not in a single act, but through the whole course of our lives. That choice, to either accept His gift of grace and to love Him, or to reject Him and hate Him, is cemented at our death. Before that ultimate moment there is always the possibility of conversion, and likewise the possibility of falling away. The direction in which we turn is shaped by each and every one of our actions.

Our lives are, in a way, an anticipation and preparation for our deaths, and for what lies beyond our deaths.

But we are not alone in this preparation. God gives us His grace, purchased by the blood of Christ, and communicated to us in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The saints and angels stand by our side, interceding. Mary, our mother, is our foremost intercessor, as we petition her in the Hail Mary to pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

As we strive to endure to the end, we can turn again and again to Mary. Let us beg her to pray for us now, that we may love God in each of our actions, and at the hour of our death, that we may endure in God’s love until our end, and beyond our end.”

Love,
Matthew

Made this way?

“October 11th was “National Coming Out Day”, and even if you haven’t heard of it, chances are that if you have teens in a public (or even a private) school, they were aware of it.

What does a teen do when faced with acceptance of homosexuality by his or her peers?

What do they say?

In 2017, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines released an ad that went viral on social media, but not for the reasons the company wanted. In an attempt to celebrate “gay pride” month, the ad displayed three sets of “rainbow” airplane seatbelts: one with male and female ends, one with only female ends, and one with only male ends.

The tagline? “It doesn’t matter who you click with.”

The irony of this statement was not lost on social media users as they correctly pointed out that it does matter if your seatbelt can’t actually click to restrain you in an accident. As countless jokes flew across cyberspace, it was good to see people have a moment of clarity in the midst of “gay pride” propaganda.

Everyone knows what a seatbelt is for, and where the parts go, just by looking at it. If you misuse it, you can be seriously injured or killed.

Likewise, we know what our genitals are for and where “the parts” go just by looking at them. And, like seatbelts, if people misuse these parts of the body (including through homosexual behavior) they risk grave physical and spiritual harm.

Both love and reason demand that we not be afraid to defy a wayward culture, and that we use logic to graciously explain why God’s design for our sexuality is the one we must embrace.
Right and Wrong vs. Nice and Nasty

The toughest challenges your teen will face are interactions with friends who either have same-sex attraction or know someone who has those feelings.

Even popular depictions of TV and movie characters who identify as gay or lesbian can reinforce the following idea in your teen’s mind: “I like these people and they’re gay, so I guess being gay isn’t bad after all.” This often leads to the belief that only “haters” or “bigots” would say that these nice people are doing things that could doom their immortal souls.

Even if your teen does believe homosexuality is wrong, he or she may not want to publicly admit it, because that might offend their peers or teachers. That’s why we have to remind our children that everyone struggles with sin, including people we truly like.

An action is not right or wrong because a nice or nasty person committed it. It’s rightness or wrongness comes from whether it corresponds to the natural law (and so it’s right) or it contradicts the natural law (and so it’s wrong).

Here is one of the most common objections that proponents of homosexuality use against natural law arguments – something that your teens are bound to hear:

Claim: “Homosexuality isn’t unnatural, because people don’t choose to be gay. They were born that way.”

Fact: We don’t know exactly what causes people to have same-sex attractions, but genes are not likely the key. Among people with same-sex attractions who have identical (same DNA) twin siblings, it’s common for their twin to be attracted to those of the opposite sex.

But whatever the cause, the belief that same sex attractions are innate (not chosen) does not mean they are natural. You could say, “You know, lots of men feel like they want to have sex with more than one woman. It feels very natural to them, and they may have felt this way that since puberty. But does that make adultery or polyamory natural, or morally right, for humans?” And what of other “sexual orientations” besides just “same sex” or “opposite sex”? I say this delicately, there is a danger in the claim that having a particular sexual desire or orientation means we are “born that way” for some serious (if little talked about) reasons.

When we use our minds and examine the human body, we can see what it is for. Some humans (those with a disorder called pica) have an innate feeling or desire to eat things like glass, hair, or paint, but that doesn’t mean this behavior is natural or healthy.

The digestive system attached to our mouth and throat only makes sense if eating is designed for food. Likewise, the reproductive systems attached to our genitals only make sense if sex is for the “one-flesh”/procreative union that only man and a woman can achieve.”

Love,
Matthew

Language of the Body

“In a recent debate on my Facebook page, a woman stated her view on sex: “There is no universal purpose, beauty, or reason to sex—that is up to the individuals to decide for themselves.” Trent has also seen this attitude in a recent documentary he filmed that asked college students, “What is sex for?” The most popular answer was: “That’s up to each person to decide for themselves.”

This is a common belief of millions who claim that sex isn’t “for anything” in particular. Sex can be for pleasure, or recreation, or stress relief, or even a cure for boredom. It can be no more significant or meaningful than eating ice cream!

The best way to get past this “feelings-based” approach to sex is by applying the natural law principles we learned in chapter two.

Remind your teens that they should ask what sex “is for” and use the answer to that question to guide their moral decisions.

Designed for Marital Love

If sex is “just for pleasure,” then why do so many people become distraught when their “significant other” has sex with someone else? This pain—universally understood and documented in literature, songs, and poems throughout millennia—is a huge hint that sex isn’t as casual or meaningless as some people claim it is.

Others say that sex is the way we express a deep emotional connection with another person. But we can have a deep emotional connection to many different people (friends, siblings, parents, children) with whom it would be wrong to have a sexual connection.

So, what distinguishes sexual relationships from all other kinds of human intimacy?

The answer is found in the design of the body.

When we look at the body, including the sexual faculty itself, we see that sex is ordered toward a life-long consequence, i.e., the conception of a child. This truth is like a signpost that men and women should not engage in sex before they’ve made the life-long commitment (marriage) that provides the foundation for the fruit of that act (a baby!).

Of course, many people will say that these consequences can be avoided by contraceptive use (which we will address later), rendering sex outside of marriage “no big deal.” But even if contraception didn’t fail often (and boy, it does), pre-marital sex would still be morally wrong with grave consequences. Why? Because it turns people into liars of the highest order.

Let me explain.

Deceptive Body Language

Your teen will probably agree that, in general, the words we speak should be honest and truthful. But we can also “speak” with our bodies to express ideas. For example, a handshake can mean “pleased to meet you” and a hug can mean “I am here for you.” When people use their bodies to communicate what is not true, they often experience discomfort.

Think about the uneasiness you feel when you’re forced to stand too close to a stranger on a bus or subway. Your bodies are expressing the language of social intimacy because they are so close together, but that intimacy is a lie—you don’t even know each other!

Similarly, sex outside of marriage expresses the intimacy of a permanent one-flesh union, but in a relationship (no matter how long it’s been going on) that has no such commitment.

It is a lie, told through the body, that speaks louder than words.

So, when it comes to sex, a teen girl may feel this discomfort when she doesn’t want the guy to see her naked. She may want to “get it over with” in hopes that sex will lead to a fulfilling relationship. Or, she may be sexually willing, but feel crushed when the boy does not contact her again. Boys, on the other hand, may resist being affectionate after sex or even refuse to talk to the girl they’ve slept with, because they don’t want to express with their hearts the deep, marital love they expressed with their bodies.

This discomfort is not some culturally induced guilt from a bygone era; it’s a strong signal that this type of vulnerable intimacy is only appropriate in the safety of a life-long, exclusive commitment. Sex outside of marriage is wrong because the body turns a beautiful truth (“I reveal and give my whole self to you in an irrevocable gift”) into a selfish and harmful lie. When your teens ask, you can give them a simple, reasonable answer:

Sex exists for the expression of marital love. Sex outside of marriage uses the body to express a permanent, fruitful union of love that doesn’t exist between unmarried couples. Sex outside of marriage is a lie, and we must never lie to the people we claim to love.”

Love & truth,
Matthew