Category Archives: Theology

What I wish people knew about depression

“I AM sorrowful, even unto death.” -cf Mt 26:38


-excerpts from Therese Borchard

“I wish people knew that depression is complex, that it is a physiological condition with psychological and spiritual components, and therefore can’t be forced into any neat and tidy box, that healing needs to come from lots of kinds of sources and that every person’s recovery is different…

I wish people knew that medications don’t provide all the answers…(Ed. They only treat the symptoms, sometimes don’t work that well, have side effects which are depressing themselves and take joy out of life, and wane in effectiveness with age and use, and age aggravates EVERYTHING. It just wears, and wears, and wears you down until nothing, and everything is another reason to take action not to go on.  You just want the pain to stop and that becomes the overriding purpose of everything.)

I wish people knew that millions of people don’t respond to medications, and that, while brain stimulation technologies (electro-shock like my father deceived my mother into receiving after he found her wandering around in the clothes closet of their condo) offer hope for treatment-resistant depression, these persons are dealing with a different kind of beast altogether and should not be blamed for their chronic illness.

I wish people knew that a depressed person is capable of fake laughing for two hours through a dinner only to go home and Google “how to kill yourself”, that most depressed persons deserve Academy Awards for outstanding acting, and that it can be practically impossible to pick up on the desperation and sadness in a person who wants so badly to die because chances are she is the one cracking jokes in a crowd…

I wish people knew that the endorphins from exercise are as close as a depressive will get to an anesthesia for pain but that it’s possible to swim 5,000 yards a day or run seven miles a day and still be suicidal, that a sad swimmer can fill up her goggles with tears.

I wish people knew that while yoga is helpful for some, a person can walk out of the studio just as depressed as she was before Namaste.

I wish people knew that the worst part about depression is the sheer loneliness, the inability to express the anguish that rages within, and that the smiley-face culture we live in worsens that loneliness because depressed persons are so scared to tell the truth.

I wish people knew that persons who struggle with depression aren’t lazy, uncommitted, and weak, that they are not trying to get attention.

I wish people knew that depressed brains looked different on high resolution X-rays, that when experts scanned the brains of depressed people, they discovered that the front lobes of the brain displayed lower activity levels than those in non-depressed patients, that there are breakdowns in normal patterns of emotional processing, that depression can be associated with the loss of volume in parts of the brain and can inhibit the birth of new brain cells, which is why renown psychiatrist Peter Kramer believes it is the “most devastating disease known to mankind.”

I wish people knew that taking one’s life can feel like sneezing to a severely depressed person, that it can be a mere reaction to the body’s strong message, that after fighting a sneeze for years and years, some people simply can’t not sneeze anymore, that they should not be condemned or demonized for sneezing.

I wish people knew that the hardest thing some persons will ever do in this lifetime is to stay alive, that just because staying alive comes easily to some, it doesn’t mean arriving at a natural death is any less of a triumph for those who have to work so very hard to keep breathing…”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Gifts of the Holy Spirit #4: Fortitude

Ps 27:1

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

Presence of God – O Holy Spirit, You know how weak I am; make me strong with Your divine fortitude.

MEDITATION

Under the influence of the gift of fear, the soul puts itself completely into the hands of God and has but one desire, that of never being separated from Him. The gift of fortitude comes to strengthen it so that it may be always more and more courageous in serving God.

In the measure that the soul advances in the spiritual life, it should follow God’s initiative, and let itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than proceed according to its own ideas; however, its activity is necessary here, too, consisting as it does in a prompt, docile adherence to the promptings of the divine Paraclete, accepting and willing all that He does for it and in it. Thus this gift comes to help and to perfect the virtue of fortitude, which, in spite of our good will, is always weak and too often fails us, especially when we are faced with the rigorous demands of a more perfect spiritual life.

We need courage to remain faithful to God’s law and the duties of our state—even at the cost of great sacrifice—and to endure patiently the difficulties of life. We need it even more to second the action of God in our soul, to follow faithfully the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and not be frightened by the trials God makes us undergo. He is a kind, gentle Master, but at the same time, a very exacting one, because He cannot lead us to sanctity without asking us for all. And this is just where we most experience our frailty: we feel intuitively what God wants from us, perhaps we see it very clearly, and yet we are not capable, we lack the strength to do it. This is a great grief for a soul of good will, not yet fully matured. It is the condition of human weakness which actual grace and the infused virtue of fortitude can do much to relieve, but which they cannot completely cure, acting as they do by means of our limited faculties. The direct intervention of God Himself is necessary and God does intervene by putting the gift of fortitude into action.

COLLOQUY

“O eternal God, You are Fortitude and You give fortitude to the soul, making it so strong that neither the devil nor any other creature can take this strength away unless it consents. It will never do so if it clothes itself with Your will because it is only its own will that weakens it. O, eternal God! inestimable love! I, Your creature is wholly incorporated into You, and You into me by creation, by the force of Your will, by the love with which You have created me!” (St. Catherine of Siena, OP).

“Veni, Spiritus fortitudinis, robora me!” Come, O Spirit of fortitude, strengthen me! Grant me the gift of fortitude, to confront with courage, to support with patience, difficult and painful things, overcoming all obstacles. I am in great need of this Your gift because I am little and weak, and I tire as easily as a child. ‘But You do not tire, grow weary, and Your wisdom is unsearchable. Give strength to the weary; and to those who have little, increase their strength and vigor. Youths shall faint, and young men shall fall by infirmity. But they that hope in You shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint!’ (cf. Isaiah 40:28-31).

O Holy Spirit, sustain me and then I shall become strong with Your strength. If You are my strength and my salvation, what shall I fear? My own power cannot sustain me, but I can do all things in You who strengthen me! Come to my aid, and in spite of my weakness, I shall overcome temptations and obstacles; I shall accomplish great things, and strong with Your strength, I shall bear suffering with patience and joy.

“O Holy Spirit, with all my heart I beg this gift; let it make me generous, fearless, loving in sacrifice, virile, desirous of tending to perfection resolutely and wholeheartedly.” (Sister Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.).

Love & strength,
Matthew

Perseverance & Confidence

Ps 121:1-2

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

Presence of God – O Lord, increase my confidence in Your help and grant that in this confidence, I may always find courage to begin again.

MEDITATION

What most distresses souls of good will who are seriously trying to live a spiritual life, is to find themselves falling so many times, despite their continual and sincere resolutions. When they begin a program of asceticism, they are usually very brave and have no doubts concerning their success; but being still inexperienced, and not having yet faced the demands of more advanced virtue, they know nothing of the struggles that await them on this way. And herein lies the danger: meeting with new difficulties, they fall; they rise and fall again; again they rise, and shortly after, find themselves prostrate once more until they are, at a certain point, attacked by that most dangerous temptation: to give up the undertaking which henceforth seems impossible. How many souls have fervently begun the ascent of the mount of perfection, but discouraged by their continual falls, have stopped halfway up or even turned back, because they lacked the courage to begin anew every day and every moment?

Humility is needed for the exercise of courage; we must be convinced that in spite of our lofty aspirations, we are fallible men like all the rest. Sacred Scripture affirms that the “just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again” (Proverbs 24:16); how then, can we, who are not just, pretend never to fall?

The real evil is not so much in falling as in failing to rise. The distinguishing mark of fervent souls, and even of saints is less their lack of faults, than their promptness in rising after each fall. The annoyance felt by so many souls when they see themselves continually falling, is not the fruit of humility but of pride. They are not yet convinced of their own misery and are astonished to experience it so constantly. They rely too much on themselves, and God, who wishes to lead them to the full realization of their nothingness, permits them to fall again and again. In the plan of Divine Providence, these falls are for the definite purpose of convincing us that we are miserable creatures. If we wish to adhere to the divine plan, we have but one thing to do: to humble ourselves. But if on the contrary, we become discouraged, and give up what we have begun, we shall be going farther away from our goal, to our very great loss.

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus, You see I am a very little soul and can offer You only very little things: I frequently miss the opportunity of welcoming these small sacrifices which bring so much peace; but, I am not discouraged—I bear the loss of a little peace and I try to be more watchful in the future. You are so good to me that it is impossible for me to fear You.

“If it is Your will that throughout my whole life I should feel a repugnance to suffering and humiliation; if You permit all the flowers of my desires and good will to fall to the ground without producing any fruit, I shall not be disturbed. I am sure that if I persevere in my good efforts, in the twinkling of an eye, at the moment of death, You will cause rich fruits to ripen on the tree of my soul” (cf. Thérèse of the Child JesusStory of a Soul, 11 – Counsels and Souvenirs).

“O God, I am very weak in ability, poor in strength, and full of poverty, but if Your eye will look upon me, I shall be lifted up from my low estate, my head shall be exalted, and many will glorify You.

“Grant that I may be steadfast in Your covenant, and be conversant therein, and grow old in the work of Your commandments. I will trust in You and persevere in what I am doing, for it is easy for You to suddenly make the poor man rich. Your blessing will be my reward, and in a swift hour my efforts will bear fruit” (cf. Sirach 11:12-24).

Love & encouragement,
Matthew

Sep 14 – St Theodore the Studite (759-826 AD) – “Oratio in adorationem crucis”

“How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in his hands, feet, and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! [cf Galatians 6:14] The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom’s pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness.

The wonders accomplished through this tree were foreshadowed clearly even by the mere types and figures that existed in the past. Meditate on these, if you are eager to learn. Was it not the wood of a tree that enabled Noah, at God’s command, to escape the destruction of the flood together with his sons, his wife, his sons’ wives and every kind of animal? And surely the rod of Moses prefigured the cross when it changed water into blood, swallowed up the false serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians, divided the sea at one stroke and then restored the waters to their normal course, drowning the enemy and saving God’s own people? Aaron’s rod, which blossomed in one day in proof of his true priesthood, was another figure of the cross, and did not Abraham foreshadow the cross when he bound his son Isaac and placed him on the pile of wood?

By the cross, death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the sanctification of the saints. By the cross, we put on Christ and cast aside our former self. By the cross, we, the sheep of Christ, have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfolds of heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Fortitude (Courage)

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

Presence of God – O Lord, make me strong and courageous in Your service.

MEDITATION

The more a soul loves God, the more courageous it will be in undertaking any work, no matter how laborious, for love of Him. Fear of fatigue, of suffering, and of danger, is the greatest enemy of fortitude; it paralyzes the soul and makes it recoil before duty. Courage, on the contrary, is invigorating; it enables us to confront anything in order to be faithful to God. Courage, therefore, incites us to embrace death itself, if necessary, rather than be unfaithful to duty. Martyrdom is the supreme act of Christian fortitude, an act which is not asked of all, yet one which it is well not to ignore as a possibility. Every Christian is, so to speak, a potential martyr, in the sense that the virtue of fortitude, infused into him at Baptism and Confirmation, makes him capable, if necessity requires it, of sacrificing even his life for the love of God. And if all Christians are not actually called upon to render to the Lord this supreme testimony of love, all should, nevertheless, live like courageous soldiers, accustoming themselves never to desert any duty, little or great, through fear of sacrifice.

It is true that the virtue of fortitude does not exempt us from the fear and alarm which invade our nature when faced with sacrifice, danger, or above all, the imminent danger of death. But fortitude, like all the other virtues, is exercised by the will; hence, it is possible to perform courageous acts in spite of our fear. In these cases, courage has a twofold function: it conquers fear and faces the difficult task. Such was the supreme act of fortitude Jesus made in the Garden of Olives when He accepted to drink the bitter chalice of His Passion, in spite of the repugnance of His human nature. It is by uniting ourselves to this act of our Savior that we shall find strength to embrace all that is painful in our lives.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord God of hosts, You said in Your Gospel, ‘I am not come to bring peace but the sword’; provide me then with strength and weapons for the battle. I burn with desire to fight for Your glory, but I beseech You, strengthen my courage. Then with holy King David, I can exclaim: ‘You alone are my shield, O God; it is You who prepare my hands for war.’

“O my Jesus, I will fight for You as long as I live, and love will be my sword. My weakness should never discourage me; when in the morning I feel no courage or strength for the practice of virtue, I must look upon this state as a grace, for You teach me that it is the very moment to put the ax to the root of the tree, counting only on Your help.

“What merit would there be in fighting only when I feel courage? What does it matter even if I have none, provided that I act as if I had? O Jesus, make me understand that if I feel too weak to pick up a bit of thread, and yet do it for love of You, I shall gain much more merit than if I had performed some nobler act in a moment of fervor. So instead of grieving, I ought to rejoice seeing that You, by allowing me to feel my own weakness, give me an occasion of saving a greater number of souls” (cf. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Prayer – Letters, 40 – C).

Love,
Matthew

The Fullness of Grace

Catholics believe we are justified by God’s grace. Christ has redeemed the whole world. We must freely choose, free will, to cooperate in that redemption. It’s that word “cooperate” that’s the rub here. Protestantism, I generalize, begins with Sola Fide, salvation through faith, alone, although none of the Five Solas are found in the Bible, aka Sola Scriptura. It’s that word “alone” that’s the rub here. Since belief in “faith alone” implies all one need do is declare “I believe!”, and one is “saved”, and grace is part of the package deal. One and done.

However, back to that word “cooperate”, Catholics feel that while that’s an awesome start, throw in Baptism, by necessity, and you’re rolling, but out of the pure joy of the prospect of salvation, you MUST, not optional, act. James 2:14-26. Catholics are never “assured” of salvation, and surely NEVER from anything we DO, that would be the heresy of Pelagianism. And, to say we were assured of salvation simply by saying “I believe!”, that would be presumption, a form of the sin of pride, by which Satan fell, presuming a declaration/decision belonging to God alone at the time of our particular judgment. We have reasonable confidence in the fact the saints are in Heaven, hence the ask for miracles in canonization as a sign of this fact.

To the Catholic mind you cannot just go on living your life as if nothing had happened or slip back into sin or immorality just because you said “I believe!”. You must, through His grace, ask for grace. ALL is grace!!!! ALL!!! It is free. It is granted to those who ask. Mt 7:7. Through grace, asked for & received, I cannot explain it, but try it, sincerely. (I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I know I am, over and over again. And, we’re not just taking natural phenomena and calling it “grace”. It’s subtle, but I do believe, from personal witness, it exists and is effective.) That through God’s unmerited favor, we will be able to live holy and holier lives as God commands. We are wounded by Original Sin, so this is NOT going to be easy!!! But, it is possible, Jesus commands it. Mt 5:20. Never through our own efforts, but by His unmerited favor, grace, which makes all of this possible. Praise Him!!!


-by Br John Paul Kern, OP

“Do Catholics and Protestants both believe that we are saved by God’s grace?

Yes! And today many Christians are realizing that this is an essential point of Christian unity.

In 1999, the Catholic Church and Lutheran leaders signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, proclaiming together that “all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation” (JDDF, 19).

In 2006, Methodist leaders affirmed that this statement “corresponds to Methodist doctrine.” This summer, on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, leaders of the Reformed communities also accepted this common explanation of justification by grace.

What does this groundbreaking agreement between the Catholic Church and Protestant leaders mean?

After many years of harsh rhetoric and, often, misunderstandings, the Catholic Church and several large Protestant communities have been able to acknowledge together, publicly, that we both believe that Christians are saved by grace. Acknowledging such common ground is an important step toward a fuller Christian unity.

However, many Protestants remain skeptical that the Catholic Church affirms the priority of God’s grace in man’s justification, which Luther called the “first and chief article” of Christian faith (Smalcald Articles, II.1). Additionally, the Joint Declaration itself openly acknowledges and describes differences in the way that Catholics and Protestants understand how we are saved by grace.

Unfortunately, many Catholics and Protestants alike are unfamiliar with both the Catholic doctrine of justification by grace and the teachings of the Protestant Reformers. Therefore, let us explore what we share in common as well as where we differ regarding “the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), to better appreciate this beautiful, saving truth in its fullness.

Common Ground: The Primacy of God’s Grace in Man’s Salvation

God, Who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)… For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:4–5, 8–9)

St. Paul knew from his own conversion that salvation in Jesus Christ comes through God’s gift of grace. Therefore, he strongly emphasized this central Gospel truth throughout his writings.

Having also undergone a radical conversion by God’s grace, St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) famously rejected the error of Pelagius, who claimed man could save himself apart from grace.

The Catholic Church later employed St. Augustine’s teachings to refute “semi-Pelagianism”—the claim that man can earn the grace of justification by his own efforts—at the Second Council of Orange (529), and she continues to honor St. Augustine as the Doctor Gratiae (Teacher of Grace).

A thousand years later, Protestant theologians in the 16th century articulated their doctrine of justification sola gratia (by grace alone), which also emphasized the priority of grace.

When the Catholic Church promulgated her official response at the Ecumenical Council of Trent (1546–1563), she strongly reaffirmed the primacy of God’s grace. Once again, she explicitly rejected Pelagianism—the claim “that man may be justified before God by his own works… without the grace of God”—and Semi-Pelagianism.

Thus, the Catholic Church in the 16th century authoritatively agreed with the Protestant Reformers regarding the priority of grace in salvation. However, she was concerned that the Protestant doctrine of sola gratia greatly reduced the scope and power of the grace of justification by emphasizing God’s forgiveness apart from the effects of grace on man.

Therefore, the Catholic Church emphasized, and continues to emphasize, that God’s grace of justification cannot be understood in its fullness apart from:

  1. the role of grace in God’s entire plan for mankind;
  2. a radical transformation, renewal, and rebirth of the human person; and
  3. God’s elevation of man to partake of the divine nature and participate in divine life.

1. Grace is a Fundamental Part of God’s Entire Plan for Humanity

For Protestant Reformers, such as Luther, the central question was justification: how can a sinful person be justified before God? This is extremely important. However, a singular emphasis on this question often leads Protestants to view grace solely through the lens of “solving the problem” of justification.

Catholics, on the other hand, understand God’s grace not only as a merciful response to man’s miserable, fallen state after sin but also as a generous gift that God freely and lovingly chose to bestow upon Adam and Eve from the moment of their creation. The Catholic faith teaches that God created man in a state of grace, which allowed him to enjoy an intimate friendship with God, knowing and loving God in a way that would not have been possible without God’s grace.

After the sinful Fall, God’s grace restores man to a state of friendship with God and grants the forgiveness of sin. The Catholic Church teaches that God’s prevenient (prior) grace prepares, disposes, and moves man to freely receive the grace of justification, which communicates to man the righteousness of Christ. From beginning to end, it is grace that saves.

Starting at the moment of justification, Christian life is animated by sanctifying grace, which allows Christians to grow in holiness throughout their lives. Sanctifying grace includes the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, the heart of the Christian life (1 Cor 13:13), and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isa 11:2). Christians who follow the Holy Spirit through the gifts enjoy the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23), the highest of which are the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3–12).

Finally, the life of grace reaches its full fruition in the glory of heaven. It is not by man’s natural powers that he is capable of beholding the beatific vision of God but only by God’s gift of the light of glory, which is also a grace.

2. God’s Grace Has the Power to Actually Transform a Human Person

According to the Protestant Reformers, justification by grace is extrinsic to man. That is, justification describes man’s standing before God, in a sort of legal fashion, rather than the actual state of man himself. According to Luther, for example, man is justified when God graciously looks at Christ’s merit, which covers but does not destroy man’s sin, and imputes (credits) to us the “alien righteousness” of Christ, declaring us righteous by a judicial act though we remain sinners in reality. Thus, grace is simply the “undeserved favor” of God’s merciful judgment, which renders us “not guilty.”

In contrast, the Catholic faith teaches that while the wounds due to original sin still affect Christians, the grace of justification does not merely cover sin but destroys it, regenerates man to spiritual life (Jn 3:3; Titus 3:4-7), and restores his friendship with God.

Scripture recounts Jesus forgiving sins (Mk 2:1-12), casting out evil (Lk 11:14), healing (Mt 8:1-4), and raising people from the dead (Jn 11:40-44), all of which serve as powerful images for what God accomplishes in the human soul through the grace of justification.

God’s declarations match reality. God spoke the universe into being by saying, “let there be…” (Gen 1). Similarly, when God declares a person to be just and righteous, he simultaneously and actually makes that person just and righteous by the power of his grace, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

The grace of justification communicates the righteousness of Christ to man and has the power to actually transform man into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). The Christian is reborn to a new life of grace infused by the Holy Spirit and is given a new heart (Ez 36:26–28), a new mind (1 Cor 2:16), and a new “nature” in Christ (Eph 4:22–24).

St. Paul explains, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Thus, Christians transformed by grace have “put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:9–10).

Therefore, “justification… is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man [2 Cor 4:16] through the voluntary reception of the grace… whereby man who was unjust becomes just [Rom 3:23-24], and who was an enemy becomes a friend [Jn 15:15], so that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting” (Trent, Decree on Justification, Ch. 7).

God justifies a person by an infusion of grace, which brings about a transformation of the soul from a state of sin and injustice to a state of grace, justice, and righteousness. This conversion includes a movement of the intellect toward God in faith and a movement of the will to love God and to hate sin, and it simultaneously results in the forgiveness of sin (Summa Theologica I-II, q. 113, a. 6).

Thus, in his work of justification, God’s undeserved favor actively bestows upon us the gift of grace, which has the power to actually transform us and make us righteous with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

3. By Grace We Partake of the Divine Nature and Participate in Divine Life

The Protestant Reformers also do not emphasize what is, perhaps, the most amazing thing about grace: that God’s grace elevates Christians to share in God’s Trinitarian life of love. Luther asserted that even “the just sin in every good work” (Denzinger, 771), and “every work of the just is worthy of damnation… if it be considered as it really is” (Möhler, “Symbolik,” 22). For Calvin, even Christian acts of charity “are always defiled by impurity” (Institutes, III, 18, 5).

In contrast, St. Peter wrote, “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:3–4).

From the very beginning, “God… freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life” (CCC 1). That is, God created us to partake, by grace, in his own divine nature and to share in the divine life of Trinitarian love (1 Jn 4:7-16)—a life that is far above and beyond what is possible by human nature alone.

Even after original sin, God’s grace restores us from spiritual death to new life in Christ (Rom 6:4). Grace allows us to share in God’s own Trinitarian life as “adopted sons” in the Son (Gal 4:4–6) and as “children of God” (Jn 1:12–13) so that through, with, and in Jesus Christ, by the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), we may call God “Our Father” (Mt 6:9).

By grace, we are truly united to Christ as his members (1 Cor 12:12–27), and the life of the divine vine runs through us as branches (Jn 15:1–11), so that with St. Paul we may proclaim that it is now “Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). As God’s children in Christ, we cooperate with God’s grace to bear the spiritual fruit of good works (Jn 15:16–17; Eph 2:10), which glorify God.

This supernatural life of grace, which begins on earth, blossoms into the life of glory in heaven. There, the gift of faith will be transformed into sight as we behold God face-to-face (1 Cor 13:12). Our hope will be fulfilled as we possess God, our eternal inheritance and reward, celebrating the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-9). Yet love, the core of the Christian life, will continue, perfected, in heaven as we experience the fullness of joy praising God for all eternity (1 Cor 13:8). Thus, the life of grace will be crowned and fulfilled in eternal life.

By grace, even now, we can share in God’s life of love and, in imitation of Jesus Christ, perform the works of our Father (Jn 4:34). Let us cry out “Abba! Father!” in praise of him whose merciful love offers us, by the saving work of his Son, through the Holy Spirit, this amazing gift of grace!”

Love, & always begging for His grace,
Matthew

Summer Theologiae

If you are not familiar with Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, or not been formally trained how to read/understand it properly, don’t.  It’s one of the denser, less accessible, “academic” tomes, although, in his time, St Thomas considered it a reference for beginners in the study of theology.  It has less to do with your or my abilities dear reader.  It simply was written for a medieval audience in a form of instruction or lecture we no longer use.  

Medieval teachers, traditionally, would pose a statement or question, which you will recognize if you read an authentic copy of the Summa, as the first sentence in any given section, or question, the Summa tackles.  The order of these questions is very logical and methodical.  It makes sense.  So far, so good.  

Once the professor had posed the statement to the class, their homework was to go home and think up “objections” to the statement/question, or why it could not be true.  Students would return to class the next time and pose their objection to the instructor.  

Having been trained/educated himself, the instructor was familiar with the most popular or reoccurring objections, and during class, in his lecture, he would go on to address each objection or concern, and this is how medieval students learned.  

So, the Summa, written in the 13th century, is still in this format, but is and can be a difficult read in the 21st century, to the untrained eye and mind.  I warned you.  Below is a lighthearted and humorous play on words, Summer instead of Summa, and using the joys of the beach to help us better understand the thirty thousand foot view of what St Thomas accomplished.  I can definitely relate! Enjoy!!!


-by Br Ignatius Weiss, OP

Having been practically raised on the beach, I delight in the smell of salt air, the sighing of the waves, and the feel of sand between my toes. The shore remains the site of some of my favorite memories, as well as the world’s most beautiful sights, yet too often people miss the beach for the sand.

While I don’t imagine many people tote their copies of the Summa Theologiæ or the commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics to the shoreline (it isn’t what most would consider “light reading”), I do see some similarities between the thought of St. Thomas and the beach:

  1. Sands on the Seashore. As the vast field of sand is composed of thousands of grains deposited by nature’s currents, so Thomism draws together a number of varied sources in a new way. St. Thomas’ genius drew together the wisdom of Scripture, pagan philosophers, and his own contemporaries into a cohesive expression of reality. Each of these sources brings elements from its origins and adds its particular hue to his theology.
  2. Playing in the Sand. The beach is the world’s greatest sandbox. A few scoops of sand, a bucket of water, and a little handiwork can turn a formless plot into a beautiful sand castle. Thomas’ grand collection of wisdom is always open for continued creativity. The centuries-old wisdom of Thomas continues to inspire people to seek answers to today’s questions.
  3. Thomistic Sunbathing. The beach is home to the sun bather and the oceanologist alike. There are many scientists who comb the coastline examining land, sea, and sky. Most people, however, come to the sea with coolers and beach chairs. Similarly, the main way people encounter Thomism is through Aquinas’ Eucharistic poetry like the “O Salutaris” and “Tantum Ergo,” sung at Adoration. Basking in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we are also exposed to the penetrating theology and elegant lyricism of St. Thomas Aquinas (no sunscreen required).
  4. The Perfect Perspective. Thomism offers a privileged perspective for beholding God’s glory in this life. The sunset can be seen from anywhere with a glimpse of the horizon, but from the shore we can look out on an unhindered vision of the horizon. Here our sight is limited most by the weakness of our frail, human eyes, but this perspective is undoubtedly better than through the city’s blocky skyline. Thomism shares a similarly open vantage point with its clarity and simplicity. It is easy to get distracted by the broad field of questions, articles, and distinctions presented in Thomism, but the incredible vantage point it provides to behold the glory of God on the shores of this life is unmatched.

The coarse sand and bright sun deter some people from enjoying a summer at the beach. Don’t miss the shore for the sand, don’t dismiss Thomism for its technicality.

Love & thought,
Matthew

Divine Praises


-by Br Anthony VanBerkum, OP

“I pray the Divine Praises when I’m in pain.”

I’ve been visiting hospital patients this Summer (Ed: as do I visit the “actively dying” in hospice, or those suffering alzheimer’s or dementia), and I have had the privilege of hearing many beautiful expressions of faith. This one particularly struck me; it’s such a jarring image. Praise is not my first reaction to pain, but as soon as I heard this I couldn’t help but see that it could be, and perhaps even should be. We can combat the evil that afflicts us by praising the goodness of God right in the midst of its attack.

Often when we are seriously in pain, a prayer recited hastily from memory is all that we can manage. And in that moment, such a prayer is enough. Now, though, we are at liberty to begin to reflect on this prayer more deeply. In so doing, we can prepare ourselves to confront pain by glorifying God’s everlasting goodness.

Blessed be God.

We praise, O Lord, Your goodness and Your love, which endure forever. Help us in our times of suffering to remember and even to feel your love, Lord, that we might not fall away from You.

Blessed be His Holy Name.

Lord God, we know that all too often Your children respond to pain by blaspheming Your Name. Help us to offer our suffering for them, that together with our brothers and sisters we may always grow in love of You.

Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. Blessed be the Name of Jesus. Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.

Almighty God, we know that in the midst of suffering You can seem far away. And yet You are always close to us, so close that You sent Your Son to become man, to suffer, and to die for our sake. Lord Jesus, keep us close to Your Heart, that we may learn to suffer in union with You.

Blessed be His Most Precious Blood. Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Lord Jesus, we praise You in the Holy Eucharist, the great sacrament of Your closeness to us. By Your union with us in our bodies, grant us the strength we need to persevere through illness.

Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.

Holy Spirit, You Who grant wisdom, we pray now that You bring gifts of wisdom and healing skill to all those who care for the sick, whether medical staff or loving family and friends. Comfort them in their work, and help them to see the Lord Jesus in every suffering face.

Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most Holy. Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception. Blessed be her Glorious Assumption. Blessed be the Name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.

Jesus, we praise You for Your gift to us of Your most holy mother. Holy Mary, be with the sick with your maternal care and compassion. Care for our wounds in body, mind, and soul that we may some day stand with you, praising your Son forever.

Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.

Great Saint Joseph, be with all suffering parents. We know that their children’s pain hurts them even more than their own. Give them strength to persevere in love of God, even when His will is hidden or obscure.

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.

All you holy ones of God, praise God on our behalf when we are unable or unwilling. Pray for us, that He may grant us the grace to praise Him always, joining our chorus on earth to yours in heaven.”

Amen.

Love,
Matthew

“Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they?” -C.S. Lewis

“C.S. Lewis, the author of Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia, was not Catholic but he did believe in the existence of purgatory. He knew dying does not change our sinful hearts, so God must do something to us after death in order to make us fit to spend eternal life with him. Lewis said, “Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they?”

1 John 5:17 says, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.” The Church accordingly refers to mortal sins as our freely chosen, gravely evil acts that destroy God’s love in our hearts. These sins forfeit our hope of eternal life with God unless we ask God to forgive them through the sacrament of reconciliation (confession).

Unlike mortal sins, venial sins hurt the soul but do not kill God’s grace within it. These are sins that people commit in their day-to-day life that do not completely separate them from God but do hurt their relationship with him. Catholics don’t have to confess these sins to a priest (but they can if they wish), and the Eucharist also cleanses us of these sins. But what happens to people who don’t seek the sacraments and die in an unclean state of venial sin?

Since these people died in a state of grace and friendship with God, there is no possibility they will go to hell. But Revelation 21:27 says that nothing unclean will be in heaven. It logically follows, therefore, that these saved souls will be purged of their sins prior to spending eternity with God. According to the Catechism, “The Church gives the name purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).

Purgatory is not an alternative to heaven and hell nor is it a “second chance” to choose God. All souls that go to purgatory belong to people who died in God’s friendship. Purgatory isn’t a place as much as it is a state of existence after death, where we will be purified from sin. C.S. Lewis understood that because God loves us so much he won’t let us stay attached to any kind of sin, including minor ones, for all eternity.

It is natural for humans to want to make up for the wrong they have done, but no amount of work on our part can make up for the wrong caused by our sins against an infinitely holy God. (Only Christ’s sacrifice can do that.) We can, however, make up for the temporal or earthly consequences of our sins.

Here’s a way to understand the difference.

If my five-year-old son recklessly breaks a neighbor’s window, I will pay for the window because he cannot. If my son is sorry for what he did then I will forgive him, but I will also ask him to perform extra chores to make up for his bad behavior. This satisfies his conscience’s desire to make amends and also helps him learn a valuable lesson.

We might think discipline is the opposite of love, but if you’ve ever been around a spoiled child you see that the lack of discipline can make a person angry, frustrated, selfish, and just plain miserable. Since God is our loving father, he also graciously corrects us, or as the Bible says, “The Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Heb. 12:6)

If Christ’s sacrifice is perfect and infinitely atones for sin, then why is purgatory even necessary? It’s necessary because Christ’s perfect sacrifice must be applied to each individual in different ways.

Those who reject Christ’s offer of salvation, for example, won’t have the saving effects of Christ’s sacrifice applied to them. Believers who are attached to sin in this life will have the effects of Christ’s sacrifice applied to them after death in purgatory.

Theologians like Pope Benedict XVI have even speculated that the cleansing fire of purgatory is none other than Christ Himself. He writes:

“Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ Himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with Him is the decisive act of judgment. Before His gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with Him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allows us to become truly ourselves.”

Purgatory doesn’t take away from Christ’s work, but rather it is Christ’s work. It is not something the Church created in order to force people to work their way into heaven. Purgatory is instead something God created so that the grace His Son obtained for us on the cross could make us “holy and blameless and irreproachable before Him” (Col. 1:22-23), free from the pain and penalty of sin, and ready to enter into eternal glory with Christ our Lord.”

Love,
Matthew

God’s goodness…

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

Presence of God – O my God, You alone are good; deign to clothe me with Your goodness!

MEDITATION

When Moses asked God to show him His glory, God replied: “I will show thee all good” (cf Exodus 33:19 [Douay-Rheims]), as if to say that His glory is infinite goodness, the good that He possesses in such plenitude that all good is in Him and no good exists independently of Him. God possesses good, not because He has received it from anyone, but because He Himself is, by His nature, the sovereign good, because His Being is infinite goodness. If creatures are good, they are so, only because God has communicated to them a little of His goodness. Of itself, the creature cannot even exist, therefore it cannot possess any good of its own. That is why Jesus said to the young man who had called Him “Good Master,” “Why callest thou Me good? None is good but one, that is God” (Mark 10:18). Not even Jesus, as man, possessed goodness as His own; but He possessed it only because the divine nature, which was hypostatically united to His human nature, communicated it to Him. Only of God can it be said that He is good, in the sense that He is goodness itself, that goodness belongs to Him by nature, as divinity belongs to Him by nature; and just as it is impossible for His divinity to be lessened, so it is impossible for His goodness to be lessened. Heaven, earth, and the ages will pass away, but the goodness of God will never pass away. Man’s wickedness may accumulate sin upon sin, evil upon evil, but over all, God’s goodness will remain unchangeable. The shadow of evil will not mar it; instead, God who is always benevolent, will bend over the evil to change it into good, and to draw a greater good from it. Thus infinite Goodness stooped over man, the sinner, and made an immensely superior good come from Adam’s fall: the redemption of the world through the Incarnation of His only-begotten Son. This is the distinctive character of God’s goodness: to will the good, only the good, even to the point of drawing good from evil.

COLLOQUY

“If a soul understood Your goodness, O God, it would be moved to work with all its strength to correspond to it; it would run quickly to meet You who are pursuing it and entreating, ‘Open to Me, My friend!’

“What advantage does a soul receive from understanding Your goodness? The advantage of being clothed with Your goodness. Oh! if we would only open our eyes and see how great it is! But sometimes we are blind and do not see. The precious Blood of Christ is the only remedy which can open, not only our eyes, but also our heart, and make our soul understand the immensity of God’s goodness…. O my God, You reveal Your infinite goodness to me as a great river flowing over the earth, into whose waters all creatures are immersed and nourished like the fish in the sea. I am absorbed in the contemplation of this great river; but when I look around and see human malice so opposed to Your goodness, I grieve exceedingly. O infinite Goodness, my soul desires to honor You in two ways; first by praise—recounting Your splendors, thanking You, blessing You unceasingly for all the gifts and graces You are always bestowing, and narrating all Your grandeurs; and then by my works—not spoiling Your image in me, but keeping it pure and spotless as You created it from the beginning” (cf. St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“O Lord, I want to trust always in Your goodness which is greater than all the evil we can do. When, with full knowledge of ourselves, we desire to return to friendship with You, You remember neither our ingratitude nor our misuse of the favors You have granted us. You might well chastise us for these sins, but You make use of them only to forgive us the more readily, just as You would forgive those who have been members of Your household, and who, as they say, have eaten of Your bread. See what You have done for me, who wearied of offending You before You ceased forgiving me. You are never weary of giving and never can Your mercies be exhausted: let us not grow weary of receiving” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 19).

Love, grateful for His goodness,
Matthew