Category Archives: Virtue

Prudence

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

Presence of God – Help me, O God, to judge with rectitude so that I may be able to act accordingly.

MEDITATION

The first duty of prudence is to help us choose the best means for attaining our final end. Many times the choice is easy and presents itself spontaneously to a mind accustomed to making judgments and acting in the light of eternity. At other times, however, it is difficult and perplexing, as for example, when it concerns choosing one’s vocation or profession or solving complicated problems in which elements independent of one’s own will must be considered. In these cases we must take time to examine everything carefully and to consult prudent, experienced persons; to act hastily would show a want of prudence. In the Gospel, Jesus Himself tells us about the prudent man who “having a mind to build a tower, first sits down and reckons the charges that are necessary, whether he have wherewithal to finish it” (Luke 14:28). The time spent in these examinations and calculations as dictated by prudence is not time wasted. Quite the contrary! When facing serious decisions, we must realize that God Himself often wants us to wait patiently until circumstances clearly manifest His will to us. In this waiting we should give a large place to prayer, begging Our Lord for the light which our own prudence cannot give us. In fact, prudence, even though it is an infused supernatural virtue, is always a virtue exercised by human faculties and, therefore, is affected by human limitations; however, to help it, God has given us a special gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of counsel, the actuation of which does not depend on us but is obtainable by prayer.

After using all the means suggested by supernatural prudence, we arrive at a decision. Prudence then commands us to put it into effect with courage and diligence, without needless delays on our part and without being discouraged by the difficulties we may meet.

COLLOQUY

“O God, one work performed with prudence is more pleasing to You than many done carelessly and imprudently, for this virtue thoroughly examines and weighs every action so that it may be turned to Your honor and glory.

True and supernatural prudence belongs to You and is in You O Lord. Few there are in whom we find it, because many seek it through cunning, using their own wisdom to scrutinize Your designs; thus they lose their time and find nothing. Anyone who really desires to possess prudence must come to You, the Incarnate Word; he will find it in You, together with all the other virtues, but vastly different from human prudence, which tends to what exalts and not to what abases. In You, he will find the prudence which teaches us to humble and abase ourselves, as You willed to humble and abase Yourself, in order to show us the way which leads to salvation. You, O Lord, have said: ‘If you wish to be My disciple, renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.’ Oh! this is prudence in the highest degree! Yet to human prudence it looks like utter madness. For, O crucified Christ, to the wise ones in this world it is the height of madness to take up one’s cross and follow You! But You teach me that the foolishness of the cross is supreme wisdom, and to deny oneself is supreme prudence. What wiser folly can there be than to take up the cross with You and follow in Your footsteps? And what greater prudence can there be than to die to self in order to find life in You, from Whom everything receives life?” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“O prudence, you are like a high mountain. Those whom the mountain shelters, live a healthy life and enjoy its pure air. From its height, they see and foresee everything they should do. So also, my God, the prudence which proceeds from You keeps the soul high above the clouds of passion and human considerations; it invigorates her virtue, and causes her to honor You in all her works, making her foresee everything, so that she can arm herself against temptation. O my God, give me this true upright prudence, which will lead me to union with You. Let it guide me in such a way that I shall never fail to perform Your works out of any motive of human respect or regard for any creature.” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Teach me Your ways, that I may follow Your truth. Give me temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude, for nothing is more profitable to men.” (cf. Ps 51; Wisdom 8:7).

“O Jesus, supreme Goodness, I ask You to give me a heart so enamored of You that nothing on earth can distract it … a free heart, never seduced or enslaved, an upright heart which never goes astray” (St. Thomas Aquinas).

Love, pray for me, that His grace may allow me the virtue of prudence,
Matthew

Mystery of Hope

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

Presence of God – Let me hunger for You, O Bread of Angels, pledge of future glory.

MEDITATION

Jesus said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give is My Flesh, for the life of the world.” The Jews disliked this speech; they began to question and dispute the Master’s words. But Jesus answered them still more forcefully: “Amen, amen, I say unto you, except you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you” (John 6:51-54). These are definitive words which leave no room for doubt; if we wish to live, we must eat the Bread of Life. Jesus came to bring to the world the supernatural life of grace; and this life was given to our souls in Baptism, the Sacrament which grafted us into Christ. Thus it is a gift of His plenitude, but we must nourish it by a deeper penetration into Christ. To enable us to do so, He Himself willed to give us His complete substance as the God-Man, making Himself the Bread of our supernatural life, the Bread of our union with Him. St. John Chrysostom says, “Many mothers entrust the children they have borne to others to nurse them, but Jesus does not do that. He feeds us with His own Blood and incorporates us into Himself completely.” Baptism is the Sacrament which engrafts us into Christ; the Eucharist is the Sacrament which nourishes Christ’s life in us and makes our union with Him always more intimate, or rather, it transforms us into Him. “If into melted wax other wax is poured, it naturally follows that they will be completely mixed with each other; similarly, he who receives the Lord’s Flesh and Blood is so united with Him that Christ dwells in him and he in Christ” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).

COLLOQUY

“O heavenly Father, You gave us Your Son and sent Him into the world by an act of Your own will. And You, O my Jesus, did not want to leave the world by Your own will but wanted to remain with us for the greater joy of Your friends. This is why, O heavenly Father, You gave us this most divine Bread, the manna of the sacred humanity of Jesus, to be our perpetual food. Now we can have it whenever we wish so that if we die of hunger, it will be our own fault.

O my soul, you will always find in the Blessed Sacrament, under whatever aspect you consider it, great consolation and delight, and once you have begun to relish it, there will be no trials, persecutions, and difficulties which you cannot easily endure.

Let him who wills ask for ordinary bread. For my part, O eternal Father, I ask to be permitted to receive the heavenly Bread with such dispositions that, if I have not the happiness of contemplating Jesus with the eyes of my body, I may at least contemplate Him with the eyes of my soul. This is Bread which contains all sweetness and delight and sustains our life” (Teresa of Jesus [Teresa of Avila], Way of Perfection, 34).

“All graces are contained in You, O Jesus in the Eucharist, our celestial Food! What more can a soul wish when it has within itself the One who contains everything? If I wish for charity, then I have within me Him Who is perfect charity, I possess the perfection of charity. The same is true of faith, hope, purity, patience, humility, and meekness, for You form all virtues in our soul, O Christ, when You give us the grace of this Food. What more can I want or desire, if all the virtues, graces, and gifts for which I long, are found in You, O Lord, Who are as truly present under the sacramental species as You are in heaven, at the right hand of the Father? Because I have and possess this great wonder, I do not long for, want, or desire, any other!” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).”

Love, His Joy, & Hope,
Matthew

Christian Love & Kindness

“Love is the heart and soul of religion. God is love, and every kind deed is a step toward God. Life is a school in which you acquire knowledge regarding the means of making your life and the lives of your fellowmen happy. That education is founded on love. You cannot live without love, any more than a flower can bloom without sunshine.

There is no power in the world so great as that of love which never loses its strength, never knows its age, and always renews it­self. Filial love, fraternal love, conjugal love, patriotism: all are the offshoots of the divine love, rooted in the heart of Jesus, which broke in death so that it might bring love to the world.

Love seeks to assert itself by deeds. Love, a very real force, is not content with fair words. The effect of love is an eagerness to be up and doing, to heal, to serve, to give, to shelter, and to console. A love that remains inactive, a force that is asleep, is a dying love. If you do not wish to cease to love, you must never cease to do good.

Because a kind thought inspires a kind deed, it is a real blessing. A kind word spoken or a harsh word withheld has spelled happiness for many a burdened soul. To have acquired the ability not to think and speak uncharitably of others is a great achievement. The habit of interpreting the conduct of others favorably is one of the finer qualities of charity, but the highest charity is evidenced by doing good to others. Greater than a kind thought, more refreshing than a kind word, is the union of thought and word in action. St. Augustine says, “We are what our works are. According as our works are good or bad, we are good or bad; for we are the trees, and our works the fruit. It is by the fruit that one judges of the quality of the tree.”

The highest perfection of charity consists in laying down one’s life for another, just as Christ offered His life as a sacrifice for mankind.

The Savior once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.” And the heavenly Father expressed His will in the great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. . . . Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Our Lord wants your life to be love in action, even as His was, for He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” St. Peter summarizes His life in the words: “He went about doing good.”

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, “It is not enough that I should give to whosoever may ask of me; I must forestall their desires and show that I feel much gratified, much honored, in rendering service; and if they take a thing that I use, I must seem as though glad to be relieved of it…. To let our thoughts dwell upon self renders the soul sterile; we must quickly turn to labors of love.”

Love is the heart and soul of kind deeds. Just as there is no charity without works, so there may be works of charity without love. St. Paul expressed it this way: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Some people use charity as an effective cloak to hide their human weaknesses. Cowardice, for instance, is being afraid of what people will say. Some people will do a certain amount of good out of sheer cowardice, while in the meantime their avarice covers it­self with the cloak of charity.

Self-interest, greed, and vanity also borrow the cloak of charity. Since charitable works draw popular attention, they are bound to prove an excellent advertisement. If a man’s past hinders his social success, he hastens to put on the cloak of charity which literally “covers a multitude of sins.”

Pride and the love of power sometimes put on the cloak of charity, for it gives a man a noble appearance. The demon of pride once was willing to give all his possessions to Christ if, falling down, He would adore him.

Others take up the practice of charity as a kind of sport. They look for the exhilarating feeling of having done a good deed. Later there will be material for selfish conversation.

God is not content with the cloak of charity, or mere kind deeds. He looks for genuine goodness and love. The day will come when He will take away the borrowed cloak of kindness.

God does not so much desire that we should cooperate with Him in His works of mercy as that we should participate in His sincere and ever-active love. His law of social duty is not “Thou shalt give to thy neighbor,” but “Thou shalt love thy neighbor.””

Love,
Matthew

Motive for Hope

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

Presence of God – Make me understand well, O Lord, that my hope must be founded on You, on Your infinite merciful love.

MEDITATION

If we had to base our hope on our own merits and on the amount of grace we possess, it would be very insecure, because we cannot be certain that we are in the state of grace, nor can we be certain about our good works which are always so full of defects. But our hope is sure because it is founded, not on ourselves, but on God, on His infinite goodness, on His salvific will which desires “all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), and on His sanctifying will that wants us not only to be saved, but also to be saints: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

God wishes the certitude of our hope to rest upon Him alone. Although He demands our cooperation and our good works, He does not want us to base our confidence on them; in fact, after having urged us to do all that is in our power, Jesus added: “When you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: we are unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10). Souls who are accustomed to depend on their own strength and who delude themselves, thinking they can enter more deeply into the spiritual life by their own personal resources, find this lesson hard to understand. That is why when the Lord wills them to progress, He makes them go through painful states of powerlessness, permitting them to feel the rebellion and repugnance of nature that they may be convinced of the vanity of placing their confidence in themselves. There is here a delicate point: to know how to accept this experience without falling into discouragement. If in the past, we have relied upon ourselves, and now, in certain difficulties and trials of our interior life, we see our strength reduced to nothing, let us thank God. In this way He is detaching us from the too great confidence we had in ourselves, and is forcing us to practice a purer, more supernatural hope, one stripped of every human element and support. If, however we cannot place our hope in ourselves, this is reason for despair; rather, it should impel us to place our hope in God alone and force us to throw ourselves upon Him with full confidence like a child who takes refuge in its mother’s arms with more trust, the weaker and more powerless it feels itself to be.

COLLOQUY

“Almighty, omnipotent Lord, show me my poverty so that I may confess it. I said that I was rich and that I needed nothing; I did not know that I was poor, blind, naked, wretched, and miserable. I believed that I was something and I was nothing. I said, ‘I shall become wise,’ and I became foolish; I thought that I was prudent, but I deceived myself. And I see now that wisdom is Your gift, that without You we can do nothing, for if You, O God, do not keep the city, he watches in vain that keeps it. You taught me this that I might know myself; You abandoned me and you tried me … so that I would know myself. You had hardly gone a short distance from me when I fell. Then I saw and knew that You were guiding me; if I fell, it was my own fault, and if I rose again, it was by Your help.

O my God, I could despair on account of my great sins and my innumerable negligences … but I dare not because I, who was at one time Your enemy, have been reconciled to You by the death of Your Son; and not only reconciled, but I have been saved by Him. That is why all my hope and the certitude of my confidence is in His precious Blood which was shed for us and for our salvation. Living in Him, trusting in Him, I hope to come to You, not because of my justice, but through the justice which comes to me from Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, in the weariness of this struggle, I raise my eyes to You, Lord Jesus. Let the enemy do what he will to me. I shall not fear because You are a strong defender. I have good reason to hope in You, for I shall never be confounded.

Now, as long as I am in the body, I am far from You, since I journey by faith and not by vision. The time will come when I will see that which I now believe without seeing and I shall be happy. Then I shall see the reality which I now hope for. I live content in my hope because You are true to Your promises; nevertheless, because I do not possess You as yet, I groan beneath the weight of desire. Grant that I may persevere in this desire until what You have promised comes to pass; then my groaning will be over and praise alone will resound” (St. Augustine).

Love & never surrender hope in Him. He does not leave us as orphans. Jn 14:18.
Matthew

Peace of Soul & Humility – Roses Among Thorns

-by St Francis de Sales

“Nothing troubles us so much as self-love and self-regard. Should our hearts not grow soft with the sentiment we desire when we pray and with the interior sweetness we expect when we meditate, we are sorrowful; should we find some difficulty in doing good deeds, should some obstacle oppose our plans, we are in a dither to overcome it, and we labor anxiously. Why is this? Doubtless, because we love our consolations, ease, and comfort. We want to pray as though we were bathing in comfort and to be virtuous as though we were eating dessert, all the while failing to look upon our sweet Jesus, Who, prostrate on the ground, sweat blood and water from the distress of the extreme interior combat He underwent (Mark 14:35; Luke 22:44).

Self-love is one of the sources of our anxiety; the other is our high regard for ourselves. Why are we troubled to find that we have committed a sin or even an imperfection?

Because we thought ourselves to be something good, firm, and solid. And therefore, when we have seen the proof to the contrary, and have fallen on our faces in the dirt, we are troubled, offended, and anxious. If we understood ourselves, we would be astonished that we are ever able to remain standing. This is the other source of our anxiety: we want only consolations, and we are surprised to encounter our own misery, nothingness, and folly.

There are three things we must do to be at peace:
– have a pure intention to desire the honor and glory of God in all things;
– do the little that we can unto that end, following the advice of our spiritual father [director];
– and leave all the rest to God’s care.

Why should we torment ourselves if God is our aim and we have done all that we can? Why be anxious? What is there to fear? God is not so terrible to those who love Him. He contents Himself with little, for He knows how little we have. Our Lord is called the Prince of Peace in the Scriptures (Isaiah 9:6), and because He is the abso­lute master, He holds all things in peace. It is nevertheless true that before bringing peace to a place, He first brings war (cf. Matthew 10:34-36) by dividing the heart and soul from its most dear, familiar, and ordinary affections.

Now, when our Lord separates us from these passions, it seems that He burns our hearts alive, and we are embit­tered. The separation is so painful that it is barely possible for us to avoid fighting against it with all our soul. Peace is not lacking in the end when, although burdened by this distress, we keep our will resigned to our Lord, keep it nailed to God’s good pleasure, and fulfill our duties cou­rageously.

We may take for example our Lord’s agony in the garden, where, overwhelmed by interior and exterior bitterness, He nonetheless resigned Himself peaceably to His Father’s divine will, saying, “not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42, Douay-Rheims). And He maintained this peace when admonishing three times the disciples who failed Him (Matthew 26:40-45). At war with sin and suf­fering bitterly, He remained the Prince of Peace.

We can draw the following lessons from this consid­eration:

The first is that we often mistakenly think that we have lost our peace when we are bitter. If we continue to deny ourselves and desire that everything should be done in accord with God’s good pleasure, and if we fulfill our duties in spite of our bitterness, then we preserve our peace.

The second is that it is when we are suffering interiorly that God rips off the last bits of skin of the old man in order to renew in us the “new man that is made according to God” (cf. Ephesians 4:22-24). And so we should never be disturbed by such sufferings or think that we are disgraced in our Lord’s eyes.

The third is that all the thoughts that give us anxious and restless minds are not from God, who is the Prince of Peace; they are, therefore, temptations from the enemy, and we must reject them.

We must in all things remain at peace. Should interior or exterior pains afflict us, we must accept them peacefully. Should joys come our way, they must be received peace­fully, without transport. If we must flee evil, we must do so calmly, without being disturbed; otherwise, we may fall in our flight and give the enemy the chance to kill us. If there is good to be done, it must be done peacefully, or we will commit many faults through haste. Even penance must be done peacefully. “See,” says the penitent, “that my great bitterness is in peace” (cf. Isaiah 38:17).

As to humility, this virtue sees to it that we are neither troubled by our imperfections, nor in the habit of recalling those of others, for why should we be more perfect than our brothers? Why should we find it strange that others have imperfections since we ourselves have so many? Humil­ity gives us a soft heart for the perfect and the imperfect: for the former out of reverence and for the latter out of compassion. Humility makes us accept pains with meek­ness, knowing that we deserve them, and good things with gratitude, knowing that we do not. Every day we ought to make some act of humility, or speak heartfelt words of humility, words that lower us to the level of a servant, and words that serve others, however modestly, either in our homes or in the world.

How happy you will be if while you are in the world you keep Jesus Christ in your heart! Remember the principal lesson He left to us, and in only a few short words, so that we would be able to remember it: “Learn of Me, for I am meek, and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29, Douay-Rheims). It is everything to have a heart that is meek toward our neighbor and humble toward God. At every moment give such a heart to our Savior, and let it be the heart of your heart. You will see that to the extent that this holy and considerate friend takes up a place in your mind, the world with its vanities and trifles will leave you.”

Love,
Matthew

Jesus fears…


-Giovanni Bellini, “The Agony in the Garden”, NG726, National Gallery, London, ~1465.

We all worry. We all experience stress. When disease comes, we even face physical suffering. So did the Lord. “For we do not have a high priest Who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses…”, -Heb 4:15a. “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” -Lk 22:44. “If you would be My disciples, take up your cross, and follow Me!” -cf Mt 16:24


-by Br Ignatius Weiss, OP

“Anxiety develops in three ways: the tidal waves of sudden tragedy, the rising flood of compounded stresses, and that heavy, salty air of ambient anxiety caused by constant tension or worry.

“Save me, O God,
for the waters have risen to my neck.
I have sunk into the mud of the deep
and there is no foothold.
I have entered the waters of the deep
and the waves overwhelm me.” (-Ps 69:2–3)

Anxiety is the fear that builds up when we sense an evil closing in around us. This mental awareness gives rise to a fear that reverberates through the body. We feel a tension, a weight, a darkness, an ache. It begins to hang from our shoulders or coil around our chests. Our thoughts are mottled, and we compulsively tap our feet or drum our fingers to vent our nervous energy; the wringing of our hands embodies the knotting of our heart. Even when we are focused on something else, this trembling sensation lurks just beneath the surface, stirring the waters.

Fear is our natural and appropriate reaction against bad things, but the devil likes to contort it for his own use. Into our healthy caution the adversary plants lies and deceptions to make us feel weak, uncertain, and alone. The tensions persist or form over unimportant matters (the “10,000 little things” of life). He turns fear into worry and worry into despair. Jesus, with complete abandonment to the will of the Father, himself began to experience the torment of anxiety more and more as his hour drew near.

The Gospels describe Jesus before his arrest as being “deeply distressed and troubled,” or literally, “weighed down” (Mk 14:33), and “very sorrowful,” or surrounded by grief, “even unto death” (Mt 26:38). But this fear began well before the garden. “Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me’” (Jn 13:21). Something similar is found when he earlier prophesied his own suffering, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour” (Jn 12:27). Going beyond the biblical data, one could make reference to the tradition behind the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, that the child Jesus saw angels bearing the instruments of the Passion; frightened, he darted to the security of his mother’s embrace, even breaking a sandal in his retreat.

It can be easy to imagine Jesus as some unflinching superhero—He is God after all! Yet He chose the emotional pains of fear and anxiety that come with assuming human nature and its weakness. “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Is 53:4). What is most astonishing, however, is that the Almighty chose to save us through suffering. The same pangs and wounds that we receive were accepted by the incarnate God Who alone could bear them perfectly. Without affecting His sublime divinity, the many pains were really endured in his humanity. He took up not only the cross, but our worries and our frustrations in order to transform these, too, into sources of grace. He takes them up, but not away. He elevates them, lightens their load, and blesses those who bear them; to take them away would be to take away our unique path to holiness and our way to Heaven.

“For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.” (-Heb 12:2)

We will suffer. Jesus has promised us this much. But what we do with these sufferings is what really matters in the end. God uses our suffering for His glory. Patience, which itself means “suffering,” is the virtue whereby we endure pains, and longanimity or longsuffering is the virtue of enduring expected pains. God graciously pours these virtues into his children and works with us to strengthen our souls to better imitate Jesus, to remain in the state of grace and grow toward perfection. The Son dwells in the baptized by grace in order to take to himself through us the many stings of life, bearing them in us, and giving us strength enough to face them with Him.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and He delivered them from their distress;
He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and He brought them to their desired haven.” (-Ps 107:28–30)

“It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. (Jn 6:16–21)”

Love, Blessed Holy Week,
Matthew

Filial Obedience

Diocesan priests make the following promise to their bishops upon ordination: “Do you promise filial respect and obedience to me and my successors?” That word filial IS specific, intentional, and important. It is there expressly to distinguish between servile, or that of a slave, and filial, that of child to their parent.

“…Obedience in the Church is never contrary to the dignity and respect of the person, nor must it ever be understood as an abandonment of responsibility or as a surrender. The Rite utilizes a fundamental adjective for the right understanding of such a promise; it defines obedience only after mentioning “respect”, and this with the adjective “filial”. Now the term “son”, in every language, is a relative name, which implies, specifically, the relationship of a father and a son. It is in this context that the obedience we have promised must be understood. It is a context in which the father is called to truly be a father, and the son to recognize his own sonship and the beauty of the fatherhood that has been given to him. As happens in the law of nature, no one chooses his own father, nor does one choose one’s own sons. Therefore, we are all called, fathers and sons, to have a supernatural regard for one another, one of great reciprocal clemency and respect, that is to say the capacity to look at the other keeping always in mind the good Teacher who has brought him into being, and who always, ultimately, moulds him. Respect is, by definition, simply this: to look at someone while keeping Another in mind!

It is only in the context of “filial respect” that an authentic obedience is possible, one which is not only formal, a mere execution of orders, but one which is ardent, complete, attentive, which can really bring forth the fruits of conversion and of “new life” in him who lives it.

The promise is to the Ordinary at the time of ordination and to his “Successors”, since the Church always draws back from an excessive personalism: She has at heart the person, but not the subjectivism that detracts from the power and the beauty, both historical and theological, which characterize the Institution of obedience. The Spirit resides also in the Institution, since it is of divine origin. The Institution is charismatic, of its very nature, and thus to be freely bound by it in time (the Successors) means to “remain in the truth”, to persevere in Him, present and operative in His living body, the Church, in the beauty of the continuity of time, of ages, which joins us enduringly to Christ and to his Apostles.”
– by His Eminence, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Titular Archbishop of Vittoriana, Secretary, Congregation for the Clergy, Vatican, November 18, 2009, “Letter to Priests”

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

Presence of God – O Jesus most obedient, make me understand the value of obedience.

MEDITATION

St. John of the Cross has said, “God wants from us the least degree of obedience and submission, rather than all the works we desire to offer Him” (Spiritual Maxims: Words of Light, 13). Why? Because obedience makes us surrender our own will to adhere to God’s will as expressed in the orders of our superiors; and the perfection of charity, as well as the essence of union with God, consists precisely in the complete conformity of our will with the divine will. Charity will be perfect in us when we govern ourselves in each action–not according to our personal desires and inclinations–but according to God’s will, conforming our own to His. This is the state of union with God, for “the soul that has attained complete conformity and likeness of will (to the divine will), is totally united to and transformed in God supernaturally” (Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 5,4).

The will of God is expressed in His commandments, in the precepts of the Church, in the duties of our state in life; beyond all that, there is still a vast area for our free choice, where it is not always easy to know with certitude exactly what God wants of us. In the voice of obedience, however, the divine will takes on a clear, precise form; it comes to us openly manifest and we no longer need to fear making a mistake. Indeed, as St. Paul says, “There is no power but from God” (Romans 13:1), so that by obeying our lawful superiors, we can be certain that we are obeying God. Jesus Himself, when entrusting to His disciples the mission of converting the world, said, “He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me” (Luke 10:16).

He teaches us here that ecclesiastical superiors represent Him and speak to us in His Name. Furthermore, St. Thomas points out that every lawful authority–even in the natural order, such as the civil and social spheres–when commanding within the just limits of its powers manifests the divine will. In this very sense, the Apostle does not hesitate to say, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your lords … as to Christ … doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:5-6).

COLLOQUY

“Oh! how sweet and glorious is this virtue of obedience, which contains all the other virtues! Because it is born of charity, and on it the rock of holy faith is founded, it is a queen, and he who espouses it knows no evil, but only peace and rest. The tempestuous waves of evil cannot hurt him because he sails in Your holy will, O my God…. He has no wish which cannot be satisfied because obedience makes him desire You alone, O Lord, Who know his desires and can and will fulfill them. Obedience navigates without fatigue, and without danger comes into the port of salvation. O Jesus, I see that obedience conforms itself to You; I see it going with You into the little boat of the holy Cross. Grant me, then, O Lord, this holy obedience anointed with true humility. It is straightforward and without deceit; it brings with it the light of divine grace. Give me this hidden pearl trampled underfoot by the world, which humbles itself to submit to creatures for love of You” (St. Catherine of Siena).

O Lord, I have only one life; what better way could I use it for Your glory and my sanctification than to submit it directly to obedience? Only by doing this shall I be certain that I am not wasting my time or deceiving myself, for to obey is to do Your will. If my will is very imperfect, Yours is holy and sanctifying; if mine has only the sad power to lead me astray, Yours can make holy my life and all my acts–even the simplest and most indifferent–if they are accomplished at its suggestion. O Lord, the desire to live totally in Your will urges me to obedience and compels me to love and embrace this virtue, in spite of my great attachment to my liberty and independence.

O holy, sanctifying will of my God, I want to love You above everything else; I want to embrace You at every moment of my life; I do not want to do anything without You or outside of You.”

Love,
Matthew

Tolerance is not a Christian virtue

-from “The Old Evangelization” by Eric Sammons

Jesus Refuses to Tolerate Sin
Sometimes Intolerance is a Virtue

We are required to accept any lifestyle, any choice, and any depravity, all in the name of “tolerance.” This poses a problem when it comes to evangelization, for conversion involves rejecting certain lifestyles and choices; in other words, it involves being intolerant of sin.

We often fear that confronting someone about his sins will seem “un-Christian.” Yet Christ shows is that it is not, as we see from his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

The encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26)

“Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again to Galilee. He had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I Who speak to you am He.”

Jesus and His disciples are passing through Samaria, whose inhabitants have a strained relationship with the Jews. They decide to take a break in the city of Sychar. As the disciples go off to refresh their supplies, Jesus rests next to Jacob’s well. A woman approaches the well, and Jesus asks her for a drink of water. As is typical for the Lord, he uses this ordinary sort of exchange as an opportunity to dive into deeper, spiritual realities. This tactic is itself a model for those who want to evangelize. We all have basic physical needs that everyone recognizes, but most people don’t recognize their great spiritual needs. So Jesus takes a physical need as an opportunity to launch into a more important discussion about spiritual needs:

Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:13-15)

Starting with a simple request for a drink, Jesus leads the woman to ask for something herself, something far better: the water that leads to eternal life. She might not yet fully understand Christ’s words, but her interest is piqued. Likewise, within our own circle of influence we shouldn’t browbeat people with theology, but rather use our ordinary interactions with them to lead them to ask us about eternal matters.

What is especially interesting for our purposes, however, is the response Jesus gives right when He has the Samaritan woman on the cusp of discipleship. Before we look at that, think of how most of us would respond to someone looking for spiritual answers. We would bend over backwards to welcome him, and do all we can to answer his questions in a way that satisfies his curiosity but without giving offense. In short, we would strive to do nothing that might turn the inquirer away.

But what does Jesus say to the inquiring Samaritan woman? “Go, call your husband, and come here” (John 4:16). At first glance, it may appear that Jesus wants to include the woman’s whole household in this path to salvation. But we find this was not his purpose. The woman answers, “I have no husband,” and Jesus responds, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly” (John 4:17-18).

Our Lord obviously knew that such a confrontation might lead her to reject Him, but His thirst for her salvation compelled Him to challenge her lifestyle.

Notice also that Jesus doesn’t over- or under-react to the woman’s immoral past. He confronts her regarding her marriage history, but He doesn’t launch into full-scale denunciations of it. He simply makes it clear that her lifestyle is not acceptable for one who would follow Him. This balanced approach is all too rare today.

In our evangelization efforts, we too often flee from confrontation. We are, frankly, horrified by the idea of pointing out another person’s faults. In a land where “Don’t judge me!” has become a mantra, we strive for a “live and let live” attitude towards all. This is, of course, legitimate in most cases. After all, if you’re attending your son’s Little League practice, you don’t turn to the parent sitting next to you and point out the spiritual dangers of adultery.

But if you’re guiding someone to a deeper knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith, his or her moral life must become a topic at some point. In the politically incorrect words of St. Paul, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). If someone is living a life contrary to the gospel, he has erected a barrier to God which must be torn down, and as an evangelizer, you need to hand him the tools to begin the process. Gently and lovingly, you must help him confront and correct any lifestyle choices that block him from receiving God’s graces.

Of course, the same standard applies to us as well. If we do not acknowledge our own sins and bring them to confession, then we can’t confront others. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, but it does mean that we must recognize our faults and work to overcome them.

Confronting someone’s sins might lead to their immediate repentance—let’s call that the “Nineveh response”—or it might lead to repentance years or decades later—the “St. Augustine response”—or it might lead to no change in behavior—the “Sodom and Gomorrah response.” The response, however, is not our responsibility; we simply have a duty to show the way to eternal life. It’s up to each individual—my friend Leo or the Samaritan woman or your friend in a sinful lifestyle—to make the decisions necessary to take that path.”

Love,
Matthew

Twin sins: despair & presumption


-by Rev. Michael Schmitz | February 29, 2016, Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St Paul

Q. I teach young people who seem to think that, since God loves them, it doesn’t matter how they live.

A. This is a real issue, and I don’t think that the problem is limited to young people. I have met plenty of adults in my time who seem to exhibit the same disposition. What we are talking about are the “twin sins” of despair and presumption. I call them “twin sins” because both the temptation to deny God’s love and the temptation to presume upon God’s love are two sides of the same coin. They have a common root, and they also have a common remedy.

The problem with these twin sins is not that one takes sin too seriously and the other doesn’t take sin seriously enough. Although that would appear to make sense, it isn’t true.

That might even seem to make sense to you. Imagine that you are counseling a person tempted to despair of any hope because of their sins. Imagine someone who felt so awful for their sins that they just couldn’t dream that God could ever love them and raise them out of their brokenness. In that scenario, you might be tempted to advise them to “lighten up” about sin. You might be tempted to assure them that their sins “aren’t that bad.” (Note: there is such a thing as scrupulosity. But being scrupulous isn’t being sensitive to sin; that’s merely being holy. Scrupulosity is seeing sin where there is no sin.)

On the other hand, imagine one of the young people you mentioned. This kind of person claims to know something about God’s love. They might say, “I don’t have to be concerned with following God; He loves me no matter what.” If you were counseling a person in this state, you might be tempted to point out all of the ways that sin wounds the soul (and even often wounds the body!). You might point out all of the ways that sin destroys relationships and leads to death. It might be a very compelling thing to try to describe how truly ugly sin is. And that wouldn’t be wrong. All of those things are true. It might even be that your words could move this person’s heart and mind to take sin more seriously.

But I think that, in both cases, we are called neither to merely invite people to take sin less seriously nor to take sin more seriously. The lasting solution is to take the cross more seriously.

People tempted to despair do not need to take sin less seriously but to take the cross more seriously. If people take the cross of Jesus seriously, they know that there is no sin that Jesus didn’t die for. They know that they are not “beyond saving.” If a person really and truly takes the cross seriously, they would never question whether or not God loved them. Despair would be impossible.

Further, if people tempted toward presumption take the cross of Jesus seriously, they could not possibly dismiss the gravity of their sins. The cross is the price God paid for their sins. If a person takes the cross of Christ seriously, they have to recognize that it is their sin that moved the God of love to embrace suffering and death in order to forgive them.

Despair is the sin of Judas. It is ultimately rooted in pride. It says, “God’s love poured out on the cross is enough to save other people, but it cannot save me.” The person in despair sees the world with themselves at the center. If they would only be willing to realize they are not the center of reality, and that the saving cross of Jesus stands at the center of reality, they would realize they are both worse than they thought and that they are more loved than they could have imagined.

Presumption is the sin of our modern age. It is also rooted in pride. It says, “I do not need God’s (or anyone’s) help.” Or it says, “God understands all things. He will always forgive, even without my repentance.” If this person would only acknowledge that the consequence of each of their sins was the death of God Incarnate, they might not be so cavalier about the need to turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

Ultimately, the answer to both despair and presumption is to take God seriously, to accept his love, and to accept his call to live a new life relying on his grace.”

Amen!

Love & joy,
Matthew

Integrity

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” -Deut 6:4-9

-by DeMarco, Donald, “The Virtue of Integrity”, Lay Witness Magazine, (October 1999).

“We need integrity to become who we are, so that we can complement God’s gift to us with our gift to Him.

At the opposite ends of the moral spectrum are holiness and multiplicity. This pairing of polar opposites may seem odd at first, but it is solidly biblical. Holiness is so named because it represents wholeness or unity of personality. God is eminently holy and His saints are holy to the degree they emulate Him. According to traditional orthodox teaching, God, Who is the fullness of Being and of every perfection (Catechism, no. 213), has the character of simplicity. For St. Augustine, God is truly and absolutely simple. And for St. Hilary, God, Who is strength, is not made up of things that are weak; nor is He, Who is light, composed of things that are dim.

Going to pieces

Multiplicity is fragmentation, fractionalization, dispersion, dividedness. It is captured in the colloquial expression going to pieces. Multiplicity in this sense also corresponds to the notion of diabolical, which literally means going off in opposite directions. In Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39 we read about the man who lived in the country of the Gerasenes who was possessed by an unclean spirit. The poor man was out of sorts, to say the least. He would howl and gash himself with stones. Quite literally, he was out of control. His fellow countrymen would bind him with chains and fetters. But he would break the chains asunder, tear the fetters to pieces, and be driven by the devil into the desert.

This poor man submitted himself to Christ, Who commanded the unclean spirit to declare its name. Legion, was the response, for many devils had entered him (Lk. 8:30). Christ then allowed the legion of devils to enter a herd of swine, approximately 2,000 in all, who then rushed with great violence into the sea and were drowned. This spectacle of mass disintegration was indeed terrifying to the swineherds who reported the event to their townsfolk.

Wholeness next to godliness

The word holy from Old English: hālig meaning “wholeness”.

The difference between God and the devil is the difference between simplicity and multiplicity. We human beings cannot hope to achieve simplicity, but we can achieve integrity and avoid multiplicity.

A favorite theme among 20th-century writers is the fundamental moral importance of personal integrity. The word they often use to describe this state is authenticity. A person should be himself, they insist, and not divide himself into incompatible parts: one for himself and another for the masses.

Because our unity of personality demands the integration of its parts, there is always the possibility that we can break up (dis-integrate) into discordant pieces. But what are these parts that must be integrated if the person is to be whole? There are many lines along which personality can be unified. There is the integrity between word and deed, friendship and fidelity, private life and public life, mind and body, head and heart. But the integrity that is perhaps most basic to a human being is the one that binds one’s being to one’s behavior, endowment to achievement, or giftedness to response.

Claiming our inheritance

God has given us our inheritance and an inclination toward our destiny. We are free to reject this inheritance because we do not think it is good enough. Thus, we may spend our life envying others whom we judge to be more talented, intelligent, attractive, and so on. Or we may decide not to make the effort of claiming our natural inheritance so as to fulfill our destiny. The great Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard distinguished these two dispositions, respectively, as the despair of weakness and the despair of defiance.

We need integrity to become who we are, so that we can complement Gods gift to us with our gift to Him. Although we often lack integrity in ourselves, we are usually quick to recognize and denounce it in others. So it was with that great cinematic legend of yesteryear, the Lone Rangers trusty sidekick, Tonto, who instinctively distrusted the white man who spoke with forked tongue. We detest phoniness, hypocrisy, duplicity, double-dealing, and disingenuousness. We admire integrity, though we know that it often comes at a high price.

Specialization and bureaucracy contribute heavily to the process of disintegration. Politics is another area that poses a formidable challenge to anyone who wants to retain his integrity. On the abortion issue, for example, one commonly hears about politicians who are privately opposed but publicly in favor of it.

That’s entertainment?

Charlton Heston stood up at a Time/Warner stockholders meeting not too long ago and read the shocking lyrics of certain rock songs that passed for entertainment in the judgment of that corporation. He said that he expected he would never again be invited to make a film with Warner Brothers and would win many enemies, but that he had a moral obligation to do what he could to start cleaning up some of the filth that is demoralizing contemporary society. He announced to his stunned audience that his integrity meant more to him than his status in the eyes of Time/Warner. As he read the lyrics that were rife with sexism, racism, and violence, The Time/Warner executives, according to Heston, squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. “They hated me for that.” Nonetheless, much good did result from his address.

The sacrifice of fame and fortune, to whatever extent, however, does not compare with the sacrifice of one’s integrity. In his impassioned speech to the stockholders, Mr. Heston would have done well to quote Kierkegaard: “Or can you think of anything more frightful than that it might end with your nature being resolved into a multiplicity, that you really might become many, become, like those unhappy demoniacs, a legion, and you thus would have lost the inmost and holiest thing of all in a man, the unifying power of personality?”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew