Modesty is more than a hemline

-by Christina M. Sorrentino

“Modesty is more than just a hemline, it is an interior disposition that influences not only our dress, but our thoughts an actions.”
-Leah Darrow

As a Catholic millennial woman I would like to offer a take on modesty, not to cast judgment on other women or to spark a religious debate, but to speak to my sisters in Christ about our feminine beauty; that which enhances our human dignity as designed by our Creator.

Modesty is that which in our way of dress, speech, and actions does not bring negative attention to ourselves, and this has been the practice of modesty throughout the world. There are different standards of modesty, which depends on the culture that we find ourselves in within a society, and the culture has also changed over time along with the standards of modesty. But we are called as daughters of the King to dress and behave in such a way that His glory shines through us, so that we can be a witness of Christ in the world. We do not want to bring lustful attention to ourselves, which does not give us the respect that we deserve as a human person.

However, we should not look down upon other women who may not demonstrate modesty according to our definition of modesty. Behind every woman there is a story, and we cannot judge the modesty within her heart.  We all know the old saying, “Do not judge a book by it’s cover.” This kind of judgment is not an act of love, but one of spiritual pride. Modesty in dress means nothing if we have an immodest heart; that which looks down upon our fellow sisters in Christ.

“For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
-1 Corinthians 6:20

It is often difficult to find an outfit that displays our feminine beauty and brings reverence to the Lord. A shopping experience to find modest clothing can become filled with frustration and can take hours still leaving us empty-handed. I have found online shopping to be more successful, and have discovered fashionable clothing that is not too expensive, and is more of a simple style of dress; not elaborate and gaudy calling for all eyes to be on me. I choose to dress in a way that does not turn myself into an “idol,” that which can shift away focus from the things of Heaven. Our eyes should always gaze towards the Son. Let us  dress in such a way that makes the statement, “I am a beloved daughter of God.””

Amen, sister.  Amen.
Your brother in Christ,
Matthew

Easter. It happened.

-Most Reverend Robert Barron, Auxilliary Bishop of Los Angeles
April 12, 2020

“Here’s the first thing I want you to know about the Resurrection: it happened. Why do I say it that way? This has been around for a long time, but many people today, way too many, will say, well, the Resurrection is a nice story. It’s a nice myth, like many other myths of dying and rising gods. We can find these in different cultures and religions all over the world. It’s just one more iteration of this ancient story. Maybe has a moral meaning to it. Now, I’d be willing to bet if there were some young Catholics, young Christians listening to me, I bet you’ve heard some version of that in your college or university classroom.

It’s a very common view and kind of a cultural elite. Well, whenever I hear this, I think of a saying of C.S. Lewis, the great writer. Lewis, one of whose academic specialties was the study of mythic literature. Lewis said, “Those who say the Gospels are mythic haven’t read many myths.” Now, here’s what he meant, I think. A myth, and I love the myth, by the way. I remember vividly I was in seventh grade when I was kind of introduced to the Greek and Roman myth. I had to do a report on them. I’ve loved those stories from that day to this day.

Myths are stories with a symbolic importance. They speak of great general truths about the world, about nature, about society, about the psyche. Think, for example, of the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome. Well, they’re personifications, if you want, of the natural necessities. Think of Poseidon of the sea, and Zeus of the air, and Demeter of the earth, et cetera, et cetera. Wonderful myths. They convey great general truths, which is why, by the way, myths are always set in some kind of indefinite, distant time.

We say once upon a time. Or bring it up to date: a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. See, Star Wars is a very good example of a modern myth. A very effective one, I must say. It’s captured the minds of people all over the world. That’s because it taps into this sort of mythic consciousness. As I say, great. I like the myths. But we’re not dealing here in Christianity with a myth. The Resurrection is not one more iteration of this ancient story. Now, here’s the clue. You heard it in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Listen. This is St. Peter, by the way, speaking. “You know what’s happened all over Judea, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. We are witnesses of all that he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.” As I say, myths are set once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away. No one ever wonders, hmm, who was the political leader when Hercules was around? Or you know when Osiris rose from the dead? Who was the pharaoh at that time? I mean, no one’s gonna ask a question like that because those are inappropriate questions.

But listen to this man. You know what happened in Judea and about this Jesus from Nazareth. You know Nazareth, where that is. And the country of the Jews, that means the area around Jerusalem, and things that happened in the city of – you people know all this. This is for my Southern California friends. But apply it now in your own situation. If I were to begin a story this way, I met this guy first in Oxnard, and then I saw him again in Montecito, and then just last week, he was here in Santa Barbara, would you think for a second that I was about to tell you a mythic story?

No. You’d say he’s telling me something that really happened to him. He’s naming times and places. Can you hear now how Peter’s language is much more like that than it is like mythic language? Now, listen to how this thing ends, how Peter’s oration ends. Again, not some generic myth. “This man God raised on the third day and granted that He be seen, not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” Now, I suggest you can spend the rest of the Easter season with that last line. In fact, you can spend the rest of your life with that last line. We, who ate and drank with him, this Jesus from Nazareth, whom you saw, that one. We ate and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. Takes your breath away the realism of it.

Here’s something else. When you read a myth or you read, let’s say, a writing by a spiritual teacher, there’s something very serene about it. It’s conveying important truths, sure. But it’s told using a kind of detached, serene manner. Pick up the New Testament. Now, maybe a lot of you haven’t been reading much of the New Testament recently.

Pick it up, any page, Matthew through Revelation. What you find there is not serene, detached reflection on abstract spiritual truths. What you find on every page of it is what I would call a grab you by the lapels quality. See, something happened to these people. Myths can be made up in the privacy of your home or in a faculty lounge. You know what I’m saying? But these people aren’t talking that way. Something happened to them that was like an explosion. And the after effects are being felt to this moment. They wanted to go all over the world and tell everyone they possibly could that this Jesus rose from the dead.

Here’s something else. How many missionaries of Hercules are there? The answer? None. How many martyrs for Osiris are there? Answer? None. Because those are mythic figures. People don’t become missionaries and martyrs on behalf of mythic characters. Of Jesus? Missionaries? Are you kidding? These people went careering around the world with this urgent sense of mission to tell the whole world. Martyrs? Yep. Every single one of His most intimate followers, with the exception of John, met a martyr’s death.

Well, you can’t fly right now because of this coronavirus. But the minute that’s over, you can get on a plane if you want. You can fly to Rome. You can visit the grave of the man who said these words, “We who ate and drank with Him after His resurrection from the dead.” I’ll show exactly where he’s buried because it’s the biggest, most beautiful grave marker in the whole world. It’s called Saint Peter’s Basilica. And that’s where the man who said these words is buried, who was crucified upside down, rather than to deny the truth of what he saw. Myths? Give me a break, myths.

And again, young people listening to me, if you hear that in your college classrooms, or university, or you read it, don’t you believe it. That’s not what these people are talking about. And the explosive power of the Resurrection message felt to this day. Okay. I wanna tell you now three things. We got a little time. It’s the coronavirus. You’re not going anywhere. So, I’m gonna give you three implications, once we accept the fact of the Resurrection. Here’s the first one; the first implication of the Resurrection. Jesus is who He said He was. Think about Jesus, he’s always a great spiritual teacher.

Well, yeah. You could distill spiritual teachings from Jesus, sure. What was really interesting about Jesus was that He spoke and acted in the very person of God. Unless you love Me more than your mother and father, more than your very life, you are not worthy of Me. Can you imagine any other spiritual teacher saying that? That’d be the height of arrogance unless He in person is the highest good. You’ve heard it said in the Torah, but I say, for a first-century Jew, that was outrageous speech. Torah, highest law possible. The law that God gave to Moses.

Who could claim authority over it, except the author of the Torah himself? My son, your sins are forgiven you. And the people say, well, who does this man think he is? Only God can forgive sins. Quite right. Heaven and Earth will pass away. My words will never pass away. Who could say that except the eternal word of God? Now, what was the reaction to Jesus? Well, you can see it in the Gospel. Some, sure, they were fascinated and they followed Him. Others were kinda puzzled, and wondered about it. Others hated Him and hounded Him to His death because of it.

What did the first witnesses of the Resurrection realize? Huh. He is who He said He was. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the ratification of his claim to speak and act in the very person of God. Now, listen. If Jesus is not just one spiritual teacher among many, one philosopher among many, but rather, if Jesus is Himself God made flesh, then we have to give our whole life to Him, right? If He is who He says He is, well then, I have to surrender my whole life to Him. There’s the first implication of the Resurrection. Here’s the second one: our sins are forgiven.

The resurrected Christ always does two things. Look at all the accounts of the Resurrection appearances. First, He shows His wounds, and then He says, “Shalom.” Now, the showing of the wounds. Why is that important? Don’t forget what you did. The author of life came, and we killed Him. There’s that stark message. I preached on it the other day. The author of life came, and we killed Him. I’m okay and you’re okay. Come on. Everything’s just fine with me. Give me a break. The wounds of Jesus are the sign of our own spiritual dysfunction, and don’t forget it, is what the risen Lord is saying.

That’s a salutary move that we are aware of our sinfulness. But then what follows the showing of the wounds? Not vengeance. Now, you’d expect that in any Hollywood movie, and actually, in many of the myths of the world. What would you expect? This poor man, who had been betrayed and denied, abandoned him at the moment of truth. And now, he’s back from the dead. What would you expect if you’re watching a Hollywood movie? Well, he’s gonna visit his vengeance upon them. But the risen Jesus says, “Shalom.” Peace.

And that’s a word, everybody, that is basic in the Bible. It sums up what God wants for His people, what God has wanted from the beginning. What sin has interrupted is shalom, peace. That means well-being at every level. But here’s the thing: to those who had denied, betrayed, run from him, abandoned him, he says a word of forgiveness and peace. We killed God, and God returned in forgiving love. You see what that means? Do you see what that means? We killed God, and God returned in forgiving love. That means there’s no sin that God can’t, in principle, forgive. There’s nothing that can finally separate us from the love of God.

And doesn’t Paul say exactly that in Romans? “I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither height or death, or any other creature could ever separate us from the love of God.” Paul knows that because he met the risen Jesus, who showed his wounds and said, “Shalom.” The second great implication of the Resurrection is our sins are forgiven. Third and final implication: the Resurrection shows who is our king and what our mission ought to be. You remember Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, puts a mocking sign over the cross, this pathetic figure crucified, and over the cross, the sign, “Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum,” Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.

And just so no one would miss it, Pilate put it in Hebrew and Greek, as well. So, everybody could see. It was meant as a joke. Look at this poor, pathetic man, who claimed to be the king of the Jews. What do they sense now after the Resurrection? That the joke was on Pilate because this risen Christ is, in fact, the king of the Jews, therefore, the king of all nations. And, deliciously, Pilate thereby became the first great Evangelist, announcing to all the nations in all the relevant languages, “You’ve got a new king.” Now, that’s the message of the first Christians.

Pick up your New Testament. Open up to any of the letters from Saint Paul. What will you find? Like a refrain, Jesus kurios, Jesus kurios, Jesus Christos, Jesus Christos. Jesus, the Lord. Jesus, the Messiah. Who was lord in that world? Well, there was a watchword: Kaiser kurios. Caesar’s lord. Caesar’s king. He’s the one to whom your allegiance is due. What’s Paul saying? How revolutionary it was. Not Kaiser, but rather someone whom Kaiser put to death, but whom God raised from the dead. Jesus kurios. Jesus is the lord. He’s the one now to whom your allegiance is due. See, and here’s the point. I’ll close everybody with this.

Here’s the point: stop messing around with Caesar and all of his successors to the present day. I mean, all these phony kings, all these false claimants to ultimate allegiance. Don’t give your life, and heart, and mind to them. Their day is over. Who’s the real king? Well, Pilate told us. Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum. Jesus of Nazareth, He’s the king. He’s the one now to Whom we should give our hearts, we should give our minds, we should give our energy, we should give our bodies and souls. He’s the one to Whom final allegiance is due. So, everybody, on this Easter day, rejoice because Jesus is Lord. Rejoice because our sins have been forgiven. Rejoice because we know who’s the king, and we have our mission.”

Love, Resurrection, & Easter joy,
Matthew

Neopaganism


-by Jimmy Akin

“Neopaganism is a movement that has been around for a little more than a century, but it really got rolling in the U.S. only in the last 30 or so years. As the name suggests, a neopagan is a “new pagan.” Hindus and Shintoists would be plain, old, regular pagans since they come from cultures (Indian and Japanese, respectively) that are historically polytheistic. Neopagans come from a historically monotheistic culture (Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) to embrace the worship of more than one god.

Meet the Neopagans

The most common forms of American neopaganism include Wicca, Druidism, Asatru, and Goddess Worship.

Wicca is an alleged revival of a British nature religion involving witchcraft (wicca means magic), though it actually was invented less than a century ago and is not substantively based on any historic British paganism.

Druidism is an alleged revival of another (this time historically real) British paganism, though modern Druidism has very little in common with the historic form. For instance, modern Druids do not generally perform human sacrifice by burning people inside wicker structures or by ritually cutting victims’ throats and leaving their bodies in bogs.

Asatru (sometimes called Odinism, though really Odinism is a subset of Asatru) is an alleged revival of ancient Norse religion. Actually, it has more of a connection with historic Norse religion than the previous two neo paganisms, because we know more about Norse religion. It didn’t die out until Christianity made literacy widespread in northern Europe.

Finally, Goddess Worship is an alleged revival of an ancient goddess-centered religion. It tends to be syncretistic, picking up bits pertaining to the worship of female deities from multiple ancient religions.

There are additional neo-pagan groups as well as many self-styled neopagans who don’t belong to any defined group. Though the actual number of neo-pagans is still quite small, they have achieved a disproportionate status. Wiccans have managed to get approval for Wiccan military chaplains. Even before 9/11, Asatruers got themselves on the FBI’s terrorist watch list because of the militancy of some Odinists. And all you have to do is stroll through the New Age section of any major bookstore to find all kinds of books devoted to Goddess Worship.

Basic Apologetic Strategies

Because neopaganism is a recent phenomenon, apologetics has not yet had the time to prove by experience what strategies are the most effective for reclaiming souls from neopaganism. This problem is exacerbated by the individualistic nature of neopaganism, which requires that very particular evangelization strategies be tailored to the individuals in question. While only those best acquainted with an individual will be able to judge what strategies would be most effective, a number of general approaches may be noted.

    “Wait and See” Strategy.

Because of the “shock value” aspect of neo-paganism, for many—especially those going through or emerging from teenage rebellion—it is essentially a juvenile fascination.

After the novelty of the shock value wears off, or after the individual matures, his attachment to neo-paganism may fade and he may return to monotheism on his own. For this reason, it may be advisable not to evangelize the neopagan overtly, especially if he is youthful and disinclined to listen to you.

One might wish to make gentle suggestions about the benefits of monotheism or the problems of polytheism. In many cases, it may be necessary simply to pray for the individual and set an example of Christian virtue, charity, and kindness.

    “Here Are the Positives” Strategy.

If a neopagan proves receptive to monotheism, one might gently, politely, but firmly point out the problems of paganism and the benefits of monotheism.

Such an approach might in some circumstances begin, as did Paul’s speech to the Areopagus (Acts 17), with an acknowledgement of the.aspects of truth reflected in the neopagan’s beliefs. But it must proceed (as did Paul) to a gentle but firm proclamation of the truth of Christianity and the value of monotheism.

This strategy is most likely useful with those neopagans who are already in the process of coming back to Christianity. A few years from now, when there might be more neopagan children than there are now, it may be useful with children leaving the neopaganism of their families and desiring to become part of the Christian ethos around them.

    “Here Are the Negatives” Strategy.

If the neopagan is hardened and hostile to monotheism, one might forcefully and bluntly point out the problems of paganism.

Though this is a risky strategy and is not likely to bear immediate fruit, it may be the best available option. It is especially risky with neopagans to whom one is related (cf. Matt 13:57).

One way of pointing out the defects of the neopagan position is by pointing out that Europe and surrounding areas were so thoroughly converted to Christianity that no surviving pagan liturgies remain. The deities of European paganism were not able to ensure the survival of their own worship. They lost and lost so badly that neopagans must make up their own liturgies and theologies.

“Why,” one might ask, “should you worship such impotent deities? If they couldn’t protect their former worshipers at the heights of their powers, then how can they be trusted to protect you now?”

One might also pose the question, “Why was it that the followers of the ancient paganisms became Christian in the first place? What was it that they found deficient in paganism that led them to reject it and trust in Christ instead?”

The Nature of the Gods

Many neo-pagans advance the claim that there should not be a single world religion with a single deity or set of deities to be worshiped by all mankind, but rather each group should worship the gods of their ancestors or of their preference.

This claim creates a problem for the neopagan understanding of the gods, and it is fair for the Catholic apologist to point it out. Consider the implications that arise, depending on how the gods were interpreted.

There would seem to be four basic ways of making sense of the claim that different people should worship different pagan pantheons: 1. The gods of different peoples really aren’t different but should be identified with each other (e.g., Zeus = Jupiter = Odin). 2. There are a great many individual gods governing different peoples. 3. The gods are projections created in some sense by the peoples that worship them. 4. The gods are merely symbols or.aspects of something else.

1. If the gods of different religions are to be identified with each other, then it would not seem that there are meant to be different religions among peoples but only different rites used to worship the same set of gods.

This would be especially problematic for Asatruers, who often wish to view their gods as distinct from the gods of other people. A problem for all neo-pagans would be that it is highly implausible that the deities of many pantheons can be identified with each other.

For example, in Greek and Roman paganism, the kings of the gods (Zeus and Jupiter) are in control of thunder, but the thunder god in Germanic paganism is Thor, who is not the king of the gods (that would be Odin). Similarly, in Indo-European paganisms, the sky god tends to be masculine and the earth goddess feminine, but this is reversed in Egyptian mythology. It seems impossible to establish a universal paganism treating each individual pantheon as merely a different expression of the same set of independently real, non-symbolic beings.

2. If the gods of each paganism aren’t to be identified, then there would seem to be multiple deities for every.aspect of nature. Each people will have its own thunder god, its own vegetation god, et cetera. This leads to an implausible situation in a many cases. If Thor controls the thunder in Scandinavia, why should neopagans of Norse descent in America pray to him? Why shouldn’t they pray to an American Indian thunder deity who controls the local thunder? Further, our solar system has only one sun. Just how many sun gods can there be?

3. A theory advanced by some is that the gods are in some sense projections of or creations of their worshipers. If the gods were projections, then today of all days the gods would seem to have only tiny power because of tiny number of their followers. It would be difficult to imagine such beings as worthy of worship.

It also should also be noted that no historic pagans seem to have held this view of their deities. It would seem to be a modern idea—some might even say an intellectually desperate, last-ditch idea—introduced to insulate polytheism from the intellectual problems that otherwise arise for it.

4. Finally, some suppose that the gods do not have independent, objective reality but are just symbols. The question is: symbols of what?

On the one hand, if they are symbols of nature and natural forces, then it is difficult to see why they should be worshiped. Electricity is part of nature, but if one does not worship it when it comes from a light socket, it is difficult to see why one should worship it when one imagines and names a symbolic thunder god to represent it.

Further, the empirical evidence seems to show that the universe itself does not have a mind or a personality. Only by looking beyond nature—to the God who designed nature—can one find transcendent value worthy of worship.

On the other hand, if the answer is given that the gods are symbols of a fundamental spiritual reality that transcends the physical world, then it would seem (since all independent status already has been denied to the gods by rejecting the three alternatives just considered) that one is left with a form of fundamental monotheism that is only cloaked with polytheistic symbols.

That being the case, why should one use the symbols? Why not worship the Creator directly and explore the question of whether he cares for and has spoken to man, as monotheism has historically claimed?”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Jul 23 – Sts Philip Evans, SJ (1645-1679) & John Lloyd, (1630-1679), Priests & Martyrs


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-linen jacket (~1640), woman’s bodice, in which remains were found at Holywell, please click on the image for greater detail

It’s a mystery that has puzzled researchers for almost 150 years. In 1878, a wooden box was discovered in an attic in the Welsh town of Holywell. It contained two skulls and a cluster of other bones, wrapped in a linen jacket.

Jan Graffius is the curator of the Stonyhurst Collections, an eye-popping assembly of Catholic martyrs’ relics at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, northwest England. She believes that she has finally solved the conundrum.

“The starting point is you look at the evidence in front of you,” she told Catholic News Agency in an interview. “So you have two skulls. One has a hole in the cranium, and many of the bones that are associated with the two skulls show evidence of having been cut with a sharp knife.”

“The immediate premise that you draw from that is that at least one of these two was dismembered after death and that one of the heads was stuck on a spike.”

Acknowledging that the details were “quite graphic,” she continued: “I examined the skull to see whether the hole in the top had been inflicted from the outside in or from the inside out. And the way the bone had been damaged indicated that the force had come from within the skull, within the cranium itself. It had also been pierced by something from inside, like a spike.”

“The clinching argument was that the coccyx [pictured above] — the bone at the base of the spine — had been severed very cleanly. And when you’re hanging, drawing, and quartering, the quartering is literal: you cut the body into pieces. And that indicates to me where you would normally expect the cuts to come from severing the legs from the body.”

A second identifying factor, Graffius said, was where the bones were found. They were uncovered in a house connected to the Jesuit order, where relics of English martyrs were previously discovered.

“So there was an association with an English martyr, or a Welsh martyr, and somebody with a Jesuit association,” she explained.

(Holywell is, in addition, home to St Winefride’s Well, the oldest continually visited pilgrimage site in Britain.)

Graffius said that another clue was that the two skulls were found together, suggesting that the two figures were closely associated.

She consulted Maurice Whitehead and Hannah Thomas, academic experts on the Welsh martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries. That led to the breakthrough.

Philip Evans was playing tennis on July 21, 1679, when he heard that he would be executed the following day. He reportedly received the news in good spirits and asked permission to finish the game in the grounds of the prison where he was being held. Not permitted to do so, he took up a harp back in his prison cell and sang praise to God for calling him to be a martyr.

Evans was born around 34 years earlier in Monmouthshire, southeast Wales. He studied at the English Jesuit College at St Omer in Flanders, entering the Jesuits at the age of 20. In 1675, he returned to his homeland to serve as a missionary: a perilous enterprise following the Welsh Reformation.

Priest hunters tracked Evans down on Dec. 2, 1678. After weeks of solitary confinement at Cardiff Gaol, he was allowed to share a cell with another condemned man, John Lloyd.

Lloyd was older than Evans. Born in Brecon, mid-Wales, he trained for the Catholic priesthood in Valladolid, Spain. He came back to Wales in 1654, knowing that he risked his life by doing so.

Evans and Lloyd were condemned to death at the Spring Assizes in 1679. A jailer allowed them considerable freedom in their final months, with Evans playing the harp as well as engaging in racket sports.

On the evening before his execution, Evans wrote to his younger sister, a nun in Paris.

“Dear Sister,” he said. “I know that you are so well versed in the principles of Christian courage as not to be at all startled when you understand that your loving brother writes this as his last letter unto you, being in a few hours hence to suffer as a priest and consequently for God’s sake. What greater happiness can befall a Christian man?”

Evans was the first to be hanged, drawn, and quartered the next day. Witnesses noted that his executioners showed unusual aggression. At executions of groups of Catholic priests, the first killing was often especially savage, in an attempt to persuade those waiting to recant. But Lloyd held fast to the faith to the end.

Graffius said that the experts she consulted suggested that the bones possibly belonged to the two Welsh priests.

“They both said, ‘Look, this must be Evans and Lloyd because they were very closely associated in life.’ They spent their last six months or so together in prison. They were executed at the same time. They were buried, or disposed of, at the same time, and they are always spoken of as a pair, if you like, because of the close friendship they had during life.”

“So it makes perfect logical and historical sense for these two bones of these very closely associated men to have been rescued together, and secreted together.”

The story of the bones’ identification is told in an online exhibition, “‘How bleedeth burning love’: British Jesuit Province’s Relics of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales,” inspired by the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

The exhibition was originally planned as a physical event marking the anniversary of the canonization by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 25, 1970. But the coronavirus crisis forced the organizers to change their plans, offering instead an audio and visual experience to internet users around the world.

The exhibition describes the discovery of the bones at Holywell as well the lives of Evans and Lloyd, who were among the 40 martyrs canonized in 1970.

It also features relics of the celebrated Jesuit martyrs St. Edmund Campion, St. Robert Southwell, and Blessed Edward Oldcorne, as well as two hats, a crucifix, and part of a hair shirt belonging to St. Thomas More.

Graffius said that she was “just thrilled” when she drew the evidence together and connected the Holywell bones to Evans and Lloyd.

“To be able to say with a good degree of confidence, ‘this is who they are,’ is very exciting,” she said.


-St Philip Evans, SJ


-St Philip Evans, SJ


-17th century chalice believed to have belonged to St Philip Evans, SJ


-carving of St Philip Evans, SJ with his harp

Philip Evans was born in Monmouth in 1645, was educated at Jesuit College of St. Omer (now in France), joined the Society of Jesus in Watten on 7 September 1665, and was ordained at Liège (now in Belgium) and sent to South Wales as a missionary in 1675.

He worked in Wales for four years, and despite the official anti-Catholic policy no action was taken against him. When the Oates’ scare swept the country both Lloyd and Evans were caught up in the aftermath. In November 1678 John Arnold, of Llanvihangel Court near Abergavenny, a justice of the peace and a staunch Calvinist and hunter of priests, offered a reward of an additional £200 (equivalent to £30,000 in 2019) for his arrest.  The normal price for a Jesuit was £50.

Despite the manifest dangers Father Evans steadfastly refused to leave his flock. He was arrested at the home of a Mr Christopher Turberville at Sker, Glamorgan, on 4 December 1678. Ironically the posse which arrested him is said to have been led by Turberville’s brother, the notorious priest-taker Edward Turberville.

Father John Lloyd, a Welshman and a secular priest (a priest not associated with any religious order), was a Breconshire man. He was educated in Ghent (now in Belgium),[citation needed] and from 1649 at the English College, Valladolid, Spain. He took the ‘missionary oath’ on 16 October 1649 to participate in the English Mission. Sent to Wales in 1654 to minister to covert Catholics, he lived his vocation while constantly on the run for 24 years. He was arrested at Mr Turberville’s house at Penlline, Glamorgan, on 20 November 1678, and imprisoned in Cardiff Gaol. There he was joined by the Jesuit, Philip Evans.

They waited five months before going to trial because the prosecution could not find witnesses to testify that they were indeed priests. Eventually a woman and her daughter said that they had received the sacraments from the Jesuit, which was true. Both priests were brought to trial in Cardiff on Monday, 5 May 1679. Neither was charged with being associated with the plot concocted by Oates. Nonetheless, they were tried for being priests and coming to England and Wales contrary to the provisions of Jesuits, etc. Act 1584, and were declared guilty of treason for exercising their priesthood.

The executions took so long to be scheduled that it began to appear that they might not take place. The priests were allowed a good deal of liberty, even to leaving the prison for recreation. The executions took place in Pwllhalog, near Cardiff, on 22 July 1679. Two plaques mark the site at what is now the junction of Crwys Road and Richmond Road in Roath, Cardiff, still known as “Death Junction”.

Philip Evans was the first to die. When Evans mounted the ladder at the gallows, he said, “This is the best pulpit a man can have to preach in, therefore, I can not forbear to tell you again that I die for God and religion’s sake. “He addressed the gathering in both Welsh and English saying, ‘Adieu, Father Lloyd! Though only for a little time, for we shall soon meet again’. John Lloyd spoke very briefly saying, “My fellow sufferer has declared the cause of our death, therefore I need not repeat it. Besides, I never was a good speaker in my life. I shall only say that I die in the true Catholic and apostolic faith, according to these words in the Creed, I believe in the holy Catholic Church; and with those three virtues: faith, hope and charity”.


-plaque at Death Junction

“Archbishop George Stack marked the 50th anniversary of the Canonisation of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI by holding Mass in the stark and grim bare stone cell at Cardiff Castle where two of these Martyrs were held before their execution on 22 July 1679.

The Archbishop and pilgrims then carried statues of Saint Phillip Evans and Saint John Lloyd to the site of their execution, then called the Gallows Field, and situated outside the Cardiff walls. It is now a busy road junction but the spot is marked by a plaque on the wall of the NatWest bank.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs
Saint Philip Evans and Saint John Lloyd
triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:
Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving,
to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,
that we may receive with them the crown of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Hope to Die: Christian corpses (conquered the Roman Empire)

(n.b. Catholics are NOT to seek martyrdom!! Marcionite heretics did this. Catholics are to embrace martyrdom if inescapable or requires apostasy to avoid.)

“Christianity was first preached in a world where the Greco-Roman understanding of death and the afterlife shaped much of the Western world. Across the Roman Empire, most people professed their faith in the various pagan gods, including Pluto (or Hades), who they believed ruled the Underworld. At the Underworld’s entrance, the ferryman Charon moved spirits across the River Styx from the land of the living to the land of the dead. Once they made it to the other side, all the dead faced judgment, with the good going to Elysium, the bad being thrown into the pit of Tartarus, and the mediocre rest (the majority of humanity) aimlessly drifting about in the City of Pluto (or what the Greeks called the Asphodel Meadows). Some Romans also believed those who’d been judged worthy could choose to be reincarnated.

This vision of the afterlife offered some consolation to those who actually believed it, but not enough. Most Romans, like most of humanity, still feared what awaited them in the dark room of death. And that fear manifested itself in how they treated their dead.

The pagan Romans thought that if dead bodies weren’t treated a certain way and certain conditions weren’t met, the person’s soul would be denied admittance to the Underworld. Rather than receiving its eternal reward, the soul would instead endure an almost purgatory-like existence, waiting perpetually on the wrong side of the River Styx. The Romans also believed that if they failed to provide their departed loved ones with a proper burial, those waiting ghosts would return to haunt them.

For the rich, preventing this two-headed fate was a simple matter. They paid for elaborate funerals and lengthy funeral processions, which included professional mourners and friends wearing masks designed to look like the ancestors of the deceased. They also made sure to place a coin on or in the dead person’s mouth so that the soul could pay Charon to ferry them across the River Styx.

After the funeral procession concluded, a eulogy was often given. Next, the body was placed on a pyre and burned. The remaining ashes and bones were then placed in an urn, which was interred in some kind of sepulcher—usually highly decorated, with monuments to the deceased and even lifelike pictures of them. Those sepulchers were located outside the city gates, as the Romans liked to keep their dead far from them, at a “safe” distance. They did visit the sepulcher on various days throughout the year, though, believing that by making periodic offerings to their dearly departed, what remained of the person—their “shade”—would temporarily remember who they once were and earn a brief reprieve from aimlessly wandering about the Underworld.

For the poor, funerals were less impressive, with the funerary societies they frequently joined (for a small fee) providing shorter processions (just a musician or two), no eulogy, and interment of the ashes in a humbler resting site—often catacombs carved into clay and rock outside the city.

The poorest of the poor didn’t even have that. Those with no family or friends to fear a haunting and no money to join a funerary society were simply thrown into large pits or dumped into sewers.

In the late third and fourth centuries, many of these practices among the pagan Romans began to change, with inhumation (burial) gradually replacing cremation. Although some Romans had buried their dead in previous centuries, inhumation was considered a foreign (more specifically, Jewish) practice. The growing presence of Christians in their midst, however, along with other social shifts, changed that.

For the Christians, like the Romans, how they treated the dead was bound up with what they believed about life after death. But unlike their pagan counterparts, the Christians didn’t fear death. They welcomed it. Writing in the early fourth century, St. Athanasius remarked: “Everyone is by nature afraid of death and of bodily dissolution; the marvel of marvels, is that he who is enfolded in the faith of the cross despises this natural fear and for the sake of the cross is no longer cowardly in the face of it.”1

When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He didn’t switch a bright overhead light on in heaven, completely destroying the darkness that shrouded what awaits us after death. He gave us more of a night-light, making some things clear while leaving other things a mystery. But to Athanasius and other early Christians, that didn’t matter. The nightlight was sufficient because Jesus was there. Much like the presence of a mother or father can completely chase away a child’s fears of the dark, Jesus’s presence chased away the early Christians’ fear of death. They knew He would be there to greet them, and that was enough. Athanasius explains:

‘Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed and become incorruptible through the resurrection … Even children hasten to die, and not men only, but women train themselves by bodily discipline to meet it. So weak has death become that even women, who used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing robbed of all its strength.2

To those Christian men, women, and children who “hasten[ed] to die,” death wasn’t the ultimate evil or the great unknown. It was the doorway to spending eternity with their beloved: Jesus Christ. We see this conviction in the firsthand accounts of martyrs, such as Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, who faced death in Carthage’s arena in AD 203.

Both women were young wives and mothers: Felicity was pregnant at the time of their arrest, and Perpetua was still nursing her infant son. As the day of their death approached, the women didn’t want to run from it. Rather, Felicity prayed she would deliver her child soon so that she could face martyrdom with her fellow prisoners (even the Romans thought it beyond the pale to kill a pregnant women), and Perpetua gave thanks when her son finally weaned.

Felicity’s prayers were answered, and on the day of the scheduled execution, she accompanied Perpetua and their fellow Christians into the arena, “joyous and of brilliant countenances.” Perpetua sang psalms as she walked, and when the crowds demanded that the Christians be scourged before they faced the beasts, the women “rejoiced that they should have incurred any one of their Lord’s passions.” Finally, the women, like Jesus, freely gave their lives; they were not taken from them. We’re told: “when the swordsman’s hand wandered still (for he was a novice), [Perpetua] set it upon her own neck. Perchance so great a woman could not else have been slain … had she not herself so willed it.”3

In the centuries that followed, holy men and women faced death with the same eagerness that Perpetua, Felicity, and other earlier martyrs, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch, did. They wanted nothing more than to be in heaven with Christ. As Ignatius, on his way to martyrdom in AD 108, explained:

‘No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He Who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He Who rose for our sakes is my one desire.4

One thousand years later, that same desire to be with Christ led St. Bernard of Clairvaux to describe the death of a just man not as “terrifying,” but as “consoling”:

‘His death is good, because it ends his miseries; it is better still, because he begins a new life; it is excellent, because it places him in sweet security. From this bed of mourning, whereon he leaves a precious load of virtues, he goes to take possession of the true land of the living, Jesus acknowledges him as His brother and as His friend, for he has died to the world before closing his eyes from its dazzling light. Such is the death of the saints, a death very precious in the sight of God.5

From the thirteenth century—when St. Rose of Viterbo advised, “Live so as not to fear death. For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening but sweet and precious”—to the nineteenth century, when St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote: “It is not Death that will come to fetch me, it is the good God”—saint after saint encouraged Christians to welcome death. And many listened.

In Phillipe Ariès’s landmark survey of depictions of death in the literature of Western Civilization, he classifies pre-modern deaths as “tame deaths,” noting how the protagonists almost universally faced death with calm, peace, and ease. It was death, he explains, that brought people back to their senses, focused their attention, and was welcomed, almost as an old friend.6

Christians weren’t going to imitate the pagans and, as Tertullian put it, “burn up their dead with harshest inhumanity.”8 As Tertullian explained elsewhere, those who followed Christ were to “avert a cruel custom with regard to the body since, being human, it does not deserve what is inflicted upon criminals.”9 And so, from the very first, Christians buried their dead as Christ had been buried, and they did so with no fear of being made “unclean” or “polluted” by contact with the dead body. For the Christians, the dead body wasn’t “unclean” (as the Jews saw it), nor did those who handled it fear being haunted by some remnant of the person’s soul (as the pagans did). Writing in the fourth and fifth centuries, St. Augustine discussed the reverence Christians believed was due to the dead body, noting: The bodies of the dead, and especially of the just and faithful are not to be despised or cast aside. The soul has used them as organs and vessels of all good work in a holy manner. … Bodies are not ornament or for aid, as something that is applied externally, but pertain to the very nature of the man.10

Importantly, Christians understood the injunction to care for and bury the dead as universal; it applied to all bodies—the bodies of the poor, the stranger, the diseased, even the pagan. Accounts about early Christian communities are filled with stories of them seeking out the forgotten poor and burying them with the same care they showed to family members. Tertullian also tells us that in his native Carthage and other cities, the Church’s common resources were used to pay for the burying of the dead. There was no throwing the bodies of the poor into a pit or the sewers among the Christians.

Their pagan neighbors took note of that. In his essay “To Bury or Burn?,” the Protestant ethicist David W. Jones tells us:

‘The last of the non-Christian emperors, Julian the Apostate (AD 332–363), identified “care of the dead” as one of the factors that contributed to the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman world. The church historian Philip Schaff, too, identified Christians’ display of “decency to the human body” in showing care for the dead as one of the main reasons for the church’s rapid conquest of the ancient world.11

In time, burying the dead would become known as one of the seven corporal works of mercy, considered as much an act of charity as feeding the hungry or tending to the sick. Religious associations, such as the Archconfraternity of the Beheaded John the Baptist in Florence and the Archconfraternity of St. Mary of the Oration and Death in Rome, also were formed to offer Christian funerals and burials to those who would otherwise have none.

No bodies, though, not rich nor poor, received as much attention as those of the martyrs.”

Love & Resurrection,
Matthew

1 Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 58.
2 Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 57.
3 Tertullian, The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicity, 6. 
4 Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans, 6.
Bernard of Clairvaux, quoted in Charles Kenny, Half Hours with the Saints and Servants of God (London: Burns and Oats, 1882), 450.
See Phillipe Ariès, Western Attitudes Toward Death, trans. Patricia Ranum (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), 1–25.
8 Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 1.
9 Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, 51.
10 Augustine, On the Care of the Dead, 5.
11 Jones, “To Bury or Burn?,” 337.

Hope to Die: Powers That Come Forth

“In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we’re told that “sacraments are ‘powers that come forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving” (CCC 1116). These sacraments are the means by which God “resurrects us” in this life. Baptism restores divine life to our souls. The Eucharist nourishes that life. Confession replenishes it. Confirmation, Marriage, and Holy Orders strengthen it. And the Anointing of the Sick stirs up the divine life within us to heal our bodies and prepare our souls for eternal life. Today, as the Catechism says, the graces of all these sacraments come to us from the Body of Christ on earth, the Church. But before there was the Body of Christ, there was the body of Christ. Prior to the institution of the sacraments, Jesus is the sacrament. So, in the Gospels, it’s His actual physical body from which “powers … come forth.” In His lifetime, those powers did to people’s bodies what the sacraments have done to people’s souls ever since.

Jesus’s body does to our bodies what the sacraments do to our souls. Jesus’s body heals bodies. Jesus’s body teaches bodies. Jesus’s body feeds bodies. Jesus’s body raises bodies from the dead. Throughout His public ministry, powers go forth from His body, restoring people to the fullness of natural life. But the restoration of natural life isn’t enough. Jesus came for so much more than that. And the healings He works on earth both foreshadow the “more” and prove that more is possible. That is, they foreshadow the resurrection to come and prove that Jesus means what He says when He promises that all will rise again with Him on the last day.

“The Paschal Mystery has two aspects: by His death, Christ liberates us from sin; by His Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace … Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace.” (cf. Eph 2:4–5; 1 Pet 1:3) (CCC 654)

“For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word’s indwelling in a single human body, the corruption with death has lost its power over all. You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in a single house, the whole city is honored, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so it is with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence, the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled, and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be.”
Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 35.

The resurrected Christ is not a ghost or a spirit, but He also isn’t a body like He once was. He has been resurrected to a new life, in a new kind of body, and that is the kind of resurrection, that is the kind of body that is promised to us, one that is “sown in dishonor … raised in glory … sown in weakness … raised in power … sown a physical body … raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:43–44).

Love & Resurrection,
Matthew

Hope to Die: Communion with the Dead

“At the dawn of creation, God filled the universe with signs that pointed to Himself. The whole world was meant to be a type of catechesis, an instruction in Who God is, what He does, and how He loves us.

It still is. Everywhere you look, there are natural analogies of His power, goodness, and love: the sun, the moon, the stars; the mountains, the oceans, the rivers; and especially, the man, the woman, and the child. Like the sun and the oceans, the human family reveals important truths about God. We are made in God’s image, and how we care for each other, protect each other, and especially how we give life to each other—to new generations—teaches us something about God, Whose nature is life-giving love.

This is good. The world, the family, what it has to teach us—it’s all good. God created it to be good. But the good is not God, and in a fallen world, the danger always exists that we will confuse the two. That we will worship the sun instead of the One Whose light the sun reflects. That we will worship the river instead of the One of Whose power the river reminds us. That we will worship the earthly family instead of the divine family for which we were made.

This is demonic bait. The world is pointing to the world to come, but the devil doesn’t want us to see that. Or, he doesn’t want us to care. Satan wants to convince us that this world is all there is, that this life is enough.

But the natural world is passing, which means that to worship the natural is always to enter into a covenant with death. It’s the deadliest form of worship. And yet, this is and was a temptation for fallen humanity. It was especially a temptation in a world where the fullness of truth had yet to be revealed, where God was only gradually filling in the blanks about Who He is and what He has in store for us.

To prevent the Israelites from the tendency to ancestor worship is why specific mourning rites are forbidden in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, such as the shaving of the head and the gashing of the skin (Lev 19:27, 21:5; Deut 14:1). Both rites were practiced among the Canaanites, who saw those acts as a way of making sacrifices to and communing with the dead.

For similar reasons, the Israelites are forbidden from offering tithes to the dead, such as wheat or animal products (Deut 26:14). Throughout the ancient world, people commonly made offerings to the dead or buried the dead with wealth and food. But Israel was not to be like its neighbors.

Likewise, in Numbers 19:11 we read, “He who touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days.” Numbers then goes on to outline an elaborate cleansing ritual, not only for those who touch the dead but also for anyone who even goes into the tent of someone who died.

Why would God issue such laws? Because the Israelites were going to catch cooties from the dead body? Because the body isn’t hygienic? No. Because God wanted Israel to understand that physical death is a sign of spiritual death. It’s a sign of what sin does to the soul. And sin is catching. It’s as contagious as any disease and as deadly as any disease. More deadly, actually.

We see this even more explicitly in Ezekiel 37 when God has Ezekiel preach to a valley of dead bones. The bones are a symbol of Israel. They are dead and defiled. And the defilement of their physical condition is a sign of the defilement of their spiritual condition. They had forgotten God, forgotten His ways, and lost the hope He had promised them. Through that forgetting, they defiled their souls. “Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off ’” (Ezek 37:11).

Telling the Israelites that touching the dead defiles them is a pedagogical lesson to help the Israelites learn to detest sin. The same goes for the prohibition on touching a leper. God doesn’t primarily care about skin purity. He cares about soul purity. And leprosy in the Bible is a sign of sin. It does to a person’s body what breaking God’s law does to the soul.”

Love & Resurrection,
Matthew

Hope to Die: The Body as Sacrament

(Ed. sacrament = a visible sign of God’s grace.)

St. Athanasius explains:

‘What else could he possibly do, being God, but renew His image in mankind? And how could this be done save by the coming of the very Image Himself, our Savior Jesus Christ? Men could not have done it, for they are only made after the Image; nor could angels have done it, for they are not the images of God. The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image.’
-Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 39–41

Zoe/Ζωή, in many ways, is the ultimate gift of the Incarnation. It is the ultimate reason for the Incarnation. It’s the why behind Jesus coming. But, unlike the new dignity all bodies take on through the Incarnation, zoe/Ζωή isn’t imparted to all people automatically. It’s imparted through Baptism.

In Baptism, we are born anew, receiving what Adam lost—the gift of divine life—into our souls once more. It’s easy to dismiss Baptism as a mere symbol, but when you understand the difference between bios/βιο and zoe/Ζωή and between physical death and spiritual death, it becomes clear that the Sacrament of Baptism is more than figurative or symbolic. There is an ontological reality to our resurrection.

In the waters of Baptism, we die and rise by being united to Christ’s resurrected body. The divine life is restored to us so that the newly baptized person is more resurrected than Lazarus was. Lazarus got his natural, physical life back after four days. But in Baptism, we get our supernatural and divine life back, the life that Adam lost in the very beginning of time.

Baptism makes it possible for us to live the life for which God made us—a life that is more than natural—that is, in fact, supernatural. It also makes it possible for us to live a more fully human life, to enter more deeply into those things that make this earthly life worth living and have richer, more intimate connections with family and friends.

But Baptism doesn’t just affect our souls; it affects our bodies, too.

In all the sacraments, sanctifying grace—God’s own life— comes to us through our bodies. In Baptism, in Confirmation, in Marriage, in Holy Orders, and above all, in the Eucharist, God’s life enters into these bodies of ours through matter—water, wine, oil, a bishop’s hands, a spouse’s body— restoring the divine life that was lost by Adam and strengthening it within us. That grace divinizes our bodies. It makes them holy. It makes them temples. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” asks Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16.

In every single baptized person who is not in a state of mortal sin, God lives. He dwells within us. All human life is sacred because it is a gift from God and because man is made in the image of God. But the bodies of the baptized have a holiness that comes from the sanctifying grace abiding within them. As C. S. Lewis once remarked in his famous lecture, “The Weight of Glory”:

‘Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way [as the Blessed Sacrament], for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.’
-C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1980), 19.

Importantly, the holiness of the baptized body doesn’t end with death. Grace continues to linger in the bodies and bones of those united to Christ. That’s why Catholic cemeteries are considered holy ground. The bodies of the baptized are buried there. And those bodies are the seed of the resurrected body.

Jesus promises to transform our resurrected bodies, to glorify them, to deify them. “As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust,” writes St. Paul, “and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor 15:48–49).

This promise of resurrection is our hope. It is that on which we stake our life. It is what enables us, as Christians, to face death with courage and joy.”

Love & Resurrection,
Matthew

Hope to Die: The Walking Dead

“Let the dead bury the dead…” -Lk 9:60

“The Holy Spirit is the giver of physical life, of what the Greeks called bios/βιο…there’s bios/βιο and then there’s zoe/Ζωή. Zoe/Ζωή is the word the Greek translators of the Old Testament used in Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [zoe/Ζωή]; and man became a living being.”

Unlike bios/βιο, zoe/Ζωή conveys so much more than mere physical existence. God didn’t just breathe air into Adam’s nostrils; He breathed life—spiritual life, eternal life, divine life. He breathed His own life into Adam. He gave Adam the life that from all eternity the Father is always communicating to the Son and that the Son is receiving and communicating right back to the Father. That life is so whole, so complete, it’s actually a Person: the Third Person of the Trinity. God breathed His Spirit into Adam, and that made it possible for him to live a life that wasn’t just natural, but supernatural.

Filled with zoe/Ζωή, Adam knew God intimately, familiarly, as a son knows his father, from the first moment of existence. He also imaged God, much as a son images his father, although his resemblance wasn’t physical; it was spiritual and intellectual.

When we understand the distinction between bios/βιο and zoe/Ζωή, God’s words to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:16–17 start to make a lot more sense. There, God lays out the ground rules for life in Eden, explaining, “You may freely eat of every tree in the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” In the original Hebrew, even more emphasis is placed on the word “die.” The literal translation of that passage is “die the death.” God sounds serious there. Deadly serious.

But when you realize there are two kinds of life—bios/βιο and zoe/Ζωή—you also realize there are two kinds of death— bodily death and spiritual death. Adam and Eve didn’t die physically that day in the Garden, but they did die spiritually. They lost something far more precious than natural life: they lost supernatural life, divine life, the gift of sanctifying grace in their soul.

We’re born physically alive, but spiritually dead…This is what mortal sin is. It is spiritual death.

In M. Night Shyamalan’s movie “The Sixth Sense” the young character Cole reveals that he sees dead people, but more significantly, that they don’t know they’re dead. They see what they want to see. They hear what they want to hear. They ignore the reality of their own death, even though it is staring them in the face.

This is the world in which we live. Only, the people who don’t realize they’re dead aren’t physically dead; they’re spiritually dead. Some are unbaptized. Others are baptized but have fallen into mortal sin. But the spiritually dead are everywhere—on our streets and in our schools, in our workplaces and even in our parishes.

All around us are people not living the life they were made to live, who don’t have the life of God dwelling in their souls. They are the living dead—the reality to which all those zombie movies point. And they don’t even know it. They see what they want to see. They hear what they want to hear.

Importantly, these people aren’t less dead than those who are physically dead but alive in Christ. They are more dead. They are more dead than the saints, more dead than the souls in purgatory.

The sixth-century bishop, St. Julian of Toledo, noted, that’s not a warning most of us heed:

“Everyone fears death of the flesh, few fear death of the soul. All are preoccupied with the coming of death of the flesh, which sooner or later, certainly must come. And for this they weary themselves. Destined to die, humankind struggles to avoid dying, and yet, destined to live forever, they do not labor to avoid sinning. And when they struggle to avoid death, they labor in vain; in fact, the most they obtain is that death is deferred, not avoided; if rather they refrain from sinning, their toil will cease and they will live forever. Oh that we could incite humankind, ourselves included, to be lovers of everlasting life as much as they are lovers of the life that passes away!”
-Julian of Toledo, Foreknowledge of the World to Come, trans. Tommaso Stancati, O.P. (New York: Newman Press, 2010), 383–84.

A person can be alive, but not alive. A person can be dead, but not dead.

Each of us faces a choice every moment of every day. When we choose God—His laws, His will, and His way—we choose life. And when we choose ourselves—our laws, our wills, our way—we choose death.”

Love & Resurrection,
Matthew

Hope to Die

The Christian’s Last Passover

“The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ in Whom resides our only hope… .

For the Christian the day of death inaugurates, at the end of his sacramental life, the fulfillment of his new birth begun at Baptism, the definitive “conformity” to “the image of the Son” conferred by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and participation in the feast of the Kingdom which was anticipated in the Eucharist—even if final purifications are still necessary for him in order to be clothed with the nuptial garment.

The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey’s end, in order to surrender him “into the Father’s hands.” She offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of His grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church 1681–1683

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
PART ONE
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
SECTION TWO
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
CHAPTER THREE
I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
ARTICLE 11
“I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY”

“I believe in…the resurrection of the body…”
-Apostle’s Creed (First Council of Milan, 390 AD)

“…We look for the resurrection of the dead…”
-Nicene Creed (First Council of Nicea, 325 AD)

“From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition. ‘On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.’ It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life?” (CCC 996)

“I think many of us believe we’ll get a new body once we enter into eternal life or on Judgment Day. But we don’t see how this body—this weak, mortal body that eats and sleeps, catches cold and bleeds—could possibly be resurrected to eternal life. Surely God has better material he can work with?

Again, the Creed says otherwise. And in the original Greek, it says it even more explicitly. The first Christians who composed the Creed didn’t use the Greek word for body: soma. They used the Greek word for flesh: sarx. Every time we pray the Creed, that’s what we say: I believe in the resurrection of the flesh—of this flesh, of my flesh, of my tired, aging, imperfect flesh. I believe that this body will one day stand before the throne of Christ and worship Him with all the angels and saints. Yet, for all that we say it, so few of us really live it.

In life, we don’t treat our bodies like sacred temples that belong in the heavenly courts. We either abuse them— eating too much or too little, denying them sleep, denying them rest, filling them with toxic substances, and giving them over to immoral purposes. Or, we worship them—doing everything we can to recreate them into some cultural ideal. Sometimes, we do both, while also doing all we can to keep the signs of bodily weakness and aging at bay. Death, almost everyone agrees, is the one great evil.

But when death inevitably comes, how do we treat those bodies?

Today, more and more of us burn them. We don’t bury our bodies. We don’t treat them as our ancestors did, with reverence and care. Instead, we destroy the flesh in fire, crush the bones that withstand the flames, and then often scatter the remains, destroying all evidence that this body— this holy body in which God’s Spirit dwelt—ever existed.

We live like materialists. We die like Nihilists. And this is a problem.”

Love & Resurrection,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco