“In the past five years or so, Australia has seen the redefinition of marriage, abortion up until birth permitted, as well as the prohibition of any pro-life witness—even silent prayer—around abortion facilities, euthanasia and assisted suicide made lawful in every state, legal protections for the confessional seal removed, the onslaught of gender ideology, and the most egregious attacks on religious liberty potentially seen in the Western world. In my role as the director of public affairs and engagement for the Archdiocese of Sydney, I have been directly involved in each of these socio-political battles . . . and have lost each time. I don’t want to brag, but if losing at the culture wars were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medalist.
It’s quite likely that the years ahead will not see any ground regained. Our politics is broken and our society largely secularized; often we know that even before a proposed anti-Catholic law is debated, the politicians have enough votes and public support to pass them. Most likely, we’ll sustain further losses.
Given this, I tend to wonder whether it is worth engaging in the fight at all.
On the one hand, I know that Catholics must resist these bad laws whenever they are presented. On the other, these campaigns are costly. They cost the time of those involved in opposing the laws; they come at a financial cost to the diocese and other donors; and well-mounted campaigns often provide false hope to Catholics and others of goodwill that we might prevail. The disappointment of those who are fighting for the good is also a cost of defeat.
As someone with a say in the Catholic response on a high level, whether and to what extent we should risk incurring these costs is a question that causes me many sleepless nights.
I recall some advice I received from a good and holy bishop on this point. He quoted The Art of War, in which Sun Tzu exhorts leaders against fighting if it will not result in victory. The bishop told me we should focus our resources on those battles we can win and withdraw from the others.
I take his point, but with all respect, I disagree. Instead, I take the approach of American playwright James Goldman, who wrote the screenplay for the 1968 film the Lion in Winter. It centers on the story of King Henry II and his three sons, King John, Richard the Lionheart, and Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany.
Henry determines that he wants none of his three sons to succeed him. He imprisons them with the intention of having them executed so that he can bear a new son with a new wife. At one point, Richard the Lionheart believes he can hear Henry approaching to kill them and boldly announces, “He’s here. He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.” Geoffrey scoffs, “Why, you chivalric fool—as if the way one fell mattered.”
Richard replies, “When the fall is all there is, it matters.”
That is the posture toward losing battles that I think we need as Catholics: “When the fall is all there is, it matters.”
We need to fight every battle, even if we know we will not be successful. Because while there might be such a thing as a losing battle, there is no such thing as a futile one.
Battles aren’t futile, because all battles make us stronger. And if we allow ourselves to learn from them, they also make us smarter. Every loss is an opportunity to assess our strategies and to grow.
Battles also bring unity. Recent cultural battles have united Catholics, other faith groups, and faith-based operators. Each time these issues arise, people who have not previously worked together become teammates overnight. Theological differences and distrust are cast aside, and collaboration reigns. As a dear friend of mine often tells me, unity is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Another reason to fight losing battles is that it’s very good for the faithful to see their shepherds stand for truth, and to lead them in ways that they can contribute to the fight as well. Our bishops might think losing a battle fought publicly will diminish their credibility in the eyes of the faithful, but that’s not the case at all. We love hearing our bishops courageously speak the truth.
It is in the Church’s nature to fight injustice and to speak up for the vulnerable. Even if our voices aren’t heard now, alongside the story of every human rights abuse must also be the record of the Church speaking out.
The fight also sets an example for future generations, to form them and remind them that there is a fight to be had. We might not see the fruits, but we cannot expect the next generation to continue the battle if we haven’t told them one exists.
Because resistance is formative.
One of my heroes, Blessed Clemens von Galen, used sermons in 1941 to preach against the Nazi regime. In one of them, he spoke of the indoctrination that was occurring in the schools. Using the analogy of a hammer and an anvil, Bishop von Galen said that the anti-Catholic influences on our kids were the hammer; the family was the anvil. He explained that a piece of metal gets molded not only by the blows inflicted by the hammer, but also by the firmness and immovability of the anvil. In absorbing and resisting the pressure of the hammer, the anvil is equally formative. We have to remember that our resistance has the ability to teach and to form.
We also have to model hope and model faith that we will be successful. We are not excused from hope, nor from trust in a God Who moves mountains. My self-identification as a professional loser must be attended to by a professional hoping. It is a different type of hope—and, possibly, a little purer, because it is only rarely met with consolations. Engaging in battles that are sure to be losers removes attachment to the outcome and stops the need to see the fruit of our labors. We fight them only because they are the right thing to do, and not because we expect to see any rewards in this life. (Ed. easier said than done.)
If you want to build virtue, put on your armor for a losing battle.
I think there is no better recent example of this than the pro-life movement in the United States, because it is a reminder that the battle for a civilization of life and love is the work of generations.
When Nellie Gray organized that first March for Life in 1974, it wasn’t supposed to be an annual event. The expectation was that Congress would see the obvious flaws in Roe v. Wade and legislate to correct the error.
With each year of no legislative action, Nellie and others kept marching. When they saw no measurable or meaningful social, political, or judicial progress—for decades—they kept marching. They marched through the literal and figurative winter of the stranglehold of the culture of death.
Nellie died ten years before the Dobbs decision was handed down, and so she never got to see the fruits of her efforts this side of heaven, but she taught us to persevere through a decades-long winter of hostility and indifference from the public and the politicians and keep fighting.
Just as my namesake, St. Monica, was told the son of so many tears would not perish, the prayerful remembrance and tears were fruitful in working toward the realization of a civilization of life and love.
Here in Australia, where we so often experience drought, we have a saying that every day of drought we endure is one day closer to rain. As Christians, we know that each day of Lent is one day closer to Easter. And each day these terrible anti-life and anti-family and anti-reason laws are in place is one day closer to them being overturned.
Just as we have the certainty that God has already won the victory, we also know that we are not fighting losing battles at all because ultimately, the culture of life wins. The culture of death is self-defeating because it is inherently sterile. The culture of death produces no offspring; it leaves no progeny; it will itself wither and die.
And we will win.
We will outlive, outbreed, outlove, outpray, outserve, outsmart, and outvocation all those outside and inside the Church who oppose a civilization of life and love. I am more confident of this now than I have ever been. It’s a great time to be Catholic. Thanks be to God.”
Love, & “Now there remain these three: faith, hope, and love.” 1 Cor 13:13
“The nature of marriage has been a subject of much discussion and debate over the last couple of decades. Receiving somewhat less attention are the differences among religions over marriage, particularly the differences between Islam and Christianity. In many respects, Islam and Christianity share a common view of the importance of marriage, but there are some significant differences that all Christians should understand.
The Catholic faith teaches that marriage is an unbreakable bond between a man and a woman. The foundations for this understanding can be found in both the Old and New Testaments:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” . . . Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 1:27-28, 2:24).
Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:28-33).
The Catechism builds upon God’s call to this fruitful, loved-filled, and unbreakable bond:
The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (1601).
Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God, from whom comes our help (CCC 1605a).
To Catholics, marriage between baptized persons is a sacrament, which has the meaning of oath or covenant. This covenant bond is a lifelong exchange of persons with God as witness. This exchange forms the basis for a community of love that reflects the sacrificial and holy love God has for his people and is ordered for the good of the man and woman and toward the begetting and education of children. We heed Christ’s words—“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9)—so, after a baptized couple consummates a validly contracted marriage, it is impossible to break that union except by death. (Non-sacramental marriages, where one or both spouses are unbaptized, are also ordinarily indissoluble except in certain rare cases.)
Like Christianity, Islam values marriage as an important institution for the building of family and society and an integral part of salvation. Various hadiths (traditional religious sayings) bear this out. For example: “There is no foundation that has been built in Islam more loved by Allah . . . than marriage. . . . Allah loves no permissible like marriage, and Allah hates no permissible like divorce” (Mustadrak al-Wasa’il). “Whoever gets married has safeguarded half of his religion” (Wasa’il al-Shia).
The Quran and tradition give further guidance and reasons to marry:
And marry off the single among you and among the righteous of your male and female slaves. If they are poor then Allah will supply their needs from his generosity. And Allah is expansive, knowing. And let those who do not find marriage hold back until Allah grants them of his generosity (Quran 24:32-33).
O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty, and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual desire” (Sahih al-Bukhari).
Whoever chooses to follow my tradition must get married and produce offspring through marriage (and increase the population of Muslims), so that on the Day of Resurrection, I shall confront other Ummah (nations) with the (great) numbers of my Ummah (Wasa’il al-Shia).
Marriage is so important within Islam that no other option is recognized as praiseworthy. Unlike Catholics, who view celibacy for the sake of the kingdom as a high calling, Muslims see the permanent celibate life as unnatural, given men’s sexual needs and the community’s need to grow. Muslims are encouraged to marry early in life in order to avoid forbidden sexual relations (known as zina).
The Arabic word most often associated with marriage is nikah, which means “contract.” A widely quoted definition from influential Salafi cleric Ibn ‘Uthaimin states that marriage is “a mutual contract between a man and a woman whose goal is for each to enjoy the other, become a pious family and a sound society.”
Now, a contract is a promise regarding an exchange of goods. A Muslim marital contract is brokered between two men—the husband-to-be and a representative for the wife-to-be. The contract stipulates the exchange of a mahr, or “bride price,” in exchange for the woman’s hand. It dictates that married life be conducted in accordance with the Quran and requires consent by the woman and two witnesses.
The first and most common category of marriage is the nikah between one man and one woman. A second category, though, is called a nikah mut’ah, or temporary marriage. This type of “marriage” is common in Shia Islam and is designed to make otherwise illicit sexual acts licit by a short-term legal arrangement. Although most Sunni Muslims reject nikah mut’ah, they accept nikah misyar, in which both prospective husband and wife agree to give up certain normal marital rights, like living together, equality between wives, rights to income, and rights of homekeeping, in order to be married. This can be understood as a middle ground between a nikah and a nikah mut’ah.
In addition to these different types of marriage, in Islam, one man can have multiple wives and contract several different types of marriages at the same time. “And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four” (Quran 4:3). This verse and others like it condone polygynous relationships (between one man and multiple women—but not one woman and multiple men). Men are allowed to marry up to four women, provided that they can treat them all equally (see Quran 4:129).
Classically, Muslim men were also allowed to conduct sexual relations with their female slaves, a practice that was brought back recently by ISIS and is found in the Quran: “And they who guard their private parts except from their wives and those their right hands possess [concubines] . . . they will not be blamed” (23:6).
Divorce by either party is allowable within Islam, though it is discouraged. “And when you divorce women and they fulfil their term [of their ‘Iddah, or post-divorce waiting period], either keep them according to reasonable terms or release them according to reasonable terms, and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress [against them]” (Quran 2:231).
If either party violates the conditions of the signed marital contract or if they have irreconcilable differences, they can obtain a wide variety of types of divorces: from khul’ (mutual contractual divorce initiated by the wife) to talaq (a variety of simple ways for the husband to repudiate the wife, usually requiring a waiting period before the divorce is finalized) to three different types of divorce oaths and finally judicial divorce. Historically, this last right was given to men only, but recently, in some places, women have been given the right to divorce as well.
So although from a distance Christian and Muslim marriages may look a lot alike, there are major differences. Marital contracts within Islam elevate marriage above the mundane while allowing for the reality of man’s frailty, but Islam’s allowance for multiple wives, temporary sexual arrangements, and partial forms of marriage expose a baser contractual view of marriage that falls far short of God’s plan for lifelong covenantal relationships.”
-Islamic marriage contract, please click on the image for greater detail
“Marriage in Islam
The institution of marriage and family is pivotal in Middle East societies, both ancient and modern; perhaps the biblical genealogy of the Old Testament is an indication of this fact. Marriage practices, customs and traditions evolved throughout many thousands of years in this central part of the ancient world.
When the Divine Message of Islam was revealed in the sixth century AD, it was a revolutionary reformation of all aspects of human life: economic, social, and political, and of course religious. Among these was the reformation of marriage practices that prevailed in the pre-Islamic times or ages of ignorance (Al-Gahiliah). These reformations included: limiting the number of wives a man can marry to only four after it was unlimited; allowing women to carry their own family name, and have their financial independence, because they were allowed to trade in their own name and maintain their wealth separate from the husband.
Perhaps marriage in Islam is best described in the following two verses from the Holy Quran, the words of the All Mighty:
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect.” (30:21)
“And Allah has made for you wives of your own kind, and has made for you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and has bestowed on you good provision. Do they then believe in false deities and deny the Favors of Allah” (by not worshipping Allah Alone). An Nahl, 72
Please note the emphasis in the first verse on love and mercy, and on the family in the second verse. This in itself was an important reformation, indicating the necessity of Divine guidance as to the very basic elements of successful marriage, and successful human love, and the family.
Islamic marriage laws together with the inheritance laws regulate the relationships in the basic unit of the human society, the family, in a manner that promotes fairness and dignity, as well as the emotional needs of both the woman and the man and all members of the extended family: in-laws and siblings. So Marriage laws in Islam, while they regulate the relation between men and women in a perfect balance, also foster the preservation and welfare of a healthy relationship in the immediate and the extended family, and in society as a whole.
In Islam, marriages are not considered to be ‘made in heaven’ between ‘soul-mates’ destined for each other; they are not sacraments. They are social contracts which bring rights and obligations to both parties, and can only be successful when these are mutually respected and cherished.
It is interesting to note that in most western countries including Australia modern marriage laws adopted the principles of the Islamic Marriages as a social contracts and departed from the 13th century ideas of marriage as sacraments. In fact the system of marriages registration and marriage celebrants was developed in the ninth century Egypt by the Fatimid’s.
Islamic Contract of Marriage:
In Islam marriage is a formal agreement or a contract (Aqqd Azwag, Aqqed Alqran or Nikah) between a woman and a man, which creates the marital relationship. A marriage contract has a number of essential conditions, and also it can include special conditions that the two parties may wish to include and agree upon.
The Prophet (SAW) said that marriage is the most favored institution by Allah (SWT). As such it is the most important agreement a Muslim will enter into in his life.
The formal conditions or requirements for a valid marriage are as follows:
The Offer and Acceptance (Al Ijaab Wa Qboul):
1.1. The essential requirement of the contract is the Offering and Acceptance known as Ijaab and Qabool. These statements verify the mutual agreement of the parties concerned and create the marriage relationship.
1.2. The Ijaab and qabool should be stated in clear, well defined words, in one and the same sitting, and in the presence of the witnesses. The person conducting the ceremony may help the two parties to say the offering and accepting words.
1.3. Ijaab and Qabool should be in a language understood by both parties. Qabool should be in the past tense to indicate that acceptance has actually happened and has been completed.
1.4. While documenting the marriage contract is not a requirement, yet it is important to document it for future reference and to preserve the rights of the husband and wife.
Eligibility of Bride and Groom:
2.1. The groom must be a chaste Muslim having attained the age of puberty. He must not be related to the bride by any of the permanently prohibiting blood, breast feeding, or marital relationships, such as his sisters, paternal and maternal aunts, daughters, grand daughters and others.
2.2. He must not be prohibited from marrying the bride for any of the temporary reasons stipulated in the Quran and Sunnah. For example if a man has four wives, then all other women become temporarily prohibited from him. Another example of a temporary reason is that as long as a man is married to a particular woman, all of her sisters become temporarily prohibited for him.
2.3. The requirement a bride must fulfill is that she must be a chaste Muslim, Christian or Jew. She must not be married to another man, and must not be related to the groom by any of the permanently prohibiting blood, breast feeding, or marital relationships in addition to not being prohibited from marrying the groom for any of the temporary reasons.
Bride’s Permission and Consent:
3.1. Without the bride’s permission, the contract of marriage is null and void, or may be invalidated by the Islamic authorities at the bride’s request.
3.2. The minimum required permission may be done by either voicing her approval or through a passive expression such as remaining silent when asked about a potential husband and simply nodding her head, or making any other motion to indicate that she does not object to the marriage.
3.3. The Prophet (S.A.W) said: “A deflowered unmarried woman (i.e. widow or divorcee) may not be married without her expressed approval; and a virgin may not be married without her permission, and her silence indicates her consent.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
The Woman’s Wali (Male Guardian):
4.1. The next requirement for a valid contract of Marriage is for the protection of the woman’s rights, and that is the approval of the woman’s guardian known as the wali. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “A marriage (contract) is not valid without a wali.” (Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi)
4.2. Normally, a woman’s wali is her father. If, for any reason, her father is unable to act, her wali would then be her next closest blood relation: the grandfather, uncle, brother, son and so on. The guardian or wali should ascertain the suitability and capability of the prospective husband and review any special conditions and make sure that the bride understands and agrees to it.
4.3. If the bride does not have a Muslim blood-relative as a wali, the Islamic authority, represented by the ruler or judge, would appoint a wali for her. In non-Muslim communities the local Muslim Minister of Religion (Imam) or an elder Muslim can act as the wali of a woman, with her consent.
5.1. Another requirement for the validity of a marriage contract is the presence of at least two trustworthy Muslim male witnesses. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “A marriage is not valid without a wali and two trustworthy witnesses”. (Ahmad, Ibn Hibbaan, and others, Authentic according to al-Albaani)
The Mahr (Dowry):
6.1. The mahr or Sadaqq (Dowry) is a gift given by the man to the woman, on the occasion of the marriage. Allah (SWT) said:
And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart, but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any blame (as Allah has made it lawful). (an-Nisaa, 4)
6.2. Allah (SWT) also made a commandment regarding this by saying:
6.3. “… so with those with whom you have enjoyed sexual relations, give them their Mahr as prescribed; but if after a Mahr is prescribed, you agree mutually (to give more), there is no sin on you. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All Wise”(An-Nisaa, 24).
7.1. At the time of the marriage contracting, either the bride or the groom may wish to set conditions whose violation would invalidate the contract. This is acceptable as long as the conditions do not violate any Islamic principles. An example of a condition may be that a woman stipulates that she remain in a particular homeland or country during their marriage, or that the wife may have the right to terminate the marriage by divorcing her husband.”
-by Martin Bouche, print, published 1683, Bl John Gavan, SJ, please click on the image for greater detail
John Gavan, aliàs Gawen, was born in London in 1640, to a family which originally came from Norrington in Wiltshire, England. He was educated at the Jesuit College at St. Omer’s and then at Liège and Watten. He began his priestly office in 1670 in Staffordshire, a county which was one of the strongholds of the Roman Catholic faith in England. He had an affectionate nickname “the Angel”.
Boscobel House – Gavan’s presence here in August 1678 would later have fatal consequences. please click on the image for greater detail.
On the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1678, he took his final vows to the Society of Jesus at Boscobel House, the home of the Penderel family, who were famous for sheltering Charles II after he fled from his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Among the witnesses were two other martyrs of the Popish Plot, William Ireland and Richard Gerard of Hilderstone. The ceremony was followed by dinner, and the guests then viewed the Royal Oak, the tree in which the King had hidden after fleeing from Worcester.
This celebration would have fatal consequences for Gavan (and also for two others who were present, William Ireland and Richard Gerard) during the Popish Plot, when Stephen Dugdale, one of the principal informers associated with the Plot, learned of it and accused the party of having gathered at Boscobel in order to plan a conspiracy to kill the King. Until January 1679, Gavan escaped arrest because Titus Oates, who had invented the Plot about a month after Gavan took his vows, did not know him. On receiving Dugdale’s testimony the Government issued a reward for Gavan’s arrest on 15 January.
Gavan fled to London and took refuge at the Imperial Embassy. Arrangements were made to smuggle him out of England; but a spy called Schibber denounced him and he was arrested on 29 January. The ambassador did not claim diplomatic immunity for Gavan, although the Embassies of the Catholic powers, taking their lead from the Spanish ambassador, did claim immunity for other priests, including George Travers. The reason for the ambassador surrendering Gavan was apparently that he was arrested in the Embassy stables, and was thus technically outside the precincts of the Embassy itself when he was taken.
Gavan was tried on 13 June 1679 with Thomas Whitbread, John Fenwick, William Barrow and Anthony Turner. A bench of seven judges tried them, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Sir William Scroggs, a firm believer in the Plot, and deeply hostile to Catholic priests in general. Gavan, who acted as the spokesman for all the five accused, mounted a spirited defence, which led a modern historian to call him one of the ablest priests of his generation. Attempts by Roman Catholic witnesses to prove that Titus Oates had been at St Omer’s on crucial dates when he claimed to be in London failed, as the judges gave a ruling that Catholic witnesses could receive a papal dispensation to lie on oath, and were, therefore, less credible than Protestants. Gavan had far greater success exposing the inconsistencies in Oates’ own testimony: in particular, Oates could not explain why he had not denounced Gavan in September 1678 when he first made his accusations against Whitbread and Fenwick. Gavan concluded his defence with a long and eloquent plea of innocence, despite constant interruption from Scroggs.
Scroggs, in his summing-up to the jury, admitted that he has already forgotten much of the evidence (judges then did not take notes, apparently because they had no desks to write on) but made it clear to the jury that he expected a guilty verdict, which the jury duly brought in after fifteen minutes. The five were sentenced to death the next day.
They were hanged at Tyburn on 20 June 1679. The behaviour of the crowd suggests strongly that public opinion was turning in favour of the victims. According to witnesses, the onlookers stood in perfect silence for at least an hour while each of the condemned men made a last speech maintaining his innocence; finally, Gavan led all five condemned men in an act of contrition. His own last words were reported to have been “I am content to undergo an ignominious death for the love of you, dear Jesus”. As an act of clemency, King Charles II (who was convinced of their innocence, but believed that he could not risk inflaming public opinion by issuing a royal pardon) gave orders that they should be allowed to hang until they were dead, and thus be spared the usual horrors of drawing and quartering. They were buried in the churchyard of St. Giles in the Fields.
“Dearly beloved Country-men, I am come now to the last Scene of Mortality, to the hour of my Death, an hour which is the Horizon between Time and Eternity, an hour which must either make me a Star to shine for ever in the Empyreum above, or a Firebrand to burn everlastingly amongst the damned Souls in Hell below; an hour in which if I deal sincerely, and with a hearty sorrow acknowledge my crimes, I may hope for mercy; but if I falsly deny them, I must expect nothing but Eternal Damnation; and therefore what I shall say in this great hour, I hope you will believe. And now in this hour I do solemnly swear, protest, and vow, by all that is Sacred in Heaven and on Earth, and as I hope to see the Face of God in Glory, that I am as innocent as the Child unborn of those treasonable Crimes, which Mr. Oates and Mr. Dugdale have Sworn against me in my Tryal, and for which, sentence of Death was pronounced against me the day after my Tryal; and that you may be assured that what I say is true, I do in the like manner protest, vow, and swear, as I hope to see the Face of God in Glory, that I do not in what I say unto you, make use of any Equivocation, mental Reservation, and material Prolocution, or any such ways to palliate Truth. Neither do I make use of any dispensations from the Pope, or any body else; or of any Oath of secresie, or any absolution in Confession or out of Confession to deny the truth, but I speak in the plain sence which the words bear; and if I do not speak in the plain sence which the words bear, or if I do speak in any other terms to palliate, hide, or deny the truth, I wish with all my Soul that God may exclude me from his Heavenly Glory, and condemn me to the lowest place of Hell Fire: and so much to that point.
And now, dear Country-men, in the second place, I do confess and own to the whole World that I am a Roman Catholick, and a Priest, and one of that sort of Priests which you call Jesuits; and now because they are so falsly charged for holding King-killing Doctrine, I think it my duty to protest to you with my last dying words, that neither I in particular, nor the Jesuits in general, hold any such opinion, but utterly abhor and detest it; and I assure you, that among the multitude of Authors, which among the Jesuits have printed Philosophy, Divinity, Cases or Sermons, there is not one to the best of my knowledge that allows of King-killing Doctrine, or holds this position, That it is lawful for a private person to kill a King, although an Heretick, although a Pagan, although a Tyrant, there is, I say, not one Jesuit that holds this, except Ma∣riana, the Spanish Jesuit, and he defends it not absolutely, but only problematically, for which his Book was called in again, and the opinions expugned and sentenced. And is it not a sad thing, that for the rashness of one single Man, whilst the rest cry out against him, and hold the contrary, that a whole Religious Order should be sentenc’d? But I have not time to discuss this point at large, and therefore I refer you all to a Royal Author, I mean the wife and victorious King Henry the Fourth of France, the Royal Grandfather of our present gracious King, in a publick Oration which he pronounced himself in defence of the Jesuits, said, that he was very well satisfied with the Jesuits Doctrine concerning Kings, as believing conformable to what the best Doctors of the Church have taught. But why do I relate the testimony of one particular Prince, when the whole Catholick World is the Jesuit’s Advocate? for to them chiefly Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Flanders, trust the Education of their Youth, and to them in a great proportion, they trust their own Souls to be governed in the Sacraments. And can you imagin so many great Kings and Princes, and so many wise States should do or permit this to be done in their Kingdoms, if the Jesuits were men of such damnable principles as they are now taken for in England?
In the third place, dear Country-men, I do attest, that as I never in my life did machine, or contrive either the deposition or death of the King, so now I do heartily desire of God to grant him a quiet and happy Reign upon Earth, and an Everlasting Crown in Heaven. For the Judges also, and the Jury, and all those that were any ways concern’d, either in my Tryal, Accusation, or Condemnation, I do humbly ask of God, both Temporal and Eternal happiness. And as for Mr. Oates and Mr. Dugdale, whom I call God to witness, by false Oaths have brought me to this untimely end, I heartily forgive them, because God commands me so to do; and I beg of God for his infinite Mercy to grant them true Sorrow and Repentance in this World, that they be capable of Eternal happiness in the next. And so having discharged my Duty towards my self, and my own Innocence towards my Order, and its Doctrine to my Neighbour and the World, I have nothing else to do now, my great God, but to cast my self into the Arms of your Mercy, as firmly as I judge that I my self am, as certainly as I believe you are One Divine Essence and Three Divine Persons, and in the Second Person of your Trinity you became Man to redeem me; I also believe you are an Eternal Rewarder of Good, and Chastiser of Bad. In fine, I believe all you have reveal’d for your own infinite Veracity; I hope in you above all things, for your infinite Fidelity; and I love you above all things, for your infinite Beauty and Goodness; and I am heartily sorry that ever I offended so great a God with my whole heart: I am contented to undergo an ignominious Death for the love of you, my dear Jesu, seeing You have been pleased to undergo an ignominious Death for the love of me.”
-by Martin Bouche, print, published 1683, Bl John Fenwick, SJ
John Fenwick, whose real surname was Caldwell, was born in county Durham, of Protestant parents who disowned him when he became a Roman Catholic convert. He took his course in humanities at the College of St. Omer, was sent to Liège to study theology, and entered the Society of Jesus at Watten on 28 September 1660. Having completed his studies, he was ordained a priest, and spent several years, from 1662, as procurator or agent at the College of St. Omer. He was made a professed father in 1676, and was sent to England the same year.
He resided in London as procurator of St. Omer’s College, and was also one of the missionary fathers there. In 1678, on the information of Titus Oates, he was summoned to appear before the Privy Council, and committed to Newgate Prison. He was put in chains and suffered great pain as a result: one of his legs became so infected that amputation was proposed. His correspondence was seized, but to the Crown’s disappointment it turned out to be completely innocuous: as he forcefully pointed out at his second trial, among at least a thousand letters taken from him there was not one which could be construed as treasonable. He was tried for high treason with William Ireland, in that they had conspired to kill King Charles II, a charge fabricated by Oates and later embellished by other informers. Oates claimed that he had overheard some incriminating remarks they made at a meeting of senior Jesuits in late April 1678 in the White Horse Tavern on the Strand: they could truthfully deny this, although they had at the time been at a meeting of senior Jesuits in the Palace of Whitehall. As the evidence of treason was insufficient, since the Crown lacked the requisite two witnesses, he was remanded back to prison.
However, in the political climate of the time, it was unthinkable that so prominent a Jesuit should be allowed to escape with his life: accordingly, he was arraigned a second time at the Old Bailey on 13 June 1679, before all the High Court judges. He was tried together with four other Jesuit fathers (John Gavan, William Harcourt, Thomas Whitebread and Anthony Turner}. Oates and two other notorious informers, William Bedloe and Stephen Dugdale, were the main witnesses against them, and in accordance with the direction of Lord Chief Justice William Scroggs, the jury found the prisoners guilty, despite their spirited defence. At the end of the prosecution case Fenwick made a vigorous protest:
“I have had a thousand letters taken from me: not any of these letters had anything of treason in them. All the evidence comes but to this: there is but saying and swearing.”
The five Jesuits suffered death at Tyburn on 20 June 1679. As an act of clemency, the King, who was well aware that they were innocent, but realised that it would be politically unthinkable to grant a royal pardon or reprieve, ordered that they be allowed to hang until they were dead, and be spared the indignity of drawing and quartering. In a sign that public sympathy was turning against the plot, the large crowd heard their final speeches from the scaffold in respectful silence, as each maintained his innocence. Fenwick’s remains were buried in the churchyard of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.
An account of the trial and condemnation of the five Jesuits for High Treason, in conspiring the Death of the King, the Subversion of the Government and Protestant Religion was published by authority at London, 1679.
“Good People, I suppose you expect I should say something as to the Crime I am Condemned for, and either acknowledge my Guilt, or assert my Innocency; I do therefore declare before God and the whole World, and call God to witness that what I say is true, that I am innocent of what is laid to my Charge of Plotting the King’s Death, and endeavoring to subvert the Government, and bring in a foreign Power, as the Child unborn; and that I know nothing of it, but what I have learn’d from Mr. Oates and his Companions, and what comes originally from them. And to what is said and commonly believed of Roman Catholicks, that they are not to be believed or trusted, because they can have Dispensations for Lying, Perjury, killing Kings, and other the most enormous Crimes; I do utterly renounce all such Pardons, Dispensations, and withall declare, That it is a most wicked and malicious Calumny cast on them, who do all with all their hearts and souls hate and detest all such wicked and damnable Practises, and in the words of a dying Man, and as I hope for Mercy at the hands of God, before whom I must shortly appear and give an account of all my actions, I do again declare, That what I have said is most true, and I hope Christian Charity will not let you think, that by the last act of my Life, I would cast away my Soul, by sealing up my last Breath with a damnable Lye.”
-by Martin Bouche, print, 1683, Bl Thomas White, SJ
Thomas White, alias Harcourt, alias Whitbread/Whitebread was a native of Essex, but little is known of his family or early life. He was educated at St. Omer’s, and entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus on 7 September 1635. Coming upon the English mission in 1647, he worked in England for more than thirty years, mostly in the eastern counties. On 8 December 1652, he was professed of the four vows. Twice he was superior of the Suffolk District, once of the Lincolnshire District, and finally, in 1678 he was declared Provincial. In this capacity he refused to admit Titus Oates as a member of the Society, on the grounds of his ignorance, blasphemy and sexual attraction to young boys, and expelled him forthwith from the seminary of St Omer; shortly afterwards Titus, motivated by personal spite against Whitbread, and against the Jesuits generally, fabricated the so-called “Popish Plot”.
It was said later that Whitbread had a miraculous presentiment of the plot, and undoubtedly he preached a celebrated sermon at Liège in July 1678, on the text “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?”, in which he warned his listeners that the present time of tranquillity would not last, and that they must be willing to suffer false accusations, imprisonment, torture and martyrdom. Having completed a tour of his Flanders province, he went to England but at once fell ill with plague.
Whitbread was arrested in London on Michaelmas Day (i.e., 29 September) 1678, but was so ill that he could not be moved to Newgate until three months later. The house in which he and his secretary Fr. Edward Mico (who died in Newgate shortly afterwards) had been lodging was part of the Spanish Embassy in Wild Street, but for whatever reason, there was no claim of diplomatic immunity, as there was in the case of some other priests. He was first indicted at the Old Bailey, on 17 December 1678, but the evidence against him and his companions broke down. Oates testified that he had overheard Whitbread and other senior Jesuits plotting to kill the King in late April 1678 in the White Horse Tavern in the Strand. This was probably garbled second-hand information about an actual Jesuit meeting which was then going on at Whitehall Palace: but no one corroborated Oates’ story, and Whitbread could in good conscience deny the assassination plot, and that he had ever been in the White Horse Tavern.
Given the state of public opinion, it was unthinkable to the Government that Whitbread, whom Oates and the other informers had identified as one of the originators of the Plot, should be allowed to escape punishment. Accordingly he was remanded and kept in prison until 13 June 1679, when he was again indicted for treason, and with four others was found guilty on the perjured evidence of Oates, William Bedloe and Stephen Dugdale. The importance of the trial is shown by the fact that it was heard by a bench of seven judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Sir William Scroggs, who was a firm believer in the Plot and deeply hostile to Catholic priests. In the circumstances Whitbread could not have hoped to escape, and, although he strongly maintained his innocence, Kenyon suggests that he had resigned himself to death. Certainly the sermon he had preached at Liège the previous year suggests that he expected to suffer the death of a martyr, sooner or later.
He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. The King, who knew that he and his fellow victims were innocent, ordered that they be allowed to die before being mutilated. The well-known story that they were offered a pardon on the scaffold if they would confess seems to have no substance. The crowd showed that on this occasion its sympathies were with the victims, and it listened in respectful silence as Whitbread and the others made lengthy speeches protesting their innocence. The others executed with him were John Gavan, John Fenwick, William Harcourt and Anthony Turner. After the execution, his remains, and those of his companions, were buried in St. Giles’s in the Fields.
Whitbread wrote Devout Elevation of the Soul to God and two short poems, To Death and To His Soul, which are printed in The Remonstrance of Piety and Innocence.
“I Suppose it is expected I should speak something to the matter I am condemned for, and brought hither to suffer, it is no less than the contriving and plotting His Majesty’s Death, and the alteration of the Government of the Church and State; you all either know, or ought to know, I am to make my appearance before the Face of Almighty God, and with all imaginable certainty and evidence to receive a final Judgment, for all the thoughts, words, and actions of my whole life: So that I am not now upon terms to speak other than truth, and therefore in his most Holy Presence, and as I hope for Mercy from his Divine Majesty, I do declare to you here present, and to the whole World, that I go out of the World as innocent, and as free from any guilt of these things laid to my charge in this matter, as I came into the World from my Mother’s Womb; and that I do renounce from my heart all manner of Pardons, Absolutions, Dispensations for Swearing, as occasions or Interest may seem to re∣quire, which some have been pleased to lay to our charge as matter of our Practice and Doctrine, but is a thing so unjustifiable and unlawful, that I believe, and ever did, that no power on Earth can authorize me, or any body so to do; and for those who have so falsly accused me (as time, either in this World, or in the next, will make appear) I do heartily forgive them, and beg of God to grant them his holy Grace, that they may repent their unjust proceedings against me, otherwise they will in conclusion find they have done themselves more wrong than I have suffered from them, though that has been a great deal. I pray God bless His Majesty both Temporal and Eternal, which has been my daily Prayers for him, and is all the harm that I ever intended or imagined against him. And I do with this my last breath in the sight of God declare, that I never did learn, teach, or believe, that it is lawful upon any occasion or pretence whatsoever, to design or contrive the Death of His Majesty, or any hurt to his Person; but on the contrary, all are bound to obey, defend, and preserve his Sacred Person, to the utmost of their power. And I do moreover declare, that this is the true and plain sence of my Soul in the sight of him who knows the Secrets of my Heart, and as I hope to see his blessed Face without any Equivocation, or mental Reservation. This is all I have to say concerning the matter of my Condemnation, that which remains for me now to do, is to recommend my Soul into the hands of my blessed Redeemer, by whose only Merits and Passion I hope for Salvation.”
-by Cornelius van Merlen, print, Bl William Barrow, SJ
William Barrow (alias Waring, alias Harcourt, alias Harrison) was born in Lancashire. He made his studies at the Jesuit College, St. Omer’s, and entered the Society of Jesus at Watten in 1632. He was sent to the English mission in 1644 and worked in the London district for thirty-five years, becoming, at the beginning of 1678, its superior.
At the outbreak of the Popish Plot, Barrow was one of the most sought-after of the alleged plotters, although his use of the alias Harcourt caused the Government great confusion, as several other Jesuits also used it. He went into hiding in London, and for several months eluded capture. Finally, in May 1679, he was arrested and committed to Newgate on the charge of complicity in the plot brought against him by Titus Oates. The trial, in which he had as fellow-prisoners his colleagues, Thomas Whit(e)bread, John Fenwick, John Gavan, and Anthony Turner, commenced on 13 June 1679.
Lord Chief Justice Scroggs presided, assisted by no less than six junior judges. Oates, William Bedloe, and Stephen Dugdale were the principal witnesses for the Crown. The prisoners were charged with having conspired to kill King Charles II and subvert the Protestant religion. They defended themselves by the testimony of their own witnesses and their cross-examinations of their accusers. Oates’ claim that he had heard some of them plotting treason in the White Horse Tavern in London in late April 1678 was something they could in could conscience deny, although they did not feel obliged to mention that they had been at a meeting of the Jesuit chapter in Whitehall Palace at the time. John Gavan, the youngest and ablest of the five, bore the main burden of conducting his colleagues’ defence as well as his own.
Scroggs in directing the jury laid down two crucial legal principles-
as the witnesses for the prosecution had recently received the royal pardon, none of their undeniable previous misdemeanours could be legally admitted as impairing the value of their testimony; and
that no Catholic witness was to be believed, as it was to be assumed that he had received a dispensation to lie.
Barrow and the others were found guilty, and condemned to undergo the punishment for high treason. They were executed together at Tyburn, 20 June 1679. The King, who was well aware that they were innocent, ordered as an act of grace that they be spared drawing and quartering, and given proper burial. The behaviour of the crowd, which listened in respectful silence as each man maintained his innocence, suggests that popular opinion was turning against the Plot. They were buried in St Giles in the Fields.
By a papal decree of 4 December 1886, this martyr’s cause was introduced, but under the name of “William Harcourt”. This is the official name of beatification.
“The words of dying persons have been always esteem’d as of greatest Authority, be∣cause uttered then, when shortly after they were to be cited before the high Tribunal of Almighty God, this gives me hopes that mine may be look’d upon as such, therefore I do here declare in the presence of Almighty God, and the whole Court of Heaven, and this numerous Assembly, that as I ever hope (by the Merits and Passion of my sweet Saviour Jesus Christ) for Eternal Bliss, I am as innocent as the Child unborn of any thing laid to my charge, and for which I am here to dye, and I do utterly abhor and detest that abominable false Doctrine laid to our charge, that we can have Licenses to commit perjury, or any Sin to advantage our cause, being expresly against the Doctrine of St. Paul, saying, Non sunt faci∣enda mala, ut eveniant bona; Evil is not to be done that good may come thereof. And therefore we hold it in all cases unlawful to kill or murder any person whatsoever, much more our law∣ful King now Reigning, whose personal and temporal Dominions we are ready to defend against any Opponent whatsoever, none excepted. I forgive all that have contriv’d my Death, and humbly beg pardon of Almighty God. I also pardon all the World. I pray God bless His Majesty, and grant him a prosperous Reign. The like I wish to his Royal Con∣sort the best of Queens. I humbly beg the Prayers of all those of the Roman Church, if any such be present.”
-by Cornelius van Merlen, print, Bl Anthony Turner, SJ
Anthony Turner was born in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, the son of a clergyman, Toby Turner, who was Rector of Little Dalby and Elizabeth, nee Cheseldine. He went to Uppingham School in Rutland, then studied at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where, according to tradition, he converted to Roman Catholicism.
He went to the English College, Rome in October 1650 and then to the Jesuit College, St Omer. He was ordained there on 12 April 1659.
In 1661, he was sent to run the Jesuits’ Worcestershire mission, and he remained there for the rest of his ministry; in due course, he was appointed Jesuit Superior for the District (1670-78).
At the outbreak of the Popish Plot, the Government showed exceptional interest in apprehending Turner. Why he was considered to be of such importance is unclear, but he must have been thought well worth catching, as pursuivants searched for him in three counties.
Turner resolved to suffer for the Church but was urged to flee England by his superiors. He journeyed to London in January 1679 to take refuge in the embassy of one of the Catholic powers and to find a Jesuit who could get him out of the country; his search was unsuccessful and he gave the last of his money to a beggar and turned himself in to the authorities in February 1679.
His motives for doing this are unclear: Jesuits, though were schooled to endure martyrdom where necessary, were not expected to actively seek it, nor does his spirited defence at his trial suggest that he had any such wish. It is most likely, as J. P. Kenyon suggests, that his physical and mental suffering had caused him to suffer a short-lived nervous breakdown.
Although Turner was not on Titus Oates’ list, he was moved to Newgate Prison and tried on 13 June 1679 together with Thomas Whitbread, John Fenwick, John Gavan and William Barrow. No fewer than seven judges sat on the court that tried them, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Sir William Scroggs, who was a convinced believer in the Plot and cherished a deep hatred of Catholic priests. Turner, having recovered his mental balance, defended himself with vigour, although the four older priests allowed the young and able John Gavan to act as the principal spokesman for all five. Attempts to discredit the testimony of Titus Oates, the inventor of the Plot, by proving that he had been in St Omer for six months when he claimed to have been in London failed, as the Court ruled that the witnesses, being Catholics, could receive a dispensation to lie and were therefore not credible. Far more effective were the direct attacks on Oates himself; in particular, the accused were able to show that though Oates knew Whitbread and Fenwick personally, Gavan was a stranger to him. Oates’s evidence against Gavan was so feeble that even Scroggs remarked “I perceive your memory is not good”.
Despite weaknesses in the prosecution case, Scroggs summed up firmly for a conviction (while cheerfully admitting that he had already forgotten most of the evidence), and the jury delivered a guilty verdict within fifteen minutes. All five were hanged at Tyburn on 20 June 1679. The well-known story that they were offered a royal pardon on the scaffold if they would confess seems to have no foundation. Charles II was asked to show clemency, but refused, for fear of inflaming public opinion; the most he would do is order that the five be allowed to hang until they were dead, that they be spared drawing and quartering and given a proper burial.
The crowd showed that its sympathy was with the victims, and stood in respectful silence while each of the condemned men delivered a last speech maintaining his innocence. They were buried in St Giles-in-the-Fields.
“Being now, good People, very near my End, and summon’d by a violent Death to appear before God’s Tribunal, there to render an account of all my thoughts, words, and actions, before a just Judge, I am bound in Conscience to declare upon Oath my Innocence from the horrid Crime of Treason, with which I am falsely accused: And I esteem it a Duty I owe to Christian Charity, to publish to the World before my death all that I know in this point, concerning those Catholicks I have conversed with since the first noise of the Plot, desiring from the very bottom of my heart, that the whole Truth may appear, that Innocence may be clear’d, to the great Glory of God, and the Peace and Welfare of the King and Country. As for my self, I call God to witness, that I was never in my whole life at any Consult or Meeting of the Jesuits, where any Oath of Secrecy was taken, or the Sacrament, as a Bond of Secrecy, either by me or any one of them, to conceal any Plot against His Sacred Majesty; nor was I ever present at any Meeting or Consult of theirs, where any Proposal was made, or Resolve taken or signed, either by me or any of them, for taking away the Life of our Dread Soveraign; an Impiety of such a nature, that had I been present at any such Meeting, I should have been bound by the Laws of God, and by the Principles of my Religion, (and by God’s Grace would have acted accordingly) to have discovered such a devillish Treason to the Civil Magistrate, to the end they might have been brought to condign punishment. I was so far, good People, from being in September last at a Consult of the Jesuits at Tixall, in Mr. Ewer’s Chamber, that I vow to God, as I hope for Salvation, I never was so much as once that year at Tixall, my Lord Aston’s House. ‘Tis true, I was at the Congregation of the Jesuits held on the 24th of April was twelve-month, but in that Meeting, as I hope to be saved, we meddled not with State-Affairs, but only treated about the Governours of the Province, which is usually done by us, without offence to temporal Princes, every third Year all the World over. I am, good People, as free from the Treason I am accused of, as the Child that is unborn, and being innocent I never accused my self in Confession of any thing that I am charged with. Which certainly, if I had been conscious to my self of any Guilt in this kind, I should not so frankly and freely, as I did, of my own accord, presented my self before the King’s Most Honourable Privy Council. As for those Catholicks, which I have conversed with since the noise of the Plot, I protest before God, in the words of a dying Man, that I never heard any one of them, neither Priest nor Layman, express to me the least knowledge of any Plot, that was then on foot amongst the Catholicks, against the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, for the advancing the Catholick Religion. I dye a Roman Catholick, and humbly beg the Prayers of such for my happy passage into a better Life: I have been of that Religion above Thirty Years, and now give God Almighty infinite thanks for calling me by his holy Grace to the knowledge of this Truth, notwithstanding the prejudice of my former Education. God of his infinite Goodness bless the King, and all the Royal Family, and grant His Majesty a prosperous Reign here, and a Crown of Glory hereafter. God in his mercy forgive all those which have falsely accused me, or have had any hand in my Death; I forgive them from the bottom of my heart, as I hope my self for forgiveness at the Hands of God.
O GOD who hast created me to a supernatural end, to serve thee in this life by grace and injoy thee in the next by glory, be pleased to grant by the merits of thy bitter death and passion, that after this wretched life shall be ended, I may not fail of a full injoyment of thee my last end and soveraign good. I humbly beg pardon for all the sins which I have com∣mitted against thy Divine Majesty, since the first Instance I came to the use of reason to this very time; I am heartily sorry from the very bottom of my heart for having offending thee so good, so powerfull, so wise, and so just a God, and purpose by the help of thy grace, ne∣ver more to offend thee my good God, whom I love above all things.
O sweet Jesus, who hath suffer’d a most painfull and ignominious Death upon the Cross for our Salvation, apply, I beseech thee, unto me the merits of thy sacred Passion, and sanctifie unto me these sufferings of mine, which I humbly accept of for thy sake in union of the sufferings of thy sacred Majesty, and in punishment and satisfaction of my sins.
O my dear Saviour and Redeemer, I return thee immortal thanks for all thou hast pleased to do for me in the whole course of my life, and now in the hour of my death, with a firm belief of all things thou hast revealed, and a stedfast hope of obteining everlasting bliss. I chearfully cast my self into the Arms of thy Mercy, whose Arms were stretched on the Cross for my Re∣demption. Sweet Jesus receive my Spirit.”
-by Corrado Giaquinto, “Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” c. 1765, oil on canvas, 171 cm (67.3 in); width: 123 cm (48.4 in), private collection, please click on the image for greater detail
“O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”-traditional added at the end of McCormick family grace
“What is June for? The sixth month’s name derives from the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and goddess of marriage and fertility. June was a time for the seeds of new life: sowing crops, weddings, and the beginning of fruitful marriages. In short, June has long been associated with love. And indeed, in the late modern West, we are presented with two rival visions of love to celebrate in June, each with its own sexual ethic and account of the virtues: Pride, which contends “love is love,” and Humility, which proclaims “God is love.”
The denomination of June as a season of “pride” can be traced back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969, which followed upon a police raid of a gay bar. The following June, gay-rights activists organized a commemorative march and demonstration in New York City, and activists adopted the moniker “Gay Pride.” The man who takes credit for coining the term explained his reasoning: “The poison was shame, and the antidote is pride.”
Hence, Pride Month was born of a desire to combat shame within the gay community. This desire can be understood in light of the Christian sexual ethic that had informed American mores to a degree but had already been rejected by many American elites.
In the traditional Christian view, temperance is a cardinal virtue, and shamefacedness is an essential component of it. Temperance considers the pleasures of touch, particularly the pleasures of the table and the bed. The temperate person exercises moderation in these pleasures, avoiding both excess and deficiency. Integral to temperance is shamefacedness, a kind of fear, which is an aversion of desire away from some evil. Shamefacedness is the fear or recoiling from some action that is disgraceful.
The part of temperance that deals with sex is called “chastity,” and it is the virtue by which reason governs sexual desire. The traditional Christian understanding of sexual desire is teleological. It is a gift from God imbued with intrinsic meaning and purpose: to join man and woman in the special bond of marital friendship and that is typically generative of new life. In short, sex was understood to be unitive and procreative such that in the marital act, lovers fully gave of themselves to become “one flesh,” a unity that imaged Trinitarian Love. Chastity therefore meant checking desires for sex that strayed outside of this order, and the chaste person exercised virtue when he recoiled at—was ashamed of—such actions. On this view, heterosexual and non-heterosexual persons alike were required to govern their desires by the virtue of chastity.
While the intellectual and social seeds of the sexual revolution had long been germinating, the 1960s saw the Christian understanding of sex overthrown. In 1964, most American states had laws on the books that restricted access to contraception, for contraception thwarted the teleological purpose of sex. But in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court struck down anti-contraception laws as violative of the Constitution, upending the classical Christian natural law logic that such laws presupposed. With the recently invented technology of the birth control pill now widely available, no longer was it presumed that sex was essentially tethered to procreation. Rather, sex became a form of recreation for the expressive self. And this, quite logically, led the gay community to wonder: Why should expressive individualism and recreation be restricted to married heterosexuals?
The promoters of Pride worked out socially and morally what was already implicit in the new legal order. The law is a tutor, and it taught that sex was no longer essentially unitive, procreative, and marital. Why then should homosexual sex be considered shameful? Of course, residual shamefacedness about gay sex remained ingrained in the mores of many Americans. But such attitudes, increasingly cut off from the Christian understanding of the meaning of sex—and the vibrant institutions that embody and sustain that vision—were readily redescribed as “poison.” The antidote was to call for a new virtue: “pride.” Pride functioned as a new sort of fortitude: the habit by which members of the gay community would individually and collectively come out of the closet with confident self-assurance and claim their equal rights in a transformed social order. The older shamefaced attitudes that had been parts of temperance would now increasingly appear as vices: the ignorant prejudice or animus of bigots.
Pride’s popular slogan “love is love” is thus a fitting shorthand for its sexual ethic. Because sex is not inherently a one flesh union of husband and wife, but rather an avenue for self-expression and recreation, no one form of romantic love has any moral superiority over any other. They are all equally “love” and therefore should be treated with absolute moral, social, and legal equality.
The contrasting vision of Christian Humility is “God is Love.” It is antithetical to love as conceived by expressive individualism because Love Itself calls the beloved not to self-expression, but to humble obedience—that is, to make a gift of oneself as an abode for Him to reign in our hearts (John 14:23-24). The Church proclaims this message to the world in the month of June in a special way that is deeply intertwined with the story of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the beloved disciple of Christ’s Sacred Heart.
Born on July 22, 1647 in France, Margaret Mary was still very young when she consecrated herself to God: “O my God, I consecrate to Thee my purity, and I make Thee a vow of perpetual chastity.” In offering up her sexuality as a gift to God, she was given the lifelong gift of chastity and an accompanying “horror” of “anything against purity”—and provided an example of holiness particularly relevant to all whose vocation is not to marriage.
Her Divine Suitor eventually directed her to join the Visitandines. Already extremely advanced in the spiritual life—she had had several visions of Our Lady and Our Lord—obedience was an ongoing drama. Our Lord asked of her various prayers, sacrifices, and penances, but they sometimes conflicted with the commands of her superiors. When the saint beseeched Christ for help, he replied to her that she should do nothing of what he had commanded her without her superiors’ consent: “I love obedience, and without it no one can please Me.”
Humble obedience and the sacrifice of the desires of the self are thematic in St. Margaret Mary’s life. She struggled interiorly to heed Christ’s commands and acknowledged her weakness and inability to do what He asked without His aid. She had entered the convent on one condition: that she could never be forced to eat cheese, to which she was extremely averse. When her Sovereign Master asked her to eat cheese at a meal, she resisted for three days, until in answer to her prayer the Lord said: “There must be no reserve in Love.” She ate the cheese, and recalled that “I never in my life felt so great a repugnance to anything.” Indeed, to conform her more perfectly to himself, Christ identified all that was most opposed to her predilections, and increasingly required her to act contrary to them.
This and many other sufferings conformed her to the crucified Christ and were the essential preconditions to the revelation of His Sacred Heart, which involved such ecstatic spiritual delights that she could not describe them. Christ revealed His Heart to be as a mighty furnace, a throne of flames shining like the sun, encircled by a crown of thorns with the Cross seated upon it. The saint was asked to honor His Sacred Heart with a feast day that would fall in June, in order to manifest to mankind anew His infinite love for them. This would ultimately be fulfilled two hundred years after St. Margaret Mary’s death, when Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to a Solemnity in 1889.
Christ’s Sacred Heart—as both His literal heart of flesh and the self-sacrificial gift of himself for the world that it symbolizes—burns with a love of charity by which he has a just claim on our hearts, on the obedience of our wills. Its radiant brilliance reminds us that God’s love radically extends to all persons, regardless of any predilections they might have that do not conform to His will. It is only through our free choice to nail the desires of the self upon the Cross that His Sacred Heart is permitted to be enthroned in each of our own.
While the contrasts of Humility’s vision with Pride’s are apparent, we should note that, for many, the celebration of Pride Month can be well intentioned. The desire to show compassion, as well as to be acknowledged, recognized, and affirmed, are healthy in their root because they stem from the fundamental human desire to be loved and cared for. Pride’s vision of love is fundamentally flawed, but not because persons who do not identify as heterosexual are of any lesser dignity. From the traditional Christian perspective, it is flawed in as much as it was built upon a rejection of the moral order that God established and the refusal of humble obedience to and reliance upon the One who sacrificed Himself to help us fulfill it. Pride’s vision of love must end in disappointment. For by His Sacred Heart, Jesus loves each of us infinitely more than any creature could, including ourselves. It is humbling to admit that we are not sufficient unto ourselves to love. But our Divine Lover promises a joy beyond anything worldly love promises, if only we will offer ourselves as gifts to Him, and allow Him to transform us into the beautiful creatures we were created to be.”
For the love of God and willing the good of others,
“The month of June is Pride Month. You may have noticed. For thirty days, corporations, universities, local businesses, community organizations, and government institutions take a break from their perennial praise of the LGBTQ+ movement to demonstrate (especially to those surveilling online) that they are really, really—really—committed to the cause. Although the symbol of Pride has struggled to keep up with the exponential growth of qualifying identities, celebrants communicate their fidelity in the form of rainbow-saturated company logos, sidewalk displays, oversize billboards, and even Pride-themed onesies, pick-up trucks, and ice-cream.
But what, precisely, is being celebrated? There are numerous bumper-sticker responses: “love is love,” “acceptance,” “being who you are,” and even, incongruously given the corresponding statistics, “joy.” But how does any of this relate to pride—pride in what exactly? Examining the assumptions and implications of the Pride movement leads to some unsettling conclusions.
Before digging deeper, it’s important to separate Pride ideology—a system of thought that seeks to advance specific cultural and political goals—from individuals who do not fit traditional sexual and gender categories. It’s likely you know someone, are related to someone, or maybe even a parent to someone who’s in this group. You likely love them very much and they may, indeed, be exceptionally lovable. You certainly don’t want to hurt them, and, in fact, that may be the reason you’ve hesitated to say anything about their professed identity. Setting aside the scurrilous knee-jerk accusations of “hatred” and “phobia” that inevitably accompany any skepticism, or even, ironically, curiosity about the meaning of the Pride movement, the search for clarity should recognize that addressing the topic honestly may cause real, even if unintended, pain to good people. And so it goes without saying, to draw on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, that truth must never be separated from charity.
But who I am to say anything about the “truth” of Pride? Though this question is usually taken as a blow in defense of the movement (Who are you to judge?), it, in fact, opens the first line of critique: What separates Pride from traditional hetero-centric morality? In other words, what makes Pride ideology true, or at least truer, than competing worldviews in such a way that its advocates are not merely imposing their values on society because they have the power to do so?
It’s important to keep in mind that there are only two possible responses to the question of moral truth: either (a) it doesn’t exist (thus all truth is relative), or (b) it does exist, meaning that there are moral principles that are universally, objectively true. Pride ideology often finds itself in the first category, moral relativism, under the declarations, “This is my truth” or “This is our truth.” Those may sound like objective truth claims on the surface; however, if there is no “the truth” lying beneath “my/our truth,” then there is no way to distinguish it from an expression of emotive preference. If this is the case, then the whole Pride movement would be based on an irrational (or at least a-rational) imposition of will on those who disagree with it—which, in turn, would render it analogous, in both method and substance, to how tyrants and bullies operate (“Obey and celebrate me because I say so”).
To escape this assessment, the Pride movement must make the case that they are advocating for something that everyone ought to believe not because they are saying it but because it is, in fact, true. In this case, those who disagree with Pride ideology would be wrong to do so because they would be holding false beliefs. What might those truth claims look like and what implications would they have? Let’s return to some of the bumper-stickers.
“Love is Love”
It’s not clear what this statement means, but it seems to imply at least two things: (1) All individuals’ internal sexual attractions should be considered equally morally valid (if not praiseworthy), no matter who or what the object of desire is (if the movement were only advocating for non-sexual relationships then it would not find opposition, certainly not from traditional morality); (2) All individuals ought to be able to act on those internal attractions whenever and however they desire, provided there is mutual consent and no subjectively defined “harm” occurs—indeed, such sexual expression is to be encouraged and feted.
Are these two statements about love true? That’s a complex question, but let’s assume that Pride ideology affirms them as such. If that’s the case, however, then, given the variety of human beings’ empirically observed (which is not to say natural) sexual proclivities and behaviors, these conclusions necessarily follow: (1) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to engage in hetero- and homosexual relationships with immediate biological family members; (2) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to express their desires to have sexual relationships with children (now rebranded as “Minor Attracted Persons”), even if they are not currently free to act on those desires legally; and (3) Pride ideology believes that we should celebrate individuals’ freedom to have sexual relationships with non-human animals, provided they don’t violate anti-cruelty laws. These are the implications of believing “love is love” is true, even if we don’t see them represented on parade floats yet.
“Be who you are”
Drawing on the meaning of “love is love,” this claim implies that individuals’ subjective feelings morally authorize them to (attempt to) appear on “the outside” what they experience themselves to be on “the inside.” This tenet of Pride lies at the heart of transgenderism and, in general, being “queer,” which includes a justification (and celebration) of surgically slicing off healthy breast and genital tissue and forcing women to compete against men in sporting events. However, if it’s true that individuals should be celebrated for making their outside look like their inside—and everyone else must accommodate their wishes—then Pride must also affirm that we praise trans-abled individuals for snipping their healthy spinal cords, trans-species individuals (also known as “Furries”) for demanding societal respect for non-ironically donning animal costumes in public, and even trans-age individuals for dictating that they be cared for like infants, including while in prison. (It is crucial to note that once age, like biological sex, becomes subjective, the moral prohibition against practicing pedophilia dissolves). All this, too, follows from the ideology’s internal logic.
Though this word sounds especially innocuous, Pride ideology transforms its meaning into “Shut up and don’t ask questions, bigot.” To “accept” is not to tolerate; it is to recognize as normal. “Acceptance” thus mainstreams the movement’s definitions of the nature of the human body, the purpose of human sexuality, and the rights of individuals to do as they please according to the dictates of Pride’s principles. At the same time, and consequently, it both stigmatizes what was once considered normal as “abnormal” and marks anyone who critically questions the new normal as a bigot (for only a bigot would be against “acceptance”). In other words, “acceptance” is both the shield and weapon of Pride: it protects the movement from scrutiny by tarring all objections, a priori, as prejudiced.
Holding tight to the distinction between ideologies and individuals, it’s important to highlight that there are some people who, though they fall outside traditional gender and sexual typologies for various reasons (though most likely not genetic ones), are resisting elements of the Pride movement. (One such group is called “Gays against Groomers.”) Yet Pride ideology still remains dominant in the US and most of the West, despite the fact that, according to its own assertions, it is either (a) a subjective, relativistic morality that imposes itself on the Pride-nonconforming by the brute force of its cultural and political power, or (b) a putatively universal morality that, based on the logic of its own principles, permits and encourages incest, bodily mutilation (including of children), pedophiliac attraction (if not practice), bestiality, and the silencing of dissent.
In short, a candid assessment of Pride reveals it to be either dictatorially arbitrary or fiendishly depraved. There is no amount of kaleidoscopic fanfare, corporate-sponsored enthusiasm, or coercively moralizing legislation that can wish this conclusion away. To embrace the Rainbow!™ necessarily entails embracing its shadow. Pretending otherwise, fantasizing that we can dethrone heterosexuality and reality-based biology as natural and normative without letting the full panoply of Pandora’s Box of perversion out into the world, is, itself, to be bigoted—against reason and the evidence of our own eyes. ”
For the love of God and willing the good of others,
“Protestants often claim that the Church that Jesus founded was the “Christian Church,” not the Catholic Church. The biblical evidence cited for this claim is found in the Acts of the Apostles: “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians” (Acts 11:25-26).
Many modern Christians then suppose that the Catholic Church was founded by mere men much later in Christian history.
No doubt, disciples in the early Church became known as Christians. But does this mean that their Church was not the Catholic Church? A little historical study into the church at Antioch reveals that these early Christians’ church was, indeed, the Catholic Church.
One of the things Peter did before he went to Rome was to found the church in Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire at the time. He ordained a disciple there named Evodius to the episcopacy and appointed him the bishop of Antioch. Evodius is believed by many to have been one of the seventy disciples Jesus appointed to go ahead of him to the towns and places where he taught during his second missionary journey (see Luke 10:1). It was during Evodius’s reign as bishop of Antioch that the disciples there were for the first time called Christians. But this isn’t the end of the story!
While Paul was teaching the Christians in Antioch during Evodius’s reign, another young disciple was moving up through the ranks. His name was Ignatius, and he would later become known as Saint Ignatius of Antioch, an early Christian martyr. Ignatius was a disciple of John. Legend has it that, much earlier in his life, Ignatius was the child whom Jesus took in his arms in a passage recorded by Mark:
[Jesus] sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 11:35-37)
This legend demonstrates the great esteem his memory has enjoyed since the early centuries of the Church.
At Antioch, Ignatius was ordained by Paul, and then, at the end of the reign of Evodius, he was appointed bishop of Antioch by Peter. He reigned there for many years before his martyrdom in Rome. On his way to Rome to be martyred, he wrote several letters to fellow Christians in various locations, expounding on Christian theology. He especially emphasized unity among Christians (see John 17) and became known as an Apostolic Father of the Church.
In one of his letters (to Christians in Smyrna), he wrote, “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.” This is the earliest known written record of the term “Catholic Church” (written around A.D. 107), but Ignatius seemingly used it with the presumption that the Christians of his day were quite familiar with it. In other words, even though his is the earliest known written record of the term, the term likely had been in use for quite some time by then, dating back to the time of the apostles.
The term “Catholic Church” (Gk. katholike ekklesia) broadly means “universal assembly,” and Ignatius used it when writing to the Christians of Smyrna as a term of unity. He exhorted these Christians to follow their bishop just as the broader universal assembly of Christians follows Christ. He clearly uses the terms “Christian” and “Catholic Church” distinctly: disciples of Christ are Christians; the universal assembly of Christians is the Catholic Church.
Some might claim that Ignatius intended to use the term “Catholic Church” not as a proper name for the Church, but only as a general reference to the larger assembly of Christians. If so, then the universal assembly had no proper name yet, but “Catholic Church” continued in use until it became the proper name of the one church that Christ built on Peter and his successors.
Thus, we see that the Christians of Antioch were part of the Catholic Church. They were indeed Christian disciples, but they were also Catholic. Given the unbroken chain of succession at Antioch—from Peter (sent by Christ) to Evodius to Ignatius—if any Christian today wishes to identify with the biblical Christians of the first century mentioned in Acts 11, it follows quite logically that he must also identify with those same Christians’ universal assembly: the Catholic Church.”
“… human nature is created and so, is unavoidably mortal; with death man’s entire psychosomatic being comes to an end. All of his psychological and mental functions cease to function: his self-conscience, reasoning, judgment, memory, imagination, and desire. Man is no longer able to function through the parts of the body in order to speak, to call to memory, to distinguish, to desire, to reason, to be impassioned, and to see” -St. Anastasios of Sinai (Odigos, Migne P.G. 89, 36).
The first time I read the words of St. Anastasios, I felt like my life was falling between the cracks. To think of my self-consciousness, reasoning, judgment, memory, imagination, desire, etc., ceasing to function seemed pretty much like the end of existence. If I were to lack such things what or who would I be? Doesn’t the immortality of the soul promise the continuation of such things?
Time passes and many things begin to happen within self-awareness. I can begin to see that my memory is not so reliable. I understand that I remember the big things, and I’m not concerned with the small things – that I can’t remember why I originally came into a room doesn’t disturb me. What disturbs me comes more commonly from what I do remember. I like to tell stories. The point of an event has often seemed more important than the event itself. But careful reflection reveals to me that sometimes the stories are not quite accurate – and for the life of me – I cannot really tell whether the story that I remember and the event which occasioned it are the same thing. Worse still, I cannot recall the differences.
And what of desire and thought? They change from moment to moment. The desires that I carried to bed are never the ones with which I wake. Where is the center of the self? And what of eternal life?
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain– perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. (1Co 15:35-38)
There is a drive to distance ourselves from the body – for we recognize that the body’s dissolution in the earth will betray us. It will cease to be “me,” and become some other dust. And so we put our hope in the soul, though we cannot fathom what we mean. But it lingers as a repository for the future, the guarantee of my continued existence.
Of course, I am troubled when I watch the occasional dissolution of the brain in this life – a friend who has suffered a stroke – a family member with dementia – and I see that a small insult to the brain removes almost everything I imagined to be the person. So what is the job of the soul and how does it relate to the frailty of my flesh?
Apparently what I really want is something to which I can point and proclaim that its survival guarantees my survival. Some speak of the soul and its immortality in a manner that makes our identity itself inherently immortal. But though the Church teaches that the soul is immortal – it does not teach that the soul is immortal by nature. Like all that is not God, the soul is a created thing. As created, it comes from nothing. Its nature would be – nothing.
The answer to these perplexing questions can be found only in God.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ Who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col 3:1-5)
Apparently, I am already dead. Thus I am concerning myself with the wrong thing. If, in Christ, I am already dead, then what and who is my life that is now “hidden with Christ in God?”
I stand in a strange position. The identity I know, the memories I wish to retain, my self-consciousness, reasoning, judgment, imagination and desires, apparently belong to a dead man, while there is a stranger bearing my name whose life is hidden with Christ in God.
The Cross is the destruction of the ego. The memories, an edited selection of events assembled to tell a “story of me,” are apparently insufficient for the construction of a life. At present they construct a simulacrum, an inferior and insubstantial version of the real thing. The same is true of the desires and imaginations, the faulty reasoning and mis-judgments. They are not the treasures of an identity to be preserved at all cost. It is not the disappearance of these ephemera that will be marked by a tombstone. They were only feeble noises and sterile protests that longed for true existence. That ego wanted to belong, to be loved. It judged itself as wrongly as it judged others. It imagined injuries where none existed and desired lives that were never to be. The truth, were I to admit it, is that I would not want an eternity as such an ego. Just the few short years I have borne with it have been torture enough.
Eternity cannot be anything to be desired if it does not come with freedom. The ephemeral ego is not freedom – it is an impossible past and historical embarrassment.
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Joh 8:34-37).
But what about me? What will become of me? If the ego is lost what is saved? Who is this new life?
To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. (Rev 2:17)
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God…(Col. 3:1).
For whoever desires to save his life (τὴν ψυχὴν = soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (τὴν ψυχὴν=soul) for My sake will save it. (Luke 9:24)
The hidden stone is the great treasure buried in a field, the which, if a man finds, he sells everything he has and buys it. So why do we labor for that which is perishing?
Addendum: The orientation of our life towards the past – the remembered self – is a sort of anxiety – a fear of death itself. The truth of our existence would seem to be in something that is yet to come – something towards which we are moving. Heaven is not the recovery of the past but “behold I make all things new.” It is rushing to meet us.”
Anti-Catholics claim that the early Church took John chapter 6 symbolically. Is that so?
Let’s see what some early Christians thought, keeping in mind that we can learn much about how Scripture should be interpreted by examining the writings of early Christians.
Ignatius of Antioch, who had been a disciple of the apostle John and who wrote a letter to the Smyrnaeans about A.D. 110 said, referring to “those who hold heterodox opinions,” that “they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh that suffered for our sins and that the Father, in his goodness, raised up again” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2, 7:1).
Forty years later, Justin Martyr wrote, “Not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66: 1-20).
Origen, in a homily written about A.D. 244, attested to belief in the Real Presence. “I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence” (Homilies on Exodus 13:3).
Whatever else might be said, the early Church took John 6 literally.
In fact, there is no record from the early centuries that implies that Christians doubted the constant Catholic interpretation. There exists no document in which the literal interpretation is opposed and only the metaphorical accepted.
Why do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals reject the plain, literal interpretation of John 6? For them, Catholic sacraments are out because they imply a spiritual reality-grace-being conveyed by means of matter. This seems to them to be a violation of the divine plan. For many Protestants, matter is not to be used but to be overcome or avoided.
One suspects that, had they been asked by the Creator their opinion of how to bring about mankind’s salvation, Fundamentalists would have advised him to adopt a different approach. How much cleaner things would be if spirit never dirtied itself with matter! But God approves of matter-He approves of it because He created it-and He approves of it so much that He comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine, just as He does in the physical form of the incarnate Christ.
The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is present—body and blood, soul and divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine. This teaching is based on a variety of Scriptural passages (see 1 Cor. 10:16–17; 11:23–29; and, especially, John 6:32–71).
The early Church Fathers interpreted these passages literally. In summarizing their teaching on Christ’s Real Presence, Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly writes: “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).
Kelly also writes: “Ignatius roundly declares that . . . the bread is the flesh of Jesus, the cup his blood. Clearly he intends this realism to be taken strictly, for he makes it the basis of his argument against the Docetists’ denial of the reality of Christ’s body. . . . Irenaeus teaches that the bread and wine are really the Lord’s body and blood. His witness is, indeed, all the more impressive because he produces it quite incidentally while refuting the Gnostic and Docetic rejection of the Lord’s real humanity” (197–98).
He continues: “Hippolytus speaks of ‘the body and the blood’ through which the Church is saved, and Tertullian regularly describes the bread as ‘the Lord’s body.’ The converted pagan, he remarks, ‘feeds on the richness of the Lord’s body, that is, on the Eucharist.’
The realism of his theology comes to light in the argument, based on the intimate relation of body and soul, that just as in baptism the body is washed with water so that the soul may be cleansed, so in the Eucharist ‘the flesh feeds upon Christ’s body and blood so that the soul may be filled with God.’
Clearly his assumption is that the Savior’s body and blood are as real as the baptismal water. Cyprian’s attitude is similar. Lapsed Christians who claim communion without doing penance, he declares, ‘do violence to his body and blood, a sin more heinous against the Lord with their hands and mouths than when they denied him.’
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible [Letter to the Romans 7:3 (c. A.D. 110)].
If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood? (Against Heresies 4:33–32 (C. A.D. 189)].
He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh that is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him? [ibid., 5:2].
ST. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA
“Eat my flesh,” [Jesus] says, “and drink my blood.” The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children [Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3 (c. A.D. 197)].
-“The Crucifixion” is a panel in the central part of the predella of a large altarpiece painted by Andrea Mantegna between 1457 and 1459 for the high altar of San Zeno, Verona (Italy). It was commissioned by Gregorio Correr, the abbot of that monastery. Tempera on panel, 67 cm × 93 cm (26 in × 37 in), The Louvre, Paris. Please click on the image for greater detail.
“What do the martyrs teach us? Today we celebrate the English Martyrs, those heroic men and women who gave their life for the faith in this country in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is stating the obvious to note how different their circumstances were to our own. Why then do we celebrate them today, and what do they teach us?
St John of the Cross once wrote: “in the evening of life, we will be judged by love alone.” The fact that we are celebrating this feast means that these martyrs now enjoy their eternal reward. Judged by love alone, they passed the test with flying colours. So if they teach us about love, how are we to love?
Christ summarises the teaching of the Old Testament on love as the following: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
This tells us who we are to love, but it doesn’t tell us the how.
Christ’s teaching on love is not reducible to a summary of the Old Law. His teaching takes on a far more radical shape: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you”. As I have loved you. This is to give up life itself, for this is what Christ Himself did. That point is made very clear when Jesus goes to say “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Christ laid down His life for each one of us, and that is how He calls each one of us to love too.
A love that imitates Christ until death is exactly what we read about St Stephen in the first reading. The story even echoes the events of the cross. Stephen, like Christ, was taken outside of the city to be killed. He too, like Christ, forgave his oppressors, and he too cried out to God with the same words: “receive my spirit”.
A death that echoes that of Christ on the cross can also be seen with many of the English Martyrs that we celebrate today. John Kemple, a secular priest, said to his executioner, who happened to be a friend of his, “My good Anthony, do what you have to do. I forgive you with all my heart…”. Margaret Clitherowe accepted her burden with the same words as Christ prayed in the garden. She said, before she was crushed to death, “I will accept willingly everything that God wills”.
This is why we celebrate the martyrs: they fix our gaze on the cross. It is there we learn how to love.
Christ’s instruction to imitate Him is of course not just reserved for the moment of our death. His instruction to “love one another even as I have loved you” ought to direct our every action. We cannot wait until the possibility of a heroic martyr’s death to begin loving as we ought to love. For the vast majority of us that moment will likely never come. But the opportunity to love as Christ has loved us is already here.
The whole of Jesus’ earthly mission looked forward to the cross. The love He displayed there was the perfection and completion of His ministry of teaching and healing. The cross is the final lesson: by His wounds, we are healed. (cf -Is 53:5-6)
So too in the lives of the martyrs their death was not an isolated incident, of Christ-like, cruciform love. St Stephen was a man ‘full of faith and the Holy Spirit’, who proclaimed words of truth in the midst of a hostile Council. Margaret Clitherowe hid priests and continued to do so even after it was made illegal. She decided not to plead in her trial, thereby hastening her execution, so as to save her children from testifying and likely torture. Her imitation of the cross began long before she breathed her last. How appropriate that she died on 25th March 1586, Good Friday that year.
This is what the martyrs teach us: our imitation of the cross begins now. Every single moment, every single decision, is an opportunity to love as Jesus loved us.
To love like Jesus on the cross is to prefer nothing but the good of our neighbour. (cf – St Thomas Aquinas, OP) It is to forgive those who have most deeply wronged us. It is to speaks words of comfort from a place of hurt. (Ed.’s emphasis) It is to gather together those who are lost. It is to seek to do the Father’s will above all things.
For a very few the imitation of Christ’s love on the cross is literal, for most the circumstances are less dramatic, but for all the demand is the same: love one another as I have loved you. A cruciform-shaped love ought to structure our whole life, from its broadest shape to its most insignificant detail – now, and at the hour of our death.”
Love, Lord, let me love those who have wronged me, caused me to suffer, deprived me in this life,
“There’s not much romance in theology. That’s why the two can clash: the syllogisms of the former despise the sentiments of the latter, or the drive to be theologically perfect in the one runs up against the desire to be theatrically passionate in the other.
But God has established a Church for the logicians and the lovers alike. As there are many types of personality, so are there many types of spirituality, and in her wisdom, the Church provides many religious orders, many forms of prayer and worship.
St. Louis de Montfort was, as a Frenchman, one of the high romantics of the Roman Catholic faith. Though he wrote a good deal and preached a good deal more, scholars have rarely found his efforts good. Especially critical are those who see in this eloquent and courtly champion of Our Lady a type of Mary-olatry, to the point where Louis puts more stock in the Mother of God than in God Himself.
But here is where the poetry of this knight lies. Those who miss the man’s poetry will miss the man.
Born in 1673, Louis Marie Grignion led the charge of his eight siblings, of modest parentage and means, in the town of Montfort in the northwest of France. He took his education with the Jesuits in Rennes and, inspired by the gallant history of the knight-priest Ignatius of Loyola, he went to Paris to pursue his own call to holy orders.
With his ordination in 1700, Louis carried out priestly duties in Nantes while training for mission work in France or the French colonies in the New World. He also worked as a hospital chaplain during this time, and it was while tending to the sick and poor that he formed a holy order of reformation in this ministry—and a core of female followers, who would become the congregation of the Daughters of the Divine Wisdom.
Like so many reformers, Abbé Louis was blasted and blistered with criticism and mistrust. He was eventually forced to step away from his position in the hospital. People wondered at his emphasis on angels and the indispensable role of the Blessed Virgin in the course of salvation, and they questioned the dramatic way in which he presented the Faith to simple folk.
Under these disparagements, Louis turned to the streets to help the poor, but even there, his detractors influenced the Bishop of Poitiers to forbid Louis to evangelize. So Louis went to Rome to appeal to Pope Clement XI. The pope was favorably moved and sent him back to France with the title of apostolic missionary. Louis returned to his native land of Brittany in the northwest to lay the groundwork of his mission.
Though Louis de Montfort was beloved and successful in nearly every parish, his reputation as a startling and sensational preacher never left him. He was especially shunned by those in thrall to Jansenism, who strongly suspected, or even heretically rejected, the beauty of the soul that falls in love with Mary and Jesus to save itself from damnation.
To be fair, with all his passion, Abbé Louis could be shocking. Sometimes he would make an effigy of the devil and dress it up in the gaudy clothing of a society woman. Setting up this grotesquerie in the public square, he would call for people to bring out their secular or sinful books and make a great heap of them before his infernal mannequin. Then he would light them on fire and hurl the stuffed imp on the blazing pyre, to the delight of some and the disturbance of others. (…a bonfire of the vanities)
At other times, Louis would fervently enact the struggle of a dying sinner as an angel and a devil wrangled for his soul. He was known for drama and flair in these “performances”—not the pulpit fare that most were accustomed to, with desperate thoughts, devilish entrapments, and holy sentiments put into angelic dialogue.
It is here, in the realm of the poetic preacher, that Louis falls prey even now to denouncement, as too flamboyant or far afield in his devotion to Mary. His enduringly popular treatise (despite naysayers), True Devotion to Mary, may at times be flowery or fantastic in its treatment of the power of the Mediatrix of all Graces, but its intention is to sound a chord of love. As a lover of the Mother of God, Louis speaks in the language of love: poetry. He even sang hymns and recited metered prayers that he wrote himself for his congregation.
Catholics may stumble and be suspicious when they hear Louis say with imaginative drama that the “Hail Mary” was Mary’s favorite prayer to recite, but they are missing the angle of his approach. Louis was not being obscene in his exaltation of Mary and the angels or in his unconventional displays as a preacher. He was being poetic. And poetry should always be unconventional. If it takes no risk, if it stays on safe territory, it will not shake the soul into new vistas of wonder beyond the reaches of logic and rhetoric. It is in those realms, beyond logic and rhetoric, St. Thomas Aquinas taught, where poetry reigns.
Poetry is not dogmatic, in any case. It is expressive of an essence beyond the texts of dogma to delineate. There is, therefore, a romance that is proper to the spiritual life, for the mode of romance emphasizes and exults in perfection, and this divine quality should be the hopeful beginning and the joyful end of any spiritual journey. As John Senior, another poetic and impassioned soul, wrote in The Restoration of Christian Culture,
“…the Camino Real of Christ is a chivalric way, romantic, full of fire and passion, riding on the pure, high-spirited horses of the self with their glad, high-stepping knees and flaring nostrils, and us with jingling spurs and the cry “Mon joie!”—the battle cry of Roland and Olivier. Our Church is the Church of the Passion.”
With rosary in hand, Louis sallied through France like a knight errant for his lady, with all the romance of religion aflame in his heart, bringing the heat of his passion to rough sailors from market boats, young hooligans dancing in the street, and the entrenched Calvinists of La Rochelle. All turned to Louis de Montfort and, in so doing, turned to Our Lady and Our Lord.
Louis was only forty-three when he passed away from a sudden illness, dying as unexpectedly as any dramatic tale might have it. But his dramatic tale is true, and one that reflects the poetic, romantic side of the Catholic faith and the wonders of Mary, whom, to borrow a phrase from Chesterton that Louis would have adored, “God kissed in Galilee.”
Love, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” -Lk 1:28,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "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., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "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 " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom