Refuting relativism & the argument from disagreement


-please click on the image for greater detail

Relativists will deny there is objective truth simply because people do not agree. There are three ways to refute this.


-by Karlo Broussard

“First, consider how the argument reasons from the fact of disagreement to the conclusion that there is no absolute truth. Such an inference can be made only if the following premise is true: if there were such a thing as absolute truth, then there would be no disagreement. Here’s how the reasoning looks in the form of a syllogism:

Premise One: If there were such a thing as absolute truth, then there would be universal agreement (the hidden premise in the argument stated above).

Premise Two: There is no universal agreement (the fact of experience appealed to).

Conclusion: Therefore, there is no such thing as absolute truth (the relativistic claim).

The problem here is that the relativist must assume the truth of premise one if he wishes the argument to go through. But, of course, assuming that premise one is true falsifies the relativism that is being argued for, since the relativist would be affirming at least one absolute truth—namely, universal agreement is a criterion for absolute truth. Therefore, the argument is self-defeating.

There’s a second way in which the argument is self-defeating. Notice that disagreement is that which the relativist thinks grounds the claim that there’s no absolute truth. Well, if disagreement entails no absolute truth, then our disagreement with the claim of relativism necessarily makes relativism a belief that’s not absolutely true.

Now, perhaps the relativist doesn’t care that his relativism is not absolutely true. Maybe he’s okay with saying that it’s true only for him. But if that’s the case, then his claim becomes trivial. There are three ways to see this.

One: He’d only be expressing a mere preference or taste, something we don’t need to be concerned about.

Two: For the relativist to say that the statement “there is no absolute truth” is relatively true for him means that it happens to be a member of his personal set of beliefs and opinions. By saying his belief that relativism is true is among his personal beliefs and opinions, the relativist is implying such a belief is not among the personal beliefs and opinions of non-relativists. It amounts to saying, “I don’t myself believe in absolute truth, but other people do.” But this doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Thus, it’s trivial.

Three: His appeal to disagreement as an argument for relativism would be futile. Why argue for something if you don’t think it describes the way the world really is? Why try to convince the non-relativist that there’s no absolute truth when the idea that there’s no absolute truth is true only for the relativist?

There’s one more thing to say in response to someone who says he doesn’t care that relativism is not absolutely true since it’s true only for him. Recall what we said above: To say relativism is true only for me amounts to saying, “I don’t myself believe in absolute truth, but other people do.” Well, this means relativism is essentially recognition of the fact that people disagree.

But disagreement is what the relativist appeals to in the argument from disagreement. Remember, the argument states, “There’s no absolute truth because people disagree.” If relativism is essentially an affirmation of the fact that people disagree, and the argument from disagreement appeals to disagreement among people to justify relativism, then the argument from disagreement is tantamount to saying, “People have different beliefs because people have different beliefs.” That’s called circular reasoning, which is not kosher logic.

A third way in which the argument from disagreement is self-defeating is that some disagreements necessarily presuppose an absolute truth. Consider, for example, the belief that God exists and the belief that God doesn’t exist. Given that these are two contradictory beliefs (A and not A), we know at least one truth: that one is true and the other is false. God either does or doesn’t exist. We might not know which is true or false. But we know that one is true and the other is false—unless someone wants to say it’s both true and false, at the same time and in the same respect, that God exists.

For most, however, denying the principle of non-contradiction (something can’t be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect) is too high a price to pay. Moreover, the principle can’t be denied in thought (even if people can voice words denying it), since to say it’s false necessarily presupposes that something can’t be true and false at the same time and in the same respect.

So the next time someone tries to convince you that disagreement about absolute truth means there can be no absolute truth, you can offer a simple syllogism of your own:

Premise One: Any argument that’s self-defeating is a bad argument.

Premise Two: The argument from disagreement is a self-defeating argument.

Conclusion: Therefore, the argument from disagreement is a bad argument.

There’s nothing relative about that!”

Love,
Matthew

Traditionis Custodes 2


-reverencing the altar, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Joseph Shaw

“When Pope Francis published his apostolic letter, given motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, on Friday, July 16, he expected the document’s sweeping restrictions on celebration of the traditional Latin Mass to come into immediate effect. But bishops struggled to implement the motu proprio’s strictures for that very weekend. The most that could be done in many dioceses was to give hasty permissions for whatever already existed, meaning that many Latin Masses, particularly in the English-speaking world, received a lifeline. Since then, a good number of these hasty permissions have turned into less hasty ones—but even this has changed the situation in subtle ways, and some bishops have taken things in a more restrictive direction.

A test case is provided by Abp. Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool in England, who issued a formal decree implementing Traditionis Custodes, listing the churches where the 1962 Missal has been a regular feature in recent years and allowing them to continue to offer the traditional Mass. He notes that some of these locations are parish churches, and while this appears to conflict with Traditionis Custodes Article 3.2 (explicitly forbidding parish churches to celebrate the traditional Mass), he grants them permission to continue in any case, using his prerogative under Canon 87 to derogate from the law of the Church for the good of souls.

The Latin Mass Society’s Canonical Guidance pointed out bishops’ power to do this, but it was no secret, and many bishops in the U.S. and elsewhere have used it in exactly this way. Whereas it might be quite easy to find non-parochial churches in Italy, where in the historic city centers there seem to be churches on every street corner, this is not so elsewhere. Pope Francis himself, asked about this issue by some French bishops on their ad limina visits to Rome, seemed relaxed about it.

On the other hand, Abp. McMahon’s decree suggests that where permission has not been given explicitly, the celebration of the 1962 Mass is forbidden. The Canonical Guidance just noted argues that Traditionis Custodes Article 3 regulates the celebration of Mass specifically for formally constituted “groups,” and Article 4 regulates which priests can celebrate the Latin Mass publicly. This leaves open the private celebration of this Mass by any priest, and even its public celebration by priests who have been given personal permission by their bishop, on an indefinite number of occasions and for any who wish to attend, if these do not constitute a “group.”

Despite this, many bishops, like Abp. McMahon, have taken the opportunity to insist on an extraordinarily tight control of celebrations. Unless the bishop sees some special reason for it, new occasional, let alone regular, celebrations of the 1962 Mass are going to be impossible.

The next level of stringency in regulating the celebration of the ancient Mass is when bishops cut down the number of permitted celebrations. This is not demanded by Traditionis Custodes, but bishops certainly have the power to do it. According to the Traditionis Custodes website, out of 243 dioceses about which the site’s operators have data, 182 have not canceled any Masses, and thirty-six have canceled some but not all. This includes eleven in the United States.

Restricting, but not eliminating the availability of the Usus Antiquior gives bishops the opportunity to determine exactly where and by whom it is celebrated, and at the same time impose any conditions they wish on priests.

In the Diocese of Rome, to an otherwise benign document listing churches where the older Mass is currently said, and will continue to be allowed, Rome’s vicar general, Cdl. De Donatis, adds the surprising and—so far—unique provisions that it not be used for the Easter Triduum and that the old Roman Ritual not be used. This is the book containing the formulas for the other sacraments and blessings, which corresponds to the 1962 Missal.

Finally, there is the nuclear option: banning the old Mass altogether, adopted in thirty-six of the dioceses worldwide listed by the Traditionis Custodes website, only two of them in the U.S., with one in England.

Where restrictions are being imposed, it is hard to know whether the bishop is reacting against the clergy, the laity who attend, or the rite itself. The text of Traditionis Custodes and its accompanying letter are themselves unclear about where the problem lies, and this makes applying the documents to bring about what Pope Francis wants to achieve very difficult. Bishops, like the rest of us, are in the dark as to what exactly that is.

The letter refers to the kind of exaggerated traditionalist rhetoric that can more easily be found on the internet than among the real people who attend the Latin Mass, particularly when it is celebrated under the authority of the bishops. Bishops seeking assurances that congregations don’t “doubt the Council” (as Pope Francis expressed it), and pastors giving these assurances, have taken on a ritual quality. What does it mean for a group of people, often drawn from a wide geographical area, to hold a specific theological position? And what exactly is the anathematized claim?

Again, the clamping down on which priests celebrate where might suggest that the central concern is about priests spreading the Vetus Ordo in an uncontrolled manner—even when, in the words of the survey done last year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is supposed to be the justification for Traditionis Custodes, there is no “true pastoral need.” This would suggest diocesan clergy, as opposed to priests of the Traditional Institutes, whom bishops bring in precisely to attend to a pastoral need. Indeed, so far, apart from being forbidden to use the Roman Ritual in Rome, the Traditional Institutes have escaped the worst of Traditionis Custodes, though this could change at any time. On the other hand, diocesan priests who like the older Mass can’t be accused of doubting the validity of the reformed rites, since they nearly always celebrate them themselves.

The letter that accompanies Traditionis Custodes suggests that the unity of the Church requires “a single and identical prayer”—a statement that must be difficult to interpret for bishops who preside over parishes where Mass is celebrated in many different languages, innumerable liturgical styles, and perhaps several rites: Roman, Greek, Melkite, and so on.

The degree of liturgical diversity in a diocese is largely a matter of demography, which bishops are unable to influence. The exception is the situation with the 1962 Missal, where, even before Traditionis Custodes, how much it was being celebrated was very much the result of diocesan policy. Abp. McMahon, for example, is in the position of many bishops around the world in having a church in his diocese served by one of the Traditional Institutes, simply because he welcomed it. When a bishop does this, he presumably does it for reasons he regards as good. The unity of the Church, the good of souls, and the preservation of historic church buildings may all be factors. None of these has been obviated by Traditionis Custodes.

It is not surprising, therefore, that we hear of the most hostile reports about the older Mass coming from bishops, notably in Italy, whose dioceses contained no celebrations anyway. They can ban the Usus Antiquior, but they had effectively done so already. Bishops who had allowed it, on the other hand, such as many in the U.S., often had good things to say about it and seem likely to continue to implement Traditionis Custodes in a gentle way.

What has changed is that the Latin Mass is now less likely to spread to new locations, even within a more open-minded diocese. The Vetus Ordo faces a period of consolidation: congregations will be able to grow, but not multiply. It remains to be seen, however, how long this phase of liturgical history will last, and what will succeed it.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 30 – St Jerome of Stridon (347-420 AD) – the man who translated the Bible from Hebrew & Greek


-by Baroque Painter Jacques Blanchard’s Saint Jerome was made in 1632 and the original painting is in Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. The original size of the work is 145,5 x 116 cm and is made of oil on canvas., please click on the image for greater detail

-by Jaspreet Singh Boparai

“…We know quite a bit about (Jerome’s) life because he couldn’t help discussing it at length, in letters, treatises, commentaries and even the introductions to his translations of the Bible. The Catholic Church not only recognised him as a saint: it declared him to be one of the four first Latin-language Doctors of the Church.

His learning and intelligence were quite literally legendary. In the Middle Ages Jerome was said to have once been lecturing to students in Bethlehem when a lion approached. His students fled in terror; he saw that it was limping and removed a thorn from its paw. Thereafter he was followed everywhere by a tame pet lion. The story has never really been believed, at least among the learned; but the lion has been associated with Jerome as a symbol ever since. Perhaps this reflects certain aspects of his personality: you read his writing and cannot help but think, A saint? Him?


-Penitent Saint Jerome, Bernardino Luini, 1525 (Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Italy).

Saint Jerome of Stridon

Saint Jerome (AD 331–420), the man who translated the Bible into Latin, was born at Stridon in Dalmatia during the reign of Constantine the Great (r. 306–37). His home, and at least some of the family estates, appear to have been destroyed by invading Goths in 379.

Jerome’s parents were Christian, but did not bother to have him baptised. They insisted on speaking Latin at home, although they lived in the provinces. Later in life Jerome would complain of continuing to remember stray vocabulary from his “barbarous native language”, including the name of the unappetising beer that was brewed both locally and in the neighbouring province of Pannonia. Jerome appears to have learnt enough of the local Illyrian dialect to shout at peasants and slaves.

In a letter (AD 382) he admits that during his childhood and early youth he had been a glutton for luxurious food; he considered this to be the most difficult vice to drop when he chose to adopt a more ascetic manner of living.


-Saint Jerome in His Study, Albrecht Dürer, 1514 (Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden Castle, Germany).

Jerome in Rome

Jerome’s parents sent him to Rome to be educated under the famous schoolmaster Aelius Donatus, who remains well-known as the author of grammatical textbooks, as well as literary commentaries on the works of Terence and Vergil that summarise a great deal of earlier scholarship.

Donatus trained his pupils thoroughly according to his own fastidious literary tastes. Although his own prose has been described as dry, bland and wholly colourless, he at least had strong opinions about what good writing should be. From Donatus, Jerome acquired a passionate devotion to strict grammatical correctness.

Having left the school of Donatus at around the age of sixteen, Jerome began his formal rhetorical training. He appears to have thrived, relishing every available opportunity to challenge his fellow students to debates, which he treated as verbal duels. Later in life he would remember with pleasure how carefully he groomed himself at this point in his life, particularly when preparing to deliver practice orations in front of his rhetoric master.

Jerome appears to have been destined early on for a career at the Bar. He frequented courts of law, and mastered all the legal materials and techniques of argument that were to feature so frequently in his many writings, particularly where he threatened to sue his opponents. He never formally studied philosophy, but memorised many philosophers’ names, often in the original Greek.

As a student in Rome, one of Jerome’s greatest pastimes involved copying library books, as a relatively inexpensive means of creating a library of his own. He also bought many books, but many hours were spent writing out copies of his own in this way. The library that he began to build would never leave his side, even when he later retired into a cave; this handwritten collection would develop into one of the most important private libraries of his day, when Roman literary culture was already beginning to shrivel and decay.


-Saint Jerome, Leonardo da Vinci, 1483 (Vatican Museums).

“Have mercy on me, a sinner”

Books were not his only pleasure. During this period Jerome appears to have indulged in a range of unspecified activities which later caused him to be disgusted with himself; these are not catalogued in any of his later writings in which he castigates himself for his corrupt adolescence and early manhood. His most specific autobiographical description of the period describes the young Jerome as “befouled with the squalor of every type of sin”.

Jerome’s occasional lapses of self-mastery affected much of the course of his life. During a period of enforced self-isolation he was afflicted by powerful visions of sins that he thought he had abandoned, many of which appear to have involved saltatrices (dancing girls). In a letter to his friend Pammachius (AD 393) he admitted that if he exalted virginity to the skies, it was in admiration of what he had lost. Self-recrimination features in much of his correspondence.


-Saint Jerome in the Desert Tormented by Memories of Dancing Girls, Francesco de Zurbarán, 1639 (Royal Monastery of Santa Maria of Guadalupe).

Jerome appears never to have endured a phase of petulant disbelief even as a teenager; he was not a baptised Christian, however, until his mid-twenties (or possibly even his early thirties). Yet he was evidently drawn to the religion of his parents. In his Commentary on Ezekiel he records his Sunday habit of visiting the tombs of all the Apostles and Martyrs in Rome with a small group of fellow students. The darkness in the crypts was total; the heat, humidity and terrifying blackness reminded them of the line from Psalm 55:

Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into Hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.

In Jerome’s own translation:

Veniat mors super illos, et descendant in infernum viventes: quoniam nequitiae in habitaculis eorum, in medio eorum.

The friends also remembered the latter part of the second book of Virgil’s Aeneid, and Aeneas’ frantic night-time stumbling through the burning ruins of Troy:

horror ubique animo simul ipsa silentia terrent.

(Aeneid 2.755: “Dread from every side fills my heart, whilst the very silence causes alarm.”)

Jerome leaves Rome

In 367 AD, Jerome and his childhood friend Bononus settled together by the “half-barbarian banks of the Rhine”, likely in the imperial city of Trier. During this period Jerome had much leisure to continue augmenting his library, although Trier does not appear to have been a centre of learning. He was already thirty-six years old.

In this “ghastly backwater” Jerome had leisure to observe what he considered the “primitive customs”, “clumsy language” and “unappetising food” of various Germanic tribes. He never forgot his first sight of the Attacotti, uncouth natives of Ireland, who sometimes ate human flesh, and had a taste for the buttock-meat of stolen livestock – they never seem to have acquired the skill of animal husbandry for themselves. The Irish “savages”, as he described them, were probably on display in captivity at the imperial residence.

According to Saint Augustine, Trier unexpectedly became an early centre of monasticism at around this time. The movement allegedly began when a pair of bored imperial courtiers stumbled (perhaps literally) over a copy of Saint Athanasius’ Life of Saint Antony of Egypt, a hagiographical account of how an illiterate holy man became the first Christian hermit. Athanasius’ work made the life of a monk appear highly attractive to the two courtiers. They settled in a hut outside the city walls of Trier and began to attract followers.

It is unknown whether the two courtiers mentioned by Augustine are Bononus and Jerome. If so, someone else must have taken over the monastery, because Jerome left Trier to visit his family in Stridon.

He had not been home in years. His younger sister, now in her early teens, was conducting herself in a manner which led him to describe her as “wounded by the devil” and “spiritually dead”; this led to a protracted quarrel with Jerome’s maternal aunt Castorina. St Jerome’s relationship with his parents cooled. He was also disenchanted with the Christian community at Stridon, describing it as boorish, rustic, greedy, materialistic and led by a bishop (Lupicinus) who was admirably suited to such a degraded people, whom he led in the manner of a blind man leading other blind men into a pit, as in the Biblical parable (Matthew 15:13-14).

Jerome pressured his sister to take religious vows, possibly at the convent in nearby Emona, and ended up breaking permanently with most of his extended family. Leaving home forever, he visited the city of Aquileia (near Venice). Bononus came with him; his old classmates Rufinus and Heliodorus were already there. The trio decided to settle together to form a sort of informal monastery (as it were).

The bishop of Aquileia appealed greatly to Jerome. There were many energetic Christian reformers in the city; they did not compromise on doctrine, dogma or the importance of orthodoxy. Jerome congratulated the bishop on cleansing the city of heresy. Pious ascetics were more than welcome in Aquileia. Among Jerome’s new friends was Paul, who was almost a hundred years old, and also had an extensive collection of books, many of which Jerome copied out himself.


-Jerome in his study, Colantino, 1445/6 (National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy).

Unknown adversaries

In 373, a crisis erupted. In letters Jerome complained of being relentlessly hounded by an unnamed enemy. Doors slammed shut in his face. We do not know why his reputation was so suddenly blackened, though he appears to have done something shocking, offensive and completely unforgiveable in the eyes of the community of nuns at Emona. They never replied to his letters begging their forgiveness, and pleading that they not judge him too hastily or give ear to malicious gossip. In at least one letter he admitted that he had done wrong and had to ask for their pardon.

Jerome and his three friends were compelled to leave Aquileia and go their separate ways. Rufinus sailed away to Egypt; Bononus became a hermit on a rocky island in the Adriatic; Heliodorus went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jerome decided to make his way to the Holy Land as well. They all appear to have had a distinctive motivation for leaving; the others’ reasons appear to have been unconnected to the scandal that drove St Jerome away from his new home.

Disillusioned and bitter, Jerome resolved to take his library with him into the wilderness. He would spend the rest of his life as a penitent ascetic near Jerusalem. But first he would make a tour of the East. He stopped in Antioch at the home of his friend Evagrius, a rich and influential priest, and ended up staying for over a year.

His health had suffered during his journey; he spent part of his convalescence studying Aristotle with a private tutor. But he fell into a state of mental and spiritual turmoil, torn by conflicting desires, and wracked by vacillation and remorse. He still enjoyed pagan literature, and knew he remained susceptible to pleasures of the flesh; he felt too unworthy and sinful to isolate himself as a hermit, or join a community of holy monks.


-The vision of Saint Jerome, Louis Cretey, mid-17th century (private collection, France).

The vision

At Lent 374 AD, while bedridden with a wasting illness, he had a terrible nightmare, which he later recounted in a letter (Epistle 22, to Saint Eustochium, section 30). In the dream he was dragged before a tribunal. A bright light blinded him. The Judge asked him what he was. “A Christian,” he replied. “Liar!” the Judge retorted. “You follow Cicero, not Christ – your heart lies where your treasure is.” The judge ordered him to be flogged. St Jerome was tormented more by guilt than by the lashes of his torturer, and cried out for mercy. Bystanders interceded, pleading on his behalf for mercy, begging that he be allowed a chance to mend his ways. He swore an oath:

“Domine, si umquam habuero codices saeculares, si legero, te negavi.”

“Lord, if ever again I possess worldly books, or read them, I shall have denied Thee.”

He was released.

Jerome woke up. His back and shoulders were swollen, and covered with welts and bruises.

For at least a decade Jerome kept his promise and refused to read pagan literature. Of course he had already memorized his favorite Classics long since. Eventually he found means of modifying, then drastically reinterpreting, his oath; despite his promise, he appears not to have dispersed a single volume of his book collection.

When he had fully recovered from his illness, Jerome revised his plans: instead of making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem he would join the hermits in the Syrian desert. He pressured his friend Heliodorus to join him. After long, sometimes fraught discussions, he managed to drive Heliodorus back to Italy, then went to the desert alone.

The desert

The solitary hermits of the desert were not really solitary. Near Chalcis the barren landscape teemed with gangs of cave-dwellers and hermits, most of whom were dirty, uneducated and eccentric. They wore squalid garments made of hair, ate raw herbs and sometimes loaded their bodies with chains. One hermit was said to have lived for thirty years on a diet of barley bread and stagnant muddy water. Another kept himself alive in an abandoned cistern with a diet of five dates a day. The hermits wanted to subdue their bodies, break their own wills and crush every last carnal impulse. To that end they reduced all eating and drinking to a minimum, and deliberately made their sleep difficult. This was how they atoned for their sins and brought themselves closer to God.

Jerome’s hermit-cave was not entirely unfurnished. Although he slept on the bare earth, and sought to discipline his rebellious body by reducing it almost to a skeleton, he was still capable of receiving and entertaining regular visitors, including his friend Evagrius. Also, he brought his entire library with him to his cave, and employed several assistants to copy out books for him. He had leisure to teach himself the rudiments of Hebrew. There appears to have been at least one private tutor in his entourage.


-Saint Jerome writing, Caravaggio, 1606 (Borghese Gallery, Rome, Italy).

In the desert Jerome’s correspondence was more extensive than ever; he wrote a great many letters asking for the forgiveness of those he had offended, and attacking those who would not forgive him. He concluded a long note to his aunt Castorina by warning her that if she continued to refuse to reply he would consider himself absolved of all wrongdoing. For all his desire to leave the world and the temptations of society, Jerome appears to have hated being alone. The fires of lust had not been extinguished either. Nobody wanted to join him in the desert – not even the friends to whom he wrote elaborate letters praising the ascetic life and its spiritual joys.

During the winter of 376/7, Jerome began to realise that he was unpopular among the hermits in the surrounding desert. He wrote a letter to Pope Damasus complaining about the acrimonious disputes about the Trinity into which he had been dragged by neighbouring hermits, who had the gall to question his orthodoxy. Jerome was particularly exasperated by how quarrelsome everybody else was. The entire Eastern Church seemed to him chaotic, self-contradictory and needlessly argumentative. Everybody he spoke to wanted to engage in a shouting-match about Christian doctrine. Pope Damasus’ reply is not recorded.

A few months later, Jerome wrote another, shorter letter to the Pope. His mood had not improved. Now he felt more persecuted than ever. The nameless adversary who had relentlessly pursued him in Aquileia continued to hound him; three separate Christian factions wanted to claim him as their own; his neighbours among the desert monks had become a menace. He found himself the target of threats, abuse and insinuations; his life as a solitary hermit was becoming intolerable. His many enemies were trying to silence him, which was why he wrote so many lengthy letters. Evidently somebody wanted to get rid of him; he and his team of copyists and his private Hebrew tutor no longer felt welcome among the hermit community in the desert. Pope Damasus’ reply is not recorded.

Jerome had lost all his illusions about monks, and began publicly to condemn their hypocrisy and arrogance, particularly after he returned to Evagrius’ house in Antioch before Easter 377. He stayed for another year, licking his wounds whilst enjoying Evagrius’ hospitality.


-Saint Jerome in his study, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1480 (Church of Ognissanti, Florence, Italy).

Retreat from the desert

This second extended period in Antioch was fruitful: Jerome produced his first major literary work in Latin, a biography of a hermit whom he claimed as the real founder of Christian monasticism, twenty years before Saint Antony of Egypt. The book evidently alienated not only Jerome’s former neighbours in the desert but also Evagrius, who had written a noted biography of Saint Antony of Egypt. Jerome also began to gain renown as the author of controversial pamphlets. Evagrius asked him to leave.

Jerome arrived in Constantinople at the beginning of 379. He claims to have become a disciple of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, bishop of Constantinople; though he is nowhere mentioned in Gregory’s voluminous corpus of surviving writings, even in passing.

At Constantinople Jerome embarked on his career as a literary translator, beginning with the Chronicle of Eusebius of Caesarea, the bishop who has long been regarded as the father of Church history. Jerome’s translation included numerous editorial interjections meant to correct the original work, bring it up to date, or else simply share the translator’s own opinions and knowledge with the reader. It is a mark of this translation’s qualities that it was popular in areas of Mediaeval Europe that remained untouched by the Renaissance.

Jerome was not so much a historian as an enthusiastic lister of facts, not all of which were judged critically for accuracy, veracity or relevance to the subject at hand. His historical essays are distinguished by the author’s loyalty to personal friends, and extensive revelations of Jerome’s preferred opinions, preoccupations of the moment and fluctuating emotional state. Occasionally the tone is inexplicably violent.

Incessant reading and translation nearly blinded Jerome. His eyesight suffered further due to a shortage of stenographers. In the aftermath of the Gothic invasion of Stridon in 379, Jerome’s family temporarily cut off his allowance. He was forced to carry out his own copying for some time.


-Saint Jerome, Christoph Paudiss, 1656/58 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria).

The joys of bureaucracy

In 382 Jerome accompanied Paulinus, Bishop of Antioch, to Rome. Back in the Eternal City he had the opportunity to meet many of the figures to whom he had been writing frequent long letters; these included Pope Damasus himself. The Pope decided to put him to work as a papal secretary.

Jerome thrived as a bureaucrat. He found a great deal of spare time for personal projects: the Pope was over eighty, and encouraged his new secretary to spend as much time as possible distracting himself on his own. It was Pope Damasus’ idea to encourage Jerome to go off and translate the entire Bible into serviceable Latin, preferably in a monastery somewhere. Before starting that project in earnest, Jerome decided to improve on existing ‘Old Latin’ translations of the New Testament.

Jerome’s improved versions of the Gospels led to howls of protest. He responded by describing his critics as “two-legged asses” who preferred to lap up muddy rivulets when they could have drunk, as he did, from the pellucid fountain of the Gospels’ original Greek. This was his way of criticising their mastery of Latin as well as Greek: the ‘Old Latin’ translations of the New Testament were poorly written even by the standards of Late Antiquity. Whilst Jerome did not think highly of St Paul or the Evangelists as prose stylists (none, after all, had been educated by Donatus) at least they were superior to the uncouth early Christians who had first tried to render these texts into Latin. Jerome began to amass further enemies in some number.

During this sojourn in Rome, Jerome became intimate with a small circle of aristocratic Christian widows, whom he encouraged in their tendencies towards strict asceticism. His most devoted follower was Saint Paula of Rome, one of the very richest women in the Empire at the time. Her daughter Blaesilla had been seriously ill; Jerome encouraged her to take on strict ascetic discipline; she died. Saint Eustochium, Paula’s other daughter, managed in the end to live almost as long as Jerome did.


-Saint Paula with Saints Eustochium and Jerome, Francesco de Zurburán, 1638/40 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA).

For the first time in his life, Jerome was fashionable, and much sought-after, if only by old women in mansions. He often had influence over their daughters as well. Certain pious young women began to receive inordinately elaborate letters encouraging them to rigorous chastity and self-mortification – there were dangerous desires and appetites to repress and suppress. One of Jerome’s most inspired rhetorical performances of the period is addressed to a wealthy teenage virgin, whom he strongly encourages in chastity with repeated warnings about the temptations of lust. These are described with great variety and imagination. Not long after writing this letter he was forced to leave Rome.

Pope Damasus died on 11 December 384. With his main patron out of the way Jerome was open to scrutiny by his enemies, who began to investigate his relationships with his various devout lady-followers. The Church opened an inquiry into his activities. Jerome was eventually acquitted; his name was fully cleared; but he was now less celebrated than ever, having declared Rome as the great harlot arrayed in purple and scarlet that had appeared in the visions of St John at Patmos (Revelations 17.1-6).

Farewell to Rome

Even as he stood on the deck of the ship that would take him from Rome’s port at Ostia to Jerusalem, Jerome was seen dictating a long, vehement letter of self-defence to one of his richer widow-followers. Several of his pious lady-friends decided to accompany him to Jerusalem, including Paula and Eustochium. The precise size of his entourage is unknown, but they appear to have had a large ship to themselves; their luggage included Jerome’s entire library.

Jerome and his entourage spent a year touring the Holy Land; they stopped for a month at Alexandria so that Jerome could listen to the lectures of the blind theologian Didymus, who had been a pupil of the vegetarian teetotaller Origen, who was later regarded as a heretic. Rufinus had also studied with Didymus, though for rather longer.

Paula and Eustochium would never leave Jerome’s side; they built a monastery for him outside Jerusalem, with an extensive library to house all his books. The convent that they built for themselves had at least fifty nuns; Jerome’s monastery retained considerably fewer long-term residents.

Jerome’s old friend Rufinus had established a monastery of his own by the Mount of Olives. He too had a wealthy widow to support his activities: his patron was Saint Melania the Elder. Both men’s monasteries copied out books; Rufinus’ subordinates often found themselves employed to expand St Jerome’s library even further.


-Saint Jerome and the lion, Rogier van der Weyden, 1450 (Detroit Institute of Art, MI, USA).

Bursts of activity

Jerome was not necessarily suited to the role of Abbot; he was particularly exercised by the need to be hospitable to foreigners. Even so, he was remarkably prolific in Jerusalem. Paula was a much more reliable source of income than his family. He began to compose commentaries on individual books of the Bible to supplement his continuing translations. His commentaries feature numerous frank descriptions of those who had offended him, or challenged his opinions. The commentaries on St Paul’s Epistles are a particularly rich resource for data on the personal habits of bishops whom he regarded as unsuitable for their duties.

During this period of unprecedented creativity Jerome took it upon himself to compile authoritative reference works on subjects that he had recently introduced himself to; his collection of Hebrew etymologies is limited in its application, though inventive in its way, and features a notably low proportion of invectives directed against now-forgotten contemporaries. This work inspired him to begin translating the Old Testament into Latin directly from Hebrew, without reliance on the Greek Septuagint (itself of the 3rd century BC) as an intermediary text or starting-point, except where strictly necessary.


-Saint Jerome in his study, Antonello da Messina, 1475 (National Gallery, London).

Jerome began this work in 390; he announced that he had completed the task in 392, though he overestimated the speed of his progress by fourteen years or so. These Bible translations were circulated book by book, and evidently caused widespread consternation throughout the Church, a fact to which Jerome draws attention in the often-vituperative prefaces to his versions of Samuel, Isaiah and the Psalms in particular.

Jerome’s most celebrated original work, De viris illustribus, is a chronological catalogue of 135 distinguished Christian writers beginning with Saint Peter (who died between AD 64 and 68) and ending with Jerome himself. An influential friend of whom we know nothing is said to have pressed Jerome to write this.

While defective from a scholarly point of view, and in some respects utterly reprehensible, De viris illustribus is illuminating on the subject of Jerome himself, even by the general standards of everything he wrote. He held an unusual number of men in contempt, including Saint Ambrose of Milan; that said, this work is generally less overtly libellous than his pamphlet on Christian chastity from this period. The tract caused considerable embarrassment to Jerome’s remaining friends in Rome. Whilst it is in places shockingly crude and coarse, Jerome was surprised to learn that it outraged many readers and added to his collection of enemies.

Controversies and strife

Around the beginning of 393, Jerome began to fall out, first privately, then publicly, with his old friend Rufinus. The origin of the dispute is itself disputed, although Jerome’s derogatory remarks extended beyond Rufinus himself to Melania as well as the local bishop, who eventually tried to retaliate by having Jerome and his monks expelled from Palestine by imperial command. But the minister instructed to carry this instruction to the Roman administration was stopped outside Constantinople and cut to pieces by a Gothic general (27 November 395).

Multiple attempts at mediating the conflict failed. Jerome published a blistering attack on the bishop, ridiculing him on personal as well as doctrinal grounds (January 397). Yet the bishop refused to be drawn into the controversy. In the end, Melania engineered a reconciliation on Easter Sunday 397; Jerome and Rufinus were forced to shake one another by the hand and declare that all had been forgiven. Both men were so humiliated that their mutual resentment only grew deeper. After a quarter-century in the Holy Land, Rufinus decided to leave the monastery that Melania had built for him, and moved back to Rome.

Rufinus had not intended to renew hostilities from Rome. But for whatever reason he decided to produce an expurgated Latin translation of one of Origen’s more hotly disputed texts, toning down or leaving out passages that might have outraged many faithful Christians. Why Rufinus felt compelled to translate this work in particular has never satisfactorily been explained. He tried to cover himself by insinuating in the preface to his translation that Jerome, as a former student of the blind Didymus, was more than friendly to Origen’s ideas. Jerome’s reaction was perhaps predictable.

-Saint Jerome in his study, Pieter Coecke van Aelst, 1530; Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA).

The ugly and protracted scandal that surrounded Origen’s work at the end of the fourth century was based to a great degree on Church politics. Pope Anastasius I (r. 399-402) was not well-read in theology, although even he could see that there were theological problems in Origen’s work; he decided to end the dispute by condemning Origen and all his current followers.

Rufinus blamed Jerome for vindictively spreading rumours about his unorthodox opinions, claiming that he was not a heretic but a mere innocent literary translator producing a controversial text purely for the sake of the intellectually curious who did not have the Greek to read Origen’s original work. He noted that even Jerome himself had praised – and indeed translated – Origen. This was not wise. Jerome was not instantly provoked; but inevitably he would respond.

Rufinus laboured for two years on his Apologia against Jerome, which circulated widely from 401. Whilst lacking in dialectical verve, the pamphlet was highly effective. It made extensive use of documents, evidence and common-sensical logic. But the reply, the two-book-long Apologia against Rufinus, appeared at great speed even by Jerome’s usual standards. This was a brilliant polemic, displaying a relatively cool control of tone that is without parallel in Jerome’s oeuvre. The perpetual sneer of mild contempt, and the only occasional descent into slanging, demonstrate an artistic discipline of which Jerome had hitherto rarely seemed capable.

Penitent Saint Jerome, Albrecht Dürer, 1496 (National Gallery, London).
Some months later, Jerome felt compelled to add a third book to the Apologia against Rufinus. Rufinus regarded this as even more violently insulting than the previous two books, despite Jerome’s announcement in the preface that he had decided to refrain from abusing his opponent, citing St Paul’s reminder (Romans 12.19ff.) that a Christian ought not to seek revenge. On these grounds, he instructed the reader not to consider all the criticism of Rufinus’ wealth, mendacity, cowardice, pedantry, literary incompetence and so on, to be merely vengeful. Jerome thought that old men should not invent calumnies against the elderly, in the way that thugs slander gangsters, whores slander prostitutes and buffoons slander clowns.

For all the apparent poison and vitriol, Jerome held out what was, by his standards, an olive branch to his lifelong friend. But in the wake of this addition to the pamphlet a reconciliation was unlikely. In response, Rufinus tried to maintain a dignified silence. Jerome continued to denounce and ridicule his former friend even after he was dead.


-Saint Jerome at prayer, Orazio Gentileschi, late 16th century (Museo Civico d’Arte Antica, Turin, Italy).

The end of anger

In 404, Paula died, having consumed her entire vast fortune. Eustochium was left with crippling debts; another patron was urgently needed to save his monastery and Eustochium’s convent from starvation. Meanwhile, Alaric the Visigoth was terrorising the Empire; Ostrogoths and Vandals invaded and pillaged Italy as well as Gaul. Jerome was terrified: he understood just how difficult it would be from now on to solicit donations for his monastery.

In a letter of 407 Jerome counselled a wealthy Dalmatian, Julian, whose family had been brutally wiped out by invaders, to respond to all these tragic deaths by stripping himself of all possessions and remaining property and embracing Christ-like poverty. Similar appeals are found throughout his surviving correspondence from the period.


-The last communion of Saint Jerome, Giambattista Tiepolo, 1732/3 (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany)

Throughout the last dozen or so years of his life, Jerome relied increasingly on Origen’s work as an aid to producing commentaries. Not because he necessarily agreed with what he found in Origen; on the contrary he was fuelled by a desire to contradict and deride Origenism. Origen’s errors obsessed him, and not merely because they provided a convenient vehicle for proxy attacks on Rufinus, who died in Sicily in 412, much to his former friend’s openly-expressed satisfaction. Jerome’s few remaining friends in Rome were militantly anti-Origenist. This too does not explain his fanatical monomania, and late-life animus against a writer who died eight decades before his birth.

From around 414 onwards, Jerome began a campaign of aggression, the last of his life, against the “menacingly effeminate” heretic Pelagius, who was as simperingly passive-aggressive as St Jerome was active-aggressive. Within a few years Pelagian teachings would be declared heretical. But Jerome’s literary warfare was interrupted in 416 when his monastery and the convent of Eustochium were attacked and set on fire by a mob of hooligans. Monks and nuns were brutally assaulted; one deacon died in the violence. The attackers were thought to be uneducated lay Christians who were attracted to Pelagius’ message.


-Saint Jerome writing, Caravaggio, 1607 (Co-Cathedral of Saint John, Valletta, Malta).

Jerome’s library was destroyed in the fire. He personally blamed his old enemy the Bishop of Jerusalem for enabling this attack, and doing nothing to stop it when it was going on. The Pope agreed with Jerome, and sent a blistering, humiliating rebuke to the bishop. But Jerome was shattered by the attack. His health rapidly declined. So did Eustochium’s. She died on 28 September 420; Jerome died two days later, on 30 September, in his ninetieth year.

Jerome prayed all his life to be released from his great vice of anger. He was, if only in death. Let his life stand as the ultimate proof that quite literally anybody can become a saint.”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 30 – Meet the Inquisitor: Bernard Gui, OP (1261-1331), Bishop of Tui, Bishop of Lodève, Chief Inquisitor of Toulouse, France

Portrait of Bernard Gui c.1261-1331, Bishop of Lodeve and inquisitor of the Dominican Order. Engraving, 19th century. (Photo by: Leemage/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Perhaps the most famous of all medieval inquisitors, and certainly one of the most important and influential, Bernard Gui (1261-1331) is best known for his monumental inquisitor’s handbook, Practica inquisitionis heretice pravitatis (The Practice of the Inquisition of Heretical Depravity), written around 1324. In case you have an Inquisitorial (Inquisitional?) trial coming up, you can still pick up a copy at Amazon. (pssst…the have EVERYTHING!)

Although he never described anything like the full stereotype of witchcraft as it would appear in later centuries, he did include in this work several sections dealing with learned demonic magic, or necromancy, as well as more evidently popular forms of sorcery. The Practica inquisitionis became one of the most widely read of all medieval inquisitorial manuals, second only to the later Directorium inquisitorum (Directory of Inquisitors) of the Catalan inquisitor Nicolas Eymeric. Gui’s descriptions of sorcery thus seem very important, particularly in terms of shaping later clerical, and especially inquisitorial, thought on this subject.

Bernard Gui, or Bernard Guidoni was born in 1261 in Royères, France, and is one of the more well known Dominican inquisitors.

At the age of 19, Bernard entered the Order of Preachers and was made the prior of Albi ten years later. In 1306, he was sent to Avignon where he performed administrative service and served on two papal diplomatic missions. Bernard wrote a number of historical and theological works, which are more indicative of his primary historical significance as an administrator and historian rather than as an inquisitor. However, he is popularly known for his treatise on heresy, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness” which contains instructions on the duties and rights of the inquisitor and how to approach the questioning of Manicheans, the Waldensians, the False Apostles, and the Beguines. Bernard was made bishop of Lodève, France in 1324, were he was noted for his energetic and skillful management. He died on December 30th 1331.

Modern scholars tend to view Bernard positively, as he reconciled many more people to the Church than he condemned. However, he does rank as one of the more zealous of inquisitors because Bernard viewed the inquisition as a kind of debate competition where the heretic is trying to conceal and hide his heresy, while the inquisitor is attempting to convince the audience that the heretic is merely putting on a show, trying to distract from their errors. This led to Bernard emphasizing the performative aspects of the inquisitor’s actions in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the audience (and hence the local community) so that they would stay loyal to the truth faith.

Gui oversaw trials which led to over 900 guilty verdicts in fifteen years of office. People convicted of heresy during the time of the Inquisition were turned over to the secular arm (nobles and city leaders) for punishment. The Church was not allowed to shed blood, but the rack and pear were not considered blood spilling. Out of all those convicted during examination by Gui, 42 were executed.

Between 1307 and 1323, at the behest of Pope Clement V and Pope John XXII, Gui served as the chief inquisitor of Toulouse. He also assisted the inquisitors of Carcassone, Geoffrey of Ablis and his successor Beaune, and the bishop of Pamiers, Jacques Fournier (later Pope Benedict XII). Gui’s inquisitorial work took place in the Languedoc, a region that remained a “stronghold of heresy”, in particular Catharism, despite the church’s repeated efforts in the area throughout the thirteenth century (such as the Albigensian Crusade of 1209–1229).

In this capacity Gui travelled the region, meeting with local clergy and officials, publicly preaching about the danger of heretical teachings, and inviting those guilty of heretical sins to voluntarily confess in exchange for light penance. He then interrogated those who had been accused of heretical activity by penitents but failed to come forward voluntarily, with the secular authorities enlisted to apprehend and, if necessary, torture the accused. (A papal bull of 1252 permitted torture in cases in which there were “enough partial proofs to indicate that a full proof—a confession—was likely, and no other full proofs were available”, although “a confession made after or under torture had to be freely repeated the next day without torture or it would have been considered invalid”.)

The inquisitor would then hold a ‘general sermon’ (sermo generalis), assembling the local populace and publicly declaring the names of those judged guilty of the sin of heresy and their concomitant penances. Typical penalties included fasting, scourging, pilgrimage, the confiscation of property, or the wearing of large yellow crosses (with “the arms of the crosses [to be] two-and-a-half fingers in breadth, two-and-a-half palms in height, and two palms in width”) on the front and back of outer clothing. As canon law prohibited the clergy from spilling blood, those who refused to repent or who had relapsed into heresy were handed over to the secular authorities for punishment, typically execution by burning at the stake.

During his tenure Gui held eleven such ‘general sermons’ in the cathedral of St Stephen in Toulouse and the cemetery of St John the Martyr in Pamiers, at which he judged 627 individuals guilty of heresy. A further nine individuals were also judged guilty at smaller events. In total, the tribunals headed by Gui convicted 636 individuals of 940 counts of heresy. Recent research has determined that no more than 45 of the individuals convicted by Gui (approximately 7% of the total) were executed, while 307 were imprisoned, 143 ordered to wear crosses, and nine sent on compulsory pilgrimages. The Inquisition kept excellent records. It was required to.


-illustrations from a copy of Gui’s Arbor genealogiae regum francorum produced in the 1330s, showing the Carolingian kings Lothair and Louis V


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“The Frenchman Bernard Guidonis (usually shortened to Gui) was born twenty years after the death of Pope Gregory IX (r. 1227-1241), but that pontificate shaped the course of Bernard’s life. In 1231, Gregory IX promulgated the bull Ille humani generis, wherein he established the procedures for papally appointed clergy as inquisitors charged with preserving orthodox Catholic beliefs and teachings throughout Christendom.

Not much is known about Bernard’s early life, but he enters the story of the Church in the late thirteenth century, when, as a young man, he joined St. Dominic’s Order of Preachers. After profession of his final vows, Bernard continued his studies and became a teacher for fifteen years. The order recognized Bernard’s brilliance and his humble and patient demeanor and sent him to the Dominican house in the town of Albi in 1306 as a lecturer in theology.


-14th-century illustration of Gui receiving a blessing from Pope John XXII

Although it had been more than seventy-five years since the end of the bloody Albigensian Crusade, called by Pope Innocent III to eradicate the heresy of the Cathars (or Albigensians)—who taught a form of Gnosticism, wherein material things are evil and spiritual things are good—erroneous teachings still held sway in the region. What was needed was an inquisition—and for there to be an inquisition, there had to be dedicated inquisitors.

Appointment as a papal inquisitor required candidates to be at least forty years old, trained in theology, and notable for a virtuous life. The inquisitor was expected to protect the unity and security of the Church and society from the poison of heresy. As a matter of charity, the inquisitor worked to save the jeopardized soul of the heretic and to reconcile the errant to the Church.

Bernard met all these criteria. So he was appointed an inquisitor, and he spent the next several decades prosecuting heretics, including Albigensians, the False Apostles, the Fraticelli, and the Waldensians.

Bernard wrote about his dealings with the Waldensians, named for Peter Waldo of Lyons, a merchant who, in 1170, decided to sell his goods, give to the poor, and abandon his family. His message attracted followers, and those who joined him began calling themselves the Humiliati or the Poor Men of Lyons. The archbishop of Lyons prohibited their preaching, but to no avail. The Waldensians taught contempt for Church authority, denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, forbade the taking of oaths, and argued against the death penalty as criminal punishment.

In his book The Waldensian Heretics, Bernard provided insight for his fellow inquisitor, derived from personal experience, on how to handle these crafty disruptors. Bernard illustrated how difficult it was to interrogate Waldensians because of “the deception and duplicity with which they answer questions.” He provided an example of an interrogation with a heretic: “When he is asked if he knows why he has been arrested, he answers very sweetly and with a smile, ‘My Lord, I should be glad to learn the reason from you.’ Asked about the faith which he holds and believes, he answers, ‘I believe everything that a good Christian ought to believe.’ Questioned as to whom he considers a good Christian, he replies, ‘He who believes as Holy Church teaches him to believe.’ When he is asked what he means by ‘Holy Church,’ he answers, ‘My lord, that which you say and believe is the Holy Church.’ If you say to him, ‘I believe that the Holy Church is the Roman Church, over which the lord pope rules; and under him, the prelates,’ he replies, ‘I believe it.’ Meaning that he believes that you believe it.”

Bernard’s extensive career and experience with different heretical groups, coupled with his scholarly nature, led him to write a manual for inquisitors known as the Practica. Divided into five parts, the Practica was a handbook containing procedures for the arrest of suspects of heresy, sample inquisitorial edicts and decrees, examples of sentences, a treatise on the duty of inquisitors, a collection of papal documents concerning heresy and inquisitors, and descriptions of various heretics and how to recognize them. In describing the ideal inquisitor, Bernard stressed piety and humility as key attributes. He believed also that an inquisitor should be zealous for the Faith and the salvation of souls, in control of his emotions, unyielding, free from malice and anger, not motivated by cruelty or revenge, wary of laziness and gullibility, and imbued with a spirit of compassion. Moreover, Bernard emphasized that each inquisitorial case must be considered on its own merits and by its own unique circumstances and characteristics. No two investigations were alike.

During his decades-long and impressive inquisitorial career, Bernard passed 930 judgments in heresy cases, an average of fifty-four per year or a little more than one a week. Most of his cases resulted in imprisonment or penitential sentences, with only forty-two obstinate heretics remanded to the secular authority for capital punishment. The resolute Bernard illustrated that the focus of the medieval inquisitors was the salvation of the souls of those who embraced false teachings through a patient and charitable investigation. He embodied the attributes of the perfect inquisitor, with justice and mercy at the forefront. Bernard did not seek appointment as an inquisitor, but he accepted the position with humility and strove diligently to protect the faithful from dangerous heretical teachings that threatened their eternal salvation.

Although known mostly for his career as an inquisitor, Bernard was also a historian and author of works on the liturgy and the lives of the saints. Pope John XXII (r. 1316–1334) made Bernard a bishop. He spent the remainder of his days focused on the pastoral care of the people of God entrusted to him.  and he went to his eternal reward.”

He died in his episcopal residence at Lauroux castle on 30 December 1331, and following his funeral in Lodève Cathedral his body was transported to Limoges to be buried in the church of the Dominican monastery. However, his tomb was looted during the late-sixteenth-century Wars of Religion.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Being made righteous by God is more than a legal standing, it’s a reality


-by Karlo Broussard

“Some Protestants believe, contrary to Catholic teaching, that our justification doesn’t consist in us being intrinsically righteous. Rather, God merely declares us righteous, whereby we receive Christ’s personal righteousness, and God treats us just as he treats Christ. In other words, God sees Christ when he sees us.

To make their case, these Protestants will often appeal to 2 Corinthians 5:21, where Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Just as Christ is said to be sin when he wasn’t, so the argument goes, so too sinners are reckoned to be righteous (“become the righteousness of God”) when they aren’t. And if we’re reckoned righteous without being intrinsically righteous, then it must be Christ’s righteousness that we receive.

Let’s see how we might respond to this argument.

Key to the argument is its interpretation of the term sin. It interprets sin as literally referring to actions that contravene God’s law. But we have good reason to think Paul is referring to something else here—namely, a sin offering.

In the Old Testament, the term “sin” (Greek, hamartia) is often used to refer to a “sin offering.” Consider, for example, Leviticus 4:33:

If he brings a lamb as his offering for a sin offering [Greek, hamartia], he shall bring a female without blemish, and lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering [Greek, hamartia], and kill it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering.

(The English translator inserted the third “sin offering” above for clarity. There’s no corresponding hamartia in the original text, so the third “sin offering” above does not translate hamartia only in a technical sense.)

Other passages include Leviticus 5:12 and 6:25. Isaiah 53:10 directly applies hamartia to the suffering Messiah, who is expected to make himself a sin offering: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin [Greek, hamartia].”

It’s against this Old Testament backdrop that Paul speaks of Jesus as being “made sin.” And he does so within a context where he speaks of Christ reconciling the world back to God:

  • 18: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
  • 19: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”
  • 20: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Given this context of Christ’s reconciliation and the Old Testament usage of hamartia to refer to a sin offering, it’s reasonable to interpret Paul’s use of hamartia in 2 Corinthians 5:21 as referring to Jesus, the suffering Messiah, becoming the atoning sacrifice for the redemption of the world rather than being considered something he’s not: sin itself.

Since the fundamental assumption of the argument that we’re considering here is false, it fails to justify (yes, the pun is intended) the idea that we can be reckoned righteous when we’re not actually (intrinsically) righteous.

This leads to a second response. Given our above interpretation that “sin” refers to “sin offering,” notice that Paul doesn’t think Christ is “considered” a sin offering; rather, Christ actually is the sin offering. Jesus bore our sins as the sacrificial victim so we could be reconciled back to God, as Paul teaches in the preceding verses (vv. 18-20). If Christ actually is the atoning sacrifice and is not merely “considered” to be so, and our “becoming the righteousness of God” is parallel to that, which many Protestants affirm, then we should interpret our becoming righteous as actually becoming righteous rather than being merely considered or reckoned righteous.

Protestant New Testament scholar N.T. Wright concurs:

The little word genōmetha in 2 Corinthians 5:21b—“that we might become God’s righteousness in him”—does not sit comfortably with the normal interpretation, according to which God’s righteousness is “imputed” or “reckoned” to believers. If that was what Paul meant, with the overtones of “extraneous righteousness” that normally come with that theory, the one thing he ought not to have said is that we “become” that righteousness. Surely that leans far too much toward a Roman Catholic notion of infused righteousness?

It’s important to note here that Catholics do not believe that the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” means we become the righteousness that is God’s own righteousness in virtue, being pure existence. Rather, the idea is that the righteousness that we receive when we’re justified is a righteousness that comes from God, since it is he who makes us just. This is the sense that Paul has in mind in Philippians 3:9, where he writes, “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Now, it’s possible that the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” refers not to something about us, but rather to God’s own righteousness, or faithfulness to the covenant, being manifest in the world through us. This is how Paul uses the phrase “the righteousness of God” in Romans 3:25-26: “This [Jesus’s expiatory death] was to show God’s righteousness . . . it was to prove at the present time that he is righteous.” So Paul could be saying in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God has manifested his righteousness (fidelity to the covenant) by saving us through Christ, who is the promised sin offering (“sin”) that reconciles the human race back to God.

Although this interpretation of the phrase “becoming the righteousness of God” excludes 2 Corinthians 5:21 as positive evidence for God making us actually righteous, it remains the case that 2 Corinthians 5:21 does not support the teaching that we, as justified Christians, have only our legal standing changed before God.

So, as Catholics, we need not change our view of justification based on 2 Corinthians 5:21. We can still believe that when God justifies us, he makes us intrinsically righteous by his grace. In the words of Paul, he makes us a “new creation,” with the old passing away and the new having come (2 Cor. 5:17).

Love & truth,
Matthew

Jul 31 – St John Colombino (1300-1367) – Spiritual Reading


-St John of Colombino, please click on the image for greater detail

Great saints were made through the reading of spiritual books! In the 1300s, an Italian merchant named John Colombino was rich, short-tempered, unhappily married, led a worldly, covetuous, and an irreligious life.  He went home one day from the warehouse more hungry than usual; and because his dinner was a little delayed, he lost his temper and abused both his wife and servant, saying he was in a hurry to go back to his counting-house. He began to rage at her, but she responded by saying,  “You have too much money and spend too little, John, why are you putting yourself out in this way? While I get things ready, take this book and read a little;” so saying, she gave him a volume containing the Lives of the Saints.

John, somewhat nettled, threw the book on the floor, saying, “All this is just fairy tales!” and went to sulk in the corner. But as dinner was delayed even longer, out of boredom he picked up the book and began to read the life of a saint. He was immediately drawn in, and in a couple minutes when dinner was ready, his wife called him but he responded, “No, no, let me finish reading.”


-Russian icon of St. Mary of Egypt, 18th century, Kuopio Orthodox Church Museum, please click on the image for greater detail

St Mary of Egypt

Saint Mary of Egypt (344-421 AD) was born in the Province of Egypt, and at the age of twelve she ran away from her parents to the city of Alexandria. Here she lived an extremely dissolute life. She often refused the money offered for her sexual favors, as she was driven “by an insatiable and an irrepressible passion”, and that she mainly lived by begging, supplemented by spinning flax.

After seventeen years of this lifestyle, she traveled to Jerusalem for the Great Feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. She undertook the journey as a sort of “anti-pilgrimage”, stating that she hoped to find in the pilgrim crowds at Jerusalem even more partners in her lust. She paid for her passage by offering sexual favors to other pilgrims, and she continued her habitual lifestyle for a short time in Jerusalem. When she tried to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the celebration, she was barred from doing so by an unseen force. Realizing that this was because of her impurity, she was struck with remorse, and upon seeing an icon of the Virgin Mary outside the church, she prayed for forgiveness and promised to give up the world. Then she attempted again to enter the church, and this time was permitted in. After venerating the relic of the true cross, she returned to the icon to give thanks, and heard a voice telling her, “If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest.” She immediately went to the monastery of Saint John the Baptist on the bank of the River Jordan, where she received absolution and afterwards Holy Communion. The next morning, she crossed the Jordan and retired to the desert to live the rest of her life as a hermit in penitence. She took with her only three loaves of bread, and once they were gone, lived only on what she could find in the wilderness.


-The Temple of Portunus, Rome, was preserved by being rededicated to Santa Maria Egiziaca in 872.

There are a number of churches or chapels dedicated to Saint Mary of Egypt, among them:

”You think of nothing but legends; I have the warehouse to go to.” Presently however his conscience began to prick him; he took the book from the ground, and opening it, lighted upon the life of St. Mary of Egypt. Shortly afterwards his wife called him to dinner: “wait awhile,” replied John, forgetting his hunger; and on he went. The legend was long, but, as his biographer observes, there was a celestial melody in it: time sped, his wife looked at him; John was still reading, and what was more, grace was working. There was conversion in the legend of the penitent of Egypt; the story softened his heart; it was his thought by day, and his dream by night; the churlish Giovanni began to give alms, and always just double of what was asked of him; and to that reading was owing the outburst of the love of God which the Blessed Giovanni spread with his “Poor Sheep of Jesus,” the Gesuati, from one end of Italy to the other, from the Pope at Viterbo down to the swine-herd of Sienna. He visited hospitals, tended the sick, and made large donations to the poor. After illness, he made his house the refuge of the needy and the suffering, washing their feet with his own hands. The name Jesuati was given to Colombini and his disciples from the habit of calling loudly on the name of Jesus at the beginning and end of their ecstatic sermons. The senate banished Colombini from Siena for “imparting foolish ideas to the young men of the city”, and he continued his mission in Arezzo and other places, only to be honourably recalled home on the outbreak of the bubonic plague. He was then dedicated to nursing and burying the victims of the rampant bubonic plague.

St John of Colombino, pray for us, that we may be changed in the way you were!!

I know my Redeemer Lives!!! (Job 19:25-27)

Love,
Matthew

Islam, Asharites, Asharitism, Averroes, Averrosim, Ockham, Ockhamism, Nominalism, Luther

“Two divergent and opposing schools of Islamic thought emerge. One school is called the Mutazilites, whom we will call the reason party. On other side are the traditionalists, known as the Asharites, (Asharitism, aka voluntarism, occasionalism) whom we will call the irrational party.

The reason party embraces Greek philosophy and attempts to interpret Islamic revelation to fit reason. It proposes that truth can be known not only through the Quran, but also through human reason and through the consideration of creation. The irrational party sees Greek philosophy as un-Islamic. Its members insist that Allah is so transcendent that he can be known only through Islamic revelation, not reason, nor can reason uncover any truths about God.

The divide between the two parties will not only affect the future of Islamic countries, but also ultimately culminate in a full-blown revolt against reality in Western civilization…

Separating God’s will [what He chooses to do] from his nature [reason/will/wisdom/intellect/Who He is] effectively separates God’s will from His wisdom and his wisdom from creation. If God creates however He wishes, then our ability to know God through his creation is snuffed out. Everything would depend on the unknowable God’s disposition, and the only way to know that is through positive revelation. (Ed. i.e. Natural Law does not exist and God cannot be known by anything except what He strictly reveals. Creation is not indicative of God. God is just, but does not need to be just in His actions. God is good, but God does not need to be good because of His nature. God is just, but does not need to be just. God’s will takes on an extreme position even in violation of Who He is, His nature.  There is no philosophy.  Name your favorite Muslim philosopher?)

…The Asharites oppose [the concept of free will]. People, like the rest of creation, live under divine compulsion. God’s will makes it so. To suggest something like free will would be tantamount to claiming there is something beyond the power of the Almighty. Seeing human freedom as somehow in competition with the sovereignty of the Creator will return during the Protestant Reformation…

…Since things in the Asharite view have no nature, however, one cannot apprehend them in this way; they are only momentary assemblages of atoms…When pushed to its logical limits, God’s unbounded will destroys the possibility of science. Since God’s will does not necessarily reflect His nature, creation reflects only what an unbounded will wished to produce. A thing’s nature, therefore, has no innate power. Everything is immediately caused by God. This means that the combination of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen makes water, not because of the nature of the atoms, but because Allah wills it to be water. Allah could equally will that the combination of these same elements make a donkey or an orange…

…The laws of nature, therefore, are not effects produced by the overall structure and properties of things in the universe, but merely a pattern of occurrences that God habitually causes through his arbitrary will for reasons known only to Himself. Therefore, God [can have the appearance of] two kinds of will: one that is regular and orderly [only because He seems to will things to be in a consistent way, but could change His will at any moment] and [consequentially] another that [could seem] unpredictable [Ed. water is no longer water it at any moment because God changed His mind]. But if everything around us is a projection of God’s changeable will, then the only the thing that really exists, despite appearances, is God…

If God is the only reality; then accepting the reality of the world becomes a form of polytheism—placing the real in competition with the only real.

The expansion of Islam brought new Greek philosophical works to the Latin West, along with Islamic commentaries on them. The reception of these texts, and especially Aristotelian philosophy, was so positive that many teachers and students began to embrace uncritically everything Aristotle taught. True, Aristotle was a great philosopher, but he made some serious errors (pantheism, the uncreated eternal cosmos, all humans share one intellect, etc.). The confusion was compounded by Islamic commentators, such as Averroes, who followed Aristotle in some of these errors.

Double Truth

One way academics try to avoid the contradiction of embracing both Aristotle and the Faith is to adopt something called double truth (also known as hard Averroism). Double truth separates faith and reason into exclusive spheres of knowledge [Ed. i.e. faith OR reason, NOT fides et ratio, faith AND reason.  Truth is truth.  First principle of non-contradiction, truth CANNOT contradict truth, otherwise it is an oxymoron.  There is no such thing as truth.  God is truth.  Wherever and however truth is or can be found, God is there and revealed in it.  There is no distinction between truth and God, since God is the source and author of all truth.]

God’s Unconstrained Will

Like the irrational party (the Asharites) in Islam, according to the Franciscan [fraticelli, or] spirituals, God’s will is separated from His nature. God wills the good not because He is goodness itself, but rather because He decided to will it at that moment. Later, God could call the same thing evil…The spirituals argued that God could will that property is a good in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, He chose to will the opposite. Ockham’s thought has striking implications: There is no immutable law or reason. Every order is simply the result of God’s absolute will and can be disrupted or reconstituted at any moment. Indeed, Ockham even maintains that God can change the past if He so desires.

According to this view, reality is not a coherent whole, like a fabric comprising individual threads woven into a tapestry. Reality is more like a computer screen made up of individual pixels. Each pixel is isolated, disconnected, and separate from the others and can change to produce different pictures on the screen.

Therefore, God’s establishment of creatures “according to their kind” is turned into a kind of fiction. Universals (like animality and triangularity, 2+2=4, etc.) are nothing more than names (Latin, nomina) we assign to things for the purpose of comprehending the incomprehensible multitude of radically individual things. For Ockham, “divine omnipotence, properly speaking, thus entails radical individualism.” By rejecting the God of reason and replacing Him with a god of will, Ockham—like the Asharites—essentially rules out the possibility of knowing God through the things He has made.

Divine Deception

There is a deeper and more insidious implication to Ockham’s view. It opens the possibility that God can deceive us: Divine omnipotence, however, raises a fundamental epistemological problem, since it opens up the possibility of divine deception. . . . For Ockham, the idea of divine omnipotence thus means that human beings can never be certain that any of the impressions they have correspond to an actual object. Heaven and earth separated by God’s unbounded will make it impossible for us to know what anything truly is.

Ockhamism (also known as nominalism) separates God’s wisdom [intellect/reason] from His will [what He chooses to do] and God from creation, and it dissolves our ability to know what is real. [And opens up the potential for God to deceive.]

Revelation Alone

If God cannot be known through the things He has made, the only way to know the unbounded will of God is through revelation. The outward appearance of things becomes meaningless…Ultimately, our union with God is reduced to faith alone…

…Christ’s humanity isn’t denied, but it is seen as arbitrary. When Ockham’s nominalism is pushed to its logical conclusion, there can be no real (ontological) union with Christ, since Christ’s humanity is merely something God willed with no rhyme or reason. He could have assumed a nature that is radically different from our own. And if Christ’s humanity is arbitrary, then the apostolic witness of what was seen, heard, and touched is meaningless. Christ’s body—the Church—is nothing more than a name we give to a collection of similar individuals. [Ed. there is also the implication that while God could have saved in any infinite number of ways, His choosing to become human has direct implication to the redemption of humanity, and, ergo, any alternative suggests less or a lesser redemption of the children of Adam & Eve and Original Sin.]

The Moral Law

The natural law and the moral law fare no better under Ockham’s nominalism:

“The moral law is in this sense radically subordinated to divine choice and completely beyond the capacity of human reason to deduce or explain. . . . God is indifferent to what He chooses and the moral law is good not in itself but only because He wills it. Moreover, there is no limits set upon what God can demand. He can even command that we hate Him. Whatever His commandments may be, they are by definition good and binding. God’s will alone determines what is good and evil, and He is not even bound by His own previous determinations.” [Ed. a fickle, capricious god, just like the pagan gods of myth]

Lastly, nominalism ushers in a new form of radical individualism that mirrors the nominalist god. “For Ockham, individual human beings have no natural end, and there is no natural law such as Aquinas had imagined to govern human actions. Man, like God is free . . . opening up this realm of freedom not merely by rejecting the scholastic notion of final causes, but also by rejecting the application of efficient causality to men. For Ockham, man in principle is thus free from nature itself.”

The outworking of nominalism will ultimately come to full bloom in the twenty-first century with the insanity of feminism, bodily autonomy, abortion, and gender identity. The god of Ockham is the antithesis of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The Incarnation proposes that God’s wisdom permeates all and that His love binds us as one body.

[The Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV, Ludwig of Bavaria, 1282-1347, begins a revolt against the papacy going so far as to invade Rome on January 11, 1328, crowning himself emperor as the pope had refused to do so.]

The pope fights back against Ludwig with the spiritual sword. He issues a series of excommunications extending down to kindred with Ludwig to the fourth degree. He also places whole countries under the interdict.

“Germany alone was under interdict for twenty years, which means that no public religious service could be held, no sacrament could be publicly administered, no bell could sound. The more often these ecclesiastical penalties were imposed, the blunter grew the spiritual sword. Inevitably the religion and morality of the people suffered serious damage, their sense of the Church was weakened, their sympathies were alienated from Christ’s vicar.

The pope also fills all the vacant sees and offices in Germany with his supporters, which fosters more alienation between the German people and the Church.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483–1546) is the son of a peasant miner. His father hopes young Martin will become a lawyer, but his direction changes at Erfurt, where he decides to study philosophy and religion. Erfurt is considered a via moderna stronghold. It is here that Luther encounters nominalism and, to a lesser extent, scholasticism…

“In his [Luther’s] later words, “Life is as evil among us as among the papists, thus we do not argue about life but about doctrine. Whereas Wycliff and Hus attacked the immoral lifestyle of the papacy, I challenge primarily its doctrine.” Or to put it in a more startling way, even if the ecclesiastical hierarchy had been exhibiting exemplary holiness at the time, Luther would, it seems, have attacked its doctrine as fundamentally flawed.”

Luther holds to the same nominalist distinction God’s unbounded absolute [unrestrained/capricious/fickle] will and His habitual ordained [according to His nature, reflecting Who God is] will.  [Ed. I know the stove is hot, but I, somehow, choose to touch it anyway.]

Scripture Alone

It’s not surprising that Luther’s nominalism, as with the Islamic Asharites before him, leads to restricting our knowledge of God to positive revelation alone. This is the first step toward displacing the perpetual witness of Christ’s visible body, the Church, as the norm through which we have fellowship with God (1 John 1:1–2) with the Bible. No longer do we hear Christ by hearing the apostolic Church; we are to hear Christ solely through inspired Scripture.

HUMAN INTEGRITY AND VALUE
Faith Alone and the Body-Soul Dichotomy

Luther’s view of God also affects his view of how sinners are made acceptable to God in justification:

“The Church’s classical doctrine of grace, presents grace as a movement of divine love, entering into the penitent soul and delivering it from the bonds of its fallen nature. In contrast with this, grace in Ockhamism remains strictly transcendent. Justification consists solely in a relatio externa, a new relationship of mercy between man and God established by God’s love, by means of which all man’s religious and moral acts, though remaining in themselves human and natural, are accounted as salvific acts in the eyes of the merciful God. . . . Human activity only becomes salvific by God’s recognition of it, by his act of acceptance. But this recognition and validation does not in any way affect man’s spiritual powers. It remains completely outside him and is simply seen and assented to by faith.”

According to nominalism, God gives us the Law to follow and subsequently approves whatever moral acts we do, as He pleases—a view that comes close to denying the doctrine of original sin. Luther’s struggle to earn salvation, the nominalist way, pushes him to the point of hating God. His crisis is alleviated by reading Romans 3:28: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” The law, Luther thinks, is given to drive us to our knees in despair, knowing we can never be righteous in the sight of God and that when we place our faith in Christ, He declares or treats us as if we were righteous.

Catholicism teaches, however, that the just God wills justly. Therefore, when God calls an individual just, the individual is changed and becomes just because God’s Word is a creative Word (Rom. 5:18–19; 1 John 3:1). [Ed. That is the great distinction between the divine and the human word.  The divine word creates reality in being spoken.] Being united to Christ in justification, as a branch to a vine, we bear good fruit—that is, good works that are pleasing to God (John 15:1–6; 1 John 3:7)—because it is God Who produces these good works that are pleasing to Him (1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 3:8–10; Phil. 2:12–13).

Luther considers justification, as the nominalists do, as completely external to us: God declares us righteous even though we remain unrighteous in ourselves. Unlike Ockham, however, Luther asserts that man is incapable of doing any truly good work, since Adam’s sin utterly corrupted our nature.

By reducing justification to faith alone, we—as soul-body composites—are treated in a dichotomous way. Fidelity to God is split into two opposing camps: faith alone (i.e., trust in God’s promises) is what pleases God and justifies us, as opposed to anything we do. God accepts the soul’s assent of faith. As for our bodily acts of obedience, God either ignores them or takes offense at them.

Luther’s Contrary Truths

Since justification is an external decree of God, Luther describes those justified as being simultaneously “just and sinner” (simul justus et peccator). As Luther writes in his Lectures on Galatians (1535):

“Thus a Christian man is righteous and a sinner at the same time, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God. None of the sophists will admit this paradox, because they do not understand the true meaning of justification.”

In this view of justification, God is said to treat us as if we were righteous and worthy of salvation even though in reality, we are unchanged (profane, sinful, damnable). The Church teaches something very different: a real transformation occurs in justification, where the sinner ceases to be a profane enemy of God and, being grafted to the New Adam (Jesus), becomes holy and righteous.

Luther’s view vaguely parallels the dualism we saw earlier with the Gnostics, whose salvation consisted of the soul discarding the materiality of the body by obtaining secret knowledge.

Free Will

Where Ockham believed that man had a bestowed freedom, Luther denies free will outright, famously likening it to a beast of burden:

“If God rides it, it goes where God wills. . . . If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.”

We saw a similar error with the Islamic irrational party, who claimed that everything except God acts under compulsion.”

-from Michuta, Gary. Revolt Against Reality: Fighting the Foes of Sanity and Truth- from the Serpent to the State (p. 77-79, 81, 83-84, 104, 108-111, 113, 118-122). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

The First Thanksgiving – Sep 8 1565, St Augustine, Florida


-please click on the image for greater detail

“East were the
Dead kings and the remembered sepulchres:
West was the grass.

And all beautiful
All before us

America was always promises.”
-from the book length poem “America was Promises”, 1939, by Archibald McLeish


-Pedro Menendez de Aviles

According to the US National Park Service, the first thanksgiving was held in St Augustine, Florida.  Spanish Captain General of the Indies Fleet and Adelantado of Florida Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed at the village of Seloy on September 8, 1565, and re-named the area St. Augustine.

There are two written narratives of the events. One comes from the diary of the chaplain on the voyage, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales. The second was written by the voyage’s physician, Dr. Gonzalo Solis de Meras , Pedro Menendez’s, brother-in-law.

Blaring trumpets and thundering artillery serenaded Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés as he waded ashore on September 8, 1565. The Spanish admiral kissed a cross held aloft by the fleet’s captain, Father Francisco Lopez, then claimed Florida for both his God and his country. As curious members of the indigenous Timucua tribe looked on, the 800 newly arrived colonists gathered around a makeshift altar as Father Lopez performed a Catholic mass of thanksgiving for their safe arrival in the newly christened settlement of St. Augustine. At the invitation of Menéndez, the Timucuans then joined the newcomers in a communal meal.

The First Thanksgiving Mass in North America was celebrated in what is today St. Augustine, Florida, on September 8, 1565. Captain General Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore amid the sounding of trumpets, artillery salutes and the firing of cannons to claim the land for King Philip II and Spain was received peacefully by the local natives. Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, who had gone ashore the previous day, advanced to meet him, chanting the Te Deum Laudamus and carrying a cross which Menendez and those with him reverently kissed. Then the 500 soldiers, 200 sailors and 100 families and artisans, along with the Timucuan Indians from the nearby village of Seloy, gathered at a makeshift altar, and a Mass in honor of the Nativity of the virgin Mary was said. The Mass was followed by a feast shared by the Spanish and the Timucuan Native Americans. The place where the Spaniards landed is the oldest continually-inhabited city in the United States—St. Augustine, Florida, so named because land was sighted on the traditional feast of St. Augustine: August 28th. The parish established there is our country’s oldest Catholic parish. The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving,” and so it is providentially fitting that the first Thanksgiving in America was—first and foremost—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Conquistadors bearing flags watched as Pedro Menendez kissed the foot of a cross. On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 Spanish settlers founded the city of St. Augustine in Spanish La Florida. As soon as they were ashore, the landing party celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving. Afterward, Menéndez laid out a meal to which he invited as guests the native Seloy tribe who occupied the site. The celebrant of the Mass was St. Augustine’s first pastor, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, and the feast day in the church calendar was that of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What exactly the Seloy natives thought of those strange liturgical proceedings we do not know, except that, in his personal chronicle, Father Lopez wrote that “the Indians imitated all they saw done.”


-Timucua preparing a feast as depicted by Jacques Le Moyne

What was the meal that followed? From our knowledge of what the Spaniards had on board their five ships, we can surmise that it was cocido, a stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans, laced with garlic seasoning, and accompanied by hard sea biscuits and red wine. If the Seloy contributed to the meal from their own food stores, then the menu could have included turkey, venison, gopher tortoise, mullet, drum, sea catfish, maize (corn), beans, and squash.

This was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent European settlement in North America. It took place just 300 yards north of the Castillo de San Marcos, at what is now the Mission of Nombre de Dios. This event is commemorated today by a 250 foot cross which stands on the original landing site.

Did you know that the first thanksgiving meal in the USA was celebrated by Spanish settlers, in what became Florida? And that first Thanksgiving was Eucharistic! The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1565, at what is now the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, Florida.

This account of the first “thanksgiving” reflects what was found in Father Francisco’s memoirs. In it we read, “the feast day [was] observed . . . after Mass, ‘the Adelantado [Menendez] had the Indians fed and dined himself.‘”

Additionally, before the Mass was celebrated, “Father Francisco López, the fleet chaplain…came ashore ahead of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the leader of the founding expedition, and then went forward to meet Menéndez holding a cross… Menéndez came on land, knelt and kissed the cross.”


-Jacque Le Moyne’s engraving of the Timucuan chief showing Rene Laudonniere, who established the French Huguenot Fort Caroline atop the St. Johns Bluff, near present-day Jacksonville, the marker erected by Jean Ribault in 1562

From the very beginning the European peoples dreamed of America as the Fortunate Isles, the land of promise here below. What they expect from America is: Hope. And please God that this critical fact may never be forgotten here.

It is possible to be more specific, and to say: what the world expects from America is that she keep alive, in human history, a fraternal recognition of the dignity of man – in other words, the terrestrial hope of men in the Gospel.


-mural at St. Augustine Cathedral of First Thanksgiving, please click on the image for greater detail

The place where the Spaniards landed is the oldest continually-inhabited city in the United States—St. Augustine, Florida, so named because land was sighted on the traditional feast of St. Augustine: August 28th. The parish established there is our country’s oldest Catholic parish. The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving,” and so it is providentially fitting that the first Thanksgiving in America was—first and foremost—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Love,
Matthew

Offer it up


-please click on the image for greater detail

Morning Offering

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.

Amen.


-by Br Finbar Kantor, OP

“Offer it up” is a phrase well-known to Catholics both young and old. It is a phrase that we often use to satirize stern teaching-sisters and good Catholic mothers alike. But, despite its worn familiarity, it is a phrase that has not yet lost its use! In Spe salvi Pope Benedict XVI said that “offering it up” is a way that “even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love” (Spe salvi, 40). Furthermore, he suggested that “maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice.” Especially during this month dedicated to the remembrance of the deceased, we can make an effort to offer up our suffering on behalf of those souls in Purgatory.

The reality of human suffering in a world ruled by “a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity” (Exod 34:6) is a profound mystery. St. Thomas Aquinas writes that God’s allowance of suffering is part of God’s infinite goodness so that out of that suffering he can produce immense good (ST I, q. 2, a. 3). From blind beggars and sick servants to the crucifixion of Christ, the Gospel is filled with examples of Jesus transforming sickness and suffering into prosperity and joy. This transformation is also possible in our lives. When we realize that God permitting our suffering is a part of his goodness, we are able to sanctify it by “offering it up” to God.

When faced with suffering, we can do one of two things. We can reject that our pain has any meaning or purpose, or we can offer up our daily struggles. By offering it up, we accept our suffering and acknowledge that God can bring good out of it. Our suffering can open the door to our sanctification. When we offer up these moments, we hand them over to God, and he transforms them into acts of love. “Offering it up” can be as simple as praying:

Dear Lord, I offer you my suffering today

For the conversion of sinners,

For the forgiveness of sins, and

For the salvation of souls. Amen.

All suffering, from mild discomfort to profound miseries, can be offered to God. By accepting our suffering, we take up our crosses, where “Christ’s sufferings overflow to us” (2 Cor 1:5). By handing over our suffering to Christ, we join ourselves to the suffering he endured for us, “sharing of His sufferings by being conformed to His death” (Phil 3:10). It is by joining ourselves to Christ’s suffering that we can make expiation for our own sins and more perfectly conform ourselves to God’s will.

In addition to being sanctified ourselves, we can offer our suffering for the sanctification of others—especially for those in Purgatory. The souls in Purgatory cannot help themselves; they rely on our prayers for relief. (ST II-II, q. 83, a. 11) We can and should always pray for them. By turning to prayer during moments of suffering, joining ourselves to Christ’s cross, and offering our sufferings for the souls in Purgatory, we can say with St. Paul, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24).”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 22- St Cecilia (~200-230 AD) – Virgin & Martyr, Incorruptible, Heavenly Music


-“Saint Cecilia and an Angel”, c. 1617/1618 and c. 1621/1627, oil on canvas, overall: 87.5 x 108 cm (34 7/16 x 42 1/2 in.), framed: 109.9 x 130.2 x 6.4 cm (43 1/4 x 51 1/4 x 2 1/2 in.), Orazio Gentileschi (painter) Florentine, 1563 – 1639, National Gallery, Washington, DC, for greater detail, please click on the image.


-by Mariella Hunt

“The Psalms are songs that praise God or ask Him for protection. Historically, His people have faced great trials for not following the world and its corrupt ways. Many of the Psalms, such as Psalm 23, are so beloved that they are still used as prayers.

Music is the cry of the heart. It expresses sorrow, love, or anger. To this day, ancient hymns are used in traditional churches to express the soul’s longing for union with God.

Ritual and tradition are often criticized, but even secular listeners cannot deny the beauty of these hymns.


-Saints Cecilia, Valerian, and Tiburtius by Botticini, for greater detail, please click on the image.

Heavenly Song

Saint Cecilia is the Patron Saint of music in the Roman Catholic Church. She is patroness of music because it is said that she heard heavenly song in her heart. She might not have played the piano, though works of art often depict her doing so. Nonetheless, musicians ask for her intercession.

Cecilia came from a wealthy Roman family. Despite her fortune, she devoted her life to prayer. She was in love with Christ, and the privileges of wealth and status could not distract her from the ultimate goal of Heaven.

When she was given in marriage to a young man named Valerian, this did not change her mind. It was during the wedding ceremony that she heard the heavenly music. I imagine this music gave her the strength to be faithful to the promise she had made to God.


-“The Martyrdom of St Cecilia” by Carlo Saraceni (c. 1610), for greater detail, please click on the image for greater detail.

The Virgin Bride

Cecilia had made a vow of virginity earlier in life, and marriage would not change her mind. She hadn’t forgotten the promise that she had made to the Lord; instead, she decided to tell the man she had married that she was already taken — mind, soul, and body.

Marvel at this woman’s bravery! Forced to marry a mortal man, she could not be made to renounce her vow. Presumably on the night of her wedding, she told her husband that she was promised to Jesus.

Another man might have laughed at her or beaten her; Cecilia was blessed, for Valerian instead listened with interest. When Cecilia warned him that an angel was guarding her, he asked if he could also see this angel. Cecilia told him to go and be baptized. After his baptism, his eyes would be opened.

Instead of turning her in to the Prefect who was persecuting Christians, or even laughing at her words, Valerian went to be baptized.


-“The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia” by Raphael, please click on the image for greater detail.

A Holy Partnership

Valerian returned from his baptism and found Cecilia deep in prayer. By her side stood an angel guarding her. The angel crowned her with a wreath of roses and lilies, a sign of her favor with God.

After this, Valerian underwent a great conversion. He understood that the God of the Christians was real. He also accepted that the woman he had been given in marriage was holy. He did not touch her, allowing her to maintain her vow of virginity. Instead, he went out to serve the Lord; so many believers were being martyred that he felt the need to do something.

Valerian took the bodies of these holy martyrs and gave them proper burials. His brother, Tibertius, saw his brother’s joy in the Lord; he wanted to know the source, so we must assume that Valerian preached to him. Tibertius, too, was baptized. He joined his brother, burying martyrs in the dead of night.


-“Saint Cecilia” by Simon Vouet (1590–1649), circa 1626, oil on canvas, Height: 134.1 cm (52.7 in); Width: 98.2 cm (38.6 in), Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, please click on the image for greater detail

Death Has Lost His Sting

Meanwhile, Cecilia preached the Gospel, converting thousands of people to Christianity.

When the Romans found out about this, she was arrested and put to trial. When she refused to renounce Jesus, she was condemned to be suffocated in the baths — but despite the heat, she did not sweat. Perhaps it was her angel protecting her.

When the prefect was told of this woman’s survival, he was enraged. Instead of recognizing Cecilia’s holiness, he ordered for her a quicker death: decapitation. This did not go as planned, either; the executioner struck her once, twice, three times, but was not successful.

Baffled, he left her bleeding. Cecilia lay dying in a pool of her own blood for three days. When she died on the third day, she was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons.

We Hear Heavenly Music

St. Cecilia’s unwavering love for Jesus, as well as her bravery in the face of persecution, make her one of the most beloved Saints. Her story teaches us to be faithful to the Truth when the world challenges our Faith.

She teaches us that Jesus was our first love, and He must remain so, no matter what it might cost us.

In 1599, officials exhumed her body and found her to be incorrupt. God had preserved her beauty as she had been on the day of her burial. It is said that her body exuded the fragrance of flowers; this is a sign of holiness.

Sing Like St. Cecilia

No love is greater than the love that Jesus feels for His people. When we choose to love Him back, choosing Him over popularity and comfort, we will receive great graces in return.

St. Cecilia’s story is proof that His love is worth it. It will preserve you from eternal death. As for Valerian’s task, a heart set on Jesus will make us restless to serve Him with love. When others see us serving Him, they might ask what we are doing — and be called by the Holy Spirit to join us.

Do not be ashamed to speak His name, under any circumstance; there is no other like it.”

Love,
Matthew

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