Justice

CCC 1807 “Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”-Lev 19:15 “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”-Col 4:1

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

Presence of God – Give me, O God, a strong efficacious desire for justice, that I may draw near You, O infinite Justice.

MEDITATION

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice” (Matthew 5:6), Jesus said, speaking of justice in general, which inclines man to live in perfect harmony with God’s will, to the extent of desiring that sacred will as the one indispensable food of his spiritual life. However, these words may also be applied to the hunger and thirst after the virtue of justice, without which there will never be any harmony with God’s will, and therefore, no sanctity. If we wish to live in union with God, Who is infinite Justice, we must hunger and thirst for justice in all our actions and in all our relations with others. Hunger and thirst indicate imperious needs which cannot be suppressed; it is a question of life or death. As food and drink are absolutely essential to the life of the body, so justice is absolutely necessary for a life of virtue, and its duties are so compelling that no motive can exempt us from fulfilling them. If an act of charity for the neighbor should impose on us great inconvenience or cause us serious harm, we would not be obliged to do it, but the same inconvenience or harm could not excuse us from fulfilling a duty of justice. Serious motives can sometimes authorize us to postpone the fulfillment of such a duty, but the obligation always remains; although we might be prevented from acquitting it ourselves in a material way, we must supply for it, at least morally. It is thus appropriate to speak of hunger and thirst for justice, not in the sense of vindicating rights, but in the sense of cultivating in ourselves such a lively desire and imperious need for justice in all our relations with others, that we do not feel satisfied until we have completely fulfilled all the duties stemming from this virtue.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, increase my hunger and thirst for justice, so that I may lovingly fulfill all the duties of justice, every obligation to You and to others, neglecting none, but doing them all willingly, even if they are unpleasant to nature. This hunger presses me to always make more progress in the virtues, considering as very little what I have already obtained, and as very much, what I still lack. May this hunger and thirst give me a most ardent desire for Your grace and a fervent love for the holy Sacraments especially the Sacrament of the Altar, so that I may nourish myself with You, O Jesus, who are my Justice.

O Jesus, Your hunger after justice was so great that You no longer felt bodily hunger, and one day when You were very tired and in need of refreshment, You said to Your disciples: ‘My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me.’ -Jn 4:34  You had such an ardent thirst for justice that You burned with desire to taste the bitter chalice of Your Passion, even to the point of saying: ‘I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized, and how am I constrained until it be accomplished!’ -Lk 12:50

O my beloved Redeemer, inflame me with the fire of Your love, the source of this hunger and thirst; may I continually use this hunger and thirst to serve You, as You did to redeem me” (cf. Ven. L. Du Pont).

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #4: Fortitude 2, The Narrow Gate

CCC 1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” Ps 118:14 “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33

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

Presence of God – Teach me, O Lord, to act courageously, trusting in You.

MEDITATION

“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matthew 11:12). Neither good resolutions nor good desires suffice to make a saint. These must be translated into action; but precisely in the accomplishment of this work, great difficulties are encountered, causing many to stop in discouragement or actually to turn back from the way they have begun. These are weak souls who become frightened in the face of fatigue, effort, and struggle. They lack the virtue of fortitude, or at least, are deficient in it. This virtue enables us to face and bear whatever difficulty, whatever hardship or sacrifice we may encounter in the fulfillment of duty. Difficulties and sacrifices will never be wanting for, although “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction … narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life” (Matthew 7:13,14). Hence, it would be an illusion to pretend that the way to sanctity is easy and agreeable, as it would equally be an illusion to think that one could persevere in it without constantly practicing the virtue of fortitude. On the contrary, the greater the perfection to which a soul aspires, the stronger and more courageous it must be, because the difficulties it has to face will be greater.

When Jesus wished to praise the Precursor, He said, “What went you out into the desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (Matthew 11:7). No, John the Baptist was not a weak man who could be shaken by the wind of difficulties; his was the strength of one who, to uphold the law of God, did not fear to incur his king’s displeasure and to courageously face martyrdom. Elsewhere, speaking of the victory over sin and the devil, Jesus praised the strong man: “When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth” (Luke 11:21). This is a picture of the soul that possesses the virtue of fortitude: it is well armed and cannot be frightened by any struggle, temptation, or other obstacle; rather, in the midst of all this, it remains in peaceful security because its strength comes from God Himself.

COLLOQUY

“O God, You have seen the weakness of our human nature; You know how weak, frail and miserable it is; therefore, You, the sovereign Provider, who in all things have provided for all the needs of Your creatures, You, the perfect Repairer, who have given a remedy for all our ills, You gave us the rock and fortitude of will to strengthen the weakness of our flesh. This will is so strong that no demon or creature can conquer it if we do not will it, that is, if our free will, which is in our own hands, does not consent.

“O infinite Goodness, where does such great strength in Your creature’s will come from? From You, sovereign, eternal Strength because it shares the strength of Your will. Hence, we can see that our will is strong to the degree in which it follows Yours, and weak to the degree in which it deviates from Yours because You created our will to the likeness of Your will, and therefore, being in Yours, it is strong.

“In our will, O eternal Father, You show the fortitude of Your will; for if You have given so much fortitude to a little member, what should we think Yours to be, O Creator and Ruler of all things?

“It seems to me that this free will which You have given us is fortified by the light of faith, for in this light it knows Your will, which wishes nothing but our sanctification. Then our will, fortified and nourished by our holy faith, gives life to our actions, which explains why neither good will nor lively faith can exist without works. Faith nourishes and maintains the fire of charity, because it reveals to our soul Your love and charity to us, and thus makes it strong in loving You” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #6 – Piety

ANGELUS, Pope St John Paul II

Sunday 28 May 1989

PIETY

1. Our reflection on the gifts of the Holy Spirit leads us today to speak of another important gift, piety. With it, the Spirit heals our hearts of every form of hardness, and opens them to tenderness towards God and our brothers and sisters.

Tenderness, as a truly filial attitude towards God, is expressed in prayer. The experience of one’s own existential poverty, of the void which earthly things leave in the soul, gives rise to the need to have recourse to God in order to obtain grace, help and pardon. The gift of piety directs and nourishes such need, enriching it with sentiments of profound confidence in God; trusted as a good and generous Father. In this sense St Paul wrote: “God sent his Son,… that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son,…” (Gal 4: 4-7; cf. Rom 8: 15).

2. Tenderness, an authentically fraternal openness towards one’s neighbour, is manifested in meekness. With the gift of piety the Spirit infuses into the believer a new capacity for love of the brethren, making his heart participate in some manner in the very meekness of the Heart of Christ. The “pious” Christian always sees others as children of the same Father, called to be part of the family of God which is the Church. He feels urged to treat them with the kindness and friendliness which are proper to a frank and fraternal relationship.

The gift of piety further extinguishes in the heart those fires of tension and division which are bitterness, anger and impatience, and nourishes feelings of understanding, tolerance, and pardon. Such a gift is, therefore, at the root of that new human community which is based on the civilization of love.

3. Let us ask the Holy Spirit for a renewed outpouring of this gift, entrusting our prayer to the intercession of Mary, sublime model of fervent prayer and maternal tenderness. May she, whom the Church salutes in the Litany of Loreto as the “Singular vessel of devotion”, teach us to adore God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4: 23) and to open ourselves with meek and receptive hearts to all who are her children, and therefore our brothers and sisters. Let us ask her in the words of the “Salve Regina”, “…O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!”.

“O Holy Spirit, guide my soul, because all who are led by the Spirit of God, are truly the sons of God. You teach me that I have not received the spirit of bondage to live in fear, but the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby I can cry to God: ‘Abba, Father!’ You Yourself give testimony to my spirit that I am a child of God and a joint-heir with Christ: because, if we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified with Him” (cf. Romans 8:14-17).

“My God, send forth Your light and Your truth, that they may shine upon the earth: for I am like land that is dry and barren, awaiting Your light. Pour forth Your grace from above; water my heart with the dew of heaven; send down the waters of devotion to wash the face of the earth, to bring forth good and perfect fruit. Lift up my mind oppressed with the weight of my sins, and raise all my desires toward heavenly things, that having tasted the sweetness of supernal happiness, I may have no pleasure in dwelling on the things of this earth.

“Draw my heart to You, and deliver me from all vain human consolations, none of which can fully satisfy my desires or make me happy. Unite me to Yourself by the inseparable bond of Your love; for You alone are sufficient for the soul that loves You, and without You, all is vain and of no value” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ III, 23:9, 10).

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #7: Fear of the Lord


-please click on the image for greater detail

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

Presence of God – O Lord, grant that I may fear but one thing: that of displeasing You and being separated from You.

MEDITATION

The Holy Spirit invites us to His school: “Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:12). This is the first lesson the divine Paraclete teaches the soul desiring to become a saint. It is fundamental and most important because, infusing into the soul hatred of sin, which is the greatest obstacle to union with God, it insures the development of the spiritual life. In this sense Holy Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (cf Sirach 1:16).

To educate us in the fear of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, instead of placing before our eyes pictures of the punishment and pains due to sin, instead of representing God as a stern judge, shows Him to us as a most loving Father, infinitely desirous of our good, and He presents us the touching picture of God’s favors and mercies. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, have I drawn thee,” whispers the Holy Spirit in the depths of our soul; “You are not servants, but my friends, my children” (cf. Jeremiah 31:3; cf. John 15:15). Captured by love for such a good Father, the soul has but one desire, to return Him love for love, to give Him pleasure and to be united with Him forever. Consequently, it fears nothing but sin, which offends God and alone can separate it from Him. What a difference there is between this filial fear, which is the fruit of love, and servile fear, which arises from the dread of punishment! It is true that the fear of judgment and the divine punishment is salutary and in certain cases can serve greatly to hold a soul back from sin; but if it does not change gradually into filial fear, it will never be sufficient to impel the soul on to sanctity. Fear that is merely servile contracts the soul and makes it petty, whereas filial fear dilates it and spurs it on in the way of generosity and perfection.

COLLOQUY

“My God, although I desire to love You, and although I know the vanities of the world and prefer to serve You rather than them, I can never be sure while I am here below, that I shall never again offend You. Since this is true, what can I do but flee to You and beg You not to allow my enemies to lead me into temptation? How can I recognize their treacherous assaults? Oh! my God! how I need Your help! Speak, O Lord, the word that will enlighten and strengthen me. Deign to teach me what remedy to use in the assaults of this perilous struggle! You Yourself tell me the remedy is love and fear. Love will make me quicken my steps; fear will make me look where I set my feet so that I shall not fall. Give me both, O Lord, for love and fear are two strong castles from the height of which I shall be able to conquer every temptation. Sustain me, O God, so that for all the gold in the world, I may never commit any deliberate venial sin, however small” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Way of Perfection 39, 40, 41).

“My Lord and my God, all my good consists in being united to you and placing all my hope in You. If my soul were left to itself, it would be like a puff of wind, which goes away and does not return. Without You I can do no good, nor can I remain steadfast. Without You, I cannot love You, please You, or avoid what is displeasing to You. Therefore, I take refuge in You, I abandon myself to You, that You may sustain me by Your power, hold me by Your strength, and never permit me to become separated from You” (cf. St. Bernard).”

Love,
Matthew

Rejecting modern paganism


-The Triumph Of Christianity Over Paganism (1868?). Oil in canvas. 118 x 79 in. Christ, carrying a Cross, surrounded by a host of angels, forming a circle, swords ready to attack, sweeping above pagan gods of every kind. The Joey and Tobey Tanenbaum Collection, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario. Painted by Gustave Doré; Published in London on October 1st, 1899, by the Doré Gallery. Please click on the image for greater detail.

Heresies really never go away.  They may morph and change names.  There is plenty of paganism in the modern world.  It is sometimes called secularism.  None are to be tolerated.  Tolerance is not a Christian virtue.


-by Jon Sorensen. COO, Catholic Answers

“Some skeptics claim that the pagan culture of the Roman Empire heavily influenced the early Christian community—that the entire Christian system of belief was cobbled together by cherry-picking teachings from the “competing” religions of the time. A variant of this claim popular among non-Catholic Christians is that the Church started by Jesus Christ remained pure at first but then slowly adopted pagan beliefs, especially during and after the time of Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century.

These claims could not be further from the truth. The predominant pagan belief in the Roman Empire ran contrary to the Christian message, and the writings of the early Christians demonstrate an almost contemptuous view of pagan polytheism and idolatry. Also, it’s a historical fact that the Romans outlawed Christianity to varying degrees up to the time of Constantine.

The Early Christians’ Disdain for Pagan Beliefs

We know that the early Christians had no interest in emulating the beliefs of contemporary religions by the way they wrote about them. From these writings, it is abundantly clear that they found the practices of these religions abhorrent. While there are mountains of examples that can be given to illustrate this point, we’ll concentrate on just a few.

Other than the name attributed to The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, not much is known about the author. The earliest estimate of the date of composition based on textual evidence places it some time in the first half of the second century. On the usefulness of pagan worship, Mathetes has this to say:

“[T]ake a good look—with your intelligence, not just with your eyes—at the forms and substances of those objects which you call gods and hold to be divine. . . . Was not one made by a stonecutter, another by a brass founder, a third by a silversmith, a fourth by a potter? And up to the present moment when the skill of those craftsmen gave them their present forms, was it not just as practicable—indeed, is it not just as practicable even now—for every one of them to have been made into something quite different? Moreover, supposing that ordinary pots and pans of similar material were put into the hands of those craftsmen, could they not be turned into gods like these?. . . Do you really call these things god and really do service to them? Yes, indeed you do; you worship them—and you end up becoming like them. Is it not because we Christians refuse to acknowledge their divinity that you dislike us so?”

The belief that the pagans worshiped lifeless works of art was common among the earliest Christian apologists. St. Athanasius, in his refutation of pagan beliefs Against the Heathen, criticizes the pagans for not considering that what they were worshiping were not actually gods but “the carver’s art.”

The Christians’ refusal to accept the beliefs and mode of worship of the Roman pagans led to another charge against them: atheism. In his second-century work First Apology, St. Justin Martyr explains:

“So we are called atheists. Well, we do indeed proclaim ourselves atheists in regard to the Most True God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and other virtues, who is without admixture of evil.”

St. Justin admits that the Christians refuse to acknowledge the very existence of pagan gods, but his criticism of paganism does not end there. He goes on to distance the beliefs of Christians even further:

“We do not reverence the same gods as you do, nor offer to the dead libations and the savour of fat, and crowns for their statues, and sacrifices. For you very well know that the same animals are with some esteemed gods, with others wild beasts, and with others sacrificial victims. And, secondly, because we— who, out of every race of men, used to worship Bacchus the son of Semele and Apollo the son of Latona . . . or some one or other of those who are called gods—have now, through Jesus Christ, learned to despise these, though we be threatened with death for it, and have dedicated ourselves to the unbegotten and impossible God; of whom we are persuaded that never was he goaded by lust of Antiope, or such other women, or of Ganymede, nor was rescued by that hundred-handed giant whose aid was obtained through Thetis, nor was anxious on this account that her son Achilles should destroy many of the Greeks because of his concubine Briseis. Those who believe these things we pity, and those who invented them we know to be devils.”

Skeptics claim that other chapters of Justin’s First Apology admit to similarities between Christian and pagan beliefs, but this interpretation misunderstands the point he is making. He acknowledges that there are elements of truth in the philosophies of the pagans, but the fullness of the truth is not contained in any one of them. That fullness can be found, as Justin asserts, only in the Christian faith.

Roman Persecution and the Early Church Fathers

One of the tactics of Justin’s First Apology is to point out the inconsistency of the Roman rule of law regarding the Christians. For example, in chapter 21, Justin points out that the pagans believed Jupiter had many sons, whereas Christians believe Jesus is the son of the one true God. Yet only the Christians were persecuted for their beliefs.

Upon closer inspection of the historical record, I have found Justin’s parallels to be rather far-reaching. The story of Jesus has nothing in common with the stories of the so-called “sons of Jupiter,” for example. But the most important thing we can take away from the writings of Justin Martyr and other early Church Fathers is that the Christians believed pagan worship was demonic in nature and not to be emulated—even though to do so might have eased the Roman persecutions.

Post-Constantine Adoption of Paganism?

While atheist skeptics claim that paganism was part of Christianity from the beginning, some non-Catholic Christians claim that the real corruption began with Emperor Constantine around the year 325. But even though Christians of that era were more concerned with refuting heresies, in their writings we can find the same attitude toward pagan beliefs and practices that had been common among them in earlier centuries.

After Emperor Theodosius I did away with paganism, and the Visigoths seized Rome in 410, an idea began to circulate among the people that the old gods had taken better care of them than the Christian God. This inspired St. Augustine to pen his classic The City of God against the pagans. This is perhaps the best example of an all-out refutation from this time period.

Conclusion

All of this evidence taken together presents a strong case. If we are to believe that paganism had as great an influence on Christianity as some claim, we must also believe that the early Church Fathers—all of who faced the possibility of capital punishment for their beliefs—spoke out against the Roman cults while at the same time being secretly devoted to them.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 24 – St. Gerard of Csanád, OSB, (980-1046 AD) Bishop & Martyr – a spiked barrel & JOY!!!!!


-by Br Louis Bethea, OP

“Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the joyous martyr, St. Gerard of Csanád. The Legenda Minor S. Gerardi (ca. 1080) records that he was born around 970. He was a Benedictine monk who was made bishop of Marosvár (later named Csanád) in the Kingdom of Hungary. The region contained many Greek Orthodox inhabitants alongside numerous pagan communities in what was then a part of Hungary’s “wild west.” In addition to Gerard’s success at catechesis and exegesis, he converted many of the local pagans with gentleness and zeal. When the King of Hungary, St. Stephen, died in 1038, a period of political chaos ensued, and it was in this turmoil that St. Gerard was martyred. Several accounts of his martyrdom describe him, buoyed by the grace of God, rolling down a hill in a spiked barrel. Found still alive at the bottom of the hill, he was bludgeoned to death. Throughout this episode, and others in his life, various sources pay attention to Gerard’s joy, rooted in his deep love for Jesus Christ.

When we think of joy, perhaps images of victorious sports teams or holding a newborn baby come to mind. The Christian perspective goes deeper. Reflecting on its essence, Pope St. Paul VI taught that joy is “the spiritual sharing in the unfathomable joy […] which is in the heart of Jesus Christ glorified” (Gaudete in Domino 2). Drawing from St. Thomas Aquinas, Paul VI clarifies that joy is happiness “in the strict sense, when man, on the level of his higher faculties, finds his peace and satisfaction in the possession of a known and loved good” (see ST I-II, q. 31, a. 3). There is a distinction between the lower forms of happiness and joy in that “joy, which is about God, is caused by charity” (ST II-II, q. 28, a. 4). To the degree that our happiness is rooted in earthly things or in our love of God helps us differentiate between happiness and true, spiritual joy, respectively.

Drawing from the lives of the saints, perhaps the clearest expression of joy is given to us in the gospel, when Elizabeth felt John the Baptist “leap for joy” at the approach of Jesus in the Blessed Mother’s womb (Lk 1:44). The presence of God, even in the womb of his mother, was enough to send the baby John into a fit of joy! Saint Felicity, on her way to the arena for her execution, was in such a state of joy that she walked with “shining steps as the true wife of Christ, the darling of God” (The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity). We too, when we unite our gladness and anguish to Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, can exude joy in responding to the love of God as his treasured sons and daughters. In so doing, we become magnetic Christians on account of our joyful tranquility, which in turn draws others to Christ.

As Catholics, we are called to witness to the “joy that we have in the celebration of the death and resurrection of the Lord” (Guadete in Domino 3). Joy, as that ultimate state of happiness described by Pope St. Paul VI, reflects the love that we are granted from the Father. The grace that God provided St. Gerard allowed him to endure his martyrdom and become God’s instrument for the conversion of the Magyar pagans, who eventually would embrace the faith. May the Holy Spirit also grant us the gift of joy as we persevere in the Christian life. Saint Gerard of Csanád, pray for us!”

O God, Who were pleased to give light to your Church by adorning blessed Gerard with the victory of martyrdom, graciously grant that, as he imitated the Lord’s Passion, so we may, by following in his footsteps, be worthy to attain eternal joys. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The sign of a Christian is JOY amongst our crosses. Not fake smiles, but because of our deep contemplative relationship with Him, all is JOY!!!!

Love,
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #2: Understanding

“The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD, and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.” -Isaiah 11:2–3

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

Presence of God – Come, O Spirit of understanding, and enlighten me!

MEDITATION

As we advance toward God, we encounter many difficulties, not only because of creatures obstructing our path, but also because of the impenetrability of the divine mysteries. To enable us to surmount the former, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid with the gift of knowledge; to overcome the latter, He comes to our aid with the gift of understanding.

Our intellect is incapable of seizing the infinite. Although gifted with faith, its manner of understanding is always human, proceeding by means of ideas and limited concepts, which are totally inadequate to express the divine realities. Revelation itself comes to us in human language; therefore, it cannot tell us what God is in Himself, nor manifest to us the intimate essence of revealed truths. Proceeding with the virtue of faith alone, we are constrained to stop, so to speak, at the surface of the divine mysteries. We know with certitude that they have been revealed by God; we adhere to them with all our strength and yet we do not succeed in penetrating them. However, what faith alone cannot do, it is able to do with the help of the gift of understanding. This gift surpasses our human way of comprehension and enlightens us in a divine way; it makes us “intus legere,” that is, “read within” the divine mysteries, with the light, with the understanding of the Holy Spirit Himself.

It is a swift, deep penetration which, while adding nothing new to what we already know from revelation, does make us understand the inner meaning of the revealed truth. The gift of understanding tears off, so to say, the outer coverings of the propositions and human concepts, allowing us to see the substance of the divine mysteries. Faith tells us that God is Trinity; the gift of understanding tells us nothing more, it does not make us see, nor does it explain this mystery to us, but it does make us penetrate it. Under the influence of this gift, the soul not only believes that God is One and Three, but it has the intuition that the mystery of the Trinity is essential to the divine nature and that it reveals better than anything else the perfection, the power, and the infinite love of God.

COLLOQUY

Come, Holy Spirit, come light divine!

“O light that sees no other light, light that obscures all other light, light which is the source of all other light, brightness compared with which all other brightness is darkness, and all other light obscurity; supreme light, not darkened by blindness, not clouded by darkness, not obscured by shadows; light that no obstacle impedes, no shade divides; light illuminating all things together and forever, absorb me in the ocean of your brilliance, that I may see You in Yourself, and myself in You, and all things beneath You” (St. Augustine).

“How can I approach You, O Holy Spirit? You dwell in inaccessible light, and are Yourself all light, knowledge and splendor, while I dwell in a place of darkness and am nothing but ignorance and rudeness.

“Meanwhile, O divine Spirit, I beg You with confidence to illumine me. Reveal to me the divine greatness and the divine mysteries, so that I may adore and acknowledge them. Disclose the wiles of the devil and of the world, that I may avoid them and never fall again; reveal to me my miseries and my weaknesses, my errors, my prejudices, my obstinacies, the artifices of my self-love, so that I may hate and correct them. But, O beneficent light, above all illumine my soul, that it may know what You wish of me: make me understand well the charm of Your attractions and of Your grace, and all that I must do to merit the beneficent influence of Your goodness, so that I may correspond with complete fidelity; O loving Spirit, sustain me in this fidelity unto death” (Fr. Aurillon).”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 19 – St Januarius, Bishop & Martyr, d. 305 AD-blood that flows


-please click on the image for greater detail

At Pozzuoli in Campania [the memory] of the holy martyrs Januarius, Bishop of Beneventum, Festus his deacon, and Desiderius lector, together with Socius deacon of the church of Misenas, Proculus deacon of Pozzuoli, Eutyches and Acutius, who after chains and imprisonment were beheaded under the Emperor Diocletian.

The body of St. Januarius was brought to Naples, and there honorably interred in the church, where his holy blood is kept unto this day in a phial of glass, which being set near his head becomes liquid and bubbles up as though it were fresh.

Timotheus, President of Campania, was the official who condemned the martyrs, that Januarius was thrown into a fiery furnace, but that the flames would not touch him, and that the saint and his companions were afterwards exposed in the amphitheatre to wild beasts without any effect. Timotheus declaring that this was due to magic, and ordering the martyrs to be beheaded, the persecutor was smitten with blindness, but Januarius cured him, and five thousand persons were converted to Christ before the martyrs were decapitated.

Blood that flows

Saint Januarius is famous for the alleged miracle of the annual liquefaction of his blood. The first certain date is 1389, when it was found to have melted. Then, over the following two and a half centuries official reports began to appear declaring that the blood spontaneously melted, at first once a year, then twice, and finally three times a year.

While the report of the very first incidence of liquefaction did not make any explicit reference to the skull of the saint, soon afterwards assertions began to appear that this relic was activating the melting process, as if the blood, recognizing a part of the body to which it belonged, “were impatient while waiting for its resurrection”


-reliquary containing the head of St Januarius, please click on the image for greater detail

Thousands of people assemble to witness this event in Naples Cathedral three times a year: on September 19 (Saint Januarius’s Day, commemorating his martyrdom), on December 16 (celebrating his patronage of Naples and its archdiocese), and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (commemorating the reunification of his relics). The blood is also said to spontaneously liquefy at certain other times, such as papal visits.


-Matteo Treglia, Mitre of St. Januarius, 1713, Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro, Naples, Italy, please click on the image for greater detail


-Michele Dato, Necklace of St. Januarius, 1679, Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro, Neaples, Italy, please click on the image for greater detail

Love,
Matthew

Sep 17 – Galileo, Copernicus, Bellarmine: to read history, throw away modern lenses


please click on the image for greater detail

“Presentism” is a heresy of history of reading history through modern point of view, culture, and biases. We cannot judge the past from the present. It is impossible. Nor would the past understand the present. The best way to read history is to prepare like an actor to participate in that moment in history taking a well know, well worn role, and seeing it through those eyes.


-by Christopher Check

“Events in history happen in certain times and places. Goes without saying, right? I’m not so sure. It’s not uncommon for us to examine the past through the lenses of today.

I once read a history of the eleventh-century Norman conquest of Sicily. This otherwise lively and accurate account portrayed Robert Guiscard and Roger de Hauteville as venture capitalists, a profession that no medieval man could have wrapped his imagination around.

It is a mistake to judge the decisions and actions of the churchmen involved in what has come to be called the Galileo Affair through the lens (no pun intended here) of modern astronomical discoveries. Better to consider the event by taking a stab at understanding the state of the science at the time, the personality of Galileo, the cultural and religious atmosphere, and the personality of the one saint in the story, the man whose sanctity we celebrate today on his feast day: Robert Cardinal Bellarmine.


-Nikolaus Kopernikus, “Torun portrait” (anonymous, c. 1580), kept in Toruń town hall, Poland, please click on the image for greater detail

Copernicus raises a question

Since ancient times man’s understanding of the cosmos was geocentric: a fixed, immobile Earth around which the heavenly bodies orbited. Aristotle and Ptolemy, whose model included planetary epicycles to account for apparent retrograde motion, were the chief proponents of this model. Among the ancients there was at least one proponent of a heliocentric model, Aristarchus of Samos (known to us through Archimedes), but in the absence of observational evidence the model that was intuitive took hold. Geocentrism was not doctrine, but because it came from Aristotle and because it comported with Scripture, the Church adopted the model.

Not until a canon of the Catholic Church, Nicholas Copernicus, in 1543 published on his deathbed his De revolutionibus orbium ceolestium did anyone give a serious look at a heliocentric model. Even then, few took notice, and the Church certainly was not alarmed. Fact is, Copernicus was encouraged by priests to publish, and he dedicated the book to Pope Paul III. (Luther and Calvin, it’s worth noting, were in fits; Luther called Copernicus a “fool.”)

Copernicus had not one piece of physical observational evidence in support of heliocentrism. De revolutionibus was a complex collection of mathematical formulas and Latin descriptions written to predict the location of the heavenly bodies throughout the year. It’s important to underscore that astronomers at this time in history were not natural philosophers, what we call “physicists” today. They were mathematicians. Their job was to devise the formulas that predicted the location of the heavenly bodies, whether or not the formulas were a true account of what was happening in the physical cosmos.

“Why bother then?” Well, if you were the navigator on a seagoing vessel, or one of the Jesuits at the Roman College hard at work on bringing more precision to the Julian Calendar (some eleven minutes too long every year), where the planets and stars were and when was of central importance to your trade. Also, if you were an astrologer—and make no mistake, back then astrology and astronomy were considerably less delineated than they are now (Galileo wrote horoscopes for cash)—the position of the heavenly bodies was critical to your trade, too.


-Galileo Galilei (1636), by Justus Sustermans, please click on the image for greater detail

Galileo: a force of nature

Knowing the distinction between astronomers (mathematicians) and natural philosophers (physicists) helps us appreciate just how groundbreaking Galileo was: he looked at astronomical questions from the perspective of a natural philosopher. His interests were motion, dynamics, mechanics, etc.; in other words, the fields that tell us what is happening in the physical world.

His theories would not have received the attention they did had it not been for the arrival in the early seventeenth century—in the Netherlands, perhaps—of a carnival toy. Galileo did not invent the telescope, but he sure did improve it, and—another critical contribution—in December of 1609 he pointed it at the heavens. The subsequent months revealed undiscovered wonders, the “mountains of the moon,” the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus. None of these was proof of a heliocentric solar system, but for a pioneer of deductive reasoning, they constituted compelling evidence.

Equally compelling was the force of Galileo’s personality. An impatient genius, Galileo did not go out of his way to make friends among his academic colleagues in Pisa, Florence, Padua, and Rome. His correspondence is replete with bold expressions of his arrogance and bitter insults leveled at men who disagreed with him. He not only lacked humility, he took pleasure at social gatherings in humiliating other scholars with rhetorical traps. His obstinacy is something to marvel at, especially when he was wrong—as he was about the tides, circular orbits, and comets, for example.

Had Galileo been a little more sensitive to the religious atmosphere of his age, the story might have gone less badly. It is commonly believed that the Church’s leading minds refused to look at Galileo’s arguments or look through his telescope. Nothing could be further from the truth. He had the backing of the Carmelite scientist and philosopher Paolo Antonio Foscarini and of many the Jesuits at the Roman College, including Gregorian Calendar architect Christopher Clavius, who were buying up his telescopes and confirming his findings. (His chief academic adversaries were laymen.)

It is true, however, that Galileo made his discoveries in a world still reacting to Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s insistence that Scripture was subject to personal interpretation. The Council of Trent in the mid-sixteenth century said it was not. There was no shortage of scriptural passages making reference to a fixed Earth orbited by sun and stars. (There still are!) The Church, as Cardinal Bellarmine was at pains to explain to Galileo when they met in 1616, needed to be deliberate in interpreting scriptural passages that seemed to contradict the discoveries of modern astronomy.

Bellarmine: the voice of reason

Bellarmine counseled caution for two reasons. The first showed a more disciplined and careful approach to deductive science than Galileo’s. “The Copernican system predicts the phases of Venus,” Bellarmine told Galileo. “This does not prove the converse, that is: Venus exhibits phases, therefore the universe is Copernican.” Bellarmine was right, of course. Tycho Brahe’s hybrid model, in which all but the Earth revolves around the sun and all that swirling bundle revolves around the Earth, would also account for the phases of Venus. In other words, absent proof (and that does not come until the mid-nineteenth century) caution more than anything was required in reinterpreting Scripture—which brings us to the good saint’s second reason for caution.

Bellarmine was sharp of mind and had a strong pastoral sense. He told Galileo, “The evidence is insufficient to force scriptural reinterpretations that could lead to doubts in the minds of the faithful about the inerrancy of Scripture.” The position is a perfectly reasonable one. It applies a pastoral solution to a speculative problem. Had Galileo listened to Bellarmine, he would not have found himself in front of an understandably impatient (by this time he had implied that the pope was simpleminded) and admittedly heavy-handed inquisition in 1633.

The dictate of charity

The details of that conflict are for another piece. Let’s conclude with the reflections of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, who, while still an Anglican, argued that Bellarmine in his caution was following the dictates of charity:

Galileo might be right in his conclusion that the earth moves; to consider him a heretic might have been wrong; but there was nothing wrong in censuring abrupt, startling, unsettling, unverified disclosures, if such they were, disclosures at once uncalled for and inopportune, at a time when the limits of revealed truth had not as yet been ascertained. A man ought to be very sure of what he is saying, before he risks the chance of contradicting the word of God. It was safe, not dishonest, to be slow in accepting what nevertheless turned out to be true. Here is an instance in which the Church obliges Scripture expositors, at a given time or place, to be tender of the popular religious sense.

I have been led to take a second view of this matter. That jealousy of originality in the matter of religion, which is the instinct of piety, is, in the case of questions that excite the popular mind, also the dictate of charity. Galileo’s truth is said to have shocked and scared the Italy of his day. To say that the Earth went round the sun revolutionized the received system of belief as regards heaven, purgatory, and hell; and it forcibly imposed a figurative interpretation upon categorical statements of Scripture.

Heaven was no longer above and Earth below; the heavens no longer literally opened and shut; purgatory and hell were not for certain under the earth. The catalogue of theological truths was seriously curtailed. Whither did our Lord go on his ascension? If there is to be a plurality of worlds, what is the special importance of this one? And is the whole, visible universe, with its infinite spaces, one day to pass away?

We are used to these questions now and reconciled to them; and on that account are no fit judges of the disorder and dismay that the Galilean hypothesis would cause to good Catholics, as far as they became cognizant of it, or how necessary it was in charity, especially then, to delay the formal reception of a new interpretation of Scripture, till their imaginations should gradually get accustomed to it.”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book: Protestant & Catholic Bibles

Oral Torah


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“Q. Our Protestant friends often speak of “the word of God” as if it was limited to just the Bible. Is that true?

Jimmy: No. The Bible speaks of the “word of God” as being several different things. It certainly includes the Bible, but it also includes the word of God communicated to people orally—in the form of Tradition, as when the apostles preached the word to people before the New Testament was written, or when the prophets preached God’s word before any book of Scripture was written. The ultimate Word of God is Jesus himself, so we can’t limit the word of God to just the Bible.

Q. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for “making void the word of God” by their tradition. Does that mean all Tradition is bad?

Jimmy: Just because one group misuses tradition doesn’t mean that all tradition is bad. Elsewhere, the New Testament speaks highly of the traditions that come from the apostles, and it commands Christians to honor them whether they are written in the Bible or not. The tradition of the Pharisees isn’t binding on us, but the Tradition of the apostles is!

Q. Our Protestant friends say we should base our doctrine on “Scripture alone.” What’s wrong with this idea?

Jimmy: A big problem is that, if we have to prove every doctrine “by Scripture alone” or sola scriptura then we’d have to prove this doctrine in the same way. But we can’t. There are no verses that say or imply that we should prove every doctrine by Scripture alone. That makes sola scriptura a self-refuting doctrine.

Q. Some anti-Catholics say that the Catholic Church “hates” the Bible and tried to keep it from the people. How can we reply to that?

Jimmy: If the Catholic Church “hated” the Bible, then it wouldn’t have laboriously hand-copied Bibles in the long centuries before the invention of the printing press. Further, the monks wouldn’t have made the beautiful, illuminated Bibles, whose pages they literally covered in gold by applying gold leaf to the illustrations to honor God’s word.

Q. When were the Gospels written? Are they late documents written long after the life of Jesus?

Jimmy: As biblical scholarship has progressed, the dates for the Gospels have been steadily rolled back. You no longer have scholars saying they were written a hundred or more years after Jesus. Today, virtually all scholars acknowledge that they were all written in the first century, and the best evidence indicates that they were written between about A.D. 55 and 65—only around twenty to thirty years after Jesus’ ministry.

Q. Did all Jews in Jesus’ day honor the same books as Scripture?

Jimmy: No. Different groups of Jews had different opinions about which books were sacred, and most did not have a single, closed list or “canon” of biblical books. The precise boundaries of the Old Testament continued to be debated in Jewish circles for centuries.

Q. Why does the Bible contain the books that it does? How did we get the exact list of books it has today?

Jimmy: God guided the Church, over the course of centuries, to recognize certain books and not others as being written expressions of his word. On the human level, this was done through the teachings of the Magisterium—the popes and the bishops. The Catholic Church thus played a crucial role in identifying the books of the Old and New Testaments.

Q. Why do our Protestant friends have smaller Bibles?

Jimmy: Martin Luther and other early Protestant leaders rejected certain Catholic teachings, such as purgatory, which is strongly supported in the Old Testament book 2 Maccabees. They therefore appealed to the European Jews of their day, who didn’t honor 2 Maccabees and certain other books as Scripture. They thus removed certain books from the Protestant Bible that Christians had historically regarded as Scripture.

Q. Bottom line: Why is the Bible a Catholic book?

Jimmy: The Bible is a Catholic book because the New Testament was written by Catholics, because the Catholic Church determined which books belong in the Bible, and because the Catholic Church preserved and published the books of the Bible by hand-copying them down through the centuries. The Bible is a gift that God gave to the world through the Catholic Church.”

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