Apr 28 – St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716), Priest & Confessor, God Alone!!


-Statue in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Saint Louis de Montfort, Founder Statue by Giacomo Parisini, 1948, in which St Louis tramples the devil who holds a scroll listing the 7 deadly sins.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

When I encounter non-Catholics concerned about the Catholic emphasis on the Blessed Mother, I assure them not to worry they will love her more than Jesus did.

I
La croix dans le mystère
Est voilé pour nous ci-dessous;
Sans grande lumière pour voir,
Qui sa splendeur connaîtra-t-elle?
Seul l’esprit noble
Cette trace secrète élevée;
Et personne ne trouvera le ciel
Qui ne le saisit pas par grâce.
Dieu seul.

The Cross in mystery
Is veiled for us below;
Without great light to see,
Who shall its splendor know?
Alone the lofty mind
Shall this high secret trace;
And none shall heaven find
Who grasps it not by grace.
God Alone.

II
La nature que la croix abhorre;
La raison lui donne un froncement de sourcils;
Le savant l’ignore.
Satan le démolit.
Malgré un art pieux,
Même l’âme fervente
Souvent, cela ne me tient pas à cœur,
Mais joue le rôle du menteur.
Dieu seul.

Nature the Cross abhors;
Reason gives it a frown;
The learned man ignores It.
Satan tears it down.
Despite a pious art,
Even the fervent soul
Oft takes it not to heart,
But plays the liar’s role.
God Alone.

III
L’arbre est essentiel,
Et nous qui connaissons son coût
Doit monter au Calvaire
Ou languir et être perdu.
Comme le dit Saint Augustin
Avec un tollé inquiétant,
Nous sommes tous réprouvés
A moins que Dieu ne nous châtie.
Dieu seul.

Essential is the Tree,
And we who know its cost
Must mount to Calvary
Or languish and be lost.
As Saint Augustine states
With outcry ominous,
We all are reprobates
Unless God chastens us.
God Alone.

IV
Sa nécessité

Une route vers le ciel court:
L’autoroute de la Croix.
C’était le fils royal,
Son chemin vers la vie après la perte.
Et chaque pierre
Qui guide les pieds du pèlerin
Est ciselé juste pour s’adapter
Dans la rue sainte de Sion.
Dieu seul.

Its Necessity

One road to Heaven runs:
The highway of the Cross.
It was the royal Son’s,
His road to life from loss.
And every stone of it
That guides the pilgrim’s feet
Is chiseled fair to fit
In Zion’s holy street.
God Alone.

V
Vain est la victoire
De celui qui, vainqueur
Le monde manque de maîtrise
De soi par la souffrance;
Vain s’il n’a pas Christ,
Tuez le Christ, pour exemplaire,
Ou repousse les sacrifiés
Pour la crainte de blessure et de cicatrice.
Dieu seul.

Vain is the victory
Of him who, conquering
The world, lacks mastery
Of self through suffering;
Vain if he has not Christ,
Slain Christ, for exemplar,
Or spurns the Sacrificed
For dread of wound and scar.
God Alone.

VI
Ses victoires

Croix du Christ, retenant l’enfer,
A vaincu la malédiction d’Eden,
Citadelle de Satan prise d’assaut,
Et a gagné l’univers.
Maintenant à son groupe fidèle
Il donne cette arme brillante
Pour armer le cœur et la main
Contre le mal sprite.
Dieu seul.

Its Victories

Christ’s Cross, restraining Hell,
Has conquered Eden’s curse,
Stormed Satan’s citadel,
And won the universe.
Now to His faithful band
He gives that weapon bright
To arm both heart and hand
Against the evil sprite.
God Alone.

VII
Dans ce signe de bon augure
Tu seras vainqueur,
Dit-il à Constantine,
Qui ce fier Standard portait;
Un augure glorieux,
Dont la valeur prodigieuse
Les dossiers sont tous d’accord
Au paradis et sur terre!
Dieu seul.

In this auspicious Sign
Thou shalt be conqueror,
Said He to Constantine,
Who that proud Standard bore;
A glorious augury,
Of whose prodigious worth
The records all agree
In Heaven and on earth!
God Alone.

VIII
Sa gloire et son mérite

Malgré un sens trompeur
Et le changement inconstant de la raison,
La croix en toute confiance
Nous prenons comme le propre cadeau de la vérité.
Une princesse que nous voyons
En qui, que la foi se confesse,
Nous trouvons toute la charité,
Grâce, sagesse, sainteté.
Dieu seul.

Its Glory and Merit

Despite deceitful sense
And reason’s fickle shift,
The Cross with confidence
We take as Truth’s own gift.
A princess there we see
In whom, let faith confess,
We find all charity,
Grace, wisdom, holiness.
God Alone.

IX
L’amour de Dieu n’a pas pu résister
Une telle beauté ou son appel,
Qui lui a dit de garder un rendez-vous
Avec notre humanité.
Venant sur terre, il a dit:
Ceci, Seigneur, et rien de plus:
Ta croix sauvée enracinée
Ici dans le cœur de mon sein.
Dieu seul.

God’s love could not resist
Such beauty or its plea,
Which bade Him keep a tryst
With our humanity.
Coming to earth, He said:
This, Lord, and nothing more:
Thy saving Cross imbed
Here in My bosom’s core.
God Alone.

X
Il l’a pris, l’a trouvé juste,
Un objet pas honteux
Mais l’honneur, le fait partager
La flamme la plus tendre de son amour.
De l’heure matinale de l’enfance
Son désir gardé en vue
Comme la beauté serait une fleur
La croix de sa joie.
Dieu seul.

He took it, found it fair,
An object not of shame
But honor, made it share
His love’s most tender flame.
From childhood’s morning hour
His longing kept in sight
As beauty would a flower
The Cross of His delight.
God Alone.

XI
Enfin dans sa caresse
Longtemps recherché avec impatience,
Il est mort de tendresse
Et la totalité de l’amour.
Ce cher baptême suprême
Pour lequel son cœur avait pleuré,
La croix est devenue son chrisme,
L’objet de l’amour est indéniable.
Dieu seul.

At last in its caress
Long sought for eagerly,
He died of tenderness
And love’s totality.
That dear supreme baptism
For which His heart had cried,
The Cross became His chrism,
Love’s object undenied.
God Alone.

XII
Le Christ a appelé le pêcheur
Un Satan scandaleux
Quand il grimaça pour scanner
Ce que le Christ porterait pour nous.
La croix du Christ que nous pouvons adorer,
Sa Mère, nous ne pouvons pas.
O mystère et plus!
une merveille au-delà de la pensée!
Dieu seul.

Christ called the Fisherman
A Satan scandalous
When he but winced to scan
What Christ would bear for us.
Christ’s Cross we may adore,
His Mother we may not.
O mystery and more!
a marvel beyond thought!
God Alone.

XIII
Cette croix, maintenant largement dispersée
Sur terre, un jour se lèvera
Transporté, glorifié,
Aux cieux célestes.
Sur une hauteur nuageuse
La croix, brillante,
Doit, par sa vue même,
Jugez à la fois les rapides et les morts.
Dieu seul.

This Cross, now scattered wide
On earth, shall one day rise
Transported, glorified,
To the celestial skies.
Upon a cloudy height
The Cross, full-brillianted,
Shall, by its very sight,
Judge both the quick and dead.
God Alone.

XIV
Vengeance, la croix pleurera
Contre ses ennemis maussades;
Pardon et joie d’en haut
Et la bénédiction pour ceux
D’une fidélité prouvée
Dans la foule immortelle,
Chanter sa victoire
Avec chanson universelle.
Dieu seul.

Revenge, the Cross will cry
Against its sullen foes;
Pardon and joy on high
And blessedness for those
Of proved fidelity
In the immortal throng,
Singing its victory
With universal song.
God Alone.

XV
Dans la vie, les saints aspiraient
Rien que la croix;
«C’était tout ce qu’ils voulaient,
En comptant tout sauf la perte.
Chacun, mécontent
Avec de telles afflictions douloureuses
Comme le châtiment du ciel a envoyé,
Se condamna à plus.
Dieu seul.

In life the Saints aspired
To nothing but the Cross;
‘Twas all that they desired,
Counting all else but loss.
Each one, in discontent
With such afflictions sore
As chastening Heaven sent,
Condemned himself to more.
God Alone.

XVI
Saint-Pierre, en prison,
Il y avait une plus grande gloire
Qu’à Rome, il a gagné
La première chaise du Christ-Vicaire.
Saint André, fidèle, s’écria:
O bonne croix, laisse-moi céder
Pour toi et en toi te cache,
Où la mort dans la vie est scellée.
Dieu seul.

St. Peter, prison-chained,
Had greater glory there
Than when at Rome he gained
The first Christ-Vicar’s chair.
Saint Andrew, faithful, cried:
O good Cross, let me yield
To thee and in thee hide,
Where death in Life is sealed.
God Alone.

XVII
Voyez comment le grand Saint-Paul
Dépeint avec un maigre brillant
Son ravissement mystique,
Mais des gloires à la croix.
Plus admirable encore,
Il est plus riche en mérite,
Derrière son cachot
Que dans son extase.
Dieu seul.

See how the great St. Paul
Depicts with meagre gloss
His rapture mystical,
But glories in the Cross.
More admirable far,
More merit-rich is he,
Behind his dungeon bar
Than in his ecstasy.
God Alone.

XVIII
Ses effets

Sans croix, l’âme
Est lâche et docile;
Comme le feu à un charbon
La croix s’enflamme.
Celui qui n’a pas souffert,
Dans l’ignorance est liée;
Seulement dans le sort dur de la douleur
Est-ce que la sainte sagesse est trouvée.
Dieu seul.

Its Effects

Without a Cross, the soul
Is cowardly and tame;
Like fire to a coal
The Cross sets it aflame.
One who has suffered not,
In ignorance is bound;
Only in pain’s hard lot
Is holy wisdom found.
God Alone.

XIX
Une âme non éprouvée est pauvre
En valeur; nouveau, sans formation,
Avec un destin incertain
Et peu de sagesse a gagné.
O douceur souverain
Que ressentent les affligés
Quand heureux que sa douleur
Aucune consolation humaine ne vole!
Dieu seul.

A soul untried is poor
In value; new, untrained,
With destiny unsure
And little wisdom gained.
O sweetness sovereign
Which the afflicted feels
When pleased that to his pain
No human solace steals!
God Alone.

XX
C’est par la croix seule
La bénédiction de Dieu est conférée,
Et son pardon connu
Dans le mot absolu.
Il veut que tout porte
La marque de ce grand sceau;
Sans cela, rien n’est juste
Pour lui, aucune beauté réelle.
Dieu seul.

‘Tis by the Cross alone
God’s blessing is conferred,
And His forgiveness known
In the absolving word.
He wants all things to bear
The mark of that great seal;
Without it, nought is fair
To Him, no beauty real.
God Alone.

XXI
Partout où la place est donnée
La croix, les choses autrefois profanes
Devenez instinct avec le ciel
Et jeté leur tache.
Sur la poitrine et le front, signe de Dieu,
Porté fièrement pour lui,
Bénira avec Power Divine
Chaque tâche que nous entreprenons.
Dieu seul.

Wherever place is given
The Cross, things once profane
Become instinct with Heaven
And shed away their stain.
On breast and brow, God’s sign,
Worn proudly for His sake,
Will bless with Power Divine
Each task we undertake.
God Alone.

XXII
C’est notre caution,
Notre seule protection,
La pureté blanche de notre espoir,
La perfection de notre âme.
Si précieux est sa valeur
Que les anges apporteraient
L’âme la plus bénie sur terre
Pour partager nos souffrances.
Dieu seul.

It is our surety,
Our one protection,
Our hope’s white purity,
Our soul’s perfection.
So precious is its worth
That Angels fain would bring
The blest soul back to earth
To share our suffering.
God Alone.

XXIII
Ce signe a un tel charme
Que sur l’autel
Le prêtre peut Dieu désarmer
Et tirez-le de son trône.
Au-dessus de l’hôte sacré
Ce signe puissant qu’il joue,
Signale le Saint-Esprit,
Et le Divin obéit.
Dieu seul.

This Sign has such a charm
That at the altar-stone
The priest can God disarm
And draw Him from His throne.
Over the sacred Host
This mighty Sign he plays,
Signals the Holy Ghost,
And the Divine obeys.
God Alone.

XXIV
Avec cet adorable signe
Un parfum est diffusé
Le plus exquis et le plus fin,
Un parfum rarement utilisé.
Le prêtre consacré
Lui fait cette offrande
Comme encens d’Orient,
Rencontrez la couronne du roi du ciel.
Dieu seul.

With this adorable Sign
A fragrance is diffused
Most exquisite and fine,
A perfume rarely used.
The consecrated priest
Makes Him this offering
As incense from the East,
Meet crown for Heaven’s King.
God Alone.

XXV
Sagesse éternelle toujours
Tamise nos pauvres crasses humaines
Pour celui dont le cœur et la volonté
Est digne de la croix,
Cherche toujours un esprit rare
Dont chaque pouls et chaque souffle
Est-ce le courage de supporter
La Croix-Christ jusqu’à la mort.
Dieu seul.

Eternal Wisdom still
Sifts our poor human dross
For one whose heart and will
Is worthy of the Cross,
Still seeks one spirit rare
Whose every pulse and breath
Is fortitude to bear
The Christ-Cross until death.
God Alone.

XXVI
O Croix, laisse-moi me taire;
Dans le discours, je t’abaisse.
Que ma présomption, écrasée,
Son insolence s’efface.
Depuis toi j’ai reçu
Imparfaitement, en partie,
Pardonnez-moi, ami lésé,
Pour mon cœur réticent!
Dieu seul.

O Cross, let me be hushed;
In speech I thee abase.
Let my presumption, crushed,
Its insolence erase.
Since thee I have received
Imperfectly, in part,
Forgive me, friend aggrieved,
For my unwilling heart!
God Alone.

XXVII
Chère Croix, ici en cette heure,
Je m’incline devant toi avec admiration.
Demeurez avec moi au pouvoir
Et enseigne-moi toute ta loi.
Ma princesse, laisse-moi briller
Avec ardeur dans tes bras;
Accorde-moi de savoir chastement
Le secret de tes charmes.
Dieu seul.

Dear Cross, here in this hour,
I bow to thee in awe.
Abide with me in power
And teach me all thy law.
My princess, let me glow
With ardor in thine arms;
Grant me to chastely know
The secret of thy charms.
God Alone.

XXVIII
En te voyant si juste,
J’ai faim de posséder
Ta beauté, mais j’ose
Pas dans mon infidélité.
Viens, maîtresse, par ta volonté
Éveille mon âme faible
Et je te donnerai encore
Un cœur renouvelé et entier.
Dieu seul.

In seeing thee so fair,
I hunger to possess
Thy beauty, but I dare
Not in my faithlessness.
Come, mistress, by thy will
Arouse my feeble soul
And I will give thee still
A heart renewed and whole.
God Alone.

XXIX
Pour la vie je te choisis maintenant,
Mon plaisir, honneur, ami,
Seul objet de mon vœu,
Seule joie à laquelle j’ai tendance.
Par pitié, imprimer, tracer
Vous sur mon coeur,
Mon bras, mon front, mon visage;
Et pas un rougissement ne commencera.
Dieu seul.

For life I choose thee now,
My pleasure, honor, friend,
Sole object of my vow,
Sole joy to which I tend.
For mercy’s sake, print, trace
Yourself upon my heart,
My arm, my forehead, face;
And not one blush will start.
God Alone.

XXX
Je possède avant tout
Je choisis ta pauvreté;
Et pour ma tendresse
Ta douce austérité.
Maintenant sois folle sage
Et toute ta sainte honte
Comme la grandeur à mes yeux,
Ma gloire et ma renommée.
Dieu seul.

Above all I possess
I choose thy poverty;
And for my tenderness
Thy sweet austerity.
Now be thy folly wise
And all thy holy shame
As grandeur in my eyes,
My glory and my fame.
God Alone.

XXXI
Quand, par votre majesté,
Et pour votre gloire,
Tu m’auras vaincu,
Cette conquête que je prendrai
Comme victoire finale,
Bien que digne de ne pas tomber
Sous tes coups, ou sois
Une moquerie pour tous.
Dieu seul.

When, by your majesty,
And for your glory’s sake,
You shall have vanquished me,
That conquest I shall take
As final victory,
Though worthy not to fall
Beneath thy blows, or be
A mockery to all.
God Alone.

-Hymn, Triumph of the Cross by St. Louis de Montfort

God alone.


-by Br Louis Mary Bethea, OP

“Today we also celebrate the great Breton saint, Louis de Montfort. Tall, very strong, stubborn, and with a quick temper…After his seminary studies at St. Sulpice he would begin his missionary life with crushing rejection and resistance. Yet, tromping barefoot from town to town across France, he would be the instrument of great conversion because he trusted in

God alone.

St. Louis embraced the scorn of others, whether it came from a bishop or a supercilious nitwit jeering at him during a mission. Yet he never felt worthy of the mockery that he received: I am not worthy “of being a sign of contradiction to the world.” He attributed the fruits of his labors wholly and rightly to the grace of his Creator. Blossoming from his blessed humility, St. Louis’s famous motto was born:

God alone.

Commonly, when not preaching to the faithful, he would storm the local establishments of ill repute to implore conversions of heart. His frequent companion, Pierre des Bastieres, described one such instance when “one man, furious at this intrusion, drew his sword, and threatened to run him through the body unless he immediately left. […] Completely unperturbed, he looked his assailant straight in the eye and told him that he was very ready to be killed on condition that his murderer would promise to change his way of life. Such courage completely broke the man’s nerve; he trembled so badly that he could scarcely sheathe his sword, and had to grope his way to the door” (The Man Called Montfort, 108). This was the effect of St. Louis because he was a man for

God alone.

St. Louis’s love of Jesus through Mary and his zealous way of life, always yearning for the salvation of souls, stands out as an example to follow, especially when times grow difficult like during our present viral pandemic. Fortified by heavenly consolation, St. Louis was always with the God who dwelt in his heart, enabling his perseverance even to the point of his own demise for the salvation of another…Yet in his humility, St. Louis attributed everything to God, recognizing that God alone was his goal, in God alone is the living bread of life for which man yearns and by which man is saved; he realized that the glory forever belongs to

God alone.”

O most loving Jesus, deign to let me pour forth my gratitude before Thee, for the grace Thou hast bestowed upon me in giving me to Thy holy Mother through the devotion of Holy Bondage, that she may be my advocate in the presence of Thy majesty and my support in my extreme misery.

Alas, O Lord! I am so wretched that without this dear Mother I should be certainly lost. Yes, Mary is necessary for me at Thy side and everywhere that she may appease Thy just wrath, because I have so often offended Thee; that she may save me from the eternal punishment of Thy justice, which I deserve; that she may contemplate Thee, speak to Thee, pray to Thee, approach Thee and please Thee; that she may help me to save my soul and the souls of others; in short, Mary is necessary for me that I may always do Thy holy will and seek Thy greater glory in all things.

Ah, would that I could proclaim throughout the whole world the mercy that Thou hast shown to me ! Would that everyone might know I should be already damned, were it not for Mary! Would that I might offer worthy thanksgiving for so great a blessing! Mary is in me.

Oh, what a treasure! Oh, what a consolation! And shall I not be entirely hers? Oh, what ingratitude! My dear Saviour, send me death rather than such a calamity, for I would rather die than live without belonging entirely to Mary. With St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the Cross, I have taken her a thousand times for my own and as many times have given myself to her; but if I have not yet done it as Thou, dear Jesus, dost wish, I now renew this offering as Thou dost desire me to renew it.

And if Thou seest in my soul or my body anything that does not belong to this august Princess, I pray Thee to take it and cast it far from me, for whatever in me does not belong to Mary is unworthy of Thee.

O Holy Spirit, grant me all these graces. Plant in my soul the Tree of true Life, which is Mary; cultivate it and tend it so that it may grow and blossom and bring forth the fruit of life in abundance.

O Holy Spirit, give me great devotion to Mary, Thy faithful spouse; give me great confidence in her maternal heart and an abiding refuge in her mercy, so that by her Thou mayest truly form in me Jesus Christ, great and mighty, unto the fullness of His perfect age. Amen.

St. Louis de Montfort, pray for us.

Love,
Matthew

Faith works.

Notwithstanding Gov. Cuomo…Catholics prioritize/emphasize the definition of faith in 1 Cor 13:13.


-by Luke Lancaster

“To prove that man is saved by faith alone (sola fide), apart from good works, many of our Protestant brothers and sisters direct us to Galatians 2:16, in which Paul says, “a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Paul does indeed separate “faith” from “works of the law” in regard to salvation, but we should notice from the get-go that those who equate “works of the law” with “good works,” such as loving others or receiving the sacraments, have already made a bit of a leap.

They think Paul is arguing that, in considering whether one will enter Heaven, God will look at whether he had faith that Jesus was both the Messiah and the atonement for our sins. On this view, God is not concerned with whether the person obeyed God by living a holy life or whether he was baptized. This is not what Paul said, however, for “works of the law” are not “good works” but rather those works required by Jewish law.

This is a distinction that is difficult for some Protestants to appreciate. Jews lived under the yoke of the Mosaic Law. A yoke is a heavy wooden bar which attaches to animals’ necks, allowing them to pull some heavy object. The “yoke” of the Mosaic Law was heavy, with hundreds of dictates that Jews dress a certain way, avoid certain foods, and the like. Christ, however, united Jews and Gentiles, and his yoke is “easy” and his burden “light” (Matt. 11:30). Christ gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us to love as He loved (John 13:34). So, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul is talking about something completely different than the points of contention between Catholics and Protestants.

In verses 11-16, Paul recounts a confrontation he had with Peter in Antioch, where Paul had been preaching. Upon his arrival, Peter would only eat with the Jewish Christians and not with the Gentile Christians in a nod to the Mosaic Law, which held that Jews could not eat with Gentiles, as the latter were “unclean” (Acts 10:28). In Antioch, however, the Jews and Gentiles had been eating together as united Christians, free from the demands of the Law.

When Peter stopped eating with Gentiles, the Jewish Christians in Antioch followed suit, and suddenly there was a division within the community! Peter acted this way even though he and Paul, both former Law-observing Jews, had found freedom from the Mosaic Law. This action from the first pope implied to the Gentile Christians in Antioch that, for someone to be a true Christian, they had to be circumcised and live like a Jew, obeying all of the laws of that Covenant to reach heaven. Only then could everyone eat together.

Paul emphatically rebuked Peter. Man reaches heaven by the universal action of faith, which is always “working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith, as one family of God, which automatically dismantles any separation between them.

Next, Paul draws out the —the Mosaic Law has been fulfilled by the New Law (Matt. 5:17). Jews and Gentiles have been united by Christ—He has torn down the wall separating them, and Paul cannot “build up again those things which I tore down” (Gal. 2:18). His identity is no longer found in the Mosaic Covenant, he has a new one: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

When Paul was baptized, he “died with Christ” (Rom. 6:8), and had therefore “died to the Law” (Gal. 2:19), leaving Mosaic Law for its fulfillment in the Messiah’s New Covenant kingdom of God. In this kingdom there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

From these texts we see that membership in the family of God (justification) is no longer based on the Mosaic Law-system, for Jesus established a new boundary for membership through His death. The Crucifixion of Christ, says Scripture scholar NT Wright, “reconstitutes the people of God, in a way which means that they come out from under the rule of Torah and into the new world which God Himself is making.”

The point of Galatians 2:16, then, is that Gentile Christians do not have to live like Jews. This is because going under the yoke of the Mosaic Law does not lead to salvation. Christians must follow Christ and His way of life (Gal. 6:2). They do what Christ commands, not what Moses commands (John 1:17). Christians need to live by faith, lovingly obeying Christ by loving others, which fulfills the whole Mosaic Law (Rom. 13:8). The Spirit empowers us to love others – and His presence particularly distinguishes the old yoke from the new (Rom. 8:1-4), which has the “circumcision of Christ,” baptism (Col. 2:11-12), and the new Passover, the Eucharist (1 Cor. 5:7, John 6:53).

Galatians 2:16 has nothing to do with the Catholic belief that good works and receiving the sacraments are necessary, but not sufficient, for salvation. Deciding who spends eternity in heaven remains entirely the prerogative of our loving Creator, Who has given ample guidance to the faithful. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have been misled about the meaning of the text, so let us gently show them their error (2 Tim. 2:25).”


-by Peter Kreeft, PhD

“A common Christian misunderstanding…sees…virtues as a sheer gift of God and not also as hard human work, that sees righteousness as automatically coming with the territory, or part of the package deal of accepting Christ as Lord.

But isn’t it true that righteousness, a righteousness far surpassing the four cardinal virtues, prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice, becomes available to us when we are joined to Christ? It certainly is. And isn’t this a supernatural righteousness, a fruit of the Holy Spirit Himself? Absolutely. But supernatural virtue is not subnatural virtue (Ed. super”natural”). It does not dispense with natural human foundations and with our responsibility to be active, not passive, in cultivation of virtuous habits.

A man with a violin case under his arm stood in Times Square looking lost. He asked a policeman, “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?” The policeman answered, “Practice, man, practice.” There is no other short cut to sanctity either.

God’s word says that “faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:26). The works of virtue are the fruit of faith, that is, of a live faith. Being saintly is our response to being saved. We cannot do either without God, but He will not do either without us. He respects our freedom. He makes His power and His grace available to us once we are joined to Christ. But if we simply sit back and let that spiritual capital accumulate in our heavenly bank account without making withdrawals and using it, we are exactly like the wicked and slothful servant who hid his master’s money rather than investing it, in Jesus’ parable of the talents (see Mt 25:14-30).

The answer to the faith-and-works issue is essentially a simple one, in fact, startlingly simple. It is that faith works. The whole complex question of reconciling Paul’s words on faith and James’ words on works, and of resolving the dispute that sparked the Reformation, the dispute about justification by faith, is answered at its core at a single stroke: the very same “living water” of God’s own Spirit, God’s own life in our soul, is received by faith and lived out by virtuous works.

The water of the Sea of Galilee comes from the same source as the water of the Dead Sea: the Jordan River. But the Sea of Galilee stays fresh because it has an outlet for the water it receives. The Dead Sea lives up to its name because it does not.

The same thing happens to the “living waters” from God as to the fresh waters of the Jordan. When we bottle them up inside ourselves, they become stagnant. Stagnant faith stinks, like stagnant water. And the world has sensitive nostrils.”

-Kreeft, Peter. Back To Virtue (pp. 66-70). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

“Justification by faith alone”, Jimmy Akin
What St Paul said in Romans – Ascension Press

The Tradinista! Movement

“Some of the most vocal advocates for socialism are Christian theologians and committed Catholics. The Tradinista! Movement identifies itself as “a small party of young Christian socialists committed to traditional orthodoxy, to a politics of virtue and the common good, and to the destruction of capitalism, and its replacement by a truly social political economy.” In 2019, Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart published an editorial in the New York Times with the provocative title, “Can We Please Relax About Socialism?” Not to be outdone, the Jesuit magazine America published a feature-length article later that year entitled, “The Catholic Case for Communism.”

There’s no small irony in this new enthusiasm for socialism among young Christians, when you consider that socialism served as the “founding heresy” that spurred the development of Catholic social teaching.

Between the 1840s and the 1940s, the papacy released eight major encyclicals that dealt with the subject, all in critical ways.

In 1849, Pope Pius IX referred to “the wicked theories of this socialism and Communism” and how they plotted to “overthrow the entire order of human affairs” through the haze of “perverted teachings” (Nostis et Nobiscum ). At the end of the nineteenth century, Pope Leo XIII called socialism a “deadly plague” (Quod Apostolici Muneris) that reaps a “harvest of misery” (Graves de Communi Re). Thirty years later, Pope Pius XI said, “Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever” (Divini Redemptoris ).

“REAL” SOCIALISTS

Many socialists, when confronted with the moral and economic failures of countries like the Soviet Union, are quick to respond, “Oh no, I don’t want that kind of socialism” or, “That wasn’t real socialism, that was Communism.” They don’t want a totalitarian government that controls everyone; they just want a benevolent government that helps everyone. In polling, this leads to a mixed bag of preferences.

For example, two-thirds of millennials support free college tuition, government-provided universal healthcare, and a government guarantee of food, shelter, and a living wage. But the majority of them also oppose state ownership of private businesses and tax increases on anyone but the wealthy. Another survey shows that whereas only 56 percent of people have a positive image of “capitalism,” 86 percent have a positive image of “entrepreneurs.” One Atlantic writer ably summarizes this paradoxical attitude toward economics: “They’d like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn’t run anything.”

Hart evinces a similar attitude when he claims of the United States:

Only here is the word “socialism” freighted with so much perceived menace. I take this to be a symptom of our unique national genius for stupidity. In every other free society with a functioning market economy, socialism is an ordinary, rather general term for sane and compassionate governance of the public purse for the purpose of promoting general welfare and a more widespread share in national prosperity.

So who’s right?

Is socialism a deadly plague that reaps a harvest of misery? Or is it a sane and compassionate economic policy that everyone, especially Christians, should support?

There are a lot of things that are wrong in Hart’s op-ed, but he does make one good point. He writes, “In this country we employ terms like ‘socialism’ with wanton indifference to historical details and conceptual distinctions.” Indeed, critics who cry wolf and describe every form of governmental economic intervention as “socialism” numb people to the unique evils that occur in a truly socialist system.

That’s why in order to determine if Catholics can be socialists we have to first understand “real socialism.””

Love,
Matthew

Oct 25 – St Cuthbert Mayne, (1543-1577), Priest & Martyr

by Daniel Fournier, mezzotint, probably early to mid 18th century

When Mayne was born, King Henry VIII, who had broken England’s communion with the Holy Father in 1535. His son and successor, Edward VI (1547-1553), had persisted in the schism. Edward’s successor was his Catholic sister Mary (1553-1558), who restored England to the Catholic Church. Mary’s death, however, ended the prospects of a Catholic England. At the beginning of her reign, her sister Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), a Protestant, reversed Mary’s restoration of Catholicism. The Act of Supremacy of 1558 had reestablished Elizabeth as head of the English church, and the Act of Uniformity of 1559 had made Archbishop Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer the only lawful liturgical book in England. Like her father Henry VIII, Elizabeth brooked little opposition. Catholic priests who had been educated and ordained at William Allen’s seminary for English priests at Douai, in Belgium, particularly incensed her regime. Priests who had been in the country during the reign of Mary (1553-1558) were grudgingly permitted their lives; émigré priests, however, were hunted down and disembowelled.

The religious reign of terror of the regime forced the vast majority of Englishmen, Catholic though they were in their religious preferences, to conform to the “Elizabethan Religious Settlement.” Pockets of Catholics nonetheless soldiered on. As the scholarship of Eamon Duffy shows very clearly, Cuthbert Mayne’s native shire of Devon was particularly loyal to Catholic Christianity. Mayne was raised by an uncle, a priest who had conformed to Anglicanism. Mayne was likewise ordained a priest of the Anglican Church at about eighteen years of age. After ordination, he studied at Oxford University. By 1570, Mayne had received a Master of Arts degree, and in the meantime made the acquaintance of Edmund Campion, a Jesuit. Campion and other Catholics at Oxford had made a deep impression on Mayne, who came to believe in the truth of Catholic Christianity.

From the new seminary for English Catholic priests at Douai, in Belgium, Campion wrote and encouraged Mayne to emigrate and study there for the priesthood. In 1573, Mayne was formally received into the Catholic Church, and became a seminarian. By 1576 he was ordained, and became the fifteenth of the Douai priests to return to England.


-Golden Manor house, Cornwall, UK, ancestral home of Francis Tregian

A Catholic estate-owner by the name of Francis Tregian accepted Mayne as a member of his household. Mayne served outwardly as Tregian’s steward, while secretly ministering as priest. Protestant locals must have grown suspicious and reported the possibility of a Catholic priest in Tregian’s household to the authorities, and pursuivants, as Elizabeth’s secret religious police were known, arrested Mayne for having a copy of the Agnus dei written on a parchment he wore around his neck. Late medieval English Catholics often wore prayers around the neck, as protection against sin and misfortune, a practice Protestants despised as superstition.

The conditions of Mayne’s imprisonment were appalling. Since the case against him was weak, prosecutors were in no hurry to file formal charges against him. In the end, was indicted for “crimes” he had committed while a prisoner. The government accused Mayne of advocating for the papal supremacy among his fellow prisoners, and of having celebrated the Mass in his cell.

While awaiting trial at the circuit assizes in September, Mayne was imprisoned in Launceston Castle. At the opening of the trial on 23 September 1577 there were five counts against him: first, that he had obtained from the Roman See a “faculty” (or bulla), in violation of, the Statute of Praemunire and 13 Elzabeth I, c. 2, making it treason punishable by death to bring into England papal bulls, to possess them, or promulgate them, such as the one in the possession of Cuthbert Mayne  containing absolution of the Queen’s subjects; second, that he had published the same at Golden Manor, ancestral home of his friend, host, protector, and benefactor, Francis Tregian, one of the wealthiest men in Cornwall; third, that he had taught the ecclesiastical authority of the pope and denied the queen’s ecclesiastical supremacy while in prison, a violation of 5 Elizabeth I, c. 1, against maintaining and defending the authority and the power of the Bishop of Rome in print, writing, words, or deed ‘making it treasonable to: maliciously, advisedly, and directly publish, declare, hold opinion, affirm or say by any speech express words or saying, that our said sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth during her life is not nor ought not to be Queen of this realm of England and also of the realms of France and Ireland; or that any other person or persons ought of right to be King or Queen of the said being under her Majesty’s obeisance…it also being treason to call the monarch a heretic, schismatic, infidel, or usurper.’ , and 23 Elizabeth I, c. 1, ‘That all persons whatsoever, which have or shall have, or shall pretend to have Power, or shall by any Ways or Means put in Practice to absolve, persuade or withdraw any of the Queen’s Majesty’s Subjects, or any within her Highness Realms or Dominions, from the their Natural Obedience to her Majesty: (2), Or to withdraw them from that Intent from the Religion now by her Highness Authority established within her Highness Dominions, to the Romish Religion, (3) or to move them or any of them to promise and Obedience to any pretended Authority of the See of Rome, or to any other Prince, State or Potentate, to be had or used within her Dominions, (4) or shall do any overt Act to the Intent or Purpose; and every of the shall be to all Intents adjudged to be Traytors, and being thereof lawfully convicted shal have Judgement, suffer and forfeit, as in Case of High Treason.’; fourth, that he had brought into the kingdom an Agnus Dei (a Lamb of God sealed upon a piece of wax from the Paschal candle blessed by the pope) and delivered it to Francis Tregian; fifth, that he had celebrated Mass.

Mayne answered all counts. On the first and second counts, he said that the supposed “faculty” was merely a copy printed at Douai of an announcement of the Jubilee of 1575, and that its application having expired with the end of the jubilee, he certainly had not published it either at Golden (the manor house of Francis Tregian) or elsewhere. On the third count, he said that he had asserted nothing definite on the subject to the three illiterate witnesses who swore to the contrary. On the fourth count, he said that the fact he was wearing an Agnus Dei at the time of his arrest did not establish that he had brought it into the kingdom or delivered it to Tregian. On the fifth count, he said that the presence of a Missal, a chalice, and vestments in his room did not establish that he had said Mass.

Irregularities of procedure plagued the case against Mayne, but the government was determined to take his life, and the court condemned him to death.  Mayne responded, “Deo gratias!”

The day before his execution, the government offered to spare his life in exchange for acknowledgement of the queen’s supremacy and renouncing Roman Catholicism, by testifying against Tregian and revealing other Catholics. Declining both offers, he kissed a copy of the Bible, declaring that, “the queen neither ever was, nor is, nor ever shall be, the head of the church of England”

The following day, Mayne was hanged for about one minute, cut down still alive, most sources say unconscious since his head had hit the scaffolding with such a force it knocked his eyeballs from their sockets, and butchered. Pope Paul VI canonized him in 1970. No one whom Mayne, the first of the Elizabethan priest-martyrs, received into the Catholic Church ever relapsed. Not even persecution could rob his ministry of its fruits.  He was the first seminary, as opposed to religious order priest, or proto-martyr, for secular/seminary priests to be martyred in England.


-skull of St Cuthbert Mayne, Carmelite Convent, Lanherne, Cornwall, UK


-reliquary of St Cuthbert Mayne in situ, sitting above the coffin detritus in the grave identified as that of Captain Gabriel Archer, Jamestown, Virginia, USA. In the harsh winter of 1609-1610, settlers at Jamestown placed a small silver case with a slide opening etched with a single letter ─ M ─ carefully on top of a white oak coffin and then covered it with the hard, cold dirt of the New World. Inside the silver encasing were seven bone fragments and two lead ampulae filled with water, oil, dirt, or blood.


-reliquary after preservation. The fine silver work of the hexagonal tube is juxtaposed with the crudely made M, scratched on the slide opening.

“Holding the reliquary in the palm of one’s hand is instructive. It is small, measuring just under three inches in length and an inch and a half in diameter. Conservators at Jamestowne Rediscovery have meticulously restored it, freeing its silver encasement of the green oxidation from sitting in the invariably wet clay soil of James Fort for over four hundred years. It has heft. As it is moved back and forth you can hear and feel that there are loose things inside, imbuing it with a sense of mysterious liveliness. Its slide top has corroded shut. The contents, however, are clear, thanks to CT scans which revealed the bone fragments to be tibia and allowed the conservators, archaeologists, and anthropologists at Jamestowne Rediscovery and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to know the exact dimensions of the contents.4 They have created a reproduction, which helps further our understanding of the sealed object (Fig. 3). In essence, the reliquary is a combination object; it holds seven human bones and other effluvia, presumably human.” –https://mavcor.yale.edu/conversations/essays/jamestown-s-relics-sacred-presence-english-new-world


-reproductions of Jamestown, VA reliquary (1609/10) and contents

Relics of Mayne’s body survive. A portion of his skull is in the Carmelite Convent at Lanherne, Cornwall. Christopher M. B. Allison suggests that the silver reliquary discovered in 2015 at Jamestown, Virginia in the grave of Captain Gabriel Archer (died 1609/10) may contain a relic of Mayne.

Litany of St Cuthbert Mayne, Priest & Martyr

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Queen of the English, pray for us.
Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.

Saint Cuthbert Mayne, pray for us.
Who wast of mild nature and sweet behaviour, pray for us.
Who didst repent of the trappings of false religion, pray for us.
Who didst at length embrace the True Faith, pray for us.
Who didst flee abroad to be priested, pray for us.
Who didst study for the priesthood at Douai, pray for us.
Who wast desirous as a priest to honour God, pray for us.
Who wast desirous to offer reparation for sin, pray for us.
Who wast inflamed with zeal to save souls, pray for us.
Who wast sent in secret to England, pray for us.
Who didst labour in Cornwall, enduring danger and peril, pray for us.
Who didst reconcile so many to the Church, pray for us.
Who wast seized by evil men, pray for us.
Who wast cruelly imprisoned, pray for us.
Who wast wrongfully tried, pray for us.
Who wast unjustly convicted, pray for us.
Who didst refuse to swear the unlawful oath, pray for us.
Who wast condemned to death, pray for us.
Who didst pray so earnestly, pray for us.
Who wast illumined by a great light, pray for us.
Who wast hung, drawn, and quartered, pray for us.
Protomartyr of Launceston, pray for us.
Protomartyr of Douai, pray for us.
Protomartyr of Oxford, pray for us.
Protomartyr of the seminary priests, pray for us.
Of whose converts none ever recanted, pray for us.
Whose relics work miracles, pray for us.
Who dost reign with Christ for ever, pray for us.

All ye holy Martyrs of England and Wales, pray ye for us.

Be merciful, spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord.

From all evil, deliver us, O Lord.
From all sin, deliver us, O Lord.
From the snares of the devil, deliver us, O Lord.
From anger, and hatred, and all ill will, deliver us, O Lord.
From error, dissension, and division, deliver us, O Lord.
From heresy and schism, deliver us, O Lord.
From everlasting death, deliver us, O Lord.

By thine eternal priesthood, deliver us, O Lord.
By that ministry whereby thou didst glorify thy Father upon earth, deliver us, O Lord.
By thine institution of the most holy Eucharist, deliver us, O Lord.
By thy bloody immolation of thyself made once upon the cross, deliver us, O Lord.
By that same sacrifice daily renewed on the altar, deliver us, O Lord.
By that divine power, which thou, the one and invisible priest, dost exercise in thy priests, deliver us, O Lord.
By the triumph of thy grace in all thy holy martyrs, deliver us, O Lord.

We sinners, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deign to rule and preserve thy holy Church, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deign to preserve the Apostolic See, and all ecclesiastical orders, in holy religion, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deign to humble the enemies of holy Church, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deign to grant peace and unity to all Christian people, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deign to recall all the erring to the unity of the Church, and to lead all unbelievers to the light of the Gospel, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deign to send faithful and unshakeable workers into thy harvest, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deign to deliver us from all heresy, faithlessness, and blindness of heart, we beseech thee, hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee, hear us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Our Father… (in secret until)
V/. And lead us not into temptation.
R/. But deliver us from evil.

Ant. Under the altar of God I heard the voice of the slain saying: Why dost thou not avenge our blood? And they received the divine response: Wait yet a little while, until the number of your brethren be fulfilled. (P.T. Alleluia.)

V/. What torments were suffered by all the saints.
R/. That they might securely come to the palm of martyrdom.
V/. The bodies of the saints are buried in peace.
R/. And their names shall live for evermore.
V/. Precious in the sight of the Lord.
R/. Is the death of his saints.
V/. The saints have entered the kingdom with palms.
R/. They have merited crowns of beauty from the hand of God.
V/. O ye Martyrs of the Lord, bless ye the Lord for ever.
R/. O ye choir of Martyrs, praise ye the Lord in the highest.
V/. Thee the white-robed army of Martyrs praise, O Lord.
R/. Thee the holy Church throughout the world doth confess.
V/. Make us to be numbered with thy saints.
R/. In glory everlasting.
V/. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R/. And let my cry come unto thee.

Let us pray.

O God, who didst grant to blessed Cuthbert before the other seminary priests to run the road of torments for the salvation of souls: grant to us in thy mercy, that inflamed with the same zeal for souls, we may not hesitate to lay down our lives for others.
Increase in us, O Lord, faith in the resurrection, who dost work wonders by the relics of thy Saints: and make us partakers of that immortal glory, a pledge of which we venerate in their ashes.
Stir up in us, O Lord, the Spirit that the blessed Martyrs of Douai obeyed: that being filled with the same, we may study to love what they loved, and to do the works that they taught.
O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Martyrs Cuthbert and his companions with unconquerable courage, that they might fight for the true faith and the primacy of the Apostolic See: by hearkening unto their prayers, we beseech thee to help our frailty, that, strong in faith, we may be able to resist the enemy even to the end.
O God, who didst raise up thy blessed Martyrs Bishop John, Thomas, and their companions from every walk of life to be champions of the true faith and of the Supreme Pontiff: by their merits and prayers, grant that, by profession of the same faith, all may be made and remain one, as thine own Son prayed.
We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully to receive the prayers of thy Church: that, all adversities and errors being destroyed, she may serve thee in secure freedom.
O God, who dost correct those who have erred, and dost gather those who were scatttered, and dost preserve those who have been gathered together: we beseech thee, clemently pour forth upon Christian people the grace of union with thee, that, rejecting division, and joining themselves to the true shepherd of thy Church, they may be able to worthily serve thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
R/. Amen.

V/. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R/. And let my cry come unto thee.
V/. By the intercession of blessed Cuthbert, may almighty God bless us, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
R/. Amen.
V/. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R/. Amen.


-Agnus Dei discs from the collection of Gary Minella, Queens, New York. The wording on the disc on the left reads: “ECCE AGN DEI … PECC . MUNDI” and “PIUS XI PM … ANNO P XIV MCMXXXV”.

Agnus Dei sacramental

The Agnus Dei is an ancient sacramental―a sacred object, or action, which the believer uses for the purpose of obtaining spiritual favors through the Church’s intercession. It might possibly be the Church’s oldest sacramental. There are historical accounts as to their existence even as far back as the sixth century. However, most people these days are completely unaware of them. In fact, some of the brightest theological minds in the Church have never even seen an Agnus Dei.

The Agnus Dei, whose name means “Lamb of God,” is a blessed wax disc impressed with the figure of the Lamb of God. But just as the St. Benedict Medal is not merely blessed but also exorcised, so too is the Agnus Dei consecrated rather than merely blessed by a reigning pope.

Traditionally Agnus Deis are consecrated only during the first year of a pope’s pontificate, and then again every seven years.

They are either round or oval. The lamb depicted upon them usually bears a cross or a flag. It’s not uncommon that images of saints or the name and arms of the consecrating pope are embossed on the reverse. This sacramental may be worn suspended around the neck or preserved as an object of devotion.

Centuries ago, popes would consecrate these sacramentals on Holy Saturday. They were made of the reworked wax from the previous year’s Paschal candles, to which chrism and balsam was added. Later, the Agnus Deis were consecrated on the Wednesday of Easter week and distributed on the Saturday of the same week.

In recent centuries, the task of preparing them was given to monks and nuns who would similarly collect the previous year’s Paschal candles. Cardinals visiting the pope would be given a disk to mark their visit. The cardinals would then in turn place them in their miter—probably because they didn’t have pockets back then. The Cardinals would then distribute the Agnus Deis to those in need of them.

The sacramental is rich in symbolism, mostly from the Old Testament. As in the Paschal candle, the wax symbolizes the virgin flesh of Christ. This is because medieval people believed that the bee was the only animal that reproduced without the benefit of sexual congress—thus, the fruit of their bodies, the wax, was produced “virginally.”

The lamb bearing a cross embossed on the disk is to remind the Christian of the Mosaic sacrifice in which a lamb was offered to God as an expiation of sins. The lamb’s shed blood would then protect Jewish households from the destroying angel (Exodus 12:1-28). Thus, the Agnus Dei emulates and reflects this blessing protecting the bearer from all malign influences. The prayers used in preparing the wax medallions make special mention of protection against storms, pestilence, fire, floods, and the dangers to which women are exposed during pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, several miracles have been attributed to these sacramentals including extinguished fires and stayed floods. In fact, Pope St. Pius V, fearing that the rising Tiber would flood Rome, threw an Agnus Dei into the river which immediately subsided.

In their writings, Popes Urban V, Paul II, Julius III, Sixtus V and Benedict XIV specifically mention some of the special virtues attributed to the Agnus Dei:

  • foster piety, banish tepidity, deliver from temptation, preserve from vice, preserve from eternal ruin and dispose to virtue.
  • cancel venial sins and purify from the stain left by grievous sin after it has been remitted in the Sacrament of Penance.
  • protection against sudden and spiritually unprovided death. (i.e., securing a happy death)
  • banish evil spirits.
  • dispel fears occasioned by evil spirits.
  • protection in combat, and the power to ensure victory.
  • protection against poison
  • protection against the snares of the wicked.
  • protection against false accusations.
  • protection against illness and an efficacious remedy against illnesses.
  • protection against the ravages of pestilence, epidemics and infectious diseases.
  • protection against bouts of epilepsy.
  • protection for mothers and babies against peril and provide for a safe and easy delivery.
  • protection against shipwrecks.
  • protection against lightning and floods.
  • protection against hailstorms, tempests, tornados, lightning and hurricanes which are circumvented or dispelled.
  • that at the sight or touch of the Lamb impressed on these waxen discs, the faithful should be inspired to dwell on the Mysteries of our Redemption recalled by this symbol, be moved to praise, venerate, and extol God’s goodness to us, hoping to obtain pardon for their sins, and to be cleansed from all stain of sin.
  • protection against poison and its effects.
  • through Divine Intervention, protection against the snares, wiles and frauds of Satan which should not prevail.

Like all sacramentals, this object serves to remind us of God and His place in our lives. It reminds us to serve Him and love our neighbor. It’s absolutely not a charm or talisman to bring “good luck” or repel evil, as that would be blasphemy. The medal has no intrinsic “magic ability.” (It should be pointed out that all power in the universe is in God’s hands and doesn’t reside elsewhere. In other words, people who claim to have magic powers are deluded or lying.)

To be clear, the Agnus Dei has no power in and of itself. It is, after all, only so much wax. To act as if it’s magical is sacrilege and assuredly the best way to make sure you don’t receive its spiritual benefits. Rather, its graces and favors are due to our faith in Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer, to the efficacious prayers of the pope who consecrated it (James 5:16) and to the abundant blessings which the Church has bestowed upon those who wear and pray with the sacramental.

This sacramental is highly esteemed by the Church and it’s often given to those who are spiritually afflicted or harassed. Considering their holiness and their inherent rarity, limited to the amount of wax salvaged from the previous year’s Paschal candles collected in the churches of Rome, Agnus Deis were greatly cherished by the faithful and passed down from generation to generation. Apparently, they caused so much fear and consternation among the enemies of the Church that Catholic-bashing Queen Elizabeth I of England outlawed their importation into her realm, calling them “popish trumperies.”

Though the origins of the Agnus Dei are lost to history, it’s most likely a Christian substitute for unenlightened pagan charms and amulets. It’s not impossible to think that the Agnus Dei was meant to ween pagans from their peculiar demons and bring them into the Light of Christ. Thus, instead of believing in sympathetic magic somehow “inherent” in their amulets, they were given the Agnus Dei to save them from themselves. If such is the case, we can comfortably trace the origins of the Agnus Dei back to the fifth century, in which we can say that Rome was finally made a Christian city.

From the time of Amalarius (c. 820) onwards we find frequent mention of the use of Agnus Deis. Popes often gave them as presents to monarchs and other distinguished personages. This first historical mention of this particular sacramental describes them as having been made from the previous year’s Paschal candles. Ennoldius (c. 510) specifically mentions that the fragments of the Paschal candles were used as a protection against tempests and blight.

The earliest examples of an Agnus Dei still in existence come from the reign of Pope Gregory XI (AD 1370).

After the shards of the Paschal candles are harvested from Rome’s churches, melted and poured into forms, they are given to the pope and he dips them in water which had been blessed and mingled with balsam and chrism. At that, the Holy Father prays over them, asking God to impart to all those who are given the Agnus Deis true faith and sincere piety.

Once the cardinal or bishop was given an Agnus Dei, they in turn either gave it as a present to someone or, more likely, broke off small pieces of the wax disk so as to make sure as many people as possible could benefit from it. The small piece of wax was then kept in a locket or other suitable container.

Inexplicably, the practice of consecrating the Agnus Dei sacramental was abandoned following the Second Vatican Council. The last pope to consecrate them was Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958), who created them in 1945 and 1952.

Perhaps, one day, the Church will reinstitute this beautiful custom. Or perhaps she won’t. Either way, we can still be assured of the pope’s prayers for us, his spiritual children—and, of course, the blessings of Christ and His Mother and, indeed, all the angels and saints. As Christians, we don’t believe in magic. In fact, we have something by far better―salvation.

A papal bull had to be issued several centuries ago warning the Faithful not to buy these sacramental—not because of simony, which is a horrible sin in and of itself—but rather because those being sold were most likely forgeries. Do not procure them from the internet, despite the claims people make there.

A prayer for those who carry or wear an Agnus Dei

Jesus, my Savior, true Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, by Thine infinite mercy, I beseech Thee to pardon my iniquities. By Thy sacred Passion, I beseech Thee, preserve me this day from sin and shield me from all evil. To Thine honor and glory, I carry about with me this blessed Agnus Dei as a protection to my soul and body, and as an incentive to practice the virtues which Thou hast inculcated, especially meekness, humility, purity and charity.

In memory of that sacrifice of love which Thou didst offer for me and all mankind on Calvary, I consecrate my whole being to Thee. Thou didst die on the cross for love of me; let me die to self for love of Thee! Keep me in Thy love and Thy grace to the end of my life, that I may bless Thee forever with the saints to Heaven. Amen.

The “Agnus Dei” disc dates to the 5th century and was made from the wax of the Paschal candle.

Sacramentals have been part of the Catholic Church in various ways from the very beginning. They are known as extensions of the seven sacraments and naturally flow from them.

Broadly speaking, sacramentals can be any number of actions or blessings that the Church has instituted over the years. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains how sacramental blessings can be invoked over “persons, meals, objects, and places” (CCC 1671). These blessings call down God’s grace upon a particular individual or object and ask for lasting spiritual protection.

One object of the Church that is among the oldest known sacramentals is the “Agnus Dei” disc. This is a disc of wax with the figure of a lamb impressed upon it. Historically these discs were worn around the neck and were made from the previous year’s Paschal candle. They were originally created on Holy Saturday morning and distributed to the people on the following Saturday.

The tradition dates to around the 5th century, and later the pope was more intimately involved with the sacramental. It became a reserved blessing of the pope, who consecrated these pieces of wax during the first year of his pontificate and every seven years after that. It is believed that Pope Pius XII was the last reigning pontiff to bestow such a blessing.

The sacred wax was a constant reminder of Christ’s Easter victory. According to various papal writings, those who wore it were instructed, “that at the sight or touch of the Lamb impressed on these waxen discs, the faithful should be inspired to dwell on the Mysteries of our Redemption recalled by this symbol, be moved to praise, venerate, and extol God’s goodness to us, hoping to obtain pardon for their sins, and to be cleansed from all stain of sin.”

Below is a prayer for those who wear an Angus Dei sacramental that summarizes the spiritual disposition that the piece of wax was supposed to cultivate in the person wearing it. The prayer can still help us today to meditate on that saving action of the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus and how that event should influence our lives.

My Lord Jesus Christ, the true Lamb who takest away the sins of the world, by thy mercy, which is infinite, pardon my iniquities, and by thy Sacred Passion preserve me this day from all sin and evil. I carry about me this holy Agnus Dei in thy honor, as a preventative against my own weakness, and as an incentive to the practice of that meekness, humility, and innocence which Thou hast taught us. I offer myself up to Thee as an entire oblation, and in memory of that sacrifice of love which Thou didst offer for me on the cross, and in satisfaction for my sins. Accept this oblation, I beseech Thee, O my God, and may it be acceptable to Thee in the odor of sweetness. Amen.

Some historians place the origin of the Agnus Dei as early as the time of the Emperor Constantine, near the beginning of the 4th century. The discovery of the Agnus Dei in the tomb of the pious Empress Maria Augusta is the strongest evidence of the antiquity of it’s introduction among Christians.

The Catholic dictionary placed the beginning of the custom as early as the time of Pope Zosimus, who ascended the throne of Peter in the year 417. When the Pascal candle was finally extinguished on Ascension Day the people were accustomed to procure small portions of what was left of it and carry them home as a protection against tempests. All authors agree that it was from this custom of the people that the Agnus Dei had it’s origin.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Excommunicating the Queen


-Elizabeth Tudor, please click on the image for greater detail.

Although excommunication has a softer tone now, and is interpreted as medicinal, currently, it was not always so.  It was always hoped the impenitent would return to the faith in true sorrow and penance, but if not, for a monarch, especially at the time of Elizabeth I, it absolved all her subjects from allegiance to her and her laws.  It also excommunicated all those who did obey the monarch’s laws and commands.

Excommunication is a great disgrace to Catholics. An excommunicated person was not to be dealt with, as it was believed that they were unchristian and would go to hell. Even until as recently as 1983, shunning was at least on the books, the tolerati, with whom the faithful were allowed some measure of social or business interaction, and the vitandi, literally, “to be avoided”. the faithful were not to associate with them “except in the case of husband and wife, parents, children, servants, subjects”, and in general unless there was some reasonable excusing cause.


-by Steve Weidenkopf


-Mary Tudor

“The day, long feared by Catholics, had arrived. Beloved Queen Mary’s five-year reign ended with her death while she was hearing Mass on November 17, 1558.

The daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon proved a brave ruler, who deemed it God’s will to see the Catholic Faith openly practiced in the kingdom once more. Although her father, in order to be free of his wife, had taken the initial step of controlling the Church in England, the crown did not embrace heretical doctrine until the rule of her half-brother Edward VI (son of Henry and Jane Seymour).

Edward’s reign marked the expunging of the Faith and the use of force and penalties to impose the Protestant heresy on the Catholic people of England. But Edward was a sickly boy and his reign ended after six years. The men at the royal court responsible for implementing Protestant teaching and worship on the people, chief among them Thomas Cranmer, were brought to justice under Mary’s reign.

The Catholic Church flourished during the time of the beloved queen (the later moniker “bloody” associated with her name, applied by Protestant historians, is a travesty of charity) but fear always lurked behind the scenes. The queen was not married when she assumed the throne at the age of thirty-seven, but that was soon remedied with nuptials to Prince Philip of Spain. Sadly, the union produced no heir, which fueled the fear that Mary’s Protestant half-sister Elizabeth Tudor (daughter of King Henry and Anne Boleyn) would assume the throne upon Mary’s death.

English Catholics believed the legitimate heir to the English crown was Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (r. 1542–1567) because of her Catholic faith and relationship to the Tudor line (she was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister). However, political intrigue, not the least of which was the religious revolution in Scotland unleashed by the Protestant revolutionary, John Knox, prevented Mary Stuart from assuming the English throne.

Raised Protestant, Elizabeth spent much of her forty-five years upon the throne violently suppressing the Catholic Faith in England. One of the longest reigning monarchs in English history, Elizabeth is widely known as “Good Queen Bess”—a strong, independent, intelligent “Virgin Queen” who led her people into an era of unprecedented prosperity and represented the strong Protestantism of her people.

This narrative is, as Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc aptly described, “a monstrous scaffolding of poisonous nonsense.” In reality, Elizabeth was a figurehead monarch controlled behind the scenes by powerful men, who had been enriched by the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries under Henry and had an economic incentive to prevent the permanent restoration of the Catholic Faith in England.

English Catholics during the time of Elizabeth suffered greatly under the first state-sanctioned persecution of the Catholic Church since the Roman Empire. The first salvos in a long legislative campaign to eradicate the Catholic faith in England began in 1559, when Elizabeth was declared the Chief Governor of all Spiritual and Ecclesiastical Affairs in England by the Act of Supremacy, which required all clergy and university professors to take an oath of loyalty to her as head of the Church. Refusal to take the oath resulted in confiscation of property, imprisonment, and the possibility of the death penalty.

Another piece of legislation, the Act of Uniformity, restored Protestant worship in England and required every citizen to attend Church of England services; refusal to do so was punished by heavy fines. This legislation also declared it a crime to believe the pope is the head of the Church in England. Other anti-Catholic legislation passed during Elizabeth’s reign included a law that made conversion to the Catholic Faith a treasonous act punishable by death. When Jesuit missionaries arrived in the embattled nation to minister to the underground Church, laws were passed making it a criminal offense (aiding and abetting rebellion) to harbor or assist a Jesuit priest.

The attack on the Church in Elizabethan England required a response, especially if the Faith was to survive, even underground. William Cardinal Allen soon recognized the need for Englishmen to be trained abroad for the priesthood and then sent back to England, so in 1568 he established a seminary across the Channel in Douai (now part of France) known as the English College. Once ordained, the seminary’s graduates would return home clandestinely to care for the persecuted faithful.

One such priest, Cuthbert Mayne (1544–1577), [Ed. a former Anglican priest who had converted to Catholicism] arrived secretly in England on April 24, 1576. He ministered to the underground Church for just over a year until he was arrested on June 8, 1577 and sentenced to death. He was given the opportunity to save his life by recanting his Catholic faith by swearing on a Bible that Elizabeth was the head of the Church. Fr. Mayne took the Bible made the sign of the cross and said, “The Queen never was, nor is, nor ever shall be the head of the Church!” He was executed in the horrific manner of being hanged, drawn, and quartered and was the first of many martyred priests in Elizabethan England.

The popes had watched with great concern the persecution of the Church and supported efforts to minister to the underground Catholics in England. Eventually, one pope believed it was time for a radical response.


-Pope St Pius V, please click on the image for greater detail.

Upon his election to the papacy, Michele Cardinal Ghislieri took the name Pius V. Racked by the Protestant Revolution throughout Europe, the Church needed a vigorous response. Although the Catholic Reformation had begun under his predecessors, it was Pope St. Pius V (r. 1566–1572) who implemented the great Reform and set the Church on the path of restoration and recovery. A holy Dominican and former head of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Rome, Pius was resolute in providing relief to the embattled Catholics in England. Elizabeth had been on the throne for twelve years and the efforts of previous pontiffs working with secular rulers to alleviate the sufferings of English Catholics had proved lacking. So, Pius V decided it was time to excommunicate the queen and call for her overthrow.

On April 27, 1570, Pius promulgated the bull Regnans in Excelsis, in which the “pretended queen of England and the servant of crime” was excommunicated for embracing the “errors of heretics.” The bull outlined the persecution of Catholics under Elizabeth and declared her deposed. All loyalty due her as monarch was revoked. Pius hoped the bull would spark a revolt in England and lead to Elizabeth’s overthrow.

This was not the first time a pontiff had excommunicated a secular ruler and called for a revolution. As with many previous examples, however, this effort failed to achieve its goal and even backfired. It was exploited by Elizabeth and her advisors, chiefly William Cecil (1520–1598), as “proof” that one could not be both Catholic and a loyal Englishman. During the following thirty-three years of Elizabeth’s reign, the Church saw six more pontificates. She continued her bloody persecution of Catholics in England, but the Faith would persevere as a result of the blood of the martyrs.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

The Catholic Echo Chamber

I am praying for relief from the Catholic echo chamber. I first heard it at Donald McGuire‘s sentencing hearing. Although in a prison orange jumpsuit and wheelchair, he began speaking the Catholic tape in his head, and all the Catholic nods starting nodding. Chilling. His family was there. The victims were there whom I sat with. No Jesuits. Telling. I recently heard it on a Word on Fire podcast where the priest and the interviewer just kept nodding at each other. Chilling. I hear it from those who have been institutionalized all their lives, the capacity for independent thought outside the echo chamber is gone forever. Smell like the sheep. In order to smell like the sheep, you have to be one.

It is this echo chamber which allowed the continued abuse of children and it’s cover up. I think Catholics are more dismayed, angry, frustrated, now devoid of faith by the way the Church treated the victims more than the crime itself. The echo chamber is alive and well. Clericalism is not dead. All the old structures which lead to tragedy still exist as they did before. Leading us further into tragedy. The one thing the Catholic Church does NOT do is…Listen.

Love & reform,
Matthew

Scientism

“Versions of scientism have been present in Western thinking for centuries, but our contemporary form has clear roots in the logical positivism of A.J. Ayer and his ideological allies in the Vienna Circle of the 1920s and 1930s. These theorists defended the view that the meaningfulness of a proposition is a function of that proposition’s verifiability or at least falsifiability. That is to say, a claim is meaningful if and only if its truth or falsity can be determined through empirical observation. Thus, the assertions that five hundred people attended a lecture I gave last month or that the earth revolves around the sun are meaningful statements, precisely because observation could either confirm or deny them. Religious propositions, however, such as “God exists,” “God’s will is being realized in this situation,” or “the soul shall live forever,” are not so much false (though Ayer and his colleagues think they are false) but meaningless, no more than expressions of the feelings and hopes of those who articulate them. One accordingly might smile at them or frown at them disapprovingly, but one would never endeavor to argue about them.

Now, problems with this scientistic or positivistic method abound, but the most fundamental difficulty is that the entire program rests squarely upon a contradiction. The principle is that the only meaningful statements are those that can be confirmed through empirical observation and experimentation; and yet, that very principle is not confirmable in such a manner. Where or how does one observe or experimentally verify the assertion that meaningfulness is reducible to that which can be observed through the senses? In point of fact, scientism itself is not scientific but rather philosophical, for it is a rational intuition regarding the epistemological order. Fair enough—but the one thing you are not permitted to accomplish through a philosophical proposal is to exclude philosophical proposals from the category of meaningfulness! Logical positivism, and its contemporary cousin scientism, cut off the branch on which they are sitting; or, to shift the metaphor, they are quite obviously hoisted on their own petard.

A second crucial problem with this proposal is that it stands athwart the practically universal consensus that there are indeed nonscientific paths to knowledge. Who can seriously doubt that philosophy, literature, drama, poetry, painting, and mysticism are not only uplifting and entertaining but also truth-bearing? Hamlet provides no real insight into human psychology and motivation? Dante’s Divine Comedy conveys no truths about politics, art, sin, or religious aspiration? The Waste Land tells us nothing intellectually substantive about the human heart? Plato’s dialogues shed no real light on ethics, justice, and the good life? One would have to be extremely narrow-minded to think so.

I should like to linger with the example of Plato for a moment. The man who effectively founded the discipline of philosophy in the West understood, as did many other sages and mystics of both the East and West, the beguiling quality of what is given to sense experience. What we can see, touch, taste, hear, and experience directly is so immediately and indisputably there that we can remain completely under its spell. Mind you, Plato did not think that the sensible order is unreal. But he did indeed intuit that there are dimensions of reality that are greater, richer, and more abiding. And he further realized that, in order to gain access to that realm, one must go through a sort of intellectual and spiritual training, or if I might state it more bluntly, a discipline by which one is wrenched away from one’s preoccupation with the physical and the sensual. Pierre Hadot pointed out that Plato was proposing not so much a doctrine (though a set of teachings can be distilled from his writings) but rather a bios or an entire way of life,14 something akin to monasticism. The famous dialogues are literary records of the process.

Central to Plato’s discipline was conversation, the asking and answering of questions, designed to tease all the participants into a consciousness of the abiding things that lie behind and beyond immediate experience. The literary device that best delineates this progressive illumination is the allegory of the cave15 found in book seven of the Republic. Everyone who has passed through a Philosophy 101 course undoubtedly remembers the main points of the story. A group of prisoners are chained deep inside a cave, compelled by their bonds to face the wall of the cavern on which flicker shadows cast by puppets, which are manipulated by people whom the prisoners cannot see. One of the captives manages to free himself. He turns around and sees the extraordinarily substantive objects, which are the source of the two-dimensional shades that he had taken to be the whole of reality. In time, he wanders past the puppets and makes his way to the mouth of the cave. Venturing outside, he is first overwhelmed by the brightness of the sunlight, but as his eyes adjust, he sees the people, trees, animals, and objects of which the puppets within the cave, he realizes, are but simulacra. Finally, he catches a fleeting glimpse of the sun, in whose light those splendid things appear.

This compelling little tale—which has been mimicked from Dante’s Divine Comedy to Fahrenheit 451 and The Matrix—is the account of a hero’s journey from limited to unrestricted consciousness, from a preoccupation with the immediate to a consideration of the eternal. The flickering shadows and the insubstantial puppets represent the world of sense experience. What subsists in space and time—what can be verified through the senses—is necessarily fleeting, evanescent. Plants, animals, human beings, subatomic particles, and even the stars and planets all come into being and pass out of being. However, a philosophically disciplined conversation discloses that these passing realities are conditioned by a formal dimension of being, represented by the substantive objects and figures outside the cave. Followed all the way to the end, the philosophical quest conduces toward the knowledge of the absolute source from which even the formal feature of being comes—namely, the Good itself—symbolized by the overwhelming beauty of the sun.

Obviously, the spelling out of this process would take us far beyond the purview of this book and into the full complexity of Plato’s philosophy. But I might give some flavor of the Platonic approach with one simple example. When a person comes to grasp a mathematical truth, say that 2+3=5, she has, in a very real sense, stepped into another world. As mentioned, everything in sense experience is fleeting, and therefore our knowledge of this realm is extremely limited, unsure, and time-conditioned. It is indeed like watching shadows flicker on a wall. But two and three equal five anytime, anywhere, and in any possible world. To see two things juxtaposed with three things so as to form a conglomerate of five is something any animal could do; but to grasp the principle that two and three are five is to enter a qualitatively higher realm of existence and thought. The commonness of the experience—any first grader can have it—should not blind us to the surpassing significance of it. It is like stepping out of a cave into the light. And the mathematical, for Plato, is but the first step on the way toward properly philosophical perception of the structuring elements of reality.

Plato’s best-known pupil, Aristotle, followed the dialogic discipline and came to these deeper perceptions, though he expressed the progress more prosaically than his master. In his mature writings, Aristotle would speak of three different degrees of knowledge: physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. The first studies matter in motion; the second explores numeric and geometrical abstractions; and the third looks into “being as being”—that is to say, the elements that make something not only material or mobile but existent. Aristotle doesn’t despise physics for a moment (in fact, it could be credibly argued that he is the father of the discipline), but he insists that the mind pushes past what physics can deliver. As a young man, he had experienced the intoxication of escaping from the cave, and he had no interest in limiting himself to that narrow space.

All of which brings me back to scientism. I reverence the sciences and I benefit daily from the technologies that they’ve made possible. Moreover, my life has quite literally been saved at least twice by medical interventions that would have been unthinkable before the rise of the modern physical sciences. But even the most advanced, complex, and practically beneficial science is, in Platonic terms, a gazing at shadows on the wall of the cave. It is a useful and beautiful exercise of the mind indeed, but it is a concentration on reality at a relatively low level of intensity. I rarely agree with the well-known atheist Bertrand Russell, but I have always resonated with his comment that mathematics is one of the doors to mysticism and religion. Though he meant that in a reductive and dismissive way, I would affirm its veracity in the Platonic sense: the understanding of a mathematical truth is a first step out of mere sensuality and toward the properly transcendent. The contemporary philosopher Charles Taylor speaks of the “buffered self”16 as one of the marks of our secular, post-religious culture. By this he means a self sealed off from any contact with the transcendent. Scientism is the official philosophy of the buffered self. Blowing some holes in that barrier and letting in some light is a propaedeutic to having a real argument about religion.”

-Barron, Robert. Arguing Religion: A Bishop Speaks at Facebook and Google (pp. 18-26). Word on Fire. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

14 a bios or an entire way of life: See Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, ed. Arnold I. Davidson (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1995).
15 the allegory of the cave: Plato, Republic, trans. G.M.A. Grube, rev. by C.D.C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992), 186-191.
16 the “buffered self”: See Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).

Job 30:20-22

“Why does God give light to one who is in misery,
and life to those whose soul is bitter,
to those who wait for death that does not come,
and search for it
more than for hidden treasures,
who rejoice even to jubilation,
and are exultant when they find the grave?
-Job 30:20-22

“It’s often difficult for those who have never experienced depression to imagine a feeling of utter emptiness, the collapse of the will to live, the devastating loss of self-worth that fills the heart of the person who seeks to live with the heavy burden of depression or mental illness. I remember the early days of illness that transformed my once happy and ambitious dreams into clouds that faded on the horizon, leaving behind the dull grey ache of loneliness and isolation. We are fragile things. God knows how much we need his strength, particularly in times when sadness and grief rob us of the joy of life and the will to live. God is the one, I discovered, who heals the brokenhearted, who wipes away our tears, who binds up our wounds, who helps us fly again. There was simply no way through my pain but to hold my beloved Father’s hand.

The darkness engulfed and suffocated everything…I still prayed even though it seemed useless. But one day Jesus’ message shouted through the weltering gloom that He too had experienced the same darkness on the cross. Those last moments were actually the depth of darkness for Him, feeling even His Father disowned Him. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find life in this inspiration. I couldn’t believe that his situation could touch mine.

Depression was a swirling black hole that sucked me in until I was in well over my head and drowning. The energy needed to fight against it was immense and at times I just let it take over. I was so tired…I don’t know how to feel happy anymore.

I can relate when I hear them. Though my experience of depression has been different, and though each person’s symptoms of depression and struggle to survive are unique, it is not difficult if we’ve suffered with depression to resonate with the story of inner sorrow when someone shares it with us.

What Is Depression?

Depression has been called the “common cold” of mental disorders. Everyone experiences situations or events in their life that make them sad for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. A death, a move, a change of job, graduating from college, or a loss of a pet can be painful and sad, but the feelings are relatively short lived and not permanent. Even positive experiences for some can be followed by a feeling of letdown. Depression, on the other hand, interferes with daily life and causes great distress for you and those around you for an extended period of time. Though depression is a common illness, it is a serious one and should be treated with the same care with which you would handle any other medical condition. Depression affects more than your feelings. It affects your body, mood, thoughts, and the way you feel about yourself. It affects the way you eat and sleep. It influences your perspective on life, on yourself, and regarding others. Sadness is only a small part of depression. In fact, some people with depression do not feel sadness at all. A person with depression may also experience many physical symptoms, such as aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems. Someone with depression may also have trouble with sleeping, [Ed. I have anxiety, too, so I have nightmares that awaken me violently, and so take a PTSD drug] waking up in the morning, and feeling tired.

-Hermes, Kathryn. Surviving Depression, 3rd Edition: A Catholic Approach . Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

I believe, Lord, but let me believe more firmly.
I hope, Lord, but let me hope more surely.
I love, Lord, but let me love more warmly.
I repent, Lord, but let me repent more deeply.
St. Anthony Mary Claret

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice
and my supplications. Because He inclined His ear to me,
therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”
-Ps 116: 1-4

I remember taking communion from a lay minister who came on Sunday to a place where I could be helped, and rather than “Amen”, I said, “Jesus, save me.” The lay minister seemed to approve of that, and from that day on I promised myself in my heart I would always save “Jesus, save me” when taking communion. I still do. Jesus, save me.

I think to truly understand, as it should be understood and appreciated and celebrated, praised, Resurrection/Redemption, we have to die many times in our lives. Resurrection must pass from intellect to the gut, and it is this necessarily repeated process, and grace, which allows it, to be saved. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…on repeat. Even if you don’t believe, or having a tough time doing so, at least have a crucifix, gaze upon Him from time to time in life. Hold it, tightly. I do. Like the fragrance of flowers, grace and faith will come.

If you’ve ever walked into a space where flowers were in abundance, that fragrance can be overpowering, practically knocking you from your feet.

Love & hope,
Matthew

The evil of human suffering

Even in Eastertide…


-by Peter Kreeft, PhD

“Suffering is not like technology or fashions in clothing or architecture. Suffering is like childbirth or sunlight. It is one of the unchanging features of the human condition.

It’s easy to rediscover God in a moment of crisis and lose him again as life regains normalcy. But any piety that depends on circumstances is a house built on sand. Circumstances change, and at death all will change at once by disappearing, leaving each of us with the only two realities we can never escape, to all eternity: ourselves and God. These are the two essential foci of our lives; everything else is circumstance circling around them, like planets orbiting a double star or like the albumen surrounding a double yolk.

Though truth is our mind’s natural food, sin has made it “natural” (or rather, normal) for us to be so unnatural as to lose our appetite for it. And so we forget or ignore God until a large and sudden crisis looms and then forget him again when it passes.

This habit is the opposite of the good habit, or virtue, of piety. Piety moves us to give—first of all to God, then to our parents, ancestors, country, and all in authority over us—the reverence and respect that is due to them. It is a part of justice, and like every virtue, it is an application to a specific area of virtue’s most general rule, the rule of the three R’s: right response to reality.

Our habitual forgetfulness of piety is probably one of the reasons we suffer. It prevents a God who is not only infinitely more good but also infinitely more loving, and not only infinitely more loving but also infinitely more kind and compassionate than we can conceive, from letting us have the settled contentment we crave. We need crises, for we have spiritual sleeping sickness and need frequent alarms. God, therefore, stoops to conquer—stoops to use crude measures like national crises to remind us of our permanent needs and our constant situation.

In fact, suffering and even crisis is our normal situation. The bubble of pain-free and ordered living that we modern Americans think of as our normal state is highly abnormal judged by historical standards. In most cultures throughout human history, people could expect to experience monthly about the same amount of physical pain most of us encounter in a lifetime. Remember, for instance, that anesthetics and pills were invented only about a century ago.

This is probably one of the reasons why people in scientifically advanced cultures tend to be more secular and people in scientifically primitive cultures tend to be more religious: not because religion is based on scientific ignorance or because any scientific discovery has ever disproved a single doctrine of the Christian faith; but because science’s child, technology, has conquered or mitigated so many of life’s pains and limitations that it has put us into this soundproofed bubble that God has to burst just to get our attention. As C.S. Lewis put it, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (The Problem of Pain).

Of course, God no more enjoys using this megaphone than a good human parent does. The fact that he does use it means one of two things: either we need all the pain we get, and it is for our own good and allowed only out of perfect (and perfectly wise) divine love; or else we do not need it and yet Omnipotence allows it—in which case Omnipotence is not Love.

To quote Lewis again, “Is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t” (A Grief Observed).

We might want to add two minor amendments to this argument. First, we might change Lewis’s necessary to good. The tortures of the saintly martyrs were not all strictly necessary for their salvation, but they must have been good for them in the long run, hollowing out hidden places in their souls that in heaven could “contain” more of the light and joy of the beatific vision.

Second, we might interpret Lewis’s use of the word we collectively rather than individually. Not all of my sufferings may be for my good; some may be for others’ good. And when I love those others as myself or more than myself (which I shall surely do in heaven, at least), then I shall rejoice as much or more in this vicarious use of my sufferings as I shall rejoice in whatever personal profits they yield to me. Vicarious atonement, the innocent suffering for the guilty, “my life for yours”: This great mystery lies at the very heart, at the very crux, of Christianity—and of reality, if Christianity is true.

It is a mystery, of course, not a proof. Apologetics can show that it is possible and show us clues in nature and in history that invite us to enter the mystery by a leap of faith. But it is a leap in the light, not a leap in the dark.

The clues abound. All of nature operates by the principle of “my life for yours”—you never ate a hamburger or conceived a baby without it. And all of history and fiction is full of heroic Christ-figures who pluck a string deep in our heart when we hear of them. Who but a fool would call Sidney Carton a fool at the end of A Tale of Two Cities? “It is a far, far better thing I do than ever I have done; it is a far, far better place I go than I have ever been.”

What Can We Know of God’s Character?

The problem of suffering raises two major problems for apologetics: the existence of God and the nature, or character, of God. In Scripture, the first problem never arises. Only “the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). It is the second problem the Bible claims to shed light on—light not obvious, perhaps not even available, to human reason. It is obvious from nature that God is real and intelligent and powerful; it is not obvious to everyone that he is good.

Human history manifests three basic concepts of God’s nature, and the problem of evil—which includes the problem of suffering—is a touchstone that sharply distinguishes them.

On the one hand, there is paganism, with its many gods and goddesses, none of which is all-wise and all-powerful. None of these gods controls all of nature or all of human life because none of them created it. The idea of the creation of the entire universe out of nothing by a single omnipotent God is an idea that has never occurred to any known religion throughout history except that of the Jews (who claim it was revealed by God) and those who learned from the Jews, mainly Christians and Muslims.

Paganism (as I am using the term)—the notion that God is not (or the gods are not) omnipotent—is far from dead. One form of it is “process theology,” which claims that God is in process, in change, is still growing, still evolving, and is not yet powerful enough to conquer all evil.

Another form of paganism is pop psychology (which, judging by the shelves of bookstores, is America’s favorite religion). Paul Vitz says that modern America is the most polytheistic culture in history: It worships not thousands of gods but 260 million.

A religion with a God or gods who are not able to conquer evil can still have some God or gods who want to, who is or are all-good. This allows us to love God, rather like a big brother, but not wholly to trust him to conquer evil. (Rabbi Harold S. Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People is an example of this solution to the problem of suffering.)

A second religious option, more Eastern than Western in origin, is pantheism. The god of pantheism, unlike the god or gods of paganism, does not confront any forces outside himself (or itself) simply because there is nothing outside god. Pan-theism means that everything is god and god is everything. God never created a universe. Pantheism is not only false, it is 15 billion years behind the times: it has not heard the good news of the Big Bang.

Pantheism solves the problem of evil simply and radically: it declares that God is equally present in both good and evil. He has a dark side, like the Force in Star Wars. Vishnu the Creator and Shiva the Destroyer are equal manifestations of Brahman, “the One without a second” in Hinduism. Transposed into biblical terms, this means that Satan is not God’s enemy but part of God himself.

The other form of pantheism says that God is equally absent from both good and evil—that the distinction between good and evil is created by unenlightened human consciousness. In both forms, god is not the God of the Bible, where “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The god of pantheism, like the gods of paganism, is very American. He is nonjudgmental. He does not discriminate between good and evil.

This notion of God allows us to love God only if we are either pop psychologists who have sunk below moral discrimination or mystics who (claim to) have risen above it.

The third notion of God is that of Judeo-Christian-Muslim theism: God is both all-powerful, unlike the gods of paganism, and all-good, unlike the God of pantheism. This notion of God raises the problem of why the righteous suffer to new heights of difficulty. It seems that God either must lack the will to right all wrongs or the power to do so. For if he wants to conquer and eliminate all evil, and if he can do whatever he wants, it seems to follow that there should be no evil.

The evil of sin can be explained by human free will. But what of the evil of suffering, especially unjust, undeserved suffering? If there is God, why is there Job?

There are only two possibilities: either God is wrong or we are. Either these sufferings are not good or they are. Either we do not need them and yet God allows them, in which case he is either wicked or weak or stupid; or we do need them, in which case “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, KJV). All things, even the most horrendous and inexplicable tragedies.

We live by faith, not by sight. If we live by sight, we will probably conclude when tragedy strikes, “So that’s what God is like. Deceive yourself no longer.” If we live by faith, by trust, by “the fear of the Lord [that] is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10), we will conclude that God is the one who knows what is good for us and that we are the ones who don’t, rather than vice versa. (Is that an unreasonable conclusion?)

In Arabic, the word for this attitude of trusting submission of our will to God’s, the word for this thing that is the beginning of wisdom and the essence of piety and the heart of all true religion, is islam.

The history of religions if full of ironies. In the name of the religion that is named after this solution to the problem of unjust suffering, some who call themselves Muslims created a vast new explosion of the problem of unjust suffering. Islam also means “the peace that results from submission.” (It is etymologically akin to the Hebrew shalom. ) It is the peace that comes only from submission to God’s will. This is the “peace the world cannot give.”

T.S. Eliot says that Dante’s line “in his will, our peace” is the single most profound line in all literature. What is ironic now is that in the name of the religion whose very name connotes peace, young Palestinians commit suicide to murder Jews in order to derail the peace process.

God and Evil: Either/Or?

The other apologetic question raise by suffering, the existence of God, is more familiar, and deservedly so because if there is no God then both apologetics and theology are not just changed but eliminated.

Suffering, and evil in general, is the only argument atheists ever point to that seems to refute the existence of God. Other arguments seek to put God in question (e.g., the very concept of God is not meaningful); or claim that God is an unnecessary hypothesis, like the Abominable Snowman; or point out the foibles of theists (e.g., people who believe in God supposedly commit more murders, proportionately, than atheists); or point out the practical disadvantages of theism (e.g., interference with one’s sex life); or show that belief can be explained without God (e.g., Freudian psychology). But there is no other logically persuasive argument that concludes God does not exist from any other premise than the existence of evil.

When Thomas Aquinas wrote his Summa, he found at least three serious objections to every one of the thousands of theses he argued for except the most important, foundational one of all—that God exists. Though he could find dozens of arguments for God’s existence (from which he selected five), he found only two against. One was the problem of evil. The other was the apparent adequacy of the natural and human science to account for all that we experience without God—which does not conclude “therefore there is no God” but only “therefore it is not necessary to suppose that there is a God.”

Aquinas’s formulation of the problem is: “If one of two contraries be infinite, the other is totally destroyed. But ‘God’ means infinite goodness. Therefore if God exists, no evil should be discoverable in the world. But there is evil. Therefore God does not exist.”

The question is answerable: “As Augustine says, God would not allow any evil to exist unless out of it he could draw a greater good. This is part of the wisdom and goodness of God.”

Not only is the argument against God that appeals to the data of evil answerable, but this very same data (evil) that seems to count against God can be used as the premise of an argument for God in at least two ways.

One way is by reflecting on not evil itself but our knowledge of evil. How is it that we can judge a thing to be evil? Unless such judgments are all meaningless or false—unless the terrorist massacre of over three thousand innocent civilians isn’t really evil, and we are merely “judgmental” when we claim that it is—we must have some true knowledge of what is really evil. But this means that we must also have some true knowledge of what is really good. Without knowledge of the standard we cannot judge by that standard.

But the relative goods we know are measured by the standard of the absolute good. Just as eleven is two integers closer to infinity than nine, a saint is closer to ontological perfection than a worm. But nothing in the created world is absolute goodness. Therefore, unless we discount, subjectivize, or relativize all our judgments of good and evil—which is exactly the move the secularist makes to avoid this checkmate—there must be a God.

Another way of using evil to prove God is by noting that we protest evil. We hate evil, even when our pseudo-Christian ideologies tell us to hate nothing. Innately and inescapably, we desire good—all good—and fear evil—all evil. To fear evil is to desire good. But every innate, natural desire corresponds to a real object. We may desire unreal objects, like seeing the Land of Oz or being Superman or witnessing the Red Sox win game seven of a World Series, but we do not desire them innately and thus universally.

We do desire food, drink, sleep, sex, knowledge, beauty, and companionship innately and universally, and all these things exist. We also desire goodness—all kinds of goodness—innately and universally. But we desire goodness without limit. We are not wholly satisfied with finite goodness. We have a lover’s quarrel with the world, no matter how good or beautiful we find the world. In fact, this dissatisfaction with the world arises in us most poignantly when we experience the most, not the least, goodness in this world.

From these two premises that come from our own experience—that every innate desire corresponds to a real object and that we have an innate desire for unlimited good—we logically conclude that infinite goodness exists. But infinite goodness is another term for God. Only God is infinitely good. Therefore God exists.

There is one more argument from evil to God. It is quite eccentric, but it may be a valid argument. (I am not sure.) Let us assume there is no God. If there is no God, there is no Creator. If there is no Creator, there is no act of creation. If there is no act of creation, then the universe, or the sum total of all matter and energy, was not created. If the universe was not created, it was always here. There was no first moment. However many cycles of change, or catastrophic changes, or relatively big bangs there may have been, there was never any Big Bang, no absolutely first event. So there has already been infinite time. If we could take a time machine and journey into the past—which we probably cannot, even in principle, ever do physically, but which we can certainly do mentally—we would never come to an end (i.e., an absolute beginning).

So far, the argument seems logical. But we now add a premise that, while it may be unnecessary, is nevertheless a premise most atheists admit: namely, cosmic evolution. By this I mean not just the evolution of species of plants and animals on this planet by “natural selection” but evolution in the broader sense of progress in order throughout the cosmos.

From relatively undifferentiated matter (“star stuff”) emerge galaxies, solar systems, and life-supporting planets, and on these planets emerge increasingly complex and increasingly conscious forms of life until self-conscious, rational entities appear. Then, within the history of these entities, which we know firsthand on this planet as ourselves, there is further progress from barbarism, ignorance, and animal-like violence to enlightenment and peace.

Most atheists accept both these premises. But if both are true, why have we not yet reached perfection? The history of time is a history of progress, and there has been an infinite amount of time already; so why has progress reached only a finite level? Another way of posing this is: Why is there still evil? According to the atheistic premises, there should be no more evil already. But there is. Therefore one or both of these premises must be false.

Of course the atheist, faced with this argument, will probably modify his second premise, the one about progress, in order to save the first premise, the one about infinite time and no act of creation. So it is not an argument that refutes atheism as such, only “progressive atheism”—that is, atheism plus the idea of progress.

Another move made by the apologist—or rather by God himself in revealing this move, which found its way into the scriptures of all three Abrahamic religions—is to trace suffering back to sin. The story in Genesis 3, however literally or nonliterally it is interpreted, necessarily involves the distinction between these two kinds of evil, physical (suffering) and moral (sin) and connects them causally: We suffer because we sinned.

This we is not individual but collective. It is the human race, it is human nature itself, that must suffer and die, as a necessary, just punishment and inevitable consequence of sin.

The connection between sin and suffering is like the connection between jumping off a cliff and breaking your bones, or like the connection between overeating and obesity. It is not like the connection between not studying and getting an F or like the connection between stealing cookies and getting a spanking. It is a natural, intrinsic, necessary, and inevitable connection, not one set up by an outside authority and therefore revocable.

The reason for the connection between moral evil (sin) and physical evil (suffering) is the connection between the soul (psyche) and the body (soma), the psychosomatic unity. Once the soul declares its independence from God, the body declares its independence.

The soul’s authority over the body is a dependent authority. Its Creator and Designer delegates it. It is like the authority of a knight over his squire: If the knight rebels against the king, his squire is no longer bound to serve the knight.

(Thus the centurion who asks Jesus by the mere word of his command to heal his servant understands the chain of authority and who holds it when he says, “For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one ‘Go,’ and he goes” [Luke 7:8]. His soldiers know that the centurion is transmitting the authority of Caesar, lord of the world. The centurion has authority over his soldiers because he stands under, and submits to, the authority of Caesar. Similarly, Christ has authority over life and death because he transmits, stands under, and submits to the authority of his Father ]John 5:30]. Authority is always exercised through submission, for it is delegated, it is hierarchical.)

The unsolvable mystery of suffering is not why we must suffer, but why I must. The distribution of suffering is the mystery, not the existence of it. There is a general causal connection between sin and suffering, but not a particular one. This was not yet wholly clear in Jesus’ time, for his disciples asked him this question about the man born blind, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). They were surprised when Jesus answered, “Neither.”

Job’s three friends were also convinced that each individual received the sufferings his sins deserved; that is why they were convinced that Job, the greatest of sufferers, was the greatest of sinners. They were astounded when God said he was angry at them for not speaking rightly of him (Job 42:7).

But if God is all-just and all-powerful and all-knowing, it seems he must give each individual what he deserves.

But no. The best man who ever lived was the “Man of Sorrows.” Many Jews simply could not believe Jesus was the Messiah because he was covered with suffering and disgrace. This is a key to Job: As a Christ-figure he suffers not for his own sins but for the sins of others. Job atones for his three “friends” by sacrifice (Job 42:8), as does Christ for us.

In fact, the “righteousness of God,” or “justice of God” that Paul announces as the main theme of Romans (Rom. 1:17), the world’s first systematic Christian theology, is the atonement via the crucifixion. The only man who deserved no pain suffered the most—and this Paul calls God’s “justice.” Sin and suffering are connected, but not individually. Both original sin and vicarious atonement are mysteries of solidarity. For both are mysteries of heredity—the first physical, the second spiritual heredity (via the “new birth”).

Our being as humans is not only social but also familial. We are by essence not only environmental but also hereditary creatures. And heredity cannot be confined to biology and the body; it is spiritual as well, because we are not ghosts in machines or angels in disguise but rational animals with psychosomatic unity. Everything in the fathers is visited upon the children: physical and spiritual, cranial capacity and original sin, or original selfishness, which is observable in any infant.

Our incorporation into Christ is as psychosomatic as our incorporation into Adam. It is not faith alone, but faith and baptism, that makes us his, according to his own words: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). His blood shed for our sins came from Mary, the second Eve. Redemption, like sin, is psychosomatic, spiritual and physical at once. Unless Christ rose physically, he cannot save us spiritually (1 Cor. 15:17).

Such mysteries of solidarity as original sin and baptism are not the neat little nuggets of popular wisdom we expect. Like the history of science, the history of theology is littered with human expectations that reality has rejected and built largely of surprises that reality has revealed and our minds have boggled at.

Christian Wisdom about Suffering

Let us attempt to summarize, in a few propositions, the surprising Christian wisdom about suffering that we find in divine revelation and will not find in the New York Times, in self-help books, on Oprah, or in a consensus of “leading experts.”

1. Suffering is not a biological necessity. We were not created in a state of suffering. We suffer because we sinned, and we die because we sinned. God did not design us for death but for life, and he did not design us for suffering but for joy: the joy of sanctity, the bliss of self-forgetful love.

2. God has intervened miraculously in our history, and even in our very human nature, our essence. In Christ God added human life to himself so that in Christ man might add divine life to himself. This transforms our sufferings, and especially our death, which is the consummation of all our sufferings and losses. It transforms them into a means of salvation and sanctification and glorification. We may now say of suffering what the old hymn “Open Our Eyes” says of death: “Thou hast made death glorious and triumphant, for through its portals we enter into the presence of the living God.”

3. Because Christ entered into our sufferings, suffering is now a way of entering more deeply into Christ. We are never closer to Christ than when we share his cross.

4. This intimacy through suffering, when freely chosen, can bring about something exceedingly strange and wonderful: a deep, strong, and unmistakably authentic joy. To experience even little sprinkles of the joy of the saints is to praise the depth of the divine mercy in allowing us to share this unique and incomparable intimacy with Christ.

The difference between the Creator and the creature is incomparably greater than the difference between suffering and joy. That is why his sufferings are incomparably better than all the world’s joys—not because they are sufferings but because they are his. It is an utterly profitable bargain to accept his cross, because he is on it.

5. Suffering has become redemptive not only for the one who suffers but also for the ones for whom he suffers. Vicarious atonement is a mystery, but not an exception: We can share in it. If we are “in Christ” (that primary mystery of solidarity, of incorporation), we, like him, can offer up our sufferings to the Father—and he uses them. They become seeds, or rainwater, and something beautiful springs up that we seldom see in this life.

If you offer up your sufferings today, in faith, to the Master of the universe, then someone else, perhaps a hundred years and a thousand miles away, will have the strength to live and love and hope—and if not, not. There is no power in the universe greater than suffering love. Love without suffering is like water; suffering without love is like potassium; put them together and you get an explosion. That explosion shattered the chains of hell and opened the gates of heaven two thousand years ago. And it continues.

How does it work? In his movie Hannah and Her Sisters, Woody Allen plays an atheist son of a Jewish family who in an argument asks, “If there is a God, why are there Nazis?” His father replies, “How should I know? I don’t even know how the can opener works.” The wisdom of Job: we don’t know. To quote C. S. Lewis again, ” When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer’…Like ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand’” (A Grief Observed).

We don’t have to understand; we have to trust and obey. To use Lewis again, “Now that I come to think of it, there’s no practical problem before me at all. I know the two great commandments, and I’d better get on with them. . . . What’s left is not a problem about anything I could do. It’s all about weights of feelings and motives and that sort of thing. It’s a problem I’m setting myself. I don’t believe God set it to me at all” (ibid.).

God is less concerned with almost everything else than we are. Our feelings are our tyrants. All the saints tell us our feelings are less important than we think, and warn us not to rest our faith, our hope, our love, or our deeds on them. Surely God is far more compassionate than we are; but he has compassion on us, not on our feelings; on our sufferings, not on our feelings about them.

Our sufferings are, or can be, holy. Our feelings are not. Our choices to love and our deeds of love are holy. Our feelings of love are not. Feelings are indifferent to holiness (which is our end, our destiny, our fulfillment). But suffering is not indifferent to holiness. Suffering is essential to holiness.

In the two thousand years since he entered “the wild weather of his outlying provinces” (as George Macdonald put it) to show us the meaning of suffering, to enact the meaning suffering and of love, nothing essential has changed. Nothing has been added or subtracted from our essential human condition: not the Fall of Rome, not technology, not anesthetics—and not the fall of two tall buildings on 9-11-01.

But one essential change has happened. Christ’s coming and dying and rising has changed everything—or rather the meaning of everything. Especially the meaning of suffering.”

Love,
Matthew

Original sin

“Christians have long counted pride, aka, “the sin of Satan”, as a sin—indeed, the “original sin”, that generates every other and is the vital principle in each. C.S. Lewis speaks for many Christian moralists when he calls pride “the essential vice, the utmost evil.” He asserts that pride “is the complete anti-God state of mind” (Lewis, 1980, pp.121-22)

Pride is also the sin by which Satan fell. St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) wrote, “‘Pride is the commencement of all sin'(1) because it was this which overthrew the devil, from whom arose the origin of sin; and afterwards, when his malice and envy pursued man, who was yet standing in his uprightness, it subverted him in the same way in which he himself fell. For the serpent, in fact, only sought for the door of pride whereby to enter when he said, ‘Ye shall be as gods.'”(2), (also see Gen 3:5)

Pride finds pleasure only in what sets it apart. That is why William May calls pride “the sin of the first person singular, I.” Proud people not only put themselves before others, they separate themselves from others. And, firstly, THE Other.  God is totally transcendent.

We can see, then, that pride is an assertion of the self that is both irreligious and antisocial. The actual form pride takes will vary from
person to person. In general, however, we may say that the “genus” pride appears in three “species”: vanity, conceit, and arrogance.  Pride goeth before THE Fall. (Gen 3)

This sort of self-assertion is incompatible with a true knowledge of God. As C. S. Lewis explains, “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all.” Of course, the proud are ready to admit theoretically that they are nothing before God, but they “are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people.” (Lewis, 1980, p. 124). Be it ever so religious, pride alienates humans from God. Vice decays wherever virtue flourishes. One should attack pride by cultivating humility, not striving to be co-equal with God, not striving to know (as in the biblical “know”, for biblically to “know” the name of something is to have power over it, as in Ex 3:14 “I AM WHO AM”, or as in Adam, whom God gave the power to name God’s other creatures, Gen 2:20, which is why demons are loathe to identify themselves in exorcisms), or desire to know, and therefore define, good from evil, as did Adam and Eve in eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Gen 3:5, as God had forbidden them, Gen 2:16-17. Is pride a “deadly sin”? Yes. Vanity, conceit, and arrogance disrupt and disorder individual lives, families, and communities.

Original sin, the absence of holiness and original justice, by which Adam and Eve enjoyed the preternatural gifts, which included infused science, or knowledge without learning, the gift of integrity allowing his passions to freely follow reason, and the absence of bodily suffering and death, is the fallen state, or condition, of man’s nature owing to an absence of sanctifying grace, the grace that makes the soul pleasing to God and able to live with Him in Heaven, in his soul at conception. It was caused by Adam and Eve’s first personal sin, which involved pride in wanting to be like God and disobedience. Adam, who was created in the state of original justice, immediately lost sanctifying grace by his first sin. All people, being his bodily descendants, are consequently conceived without God’s sanctifying presence in their souls, through no personal, actual fault of their own.

Therefore, mankind is subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence, defects that include a darkened intellect, making learning arduous; a will tainted with malice, inclining it to choose sin; and unruly passions ever ready to rebel against reason. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns man back towards God, but the consequences for man’s nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (cf CCC 405)

You won’t find the phrase “original sin” in the Bible. The story of humanity’s “fall” in Genesis 3 doesn’t use the term, and St. Paul, one of the church’s earliest theologians, only hints at it in places. After the first century the early church fathers started to define it, but those in the East and West took different approaches.

Both groups acknowledged that sin had entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command, but the Eastern fathers did not think guilt for that sin was passed on; rather, human beings in subsequent generations imitated their first ancestors’ misbehavior. The Western fathers, however, believed sin was passed on like a hereditary disease of the soul (thus the emphasis on baptism erasing the inherited “contagion of death,” to use St. Cyprian of Carthage’s phrase).

Saints Irenaeus and Augustine illustrate these two perspectives. For Irenaeus the disobedience of the first parents was rather like the actions of a child who didn’t know better. Augustine, however, thought the first sin had resulted from a very conscious, adult decision that actually damaged human nature and was passed on through procreation.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, (130-202 AD) first alluded to the concept of original sin in the 2nd century in his controversy with certain dualist Gnostics. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, (354-430 AD) also shaped and developed the doctrine, seeing it as based on the New Testament teaching of St Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22) and the Old Testament verse of Psalms 51:5.

But a question remained: Why did the possibility of sin enter the world in the first place? Irenaeus thought the turning away of Adam and Eve from God resulted from their immaturity and weakness. Augustine saw the source in a fatal flaw in human nature: pride. For him pride meant the capacity to exercise free will to choose to try to live without God—to see yourself only in reference to yourself, not to God, and to have a sense of false autonomy that you forget you are created.

Through the Middle Ages and after the Reformation, Catholic theology began to emphasize another aspect of the doctrine of original sin: the absence of “sanctifying grace,” the indwelling spirit that brought the inner harmony.

Augustine’s formulation of original sin after 412 AD was popular among Protestant reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, who equated original sin with concupiscence (or “hurtful desire”, the inclination to sin), affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom to do good. Catholic doctrine holds before the fall of Adam & Eve there existed, in contraposition, a state of Original Justice, in which no concupiscence existed. Before 412 AD, Augustine said that free will was weakened but not destroyed by original sin, the Catholic doctrine. But after 412 AD Augustine proposed that original sin involved a loss of free will except to sin, which the Catholic Church has rejected as doctrine. Modern Augustinian Calvinism, and indeed Protestantism holds this later view. The Jansenist movement, a Catholic heresy, which the Catholic Church declared heretical from 1653, also maintained that original sin destroyed freedom of will.

Love & His salvation,
Matthew

1. Augustine is here quoting from Ecclesiasticus 10:12-13, “The beginning of pride is when one departs from God, and his heart is turned away from his Maker. For pride is the beginning of sin, and he that has it shall pour out abomination…”
2. Philip Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume 5 St. Augustin: Anti-pelagian Writings, chapter 33.

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