Friday, 30 August 2013

Cold Contrition

Sometimes I am tempted to think that I do not have sufficient sorrow for my sins if I do not feel any compunction, if I am not literally moved to tears or nearly so by the mere thought of my failings. But this is a misunderstanding of the nature of contrition, and of the nature of the spiritual life in general. All that is required for contrition, in its essence, is a conviction of the will that what one has done is wrong, and a genuine wish that one had not made such a mistake, and the hope not to fall into it again. But this is all on the part of the will. Nothing is required here on the part of the emotions. This is not to say that contrite emotions are a bad thing; on the contrary, there is nothing wrong with them, and they may even be a good thing. Indeed, they are often a sign whereby one may know that one is truly contrite. But the fact is that such emotions do not in themselves contain the essence of that contrition; rather, it is in the will that such contrition is found.

This is, perhaps, one of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life: to be truly contrite even if one does not feel contrite. This is one particular aspect of the spiritual life as a whole, which very often entails a true spiritual devotion, which is yet devoid of all affective or emotional significance. One may feel cold, empty, and stoic, lacking all experience of the feelings and sentiments which might otherwise be associated with spiritual devotion; and yet one must persevere in that devotion nonetheless. This is the great test of the spiritual life. For it is no great accomplishment to be devout when one feels devout – this is simply human, after all. But to be devout when one does not feel devout is more than human: it is divine. It is then that one is most definitively on the way to sanctity. 

This having been said, simply because it is possible and even necessary for one to be contrite without feeling so does not entail that one may dismiss the lack of these feelings as an altogether light matter. In so doing, one runs the risk of dismissing even the possibility of attaining true contrition. When one is aware that the sentiments and emotions of compunction are not sensibly present in the heart, one should focus one’s attention on attaining true compunction of the will nonetheless, rather than dismiss the matter altogether, as if it were something about which one need not worry in the least. 

Thus, while on the one hand it is not necessarily the case that one lacks true contrition if one lacks the feeling of it, on the other hand neither is it the case that one need not direct all one’s strength and attention to the arousal of true contrition nonetheless. Like all things, virtue is found in the mean between two extremes. In this case, the two extremes are similar to scrupulosity and presumption – both products of pride. Scrupulosity, on the one hand, moves one to an excessive fear that one has no contrition, simply because one cannot feel it; presumption, on the other hand, moves one to entertain a misplaced confidence that one has true contrition when one does not. This presumption is not only an error in virtue, but also in logic, for it is based on the assumption that from 1) “just because one does not feel contrition does not mean one cannot be contrite” it follows that 2) “if one does not feel contrition one is nonetheless still contrite.” While the former is true, the latter cannot follow from it. Presumption supposes that 2) is true simply because 1) is true, whereas in fact one must seek to attain the ideal expressed by 2) and not assume that it is already the case. In other words, the virtuous man, knowing that just because he does not feel contrition does not mean he cannot still be contrite, thereupon seeks to be contrite, rather than assuming that he already is so. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

August 28 - St. Augustine of Hippo

From Fr. Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints.


ST. AUGUSTINE was born in 354, at Tagaste in Africa. He was brought up in the Christian faith, but without receiving baptism. An ambitious school-boy of brilliant talents and violent passions, he early lost both his faith and his innocence. He persisted in his irregular life until he was thirty-two. Being then at Milan professing rhetoric, he tells us that the faith of his childhood had regained possession of his intellect, but that he could not as yet resolve to break the chains of evil habit. One day, a however, stung to the heart by the account of some sudden conversions, be cried out, "The unlearned rise and storm heaven, and we, with all our learning, for lack of heart lie wallowing here." He then withdrew into a garden, when a long and terrible conflict ensued. Suddenly a young fresh voice (he knows not whose) breaks in upon his strife with the words, "Take and read;" and he lights upon the passage beginning, "Walk honestly as in the day." The battle was won. He received baptism, returned home, and gave all to the poor. At Hippo, where he settled, he was consecrated bishop in 395. For thirty-five years he was the centre of ecclesiastical life in Africa, and the Church's mightiest champion against heresy; whilst his writings have been everywhere accepted as one of the principal sources of devotional thought and theological speculation. He died in 430.

Reflection.—Read the lives of the Saints, and you will ill find that you are gradually creating a society about you to which in some measure you will be forced to raise the standard of your daily life.


From Pope Pius XI's encyclical Ad Salutem.

It is eminently befitting the nature and necessity of the case, that Christ Jesus has been and shall continue to be ready to safeguard the Church, which His provident care established for the salvation of the human race. This certainty is warranted by the promise of her Divine Founder, which we read in the Gospel; and it must be clear to evidence from the annals of that Church, on which error has never set a stain, which no falling awayhowever widespread-of her sons has made to waver, which regains her youthful vigor and ceaselessly renews her strength despite the assaults of impious men, even when carried to the most shocking extremes. While our Lord in securing the stability and promoting the growth of His foundation, which belongs to all time, did not limit Himself to a single method nor proceed always in the selfsame way, yet it is noteworthy that in every age He raised up distinguished men, who, by talents and efforts suited to the times and their exigencies, should rejoice the heart of the Christian people, by successively curbing and conquering the "power of darkness." This choice of Divine Providence, when it fell upon Augustine of Tagaste, was marked by a discrimination that was more than ordinarily striking. He was the light set upon the candlestick, he was the vanquisher of every heresy and a guide to eternal salvation for his contemporaries. What is more, he continued to teach and console Christians as age succeeded age. Nay, even in our time we owe it to him in large measure that among believers the truth of Faith maintains its luster, while love for God has not ceased to burn. Indeed, it is a matter of common knowledge that the writings of Augustine, by their exceptional sublimity and charm, cast a spell over many who are at variance with us or who seem utter strangers to the Faith. Hence it is, that since the current year brings in its course with happy auspices the fifteenth centennial anniversary of the death of this peerless Bishop and Doctor, Christians the world over are eager to hold his memory in honor and are preparing to give public proof of their admiration and devotion. Yielding, therefore, to a sense of Our Apostolic office and to the delight that stirs Our soul, while desirous of adding to the chorus of praise, We urge you all, Venerable Brethren, and the clergy and flock of each of you, to join Us in offering special thanks to the Heavenly Father for enriching His Church by means of Augustine with so many matchless blessings-the Saint who profited so much by the Divine gifts lavished on him and turned the current of this wealth upon the Catholics of the world. It beseems us all today not merely to exult that by a miracle, so to speak, was once united to the Mystical Body of Christ a genius so great and lofty, that in the judgment of history his superior can hardly be found anywhere in any age, but rather to steep and nourish ourselves with his learning and copy the model of his holy life.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Popes and Liturgical Development

Historically, the norm by which the Popes regulated the development of the liturgies of the Church was tradition. In general, change was only introduced when the circumstances of the times objectively required it, and there were no complete, wholesale revisions of the liturgy in general. Changes were only ever minor, and they were genuine improvements on what came before. The substance of the liturgical rites was preserved,  in accordance with tradition, but sometimes improved upon, in accordance with the necessities of the changing times. 

The basic principle followed was that of St. Thomas Aquinas, according to which change in law ought only to be introduced when it was necessary to do so. Such a necessity might arise when the previous law in question is shown to have become in some way harmful or deficient by reason of newly arising circumstances. Thus, at all costs, the customary laws are to be retained, and changes only introduced when absolutely necessary. 

This principle is restated by several of the Popes, including Pope Pius VI, who specifically quotes the authority of St. Thomas on this matter, stating that even the Popes strived to introduce change only when it could improve upon the existing discipline in general. Likewise, Pope Gregory XVI states that "that rule must be absolutely observed which states that, except for the most serious reasons and with the Apostolic See, no innovations are to be introduced into the holy rites of the liturgy."

It is important to note that, in regards to the liturgical tradition, it would be quite absurd to claim that the entirety and substance of the liturgy could ever fall subject to the necessity of change. Contingent circumstances could never affect the liturgy to such a vast degree that required the entirety of the tradition to be abandoned. Hence, whenever the necessity arose, it could only ever affect the liturgy in a minor way, thus requiring a change of correspondingly minor extent. The substance of the traditional rites would be preserved. Hence, Pope Pius XII, in speaking of the Ruthenian rite, indicates that the Holy See always safeguarded “everything essential to the rites and ceremonies of the Ruthenian Church,” while at the same time it “allowed or provisionally approved of some minor changes due to the circumstances of the particular times.” Pope Pius soon afterwards quotes the aforementioned words of Gregory XVI as an authority.

Furthermore, Pope Clement VIII writes that the changes introduced to the Roman missal under his authority were of such a nature that improved upon the substance of the traditional rites without abandoning them for something new. “These improvements, however, flowing as it were from the same sources and principles, seem rather to represent and complete the meaning of the rules and rubrics than to introduce anything new.” He writes that the pastoral care of the Papacy is to “preserve in everything the best and old norm.” 

Pope Leo XIII, speaking of the Oriental rites, says that the Church only ever introduced changes into the liturgy which were in harmony with her venerable tradition, thus indicating that tradition ought to be preserved, even by the Popes, in the regulation of liturgical development.

It is evident, then, that the Popes have generally only regulated the development of the liturgy in such a way that sought to preserve the substance of the liturgical traditions, introducing only minor changes when necessity required. 

It is possible to maintain that, throughout the Church’s history, there have been a few Popes who did not always perfectly fulfill their duties in this regard. For example, some traditionalists have criticized the reforms of Leo X and Clement VII, and the composition of the Quignonez Breviary, on the basis that these reforms were contrary to venerable tradition. Some traditionalists have also been critical of the reforms of Pius X and Pius XII and certain others, for the same reason. Whether such criticisms are valid or not, it is nonetheless evident that the principle remains always the same – as Pius XII himself enunciated – namely that changes ought only to be made which are minor and contribute to the authentic improvement of the liturgical tradition. Whether or not Pius XII himself succeeded in remaining faithful to this principle in practice, it is evident that he held it in high esteem, and therefore that it ought still to be held with such esteem. Tradition must be regarded as the norm in liturgical matters, and changes in the liturgy ought to be in harmony with the substance of the tradition. To overthrow nearly an entire tradition of liturgy could never be right.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Garrigou-Lagrange - Providence and Prayer

An excerpt from a chapter in Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange's work here.


When we reflect on the infallibility of God's foreknowledge and the unchangeableness of the decrees of providence, not infrequently a difficulty occurs to the mind. If this infallible providence embraces in its universality every period of time and has foreseen all things, what can be the use of prayer? How is it possible for us to enlighten God by our petitions, to make Him alter His designs, Who has said: "I am the Lord and I change not"? (Mal. 3:6.) Must we conclude that prayer is of no avail, that it comes too late, that whether we pray or not, what is to be will be?

On the contrary, the Gospel tells us: "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Matt. 7:7). A commonplace with unbelievers and especially with the deists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this objection in reality arises from an erroneous view as to the primary source of efficacy in prayer and the purpose for which it is intended. The solution of the objection will show the intimate connection between prayer and providence, since (1) it is founded upon providence, (2) it is a practical recognition of providence, and (3) it co-operates in the workings of providence.

Providence, the primary cause of efficacy in prayer

We sometimes speak as though prayer were a force having the primary cause of its efficacy in ourselves, seeking by way of persuasion to bend God's will to our own; and forthwith the mind is confronted with the difficulty just mentioned, that no one can enlighten God or prevail upon Him to alter His designs.

As clearly shown by St. Augustine and St. Thomas (IIa IIae, q. 83, a. 2), the truth is that prayer is not a force having its primary source in ourselves; it is not an effort of the human soul to bring violence to bear upon God and compel Him to alter the dispositions of His providence. If we do occasionally make use of these expressions, it is by way of metaphor, just a human way of expressing ourselves. In reality, the will of God is absolutely unchangeable, as unchangeable as it is merciful; yet in this very unchangeableness the efficacy of prayer, rightly said, has its source, even as the source of a stream is to be found on the topmost heights of the mountains.

In point of fact, before ever we ourselves decided to have recourse to prayer, it was willed by God. From all eternity God willed it to be one of the most fruitful factors in our spiritual life, a means of obtaining the graces necessary to reach the goal of our life's journey. To conceive of God as not foreseeing and intending from all eternity the prayers we address to Him in time is just as childish as the notion of a God subjecting His will to ours and so altering His designs.

Prayer is not our invention. Those first members of our race, who, like Abel, addressed their supplications to Him, were inspired to do so by God Himself. It was He Who caused it to spring from the hearts of patriarchs and prophets; it is He Who continues to inspire it in souls that engage in prayer. He it is Who through His Son bids us, "Ask, and it shall be given you: seek and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7).

The answer to the objection we have mentioned is in the main quite simple in spite of the mystery of grace it involves. True prayer, prayer offered with the requisite conditions, is infallibly efficacious because God has decreed that it shall be so, and God cannot revoke what He has once decreed.

It is not only what comes to pass that has been foreseen and intended (or at any rate permitted) by a providential decree, but the manner also in which it comes to pass, the causes that bring about the event, the means by which the end is attained.

Providence, for instance, has determined from all eternity that there shall be no harvest without the sowing of seed, no family life without certain virtues, no social life without authority and obedience, no knowledge without mental effort, no interior life without prayer, no redemption without a Redeemer, no salvation without the application of His merits and, in the adult, a sincere desire to obtain that salvation.

In every order, from the lowest to the highest, God has had in view the production of certain effects and has prepared the necessary causes; with certain ends in view He has prepared the means adequate to attain them. For the material harvest He has prepared a material seed, and for the spiritual harvest a spiritual seed, among which must be included prayer.

Prayer, in the spiritual order, is as much a cause destined from all eternity by providence to produce a certain effect, the attainment of the gifts of God necessary for salvation, as heat and electricity in the physical order are causes that from all eternity are destined to produce the effects of our everyday experience.

Hence, far from being opposed to the efficacy of prayer, the unchangeableness of God is the ultimate guaranty of that efficacy. But more than this, prayer must be the act by which we continually acknowledge that we are subject to the Divine governance.

Prayer, an act of worship paid to Providence

The lives of all creatures are but a gift of God, yet only men and Angels can be aware of the fact. Plants and animals receive without knowing that they are receiving. It is the heavenly Father, the Gospel tells us, Who feeds the birds of the air, but they are unaware of it. Man, too, lives by the gifts of God and is able to recognize the fact. If the sensual lose sight of it, that is because in them reason is smothered by passion. If the proud refuse to acknowledge it, the reason is that they are spiritually blinded by pride causing them to judge all things not from the highest of motives but from what is often sheer mediocrity and paltriness.

If we are of sound mind, we are bound to acknowledge with St. Paul that we possess nothing but what we have received: "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" (1 Cor. 4:7.) Existence, health and strength, the light of intelligence, any sustained moral energy we may have, success in our undertakings, where the least trifle might mean failure --- all these are the gifts of Providence. And, transcending reason, faith tells us that the grace necessary for salvation and still more the Holy Ghost Whom our Lord promised are preeminently the gift of God, the gift that Jesus refers to in these words of His to the Samaritan woman, "If thou didst know the gift of God" (John 4:10).

Thus when we ask of God in the spirit of faith to give health to the sick, to enlighten our minds so that we may see our way clearly in difficulties, to give us His grace to resist temptation and persevere in doing good, this prayer of ours is an act of worship paid to Providence.

Mark how our Lord invites us to render this daily homage to Providence, morning and evening, and frequently in the course of the day. Recall to mind how He, after bidding us, "Ask and it shall be given you" (Matt. 7:7), goes on to bring out the goodness of Providence in our regard: "What man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? Or if he shall ask him a fish, will he reach him a serpent? If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father Who is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" (Matt. 7: 7,9-11.) Our Lord's statement carries its own proof. If there is any kindness in a father's heart, does it not come to him from the heart of God or from His love?

Sometimes indeed God might be said to reverse the parts, when through His prevenient actual graces He urges us to pray, to render due homage to His providence and obtain from it what we stand most in need of. Recall, for instance, how our Lord led on the Samaritan woman to pray: "If thou didst know the gift of God and Who He is that saith to thee: Give me to drink: thou perhaps wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water ... springing up into life everlasting" (John 4:10, 4). The Lord entreats us to come to Him; He waits for us patiently, always eager to listen to us.

The Lord is like a father who has already decided to grant some favor to His children, yet prompts them to ask it of Him. Jesus first willed that the Samaritan woman should be converted and then gradually caused her to burst forth in heartfelt prayer; for sanctifying grace is not like a liquid that is poured into an inert vessel; it is a new life, which the adult will receive only if he desires it.

Propers for the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

INTROIT Ps. 83:10-11
O God, our Protector, look, and gaze upon the face of Your Christ. Better indeed is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
Ps. 83:2-3. How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and faints for the courts of the Lord.
V. Glory be . . .

Keep Your Church, O Lord, in Your everlasting mercy. Without Your assistance our human nature is bound to fall, so help us to shun whatever is harmful and guide us towards those things that will aid our salvation. Through our Lord . . .

EPISTLE Gal. 5:16-24
Brethren: Walk in the Spirit: and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh: For these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest: which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury,
Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.

GRADUAL Ps. 117:8-9
It is better to trust in the Lord than to confide in man.
V. It is better to have confidence in the Lord than to rely on princes.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. Ps. 94:1
Come, let us praise the Lord with joy, let us sing joyfully to God our Saviour. Alleluia!

GOSPEL Matt. 6:24-33
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. "Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? "And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to day, and to morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith? "Be not solicitous therefore, saying: What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you."

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp around those who fear him, and shall deliver them. Taste and see how good is the Lord.

O Lord, grant that this offering of the Sacrifice of salvation may take away our sins and appease Your majesty. Through our Lord . . .
"Seek first the kingdom of God, and all other things shall be given you besides," said the Lord.

May Your Sacrament ever cleanse and strengthen us, O God, and lead us to eternal salvation. Through our Lord . . .

Friday, 23 August 2013

Pope Leo XIII on the Necessity of a Christian Way of Life

The following is taken from the encyclical Exeunte Iam Anno.


10. Now the whole essence of a Christian life is to reject the corruption of the world and to oppose constantly any indulgence in it; this is taught in the words and deeds, the laws and institutions, the life and death of Jesus Christ, "the author and finisher of faith."[5] Hence, however strongly We are deterred by the evil disposition of nature and character, it is our duty to run to the "fight proposed to Us,"[6] fortified and armed with the same desire and the same arms as He who, "having joy set before him, endured the cross."[7] Wherefore let men understand this specially, that it is most contrary to Christian duty to follow, in worldly fashion, pleasures of every kind, to be afraid of the hardships attending a virtuous life, and to deny nothing to self that soothes and delights the senses. "They that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences"[8] -- so that it follows that they who are not accustomed to suffering, and who hold not ease and pleasure in contempt belong not to Christ. By the infinite goodness of God man lived again to the hope of an immortal life, from which he had been cut off, but he cannot attain to it if he strives not to walk in the very footsteps of Christ and conform his mind to Christ's by the meditation of Christ's example. Therefore this is not a counsel but a duty, and it is the duty, not of those only who desire a more perfect life, but clearly of every man "always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus."[9] How otherwise could the natural law, commanding man to live virtuously, be kept? For by holy baptism the sin which we contracted at birth is destroyed, but the evil and tortuous roots of sin, which sin has engrafted, and by no means removed. This part of man which is without reason -- although it cannot beat those who fight manfully by Christ's grace -- nevertheless struggles with reason for supremacy, clouds the whole soul and tyrannically bends the will from virtue with such power that we cannot escape vice or do our duty except by a daily struggle. "This holy synod teaches that in the baptized there remains concupiscence or an inclination to evil, which, being left to be fought against, cannot hurt those who do not consent to it, and manfully fight against it by the grace of Jesus Christ; for he is not crowned who does not strive lawfully."[10] There is in this struggle a degree of strength to which only a very perfect virtue, belonging to those who, by putting to flight evil passions, has gained so high a place as to seem almost to live a heavenly life on earth. Granted; grant that few attain such excellence; even the philosophy of the ancients taught that every man should restrain his evil desires, and still more and with greater care those who from daily contact with the world have the greater temptations -- unless it be foolishly thought that where the danger is greater watchfulness is less needed, or that they who are more grievously ill need fewer medicines. 

11. But the toil which is borne in this conflict is compensated by great blessings, beyond and above heavenly and eternal rewards, particularly in this way, that by calming the passions nature is largely restored to its pristine dignity. For man has been born under this law, that the mind should rule the body, that the appetites should be restrained by sound sense and reason; and hence it follows that putting a curb upon our masterful passions is the noblest and greatest freedom. Moreover, in the present state of society it is difficult to see what man could be expected to do without such a disposition. Will he be inclined to do well who has been accustomed to guide his actions by self-love alone? No man can be high-souled, kind, merciful, or restrained, who has not learnt selfconquest and a contempt for this world when opposed to virtue. And yet it must be said that it seems to have been pre-determined by the counsel of God that there should be no salvation to men without strife and pain. Truly, though God has given to man pardon for sin, He gave it under the condition that His only begotten Son should pay the due penalty; and although Jesus Christ might have satisfied divine justice in other ways, nevertheless He preferred to satisfy by the utmost suffering and the sacrifice of His life. Thus he has imposed upon His followers this law, signed in His blood, that their life should be an endless strife with the vices of the age. What made the apostles invincible in their mission of teaching truth to the world; what strengthened the martyrs innumerable in their bloody testimony to the Christian faith, but the readiness of their soul to obey fearlessly His laws? And all who have taken heed to live a Christian life and seek virtue have trodden the same path; therefore We must walk in this way if We desire either Our own salvation or that of others. Thus it becomes necessary for every one to guard manfully against the allurements of luxury, and since on every side there is so much ostentation in the enjoyment of wealth, the soul must be fortified against the dangerous snares of riches lest straining after what are called the good things of life, which cannot satisfy and soon fade away, the soul should lose "the treasure in heaven which faileth not." Finally, this is matter of deep grief, that free-thought and evil example have so evil an influence in enervating the soul, that many are now almost ashamed of the name of Christian -- a shame which is the sign either of abandoned wickedness or the extreme of cowardice; each detestable and each of the highest injury to man. For what salvation remains for such men, or on what hope can they rely, if they cease to glory in the name of Jesus Christ, if they openly and constantly refuse to mold their lives on the precepts of the gospel? It is the common complaint that the age is barren of brave men. Bring back a Christian code of life, and thereby the minds of men will regain their firmness and constancy. But man's power by itself is not equal to the responsibility of so many duties. As We must ask God for daily bread for the sustenance of the body, so must We pray to Him for strength of soul for its nourishment in virtue. Hence that universal condition and law of life, which We have said is a perpetual battle, brings with it the necessity of prayer to God. For, as is well and wisely said by St. Augustine, pious prayer flies over the world's barriers and calls down the mercy of God from heaven. In order to conquer the emotions of lust, and the snares of the devil, lest we should be led into evil, we are commanded to seek the divine help in the words, "pray that ye enter not into temptation."[11] How much more is this necessary, if we wish to labor for the salvation of others? Christ our Lord, the only begotten Son of God, the source of all grace and virtue, first showed by example what he taught in word: "He passed the whole night in the prayer of God,"[12] and when nigh to the sacrifice of his life, "He prayed the longer."[13]

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

August 21 - Memorial of Pope St. Pius X

The following is a passage from Pope St. Pius X's encyclical E Supremi on the "Restoration of all Things in Christ." Here he speaks with a prophetic voice of the "substitution of man for God," which bears an eerie similarity to the "cult of man" which has so influenced the world and the Church today. St. Pius X, pray for us!


4...We proclaim that We have no other program in the Supreme Pontificate but that "of restoring all things in Christ" (Ephes. i., 10), so that "Christ may be all and in all" (Coloss. iii., 2). Some will certainly be found who, measuring Divine things by human standards will seek to discover secret aims of Ours, distorting them to an earthly scope and to partisan designs. To eliminate all vain delusions for such, We say to them with emphasis that We do not wish to be, and with the Divine assistance never shall be aught before human society but the Minister of God, of whose authority We are the depositary. The interests of God shall be Our interest, and for these We are resolved to spend all Our strength and Our very life. Hence, should anyone ask Us for a symbol as the expression of Our will, We will give this and no other: "To renew all things in Christ." In undertaking this glorious task, We are greatly quickened by the certainty that We shall have all of you, Venerable Brethren, as generous co-operators. Did We doubt it We should have to regard you, unjustly, as either unconscious or heedless of that sacrilegious war which is now, almost everywhere, stirred up and fomented against God. For in truth, "The nations have raged and the peoples imagined vain things" (Ps. ii., 1.) against their Creator, so frequent is the cry of the enemies of God: "Depart from us" (Job. xxi., 14). And as might be expected we find extinguished among the majority of men all respect for the Eternal God, and no regard paid in the manifestations of public and private life to the Supreme Will -- nay, every effort and every artifice is used to destroy utterly the memory and the knowledge of God.

5. When all this is considered there is good reason to fear lest this great perversity may be as it were a foretaste, and perhaps the beginning of those evils which are reserved for the last days; and that there may be already in the world the "Son of Perdition" of whom the Apostle speaks (II. Thess. ii., 3). Such, in truth, is the audacity and the wrath employed everywhere in persecuting religion, in combating the dogmas of the faith, in brazen effort to uproot and destroy all relations between man and the Divinity! While, on the other hand, and this according to the same apostle is the distinguishing mark of Antichrist, man has with infinite temerity put himself in the place of God, raising himself above all that is called God; in such wise that although he cannot utterly extinguish in himself all knowledge of God, he has contemned God's majesty and, as it were, made of the universe a temple wherein he himself is to be adored. "He sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God" (II. Thess. ii., 2).

6. Verily no one of sound mind can doubt the issue of this contest between man and the Most High. Man, abusing his liberty, can violate the right and the majesty of the Creator of the Universe; but the victory will ever be with God -- nay, defeat is at hand at the moment when man, under the delusion of his triumph, rises up with most audacity. Of this we are assured in the holy books by God Himself. Unmindful, as it were, of His strength and greatness, He "overlooks the sins of men" (Wisd. xi., 24), but swiftly, after these apparent retreats, "awaked like a mighty man that hath been surfeited with wine" (Ps. Ixxvii., 65), "He shall break the heads of his enemies" (Ps. Ixvii., 22), that all may know "that God is the king of all the earth" (Ib. Ixvi., 8), "that the Gentiles may know themselves to be men' (Ib. ix., 20).

7. All this, Venerable Brethren, We believe and expect with unshakable faith. But this does not prevent us also, according to the measure given to each, from exerting ourselves to hasten the work of God -- and not merely by praying assiduously: "Arise, O Lord, let not man be strengthened" (Ib. ix., 19), but, more important still, by affirming both by word and deed and in the light of day, God's supreme dominion over man and all things, so that His right to command and His authority may be fully realized and respected. This is imposed upon us not only as a natural duty, but by our common interest. For, Venerable Brethren, who can avoid being appalled and afflicted when he beholds, in the midst of a progress in civilization which is justly extolled, the greater part of mankind fighting among themselves so savagely as to make it seem as though strife were universal? The desire for peace is certainly harbored in every breast, and there is no one who does not ardently invoke it. But to want peace without God is an absurdity, seeing that where God is absent thence too justice flies, and when justice is taken away it is vain to cherish the hope of peace. "Peace is the work of justice" (Is. xxii., 17). There are many, We are well aware, who, in their yearning for peace, that is for the tranquillity of order, band themselves into societies and parties, which they style parties of order. Hope and labor lost. For there is but one party of order capable of restoring peace in the midst of all this turmoil, and that is the party of God. It is this party, therefore, that we must advance, and to it attract as many as possible, if we are really urged by the love of peace.

8. But, Venerable Brethren, we shall never, however much we exert ourselves, succeed in calling men back to the majesty and empire of God, except by means of Jesus Christ. "No one," the Apostle admonishes us, "can lay other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ." (I. Cor., iii., II.) It is Christ alone "whom the Father sanctified and sent into this world" (Is. x., 36), "the splendor of the Father and the image of His substance" (Hebr. i., 3), true God and true man: without whom nobody can know God with the knowledge for salvation, "neither doth anyone know the Father but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him." (Matth. xi., 27.) Hence it follows that to restore all things in Christ and to lead men back to submission to God is one and the same aim. To this, then, it behoves Us to devote Our care -- to lead back mankind under the dominion of Christ; this done, We shall have brought it back to God. When We say to God We do not mean to that inert being heedless of all things human which the dream of materialists has imagined, but to the true and living God, one in nature, triple in person, Creator of the world, most wise Ordainer of all things, Lawgiver most just, who punishes the wicked and has reward in store for virtue.

9. Now the way to reach Christ is not hard to find: it is the Church. Rightly does Chrysostom inculcate: "The Church is thy hope, the Church is thy salvation, the Church is thy refuge." ("Hom. de capto Euthropio," n. 6.) It was for this that Christ founded it, gaining it at the price of His blood, and made it the depositary of His doctrine and His laws, bestowing upon it at the same time an inexhaustible treasury of graces for the sanctification and salvation of men.

You see, then, Venerable Brethren, the duty that has been imposed alike upon Us and upon you of bringing back to the discipline of the Church human society, now estranged from the wisdom of Christ; the Church will then subject it to Christ, and Christ to God. If We, through the goodness of God Himself, bring this task to a happy issue, We shall be rejoiced to see evil giving place to good, and hear, for our gladness, " a loud voice from heaven saying: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ." (Apoc. xii., 10.) But if our desire to obtain this is to be fulfilled, we must use every means and exert all our energy to bring about the utter disappearance of the enormous and detestable wickedness, so characteristic of our time -- the substitution of man for God; this done, it remains to restore to their ancient place of honor the most holy laws and counsels of the gospel; to proclaim aloud the truths taught by the Church, and her teachings on the sanctity of marriage, on the education and discipline of youth, on the possession and use of property, the duties that men owe to those who rule the State; and lastly to restore equilibrium between the different classes of society according to Christian precept and custom. This is what We, in submitting Ourselves to the manifestations of the Divine will, purpose to aim at during Our Pontificate, and We will use all our industry to attain it. It is for you, Venerable Brethren, to second Our efforts by your holiness, knowledge and experience and above all by your zeal for the glory of God, with no other aim than that Christ may be formed in all.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Thomas Aquinas College

I am just about to begin my freshman year at Thomas Aquinas College in Southern CA. TAC (as it is often called) offers possibly the best Catholic higher-education in the country, to date, or one of the best. As its name indicates, the patron of the school is St. Thomas Aquinas, a personal hero of mine, and the greatest theologian/philosopher whom the Church has ever produced. TAC grounds its students solidly in the thought of St. Thomas, not by way of forcing it on them, but by training their minds to think rationally and logically so as to arrive at the truth; and for this, St. Thomas is used as a guide. Naturally, then, the school is committed to giving an education which is informed by the teaching of the Catholic Church. But the way in which it teaches the Catholic faith to its students is very excellent, in that it trains the minds of the students to arrive at the truth by their own efforts. The excellence in this is that the student is allowed to see the beauty of truth, particularly of the Catholic faith, more freely. 

Which brings me, of course, to the other - though not at all unrelated - aspect of this education: it is a freeing education, a liberal (in the sense of liberating) education. Freedom, contrary to popular belief, is not without its limits. In fact, true human freedom can only be achieved if their are limits. Truth is one such limit. One of my favorite analogies is one which likens truth to light: without it, one cannot see. But if one cannot see, one cannot direct oneself along one's path - i.e. one would not be free. There is another useful analogy that may be employed here - I think it comes from Chesterton: truth is like a wall along a border, atop a great mountain. To pass beyond the border would result in one plunging to one's death; hence, one is forced to linger far from this border, but nearer the center of the mountain. Whereas when there is a wall - which is a definite limit - placed at that border, one will be free not only to venture nearer the border, but even to climb upon and leap from the walls themselves! Thus, truth is absolutely necessary in order for one to be free. This is precisely what is meant by the words of Jesus when he says "the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32). And it is precisely this which Thomas Aquinas College seeks to achieve in the education which it offers its students. At TAC, the definite goal is the attainment of the truth, both in matters pertaining to reason and those pertaining to faith. This attainment of the truth is what liberates the student. Furthermore, the training at TAC prepares one to go into the world and embark upon a continual quest for truth, and thus a continual process of liberation.

In addition to the excellent education provided at this school, there are also the excellent opportunities for progress in the spiritual life. One of my absolute favorite things about this school is the fact that it offers the Tridentine rite of the mass every day, in addition to the Novus Ordo, celebrated in a magnificent and beautiful chapel. Moreover, there are several priests always available for confessions and spiritual direction. Likewise the people on campus, both tutors and students, are for the most part very devout Catholics, providing an excellent atmosphere and culture, overall, in which one may grow spiritually, as well as intellectually. I consider myself unworthily blessed to be able to attend Thomas Aquinas College, and I hope and pray that I will be able to exert myself enough to profit well from the benefits offered there. Sancte Thoma de Aquino, ora pro me!

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Many Voices of Sacred Tradition

In Catholic theology, the Sacred Tradition has been understood to be manifested in and transmitted by many different sources. By what is contained in these sources, we can know what is contained in the Sacred Tradition itself, and thus what it is that pertains to the Catholic faith and everything annexed to it. From these sources we learn what it is we must believe and what it is we must do. Now, Tradition in the Church can be understood in two different senses: there is a broad sense of tradition and a strict sense. The former contains simply everything that has been handed down in the Church, including the Scriptures, while the latter is confined to what has been passed down in sources other than Sacred Scripture. 

1. The Magisterium. The Magisterium of the Church is perhaps the most important source for our knowledge of Tradition. Often, there is a distinction made between the remote and the proximate rule of faith. The remote rule of faith is said to be constituted of Scripture and Tradition, while the proximate rule of faith is the Magisterium of the Church. Normally, however, this distinction need not be made, since Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium ought to come together in such a way that forms one coherent rule of faith. Hence, normally, the Magisterium ought to be trusted as the authentic organ of Tradition; and this trust ought to be complete and unreserved as regards the infallible teachings of the Magisterium. But this distinction between the remote and proximate rule of faith becomes useful when we consider that it is possible for the Magisterium - when it does not speak infallibly - to deviate from the rules set forth by Scripture and Tradition. Otherwise, however, the remote and proximate rules of faith ought to come together as one coherent rule. Anyhow, we find the teachings of the Magisterium in all the great encyclicals and other documents of the Popes down through the ages, as well as in the Ecumenical Councils. Tradition is represented by the magnificent continuity which exists between these sources. We distinguish between the extraordinary and the ordinary, universal Magisterium:
a. The Extraordinary Magisterium. This is when the Pope or an Ecumenical Council makes a formal, solemn statement of doctrine. A statement of this kind is infallible when it is explicitly and irrevocably defined, with supreme authority, and pronounced binding in conscience on all the faithful. 
b. The Ordinary, Universal Magisterium.  This is found in the day-to-day teaching of the Church, such as in many of the Papal encyclicals and other letters and documents and preaching. Statements of this kind can also be infallible if it is clear that they are intended to be irrevocable and definitive, and if it is clear that no Catholic may in good conscience depart from them. 
It is important that even when the Magisterium does not necessarily fulfill the conditions of infallibility in a particular teaching, nonetheless we owe such a teaching the natural assent of our mind and will, insofar as this teaching represents the traditional opinion of the Church.

2. The Creeds of the Church. The creeds of the Church are essentially verbal professions of the faith which have been formulated and promulgated by the Church at various points in history. Notable among these creeds are the following:
a. The Apostles Creed. - A basic summary of all the truths of faith, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption, the Church, Eternal Life, etc. 
b. The Nicene Creed. - Similar to the Apostles Creed in content and form, but with more depth and length. 
c. The Athanasian Creed. - A powerful exposition of the truths concerning the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the necessity of Faith for Salvation. 
d. The Chalcedonian Creed. - A summary of Catholic teaching on the Incarnation and the Hypostatic union. 
e. The Tridentine Creed. - Contains the Nicene Creed, but continues with several other essential aspects of Christian faith and duty. (This creed was slightly modified at the First Vatican Council, so as to incorporate some of its teachings.)
These creeds are infallible statements of the Catholic faith, and are therefore binding upon all Catholics. 

3. The Fathers of the Church. Whenever the Fathers of the Church are in agreement on a particular point relating to doctrine or morality, this is held to be an authoritative source of the Church's teaching. The individual fathers are also authoritative each by themselves (especially St. Augustine), although their authority is greatest and most definitive when they are all in agreement. The Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council condemn all those who interpret the scriptures in such a way that is contrary to the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers. 

4. The Doctors of the Church. Thus far, there are 35 officially proclaimed Doctors of the Church. These learned and saintly writers are esteemed in the Church as having contributed to the Church's knowledge of the faith to a substantial degree. Among the greatest of the doctors of the Church is St. Thomas Aquinas, often called the Angelic Doctor or the Common Doctor. The teachings of St. Thomas have repeatedly been commended by the Church to the faithful as a sure and reliable norm for instruction in the faith, more so than any other writer in the Church.

5. The Saints and Spiritual Writers. Throughout the history of the Church, many of the saints and other devout Catholics of note have bequeathed to us written testimonies to the sublime truths of God. There are countless sources which give us insight into how God has worked in the lives of holy men and women, and how these same people have lived out the faith in practice. These sources has come down to us and have perfected our knowledge of the faith and of how to live it. For example, the writings of St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux, Thomas Kempis, and countless others. It is in large part thanks to these individuals of extraordinary virtue and holiness that we have coherent systems of Christian spirituality.

6. The Theologians of the Church. During the Middle-ages, a tradition was born (founded, of course, in the Tradition of the Apostles and the Fathers), in which many men of eminent learning came together and formed schools of Catholic thought. These were the Scholastics, foremost among whom was the great St. Thomas Aquinas (the "Prince" of the Scholastics), mentioned above. Following in the line of this tradition came many other great scholars and theologians, down to the twentieth century (unfortunately it seems that there are few of them today). 

7. The Liturgy of the Church. Pope Celestine I was the first Pope to enunciate the principle Legem credendi statuit lex orandi - the rule of belief is indicated by the rule of prayer. As such, the prayer of the Church constitutes a source of knowledge about what the Church believes. This is only reasonable, since prayer, especially that prayer which is at the very heart of the Church's activity, ought to embody the doctrines of the faith in such a way that gives glory to God and is conducive to a the edification and greater devotion of souls.

8. Christian Art, Architecture, and Music. Some of the greatest testimonies to Tradition are found in the art and architecture of the Church. Christian art is found everywhere from the Catacombs of Rome to the great Churches and Cathedrals. These monuments depict in various ways and with very great beauty the mysteries of faith and Christian piety, and have been bestowed upon us for our edification. Countless statues, images, icons, other paintings, and the magnificent architecture of the Churches, offer us an aid in the raising of our hearts and minds to God, in contemplation of the sacred truths which He has revealed. Likewise, the many musical compositions which have been composed for the enhancement of Catholic worship - such as Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony, etc. - are themselves a testimony to Tradition.

9. The Sensus Catholicus. By this is understood the constant and unanimous belief and observance of the faithful. Whatever is held everywhere and always by the faithful of the Church, as opposed to only by the few and in a short period, is held to be true. Thus, whatever doctrine enjoys the common and constant consent of Catholics is an authentic part of Tradition, and therefore not to be denied or rejected. This standard constitutes a kind of general rule by which we might know what is the doctrine of the Church.

The rejection of or departure from any one of these monuments is considered by the Church to be an act of impiety, meriting severe censure. Hence, the Second Council of Nicea declared: 
Therefore, all those who dare to think or teach anything different, or who follow the accursed heretics in rejecting ecclesiastical traditions, or who devise innovations, or who spurn anything entrusted to the church (whether it be the gospel or the figure of the cross or any example of representational art or any martyr's holy relic), or who fabricate perverted and evil prejudices against cherishing any of the lawful traditions of the catholic church, or who secularize the sacred objects and saintly monasteries, we order that they be suspended if they are bishops or clerics, and excommunicated if they are monks or lay people... If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the church, let him be anathema.
Although these monuments of themselves do not necessarily constitute parts of the Divine Tradition itself, nonetheless by virtue of their inseparable connection to this Divine Tradition, they too deserve the highest respect and veneration. As sources of our knowledge of the Divine Tradition, they ought themselves to be guarded, protected, and preserved. Tradition thus applies to these objects and sources as well, as a pattern and a rule in the observance and interpretation of them.

Thus, for example, they are gravely mistaken who depart from the concepts and formulas used by the Scholastics in the teaching and exposition of Catholic doctrine. This is all the more true for those formulas which have been used by the Church herself in the formal definition of dogmas and the teaching of other doctrines. Moreover, to abandon the traditional principles employed in the production of the arts of the Church would likewise be the height of insanity. To live in a way that is at odds with the spirituality of the saints is bound to be detrimental, rather than conducive, to sanctity and salvation. Likewise, the rejection or overthrow of a traditional practice or doctrine held by the faithful would generally be a serious error, even if not strictly heretical. And of course, to abandon the traditional liturgy of the Church, from which so much knowledge has been gained in the pursuit of Divine truths, would itself be a grave mistake. And so forth. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Propers for the Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

INTROIT Ps. 73:20, 19, 23
Advert to Your covenant, O Lord, and forget not forever the lives of the poor. Arise, O Lord, defend Your own cause; and be not unmindful of the cries of those who seek You.
Ps. 73:1. O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why is Your anger blazing up against the sheep of Your pasture?
V. Glory be . . .

 Almighty and Eternal God, deepen our faith, our hope and our charity, so that we may attain what You have promised and love what You have commanded. Through our Lord . . .

EPISTLE Gal. 3:16-22
Brethren: To Abraham were the promises made and to his seed. He saith not: And to his seeds as of many. But as of one: And to thy seed, which is Christ. Now this I say: that the testament which was confirmed by God, the law which was made after four hundred and thirty years doth not disannul, to make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise. But God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Why then was the law? It was set because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom he made the promise, being ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not of one: but God is one. Was the law then against the promises of God: God forbid! For if there had been a law given which could give life, verily justice should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise, by the faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe.

GRADUAL Ps. 73:20, 19, 22
Advert to Your covenant, O Lord, and forget not forever the lives of the poor.
V. Arise, O Lord, and defend Your own cause; remember the abuse hurled against Your servants.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. Ps. 89:1
O Lord, You have been our refuge through all generations. Alleluia!

GOSPEL Luke 17:11-19
At that time, as Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off. And lifted up their voice, saying: "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." Whom when he saw, he said: "Go, shew yourselves to the priests."
And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God. And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks. And this was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering, said: "Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger?"And he said to him: "Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole."

I have hoped in You, O Lord. I have said, "You are my God; my life is in Your hands."

O Lord, look with favor upon Your people and their gifts. Let this offering move You to compassion and grant forgiveness for our sins and a speedy answer to our prayers. Through our Lord . . .

You have given us Bread from Heaven, o Lord, all delicate and sweet to taste.

O Lord, may the reception of Your Sacrament bring us ever nearer to our eternal redemption. Through our Lord . . .

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Tradition in the Liturgy: Vehicle of the Divine

The liturgy is, as it were, a vehicle of the Divine. Even if the tradition of the liturgy does not itself belong to the Divine Tradition which is part of the Deposit of Faith, nonetheless it is a vehicle by which that Divine Tradition is transmitted. Thus, although it is indeed something which is by nature more subject to change than the Divine Tradition of faith, nonetheless, in light of the fact that this same liturgical tradition is primarily a vehicle of that very same Divine Tradition, it ought therefore to conform itself to the nature of that Divine Tradition to the greatest extent possible. Alcuin Reid insightfully points out in his book on organic development that this is analogous to the Incarnation itself, in which the Divine Second Person of the Trinity, by nature unchangeable, took on the nature of man, who is a changeable creature. And yet the man, Jesus Christ, because He was also God, was conformed in His humanity to His Divinity to such an extent that change only occurred in those natural elements of human nature in which change is necessary. Thus, the child Jesus grew into the man; but always that same person was the unchangeable God, and the moral, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of His human nature were conformed completely and without exception to the immutable Divine Nature. Likewise, the liturgy is a kind of Incarnation, in which the immutable truths of God take form in the changeable and contingent practices of the liturgy. And yet this liturgy, because it is the vehicle of the Divine, ought to be conformed in the highest degree to the immutable nature of the Divine truths which it transmits, such that any change that occurs in its tradition ought to be natural, organic - like the growth of a lving child into a man, and yet the person all throughout remains not only the same person, but the same Divine Person. Thus, the liturgy of the Church belongs eminently to the realm of tradition. Tradition is the rule according to which the liturgy must be regulated.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

August 15 - The Assumption of Mary

The dogmatic definition of the Assumption, from Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus.


[A]fter we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith...

...It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Garrigou-Lagrange - On Spiritual Sloth

Source: The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life

Part II, Chapter 29
The Healing of Spiritual Sloth, or Acedia

Among the capital sins, there is one, spiritual sloth, called also acedia, which is directly opposed to the love of God and to the joy that results from generosity in His service. We must discuss it in order to complete what we have said about the active purification of the will and to note exactly the grave confusions made by the quietists on this point.

We shall see, first of all, the general nature of spiritual sloth, then the gravity of this evil and the way to cure it.(1)


Sloth in general, pigritia, is a voluntary and culpable repugnance to work, to effort, and consequently a tendency to idleness, or at least to negligence, to pusillanimity,(2) which is opposed to generosity or magnanimity.

Sloth is not the languor or torpor in action which comes from poor health; it is an evil disposition of the will and of the sensible appetites, by which one fears and refuses effort, wishes to avoid all trouble, and seeks a dolce farniente. It has often been remarked that the slothful man is a parasite, who lives at the expense of others, as tranquil as a woodchuck when he is undisturbed in his idleness, and ill-humored when an effort is made to oblige him to work. This vice begins with unconcern and negligence in work, and manifests itself by a progressive dislike for all serious, physical and mental labor.

When idleness affects the accomplishment of the religious duties necessary to sanctification, it is called acedia.(3) It is an evil sadness: opposed to spiritual joy, which is the fruit of generosity in the love of God. Acedia is a disgust for spiritual things, a disgust which leads one to perform them negligently, to shorten them, or to omit them under vain pretexts. It is the cause of tepidity.

This sadness, which is radically opposed to that of contrition, depresses the soul and weighs it down because it does not react as it should. Then it reaches a voluntary disgust for spiritual things, because they demand too much effort and self-discipline. Whereas devotion, which is the promptness of the will in the service of God, lifts the soul up, spiritual sloth weighs down and crushes the soul and ends by causing it to find the yoke of the Lord unbearable and to flee the divine light, which reminds it of its duties. St. Augustine says: "Light which is so pleasant to pure eyes, becomes hateful to infirm eyes which can no longer bear it."

This depressing sadness, the result of negligence, and this disgust, which is at least indirectly voluntary, are quite different from the sensible or spiritual aridity which, in divine trials, is accompanied by true contrition for our sins, by fear of offending God, by a keen desire for perfection, by a need of solitude, of recollection, and of the prayer of simple gaze.

St. John of the Cross, referring to the condition of the spiritual man in the passive purification of the senses, says:

We find no comfort in the things of God, and none also in created things. . . but the memory dwells ordinarily upon God with a painful anxiety and carefulness; the soul thinks it is not serving God, but going backwards, because it is no longer conscious of any sweetness in the things of God. In that case it is clear that this weariness of spirit and aridity are not the results of weakness and lukewarmness; for the peculiarity of lukewarmness is the want of earnestness in, and of interior solicitude for, the things of God. There is, therefore, a great difference between dryness and lukewarmness, for the latter consists in great remissness and weakness of will and spirit, in the want of all solicitude about serving God. The true purgative aridity is accompanied in general by a painful anxiety, because the soul thinks that it is not serving God. . . . For when mere bodily indisposition is the cause, all that it does is to produce disgust and the ruin of bodily health, without the desire of serving God which belongs to the purgative aridity. In this aridity, though the sensual part of man be greatly depressed, weak and sluggish in good works, by reason of the little satisfaction they furnish, the spirit is, nevertheless, ready and strong.(40)

In other words, this divine trial is the privation of accidental devotion alone and not of substantial devotion, which consists in the will to give oneself generously and promptly to the service of God. (5) Spiritual sloth or acedia, on the contrary, is, by reason of culpable negligence, the privation of substantial devotion itself and at least indirectly voluntary disgust for spiritual things because of the abnegation and effort they demand.

Whereas in the divine trial of which we are speaking, a person suffers because he has distractions and strives to diminish their number, in the state of spiritual sloth a man welcomes them, lets himself glide easily into useless thoughts, and does not react against them. When such is the case, distractions that are at least indirectly voluntary soon invade prayer almost. completely; the examination of conscience, which has become annoying, is suppressed; sins are no longer accounted for; and the soul descends farther and farther along the slope of tepidity. It falls into spiritual anaemia in which little by little, with the defects springing from it, the three concupiscences awaken.

The confusion of spiritual sloth with the divine trial of aridity was one of the chief errors of the quietists. For this reason the two following propositions of Molinos were condemned: "Disgust for spiritual things is good; by it the soul is purified, freed from self­love." "When the interior soul feels repugnance for discursive meditation on God, for the virtues, when it remains cold, and does not experience any fervor, it is a good sign." (6) These propositions were condemned as offensive and dangerous in practice. The fact of the matter is certainly that disgust for spiritual things is not at all good, that it is an evil and a sin as soon as it is voluntary, whether directly or indirectly so, by reason of negligence. St. Paul writes to the Romans: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God. . . . Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honor preventing one another, in carefulness not slothful, in spirit fervent, serving the Lord. Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, instant in prayer." (7) How far these words are from the quietism of Molinos!

The latter confounded spiritual sloth with the aridity and dryness of divine trials, not observing that the soul which bears these trials well, far from being slothful, has a keen desire for God and for perfection, and therefore preserves a true, substantial devotion of the will in the absence of sensible devotion of which it is deprived. Molinos confounded sensible and absolutely involuntary disgust for divine things with the disgust which is at least indirectly voluntary and culpable because of sloth and negligence.

St. John of the Cross, on the contrary, in The Dark Night gives an excellent description of spiritual sloth. Writing about the imperfections of beginners, he says:

As to spiritual sloth, beginners are wont to find their most spiritual occupations irksome, and avoid them as repugnant to their taste; for, being so given to sweetness in spiritual things, they loathe such occupations when they find no sweetness. If they miss once this sweetness in prayer which is their joy, - it is expedient that God should deprive them of it in order to try them - they will not resume it; at other times they omit it, or return to it with a bad grace. Thus, under the influence of sloth they neglect the way of perfection - which is the denial of their will and pleasure for God - for the gratification of their own will, which they serve rather than the will of God. Many of these will have it that God should will what they will, and are afflicted when they must will what He wills, reluctantly submitting their own will to the will of God. As a result, they often imagine that what is not according to their will is also not according to the will of God; and, on the other hand, when they are pleased, they believe that God is pleased. They measure Him by themselves, and not themselves by Him. . . . They also find it wearisome to obey when they are commanded to do what they like not; and because they walk in the way of consolation and spiritual sweetness, they are too weak for the rough trials of perfection. They are like persons delicately nurtured who avoid with heavy hearts all that is hard and rugged, and are offended at the cross wherein the joys of the spirit consist. The more spiritual the work they have to do, the more irksome do they feel it to be. And because they insist on having their own way and will in spiritual things, they enter on the "strait way that leadeth unto life" (Matt. 16:25), of which Christ speaks, with repugnance and heaviness of heart.(8)

Some who abandon prayer say, in order to cloak spiritual sloth: "The sweetness of prayer must be sacrificed to the austerity of study" or of work. If a truly generous person made this statement, it would mean: "One must know how to sacrifice the sweetness of prayer, especially of sensible devotion, to the austerity of the study or the work necessary for the salvation of souls." But if this statement is made by someone who is losing all true devotion, it does not make sense; for such a one in no way sacrifices the delights of prayer, which he does not experience, and he is only seeking to hide his spiritual sloth under the veil of a relatively exterior work in which he seeks himself. This man flees interior work because of spiritual sloth. True contemplation and union with God should, it is clear, not be sacrificed to study, which is subordinate to them; to do so would be to sacrifice the end for the means. Moreover, study not inspired by the love of God and of souls would, from the spiritual point of view, remain truly fruitless. In short, when a man says, "The sweetness of prayer must be sacrificed to the austerity of work," he wishes to forget that prayer is often dry. This is why it is more difficult to lead souls to a true life of profound and persevering prayer than to induce them to read and talk about books which appear on the subject. Finally, spiritual sloth not infrequently grows out of an excessive, unsanctified natural activity in which a person takes complacence instead of seeking God and the good of souls in it.


Spiritual sloth is gravely sinful when it reaches the point of giving up the religious duties necessary for our salvation and sanctification: for example, when it goes so far as to omit the hearing of Mass on Sunday.(9) When it leads us to omit religious acts of lesser importance without a reason, the sin is only venial; but if we do not struggle against this negligence, it soon becomes more serious, placing us in a genuine state of tepidity or spiritual relaxation. This state is a sort of moral anaemia, in which evil tendencies awaken little by little, seek to prevail, and manifest themselves by numerous deliberate venial sins, which dispose us to still graver faults, just as bodily anaemia prepares the way for the invasion of the germ of a disease, the beginning of a serious illness.

Spiritual sloth or acedia is even, as St. Gregory (10) and St. Thomas (11) show, a capital sin, the root of many others. Why is this? Because man seeks material consolations in order to flee from the sadness and disgust which spiritual things inspire in him on account of the renunciation and self-discipline which they demand. As Aristotle says, "No one can long remain in sadness without any joy," (12) and then he who deprives himself of all spiritual joy through his own negligence and sloth, does not delay in seeking inferior pleasures.

Consequently, disastrous results follow disgust for spiritual things and for the work of sanctification, a sin which is directly opposed to the love of God and to the holy joy resulting therefrom. When life does not rise toward God, it descends or falls into evil sadness which oppresses the soul. From this evil sadness, says St. Gregory (loc. cit.), are born malice - and no longer only weakness - rancor toward one's neighbor, pusillanimity in the face of duty to be accomplished, discouragement, spiritual torpor even to the forgetting of the precepts, and finally, dissipation of spirit and the seeking after forbidden things. This seeking after unlawful things manifests itself by the externalization of life, by curiosity, loquacity, uneasiness, instability, and fruitless agitation.(13) Thus a person arrives at spiritual blindness and the progressive weakening of the will.

Descending this slope, many have lost sight of the grandeur of the Christian vocation, have forgotten the promises they made to God, and have taken the descending road, which at first seems broad, but which grows narrower and narrower, whereas the narrow road, which leads upward, becomes ever wider, immense as God Himself to whom it leads.

In The Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross says on this subject: "Dissipation of the mind engenders in its turn spiritual sloth and lukewarmness, which grow into weariness and sadness in divine things, so that in the end we come to hate them." (14)


Cassian (15) declared that experience proves that a person triumphs over the temptation to spiritual sloth, not by fleeing from it, but by resisting it. On this subject St. Thomas observes: "Sin is ever to be shunned, but the assaults of sin should be overcome, sometimes by flight, sometimes by resistance; by flight, when a continued thought increases the incentive to sin, as in lust; . . . by resistance, when perseverance in the thought diminishes the incentive to sin, which incentive arises from some trivial consideration. This is the case with sloth, because the more we think about spiritual goods, the more pleasing they become to us, and forthwith sloth dies away." (16)

We must, therefore, conquer spiritual sloth by real love of God, by true devotion of the will, which ought to subsist in spite of sensible aridity. We must revert again and again to the prolonged consideration of the eternal goods which are promised us.

And to recover the spirit of faith, enthusiasm, and generosity in the love of God, we must every day courageously impose some sacrifices on ourselves in those matters in which we are weakest. It is the first step that costs; but after a week of effort the task becomes easy: for example, to rise at the appointed hour and to be obliging to everybody. All spiritual authors say that one of the remedies for tepidity is frankness with ourselves and with our confessor, a serious examination of conscience every day in order to rise again, the assiduous practice of our religious duties coupled with our duties of state, fidelity to prayer and to the morning offering, which we ought to make to God of all our actions during the day. And since we have little to present to God, let us offer Him frequently the precious blood of Jesus and the interior act of oblation ever living in His heart. Blessed are they who renew this offering when they hear the hour strike, and who offer the fleeting hour that it may bear fruits for eternity, that the moment which is passing may remain in the eternal instant which does not pass.

Above all, some daily sacrifices will restore vigor and tone to our spiritual life. Thus we will gradually recover substantial fervor, promptness of the will in the service of God, even if sensible devotion is lacking, a privation we should accept in order to make reparation for past offenses.

To conquer spiritual sloth and to avoid spiritual instability, we should determine the religious employment of our time: for example, divide the day by the recitation of the parts of the Divine Office, or of the Rosary. Some interior souls divide the week according to the mysteries of faith, the rule of our life: Sunday is consecrated to God by special devotion and thanksgiving to the Blessed Trinity. Monday is consecrated to the mystery of the Incarnation by recalling the Ecce venio of Christ and the Ecce ancilla Domini of Mary. Tuesday is devoted to the thought of our Savior's hidden life. Wednesday is devoted to His apostolic life. Thursday recalls the institution of the Eucharist and of the priesthood. Friday is consecrated to living the dolorous Passion, to asking for love of the cross. Saturday is given over to the thought of the privileges of Mary, her sorrows, and her role as Mediatrix and Co-redemptrix.

Thus instead of losing time which flees, we recover it and gain it for eternity. And gradually we recover spiritual joy, that of which St. Paul speaks when he writes to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (17)

1. Cf. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q.35; De malo, q. 11; St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, Bk. I, chap. 7.
2. Cf. ibid., q. 133, a.2.
3. From acedior, to suffer impatiently, to grieve over one's sin, because one fails to make an effort for what is good.
4. The Dark Night, Bk. I, chap. 9.
5. Cf. IIa IIae, q.82, a. I.
6. Denzinger, nos. 1248 f.
7. Rom. 12:1, 10 f.
8. Bk. I, chap. 7.
9. Cf. IIa IIae, q.35, a.3. St. Thomas even says (De malo, q.II, a.3 ad 6um): "That man should delight in God, falls under the precept, just as that man should love God, because delight follows love."
10. Morales, Bk. XXXI, chap. 17.
11. Cf.. IIa IIae, q. 35, a.4.
12. Ethics, Bk. VIII, chap. 5.
13. Cf. IIa IIae. q.35. a.4 ad 3um.
14. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Bk. III, chap. 21.
15. De instit. monasteriorum, Bk. X, cap. ult.
16. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 35, a. 1 ad 4um.
17. Phil. 4:4-7.