Tuesday, 30 April 2013

April 30 - St. Catherine of Siena



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

CATHERINE, the daughter of a humble tradesman, was raised up to be the guide and guardian of the Church in one of the darkest periods of its history, the fourteenth century. As a child, prayer was her delight. She would say the "Hail Mary" on each step as she mounted the stairs, and was granted in reward a vision of Christ in glory. When but seven years old, she made a vow of virginity, and afterwards endured bitter persecution for refusing to marry. Our Lord gave her His Heart in exchange for her own, communicated her with His own hands, and stamped on her body the print of His wounds. At the age of fifteen she entered the Third Order of St. Dominic, but continued to reside in her father's shop, where she united a life of active charity with the prayer of a contemplative Saint. From this obscure home the seraphic virgin was summoned to defend the Church's cause. Armed with Papal authority, and accompanied by three confessors, she travelled through Italy, reducing rebellious cities to the obedience of the Holy See, and winning hardened souls to God. In the face well-nigh of the whole world she sought out Gregory XI. at Avignon, brought him back to Rome, and by her letters to the kings and queens of Europe made good the Papal cause. She was the counsellor of Urban VI., and sternly rebuked the disloyal cardinals who had part in electing an antipope. Long had the holy virgin foretold the terrible schism which began ere she died. Day and night she wept and prayed for unity and peace. But the devil excited the Roman people against the Pope, so that some sought the life cf Christ's Vicar. With intense earnestness did St. Catherine beg Our Lord to prevent this enormous crime. In spirit she saw the whole city full of demons tempting the people to resist and even slay the Pope. The seditious temper was subdued by Catherine's prayers; but the devils vented their malice by scourging the Saint herself, who gladly endured all for God and His Church. She died at Rome, in 1380, at the age of thirty-three.

Reflection.—The seraphic St. Catherine willingly sacrificed the delights of contemplation to labor for the Church and the Apostolic See. How deeply do the troubles of the Church and the consequent loss of souls afflict us? How often do we pray for the Church and the Pope?

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Traditional Mass - Not Merely a Preference


There are Catholics who, though they are not traditionalists, do genuinely seek to accommodate traditionalists and allow them to have the traditional mass to attend. But for these Catholics, the traditional mass is simply just another option which one may choose if one so prefers. It's just another way of doing liturgy, another way of adapting the liturgy to personal taste. So they are fine with us traditionalists having the Tridentine mass, but only because they embrace a somewhat relativistic worldview which seeks to accommodate the whole diversity of the tastes that are out there. Traditionalists can have their mass, so long as the charismatics and others can have theirs as well.

This is a mistake. Traditionalists hold that the Tridentine Mass is not simply their preference, but something which has an objective superiority to the new mass. It is not merely an option among options; it is the heritage of all Catholics, it is their tradition, and as such, indeed, it is a part of the Catholic identity itself. The options of liturgical celebration which have come along with the New Mass with are thus a big problem, even if they allow for the free celebration of the Tridentine Mass. This is because they obscure the tradition and the heritage of Catholicism, reducing it to a low level on par with them, when instead the tradition should be glorified and venerated as the norm for Catholics.

Thus, when the Novus ordo Catholics grant to the traditionalists their hearts' desire, namely the Tridentine mass, the problem really isn't solved. Rather, another problem is created. It still amounts to a rejection and destruction of tradition, just under the guise of respecting the "tastes," the "opinions," and the "preferences" of Traditional Catholics. It's relativism all over again. Relativism, by apparently granting to each person "his own truth," ultimately winds up rejecting the very notion of truth itself. As Catholics, we ought to know better than that. Truth is not a matter of preference, and neither is the tradition of the Church. It is an obligation.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Propers for the Fourth Sunday after Easter


INTROIT Ps. 97:1, 2
Sing to the Lord a new canticle, alleluia! For the Lord has done wondrous deeds, alleluia! He has revealed His justice in the sight of the nations, alleluia, alleluia!
Ps. 97:1. His right hand has won him victory, and his holy arm has brought salvation.
V. Glory be . . .

COLLECT
O God, in whom all the faithful are united in one mind, let Your people everywhere love Your commandments and yearn for Your promises, so that, even amid the changes of this world, their hearts may always be fixed upon the true happiness of heaven. Through Our Lord . . .


EPISTLE James 1:17-21
Beloved: Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration. For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creature.
You know, my dearest brethren. And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak and slow to anger. For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God. Wherefore, casting away all uncleanness and abundance of naughtiness, with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Alleluia, alleluia! Ps. 117:16 The right hand of the Lord has exercised power, the right hand of the Lord has lifted me up. Alleluia!
Rom. 6:9 Christ, having risen from the dead, dies now no more; death shall no longer have dominion over Him. Alleluia!

GOSPEL John 16:5-14
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: 'Whither goest thou?' But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go. For if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you: but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin and of justice and of judgment. Of sin: because they believed not in me. And of justice: because I go to the Father: and you shall see me no longer. And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged. "I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself: but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak. And the things that are to come, he shall shew you. He shall glorify me: because he shall receive of mine and shall shew it to you."

OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Ps. 65:1-2, 16
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing a psalm to the glory of His name. Come and hear, all you who fear God, the great things the Lord has done for me, alleluia!

SECRET 
O God, who allows us to share in Your own divine nature by partaking of this sacrifice, grant that our conduct may be guided by Your revealed truth. Through Our Lord . . .


COMMUNION ANTIPHON John 16:8
When the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will convict the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment, alleluia, alleluia!

POSTCOMMUNION PRAYER
Help us, O Lord our God, that we may be cleansed from sin and shielded from all dangers by these Gifts which we receive with faith. Through Our Lord . . .



Saturday, 27 April 2013

Fancis de Sales - On Wishes



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Everybody grants that we must guard against the desire for evil things, since evil desires make evil men. But I say yet further, my daughter, do not desire dangerous things, such as balls or pleasures, office or honour, visions or ecstacies.

Do not long after things afar off; such, I mean, as cannot happen till a distant time, as some do who by this means wear themselves out and expend their energies uselessly, fostering a dangerous spirit of distraction. If a young man gives way to overweening longings for an employment he cannot obtain yet a while, what good will it do him? If a married woman sets her heart on becoming a religious, or if I crave to buy my neighbour's estate, he not being willing to sell it, is it not mere waste of time? If, when sick, I am restlessly anxious to preach or celebrate, to visit other sick people, or generally to do work befitting the strong, is it not an unprofitable desire, inasmuch as I have no power to fulfil it? and meanwhile these useless wishes take the place of such as I ought to have,-- namely, to be patient, resigned, self-denying, obedient, gentle under suffering,--which are what God requires of me under the circumstances.

We are too apt to be like a sickly woman, craving ripe cherries in autumn and grapes in spring. I can never think it well for one whose vocation is clear to waste time in wishing for some different manner of life than that which is adapted to his duty, or practices unsuitable to his present position--it is mere idling, and will make him slack in his needful work.

If I long after a Carthusian solitude, I am losing my time, and such longing usurps the place of that which I ought to entertain--to fulfil my actual duties rightly. No indeed, I would not even have people wish for more wit or better judgment, for such desires are frivolous, and take the place of the wish every one ought to possess of improving what he has.

We ought not to desire ways of serving God which He does not open to us, but rather desire to use what we have rightly. Of course I mean by this, real earnest desires, not common superficial wishes, which do no harm if not too frequently indulged.

Do not desire crosses, unless you have borne those already laid upon you well--it is an abuse to long after martyrdom while unable to bear an insult patiently. The Enemy of souls often inspires men with ardent desires for unattainable things, in order to divert their attention from present duties, which would be profitable however trifling in themselves. We are apt to fight African monsters in imagination, while we let very petty foes vanquish us in reality for want of due heed.

Do not desire temptations, that is temerity, but prepare your heart to meet them bravely, and to resist them when they come.

Too great variety and quantity of food loads the stomach, and (especially when it is weakly) spoils the digestion. Do not overload your soul with innumerable longings, either worldly, for that were destruction,--or even spiritual, for these only cumber you. When the soul is purged of the evil humours of sin, it experiences a ravenous hunger for spiritual things, and sets to work as one famished at all manner of spiritual exercises;--mortification, penitence, humility, charity, prayer. Doubtless such an appetite is a good sign, but it behooves you to reflect whether you are able to digest all that you fain would eat.

Make rather a selection from all these desires, under the guidance of your spiritual father, of such as you are able to perform, and then use them as perfectly as you are able. When you have done this, God will send you more, to be fulfilled in their turn, and so you will not waste time in unprofitable wishes. Not that I would have you lose any good desires, but rather treat them methodically, putting them aside in one corner of your heart till due time comes, while you carry out such as are ripe for action.

And this counsel I give to worldly people as well as those who are spiritual, for without heeding it no one can avoid anxiety and over-eagerness.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Divine Intimacy - Holy Mass


The following passage is taken from Divine Intimacy, by Fr. Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen. Interestingly, this passage can be very relevantly applied to the current debate about the liturgy and the mass. Note the emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the mass.

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1. The heart of liturgical worship is the Mass. Just as the redemptive work of Jesus reached its culminating point on Calvary by His death on the Cross, so too, the liturgical action, which continues His work in the world, has its climax in the Mass, which renews and perpetuates on our altars the Sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus has willed that the precious fruits of redemption, which He merited on Calvary for the whole human race, be applied and transmitted to each of the faithful in a particular way by their participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. This fountain of grace which Jesus opened on Calvary continues to pour over our altars; all the faithful are obliged to approach it at least once a week by attending Sunday Mass, but we may approach it even daily, each time we are present at the Holy Sacrifice. Holy Mass is truly the "fountain of life". By offering and immolating Himself continually on our altars, Jesus repeats to us, "If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink" (John 7,37).

"The august Sacrifice of the Altar," says the Encyclical Mediator Dei, "is not merely a commemoration of the Passion and death of Christ, but is a true and proper sacrifice, in which, by immolating Himself in an unbloody manner, the Great High Priest renews His previous act on the Cross." The Victim is the same, so is the Priest; nothing but the manner of offering is different -- bloody on the Cross, unbloody on the altar. If we do not see in the Mass, as Mary did on Calvary, the torn Body of Christ and the Blood flowing from His wounds, we do have, by virtue of the Consecration, the real presence of this Body and Blood. Moreover, as this divine presence becomes actualized under two distinct species, the bloody death on Calvary is mystically renewed by the real separation of the Body and Blood of the Saviour.

2. The best way of assisting at Holy Mass is the one which makes us participate most in the sublime action taking place on the altar. The liturgical method is especially recommended; by having us recite the same prayers as the priest, it makes us follow more closely the various parts of the Holy Sacrifice. However, instead of being preoccupied with the exact rendering of the words, which is obligatory only for the priest, we should penetrate the meaning of the different prayers, especially those said at the principal parts of the Mass, such as the Offertory, Consecration, and Communion. Although the liturgical method is very good, it is not the only one; the Encyclical Mediator Dei expressly says, "The needs and dispositions are not the same in all souls, and they do not continue to remain the same in each one." It is not uncommon, for example, that, after following the liturgical method for a long time with fruit, a particular soul might feel the need of closing the Missal in order to taste a little more profoundly the very substance of the Mass and to "penetrate" it further. This is not going backward but forward. Instead of focussing the attention in a special way on the various ceremonies and prayers, the soul feels the need of "getting into intimate contact with the High Priest" (ibid), in order to unite itself interiorly with His action, His offering, and His immolation. By doing this, she follows the Mass in a manner which is more contemplative than liturgical; we have the simple "loving attention" which is the characteristic of contemplative prayer. Without necessarily following the development of the Sacred Rite in all its various parts, the soul fixes the mind and heart upon the Mass drama with a general glance, made keen by love. Thus we advance in an ever clearer understanding of the Holy Sacrifice, and acquire a more profound "sense" of it, which in turn awakens in us a more efficacious desire of uniting ourselves with the Sacrifice. However, it will be well to return to the Missal from time to time, especially to follow the liturgy on Sundays and feasts; each time our soul does this we will find new light, and a new sense, which will help us to penetrate the very substance of the Holy Sacrifice.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Of the Desire to be Loved

St. Catherine of Sienna

This is another one of those questions which I have been pondering a great deal lately, as it has a very keen relevance to my personal life. The following is just a line of reasoning that I myself have followed; the conclusions seem, to me, to follow from certain principles expounded by the spiritual writers I've read. The question is whether it is acceptable to have a desire to be loved by others? It seems natural to men to have this desire, as humans were indeed made for love. And yet, on the other hand, we find in the writings of the Saints and other spiritual authors a discouragement of this very desire. For example, St. Catherine of Sienna, in her great Dialogue, records the words of Jesus to her, concerning the love of creatures:
Do you know how the imperfection of spiritual love for the creature is shown? It is shown when the lover feels pain if it appear to him that the object of his love does not satisfy or return his love, or when he sees the beloved one's conversation turned aside from him, or himself deprived of consolation, or another loved more than he.
I struggle with this particular defect; I think we all do, to some degree. But this shows an imperfect love. Our love for others must be a love of benevolence, which is solely a will for the other person's own good; it is essentially a disinterested love, in which we do not seek ourselves, but rather give ourselves, as it were, to the person we love, for that person's good. We sacrifice our own self-will for the sake of what the other person wills, thus uniting our will to theirs, and seeking their good. This requires that we neither expect nor hope for the return of our love; for this would manifest in us a desire for our own good, for our own delight and consolation - this would be self-love, a manifestation of pride.

Now, it is true, as I have written before (see this post, and this post), friendship requires that love be mutual, and thus that the lover's love be returned by the beloved. Friendship is a love of two people for each other, not of one person for another. But, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, it is also necessary to friendship that the lover have the love benevolence, according to which he must not expect his love to be returned. Thus, it would seem, the perfect friendship is one in which the lovers do not expect or hope for each other's friendship. Again, this follows from the fact that the love of friendship, which consists in the love of benevolence, is a purely selfless love.

Again, this seems somewhat paradoxical; and it could also be seen as somewhat harsh. But it might soften some its harshness to note that, although two people ought not expect their love to be returned, neither ought they to be unacknowledging of the fact that it is returned. In other words, they ought to be very grateful to each other when their love is returned, even if they ought not to expect that return. But neither may they be cast down or disappointed when it seems to them that their love is not returned. This is the essential point. We ought to be completely satisfied with giving up ourselves in love, so as to seek purely the good of the other person.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Divine Intimacy - The Spirit of Faith


Taken from the book Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen

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1. There are two chief obstacles which hinder us from keeping in contact with God while we are at our daily tasks. First, there is the almost wholly worldly, material point of view with which we usually consider persons and events; second, there is the opacity of creatures, and the painful, disconcerting, and sometimes evil aspect of many occurrences. As long as we are at Our Lord's feet in prayer, it is easy for us to believe that we can see Him in every creature, in every situation; but when we are face to face with certain persons, or difficulties, this idea vanishes and we founder in human reasonings which make us lose sight of God and His activities in the world. The remedy for this is to cultivate a deep spirit of faith.

Faith is not limited to knowing God in Himself as the Trinity; it makes us see Him also in all creatures, in all circumstances of our life, since He is always present everywhere by His providential action. God knows creatures as they exist in relation to Himself; and faith, showing creatures to us as dependent upon God, makes us, in this way, see and judge them somewhat as God Himself sees and judges them. Faith teaches us that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in the world which is not subject to divine control. It is true that God cannot will evil; and therefore He does not will sin or its consequences, such as injustice, litigation, war; but He does permit them, simply to safeguard the liberty of His creatures. However, He sometimes intervenes in situations, even in those caused by sin, so as to make everything enter into His divine plan, which is ordained for His own glory and for the salvation and sanctification of souls. My spirit of faith must be so real that it will convince me that no circumstance, either in my private life or in my relations with others, escapes God's jurisdiction, which is so wise that it can draw good even out of evil. Consequently, I can see nothing apart from God; I can find Him in any person, in any situation.

2. A soul of faith meets God not only in prayer, but seeing Him in all things, in all things it finds Him; therefore, it can keep itself in contact with Him, even in the midst of occupations. The spirit of faith makes it penetrate the opaqueness of creatures and occurrences so that it always finds God. Secondary causes become transparent to it, enabling it to discover at once the First Cause, God, who is present and operating everywhere. To be able to recognize and meet God in every creature, even in the ones that hurt us, offend us, or make us suffer, and in every happening, even the most disagreeable, painful, and disturbing ones -- this is a great secret of the interior life. Then the world becomes an open book, on every page of which is written in large letters the one word: God. Before God, His will, His permission, His plans, everything else becomes secondary; we see how stupid it is to fix our gaze on creatures, which are, as it were, only a veil which hides the Creator. We need, however, assiduous practice before we can reach such deep faith.

In my contacts with my neighbour -- and how many people I do meet in the course of a day! -- I can form the habit of greeting Our Lord, present in every creature. In the duties of my state in life and in the orders of my superiors, I can see the expression of God's will in all circumstances -- great, small, or even minute -- which cause me boredom, uneasiness, suffering, increase of labour, or change of plans. I must learn to see them as the many means which God is using to make me practise virtue -- patience, generosity, charity. My hours of prayer must serve to show me all the details of my life in this supernatural light, so that I may always be able to find Our Lord in them.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

St. Francis de Sales - The Need of a Good Courage





However much we may admire and crave for light, it is apt to dazzle our eyes when they have been long accustomed to darkness; and on first visiting a foreign country, we are sure to feel strange among its inhabitants, however kindly or courteous they may be. Even so, my child, your changed life may be attended with some inward discomfort, and you may feel some reaction of discouragement and weariness after you have taken a final farewell of the world and its follies.

Should it be so, I pray you take it patiently, for it will not last,--it is merely the disturbance caused by novelty; and when it is gone by, you will abound in consolations.

At first you may suffer somewhat under the loss what you enjoyed among your vain, frivolous companions; but would you forfeit the eternal gifts of God for such things as these? The empty amusements which have engrossed you hitherto may rise up attractively before your imagination, and strive to win you back to rest in them; but are you bold enough to give up a blessed eternity for such deceitful snares?

Believe me, if you will but persevere you will not fail to enjoy a sweetness so real and satisfying, that you will be constrained to confess that the world has only gall to give as compared with this honey, and that one single day of devotion is worth more than a thousand years of worldly life.

But you see before you the mountain of Christian perfection, which is very high, and you exclaim in fearfulness that you can never ascend it. Be of good cheer, my child. When the young bees first begin to live they are mere grubs, unable to hover over flowers, or to fly to the mountains, or even to the little hills where they might gather honey; but they are fed for a time with the honey laid up by their predecessors, and by degrees the grubs put forth their wings and grow strong, until they fly abroad and gather their harvest from all the country round.

Now we are yet but as grubs in devotion, unable to fly at will, and attain the desired aim of Christian perfection; but if we begin to take shape through our desires and resolutions, our wings will gradually grow, and we may hope one day to become spiritual bees, able to fly. Meanwhile let us feed upon the honey left us in the teaching of so many holy men of old, praying God that He would grant us doves' wings, so that we may not only fly during this life, but find an abiding resting-place in Eternity. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Pope Leo XIII on Liberty of Worship, or "Religious Liberty"


The following is taken from Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Libertas, on the nature of true liberty. The topic here has sparked much controversy, particularly as it relates to Vatican II, which easily appears  to be contrary to what follows here. (Whether it is in fact contrary is a big question, to which I do not have a certain answer).

[L]et us examine that liberty in individuals which is so opposed to the virtue of religion, namely, the liberty of worship, as it is called. This is based on the principle that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none.

20. But, assuredly, of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that, without doubt, is the chiefest and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety. This follows of necessity from the truth that we are ever in the power of God, are ever guided by His will and providence, and, having come forth from Him, must return to Him. Add to which, no true virtue can exist without religion, for moral virtue is concerned with those things which lead to God as man's supreme and ultimate good; and therefore religion, which (as St. Thomas says) "performs those actions which are directly and immediately ordained for the divine honor",(7) rules and tempers all virtues. And if it be asked which of the many conflicting religions it is necessary to adopt, reason and the natural law unhesitatingly tell us to practice that one which God enjoins, and which men can easily recognize by certain exterior notes, whereby Divine Providence has willed that it should be distinguished, because, in a matter of such moment, the most terrible loss would be the consequence of error. Wherefore, when a liberty such as We have described is offered to man, the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil; which, as We have said, is no liberty, but its degradation, and the abject submission of the soul to sin.

21. This kind of liberty, if considered in relation to the State, clearly implies that there is no reason why the State should offer any homage to God, or should desire any public recognition of Him; that no one form of worship is to be preferred to another, but that all stand on an equal footing, no account being taken of the religion of the people, even if they profess the Catholic faith. But, to justify this, it must needs be taken as true that the State has no duties toward God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false. For it cannot be doubted but that, by the will of God, men are united in civil society; whether its component parts be considered; or its form, which implies authority; or the object of its existence; or the abundance of the vast services which it renders to man. God it is who has made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature, and beyond his attainment if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engrave[d] upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide - as they should do - with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man's capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

April 21 - St. Anselm



The following is taken from Fr. Butler's Lives of the Saints.

ANSELM was a native of Piedmont. When a boy of fifteen, being forbidden to enter religion, he for a while lost his fervor, left his home, and went to various schools in France. At length his vocation revived, and he became a monk at Bec in Normandy. The fame of his sanctity in this cloister led William Rufus, when dangerously ill, to take him for his confessor, and to name him to the vacant see of Canterbury. Now began the strife of Anselm's life. With new health the king relapsed into his former sins, plundered the Church lands, scorned the archbishop's rebukes, and forbade him to go to Rome for the pallium. Anselm went, and returned only to enter into a more bitter strife with William's successor, Henry I. This sovereign claimed the right of investing prelates with the ring and crozier, symbols of the spiritual jurisdiction which belongs to the Church alone. The worldly prelates did not scruple to call St. Anselm a traitor for his defence of the Pope's supremacy; on which the Saint rose, and with calm dignity exclaimed, "If any man pretends that I violate my faith to my king because I will not reject the authority of the Holy See of Rome, let him stand forth, and in the name of God I will answer him as I ought" No one took up the challenge; and to the disappointment of the king, the barons sided with the Saint, for they respected his courage, and saw that his cause was their own. Sooner than yield, the archbishop went again into exile, till at last the king was obliged to submit to the feeble but inflexible old man. In the midst of his harassing cares, St. Anselm found time for writings which have made him celebrated as the father of scholastic theology; while in metaphysics and in science he had few equals. He is yet more famous for his devotion to our blessed Lady, whose Feast of the Immaculate Conception he was the first to establish in the West. He died in 1109.

Reflection.—Whoever, like St. Anselm, contends for the Church's rights, is fighting on the side of God against the tyranny of Satan.

Propers for the Third Sunday After Easter

INTROIT Ps. 65:1-2
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, alleluia, alleluia! Sing a psalm to the glory of His name, Alleluia, Proclaim His glorious praise, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Ps. 65:3. Say to God, "How tremendous are your deeds, O Lord! because of Your great strength Your enemies cringe before You."
V. Glory be . . .

COLLECT
Show us the light of Your truth, O God, which guides the sinner back to th epath of justice. Let those who profess to be Christians avoid whatever will endanger their faith, and follow those things which will help it. Through Our Lord . . .


EPISTLE I Peter 2:11-19.
Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul, Having your conversation good among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by the good works which they shall behold in you, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God's sake: whether it be to the king as excelling, Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of the good. For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the forward. For this is thankworthy: if, for conscience towards God, a man endure sorrows, suffering wrongfully.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. Ps. 110:9
The Lord has sent deliverance to His people. Alleluia!
V. Luke 24:26. Thus Christ should suffer and should rise again from the dead and should enter into His glory. Alleluia!

GOSPEL John 16:16-22.
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "A little while, and now you shall not see Me: and again a little while, and you shall see Me: because I go to the Father." Then some of his disciples said one to another: "What is this that he saith to us: A little while, and you shall not see me: and again a little while, and you shall see me, and, Because I go to the Father?" They said therefore: "What is this that he saith, A little while? We know not what he speaketh." And Jesus knew that they had a mind to ask him. And he said to them: "Of this do you inquire among yourselves, because I said: A little while, and you shall not see Me; and again a little while, and you shall see Me? Amen, amen, I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labour, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. So also you now indeed have sorrow: but I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice. And your joy no man shall take from you."

OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Ps. 145:2
Praise the Lord, O my soul; I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live, alleluia!

SECRET
May this sacred rite help us to overcome our earthly desires, O Lord, and teach us to love the things of heaven. Through Our Lord . . .


COMMUNION ANTIPHON John 16:16
A little while and you shall see Me no longer, alleluia! and again a little while and you shall see Me, because I go to the Father, alleluia, alleluia!

POSTCOMMUNION 
O Lord, may the Sacrament which we have received strengthen us in spirit and comfort us in body. Through Our Lord . . .



Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Spiritual Combat - Prayer

The following is taken from Dom Scupoli's The Spiritual Combat.

Prayer is the channel of all Divine grace; by it God is compelled, as it were, to grant us the strength of Heaven, and destroy by our weak hands the fiercest of our foes. But in order to receive full benefit from our prayer, the following method should be observed:

1. We must desire sincerely to serve God with ardent fervor in the manner most agreeable to Him; and this desire will be enkindled within our breasts if we consider three things attentively. The first is that Almighty God deserves our homage and service by reason of the excellence of His sovereign being, His goodness, beauty, wisdom, power, and His ineffable, infinite perfection. The second is that God in Heaven became man on earth to consecrate a life of thirty-three years to the cause of our salvation. He condescended to dress our wounds with His own hands, and heal them, not with oil and wine, but with His own precious blood and immaculate body, torn and disfigured by cruel whips, thorns, and nails. The third point is our realization of the obligation to observe His law, and discharge every duty, since this is the only way we can expect to triumph over the devil, to become masters of ourselves, and children of God.

2. We must have a vibrant, living faith and a firm confidence that God will not refuse the assistance necessary to serve Him faithfully and work out our salvation. A soul rekindled with this holy confidence is like a sacred vessel, into which Divine Mercy pours the treasures of His grace; and the larger the vessel, the greater the abundance of Heavenly blessings it receives through prayer. For how can God, Whose power is limitless, and Whose goodness is alien to all deception, ever refuse His gifts to those whose petitions He has encouraged, and whose perseverance and faith He has promised to reward with the blessings of the Holy Spirit?

3. But our motive for prayer must be the will of God rather than the will of self. We must apply ourselves to this divinely appointed duty because He has commanded it, and we must wish no more than that which is in utter conformity to God's plan. Thus, our intention will not be to make the Divine will subservient to our own, but rather, to transform the human will so that it is in complete harmony with the Divine. The reason for this humble accedence to the Divine will is the perversity of our own, tainted as it is with a blind self-love. Guided by ourselves alone, we would err and stumble, but the will of God, essentially just and holy, cannot be mistaken. Thus the will of God should be the will of men, since not to follow the former is to go astray. Let us, then, be most solicitous that all our petitions be agreeable to God, and if doubts arise concerning the concurrence of the human with the Divine, let a humble submission to Divine Providence accompany our requests. If, however, the things we ask are, by their very nature, pleasing to Him, such as grace, virtue, etc., then let us beg them with a view to pleasing and serving His Divine Majesty, rather than for any other consideration, however creditable.

4. If we wish our prayers to be efficacious, our actions must suit the petitions, and we must exert much energy in making ourselves worthy of the favors we ask. For prayer and interior mortification are inseparable, and he that seeks a particular virtue, without making a serious effort to practice it, only tempts God.

5. Before we ask anything of God, we ought to thank Him most humbly for the innumerable benefits He has graciously bestowed upon us. Let us say to Him: "O Lord, Who after creating me, didst mercifully pay the price of my redemption, delivering me from the fury of myriad enemies, come now to my assistance; and forgetting my past ingratitude, bestow upon me this favor I now ask."

If, however, at the very time we seek to attain a particular virtue, we find ourselves tempted to the contrary vice, let us thank God for granting us the opportunity of practicing the virtue in question, and look upon the occasion as a favor.

6. As the entire force and efficacy of prayer is attributed solely to the goodness of God, at the conclusion of our petitions we should constantly remember the merits of our Savior's life and passion, and His promise to graciously hear our requests, with one or the other of these sentences:

a) "I beseech Thee, O Lord, through Thy infinite mercy, to grant my petition." 
b) "Through the merits of Thy Son, bestow this favor on me." 
c) "Be mindful, O God, of Thy promises, and hear my prayers."

Again, we may have recourse to the intercession of the blessed Mother and the other Saints; for they prevail much with God, Who is pleased to honor them, in proportion to the honor they accorded Him on earth.

7. We must persist in prayer, since God certainly cannot overlook our humble perseverance. For if the pleadings of the widow in the Gospel prevailed with the wicked judge, how can our pleadings be ignored by God, Who is infinitely good? Thus, although our favors may not be immediately granted, and may even appear to be ignored by God, we must not lose our confidence in His infinite goodness, nor desist from prayer. For God possesses both immense power and will to grant us those things conducive to our ultimate welfare. Therefore, if we are not wanting in ourselves, we shall inevitably obtain what we ask for, something better, or perhaps both. As for the rest, the more we churlishly think ourselves slighted by God, the more we should hold ourselves in contempt. But in considering our misery, we should contemplate the Divine mercy, and far from lessening our confidence in Him, we must increase it; for the steadier we remain in situations attended by fear and diffidence, the greater will be our merit.

Finally, let us never cease to thank God, blessing equally His wisdom, His goodness, His charity, whether He grants or refuses our petition. Whatever happens, let us be undisturbed, con- tented and resigned to divine Providence in all things.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Garrigou-Lagrange on the Proof of Hope


The following is taken from Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange's Three Ages of the Interior Life.

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ADMIRABLE EFFECTS OF LIVING HOPE CONFIRMED BY TRIALS

After various trials, hope, which has been greatly strengthened, surmounts all obstacles. According to St. Paul: "We. . . glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God. And not only so; but we glory also in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience trial; and trial hope; and hope confoundeth not, because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us." (23)

Commenting on St. Paul's words, St. Thomas says: "St. Paul shows us first of all the grandeur of hope by the grandeur of the thing hoped for (that is, eternal life), then the power, the vehemence of hope. In fact, he who strongly hopes for something, willingly bears for that reason difficulties and bitterness. And therefore the sign that we have a strong hope in Christ is that we glory not only in the thought of future glory, but in our tribulations and the trials which we have to bear. 'Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.' (24) Moreover, the Apostle St. James says: 'My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience.' (25) And from the fact that a man bears tribulation patiently, he is rendered excellent, probatus. We read of the just in the Book of Wisdom: 'Though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace He hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust He hath received them.' (26) Thus trial causes hope to grow, and hope does not deceive us, for God does not abandon those who trust Him. 'No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.' (27) It is evident that the Lord will not refuse Himself to those who love Him, to those to whom He has already given His Son. . . . He has prepared eternal beatitude for those who love Him above all else." (28)

From what has just been said we perceive that, contrary to the opinion held by the quietists, in great trials, instead of sacrificing our desire of salvation, we must "hope against all hope" while loving God for Himself. Thus charity increases greatly; it becomes pure love which, far from destroying confidence, vivifies it.

Certainly these trials serve to purify hope of all self-love, of the desire of our own perfection, so far as it is ours. A servant of God who had desired to become a saint later expressed her desire under a less personal and more objective form: "Lord, may Your kingdom come more and more profoundly in me." She was happy not to have the reputation of being a saint, happy to be but little esteemed by those about her; she thus aspired truly to be always more closely united to our Lord, to be more loved by Him. Thus hope grew as it was being purified.

So Abraham, the father of believers, hoped, when he was tried and prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. He did not cease to believe that this child was the son of promise, that his posterity would be greatly blessed, "accounting that God is able to raise up even from the dead." (29)

St. Philip Neri used to pray: "I thank Thee with my whole heart, Lord God, that things do not go as I should like them to, but as Thou dost wish. It is better that they should go according to Thy way, which is better than mine."

St. Nicholas of Flue admirably expressed in a prayer the union of firmest hope and of pure love: "Lord, take from me all that hinders me from drawing near to Thee; give me all that will lead me to Thee. Take me from myself and give me entirely to Thyself." We can also say, as an expression of hope and pure love: "Give Thyself, Lord, entirely to me, that I may love Thee purely and forever."

As a practical conclusion, let us remember that in our lives there are two parallel series of daily facts: that of the outward events which succeed one another from morning to night, and that of the actual graces which are offered to us and even bestowed on us from moment to moment that we may draw from these occurrences, whether pleasurable or painful, the greatest spiritual profit. If we thought often of this fact, there would be realized increasingly in our lives St. Paul's statement: "To them that love God all things work together unto good," (30) even annoyances, rebuffs, and contradictions, which are so many occasions of lifting our hearts toward God in a spirit of faith and confidence in Him.

St. Francis de Sales says in his Second Conference on Hope: "Although we do not feel confidence in God, we must not fail to make acts of hope. Distrust of ourselves and of our own strength should be accompanied by humility and faith, which obtain the grace of confidence in God. The more unfortunate we are, the more we should have confidence in Him who sees our state, and who can come to our assistance. No one trusts in God without reaping the fruits of his hope. The soul should remain tranquil and rely on Him who can give the increase to what as been sown and planted. We must not cease to labor, but in toiling we must trust in God for the success of our works."

Footnotes

23. Rom. 5:2-5.
24. Acts 14:21.
25. Jas. 1:2f.
26. Wisd.3:4-6.
27. Ecclus. 2: 11.
28. Comm. in ep. ad. Rom., 5:2. For those who wish not only to distinguish but, as it were, to separate asceticism from mysticism, it is difficult to say, in reading the Epistles of St. Paul and the commentaries of the fathers and doctors, where asceticism ends and mysticism begins. In reality, mysticism commences when the superhuman mode of the gifts of the Holy Ghost begins to prevail, in particular of the gifts of understanding and wisdom: that is, when, under the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, we penetrate and taste the mystery of faith: "Taste and see mat the Lord is sweet."
29. Heb. 11: 19.
30. Rom. 8:28.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Development versus Mutation


We often see, today, the changes and novelties which have been introduced into the Church justified in the name of “the development of doctrine.” Traditionalists are accused of denying this principle, namely that the Church can and does experience a legitimate development as it lives through the ages, since traditionalists are often openly critical of the novelties introduced after the Second Vatican Council. So it is often claimed that the changes which have been introduced since the council are just a few instances of the development which occurs within the Church.

But I think what modern Catholics fail to see is that the changes since the council are objectively of a different nature than the development which occurred in the Church for the previous 2000 years. Before the council, there was a gradual, organic, homogenous development, in which there was in fact no substantial change, no mutation. But the council introduced many substantial changes, actual mutations, actual breaks away from the previous tradition. This is the distinction that modern Catholics fail to see: on the one hand there is a homogenous development, and on the other hand there is mutation.

A good analogy is that of a plant – say, a tree. It starts off as a small sapling, and over time it grows, develops, organically and homogenously, becoming larger and more beautiful all the time – and yet ever remaining the same plant. Its substance never changes: there is no mutation, but there is a development.

Given this distinction, it just doesn’t work to justify the Novus ordo, for example, on the claim that it represents a development of the Roman liturgy. But this is easily falsified just by looking at it, and also by reading the testimony of Bugnini himself (the main Novus ordo architect), and his henchmen. The Novus ordo is not a development, but an actual substantial change, a mutation.

Again, it doesn’t work to justify the modern beliefs about religious liberty on the claim that they represent a development of the previous teaching. Development doesn’t bring about such an opposition between two teachings. Hence the opposition can only have arisen from an actual substantial change, a mutation. (Whether this mutation is actually contained in Vatican II is a different question... The point is that there are novelties which are held by modern Catholics today.)

Again, it doesn’t work to justify the modern beliefs about “ecumenism” on the basis that there has been a development of the previous teaching. Modern ecumenism is really quite contrary to the previous teaching; hence it is not the product of a development, but a mutation. (Again, whether this mutation is actually contained in Vatican II is a different question. The point is that there are in fact false and novel beliefs held by Catholics today.)

One could say the same of many more examples of novelties which exist within the Church today. The novelties after Vatican II do not truly represent a development, but a mutation, a break away from tradition. Wherever there is a discord with previous teachings, there has not been a development, but a mutation. And it is this mutation – not development – that traditionalists oppose so strongly, and rightly so.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

St. Francis de Sales - On the Wound of Love


The following is taken from St. Francis de Sales' Treatise on the Love of God.

Grief, fear, hope, hatred, and the rest of the affections of the soul, only enter the heart when love draws them after it.

We do not hate evil except because it is contrary to the good which we love: we fear future evil because it will deprive us of the good we love. Though an evil be extreme yet we never hate it except in so far as we love the good to which it is opposed. He who does not much love the commonwealth is not much troubled to see it ruined: he who scarcely loves God, scarcely also hates sin. Love is the first, yea the principle and origin, of all the passions, and therefore it is love that first enters the heart; and because it penetrates and pierces down to the very bottom of the will where its seat is, we say it wounds the heart.

"It is sharp," says the apostle of France,(1) "and enters into the spirit most deeply." The other affections enter indeed, but by the agency, of love, for it is this which piercing the heart makes a passage for them. It is only the point of the dart that wounds, the rest only increases the wound and the pain.

Now, if it wound, it consequently gives pain. Pomegranates, by their vermilion colour, by the multitude of their seeds, so close set and ranked, and by their fair crowns, vividly represent, as S. Gregory says, most holy charity, all red by reason of its ardour towards God, loaded with all the variety of virtues, and alone bearing away the crown of eternal rewards: but the juice of pomegranates, which as we know is so agreeable both to the healthy and to the sick, is so mingled of sweet and sour that one can hardly discern whether it delights the taste more because it has a sweet tartness or because it has a tart sweetness.

Verily, Theotimus, love is thus bitter-sweet, and while we live in this world it never has a sweetness perfectly sweet, because it is not perfect, nor ever purely satiated and satisfied: and yet it fails not to be of very agreeable taste, its tartness correcting the lusciousness of its sweetness, as its sweetness heightens the relish of its tartness. But how can this be?

You shall see a young man enter into a company, free, hearty, and in the best of spirits, who, being off his guard, feels, before he goes away, that love, making use of the glances, the gestures, the words, yea even of the hair of a silly and weak creature, as of so many darts, has smitten and wounded his poor heart, so that there he is, all sad, gloomy and depressed. Why I pray you is he sad? Without doubt because he is wounded. And what has wounded him? Love. But love being the child of complacency, how can it wound and give pain? Sometimes the beloved object is absent, and then, my dear Theotimus, love wounds the heart by the desire which it excites; this it is which, being unable to satiate itself, grievously torments the spirit. 

If a bee had stung a child, it were to poor purpose to say to him: Ah! my child, the bee that stung you is the very same that makes the honey you are so fond of. For he might say: it is true, that its honey is very pleasant to my taste, but its sting is very painful, and while its sting remains in my cheek I cannot be at peace, and do you not see that my face is all swollen with it?

Theotimus, love is indeed a complacency, and consequently very delightful, provided that it does not leave in our heart the sting of desire; for when it leaves this, it leaves therewith a great pain. True it is this pain proceeds from love, and therefore is a loveable and beloved pain. Hear the painful yet love-full ejaculations of a royal lover. My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? My tears have been my bread day and night, whilst it is said to me daily: where is thy God?(2) And the sacred Sulamitess, wholly steeped in her dolorous loves, speaking to the daughters of Jerusalem: Ah! says she, I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him that I languish with love.(3) Hope that is deferred afflicteth the soul.(4) 

Now the painful wounds of love are of many sorts.

I. The first strokes we receive from love are called wounds, because the heart which appeared sound, entire and all its own before it loved, being struck with love begins to separate and divide itself from itself, to give itself to the beloved object. Now this separation cannot be made without pain, seeing that pain is nothing but the division of living things which belong to one another.

2. Desire incessantly stings and wounds the heart in which it is, as we have said.

3. But, Theotimus, speaking of heavenly love, there is in the practice of it a kind of wound given by God himself to the soul which he would highly perfect. For he gives her admirable sentiments of and incomparable attractions for his sovereign goodness, as if pressing and soliciting her to love him; and then she forcibly lifts herself up as if to soar higher towards her divine object; but stopping short, because she cannot love as much as she desires: - O God! she feels a pain which has no equal. At the same time that she is powerfully drawn to fly towards her dear well-beloved, she is also powerfully kept back and cannot fly, being chained to the base miseries of this mortal life and of her own powerlessness: she desires the wings of a dove that she may fly away and be at rest,(5) and she finds not. There then she is, rudely tormented between the violence of her desires and her own powerlessness. Unhappy man that I am, said one of those who had experienced this torture, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?(6)

In this case, if you notice, Theotimus, it is not the desire of a thing absent that wounds the heart, for the soul feels that her God is present; he has already led her into his wine-cellar, he has planted upon her heart the banner of love: but still, though already he sees her wholly his, he urges her, and from time to time casts a thousand thousand darts of his love, showing her in new ways, how much more he is lovable than loved. And she, who has not so much force to love as love to force herself, seeing her forces so weak in respect of the desire she has to love worthily him whom no force of love can love enough, - Ah! she feels herself tortured with an incomparable pain; for, as many efforts as she makes to fly higher in her desiring love, so many thrills of pain does she receive. 

This heart in love with its God, desiring infinitely to love, sees notwithstanding that it can neither love nor desire sufficiently. And this desire which cannot come to effect is as a dart in the side of a noble spirit; yet the pain which proceeds from it is welcome, because whosoever desires earnestly to love, loves also earnestly to desire, and would esteem himself the most miserable man in the universe, if he did not continually desire to love that which is so sovereignly worthy of love. Desiring to love, he receives pain; but loving to desire, he receives sweetness.

My God! Theotimus, what am I going to say? The blessed in heaven seeing that God is still more lovable than they are loving, would fail and eternally perish with a desire to love him still more, if the most holy will of God did not impose upon theirs the admirable repose which it enjoys: for they so sovereignly love this sovereign will, that its willing stays theirs, and the divine contentment contents them, they acquiescing to be limited in their love even by that will whose goodness is the object of their love.

If this were not so, their love would be equally delicious and dolorous, delicious by the possession of so great a good, dolorous through an extreme desire of a greater love. God therefore continually drawing arrows, if we may say so, out of the quiver of his infinite beauty, wounds the hearts of his lovers, making them clearly see that they do not love him nearly as much as he is worthy to be beloved.

That mortal who does not desire to love the divine goodness more, loves him not enough; sufficiency in this divine exercise is not sufficient, when a man would stay in it as though it sufficed him. 
1. S. Denis (Tr.)
2. Ps. xli. 3.
3. Cant. v. 8.
4. Prov. xiii. 12.
5. Ps. liv. 7.
6. Rom. vii. 24.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Pope Leo XIII - The Necessity of Believing the Entire Catholic Faith


The following is taken from the encyclical Satis Cognitum by Pope Leo XIII. The implications about the errors of modern "ecumenism" and the relationship of the Church to non-Catholic religions should be quite obvious here.

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...Christ instituted in the Church a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own. As often, therefore, as it is declared on the authority of this teaching that this or that is contained in the deposit of divine revelation, it must be believed by every one as true. If it could in any way be false, an evident contradiction follows; for then God Himself would be the author of error in man. "Lord, if we be in error, we are being deceived by Thee" (Richardus de S. Victore, De Trin., lib. i., cap. 2). In this wise, all cause for doubting being removed, can it be lawful for anyone to reject any one of those truths without by the very fact falling into heresy?-without separating himself from the Church?-without repudiating in one sweeping act the whole of Christian teaching? For such is the nature of faith that nothing can be more absurd than to accept some things and reject others. Faith, as the Church teaches, is "that supernatural virtue by which, through the help of God and through the assistance of His grace, we believe what he has revealed to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, the Revealer, who can neither deceive nor be deceived" (Conc. Vat., Sess. iii., cap. 3). If then it be certain that anything is revealed by God, and this is not believed, then nothing whatever is believed by divine Faith: for what the Apostle St. James judges to be the effect of a moral deliquency, the same is to be said of an erroneous opinion in the matter of faith. "Whosoever shall offend in one point, is become guilty of all" (Ep. James ii., 10). Nay, it applies with greater force to an erroneous opinion. For it can be said with less truth that every law is violated by one who commits a single sin, since it may be that he only virtually despises the majesty of God the Legislator. But he who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honour God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith. "In many things they are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which they are not with me the many things in which they are will not profit them" (S. Augustinus in Psal. liv., n. 19). And this indeed most deservedly; for they, who take from Christian doctrine what they please, lean on their own judgments, not on faith; and not "bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. x., 5), they more truly obey themselves than God. "You, who believe what you like, believe yourselves rather than the gospel" (S. Augustinus, lib. xvii., Contra Faustum Manichaeum, cap. 3).

Thursday, 11 April 2013

April 11 - Pope St. Leo the Great

Pope St. Leo the Great rides out to meet Attila the Hun

From Fr. Butler's Lives of the Saints.

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LEO was born at Rome. He embraced the sacred ministry, was made archdeacon of the Roman Church by St. Celestine, and under him and Sixtus III. had a large share in governing the Church. On the death of Sixtus, Leo was chosen Pope, and consecrated on St. Michael's day, 440, amid great joy. It was a time of terrible trial. Vandals and Huns were wasting the provinces of the empire, and Nestorians, Pelagians, and other heretics wrought more grievous havoc among souls. Whilst Leo's zeal made head against these perils, there arose the new heresy of Eutyches, who confounded the two natures of Christ. At once the vigilant pastor proclaimed the true doctrine of the Incarnation in his famous "tome;" but fostered by the Byzantine court, the heresy gained a strong hold amongst the Eastern monks and bishops. After three years of unceasing toil, Leo brought about its solemn condemnation by the Council of Chalcedon, the Fathers all signing his tome, and exclaiming, "Peter hath spoken by Leo." Soon after, Attila with his Huns broke into Italy, and marched through its burning cities upon Rome. Leo went out boldly to meet him, and prevailed on him to turn back. Astonished to see the terrible Attila, the "Scourge of God," fresh from the sack of Aquileia, Milan, Pavia, with the rich prize of Rome within his grasp, turn his great host back to the Danube at the Saint's word, his chiefs asked him why he had acted so strangely. He answered that he saw two venerable personages, supposed to be Sts. Peter and Paul, standing behind Leo, and impressed by this vision he withdrew. If the perils of the Church are as great now as in St. Leo's day, St. Peter's solicitude is not less. Two years later the city fell a prey to the Vandals; but even then Leo saved it from destruction. He died A. D. 461, having ruled the Church twenty years.

Reflection.—Leo loved to ascribe all the fruits of his unsparing labors to the glorious chief of the apostles, who, he often declared, lives and governs in his successors.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Remorse

Remorse
by The Maestro

O God! I was with fervor much restored,
In tears, did thank Thee for Thy saving grace!
But now – alas! – have I betrayed my Lord,
And have my former worthiness misplaced.

Thou didst forgive me once before, indeed,
And I, who was thereby once more revived,
Did seek with pure intention to proceed—
But then – how weak! – again my Lord denied.

How can I, God – indeed, have I the right
To beg Thee yet again for clemency?
How can I truly call myself contrite,
When thus I fall away continually?

No prayerful protest now can prove my love,
For I have proved already I love not.
Or if I love, ‘tis not my God above:
Nay! ‘Tis mine own pleasure I have sought!

This poor, self-seeking vanity and pride
Doth turn my gaze from God to viler things;
Forgetting that I must in God confide,
I seek what worldly satisfaction brings.

My first resolve was made in piety,
An honest thought indeed, an honest will.
Resolved was I to seek the Deity—
But lo! Temptation came, and so I fell.

How many times, O Lord, canst Thou forgive?
Dare I to crawl once more before Thy feet?
I, alas, who hath no right to live:
Can one like me once more Thy mercy seek?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Pope St. Pius X - The Philosophical Foundations of Modernism


This is a passage taken from Pope Pius X's encyclical Pascendi. In this passage, he describes the philosophical foundations of the heresy of Modernism, namely "agnosticism" and "vital immanence."  

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Agnosticism

Modernists place the foundation of religious philosophy in that doctrine which is usually called Agnosticism. According to this teaching human reason is confined entirely within the field of phenomena, that is to say, to things that are perceptible to the senses, and in the manner in which they are perceptible; it has no right and no power to transgress these limits. Hence it is incapable of lifting itself up to God, and of recognising His existence, even by means of visible things. From this it is inferred that God can never be the direct object of science, and that, as regards history, He must not be considered as an historical subject. Given these premises, all will readily perceive what becomes of Natural Theology, of the motives of credibility, of external revelation. The Modernists simply make away with them altogether; they include them in Intellectualism, which they call a ridiculous and long ago defunct system. Nor does the fact that the Church has formally condemned these portentous errors exercise the slightest restraint upon them. Yet the Vatican Council has defined, "If anyone says that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason by means of the things that are made, let him be anathema" (De Revel., can. I); and also: "If anyone says that it is not possible or not expedient that man be taught, through the medium of divine revelation, about God and the worship to be paid Him, let him be anathema" (Ibid., can. 2); and finally, "If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men should be drawn to the faith only by their personal internal experience or by private inspiration, let him be anathema" (De Fide, can. 3). But how the Modernists make the transition from Agnosticism, which is a state of pure nescience, to scientific and historic Atheism, which is a doctrine of positive denial; and consequently, by what legitimate process of reasoning, starting from ignorance as to whether God has in fact intervened in the history of the human race or not, they proceed, in their explanation of this history, to ignore God altogether, as if He really had not intervened, let him answer who can. Yet it is a fixed and established principle among them that both science and history must be atheistic: and within their boundaries there is room for nothing but phenomena; God and all that is divine are utterly excluded. We shall soon see clearly what, according to this most absurd teaching, must be held touching the most sacred Person of Christ, what concerning the mysteries of His life and death, and of His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.

Vital Immanence

7. However, this Agnosticism is only the negative part of the system of the Modernist: the positive side of it consists in what they call vital immanence. This is how they advance from one to the other. Religion, whether natural or supernatural, must, like every other fact, admit of some explanation. But when Natural theology has been destroyed, the road to revelation closed through the rejection of the arguments of credibility, and all external revelation absolutely denied, it is clear that this explanation will be sought in vain outside man himself. It must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man. Hence the principle ofreligious immanence is formulated. Moreover, the first actuation, so to say, of every vital phenomenon, and religion, as has been said, belongs to this category, is due to a certain necessity or impulsion; but it has its origin, speaking more particularly of life, in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sentiment. Therefore, since God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and the foundation of all religion, consists in a sentiment which originates from a need of the divine. This need of the divine, which is experienced only in special and favourable circumstances, cannot, of itself, appertain to the domain of consciousness; it is at first latent within the consciousness, or, to borrow a term from modern philosophy, in the subconsciousness, where also its roots lies hidden and undetected.

Should anyone ask how it is that this need of the divine which man experiences within himself grows up into a religion, the Modernists reply thus: Science and history, they say, are confined within two limits, the one external, namely, the visible world, the other internal, which is consciousness. When one or other of these boundaries has been reached, there can be no further progress, for beyond is the unknowable. In presence of this unknowable, whether it is outside man and beyond the visible world of nature, or lies hidden within in the subconsciousness, the need of the divine, according to the principles of Fideism, excites in a soul with a propensity towards religion a certain special sentiment, without any previous advertence of the mind: and this sentiment possesses, implied within itself both as its own object and as its intrinsic cause, the reality of the divine, and in a way unites man with God. It is this sentiment to which Modernists give the name of faith, and this it is which they consider the beginning of religion.

8. But we have not yet come to the end of their philosophy, or, to speak more accurately, their folly. For Modernism finds in this sentiment not faith only, but with and in faith, as they understand it, revelation, they say, abides. For what more can one require for revelation? Is not that religious sentiment which is perceptible in the consciousness revelation, or at least the beginning of revelation? Nay, is not God Himself, as He manifests Himself to the soul, indistinctly it is true, in this same religious sense, revelation? And they add: Since God is both the object and the cause of faith, this revelation is at the same time of God and from God; that is, God is both the revealer and the revealed.

Hence, Venerable Brethren, springs that ridiculous proposition of the Modernists, that every religion, according to the different aspect under which it is viewed, must be considered as both natural and supernatural. Hence it is that they make consciousness and revelation synonymous. Hence the law, according to which religious consciousness is given as the universal rule, to be put on an equal footing with revelation, and to which all must submit, even the supreme authority of the Church, whether in its teaching capacity, or in that of legislator in the province of sacred liturgy or discipline.

Monday, 8 April 2013

April 8.—Transferred Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


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

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THIS great festival takes its name from the happy tidings brought by the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin, concerning the Incarnation of the Son of God. It commemorates the most important embassy that was ever known: an embassy sent by the King of kings, performed by one of the chief princes of His heavenly court; directed, not to the great ones of this earth, but to a poor, unknown virgin, who, being endowed with the most angelic purity of soul and body, being withal perfectly humble and devoted to God, was greater in His eyes than the mightiest monarch in the world. When the Son of God became man, He could have taken upon Him our nature without the cooperation of any creature; but He was pleased to be born of a woman. In the choice of her whom He raised to this most sublime of all dignities, He pitched upon the one who, by the riches of His grace and virtues, was of all others the most holy and the most perfect. The design of this embassy of the archangel is to give a Saviour to the world, a victim of propitiation to the sinner, a model to the just, a son to this Virgin, remaining still a virgin, and a new nature to the Son of God, the nature of man, capable of suffering pain and anguish in order to satisfy God's justice for our transgressions.

When the angel appeared to Mary and addressed her, the Blessed Virgin was troubled: not at the angel's appearance, says St. Ambrose, for heavenly visions and a commerce with the blessed spirits had been familiar to her; but what alarmed her, he says, was the angel's appearing in human form, in the shape of a young man. What might add to her fright on the occasion was his addressing her in words of praise. Mary, guarded by her modesty, is in confusion at expressions of this sort, and dreads the least appearance of deluding flattery. Such high commendations make her cautious how she answers, till in silence she has more fully considered of the matter: "She revolved in her mind," says St. Luke, "what manner of salutation this should be." Ah, what numbers of innocent souls have been corrupted for want of using the like precautions!

The angel, to calm her, says: "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor before God." He then informs her that she is to conceive and bring forth a Son Whose name shall be Jesus, Who shall be great, and the Son of the Most High, and possessed of the throne of David, her illustrious ancestor. Mary, out of a just concern to know how she may comply with the will of God without prejudice to her vow of virginity, inquires, "How shall this be?" Nor does she give her consent till the heavenly messenger acquaints her that it is to be a work of the Holy Ghost, who, in making her fruitful, will not intrench in the least upon her virginal purity.

In submission, therefore, to God's will, without any further inquiries, she expresses her assent in these humble but powerful words: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word" What faith and confidence does her answer express! what profound humility and perfect obedience!

Reflection.—From the example of the Blessed Virgin in this mystery, how ardent a love ought we to conceive of purity and humility! The Holy Ghost is invited by purity to dwell in souls, but is chased away by the filth of the contrary vice. Humility is the foundation of a spiritual life. By it Mary was prepared for the extraordinary graces and all virtues with which she was enriched, and for the eminent dignity of Mother of God.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

More on Divine Mercy and Justice


I wrote this post a while back, about the Justice and Mercy of God. I thought it would be fitting to link it today, again, for Divine Mercy Sunday. I would also like to give some additional thoughts about the subject in today's post. So here are some other reasons why we ought not to consider God's Mercy and Justice as mutually opposed.

First, St. Thomas says that rather than being strictly opposed to Justice, God's Mercy actually goes beyond Justice, rewarding with more than what Justice demands. St. Thomas uses the analogy of a man, owing another man one hundred pieces of money, but by an act of mercy, pays the man two hundred. This mercy is not opposed to justice, which demands one hundred; indeed, this act of mercy more than satisfies the demands of justice, for the man is payed his one hundred, and then some. So mercy is not opposed to justice, but in fact goes beyond it, giving more than what justice by itself would give; and in so doing justice is more than satisfied. So God in His Mercy rewards the saints with much more than, by justice alone, they would have merited by their own powers. But in so doing, He doesn't go against justice, but completes, indeed, more than completes it. I think this is probably one way to interpret what St. James means when he says "Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). Mercy is a higher standard than justice. Thus, in meeting the standard of mercy, one soars above the standard of justice, going beyond it. 

What, then, of those who are damned to hell? Do they experience God's Mercy? If Mercy goes beyond justice, does it then punish the damned more than justice does? Well, yes, St. Thomas says, God's Mercy is in hell; but it obviously an absurd thought that Mercy would punish the damned more than Justice. Rather, St. Thomas says that even the damned in hell are not punished as much as they deserve to be punished. So how is this so, if Mercy goes beyond Justice? Let me explain: By justice, the damned deserve some sort of evil; and evil is a lack of the good. But God in His Mercy, as unbelievable as this may seem, allows them a greater good than the very little which they have merited by their sins. Mercy gives a good which exceeds the good which justice gives; and justice gives very little good to the damned. Mercy gives more; and thus, in a strange way, it meets and goes beyond justice. This might seem to be a strange way of looking at it, granted; but the key here is to remember that justice renders what belongs to a person, and conversely takes away what does not belong. Now, when a person commits a sin, we normally say that he therefore deserves an evil; but we would hardly say that this evil belongs to him. Rather, to say that he deserves an evil is the equivalent of saying that he deserves something good to be taken away from him, something which once belonged to him, but, by his sin, now no longer belongs to him. This is because, again, evil is defined as the absence of the good. Furthermore, in taking away from man a good which no longer belongs to him, justice must still leave some good remaining. This is the small bit of good which still belongs to the sinner, after having lost his claim to other goods, by sinning. Justice allows this small bit of good to the sinner, thus rendering to him what belongs to him. Now, in hell, the damned are reduced by justice almost to the very lowest level of their ontological goodness; practically the only goodness they would have now is their existence; all other goods they would now lack. Justice has allowed them their existence, and only their existence, in reward for the very little they have done in life. All other goods do not belong to them; hence the immense and unimaginable pain which they must undergo. But enter Mercy, which gives them some small good, beyond the mere good of existence to which justice would have reduced them; by this good of Mercy, the damned do not in fact suffer quite as much as they deserve - even if, indeed, their pains are still immense and unimaginable. Mercy has given them a good beyond the good of Justice; and St. Thomas' principle is shown to apply here as well. 

Again, at first this is a strange way of looking at hell, and we may not normally think that way about the concept of justice. But once we really consider the matter deeply, I think it works quite well, given the notions of evil as a privation of the good, and justice as rendering what belongs, etc. 

Now, leaving aside that aspect of the question, there is something else that St. Thomas tells us which is very interesting. Yes, it is granted, Justice and Mercy in God are both infinite and perfect. However, St. Thomas says, Justice is nonetheless founded upon Mercy, being secondary to it. How is this so? Justice presupposes an order of nature which is found in things, in creatures, in creation. There is an order of goods, and justice distributes these goods to creatures in due proportion, according to what belongs to them, etc. Justice presupposes something already existing in creation, for it gives according to what, by nature or by merit, belongs to creatures. Now, where did the nature of creatures come from? This nature determines that certain things belong to them, and thus justice gives it to them. Where did the power to merit come from? This again determines that certain things belong to the creatures meriting, and thus justice must give it to them. But there is always the presupposition of something else here, namely the nature or the merit or any other factor, according to which certain goods belong to these creatures, and justice gives it to them. But where did these presupposed principles come from in the first place? From the Goodness of God, Who gave these things to creatures of His own free will, not because there was yet another presupposed order according to which He must have given these things. In other words, He gave us our existence, our nature, our power to merit, etc., purely out of His Mercy. We didn't deserve to exist, to be who we are, to be able to do what we can do, and all these things; and thus we didn't deserve to be able to deserve anything at all. But neither were we undeserving of any of these good things. Indeed, it is quite unintelligible to even speak of deserving anything, without first presupposing these things - our existence, nature, abilities, etc. - because these things are the subject-matter, as it were, of justice itself. Thus, we exist and have all these things purely because of the Mercy of God. And because of it, we are able to claim certain things as our own, as belonging to us; and Justice builds from there, coming into play only once the Goodness of God, i.e. His Mercy, has done its first work. Justice therefore presupposes Mercy, and is founded upon it. 

Understand that this does absolutely nothing to establish a contradiction between Mercy or Justice in God. On the contrary, it only shows how both His Mercy and His Justice are fully at work. But Mercy triumphs over Justice nonetheless, yet in a way which does not contradict it.

Anyway... Those are some of my thoughts for Divine Mercy Sunday. I suppose that doesn't really have that much to do, directly, with St. Faustina's beautiful devotions. For that, I'll recommend the following sermon, from one of the fine priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). This sermon recounts the history and the spiritual significance of the Divine Mercy devotion. It's very good. Do take a listen, and enjoy.