Saint Thomas Aquinas

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Latin Mass! EWTN Live - 2017-06-14 - Peter Kwasniewski Phd

Check out one of the latest live shows with Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.

Don't forget to pick up his latest book! I am into chapter 3 already!

World Over - 2017-06-22- Cardinals Plea to Pope, Edward Pentin Fr Gerald...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Catherine of Siena: Spiritual Development in Her Life and Teaching- Book Review

Catherine of Siena: Spiritual Development in Her Life and Teaching

I spent the past two weeks reading this wonderful book after having just finished reading Catherine's Dialogue a few weeks ago. McDermott's book is a wonderful spiritual journey through the life of the great St Catherine of Siena. It covers the important spiritual events in her life and then digs deeper to explain them, which allows you to eventually apply her spiritual teachings to your own life. After a biographical account of her life the author covers the spiritual teaching and development that Catherine espouses in her Letters and her Dialogue. Topics such as her fundamental maxim revealed to her by God the Father, 'You are who are not and I am who am!' are explained in great detail allowing the reader to examine their own spiritual life in the mirror of Catherine's teaching. Lastly the book offers an explanation as to how her spiritual teaching and development was experienced in her own life. The book shows clearly how this spiritual teaching applies to all souls.

As Catholics today, we face immense challenges in the world and in the Church. Catherine also faced many similar challenges making her an excellent companion in our lives. In Catherine's time she faced a corrupt Church with corrupt clergy who were misleading souls. Her spiritual approach to these problems is a must needed approach for our time. Without a robust spiritual life bound together with true charity in God's grace, we will not be able to reform today's Church, just as it was not possible to do in her time. How many there are on the Internet complaining about the apostasy in the Church and how few there are who have spent the immense time in prayer to actually affect meaningful change. Catherine teaches how one must start off simply by repenting and ridding one's life of serious sin, then progressing on the Bridge of Christ Crucified further developing in the charity of God. It took Catherine many years to prepare before God called her to go out and teach and serve the public. In fact, she spent four years under the stairs in immense prayer and sacrifice before she even began to go out and do much in charitable works.

Above all, Catherine fit the spirit of her father St Dominic, which was to give oneself to God for the love of neighbor and the salvation of their souls. One of the teachings we miss most today is seeing our neighbor in the image and likeness of God, and treating them as if they were Christ Himself! Yes it is easy to go home, pray, go to church, pray, be around friends and family and then develop a false view of oneself as being pious. It is quite another reality to have formed one's soul in the love of God to where one will sacrifice for their neighbors. God the Father tells Catherine that unless you love your neighbor in a manner that is never self serving, then you don't love Him in a manner that is not self serving. Catherine refers to this type of serving God as being a servile servant. Serving God only for one's own gain. God the Father continues to tell her that how one treats their neighbor is a litmus test as to how much they actually love God. Food for thought!

There are many lessons to be learned if one takes their time to read and meditate on the passages in this book which quotes primarily from Catherine's Dialogue, her Letters and Sacred Scripture. There are also comparisons to the teachings of some of the Church Fathers and Saints as well. The book is well written and thoughtfully laid out. It is repetitious at times but in a pleasant way that keeps reemphasizing the spiritual themes that permeate Catherine's life and her work. This allows you to internalize her thought. For example the three powers of the soul, memory, knowledge and will are shown in several examples throughout the book so that you can properly understand Catherine's teaching in the context of her writings. After reading the 368 pages you become intimately familiar with Catherine and her spiritual thought as well as how to make them your own. I highly recommend picking this book up, and it is a great companion to have alongside as you read her famous Dialogue.  

Thomas McDermott’s magisterial book is the first work in English that does full justice to the systematic theological importance of Catherine of Siena’s teaching. Readers will find their thinking freed from the styles and whims of so much writing on ‘spirituality’ and set firmly on the path that Jesus himself trod with his disciples.”
—Benedict M. Ashley, OP, Professor Emeritus
Aquinas Institute of Theology, Saint Louis, MO

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What about the 'Catholic Option'?

So there seems to be a new craze going around with books coming out with the title "Option" in them. First we had the 'Benedict Option' now we have the 'Marian Option'. Who knows what other "options" will be coming out soon to capitalize on this fad. Why does it seem however that we have forgotten the 'Catholic Option'? We should all know as Catholics Mary is not an option. I am sure there is more to the book than presenting her as a mere option, however the title is in my opinion not appealing. Mary the Mother of God is worthy of our love and devotion, and no Catholic should see devotion to her as a mere option. The 'Benedict Option' seems to me to be something non-obtainable for many Catholics. Not everyone can flee to communal living. God put us in various situations depending on who we are and what God has called us to do. What seems to me then to be the logical choice is to live the 'Catholic Option' no matter where we may find ourselves.

What is the 'Catholic Option'? It is the option to attempt to follow and live the Catholic faith as it has been revealed to us by Christ through His one and only Church. This means that we have to use our intellect and our will to pursue God through His Church with everything we have, mind body and soul. This means we actually believe and live by Christ and His teachings and attempt to rid ourselves of sin by sincere prayer, meditation, contemplation, penance and reception of the Sacraments. It means that no matter what the world is doing, no matter what off the cuff ridiculous statements Pope Francis makes on the plane, no matter what our government is doing, that we remain faithful to God no matter where we live or what situation we may find ourselves.

We do not have to run off to the country and live in a community to live our faith. We don't have to use any options other than the 'Catholic Option' in order to save our souls and the souls of those around us. It is by our steadfast faith that we must rely on and our willingness to live it in the face of any and all obstacles. We know that the world is an obstacle and will be until the end of time. Satan is using all of his resources to bring down the Church and anyone attempting to live a life that is faithful to Christ. It is only through the 'Catholic Option' that we may find faith, hope charity, internal peace and eternal salvation. In my mind we don't need novel ideas or slogans to live by, we need to live Christ crucified through His one and only Church, no matter the cost.

What does the 'Catholic Option' look like? It looks pretty much the same no matter who you are and where you live and what situation you find yourself. This is the beauty of it! This is not to imply that there are not different aspects of spirituality, Dominican, Franciscan, etc. but the list below can be applied pretty much across the board to the average layperson.

1. Dedicate yourself to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, Christ's one and only Church despite all of the flaws you can see by those who live inside of it.

2. Believe in and live, with all your heart, all of the doctrines, and dogmas Christ teaches through His Church.

3. Live all of the precepts of the Church with charity, not as if they are only written rules.

4. Pray and meditate for as much as time permits everyday in your home, place of work, car, or in recreation.

5. Have a strong devotion to Our Lady, the Mother of God and ask for her constant intercession.

6. Have devotion to the Saints, and ask for their intercession.

7. Read the Scriptures, spend time reading Catholic dogmatic and spiritual works as well as the lives of the Saints. Live Lectio Divina.

8. Receive the Sacraments of Confession, and the Eucharist (in the state of grace) as often as possible.

9. Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

10. Preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling-block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness:  But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

So then the 'Catholic Option' seems to me to be the best option! Let us live it to perfection!

Perfection is this: that the Word, the Son of God, fed at the table of holy desire for the honour of God and for our salvation; and with this desire ran with great zeal to the shameful death of the Cross, avoiding neither toil nor labour, not drawing back for the ingratitude and ignorance of us men who did not recognize His benefits, nor for the persecution of the Jews, nor for mockery or insults or criticism of the people, but underwent them all, like our captain and true knight, who was come to teach us His way and rule and doctrine, opening the door with the keys of His precious Blood, shed with ardent love and hatred against sin. As says this sweet, loving Word, "Behold, I have made you a way, and opened the door with My blood. Be you then not negligent to follow it, and do not sit yourselves down in self-love, ignorantly failing to know the Way, and presumptuously wishing to choose it after your own fashion, and not after Mine who made it. Rise up then, and follow Me: for no one can go to the Father but by Me. I am the Way and the Door." (St Catherine of Siena)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Two New Books! 'The Political Pope', 'By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed'

There are two new books out that are very informative. The first is 'The Political Pope'  by George Neumayr and the second is 'By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed' by Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette. The first book chronicles the papacy of Pope Francis as well as his life in Argentina. If you want to get a gist of who Pope Francis really is and why he says and does the things he does, this book is a must read. The book is not for the faint of heart.

The second book I just received yesterday and I am well into the first of four chapters. Anyone who wants to understand capital punishment and its history in relation to Catholicism will find this book well researched. There are four chapters covering the natural law, scripture, tradition and social scientific material which all prove that the death penalty is not evil, and in fact when carried out justly is an actual good for society. The book is over 400 pages and is sure to be the definitive guide to Catholic teaching on the death penalty for years to come. I think it will surely ruffle the feathers of those peddling the false narrative that the death penalty is evil and needs to be totally abolished.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Does Christ Command the Impossible?

With all of the buzz going about concerning marriage, divorce and the Pope's document 'Amoris Latetia' I thought it would be good to examine some of the demands of Christ. Demands you ask? Why yes, demands. Throughout the Gospels, many times Christ gives his followers demands, or rules to live by. They are not suggestions, but objective rules that must be followed in order to obtain the kingdom of God. In other words, these demands proved or disproved one's love for God. This happens many times, for example, in John Chapter 6 Jesus speaks of His Body and Blood being given to be eaten. He goes so far as to let everyone walk away from Him without hesitation who reject His teaching. Why do we believe that Jesus Christ is present in His entire Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist? Because He said so. He demanded that we believe it to be so. Is this an absolute teaching that we must believe in order to please God? Yes it is, and it is a bar that must be met with faith, it is not optional.  Thus our Lord spoke, "Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.... For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed..These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum. Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life. But there are some of you that believe not....After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him. Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:54-69)

Does Our Lord give us any secondary options to those who would deny His command? It seems He does not. Those who got up and left Him denying His teaching were obviously not pleasing to Him. Saint Peter gives the only possible pleasing answer to this hard teaching, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." Any other answer to the question is wrought with sin; a denial to believe what Christ was teaching. The alternative behavior to Saint Peter's demonstrates a lack of faith. Can we compare this to Christ's words on marriage? I believe this to be the case. We as Catholics believe Christ's teaching on marriage and divorce because He commands it. One cannot be pleasing to God who commits adultery. Christ once again speaks clearly and without hesitation to the apostles who once again view it as a hard teaching given their response that it may be better not to even marry, "And there came to him the Pharisees tempting him, and saying: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Who answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, Made them male and female? And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. They say to him: Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away? He saith to them: Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery. His disciples say unto him: If the case of a man with his wife be so, it is not expedient to marry. Who said to them: All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother' s womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it." (Matthew 19:1-12)

We are hearing many voices today who are saying that although Christ is teaching an ideal, not all today can meet that ideal. This is a fantastical error in judgement by those who espouse such. Does Christ command the impossible? Were the ten commandments mere suggestions? Did Christ abolish the ten commandments? Of course we answer all in the negative. Christ commands only what He gives grace to meet His commands. Yes we could say that His commandment on divorce may be humanly impossible for some on a natural level. We however were not created for the natural, but the supernatural. Thus we must have supernatural grace in order to meet Christ's commands, and if we have not that grace, they become impossible! Those who are telling us that adulterers are now permitted to receive communion are openly rejecting Christ's teaching and are putting such souls in further jeopardy by encouraging them to continue living in such a sinful state. Thus we see at least three Sacraments being effected by this heresy. Marriage, the Eucharist, and Confession.

The Sacrament of marriage is being destroyed by adultery, the Eucharist is being profaned by those who take of it unworthily, and those going to confession without a firm purpose of amendment profane that sacrament. We must now more than ever cling to the words and teaching of Christ. They are not mere words and teachings of men, but of God. Those who seek to undermine His teaching anathemetize themselves from the Body of Christ. They are murderers of the gospel, and murderers of souls. I could go on with more of Christ's hard commands that we must accept and live by. There are many more examples. I can sum it up; being a faithful follower of Christ isn't always easy. Is it hard to live the gospel? Yes, and no. On a mere natural level it is impossible. With God's grace it is hard, especially for those who have lived without grace for many years. However, Christ gives us the grace to follow Him faithfully, and He makes it easier the more closer we grow in His love. Christ does not command the impossible, and there are no secondary options for His commands. There is no acceptable lower bar for which the Eucharist can be understood, and there is no acceptable lower bar for which one can remain faithful to their marriage vows.

Finally, if one were to accept these crazy proposals on how some cannot meet the "ideal" on marriage, where does this rationality stop? Is there now a lower bar for chastity? Is a frustrated single person who feels they cannot meet the high bar of chastity now permitted to frequent a brothel while looking for a spouse? How about the corporation who cannot meet the high ideal of paying the agreed upon wage of their workers? Should they defraud their workers of their agreed wages until their stocks come back into the stockholders ideal price? Only a fool would think to propose a sliding scale of morality. The only result is a slippery slope which all who tread upon will wind up sliding into the abyss of hell. We can ask ourselves, did Christ almost give His life on the cross? Did He almost suffer for our sins? Did He give a sliding scale to us when He commanded us not to sin? Bottom line for Catholics, you either resolve to live the hard teachings with God's grace, or you don't.

Pre-Lenten Meditation 2017- Charity

This Lent I will be posting periodically on spiritual topics that go along with the season. Today I wanted to comment on today's epistle, which gives a good foundation on what the Lenten season should do for us; first and foremost to strengthen us in divine filiation, or charity.

EPISTLE (I Cor. 13:1-13)

Brethren: If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Saint Paul here is telling us the importance of having a divine relationship above all things. This means that although men may do "good" things for others, unless one has charity, or divine grace within them it is ultimately worth nothing. This is one of the dangers today of the 'good works' clubs going around trying to make the world a better place. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with doing kind things to help others, but when it comes to working in true charity, driven by the grace of God, there is nothing more useless than works. Unfortunately we see many of these interfaith groups stressing social justice and yet say nothing of the love of Christ and His love for man. Its as if making the world a better place has now become man centered, not God centered for many of these groups, which happen to call themselves Catholic. There are also many dangers that these types of groups and people can cause others even though it seems they are doing good things for others. One of them is that these works can often replace God.

What does having charity mean for a Catholic?  It does not mean having feelings for others or merely wanting to do something good for someone. It means first and foremost that one is in a state of grace, and that God is the primary motivation for directing of one's will. Saint Paul is careful to tell us that though one can do extraordinary things, good works, and even have faith, they can still lack charity. This means that one can even go to Mass every week and have faith, and still lack divine filiation through grace. A Catholic can have faith, do all kinds of works, and still lose their soul. God the Father speaking to St Catherine of Siena said, "No virtue, my daughter, can have life in itself except through charity...Thus, every act of help that he performs should proceed from the charity which he has through love of Me."

As we begin Lent, I think it is important that we meditate strengthening our relationship with God. This means that we must cooperate with God's grace to a greater extent than we have before. If we are in a state of mortal sin, we have no charity, and therefore we must receive the Sacrament of Confession. Once we are in a state of grace we must strengthen our relationship with God. This means more prayer and more meditation during Lent so that we can receive an increase of charity. Having charity means that God's love lives within us. The more charity one has the more he or she loves God. This should be our main goal during Lent, to love God more. Only when one has this charity can one's works and gifts truly be of any value. It is in God's charity that we then are able to love others, our neighbor. So as we prepare for Lent, this will be one of my main meditations. I pray that throughout this Lent I will be strengthened in God's grace so that I may have an increase of charity. 

How virtues are accomplished by means of our neighbor, and how it is that virtues differ to such an extent in creatures. (From the Dialog of St Catherine of Siena)

"I have told you how all sins are accomplished by means of your neighbor, through the principles which I exposed to you, that is, because men are deprived of the affection of love, which gives light to every virtue. In the same way self-love, which destroys charity and affection towards the neighbor, is the principle and foundation of every evil. All scandals, hatred, cruelty, and every sort of trouble proceed from this perverse root of self-love, which has poisoned the entire world, and weakened the mystical body of the Holy Church, and the universal body of the believers in the Christian religion; and, therefore, I said to you, that it was in the neighbor, that is to say in the love of him, that all virtues were founded; and, truly indeed did I say to you, that charity gives life to all the virtues, because no virtue can be obtained without charity, which is the pure love of Me.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bishop Athanasius Schneider Answers

Be sure to watch this entire interview with Bishop Schneider, and pass it along.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Luther: Just as Wrong Now as He Was Then

Luther: Just as Wrong Now as He Was Then.

Therefore let Martin himself and all those adhering to him, and those who shelter and support him, through the merciful heart of our God and the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ by which and through whom the redemption of the human race and the upbuilding of holy mother Church was accomplished, know that from our heart we exhort and beseech that he cease to disturb the peace, unity, and truth of the Church for which the Savior prayed so earnestly to the Father. Let him abstain from his pernicious errors that he may come back to us. If they really will obey, and certify to us by legal documents that they have obeyed, they will find in us the affection of a father's love, the opening of the font of the effects of paternal charity, and opening of the font of mercy and clemency. (Exsurge Dominiissued June 15, 1520 by Pope Leo X)

Who would ever have thought we would see a pope lauding the likes of the confused charlatan Martin Luther? In general I do not like to focus on the latest absurdities coming out of the Vatican. Many of the news headlines strung together day in, day out show much like a low budget soap opera. We could call it, 'As the Vatican Turns.' Certain things however I find hard to let pass by especially when it comes to the salvation of souls. I continuously see an erroneous narrative being put forth in the media by the Vatican which is hindering evangelization. Would most Lutherans today ever consider converting to the Catholic faith based on what we are hearing from the Vatican media? Notice I distinguish between the Vatican media and the Church. The Church cannot err, and yet individuals in the Church acting through the Vatican can err. Should we sit by silently with all of this absurd Martin Luther, Reformation praising nonsense being peddled? I don't think we should sit by silently while a false narrative continues to be painted which effect the souls of millions across the globe. Most people hearing the Vatican media will not distinguish between it and the formal teachings of the Church. That being the case I believe that each one of us can make a difference if we stand up for the truth of the Church so it is not hidden underneath what we see in the media.

Unfortunately Pope Francis and several of his cohorts in the Vatican have now made several public statements which are fundamentally false concerning the Reformation and Martin Luther. The statements are misleading to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, which could very well affect the salvation of souls. There are two statements that have been made recently among many, that I wish address in this article.

1. Pope Francis commenting on Luther’s view of justification. “Today, Lutherans and Catholics, Protestants, all of us agree on the doctrine of justification. On this point, which is very important, he did not err.”

2. The ecumenical document ‘From Conflict to Communion’ released under the watch of Pope Francis states the following, “29. Implicit rapprochement with Luther’s concerns has led to a new evaluation of his catholicity, which took place in the context of recognizing that his intention was to reform, not to divide, the church. This is evident in the statements of Johannes Cardinal Willebrands and Pope John Paul II. The rediscovery of these two central characteristics of his person and theology led to a new ecumenical understanding of Luther as a “witness to the gospel.”

In order to address these two erroneous statements, we must look at the facts. What was Luther’s view of justification, and does it coincide with the Catholic doctrine on justification? This should not be a hard question to answer since Catholic saints, popes and apologists have addressed this for almost 500 years now. But for my own exercise, and the benefit of my few readers, I will proceed. Luther’s teaching on justification is sometimes summed up as ‘Sola Fide’ or 'Faith Alone.' Luther’s confusing ideas lead him to despise many pious prayerful exercises like the Rosary for example. Luther claimed that works themselves were not sufficient means of salvation and he erroneously denied works done through grace are part of our justification. As Catholics we could indeed say that works done outside of the state of sanctifying grace are not salvific, but we would never deny that works are a part of the way God works out our justification.

For example, Luther said, "Faith is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith.” Luther seems to think that works done in grace are merely outward signs of someone’s faith. In reality he denies the actual justification that God is working through those works, which is an error of the gravest proportion. Luther shows his erring understanding further when he states the following about Catholic “works”, “How they mislead people with their good works! They call good works what God has not commanded, as pilgrimages, fasting, building and decorating their churches in honor of the saints, saying mass, paying for vigils, praying with rosaries, much prattling and bawling in churches, turning nun, monk, priest, using special food, raiment or dwelling,-who can enumerate all the horrible abominations and deceptions? This is the pope's government and holiness.” The very fact that Luther attacks these pious acts should disturb any Catholic, but let us go deeper.

The problem here lies in the fact that Luther completely denied the notion that God actually perfects His elect by the works He does through them. Hence the age-old doctrine of deification. Luther taught that man was merely covered over by Christ’s grace, and not actually transformed by grace. The fact that Luther defines praying the rosary and saying Mass as man made evils, should give any sane Catholic a clue that he was not at all correct in his idea of justification, but lets continue. Luther’s error is like a snowball. It gets larger the further it rolls down the hill of heresy. Luther’s ‘Faith Alone’ doctrine when played out not only leads to denial of deification, it leads to an idea that the sinner remains a sinner and cannot stop sinning! This in turn leads people to a false confidence of their salvation, to which works are only symbols of their faith. Hence you have millions of people making mere professions of faith while not actually living their lives according Christ's demand of being perfected. (Matthew 5:48) This is not merely a matter of mild semantics, it is a fundamental difference in how one views God and how one views God's gift of grace and salvation to man.

Having been in the blogging business many years now, there will inevitably be a heckler who will say that I am not interpreting Luther properly. In order to avoid this I want to take a look at how the Lutheran’s themselves understand Luther's Sola Fide proclamation: "through faith alone" means that we believe that, to use a phrase Luther made famous, Christians are at the same time sinners and saints (simul justus et peccator). Justification is an act, a declaration. It is not a process. Through faith in Christ, and only through faith, sinners are declared to be forgiven and to be perfectly right with God. This declaration is whole and complete, totally independent of any inherent goodness in us sinners. In short, because of God's act on the cross received through faith, we sinners are declared to be perfect saints in God's sight. But this does not mean that forgiven sinners, when judged by God's law, do not continue to be sinners. We are not "perfectionists" in the sense of teaching that following conversion, Christians stop sinning. "Forgiveness is needed constantly," says Luther. "Because we are encumbered with our flesh, we are never without sin" (Large Catechism II, 54). (Taken from What do Lutherans believe? By Dr. Samuel Nafzger ) Again, for Luther God just overlooks everyone’s sin, and gives a pass to everyone’s sin after they are “justified.” The process of deification is outrightly rejected. So Luther teaches that by faith alone you have confidence that God has covered your sins, but that you still go on sinning. This is in complete contradiction to authentic Christian theology, which teaches that through God’s grace man can choose not to sin! Luther reinforces this line of thinking, “The commandments only purpose is to show man his impotence to do good and to teach him to despair of himself”

The Catholic Church teaches that when a man lives in God’s grace, everything good that they do in Christ is meritorious. That is, when man performs acts that are done in the grace of the Holy Spirit, God perfects him through those actions whatever they may be; going to Mass, praying the Rosary, etc. You know, all of things that Luther attacks. It is not as if God’s grace merely covers over the stench of man’s sin and his good works are merely outward signs of the stench being covered over. This was Luther’s foolish idea, which is actually a blasphemous insult to God, being that God wants us to live out the Commandments and not despair over them. As we will soon see, the Catholic Church condemned his teaching formally as heresy.

If we look to the infallible statements by the ecumenical Council of Trent, we can clearly see that through grace man actually receives divine filiation, through which he has the power to walk a righteous path, or follow the Commandments. After Luther boldly concocted his new teaching on justification, the Church took time to analyze his teaching, and then held the Council of Trent, which several of the canons that were proclaimed were directed toward his dangerous, perverse error. Trent clearly proclaimed that Luther’s teaching on justification to be anathema, i.e. heretical.

Canon 9: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema."

Canon 12 "If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ's sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified...let him be accursed"

Finally Canon 24 drives home the error of Luther, which is still the same error today as it was then...

Canon 24: "If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema."

In light of this examination I can say with complete confidence that Luther did err in his view on justification, and that Lutherans today are still teaching the same doctrine, and are hence, still in error.

This brings us to the second proclamation made by the ecumenical document ‘From Conflict to Communion’ which says Luther was a “witness to the Gospel.” At first glance after learning that his teaching on justification was completely erroneous as well as his assault on the prayerful gifts of the Rosary and other pious practices, it should be very easy to determine that he was not a "witness to the Gospel." Just for the fun of it, let us probe a little deeper into his life and statements so we may have no doubt as to his sub-defective witness to the Gospel.

Looking at Luther’s own words concerning his prayer life and his ideas of the Catholic Church give us an idea as to his credibility as being a “witness to the Gospel.” "For I am unable to pray without at the same time cursing. If I am prompted to say: 'hallowed be Thy name', I must add: 'cursed, damned, outraged be the name of the papists'. If I am prompted to say: 'Thy Kingdom come', I must perforce add: 'cursed, damned, destroyed must be the papacy.' Indeed I pray thus orally every day and in my heart without intermission" (Sammtl. W., XXV, 108). If we contradict the statements of this maniac with the statements of the Saints who are the true witnesses of the Gospel we hear a different tune. St Catherine of Siena wrote, “If you are against holy Church, how can you have a share in Christ’s blood, since the Church is none other than that same Christ?” Catherine wrote this in times that were just as corrupt as Luther’s time, and yet she loves the Church. Unlike the unhinged comments that came from the foul lips of Luther., she chooses to love despite the corruption she saw in the Church.

As we know Pope Leo X wrote a papal bull condemning Luther to which Luther responded in fury. This again demonstrates a disposition contrary to holiness. “But whoever wrote this bull, he is Antichrist. I protest before God, our Lord Jesus, his sacred angels, and the whole world that with my whole heart I dissent from the damnation of this bull, that I curse and execrate it as sacrilege and blasphemy of Christ, God's Son and our Lord. This be my recantation, Oh bull, thou daughter of bulls...Of the cross of Christ, that all men should resist them. You then, Leo X, you cardinals and the rest of you at Rome, I tell you to your faces: "If this bull has come out in your name, then I will use the power which has been given me in baptism whereby I became a son of God and co-heir with Christ, established upon the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. I call upon you to renounce your diabolical blasphemy and audacious impiety, and, if you will not, we shall all hold your seat as possessed and oppressed by Satan, the damned seat of Antichrist; in the name of Jesus Christ, whom you persecute.” Does this furious rant sound like a “witness to the Gospel?”

I could go on recounting the terrible unholy life that Luther lived including the lauding of many who broke their vows including the former nun whom he “married.” I think that it is clear based on Luther’s own words and the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church that he did indeed err, and he was most certainly not a “Witness to the Gospel.” He was wrong then, and he is still wrong now, no matter what proclamations we may hear coming out of the Vatican media these days. Let us pray for our dear Church and those who have mistakenly made these public proclamations so that no souls may be lost because of them. We should also inform fellow Catholics and Lutherans that we personally know about the true teaching of our Church. When we have the opportunity we should charitably preach the true Gospel so that everyone may come to know Christ through His one and only Catholic Church, for her true teachings will never cease to be proclaimed until Christ returns.

"God called me to be a Franciscan for the conversion of sinners and heretics." St Lawrence of Brindisi.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Review: Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition- Aumann

I have been spending a lot of time reading some great Catholic books on spirituality lately. One book I just finished was 'Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition' by Jordan Aumann. I found the book to be quite informative as a survey of Catholic spirituality from the beginning of the Church until the 20th century. Although I was aware of different schools of spirituality, I was not aware of the different nuances and emphasis of many of the various schools. The books goes far beyond the schools that most Catholics are aware of, Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, etc.

The book provides a lot of valuable information surrounding how Catholics have lived the spiritual life over the centuries. What I found most intriguing were the basics in which every school subscribes to more or less. I would summarize a list of the very basic tenets of the spiritual life as follows.

1. Sacred Scripture is the most important reading source for meditation.

2. We are created to be deified and perfected in the image of God.

3. In order to be perfected you must repent for your sins and exercise some form of ascetic penance.

4. You must detach yourself from worldly things.

5. The Eucharist is the center of our faith and spiritual nourishment.

6. We must work on exercising virtue and rooting out vice.

7. We must strive in prayer asking for all the gifts we need to grow in love of God. First vocal prayer, then meditative, and finally contemplative.

8. There are generally three stages of the spiritual life: beginners, intermediates and advanced.

These eight general tenets are the building blocks for any solid Catholic spiritual life.

The book goes through many great spiritual writers over the course of 2000 years. I will list some of them so you get an idea of what the book covers.

1. The apostolic Church from Sacred Scripture.

2. The apostolic Fathers from the Didache and Church fathers such as St Ignatius of Antioch, Origin, Tertullian, and Irenaues. It also covers in brief the Gnostic heresy.

3. Eastern Monasticism, St Antony, Macarius, Pachomius, St Basil and the Cappadocian Fathers, Evagrius, Pseudo-Dionysius and Maximus the Confessor.

4. Western Monasticism, St Jerome, St Paulinus, Martin of Tours, John Cassian, St Augustine, St Benedict of Nursia, Irish monasticism and St Gregory the Great.

5. Benedictine Spirituality in light of Benedict of Aniane, Hildemar, John of Fecamp, who are all virtually unheard of today. Also examined are the Carthusians, the Camaldolese and the Cistercians,

6. Medieval piety is covered in great detail and there are many great spiritual writers that have been  forgotten such as St Norbert and the Premonstratensians and the Canons of St Victor. The well known St Dominic, Aquinas, the Franciscans, and St Bonaventure are also discussed.

7. The chapter on Dionsian spirituality was very interesting covering Eckhart, the Beghards, the Beguinnes, the mystics of Helfta (Mechtilde of Magdeburg, Mechtilde of Hackeborn, St Gertrude the Great), Tauler and Suso are also of interest.

8. The English mystics such as Walter Hilton, and Julian of Norwich are covered.

9. Devotio Moderna covers writers such as John Busch, John Gerson, Gerard Groote, Thomas a Kempis and two of my favorites, St Catherine of Siena and Denis the Carthusian.

10. Post-Tridentine Spirituality is filled with unknown writers, John Wessel Gransfort, John Mombaer, St. Laurance Justinian as well as some more well known such as St. Thomas More, Erasmus, Ignaitus of Loyola, Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross

11. The golden age of Spain is also covered and you get know about Alonso of Madrid, Francis de Osuna, Bernardine of Laredo, St Peter of Alcantara, Louis of Grenada, John of Avila, Alphonsus Rodriguez and Alvarez de Paz.

12. The Italian mystics are not left out, John Baptist la Crema, Laurence Scupoli, Magdalene of Pazzi, Catherine de Ricci and St Philp Neri and the great Francis de Sales are covered.

13.  The book also has a fact packed chapter on modern spirituality and the French school of spirituality. I learned about many unknowns such as Peter de Berulle who pioneered the concept of slavery to Jesus and Mary well before St Louis de Montfort came along to invigorate it once again.
Other influential unknowns such as Charles Condren and Jean-Jacques Olier are discussed.

14. The errors of Jansenism and Quietism are discussed in detail as well as the orthodox writers like Louis Lallemant, John Cheron, John Grou, the great St Alphonsus Liguouri and John Baptist Scaramelli are also of interest.

15. We get a breif overview of the German mystics John Sailor, John Jospeh Gorres, and Anna Catherine Emmerich.

16. The modern English writers David Augustine Baker and Richard Challoner are covered in brief.

17. The book ends with some of the great modern spiritual figures, St Therese of Liseux, and Elizabeth of the Trinity, while also briefly covering others such as Maritain, Dom Guerganger and Garrigou Lagrange.

Overall the book is a pleasure to read and you get the basic spiritual tenets of each of these interesting figures. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing where the many spiritual practices we know of today originated from, and how there came to be different emphasis on spiritual practices depending on the time it was needed in the Church. I warn you however, if you are book hoarder like myself you may be ordering more books for your library!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Healing Our Memories

Our memories are a gift from God. It is through the memory that we can examine, recollect and deliberate on our experiences. This makes us unique in that we are given intellects to do many things that other animals cannot. Memories however can at times haunt us and past bad experiences can lead us to despair or even bring us into temptation. This can happen on its own as we dig through our past or it can be something brought upon us by the demonic. Sometimes our past experiences can cause us enormous spiritual strife.

Whenever we commit a sin our memories are affected in a negative manner. This especially becomes problematic when we commit habitual sin. Our memories are filled with our past actions which can at times put us into an occasion for sin. This can happen most easily with sins of the flesh such as eating decadent foods all the time or committing sins of impurity habitually. For example people who view pornography over and over again can become prisoners to their own memories. The devil can bring up the images over and over again enticing the individual to commit the sin again. Our memories can also be damaged by sins committed against us. We can have anger issues for example for unjust things people have done to us in the past. We dwell on them and wish we could have revenge when we may have been vulnerable in the past.

Often the affects of our disordered memories come in the form of despair, or sins against the virtue of Hope.  We project onto the future our disordered past, and it inclines us to fall into a state of hopelessness. Our sins become alive in the future even before we have committed them. Our imaginations often take over the reality that God loves us and wants us to overcome the sin our lives. This is the tactic the demons love to use against those who are trying to overcome sin in their lives. He tries to bring up the past and get you to project it onto the future so you can lose hope and commit the sin again. If anger is your issue the devil will stir up something in your memory so you can project a past injustice onto a current situation. This will often get you to justify some outburst of anger that is not really justified. This can happen with the sexual appetite as well. The devil will bring up how many times you have committed the sin in the past and convinces you that one more time won't make any difference. Then when you commit the sin again it attaches even deeper into your intellect. For those who have issues of attachment to material things, he will use your thoughts against you and get you to dwell on goods that catch your fancy such as expensive cars, big houses, decadent clothes and the list goes on.

The memory and our imaginations can be used against us if we are not careful. We have all fallen prey to this in one form or another. What can we do to combat these sins that are enticed by our disordered memories? Mother Angelica in her book called, 'Three Keys to the Kingdom' tells us that we must cultivate the virtue of Hope. Instead of letting our minds go into a fog of fantasy in which we then project onto the future, we focus on the kingdom of God. It is much easier to accept our immediate suffering and put up a struggle against our sinful inclinations when we reflect on God, focusing on His sacrifice and the kingdom that awaits us if we are faithful to Him. Mother wrote, "Hope keeps our memory and imagination from harboring resentments and gives us the assurance that no matter how dark things seem to be, our little boat is being guided by the hand of a loving and omnipotent Father. It gives us a light heart in regard to disturbing occurrences and helps us to see God behind everything that happens."

In her book Mother uses examples of Saint Peter and Judas to show us which two choices we have before us. Judas let his past sins and damaged memory drive him into despair. It became fuel for his pride and he eventually destroyed himself by suicide. We see many people follow a similar course when they become addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography or engrossed in their material wealth They slowly kill themselves, if not physically then always spiritually. Saint Peter on other hand let those memories humble him. He did not dwell on those memories and let them drive him into committing the sins again. He fortified himself with the virtue of Hope through Jesus Christ. So Mother says, "We must use all our past regrets as opportunities for greater things, because they have taught us to depend on God and not ourselves."

How do we nourish the virtue of Hope in our lives?

1. We must make a serious effort to guard our intellects. Garbage in means garbage out in the actualization of sin. We must not watch movies or television shows that will cause us to reflect on things that tempt us. The people we surround ourselves with should not build up our inclination to sin, but help us to live holy lives. Guarding our intellects takes serious and persistent effort.

2. Nourishing our intellect with holy images and reading can begin to heal our memories and imaginations. Reading Sacred Scripture or a good Catholic book can have a great affect over a period of time. Using holy images in our homes to keep our eyes on and intellect focused on God and the Saints help to keep us from projecting our bad thoughts onto the future. Instead the images invoke Hope in us. 

3. Prayer and meditation goes along with reflecting on holy images and good books. I have written many posts on the importance of prayer so I will not repeat myself here. There is no better saying to remember than, " Those who pray little have little chance of getting to heaven. Those who pray much have a great chance of getting to heaven, and those who do not pray have no chance. Be sure to make a daily prayer schedule and stick to it. Include the Rosary every day. "I think we forget that the Rosary is powerful." (Mother Angelica) This is not an option as in fact one of the most essential ingredients to making this all work.

4. Christ has given us immense graces through the Sacraments. We must receive Baptism and Confirmation. Most of us already practicing the faith have already received them. Through these Sacraments comes a healing grace and a fortifying of our souls against sin. These Sacraments must also be nurtured by the Sacrament of Holy Communion and Confession. When we commit a sin, we must immediately make an act of contrition and schedule a time as soon as possible to receive the Sacrament of confession. The Sacrament of confession reconciles ourselves to the Body of Christ and forgives our sins. This gives us a divine affiliation once again with God the Father. Once we are in a state of grace, we then can receive the Holy Eucharist when we attend the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Our Lord gives us spiritual healing and nourishment through His most precious Body and Blood. It is good to go to daily Mass if possible.

5. Finally, Our beautiful Queen of Heaven, and the Saints are always ready to assist us in our battle. Devotion to Our Lady is something every faithful Catholic will hold as a treasure. She is at the center of all things and points us to her Son Jesus Christ. She along with the Saints bring Christ and help us along on the field of battle. I don't know where I would be without The Blessed Mother in my life. No matter where I may find myself on any given day, I always begin by asking her for the grace to love her Son more. I also ask for the help of the Saints, especially that of my dearest friend St Dominic.

In summary, our thoughts determine our future actions and will determine our lives. If we let our memories and imaginations run amok in past sin, causing us to abandon Hope we will find ourselves void of divine life and will be damned. If we choose to begin again, guarding our minds, nourishing ourselves with holy images, reading and receiving the grace of the Sacraments, we will find life through divine affiliation. Our minds will begin to heal and the virtue of Hope will grow within us inoculating us against committing sins in the future. This all requires patience and persistence. It is important to remember that all of this takes time. There are no instant cures. Many of us have fast food mentalities and we think there is always a quick cure for everything. Mother Angelica said it best, "Holiness is not for wimps and the cross is not negotiable, sweetheart, its a requirement."