Saint Thomas Aquinas

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."

Saturday, October 15, 2016

From Vicious Men Come Forth the Foul Winds of Abomination


The world today seems to teeter on the edge disaster for millions of people. Those who live a virtuous life are few, and many today do not believe in the existence of virtue. Objectivity has been replaced with subjectivity and thus we see the intellect of man being corrupted on a wide scale. When entire cultures deny the existence of good and evil, virtue and vice, it leaves a vacuum of darkness in the heart of man. The absence of good leaves a haven for evil. Hence we see the celebration of every evil under the sun. It is as if man foolishly believes that they have somehow progressed past the idea of right and wrong. Yet for those who still have their wits about them, they see the real picture. They see the devolution of a culture spiraling into a heartless mob of sub-defectives who don’t know north from south, east from west or right from wrong.

In the US we see the effects of this devolution of unbridled vice in various ways. Vicious appetites have unleashed horrific laws upon us that have now begun to destroy any sense virtue. The natural law, which is readily apparent to a healthy mind, has been buried under the rubble of pseudo-intellectualism. Isn’t it a wonder to our eyes that so many today can’t tell the difference between men and women, insisting foolishly that one’s gender is only determined by one’s “identity.” One can now legitimately live their lives fictitiously in their grand delusions thinking themselves to be something other than what they are in essence.  Vicious ideologies not kept in check by a society will eventually self destruct. The vicious majority eventually force the acceptance of their immoral actions on the remaining portion of society. 

We can see this happening in the pseudo-laws we are now forcing on our public. For example, only a heinous, rotten villain would ever pass a law that allows partial birth abortion. Yet, this is what Hillary Clinton wants to pass into law. Only a mentally disturbed person would want to pass laws letting one’s “gender identity” determine which public bathroom they will use. Yet these sick, vicious disturbed politicians and judges are passing laws it seems, day by day now forcing our society into accepting this perverted, disastrous immorality. Why is it that we see these politicians trying to grow the influence and control of government? It is so they legislate their evil into society. They can line their pockets and force their immoral lifestyles on the public at the same time. Al Capone had nothing on these politicians.  This abuse of the legal system is symptomatic of a sick society.  

Our schools are also a target for this immoral governmental legislation. The school curriculum  is being corrupted to force our children into accepting many forms of vice. This is an effective way to embed immorality and vice into a culture. You force it upon the most innocent, impressionable foundation for the future foundation of a society, the youth. This is one of the most important battles we face now. Yet, if many parents are already buying into some of this poisonous mentality, they do not possess the wisdom to offer their children an inoculation against this poison. You can’t pass along virtue you do not possess yourself. As it stands, we are losing this battle on a daily basis. We are now on three generations of immoral degradation in our education system.

As our culture continues to devolve we now see the worst choice of presidential candidates before us in our modern history. The disturbed charlatan Hitlery Clinton makes the corrupt politicians of yesteryear look like choirboys. Vice, scandal, lies, and crony capitalism are her middle names. She was the proud recipient of the Margaret Sanger award who as we know was a racist eugenicist who wanted to exterminate the black population in our country. Yet, Sanger is admittedly one of Clinton’s heroes. This is just one of the many disturbing facts about this deplorable candidate who wants to legislate more evil into the fabric of our society. On the other side of the stage we see Trump. Virtue is certainly not a friend of Donald Trump. This crude and rude man reflects the average materialistic mindset of many in our country. Dollar signs, material success and business opportunities are the apple of his eye. Although he is a better choice when it comes to the furthering of abortion, the destruction of marriage and getting our debt under control, he is far from a pillar of virtue. The poor choice of candidates reflects just how far our culture has devolved. 

At the end of the day however, these are the politicians that our decadent American culture has brought forth. From vicious men have come forth the foul winds of abomination. Men and women today have been blinded by their own arrogance and have chosen to further many evils including unbridled abortion, fornication, divorce, contraception, homosexuality and materialistic greed among themselves. As a result they choose politicians who also laud these deplorable vices. Hence we have had eight years of the worst presidency our country has ever witnessed. We the vice ridden people elected a sub-defective moral degenerate into the White House for two terms! Greed and lust for power has driven up our debt exponentially. Abortion is now not only an accepted choice for birth control, but it has become sacrosanct for the Democratic Party and its supporters. A women’s “right” to kill their children is defended with hysterical rigor unlike any other vice. Likewise the sacrament of marriage is not far down the list of targets for these modernist progressives. Marriage has been weekend by the public acceptance of extra martial affairs, drive through divorce and homosexual “marriage.”  We have brought this upon ourselves as a nation.

In just over the 40 plus years that I have been alive, I never would have thought I would have seen public opinion devolve so quickly concerning these critical moral issues. When I was a child these forms of immorality were looked down upon, and that was a good thing. As we now continue to exalt vice, we continue to devolve into vicious, malicious sub-defectives bringing with it the winds of abomination and desolation. Men are becoming crueler, valuing human life less and less each day. Justice seems to be subject to ridicule as the government of "we the people" violates the rights of its citizens. But this is a device of our own making. Sin has clouded our judgement as a society. Even as Catholics we have not lived up to our calling to holiness. As a result, Catholics are now being attacked for our moral positions and now are even being forced to pay for abortions and contraception in a coerced government takeover of healthcare.

Just as natural virtue is no longer tolerated, God is no longer permitted to exist in lives of the public servants, our politicians. Only a neutered “god” is permitted to exist in the public eye. Most of the politicians who dare even mention the name of god have only created an idea of a god that offends no one and does not place any obligations on society. The one true God is no longer tolerated, otherwise the consciences of these vice ridden men and women would begin to eat away at them. These cowards cannot face the reality of their own sin and vice. As a a result they legislated God out of our schools. They launched a crusade to legalize the mass killing of innocent life in the womb. They have decided to legalize vice and have outlawed goodness. The list is endless as to the many ways vice is destroying our society. 

Although I have painted a dire picture here, do we have a chance of turning things around in our country and the world? Or do we face the inevitable downward spiral of desolation that always follows in the wake of rampant evil? Will our politicians fix the situation we find ourselves in? Unfortunately we are choosing from a degenerate pool of politicians who do not know up from down or right from wrong because we the people have created this degenerate pool by our own sin. Should we vote for the least pro-death candidate? Sure, but don’t think for a minute that even if that candidate should win that they will have any lasting significant impact on healing the true wounds of our culture. Unfortunately I see many Catholics spending more time focusing on natural cures than they are on supernatural cures. The only way we have of truly recovering any sense of virtue in our culture, and thus turning back the stench-ridden winds of abomination is to turn back to God. Our hearts will be restless until this happens. There are no worldly cures for our sickness. We have no virtuous leaders that put God front and center in their lives. We have no political parties that will uphold the moral law. There is simply not enough grace infused in our culture to work with. It is like to trying to make leaven bread with no yeast.

True change can only occur through the grace of Christ’s one and only Catholic Church. For those few who are truly practicing the Catholic faith we must strive to pray and sacrifice more for those who do not now know Christ. It is only through Christ that we find true virtue in the supernatural sense. This virtue is the only antidote for the illness that afflicts our culture. Evangelization is a key element to healing our society and it can effect change on many levels. As we live our lives for Christ we must share Him with others. Our lives must radiate Christ and we must let his grace shine through us so that others may also come to know Him. We must be aware of the many ways as God puts opportunities before us. These opportunities present themselves in our families, our places of work, and in public. As we begin to help build up virtuous men and women in our realm of influence, we can begin to legislate morality back into our culture. All God asks is that we love him and that we are open to doing His will. He will take care of the rest. The early Christians in the Roman Empire faced a similar, and in some ways even a more harsh landscape than we face today. They conquered a vice ridden empire by boldly living and preaching the Gospel of Christ. Let us pray for our country and for one another to be spared from the abomination that we ourselves have created and now angrily beats upon our front doors.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stop Cursing the Darkness. Start Praying and Sacrificing!

It takes a saint's prayer and penance to solve problems!

As the globe turns in our tumultuous times we are witnessing one of the worst crisis of faith in the Church and the world we have ever seen. Many inside and outside the Church are actively looking for ways to destroy or minimize the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. Unfortunately this situation has brought some of the worst out in the Catholic blogosphere. This has also become the age of the whistleblower/drive by news bloggers and media organizations.

There are now hundreds of “Catholic” blogs, websites and media outlets that are dedicated to cursing the darkness. Some seem to think that they are the sole voices of orthodoxy among Catholics. It is one thing to write an occasional article pointing some problem in the Church that needs to be addressed and quite another to dedicate an entire website or media organization to listing out every perceived problem going on in the Church. Personally I find this whole idea contrary to a healthy Catholic identity, and it often causes more issues than it does help resolve them.

Many use the examples of Saints like St Catherine of Siena and others to bolster this whistle blower mentality. Unfortunately, most of them probably have never done one one-hundredth of the penance and sacrifice these Saints did before they themselves ever dared to criticize anyone publicly. Let alone did any of them dedicate their entire bodies of work to  doing such a thing. Instead most of them like St Catherine actually blamed themselves for not being holy enough as to the cause of the problems in the Church. Even when they did speak out, they spent far more time in prayer and penance to rectify the situation than they ever did talking about it.

I find that many of these whistle blower websites often use sensational headlines that do not reflect the actual content of the article that is linked to it. Many of these websites use headlines that are often slanderous. For example, I saw a recent headline on one of these websites that said, “EWTN for Hillary!” as if the entire organization was supporting Hillary for president, which is not even close to being the case. In fact, the article linked said nothing of the sort. One thing bloggers should remember is that God will hold them accountable for everything they publish online. One thing you will rarely see on these websites for example are the many articles and videos on EWTN that are being made on a daily basis where the exact opposite is being advocated. 

The danger of running a “whistleblower” webpage or media organization is that eventually everything sounds like a broken record and things tend to be sensationalized. This gives a distorted representation of reality and tends to make people react emotionally rather than intellectually. Its time for Catholics who see and understand the problems in the Church to actually start doing what the Saints did. They need to engage in much prayer and penance. What we need less of is emotional ranting and more practice of prayer and penance. Did we see Our Lord spending every waking hour complaining and condemning the many wrongs in His time? No, He did it when it was necessary and spent the majority of His time preaching the Gospel to everyone so they could receive eternal life. If anyone had a right to go around and point out everyone's faults it was Jesus, and He rarely did that. In my opinion, it is time to stop cursing the darkness and start doing something about the problem. It is our own sins that are the cause of the catastrophe we find ourselves. We all have short memories when it comes to our own sins, and then we minimize the harm we have caused the Church. We need to stop sinning, start praying and doing penance. If everyone would spend as much time praying and doing penance as they do reading and writing hit pieces, we would be out of this mess already. Anyone can sit around and point out everything they perceive as a problem in the Church and complain about it. But it takes a saint to actually do something about it.

But it seems to me that God's Church has a great shortage of good ministers because the cloud of our own selfish love has grown so big in our mind's eye that no one, apparently can see or know this truth. And therefore they do not love it, since they are so filled with sensual and particular love for themselves that they cannot fill their heart and their will with love of truth. And so the mouths of those who are made heralds of the truth are found to be lying and deceitful. And I dearest father can prove it so. For in the place where I am, the religious- never mind the laity, of whom there are plenty of bad ones and few good ones- and the secular clergy, and especially the mendicant friars, who are appointed by Christ's dear bride to announce and proclaim the truth, are opposing the truth and giving it the lie in the pulpit. I believe my sins are the cause of it... They have led the people into much heresy that it is pitiful even to think about it, let alone see it. And what makes them say and do these things is slavish fear of others, human respect, and the desire for stipends. (From Letter T284)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mother Angelica Has Done Her Part. What About You?

EWTN celebrated the life of Mother Angelica at this years Family Celebration in Birmingham, Alabama. Thankfully I was able to spend some time there on Saturday and Sunday attending some of the talks. This Sunday afternoon Fr. Wade Menezes and Raymond Arroyo gave some great talks on Mother Angelica's life and the work she had done with EWTN. Many converts like myself watched Mother Angelica's shows and took away from them many practical lessons on how to live the Catholic faith. Many of us are grateful for how much she has done for us by giving us a great Catholic media outlet. I think that few of us realize how much she did for us and the Church over the final 15 years of her life when she lived out of the public eye.

Raymond's talk was very interesting because he gave some insight into the contemplative life of Mother. Since most of us equate her with her television appearances it is easy for us to forget that she was a cloistered contemplative nun. Although much her public life was known for getting the network off the ground and putting solid Catholic programming together Mother spent much of her time conversing with God. In fact, in her final 15 years she spent most of that time suffering in the after affects of a stroke, where she could not speak most of the time. This is where Raymond points out that this is where Mother was actually the most effective, and in fact may have carried out her most important work. She suffered greatly during this time, yet she grew closer to Christ and spent much of the time praying for the continued success of the Network.

The lesson I learned here is that I always tend to equate "success" with doing material things, and quickly forget that we only fulfill our part by doing God's will. This can only be done first by much prayer no matter what state or situation He has given to us. It is human nature to always be thinking that when our situation becomes ideal we will then do something. It is easy to say "When I retire I will pray more" or "When I get around to it I will learn more about my faith." We sometimes overlook the fact that prayer and contemplation is expected of us no matter where we may be in our life. Our job or other affairs often distract us from our participation in the prayer life of the Church. Mother Angelica has taught us to be courageous in our faith by engaging both the physical and the spiritual. It was actually her spiritual life that allowed her to build EWTN. When Mother was not able to continue being physically involved with EWTN she humbly accepted her physically debilitated state and sought to continue her efforts in the manner and situation God put her in. Although her efforts were no longer visible, God was doing amazing things behind the scenes. So we too must do our part no matter what situation we may find ourselves. Before we are truly able to do the will of God, we must first of all be men and women of prayer. I give thanks to God for that little Italian nun who with great tenacity taught us how to love God and seek to carry out His will. Mother did her part and then some. What about you?

EWTN will soon be airing all of the talks that were held at the Family Celebration this weekend. Grab a copy of Raymond's new book to read about Mother's final years.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Five Marvels of the Incarnation

The Five Marvels of the Incarnation
By Denis the Carthusian

The writings of Denis the Carthusian are among my favorite writings to read. It is one of the books I chose to keep with me during my move to Alabama. It was no small task for me to pick five small plastic containers of books to remain with me, while the rest of library went into storage. Denis’ Spiritual Writings were one of the books that made it into one of my bins. Denis was born at the very beginning of the 1400s, and was one of the most popular spiritual writers of his time. In section 48 of the book he writes on the Incarnation of Christ, and he speaks of some of the marvels of the Incarnation. It is through Christ's Incarnation that we are able to enter into the beatific vision in eternity, which was closed off prior. There are five of these "marvels" Denis presents and I wanted to post them up here for anyone who wants to contemplate them. I think they are worth meditating on for spiritual enrichment. Each one of them are so rich and deep that you can meditate on them for some time. 

“The first marvel is that despite the infinite distance and disproportion between the uncreated and uncircumscribed Word of God and uncircumscribed humanity, the two came together in one Person.” This is certainly something to ponder that a God who is so far above us bridged this insurmountable gap.

“The second marvel is that out of two natures complete in act and essence, a single person emerges.” As we know, Christ has a human nature and a divine nature, but is a divine person. Yet, neither of his two natures are diminished in any way, as Denis says here, they are complete in their act and essence.
“The third marvel is that human nature in Christ maintained its own proper actions and passions, although it subsisted not in a human, created person but in a divine person.” Here we see that in Christ even though He has a true human nature, it was united not in a created person as a normal human being, but in a divine person.

“The fourth marvel is an eternal, unchangeable and perfect Person, is truly generated in time, and without any change in Himself, or any assimilation of something new into His own nature.” This mystery has always been hard for us to understand. Christ took on His human nature in time through His Incarnation yet remains unchanged in His Person.

“The fifth marvel is that a Virgin conceived and bore a child without the loss of virginity; a thing that never happened before.” Here we see the importance of Marian devotion being attached to Christ’s Incarnation. Indeed it was a miracle that she conceived Our Lord and was a Virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus Christ. 

Overcoming Apathy, the Killer of Souls and Destroyer of Civilization

Overcoming Apathy, the Killer of Souls and Destroyer of Civilization

I have written articles on apathy and how it is probably the most spiritually dead state we can be in. Apathy, or what is also known as lukewarmness is what Scripture warns us about in Revelation 3:16 "But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” As I said in an earlier article, those who think they can just meander about being “good” enough, are a large portion who will find themselves in hell. It will not be just the Hitlers and Stalins who find themselves there.

There is more to be said on this subject which is of the utmost importance. The loss of souls due to apathy will not only be the loss of souls of those who practice it, but those who will be left cold to the faith due to their apathy. An apathetic Church leaves souls unconverted. We can see the results of an apathetic Church in our own time and culture. We have let the death peddlers assault society without any resistance. We have let the horrors of humanity such as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, sodomy, murder, greed, corruption, and list goes on, take over our because those in the Church have grown lukewarm.

This lukewarmness brings with the greatest chastisements, including being left to our own devices. It is no secret as to why western civilization is being hurled into moral chaos. It is because we have become apathetic to God and have turned our backs on everything that made our civilization great. The family has self-destructed on the drug of apathy. Our people have put personal luxury and pride above human life and the family. The myth of overpopulation is still going on unopposed and the lies concerning women’s healthcare is not being exposed for the fraud that it is. When error and evil goes unopposed it is a sure sign of an apathetic Church. 

In order for the culture to change, we must win the hearts and minds of the people, and that can only be done by the flame of divine charity, a faith that burns bright. This includes not only the bishops, priests and religious, who should be preaching the truth and defending the Church’s teachings, but also the laity in the pew. We also have to do our part. There are many more of us than there are clergy so we bear a large burden as well. What can we do as laity to help turn the tide of apathy? I will give a list of seven things that we can do that will aid us in accomplishing our part.

1.      We must live a life of holiness- This means we must stay in a state of grace and grow in supernatural virtue. The army cannot be effective without supernatural grace. St Catherine of Sienna once wrote, “what a dangerous thing is sin in the soul!... So let us wake up from this sleep of senseless apathy!”

2.       We need to frequent the Sacraments- In order to accomplish the first goal, we must go to confession and receive Holy Communion regularly. We should make it to confession at least twice a month if not weekly. We should try and make it the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as often as we can in addition to our Sunday obligation. Through these Sacraments we receive great strength to persevere in our heavenly mission.

3.       We need to persevere in prayer and meditation- In order to remain close to God we need to spend at least 15 to 30 minutes a day in prayer. Praying a minimum of one decade of the Rosary along with meditation and other prayers should be a minimum. Be creative in using time throughout the day to pray, such as when you drive, or in between chores, etc. Take a minute a pray the Angelus or other prayers during the day. When possible, go before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer and meditation.

4.       We must love the truth and hate sin- Charity is the mechanism that embraces the love of truth.     Charity is the love of God in us. As we stand in the midst of the battle for souls only the love of truth arms us for battle. Like-wise this same charity gives us a hate for sin. We cannot continue to act as if people promoting sin as virtue is OK. True charity consists in admonishing the sinner so they can change their lives. This is often one of the most difficult things for Catholics to do in the midst of such harsh opposition. We must however keep our gaze on Christ so that we may have the courage to do this. St Catherine of Sienna said it best, “When we remember the holy cross we come to love virtue and hate vice.”

5.       We must study our faith- In order for us to be equipped mentally it is good that we spend some time in the study of our faith. There are many avenues open to us in our day. We can listen to talks online, watch Catholic programming such as EWTN and YouTube videos. There are also thousands of good books to read. I would suggest reading the Catholic classics to begin. There is also no substitute for reading Sacred Scripture, both for theological knowledge as well as nourishment for the soul.

6.       Have a strong devotion to Our Blessed Mother and the Saints- Devotion to Our Lady is not an option for a true Christian. Everyone who loves the Son, Christ, also in turn loves His mother. Our Lord has given us His Holy Mother and all of the Saints a task in aiding us here in the battle for souls. This is a divine family which we are a part of. This is something the heretic is never able to comprehend, falsely accusing us of idolatry. This of course is due to their adulterous abandonment of Christ’s Church. Let us have great devotion to Our Lady and the Saints to which God Himself has given us as heavenly helpers to rescue souls.

7.       Stand up for the truth- We must remember that a soul on fire for Christ will never remain silent when opposed with evil opposition. This of course must always be accompanied by the virtue of prudence, and the gift of charity, but we have remained silent long enough. First we must fraternally correct those in the Church who are opposed to her teachings. We cannot remain silent to those in the Church who regularly support abortion, sodomy or contraception for example. We need to make our voices heard to both laity and clergy who insult Christ and His Church by promoting evil. It is not enough at times for us just to hold on to our faith in secret, there comes a time when God calls us to be lions for the faith. If we are going to stop the destruction of civilization and the mass destruction of souls, the Church must take the first step in opposition to the anti-life organizations. This can only be done if we have holy people in the Church who love the truth she proclaims. Those traitors in the Church must be corrected in charity, so that we can begin to rebuild the Church, and henceforth civilization. Again, a great deal of prudence is needed and we must act according to God's will and not our own. We can start in our own families where have the authority to correct. When speaking to others in our parish, we need to act in charity and always proclaim the teaching of Christ when given the appropriate opportunity.  We as the laity however do have the right to be given the proper teaching of the faith, and we need to do a better job of being vigilant in this matter. 

These seven things should put us on the path to overcoming apathy in the Church. This must be our first and foremost duty as Catholics. Although we can indeed have an impact on the world around us, we can be much more effective if we are able to first strengthen the Church and awake it from its apathetic state. Then as a Church we can be effective in fighting the evils of our day. The longer remain apathetic, the worse the chastisements will be, and the harder it will be for us to restore the faith in society. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Have We Lost the Essence of the Mass?

Have We Lost the Essence of the Mass?


I have lived in several places and traveled to many places over the past 13 years I have been a Catholic. As a result I have attended many Masses in many places in the US, and some abroad over the same time span. In my experience, those many Novus Ordo Masses that I have been to have not proven to be celebrated worthily as if they were primarily a Sacrifice. Only the traditional Latin Masses and the Eastern Liturgies have demonstrated to consistently resemble this fact in their reverence and execution. What is the reason for this? Have we lost the fact that the Mass is primarily a sacrifice?

I am not one of the deniers who believes the Novus Ordo is invalid, I am however firmly convinced that the Church did not make one of her best decisions by making the Novus Ordo liturgy the “Ordinary Form.” I believe the experiment was a colossal failure and the Church will once again at some point in time move back to the old Roman Rite. I don’t think this is a stretch to think that this could happen. In celebrating the Sacraments over the centuries, the Church has realized at several points in time when she has made not the best decisions in the way they were celebrated. For example, the Church eventually figured out that executing the Sacrament of penance in public was not a good idea, and changed it to be said in private.

The Liturgical practices have been unique in that with the exception of the Novus Ordo, they were established by the apostles and have grown and changed gradually and organically throughout time. The Novus Ordo, concocted ad hoc by a group of supposed “experts” is the only Liturgy of this ad hoc pedigree the Church has ever produced. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that it is the only liturgy that does not put forth a Sacrificial, penitential tone in its prayer form. It is also the only liturgy to celebrated ad populum, taking the focus off of the altar and the sacrifice and refocusing it on the community. Thus, over the years we have seen that in its execution, the clergy and laity in a general sense do put forth a sacrificial, penitential tone in their actions. They treat the Mass more like a community gathering than that of the Most Holy Sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
If we read theological works written on the Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council, we see that the Mass was always referred to as the “Holy Sacrifice.” For example, in the work, “The Unchangeable Church” written in 1909, the very first sentence in chapter XXXI on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass says, “Sacrifice is an external act of supreme religious worship given to God alone.” Then it continues, “The Mass! What is the Mass? The Mass in one word is the very same sacrifice as that of the cross.” If that is the case, then why is that no longer the theological focus of most of today’s theologians? The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most important action that anyone can participate in, this side of heaven. The Council of Trent reiterates, “that no other work can be performed by the faithful so holy and divine as this tremendous mystery. Wherein the life-giving Victim, by which we were reconciled to the Father, is daily immolated on the altar by priests.”

In the Novus Ordo, we have a wholesale change in the prayer form compared to the Tridentine Liturgy. The Novus Ordo seems to be more focused on the communal aspect of the Mass, which is a valid aspect, yet it has never been a primary theological focus by theologians throughout the centuries, and for good reason. It is because the Mass in its essence is a sacrifice. Theologians now miss this point because they have also lost the traditional theological tradition of the scholastics, which understood what it was to define a thing and its essence. Again, the Mass is in its essence a Sacrifice, not a communal gathering. You can actually celebrate a Mass with only the priest. But, even in recognizing the communal aspect, theologians today still miss an important point. They miss the fact that we are assembled primarily to give praise, thanksgiving and to obtain graces and blessings from God, not to celebrate one another or the community. They also miss the point that when the laity are present, they are also participating that same sacrifice with the priest in a unique way. All those present in some way make the great offering of sacrifice with him, “Pray, bretheren, that your sacrifice and mine may be acceptable to God.” That is why the laity along with the priest leading them face the altar of sacrifice.

The Application of the Mass

When we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we give adoration to God, we thank Him for what He has given us and we petition him to give us the grace to remain faithful to Him so that we may do His will, and not our own. Also, there are three “fruits” in which the Mass produces. The first is a general fruit in which everyone participates, which is the celebration by the priest for the entire Church. Then there are special intentions in which the Mass is said for one or more people, to which special graces are passed. Finally there is a special fruit in which the priest himself participates. The Mass delivers special graces in each of these aspects. So the Sacrifice of the Mass bears special graces and fruits in each of these intentions. It must be pointed out that it is through the Sacrifice itself that this communal aspect is made possible so that the praise, thanksgiving, and the graces given are to be made pleasing to God. This is not to say that private prayer and devotion is not pleasing to God, but that as a Church in her liturgical celebration, only the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the legitimate means of obtaining these special graces where we give a sacrificial thanksgiving and receive these special blessings directly from God.

The Four Debts

The great St. Thomas Aquinas gives us a proper look at the debts which we owe to God that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass infinitely pays. “The first is to praise and honor the infinite majesty of God, which is infinitely worthy of all praise and honor the creature can give Him. The second is to satisfy for the many sins committed against Him. The third is to thank Him for the many favors received from Him. The fourth is to supplicate Him as the giver of all good gifts.” We seem to forget the idea that original sin has created a rupture between us and God. Divine Justice demands that these debts, for lack of a better term, are satisfied. Christ’s sacrifice is the only infinite means of satisfying an infinite God. Thus we see how the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass satisfies Divine Justice. This is important is we are to understand the gravity of the Mass in which we regularly participate.

The Passion and Death

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is also in reality an active celebration of the Passion and Death of Christ. There could be no sacrifice without a victim and a priest. Even the actions of the priest in the Tridentine Mass represent certain parts Christ’s passion and death. For example, the priest going to the altar represents Christ going to Mt Olivet. The priest saying the Confiteor represents Christ falling down and sweating blood. The priest offering the bread and wine represents Christ being scourged, and so on. I have rarely read anything post Vatican II that even refers to such things. Many will argue that some of these things developed over time in the Latin Mass and so the Novus Ordo will develop as well. This however is not the point. The point is, the traditional Rite had at its core the penitential and sacrificial nature built into its DNA from the beginning. The fact is, we don’t know exactly how the first Masses were said. We do know that what was passed down to us in the Roman Rite can be traced back to its origins in the apostles and that as it developed it was not diminished, but perfected over the years organically. This simply cannot happen with the Novus Ordo.

Our Redemption

Many will ask why other religious services including Protestant services cannot be pleasing to God. Many post Vatican II theologians wanted the Novus Ordo to be more appealing to Protestants. This scheme however did not result in any new converts, and in fact diminished the fact that the Mass was indeed very different from a Protestant service. The reason is that Christ Himself deemed to give us  His Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the valid true way of celebrating our redemption. This was made possible through His Sacrifice on Calvary. It is this same sacrifice that is made present in the Mass which is not and cannot be made present in any other form of worship. “In a word: the bloody sacrifice was the instrument of redemption, and the unbloody sacrifice puts us in possession of it; the one opened to us the treasury of merits of Christ our Lord, the other gives us the practical use of that never-failing treasury.” (The Unchangeable Church) It is important to realize this fact, and that any other form of liturgical worship in other heretical groups are not pleasing to God. So we must understand the uniqueness of this Holy Sacrifice and it should be instantly recognizable in its execution. Any attempt to make the Mass more like a Protestant service only damages the faith of Catholics and obscures its essence. 

A Treasure to Behold

When we are at Mass then, we should put ourselves at the foot of the cross. We should act like we are at the foot of the cross with Our Blessed Mother and the Saints.  We should treat it is as a treasure. The music should make it clear that it is a sacred treasure. Would we approach the cross on Calvary dressed like we are going out on the town for a night of leisure with casual piano music playing as if we were in a ballroom? Do we ever think of how we may be profaning the sacred altar where Our Lord is being offered for our sins? We should think well on the presence of Christ present in the priest who is offering the Mass, the victim of Christ Himself in the Mass, and the great majesty of who it is being sacrificed. If this reality is not enough to give us pause in how we act at Mass, then nothing will.

Graces Obtained

It is through this Holy Sacrifice that we obtain special graces. Every moment of our existence depends on God and God alone. Every “good” that we do is done with His grace. The Mass strengthens us and allows us to unite ourselves to Christ in a unique manner. We receive tremendous spiritual graces such as sorrow for sin, the ability to overcome temptation and the nurturing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It gives us the grace to become saints. We receive special blessings and we participate in the Church’s mission to evangelize lost souls. The Mass also brings with it material blessings such as the health of our bodies, avoiding war, famine and other pestilences. We receive more graces than we can imagine by reverently participating at each Mass. St Bernard of Clairvaux once wrote, “More is gained by a single Mass, than by distributing all of your goods to the poor, or going to pilgrimages to all of the most holy shrines in the world.”

The Dying, Death and those in Purgatory

Do we ever think to pray for those souls close to death or those suffering the pains of Purgatory while we are at Mass? If you have in your possession any of the traditional prayer books, they all have prayers that you can pray before during and after the Mass. If you notice, there are always prayers to obtain graces for those that will die that day, the dead, and for those souls in purgatory. The Mass merits graces for those souls as well. We petition God that we and others may have a holy and peaceful death. We also are able to obtain graces to shorten our time in Purgatory, or avoid it altogether. One priest I recently had a conversation with pointed out the vast difference in a funeral Mass between the Tridentine Rite and the Novus Ordo Rite. The Tridentine Rite focuses on obtaining graces for the soul of the departed so that graces can be obtained to shorten that person’s time in purgatory. So the funeral Mass is not primarily to celebrate the life of the departed as it seems to be at the Novus Ordo. We can do that at a wake. It is primarily aimed at obtaining special graces for the departed soul. In other words, we should see the focus again on the penitential and sacrificial rather than the communal.

The Most Holy Eucharist

There are two miracles that take place at every Mass. The first is that at consecration, the wine and bread become the Precious Body and Blood of Christ and that the accidents, or appearance of the bread and wine remain. This is known as Transubstantiation. We still see the appearances of bread and wine, which should not remain once their substance is changed, but Christ is now truly present in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is who we truly receive at Mass in Holy Communion. So we now have yet another important gift in the treasure of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Christ Himself, giving Himself to us in all of His being. The Eucharist itself should also be regarded as a Sacrifice as Trent clearly states. This is another important reason on why no other religious service through any denomination can be pleasing to God, Christ Himself instituted the Eucharist and Christ is present “truly and substantially” (Trent). St. Paul also states that partaking in other religious ceremonies is, “the table of devils.” (1 Cor 10) The Eucharist is also a means of Christ uniting Himself with us. He is the “life giving water” and our spiritual nourishment. It is a precursor to our eternal unity with Him when we pass from this life. In this life he makes us stronger as we unite to Him in our sufferings, trials and even triumphs. The Church calls the Holy Eucharist the source and summit of our Christian lives. We should treat it as such in all of our actions during the Mass.

Conveying The Reality

With this truth and reality of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass before us, how can it be that so many in the Church today act as if it is just a communal celebration? Was there a change in theology with the institution of the Novus Ordo? No change is found in any of the Vatican II documents on the liturgy, yet it is clear that the ambiguity of the documents allowed an entire theological attitude change for much of the faithful and the clergy. Anibale Bugnini the chief creator of the Novus Ordo wrote in his memoirs, “The path opened up by the Council will surely bring a radical change in the very appearance of traditional liturgical assemblies,..." This is exactly what happened. Appearances convey reality. The Mass no longer remained focused on the Holy Sacrifice, and the uniformity established in the liturgical norms of the past that were meant to convey the true reality were done away with. It was the intention of Bugnini to do away with this traditional thinking on the Mass by freeing it from past uniformity. By his own admission Bugnini tells us this clearly on page 42 of his memoirs, "This principle represents a momentous departure from past practice. For centuries the Church willed that all worship in the Roman Rite should everywhere show perfect uniformity. The two liturgical reforms which history has recorded - that of the eighth century and that promoted by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century- had precisely that aim... Social, religious, cultic and cultural considerations, and indeed the entire psychological climate, have changed radically in our day." This is why there are so many options in the Novus Ordo and why the rubrics are not as tight. It is more dependent on the priest and the particular community the Mass is being celebrated at than the reality of Christ being the Sacrifice. It is my hope that the proper sacrificial and penitential reality of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be restored and that in due time the Church will realize that the Tridentine Mass best exemplifies this reality. I hope in my day that the Church will restore it to the ordinary celebration in the Roman Rite. In my opinion, the experiment of the Novus Ordo liturgy has failed to uniformly convey adequately the reality of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  

Primary Source

The Unchangeable Church Vol II 1909 John Duffy