Saint Thomas Aquinas

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas From Christ the King 2016

This year Christ the King celebrates Christmas with its new chaplain Father Stephane Dupre, FSSP.







Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Message From Quito: Spanish Art, the Passion and the Year of Mercy

A Message From Quito: Spanish Art, the Passion and the Year of Mercy

I have always been a fan of art. Whether it be music, writing, or visual, I enjoy experiencing well crafted art. Being a Catholic I have come to enjoy the many forms of religious art that the Church has produced throughout history. There has never been a more splendid art form than that which presents the truths of the Catholic faith. Earlier this year I made a pilgrimage to Quito, Ecuador in an effort to experience firsthand devotion to Our Lady of Good Success. During my pilgrimage I had my first real contact with Spanish colonial art. It was eyeopening for me to say the least. As we begin the Year of Mercy, there are many false ideas floating around which detract or derail Our Lord's true message of mercy and I think sharing these pieces of art help to properly orient one towards the true meaning of mercy.



In Quito there are many Churches and museums that have splendid pieces of Spanish art. The statues are the most expressive I have ever seen. There are several pieces in the Franciscan convent that caught my attention and have remained in my mind since my visit. The three I cover here are all related to Our Lord's passion in one way or another. The Spaniards have always had a unique emphasis on Our Lord's passion in art, which is something that is sorely needed in today's Catholic climate.

The Franciscans were the first to establish a convent in Quito. The Franciscan Church and museum found within the cloister both contain fantastic pieces of art including statuary and paintings. The three pieces I will focus on are in the museum of the Franciscan convent. The artistic heritage found in many places throughout Quito derive from Spain, especially from Seville and Granada, which were known for their artistic achievements. After the Reformation the Catholic Church had to counter the evil of the Protestant heresy, and certain changes took place in the wake of the rebellion. One of them was establishing reforms to deepen the traditional values and teachings of the Church, including emphasizing the cult of the Saints, the Blessed Mother and devotion to Christ, especially in His Passion. Thus we see an astounding flourishing of spiritual art following the Reformation, which would come to be known as the Baroque period.

The style which developed sought not only to communicate a theological truth of the faith, but also sought to engage the senses, emotions, and to draw the viewer into the artistic setting personally. Art scholar Gabrielle Palmer says the new art form, "...yielded to organic profusions and to expression of physical vigor and emotional exuberance." Many of the pieces were used in processions on large floats for example, which would draw the viewers into the passion scene. These pieces of art were produced from a guild system in which sculptors and painters would undergo years of apprenticeship. The apprentices often began the work while the master completed the final stages. The process of making the statues which are the focus of this piece, included carving the pieces out of cedar, black oak, balsa or pine. The pieces were then put together with strips of cloth and glue and then covered with many layers of gesso. Often the head was carved in two pieces so the eyes could be glued in place before assembly. The piece was then sized with Armenian bol or clay compound. Finally the statue was then painted, dressed and polished. Final polishing with leather gives the glazed appearance that you see in many of the pieces. The three pieces I will cover are from southern Spain and are known as part of the Granadan tradition.



Jesus del Gran Poder

The first piece that I will talk about is what is known as, 'Jesus del Gran Poder.' Christ is depicted carrying His cross to Golgotha. The image dates to 1620. The statue is carved and originally was supposed to be clothed, but the clothing is actually carved. The style is similar to that which is seen from southern Andalusian Spain. I find the Spanish halo style always striking and the expression on Our Lord's face is very engaging, yet no overly so. As I stood before this image the price Our Lord paid for my sins became very real. The intent of the artist is sure to be felt by those who gaze upon the statue. I was so moved by the statue that I had a large blown up image made of it on canvas to hang on my wall. It is a tremendous image to contemplate what Our Lord has done for us, and the suffering He endured to bring us the gift of mercy.



Ecce Homo

The second piece is another life size statue called, 'Ecce Homo.' The statue is thought to be made by Pedro de Mena's workshop in Spain in the mid 1600s. Again the image demands an emotional response from the viewer. One cannot stand before it without having to reflect on the reality of Christ's suffering. Our Lord is judged as a criminal and sentenced to death before one's eyes. When contemplating the idea of mercy, it should be noted that our sins are what cause such pain and suffering to Our Lord. Looking upon this image you can see your own sins materialize on the body of Our Lord.



Oracion de Jesus en el Huerto

The last piece I will cover is called, 'Oracion de Jesus en el Huerto.' This was the first statue that caught my attention as walked through the museum. The title conveys that this is Christ in His agony in Gethsemane, praying just before being apprehended. The face of Our Lord is expressive and one can actually feel Our Lord's love for us as He contemplates what lies before Him. It is carved out of balsa wood.  Notice how He is sweating blood as He prays looking up to God the Father.




As we celebrate the Year of Mercy, we need to focus on what mercy really means. Gazing upon and contemplating Our Lord in His Passion will move us to repentance so we can live in a state of grace serving Our Lord. An idea of mercy disconnected from Our Lord's Passion is not an authentic image of mercy and these Spanish pieces of art can help us contemplate the way mercy has come to us, which was through tremendous suffering. The words below written by the great Spanish Saint of the 16th century sum up the theology behind these great works of art.

In the passion of our blessed Saviour, six things chiefly are to be meditated upon. First, the bitterness of his sorrow, that we may be compassionate with him.  Secondly, the greatness of our sins, which were the cause of his torments, that we may abhor them. Thirdly, the greatness of the benefit, that we may be grateful for it. Fourthly, the excellency of the divine charity and bounty therein manifested, that we may love Him more fervently. Fifthly, the conveniency of the mystery, that we may be drawn to admiration of it. Lastly, the multiplicity of virtues of our blessed Saviour which did shine in this stupendous mystery, that we may partly imitate and partly admire them; wherefore, in the midst of these meditations, let us sometimes be compassionate with our blessed Saviour in the extremity of his sorrows; extreme indeed, both by reason of the tenderness of his body, as also, for the great affection he bore unto our souls. He did suffer them without any manner of consolation... Sometimes let us stir up in ourselves compunction for our sins, which were the cause of his great sufferings. Sometimes let us kindle in our souls an ardent affection, considering his great affection towards us, which upon the cross he declared and manifested to the whole world. And the benefit which he bestowed upon us in His passion, because He bought us with the inestimable price of his precious blood, of which only, we reap the benefit and commodity.
(St Peter of Alcantara)

Sources:
Sculpture in the Kingdom of Quito- Gabrielle G. Palmer
A Golden Treatise of Mental Prayer (Chapter IV)- St. Peter of Alcantara

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Hermeneutic of Squintinuity

About ten years ago Pope Benedict XVI gave his Christmas address in which he compared two interpretations of the Second Vatican Council. As we know, there are many who have interpreted the Council documents in what he calls "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture". He refers to this as being the media's version of the Council and the many liberals who supposedly spun the Council in their direction. He says there was an interpretation which has "caused confusion" and that there was another interpretation that "more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit." He calls the confusing interpretation the 'hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture' and the proper and fruitful interpretation "the hermeneutic of reform" which is also been called the 'hermeneutic of continuity.' So according to Pope Benedict XVI we have a hermeneutic of discontinuity on one side and the hermeneutic of continuity on the other.

Whats that say? 

For the average Catholic what does this mean? Is there really a fruitful interpretation that has taken place anywhere in the Church, or is it really just a fantastical ideal that never really happened? It is my proposal that there is no great fruit that has taken place in regard to a 'hermeneutic of continuity', but rather we have continuing confusion among the faithful who constantly have to squint just right in order to get anything useful out of the Council documents. I shall officially coin a new term and rename this 'The Hermeneutic of Squintinuity.' That is, if you hold your head to the side just right, and squint your eyes just right, everything will line up just like it supposed to, and then the true "spirit" of Vatican II will materialize before your eyes!

Wait if I squint just right...
I do of course believe the Second Vatican Council was a true Council, but I do not think it has been a success. There have been many Ecumenical Councils of the Church that have failed to achieve much of anything, and in fact there have been many canons from councils that few would know or care about. Thankfully there were no canons from Vatican II. It is my opinion that Vatican II will eventually be one of the forgotten failed Councils. The Church has had to endure over 50 years of this Council, and still no one can tell us what it means. Everyone is still looking for the true "spirit" of the Council, and theologians are constantly telling us we need to unpack the documents. Each unpacking however leads to another unpacking, and thus far we are down to a microscopic box that supposedly contain the riches of Vatican II.

Hold on, is that the spirit of Vatican II over there?
There are supposed to be abundant fruits that have arrived from the Council as a result of this 'hermeneutic of squintinuity'. What are they? Here is what we have in the wake of the Council. Church attendance is down. The theology of the Mass has changed from focusing on the sacrificial nature to focusing on the "community." Sacramental theology has almost been destroyed by conveying the communal aspect of the Sacraments and ignoring the fact that they are channels of grace. Every part of the Church's teaching has been watered down by modernist theologians who think that they know more than their Thomistic predecessors. Evangelization and mission work has also deteriorated with the dawn of modern ecumenism, which just happened to become popular after the Council. Thus we have the real "fruits" of the Council.

Where is everyone? 

That being said, I do think it is important for orthodox theologians to take the documents from the Vatican II era and go through them and try to reconcile them with the Church's teaching when confusing parts of the text raise their ugly head. If anyone has read the Council documents, it is plain to see that they are the most poorly written and ambiguous Council documents in the history of the Church. For more on the documents that you may want to read, 'The Rhine Flows into the Tiber." So while recognizing that we do indeed have a need to squint over some of these documents to make them fit, what good does that do for the average Catholic in the pew? I say it does little, and in fact, the average Catholic does not want to, nor should have to squint over poorly written documents in order to make them fit into the traditional teaching of the Church. It is an exercise in futility and most of us simply don't want to waste our time.



What becomes even more frustrating is that almost every bishop, priest, or theologian today acts is if there was nothing ever produced by the Church other than the Vatican II documents. Everyone acts as if Pope John XXIII was the first pope of the Church. It often seems as if the Church started with Vatican II. The pontificate of Pope Francis has only made matters worse. He has canonized Pope John XIII and Pope John Paul II, while ignoring the great pontificate of Pope Pius XII, making an even larger rift between the pontificates of the two. As we know the Council documents cannot stand on their own and thus in order for us to have a clear picture of the Catholic faith we must refer to the popes and Church documents before the Council. It seems however that day by day Pope Francis puts yet another brick in the wall separating us from the Church before the Council.

Full steam ahead!
As it stands, the 'hermeneutic of rupture' is winning the day, and the 'hermeneutic of continuity' has really become the frustrating art of squinting just right so we can claim that there is some value in these documents and the Council itself. The truth is, if Vatican II has not been able to produce anything worthwhile by now, then it should be shelved so we can all move on with our lives and begin the healing process that needs to happen so the Church can continue its mission. We can do this by resurrecting the great writings and documents that came before the Second Vatican Council, which were very clear and enriching for the faithful. In my estimation the only thing you get from the 'hermeneutic of squintinuity' is a headache and bad eyesight.

The result of too much squintinuity.






Sunday, December 20, 2015

Was Jesus Too Rigid?

Was Jesus Too Rigid? (The Servant is No Better Than His Master)

We are hearing and seeing many disconcerting things coming from the hierarchy in the Church today.  In charity I will stay away from naming names, you can draw your own conclusions. There is talk from the highest levels of the hierarchy about Catholics being too rigid, following rules too closely and taking Canon Law too seriously, etc. There is also a false notion of mercy that is being peddled which denies the necessity of true repentance and conversion through which mercy cannot exist without. Many traditional Catholics, which are really nothing more than Catholics trying to practice the authentic Catholic faith, are being attacked for trying to live the authentic Catholics faith.



For example we are attacked for wanting the reverence and theological accuracy of the Latin Mass, which by the way, all of our beloved Saints loved and held dear. We are being attacked because we are calling out those who are teaching error in the Church and leading many into heresy. We reject modernism, and all of the theologians who arrogantly try to merge modern philosophies with the Catholic faith since it leads to the destruction of souls. This is considered to be rigid.

During the 2015 Synod on the Family many theological issues were discussed which have been settled from the time of Christ, including possibly giving Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried. It is amazing that something so basic could even be brought up by any serious theologian, much less the hierarchy of the Vatican itself. Traditionalists spoke up about the absurdity of even considering such thing and we were trashed for being too rigid. Recently a pseudo-document came out of the Vatican proclaiming a false status regarding the conversion of the Jews and a "new"way that Jews can be saved without accepting Christ. Traditionalists pointed out this problem and we were told that they we are now cafeteria Catholics because we do not follow these new novel ideas. We now see clergy openly worshipping in mosques, temples and Protestant churches and when the traditionalists point the great scandal and imprudence of this, we are called fundamentalists.



We also regularly observe "conservative" neo-Catholics on their blogs saying that orthodoxy is not as important as being spiritually "alive" and being "obedient". One blogger who in charity I will not name, ignorantly wrote, "The quest for orthodoxy-to-the-exclusion of everything is poisoning our Church. I completely understand that dissent had rotted our church and the faith of our people.  But going in the extreme opposite direction of orthodoxy-or-else makes a bad situation worse." Can anyone see the clear and apparent contradiction here? The emotional unbalanced writer obviously does understand what 'orthodoxy' is. One who is orthodox is one who believes and lives the Catholic faith in its entirety.

What is poisoning our Church is heresy which is deceiving a vast majority of Catholics into believing and living a false gospel. The writer also makes a false distinction between obedience and orthodoxy. There is no distinction. Obedience is not properly understood. She thinks the Church can't possibly overcome the problems facing it by holding to orthodoxy. Any Catholic who understands the fundamentals of the faith understands there is no middle point between heresy and orthodoxy. The only opposite direction that is opposed to heresy is orthodoxy, period. This is why I often warn people about who they read these days concerning the Catholic faith. It is why I point everyone in the direction of solid traditional material written before the dawn of modernism. Please vet your reading material carefully. I personally do not support the popular "apologetics" groups out there, because quite frankly they are making ignorant Catholics who have no idea what Catholicism looks like when it is lived in its authenticity.



What this all boils down to is the average "conservative" neo-Catholic today would run Our Lord out of His own Church for being too rigid. In fact, they would probably crucify Him again if He were here in the flesh preaching the truth the way He did 2000 years ago. Lets take a look at some of the things that Jesus said and did that would have Him on the chopping block today by many in the Church hierarchy and the average "conservative" neo-Catholics.

[36] If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. [37] I know that you are the children of Abraham: but you seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. [38] I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and you do the things that you have seen with your father. [39] They answered, and said to him: Abraham is our father. Jesus saith to them: If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. [40] But now you seek to kill me, a man who have spoken the truth to you, which I have heard of God. This Abraham did not. [41] You do the works of your father. They said therefore to him: We are not born of fornication: we have one Father, even God. [42] Jesus therefore said to them: If God were your Father, you would indeed love me. For from God I proceeded, and came; for I came not of myself, but he sent me: [43] Why do you not know my speech? Because you cannot hear my word. [44] You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof. [45] But if I say the truth, you believe me not. (John 8:36-45)
Wow, what are we to think about Jesus telling the Jews that unless they believe in Him that they would die in their sins! I can hear it now, Jesus is a rigid fundamentalist! Yet, this is what Our Lord said. It is why He sent His apostles into the world to convert them, evangelizing the Jew and the Gentile. They even gave their lives to spread the truth of the gospel which demands conversion. Jesus would also be called uncharitable by most today when he says, "you are of your father the devil." In other words the Jews were following the Old Law to the T, yet they could not please God without accepting Jesus Christ.
[31] Wherefore you are witnesses against yourselves, that you are the sons of them that killed the prophets. [32] Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. [33] You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell? [34] Therefore behold I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you will put to death and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: [35] That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:31-35)
Ouch, that was harsh! Can you imagine Jesus telling people that they may be in danger of hell today unless they change their ways? Guess who the prophet was that was going to be crucified? Jesus of course. It is my suspicion that Jesus would be crucified today by many Catholics who would consider Him too rigid.
[13] And the pasch of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] And he found in the temple them that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. [15] And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen, and the money of the changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew. [16] And to them that sold doves he said: Take these things hence, and make not the house of my Father a house of traffic. [17] And his disciples remembered, that it was written: The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up. [18] The Jews, therefore, answered, and said to him: What sign dost thou shew unto us, seeing thou dost these things? [19] Jesus answered, and said to them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:13-19)
How sacred is worship and respect for God in the eyes of Jesus? Apparently it was a very serious issue in His eyes. Our Lord did not just fly off the handle in a fit of emotional rage as many paint Him as doing. No, notice that he took the time to actually hand make a scourge of little cords. This means that Jesus carefully thought out and planned His action. After He was finished making it, He went into the temple and actually swung at them, even overturning their tables! Oh my! How rigid today's "conservative" Catholic would say. Does it ever cross their minds that every time a Mass is said irreverently, which is infinitely more sacred than anything under the Old Law, that Jesus would run everyone out of the church like He did then? How many times do we see the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass abused by bishops, priests and laity? Do they even realize that it is the Sacrifice of Christ? One has to wonder.



I could go on and on here with numerous examples, but you get the picture. Jesus was not like many of the modern clergy and laity going around telling people that they can easily "annul" their marriages and receive Holy Communion. Notice that Jesus never says anywhere in the Bible that anyone could be saved outside of accepting the gift of His Passion, death and resurrection, including the Jews.



Finally, I am going to speculate that Jesus would not be happy that on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of His most perfect Mother, that the Vatican decided to worship the created versus the creator! The now infamous light show projected on the front of St Peter's displayed everything worldly and nothing in reference to God or the Immaculate Conception. The financiers for the scandalous light show was the World Bank, who is steeped in immorality such as promoting contraception and abortion throughout the world! If there is anything that I think Our Lord would be hand making a whipping cord over, it would be His Church promoting and displaying everything worldly, including false religions on the feast day of celebrating the Immaculate Conception of His Holy Mother.



Yet, with everything that has been said, the "conservative" neo-Catholics are the ones who would be telling Our Lord that He was going against the Magisterium by not supporting all this nonsense. The question of the post is, 'was Jesus too rigid?' The obvious answer is that for most Catholics today, He would be run out on a rail or worse, crucified for his rigidity in doing and saying many of things He did. How do we know this? We know this because it happens every day in the Church where the hierarchy and laity together are demolishing His message of true mercy, conversion and repentance. Look at what they have done to all of the holy shrines in the world. That will be another topic of an upcoming post. If you are considered to be too rigid for following Christ and all of His teachings too closely, that is a good thing. Just be ready to endure the attacks from many in the Church. The servant is no better than His master.



Monday, December 14, 2015

The Wonders of Guadalupe and the Tilma

This is one of the best videos on the Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Tilma that I have seen.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

New Vatican Document on Jews Changes Teaching? No..

There is much to do on the Internet about the new Vatican "document" regarding the Jews. News sites and blog sites are having a heyday over the mountebank Koch and his henchmen's text which is quite possibly the worst "document" I have ever seen. It appears as if three guys wrote it while on heavy medication. The reason you see me putting the word "document" in quotes is that it is not really a document in the true sense of a Church document. It seems that few have actually read the text because in the very first paragraph, the preface, it says very clearly, (actually it is really the only clear part of the entire document), the following, "The text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection prepared by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews..." So this is a time when a Catholic can pay absolutely no attention to the text whatsoever.

I have actually seen news websites with Catholics fighting over the text of the document, and even neo-Catholics saying that it is part of the magisterium! I would pay close attention to those calling themselves apologists who have made comments telling people they must follow this "document" and stop following them and inviting them to your parishes. As convoluted and misleading as this text is, it is not Catholic teaching, and the Church's mission to convert the Jews remains as it always has, as it has been lived by the Saints of the Church and as it is found in our liturgical patrimony throughout Church history. Yes Christ died for them too, and requires that they accept His teaching, His Church and His grace, like everyone else, since He is the only way to the Father. Read the Gospel of John Chapter 8 in its entirety.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Forgive Us Our Trespasses: Book Recommendation

A series of books is being reprinted by St Augustine Academy Press, by the author Mother Mary Loyola. She was a religious sister in England who had a prolific teaching and writing career. She was a well known name in England at the turn of the 20th century. She began writing catechetical books for the youth in 1896 which encompassed the Sacraments and the spiritual life. Although most of her work was aimed towards children and young adults, I would not let that stop you from buying them. They are also very edifying for adults. In fact, I would venture to say that most Catholics do not know the basics that are covered in her books. Any adult can gain much from her books and families can use them for catechesis.

I am almost finished reading one of her books on the Sacrament of Confession called 'Forgive Us Our Trespasses.' The book is fantastic and is a great book to read before going to confession. She covers all of the theology of the Sacrament and how it fits into the spiritual life. You will earn of the seriousness of sin, how God views sin, how to prepare for Confession by examining your conscience how to make a good confession and how to live after making a good confession. The book clocks in at 103 pages so it can be read and digested in a minimal amount of time. The information in it however is priceless in helping you save your soul. If you have not gone to confession lately, do not put it off. Get this book, read it and then get yourself to the nearest Catholic Church. I look forward to reading more of her books, which I will post on in the near future.
From the website. 
Mother Loyola's work on the subject of Confession is not merely groundbreaking, but seems to form one of the most crucial of her strengths, given that the Sacrament of Penance has always been the most avoidable and avoided of all; most Catholics express a distaste for it akin to torment. For her readers, however, such angst is inconceivable, as she does not merely help to remove all fear and discomfort associated with the Confessional; she also enkindles a deep sense of appreciation for the gift of the sacrament. This, in turn, fosters an eager anticipation of the grace it confers. Those who make use of Forgive us our Trespasses­--whether children or adults--will find themselves seeking this healing Sacrament with regularity.
"Catholic literature, doctrinal and devotional, owes a great deal to Mother Mary Loyola. There is a certain wholesomeness, naturalness, geniality about her spirituality that at once wins a place in the Catholic heart for whatever she writes."
--The Ecclesiastical Review,  January 1918

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Meditation: A Purifier for the Soul and a Gateway to Contemplation

Meditation: A Purifier for the Soul and a Gateway to Contemplation 



Daily devotion to meditation is necessary to advance in the spiritual life. How much time should we spend in devotion daily? That depends on one’s state in life. Saint Francis de Sales in his spiritual classic ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ tells us, “Devotion must be exercised differently for the noble, the craftsmen, the servant, the prince, the widow, the young girl and the wife; and not only that, but it is necessary to accommodate the practice of devotion according to the strength, the business, and the duties of each separate individual.” So we must be prudent in exercising our devotions, but we must nonetheless persevere in meditation on some level. It is good for every person to spend at least 15 minutes a day in meditation. Only in meditation one can we reflect on God and our relationship with Him. This is essential to grow in the spiritual life. No matter what our vocation is, we must not neglect this devotion.

It is important to expound upon meditation since it is the tool in which we also conquer temptations that come to us throughout the day. Our thoughts are our own worst enemies much of the time and we are bombarded on a daily basis with all sorts of spiritual attacks from various sources. Temptations come from our own fallen nature, the world, and the devil. We must have some sort of protection from these attacks if we are to survive the spiritual war we find ourselves engaged. Sin comes first from desire, which is first cultivated in our minds. We dwell on an idea before we act. If we dwell on sinful ideas we eventually commit them if we are not careful. Mediation is a remedy for sinful thoughts. It is a purifier for the soul. 



Denis the Carthusian warns us of the dangers of a mind out of control. “The mind itself is torn to pieces, poisoned and greatly tormented; for, as the proverb puts it: A mind out of control is its own tormentor.” When we turn our minds to meditate regularly on Christ and His mysteries we can begin to heal our minds and our transform our sinful inclinations into charitable works. Denis says we should contemplate Our Lord on the cross, His way of life, His teaching, His exhortations and the way the Saints have lived their lives in Christ. Only by doing this can we determine God’s will for our own lives. Meditation is also an examination of our lives in union with Christ.

It is my opinion that the devil tries the hardest to get Christians to give up on daily mediation because he knows it is the primary weapon of God to transform souls. When we become busy in worldly affairs, our daily meditation is the first thing that gets set aside. This is known as the sin of sloth. The sin of sloth however is not just spiritual laziness; it is an actual detriment to the soul's ascent to God. In the spiritual life there are only two paths to follow, one goes up, one goes down, we are never really on a plateau. So when sloth enters and meditation stops, sin enters into our thoughts and lives. Denis the Carthusian puts this reality into a blunt condemnation of neglecting meditation and giving oneself only to worldly thoughts. “What have you to say to this, my wretched soul? Why pretend?.. Why are you dragged this way and that, why are you dissipated by empty and frivolous cogitations? Worse still, why do you fornicate with demons in shameful and vile fantasies? Why? After all, you have so many subjects and such copious matter for wholesome meditation; so much that is necessary and profitable for your salvation... How long will you be drunk with wine, how long will you be out of your mind?.. Rather vomit up the wine of the vineyard of Sodom and of the suburbs of Gomorrah that have intoxicated you?”

To effectively engage in meditation we must fully give our undivided attention to God. Denis the Carthusian tells us; “On God we must fix our gaze and our attention…I pity you who honour the presence of personages rather than the presence of God.” It is a great danger for us to become enraptured in the worldly things. We have bills to pay and jobs that demand more and more of our time. We have dangerous tendency to put off the spiritual life for a later time in life. Yet we never know the hour of our death when we will stand before the dread judgement seat of Christ. We cannot make the mistake of saying that when we find ourselves in a more opportune state in life, then we will focus on God. Maybe once we retire we can sit back and pray more? This is a trick of the devil to get you to put off working on the salvation of your soul. He dangles before you the enticement of procrastination hoping we will fail in joining with God in meditation. In case you are still not getting it, meditation is not an option for the Christian, it is necessary for our salvation.

How then should we meditate? Meditation is often coupled with spiritual reading in which one reads on a topic and then reflects on what he has read in order to enkindle in him the fire of divine love. This act is known traditionally as “Lectio Divina” One can reflect on the Sacred Scriptures, the Psalms for example, or a spiritual writing by one of the Saints such as St Francis de Sales, ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’. One can meditate on the crucifix or some other image so that they may grow closer to Our Lord and contemplate His mysteries. St Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila often meditated on the crucifix or an image of Our Lord, to which they were then drawn into a deep contemplation. It is critical to orient oneself toward God in consistent daily meditation so that they may love God above all things. Daily meditation is best done at the beginning of one’s day so that he may bring forth a spiritual souvenir, as St Francis de Sales calls it, to one’s mind many times during the day. This souvenir is a spiritually beneficial thought that one should bring to one’s mind as he or she encounters the world. When one perseveres in this, over a period of time they begin to inoculate themselves from sin.

On a final note, one cannot reach the stage of contemplation without first meditation. These terms are often confused and used interchangeably. However meditation is the doorway to contemplation. One uses the intellect and reason to engage in meditation. He uses his memory and recalls certain to truths to dwell upon. As Saint Anthony Mary Claret says, "...one meditates when one uses discursive reasoning from one truth to another...." Contemplation allows one to interiorly behold a truth of God, seeing it in a form of admiration for that particular truth such as God's love or His hatred for sin for example. Saint Anthony Claret continues, "...one contemplates when interiorly one sees or grasps a truth in a simple glance, without a variety of discourse; of admiration, love, sorrow for sins, etc., etc." There is much more to be said on meditation and contemplation which I can elaborate on in future posts. For now, let us make time for daily meditation for it is certainly a purifier for the soul and a doorway to contemplation.  



Friday, November 27, 2015

Superficiality and the Loss of Souls

Saint Augustine once said that you can tell what a man loves by what does in his everyday actions. A man who lives a superficial life that revolves around meaningless temporal trivialities is a man who loves the world, not God. Many people claim to believe in God, but their lives reflect something different. Can a person "believe" in God when they do not pray, or when they do not attempt to live their lives according to God's commands? Saint Augustine also said, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” A litmus test can be given according to how we live our lives day in and day out as to whether we can truly call ourselves "believers". The list below is a good starting point to determine if you truly believe in God, or whether you are just paying lip service. (Matthew 15:18)



1. Do you actually pray everyday? If you are not spending time in prayer with God, then you do not truly love Him. The old saying that those who do not pray have no chance of spending eternity with God, those who spend little time in prayer have little chance and those who spend much time in prayer have a great chance is true. Our Lord said that many would try to enter by the narrow gate, but many would fail. (Matthew 7:13-14) Prayer is the first litmus test as to whether one truly believes in God. If we read the Scriptures it is clear that prayer is a manifestation of the love of God. "Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thes 5:17-18) Saint Alphonsus Liguori tells us according to the Fathers of the Church, "Hence it is that the generality of theologians, following St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, Clement of Alexandria, St. Augustine, and other Fathers, teach that prayer is necessary to adults, not only because of the obligation of the precept (as they say), but because it is necessary as a means of salvation. That is to say, in the ordinary course of Providence, it is impossible that a Christian should be saved without recommending himself to God, and asking for the graces necessary to salvation. St. Thomas teaches the same: 'After baptism, continual prayer is necessary to man, in order that he may enter heaven; for though by baptism our sins are remitted, there still remain concupiscence to assail us from within, and the world and the devil to assail us from without.' The reason then which makes us certain of the necessity of prayer is shortly this, in order to be saved we must contend and conquer: He that strives for the mystery is not crowned except he strive lawfully (2 Tim. 2,5). But without the divine assistance we cannot resist the might of so many and so powerful' enemies: now this assistance is only granted to prayer; therefore without prayer there is no salvation."



2. Do you attempt to live by God's commandments? Jesus said that if you love Him you will keep His commandments. (John 14:15) This also means that the opposite is true. If you live your life contradicting His commandments then you do not love Him. A person who truly believes in God takes His commandments seriously. He tries to live according to the teachings that Our Lord gave him. This means one must conform themselves to Christ. In todays Protestant influenced culture many hold the false notion that Jesus pays for our sins and then we have no further obligation to actually live the commandments He gave to us. Many foolishly think that since Christ died for them, that He no longer holds them accountable for their actions. Yet if we read Scripture it is clear that those who live sinful lives do not inherit the kingdom of heaven. (1 Corinthians 6:8-10) Christ has given us the means to actually keep His commandments through grace. One must not only believe in their minds that Christ died for them, but they must also act upon what Christ tells them in virtue of His passion. A person must actually live by faith filled works which God grants through grace. This truth is heavily emphasized in Scripture. Sadly many willfully ignore this reality and live as if Christ has stamped their ticket and there is nothing more to worry about. I would encourage those who shallowly think this way to meditate on the following Scripture passages. (James 2:17, 26, Matthew 7:21, Ephesians 2:10) Living by the commandments means living by all ten of them. I cannot cover this topic in depth here in this post. I will further elaborate on only one which should orient a person towards the other nine.



3. Do you do what He tells you to do and do you give Him the honor and worship that is due to Him? Our Blessed Mother at the Wedding at Cana told those around her to do as Jesus commanded them to do. This is a universal teaching given to all those claiming to love Christ. Christ established one Church which He built upon Saint Peter. (Matthew 16:18) Jesus gave Peter and the apostles in communion with Him, the authority to continue to teach His Word. They have the authority to bind and loose. (Matthew 16:19) Those who listen to Christ are those who faithfully attend Mass on Sundays and Holy days of obligation. They are the ones who confess their sins after after offending God and turn away from sin. They receive the Sacraments faithfully and honor God because there is a worship that is due to Him alone. In effect they do what God commands them to do because they love Him. Those who sit at home watching the ballgame every Sunday clearly love the ballgame more than they love God. This is in a nutshell what the first commandment teaches.  It teaches that one will put nothing above God and that one will worship God because God deserves it, and also because he loves God. Those who consciously do not go to Mass and give the honor and worship that is due to God, do not truly love Him.



Although there is much more that can be said on this subject, this gives a very basic outline on what belief in God actually requires of us. Belief in God is not a Pollyanish 'pie in the sky' idea that there is some vague higher power who saves everyone who holds to some mental idea of a "god." Unfortunately this is the "faith" of many people today. It is a superficial belief in God that causes the loss of so many souls. Let us all remain in prayer and in obedience to God or we shall lose our souls.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pilgrimage 2015 St Maria Goretti-St Augustine

On Friday October 31st I had the pleasure of meeting St Maria Goretti in Orlando, Florida. I arrived on Friday afternoon and was able to go through the line several times to visit with this wonderful Saint. Saint Maria is surely a model for those trying to live virtuous upstanding lives in the midst of a moral cesspool which we find ourselves in today. St. Maria gave up her life rather than give up her virginity. Her attacker eventually repented and truly converted to the Catholic faith living the last half or more of his life in extreme penance and suffering for his sins. He murdered Maria at the age of 20, he spent 30 years in prison. This story demonstrates how a true Saint behaves in the midst of horrible trials. It also shows us what it means to truly be sorry for your sins and how true conversion can change a person. Alessandro, her attacker turned from a life of horrible sin once Maria came to him in a dream handing him 14 lilies for each of the times he stabbed her while he was in prison. Before Maria died she told the priest that she wanted Alessandro to be with her in heaven. He died at the age of 80 after having spent many years in penance living with the Franciscans. In his last letter at the age of 80 he wrote the following: "Resigned, I atoned for my sin. Little Maria was truly my light, my protectress. With her help, I served those 27 years in prison well. When society accepted me back among its members, I tried to live honestly. With angelic charity, the sons of St. Francis, the minor Capuchins of the Marches, welcomed me among them not as a servant, but as a brother. I have lived with them for 24 years. Now I look serenely to the time in which I will be admitted to the vision of God, to embrace my dear ones once again, and to be close to my guardian angel, Maria Goretti, and her dear mother, Assunta." When I first came to her relics I felt a great hope and peace being near her. I was also moved by the many people who came out to visit her. I recommend reading the life of this incredible Saint.





The next day the trip continued to Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine is a city with plenty of charm and a rich and complex history. I really enjoy history so I set out to not only see many of the Catholic sites, but also an old boarding house which gave me an idea of how some of St Augustine's people lived during the colonial era. The Mission of Nombre de Dios and Shrine of Our Lady of Leche is wonderful place to spend a little time. The old mission chapel is nice spot to stop and pray before Our Lady. With the changing of hands between the English the Spanish, the raiding pirates, and the severe weather of the area, this little chapel has been burned, damaged, destroyed and rebuilt many times. The small statue of Our Lady of Leche is a miniature of the one in the Cathedral-Basilica. This place is very special to our Catholic heritage in the US. It is the first place the Spanish set foot on American soil and held the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and it was the first permanent community of priests here as well. There is a small ancient cemetery on the beautiful grounds near the water. If you get the chance to stop by it is worth your time. There is also a nice gift shop on the left side of the chapel. You can learn more here.





The Cathedral-Basilica is also worth going to. It also has been rebuilt from a fire but is very charming with its Spanish-esque character. The most eye catching piece in the Cathedral is the statue of Our Lady of Leche on the back choir loft.










The streets of the old town are charming and a pleasure to roam about. Although the shops are touristy, there are some historic places worth checking out. I went to the old Ximenez-Fatio Boarding House for an afternoon tour of one of the oldest buildings in St Augustine. In an hour I learned a lot about the history of the city and the streets nearby. This boarding house was for the upper class, and you actually had to have a written invitation to be able to stay here. Each room has a bed with a mosquito net, bed pan and other necessities of that time. The small bathtub surely looks like a chore to get in and out of! Seeing how even the rich lived back then makes me think we are way too spoiled today. I recommend taking an hour to walk through this house and learn about the history of the city.














There is also a wonderful Orthodox Shrine of St. Photios that is worth going to visit. It is right in the old historic area and it is free to go inside. The iconography is fantastic. I will let the pictures do the talking.











Castillo de San Marcos is a historic fort built right on the inlet waterway to St Augustine. It was built to protect the city and has never been taken by force. I spent a couple of hours going through the self guided tour.


















Here are some pictures of the historic district as I walked around. All in all it was a nice two day adventure.