Saint Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Spiritual Writings of Denis the Carthusian

Over the course of many years I have managed to acquire to quite an extensive library. There have been several books that have had an impact on me, but few that I would put in their own separate class above the rest when it comes to the spiritual life. For example, St. Catherine's 'Dialogue' would be one of the few that I come back to and am enriched each time I re-approach it. It is as if there is a light that comes through the text which penetrates the intellect and offers a unique insight into the mind of God. It is rare to find texts that merit such praise, so when I come across them I get excited about it. So I am sharing a recent finding with my readers.



'The Spiritual Writings of Denis the Carthusian' fall into this rare class of spiritual writings. Denis was born in 1403 in Belgium and was one of the most renowned spiritual writers of his time. His entire life was dedicated to prayer and study. Unfortunately most Catholics have never heard of him despite the fact that he is one of the most prolific spiritual writers of his time, his writings numbering over 150 works. Denis who spent a large part of his life as a Carthusian monk, was well versed in Sacred Scripture, and the writings of the spiritual masters. Denis' first love was his devotion to Sacred Scripture and his second love was the study of St. Thomas Aquinas. Denis studied the works of St. Thomas, Peter Lombard and the Victorines extensively. He wrote commentaries on both Aquinas' and Lombard's most popular works, 'The Summa' and 'The Sentences.' Denis was instrumental in popularizing 'The Summa' as a superior replacement to the longtime standard work of Lombard. The mystical theology of Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite was also one of his favorite sources.

The times of Denis in some ways reflect our own time.  During the 1400s there were "liberal" theological currents making its way into the Church and Denis was one of the bulwarks against novel ideas. Denis was instrumental in producing a Thomistic revival of sorts for lack of a better term, during his life. During Denis' time there was a strong movement to adopt the scholastic theology founded on the ideas of John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. Denis opted for the earlier form of scholasticism which he believed to be most accurately presented by the school of St Thomas Aquinas. In reading Denis' works this is readily apparent since Aquinas is quoted numerous times throughout, second only to Sacred Scripture.

What makes his work unique in my eyes is the fact that his writings are digestible to men and women of all vocations, not just those in the religious life. Anyone can pick up this book and put the spiritual advice between its pages to use. His writings are also very detailed and Denis explains how one can actually advance in the spiritual life in an extremely tangible way. This is something that I always found lacking in most books. Many spiritual books today tell you about the necessity of prayer and many writers explain what they have experienced in their spiritual lives, but most never fill in the blanks to actually tell you what to do to achieve this. I believe Denis is somewhat unique in being able to answer the questions you have in your head, but never seem to get answered in other books.

Unlike modern writers, Denis understands the human person from an objective perspective and is able to explain how the intellect and the will work in man. Since he understands this properly he is able to actually answer the questions that a person has, who is trying to progress in the spiritual life. Those who are trying to advance in holiness and virtue know all too well the roadblocks that are in their way. Many times however vague recommendations made in modern books leave the reader with many unanswered questions. This is not the case with Denis, as he leaves no stone unturned in examining man's relation to God.

For example, most Catholics have heard of the purgative stage, or purgative way of the interior life. I am enthralled by the fact that Denis actually digs down and tells you what you need to do in order to actually engage in the purgative state. Denis starts with the problem of sin, describing in detail how and why a sinner thinks and why certain things appeal to his or her flesh. He describes the effects of sin in great detail and then proposes the actual steps needed to be taken to actively engage in this purgative stage. Denis is not satisfied in giving vague suggestions such as telling one to pray more, or to guard one's thoughts. He actually tells you how to do it.

For example, after explaining the gravity of sin and the necessity to practice penance appropriate to the sins one has committed in his or her life, Denis gives some concrete examples of how one should begin approaching God. 
"Twice or three times a day, at a convenient moment-especially late or at night- you should go to a quiet and secret place and there accuse yourself before God. There, directing the eyes of your soul to heaven, and the God of heaven pray like this: "God all powerful, eternal, and most kind; Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful, my Creator and the Saviour of my soul, look upon me. I am a most unhappy sinner- worthless, abominable, contemptible. Deep is my wretchedness. I have acted worse than a brute. I have sinned very often and gravely. I have shown you a shocking lack of respect, reverence, courtesy and honour. I have broken your commandments, neither heeding nor caring. I have twisted your precepts, knowing full well what they were. I have hurt you who are all kindness, holiness and charity. My heart I have turned from you, my God. Oh, I cannot enumerate my many sins, nor reckon the amount of good I have failed to do. I have been downright ungrateful to you for your fervours, and your gifts I have abused." 
Denis does not stop by just giving you a prayer to pray and leave you to it. He goes on to explain further the disposition one should have during the prayer.
It is good, then, to think of some of your graver sins in a more special way, and all of them in a general way. And, to the extent that the Lord permits, to grieve at heart and to sigh deeply. Truly to repent, it is not enough to feel sorry, you must beg divine mercy for the grace to grieve as you ought; you must strike your breast and- with God's help-shed tears...
You can see that Denis digs deep to help his readers advance in the purgative stage by describing what one should strive for during this prayer. He explains that repentance is not just a feeling, it is an act that one must engage in.

Still there is more to be said as he gives more advice to the penitent, even getting down the physical position one should take during prayer that will better incline their heart towards God.
Then get down on your knees, or lie down prostrate. Join your hands, or hold them out as though you were stretched on a cross. Pray to God for full and complete remission of all your sins, and say words such as these: Most merciful, most loveable, most desirable and infinitely sweet Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me.....
The great theological master goes on giving the rest of the prayer by elaborating on Sacred Scripture and examines St. Thomas' thought on progressing in the spiritual life.

This hardback book is divided into six basic Chapters or parts, which can be read simultaneously. You can read a few sections of each part going back and forth marking your pages as you go since the topics are so closely intertwined. The first part pertains to contemplation and runs about 150 pages. The second part aims at prayer and runs almost 100 pages. The third focuses on meditation and goes on for about 120 pages. There is a section called 'The Fountain of Light and the Paths of Life' which covers general topics on the spiritual life and that clocks in at around 50 pages. The last 70 pages or so ends with instruction on the monastic life and an exhortation to novices.

Each section is neatly divided up into digestible chunks of one, two or three pages each separated by a topic heading. For example one of the chapters on Contemplation has a section called, 'On the causes of our infirmity and on the instability of the human mind when it comes to contemplation'. The way the book is broken up makes it a true spiritual manual, which will be used again and again over the course of one's life.

Although this book is a bit expensive I believe it is worth every dollar. If one takes the time to carefully read and put into practice the advice Denis gives on each page, I believe that they will come closer to God. In this age of watered down Pollyannish "spiritual" self help books, Denis the Carthusian shines through as a breath of fresh air. His writing is engaging and I when I sit down and read his works, it is as if Denis was writing just for me. He knows the questions I have in my head or the difficulties I will have and answers those questions in great detail. I imagine him sitting in his cell with the Scriptures, the writings of St Thomas, St Augustine, Hugh of St Victor and the Church Fathers, wrapped in contemplation as he carefully puts the ink on the vellum. I wonder if he ever imagined that his writings would be read over 500 years after he wrote them?

At this time there are only three volumes of Denis' works that have been translated into English. They have all been done by Ide M Ni Rian, RSCJ. The three works are, 'The Spiritual Writings', 'Vices and Virtues' and 'Gifts of the Holy Spirit'. I am grateful that this gentleman has taken the time to translate these wonderful works into English and it is my hope that he is working on further publications of Denis.

We have to start the purgative way if we want to reach the quiet of contemplation, the dazzling visions of divine things; if we want to draw near to God, to please Him and be united with Him. The purgative way is what you might call a striving or serious effort of the soul, the following of a path or method that tends towards purgation of the heart from passion, ignorance, error and sin. The purgative way makes the spirit free for acts of penance, while subjecting the body to the spirit and the senses to the rational part of the soul. All this entails a refusal to be conformed to this world (Rm12:2), a throwing off of 'the old man with his deeds' (Col 3:9), and a restraining from those carnal desires that war against the soul (1 P 2:11). Denis the Carthusian, Contemplation.







Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sermon on the Pope, St Michael and the Blessed Mother

This is a great sermon given by Fr. Michael Rodriguez. Many of us want to know what is going on in the Church today. Fr Rodriguez gives us a proper perspective of where we find ourselves today.

Today's Advanced Civilization

As vice continues to be promoted as virtue this is what the revolutionary ideas of today's barbarous society has given us. The video below shows that we not only abort our young by the thousands everyday, but we also make sure we don't rip something off their little bodies that might prove to be valuable to someone else. Yet another result of those who say there are no moral absolutes. When you throw out objective reality you can justify anything you want for any reason you want. Unbelievably there are sick idiots on the internet who glorify abortion and are justifying this by saying that they are not really selling body parts. One brain dead buffoon has claimed that they are just offering "tissue" for the good of the medical community, and are only charging for the "procurement services". Again, this is what vice does to people. It blinds them. There are also some sick angry individuals claiming that the edited version is not a true representation of what was said. Unfortunately for them, the unedited version of the film can also be found on the same channel and any sane person can nothing substantial changed in the edited version that is posted below. Onward with the revolution! Lets see how far we can take this train before we go off the cliff. Never mind the barricade ahead that says the bridge is out, full steam ahead to our heartless advanced utopia!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pope Francis Hammer and Sickle Continued...

Well, in my last post, with what information I had, I tried to give the Pope some slack. But after his flight today there is not much else to say. He totally approved of the Hammer and Sickle "crucifix" which is in my opinion blasphemous. On top of that he presented one of the two images he received as a gift to the Blessed Mother! The link to Rorate Caeli below has the text of part of the interview relevant to this. He clearly defends the Marxist priest openly. He says he the whole thing was no offense to him. It was an offense to me! What more can be said?




Excerpt.. Underlining mine..

Fr Espinal was killed in 1980. It was a time when liberation theology had many different branches. One of the branches was with Marxist analysis of reality. Fr Espinal belonged to this, this. Yes, I knew because I was in those years rector of the theology faculty and we talked a lot about it, about the different branches and who were the representatives, no? In the same year, the general of the Society (of Jesus), Fr. Arrupe, wrote a letter to the whole Society on the Marxist analysis of reality in theology. Stopping on this point saying, “it’s no good, these are different things, it’s not right, it’s not correct.” And, four years later in 1984, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the first small volume, the first declaration on liberation theology that criticizes this. Then comes the second, which opens to a more Christian perspective. I’m simplifying, no? Let’s do the hermeneutic of that time: Espinal was an enthusiast of this Marxist analysis of the reality, but also of theology using Marxism. From this, he came up with this work. Also the poetry of Espinal was of this kind of protest. But, it was his life, it was his thought. He was a special man, with so much human geniality, who fought in good faith, no? Making a hermeneutic like this, I understand this work. For me it wasn’t an offense...

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2015/07/for-record-pope-francis-personally.html

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pope Francis and the Hammer and Sickle Crucifix

I am sure by now most of you have seen in the news Pope Francis receiving a hideous "crucifix" from the socialist Bolivian president, Evo Morales. First as always you had your typical reaction from the Neo-Catholic bloggers like Mark Shea who tried to explain the whole event away as a hilarious comedy. He explained, "I think the image of Francis looking in bafflement at that… thing is just hilarious and makes me wonder how many other winceable art projects, knicknack, tschotschkes, and trinkets the pope has to hand off to some luckless functionary every day–and where it all goes." Shea also claimed that the pope's reaction "brought tears to his eyes" in laughter I presume and in typical Mark Shea vulgar pen he wrote,, "the pope’s magnificent “What the WTF?” expression .brings tears of laughter to my eyes."

If we watch the video posted here, the Pope actually was puzzled by this gift and said to the Bolivian president something to the effect of "I didn't know". Originally it was thought that he said, "This is not right," but Fr Lombardi at the Vatican says this is most likely not what he said, and the audio was muffled, and that he said, "I didn't know." This may have meant that the pope had no idea that the gift had its origins from a fellow Jesuit activist that came to Bolivia and was killed in the 1980s, or it may have been just a surprise to him that he received the gift. I have no idea if he knew anything about the "crucifix" or not. Pope Francis however did know some of the story of the Jesuit priest behind it. You can watch the video below and see for yourself what happened, and it is nothing to laugh about. The pope does not give a disapproval, but acts puzzled and or intrigued. Notice also that the hammer and sickle crucifix is also put around his neck. But there is more to the story which we will get to after the video.


For any Catholic trying to live the faith in today's secular atheistic world, this whole event should obviously not come across as a knee slapping, tears to my eyes, side splitting comedy. The Bolivian president had an agenda and there is more to it than meets the eye. For one, this is a typical publicity stunt by the Bolivian president to garner support through the media so it seems that the pope supports his ideology. To give you an idea about Morales, he has said that the monster Che Guevara is one of his heroes and that he is "Catholic" only when he goes to weddings. Also in 2009 the Bolivian constitution was changed under his regime to eliminate state support of the Catholic Church. But there is also another interesting historical fact that no one has picked up on. The Vatican spokesman Fr. Lombardi says the Jesuit Fr. Luis Espinal Camps, who made the original "crucifix" was murdered in 1980, and that he apparently had the "crucifix" made to open dialog with the communists.

When digging a bit more into this affair however, it seems that this Jesuit priest was more of a political activist than a missionary priest in the traditional sense. When I pulled up several articles on the priest I found that he was not opposed to the socialist regime that was attempting to overthrow the right wing regime in power at that time in 1980. The priest was a radical civil rights leader who was involved in producing a TV show and also participated in many public civil rights marches and other public rallies such as a hunger strike in 1977 that almost cost him his life. The priest himself was murdered by a right wing group who radically opposed the socialist group trying to usurp power. The right wing group however was certainly no model of virtue and was involved with drug cartels and other shady business. At the time there was also a crisis of poverty in the country. There are some on the Internet saying that the priest was murdered by socialists, and this is not correct. He was murdered by the regime of Luis García Meza Tejada. On this trip the pope visited the gravesite to give honor to this Jesuit priest. The Jesuit priest however appears to have been killed for his political activism in support of a socialist leaning ideology, which was opposed to the Tejeda regime. I will not judge the priests motivations. You can do your own research on his story if you wish.

It would seem that this image now has deeper symbolism than one may have realized now that we have some background information of what happened with this priest and the origins of the image. The current Bolivian president seems to have been giving a subtle approval to the pope and some of his statements concerning politics, the environment and the supporting of government welfare, etc.  It does appear that to some extent that the pope and Morales share some of the same ideological views, but at this time in charity I do not think it is fair to label Pope Francis a socialist. This was a perfect time for the Bolivian president to take advantage of this visit. Surely the pope put himself in a difficult spot here being that when someone hands you something your first reaction is to look at it and take it, and no matter what you do after that point is of little matter, since even handing it back in this setting makes it appear that you accepted the gift.

I can argue that one thing we can deduce from this event is that the pope's public image in the eyes of faithful Catholics has once again been tarnished, and only a buffoon like Mark Shea would find all of this a sidesplitting comedy. There is really nothing to laugh at here. We have a pope who cannot speak clearly and articulate the Catholic faith in an effective manner and it seems that everyday there is something he does that is stalling the Church's mission to evangelize the world. Where is the outcry of the Supreme Court decision here in the US by the pope? Will he speak out against these types of atrocities publicly when he visits the US or will he put himself in another conundrum when he meets Obama? I can only imagine what "gift" the Whitehouse has in store for him. I can guarantee that Pope Pius X would have never sat back in silence without speaking out against such immoral acts against God and the human race that have been committed here in the US. We have a crisis of faith in the Church and in the world that is of cosmic proportions that has never been seen before, and day after day all we see is confusion from this pope.. We need to pray for Pope Francis and the Church.


From the Catholic News Agency , at a July 9 press briefing the Holy See press officer, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that Pope Francis' remark likely expressed a sentiment of “I didn't know”, rather than “This is not right.” Fr. Lombardi noted the lack of clarity in the audio of the exchange, and remarked that Pope Francis had been unaware the crucifix was a replica of a Spanish Jesuit.....The cross with a hammer and sickle is a reproduction of another carved during the 1970s by Fr. Luis Espinal Camps, a Spanish Jesuit who was a missionary in Bolivia who was killed in 1980 during the Bolivian dictatorship. Fr. Lombardi claimed that Fr. Espinal's use of it was not ideological but expressed a hope for dialogue between communism and the Church.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Two Part Interview on Revolution and Counter-Revolution

This fascinating and informative two part interview concerning the masonic revolutionary thought which pervades our society today is worth taking the time to listen to. Click on the links below to have a listen from http://athanasiuscm.org.

Part I Interview

Part II Interview