Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cantalamessa - A Special Faith and Love

The Household Papal Preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, shared with the Holy Father a special faith that fully believes in God's love for us in his second Lenten sermon here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lord - Honor and Truth

Friend, Dawn Eden, kindly gave me among other volumes a real treasure: Christ Jesus our King - A Eucharistic Prayer Book, interestingly written by Father Daniel A. Lord, S.J., "Under the auspices of The Knights and Handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament." Here is an essay that comes from this slim volume:

IN THE DAY OF CHRIST honor was a forgotten virtue - as perhaps it is today in many quarters. Philosophers had made an art of lying. Diplomacy had become trickery by which great empires absorbed small nations and small nations held by bribery and shameless flattery some semblance of independent rule. Between men and women there was no honor; a man took what he could take; a woman gave what she could profitably yield. The gods were proverbial liars and philanderers. Governors were greedy of hand and ruthless with sword. Armies lived by looting. Justice was a matter of bribery. And truth was to the pagan Pilate a word hardly worth repeating.

Into that world came the incorruptible Christ.

The devil tempted Him to a loss of honor, guaranteeing Him the world.

A little flattery or convenient closing of the eyes - and the armies would have come to His side.

Had He pretended to condemn the woman taken in adultery, the scribes would have admired Him and the Sadduccees would have accepted Him as one of them.

A smooth answer to Pilate rather than a harping on the truth - and Pilate might have given Him His freedom.

But to Him truth was above all else. He was the way, the truth, and the life.

He never minced a doctrine to make it easier to digest, nor did He fit a practice to conform to small-minded men. He refused to compromise with vicious practices, even those of long custom and tradition. He broke the taboos of the sabbath in the interests of mercy. He called villains and scoundrels by their proper names, even though He thus won their implacable resentment.

To the Apostles, as He knighted them for their glorious mission, He cried aloud, "Teach!" It was truth and the honorable living of truth that would save the world.

So it has been that, where it might have conciliated a heretic by the shaving of a revealed truth, the Church has declined to lose honor. When practice has seemed hard, the Church might have compromised its honor slightly - on confession, laws against divorce, attitudes toward birth control - and won new adherents or held hesitant ones; but it could not betray its honor or sacrifice its truth.

Has any other age ever needed honor and truth more than ours does?

Can a knight do more for the world than maintain among the debased, the panders, the sycophants, the distorters of truth, among crooked tradesmen, greedy laborers, and unethical professional men the knightly honor of Christ?

- Daniel A. Lord

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prez @ Georgetown Tomorrow

Rumor has it that the Last Self-Help commander-in-chief will be speaking at Georgetown again tomorrow. Will any Christian in general and Catholic in particular symbols be covered again? Might I recommend that he come in time to hear Mass, respectfully request a blessing from a priest, and then humbly speak in hushed tones about the season of Lent?

Perhaps I ask too much.

Knox - 'He Suffered' - Pt. 6

The final excerpt from Monsignor Ronald Knox's essay, "He Suffered" in The Creed in Slow Motion, part 6:

ONE FURTHER QUESTION obviously occurs to one's mind. If we ought to welcome the suffering which God sends us whether we like it or not, oughtn't we, perhaps, to be taking on extra mortifications on our own, deliberately making ourselves uncomfortable, so as to have more suffering to unite with his? Well, of course the saints have always done that, scourging themselves and wearing hair-shirts and so on And there are very good people who do that sort of thing, but I don't think it is to be encouraged for the ordinary run of Christians. It can make you proud, it can make you self-righteous, it can make you unsympathetic to other people. When I say that, I'm not referring of course to self-denial. Giving up sweets in Lent, I mean, is perfectly all right, as long as the doctor assures you that sweets are not absolutely necessary to your health. But I don't think we ought to spend our time trying to think up ways of positively making ourselves uncomfortable, by putting salt instead of sugar in our tea and so on. We ought to ask god to make us very holy people; and perhaps when he has done that he will let us know what greater sacrifices he wants us to make for him, under our confessor's advice. Meanwhile, it's best for us to stick to ordinary ways, and content ourselves with bearing, for his sake, the mortifications which come to us from his hands.

- Ronald A. Knox

Knox - 'He Suffered' - Pt. 5

THERE IS ANOTHER WAY IN WHICH you and I can turn this evil thing, suffering, into something good; and that is by uniting it with the sufferings of Jesus Christ. We saw that, when he made atonement for our sins, he made it in full. He was perfectly sinless, and therefore it was his right, if he had wished it, to live without suffering; it is only because we are all sinners that we have all got to be sufferers. But he, of his own will, took our punishment upon himself; he would be hungry, and thirsty, and tired out, on the roads of Galilee; and at the end of his life he would go through a long pageant of suffering, which ended with death on a Cross. And all the saints have realized that their job was to suffer in union with Christ. St. Paul even talks of himself as paying off "That which is lacking of the sufferings of Christ" (Col. 1:23b-24). He thinks of our Lord as a rich Benefactor who has paid off, once for all, the debt of suffering we owed, and now it is for us to pay back that debt to him, as far as we can, by enduring our own sufferings in union with him. So it is that you get this same curious contradiction about the saints' lives which you find in our Lord's own life; they are always relieving the sufferings of other people, and at the same time welcoming suffering for themselves. You've all heard of Bernadette Soubirous, who had the visions of our Lady at Lourdes, and scratched up with her own hands the spring of water which has brought health, since then, to so many thousands of people. She became a nun, and it was found, before long, that she was suffering from a very painful and an incurable disease. But there was one moment at which she seemed a little better, and even fit to travel; so the Reverend Mother of her convent came to her and said they had arranged a nice treat for her. She was to go back to Lourdes as a pilgrim and ask the beautiful Lady of her visions if she might not be cured among the rest - surely there could be no doubt that HER prayer would be listened to! But Bernadette immediately said, "No; the spring is not for me." The spring is not for me; it was her business, as a saint, to win healing for other people; it was her business as a saint to win not healing, but suffering, for herself. (Concludes in Pt. 6)

- Ronald A. Knox

Monday, March 28, 2011

Knox - 'He Suffered' - Pt. 4

Ronald Knox's excerpted explanation of "He suffered" from his book, The Creed in Slow Motion, which we began here, continues here in Part 4:

LET'S BE A LITTLE MORE practical. We turn this evil thing, suffering, into a good thing when we accept it as God's will for us. I've tried to explain to you already that the only way in which we human beings can justify our existence in creation at all is to obey God's will for us. That is what we are FOR. A human being who is not out to obey god's will is exactly as much use in his creation as a toothbrush is in the possession of a man who has had all his teeth taken out. And there are two ways in which we can obey God's will, by doing what he wants us to do, and by suffering what he wants us to suffer. There's this trouble about doing what God wants us to do - that it's so often, at the same time, the thing we want to do. Even if it is the kind of thing that doesn't sound very attractive at the first go-off, even if it means (say) going out and being a missionary in foreign parts, or washing dishes all day in a canteen, it's extraordinary how people get to like it, and take a pride in doing it well, and want to go on doing it. That means that we are never quite sure whether we are doing what is God's will because it is God's will, or because it is ours. Self-love, self-admiration, will go on creeping in and disturbing the purity of our motives. But with suffering it's different; I mean, when it's suffering God sends us, suffering we can't get out of. It's almost impossible to feel any pride about that. And if God calls on you to spend twenty years lying on your back, in pain most of the time, and you go on telling him that it is his will, and you want it to happen because it is his will, then, believe me, you are in a fair way to going straight to heaven. (Continues in Pt. 5)

- Ronald A. Knox

Belloc - Bare Ruined Choirs

Tintern Abbey ( 1794) - J. M. W. Turner

Within four years of the breach with Rome (that is the denial of Papal authority), every monastery and nunnery in England had gone ...

England did not lose the Faith in 1550-1620 because she was protestant then. Rather, she is protestant now because she then lost the Faith ...

The grand effect of the Reformation was the isolation of the soul ...

- Hilaire Belloc

Knox - 'He Suffered' - Pt. 3

Ronald Knox's excerpted explanation of "He suffered" from his book, The Creed in Slow Motion, which we began here, continues here in Part 3:

WELL THEN, IF SUFFERING is an evil, that means that you and I have got a right to avoid it. If you've got a toothache, you've a perfect right to have the tooth taken out, instead of saying, "No, thanks, I'd rather offer it up." And indeed it means that you have a duty of looking after your health, because your health is one of God's good gifts, and it isn't polite of you to throw it away carelessly as if you attached no value to it; any more than it would be polite if your rich uncle gives you half a crown to throw it out of the window and say you can get on very well without it. If suffering is an evil, that means that you must not inflict it on other people. I remember a small boy - only he isn't a small boy now, he's grown into rather a great man - who was teasing his sister, and when she complained of this treatment he replied, "A slight mortification, my dear, can only help to get you off Purgatory." That won't do; suffering is an evil, and human beings mustn't inflict it on one another, unless it is for the sake of securing a greater good - as, for instance, when the dentist inflicts suffering on you because that is the only way of stopping a bad tooth.

And again, if suffering is an evil, we must do our best to relieve the sufferings of other people. We must feed the hungry and look after the sick; or if we can't do it ourselves we must contribute to the charities that do. All these centuries Christianity has been preaching that suffering isn't what really matters, sin is what really matters. And yet, all these centuries, Christianity has been founding hospitals and running soup kitchens, because it knows that suffering is, in itself, an evil. I suppose that was part of the reason why our Lord, in Gethsemani, prayed to be delivered from the chalice of his Passion. He wanted to show us that suffering is an evil, and unless it is clearly God's will that it should come to us, we have a right to try and avoid it.

But sometimes, you see, it is God's will that suffering should come to us, and that we should not be able to avoid it. How is that? Well, we tried to go into all that last term, when we were talking about the Fall, and how suffering was the appropriate punishment of sin. The whole human race has sinned, and the whole human race has got to suffer; the bit of suffering which comes your way and mine is just you and me doing our bit. We have said that suffering is an evil thing in itself. But the suffering which comes to us in this way, suffering which we can't avoid because it is God's will for us, can be turned from an evil thing into a good thing, if we treat it in the right way. If you look at an electric light bulb when it isn't burning, you will see nothing inside but a rather uninteresting-looking bit of wire; and you might be tempted to say to yourself, "I don't see how anybody's going to get light out of that." But, once you switch the current on, that piece of wire does give light, because the electricity transmutes it into a glowing mass. So it is with suffering in human lives; an evil thing in itself, it becomes a good thing when it is transmuted, by the love of God, into the glowing focus of charity. (Continues in Pt. 4)

- Ronald A. Knox

Belloc - Church as Conservator

YOU HAVE BEEN told, "Christianity (a word, by the way, quite unhistorical) crept into Rome as she declined, and hastened that decline." That is bad history.* Rather accept this phrase and retain it: "The Faith is that which Rome accepted in her maturity; nor was the Faith the cause of her decline, but rather the conservator of all that could be conserved ...

It was not the spread of the Faith which undermined the high civilization of pagan antiquity; on the contrary, the Faith saved all that could be saved; and, but for the conversion of the Roman Empire, nothing of our culture would have remained ...

We must begin by laying it down, again as an historical fact, not to be removed by affection one way or the other, that the conversion of the Roman Empire was a conversion to what was called by all our ancestry and what is still called by those with any just historical sense, the Catholic Church.

- Hilaire Belloc

* Belloc took a 1st in History while up at Oxford University

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Knox - 'He Suffered' - Pt. 2

Ronald Knox's excerpted explanation of "He suffered" from his book, The Creed in Slow Motion, which we began here, continues:

SO, YOU SEE, IT isn't necessary to explain away a great deal, if you want to persuade yourself that our Lord never experienced human suffering. There were heretics in early days, as I think I told you before, who thought that; who made out that our Lord didn't really become a man at his Incarnation; he only wore a kind of phantom body, something like a ghost. And in our own day the Christian Scientists - the people who tell you that you haven't really got a toothache, you've only got a stupid idea that you've got a toothache, and therefore the best thing to do is to pray about it, instead of going to the dentist - the Christian Scientists would tell you that our Lord didn't suffer. Oh, no, he was perfectly wise, and therefore he knew that there was no such thing as suffering, and that is why he went about persuading the blind people that they weren't blind, and the lepers that they weren't lepers, and Lazarus that he wasn't dead. If you are perfectly holy, they say, then you must be perfectly healthy. And, you know, it's good Catholic theology, though I don't know whether it's a matter of faith, that our Lord while he was on earth never suffered from any disease. His human body was such a perfect thing that it couldn;t go wrong of its own accord; it was only when he treated it roughly (or when other people treated it roughly) that it could enter into Adam's uncomfortable legacy of pain.

However, there it is; our Lord was hungry, was tired, did suffer, even before Pontius Pilate comes into the picture at all. And at the same time his whole life, as it is recorded for us in the Gospels, is a kind of campaign against suffering - no more blind, no more deaf, no more lame, no more paralytics, no more lepers - that seems to be his ideal. Now, you ask yourself, is suffering a good thing or a bad thing? If it is a good thing, why did he spend so much of his time in making it disappear from the countryside round him, when he might have been attending, instead, to the needs of people's souls? And if suffering is a bad thing, why did he bring upon himself - for it is evident all through that he brought it on himself - a death attended by such crowded circumstances of pain? What are we to make of suffering ourselves? Is it a thing to run away from, or is it a thing we ought to welcome? He suffered; our Lord suffered; what about his servants?

Well, let us take the answer to that question bit by bit. In the first place, suffering is of its own nature a bad thing, not a good thing. When I say that it's a bad thing, I don't mean of course that it's wicked to have a toothache; I don't want to have you coming round to me on Saturday evening and confessing that you've had a slight attack of neuralgia. I mean that suffering is an imperfection, brought into this world of ours by the fall of man: it's a blot on creation, it degrades us. And therefore, in the presence of a very good person, suffering tends to run away and hide itself; when our Lord met a leper, the leprosy couldn't maintain itself, it fled from his presence. And so it has been in the lives of his saints. You can read in the Bible how a dead man was being carried out to burial once, when a party of invading Syrians appeared; and the undertaker and his assistants thought it would be a good thing to cut short the funeral procession, so they dropped the corpse into the nearest tomb they could see. It happened to be the tomb of the prophet Elisha, who had just died. And the dead man immediately came to life. Death, you may say, couldn't bear to find itself anywhere near anyone as holy as Elisha, just as the undertaker couldn't bear to be near a party of invading Syrians. Death said (as it were), "Oh, gosh, I can't stand this," and ran away, leaving the man to come to life. That's putting it rather crudely, but you see what I mean; suffering is of its own nature an evil, and it tends to disappear when it is brought into contact with a very holy person, just as darkness disappears when you bring a candle into a room. (Continued in Pt. 3)

- Ronald A. Knox

Knox - 'He Suffered' - Pt. 1

Monsignor Ronald A. Knox, writing and preaching to his war-time (WWII) congregation of school girls at Aldenham, produced for my money the most lucid explication of the Creed in print, The Creed in Slow Motion (readily available from Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN).

Chapter by chapter, Knox elucidates bite-sized portions of the Creed in a manner that one reviewer says exhibited "a freedom from ecclesial decorum which is sometimes startling, yet always with a purpose;" namely, to show how the age-old faith resonates with our contemporary experiences.

So, my purpose now is to display Knox's superlative grasp of the Catholic faith in a series of posts in which I will, gentle reader, give you in its entirety chapter IX, "He Suffered." It is apropos for this season of Lent, and, in a few short pages, it brings to us the meaning and purpose not only of our Lord's salvific suffering, but the meaning and purpose of our own suffering in this mortal plane of temporal existence. I hope you will find it as important as I have.

By the way, as friend Gil Bailie notes, good authors always create their own precursors. I lay no claim to being a "good author," but I will say that Knox here gives the foundation for my own book, A Little Guide for Your Last Days that was written, submitted, and published long before I laid eyes on Knox's book.

And so I begin presenting to you, "He Suffered - Part 1, excerpted from The Creed in Slow Motion."

I EXPECT SOME of your will be wanting to complain that I've only given you half a clause out of the Credo there, instead of a whole clause. When you say the Credo, you say, "Sufton Plntius Pilate," and that's that. But, you see, quite apart from the question when or how our Lord suffered, it is important to get it into our heads that he did suffer. Go back for a moment to what you rememeber of the Gospels, and tell me what evidence we have, earlier than his agony in the garden of Gethsemani, to tell us that our Lord did suffer? It's not so easy, is it? I think I'm right in saying that there are only three occasions, before Gethsemani, on which we hear of our Lord as suffering any kind of bodily discomfort. When his temptation in the wilderness was over, we are told that he hungered. When he passed by the fig tree that had leaves but no fruit on it, we are told that he was hungry. And when he sat down by the well and talked to the woman of Samaria, we are told that he was tired after his journey. Elsewhere we hear of his being sorry about things - he wept over Jerusalem, for example, and over the grave of Lazarus - but except on those three occasions I don't think we ever hear that he suffered bodily discomfort - till Gethsemani. (Continues in Pt. 2)

3rd Sunday of Lent