I join Fr. Gabriel Gillen in the studios of Sirius Radio for The Catholic Channel. Over the phone, our guests were Fr. Charles Connor, a well known historian and author, and Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, another well known author and friend of the Missionaries of Charity. Because of the prominent theme of humility, Fr. Connor helps us discuss St. Therese of Lisieux, and Donna-Marie, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta.
“God is not great.” That is Mr. Christopher Hitchens’s trite attempt at bad news.
On the one hand, he speaks about a ‘God’ whose life and works have been received and transmitted through the concrete history of civilization: He would not have such a widely communicable gripe were he not dealing with a reality that is objectively possessed and shared by so many people. In other words, the object of his malice is quite definitively, ‘God.’ On the other hand, granting that Mr. Hitchens does not have living faith in God’s love, the actual object of his hubris cannot be God in Himself. Accordingly, he and today’s enemies of religion envision themselves as just that – as enemies of ‘religion.’ As self-appointed missionaries of les lumières manqués, they vaunt humanistic goals as the premise for attacking the world’s oldest ‘ideology,’ which uses ‘God’ and His will as so many ciphers for encoded manipulations of power. Such deconstructive endeavors are fair and just enough, to be sure: ours is a fallen world and the Church is a corpus mixtum, made up of sinful creatures (who, yet still, do not withstand the Creator’s redemptive promise to be with us until the end of time). But the criminal designs of the ‘new atheists’ are aimed directly against humanity, and more precisely, at Western civilization’s very heritage: their aim is to confuse Christendom’s semantic history, to unearth and destroy the veritable roots of our culture. That is why Mr. Hitchens’s book has been entitled in such a way as to curse God precisely through adulterating one of Latin Christianity’s greatest incipits – that of St. Augustine’s Confessions: “Magnus non est,” Hitchens pridefully says. A subtle and crafty creature, he realizes that, in order to gainsay God, he must silence the Christian confession.
O that my unclean lips could be silent, resting in the cool, pristine breeze of your whispered Word. But it is you yourself who tells me to give reasons for the faith which you have given to me, and which Raison d’être you yourself are. Without you, what reason is there for being? Indeed and thus, this modern world is a question to itself. But in asking ultimately about you… the world interrogates me. And seeing me, the world accuses you.
Justly, then, you hang condemned.
How is it, O Lord, that you give yourself to be caught up with sin, you who are your own and essential goodness, you whose selfsame holiness nevertheless became wholly as sin? Why do you let yourself be judged according as we let you live in us; and how does judgment upon you translate into amnesty for us? It can only be because this is the wisdom of your love, which sets us free for life. That is, your decree of justification is your own creating Word of Love; and it is a word of absolute self-sacrifice: giving over the divine-all so that humanity (all-over) might be given unto you.
I confess, O God, that our human words are dumb and epigonic babblings before the towering and originating eloquence of your majesty; and yet, proceeding from the Word and Spirit of your selfsame love, the words of your creatures are charged to signal the grandeur of your grace.
Why do the words of Mr. Hitchens bear such influence? I believe it rests wholly in their arrangement – which is precisely not to say, in their argument. The probative rigor and conclusiveness of Mr. Hitchens’s arguments pale before the power of his words to effect reactions of both disdain and delight – disdain for the object of his critique and delight in the speaker and his critique.
For all his erudition, Mr. Hitchens is neither a philosopher nor an historian… at least he is no more so than the average American music or movie star turned politico. Mr. Hitchens is firstly a literary critic. That is, he is a reader of letters – of human letters. In this way, he stands distinctly from today’s other notorious anti-religionist – Richard Dawkins, a ‘scientist.’
And yet they stand together: A man of the liberal arts and a man of the modern sciences are popular cooperatives in the bathetic project to eviscerate religion. The phenomenon that our critical minds must discern, in turn, then, is not so much the popular prominence of two mediocre thinkers who get off ejaculating opinions the irascibly intelligent adolescent could discover for himself (and eventually does). Rather, it is the semantic styles that sirs Hitchens and Dawkins deploy that must be recognized, if one is to understand whence their contemporary credibility flows.
When and how did I first believe you? It surely was not when you had, for the first time, spoken to me. For, when have you not spoken to me – (if only when I have not listened to you)? And even when I was not, you knew me, predestining me and calling me to yourself. From my beginning, you spoke to me through my parents, for they spoke of you and often to me. But I never listened to them, to my parents who are, together and after you, the prima causa of my existence. Indeed, I thank you now so much for them and their thankless years which were for me. They were my original blessing and it is from their love and grace that I sprung and now spring toward you in this verdant season of life. And yet still, their voice was not your own, which now is all I listen for.
At first, callow and contemptuous, I thought everything they said was wrong because it chastened my desires. Then, in my first maturity, I recognized they had spoken the truth about all things, because their insights about life and responsibility were negatively validated by the disorienting effects of my worldly wanderlust. But now, heavenly Father, having found myself in you who have finally composed me, I see that my parents are indeed virtuous… and yet, not wholly true; that is to say, they are not perfect as you alone are perfect; and it is this Perfection that I (and they too) seek with entirety of heart, mind, and strength, with utter devotion of soul. It is in our perfectibility that our perfection lies; and the source of this perfectibility is your selfsame, exemplary Perfection, O God; you, whose voice is its own Truth, you, whose revelatory speaking is its own objectivity and suasion alike, since you are Creator of world and hearts.
Asking, in effect, “Who creates whom?” sirs Hitchens and Dawkins exemplify the two trajectories of the Liberal project – that of the human arts and methodical science. The words of a lettered man and the judgments of a scientific mind give popular society the feel of being cultured and rational when, in fact, popular society can never be either; (rather, it can only be, on the one hand, kitschy or fashionable in its tastes and, on the other hand, maudlin or rabid in its sentiments; and only by totalitarian oppression or mechanization can popular society, as such, be rationally ordered). Indeed, postmodernism is a crossroads of dead-ends, since human ingenuity is now directed by sheer, fictive creativity or capital-invested, scientific licentiousness. But neither game has a recognizable destination in mind. The postmodern literatus thinks there is nothing but the constructed and evanescent ‘here’ of imagination; and the positivist scientist thinks there is nothing but the linear interminability of technological progress. Formally speaking, the former’s approach amounts to anarchy fueled by delight, whereas the latter’s amounts to technocracy driven by praxis. And although distinct, they feed off of each other in our postmodern situation: The man of letters insinuates the socialism of radical justice into his project, and the man of science prospers a carnival of delectation through his entertaining inventions. In other words – and to complete the unsavory simile that ended the previous section – these two men (or what they represent) get off on each other, as if Janus were adoring and making love to himself, obviating all ways – whether new or old – to light and truth. But they “are hollow men / … stuffed men / leaning together / Headpiece filled with straw.” And their sterile union will surely end in death; for, “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper” (T.S. Eliot).
Jesus: I am now turned thirty-three years old, and it’s not melodrama that moves me to recognize this age of my upcoming priestly ordination as the age at which you died on the Cross. You know that, even in these harried days of academic occupation and diaconal ministry, I am more and more thinking about that particular whence from which you educed my self, at once considering the daunting splendor of the whither to which you are taking me. And so, it is no doubt a work of your inescapable providence that I have returned to one of the first books that led me to you and your Church – the Confessions of St. Augustine.
I remember quite easily the books that I had read before my conversion. They were two in number: Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Actually, I don’t remember reading them as much as having read them. I can’t imagine that either was perused cover-to-cover. At any rate, I now recognize that, at that stage in my life, I was lying somewhere between the quasi-Nietzchean incarnationalism of Morrison’s hope and the modern Calvinism of Faulkner’s furious despair. Still, I really can’t say what led me after all those skipped or copied high school assignments to pick up these two books.
Because nothing ever really interested me. Nothing.
Perhaps it was this nothing that finally got to me. I don’t think it was ‘angst,’ since it wasn’t that I was a question of purposelessness to myself, a question of being-there in the face of an encompassing ontological groundlessness, caught up in the sweep of phenomenal temporality. The problem was that I felt question-less; or rather, that I didn’t feel. I was a-problematic. Perfectly intransitive. Even the question of purpose did not exist for me, did not occupy or disturb me, as I nevertheless realized it should have, I think.
It’s really difficult to try and articulate what this abyssal apathy was all about. But my heart was dead. Peculiarly, then, it was the intellect – directed no doubt by you, Lord Jesus – that was to illumine my desires, which would command me to rise and go home.
It was an experience that I shall never forget. It was uncannily both abstract and personal. An existential syllogism, one might call it. I was in a Western Church History course, taught by a Lutheran pastor at the State University. The instructor proposed a number of possible topics for the final paper, among which I unaccountably zeroed in on one: Research the history of monasticism in Western civilization and discuss why men and women have felt the need to leave the world. Once I began thinking about this question I was trapped. I had always believed in God – as merely notional as this belief had been. I had even gone to church with my parents and, at times, would read the Bible aloud with them after supper – if only to emphasize particular words and phrases that I thought might give the lie to their hypocritical ways, especially if we were praying fresh from a nasty tussle (which I invariably instigated). So, given this premise, I began to wonder: How could I not live entirely for God? (Of course, the tacit corollary of this questioning premise was that I would not – or, rather, simply could not kill myself.) In other words: If I believed in God (and I did), and if God is what he must be in order to be God (which he could not but be), how could I not leave the ungodly world and give myself entirely to him? You know, Lord God, how this hypothesis nagged me and wouldn’t let go of me. Equally by your grace, I never entertained relinquishing the first premise – that God exists.
And so, I began to read. I began with David Knowles, Owen Chadwick, Benedicta Ward, and of course, Thomas Merton. I turned to literature as well, and devoured anything that had a distinctly Catholic flavor. Even the profane turned me toward the holy. Kazantzakis bothered me, even as I knew he was a real artist; but I knew in my heart that there was a profound falsity to his ingenious scorn as he retold the story of St. Francis. Instead, I adverted to The Little Flowers of St. Francis – a book known and mocked for its pious legendry, and yet, one in which I knew there is a deep and ultimate truth about the call and ministry of Christ. (And even still, I believe all the miracles recounted therein… but not because they are absurd.)
More and more, there was also the sacramental largesse of your splendor that seemed intrinsically allied to the monastic élan, which was incontrovertibly enchanting to me. On the one hand, the monk left all to seek Christ; on the other, he had every perfect opportunity for meeting Christ in his sacraments, in those participating mysteries of Jesus’ own life. And while I knew monasticism existed in most so-called ‘world religions,’ especially in Eastern ones, only in the Church did I find that the spirit of fugandi had been so intimately connected with the spirit of ministrandi. In sum, I wanted everything that was Christ’s throughout human space and time and throughout all eternity: I wanted all of it – the prayer, the liturgy, the philosophy and theology; I wanted the Pope and the calendar of Saints; I even wanted the possibility of sinning more gravely and the prospect of a real social stigma; I wanted the community and sense of history. I wanted, O God, your sacramenta et res.
Even now, Jesus, I have no idea how all this ‘made sense’ to me. But I wanted it. I wanted to be a monk and a Catholic. Eventually, then – (to venture not a word about the actual initium fidei) – I would convert and be baptized. And so, it was in these small ways, with books that told me about the “four walls of freedom” and “pledges of future glory” that I began to be liberated for being bound to you.
Eventually, I called up the professor to ask him when the paper was due – I still had the habit of missing classes with some frequency. So I was unsurprised when he told me that it should have been turned in three weeks earlier. Of course, I didn’t care; because I was without care, but this time, for a different reason, that is, for the reason: Something interested me and it involved nothing but ultimates: God, the Church, my soul. In this way God led me – before I had even been given to drink of the one Spirit and eat of the one loaf – in this way, you led me to seek holiness and truth. You brought me to yourself. And I love you for that, my sweet Jesus. I love you.
There is yet so much more that one could write. But then again, there are so many more original and significant words worth listening to.
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. Were I to say I am without sin, I would deceive myself, and there would be no truth in me. But if I confess my sins, merciful Lord, you are faithful and just. For your word is near me and in my mouth and in my heart; it is a lamp to guide my steps; and it is the word that I preach, which is your name, Lord Jesus – you, whose name is power and salvation for all who believe. For you possessed the very form of God and yet did not count it something to be regarded, even as the Godhead forever dwells within you. And you share this fullness with me, you, who are the head of every principality and power; you, who are head of the Body, which is the Church. And we, though many, are one; for we all partake of the one loaf, without which I have no life in me. Thus, it is by your grace that I am saved. For even when I was dead in sin, you were calling me to life. Since, then, I am raised with your Son, I seek him and what is above. By your help, I gird up the loins of my mind to live soberly and set my hopes completely on the grace which will be brought forth at your revelation. To this end, I have devoted myself to the teaching of your apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. With all my heart, mind, and soul, I plead to you in your Spirit: Consecrate me in your Truth, for your Word is Truth. No longer shall I act according to the desires of my previous ignorance. No, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. I want to be holy, as you are holy; you, who have revealed to me and to us the way to the Father, who art in heaven, whose name be sanctified and glorified in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, who liveth and reigneth, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
This Thursday, there are two special events.
Thursday, August 26th, 2010
9:30am – 11:00am
The Yale Club of New York
50 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017
On August 26, at The Yale Club of New York, the Susan B. Anthony List will engage a panel of scholars in “A Conversation on Pro-life Feminism” that will examine this contention from an intellectual and historical perspective. This exchange could not be timelier: August 26, 2010, is the 90th anniversary of the day the final state ratification was forwarded to Washington, D.C. and Women’s Suffrage became the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Nine decades after that historic-event, the 2010 midterm elections are emerging as the “year of the pro-life woman.”
“A Conversation on Pro-Life Feminism” will feature five distinguished scholars, led by
Helen Alvaré, M.A., J.D. of George Mason University’s School of Law.
She will be joined by:
Catherine E. Wilson, Ph.D. Political Science and Villanova Center for Liberal Education, Villanova University
W. Bradford Wilcox, Ph.D. Department of Sociology, University of Virginia
Jennifer J. Popiel, Ph.D.History Department, Saint Louis University
Laura Garcia, Ph.D. Philosophy Department, Boston College
You can Register for the Live Webcast on August 26th, 9:30-11:00 am.
Seating is Limited. To R.S.V.P., please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Second, (and not without an evocative connection):
At 12:10 pm, Archbishop Timothy Dolan will celebrate a Mass in honor of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and the 100th anniversary of her birth at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Later that day, beginning at 6 pm, there will be a Holy Hour and Mass (7 pm), followed by a Eucharistic Procession and recitation of the Holy Rosary. These festivities are gathered around St. Rita of Cascia Church in the Bronx, at 448 College Avenue, just off of East 145th Street.
From Our Holy Father’s Wednesday Catechesis on St. Bartholomew, 4 October 2006.
In the series on the Apostles called by Jesus during his earthly life, today it is the Apostle Bartholomew who attracts our attention. In the ancient lists of the Twelve he always comes before Matthew, whereas the name of the Apostle who precedes him varies; it may be Philip (cf. Mt 10.3; Mk 3.18; Lk 6.14) or Thomas (cf. Acts 1.13).
We have no special information about Bartholomew; indeed, his name always and only appears in the lists of the Twelve mentioned above and is therefore never central to any narrative.
However, it has traditionally been identified with Nathanael: a name that means “God has given”….
Returning to the scene of Nathanael’s vocation, the Evangelist [St. John] tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1.47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (32.2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement: “How do you know me?” (Jn 1.48)….
His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1.49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.
Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.
A Peruvian Dominican, Saint Rose of Lima was the Church’s first canonized Saint of the Americas. Although she lived her life of austere penance and ardent prayer in a small cell erected in her family’s garden, she longed to be a martyr. The year she died, 1617, a Spanish Dominican was martyred in Nagasaki, Japan; and many more followed Bl. Alphonsus Navarrete in the decades to follow.
A Mystical Body indeed.
We would be wrong to say that the Church is not subject to sociological and cultural analysis. However, we must never damage our divine faith in believing that the Church is reducible to such analyses… which are themselves subject to such scrutiny.
Today’s reading from Ezekiel, the culmination in our Ordinary Time readings from the prophets (Cycle II) could be reduced to sociological significance. And indeed it has by some putative scholars: Ezekiel, writing after the Exile, was an hieratic or priestly centralizer. Because the Israelite people had suffered geographic dispersion and cultural dissipation, gathering all of her identity back into one centralized cultus at the Temple would work for restoring identity and securing administrative control.
Similarly, as we turn to consider the work and times of Pope St. Pius X, we could subject the Church’s late 19th and 20th centuries as the story of centralizing power: Vatican I and papal infallibility, Leo XIII and imposed Thomism, Pius XII abominably maligned as “Hitler’s Pope,” Vatican II’s amazing focus on the bishops, the consequent suppression of the diversity of liturgical rites, the reign of John Paul II… and, of course, Pope St. Pius X… who introduced the “Oath against Modernism” and called for watch-communities against the nebulous “heresy of heresies.”
That’s one way to look at things.
Another way is to focus on the transcendence of unity and the custody that the Holy Spirit has over the Church and her teaching and worship, which, perforce, demands a proportionate legal unity.
St. Pius X was interested in nothing if not Christ and his kingship. Ultimately, there is no master but the Christ, as our Lord himself in today’s Gospel teaches. “To restore all things in Christ” (instaure omnia in Christo) was the pope’s motto, as it should be ours. His renewal of Gregorian chant, his emphasis on the faith of children whose use of reason was burgeoning and on Holy Communion, his care for the teaching of the Church and the protection against the insidious errors that are yet with us today (and which John Paul II had to decry, in their contemporary forms, in Fides et ratio), all of these things point not to the pope’s power but to his ministry and service.
To think about the Church in terms of power that needs deconstruction is to think only of a world that is inevitably subject to the one power that only Christ can undo — death.
The prophet Ezekiel encourages otherwise. He sees the Lord in His glory enter the Temple by the East gate. And as he is lifted into the temple, the Lord declares His desire to dwell there with His people.
We ought to recall that scene in Genesis after the Fall, when Adam and Eve are banished from the garden, from paradise, from that original communion with God and creation that was the Creator’s plan for us from the beginning. Having lost that original justice with God, an angel is placed before the garden to protect the tree of life and the garden against man’s unworthy entry.
He is placed at the east gate.
But our Lord, by his glorious ascent of the cross enters through that East gate, and brings us with him, feeding us from his Cross’s sacrifice, our tree of life. We do not see the perfected glory of God Himself now, but we shall in heaven, God-willing, because such is His plan.
The Church is in the world but its business is about heaven. The Church is composed of men, but it is led by Christ. Let us seek Him above all things.
I am joined by Fr. Basil Cole, O.P. in the studios of The Catholic Channel for “Word to Life.” In the third segment, we have a conversation with Fr. Ben Luedtke, a priest from MI.
“Word to Life” airs every Friday at 1pm (EST) on Sirius 159 XM 117.
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Mellifluous Doctor, Bernard of Clairvaux. Here, our Holy Father reflects on the “Last of the Church Fathers”:
I would now like to reflect on only two of the main aspects of Bernard’s rich doctrine: they concern Jesus Christ and Mary Most Holy, his Mother. His concern for the Christian’s intimate and vital participation in God’s love in Jesus Christ brings no new guidelines to the scientific status of theology. However, in a more decisive manner than ever, the Abbot of Clairvaux embodies the theologian, the contemplative and the mystic. Jesus alone Bernard insists in the face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time Jesus alone is “honey in the mouth, song to the ear, jubilation in the heart (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)”. The title Doctor Mellifluus, attributed to Bernard by tradition, stems precisely from this; indeed, his praise of Jesus Christ “flowed like honey”. In the extenuating battles between Nominalists and Realists two philosophical currents of the time the Abbot of Clairvaux never tired of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus of Nazareth. “All food of the soul is dry”, he professed, “unless it is moistened with this oil; insipid, unless it is seasoned with this salt. What you write has no savour for me unless I have read Jesus in it” (In Canticum Sermones XV, 6: PL 183, 847). For Bernard, in fact, true knowledge of God consisted in a personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love. And, dear brothers and sisters, this is true for every Christian: faith is first and foremost a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, it is having an experience of his closeness, his friendship and his love. It is in this way that we learn to know him ever better, to love him and to follow him more and more. May this happen to each one of us! [Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 21 October 2009]
Among the many treatises that St. Bernard authored, one on Pride and Humility contains a traditional ladder of descent and ascent that can be helpful for examining one’s conscience. Two things bear mentioning, however: (1) St. Bernard principally had in mind monks, whose life of perfection especially consisted in the maintenance of silence; and (2) St. Bernard is not speaking of psychological self-understanding as much as spiritual disciplining, which is important to note in order to appreciate, e.g., steps 2 and 6 of Humility.
The Twelve Steps of Pride
1. Curiosity about what is not one’s proper concern.
2. Light-mindedness: chatter and exclamations about things that do not matter.
3. Laughing about nothing: foolish merriment.
4. Boasting and talking too much.
5. Trying to be different: claiming special rights.
6. Thinking oneself holier than others.
7. Interfering presumptuously with the affiars of others.
8. Self-justification. Defending one’s sinful actions.
9. Insincere confession.
10. Rebellion against superiors.
11. Feeling free to sin.
12. Habitual sinning.
And The Twelve Steps of Humility, which undo the order of pride.
1. Constant watchfulness against sin.
2. Desiring no freedom to exercise one’s will.
3. Submission to superiors.
4. Patience in the face of accusation.
5. Confessing one’s sins.
6. Thinking oneself unworthy to take initiative.
7. Thinking oneself less holy than others.
8. Regarding oneself as having no special rights in the community.
9. Keeping silent unless asked to speak.
10. Reluctance to laugh.
11. Quiet and restrained speech.
12. Containment of one’s interests, which shows itself in a humble bearing and lowered eyes.
[From Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 100]
As you may have heard, Divine Providence has blessed our province with extremely encouraging vocation numbers and vocation quality! of late. (To learn more about the men and their paths to the province, visit our provincial website by clicking here.)
Please pray for the 21 men who were clothed with the habit of St. Dominic on Our Holy Father’s feast day, as well as for the 8 men who made their simple profession of vows on the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption.
Saint Hyacinth (1185-1257) was attracted to the apostolic life of the Holy Preaching by St. Dominic himself, from whom he received the habit. The following excerpt from the Life of Saint Hyacinth testifies well to the Polish saint’s marvelous life and ministry.
When the light of day dawns, illness is alleviated, people stir from sleep, birds begin to chirp, beasts leave their lairs; likewise, when Saint Jacek was sent to Poland by Blessed Dominic, the Polish people were freed from their vices, aroused from their negligence, encouraged to consider things of heaven, and set free from the power of demons. A new light seemed to arise for the Polish people, brining joy, honor, and festivity for all….
In the first place, he is called “Hyacinth” because the flower has a stalk with a crimson blossom: this suits Blessed Jacek well for he was a simple stalk in his docility of heart, a flower in his chastity, a crimson blossom in his vow of poverty and lack of material goods.
Secondly, he is called “Hyacinth” from the hyacinth stone, for he shines brilliantly in the way he handed on the teaching of the Gospel, was resplendent in his holy way of life, and most steadfast in spreading the Catholic faith. For these reasons his name has spread abroad.
[From the Dominican ordo.]
I am joined in the studios of Sirius 159/ XM 117 for The Catholic Channel‘s “Word to Life” by Frs. Basil Cole, O.P. and John Chrysostom Kozlowski, O.P. We are also joined over the telephone by Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., who has recently published a book of meditations on the Church’s feasts of Our Lady, Mysteries of the Virgin Mary: Living Our Lady’s Graces (Servant Books, 2010).
She was eighteen years of age when St. Francis came to preach the Lenten course in the church of San Giorgio at Assisi. The inspired words of the Poverello kindled a flame in the heart of Clare; she sought him out secretly and begged him to help her that she too might live “after the manner of the holy Gospel”. St. Francis, who at once recognized in Clare one of those chosen souls destined by God for great things, and who also, doubtless, foresaw that many would follow her example, promised to assist her. On Palm Sunday Clare, arrayed in all her finery, attended high Mass at the cathedral, but when the others pressed forward to the altar-rail to receive a branch of palm, she remained in her place as if rapt in a dream. All eyes were upon the young girl as the bishop descended from the sanctuary and placed the palm in her hand. That was the last time the world beheld Clare. On the night of the same day she secretly left her father’s house, by St. Francis’s advice and, accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion, proceeded to the humble chapel of the Portiuncula, where St. Francis and his disciples met her with lights in their hands. Clare then laid aside her rich dress, and St. Francis, having cut off her hair, clothed her in a rough tunic and a thick veil, and in this way the young heroine vowed herself to the service of Jesus Christ. [From the Catholic Encyclopedia at www.newadvent.org]
God of mercy,
You inspired St. Clare with the love of poverty.
By the help of her prayers
may we follow Christ in poverty of spirit
and come to the joyful vision of Your glory
in the kingdom of heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Today the Church celebrates one of the most venerable Saints of the Church of Rome.
St. Lawrence was one of Rome’s seven deacons, based upon the Church’s primary scriptural source for the rank of deacon, Acts 6.1-6. He was martyred during the persecution of Valerian, only a few days after Pope Sixtus II. As the deacon properly ministers the chalice, St. Augustine noted that St. Lawrence both consumed and poured out the Precious Blood of Christ.
Unlike most martyrs of the time who were beheaded, St. Lawrence was, as is well known, burned on a gridiron. His name is among those listed in the Roman Canon.
you called St. Lawrence to serve you by love
and crowned his life with glorious martyrdom.
Help us to be like him
in loving you and doing your work.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Unfortunately, due to my error, there are no usable files for the homilies delivered by Fr. Jones and Fr. Keitz..
Today, the worldwide Order of Preachers celebrates its founder, Dominic de Guzman (ca. 1172 – 1221).
Far more impressive and splendid than all Dominic’s miracles were the exceptional integrity of his character and the extraordinary energy of divine zeal which carried him along; these proved beyond all doubt that he was a vessel of honor and grace, adorned with every kind of “precious stone.” His mind was always steady and clam, except when he was stirred by a feeling of compassion and mercy; and, since a happy heart makes for a cheerful face, the tranquil composure of the inner man was revealed outwardly by the kindliness and cheerfulness of his expression.… By his cheerfulness, he easily won the love of everybody. Without difficulty, he found his way into people’s hearts as soon as they saw him. (Testimony of Bl. Jordan of Saxony, successor of St. Dominic)
The Order of Friars Preachers, founded by St. Dominic, “is known to have been established from the beginning for preaching and the salvation of souls, specifically.” … Sharing the Apostles’ mission, we also follow their way of life, in the form devised by St. Dominic. We do our best to live of one accord the common life, observing faithfully the evangelical counsels, fervent in prayer and in the common life, celebration of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist and the divine office, diligent in study and constant in regular observance. Not only do these things contribute to the glory of God and our sanctification, they also bear directly on the salvation of mankind, since together they prepare and impel us to preach…” (From The Fundamental Constitution of the Order of Friars Preachers)
Please pray for us Dominicans, that we may be encouraged by the character of our holy founder’s life and ardently committed to the charism he bequeathed to the Church.
Holy Father Saint Dominic, pray for us!
God our Father,
in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son,
you strengthen our faith
by confirming the witness of your prophets,
and show us the splendor of your sons and daughters.
As we listen to the voice of your Son,
help us to become heirs to eternal life with him
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
One of the most insidious aspects of our liberal and legal culture – for all the benefits and rights it ostensibly grants us – is the way it tends to dilute reality. More and more, the premises and judgments on which society hangs are becoming mere projections of personal fantasies.
One needn’t agree with the platforms of all those who were instrumental in getting Proposition 8 originally okayed. But the recent ruling from Judge Walker of unconstitutionality is based upon the claim that we can define reality.
The amendment had simply stated that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” But the judge found “no rational basis” for saying such.
The “rational basis” is that marital love is essentially procreative in its radical potential (i.e., even for a couple that proves to be infertile). Because married love is essentially and uniquely procreative, our civic authorities have the prerogative to regulate its administration and recognition; it contributes to the welfare of society in an absolutely basic way. (This is a separate issue of granting or refusing tax breaks to various aggregates of persons.)
Arguments against legally bonding homosexuals in a marital way ought not to be essentially grounded in sociological trends or psychological effects to children, although these are relevant issues. The question is not whether or not homosexual persons can live in an exclusive, peaceful, and prosperous friendship together, even for the remainder of their lives.
The question is Can homosexual love truly be conjugal? Can it be procreative? (This is where the metaphysical if abstract language of the preconciliar Church was helpful: The “primary end” of marriage is procreation.)
As a societal microcosm, Can the social unit that is established by a putative instance of “marriage” provide the furtherance of life that is at the foundation of social reality?
A recent (and totally unrelated) review of a handful of different books about marriage provides some helpful considerations. Diane Johnson is initially suspicious about the merit of books with such titles as Why Him? Why Her? How to Find and Keep Lasting Love; Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage (by her of Eat, Pray, Love fame); and others: After all, there can’t be anything all that new to marriage, or to books about its challenges, tragedies, and successes. Nevertheless, these authors “suggest that what is new is the mindset of the intended readers.”
And here, in the New York Review of Books (19 August 2010), we stumble upon a major insight: What marriage is does not change; but our perceptions of and prospects for it do.
(Let’s just repeat that first point, which the second does not jeopardize: What marriage is does not change.)
It was Jean-Paul Sartre who said that “existence precedes essence.” What he meant was that our universe is an inherently meaningless forum of individual units of radical freedom. Reality tends to be sickening, inasmuch as everything (and therefore, ourselves) is alien. In response, it is the individual will – specifically, over and against other individual wills – that must forge its own significance (not to say “order”), since this world has no “Maker” or “Creator.” Appropriately, one of the French existentialist’s most quoted literary characters declares, “Hell is other people.”
Also appropriately (as it were), Sartre confessed that the most authentic and good act he could (and often did) commit was to seduce and deflower young ladies, whose leave he would subsequently take with cruel dispatch. Why? Because here was an absolute act of the individual that could never be overcome by another. Moreover, it made him uniquely and irrevocably effective in another person’s history. It is the will to power and meaning.
“Okay,” you might say. French intellectuals tend to get carried away. Bien-sur. But I believe Sartre’s is in the same family of mindset that Johnson discovers, and that grounds our liberal-legal culture that Judge Walker’s decision would further.
In one of the more academic books that Johnson reviews, a working definition of “marriage” is proffered: “A public, formal, lifelong commitment to share your life with another person.” We ought to find this definition insufficient, but let’s grant it for the moment. At least it acknowledges that the core of the commitment is ordered toward “another person.” This same author discovers, however, that there has been a major upheaval in societal aspirations surrounding marriage: from a belief in objective natures to the exclusive focus on subjective desires. Earlier traditions of what a marriage and family was about were interested in “property, progeny, prestige, duty, and God.” But now, says Johnson, it is seen “as a ‘right’ on the path to personal fulfillment.”
Of course, the Catholic (and common sense person) has no issue with the claim that marriage and the family are to foster “personal fulfillment.” That is correct. The problem is that our society’s very notion of fulfillment has been severed from reality!
“Severed from what ‘reality?’”
From that of “another person.”
We are not angels. This is true in many ways, the most basic of which, however, is that we have bodies. Our bodies are irreducibly (though not exhaustively) constitutive of the way in which we experience reality.
If I am to discover my personal fulfillment in another, that person has to be truly other – not simply another version of myself, but an “other.” (For the sake of space, we’ll refrain from some quite beautiful theological extrapolations cued by Genesis, trinitarian theology, and John Paul II.) “What” and “who” “another person” is, then, is physiologically basic. If a person is to find spiritual or personal communion with another, that union can only be mediated by a person encountered precisely as other.
And this, two individuals of the same sex cannot do, whatever other forms of friendship they may genuinely and worthily be capable of establishing.
When one person finds his or her personal fulfillment in another, their conjugal love is that by which they consummate their oneness. “The two become one flesh.” Consequently, this conjugal love is itself potentially pro-creative, able to produce yet another “other,” precisely as a sign of the couple’s unity! The family that results is the social unit that is at the foundation of civic society – a community of unique persons who seek happiness through a genuine diversity of selves.
Although Johnson has different kinds of appreciations and criticisms to offer the books she reviews, she is “struck by the similarity of the voices” in four of them: It is “the new rhetoric of self-disclosure and interaction, the Oprah mode, [which] uses the word ‘I’ or puts a rhetorical question in nearly every sentence so that you the reader are implicitly invited or hectored to have a response.” Insightfully, Johnson concludes, “The relentless use of the ‘I’ suggests that what may have been lost in the solipsism of recent American culture is an elementary sense of others, male or female.”
We might say, “male and female.”
Ironically, the very reason why the so-called “traditional definition” of marriage is so important to being preserved in the legal language and policies of our society is that it alone properly respects personal uniqueness and diversity.
What God has not joined, let man divide.
What follows is a great example of what our Pope’s understanding of pastoral ministry is all about. Rooted in the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation of the Son of God, it’s totally dogmatic. At the same time, it’s rooted in the lived example of one of the Church’s most beloved Saints, so it’s totally concrete. Our Holy Father is a true master of “pastoral theology”:
He arrived in Ars, a village of 230 souls, warned by his Bishop beforehand that there he would find religious practice in a sorry state: “There is little love of God in that parish; you will be the one to put it there”. As a result, he was deeply aware that he needed to go there to embody Christ’s presence and to bear witness to his saving mercy: “[Lord,] grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life!”: with this prayer he entered upon his mission. The Curé devoted himself completely to his parish’s conversion, setting before all else the Christian education of the people in his care.
Dear brother priests, let us ask the Lord Jesus for the grace to learn for ourselves something of the pastoral plan of Saint John Mary Vianney! The first thing we need to learn is the complete identification of the man with his ministry. In Jesus, person and mission tend to coincide: all Christ’s saving activity was, and is, an expression of his “filial consciousness” which from all eternity stands before the Father in an attitude of loving submission to his will. In a humble yet genuine way, every priest must aim for a similar identification. Certainly this is not to forget that the efficacy of the ministry is independent of the holiness of the minister; but neither can we overlook the extraordinary fruitfulness of the encounter between the ministry’s objective holiness and the subjective holiness of the minister. The Curé of Ars immediately set about this patient and humble task of harmonizing his life as a minister with the holiness of the ministry he had received, by deciding to “live”, physically, in his parish church: As his first biographer tells us: “Upon his arrival, he chose the church as his home. He entered the church before dawn and did not leave it until after the evening Angelus. There he was to be sought whenever needed”.
[From H.H. Benedict XVI, 16 June 2009]
A couple of days into a novena that culminates with the feast of St. Dominic, the Order of Preachers celebrates his holy mother today, Bl. Jane of Aza.
The imagery that traditionally surrounds the cult of St. Dominic was first depicted for Bl. Jane in a dream. Before his birth, she had a vision of herself bearing a young dog in her womb. This dog was holding a burning torch in its mouth, and springing from her womb it seemed to set the whole world ablaze (cf. Lk 12.49).
It is interesting to note that this month of August’s Doctor and Preacher of Grace both had mothers of manifest sanctity, even if they accomplished it in quite different ways.
St. Monica lived a life of long-suffering prayer, dealing with a difficult husband, and shedding countless tears of petition in behalf of her son, St. Augustine.
Bl. Jane lived in a household dedicated to the works of sanctity. Two of her other children entered religion, and one of them is accorded with Blessed status like his mother. She was always known for her piety and dedication to the poor and needy.
One mother bore a child known for his conversion; the other known for converting others.
Both holy women bore saints of grace.
All you holy women of God, and Our Lady, Mother of Grace, pray for us!