Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hell

No one talks about Hell anymore. Reflections on Hell can actually be strengthening for the soul, in my experience anyway. In Preparation for Death, St. Alphonsus Liguori's vivid descriptions of the torments of hell make any trial of this world seem small and endurable. Pondering on eternity, and saying the words "forever and ever and ever," as did St. Teresa of Avila, has straightened out many a life. To quote from a book on the Spiritual Excercises of St. Ignatius:
THIRD MEDITATION.
On Hell.
First Point.
As regards the punishment of the body, the sinner who is lost will suffer in his senses, 1, all the pains which are possible to humanity. He will suffer them all; and all at one and the same time ; and he shall suffer not only those pains of which we have knowledge, but all possible pains together—" every sorrow shall fall upon him " (a). What horror ! On the authority of Galen, the human head alone may become the subject of several thousand different pains ; and the damned wretch shall be tortured by all of them at the same moment. The pains are innumerable which may attack, from natural causes, or through human agency, the eyes, the ears, the heart, the hands, the feet, and other portions of the human body; and yet, in hell, all these will torture the sinner at one and the same time. Yes ! All of them—as many as the ferocity of tyrants, the cruelty of executioners, and the rage of savages have been able to invent and put in practice—all of them shall wreak vengeance on the sinner, and shall do so united!
2. And the sinner shall suffer all these pains in a most intense' degree; though still a finite one, and proportioned to his sins. S. Thomas assures us that the least degree of the pain of hell surpasses in intensity all the torments endured by the martyrs, all the possible agonies of sickness, and the most severe punishment ever inflicted on criminals, even though all these were put together. How intense, then, how inconceivably great must be the highest degree of the torments of hell. Ah ! many a time a toothache is sufficient to madden us, and drive us into frenzy. "What shall it be, then, to be compelled to endure for ever those innumerable, most acute, and most intense tortures, which shall be rained down for ever upon the damned!
3. And this shall last for ever. Alas ! for ever !— without ever a change, ever a respite, ever relief, ever a comfort of any kind; but eternally, continuously, despairingly, mercilessly. In this present life, every pain, anguish of whatever kind is tempered by some intervals of relief; but within that abyss of punishment the torture is never, never relaxed. Ah! we would deem it an unsufferable punishment, were we compelled to pass even a single night in a most luxurious bed without being able to move: what shall it be, then, to find ourselves chained immovable in that deep abyss, amid such terrible torments ! to find ourselves, after the lapse of a thousand centuries, tortured by the same intense pains which devoured our very vitals on our first entry into that furnace ! to find that neither the lapse of time, nor the habit of suffering brings the slightest alleviation of the agonies which we endure ! O mortals!—"which of you can dwell with devouring fire? which of you can dwell with everlasting burnings?"

Who then will be saved? Michael Liccione discusses the question.

St. Ignatius Loyola

Here is a provocative reflection from the saint's own writings.

Wasting Time

It is squandering a precious gift from God.
We lose time, first, by doing nothing. All the faculties of the soul seem to be numbed; we think of nothing, we do not know what to do with ourselves and with our time; or, if we do think of anything, we occupy ourselves with useless reveries, with vain projects and chimerical plans. If we are not sufficient to ourselves, we spend whole hours from morning to night in idle talk, in games and amusements, in visits which have no object, in walks without any aim, in all the pastimes which idleness can invent, and we utterly waste all our moments (Prov. 18:9). Have we no reproaches to address to ourselves on this head?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mystical Theology

God works through everything.
St. Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden reminds us that we cannot brush aside the mystical aspects of the spiritual life. As difficult as it may be in some cases to discern whether a person is genuinely receiving locutions or is experiencing visions that are not the result of illness or a disturbed imagination, we must guard against the kind of dismissive attitude that refuses even to consider that a person may be a genuine mystic, and which often leads to unjust judgements. Bishops and priests, and others who may be charged with the task of discernment, must always remember that just because a person claims to be having visions etc does not mean that he/she is no longer entitled to the respect we owe to every human being. In the name of avoiding error great injustice has often been visited on people. Sometimes they have been genuine mystics or have become great religious reformers (e.g. St. John of The Cross). Injustice cannot be justified on the basis of exercising caution.

As St. Paul tells us, "God works through everything" and it is clear that suffering is allowed by God in such cases, but that does not mean - cannot ever mean - that God approves of cruelty, insults and injustice. Sometimes I have seen and heard the most uncharitable remarks made about people who claim to be having visions as though those making such remarks have a God-given right to do so. Such critics are seriously mistaken. In particular a bishop or priest (or deacon for that matter) has a serious duty of pastoral care towards a person they may regard as deluded or mentally disturbed. Brushing people off with the advice, "You need to see your doctor" or words to that effect should not be the first response. If we do not know the person concerned we need to listen and ask questions, always treating the person with respect. If it becomes clear that theologically, spiritually or - quite possibly - medically, there are serious problems, we must act with gentleness as well as firmness. We should always try to leave a person with hope. No one should leave our presbyteries feeling utterly dejected or abandoned.
 
Having said all that, mystical experiences cannot be relegated to the fringes of the Church. We need only remember the extraordinary conversion of St. Paul to understand this. That was a "private revelation" which was also to become public. Without that mystical experience there would be no St. Paul.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Custody of the Eyes

The traditional way of avoiding near occasions of sin. (Via Esther.)
In her Theology Master’s thesis, written for the DC Dominican House of Studies, pro-life personality Dawn Eden has critiqued Christopher West’s take on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which is also spread by the Theology of the Body Institute.

A dispute over West’s methods erupted in May 2009 after ABC aired an interview with the prominent Catholic apologist, in which he appeared to make several highly controversial statements. Although West later clarified and said the statements in question were taken out of context, one of West’s former professors, David Schindler, of the Pontifical Institute for Marriage and the Family in D.C., took the opportunity to express concerns about various aspects of West’s approach.

In her thesis Eden, like Schindler, specifies that she does not question West’s intention to be orthodox.  Rather, she proposes corrective measures which she suggests would redeem the “unwitting flaws” in West’s catechesis, which “detract from his intended message.”

For Eden, one of the main contentions with West’s approach is that it opposes traditional conceptions of modesty and the recommended practice of looking away from immodesty (‘custody of the eyes’).
Eden notes that the Catholic Church has traditionally stated that chastity education should include instruction on avoiding occasions of sin. “West states, by contrast, that mature purity is found only in those who are willing to ‘risk’ concupiscence so that they might reap the benefits of ‘union with Christ and his Church.’"
Citing examples from West’s writings, Eden explains that, “By ‘risking,’ he means specifically that men who struggle with lust should practice looking at beautiful women so that they might learn to raise their thoughts and feelings from lust, to joy at encountering the image of God in female beauty.”

In her thesis titled, "Towards a 'Climate of Chastity': Bringing Catechesis on the Theology of the Body into the Hermeneutic of Continuity," Eden argues that such advice runs contrary to traditional Catholic teaching.  In the ninth chapter of the Book of Sirach, Eden points out, men are encouraged to look away from shapely women.
Furthermore she points out that Pope John Paul II, who originated the Theology of the Body, has pointed out that after the loss of original grace, man and woman have a “specific necessity of privacy with regard to their own bodies.”  Eden states that John Paul’s “understanding of modesty—seeing it not merely as a reaction to the potential lustful ‘look,’ but as a requirement for a ‘truly human culture of morals’—is absent from West’s TOB.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Judging Others

From Esther's blog:
"Remember that the right to judge another is not yours and that, even if it had been entrusted to you, you would be incapable of exercising it with integrity, as you are encompassed by a thousand passions, and only too prone to think evil of another without just cause."

The next time you are tempted to judge someone say to yourself "How dare I, wretched being, buried in this very fault myself, and in far more grievous ones, lift up my head to see and judge the faults of others?"

"...every good and kindly feeling toward your neighbor is the work of the Holy Spirit; and that all disparagement, rash judgment, and bitterness against him owe their origin to the evil that is in ourselves and to the suggestions of the Devil."

- Spiritual Combat, Lorenzo Scupoli, Sophia Press

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Revolution Against Modesty

The conclusion of Dr. von Hildebrand's remarks on the intimate sphere:
Part 4:  The Work of Christopher West and Its Relation to that of Dietrich von Hildebrand
Since Vatican II, the Church has  undergone a severe, manifold crisis: a crisis of faith, a crisis of authority, an intellectual crisis (confusion is widespread), a moral crisis. We should be grateful for any "soldier" who enters the arena and is offering his services to the King. We should be grateful for any written or oral testimony that help people who find their way back to the fold.  As St. Paul writes, we have different gifts, different talents, and use them for God's glory (Romans 12:6-8).

1. “Revolution” or Development of Doctrine?
However, no “soldier” in the service of the Church is ever called to be a “revolutionary”. As previously mentioned, Dietrich von Hildebrand was conscious that he had shed light on one very important truth that had often been obscured, not in Catholic doctrine, but in Catholic practice. He would call it—referring to his revered Cardinal Newman—a possible development of doctrine, but never a “revolution.”  There is no revolution in the Catholic Church. Divine revelation ended with the death of the  Apostles. The mission of the Church is to spread the Divine Message, and to clarify and re-clarify it over the years.

Christopher West is fond of quoting George Weigel’s provocative statement that John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is a “theological time bomb.” But what does that mean? Does it mean that “Christians must complete what the sexual revolution began,” as West told Nightline? Even the highly influential Weigel himself, to his credit, wrote in a foreword to one of Christopher West’s  books: “A sex-saturated culture imagines that the sexual revolution has been liberating. The opposite is the truth.” (Theology of the Body Explained, 2003, p. XVI).

Words such as "revolution” and similar bombastic expressions are appealing—but irresponsible. Inflated words and phrases are like a psychological massage—used throughout the ages by people who know the power of words. Most people live in such a state of spiritual and intellectual somnolence that such expressions might be useful to shake them out of their lethargy. But they are misleading. As stated, there is no revolution in the Church: the one great tsunami was the Incarnation.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Love and Pleasure

Dr. von Hildebrand explores dualism and language issues and how they relate to the intimate sphere.
2. Other Issues of Language

Love and Pleasure

The prevalence that certain words have in a text give us a key to the author's approach to his topic. Those acquainted with Dietrich von Hildebrand's books on purity, marriage, sex etc. will immediately notice that the key word he utilizes is "love". He tells us, explicitly and repeatedly, that it is love which gives meaning to the intimate sphere, and that the beauty of the union between the spouses is proportionate to the tenderness of their love.  It is love that "baptizes" pleasure, and brings it to a much higher level; for pleasure can be experienced by animals, but the sweetness of human pleasure, fortified by love, is altogether different: the word "pleasure" is then no longer adequate. We need a richer vocabulary to refer to it; there is joy, there is gratitude, there is happiness. Isolated pleasure (which by its very nature, does not last, and cannot last) is totally incapable of  giving a faint idea of what this "baptized" pleasure is; and is something, of course, denied to animals.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Speaking of the Intimate Sphere

Dr. von Hildebrand discusses how the vulgar and banal oppose the sacred.
5.  “Happy Talk” and Asceticism

It must be recognized: “happy talk” about sex and sexuality, even if it is wrapped in religious language, cannot communicate the full truth about God’s plan for human sexuality unless it includes the difficulties of living out an elevated moral life.

Sex enthusiasts in the Church like West often speak about the “raging hormones” many feel growing up, but the solution they propose to cure it—stimulate people even more, with a hyper-sexualized presentation of Catholic teaching—can easily aggravate the situation. Moreover, they consistently ignore the one successful remedy the Church has always called upon to address this malady: asceticism, the spirit of renunciation and sacrifice. It is crucial to a healthy moral and spiritual life; it is a way of collaborating with God’s grace, to “achieve victory over pleasure,” as the pre-Christian Plato wisely said.

Why does St. Paul  teach us, “And they that are Christ’s, have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts” (Galatians 5: 24)? Why did St. Benedict throw himself into a thorny bush? Why did St. Francis engage in self-mortification? Because, following Scripture, they believed that disciplining their bodily desires, was indispensable to overcoming temptation.

If such measures are considered unnecessary and too “extreme” today,  other forms of asceticism—an intense prayer life, frequent confession, modesty in dress and language, and avoiding all possible occasions of sin-- should not be considered so. One does not have to be a puritan or kill-joy to know that Christopher West’s infatuation with pop culture and rock and roll is a long way from the austere spirit of the New Testament. Grace is what is needed to be pure; the saints teach us the way.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Consolation

Of Christ and His Mother.
When Saint John, the Apostle and Evangelist, the beloved disciple of Christ and after the Most Holy Virgin Theotokos, the singular son of the Cross of Christ, having been relegated to the island of Patmos, suffered many things for the Faith of Christ, he was consoled in the same place by God with many celestial and divine revelations. For, as that Apostle says: As there has abounded in us the sufferings of Christ, so also through Christ abound our consolations, for, according tSaint Lorenzo da Brindisi (1559-1619)o the number of my sorrows in my heart, Thy consolations have made my soul rejoice
~Saint Lorenzo da Brindisi (1559-1619)

The Intimate Sphere and Reverence

Dr. von Hildebrand continues her exegesis.
3. The Intimate Sphere and Reverence
These are certain truths of which  Dietrich von Hildebrand never lost sight of. Throughout all his Catholic writings, he insists upon humility and reverence: humility because nobody, except the Blessed One among women, Mary, is safe; and reverence because of the depth and mystery of this sacred domain—a domain Dietrich always believed called for veiling.

Fed on great Catholic literature from the time of his conversion, he also knew that this sphere should be baptized. This is why the Catholic Church (with the Orthodox) makes marriage one of the seven sacraments.
While distortions can be found in the history of Catholic understanding of sexuality, they should be recognized as just that—distortions, which are not representative of the core. It is simply false to claim that the Church has, until recently, been blind to the deep meaning and beauty of sex as God intended it: we need only turn to St. Francis de Sales to see how profoundly he understood the meaning that God gave to this sphere. He writes: “It is honorable to all, in all, and in everything, that is, in all its parts" (Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, Chapter 38).   It is simply not true to claim that, until recently, the beauty and meaning of this sphere had been totally obscured by Puritanism and Manichaeism. Many from my generation can testify—against those who misrepresent it today—that the education we received did not, on the whole (there are always exceptions)  present sex as "dirty".

What was communicated, with delicacy, was a sense of "mystery" for something great, that had to be approached with deep reverence, and which, when abused, led to very serious offenses against  God.
My general criticism of Christopher West is that he does not seem to grasp the delicacy, reverence, privacy, and sacredness of the sexual sphere. He also underestimates the effects of Original Sin on the human condition.

4. Tua Culpa, or Mea Culpa?
One of the many dangers threatening us today is the widespread tendency to put the blame on others. Christopher West resorts to this strategy in his book, Good News About Sex and Marriage, when he writes:
“I myself am frustrated by the fact that I didn’t learn about the richness and sensibleness of the Church’s teaching when I was growing up, despite twelve years of Catholic education. For the most part, the message was simply, ‘Don’t do it.’ So what did I do? The exact opposite, of course.

“Had I been taught how wonderful and beautiful the Catholic vision of sex and marriage actually is, perhaps I would have thought it something worth holding out for. Perhaps I would have been spared the pain I inflicted on myself and others.” (Good News About Sex and Marriage, revised edition, p. 69)
Here, West falls into a contemporary trap. The tua culpa [you are at fault] has replaced the mea culpa [I am at fault].   To assume that those who fall into sexual sin necessarily would have led a pure life, had one's parents or teachers been more “open” in their approach to the intimate sphere, is pure illusion.

Another mistake West makes is to assume that pornography is an understandable—if sinful and misguided—effort to quench the sexual impulse: “God gave us that desire,” he told an interviewer. “When we go to pornography to satisfy that desire, its like eating junk food. It’s not going to satisfy the legitimate hunger and need of the human heart.” (Legatus Magazine, March 2010). But here, West ignores an obvious fact, all too prevalent throughout human history: many people like “junk food”—in this case, pornography and illicit sex (this is why brothels will never go out of business)—and often prefer it, even when a healthy alternative—in this case, authentic Catholic teaching—is presented to them. That is because Catholic orthodoxy-as enriching as it is, and even within the context of a loving, sacramental marriage—entails sacrifice and self-control, rather than the “hunger” of self-indulgence.

The Old Testament has a great deal to teach us about this: the Israelites were constantly given gifts from Heaven—most famously, the “Manna,” for which they did not have to work, God having generously removed the burden of their sins (“thou shalt earn thy bread with the sweat of thy brow”). This  divine gift enabled them to survive the Exodus—and yet, even though that Manna was more than enough to sustain them, it didn’t cater to their selfish “hunger”; so many abandoned God’s law and went back to the ‘”junk food” of their time—the flesh pots of Egypt.  Thus, the Scripture teaches:  God shows us the way, and offers us proper food, and yet people willfully reject the Lord’s gifts and laws, using the excuse that they are  “hungry” for more. “Had I had the proper food, I would not have fed myself on junk food,” says the individual looking to avoid personal responsibility. Alas, junk food can be very attractive because it “flatters” our palate. But, in fact, pornography is not just unhealthy food. It is veritable poison, for it corrupts the mind and heart.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Intimate Sphere

I have found Dr. Alice von Hildebrand's essay on love and marriage to be so profound that beginning today, the Feast of the Magdalen, I will be quoting excerpts from it. Here are the opening remarks:
It is a joy to praise a great book or author; it is a grief and duty to criticize a bad one. But it is especially difficult to criticize someone who has many talents, whose work has positive sides, but which also suffers from certain faults, calling for correction. Such is the case with Christopher West, with his popular presentation of John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”

As gifted as he is—and as much as I appreciate all the good he has done for the Church—West’s work continues to fall short in many respects. He has sometimes misunderstood the authentic Catholic tradition; overlooked or disregarded essential aspects of it; and promoted a new form of religious “enthusiasm” which can best be described as wayward. Monsignor Ronald Knox, who critiqued this attitude so well in his book Enthusiasm, was a prophet, recognizing such outbursts as recurring phenomena in the history of the Church, characteristic of easily misguided movements for which we should always be on the watch.
Key to my concerns is West’s hyper-sexualized approach to the Theology of the Body. The French have a wonderful word to capture the veiling of one’s intimate feelings, out of a proper sense of shame—pudeur, a “holy bashfulness,” so to speak. Seized as he is by what he regards as his calling to evangelize a new generation with this theology in “modern” ways they can supposedly better understand, West practically ignores the importance of pudeur, and, by his imprudence, winds up undermining his own message.
In light of the controversy surrounding West’s work, which has affected millions via his books, DVDs, videos and conferences, I would like to contrast his views with those of my late husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand, whose work regarding Catholic teaching on human sexuality avoids the hazards and traps too often found in West’s work. My goal is to alert parents and educators alike to common philosophical errors that have  gravely negative consequences in Christopher West’s lectures and publications.

Part 1:  The Nature of the Intimate Sphere
1. Dietrich von Hildebrand and the Intimate Sphere
In 1927, thirteen years after his conversion to Catholicism, Dietrich von Hildebrand published a book of key importance, Reinheit und Jungfraulichkeit (In Defense of Purity). Through unmerited graces—coming, as he did, from a non-religious background—on a purely natural level, Dietrich had always "felt" that the intimate sphere was essentially linked to love, and so to approach it as "fun" was a desecration. But the moment he entered the Blessed Ark, the Holy Catholic Church, his approach to this sphere was "baptized:" He now viewed sex through the eyes of a believer, perceiving its profound relationship with God.
Prior to his conversion, Dietrich did not "see" that artificial birth control was a matter of serious moral gravity. But once he became a Catholic, he gratefully perceived what he had always "felt"—namely, that  sex within marriage had to be completed and perfected according to Heaven’s design, which meant being open to the creation of human life at all times. Dietrich, as a Catholic, now understood that in the marital embrace, when the husband gives his wife the precious semen that God has placed in his body, he  starts a causal chain that can lead to pregnancy: the spouses are collaborating with their Creator, in order to bring a new life into existence. This is a privilege not even granted to the angels; the importance and beauty of which needed to be recognized. Between "procreation" and “copulation,” Dietrich saw an abyss separating persons incarnated into a body, and animals. The human body, as the utterly unique creation of God, was—and still is—called upon to have the “Heavenly seal” of personhood in every single bodily activity. This is why St. Paul writes, “whether you eat or drink, glorify God” (1 Corinthians 10: 31-32).
The insights Dietrich garnered, prior to his conversion, were now elevated to a supernatural level, opening his eyes to the Church’s teachings on chastity --marital and non-marital-- and the beauty of virginity.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Martyr's Witness

On the way to the guillotine.
On  the way to the scaffold Madame Brard's witness was confirmed by an encounter that ensured the honored memory of her religious name.  An  awe-struck girl with a religious vocation devoutly followed the trumbrels that day, her gaze fixed on the singing nuns.  Touched by her devotion, Sister Euphrasia passed the girl her office book prior to reaching the place of the sacrifice.
         This girl was Therese Binard, who later assumed the martyr's name and became Mother Euphrasia, foundress of the convent of "Les Oiseaux" in Paris.  The relic received from the martyr's hands was piously preserved by her spiritual daughters as a memento of the Carmelite martyrdom until it was lost during the return of the community's archives to France from England following World War II.  At the beginning of the twentieth century the nuns of her congregation had been forced into exile in England by antireligious Combes laws.  Persecution of Christians by the government was nothing new in France, as the relic of the martyred Sister Euphrasia attested.~ From To Quell the Terror, by William Bush

Monday, July 19, 2010

Carmel: the Natural Retreat of the Contemplative

 From Louange de sa Gloire:
The Carmelite Order derives its name from the holy mountain of its beginning. In that eastern land where every mountain has its own great memories Mount Carmel has some of the most holy. Carmel is a name which is familiar in every part of the Catholic world; it is intimately known as no other, and its natural beauty seems to be exactly in keeping with its gracious associations. Its quiet outline may be seen rising above the waters of the Mediterranean and from its summit one may see the great plain of Esdraelon stretching away into the distance, where the contemplative soul looks down on the mystery of Nazareth.

Carmel is the natural retreat of the contemplative, and it is not unfitting that on its slopes should stand the Cloister of Carmel, the cradle of the Order. It stands above the turmoil of life, above the world's stormy sea; its solitude is beyond the reach of "life's fitful fever"; it is wrapped in the peace of God. Such a peace we naturally associate with Carmel, but it has other associations more stirring and more turbulent. The memory of the great spiritual warfare of Elias still clings to it. It was here he gathered together all Israel and flung reproach at their heads. "How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow Him." Here Israel heard his challenge in words of flame, as a burning torch. But here he was more than the Prophet of the sword, here he was also the first of a long line of those who would worship God in spirit and in truth. In his lifetime disciples gathered round him and learned from him the deep secrets of his prayer and communion with God. His double spirit passed to Eliseus, and from him to the school of Prophets, and so down through the ages, the life of Elias has been continued in these hermits who ever sought inspiration in their great exemplar.

-- Carmelite Mysticism: Historical Sketches by Bl Titus Brandsma, O.Carm

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Despairing Priest

A heart-rending post from Fr. Mark. It makes me realize that I am just not praying hard enough for priests. Much of what Father says can apply to all of us so we must beware of potential downfalls. To quote:
The corruption of a priestly soul happens slowly, almost imperceptibly. Typically, it happens through one of three avenues: the lust for power, the lust for money and possessions, or the lust for sexual gratification. Although all three lusts are closely interconnected, one generally takes the lead, drawing the two others after it. Where one finds impurity, for example, one will also, in all likelihood, find ambition, greed, self-aggrandizement, and the appetite for power over persons and things.

Friday, July 16, 2010

In Thanksgiving

The Mediation of the Virgin.
Is not Mary in her quality as Mother of God completely designated to be the universal mediatrix? Is she not truly the intermediary between God and men? She is, indeed, much below God and Christ because she is a creature, but much above all men by the grace of her divine maternity, "which makes her attain the very frontiers of the divinity," (7) and by the plenitude of grace received at the moment of her immaculate conception; a plentitude which did not cease to grow until her death. Not only was Mary thus designated by her divine maternity for this function of mediatrix, but she received it in truth and exercised it. This is shown by tradition,(8) which has given her the title of universal mediatrix in the proper sense of the word,(9) although in a manner subordinated to Christ. This title is consecrated by the special feast which is celebrated in the universal Church. To have a clear understanding of the meaning and import of this title, we shall consider how it is becoming to Mary for two principal reasons: because she cooperated by satisfaction and merit in the sacrifice of the cross; and because she does not cease to intercede for us, to obtain for us, and to distribute to us all the graces that we receive. Such is the double mediation, ascending and descending, which we ought to ponder in order daily to draw greater profit from it. ~Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blesssed Kateri

The Lily of the Mohawks. Richard has a beautiful post. To quote:


The blood of martyrs is the seed of saints.

Nine years after the Jesuits Isaac Jogues and John de Brébeuf were tortured to death by Huron and Iroquois Indians, a baby girl was born near the place of their martyrdom, Auriesville, New York. She was to be the first person born in North America to be beatified.

Her mother was a Christian Algonquin, taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan, the boldest and fiercest of the Five Nations. When she was four, Kateri lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind. She was adopted by an uncle, who succeeded her father as chief. He hated the coming of the Blackrobes (missionaries), but could do nothing to them because a peace treaty with the French required their presence in villages with Christian captives. She was moved by the words of three Blackrobes who lodged with her uncle, but fear of him kept her from seeking instruction. She refused to marry a Mohawk brave and at 19 finally got the courage to take the step of converting. She was baptized with the name Kateri (Catherine) on Easter Sunday.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

St. Teresa de los Andes

Today is the feast of the Chilean Carmelite saint.
"Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes was born in Santiago, Chile, on July 12, 1920. Her secular name was Juanita Fernández Solar. Her father was Miguel Fernández and her mother was Lucía Solar de Fernández. She was baptized at the parish Church of Saint Ann in Santiago on the vigil of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is Chile's titular feast. At baptism the little girl was named Juana Enriqueta Josefina of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The Fernández family was a religious family. The young girl was surrounded by evidence of Christian virtues. From the time she was six, her mother and aunt Juana took her to daily Mass. Juanita loved to assist at Mass and was most eager to receive the Eucharist. She made her first Holy Communion at ten. She noted in her Diary: 'It was on that day that I heard the sweet voice of my Jesus for the first time' (D6).

Her parents enrolled their gifted daughter in schools conducted by the Religious of the Sacred Heart so that she would be given a sound academic education, where her character would be formed according to the ideals of the Christian faith and where she would grow in holiness.

When she was eighteen, Juanita entered the Carmel of Los Andes, Chile, and was given the name Sister Teresa of Jesus in honor of the great Carmelite saint of Avila. Overcome with humility by the grace of being called to the religious life, she wrote to a friend, 'What has God seen in us, that He loves us to the point of wanting us to be His friends and brides of His Heart' (L51).

Sister Teresa lived in the Monastery of Los Andes for eleven months, wore the habit of Carmel less than five and then was stricken with typhus. In danger of death, she was permitted to make her religious vows and thus died as a professed Carmelite Sister.

Immediately after her death in 1920, extraordinary things began to happen. People from all walks of life were moved by God to see in this young Chilean girl a model of perfect holiness. Many also found her to be a wonderful friend and intercessor before God. The fame of her holiness grew. As a result, she was beatified on April 3, 1987, in Santiago and solemnly canonized in Rome by the same Pope on March 21, 1993. On that occasion, Pope John Paul II called her 'an eminently contemplative soul' and proposed her as a model for youth. A short time later, the bishops of Chile declared her the patroness of children, especially homeless children or children in juvenile prisons." -- Letters of Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes translated by Fr Michael D Griffin, ocd

St Teresa of the Andes, pray for us!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Come to the Conference!

I am looking forward to The Catholic Writers Conference Live in Valley Forge, PA and will be speaking on Wednesday, August 4 (see schedule).  I'll also be signing books. Please join us! More information HERE and HERE.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Slandering the Pope

How we need to pray for Our Holy Father.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

St. Thomas the Apostle

From Pope St. Gregory the Great:
Dearly beloved brethren, what is it in this passage which particularly claimeth our attention?  Think ye that it was by accident  that this chosen Apostle was not with them when Jesus came? or, when he came, heard? or, when he heard, doubted? or, when he doubted, felt? or, when he had felt, believed?  All these things were not accidental, but Providential.  It was a wonderful provision of Divine mercy, that this incredulous disciple, by thrusting his fingers into the bodily Wounds of his Master, should apply a remedy to the spiritual wounds of unbelief in our souls.  The doubts of Thomas have done us more good than the faith of all the disciples that believed.  While he feeleth his way to faith, our minds are freed from doubt, and settled in faith.

Even as the Lord before his birth willed that Mary should be espoused, and yet never lose her virginity, so, after his Resurrection, he willed that his disciple should doubt, and yet not lose his faith.  For, even as the espoused husband was the keeper of the virginity of the Mother, so was the disciple who doubted and felt, the witness of the truth of the Resurrection.  He felt, and cried out: My Lord and my God.  Jesus saith unto him: Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed.  When the Apostle Paul saith Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, he plainly meaneth that faith is the evidence of things that cannot be seen.  When they are seen, there remaineth not faith, but knowledge.

Sins of Profanity

From Totus Tuus:
I often find myself not behaving in a way that Our Lady would. I can be crass. I need to ask myself...Would Mary act like this? Would Joseph act like this? It's embarrassing and I hope that whenever I or my children hear cursing that we find it abrasive and repulsive. Let it not become common to us, Lord. May the Holy Family guide us in presenting ourselves without blemish and not succumbing to the sinful, uncouthness of our age.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Month of the Precious Blood

In July we recall the blood of the Lamb, shed for our redemption.
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