Thursday, September 30, 2010

St. Jerome and the Vulgate

His remarkable translation is without equal.To quote:
....When Damasus appointed Jerome to be his secretary in 382, he also entrusted to him the task of having a complete version of the Bible in Latin. What a task this was as evident in Jerome's reply.
"You urge me to revise the old Latin version, and, as it were, to sit in judgment on the copies of the Scriptures which are now scattered throughout the whole world; and, inasmuch as they differ from one another, you would have me decide which of them agree with the Greek original. The labour is one of love, but at the same time both perilous and presumptuous; for in judging others I must be content to be judged by all; and how can I dare to change the language of the world in its hoary old age, and carry it back to the early days of its infancy? Is there a man, learned or unlearned, who will not, when he takes the volume into his hands, and perceives that what he reads does not suit his settled tastes, break out immediately into violent language, and call me a forger and a profane person for having the audacity to add anything to the ancient books, or to make any changes or corrections therein? Now there are two consoling reflections which enable me to bear the odium-in the first place, the command is given by you who are the supreme bishop; and secondly, even on the showing of those who revile us, readings at variance with the early copies cannot be right."
....Nor was Jerome content merely to gather up this or that teacher's words; he gathered from all quarters whatever might prove of use to him in this task. From the outset he had accumulated the best possible copies of the Bible and the best commentators on it, but now in Bethlehem he worked on copies from the Jewish synagogues and from the library formed at Caesarea by Origen and Eusebius. He hoped that by assiduously comparing texts he would ascertain at greater accuracy of text and its meaning. With this same intent he also scoured Palestine. He thoroughly believed as he once wrote to Domnio and Rogatian:
"A man will understand the Bible better if he has seen Judaea with his own eyes and discovered its ancient cities and sites either under the old names or newer ones. In company with some learned Hebrews I went through the entire land the names of whose sites are on every Christian's lips."
I am sure Paula assisted Jerome immensely in his work as the latter corrected some of the earlier Latin versions of Scripture; translated New Testament Greek into Latin and nearly all the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin. Although immersed in this work he gave time to those who visited him about the Bible and also corresponded with those wanting answers about the Bible. Meditating on Holy Scripture was indeed the love of Jerome's life and he poured over it day and night even in his old age. Indeed for Jerome and many after him, knowledge of Scripture was like the "pearl beyond price".
Like all scholars of his time Jerome believed that Scripture was inspired by God, yet he never questioned that the individual authors/editors of the various Books worked in full freedom under the divine inspiration, according to his own individual nature and character. Jerome was able to convey something of this individuality in the Vulgate. 
Apart from trying to provide a more accurate account of Scripture, there was another purpose in Jerome's mind for his work. This was to enhance the preaching of priests. To him it was imperative that they could quote from the Bible. "Let a priest's speech be seasoned with the Bible," for "the Scriptures are a trumpet that stirs us with a mighty voice and penetrates to the soul of them that believe," and "nothing so strikes home as an example taken from the Bible," insisted Jerome. This Latin doctor had eight-eight formulation of sound principles regarding reading and studying the bible, which he believed provided a safe path for all to follow in getting from the Sacred Books their full meaning.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Warning Signs

Patrick Madrid quotes the late Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. on how to recognize a diabolical spirit.
1. Spirit of falsity. The devil is the father of lies, but he cleverly conceals his deceit by half-truths and pseudo-mystical phenomena.

2. Morbid curiosity. This is characteristic of those who eagerly seek out the esoteric aspects of mystical phenomena or have a fascination for the occult or preternatural.

3. Confusion, anxiety, and deep depression.

4. Obstinacy. One of the surest signs of a diabolical spirit.

5. Constant indiscretion and a restless spirit. Those who constantly go to extremes, as in penitential exercises or apostolic activity; or neglect their primary obligations to do some personally chosen work.

6. Spirit of pride and vanity. Very anxious to publicize their gifts of grace and mystical experiences.

7. False humility. This is the disguise for their pride and self-love.

8. Despair, lack of confidence, and discouragement. A chronic characteristic that alternates with presumption, vain security, and unfounded optimism.

9. Disobedience and hardness of heart.

10. Impatience in suffering and stubborn resentment.

11. Uncontrolled passions and strong inclination to sensuality, usually under the guise of mystical union.

12. Hypocrisy, simulation, and duplicity.

13. Excessive attachment to sensible consolations, particularly in their practice of prayer.

14. Lack of deep devotion to Jesus and Mary.

15. Scrupulous adherence to the letter of the law and fanatical zeal in promoting a cause. This characteristic readily opens the door to diabolical influence in reformers and demagogues.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Last Things

Scott Richert opens up an old copy of The Baltimore Catechism, which is a great place to go for clear and concise answers.
Lesson Thirty-Seventh, the final lesson of the Baltimore Catechism No. 2, discusses the last judgment, the resurrection of the body, Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.
We will all be judged in the last judgment, so that God's plan will be revealed to all. But the final disposition of our soul is determined at our death; we will either go to Heaven or to Hell. Those who will go to Heaven yet die without having fully atoned for their sins will finish their atonement in Purgatory.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Imitation of Christ and of Mary

Here is a marvelous quotation from louange de sa gloire: 
From the earliest beginnings of the Order, the Carmelites have cultivated devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. They took her for their patron and tried to model their life on hers. The Carmelites were hermit solitaries, like Elias [Elijah], and were related through him to the tradition of the Old Testament. They participated in the spirit of the New Testament through Mary and tried to imitate her interior life. They knew that there is no better way of living Christ's life than to imitate Mary, because Mary is all for Jesus, as Jesus is all for God.
Carmelite friars and nuns, therefore, strive to live in intimate union with Mary. They have recourse to her in all their activities, begging her to enlighten and direct them. They take care to remain under her guidance, so that she may protect and defend them. They entrust themselves to her in all their needs of body and soul, and they especially take her as a guide in the way of contemplation. In short, they expect from her that she will form Christ in them.

-- The Spirit and Prayer of Carmel by François Jamart, ocd

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Our Prayer Life

The dangers of curiosity and memory.
To give a free course to curiosity, to endeavor to see, know, and hear everything, and, after that, to complain of the ramblings of the imagination, of distractions in prayer, of importunate images which pursue us and keep us in a state of incessant dissipation, is to imitate the child who, placing an object before a mirror, would be offended at seeing it represented in it. To read a letter with too much human eagerness, to let our eyes wander with entire freedom along streets, greedily and inquisitively to ask about all that is being said or done, to read newspapers with passion, and books which contain things more or less interesting, and, after that, to expect that our interior will have an aptitude for prayer, and that the imagination will leave us at peace, is to desire to obtain calm out of a tempest, light out of darkness, order and peace out of turmoil; it is to desire the impossible.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pope Benedict on Blessed John Henry Newman

His love of Mary was great.
When Blessed John Henry Newman came to live in Birmingham, he gave the name "Maryvale" to his first home here. The Oratory that he founded is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. And the Catholic University of Ireland he placed under the patronage of Mary, Sedes Sapientiae. In so many ways, he lived his priestly ministry in a spirit of filial devotion to the Mother of God. Meditating upon her role in the unfolding of God's plan for our salvation, he was moved to exclaim: "Who can estimate the holiness and perfection of her, who was chosen to be the Mother of Christ? What must have been her gifts, who was chosen to be the only near earthly relative of the Son of God, the only one whom He was bound by nature to revere and look up to; the one appointed to train and educate Him, to instruct Him day by day, as He grew in wisdom and in stature?" (Parochial and Plain Sermons, ii, 131-2). It is on account of those abundant gifts of grace that we honour her, and it is on account of that intimacy with her divine Son that we naturally seek her intercession for our own needs and the needs of the whole world. In the words of the Angelus, we turn now to our Blessed Mother and commend to her the intentions that we hold in our hearts.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Pope in Britain

Our Holy Father mentions the example of St. Thomas More.
I recall the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose “good servant” he was, because he chose to serve God first. The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Father Lawrence Lovasik in The Hidden Power of Kindness speaks of the dangers of discouragement to the spiritual life:
There are few things which resist grace so much as discouragement. Many plans for God's glory have failed because there was no bright look or or kind eye or kind word to support them. You may not have come forward with the help your brother needs, because you were busy with your own work and never looked at his, or because you were jealous and looked coldly and spoke critically.
A kind deed, a kind word, or the mere tone of voice is enough to convey sympathy to the poor suffering heart, and in one instant all is right again. The downcast soul is encouraged to do bravely the very thing which, in a mood of discouragement, it had almost resolved to leave undone. That encouragement may be the first link of a new chain, which, when finished, will result in final perseverance. (Lovasik, Lawrence. The Hidden Power of Kindness. p.10)
How vital it is especially in families to help each other fend off discouragement, especially when the times are full of foreboding.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Servant of God Anička Zelíková

A Carmelite tertiary.
Anička Zelíková (19 July 1924-11 September 1941) "was an outstanding member of the Carmelite Third Order. In the series of books on Carmelite saints, Profiles in Holiness, she is considered as another Saint Thérèse, and like the Little Flower she died at a tender age, just seventeen. Annie was born in Moravia, the eastern province of what is now the Czech Republic, the daughter of a farmer. A vivacious girl, she brought happiness to others right up to her death from tuberculosis. Even when she was too weak for anything else, she practiced her ‘apostleship of smiling’, declaring “I must smile to my last breath. Ah, all I can give God now are my heartbeats and my smile. Nothing is left to me except love and trust.” Annie was like Saint Thérèse in recognising that holiness can come through little acts of love. In 1940 she wrote “true beauty is hidden in faithfulness in little things. I always desired to do great and heroic deeds of love, but when I saw that I was unable, I was grieved by it. Now I find great heroism precisely in little things, so that now I haven’t the slightest regret whether I can do something or not.” Like the Little Flower Annie had a great desire to enter Carmel as a nun, but her poor health prevented it. In fact Annie was so ill that she was given special permission to make profession as a member of the Carmelite Third Order Secular. Seven months later she died, smiling to the end. Her final statement was “I trust”, and the last audible word she could speak was “Carmel”. She was buried with the Rule for the Third Order over her heart."

-- Holy men and women of Carmel by Johan Bergström-Allen, Veronica Errington, and Fr. Tony Lester, O.Carm.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Prayer for the Conversion of England

Let us pray for Our Holy Father's mission.
Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother,
look down in mercy upon England thy "Dowry"
and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee.
By thee it was that Jesus our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world;
and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more.
Plead for us thy children,
whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross,
O sorrowful Mother.
Intercede for our separated brethren,
that with us in the one true fold
they may be united to the supreme Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son.
Pray for us all, dear Mother,
that by faith fruitful in good works
we may all deserve to see and praise God,
together with thee, in our heavenly home. Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Moment of Prayer

In memory of the fallen on September 11.
"It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Maccabees, 12:46). This weekend, as we remember those who have died over the past nine years, let us pray for the repose of their souls.

Friday, September 10, 2010

He Came Down from Heaven

A consolation. In the words of the late Alice Thomas Ellis:
Once when I was afraid of death, not of my own but that of the people I loved, I would go and sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the quiet of a church, redolent of incense, ancient ritual, and prayer. A church was a place where you could meet death on neutral ground, a no-man's land between now and eternity, where matters fell into perspective and terror became irrelevant because you knew it to be transitory.
There was a silent peace with a hidden promise of unimaginable joy to which all the objects of devotion attested: the altar, the statues, the crucifix, all the appurtenances of faith belonged to no one and to everyone. Still and worthy of trust, they were there yesterday and now and would be there tomorrow. Inanimate yet living testimony to a vital certainty. It is rare now to find such a church. Stripped and barren, while the people themselves are encouraged to buy more and more to support the market economy and cram their houses with trivia, the churches are denuded in the name of progress.

It is impossible to understand without laying bare the motives of those who wrought such destruction. The result is terrible in the terms of disillusion and loss, and those who say they wished only to affirm life and community have robbed us of consolation, giving death a greater power than is his due. The here and now is what concerns us they say, forgetting that life is short and but a preparation.

The new and re-ordered churches are symbolic only of a denied but underlying despair, a loss of faith to the sad conviction that death is the end. The noisy ceremonies that now fill these churches, the guitars, the clapping, swaying, and showy raptures are a mere extension of the drug culture, a whistling in the wind, a neurotic insistence that happiness is attainable immediately and does not need to be waited for or earned. The notion that suffering can bring forth good, that deprivation can nourish the soul is unacceptable. Suggest that the saints lived their lives in the promise and not the fulfillment of joy and you will not be heard. The Protestant cult of the "born again" with its ecstatic overtones has laid hold of a Church that still claims to lay all store on baptism. We are at the mercy of doctrinal error, often imposed from above, with little recourse to authority which is often too pusillanimous to argue with the trend. The wolves are in the fold.

Now that the churches are no longer peaceful but full of people determined to convey to you their loving care, their innate virtuousness, with handshakes and smiles, the bereft are best off in solitude, listening for the still, small voice. The country graveyard is perhaps now the place nearest to God on earth, for that too is neutral ground where death has had his way, is satisfied and thus of no more significance and no threat.
Freedom lies in looking on the face of death and knowing that there is no true battle here, that he does not need to be fought and defeated, for he is only God's instrument and God lives.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mary the Throne of Grace

Two statues of Mary.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On Exorcism

Fr. Angelo discusses the ultimate spiritual warfare.
Spiritual warfare is, then, first of all, a matter of the heart, that is, it is a matter of remaining morally free of demonic contamination.  Such contamination we call sin.  Exorcists will tell us that the primary way to guard against extraordinary demonic influence is to resist the ordinary one that takes the form of temptation.  For this the “armor of God,” consists in the faith, prayer and the sacraments.  More often than not, if we are living a faith-filled, sacramental life we will be protected from evil.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Blessed Mother Teresa's Secret

The spiritual life that forged her soul.
Mother Teresa’s understanding of the thirst of God was entirely simple, yet deep, powerful and engaging. She learned that God not only accepts us with all our misery, but that he longs for us, “thirsts” for us, with all the intensity of his divine heart, no matter who we are or what we have done.

But how can God “thirst” for us if there is no lack in God? While thirst can imply lack, it also has another sense. In Mother Teresa’s lexicon, thirst signifies deep, intense desire. Rather than indicating lack, the symbol of divine thirst points to the mystery of God’s freely chosen longing for man. Simply put, though nothing in God needs us, everything in God wants us -- deeply and intensely, as he shows throughout Scripture.
Mother Teresa’s insights reveal something important, even essential, in the depths of God’s being. Mother Teresa insists that the thirst of Christ reveals something not only about Jesus, but about God himself. Jesus’ thirsts points us toward a great mystery in the very bosom of the Godhead -- what Mother Teresa describes as “the depths of God's infinite longing to love and be loved.” As ardent a statement as this is, her insights are confirmed by no less a source than the Fathers of the Church. The great St. Augustine would write that “God thirsts to be thirsted for by man” (see Appendix Three for a collection of patristic quotes on the divine thirst). In our own day, Benedict XVI would affirm that “the thirst of Christ is a gateway into the mystery of God.”

The mystery of God’s thirst for us was the one great light Mother Teresa held high in the night, hers and ours. This was the banner she raised for the poor and suffering of Calcutta and beyond. It was as witness to this message that Jesus commissioned her, soon after the experience of the train, to “Be My light;” and this she would energetically do, in season and out of season. She would spend her whole life proclaiming the light of divine love, even when her words fell silent, her hands spoke more eloquently still.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Month of Our Lady of Sorrows

September is dedicated to the Sorrowful Mother.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Hour of Crisis

It can be a renovation for the soul.
Thus, it seems that only through suffering can our lives be real. We want to lock up our hearts away from the crisis of suffering. We want to protect them from being broken. But then, in their security, they will become unbreakable. They will become hard hearts. Only through the suffering of letting go of our will to control can we experience anything as a reality on its own right—outside of ourselves. Only by opening ourselves in vulnerability can our suffering turn into the joy and wonderment of true communion with others and with what is real. Therefore, love itself is essentially a crisis because it is the intrusion (for better and for worse) into our lives of another. But unless the soul consents to suffering, it can never experience the renovation necessary for the experience of love and real life.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Part III: Piety the Just Gift

A continuation of the discussion of the sometimes despised and often forgotten gift of piety.

Piety the Just Gift
by Mary Lanser
St. Thomas Aquinas, among others, teaches that the gift of piety perfects the virtue of justice. This synergistic relationship between piety and justice comes down to us through the ages from both classical ethics and Christian morality, although the interaction is distinctly different in each system respectively.

Socrates, in his dialogue with Euthyphro, turns his entire argument on the virtue of piety in itself. The discussion of piety in itself, as opposed to pious things, finally helps us to realize that there is indeed a middle ground between relativistic justice, and justice as a rigid universal moral virtue with respect to one's duty to the gods and family and state. [Plato] There is a natural balance in a good life that is pleasing to the gods and that keeps man, his family and his community from tearing apart from the stresses of polarized extremes.

So we can say that justice as an acquired or natural virtue often concerns keeping the passions in check so that we do not allow baser instincts to blind us to what is right and what is true in any situation requiring that we choose or discriminate among various thoughts, words or deeds. In this way piety, as a known duty to ones gods, family and country, encourages or promotes just words and deeds.

St. Peter of Damaskos cites St. Dionysios the Areopagite, in The Divine Names as saying that God is praised through justice. [The Divine Names VIII, 7, P.G.iii, 893D] And St. Peter says that this is indeed true because “...justice is sometimes called discrimination: it establishes the just mean in every undertaking, so that there will be no falling short...or excess.” [Philokalia, Vol. 3, p.258] In this understanding of justice, it also appears that balance is a desirous outcome for the two virtues of piety and justice.

However we must remember that Plato's gods warred among themselves, and visited evil upon mankind, and unjustly abused mankind, as often as they bestowed goodness. In Plato's world the gods were the source of both good and evil. In the world of classical Greek and Rome, a balanced life hopes to mark out a path between most unforgiving extremes of good and evil, justice and injustice, piety and impiety.

However, for St. Dionysios, as it is for all Christians, God is the source of all goodness. God is never seen as the source of evil at all, in any form or fashion. Balance is not at all the desired outcome of leading a virtuous life in Christian terms. The desired outcome for a Christian life quite simply put is the beatific vision. So that all that we do and all that we are must be directed toward that end, by faith, in the hope that we may be granted the grace of union with the divine and the beatific vision.

In The Divine Names, St. Dionysios said:
Again the title Righteousness is given to God because he assigns what is appropriate to all things; He distributes their due proportion, beauty, rank, arrangement, their proper and fitting place and order according to a most just and righteous determination. He is the cause of their individual activity. It is the righteousness of God which orders gives the appropriate and deserved qualities to everything and that it preserves the nature of each being in its due order and power. [The Divine Names, VIII, 7]
Rather than seeking a life in balance, the Christian seeks to discover the right order in Creation, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the guidance of Scripture and life in the Body of Christ, the Church. It is the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives that makes it possible for us to be able to discern rightly, to comprehend revealed truth, and to live lives of self-discipline and self-control. It is in this way that the fathers and the tradition of the Church can teach that “piety perfects justice.” Without the divine grace to obtain perfect justice or what is also called infused justice, then we would never be able to even begin to see Creation as God see is. We would never begin to be able to have a creatures share in the divine life.

"God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal 4:6). "All who are led by the Spirit are children of God... It is that very Spirit bearing witness to our spirit that we are children of God" (Rm 8:14, 16). The words of the Apostle Paul remind us that the fundamental gift of the Spirit is sanctifying grace (gratia gratum faciens), with which we receive the theological virtues—faith, hope and charity—and all the infused virtues (virtutes infusae), which enable us to act under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the charisms, which are bestowed for the service of others, these gifts are offered to all, because they are intended to lead the person to sanctity and perfection. [JPII, "Letter to Priests, For Holy Thursday" 1998]

Piety does not merely influence or prompt justice or set a balanced path between two extremes. Piety perfects justice in that it divinely empowers us to discern what God intends as the right order of all Creation. The ability to turn our will to the rightly ordered divine will is the hoped for result of the perfection of justice. It is the purpose of the divine gift of piety or reverence that we have the necessary spiritual tools that will enable us to know the mind of God, for as we read in the book of the Prophet Isaiah 5:20 "Woe to those who call evil good, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

To quote from Luke 18 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition):
2...There was a judge in a certain city, who feared not God, nor regarded man. 3 And there was a certain widow in that city, and she came to him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary. 4 And he would not for a long time. But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God, nor regard man,5 Yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her, lest continually coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said: Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And will not God revenge his elect who cry to him day and night: and will he have patience in their regard? 8 I say to you, that he will quickly revenge them. But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?
It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that it is possible for any of us at all to have faith. God, the Just Judge, has given us all that we need to attain the ultimate end of every soul in everlasting life, a share in the divine life in the presence of the beatific vision. Such a sublime justice!! Glory to God for all things!
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