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Monday, 9 December 2013

A good explanation of subsidiarity

This author is being recommended by some good, smart Catholics on line. I have not read his books, yet.

One of my favorite blogs

Thoughts on Death in Advent Part Three

Advent is a penitential liturgical season, which is one reason the liturgical color is purple, not merely reminding all of us to get physically ready for Christ, but to get spiritually ready for His Coming, both for the particular and for the final judgments. The readings leading up to Advent revealed this emphasis and some during Advent do as well. The comfort of the coming of Christ, the beautiful passages on the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, are balanced by those readings on repentance.

When meditating on death, one perceives layers of meaning.

The first step in thinking on death is thinking about death and what could lead up to it. Such things as illness and suffering have been set aside in some countries by euthanasia, which is sad and, of course, immoral, as suffering can be the last stages of purification before one sees God.

St. Francis of Assisi called death Sister Death in his famous prayer, The Canticle of the Sun, as death would bring him to God.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri sees a fast death as not a mercy, but a punishment. The great saint has many sermons on sin, the particular and final judgments. Pray for time and I pray for those, now in Belgium and the Netherlands, who are not allowed time, or who chose to shorten their time of suffering.

I have written before on this blog that some friends of mine have experienced a bit of their particular judgment already, seeing all the sins of their past lives and being given time to repent. Such graces could belong to all of us, if we ask for these.

Here is one of his thoughts:

Hence, according to St. Chrysostom, God is more to be feared when He bears with sinners, than when He instantly punishes their sin. And why? Because, says St. Gregory, they to whom God has shown most mercy shall, if they do not cease to offend Him, be chastised with the greatest rigor. The saint adds that God often punishes such sinners with a sudden death, and does not allow them time for repentance. And the greater the light which God gives to certain sinners for their correction, the greater is their blindness and obstinacy in sin. "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than, after they had known it, to turn back" – II Pet. 2:21. Miserable the sinners, who, after having been enlightened, return to the vomit. St. Paul says, that it is morally impossible for them to be again converted. "For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated-have tasted also the Heavenly gifts. . . and are fallen away, to be renewed again to penance" – Heb. 6:4

I had missed this until this morning...

A Brief Note on The Immaculate Conception

From the EF Collect of The Immaculate Conception

O God, who, by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, didst make her a worthy habitation for Thy Son, and didst, by His foreseen death, preserve her from all stain of sin; grant, we beseech Thee, that through her intercession we may be cleansed from sin and come with pure hearts to Thee; Through the same our Lord. 

The priest at Mass said that Mary's entire existence, from conception on, was one long YES to God.


Doctors of the Church 2:18

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Part Nineteen on the Doctors of the Church and Perfection-the Dominicans

I shall save the best one until last, the Universal Doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, and as we already looked at St. Catherine of Siena, a Third Order Dominican, I can concentrate on St. Albert the Great today.

Again, I am emphasizing the spirituality of these wonderful saints with a view to the journey to perfection. It would take ten lifetimes to examine all the writings of these great minds and great souls.

St. Albert the Great was the teacher of Thomas Aquinas. We do not know exactly when he was born, but he died in 1280 and was no older than 87.

He has much to say on everything, having written at least 31 volumes. Here is a little selection on perfection. It is interesting that this section, a reading for Ash Wednesday is used. There are no accidents.

Chapter 1

On the highest and supreme perfection of man, in so far as it is possible in this life

I have had the idea of writing something for myself on and about the state of complete and full abstraction from everything and of cleaving freely, confidently, nakedly and firmly to God alone, so as to describe it fully (in so far as it is possible in this abode of exile and pilgrimage), especially since the goal of Christian perfection is the love by which we cleave to God. In fact everyone is obligated, to this loving cleaving to God as necessary for salvation, in the form of observing the commandments and conforming to the divine will, and the observation of the commandments excludes everything that is contrary to the nature and habit of love, including mortal sin. Members of religious orders have committed themselves in addition to evangelical perfection, and to the things that constitute a voluntary and counselled perfection by mean s of which one may arrive more quickly to the supreme goal which is God. The observation of these additional commitments excludes as well the things that hinder the working and fervour of love, and without which one can come to God and these include the renunciation of all things, of both body and mind, exactly as one’s vow of profession entails. Since indeed the Lord God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth, in other words, by knowledge and love, that is, understanding and desire, stripped of all images. This is what is referred to in Matthew 6.6, ‘When you pray, enter into your inner chamber,’ that is, your inner heart, ‘and having closed the door,’ that is of your senses, and there with a pure heart and a clear conscience, and with faith unfeigned, ‘pray to your Father,’ in spirit and in truth, ‘in secret.’ This can be done best when a man is disengaged and removed from everything else, and completely recollected within himself. There, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire. In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.

Albert is stressing the loneliness and individuality of our walk to perfection. This movement of the Holy Spirit takes intense prayer.

Be sincere.  Be focused. To be continued..

Thoughts on Death Part Two

I love stories about Abba Poemen. I have read many. He is one of my favorite desert fathers. I have mentally adopted him as one of my fathers.

Here is one story, which I think is connected to thoughts of death. Too many people do not want to talk about death. But, death is about the body, the senses, the end of all of these, for a time.

Death is about the material, the things of this earth. We must talk about sin and death, and not be afraid.

I am at the edge of the snow storm which went through the area today. Then, ice bits fell, not quite sleet, and more like very small hail balls.

Being outside working reminded me of the real reason why we are here. We are here to prepare for death and to bring others to heaven with us. But, we must face ourselves first.

Too many people want only to hear of angels and saints and the wonderful apparitions of Mary. Not many Catholics want to face sin and death. They do not want to talk about their own failings, even with a good confessor, and sometimes cover up their sins, trying to hide these away.

Love is sharing in the weaknesses so that we can help each other be strong.

I have, a long time ago, sat with two people, at different times, who were dying. One did not accept his death and fought to the end. His death was not peaceful. He was raging against the night.

The second was a child who was slipping away. Thankfully, he came away from death and lived, but his moving towards death was peaceful, until God turned him around and put him back on earth for awhile.

The difference was that the first person was not prepared. And, unlikely as it seems, the child was.

Here is one story:

     A brother once went out on a pilgrimage from the monastery of Abba
Poemen, and came to a hermit, who lived in love towards all and received
many  visitors.  The brother told the hermit stories of Abba Poemen.  And when he
heard of Poemen's strength of character, he longed to see him.
     The brother returned to Egypt.  And after some little time, the hermit
rose and went from his country to Egypt to see the brother who had visited
him: for he had told him where he lived.  When the brother saw the hermit,
he was astonished, and very glad.  The hermit said to him, "Of your charity
towards me, take me to Abba Poemen."  And the brother rose up and showed him
the way to the old man.
     And the brother told Abba Poemen this about the hermit, "A great man
of much charity, and particular honor in his own province, has come here
wanting to see you."  So the old man received him kindly.  And after they
had  exchanged greetings, they sat down.
     But the hermit began to talk of the Holy Scripture, and of the things
of the spirit and of heaven.  But Abba Poemen turned his face away, and
answered nothing.  When the hermit saw that he would not speak with him, he
was distressed and went out.  And he said to the brother who had brought him
there, "My journey was useless.  I went to the old man and he does not deign
to speak to me."
     The brother went to Abba Poemen, and said, "Abba, it was to talk with
you that this great man came here, a man of much honor in his own land.  Why
did you not speak to him?"  The old man answered, "He is from above, and
speaks of the things of heaven.  I am from below, and speak of the things of
the earth.  If he had spoken with me on the soul's passions, I would
willingly have replied to him.  But if he speaks of the things of the spirit, I know
nothing about them."
     So the brother went out and told the hermit, "The reason is that the
old man does not easily discuss Scripture.  But if anyone talks to him about
the soul's passions, he answers."
     Then the hermit was stricken with penitence, and went to the old man
and said, "What shall I do, Abba?  My passions rule me."  And the old man
gazed at him with gladness and said, "Now you are welcome.  You have only to
ask and I will speak with understanding."  And the hermit  was much
strengthened by their discourse, and said, "Truly, this is the way of love."
And he thanked God that he had been able to see so holy a man, and returned
to his own country."

Please do not be afraid to speak of death to those you love who are near death. We lie to some who are dying, but in lying, we are not being charitable. We should be willing to walk to the door of death with those we love. And, in order to do this, we must face our own end. And, repent....

to be continued....

The First Computer Bug-going around the net today

Thanks, Wiki

What to do on a snowy day...

Doctors of the Church 2:17

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Part Eighteen on Doctors of the Church and Perfection: St. Francis de Sales

Here is a section on imperfection from St. Francis de Sales. Tomorrow, the Dominicans, but this great saint of love is worth reading. 

Thus Saint Jerome says that Saint Paula had so strong a tendency to excessive sorrow, that when she lost her husband and children she nearly died of grief: that was not a sin, but an imperfection, since it did not depend upon her wish and will. Some people are naturally easy, some oppositions; some are indisposed to accept other men's opinions, some naturally disposed to be cross, some to be affectionate--in short, there is hardly any one in whom some such imperfections do not exist. Now, although they be natural and instinctive in each person, they may be remedied and corrected, or even eradicated, by cultivating the reverse disposition.

The reverse dispositions are the key.

For example, if one is talkative, be more silent. If one is prone to negativity, be more positive; if one is prone to be overly-affectionate and clinging, be more objective; if one is disposed to be judgemental, be more accepting and kind

Not rocket science...but we need graces and God is only too happy to give us such if we ask. 

Here is more on perfection from the great saint.

1. Prayer opens the understanding to the brightness of Divine Light, and the will to the warmth of Heavenly Love--nothing can so effectually purify the mind from its many ignorances, or the will from its perverse affections. It is as a healing water which causes the roots of our good desires to send forth fresh shoots, which washes away the soul's imperfections, and allays the thirst of passion.

2. But especially I commend earnest mental prayer to you, more particularly such as bears upon the Life and Passion of our Lord. If you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with Him, you will grow in His Likeness, and your actions will be moulded on His. He is the Light of the world; therefore in Him, by Him, and for Him we shall be enlightened and illuminated; He is the Tree of Life, beneath the shadow of which we must find rest;--He is the Living Fountain of Jacob's well, wherein we may wash away every stain. Children learn to speak by hearing their mother talk, and stammering forth their childish sounds in imitation; and so if we cleave to the Savior in meditation, listening to His words, watching His actions and intentions, we shall learn in time, through His Grace, to speak, act and will like Himself. Believe me, my child, there is no way to God save through this door. Just as the glass of a mirror would give no reflection save for the metal behind it, so neither could we here below contemplate the Godhead, were it not united to the Sacred Humanity of our Saviour, Whose Life and Death are the best, sweetest and most profitable subjects that we can possibly select for meditation. It is not without meaning that the Saviour calls Himself the Bread come down from Heaven;--just as we eat bread with all manner of other food, so we need to meditate and feed upon our Dear Lord in every prayer and action. His Life has been meditated and written about by various authors. I should specially commend to you the writings of Saint Bonaventura, Bellintani, Bruno, Capilla, Grenada and Da Ponte.
3. Give an hour every day to meditation before dinner;--if you can, let it be early in the morning, when your mind will be less cumbered, and fresh after the night's rest. Do not spend more than an hour thus, unless specially advised to do so by your spiritual father.
4. If you can make your meditation quietly in church, it will be well, and no one, father or mother, husband or wife, can object to an hour spent there, and very probably you could not secure a time so free from interruption at home.
5. Begin all prayer, whether mental or vocal, by an act of the Presence of God. If you observe this rule strictly, you will soon see how useful it is.
6. It may help you to say the Creed, Lord's Prayer, etc., in Latin, but you should also study them diligently in your own language, so as thoroughly to gather up the meaning of these holy words, which must be used fixing your thoughts steadily on their purport, not striving to say many words so much as seeking to say a few with your whole heart. One Our Father said devoutly is worth more than many prayers hurried over.
7. The Rosary is a useful devotion when rightly used, and there are various little books to teach this. It is well, too, to say pious Litanies, and the other vocal prayers appointed for the Hours and found in Manuals of devotion,--but if you have a gift for mental prayer, let that always take the chief place, so that if, having made that, you are hindered by business or any other cause from saying your wonted vocal prayers, do not be disturbed, but rest satisfied with saying the Lord's Prayer, the Angelic Salutation, and the Creed after your meditation.
8. If, while saying vocal prayers, your heart feels drawn to mental prayer, do not resist it, but calmly let your mind fall into that channel, without troubling because you have not finished your appointed vocal prayers. The mental prayer you have substituted for them is more acceptable to God, and more profitable to your soul. I should make an exception of the Church's Offices, if you are bound to say those by your vocation--in such a case these are your duty.
9. If it should happen that your morning goes by without the usual meditation, either owing to a pressure of business, or from any other cause, (which interruptions you should try to prevent as far as possible,) try to repair the loss in the afternoon, but not immediately after a meal, or you will perhaps be drowsy, which is bad both for your meditation and your health. But if you are unable all day to make up for the omission, you must remedy it as far as may be by ejaculatory prayer, and by reading some spiritual book, together with an act of penitence for the neglect, together with a stedfast resolution to do better the next day.

Great Times in Kiev

Thanks to Lisa for this: on the destroying of the statue of Lenin 


One of the hammerers wore his hair in a Mohawk; another was a priest in black vestments. 

Thoughts on Death Part One

Not a popular subject-death. Most Americans and others flee from the thought of death and the euthanasia movement, so strong in Europe, denies the normal, human path of suffering leading to natural death.

God controls life. God controls death. When men and women try to take control over both life and death, they fall into serious sins: contraception, abortion, euthanasia.

As I watch a snow storm out of this window today, I am reminded that so many people actively avoid thinking of suffering, of death.

I think of death daily-my own, that of those who are far away from God, that of the victims, the aborted ones.

The American Dream constitutes a push against the idea of death.

Be comfortable, be happy, buy things, surround yourself with noise, surround yourself with entertainment.

Have the television and radio on all day so as never to reflect.  Be so active in doing so many things that you never have time to think on sin, punishment, heaven, hell, purgatory.

It is obvious from where I am sitting that this diocese has forgotten about death. There has not been a daily Mass for two weeks in my parish. There has not been a priest available for two weeks for confession.

The church has been locked-no Adoration, no rosaries, no prayer meetings. This is the season of Advent-we should be preparing for the Coming of Christ. This should be a time of intense spirituality.

Instead, people have filled their time with trivia-bake sales, shopping for Christmas, decorating the inside and outside of houses, using so much money for things which do not count, with money which should be given to the poor. I am ashamed to be an American.

All of these pursuits deny the real reason for Christmas. Christ came to save us from death and eternal separation from God.

Here is a reading from the First Mass on Christmas, the Midnight Mass. This is an exhortation, one to which priests rarely refer at Christmas. This reading notes that Christ came for our purification.

I shall continue with thoughts on preparing for death in this week to come....

Titus 2: 11-15
Léctio Epístolæ beáti Pauli Apóstoli ad Titum. Caríssime: Appáruit grátia Dei Salvatóris nostri ómnibus homínibus, erúdiens nos, ut, abnegántes impietátem et sæculária desidéria, sóbrie et juste et pie vivámos in hoc sæculo: exspectántes beátam spem, et advéntum glóriæ magni Dei et Salvatóris nostri Jesu Christi: qui dedit semetípsum pro nobis, ut nos redímeret ab omni iniquitáte, et mundaret sibi pópulum acceptábilem, sectatórem bonórum operum. Hæc lóquere et exhortáte, in Christo Jesu Dómino nostro.
Deo Gratias.
Lesson from the Epistle of Blessed Paul the Apostle to Titus. Dearly beloved, The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men, instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to Himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works.These things speak and exhort: in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Doctors of the Church 2:16

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

St. Francis de Sales, the Fourth Franciscan out of Three!!!!!! Doctors of the Church Series continued

I made a terrible mistake and apologize to the Franciscans. St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, was a Third Order Franciscan

Naughty me. Mea culpa....

So, before tackling the great Dominicans, I need to cover this great man's writings on spirituality. This is Part 17 of the series.

He was only 56 when he died in 1622, but left behind wonderful writings for us. Here is a bit of his great insights into the holy life.

I concentrate today on the second purification on the way to perfection. This Doctor is a great saint for teaching us the way to perfection.

Notice how the saint refers to the mind as an attribute of the soul. Without going into that study, his ideas are close to those of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (my favourite DoC) who also saw the mind as part of the soul. This idea is not so common in modern theologians.

His clarity about breaking away from the habits of venial sin can be traced here in these selections from Introduction to the Devout Life.  The pages can be found before, one and after this link.

Be sure, my child, that if you seek to lead a devout life, 
you must not merely forsake sin; but you must further 
cleanse your heart from all affections pertaining to sin; for, to say nothing of the danger of a relapse, these wretched affections will perpetually 
enfeeble your mind, and clog it, so that you will be unable to be diligent, 
ready and frequent in good works, wherein nevertheless lies the very essence of all true devotion. 

Souls which, in spite of having forsaken sin, 
yet retain such likings and longings, remind us of those persons who, without being actually ill, are pale and sickly, languid in all they do, eating without appetite, 
sleeping without refreshment, laughing without mirth, 
dragging themselves about rather than walking briskly. 

Such souls as I have described lose all the grace of their good deeds, which are probably few and feeble, through their spiritual languor.

This last point has been made by Garrigou-Lagrange and other writers; that we get no merit unless we are in the state of illumination. I know this is hard, but it is true.

The work we do in the Illumination State comes from the Holy Spirit, and not from ourselves. 
Here is the great saint on this purification of tendencies.

We must make up our minds not to commit even one venial sin in order to avoid these tendencies to sin. I finally found one good priest in London, and a younger one at that, who understands this and can give absolution accordingly, instead of denying that this is possible. We need more priests who understand that we must fight against the tendencies to venial sin.

You will find then, my child, that besides the mortal sins and their affections from which your soul has already been purged, you are beset by sundry inclinations and tendencies to venial sin; mind, I do not say you will find venial sins, but the inclination and tendency to them. Now, one is quite different from the other. We can never be altogether free from venial sin,--at least not until after a very long persistence in this purity; but we can be without any affection for venial sin.
It is altogether one thing to have said something unimportant not strictly true, out of carelessness or liveliness, and quite a different matter to take pleasure in lying, and in the habitual practice thereof. But I tell you that you must purify your soul from all inclination to venial sin;--that is to say, you must not voluntarily retain any deliberate intention of permitting yourself to commit any venial sin whatever. It would be most unworthy consciously to admit anything so displeasing to God, as the will to offend Him in anywise. Venial sin, however small, is displeasing to God, although it be not so displeasing as the greater sins which involve eternal condemnation; and if venial sin is displeasing to Him, any clinging which we tolerate to mortal sin is nothing less than a resolution to offend His Divine Majesty. Is it really possible that a rightly disposed soul can not only offend God, but take pleasure therein?
These inclinations, my child, are in direct opposition to devotion, as inclinations to mortal sin are to love:--they weaken the mental power, hinder Divine consolations, and open the door to temptations;--and although they may not destroy the soul, at least they bring on very serious disease. 

"Dead flies cause the ointment to send forth a stinking savour," says the Wise Man.He means that the flies which settle upon and taste of the ointment only damage it temporarily, leaving the mass intact, but if they fall into it, and die there, they spoil and corrupt it. Even so venial sins which pass over a devout soul without being harboured, do not permanently injure it, but if such sins are fostered and cherished, they destroy the sweet savour of that soul--that is to say, its devotion. The spider cannot kill bees, but it can spoil their honey, and so encumber their combs with its webs in course of time, as to hinder the bees materially. Just so, though venial sins may not lose the soul, they will spoil its devotion, and so cumber its faculties with bad habits and evil inclinations, as to deprive it of all that cheerful readiness which is the very essence of true devotion; that is to say, if they are harboured in the conscience by delight taken therein. 
A trifling inaccuracy, a little hastiness in word or action, some small excess in mirth, in dress, in gaiety, may not be very important, if these are forthwith heeded and swept out as spiritual cobwebs;--but if they are permitted to linger in the heart, or, worse still, if we take pleasure in them and indulge them, our honey will soon be spoilt, and the hive of our conscience will be cumbered and damaged. But I ask again, how can a generous heart take delight in anything it knows to be displeasing to its God, or wish to do what offends Him?

So this saint backs up St. Benedict on frivolity and unnecessary mirth, as in the other posts today and previously on laughter and silliness.