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Moral Capital: Strong Fathers = Strong Families = Strong Societies

From the politically incorrect but always sensible Anthony Esolen, a Providence College (PC…the irony) prof I’d love to meet.  Unless you’re rich, you don’t have the luxury to dabble in non-traditional gender roles, college isn’t for everyone, raise manly boys and girly girls with virtue, and society depends on the strength of fathers and the family.
From Crisis Magazine:

Moral Capital

Anthony Esolen
Let us suppose we are looking at people who are not going to Yale or Harvard, or even to the local state university. First, they can’t afford it, and second, they lack the capacity to immerse themselves in absurdity for the sake of a few courses here and there that will deepen their understanding of the world, or that will at least help them make a living. They are not going to write papers on Herbert Marcuse and Woodstock. Perhaps their intelligence lies elsewhere. Or perhaps their backs and their arms are stronger than their minds. What capital can we give them to help set them up in life?

Currently, we don’t give them any at all. We flush many billions of dollars into higher education, often of very dubious quality, so that our “best” students can afford to go to college. The colleges themselves count on that money, floating their sticker prices upward to take it all in. State schools milk the population quite well, taking in many thousands of students who have developed neither manual nor intellectual skills, squeezing them for what they are worth, and conferring upon them degrees that mean little more than that the graduate usually shows up to work on time and follows directions.

The net result, as I see it, is twofold. First, a skilled working man — let’s say a carpenter who has learned his trade well and has worked hard, who has a child with the intellectual capacity to attend one of the elite colleges — will be less able to afford it now than in 1940, when four years’ tuition at Harvard cost one and a half years of the national median household income. Second, that same man, if he does not have a child capable of going to one of those schools, will be rifled for all he is worth to send his children to lower-tier schools, or will watch helplessly as the children flit from service job to service job.

Again I ask, what capital can we give to people who are not going to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, stock brokers, or business executives? Maybe I could put it this way instead: What capital of theirs have we rifled these last several generations?

I call to mind here my grandfathers, who were hard workers but not saints, not by a long shot. One worked for 15 years in the coal mines. That was brutally hard and dangerous work. Imagine swinging a pickax against a wall for nine hours a day, when the ceiling is so low you can’t straighten up. Then, one day, he couldn’t take it anymore. He had a nervous breakdown. He would collapse if he were away from his home for even a day. By then, he was well on his way toward middle age, and he and his wife had three boys and three girls. The state took pity on him and considered him permanently disabled. So they received a monthly check.

It wasn’t much. They lived poor enough — but they did not live in squalor. For poverty is one thing, and squalor is another. You’re poor when you don’t have money, but you’re squalid when you don’t have any decency, and that is primarily a moral condition, not a material one. They kept clean by taking the weekly bath, with hot water poured from buckets into a metal tub. The privy was outside. Each child had one or two changes of clothes, handed down from one to the next. My grandmother cooked and washed constantly. That meant scrubbing the clothes on a washboard, wringing them out, and hanging them to dry on the line, just as all the neighbor wives did. It also meant trooping up the hill to the coop every so often, grabbing a chicken, cracking its neck, and plucking out all the feathers, to get it ready for soup.

My grandfather should never have been a coal miner. He should have been a farmer. He didn’t stay idle at home. The house came with a sizable piece of property, so he cut it into terraces, just as they did in Calabria, where he was a boy, and he farmed it. He once told me that he could put a seed in the ground and spit on it, and it would grow. He tended that land, his garden, as well as any piece of land could be tended. They got from it all the vegetables they needed: beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, corn, zucchini. They got plums, apples, peaches, and grapes. They got figs from a fig tree that had no business surviving so far north. They got eggs and chickens, and I believe he kept a pig or two for a while. They made do.

They had the advantage then, too, of no television, and so there was still a considerable sense of community. They knew all their neighbors. In fact, they knew their neighbors across the generations. That meant that they were never really alone. Italian was spoken up and down the street, though my grandfather did not want his children to speak it, and as they grew older they forgot what little they ever knew. When it came time to build a house, the men of the neighborhood would get together to do that. My grandfather himself had built the house his family lived in.

But there was much more. Here I dearly wish that Catholics would actually read the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, rather than rely upon commentators who reduce them to a single political position, as for instance that workers have the right to form unions. For Leo’s social vision was an intricate and coherent whole, with the church and the family at the heart of it. The family, he saw, was itself a society, with its own duties and rights, and its own sphere of governance, with the father as the head. He wrote quite movingly about the dignity of the wife and the mutual love that characterizes a true Christian marriage. But a society needs a head, and without any sense of being controversial, as at that time he was not, he affirmed that the head was the father. He saw, too, that the growing ambitions of the state — he was thinking particularly about socialism in its various forms — came at the expense of the father. That is, he saw that to weaken the father is to weaken the family, and that weak families are exactly what the enlightened wanted. And this has not changed.

But my grandfather, as debilitated as he was in his spirit, was not a weak father. He might have been too stern in his bearing; he grew up believing that it was not a father’s place to be overly affectionate with his children, that he would lose their respect, and that that would hurt the children in the end. I don’t believe he was right about that, but that is what both he and his wife took for granted. But he did more than tell his children he loved them: He did love them. He made sure that they grew up respectful of their elders. He made sure that they worked hard. The girls did not fall backward into shamelessness. The boys did not get other people’s daughters pregnant. They did not cheat or lie or steal, or even use foul language. My grandfather — one of those old Italian men with a great respect for religion, though he did not himself often attend Mass — made sure that they all went to church, the boys included.

They had, you see, a great fund of moral capital. All the children worked when they were old enough for it. All the money, too, went back to the family. Even when my mother was engaged, she worked as a seamstress in one of the many local dress factories and gave her whole paycheck to her parents. The boys lent themselves out in the summer as seasonal farm workers. All three of them entered the service, one of them lying about his age to try to enlist at the end of the Second World War. All six children were married, without any out of wedlock births, and without divorces. All six, with some straying here and there, remained in the Church. All had families that thrived in a material way, at least. All of them ended up living within a half mile of their parents. When their parents needed the house painted, the boys were there to do it. Same thing with paving the driveway, installing pipes for plumbing, and putting siding over the old asphalt shingles. They wanted for nothing. And the 19 grandchildren were at that house constantly, eating homemade cookies and pie, watching television, or playing in the backyard. Their stricture against showing affection didn’t apply to grandchildren, so we were made much of.

My grandmother was a saint. I could write a great deal about her unfailing charity and her cheerful deference to a man who was often difficult to get along with. I mean to take nothing from her when I say that she couldn’t have raised those children without him there as the head of the family. The boys were physically strong and active; the girls were stubborn. They would have been unmanageable if she had been alone. But she wasn’t alone: He was there, powerfully built and remarkably intelligent — he with his second-grade education could put many of my students to shame, with his general knowledge of the world. He and she made that family into a society that spanned several generations.

Through their example, we can see that the main fund of capital for people whose children are not going to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs is moral. Now let us see how the well-to-do rob them of it.

The first thing to do is to cripple the family. That can be done most quickly by crippling the father, or removing him altogether. How do we accomplish that? We take aim at his authority. We say, for a while, that we merely wish that the marriage be egalitarian; but what we really want is that it should be egalitarian and weak. It’s not as if we are going to take some of the authority of the father and lend it to the mother. For the secret is that a good and strong father — not a patsy, and not a tyrant — enhances the authority of his wife, and a weak or absent father compromises it or destroys it altogether. So we look kindly upon single motherhood and invade the woman’s home with social workers. We embrace feminism. That always was a revolt of some women against other women: in our day, mainly well-to-do women, college graduates, against women whose husbands are not professionals and who might actually wish to raise their own children at home, with neither monetary assistance nor moral interference from the state.

I am thinking now of a family I know. The father is a manual laborer of considerable talent. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t go to the casino, and doesn’t sleep around. He works hard when he comes home, too, so the back yard is now half vegetable garden, half park. The children are bright but not the right fit for college. If this were a sane world, if the elites had not polluted the moral watershed upstream, there would be order in this household. That is, the family would exist as a zone of authority and law-abiding in its own right, and it would span the generations. It would not be truncated by divorces and made chaotic with out-of-wedlock births. The sons and daughters would be preparing themselves, in a clear and coherent way, for assuming the duties of fathers and mothers. It would resemble the family of my grandparents.

But though the mother and father are genuinely good people, they have no moral capital. It has been rifled. They cannot depend upon the local school to preach such difficult virtues as chastity, manly courage, and piety. The school preaches quite the opposite. The television is an open sewer. The local drug stores peddle porn. The churches have capitulated and preach niceness rather than holiness; and people, bored with niceness, turn instead to what is neither nice nor holy, but simply material — riches, if they can get them, and sexual thrills, in any case.

After we’ve crippled the family with no-fault divorce, easy sex, smiling upon unwed motherhood, abortion on demand, and perversion parades — after we have cut its muscles to ribbons, and made it a cringing ward of the state, hurting rich families somewhat, and devastating the poor and the working class — we go after the boys. Back during the potato famine in Ireland, a certain family named Harkins pooled its little money to send one boy, a “likely lad” of 14, alone to the United States, to keep the family alive there. He arrived in New York, worked hard, and raised a family. His grandson became the first bishop of the diocese of Providence and was the founder of the college where I teach.

He and thousands like him built bridges and skyscrapers, mined coal, farmed the land, paved roads, and raised churches, not with money in the collection plate, but with their own hands. Of course they had the inestimable assistance of their wives, who had to be strong, too, and far stronger and more skilled than most of our college graduates are today. But the Brooklyn Bridge was not going to be built by people named Mary. We have depreciated work that is done with back and hands, because we don’t have to do that work; we’re educated, you see, and can do such necessary things as come up with Five Year Plans for the teaching of gender diversity.

I have no quarrel with studying the humanities. It’s how I earn my living. But I know well that all that I’m privileged to do, I do upon the bent backs of thousands of men who sweated more than I ever will. I am reminded of it every time I take a walk; I see roads, and houses, and bridges, and stone walls, miles of stone walls that once were the boundaries of farms and pastures in my neighborhood, and I know that all those stones came from the acres and acres of fields cleared by man and horse, and all those walls were built up of stones either muscled into place by the men, or lifted to their place by winch and pulley.

My reasoning here is simple enough. Suppose your family is not going to do well or even survive if it places all its hope in academic study. Then your children have to make their way by skilled hands or strong back or both. But that means, as a brute practical fact, that you are going to have to raise boys and girls to be men and women. Those boys will have to learn a trade. They will have to be carpenters, roofers, road builders, plumbers, welders, auto mechanics. And they will have to be more, not less, traditional in their morals and in their view of manhood. The boy who is encouraged to be effeminate is not going to repair motorcycles.

Perhaps it’s easier to see these things by applying them to a specific family. Let’s say we have what my grandparents came to America with; not much schooling, not much money, and no real hope that the children would go to college. There are millions of such families in the United States now. Let’s also grant them an intact marriage, and no illegitimate children on the side. Let’s grant them both boys and girls. As I’ve said, these are not going to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs. What does this family need to do to ensure that, a hundred years hence, it will still be recognizable?

The boys have to be trained to be men. That is a sine qua non. They cannot be allowed to play around in effeminacy. The son of Lord Marchmain can do that, because he has a lot of money and a huge estate. The son of two college professors can do that, for the same reason. Not that the effeminacy will do those boys any good; it will hurt them, but they’ll still get by. But the working-class family has not that same margin for foolishness. They don’t get to pass their moral license along, hurting others more than themselves. They are at the base, not the top, of the watershed. If we are going to be depending upon Stan’s skilled hands and Sam’s strong back, then those hands had better soon be chapped and rough with calluses, and that back had better be straight and the shoulders broad.

In other words, if we really wanted to help the poor and the working class, we’d be preaching manliness and chivalry to the boys and training them up in hard but well-remunerated work. But if we didn’t care about them, we’d just continue in our own self-indulgent feminism, and let them go hang.
Next, we would cripple what was left of their neighborhood. Not much would be left; there isn’t much of a community once we’ve tossed the hand grenade into the family. But whatever is left would have to be dealt with. We remove their schools from their proximity and from their influence. We turn policemen into “safety officers,” who do not know the people they are charged with protecting, and who in some cases are no match for the boys now hanging about and delving into crime. Not satisfied with removing the father from the home, we remove the mother too, so that children spend most of their time with people who do not love them, and who move in and out of their lives as transients through a slum.

Finally, we would preach moral relativism, the rot that destroys the soul. If I have money, if I’ve graduated from Yale, if I teach at a nice college, I can indulge myself in intellectual nonsense, and perhaps my children will be eager enough for material comforts and worldly prestige that they too will go on to graduate from Yale. I can dump battery acid into the river with a carefree heart, knowing that I get my own water from somewhere else. But the virtues are sometimes the only thing a poor family has. The boy sent to America from Ireland had a few coins in his pocket but a great deal more in his soul. He had courage, perseverance, self-control, obedience to authority, and willingness to learn. My uncles had those same virtues. They were sufficient.

That, readers, is what Catholic social teaching builds upon. Outside of an integrated Catholic vision of life — outside of the virtues, and of family — it makes no sense. If we want to help the poor, we can begin by restoring some of the moral capital we have robbed.


Instead of Sponge Words Use Square Facts

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is a Catholic priest from South Carolina who is married with children, is an author, blogger, and all around sensible thinker.  I guess that means I agree with him!  I have reposted some of his articles and I link to his site under blogs I follow on the right–>

Here’s his latest:

Sponge Words Square Facts

Has anyone else noticed what I call the ‘sponge words’ we use increasingly? These are words that are amorphous, vague and spongy. They soak up huge amounts of sub-text, innuendo and connotation, but they can mean virtually anything.

Take the word ‘inappropriate’. What on earth does that mean? I hear it in the confessional all the time, “I did something inappropriate with my girlfriend.” Huh? So I say, “Son, you’ll have to be a little bit more precise. I don’t want the juicy details, but nobody really knows what ‘inappropriate’ means. Did you cheat at miniature golf? Rob a bank like Bonnie and Clyde? Use the wrong fork when you went out to dinner? Gossip about a friend? Hold her hand at the movies or have sexual intercourse?” Honestly, people have different standards, and the word ‘inappropriate’ can mean anything or nothing at all.

When it comes to sexual behaviors in our society today what is ‘inappropriate’? College kids who are ‘hooking up’ every weekend might think it ‘inappropriate’ to hook up with more than two people on one weekend. A couple who are dating might think it perfectly ‘appropriate’ to spend the night together or go on vacation together. Things are not what they once were. Standards in our society have shifted. I’ve known priests, for example, who think it totally ‘appropriate’ to have a sexual partner because, they argue, their vow of celibacy just means they can’t get married.

The word ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ is used to excuse sin and let ourselves off the hook, but it can also be used to condemn people unjustly because nobody really defines what the word means. Instead they throw it around at their own convenience. So Nancy Smith says in a shocked tone about a Catholic school teacher, “He had an inappropriate relationship with my daughter!” Turns out the poor had the girl’s cell phone number on his cell phone contacts list because he had to contact the girl when they were on a school field trip and now, due to the gossip everyone thinks he was sleeping with the girl.

Another sponge word is ‘affair’. “My husband is having an affair!” or “My wife was having an affair with another man for five years!” It turns out that it was “an emotional affair” which consisted of flirting and texting and meeting up for a meal. OK, such behavior doesn’t help a marriage. It’s a form of betrayal. It breeds jealousy and is dumb, and it can even be sinful. It destroys trust and can wreck a relationship, but it’s not an affair. An affair means adultery. Adultery is when you have sexual intercourse with someone who is married to somebody else, or with someone who is not your spouse. I know one woman who told everyone her husband was having an affair. His reputation is wrecked and all the other woman look down on him as a dirty beast when all he did was chat with an old girlfriend on Facebook.

The third sponge word is ‘abuse’. How do I hear, “My father was abusive!” or “My wife is abusive to the kids.” or “My boss is abusive.” This used to mean that a guy came home drunk three times a week, gave his wife a black eye, kicked his kids down the stairs, and locked his mother in law in the closet. Now, when you check the facts you find out that the ‘abusive father’ loses it and shouts at the kids sometimes, or the ‘abusive mother’ gets stroppy once a month and swears at the kids and maybe spanks them once in a while. Then there is ’emotional abuse’ and even ‘spiritual abuse’. Yes, I suppose all these things happen, but too often these spongy words contribute to a whiny, victim culture.

Meanwhile the ‘abusive institution’ may well be a Catholic school that has high standards of discipline and expects kids to behave themselves. I had a guy complain of ‘an abusive priest’ once and I thought he’d been molested by some pervert priest. It turns out that the man, when he was a kid, turned up to be an altar server wearing sneakers and the priest told him that he couldn’t serve wearing sneakers.

Instead of sponge words we need square facts. In general conversation, keep to the facts and avoid gossip and detraction and sponge words that are loaded with innuendo. In confession tell the priest what happened clearly and objectively without going into gory details. Use circumlocution and discreet language by all means to soften the shock and shame, if shocking and shameful it is, but be honest and transparent and don’t use weasly, cowardly spongy words like ‘inappropriate’, ‘affair’ and ‘abuse’.


Solemnity of the Ascension

Office of Readings: From a sermon by Saint Augustine

No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven
Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.
  Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.
  Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.
  He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.
  These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.
  Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.

The Feast of the Visitation

The Visitation (The Cortona Altarpiece) Fra Angelico 1433-1434

From a Sermon by St. Bede the Venerable


My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour. With these words Mary first acknowledges the special gifts she has been given. Then she recalls God’s universal favours, bestowed unceasingly on the human race.

  When a man devotes all his thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, he proclaims God’s greatness. His observance of God’s commands, moreover, shows that he has God’s power and greatness always at heart. His spirit rejoices in God his saviour and delights in the mere recollection of his creator who gives him hope for eternal salvation.
  These words are often for all God’s creations, but especially for the Mother of God. She alone was chosen, and she burned with spiritual love for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could truly rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.
  For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him.
  She did well to add: and holy is his name, to warn those who heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet: and it will come to pass, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the name she spoke of earlier: and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.
  Therefore it is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy Church that we should sing Mary’s hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God’s Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the day’s work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.
Responsory
’Blessed are you who have believed, because what has been promised to you by the Lord will be fulfilled.’ And Mary said, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, alleluia.
Come and hear: I will tell what God has done for my soul. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, alleluia

Saint Philip Neri, Patron of Rome

It’s been 4 weeks since I posted anything — life gets pretty hectic — but I would be remiss if I let the feast day of my great patron, Philip Neri, go by without a mention.  This blogs 3rd anniversary is approaching on the feast of Pentecost and I’ll be back at it in no time.

St. Philip Neri was born in Florence, Italy on July 22, 1515. He was one of four children of the notary Francesco Neri. His mother died when he was very young, but a very capable and competent stepmother filled her place. Although they were related to Italian nobility, the family was quite poor. Philip was a cheerful and friendly boy, and was popular with all who knew him.

At eighteen, Philip was sent to the town of San Germano, where he lived with a childless relative who had a business there to train as an apprentice and heir. Philip had a strong aptitude for business. Soon after his arrival, Philip began speaking of his conversion, which dramatically changed his life. He left his relative’s home and set out for Rome, as he had a vision that he had a mission to fulfill there. He left without money or a specific plan, trusting in God’s providence.

In Rome, he found shelter in the home of Galeotto Caccia who offered him an attic and a few basic necessities in exchange for tutoring his two sons. During his first two years there, he lived as a recluse, spending time in prayer and eating small meals. Then, for the next three years, he studied philosophy and theology at the Sapienza and St. Augustine’s Monastery, where he was a brilliant student. Quite suddenly, he stopped taking classes, sold all his books and gave his money to the poor. Philip now set about on a new venture – to evangelize the people of Rome.

He started out in a very direct manner, making friends with people on street corners and in the public squares. His warm, friendly manner, his cheerfulness, and his wonderful sense of humor would catch the attention of passersby, and once caught, they found it difficult to escape. He had a magnetic personality and an appeal that drew others to him and held their interest. His usual question, “Well brothers, when shall we begin to do some good?” frequently brought a positive response. Without hesitation, he would take them with him to visit and care for the poor in the hospitals or to pray in the Seven Churches. His days were given up totally for others, but his nights were filled with solitude as he spent them either in a church porch or in the catacombs along the Appian Way.

During the Easter season of 1544, while praying in one of the grottos along the Appian Way, he received a vision of a globe of fire, which first entered his mouth and then his chest. He felt a dilation of the chest. He was filled with such strong divine love, that he fell to the ground, crying out in joy, “Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more!” When he stood up, he discovered a swelling over his heart, which gave him no pain.In the year 1548, when Philip had been carrying on his mission for ten years, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity – a group of laymen who met regularly for spiritual growth. He also popularized the devotion of the forty hours – exposing the Blessed Sacrament for forty hours, on three successive days, in honor of the forty hours Christ spent in the tomb. Philip had accomplished much by the time he was thirty-four, but his spiritual director felt he could be even more effective as a priest.

On May 23, 1551, he was ordained. He carried on his mission mainly through the confessional. He started hearing confessions before dawn and continued for hours, while men of women of all ages and social rank flocked to him. In his later years, Philip became weak and suffered from many illnesses, each of which was cured through prayer.

On the feast of Corpus Christi, May 25, 1595, Philip was in a radiantly happy mood. All day he had heard confessions and met with visitors. About midnight, he had a severe hemorrhage and the other priests were called to his bedside. They prayed over him and then he raised his hand in Benediction to bless them one last time. As he raised his hand, he passed to his eternal reward.

Six years later, he was beatified and Pope Gregory XV canonized him in 1622. He was known not only as “The Humorous Saint”, but also as the “Apostle of Rome.”

Quotes From St. Philip Neri

“Bear the cross and do not make the cross bear you.”

“There is no purgatory in this world. Nothing but heaven or hell.”

“Sufferings are a kind of paradise to him who suffers them with patience, while they are a hell to him who has no patience.”

“The greatness of our love for God may be tested by the desire we have of suffering for His sake.”

“Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.”

~ Excerpted from Gold in the Furnace, Jean M. Heimann, copyright 2004


Divine Mercy Novena: Good Friday to the Beatification of Ven. John Paul II

Jesus asked that the Feast of the Divine Mercy be preceded by a Novena to the Divine Mercy which would begin on Good Friday.  He gave St. Faustina an intention to pray for on each day of the Novena, saving for the last day the most difficult intention of all, the lukewarm and indifferent of whom He said:

“These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.’ The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy.”

In her diary, St. Faustina wrote that Jesus told her:

“On each day of the novena you will bring to My heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy … On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls.”

The different souls prayed for on each day of the novena are:
DAY 1 (Good Friday)  – All mankind, especially sinners
DAY  2 (Holy Saturday) – The souls of priests and religious
DAY 3 (Easter Sunday)  – All devout and faithful souls
DAY 4 (Easter Monday) – Those who do not believe in Jesus and those who do not yet know Him
DAY  5 (Easter Tuesday) – The souls of separated brethren
DAY  6 (Easter Wednesday) – The meek and humble souls and the souls of children
DAY  7 (Easter Thursday) – The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus’ mercy
DAY  8 (Easter Friday) – The souls who are detained in purgatory; 
DAY  9 (Easter Saturday) – The souls who have become lukewarm.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy may also be offered each day for the day’s intention, but is not strictly necessary to the Novena.


The Annunciation – Solemnity of the Incarnation

Annunciation by Andrea del Sarto, 1513

When we think of the Incarnation, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14) we mostly think of Christmas and the baby Jesus.  But nine months before Christmas, on March 25th, a life began at conception.  Today the Church celebrates the very moment of the conception of the Son of God, when the Word–in fact–became flesh and dwelt among us in His mother’s womb:  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,and you shall name him Jesus (Lk 1:31).    This reality was recognized by St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist:  “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. (Lk 1:43-44)

Is there no greater Pro-Life feast?

The incarnation of the Word was not only the work of the Father, Son and Spirit – the first consenting, the second descending, the third overshadowing – but it was also the work of the will and the faith of the Virgin. Without the three divine persons this design could not have been set in motion; but likewise the plan could not have been carried into effect without the consent and faith of the all-pure Virgin. Only after teaching and persuading her does God make her his Mother and receive from her the flesh which she consciously wills to offer him. Just as he was conceived by his own free choice, so in the same way she became his Mother voluntarily and with her free consent.
(St. Nicholas Cabasilas’ Homily on the Annunciation 4-5)

Let us pray.
Shape us in the likeness of the divine nature of our Redeemer,
  whom we believe to be true God and true man,
since it was your will, Lord God,
  that he, your Word, should take to himself our human nature
  in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
He lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
  God for ever and ever.
Amen. 

What Christians Mean by "God"

Here is another sneak peak trailer from the very anticipated Catholicism series by Fr. Robert Barron of Word on Fire.  Using one of St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God, Fr. Barron clearly and concisely explains how Christians understand God.  (Some nice footage of the cloister at Sta. Sabina.)


Christmas Eve at Blessed Sacrament

Took the family to Blessed Sacrament in


New Catholicism Trailer


Pope Benedict’s Prayer Intentions for October

VATICAN CITY, 30 SEP 2010 (VIS)

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for October is: “That Catholic universities may more and more be places where, in the light of the Gospel, it is possible to experience the harmonious unity existing between faith and reason”.

His mission intention is: “That World Mission Day may afford an occasion for understanding that the task of proclaiming Christ is an absolutely necessary service to which the Church is called for the benefit of humanity”.


A Positive New York Times Editorial on Pope’s Visit to Britain?

This was originally published in the New York edition of the New York Times on Sept. 20, 2010 and is remarkably positive. 

The Pope and the Crowds

All in all, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain over the weekend must have been a disappointment to his legions of detractors. Their bold promises notwithstanding, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens didn’t manage to clap the pope in irons and haul him off to jail. The protests against Benedict’s presence proved a sideshow to the visit, rather than the main event. And the threat (happily empty, it turned out) of an assassination plot provided a reminder of what real religious extremism looks like — as opposed to the gentle scholar, swathed in white, urging secular Britons to look with fresh eyes at their island’s ancient faith.
And the crowds came out, as they always do for papal visits — 85,000 for a prayer vigil in London, 125,000 lining Edinburgh’s streets, 50,000 in Birmingham to see Benedict beatify John Henry Newman, the famous Victorian convert from Anglicanism. Even at a time of Catholic scandal, even amid a pontificate that’s stumbled from one public-relations debacle to another, Benedict still managed to draw a warm and enthusiastic audience.

No doubt most of Britain’s five million Catholics do not believe exactly what Benedict believes and teaches. No doubt most of them are appalled at the Catholic hierarchy’s record on priestly child abuse, and disappointed that many of the scandal’s enablers still hold high office in the church.
But in turning out for their beleaguered pope, Britain’s Catholics acknowledged something essential about their faith that many of the Vatican’s critics, secular and religious alike, persistently fail to understand. They weren’t there to voice agreement with Benedict, necessarily. They were there to show their respect — for the pontiff, for his office, and for the role it has played in sustaining Catholicism for 2,000 years.
Conventional wisdom holds that such respect is increasingly misplaced, and that the papacy is increasingly a millstone around Roman Catholicism’s neck. If it weren’t for the reactionaries in the Vatican, the argument runs, priests might have been permitted to marry, forestalling the sex abuse crisis. Birth control, gay relationships, divorce and remarriage might have been blessed, bringing lapsed Catholics back into the fold. Theological dissent would have been allowed to flourish, creating a more welcoming environment for religious seekers.

And yet none of these assumptions have any real evidence to back them up. Yes, sex abuse has been devastating to the church. But as Newsweek noted earlier this year, there’s no data suggesting that celibate priests commit abuse at higher rates than the population as a whole, or that married men are less prone to pedophilia. (The real problem was the hierarchy’s fear of scandal, which led to endless cover-ups and enabled serial predation.)
And yes, the church’s exclusive theological claims and stringent moral message don’t go over well in a multicultural, sexually liberated society. But the example of Catholicism’s rivals suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the denominations of mainline Protestantism have done, across the last four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled into irrelevance.

The Vatican of Benedict and John Paul II, by contrast, has striven to maintain continuity with Christian tradition, even at the risk of seeming reactionary and out of touch. This has cost the church its once-privileged place in the Western establishment, and earned it the scorn of fashionable opinion. But continuity, not swift and perhaps foolhardy adaptation, has always been the papacy’s purpose, and the secret of its lasting strength.

Catholics do not — should not, must not — look to the Vatican to supply the church with all its saints and visionaries and prophets. (Indeed, many of Catholicism’s greatest figures have had fraught relationships with the Holy See — including John Henry Newman, the man beatified on Sunday.) They look to Rome instead to safeguard what those visionaries achieved, to guard Catholicism’s inheritance, and provide a symbol of unity for a far-flung, billion-member church. They look to Rome for the long view: for the wisdom that not all change is for the better, and that some revolutions are better outlasted than accepted.
On Saturday, Benedict addressed Britain’s politicians in the very hall where Sir Thomas More, the great Catholic martyr, was condemned to death for opposing the reformation of Henry VIII. It was an extraordinary moment, and a reminder of the resilience of Catholicism, across a gulf of years that’s consumed thrones, nations, entire civilizations.

This, above all, is why the crowds cheered for the pope, in Edinburgh and London and Birmingham — because almost five centuries after the Catholic faith was apparently strangled in Britain, their church is still alive.


The Cross Is Christ’s Glory and Triumph

A discourse of St Andrew of Crete
We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.
Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.
Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honourable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation – very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honourable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.
The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognise it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.

St. John Chrysostom: Prayer Before Holy Communion

O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy nor sufficient that thou shouldest enter under my roof into the habitation of my soul, for it is all deserted and in ruins, and thou hast not a fitting place in me to lay thy head. But as from the heights of thy glory thou didst humble thyself, so now bear me in my humility; as thou didst deign to lie in a manger in a cave, so deign now also to come into the manger of my mute soul and corrupt body. As thou didst not refrain from entering into the house of Simon the leper, or shrink from eating there with sinners, so also vouchsafe to enter the house of my poor soul, all leprous and full of sin. Thou didst not reject the sinful woman who ventured to draw near to touch thee, so also have pity on me, a sinner, approaching to touch thee. And grant that I may partake of thine All-holy Body and Precious Blood for the sanctification, enlightenment and strengthening of my weak soul and body; for the relief from the burden of my many sins; for my preservation against all the snares of the devil; for victory over all my sinful and evil habits; for the mortification of my passions; for obedience to thy Commandments; for growth in thy divine Grace and for the inheritance of thy Kingdom. For it is not with careless heart that I approach thee, O Christ my God, but I come trusting in thine infinite goodness, and fearing lest I may be drawn afar from thee and become the prey of the wolf of souls. Wherefore I pray thee, O Master, who alone art holy, that thou wouldest sanctify my soul and body, my mind and heart and reins, and renew me entirely. Implant in my members the fear of thee, be thou my helper and guide, directing my life in the paths of peace, and make me worthy to stand at thy right hand with thy Saints; through the prayers and intercessions of thine immaculate Mother, of thy Bodiless Servitors, of the immaculate Powers, and of all the Saints who from all ages have been well-pleasing unto thee. Amen.

Contraception Among Catholics Widespread Due to Lack of Preaching…No Kidding!

Catholic News Agency reports here about a recently published book linking the widespread use of contraception among Catholics to the the silence of priests presenting Church teachings on the subject.  I read this headline Vatican analyst: Catholic use of contraception linked to silence of clergy and said, “Hey, no kidding”.  Than I thought, what other earth-shattering headlines could I come up with: Loss of the Sense of Sin among Catholics linked to Silence of Clergy.  How about this one: Empty Confessionals linked to Silence of Clergy.  Or this: Support for Same-Sex Marriage among Catholics linked to Silence of Clergy.  This: Ignorance of Catholic Doctrine among Catholics linked to Silence of Clergy.  Somebody stop me anytime.


I’m Back

Ok…work still busy, Summer vacation done, house is painted, kids back to school (in the more than capable hands of the Nashville Dominican Sisters)…it’s time to get back to this neglected corner of the blogosphere.  If you’re still out there, stay tuned.


Pope Benedict’s Prayer Intentions for August

VATICAN CITY, 30 JUL 2010 (VIS) 

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for August is: “That those who are without work or homes or who are otherwise in serious need may find understanding and welcome, as well as concrete help in overcoming their difficulties”.

His mission intention is: “That the Church may be a ‘home’ for all people, ready to open her doors to any who are suffering from racial or religious discrimination, hunger or wars forcing them to emigrate to other countries”.


Pope Benedict’s Catechesis on the Seraphic Doctor, Reprise

Just this past March the Holy Father devoted two weeks of his Wednesday catechesis to one of the Church’s great medieval minds, Saint Bonaventure (who had a great impact on Pope Benedict’s own formation).  You can read them in full here and here.


Fr. Barron on True American Freedom

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Fr. Barron has a great analysis of proper freedom in the “American Experiment”.  Definitely worth a listen here.  

We Americans embrace freedom. However, a proper understanding of freedom must inform our celebration of it. In both classical philosophy and the Bible, “freedom is not so much individual choice as the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good, first possible, then effortless.” This freedom may seem confining, but it is actually liberating for it aligns oneself to the truth. In Christ, by whom we are created equal in dignity, we become free. As Catholics, we can embrace America’s protection of equal rights, but we must be critical of modern interpretations of freedom.


St. Gregory the Great on the Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

From a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope

My Lord and my God
Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.
 
Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvellous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.
 
Touching Christ, he cried out: My Lord and my God. Jesus said to him: Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Paul said: Faith is the guarantee of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. It is clear, then, that faith is the proof of what can not be seen. What is seen gives knowledge, not faith. When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told: You have believed because you have seen me? Because what he saw and what he believed were different things. God cannot be seen by mortal man. Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God, and said: My Lord and my God. Seeing, he believed; looking at one who was true man, he cried out that this was God, the God he could not see.
 
What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practises what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works. Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead.

Pope Benedict’s Prayer Intentions for July

Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of the Vespers mass to celebrate the feast of Saint Peters and Paul in the Saint Paul Outside the Walls basilica in Rome June 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Tony Gentile  (ITALY - Tags: RELIGION)

VATICAN CITY, 1 JUL 2010 (VIS

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for July is:

“That in every nation of the world the election of officials may be carried out with justice, transparency and honesty, respecting the free decisions of citizens”.

His mission intention is: “That Christians may strive to offer everywhere, but especially in great urban centres, an effective contribution to the promotion of education, justice, solidarity and peace”.


St. Augustine on Sts. Peter and Paul

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

The martyrs had seen what they proclaimed
This day has been consecrated for us by the martyrdom of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. It is not some obscure martyrs we are talking about. Their sound has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. These martyrs had seen what they proclaimed, they pursued justice by confessing the truth, by dying for the truth.
 
The blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, And I say to you, that you are Peter. He himself, you see, had just said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ said to him, And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church; because you are Peter. Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky,” from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky.” Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ.
 
Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, To you I am entrusting, what has in fact been entrusted to all. To show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit; and immediately afterwards, Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained.
 
Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It is not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles. Do not be sad, Apostle. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because self-assurance was conquered three times by fear. What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.
 
There is one day for the passion of two apostles. But these two also were as one; although they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We are celebrating a feast day, consecrated for us by the blood of the apostles. Let us love their faith, their lives, their labours, their sufferings, their confession of faith, their preaching.

Pope’s Final Catechesis on St. Thomas Aquinas: His Masterpiece The Summa Theologica

from the bolletino

 
VATICAN CITY, 23 JUN 2010 (VIS) – In today’s general audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope delivered the last in a series of three catecheses on the figure of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The Holy Father explained how St. Thomas’ masterpiece, the “Summa Theologica”, contains 512 questions and 2,669 articles in which the saint “precisely, clearly and pertinently” outlines the truths of faith as they emerge from “the teachings of Holy Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church, especially St. Augustine”. This exertion “of the human mind was always illuminated – as St. Thomas’ own life shows – by prayer, by the light that comes from on high.
“In his ‘Summa'”, the Pope added, “St. Thomas starts from the fact that God exists in three different ways: God exists in Himself, He is the principle and end of all things, so all creatures come from and depend upon Him. Secondly, God is present through His Grace in the life and activity of Christians, of the saints. Finally, God is present in a very special way in the person of Christ, and in the Sacraments which derive from His work of redemption”.
“St. Thomas dedicates special attention to the mystery of the Eucharist, to which he was particularly devoted”, said Benedict XVI, encouraging people “to follow the example of the saints and love this Sacrament. Let us participate devotedly in Mass in order to obtain its spiritual fruits; let us feed from the Body and Blood of the Lord that we may be incessantly nourished by divine Grace; let us pause willingly and often in the company of the Blessed Sacrament”.
The Holy Father went on: “What St. Thomas explained with academic rigour in his main theological works such as the ‘ Summa Theologica’ was also expressed in his preaching”, the content of which “corresponds almost in its entirety to the structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Indeed, in a time such as our own of renewed commitment to evangelisation, catechism and preaching must never lack the following fundamental themes: what we believe, i.e., the Creed; what we pray, i.e., the Our Father and the Ave Maria; and what we live as biblical revelation teaches us, i.e., the law of the love of God and neighbour and the Ten Commandments”.
“In his brief ‘Devotissima expositio super symbolum apostolorum’, St. Thomas explains the importance of faith. Through it, he says, the soul is united to God, … life is given a clear direction and we can easily overcome temptations. To those who object that faith is foolish because it makes us believe something that does not enter into the experience of the senses, St. Thomas offers a very detailed response, claiming that this is an inconsistent objection because human intelligence is limited and cannot know everything.
“Only if we were able to have perfect knowledge of all things visible and invisible would it be foolish to accept truth out of pure faith”, said the Pope. “Moreover, as St. Thomas observes, it is impossible to live without entrusting ourselves to the experience of others, when our personal knowledge does not extend far enough. Thus it is reasonable to have faith in God Who reveals Himself, and in the witness of the Apostles”.
Commenting on the article of the Creed concerning the incarnation of the Divine Word, St. Thomas says that “the Christian faith is reinforced in the light of the mystery of the Incarnation; hope emerges more trustingly at the thought that the Son of God came among us as one of us, to communicate His divinity to mankind; charity is revived because there is no more evident sign of God’s love for us than to see the Creator of the universe Himself become a creature”, said the Holy Father.
“St. Thomas, like all saints, was greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin”, Pope Benedict concluded. “He gave her a stupendous title: ‘Triclinium totius Trinitatis’; in other words, the place where the Trinity finds repose because, thanks to the Incarnation, the three divine persons dwell in her as in no other creature, and experience the delight and joy of living in her soul full of Grace. Through her intercession we can obtain any kind of help”.
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