New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

St. Catherine of Bologna: Spiritual Weapons against Evil

The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis during today's general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 8,000 people, to St. Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463).

Born to a noble family in the Italian city of Bologna, at the age of ten she moved to Ferrara where she entered the court of Niccolo III d'Este as a maid of honour. There she received a very careful education which would later serve her during her monastic life when "she used the cultural and artistic knowledge acquired over those years to great advantage", the Pope said.

In 1427, at the age of fourteen, she left the court to dedicate herself to religious life in a community of young women. Two years later the leader of this group founded an Augustinian convent, but Catherine and a number of others preferred Franciscan spirituality and transformed the community into Poor Clares.

The saint "made great spiritual progress in this new phase of her life, though she also had to face great trails", the Pope explained. "She experienced the night of the spirit, tormented even by the temptation of disbelief in the Eucharist. After much suffering, the Lord consoled her. In a vision He gave her the clear awareness of the real Eucharistic presence". In another vision God revealed the forgiveness of her sins, giving Catherine a "powerful experience of divine mercy".

In 1431 the saint had yet another vision, this time of the Final Judgement, which led her "to intensify her prayers and penance for the salvation of sinners. Satan continued to assail her as she increasingly entrusted herself to the Lord and the Virgin Mary. In her writings, Catherine left us essential notes on this mysterious struggle, from which, by the grace of God, she emerged victorious".

These notes are contained in her one written work, the "Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons" in which Catherine teaches that to combat evil it is necessary: "(1) to be careful always to do good; (2) to believe that we can never achieve anything truly good by ourselves; (3) to trust in God and, for His love, never to fear the battle against evil, either in the world or in ourselves; (4) to meditate frequently on the events and words of Jesus' life, especially His passion and death; (5) to remember that we must die; (6) to keep the benefits of heaven firmly in our minds, (7) to be familiar with Holy Scripture, keeping it in our hearts to guide all our thoughts and actions".

"In her convent Catherine, though used to the court of Ferrara, ... performed even the most humble tasks with love and ready obedience", said the Holy Father, recalling also that, out of obedience, the saint "accepted the job of mistress of novices, although she felt she was incapable of carrying out the role". In the same spirit she agreed to move to Bologna as abbess of a new monastery though she would have preferred to end her days in Ferrara.

Catherine died on 9 March 1463 and was canonised by Pope Clement XI in 1712. "With her words and life", Benedict XVI concluded, "she strongly invites us always to allow ourselves to be guided by God, to do His will every day even if it does not always correspond to our own plans, and to trust in His Providence which never abandons us. In this perspective, St. Catherine also invites us to rediscover the value of the virtue of obedience".

Sunday, December 26, 2010

And the Word was made flesh

(The following is a commentary by Dr. Plinio)

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

Thus does Saint John's Gospel (1:14) announce the ineffably grand moment when the Son of God "dwelt among us" in order to manifest His glory.

Yet, how discreet, how humble, how hidden was this first step taken by the King of the universe along His path of suffering, struggle, and triumph!

Let us meditate on the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ with the Gospel of Saint Luke (2:1-7).

And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.

And all went to be enrolled, everyone into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child.

And it came to pass that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

Let us picture a poor wedded couple, dressed with simplicity and bound for Bethlehem, crossing the arid countryside of the Holy Land, an aridity alleviated only by a few streams and olive groves. Mary travels seated on a young donkey, while Joseph proceeds on foot pondering the words of the angel who revealed to him the miraculous character of his virgin spouse's pregnancy.

As they reach Bethlehem, the winter night falls. But no one receives them, "because there was no room for them in the inn."

Is it for them that there is no room, since they have no prestige? Prestige commonly comes, especially in decadent times, from money and concessions to the vices of the times and the spirit of the "world" (this spirit being understood in the sense the Gospels give it). But this holy couple is poor and gifted with a highly religious spirit -- virtues the "worldly" find particularly detestable.

Nevertheless, Saint Joseph and Our Lady descend from the highest lineage of Bethlehem of Judea. Saint Joseph is a prince of the House of David, and Our Lady likewise descends from the kings of Judea.

However, so decadent are the Chosen People that in their eyes Saint Joseph is nothing but a poor carpenter, while Our Lady, his relatively well-off cousin, has chosen to share his poverty.

What are they doing in Bethlehem?

They are obeying the decree of the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who, certainly for vanity's sake, had ordered a census to ascertain how many were subject to his power.

The Prince of the House of David, in travelling to the city of his birth, manifests the glory of the foreign emperor. Saint Joseph is conquered, Caesar Augustus is the conqueror, and Bethlehem fails to recognize her illustrious children.

"He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11). Mary and Joseph, bearing the very Son of God, are rejected by their own people and are thus obliged to seek shelter in a cave inhabited by animals. So it is in the intimacy and isolation of that dwelling place for beasts that history's most important event up till that time unfolds: the Word of God made flesh in the most pure womb of Mary comes into the world.

* * *

Thus does one understand the kind of joy proper to the Nativity. A great solitude and deprivation, but at the same time,a great elevation. For over such misery descended riches without name, riches unlike any others on the face of the earth. The Child-God was wrapped in swathes of cloth and lying in a manger where animals feed.

None, save that couple, witness or know how to appreciate this scene of indescribable grandeur.

The highest glory is there present in a tender child who, crying, hungry and cold, extends his little arms towards his mother, requesting a little milk or a blanket to be covered. And Our Lady knows that it is the Creator who opens his arms unto her! The Sovereign of the universe cries, beseeching a bit of milk and warm clothing!

We can imagine the contrast between the supernatural ambience and the poverty of the grotto. There the Child Jesus is adored by all the angels in a magnificent choir, the celestial court celebrating the greatest feast up to then. Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, all with extraordinary brilliance give glory to God through the Nativity. That glory permeates the grotto discreetly, for it is necessary that those outside not take note, that only souls of faith perceive what is happening and only in intimacy. Our Lady is there reclining and praying as the most perfect soul in the history of mankind, save only for the divine Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Our Lady alone is worth more than all the souls before her, during her time and thereafter; more than all who existed, exist, and will exist until the end of the world. She alone is worth more than all the angels.

A short distance away, praying to the Child-God and to Our Lady, is the humble cabinetmaker, the deposed prince, obscured by history and by the misfortunes that befell his ancestors. That man received an honor proper to no one else: He was chosen to be the spouse of the mother of the Word Incarnate, the adoptive father of the very Son of God!

* * *

This takes place at midnight, when little moved in the ancient world. We can imagine the silence, the abandonment. The inhabitants of the nearby city of Bethlehem comfortably rest in their beds. Outside, even the livestock sleep while the Divine Infant is born. Everything is empty and darkness reigns. Only within that grotto does a small light flicker. Only that couple is there, they and the Child Jesus, the King of ages, the God-Man Himself.

This divine event takes place before few. The greatest of honors is born and resides entirely in a frail infant. The most important historical event up to that time comes to pass in secret. In such a way that the sole witnesses to that august scene desire to meditate, to remain silent, with more desire to feel the Nativity within themselves than to proclaim it in a loud and clear voice. It is the affectionate reverence of those who feel inadequate to render gratitude for the extraordinary honor of touching, in such an intimate way, so high a mystery coupled with pity and compassion for a God who consented to make Himself so small. How to express respect so great that it approaches fear, and tenderness so profound that it seems almost to liquefy the soul? Lofty veneration, then lofty adoration, finally, lofty tenderness.

This also seems to explain the nocturnal aspect of the Nativity. We cannot conceive of it taking place except at night. For darkness is necessary for radiating so discreet a light. Therein we find the joy characteristic of Christmas that hesitates to expand itself for fear of losing its delicacy and intimacy.

* * *

Thus does one understand why such Christmas carols such as "Stille Nacht" ("Silent Night") are customarily sung in a low voice, almost as if to oneself. They are sung as if not to awaken the Child Jesus. This is one aspect of the genius of "Stille Nacht," composed by a simple German schoolmaster in the last century, yet now the preeminent Christmas carol of all ages. Hearing it we have the impression that the choir is in a corner of the cave of Bethlehem. The choir sings with such emotion, for it almost cannot help it, yet in a very low voice, so as not to disturb the Divine Infant nor the ineffable and almost internal song with which Our Lady is lulling her Son.

In this way one understands the thousand delicacies that emanate from "Silent Night" and the tenderness of the Nativity. It is a song expressive of a kind of compassion for Him who is being celebrated: How little this infinite God; how infinite this little God!

Centuries of Christian civilization were necessary that the most celebrated of Christmas songs might blossom like a flower in the Catholic Church.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gathered ‘Round the Manger - Christmas 2010

(The following article is by Dr. Plinio. The blog author wishes all my reader a Grace filled Christmas. I pray that the Our Lord finds a home in your hearts)


Lord, once again Christmas approaches. Christianity hastens anew to adore Thee in the manger at Bethlehem, where Thou can be seen by the light of the twinkling star of Bethlehem or under the brighter and more splendorous light of Mary’s maternal and sweet gaze. Saint Joseph stands nearby, so captivated by Thee that he seems to take notice neither of the animals that surround Thee nor of the angels who have opened the heavens and can be heard and seen singing in the highest. In a short while, the Magi will arrive with their entourage, laden with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Through the centuries, others will also come to venerate Thy crib: from India, Ancient Nubia, Macedonia, Rome, Carthage, and Spain; Gauls, Franks, Germans, Angles, Saxons, and Normans.

Both pilgrims and crusaders will come from the West to kiss the ground of the cave where Thou were born. Thy manger will be venerated all over the earth. In the great Gothic or Romanesque cathedrals, multitudes will gather around Thee, offering Thee presents of gold, silver, incense, and above all the piety and sincerity of their hearts.

Then will come the period of the Western discoveries in which the benefits of Thy Redemption will reach new lands. Incas, Aztecs, natives of various tribes, blacks from African shores or further inland, bronze-skinned Indians, slender and pensive Chinese, short and agile Japanese all will gather around Thy crib and adore Thee. The star of Bethlehem now shines over the whole world. All peoples have heard the angelic promise, and all across the earth hearts of goodwill have found the inestimable treasure of Thy peace. Overcoming all obstacles, the Gospel has finally spread to people all over the world. In the midst of contemporary desolation, this great gathering of people from all nations and races around Thee is our only consolation and our only hope. Kneeling before Thee, we count ourselves among them. Look kindly on us, Lord, and have pity on us. There is something we would like to say.

Who are we? We are those who will not kneel before the modern Baal. We carry Thy law engraved upon the bronze of our hearts and do not allow the errors of our times to become engraved upon this bronze sanctified by Thy Redemption. We love the immaculate purity of orthodoxy above all else and reject any pact whatsoever with heresy, its wiles and infiltrations. We are merciful to the repentant sinner since, owing to our unworthiness and infidelity, we count ourselves among that number and we implore Thy mercy. We spare no criticism, either, of insolent and conceited impiety or of strutting vice that scorns virtue. We pity all men, particularly the blessed who suffer persecution for love of the Church, who are oppressed everywhere because they hunger and thirst for virtue; who are abandoned, ridiculed, betrayed, and disdained because they remain faithful to Thy Commandments.

Many are those whose suffering is not celebrated in contemporary literature: the Christian mother who will pray alone before Thy crib because her children no longer practice the Faith; the strong yet austere husband who is misunderstood or even loathed by his own because of his fidelity to Thy teachings; the faithful wife who bears the solitude of heart and soul because her husband’s frivolous habits have led to adultery, he who should be her support, her “other half ”; the pious son or daughter who, while Christian homes are celebrating, sense how in their own home and family life, religion has been stifled by egotism, hedonism and secularism; the student who is shunned and mocked by his classmates because of his fidelity to Thee; the professor who is eschewed by colleagues because he will not condone their errors; the parish priest or bishop around whom a menacing wall of misunderstanding or indifference has been raised because he refuses to compromise the integrity of the doctrine entrusted to his care; the honest man made penniless for refusing to swindle.

All of these isolated people, scattered across the globe, ignorant of each other, now gather around Thee to offer Thee a gift and a prayer. Their gift exceeds the sun and the stars, the oceans with all its riches, and the earth in all its splendor: they give themselves entirely and faithfully. By preferring complete orthodoxy over approval, purity over popularity among the impure, honesty over gold; by remaining faithful to Thy law even when this entails sacrificing career and fame, they attain perfection in their spiritual life by practicing love of God above all things, which is a sincere and lasting love. Such love differs greatly from love as it is understood nowadays, which predominantly consists of gushy and illogical feelings, senseless and blurry affections, obscure self-condescension and trite justifications to appease one’s conscience.

Instead theirs is true love, enlightened by Faith, justified by reason, seriousness, chastity and perseverance. In a word, theirs is love of God. They also offer a prayer for Thy holy and immaculate Church whom they love above all else in this world: for the pastors and the flock; foremost, for the pastor of pastors of the flock, that is for Peter, whom today we call Benedict.
May the Church, which now moans as a captive in the dungeons of this anti-Christian “civilization,” finally triumph over this era of sin and implant a new civilization for Thy greater glory. May the saintly become ever holier, may the good be sanctified, may sinners become good, and may the impious convert. May the impenitent who have rejected grace and are jeopardizing souls be dispersed, humbled, and their efforts frustrated. May the souls in Purgatory rise to Heaven straight away. They also pray for themselves: may their orthodoxy be ever purer, their purity ever more rigorous. May they be more faithful amidst adversity, stand ever taller amidst humiliations, be more energetic in their struggles. May they be more terrible to the impious, yet more compassionate toward those who, ashamed of their sins, strive seriously to overcome them and acclaim virtue publicly.

Finally, they pray for Thy Grace, without which no will can durably persevere in good, and no soul can be saved; may it be more abundant in proportion to the number of their miseries and infidelities.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Blessed Mother teaches St. Faustina how to prepare for Christmas ---

The Blessed Mother teaches St. Faustina how to prepare for Christmas ---
from her diary -# 785

- The Mother of God has taught me how to prepare for the Feast of Christmas. I saw Her today, without the Infant Jesus. She said to me: My daughter, strive after silence and humility, so that Jesus, who dwells in your heart continuously, may ...be able to rest. Adore Him in your heart; do not go out from your inmost being. My daughter, I shall obtain for you the grace of an interior life which will be such that, without ever leaving that interior life, you will be able to carry out all your external duties with even greater care. Dwell with Him continuously in your own heart. He will be your strength. Communicate with creatures only in so far as is necessary and is required by your duties. You are a dwelling place pleasing to the living God, in you He dwells continuously with love and delight. And the living presence of God, which you experience in a more vivid and distinct way, will confirm you, my daughter, in the things I have told you. Try to act in this way until Christmas Day, and then He himself will make known to you in what way you will be communing and uniting yourself with Him.

(Thanks to Jackie at LeadkindlyLight)

No Christmas trees in India

You do know that we don't have conifers in India so we are a little creative when it comes to Christmas trees...Behold a decorated banana tree


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Given below is the English-language text of a Note published yesterday afternoon by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, entitled: "On the trivialisation of sexuality. Regarding certain interpretations of 'Light of the World'".

"Following the publication of the interview-book 'Light of the World' by Benedict XVI, a number of erroneous interpretations have emerged which have caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words - a meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human sexuality is treated. The intention of the Holy Father is clear: to rediscover the beauty of the divine gift of human sexuality and, in this way, to avoid the cheapening of sexuality which is common today.

"Some interpretations have presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive change and lamented by others as a cause of concern - as if his statements represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the Church's stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope - which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely prostitution (cf. Light of the World, pp. 117-119) - do not signify a change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.

"As is clear from an attentive reading of the pages in question, the Holy Father was talking neither about conjugal morality nor about the moral norm concerning contraception. This norm belongs to the tradition of the Church and was summarised succinctly by Pope Paul VI in paragraph 14 of his Encyclical Letter 'Humanae vitae', when he wrote that 'also to be excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation - whether as an end or as a means'. The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought. On this issue the Pope proposes instead - and also calls the pastors of the Church to propose more often and more effectively (cf. Light of the World, p. 147) - humanly and ethically acceptable ways of behaving which respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meaning of every conjugal act, through the possible use of natural family planning in view of responsible procreation.

"On the pages in question, the Holy Father refers to the completely different case of prostitution, a type of behaviour which Christian morality has always considered gravely immoral (cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution 'Gaudium et spes', n. 27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2355). The response of the entire Christian tradition - and indeed not only of the Christian tradition - to the practice of prostitution can be summed up in the words of St. Paul: 'Flee from fornication' (1 Cor 6:18). The practice of prostitution should be shunned, and it is the duty of the agencies of the Church, of civil society and of the State to do all they can to liberate those involved from this practice.

"In this regard, it must be noted that the situation created by the spread of AIDS in many areas of the world has made the problem of prostitution even more serious. Those who know themselves to be infected with HIV and who therefore run the risk of infecting others, apart from committing a sin against the sixth commandment are also committing a sin against the fifth commandment - because they are consciously putting the lives of others at risk through behaviour which has repercussions on public health. In this situation, the Holy Father clearly affirms that the provision of condoms does not constitute 'the real or moral solution' to the problem of AIDS and also that 'the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalisation of sexuality' in that it refuses to address the mistaken human behaviour which is the root cause of the spread of the virus. In this context, however, it cannot be denied that anyone who uses a condom in order to diminish the risk posed to another person is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity. In this sense the Holy Father points out that the use of a condom 'with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality'. This affirmation is clearly compatible with the Holy Father's previous statement that this is 'not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection'.

"Some commentators have interpreted the words of Benedict XVI according to the so-called theory of the 'lesser evil'. This theory is, however, susceptible to proportionalistic misinterpretation (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter 'Veritatis splendor', n. 75-77). An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed. The Holy Father did not say - as some people have claimed - that prostitution with the use of a condom can be chosen as a lesser evil. The Church teaches that prostitution is immoral and should be shunned. However, those involved in prostitution who are HIV positive and who seek to diminish the risk of contagion by the use of a condom may be taking the first step in respecting the life of another - even if the evil of prostitution remains in all its gravity. This understanding is in full conformity with the moral theological tradition of the Church.

"In conclusion, in the battle against AIDS, the Catholic faithful and the agencies of the Catholic Church should be close to those affected, should care for the sick and should encourage all people to live abstinence before and fidelity within marriage. In this regard it is also important to condemn any behaviour which cheapens sexuality because, as the Pope says, such behaviour is the reason why so many people no longer see in sexuality an expression of their love: 'This is why the fight against the banalisation of sexuality is also part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man's being' (Light of the World, p. 119).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Expectation of Our Lady - Dr. Plinio

Expectation of Our Lady

December 19 begins the last week of Advent, which the Church calls the Week of Expectation. We are only one week away from the Birth of Our Lord, and the Church imagines the jubilation and hope of Our Lady in expectation of her parturition: she was waiting to admire the Blessed Face of the Son she was generating in her womb.

Our Lady had begged God to hasten the coming of the Messiah, God heard her omnipotent prayer, and Incarnation in fact was anticipated. She was invited to be the Mother of the Word. She accepted, and conceived the Incarnate Word in her womb. In this last week of her gestation, she awaits with expectation seeing the Face of her Son, so that she might have a more profound knowledge of His soul and His full personality.

She also awaits the salvation of the world that approaches. She sees the hour coming when the glory of God will cease to be offended by the legacy of original sin. The Devil’s reign that dominated for more than 4,000 years is drawing to its end. She senses that the Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is near. Only one week is lacking for the birth of the Word that marks the beginning of the end of the reign of the Devil. It was definitely destroyed when Our Lord was immolated on the Cross and the Redemption was consummated.

These considerations filled the heart of Our Lady with hope. That is why during this period of waiting she is called Our Lady of the Expectation, Our Lady of the Hope or Our Lady of the O!, since on each of the seven days before Christmas there is an antiphon in the liturgy that the Church attributes to her. All of these antiphons begin with the exclamation – O! – and continue with adapted words of the Old Testament that refer to the birth of Our Lord and His Redemption.

These antiphons, called the "Greater Antiphons" or the "O Antiphons," are the following:

Antiphon 1: O Wisdom! Thou came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, Thou ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Antiphon 2: O Adonai, Ruler of the House of Israel! Thou appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and on Mount Sinai gave him Thy law. Come to redeem us with the strength of Thy arm.

Antiphon 3: O Root of Jesse! Thou stand as a sign for all peoples; before Thee kings shall keep silence and to Thee all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.

Antiphon 4: O Key of David, Scepter of the House of Israel! Thou doth open and no man closes; Thou doth close and no man opens. Come, and deliver from the chains of prison those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Antiphon 5: O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice! Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Antiphon 6: O King of the Gentile, the Awaited One of all! Thou are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save man whom Thou fashioned out of clay.

Antiphon 7: O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Hope and Salvation of the nations! Come and save us, O Lord our God.

The O Antiphons suggest to us some thoughts.

When the encyclical Divini Redemptoris of Pius XI against Communism was published in 1937, the Pontiff noted in it that the world was in such a bad state that it was in danger of falling to a state lower than it was before the Redemption. And indeed, we can say that it fell. From 1937 to this date, the catastrophe has happened. The many evils described by Pius XI have only increased since his time. The world redeemed by Jesus Christ is now at a lower state than before His coming.

In this situation we long for a restoration so radical that is similar to a redemption. We hope for a renewal of the fruits of Redemption applied to the needs of our times. We have need of the punishment of those who despise Our Lord and have infiltrated into the deepest recesses of His Church. If they could, they would destroy her. We also call for those who can convert to be regenerated and reconciled with Our Lord. We need the Reign of Mary to be implanted.

So, for us, in the days that precede Christmas, these antiphons should express an appeal and a plea to the Infant Jesus to hasten a stronger and more triumphant and invincible action to re-implant His Kingdom on earth - with Mary, in Mary and through Mary.

We should ask Our Lady to obtain this from her Son. We also should ask her to increase our hope that this will happen. In this way, we will pass this week in expectation of these graces as Our Lady was waiting for the graces of the Our Lord’s coming before the feast of Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Laymen Groups Are Necessary to Save Society

With his deep understanding of the needs of the Church, Saint Pius X often saw things
with remarkable clarity. The Holy Pontiff had an interesting conversation with a group of cardinals, which was reported in the French clerical publication, L’Ami du Clergé.

Saint Pius X asked them, “What is the thing we most need today to save society?”
“Build Catholic schools,” said one.
“No.”
“More churches,” said another.
“Still no.”
“Speed up the recruiting of priests,” said a third.
“No, no,” replied Saint Pius X. “The most necessary thing of all, at this time, is for every parish to possess a group of laymen who will be at the same time virtuous, enlightened, resolute and truly apostolic.”

Further details allow us to assert that Saint Pius X at the end of his life saw no hope for the salvation of the world unless the clergy could use their zeal to form faithful Christians full of apostolic ardor, preaching by word and especially by
example. In the dioceses where he served before being elevated to the papacy, Saint Pius X attached less importance to the census of parishioners than to the list of Catholics capable of radiating an apostolate.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

St. Veronica Giuliani: Responding to the Love of Christ

In today's general audience, celebrated in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope spoke about St. Veronica Giuliani, a Capuchin Poor Clare the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of whose birth falls on 27 December.

Born in the Italian town of Mercatello in 1660, "she was the last of seven sisters of whom three others also embraced the monastic life", the Pope explained. She was christened with the name of Ursula and at the age of seventeen entered the convent of Capuchin Poor Clares in Citta Castello where she spent the rest of her life. There she was given the name of Veronica, "and a year later pronounced her solemn religious profession. Thus began her configuration to Christ through a journey of great penance and suffering, and a number of mystical experiences associated with Jesus' Passion. ... In 1716, at the age of fifty-six, she became abbess of her convent, remaining in that position until 1727 when she died following a painful agony of thirty-three days". She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory XVI on 26 May 1839.

The main source for St. Veronica's life is her diary of some 22,000 handwritten pages, the Pope said. "Hers was a markedly Christological-spousal spirituality. This is the experience of being loved by Christ, the faithful and sincere Bridegroom, and of wishing to respond with an increasingly committed and impassioned love".

Veronica "offered her prayers and sacrifices for the Pope, bishops, priests and all people in need including souls in Purgatory". She also "participated profoundly in the tormented love of Jesus, ... even asking to be crucified with Him", said Benedict XVI.

He then highlighted how the saint "was convinced that she was already participating in the Kingdom of God, but at the same time she invoked all the saints of heaven to help her on the earthly journey of her oblation, as she awaited eternal beatitude. This was the constant aspiration of her life", the Pope remarked.

"The high points of Veronica's mystical experience were never removed from the events of salvation as celebrated in the liturgy, where pride of place is given to proclaiming and listening to the Word of God. Sacred Scripture, then, illuminated, purified and confirmed Veronica's experience, making it ecclesial. ... Indeed, she not only expressed herself with the words of Sacred Scripture, but also lived by them".

"Veronica", the Holy Father went on, "was in particular a courageous witness of the beauty and power of divine Love. ... She also experienced a profoundly intimate relationship with the Virgin Mary".

"St. Veronica Giuliani invites us, in our lives as Christians, to fortify our union with the Lord, abandoning ourselves to His will with complete and total trust, and our union with the Church, the Bride of Christ. She invites us to participate in the tormented love of the crucified Jesus, for the salvation of all sinners. She invites us to fix our gaze on heaven, the goal of our earthly journey where we will live ... the joy of full communion with God. She invites us to draw daily nourishment from the Word of God so as to warm our hearts and guide our lives. The last words of the saint", Benedict XVI concluded, "may be considered as the summary of her impassioned mystical experience: 'I have found Love! Love has let itself be seen'".

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Immaculate Conception and the Power of Divine Grace

At midday today, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with thousands of pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father explained how the mystery of the Immaculate Conception "is a source of inner light, of hope and comfort. In the midst of the trials of life, and especially the contradictions man experiences within and around himself, Mary the Mother of Christ tells us that Grace is greater than sin, that God's mercy is more powerful than evil and can transform evil into good. Unfortunately we experience evil every day, manifesting itself in many ways in the relationships and events of our lives, but its roots lie in the heart of man, a wounded and sick heart incapable of healing itself.

"Holy Scripture", the Pope added, "shows us that the origin of all evil lies in disobedience to God's will, and that death holds sway because human freedom has succumbed to the temptation of the Evil One. But God does not renounce His plan of love and life. By a long and patient journey of reconciliation He has prepared the new and eternal alliance, sealed with the blood of His Son Who, to offer Himself in atonement, was 'born of a woman'. This woman, the Virgin Mary, benefited in advance from the redemptive death of her Son and, from conception, was preserved from the contagion of sin. Thus ... she says: entrust yourselves to Jesus. He will save you".

The Pope concluded his brief remarks by entrusting "the most pressing needs of the Church and the world", to the Virgin Mary. "May she help us, above all, to have faith in God, to believe in His Word and always to refuse evil and choose good".

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Feast of the Immaculate Conception - 8th December 2010

O Virgin, by whose blessing all nature is blessed! - by St Anselm


Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to the power or use of man – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendour by men who believe in God.

The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.

Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.

Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.

To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.

God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Saviour of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.

Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rorate Caeli

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hymns for Advent

This is not your local pop radio station, so I shall play advent hymns now

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent - Quotes by St. Josemaria Escriva

Advent - Quotes by St. Josemaria Escriva

Advent is here. What a marvellous time in which to renew your desire, your nostalgia, your real longing for Christ to come — for him to come every day to your soul in the Eucharist. The Church encourages us: Ecce veniet! — He is about to arrive!

Seek union with God and buoy yourself up with hope — that sure virtue! — because Jesus will illuminate the way for you with the light of his mercy, even in the darkest night.

Today marks the beginning of Advent. And it is good for us to consider the wiles of these enemies of the soul: the disorder of sensuality and easy-going superficiality, the folly of reason that rejects God, the cavalier presumption that snuffs out love for both God and creatures. All these obstacles are real enough, and they can indeed cause us a great deal of trouble. For these very reasons the liturgy invites us to implore divine mercy: "To you, o Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust, let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me," as we prayed in the introit. And in the offertory we shall go back to the same idea: "Let none that wait for you be put to shame."

Look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand," we have just read in the Gospel. This time of Advent is a time for hope. These great horizons of our christian vocation, this unity of life built on the presence of God our Father, can and ought to be a daily reality.
I don't wish to go on any longer on this first Sunday of Advent, when we begin to count the days separating us from the birth of the Saviour. We have considered the reality of our christian vocation: how our Lord has entrusted us with the mission of attracting other souls to sanctity, encouraging them to get close to him, to feel united to the Church, to extend the kingdom of God to all hearts. Jesus wants to see us dedicated, faithful, responsive. He wants us to love him. It is his desire that we be holy, very much his own.

Iesus Christus, Deus homo: Jesus Christ, God-man. This is one of "the mighty works of God," which we should reflect upon and thank him for. He has come to bring "peace on earth to men of good Will," to all men who want to unite their wills to the holy will of God — not just the rich, not just the poor, but everyone: all the brethren. We are all brothers in Jesus, children of God, brothers of Christ. His Mother is our mother.
You must look at the Child in the manger. He is our Love. Look at him, realizing that the whole thing is a mystery. We need to accept this mystery on faith and use our faith to explore it very deeply. To do this, we must have the humble attitude of a christian soul. Let us not try to reduce the greatness of God to our own poor ideas and human explanations. Let us try to understand that this mystery, for all its darkness, is a light to guide men's lives.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The hermeneutic of continuity: Pope praises "Heralds of the Gospel"

The hermeneutic of continuity: Pope praises "Heralds of the Gospel": "CTS sent me a copy of Light of the World this morning. Let me begin by congratulating the 'Heralds of the Gospel' who are singled out for ..."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jesus Is King at the Moment of His Crucifixion

In his remarks the Pope spoke of today's Solemnity of Christ the King, noting how it was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and later, following Vatican Council II, placed in its current position at the end of the liturgical year.

"The Gospel of St. Luke", said Pope Benedict, "presents the regality of Jesus at the moment of the crucifixion. The leaders of the people and the soldiers deride 'the firstborn of all creation' and put Him to the test to see if He has the power to save Himself from death. Yet it is precisely on the cross that Jesus is 'at the height' of God, Who is Love. There He can be recognised".

"In fact, while the Lord seems indistinguishable between two criminals, one of them, aware of his sins, ... turns to the 'king of the Jews' saying 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom'. ... The so-called 'good thief' immediately receives forgiveness and the joy of entering the Kingdom of heaven. ... Jesus, from His throne of the cross, welcomes all men with infinite mercy".

"The path of love, which the Lord reveals to us and invites us to follow, may also be seen in Christian art. Indeed from earliest times, 'in the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings, ... it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king - the symbol of hope - ... while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgement as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives'': hope in the infinite love of God and commitment to ordering our lives in accordance with the love of God", the Pope explained.

"When we contemplate the depictions of Jesus inspired by the New Testament", he concluded, "we are, as the Council of Trent taught, led 'to understand ... the sublime nature of the humiliation of the Word of God, and ... to remember His life in the flesh, His salvific passion and death, and the redemption of the world which arises therefrom".

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Feast of Christ the King

Pope Pius XI universally instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 in his encyclical Quas Primas. Pope Pius connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At the time of Quas Primas, secularism was on the rise, and many Christians, even Catholics, were doubting Christ's authority, as well as the Church's, and even doubting Christ's existence. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. Just as the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted when devotion to the Eucharist was at a low point, the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was most needed. In fact, it is still needed today, as these problems have not vanished, but instead have worsened.

Pius hoped the institution of the feast would have various effects. They were:

1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32).
2. That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas, 31).
3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas, 33).

Today, the same distrust of authority exists, although the problem has gotten worse. Individualism has been embraced to such an extreme, that for many, the only authority is the individual self. The idea of Christ as ruler is rejected in such a strongly individualistic system. Also, many balk at the idea of kings and queens, believing them to be oppressive. Some even reject the titles of "lord" and "king" for Christ because they believe that such titles are borrowed from oppressive systems of government. However true these statements might be (some kings have been oppressive), these individuals miss the point: Christ's kingship is one of humility and service. Jesus said:

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45, NAB).

and

Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?"... Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world,to testify to the truth (John 18:33b, 36-37).

Thus, Jesus knew the oppressive nature of secular kings, and in contrast to them, he connected his role as king to humble service, and commanded his followers to be servants as well. In other passages of Scripture, his kingdom is tied to his suffering and death. While Christ is coming to judge the nations, his teachings spell out a kingdom of justice and judgment balanced with radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. When we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but one willing to die for humanity and whose "loving-kindness endures forever." Christ is the king that gives us true freedom, freedom in Him. Thus we must never forget that Christ radically redefined and transformed the concept of kingship.

Christ the King Sunday used to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October, but since the calendar reforms of 1969, the feast falls on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, which is the Sunday before Advent. It is fitting that the feast celebrating Christ's kingship is observed right before Advent, when we liturgically wait for the promised Messiah (King).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

False Pieties - Dr. Plinio

(Blog writers note - I am sure we can all identify ourselves in one of these false pieties, maybe we can pray and work on correction this Advent)

Our spiritual life is the life of grace within us; through it we become children of God.
For our spiritual life to be preserved and to develop, a series of actions are required that constitute the life of piety. How must that life of piety be? What deviations must be avoided? These are the problems we must understand to progress in sanctity.
Concessions to the World
In a speech to university students of Rome in June 1952, the Holy Father Pius XII made an observation that shows well the importance of the subject, and above all, the need to address it in a practical manner. Analyzing the moral crisis that youth usually goes through, His Holiness stated: "Let us leave aside the question of how this crisis was provoked, to which intellectual difficulties and other circumstances have contributed, [reasons] that can be sought... in the wild jungle of unbridled passions and moral deviations, or perhaps in the murky field of concessions people think must be made to the demands of a coveted career.”
Indeed, how many concessions is a fervent Catholic solicited to make in our days! How to avoid compromising with the spirit of the world, except through solid piety? Therefore, what must the characteristics of true piety be?
Before we describe true piety, we will analyze some types of false piety very common in the modern world and will show the moral deviations to which they lead.
Minimalist Piety
In all his acts of piety, a minimalist devotee is contented with what seems to him absolutely indispensable. His prayers are short, quick, almost mechanical. He believes a monthly or weekly Communion suffices and does not even think about receiving it more often. If someone encourages him to receive Communion more often, he will perhaps reply with a kind word but believing he already does enough. St. Ignatius appears a bit exaggerated to him when he recommends daily meditation. In the morning and before going to bed, he says some hasty Hail-Marys and thinks his duty is fully done. To him, weekly confession made out of devotion even without grave sin appears perfectly dispensable. He practices other acts of piety such as spiritual reading, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, prayers before and after meals, and frequent ejaculations without the least warmth.
This slackness in the practice of pious acts is reflected in the whole life of the minimalist. In his conversations he seldom deals with spiritual matters or topics related to the apostolate. His general attitude in society, before his friends and colleagues, or even family, is never as markedly Catholic as should be expected. His way of avoiding near occasions of sin and reacting to temptations is always lukewarm and dubious. The apostolate gives him no pleasure at all; he devotes to it the least, indispensable amount of time so he won’t look bad.
As a consequence, his apostolate produces only rare and weak fruits. If a zealous friend points out the reason for the inefficacy of his work, he defends himself blaming secondary factors. He thus seeks to deceive himself about the real cause. In short, his life is lukewarm, slothful and without enthusiasm.
In order to understand clearly this type of false piety, we must note that minimalism has several degrees. One can be a minimalist even though one receives Communion every day, makes a daily meditation and follows all the rules of the religious association to which one belongs, and even though our apostolate may produce some fruit. Indeed, all that is possible without the desire for perfection that characterizes non-minimalist piety. Even a fervent person can have traits of minimalism: a small defect he does not want to correct because he is “convinced” he has done enough and needs nothing else to be entirely happy with himself.
Since in spiritual life there is no stagnation, in fact the minimalist is always losing ground. That fall can be slow and go unperceived but it is inevitable. A typical example of a minimalist devotee is the rich man of the Gospel. Although he practiced the Commandments since his youth, he did not want to follow Our Lord. Some theologians believe he has even been condemned.
Piety Without Formation
Is the piety of a devotee with a deficient and superficial religious formation and who does not seek to deepen it. He has never studied the truths of our faith and does not even know the catechism. In the life of piety, he is a child.
He does not know why the Church recommends meditation, how to do it or what fruits to draw from it. He does not know why we must pray, frequent the sacraments, have a profound devotion to saints. Everything in him is directed by impressions, impulses and routine; he either becomes enthusiastic with devotions or dislikes them for no reason. In him there is no upright ordination of everything according to the good norms taught by the Church.
The devotee deprived of formation does not even know that the principles of supernatural life exist. He does not know the marvels that divine grace can operate in the human soul.
How can he have a life of profound and serious piety if he does not know the value of a well-made Communion? If his meditation is poor and without horizons? If he does not know how to pray? If he does not know the mysteries of our faith? If he does not know about the communion of saints, the final resurrection, the Immaculate Conception and so on?
Let us take only one example. Saint Paul wrote: “I can do everything in Him who strengthens me.” What source of energy and courage does this message convey! It preserves us from all discouragement. It incites us to the most daring and heroic spiritual enterprises. A devotee without formation does not know all that.
Inconstant Piety
In defining inconstancy in piety toward Our Lady, St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort writes: "Inconstant devotees are those whose devotion to Our Lady is practiced in fits and starts. Sometimes they are fervent and sometimes they are lukewarm. Sometimes they appear ready to do anything to please Our Lady, and then shortly afterwards they have completely changed. They start by embracing every devotion to Our Lady. They join her confraternities, but they do not faithfully observe the rules. They are as changeable as the moon, and like the moon, Mary puts them under her feet. Because of their fickleness they are unworthy to be included among the servants of the Virgin most faithful, because faithfulness and constancy are the hallmarks of Mary's servants. It is better not to burden ourselves with a multitude of prayers and pious practices but rather adopt only a few and perform them with love and perseverance in spite of opposition from the devil the world and the flesh."
This inconstancy can be manifested in all practices of piety and in every life of apostolate.
How will an inconstant devotee behave, for example, when he is in charge of directing a Marian Congregation? As soon as they give him that post, his soul is filled with enthusiasm. He makes perfect plans and resolutions worthy of all praise. But when the time for concrete achievement comes, the phase of the moon changes. His hollow enthusiasm vanishes before the slightest difficulty and he abandons all plans without hesitation. At a certain point he hears about a new work of apostolate and warmly decides to put it into practice in his Congregation. He organizes meetings to deal with the matter; makes insistent invitations to those who appear reluctant; and only talks about that new work. In a little while, his enthusiasm disappears because a new idea has appeared or simply because he forgot.
Thus our inconstant devotee, from enthusiasm to enthusiasm, carries on with life.
His life of piety is made of unfulfilled resolutions and his life of apostolate is made of unachieved plans. What will he have to present to God at the Last Judgment?
Interested Piety
“And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain town, there ten men met him that were lepers who stood far away. They lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. Whom when he saw, he said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God. And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.”
The nine lepers who did not return to thank Our Lord did have some piety. Seeing that Our Lord was passing near their town, they went to meet him, which shows they had faith that He could cure them. They were not like those who remained indifferent as Our Lord passed by. They asked Jesus to have pity on them and even called Him master. However, what was the ultimate reason for their devotion? Self-interest. They wanted to be cured. Not one among them returned to give glory to God, for in fact they did not care about the glory of God.
Does self-interested piety exist nowadays? Certainly. Giving glory to God and doing good to souls may not be the primary intention of a Catholic who is zealous in his works of apostolate, but rather to obtain a personal advantage such as, for example, becoming a congressman. Apostolate for him is a way to make a career. Self-interested piety can exist out of convenience, economic, social or other advantages.
In most cases the self-interested side of piety appears in a disguised fashion. People avidly look for personal advantages they can gather along the way. If an interested devotee must give a public speech, he is much more concerned about showing off and displaying his natural qualities than in doing good to souls. Note that self-interested piety is often subconscious, but no less culpable on that account.
A self-interested devotee is opportunistic and dislikes sacrifices that procure him no personal gain; he does not understand the spirit of penance and has no gratitude at all for the graces he receives.
Sentimental Piety
Sentimental piety consists of a hypertrophy of sentiments that makes the whole spiritual life of a person be based on emotions and sensations. In true piety the will must be governed by intelligence; in the final analysis, the whole spiritual life must be oriented by rational motives. That does not mean that feelings do not play a role in true piety; they must accompany reason by favoring and encouraging the practice of virtue. But they are not essential to the spiritual life and can be absent, particularly in moments of trial. In general, a prayer made without consolation is more meritorious than when accompanied with emotions and bouts of enthusiasm in the soul.
But a sentimental devotee does not think so. As far as he is concerned, spiritual vibrations are the thermometer of the spiritual life. If when praying before a statue he feels that all the fibers of his heart are vibrating, he goes away certain that his prayer was well done. If he feels no emotion whatsoever he thinks his prayer was useless and generally abbreviates it as much as he can.
On finishing a retreat, he spends a few days with great “fervor” and fulfilling all his duties. But when sensible emotions go away – something that is inevitable – all his fervor disappears and he goes back to being the same person as before.
He combats his defects only when he feels an impulse to do so. He only does apostolate with people who are pleasant to be with, or when he feels like doing it.
Romantic Piety
Like sentimental piety, romantic piety overvalues feelings. But what makes a romantic devotee vibrate is different than what makes a sentimental one tick. The latter vibrates with pious practices. The romantic vibrates with liturgical, social or aesthetic exteriorities of religious practices. He does not look for sensations in prayer but in the ceremonial that surrounds prayer.
A romantic devotee goes to Sunday Mass. If the organist was not brilliant; if inexperienced altar boys messed up the harmony of the liturgy; if the sermon, though excellent, contained a grammatical error; or if the audience was not very select, our romantic believes the Mass had no value.
As it were, he despises simple, though pious, prayer. His meditation – if he makes it – is populated with dreams, fantasies and interior declamations. If his works of apostolate do not allow him to imagine himself a knight of the Round Table, he soon becomes discouraged and apathetic. He almost only appreciates “great gestures,” original sayings and romantic attitudes in general.
In short, spiritual life for him is an ensemble of apparatuses without supernatural content.
“Enlightened” Piety
We call “enlightened” the piety of a proud and naturalist devotee who thinks he is sufficiently cultured and educated to deny the value of simple pious practices.
An “enlightened” Catholic is always up-to-date about the latest scientific developments; he knows the cultural movements of our times; he holds his own intellectual capabilities in the highest esteem. He believes he has an open and superior mind. So he does not think much of simple devotions such as the recitation of the Rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, novenas to Our Lady and the saints, frequent ejaculations. He believes it is childish to wear medals or scapulars, something useful perhaps for the common people but ridiculous for him. For – the “enlightened” devotee thinks – an intellectual is superior to those superstitions.
Catholic doctrine teaches that since man is made of soul and body, interior practices of piety are not sufficient so that exterior devotions are also indispensable. If interior piety is not exteriorized through concrete practices and sensible signs, it tends to wither.
In the sixth rule of Sentire cum Ecclesia “to have the mind of the Church”, St. Ignatius says: “Have a great esteem for relics, venerating them and praying to the saints they belong to; appreciate the solemnities of the “Stations,” pilgrimages, indulgences, jubilees, crusade bulls, the custom to light candles at church and other similar things that aid our piety and devotion.”
Naturalist Piety
Let us imagine a naturalist devotee who has to organize the apostolate of a religious association. What will his orientation be like? In his accomplishments, he will leave to a second place, or even forget, pious practices and everything else related with supernatural life.
As for the rest, a naturalist devotee has a bulletproof dedication. He is capable, active, untiring, a real shaker and mover. As soon as he takes over his post he will make a magnificent plan to organize lectures about burning issues of the day. He will create a sports department, which he holds in the highest esteem, and greatly encourage it. He will prepare courses and invite professors who shine for their natural qualities though their doctrine is dubious. Our naturalist devotee will organize databases, plans for apostolate, advertising for the association and a thousand other activities.
The only thing he will not think about is what Jesus Christ in the Gospel called the only thing necessary: “Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord's feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
A naturalist devotee has the same conception of virtue as Martha’s. He organizes lectures and mailing lists but almost does not think about incrementing the life of piety in the association. The consequences of that will be most disastrous. Without frequent Communion, a life of prayer and recourse to grace, all of his plans for apostolate will be fruitless, as Our Lord said: “Sine me, nihil potestis facere” – “Without Me you can do nothing.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Modesty of Dress and the Love of God: An Effective Way to Defend the Family and Restore Christian Culture

Modesty of Dress and the Love of God: An Effective Way to Defend the Family and Restore Christian Culture

pacifist
Two pacifist protesters.
“I love vulgarity. Good taste is death, vulgarity is life." These words by English fashion designer Mary Quant, who took credit for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants, reveal one of the most important, though rarely pointed out, aspects of the “fashion revolution” that started in the sixties: vulgarity.

Indeed, fashions have increasingly tended toward vulgarity. It is a vulgarity that tramples upon not only good taste and decorum but which reflects a mentality opposed to all order and discipline and to every kind of restraint, be it esthetic, moral or social, and which ultimately suggests a completely “liberated” standard of behavior.

Are Comfort and Practicality Supreme Criteria?

The rationale for introducing ever shorter skirts was “to be practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus.” The notion that comfort, practicality and freedom of movement must be the only criteria for dress has led to a breakdown in the general standard of sobriety and elegance, not to speak of the norms of modesty.

Thus, casual dress, being more comfortable and practical, increasingly becomes the norm regardless of people’s sex, age and circumstances. Jeans and the T-shirt (formerly a piece of underwear) became part of common attire.

Though one can wear less formal clothes at times of leisure, these clothes should not convey the impression that one is abandoning one’s dignity and seriousness. They should not give the idea that one is actually on vacation from one's principles.

In the past, even leisure dress, though more comfortable, maintained the dignity that one should never abandon.

It is curious to note that many companies require employees to wear business suits to convey an image of seriousness and responsibility. This is proof that clothes do transmit a message. They can express seriousness and responsibility or on the other hand, immaturity and a carelessness.

Unisex Garb

The premise that comfort and practicality must preside over the choice of clothes had yet another consequence: clothes no longer reflect one's identity. In other words, they no longer indicate a person’s social position, profession, or even more fundamental characteristics such as sex and age.

Thus, unisex garb has become widespread: jeans and shorts have come to be worn by people of both sexes and all generations. Young men and women, the youth and the aged, single and married, teachers and students, children and adults, all mix together and wear one and the same clothing which no longer expresses that which they are, think or desire.

The Habit Does Not Make the Monk but Identifies Him

Saint Therese of Lisieux,
a model of modesty.
One could object that “the habit does not make the monk.” The fact that a person dresses with distinction and elegance does not mean, of itself, that he has good principles and good behavior. Likewise, the fact that a person always wears casual dress does not necessarily indicate that he has bad principles or a reprehensible conduct. At first sight, the argument appears logical and even obvious. However, analyzed in depth, it does not stand.

True, the habit does not make the monk. Nevertheless, it is a strong element that identifies him. Furthermore, it influences not only the way people look at the monk but the way he looks at himself. No one will deny that the loss of identity by many nuns and monks that took place over the last forty years was largely due to their shedding the traditional habits, which adequately expressed the spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as an ascetic lifestyle proper to consecrated persons.

The Need for Coherence Between Dress and Convictions

Given the unity that exists in our tendencies, principles, convictions and behavior, the way we dress cannot fail to influence our mentality.

Wearing a certain type of clothing constitutes a form of behavior; and when clothing no longer adequately reflect our tendencies, principles and convictions, one’s mentality begins to undergo an imperceptible change to remain ‘in sync’ with the way one presents oneself. This is because human reason, by the force of logic inherent in it, naturally seeks to establish consistency between thought and behavior.

This rule is magnificently summed up in the famous phrase of French writer Paul Bourget: "One must live as one thinks, under pain of sooner or later ending up thinking as one has lived."

The process of transformation or erosion of principles can be slowed down or impeded by a person’s religious fervor, deeply rooted tendencies or ideas, and other factors. However, if inconsistency between behavior - reflected in the way one dresses - and one’s principles and convictions is not eliminated, the process of erosion, no matter how slow, becomes inexorable.

Living Faith, Inadequate Clothing

This subtle erosion is often manifested by a loss of sensitivity regarding the fundamental points of one’s mentality. One example would be the respect one must have for the sacred.

In some way, concessions to the principle that comfort must be the only rule of dress have ended up by giving a casual note to more serious and holy activities. How can one explain, for example, that persons who have true faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and who make admirable sacrifices to frequent perpetual adoration, nevertheless see no contradiction in presenting themselves before the Blessed Sacrament wearing shorts as if they were on a picnic?

The same person who shows up thus dressed for perpetual adoration would never don those clothes for an audience, say, with Queen Elizabeth II. This contradiction shows how, though the person has maintained his faith, to a certain degree the notion of the majesty of the Sacrament of the Altar -- the Real Presence -- has vanished from his soul.

Egalitarianism...

There is a general tendency in our times to establish a most radical egalitarianism at all levels of culture and social relations between the sexes, and even, in the tendency of egalitarianianism, between men and animals.

In dress, this egalitarianism is manifested by the growing proletarianization, the establishment of unisex fashions and the abolition of differences between generations. The same garb can be worn by anybody no matter his position, age or circumstance (e.g. in a trip, a religious or civil ceremony).

Chaos reigns in the domains of fashion today. It is often difficult to distinguish, by their clothes, men from women, parents from children, a religious ceremony from a picnic. Haircuts and hairstyles follow the same tendency to confound age and sex and to break down standards of elegance and good taste.

...That Leads to Infantilization

One of the aspects that stand out the most in the modern dictates of fashion is the desire to create an illusion of eternal youth, even perpetual adolescence with no responsibility, a phenomenon that has been called the “Peter Pan Syndrome."

Modern fashion shows a tendency to infantilize people. A Brazilian fashion critic thus expressed herself: “For a long time now, we have seen on catwalks, both international and domestic, fashions that should be displayed at the Children’s Expo, such is the level of infantilization they suggest. Stylists over 25 years old were designing (and wearing) clothes that could be worn by children in a day care center.”

Modesty is Essential to Chastity

In addition to the extravagant, egalitarian and infantilizing tendency of modern fashion, one needs to consider the attack on virtue and the complete lack of modesty.

The human body has its beauty, and this beauty attracts us. Due to the disorder which Original Sin left in man, the disorder of concupiscence, the delight in contemplating bodily beauty, and particularly of the feminine body can lead to temptation and sin.

That is not to say that some parts of the body are good and can be shown and others are bad and must be covered. Such a statement is absurd and was never part of Church doctrine. All parts of the body are good, for the body is good as a whole, having been created by God. However, not all body parts are equal, and some excite the sexual appetite more than others. Thus, exposing those parts through semi-nudity or risqué low cut dresses or wearing clothes so tight as to accentuate one’s anatomy poses a grave risk of causing excitation, particularly in men in relation to women.

Therefore, clothes must cover that which must be covered and make stand out that which can be emphasized. To cover a woman’s face, like Muslims do, shows well the lack of equilibrium of a religion that does not understand true human dignity. The face, the noblest part of the body because it more perfectly reflects the spiritual soul, is precisely the part that stands out the most in the traditional habits of nuns.

Just as masculine clothes should emphasize the manly aspect proper to man, feminine fashion should manifest grace and delicacy. And in this sense, having longer hair is a natural adornment to frame a woman’s face.

Immorality in Fashions and Destruction of the Family

Garb that does not show a person’s self-respect as an intelligent and free being (and, through baptism, as a son or daughter of God and a temple of the Holy Ghost), contributes to a large extent to the present destruction of the family. It does this by favoring temptations against purity. It also does this by its vulgarity and childishness that corrodes the notion of the seriousness of life and the need for ascesis (self-discipline), all of which are fundamental elements that maintain family cohesion and stability.

The struggle for the restoration of the family by opposing abortion, contraception, and homosexuality will be much more effective if done together with efforts to restore sobriety, modesty and elegance in dress.

Dress and the Love of God

The role of clothing is not only to protect the body from the elements but also to serve as adornment and symbolize someone’s functions, characteristics and mentality. Garb must be not only dignified and decent but also as beautiful and elegant as possible (which requires more good taste than money).

If the “way of beauty” leads us to God by seeing Him as the exemplary cause of Creation, the “way of ugliness” turns us away from the Creator and places us on the slippery slope of sin. That is why ugliness is the very symbol of sin and is so well expressed by the expression “ugly as sin.”